Posted: 21 April, 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: Odds and ends, and bits and bobs. False starts and story ideas that fizzled out. Mostly Harry Potter, some other fandoms too.
A/N: So basically, I have literally hundreds of thousands of words written of story ideas that stalled before they really got started. Some are really short, some fairly long. I know some authors post all these little plot bunnies together in one story, each as a separate chapter, and decided to do the same. Hope you all get some entertainment out of it.
01: Morally Flexible Redo
Harry opened his eyes and stared up at the dim underside of a set of stairs. His lips twitched and contorted into a truly odd expression. It was like he couldn't decide whether to smirk in triumph, or give a wide almost hysterical smile. Both expressions would have been fitting, given the situation. He'd finally succeeded, his plan had worked. It was a triumph. It was also elating to the point of hysteria. Though, now that he thought of it, the later was probably due to the fact that he was still coming down from the huge high of the dark ritual that had sent him back. There was something about human sacrifice that just made a person feel all giddy.
He hopped up from his old, rickety camp bed only to grimace as a fractured arm twinged, and his bruised ribs throbbed. With determination Harry pushed the pain to the back of his mind. He had more important things to do right now. Without a second thought, he pushed open the door to the cupboard under the stairs, walked down the corridor and through the kitchen to the back door, and exited the house. It was still early morning, and the light had that washed-out pre-dawn grey quality. He stuck to shadows and corners as he skirted around the back yard, so as not to be seen in the case of any early-rising nosy neighbours. At the far back corner, behind the potting shed, was the loose fence post he remembered. Breathing out and sucking his stomach in sharply he was able to scrape through the gap. He frowned a moment at that fact, and the reminder of his young body's malnourishment. He didn't dwell long though, having more important things to do. He looked about from where he stood in the back neighbour's garden. Once he was sure he was unseen, and knowing he was beyond the wards now that he'd left the Dursley property, Harry Apparated away.
It was disturbingly but conveniently easy to blend into the back alleys and streets of London. He wasn't about to thank the Dursleys of course, but with his scrawniness, worn second-hand clothes, plus some dirt rubbed into his skin artfully here and there, he blended right in with all the other street children. So long as he didn't attract enough attention for anyone to realise he was actually a stranger among them and grow suspicious, he was able to pass without a second glance as he dawdled near one of the less-popular entrances to the wizarding world, this one connecting to Knockturn Alley. Luck seemed on his side as it took him only an hour or so before a wizard exited, and moreover it was a distracted and dim-looking fellow whose wand could be seen poking out of his back pocket. Moody would disapprove of that, Harry thought with a hidden amusement, as he slipped past the wizard and pocketed the wand for himself, completely unnoticed. He sighed in relief as a few quick spells repaired his arm and eased his bruises.
After that Harry wandered some more around the streets till he found what he thought might be a good target. Just the right age; obviously homeless, but only for a short time since he wasn't yet too worn down, physically; certain vague similarities of features; and all alone smoking in an alley and looking generally depressed. As he approached, the man looked at him with a dismissive frown, and Harry took the opportunity to point his wand and cast "Legilimens." No, he corrected as he released the spell, and the man shook his head and began looking alarmed. No, not a good target, but a perfect one. No family, no friends, no connections. In other words, no one to miss him. Plus, a habit of slipping women mickies when he could manage to get his hands on some, a fact which appeased what little amount of conscience Harry had left. With a smirk he raised his wand again. The man began to back away, opened his mouth to yell, but it was too late.
"Imperio," Harry hissed. The man froze, eyes glazed. Harry poked and prodded at his sense of the mental connection between them, to make sure it was strong and would hold. It was of course, Harry being a deft hand at the Imperius, but it never hurt to make sure. "So, what's your name?" he asked.
"Alright. So tell me Shane," Harry asked with mock-chumminess, "if, hypothetically, you had a son, what would you call him?"
A dull pause, then "Jared," he answered.
"Hmm, Jared Clarke," Harry said, tasting the sound of the name. He nodded. "Alright, doesn't sound hideous or stand out. Jared Clarke it is then." He narrowed his eyes on Shane, then smiled. Had he the ability to think or act of his own accord, Shane would have been inclined to shiver at the cold expression. "From now on, daddy dearest, I'm your son Jared, okay?"
Shane just nodded dumbly, unthinkingly obedient, as his mind drifted thinking of nothing but doing as the pleasant voice commanded.
