A.N.: Hello, and welcome to the first installment of Hadrian Potter: Darkness Returns! As requested by a couple of reviews and, PMs, I've left a little note in the previous story telling of the new book. I've been a bit busy between regular school stuff, college prep, and real life, but here's the new story! While the first book was establishing Harry as a person separate from canon Harry, I've been working on the long term plot for a the last few weeks, and I'm starting to integrate it. As before, I still don't own the Harry Potter universe...or the Star Wars universe...or D&D, for that matter, although I suppose I do technically own Sable, despite not making any money off of her. I did make a few suggestions, but she wasn't willing to...anyway, there's other stuff I need to talk about.
First, this chapter contains a reference to Princess of the Blacks, a fem!Harry story by Silently Watches that I stumbled upon recently. It's looking to be a very good political intrigue story so far, and I recommend it to those who like that sort of thing. It starts out kind of dark, but the bad part is only referenced, even inside the story (and is never really described in detail) so it should be fine. The author gives warnings about the content, so if you find you can't handle it, it'll be your own fault for looking, since you were warned. This is one of the first references to another story I've had in my fics where I know where it came from. Yeah, yeah, hooray for me.
The second thing is that I'd like to give notice to one of my reviewers in the previous story: alix33. This woman (or so I've been told) took the time to find several of the small mistakes in my story. The most common mistake is something I've had trouble understanding previously; I went to look up the grammar rules, and believe I've implemented them correctly in regards to apostrophes.
Without further ado, on with the story!
Chapter One: Visions
—July 1, 1992—
A dark room—living room, possibly? A dark room, but the darkness didn't matter: he could see just fine. Bookshelves lined the wall, standing opposite what may have been a picture window beneath the mass of wooden planks nailed in place. A glance around the room showed it to be in a state of great disrepair: the wooden walls were warped far out of place; the paint was peeling and looked to have faded long ago. The floor and bookshelves were covered in a thick layer of dust, just another sign that this structure had long since been abandoned by the living. Candles, the only sign that the place had ever been illuminated, or indeed, occupied, had long since gone out, the wick burned down, leaving a small puddle of long-since-hardened wax as cold as the grave. But the feeling didn't reach him, the cold that permeated the structure as a whole: he could sense it, but it wasn't as bothersome as he usually found it.
He seemed to float through the building, which took on a much more sinister feel when he noticed the state of the furniture: while they, like everything else in this place, had a healthy dose of dust, they were also adorned with long, gouging marks, like that of a great beast. Involuntarily, he shivered in a way that had nothing to do with the freezing temperature. Suddenly, a noise pierced the silence, and it seemed to break a spell: he turned his attention to the noise. It wasn't a scream, or a whimper, or some other noise of suffering: it sounded like conversation. Although quite quiet, it was as clear as day in the unnatural silence that seemed to filled this place.
"Alright, let's converse: who are you, where am I, and why did you bring me here?" The first voice was barely a whisper; it sounded hoarse, as if from disuse. Obvious, however, was the caution in their voice, as if they didn't trust the other; were they paranoid, or were they rightfully cautious of the other person?
"You aren't exactly in a position to demand information..." The second voice was softer, and seemed silky smooth. It was inviting, but there was a hint of danger hidden beneath the surface, giving some credence to the first voice's reservations. "...but I will indulge you nonetheless. Who I am is of little consequence: I am a servant of my master, and that is all that matters at the moment. I'm sure you recognize this place: from my understanding you spent a great deal of time here in your youth."
He had found where the voices were coming from: he had passed through the walls, past a pair of sentries that looked to him like ghostly skeletons; they paid him no attention. He floated over to the door the voices seemed to be emanating from.
"As for why you're here, you are to be...questioned. Interrogated, really. What happens after that is dependent on your answers...as well as my master's wishes."
"Why would what I have to say matter?" the first voice said. He found he could not pass the door, although there was no apparent reason why he couldn't. Frustrated, and without any other recourse, he continued eavesdropping.
"You may or may not have committed crimes against my master; that is what we are here to determine. He will be here shortly...and your fate will be decided, for good or ill."
