Posted: 18 May, 2012
Disclaimer: I do not own anything in this story that is recognisable from the Harry Potter books, movies, etc. Everything else however (eg. story plot, original characters, etc.) stems from my own imagination and belongs to me. No copyright infringement is intended and I am not profiting financially from this story in any way.
Summary: An unexpected find in the attic of Grimmauld Place changes the course of Harry's life. Except not, because it's not this Harry who'll be affected. Rather, everything is about to change for another Harry, from long ago and far away.
05: Halloween Havoc
"Merlin but that girl's a nightmare. It's Levi-o-sa, not Levi-o-sa," Ron mimicked in a snobby tone, before making an angry sound in his throat. "It's no wonder really, that she's not got any friends."
By chance, the boys didn't notice as a tearful Hermione Granger rushed off towards the girl's bathroom.
"You have to go! Harry, its Halloween at Hogwarts!" James shouted. "There's nothing like it."
"But Harry, you have to come! It's the Hogwarts Halloween feast!" Ron yelled at the same time. "All my brothers say it's brilliant."
"Oh lord," Lily giggled. "Really Harry, did you purposefully pick your friend by how much he resembles your father?"
Harry's lips twitched but he didn't comment—not with Ron there to see him talking to thin air. James relaxed from his drama enough to laugh as well.
"Now all you need is a brilliant witch who's sometimes too clever for her own good," James said. "Then you'll have a matched Lily-and-James-alike set."
"Look, Ron, it's not that I don't think the feast would be brilliant or anything—"
"It will!" Ron insisted.
"—but, it just seems to be a bit—well, morbid, to celebrate today of all days." At Ron's uncomprehending look, Harry spelled it out for him, bluntly. "It's the anniversary of the day my parents were murdered."
Ron paled. "Oh." Then he flushed, looking quite shame-faced. "Merlin Harry, I'm sorry. I didn't—"
"It's fine, really. Look, you just head on to the feast and I'll see you tonight back in the dorms before bed."
"Do—" Ron hesitated, then seemed to brace himself for something unpleasant. "Do you want me to stay with you?"
Harry stared. "Are you, Ron Weasley, actually volunteering to miss a feast to keep me company?" he asked incredulously, for he'd already come to realise that his friend positively worshipped food.
Harry was touched. "Thanks for the offer—really thanks, it means a lot—but I think I'd be better off alone."
"Oh, alright," Ron said, nodding, looking relieved.
"You really should go," Lily said once Ron had left. "It might be the anniversary of our death, but it's not really the same, is it? Since you have the assurance most don't, that we still exist somewhere."
"Plus, you can even talk to us," James added. "You shouldn't miss a Hogwarts Halloween in favour of moping."
Harry shook his head, heading off down a random corridor. "It's not just that you both died, because yeah, it's not really the same when I still get to speak to you both all the time. It's mostly because this day really marks the beginning of events that led to me spending a miserable decade with the Dursleys."
"Ah," James said, less than eloquently. "Okay, that is probably worth some moping over."
"Despicable Muggles," Lily muttered with a scowl.
"So, what are you going to do instead?"
"Well, I thought I'd spend some time with you both and explore the castle," Harry said. "I've not gotten much chance to do that yet, with all the classes and homework and extra reading and all."
"You have been very conscientious in your studies," Lily complimented, with a pleased smile.
"Ron thinks I'm barmy, to spend so much time studying when I could be—I don't know, playing wizard's chess or talking Quidditch or relaxing and just hanging about." Harry shook his head. "He worries about not living up to his older brothers you know, and yet he can't be bothered doing anything about it. I just don't get it."
"Maybe he's a bit lazy, no motivation?" Lily suggested. Harry opened his mouth to object and defend his friend, but his mother interrupted. "I'm sure he's a good person Harry, but everyone has their flaws. You have a bit of a self-worth problem, though that's not your fault, and you also have a bit of a temper at times. Your dad has stupid moments where he doesn't think before he acts or speaks, and has a bit of an ego. And as for myself," she added self-deprecatingly, "I believe that it was pointed out not too long ago that I'm stubborn and have certain blind spots."
