Chapter 17 – The Wet Wizard

. . .

The great hall of Hogwarts was filled with the usual din which seemed to accompany every meal, this particular evening's meal being no different than any other. Students joked, laughed and chatted away the time just as they had every previous evening since the start of term. Food appeared on the tables and was consumed by the students in the manner in which all growing children eat, rather quickly. The main courses had long since been served and even now were starting to be replaced with the more sought after sweets of dessert.

At the Hufflepuff table the general topic of discussion was related to who was doing what and how others might help, if so inclined. The Ravenclaws were mostly discussing the planned study groups for that evening so they could get in as much revision before bedtime as possible. The Gryffindor table was its typically loud and boisterous self, almost as if it felt it needed to outdo the other three tables in this regard. As one would expect, the majority of the conversation was focused on the Quidditch match from earlier that day. The Slytherins were mostly quiet except for the occasional barb that was verbally hurled at the nearby table of lions only to be mostly ignored. The few subdued conversations along the long length of the table were predictably about the day's game and Harry Potter's failure at being a Seeker. At the head table the Professors quietly conversed among themselves between bites of the exceptional fare prepared that evening.

"He should be here by now," Hermione said to the other Outsiders with a worried expression upon her face. "I mean how long does it take to shower and change after all?" The young Gryffindor witch received equal looks of concern from Tracey and Daphne, though Blaise continued to blissfully eat his food without an apparent care in the world. "He's a boy after all," she added as if to indicate that should have shortened the required time for proper hygiene. The young witch's brown eyes darted about the hall, landing upon the distant doors several times. It's not like he's a girl for Merlin's sake! It takes us longer to get ready. A bit unfair that, really, the young girl noted with a slightly creased brow at the injustice forced upon her gender.

"Maybe he stopped to have a bit of a chin wag with someone?" Tracey offered, though the questioning tone of her voice clearly indicated that even she didn't think that was likely. He better have a good reason for making us worry, the auburn haired witch thought, though her concern for her friend didn't really allow her to be angry at him for the moment. If he doesn't get here soon he won't be able to eat, she worried, glancing quickly towards the doors of the hall before her best friend's voice drew her eyes back.

Daphne gave a small shake of her head at Tracey's words. "Everyone he could possibly want to speak to is here," the young girl stated with a quick glance around their group before turning towards the head table where Aurora Sinister was talking quietly to another professor. I think that is Professor Vector, the Arithmancy instructor, she recalled to herself, having heard several of the older students speaking about the overly strict woman. Where could he possibly be? she wondered as her head turned to regard the main entrance to the hall, hoping to see their missing friend walk through the doors.

Blaise swallowed before offering his thoughts on the matter. "You're assuming Harry would want to speak to anyone right now," the dark-skinned boy interjected into the three witch's conversation regarding the whereabouts of the missing wizard. "Blimey, after getting caught pulling that Blagger on the Gryff Seeker, then catching the snitch and costing us the match, I wouldn't be surprised if he went straight to bed or something. If not for that foul shot, and if he had let Derrick score before catching the snitch, we would have won the match. The poor bloke hasn't had the best of luck this week," Blaise concluded with, his head giving a sad little shake. First he's nearly killed by a troll and then he falls off his broom and costs us the match. Rotten luck, that's what that is!

"He does seem to manage to get himself into a spot of trouble on a regular basis," Tracey dropped into the silence that followed the young wizard's words. "I'm sure there's a good reason for how everything played out," Tracey said loudly in Harry's defense, drawing a few stares and glares from further down the table. "It's not Harry's fault. He just doesn't have the best of luck," she added in a quieter tone of voice, agreeing with Blaise.

"A bit more than a spot of trouble this time around, Davis," Blaise responded with. "Our House is none to thrilled with him at the moment and I'm certain the Gryffs were none too pleased with that Blagger either. I still can't believe Harry did that," he added in a disbelieving tone.

"There have been all kinds of rumors this last week concerning Harry and what happened on the Grande Stairway," Hermione offered, wanting to change the subject from the Quidditch match earlier that day. The Gryffindor witch couldn't believe her friend had cheated either but she assumed there was a logical reason for it. "The professors aren't saying anything one way of the other." The young brunette had heard many different stories through the course of the week. Everything from Harry being attacked by the troll to him being the one to let the troll in only to have it turn on him when he lost control of it.

"That just makes it worse," Daphne stepped in with. "The gossipers are running rampant and having a field day, I'm afraid. The fact that Harry spent the week in the hospital wing made it clear enough to the entire school that he was somehow involved in the matter. I've had several students approach me and ask me for details of what happened." The young witch stared down at her plate and rearranged the food with her fork.

"Me too," Tracey added. "…and not just from my own house, but the others as well. The entire school seems to be under the impression that we know something they do not. Granted, we do, but still! I just tell them that I know as much as they do and nothing else. They seem to be buying it for now. Still, it seems most believe that the troll was Harry's doing."

"Oi, I heard that Harry brought the troll into the school to attack the Gryffindor Quidditch team just so our team would win," Blaise added with a grin at how absurd the story was to anyone with half a brain. "My personal favorite is that the big smelly thing just came to see The-Boy-Who-Lived and ask for an autograph!" Blaise added with a short barking laugh and a shake of his head in disbelief. "Next thing you know they'll be thinking he filched a dragon from Gringotts or something."

"I guess I should be thankful that my housemates aren't speaking to me," Hermione said, setting her fork down next to her plate of nearly untouched food. "…though that hasn't stopped me from hearing all the stories as well. A few of the Ravenclaw students approached me in the library looking for information. I told them pretty much the same thing Tracey did, that I didn't know what happened. Thankfully we've spent most of our time with Harry or I've no doubt it would have be far worse."

Daphne pushed her untouched plate of food away, not even attempting to pretend that she was eating at this point. "If he doesn't get here soon the meal will be over with and he'll have nothing to eat at all," the young witch said in a worried tone. He needs to eat, she worried as she recalled what Madam Pomfrey had said concerning Harry and his body's need for proper nourishment.

"Do you think we should go look for him?" Hermione asked tentatively only to see the other two witches nod in agreement. The determined looks upon their faces clearly indicating that they were just as worried about Harry as she was. "We should split up to make it easier to find him."

"But where to look?" Tracey asked before starting to chew on her bottom lip in a thoughtful manner as she pondered her own question.

Blaise sighed heavily and looked at all three witches with a slightly exasperated glare. The young wizard knew that if he had the kind of day that Harry had he wouldn't want a bunch of people around him. "You lot are not going to let this go are you?" he asked only to receive three blank stares in return at the apparently absurd question. "Fine," he continued with, pushing his empty plate away, "I'll go check the pitch then." Maybe at least I can give him a fair warning that these three are looking for him.

"I'll go with you," Hermione instantly offered with a hopeful look upon her face as she sprang to her feet.

