Summary: Half-blood Harriett Potter dreams of going to Hogwarts to study under the greatest Potions Master in England, but in an AU where the school only accepts purebloods, the only way to reach her goal is to switch places with her pureblood cousin—the only problem? Her cousin is a boy.
A/N: This is an Alanna the Lioness take on Harry Potter. You don't have to have read the former series, just know that its premise is a girl who longs to go to knight school and switches places with her twin brother to do so. As far as HP is concerned, this is AU. It's set in a world where there's no prophecy, Voldemort became a politician instead of a terrorist, and—oh yeah, Harry is now Harriett. This, along with many other elements of the general plot, might seem cliché, but I've done my best to make the story both entertaining and moving, realistic and fantastical at turns. Enjoy.
A/N 2: After completing the third book I've decided to begin going back and editing the older chapters in order to bring them stylistically up to the level of the latest ones. No plot elements have been changed—I'm just cleaning up the grammar.
The Pureblood Pretense:
"Has one of my father's pranks turned your brains to porridge?" Arcturus Rigel Black clamped a hand over his cousin's mouth while glancing about the musty hallway anxiously. "You can't just say things like that in the open, Harry. Don't you know what your mum would do to us if she heard?"
Harriett Potter allowed herself to be pulled down the hall, up the narrow staircase, and into Archie's bedroom, quite used to her cousin's dramatics. Her mother was safely out of earshot in the parlor with her fathers and uncles, and it's not as if the decapitated heads of house-elves past were going to rat them out, but when Archie wanted drama, drama was created. She waited patiently while Archie dragged the chest of drawers over to barricade the door and settled for a very small eye-roll when he stuffed his handkerchief in the keyhole for good measure.
"Okay, now." He plopped down on the bed as if the last five minutes had exhausted him beyond endurance and stared at her through his untidy fringe. "Pleasepleaseplease tell me you weren't joking."
She took in his pathetically hopeful expression with a small smile. "I wasn't. I convinced mum and dad that I want to attend the American Institute of Magic." Not that it had been a hard sell; there were only so many foreign schools of magic, and those that took Halfbloods and Muggleborns readily were almost exclusively located in the liberal United States. The fact that she was showing any amount of enthusiasm for a school other than Hogwarts was a great relief to her parents at this point.
"I can't believe it." Archie flopped back onto the covers and blinked at the ceiling like an owl dazed by the sun. "It's happening. I'm really going to be a Healer. Harry, I—" He took a deep, steadying breath. "I don't know how I'll ever thank you."
Harry reached out to pat her cousin gently on the hand. "You're helping me just as much, remember? Without you taking my place at AIM, I couldn't take yours at Hogwarts."
"Right, guess not." Archie laughed a bit breathlessly and a grin lit up his round face with mischief. "So, what's next?"
Harriett pulled out a well-worn piece of parchment from her pocket. She took quill and ink from Archie's nightstand and crossed off 'lie through teeth to parents' from their list. Archie had written the list, which explained why 'jump with joy' was the only item apart from 'become a girl' that wasn't crossed off. "Well," she said, "we can't switch trunks until the night before we leave, so other than getting hold of the Polyjuice Potion, that's it."
"Okay," Archie said slowly, "So when I get to AIM, I'll tell the headmistress that whoever transcribed the forms over Floo messed up, and my name's Harry, not Harriett. They won't know the English Book of Gold well enough in America to think anything of it."
"What I don't get is how you—" here Archie pointed skeptically in the general direction of her face, "—are going to be me."
"Because you're so unique," Harry said dryly. "Everyone knows of the Black heir, but you don't really have any friends—"
"—besides me, and I inherited enough pureblooded features from my dad to pass even Lord Malfoy's scrutiny," she finished, tilting her nose up to emphasize the afore mentioned 'good' breeding.
Archie narrowed his eyes in mock judgment. "Hmm, yes, this one does have the pureblood nose and cheekbones. The eyes are a bit vulgar—if only they were a stately grey rather than that common green hue—but the perfectly pointed chin more than makes up for it. But the hair! Oh, dear Merlin, never did a pureblood see the like."