"And most tragically of all," James added, "you've got absolutely no appreciation for the fine art of Quidditch."
"Tragic," Harry agreed with false solemnity.
"Boys and Quidditch," Lily said with a roll of her eyes.
"Hey, there are plenty of witches who enjoy it too," James defended. "Holyhead Harpies ring a bell?"
"Besides, it's not so much the sport itself that I'm so enamoured of—" Harry cut off suddenly, an odd expression twisting his face. "Did I really just use the word enamoured in a sentence?" he wondered aloud.
"My poor baby boy," James cried, feigning a swoon. "I am faint with horror. Your mother is infecting your with her grandiose eloquence."
"Me?" Lily objected, the proud smile she'd begun to sport fading, being replaced by an ironic expression. "You use the words 'grandiose eloquence' in a sentence and apparently I'm the sole reason for our son's improved vocabulary."
James sniffed. "That's different. Dramatic displays and overdone declarations, moments of mocking pomposity, and trying to impress hot girls, are the three exceptions to the rule. It's says so in the Marauder's Handbook." Then he turned to Harry with a stern look. "Talking like a dictionary at any other time though, is strictly swottish behaviour."
"Don't tell him that!" Lily objected. "Harry, don't you limit yourself for anything, you understand? Not even if your dad pulls out one of his rules from the mythical 'Marauder's Handbook'."
James gasped. "It is not mythical," he declared, looking mortally offended at such a suggestion.
"Well, in all the time I've known you James, I've not seen hide or hair of this supposed book. So until I do I'll continue believing it doesn't exist, and that you just use it as an excuse to create arbitrary rules."
"Don't listen to the vile, vile lies that this woman spews, my beloved son! The Marauder's Handbook, most holy of holy texts, does indeed exist and its instructions should always be followed. Tell your mother it's true!"
"Don't be silly. Harry, tell your father to stop making things up."
"Right," Harry said slowly, smiling in amusement at his parents' antics. "Well, changing the subject—and not at all subtly," he said, unwilling to take a side in the argument. "I was going to say that it's not Quidditch I'm really big on so much as flying. Though, I like the sport too, and Madam Hooch suggested I try out for the house team next year. I probably will too, if only for the chance to fly some—what is that smell?"
"James dear, we can't smell on this plane remember?"
"It smells like—I don't know, garbage and sewage or something," Harry said with disgust. Then he turned a corner and staggered to a halt, wide-eyed. "What—the—bloody hell?" he whispered.
"Oh god," Lily gasped. "It's a troll! What's a troll doing in Hogwarts?"
"Get out Harry, get out!" James yelled. "Run!"
"No!" Lily quickly objected. "I've read about them—sudden movements just attract their attention and enrage them. Harry, back away very, very slowly."
Harry, heart racing, did as directed, stepping backwards slowly and resisting the urge to bolt. Evidently his mother's advice was working because the troll lumbered along, peering in doors, seeming not to have noticed Harry. He breathed a sigh of relief as the troll, after peeking into one room, decided to duck inside.
"Quick Harry," James said. "Run now, while you're out of sight."
Harry turned to do just that when a sudden scream sounded out from down the hall. It was the scream of a young girl, and seemed to come from the room the troll had just entered. As if in confirmation, said troll gave a roar of anger, and another girlish scream, even more terrified, sounded out. Harry didn't think—he just reacted.
"Harry James Potter!" Lily somehow both hissed and yelled. "Get back here! What do you think you're doing?"
"Harry, you'll be killed!" James yelled fearfully.
Harry ignored them both, sprinting down the hall, unable to fathom doing anything but trying to help when someone was clearly in danger. He skidded to a halt in the doorway, taking in the sight of the bellowing troll destroying sinks and cubicles with swipes of its giant club, and a terrified Hermione Granger cowering futilely in a corner.
