Hermione had been a St Trinian's girl from the moment she entered the education system. Her mother had been Head Girl there in her day, and her mother before her. Hermione had expected to continue the tradition, but then came the letter.
Now, St Trinian's started in August, and Hermione had no intention of neglecting either her regular education, or all the friends she'd made there. So after some discussion with Miss Fritton in July, it was decided that Hermione would spend Augusts at St Trinian's before going off to Hogwarts every year, and then spend Junes at St Trinian's again after she finished the Hogwarts year. This would allow for her to continue to be properly enrolled at a regular school and not have that gap that would be there if Hermione only went to Hogwarts, and she'd be able to take the end of year tests to keep up her academic record. Hermione would also visit during the Christmas break to take mid-year tests and update her friends on what had been going on at her new school.
And she would be updating them, properly. Like hell she wasn't going to tell her friends that they had something else that they could take advantage of for any jobs or stunts they wanted to pull.
"Kit me up girls!" Hermione called. "I'm only here for a month before I go to a castle where no one knows that stationary got updates a hundred years ago!"
That got all of her friends attention – and in St Trinian's, everybody is your friend sooner or later – so when Hermione pulled out the trunk that her mother had insisted she have (seven compartments, each with a different type of lock, each of them expanded to be able to hold five times the amount that it looked like the trunk should hold, with enchantments to make it lighter and able to shrink with just the correct sequence of taps from her wand), all the girls' eyes lit up. Dangerously.
Hermione just grinned in response.
Hermione smiled when she saw the poor boy sitting on a trunk near the barrier between platforms nine and ten at King's Cross, a caged owl next to him.
"You didn't get all the information that students with a non-magical background are supposed to, did you?" she asked kindly.
The boy looked up sharply. Hermione, for her part, noticed the lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead that denoted him as the famous Harry Potter, and put that together with his poor clothes and the bruises that were visible, and decided right then and there that he needed a good friend.
"No, I didn't," he answered.
"Well, you're sitting in front of the way in," her mother supplied with a smile of her own, more aware of the boy's poor state than his celebrity status, and personally deciding that she'd look out for the boy. St Trinian's taught solidarity, especially for those who weren't welcomed by regular society.
"Come on," Hermione said, giving him a gentle pull off his trunk. "We can sit together on the train."
"I'd like that," Harry answered with a tentative smile. "I'm Harry Potter."
"Hermione Granger," Hermione answered, sticking her hand out to shake. "Pleased to meet you Harry."
They shook, and then moved through the barrier together.
"Now, don't forget to write to us," Mrs Granger informed her daughter once they'd stored Hermione's and Harry's luggage in a compartment. "And don't forget to write to the girls as well, Miss Fritton has promised to forward their replies to us so that we can send them to you, unless you want to send owls to St Trinian's directly?"
Hermione nodded. "Might be easier," she answered.
Mrs Granger chuckled. The rest of that sentence was 'for dad' – poor thing was still not used to the idea that six-year-olds were allowed to mix their own explosives at St Trinian's. Or that hockey-sticks had more uses than just as sports equipment and were sharpened by some of the girls, or that the girls had a system for 'spying' throughout the school that rivalled the secret service's for the rest of the country.
Mrs Granger kissed her daughter goodbye and left the two kids to get to know each other.
"Can our little Ronnie-kins join you?" a voice asked, drawing Harry and Hermione's attention from their examination of some school texts (the kind that St Trinian's girls used).
"Only, our friend Lee Jordan finally got permission to bring his tarantula, and Ronnie-kins is scared of spiders," added an almost identical voice.
It was three red-heads, two older identical twins, and a bashful looking boy who appeared to be their age.
"Tarantula?" Harry and Hermione asked, then locked eyes for a moment before turning back to the twins. "Can we come?"
The twins laughed and agreed, pushing Ronnie-kins into the compartment and dragging the other two out and down to the one where Lee was waiting for them.
"If you're anything but a Gryffindor then I'm going as senile as the headmaster," the hat grumbled into Hermione's ear. "Though with your brain you could make it as a Ravenclaw, and the dedication you show to your other school is fine Hufflepuff loyalty, and you have cunning that even Slytherin himself couldn't match. However, despite all this, you are a St Trinian's girl."
Hermione smiled, and hopped off the stool once the hat had yelled out Gryffindor for everybody to hear, then went to sit with Fred and George at the Gryffindor table.
A while later, Harry joined her and the twins, and once the sorting was over and it was alright to talk beyond introductions again, they resumed their conversation from the train.
"So, this C-4 stuff," Fred began, grinning.
Hermione giggled and Harry chuckled.
"It's proper name is cyclotrimethylene trinitramine," Hermione said with a grin that matched Fred's. "But yeah, most people call it C-4. What about it?" she asked sweetly.
"Where can we get some?" George asked.
Harry laughed while Hermione shook her head. "People don't just leave C-4 lying around," she answered solemnly. "It's dangerous after all, and the non-magical world is full of people who are very safety conscious."
The excited smiles fell from the faces of Fred and George, their shoulders sagging.
"Gun powder on the other hand," Hermione supplied, "can be made very easily. Actually, I think I heard about someone who made an explosive out of cheese too, but I'd have to check."
The twins were grinning again. "And of course there's all the wonderful things that we can do with magic that you two haven't even properly begun to learn yet," George said.
"And I'll have easy access to your usual test subject," Harry added, pointing down the table to where Ronnie-kins was stuffing his face.
"Neville's off limits for anything unpleasant though," Hermione cut in. "He's a nice boy with no confidence, which isn't helped by his family." She'd helped him look for his toad for a while on the train, and gotten his story out of him after a little bit of wheedling.
Harry and the twins nodded in agreement.
"Besides, Longbottom's an important family," Fred supplied.
"Wouldn't be good to alienate the kid," George added.
"Ickle firsties grow up eventually after all," Fred finished.
"Like Harry here," George said, continuing the conversation in a slightly different direction as he pinched Harry's cheek. "He's the last Potter. Heir and possibly lord of an ancient and noble family. Completely apart from the whole boy-who-lived tosh, it's a bad idea to antagonise people with as much power as this boy."
"What are you talking about?" Harry asked, his brows furrowed in confusion.
Fred and George gaped at the boy, and Hermione lay a hand on his shoulder.
"Harry," she said. "I don't think you quite appreciate your situation."
"I'm famous for not dying," Harry said. "When my parents did," he added a little more harshly. "I didn't know I had a situation of any kind until I was told about that. Are you three telling me that there's more?"
The twins and Hermione nodded.
"I've read a bunch of history books with the Potter name in them," Hermione supplied. "Your family has or had properties all over the world, owns shares in a lot of prominent businesses, muggle ones as well as magical..."
"And then there's all the people who left you stuff in their wills because you defeated You-Know-Who," Fred added.
"You're probably the single richest person in the UK," George said, nodding along.
"Possibly the world," Hermione corrected. "Because all that gold in your vault? That's real, twenty-four carat gold. If you opened an account with the Bank of England, and then slowly sold melted-down galleons as gold bullion..." Hermione trailed off again, letting Harry fill in the blanks.
Behind his glasses, the boy's green eyes went very wide. His jaw dropped.
Hermione scooped up a spoonful of stew and shoved it into Harry's mouth, then pushed his chin up so that his mouth closed around the spoon.
Harry removed the spoon, chewed, and then swallowed. "Sorry, thanks Hermione. Fred, George, thanks for telling me about this stuff. It's a bit much to take in, but will you guys help me?"
Twins and girl grinned at their youngest friend, then wrapped him up in a hug.
"Course we will," they all agreed at once.
Hermione frowned at the homework before her, and the textbooks spread around.
"What's up Herms?" the twins asked, draping an arm each around her shoulders.
Hermione didn't answer, just shook her head. It was Harry who supplied the answer.
"She's trying to reconcile an accidental explosion from potions class today with something she can do on purpose," Harry supplied.
"I'm also trying to figure out the recipe for firewhiskey," Hermione muttered, then sighed. "St Trinian's was great, because if we wanted to cause mayhem then the teachers would teach us the best ways to make it. Here, they teach us stuff and then we have to put it together ourselves into something that will work to make whatever sort of result we're looking for," she explained, then chuckled dryly. "As mischief makers, we're going to have the best marks of the whole school, by accident, just so that we can do half the stuff we want to."
