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For Love of Magic

by Noodlehammer

A different upbringing leaves Harry Potter with an early knowledge of


magic and a view towards the Wizarding World not as an escape from the
Dursleys, but as an opportunity to learn more about it. Unfortunately, he
quickly finds that there are many elements in this new world that are
unwilling to leave the Boy-Who-Lived alone.

Rated: Fiction M - English - Harry P. - Chapters: 39 - Words: 546,280 -


Reviews: 6,661 - Favs: 6,559 - Follows: 7,480 - Updated: 6/4 - Published:
12/15/2015 - id: 11669575

URL: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11669575

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

1. Chapter 1

2. Chapter 2

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 4

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 6

7. Chapter 7

8. Chapter 8

9. Chapter 9

10. Chapter 10

11. Chapter 11

12. Chapter 12

13. Chapter 13

14. Chapter 14
15. Chapter 15

16. Chapter 16

17. Chapter 17

18. Chapter 18

19. Chapter 19

20. Chapter 20

21. Chapter 21

22. Chapter 22

23. Chapter 23

24. Chapter 24

25. Chapter 25

26. Chapter 26

27. Chapter 27

28. Chapter 28

29. Chapter 29

30. Chapter 30

31. Chapter 31

32. Chapter 32

33. Chapter 33

34. Chapter 34

35. Chapter 35

36. Chapter 36

37. Chapter 37

38. Chapter 38

39. Chapter 39
Chapter 1

OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: I don't own anything except the fanfic itself. The
cake is a fake and the pie is a lie.

So this is my attempt at a new fanfic instead of yet another Naruto


crossover with the same characters I've been using for the past two
years. For those of you who actually wanted me to do that, sorry xD. I
might go back to that every once in a while, but for now I'm going to try
my hand at this and see what happens.

One of the first things you will note in this fic is the fact that I've
moved up the HP timeline by twenty years. This was mostly done because I
don't want to break my mind trying to remember what the world was like in
the 90s, just in case a need to actually do so comes up. I was just a wee
lad at the time, and not one that paid much attention to his
surroundings.

Another thing is that there are no pairings listed. This is done on


purpose, because even I don't know who Harry will end up with, if he will
even end up with anyone. I do have certain females in mind, but I tend to
make things up as I go rather than having it planned, so nothing is for
sure. Please don't ask me about pairings in reviews or in PM's, it will
just make me feel bad about ignoring you.

I will try to avoid fanfiction cliches, but considering how many of them
there are, it's probably inevitable that I'll use a few. I will try to
avoid bashing any characters for example, even though some of them make
it way too easy.

Extra special thanks go to Joe Lawyer, who agreed to act as a beta and
helped me improve this chapter to the point where it actually felt worth
uploading.

Minor thanks go to kishinokurobi, whose sarcastic feedback in poorly


typed out English that was worthy of an American stereotype served to
amuse me. It also gave me a second opinion that the first chapter wasn't
totally horrible, but the amusement was more important.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

On November 1st, 2001, wizards and witches all across Britain and even
Europe were celebrating the fall of the Dark Lord Voldemort the previous
night. Most of the credit for this was falling on the shoulders of Harry
Potter, toddler extraordinare. The logical incongruity of a year old baby
defeating a full fledged Dark Lord was ignored in the wave of relief at
the unexpected turn of good fortune.

Albus Dumbledore was one of the few who were not celebrating. He strongly
suspected that Voldemort was not truly dead and he knew the prophecy.
Harry Potter had to be kept safe from the retaliation of his former
student's supporters. He also knew that Killing Curses did not get
reflected on fits of whimsy. Indeed, they were not supposed to get
reflected at all.

The magical backlash of what happened had wiped away all traces of
evidence that could be used to determine the truth of events, but he
strongly suspected the machinations of Harry's parents to be the cause.
Or at the very least, the machinations of Lily Potter. Alas, he would
likely never know for certain what kind of protection had been invoked.

What he did know however, was that the protection still lingered in young
Harry Potter's blood. That could be used to keep the boy safe until it
was time for him to come to Hogwarts. He would still need to consider the
implications of the shard of Voldemort's soul that was lodged in the
lightning bolt scar, but he fortunately had time to do that instead of
needing to make rash decisions.

Though it pained him to do it, he drained Lily Potter's still cooling


body of blood and used it to establish a powerful blood ward around the
residence of Petunia Dursley, forging a bond between Lily's squib sister
and young Harry that would anchor the ward without need for a heart stone
or ley line.

He obliviated this knowledge from the minds of the Dursleys, rightfully


assuming that they would not be happy about his actions.

Then he left the newly orphaned baby on their doorstep with a note and
left, certain that Harry Potter would be well cared for and safe until it
was time for him to rejoin the Wizarding World.

It should be noted that Dumbledore had aquired several cognitive


deficiences over the course of his long life. The two that were relevant
in this situation was his certainty that he always knew best and his
unwillingness to understand that people could have any other feelings
aside from love for their family.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Vernon and Petunia Dursley were none too pleased at the disruptive
addition to their comfortable normalcy. They knew Harry was a wizard and
loathed what he represented, which easily transferred to the boy himself.
Dudley, being an impressionable child, picked up on this and emulated it.

To be fair, there had been a chance for things to go better. After all,
Harry was only a small child and any person who was not completely
soulless would have their heart softened in the presence of an innocent
baby. Perhaps he would not have been treated quite as well as Dudley and
would always know that he had been an unwelcome addition to the family,
but he would have been raised with more kindness than many received.

But Harry was a magical child and things happened when he got upset.
Small children got upset often and that was without the added trauma of
seeing their mother murdered right in front of them, even if he was too
young to understand what had happened or to truly remember it.
With every occurence of something levitating to his hands because he
wanted it or food being banished because he didn't want it, the fragile
tolerance of the Dursleys diminished. This led to harsher treatment that
in turn led to more distress for Harry and to ever more instances of
accidental magic in a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle.

It came to a head one day when Harry was six. Dudley was picking on him
as he often did and Harry was both frightened and angry. In a fit of
prepubescent rage, he wanted Dudley to be hurt just like he was being
hurt. The already obese boy was launched across the room, breaking one of
Petunia's favorite lamps and cutting Dudely up bad enough that he would
need stitches, as well as leaving him badly bruised.

That proved to be the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. The
very next day, Vernon took a day off from work and drove Harry to an
orphanage in London. He didn't even bother speaking to the people in
charge, merely ordering him out of the car and telling him to knock on
the door, accompanied by harsh warnings to never reveal who he'd been
living with until then.

Harry had been honestly terrified at the purple faced rage on Vernon's
face, so he obeyed.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry had been tentatively hopeful about his new lot in life at first.
Yes, it was an orphanage and he'd been told some horror stories about it,
but at least the people here wouldn't hate him the way he could remember
the Dursleys doing for his whole life. They wouldn't hit him for any
infraction, perceived or imagined, or deny him food out of some vain hope
to get rid of his 'freakishness'. Hopefully.

That hope didn't last more than a couple of days.

Young children were incredibly selfish creatures, not possessing much


empathy and prone to thoughtless cruelty for the most inane of reasons. A
strangely shaped scar on one's forehead was more than enough reason to
turn just another orphan into a target.

Despite his previous experiences and his desire to not worsen the
situation for himself, the outbursts of accidental magic resumed.
Unfortunately, the age of six was not characterized by robust emotional
strength, so this was more or less inevitable. It didn't take long until
the matron of the orphanage learned of these supernatural events.

The woman was old and very strict. She had to be to manage several dozen
children at her age. More importantly, she was very religious and quickly
classified Harry's bursts of accidental magic as witchcraft. Correct
though she was, it did not make Harry's life any easier.

It did give Harry some idea of what these strange occurences were though.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
About a year after Harry's arrival in the orphanage, he ended up being
adopted.

A rich couple by the name of Robert and Katherine Shaw came by, looking
for a child to adopt. They were instantly taken by Harry's emerald green
eyes and raven black hair. The lightning bolt scar did bother them a bit,
but not enough to detract from his other features and even that seemed to
pass once they learned he'd gotten it in the car crash that killed his
parents.

Though excited by the possibility of having a real family, Harry retained


enough learned cynicism to be distrustful of his sudden good fortune.

It quickly became obvious to him that the Shaws wanted a status symbol
rather than a son, which was the entire reason they had been so careful
to pick a boy with striking features. Even the scar was something that
could be used as a conversational segue into a bit of subtle bragging
about how they had taken in an orphan that had lost his parents in such a
horrible way.

He ate what he was told to eat, partook in activities they told him to
partake in, studied hard in school and with the tutors they hired for him
and smiled at people that he was told to smile at, even though he would
like nothing better than to go somewhere that he could be alone.

There was little in the way of parental affection involved, but Harry had
already lowered his expectations in life considerably by that point. He
ate well, was not hit or berated for things he had no control over and
there were no other children around to pick on him. It was the best he'd
ever had it and didn't want to go back. The matron at the orphanage had
made no mention of his magic to the Shaws and Harry had no intention of
doing so either. Others knowing about it had always brought him trouble.

In his free time he researched mythology, read fantasy books, or played


role playing games on his computer.

And when he was alone, he practiced his magic.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

To: Harry Potter

Harry's bedroom

74 Cromwell Road

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London.

Albus Dumbledore stared uncomprehendingly at the adress on Harry Potter's


Hogwarts acceptance letter. That was not anywhere close to Privet Drive
in Surrey. What in the world was the Boy-Who-Lived doing in one of the
most affluent areas of muggle Londom and how had he gotten there?
If he hadn't taken a peek at the automatically written letter out of
curiousity, he wouldn't have even known it. This was something that bore
investigation and then an extended period of pondering on the acquired
information. Clearly, simply sending the letter was not an option. A
teacher would have to go and make the visit personally, but who to send?

Though he had faith that Severus would not let his grudge towards James
Potter affect his conduct towards the man's son, the taciturn Potions
Master had long made it clear that he would not have any more interaction
with children than was absolutely necessary.

Filius would have no idea how to navigate muggle London and neither would
a large part of the remaining staff for that matter. Oh, they would find
the house just fine, but they would be too conspicuous.

Hagrid was out of the question for the same reason. Subtlety was not the
half giant's forte.

That essentially left himself and Minerva, and the Headmaster could not
show such blatant interest in a particular child.

Minerva was not going to be pleased with him and would no doubt once
again have some choice words to say about his decision to place Harry
with the Dursleys, but she would at least be happy to see the son of her
favorite students.

He could find out what sequence of events led to the current situation
from her, or failing that by paying a discreet visit to 74 Cromwell Road
himself.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Is this some kind of joke?" Robert Shaw asked flatly, putting down the
Hogwarts letter.

Minerva McgGonnagal ruthlessly kept herself from shifting uncomfortably


in the obviously expensive sitting room she was in.

These two rich muggles had regarded her with thinly veiled disapproval
that was eerily similar to what a traditionalist pureblood family might
give a muggleborn ever since she had shown up on their doorstep. Well,
that was not entirely true. It was not as intense, nor as obviously
discourteus, but it was clear that they didn't like her.

She wasn't normally the type to be made uncomfortable by having snobbish


behavior aimed at her, or to tolerate it for that matter, but this was a
special case.

These were apparently Harry Potter's foster parents and it made her skin
crawl to think of the beautiful baby she remembered growing up to be a
self-entitled brat like she suspected the Malfoy scion was going to be.

Though the lad himself seemed more curious than judgemental. His hair was
cut fairly short, openly displaying his scar and a lot more tame than
that of his father. He didn't seem to have inherited James' poor eyesight
either, but his face was very similar. His eyes shone a bright green just
like his mother's.

"I assure you, it is no joke." She replied stiffly. "Mr. Potter has been
enrolled in Hogwarts by his parents before their deaths and has a place
waiting for him."

The Shaws still looked sceptical.

"Would a demonstration convince you?" She asked, getting tentative nods


in return.

Thinking it better to do something more minor than tranfiguring a piece


of furniture into an animal, she took out her wand and levitated an empty
tea cup.

The Shaw's stared in shock at the levitating bit of procelain.

"I see." Mr. Shaw said weakly. His wife merely looked stunned.

"Did my parents really die in a car crash?" Harry inquired politely.

"A car crash?!" Minerva spluttered. "Of all the...they most certainly did
not!"

"How did they die then?"

Minerva held back a grimace. She'd been so outraged at the notion of a


powerful pair of magicals like James and Lily dying in something as
mundane as a muggle car crash that she hadn't even considered that she
would now need to explain to him that they had been murdered by a Dark
Lord.

And so the whole sordid tale came out. Minerva could clearly see that the
Shaw's were discomfited by it, but Harry offered little reaction aside
from occasionally asking a question. In turn, Minerva learned how Harry
had come into the care of his foster parents. Hearing that she'd been
even more right about the Dursleys than she'd known when she'd warned
Dumbledore against placing him there nearly had her going into a proper
Scottish rage, but the fact that he was away from them now calmed her
down somewhat.

She would still be having some very strong words with Albus on the
subject however.

Despite learning about magic, the Shaws were far from sold on the idea of
letting Harry go to Hogwarts even though his tuition had already been
paid for. They seemed quite set on the idea of sending him off to a
muggle university instead of having him learn magic, despite Minerva's
best efforts to convince them otherwise.

It was only upon her reluctant admittance that they would have their
memories of this conversation removed if Harry did not go that they
subsided. That was not a part of Wizarding culture that Minerva was proud
of, but they couldn't just let any muggles who refused their child's
Hogwarts invitation know about magic.

She was even less proud of the fact that she knew that the Boy-Who-Lived
would never be allowed the choice to stay away from the magical world. He
was simply too high profile and there was no doubt in her mind that the
Minister of Magic would use some kind of legal loophole to have him
removed from the care of the Shaws if he did not come willingly. The
consequences of that decision did not bear thinking about.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"The Dursleys abandoned him in an orphanage?" Dumbledore asked in


disbelief.

"I told you they were the worst kind of muggles!" Minerva spat. "I told
you that it was a mistake to leave him there."

Dumbledore sighed regretfully. Truly, there had been little choice in the
matter. Harry had been safest there, and he had to be kept away from the
Wizarding World. Both of those were paramount. He could only hope that he
would not have another Tom Riddle on his hands.

"At least it all turned out well." He said. "What is he like?"

"Polite and well mannered." She answered, a small frown still on her
face. "He was interested in learning magic, though his foster parents
were clearly not so taken with it. I have already told him that I would
be returning in a few days to escort him on his first trip to Diagon
Alley."

"I could have Hagrid escort young Harry, I know that you are busy."
Dumbledore offered.

"Absolutely not!" McGonagall near snapped. "Good man though he is, Hagrid
is in no way a suitable choice for introducing someone to magic and Mr.
Potter is for all intents and purposes a muggleborn."

Dumbledore suppressed a frown. He had some tests planned for Harry and
there was certain information that the boy needed to come across in order
for that to work. But no matter, he could work around his deputy easily
enough. He would just need to carefully time when to send Hagrid to pick
up the Philosopher's Stone.

"Very well, if you feel you can fit another trip to Diagon Alley into
your schedule, then by all means."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"This is the entrance to Diagon Alley?"


Minerva smiled slightly at the confused tone in Harry's voice. She
supposed that the Leaky Cauldron really did look a bit dingy compared to
the surrounding buildings.

"Indeed Mr. Potter." She confirmed. "Remember that you are quite famous
in the Wizarding World. I would suggest that you put that cap of yours
on."

Harry grimaced a bit but put the generic cap on his head. It would do a
good enough job of hiding his scar to prevent a scene from happening. He
was a bit dubious about this supposed fame of his, but wasn't willing to
chance it in case the stern professor wasn't exaggerating.

They passed through the Leaky Cauldron without incident and were soon in
Diagon Alley proper.

If not for the robes everyone was wearing, Harry would have though they'd
stepped back in time. The Alley itself featured a cobblestone road that
was far too narrow to be modern and a variety of similarly smallish
buildings selling all manner of strange things.

"Come along Mr. Potter, our first stop is Gringotts, the wizard's bank."
McGonagall said quietly, not wanting to give away his identity.

"What are those?" He asked with surprise as he saw a pair of obviously


non-human guards.

"Goblins." She answered shortly. "A clever folk, and good with money.
They are not the most pleasant sort, nor fond of wizards, but treat them
respectfully and you should be fine."

Harry nearly stopped to stare at her incredulously. Goblin bankers? That


was quite the departure from the fantasy stereotype of stupid, smelly
creature that were typically used as cannon fodder. They were probably
even more vicious though. Even human bankers were generally more vicious
than a fantasy goblin; a fantasy goblin would just kill you, but a banker
would take everything you own and make you kill yourself. That was what
he'd gathered from the occasional grumbling of his foster father at any
rate.

"Professor McGonagall!" A booming, jovial voice called out. "Fancy


meetin' you here."

"Hagrid." Minerva greeted, giving the half-giant a small smile. "Are you
heading to Gringotts as well?"

"Aye, Dumbledore's got me pickin' up the You-Know-What in vault seven


hundred and thirteen." Hagrid said with a sense of pride before looking
at Harry. "Is this...?"

McGonagall wanted to palm her face at the casual way that the big man was
blurting out secrets in the middle of the street. Why the Headmaster
trusted him to do something as important as picking up the Philosopher's
Stone she had no idea. Hagrid would certainly do the job, but he was
liable to inform everyone he came across what he was doing without even
realizing it.

"Yes Hagrid, it is." McGonagall said sternly, willing him to pick up on


her desire to keep quiet.

Alas, the effort was wasted on the half-giant.

"I haven't seen yeh since you were a wee baby." Hagrid said emotionally.
"When I picked yeh up from-"

"Hagrid!" The transfiguration professor hissed, seeing that merely


hinting wasn't going to cut it if they wanted to avoid having him
inadvertently inform the whole street of Harry's identity.

"Wha-oh!" Hagrid's eyes widened, finally realizing the need for some
subtlety. "Err, right. Name's Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of the keys and
Grounds at Hogwarts. Look forward to seein' you there come September
first."

"Pleasure meeting you." Harry said politely, wondering how exactly this
huge man had known him as a baby.

The three of them went into the bank together, with Hagrid quickly
splitting off on his own to finish the errand he'd been sent to do.

"What's the You-Know-What?" Harry asked, not really expecting an answer.

"Never you mind." McGonagall said quickly.

Harry simply nodded. Obviously, they weren't going to tell an eleven year
old if they were being so cryptic in the first place. It almost felt like
the start of a side-quest, but that was ridiculous and probably a result
of one too many RPGs being played. Real life didn't have quest cues for
player characters.

Teacher and prospective student stepped up to one of the numerous goblin


tellers.

"Greetings, Mr. Potter here needs to make a withdrawal from his trust
vault." McGonagall said, already presenting a golden key.

"Excuse me, trust vault?" Harry interjected, latching on to the words.


"Does that mean that there is also a main vault."

"Of course, but you will not have access to it until you are of age." The
goblin teller replied, his tone implying that Harry was annoying him.

Harry was much too excited by the idea to care about that though, and
merely pressed on with his line of questioning. "Would it be possible to
discuss my account with whoever is managing it?"
"There really is no need for this, Mr. Potter." MyGonnagal tried to
dissuade him. "Your trust vault will be more than sufficient for your
school supplies, likely for all seven years of them."

He would not be put off though. This inheritance represented financial


independence and therefore freedom from Robert and Katherine Shaw. Life
with them was not terrible, but if given the choice to get away from them
and live on his own, he would barely even bother saying goodbye. He had a
closer relationship with the cleaning lady that came by once a week.

You would think that they would start to feel some affection for each
other over the past few years, but that was just not happening. The Shaws
were ambitious social climbers that were only married as a business
arrangement that benefited them both. Expecting them to suddenly develop
parental feelings was futile and kept their interactions decidedly cool.
Cordial, but cool. Even the LASIK eye surgery they had insisted he get
had been motivated more by their ambitions than any concern about his
vision, the fact that they had handwaved any possible risk had
demonstrated that quite clearly. What they had was a relationship of
mutual exploitation and nothing more. He played the part of the adopted
son with the tragic backstory that did the best he could. In exchange he
lived in comfort and was left alone to do his own thing when they didn't
need him for something.

So no, there was simply no way in Hell that he was missing out on an
opportunity to find out as much as possible about whatever inheritance
his real parents had left him.

"I'm the only Potter left, aren't I?" He challenged. "It's only right
that I take an interest in the family finances."

McGonagall pursed her lips, obviously disapproving. Either because she


thought it was unnecessary or because she thought that an eleven year old
had no business trying to manage a wealthy family estate, Harry couldn't
say.

There was a hint of approval in the goblin's reply though. "Wait here, I
will inquire if the account manager for the Potters has time to meet with
you."

"Thank you." Harry said sincerely, getting an inscrutably gruesome smile


in return.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

As luck would have it, the Potter account manager did have time. He was
an older goblin by the name of Gorefist, the implications of which had
Harry wondering if banking was their day job and slaughtering peasants
just a hobby. He really, really wanted to ask, but figured it would be a
bad idea to possibly offend the person in charge of his money.

"I must admit that I am surprised that you would want to speak to me
already, Mr. Potter." Gorefist began. "After all, you cannot touch any of
the Potter finances aside from those in your trust vault until you are of
age, something that I am certain you were informed of by the teller."

Harry heard the implicit 'Why are you wasting my time?'.

"I don't suppose there is any way to...accelerate...my coming of age?" He


inquired.

Gorefist looked at him as if he was an idiot.

"Mr. Potter, we are a bank, not a government office. You could of course
ask to go through the goblin trials of adulthood, if you wished to do so.
That we could offer you."

Something about Gorefist's words and expression made Harry doubt the
wisdom of this.

"I get the feeling that these trials were not designed with humans in
mind and would likely be hazardous to my health, so I'm afraid that I'll
have to decline."

Gorefist barked an amused laugh. "Hah, you are surprisingly sensible for
a wizard. Did you have any other clever ideas for prematurely getting
your hands on your inheritance, or are you quite finished wasting both
our time?"

"I would like an accounting of the Potter family assets." Harry insisted.

"Very well." Gorefist grumbled, taking some documents out of his desk.
"The Potter family liquid assets amount to 343,709 galleons and an exta
one thousand on your trust vault. The main vault also holds assorted
heirlooms and artefacts acquired over the years."

"Is there an inventory of these items?" Harry interjected eagerly, his


mind on all the cool enchanted gear that might be in there.

"No. Gringotts merely stores the items, we do not care what they are."

"I see." Harry said, disappointed.

Gorefist paid him no mind as he continued to speak. "Of the land


holdings, Potter Manor is all that remains. It has lain empty since the
deaths of your paternal grandparents."

Harry was happy to learn that he had a whole manor to himself. He knew
that he wouldn't be able to move into it alone, but it was good to have a
place. Something was bothering him about all this though. All that money
couldn't exist in a vacuum, there had to be some sort of business
involved.

"Does the Potter family own any kind of business venture?" He inquired.
"Not anymore." Gorefist said bluntly. "As the name implies, your family
used to produce various pottery, both artistic and practical. They also
owned a reasonably sized vineyard."

"What happened to to them? Did they go bankrupt?" Harry asked.

"Not as such." Gorefist grunted. "The Parkinson family made overtures to


buy both after the death of Charlus Potter, to which the managers at the
time agreed. With your father in hiding, he was unaware of this and could
not contest it."

"I see." Harry said again, frowning. He would have to find out about
these Parkinsons.

"I can do whatever I want with my trust vault, is that right?"

"It is."

"Is the gold in my trust vault a fixed amount or does it get periodically
replenished?"

"The latter. It is filled up to one thousand galleons on every birthday


until you become of age."

"Then I would like to move the contents of my trust vault to a new one,
and to have this repeated every year."

Gorefist raised an eyebrow. While it was not exactly the height of


cunning to figure out this type of scheme(pureblood heirs thought of it
all the time), it did show that the boy had some definite plans for that
money.

"There is a substantial fee attached to such services." He said with a


cutthroat smile.

"What kind of fee?" Harry asked suspiciously.

"20%."

Harry gaped at the goblin for a moment before he regained the power of
speech. "That's as good as robbery!"

"You could also wait until you are of age." Gorefist offered, smirking at
the glower that the boy wizard was aiming at him. He would have been
willing to go lower, but he was pretty sure that the young Potter heir
was desperate enough for the money to agree even to that exorbitant fee
and Gringott's didn't do charity. Especially not for wizards.

There was a long silence before Harry gave his answer.