"Hermione," Harry yelled, "run!" She just stared at him, frozen, and Harry growled. Even in a life-and-death situation it seemed, Hermione Granger could find a way to be annoying. Finding no other option, he decided to try distracting the troll. "Hey you! Ugly!" he yelled, but was paid no mind. He reached for a piece of the debris littering the floor—a tap spout by the looks of it—and hurled it at the troll, clipping the creature's head. It turned to him with confusion and growing anger. "Yeah, that's right, over here you ugly beast!"
Then the troll was lumbering towards him, its heavy footsteps actually causing the floor to shake. Harry backed away quickly, drawing the troll out from the bathroom, and took the opportunity as it smashed through the door to start sprinting down the corridor.
"Oh god, oh god," his mother was crying as she ran beside him. "James, what do we do? There must be some way we can help!"
"Fuck," James cursed and, for once, received no rebuke for teaching their son bad language. "Alright, trolls are big, which means long legs, which means long strides, which means fast." His confidence failed then as he shot a seeking gaze at his wife. "Right?"
"Right," she said, nodding rapidly, eyes wide and afraid.
"Which would explain why it's catching up," Harry huffed. "If you've got some advice, hurry up!"
"Fuck, fuck, fuck. Alright," James said quickly. "They're fast but awkward and not very agile. So stop running straight down the hall and start taking corners and turns."
Harry wasted not a second, abruptly turning on his heel and diving down the next intersecting passageway. He took another turn, and another, and then found himself rushing down a set of stairs, taking the last dozen in a giant leap, rolling his landing and getting up and sprinting again. A risked glance over his shoulder showed the troll still hot on his heels, but no longer gaining. Harry kept running and dodging and turning, so focussed on his movement that it seemed all else, even fear, faded into the background. He was aware though that he was tiring. His lungs burned and his legs ached, and he was starting to flag. And then—salvation!
"Mr Potter!" a shocked voice cried, and Harry looked up and almost cried with relief. "HE'S OVER HERE! THE TROLL'S FOLLOWING!" McGonagall screamed with an uncharacteristic lack of decorum, even as she started sprinting towards him, faster than he would have expected of her. "Quickly Mr Potter, get behind me!"
Harry raced the rest of the distance, and as he passed McGonagall, who had whipped her wand out causing nearby suits of armour to draw swords and spears and take up their defence, he saw a group of several more professors thundering towards them. With help at last at hand, Harry's legs finally gave out and he collapsed, sliding down a wall. The school's hospital matron—he thought her name was Madam Pomfrey—was quickly at his side and checking him over, as the rest of the professors joined McGonagall. Harry watched, quite impressed, as the troll was quickly subdued.
"Mr Potter? Mr Potter!" Harry's head snapped towards the matron. "Good, now, are you injured anywhere?"
"I—I—no—fine—just—tired," he panted between breaths. Then a thought occurred to him and he reached out to grab the woman's arm. "Hermione—Granger—girl's—bathroom—troll—was there—don't know—if—hurt."
"Right, you seem fine but for some exhaustion, and possibly shock. Pomona," she called to the nearest professor, "would you take Mr Potter to the hospital wing for me? Get him lying down and some fluids in him. And a Calming Draught too, I think."
"I'm—fine," Harry tried to object.
"You'll be spending the night, and no argument," she said, rising to her feet briskly. "Albus, I'm heading for the girl's bathroom. There may be an injured student there."
"Filius," the headmaster said, approaching, "will you accompany Poppy please."
Professor Flitwick nodded and he and Pomfrey hurried off. Professor Sprout was helping Harry to his feet. He swayed a bit, surprised to find that his legs felt something like jelly, and were barely able to hold his weight.
"Easy now child," Sprout soothed, wrapping an arm around Harry in support. "Do you think you can make it to the hospital, or shall I levitate you?"
"I can make it," Harry wheezed, breathing a little more under control. "At least, I think."
"Well, let's get going then and see how we do, shall we?"