Hadrian started forward with a soft cry, nearly toppling out of his bed. Taking a few seconds to fruitlessly check his Occlumency barriers, he still found no breaches, the same as the last two times. He shakily got up and made his way over to the small mirror hanging on the wall, looking for physical signs of Dark Arts abuse; any sign that his experiments were beginning to be too much for him. Finding none, and with no mental sign of problems, he let out a frustrated sigh; these visions were getting out of hand, and he had no idea what was causing them. The first vision early on in the summer had been just a tombstone: not his own, thankfully; that would be surreal. Actually, it seemed to be the tombstone of one Tom Riddle, although something made him doubt that it was Voldemort's grave. Sure enough, his research the next day into the Riddle family had found the grave of Tom Riddle Sr., the son of a minor noble in a place called Little Hangleton. The grave was on the Riddle property, right next to his parents. Their deaths were a local legend: all three had been found in their house, sitting at their table, wearing the dinner clothes. There had not been a single mark on any of their bodies, and yet they were unmistakably dead, leaving authorities and physicians alike had been baffled. Harry suspected the Killing Curse had been involved, and he was fairly sure as to who was to blame for their deaths.
In his second vision, he had watched himself racing through some sort of cavern: it looked similar to some of the dungeons in Hogwarts, but they looked to be less traveled, if the mold seeping down the walls were anything to judge by. He had no idea what was going on there at all; he just kept turning down corner after corner, glancing back behind him on occasion, and pausing to listen before moving on. The vision had ended when, turning once more, he had come to a dead end. And now, a pair of figures having a conversation in a building that looked like it hadn't seen life in at least a decade. This had been the first very detailed vision: for starters, there were people besides himself involved...conversation even. But unfortunately, without context, the vision was of no use to him whatsoever. He had no idea what was going on in that scene, nor why it was relevant to him. Without such information, he had no ground to stand on. Had it just been a clairvoyant vision, allowing him to see what was happening elsewhere, or was it also a glimpse into the future? Was it possibly postcognitive in nature instead, allowing him to view past events? The possibilities were too numerous: he was clueless as to how to proceed.
To be perfectly frank, he was deeply annoyed: nine months away from his aunt and uncle hadn't been enough. If Potter Manor was in good repair...but no, it was better to stay here, since Dumbledore was probably monitoring the house and him, he'd have to stay. He'd figured out who the snitch was, though: it was Mrs. Figg, a widow woman that lived down the block. Harry had been forced to stay with her several times in the past when the Dursleys went on vacation without him. She had always treated him fairly, though, so she didn't join the list of enemies...especially since, if she ever mentioned any signs of abuse, it would have been to Dumbledore, who wouldn't have done anything about it at the time. Things hadn't gone so well when Harry came home for the summer; it appeared that, in his absence, Vernon's confidence in his own abilities had soared. He had attempted to confront Harry about who was in charge around the house, but Hadrian had dealt with that quickly enough.
"Uncle, before you do something stupid, I have several facts that are relevant to this situation that are particularly important for you." Seeing his uncle pause, however slightly, in his tirade, he continued. "I was not expecting to return here this summer, but it is an unfortunate necessity. Had I any choice in the matter I would be spending the summer in more accommodating surroundings. This may happen again next summer, but definitely not the summer after that."
Aunt Petunia piped up "I know you're not allowed to use...that stuff over the holidays: it's against the law. You have no power over us."
Harry shook his head sadly, clicking his tongue as if he was reprimanding a small child. "Aunt Petunia, the thing about the law is that it only matters if someone knows the law is being broken, and for whoever knows to care enough to call you on it. Neither situation applies here, for reasons I'll explain. My own experiments over the past hour or so indicate that the Ministry cannot detect magic that isn't used with a wand, so anything I do without one is off the grid. As you no doubt remember, I never needed such a thing to keep you two in line. The second half, however, is far more interesting: were anybody to find out, it is more likely that you would be punished for driving me to it than I would be for using magic against you. You see, the magical world, politically, is run by powerful, rich Lords. The are from old families, families that have, over time accumulated a great deal of power. The political system in place is similar to England's prior to the Magna Carta, where a person's titles were all that mattered; where the rich families ruled over the masses with an iron fist."
"And just why is this relevant?" his uncle asked in a restrained voice.
"Because in magical society, the Potters are one such family. The Potter family established itself in England at the same time the Romans did. They built up a fortune, gained some titles, and today are one of the most powerful families in the country. Then we have you: whereas the old money families the equivalent of medieval lords—"
"Let me guess: I'm some peasant," Uncle Vernon sneered. "They think they're better than me."
"From their point of view, they are, and there's not a lot proving them wrong. You are also incorrect on your first point. You are not a peasant: in this comparison, you would be black." The shock on his uncle's face was nearly priceless, but he continued: "This means that, even on the off chance that I'm discovered using magic against you two, the case would get thrown out of court and, after I'd had my say, you would most definitely be punished for how you treated me when I was younger—"
"We treated you the way you deserved to be treated!" his uncle interrupted irritably.
