Sorry for the slow update! Here's another chapter!


Harry pulled up a chair and sat down in it backwards across from Sirius Black, who was tied securely to another chair.

"Are you... are you really Harry?" The man asked. "You look..."

"Nothing like you expected?" Harry finished. "It's the result of a hard childhood."

The man looked stricken to hear that, but Harry cut him off before he could say anything else.

"First things first, did you betray the Potters?"

"Wha- NO! I would never betray James!" Black yelped. "You've got to believe me-"

"Next question," Harry glared the guy into silence, "Why did you break out of Azkaban?"

At that question, Black's expression twisted into one of anger. "The rat." He spat out the last word.

"What rat?" Harry demanded.

"Peter Pettigrew! He's the one who sold James and Lily out to You-Know-Who!" Black yelled, thrashing in his bonds.

Harry was briefly relieved that he had decided to put up a Bounded Field so no one would overhear. So Pettigrew really did do that. But how does Black know that Pettigrew is alive? And what exactly does he mean when he calls Pettigrew a rat? Harry thought to himself, before asking the question.

Black calmed down slightly. "We, your father, Peter, and I, we were Animagi. Have been since our fifth year."

Harry's memory told him that Animagi were wizards or witches with the ability to turn into a single animal form through their own magic, instead of having to be Transfigured by another wizard. It also wasn't an easy thing to achieve. For them to do so in their fifth year was considered quite an impressive feat.

Don't get distracted, Harry. Archer chided the boy.

Oh right. "So Pettigrew can turn into a rat." Harry said out loud. "But what does that have to do with you breaking out?"

"I thought he was dead, you know..." Black said hoarsely. "I thought that... whatever he did when I caught up to him back then... I thought he died."

His gaze, slightly wide-eyed with near-insanity, locked onto Harry's. "But he wasn't. He's still alive."

"Where is he then?" Harry pressed.

"He's a rat." Black rasped, eyes unfocused as though looking into the past. "Thought I was dreaming at first, when I saw him-"

"Where?"

"The Daily Prophet. Fudge brought a copy along, gave it to me when I asked." Black paused for a moment before continuing to speak. "There was an article with a photo. A family on a trip, to Egypt. I have it with me in my pocket."

Harry felt a thrill as his mind connected the dots. "Accio paper." He summoned it out from Black's clothes and caught it in one hand, before unfolding it and smoothing it out so he could read it properly. "The Weasleys?" He recognized.

Black nodded. "One of the boys, he had a rat sitting on his shoulder."

Ron's rat, Scabbers. "And how did you know it was Pettigrew?"

"We became Animagi together, and we spent hours, exploring Hogwarts in our animal forms." Black chuckled, craziness in his tone. "I'd recognize his rat form out of a hundred brown rats. But that wasn't the only thing."

Harry raised an eyebrow, his grip shifting on the wand he held.

"Di-did you know? The, the biggest part of Pettigrew they ever found when he 'died', wa-was just his finger." Black trembled slightly, starting to overflow with anger. "He cut it off himself! A-and that rat! It has a missing front toe!"

Harry took a second look at the picture and saw that the man was right. "So you broke out of Azkaban? How?"

Black suddenly slumped in his bonds, the anger going out of him. "The article, it said the boy would be going back to Hogwarts... to where Harry was..." He took a look at the boy sitting across from him. "My God... what happened to you... why is your hair white?"

"Hard childhood." Harry reminded him, "So you broke out, for what?"

Black continued to stare, trying to reconcile the Harry before him with the image he had in his head. "When I saw Peter in the picture... I realized... he was perfectly positioned to act, if the slightest hint that the Dark Side was gathering strength again..."

Harry continued to listen, his eyes probing Black's form for any hint of deceit.

"What do you mean exactly?" He asked.

"The Fidelius Charm... it was supposed to hide your parents, Harry..." Black's voice cracked, affected by his recalling of past memories. "As long as the one who held the secret never told, no one else would find them."

Sounds like an interesting bit of magic to look into later when I have the time. Harry noted, before prompting Black to continue. "So the one who held the secret wasn't you, but Pettigrew." He guessed.

The man nodded. "I persuaded Lily and James to change to him at the last moment... to use him as the Secret-Keeper instead of me... It was my fault, I good as killed your parents..."

The look he was receiving spoke of deep remorse, but Harry wasn't feeling forgiving at that moment. He wanted to learn more about the circumstances behind the whole issue first.

"What happened next?"

"The night they died, I'd arranged to check on Peter... to make sure he was still safe... but he'd gone when I arrived at his hiding place... and no sign of a struggle," Black shook slightly, looking down, "It felt wrong. I was scared, and set out for your parents' home... that's where I saw it, destroyed, and their bodies..."

"And Pettigrew?" Harry pressed.

"Wasn't there... but I put the pieces together, realized he was the only one who could have led You-Know-Who to your parents..." Black explained, "I tracked him down, caught him in the middle of a busy street... didn't expect him to shout for the whole street to hear that I betrayed Lily and James. It threw me off so much that I couldn't throw a curse before he blew apart the street with the wand behind his back... then sped down into the sewer with the other rats... And I was left there, laughing with the absurdity of it all, even when they came to throw me into Azkaban."

Neither of them said anything else while Harry mulled over the information he just received. Based on Sirius Black's testimony, he had been framed for something he didn't do, and spent twelve years unjustly imprisoned for it. With the lack of evidence due to how long ago the case was, the only way for him to prove his innocence was to catch the true culprit.

Except that I don't think he intends to apprehend. Harry thought, looking Black over. Chances are he'll just kill Pettigrew and be done with it. Being in Azkaban seems to have scrambled his wits somewhat.

He decided to confirm by asking straight out. "What is your plan then?"

"I'm going to find Peter, and then I'll finish what I tried to do twelve years ago." Black replied with grim determination.

"So you're going to actually commit the murder you were accused of?" Harry asked, "Doesn't seem like a smart idea to me."

Black stared at Harry in shock. "He betrayed Lily and James! Your parents!" The man growled.

"Just so you know, I don't really remember anything about them." Before Black could respond to that, Harry continued, "I'm more concerned with how you don't seem to realize the mistake you're going to make."

Black looked confused on hearing that. "Mistake? What are you talking about?"

"Okay, listen carefully..." The teen began.

It took several explanations before Black finally understood what Harry had been trying to do to help him before his escape from prison, and that acting like an avenger was going to mess it up greatly. The difficulty in conveying that information to him was mainly due to his stubbornness and slight insanity, but eventually Black managed to gather his wits enough to see things from Harry's point of view.