"I hope you enjoy the gold you extorted from an eleven year old child."
He said, his words clipped and angry.
"That is the best kind of gold." Gorefist replied, feeling quite pleased
with himself. Fleecing the idiot wizards was a favorite pastime of the
goblins. Not as good as killing them, but it was a decent enough
substitute.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

McGonagall's mood was noticeably more sour when Harry came out of
Gringott's. He got the feeling that she was a woman that was used to
getting her way with children and didn't appreciate being kept waiting.
Harry decided that he didn't like her too much. His upbringing had left
him with a distaste for bossy, authoritative people that were used to
getting their way.

Not to mention that his own mood was not exactly sunshine and daisies
after the meeting with Gorefist.

The first stop after that was Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions.
Despite McGonagall's warning about the effects of people seeing his scar,
Madam Malkin stayed professional. It gave him hope that it wasn't as bad
as she'd claimed.

He came out of the robe shop feeling decidedly ridiculous, but he did
blend in better now.

The trunk shop and apothecary were next, both of which passed without
incident. It was in the book shop that he once again tried the patience
of the transfiguration mistress.

"Ancient Runes and Arithmancy are electives that you can choose to take
in third year, you will not need those books before then." She was
saying.

"I'm buying them now." Harry insisted.

Ancient Runes sounded fascinating and he wanted to know what it was


about. As for Arithmancy...he'd simply never thought that math could be
applied to magic.

He wasn't a mathematical genius by any stretch, having slogged through


the material his school and tutors assigned him with the grim
determination of someone who had no choice. He had gotten good grades,
but math was simply not something that had ever interested him.

Math as it applied to magic though? That was interesting and something


that he would cheerfully dive into.

McGonagall released an impatient sigh and muttered something indistinct


about raven claws. He had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but her
attitude baffled him. Weren't teachers supposed to be happy when students
wanted to read ahead?

The book shop was also the place where he had his first encounter with
his fame, though it was not because someone had recognized him.
There were books, a whole series of books, about his supposed adventures
after the defeat of Voldemort. Obviously, these adventures were entirely
made up. He couldn't possibly have been riding a dragon at the age of
five for example.

Harry could only stare in disbelief at the assortment of books. At the


age of eleven, his knowledge of the law was not exactly extensive, but he
was pretty sure that using him as a main character in a book series
without his permission was illegal.

The knowledge that the vast majority of his inheritance would remain out
of reach for quite a few more years still fresh in his mind, Harry got an
idea about squeezing some extra money out of this situation. He promptly
added a book on wizarding law to his purchase, as well as those books
about him. For all he knew, it wasn't illegal in the Wizarding World to
pull a stunt like this, but he would definitely find out.

Though annoyed by the liberties taken by the author, if her stupidity


gave him an easy path to independent wealth, he would thank her. In the
privacy of his own thoughts. After he sued her out of house and home.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Though he had long wanted a pet, Harry did not find any animals in
Magical Menagerie that appealed to him. Maybe some other day.

The last stop of the day was the wand shop, Ollivander's. He couldn't
quite point his finger at it, but there was a kind of unidentifiable
tingle in the air.

"Good afternoon." The soft greeting came from behind, causing Harry to
give a start.

"Hello." Harry returned the greeting with akward caution. There was
something about the man and his silvery eyes that was decidedly off-
putting.

"Ah, yes. I thought I'd be seeing you soon Harry Potter." The man
continued, heedless of the discomfort.

"Must you frighten every child I bring here for a wand, Garrick?"
McGonagall asked with exasperation.

"Minerva, Minerva McGonagall. Fir with dragon heartstring, nine and a


half exceptional wand for transfiguration." Ollivander rattled off.

"Yes Garrick, I know. You tell me that every time I come here."

Harry had to suppress a smile at the weary note in the transfiguration


teacher's voice. The old wandmaker apparently enjoyed reciting that
information often.
"Well then Mr. Potter, let us find your wand." Ollivander said, handing
him a wand. "Try this one. Beechwood and dragon heartstring. Nine inches.
Nice and flexible. Give it a wave."

Harry took the wand, feeling his skin tingle where it came into contact
with the wood. He gave it a wave as instructed, feeling a little foolish.

A weak stream of multi-colored sparks streamed from the end of the wand.

"A match on the first try?" McGonagall asked in surprise.

"No, I don't think so." Ollivander said as he snatched the wand away, his
eyes suddenly calculating. "Try this one Mr. Potter. Maple and phoenix
feather..."

Harry tried it, getting a similar result. Ollivander looked as if he was


suspicious of something and Harry had the bad feeling that it was about
his attempts to cast magic wandlessly. Fortunately, the old man didn't
comment.

More wands came and went, producing varying results. Eventually they came
to a holly wand with phoenix feather that had a much stronger reaction
than any of the others so far. He felt something powerful connect to his
magic and pull on it, the wand releasing a great stream of sparks with
every movement until it settled down.

"Curious, very curious." Ollivander muttered.

"What is?" Harry asked.

"I remember every wand I've ever sold, Mr . Potter." The wandmaker said
heavily. "Every single one, and I can tell you that the phoenix who
donated the feather for that wand gave only one other. That other feather
rests in the wand that gave you that scar on your head. It is very
curious that you should be chosen by the brother wand to that of He-Who-
Must-Not-Be-Named."

Harry tried really hard not to think it, but it was useless. That sounded
undeniably like an important part of the plot for a main questline. Good
thing that the Dark Lord was dead, or he would probably end up in some
kind of predestined mission to defeat him.

Or maybe he'd played too many RPGs.

"I think we must expect great things from you Mr. Potter." Ollivander was
still saying. "After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things,
terrible yes, but great."

Somewhat unnerved by the creepy old man, Harry was still getting that
'main questline' vibe.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry sighed in relief as he sank into the seats of the Hogwarts Express.
Getting away from the Shaws for ten months of the year for the next seven
years sounded almost perfect. Almost, because he'd gathered that magicals
were technologically retarded and Harry had grown rather fond of his
computer and all that it provided. Living in a modern day replica of the
seventeenth century was going to be a pain.

Parchment and quills indeed! He'd bought notebooks and ballpoint pens in
bulk as soon the shopping trip with McGonagall was over. There was
tradition and then there was being stupid.

Speaking of McGonagall, Harry wondered if she even realized that she'd


been wearing a man's business suit from the fifties and a travel bag
instead of a purse on her first visit. She had made quite the impression
on the status obsessed Shaws by showing up dressed like some kind of
hipster. A bad impression that was.

Probably not, if the robes were anything to go by. Harry would admit to
having the occasional daydream of being a fantasy wizard like in one of
his games or books, flinging about bolts of fire and lightning while they
billowed around him, but the reality of wearing a robe made him feel kind
of silly.

And speaking of silly...

Harry took out his wand. Holly with phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice
and supple. Whatever that meant.

He was frankly a bit puzzled by the concept of wands. Certainly, his


magic unquestionably came easier with the wand in hand, but if what he'd
seen so far was anything to go by, then the wizards seemed to think that
magic was as good as impossible without it.

That made no sense. The magic had to be in the witch or wizard, or else a
wand would enable even non-magicals to cast spells. With this in mind,
Harry concluded that wands were just magical foci, designed to make the
use of magic easier. That would make sense. The crippling reliance on
wands did not make sense.

Harry had already determined that he would master his magic without the
need of a wand. Much of this determination was based in his desire to not
wave a silly looking stick about while casting spells. That was not cool
at all.

Despite his accelerated emotional maturity due to the circumstances of


his life, he was still eleven.

A more practical reason for his determination came when McGonagall told
him not to cast any spells at home, as the Ministry of Magic forbade it
and could track it.

They had clearly not managed to track any of the numerous instances of
magic he'd performed wandlessly in the past few years, which meant that
they could track wand use rather than magic itself.
True, his accomplishments had been small. Pushing and pulling things and
similar stuff. He'd tried to throw a fireball once and gotten a little
lick of flame. Then he'd realized that setting the house on fire would
not be conducive to his continued magical studies, or his continued life
for that matter. Fireballs and lightning had been grudgingly put on hold
until a non-flammable environment could be found.

Anyway, the point was that McGonagall had told him that the Ministry
could detect any magic use, which they obviously couldn't.

Harry had read a lot of fantasy books and played a lot of games in his
search for inspiration on figuring out the workings of his magic. These
books and games often featured the theme of a corrupt government. It
didn't take him long to develop a dislike of the Ministry of Magic with
just that one piece of information. The numerous instances of restricted
magic that the law book he'd bought mentioned further solidified his
opinion.

First learning that he was a wizard, only to learn that the Ministry of
Magic restricted so many interesting fields had planted in him a mulish
determination to study exactly those. Besides, according to the Ministry
definition, he had broken the Statute of Secrecy years ago in the
orphanage and was constantly breaking the Decree about the Reasonable
Restriction on Underage Sorcery. It wasn't like breaking any more of
their silly laws was going to make a difference.

"Excuse me, do you mind? Everywhere else is full."

The question broke Harry out of his thoughts. The questioner was a gangly
redheaded boy looking nervously into the cabin.

Harry did not actually want company, but he also wasn't willing to make
an issue of it, so he simply nodded.

"You're Harry Potter!"

The awed exclamation instantly killed any desire to speak to the other
boy. He'd skimmed over those Harry Potter fiction books and rapidly grew
to hate them. Every single one of those books had him performing
ridiculous feats at impossibly young ages, usually ending with him riding
off into the sunset with the pretty pureblood princess in his arms. The
books were oddly well written considering what a load of garbage the
actual subject matter was, but that wasn't the point. The point was that
McGonagall had been understating his fame instead of exaggerating it like
he'd originally thought.

"Yes, so what?" Harry grumbled, already regretting that he hadn't told


the other boy to get lost instead of being polite.

"Wicked." The readhead continued, apparently oblivious to the hostility.


"So that's where You-Know-Who's curse hit."
"Yes, that's where he hit me after murdering my parents." Harry grumbled
even more irritably. He wasn't nearly as broken up about the deaths of
his parents as he'd implied with that snarky statement he'd never known
them after all but mentioning murdered parents was a surefire way of
stopping conversation. He'd used it a few times before, though at the
time he'd thought they had died in a car crash.

The redhead finally got the hint and started looking guilty, mumbling out
a barely audible 'sorry'.

"I'm Ron by the way, Ron Weasley." He tried.

"How nice for you." Harry refused to cooperate with the attempt to
establish a more positive atmosphere. Instead, he moved a seat over to
make things even more chilly as well as get some more leg room, took out
his half-read Lord of the Rings book and started reading. If the annoying
redhead got uncomfortable enough to leave, that would be great, but his
silence would do in a pinch.

There was blessed silence for a long time, interrupted only by the
occasional bored sigh from Ron. Harry made steady progress through the
book in peace. He knew that he wouldn't see many descriptions of useful
magic in this particular book, but he was determined to read it anyway.
He'd skimmed over his textbooks at home already and a train ride was no
place to be reading something that dry.

The trolley lady came and went, neither boy having bought anything from
her due to having lunches packed, though Ron sounded like he wanted to
buy something but couldn't get it for one reason or another. Harry simply
never had sweets and wasn't interested in them now. Katherine Shaw had
gotten a little obssessive about healthy eating a few years back and
imposed a low fat, low sugar diet on both her husband and adopted son. At
least she had done her research and put together an actual healthy diet
instead of some anorexic abomination.

"Has anyone seen a toad? A boy named Neville's lost his." A girl's voice
intruded on his reading.

"No toads here." Harry answered her without looking.

There was a small gasp and his jaw clenched in expectation of the
annoying words.

"You're Harry Potter! I've read all about you in Rise and Fall of the
Dark Arts, and Great Wizards and Witches of the 20th Century! " She
babbled.

"That's great, but weren't you looking for a toad?" Harry quickly
interjected before she could waste the breath she'd just taken.

"Yes, of course." She said, actually sounding a bit offended. That was
rich. "I'm Hermione Granger by the way. You boys should probably change
into your robes, we'll be at Hogwarts soon."
Harry muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath about bossy
females. He had enough of bossy people with the Shaws, he had no desire
to get to know a pint sized harpy in addition to the full grown one that
was his foster mother.

"Mental, that one." Ron commented wryly.

Harry didn't respond. He didn't want the ginger annoyance to think he


might actually have a chance of making friends with him.

The annoyingly bossy girl did have a point though, they would be at
Hogwarts relatively soon.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"I heard that Harry Potter was on this train. Is that you then?"

Harry barely kept an unimpressive preteen glower off his face as the flaw
in his plan to keep to himself and study magic was once again proven to
be flawed. How was he supposed to shun human contact if everyone and
their dog wanted to come talk to him?

"What of it?" He growled as deeply as possible. Which was to say not


very, given that he was eleven.

The rather poncy looking blond boy with the slicked back hair and dull
looking sidekicks was a bit taken aback by the instant hostility, but he
rallied quickly.

"I'm Malfoy, Draco Malfoy." He said, making it sound as if this was


important information.

Ron snorted, apparently finding the blond funny.

"Think my name's funny, do you?" Draco asked waspishly, sneering at the


redhead. "No need to ask yours. Red hair and a hand me down robe, you
must be a Weasley."

The arrogant blond boy turned back to Harry, extending his hand. "You'll
find that some families are better than others, Potter. I can help you
with that."

"You can help me by going away!" Harry snapped, his patience for human
contact exhausted by the string of irritating people. He couldn't tell
people to bugger off at home because his continued comfortable lifestyle
hinged on the tolerance of the Shaws, but by thunder he was not going to
play nice and socialize in the Wizarding World. "I don't want anything to
do with either of you or your families."

"You'll regret this, Potter!" Draco snarled and stomped off, looking
extremely petulant thanks to his age.

"That was wicked!" Ron said a few seconds later.


Harry started wondering if the redhead had a hearing defect or had
perhaps suffered a head injury sometime in the past. Nobody normal could
be this dense.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry somehow managed to make it all the way to the sorting without any
more 'You're Harry Potter!' moments, thankfully.

He followed the instructions massive groundskeeper and got into a boat


with two unknown girls and a boy. He didn't even bother to notice
anything other than one girl's red hair before he faced away from them
and determinedly stared at the dark waters of the lake.

The magnificent first sight of Hogwarts did manage to lift his sour mood
a bit and the scare with the ghosts had been an interesting experience.

And now he had a ratty old hat on his head that was apparently sentient
and would place him into one of the four houses.

Hmmm, interesting.The voice of the hat murmured through his mind,


startling him a bit. You have courage, but it's a more cautious sort. Not
particularly suited for Gryffindor.

Harry didn't really have an opinion on that, but if a magical talking hat
said Gryffindor wasn't for him then that was as good a reasoning for not
going there as any. Besides, given on what he'd observed of this sorting
so far, he had the horrible suspicion that Weasley would be going to
Gryffindor. Intelligence didn't seem to be a requirement for that house
and bravery could easily be substituted for by stupidity.

You have ambition, as well as cunning. You could do well in Slytherin.

Harry's face twisted in distaste. Malfoy had gone to Slytherin and he had
no desire to interact with the blond idiot.

He knew what the hat was talking about in terms of ambition, it was a
long standing one. He wanted to be powerful. He'd wanted it when he was
being shouted at and hit at the Dursleys. He'd wanted it when he'd been
bullied at the orphanage. Learning that he had magic had provided hope
and the adoption by the Shaws had provided opportunity. Hogwarts would
provide the means.

Power was freedom and one day he would be free. He would be free of the
need to pander to the wishes of Robert and Katherine Shaw. He would be
free of the stupid restrictions on learning magic that the Ministry
imposed. He would even be free of the need to use a wand.

And once he was free, he wanted to see the world and go on adventures
where he could use his magic openly. A silly, childish ambition perhaps,
but it was his. For a boy who had always needed to dance to someone
else's tune and hide his abilities for fear of the consequences, the
thought of being able to wander the world and do whatever he pleased had
always been a pleasant escape for reality. It was one of the reasons that
he liked RPGs so much.

In the meanwhile, there was no need to put up with entitled little shits
like Malfoy when there were other options.

Not Slytherin then.The hat concluded, feeling his displeasure at the


idea. You don't have any loyalty for anyone but yourself, but then you've
never had anyone to be loyal to. Not afraid of hard work either.
Hufflepuff would be good for you, you could make friends there.

Harry scowled at the idea. He wasn't interested in friends, at least not


enough to seek them out. He'd tried to be friends with Dudley and the
other children at the orphanage and had gotten only bruises for it, and
the less said about the 'friends' the Shaws had told him to make the
better. No, what he wanted now was for people to leave him alone. He
could always change his mind later, but right now he would much rather
see people keep their distance. Besides, it was looking as if the people
of the Wizarding World were more interested in befriending his scar than
him.

The hat seemed to sigh. I see that holds no appeal for you, very well
then. You've got a good mind and want to learn, so by process of
elimination it better be..."RAVENCLAW!"

He took the hat off his head and walked over to the table of blue and
bronze, trying to ignore the excessively loud cheering. Though he had to
admit that the overdone hysterics about about how they didn't get Potter
by a pair of redheaded twins at the Gryffindor table were amusing.

The others around him went to introduce themselves with far too much
interest to pass as casual, but were fortunately not nearly as annoying
as either Weasley or Malfoy had been.

The last few sortings passed without incident and Dumbledore stood up to
speak.

"Welcome!" he said. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin


our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit!
Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you!"

Weird. Harry thought to himself, examining the food that had suddenly
appeared.

A lot of it seemed to be several varieties of meat drowned in vast


amounts of grease, typically British in other words. He was quite sure
that he would get sick if he tried to eat any of it. He'd never eaten
anything that heavy before.

From what he could recall, Vernon Dursley had taken great pleasure in
loudly masticating this kind of food while only allowing him some bread,
fruit and vegetables. The orphanage could never have afforded this and
Katherine Shaw had gone on her health craze at about the time of his
adoption.
Harry stuck to the vegetables, potatoes and what little meat there was
that wasn't liable to make him puke. The ostentatious goblets were filled
with some kind of orange liquid. A tentative sip sent a shudder of
revulsion through his stomach.

What kind of crazy idiot thought that mixing pumpkin juice and what felt
like a truck load of sugar was a good idea? Pumpkins weren't a friggin
fruit! He made a note to bring his own water to these things, not seeing
any present on the table.

He spent the rest of the feast shutting down attempts to draw him into a
conversation and wondering if magic somehow prevented people from getting
fat. It was the only explanation he could think of for the lack of
obesity if wizards ate like this all the time.

The feast eventually ended and Dumbledore stood up to speak.

"Ahem, just a few more words now that we are all fed and watered. I have
a few start-of-term notices to give you.

"First years should note that the forest on the grounds is forbidden to
all pupils. And a few of our older students would do well to remember
that as well."

That sounded reasonable enough to Harry. Even regular forests aren't


exactly something you should be wandering in willy-nilly. If the
Forbidden Forest stayed true to form for the Wizarding World, it was
probably filled with mutant spiders or something.

"I have also been asked by Mr. Filch, the caretaker, to remind you all
that no magic should be used between classes in the corridors."

That was a rule that Harry already knew he would be breaking. He had fire
and lightning evocation to attempt and Hogwarts was non-flammable as well
as non-conductive.

"Quidditch trials will be held in the second week of the term. Anyone
interested in playing for their house teams should contact Madam Hooch."

Harry knew only the bare bones of the sport. He knew it was played on
flying brooms and that the team composition made no sense. The seeker
pretty much invalidated everyone else unless the game was very long and
one sided.

"And finally, I must tell you that this year, the third-floor corridor on
the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die
a very painful death."

And that sounded like yet another start of a quest for a Dungeons &
Dragons based game.

"But before we go to bed, let us sing the school song!"


XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry collapsed on his very comfortable bed, face down, and exhaled into
his pillow with deep exasperation. His ears still felt like they were
going to bleed from hearing the 'school song'. Good music was clearly
another thing that he would have to rely on the non-magical world for if
that kind of audio torture was considered acceptable here.

He was honestly having mixed feelings about the magical world so far.

On the side of the pros was getting him away from the obsessive
socializing of the Shaws, the magic, his own money and that sort of
thing.

On the other hand, the Wizarding world was practically in the stone age
as far as technology went and he was famous here, which was attracting
ass kissers. He'd been on both sides of the ass kissing equation a lot
thanks to the Shaws and could tell when someone wanted to talk to him for
something other than actually getting to know him. Thus far, McGonagall
had been the only one who knew his name that had actually talked to him
rather than at him and he didn't like her much.

Well, the mental debate was moot either way apparently. He had to be here
for at least a while or they might decide to wipe his memories of magic,
which was unacceptable.

At least Ravenclaws apparently got single rooms. Having to share a room


with someone would have sucked.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The school year got going in much the same way as a non-magical one
would, though with stranger subjects.

Herbology wasn't something that Harry could claim any real interest in,
nor was Astronomy and its hilariously outdated telescopes. History of
Magic was quicky designated as either a free period or a time to do
something else. The ghostly teacher was literally quoting the book
verbatim, making the class entirely redundant. Not to mention that he
seemed obssesively focused on the goblin wars, to the exclusion of all
else.

Charms seemed interesting, but they hadn't done anything more than theory
so far.

Transfiguration was currently in progress and Harry was staring at the


silver needle on his desk contemplatively. The others were struggling to
get even a slight change in their matchstick, while he had managed to do
it on the first try.

He had attempted some wandless transfigurations after returning from the


shopping trip to Diagon Alley. It had been incredibly hard, but Harry had
nothing better to do and he was excited to try out a form of magic he
hadn't thought to try before. Wandlessly, he hadn't managed more than a
change of color and a slight one at that. With a wand, it had been almost
easy.

Was his previous wandless practice accelerating his ability with a wand?

"Well done Mr. Potter!" McGonagall praised, sounding very impressed. "I
haven't seen anyone manage their first transfiguration attempt that
quickly in a long time. Take ten points for Ravenclaw."

"Thank you professor." Harry replied. It technically wasn't his first


transfiguration attempt, or even his hundredth, but he wasn't going to
tell her that.

Some distance away, Hermione Granger stared in disbelief and in some


amount of anger that the rude boy had gotten it better than her.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Ah, yes," Snape said softly when he reached his name during roll call.
"Harry Potter. Our new...celebrity."

Harry held back a sigh. Potions was apparently going to be one of those
subjects.

"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-
making," Snape continued in something close to a whisper. "As there is
little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is
magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly
simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of
liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring
the senses... I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even
stopper death if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually
have to teach."

That sounded kind of rehearsed. He probably used it every year. He would


probably use it on the Slytherin-Gryffindor class too, if he hadn't
already. It was a pretty good speech though.

"Potter!" said Snape suddenly. "What would I get if I added powdered root
of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"

"I have no idea, sir." Harry answered. He didn't even have the first clue
about what those were, much less anything else to do with them.

"Tut, tut, clearly fame isn't everything. Let's try again Potter..."

The questions continued and Harry was unable to answer them. Admittedly,
he probably should have looked through his potions books, but the lure of
learning how to hurl spells of death and destruction from his hands had
been quite a bit stronger than learning about stirring a collection of
gross ingredients in a cauldron.

The perils of being eleven.


With a final disdainful sneer, Snape spat out the answers to the
questions and demanded to know why they weren't writing them down.

"Potter, what are you doing?" Snape demanded less than a minute later.

"Writing down the answers, sir."

"Where is your quill and parchment? And five points from Ravenclaw for
your cheek."

"I figured that using paper and a ballpoint pen would be much easier."
Harry replied evenly, feeling fairly certain that the hook-nosed
professor would not like that. Fortunately, he didn't care about points
or the house cup.

"Another five points from Ravenclaw, Potter! Put away that muggle garbage
and take out your proper supplies." Snape sneered severely.

"Does it really matter what I write my notes on?" Harry questioned. "I
assure you that my writing will be far more legible if I don't have to
struggle with an inkpot and quill."

Starting to develop an unattractively angry flush to his pale skin tone,


Snape waved his wand and vanished Harry's pen and paper.

"Twenty points from Ravenclaw for your backtalk and a detention if you
don't take out your parchment and quill immediately!"

Harry had neither of those, having seen no need to bring them when he had
plenty of pens and paper. Unfortunately, he suspected that Snape would
not care about that.

He was right.

He spent the rest of the potions class in a foul mood. Perhaps it was
time to research some alternatives to attending this class? Snape was
clearly determined to pick on him for some reason, so the educational
benefits of learning under him were dubious at best.

And the week had been going so well too.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Thar she blows, the first chapter of something (relatively)new.

In case anyone actually gives a crap, the address for the house of
Harry's foster parents was chosen after a 2 minute Google search and may
not even exist. For all I know, there's nothing on 74 Cromwell Road but
an antique outhouse. In the incredibly unlikely event that someone
actually lives there and happens to read this fic, then I apologize for
using it. I also apologize for insinuating that it might be an antique
outhouse.
As always, you can expect updates to come at irregular intervals ranging
from 4 days to a month, depending on how bored/inspired I'm feeling.

