He sat in the circle, exhausted and horrified by the terrible acts he had been forced to perform to get to this point. But it would all be worthwhile if the time gate worked. Harry needed his help and his friendship; above all, Harry needed to survive. The future was a black and awful place, where Voldemort had won and nearly all his friends were dead - including Harry and his closest friends - and his dearest love. He would have never managed the task alone, but Dumbledore had planned for such a horrendous contingency, and imbued his portrait with the knowledge to travel back in time - just once. But once would be enough. Harry would be saved. And so would the world.
With one final burst of will, he activated the gate and fell into the space between the possibilities. The cord of time pulled and yanked him back, and he found himself on a day he remembered quite well indeed.
The plan had worked.
She sat atop the tower, cursing herself for the lives she had destroyed to accomplish the impossible. Everyone said it couldn't be done; that changing the past was impossible. Well, she wasn't about to accept common wisdom any longer. Harry was dead, killed years ago by Voldemort. And everyone else she had ever known or cared for was gone. Even her dear beloved, the man she never expected to love. Yes, everyone and everything told her this was impossible - and not only that, wrong.
Well, bugger that. The culmination of a three month intricate ritual was finally coming to a close as the total lunar eclipse was just beginning. And the final words of power left her mouth, never to return, echoing to the moon and beyond. Or more accurately, to the emptiness the moon left behind, a brief space when light fled and darkness crept in. The darkness spread over her, covering the sky, erasing the world from possibility. What she was doing was mass homicide on a planetary scale, and likely far worse - but she couldn't be bothered to care.
And when she opened her eyes, to see a sight so familiar and wondrous she nearly fainted with relief - she knew.
The plan had worked.
He waited in the Ministry's most secret room, albeit one where many he had personally known had visited over the years. The Veil of Death fluttered before him, captivating the eye even as it repulsed him. He hated himself, hated everyone he knew. Hated what he had helped bring to fruition. Serving the Dark Lord had never been a good thing - but he had been scared for so long. But now, his parents were dead and his former friends were as good as deceased. And even Harry Bloody Potter was dead - although that had been many years ago. Harry was dead, as were all his annoying friends. And yet, although Harry had been a rival, he was better than the alternative. Far better.
Stealing the old books from the Dark Lord had been a dangerous task - but the rapidly balding man had very little left to lose. It had taken years of planning and arduous labour - and even now he had no idea if it would work. But to hell with it, Harry may have been an arrogant little git, but he should never have died. The Veil was ready for him, the Time-Turners altered and magnified. If he was wrong, he would tear himself and the island apart. If he was right, well, the island still might be ripped asunder. But that he could live with.
With a final goodbye to his dead parents, he activated the artefacts and stepped within the Veil. It would seem like he was falling for all eternity, although in reality it was precisely the amount of time he was erasing. When he landed into his younger self, the surprise that he was no longer falling caused him to stumble and smack his face on a pillar. Well, no matter. He recognized where he was easily enough.
The plan had worked.
Far Too Many Time Travelers
Chapter 1: A Bit Odd, Really
Harry Potter settled in to the seat in the empty compartment. The Hogwarts Express was finally preparing to leave, and Harry couldn't have been more excited. The concept of learning magic was just about the greatest thing he had ever come across in his life.
The door of the compartment banged open, and a tall, red-headed boy stuck his head in. When he saw Harry, the boy burst into a very happy smile.
Harry felt a bit anxious, wondering if the redhead was about to react to his 'fame'.
"Ah, there you are!" The boy chuckled. "I had forgotten where you were sitting. Wow, it's so bloody fantastic to see you! You look so young!"
Harry frowned, thinking this a comment on his height. "You look young too," he retorted. "Didn't I just see your Mum wiping dirt off your nose?"
The boy laughed, not looking as if he took any offense at all. "Blimey, that's right. I forgot all about that."
"But it just happened," said Harry, slightly confused.
The boy blinked then gasped. "Oh, bloody hell, I almost forgot." He raced and stuck out his hand. "I'm Ron Weasley. Pleased to meet you."
"Um, I'm Harry Potter," Harry accepted the hand, which Ron pumped up and down very energetically.
