There were two things Harry Potter never left the house (not home, Privet Drive was never 'home') without: a working ball-point pen, and a small note-pad. Ever since he'd first been sent to buy groceries with a list, Harry had carried paper and pen with him everywhere. The pad allowed for lists of important things to be kept, and the pen meant he could add to these lists or mark things as completed, collected, or similar. Having pen and paper handy also meant that he could keep up his favourite hobby wherever and whenever he was.
Oh yes, Harry had hobbies. He cooked, he gardened, and he calculated. The cooking and the gardening had initially been chores given to him by the Dursleys, but he'd come to enjoy them well enough, as long as he was allowed to ignore them in favour of his task.
Calculating was something he'd come to love from school though. Numbers, he'd found, could be applied to anything and everything. If it existed, then it could be measured. Even air could be measured, though it required a different sort of units than most things. Ever since his very first numbers lesson in kindergarten, Harry had loved numbers.
Harry's absolute favourite thing to calculate (apart from food intake to energy output requirements so that he didn't end up the same shape as Dudley) was money.
He calculated the worth of everything that the Dursleys 'bestowed' upon him, so that he knew exactly how much of a 'financial burden' he was to them. The answer: including school fees, Harry cost negative sixty pounds a month. After all, he saved them a great deal of money by being their unpaid chef, their unpaid maid, their unpaid butler (yes, the two tasks were different) their unpaid gardener, their unpaid fix-it man, their unpaid plumber, and their unpaid cleaning lady (which, yes, was different again from being their maid or butler). The prices for having such services in a private residence was really quite high, especially considering the daily amount of work lumped onto him.
That's right, the Dursleys owed him money. Not that he'd ever see a penny of it.
One day while Petunia had been having lunch with Mrs Number 6 and Dudley was visiting with Piers Polkiss, Harry had let himself into Vernon's home office, where he kept his ledgers. There, Harry was at least pleased to note that they at least had some reason to complain about his 'being a burden'. They received no child support for him from anyone. Still, that didn't change that he saved them more money than he cost them.
"Mr Hagrid," Harry said cautiously, looking up at the very big man. "You don't look too good. How about you go have a sit down? There are some questions that I want to ask these esteemed bankers anyway."
Griphook, the goblin who had taken Harry and Hagrid down to the vaults, quietly raised an eyebrow behind the boy. That was quite expertly manoeuvred.
Hagrid nodded carefully. "Alright Harry," he answered. "I'll come back for yeh?" he suggested. "Wouldn't want yeh to be wanderin' around Diagon Alley all by yerself after all."
"Thank you Mr Hagrid," Harry agreed. "About an hour?"
Hagrid agreed and left the boy in the bank with Griphook.
"You have questions, Mr Potter?" Griphook asked, gesturing to an office. "Perhaps in privacy?"
"Thank you Mr Griphook," Harry answered politely, following him into the room and taking the seat between the desk and the door when the goblin had taken the chair behind the desk. "I was wondering about a few things. First of all, a history of the transactions made to the vault I was taken to today, and if my late parents had any other holdings. I would also like to know the going rate of the pound to the galleon, and if all currency used in this society is using only the pure metal."
Griphook smirked. "Very astute questions Mr Potter," he said as he withdrew a few large books from a drawer in his desk. "Not normal questions for a child of your age."
"I like numbers, Mr Griphook," Harry countered with a carefully bland but keen expression as he accepted the first book that was pushed towards him. "Something about this is wrong," he said a moment later.
"Wrong, Mr Potter?" Griphook asked, his smirk quickly turned into a frown.
"There are withdrawals by people I do not know," Harry started, pointing to the names 'Dumbledore' and 'Fudge'. "And I am not getting this money back at all. Nor do I appear to be receiving royalties from the various companies which are selling things with my name on them," he added, taking out his own note pad and pen to make note of these things. "But I think this will need to be returned to. The other matters?"
Griphook's frown had not budged, but still he answered. "All coin in Gringotts does follow the 'gold standard', yes, at sixteen carats if you were wondering that as well. We exchange at two pounds to the galleon. Also, this other ledger lists all holdings, investments, and properties owned by your parents and therefore you."
Harry accepted the second ledger from Griphook while he made more notes on his pad. "Finally Griphook, I would like to see my parents wills. What little I have seen of this society implies that they died in some kind of war effort, which suggests to me that they should have made a will."
Griphook nodded at this, but his frown didn't budge. "Their will was sealed by the Supreme Mugwamp of the Wizengamot. You would have to make an appeal to the Ministry to have their wills released."
Harry made another note on his pad. "Thank you Griphook. May I take these, or copies of them perhaps? I would like to study both of these in greater detail, but I'm sure you are very busy."
Griphook narrowed his eyes, and Harry could see the goblin calculating in the back of his own beady eyes. "If you will grant Gringotts five minutes with the ledgers, we can create copies for you to keep which will receive any updates that these ledgers receive and which will share any updates you make in the copies with these originals."
"Thank you very much Griphook," Harry said. "How much will this service cost?"
Griphook's smirk finally returned. "Twenty galleons," he answered.
Harry nodded in acceptance of this fee, making mental calculations of how much that was going to cost him ultimately. "Also, my current guardians would refuse to help me set up a bank account in the muggle world," he said, recalling the word that Hagrid had used. "Can Gringotts help me with that?"
"You doubt our establishment's ability to hold your wealth, Mr Potter?" Griphook asked, and it looked like a dangerous question from the number of pointed teeth that the goblin was showing.
"Not at all Mr Griphook," Harry answered simply. "It is a matter of prudence on my part. There will be times when coming to Gringotts for gold will not be an option that I will have, and for that matter when it would be impractical as I would wish to make purchases in the muggle world. I have no reason to doubt Gringott's ability to protect my gold at all."
Griphook studied Harry for a moment. "Very well," he said at last. "Gringotts will provide all that you will require to set up an account with a muggle bank for a fee of only five galleons. These documents will be ready at the same time as the ledgers you have already requested. If you will wait in the lobby?"
"Thank you very much Mr Griphook," Harry said, standing from the chair with a smile. "I hope you have a most profitable day."
Griphook inclined his head in acceptance of the platitude, and watched as Harry stepped out of his office.
Harry had sat in the lobby and studied his ledgers closely for the forty-five minutes between his receiving them and Hagrid's return for him. He made notes and he made calculations in his note book, and when Hagrid finally arrived his suggestion of getting robes first was respectfully rejected.
"I think I'm going to need a bag before anything else Mr Hagrid," Harry pointed out. "I don't have a coat full of pockets like you do, and even if I had such a coat, I wouldn't be able to hold up as many pockets as you, nor such large ones."
"Er, right," Hagrid agreed. "Can't think why I didn' think o' that meself. Right, a bag, and of course your school trunk."
The shop Hagrid took Harry to was at the only junction in the area. Just outside the door was a post that had five signs coming off it. In fact, all the different streets, or perhaps alleys, joined at that point and the luggage shop was in the middle of the circus.
"Diagon Alley," Harry read.
"That's where we jes came from," Hagrid said.
"Knockturn Alley," Harry continued.
"Not a safe place tha', not for yourself at any rate. Dangerous stuff sold there, an' by dangerous people at tha'," Hagrid supplied.
Harry nodded and moved around the pole to the next sign. "Nortic Alley."
"That's where yeh get all the best stuff fer travellin', whether it's portkeys an' floo powder, or if yer wantin' a boat to 'oliday on. They got maps an' guide books an' all sorts o' things," Hagrid explained.
"Tha's got all the law firms an' private or special'ty medical practices an' things like tha'. Glad to 'ave never 'ad a need to go down there meself," Hagrid commented. "They's all professionals though."
Harry filed away that information though. He was definitely going to need to go down there later. "Mort Alley?" Harry questioned. That was a name that really intrigued him.
Hagrid shifted uncomfortably. "Yeh don' really want te be goin' down there either Harry," he informed his young charge. "It's not like Knockturn Alley, but it's still not a place yeh really want te go."
Harry frowned. "Mr Hagrid?"
Hagrid shuffled some more. "I admit, I ain't been down there meself ever, like I've 'ad to go buy things fer the garden down Knockturn, so I only got here-say as to what's there," he told the boy. "But I hear it ain't no place for a respectable wizard."
Harry made a note to have a look into that later as well, but for now there was important shopping to be done – and instructions to be given to the sales clerk.
"Sir, I cannot lift this trunk when it is empty," Harry said firmly, demonstrating that he was barely able to lift one side half an inch. "How will it be of any use to me full then except as furniture?"
The clerk blinked in surprise at the boy's tone, but moved on from the trunk and its compatriots that had been sitting together under the banner 'standard Hogwarts trunk'. It took a while, and much badgering of the sales clerk, but eventually Harry left with a hump-back chest that could be shrunk down to the size of an old three-pence coin and would always only way as much as one. It also had one regular compartment, one regular-expanded compartment, a secret expanded compartment in the hump-back lid, and another heavily expanded compartment that had been set up as a lab/office/study space. It had four locks and five keys – one key for each lock and the fifth to make it grow or shrink without use of a wand. Harry also bought a simple satchel with an expansion charm on the inside and another charm so that it wouldn't get heavy.
In total, this cost him fifty galleons, which caused Harry to wonder if these people really were aware of the value of gold, or if having magic just made the cost of producing goods that much cheaper.
Somehow, he suspected the latter.
Then it was off to get the robes Hagrid had mentioned earlier. The shop was called Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occassions, and there was a boy with short, slicked-back, peroxide-blonde hair already in there being fitted. Standing on the small pedestal for fittings, Harry asked for them to include plenty of room for growth.
"Are you a knut-pincher or just poor, to ask for robes that grow with you, rather than buying new as you need them?" the boy asked with a sneer.
A knut, Harry recalled, was the smallest unit of currency used by these people.