Harry tossed a pillow lazily at his snobby expression. "Our hair is the same color—black as your family name."
"It's not the color that's the problem," he chuckled. "It's the texture. The Potter mop is quite distinctive."
"It's not that bad," Harry said, scowling defensively as her cousin gave her an expression of patent disbelief.
Archie shook his head ruefully. "Sorry, cuz, but anyone in England who sees that hair will right away associate it with your father. His picture's in the paper too often. The hair has to go if you want to pass as me."
"But you have long hair." She frowned, fingering a shoulder-length lock. "It'll seem odd if you suddenly wear it short."
"We'll make it a grand gesture. Tomorrow you and I are both cutting our hair in honor of the end of our childhood. With luck, it'll make you look like a girlish boy and me like a boyish girl," Archie said. She noted he didn't sound enthusiastic at the prospect.
Harry grimaced herself, just imagining the look on her mother's face when they came back from the salon. There was nothing for it, though. They had to look as alike as possible, if this plan of theirs was going to last beyond the first term. Once their ruse got underway, a few inches of hair was going to seem like nothing compared to some of the other things they'd have to do.
The next day, she and Archie went to one of the Diagon barbershops and said goodbye to their long, and in Harry's case unruly, hair. Before she knew it, the wayward crow's nest her father always tousled when she came near was gone. In its place were close-cropped locks that curled gently around her forehead and ears.
"I look too delicate with my face all exposed." Harriett frowned while squinting at herself in the mirror. "They'll know I'm a girl."
"They won't," Archie assured her, admiring his own shorter style. She had to admit that, put next to one another, there was a remarkable similarity between the two of them. Not enough for their parents to mistake them, but enough to put doubt into a stranger, perhaps. "Pureblooded children generally have delicate features anyway. You only think you look exposed because you're used to that lion's mane overwhelming your features."
He reached over from the chair next to her and plucked the glasses from her face. "There, don't we look like twins?"
"I can't see anything without my glasses," she said, rolling blurry eyes.
Archie grinned. "That's going to be a problem. We need to get you contacts—I'm thinking steel colored or maybe argent." He peered at himself in the mirror thoughtfully. "What do you think, do I look like an argent to you?"
"You look like an idiot to me," Harry informed him.
"Well you better practice your village idiot expressions, then," Archie laughed. "Seeing as you have to be me in a few days."
"Maybe I'll improve you," Harry said, smiling. "By the time you're yourself again I'll have set the bar so high people will say 'What happened to that Archie Black? He was so collected in school and now he seems rather buffoonish.'"
"Careful, cousin, or I might do something novel to your reputation, too," Archie threatened with an answering grin.
"Do your worst," Harry shrugged. "I'll just assume your identity permanently."
Archie grimaced. "Can we make every effort to not have that happen? No offense to womankind, but I really don't want to be a girl forever."
"You're not actually going to be a girl," she reminded him. "I'm the one who has to lie about my gender for seven years."
They both lapsed into a thoughtful silence, the full scope of their intentions beginning to creep past their mental defenses. "It'll be worth it," Archie said at last, just before the hairdresser returned with their bill.
"It will," she agreed. It would have to be.
Their last night at home arrived quickly, and Archie packed up everything he could possibly need for a school he wouldn't ever be attending. He had mixed feelings about their ruse, despite his readiness to go forward with it. The prospect of lying to his dad for the next seven years was an unhappy one. Now that Mum was gone, he was all his dad had left, and if their deception was discovered it would likely cause a rift in their relationship, but on the other hand…it's not as if they were hurting anyone. Harry got to chase her dream of studying under Master Snape, and AIM had the best Healer certification track of any Western magical school; by the time he graduated he'd be a fully qualified Mediwizard, several years ahead of an equivalent student of Hogwarts standards. Well, he would be if the two of them could pull it off, that is.
When he'd finished packing what was essentially Harry's trunk, he and his dad went over to Potter's Place in Godric's Hollow for dinner. Uncle Remus was already there, setting the table. Of course, Remus wasn't really his uncle; nor was James, come to that, but they all considered one another family, so exact blood relations didn't really matter.