"Mr Potter," Dumbledore interrupted as they turned to leave. "If you don't mind, I'd like to ask you some questions once the situation is dealt with. If you could temporarily endeavour to resist Madam Pomfrey's efforts to drug you into sleep," he said wryly, "I should not be more than a half hour. Is this satisfactory?"
"Sure, no problem headmaster," Harry said faintly, though in truth, he felt so tired that he would like nothing more than to pass out and sleep for a week.
As he passed the teachers, McGonagall shot him a concerned but relieved look, Snape gave him a piercing stare, and Quirrell was glancing between the troll and boy with his usual look of fear. Harry's parents walked alongside him, noticeably silent but for Lily's stifled sobs of relief. They were quite pale and kept reaching out warm hands to touch him, as if to reassure themselves he was still alive and unharmed.
Harry awoke slowly and blinked in confusion at the unfamiliar surroundings. Quickly though, the events of the previous evening flooded back to him and he realised he was in the hospital wing. A flicker of movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention and he looked over, surprised to see his parents standing beside him. He was immediately contrite.
"I'm so sorry," he said, in a whisper in case Madam Pomfrey was nearby. "I completely forgot to send you both back last night, before I took the sleeping potion. You must have been stuck here for hours and hours."
"It's fine Harry."
"We don't mind."
"It's not fine, I can tell," he insisted. He was well able to see the pain, the ache they tried to hide, the growing yearning to return to the afterlife. "I'll send you both back right—"
"Don't you dare," Lily ordered sternly, to his shock. "We will need to return shortly, it's true, but we're glad we got to stay with you last night. Besides, there's something we need to talk about first."
"Why don't you make sure you're not overheard talking to us first," James suggested. "Don't want Pomfrey questioning your mental health too, or she'll never let you leave."
"Muffliato. Okay, now what did we need to talk about?"
"Harry," Lily said slowly, as if thinking her words through carefully as she spoke them. "What you did last night was—it was incredibly brave." Harry felt a bubble of pleased pride rise within him, but it was brutally popped as Lily added, "It was also incredibly stupid, and reckless, and foolish."
"No James. He could have died. Died at only eleven years old! That is not acceptable." She gave a sad sigh. "And it's entirely the fault of my sister and her rotten family."
"What? What do the Dursleys have to do with anything?" Harry asked timidly, still smarting at his reprimand.
"Harry, in the situation you found yourself in last night, any properly-raised and well-adjusted boy would have done the sensible thing and run away from the troll, not towards it."
"If I'd done that," he objected, "then Granger would probably be dead!"
"I know, I know. And I'm glad that you were able to help her, really I am, but what if your plan had failed? What if you couldn't lure the troll away and instead got trapped with her?"
"I—" he cut off, unsure what to say.
"You'd both probably be dead, that's what, and how would that help anything? No, the smart thing to do would have been to run away, but also to search out the faculty. With fully trained witches and wizards alerted, it would be a certainty that the troll would be taken out."
"But they would probably have been too late," Harry defended. "It was only seconds between my first seeing the troll, and when Granger started screaming. And it took me forever to run into a teacher. She would definitely have died before help could arrive."
"That as may be—"
"Lily, he's right."
"No, just listen. Different situations call for different responses. Under normal circumstances I would totally agree with you, he should have gone quickly for better trained help, but it wasn't normal circumstances. The girl was within seconds of death. Harry saved a life yesterday, and so some other parents have been spared losing their child. The girl is safe, Harry is safe, and the troll was captured."
Lily was quiet for a long time. "Alright," she finally said, breaking the tense silence. "I will concede that there were extenuating circumstances. But Harry, I want you to promise me in future that you won't just rush into danger as if it was your responsibility to risk yourself—because it's not—and that you'll try to find a teacher or adult or someone more qualified to help. You have to promise to have more care with your own life and that, unless there is absolutely no other choice, you won't put yourself in harm's way. Please, we're not ready to welcome you on the other side yet. I fully expect you to be old and grey before it happens."