The twins laughed at that. "Brilliant!" they cried. "Why didn't we ever realise that?"
"You didn't have a Trinian education," Hermione answered wryly.
"But that's going to change," Harry said firmly. "We're going to visit St Trinian's for Christmas," he explained with a grin. "After all, it will be our first chance to meet these girls that we've been writing to."
Hermione had read aloud from a couple of her letters from her school friends at St Trinian's, and the boys had all decided that they wanted in on the correspondence. Key among the girls they wrote to were Celia (who knew more about fungi and their properties than Spout and Snape put together, which was impressive for a ten-year-old) and Holly (who was big in the business world despite being eleven and an excellent planner). Hermione wrote to all of the girls back at Trinian's in one big letter every couple of days, asking questions to the relevant girls in different paragraphs and filling them all in at the same time. When questioned about it, she said that the letters she wrote to the whole school got read aloud by the head girl. She obviously got a very large response every time, judging by how fat the return envelopes were that Hedwig (Harry's owl who had taken up the task of delivering mail to and from St Trinian's) carried back to them.
They were walking up the drive way. Hermione was wearing a navy skirt, black stockings, white shirt, navy and silver tie, and a blazer with St Trinian's shield on the breast pocket. She was also walking a few metres in front of the boys who were following behind her, a secret smile on her face that she was doing her best to make sure Fred, George and Harry didn't see.
For their part, the boys were carefully making note of the dirty skull with hair still attached hanging from a different school shield (Hermione had said it was Cheltenham Ladies College when they'd asked, though she hadn't even turned around). They saw signs which said 'please keep off the grass', only on one of them 'grass' had been crossed out and replaced with 'skunk', and on another 'the grass' was replaced with 'your head'.
They were a bit over half-way up the drive when the attack was launched. Kids ten and under appeared over the embankments and pelted the boys (though not Hermione who was ahead of them) with paint bombs, slime bombs, mud bombs, flour bombs, and of course stink bombs. Harry dodged them rather adroitly, doing his best to catch those he couldn't dodge, while Fred and George had the opposite approach – dodging as a last resort, mostly catching, and then returning fire with the caught missiles.
After a while the exchange of fire stopped, and they had reached the doors of St Trinian's.
"Hello Beverly!" Hermione greeted.
"Hello Miss Granger," Beverly returned, a smile on her face. "Back for your mid-terms and to catch up with your friends are you?"
"That's right," Hermione answered. "And I brought the friends I made at my other school as well."
Beverly smiled. "They still with you?" she asked knowingly.
Hermione giggled. Beverly was a bit airy about some things, but she certainly knew about getting up the drive way being a rite of passage for anybody not already a St Trinian's student. Exceptions were very few and far between.
"That was brilliant!" came the cheer of the three boys she'd brought with her. "Does everybody get that kind of greeting?"
Hermione laughed, nodding.
That night, the boys were introduced to the St Trinian's anthem during the party that was welcoming Hermione back, and she just knew they'd take it to heart and make it their own as well. When they returned to Hogwarts, both Harry and the twins had tattoos of the St Trinian's shield on their left ankles – and they'd swapped about a thousand different ideas on what the four of them could do to the Hogwarts staff and different ways for the girls to enjoy themselves.
Cooking classes at St Trinian's would now include potion making as well, since Anoushka had quickly proven that it didn't matter who mixed as long as the mixing was done right.
The first thing the four friends did upon returning to Hogwarts was go to the third floor corridor that Dumbledore had said would lead to a painful death. They weren't keen on dying, but they were interested in capitalising on whatever was there that could kill someone.
"Wicked!" they all breathed at the sight of the large, three-headed dog.
Fred and George conjured a large steak for the dog to chew on while the four of them jumped down the trap door it was guarding.
A bit of botany, a good flight, a game of chess, a little bit of explosive and a flame-freezing charm later, and the four of them were gathered before a mirror.
"I show not your face but your hearts desire," Hermione read slowly, carefully. She was, after all, reading the words on the frame backwards and moving the gaps around so that they made sense.
"Well I desire to find whatever is being guarded in here," Harry said with a grin, stepping up in front of the mirror.
His reflection reached into his pocket and pulled out a stone, then dropped it back in. Harry reached into the same pocket and removed the stone.
"That's it?" Fred asked. "I feel a little cheated."
"We'll figure out what it is later," Hermione decided. "Since the teachers obviously think it's worth protecting it has to be worth something."
"Even if they didn't protect it very well," George put in with a smile.
"Now, how do we get out of here? Same way we got in?" Harry asked.
"We'll check for doors in here," Hermione said firmly, "just in case."
They found one. It brought them out behind a tapestry next to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom.
"We have a place to experiment in," they all agreed.
"Hang on," Fred muttered, groping through his robes until he found a bit of parchment. "I solemnly swear I am up to no good," he intoned, his wand to the paper.
"It's not there," George said, stunned.
"Huh?" Harry and Hermione asked.
"This is the Marauder's Map," George explained. "It shows where people are in the castle and on the grounds, and until this very moment we had believed it to be a completely accurate map of Hogwarts."
"But that area we just came out of isn't here," Fred explained.
Messer Moony is willing to explain to the new generation how to add new discoveries to the map. The words appeared along the side of the map in a cursive hand.
"Brilliant," the four of them answered, all grinning.
Harry spent June and August at St Trinian's, and July at the Burrow with the Weasely family. Molly was reluctant to let Harry go come August, but he insisted and then Fred and George showed him how to call the Knight Bus, so she couldn't stop him from going. They even went with him.
"How'd your mum react to your tattoos?" Harry asked once they were away from the Burrow.
The twins grinned. "She still doesn't know we have 'em," George answered. "She never sees us without socks on after all."
Harry grinned back.
It was a summer break full of explosives, potions, alcohol, even drugs and making make up.
There was also hockey and mayhem – as well as pillion broomstick riding.
"Appreciating that I don't really know your little sister," Hermione said as she and Harry joined the twins in their secret lab, "does she normally walk around with a vacant, glazed look in her eye and a tattered black book clutched to her chest?"
Hermione nodded. "Then we should investigate what all she's doing in the loo like that, since she went in five minutes ago and hasn't left it by normal means."
The map was pulled out at once and Ginny's name wasn't there. It appeared a moment later out of nowhere by the sinks and moved to stop in front of a wall for a long time.
Harry peaked out from behind the tapestry to see what she was doing.
"Painting a message in blood," he told them. "She's still holding that book tight with one hand, and still has that glazed look in her eyes."
"Mission assignments: Hermione, you get the book from her dormitory later tonight. Harry, you investigate that loo. We'll confront Gin-Gin," Fred declared.
There were no complaints. Harry wasn't keen on going into a girls loo, but he was even less keen on either of the other two options.
A short investigation later had Harry adding the Chamber of Secrets to the Marauder's Map, which earned him a chorus of "Wicked!" from his friends.
Operations for major, large-scale projects were moved to the Chamber as soon as some of the castle's elves had cleaned it out and a rooster had disposed of the basilisk (Fred and George had just covered them in their private defence against dark arts studies, despite Lockhearts best efforts to cripple their educations).
Mr Weasely pulled Harry aside before letting him get on the train for third year – he and Hermione had gotten a ride with the Weasely family from Diagon Alley after their month at St Trinian's – and told him about Sirius Black being out for Harry's life.
Harry gave the only response that was right for someone who had as much of a St Trinian's education as he did: "That all sounds frightfully interesting," he said. "But he's got to catch me before he can kill me."
Besides, he'd heard more the night before – when Arthur was arguing with Molly about it. Not to mention all the details that were in the papers. Kind of obvious that.
On the train, he immediately relayed what Arthur had told him to the twins and Hermione – who had settled into a cabin already occupied by the sleeping R. J. Lupin, the likely new defence teacher (after all, little truth potion combined with a little babbling potion in his morning tea had Lockheart all but signing his own arrest warrant the last day of the Hogwarts year).