"Brilliant to meet you," Ron grinned. "Brilliant." He looked around the empty compartment with a huge smile and sighed. "Ah, this is brilliant. Say, you mind if I sit here?"
Harry shook his head, completely disconcerted by the odd behaviour. On the other hand, even if this Ron was a bit odd, he was very pleasant. So that was something.
"So, um," Harry started to say, getting back his wits a bit. "Excited for Hogwarts?"
At this, Ron began to laugh in a very infectious manner - Harry had difficulty not joining in, even though he had no idea what was so funny.
"Ah, that's great, Harry, really it is," Ron wiped his eyes. "Oh, I'm excited for Hogwarts all right. Learning magic and all that. Aren't you?"
Harry snickered a bit. "Yeah, but I get the feeling nobody's quite as excited as you."
Ron chuckled. "Yeah, good one, mate. You study the books at all? I never asked the first... well I'm curious anyway."
"Um, yeah, I've read the books, well a lot of them," Harry admitted. "Although I'm really worried I'll be... well, not prepared enough. I might be last in the class."
"No worries, Harry," Ron said. "If anyone's last in the class, it'll be me. I haven't even opened a book yet!" He laughed again, and Harry joined in finally.
"Are you from a magical family?" Harry asked, wondering if that was a factor for Ron's nonchalance.
"I sure am!" Ron beamed. "Bloody brilliant family, they are. Dad works in the Ministry with Muggle stuff, Mum's at home - though with all the kids, can't blame her for that. My older brother Bill works for Gringotts hunting treasure, and the next one Charlie works with dragons. The other three you saw already, Percy's the prefect, and the Twins are Fred and George." Ron smiled and then looked as if he had just remembered something. "Oh, and Ginny's a year below us, so she'll start next year."
Ron waggled his eyebrows. "But I'll be keeping an eye on you about that, eh?"
"Um, sure," replied Harry, having no idea what Ron was talking about. "That sounds great, growing up with a magical family. My parents were magical, but I grew up with my relatives - Muggles."
To Harry's surprise, Ron scowled, as if he somehow already knew the Dursleys.
"Bloody Muggles," Ron cursed. "Remind me to do something about them, will you? Bars and all that nonsense."
"You don't hate Muggles, do you?" Harry asked worriedly.
Ron blinked in surprise. "What? No, of course not. I just can't stand the idea of a bunch of Muggles mistreating you."
"Hey," Harry's eyes narrowed. "How do you know about that?"
"Um, I don't!" Ron answered in a panic. "I mean, I just guessed. Everyone knows you grew up with Muggles, but the way you talk about them... I just guessed."
Harry sighed. "Well, I suppose you're a decent guesser then. The Dursleys were pretty awful, actually."
"Well, well, look who it is."
A familiar blond boy had entered the compartment - Harry remembered him as the rude boy from Madame Malkin's.
"You know," the boy said. "I feel like I should apologize for how I acted earlier. You know how it is, kids trying to impress each other."
Harry frowned. "I suppose," he said slowly.
"I'm Draco Malfoy," the boy stuck out his hand.
"We know who you are!" Ron jumped out of his seat and yelled angrily. "Get your stinking arse out of here, Malfoy!"
"You dare..." Malfoy visibly took a very deep breath. "Listen, I don't even know who you are."
Ron's eye twitched then he suddenly looked very alarmed. "Oh, well, I've heard about your family from my dad."
Malfoy sighed and rubbed his head. "I'm not my bloody father, okay? Are you the exact same person as your father?"
"No," Ron said slowly. "But that doesn't mean I trust you one whit."
"Fine," Malfoy spat. "I don't trust you either!"
"Say, has anyone seen a toad?"
A bushy-haired girl had walked into the compartment with a smile, although suddenly she stopped and looked worried.
"Oh dear," she mumbled almost too soft to hear. "Have I gotten the time wrong?"
"Um, hello," Ron said slowly, staring at the girl.
She looked up and stared back. "Hello, uh, there."
Harry was getting a bit exasperated with the whole business. "Hello, I'm Harry Potter."
The girl shook her head and looked back at Harry. She burst into a brilliant smile and rushed over, grabbing his hand and shaking it vigorously. "Oh, it's great to finally meet you!" She exclaimed. "I'm Hermione Granger - my parents were Muggles, so this is all so very exciting!"
