Harry and the Blue Raja faced each other across the ten foot dueling circle that had been drawn on the cobblestone.
"To first blood, begin," Luna announced and Harry found himself being forced to dodge a trio of forks that shot out from under one of the concealing sleeves of the Blue Raja's Indian finery.
Realizing that he had only the one fork and couldn't afford to turn his back to grab the ones already thrown that were stuck in the dueling shield, Harry quickly closed with his foe. Harry didn't even have to dodge the Blue Raja's next two throws, as apparently he'd fumbled them trying to fling two at the same time, one from each hand, and stuck them in the sides of the shield.
As Harry closed the last few feet the Blue Raja smirked and intentionally flung two more forks to the side, before whipping out a long tined fork and easily blocking Harry's lunge.
The ping of the two forks ricocheting loudly registered as Harry stepped back unable to overpower the Blue Raja in his eleven year old body, even with the Re'em's blood enhancing his strength. As he began to lunge low, counting on his height, or lack thereof, to get in a low blow Harry suddenly grabbed his buttocks in pain as two Grecian salad forks had nailed him, one in each cheek.
"Winner, the Blue Raja," Luna announced as the shield fell, dropping the suspended weapons to the ground and the residents of the alley passed gold around to pay off the bets they'd made.
The Blue Raja helped Harry into his shop while Luna and Ginny collected a couple of wagers.
Harry was just buckling up his pants when the two girls entered. "OK, you were right, those healed much too easily and they haven't left even a tingle. What do you suggest as a good stabbing set? It's obvious I'm not a professional fork fighter I simply have a license to stab people with them."
"You may not be a professional, but you show promise as a silverware slinger. I'd suggest a pair of all-purpose wrist holsters. Standard loads for them are twelve settings American tableware. I recommend them because while they lack embellishment the smooth lines make them very aerodynamic and the stainless steel construction makes them quite a bit sturdier than the local brands."
"I'll take them," Harry said. "But I need specialized loads composed of just forks, as that's all I can legally stab people with outside of a duel."
"Just stabbing or is throwing allowed as well?"
"Anything that makes tines pierce flesh is considered stabbing as far as I'm concerned."
"That opens up our options a little bit," the Blue Raja said with a grin.
As the two discussed tableware the girls split the money they'd made.
"I wish I could go to Hogwarts with you two," Ginny said. "Mum is going to drive me spare with Ron gone."
"You can always ask Harry and see if he knows a way to help you," Luna suggested.
"Do you really think he can?" Ginny asked hopefully.
"The worst thing that can happen is you end up stuck at home for a year and you're already facing that."
Dumbledore shook his beard and chuckled. The Headmasters curse had amused, then worried, then amused him once more.
He'd been amused at the idea until Mr. Lovegood had shown compelling evidence of a curse. Who knew that previous Headmasters had all received cheese related injuries? He'd worried that he'd brought it on himself until a thorough check of his memories had shown him to have avoided turning anyone away regardless of whether they could pay or not. The closest he'd come had been finding alternative schooling for a couple of students who had problems of some type or another that couldn't be handled at Hogwarts.
Dumbledore settled back in his chair, happy that simply being the light wizard he was had saved him from an unjust fate.
"Really only a fool would turn away students that could be raised and taught to work for the good of society."
Harry flipped through his licenses until he found one that he could use. "Yeah, I can get you in a year early. We'll get you everything for school today and bring it with us to the train, just be sure to be with your family to see Ron off and I'll take care of it there."
"Really?" Ginny asked hopefully.
"Yup," Harry said cheerfully.
"I-I don't know how I'll be able to afford Hogwarts," Ginny said, realizing she didn't have the money.
"Don't worry about it," Harry said. "All your schooling costs from supplies to clothing to pocket money will be covered."
"My family is rich," Harry said with a shrug. "I guilted my dad into opening an account for me with enough money to put a dozen people through Hogwarts twice!"
The two girls just stared at him.
"I'm not normal, I know," Harry said.
Luna grabbed one of his hands and pulled him along. "Normal is overrated."
"And probably dull," Ginny added walking with them.
