A/N: soooo, happy 2014 everyone! Here is a new chapter. Bit shorter than normal, but I wanted to guve you guys something...
disclaimer: I still don't have six digits or more on my bank account, ergo Harry Potter and all its original characters still belong to J.K. rowling, bummer..,
don't forget to review!
"For the love of all that is holy, I'm going to miss you like crazy," Harry was standing in the middle of King's Cross Station, letting Sam hug the living daylights out of him. It was twenty minutes before the Hogwarts Express would depart once again. The last couple of week had flown by. He already missed the pace of living in Mongrel Mansion. And his sister Fred. She'd changed, and he wasn't sure if it was for the better. Sam agreed, but also made clear that everyone had their own path to follow in life. If this was hers, they couldn't do anything to change it.
But overall it had been amazing. The first night home had been chaotic at best. Everyone, living in the house or not, had come over to welcome him home. It had chased away the depressing mood the mirror had cast over him. This was his family now. And although he would always miss his birth family, this one seemed like a pretty good substitute.
He had talked with Sam about all that had happened, that he hadn't put in his letters home. Sam had been furious when she realized just what Dumbledore was up to. Harry swore he had seen fire come out of her nostrils. If she had been capable, she would have marched up to the gates of Hogwarts, and laid one on him. Sadly, this truly awesome vision wasn't meant to be.
Christmas had been wonderful. Sam had went all out, clearly saving up for a wonderful meal. They didn't have turkey, but a very nice stew. And dessert! And although the food couldn't measure up to the food served at Hogwarts, it tasted so much better in Harry's opinion. Maybe it had something to do with the manual labor and love Sam put in the meal.
He also begged Sam for permission to tell Neville. She had been sceptic, she didn't know the boy besides what Harry told her about him. And he was from an ancient blood line. She had cautioned him, and at first even outright forbade to tell him. In the end she allowed it, but only if oaths were taken by both the boys.
She had made clear to Harry though, that even though he had good friends at Hogwarts, he didn't know them by heart, yet. It would take time to truly understand what made a person tick, and with that how they respond to certain news. She made perfectly clear that Hermione was not to be told. She would run to the nearest authority figure, and that would be the end of Mongrel Mansion.
"Be careful, Harry. If you ever suspect the problems evolving, I want you to go to Severus Snape. He will try to protect you the best he can." She sighed. She didn't want to say goodbye to Harry. And the idea of Albus Dumbledore and his manipulating ways in close quarters with her boy, made the hairs on her neck stand on ends.
"You be careful as well. I left some normal money under my pillow. Use it, Sam." Harry mumbled in her hair. Sam let go of him and looked at him in shock.
"Harry James Potter! I will not accept that money! You are not to finance our household, nor would you ever be put in that position. Do you understand me! That money is for you and your education. I will not spend it, and when you return in five months it will be where you left it!"
The look in Sam's eyes made it very clear that he was never to pull such a stunt again. Though she didn't show it, it made her heart-break that Harry thought he had to provide for her house. Just because he got an inheritance, did not mean he had to pay her back in this way.
"It is my decision, Sam! My money, I can do what I want with it!" Harry argued.
"And it is my decision if I accept it! Do not feel like you have to pay me back. Because hell will freeze over before I ever accept a penny from your parents' money." With those words, Sam ended the discussion.
"Now, come on! It's time for you to leave." Together they walked to the wall that separated them from platform nine-and-three-quarters. Harry caught Sam once more in a fierce hug.
"I love you, Sam." He spoke, before quickly walking through the portal. Sam stood on the precipice of platform nine and ten, tears coming to her eyes.
"I love you to, kid," she whispered to the air.
Harry had quickly found Neville on the platform, standing next to a witch that undoubtedly was his grandmother, the Lady Dowager Longbottom.
Harry greeted her formally, as was due to his status as an heir to a fellow Ancient House. Lady Longbottom looked surprise, but returned the greeting accordingly. Neville looked on with his back straight and his head held high.
