Author's note. I'm back with a new chapter, I'm sorry for the wait, a lot of things have been happening lately.
Enjoy and please review.
"You guys go ahead," Harry said, watching the figure stumble with his heavy books. "I'll catch you up later."
His friends glanced in the direction Harry was looking and nodded before carrying on. Harry started striding towards his target.
The plump, round faced boy turned and smiled slightly when he saw it was Harry hailing him. He stood half hunched over as Harry ran over to him, bringing out his wand.
"Need a hand?" he asked, casting a spell to make the books lighter.
"Oh wow," Neville said in awe. "I wish I could do that."
"I'll teach you if you like," Harry offered. "It's not that hard."
"Everything is hard for me," Neville said wistfully as they both sat down on a handy stone slab bench. "I don't think I've mastered any spell."
"You'll get it, don't worry," Harry said reassuringly. "But hey, want to me to show you the spell?"
"Please?" Neville asked and Harry spent the next few minutes showing him the spell.
Neville did managed to made a stone a tiny bit lighter eventually and his face beamed with pride. Taking a break, they simply sat there for a few minutes in silence, watching a few students come and go.
"I love it here," Neville eventually stated. "It's the best."
"I know," Harry said seriously. "So much has happened but it's all been great."
The plump boy nodded with a smile as Harry decided to broach the subject he'd been wanting to talk to Neville about for a while.
"Well," Harry began. "I've just been thinking...you remember the feast...the Sorting one."
"Oh yeah," Neville said brightly. "That was brilliant; I couldn't believe I got put in Gryffindor."
He smiled sheepishly before saying.
"I thought I was going to go into Hufflepuff, imagine."
"Imagine," Harry agreed. "It's great you're in Gryffindor, Neville."
"Yeah, even though I'm not very brave or bold," Neville said wistfully.
This made Harry laughed and as the plump boy looked at him, said.
"You know what I was thinking when we were waiting for our Sorting? That the perfect House for me would be the one for the queasy, not clever, cunning or anything like that, I didn't think I fit anywhere."
"You didn't?" Neville exclaimed, he'd laughed when Harry mentioned the House for the queasy. "But you're Harry Potter!"
Harry smiled wryly and said.
"The thing about that Neville, I only found out I was 'Harry Potter' on my eleventh birthday."
Of course, his year mate looked instantly confused and opened his mouth to ask the obvious question.
"I knew that was my name," Harry said quickly. "I knew I wasn't Harry Dursley, that's my aunt and uncle's family name. But growing up, I was just Harry, a pretty ordinary boy whose parents had died in a car crash and I was left with my relatives."
"A car crash?" Neville repeated dumbly, not understanding at all.
"That's what I was told growing up," was Harry's explanation. "And that's pretty much all I knew about them, that they'd died and left others to bring me up. I knew absolutely nothing about magic and I definitely didn't know anything about Voldemort."
Neville squeaked with fear, flinching away and promptly falling backwards, successfully landing squarely on his back. Harry jumped up to help the other boy back to his feet as Neville gaped at him.
"Neville, you alright?"
"You said the n-name?" Neville stammered eyes almost comically wide.
"Yeah," Harry said softly. "I know most people don't like it but I'm not going to call the man who killed my parents by anything else."
The other boy just swallowed heavily, unable to say anything to this.
"I'll try not to use the name too much if it bothers you," Harry told him reassuringly.
"Thanks," Neville said in a very small voice, fidgeting nervously. "Did you really not know you were famous?"
"Nope," Harry stated firmly, grinning. "Weird isn't it? You probably heard about me growing up but I hadn't heard about me until a few months ago."
"Yeah," Neville agreed earnestly. "I can't believe you didn't know any of that."
"And I didn't believe it at first," Harry agreed. "I thought, this can't be true, I'm just Harry. It took a bit of convincing from Hagrid before I would believe it."
"My aunt and uncle wouldn't let me read the Hogwart letter," Harry explained, smiling wryly at the attempts by the letters to get to him while his aunt and uncle started going to desperate means to stop them. "So in the end, Hagrid showed up to give it to me in person, there was no way they could stop him."
"I don't think anyone could stop him," Neville stated seriously. Harry grinned, that was true.