Harry and Madam Bones had already guessed that Pettigrew was alive, and only needed to catch him, except they didn't know how. But now that Black had provided that last missing piece of the puzzle, proving his innocence could finally proceed.

"So what should I do then?" The man asked as Harry finally untied him.

"Lay low until I can catch Pettigrew."

Black immediately started to protest, "He's a fully-trained wizard and you only had two years of schooling! You'll get yourself killed!"

Harry shrugged. "That's only if he knows that I'm trying to catch him. As it is, I think I can just persuade Ron Weasley to put his rat into a cage, then hand that cage over to the DMLE."

"No, it's too risky, I'm not letting you-"

Black suddenly stopped speaking, having realized that there was a wand pointed in his face and a sharp knife aimed at his stomach.

"Not letting me do what, exactly?" Harry asked, both hands holding their weapons steady. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm doing a pretty good job of taking care of myself."

"I can see that..." Black croaked, trying very hard not to move.

"Then nothing more needs to be said." Harry's tone made it clear that the matter was settled, as he lowered both wand and knife.

You know, you're resorting to violence more recently. Archer observed from inside him.

Huh, you're right, Harry realized, Part of it is due to him being such an irresponsible git, but I think it's also due to the recent attack affecting me more than I thought.

Or it could be puberty, Archer suggested cheerfully.

Rolling his eyes, Harry returned his attention back to Black, who was waiting as though about to say something. Even after Harry returned the stolen wand, it took him a while before he managed to speak.

"If you really manage to do this, turning Peter in, I mean..." The man shifted awkwardly. "I don't know if anyone ever told you..."

Harry raised an eyebrow. "Told me what?"

"I'm your godfather." Seeing no response, Black continued. "Well... my parents appointed me your guardian-"

There was a surge in the surrounding air, and several items in the room were suddenly cut by nothing, causing Black to stop talking. The source of the sudden change was Harry, who was now glaring at him furiously.

"And you did a very good job of it so far, I must say." Harry's sarcasm cut deeply. "Remember what I said about a hard childhood?"

Black nodded warily, unsure of whether to speak in the face of such anger.

"You could have done something about that if you hadn't been so hasty to get revenge." Harry hissed, and pointed at the door. "Now get out, I don't want to see you for the next few days."

The man opened his mouth for a moment, then closed it and turned to leave, giving Harry a look of regret as he did. It continued even after he turned back into his dog form and ran out of the house, leaving Harry alone with his thoughts and Archer for company.

So what will you do now, Harry? Archer asked after a few minutes of silence.

Nothing but to continue moving forward, was the reply Harry gave.

Archer smirked. Then, shall we go?

Getting to St. Mungo's was easier than Harry expected. After pretending to go up to bed, he simply called a cab to pick him up around the corner of the street and snuck out through the window beneath the cover of an illusion. He had practiced enough that he could confidently create the image that of his window appearing to be closed when it was opened, and it fooled the wizards he had detected watching him. From there, he jumped across the roofs until he reached the designated location for the taxi to pick him up.

The taxi driver didn't ask any questions other than wanting to know if Harry was running away from home, to which he replied in the negative. After that, the man just drove Harry right to where he wanted, and left after he got paid.

The place where Harry got off was very close by his destination, and it took only a few minutes of walking before he stood before a large, old-fashioned, red-brick department store, with a faded sign above proclaiming its name to be Purge & Dowse Ltd.

Even if there wasn't any prana signature for me to smell, I'm pretty sure I would have been suspicious about this place, Harry thought as he gazed at the apparently closed store. 'Closed for Refurbishment', and the mannequins are all modeling clothes that would have been moth-eaten by now if they were left there that long.

Guess the wizards follow the adage 'If it's not broken, don't fix it', Archer commented.

Sounds like laziness to me. Harry walked through the field that repelled the non-magicals' attention, and looked along the display until he spotted a mannequin in a green pinafore dress. That's the one, I believe.

With a quick movement, he pulled out his Invisibility Cloak and covered himself, and followed it up with several spells to further enhance his concealment and prevent him from being discovered. The book on magical thievery was proving to be very useful already, and Harry made a note to continue practicing the other tricks it mentioned.

There was a slight pressure on the outside of the Cloak when Harry stepped through, right into a reception area filled with rows of rickety wooden chairs. As he had expected, it was mostly empty, with only a few emergency patients waiting to see the Healers that worked in this place. Harry couldn't help but stare as he crept past the seated people; some of them had weird disfigurements such as tentacles growing out of the ears or what looked like insect limbs growing from the chest.

There was only one Healer on duty at the moment, a frowning middle-aged man in lime-green robes taking notes as he talked to the person at the end of the row, who had flippers for hands. Harry took note of the emblem on the front of the uniform robes: a wand and bone, crossed.

Glancing around the place, he spotted the sign that indicated the place for Enquiries, and made his way over there. It wasn't staffed at this late hour, but the information board there was enough for him.

Artefact accidents, creature-induced, magical bugs, poisonings, and yep, spell damage. Harry nodded to himself. If the injuries aren't healable, that's where they'll be.

Better avoid the third floor. It wouldn't be good to catch some of those diseases... Archer warned.

No disagreement there. The few described in the books weren't nice, that's for sure.

Harry wove another hasty illusion to cover the double doors that led to the staircase, making sure to include the other side as well. He nearly forgot to silence the hinges, if not for Archer's warning, but managed to get through without anyone noticing. Once he was on the stairs, he felt a wave of relief, realizing that the walls on either side of the stairs were lined with portraits of what must have been past Healers, except they all looked like they were more suited to be bruisers instead.

The stairs looked like they would creak loudly if anyone stepped on them, and Harry decided to play it safe and made sure to step carefully, even with the silencing spell on his feet. It was a nerve-wracking experience from the start till he reached his destination floor, but luckily no one else appeared on the stairs, so the portraits remained fast asleep.

Another set of double doors next to a signpost marked SPELL DAMAGE faced him, and Harry could see two Healers talking through the glass windows set in them. Neither of them looked as though they were going to move anytime soon, so Harry took a risk and immediately wove the illusion, before pushing open the doors and going through.

One of them, a grandmotherly-faced one, immediately broke off and looked in Harry's direction, blinking.

"What's wrong?" The other Healer, a man asked the first.

She looked at him then shook her head, glancing back at the no longer veiled entrance. "It's nothing. My eyes must be tired from this late shift, thought the walls changed color for a moment."

"Sounds like you need a Pepper-Upped coffee." Her partner commented. "Let's go get one from the fifth floor, shall we?"