Blaise simply shook his head. "Boy's locker room. I doubt if he is still in there that he'll want you to see him," the young boy replied as he stood, missing the young witch's cheeks suddenly turning pink as she blushed at the thought of intruding upon the boy's locker room.

"Where should we look?" Daphne asked, looking to the other two witches as Hermione sank back into her seat.

"Try the hospital wing," Blaise answered as he stepped over the bench. "He tends to end up there quiet often." The three witches could only nod in agreement as the fourth member of their group turned and headed for the doors of the great hall to look for the missing Harry Potter.

-oOo-

The young wizard made his way down the hall and through several others before exiting the building. The great castle of Hogwarts was less a castle and more a collection of many building gathered together in close proximity to one another. As Blaise walked along the covered pathway to the connecting structure he paid little attention to the stonework or even where his feet were taking him. Through the next building and out the back into the courtyard area would lead him to the archway that let out on the hillside high above the Pitch.

What am I going to do? the young boy asked himself as his leather soled boots tapped out a steady, if somewhat reluctant, rhythm along the stone flagstones. One hand slipped into his pocket and grasped the letter he had received just that morning. I still can't believe that she wrote me, then again I shouldn't be all that surprised, he thought with a humorless snort. I should have seen this coming after all, he told himself as he thought over the contents of the missive once again.

My Dearest Child,

The Manor is not the same without you here my little Blaise. You have always been such a demanding child, one requiring a great deal of attention. I find that in your absence, I feel as though I have no reason to remain here…no purpose in life, other than to await your return. It's not as if I have a daughter or another child to nurture and care for in your absence.

"Dearest child?" Blaise mumbled aloud to himself. "I'm her only child! A fact she never allows me to forget," he grumbled to himself angrily as his fist crumpled the letter in his pocket. Though he did not have all the details, the young boy had overheard enough conversations to gather that his birth had not been easy on his mother. While he himself had been born perfectly healthy, his mother's ability to birth additional siblings had apparently been the price for his coming into the world.

But enough about me, my dear boy. I hear that you have been doing well in your classes? One hears a great many things in the right circles, even that you've made the most unusual of friends. I was certain that the information was unreliable of course. I just didn't see how that could be true as you had as yet to tell me of your friend, Harry Potter. It must have slipped your mind, no doubt. You always were a forgetful sort of boy. Had you only been born a daughter I'm certain that wouldn't have been the case.

"All you ever really wanted was a daughter," growled the irate wizard as his pace, along with his ire, increased proportionately to each other. The dark-skinned youth had heard it all his life. 'If only you were a daughter, Blaise…', 'your only a boy so I shouldn't expect much…', 'boys have their uses, limited though they be…', the sound of his mother's voice in his heard grated on his nerves.

However, you are my son and that shall have to do. I want you to become friends with Harry Potter. You are to become close to him, gain his trust and learn as much about him as you can. Anything you find of importance you are to write to me concerning it. I know several parties who will pay handsomely for any information they can get their hands on.

Even though you are my son you had best not fail me in this regard! Oh yes, less I forget…there is a merchant who has recently made a name for himself…a rather wealthy name. I suspect that you'll have a new father by the time you arrive for the holidays. Be sure to be respectful and do keep out of the way when you get home.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon!

Mum

Blaise paused and leaned against the wall as he fumed. I know I should be used to it by now, he told himself. After years of being told that I wasn't the daughter she had hoped for it shouldn't hurt this much! The young boy blinked rapidly several times to clear away the tears before they could fall from his eyes. He had promised himself that he wouldn't cry…that he would never cry again where that woman was concerned. The adolescent wizard fought to regain control of himself as his mind recalled what his life had once been like.

When he had been very little, as well as right up to around the time he turned eight, he hadn't known that he wasn't the daughter his mother had so longed for. The Zabini Matriarch had clothed her child in the most expensive of dresses. Only the cutest of outfits would do for her precious little girl. Whatever the latest trend in girl's clothing was, Blaise found himself adorned in it. Blaise's Mum, much to his delight at the time, never left his side or allowed him to be out of her sight for longer than it took to use the loo. They did everything together from eating, to sleeping and even bathing.

Private instructors were hired to teach the young girl dance as well as the piano and proper etiquette for one befitting her station. Lilith Zabini took great pleasure in parading her darling little girl about every chance she got. There wasn't a high-class party or extravagant Pure-Blood dinner where the two Zabini women couldn't be found in attendance. Blaise had made a very cute and charming little girl. The boy's slight build, high cheekbones and long delicate fingers had nearly screamed feminity. Lilith had, in a very short amount of time, found herself with several betrothal requests for her daughter's hand. Perhaps the most lucrative among those had been the one to the Malfoy scion, Draco.

Blaise took a deep calming breath to steady his nerves as well as his racing heart. If Malfoy, Nott or any of the others found out about that, my life would be a living hell! In the end it had been his mother's fifth husband who had told him one night, in a drunken stupor, that he was in fact a boy and not a girl. "The sorry, bloke," Blaise mumbled, recalling that a week later the man had died under rather mysterious circumstances. Blaise knew that it was actually his fault as he had confronted his mother about his gender just the day before her husband had died. It wasn't long before a story circulated around Wizarding high society concerning the untimely death of the youngest Zabini girl. Most believed that Blaise had been adopted by the Zabini Matriarch to fill the void left by the death of the woman's daughter.

The first year wizard's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of distant laughter which seemed to echo down the passageway to where he was. On silent feet the boy moved to the end of the corridor and eased his head around the corner only to see no one. The doors at the end of the hall opened out onto a rectangular courtyard and he could feel the cool night air as it gently blew into the castle through the open doors. Roofed walkways, with wide open archways, ran along the outer edges of the courtyard only to join up at its furthest location from the doors. The trail down to the Quidditch Pitch started from just past the gates that were opposite from the doors of the structure.

Blaise slipped along the wall of the hall, staying mostly in the shadows, which wasn't difficult to do as it was night and the hall was only lit by sparsely placed torches. As he reached the opened doors he peered out and could see that there were three boys standing across the courtyard, near the far gate. Even as he watched, one handed over a lit fag to another before blowing out a lung full of smoke into the night sky. Blaise slipped quickly out the doors and off to one side to hide within the darkness of the corner. They're at least fourth or fifth years, he thought to himself as he eased a bit closer once he was certain none of them had seen his hasty exit from the building. In another minute he knew who they were, even as he felt a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach.

"Did you see the way the little git toppled over when I stunned him?" Peregrine Derrick asked with a nasty grin before he took a drag off the fag that had just been passed to him. "Like a bloody sack of turnips, it was," the Slytherin Chaser added as he handed the half gone fag over.

Adrian Pucey took a hit of the smoldering tobacco before adding angrily, "I can't believe the little shite cost us the match!" The boy finally exhaled the smoke as he passed the fag to the third boy. "All we needed was a few more minutes and we would have had them!" The boy shoved his hands into his pockets to keep them warm as the night had a definite chill to it. "Not a peep out of him when he fell off his broom though," Pucey added with a touch of admiration as he was certain he would have yelled if that had happened to him.