"My aunt and uncle definitely couldn't," Harry said as some chattering Ravenclaws passed them, clutching books to their chests. Neville seemed to shrink back just a tiny bit as though he was automatically trying to make himself smaller so as not to attract attention.
Harry remembered that the older years usually ignored the First years, only paying attention if something had happened or if a First year happened to be him. He still remembered the reaction of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff when he, Hermione and Neville lost all those points; he never wanted to repeat that.
"And they couldn't stop me going to Hogwarts either," Harry now added. "I'm a wizard and nothing they did could ever stop that."
As Neville nodded, Harry knew the time had come to broach the subject.
"Of course," he said, keeping his voice level and calm. "If I had been a Squib, then nothing in the world could have produced any magic in me. My aunt and uncle thought they could squash the magic out of me but they were fighting a losing battle from the start."
Neville blinked, his face going red before looking away.
"Hermione was right," Harry said softly. "If you had magic, you were always going to go to Hogwarts; you were always going to get that letter. Trying to force it out of you did nothing but put your life at risk."
"They just wanted to know," Neville mumbled, his face turning even redder.
"That wasn't the way to find out," Harry stated. "You said you almost drowned."
Neville squirmed for a moment before suddenly jumping to his feet, mumbling.
"I gotta go...library...see you..."
And he took off as fast as his little legs could take him as Harry watched him go. He didn't want to ram it down Neville's throat, he just hoped what he'd said made sense to the young boy.
"Sirius, how would you like your eggs?" Molly called up as he stood over the bathroom sink carefully dragging a razor over one stubbly cheek.
"Runny yolks," Sirius replied, not taking his eyes off his reflection.
Ever since he'd regained his strength, he'd been taking as many showers and baths as possible as well as shaving regularly. Just been able to feel smooth, clean skin beneath his fingers was a luxury he never thought he'd experience again. Although he couldn't help but wonder what a neat beard would look like on him. Make him look more distinguished? Less like a former convict?
He suddenly scoffed to himself, it wouldn't matter how he looked to the guest coming by the Burrow after breakfast. Dumbledore had sent a letter a couple of days ago, suggesting that Sirius meet bloody Snape so they could resolve their past differences. And so that Snape would not made a big deal about the willow incident.
He really didn't relish this at all but the last thing he wanted was to be dragged back to the Ministry so they could start debating over his actions. He already knew what he'd done was stupid; he did not need it shoved down his throat repeatedly. Growling, he stuck the razor into the water and harshly shook it.
Once breakfast was finished, he found himself leaning against a tree waiting for Snape to show up. Even though the water was getting colder, it was a decent enough day that he could be outside. Molly had suggested the sitting room but he'd assured her that they'd be alright outside. She'd agreed but probably because he needed to be outside as much as possible. He'd already spent far too long inside.
"Of course he's early," Sirius muttered very quietly to himself, turning his head to behold a figure in black coming over.
"Snape," Sirius said shortly as the figure stopped just a short distance away from him.
"Black," came the surprisingly smooth response from his hated schoolfellow.
Sirius squinted at him, Snape actually seemed taller than the last time they'd seen each other although he was still very thin but had still filled out in the way adults did. His black hair looked just as greasy as he remembered but untangled. His entire outfit was black and Sirius wondered how many kids were scared of their ominous professor swooping about.
One thing he could definitely tell was different about the former Slytherin was the aura of confidence and self assurance practically oozing from him. That had not existed in their school days, Sirius supposed that it came with being free while your enemies were killed or locked up.
"You're looking well," Sirius said, not able to inject much enthusiasm into his tone.
"And you look...," Snape drawled, looking him up and down with a sneer. "Well fed."
Sirius still felt like a living skeleton despite Molly's determined efforts to stuff him like a Christmas goose. He ignored the jab, he didn't care what Snape thought about his appearance.
"Thanks," he said sarcastically. "I can't tell you how good it is to see one of my old friends."
" Indeed but...I'm surprised the wolf hasn't come running to your heels yet," Snape said in a mocking tone of surprise.
"I'm sure you know perfectly well that Remus is out of the country," Sirius said through gritted teeth, his ire suddenly rising.
"Is that so?" Snape said smoothly. "Well, it is awful hard being a werewolf isn't it? I can't imagine what it's been like, losing his best friend to the Dark lord...and then believing for twelve long years that said friend killed his other two friends."
