Hi everybody, thanks for the reviews to those that left one, though I'm also happy about the high number of hits for the last chapter. Now I've finished the next one. Happy reading.
Harry looked at the letter he had got back from Keith and Jessica. They wrote that they understood his problems with the bullies and that there were a few ways to deal with them. First was to always have others around him to not only back his side of a story up, but to also give protection in numbers. Bullies that didn't get their way had the bad habit of lashing out against their victims when they were alone. They were cowards and didn't act when they weren't sure that they could get away with things unpunished. As Malfoy's head of house didn't seem to want to act, and they all knew how Dumbledore only made big speeches, but didn't act properly, they could only try to be prepared.
In case of Weasley they should bring the issue to his head of house, as both Keith and Jessica remembered Professor McGonagall not having any patience for behaviour like that. Especially in members of her house. If they had enough witnesses, she would act. And contrary to the Malfoys, the Weasleys didn't believe into pureblood supremacy and looked down on non-purebloods. They informed Harry that they suspected that Ron had always heard the stupid stories that circulated in the wizarding world and had thought that with Harry's parents having been in Gryffindor, he would have good chances to become his friend easily when they both got into Gryffindor.
His behaviour was most probably based on jealousy, which was easier to deal with than arrogance. They advised to ignore him if possible and if he became rude, to report him to his head of house or Professor Sprout. And for Malfoy he should wait and see if he could gain undeniable proof of his transgressions, which they could report to a teacher. They didn't want him to sink to the level of those bullies and to keep away from them as much as he could. Concerning the behaviour of Professor Snape they were working on getting more supporters that would manage to get an investigation into his teaching methods started. They couldn't claim that he was completely incompetent, as he was a lauded Potions Master and one of the youngest in the world, but teaching and knowing a subject were two different things.
They had a few contacts with old classmates and they were looking for an influential supporter that could get things started.
Harry was glad to hear that. While it wasn't really a major help to hear to keep away from the bullies for now and to collect proof, he had seen how Professor Snape had ignored all accusations against any Slytherin, if they didn't have solid proof. So collecting that would be imperative. The way to deal with Ron Weasley was easier to use. He really didn't like how certain people seemed to be above the rules of the school, but he would have to be patient. Nobody could escape punishment forever if he misbehaved. And Malfoy wasn't smart enough to avoid it forever.
Harry had to keep his temper under control during his Potions class. Why couldn't the teacher simply leave him alone? Why did he have to always insult his dead parents? It really was petty and the fact that he couldn't even talk back, because then he would only give Snape a cause to take points from Hufflepuff and give him detention, totally sucked. He really needed to do something against this. It couldn't continue for the rest of his time at school. Finally he decided that collecting evidence against Snape would also be needed to even have a chance for things to change.
He quickly left the classroom after Snape dismissed them and as they only had the next class after lunch break, he sat down at a desk in the Hufflepuff study room and wrote down in detail every insult that Professor Snape had used against him with the exact date, the circumstances and what Harry had done. He also wrote the way how Snape conducted his classes down. As just his word wouldn't be enough in the long run, he took his notes to Stacy Veilbloom and Chris O'Neill. He explained the problem and his idea that if only enough factual complaints were collected for the period till the Christmas break for example, the headmaster wouldn't be able to simply ignore it anymore. But it would be most helpful if other students also put their experiences down on parchment, and if all students in a class signed the report to prove that it wasn't just a single student's opinion.
Stacy and Chris certainly liked the idea and it had promise to actually achieve anything. They promised to talk to the other prefects and call in a house meeting to deal with the problem. No Hufflepuff would stand for the bullying of one of their own, especially if said victim of the bully hadn't done anything to deserve it. And a teacher bullying students was just wrong and had annoyed the Hufflepuffs for years.
Within two days the older Hufflepuffs had contacted the prefects of Ravenclaw and Gryffindor to help them out with their plan to get a handle over the bullying problem at the school, mainly Snape, but also other students. The Ravenclaws were as annoyed with the substandard teaching of certain subjects and readily agreed to write reports on how a teacher they thought unsuited and unfair conducted his classes. The Gryffindors were all for getting back at the bias and unfairness of Snape that they had been hit with most of all houses. Even the Weasley twins, who hated doing extra work, volunteered to write the reports for their classes with the Slytherins if it would help getting Snape to stop bullying them and others and to finally start teaching them properly.