Chapter 2

Here is the second one. Many thanks go to my beta Joe Lawyer, for looking
the chapter over for me.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Hogwarts staff room, October 2nd.

It was the first of several routine meetings between the Hogwarts


professors and several things had already been discussed. The troubles of
the upper years, the poor quality of the school brooms, the Quidditch
cup, the latest shenanigans of the Weasley twins and so forth.

Things were drawing to a close now and all the other professors had
already left, leaving just Dumbledore and the four heads of house.

"And what of our first years?" The Headmaster opened, mostly wanting to
hear about Harry Potter .

"Among my lions, young Mr. Weasley is proving to be troublesome."


McGonagall said with a frown. "He is continually late in turning in his
assignments and they are invariably of poor quality. If this keeps up, I
am going to need to write home to his parents."

All of them winced, not wanting there to be another reason for Molly
Weasley's strident voice to thunder from the inevitable Howler that the
woman would send her youngest son upon hearing of his poor academic
performance.

"On the other hand, Ms. Granger is proving to be an exceptional student."


She went on.

Snape gave a small sneer at the mention of the girl. He found her
eagerness to please incredibly annoying, particularly her habit of
turning in essays that were nearly twice as long as required. Anyone
could regurgitate facts from a book and he didn't appreciate the extra
work she was giving him by doing it.

"My badgers have settled in without any issue." Sprout took over the
narrative. "But Minerva, I simply must comment on Mr. Longbottom. That
boy has an amazing green thumb for Herbology."

"He has an even more amazing explosive thumb for Potions." Snape added
condescendingly. "Not a single class goes by without something exploding
in his general vicinity."
"What of your snakes, Severus?" Dumbledore interjected before the
Herbology professor could launch into a rant against the Potions Master.

"Nothing out of the ordinary." Snape said shortly. Unlike the others, he
was not inclined to talk about his Slytherins.

"I see." Dumbledore said the same as he did every year when Severus gave
the same curt answer. "What of the Ravenclaws, Filius?"

"The only one that truly stands out is Mr. Potter." Flitwick admitted. He
knew perfectly well that he'd been kept for last exactly because he had
the Boy-Who-Lived in his house. "Though he does not have Ms. Granger's
precision for theory, his practical work is simply extraordinary, even
better than that of his mother. So far he has always been the first to
master a new spell."

"The same for Transfiguration." McGonagall added. "Not even his father
had this kind of talent for it."

"His talents are apparently restricted to wand waving, as his ability


with potions is mediocre at best." Snape sneered.

"Loathe as I am to agree with Severus, he is right." Sprout said, still a


bit steamed from the earlier comment against her favorite first year. "He
seems entirely disinterested in Herbology."

"There is one other thing." Flitwick said uncomfortably, knowing that


what he had to say next would not be well received.

"Yes, Filius?" Dumbledore prompted.

"Mr. Potter has asked me if it would be possible for him to stop


attending DADA, History of Magic and Potions and study the subject matter
on his own."

There was a moment of shock before Snape ended it.

"So the arrogant brat is already looking for special treatment?" He asked
bitingly.

"Severus." Dumbledore said warningly before turning back to the Charms


professor. "Did he say why?"

"He did." Flitwick confirmed. "He frankly admitted to me that Quirinus'


stutter makes the class too slow for him."

McGonagall and Sprout sighed, fully understanding the situation. Talking


to Quirrell was a chore when it took him forever to finish a sentence.
Trying to listen to him lecture would be even worse.

Miraculously, Snape kept his opinion to himself.


"History of Magic...well, you know Binns." Flitwick continued, shrugging
in an embarrassed manner. "As for Potions, he has come to me with a
complaint about Severus vanishing his supplies and constantly singling
him out during class."

"Perhaps I would not have vanished his supplies had he brought proper
ones." Snape retorted.

"Yes, Mr. Potter told me of his preference for muggle stationery and I
won't dispute your right to demand that all students use a quill and
parchment in your class, but did it truly warrant you destroying his
supplies? And I note that you didn't respond to the accusation of
singling him out." Flitwick said back with narrowed eyes.

"Someone has to curb his ego." Snape sneered.

"What ego, Severus?" Flitwick demanded. "The boy spends all his time
either in the library, in class or in his room. Occasionally he explores
the school, but that's all. He hasn't made any friends yet and seems to
have no intention of doing so."

Despite not showing it, Snape was a bit startled by that. Potter not
having any friends? He hadn't really looked into it, but now that
Flitwick mentioned it, he did recall that the boy didn't engage in much
conversation while eating in the Great Hall.

"And yet he thinks that he can drop three classes and do them on his
own." He shot back, mostly to cover up his surprise. He had a reputation
to uphold.

"It is a moot point either way I'm afraid." Dumbledore interjected.


"Though I admire young Harry's desire to learn, if we allowed him to skip
certain classes, then everyone would want the same privilege and most of
those would not have the same drive to learn that he does."

There was also the fact Dumbledore didn't want the boy to isolate himself
any further.

Though Flitwick could appreciate the headmaster's point, he had a feeling


that it would just cause Harry to ignore the lecturing of Quirrell and
Binns and do his own thing. Snape would not be so easily ignored and the
diminutive Charms professor could only hope that Severus would apply some
restraint. Harry's fame would make the entire situation unpleasant for
all involved if things continued to escalate.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

After that staff meeting was over, Snape paid closer attention to Potter.

He had been surprised to see the boy go to Ravenclaw instead of


Gryffindor, seeing as both his parents had gone to that house. He'd also
been expecting him to be running about the school with a gang of like-
minded hooligans by now, breaking rules and causing trouble everywhere.
But Flitwick was indeed correct. The boy was quiet, introverted and
studious. Nothing at all like his father and only slightly more like his
mother. In fact, Snape was reminded rather jarringly of himself as a
first year. A himself who didn't have Lily as a friend.

His face still looked too much like that of James Potter and Snape felt
the old anger come back every time he saw it, but he decided to lower the
verbal abuse to the level he aimed at everyone. He would reserve
judgement for the moment.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Ha!" Harry yelled unnecessarily, thrusting out his hands and focusing
all his will into making a mighty fireball blast forth from them.

The most pathetic fireball that the world had ever seen was his result.

Harry slumped, feeling kind of ridiculous to have made such a dramatic


buildup, only to produce that little flicker. He wasn't going to be
casting any firestorms soon, that was for sure.

He'd long ago figured out that the magic was linked to his emotions. The
more powerful the emotion he was feeling, the more powerful the results
of his accidental magic had always been. Unfortunately, summoning up
emotions on demand was simply not that easy. He'd been practicing with
his magic for years and had managed to get some results even when he
wasn't feeling incredibly distressed, but it was slow going.

With his wand though...

He took out the holly wand and slashed it through the air, sending a band
of fire scything through the air. It wasn't much and would singe some
eyebrows at best, but he'd gathered that it was impressive for a firstie
that had only been at Hogwarts for a month and a bit.

He'd also noted that he didn't really need all the ridiculous swishing
and flicking that everyone else was using. Nor did he really need to say
the words of the spells. It seemed obvious to him that the power was
neither in the wand motions nor in the words, but in the intent of the
caster. He had no idea why they were being taught in this kind of
backwards manner.

Well, whatever. He wasn't going to argue about it and bring attention to


himself, so he just pretended to swish and flick like everyone else.
There was too much attention on him as it was, thanks to that stupid Boy-
Who-Lived crap.

It got a bit lonely sometimes, but not so much that he would be willing
to attempt getting closer to his yearmates.

The only one that he had any regular contact with was Su Li, and that was
only because she happened to be his potions partner. As luck would have
it, Su was herself a quiet girl focused on her studies and didn't really
try to engage him in conversation.
Padma Patil had tried to talk to him once, looking horribly embarrassed
about it. As it turned out, she'd been nagged into it by her Griffyndor
twin sister Parvati, who wanted to know about the Boy-Who-Lived. Harry
managed not to be too annoyed with Padma for that, though her sister was
another matter entirely.

The rest of his yearmates had gotten used to his prickly personality by
now and kept a polite distance.

Outside of Ravenclaw, the only people he truly registered among the


students were Draco Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson and Hermione Granger.

The puffed up blond idiot occasionally threw out a snide remark that he
probably though was clever, but did little else than that when Harry
failed to react to his taunts.

Pansy he'd only noticed because she apparently belonged to the family
that had taken over the Potter family business. He'd considered talking
to her about it, but the pug nosed girl was distinctly unpleasant to be
around and a hanger on for Draco. He might have to do it one day, but
he'd been putting it off so far. It wasn't as if he could actually do
anything about it yet.

As for Hermione...well, that girl seemed to be taking his seemingly easy


grasp of practical spellcraft as a personal challenge and sometimes even
gave him a smug look when she answered the theoretical questions
correctly, when they shared classes at any rate. She seemed to be under
the misconception that they were rivals or something. For such a smart
girl, she was a right idiot.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry was sitting in a quiet corner of the Hogwarts library, reading.


Away from his foster parents and their army of hair stylists, his hair
had reverted to its natural Potterness and become hopelessly messy. It
was probably taking revenge for the years of neatness imposed on it.

Harry was actually considering growing it long, mostly because a lot of


fantasy spellcasters seemed to have long hair and thought it would be
cool, but also because he knew it would piss off Robert and Katherine.
Probably not a good idea just yet, but he promised himself to look up
information on hair growing spells or potions.

He wasn't reading a book on spells at the moment however, but rather a


history book. Binns was indisputably an authority on the Goblin Wars an
exceptionally boring one but he had thus far been useless for anything
else.

He was doing this because he wanted to know about the history of wands.
Where had they come from? Why were they so widespread? What had been used
before them? Had any kind of foci been used before them?
He had managed to learn that it was the Romans who had first discovered
the secrets of wandlore and spread their use so far and wide, though it
had still been centuries before every single magical had a wand.
Originally, they had been reserved for the elite only. There were a great
many flowery descriptions about the Roman war wizards and how their wands
had allowed them to sweep away the primitive sorceries of the cultures
conquered by Rome. There were no mentions of what those primitive
sorceries actually were though.

No matter which history text he looked up, he could find nothing about
the magics used before the advent of wands. The best he got was some
mentions of the Viking runecrafters, some of whose arts were still in use
today and which he would be learning in the Ancient Runes class that
became available in third year. That was a rather fascinating subject and
something that he had already started reading up on.

Now, Harry was willing to believe that a lot of knowledge had been lost
since those times It was about two millenia ago after all but for
nothing to be known? That had the feel of deliberate historical editing.

Combined with his suspicion that wands were somehow used as a method of
control by the Ministry of Magic and the many restrictive laws on magic
use that he'd found, it felt like a cover-up. Whatever the Ministry was
hiding, Harry wanted it.

He took a longing glance towards the roped off Restricted Section. All of
the really good stuff was undoubtedly in there. He knew that Hogwarts
predated the Ministry of Magic by over five hundred years and therefore
had a considerable amount of autonomy. It was highly likely that there
were numerous texts in the Restricted Section that the Ministry would
prefer were destroyed or locked away somewhere. He especially wanted to
see if there were any books on ritual magic in there. The Ministry
categorized all ritual magic as Dark and banned it wholesale, which
really stuck in his craw. He'd been looking forward to performing some
self-improvement rituals, if there were any.

Unfortunately, Harry had not yet figured out a way to get in there
without attracting all the wrong kinds of attention.

But he would. He was going to get in there and learn whatever super
secret magic was being hidden. Then he would make himself a proper tower
and call it something properly dramatic like...the High Tower of Sorcery
or something. And he would cackle and throw lightning at the Ministry
fools who would attack it in an attempt to steal his power!

Harry coughed and aimed a rueful grin at the history book in front of
him, which just so happened to be opened on a page detailing the exploits
of Yngvar the Insane, a Swedish Dark Lord from the 7th century, so called
for his use of an unknown(or deliberately forgotten) spell that called a
storm of lightning from the heavens. He was considered insane because
lightning storms were a bit random and couldn't be aimed, which
eventually spelled the end of Yngvar when it fried him instead of his
enemies. What he'd actually been trying to achieve with this Thor
impersonation, the book didn't say.
In fact, Harry had noticed a recurring theme of unclear motivations for
quite a few past Dark Lords. Europe as a whole averaged at least one Dark
Lord or Lady per century, often a bit more. The 14th had been
particularly eventful, producing one every twenty-five years with
clockwork precision. The two most recent ones, Voldemort and Grindelwald,
had the most clearly defined motives and unquestioningly deserved to be
called Dark Lords.

About the others, Harry was less sure. The books all seemed to agree
about how evil and powerful they had been, but none of them said anything
about their goals aside from going against the established authority.
Before the Ministry of Magic, there had been a High Wizard's Council of
which the Wizengamot was a remnant and before that, there hadn't been
enough magicals to truly separate themselves from the non-magical
kingdoms of the time. The only thing common to every single Dark Lord or
Lady was the fact that they'd been giving the people in charge the middle
finger.

It was giving Harry the distinct impression that the bureaucratic


overlords simply did not like powerful wizards or witches. Which, in
retrospect, was so blindingly obvious that he really should have guessed
at it without need for three days of being buried in history books.
Mediocre wizards in positions of authority would naturally be wary of the
very powerful ones, either as rivals or simply as people who could ignore
the politicking and do as they pleased.

Probably a good thing that I'm planning to take a little trip once I
finish Hogwarts. He thought to himself, recalling his intentions to study
magic that the Ministry deemed illegal. That would get him branded a Dark
Wizard at best, possibly even a Dark Lord if he ended up being powerful
enough.

Dark magic? What a laugh that was. They'd just learned the levitation
charm a day ago and Harry could think of at least three ways to kill
someone with it off the top of his head. How was that any better than the
painless Killing Curse? Dead was dead and he wasn't going to let some
government lackey tell him otherwise.

Granted, Dumbledore was an example of an extremely powerful wizard and he


seemed to have avoided the Dark Lord appelation, but Harry wasn't sure he
counted since the man apparently held the top position in both the
British Wizengamot and the International Confederation of Wizards,
essentially making him the man that decided whether someone was a Dark
Lord or not. The fact that every mention of such powerful wizards that
weren't Dark Lords were invariably high up in the government only
confirmed his theory.

"Harry?"

The boy in question yelped and nearly sent the books crashing to the
floor, something that was sure to earn him the eternal enmity of the
supremely cranky librarian.
He turned to look at his ambusher and saw the fifth year prefect,
Penelope Clearwater. The girl had for some reason taken it upon
herself to talk to him every once in a while.

"What?" He asked, a touch more rudely than he intended.

"The Halloween feast is about to start, I figured you'd lose track of


time again and came to get you." Penelope said, her eyebrows drawn into a
tiny frown at his tone. Harry was frequently irritated when someone
intruded on his reading and had swiftly claimed the title of 'most anti-
social Ravenclaw'. It was a prefect's job to look after the younger years
and Penelope was determined to live up to that, but Harry Potter
sometimes made it difficult to talk to him without getting annoyed.

"I don't celebrate Halloween." He said tersely. He wasn't a particularly


celebratory person at the best of times, but Halloween was especially
disliked ever since he'd learned how and when his parents had died. He
didn't remember them and had come to terms with the fact that they were
gone a long time ago, but they had died to protect him and he wouldn't
celebrate their deaths. Not to mention that he'd come to loathe pumpkins
since coming to Hogwarts and the Great Hall was sure to be hopelessly
spammed with the hated plant right now.

"You must be hungry though." Penelope insisted softly, picking up on his


increased dislike and being considerate enough to guess at the cause.

"I'm not." Harry insisted back.

Which was of course the exact moment that his stomach betrayed him with a
loud rumble.

"Alright, so maybe I am hungry." He conceded. "But I'm not going to eat


in the Great Hall. I've got some snacks in my room."

Penelope sighed at his stubborness. "Come with me, I can at least show
you where to find the kitchens."

That caught his attention? Students could go eat in the kitchen? He could
avoid the Great Hall altogether!

Unaware that she had just unintentionally facilitated further anti-social


behavior from the boy that she was hoping would eventually open up a bit,
Penelope led him to the lair of the Hogwarts house elves.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

While Harry did find the excitable house elves to be a bit much, he was
also very interested in learning about a magical race. The Goblins were
the only other one he'd met so far and they hadn't looked like the type
to tolerate the questions of an eleven year old. He could respect that,
since he wouldn't be too keen on indulging someone's curiousity either.

The house elves were more than happy to tell him anything he wanted
though, and he even managed to talk to them about the kind of food and
drink he preferred, so it was all good. Their extreme friendliness was a
bit off putting to someone like him, but the excitable creatures
apparently had a supernaturally good sense for when someone didn't want
them around and toned it down as soon as Harry started feeling
discomfited by the attention.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Because he was not a Griffyndor, Harry was not around when Ron Weasley
tossed a careless and hurtful remark at Hermione Granger out of
frustration. He didn't not know that she'd run away in tears.

Because he wasn't at the feast, he didn't hear Quirrell announce that


there was a troll in the dungeons.

When Penelope burst into the kitchens with a crazy tale about a troll
being loose in the castle, Harry merely looked at her oddly, muttered
something about a random encounter and followed her to the Ravenclaw
common room.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Unlike Harry, Ron was acutely aware of the fact that his housemate was
missing. For a critical minute, he waffled over the decision of whether
he should tell a teacher or not, wanting to escape blame for the
situation. Quirrell had said that the troll was in the dungeons hadn't
he? Hermione wasn't down there, so she should be safe, right?

His sense of guilt and responsibility unused though it was eventually


won out over his desire to hide from the situation and he went to
McGonagall, confessing everything.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

McGonagall and Snape charged into the bathroom just in time to see the
troll raising its bloodied club from the misshapen ruin of Hermione
Granger's body.

A full grown mountain troll was a hideously strong creature with a highly
magic resistant hide, but that didn't protect it from the angry spellwork
of the enraged Transfiguration Mistress and the cooler but equally deadly
Potions Master.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The Great Hall was both full and silent, something that was highly
unusual.

In front of the staff table stood Dumbledore, wearing dour black robes
and a remorseful expression.

"It is my sad duty today to inform you of the death of a Hogwarts


student. Last night, Hermione Granger was attacked and killed by the
troll that professor Quirrell warned us of. She was an exceptionally
bright witch, with a bright future ahead of her. There will be no classes
this week as the Ministry's Aurors investigate and take statements,
please allow them to do their jobs without interruption and cooperate
with their requests. Thank you."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The Aurors came and went, taking statements and investigating the
situation. Less than two weeks after Hermione's death, things went back
to relatively normal.

Harry was baffled.

A student had died, so why was everyone acting as if it was no big deal?
He knew that Hogwarts was largely autonomous, but this was ridiculous.
Had a student died from something as easily preventable as a wild animal
roaming in through the front doors in a muggle school, the Headmaster and
staff would have been in serious hot water, private school or not.

A look at the Daily Prophet article provided some clarification.

Though the article had been scathing in tone towards Dumbledore in


particular and the Hogwarts professors in general, two things stood out.

The first was the fact that the article itself was on the third page
instead of on the first. You'd think that a student death at school would
be big news.

The second thing was the title of the article.

Muggleborn student dies in tragic incident!

Tragic incident? That was one way of calling it.

The fact that it mentioned Hermione's blood status at all brought another
thing into sharp focus. The Wizarding World lagged behind its mundane
counterpart in more than just technology. Long lives made for slow social
changes and discrimination based on self-entitlement was much more
prominent in magical society than it was in the muggle one.

Harry wasn't blind to the attitude that some purebloods had towards the
muggleborn. There wasn't much of that in Ravenclaw, but it was hard to
miss the way that certain purebloods refused to sit next to the
muggleborns. It was hard not to hear Draco Malfoy's bigoted commentary.

He hadn't been in any way close to Hermione, so he couldn't honestly say


that her death upset him, but it had gotten him to realize something. The
girl had been so competitive with him because she'd probably been looking
for someone to share her academic interests in. He'd thought her stupid
then, thinking that she just wanted to be the best, but now he was the
one that felt stupid. She'd probably been hoping to make a friend in the
only way she knew how.

He promised himself that he wouldn't be so quick to judge in the future.


XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The Christmas holidays rolled around and Harry found himself in a much
emptier Hogwarts.

He could have gone back to the Shaws, but that would inevitably mean
attending some kind of high society event with them. An empty castle
would have been more fun than that even if it didn't have a huge library.

Besides, he had something that he wanted to talk to the Ancient Runes


professor about and the holidays were the best possible time for it.

Actually finding professor Babbling's room in the castle had turned out
to be surprisingly difficult and it wasn't until he'd thought to ask one
of the house elves that he succeeded.

"Mr. Potter?" The professor confusedly asked once she'd opened the door
to his knocking. "Is there something I can do for you?"

"I had some questions about runes that I was hoping I could ask you."
Harry answered.

"You were studying Ancient Runes on your own?" She asked happily, always
pleased to hear that a student was interested in her specialty.

"Yes." Harry nodded. "So, do you have time to talk?"

"Yes of course, please come in." Babbling invited and opened the door to
let him in.

Harry looked around the room curiously, having never seen a teacher's
quarters before. It was bigger than his own room in the Ravenclaw tower
by quite a bit, which was only to be expected, but other than that it was
fairly similar. It also had a small sitting area that his room didn't
have. The most notable feature of the room was the large desk covered in
parchment that he presumed contained various school work assignments on
runes and such.

"Have a seat." Bathsheda said, gesturing to the couch and taking a seat
next to him. "Now, what was it you wanted to know?"

"I looked over the theory, but I have some trouble understanding how
symbols could have any kind of magical power." Harry admitted. "It
doesn't make any sense to me that just inscribing a symbol and charging
it with magic would confer a certain property to the item being
inscribed."

"Ah, this is a question that I am asked frequently, though not usually by


first years." The professor said wrily. "Tell me Mr. Potter, have you
also wondered why wand motions are neccessary?"

"Err..." Harry stalled a bit, but figured that there was no point in
playing dumb. "I'd just assumed that they were used as a method of
tricking people into focusing properly on a spell, the same as
incantations."

Bathsheda's eyebrows climbed into her hairline in surprise, realizing


that the boy in front of her must already be capable of casting silently
and motionlessly to have come to that conclusion.

"You are only partially correct, Mr. Potter. The incantations are indeed
just a trick to focus the mind of beginners on the effects of a spell,
but the wand motions serve an actual purpose. You see, when you wave your
wand, it pulls on your magic in specific ways and shapes it into the
desired spell effect. The field of Arthmancy concerns itself with which
wand motions are best suited to a certain spell effect. It is possible to
cast without motions, but it requires a much greater focus on the part of
the caster." She explained.

"I see." Harry said pensively.

"I must admit to being impressed that you have the mental focus required
to cast both motionlessly and silently at your age. These are things you
would have usually learned in your sixth year, so it is very rare to find
a child your age capable of it." The professor praised.

Harry rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment at the praise. After
struggling for years to manage anything at all with wandless magic, it
was practically child's play to use a wand.

"So the runes...they don't have any actual meaning, but are just shaped
in a way that directs the magic to a certain effect?" He asked, getting
back to the point of his visit.

"Once again, you are only partially correct." Bathsheda told him. "Many
of the runes in use today were created with the help of Arithmancy, which
is a fairly modern field of study in comparison to things like Charms,
Potions and Transfiguration. These runes are indeed shaped with a
singular purpose in mind and it is perhaps a misnomer to call them
'ancient', as they are not that old in the grand scheme of things. There
are however, older runes also in use that truly are ancient. These runes
represent concepts and ideas and can have multiple meanings. They are
typically more powerful than arithmantically developed runes but also
less precise as their effects may vary based on the understanding and
intent of the one who charges them with magic."

"Wouldn't it be possible to use a completely made up rune in that case,


as long as you assigned it meaning?" Harry asked, confused.

"Theoretically yes, but you would be aware that the runes were made up
and therefore subconsciously make them meaningless." Babbling explained
with a small grin, enjoying the conversation. Mr. Potter had clearly done
quite a bit of research on the subject and she was looking forward to
having him in her class in a few years. "There is also an unproven theory
in the academic circles that the older runes have been in use for so long
that their meanings have become imprinted on the wild magic of the Earth,
which is why they are more powerful."
"That's an interesting theory." Harry commented a bit absently. "I had
just one more question."

"By all means."

"The books all seemed to agree that writing runes on yourself either
wouldn't work or was downright dangerous, but they didn't explain why."

"Ah, that." Bathsheda said with a bit of a grumble. "I have long thought
that every book on runes should contain more thorough warnings about such
practices and I make sure to mention it during my classes."

"So it can be done?" Harry pressed.