"Wiser is the miser," Harry answered shortly, and clearly baffled the other boy completely as he said nothing else until his mother came to collect him. When Harry's robes were done he paid a total of five galleons for the whole lot (with a reminder that his dragon-hide purchases weren't able to be spelled, so he'd have to come back to get re-fitted for them when he grew) before stepping out and joining Hagrid where the large man had been waiting for him in the book shop across the way – Flourish and Blotts.
Hagrid had been doing his own poking about, looking at the various different books available, and Harry saw no reason at all to rush in this shop. Knowledge was valuable after all, especially when entering a new culture.
Harry bought the entire Standard Book of Spells set, as well as a tome called Moste Potente Potions that looked to be the first and last word on why potions did and didn't work, listing reactions between different ingredients, the purpose of the different preparation methods and the reactions they caused, the effects of different temperatures on different mixtures, and even why different cauldron metals and stirring rods were used in different potions. He bought a couple of books on magical gardening: an encyclopedia of magical plants, and a book full of garden-management techniques (both magical and mundane, as some magical plants acted funny if exposed to other magical sources). A book on self-transfiguration entitled Arte of the Animagus was added to his pile, as were four different editions of Hogwarts: A History – each one produced by someone from a different 'house' and with about two decades between each of them, which would show Harry how the school had changed over the years.
Then he found the arithmancy section and picked up one of every book available to him there. It was numbers after all, and numbers were his passion. Also, since a number of the arithmancy books mentioned using arithmancy with runes, Harry picked up a pile of books on runes as well.
The number of books he ultimately collected would have cost him several hundred pounds normally, but the magical world proved its oddity to him again by charging him only forty-five galleons for the lot.
The next stop was the apothecary and potion supplies shop, where Harry bought a 'deluxe starter ingredients kit' and a standard, solid, pewter cauldron which he put the ingredients inside before putting the whole lot (five galleons) into his trunk. After that, Harry begged off buying a telescope, saying he'd get get it later, and they headed for the wand shop, Ollivander's.
Hagrid settled himself on a stool in the corner of the shop, and Harry was handed wand after wand after wand. One reacted in a way that Mr Ollivander approved of (a holly and phoenix feather combination) but Harry didn't like it – which surprised the old man – and the hunt was back on for the right wand. In the end, apart from the wand that was half-right, no other wand in the shop responded to Harry at all, not even the one in the window, and Ollivander had to point them towards one of his competitors.
Harry bought a wand holster and a wand maintenance kit from the man first though – two galleons, and the holster was enchanted to prevent anybody except for Harry taking any wand from it either manually or magically.
Ollivander's competitor that they were directed to by the old man was in Possibe Alley. The man was a specialist, dedicated to making custom wands for discerning or difficult customers. He also did wand repairs in the event of accidental breakages, though that was a slightly more expensive service.
The man's name was Peter Jones, of the 'keeping up with the Joneses' line. Yes, that family, the magical side anyway. The non-magical side of the family was in America, making their impression there.
Again, Hagrid waited on a chair in the corner while Harry and Mr Jones got on with the business of getting the boy a wand.
"So, you're the once-a-decade tricky customer I suppose," Mr Jones said as he guided Harry further back into the shop. "Start by telling me what was the closest fit in Ollivander's shop, and then I will examine you for any spells that might alter how you receive wand materials and remove them."
"Mr Ollivander thought a thirteen-inch wand of holly with a phoenix feather core was best suited to me," Harry answered. "But it felt wrong, like only part of me would be able to use it, not all of me."
Mr Jones nodded in acceptance of this, then brought out his own wand and started casting diagnostic and detection spells. All colour left his face. No mean feat for a man who already had a near porcelain complexion. He actually looked grey.
"Mr Hagrid, would you be a good chap and pop next door for me? Ask Healer Mason to come around? I'm going to need her help with removing the spells that are interfering with Mr Potter getting a properly suited wand," Mr Jones called out.
"Certainly," Hagrid answered, and bustled off out the door. He returned a few minutes later with a thin-ish woman of impressive stature (once she wasn't next to Hagrid) and steel grey hair.
"Peter?" she asked as she moved past Hagrid (who had resumed his seat) and into the room where Jones was already removing some of the spells from Harry's person.
"Agatha, I would be much obliged if you would lend a wand to the situation at hand?"
"And a full physical examination would be appreciated too Ma'am," Harry added. "My guardians don't like to admit that I exist, so I haven't ever been to see any medical person except for the school nurse at immunisation time. You will be appropriately compensated for your time, I'm sure you are very busy."
The healer looked horrified at the idea that anybody would neglect a young boy's health needs, but nodded in agreement and removed her wand from her sleeve. Harry suspected a hidden holster.
It took half an hour to remove everything from Harry that wasn't of him. This included a number of blocks on his magic, a small collection of wards against a variety of things which Harry was quite sure he did not need to be warded against, a series of vaguely unpleasant compulsion charms, and the piece of soul that had been stuck to his scar – which Healer Mason healed right up as well.
All that removed, Mr Jones started the process of making a wand appropriate for Harry while Healer Mason simultaneously ran a full and proper health check on the boy, making a list on a piece of parchment all the potions he would need to take in order to counter his malnutrition, stunted growth, and correct his poor eyesight (a very recent advance in medicinal potions). She also wanted him to come to her private practice next door to receive his full list of immunisations – both magical and muggle, since even muggle diseases could be spread to the magical community.
The wand presented to Harry was made from rosewood, which had been varnished darkly to bring out the most beautiful depths of colour. The magical core that ran unseen within its eleven inches was a hair from a luck dragon. Mr Jones didn't say from where on the luck dragon, though he did say it had been willingly given in exchange for a good scratching behind the ears and was the only one he had in the whole shop. This beautiful piece of craftsmanship was placed in a dark rosewood box with ebony and ivory inlays on top of a velvet cushion – this box would open only to Harry's magical signature and would be where he stored his wand when he wasn't using it, like when he slept.
Wand and box cost fifteen galleons (Harry was assured that wands from Ollivander cost an average of seven and had a bunch of Ministry tracking charms that Harry didn't have to worry about), then Healer Mason shuffled him over to her private practice next door, gave him all of his injections plus a few more, as well as a prescription of potions that he was to take, as well as how often he was to take them. When he paid her the ten galleons her secretary stated was the fee for Healer Mason's services, the healer herself secured a promise from Harry to come back for a check-up next time he was in the area.
"Now, I want te get yeh a birthday present," Hagrid announced as they left Possibe Alley and returned to Diagon. "How about an owl? They're right useful creatures, carry yer mail an' everythin'."
Harry thought about it. "Can I pick which owl?" he asked.
Hagrid chuckled. "Course yeh can!"
In Eyelop's Owl Emporium, Harry cooed over a beautiful snowy owl for a while, but knew that she was too showy and obvious to be properly useful as a mail owl. If he got her for his owl, everybody would know instantly that he was sending or receiving mail if they saw her with a letter. Which was a shame, he thought, because she really was beautiful. With a last stroke of her breast feathers, Harry moved on.
He found instead a brown owl, though strictly speaking a tawny owl. She had a masked face and a few different shades of brown through her feathers and Harry decided she was just what he wanted. She wasn't too big, or too flashy like the snowy had been, she was perfectly friendly and clearly a very intelligent and dignified bird.
"Oh, she's a beaut Harry," Hagrid complemented. "Not as impressive as that snowy yeh were lookin' at earlier, but very nice. I can see why yeh picked 'er. I'll jes pay for 'er an' 'er cage, maybe some owl treats as well for yeh te feed 'er while yer bondin'."
"Thank you Mr Hagrid," Harry said as he continued to stroke his new owl's breast feathers. "Now, what shall I call you?" he mused quietly. "I think Archimedes will suit you, even if it isn't strictly a girl's name. What do you think?"
The newly dubbed Archimedes butted her head gently against Harry's hand, clearly approving the name.
Hagrid returned with a bag of treats and said Harry was right to take the bird and the cage she was in. They returned then to the Leaky Cauldron, and Hagrid set up Harry to stay there until September first, when he would be leaving for Hogwarts.
This arrangement suited Harry fine, as it allowed him access to London to buy stationary and his telescope, set up his bank account, and sell some of his galleons, sickles and knuts for quite a lot of money to put into that bank account. He also bought more books (regular education and some good fiction this time) and an entirely new wardrobe for himself from 'muggle' London, both casual wear and some smart stuff, from his underwear to his shirts and shoes, whole new look. He burned the Dudley cast-offs he'd been wearing before.
These tasks done, Harry settled himself into the room he had at the Leaky and read his way through as many of his new books as he could. The first two he read were on mind magic and how to better retain information through a thing called occlumency (which the book taught him), and how to speed-read (a muggle book, but just as useful as the other one). Having read these two books first allowed him to plough through a good two-thirds of the non-fiction books he'd bought – he lingered over the novels, since they were for enjoying, not just for absorbing the information they provided.
Sometimes he needed to get up and stretch his legs though, and on these occasions generally took himself to Possibe Alley, initially to find and then later to visit with his new solicitor: Mr Edward James Doyle. He had a number of legal matters that needed to be sorted through after all, and so much better to get them out of the way before he would be out of the way himself.
On the thirty-first of August, Harry finally took himself down Mort Alley.
Mort Alley was like no other Alley that Harry had yet been down (and he'd been down all but Knockturn by this point) in the magical district. The other Alleys were very much the same: olde style buildings, wizards and witches in robes, everything just a little bit dusty or odd to give it that 'genuine antique' feel. Though some places were more dusty than others of course. No place beat Ollivander's for dust, for example, and the places in Possibe Alley had more rippled glass since they were all very clean. Nortic Alley went more for the smell of brine down the whole length, and as said before, Harry hadn't been down Knockturn. What he'd seen of it implied a lot of grime though, or very dark varnish.
Mort Alley, however, reminded Harry more of the shopping complex he'd gone to in 'muggle' London to buy his stationary, new clothes and his telescope. All the shops were very clean, all the people were in normal clothes – jeans were everywhere and there wasn't one robe of pointy hat in sight – and actually it looked like the sort of place that Harry would be doing his shopping in from now on.