"We can argue that all day, but the courts won't see it like that," Harry replied smoothly. "You, having no blood relation to any member of a magical house, would be punished the most: prison, for abusing a magical child—the heir to a Most Ancient and Noble House, at that—possible even a death sentence. Whether you'd be thrown through the Veil of Death or just cursed is anyone's guess. It's even possible you'll be given the Dementor's Kiss." Seeing the confusion on their faces, he sighed and said "They'll force a shadow demon to eat your soul." That got the horrified reaction he'd been expecting. "Aunt Petunia would get off a bit easier, but not much. She'd probably be ruined financially and left to live on the streets; this would only happen because her sister married into the House of Potter. Dudley would probably become a ward of House Potter, but only because he's been nice to me when he wasn't acting the part."
"I think you'll agree, then, that it's best if the magical government doesn't get involved. Our agreement still stands: I stay out of your way for the most part, and vice versa. We interact only when necessary to give off an image of...familial solidarity. I'll be going to my room now. Good day," he said as he gestured towards his trunk, charming it to follow him (a slightly more difficult levitation charm, especially since he did it wandless). He walked upstairs, his trunk behind him as his relatives looked on in horror.
His uncle, having gotten the point, avoided Harry from then on to avoid unnecessary incidents. He and Dudley had gotten along as usual, although because of how often Harry was holed up in his room, they didn't just play games very often—it was usually discussing school stuff. Harry would tell Dudley of some adventure or other that had happened at Hogwarts, while Dudley would talk about how great he was doing on the wrestling team at Smeltings. His academic accomplishments were few and far between, but he had been getting tutoring and was already doing much better.
But back to his "family": despite the interesting conversation with his cousin, Harry found himself craving human contact much more than he ever had before: it seemed that spending a year around people that weren't half-bad had forced him to open up quite a bit from the paranoid, closed-off persona he'd adopted over the years. This was only a problem because the only person he was in constant contact with was Draco: there was never a reply to any of the letters he sent out to anyone else—actually, he hadn't received letters from anyone else, period. He'd been expecting to be in contact with several of his friends, including Hermione, but for whatever reason, they wasn't responding. He'd been especially stubborn in trying to communicate with Hermione, and had even tried sending letters through the muggle post: he'd been trying to determine whether a certain powerful wizard was blocking his mail, but didn't think the man would think of muggle post. This dead end had frustrated him severely, particularly since Hedwig wasn't very happy with him giving someone else his letters.
His conversations with Draco had resulted in a visit to Malfoy Manor on June 21, the summer solstice. The Malfoys, as always, would be throwing an extravagant dinner party for the higher level members of wizarding society: for years, ever since the fall of Voldemort, the Malfoy's solstice celebration, whether summer or winter, had been something to see. Of course, as he was taking a more active role in the management of The most Ancient and Noble House of Potter, he had received an invitation.
It had gone alright for the most part: he'd gotten to talk to Draco quite a bit, as well as several of the other Slytherin students: Theo, Pansy, Daphne (and her little sister Astoria), Millicent, and several upper year Slytherins who, for the most part, ignored the younger students in favor of socializing with their friends or, more likely, the adults. Terrence was virtually the only student not in his year that Hadrian conversed with, and the reason for that was obvious. Harry spent most of the night holding a conversation with Draco while observing the behavior of the attendees. Much as Draco had described the winter solstice party, the adults were getting drunk while talking politics—not a good combination. What he noticed was that, although he often asked an elf for a refill, Lord Malfoy never actually took a sip of his wine. Harry doubted anyone else had noticed, but he did; even better, he understood the point of it: people were more malleable after a few drinks: he was softening them up, getting them drunk, and then would pull them aside to sign a contract.
Harry doubted any such contract would be beneficial in the slightest to the signers, but decided to leave the situation be for now; it would be useful information later. Lord Malfoy had eventually approached him and asked what he thought of the party. The conversation that followed was spent subtly maneuvering around damning statements, all while trying to give the impression that Harry trusted Lord Malfoy and believed in the pureblood cause. His performance was quite convincing...or Lord Malfoy was only pretending to believe it. Either way, he didn't need to worry about the well-versed politician blocking him at every turn.