"He screamed like a little girl right enough when he landed in the lake," Marcus Flint laughed as he accepted the offered smoke and took a long drag. "What the hell was Snape thinking, straddling us with a firstie! The bloody fool can't even stay on his damn broom."

"You…you think he'll be alright?" Pucey finally asked after a minute or so while Derrick took his turn before handing the nearly gone fag to him. "Potter, I mean," the boy quickly clarified upon seeing the questioning looks from the other two.

"I sure as hell hope not," Derrick exclaimed rather loudly. "With Potter out of the picture we'll get a new Seeker. Anyone would be better than that worthless wanker!" Flint just shrugged to show that he didn't really care one way of the other.

"So, you don't believe what they're saying about him?" Pucey asked just before taking a short puff and handing the fag to Flint. "The troll and all I mean," the Slytherin Chaser clarified, worried about what might happen if the Potter boy lived and ever found out who was responsible for the forced late night swim.

Derrick snorted in disbelief. "I can't believe you're buying into that rubbish! A mere firstie took out a full grown mountain troll?" The former Beater just shook his head in disbelief at the foolishness of others. "There's no way Potter has that kind of power!"

"He beat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," Pucey declared defensively. "That couldn't have been easy. He was a baby and all. Blimey, wish I could have seen that happen!" he added in a wistful tone of voice.

"You and everyone else in the world," Derrick was quick to point out. "Ways I hear it, no one was there to see it or at least they ain't talkin about it if they were. If no one was there to witness it then we really don't know for sure what happened. Do we? Could just be some story that the Ministry cooked up. Potter ain't all that strong I tell ya. The way the others Slytherin firsties talk, he isn't anything special."

"What about the books in the library?" Pucey countered with. "That had to take a bit of talent to do."

Derrick shrugged, not having actually given the matter much thought when it had occurred back at the start of term. "He probably had help. He's always got that mudblood with him as well as those other two little bints. If you believe what you hear, they're fairly smart," the boy said with a smirk, as he clearly didn't put much faith in any girl being clever. "I'm sure they could have figured out how to pull that prank off. Even being girls they should have been able to help somewhat."

"I have to agree with Derrick," Flint weighed in with after taking the last drag from the fag and dropping it to the ground and stepping on it with his boot. "More than likely it was Dumbledore or one of the other Professors that killed that troll. I highly doubt Potter could have done it," the Slytherin team captain stated. "What I really want to know though is why the Malfoy brat is protecting Greengrass and Davis. They should have been getting the same treatment Potter's been dealt if you ask me."

"If it wasn't for Malfoy senior and this being our OWL's year, I would have tossed the little ponce into the lake a long time ago," Derrick spat out in disgust. "I've had more than my share of his prancing about like he owns the bleedin place and expecting every one of us to worship the ground he walks on!"

"True enough," Flint agreed with the other boy, "However his old man is who he is and all. The last family that crossed Lucius Malfoy just up and disappeared one night. Here one day and no trace of them the next," the boy stated with a touch of awe in his voice. The others could do little more but nod in agreement.

"We should get back before they realize we're not at the feast," Pucey offered with a quick nervous glance about, not liking where the conversation was going. The three of them turned and headed through the courtyard. "Do you really think Potter is dead?" the boy asked as the three of them neared the doors to the castle.

"Probably," Flint replied with a dismissive shrug of his shoulders. "Everyone is at the evening feast right now. It's doubtful anyone will find him in time to save his sorry arse. The way he was thrashing about, I don't see him lasting all that long. Hard to swim with your school robes on as they tend to weigh you down the more water they absorb. I had an older cousin drown much in the same manner last year," the fifth year added with a near maniacal glint in his eye as he recalled watching his cousin go under the water for the last time.

Peregrine Derrick chuckled evilly. "I wonder how long it will be before they find his body? Maybe the fishes will have eaten most of him by the time they do!" All three boys broke out in laughter as they walked through the doors into the building. Behind then a frightened boy detached himself from the shadows he'd been hiding in and speed off towards the Black Lake, praying that he was in time.

-oOo-

Harry awoke slowly to the realization that he was laying upon his side on something that was rather hard and unyielding. There was the soft repetitive sound of water lapping against something solid that he found to be rather soothing the longer he listened to it. With the darkness behind his closed eyelids, and judging by the cool breeze that was blowing, he surmised it must be well after dark by now.

The young wizard hesitantly opened his eyes only to find himself staring into the prettiest pair of blue irises he'd ever seen before. The eyes, and the girl they belonged to, were no more than a scant inch or two from his face. The girl, no older than himself he guessed, jumped backwards slightly at seeing his eyes flutter open, before regarded him rather intently. "Hello," Harry spoke softly, too exhausted to do more than that at the moment.

The last thing I remember was being dropped in the lake, he recalled. The evening light in the sky had been trickling down through the water above him as he sank. The young boy recalled thinking it looked rather pretty actually. Just as darkness had claimed him he thought he had seen a flicker of movement before him. How did I get here? he wondered, taking note of the puddle he was lying in as well as his soaked clothing. Someone saved me?

The small girl's full red lips stretched into a smile upon hearing his voice and seeing him awake. "Are you my Jolly Sailor bold?" she asked in a hopeful tone of voice as she bobbed in the water beside the dock upon which the wizard lay. The girl's wet long black hair was pulled back along her head and cascaded down her back only to disappear into the water. A pale complexion, high cheek bones set beneath wide blue eyes and shallow cheeks gave the girl an other-worldly appearance that the young boy found rather breathtaking.

"I'm Harry," the confused boy replied. "Harry Potter." Unable to take his eyes from her, he none the less noticed some of the details of the immediate area about them. It didn't take him very long to realize that he was laying upon the same dock where the white boats they had ridden to across the lake their first night at Hogwarts, had brought them. She must have saved me, his mind reasoned as he continued to stare. While his mind was functioning normally, his body felt drained of strength as his wet clothes clung to him heavily.

"Wizard Harry Potter," the girl repeated as she drew closer, once again resting her arms atop each other on the edge of the dock before settling her chin upon them. "Are you my Jolly Sailor bold?" she enquired once more with an expectant smile. It was clear, even to the usually oblivious youth, that the petite girl desperately wanted him to say yes.

"I…I'm afraid I don't know what that is," Harry stammered, hating to have to disappoint her. With her change of position, returning to where she had originally been, the girl's face was only mere inches away from his own again. Her ethereal beauty nearly filled the expanse of his field of vision, though it was her eyes that captivated his attention the most. The young boy wanted to sit up but found he hadn't the strength to even do that small feat. For now, all he could do was lay there and stare at the girl as she replied in a sad, yet sweet voice.

"My heart is pierced by Cupid, I disdain all glittering gold," the girl sang softly. "There is nothing can console me, but my jolly sailor bold. Come all you pretty fair maids, whoever you may be, who love a jolly sailor bold, that ploughs the raging sea." The young girl continued to regard the boy before her intently for a long moment after she stopped her sing-song verse. "Are you he, Wizard Harry Potter? My Jolly Sailor bold? My Jolly Tar?"