That had been one of Hermione's ideas, and damn but it had been brilliant.
"Killed Peter Pettigrew?" Hermione asked, her brows furrowed. "But I'm sure that I've seen that name wandering around on the map, and I very much doubt anybody gave that name to their pet," she pointed out.
"You know, I do believe she's right," Fred added.
"Does the map include the train?" George asked. "We might be able to find 'im before we get to the castle."
"Only one way to find out," Harry answered with a grin, pulling out the parchment (it had been his turn to mind it over the break).
"It doesn't," a new voice said, snapping all attention to the man who they'd thought was sleeping.
"Good morning," Harry greeted the man. "And what do you mean 'it doesn't,' if you don't mind me asking sir?"
"If you're talking about the Marauder's Map, then we only made it to include Hogwarts and the grounds out to a certain extent. Not much point in making a map of the train after all, since it has a rather simple lay out," Lupin answered. "Though I suppose for finding or avoiding people it could be useful," he allowed.
"You're one of the Marauder's!" Hermione declared, her hazel eyes wide and sparkling with admiration.
"Was," the man corrected gently with a smile. "But I'd prefer it if you didn't call me Professor Mooney. Now, you all know who I am," he said, tapping his knuckles against his trunk where his name was written. "Who am I sharing a compartment with?"
"Hermione Granger," Hermione supplied, offering a hand to shake.
"Pleasure," Lupin answered, turning it and bussing a light kiss to her hand. "Proper etiquette, Miss Granger, has witches offering their hands to be kissed by a man, not shaken, while younger wizards wait until the senior wizard or witch offers his or her hand. A senior witch may offer her hand to be shaken by a younger. If they are equals, then to refuse to shake or kiss the hand as appropriate is a statement that you are superior."
Hermione nodded as she took in this quick lesson. She wasn't the only one paying attention though, since Harry had never been taught that sort of thing, and though the twins knew it in a sort of it's-just-the-way-things-are sort of way, they hadn't ever thought to tell their friends about it.
"Fred and George Weasely," the twins supplied together, bowing slightly to one of their heroes appearing before them in the flesh.
"Or Forge and Gred, if you prefer," Harry added with a smile. "Harry Potter," he added.
"Ah," Lupin said. "Well, Prongs will be glad that the map found its way to his son."
Heads whipped around to Harry now, and his own eyes were wide in astonishment.
"I'm sorry I have been so absent from your life until now Harry," Lupin said. "I'm afraid I hit the bottle for ... a few years after your parents deaths, and then when I sobered up enough to look for you there were wards around your house keeping me out and away, and a man who looked like I did then approaching a young boy in the street is rarely going to go unnoticed and unreported. I crawled back into the bottle until the headmaster asked me to take this job. I've spent the entire summer sobering up again and getting as cleaned up as I could afford."
"Why are you telling me this Professor?" Harry asked.
"Because I feel terribly guilty for having made no contact with you until now when I was so close to your parents before. I wasn't even sober enough to write most of the time," he said.
"You're clean now?" Hermione asked, checking. "Only, we had a useless professor last year, and the year before, so a third one is really going to set us back."
Remus chuckled. "I was never alcoholic," he answered. "I just didn't want to be sober enough to think, but yes, I'm clean now. I have a potion I have to take regularly that knocks me out sometimes, but that's a health condition of mine, nothing to do with booze. Now, we have gotten quite off your original topic of Black and Pettigrew."
"Yeah, I'm sure I've seen Pettigrew on the map," Hermione said, shaking her head. "Usually hanging about with your younger brother," she added to the twins.
They and Harry all scoffed. "The only company he reliably keeps is his rat Scabbers."
"Peter, Wormtail, is a rat animagus," Lupin told them. "Prongs was a stag, Padfoot a large black dog."
"And you Professor?" Hermione asked.
Lupin swallowed heavily and shot a privacy spell at all the corners of the compartment and sealed the door shut.
"Moony," he said. "The other three Marauder's were named for their animagus forms. I was the odd one out in that I didn't have one – I was the reason they all developed them."
"Werewolf," Harry breathed in realisation. "That's your 'health condition' that you take a potion for," he said. "Animagi are safe from being bitten?"
Remus nodded. "It was Sirius' idea to do it, but it was because your father was so excellent at transfiguration that it was possible," he answered.
"Sirius as in Black as in the guy who broke out of Azkaban," Fred half-asked. "As in Padfoot."
"As in possibly innocent man," George added with further realisation. "If Pettigrew is alive, then Black couldn't have killed him."
Hermione nodded. "Proof of a fallible justice system."
Remus shook his head. "Black may not have even gotten a trial," he said. "Circumstantial evidence against him was pretty damn solid-looking after all."
"Well, as much as doing things like finally satisfying justice isn't normal practice for us," Harry said with a grin, "I think we can bend the rules this once."
"Prank on the Ministry," the twins crowed.
Remus just laughed and cancelled the spell that kept the door shut, ready for when the sweets trolley came by.
Dementors came by before then.
"You've got to teach us that spell!" Fred insisted as he held tightly to George while Hermione tried to help Harry up off the floor when the things were gone. The dementors had proven to have a rather adverse affect on the boy.
"Of course," Remus agreed. "But first, chocolate. It will help drive away the chill."
While they chewed the chocolate, Remus gave them the incantation and explained the theory behind the spell, then excused himself to check on other students along the train.
"A happy memory?" Harry asked when he finally swallowed the last of his chocolate. "It sounds more like the spell is powered by positive emotion more than the memory, and the memory is just a way to capture that feeling."
The other three agreed, and they all began recounting happy memories that they treasured – a lot of St Trinian's moments were included in this discussion.
"Ron, what are you doing?" Dean asked as he watched his room mate tear his bed apart.
"Scabbers is missing," Ron answered.
"So why are you searching your bed?" Seamus asked. "Oh ew man! You sleep with your rat? That's gross!"
Ron spared a moment to glare at his room mate before he threw all the sheets back on his bed and turned to start searching under his bed.
"He carries that rat around in his pocket too," Neville added. "I've seen it climb in and out during meal times."
"That's really gross," Seamus asserted.
"Especially with the way it's been looking this year," Dean added. "Was it sick or just finally getting old?"
"Scabbers is sick," Ron answered. "Which is why I've got to find him, to give him his tonic!"
"How old is that damn rat anyway?" Harry asked, finally entering the conversation.
"Erm, Percy got him the year Ginny was born," Ron answered after a moment of thinking. "But he wasn't a baby rat then."
"Probably curled up in a corner of the castle somewhere and died of old age then," Dean said dispassionately. "I'm fairly sure most rats only live nine years, you just said Scabbers is more than twelve."
Ron frowned, but didn't stop looking.
"Maybe, being so old, Mrs Norris finally caught him," Harry suggested with a smirk. "Seriously Ron, you're daft to bring a rat as a pet when two out of three of the pets listed will happily eat it."
"You should have at least kept it in a cage," Neville added. "Like I do Trevor. He'd be long gone if it weren't for this," he said, tapping the lidded tank that he kept his toad in.
Ron sighed and gave up. He moped for a week after that, not even paying attention to what was going on in the Daily Prophet which was raving about Pettigrew being alive after all these years and Sirius Black finally getting a trial where he was proven innocent.
Harry smirked as he handed over his permission slip to Professor McGonagall, letting him go to Hogsmeade, signed by his godfather: Sirius Black.
Sirius was surprised to learn that Harry spent Christmas at a different school. He was more surprised to learn it was a muggle school. A lot of his surprise left him when he learned it was an all girls school, and was replaced with pride. That year, he and Remus joined Harry, Hermione and the twins in visiting St Trinian's for the holiday.
Among other things that holiday, Sirius began to teach Hermione and the boys how to become animagi, and received a lot of patting from some of the girls the first time he changed into his dog form. He also received a very thorough grooming.
Sirius explained the two methods available: shape-shifting into an animal that was like them in spirit, or choosing an animal and practising their self-transfiguration until the form came as easily as a thought rather than needing their wands.