Overall, the night had turned to his advantage: while he had not made any bogus contracts for drunk attendees to sign, he had gained valuable blackmail on over a dozen Heads of House, whether from their drunken boasts, or their gossipy kids. Apparently, Lady Nott was having an affair with Lord Flint, because her own husband had taken a mistress and hadn't been with her for a while. Both Lady Malfoy and Lord Parkinson frequented a muggle club/brothel in downtown London only referenced as 'Candyland'...Harry wasn't sure why that was discussed in such hushed voices as if it were scandalous, so he just filed the information away to investigate later. Finally, several of the Lords and Ladies present were worried: apparently, the Ministry, acting on anonymous tips, had been investigating rumors of Dark artifacts and objects in the possession of several prominent "fine upstanding purebloods" by doing raids of various households and family manors. Lord Malfoy didn't appear worried, but Harry could tell that was just because he was very good at hiding it. He had declined Draco's offer to spend the rest of the summer there: he knew that Lord Malfoy would try and pull something at some point if he stayed, so he bid his friend farewell for the summer, traveling home in the same manner he'd arrived.
Putting aside his thoughts, he glanced at his watch, only to groan as he noticed that it was nearly four in the morning. Turning off the lights, he rolled over in an attempt to get some sleep. Several hours later, Harry awoke. Stretching, he got out of bed and continued working on his latest interest: deciphering journals. You see, Nickolas had visited earlier in the summer, but he'd been discreet about it: the Dursleys hadn't suspected that he was a wizard up until he was already inside the house, when he asked to speak to Harry. His conversation with the ancient alchemist had an interesting conclusion: Harry could keep the Stone. According to Nickolas, he and Perenelle had grown tired of living and were ready for their next adventure—it was the betrayal by Albus that had pushed their plans forward. He told Harry that both he and his wife had a small store of the Stone's life-giving substance, enough to give them a few years, which they planned to spend away from the Wizarding world. They would die a peaceful death, but the problem was that, of their many descendants, none were worthy of the Stone: they were all greedy, and Nickolas had lost any faith that they would use the Stone for the Greater Good of the Wizarding world. Nickolas had come by to drop off a notebook containing his notes on the Stone, to prevent anyone else from making one they shouldn't. Bidding Harry goodbye, he Apparated out, leaving a shocked Slytherin in his wake.
Harry came out of his stupor after several minutes and immediately began going through the journals. What he found was disheartening: the journals appeared to be written in some kind of short hand; what's more, many had incomplete sections, as if they'd been started but never finished, and what little he could understand discussed theory far above where he currently was. This was, perhaps, because the notes weren't meant to be read or deciphered by anyone but the Flamels; Nickolas had said that he was giving them to Harry to keep them out of the wrong hands, after all; perhaps the intention was for no one to create another Stone. Besides, Harry thought, it wasn't as if he understood it anyway: it could take years to figure out the code, and longer still to master potions and alchemy theory...but then, with one working Stone, he wasn't exactly pressed for time. So he'd split his time between creating minor alchemical items and attempting to decipher the higher-level notes, despite the difficulty they were giving him.
So far this summer, the thing taking up most of his time was discovering what caused electronics to malfunction around magic. He'd started out just casting low-power spells and observing them in mid-flight. After a great deal of experimentation, he had figured out that most every combat spell took the magical energy put into it and made it into a drop of plasma loaded with latent power that would be released upon impact. It had to be a significant impact, such as with a physical object; this kept the drop from detonating prematurely by hitting air molecules, or precipitation (with the obvious exception of hail). Upon impact, the drop would release its energy, affecting the target in some way. Alternatively, the caster could 'tell' the spell to detonate before significant impact, if so wished before casting; this allowed for spells to affect air, water, or other substances not very solid.
While interesting, this was not helpful to his original query, so he returned to thinking. After a while, he figured out what he'd done wrong: spells were a physical manifestation of magic, not pure magic, and pure magical energy was what caused the problem. Remembering a technique from before he'd joined the Wizarding world, he concentrated, quickly slipping into the old feeling, pushing the magic into his eyes, he lifted his arm into view, to watch it glow with magic. It was brighter than it had been the last time he'd done this...but then, that had been over a year ago. He had obviously become more powerful since then, and this was proof. The light was a mix of blacks, grays, greens, and reds, with a hint of gold, just like always. It still told him nothing. frustrated, he sat down, pondering what to do next. Perhaps if he observed other magical beings, he could get a comparison, but where would—
Suddenly, there was a knock at his door. Harry frowned, wondering who it could be. He went over and opened the door, only to find his uncle on the other side, looking a bit flustered. "Boy," he began in a slightly belligerent tone, revealing his distracted state, "A pair of Grunnings' top clients will be over tonight for dinner. They don't know about you, but if you wished, you could...join us for dinner." The man seemed to cringe while saying it.