"Yes Mr. Potter, it can, though it is most unwise." She admitted. "Merely
using a quill to write runes on your skin and charging it with magic
would achieve nothing, as the magic would be superficial and resisted by
your body. Tattooing them into your skin would confer some effects, but
likely not ones that you would wish. There would be a conflict between
the intentions of the tattoo artist and yourself, leading to a wide
variety of unpredictable complications. Furthermore, the runes would be
attempting to make changes to your body and magic and would not have the
necessary power to do so, once again causing nothing but complications.
Even worse, wizards differ from muggles in that their magic eventually
wears away the ink in a tattoo, so even if you had managed to impart some
kind of positive effect to yourself through a rune tattoo, it would
eventually disperse and quite likely harm you in the process."

"I see." Harry said again, looking thoughtful. "Thank you, this was very
informative. Could I come talk to you again if I had any more questions?"

"Of course." Bathsheda agreed, wanting to encourage his obvious interest


in runes.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

On Christmas morning, Harry found himself puzzled upon seeing a present


with his name on it at the foot of his bed.

He knew it wasn't from the Shaws, as those two treated every holiday as
an opportunity to suck up to someone at one social event or another. The
only present he'd ever gotten from them was clothing that they expected
him to wear to one of said social events. It had rather ruined the point
of Christmas to him.

Upon opening it, he saw that it held a shimmering silvery cloak. He could
practically feel the tingle of magic under his fingers as he touched it.
A little experimentation led to the awed realization that it was an
actual invisibility cloak. Who in the world could have possibly given him
this?

A look at the attached card provided only some bafflement.


Your father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was
returned to you. Use it well. A Very Merry Christmas to you.

There was no signature to the note written in loopy handwriting, but a


little guesswork allowed him to figure out who it was.

He didn't really know anyone in the Wizarding world aside from the people
in Hogwarts. It wasn't likely to be the students, as he wasn't exactly
that close to any of them and he strongly doubted that they would have
given him such an obviously valuable artefact.

Most of the teachers were also excluded, on grounds of him being familiar
with their handwriting already. The only one that it might have been was
professor Babbling, but he'd only talked to her once so she wasn't likely
to have given him such a thing.

Having excluded all of his aquaintances, he tentatively assumed that it


was sent by the headmaster. He seemed like the type to hoard magical
items. Reading over the note again, he came to another realization.

He gifted me with something that technically belongs to me in the first


place? Or failing that, re-gifted me with something that my father gave
him? And he admitted it as if it was no big deal? Wow, that's just...wow.

Harry had to be impressed by the sheer gall of the man, though he was too
happy with the invisibility cloak to take much umbrage.

After all, the headmaster had just given him exactly what he needed to
pay a clandestine visit to the Restricted Section. But first, there was a
present to send out. He'd gotten the idea for it months ago, but hadn't
been planning to actually go through with it, as it had the potential to
backfire on him quite spectacularly. The invisibility cloak had put him
in a gift-giving mood though.

"Could I talk to a house elf, please?" He said to the empty room, not
sure if it would work.

"You's needing Blinky?" Apparently, it did work.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Severus Snape started in surprise as a Christmas present appeared on his


desk. He had already received the usual bottle of firewhiskey from
Minerva that would last him a year, as well as the bag of muggle candies
from the headmaster that he had summarily disposed of as usual.

Nobody else ever gave him presents. Ever.

After casting every detection spell he knew on the small parcel, he was
forced to conclude that it was not a trap and that someone had indeed
done so.
Warily unwrapping it, he stared in slowly rising anger at the muggle
notebook and pen, exactly like the ones he'd forbidden Potter from using
in his classroom.

The cheeky brat was mocking him! Just like his useless, arrogant father!
James bloody Potter would...would...would not have done this. No, James
Potter would have played some juvenile prank in the halls or during
dinner, and he would have done it a lot sooner too.

This was the kind of passive aggressive response that Lily would have
given him after she came down from the initial hot tempered rage.

I thought you might appreaciate the convenience of being able to take


notes for your potions in one place without the hassle of inkpots or ink
splotches.

The equally passive aggressive note wasn't signed, further reinforcing


Snape's sense of nostalgia as he stared at the neat handwriting.

The boy had obviously never heard of self-inking and ever-neat quills
before, nor of the enchanted notebooks that never ran out of pages. Lily
had been dubious about wizarding stationery at first too.

Without the face of a miniature James Potter making him angry and no
people around for which to keep up appearances, Snape spent his Christmas
morning in nostalgic reminiscence of the only friend he'd ever had.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

December 26th

It was very late and the Hogwarts library was dark, silent and empty.

Empty, except for the invisible Harry Potter strolling through the
Restricted Section, hungrily looking at the books. There were so many
things he wanted to look up that it was hard to decide what to pick
first.

Obscure spells had a strong draw to the mindset of an eleven year old,
but Harry pulled his attention away from those, knowing that he didn't
have the power to cast them yet and having enough caution not to try it
anyway.

Eventually, he came across something that he had wanted to know ever


since he'd learned about the Wizarding World.

The Theory of Rituals: The Magick of Sacrifice.

Harry swallowed nervously, wondering if this was a book detailing the


proper way to sacrifice a virgin, which he had no intention of doing.

On the other hand, the book was using Ye Olde English in the title, which
was always a good sign.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Albus Dumbledore was feeling a mite frustrated.

He knew that Voldemort would return and he knew that Harry Potter was
prophesized to vanquish him.

The problem was that Harry Potter did not seem very heroically inclined.
He had been curious about the parcel that Hagrid had retrieved from
Gringott's, but not enough to look into it any further. He hadn't been
inquisitive enough to take a peek behind the forbidden door in the third
floor corridor. Albus wasn't even sure if he was aware of the break in at
Gringott's. Not that Dumbledore really wanted him to try getting passed
the defenses, but he had hoped that Harry would be curious. A powerful
sense of curiousity was essential for a hero and Harry Potter simply
didn't have it.

The boy was actually alarmingly disconnected from the Wizarding World.
Aside from his obvious desire to learn magic and the tenuous link to his
dead parents, Harry Potter had literally no ties to Wizarding Britain.

Not for the first time, Albus lamented the boy's placement in Ravenclaw.
Even Slytherin might have been better, though it would have undoubtedly
been difficult on him. At the very least, it would have forced him to
interact with his peers, whereas Ravenclaw had a well known reputation
for fostering introversion.

This wasn't usually something that Dumbledore would interfere with, but
Harry Potter had a destiny ahead of him and that destiny would not be
fulfilled by studying magic in seclusion.

He was well aware of the boy's recent excursions into the Restricted
Section, but did not bother to stop him. What difference did it make
anyway? The boy would have to die in order for Voldemort to be defeated
once and for all, so his dabbling in illegal magics was of no concern.
The knowledge might even come in handy at some point. The primer on
ritual magic that he'd read the other night was hardly alarming anyway.
Despite the ominous title and what the Ministry had to say about it, it
was little more than a theoretical discourse on the nature of magic, with
a focus on rituals. Dumbledore had removed the worst of the reading
material in there during Tom Riddle's seventh year. He still regretted
not doing it sooner.

He had no real fear of Harry joining up with Voldemort. The Dark Lord
would never suffer a rival to his power and being destroyed by a year old
baby would be an unforgivable insult to him. Harry Potter and Lord
Voldemort would be enemies no matter what, but Harry might just decide to
leave Britain instead of fighting if he had nothing tying him here.

If only he had been sorted into Gryffindor! Albus was sure that he would
have become fast friends with Hermione Granger. They had been similar
enough.
The girl's death had shaken the old headmaster far more than he let on.
Minerva had often told him that keeping the Philosopher's Stone in
Hogwarts was a terrible idea, but he had been sure that it was for the
best. He had been sure that he would be able to handle the shade of
Voldemort without there being any danger to the students. He wasn't sure
any longer.

For all the pretty words that he had spun for the Aurors about the troll
wandering in through a hitherto undiscovered secret passage, Dumbledore
knew that it was his fault.

Regardless of his shaken confidence, he desperately needed to get a


better handle on Harry Potter. Wizarding Britain and the Light would need
a champion in the dark times that were approaching and Dumbledore knew
that he was too old to fill that role himself. He had already been too
old in the last war. A successor had to be moulded, even if he would die
at the end of the conflict. Perhaps another miracle would allow Harry
Potter to survive, as it had when he was a baby. An old man could hope,
even if it was a fool's hope.

In the meanwhile, the Mirror of Erised would hopefully reveal if the boy
had any desires that could be useful. A discreet compulsion charm would
make sure that he found it.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry had no idea how exactly he'd ended up in this abandoned classroom
with the weird looking mirror. He'd just felt an insatiable desire to
wander about Hogwarts and basically stumbled upon it.

That was a bit odd for him, as he had no desire to interact with Filch,
the miserable bastard. The man apparently couldn't grasp the fact that
there was a slightly different set of rules in play during the holidays
and had tried to get him in trouble for imagined infractions several
times already.

Honestly, what did he even do at Hogwarts? His post as caretaker seemed


to be completely made up just so that the bitter man would have an excuse
to stay at the castle.

But for some reason, he felt the need to wander tonight and how here he
was, staring at a tall mirror with a gold frame and clawed feet.

It was an interesting looking mirror, but the image it showed was the
true puzzle. Instead of reflecting his proper image, it showed Harry the
way that he hoped he would look as an adult. Tall and broad shouldered,
long haired and roguishly handsome, with an aura of power draped over his
shoulders like an invisible mantle. He was also wearing a rather badass
looking set of robes that looked a great deal more practical than the
nightgown-esque apparel that wizards actually tended to wear, more like a
sort of half-robe or something.

Even more puzzling than the skewed reflection of himself, it also showed
someone standing next to him. This person was utterly indistinct. He
couldn't tell the color of the hair or eyes, couldn't put his finger on
height or body shape. He thought it might be a woman, but the more he
looked, the less certain he was of that. It was as if his mind was simply
unable to focus on the figure aside from determining that there was a
figure.

There was an inscription on the top, spelling out 'Erised stra ehru oyt
ube cafru oyt on wohsi', which told him nothing. He couldn't even begin
to guess what language that was in.

There was something compelling about the image, but Harry could not for
the life of him determine what it was. The vision of his adult self
seemed obvious enough, a representation of his hopes perhaps, but what
about the other figure?

Harry hated riddles. In fact, the bloody door knocker that asked you a
riddle every time you wanted to enter Ravenclaw tower was the thing that
he found the most irritating about his house. He'd had to wait for
someone else to answer the damn thing quite a few times already, though
he was getting the hang of answering correctly by sheer force of
repetition.

Usually when confronted with a particularly irritating riddle that he


couldn't solve, he would abandon it for a time and maybe come back later,
but not this time. There was something about this image that made him
want to understand it.

"Captivating, is it not?" An old voice asked from behind an indeterminate


amount of time later, startling him quite badly.

"Headmaster?" Harry asked, bewildered. "What are you doing here?"

Dumbledore chuckled in amusement. "I could ask you the same thing."

Harry flushed in embarrassment, realizing how his blurted out question


must have sounded. "Sorry, sir."

"It is quite alright, my boy." The old wizard said kindly. A little
rudeness was the least he could tolerate from Harry in exchange for the
compulsion he'd cast on him, even if the boy didn't know it.

"So, err, what does this mirror do?" Harry asked awkwardly.

"The clue is in the inscription, but you must remember that it is a


mirror." Dumbledore hinted.

Harry frowned in confusion and looked at the inscription again. With the
rather large hint he'd been given, it didn't take long to guess that he
had to read it backwards.

"I show not your face, but your heart's desire?" He wondered.

"Indeed, the Mirror of Erised does not reflect ourselves, but the
deepest, most desperate desires of our hearts." Dumbledore clarified.
"Men have wasted away before it, yearning for what it shows them, even if
they know it to be impossible. Perhaps especially if they know it to be
impossible."

"What do you see, sir?" Harry ventured carefully, knowing that it was a
personal question.

Dumbledore looked at the mirror, seeing his family once more unbroken and
whole around him and feeling the familiar ache in his heart that always
accompanied the image. His parents standing together happily, Ariana
alive and well, Aberforth reconciled with him. His old friend and lover
Gellert next to him, not a Dark Lord but a good man. It was an impossible
dream, and all the more painful for it.

"I see myself getting a pair of thick wooly socks for Christmas." He
finally answered. "People always get me books for Christmas, you see."

Harry didn't believe that for a moment. Socks were simply not something
that you could have a desperate desire for unless you were stuck barefoot
in the cold. He wasn't going to say anything though, as his question had
been quite personal.

"Orphans often see their parents returned to them, would I be correct in


guessing that this is what it shows you?" Dumbledore asked, fibbing at
little. The Mirror of Erised had not been exposed to orphans as far as he
could remember, but it seemed a reasonable guess.

"No sir, it doesn't." Harry answered with a small frown.

Perhaps if the Shaws had not adopted him, that is what it would have
showed him. He knew better now than to wish for his parents to be
returned to him. He had no doubt that they had loved him and it would be
good to see them, but things could not go back to what they could have
been. They would have tried to set limits on him that he had already
outgrown. They would do it out of love and concern, but it would have
infuriated him all the same. He didn't fit into the role of 'eleven year
old son' anymore.

"Truly?" Dumbledore queried with an eyebrow raised in surprise. "May I


ask what you see?"

Unlike the old wizard, Harry did not consider the image to be anything
massively private and he very much wanted to understand it.

Dumbledore listened attentively as Harry described what he saw, using a


light touch of Legilimency to see the image for himself.

"I may know what it represents, but let me ask you one more question to
make certain." He said when Harry was done talking, waiting for the boy
to nod his permission. "Are you happy with your foster parents?"

"Not really, no." Harry answered reluctantly. "It isn't a bad place to
live, but putting up with them is a bit of a chore sometimes."
Having used Legilimency just then to see if he was being told the truth,
Dumbledore knew that Harry considered any interaction with Robert and
Katherine Shaw to be a chore. He held back a sigh. No wonder that the
mirror did not show him his parents. Getting adopted only to have his
hopes of a loving family crushed by reality had no doubt been a heavy
blow to a young child.

"In that case, I believe that the mirror is showing you the image that
you associate with freedom and independence, yourself as a powerful
adult." He said, not letting his thoughts show.

"And the other figure?" Harry asked.

"I presume that it symbolizes your well hidden desire for companionship."
Dumbledore answered. "Believe me when I tell you this, young Harry; all
the power and riches in the world will not make you happy if you have no
one to share them with. This is a truth that the powerful often do not
realize until it is too late, if they do at all."

Headmaster and student both left the room after that, both of them
thoughtful.

Dumbledore pondered how this new information could be used to inspire a


sense of loyalty and responsibility towards Wizarding Britain in Harry
Potter.

As for Harry, he reassesed his life goals. He remembered that virtually


none of his books featured a solitary protagonist, something he had never
considered before but it seemed obvious now. The antagonist was always
alone, surrounded by minions at best, while the protagonist had friends.
He didn't have any worries about suddenly developing the urge to rule the
world, but he had to admit that he did feel a bit lonely. Perhaps making
a friend wouldn't be such a bad idea?

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry quickly discovered that making a friend was a great deal harder
than simply deciding that he would try it. He had not the foggiest idea
about how to make friends with someone after he'd spent months isolating
himself. None of his yearmates approached him anymore and he couldn't
quite bring himself to approach them either.

The status quo continued as the months slipped away and Harry eventually
gave it up as a bad job, deciding to try again next year.

Instead, he continued to spend his time studying and practicing magic,


sneaking into the Restricted Section as time allowed. He also made a few
more visits to Bathsheda Babbling to talk about runes and to Septima
Vector for Arithmancy. Both teachers were glad to discuss their subjects
with him, unaware of the idea that slowly took shape in his mind.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Albus Dumbledore noticed the continued isolation of Harry Potter and
sympathized with the boy, having plucked the reason for it out of his
mind. Trying again next year did indeed seem to be a reasonable course of
action.

He knew that Ginny Weasley would be coming to Hogwarts next year, so


perhaps he could arrange something there? The Weasleys were a staunchly
Light family and would no doubt quickly accept Harry into their midst.
She would be a Gryffindor of course, but that wouldn't be too difficult a
hurdle to get past.

He was still a bit disappointed by Harry's lack of interest in the


mystery of the third floor corridor, but he wasn't willing to manipulate
the boy into investigating it. Having already lost one student to the
club of a troll, he had no desire to lose another to the fangs of a
cerberus. Especially not when he was sure that Harry would play a crucial
role in the coming war.

There was a bit of a minor emergency in April, when Hagrid nearly burned
his hut down with a dragon of all things. Fortunately, Albus had become
aware of it just in time and contacted Charlie Weasley, who was able to
help sneak the little bundle of teeth and rage away from the school
before the half-giant found himself serving time in Azkaban for illegally
hatching a dragon.

Upon learning how exactly Hagrid had come by a dragon egg, Dumbledore
knew that Voldemort was on the move. With that, the incidents of killed
unicorns also suddenly made sense.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Quirrell and an increasingly impatient Voldemort found themselves stumped


by the final hurdle on their quest to get the Philosopher's Stone. All
the other defenses had been pathetic(except the cerberus, that one had
actually been dangerous), but this final one was proving incredibly
problematic.

And then Dumbledore showed up.

"Hello Tom."

"Shite."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"You wanted to see me, sir?" Harry asked as he stepped into the
headmaster's office.

"Indeed I did, my boy." Dumbledore replied jovially, gesturing to a


chair. "Please have a seat."

Harry did so, looking around the office curiously. There were all sorts
of odd devices scattered around, as well as a rather ostentatious gold
perch that was currently empty.
"Lemon drop?" Dumbledore offered, breaking Harry from his inspection of
the office.

"No thank you." Harry declined politely. "Professor Flitwick said that
you had something you needed to discuss with me?"

Dumbledore noticed with some dismay that Harry refused to make eye
contact with him now. The boy had apparently found a book on the Mind
Arts in the Restricted Section and was now practicing the most basic form
of defense against mental probing. Namely, not letting it take place to
begin with. Wise of him, but so very inconvenient for Dumbledore.

"Indeed I do Harry. It concerns your summer accomodations."

"What about them?" Harry asked, confused.

"You may not know this, but it was I who placed you with the Dursleys ten
years ago." Dumbledore admitted.

"Why?" Harry asked with an edge to his voice, his eyes narrowing a
fraction. He had no good memories of that place.

"Even though Voldemort was gone, many of his followers were still free
and would have killed you if given the chance. The nature of your
mother's death confered unto you a powerful protection, a protection I
was able to extend to encompass the entirety of your aunt's house for as
long you lived in the same home as her. I never expected that they would
treat you so poorly and for that you have my most sincere apologies."

"Alright, but how is that important now?" Harry asked a bit tersely,
wanting to move away from the subject of the Dursleys.

"Have you been at all curious as to why I declared the third floor
corridor off limits this year?"

"I was." Harry admitted. "But I decided not to check if you were joking
about the 'painful death' part after the incident with the troll."

Dumbledore's eyes dimmed as he remembered the girl who had died because
of his blunder. Now that he knew that Quirrell had been possessed, he
could also guess that the troll had been set loose deliberately. Contrary
to popular belief, the school wards did not give him omniscient knowledge
of all that went on in Hogwarts' walls.

"Behind that door was a series of traps that led to a great prize, a
prize designed to lure Voldemort into the open." He explained.

"Isn't he supposed to be dead?" Harry interrupted.

"He is supposed to be, but I have long suspected otherwise. Just the
other day, my suspicion was confirmed."
Harry sank deeper into his chair, recalling all the incidents that simply
screamed 'plot relevant event' that he'd dismissed so far.

"Please don't tell me that I'm destined to fight him or something." He


nearly begged. He was way too young to be fighting Dark Lords. Adventures
were supposed to start with killing giant rats in someone's cellar! This
was bullshit.

Dumbledore jerked violently in his chair and stared in pure shock, his
composure failing him as the boy rather correctly guessed at the truth.

"Oh my God, I am destined to fight him, aren't I?" Harry asked in


disbelief, staring at the old wizard's almost guilty expression.

Under his desk, Dumbledore fingered his wand. He'd just inadvertantly let
Harry know something that he hadn't been intending to reveal for quite a
few more years, but a simple Obliviate could fix the screw up.

...On the other hand, this could be used to gauge how the boy would react
to the prophecy. He could always obliviate him later.

"Well, you see Harry, there was a prophecy made before you were born..."
He said reluctantly, still not sure if this was wise.

Harry groaned. No matter where they popped up, be it books or games,


prophecies were always more trouble than they were worth.

"What does it say?"

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to
those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and
the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark
Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for
neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to
vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies..."
Dumbledore recited from memory, carefully watching Harry for a reaction.

Harry listened attentively and then sighed.

"At least this one is fairly straightforward and doesn't say anything
about my father being the Lord of Murder."

Dumbledore blinked. This one? Lord of Murder?

"I am going to have to ask you to explain that, my boy." He said


carefully, wondering if there was a second prophecy in play. That could
change everything.

"It's from an old computer game I played last year, nothing to be worried
about." Harry waved off.

Dumbledore wasn't entirely sure how games could be played on those muggle
contraptions or how there could be prophecies in a game, but he was
willing to take Harry's word for it since he felt that the boy was
telling the truth. He felt no small amount of relief about it too, as a
prophecy about a Lord of Murder sounded quite dire.

"So I'm assuming that this scar on my forehead is the mark that Voldemort
supposedly gave me?" Harry asked, tracing a finger over the mark in
question.

"It is." Dumbledore confirmed.

"What about this 'power he knows not'?" Harry pressed. "Any ideas on what
that's supposed to be?"

"I believe it to be love. You see, Voldemort has never known love and
does not understand it. It was your mother's love that allowed you to
survive his killing curse ten years ago."

Harry looked at the old headmaster oddly for several long moments,
wondering if he was serious. He certainly looked serious, but the words
he'd just uttered made no sense.

"You'll excuse me if I don't try to combat a ruthless Dark Lord that can
apparently cheat death with love. Hell, with the vague way it's worded,
the 'power he knows not' could be referring to my ability to lick my
elbows." He said slowly. "Speaking of which, are you sure that this
prophecy is genuine?"

Dumbledore decided not to comment on the first sentence. Even though he


was sure that he was correct about the secret power being love, he also
recognized the value of not putting all your eggs in one basket, which
was a bit ironic since that was exactly what he ended up needing to do
with Harry.

He was also quite impressed that Harry could apparently lick his elbows.
He hadn't thought that was possible.

"It is genuine, but I'm afraid that it would not matter even if it was
not. You see, Voldemort knows the first part of the prophecy as well and
he believes it, which makes it genuine."

"Right, self-fulfilling prophecy. The worst kind." Harry sighed.

"I must say that you are taking this remarkably well, my boy." Dumbledore
commented. Had he been making too big of a deal about telling Harry the
prophecy?

"Would freaking out make it not true?" Harry asked with rarely used
sarcasm.

"No." Dumbledore admitted. Though it would tell me that obliviation is


the way to go.

"So...now what?" Harry asked after a short silence had passed.


"I doubt you will need to worry about Voldemort for quite some time."
Dumbledore reassured. "He is less than a ghost at the moment and will
find it difficult to return to physical form. It is possible that he may
be prevented from doing so entirely, but he has always been crafty, so I
would not place my hopes on that possibility."

"That's something at least." Harry grumbled, only mildly reassured that


he wouldn't need to fight a full fledged Dark Lord in the immediate
future. "Why is he still floating around anyway?"

"I am not sure." Dumbledore fibbed. He had no intention of telling Harry


about the fact that he was a horcrux. "Now, I believe that we have
wandered greatly off topic. We were discussing your summer
accomodations."

"Yes, why were we doing that?"

"I will be blunt with you Harry, your home with the Shaws is not safe.
The Dursley household was protected by powerful blood wards, which was
why I placed you there to begin with. Anyone could attack you at your
current residence, so I am offering to let you stay at Hogwarts over the
summers." Dumbledore offered, fairly sure that the boy would accept

"That's very generous of you headmaster, but I'm afraid that I can't
accept. I have some things I want to do over the summer that I simply
can't do at Hogwarts." Harry declined politely. There were quite a few
things that he wanted to do over the summer holidays for which he did not
want any of the Hogwarts professors present. Things that now had a sense
of urgency after learning about that bloody prophecy.

"I must urge you to reconsider, Harry." Dumbledore insisted. "If any
wizards with ill intent were to find you there, you would be virtually
defenseless."

"Does anyone in the Wizarding World aside from you and professor
McGonagall even know where I live?" Harry asked with a frown.

"No..." Dumbledore admitted reluctantly.

"Then I will stay where I am for the moment. I will reconsider it if


things start getting more dangerous."