"I…I don't likely know what that means," Harry haltingly admitted once again. "W…would you like me to be?" he asked. Perhaps it is something I can do to repay her for saving my life, he reasoned. Maybe it means we can be friends? The nearly drowned wizard felt that anyone who would save another person from dying wouldn't be a bad person. I can always use another friend, he believed, for the Outsiders had shown him just how wonderful true friends could be.

"Oh Yes!" the girl exclaimed excitedly, her smile spreading across her full lips as she raised her head up off her arms. "Do you promise?" she asked as she leaned nearer, the tips of their noses a hair's breathe from touching one another as she looked him in the eye to ascertain the truth of his words. "Oh do say you will!" she beseeched the young boy.

Harry swallowed heavily, which was no easy feat, considering the position he was currently lying in. Even all the time he had spent with Hermione, Tracey and Daphne hadn't prepared him for having a pretty girl's face directly in front of his in this manner. The bluest of eyes gazed into his and he swore he could feel himself being drawn into them. "I…I swear," he stammered in a soft voice.

The ecstatic girl leaned away and then suddenly thrust out a small delicate hand, the tiniest finger of all bent and expectant. "Promise me that you'll be my jolly tar when I am ready, Wizard Harry Potter!" she demanded in a stern tone with a seriousness upon her face that would have been well at home upon the countenance of the Head of Gryffindor, Professor McGonagall.

Harry, with great effort, managed to lift his arm and hook his smallest of fingers around hers. "I swear," he once more repeated, as he pinkie promised the petite girl who was with him. His movements caused his clothes to shift and a sudden chill went up his spine as the wet clothing shifted across his skin and the cold night breeze blew, adding to his discomfort. "Aren't you cold?" Harry asked, just then realizing that the girl was actually in the water. If I'm cold then she should be right near freezing.

"Silly man-child," the girl giggled as she spun about effortlessly in the water next to the dock. "It is warmer here than at my own home," she told him, once more coming to rest with her arms stacked upon the dock, her chin now resting on them again so that they might continue to converse. Was he truly worried for me? she pondered, both puzzled as well as delighted by the prospect. "Perhaps one day I shall show you my home, Wizard Harry Potter, if you'd like?" she asked, capturing the boy's gaze with her own.

"I think I should like that," Harry replied without a moment's thought. For some reason he felt that he very much wanted to go wherever she wanted him to. A small portion of his mind wondered at this but as it seemed rather trivial he quickly dismissed it from his thoughts. "Please, just call me Harry. All my friends call me Harry," he told her in a dreamy tone. "It would be grand to see your home."

"Home? Wait a minute…won't you be missed?" Harry enquired, snapping out of his current mental state, concern for his newest friend seeming to wake him from his thoughts. "It is getting very late. I'm sure your folks are probably worried."

The young girl paled a bit, even though she was already fairly white to begin with. "I must go," she suddenly told him in a worried tone as her head turned to regard the water behind her as if she expected someone to appear there at that very moment. "If they find out that I've been gone…," she spoke aloud, more to herself than to Harry. "They mustn't find out about you! I'll be in trouble for certain," she added with a sad little pout, turning her gaze once more upon the boy, clearly not wanting to leave him just yet.

Harry pushed himself up into a sitting position with a great deal of difficulty. "Then you should go," he told her earnestly, though touched by her apparent desire to stay with him. "If you leave now, maybe you can get back before they realize you've been gone," he suggested. "It wouldn't do for you to get into trouble for talking with the likes of me." Who mustn't find out about me? he wondered to himself. Her parents? Maybe she's not allowed to have any friends, the boy questioned, thinking of his own upbringing at the hands of the Dursleys.

"Wizard Harry, you are my Jolly Sailor now," she reminded him of as she used her arms to lift her upper torso further from the water so that she might look him directly in the eye. "There is none other that I would wish to speak to more than you!" she declared to the young boy.

Harry felt his cheeks heat into a rapid blush and he hastily adverted his eyes to the side. It was not her words that had the young wizard so flustered but rather the fact that when she had lifted herself from the water it became apparent that she wasn't wearing a swimsuit or at least not a top of any sort. "It's Harry. My friends just call me Harry," he replied in a soft, as well as embarrassed, tone of voice as he studied the distant darkness, trying to look anywhere but at the girl before him.

"Thank you, Harry," the young girl replied as she leaned towards him and chastely left a parting kiss upon the boy's blushing cheek that was turned towards her. "I do not know when I shall be back," she informed him of as she slipped back into the water till just her head and shoulders were once again visible. "The Frozen Tears will come soon so I will not be able to get away. Look for me when the seasons once again change, my Jolly Sailor Harry," she said as she started to swim away.

"Wait!" Harry called, his head whipping about quickly towards her as he heard her voice starting to recede. "I don't even know your name," he called out to her, only to see her swim back till he could once more make out her features in the moonlight.

The girl in the water gave him a warm smile before replying, "I have been called many things by your kind, Wizard Harry Potter. Parthenope, Leucosia, Teles are but a few of the older ones," she told him. "What would you call me?"

Harry shook his head slightly from side to side. "But what is your name? I don't want to call you by what others have named you. You must have a name you call yourself? One your Mum and Dad gave you at your birth," he insisted, leaning forward at the edge of the dock. "Please tell me it."

The girl paused for a long moment and regarded Harry thoughtfully. "My name is truly unpronounceable for you I fear, Wizard Harry, for it must be sung beneath the waters. It's closest translated meaning would be 'teardrop' or Deigryn in the elder tongue of this island," she offered instead upon seeing his crestfallen look.

Harry pondered that for a brief moment before saying anything. "Then…may I call you Rin?" he asked, taking the last part of Deigryn and using it for a name, unaware of the proper spelling of the word. Upon seeing her questioning look, Harry explained. "It is simple and yet it sounds cute. A most fitting name for you, I believe," he told her in a rush, hoping he hadn't offended her in some manner with his choice of names.

"Th…that would be most acceptable," Rin stammered in reply as she felt heat rise to her cheeks. Does he truly think me cute? The young girl slowly raised a disbelieving hand to her cheeks to confirm that they were in fact warmer than usual. What a curious thing to feel, she mused at the not unpleasant sensation. "Remember to look for me when the weather turns," she stated as she raised her hand from her cheek and waved to the boy on the docks. "Goodbye, my Jolly Sailor!" she called before turning and disappearing into the night.

"It's Harry. Just Harry," the boy in question called back with a large grin as he waved goodbye to the girl now named Rin. "Maybe she's from Hogsmeade?" he pondered aloud as his arm dropped into his lap. Harry's head shot up suddenly and peered out across the water as he realized something. I forgot to thank her for saving me! Further musing was cut short as Harry heard a hurried tread of steps coming down the stairs and out onto the dock. The sound of his name being called confused him for a moment. "Blaise?" Harry answered back as the voice frantically calling his name drew nearer.