"I've been informed by the goblins in Gringotts this summer, how close my parents were to the Lord and Lady of your House. I can only express my sincere condolences for the fate that befell them. I hope the pride you can take in the Heir Longbottom helps ease your suffering, if only by a small amount." Harry spoke with a small bow, his right hand over his heart.
The Dowager looked down at the small boy. She could see the boy had not been educated from his birth. What she knew, he was taken to his Muggle relatives. But what he lacked in training, he made up for with the sincerity in his behavior. She inclined her head to him.
"Thank you, Heir Potter. Though the grief that has befallen to my house will never be eradicated, to see the new generation stand up the way it seems our Neville and you do, warms the heart." The old woman looked down at her grandson.
"Neville here has told me what you and him managed at Hogwarts, how with your help he seems to take to the lessons like a grindylow to the weeds."
Harry smiled at her. "Lady Longbottom, if I knew what a grindylow was, I would most probably be inclined to agree with you."
This got a small chuckle out of the stern woman, which shocked not only Neville but a lot of the surrounding adults. Most of them couldn't recall when they last heard the laugh of the Dowager Lady. Leaving the two to their goodbyes, Harry made his way to a compartment at the back of the train. A few minutes later he was followed by Neville, not much later Hermione joined them.
"I didn't see your aunt and uncle at the platform, Harry." Neville spoke. He had noticed how Harry had entered through the portal alone, with a content but a bit melancholic expression on his face.
"My aunt had taken me to the station, but is rather apprehensive of magic. We said our goodbyes on the muggle side." Harry explained. He had Sam's permission to tell Neville. Hermione, however, he could not tell. He had to be honest with himself and admit that Sam's assessment of her character was spot on. Maybe he could tell her further down the road, when she was less in awe of people like Dumbledore, or professors in general.
The three talked about their holidays as the landscape outside changed from the city to the frozen pastures of the countryside. After some time they got the company of Ron. He apparently had managed to piss of his twin brothers, and needed somewhere to hide. Reluctantly, the three gave him the asylum of their compartment. They did made it clear though, that if the twins found him here they would not jump in front of their retribution for him. Ron had judged this fair enough, being intimately familiar with the twins' idea of revenge.
It took the twins an hour and a half, but finally they came to their compartment. The hexed their little brother, who as they explained, had stolen all their Filibuster's Fireworks over the holidays. After giving their brother an impressive head of green hair and purple freckles, they sat down for half an hour and spoke with the other three firsties.
They had known Harry and Neville, as they were on the quidditch team with Harry, and Neville was known throughout Gryffindor to be Harry's best friend. They only had seen Hermione in the hallways, as she was not part of the Lion's Tower. It was clear that they didn't think much about her rule-abiding tendencies, but she did gave them a couple of useful charms when they were talking ruefully about a failed prank.
When they drew nearer to Hogwarts, the redheads disappeared to their original compartments to get dressed in their uniforms. Hermione went to the bathroom to get changed in her uniform in private. The minute the two were alone, Neville turned to Harry with a steely expression on his face.
"Care to tell me why you felt the need to lie, Harry?"
Harry was taken aback. "What are you talking about, Neville?"
"When I asked you about your family, you lied. Or at least, didn't tell the whole truth."
Harry sighed, dammit! How did Neville figured it out, he was an accomplished liar. Not many people could call him out on it, most people would believe him if he told them he had a third nipple that he pierced.
"Not here, okay? You were right, but it isn't just about me. I talked about it over the holidays, and I can tell you later, just not here and not now." He casted a pleading look at Neville, who nodded reluctantly.
Not long after, they were once again joined by Hermione. The three made their way to the carriages. Harry and Neville stopped in their tracks. Hermione turned around and looked at the two boys with a demanding face. Harry and Neville looked at each other.
"What are those creepy creatures?" Harry asked.
"What on earth are you talking about, Harry? There are no creatures. The upper years told me, these carriages are riding in and on itself." Hermione explained.