After they walked past him to get to the stairs, Harry glanced back and saw that the inside of the ward area was painted a different color compared to the landing outside, and berated himself for the mistake. I didn't notice the walls when I saw them through the glass!

Just don't make that mistake next time, Archer warned, Now hurry before they get back, and be on the lookout for anyone else.

Got it.

Harry didn't bother trying any of the doors to the wards; there were seven of them, marked with names of famous Healers rather than numbers, and he had absolutely no idea which ward held which type of patients. So he went straight for the office at the opposite end in order to get the needed information.

The detection spell told him that the office was empty, so Harry went right in, leaving a Bounded Field up to warn him in anyone was coming. Once in the room, he made sure that there were no portraits around before taking off the Cloak to begin his search. There were four cabinets in the room, each with four large drawers for folders, as well as a desk which had a few stacks of files, and Harry scanned through the latter first with his Structural Analysis.

He immediately winced as the description of some of the cases filled his mind. Seriously, seeing cases like these makes me wonder if magic really is as great as it's made out to be.

I find myself sharing that opinion. Archer agreed, having also experienced the influx of information together with his host.

But it's neither of these. That means I'll have to look at the cabinets.

The drawers were also marked with the names of the wards, and on opening one of them, Harry found that they were categorized according to bed number, but scanning through them gave him an insight into what the names meant.

I suppose the Healers whom the wards were named after specialized in treatment or care of those types of conditions. Archer guessed, as his host shut another drawer after deeming its contents were not what he was looking for.

Maybe. Harry replied absently, closing the drawer marked 'Janus Thickley'. These are the apparent permanent cases for people who can't function in normal society.

It took another ten minutes, but he finally located five files that described the same injuries he had inflicted, distributed in two separate wards, all who were admitted on the same day. Harry wrote down their details on a piece of paper he brought along for that purpose; he would look further into them when he had the chance.

There didn't seem to be any point in going to look in on those people, so Harry put his Cloak back on and snuck out of the hospital. It wasn't easy to find a taxi, but he managed to get back home and into his room without anyone noticing. When he had the time, he would look further into their backgrounds, but for the time being, he was still a young boy who needed sleep, so Harry went to bed.


"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HARRY!" was the cry that greeted a white-haired boy when he walked into the room.

Smiling, he joined the mixed group of young teens and adults at the large table, accepting their congratulations as he approached where the large cake was.

Quite a few of his friends couldn't make it as they were on vacation with their families, such as the Weasleys, Daphne, Neville, Hermione, and Justin, but the rest were all present. Susan and Hannah were here, chaperoned by Hannah's parents and a cousin Harry immediately recognized as Tonks, as Susan's aunt had to work, while Su and a large number of the mundane-borns had arrived with their parents. As for Draco, he naturally wasn't invited, although Harry's keen eyes caught the fact that one of the presents he had received was from the Slytherin student.

For Harry, who didn't really celebrate his birthday much, he found it quite a pleasant and refreshing experience to relax and have fun with his friends, playing the small party games and talking about random things, such as what they did over the holidays.

Then came the time for Harry to blow out the candles on his cake and open his presents, which he did to the applause of those who came to his party. At the same time, he had Uncle John and Aunt Diana hand out the souvenirs they had brought back from Japan, for his friends to open as well.

Most of the girls got him clothes or books, while the gifts from the boys were mainly tools for everyday use or plain magical sweets. Some were self-made, like Dean's colored picture of Harry drawing back a bow, or Su's embroidered shirt that was supposed to ward off misfortune. Neville's present was a tome on wards, which included a note mentioning how he had noticed Harry's interest in those, as well as thanking Harry for the seeds and notes from Japan. Draco's present was looked on with a bit of envy, because it was obvious that the writing set was very expensive, with the three griffon feather quills and decorated ink bottle. Tonks made sure to check it for any curses, but eventually proclaimed it safe for use.

The souvenirs from Japan were warmly received, and Harry was bombarded with questions about the place, especially by the mundane-borns, who were curious to know more about how magical society was like in a different country. They were so fascinated that when somebody suggested a group trip to another magical country, there were so many voices of agreement that they decided to plan one for the next year.

There was also some discussion about the recent escaped convict Sirius Black, and some of the non-magical parents were shocked to learn that Black was an escaped prisoner on the magical side, and even more horrified to learn what he allegedly did. They made sure to discuss it away from their children, but Harry's Reinforced ears picked up most of what was said.

He's been hanging around the house hoping that you'll forgive him. Archer reminded him.

I know. I almost want to disable the detection Bounded Field given how often he crosses it just to look at me, and then there's the time when he keeps following me on my runs. Harry took a drink of the fruit punch. I'm starting to think Tonks isn't really doing a good job of protecting me, if she hasn't even detected him yet.

She's diligent, if nothing. Archer conceded.

Both of them turned to look along with the rest of the room as Tonks accidentally stumbled over a chair, nearly falling over if not for another adult catching her. Susan gave a sheepish laugh as some of the other teenagers commented on her chaperone's clumsiness. The look she gave him told Harry that she was very much aware of Tonks's true purpose in being here.

Hannah caught his attention. "Oh yeah, Harry, sorry to bring this up during your birthday party, but I want to ask your opinion on some of the plans we've come up for the Student Council."

Harry shook his head. "It's fine. Let's hear what you've got."

"Well, I was thinking that we could bring the students on a school trip outside of the castle, but we'll have to get the permission of the teachers." Hannah explained, "What do you think?"

"Sounds like an interesting idea," Harry mused, "Where would the trip go anyway?"

"Maybe places like St. Mungo's, the Wizarding Wireless broadcast center, even the Ministry if possible."

Treatment area, the broadcast place, and the main base. Harry immediately classified.

All those are important places to the British Wizarding World, aren't they? Archer pointed out, sensing the direction of Harry's thoughts.

Harry blinked, realizing that he had started to think in the same mindset as when he fought in Japan. Maybe I'm reading too much Art of War. "It'll mainly be the mundane-borns who would be interested, I think."

It was Su who refuted that. "Not exactly. I've wrote asking some of the wizard-born in Ravenclaw, they told me they rarely go anywhere near those places unless they really need to, and even Malfoy told us he wouldn't mind seeing how the Wizarding Wireless worked."

"That's reason enough, I suppose," Harry smiled, taking a bite of his cake. "Any plans for when it'll be?"

"I was thinking one of the weekends, maybe near the holidays so that people can head straight back home later," Hannah suggested, "Susan tells me most of them are also in London, so it's not too far to travel afterwards."

"Neville and Draco have both been great help, coordinating things so that it can go ahead once the teachers give permission." Susan added.

