AN: Is there interest in a forum for Blue Magic here on ffnet? I've been asked if I plan to open one, but I won't for just 1-2 people. Anyway, thanks for reading and reviewing and special thanks to my beta Aella!

More world development in this chapter and a fair bit of character interaction.
I'm taking a page out of Fruitality's wonderful 'Lion Unity' and have the Gryffindor First Years interact a lot more than in canon.
By my best estimate after this chapter there are three more chapters dealing with year one - not counting the summer hols - but I've been wrong about these things before.

This chapter took a bit longer than I anticipated because I wanted to make absolutely sure that nothing I reveal/establish here can come back later and bite me in the ass. I'm sure it will do so anyway, but there you go. Meanwhile, thanks for your patience!

Oh, and I pulled Seamus' Irish insult from some page on the internet. I honestly don't know if I used it correctly, so if any Irish readers would just skip that line, that would be great!

Last time: Troll Aftermath, Quidditch
This time: Hermione's Training, Term's End

"But Snape got bitten last week!" Harry cried.

"How do yer know about that?!" Hagrid demanded

"Uhm… I-I overheard them in the hospital wing," Harry lied. He had been asleep at the time but had revised the recording later.

"Professor Snape tried ter close the door. Fluffy wouldn'a hurt him if that bloody… err… nevermind," Hagrid mumbled.

"Who did what? Someone tried to get past him, didn't they?" Harry pressed.

"That's none of yer business, Harry! It's between Professor Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel," Hagrid said firmly. Then he saw Harry's satisfied smirk and he suddenly realized what he blurted out. Red in the face he closed the door and stomped away, muttering that he shouldn't have said that.

On their way back to Gryffindor Tower, Harry whispered to Hermione, "Tomorrow morning, six-thirty. Come to the abandoned classroom at the end of the History Corridor. We are going to start your training."

The gleam in Hermione's eyes and her fervent nod was answer enough.

Chapter 14: Down the Rabbit Hole

Sunday, November 10, 1991
Harry's Hideout, Hogwarts

Predictably Hermione had been far too excited to get much sleep. She was early, but she was also very eager to learn more.
The room Harry had arranged for her training was tucked away out of sight behind a wardrobe, far from the more frequented hallways. She guessed it was sufficiently hidden, certainly she hadn't known about it, but she was hardly an expert on the castle's nooks and crannies.

With a determined push she opened the door. Harry was already there but hadn't noticed her yet. He was standing in the middle of the classroom, his back to her and making expansive motions with his arms; squeezing, swishing, and other gestures for no discernible reason. From time to time he would shake his head as if to some unheard music.

The room itself was relatively bare. There was a lectern, a teacher's desk, a blackboard, some couches and armchairs, and a couple of desks pushed together in the back with a smattering of cauldrons on them. Two large windows, framed by heavy curtains, let in the sparse morning light.

"Morning, Harry!" Hermione greeted to get the boy's attention while trying not to sound too eager. She failed the latter but managed to startle Harry out of his thoughts.

"Oh, it's you, Hermione. Good Morning," he replied after he turned towards her. "You're early. Not that I mind, but…"

"Sorry, I couldn't sleep and I thought I could come here early, do some revisions if you aren't here yet. End of term exams start in less than a month, did you know? You have started revising, haven't you?"

"Erm… Sure," Harry said uncertainly. He had gone over some of the material but he doubted he had put in as much effort as Hermione. "But since you are here already, we can get started. I was just going over the material I want to cover with you and I wanted to look up Nicolas Flamel."

"Oh? You already know who he is? I expected we would need to go to the library to do that, but with your tutor that wasn't necessary, was it?" Hermione asked excitedly.

"Not really. Took me all of five minutes to find out who he is - and more importantly what Fluffy's probably guarding," Harry said with a smirk. "It's the Philosopher's Stone. Flamel is the only alchemist who managed to make one, back in the beginning of the fifteenth century. Yes, he's that old; he's six hundred and sixty four in fact."

"The Philosopher's Stone!" Hermione's eyes had widened in surprise and reverence. "I've read about it before, of course, even muggles know about it! I wonder if it really can change any metal into gold? The Elixir of Life seems to be fact after all…"

"I don't know, the sources are divided, some say yes, some say no, and it isn't helped any that Alchemy is considered a banned subject. You have to get permission from the Ministry to learn it and only they have any real books on it. There isn't much to go on," Harry said with a shrug. "What I'm more interested in is who's trying to steal it. They already broke into Gringotts and that's supposedly almost impossible. What's more, on the same day of the break-in, we were there as well and Hagrid got a small package for Hogwarts from a very secure vault. The Prophet article even mentioned that the vault has been emptied the same day. I mean, what are the odds? It's gotta have been the stone!"

Hermione frowned but nodded in agreement. It was all very strange indeed. Maybe they had hoped nobody would expect the stone to be in a school? Had the would-be-thief already picked up the trail again?

"What are we going to do?" she asked after a moment.

"Keep an eye open, that's about all we can do," Harry replied, not satisfied with doing nothing himself. Then he motioned for Hermione to sit on one of the couches while he remained standing, "Anyway, let's start the training. But first I have to explain a bit more, because you have to understand it to use it properly. For some reason Aunty was very keen on that. She said teaching will help my understanding too."

"Right, Azima," Harry continued, looking as if he was giving a lecture. "It's hard to really translate it, the closest comes to 'borrowing' but there are other meanings as well. Besides it's an old word, from the time before the Asari truly tried to understand it. These days it's simply called the Mass Effect, or the Biotic Mass Effect when a living being does it...
"You know, you don't need to raise your hand to ask a question."

Hermione's hand had indeed sprung up after the last bit. Harry's admonishment had forced a blush on her face, but she soldiered on. "Why the distinction? I gather there are enchanted objects that make use of it, but don't they require a - how is someone called that can do it? - to make them?"

"I was coming to that," Harry replied flustered. "Right. The Mass Effect. Don't think of it as magic, or at least not how we are being taught magic. We know they are connected somehow but where the magic users here are apparently satisfied with philosophy and some empirical observations, that's not true for the Asari regarding the Mass Effect, even if it started much the same.
"The Asari discovered a particular element - Element Zero or Eezo for short - that produces the Mass Effect. All you have to do is put a current through it and there you go. That's true even for biotics - lifeforms that can produce a Mass Effect on their own - because they have Element Zero in their bodies near neurons and nerves and when they think or do things in a certain way a Mass Effect Field is formed. You know, because neurons and nerves work with electricity."

"What's a Mass Effect Field?" Hermione interrupted, this time without raising her hand.

"Think of it as a region of space. Most of the time it's the space the object we want to affect takes up, like for example when I used the pillow to demonstrate the Mass Effect or the biotic himself. There are two variations of the field, one reduces or increases the mass inside the region and the other applies a force. Do you know about scalar and vector fields? No?" Harry started pacing again. "It's not important, I had to look that up myself. The difference is that one has a direction, the other doesn't. Mass is just a physical property of an object; force tries to push something around, change its speed for example or keeps us on the ground. The first one changes mass and the second moves things around."

