Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his whole universe belongs to J. K. Rowling and her associates. I'm just having a good time playing with it all, and I - unlike the owner - don't make a penny from it.
A/N: Perhaps I should clarify: This is not my take on Reptilia28's challenge, rather it's inspired by several of the answers to it that I've read. In all of those - without fail - Harry starts out rebellious after going back, but - again without fail - ends up as the pussy who's doing as he's told. Not quite so here.
Points to all who deduced that Norma is the ever lovely Norma Jeane Mortenson/Marilyn Monroe/Mrs. DiMaggio. Yes, Cary is the great late Mr. Grant.
Another clarification: Yes, however good reasons he had for being seriously brassed - and he had - Benedict Arnold was a traitor by every definition of the word. Along with his less than pleasant demeanour, that's a big reason for Harry's reaction to him. Given the way he'd been treated all his life, treason is the definite no-no for Harry.
Enough is Enough
The abrupt merging with his younger self caused Harry to stumble slightly as he reached the edge of the enclosure - or 'arena' as Bagman had insisted on calling it. It was rather disconcerting actually... One moment he was seventeen, dead, and more than a little pissed off at Benny, Destiny and Destiny's boss; and the next he was fourteen, very much alive, and still royally steamed at the Unholy Trinity as he'd named them.
Dying and being sent back had brought something good though. Merlin and Helga had been awesome, and he was really looking forward to discovering the journals that Helga had promised him would be left for him in his family home's library. Just talking to the saucy old witch had greatly altered his perception of the Founders in general and of Helga Hufflepuff in particular, and her personal diary - which he was under orders to offer a copy of to the Hufflepuff Head of House - and her private grimoire - which he wasn't to let anybody else lay eyes on - were sure to be fascinating reading.
Even better were the bits and pieces of personal and magical advice they'd given him. They'd both been special clients themselves in their respective times - Merlin to make sure Arthur Pendragon came to power at the right time, and Helga had the job of offing Salazar before his mind deteriorated enough to have him make the whole Western Europe go boom, but late enough that he had the time to teach certain things to certain people to set up for Harold Godwinson and William the Bastard - and they'd both had to use several attempts to fulfil their destinies. That gave their thoughts on the matter a fair bit of weight, and the most important tip, according to both of them, was to not care overmuch about Destiny's instructions on how to deal with things. As long as both Tom and Albus were done away with without lasting positive legacies, the rest would sort itself out in time.
The magical 'training' itself had been quite quickly and easily done. He'd simply received a tailored mind-dump from each of them, and 'a little something extra on the side to peruse on chilly nights' as Helga had whispered with a saucy wink. She really was a naughty old girl who'd never denied herself any of life's pleasures. From what little personal talk they'd managed to have, Harry wondered if Professor Sprout would actually manage to choke once she got to reading Helga's diary. He was certain it held stuff that would radically change the professor's view of her House's Founder. His own mental picture of the witch had not survived the encounter, and from her offhand comments he had a suspicion that the diary should probably come with a triple-X rating.
He quickly got a hold of himself. He could ill afford to lose himself in ideas and guesses. For now he had to pick out the most immediately pertinent parts of the mind-dump: A mind-trap from Merlin, to thoroughly - and rather violently - discourage any misuse of Legilimency; a charm that enabled a limited form of mage sight, to be able to spot active magics such as Dumbledore's invisibility spell among other things; Helga's compendium of school rules, to shaft Dumbledore when he'd try to push him back into the dorm; and an obscuration charm - passed on with the compliments of his mum - that blurred any attempt at recording his image when it was in effect, to stick it to Skeeter's obnoxious photographer and perhaps head off the worst consequences of the hug that Hermione would initiate in a few minutes.
Once inside the tent he dropped the egg in a corner, and then went on to endure Madam Pomfrey's outrage while she was fixing his shoulder. Just like last time.
As soon as the healer was done, Harry made sure to cast both the mind-trap and the obscuration charm while he was still hidden away behind the partition, and sure enough, no sooner did he step out from behind it before he found himself in a hairy, ribcracking hug, courtesy of his best friend. He tuned out her relieved babbling and concentrated on returning the hug while mentally counting down to Skeeter's entrance.
It turned out he was slightly off in his countdown. He was down to three when he heard the hated voice.
"Oh my! Do we have a love story unfolding here? Would you care to comment for The Daily Prophet, Mr. Potter? And who's your charming companion?"
Harry grinned ferally and held on to the squeaking Hermione. "Ah, Rita Skeeter," he said in a much too pleasant voice that made Skeeter preen and Hermione blink. "Just the spineless, lying vulture I thought would be here, despite already being told that this tent is off limits unless you're invited in," he continued with a sneer.
Hermione barely bit back a moan of anguish when she saw Skeeter's eyes narrow in annoyance. "That wasn't terribly smart," the insulted woman began to bluster.
"Accio Quick Quotes Quill! Accio Parchment!" The summoned effects shot from Skeeter's grasp to Harry, who proceeded to drop them on the ground. "Incendio!"
"No! What do you think you're doing? You obnoxious, ignorant, self-conceited brat. I'm going to destroy you!" Skeeter was beside herself.
"No you're not," Harry declared with complete certainty. "You see, bitch... I've discovered how you manage to buzz around and bug people." Harry's feral grin made a reappearance, and Rita paled spectacularly. "You write anything about me or my friends that annoy me or them even the slightest bit, and I'll go public with what I know. I'll even add instructions on how to raise a ward that repels insects by killing them." He looked the now shivering reporter in the eyes. "Do we have an understanding?"