She released Harry's arm and then stepped back, looking chagrined. "I mean, um, I know all about you, of course — I got a few extra books, for background reading, and you're in Modern Magical History and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century."
"Very nice to meet you, Hermione Granger," Harry said politely. "I haven't read any of those books. Am I really in them?"
"Yes, but don't worry about it, they're all rubbish," Hermione grinned. "I'm just pleased to meet some new people." She looked at Malfoy and frowned. "Um, who are you?"
Malfoy sneered. "I'm Draco Malfoy," he then bowed. When he had straightened, he looked to have a very ugly expression on his face, as if he had just swallowed something vile.
"Very pleased to meet all of you," Malfoy told them. "I - I hope I see you all in Slytherin." This last bit seemed to have taken a great deal of will to say, and now Malfoy appeared very tired. The blond boy yawned, and then blinked in surprise. "I apologize, but I need to get some rest for now. See you at Hogwarts." Before anyone could reply, Malfoy had practically ran out of the compartment.
"That was odd," Harry mused.
"I don't like him," Ron snarled.
Hermione giggled. "Well, that's not entirely unreasonable, is it? A bit of an unpleasant fellow, wasn't he?'
Harry shrugged. "Sort of. But he did apologize for being a jerk in Diagon Alley, when I met him a month ago."
Hermione's jaw dropped. "He apologized? Is that true R-, um, sir?" she asked Ron.
Ron nodded. "Yup. Oh, and don't call me sir, it seems weird." His ears turned a bright red. "Um, you can just call me Ron. Ron Weasley."
"Pleased to meet you," Hermione replied with a little curtsy, and the two began staring at each other again.
"Say, if you'd like me to find another compartment, that's fine," Harry said, slightly annoyed.
"What? Oh, nonsense!" Hermione shook her head. "No, I'd love a chance to talk with you a bit before we need to change!"
"Um, well, all right," Harry said, sitting back down. Hermione stood there, smiling at him.
"Uh, won't you sit down?" Harry asked her.
Hermione suddenly looked like she was about to cry. "Oh, how nice of you. Yes, of course, how silly of me!" She slid into the seat across Harry.
Ron looked at the seat, and then across to Harry. "Hmm, I think I'll just stand."
"Don't be stupid," Harry told him. "Just sit down! There's plenty of room!"
Ron nodded and sat down, although he made sure to sit as far as possible on the seat away from Hermione.
Harry sighed. He couldn't tell if the two hated each other or had some odd crush, but either way it was massively uncomfortable.
"So, um," Harry started to say haltingly. "Why don't you tell me about yourselves?"
Both began answering at the same time, then looked at each other.
"You go ahead," said Hermione.
"No, I insist," replied Ron.
As they walked towards the Great Hall, Harry wondered just what was wrong with these new sort-of friends of his.
Hermione and Ron were still acting unbelievably awkwardly around each other, as if they had already met ages ago. And the things Ron sometimes said made absolutely no sense, although at least he had stopped laughing at everything. And Hermione... she alternated between odd musings and what sometimes sounded like material she had memorized from a book. Although from what he had already learned about her, that part wasn't so hard to believe.
And then there was Malfoy, hovering around them, never quite saying anything, but always looking as if he wanted to interject. Ron seemed to completely despise the blond boy, and Harry could tell that Hermione didn't care for him either, although she was better at hiding her distaste.
On the other hand, they all seemed to be pretty friendly to Harry, and that was unusual enough that he was willing to ignore their idiosyncrasies for the time being.
"How do you suppose we get sorted?" Harry asked Ron.
"The Hat," Ron answered flippantly.
Hermione whipped her head towards them. "How did you know that?"
"Um," Ron's eyes bugged out. "Percy told me. I wouldn't stop whining about it."
Malfoy snorted and smirked slightly.
"Shut it, you," Ron told him.
"So, what's the Hat?" Harry asked, pretending that nothing out of place had occurred.
"Oh, I'm sure we'll find out," Hermione said primly. She glared at Ron. "Won't we?"
Ron gulped. "Um, yes. I forgot - I mean, you do love rules, don't you?"
Hermione sighed. "Yes, I suppose so."
Harry decided to tune them out until the whole Sorting business was over. But when Professor McGonagall brought a Hat that actually sang to them...