From there followed an Apparition to a coastal town Harry vaguely knew of, side-alonging Shane Clarke, his thrall, with him. It was early mid-morning by this stage, and he headed towards the beach, Shane following in his wake. There seemed to be no one about, but he spelled the public toilets there to repel Muggles just in case, and watched with amusement as a man staggered out, looking confused, then wandered away.
"Come on," he said, both verbally and over the mental connection, to his senseless thrall, entering the emptied facilities. It was only the Imperius, he knew, that stopped the man from being as confused by the charm as the other Muggle had been. Harry looked around then conjured a bar of soap and a small bottle of basic shampoo. It would only be temporary, but would last long enough to serve its purpose. "Clean up," he ordered, pointing at the shower stall. It was probably intended for washing away the sand and saltwater after swimming. "I'll be back soon."
Harry slipped out as soon as the thrall began undressing. Tapping his head and muttering the disillusionment charm, Harry then set off into the nearby town. From the clothesline of one unattended backyard he pilfered a pair of men's trousers and a button-down. Then, from another, he took a pair of jeans in roughly his size, along with a t-shirt. Clothes acquired, he made one last quick stop at the local Boots pharmacy, to pilfer some hair bleach, dye and gell, coloured contacts, and makeup foundation, before Apparating directly back to the toilets.
He grimaced on appearing, the site of a Clarke naked not being particularly appealing, before pushing aside his uncharacteristic surge of 'delicate sensibilities'. The man had cleaned himself well, but looked rather unhealthily skinny. Not as bad as Harry no doubt did, but enough to be noticeable like this. He made a note to fatten them both up. That could wait though. For now, Harry could move onto the next step.
"Turn off the shower," he ordered. Once the water stopped he flicked his wand, drying the man from head to toe. "Bend down so I can see your face better." Harry inspected the shape of the man's chin and jaw before muttering a shaving charm, causing the scraggly beard growth there to disappear. "Here, now put these clothes on. In fact, go do that in that stall over there, and close the door. Don't come out till I tell you."
Harry knew he was being ridiculous. The man was enthralled, and Harry was hardly a prude. Still, he waited till the door shut before stripping down and taking a quick but thorough shower. Once that was done he turned to his loot from the pharmacy. After studying the directions closely till he was sure he knew what he was doing, he proceeded to bleach his hair and, tentatively, his eyebrows. He grimaced, horrified, as the first effort turned them bright orange. Figuring it couldn't get much worse, he decided to try a second time in the vague hope it would fix things. After a longer wait, he was relieved to see a paler blonde colour where once there was black and then orange. The box of hair dye was used next to add some colour to Harry's hair, before he dried it and gelled it down a little. Replacing his glasses with the contacts was an awkward task, which left him blinking and watery eyed for a few seconds afterwards. Next the concealer was carefully applied over his scar and, finally, he dressed in the jeans and shirt he'd acquired.
"Alright, come out now, and stand beside me," he ordered his thrall.
The man emerged from the toilet cubicle properly dressed. Overall, he looked much more respectable than when they'd first met. Harry stared into the mirror over the sink, inspecting the site of the pair of them side-by-side. They both had a naturally pale skin tone, though Harry lacked the very faint freckles over the nose. Their features were vaguely similar, such as the shape of their jaw and lips. Harry's hair was now a strawberry-blonde like his thrall's, perhaps a shade or two darker, but not too different. Clarke wore his longish, at about chin length, and brushed back and behind his ears. The gell gave Harry's shorter hair a similar style, as well as tamed its natural unruliness. As for their eyes, Harry was quite proud to see the contacts he'd picked were an almost exact match for the pale blue colour of his thrall's eyes.
Harry hummed and nodded. He smiled with satisfaction. Yes, it was perfect. They could easily pass as father and son now. And better still, since his changes used not an ounce of magic, no dispelling charm could give him away.
He took down the Muggle repelling charm, grabbed Clarke's arm, and Apparated away once more. Now that his disguise was complete, he could get some real work done.
Six months later, Harry lounged in the corner of the living room of his new apartment. He was currently was disillusioned, watching Clarke talk amicably with a middle-aged woman sitting on the couch opposite him. The man was really quite charming when he tried, Harry reflected. It was probably why he'd been so successful in charming women and slipping them drugs, back in his free days. Harry tended to only give his thrall the basics of orders, instructing the man to fill in the gaps of behaviour in a way that was natural and didn't make him look like a zombie, as Imperius victims sometimes tended to do. At the moment, all Clarke had been told to do was conduct the meeting with the customer, ask about her problem, and convince her that he had the answer. He was doing astoundingly well. Had been in fact, from the moment Harry first set up the hypnotherapy cover.