Skeeter was floored. What had happened to the timid, out-of-his-depth little boy she met three weeks ago? Deciding that he still had to be there somewhere, she tried to fight back. "You can't limit the press that way. The public has a right to know..."
"The public has a right to keep their snouts out of my business, including my personal life," Harry cut through her attempt. "It's called 'personal' for a reason. It means it's private unless divulged voluntarily. And don't think I've forgotten about the crap you cooked up at the Wand-weighing. You and I both know that it was pure fantasy from first to last, and anything even remotely like that about anybody from now on will see your life expectancy drop significantly. Report the truth and we won't have any problems. Now do we understand each other?"
Skeeter deflated. "Yes we do." Then she perked up. "Since I'm here I'll ask you again: Do we have a love story unfolding here?"
Harry shook his head and groaned. "Skeeter... The Prophet printed that bullshit you fabricated about me. As a result they'll never get a quote from me, and neither will you personally, no matter which rag you write for. Take that as you will but remember: You annoy me, I destroy you."
Hermione's eyes had grown steadily bigger as the encounter played out, and now they'd reached a size where they looked like they'd pop out at any moment. The shell-shocked expression matched her mind well enough though. She was scrambling to keep up with the exchange before her, and at the same time she was struggling to comprehend the profound changes that her best friend suddenly seemed to have undergone. The Harry who had his arm comfortably around her waist right this moment (and what was that about? not that she was complaining, mind you) was not the same Harry who'd struggled just to eat a few bites of his breakfast this morning before the First Task. No, this Harry was confident, confrontational and intimidating. He carried himself differently too. He stood taller - or maybe just straighter - than he did just a few hours ago, and he radiated complete faith that he could deal with whatever was thrown at him.
Just as baffling were the changes that could be physically felt. Normally he would just stand somewhat stiffly and endure it when she hugged him, and even more so when the hug was as enthusiastic as the one they'd just shared. Not so today though. He had actually returned it with quite a bit of feeling, and he'd still held on to her after they'd been disturbed. And then of course there was still the arm around her waist. She almost lost her breath when said arm squeezed her gently but firmly. Harry never did things like that.
He squeezed her again, but before she could marshal her thought processes back into any kind of coherency he turned them both around and made to exit from the tent. "Are you coming back up to the castle with me, or do you want to stay around here and come up later with the others?" he asked.
"But Harry, you need to stay and get your score." Hermione was floored. The rules said that the score couldn't be given without the Champion present, and Harry was about to leave the area! "You should get the best score you know," she tried to tempt him, "but Karkaroff doesn't judge fairly, so you may have to settle for second."
"I don't care Hermione," he answered her hidden plea. "I shouldn't be in this ridiculous tournament at all; I don't want to be in it; and I don't want the score. I just did what I could to get out of there alive." Hermione's eyes widened in shock, and Skeeter had to work hard to contain her glee. "I've been forced into this illegally, and I'm going to make a mockery out of it in any way I can."
Hermione goggled at him in disbelief. She simply had to get to the bottom this. Her best friend confused her more than a little, and that wasn't something she liked. The implications of his comment about his forced participation threw her. If he was right that it was illegal, he was at the same time calling both Dumbledore and a couple of respected and high-ranking Ministry officials liars and criminals. Normally she would dismiss such a claim out of hand as being ludicrous; after all the three men in question were all people in authority, and Harry - as much as she'd claimed him as her best friend - was just a boy. A fourth year student whose statements carried a lot less weight that those of two Ministerial Department Heads and the greatest wizard of the age, but the certainty with which he'd made that statement meant that it couldn't just be brushed off. There had been no hesitation or uncertainty when he said it, so for once she would hold back her initial reaction and do some research before believing one or the other. That decision didn't tell her what to do about her best friend's new attitude though. One thing was accusing respected men of crimes, but refusing to honour the rules of the competition he was in was something else entirely. However, he was already leaving the tent as she turned to scold him for it, so for now she had to pack away her rant and limit herself to catch up with him before he disappeared in the mass of people outside.
With a huff and a grumble she picked up her pace and followed him out of the restricted area - right into another situation that drove home to her that her best friend had somehow managed to change dramatically in a very short time. As she exited the tent she saw Harry stop half a dozen steps ahead of her, his posture screaming annoyance and reluctance. The reason for his expressive body language wasn't hard to detect: In front of him was Ron, and as she came closer she could see that he already looked uncomfortable, and it became more pronounced as he began to squirm under Harry's glare. He shot her a look that she easily interpreted as a plea for help, but since she didn't know exactly what he needed her help for - and since she wasn't at all inclined to help him after his appalling conduct over the last few weeks - she shook her head 'no' and left him to his own devices.
"What is it?" Harry snapped impatiently. "I have other things to do than standing around here all day."
Ron swallowed hard. Perhaps this wasn't the best time. "Blimey mate. I think whoever put your name in the Goblet is trying to get you killed," he finally managed to squeeze out.
"Oh really?" Harry goggled at him in pretend disbelief, while inwardly howling with laughter. Oh the benefits of foreknowledge. "Amazing deduction Weasley," he sneered. "That only took you a little over three weeks, and that's with the added benefit of me telling you at least a dozen times. Tell me... Did you really figure that out all by yourself or did you have help?" He shot Ron a contemptuous glare and pushed through the crowd to get past him, followed by a gobsmacked Hermione.
