Harry Potter and the Fifth House
Christine Morgan
christine@sabledrake.com / http://www.christine-morgan.org


Author's Note: the characters of the Harry Potter novels are the property of their creator, J.K. Rowling, and are used here without her knowledge or permission. All other characters property of the author. 53,000 words. January, 2002. Adult situations, mild sexual content and violence.
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Chapter One – Aunt Marge's New Look.

It was the hottest summer in recent memory, and the small house at Number Four Privet Drive was all but unbearable from the heat and the humidity. Harry Potter hardly noticed. He'd spent most of the summer away, touring the continent with some new friends he'd made during his previous year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Not that he let on that he'd met them there. As far as Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were concerned, Harry had gone vacationing with some nice, bland, mundane Americans.
Muggles, in other words. That being the wizarding-world term for non-magical folk. Harry had spent the first several years of his life as a Muggle, with no idea that there was any other way to be. He'd never known about his parents, or the Dark wizard who'd killed them. All of that had been revealed to him on his eleventh birthday.
Everything that had seemed so new and novel to him then was now familiar, and muchly missed. His life at Hogwarts was far preferable to that of Privet Drive. True, he had to share his bedroom at Hogwarts with four other students, while the small second bedroom he occupied here was entirely his own, but he would have gladly given up all that privacy for the freedom and understanding of his wizarding peers.
By now, Harry was used to magic and fantastic things. He'd encountered dragons, basilisks, hippogriffs, phoenixes, trolls, unicorns, half-giants – one of his closest friends, Hagrid the gamekeeper, was in fact half-giant – elves, centaurs … the list went on and on. He'd foiled more than a few evil plots and been in mortal danger more times than most boys his age. He'd witnessed the death of a friend (rival though that friend had been), helped a convicted-but-innocent criminal escape from unjust justice, and generally led a life the likes of which the lonely child who'd slept in the cupboard beneath the stairs for so long could never have imagined.
Which wasn't to say that Harry's life was easy now. He still had to endure the summers with his aunt, uncle, and cousin Dudley. None of them liked him, a sentiment that Harry wholeheartedly returned. Aunt Petunia despised Harry because he was her sister's son, her sister the witch, the freak. Dudley, his cousin, hated Harry with a selfish spitefulness that stemmed from Dudley's spoiled, piggy nature. And Uncle Vernon …
Well, Harry had never been sure exactly why Uncle Vernon loathed him so. It couldn't be the added expense of having been forced to take in his wife's orphaned nephew; Harry had survived on hand-me-downs and leftovers. If anything, the Dursleys got a free servant in Harry, for when he was living with them he'd worked like a house-elf. It was something else that offended Uncle Vernon. Something about Harry and the very fact of his being a wizard. Just why that should bother Uncle Vernon even more than it did Aunt Petunia was a mystery to Harry. Unless it was because Vernon Dursley, being a plodding and unimaginative sort, just couldn't cope with anything out of the ordinary.
And things had been plenty out of the ordinary with Harry around. His earliest, unconscious uses of magic had led to various inexplicable events in his younger years. Then, once Harry had been accepted at Hogwarts, the events had gotten slightly more extreme. The time Hagrid had given Dudley a pig's tail, for instance. Or the time that Dobby, a house-elf of Harry's acquaintance, had ruined an important dinner party.
Or, most of all, the time that Harry had blown up Aunt Marge. Marge Dursley was Uncle Vernon's sister, a large and solidly-built woman with a hard face and harder manner. Her disdain for Harry and her remarks about his shiftless, good-for-nothing parents had finally made him boil over. He hadn't meant to cast a spell. But in all honesty, he had to admit it hadn't entirely been an accident either.
That incident, the blowing-up of Aunt Marge, was one that lived more clearly in Harry's memory than in anyone else's. The Ministry of Magic had come on the run, reducing Aunt Marge from her parade-balloon size to her normal (though still substantial) girth, and had smoothed everything over in her mind and the minds of the Dursleys with a few minor, judicious Memory Charms.
So it was that only Harry really remembered what had happened that day. The rest of the family remained vaguely uneasy about Aunt Marge's last visit, aware that something had gone amiss but nobody was all that sure what. Harry was certainly unwilling to remind them. He lived in dread of Marge's next visit.
She hadn't been to see her brother in quite some time. Not since the blowing-up business, as it happened. The following year, she'd written to say she was taking her holiday somewhere else, at a spa in Sweden. This had occupied her ever since. But all good things did not last.