"So are you psyched to go to school, Archie?" James asked once they'd all sat down at the table. Lily nudged him reprovingly with her elbow, glancing at Harry with unveiled concern, but James grinned reassuringly at his wife and continued talking over the spread. "You're going to love Hogwarts—no place like it anywhere. Why, the things me and your uncle and father got up to when we were there… As the representative of the second generation of Marauders, you'll have to carry on the family legacy—"
"—of pranking the daylights out of unsuspecting Defense Against the Dark Arts professors," Sirius cut in, barking out a laugh and slapping Remus, who was sitting next to him, on the back in reminiscence. Remus shook his head exasperatedly at his best friend, but didn't say anything to rebuke him. Archie knew it was Remus' opinion that Sirius laughed much too rarely. Lady Black, Archie's mother, had passed away a few years ago of a rare wasting sickness, and his dad really hadn't been the same since. Neither had he, for that matter.
"Why just the Defense professors?" Archie asked, playing along. "Is that part of the tradition?"
"Eh, not really. It's just that they're usually the best targets." James rubbed his neck in thought. "See, the job's been cursed as long as anyone can remember, so you never get the same one two years in a row."
"And rookie professors are the easiest marks." Sirius winked at his son. "Though if you want to prank Snivellus once or twice your old man would be much obliged."
"Don't call him that, Sirius," Lily said automatically, her tone revealing the frequency with which she had to make the request. "He's a good man."
"Not to mention a genius," Harry added quietly into her fish. No one acknowledged this remark, as it, too, was commonplace.
Harry had been in a state of near-idol worship with their dads' old school rival ever since she read an article in Potions Quarterly about his work with the Wolfsbane potion. His cousin came off as dull and uninteresting, if not downright cold, to most people, but she had harbored a deep fascination for potions. She'd been spending the better part of her free time stirring up unlikely concoctions in her parents' basement for as long as he could remember. Archie knew his cousin wanted nothing in the world but to brew potions for the rest of her life, preferable alone, but in her mind mediocrity in the art was not enough. The only way to become the greatest Potions Mistress in the country was to study under the greatest Potions Master in the country, and he, if you believed Harry's judgment on the subject, was at Hogwarts. Archie could relate to her single-mindedness on the subject—he felt much the same about Healing.
"Eleven years later and you're still defending the man," James sighed.
"Eleven years later and you're still holding onto a childish rivalry," Lily returned, looking to Remus for support. "Remus thinks it's ridiculous, don't you?"
"She has a point," the werewolf said mildly. He glanced between James and Sirius with a slight smile. "There's no need to perpetuate this, is there? I'm sure by now he's washed his hair."
Sirius and James burst into fresh gales of laughter, and Lily gave Remus an exasperated, thanks-for-nothing stare. He held his hands up in surrender and cheerfully changed the subject. "So, Harry, how are you looking forward to America?"
"Can't wait," the newly shorn girl said, glancing up at Archie before continuing, "It'll be interesting to travel abroad. I'm, ah, actually thinking of trying the Healer-track."
"Really?" Remus chewed thoughtfully as her parents exchanged confused looks. "That's quite a difficult area of specialization. I thought you were planning on pursuing a Potions career, though."
"Well all the really advanced Healing is done with potions nowadays," Harry said, toying casually with her vegetables. "If I want to make potions to help people, not just brew them for money, then I should see the problem from the other side, too."
Archie didn't think she was lying—she almost never did, directly. She had mentioned wanting one day to be able to help people with the potions she invented, and Mediwizards did rely heavily on potions for the more complicated cures, but he knew if it weren't for him she wouldn't even consider a specialty in Healing. That was all Archie. After watching his mother suffer for months under the influence of an illness there was no viable treatment for, he became obsessed with the idea of one day saving lives.