Sirius's fists clenched, the lack of a wand keenly felt as he openly glared at the sneering Slytherin bastard.
"The truth is out now," Sirius retorted. "He'll know what really happened."
"Of course he will," Snape sneered again. "But as fascinating as talking about the wolf is, I believe I am here for a different reason."
Grimacing, Sirius nodded.
"Look," he said gruffly. "I know you probably won't believe a word I say..."
"Whatever gave you that impression," Snape said, raising his eyebrows.
"...but," Sirius said doggedly. "We're both adults now; we know the world isn't as...black and white as it appeared in school."
An extremely contemptuous look appeared on Snape's face.
"So I think," Sirius said, taking a deep breath. "That as adults, we should try to reach some sort of accord. Dumbledore's told me you get on with Harry so...that's something we've got in common, we both want what's best for him."
"Do we?" Snape said idly.
Sirius glared at him.
"Don't worry, I have no idea what he sees in you," he snapped. "I guess he inherited Lily's tolerance."
Snape's expression abruptly darkened and he hissed. "What do you know about it Black? You and Potter did all you could to force it out of her until she conformed to your world view."
"We're not the ones who drove her away," Sirius snarled as Snape retorted.
"No, you're the ones who drove her into the Dark Lord's sight."
Sirius stared at him; face white as the old fear riddled guilt gripped him. His actions had sent Lily and James to their deaths, his actions had orphaned Harry, his actions had led to the Weasleys sheltering a murderer, his actions..."
"Well?" Snape snapped. "No witty retort Black?"
Sirius blinked before turning away.
"No," he said darkly. "I got nothing."
"Pathetic," Snape scoffed but Sirius didn't reply.
There was a long pause, broken only by Snape.
"I have no interest in the Daily Prophet nosing into my affairs. You might consider what happened a joke but you owe me Black. And I never forget."
"I know," Sirius said dully. "So...you're dropping the case?"
"I am," Snape stated. "As you said, Potter appears to...like me and I would hate to disappoint him. And on his behalf, if you screw up again Black..."
He didn't finish the threat, he just let the words hang in the air before turning with a sweep of his robes and striding away. A few moments later, there was a crack and he was gone leaving Sirius to ponder the words and their meaning.
Three days later
"Just like Second year isn't it?" Ron mused, leaning against a sink as he watched Hermione carefully dropped some lacewing flies into the bubbling cauldron. "We've even timed it so it'll be practically Christmas when it's finished."
"And we've still got to get some ingredients," Harry added. "Except without stealing them from Snape."
"Thank bloody goodness," Ron muttered, head snapping around as the sound of water splashing was heard.
The three of them stilled, they'd already checked to make sure no one was using the toilet so the sound of water was likely to be caused by a certain being. However, except for a faint gurgling sound coming from the walls, there was no other sound. Weak sunlight shone through the window, causing the droplets from the morning's rain to glitter.
"Hermione, what's the best way to order?" Harry asked his friend who was carefully examining some notes.
"Hmm, I'm not sure if ordering directly to the castle is a good idea," she said absentmindedly, tongue sticking out while she stirred. "I believe the apothecaries take note of who their sending ingredients to when sending it here. Or at least, ever since Professor Snape started working here."
"Why?" Ron exclaimed.
"So it's much harder for students to brew illicit potions," Hermione replied smartly. "I once heard some Ravenclaws complaining about it."
"Why don't they just get the ingredients during the summer break...or the Christmas one?" Ron asked, bemused.
"Do you ever think beyond getting what you've got to during summer for school?" Hermione asked with a small smile.
He considered it before shaking his head.
"Most students think of making these potions during school term when they've read certain potion texts or heard about cool potions," Hermione couldn't help but explain, putting a wry emphasis on cool. "And either get distracted by other things or can't be bothered to wait until Christmas or the summer holidays to get them."
"And no one would dare to rob from Snape," Harry finished with a smirk.
"What are you talking about?" an annoyed, petulant voice demanded right in his ear, making Harry jump and yelp slightly.
Heart pounding, he exclaimed. "Myrtle."
The ghost of the long dead girl hovered over him with a scowl.
"People don't come in here," she told him, her lips set in an angry way. "Go away."
"You don't want us here?" Harry asked.
"No I don't," she declared, looming over Harry. "People only come in here to tease me and I don't like it."