"Looks like you all are handling things pretty fine on your own so far." Harry remarked.

Hannah let out a sheepish chuckle. "Well... you were the one who managed to start up the Student Council in the first place, so I thought maybe you might help us notice something else that needs to be polished in the proposal."

"Have some confidence in yourself, Hannah," Harry encouraged the girl, "You're doing a good job already." Turning to Su, he asked, "What about the funds?"

"Not much of a problem, since most of the places we asked said they didn't mind letting some of the students visit for free," Su replied.

"We're planning to open this to the third- and fourth-years, actually," Hannah interrupted, "Considering that the fifth-years have their OWLs, and the sixth- and seventh-years have to focus on their NEWTs."

The group spent quite some time discussing other ideas as well, such as group activities for the students, with the other adults and teens adding their own opinions, but in the end they postponed the discussion in favor of enjoying the party further.

There was some discussion about the booklists that they received just that morning, but most of them had yet to open their Hogwarts letter as they were attending this birthday party, so not much attention was paid to the issue other than some halfhearted guesses as to what was on the list.

The time till the start of the next Hogwarts school year dwindled, and Harry drove himself hard during that period. He drew up a schedule and stuck to it rigorously, alternating between practicing his magic and training his physical abilities, while interspersing it with his research into his Jewel Magecraft. More than once he realized just how much of an advantage Structural Analysis gave him, allowing him to process information at an accelerated rate, and he could multitask effectively, dictating letters to his friends as he experimented with making runic arrays.

By the time the day came for him to meet Daphne for back-to-school shopping, Harry was fairly confident that he could cast more than three-quarters of the spells from the books he had collected from the Room of Lost Things, identify, apply and disable various types of seals, and had actually managed to construct a working bracelet prototype for the creation of the magical flames, although it was still a little wonky in functioning. It wouldn't be much longer before he could make a ring version, and with his further understanding of what the flames were capable of, Harry looked forward to seeing what would come next.

Yawning, Harry stretched his arms out above his head as he sat at one of the tables in front of Fortescue's shop, before taking a swig from the milkshake the man had given him. It was nearly two in the afternoon, which was the time Daphne had arranged to meet him. He had been here for twenty minutes already, and spotted several people he knew coming to do their own shopping. Tonks in particular was hanging around as a matronly shopper.

For once, he didn't conceal his identity, so quite a few people came up to him, fascinated by the apparently famous personality that was there. Fortescue didn't mind; Harry was bringing him more customers just by sitting there, which was why he gave Harry the milkshake for free.

"Hello, Harry." Daphne greeted him.

He had noticed her come up to him, especially since he had been studying the crowd to see if anybody had less than pleasant intentions towards him. (There were a few, which he took note of)

He nodded to her. "Hi, Daphne. Did you come by Floo?"

The brunette shook her head. "I wished I did. Father brought me here by Side-Along Apparation. He's coming later with Mother and Tori for her own things."

"Not the most comfortable of trips, I take it?" Harry asked, and received a nod in reply.

"Well, shall we go? Knowing you, you can't wait to get your new books." Daphne wore a slight smirk on her lips.

"Did I somehow turn into Hermione Granger since you last saw me?" Harry mock-dropped his jaw in shock.

Chuckling over the exchange, they made their way through the crowd towards Gringotts to withdraw gold for spending purposes. Plenty of Hogwarts students were arriving in the Alley now, with the start of term approaching, so it was a tight squeeze. There was a particularly large crowd around Quality Quidditch Supplies that took a while to get through, and Harry decided to hold Daphne's hand so they wouldn't get separated. He noticed that her face was a little red after they finally managed to get past, and chalked it up to the tight squeeze earlier. In his distraction, he didn't notice Archer's muffled sniggering.

"You okay, Daphne?" He asked just to be safe.

She nodded, a little jerkily. "Y-yes, I'm fine. What was that all about?"

Harry thought back to what he picked up amidst the scrum. "I heard something about a new racing broom. Guess that's what got everyone's attention."

"Not yours?" Daphne asked, straightening her clothes with one hand.

"I find my Nimbus Two Thousand works just fine for me." Harry replied, "Come on, the crowd's clearing up ahead."

They split up in Gringotts, taking different mine carts down to visit their respective vaults, and Harry kept his eyes open just to enjoy the experience. As the cart bolted down the track, he also kept up a conversation with Archer, who pointed out how rare it was for Daphne to come unaccompanied by her parents. It surprised the boy that the adults trusted him with their daughter that much, but before he could think more on it, the cart arrived at the designated vault and he got out.

Entering the vault where his earnings from the deals he made with the Greengrass family were stored, Harry noted that his inventions were still making him money, as the amount had increased yet again since the last time he came. Scooping up the estimated amount he would need, Harry filled his money pouch and got out of the place.

He took note of the mechanisms on the vault door as it locked itself behind him, and silently took the key back when the goblin passed it to him.

Archer was aware of the direction of Harry's thoughts. I wouldn't recommend it. That book was about dealing mainly with other wizards, not goblins.

I wasn't about to try robbing Gringotts! Harry protested as he got back into the cart.

Not yet, is what you mean. Archer sighed, Anyway, I can't believe I'm saying this, but you need more experience before you even attempt it. ...I'm such a bad influence on you...

Harry felt a bit of guilt, before realizing that the spirit was making fun of him. Rolling his eyes, he ignored Archer for the rest of the trip back up to the surface.

He found Daphne with her family, which included an excited Astoria. Giving in to her pleading, Harry joined them for the school shopping, nodding to the clumsy young girl who tripped and fell as they were coming out of the bank. They first went to get robes from Madam Malkin, and Harry found that he had to get new ones as his old ones were too short for him. After that, they went to the Apothecary to replenish and get new potion ingredients for the third year, while the proprietor tried to sell the Greengrasses a 'comprehensive set of first-year potion ingredients' for Astoria. Given the amount they bought, the Greengrasses made arrangements to have everything sent to their home, where Harry would collect what he bought later.

At Flourish and Blotts, Harry saw an odd sight in the shop window; a large iron cage had replaced the gold-embossed spellbooks that were there before, and it was filled with a hundred copies of books that were moving. Focusing his eyes on them, Harry read the title on their covers as The Monster Book of Monsters. They grappled with each other, snapping open and shut aggressively like jaws.

Raising an eyebrow in surprise, he finally pulled out his Hogwarts letter and consulted it for the first time since he received it. A frown appeared on his face as he read what was on it. For some reason he was unaware of, his booklist included a book that had nothing to do with the electives he had signed up for: Unfogging the Future by Cassandra Vablatsky.