Harry stared at his uncle, surprised by what he was seeing. Pulling himself out of his stupor, he replied "No thank you; I have a great deal of work that needs attending. Besides, it would probably be for the best that I wasn't involved."
"Alright then," Vernon said, clearly uncomfortable with being there. "Goodbye, then." He wandered off, leaving Harry standing there, pondering what he'd seen. When Vernon had appeared in the doorway, he'd seemed to be just barely glowing with...magic? Yes, he'd been just barely glowing a sickly yellow colour. Harry knew Vernon wasn't magical, so what had caused that? Harry closed the door and looked around the room, sharpening his focus. The entire room seemed to come alive: while he himself glowed like a bonfire, the items in the room seemed as if candles, but that they glowed at all was a surprise. Harry went over to his window and opened it. Looking out the window, his vision quickly confirmed his suspicion: the grass, the trees, the air itself were ever so slightly aglow with magic...more so than, say, the old toys he could see in the neighbor's yard, or from Vernon's car.
Perhaps it was that he was on Privet Drive. That could be the problem; perhaps Dumbledore had put up wards or something and they were affecting the area. Making up his mind, he cast a mild detection charm on his room to let him know if anyone came by while he was gone, and he shadow-traveled away, appearing in some dark alley somewhere in London. It was getting a bit dark out, but there was still a good hour of light or so before he should return. He looked around, and here it was the same: there were a couple of bums deeper down the alley that were glowing enough to stand out from the background. Everything was just barely luminescent, but living creatures appeared to glow just a little bit brighter, and much brighter if magical in nature. Still not enough data, though: he needed to know why. Focusing once more, Harry found himself deep in the Scottish forest, where the trees were so think, it seemed like it was nighttime. His hypothesis appeared to be correct: the trees were all glowing a bit, as was every other creature in the area, especially—
Whamm! A large body slammed into him. Harry cursed, toppling to the ground as his attacker turned to try and pin him. Harry tried to get up, or get a grip on his wand, but the person grabbed his arms and threw him to the ground, dazing him. Focusing, he could barely make out the person above, but what he saw caused him to redouble his efforts to throw the person off him: their skin was quite pale, and their open mouth showed abnormally long canine teeth. He tried concentrating, but they were already leaning down towards him. He focused on the pain, preparing to transform.
Snff. Snfffff. Sniffing? Suddenly, the pressing weight was gone. He opened one eye, and saw the vampire was no longer leaning over him but was already almost out of sight, casting a fearful glance over its shoulder. And it was gone. Harry stood up shakily, his head still pounding from the bloodsucker's initial charge and follow-up attack. "What the hell just happened?" he thought to himself. Staring at where the vampire had retreated, Harry realized that the battle had caused him a lapse of concentration sufficient to end his mage sight. Growling a bit at the annoyance, Harry recast it and continued making observations about his environment—keeping his wand at the ready, in case he was ambushed again. He saw several near-black auras darting through the trees above and around him, but none of them ever came close enough to raise any suspicions. After one came too close for comfort, Harry decided to leave, taking to the shadows. Just before he left, he felt a pulse of familiar magic: someone had entered his room.
Hadrian appeared just outside of #4; as it was rather late in the day, he was able to hide from the passing car in the shadows to ensure he hadn't been seen. He quickly made his way into the house and, having noticed the unfamiliar car parked in the driveway, temporarily silencing both his footsteps and the door so as not to alert anyone to his presence: there was no need to alert the Masons that there was someone else living here, as it would bring up questions of why he wasn't dining with them. As he passed by the dining room, he heard the tail end of Vernon's Japanese Golfer joke—"The businessman turned to him and said "What do you mean "Wrong Hole?" Paying the chortling voices little heed, he made his way upstairs, where he could here a small repetitious thumping noise. He knew that Hedwig was out hunting for food, and that Cheshire was more than likely enjoying himself with one of Mrs. Figg's Kneazles, and so he had no idea what could be making such a noise. Arriving at his door, he silenced it before entering, only to find a small, humanoid creature joyfully jumping on his bed. Shutting the door and thankful for the spell he'd cast around the door frame, he cleared his throat; the creature immediately stopped, turning towards him, giving Hadrian his first good look at it.
It was almost like a small child in proportions: a small, thin body, with a head that seemed too large for its frame and bulging, bright green eyes, reminiscent of a pair of tennis balls. Its ears were almost like a bats: overly large, triangular, and flappy. It stood just under a meter in height, and yet it probably didn't even weigh 5 stone: it looked painfully thin, as if it was poorly nourished. Combined with the bruises that seemed to cover its limbs, the bandaged shoulder, and the second filthiest, most threadbare excuse for clothes he'd ever seen, he concluded that this creature was a rather young house elf, and a severely ill-treated one at that. He appeared to be glowing a bright dark green colour, but that was just the mage sight.