"Hey, can I ask you something?" Ron interrupted abruptly.
"What?" Myrtle snapped suspiciously.
"How'd you die?" Ron asked without further ado.
Myrtle stared at him before a moment before shrieking. But unlike her usual wails of woe, this was a cry of pure delight as she clasped her hands together resembling rapture.
"Oh it was so dreadful," she proclaimed proudly. "One moment I was alive and the next...I was DEAD!"
"Uh, just like that?" Ron asked, ghosts were always so morbidly pleased to get asked that.
"Oh no," she said earnestly. "I didn't just drop dead, something killed me."
Floating closer to her audience, she said in a stage whisper.
"All I remember is an enormous pair of yellow eyes and the next moment, I was floating out of my body and up."
"So some sort of creature killed you?" Hermione questioned.
"Must be," Myrtle said with a shrug. "They were bigger than human eyes...although..."
"Although what?" Harry asked, not a hundred percent sure what she was going to say next.
"Well before I died, I was sure I heard a boy's voice speaking in a weird language," Myrtle explained patiently. "That's why I came out of the toilet, to tell him to go away...then I died."
"So wait a minute," Ron exclaimed. "Do you know who that guy was?"
"No," she said in a ridiculously calm tone considering what they were talking about.
"Myrtle, this guy probably bloody killed you," Ron said, realising for the first time that Myrtle had never seemed terribly bothered by this fact. "Didn't he ever get caught?"
"I heard a boy called Rubeus Hagrid got expelled for it," she said, her see through shoulders shrugging. "Because he was caught with some kind of monster but honestly, I don't think it really was him. He still lives at Hogwarts and I remember him having a really deep voice at school, everyone knew Hagrid, he was bigger than everyone."
"And this bloke didn't have a deep voice?"
"Oh no, this boy's voice was rather high," she stated thoughtfully, floating backwards so that now she was staring at the ceiling. "It definitely wasn't that Hagrid boy."
"But if Hagrid didn't do it, why didn't you say?" Harry asked.
"I wasn't asked," she said with a shrug.
Harry grimaced; it seemed incredible that no one had thought to ask Myrtle over what had happened. With the information she'd provided, the school could have worked out what the monster was simply by looking up which creatures killed with massive yellow eyes.
"You should have been asked," he said fervently causing her to beam at him.
"I know," she sighed dramatically. "And my death is so interesting to. You know that thing was attacking students the whole year I was at Hogwarts? But I was the only one to die!"
"That's...very impressive," Hermione said weakly grimacing. Harry wondered if she was thinking of when she was attacked.
"It is," Murtle agreed seriously. "I mean, anyone can get executed or stabbed or poisoned or..."
Ron caught Harry's eye and winked.
"...or drowned but I got killed by the creature that almost shut down Hogwarts," Myrtle finished proudly. "My death has never been solved."
"Would it bother you if it was?" Hermione asked the young ghost.
Myrtle considered it, idly playing with her robe front.
"I don't know," she finally said. "But who's going to solve that, you three?"
"You never know," Ron stated reasonably.
She shrieked with laughter, the sound echoing rather horribly in the bathroom. The three First years winced and Hermione checked her potion as though the sound might ruin it. Myrtle laughed so hard that she floated upside down, clutching her sides as her mirth continued.
"That's the funniest thing I've ever heard," she practically cried. "You're just First years, what on earth can you do?"
With one last shriek of laughter, she flipped herself upright and promptly dived headfirst into the nearest toilet causing water to slosh violently about before settling. The trio stared at the open stall before Ron snorted.
"Always nice to get the vote of confidence."
As Hermione chuckled, Harry glanced towards the place where he knew the Chamber was located. He knew what was down there, a slimy tunnel which was only one out of dozens, perhaps hundreds of pipes. And at the very end of the main tunnel, lay a slumbering Basilisk which could easily be the biggest in the world.
Right now, Tom Riddle was safely imprisoned within his diary hid who knows where and unless Voldemort managed to sneak back into the school, it was highly unlikely that the Basilisk would be woken up. Unless another Parseltongue happened to speak to it first.
Author's note. Don't worry, Harry will be meeting Sirius in the next chapter, I know everyone's been looking forward to that. I don't know when I'll update next, working a lot more now that it's tourist season but I will do my best to get it up in good time. Until then.