Seems like someone's been interfering with my life again. Harry thought, tucking away the list. I've been signed up for Divination without realizing it.

For what purpose do you think that is? Archer asked.

Knowledge... has its own influence, Harry concluded, So there's something that man intends to reveal based off Divination.

"What's wrong, Harry?" Daphne asked him, drawing Harry's attention.

We'll talk later. Archer told him.

Yes, we will. Harry agreed. "It's nothing. Let's just get our books."

The manager came hurrying over to them when they entered, looking extremely stressed. "Hogwarts? Come to get your new books?" He demanded.

"We're not taking Care of Magical Creatures." Daphne answered before Harry could.

Relief spread over the man's face. "Thank heavens for that. I almost thought I'd have to-"

There was a sound of ripping paper; one of the Monster books had been caught by two others, and was being ripped apart.

"Stop it! Stop it!" The manager grabbed a large, knobbly walking stick and poked it between the bars, knocking them apart. "I'm never stocking them again, never! It's been bedlam! Nearly as bad as the time with the Invisible Book of Invisibility, would have made more of a loss if not for Harry Potter-"

"You?" Daphne asked Harry, who shrugged. "What did you do?"

Hearing her, the man turned, and looked at Harry as though just realizing who he was. "Mr Potter! Welcome back! You couldn't do anything about this, could you?" He looked at Harry beseechingly.

"I guess I could give it a try..." Harry said uncertainly.

He didn't expect to fight a desperate battle against dozens of books armed with only a walking stick and heavy gloves, but Harry faced the challenge head on, beating back vicious tomes with swings and thrusts of his stick with the occasional punch, subduing one after another and passing the defeated books behind him to be bound securely for sale. By the time he reached the last eight, Harry had small bruises in several spots where he sacrificed his body to prevent the books from escaping the cage, and was sweating profusely while the walking stick looked on the verge of breaking, but all the remaining Monster books suddenly shivered and laid themselves flat open.

Looks like they're submitting to you. Archer commented. I suppose now you would be able to read one without having it try to bite your face off.

...I'm the one at risk here, you know. Harry breathed out, and reached out cautiously to pick one of them up.

It didn't move at all, but let him read it normally. When he handed it over to the manager, it shivered slightly, but didn't make any further movements. That was when he noticed the crowd that had gathered, and they suddenly burst into applause.

"Mr Potter! I... I don't know what to say... you were incredible!" The manager wept, tears running down his face. "Please, have everything on your booklist for free!"

Looks like you should have waited to buy your books, Harry. Archer commented amusedly.

Feeling a bit embarrassed, Harry handed the man his booklist and followed him around as he went to collect the books listed. The manager kept gushing about how much of a help Harry was, first with giving him a clue as to where a few copies of the book of Invisibility were, and now with the Monster books.

Having been recommended and purchased the books for Ancient Runes and Arithmancy before, all that was left were a few of the third-year advanced books and the Divination tome. The manager first led him to a corner near the back of the shop that seemed devoted solely to fortune-telling, most of which had titles that made Harry raise an eyebrow curiously.

He was handed a thick, black-bound book that the man had to climb a set of stairs for, and briefly flipped through it. It depicted several methods of fortune-telling, with included information on how to interpret the signs from them. It was only slightly interesting to him, but hardly when compared to the other books he owned but had yet to read.

Then a thought struck him, and Harry decided to give it a try. "Is there anything on finding things that are hidden through Divination?" He asked the manager as the man waited to lead him to find his next book.

The manager thought for a few seconds. "There are a few books..." The man said slowly, clearly trying to recall where they were, "But most of the time you can just summon the things you want, so not many people put stock in them."

"Can I have a look?"

"Of course, just give me one moment, Mr Potter. I'll get them for you."

The man went around the place muttering to himself and taking books from some of the places he searched. He returned with four books in hand, which he presented to Harry for his inspection.

Placing Unfogging the Future aside for the moment, Harry quickly flicked through the books. One he immediately dismissed because it was a supplementary to the usual methods of fortune-telling, tweaked so as to provide directions rather than warnings. Two of the remaining three only had small sections that catered to what Harry wanted, but the last one proved to be a goldmine, explaining how one could obtain answers through the art of dowsing.

When Harry rejoined Daphne and her family later with his new books under his arms, they left Flourish and Blotts to go wander around the Alley, window-shopping in several of the smaller stores. Harry managed to get a look at the new broom, the Firebolt, which would clearly cost a lot of gold given the 'Price on Request' tag they put on it. He wanted to analyze it more closely, but the large number of people around preventing him from doing so.

He also went to Wayfarer's Delights to show the shop and its goods to Daphne, who seemed to be quite interested in what other countries had to offer. According to her, she had visited the continent a few times, but those were before she was old enough to attend Hogwarts, and she didn't really remember much about those times. It annoyed Harry that both Archer and Stanley the shopkeeper kept smirking at him, though he didn't know the reason why.

He also spent some time talking to Astoria, who loved Fortescue's sundaes so much that she declared him her favorite-est person ever when he bought her two of them. The young girl was obviously excited about going to Hogwarts, and it showed in her fascination with everything to do with it.

"Harry, when are you going to ma- Mmm, mmph!" Whatever Astoria was about to say got cut off when Daphne quickly covered her sister's mouth.

"Going to what?" Harry wanted to know.

"It's nothing! Nothing you need to care about!" Daphne chuckled, but there was some underlying nervousness in it.

"Okay..." Harry watched the siblings as they held a hasty whispered conversation. Wonder what that's all about?

Archer just stayed silent. He was looking forward to Harry's reaction when he finally realized just what was going on. It was funny to see his host continue being clueless even when he accepted Daphne's invitation to have dinner at the Greengrass manor before bringing home the day's purchases from there, meeting up with an annoyed Tonks who was waiting to escort him home.


"Ready, Harry?" Uncle John asked as he waited at the door for his foster son to carry the heavy-looking trunk to the car. "Got everything? I know Ilya doesn't mind, but it wouldn't do to make her deliver something you forgot."

"I don't think I forgot anything." Harry replied, easily lifting up the trunk and sliding it into the car.

His school materials, the books, item kits, and holiday homework were already inside, along with the clothes and other things. As for the things needed for his extracurricular activities, the science books and equipment were already sent to one of the other Science Club members to bring, giving him the space for his secret research materials. Harry briefly wondered what would people think if they knew he was carrying a fortune in gems in his trunk, or that he had several books of questionable content as well, before discarding that thought.

It felt necessary to him, so there wasn't any further need to question why.