When he first decided he wanted to be a Healer one day, he'd asked his father if he could accompany Harry to a school in America instead of taking the place reserved for him at Hogwarts. Sirius wouldn't hear of it. Archie thought his father's unusual unreasonableness on the subject was a combination of his fear that he'd be losing his son in a way, too, if he went so far away and his desire for Archie to have the same wonderful experiences he'd had in school. Hogwarts was where Sirius had met his best friends, James and Remus, and where he'd met and fallen in love with Diana, Archie's mother. Their arguments on the subject of Archie's schooling had become so sour that when Harry had first idly suggested switching places to solve both their frustrations, Archie considered it seriously. He didn't want to disappoint his dad, but Sirius lived his life in the past, and Archie couldn't change that. He knew he could never bring his mum back. He might be able to one day be the difference that saved someone else's loved one, however, and to see that dream become a reality he'd lie to the whole world if he had to.
After dinner the two cousins went up to Harry's room for a private goodbye. They wouldn't see one another until winter break at the earliest, and they had never been apart that long before. The long separation wasn't at the forefront of their minds, however.
"Did you get your dad to shrink yours, too?" Harry asked, producing a miniaturized trunk from a bookshelf.
Archie produced his miniaturized trunk from his pocket and exchanged it for Harry's thankfully not-too-feminine one. They wouldn't be unshrunk until they reached their respective schools the following evening. "Did you nick the potions from Uncle James' Auror kit?" This was the part of their plan he was least sure about. Unlike the rest of it, which seemed fairly innocent, stealing was so obviously wrong. He supposed he'd better get used to living in a state of moral greyness.
"Here." Harry pulled out two beakers from under her bed, pouring doses of the mud-brown liquid into vials, one for each of them. "You'll have to keep the beaker hidden. I've replaced it with a neutral concoction that smells and tastes as bad, but doesn't do anything. Hopefully he'll assume it's a defective batch."
Archie nodded his understanding and they both plucked hairs without further ado. Switching vials, they each drank the dose with the other's essence. The transformation was more painful than he'd anticipated, but soon enough it was over and he felt as if he were looking into a mirror.
"Weird." Archie squinted his newly green eyes. "You have awful eyesight, Harry. Give me your glasses."
"That explains why the world's so blurry." Harriett took off her spectacles and blinked at the world around her, apparently enjoying her now-perfect vision. Archie put the glasses on with a sigh of distaste. It would only be for a little while.
They had enough stolen Polyjuice to last until they were safely away from their parents the next morning, and after that Harriett had the contacts he'd gotten her to correct her vision and change her eye color to an unremarkable grey, while he had green contacts for thoroughness' sake. He wasn't expecting to run into anyone at AIM who had even heard of the Potters. Harry was the one who would have the hard time pulling off their deception.
"I packed extra potions books into my trunk for you, so study up in case Mum mentions something in a letter I should know about," Harry said. "Don't forget to learn a handwriting charm first thing so you can answer my parents' correspondence, and I'll do the same for the letters your dad sends. Keep an extra copy of what you write and we'll exchange them by owl post at the end of the school year so we can keep our stories straight over the summer."
"All right, I remember," Archie said. Honestly, Harry acted as though it fell to her to take his mum's place sometimes. Not that he minded. Much. He could see through her in any case. Harry was more nervous than she looked if she was rambling out instructions they'd already agreed upon.
"That's it then. This is…goodbye." Harry looked a little lost for a moment, but quickly pulled it together to give him a firm, "Good luck."
"Yeah." Archie felt a bit lost himself at the magnitude of what they were about to undertake.
Harry took a deep breath. "Even if this blows up in our face and they kick me out before the first class, I'm saying right now: I don't regret anything."
Archie was taken aback at her forthrightness, but squared his eleven-year-old shoulders nonetheless. "Me neither. Thank you. This was your idea and without it I would have taken years longer to reach my goal. It's also going to be a lot more dangerous for you, and, well, I'm grateful for everything, no matter what happens."
"Same. Thanks for letting me borrow your name, Arch," Harry said, lightening the air between them with a lame attempt at levity. "I'll try not to blacken it too much in the next seven years."
"Do your worst," Archie said, grinning.