"I think I understand," Hermione said slowly. She had read a primer on physics but the concepts Harry was talking about hadn't been covered extensively. "So you are saying with this Element Zero anyone could make a Mass Effect Field?"

"Yes, exactly!" Harry cried excitedly. "You take a blob of Eezo, put some wires on it and boom, your skateboard is flying!"

"Skateboard? Flying?" his audience asked.

"You know Back to the Future 2? The hoverboard? I built one," Harry smirked. "Obviously it isn't as easy as that. You have to shape it right, and it isn't really the current that's important but the Electric and Magnetic fields and which parts of the eezo they are applied to..."

"But if that's all, why does nobody know about it? I would think the scientists… erm… muggle-scientists that is, would have found out about it."

"Element Zero isn't really a chemical element and very, very rare. In fact the Asari believed it could only be found where they live," Harry explained. "But let's continue. Wizards' magic apparently is somehow connected to the Mass Effect. Wherever magic is, there's also a little Eezo, but not necessarily a Mass Effect Field. It's very strange and we're trying to find out what's going on, but for now all we know is that this magical Eezo forms very complex patterns. The same goes for us - and with us I mean wizards and witches. Like the Asari we have Element Zero in our bodies near our nervous system, but it's more spread out and much more complex. We think that will give magical biotics more control at the expense of power, but remember, so far I'm the only one we could test the theory on. It's not even certain all witches and wizards have Eezo in them, but it's likely the case."

"What about the wand you mentioned?" Hermione asked. In response Harry knelt before her, facing away and brushing away some of his hair to expose his neck.

"Feel this little bump here?" he asked, indicating where his amplifier was just below the surface. Hermione gingerly touched the spot. "Normally it would take decades of training to lift even small masses. The amplifier and the implant connects the Eezo in our bodies so everything works better. It's similar to how Flitwick explained the magical wand, but I hope you understand now why you can't have one. It's not as simple as give you a piece of wood, I'm afraid. But you should be able to do small things. I started training without an active amp and it didn't take me decades, just months. Probably thanks to magic. Any questions?"

Hermione thought for a moment. She had so many questions, but before she could ask the first one, Harry qualified, "Any important questions that absolutely can't wait?"
Hermione shook her head. Her questions could wait.

"Good. Now, learning biotics is a bit different from learning magic. There are no spells so to speak, just different ways how to project a Mass Effect Field. Magic has all those specialized spells, while biotics is a more general tool, one that you have to learn to use intuitively. Let me show you," Harry said. Pointing his hand towards the windows the curtains closed, shrouding them in darkness. Hermione could barely make out her companion in front of her. "What I just did was applying force to the curtain cord as if I was tugging at it. Normally I wouldn't do that, because it's just wasteful. Using biotics takes a lot of energy and is physically draining, so unless you do very heavy lifting it's more efficient to not use them. Obviously that doesn't apply to training."

"Doesn't it require more energy to do harder stuff?" Hermione asked.

"Not really. We don't really provide the energy. The Asari did some - what were they called again… ah, caloric experiments. Basically they measured how much energy a biotic or a device uses to produce a certain effect. They found out that while the energy is somewhat variable and depending on the effect, the maximum amount is fixed for a person or device. Training doesn't change it, but can help with efficiency - basically how much oomph you get for your effort - control, and endurance. It's similar to a muscle that way. Bottom line: There's a point where the energy 'gained' becomes more than he had to spend in the first place, but it depends a bit on the user. For me it's about lifting ten pounds close to the body - ah yes range is also important. Anything less and using biotics is wasteful. Anything more and I save energy. "

"So where does the energy come from?" the girl asked the - to her - obvious follow up question.

"Good question! First you have to understand that it's not just taking energy but also freeing it up. A heavy object has more energy than a lighter object - so where does the energy go if I make myself lighter?"

Suddenly Harry's body began to glow in the same blue hue she had seen before when he fought against the troll. The darkness made it much more noticeable though. "Right now I'm using my biotics to reduce my mass. Like I said, reducing mass frees energy and it has to go somewhere, in this case I just dumped it as Dark Energy. Imagine Dark Energy as an ocean - you can take out a glass of water or dump one into it, it doesn't really matter to the ocean.
"There's also the Loak-Leakage Effect that lets a bit leak in or out, in form of kinetic energy. Basically when making something lighter you can also make it faster, while making something heavier may slow it down. But it's an advanced technique and compared to the Dark Energy exchange rather minor - then again considering the huge amounts of energy involved in the first place it can still be very useful.
"However, no Mass Effect Field is stable on its own. The blue glow you see is a kind of barrier that prevents it from collapsing. If that happens, because I drop the barrier for example, the energy would rush back in and I would have my normal mass again. That can be a problem if there are more than one barriers intersecting or if nobody controls it. As a rule never use more than two fields at the same time and place - one to increase or decrease mass and one to apply force, they don't generally interfere - and you should be fine. At least for now, later you can use several fields at the same time and sometimes you actually want the violent reactions some intersecting fields have, just not near you."

Next Harry's hand began to glow brighter and a blue ball of light leaped from it towards a chair at the back of the room. The ball was tethered to his hand by a faint filament of the same blue light. As soon as the ball hit the chair it began to float, engulfed in the same blue light as Harry.

"I'm now applying a force upward to make the chair levitate. It's a bit tricky to get it right or it would either fall down again or continue to float away. See this blue line? I can't use my biotics on anything I can't see or that's otherwise obstructed. The blue ball you saw earlier is the field itself. It always starts from the biotic but he can steer it a bit as it flies, unlike a spell. Rapid movements are tricky however, so if you ever have to dodge someone's biotics jump away when it's relatively close."

Harry let the chair down and used his biotics to open the curtains again.

"So far with me? I just wanted to give you a short overview, we'll get into detail later when you can actually do something," Harry asked, getting a nod from his attentive student. "Now, there are two ways to train biotics. The normal way is actually quite similar to learning magic. You do that by practicing certain movements over and over again, but it requires an amplifier. Since you don't have one we'll use the older way that requires you to think a certain way. But I'll also teach you the new method anyway since who knows, maybe you'll get an amp sometime. Besides, most movements are part of the regime anyway.
"Now, the training itself is divided into two parts. The first is a special form of meditation. There's a chant we'll do that will help you think the right way and there are some mental exercises you'll have to do. Then there's the physical part. To properly use biotics in a fight you have to be in control of your body at all times and I've already said it's physically demanding.
"We'll spend about half an hour on meditation and at least as much on exercising each day. There are also a few mental exercises you can and should do during the day. If you think that's too much for you, tell me now."

"No, I can handle that," Hermione replied resolutely, a determined and not just a little stubborn look on her face.

"Alright, we start with the meditation. Get into a comfortable position and for now just listen to me and focus on the words. If you're sure that you can pronounce them you can join in."