"A Hat, eh?" Harry looked at Ron. "Did your brother tell you about that part?"
Ron frowned thoughtfully. "Hmm, I'm going to say... uh, no, he just slipped on the Hat part. He refused to say anything else though."
Hermione bit her lip nervously. "You know, it's possible that the Hat can read minds, based on that song. I wonder what it can see."
At this remark, both Ron and Malfoy were suddenly very alarmed.
Harry rolled his eyes. "What's the big deal? What secrets could a bunch of kids possibly have?"
Hermione laughed nervously. "Yes, good point, Harry, yes, very good point."
As the students began to be called up in alphabetical order, Harry's three 'friends' seemed to be getting more and more nervous. Hermione in particular looked as if she was about to faint.
When her name was called, Hermione just stood there.
"Come on then," Harry whispered to her. "Don't worry about it, you'll be fine."
Hermione looked back at him in surprise, then seemed to blink away some tears. She moved as if she was about to hug him, then just patted Harry on the shoulder.
"Thank you, Harry," she said, and walked over to the Hat.
The Hat made an odd noise, like an "Eh?", but then after only a second or so yelled "GRYFFINDOR!"
Ron sighed in relief. "Oh, good. But wait, she's not the one out of..." He stopped talking and looked nervous again.
Eventually Malfoy was called over, looking quite anxious himself. The Hat instantly yelled out "SLYTHERIN!" Malfoy stumbled over the Slytherin table, seeming as if he wasn't quite sure he believed it was over.
Finally it was Harry's turn, and although the room began to erupt in whispers, Harry strode quickly over to the Hat, hoping to see what the big deal was anyway.
After the Hat had been lowered on Harry's head, it began to chuckle. "Hmm... I half expected you to be one... surprised you aren't."
"What's so funny?" Harry asked in annoyance.
"Oh, Mr. Potter, I wish I could tell. I really do. But we don't need to drag this on any farther, now do we? We both know where you belong."
"We do?" Harry asked, not completely sure himself.
"Yes, considering what has already happened twice already. Better be... GRYFFINDOR!" Instantly the Gryffindor table burst into applause and Harry walked over.
"Well done, Harry," Hermione told him. "Nothing to it, right? That was fast! The Hat barely had to think about it, didn't it?"
Harry shrugged. "Yes, I guess."
Very soon it was Ron's turn, and Harry wasn't completely sure what he wanted.
Suddenly the Hat began to laugh out loud, and everyone in the room seemed taken aback. Even the Professors seemed shocked at this behaviour.
"Oh, this is rich, it is," the Hat said. "Obviously yet another GRYFFINDOR!"
Ron raced over to the table, and sat next to Harry, looking tremendously relieved but also a bit annoyed.
"Stupid Hat," he said. "Started laughing but wouldn't tell me why."
"Maybe it thought you had a good sense of humour," Harry pointed out. "You did laugh a lot when I first met you."
Ron laughed at that. "Nice one, Harry. You're all right, aren't you?"
Harry shook his head in amusement. "I certainly hope so."
One thing Harry Potter knew for sure was that his friends weren't so bad, really - but they were all really quite odd.
They were nice - always helping Harry through the maze-like corridors of Hogwarts when he was getting lost. And yet they always seemed to know more than they should - including what seemed like instinctive abilities to navigate the school when every other first-year was stumbling over hidden stairs and walking in endless circles.
And then there was the classwork.
In their first Charms class, Professor Flitwick, a tiny little wizard, squeaked when he read Harry's name and fell off a pile of books. Instantly Ron and Hermione began to laugh, although they stopped immediately when the Professor glared at them. It was in Transfiguration that Harry began to feel a sense of the two - both managed to perfectly change a match into a needle, but their other actions couldn't have been more different. Hermione sat completely at attention the entire class, whereas Ron actually fell asleep - Professor McGonagall was quite cross until he managed the transfiguration successfully with utter effortlessness.
At which point she seemed a bit pleased and awarded five points each to Gryffindor.
On the other hand, sometimes they acted identically - in their Defence Against the Dark Arts class, both Ron and Hermione seemed about ready to attack poor Professor Quirrell at any moment.