In an effort to be able to move about freely and unobtrusively, to be able to set up and set off pranks unseen, Fred and George chose a smaller animal to transform into: the grey squirrel. That these extremely intelligent animals were also an animal very like them in spirit (Sirius had them take a potion to check, as it was easier to change into an animal that they already had some kind of link to, and actually their shape-shifting option would have been red squirrels, but greys were more common and less noticeable), the twins were able to show off their claws and tails to the girls before returning to Hogwarts for the rest of the year (it was a slow and difficult process after all).
Hermione had wanted to be a hedgehog or a fox, but about the only thing those forms had in common with the one most like her in spirit (a horse) was that it had four legs. Sirius said that she had leeway enough to choose to be a deer if she wanted to, but Hermione shook her head and said that if a horse would be the easiest, then a horse she would be – but she was going to pick the breed, and it most certainly would not be a Clydesdale. Hermione worked towards being a perfectly black Arabian, and the process had her hair changing from the frizzy brown that everybody was used to into falls of dead-straight black. It looked good on her, but so had the masses of frizzy brown curls.
Harry wanted to be a dog like his godfather, and as the potion indicated wolf instead of dog, Harry decided he had a lot of leeway to choose what sort of canine he would be – and he wasn't going to be a black wolfhound like Sirius either. Just because Remus and Sirius called him 'Pup' and 'Cub' didn't mean he was automatically going to go with the same breed of dog. There was also no way he was going to be a bulldog. He'd had enough of those thanks to Marge Dursley, which reminded him to be grateful he hadn't been back to the Dursleys since he'd started Hogwarts. The only problem was, after looking at all the different sorts of dogs he could be, he couldn't decide which one he actually wanted to be.
"Still having trouble Harry?"
Harry turned in his chair from where he'd been studying the book full of different dogs.
"Oh, Kelly, hi," he greeted with a smile.
Kelly Jones, one year younger than him and generally really nice, but really no-nonsense too. She was also shaping up to be a real bombshell, even if she was younger than him.
"No, I'm still stuck on breed," he said in answer to her question. "I haven't even gotten started on the difficulties of actually transforming yet. What's your favourite?"
"Well, I like sausage dogs and greyhounds, but that's me. Why not just take what aspects you like and mix 'em all up?" she suggested with a smile. Greyhounds were a popular way of making a losing money at St Trinian's actually, but Harry guessed that Kelly liked dachshunds (sausage dogs) because they were kinda cute. "Just decide how you want to look and then do that," Kelly said, still smiling.
Harry nodded slowly. "That's a great idea Kelly," he said, a smile growing on his own face even though he didn't say which idea was so great. "Thanks."
"No problem," Kelly said, and gave him a quick hug before she headed off to check on what Tania and Tara were getting up to under the supervision of Fred and George (two sets of twins with destructive tendencies... it was a good thing they were still taking up rooms in St Trinian's or the school would be going up in smoke at that moment).
Harry turned the pages of his dog book to the hound section and made a start on turning his left hand into a paw. It would be a long and difficult process. He wasn't even able to show off a tail before the holidays ended.
By the time June rolled around, Harry had discovered that there was a total of only four girls in his house who he could stand to be around and hold conversation with: Hermione, and the three girls on the quidditch team (Alicia, Angelina and Katie), and with the latter three he could only talk about quidditch. Since he was the seeker that wasn't too bad, but he did have other interests.
It was even worse in the other houses.
Ravenclaw's only girl worth talking to was Luna Lovegood, and it was very difficult to hold a conversation with her that you were completely able to understand. Sweet girl, shame about the bullying, but they'd mentioned it to Professor Flitwick and it had been a lot better for her recently.
Hufflepuff offered Susan Bones, but she giggled with Hannah Abbot at the earliest opportunity and Harry had a feeling that the only reason she was as reasonable as she was in his presence was because she had been raised by her aunt. Sirius explained that Amelia Bones was a very no-nonsense woman.
Slytherin, for all that it held Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle and Parkinson, also contained Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis. They didn't really talk to anybody much except each other as far as Harry could tell, but they were always very cordial and pleasant without any of the symptoms (such as giggling) that Harry had come to associate with the girls who had grown up reading the 'Harry Potter' books.
Of course, that Harry hardly interacted with anybody outside of Gryffindor on a regular basis (plenty on an irregular basis, but not regularly), meant that Harry's experience in male-female interaction came mostly from Hermione and the girls at St Trinian's.
So when Sirius told Harry that it would be a good idea for him to learn to dance as the heir of the Ancient an Noble Houses of Potter (through his father) and Black (through Sirius' will), the lessons were put off until Harry reached St Trinian's in the summer.
When Sirius approached Miss Fritton about the idea of dancing classes for her girls with Harry as their partner, she had been thrilled at the idea. Harry had promptly roped Fred and George into these lessons as well, which they didn't mind all that much. Actually, neither did Harry, except that there were a lot of girls for him to have to dance with if he was going to have to do it all himself.
Harry's favourite partners were Hermione, Chelsea, Kelly and Andrea, but that might have been because they were the most interested in learning how to dance and so he got to practice with them more. Andrea's interest in dancing was a bit of a surprise actually, since apart from the lots of make-up she wore and her long hair she wasn't actually all that girly. Others who he danced with (but not as often because they weren't as interested in learning or preferred dancing with Fred or George) included Holly, Celia, Chloe, Peaches, Taylor and Anoushka. Oh, and the twins Tania and Tara, but they only joined in for once lessons because they weren't even ten yet, so dancing with them while they were only as tall as Harry's navel was kind of awkward.
Fred and George also particularly enjoyed dancing with JJ French, who didn't dance with Harry at all, but did dance a couple of rounds with Sirius. She was a prefect and in line to be made Head Girl in a couple of years.
"You didn't tell us you'd managed it," Fred commented quietly. They'd all four of them tried to get their names into the goblet for the Tournament, all perfectly aware that they were none of them the best candidates that the school had to offer and therefore unlikely to be called upon to compete.
"That's because I didn't," Harry answered.
His three friends paled at that. If Harry hadn't gotten his own name in, then someone had it in for him. It didn't take a genius to figure that out after all, and they were all quite bright. Why, just the year before Fred and George had come out with even more OWLs than their perfect Percy who was mercifully absent, having graduated at the end of the previous school year.
"Mr Potter, if you would please join the other three Champions?" Dumbledore called out.
"I don't please," Harry answered firmly. "Until you tell me what school is written on that slip." Rather than Hogwarts, he'd written St Trinian's on his paper, just for a laugh, but it was a way of verifying if it was really his paper or note.
"There is no school name," Dumbledore answered.
Harry swallowed heavily. It wasn't just a matter of his slip falling into the goblet after he'd been expelled from the age line then.
"Then I will not represent Hogwarts," he declared. "Since the Hogwarts Champion is Cedric Diggory." That got Hufflepuff's support it seemed, since they cheered at the acknowledgement of their Champion, and with that Harry walked towards the door that the other Champions had passed through.
Where he was questioned by the other champions about what was going on.
"I am unwillingly representing a fourth mystery school that didn't know it was taking part in this thing," Harry answered quickly. "Someone else put my name in the goblet and they're probably going to burst through the door and alternately object to my entry and say that I have no choice."
He'd just finished saying so when exactly that happened.
"Potter?" Cedric asked tentatively.
Harry chuckled. "Harry," he answered. "And you have my full and unwavering support as Hogwarts' Champion," he added.
Cedric smiled in relief. "Thanks Harry," he said, "and you'll call me Cedric, right?"
Harry nodded. "Sure Cedric," then he smirked. "I'm real sorry I'm not going to get the chance to even the playing field in quidditch with you this year," he said.
Cedric laughed, and the sound drew attention from the other people in the room not actively involved in the debate of Harry's eligibility to compete – meaning the other two champions.
"Vat are you talking about?" Krum asked.
"Harry here was just making me feel better," Cedric answered.
"Nothing of the sort," Harry said with a blatantly put-upon air. "I really did want the chance to play you properly this year, without ridiculous amounts of rain or a swarm of dementors below. See who was the better seeker."
"Since you got that firebolt, and I fly a cleansweep, probably you," Cedric quipped, still grinning.
"You are both seekers?" Krum asked, his dark eyes brightened by the topic.