For the next half hour Hermione felt just slightly silly as she listened to Harry talking, almost singing in a completely alien, melodical language. She could make out a few common phrases and words but had no clue of their meaning. Near the end she became comfortable enough to join in on a few passages that seemed to be a sort of chorus, but she was sure that she mangled them quite badly, if Harry's wince was anything to go by.

The meditation done, Harry started her on some sort of ritualized exercise. It was somewhat similar to yoga, focusing on limberness and body control, but had also other elements reminiscent of the martial arts from the far east. There were also some calisthenics which surprised Hermione until Harry explained that the Mass Effect acted as a force multiplier when used on oneself. The more force you could muster in the first place, the greater the benefit.
Harry was a hard taskmaster, forcing her to hold certain positions for as long as she could, sometimes making her repeat a specific exercise even slower than his already slow pace. Hermione soon learned that the movements were actually harder the slower she performed them, something Harry was quick to agree on.
Her spirits fell when he told her that their speed was actually still considered faster than the norm, but he also praised her for her poise and quick mastery of the basics. For the first time Hermione was really glad her mother had forced her to take ballet lessons when she was younger and the recent self-defence course her father had demanded she take.

The mental exercises came as a bit of a surprise. They could be divided into two categories in addition to some further meditative exercises, the first set geared towards spatial thinking and the second towards situational awareness, though Harry hinted that there was still more to come.
He had her try to navigate the room with her eyes closed after a few moments of committing it to her memory. Hermione was certain she bumped against every piece of furniture at least once. Another was to try to hit a target in her peripheral vision with a piece of balled up paper. The area around her target was soon littered with debris. According to Harry she did badly which only increased her resolve to do better.
For the exercise in situational awareness Harry would try to sneak up on her at odd times when she wasn't prepared or throw small slips of paper or other detritus at her. The latter reminded her a bit too much of her tormentors at her old school for her to be completely comfortable with. Harry's promise that he would be discrete and it really wasn't to torment her helped a bit. The agreement that she could retaliate was even better and to her surprise was met by much enthusiasm on Harry's part. Their competitive nature demanded that they made a game out of it, with the loser having to give the winner an extra special present for Christmas.

After shaking hands to seal the bet they went back to the tower to get ready for the day. Hermione felt giddy with excitement at the prospect of learning a new skill and the Mass Effect appealed to her logical nature much more than magic did. She still considered magic the best thing that ever happened to her, but slowly her perspective shifted from viewing it as something special and unique, to seeing it as a tool and a puzzle. It certainly wasn't as clear-cut as the teachers made it out to be.

Tuesday, November 26, 1991
History of Magic Classroom, Hogwarts

"... and after having helped King Arthur setting up the laws in Camelot, Merlin left the muggle world again in 545 AD and returned to the magical world where he was revered as the most powerful wizard of all time, just as he is to this day. There he decreed that wizards should never again hold power over muggles. They may advise them, but never rule." Professor Cuthbert Binns surveyed his students. This class was different. For the first time in almost two hundred years, he actually enjoyed teaching them. And it had all begun with the boy whose hand was currently raised, no doubt to ask another insightful question. He had no problem acknowledging the lad. "Yes, Mr. Potter?"

"Professor, why did he propose that decree? And for that matter, why did and still do wizards and witches follow it?" he was asked.

There was some outcry from the children raised in the wizarding world. Weasley even shouted quite loudly 'It's Merlin, Harry!', as if that explained everything. However, one girl had her own hand in the air. "Miss Granger, do you have an opinion on this matter?"

"Yes, Professor. It's easy. Wizards respect power. Why else would so many follow Dark Lords or their eventual vanquishers?" At this she shot Potter a calculating look. In the past it might have been scornful, but Binns noted their dynamic had changed after that troll incident. "Merlin was the most powerful wizard, therefore people follow his lead."

"Yes I get that, Hermione. But what did he do to show himself all powerful?" the boy countered, not bothering to raise his own hand. "I mean, what did he really do? He's supposed to have fought and beaten the Dark Lord and Lady Mordred and Morgana, but I dare you to find me a source of that deed that isn't at least five hundred years younger than Merlin and doesn't contradict at least three other accounts.
"And the whole Camelot affair was just parlour tricks. A sword in a stone? Don't make me laugh. So what did he do to cement his position as the most powerful wizard of all time?"

The students were shocked into silence. Nobody had an answer but Harry wasn't finished.

"And what about Avalon? Muggle literature mentions it several times, but there's not a whiff of it in any magical history book."

Cuthbert Binns surveyed the class. Since Potter had started to challenge the material almost everyone paid close attention in his class - something that he couldn't remember ever happening in his three and a half centuries of tenure. In the beginning he had been apprehensive of this young upstart questioning established truths. How could he not?
However, after a week or two he had been worn down by the logical arguments and the polite manner of the boy. Even if he was confrontational to the subject, he showed the Professor the uttermost respect. Unless he forgot to put up his hand, which Binns considered a very small infraction.

Binns knew history. He had lived a lot of it, almost four centuries of it in fact. He should have known how history was made by the winner and changed over time. He had seen it happen countless times. Yet only now he began to understand, truly understand history, and once he did, it had become far easier to accept Potter's rationale. The facts written in the books were questionable. Even more, they almost never were facts and had to be questioned because they were unerringly coloured by the writer's own opinion and viewpoint. Truthfully, they weren't facts at all.
Most of his students, for all their newfound interest in the subject of history, didn't understand this yet. Potter obviously did. Granger might be getting there and the other muggleborn - Thomas, Perks, Entwhistle and Turpin - were at least unburdened by the preconceptions of those that grew up in the wizarding world. The students that grew up in the wizarding - especially the Ravenclaws who were clearly dismayed that their books were being questioned - had a much harder time understanding this new concept. They were used to blindly trust in what they were told or what was written in a book.

So it came to no surprise to Binns that like always the class was divided. The muggleborn were curious about the issue - just like he was - while the pure- and half-bloods (apart from Potter) were switching between outrage at Granger for unflatteringly but accurately describing wizarding society's behaviour and outrage at Potter for seemingly besmirching Merlin.

"An astute observation Miss Granger - wizards do indeed fear and revere power - and a very insightful question Mr. Potter," Binns praised them. "Take five points for Gryffindor each." He was well aware that the Headmaster had suspended the points system but he could get away with awarding points nonetheless. Being a ghost and therefore thought to be a bit out of touch with the present had its perks sometimes. He also knew about the house-lists - the house-ghosts frequently bragged about them.

"As to your questions, Mr. Potter, I can only answer one," he continued. "Now that you point it out, there is actually very little known fact about Merlin's life, especially of his pre-Camelot dealings. But I will investigate this further. Maybe among the ghost-community there are some that I could ask..." Now that the boy had pointed it out it irked the Professor that he hadn't noticed it before.

"Where was I... Ah! Yes! Merlin's Ban..." Cuthbert took a moment to gather his thoughts. "In the end it comes down to kings and religion."