Harry almost snorted in amusement at the mental reminder of his little business venture. There were, he had realised, so many lucrative career options available to the morally flexible wizard. Muggles proved fertile ground for money making, just begging to be taken advantage of. Hypnotherapy was one way of doing this. As far as the Muggle world knew, Shane Clarke was a hypnotherapist of significant skill, working out of his home. Muggles phoned up and made appointments to drop by, where Clarke would charm them and then Harry, secretly, cast a compulsion spell or two. The customers left, delighted at their 'miracle cure' for whatever bad habit or problem had ailed them, be it smoking, drinking, insomnia or anything else. Meanwhile, Clarke, or rather Harry, was left £50 richer for each appointment. After a slow start, they'd been getting about three customers a day, five days a week. If patronage remained steady, Harry predicted a yearly income in the vicinity of £39,000. And that was just counting the hypnotherapy profits.
There were a few other additional money-making schemes Harry had been pursuing, all equally morally questionable in nature. The most profitable was providing models for Muggle pornography. All it really took was a bit of Polyjuice acquired from Knockturn Alley, and Gidget sent out to track and steal hairs from Muggle celebrities. Harry fed the resulting potion to Clarke, then did just a touch of charms work to make sure the result was an uncanny likeness but no longer identical, as that might raise suspicions. The porn magazine editors and movie makers, needless to say, were all over themselves to hire the 'celebrity look-alike' for a job. Even with the cost of the Polyjuice taken into account, Harry had still made a sizeable amount of money in a short amount of time. Enough for a down-payment on an inner London apartment. He expected he'd have said apartment paid off within a year.
Polyjuice hadn't been his only dubious spending however. He'd also bought an aging potion, of questionable legality due to its permanent effect. Some of its more popular uses were by jealous would-be-lovers against the witch or wizard who'd been chosen over them, or by less than loving children to urge their elderly parents off a little faster so they could inherit sooner. Harry had bought enough to give himself only a few extra years. He would have gone further, but it was highly discouraged to use the potion to age a child through to adulthood. To do so resulted in unpleasant side-effects like stunted growth, unbalanced hormones, occasionally even impotence. Needless to say, he'd rather go through puberty again than suffer those consequences.
Apart from Polyjuice and aging potion, Harry had managed to track down a few shady records modifiers to make sure that he, as Jared Clarke, checked out in both the Muggle and wizarding worlds. He also had Shane Clark registered as a Squib, being of no mind to have to feign Muggle-born ignorance. Then there was Gidget of course.
Harry had come into possession of Gidget by chance during a trip to the Ministry with Clarke so he could acquire an elf. Gidget hadn't initially been among the choices offered by the House Elf Relocation Office. In fact, Gidget had been due for 'termination'. Its former master had been rather dark, accidentally killed in an Auror raid, and the servant had picked up a trick or two. Apparently Ministry personnel didn't take well to being Crucioed by a lowly house-elf that harboured bitterness against the Ministry. Harry had spoken to the elf, come to an agreement, and promptly Obliviated the ministry official into thinking the termination had been done. In exchange he'd gotten a devoted but clever servant free of charge, that didn't object to his darker inclinations
"—and when I snap my fingers, you will open your eyes," Clarke said, drawing Harry's attention back to the present. The woman was resting on the couch with eyes closed, Clarke hovering above her and speaking soothingly. "And on awakening, the urge to gamble will have fled your soul. You will be healed."
"Compello," Harry whispered, as Clarke snapped his fingers.
The woman's eyes opened, and went wide. She felt the effect of the compulsion immediately of course. Harry always made sure they were obvious during these little appointments. He left his thrall to see her out as she started babbling her tearful thanks. He exited the room, heading upstairs to give Gidget the details of the latest Muggle celebrity target for hair-snatching.
"What the hell?"
Harry stared at the opened the letter that an owl had delivered to his bedroom window. He cursed himself for not having considered this when he'd decided to take his OWLs at the Ministry a few weeks back. But, well, it was an obscure rule and not one he'd ever had to give much thought to before. In his hands were both his exam results, and an invitation to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for his sixth year. He was officially on record now, not just under his alias of Jared Clarke, but also as a wizard of sufficient skill. Schooling in wizarding Britain was optional, but only to a point. It was expected, though not really enforced, that any child not attending Hogwarts was to be educated at home. However it was both expected, and enforced, that any child who achieved decent OWLs had to study for their NEWTs at Hogwarts. After all, it wouldn't do for Britain to turn out a wizard of skill, and not be able to brag that it was due to the country's self-proclaimed 'premier ranking magical school of the world'. They even offered scholarships for such home-schooled students, to ensure there was no excuse not to attend.