Many Gryffindors wanted to ditch Potions just because of Snape, even if they wouldn't be able to go into professions that needed the subject, like aurors and healers. If there was any chance of changing their horrible Potions classes, they were all for helping out with a plan that the Hufflepuffs had come up with. After all, if the house that was the biggest supporter of fair play was taking steps, something had to be really wrong at Hogwarts. So each day after a class of Potions two students of that year and house sat down together and put a report down to describe how the lesson had gone, which insults Snape had used, how he had been unfair, given or taken points for now reason and so on.
They let the other students of their house sign the report and the prefects collected them to hand them over to their respective head of house before the Christmas holidays. Of course they would keep a few copies of their reports. Just in case the ones they handed in simply vanished.
Harry looked over the large group of students that had come to today's football game. They now had four teams put together, even if only two had eleven players and the other two only ten. It was still a major success, as football was a muggle sport, which many wizards, especially the older ones from traditional pureblood families, looked down upon. But the younger years liked the chance to have fun and simply be children. They didn't have to behave properly all the time while playing and they were allowed to curse when something went wrong. Not to mention that fighting for the ball could get rowdy.
Hagrid had been happy with how many students wanted to play and had given permission to set up a second field for playing. There was more than enough space around. They had also found a second referee next to Hermione in Neville. He wasn't confident enough in playing properly, but he wanted to be part of the game in some way. After talking a lot with Hermione about the rules, he had offered to referee when it became clear that they would have enough players to have two matches played at the same time. In the beginning he was a bit unsure, but soon he got into the game and used his whistle to signal fouls or when the ball left the field.
That the players also adhered to his decisions helped a lot in bringing him more out of his shell. Not to mention that everybody liked how fair he was in his decisions. Neville got better stamina through running around the field to have a good view onto the game and it showed in him being less clumsy with every time he did it. The group had games every weekend. As the Quidditch season hadn't started yet, there was even a good amount of interest of those that didn't play themselves. There were even a few teachers that came by occasionally to see what the game was about. Mainly the heads of Hufflepuff, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw.
After choosing teams, which they did randomly each time anew to make it fairer for everybody, they drew lots which team would play which one today. They went to their respective fields, decided who wanted to play which position, and then their referees started the matches.
Ron Weasley wasn't a happy wizard. All his dreams of getting attention over his older brothers hadn't worked like they should, just because Harry Potter had been sorted into Hufflepuff of all houses. Really, he was the saviour of the wizarding world and he should have been a Gryffindor. But no, he had to go to the duffers. And even if Ron had decided to overlook that and try to become his best friend despite of this, he didn't take him up on the offer. Why wouldn't he? He was probably thinking he was so much better than Ron. He was oh so popular because of that stupid game. Football could never be as great as Quidditch. But still, lots of other students went to play and watch each weekend.
What use did it have when you didn't even get to win some points for the house cup? And running around like that for half an hour on end twice with only a short break between it was exhausting. Flying was so much cooler. Why would anybody want to chase just one ball when you weren't allowed to use your hands? And just one ball for eleven people? That didn't make any sense. But despite all that, the sport was really popular. When he had asked Dean and Seamus, who had been among those that had helped starting the meetings, what was so great about it, they said that it was fun and they liked playing with so many others.
Dean also said that football was the most popular sport in the muggle world and he was really happy that they got to play at Hogwarts as well. Ron didn't get it. And now even Neville had decided to participate in a way. He was playing referee like that know-it-all bookworm Granger. And he had the gall to say that at least with football, he didn't have to fear that his broom would throw him off again. Just showed that Neville was a loser.
Right now he was watching how Neville sat with Granger, doing their homework. Really, they had more than enough time to get it done. There were still five days till the Charms essay that they were working on was due. But they said that they didn't want to play until they had finished with it. Dean and Seamus were also not willing to play chess or exploding snap until they had managed to do their Herbology homework, which was to be handed in in two days. Ron was annoyed with that. He wanted to play chess, but he couldn't find a partner. And he didn't like the comment from Granger that he could simply do his homework until one of them was done and had time to play. Homework was boring and he had enough time left to get it done.
He didn't know that when he badgered the other first-years to play with him, they would write it down later on, to hand in a list of complaints to Professor McGonagall. They had been told by Harry what his surrogate parents had said how to best deal with Ron and Malfoy and they agreed to help collect complaints and evidence. They were all sick of how they behaved. And of course all Gryffindors were in on the plan for Snape.