This one Alley had everything that the other three Alley's he'd been to had, and a lot of stuff that they didn't.
"Lost kid?" asked a friendly voice.
"Exploring," Harry answered, then turned to look up at whoever had addressed him.
The young man had green hair – clearly died, as the half-inch long roots were black – gelled into spikes, and was wearing a worn brown leather jacket over an olive-green ribbed turtle-neck and khaki trousers that were tucked into his big brown combat boots. Apart from the green hair and the leather jacket, Harry might have thought the guy was in the army.
The guy smiled. "That's great," he approved. "Not many from Diagon or the others approve of letting their kids wander into Mort, especially those bludgers over in Knockturn, right snobbish they are, think Mort shouldn't be allowed to stand."
Harry tilted his head to one side, playing up the 'confused little kid' card. "Why? Is it because no one here is wearing robes like in the other Alleys?"
The young man shook his head. "Nah," he answered. "It's because everybody here in Mort is 'muggle-born'. Or very nearly everybody anyway. The 'pure-bloods' who are particularly snobbish think we shouldn't get educated in magic at all, and then we get really up their noses by being better at the stuff than them who've been surrounded by it all their lives, even if we don't use it quite as instinctively. Take that shop right over there for example," the man said, pointing to a window that looked just like any electronics shop out in London even as he waved for Harry to take a seat on a near-by bench. "The snobby ones will tell you that 'muggle technology' doesn't work in places with high concentrations of magic, but it's completely bollox."
Harry frowned. "Why wouldn't electricity work just because there's lots of magic around?" he asked.
"That's just it," the guy said. "It does, but the pure-bloods – the snobbish ones anyway – don't want to admit that non-magical people have come up with stuff that leaves them in the dust, and they certainly don't want to admit that people like me who've come from a non-magical background could possibly come up with something useful and innovative. Actually, they don't like innovation at all. As far as they're concerned, a spell-crafter might come up with one new spell every five or ten years, never mind that old spells are being adapted and morphed into new ones here nearly every day."
"I'm Harry," Harry said at last, holding out his hand to shake. "Pleased to have met you."
The young man grinned in answer and wrapped his large hand around Harry's smaller one. "Mike, and likewise Harry. Now, are you going to be alright, exploring on your own?" he asked seriously.
Harry looked around at how Mort Alley was set up. There were shops all neatly in a row along the street, and there were stairs at both ends of the cobbled road that led up to the next level of shops, with walkways along, and then more stairs... it went up ten levels, but it was all very tidy and organised. Not really any chance of getting lost at all.
"I think I'll be fine Mike," Harry said.
"Alright then, I leave you to your exploring. By the way, some of the shops here take pounds as well as galleons, if you're a 'muggle-born' yourself," Mike offered.
Harry grinned. He was definitely going to be shopping here from now on. "Thanks Mike."
Mort Alley, Harry discovered, was great. Almost as great as numbers. From Mort Alley he could get the regular newspapers owl-mailed to him, he could get potions ingredients, he could get clothes, he could get books (magical and non-magical), he could get all sorts of travel stuff, he could get another pet if he wanted, he could even buy a house from Mort Alley! Everything under the sun and more was available in Mort Alley. There were even alternative magic shops – the kind that could be seen in London proper – that sold stuff pertaining to things like Wicca, and magic stuff from other parts of the world.
And the whole place was just disregarded because it was full of wizards and witches from non-magical backgrounds. Or weren't English. There were a couple of those too. First generation as English witches and wizards. It brought racism and snobbery to a whole new level really.
Harry took the floo to the platform early and settled himself into a cabin which he had calculated to be in the exact middle of the crimson coloured train. Archimedes was let out of her cage to stretch her wings, and Harry sat down with the last five text books he had yet to finish and the takeaway box of Chinese he'd bought in readiness – one of the waitresses where he'd bought it in Mort Alley the day before had shown him a reheating charm – so that he could have a hot lunch on the train.
Archimedes had clearly had enough of a stretch by the time other families really started showing up, as she settled onto Harry's shoulder and peered down at the book that he was reading – his second since arriving.
"Are you interested in reading too Archimedes?" Harry asked her with a smile. "Well, I'm already half-way through this one, but if you'll just let me finish it quickly I'll get out a more interesting book for you to read?" he offered.
Archimedes took a moment to stare at the page (it was a higher level chemistry text) before nodding her head.
Harry sped his way through the second half of the book just as he had the first, then set it aside on top of the other chemistry text he'd finished not long before. "What sort of thing would you like?" Harry asked her, opening one of the compartments of his trunk to reveal all of his carefully organised books. "Fact or fiction?"
Archimedes hopped down from Harry's shoulder with a slight ruffle of her feathers to land on the edge of the trunk. She stared around at the spines before tapping her beak on an inch-thick paper-back. The title down the edge of it read The Once and Future King. It was a version of the Arthurian legend, and one of the books that Harry had bought for leisure reading. One that he hadn't actually gotten around to reading yet.
Harry chuckled. "You'll have to tell me what you think of it when you're done," he commented as he set it up against the side of her cage so that she could perch comfortably and turn the pages herself as she liked – using her beak. Harry was aware that he was going to have some slightly worn-looking books if Archimedes was big into reading. She'd already done it to Harry's occlumency book, an arithmancy book and general mathematics book Harry had actually read twice each (the second read was for the fun of it), and the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Harry had only bought the one for now, as he wasn't completely sold on the way Tolkein wrote yet, on the other hand, he hadn't finished the first book yet, Archimedes had hogged it until late the night before. He'd probably buy the rest of them just for her to read, even if he eventually decided that the books weren't his cup of tea.
It was only fifteen minutes later when a chirping croak was heard from the floor, only just in from the door Harry had left only-just-open. Archimedes' head snapped up from her book – she'd only turned one page yet, but she was clearly reading, if much slower than Harry – and her dark eyes focused on the toad that had just hopped in. Her head was turned so that it was looking over her back, but slowly she turned the rest of her body around to be facing the amphibian as well.
"Do you eat toads?" Harry asked her curiously. He was fairly sure that tawny owls didn't actually eat toads, but then everybody had their own tastes.
Archimedes nodded, spread her wings, and swooped down on the unsuspecting creature. It was dead by her claws and down her throat in the same amount of time it took for Harry to finish reading his spread and turn the page. Then it was a hop and a flap back to her perch and she was reading again.
Harry chuckled and returned his attention to the last few pages of his advanced chem before closing the rear cover and moving on to the next one: basic pharmacology. It was two inches thick, but he finished it just as the train lurched into movement an hour and a half later. Three books down, one to go: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Fungi of the British Isles. It was looking like he'd get to linger over one of his novels for a while.
Forty five minutes after starting the fungi encyclopedia, Harry was finished and putting it – and his other books – back into his trunk. He'd just pulled out Lord of the Rings and closed the lid of his trunk when a pair of twins knocked on his door.
"Hey, can we leave ickle Ronnie-kins here? He's scared of spiders, and our friend Lee just found us, with his new pet tarantula," the twins asked. They alternated, but it was so smooth that it was like they only had one mind. Or maybe they were psychic to each other. He'd read that it was a semi-recorded phenomena among twins. "We're just in the one next door," they continued, jerking heads and thumbs to their left. "If you get sick of him."
Harry nodded with a shrug. "No particular skin off my nose," he said.
"Excuse me," a girl with lots of bushy brown hair said, knocking on the door even though it was open and had three read-heads standing in it. "But have any of you seen a toad? A boy named Neville has lost one."
The red-heads all shook their heads, and the girl turned her enquiring eyes on Harry, who was himself wide-eyed and slowly turning to Archimedes. She had hunched her head down and her wings up and was clearly both embarrassed and trying to pretend that the conversation behind her wasn't happening.
"I think Archimedes may have eaten the toad in question," Harry said tentatively.
Archimedes straightened and spun her head around to pin Harry with a betrayed and accusatory look.
"Sorry," Harry added. "But I will defend her saying that if people are going to have pets that are prey to other people's pets, they should contain them better."
Archimedes nodded in satisfaction and turned back to her book.
The girl nodded and turned back the way she'd come, likely to tell the boy what had become of his toad. She paused a moment to stare at Archimedes, but then shook her head and continued on her way.
"Hear that Ronnie-kins? We've been tellin' ya to keep Scabbers in a cage since you got him. Now maybe you'll listen. All previous Weasleys kept the rat in a cage. No idea why you seem so keen on just keepin' the fat fur-ball in your pocket," the twins said, poking their little brother before giving Harry a wave and heading back into the next compartment.
Harry pulled out Lord of the Rings and started leafing through it. "Archimedes, did you move my bookmark?" he asked.
She turned her head to face him for a moment, shook her feathers, then silently returned to The Once and Future King.
"Fell out huh? Oh well. I didn't get far anyway. Back to the beginning," he decided, and locked up his trunk once more before settling back in his seat to read.
"Uh..." Ronnie-kins began, clearly trying to make conversation.
"You're here to hide from a spider Ronnie-kins," Harry said shortly, not looking up from his book. "Not make friends."
Ronnie-kins sighed and sank in his seat, and turned to look out the window.
"So it's true what they're saying," a voice rang out from the door of the compartment. Harry recognised it as the peroxide-blonde boy from the robe shop. "Harry Potter is coming to Hogwarts at last."
"Do yourself a favour and shut up before you make yourself look like an idiot before the school year has even properly started," Harry said flatly, not even looking away from his page.
"Do you even know who I am?" the boy demanded.
Harry didn't have to look up to know the boy was sneering, he could hear it in the boy's tone. A quick glance told him, however, the the kid needed lessons in how to sneer properly. He also needed to hit puberty and stop looking so 'pretty'.