Harry groaned and Gidget, as always sensitive to his moods, quietly added a sickening amount of honey to his breakfast, knowing how he craved sugar when frustrated or depressed. He glumly took another spoonful of breakfast, and gave a reluctant hum of approval which made Gidget, hovering unobtrusively and watching on, squeak and pride and hurry off to do more work elsewhere. Harry sighed again, looking down at the letter.
The last couple of years had been heavenly. He'd broken laws, ignored morals, swindled Muggles and made a boatload of cash. Once he'd properly trained Gidget up in compulsion charms and various other little bits of magic, he was able to turn most of his less-than-legal business endeavours over to the elf to deal with. Harry was then able lay back and relax, travel the world a bit, have some holidays in exotic places, and generally be a lazy sod. Completing his OWLs had been more of an impulsive lark than anything, and one that had now come back to bite him on the arse.
He spent the rest of breakfast, and then the day, and then the week, trying to think of a way out of his predicament without having to give up his current guise and start over from scratch. He was happy with his life as Jared Clarke. It was comfortable and all the hard work was already done. He didn't want to start again. Unfortunately, he could think of no other way out.
"Fuck," he moaned. "I'm going to Hogwarts."
On the evening of September the first Harry said goodbye to Gidget and gave Clarke, still his thrall after all these years, a few last-minute commands. He also restrengthened the Imperius just in case. That done, he Apparated to Hogsmeade Station. He'd disdained the ride on the Hogwarts Express. Bad enough he was being dragged back to school at his age, he wasn't going to spend a day pointlessly travelling by train, making small-talk with obnoxious children who would doubtless be brimming with annoying questions about the new student in their midst.
His timing was impeccable, as he barely had a minute to wait before the train pulled up at the station. Students poured out, and Harry ignored the questioning looks he received.
"First year, first years this way!" a loud voice boomed across the platform.
Harry turned to see Hagrid, the half-giant towering over the humans, carrying a bright lantern. He peeled off from the rest of the crowd and made his way over to where the youngest students were congregating.
"Ah, and you must be Mr Clarke then, I'd wager. Headmaster Dumbledore said you'd be sailing over with the little ones."
Harry just nodded in confirmation of Hagrid's words. Many of the first years turned to stare at him, but a few sharp looks had them hurriedly turning away.
The trip across the lake was, he had to admit, quite a sight. So much so that he honestly couldn't bring himself to feel put out at having been forced to tag along with the firsties, rather than take the carriages. McGonagall, when let them in, was as she ever was. Before too long Harry found himself standing in front of the great hall with the first years as the hat sung, subject to many a curious looks or speculative whispers from the crowd.
"Bagley, Alys!" McGonagall called for the first student.
Harry was a bit relieved when, only two students later, his own name was announced, or rather his alias. He'd been pessimistically expecting to be sorted once the first years were through, meaning he'd have to stay up front and on display all the while. Not to mention the feast would start just after he'd joined his house and Dumbledore had said a few words, allowing the masses to immediately descend on him with prying questions. At least this way, he thought as he sat on the stool, he'd get a brief reprieve before that. Hopefully he could make his attitude of not wanting to be questioned clear, non-verbally, by the time the sorting finished. The sorting hat was lowered onto his head.
"Hmm, interesting," it muttered.
Harry was not alarmed. His Occlumency, a skill he had given long months of sweat, blood and tears to finally master, was more than adequate to keep even the Hogwarts sorting hat from seeing anything incriminating unless Harry let it. Harry wondered what the hat would say about him. He knew he'd changed since he was last sorted, but honestly didn't know where he belonged.
"Well?" he asked.
The hat merely gave a few thoughtful grumbles and then, "Slytherin!" it shouted.