Ron looked like a fish out of water, his mouth opening and closing with no words coming out, and a blank look in his eyes. He was trying to say something - anything - but his brain hadn't caught up with what was happening yet, so he had absolutely no idea what to say to restore normalcy and get back in Harry's good graces. He had firmly believed that all he had to do was to initiate contact in a non-negative manner, and then Harry would forget that he'd been an arse and everything would be back to normal. That's what Harry did after all. Finally something came to him.
"Oi, come on Harry, no need for that. Friends again?" he asked as he held out his hand.
"No," was the succinct reply. Harry didn't even turn to look at him.
"What?" Ron was stumped. This wasn't right. Harry didn't do things like this. "Come on Harry," he did what he could to keep from sounding whiny, but he didn't have much luck. "I've already apologised. What more do you want?"
This time Harry turned to face him. "No you haven't Weasley, but you can save yourself the trouble. Apologising won't change anything. Everybody has one shot at pissing on me, and you've used yours and then some. You won't get another." He shot his former friend an icy glare. "Have a nice life Weasley," was the parting shot before he turned and made his way out of the crowd.
Hermione stood thunderstruck and looked from her retreating best friend to Ron and back again - several times - as her mind desperately tried to process what had just taken place right in front of her. Harry Potter - quiet, introverted Harry - had just told Ron Weasley that not only did he not consider him a friend anymore, but he never would again, and from the way it was said she thought that Harry didn't even consider him an acquaintance either. The fourth year boys' dorm might very well be an explosive place tonight when they both had to sleep there.
Oh drat! While she was busy trying to get to grips with what had happened, Harry actually did manage to disappear. Sure, she knew he was headed for the castle, but she somehow doubted that she'd be able to find him by just going up there. She would catch him later though, and then she'd make him explain a good many things.
Ron was still standing there, jaw hanging in shock. Did the unthinkable just happen? It did! Harry Potter just mocked and belittled him and then went further and denounced their friendship. Something just went very wrong, and for the life of him he couldn't find out who to blame for it. His gut feeling told him that his life had just changed for the worse, and judged by the faces of Lavender and Parvati - the ever snooping gossip twins - what happened here would be all over the school by dinner, and his protection from being known as Harry Potter's best friend would've evaporated at most an hour later. He swallowed hard and shuddered. He would definitely be looking at a downturn when those he'd treated like dirt found out that Harry wasn't going to bail him out.
Once he'd gotten over his snit about Harry being selected by the Goblet, he'd thought that maybe it wasn't such a bad thing that he'd done. The time apart would let Harry find out how alone, bored and miserable he'd be without his best mate, which would in turn entrench Ron further as the most important feature in Harry's life once he'd accepted his non-apology and forgiven him. Evidently he'd miscalculated that. Badly! The withering glare he was currently receiving from Hermione didn't promise anything good from that side either. No, Ron could only conclude that for the foreseeable future it was going to suck to be him.
Harry could hardly believe his luck. Ron's very public - and very inane - attempt at coming back into his good graces, as well as his rather loud and negative answer to it, had caused enough of a commotion that everybody present in the area were busy goggling at Ron, so he actually had a chance to get away without anybody being the wiser. That should be good for another commotion once the judges found out that they didn't have a Champion to judge. He quickly slid behind a tree, and a quick Disillusionment charm later he took off for the castle.
Once safely ensconced in the Room of Requirement he summoned Dobby for an interrogation, and a couple of minutes later the brightly blushing little Elf admitted that he'd bound himself to Harry within minutes of Lucius Malfoy freeing him.
A few short minutes of negotiations later, Dobby was off on his first official task as a Potter Elf: Locate 'The Pottery' and find Helga's journals in the library, then bring them back to Harry. Next he'd be off to Gringott's to set up an appointment with the Goblin in charge of the Potter account, and if possible someone from their legal section as well.
It only took a couple of minutes before Dobby was back from The Pottery, bearing several weighty volumes of Helga's writings. Her diary seemed to come in two editions, baffling him slightly until he'd read a few pages of each - then he had no doubts which one it was he was supposed to offer Professor Sprout. That one held a lot of interesting notes on the use of magic back then, some of which would send the Ministry scrambling for explanations if the stout professor chose to make them public, as well as some even more interesting stories about the founding and early years of Hogwarts which would completely eradicate all notions that today's society had about it.
The other edition... Well... Harry had already determined that Helga was a bit of a naughty girl, but 'naughty' simply didn't do her justice. She seemed to have embraced the philosophy of 'life is going to screw you over no matter what, so screw whoever you can either as preparation or retaliation' and it seemed that she'd bedded every able man - and quite a number of women - within fifty miles of Hogwarts in her day, and her personal journal was a treasure trove of sex magics, techniques, and dirty stories about sweaty nights and lustful days. She had definitely done what she could to keep warm during the chilly nights and cold winters of the Highlands, and Harry was looking forward to having his nights warmed by the descriptions of it, but just as he had gotten comfortable and begun reading about the seedy adventures of Helga Hufflepuff, Dobby came back from Gringott's.
"Vault-Master Glorgvok is free to see you any time within the next hour, Master Harry sir," Dobby informed him.