At first Harry though he was misreading the situation, noticing minor aberrations in their behaviour. Ron bit his lip and clenched his fist while looking intently at the Professor, while Hermione kept rubbing her wand, her eyes just to the side. Harry decided that they were just focused on the lecture, difficult though it was to understand through all the stuttering, but as the Defence class went on, things got worse. When answering a question, Hermione's words were nothing but polite, but it was almost like she spat them out. And Ron just grunted in response to everything.
"You sure didn't like the Professor," commented Harry after the class.
Ron scowled. "He just seems like bad news, if you ask me."
Hermione nodded. "Yes, I quite agree. He's obviously hiding something."
"If you say so." Harry shrugged.
But the most dramatic day would be Friday, when they attended Potions class with the Slytherins. Harry was wondering if Malfoy would muster the courage to finally talk to him, as he seemed to be unable to speak every time they had passed each other in the halls.
Of course, it turned out that everyone had a bit of advice for him.
"You know, Harry," Hermione told him. "I heard from Hagrid that Professor Snape and your mother were very close friends. You should stop in a few minutes early and ask him about her."
"Do you really think that's a good idea?" Ron asked, looking hardly convinced. "It's obvious he hates everybody."
"I know that!" Hermione replied angrily. "But maybe they could get off on the right foot instead of hating each other. Oh!" She grinned suddenly. "You should tell him you grew up with your relatives. I think he knew them too."
"Um, sure," Harry wasn't quite sure about it, but he agreed, as their advice had been fairly good so far. And as Harry was walking ten minutes early to the Potions classroom, Malfoy finally accosted him with some words of wisdom.
"Listen, Potter," Malfoy said with gritted teeth. "Snape's a cowardly bully, but he'll respect you more if you don't antagonize him. Try to be nice and respectful, would you?"
"I wasn't planning to misbehave, Malfoy," Harry informed his rarely seen acquaintance. "I'm not an idiot."
Malfoy's mouth curled up and he nodded. "See you in class, then."
Professor Snape was quite surprised to see Harry.
"What do you want?" he asked acidly.
"Well, I heard that you were really close friends with my mum," Harry said slowly.
Snape sat upright in surprise, then his eyes narrowed. "Where did you hear that?" he demanded.
"I think first from Hagrid, actually," answered Harry.
"I see," Snape said softly. "Well, that's possible, I suppose."
"I didn't really hear anything about her growing up," Harry went on in a hurry. "My relatives didn't even mention my parents except that they died in a car crash."
"They did what?" Snape's eyes glittered dangerously.
Harry held up his hands quickly. "Wait, I know the truth now. It was Voldemort-" Snape flinched.
"Sorry, You-Know-Who that killed them. Hagrid told me."
"Hmph," Snape grunted. "Hagrid is telling you quite a bit, isn't he?" Then his eyes widened and he breathed in sharply. "Wait a moment. You grew up with relatives, you said? Which relatives? On your father's side?"
Harry shook his head. "No, with my aunt and uncle. Aunt Petunia was my Mum's sister, did you know her too?"
Snape's mouth tightened and he began to look a bit angry. "I did not realize you had been living with that... woman. Did she even tell you anything of Hogwarts at all?"
"No, sir," replied Harry. "They didn't like magic much - actually they pretended it didn't exist until Hagrid showed up."
The Potions Professor rubbed his temples as though he was getting a headache. "I don't have time for this now, Potter. Perhaps I'll have time later to talk about your mother. But for now, take your seat for class - it's only another few minutes in any event."
Harry grinned. "Thank you sir!" It appeared that his friends' advice had worked like a charm. He found a desk and happily went to work pulling out his parchment and Potions supplies. Every so often, the Professor would look at him with an odd expression, and then look away.
Well, perhaps it was hard for him to be reminded of his old friend being dead for so many years. Harry missed his parents and he'd never even known them. Professor Snape had actually been friends with them.
Soon enough, the other students trickled in. Hermione practically ran over to grab the seat next to Harry, leaving a very annoyed Ron to share a cauldron with Neville Longbottom. Malfoy took a seat behind them, looking quite exhausted indeed.
When everyone had found seats, Snape began to take roll call - but when he got to Harry's name, he paused.
"Hmm, Harry Potter," he said softly. "Our new... celebrity." At this, Ron and Hermione instantly became obviously infuriated.