Blinking, not sure whether to be surprised or not, Harry handed the hat over to McGonagall and went to join the Slytherin table. Surreally, they were clapping a polite welcome at his inclusion into their house. It almost made him snicker. But then, he supposed they didn't realise it was Harry Potter, defeater of the Dark Lord and supposed icon of Light, joining their numbers. Or rather, the missing icon of the light. At that that he gave a small smirk, turning coolly away from the interested looks of his tablemates in favour of feigning attention to the sorting. As far as the wizarding world knew, Harry Potter had gone missing four and a half years ago, and hadn't been seen since. It had caused quite the kerfuffle when news came out, due to the boy-who-lived not turning up for Hogwarts in nineteen ninety-one. Harry had watched the media's lambasting of Dumbledore with gleeful amusement.
Apparently first year Slytherins were treated to a meet-and-greet by Snape their first evening of Hogwarts, before being sent off to bed, and Harry was included. Said meeting consisted mostly of threats to behave and excel, or else they would suffer dire but unspecified consequences; a rather less than comforting detailing about how, as Slytherins, they were now considered untrustworthy by the other houses, as well as prime targets for harassment; a somewhat more inspiring talk about how Slytherins stuck together, and they were to always support, and could always count on support from, their housemates when in confrontation with other houses; plus, to round it all out, there was some mention of how Slytherins were the crème de la crème of the school, while the Gryffindors were nothing but reckless bullies, Hufflepuffs trusting fools without an ounce of backbone, and Ravenclaws lived so much in books as to be disconnected from reality.
"Hey," one of his three roommates greeted him as he entered his new dorm. The boy was dark haired and eyed and moderately handsome. "I'm Adrian. Adrian Pucey."
"Darius Berrow," the second muttered, tall and aristocratic featured with dark blonde hair, barely looking up at Harry as he pulled on his pyjamas before striding out of the room.
"Don't mind him, it was nothing you did," Pucey reassured him, as Harry stared after the disappearing figure. "He's gone to spend the night with Tabitha. They've been together a year or so, and he's so disgustingly in love he can't bear to be away from her. It's a bit embarrassing really."
"Oh," was all Harry said. Then, curious, he asked, "Won't the professors notice a boy going into the girl's dorms?"
Pucey shook his head. "I know the other houses have precautions against that kind of thing. Gryffindor's supposed to turn the stairs into a slide or something if a wizard tries entering the witch's tower, and in Hufflepuff they've got a loud alarm. Ravenclaw has a targeted disillusionment spell of some sort, which keeps male students from being able to see the girl's dorm entrance. As for us—"
"Salazar Slytherin wasn't such a prude as the rest of them," interrupted the rough voice of Harry's third dorm mate, a hulking figure with short shaved hair, who had been observing the interactions silently. "You're name's Clarke."
"Jared Clarke," Harry confirmed, wondering why the other boy was staring at him so suspiciously.
"Of the wizarding Clarke's? Or a Muggle branch?" he asked, stressing the word 'Muggle' with a certain disgust. "What's your blood status?"
Harry understood now the reason for the suspicion. "Depends," he said, not hedging so much as being honest. Well, honest according to his false backstory. "My father is technically from a wizarding branch, but he's a Squib. All his ancestors were pure though, as were my mothers." He shrugged, as if uncaring, though discretely he watched the other Slytherin from the corner of his eye to see if he'd be a problem. "All my grandparents were magical, which is the definition of a pure-blood. But with my father? Well, different people have different opinions."
The boy stared at him for a long moment, before huffing and turning away. Harry detected no sign of emerging hatred or danger from the other, just a mild sort of distaste and a superior dismissal, and internally relaxed.
"That was Craig Warrington, by the way, since he didn't bother to introduce himself," Pucey informed him, after the boy in question had gotten into bed and shut his curtains.
There seemed an undercurrent of bitterness in Pucey's voice that Harry didn't understand, but he didn't ask, feeling far too tired. Instead he just nodded and said goodnight to the oddly friendly Slytherin boy and got into his own bed. He had a moment of surprise as, when he shut the curtains, there was abruptly a perfect cessation of noise. Silencing charm on the curtains, he guessed. A few waves of his wand also confirmed the presence of a few basic protection and alert spells. How very Slytherin, he thought to himself, that the beds came standard with that sort of thing. Though, he had to admit it gave his paranoid soul a slight feeling of safety to have them there. With that thought, he raised his wand again and cast a few extra spells of his own, before shuffling down and going to sleep.
The next morning Harry ended up walking down to breakfast with Pucey, or Adrian as the other insisted he call him. The boy was really, genuinely friendly. Harry supposed it was ridiculous to be surprised by that, like he was holding onto old prejudices and stereotypes or something. Wasn't he himself now a Slytherin, after all? Then again, knowing himself as well as he did, with his shaky morals and dark inclinations and more, Harry knew he didn't exactly add much to the argument that decent Slytherins could exist.