It was Halloween and the whole day the smell of baking pumpkin and other delicious treats had been drafting through the castle. Harry was divided in his emotions. On the one hand, he liked getting sweets and great food as much as any other boy. On the other hand he knew that on this day, ten years ago his birth parents had died. He really didn't know how to deal with the day with so many others only seeing the feast in the evening and perhaps a show for Halloween that the teachers had arranged for. Or for some of the older ones talking how Voldemort died on this day. Some absolute idiots also talked how it was the day when Harry became famous.
During his Transfiguration class he was a bit listless in his casting, which was noticed by the teacher, but she didn't comment during class. She did ask him to stay behind though. Harry told the others to go ahead and that he would catch up to them later on.
"Mr Potter, I couldn't avoid noticing that you aren't your normal self today. Are you feeling well?" McGonagall asked concerned.
"It's nothing, Professor," Harry said, looking to the side.
"You're as bad a liar as your mother was, Mr Potter," McGonagall sighed. "She too couldn't lie for her life."
"Really?" Harry asked surprised.
He had never been compared with his mother much, normally people commented how much he looked like his father, but had his mother's eyes.
"Yes, really. And I could always tell when she was bothered by something. She had the habit of bottling things up until they were too much and then she could explode at somebody. That wasn't very healthy for the one on the other side of her anger. So, I guess it isn't some sickness you caught, but something else," McGonagall stated.
Harry sighed. He hated no being able to hide things well. He didn't really want to talk about it. He didn't like the fame he had for Voldemort not being able to kill him, as it had cost him his parents.
"I don't really like how excited some people are about Halloween," Harry finally mumbled. "I mean, I like the original meaning of the day, it's all in good fun, but the other reasons," he stopped there.
McGonagall only needed a few seconds to put his reasons together and her face softened.
"I'm sorry that you have to be reminded of your loss like this, Mr Potter. The other students don't mean anything bad by it," she told him.
"I know, but I hate it when they celebrate the death of Voldemort or praise me for becoming famous. I'm always reminded what it cost me. While for the wizarding world a horrible war ended, for me it meant being sent away from anything I knew. And the Dursleys don't like me at all. So why would I want to celebrate this day? I mean, I like sweets and good food as much as any boy my age, but do they have to always remind me of this?" Harry complained, "Some are so idiotic. I overheard Ron Weasley talking about how he wished that he had my fame. Doesn't he realise that I would have chosen my parents over the fame in a heartbeat? I can't even have a new family legally like I want to, because some politicians think that they have a right to decide over my fate. As if I belonged to them."
That had grated on his nerves a lot since he found out. He wanted to call Keith and Jessica his Dad and Mum. He wanted to really be the big brother of their child, but because people played games of power, he couldn't even have that.
"Mr Potter, I'm sorry that you are in that position. Do you mean that you have people that would like to adopt you, but can't for political reasons?" She asked.
Harry pondered if he should tell her. He didn't want to lose Keith and Jessica. He looked into her eyes trying to find a clue if she wanted to help or would mess everything up. But he only saw honest concern.
"Yes. They're both muggleborns, so the Ministry of Magic would never allow it. Others would then speak up and demand to be allowed to adopt me, and I don't want that," Harry stated.
"I see. And you fear that if it got out, they would get problems," she analysed.
"Yes, they're great and Keith has been taking care of me since I was six and he noticed that I wasn't treated well by the Dursleys. At first he put a notice-me-not charm on me only keyed to them. That helped not being mistreated by them anymore and he also managed to get me moved from the cupboard under the stairs to the smallest bedroom upstairs using the charm to make them the room too. When I was eight, we finally found out how long I had to stay at the Dursleys each year and except for those few weeks I moved out into his house. It was much better and I finally had something like a father again. And Jessica, who's his wife now, became like my mother when she moved in with Keith. Keith's father has a lot of influence in the muggle world and tried to find a way to let them legally adopt me, but he found a lot of blocks whenever the topic was pushed towards claiming the Dursleys unsuited guardians, which would have been the easiest way to get me out of there.
"Somebody let proof of neglect vanish, social workers that had been convinced suddenly didn't remember their investigations and more things like that. Therefore we never truly pushed for the adoption, even if we all want it, because we realised that somebody with magic was messing around to keep me at the Dursleys. This way we only don't get to be legally a family, but in every other way. I just wish that people would stop messing up my life. I have never been asked if I want to live at the Dursleys. And the wards can easily be kept up with other ways. We've done that for years after all," Harry declared, knowing that he might have said too much, but it was really bothering him.