"Thank you Dobby, and less of the 'Master' please," Harry replied as he closed the book and began plotting his afternoon. The timing presented a bit of a problem that he hadn't considered in his initial, half-baked plan. There were bound to be a lot of people still milling around the school grounds, seeing that it was still only an hour since the task was finished (and probably more likely a half since the judges found out that he wasn't there to receive his score), so his original idea of simply going down to Hogsmeade and see if he could still apparate in his new and younger body wasn't going to work. Of course he hadn't taken the reactions from people in Diagon Alley when his well known and decidedly under-age self would appear out of thin air at the apparition point into consideration either. OK... Being back could be seen as cool from a certain angle, but in this instance - and probably a host of others too - it was a certifiable pain in the arse.
Suddenly he brightened as he remembered Malfoy Manor - more specifically the way they got away from there. "Dobby, is there a working Floo-connection at The Pottery?"
"Dobby is thinking so, Master Harry sir."
"We need to work on the 'Master' thing Dobby." Harry couldn't quite keep the grin away. "Can you take me there please?"
"Dobby can be doing that, Mast... Harry sir."
"Good catch Dobby," Harry grinned at the little fellow. "Can we go from here or do we need to be in Hogwarts proper?"
"We can be going from here, Harry sir. Should Dobby be taking the books along so nobody will be finding them?"
"That might be a good idea my friend. I don't know what happens to the Room when we leave directly from it, and I don't fancy having to look through the Room of Hidden Things for my books. That'll take forever."
"Harry sir is a most wise wizard," Dobby nodded solemnly as he collected the journals. "Is Harry sir being ready?"
"Let's go Dobby."
Harry looked around in wonder, seeing his family's home for the first time. He liked what he saw, and suddenly his longer term plans were a bit further along. Just too bad he didn't have the time to thoroughly explore the house, but that would come soon enough.
"Thank you for taking me here Dobby. I hope we'll be able to make this our home before too long, but for now we need to get going." He took a breath and gathered his thoughts. "I'll go to Madam Malkin's first to get a decent set of clothes, and then I'll be meeting Glorgvok. In the meantime I'd like you to go to the Apothecary and buy three pints of base potion no. 3, one pint of base potion no. 8, half a pound of dragon liver and two ounces of powdered firecrab shell - it's for a potion to repair most of what those animals in Little Whinging did to me. Bring it back here, and then go and stock up a bit on food, drink and whatever is needed to live here. Nothing fancy, but enough so that we can be comfortable, alright?"
"Dobby shall be getting the best..."
"No Dobby," Harry interrupted the beaming little fellow. "As I said, nothing fancy. I'm not a Malfoy, and I'm not into silk sheets, caviar and vintage Champagne. I like a good, soft bed, and I like eating and drinking well, but I'm not going to go overboard and neither should you." He looked pensive for a moment. "One exception though... I'd like you to get the oldest bottle of Ogden's Finest you can find, if there's not a good bottle here already." He looked the little Elf in the eyes. "I know it looks wrong Dobby, but I'm actually a bit older than I look."
"Dobby is knowing, Harry sir," Dobby nodded at him, much to his consternation. "Dobby can feel that Harry sir is not the same as he was being yesterday, but he is still being Harry sir. It is being most confusing."
"I can't tell you how or why Dobby, but you're feeling it right and it needs to be kept a secret. Nobody else can know until I say so."
Dobby nodded once more. "Dobby is being off to buy things, Harry sir. Call for Dobby when you is needing him." With that he popped away, and Harry was left to wonder for himself if Dobby would be the only Elf to notice.
'Oh well... Nothing to do about it', he thought as he shook himself out of it, approached the fireplace and tossed in some powder from the jar on the mantelpiece. "The Leaky Cauldron" he called and disappeared into the green flames.
The few customers in the Leaky Cauldron looked up when a viciously cursing teenager cannonballed out of the Floo-grate and crashed into the wall across from it. Then almost as one they did a double-take and goggled once more when they saw who said teenager was. Harry Potter making a less than dignified entrance to a pub in London when he should be at school in Scotland wasn't something you saw every day after all.
"I don't bloody believe this crap!" Harry coughed as he hauled himself off the floor. "Thirty thousand people with magic to help them, and this shit is what they come up with. Whoever invented this should be forced to eat their own guts!"
Several of the customers cringed at the diatribe. This boy definitely didn't match the general picture the public had of The-Boy-Who-Lived, and he definitely didn't seem to care that he didn't. Most of the shabby pub's regular clientele had long since heard Tom - the publican of the establishment - sing Harry Potter's praise, and they were well aware that the quiet and polite boy that Tom spoke about was closer to the truth than the spoiled crybaby Rita Skeeter and her colleagues wrote about. The version currently swearing in the taproom was infinitely more entertaining than either of those though.
Alas the entertainment didn't last long. As soon as Harry had managed to haul himself to his feet and dust himself off, he quickly nodded in Tom's direction and left without a backwards glance.
His first stop, as he'd told Dobby, was Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions. As desperately as he needed new, well-fitting clothes, he limited himself to the single set he needed right here and now, and only the robe - a garment he heartily despised - received any kind of special attention. Forest green with gold trim, with the Potter Arms in the same colours on his chest, and made from the highest quality wool on offer. The rest was all off-the-shelf, but it still made him feel better to be wearing clothes that actually fit him. As it was, he gave the few people who saw him walk from the robe-shop to Gringott's a much different impression than they would've had only twenty minutes before.