"Harry Potter!" the creature exclaimed, breathless.
Harry inwardly groaned: a fan. "Yes, yes...if you please, who are you, and why are you here?"
The elf's expression became apologetic. "Dobby is sorry, Mr. Harry Potter Sir, Dobby didn't mean to intrude...but he had to warn you. I is Dobby, and I is coming heres to warn you that..." here, he seemed to choke up; more than likely, he was trying to say something that violated his bond of servitude.
"You have come here to warn me of danger..." Harry said. Dobby nodded slightly, still struggling. "A danger that was or will be caused by your master..." Another nod. "And you can't tell me what the danger is." Another nod. "Why am I in danger from it?"
"Dobby cannot say; master wouldn't want Dobby telling, but Dobby had to warns Harry Potter: Harry Potter must not be going backs to school!"
Hadrian sighed. "Dobby, I appreciate the warning, but without knowing what the danger is, I can't sacrifice my education for it, or the chance to make...friends," he said, meaning political allies (mostly). Resolutely, he continued: "Besides, I don't think the Wizarding world would allow me to simply withdraw from Hogwarts: both Dumbledore and the Ministry would be quite against such an action and might even force me to attend. Without knowing what the danger is, and how serious it is, there would be no way to convince them otherwise. If you were willing to tell them your suspicions—" the elf's vigorous head-shaking indicated otherwise. "Then I'm afraid I'll have no choice in the matter."
Dobby looked sad for a moment, before saying "Harry Potter is right: the Ministry peoples would wants yous to go. Maybe Dobby could...give hints?" he asked nervously.
Harry shrugged. "Thanks for the warning: I'll keep an eye on things." Seeing the elf about to leave, he acted on a hunch and asked "Dobby...do you know why I haven't been receiving letters from my friends?"
Dobby began saying "Bad Dobby!" over and over, slapping his forehead as he did so, an action that Harry quickly put a stop to. Regaining his composure, the strange little house elf said "Dobby is sorry: he thoughts that...that maybe if Harry Potter didn't thinks his friends cared about him, he wouldn't wants to be going back to school." He snapped his fingers, and a pile of letters appeared on Harry's bed.
Hadrian's eyes narrowed slightly. He sighed, then said "Dobby, while I appreciate your warning, and I know your heart was in the right place, you do realize that you have also done wrong by these people by stopping them from communicating with me." The elf's face drooped in shame. "Now, while I know that, since I'm not your master, I can't give you an order, I would appreciate it if you were to apologize for what you did to these people. Should you choose to do so, remember that some of the people are muggleborns and that you aren't to do magic in front of muggles who aren't already aware of magic."
The strange elf nodded eagerly. "Dobby wills do, Harry Potter. Goodbye!" he exclaimed, disappearing with a small pop. Sighing, Harry returned to his discovery: magic was present in most everything in existence, but was especially abundant in living creatures, even if they weren't magical in nature. That sounded familiar, he thought...and then he remembered where he'd heard something like that: "The force is an energy field created by all living things, it surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together." Could it be that simple? If magic was generated by all living things...including every plant, every germ or virus...the implications were enormous; just considering possible ways he could take advantage of this were making his head hurt. Remembering his original query, he decided to leave that discovery to another day; the fight earlier had left him quite sore, and he was tired besides. He turned off the lights and went to bed, the comfort welcome after his stressful day.
Meanwhile, somewhere in downtown London, a little girl was watching a movie with her parents. It was an attempt to get her mind off of her best friend abandoning her. Hermione Granger just couldn't bring herself to be interested in watching "Mary Poppins" for the fourth time in the past month: she couldn't stop wondering what had happened to Harry. Had he abandoned her? Was he unable to respond? Was Dumbledore blocking his mail, or maybe the Dursleys? She knew he didn't get along with his relatives...maybe he had kept them in line with magic before, but now the Ministry wouldn't write it off as accidental magic. If that were true, then he'd be at their mercy! But she wasn't sure what was happening, wasn't sure what to think or do about it. So she just kept agreeing to watch movies with her parents. Suddenly, there was a pop that didn't come from the movie. Hermione returned her thoughts to the real world, only to find that there was a small being dressed in what looked like a filthy pillowcase standing in the middle of her living room, looking sheepish and apologetic; her parents were stock-still, shocked at the intrusion.