"You're a pure-blood snob who thinks everybody should lick your boots or lay themselves out for you to walk all over. You are also an eleven year old, therefore a child, and therefore no one of any consequence yet. Your parents might be, might not be. Your levels of implied snobbery suggest that you have either influential parents or well-moneyed ones. From my limited exposure to you I calculate that your most frequent rebuttal to any serious problem is along the lines of 'when my father hears about this', possibly mother, godparent or considering we are headed for a boarding school then the professor who you will do your best to ingratiate yourself to," Harry rattled off, turning his page mid dissertation as he hadn't stopped reading. "Now, I am going to be as monosyllabic as possible to be sure that you understand me: be a chap and sod off."
Ronnie-kins and the peroxide-blonde were both gaping at Harry, who still had his nose in his book, and they were gaping for completely different reasons. Ronnie-kins in confused admiration, the peroxide-blonde in stunned and impotent anger.
The peroxide-blonde finally closed his mouth and slammed the door shut, leaving.
"Blimey," Ronnie-kins breathed.
"Merlin!" the hat exclaimed a short while after being set on Harry's head.
"I don't think that's an option," Harry answered in the echoing silence that followed.
To understand the hat's exclamation, it is required to understand what young Harry was thinking as the hat settled over his ears. Now, thought processes are sometimes disjointed and confusing, but it was going something like this:
"So the cowards go to Gryffindor because they want to be brave, the people with no social skills are in Ravenclaw where no one will mind if they bury themselves in books, the ones who want to be big some day but still haven't figured out how they'll get there are in Slytherin and really the only people worth knowing at the Hufflepuffs who everybody else thinks are a bunch of duffers. This whole society seems set up to make sure people have very few friends and there doesn't appear to be anybody who is truly impartial in this school, as the teachers were no doubt students here as well and will therefore grant special treatment of some kind to their old house. Then there's the whole racist issues that are no doubt rife throughout the whole school, as they couldn't survive into the adult realm if they weren't encouraged somehow, either by turning a blind eye or actively supporting the view. And there looks to be only ten teachers for seven years of students, plus that unpleasant-looking man skulking in the corner and Mr Hagrid, makes a total of twelve. There are approximately forty students in the incoming year, and if that is taken to be average then that's two-hundred-and-eighty students in total and while that's not a very big school, it still means that the students outnumber the staff by a little over twenty-three to one. Okay, twenty-three isn't so bad in a controlled environment like a muggle classroom, but there's no way that all of the classes here are going to be so well controlled, not with magic involved. Further more, this is a boarding school, so there's a lot of time that the students won't be in classes and a lot of time for uncontrolled circumstances for the students to get the best of their teachers. That's not even including the castle itself which will work against the teachers because the students are smaller and able to hide better in the many passages that no doubt exist here and the teacher's can't be alert all the time without going mad. Something really needs to be done about this place before the system fails the students even more than I have no doubt it's already doing."
It was at this point that the hat yelped its cry across the hall, and Harry's following response, both of which have already been mentioned above.
The hat coughed, and it actually sounded embarrassed. "Yes, you are quite right Mr Potter. However, considering your mind, I rather think that I should commune with Lady Hogwarts herself for a moment, so if you would please put me on the floor?"
Harry reached up and pulled the hat off his head and set it down in front of him.
"Thank you," the hat said, and was silent for about as long as it took for the students to ask each other "do you have any idea what's going on?" and get head-shakes in reply.
"Mr Potter," the hat announced. "Will be placed as the new headmaster of Hogwarts. Albus, you are excused."
Silence set in heavily.
"But I came hear to learn magic," Harry pointed out calmly. "Not run the school."
"And so you shall, Mr Potter," the hat assured with a chuckle, somehow shifting itself around on its brim where it was still sitting on the floor, "but at your own pace in between running the school. The headmaster's office is full of portraits of previous headmasters, and they shall be your tutors until you reach your OWL and NEWT levels."
"And for now?" Harry asked. "Where am I supposed to sit?"
The hat looked like it was grinning. "Why, in the headmaster's chair, of course."
Behind Harry, Albus Dumbledore spluttered indignantly.
"Albus, the house elves have already packed your things for you," the hat called out.
Albus paled and nodded weakly, then stumbled out of his chair, then down the stairs behind the table, and walked numbly out the door. He was going to spend a lot of time in bed taking calming draughts between Wizengamot and ICW meetings it seemed.
"There now Mr Potter," the hat said. "There is your seat."
Harry sighed, but got off the stool, picked up the hat and handed it back to McGonagall, then headed for the stairs up to the table and, with a put-upon frown, sat in the ridiculously ornate chair that Dumbledore had vacated – and why was his chair so fancy anyway? None of the other teachers had such fancy-looking chairs, and all the students were just on benches.
When he'd sat down at last, McGonagall called the next name on her list and continued with the sorting.
After the feast was cleared away, Harry stood up – on the chair so that he could be seen over the table – and addressed everybody, since all were present.
"According to what the staff have told me, tomorrow is a day off for first year students to familiarise themselves with the castle and for all returning students to hand in summer homework to the appropriate teachers." There were nodding heads around the room agreeing with this.
"I see no reason to change this, though I do wish to add that it would be preferable for first year students to have an older student to act as guides for them so that they do not become lost on their explorations. Please also do not attempt to explore the forest, as while it is on Hogwarts property it is the home of many other beings, and you wouldn't walk willy-nilly into a complete stranger's living room or backyard, which is what the forest is." There were some chuckles, but more nods of acceptance.
"Within the castle, I have been informed that the caretaker Mr Filch has a list of banned items posted on his door. Considering my new position, you will have to wait until the day after tomorrow to see this list, as I intend to commandeer it and study it thoroughly myself." He got a few more chuckles for that.
"Finally, Mr Dumbledore had left something ... unsafe behind nothing more than a locked door on the third floor. As such, please refrain from using unlocking charms on doors until Mr Dumbledore's something has been removed. Now, the train ride was long and the meal is no doubt beginning to have a soporific effect on us all, so I believe that the only remaining order of business is to find our beds," Harry said, finally smiling himself down at all the students (a good number of whom were older than him) who were now his charge.
Beside him, McGonagall stood up and called out "Prefects, if you would please lead the way out?"
Which they did, and soon enough the great hall was emptied of persons under thirty... except for Harry.
"Mr Potter, will you require a guide to your new quarters?" McGonagall asked. She looked pinched in the face slightly, as though her dinner had been sour. It hadn't been, but that was the look on her face.
"Of course I will," Harry answered. "I'm not psychic. Professor Sinistra? Would you do me the honour?"
Aurora Sinistra was thirty-five, the youngest female professor at the table and only Snape was younger than her at all (apart from Harry). She was also darkly skinned and the astronomy professor. It was because of this last detail that Harry had asked her – she was more likely to be used to being up late than any of the other teachers.
She smiled for him, showing her very white teeth between her full brown lips, and agreed.
"Goodnight professors," Harry said with a nod as he got up from his chair. "I hope you all sleep well."
With that, he took up a place beside Sinistra and walked with her through the halls until they reached a grey-stone grotesque; a form that was commonly confused by the uneducated as a gargoyle, except that since it was clearly not on a roof acting as a water spout it couldn't fulfil the basic function of a gargoyle.
"The headmaster's office and chambers are beyond this," she said. "As the new headmaster, only you may change the password. I'll tell you how Dumbledore did it once we're in his, er, your office. For now, the old password is 'lemon sherbert', Dumbledore has a fondness for sweets," she explained as the statue stepped aside upon hearing the phrase.
For the first week of September, Harry buried himself in all the matters of Hogwarts. He looked at the budget and the spending. He looked at the fees taken and wages paid. He looked at grade averages, and drew up several charts so that he could cross-reference trends and comparisons. He looked into what subjects were and were not taught and how competently it appeared to be done. He looked at which subjects had been removed from the school and why. He reviewed the school rules and the list of banned items and the charter of Hogwarts.
From a large perch to the left of his desk, a soothing trill sounded, causing Harry to look up at the phoenix who occupied it.
Sinistra had explained about the bird poorly – said it was Dumbledore's familiar, and called Fawkes. The bird itself had shook its head and the other headmasters and headmistresses had protested from their portraits. The phoenix was the guardian of Hogwarts and had been since its founding. They all protested about the name, but apparently had all given it a different name while they had been in office, according to their humours.
For his part, Harry had asked permission to call the bird Ramandu, after an old star in the Narnian tales that took fruit from the mouth of firebirds until he was young enough to return to the sky once more. The phoenix had nodded its regal head and shifted over slightly so that there was room on his perch for Archimedes to sit as well.
"Mr Dumbledore has clearly not had the best interests of the students at heart for a long time Ramandu," Harry told the bird as he finished correlating his research and findings. "I have a lot of work to do. Archimedes, would you please take this order to the printing shop in Mort Alley? I find myself in want of a typewriter. I have no desire whatsoever to write as many letters as I'm going to need to by hand," he said, turning from the bright bird to his own, far more sensible looking friend, and holding out an envelope to her. "They should have their own delivery service, so you needn't wait."
Archimedes took the letter in her beak and flew off out the upper window – which Harry kept permanently open so that both birds could come and go as they pleased. As the seasons changed, he would need to activate the enchantments on the glass to keep the weather and chill out of his office, but he was certainly not going to be closing the window.
The order sent off and all his findings in a nice, neat, tidy (if large) 'book' hanging from an easel for easy presentation, Harry turned his attention to making a new to-do list.
He'd just finished it when Archimedes returned – followed by another, larger owl carrying Harry's new typewriter.
"Thank you," Harry said as he read the bill and put the appropriate galleons into the bird's sack.
The owl nodded and took off out the window once more.
Harry sighed. "I should probably know for certain how many teachers I'm going to need to recruit before I start writing letters," he said.
Ramandu and Archimedes both nodded, the former flying over to a package, wrapped in brown paper that was sitting on the shelf.
"Dumbledore was planning to give that too you for Christmas I believe," said one of the portraits.