Another three hours later he gave an entirely different impression to those who saw him exit the bank with a nasty smirk on his face. Even though he'd already known almost all the answers, it was nice to have his assumptions and suspicions confirmed, and he got quite a few new and devastating ideas out of it too.
He'd begun the meeting with laying out his interpretation of the Ministry's and Dumbledore's insistence on keeping him in the Tournament, as well as what he thought the consequences would be. After careful deliberation both Vault-Master Glorgvok and Krarlnark - the Goblin Legal expert - had agreed with him on all points. Due to the rather momentous nature of those consequences, a wizard solicitor from the firm Perks, Perks & Bell was called in, and after Iain Bell had finally managed to pick his jaw back up from the floor, he agreed as well and proceeded to fill out the appropriate forms.
After a twenty minute break for Mr. Bell to go to the Ministry for verification and filing of the forms, they proceeded with the reading of the last Will and Testament of James and Lily Potter. That gave Harry all the ammunition he could possibly wish for and more, should Dumbledore make any move at all to block what was about to happen. Lastly he received a statement and an accounting for his parents' vault, and his reactions to that, as well as what little backstory he gave, had Mr. Bell practically ordering him to look him up in his office so they could get started on preparing lawsuits against both the Dursleys and Dumbledore. Once they'd gotten that under way - so Mr. Bell said - they could look at getting the Department of Magical Law Enforcement involved for possible criminal charges as well. For now though, the firm would be happy to take care of his day-to-day legal affairs, such as coming down hard on anybody who'd used his name or image without permission, and Mr. Bell had been fairly certain that they could strike the fear of the dragons into the hearts of The Daily Prophet's editors and get retractions of anything written about him that he didn't like, especially if Gringott's would agree to back them. Harry was happy to leave the details to the experts. They would also be the ones to refer anybody to who expressed any kind of desire to appeal Harry's upcoming change of status.
Just to be on the safe side, Harry had pulled Mr. Bell aside and inquired about the legality of the mind-trap he'd cast earlier. After a fib about finding it in a journal belonging to one of his ancestors, and describing how it worked as well as the effects of running afoul of it, they agreed on a discount on the legal fees in exchange for allowing Mr. Bell to use it and for teaching his daughter - who turned out to be his Quidditch team mate Katie - to use it as well. A further discount was agreed on, should Mr. Bell's partners, Mr. and Mrs. Perks, and their daughter choose to use the charm as well. He hadn't thought about how such a charm could be useful for others, but now it seemed that he had to talk to someone who could help him marketing spells. Not the mind-trap, but things like his mum's obscuration charm might have a market, and there might be more magic laying about at The Pottery or in Helga's grimoire, waiting to be discovered and put to use.
After a quick detour to Ollivander's wand-shop, and with a thousand thoughts about the day running wild in his head, Harry had Dobby pop him back home for a quick meal, and then on to Hogwarts. He had to collect his things after all, and he'd made Mr. Bell a promise to teach Katie the charm as soon as possible, and to Harry that meant today.
Dobby dropped him off in the corridor outside the Room of Requirement and then went to tell Dumbledore that he'd been accepted into a family. While he did that, Harry made his way to Gryffindor Tower, and when the Fat Lady opened for him he instantly regretted going there today. All of Gryffindor were in the common room as far as he could tell, and cheers and whistles broke out as soon as he set foot inside. Judged by the banners, the butterbeer cases and the huge amount of food and snacks, the House had only been waiting for him to arrive before launching a major party. That seriously miffed him, and it got worse with each slap on his back as he tried to make his way towards Katie, and it boiled over when a number of people began demanding a speech.
"A speech?" he fumed. "You want a speech? And once you've had that you want to have a party?" He glared at those surrounding him, and in a secluded corner of the room Hermione winced, having a fair idea about what would be coming next. But of course, even with the gossip twins relaying what had happened outside the Champions' tent this afternoon - much to Ron's dismay - they hadn't felt the force of new Harry really riled up yet. They were about to though.
"I find it strange," Harry said to no-one in particular, "...that you people seem intent on celebrating what happened today."
Puzzled looks bloomed all around him. Why shouldn't they want to celebrate when one of their own had bested a dragon - and done so in awesome style?
"I find it distasteful and dishonest in the extreme, given the fact that this morning at least two thirds of you were convinced that I was a disgrace and an embarrassment to your House. A gloryseeker who'd cheated his way into the tournament in order to get attention - something I hate with a passion." His glare at those brave enough to still stand around him intensified, and he noted with no small amount of satisfaction that several people were having difficulties meeting his gaze.
"Now," he continued, his voice taking a cold, hard edge that nobody in the room had heard from him before, "...now, less than ten hours later, I'm suddenly someone to celebrate. You people make me sick!" He turned towards the couch that he'd seen Katie sitting in, and moved through the throng of students before him, not answering neither questions, taunts or excuses. Finally in front of Katie, he seemed to realise that a good number of people were still breathing down his neck.
"Don't you all have something better to do than standing here, bothering me? You were about to have a party as I recall, so why don't you go on and have it? Fucking hypocrites!"
He ignored the stricken looks that salvo earned him in favour of turning to Katie. "Your dad asked me to give you something, but I'd rather not do it here. I'm going up to my dorm now if you'd care to join me. It'll only take a few minutes, but if you'd rather we went somewhere else, I'll be down again in a minute." Without waiting for an answer he turned and headed for the stairs, and in her corner Hermione resigned herself to the fact that demanding answers from Harry today would be a seriously bad idea.