They were joined, shortly after starting in on breakfast, by two girls. Fellow sixth years, Adrian informed him.
"Hello," greeted a sloe-eyed and somewhat dumpy girl in a quiet voice. "I'm Manami Ichijoh. This is Amy Frome," she added shyly, pointing towards her friend. "She's not much of a morning person."
Harry found his gaze lingering on the other girl. Frome was distractingly beautiful: petite, with ivory skin, golden blonde curls, and crystalline blue eyes set in a delicate face. She looked almost like a china doll, so perfectly formed she was. Even her tiredness was attractive. The way she blinked at the table as if not quite aware yet was endearing cute. Her perfect rosebud lips parted and she spoke.
"Where's the fucking coffee?" she cursed in a sweet voice.
Harry blinked in shock, taken aback. He looked from the adorably pouting Frome, to the embarrassed-looking Ichijoh hurriedly pouring her friend a black coffee, which she proceeded to practically inhale, and then at Adrian who looked understanding and amused.
"Yeah, I wouldn't judge that book by its cover," he warned, and Harry nodded agreement. "This is Jared Clarke by the way," he told the girls.
"Of the wizarding Clarkes," Harry added a bit dryly, remembering last night's confrontation.
"Met that prick Warrington, did you?" a more clear-headed Frome asked, reaching for the coffee pot herself this time to refill her emptied mug. Harry nodded. "That cocksucker's an arrogant sod. Barely looks as me just because I'm a half-blood."
Harry tried not to look as jarred as he felt at the continued casual profanity from the beautiful, innocent-looking witch. Adrian, beside him, must have noticed though as he snickered. Ichijoh was blushing.
"Um, yeah. I think he's decided I'm passable, but barely, since I'm from pure lines on both sides except that my father's a Squib."
"Sounds just like that wanker," Frome said, with a delicate sniff, and then proceeded to down her second mug and refill once more, finally looking near to properly awake. "So, where the hell did you come from anyway?"
"Home-schooled," Harry provided, beginning to grow accustomed to her manner, or at least enough not to gawp anymore. "Made the mistake of taking the OWLs, and doing decently at them."
"And the fucking Ministry promptly shanghaied you into this nuthouse, I take it?"
Harry didn't meet the last Slytherin in his year group till he was waiting outside the classroom for first lesson, along with the other sixth years who'd signed up for Arithmancy. Adrian and Frome had headed off to Ancient Runes instead, so he was stuck with Ichijoh, who seemed too shy to speak to him. Ichijoh squeaking and flushing bright red before hastily looking away had Harry turning his attention to the end of the corridor. Several other students snickered or rolled their eyes as Berrow stumbled towards them, progress made somewhat clumsy because he was engaged in a rather passionate lip lock with a witch as he walked.
"Berrow, Bainbridge," a sharp voice called. Harry spun to see that the classroom door had opened and Professor Vector was standing there, glaring. "Break it up before I hose the pair of you down. Five points from Slytherin for that horrifically inappropriate display. Everyone, inside now, books out and ready to take notes. Berrow and Bainbridge, opposite sides of the room."
"But professor!" Berrow wailed, looking genuinely distraught at the idea of being separated from his girlfriend.
Bainbridge, plastered against him, didn't look quite so much distraught as annoyed. Her lips were bruised red, her long dark hair mussed. She looked seductively dishevelled as she sneered at Vector.
"Now!" Vector snapped. "Before I make it ten points. Each."
The pair hurried to obey. Harry took a seat by Adrian, who had Berrow on his other side, staring mournfully across the room at a sulking Bainbridge. Tabitha Bainbridge, to be precise, or so Harry presumed given Adrian's mention of Berrow's girlfriend's name last night.
"Welcome to sixth year Arithmancy," Vector said once everyone was seated. "If you're here, you've excelled in your OWLs, at the very least, and I will be expecting a high standard of achievement from you all. As such, we'll be starting the year off with a test."
Ignoring the groans, except to deal out sharp looks that had the students in question hastily biting their tongues, Vector began handing out the test parchments. Harry had never had her as a professor during his past life, having not studied Arithmancy till after Hogwarts. He decided then and there that she would certainly live up to her strict reputation. She was, he felt, on the level of Snape and McGonagall in giving out a 'not to be messed with' vibe.