"The note says that it belonged to my father. I am not particularly impressed with disguising the returning of my rightful property as a gift," Harry stated as he unwrapped whatever it was.
It turned out to be an invisibility cloak.
"Very useful and just what I needed," Harry said with a smile.
He spent the next week standing in the corner of classrooms, watching how each of the professors taught their subjects to the students. He later had to compare their methods to the grade averages he'd already made notes of, and the qualifications each of the staff held.
Finally after two weeks, Harry called the staff, one by one, to his office for interviews. These interviews generally went smoothly, each of the professors agreeing that their workload was too much and that they would truly appreciate it if Harry could stretch the budget into recruiting more teachers to help, as well as making suggestions for who he could write to (meaning letters were written in great quantity between the interviews), and one or two of the professors even made suggestions for subjects that could or should be revived and the people who he could write to offering them the jobs (meaning more letters).
There were two professors that Harry had saved for last though. Severus Snape and Qurinius Quirrell. Harry called the potions master first.
"Professor Snape," Harry greeted. "Please do take a seat."
"Headmaster," Snape answered, emphasising the word, as though to remind himself that this boy who was two decades younger than him was his boss.
They had already had a slight altercation at the welcoming feast where Harry had rolled up his sleeve to show scars and mercifully fading bruises, asking if it was normal for pampered people to be beaten to a bloody pulp for not finishing an unreasonably long list of chores within the four hours he had been allotted to complete them before cooking a dinner he would not be permitted to eat. Snape had backed off, a little pale, while other members of staff had been furious on his behalf. Harry simply said that they didn't have to worry as he wouldn't be returning to them ever again if he could help it, and he could now.
"Professor, your file says that you are a potions master, the youngest to achieve that ranking for quite some time. This tells me that you are very passionate about potions. Your file also says that you have applied for the position of defence against the dark arts professor multiple times an been denied every time by Mr Dumbledore."
"These are all true," Snape agreed. "What of it?"
"Professor Snape I am going to be blunt, and I ask that you do not take offence, but I do not think you should be a teacher at all. Your mastery indicated a predilection towards researching potions, making improvements and new discoveries. Instead of being in a potions laboratory, making discoveries to your hearts content and improving the world that way, you are in a classroom full of students who most likely need to be taught the very basics of ingredient preparation before they can begin to be allowed to brew. They cannot understand your passion for potions, and because of this you become frustrated with them. Your frustration with your students leads them to dislike the subject and their further dislike of the subject you yourself are so passionate about causes you to become more frustrated. An cycle of torment as it were, and because potions class seems to be a torment, the students do poorly. Professor Snape, why are you teaching?" Harry asked earnestly.
Severus took a deep, calming breath, and studied his hands in his lap. "It was because of Dumbledore that I was not sentenced to Azkaban, and as payment for his testimony in court he asked me to teach potions here. There is also, admittedly, little in the way of funding for potions research. If I tried to make a career out of it I would die of starvation within the year. You are right, however. I do not want to teach these children who cannot understand my passion."
Harry nodded and made a note on the paper in front of him.
"Mr Dumbledore is no longer the headmaster of this school, and by this time any debt you could possibly owe him for providing testimony – something any person should do if they are called to – ought to be well and truly cleared. You have no such thing holding you to your position any longer," Harry said as he looked up at Snape again. "However, though a teacher's wage is not large it is stable, and I can see that simply living in this castle most of the year takes care of nearly if not all living expenses."
Snape nodded in agreement with this, though the look on his face was wary.
"As such, I suggest a compromise Professor. You will continue to teach only the sixth and seventh year potions classes. You will have year-long access to all the services provided by the school and may continue your research as you please within a budget I will allocate to you. You may even recruit students from your classes to assist you in exchange for extra credit. I ask only for regular reports on the potions that you are researching."
Snapes eyes were bright at this. Only two classes of already competent students, free time to research uninhibited, assistants, a regular budget, and access to the castle all year round so that he could continue working without having to concern himself with living expenses! It was a better deal even than the defence position, which would have given him some leeway to curse the dunderheads he taught.
Harry chuckled. "You like my suggestion then?"
Snape nodded slowly. "Yes Headmaster," he answered. "You are being very generous."
Harry smiled. "I don't suppose you could recommend some names to me to fill the role of potions professors for the younger years? I want one to teach the first years all about ingredient preparation and basic brewing skills, and two more to teach the remaining four years. Also, since you will be so busy with your research – something that I am told is a very delicate matter – I feel it only right to release you from the burden of being head of house. I am hoping to get in four new people who will not be teachers at all, but whose sole responsibility will be taking care of house issues. Is this agreeable to you?"
Snape nodded again, and like other professors before him, gave Harry a list of names that he should try first before advertising the positions in any newspapers.
That just left Quirrell.
Harry put off calling the man until he had researched all the names that Snape had given him and sent off the letters to the ones from the list that, after researching, he still approved of. This was what he did after every meeting. He took the list of names, researched the list of names, sent out letters to who still looked good after he'd made his inquiry, then called the next teacher. This process sometimes took a couple of days.
"Please take a seat Professor Quirrell," Harry said, aware of the way the phoenix near him was practically glaring at the turbaned teacher. "How have you liked teaching defence for the past month, Professor Quirell?"
"It's v-v-very g-gratifying Headm-master P-potter," Quirrell answered haltingly.
"And how does it go, teaching with that speech impediment?" Harry asked, the expression on his face one of genuine curiosity and concern. "As an instructor, you are called upon to talk a great deal after all."
"It's harder than I ant-t-ticip-pated," Quirrell admitted. "And the s-subject matter d-d-doesn't p-p-part-t-tic-cularly help," he added.
Harry frowned. "I had heard that you seemed afraid of your own subject," he said. "I had hoped it was only malicious slander that could be put a stop to. You mean to say that there is some grounding of truth in this?" Harry asked.
Quirrell shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but didn't answer.
Harry sighed. "Then there is the issue that Ramandu seems to have something against your turban," he continued, deciding to just plough on. "Now, common knowledge informs the entire magical population that the phoenix is like the unicorn – a purely good being. It cannot abide things which it senses to be less than a certain level of 'goodness', if you will. The phoenix however is a bit more forgiving than the unicorn, so that Ramandu has something against your turban worries me as much as Mr Dumbledore's unsafe thing which was removed from the castle last Monday."
Quirrell's head snapped up and was fully at attention.
"Ah," Harry said, frowning. "I think I see the matter now. Professor Quirrell, it is clear to me now that you have no further desire to teach at Hogwarts, nor would it be in the best interests of the students to ask you to continue. I will of course take on board any recommendations you may have for your replacement, but I'm afraid that Hogwarts is not the place for you."
Quirrell nodded stiffly, and stood from his chair. "The Dark Lord will kill you some day Mr Potter," Quirrell said, his voice lower and more steady than it had been only moments before. "My master cannot permit your continued existence when it is an insult to his own."
"That's his problem," Harry said with an accepting incline of the head. "Not mine. My concern is the education of the students at this school and the betterment of Hogwarts as a whole. I will send a house elf to help you pack your things and put in a call with the head of the DMLE to request a few junior Aurors to take your place until a more permanent arrangement can be made."
Quirrell nodded and turned, heading for the door.
Ramandu shrieked and swooped over Quirrell's turban, pulling it off in one smooth movement and laying a claw over the second face that was there.
It screamed in pain and Quirrell started running.
Harry sighed and made a few notes before going to the fire and making that call to Madame Bones. He was also going to need to find someone to check for curses regarding the defence position, since there was a rumour about it that matched with the data of no defence professor lasting more than a year since shortly after Dumbledore had become headmaster. Then again, with Dumbledore's dismissal, the 'curse' may be gone as well. Still, best to be sure about such things.
He was also going to be checking the whole castle for any other surprises in its halls apart from Dumbledore's rather poor gauntlet that he'd recently had removed, and the 'prize' at the end had been returned to its original owners.
Honestly, they'd kept it safe all by themselves for the past six hundred years, so why did they suddenly put it here?
Harry shook his head and dismissed the question. The safety concern was resolved, the reasons for its existence in the first place were not his problem.
Hogwarts was running much more smoothly as September ended and October began. The students were able to enjoy and take advantage of their classes more since there were more teachers able to encourage and help them. The teachers were better able to enjoy teaching since their work-load had eased due to the arrival of the new staff and Harry's re-budgeting.
Re-budgeting that was possible due to the house elves pointing him to the 'come-and-go room', where he found a lot of stuff that had been lost over the centuries, a great deal of it valuable, even the cursed items (another reason to get the curse-breakers into the school as soon as possible).
Rolanda Hooch was one of those who were particularly pleased with the changes. Changes that meant meant that Hogwarts finally had new brooms for the students to learn on, that each house now had an adult dedicated to the organisation and supervision of quidditch practices, and that all of this allowed her to dedicate her time to being a neutral umpire for the matches and assisting those witches and wizards who were in particular need of help when it came to flying.
Silvanus Kettleburn was another who was enthusiastic about having more teachers to help with his subject. Care of magical creatures was a potentially dangerous subject after all, and having more handlers for both students and animals was decidedly helpful. So was having a nice, specific space for the school's menagerie come zoo come educational farm. Hagrid was rather pleased about it as well, though the large man seemed to think it a shame that there would be no dragons, and a zero-tolerance towards creative breeding.
Irma Pince, the severe librarian, liked that there were more people assigned to help her with her tasks. Cataloguing, re-shelving, maintenance and repair on damaged books, and the acquisition of new books for the library – not to mention chasing up over-due books – had become so much easier and less stressful when there was help to be had.
Even Poppy Pompfrey, the school nurse, was pleased. Harry had ordered every student through her doors for a full physical – something he promised would become an annual health exam – so that there would be no surprise health issues and any signs of abuse could be caught. Harry had brought in five fully qualified healers from Mort Alley to help with the process – even if he promised Healer Mason that he would go to her outside of school.