The letter informing the Dursleys of her plan to come calling arrived on a day so hot that the streets seemed sticky from melting tar. Dudley was most miserable of all, carrying as he did all those extra pounds. His every effort at losing weight – well, Aunt Petunia's every effort at forcing him, since Dudley would slack on his exercises and cheat on his diets and generally make life so hellish for all of them that she lost the heart to press further – had proved fruitless. Dudley, the same age as Harry, was four times as heavy and had to have special chairs now because he'd broken half the furniture in the house.
Maybe that was another reason he had to hate Harry, a reason that had become more pronounced recently. As a child, Harry had been small and skinny, and Dudley had been able to beat up on him. Now sixteen, Harry had shot up a few inches and put on some weight, not a lot but good lean muscle that was well-toned by his hours of diligent Quidditch practice.
Harry was taller than Dudley now, with long legs that could have easily outrun his cousin. Not that he had to. Dudley never gave chase anymore, and even if he had, Harry was confident enough that he would have stood his ground, faced Dudley down, and given back as good a thrashing as he got. Or better.
Although he had grown up some and filled out, Harry was otherwise markedly the same. He had the same unkempt black hair, the same vivid green eyes behind the same glasses, and as always, the same lightning-bolt scar on his forehead. The only real difference about his face was that he'd lately been noticing a fine black fuzz on his cheeks and chin, enough to necessitate shaving once a week.
He studied himself in the mirror sometimes and had finally concluded that while he was never going to be ruggedly handsome, he wasn't exactly homely, either. Dudley, whose flat face was surrounded by jowls and chins and topped with a ludicrous crop of yellow curls, had taken to glaring at Harry all the more resentfully lately.
Aunt Petunia was all in a dither when Marge's letter arrived. She always went all-out trying to impress Marge, always fretted that it would never be good enough. She seemed to live in fear that Marge would sniff and scoff and make remarks about how Vernon could have done better.
"Says here she's bringing a friend for dinner," Uncle Vernon said as he perused the letter, frowning in his ponderous way. "A gentleman friend."
A dish smashed on the floor as Aunt Petunia whirled away from the sink. "A what?"
"A gentleman friend," Vernon repeated in a tone that said he couldn't quite believe it himself.
Dudley snorted, sounding uncannily like the pig that Hagrid had intended to turn him into. Harry kept, with great effort, an even expression and went on coring apples for a pie that Aunt Petunia wished to bake. But inwardly, he was as boggled as the rest of them. Aunt Marge had never come across as anything but a solidly spinster aunt, and the very idea of her with a gentleman friend was as absurd as …
Harry cut off that line of thought, for most of the absurd things he could think of had already happened to him. In a world where even Professor Severus Snape could have a girlfriend …
Thinking about that made him grow a little warm. He cringed at the same time, as if he could actually hear Hermione's cutting remark. She didn't trust Ophidia Winterwind, who had taken over halfway through their last term as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. It was Hermione who got them all thinking Professor Winterwind was a vampire, an opinion supported by the way she looked and the fact that she only conduced her classes at night while hardly being seen during the day.
And there was the curiously coincidental matter of the jar of blood-flavored lollipops she kept on the corner of her desk …
Forcing his mind back to the present, Harry listened as Uncle Vernon read aloud choice bits from his sister's letter. It had gotten delayed at the post office – one of the drawbacks of using conventional post services and not the speedy, reliable delivery of owls, but Harry knew better than to say such a thing in front of everyone – and the crux of it was that Marge was due to arrive the very next day.
Aunt Petunia clutched at her heart when Uncle Vernon announced the specific day and time. She flung a worried, warning look at Harry.
"Is she certain she wants to?" Aunt Petunia asked anxiously. "After what went on last time?"
Except that none of them could exactly recall just what had gone on last time. Harry busied himself with the apples and tried to look innocent, hoping that the Memory Charms held.
"It's going to be fine," Uncle Vernon announced. He glowered at Harry. "Won't it, boy?"
"I don't see why it wouldn't, uncle," Harry said.
"He'd just love for something to go wrong," said Dudley. "He'd love to pull one of his pranks on us right in front of her."
By the way he covered his mouth as he said this, Harry knew Dudley was thinking of the time he'd eaten a jinxed toffee and his tongue had puffed up like a party favor. Seeing that no one else was watching him just then, Harry stuck out his own tongue at Dudley. His cousin's eyes narrowed until they almost disappeared in the folds and bulges of his cheeks.