"I see. I'll see if I can't get some things arranged. I have some friends at the Ministry and the head of the DMLE is the daughter of an old classmate of mine. Cases like this aren't the responsibility of the higher ups, but an office of the DMLE, as there isn't a department that deals with child welfare in the wizarding world. As far as anybody knows, your parents didn't leave a will, so you simply inherited the Potter fortune and some properties, which you'll be able to access once you come of age. Until then they're held in trust for you. You were placed with your last remaining relatives on your mother's side, as Professor Dumbledore could set up powerful wards that would prevent any harm coming to you from You-Know-Who or his followers, as long as you could call the place where your mother's blood lived, home. It was explained to me that her sacrifice to keep you safe enacted that protection and could be anchored with her sister Petunia," McGonagall explained.
"How far away from your Aunt's home would you exactly live if you were adopted?" She asked.
"A bit own the street. Keith and Jessica live at Privet Drive too. It's why he first started to look after me. He was my homeroom teacher at primary school," Harry admitted.
"That would be in favour of the adoption, as the definition is fairly flexible," McGonagall pondered, "It would need to be done without any of the busybodies at the Ministry finding out before everything is legally done. I'll talk to Amelia Bones, the head of the DMLE, and see what she thinks about it, without mentioning any names."
"That's Susan's aunt, right?" Harry asked, having heard the name before.
"Yes, she is. And she's fair and will listen to the story before making any promises or dismissing the idea outright. I can't promise that it'll work, but I can see that you really want this. One thing I'm absolutely sure about is that James and Lily would have wanted that you're happy. And I won't repeat the mistake of leaving you with people that I didn't trust taking proper care of you. But I was sadly overruled," she sighed, "I'm sorry I didn't protest your placement with the Dursleys more, Mr Potter, but I trusted the headmaster to know what he did."
"You were there?" Harry asked surprised.
"Yes. I didn't like the thought of you being left with muggles, away from the wizarding world. So I watched the Dursleys to make sure that they were at least suitable guardians. I don't know why I let Professor Dumbledore convince me that you would be placed there better than in other places. He argued that if you grew up in the wizarding world, you would be confronted with your fame for something you couldn't even remember all the time and it would inevitably turn your head. I couldn't deny that argument and caved in, even if I had concerns about your aunt. She didn't show any proper behaviour for how to raise a child. She allowed your cousin to even kick her when he had a temper tantrum. Had any of my children done that, I'd have spanked them," McGonagall scoffed.
"That didn't change. Dudley never gets reprimanded, even if the reputation of the Dursleys in the neighbourhood has fallen for how they let Dudley run wild. It ended with Dudley just scrapping a pass to graduate from primary school and being refused by Uncle Vernon's old school. They weren't happy about that," Harry told her.
"I see, I feared something like that. Well, I'll see what I can do for your problem and I promise to keep it a secret from the headmaster. I've failed you once, I'll try to not do it again," she declared.
Harry nodded gratefully and then left the classroom.
It was time for the Halloween feast and Harry went along with his classmates. Many had noticed his dour mood, but they didn't really know how to help him. At least they didn't mention anything about Voldemort's defeat at his hands, as they had found out why he was in such a bad mood. They tried cheering him up by talking only about normal things connected to Halloween, like the pumpkin pastries and the sweets that would be served at the feast. Harry appreciated their efforts.
During the feast he could push his thoughts about his loss aside a bit, even if he wasn't as cheerful as his classmates. He still enjoyed the feast with all the Halloween themed types of food. And the decoration of the Great Hall with living bats, huge floating pumpkins with cut-out grimaces that glowed thanks to candles inside of them and cobwebs in all kinds of places was really cool.
But all of that suddenly ended when Professor Quirrell came running into the Great Hall, shouting that a troll was in the dungeons, before he fainted.
Only a loud spell from Professor Dumbledore managed to get the panic of the students to calm down.
"Be quiet!" he loudly declared, "Good, now I want all of you to orderly return to your common rooms. I ask the prefects to lead their houses back while the teachers will come with me to deal with the troll."
The Hufflepuff prefects immediately organised the students, making sure that especially the first and second-years were all present, and then exiting the Great Hall in two lines. The fifth to seventh-years all had their wands out to ensure that if they came across the troll they were ready to protect the younger students.