Cedric and Harry both nodded, and then Harry turned to the Beauxbaton champion.
"What about you, Miss Delacour?" he asked. "Do you play?"
Fleur shook her head. "Non," she answered with a sigh. "Because my grandmozzer is a veela, I 'ave not been permitted to play zince I was twelve. I do like to fly zough," she added the last wistfully.
Harry smirked and conjured a small gold ball and sent it flying towards the spot just past Fleur's shoulder. His smirk widened into a grin when her hand shot out and caught it before it reached where he was sending it and he laughed softly.
"So the champions are all seekers," he observed.
Fleur blushed, but nodded.
"It seems so," Krum agreed.
"And three out of four have to worry about being mobbed by the adoring masses," Cedric quipped.
"Aw, don't feel bad Cedric," Harry said, patting the older boy's arm. "You'll soon have your share of the nightmare as well."
That got a laugh from all of them as well before they were told the date for the first task and dismissed for the night.
As a representative of St Trinian's to the magical community, Harry was already off simply by virtue of his gender. However, upon learning that the first task was going to be dragons, he did two things: the British thing (telling Cedric, who was the only champion not represented at the time when Harry found out, thereby levelling the playing field some), and the St Trinian thing (taking a good, stiff drink of something extremely high proof).
These done, Harry headed down to the secret lab that was being used that week and discussed the problem with his friends and all the ways he could come at it.
The decision to freeze the dragon was made and the process to accomplish this task was hashed out then perfected, while making allowances in the variables for different types and sizes of dragons.
Between the formulation of the plan and the arrival of the date when it would need to be executed, however, Hermione punched Malfoy in the nose. It was quite well done actually. She received a nine from George, an eight from Fred, and a perfect ten and a peck on the cheek from Harry. She'd punched Malfoy because he was bad-mouthing rather a lot of things and people in one breath.
Muggle-borns (and therefore Hermione), Harry, Sirius, the twins, Remus (who wasn't still teaching that year unfortunately), and though he didn't know it he was also insulting Fleur with his pure-blood comments, since as she was part veela she wasn't one.
She gave Hermione a peck on the cheek in gratitude for the defence as well, since she had also been present to hear and see what had occurred.
McGonagall had just held Harry back from heading straight to lunch to tell him about the Yule Ball – and inform him that as a Champion he was required to open the dancing – and now he frankly had a problem. Cracking the egg hadn't been too hard. He'd opened it, it had shrieked, he'd thrown it in the water down in the Chamber as a knee-jerk reaction, then had to go get it from the slightly deep water. So he knew what the clue was, and had more or less nutted out what it meant.
"Viktor," Harry called quietly, tapping the other champion on the shoulder before the older boy entered the hall. "Have you secured yourself a date for the ball yet?"
Viktor sighed and shook his head. "Niet," he answered. "It is wery hard for me to ask a girl to such a thing. They are all interested in my fame, not me."
Harry nodded. "I'm familiar with the problem," he said. "How about I introduce you to my friend Hermione? I was planning to ask her myself, but you know even less girls around here than I do."
Viktor smiled in gratitude, and before the meal was over Viktor and Hermione were set up to be each other's dates for the ball.
Hermione gave him a hug for thinking of it, since she really was very interested in making friends with the foreign students but didn't really have much of a chance to.
Since Viktor also had some trouble with pronouncing Hermione's name, Harry suggested he just call her 'Herms' or 'Mione', which a great deal of her friends did.
For his part, Harry calmly and politely asked Fleur if she would be interested in being his date for the evening (since she was relatively unaffected by his fame and he was relatively unaffected by her veela allure), but she said she had already procured an escort for the evening from among the older students. Harry bowed out courteously with only the word that he hoped she would save a dance for him. She smiled and agreed – on the condition that her date, whoever that turned out to be, didn't mind.
This left Harry with very, very few options, even with as quickly as he'd moved. Katie was going with Oliver, Alicia and Angelina with Fred and George respectively, and as much as he could ask one of the girls from the other houses who he got along alright with... No.
He wrote to St Trinian's and to Sirius to see if it was possible for one (or more) of the girls to come to the castle for the event.
Sirius wrote back saying that (it turned out) Kelly, Andrea and Holly were all from three different lines of squibs, each one long enough that the girl would be considered a muggle by the MoM, while still being sensitive enough to magic as to let her see and enter Hogwarts. Of the three responses from the girls, Holly was least interested in attending a ball at all, Andrea was less than keen on having to wear a dress for the occasion (very tomboy emo), and Kelly... agreed.
Apparently Hermione had also written, and after clearing up that they wouldn't be coming for all of the Christmas holidays like they usually would, she told them all that Harry had set her up with an international celebrity for the ball, then (to quote) "offered a purely platonic date to a French blonde who's ancestry means that very few boys don't turn into blithering idiots around her in an even worse way than the local magical sheeple are around Harry, but they were fine around each other so it could have worked, but she'd apparently chosen a drooling idiot already based on his being easy on the eyes. Harry's just too much of a gentleman for his own good sometimes, but at least he's finally getting around to asking for who he really wants to go to this thing with!"
According to Sirius, Chelsea was a bit put out that she wouldn't get to go to the ball, but Sirius promised all the girls to take lots of pictures for them. He'd be the one bringing Kelly from St Trinian's to Hogwarts anyway, so he might as well stick around and enjoy himself.
"Wow," Harry said, staring in awe at the vision of loveliness that was being escorted by his godfather down the hall towards him. It wasn't uncommon for a St Trinian's girl to start being sexy almost as soon as they hit puberty, but where Hermione had gone for something that Miss Fritton might have chosen (and pulled it off very well considering the number of frilly bits in various shades of pink) Kelly really was just stunningly beautiful in her own layered dress. It put Harry in mind of the dresses that got worn by fairy-tale princesses in the movies and story books, with the wide silvery skirt down to her ankles and the closely fitted bodice that was covered in navy lace that was so dark it was almost black, and the lace continued past the bodice to cover her shoulders and down her arms until her wrists.
Harry swallowed at the sight and was glad that his own formal wear for the evening had been chosen by Sirius and Kelly together when they were buying her dress, so they matched and he didn't look like a berk. The twins had even helped him with his hair, which was down to his shoulders in a similar style to that of his godfather, but without the ringlets Sirius sported since Harry didn't have curly hair.
Sirius chuckled to see Harry staring at his date like that. "I'll leave you two to yourselves and check in with the staff who are supervising this thing," he said.
"Thanks for bringing me Mr Black," Kelly said, giving him a smile before turning back to Harry, at which time her smile stretched just a little further in excitement, showing off her teeth and her dimples at the same moment.
"I repeat: wow," Harry said, taking Kelly's offered hand and kissing the back of it before wrapping it around his arm and moving into line with the other three champions.
"Hi Kelly," Hermione whispered happily.
"Hello Mione," Kelly answered, her joy and anticipation clear in her voice.
It occurred to Harry then that Kelly probably really felt like a princess. She was all dressed up (Sirius had even seen fit to provide jewellery) and about to attend a ball in a castle. With a slightly older boy, Harry added to himself when he remembered that fact as well.
Then there was no more time for talking, as McGonagall ordered the champions out of the hallway and into the great hall where the other students had already congregated. They walked in silent but smiling procession towards the head table where they took their seats (Harry pulled out Kelly's for her before seating himself), and followed Dumbledore's example of ordering their meals.
"If I ask you how it's done and you tell me 'by magic', I will poke you," Kelly said to Harry before she looked at the menu.
Harry chuckled. "There's a full staff in the kitchen making the food, but I genuinely have no idea how the food gets from there to here. After the ball I can take you down and we can ask them if you like," he offered.
Kelly smiled and nodded in satisfaction before ordering oysters to start, and filling her glass with a sparkling white. Harry decided he'd be better off starting with a salad and water, but they both had finely shaved roast pheasant with roast potatoes and greens followed by something that Kelly said with a slightly devious smile looked "dangerously chocolate-y" and was called a 'chocolate decadence'. It was an extremely rich chocolate cake with dark chocolate fudge warm and slightly runny in the middle with even more chocolate spread all over the sides and top like it was icing.