Less than two minutes later Harry slammed the lid on his trunk closed, and he was just about to shrink it to pocket size when the door opened and Katie stepped in.
"So you decided to be Gryffindor brave I see," Harry stated blandly.
"I decided to try to figure out what's going on," Katie retorted. "Too much about you suddenly doesn't add up, and I want some answers before I'll accept anything from you."
"Oh?" He raised an eyebrow.
"Yes," she stated with a bit of heat, looking him straight in the eye. "Something fishy is going on here, like how do you even know my dad, and where have you met him? I know he hasn't been here today, or he would've come around to see me." Before he had a chance to reply, she ploughed on. "Also you seem all wrong. You look like Harry, but you don't act like him. The Harry I know is warm, friendly and caring, but you're cold, hard and harsh." She took a breath and made to continue, but Harry cut her off.
"I am Harry," he stated, returning her earlier look in the eye. "I've just had several epiphanies lately that rendered the Harry you knew obsolete." He reached into a pocket and saw her tense. "Gee, you really don't know what to think, do you?" he chuckled. "While I'd like nothing more than to curse and seriously harm quite a few people after what I've learnt today, you've never been on that list, and I can't imagine you ever getting there. You're on another list that's composed entirely of females, but that's a different kettle of fish." He gave the now flummoxed Katie a rakish grin, all the while wondering to himself where that came from. True, she was a pretty girl, and he'd definitely not be averse to a bout or two of strenuous, horizontal workout with her, but he'd never in a hundred years have admitted it to her face like that, and being de facto three years older couldn't count for that much.
"I've got a note from your dad in my pocket, and I'm going to slowly pull it out. If having your wand ready would make you more at ease, then by all means do so."
She gave him another strange look, and then she reached up and pulled her wand out from her cleavage.
"Lucky wand!" Harry breathed. "Any chance that you'll let me put it back for you when you're done with it?"
Katie's look told him all about what she thought of that idea.
"Right, back to why we're here and not somewhere we actually want to be." He looked her in the eye again. "I'm going to pull my hand with the note slowly out of my pocket, drop the note on the bed and step back."
Katie flicked her wand in a 'get on with it' motion, and Harry did what he'd said he would. She took the note, and still keeping one eye on him she held her wand to it and murmured something under her breath. Whatever happened - or didn't happen - seemed to allay her fears, and she lowered her wand and turned both eyes to the note as she read it. When she was done reading it twice, she looked at Harry again with a nauseous expression.
"Is this true? Snape and the Headmaster are looking through our thoughts?"
"I don't know if Dumbledore has made a habit of mind-fucking anybody but me, but his Death Eater pet is scanning almost constantly."
"And you have a way to make it impossible?"
Katie's face fell, but he continued before she could object.
"The way to protect your mind is called Occlumency. It takes years to learn how to do properly, but you should look at it anyway because it's beneficial for a lot of other things. My method is something else entirely. It doesn't keep anybody out of your head - it just makes it exceedingly painful for anybody rummaging in there without your permission." He saw that she didn't quite follow, and paused to think of an analogy.
"Think of it as some boy snooping around in the drawer where you keep your underwear. It's an icky thought, and you want to keep him out because he's not the one you want to know what you're wearing under your skirt, but you don't have a lock for the drawer. Instead you ward it and rig it to react to anybody who isn't you, and the next time he opens it a lead weight swings out and hits him in the nuts, and a can of paint erupts and paints him yellow. That way the pain will keep him from going anywhere near your drawer again for fear of having his bollocks crushed, and the paint-job lets everybody know he was the one who perved on your knickers."
"Trust a boy to come up with an example involving knickers and bollocks," Katie giggled. "I see what you mean though, but wouldn't it be seen as an attack?"
"No, it's self defence, and anything you do to repel a Legilimency attack - that's what mind reading is called, and it's illegal without consent - is perfectly alright as long as it's done without a wand. A Master Occlumens can fry an attacker's brain, and it's completely legal." He glanced at his watch. "Erm... Not trying to rush you or anything, but I'm in a bit of a hurry. Do you want it set up, or do you want to think about it?"
"I..." Katie swallowed. "I'd like to take tonight to wrap my mind around it, but could you tell me what I have to do?"
"You just have to stand still and let me cast the charm. Once I've done that I'll show you how to renew it, and how to override if you need to let someone in."
She crinkled her nose in distaste. "Why on earth would I want to let anybody in my head?"
Harry shrugged. "I didn't say you have to, but Mind-Healers work directly in the mind, and in some criminal cases it could be beneficial to be able to let someone look at specific things directly. Either way I'll teach you how, then after that it's all up to you." A devilish grin crossed his face. "I've also heard that being in each other's minds during a mutual orgasm should be the closest thing to Nirvana you'll ever experience."
"Harry!" Katie blushed furiously, but she still gamely tried a comeback. "Are you offering?"
Harry waggled his eyebrows at her. "Sadly, no. I'm not a Legilimens, although for you I could be persuaded to learn."
Now sporting an atomic blush, Katie just managed to squeak out a "see you tomorrow Harry," as she fled the room, her wand still in her hand. She was not going to put it back with Harry watching! It was funny though... She actually liked this new, flirty Harry, and his innuendos were so much more appealing than George's increasingly blatant - and increasingly annoying - attempts at getting into her knickers. Yes, she definitely had more than just mind-traps to think about tonight - like was he just flirting or was he prepared to back it up? And just as important, did she want him to be prepared to?