"Excuse me Professor, what's religion?" Ron interrupted. A few - the muggleborns - sniggered at the question.

"Thank you for proving my point, Mr. Weasley," Binns said with a rare smile. "Wizards as a rule don't believe in personified higher powers - sometimes called deities or gods - or even in elaborate sets of belief, choosing instead to revere powerful wizards and witches, both historical and contemporary, and accept their teachings and morals as their own. The truth is - and you won't find this in any book - the gods of old have always been powerful wizards and witches, impressing and subjugating the muggles with their magic. The same goes for priests and most kings, notably the Egyptian Pharaohs and the Roman Imperators.
"Sometimes those wizards in power were benevolent, or at least efficient rulers like the early Roman wizards and witches who posed as gods, senators and caesars. Even the first Imperators weren't that bad. Others however... We only know little about the Egyptian wizards and even less of the Mesopotamian magicals but from what we know most of them have been cruel and exploited their subjects mercilessly. But that was a long time before Merlin.
"Despite the lack of facts it's safe to assume Merlin was born when the Roman Empire was in its death throes. Remember he was quite old when he finally sought out Arthur in the eighth century. The Roman Empire is probably the best example of the benefits of wizarding rule but ultimately also the reason why wizards should never rule the muggles.
"As many of you know, the Romans invented the wand, a more advanced tool than the Greek staff," he went on, ignoring the looks of confusion in his students faces. Nobody had heard about that.
"Like the staff was the reason the Greeks could remain independent as city states in face of the larger empires like the Persians, the wand enabled the Romans to eventually conquer the known world - and explore quite a bit of the unknown world as well.
"In the beginning that wasn't a bad thing. The Roman wizards posing as gods and later emperors were quite tolerant towards the muggles under their rule, they even made life easier for them thanks to the easier to use magic of the wand. But starting with Caligula the Roman wizards became increasingly cruel and power hungry, and the internal power struggle among their number was destabilizing the imperium further. In the end it culminated into a devastating war where for the first time, magic was used to the fullest effect to hurt other beings - be they muggle or magical - and on a previously inconceivable scale.
"This war is the reason why the Imperius is considered Unforgivable as it was used to incite the Germanic tribes to attack the Roman Empire. What the warring magicals did to each other and their muggle charges was so horrifying we seldom speak of it these days and we went to great lengths to conceal it from the muggles to this day. Perhaps even the whole concept of Dark Magic itself can be traced back to this war."

"But Professor, Dark Curses are... They are just Dark, aren't they?" Weasley interrupted while Harry was unnaturally quiet. "I mean, there's the Killing Curse and the Torture Curse, what about them?"

"Magic is a tool, Mr. Weasley. Morality comes later," Binns said with light admonishment in his gaze. "When I was a student here at Hogwarts in the early seventeenth century the principles of the Killing Curse were actually taught here. Back then it was a perfectly acceptable spell to use in a fight. In fact, it's documented that Godric Gryffindor himself used it at least twice."

There were some cries of 'What' and other expressions of disbelief, so Binns was forced to explain a bit more.

"The curse requires the caster to hate his target so much he doesn't just want him dead but erased from existence. Of course the spell isn't capable of that feat, but the intent has to be there. The rationale back in my time was that if someone was the target of so much hate they most likely deserved it in some way. Later the Dark Wizard Godelot, author of Magick Moste Evile, devised a way to artificially create the necessary hatred to cast the curse. Only after this became the spell classified as pure Dark Magic.
"Anyway, I believe it was the devastating fall of the Roman Empire and the vivid memory of what magic could do that led Merlin to issue his Ban. He had seen for himself how devastating a war between wizards could become when they used muggles and magic both. The magical and non-magical world have to stay apart. If anything the Grindelwald fiasco reinforced this. Millions died because one wizard and one muggle made common cause, intent on ruling both worlds."

Most students grew very pensive with that. Even the somewhat sheltered magical community of Britain knew about World War II, not only because the conflict was partially magical in nature but because it was rather hard to ignore the German Blitz. Diagon Alley was smack in the middle of London after all. Harry Potter still had a question though.

"Professor, what I don't understand is how Merlin, a British wizard, could order the whole magical world to just drop everything and take a step back."

"Well, after the Roman Empire was no longer, Britain became the most powerful magical nation, as it still is to this day," Binns explained like it was obvious.

"That doesn't make any sense!" the boy exclaimed. "Britain was a backwater province back then. I don't know how many people lived here but no way there were more than - let's say - China or South America! Or what about the Byzantine Empire? East Rome was still reasonably strong for some time. It was still one of the biggest Empires in the world by the time Hogwarts was founded. I can't believe all those East Roman wizards just abandoned centuries of tradition at the say so from a man in a faraway land!"

Binns had no ready answer to that, something that became increasingly common in this class. However, before he could think on it long enough to give at least some explanation the bell rang, signifying the end of the lesson. Binns was actually disappointed as he shooed the students out, assigning them a chapter to read for next weeks lesson to make up for their deviation from the ministry-approved syllabus.
The next class would be the usual boring drudgery. He seriously needed to revamp his lesson plan but that would take time and effort. Ideally he would have the support of the ministry, but if needed he would just ignore them. Hopefully by next term he would have enough to start with at least the other first years and maybe the second years. Perhaps he should ask Potter for some of his marvelously controversial ideas…

Thursday, November 28, 1991
Cellar, Potter Hall

With a soft hum the mining laser started its work, the nominally invisible light sufficiently intense to scatter off the various air molecules and thus leaving the iconic red trail. Stone crumbled as pieces splintered beneath the relentless pounding of photons.

Tika stood a few paces away, monitoring the progress on her omni-tool. The room was cluttered with various machines, cables, and a portable generator, operating on fuel cells.
Most of the refitting of Potter Hall was finished. Scanners and camera drones had been hidden and shield emitters placed at strategically important places like the main door, the windows, and the fireplaces. Sadly they couldn't simply mount a cruiser-sized emitter atop the building itself that could envelop the whole house and a good portion of the grounds in an impenetrable bubble if necessary. That would be far too conspicuous.
If it ever became necessary though, the emitter could be installed in an hour or two. The infrastructure was already there, all that remained was to unpack it from one of the few unopened crates and install it.
It was amazing what one could do with virtually unlimited funds. Everything used to refurbish Potter Hall was top of the line, the best money could buy - sometimes even better.

A couple of minutes later the laser finished the preprogrammed cutting pattern, opening the passageway that hid one of the hidden rooms beneath Potter Hall: the one where the library had been kept safe from the fire that had devastated the house. Tika shut down the machinery as the wall crumpled and sent a signal to Liara who was currently in the library.

Tika was still clearing the rubble away when the Asari arrived. Being her usual helpful self, Liara used her biotics to move the stones aside, accomplishing in seconds what would take Tika a lot longer.

"You know, sometimes I hate you," Tika grumbled good-naturedly.

"You're just jealous," Liara replied, sticking out her tongue. Tika was confused for a moment, then shrugged her friend's strange behaviour off as a Human mannerism. Liara exhibited quite a few of those.