For his part, Harry didn't get it, and looked at the Professor with confusion. Snape avoided Harry's look and continued on with the roll. When he finished, he put down the list and looked up at the class with a sort of thoughtful expression.
"This is not a typical class," Snape said in an intense but quiet voice. "You will rarely require your wands, but will instead require more will and concentration than all other classes put together. And it requires you to think on your feet."
He turned to Harry and looked at him carefully. "Mr. Potter - in the boil-curing potion, do you add the porcupine quills before or after removing the potion from the fire?"
"Oh!" Harry blinked, as this sounded quite familiar. "Um, after, I think."
Snape nodded, looking pleased. "Perhaps a slightly more advanced question, then. What would be a good use for Essence of Murtlap?"
Hermione began waving her hand around frantically, and actually moved to block Snape's view of Harry. Not to be outdone, Ron started waving his hand as well.
"What... put your hands down," Snape snapped at them. "When I ask you a question, you will know it!"
"Typical," spat Hermione, then her face froze, looking as if she had meant to say anything.
Professor Snape looked as he did not believe what he had heard. "No speaking unless I call on you. Five points for breaking the rules."
"Well, that makes a lot of sense!" Ron snarled.
"Silence! That will be another ten points from Gryffindor for that little outburst!" He visibly composed himself. "So, Mister Potter?"
"Um, sorry about them," Harry said softly.
The Professor snorted. "It wasn't you that was behaving like an ill-mannered brat. Do you have an answer?"
"I think so," Harry answered. "I don't remember the name of it, but I think Murtlap is often used for healing potions."
"Well thought out," Snape replied with a smirk. "I think you have a good handle on the problem so far. One final question, I think. Which one potion requires stewing lacewing flies twenty-one days and picking fluxweed at a full moon?"
"But sir, that's unfair," Hermione hissed angrily. "How could you expect a first year to know about it? Polyjuice is a Restricted potion!"
"And how exactly do you know that, Miss Granger, being a first year yourself?" Snape riposted. "And what did I just say about speaking out of turn? Another ten points for idiocy."
"Oh, will you just leave her alone then?" Ron asked scathingly. "As if you'd act the same way towards one of your precious Slytherins."
Malfoy snorted then looked as if he hadn't meant to do anything.
Snape whirled towards Draco furiously. "Something to add, Mr. Malfoy?"
The young Slytherin student sighed. "Oh, I doubt you'd want to hear it."
"I'm all ears," the Professor said in a warning tone.
"Well, perhaps the Gryffindor idiots have a point, sir," Malfoy said in a surprisingly bitter voice. "Maybe if you weren't so discriminatory towards other houses, Slytherins wouldn't be treated so poorly." He paused and then said, "I've heard things."
"You've heard things?" Snape hissed. "Think I'm afraid to take points from my own house, do you? You are quite wrong on that account, Mister Malfoy, despite what your father may have told you. That will be thirty points from Slytherin for blatant disrespect. And another twenty points from Gryffindor for equally appalling behaviour."
"How could you?" Hermione suddenly burst into tears. "It's your fault - it's all your fault!" She buried her face in her hands.
"Are you out of your mind?" The Professor asked with a confused glare. "You're not making any sense! Stop crying this moment!"
"You're just being a bully," Ron growled, standing up and shaking his fist.
Snape's eyes narrowed and he looked quite furious. "Sit down this moment," he said in a quiet, dangerous manner. "This sort of behaviour might get you expelled."
"What's wrong?" Malfoy asked sarcastically. "Worried that some children might be getting the best of you? Have to threaten expulsion for every little thing?"
"Enough!" Snape yelled. "Detention! All three of you! And sit down before I throw you out!" After the three sat down, glaring all the while, Snape rubbed his head again.
"As I believe I was saying before," the Professor said in a strained voice. "Mr. Potter, any ideas?"
"Well," Harry said carefully, afraid to say anything after all that. "I think Hermione mentioned Polyjuice Potion, although I don't know what that is."
Snape snorted. "Ah, well, yes that's it exactly. At least you were paying attention." He then turned to the rest of the class and glared. "And why has no one else been taking notes? Does anyone else fancy detention as well?"