In the meantime Harry found himself standing stock still in the dorm room. Where did all this come from? OK, he wasn't blind to the fact that his flirtations were actually working, but this wasn't like him at all.
'Damn! Helga you dirty old girl. You've messed with my mind real good, haven't you?' he chuckled as the penny dropped. This just might be part of the 'little something extra' as she'd called it. 'The question now is should I curse you or thank you?' Dropping his trunk in his pocket, he made his way down the stairs and through a quiet and subdued common room on his way to meet up with Dobby again. He would think more about his revelation later, and perhaps a little reading in Helga's journal as preparation for his encore with Katie tomorrow would be in order.
Next morning saw Harry sitting at the kitchen table very early, finishing the last few pages of volume one of the 'dirty' version of Helga's journal while he was waiting for the nutrient potion to be cool enough to be drinkable, and hoping it didn't taste as revolting as it smelled. The journal was captivating to say the least, and Harry had found a firm new appreciation for the founder of Hogwarts' least revered House - and a healthy respect for the stamina and sexual appetite of the witch. He was also wondering where Academius - the Sorting Hat, as revealed by Helga - would've placed her if it had been given the chance. As he saw it, it was a toss-up between Ravenclaw and Slytherin; the former for her apparent aptitude at creating new spells and adapting existing ones, as well as for her unique approach to traditional (for the time) non-wanded magic, and the latter for her deviousness when it came to picking out her partners and ensuring they were both willing and able, and at the same time protecting her front as the chaste mentor of young magicals, as well as for the major achievement it was to have made Salazar and Godric work together for as long as they did without killing each other.
She didn't use compulsions in any form while enticing her bed partners, but rather a selection of minor spells and magical tricks that built on something that was already there, all of which were detailed in her private grimoire. Harry had spent most of the night switching from one book to the other, looking up the theory behind those tricks as they were mentioned in the journal and then cross-referencing with the mind-dump the old girl had given him. He ended up being impressed. While she never hid the fact that she used magic on those she would spend her nights with, there were no examples of duress of any kind. She had simply let her natural advantages work for her, and only amplified the effects slightly when necessary, besides using a special trick she called 'the Touch': A simple trickle of magic - heavily backed by lusty intent - through her fingers, delivered to the recipient through bare skin. If possible it was directed through the spine and into the brain's more primal functions, alternating with delivery directly targeting the prospective partner's erogenous zones - or if the only bare skin was an arm, she'd simply let the magic flow as it wanted. It took longer, but it still worked. If the spark wasn't there to begin with, it would simply either annoy the recipient or make them go to their preferred partner to 'take care of things'. Since it couldn't make anybody react against their natural inclinations, Harry took special note of that one. After all he'd already died a virgin five times, and he had no intention of doing that again. He'd also took particular notice of the parts that detailed her favourite techniques for once the bait was taken and the clothes were shed, and read those an extra time or two.
Helga's take on non-wanded magic was an eye-opener. According to the grimoire, wands - despite having been around for a couple of thousand years - were not all that common in her youth, but they had become second nature to almost half the population a few years before her death, simply because they offered greater control for less energy spent. However, they had major drawbacks: The owners gradually lost the fine control of their magic required for non-wanded work; people couldn't just use any old wand but had to have one matched; and the reliance on wands came with a reliance on specific, formalised spells, losing the open approach that magic without a wand offered. As Helga put it: She could lift a patient from his mattress, change the bedding and put him back in one go; but with a wand it took a spell to move the patient to another mattress, one to remove the bedding, one to place the new linens, and one to place the patient back in the bed. In the end the wand-user had spent about half the energy but taken at least twice the time. The one without a wand could even flatten lumps in the mattress in the process, while the wand-user would have to do it physically because there wasn't a spell for that. Harry decided there and then that he'd spend a lot of time working without a wand, and that he'd read anything he could find on the subject and find out why this wasn't common knowledge. Of course he had the advantage of the dumps from both Helga and Merlin, so he knew how to do it, but getting it to work for bigger things than 'the Touch' and straightening a roll of parchment would take some effort, not to mention it required a completely different way of thinking than wanded magic did.
He was pulled out of his musings by Dobby who arrived with a bowl of porridge, The Daily Prophet, and an order to drink his potion. Reluctant didn't quite describe Harry's feelings towards the noxious looking fluid in the goblet, and Dobby would've wilted if he'd seen the glare that was shot at his retreating form. He downed it in the end though, and according to the explanations he'd been given he now had twenty minutes to eat something if he wanted to avoid the worst of the effects in his stomach. Unfortunately he couldn't do anything to avoid the aches in his muscles and bones as the potion began repairing the results of years of malnutrition and sped up the effects of a delayed puberty.
Twenty minutes later, having devoured a hearty breakfast for the first time in his own home, Harry sat back with a burn in his belly and numerous aches and pains in his body, intending to kill the time until the worst was over by reading The Prophet. He knew he shouldn't be surprised, he really did, but he'd barely unfolded the paper before he choked on his tea. Across the front page, dwarfing everything else, was the headline:
TRIWIZARD TOURNAMENT BEGINS
by Rita Skeeter
And below it in lettering almost as large it read:
Harry Potter rebels, claims to be forced into the tournament illegally by Dumbledore and the Ministry.