The dark-skinned Outsider ran up only to stop and bend over with his hands upon his knees as he gasped for air. "Bloody hell, Harry," the young boy wheezed, "you're a hard bloke to find!" Blaise exclaimed. Blimey! I thought for certain he was a goner, the way they were talking! What is he doing here? "You alright there, mate? A little late in the year for a swim and all," the boy stated after pointedly staring at Harry's wet robes.

"Now you tell me that," Harry quipped back in an attempt at humor. "Had I known that sooner I could have saved myself these wet clothes, freezing and nearly drowning! You really should be a bit more forthcoming with your wisdom there, mate."

"Even a Muggle knows not to swim in a Scottish lake in the middle of November, I'll wager," Blaise shot back with a humorous snort as he dropped to the stone wharf and leaned back on his arms to support himself. "What happened?" Blaise finally asked after they'd both had a chuckle.

"I'm not really certain," Harry replied as he lifted a tired hand and ran it through his damp unruly locks. Little by little he could feel some of his strength returning to him. "I was walking towards the castle one moment and then falling in the lake the next. I thought I was a goner," the boy confessed as he recalled his fruitless struggle to stay afloat. "I never learned how to swim and all." Not that I ever had any opportunity to learn, he added silently to himself. The Dursleys had never taken Harry anyplace that would require him to swim after all.

"Blimey, they really could have killed him," Blaise said in disbelief under his breath soft enough so Harry couldn't hear. "So you managed to swim to the dock here and pull yourself out?" Blaise asked, assuming that was what happened. Why didn't he just swim to shore? "So they were right to be worried," the young wizard added in a thoughtful tone.

"Who was worried?" Harry asked, already feeling terrible for making someone else worry about him. Though it was a new sensation, having someone worrying about him, he still didn't want to cause anyone else any trouble.

"The others," Blaise replied, meaning the rest of the Outsiders. "No worries. I sent them to the hospital wing to see if you were there already."

Harry face looked puzzled. "Why would you send them there?"

"Face it mate, the truth of the matter is you do tend to find your way there quite often," Blaise replied. "I thought you would be there for certain today when you fell off your broom. Whatever happened up there?" he asked, pointing to the sky to indicate he meant when Harry had fallen from his broom earlier that day. The young wizard was relieved when it didn't appear that Harry minded the change of subject.

Harry gave a slight shrug. "I don't know, maybe I'm just pants at flying. Perhaps I broke my broom or something. I was flying just fine and then it started to turn and buck as if it were a wild horse or something!"

"Have much experience with horses have you?" Blaise teased the other boy with a grin.

"No. After today I don't think I'll be wanting any either," Harry answered, a small smile upon his own face. "How did you know to find me here?" Harry wondered aloud.

Blaise froze for a second, not knowing what to say. If I tell him what the older ones did and they find out it could be pretty bad for me, he reasoned, a shiver of fear going down his spine. The young wizard, having rushed to the shore of the lake, upon not seeing Harry had run to the dock in the hopes of getting a boat to take out on the water. If nothing else he was determined not to let the fish make a feast of his friend. It was only when he had heard Harry yell out wait to someone that he had realized he had found the missing wizard.

"I guess I just got lucky, mate," Blaise finally answered. "I tried to think of a place you might have gone to be alone and all. I mean after the day you've had, I figured you wouldn't want to be around a bunch of people asking you a heap of questions. I didn't fancy much climbing up to the top of the Astronomy tower so I came here instead."

"Well, at least one of us was lucky today," Harry said with a slight shiver brought on by a sudden stiff breeze. "I've certainly had better days," he told the dark-skinned boy. I've had far worse as well, the young boy thought, but Blaise doesn't need to know that much about the Dursleys or my past.

"Beastly way to have your first game go, Harry," Blaise offered in a commiserative tone. "You really botched that Blagger on the Gryff Seeker. I still can't believe you caught the snitch when you did. A bit longer and I suspect we would have at least tied with the Gryffs."

"Well, about that," Harry offered, looking a bit sheepishly at the other boy, "I didn't exactly catch it. More like it ran into me and sort of fell into my hand," the youth said with a slight shrug of his shoulders. "I didn't even know what it was at first till I held it up to take a look at it. Madam Hooch must have seen me with it and blown the whistle at that point." The dark haired boy paused for a moment before asking, "What's a Blagger? I heard Madam Hooch call it but I'm not certain what it is."

Blaise regarded the other boy in disbelief. "Blimey Harry! Didn't you read Quidditch Through The Ages that I loaned you?" Upon seeing the other boy's head droop at his question, Blaise was fairly certain that he knew the answer to his own question. "You can't think that reaching out and tugging a handful of the other player's twigs is exactly legal!"

"I did just what Flint told me to do," Harry replied defensively. "He told me that if the other Seeker was about to catch the snitch and I knew I couldn't beat him to it, but I was close enough, that I should grab his broom and give it a good yank!"

"Flint told you a load of codswallop, Harry! A Blagger is clearly cheating. Says so right in the rules, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised he told you to do that. I mean a good bit of cheating is part of the game," the Pure-blood wizard admitted a bit more enthusiastically than was probably called for. "Elbows get thrown and players just happen to pass closely in front of other players, effectively blocking them from the Quaffle. We're Slytherin, so the other Houses expect us to cheat, more or less! You just have to learn not to get caught at it, mate. Be a bit more subtle," Blaise advised as a grin split his face. "Though subtlety isn't your strong point exactly is it, mate?"

"I can be subtle!" Harry exclaimed defensively.

"The incident in the library," Blaise countered with. "The troll on the stairs. Oh so subtle there, Potter."

"I didn't mean to kill the troll," Harry replied a bit sullenly. "I feel terrible about it actually."

"You need to sort out your priorities, mate!" the dark-skinned wizard exclaimed. "If it hadn't been for you Daphne, Tracey and Granger would have been flattened! Three lives for one, I think you made the right call, Harry. I still wish I had been there with you! It must have been brilliant to see you take down that beast!"

"Not all that spectacular," Harry told him. "I was so scared the entire time that I didn't have much time to think about what I was doing really," the young boy confessed.

"I can't say as I blame you," Blaise replied. "It was a mountain troll after all. I mean they grow a little on the large side! Not a giant, mind you, but big enough for sure! I'm certain I would have been scared of a troll that big too," he added in an effort to show his friend it was alright to be scared.

Harry's head gave a slow shake from side to side. "I wasn't afraid of the troll, at least not much," he quickly amended upon seeing the skeptical look upon Blaise's face. "I was more scared of the others getting hurt," Harry told him, recalling how his magic had once again slipped his control. "I don't know what I would have done if I had hurt them!" There were several long moments of silence before Harry spoke again. "I guess I must seem like a bit duff to you and all the others?"

Blaise cocked his head slightly to the side, "What makes you think that?"