"Ready to see what's behind door number one?" Tika asked, fishing in a pile consisting of mostly tools for a dedicated flashlight. Tika herself was gaining ground fast in terms of cultural acclimatization, thanks to watching a lot of television, mostly game shows or the music channel while she worked. Or a comedic science fiction series about the adventures of a starship called Enterprise. Tika found that show hilarious.

"By all means, lead the way," Liara replied, motioning for Tika to go first.

The room behind the passage was spacious, easily big enough to house the machinery needed, at least as soon as the various bookcases were relocated. Which would pose a slight problem, but nothing insurmountable.
There was barely enough room to squeeze between the rows for the two explorers and a quick count put the number of cases at thirty, each one two meters high and two across.

Surprisingly there were still some books stored here, behind the glass facings that protected them from dust. There weren't many left behind, but they were spread out. Taken together they might have filled a case or two.

"I wonder why there are still some books here. Do you think this Dumbledore character wanted to keep them hidden?" Tika asked.

"I don't know," Liara answered uncertainly. Then she activated her omni-tool and gave it a couple of commands. A few seconds later a round, blue glowing drone appeared. "Glyph, scan the titles of the books in this room and give me a list."

"At once, Dr. T'Soni," it acknowledged and drifted down the first aisle. Once in a while it stopped, letting its wide, blue scanning beam flitter over a book. Liara and Tika meanwhile waited at the entrance, both looking at the projected list that kept expanding as new entries were scanned by the drone.

"I don't know as much about this magic-stuff as you do, Liara, but maybe these books are kept here with good reason," Tika offered. "I mean, Vicious Curses - When Simply Defeating Your Enemy Isn't Enough. That doesn't sound nice."

"Task completed, Dr. T'Soni," the drone reported.

"Thank you, Glyph. Please compare the titles with those already in the database and if they are already scanned where they have been found.

As more details were added it became clear why these books were still here and not upstairs in the library. There were some duplicates as well as some new books, but the vast majority had been found first in the Restricted Section at Hogwarts - painstakingly scanned by the stealthy, flat drones that could slip between pages Tika had developed a month ago. Most of those books had gruesome sounding names and it wasn't hard to suss out why the Headmaster had kept them here.
They really weren't suited for a child.

"I think you should restrict Harry's access to these titles here," Tika offered her opinion. "I can't imagine why Harry would need to know some of these."

"Maybe… But then again, these are his books." Liara seemed uncomfortable. After Harry's little blow-up a few weeks ago she had been extremely cautious about how to treat her charge.

"Liara, sometimes a parent has to do something against the wishes of the child because they know better. Of course Harry isn't going to like that and he'll be angry with you," Tika explained. Despite their age difference with Tika being much younger, the Quarian had more experience dealing with children, thanks to the very communal living on the Flotilla. "I know you two are a unique pair, but he looks up to you. You can't be only his friend all the time, sometimes he needs - not wants - you to be in charge and put down rules."

Liara's lips thinned in distaste. Intellectually she knew what Tika was talking about. In truth Harry and she had very little problems in the past, probably because they were very close most of the time. Now their lives - while still closely connected - were diverging slightly. They would develop different views and Harry's increasing wish to be his own person - Liara had read books about raising Human children - put them at odds from time to time.

"Very well. But I will not hide the books from him. His MUSE will have access for cross-references and be able to provide summaries and he can request permission at any time," she finally decided, even if she disliked it.

"Probably a wise choice, but then you are Asari and the daughter of Matriarch Benezia. It's in your eyes," Tika teased. Like the Asari, the Quarians believed that it was the eyes that held what gets passed down the generations.

Wednesday, December 11, 1991
The Great Hall, Hogwarts

Breakfast at the Gryffindor house table was usually a quiet affair - there were few morning people in the house of the brave - unless entertainment was provided by a Howler or some other distraction, but with end-of-term exams in full swing it was even more so. Also rather unusual was the presence of all the first years at this comparatively early hour, trying to cram as much as possible for the upcoming Charms exam that would start in less than an hour.
Even Ron could be seen with his nose in his textbook, and his frantic whispering and page shuffling told anyone how desperate he was. Once in a while he turned to ask Harry a question about something or another, which the raven-haired boy unerringly answered calmly and self-confidently.

In fact, Harry seemed to be the only isle of calm among his peers. Even Hermione, sitting to his right, while probably the most prepared was also one of the most nervous. She was currently lecturing - Harry had discovered that to be a nervous habit of hers - the other girls on the proper steps to cast the levitation charm. For once all of them hung on her every word.

Suddenly there was a rustling of wings and a flight of post owls came swooping in. A rather gaudy looking owl - which in itself was astounding, as most owls projected a dignified air - made its way to Harry and landed in front of him. No sooner had he untied the letter as the owl rather brazenly nicked some ham from his plate and took wing again. Harry scowled after it. He wouldn't have minded it too much if Hedwig had done it, or Fawkes, but just now he was reminded how unsanitary it was to have a bird on the breakfast table - and more importantly said bird's beak in his plate.

The letter was addressed to him in a flowing and elegant, if rather attention grabbing script. According to the backside, the sender was one Rita Skeeter, apparently with the Daily Prophet. Harry scowled some more, which didn't go unnoticed by either Hermione or Ron.

"What is it, Harry?" Hermione asked first.

"Just got a letter from someone called Rita Skeeter," Harry explained. "I think she's a reporter."

"Really?! Skeeter wrote to you?" Ron asked incredulously.

"Yeah, do you know her?" Harry asked in turn. By now several others had turned their heads towards him.

"Are you kidding," Seamus answered instead. "Even my mum reads her column." Various others were quick to nod their heads in agreement.

"My gran thinks she's vile," timid Neville put in, much to anyone's surprise. "Says she only writes slander and worthless gossip."

"Just bloody great!" Harry exclaimed, getting a glare from Hermione for his cussing.

"Well, go on, open it!" Ron urged him on and his sentiment was soon echoed all around him. Not seeing a way around it, Harry did. The letter was written in the same flowing script that for some reason looked artificial. Every letter looked just a little too perfect every time to have come from a human's hand.

'Dear Harry,' Harry scoffed at that. Such a familiar form of address was insulting, even to his Asari sensibilities, never mind the much more tightly laced British etiquette where it was considered a major faux pas to use someone's given name unless you were very close.
'A little bird has told me that you won't be at Hogwarts over the Yule holidays. After your triumphant return to our world, my readers are just dying for an interview with you, and I just can't deny them! Especially after those rumours coming from Hogwarts... The public has a right to know after all!
'I have taken the liberty of booking the backroom of the Leaky Cauldron for noon on Friday, the 27th of December, so you can tell me and my readers all about your past years away from our world.
'Sincerely yours,
'Rita Skeeter'

Harry frowned at the pushy attitude of the letter. He instantly disliked this Rita Skeeter, but he knew very little how to deal with the press. He would need to ask his Aunt Benezia. The Matriarch had centuries of experience with this kind of thing after all.