Filch, Harry had retired without replacement. The man clearly hated children, and as such had no place in a school. Thankfully, he'd taken Mrs Norris with him when he left. The house elves were all perfectly capable of doing his job as well as their own. It even made them happier, since it was more work.
Binns had also been removed, or perhaps exorcised would be more accurate. He wasn't the only ghost to go either. Only the official 'house ghosts' has been allowed to be left in peace. Even Peeves had not been spared. Myrtle had been seriously questioned about her death though, since she was clearly dressed in Ravenclaw robes and looked to be unharmed. Harry decided that knowing where the infamous "Chamber of Secrets" was just might come in useful one of these days.
And then there was the introduction of 'new' subjects. Mathematics of course, languages, art, music, wood-shop, phys-ed... and all the 'lost arts' from the magical world that the painted and framed headmaster's had reminisced on. Harry had even opened up subjects that studied things that had been classified as 'dark', though had them covered within other areas such as rituals, warding, and so on. He would not tolerate ignorance in Hogwarts. If something was going to be 'forbidden', then the students were all going to bloody well know why!
For now though, it was Saturday, and Harry was taking a break from all his 'duties': fixing up Hogwarts so that it was once again the premier school it claimed to be, his own magical studies, and the matters of his own private accounts with Gringotts and the new one with the Bank of England.
For this particular break, Harry had decided to go for a walk through the halls of Hogwarts instead of just flopping into the hammock he'd set up on the second floor of his office with his current novel. Perhaps he would get to run into one of the students, maybe make a friend. He hadn't really had much opportunity to do that yet. Certainly there was on the train, but he was busy reading then, and since then he'd been bogged down with paperwork and meetings with teachers.
The problem was that, even though he was the administrative superior to all the staff, he wasn't their equal for conversation because he was only eleven. He was also in a position of serious power over the students, and so couldn't become their equal either. Not without a lot of very careful work. After all, if he made friends in one house, and then not in any of the others, or friends in all but one house, then he could be seen as showing some kind of favouritism, which he just plain didn't approve of.
Maybe he should go back to his hammock and settle down with his current novel. Archimedes had already ploughed through half his collection, and had gotten Ramandu hooked on reading as well, once she'd taught him how. Odd that a millennia-old bird who had lived in a school for centuries wouldn't have learned how to read by now, where as a two-year-old owl was already so competent that Harry was honestly waiting for her to actually speak in English rather than just very expressive body-language and surprisingly understandable hoots.
So, with a sigh of resignation, Harry turned from his absent study of the statue of the hump-backed witch (he did happen to know it was a secret passage to Honeydukes in Hogsmeade, since the builder of said passage was one of the headmaster's he was taking lessons from) when the passage from her hump opened up.
The twins who he had briefly met on the train popped up, grinning, their arms loaded with things that did not look like sweets. They looked like potion ingredients.
"Enjoying classes so much now that you're taking on extra-curricular experimentation?" Harry asked them.
They jumped in surprise at the question.
"Oh, Headmaster," they greeted, just a little nervously. "We er..." began one of the twins nervously.
"Told you we shoulda checked the map again before popping up," the other hissed to his brother.
Harry held up a hand to forestall any arguments breaking out between the two. "Don't mind me," he said. "I'm not going to take points, assign detention, or tell any of the staff you're up to something."
"Us? Up to something?"
Harry chuckled. "I've seen the list of detentions you've gotten, and the reasons you were assigned them. For that matter, I've seen the list of detentions my father received and why he was assigned them. Your parents too if you're interested," he added with a cheeky smile.
The twin's eyes bugged at the prospect, their jaws hanging open.
"But the old creed is very simple: 'An it harm none, do as ye will'. No bullying, and minimum ridicule, but I have nothing against the ridiculously entertaining," Harry told them.
"You're really not going to dob us in to McGonagall or anyone else?" they asked.
Harry shook his head. "Though you might find that if you applied yourselves more in class, you'd be able to do more spectacular things out of it," he suggested.
Both red-heads nodded rapidly in agreement.
Harry nodded back once, sharply. "I look forward to something entertaining then gentlemen," he said, and headed back to his office. Seeing those two had reminded him of something else: pets.
They'd said their friend had a tarantula, and that their little brother had a rat. Somehow, Harry doubted that those two were the only non-regulation pets. Besides that, there were other issues. Some toads were poisonous, some people were allergic to cats, and it had already been proven that there was an issue between the predator-type pets and the prey-type pets.
Actually, Harry found himself suddenly reminded of something completely different as well.
"I don't suppose you two were talking about a map that was supposed to be in Mr Filch's office, were you?" Harry asked, halting the twins before they got away completely.
They both turned very slowly to look at Harry.
"It's a family heirloom you see," Harry continued, smiling back at them. "And I would return it to you, since I have no need to sneak about at all. I'd just like to study it a little."
"Small price for getting away now," one twin said to the other, who nodded back and withdrew a piece of parchment from his robe. Of course, they then bolted before explaining to Harry how it worked, so Harry was left with a folded up piece of apparently blank parchment.
Harry sighed to himself and headed back to his office. If he was going to investigate spellwork by his father and his friends, then he wanted some relative privacy to do it in.
Five minutes later when he was sequestered in his private chambers beyond his office (where Archimedes was reading Ivanhoe and Ramandu was reading The Looking Glass Wars) Harry settled onto his bed with the parchment and let his wand-tip rest against the page.
"I am Headmaster Potter of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," he said.
Writing appeared on the page in response. It read: Messer Prongs would like to know what he's doing as an educator, when he was quite certain that he was going to be an auror when he got out of school, or something equally fun.
Messer Mooney would like to point out to Messer Prongs that it could be someone from his line, and not actually him.
Messer Padfoot would like to bap Messer Prongs upside the head for giving the game away if this is the case.
Harry chuckled. "It is," he said. "Harry James Potter, son of James and Lily. Pleased to make your acquaintance."
Remus Lupin was a man who had the unwavering respect of all of Gryffindor. This was particularly impressive as he only taught the fourth and fifth year defence class, and so didn't have a reason to have met most of them. Still, it was for this reason that he was standing with Mike Jackson (the same Mike who Harry had met in Mort Alley), head of Gryffindor, and Headmaster Potter.
They were performing a pet-check.
Harry had already done this in the other three houses, and there had been some very interesting non-regulation pets.
Slytherins mostly had very impressive owls, which were regulation, though a couple had exotic lizards which weren't, but which also weren't any kind of danger to any of the other students. No problem, permission granted as long as they were kept in their tanks a minimum of twenty-three hours out of twenty-four.
In Ravenclaw there were a fairly even spread of cats and owls, with just two unorthodox pet choices that leant towards 'house loyalty': two large Australian crows that belonged to a seventh year student. These also were approved, but only because the student who owned them was leaving that year. Other Ravenclaws were asked not to bring in non-regulation birds.
Hufflepuff had the house mascot, a badger named Sydney, who of course wasn't going anywhere and wasn't causing any problems beyond the occasional chewing of assignments when homework got left out and unattended at the same time he was left out unattended. Apart from Sydney there were a bunch of kids who kept bugs in tanks and one worm farm, but they all knew to keep the creepy-crawlies contained. After all, Sydney would eat them otherwise.
Now it was Gryffindor's turn, and Harry was reminded that he somewhat owed Neville Longbottom a pet since Archimedes had eaten the boy's toad. He also had the Marauder's Map in one pocket to return to the twins – he'd been able to make his own copy with instructions from the original makers, and would be able to update the new map to include places that hadn't been found by the Marauders or had been built since they'd left.
At least they didn't have to worry about Lee Jordan's tarantula – the crows already mentioned had made a meal of it the day before at breakfast. There had been lots of shouting, but it had given Harry the good and firm reason to inspect all houses for non-regulation pets, rather than just his own personal concerns about how pets were treated in the castle.
Then Remus was sending a stunner at the Weasley rat – the only non-regulation pet left in Gryffindor – and explaining to the students about the dangers of unregistered animagi and ways to recognise a wizard in animal form.
Mike called in a couple of Aurors to deal with the unregistered animagus who was supposed to be dead, and Harry watched silently until the fuss was over before approaching the twins.
"Your property, gentlemen," he said holding it out to them.
"Where did you get that?" Remus asked suspiciously, spotting it. "I thought Filch destroyed it."
"It's not exactly a dangerous item Professor," Harry told the man. "Certainly intriguing, but not dangerous. In fact, I believe that it being in the twins hands is exactly where it belongs. They'll use it properly."
Remus shook his head, but he was smiling. "If you say so, Headmaster."
"Oh I do. Besides, as they lack an invisibility cloak, they can't get into too much trouble with it," Harry pointed out with a smile. "Have a good day Professor," he bid, turning and leaving the common room.
Remus grinned. "It just got a bit better for finding out a few truths," he said, a little viscously, his gaze returned to where the Aurors had been dragging Pettigrew away for questioning.
All this hustle and bustle and making busy, and it was still two days until Halloween! Harry really had turned Hogwarts around and made it so much better – in record time too.
There was just his own social life that he couldn't seem to fix, even if the staff were finally beginning to get used to him. Snape especially seemed to like him better, to everybody's surprise, though the reasons why weren't. After all, Harry had given him basically what he'd always really wanted (apart from the defence position), and he didn't have to put up with as many snivelling brats needing him to wipe their noses and bums for them. As he was in a much better temper, he gave less detentions as well, which meant he had fewer miscreants to supervise, which in turn made him happier... in his quiet, isolationist sort of way.
On the day of Halloween, Harry had arranged for the customary feast from Dumbledore's reign to be drastically altered. Instead of filling up on pumpkin pie and sweeties under the light of hundreds of floating candles, just a few dozen tall candles on sticks towered over the tables which had only different breads (baked fresh of course) made with lots of different vegetables in them, a few different cold meats sliced thinly, a few honey pots on each table, and water.