They washed it down with a shot of vodka and a peck on the cheek that left a very red lipstick mark on Harry's face, but he was not about to wipe it off before Kelly made a move to do so herself. Not with the way she was smiling at him.
Conversation was the order of the next half-hour or so while the meal was digested before the dancing could begin, and Kelly was quite happy to share 'Trinian talk' with Hermione, flirt with Harry (tentatively at first, though more boldly when she caught on that he was more than happy to return in kind) and was introduced and making small-talk with the other champion's and their dates.
A soft chiming rang out over the hall at last, silencing conversations and (surprisingly enough) causing the tables to vanish. This prompted people to stand and their chair left them for the walls where glasses and pitchers of water were interspersed as well. It wouldn't do for the dancers to get dehydrated after all.
"If our champions would kindly start the dancing?" Dumbledore said with a smile in their direction.
They all bowed or curtseyed to the old man, then the gentlemen offered the ladies their hands and they moved out to the floor. A waltz started up, and they all began to glide through the motions, even Harry and Kelly who were both privately grateful to Sirius for suggesting dancing lessons in June and to Miss Fritton for letting them continue into August as well.
"Thank you for inviting me Harry," Kelly said.
Harry smiled. "Thank you for agreeing to come," he answered happily. "I don't think I'd have enjoyed this quite so much if I was dancing with anybody else."
"Even Herms?" Kelly asked, surprised.
Harry chuckled. "Even Hermione," he confirmed. "She's my best friend, and honestly a bit big-sister-ish."
Kelly cocked her head to the side. "What about those other two birds?" she asked. "Cho and Fleur?"
Harry shook his head. "Cho is the Ravenclaw seeker and that's all I know about her. We'd spend the whole evening debating teams just for something to talk about," he countered. "As for Fleur..." he hummed as he thought. "We'd probably fail to find much in common to talk about either, once we got past how annoying it is when people fall over themselves to talk to us only to become tongue-tied."
Kelly nodded. She'd gotten the story in full over dinner of Fleur's veela nature, and already knew about Harry's celebrity status and how much he didn't care for it. "So you basically used up all topics of conversation over dinner and now have nothing worth saying to them," Kelly noted with a smile.
Harry smiled back and nodded. They danced a few more waltzes before deciding to take a break, rest their feet, and get a drink of water. They were just about ready to get up and take another turn around the floor when the waltzes were replaced by a band called 'The Weird Sisters' – not one member of which was even female.
"Kind of ruins the whole atmosphere," Kelly mourned, even as lots of other witches and wizards began to form a mosh-pit in their formal robes.
Harry chuckled. "Agreed," he said firmly, but stood anyway and offered Kelly his hand. "Would you care to take a tour around the castle and grounds with me then?" he offered.
Kelly smiled and slipped her hand into Harry's. "You promised to show me the kitchen," she reminded him.
"So I did," he agreed. "But how about we take a long way around, and I can show you a few other things along the way?"
Kelly nodded in acceptance and soon the two of them were out of the large room filled with screaming teenagers and in the much quieter hallway.
The eventual visit to the kitchens was immediately followed by a journey up to the seventh floor, where what the elves called 'the come and go room' created a place for Kelly to spend the night before Sirius came to collect her, Harry and Hermione in the morning to take them to St Trinian's for the rest of the Christmas hols. It was, in fact, the perfect bedroom for Kelly to end her night in after a ball in a castle where she was dressed like a princess: opulent and luxurious.
"The posh totty would be jealous," Kelly said with a smile as she looked around.
Harry chuckled. "I'll come fetch you in the morning," he promised. "I'd hate for you to get lost in this place, what with all the moving stairs."
"Thanks Harry. Goodnight," she added, then gave Harry another kiss (on his other cheek) so that he had matching lipstick marks.
"Goodnight Kelly," Harry answered, and leant forward to kiss Kelly's forehead before bringing up her hands and kissing her knuckles. "Pleasant dreams."
On the way down to the bottom of the lake, Harry kept company with Fleur. She wasn't exactly comfortable in water after all, being part veela, but between his gillyweed and her bubblehead charm, they had speed and excellent spellcasting respectively (spells cast while making use of gillyweed came out differently, bubbles getting in the way of speech and such), and they reached the mermish village first.
They cut Fleur's little sister and Sirius free, then Harry left the knives that Fleur had transfigured for them hanging from Hermione and Cho's necks (Hermione was well on her way to going steady with the quidditch star, so as much as she was his best friend, he knew she wasn't there for him to rescue).
Viktor arrived in the mermish village just as they were leaving it, so Harry didn't have to worry long for her at least.
Harry winced at the way Cedric's legs were broken by the acromantular dropping him to the ground when Harry's spell managed to slice all of the creature's legs off. Cedric, for his part, sent up red sparks for help. There was no way he'd be able to drag himself the last ten feet to the winner's cup.
"For St Trinian's," Harry said to himself as he walked past the slowly dying giant spider and wrapped his hand around the handle of the trophy.
When he landed (damn portkey), Harry decided that it was a damn good thing that a) he'd fallen to his hands and knees as this allowed the spell that had been sent his way to go over him rather than hit him and b) that he was a part time student of St Trinian's as this meant he was uniquely suited to dealing with out of the ordinary situations.
He grabbed a small stick of trinitrotoluene, shortened the fuse, and tossed it in the direction that the spell had come from, then grabbed the cup and ran, only to find that the bloody portkey was a bloody return trip. Chance favours the prepared mind, it dropped him back at the front of the maze where he was declared the winner of the tournament. Harry decided to keep his mouth shut about the little detour he'd taken. When Professor Moody started questioning him though, he didn't hesitate to stun the man and report his odd behaviour to McGonagall.
He saved the full story (not that there was much of it) for when he reached St Trinian's, where Kelly gave him a kiss on the cheek as a reward for remembering to always carry some TNT when faced with a potentially dangerous situation.
For all accounts, fifth year was quite normal, very safe, kinda boring actually (apart from the pranks they pulled and their visits to St Trinian's). Somehow, Harry and Hermione both ended up prefects, but Fred and George had both swung it the year before as well – McGonagall had clearly known she couldn't only make one of them a prefect and Gryffindor simply had an extra prefect for a while.
Dumbledore tried to stick his nose in and get Harry to learn occlumency from Snape, but the Trinian's (as opposed to Marauder's) had all been learning the discipline since Hermione had brought along a couple of books on the subject in her second year. It meant that the teachers wouldn't be able to find out about pranks in advance and allowed them to recall all the spells, potions, chemistry and physics that would allow the trick to come off. The 'lessons in occlumency' quickly turned into a practice session for the other discipline just to stop Snape from trying to bash a hole through Harry's defences (and he had been ever so surprised to find that he actually had them).
As far as Harry was concerned, the most important thing about his fifth year was that he and Kelly started going steady, though in much the same way Hermione was with Viktor – via enchanted mirror courtesy of Sirius and Remus, with visits when they could.
Sixth year at Hogwarts started with the news that Voldemort had somehow returned from the dead, and Dumbledore got the idea into his head that it was Harry's duty to fight the good fight.
"Like hell," Harry told him bluntly. "I'm a kid. Deal with the bugger yourself."
Hermione got a laugh out of that, and though Fred and George were nervous about the re-appearance of the guy, they did congratulate Harry on his approach. At the same time of course, they were opening their business (owned in equal parts by them, Harry who'd provided the initial funding and Hermione who provided a lot of the research to make their ideas work) and selling all sorts of excellently charmed defence type items from a different shop front that they also owned. Remus was their book keeper and logistics man, making sure that their various different shops were successful.
They were Head Boy and Girl for their last year at Hogwarts, somehow, and smirked to each other as they set up explosives around the school grounds that would be activated by a code word. After all, just because Harry had told Dumbledore to bugger off in respect to Harry fighting the bad guy didn't mean that they were just going to leave the school open to attack.
Just as well they did really, since Voldemort tried to invade the school for some reason.
A muttered "fire up the dork lord's gravy" and every explosive that had the weight of an adult on top of it went up. The 'war' didn't last long after that. Maybe about an hour.