"Dobby..." the thing said. "Dobby is here to apologize for what he's done...Dobby has been blocking misseses Granger's mail to the great Harry Potter, and his to her. Dobby is fixing his mistake, and wanted to apologize to young miss." Hermione noticed her parents stiffen a bit at the mention of Harry, but paid it no mind, returning her attention to the creature named Dobby. He stood there awkwardly, his eyes screwed shut as if waiting for some rebuke. When none came, his eyes cracked open a few degrees, and he straightened before saying. "Dobby must bes goings now...Dobby needs to tell other peoples 'sorry'." With that said, the small creature placed a small pile of letters addressed to her from Harry on the coffee table and disappeared from the room, leaving a very confused family in his wake. Hermione felt a little flicker of hope; deflecting her parent's questions about the creature (she knew it was a house elf, but that was it), she finished the movie and, bidding her parents goodnight, went upstairs to pen a letter to Harry. Hopefully, this one would get a response.
—July 19, 1992—
Hadrian Potter was much happier than he had been just a couple of weeks ago: since the night Dobby had appeared, his friends and acquaintances had been in constant contact with him, especially Hermione: she had obviously been just as worried about him as he'd been about her: her first letter wasn't so much a message as it was a piece of paper that had been dipped into Hermione's stream of consciousness: elves teleporting into her living room, or worrying about Harry, or agonizing over her grades... the list went on and on. Harry had sent her a letter reassuring her of his safety and well-being, while asking about her own. She calmed down a bit once she finally received a reply, it seemed, as her next letter was much easier to follow.
In their letters, they talked about all kinds of things, like the fact that Dumbledore had visited her in the hospital wing. After Harry had been gone for a while, Dumbledore had come in with a few Aurors who were there to arrest the boys who'd cursed him; according to Dumbledore, they would all face a lifetime in Azkaban. Their wands had been checked for Unforgivables, and three of them had cast them in front of the Headmaster. However, all of the boys were pleading the Imperius Curse, and were likely to get off without charges, the Headmaster had told her.
What had followed was a conversation where the Headmaster had attempted to persuade Hermione to stop associating with Harry, as it had resulted in her being harmed. After several arguments were rebuffed, he began attempting to use loyalty charms and other mind-affecting magicks to try and ease her into it. These low-powered charms (they had to be to avoid detection or mental trauma) were rebuffed by her Occlumency shields, which were coming along nicely. After this new tactic had failed, Dumbledore had been more anxious to leave, cutting the conversation short by citing some of his many duties before rushing off in a huff. This conversation, according to Hermione, had caused the Headmaster to lose what little of her respect for him that she had left.
Hermione spent most of her letters alternating between worrying about Harry and telling him about her home life and childhood. Her parents were both dentists, working together running what had started out as an entrepreneurship: her father was a registered M.D., and had received his degree from Oxford, while her mother acted as his assistant and handled the business side of things. Over the years, the business had grown, until they had several dentists working for their growing company. These days, they rarely saw clients personally, opting to handle the equally challenging tasks of raising the world's most curious child and running a dentist company that counted a few members of Parliament (such clients were the few to almost always be worked on by Dr. Granger personally).
Having not had the opportunity often as children themselves, the two parents tried to give Hermione everything she could want, including parents who loved her. As a result, her childhood hadn't really been lacking in anything but friends, which was more due to her intelligence than anything: the schools she went to pandered to snobby rich kids, who often thought learning was a waste of time and had mocked her for her passion. This had resulted in a couple of transfers for Hermione, but this worked out well for Hermione, as she eventually was put into the gifted program, putting her among like-minded children.
Her parents had been quite surprised to learn that some of the weird things that had happened around their daughter over the years were due to magic; they'd been even more surprised (and impressed) to learn that she magical potential to qualify for a scholarship to a prestigious school that taught young witches and wizards how to use their magic. Now, the Grangers were quite well off, but they had no Galleons to pay with, as the magical world had little use for pounds (except for the goblins), but a full scholarship was rare and very beneficial; between financial aid, a promised education in her abilities, and a record of safety even during times of war, her parents were convinced to allow her to attend.