Entering Madam Malkin's, Harry waved the two girls towards the woman's section, thanking the gods the two sections were separated to speed up dealing with the Hogwarts crowds, since the girls always had far more choices and requests than the males, who just wanted to get their shopping done as soon as possible. Taking his place for his measuring with arms outstretched, Harry settled in for a boring ten minutes as the magical tape measure went to work when a familiar sounding voice spoke up.
"Going to Hogwarts?"
Seeing Draco out of the corner of his eye he got an evil idea. "Yep, looking forward to it."
"So am I. I'm hoping to get into Slytherin, though I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn't be too bad. Better than Hufflepuff at any rate. If I get sorted there I'd quit. How about you?"
"Hufflepuff would be my first choice, but I'll probably get dumped into Gryffindor because of all the crazy things I do when bored."
"You would be a duffer?" Draco asked confused.
"Yeah, I mean… wait. You don't know, do you?"
"Know?" Draco asked.
Harry winced. "I shouldn't have said anything but I thought you knew."
"You can't just leave it at that, not knowing will drive me mad," Draco whined.
"I guess that would be cruel. Ok, I'll tell you, but you have to promise to keep it a secret."
"You have my word," Draco said eagerly.
"OK, the public view of the houses are pretty much bull. Slytherin is supposed to be sneaky, but how sneaky is letting everyone know you're sneaky? A lot of ambitious people go there, but true Slytherins go into Hufflepuff, because everyone trusts the Puffs."
"That's pure genius," Draco said in awe.
"And it doesn't end there. The Puffs are known for being hardworking and loyal, two traits that are severely underestimated. Hardworking sounds like how you would describe a sucker, but… do you really believe that people like You-Know-Who and Dumbledore became powerful by lounging around? Hell no! They built up their personal power through hard work, personal power like that can't be taken from you."
"I…" Draco fell silent, his eyes wide.
"Yeah, and imagine how much higher you could climb when you don't have to worry about being stabbed in the back. Loyalty and hard work are looked down on because someone wants it that way. I'm sure there are a handful of sheep in Hufflepuff, there because they requested to be there, believing the lies, but hidden amongst the sheep are wolves and the very best ones will blend in with the sheep, never letting you know they were anything else."
Draco stood frozen, his world clearly inverted for the moment.
"I know I have the strength, watch." Harry pointed to a ripped robe hanging on a dressmakers dummy and snapped his fingers making the rip vanish like it'd never existed. "But… I lack the guile. Unfortunately I haven't inherited enough insanity so even Ravenclaw is out."
"Insanity?" Draco asked distractedly, awed by seeing someone his age use wandless magic.
"Yeah. Besides lacking subtlety most of the time, I hold grudges I should let go and my revenge is way out of proportion to the crime. Gryffindor is the house of courage they say, and publicly it fits, but they also get everyone too insane to feel fear. Ask any Gryffindor and they'll readily admit it's a madhouse. They do accomplish great things at times, I admit. But you only hear about the successes because the failures die rushing in where angels fear to tread."
"What about Ravenclaw?"
"If Gryffindors rush, the Ravens are the ones who draw the maps. It's not enough for them just to do something that no one in their right minds would attempt, they plot it out step by step in advance rather than doing it in the heat of the moment."
Madam Malkin came out and collected the two tape measures. "I'll have everything ready for pickup tomorrow unless you want something special."
Harry shook his head. "First years can't leave the school and the only reason to get a decked out set would be for a date to Hogsmead. Besides Care of Magical Creatures and Potions and Herbology will more than likely destroy everything we don't outgrow during the first year. I'm good for now."
"Mother insists I have some additional features added," Draco said. "To make the right sort of impression."
"It does help sway the sheep," Harry admitted. "But lacking guile as I've admitted I'm just going to play the power game. Thank god for half-blood vigor," he waved goodbye to Draco and caught the girls, offering an arm to each as he escorted them out.
Narcissa caught the display as she entered and smirked as she joined Draco. "What a little charmer. I recognize the girls with him, but not who he is. HE does look familiar though."
"I forgot to get his name," Draco admitted. "But he did mention something about half-blood vigor."
Narcissa blushed for a moment remembering pureblood girls gossiping about the subject and forced down her blush with a will. "A magically gifted half-blood is a welcome addition every couple of generations to help strengthen magical lines and prevent them from stagnating."
Draco nodded his head thoughtfully.
Typing by: Last Primarch