"I don't seem to be able to do much of anything right," Harry replied. "I killed a troll because I couldn't control my magic. Professor Dumbledore told me that it was accidental magic. Just like that time in the library. I asked him about it when that happen…if it could hurt someone or not." Blaise listened intently to what Harry was saying, not commenting due mostly to not knowing what to say. "He told me that it was uncontrolled magic and that it could injure anyone around it…around me."

"But Harry," Blaise interjected, "accidental magic only happens when we're really young. By the time we start school it should be all but gone."

"That's what the Headmaster told me as well," Harry replied in a thoughtful tone. "He didn't seem to have a reason for why it was still happening to me." The young boy waved a hand dismissively before continuing as they were getting off topic. "The thing is that means I could have hurt Hermione in the library that time, just as I could have hurt all three of them on the stairs. Honestly, I think that scared me more than the troll did."

"But you didn't hurt them," Blaise was quick to point out.

"Not this time," Harry reluctantly agreed. "W…what if I," he stammered before shooting Blaise a pleading look, "you know…lose control during class or something?"

"You won't," Blaise replied reassuringly.

"But how do you know that?" Harry shot back quickly.

"Its simple mate," Blaise answered. "You're the great Harry Potter!" Seeing the boy in question roll his eyes the dark-skinned boy hurried on. "I mean you defeated the Dark Lord! That has to count for something? Just look at all those adventures you had while growing up, mate."

"Don't tell me you believe everything that's written about me too, Zabini?" Harry exclaimed in disbelief. "I read a few of those books written about when I was a small child and none of it is true. Fought a giant when I was five? Honestly!"

"Six," Blaise corrected him.

"Come again?" Harry asked, having no clue what the other boy was getting at.

"You were six when you fought the giant," Blaise explained. "Five is when you out-smarted the Vampire King."

"I think I would recall if I had done either of those," Harry replied before the other boy could continue. "I didn't even know there was a Wizarding World until Hagrid brought me my Hogwarts letter just before the start of term. I don't know who wrote those stories, but it is all a load of rubbish, really."

"Really?" Blaise asked with a look of utter disbelief upon his face. "No dragons? No out swimming the Mermen?" he questioned only to see the other boys eyes suddenly grow larger.

"That's it!" Harry exclaimed so loudly that it startled the other boy. "She must have been a mermaid!"

"What?" the eleven year old Pure-blood wizard asked, becoming more confused with each passing moment. "Who was a mermaid?"

"Rin," Harry replied distractedly as he reasoned it out in his head. She seemed at home in the water, he told himself. That would also explain how she came to be in the lake to rescue me. "Blaise, are there Mer…I don't know, people in the lake?" Harry asked exasperatedly, uncertain of just what was the right way to refer to the aquatic people.

"Of course there is," the other boy replied in a tone that implied that he thought it was common knowledge. "Merfolk, not people though. My Mum has had a few dealings with them in the past for certain ingredients that she's needed for a few of her more unique potions. Now who is this Rin girl?" Blaise asked, "And what does she have to do with the Merfolk?"

"She's the one that saved me," Harry replied with a slight grin. "When I hit the water I tried to stay above the surface but didn't have much luck. Never learned how to swim and all. Clothes get terribly heavy when they are wet," Harry told the wizard with him, in case Blaise didn't already know that fact. "I think I went under for a bit and then things sort of went dark. When I woke up again I was lying on the wharf here," he said indicating where he was seated currently.

"I heard that when they come up out of the water they look just like us," Blaise stated excitedly. "Do they?"

Harry felt his cheeks heat up as he recalled when Rin had raised herself out of the water. "Y…yeah, sort of," Harry stammered, thankful that it was dark out so the other boy couldn't see his discomfort.

"They're not all green and scaly like when they're in the water, are they mate?" Blaise pressed, sitting forward and leaning in Harry's direction as he hung on the boy's answering words.

"N…not green at all," Harry hesitantly answered the other boy. More pinkish actually. Definitely not green! Harry thought, feeling the heat in his cheeks increasing with each passing moment.

"Bollocks!" Blaise expelled dejectedly. "I can't believe that I missed seeing one for myself. Well, we'd best be getting back. I'm sure the others are going a bit barmy by now as you haven't turned up yet."

"Alright," Harry agreed, deciding not to mention the fact that Rin would be back at some point. The young wizard knew that he would have all sorts of questions for her in the spring. Hold up, if she lives in the cold depths of the lake then why wouldn't she be able to see me again till the weather warms, he wondered.

"You alright there, Harry?" Blaise enquired in a concerned tone as Harry struggled to his feet. Rising to his own feet he eyed his friend, debating if he should lend him a shoulder or not. "Need a shoulder to lean on?"

"Just a bit knackered," Harry explained, waiting to make certain his legs would support him. The time they had spent talking had allowed the young wizard to regain some of his strength. Harry waved off the offer of assistance and took a few careful steps forward. As they walked towards the stairs, the added heat brought about by circulation as well as using his muscles seemed to help a bit, though his wet clothes were still terribly heavy.

"Need a hand?" Blaise asked again as they reached the foot of the stairs.

"I'll be alright," Harry told him. "Remind me to look up a charm for drying clothes tomorrow though."

"Planning on taking another late night swim are you, mate?" Blaise asked, cracking a cheeky grin.

"No," Harry stated with a weary shake of his head, "but it never hurts to be prepared. Maybe next time it will be you who is all wet. I'd like to be able to at least dry you off."

"Plan on pushing me in, do you?" Blaise asked good-naturedly.

"Maybe," Harry quipped back with a matching grin. The two boys continued up the stairs, Blaise matching Harry's much slower pace. "You know, it's not as I imagined it would be," Harry finally said into the silence that had enveloped them for the last dozen steps or so. "Hogwarts, I mean," the young boy clarified.

"What do you mean," Blaise enquired as they stopped to give the wet boy a chance to rest a bit.

"I don't know," Harry offered with a slight shrug as he turned and leaned against the low wall along one side of the stairs. "I thought it would be different. I guess I thought the Wizarding world would be a place where everyone was friendly and tolerant of others." He had convinced himself that magic would make everything better in his life. In his young mind the Wizarding world was a fairytale of sorts, where there would be no problems…just magic. What he had found was anything but a fairytale. If anything magic has made things a great deal worse as well as more complicated, he thought to himself. "It's not that much different than living in the Muggle world actually."

"Cor! I can't believe you said that, Harry!" Blaise exclaimed, looking at the boy as if he'd grown a third eye or something as equally bizarre. "You can't do magic in the Muggle world," Blaise stated just to make certain Harry had realized that. "At least not till you're of age. I don't think I could survive without magic," he added, having been raised in a home that had always had magic. Magic was as much a part of his life as breathing was as far as Blaise was concerned.

"I know," Harry agreed reluctantly. "Magic is brilliant and all but I did manage to live without it for the first eleven years of my life. I think I could do without it if I had to. I'd certainly miss it though," he acknowledged.