Hermione moved off to Bulgaria to be with Viktor fairly quickly after they graduated, selling her share of Trinian's Tricks and Tactics to Harry.
"I'm not going to need my shares in Bulgaria," she pointed out to her friends with a smirk. "If you need any research done, write and treat me like an independent contractor. I want to hear from you regularly though," she added firmly.
There was a completely different issue to have to deal with back in England though: St Trinian's was a measly four weeks away from being declared officially bankrupt.
And Flash had a thing for Kelly, who had made Head Girl that year. The year before he'd had a thing for JJ French, who had been Head Girl then, and it was decided that he just had a thing for Head Girls.
Another development was the new girl, Annabel Fritton – niece to Miss Fritton – transferring to the school from Cheltenham Lady's College.
"You know I'd be happy to buy the school from the bank, right Kelly?" Harry asked his girlfriend quietly as they sat on the roof of the school after hours.
Kelly smiled and snuggled down into Harry's chest, pulling his arms around her middle. "I know Harry," she answered. "But we'll save that for if things really start looking bad, alright?"
Harry sighed and bent forward to kiss her very red lips, agreeing with her.
"No, I'm sorry, I don't fancy it. No," Flash said, his back to Annabel who was trying to convince him to pretend to be an art dealer – in order to sell the 'girl with a pearl earring' to her dad.
"What's wrong?" Kelly asked from the door of the roof. She and Harry had just been coming up top for a bit of private time. "Not up to it Flash? Told you Annabel -"
"What? 'Old on, 'old on. I didn't say I wouldn't do it, did I?" Flash objected quickly. "I'll come get a look at it. I'll give anything a try once, won't I?" he said, taking the file from Annabel and turning away from her (and Kelly who had Harry following behind her). "Right, so... what's he like then, this Von Streubel mug?" he asked, even as he flipped pages in the folder.
"He's a count," Annabel said as she settled onto a chair.
Harry smirked as he took to leaning on the back of Annabel's chair since Kelly had taken the only other seating option not roof (a beanbag) for herself, and he didn't want to tempt any jokes from Flash about having shingles.
"He sounds like one," Flash scoffed, turning back to the girls (and Harry), and caught Annabel's expression.
An expression that clearly said 'okay, maybe you can't do this'.
"No, he's posh. I can do posh," Flash asserted, then proceeded to put on a bit of a falsetto and talk out of his nose as he said "Oh! Oh, la-di-dah. Shall we go on in?" Pushing his nose up so that he held a passing resemblance to a pig.
"But can you do German?" Annabel asked seriously.
"Yeah, 'course I can," Flash said, and started waving his arms about as he lowered his voice to say "Ah, mein Fûhrer, mein frére. Strindberg, Wederkind, Jüngen Klinsmann."
Kelly and Annabel shared a worried look while Harry just shook his head in despair.
"Look, it'll be all right on the night. Just give me a little bit of time," Flash promised. "What's he... what's he look like?" he asked, turning his back on their doubtful looks to focus on the file that he probably wasn't actually reading.
"Well all I've heard is that he's successful, erudite, and handsome." Annabel said, her tone clearly saying that she'd suspend disbelief for the sake of hoping to put one over on her dad. A quick glance at Kelly and Harry and Annabel added "Oh I almost forgot. He's also very, very gay."
Flash visibly flinched.
The girls shared a very quite smirk and chuckle.
Harry was about to offer to do it himself when the girls in the watch tower yelled out "Scramble! Black eagle, one o'clock!"
"I'm on distraction then," Harry declared, then kissed Kelly's cheek quickly and gave new-girl Annabel a quick hug before ducking back through the door to the roof and disapparating to just within the front door of the school.
"Schools like this one are weeds," he heard the minister for education say to the very small gathering of press he'd brought for the occasion. "Long neglected, they've been allowed to grow wild and unruly," the man declared.
"And you're the weed killer, are you Minister?" asked one of the ladies.
"I like it, Denise," the man answered with a smirk. "People have often criticised my techniques, saying I'm too aggressive, hard-line, whatever. But what I'm about to show you is the appalling alternative."
"Looks rather pleasant if you ask me," countered the female reported with the large microphone – Denise, the minister had called her.
Of course, the shed blew up at that moment, and Harry slammed the heel of his palm into the space between his eyebrows. He was fairly sure that Tania and Tara hadn't meant to make that much of a bang, but it was also clear that code red hadn't reached the chemistry class yet. Giving himself a quick check in a nearby reflective surface, Harry made his black hair brown and his green eyes hazel. He also changed his glasses to something more 'mature'. He didn't want to be famously recognised after all. He already had that in the magical world. It was why he avoided it.
"Minister Thwaites," Harry greeted when they reached the door. Then he gave a smile. "Ladies and gentlemen of the press."
"Who are you?" the minister asked.
"Polite chap aren't you?" Harry countered with wry sarcasm. "My name's Harry. Just Harry thank you ladies and gentlemen of the press," he added with another smile at the small collective. "I'll be your guide today."
"I don't believe we need a guide thank you," Thwaites said and moved to push past Harry.
"Like you didn't when you conducted your little covert inspection of the school and ended up in a bedroom with three girls in the midst of getting changed, Minister?" Harry asked with a raised eyebrow. "After tasting a chemistry experiment that had been clearly labelled? No Minister, we'll have none of that mess again."
"In girl's bedrooms, Minister?" Denise asked suspiciously.
"How -" Thwaites began.
"St Trinian's school for girls is perhaps not a conventional school Minister, but it does prepare its students for the world," Harry answered with a smirk. "It simply gives them practical lessons rather than paper tests. Now, if you would all kindly follow me? We'll start with the art hall where completed works by the girls are put on display."
The press were, quite simply, very impressed.
"Art is a medium of expression. You cannot declare art to be good or bad simply based on what it shows," Harry said with a smile as they stood before a large canvas showing the back of a naked woman, a cherub with his twinky hidden by a drape of cloth, and the woman's face only just visible in the mirror. She also had a small brown love-heart shaped birthmark on her hip. "I think we can all agree however, that this has been masterfully done."
"Will we get a chance to meet the girl who painted this?" Denise asked eagerly.
Harry chuckled. "I'm never sure if it's still life day or life drawing day or something else in the art room," he admitted. "And since there are several years taking art classes, it could well be all of those in the same day. If we cross paths with Nicky however, I'm sure she'd be willing to answer one question," he said. "I'll not let you badger the girls though," he cautioned them all.
Harry continued the tour through the Spanish class, English class, and brought them to a halt outside the room where Cleaver was supervising the anger management class.
"Beyond this door is something which I'm sure the minister will not approve of," Harry told the press. "This is a new addition to the school – anger management. It lets the girls relieve stress in a controlled environment while also teaching them an important lesson."
"And what lesson might that be?" Minister Thwaites asked.
"How to properly handle firearms," Harry answered.
"Is that really something young girls should be learning?" Denise asked nervously.
Harry smiled his best charming smile for her. "St Trinian's believes that girls should be prepared for everything the world can throw at them, and a recent school trip to South America naturally sparked an interest in some of the girls to return their after graduation. For them, learning now could save their lives later. For others... well, every father likes to know his little girl will be able to defend herself from unsavoury characters," he explained. "Besides, a gun is far more dangerous in the hands of someone who doesn't know how to handle it properly than in the hands of someone who has been taught the proper procedures."
With that, Harry opened the door and revealed three girls, supervised by Cleaver, bracing their guns and shooting at targets.
"How's it going Cleaver?" he asked.
The ex-army woman gave a nod and sniffed deeply through her nose proudly. "These girls won't get caught unawares by slimy men of ill repute," she answered.
"Keep up the good work Cleaver," Harry agreed with a nod before closing the door and turning back to the press and leading them off to the conservatory. "Janey was quite upset that you knocked over the tank of African biting ants Minister," Harry scolded as he brought them to where Celia was tending the mushrooms in the dark room. "How are they growing Celia?" he asked the blonde.
She smiled back. "Like magic," she answered. "Actually, some are ready for harvesting as well."
"Any that are good for eating raw?" Harry asked with a grin.