"I don't know where you are looking Hermione," Neville said. "But I can assure you these carriages are drawn by something. They are horse-like, but completely black and skeletal. And they have wings!" Neville's voice climbed higher through his rant. Harry put a hand on his arm to quiet him down.
"Maybe we can see them and she cannot? And there must be a reason for that," Harry tried to compromise. "Let's just get in. other students seem to use them with no harm to them, so…"
The three climbed in a carriage. As they entered the Hogwarts grounds, Harry tensed up a bit. Back in the hornets' nest, he thought to himself. Back to tiptoeing and looking over his shoulder. By God, he wished Sam could have been here with him. She was the only one who could truly calm him down, and could make him stop to take a breath and think. He missed that last term.
They drew into the Great Hall, and said their goodbyes to Hermione who made her way to the Ravenclaw table. The two boys made their way to their own table, sitting close to the twins. They were joined by some of the girls in their year. Lavender and Parvati talked about the presents they received over the holidays, and Harry modified his stories of his Christmas dinner. Neville shot him a look that made clear he saw through the subterfuge, but was silenced before he spoke with a pointed look from Harry.
When they went up to the tower, Neville was quick to grab Harry and drag him to a spot where they could talk without being heard.
"What in Merlin's name is happening, Harry!" Neville whisper-yelled at him. Harry quickly put his hands in the air in defense.
"I tell you Neville, but you have to swear an oath not to blab!" Harry had agreed to Sam that it was wise to make him do an oath. Neville was proud of his honor as heir to the Longbottom House. He would not even think of breaking it.
"I, Neville Frank Longbottom, Heir to the Most Noble and Most Ancient House of Longbottom, do hereby give my oath not to speak, write, or otherwise communicate the content of this conversation with Harry James Potter, Heir to the Most Noble and Most Ancient House of Potter, to others and third parties. So I swear, so mote it be." The tip of Neville's wand flashed for a second, signaling the oath to be valid in the eyes of Mother Magic.
Harry nodded. "Very well," he took a deep breath. He had spoken with Sam how best to tell his new brother about his past. She had told him the best way was to be honest. To tell about what he could remember about the Dursleys, why he ran away, and how he came to be with her.
"You know how I live with my aunt and uncle, from my mother's side of the family?" Harry asked, peeking at Neville's face. Neville nodded confused.
"Yes, well, that was true up 'till I was four." Neville's face blanked in surprise.
"They, uhm, they were not the kindest of people," Harry explained, but snorted at his own words. "Understatement, really. They were horrible, vindictive, mean-spirited. They, well, liked to make sure I knew my place. Especially uncle Vernon. He used every means necessary, for instance his belt." Neville's face twisted in horror.
"When I was four years old, my uncle decided I was too much a burden to keep. He drove to London, and left me there." Harry couldn't look at Neville's face, but could clearly hear the horrified gasp.
"I lived in the streets for a little more than a year. Almost two winters. It, it was hard. You don't live like that without learning things that are not to be spoken about in civilized company. But I was fast, really fast, my reflexes honed by dodging blows from my uncle and cousin. That probably saved me." Harry forced the feelings of helplessness away that accompanied his memories of that time.
"But finding food during the winter months is hard. I was cold, and the alleyways of London are easy to confuse you. I was found by a young woman, her name is Samantha. She is what is called a graduate."
"Graduate of what?" Neville's voice was nothing more than a hoarse whisper.
"A graduate of the street." Harry whispered as well. He was weighing his options. He knew he was not supposed to show his mark to anyone but other graduates. Hell, he never had seen Sam's mark clearly until she brought him in for his own. Same as with Severus, who clearly casted a complicated glamour on his mark. He decided against it. Neville was no graduate, and these were rules that were not of Sam's or his own making. He would be indifferent to the whole system. He couldn't do that.