Harry ducked into the boys' bathroom on the Hogwarts Express and waited in a stall for the Polyjuice to wear off. Every moment seemed like an eternity, but she knew that was just her nerves getting the best of her. When she was herself again, she changed into Archie's school robes and moved out to the sink to blink her new lenses into place. Staring back at her from the mirror was a sober-looking eleven-year-old boy with a halo of onyx curls and flat, grey eyes. Her eyelashes were perhaps a bit too long to be masculine, but the lips were thin enough and the fragile bone structure could have belonged to any number of pureblood lines. She'd heard the Malfoys in particular were known for their pointed faces. Her voice was too high-pitched at first, but with a little practice it dropped slightly to a more natural octave for a young boy.
Satisfied, she exited the restroom and began to walk the length of the train looking for a spare compartment. Glancing around at all the excited faces, it began to dawn on her that she'd really done it. She'd got as far as the train without discovery, and everyone she met from now on would be complete strangers, so anything she messed up on would simply be attributed to Arcturus Black's unknown character. She pondered that for a moment. Arcturus Black. Arcturus Rigel Black. She wrinkled her nose. It felt too strange to be taking Archie's name. A name he didn't even like, no less. Should she refer to herself in her head as Archie, just to lessen the chance that she'd get confused and mess up? But then how would she refer to Archie? After thinking on it for a long moment, she decided that as long as she was appropriating Archie's person she might as well be decisive about it. As long as she was playing Archie's part, she would go by his middle name. From now on I'll be Rigel Black, the best Potions student Hogwarts has ever seen.
Rigel—and wasn't it odd to rename herself in her own thoughts for convenience's sake?—was nearly to the end of the train before she saw what looked like a promising compartment. There was only one boy sitting quietly within, reading what she recognized as the first-year Herbology textbook. She slid open the door and nodded slightly in greeting when the boy looked up. He had an open, cheerful face, with lank brown hair that fell across his forehead and plain brown eyes that held not a hint of malice. There was something familiar about it, but she didn't dwell long on what.
"Are you saving these seats for anyone?" she asked.
"Uh, no." The kid looked surprised that she would think that. "You can sit, if you want."
"Thank you." She shut the door and took a seat across from him. "I'm Rigel," she said, trying out the name for the first time aloud.
"Neville." He smiled tentatively, and looked as though he would say something else, but refrained. He was probably used to giving his last name when introducing himself, she figured. Most purebloods gave their family name as a courtesy, according to Archie. She'd rather not bring up her borrowed last name just yet, however. Chances were either he was a Light-raised kid and would automatically hate anyone named Black, or his Dark pureblood parents had told him the only Blacks left were blood-traitors.
"Pleased to meet you. Is that 1000 Magical Herbs and Fungi?" Rigel nodded at the book in Neville's lap.
He glanced down at it as if to check, but caught himself and flushed. "Yeah. Um, have you read much of it yet?"
"I have," she said, then backtracked as the boy looked significantly alarmed. "I don't think you need to have read any of it, though. I was only interested because Herbology has a lot to do with Potions."
"Oh." Neville looked much relieved. "So you like Potions, then? I read the introduction to that textbook, too, but it looks quite complicated. And the first potion listed uses toad parts. I have a toad. His name is Trevor," the boy explained. "I don't know if I like the idea of dissecting animals for parts."
"You won't have to do the harvesting, most likely. The professor will have the ingredients already," Rigel said.
"You think? Maybe it won't be so bad, then." Neville swung his feet a bit nervously, then blurted, "What House do you think you'll be sorted into?"
"I'm hoping for Slytherin," she said honestly.
"You—Slytherin?" Neville squeaked.
"From that reaction, I'm guessing your family are Gryffindors. So are mine," Rigel admitted.
"And you're actually hoping for Slytherin?" He looked half-doubtful, half-confused.
"The Potions master at Hogwarts is the head of Slytherin House," she explained. "I've heard he favors his own House, so the best chance I have at getting extra tutoring from him is to be in Slytherin."