"Are you certain?" Dumbledore tried one last time. "You could do magic in
Hogwarts."

"I'm sure." Harry replied, knowing that he was going to be doing a lot of
magic over the summer, some of it probably illegal even outside of the
underage restriction.

"Very well." Dumbledore sighed. He could have tried forcing the issue but
that would likely cause Harry to resent him, which would be disastrous in
the future. "Please take this then. Keep it close and and say 'lemon
drop' if you find yourself in danger."
"How is a sock going to help me?" Harry asked, bewildered.

Dumbledore smiled and explained the concept of portkeys.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Alrighty, time for a few end-of-chapter notes.

Yes, Harry is a bit unlikable at the moment. That will shift over time.

I'm sure that some of you are upset that I killed Hermione. That's too
bad, but she should have remembered to put on her plot armor.

The quick progression is deliberate. Preteen protagonists are a pain in


the ass to write.

I know that the lack of character interaction is bad, but there will be
more from here on out.

In case any of you were worried, the scene with the Mirror of Erised is
not a foreshadowing for possible gayness on Harry's part. I'm too much of
a straight male to write a gay protagonist.

Chapter 3

First a response to a few people that continue to hold out hope that
Hermione will somehow continue play a part in this story...Nope, she's
deader than a door nail and staying that way. No ghosts either. Sorry xD.

Special thanks go once again to Joe Lawyer for beta-ing the chapter.

Now then, a merry Christmas or its equivalent to those of you who


celebrate it.

If you're like me and don't celebrate it then...uh, carry on as normal?

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry spent no more than three days at 74 Cromwell Road before he went
back to Diagon Alley to take care of some business. Robert and Katherine
had not been too happy about his newly developed sense of independence
and tried to protest, in response to which he may or may not have implied
that they would have their memories wiped if he didn't do this.

Losing access to him ten months out of a year was putting quite a crimp
in their plans to parade him around as their perfect son, which he knew
was likely to become a problem soon. They might be terrified of the idea
of some wizard messing about in their heads, but that wouldn't last
forever. Hopefully the situation wouldn't implode before he was ready to
be shot of them.

The reason for his visit to Diagon Alley was an appointment with the
solicitor to whom he'd sent a letter before the school year had ended.
He'd been a bit surprised at the speed with which the appointment had
been arranged. Either the Wizarding World had less legal business, or his
fame was being useful for a change and speeding things up.

That was still a while off however, as he'd come to Diagon Alley early
with the express intent of looking around without a Hogwarts professor
trying to direct his shopping.

All in all, he didn't find too much of interest that he hadn't seen on
his first trip through, but there was one thing he found that made the
entire trip worth it even if everything else turned out to be a bust.

"A Bag of Holding?" Harry asked admiringly, his eyes fixated greedily on
the unassuming little bag. "How much?"

"Lad, this here's a Mokeskin Pouch." The shopkeeper said chidingly. "And
I don't think a muggleborn could afford it, they're rare and expensive."

While Harry was glad to see that the simple disguise of normal clothes
and a cap worked to disguise his identity just as well as the first time,
he was more than a little annoyed by the condescending attitude. The
shopkeeper wasn't trying to be condescending and his tone was actually
rather friendly, but the casual assumption that muggleborns wouldn't have
enough money to buy the good stuff was still grating.

Granted, Harry was not exactly a muggleborn, but he was honestly


wondering about the lack of muggleborn Dark Lords if this was the kind of
shit they had to put up with all the time.

And the shopkeeper was also wrong. That thing was a Bag of Holding, end
of discussion. What the hell was a moke anyway?

"How much is it?" Harry repeated himself.

The shopkeeper sighed in exasperation at the persistent boy. "Two hundred


galleons."

"That is pretty expensive." Harry agreed.

"I told you-"

"I'll have to come back with the money later, could you reserve it for
me?" He kept on talking, not letting the shopkeeper finish the 'I told
you so'.

"You mean you can afford it?" The shopkeeper asked in surprise.

"Yes." Harry answered tersely.


Friggin' Diagon Alley shopkeepers should be replaced with NPC's. They'd
be less annoying that way.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"So Mr. Potter, what can we do for you today?" The solicitor said
eagerly. Representing the Boy-Who-Lived would be a huge coup for him.

"I would like to take legal action against Enid Pennifold, the author of
the Harry Potter book series, for using my name without permission."
Harry answered simply.

"I see." The solicitor said thoughtfully. "If she has truly been using
your name without permission then you certainly have legal grounds to do
so, but I must warn you that removing the books themselves from
circulation will likely prove impossible at this point."

"I thought as much." Harry admitted. "I'm actually more interested in


profiting from it."

"You don't care what she wrote about you?" The solicitor asked with
raised eyebrows.

"As you said yourself, removing the books from circulation will be
impossible, so the damage is already done. A percentage of past and
future profits made from these books will have to do. If at all possible
I would like this settled quietly and without media interference."

"That we can certainly do." The solicitor agreed. "I will send you an owl
once the preliminary negotiations are finished."

Harry thanked the man and shook his hand, surprised but pleased that
things had been so simple.

Now it was time to go to Gringotts and withdraw the money for the Bag of
Holding.

And for another talk with Gorefist after that. He had a feeling that he
would not be the goblins favorite person after this talk, so it was
better to withdraw the money first.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Mr. Potter, to what do I owe the pleasure this year?" Gorefist asked,
his tone making it clear that it was not a pleasure of any kind.

"I just came to warn you that I will be receiving a substantial deposit
of money to my vault sometime in the near future." Harry said evenly.

"I am afraid there is a 200 galleon fee attached for every two thousand
galleons deposited." Gorefist grinned nastily.
"Not this time there isn't." Harry disagreed calmly, having expected
something of the sort. "In fact, you will also be lowering the fee on our
previous arrangement down to 5%."

"Why would I do that?" The goblin asked, his grin becoming decidedly
uglier.

"Because if you don't, I will simply stop using the services of your
bank."

Gorefist's grin faltered. If the Potter heir pulled all his gold out of
Gringotts, he would be left the manager of an empty vault. He would be a
laughing stock. Even if there was a high likelihood of the Potter fortune
getting stolen outside of Gringotts, that wouldn't help him.

"You cannot use any other bank!" He snarled. "Our treaty with the
Ministry of Magic forbids it."

Ah yes, the Goblin-Wizard Treaty of 1726, which explicitly states that no


ICW member nation would use any bank other than Gringotts. The goblins
had been able to force that concession from wizardkind after a two decade
long war.

Unfortunately for them, they had not looked at the small print, which
said that in return for this they agreed to be bound by the laws of the
ICW and the local Ministries of Magic forevermore, essentially turning
the goblins into a vassal nation. The full treaty was a great deal more
verbose of course, but that was the gist of it. This being a magical
contract, it was still in effect.

Except in America. The American wizards had helped their muggle


counterparts throw off the control of Britain during the American
Revolution, but instead of fighting British wizards, they'd elected to
slaughter the goblins.

North America was still technically part of the ICW, but their relations
with Europe were colder than one of Snape's smiles.

The goblins had rebelled several times against wizards after that. In
fact, every time that the Ministry breached the treaty in the slightest
way, the situation had erupted into violence. That was why the goblins
stuck so scrupulously to the letter of any agreements these days, it was
easier to find loopholes that way.

Humans and goblins had been enemies since time immemorial, always warring
against each other for one reason or another, but mostly for the simple
fact that both seemed to be intolerant dicks with a superiority complex.
When wizards had discovered the secrets of wandlore, the balance had
begun tipping in favor of humanity. Goblins had been trying to figure out
a way to make wands for themselves ever since, with no success. After the
1726 Treaty, they were banned from using them, alongside every other non-
human.
The goblins had never forgiven that bit of treachery, even though they
would have done the exact same thing if given half a chance.

Harry had a long time to consider how to prevent himself from getting
swindled in the future after his first meeting with Gorefist, so he'd
researched the history of the goblins and their conflict against wizards
in particular and humans in general with a dedication that would have
made Binns proud.

He'd discovered that greed was an integral part of the goblin psyche.
Greed drove the short but vicious creatures more than any other impulse.

"I never said anything about using another bank." Harry replied evenly.

"Where will you keep your gold then, wizard?" Gorefist demanded, twisting
the last word into an insult.

"That is no concern of yours, goblin." Harry emulated, though he


suspected that he hadn't managed to put as much venom into it as his
account manager.

Truthfully, he had nothing personal against the goblins, but he wasn't


going to let himself get robbed just because they were nursing an old
grudge against wizards.

Gorefist snarled again, slamming his hand angrily against his desk.

Harry had to fight hard not to jump. They might be midgets, but goblins
were still pretty scary.

"You cannot withdraw from the main Potter vault until you are of age."
Gorefist reminded him angrily.

"I know, I am intending to use that time to improve my ability to guard


my gold." Harry replied, still keeping his voice calm and even.

"A hundred galleons for every two thousand and 15% for the transfers out
of your trust vault." Gorefist growled out, seeing that the boy was dead
serious.

"seventy five galleons for every six thousand and 5% for the transfers."

"One hundred galleons for every three thousand and 13% for the
transfers."

"Seventy for every five thousand and 4% for the transfers."

"That is not how you negotiate, wizard!" Gorefist snapped in outrage.


"Eighty for every four thousand and 10% for the transfers."

"You didn't seem bothered about charging unfairly exorbitant fees to me


last year, I'm not going to be bothered about negotiation protocol now."
Harry replied with a mocking smirk. "Fifty for every five thousand and 3%
for the transfers."
Gorefist roared in outrage and gripped his desk hard enough that his
claws gouged the wood.

"Fine! We are agreed, NOW GET OUT!"

Harry simply nodded and left the office, leaving behind a fuming goblin
that spent the next twenty minutes inventively cursing his ancestry in
Gobbledegook.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry spent those same twenty minutes walking off his adrenaline rush.
He'd been preparing for that confrontation for months, but it had been a
lot more intense than he'd expected.

So very satisfying though.

Now he just needed to figure out where he was going to put all that gold
in the event that he actually needed to take it out of Gringotts. He
somehow doubted that the Bag of Holding that he was even now going to buy
would hold all of it.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

A few days later.

Harry blinked at the sight of the house elf in his room, baffled as to
why one of the excitable creatures would be here.

The house elf gave a bow so low that his long nose touched the floor.

"Hello?" Harry greeted, bemused.

"Harry Potter." The house elf exclaimed loudly enough to make Harry glad
that his room was fairly far out of the way. "So long has Dobby wanted to
meet you, sir. Such an honor it is."

Harry winced preemptively, knowing that his next words were likely to
elicit a dramatic reaction. Unfortunately, the alternative was to treat
the house elf like a lesser creature and he just couldn't do that.
Judging by the stained pillowcase that Dobby was wearing, he got enough
of that already.

"Would you like to sit down?"

"S-sit down?!" Dobby wailed predictably. "Never...never ever..." There


was a moment of incomprehensible blubbering before Dobby made sense
again. "Never has Dobby been asked to sit down by a wizard! Like an
equal."

"Not a Hogwarts elf then?" Harry asked, having enough experience with
house elves to know that trying to comfort one was liable to just set off
another round of hysteria. He felt bad for the little creatures,
especially this one since he seemed to be bonded to a less than pleasant
master, but attracting the attention of his foster parents wouldn't help
anyone.

"No, sir." Dobby answered, much more calmly now. "But Dobby has come to
warn Harry Potter! Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts!"

"Why not?"

"There is a plot, Harry Potter. A plot to make terrible things happen at


Hogwarts. Dobby tried to stop Harry Potter from getting mail from his
friends at Hogwarts to make him not want to go back, but Harry Potter was
not getting any mail from his friends!"

Harry's lips twitched in humor. He probably should be upset about a house


elf trying to screen his mail, but the thought of Dobby attempting it,
only to discover that he wasn't getting any letters was just too funny.

"I'm afraid I haven't made any friends the past year." Harry explained.

"No friends? The great Harry Potter has no friends?" Dobby asked,
blinking in apparent bafflement.

"Better no friends than bad friends." Harry shrugged, not really wanting
to explain his entire situation. The two people who had first attempted
to befriend him, Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy, would definitely fit into
the 'bad friend' category at least.

"Harry Potter is wise." Dobby stated, nodding compulsively as if he'd


just heard something profound. "So Harry Potter will understand that he
must not return to Hogwarts."

"Can you tell me what this terrible plot is?" Harry asked.

"Dobby cannot, sir."

Of course, that would be a much more direct betrayal than merely coming
to warn him.

"It has something to do with Voldemort, doesn't it?" Harry sighed in


resignation. This was practically a textbook example of foreshadowing and
given the prophecy that Dumbledore had told him at the end of first
year...

"Say not the name!" Dobby screeched, clapping his hands over his floppy
ears.

"Right, so does it have anything to do with him?" Harry asked again, this
time with an eyeroll.

"No sir, not with He-Who-Must-Not-be-named." The house elf answered.

"It doesn't?" Harry said in surprise. "Who does it have to do with then?"
For a moment, Dobby looked as if he was going to answer, but then he
started smashing his head against the nearest hard surface.

"Alright, alright! I get it! You can't answer." Harry cried quickly, now
wanting the excitable but friendly house elf hurting himself.

"Dobby is sorry, Harry Potter sir!" Dobby wailed. "Dobby cannot betray
the masters."

"It's alright, I understand." Harry tried to reassure. "I'm guessing you


don't like serving your current masters?"

"Dobby does not." The house elf confirmed, wringing his ears wretchedly.
"Dobby wants to be free."

Harry grimaced. For a house elf to say that they wanted to be free,
whoever Dobby was bonded to had to be really bad.

"I might have an idea about how to get you free, would you like to hear
it?" He asked.

Dobby nodded frantically.

Harry leaned close to the house elf in a conspiratorial fashion.


"Alright, here's what you do..."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

That same day, Dobby returned to Malfoy Manor and did not immediately
begin punishing himself for going to warn Harry Potter of the impending
danger at Hogwarts. Soon, there would be no more need to punish himself,
so Dobby felt that he could get away with a little rebellion.

The next morning, before any of the Malfoys woke up, Dobby did not start
making breakfast as he usually did. Instead he went to the closest forest
and looked for the slimiest, most disgusting creature he could find. This
turned out to be a regular slug, but it was more than suitable for the
purpose.

He put this slug into one of Lucius' socks and prepared it for the man as
he always did in the mornings. This was the plan that the great Harry
Potter had suggested and Dobby was sure that it would work. It was a very
clever plan.

Unfortunately, things do not always go according to plan.

When Lucius slid his foot into the sock, he quickly discovered the slimy
surprise and pulled it off, staring at his soiled foot in disgust.

"Elf! What is the meaning of this? What have you done" The blond man
demanded harshly.
Dobby had been standing nearby, waiting with bated breath for the moment
when his master would throw the sock away in disgust and he could swoop
in to grab it out of the air, thereby freeing himself.

But Lucious had not thrown the sock away in disgust, holding it away from
him instead.

Compelled by the bond, Dobby confessed to attempting to engineer his own


freedom, though the question was vague enough that he was able to leave
out any mention of Harry Potter or his unauthorized trip.

Lucius, infuriated at the mere notion that his house elf thought it could
trick him like this and worse, nearly succeeding, pulled out his wand and
angrily fired off a killing curse. He momentarily regretted killing his
servant, but quickly rationalized that it was better than having a house
elf around that thought it was clever.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry hadn't been too concerned when Dobby hadn't come back the next day.
When the second day passed however, he did get concerned. By the time
that the third day rolled around, he had accepted the fact that his plan
had failed and hoped that the consequences for Dobby hadn't been too
dire. He feared that they had been, given what little he knew of the
house elf's masters.

It was also on this day that he received his solicitor's owl.

Mr Potter,

I have spoken to Ms. Pennifold and explained to her your displeasure at


how she used your name to sell her books.

She was quite mortified to hear of this. Apparently, she wrote the first
one in a fit of inspiration after the fall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named
and never intended to publish it, but was persuaded into doing so by a
friend and things simply snowballed from there.

She agreed to pay you a sum of thirty thousand galleons as compensation,


40% of any future sales, as well as agreeing to add a disclaimer to the
effect of the books being entirely fictional. Overall it is considerably
more generous than what I had expected to get out of this for so little
effort. Ms. Pennifold has also asked if you would be willing to
participate in a book signing to endorse future sales some time in the
future.

Harry put down the letter and rubbed his face tiredly. Great. Now he was
not just worried about what had happened to Dobby, but he was also
feeling like a jerk for siccing a lawyer on a woman that had no malicious
intent with her books, even if they were bloody ridiculous. As for the
book signing idea...yeah, he had absolutely no desire to do that right
now, maybe not ever.
This day was already shaping up to be simply spectacular and it wasn't
even noon. Now all he needed was...

"Harry? Remember that we're having important visitors over in the


evening. Come down so that we can go over the itinerary again." Katherine
Shaw's voice came from the intercom that they had felt the need to
install in his room for some reason.

Harry groaned miserably. He'd forgotten all about that stupid dinner
party. The day officially sucked.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry approached the doors of Potter Manor with some trepidation. All of
these old manor houses were said to be heavily warded and he was taking a
bit of a gamble in assuming that the wards would recognize him as a
Potter himself. They should, but he wasn't 100% sure that they would.

It was a pretty impressive place and he was sure that the Shaws would
want to move in if they knew about it. At the very least, they would
probably want to take all the antique furniture that was undoubtedly in
there.

Deciding to just get on with it, he grabbed the doorknob and tried to
turn it. It didn't budge, but it did prick his palm to taste his blood.
With a brief shimmer, the doors swung open.

Smiling with mixed relief and eagerness, Harry wandered into the manor,
turning his head in every direction in an attempt to take in the foyer.
It was a bit on the ostentatious side for his taste, but it was his.

"Hello? Is anyone here?" He called. He knew there wouldn't be any people,


but there might be portraits or house elves.

A tiny blur barreling into his legs nearly caused him to lash out with an
instinctive burst of wandless magic, restrained at the last moment.

"Master Potter sir!" The house elf wailed in an unpleasantly high female
pitch. "You's finally came! Teeny was waiting for so long!"

Harry smiled awkwardly and patted her head as the little house elf
continued to blubber against his leg. What do you say to calm down a
hysterical house elf?"

"Umm, sorry?" He ventured.

Teeny's horrified gasp let him know that it may not have been the right
thing to say.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Fortunately, calming Teeny down didn't take too much effort once the
initial hysteria was out of the way. The small house elf had all but
demanded to be bonded to him immediately after that. Harry was still a
bit iffy on the subject of having a thinking creature bound to him in
lifelong servitude, but Teeny's wobbling lower lip and watering eyes
every time he stalled eventually wore down his resistance and he gave in.

She'd gone into a cooking frenzy after that, determined to feed him the
best meal he'd ever had and Harry didn't have the heart to tell her that
he'd already eaten.

While Teeny cooked, Harry decided to explore the manor, wondering if he


might find portraits of any relatives. He knew that they were just
imprints of people, but it would still be nice to talk to them.

As it turned out, he found them.

"Hello?" He called to the sleeping portraits of a man and woman in what


he guessed were their late middle ages, though it was hard to be sure
with wizards and witches.

They woke up, looking momentarily confused but quickly focused on him.

"Hello, are you our grandson?" The dignified looking woman asked
hopefully.

"I'm Harry." He replied simply.

"James and Lily's boy." The older man with typically messy Potter hair
and glasses said, delight in his tone. "You are our grandson. We're
Charlus and Dorea Potter, your father's parents."

"Can you tell me about them?" Harry asked. He hadn't been willing to ask
this of the Hogwarts professors, but faced with the portraits of his
grandparents, he could finally do so.

"Oh, I suppose that means that they weren't able to hide from Voldemort
then." Dorea said sorrowfully. "I knew that they shouldn't have trusted
Dumbledore."

"What do you mean?" Harry asked warily. He had thought that the old
headmaster was a bit strange but trustworthy enough.

"My wife has never had a very high opinion of Dumbledore." Charlus
answered.

"Don't sugarcoat it, Charlus." Dorea scoffed. "I wouldn't trust that old
manipulator as far as I could throw him."

"Yes well, though my own opinion of the man isn't as bad as my wife's, I
would urge you to keep in mind that Dumbledore didn't get to where he is
now without being more than a bit ruthless." Charlus added.

Harry nodded slowly. The headmaster had a disarming personality and


projected the image of a kindly, wise old wizard well, but Charlus had a
point. Dumbledore couldn't have become the most powerful wizard and most
prominent politician in all of Europe just by being nice. He would have
to keep that in mind in the future.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

A few hours later, the meal Teeny had prepared was eaten and the
conversation with the portraits of his grandparents had tapered off.
Harry hadn't seen much of the manor by that point and decided to explore
it further.

It was nothing spectacular for the most part, just a lot of bedrooms,
bathrooms and miscellaneous other things that held no interest for him,
but a few things did stand out.

The first was the library. It wasn't as massive as the one in Hogwarts
and he spotted a lot of the same texts, but there were a few that looked
to be unique to the Potter family.

The second was deep in the basement. It seemed like nothing more than a
bare stone room, if not for a few things. The location and thick walls
would be enough to mark it as a room used for rituals, but what truly
clinched it was the box containing an ornate knife in front of it.

It was a pretty thing with a slightly curved silver blade and a gold
enameled hilt. A good sized ruby was set at the end of the hilt, glinting
in the low light.

Harry was exceptionally pleased to have found such a knife. Rituals could
technically be done with any kind of blade, but specialized ritual blades
were known to have superior results.

He was eager to get started on this. He had been secretly planning out a
ritual ever since he'd started learning about them after all.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Ever since that first conversation with professor Babbling, Harry had
been thinking of ways to apply runes to himself as a means of bolstering
his physical and magical power.

After getting told that tattoos wouldn't work, he had begun considering
more...extreme...measures.

The discussions with professor Vector had helped him calculate what would
work and what wouldn't.

Wizard raised children came into Hogwarts with a lot of advantages, but
if there was one thing that a muggle upbringing had going for it, it was
the years spent in primary school.

Arithmancy wasn't the same as mathemathics, but it was close enough that
there was quite a bit of overlap.
A lot of the things he'd wanted to figure out were beyond Harry, even if
he'd been working on Arithmancy in his free time, but he had found a
workaround for that too.

The internet was full of mathemathicians that would solve any interesting
looking problem on a lark. All Harry had needed to do was post his
problem on a forum and wait for a reply. As long as he changed the names
of some of the variables and took out the bits that would make no sense
without magic being involved, he was almost guaranteed to receive an
answer that would work for him. It took some effort to dance around the
issue of magic, but it could be done.

This kind of cheating workaround had told him that merely using any old
knife to carve runes into his flesh wouldn't have enough power behind it.
He would either need a specially made ritual knife that was designed to
channel magic, or he would need to literally brand the runes into his
skin with a red hot branding iron. That was the only sacrifice he could
think of that was great enough to make the runes work in the way he
wanted them to without a proper knife.

Harry was naturally relieved to have found the ritual knife. He felt
enough trepidation at the thought of carving the runes into his skin with
a knife that he was not at all certain that he would be able to go
through with a branding.

He'd already told Teeny that she was not to come into the ritual chamber
for any reason no matter what she felt or heard until he called her.
Rituals were delicate things and having any extra thinking minds present
was always a bad idea.

Now all that was left to do was to actually step into the circle and
start the ritual, which was proving to be much harder than he expected.

It was all well and good to plan this thing out, but now that he'd come
to the point where he would have seven runes carved into his back by a
magically floating knife, he was discovering that much of his courage had
deserted him.

He'd expected that this might be the case, which was why the ritual was
set up in such a way that it could not be stopped once it was started.
Ironically, this made it even harder to make the first step.

It had to be this way though. He couldn't afford to chicken out midway.


The rune set was made to work together and carving only part of it would
likely be disastrous for him.

He just had to step into the circle and get started.

Any day now.

Yep.

Harry let out a gusty sigh, closed his eyes and stepped into it with a
sense of determined resignation. If he hadn't heard of that bloody
prophecy, he might have put this off until he was older. He might even
have decided that the price wasn't worth the payout.

But now he knew that he had a not-quite-dead Dark Lord after his hide and
he strongly doubted that the tosser would be considerate enough to wait
until Harry was ready for him. He wanted to live and he was sure that he
could endure a little pain now if it helped him survive later. Standing
naked in a cold stone room and staring aprehensively at the inert ritual
knife wouldn't do him any good.

Besides, this particular ritual would have more to work with if it was
done before puberty kicked in properly.

With another sigh to calm down his nerves, he knelt into the center of
the ritual circle, naked as the day he was born.