All the students were very confused, especially the older ones who were used to a very different Halloween tradition. The teachers were only slightly less confused since Harry had warned them before hand that he would be changing the way it was done, though he hadn't told them how.
Harry stood on his (now much plainer) chair at the considerably expanded staff table and, when he was certain he had everybody's attention, addressed the staff and students.
"Today is Halloween," he said. "Samhain. The autumn equinox. This day is important to the magical calendar, as are the spring equinox and the summer and winter solstices, because it is a day of balance and change. This day is important to the magical community because it was on this day ten years ago that a wicked man was defeated. This day is important to me because it is the day I lost my parents, something people seem to forget every time they call me 'the boy who lived'. I am quite sure that I am not the only person to have lost people, in fact I'm sure that there are people who were lost in the war that have been lost to memory completely, because nobody knew them when they died or why. So, in recognition of this auspicious date and in honour of those who fell for what they believed in, and for those who fell not knowing why, I thought something a bit more sombre was appropriate," Harry explained.
Silent heads nodded throughout the hall, many with frowns on their faces as they recalled friends or family members who had fallen.
Harry picked up his glass of water.
"And now I would like to propose a toast," he said.
Obligingly, every student and teacher picked up their own glasses of water.
"To those who survived the horrors," he said, tipping his head slightly to the two teachers nearest him – Snape and Lupin – while his free hand waved across the whole hall, indicating that every one of them was a survivor. "May none of them, or us, need to face such horrors again. So mote it be."
"So mote it be," the staff and students echoed back solemnly, and they all drank.
After they had all been still a moment, thinking on what Harry had said, he spoke up once more.
"And for those of you who are concerned, and I know some of you are, there will be jelly for dessert," Harry told them, forcing a bit of a smile onto his face.
He got a couple of weak chuckles, and then everybody started serving themselves once Harry sat down again.
"Harry," Snape said after a moment – the teachers and he were finally all on first-name terms.
"This is a very mature thing you have done tonight."
Harry chuckled very softly and weakly. "Well, I don't get to socialise with people my age much, so I suppose I just became mature through necessity."
Snape smirked slightly. "Yes," he agreed. "Now, about these breads."
"Yes, I was wondering too," Remus admitted, half a crooked smile on his face.
"They just have various fruits and vegetables mixed through the doughs, though I think there might be some chocolate bread somewhere," Harry answered, giving a slightly stronger smile back to the two men.
He was clearly overheard by some of the female staff, as they all started scrabbling for the browner breads, hoping they might be chocolate flavoured.
The muted conversations of people discussing loved ones they had lost to the fighting provided a soft, calming murmur through the hall, enough to cover a whispered conversation that Harry found himself being part of.
"Headmaster Potter," a house-elf called in a whisper, tugging on the hem of his robe to get his attention.
"Yes Scrub?" he answered softly, turning his attention to her.
"Headmaster Potter there is a student missing from the meal. They's left just after your speech," the house elf said. "A first year girl."
Harry sighed. "Would this be Miss Granger?" he asked. "I've heard that there have been some issues with name calling, which I really have been meaning to address."
Scrub nodded. "Missy Granger," he confirmed. "We noticed since no food was going onto her plate, and then she entered the bathroom that Doole was cleaning."
Harry nodded his understanding. "Thank you Scrub. Would you please escort her to my office, see that she'd comfortable, and make her a sandwich and a bowl of jelly? I'll talk to her after the meal."
Scrub nodded in answer and popped away.
"Are you going to address the issue of bullying tonight?" Remus asked.
Harry shook his head. "Tomorrow morning at breakfast," he answered. "Then they can have the whole day to think on it and bring any other issues forward rather than just going to sleep and forgetting about it."
All the teachers who heard him nodded their agreement with this plan.
Harry smiled at the sight that met him in his office. Archimedes was reading The Magician's Nephew (the first of the Narnia Chronicles) while Ramandu was piping a tune to help calm and cheer the bushy-haired girl sitting in the plush chair opposite Harry's own. She was very slowly eating her bowl of orange jelly.
"Did Archimedes even greet you Miss Granger? Or what she too absorbed in her latest novel?" Harry asked from his doorway.
The girl's spine snapped straight and her head spun around in fright. "Headmaster!" she yelped.
Archimedes hooted and shrieked softly at him. It sounded suspiciously like "How dare you slander me so!"
She was getting closer and closer to speaking in English every day. It was almost spooky.
"I'm sorry Archimedes, I know you would have greeted her," Harry said, apologising to his owl first, as she was nearest, and stroking her back feathers. Then he took his seat behind his desk and looked at the other bird. "Thank you for being so diligent to her nerves Ramandu," he said. "But I did notice that Matilda was open on your reading stand."
Ramandu chirped and flew back to his perch, where he resumed his reading beside Achimedes.
"Now, Miss Granger," Harry said, finally giving the girl his full attention. "Care to tell me what happened?" he asked gently. "You don't have to of course, but it might help. Or if you don't feel like talking to me about it, I can call someone you would feel comfortable talking to," he offered.
The girl bowed her head over her jelly, and Harry used the moments she was taking to think about what she wanted to say (and possibly who she wanted to say it to) to find her file among all the others that were stored in one of the expansive drawers of his desk.
It appeared that her birthday was shortly after the school year began, a rather tumultuous time this year, and on top of that she would have been feeling very separate from her parents who were non-magical and probably hadn't bought an owl for sending letters. The notes in the file from the various teachers added up to look like the girl hadn't made many (if any) friends. She had probably felt very alone recently.
"Ronald Weasley is a bully," she said at last.
"He said something? Or did he do something?" Harry asked.
She sniffed. "Called me a bossy know-it-all who nobody liked after charms," she said, and wiped at her eyes though there weren't any tears on her cheeks at the moment. "Then after your speech he said I didn't have any right to be toasting the fallen or the survivors because I didn't know about the magical world when it was happening."
The girl sniffled wetly, and Harry offered her a handkerchief.
"Thank you," she said, blowing her nose and wiping her eyes again. She made no move to give it back yet, clearly aware that she was in need of its services further. "I'd expect that sort of thing from Malfoy in Slytherin. He's like that too, 'very pure-blood snob' is what Mr Mike calls it."
Harry smiled. Mr Mike. Not Mr Jackson, and certainly not professor, and Harry was fairly sure that Mike was trying to convince the kids that they didn't even need to call him 'mister', but just Mike. He knew hiring the guy was a good move, spiky green hair in Gryffindor and all.
"I am familiar with Mike's terminology," Harry said with a slight chuckle. "So you didn't expect that attitude from one of your housemates," he supplied.
Hermione shook her head. "I'm used to being called names and teased," she admitted. "Whether it's because I tried so hard to be at the top of my class or because of my frizzy hair and buck-teeth. Being told I had no right to remember fallen people because I didn't know any..." she trailed off.
Harry waited in silence, letting her know he supported her simply by not objecting.
"My grandfather fought in the second world war, and he died there, so I never knew him. Every Remembrance Day I've gone with my parents to the memorial that has his name on it. It takes hours to get there, but we always go, and Daddy lets me wear Grandpa's medals. I'm going to be here for Remembrance Day this year, so this was..." She trailed off again and blew her nose into the kerchief.
"If you want, Miss Granger, I'm sure that you could be excused for the day. Ramandu could take you home to your parents, and you can attend the services and be back in time for curfew," Harry suggested, looking over at the phoenix with half an eye.
The bird raised his head at the sound of his current name, and nodded once before returning to his book.
"Really?" Hermione asked, her hazel eyes shining.
"Really," Harry answered. "You are very lucky that Remembrance Day is a Saturday this year Miss Granger," he added sternly. "I wouldn't be able to do this if it was during the week, and I do not believe that this is something we can make a regular occurrence." There was an unspoken am I being clear in Harry's tone.
Hermione nodded. "I understand," she said. "I wouldn't want to miss classes."
Harry smiled. "And are you enjoying your classes, Miss Granger?" he asked. "I know that there have been some upsets over a few things recently."
Hermione grinned. "Oh it's wonderful!" she exclaimed. "I was so worried that I'd miss out on my regular education, but now you've brought all the muggle subjects into Hogwarts as well! I'll be able to get my A and O levels and go to university after Hogwarts."
Harry chuckled. "You clearly enjoy learning Miss Granger," he said. "I am glad for you. Now, I think I should call Mike in here so that he can take you back to the Gryffindor dormitories, hmm?"
Hermione shrank back in her seat a little.
"You don't like Mike?" Harry asked, concerned.
"No! I think Mr Mike is great!" she objected quickly. "I just don't much want to go back. I don't have anything in common with the girls in my dorm, and then there's Ron..."
"Ah," Harry said. "Well if I may offer some advice Miss Granger, regarding Mr Weasely: tell his brother's that he's being a pure-blood snob. Not Percy, he's something of a rule snob from what Mike tells me, but we're working on that slowly. I mean the twins Weasely. They'll turn him into a canary for you or something, and you can tell them I gave them the go-ahead. After all, brothers pick on each other all the time, that's not really bullying, just being an annoying older or younger brother."
Hermione giggled. "I wouldn't know, I don't have any," she said.
Harry grinned. "Neither do I," he confided in a whisper. "But that's what all the books have to say about siblings. They love each other, and love to drive each other up the wall. Now, shall I call Mike?" he asked again.
Hermione nodded. "Thank you Headmaster," she said shyly, a small smile on her face.
Harry shook his head. "Just doing my job, Miss Granger," he told her. "And one last piece of advice?"
"You are all girls in Gryffindor. That is something in common. Make the effort to find or create other things to share with them," Harry said, then called Mike without waiting for Hermione's response.
"Well!" Harry declared happily across the great hall as desserts were being finished (read, bowls licked clean by a dedicated few). "Leaving already, but it's only for the Christmas break, or Yule, or Hanukkah, depending on who we ask. I know that some of you are staying behind, but I know that far more of you are going home to spend the holiday with your families. For those of you remaining behind, don't worry, we'll have a proper Christmas celebration here too. Or Yule, or Hanukkah, whichever finds itself most prevalent," he said with a grin.