The three seemed to realize how badly they had acted, and spent the remainder of the class pretending they hadn't done anything wrong at all. It didn't stop Snape from watching them all murderously.
All in all, Potions wasn't so bad, really.
As they all stood outside for their flying lesson, his friends seemed as anxious as ever - well, with the possible exception of Ron, who kept rubbing his hands together and chortling to himself.
"This is gonna be great, Harry," Ron informed him. "Flying's the best."
"Stupid brooms," grumbled Hermione to herself.
Everything went rather smoothly until Neville fell from his broom and had to be taken to the hospital wing. After Madame Hooch and Neville had run off, everyone just stood around waiting.
Ron and Hermione kept looking at Malfoy expectantly, as if they thought he was about to do something dramatic as well.
Finally Malfoy seemed to notice they were looking at him and his jaw dropped.
"Oh, right," he said. "Ah, damn it, what was it that happened again?"
"Say, Malfoy," Ron said cautiously. "Have something there, do you?"
"Actually, no," Malfoy replied grumpily.
Ron frowned. "Are you quite sure?"
"Why, look what it is!" Hermione interjected and pointed to the ground. "It's Neville's Remembrall - he must've dropped it."
Malfoy nodded. "Ah, yes, that stupid thing. Um, blast."
Harry looked between them and then sighed heavily. "Fine, I can take a hint. I'll give it back to him when gets out of the hospital wing." He leaned down and picked up the shiny globe. "You know, it's not exactly the hardest thing to pick something up off the ground."
No one said anything for a few moments.
"Um, is there something going on here?" Parvati asked.
"Whatever do you mean?" Hermione asked airily.
"Say, Harry," Ron brightened. "Fancy a catch?"
"With Neville's thing?" Harry frowned. "No, I wouldn't want to break it. Besides, the teacher told us if we flew without her we'd get expelled."
Ron and Malfoy scoffed at that.
"Nonsense," Ron said with a smirk.
"As if they'd expel the Golden Boy for such a petty offense," Malfoy sneered.
Harry laughed. "The Golden Boy? Haven't heard that one before."
"Well, you know what I mean," Malfoy stammered. "You haven't lost any points yet."
"Just because I don't insult Professors to their faces doesn't make me the Golden Boy," Harry chuckled. "Maybe you lot should watch how you act in class."
"He has a point, Draco," Pansy simpered to the other Slytherin. "You shouldn't be disrespecting Professor Snape like some common Gryffindor."
Hermione and Ron burst into laughter in response.
"What a brilliant insult," Ron crowed.
"She sure put us in our place, didn't she?" Hermione wiped away merry tears from her eyes.
Pansy glared at them. "I expect you are some sort of bad influence on Draco. That's the only explanation."
"Brilliant!" Ron said again. "Well reasoned, Parkinson. All part of our evil plan to make Malfoy even more of a git."
Hermione smacked him. "You needn't be that rude."
"You are all mad," Harry informed them.
"I'm not!" Parvati said in a scandalized tone.
"Well, maybe not you," Harry allowed. "But perhaps that's just because you haven't had the chance to act oddly yet."
"Come on, Harry," Ron motioned to the brooms. "Catch?"
Harry scowled. "No! I don't fancy detention the way you seem to."
"Well, fine then," Ron said with a bizarre look in his eyes. "If that's the way you - Accio Remembrall!" The small globe leaped out of Harry's hands and Ron caught it after a bit of fumbling. "C'mon Harry, if you want it, you gotta follow!"
Ron jumped on a broom and soared up into the air.
"You aren't going to let him show you up like that, are you?" Malfoy asked. "I'm not!" He grabbed another broom and flew up to pace Ron. "Throw it here, Weasley!"
Ron shrugged. "Eh, why not?" He tossed the Remembrall quite hard at Malfoy, who still managed to catch it, although it was a close thing.
"Harry, you aren't going to let them get away with that, are you?" Hermione bugged him.
"If I don't, I suppose you'll join their craziness?" Harry sighed.
"No, I'm rubbish at flying," Hermione said, shaking her head. "But look at them! They'll break it for sure! Neville will be heartbroken."
"Fine!" Harry almost yelled and glared at her. "I hate you guys, you know that?"
Hermione just smiled.