"Raido." He said, focusing on the rune even as he felt the petrification


effect worked into the ritual kick in.

Ritual. Journey. Freedom from imprisonment. Self-mastery.

The rune would mark the start of his ritual, as well as symbolize that
the runes would continue to influence him as he grew, making him more
than he would have been without them. It symbolized that he was willfully
changing his body in ways that people normally can't and release him from
the constraints of normal growth.

The knife started carving the blocky 'R' shaped rune into the base of his
neck and the only thing that stopped Harry from screaming was the
petrification. He did his absolute best to stay focused on the meaning of
the rune and hoped it would work as intended.

When it was over, Harry took a few minutes to get his breath back and
blink the tears out of his eyes. It had been worse than he'd expected and
he was doubly glad that he had a proper ritual knife. If getting cut was
this bad, then a branding would have been unbearable.

He could feel it working though. He could feel his magic flowing into the
rune, exploring the new channel and almost eagerly waiting for the next
one, as if it knew that it wasn't over yet.

When he felt ready, he spoke the next one.

"Gebo."

Trade. Sacrifice. Balance. Exchanged powers. Magical exchange.

A rune to symbolize the sacrifice he was making in exchange for the


benefits he wanted. Blood, pain and the permanent scarring of his flesh
in exchange for the power of the runes. It looked like an 'X' and it was
carved under Raido, along his spine.

"Inguz."
Internal growth. Personal development. Gestation process. Male sexuality.

This rune was basically focused on speeding his maturation. He wanted to


grow faster, both because adulthood meant freedom and because he did not
want to be a child when Voldemort eventually clawed his way back to life.
It was represented by a tilted square.

"Uruz."

Life force, Physical health. Healing. Vital formative force. Stamina.


Vitality. Virility. Vigor. Endurance. Raw primal power.

A rune meant to increase the potency of his body, granting greater


physical strength and endurance as well as speeding up natural healing.
It was a simple looking rune, merely two lines connected by a third at
the top, with the second one being shorter to make the whole rune a bit
slanted.

"Thurisaz."

Giant. Active defensive force. Regenerative catalyst. Reactive and


directed force.

Another rune to increase his endurance and durability, channel magic to


his muscles and bones, make him more resistant to injury, and to further
speed the healing properties of Uruz. It looked like an angular 'P', but
with the protruding part written in the middle instead of on top.

"Hagalaz."

Disruption. Change according to ideals. Power beyond human ability to


harness. Perfect pattern.

A rune that signified that what he wanted was a body stronger than should
be naturally his. A rune that was intended to direct the other runes into
the purpose of improving him. It looked very much like an 'H', except for
the middle line having a downward slant.

"Wunjo."

Harmony of like forces. Bonding. Shared aims. Optimism. Prosperity.

The final rune in the set, made to bind them all together into a unified
beneficial purpose instead of having each of them working independently.
It looked like an angular 'P'.

The ritual complete, Harry collapsed forward and gulped down deep breaths
of air as he waited for the burning pain across the length of his spine
to subside. He could feel his magic moving towards the newly carved
runes, leaving him even more drained than the pain had already done.

And then he suddenly became aware of just how incredibly hungry he was.

"Teeny." He croaked.
The house elf appeared and immediately cried in dismay at seeing his
bloodied back.

"Teeny, I need food. A lot of it." Harry went on, ignoring her panic. He
could barely think about anything save for the emptiness of his stomach
right now.

Glad to have a direction, Teeny apparated him into the kitchen, set a
bowl of fruit in front of him and started cooking up a storm.

Harry ate four apples, six bananas, two oranges and still felt hungry.
The runes on his back continued to siphon away his strength without
pause, slowly transforming from open wounds into scars.

Teeny noticed that he'd run out of food and put a bowl of salad in front
of him. It was meant to come after the soup, but she couldn't bear to
make him wait when he was obviously starving.

It was good to be needed again.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry's appetite eventually calmed down and he asked Teeny to apparate


him back to his foster parents. He'd been gone for the whole day this
time and he didn't want them to be anymore pissy than strictly necessary.

"Harry, is that you?" Katherine's voice came from a bathroom while he was
on the way to his room.

"Yes, it's me." He called back without stopping, wanting to do nothing


more than fall asleep.

"Robert and I got an invitation to the opera while you were gone, so
you'll have the house to yourself."

Harry thanked whichever deity had decided to be merciful today. The opera
was one of those things that they left him behind for, probably thinking
that it would make them look bad to drag a kid along for something like
that.

"Great, have fun." He said back, managing to actually sound sincere.


Whoever had invited them must be relatively important if she wasn't even
bothering to ask where he'd been all day.

Katherine chose that moment to step out of the bathroom.

"How do I look?" She asked, making little turns so that he could see more
of her.

She did this sometimes, fishing for compliments from a child like the
self-obsessed bint that she was. Harry had always given her the expected
empty compliment that he didn't really mean.
She did genuinely look good though. At thirty two years old, she was
still pretty young and her healthy diet and frequent exercise kept her
looking beautiful. Combined with the hours she'd no doubt spent in front
of a mirror and the tight black dress she was wearing, she was nothing
short of stunning.

As Harry noticed this, he felt the blood rush between his legs and a
strange squirming sensation started up in his lower abdomen. His body
heated up and he felt his eyes getting pulled to her legs and breasts.
The runes on his back prickled. His hands twitched with the sudden desire
to feel if her arse was as tight as it looked.

A wave of horror made his face go white as he realized what he was


thinking.

"You look great." He managed to force out. "Excuse me, I have something I
need to do."

He fled to his room before she could do more than look confused by his
strange behavior.

As soon as he was in his room and safely away from a woman three times
his age that he suddenly found inexplicably sexy, he buried his head into
a pillow and screamed in frustration at his own stupidity.

He was a moron. A bloody colossal moron the likes of which the world had
never seen.

The runes had more meanings than the ones he'd focused on during the
ritual. Professor Babbling had warned him that these types of runes could
have unexpected effects.

Uruz also meant uncontrolled rage, misdirected force and brutality.


Thurisaz also meant aggressive male sexuality and male sexual prowess.

And those were just two runes. He knew that the others meant a whole host
of other things that were no doubt contributing to his suddenly inflammed
hormones, though those two were definitely the worst. He'd wanted to
speed up his maturation and that's what he was getting, but he was also
having all the effects of puberty supercharged to completely stupid
levels.

This was not good. In fact, he would go so far as to call it bad.

There was no way he'd be able to function like a normal human being in
Hogwarts if this started happening every time he saw a pretty girl. And
what if something made him angry? Would he even be able to control
himself?

Maybe, just maybe, the Ministry restrictions weren't all because they
were a bunch of weak willed weenies too scared of magic to use it to the
fullest.
Another realization interrupted his cursing streak. He had to hide the
runes or he'd be in deep shit if someone saw them. He was nowhere near
ready to openly challenge the Ministry on this.

The only way that he knew how to hide them in any kind of practical
manner was with another ritual.

"Shite."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"We warned you that it wasn't a good idea." Charlus was saying, sounding
far too smug for a painting.

"It'll be fine as long as I can control it." Harry defended. Despite the
unexpected side effects, he still thought that the ritual was an overall
success.

"Can you control it?" Dorea asked pointedly.

"...maybe." Harry said after a long moment. "I've already prepared


another ritual that should work to improve my memory and willpower, as
well as hiding my mind and runes."

"Harry, your first rune set was focused strictly on your body. Do you
really think it's wise to use runes that affect your mind?" Charlus asked
with some exasperation.

Harry swallowed. No, he did not think it was wise, but he didn't have
much choice. He couldn't allow his mind to remain an open book for a
skilled enough legilimancer. He couldn't allow his runes to stay visible.
He couldn't allow the new impulses of his body to have this much power
over him.

The first rune set remained a constant drain on his magic and continued
to give him a voracious appetite, which he knew would be the case until
he stopped growing. Fortunately, the drain was not so severe that it
would kill him, but a portion of his magic would be constantly shunted
towards improving his growth and thus be unusable for spells.

"It'll be fine. I'm using less volatile runes this time and only three of
them instead of seven." He said with more confidence than he honestly
felt.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

After coming home for the summer, Harry had reserached how much
correlation there was between muggle and wizarding knowledge of Norse
runes.

To his surprise, it was identical.

This had emboldened him with the idea to use symbols that were completely
foreign to the knowledge of British wizards.
He had always intended to hide his mind with a rune, and his original
idea had been to use the Japanese kanji for Void to do it.

After what had happened with his first rune set, he'd decided that
something else would probably be better. He was just a bit nervous about
the possibility of turning himself into a mindless vegetable if he carved
Void into his forehead.

In the end he had decided to use a completely fictional set of runes.


Professor Babbling had warned him about making up random squiggles and
assigning them meaning himself, but he wasn't making these up himself.

Just because these runes happened to belong to the Avariel, a fictional


race of winged elves from the Forgotten Realms, it didn't make them
meaningless.

Theoretically.

"Da'Roir."

Remembrance. Memory. The Strength of Stones.

A rune that looked like a par of stylized mirrored J's with a another
stylized bar connecting them just beneath the top. It would improve his
memory and bolster his willpower to be as immovable as rock.

The ritual knife carved the rune into the back of his head, scraping
across his skull as it cut through hair and flesh.

When it was finished and his magic flowed into the new rune, he felt a
burst of memory.

A thin and pale abomination of a man with red eyes. His mother begging
for his life, offering hers in exchange. The specifics written in her own
blood and hidden under the carpet. Her life for his, willingly given. The
greatest sacrifice. The green flash of a killing curse. Voldemort
destroyed in the backlash as he tried to violate the blood contract that
he had unknowingly agreed to when he killed his mother.

Harry gasped for air as the short but intense memory played out. Tears
gathered in his eyes that had nothing to do with the pain throbbing in
the back of his head. He could remember his mother, he knew her voice and
face. Knew that she had given everything to protect him.

A few more hazy memories came from the fog of infancy.

His father, a messy haired man with glasses. More carefree than his
mother but with the same faintly grim air about him.

Another, more playful man with a barking laugh that sometimes transformed
into a big black dog the way that McGonagall could transform into a cat
and let him ride on his back. Sirius.
A very short man with grubby skin and watery eyes. Peter.

Sirius finding him in the wreckage, giving him to Hagrid. The half-giant
delivering him to Dumbledore and Dumbledore in turn dropping him off on
the Dursleys doorstep. Petunia's attempts to treat him like family but
her demeanor steadily souring as he continued to display accidental
magic.

It took him nearly an hour to calm his emotions enough to continue the
ritual.

"Arhain."

Stealth. Secrets. Shadows. The Dark of Night.

A stylized cross, with the horizontal line curling in opposing directions


at both ends. Carved just under his right collarbone.

A rune to hide his other runes, showing others only the unmarked flesh
they expected to see, lightning bolt scar not included. The same effect
as an exceptionally powerful Notice-Me-Not charm that could not be
dispelled or pierced without his permission.

"Aul'El."

That Which Cannot be Known or Comprehended.

It looked like a stylized letter 'A', but with the connecting line
looping back on the left side. The last rune in the set of three, carved
into the middle of his forehead.

It would not build barriers around his mind in the way of Occlumency.
Rather, it would make it utterly impossible for anyone but him to
understand his thoughts and memories. Any legilimancer that tried to
invade his mind would gain nothing but confusion.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry settled into his seat on the Hogwarts Express and pulled a book
from his Bag of Holding.

He expected that his second year at Hogwarts would be more eventful than
his first. There was the unknown plot that Dobby had warned him off, as
well as his continued study of magic.

Perhaps the most difficult thing would be his attempts to make a friend.
He honestly had no idea how to go about doing that. Initiating social
contact was most definitely not one of his strengths. Perhaps his
housemates will have forgotten some of his admittedly rude responses to
their initial attempts to talk to him and try again? One could only hope.

After a lot of thinking, he could admit to himself that he may


have...overreacted a bit to their fixation on his fame. Most of them had
no doubt been brought up hearing ridiculous stories about the Boy-Who-
Lived. It wasn't their fault that their parents had no sense of
objectivity and kept filling their heads with nonsense. He would have to
try not to be so snappish this year if it happened again.

He wondered how his runes would affect his temper. He hadn't had the
opportunity to find out just yet.

The powerful surges of desire every time he saw a pretty woman still
occurred, but he'd learned to control the effects to some extent, or at
least conceal them.

He never thought he'd be glad for the silly tailoring of the Hogwarts
robes, but he was. They did a far better job of hiding erections than
just pants. If not for the robes, he was quite sure that he would have
died of embarrassment in his Astronomy classes. Professor Sinistra would
have inevitably noticed his persistent little issue, as she often had to
get quite close to students to help adjust their telescopes and she was a
beautiful woman.

Still, for all the grief that his rune enhanced hormones promised to give
him, he was happy with the results. He'd already heard some comments
about how he was growing like a weed and it had been barely over a month
since the ritual. For a boy who had always been on the short side, that
was well worth the discomfort.

He'd wanted to do some more rituals, but he had to bow to the wisdom of
his grandparents(or that of their portraits at any rate) and the
mothering of Teeny. Overdoing it was probably not a good idea. For all
his initial apprehension about going through with it, he now found
himself almost eager to do another. Yes, it was painful. Very painful
even. But the pain soon faded into memory and the runes stayed forever.

Well, there would be plenty of downtime from rituals while he was at


Hogwarts. He somehow doubted that the staff would look the other way if
they learned that a student was practicing ritualistic self-
scarrification. Too many eyes at the school to risk it.

No matter though, there were plenty of other things to learn.

Unfortunately, he was almost sure that DADA would continue to be a


disappointment. He'd been initially excited to hear that a hero of sorts
had taken the post, but that excitement had guttered out when he'd
skimmed over the books that the man had assigned.

For one thing, every single one of them read like a novel rather than an
instructional text. Even worse, they were filled with nonsense and
completely pointless information. The man claimed to have briefly fought
a werewolf barehanded in one of those books for example.

Now, Harry didn't know too much about what a real werewolf was like, but
if they bore the slightest resemblance to the werewolves of muggle
fiction, then trying to fight them up close and unarmed for any length of
time was a great way to die messily. You'd need to be a real mountain of
a man in thick armor and a nice big sword to survive a melee fight with
the beasts. Judging by the picture he'd seen of Gilderoy Lockhart, he
was...not.

He could be wrong of course, because he as previously noted didn't know


much about what real werewolves were like. They could be pushovers for
all he knew.

He rather doubted it though.

The door to the cabin opened, revealing a blonde girl with big blue eyes.

"Hello." She said dreamily, stepped inside and took a seat.

"Hello." Harry replied, too bemused by the bold entrance to be annoyed.


Well, she hadn't stopped to gawk at his scar, so he would call it a win.

"I'm Luna Lovegood." She introduced herself in the same dreamy tone.

"Harry Potter." He returned, feeling absurdly pleased when she didn't


really react to the name.

"Are we going to be friends? Daddy told me I would make friends."

That was easy. Harry thought to himself in muted shock. He'd spent half
the summer debating with himself if trying to make friends with someone
was worth the initial awkwardness, only for this rather spacey looking
girl to just go ahead and ask him like it was nothing.

"Errr, sure?" He answered uncertainly. There was definitely something a


bit off about this girl.

"Are you okay?" Luna asked with a suddenly concerned tone. "You sound
like you have wrackspurts."

"What's a wrackspurt?" Harry asked in bewilderment.

"They're invisible creatures that float in through your ears and make
your brain go fuzzy." She informed him with authority.

"But if they're invisible, then how can you see them?" Harry asked
sceptically.

"You don't see them silly, that's what invisible means." Luna chided,
making Harry blink at her logic.

"Then how do you know that they're there?"

"You have to feel them." She explained.

"And what do they feel like?" He pressed, now determined to get to the
bottom of this.

"Like fuzzy brains and jumbled thoughts."


Harry opened his mouth to ask another question and then closed it as a
sudden realization hit him.

"These wrackspurts...they wouldn't happen to cause confusion would they?"

"They very well might." Luna agreed.

"So you were basically just asking me if I was confused earlier?"

"No, I was wondering if you had wrackspurts."

Harry gaped at her for a moment, wondering if he was being mocked. That
dreamy expression of hers made for a surprisingly good poker face.

"Oh, the wrackspurts are back!"

He couldn't help cracking a smile at that. Well, he'd avoided contact


with the normal people, so he supposed it was only natural that he'd end
up making friends with the oddball.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The two continued to chat until the train started moving. Harry
discovered that Luna was surprisingly easy to talk despite the occasional
off color comment she made. He already liked her more than anyone he'd
met in the Wizarding World so far.

Their interesting and sometimes strange conversation was interrupted by


the cabin door opening again, this time revealing a redheaded girl with
freckles that had a distinctly Weasley look to her.

"H-hi." She said shyly, her pale face steadily moving to match her hair
in color. "Can I, um, sit here?"

"Hello Ginny." Luna said in the same vaguely dreamy tone that seemed to
be her normal speaking voice.

"You two know each other?" Harry asked with raised eyebrows.

"We used to be friends." Luna elaborated, causing Ginny to shuffle in


place guiltily.

"Come in then, I guess." Harry said, not sure if it was a good idea but
also not wanting to tell her to go away since Luna didn't seem to mind.

Ginny quickly did so, sitting in a corner and looking as if she was
trying to mimic the powers of a chameleon.

"I'm Harry Potter." Harry introduced himself.

"I know!" Ginny blurted out and immediately flushed scarlet. "I mean, I'm
Ginny. Ginny Weasley."
Harry tried not to get too annoyed by her behavior and returned to his
conversation with Luna. Ginny was mostly silent and just did a lot of
glancing and blushing.

She was also very jealous of her former friend for the easy conversation
she had with the Boy-Who-Lived.

Her mother had told her that Harry Potter hadn't made any friends at
Hogwarts the previous year and that it would be nice of her if she could
become one for the obviously lonely boy.

Her mother's words had been like a dream come true for Ginny, who had
grown up on stories of the Boy-Who-Lived. Becoming his friend would be
amazing.

And now here she was, in the same cabin with him as they rode to
Hogwarts, and she was barely able to get a few words out. She wanted to
talk to him too, but she'd already embarrassed herself so much and didn't
want to make it any worse.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Hanging around with Weasleys again, Potter? The girl might at least be
useful as breeding stock, I suppose." Malfoy sneered as he opened the
door about an hour later.

Harry felt a surge of potent anger the like of which he hadn't felt in
years. The runes on his back prickled, Uruz in particular.

Without really thinking too much, he stood up and shoved the mouthy blond
with as much force as he could muster.

Malfoy went sprawling into a painful heap with his two juvenile guard
trolls, shouting something about his father hearing of this.

Harry wasn't listening though. It was with monumental effort that he


managed to resist the urge to launch a kick or two at the trio of downed
idiots. He slammed the cabin door shut instead, drew his wand and put a
locking charm on it.

"T-thanks." Ginny said quietly, a shy but dazzling smile on her face. The
Boy-Who-Lived had protected her honor, just like in the stories!

Harry simply nodded and sat down. He hadn't done it for her. He didn't
know her well enough to really be outraged on her behalf aside from the
reaction that any decent person would have to unwarranted insults.

Now that he'd cooled down a bit, he could think about what had happened
logically and knew that he'd overreacted. He somehow doubted that Malfoy
even properly understood what he'd said. In a society without internet
access, twelve year olds generally did not learn enough about the birds
and the bees to understand the concept of 'breeding stock'. It was
possible that the boy's parents had taught him about it, but more than
likely he was simply repeating what his father or mother had said and
assuming that it was an insult.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry stared in fascination at the skeletal winged horses harnessed to


the carriages that would take them to the castle. He didn't recall seeing
those the previous year, though he had admittedly not paid much attention
in this direction either.

"Do you know what those horses are?" He asked of a passing Su Li, hoping
that the girl knew something he didn't. He wished Luna was here. Strange
creatures seemed to be a specialty of hers.

"What horses?" She questioned back, puzzled.

"They're called thestrals, you can only see them if you've seen someone
die." A passing upper year Hufflepuff told them, giving Harry a look of
sympathy as he did so.

Harry might have been a bit irritated by that look if his memory didn't
flash back to the death of his mother at the words. Perhaps unlocking
that old memory was allowing him to see them now?

What a strangely specific form of invisibility.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Weasley, Ginevra!"

Ginny hurried over to the stool with the Sorting Hat and put on the
ancient magical headwear, eager to get sorted. She could already see Luna
and Harry sitting together at the Ravenclaw table and desperately wanted
to join them.

Ravenclaw eh? You are much better suited to Gryffindor. The hat said.

But I want to be with Harry. Ginny thought back stubbornly. Her mother
had asked her to become his friend and that would be much easier if she
was in the same house. She may not have said much to him yet, but she
liked what she'd seen of him so far and he had defended her from that
prat Malfoy and his insults.

The hat tried to dissuade her a few more times, but Ginny was stubborn
and insisted on going to Ravenclaw.

A little known thing about the Sorting Hat was that it didn't so much
sort as it helped to guide the children to the house that fit them best.
Most children had little opinion on where they wanted to go, but some of
them did and went against the recommendations it gave.

Hermione Granger should have gone to Ravenclaw, but her idolization of


Dumbledore had her insisting on Gryffindor despite the advice of the
Sorting hat.
In an ironic twist, Ginny did the opposite.

"RAVENCLAW!"

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Over at the Gryffindor table, four Weasleys stared with slack jaws as
their little sister went to the table of blue and bronze. They knew that
their firecracker of a sister was not nearly bookish enough to go to
Ravenclaw. If there had ever been a Gryffindor Weasley, it was Ginny, so
it took no effort to assume that Harry Potter was somehow the cause of
the strange sorting given that she immediately sat down next to him.

It didn't mean much to Percy, who merely sniffed at the break in the
Weasley tradition of being sorted into Gryffindor.

Fred and George hadn't really paid much attention to Harry Potter so far,
but his association with their favorite little sister merited a stern
talk about his intentions with ickle Gin-Gin. And a great deal of
teasing. And possibly pranks, but that was par for the course.

Ron was the most confused of the lot, as this event did not at all
compute with his view of the world. Weasleys went to Gryffindor, that was
simply the way of things. How could Ginny be a Ravenclaw?

The time since Halloween and Hermione's death had been hard on Ron. He
knew that he shared at least partial responsibility for the death of his
housemate.

In truth, he had barely scraped through first year. His usual lack of
academic ability coupled with the guilt he'd been feeling causing his
normally poor grades to plummet to terrible. It took the help of all
three of his older brothers to get his grades to the point where he
didn't need to repeat his first year.

His mother had not been happy, but had also tried not to be too harsh
with him, knowing the cause of his poor performance. Some of it at least.

He'd mostly managed to put Hermione's death behind him, but he was much
more careful with his words now.

He would go talk to Ginny later.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Albus Dumbledore had merely blinked at the unexpected sorting. A Weasley


in Ravenclaw? How novel.

Then he saw Harry Potter sitting next to young Ginny and Luna Lovegood
and actually talking to someone his age!
He smiled. It may not be exactly what he'd planned when he'd spoken to
Molly earlier in the summer, but plans could sometimes go awry in good
ways too.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry did his best to ignore the discomfort caused by the odd looks he
was getting from the other Ravenclaws. No doubt they were wondering about
his abnormal friendliness with Luna.

Well, Ginny was here too he supposed.

He would honnestly have prefered if she had gone to Gryffindor like her
brothers. The constant blushing and shy glances she'd been giving him the
entire train ride had made for a rather awkward experience.

Only the memory of his resolution not to judge as quickly as he had with
Hermione stopped him from alienating her right off the bat. The obvious
crush she had on him was more than a little annoying and was not returned
in the slightest. He had enough problems keeping his eyes off the
prettier upper year girls without having to deal with this too.

Luna was a godsend in that regard, her quirky conversation style keeping
him well distracted from wondering about the kind of bodies those
unflattering robes were hiding. Mostly.

Well, he'd give Ginny a chance to grow out of this rather than pushing
her away immediately. Who knows, she might actually find that she didn't
like the real him too much.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Yes, I killed Dobby. MUAHAHAHAHAH.

I wonder if this is what George R. R. Martin feels like?

But on a more serious note, Dobby is dead because I didn't want to have a
12 year old outsmarting a professional slippery bastard like Lucius.
Events in canon notwithstanding (what the hell was Dobby doing in
Hogwarts at the time anyway?).

Chapter 4

I'm sure there are a bunch of reviews that I should have replied to in
the fast week or so, but the website was being a bit screwy. For some
reason it kept claiming that any reviews posted after December 30th
didn't exist and couldn't be replied to. Didn't even display them in the
review page. Weird stuff, but it seems to have passed now.
Many thanks to Joe Lawyer for his beta-ing xD.