"Sam has been on the streets since about my age. She managed to get herself through muggle school while she was living on the streets. When she was eighteen she graduated, both from school and the streets. She now lives in a small house in the middle of the part of London where the gangs reside, just like the homeless kids. She helps out as many as she can." Harry heard the care and pride in his own voice. And with good reason! Sam had been his saving angel, she still was! She was his guide, his mentor, and savior.
"How many?" Neville spoke softly.
"How many, what? How many do live there?" Harry responded. Looking at Neville he saw him nod wordlessly.
"It differs. In the winter months, many seek the sanctuary she offers. But on the whole I think around ten children, sometimes fifteen." Harry spoke.
"How, how can she do that?" Neville cocked his head a bit.
"She works her ass off, that's how. She has two or three different jobs. She made a deal with the gangs; she helps heal any wounds from anyone of them, they leave us and her alone." Harry blushed a bit. "After school and in the weekends, we helped bring money in. She hates it, but we all knew from very early on that she barely manages to scrape by."
Neville looked at Harry for a very long time. "You kids stole."
"It's not something I'm proud of. Well, no that's a lie. I am proud of it. We were family, and it were hard times for us. She always begged us not to do it, that she would find some way to get enough money like always. But she gave us beds, foods, love, a home! We, well most of us, we didn't know what that meant before she took us in. And most of us had been on the streets long enough to know we had to steal anyway had she not taken us in." Harry sighed.
"And then, when I turned eleven, after the cake-"
"What! Wait, you still had cake!" Neville blurted out. Harry laughed out loud at that.
"Well, yes. Don't ask me how she managed it, but always on the birthdays there was a cake." Harry smiled reminiscently.
"Anyway, an owl came and delivered my Hogwarts letter. Sam knew about Hogwarts and took me to Gringotts. The goblins explained to us what had happened with my family. Sam had no idea I was a Potter. I only knew my first name, never having use of my last. All the kids in the house took Sam's last name, or a generic last name, to use in school."
Neville was silent for a long time. He didn't know how to respond to this. He knew something was wrong with what Harry told of his family before, but this! He was abandoned on the streets of London, didn't anyone keep an eye out for Harry! He was an orphaned national hero , for crying out loud!
When he voiced his questions, Harry started laughing.
"Well, there was a batty old lady in my street, but I was scared shitless of her. Ran away every time she tried to come near. She probably thought I was just shy. So no, no one came after me. And knowing the wizarding world, and Dumbledore, a bit… I guess the alarms would have sounded if I hadn't replied to my Hogwarts letter." Harry snorted.
"As for keeping the secret. I know Sam took care of it. This holiday I started nagging several of the surrounding, uhm, groups about it. Turns out she had threatened the four gang leaders to go with her to my aunt and uncle. And apparently she was very convincing that they played their parts well."
Neville laughed vindictive. He held no compassion for his friend's relatives. Gang violence was the least of their worries once the magical world found out how they had treated Harry.
"But why not just tell?" Neville couldn't help but wonder. Harry shot him a look.
"How legal do you think this all went down? If the wizarding world finds out about Sam, she is handed over to the muggle authorities. All those kids she helps and houses, they are officially reported missing. If they find out she kept them in her home, she is taken to jail. She made a deal with the principal of the local school, so we could get an education. That is his head on a stick as well. To many people did help us, but outside the official and legal route." Harry pleaded with him.
Neville understood. He had heard the horror stories about child abuse in the muggle world. Kids ran away from that, and if found by the government, they would either be stuck in group homes, orphanages or worse back to where they ran from. Sam apparently gave them freedom and a safe home at the same time.
"Sam's your mother now?" He asked timidly.
"Sam is my everything. Mother, aunt, older sister, protector… You can meet her over the summer, she promised."
Neville quickly nodded, yes he would like to meet the hero of the hero.
Underneath his obvious shock, though, his rage started to bubble up. No one ever checked on Harry at his relatives', as far as he could tell. That would mean they went outside the Wizarding Child Services. And only one man had been powerful enough to do that at that time.
Neville almost growled the name of the man who seemed to blame for a lot, related to Harry.
Albus Bloody Dumbledore.