"Closest I've got are the truffles," she answered with a contemplative twist to her lips. "I mean, the others are all a bit spongy on the tongue when eaten raw, you know? And the truffles won't be ready for harvesting for another month, and they're all sold already, so I couldn't let you have one to nibble anyway."
"Truffles?" Denise asked, curious and slightly eager.
"Oh!" Celia said, peering around Harry to the camera. "Ooh, er..."
"The Minister is showing off St Trinian's to the press," Harry provided.
Celia nodded, she'd heard the cries of 'code red'. "Been to see Kelly or Miss Fritton yet?" Celia asked.
"Not yet," Harry said, shaking his head. "Kelly Jones is Head Girl this year, and Miss Camilla Fritton is the Headmistress," he explained to the press. "Any idea where Annabel is?" he asked Celia. "It might be nice for the press to hear from one of the girls who transferred here from another school, since most girls here started their educations here and stay."
Celia nodded. "Straight down from Beverly," she answered.
Harry nodded in answer. That was the room where all the plans for the heist were being made. Still, he was sure he could swing it. He guided the press back around a few corners until he reached the door, which he knocked upon.
"Harry," Kelly greeted, peeking her head out the door, but not opening it wide.
"Hey Kelly," he answered with a smile. "Is Annabel in there? Thought the press might like to hear what it's like coming to St Trinian's from another school."
"I'll ask her," Kelly said, and was about to duck back in.
"I heard," Annabel's voice came, and Kelly stepped aside to let Annabel past, but rather than retreating back behind the closed door, she stepped through as well and closed her behind it.
"I know your daughter," Annabel started, her gaze fixed on the minister.
"You're friends with Verity?" he asked.
"I was at Cheltenham with her," Annabel said, but didn't actually answer the man's question.
"Friends ain't the word I'd use," Kelly commented.
Annabel shook her head. "Verity was the school bully and I was one of her favourite victims," she said, eyes determined though her voice shook a little.
"Really Minister? Your daughter was the school bully?" Denise said, but didn't let Thwaites come up with any kind of answer.
"Looked to me like she still is by the way she acted act the hockey match a couple a days ago," Kelly put in.
Harry rested a reassuring hand on one shoulder each of the two girls.
"So what's it like being at St Trinian's?" Denise asked.
"Like..." Annabel began, then looked over at Kelly and Harry. "Like one big, happy, if sometimes slightly dysfunctional, family," she said, finishing with a smile.
Kelly and Harry smiled back, and Kelly gave a friendly grip on Annabel's shoulder that Harry wasn't holding.
Speaking of family, Miss Fritton proceeded to sweep down the stairs with an entourage of girls, all of them in full costume to rehearse for a small production.
"...bastard profanes the English throne. The generous Britons are cheated by a juggler!" Miss Fritton declared. "Geoffrey!" she exclaimed in surprise.
"I would like to take this opportunity to point out to the press that the costumes being worn by the girls and Miss Fritton are all made here, by the girls. Miss Fritton also asks in people who work professionally in theatre to see what the girls here can do, both on stage and in regards to all the backstage work," Harry said with a smile, covering over the quiet conversation going on between Miss Fritton and Minister Thwaites.
"What about the girls who are representing St Trinian's in School Challenge?" Denise asked. "We haven't gotten to meet them yet, I assume they're around?"
"Oh yes," Harry answered. "But you must appreciate that the girls of St Trinian's take every opportunity that comes their way very seriously, and School Challenge is an opportunity to be on television. Another St Trinian's graduate went on to become a PR guru, and she's been coaching the girls on what to do and what not to do. Impromptu interviews, as I understand it, is something that they were warned off."
At that moment, everybody noticed Mr Darcy, Miss Fritton's dog, having a go at Minister Thwaites' leg. He promptly kicked the dog off, and it flew through a door, a room, a window and through the air until the poor pooch landed on, or more accurately, in the rotating blades of a piece of grounds-keeping equipment.
Due to the revelation of Annabel having been bullied at her old school, Kelly instigated a bit of fun that night – the girls all conspired to give Annabel a makeover until she felt properly welcome among them all and could say that she felt like a St Trinian's girl.
While that was going on, however, Sirius (and not Flash, as the man really couldn't do 'count' properly. Harry had clocked the bloke over the head and passed the file on von Streubel to his godfather to handle. Sirius of course thought it would be a great prank once he knew all of the particulars) did the business of getting Annabel's dad interested in buying the painting they intended to 'borrow' from the national gallery.
The next day was the final of School Challenge and Anoushka, as the best potion brewer in the school, passed around the liquid luck. Naturally, they intended to cheat in order to win, but a little extra luck never went astray, especially considering the number of tasks there were and the number of things that could, potentially, go wrong.
Harry's part in the operation, apart from moral support for his girlfriend and the school, was to silence the area where the blast would occur and disillusion Kelly, Taylor and Andrea so that they wouldn't be spotted by any of the many security cameras throughout the building. His spellwork done, he went in to sit with Annabel in the audience and cheer on St Trinian's.
Once Kelly was back over the audience once more, painting strapped to her back, Harry slipped away again and met the girls out near one of the bathrooms.
"I still don't understand why you were so against me just paying the bank," Harry said.
Kelly smiled. "But why take your money when we could swindle Annabel's dad?" she asked before she gave Harry a kiss on the cheek. "That part was her idea, remember?"
Harry sighed and nodded. "So, where am I stashing it for Annabel to find it?" he asked.
Between the painting being 'found missing' and being 'found' again, Sirius sold Girl with a Pearl Earring by Camilla Fritton to Annabel's father. Foolish man didn't notice the signature until Sirius was at the bank with the money to pay off the debt, and Sirius hadn't even done anything to hide it.
Kelly smirked as she placed her bet at the track. The odds on the yet unseen dog, called by its owner 'Cheshire' for the sake of the race track, were ten-to-one. Kelly had just placed fifty pounds on it to win.
"You know something about this dog that we don't girly?" the bookie asked, even as he took her money and wrote her receipt.
Kelly's smirk became dangerously toothy. "He was trained at my old school. Have you heard of St Trinian's?" she asked the bookie, but didn't wait for an answer as she took her receipt and left to take a seat in the stands.
'Cheshire' was, like the other hounds, long-legged and lean. He had a perfect pale gold coat and black nose, and was currently wearing a black jersey that had the number 'six' on it, as well as a muzzle over his face.
A couple of minutes later and Kelly was collecting her winnings before heading back to the kennels – where Sirius was moving Cheshire's covered cage out to his truck. Cheshire himself had turned back into Harry as soon as he was assured that no one was looking.
"Nicely won love," Kelly said with a grin.
Harry gave her a peck on the cheek. "So, marry me?" he asked, holding up a diamond ring that Sirius had fetched for him from the Potter vaults.
Kelly's eyes went wide and her mouth fell open as she stared at the ring, and then at Harry, then at the ring again, then back to Harry.
"Yes Miss Jones, that's a real diamond on a twenty-four carat gold ring," Sirius quipped from where he was waiting by the truck.
"Kelly?" Harry asked tentatively, as he was beginning to worry that she was either going into shock or going to refuse him.
Hermione was the maid of honour – and offered to be the horse they rode off into the sunset on after the ceremony, but was turned down in favour of a Rolls. After all without her Harry and Kelly would never have met. Andrea, Holly, Chelsea and Annabel were the bridesmaids, and Tania and Tara took the role of flower girls. Sirius was best man while Fred, George, Remus and Viktor were groomsmen. Come Christmas, Harry was going to be a groomsman for Viktor when he married Hermione. Those two were going to have a spring wedding, while Kelly had asked for a Christmas wedding.
Harry thought the whole thing was perfect, and as Kelly walked down the aisle escorted by her father, he absently thought that Snow White had nothing on Kelly. Skin: white as snow. Hair: blacker than ebony. Lips: redder than blood. Fairest in the land? Yes. So very yes! And even if they were getting married at Christmas, and there was snow everywhere, Kelly was enjoying judiciously applied warming charms, which allowed her to wear a dress that was completely without shoulders.
"Lucky dog," Sirius said quietly to Harry, a grin on his face as Kelly walked towards them.
"I know it," Harry answered.