"Blimey, she wants to interview you!" Ron who had read over his shoulder exclaimed. "But what does she mean you won't be here over Christmas!? I thought you would stay here with me!"

"Why would I stay, Ron?" Harry asked. "Aren't you going home as well?"

"Mum, dad, and Ginny are going to visit Charlie in Romania, so me, Percy, and the twins have to stay here," Ron explained dejectedly. "I thought you would stay as well."

"Sorry, but I've got plans for the holidays," Harry said, feeling genuinely sorry for his friend. Hogwarts was brilliant, but he was looking forward to really see Liara again. He would never admit it in front of his friends, but he missed her a lot. Vidcalls just weren't the same. He also missed his other friends, Bob and Primus. He kept in contact by writing messages, but calling them from his omni-tool was not possible. It simply wasn't powerful enough to create a believable virtual real-time asarified version of him.
And he really longed to wreak some havoc in SoP with Primus.

"By the way, have your parents wrote back, Hermione? Have they agreed to pick you up from my place and can you come over on Boxing Day?" Harry tried to divert the attention from his plans. It might not have been the best subject to change to, judging by Ron's scowl. He still wasn't entirely over the fact that someone else was encroaching into his territory as best friend of Harry Potter.

"Oh I totally forgot to tell you yesterday! Yes they have agreed and I can come over. Daddy told me to convey his gratitude, he really dislikes having to drive into London this time of year and I'm looking forward to try out the floo. Oh and they invited you for tea on the 22nd," the girl answered. "But I wonder how this Rita Skeeter found out about you not being at Hogwarts. And what's this about your triumphant return?"

"Oh, she's probably talking about the special the Prophet ran the day after our sorting," Lavender butted in. "They even had a photo of Harry climbing onto the train. I think the headline was 'Potter's Back'. They have even started the 'Harry Potter' column again."

"Yeah, Ginny, my sister, is going mental about that," Ron put in, not seeing the look of shock on Harry's face. "She even wrote me to ask for an autograph of Harry. Barking that one is."

"Skeeter probably got the information from someone that has seen that your name is not on the list of those staying here over the holidays," Faye Dunbar pondered. She had already told anyone of her desire to become an auror and had read all of her father's crime thrillers.

"Oh bugger!" Harry groaned. He just realized a different dimension of his fame. Rabid fans.

As was quickly becoming a weekly tradition, the first year Gryffindor boys met in their dorm on the evening of their Astronomy lesson instead of the common room. Today though they didn't tell each other stories or joked around, rather they studied for the upcoming exams. That is, all but Ron Weasley.

Ron had been in a foul mood all day, especially after he barely scraped together an 'Acceptable' in his Charms practical. His written score was probably just as bad. Hermione's comment afterwards that 'It wasn't so bad afterall' only made it worse.
Harry didn't understand his friend. Even after doing poorly he still didn't study for the exams that were yet to come, like Astronomy this very night, instead claiming that after that exhausting day he had to relax. But nobody wanted to give him company, so now he just lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling.

"So Harry's going home over Christmas, what about you guys?" Ron finally broke the silence. "Neville? Are you going home as well?"

"Gran wants me to," was the defensive answer he got. Ron just grunted and turned towards the next boy. "And you Dean?"

"Yeah, can't wait to see my folks and my friends in the neighbourhood again. You guys are great and all, but I haven't played any footie in ages!"

"Seamus?" it was a testament to his mood that Ron didn't even comment on the barmyness of football.

"Sorry, mate, but we are visiting my dad's folks in Kilkenny," the Irish boy answered.

"But I thought your dad was a muggle?" Ron asked perplexed.

"Yeah, so?" Seamus threw back with an edge to his voice. It sounded almost like a challenge.

"So that means you're spending your Christmas in a muggle home with no magic at all! Why would you do that if you can stay here?! I mean, I can understand Dean with his folks being muggle and all, but your mum's a witch, isn't she? Why would you spend time at your dad's?" Ron ranted.

"Ya gobshit, ye! I like spendin' time with me dad!" Seamus shouted at the ginger, springing from his bed and made to lunge at Ron. However, Dean whose bed was in between the two held him back. Seamus struggled for a brief moment but then threw his friend off and stiffly walked back to his bed to pick up his things. Without another word to the stunned crowd he left the room.

The remaining boys' feelings ranged from angry - Ron - to surprised - Neville - and confused - Dean and Harry.

"Ohh-kay, what was that?" Harry finally asked. "I realize that Ron here put his foot in his mouth - again - but is it just me or was Seamus' reaction a bit over the top? Can anyone explain? Neville maybe?"

"I can understand Ron being surprised. It's a bit unusual," the sandy-haired boy said. "I honestly thought Mrs. Finnegan raised him alone."

"Why would she do that?" Dean asked perplexed.

"It's just that marriages between us and muggles rarely work out," Neville explained, visibly not comfortable being in the spotlight. "Few interact with the muggle world in the first place. I remember a second cousin of mine who was dating a muggle for a few months or so but decided it just wasn't worth it."

"Why though?" Harry asked.

"Can't do magic around muggles, can you?" Ron spat, still fuming from Seamus' outburst.

"Ron's right. We aren't allowed to tell any muggle about magic. Not even if we marry them," Neville explained. "The only muggles allowed to know about magic are parents and siblings of witches or wizards."

"So Mrs. Finnigan had to wait until Seamus was born to tell his father she's a witch? That's just cruel," Harry said.

"It's the law," Neville said with a shrug. "Gran always forbade me to go to the village or even talk to muggles because she feared that I would blab or something. Besides, she says the muggle world has nothing to offer to us, and she was always against the blood-purists."

"That sucks," Dean agreed with Harry.

"I'm going down, anyone coming?" Dean stated after a moment of silence.

"Yeah, just a sec, need to grab my charts," Harry said. He and Neville quickly gathered their stuff and joined Dean at the door. Ron stayed behind, wallowing in his anger and self-pity.

By now the common room was almost empty. A few older students were still there, cramming for their own exams, but the first year girls were still in their own dorm. Seamus sat in a corner by himself and the three boys made for him. There wasn't enough space for all of them, so Harry who had other plans anyway sat down nearby. Spreading his star charts as if to study them he bowed over it with his hands on his thighs. To anyone looking at him he seemed to be absorbed in the various constellations.
However, in reality he used his omni to write a message to Benezia, asking for advice on handling unwanted reporters.

He never noticed Hermione sneaking up on him until a wad of paper - not parchment - hit him square on the temple.

"Thirty-five to twenty," the girl announced smugly. "You better start thinking hard what to get me for Christmas."

Harry scowled good-naturedly at her. She had proven to have an uncanny ability to not only sneak up on him but also having an almost preternaturally instinct - in Harry's opinion - when he tried to do the same. "Don't worry, I've got that covered."

"So what has you thinking so hard?" Hermione asked, sitting down herself and pulling out her star charts. Harry gave her a raised eyebrow and a nod towards the spread parchment.