Staff and students alike laughed at his joke, which he quite liked.
"As I'm sure you're aware, the staff have refrained from giving you any homework for this break. This is their Christmas present to all of you. Just as yours will be to not give them the homework of having to mark it."
This brought cheers from the students and rueful chuckles from the teachers. Even Snape was laughing, something people would not have believed possible only a few short months ago.
"I wish you all a happy and safe holiday, and look forward to seeing you all when term begins again in the new year. Now, I believe that Messers Forge and Gred Weasely wished to end the feast with a bang?" Harry suggested, turning to the Gryffindor table.
Many students ducked under their house tables to avoid whatever 'bang' the twins had decided to set off.
The twins, for their part, saluted Harry. They'd finally figured out that Harry wasn't the sort of authority figure they were used to with the suggestion of turning Ron into a canary – and they'd done it too. They called their invention canary creams, and had been delightfully surprised when Mike had asked if he could try one. It had rather set off a feathered frenzy in the common room for a while, but the prank food only lasted an hour.
The pair of them marched up to the front of the hall and set up a small firework, which they then set off. Rather than a boom, the sound that erupted was music. Specifically, a song called 'I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas', and the lights of the fireworks showed a little boy getting said hippo. It was an excellent bit of charms work. Flitwick was visibly impressed.
Finally, the song and light-show ended. The twins took their bows to much applause, and promised that they'd have something else for the end of year feast. For them, this was all great advertising in advance of their dream to open their own shop when they left Hogwarts, so as long as Harry was going to let them do these displays, they weren't going to say no.
For all that they had given an excellent display at the feast before students went home for the winter holidays, the twins themselves were not going home for the break.
The four Weasely boys, the Patil twins, Tracey Davis, Daphne Greengrass, two seventh year Ravenclaws and two seventh year Hufflepuffs (who were staying to help Snape with research potions for extra credit) had all elected to stay at the castle for the holiday. Including Harry, this meant that it was a one-to-one ratio of adults to children, as a number of the staff had also gone home for the holidays.
In fact, the only reason it was exactly one-to-one was that Sirius Black had come to the castle to be reunited with his godson, an old friend, and to meet the newest generation of pranksters.
Since there was only twenty-six of them in the castle total (and five of them were taking their meals in an office adjacent to the potions lab so that they wouldn't be far from the cauldrons but also wouldn't get any food in them) the students were invited to sit up at the staff table for the duration of the holidays, rather than being forced to sit far away from the next person and unable to have any kind of conversation.
It was also during the Christmas break that a bevy of blood-purist snobs burst through the door, rather belligerently, and demanded to know 'what in the name of Merlin was going on'.
Most particular among this group was a man with long, platinum-blonde hair and features that set him as likely little older than Snape. He was in the lead and staring most imperiously down his nose at all present.
"At the moment, ladies and gentlemen, lunch is going on. Please do be seated," Harry answered them, gesturing to the many empty seats available. "Whatever business has brought you here can certainly be achieved more swiftly if it isn't having to be interrupted by complaints of empty stomachs."
As if to prove his point, from behind the leader of the little pack came a sound of growling tummy, and the many varied adult persons shuffled into chairs to help themselves to the hearty stew and freshly baked rolls that were on offer.
"So," Harry said once lunch was eaten and the students had moved off to play in the snow or catch up on studies. "Who exactly are you all, and what brings you to Hogwarts on this fine, if cold, day?"
"We are here to see the headmaster," the platinum-blonde man said, a frown on his face. "Not talk to children. Where is Headmaster Dumbledore?"
Harry chuckled. "I haven't a clue," he answered. "Mr Dumbledore left the evening of the first of September, I've not seen or heard from him since. Has anybody else?" he asked the other staff who were still seated at the table.
Only Filius, Rolanda, Mike and Remus had remained – and Sirius, but he wasn't staff. They all shook their heads in answer.
"Perhaps he tripped, broke his neck, and died in a hole when no one was around to notice," Harry suggested blithely, getting amused snorts from staff and Sirius. (The truth was that he'd over-dosed on calming potion his first night out of the castle, and had been so calm he'd died in his sleep. Old age had finally caught up to him.)
"Then who has been making these changes we have been hearing about? And without consultation with us? Us, the Board of Governors!" demanded a rather crotchety looking old man with, honestly, terrible teeth.
"Board of Governors?" Harry echoed, surprised. "There is nothing mentioned in the Hogwarts Charter about such a thing. Changes made to Hogwarts staffing, general education and practices are the sole responsibility of the Headmaster, though consultation with the staff is recommended to avoid conflicts."
"But nothing," Harry interrupted in a calm, reasonable tone that brooked no argument. Impressive given that he was only eleven years old. "I was made the headmaster of this school by the hat, instead of being sorted into any of the houses. I have no prejudice against any of the houses, my aim is to improve the school and the students. Since my appointment I have been doing that."
Beside him, Sirius chuckled. "Yeah, even Snape is happy, and that's a damn hard thing to make happen!" he said, a grin on his face.
That proclamation seemed to stop a number of these 'board of governors' people cold in their seats.
"My son informed me that he was no longer teaching," said the platinum-blonde delicately.
"He isn't," Harry agreed. "He is now passing along knowledge to those who have truly worked hard for the right to learn it. Oh, and doing research. He and his assistants for the holidays have shut themselves away in the potions research laboratory. I think he may even recommend these four to other potion masters for apprenticeships."
There were confused looks all around from the intruding adults.
"That means that Master Snape is now only taking the sixth and seventh year classes, and they are doing very well," Mike translated for them, a smile on his face.
"Your son, Mr Malfoy, being only a first year will naturally have little to no interaction with the school's resident potion master," Filius supplied.
"But Severus is also the head of Slytherin," the platinum-blonde, Malfoy, objected. "He should see the man every day, surely!"
"Except that the head of Slytherin house is a young woman two years graduated by the name of Anise Mason," Rolanda said with a small smile. "No professor is required to take on the extra duties of being a head of house any more. Headmaster Potter has hired people to be on hand specifically for the sake of the students well-being."
"How can the school afford all these new staff?" asked another person. A woman this time. Somewhere between Malfoy's age and the crotchety old man.
Harry looked at her blankly. "It always could," he said, as though the idea that it couldn't was shocking.
Apparently, that Hogwarts was capable of supporting so many staff was shocking to these people, as all of them stared at him or gaped as though he had grown an extra head.
"Then why didn't Dumbledore -" began another person, only to be interrupted by Harry.
"Mr Dumbledore had been slowly, but regularly and systematically, removing subjects and staff from this school for the past half-century," Harry said flatly. He decided to refrain from mentioning that the man had been skimming off the top besides. He was going to take the matter to the goblins during the summer break. Possibly the paper as well.
"Why would he do that?"
Harry shrugged. "He is an old man, I am a child. I do not pretend to understand the convoluted ways in which his mind works. I have a far more simple approach: if it is something that would be useful to know, then we should teach the children about it. If we do not pass on knowledge, then eventually it will be forgotten, and that is a true tragedy for any society. After all, if we do not understand the mistakes of the past, then we are doomed to repeat them."
This seemed to appease the board, though some were clearly not pleased with the idea that they would no longer have any say on what would happen within the school.
Change, whether they liked it or not, had arrived – and it wasn't about to leave them as they had always been.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Harry called over the heads of the students at breakfast, a huge grin on his face. "Congratulations on surviving your exams, I'm sure you all have excellent scores, even if the official results won't be sent out for a couple of weeks."
Even if it was morning on the very last day, there were cheers.
"To celebrate a year completed, and a successful one at that, today we will have the benefit of a grand display organised by Professor Lupin with help from the charms professors, transfiguration professors, the history professors – because they need to shake the dust off their wands now and then too – and a number of you, the students. I'm sure you all remember the excellent firework set off by Messers Weasely at the Christmas feast? Well, I have been told that this will be even grander. Next year, however, I am officially declaring a competition between staff and students. Students get to make the display for just before Christmas break, while the staff get summer break. But that is for next year, and I hope I won't see the teachers stealing ideas from the students, or calling in outside help."
Everybody laughed at that, then as it was dying down -
"But the teachers have an age advantage!" someone called out.
"And you outnumber them!" Harry answered. "I'm sure there must be more creative minds amongst you than just Messers Weasely, surely?"
A few shoulders were clapped and grins shared.
"Well, breakfast is over, so what are we all doing still inside?" Harry called out to them, a grin on his own face.
A great cheer went up, and students and staff together streamed out onto the lawn, where Remus set off the first firework. What was really impressive was that it seemed to go backwards to the usual kind; it was darker than the sky so that it could be seen in broad daylight. After that, things really got fun.
The next morning, very well-rested students climbed aboard the Hogwarts Express with smiles on their faces. Despite the strange beginning, it had been a great year, and the next promised to be just as good.
A week after the students had left, Harry farewelled a great many of the staff. He, Remus and Severus were the only ones staying through the summer, though all three of them did have plans to go out and do other things in other places, but Hogwarts was a new home for Harry (even though Sirius had offered his to his godson), a sanctuary for Remus, and a quiet place to continue researching and experimenting for Severus.
One year, and so much had changed for them, and all of it for the better. Well, almost all of it. Harry still rather wished he'd had the chance to be at least a little bit normal and make some friends his own age, but a person couldn't have it all he supposed.
"No indeed they cannot Harry," Archimedes said fondly.
Harry blinked, then grinned. "Finally broke down and decided to really talk to me Archimedes?" he asked teasingly, though his eyes were bright with emotion as she nodded at him, the light of amusement dancing in her own dark eyes. "I think my life just got better."
For one thing, he could now introduce her as "Archimedes, a highly educated owl," just like Merlin had in Disney's animated film The Sword in the Stone. He'd be able to get a private giggle out of that for a good long time.