Harry hesitated. "But what if someone gets hurt because I didn't step in?" he asked in a small voice. "Then it'd be my fault, wouldn't it?"
"No," James said firmly. "Not unless you're the one going about intentionally hurting people."
"It's those despicable Muggles that have put such a ridiculous idea into your head," Lily said with a scowl. "Forever telling you that you were a burden, and blaming you for everything that didn't go right. They've got you believing them! But Harry, it's not true, and not everything is your responsibility or fault. And contrary to what my petty sister and her horrible husband might make you think, you are not unimportant or worth any less than other people. And it's certainly not reasonable to expect you to put the wellbeing and lives of others before your own, because yours is worth just as much. Do you understand?"
"In fact," James spoke up to add, "I think your mother and I would actually rate your safety above anyone else's. But then you're our son, and we love you best, so we might be a bit biased."
"Biased or not, I'd agree completely. So do you understand, Harry James? Do you promise not to put yourself unnecessarily in danger? For us, if not for yourself?"
"I—" Harry stopped and swallowed around the lump that had inexplicably formed in his throat, blinking away equally inexplicable tears that were stinging his eyes. "Yeah, okay," he croaked out. "I'll be more careful and—and try not to get in trouble."
"Well," James drawled, in a more light-hearted tone, "I don't have anything against a little trouble-making—"
"Danger," Harry managed to say with a laugh. "I meant I'll try not to get into danger."
"Good," James and Lily said together.
"Harry!" Ron cried out when he appeared, stepping through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room. Harry let out an oof as Ron actually hugged him, albeit roughly and with much back-slapping. "As soon as Quirrell said there was a troll loose I realised you wouldn't know, so I told McGonagall and they all raced off looking for you."
"You're the reason they were out looking then? You know, if you hadn't raised the alarm, the troll would probably have pasted me. Thanks."
"Yeah, well." Ron shrugged, awkward but pleased. "It was nothing. I am glad you're alright though. The professors said you were, but they also said you'd been chased by the troll and that you were spending the night in the hospital wing, so I wasn't too sure what their definition of alright was."
"I'm fine, really. The troll didn't even touch me, just chased me through half of Hogwarts. I was exhausted and Madam Pomfrey insisted I go to the hospital for rest and in case of shock or something." Then he grinned. "On the plus side though, once I explained everything that happened to Dumbledore, he awarded Gryffindor fifty points for saving a fellow student's life."
"Fifty points!" Ron gawked. "Who did you save?"
"Me," said Hermione Granger, rising from a nearby chair where she'd gone unnoticed, and approaching them. Her demeanour and voice were quiet and unassertive, so different from her usual bold and bossy attitude. "You really did you know Harry. You saved my life when you lured the troll away from where I was cornered."
"How'd you end up cornered by the troll?" Ron blurted out.
Hermione narrowed her eyes at the redhead, but only for a moment. Her gaze seemed to flicker to Harry and she bit her lip, looking down.
"I was—I'd gone to the bathroom you see and—" She shook her head, gaining a brisk air. "Never mind that. I just wanted to acknowledge that, at great risk to yourself Harry Potter, you saved my life. I—I don't know what to say except that I'm eternally grateful. If I can ever do anything to pay you back, just ask it."
Then she nodded and quietly excused herself. The boys stared after her for a moment, before Ron spoke.
"Huh. You know, I would never have expected her to actually say thank you."
"Really?" Harry asked, surprised. "Why's that?"
"Well, you know how she usually is. If I'd to guess, I'd have expected her to tell you off instead, and lecture about how she had the whole situation under control because she'd read all about trolls—or something like that."
"Hmm," Harry said because really, while harsh, it did sound like the sort of thing the girl would do. "Guess people will surprise you."
"Yeah, maybe she's not quite so much a nightmare as we thought," Ron mused, then shrugged and put the matter from his mind. "Come on, breakfast is waiting."
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