Anyway, here goes chapter 4. Enjoy.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The Weasley twins made a beeline for the Ravenclaw table, where they
could see Harry and Luna eating breakfast. Apparently, getting sorted
into the house of eagles had not made Ginny a morning person.

"Greetings."

"Salutations."

"Good morning."

"Hello."

"I don't believe we've been introduced."

"I'm Fred-"

"-handsome fellow isn't he? And I'm George."

"Together we are the amazing,"

"the stupendous,"

"the incadescent-"

"-since when do you know that word, my brother?"

"Since yesterday, and now you've ruined the flow."

"Oh no!"

"Anyway, we are...The Weasley Twins!"

Harry looked at them blandly over the mountain of food piled on his
plate, not entirely sure what to make of this introduction.

"Hi." He said and went back to stuffing his face. He always woke up with
a monster appetite these days.

"I say, I don't think even ickle Ronniekins can eat that much."

"And he can eat a lot indeed."

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." Harry justified,


despite having been one of those people who didn't eat much in the
mornings before the runes. "Is there something I can help you with?"

"Indeed you can."


"You see Harry, we are fairly certain that Ginny only went to Ravenclaw
because of you."

"In light of this, we would like to know-"

"-what your intentions are towards our little sister." They twins
finished in unison, grinning down at him evilly.

"Intentions?" Harry echoed. He understood their meaning perfectly well,


but he was friggin' twelve and Ginny was eleven. Sure, he had apparently
done a number on his puberty with that ritual, but they didn't know that.
Moreover, his hormones seemed to be targeting the more developed girls
exclusively, for which he was thankful. It meant that he would only have
trouble keeping his eyes from wandering during mealtimes, free periods
and such and not during classes, with the notable exception of professor
Sinistra.

Luna, who had thus far contented herself with silently making the perfect
jam spread on her bread, decided to enlighten her friend.

"They want to know if you're going to put your penis in Ginny's vagina."
She said serenely, bringing her bread to eye level to make sure that the
jam was perfect.

Harry spat out the half-masticated morsel of food currently in his mouth,
coughing violently as his body protested him nearly sending solids into
his lungs.

Though shocked as badly as Harry by Luna's words, the Weasley twins had
the advantage of not eating at the time and were able to recover faster.

"Aren't you a bit young to know about that?" Fred asked, somewhat
hypocritically it must be said. Although they hadn't truthfully expected
Harry to catch on to their insinuation and were just going to tease him.

"I watched daddy put his penis in mummy's vagina, and in her mouth, and
her bum. It looked fun and I asked if I could play too, but mummy
explained that it was a grown-up game and that I would know when I was
old enough to play. I wanted to be good at it, so I started reading
mummy's books and peeping on them when they played." Luna explained with
a dreamy smile, taking a rapturous bite of her perfectly prepared slice
of bread.

The three males present exchanged akward looks as the silence stretched
on, heavy and oppressive with only the sound of Luna's chewing to break
it. Well, that and the general noise of people having breakfast in the
Great Hall. The twins were in fourth year now and old enough to
understand how utterly strange Luna's statement was, while Harry's
internet exposure took care of any ignorance on his part. In fact, the
only one who seemed oblivious to the reality of the situation was Luna
herself.

"We've got a, uh..."


"...a prank!"

"Yes! A prank to plan."

"Talk to you later Harrykins."

"Yes, much later."

"It sure was nice of the twins to come and introduce themselves to you
like that." Luna commented.

"Uh...yeah." Harry replied weakly, having the dual problem of feeling


incredibly awkward and pointlessly aroused by the imagery that Luna's
words had brought to mind. He recalled thinking yesterday that Luna was a
great distraction from his out of control hormones, but now he was
wondering if she wasn't going to make it worse.

His meal was once again interrupted when he saw a smaller-than-average


first year Gryffindor coming at him with a big smile and a very antique
looking camera.

"Hi Harry! I'm-I'm Colin Creevey." The boy said breathlessly, edging
closer tentatively. "I'm in Gryffindor. Would you...would it be alright
if I...can I take a picture?" He finally managed, raising the camera
hopefully.

"No, It wouldn't be alright." Harry replied irritably, feeling his runes


prickling.

"Please." Colin begged. "It's to prove that I've met you. I know all
about you. Everyone's told me. About how you survived when You-Know-Who
tried to kill you and how he disappeared and everything and how you've
still got a lightning scar on your forehead" He stared unabashedly at
Harry's scar when he said this. "and a boy in my dormitory said if I
develop the film in the right potion, the pictures'll move!" Colin drew a
great shuddering breath of excitement and continued on. "It's amazing
here, isn't it? I never knew all the odd stuff I could do was magic till
I got the letter from Hogwarts. My dad's a milkman, he couldn't believe
it either. So I'm taking loads of pictures to send home to him. And it'd
be really good if I had one of you." He looked imploringly at Harry.
"Maybe your friend could take it and I could stand next to you? And then,
could you sign it?"

Harry's blood pressure had steadily been rising as the younger boy
continued his unsolicited word vomit. Intellectually, he knew that Colin
was just excited about magic and probably had a thing for photography. He
was in all likelihood just out to get a picture of the famous Harry
Potter that he'd read about so that he could brag to his parents.

Harry was far too busy trying to control the suddenl swell of
disproportionate rage that the pushy and inconsiderate brat had inspired
in him to think of that though. Where did the annoying little shit get
off asking for photos?! And to sign them too?! Even worse, Colin had
raised his voice in his desperate plea to get Harry to reconsider and
attracted a lot of attention, which he had never been comfortable with
and was now serving to make him even more angry.

When Colin was done talking he looked back at Harry's eyes and blanched
at the furious glare being directed at him. He was about to stutter out
an apology and vacate the area when a third party decided to make it
worse.

"Signed photos? You're giving out signed photos, Potter?" Malfoy asked
scathingly, being deliberately loud enough for the entire Great Hall to
hear. "Everyone line up! Harry Potter is giving out signed photos!"

Colin was by this point wishing that he'd never approached his hero, or
at least that he'd done it somewhere more private. He knew that this
situation was his fault, so he tried to help.

"You're just jealous."

Eleven year olds did not generally make good problem solvers, alas.

"Jealous?" Malfoy sneered. "Why would I be jealous of an ugly scar across


my-AAAH!"

Malfoy's scathing retort turned into a scream as Harry's self-control


snapped and he hurled a heavy golden goblet at the blond's face, nearly
breaking his nose.

The scream snapped Harry out of the angry fog, but he knew that it wasn't
gone yet. He pushed away from the table and shouldered past a stunned
Colin, barely noticing as he nearly knocked the smaller boy to the
ground.

"Harry!" an deeper, adult voice called loudly in what was probably


supposed to be a friendly tone, a hand clamping down on his shoulder.

The plates of food trembled, some of them having their contents


inexplicably explode.

"You can't just-AAAAH!"

Whatever advice Gilderoy Lockhart had been about to impart would forever
remain unheard as the action renewed Harry's fury and caused him to stab
a fork into the man's hand. He hadn't even registered that he was still
clutching a fork.

The entire Great Hall watched in stunned silence as the Boy-Who-Lived


stomped out, rage written in every movement.

"Oh dear, he blew up my jam." Luna pouted, wiping a bit of the raspberry
mess from her face and leaving the table. If there was no more jam to be
had, then she might as well go help her friend calm down.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Harry hadn't gone very far, only to the first empty hallway.

He was leaning on the wall and taking deep breaths, trying to ignore the
incessant prickling of his runes, when Luna found him.

The sight of her with raspberry jam splattered all over her face put a
crack in his anger and he couldn't help laughing at her pout.

"You blew it all over my face Harry." She chided. "It was supposed to go
in my mouth."

Harry continued to laugh breathlessly as his anger drained away,


wondering if Luna was deliberately using innuendo or if she was honestly
clueless.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry had no illusions that he would be getting away with what he'd done
scot free, so the summons by Dumbledore came as no surprise.

"I hope you realize that your actions in the Great Hall today were
unacceptable, Harry." The headmaster said gravely, staring into the boy's
green eyes.

He attempted a brief touch of legilimency, but received only a confusing


kaleidoscope of impressions that made no sense to him. It was remarkably
similar to what a person experienced if they ever found themselves in a
fidelius protected location without knowing the secret. What had happened
to the boy over the summer to change his mind in this way? How did he
even function?

Harry felt Aul'El prickle on his forehead and saw the flicker of
confusion on Dumbledore's face. He had to quickly clamp down on the surge
of anger it made him feel. He'd already suspected that the headmaster
made a habit of reading minds when he could get away with it. It made the
advice of his grandparents all the more relevant. Dumbledore was not to
be trusted.

"Yes sir." He answered.

He was finding it hard to regret what he'd done to Malfoy and Lockhart,
but he knew that he couldn't keep throwing goblets or stabbing with forks
every time he got angry. He had to find a way to control himself. Da'Roir
would obviously only do so much to help him in that regard. In fact, it
was doing less than he had hoped. His memory was much improved, but his
emotions were far from under control.

Occlumency was supposed to help with controlling one's emotions, so maybe


it was time to start learning that? He'd neglected to try it so far
because the book said that it took a long time and using a rune seemed so
much easier.

"Good," Dumbledore said with a nod, deciding not to mention the multitude
of points that Ravenclaw had lost over this incident since he knew that
the boy didn't care about the house cup. "then you will not object to
having detention with Filch for a week or to making a public apology to
Mr. Malfoy and professor Lockhart."

Harry's face twisted in anger. The detention he'd expected and wasn't
going to object to even if it would cut into his personal time, but
publically apologizing to those two blowhards?

"Are they going to apologize to me?" He asked back.

Dumbledore blinked at the cold tone, wondering where all this anger was
coming from. Harry hadn't been nearly this difficult the previous year.

"Whatever for, Harry? You were the one who assaulted them."

"I didn't do it for fun." Harry retorted sarcastically. "Malfoy was


deliberately provoking me and Lockhart grabbed me."

"Surely you realize that you cannot attack fellow students over
schoolyard teasing, or attack a professor simply for placing his hand on
your shoulder?" Dumbledore asked pointedly.

Harry did know that, but that didn't mean that he was going to apologize
for it. "I'm not going to apologize for attacking them if they don't
apologize for what they did."

"Harry, I thought you were more mature than this." Dumbledore rebuked,
his entire manner radiating disappointment.

"It's hard to be mature when you're dealing with idiots." Harry retorted,
not caring one whit about the old man's disappointment at this point.
"Either everyone apologizes, or nobody does."

Harry knew in a distant sort of way that he was being more than a bit
unreasonable here. Though Draco was undeniably a tragic waste of air, he
hadn't done anything worse than countless other children who thought that
getting someone else in trouble was fun. Certainly nothing to deserve
getting a metal goblet to the face. Lockhart was a similar case, except
that in his case it was a fork stabbing. He could only thank his lucky
stars that it hadn't been Snape or McGonagall. Lockhart was quickly
shaping out to be comic relief and was therefore inconsequential.

Unfortunately, he was having to deal with his rune enhanced temper and
digging his heels in seemed like a perfectly fine thing to do.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

While Harry did briefly attain legendary status among the Gryffindors for
managing to toss a goblet at Malfoy, stab a professor and get a lengthy
detention on his first day back in Hogwarts, that was no comfort to him
when he had to spend several hours every day doing manual labor with
Filch.
He could vaguely recall needing to do age inappropriate chores at the
Dursleys, but it had been a long time since he'd done any kind of mind
numbingly repetitive physical labor. The whole experience was made worse
because Filch kept pontificating on the kind of punishments he'd like to
use on students.

Seriously, how did a man that wanted to use a cat o' nine tails with
barbed metal tips on children work in a school?

The issue of the public apology had stalled since nobody actually wanted
to do it and Harry was quite sure that whatever forbearance Snape had
found for him last year had now evaporated. The Potions master had spent
a large portion of the previous year looking at him as if he was a
puzzle, but now he'd reverted to back to his full nastiness.

Harry suspected that he had given some pointers to Filch on how to make
detention more unpleasant. At least it was the last day. The only reason
his temper wasn't getting away from him again was because he'd expected
it to happen and resigned himself to it. He definitely needed to get a
handle on that problem though, and fast.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Uh, Harry?" Ginny started uncertainly.

"Yes?" The boy in question asked, not looking up from his book.

"Weren't you supposed to be in detention?"

"Why would I be in detention?"

"Because you called professor Lockhart a..." Ginny paused for a moment,
blushing. "...a bucket of warm piss and stomped out of his classroom?"

"I did not." Harry protested, his own face going red. This new temper of
his was starting to become a serious problem. "I said that he's about as
qualified to teach as a bucket of warm piss."

"Okay, but shouldn't you be in detention for that?"

"According to Lockhart, yes, but I'm not going to waste my time helping
that idiot answer his fan mail."

"Do you, um, want to go for a w-walk around the lake then?" Ginny
stuttered out, her previous blush returning with a vengeance.

"I have homework to do." Harry replied, going back to his book.

"O-oh, maybe some other time then!" She said in a rush and ran off,
hiding her crestfallen expression.

Harry released an aggravated sigh. Why oh why couldn't she tell that he
was simply not interested?
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Come ...come to me...Let me rip you...Let me tear you...Let me kill


you..."

Harry paused on his way back to the Ravenclaw tower from one of his late
night excursions to the Restricted Section, a chill going down his spine
at the malicious voice.

"Hello?" He asked softly.

There was no answer and it was a much disturbed Harry Potter that
returned to his room.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Are you sure you weren't just hearing things?" Ginny asked sceptically
the next day, after being told about the voice.

Harry paused for a moment to consider that. It was not entirely


impossible that he might have been sleepy and imagined it, but he was
getting that feeling of foreshadowing for plot related information over
this. It was certainly ominous enough.

"No, I'm sure it was another voice and I definitely wasn't imagining it."

"Don't worry about it Harry, I hear voices all the time." Luna added
reassuringly. "If your voice comes back, we could introduce it to my
voices and they could be friends."

"It didn't sound like the type of voice that would have friends." Harry
replied, amused.

Luna looked genuinely upset by this. "Oh. Maybe it's just lonely?"

"Luna, this is serious!" Ginny said with a scowl. She hadn't been
sleeping well lately and wasn't in the mood for Luna's games.

"I know." Luna agreed wholeheartedly. "Loneliness is a terrible thing."

Ginny looked like she wanted to hit something.

"I'll be sure to try befriending the voice if I hear it again." Harry


interjected, still amused. "If it still wants to kill people after that,
I can point it at Malfoy and Lockhart."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Hogwarts staff room, September 30th.

A new year had arrived, meaning another start-of-year meeting between the
headmaster and the four heads of house.
Most of the relevant topics ranging from school brooms to the new first
years had already been discussed, leaving only things of special
importance.

"Albus, you really must do something about Lockhart. The man is a


menace." McGonagall said in exasperation.

"I would like nothing more, Minerva." Dumbledore replied with a sigh.
"Unfortunately, I am out of options. There is literally nobody to replace
him with."

"There is something of a minor revolt brewing among my house because of


him." Flitwick added, a touch amused. "Apparently, Mr. Potter's dramatic
exit and refusal to attend any more of the man's classes has planted the
idea in many of their heads that they would be better off not attending
the class at all. Ms. Lovegood and Weasley have already stopped and are
using Mr. Potter's notes from last year to learn the material."

Snape made a derisive snort. His opinion on Harry Potter had taken a
sharp dive since the start of the year when the boy had thrown his temper
tantrum. Oh, the boy was certainly nothing like his father, but he was
still a brat.

"Were you not going to convince him to attend the DADA lessons again?"
Dumbledore asked.

"I tried, but he told me that he may not be able to stop himself from
another stabbing if he had to answer one more question about Lockhart's
favorite color." Flitwick answered. "Sadly, I cannot blame him."

This time it was Sprout and McGonagall who snorted. They couldn't blame
him either. There was a reason why the boy had gotten off so lightly,
mostly because all the professors had been silently gleeful at seeing
Lockhart dance around with a fork sticking out of his hand. Even Poppy
had been rougher than strictly necessary when she removed it.

"Have any of you noticed that Harry seems to be rather...angry this


year?" Dumbledore asked, deciding not to pursue the issue of DADA
attendance. Lockhart would serve as a placeholder professor just as well
whether he had any students to teach or not, which was really the only
thing that had ever been expected of him.

"Yes, it's the strangest thing really." Sprout said. "I remember him as
being very even tempered last year, but I've seen him visibly clamp down
on his anger several times in the past month."

Flitwick and McGonagall offered their own observations, which were just
more of the same. Harry was occasionaly exhibiting anger management
issues.

Snape let the other three heads of house debate the matter for a few
minutes with the headmaster before he simply couldn't tolerate their
blindness anymore.
"Has it perhaps escaped your attention that there is more going on with
the boy than merely a few angry outbursts?" He asked cuttingly.

What do you mean, Severus?" Dumbledore asked.

"He has been ogling the older girls when he thinks that nobody is
looking."

"Surely not...he's only twelve!" McGonagall said.

"An early bloomer then?" Dumbledore opined with a smile. "He has been
having a bit of a growth spurt recently."

Severus' observation came as no small comfort for the old wizard. He had
feared that this was a result of learning the prophecy, so the
possibility of it being merely growing pains was a great relief. Powerful
wizards often made for volatile teenagers. Dumbledore could well remember
his own explosive temper when he had been growing up. He had not truly
calmed down until Ariana's death had shown him the danger of rash actions
done in anger.

"It seems a bit extreme to be merely puberty." Sprout said dubiously. Her
Hufflepuffs were a generally calm sort.

"You wouldn't be saying that if James Potter had been in your house."
McGonagall countered, vividly recalling the truly ridiculous amount of
trouble that James and Sirius had been once puberty hit them.

"Or Lily." Flitwick chuckled. While the redhead had not shown overt
interest in boys through her Hogwarts years, her temper had been a
fearsome thing.

Dumbledore twinkled.

Snape sneered at the mention of his childhood nemesis and brooded at the
mention of his lost love.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

It was Halloween and Harry was once again shunning the feast in the Great
Hall by eating in the kitchens, but this time he had company.

"I wonder if the heliopaths in the Ministry celebrate Halloween." Luna


mused, gorging herself on pudding.

"Maybe." Harry replied idly as he continued to eat. He was pretty sure


that heliopaths didn't exist, but why argue about it? Better to just
change the subject. "What was up with Ginny today? She seemed kind of
worn out."

"Oh, she was just upset that you wouldn't go to the feast with her." Luna
told him airily. The redhead kept on trying to get Harry romantically
interested in her no matter how many times Luna told her that Ginny's
larval bizzwhizzlers simply weren't catching the attention of Harry's
creeping lickbiggles.

Harry grumbled a bit at that. The redhead's ongoing crush had transformed
from silent blushing to the occasional stuttering invitation to do this
or that thing that he had no interest in. She was alright most of the
time, but he had to struggle not to snap at her whenever she got it into
her head to make another attempt at asking him out.

"...rip...tear...kill..."

Harry's head snapped as the familiar malicious hiss reached his ears.

"I can hear that voice again!" He said.

"Let's go find it and make it it our friend!" Luna proclaimed, grabbing


some more pudding for the road.

The two Ravenclaws tore out of the kitchen, following what vague
directions Harry could give.

"...so hungry...for so long..."

"It's moving up!" He said.

"What is it saying?" Luna asked.

"Something about being hungry."

"Do you think it likes pudding?"

Harry snorted. It didn't seem very likely, given how homicidal the voice
sounded.

He suddenly stopped at that thought, abruptly realizing that chasing


after a murderous disembodied voice may not be the wisest course of
action.

"Why are you stopping, Harry? Our new friend is getting away!" Luna
called, running ahead.

"...kill...time to kill..."

"Luna!" Harry yelled and started running again, though this time it was
with the intent of stopping her from potentially getting herself killed.

They sprinted right past the ground floor and further up, onto the second
floor.

"...blood...I SMELL BLOOD!"

"Oh, I guess Mrs. Norris found the voice before we did." Luna said
plainly, staring at the petrified form of the much disliked cat that was
currently hanging from a torch bracket by her tail.
On the wall, a message was daubed in foot high letters in something that
looked suspiciously like blood.

THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED, ENEMIES OF THE HEIR BEWARE.

"Luna, I think we might want to get out of here." Harry said nervously,
realizing how suspicious this would look to any passerby.

Naturally, The Halloween feast just happened to have ended a short while
earlier, flooding the corridor with students. Harry and Luna quickly
found themselves surrounded and subjected to a lot of pointing and
whispering.

"Enemies of the Heir beware! You'll be next mudbloods!" The distinct


voice of Draco Malfoy broke through, they blond Slytherin himself having
pushed his way to the front.

Filch was the next arrival, his mood quickly turning murderous upon
seeing his beloved cat petrified. He was just about to attempt strangling
Harry when Dumbledore showed up.

"Hello headmaster." Luna greeted cheerfully. "Did you hear the voices
too?"

"Voices?" Dumbledore questioned.

"Harry heard a voice and we chased it up here." Luna explained, not


seeing Harry's frantic signaling to stop.

"I think both of you had better come with me." The old wizard said after
a moment.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Now Harry, would you care to tell me what your friend meant by
'voices'?" Dumbledore asked once they were all settled in his office.

Harry shifted uncomfortably, not wanting to talk about it. Unfortunately,


Luna had not really left him with the option of keeping things to
himself.

"I heard a voice moving through the school, talking about how hungry it
was and about killing something." He admitted.

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. "Have you ever heard this voice before?"

"Once, late at night." Harry replied, not mentioning the location since
he'd been breaking curfew at the time.

"From your bed in the Ravenclaw tower?" Dumbledore asked, his eyes
twinkling.
Harry nodded jerkily, fairly sure that the old wizard didn't believe him
but unwilling to just outright admit it.

"Very well, could you describe this voice to me."

"It was..." Harry paused, not sure how to describe a voice. "cold, I
guess. And it had a hiss to it."

Dumbledore's brows furrowed in thought, a suspicion growing in his mind.

"Would you like to help me test something, Harry?" He asked.

"Sure, I guess." Harry agreed cautiously.

Dumbledore nodded and took out his wand, pointing it at his desk.

"Serpentsortia."

Harry jumped at bit as a snake materialized on the desk, staring wide


eyed at the reptile.

"Try talking to it." The headmaster prompted, noticing that young Ms.
Lovegood was starting to bounce in her seat excitedly. She clearly knew
what was being implied.

Harry gave him an odd look, but did so.

"Hello."

The snake perked up and looked directly at him. "Grettings Speaker."

"It talked back." Harry said in amazement.

"You're a Parselmouth!" Luna proclaimed, just as amazed.

"A what?"

"A wizard who can speak to serpents." Dumbledore explained, vanishing the
conjured snake. "It is a rare gift that tends to pass through
bloodlines."

"Did one of my parents have it too then?" Harry asked in interest.

"No Harry, they didn't, but Voldemort did. It is possible that some of
his power was transfered to you that night." Dumbledore said, avoiding
the issue of the Horcrux that was lodged in the boy's scar.

Normally, he would not be telling this to anyone besides Harry, but he


was hoping that the shared secret would make their friendship tighter.
Giving Harry extra reasons to feel obligated to fight Voldemort was
always good.

Harry frowned at that. It sounded a bit farfetched, but who could really
say what kind of price his mother's blood contract had exacted from the
Dark Lord when he attempted to violate it? It could very well have torn
away a piece of his magic when it failed to kill him completely.

Voldemort's not-quite-death still bugged him. The only thing he knew of


that would allow an unscrupulous magic user to survive the destruction of
their body was a phylactery, but Voldemort had still been a living wizard
and not an undead Lich. Then again, he had no idea how magic of that sort
worked in the real world, or if it was even possible to make a soul jar.
He hoped it was something else. If Voldemort had made a phylactery and
was at all smart, he'd hidden it in some remote corner of the world that
nobody would ever think to look. It would make killing him for good
hellishly problematic.

"Does that mean that I was hearing a snake of some kind?" He finally
asked, focusing back on the topic at hand.

"It is possible." Dumbledore admitted with some reluctance, not wanting


the two children getting mixed up in this any further. "You had best get
back to the Ravenclaw Tower and get some rest. Also, I would urge to keep
your Parseltongue ability a secret. Voldemort has given it a bad
reputation in Britain and the other students may not look kindly upon you
for having it."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

When the two children left his office, Dumbledore began pacing in worry.

When the Chamber had first been opened half a century ago, they had never
fully resolved the mystery. Hagrid had been blamed for it, but Dumbledore
knew that the groundskeeper had not been the culprit.

Tom Riddle had always been his primary suspect, but there had been no
proof.

He had done a great deal of research on the subject of permanent


petrification, trying to figure out how it had been done.