"You'd go against your line for some extra help in Potions?" Neville bit his lip, "Can you even do that? Pick your House against tradition, I mean."
"Maybe not, but I think I can meet the requirements if I get the chance. I just have to be cunning and ambitious, right?" The last bit was facetious, but she didn't think Neville noticed.
"Well, good luck," he offered kindly.
"Thank you," she said. "I hope you like the House you get, as well."
They spent the rest of the trip in comfortable silence. The only interruption was when Neville quietly asked if Rigel would leave so he could change into his school robes. Rigel didn't mind stepping outside to wait if it made the shy boy more comfortable, though she was quite desensitized to the male form thanks to her growing up with Archie's complete lack of modesty.
While she was standing outside the compartment, a tall boy with deep-set features and a surly expression approached from the left end of the train. Due to the narrowness of the corridor, she was partially blocking his way. Instead of just walking around her, however, he veered and slammed a heavily muscled shoulder into her side. Not expecting it, she fell sideways to the ugly carpet and awkwardly broke her fall with her elbows. Pushing herself back up to her knees, she glared at the boy, who was sneering down at her.
"Are you blind?" she asked, remembering to pitch her voice deeper, the way Archie's went when he got angry, just in time.
The moment the older boy's eyes narrowed, she knew she shouldn't have said that. The other boy was much larger and meaner-looking than any kid she'd ever met, and despite her reluctance to take open hostility lying down, she had to admit that her position was rather precarious to be openly hostile with anyone.
The bigger boy advanced on her almost casually, whipping a foot toward her middle. Only a swift roll in the opposite direction saved her from a bruised rib or two. She got to her feet and rounded on the kid, who could have been maybe a fifth or sixth year. "My apologies," she said through gritted teeth, thinking to defuse the situation. "Obviously you're not blind, just rather upset, but there's no need to take it out on me."
He took a step toward her with clenched fists, then paused and pulled out his wand instead, a nasty smirk on his face. "Little first-years should know better than to talk faster than their wands can move. Consider this your first lesson: when an upper-classman kicks you, stay down."
I might if I thought it would make you go away, Rigel thought resignedly, stiffening her spine and preparing to take whatever curse he tossed her way.
Before either of them could make a move, a stern voice from down the train broke in. "You, there! No fighting on the train!" A thin, redheaded boy with a gleaming gold badge on his chest strutted importantly up to stand between Rigel and the surly boy, neither of whom had relaxed their stance. "Flint," the redhead said upon catching sight of the other boy's face. "I might have known. I'll be taking ten points from Slytherin when we get to Hogwarts for pulling your wand on another student—and a first year, no less."
Flint curled his lip at the boy. "Weasley." Apparently that was enough said in his opinion, for he turned and stalked off, with one last annoyed glare in Rigel's direction.
"Nothing but trouble this time of year, that one," sighed the freckled boy. He looked down at Rigel with a slight frown. "You all right there? Bad luck getting in Flint's way your first day. He likes to hold a grudge for a little while, so be sure to steer clear for a few weeks, okay?"
"I certainly won't go seeking him out," she said, straightening her robes. "Thank you for the intervention."
"It was no trouble," the boy said airily. "I was only doing my duty as a prefect."
Rigel nodded once more in thanks, then turned to rejoin Neville in their compartment. If he wondered why she'd stayed out for so long, he didn't say anything. She reclaimed her seat quietly, lost in thought. Not even to Hogwarts yet and she'd already made an enemy. She hoped fervently this wasn't a sign of more such instances to come. She also hoped Archie was faring better with his side of the ruse, wherever he was.
[end of chapter one].
A/N: To anyone who's read this far: thank you for giving an unusual idea a chance. To clear up any initial confusion (though everything will be explained in time, of course), Hogwarts at this time only takes pureblooded students. This was not always the case. Remus and Snape of course are halfbloods, and when they attended school at Hogwarts only muggleborns were banned. Since then the laws have become more strict. Harry and Archie are not truly cousins in the literal sense, but as James and Sirius are distant relations they consider themselves 'cousins' in a loose sense. Again, thank you for reading.
All the best,