"Please," she scoffed. "You've been looking intently at Vega for the past ten minutes and I know you don't even need to study at all. You always seem to know where all the stars are just as if…. Harry you didn't!"

"What?" Harry asked innocently.

"You know what I mean," Hermione hissed. "You used you-know-what!"

"Oh come off it, Hermione!" Harry hissed right back. "Magical astronomy is years behind even muggle science - complete maps of the galaxy notwithstanding - and the Asari know a lot more about the stars than either of them can even imagine! Star constellations are just made up anyway."

"Fine," Hermione huffed. By now she mostly complained out of stubbornness and Harry hoped that his present would put the final nail in that particular coffin. "And you evaded my question!"

"It's nothing, just thinking about that letter and what Neville and Ron said earlier," he replied. "Did you know that they think the muggle world is boring and that they aren't allowed to even go to the village to play with the other kids there? And that apparently it's very unusual for Seamus to have contact with his muggle father? Isn't that just stupid?"

"Yes, Faye mentioned something like that," Hermione agreed with a frown. "I know magic can be wonderful, but you're right, it's very strange. I certainly don't want to lose contact, but what can we do? The Statute of Secrecy clearly states that all wizards and witches have to leave magic behind if they go out into the muggle world."

"So what? You don't need magic to go to the cinema, and besides what about bringing muggle things into the magical world? I know my parents had some muggle stuff at Godric's Hollow."

"You are right!" the girl exclaimed excitedly, but quickly deflated. "But you know most muggle things don't work here at Hogwarts."

"Let's think on it over Christmas," Harry said. Hermione went back to her star charts while Harry finished his message to Benezia.

"I'm bored," Harry stated, after he had finished.

"Then go play chess or something," Hermione said distractedly. She didn't notice Harry's eyes lighting up with an idea.

"That's it!" he exclaimed.

"What?" Hermione spat irritated. She really wanted to get some more studying done.

"I remember in grade school we got to play board games during recess or if we finished sooner than the rest," Harry explained. "How about we get some of those? I mean, chess, exploding snap, and gobstones seem to be the only games played here and they get boring fast, especially with Ron always winning because he just has the better set of figures. Where's the fun in that?"

"You are right, that's a wonderful idea, Harry! We could play Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit or Labyrinth or Scotland Yard or..."

"We should get Dean on board as well," Harry interrupted Hermione. "I bet he already has some games."

"I'll make a list. Maybe there are some wizarding games we could pick up as well and we just don't know about them," Hermione was in full planning mode. While she was rooting in her bag for a notepad and a biro - Hermione had been the first to adopt them after Harry, followed by a few other muggleborns - Harry went over to the table where Seamus, Dean, and Neville were bent over their own star charts. He quickly explained his idea to them, gaining Dean's instant approval. Seamus knew about Monopoly as well, having played it previously with his muggle cousins and was quite appreciative of the idea as well. Harry got the impression he wanted to stick it to Ron. Neville was unsure but was much too timid to say anything.

Wednesday, December 18, 1991
Entrance Hall, Hogwarts

The final week of term had gone by in a rush and it was time for most students to leave for the Christmas holidays. The Gryffindor first years descended in bulk, even Ron who would stay behind was there to say goodbye. Over the last couple of days his hot anger had burned itself out, leaving him sad and sulky. He was like a kicked puppy, but at least he had apologized to Seamus, in his own awkward way.
Also, by now he was quite scared and worried how to tell his mother about his poor performance on his exams.

As they went down the front steps to the waiting carriages, Harry saw an unusual sight. "What are those things?"

Hermione who walked beside him threw him a perplexed look. "Carriages, Harry. Don't you know about them?"

"I know what carriages are, I meant what's pulling them," he huffed.

"There's nothing pulling the carriages. I guess they are powered by magic," she explained with forced patience.

"You don't see those winged horses that look like they stepped out of some nightmare?" Harry asked incredulously.

"There are no horses, winged or otherwise, Harry!"

"I see them too," came the low and frightened voice of Neville from behind them.

A quick argument later produced that none of the others could see them either. To cut the discussion if they were truly there off, Harry dragged Hermione to the front of one of the carriages and made her put a hand on the beast. She might not have been able to see them, but she could certainly feel them. Obviously the rest of the ride down to the train station was spent on speculation what those things were and why only Harry and Neville could see them.
Harry might have been able to look them up easily enough, but he thought it more fun to just keep guessing.
Neville's suggestion that only people born in July might have been more logical, but Seamus idea that only those whose middle toes were longer than their second - true for both Harry and Neville - made them all laugh long and hard. And for quite a few feet being held up for inspection.

The train ride itself was pretty unremarkable. The group occupied two adjacent compartments, mainly segregated by gender, even if Hermione rode with the boys. There was still some back and forth between the two groups, especially when someone had come up with another ridiculous explanation for the mysterious horses that just had to be shared with the other compartment.

At some point Malfoy appeared at the door but seeing the whole pride assembled apparently thought better of whatever he had planned.
Soon later they arrived at Kings Cross. Amidst many well wishing, some shoulder slapping - the boys - and hugs - the girls - one by one the group splintered as kids went to their waiting parents and guardians.

This time Harry kept his eyes open for photographers and sure enough he spotted one at the fringes of the crowd, trying to get a good picture of him with his antiquated camera. Mainly to amuse himself, Harry made sure that someone was always between him and the lens, without being too obvious about it. After a few botched attempts the man seemed to give up and left, eliciting a triumphant grin from Harry.
He knew hiding was futile in the long run, but he was still in a silly mood and messing with the unwelcome photographer seemed just the thing to do.

Shortly after the man had left, Harry and Hermione made their way to the public floos. Harry could tell Hermione was anxious, he probably shouldn't have told her about his first experience with the floo he mused, but now it was too late. He could hear her mutter the instructions he had given her under her breath, much like she had done before their exams.

Taking out a small pouch of floo-powder he took some and handled the pouch to Hermione as he had to go first. Hermione watched him intently taking a deep breath before entering the fireplace and state the destination 'Potter Hall' clearly and confidently. This time, Harry's landing was near perfect as he stepped out at his home with the faintest of stumbles.
Hermione followed less than a minute later after Harry had opened the fireplace to her, much less gracefully, but neither did she land on her face like Harry had on his first floo-adventure. Harry was only slightly jealous.

Liara was waiting for them in her Human disguise. Hermione's father would pick her up soon and even if Hermione knew how the Asari really looked like, there was no point to let anyone else know. The plan was for Liara to slowly establish herself, showing up from time to time in controlled settings like on Boxing Day when Remus would meet her for the first time. In a way, Hermione and her father were sort of a test run. Hermione already knew more than they wanted generally known while Gaius Granger, being an outsider, had absolutely no idea that there was something out of the ordinary to Liara.

"Welcome back, Harry," Liara said with a grin, engulfing the boy in a hug which was returned eagerly. "Hello, Hermione. It's good to see you again."