They had accompanied her into Diagon Alley with Professor McGonagall, who assisted the muggleborn students in purchasing supplies (she and the Headmaster were the only ones with access to the school funds), and had been suitably awed by the wonders contained within the alley. They had taken advantage of Gringotts' conversion service of exchanging pounds into galleons (and vice versa), in order to have the funds necessary to purchase some reading material outside of school required texts, both for Hermione's personal education, and to increase their own understanding of the magical world. The picture they'd gained of this world had worsened with every page: the blatant discrimination against students, like Hermione, coming from muggle families was all-encompassing, affecting every aspect of this new world. Despite this, because the headmaster was one of the paragons of the light, and a driving force behind increased equality for such citizens, they did not change their decision.
This, Harry thought, was at least partially thanks to a law that had been passed in the early days of the Wizengamot: once a magical child is discovered in a muggle home, whether it is their child or not, that child is guaranteed a magical education. If their parents refuse to do so in any way, shape, form, or fashion, or if the child is viewed as being in danger from their parents, they will be removed from their parents' care, and their parents will be made to believe that their child died in an accident; in recent times, this was a gas leak explosion, or something similar. This law had been passed because, at the time, the muggle world was getting very religiously motivated, and people shown to be capable of mysterious things ver viewed with suspicion; a few people would even attack them if they felt it was the right thing to do. This law was intended to prevent muggle parents from abusing, hurting, or killing their child.
A person's store of magical power, their core, is very tricky: it starts out quite weak as a child, but is wild and unlimited in application. As you grow older, you core grows slowly, becoming bigger and bigger. While usually this happens at a near-constant rate, there are three points when there's a massive jump in power: once at age eleven, once at age seventeen, and once at age fifty-nine. It was all about which numbers were most powerful: all three numbers were not only prime, but prime prime numbers. Eleven is the fifth prime, while seventeen is the seventh, and fifty-nine is the seventeenth. What's more, student would only join a magical school when they reached the age of eleven, because that was when their core became powerful enough to consciously channel magic on a regular basis. It also allowed for seven years of education, with the first and last year coming with increases in power.
Anyway, Hermione's last letter said that her parents had been unwilling to let him into their house: according to them, Dumbledore had told them all about what had happened this year. As far as they were concerned, most of what went wrong was Harry's fault, or because of her association with him, and she was told not to associate with him—for her own good, of course. He was a magnet for trouble, and he would drag her down with him, what with his being a bad influence and all. She'd been quick to reassure him that she had no intention of ending their friendship, but it meant that they wouldn't be able to see each other until the school year started. Harry had just sent off a letter to Hermione detailing some of his experiments so far. Noting the time as a little after 10 pm, he decided it was as good a time as any to turn in. He turned off the lights and prepared for a good night's sleep.
Or at least, that had been the plan. A few hours into his rest, Harry was awakened by the revving of an engine...right outside his window. A bit confused, and also still waking up, Harry walked over to the window and looked through, only to see a pair of identical gingers grinning wildly at him; they were currently "parking" a Ford Anglia, which was idling a few meters off the ground.
"Harry!" said Fred, who was driving. "How are you this fine morning?"
"License and registration, please," Harry deadpanned.
"What?" Fred said, his confusion evident.
Harry sighed, rubbing his eyes. "Never mind. What are you guys doing here?"
"Well, me and George," George said, forgetting Harry could tell them apart "Thought you might be in trouble when you didn't answer our letters. We'd been planning this rescue all summer, and we weren't going to scrap our plans just because the house elf responsible apologized."
"So," back to Fred "How do you feel about going to our house for the summer?"
Harry stared at them for a minute, contemplating their offer. On the one hand, going with the twins would ensure an interesting summer. On the other hand, he'd have to put up with Ronald. But then, there was Percy as well; from what he'd heard eavesdropping on the older boys in the common room, the Gryffindor prefect had always been a stickler for the rules and dreamed of joining the Ministry. Such a person would have gathered a great deal of de facto political ideas—rules of the political arena that weren't in the books. And the Weasley family was in his book on politics as being a powerful Ancient and Noble House. Making up his mind, he said "Sure. Why not?"
Excellent!" Fred said while grinning. "George, help him with his things."
"No need," Harry said, motioning for the twins to stop. Turning, he said "Pack,", causing all of his scattered supplies to fly into his trunk neatly before closing it, much to the surprise of his two friends. He levitated it into the boot and, after gathering Hedwig and Cheshire from their various hiding places and writing a note to his relatives, took a spot in the back seat and settled in for what was likely to be a long journey as they flew off into the night.
A.N.: Well, that's it for now. The next chapter will tell of Harry's adventures in and around Ottery St. Catchpole. Hopefully it'll be out soon, as I've already put a lot of thought into it, and just need to write it down. Also, I will award 10 house points to anyone who knows the Japanese Golfer joke. Please leave a review on your way out!