He unslung the case he was carrying on his shoulder and put that on top of the trunk as well. While there was so much he wanted to learn from those books, Harry still took a bit of time to practice his archery as it helped him to wind down after a particularly stressful day.

It was quite the surprise when he received an invitation from the Weasleys to stay at the Leaky Cauldron on August thirty-first, and it wasn't until Tonks enlightened him that he realized it was due to Black still being on the loose. Harry nearly choked at that time, because the Auror was petting a large black dog that had taken to hanging around the neighborhood lately, playing the lovable stray that everyone, including Harry, had fed at least once when it begged for food.

With Black supposedly after Harry, the Ministry deemed it a good idea to make sure that he didn't strike at the Boy-Who-Lived while he traveled to Hogwarts. It would be a chance for them to apprehend Black, if nothing else. According to Tonks, she was ordered to persuade Harry into going along with it, or risk getting lousy duties in future. The Weasleys were chosen to play the host due to their children being friends with him while the father of the family was a Ministry employee.

"Oh look, Blackie's here to see you off." Uncle John pointed out, drawing Harry's attention to the dog standing a few meters away.

Harry crouched down and beckoned, and the dog approached to lick his hand. Reaching around to scratch behind its ear with the other hand, he met its intelligent gaze and nodded.

"Stay." He ordered as firmly as he could.

The dog responded by lunging forward and giving him a big lick from chin to nose before turning around and running away.

Grimacing, Harry wiped his face and got in the car next to a chuckling Uncle John, who started the engine. I really hope he stays here...

The two of them, adult and teenager, chatted comfortably as they drove into London, mainly about the group of mundane parents' feelings about Sirius Black's case. They had found out through Harry's foster family, after Tonks had been placed to guard Harry, and they were not very comfortable with the implications of the existence of a magical criminal.

There was also some talk of going on a vacation tour to a foreign magical community as a group, but there wasn't anything definite yet. Harry had already written a letter to Stanley to put him in contact with the members of the parent group, to provide his knowledge in helping plan such an outing. The idea of another trip interested him, and if that small act would create another opportunity, Harry would willingly perform that act.

When the car drew to a stop outside the Leaky Cauldron, Harry got out and grabbed his stuff, exchanged a handshake with his foster father, and headed inside after putting on his usual cap to hide his hair.

He immediately caught sight of Hermione, Ron, and the twins, all seated at a booth deeper within the pub. Approaching, Harry put a finger to his lips to stop them from calling out greetings and alert everyone else in the pub to his presence. Ron wasn't as quick to understand his meaning, but an elbow from Hermione prevented him from saying anything.

"Long time no see, Hermione, Ron, Fred, George." Harry greeted them as he took a seat in the space they made for him.

Hermione was looking incredibly brown, while Ron was very freckly, and the twins looked like they grew a few inches since the last time he had saw them.

"Glad to see you accepted the invitation, Harry." George told him, with his twin brother nodding next to him.

"Hermione's staying at the Leaky Cauldron tonight as well!" Ron added.

"I know, she told me already." Harry replied, looking at the lone girl among the group.

"I thought it might be interesting to spend a night here. It's so fascinating seeing all types of people that pass through this place." Hermione looked very pleased with herself. "Mom and Dad dropped me off this morning with all my Hogwarts things."

"Have you gotten all your new books and stuff, then?" Harry inquired.

Ron interrupted before she could speak. "Take a look at this, Harry," He pulled a long thin box out of the bag next to him. "Mom and Dad bought me a brand new wand with the remainder of the prize money. Fourteen inches, willow, containing one unicorn tail-hair."

Wonder why they didn't save the money in the first place? Harry thought to himself, listening to them chatter about their new school things. They aren't exactly rich in the first place.

Archer didn't answer, clearly indicating his lack of interest in the matter. Instead, his attention fell on the bags next to Hermione.

Noticing that as well, Harry decided to ask. "What exactly did you buy, Hermione?" He indicated the bulging bags.

"Those are my books for Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, and Study of Ancient Runes," She corrected herself partway through. "Didn't take Mu- Mundane Studies because I already know what it's about."

"You could probably teach the class already." Ron told her.

Hermione sighed wistfully. "It would have been fascinating to learn about mundanes from the wizarding point of view though."

"Still, I don't think you'll be able to keep up our supplementary study group with such a heavy schedule, Hermione." Harry commented.

She faltered for a moment before regaining her confidence suddenly. "I'm sure I'll manage somehow."

The twins grinned and leaned towards her.

"Any plans to eat or sleep at all this year?"
"Or are you going to forego that in favor of studying?"

Hermione ignored them, turning her attention to her purse instead. "I still have some extra money from Mom and Dad. It's for me to get myself an early birthday present."

"How about a nice book?" Ron suggested innocently.

"She's got enough already, don't you think?" Harry interjected.

"You never know, Harry." George said seriously.
"Maybe she'll find an extremely interesting one."
"And realize that books are the only path for her."
"Books are serious business, don't you know?" They chorused.

Ron frowned. "That was just a joke."

"Aw, ickle Ronnikins, still haven't grown out of that poor sense of humor." One of the twins teased.

"Stop calling me that already." Ron snapped.

"I really want an owl, actually." Hermione interrupted before things got any further out of hand. "I mean, I can't always borrow Ilya from Harry-"

Especially since I've been writing to so many other people lately. Harry thought as he listened.

"-and you all have got one too," She continued, glancing around at the Weasleys.

"You mean our family owl, Errol?" Fred asked, "He's not doing too good, to be honest."

"Sometimes you'd think he actually died halfway through the flight, only to come back to life to deliver the letter." George added.

"Mom and Dad really should get a new owl." Ron agreed. "Speaking of which, I need to get Scabbers checked over." He pulled his pet rat out of his pocket. "I don't think Egypt agreed with him."

Careful, Harry. Archer warned. Don't give anything away.

Harry leaned closer to study the man hidden as a rat carefully. Indeed, it was looking somewhat ill, with a hint of ribs sticking out through its fur, and there was a dullness around its drooping whiskers. His attention was more on the front paw with the toe missing, but he didn't miss anything else.

Looks like stress to me. The spirit diagnosed.

I suppose it's worried about Black coming after it?

Archer nodded. That's possible.

"It does look kind of ill to me." Harry said out loud. "Maybe you better take it to the Magical Menagerie. They should know how to handle it. I think they sell owls too, so Hermione can get hers from there if she wants."

"We're thinking of heading over to Gambol and Japes ourselves, actually." Fred suddenly spoke up.

"So don't feel offended if we don't follow you three."