He chuckled as he read the caption, pleased that Skeeter had apparently taken at least one of his hints yesterday. He couldn't exactly give her an interview after telling her that she'd never get as much as a quote from him, but he hadn't made any efforts to keep her from listening in when he spoke to Hermione. Now to read the article and see if she'd taken the warning to heart.
The first task of the Triwizard Tournament was held yesterday at Hogwarts, and it didn't quite go as the arrangers wanted it to. The four! contestants were to face a nesting dragon each, and were expected to steal a golden egg hidden in the dragon's own clutch. They all used different tactics to achieve their goals, and while they all got their eggs, the differences in style told a lot about the individual Champions.
Miss Delacour of Beauxbatons attempted to spell her dragon to sleep and partially succeeded. The great beast was drowsy enough that she could approach the nest and gather her egg, but it was still alert enough that a jet of flame just missed her and set her robes on fire, giving both the young witch and the audience quite a scare. Miss Delacour was able to put out the fire quickly, and luckily it turned out that the damage was to the robes only.
Mr. Krum of Durmstrang, already well known as the Seeker of the Bulgarian National Team, was next and went with brute force, casting spell after spell at the dragon's weak point - its eyes. Unfortunately the creature ended up so enraged and confused it trampled half its eggs, and in the confusion the Durmstrang student was able to run in and collect his egg. It was a sad sight to see though, several eggs destroyed because the mother was unlucky enough to be chosen as a tool for entertainment. We at The Daily Prophet sincerely hope that those responsible for the tasks have chosen to show better judgement for the challenges still to come.
Mr. Diggory of Hogwarts went for subtlety and smarts, choosing to transfigure several rocks into dogs for the dragon to chase. He very nearly got away with it, but just as he had his egg in his hands he received a jet of flame to his face. He managed to put up a shield, and in doing so he limited the damage to a nasty-looking burn, and with the Healer waiting on site there was no doubt that he will be ready for the next task.
Last up was the youngest competitor, Mr. Potter of Hogwarts, and that was when controversy came to the tournament yet again, as if the controversy surrounding Mr. Potter's surprise inclusion wasn't enough.
Where the other competitors had relied on their magic to complete their task, Mr. Potter cast only one spell: He summoned his broomstick and then he treated his dragon and a breathless audience to a display of flying skills that will be talked about for a long time to come. He managed to coax his dragon off her eggs, and despite being hit by her tail he continued his death-defying dive and got the egg, and then it got really interesting. After the mandatory check-up by Hogwarts' Healer Poppy Pomfrey, Mr. Potter revealed to a young lady who refused to state her name - could she possibly be Mr. Potter's romantic interest? - that Headmaster Dumbledore's and the Ministry's insistence on keeping him in the tournament was in fact illegal, and that since he wanted nothing to do with it he would refuse to go and receive his score. He then had a verbal joust with a fellow Gryffindor, later identified as his dorm-mate Roland Weasley, after which he disappeared to somewhere still unknown, making him unavailable for comment.
Sources at Hogwarts indicate that he turned up in the Gryffindor common room several hours later, where he rather harshly rejected the party his fellow Gryffindors intended to have in his honour, citing the general belief held before today that he had cheated in order to gain entry into the tournament. Shortly thereafter he disappeared again, and at the time of printing his whereabouts are still unknown.
We at The Daily Prophet are concerned about the allegations made by Mr. Potter, and we call for an official investigation of the debacle that saw him selected as the fourth contender in a three-way competition. Our legal experts are this moment turning the rules of the tournament inside out in order to discover if Mr. Potter's inclusion is indeed illegal as he claims, and if it is, what the repercussions could be.
Blow-by-blow report from the first task, see page 8
History of the Triwizard Tournament, see page 11
Harry had a healthy laugh at that as he rose and put the paper down. It seemed that Skeeter had accepted his threat as valid and had made Krum and Dumbledore the targets of her outer bitch, while being surprisingly somber - if not actually positive - towards himself and Hermione, whose first name she couldn't have avoided hearing but apparently chose not to disclose. Perhaps she should be rewarded...
*pop* "Yes Mas... Harry sir. What can Dobby do for you?"
Harry hadn't really been awake enough to notice before breakfast, but now he goggled at the 18th century livery the little Elf was wearing. "Nice outfit Dobby. I think that'll be the official uniform for Potter Elves from now on. Well for male Elves at least."
Dobby could only beam at him.
"Could you please seek out Rita Skeeter and suggest to her that she hide herself in the Great Hall at Hogwarts in about an hour, and then come back here and take me to Hogwarts?"
"Dobby will do, Harry sir."
Oh yes, this morning looked like it could be fun.
A/N: There, chapter 2 for your reading pleasure - or not... Fair warning: It'll be at least 1½ month if not longer until I post anything again, unless I get hit by a major clue about how to tie either ch. 3 or Connection ch. 4 together before Monday, which is when I go away, I'm going away, to the Funny Farm, where life is beautiful all the time, and I'll be happy to see those nice young men, in their clean white coats... Damn I'm tired!
No, seriously now. I'll be going to a... erm... I believe 'sanatorium' is the best word I can think of right now, where some highly educated people are going to try to teach me how to function without my right hand - which eventually had to go last August. It's going to be hell, and I'm cut off from any communication except a PDA, so I won't be writing anything but what I pen during my hand-writing exercises.
For those who don't know, the verse in italics is from 'They're coming to take me away, Ha-Haaa!' by Jerry Samuels aka. Napoleon XIV, and used without permission.