"I heard that if you don't go to a school like Hogwarts that they snap your wand," Blaise told him. "They then make it so you can't remember anything about the Wizarding world at all."

"Why would they do that?" Harry asked as he pushed off the wall and started climbing the stairs once again. "How are you supposed to stay in touch with your friends if they take you memories?"

"I don't know," Blaise answered with a shrug. "Mum said there was some law about secrecy and what not," he added as he turned and continued up the stairs next to his fellow Outsider. "They don't want the Muggles to know about us. I'm sure we'll probably cover it at some point this year in History of Magic. I can't see them sending all the Muggle-born first year students home without them knowing not to use magic."

Not very trusting are they? Harry thought to himself. "There's just so much I don't know or understand here. I really wonder if I wouldn't be better off back in London," the boy said, voicing his concerns. "I mean, it might be safer for everyone else that way," he stated, thinking of his uncontrollable magic once again.

"I wouldn't let those three hear you say that," Blaise told him with a smirk at the thought of the earful that the other members of their group would no doubt give Harry. "If you were back in London you'd have to forget all about us Outsiders. I doubt they would like that very much. I know I wouldn't. I rather like having the famous Harry Potter as a friend!" he said with a teasing grin.

"How about you be the famous one from now on," Harry suggested, "and I'll be the friend who is obsessed with Quidditch."

"What, and deprive you of your late night swims?" Blaise gasped in mock horror at the thought. "Now what kind of friend would I be if I did that?"

"The wet kind I suspect," Harry replied with a laugh as they reached the top of the stairs and headed for the castle doors. Just as the two boys were reaching their destination one of the doors opened and a person stepped out, blocking their way.

"Out for a late night stroll?" Severus Snape drawled as he eyed the two students over once, noting that Harry's clothes were completely soaked he added, "Perhaps a swim instead?"

"No, Sir," both boys replied in unison as they paled at the disapproving look from their Head of House.

"I'm sure there is a story here to be told," Severus continued with. "Perhaps it will even explain why three first year witches had to be threatened with detention before they would return to their common rooms." Seeing Harry about to speak the Potions Master help up a silencing hand. "Save it for the Headmaster," he told them. "I would prefer not to be forced to listen to your excuses twice." The Head of Slytherin House spun about, his black robes bellowing out behind him dramatically, and set off for the Headmaster's office at a rapid pace. Behind him the two first year wizards did their best to keep up with his longer strides.

-oOo-

"Your thoughts, Severus," Albus Dumbledore enquired, once the gargoyle statue had informed him that the two boys had passed it on their way to their dorm room in the Dungeon. The Headmaster had dried Harry's clothes upon seeing the tired dripping boy that walked into his office behind the potions professor.

Severus Snape turned back from regarding the door to the Headmaster office before answering the elder wizard. He wasn't thrilled that two of his students had been caught out and about after curfew. "The Potter boy clearly doesn't have an inkling of what happened to him," the Potions Master offered, having read as much from the boy's mind. "It would appear that he took a stunner to the back and then was dumped in the lake. I doubt whomever did it expected him to live through the ordeal, Headmaster," the man said with a steely note to his voice.

"His savior?" enquired the Headmaster, certain there was more yet to tell. Albus was just as certain that the young wizard was not meant to see another sunrise. The attack served to enforce his belief that the Wizarding world was once again heading for dark and dire times.

"One of the Merfolk, no doubt," Severus answered. "I couldn't tell which one as I didn't wish to delve past his surface thoughts. He was more than a little anxious about his friends and causing then undue worry for his wellbeing."

"Nor should you have," Albus cautioned the younger man. "I surmised the same, given Harry's description of the events which transpired. Let us be thankful that one of them was near and decided to offer aid when it was needed. The Merfolk can be rather reclusive for the most part. How unlike them to have someone so close to the school."

"It shouldn't have been needed!" Severus snapped tersely, referring to Harry's rescue. "If something had happened to him…," the man's words trailed off almost as if he was fearful of giving voice to them.

"Then Lily's son would be no more," the venerable wizard finished for him. "I need not tell you just how much we could ill afford that right now, Severus." Seeing the man with him open his mouth to speak, Albus hastily raised a hand to forestall him. "I know. I know. I admit I was in error," Albus offered in way of apology. "I truly didn't feel he would need a tracking charm on him while he was here at Hogwarts."

"Harry needs that at the very least, Headmaster," Severus replied. "The boy seems to have a knack for attracting trouble to himself. You know the vow I am under! If anything were to happen to that boy and I did not do my utmost to protect him…," once again the Potions Master allowed his words to trail off. They both knew that if that were to happen it would cost Severus his very life.

"A talent neither of his parents shared," Albus said with a nod of agreement, referring to Harry's ability to draw trouble to himself like a moth to a flame. "James, most certainly was in trouble a great deal while within these walls," the wizard said to indicate he meant Hogwarts, "but he brought his troubles home to roost on his own. A fact that often did not sit well with a young Miss Evans as I recall," Albus added with a slight smile as he momentarily indulged himself and thought about those bygone days.

The dark haired wizard inwardly cringed at the mention of the relationship between Lilly and his hated rival, James Potter. It is Lily's son that I must protect, not his! "Harry seems to attract attention by the simple act of breathing," Severus stated in a worried tone, recalling just how many time the boy had been to the hospital wing already. "Can we not do more for him than a simple tracking charm? Clearly there are those here at Hogwarts who wish him harm."

"Have you heard anything new from your old contacts?" Albus enquired with an arched brow, referring to the remaining Death Eaters. The Headmaster was worried, and rightfully so, that one of the followers of Lord Voldemort might try and cause Harry harm. He had always known it would be an issue when the boy turned eleven and started his schooling at Hogwarts, however there were just some things which couldn't be helped, he felt.

Severus raised a hand and waved the question away dismissingly. "Nothing more than what came to life at the start of term when they discovered that Harry Potter was a student here." For years the remnants of the Death Eaters, denied their master's guidance, had sought out the location of The-Boy-Who-Lived in order to seek the revenge they felt they justly deserved. "Without the Dark Lord there to tell them what to do, I do not think they will try for the Potter boy…at least not while he is within these walls."

"Let us hope then that you are correct, Severus," Albus replied. They both knew that a good number of the Death Eaters had children currently enrolled at Hogwarts. All either of them could do was hope that those children weren't employed to carry out their parents dark wishes. The Headmaster was already making arrangements for when the school year was over. Now that Harry was in school his home address had to be registered with the Ministry. Albus knew that this meant that the Death Eaters would soon have that information, if they didn't already have it. The wards should keep them away, he reassured himself, though that did not prevent him from enlisting the aid of others to guard the boy through the summer holidays.

"How are Harry's growth treatments with Poppy progressing?" the Head of Slytherin House enquired. The Headmaster had made Severus aware of Harry's condition due to both being his Head of House as well as being a Master potion brewer. Should Madam Pomfrey require any assiatnce.