Ron snorted. "Hardly. Stay there all day if you want." The redhead made a shooing motion with his hand.

Harry went to pay for his room at the Leaky Cauldron first and leave his luggage there before joining the others at the entrance to Diagon Alley, which Hermione opened for them. The twins split off to get their pranking supplies, while the three third-years to be made their way to the Magical Menagerie.

Compared to the street outside, the shop wasn't as crowded, but it was no less cramped. Cages covered nearly every inch of the walls, and their occupants made the place very smelly and noisy.

This would give any animal rights activist a stroke if they saw this. Harry thought as they waited to speak to the witch behind the counter, who was busy with another customer, a wrinkly old wizard. I doubt I'll ever come in here a second time, as fascinating as it is.

There were unnaturally huge purple toads, jewel-shelled tortoises, poisonous-looking orange snails to Harry's left, while on his right had the more common animals, some with a magical twist. A fat white rabbit kept changing into a black top hat and back again, creating a popping sound each time it did so. Dozens of cats competed with a cage of ravens in making as much noise as they could, with underlying humming from head-sized balls of fur. Oddly, Harry noted, there wasn't a single dog to be seen.

Ron approached the counter once the wizard moved away. "It's my rat," He told the witch, "He's been a bit off-color ever since I brought him back from Egypt."

"Bang him on the counter." The witch replied, putting on a pair of heavy black spectacles.

Harry briefly imagined Ron literally doing so, slamming Scabbers onto the wooden surface hard enough to lay him out flat, and repressed a snigger.

There was a cage of sleek black rats next to where Ron was putting Scabbers, and they paused their game of skip rope, with their tails as the rope, to cluster near the edge for a better look at their fellow. Placed next to them, with their glossy coats, Scabbers looked even more awful.

The witch grunted and picked up Scabbers. "How old is this rat?"

Ron shrugged. "Dunno. Quite old. He used to belong to my brother."

"Any powers?"

Ron just went 'err-', and shook his head. The witch then explained about the short lifespan of common rats, three years on average, and tried to sell him on the rats in the cage, who promptly resumed their skipping to put on a show.

That's one suspicious factor, the lifespan. Given what I know, that rat has been around for more than five. Harry thought.

"-you can try this rat tonic." The witch reached under the counter and brought out a small red bottle.

"Okay, how much- WOAH!" Ron yelped as Harry suddenly grabbed the back of his shirt and yanked him back.

It narrowly saved him from a huge and orange blur dropping down from above, missing his head and landing on the floor. The large orange thing, now revealed to be a cat, looked around wildly before locking onto the counter above it, and jumped up to try and get at Scabbers, spitting and hissing.

"NO, CROOKSHANKS, NOOO!" The witch cried out, shoving the cat off the counter with her right hand.

Scabbers fled, running down between her and the counter. Ron staggered upright, and grabbed the cat around its front legs.

"Leave Scabbers alone!" He grunted, struggling to keep control of the large feline.

"It's okay, it's okay!" The witch ducked down behind the counter, and reappeared shortly after with Scabbers in her grip. "I've got your rat. Just don't let Crookshanks go."

"Maybe you better put my friend's rat in a cage?" Harry suggested, steadying Ron as the cat thrashed around, still trying to get at the rat in the witch's hand.

She nodded. "That sounds like a good idea to me."

The witch brought out a small cage and dropped Scabbers inside it, latching it firmly shut. "Sorry about Crookshanks. He's been here for ages, no one wanted him."

"Wonder why." Ron said sarcastically, then cursed as the cat wrestled free of his grip and landed on the floor. "NO!"

"I got him!" Hermione swept it up in her arms before it could pounce.

Everyone let out a sigh of relief, then stopped when they heard a loud purring. One that was coming from the cat in Hermione's arms.

"Aww, isn't he gorgeous?" Hermione gushed, her hold tightening slightly.

"I think... it's a matter of opinion." Harry glanced at Ron, who was glaring at the cat with dislike.

Indeed, even as he took a closer look at the feline, it had a grumpy, squashed-looking face, as though it had been hit with several times with a brick in the head, and it was clearly a little bowlegged.

"Anyway," The witch cleared her throat, "Tonic's a Sickle. I'll throw in the cage for free."

"I don't need a cage. Scabbers has been riding in my pocket all this while." Ron said automatically.

"You do now, by the looks of her." The witch countered, indicating Hermione with a jerk of her head.

The girl was cooing to the purring cat, who looked perfectly content in her arms.

"You sure you don't want an owl, Hermione?" Ron asked her, almost desperately.

She shook her head. "I think I'll take Crookshanks here. Don't you like that, Crookshanks?" She received another purr in reply.

"Thanks for the cage, it'll definitely be useful." Harry answered for Ron, deciding to grab the opportunity.

Grumbling quietly, Ron paid for the tonic, and left with Harry ahead of Hermione, who stayed back to purchase things to care for a cat. They reunited with the twins, who were coming out of the joke shop with their purchases, and waited for Hermione to catch up to the group before setting off towards the Leaky Cauldron. Through some unspoken agreement, Hermione stayed on one side of the group, and Ron on the other.

In the pub, they saw Mr Weasley sitting at the bar, reading the Daily Prophet. He looked up when his children called out to him.

"Harry!" The man greeted him, smiling. "How are you?"

"I'm alright, thank you." Harry replied politely, noticing the picture of Sirius Black on the front of the paper. "I was surprised to get an invitation to stay, actually."

The man suddenly looked awkward. "Well, the Ministry thought they'd do me a favor since we'd only just came back from Egypt. They provided a couple of cars to take us to King's Cross, but only if we spent the night here."

Harry and Archer both noticed the man's ears turn red, similar to Ron sometimes when he was placed under pressure. They both agreed without saying anything that the man was not a good liar.

"Wait, you mean it's not because Percy became Head Boy?" Fred gasped in mock surprise.

"I thought they'd all have little flags on the hoods, with HB on them-" George joined in.

"For Humongous Bighead!" They chorused together.

Everyone snorted at that, even Archer.

"Seriously though, Percy's been going on about it ever since he got the badge with his Hogwarts letter." Fred told Harry and Hermione.

"Wearing it nearly all the time, except when he takes it off to polish it." George added.

"Now, boys, you know your mother's proud of Percy for getting that badge. You shouldn't make fun of him." Mr Weasley admonished his sons, then looked up as the door to the back opened, "And there she is now."