The rest of the day passed in an endless torrent of chores. The house had to be cleaned top to bottom, the guest room aired out. Aunt Petunia was in an agony of propriety, wondering whether Marge was going to expect her gentleman friend to stay the night, and if so, where he was going to sleep. She expressed her concerns in a loud hissing whisper to Uncle Vernon, something about not wanting to provide a bad example for the boys. Uncle Vernon told her that she was being silly, that of all people on earth, his sister Marge was the last one to engage in any sort of inappropriate behavior.
Dudley didn't have to lift a finger. He spent the day parked in front of his computer, pretending to be playing a space adventure game but really, whenever his mother was out of the room, surfing for dirty pictures.
Uncle Vernon had gone off to work, after giving Harry a stern shake of the finger and a glare, which wordlessly reminded Harry of the rules that must be followed around Aunt Marge. For starters, she had been told that he was a student at a reformatory, a lie that Marge was all too willing to believe.
That left Aunt Petunia and Harry to do the cleaning and the cooking. More than once, Harry was sharply nostalgic for Hogwarts, where all the meals were made and the tidying was done by a veritable army of happy house-elves (happy despite his friend Hermione's efforts to convince them they were being shabbily treated).
He also thought about all the times he'd seen Mrs. Weasley, mother of his other best friend Ron, go about her housework with a few flips and waves of her wand. He contemplated sneaking his own wand out and making short work of the chores. He was old enough now that the Restrictions for Underage Wizardry no longer strictly applied, so the Ministry wouldn't come knocking … but he could just imagine Aunt Petunia's shrieks if she walked into the kitchen and found him casting cleaning spells on the pile of breakfast dishes.
Somehow, he got through that long, tiresome day. He was so exhausted that he didn't even object when Uncle Vernon came home and told him that it would be best for all if Harry spent the evening in his room. They didn't, Uncle Vernon claimed, have adequate seating space or place settings. Not with Marge bringing a friend and all. Harry didn't want them to set a table with mismatched plates, did he? Or make someone sit on the rickety kitchen stool?
Harry, knowing full well who'd be forced to perch on the stool, was almost glad to oblige. He agreed to remain upstairs, where he planned to study quietly. He wasn't even expecting any owls from his regular pen-pals – Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, or Harry's godfather Sirius Black.
Aunt Petunia nagged Dudley into leaving his computer long enough to change into his best clothes, or at least the best ones that still fit with only a minimum of button-straining gaps all down the shirtfront. Harry was allowed to make himself a plate of food, not the elaborate meal he'd spent all day helping Aunt Petunia prepare, but leftover macaroni cheese and some bread. He was in the process of pouring a glass of milk to go with it when he glanced out the window and saw a taxi pulling up outside of Number Four Privet Drive.
Harry watched as the back door opened and a woman stepped out. His first thought was that the taxi had the wrong house. Then he heard Aunt Petunia's disbelieving squeal from the front room, and blinked, looked again, and concluded that the woman really was Aunt Marge.
Uncle Vernon's sister had always rather unfortunately taken after him, the family resemblance strong. She was big, thickset. Marge the Barge, Dudley sometimes called her, and when he'd been overheard saying it, he'd claimed he was only repeating what Harry had said first. This turn of affairs resulted in Harry spending an entire weekend closed in his cupboard with no lights on.
Marge the Barge … not anymore. The woman emerging from the taxi was still tall, but her girth had changed dramatically. It was still a figure that would be called 'full,' but her waist was indented for the first time Harry had ever known, and her hips and bosom actually looked like hips and bosom rather than geologic formations. Her tailored suit was far more flattering than the awful tweeds she had previously been fond of. Her hair was styled. She was wearing makeup.
Amazed, Harry stayed at the window even though he was supposed to be on his way up with his re-heated macaroni cheese. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the spectacle of this new and improved Aunt Marge. He wouldn't have thought anything could shock him more.
But then a man got out of the other side of the taxi, and came around to direct the driver as the luggage was removed from the trunk. The man was dressed in a snappy blue suit with a shiny silver tie, his blond hair blow-dried and combed, everything about him as normal and respectable and classy. It was his smile … the one that had won the Witch Weekly Most Charming Smile contest five times running … that riveted Harry to the spot.
Aunt Marge's gentleman friend was none other than Gilderoy Lockhart.

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page copyright 2002 by Christine Morgan / christine@sabledrake.com