"There was a slight issue at first but Poppy has assured me that she has it well in hand," Albus replied. "I'm sad to say, it will take some time to undo what was done to him," the wizard sighed wearily, feeling responsible for the abuse the boy had received at the hands of his relatives.

"Who could have foreseen that his family would be abusive to one of their own blood?" Severus rhetorically asked. "He was with his Muggle relatives after all. It's not like he was in our world," the younger wizard added.

"Still, the blame is mine," Albus countered with. "I should have at least checked on him from time to time."

"And lead the Death Eaters or worse yet, the Ministry, right to him?" Severus asked with a humorless snort. "We both know that the Ministry would have snatched him in the blink of a dragon's eye just so they could parade him about as some poster boy for their benefit. If that had indeed happened then it would have been only a matter of time before someone like Lucius or Crabbe senior had gotten to him."

"Perhaps," Albus replied a bit absently. "It is little more than conjecture and speculation at this point. Now, we must do what we can for Harry. I will have a talk with his Aunt and Uncle before the end of term. I think it will be for the best if Harry remained here over the holidays. I'm certain the Dursleys will find that agreeable as well," Albus added with a small smile. After all, everyone has always agreed with his suggestions, why should this be any different?

"You'll request that most of us remain as well?" Severus enquired. "If the Dark Lord does indeed try to take possession of the stone then you will need us here."

"Yes," Albus acknowledged, as he leaned forward and slipped a lemon drop from his candy dish. "In a few days the last item required to defend the stone should be arriving from Romania with Charley Weasley," the aged wizard added.

"I take it he will be taking Hagrid's pet with him when he leaves?" Severus asked. Charlie Weasley was a dragon handler who had started work at the Romanian Dragon Preserve shortly after completing his education at Hogwarts in the earlier part of that same year. Ironically enough it had been the Dragon Handlers younger brother, Ronald, who had been bitten by the baby Norwegian Ridgeback.

"Poor Hagrid," Albus said, as he did indeed feel bad for the half-giant. "He is rather a great deal beside himself as Norbert's departure date draws nearer."

"I still find it nearly unbelievable that he thought he could raise the beast by himself," Severus scoffed. "It takes a squad of six well trained Dragon Handlers to manage a single dragon after all! I'm surprised that the Weasley boy was only bitten. Whatever was he doing around Hagrid's hut in the first place?"

"Looking for his rat," the Headmaster answered. "Apparently it had wandered off." The Potions Master couldn't help but wonder if the rat wasn't related in some manner to the Longbottom boy's toad as both seemed to have an affinity for never staying in one place for very long. "But I digress. I think we shall be as ready as we can be. Most of the students will be safely out of the castle and a good many of the Professors will be on hand, should the need arise."

"I saw that you did indeed hide the door. That should keep the Weasley twins, as well as others, from getting injured." The Head of Slytherin House had actually discovered that the twin were in the process of selling trips to see the Cerberus Fluffy on the third floor. Five Knuts a student was the going rate when he caught them at it.

"You'll continue to keep a watchful eye on Harry," Albus directed his Potions Master, only to see the man stand and give a curt nod that he would. "One moment before you leave, Severus," the aged wizard stated as he hastily retrieved a clean piece of parchment from his desk drawer and after dipping his quill he quickly wrote out a short note. "I would like Mr. Flint, Mr. Pucey and Mr. Derrick to perform a little…shall we say," he paused and looked up thoughtfully, quill poised to resume writing, "extracurricular activity for the next several weeks."

Severus arched a brow as he watched the Headmaster return to writing. "Headmaster?" the Head of Slytherin House queried. Why would he single out three of the fifth years? "What shall they be doing?"

"Earning their House points," Albus replied as he singed the missive and rolled it up before finally passing it to the Professor. "Rather let us say they will be keeping their House from losing points. You see, while Mr. Potter in fact may have had no inkling of who his attackers were, Mr. Zabini on the other hand, was a surprising wealth of information."

"Hagrid has been kind enough to inform me that he has several special creatures currently within his care awaiting the next Magical Creatures club meeting. These guests have a predisposition to consuming a great deal and leaving a rather troublesome mess behind them. Given the nature of remains, and the residual magic that may be found in them, it would be best if the three students I mentioned decided not to utilize their wands when they assist with the cleanup."

"I'll be sure to inform them of this, Headmaster," Severus replied. While the headmaster undoubtedly knew that the three in question were responsible for what had befallen Harry earlier that evening Severus also realized that they couldn't reprimand the youths for their actions or involve Magical Law Enforcement. To do so would require that they also admit to using Legilimency to read the boys thoughts. Such an act was heavily frowned upon by the Ministry as there were strict laws and guidelines governing when Legilimency could and couldn't be utilized. Subjecting minors to Legilimency was strictly prohibited. "Goodnight, Headmaster."

"Goodnight, Severus," Albus replied as the Potions Professor left the office, closing the door softly behind him. "It seems I have failed you yet again, Harry," the aged wizard thought as he absently sucked upon the sour confection in his mouth.


Author's Note:

Wow, that last chapter's reviews were pretty much split right down the middle. Either you loved it or you hated it. Harry, for all his issues, has made improvements. He has friends now, which indicates he is learning to trust others. For an abused child that is an enormous step forward. He has an adult he trusts and can speak with in Aurora Sinistra. If you're looking for him to wake up one morning and be a sudden super wizard with all the courage in the world (he's 11 remember?) it isn't going to happen. Change…realistic change, takes a bit of time (as in days, months years - not chapters or word count). There are a lot of subtle changes in Harry's characters…you just have to look to see them. I am attempting to write a more realistic story here than what is typically found on FFN…not that there aren't others out there who are realistic as well, they just happen to be few and far between IMHO.

For a certain guest reviewer on chapter 16. Sorry, I didn't break both my hands or suffer nerve damage as you wanted. It did give me the warm fuzzies to see that you actually read all the way up to chapter 16 before leaving that review. In the future, please keep in mind that writers on here do so for free and just to share their stories with readers like yourself. Writing about the bad things that happen in life doesn't mean we're glorifying them or even enjoy them, but rather we're acknowledging their existence rather than sticking our heads in the sand and thinking if we ignore them they will go away. I certainly don't advocate child abuse, I know it all too intimately myself, but I refuse to act like it doesn't happen. I'm strong enough to write about it. If you can't handle reading what I write then kindly read some other story.

I was going to post this chapter tomorrow when it dawned on me that today is Harry Potter's birthday so it seemed fitting to put it up now instead. I also realized that we haven't seen or done a great deal with Blaise so I figured his time with Harry was more than a little overdue.

Next week I'll be going to Universal Studios to see the new Diagon Alley they have. Should be fun! Please keep the reviews coming as I certainly enjoy them! The do keep the Muse anchored to here which is why this chapter is a bit earlier than usual.

Kind Regards,

EJ Daniels

All characters within this story, unless otherwise stated are the sole property of J. K. Rowling the original writer of the Harry Potter series. As so many before me have said, "I own nothing, they own everything".

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