Mrs Weasley led the way into the bar, followed by Percy and the Weasleys' youngest child and only girl, Ginny. She had always been taken with Harry, but ever since she had found out that Harry had had a hand in freeing her from her possession by a malicious spirit, which was the culprit behind the attacks during their previous year at Hogwarts, she seemed unsure of how to approach him. In the end, she just muttered "hello" without looking at him and ducked behind her mother.

After greetings were exchanged all around and Percy's new status was brought up a few times, they retired to their rooms to put away their shopping, before gathering again later for dinner. Tom the innkeeper put three tables together in the parlor for all of them, and served up a scrumptious five-course meal.

After dinner, they returned to their rooms to check their things for the next day, and Hermione came over to Harry's room for a show and tell of the things they had brought back from their respective vacations. From the envious look she was giving the scrolls, it was plain to Harry that she thought he had the better trip.

Just as she opened her mouth to speak, they heard angry noises through the wall, causing them to go see what was going on. They found Percy shouting at Ron, who was defending himself just as fiercely. After the pair of them calmed down enough to answer questions, it was revealed that both Percy's Head Boy badge and Scabbers's Rat Tonic was missing, and Percy wasn't going to let Ron go search for his item until his badge was found. Seeing both of their stubbornness, Harry and Hermione volunteered to help search downstairs for both items.

The passage to the bar was now very dark, so the two of them stuck close to each other. When they reached the door to the parlor, Hermione reached out for the handle, only for Harry to grab her hand. She opened her mouth to speak, then shut it when she heard the voices coming through the door. From the look on her face, she recognized them to be the elder Weasleys'. She frowned at Harry, and started to pull him back the way they came, but they both stopped when they heard the sound of Harry's name.

"...makes no sense not to tell him," Mr Weasley said hotly, "Harry's got a right to know. I've tried to tell Fudge, but he insists on treating Harry like a child. He's thirteen years old, but-"

"Arthur, the truth would terrify him!" Mrs Weasley shrilled. "Do you really want to send Harry back to school with that hanging over him? For heaven's sake, he's happy not knowing!"

Hermione looked at Harry, the darkness concealing most of their expressions. "Knowing what?" She mouthed.

"I don't want to make him miserable, I want to put him on his guard!" Mr Weasley retorted. "You remember what our sons said about the end of last year. He can take care of himself, but not if he doesn't know that he's in danger!"

"Surely they were exaggerating." The disbelief was evident in Mrs Weasley's voice. "A boy slaying a Basilisk and taking an eye? It's got to be a joke."

"Joke or not, Harry isn't your ordinary thirteen year old boy." Mr Weasley said firmly. "That's why I want him to at least know what he might face at Hogwarts this year."

"Harry will be perfectly safe at Hogwarts."

"We thought Azkaban was perfectly safe. If Black can break out of Azkaban, he can break into Hogwarts."

Hermione's eyes widened, and her grip on Harry's arm tightened. "Black?" She whispered to him. "As in Sirius Black?"

Harry nodded once, and gestured for her to keep listening.

There was a thud on wood, as though someone had slammed a fist on the table.

"Molly, I told you before. They didn't report it in the press because Fudge wanted it kept quiet, but Fudge went out to Azkaban the night Black escaped. The guards told Fudge that Black's been talking in his sleep for a while now. Always the same words: 'He's at Hogwarts... he's at Hogwarts'. Black is deranged, Molly, and he wants Harry dead."

Hermione gasped loudly at that, causing the adults on the other side of the door to start. Reacting quickly, Harry pulled her down the passage to the bar and out of sight. The parlor door opened, and he could hear Mr Weasley's breathing as he looked around.

"I thought I heard..." The man said to himself. A few seconds later, Harry heard him say, "It's late, Molly. We'd better go up..."

"Yo-you're right..."

There were sounds of chairs moving, followed by footsteps climbing the stairs. The moment they faded, Harry found himself being dragged by Hermione into the empty parlor, where the lights were still on. Once the door closed behind them, she turned around to face him with a deeply worried expression on her face.

"What was that all about Harry? Why would Sirius Black after you?" She asked, keeping her voice low.

Harry thought quickly. What do I say, Archer? I'm not sure I want to lie to her right now, but I don't want to say that Black is innocent right out because she'll be even more suspicious of how I know that.

That's just something you'll have to deal with on your own. Archer firmly rebuffed his request for help.

Fortunately for him, Hermione took the lost look on his face to mean that he had no idea either, and immediately started throwing out random ideas. "What do we do? We're just starting our third-year, there's not many spells we know to defend ourselves with... maybe we should ask a teacher for help... get someone to stay with you, since Hogwarts isn't safe..."

Harry couldn't help but smile on seeing the concern she was showing. "Hermione."

"...a protective amulet, perhaps, or... what?" She looked up at him, just in time to receive a poke to the forehead. "Ow! What was that for?" Hermione demanded, rubbing the sore spot.

"I'm not going to be murdered or anything." He reassured her.

Harry expected her to continue protesting, but to his own surprise, she simply blushed and nodded. After several seconds passed with them looking at each other, Harry noticed a small red bottle under the table they had been sitting at earlier, and went to grab it. With the rat tonic found, the pair headed back upstairs, where they found the twins crouching in the shadows on the landing, holding back laughter as they listened to Percy dismantling the room in search of his badge.

"We've been improving it." George held it up for them to see, the words Bighead Boy on its front.

Harry smirked slightly, but Hermione didn't laugh, possibly still thinking about the threat Harry faced. He went to pass Ron the rat tonic, and headed back to his room while Hermione went back to hers.

Flopping down onto his bed, Harry stared up at the ceiling. ...I hope this year will be a peaceful one.


Well, I finally updated again! It was a tough time since my last one, mainly because of the tougher workload at my new training post. Then followed by an intense studying period where I had to cover several different topics for the license exam. But I finally managed to get through it, and finally earn my license! Go me!

That said, it wasn't easy writing this too, especially with my muse withering from the lack of writing. It wasn't a complete lack, though. I've been reading fanfiction of Wildbow's web novel Worm on Spacebattles, and sometimes wrote a few things myself. But it wasn't enough to let me get straight back into writing for this when I wanted to, so things took a while.

Some of you may have noticed that the latter part of this chapter borrowed quite a bit from canon. It was demanded by my muse, based on my conclusion of how else the Ministry might react to Black being on the loose and after Harry. And with that, things are quite similar, although with a few differences.

And so, the next chapter: Harry goes back to Hogwarts for his third year!

Read and review, guys. Wrathkal out!

EDIT: Thanks to LightMage122, who spotted that I, in my following of canon, forgot that I wrote Hermione to decide NOT take Muggle Studies in her second year. The scene has been updated to reflect that.