The Hufflepuff group was nearly at the fork where one corridor led down to the dungeons and one towards their common room, when they saw the troll coming at them from the route to their common room.
"Shit, it must have managed to get out of the dungeons before the teachers got down there!" One fourth year called out frightened.
"Retreat!" The sixth year male prefect called out, "Get to the kitchens, that's the only place close enough that we can secure."
Sadly many students panicked and tried to run away, even if the prefects at the head of the group and four other upper year students managed to stall the troll for now. There was pushing and shoving to get away. Some students fell and didn't manage to get up before others ran past them. Harry was one of them and just managed to roll to the side before others trampled on him.
He tried standing up, but felt that he had sprained his ankle. And the troll was coming closer.
"Harry, get up!" Stacy Veilbloom told him urgently.
"I sprained my ankle when I was pushed down, Stacy!" Harry told her.
"Damn, I don't know any spells to stabilise the ankle. Fay, come over here, we need a quick bandaging spell for a sprained ankle!" She shouted.
Soon another fifth year girl was next to Harry and asked which ankle got hurt. Harry pointed at his right foot and soon a stiff bandage was around it.
"Thank you," he addressed Fay.
"No problem, now come on, we need to get you away. It's hard enough to stall the troll without having a firstie around to protect," Fay replied and helped Harry along while Stacy covered for them.
It seemed to work. They were only a bit away from the kitchen entrance, when the troll broke through the defending older Hufflepuffs and they heard pained screams. The troll came charging along the corridor, swinging his club around it in anger. Harry looked at the massive troll in fright and just barely prevented that Stacy got hit in the head, which would have killed her. She had tried to stun the troll, but it didn't work. Harry pushed her down when the troll swung his club. He sadly had to put weight on his injured foot, but he grit his teeth and tried to continue for the kitchen. The troll swung his club again and Harry ducked under the swing, trying to ignore the pain in his ankle.
Stacy and Fay now cast all kinds of spells at the troll, managing to slow it slightly down, but they couldn't stop it. From behind others caught up and helped, but it only made the troll angrier. Finally one of them set the club on fire and forced the troll to drop it to not be burned. Now it only beat around itself with its long arms, but it lost range without the club. Harry had the bad luck that when he dodged again, he got hit in the left arm with one of the hits and he felt a massive pain and thought he heard his bones break. He slammed against the corridor's wall and screamed out in pain and clutched the hurt arm.
"Sectumsempra!" He then heard a voice thunder and the troll howl in pain.
"Percutio!" Another voice added and the troll howled again.
"Incarcerus ferrum!" A third voice snapped and the sound of heavy chains was added to the mix.
"The troll is secured!" One voice stated, "We need Poppy down here. We have a number of injured students."
Harry didn't notice anything anymore, he blacked out from the pain.
When Harry woke up again, he could hear some soft voices talking.
"Horrible, just horrible. Twenty seven injured students. We can be happy that Severus, Filius and Minerva reached the Hufflepuffs so quickly after the troll came across them. Otherwise I fear what might have happened," he heard Madam Pomfrey say.
"Yes, we were lucky. How bad are the injuries, Poppy?" he recognised Professor Sprouts voice.
"I have some broken bones, many severe bruises, a few sprained ankles, lots of scraped elbows and knees, three concussions and nearly a whole house in shock. I already sent tea laced with a strong calming draught to your house's common room, Pomona. But you should be there soon to tell your students that nobody is in lethal danger and that they will all recover. I'll release the ones with bruises and sprained ankles tomorrow morning after observing them for a night. The ones with just scraped parts can go after I handed out a cream to apply to the parts for two days and taking a calming potion.
"The ones with broken bones I have treated so far, but I need to see how their limbs are healing before I let them go. I expect it to be sometime tomorrow though. The worst ones off are those with a concussion, Mr Potter, Mr Robards and Miss Tonks. I need to keep them for a few days. You don't mess around with a concussion. You need to inform their parents of the injuries. I would actually advise you to send out letters to all parents to inform them what happened with the true facts before the press gets wind of this and blows things out of proportion," Pomfrey stated.
"Yes, that would be best. I really want to know how that troll managed to get into the school. It shouldn't be possible that one gets past the wards," Sprout complained.
Harry closed his eyes. He was tired. Soon he didn't notice anything around him anymore.
And cut at this point. Till next time.