Adrian was decent company, friendly and easy-going, if a bit too decent, something Harry never thought to find as a fault in a Slytherin. He was also interested in Quidditch, generally up for a chat about the latest games, but not obsessive about it. He'd in fact been on the Quidditch team until the year before, when Marcus Flint rearranged the line-up. As Adrian unhappily put it, Flint had 'swapped out any skilled players in favour of the biggest most violent ones he could find'. It explained the bitterness he'd detected in Adrian that first night. Apparently Warrington had taken over his spot on the team.
Warrington pretty much ignored him. Ichijoh continued to be quiet and barely speak to anyone at all, but Harry didn't mind that, because to be honest she seemed a bit boring. Frome remained startlingly foul-mouthed, though he had quickly grown inured to the shock of that, in favour of ironic amusement. Still, all that aside, his first few days at Hogwarts were almost exactly as bad as Harry had expected. Classes were boring as sin, not to mention simple in the extreme. The teachers were thoroughly impressed by him, but Harry wasn't moved by their praises, since they didn't realise he was a great deal more experienced in magic than the sixteen year old he pretended to be.
That all changed at the end of the first week. He was sitting in the common room finishing off his homework when the entrance opened. He payed no attention at first until a hush spread across the room. He looked up and around and saw everyone staring at a figure at the top of the room. The figure was clothed in a dark green velvet cloak, hooded and disguising their figure.
"The first years?" the figure asked, so blatantly androgynous in tone that Harry knew a spell must be in effect to disguise the voice.
Immediately, at the question, the two seventh year prefects shot to their feet looking attentive. The behaviour surprised Harry. Typical Slytherin prefect behaviour seemed to consist of superiority and ordering the other students around, and the higher up the grade of the prefect, the more superior they acted. He could only imagine how overbearing a Slytherin head student would be. And yet there was Scarlett Lympsham hurriedly counting the first years, and Lucian Bole briskly ordering them front and centre. Both then turned to look at the mysterious figure with attentive, respectful looks.
"All accounted for," Lympsham said.
"Shall we demand the Oaths?" Bole asked.
"What the—" Harry began in an undertone.
"Hush," Adrian whispered from beside him, gripping his arm tightly and giving him a cautioning looking.
"Yes, go ahead," the figure said. "But don't forget the new sixth-year."
Bode then rounded on the Harry, and gestured him to come forward and join the line of first years. Harry just raised an eyebrow, not about to move until he knew what was going on. He didn't like the sound of oaths. Among wizards, they weren't something to be treated lightly, and were in fact magically biding. But as he sat, the rest of the house, almost all of them, began whispering ominously. Beside him, even Adrian hissed, "Move Jared!" Frowning, Harry considered the situation before deciding it was better to go along than risk turning his entire house against him over… well, over whatever the hell was going on. Besides, he had a trick up his sleeve that countered most of the risk here. Decided, he stood and stepped forward and the room seemed to relax some. He noted the cloaked figure had followed his actions intently.
"Now," Bode said, "anyone not know what an Oath is? Good. You will now swear on your magic not to reveal the secrets of our guest."
"What?" one first year blurted out.
"Why?" another dared to ask.
"You are a Slytherin," Lympsham said, voice thick with zeal, "and as such you owe this person your allegiance. You will vow, or you will henceforth be considered outsiders within the house," she promised in a threatening tone, which had the first years looking meek and afraid.
"Now, one at a time, you will swear," Bode said.
Harry watched him work down the line, taking oath from each of the children, until he finally came to Harry who was last. Harry stared for a moment, before opening his mouth to speak.
"I, Jared Clarke, do swear on my magic, to never reveal the secrets of this guest."
As he finished speaking he consciously flexed his magic so as to send a pulse through the air. What none in the room but he knew was that since Jared Clarke wasn't his true name, the oath hadn't been binding. The pulse of magic though, was quite effective in feigning the effects of the sealing of a magical oath.
With the final oath supposedly taken, the figure stepped forward and pulled back their hood.
Harry stared in surprise.
"So… Lady Serpe?"
It was later that evening in the dorm, after their guest, who had held court over the house, had left. Berrow was off with Bainbridge as usual, undoubtedly up to various licentious activities. Warrington was out as well. He too had a late night rendezvous, with some Ravenclaw witch, though Harry had no idea who would be interested in the boy. He wasn't hideous but he wasn't particularly attractive either, and he certainly wasn't pleasant company either. Either way it suited Harry just fine, since it meant he could question Adrian about Slytherin house's 'guest' in privacy.