Hermione didn't quite know how to act. Her parents had raised her to be polite and she had a lot of experience being introduced to various adult strangers, but her standard 'How do you do, Lady so-and-so' just didn't feel right for the occasion. For one this was a much more relaxed setting and the woman before her seemed barely in her twenties. And Liara had saved her live, and there was this whole mystery going on.
She decided on casual but polite.

"It's nice to finally meet you, Ms. T'Soni. Harry has told me a lot about you," she said, shaking the Asari's hand. For a brief moment Liara looked worriedly at Harry. "Thanks for saving us from… that night. And don't worry, I won't tell anybody anything, I promise."

"I'm just glad I got there in time," Liara replied, looking relieved after her declaration. "And thank you as well. If you hadn't distracted the troll for a moment, I wouldn't have been in time."

Before Hermione could respond, there was a knock from the door.

"You hear that?" Harry asked.

"Why wouldn't we?" Hermione asked confused. Her friend was strange sometimes. But then, the horses earlier…

"I'll tell you another time," he responded distractedly as he went to open the door. Liara, Hermione noticed, was standing back and smoothing out her elegant dress - not that it needed smoothing out. As far as Hermione could tell she was the picture of elegance and looked simply stunning.

"Yes, hello?"

"Good evening. I'm here to pick up my daughter Hermione," came her father's voice from the door. She left Liara to her fussing and made to pick up her trunk.

"How do you do, Dr. Granger, please come in," Harry invited the older gentlemen, shaking his hand.

"Thank you. It's good to finally meet you, Mr. Potter. Hermione has written us a lot about you." Gaius Granger said formally. Hermione had to stifle a groan. "And I have to thank you for sparing me a long trip into London, especially with this frightful weather."

Indeed it was raining outside and if it were just a centigrade colder it might have snowed. Her father's heavy coat was dripping rainwater onto the marble floor, even though she could see his car standing less than ten strides from the entrance.

"No problem at all. Hermione is welcome to floo from here anytime," Harry waved him off. Hermione had to admit he handled himself very well. He was respectful and charming. She could see her father approved.

"May I introduce my guardian, Dr. Liara T'Soni?" Harry motioned towards Liara as they came closer. Introductions were exchanged and Liara's earlier nervousness had vanished as if she had put on a mask. Why was she nervous in the first place? Hermione wondered. Probably she doesn't interact with Humans often and is afraid to give herself away.

"I have to say, this place hasn't changed at all in the years since I was here the last time. Remarkable since I distinctly remember that it had burned down at some point," Gaius said. "Had someone told me back then that magic was real and I had entered the home of wizards, I would probably have declared them mad. But I'll be damned if this place hasn't a way of slipping one's mind."

"Oh, I didn't know you've been here before. Were you friends with my grandparents?" Harry asked, surprised.

"We weren't really close, though I was here a couple of times - not often, mind you. We didn't really know each other, but the Potters and the Grangers have lived in these parts for centuries, so it's only natural that we know of each other. We didn't socialize in the same circles, obvious in hindsight, but we were acquainted. I remember your father, I think he was fifteen when I came by to introduce my wife."

After some more small-talk, it was time for Hermione and her father to go. Liara and Harry were invited for tea and Hermione got permission to come over on Boxing Day. In fact, since her parents were invited to a dinner party, she would spend the night.
As Dr. Granger made to pick up Hermione's trunk, Harry had to remind her that she could do magic in his home. At first the girl was a bit skeptical, but showing off what she had learned to her father was enough incentive. And technically they were under supervision. Soon the trunk floated towards her father's car. After a round of farewells the Grangers departed.

"Now, let's see what I've missed," Harry said, rubbing his hands gleefully. There were new toys to play with!

Most wizards know that as a species the phoenixes had been around for a long time and that it was next to impossible to kill one. Those that had the privilege to meet one were convinced they were intelligent, certainly more so than any normal animal, even if they were… odd.
No one knew however how old the species was or if today's phoenixes were the same as in the beginning - the mating behaviour was even more of a mystery than the creatures themselves, after all. No one could tell if Phoenixes died at all if left alone.

The truth would probably shock anyone.

For aeons the phoenix known as Fawkes had existed in the strange slumber-like state his kind had been reduced to. He would probably never fully wake from it; it had simply been too long. However, twice in the recent past his old self had stirred, like a sleeper who rolls himself into a more comfortable position, never truly waking. Something had happened at the site of the old covenant, something involving the boy and the blue girl.
He had watched them these past few months out of some subconscious instinct. The same instinct that told him now that it was time, that they were almost ready, almost complete.

And Fawkes sang, because that's what phoenixes do. But this was a different song.

Half a galaxy away, on a planet lightyears from anything remotely interesting, something… changed.

AN: The Mass Effect isn't really a force multiplier. It can be used to 'create' force, and thanks to the superposition principle it can act as a force augmentor, but a multiplier is something else. It can also increase or decrease mass which can act as an effect multiplier (or worse), so to speak. If the force remains the same, an object of half the mass will be accelerated twice as fast. Those two applications together make quite an effective combo, but it's even more interesting what happens when the initial force is increased or when there are sudden changes in mass.

Reader CaBil gave me the wonderful idea to introduce Harry to the wider wizarding world through the attention of the press. He rightly pointed out that after having vanished, his return to that world would be even more anticipated and medially covered than in canon. Here we see some glimpses of that.
On a related note: Harry isn't the consummate politician and networker, at least not yet. One of his dreams is to get Humanity to the stars, but a much more personal dream is to become an explorer and discoverer. He's naturally curious. Over the years he has obviously picked up some of Benezia's wisdom, but it isn't as if he has been drilled in politics for years. He's also only eleven. He's allowed to act childish from time to time, especially now that he's among children his own age most of the time.
That's why he acts so differently at times. Harry acts mature when talking to grown-ups and Hermione, but not when he's with other kids his age. I think a lot of smart children are the same.

As you can tell, the dynamic in Gryffindor has changed. Ron is still Harry's friend but so are the rest of the Gryffindor first years. Ron only stands out because he has latched onto Harry a bit, fancying himself his best friend. It isn't malicious - the comparison with the puppy is more or less apt. There will be conspiracies in this story, but not of the Weasley/Dumbledore type.

Harry and Hermione have met under different circumstances on the train and their friendship didn't start with the troll, but rather the incident only reinforced it. Unlike canon - where I believe Hermione and Ron run the day to day business - Harry is the 'dominant' one in their friendship, as he is more knowledgeable about almost anything and even if he weren't Harry Potter, he would still have a higher social standing. He doesn't have much of a lead though in terms of magical knowledge and by the end of the school year Hermione will have caught up with him. They will still be different persons with different strengths and weaknesses, but Hermione won't be simply the smart sidekick chick to Sir Harry the Brave.

Note from Aella: I apologize for how late this chapter was. For the past weeks I'd been procrastinating and ended up taking a very long time to finish looking over the chapter. Thanks all for the patience and thanks to Tellur for putting up with me.