But when Harry jumped into the air, suddenly he became quite a bit less angry. The sensations, the movements that followed his will - it was all marvellous.
"Uh oh," Ron called out with a grin. "Here he comes!"
Malfoy snorted. "Well, Potter - you think you can beat me to it?"
"When I get it back from both of you," Harry said solemnly, albeit with an enormous grin. "We are all landing immediately."
"Confident, aren't you?" Malfoy raised an eyebrow. "Weasley, toss it and let's see who catches it first!"
Ron grinned and threw the Remembrall towards the ground with all his strength.
Malfoy darted after, but Harry followed almost instinctively, managing to accelerate and weave around the Slytherin until he was barely passing him.
"Hardly fair," Malfoy grunted out. "Bloody cheater."
Harry just ignored this and kept his eyes on the falling orb. And barely two feet before the ground, Harry curved and grabbed the Remembrall. He grinned at Malfoy, who had pulled up a bit behind, and lowered himself onto the ground.
Hermione shook her head and sighed. "I'll never get used to that. You looked like you were about to hit the ground!"
"You told me to fly after them," Harry reminded her. "So none of that now."
"Uh oh," Parvati mumbled. "It's McGonagall!"
Sure enough, the Transfiguration Professor was storming over, sputtering incoherently.
She glared up at the still hovering Ron. "Ronald Weasley, get down here this instant!"
McGonagall turned her angry gaze towards Harry and Malfoy. "What is the meaning of this... blatant disregard for safety?"
Malfoy shrugged. "Just a game of catch."
"Excuse me?" Harry whirled. "That's not how it happened."
"They grabbed Neville's Remembrall and started playing with it," Parvati informed their teacher. "And basically forced Harry to come after them to get it back."
"Weasley and Malfoy?" McGonagall seemed quite taken aback. "They goaded Mr. Potter into flying against the rules?"
"Yes!" Pansy spat. "It's ridiculous!"
"And was no one thinking clearly?" McGonagall demanded.
"Harry didn't want to play around," Parvati said with relish. "But Ron and Hermione and Malfoy all were trying to break the rules!"
McGonagall frowned at Hermione. "Miss Granger, is that true?"
"Well," Hermione said slowly. "Sort of."
The Professor sighed and rubbed her head, in a way that Harry felt like copying himself.
"All right, I think each of you will get a detention for breaking school rules," she decided. "Except for you, Mr. Potter. You come with me, right now."
"But..." Harry sputtered.
"Enough!" McGonagall cut him off. "Let's go."
When Harry came back to the Gryffindor table that evening, he glared at his friends.
"Wha izzit?" Ron asked through a mouthful of food.
"I'm the new seeker for the Quidditch team," Harry said angrily.
"That's great!" Hermione beamed.
"Yes, it is!" Parvati squealed. "Did you get detention too?"
Harry shook his head. "No, McGonagall said it was obvious I'd been forced into it - but that I clearly had some talent."
"You do," Hermione agreed with a smile.
Ron sighed. "I wish I could've gotten on the team too."
"You were being a prat out there," Parvati informed him. "You're lucky you lot weren't expelled." Then she gasped. "You don't think Malfoy was made Seeker on the Slytherin team, do you?"
"I hope not," Ron grumbled. "But I wouldn't put past that slimy Snape."
Harry grunted in annoyance and sat down to get some food. "Snape hates all three you equally, I think. Why would he put someone he hated on the team?"
Ron brightened. "That's a good point, Harry."
"Aren't you even annoyed you've gotten two detentions in the first month?"
Hermione shrugged. "Not particularly."
"Yeah," Ron agreed. "It's just detention."
"You're both nutters," Harry grumbled to himself.
As they all walked back to the dorm later that night, Ron suddenly stopped and gasped.
"What now?" Harry groaned.
"Um... nothing," Ron stammered. "Just wondered why Malfoy didn't come over to bug us."
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "That's true. I wonder what he's up to."
"Who cares?" Harry almost yelled. "I wonder what you both are up to."
"Nothing!" Ron yelped.
Hermione shook her head rapidly. "Why would I be up to anything?"
"I think your friends are all crazy," Parvati whispered to Harry.
"Yeah," Harry sighed. "They are." Then he shrugged. "But they're still my friends."