"She's something isn't she?" Adrian asked somewhat admiringly.
"Yeah, something. The thing is though, I was pretty sure her name was—"
"Oh, right, you've seen her around school then. Well, that's the name she was born with, but it's not really hers, you know. Officially it is, but she's really a Serpe, or may as well be. It's all we call her here in Slytherin house. Of course, the Lady has never really explained the whole story to any except her closest and most trusted, but rumours do spread. Most people accept the theory that her mother, well…" Adrian paused, looking around as if afraid he'd be overheard. "She had an affair with the last wizard of the Serpe family. They were Italian but branched off from the Slytherin line centuries back. As in, they were descendants of the Salazar Slytherin. It's how she got the gift of Parseltongue."
"I see," Harry said slowly, mind whirring. He had a more than nagging feeling that the whole story was utter bollocks, but said nothing. Instead he decided to try verifying his suspicion by asking, "When did she first reveal herself to you all?"
"It was at the end of the school year before last. It was a bit of a shock really. You know Malfoy, the white-blonde kid in fourth year who mostly keeps to himself? He pretty much shot his mouth off at her because of her mother's family." Adrian paused, looking uncomfortable. "Well, I don't know what she said or did to him, no one does, but he was really scared of her after that and kept his head down from then on. Not that's she's one of those 'lead with fear' types or anything," Adrian hurried to reassure Harry as he frowned. "The Serpes were known as more personable and merciful than the usual Slytherin descendants. The Lady's the same. She can scary be when she needs to, but mostly she leads with… grace."
"With grace?" Harry's eyes narrowed. "Adrian," he asked with a teasing tone, "do I detect a crush?"
"What? No, of course not," Adrian replied, looking genuinely shocked. He frowned then, looking nervous. "I, ah, I thought you would have realised by now, or someone would have said something to you about it. I'm—I mean I don't—" He huffed. "Look Jared, I prefer wizards."
"Is that alright? I mean, obviously it's alright. I don't let anyone tell me otherwise. But I know some guys get uncomfortable with it. Mostly those with Muggle influence. And I know you live with your father in the Muggle world because of his lack of magic."
"Adrian." Harry held up a hand to halt the flow of nervous babble. "It's fine. Really. I swing both ways myself."
"Oh," Adrian said a bit dumbly, then smiled in relief. "Oh good. Then it'd be a bit strange if it bothered you, wouldn't it?"
"Hypocritical," he agreed. "So if not a crush…?"
"She's smart, powerful, refined, descended of Salazar Slytherin, a natural leader, utterly charismatic. What's not to admire?"
Yes, he saw alright. Remembering the events of the original timeline, it didn't take a genius to make a guess at what had happened, that could result in Ginny Weasley emerging at the end of her first year of Hogwarts as the heir of Slytherin, the 'Lady Ginevra Serpe'.
Before Harry had much of a chance to dwell on the situation with Ginny Weasley and all it implications, a second event occurred to shake up things at Hogwarts.
"—hosting students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang," Harry tuned in to hear Dumbledore announcing over dinner. "They will be coming here, to Hogwarts, to participate in a newly established interschool competition: the Great Tourney. There will be a range of competitions and prizes, events and displays, over the rest of the school year. It is the goal of this event to encourage international exchange and understanding. I'm sure you will all make our guests most welcome."
As excited chatter swept across the hall, Harry was feeling confused. He couldn't believe he'd forgotten before now, but it was actually the year that, in his original timeline, the Triwizard Tournament came to Hogwarts. Clearly this time around that wouldn't happen, but rather this 'Great Tourney' would be occurring instead. He knew the course of events had changed due to his actions, but he wasn't sure how this change had come about.
"Sounds like it might be a bit of fun, don't you think?" Adrian asked him.
Harry considered for a moment before nodding. Yes, it very well might be. Certainly it would make his time back at Hogwarts more interesting. He turned to Adrian and the other sixth years who were discussing what sort of events and prizes might be involved, and joined in the conversation with some ideas of his own.
ABOUT THIS BUNNY: This is my latest in a long, long line of stories I started without much direction. Basically I wanted a dark!Harry redo where he goes back not for vengeance or to set things right, but just to have a clean slate. He intends to just live life, but then gets accidentally dragged back to Hogwarts and drama ensues. If you haven't guessed, Ginny was taken over by the Riddle diary. This was to be a Harry/Riddle(in Ginny body) pairing. May continue, may not.
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