There were potions that could do it, but forcibly administering a potion
to unwilling students or a cat would be quite a feat. Especially in the
positions they had been found in.

Dark magic was also a possibility. There were spells that would petrify
people permanently. That had in fact been the assumption that Dumbledore
had been working from. Tom Riddle had been an exceptional student and
might have been capable of it, though he had desperately hoped it wasn't
him.

There were some creatures that could petrify people, but most of them
were automatically ruled out as being unable to survive since the time of
Salazar Slytherin or because they would have left obvious markings on the
bodies.

None were snakes.


He had not considered that the creature in question might have a Killing
Gaze. He had thought that Myrtle had been an aberration in the pattern,
not that the others had merely been hideously lucky.

A quick use of his pensieve confirmed what he had already feared would be
the case. All the other petrified students from fifty years ago could
have conceivably seen only a reflection. Mrs. Norris was a cat and would
have likely kept her eyes on the ground and Dumbledore recalled that the
hallways had been flooded slightly. The water would have reflected the
eyes.

There was only one serpent that could have lived for a thousand years
beneath the school. It was also the only serpent with a Killing Gaze.

A basilisk. The oldest one in known history. One so old that its gaze had
become powerful enough to affect people even through indirect eye
contact, something that had never been seen before. It must be gigantic
by now.

In retrospect it was terribly obvious that Salazar Slytherin might have


bred such a beast, an observation that made Dumbledore feel foolish for
overlooking it.

But who was commanding the beast? Despite being a parselmouth himself,
Harry had an alibi that the house elves could easily verify. Not to
mention that the boy had apparently been unaware of his gift until now
and Dumbledore didn't believe that he had any reason to be loosing the
basilisk on the school to begin with.

They were obviously clever enough to freeze the portraits and take
various other precautions that would make finding them difficult. They
had even killed Hagrid's roosters, another indication of what the beast
was. Roosters were not difficult to find, but the basilisk unfortunately
was.

He hoped that he could find the Heir before he or she struck again. He
hoped that nobody would die. He hoped that it was not Voldemort's doing.
He hoped that Harry would not be targeted if it was. The boy was not
ready to face his nemesis yet.

Dumbledore kept pacing in his office under the watchful gazes of past
headmasters, too many hopes and too many worries weighing on his
shoulders to let him sleep. It was only when Fawkes returned with his
soothing phoenix song from wherever he went on these trips of his that
the old wizard was able to relax enough to get some rest.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry and Luna found themselves on the receiving end of a lot of pointing
and whispering for the next few days after that incident. Thanks to
Luna's comment about hearing voices, there was a general concensus that
they were both a bit loony.
Well, more loony. Harry had never quite fit in in no small part due to
his own actions the previous year and because he was more interested in
magic than people and Luna was...Luna.

This kind of reputation might have attracted bullies in most situations,


but they managed to avoid that scenario.

Harry was well known to be exceptionally talented with practical magic,


making him an unappealing target for people his own age and the upper
years had better things to do than pick on a second year. Not to mention
that his spectacular blow up in the Great Hall at the start of term made
people just a bit wary of his temper.

Luna would have been an appealing target for bullies on her own, but
several factors prevented that from happening. Her friendship with Harry
was one of those, but only to a point since he had little to no
interaction with the current first years aside from Ginny and Luna.

It was actually Ginny that was the main reason for the lack of people
trying to pick on Luna. The spacey blonde was not a particularly forceful
person and wouldn't have retaliated against bullies, but Ginny had grown
up with six older brothers and had no problem asserting herself. Those
very same older brothers were another reason why they were generally left
alone. Nobody wanted the Weasley twins targeting them specifically.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The school year plodded along. Classes were had, Quidditch was played,
magic was learned.

Harry focused most of his efforts on learning Occlumency, desperately


wanting to regain full control of himself. It was slow going without a
teacher, but there was nothing else for it. He'd nearly lost his temper
several times since the start of term and if the smirk that one sixth
year girl had given him, his newfound appreciation for the female form
had not gone unnoticed.

He'd also gotten some comments on his height, which was fast approaching
the territory of being abnormally tall for a twelve year old. On a
personal level, Harry was highly pleased by this. He knew that it was
going to get him some very pointed questions when he didn't stop growing,
but he would just have to deal with that as it came.

Lockhart occasionally made a nuisance of himself, but was otherwise a


non-factor. His class attendance continued to drop steadily, with a large
portion of those who stayed being starstruck girls.

The matter of the Chamber of Secrets remained a popular topic of gossip,


with increasingly outlandish theories being bandied about as a form of
entertainment. Nobody had liked Mrs. Norris, so nobody was overly
concerned about the whole thing despite Draco Malfoy's best efforts to
frighten the muggleborn students with his sneering.
Right up to the point when Colin Creevey was found petrified and things
suddenly became serious.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Poor Colin, I knew him well." Luna said mournfully.

"Did you just quote Shakespeare?" Harry asked incredulously. Since when
did wizards know anything about muggle literature?

"No, I actually knew Colin well. He came to ask me if I could get you to
take a photo with him at least once a week." Luna answered in a confused
tone. "Who's Shakespeare?"

"Where did they find him?" Ginny interjected, her face pale and
frightened.

"Fourth floor, probably looking for the entrance to Ravenclaw Tower. The
creepy little stalker." Harry grumbled. Colin's persistent hero worship
had been so annoying that he couldn't even bring himself to feel ashamed
of his relief at the boy's petrification. Maybe it would be different if
he'd been killed, but as the annoying Gryffindor would only be playing
statue for a few months, Harry was able to take joy in another's
misfortune with zero guilt.

"Do you think it'll happen again?" Ginny asked meekly, desperately hoping
to hear a denial. She still vividly remembered the blackout she'd had
during Halloween and the blood she'd found on her fingers when she came
to. She would never hurt Colin or even Mrs. Norris, but that was a pretty
suspicious situation by any stretch.

"Probably. I doubt that this 'Heir of Slytherin' character would start


something like this only to stop before any real harm was done." Harry
answered. There was also Dobby's warning to consider, which he was now
certain had pertained to current events. If only he could figure out who
Dobby's master was, then he could make a reasonable guess at the
perpetrator. He'd already asked the Hogwarts house elves and they hadn't
been able to tell him anything.

He'd briefly entertained the idea that Draco Malfoy might be the culprit,
but dismissed it quickly. Not even Draco would be stupid enough to keep
running his mouth about the Heir 'purging' the school of mudbloods if he
was responsible for this. Not to mention that it apparently needed to be
a Parselmouth, which Draco wasn't as far as anyone knew.

And people would know. The blond Slytherin would have bragged about it
far and wide the moment he learned that he was one.

Ginny gnawed at her lip in intense worry.

"Don't worry Ginny, I'm sure that Harry will be able to make friends with
the basilisk as soon as we find it." Luna tried to comfort, only making
the redhead girl pale further at the mention of the Serpent King.
It hadn't taken an exhaustive amount of research to figure out that bit
of information after the talk with Dumbledore. There really weren't that
many snakes that fit the criteria.

"I really don't think that the basilisk is looking for friends, Luna."
Harry said in exasperation, knowing that his argument would likely fall
on deaf ears. Again.

While Luna went into a lecture on the horrors of loneliness as it


pertained to millenia old snakes that contained only trace amounts of
logic, Ginny continued to gnaw at her lip.

She wasn't a Parselmouth, so she shouldn't be capable of commanding the


basilisk that was presumably lurking in the Chamber of Secrets, but she
couldn't help worrying. She'd blacked out earlier today as well, the same
as she had on Halloween.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The duelling club debacle passed with little incident save to further
demonstrate Lockhart's incompetence. Harry had been interested but done a
180 as soon as he saw who was hosting it, unknowingly circumventing a
large amount of pointless drama.

He had decided against staying at Hogwarts for Christmas this year. He


had some things he wanted to do and he couldn't do them at the castle.

Luna was also leaving, which subsequently meant that Ginny was as well
since she didn't want to stay in the castle all by herself.

The only oddity about Harry's decision to go back to his foster parents
for Christmas was the fact that he had no intention of actually seeing
his foster parents. Or even informing them that he wasn't at Hogwarts for
that matter.

Instead of getting into an expensive car and driving back to 74 Cromwell


Road from King's Cross, Harry wandered into London in search of a
library, internet caf or something else with public internet access.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Harry logged in to his account on the website where he posted his


arithmancy problems, eager to see what answers he'd gotten.

The answers were there as he had hoped, but he also had a surprising
private message from another user. Why would anyone want to talk to him
privately?

We need to talk. Contact me as soon as you receive this message.

The near demand sent a frisson of worry up Harry's spine. He was starting
to get the feeling that his idea about posting arithmancy problems on the
internet was not as clever as he'd thought it was.
I'm here. He sent simply, getting back a set of instructions not three
minutes later.

Swallowing nervously, Harry followed the instructions that led him to a


public chat room. One of those that were frequently used as examples of
where innocent young boys and girls might encounter pedophiles in fact.

Coincidentally, this did not make Harry feel any better about the
situation. Still, he was far too worried about what this might have to do
with his arithmancy to be turned away. Besides, he reasoned that as long
as he didn't give out his name or address, it would be fine.

He received a request for a private channel almost as soon as he entered


the chat room, from someone with the almost ridiculously stereotypical
username of 'xXPussyDestroyer33Xx'.

I bet you thought you were being clever by posting arithmancy problems on
the internet. The presumed man on the other end began without preamble.
You probably thought you were one-upping the wizard-raised by using
technology to solve problems beyond your own ability. Only a European
wizard could be so sheltered and judging by your vernacular I'd guess
British.

Why European? Harry wrote back, not wanting to admit that his caustic
interlocutor was right.

Well I suppose you could also have been American, but I doubt it. The
other avoided.

Why not Chinese? Harry asked, picking a country at random.

There are no more magical enclaves in China, Mao made sure of it. Came
the reply, the words somehow seeming heavier than mere text should allow.

Harry frowned. He'd never heard of anyone named Mao before. Who is Mao?

There was a long pause and Harry got the distinct feeling that he had
surprised his conversation partner.

You must be very young to not know about Mao Zedong. To summarize, he was
once a leader of China and is also responsible for the deaths of some 45-
78 million people during his reign, among them the majority of China's
magical population.

But why? Harry asked in shock.

Dictators do not like sharing power and the Chinese sorcerers were very
powerful. They had perhaps the oldest magical civilization on the planet
and were very proud of it. As they were Chinese, Mao considered them to
be beholden to him. They were outraged and mocked the man for his
stupidity, jeering as they turned him away, secure in their superiority
and their millenia of gathered magical expertise. They learned too late
that traitors, guns and strength of numbers was more than a match for
their magics.
Why would wizards turn on their own? Harry wrote back, not really knowing
what else to say. He remembered his housemate Su Li and wondered if her
parents or grandparents had been one of those who'd escaped. Or had they
been the traitors?

Why else? Because they had been scorned and derided by their own for
whatever reason. Mao's offers would have sounded very appealing to them.
It didn't take long before they were betrayed in turn.

My history books don't say anything about this.

Of course they don't. The European magicals like to ignore things they
find inconvenient. You won't hear about the same thing happening in
Russia with Stalin either. The Frost Sorcerer Cabal protected the country
for centuries, sending the Great Winter to break the back of any army
that threatened the motherland, but that was not good enough for Stalin.
He wanted to control everything and destroyed what he couldn't.

What about Japan? Harry asked next, hoping to hear that Cho Chang, the
pretty Ravenclaw one year above him, was at least a regular immigrant.

Bad luck and arrogance. Most of them were in Hiroshima and didn't believe
that the warnings the Americans gave applied to them. The nuclear fire
wasn't even slowed down by their wards.

So there aren't any wizards left in Asia at all?

There are. India was spared any similar madness, though the caste system
of magical India is far more oppressive than the mundane one and
therefore not somewhere you'd want to live unless you were born at the
top.

Harry decided to look into this 'caste' system that the other had
mentioned. He also wondered if Padma and Parvati's parents had been born
'at the bottom' and fled the country because of it.

There are a number of Japanese magical families in sworn service to their


Emperor. These generally live in the capital and avoided the bombs.
Russia and China both still have some magicals, but these are mostly
focused on keeping the mundane governments from finding the newbloods and
turning them into weapons.

I won't tell you any horror stories about the Middle East. I'm sure
you've heard about Europe's witch trials and Islam is no more tolerant of
magic than Christianity or Judaism. Even less these days.

Why don't they tell us this? Harry demanded, suddenly angry that Binns
just kept droning on about the Goblin Rebellions when this kind of crap
was happening elsewhere in the world.

Like I told you, European magicals like to ignore things they find
incconvenient. They don't like to think about how much the world has
changed since the Statute of Secrecy was put into place. They have no
idea that their precious secrecy has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.

What do you mean?

Memory wipes worked fine until the internet was invented. Your
Obliviators can wipe all the memories they want, but that video of an
idiot wizard wearing a dress and waving a wand around is going to stay on
Youtube. The poster's lack of memory is just going to make the whole
thing even more suspicious. If the mundane governments weren't running
their own damage control for their own reasons, the secret would have
been blown wide open years ago.

I see. Harry replied, feeling a bit shaky.

Anyway, you should stop posting questions that have obviously magical
origins to anyone in the know. Big Brother has eyes everywhere these
days. Get a good computer and learn how to do arithmantic calculations
with it yourself, but keep it off the net.

Alright, I will. Harry agreed. After what he'd just learned, he was not
at all eager to draw any kind of attention to himself.

A final bit of advice for you, my young friend. Don't trust politicians;
not magical ones and definitely not mundane ones. They will smile and
make promises when they need something from you, but their hearts will
turn to stone if you ever need their help.

Merry Christmas, bratan.

The connection was broken and Harry took a deep breath to take in what
he'd just learned. The world suddenly seemed like a much darker place. He
wondered who the man he'd just talked to really was and if he'd ever
speak to him again.

A quick search on what 'bratan' actually meant only told him that he was
probably Russian. Probably a wizard too, given how knowledgeable he was
on the subject of Asia's magicals. Harry regretted not asking him about
the situation in the rest of the world. If he had the correct feeling for
the man's paranoia, then he probably wouldn't be able to contact him
again in the same way. Maybe Charlus and Dorea would know something.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

As it turned out, Charlus and Dorea didn't know anything.

"I never imagined that the situation in Asia was so bad." Charlus was
saying. "I do remember that there was a sudden upswing in immigrants from
those parts after the second World War, but I just thought it was better
here than over there."

"What about America?" Harry asked, disappointed but not too surprised.
"America has always been something of a touchy subject for Britain."
Dorea said with a grimace. "Magical America was a colony of ours the same
as muggle America was for muggle Britain. Most of the nobility stayed
here, but there were a few families that went searching for their
fortunes over the Atlantic, the majority were half-bloods and muggleborns
however. All of those families were killed alongside the goblins when
America made its bid for independence. Losing control of all that
territory to half-bloods and muggleborns would have been offensive enough
for the British purebloods of the time, but it's the fact that the
Gryffindor line was also snuffed out there that people are really unable
to get over."

"I'll bet it is." Harry snorted. He'd already seen how fixated people
could be on their bloodlines. Having the Gryffindor family wiped out by
rebellious commoners would have the purebloods baying for blood now, much
less a couple of hundred years ago when their sense of entitlement was
probably even worse.

"Don't expect a warm welcome if you ever decide to visit there." Charlus
warned. "I expect that there is no shortage of American wizards that
would make themselves your enemies simply for being British, nevermind
the fact that you're the heir of a Noble House."

"I'll keep it in mind." Harry agreed, having actually been considering a


trip across the sea. "How about Australia then? Can I expect a warm
welcome there?"

Dorea's lip twitched at her grandson's dry sarcasm as her husband


answered.

"Hard to say. The magical community there is actually the youngest in the
world, having only formed properly just before the turn of the twentieth
century. The old families thought that the muggles had a grand idea about
using Australia as a penal colony, only in our case it was seen as a
dumping ground for squibs and the occasional problematic-but-not-criminal
wizard. All that dormant magical blood eventually began producing wizards
and witches that established their own community." Charlus explained.

"So they're probably resentful but not as hostile as America." Harry


concluded.

"I also suspect that the Wizengamot is very quietly terrified of them."
Dorea added.

"Why?" Harry asked, puzzled.

"A lot of families have died out since the practice of exiling squibs was
put into place, Harry." She explained. "There are likely quite a few
wizards and witches in Australia that are now able to claim Lordships of
those families. If they decided to do so, they could wield considerable
influence in the Wizengamot."

"And the Wizengamot couldn't stop them because the seats are hereditary."
He finished, unable to keep from snickering as he realized the full
extent of the quandary the purebloods had created for themselves.
Australia was filled with an unknown number of potential Wizengamot
Lords, none of which were purebloods by their definition or even British.

The Australians could, theoretically, claim all of those lordships and


paralyze the legislative body of Wizarding Britain out of sheer spite.

"This is going to be your problem too one day." Dorea told him pointedly.
"You do, after all, have a seat of your own on the Wizengamot."

"Fuck the Wizengamot." Harry replied succintly. He had no intention


whatsoever of playing the politician. There was so much to see in the
world that sitting in a stuffy room and arguing with the inbred social
elite of magical Britain held no appeal.

"Harry, language." Dorea scolded.

Harry snickered some more at the absurdity of being scolded by his


furniture. It had stung to realize that the portraits of his grandparents
were still just portraits at the end of the day, not real people. They
were an incredible bit of spellwork to be sure, but anyone that spent
enough time talking to a magical portrait eventually realized that they
had a limited range of personality and couldn't really adapt to change.

"Leave the lad be, Dorea." Charlus told his wife, grinning openly. "It's
not like I haven't thought the same thing every time I had to attend a
meeting."

"It's unseemly for the heir of a Noble House to be so crass." Dorea


sniffed.

Harry rolled his eyes. He suspected that he would end up doing a lot of
things that were unseemly for the heir of a Noble House. He had built up
quite a bit of disdain for 'proper' behavior after having to deal with
Robert and Katherine since he was seven.

"Anyway, I wanted to get your thoughts on my next ritual..."

He explained to them the runes he intended to use and the effect he was
going for. It was one that he was particularly excited to try, as it
would work to increase the size of his magical core and make him more
powerful over time in the same way that his first set made accelerated
his maturity.

Unfortunately, he quickly hit a snag.

"Harry, you can't do this ritual." Charlus said, exasperation coloring


his tone.

"Why not?" Harry near demanded. It was perfect! He knew it was.

"Because there is no such thing as a 'magical core'." Charlus explained.

"But my research..." Harry started.


"Yes, I know you've come across the term in your research." The portrait
cut him off. "The term 'magical core' is frequently used to describe a
wizard's unused, latent magic, but it is terribly misleading. It gives
the impression that wizards and witches are born with different sized
pools of magic inside their bodies, but that simply isn't the case.
Exceptional people make for exceptional magic users, but I guarantee you
that any shopkeeper in Diagon Alley has the same magical potential as
Dumbledore."

"How does that make any sense?" Harry asked, baffled.

"The exact mechanics of it aren't known to anyone except maybe the


Unspeakables, but the gist of it is that people with high willpower,
intelligence and a number of other personality traits will also have more
powerful magic, whereas simpletons and cowards will invariably be weak.
That's why people under great emotional duress can sometimes perform
feats of magic far above their usual ability and why there is no such
thing as a power enhancing ritual."

Harry rubbed the back of his head, feeling the outline of Da'Roir, the
rune that was meant to enhance his willpower. If what Charlus was saying
was correct, then it would certainly explain why his memory was
noticeably improved with the rune, but the willpower enhancement had
always been something he hadn't been sure if it had even worked.

"Why does everyone seem to think that power levels are inborn then?" He
asked.

"I suspect it makes them feel better to think that the powerful have an
inborn advantage." Charlus shrugged.

Harry snorted. That sounded about right.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

With his plans to do a power enhancing ritual foiled, Harry tried to put
together a different one, having wanted to carve a new set of runes into
his flesh over the holidays.

Unfortunately, with the internet denied to him as a resource, he simply


wasn't good enough with arithmancy to put together a ritual. Not yet.
Charlus had taken the subject when he'd been going to Hogwarts, but it
had decades since the last time he'd made use of that knowledge and he
was more than a little rusty. Neither he nor Harry were willing to chance
something going wrong due to impatience.

Though disgruntled by the need to put off any further rituals, Harry
relented. He did however make a resolution to buy himself a high end
laptop for that kind of thing. It probably wouldn't work under the wards
of the manor, not to mention the lack of electricity or Wi-Fi, but he
could always camp out somewhere in London if he needed to.
He would have completely forgotten about Christmas if Teeny, Charlus and
Dorea hadn't reminded him.

Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, but he had actual friends now.


Friends for which he had no idea what kind of presents to buy.

After a good bit of headscratching, he decided to keep it simple. He had


no better ideas and he didn't want to encourage Ginny's crush.

Seeing as both of them were completely wizard-raised, he figured that


getting them something non-magical might count as a novelty.

Luna got a book, more specifically Alice in Wonderland. Talking to her


frequently made him question which rabbit hole he'd dropped into and he
was also curious what she'd make of the book.

Ginny was a lot more problematic to buy something for, to the extent that
he started wondering if sending her a small bag of galleons would be
considered rude.

Christmas was so much less complicated when you didn't have friends.

Eventually he gave up on finding something that seemed like a good idea


and got her a flower themed hairband that the sales lady had assured him
would go well with red hair. He really hoped that she wouldn't take it as
a declaration of romantic interest.

He also got both of them a large bag of potato chips, mostly as a silent
protest to the lack of salty junk food in the Wizarding World.

He spent most of Christmas day wondering what they would get him and felt
more stung than he'd expected to be when no owls showed up. Charlus,
Dorea and even Teeny did their best to keep his mind off the fact that
his supposed friends had apparently decided not to bother sending him any
presents for Christmas, but he still ended up being a bit more surly than
normal.

By the time the holidays were over, he'd mostly cooled off, but he was
still determined to give both Luna and Ginny a hard time over it.

Chapter 5

Here is the freshest chapter. Enjoy xD.

Special thanks to Joe Lawyer and his mad pre-reviewing skillz.

XXXXX

"Hello Harry." Luna greeted as she opened the compartment door.


"Hi." The boy said back, a bit more subdued as he once again recalled the
lack of presents on Christmas. It wasn't really so much about the
presents as it was about the gesture of it.

He didn't have long to mope about it though, as Luna got right in his
face and peered at him in a most unnerving fashion.

"What are you doing?" He asked, leaning back into the seat in an attempt
to avoid the scrutiny.

"I'm trying to see what you did to yourself to give my owl such a
terrible wrackspurt infestation." Luna replied absently.

"Your owl has...wrackspurts?" He asked, recalling that this was Luna-


speak for confusion.

"Oh yes, I've never seen anything like it and neither has daddy. I tried
to send you your Christmas present, but the poor thing just flew in
circles for a while and then came back." She explained.

"Really?" Harry asked in surprise. That would certainly explain why he


hadn't gotten any presents, but it opened up an entirely new set of
questions.

It could have been Dobby making a reappearance, but he didn't think so.
The house elf had said that he'd tried to intercept his letters, not
confuse the owls.

Another and in his mind far more likely reason for the strange
behavior of the owls was that something about him was baffling them,
something that prevented them from using whatever method they used to
find him.

Harry was sure that it was all in his head, but he keenly felt the
presence of Arhain on his chest. The rune of secrecy could have
conceivably done more than merely hide his scars. It wouldn't be the
first time that there had been unexpected side-effects from his runes,
but he had hoped that the Avariel runes would be less temperamental. He
dreaded to think what he might discover about the hidden side-effects of
Aul'El. He hadn't found any so far, but he was suddenly worried about it.

If he was right about this, then this was both good and bad. On one hand,
it would make him much harder to find, but on the other, it would make
owl correspondence quite problematic.

"Mhm." Luna hummed and continued her examination of him. "I had to send
it to Hogwarts so that I could give it to you when we got back.

"So, how did you like the book I gave you?" Harry asked, scooting away
from the blonde girl.
"I really liked it." Luna said happily, sitting down and momentarily
abandoning her investigation. "It was a fascinating treatise on many
strange magical creatures and events."

"A treatise...?" Harry started with incredulity and then trailed off.
"Luna, you do know that Alice in Wonderland is just a story, right?"

"Just because it's imaginary doesn't make it untrue." Luna agued.

"If you say so." Harry capitulated, bemused. Luna made no sense
sometimes, but it was impossible to be annoyed by her. She was just too
nice.

About ten minutes after that, Ginny showed up, nearly missing the train
as was apparently the Weasley family tradition.

She looked much better than the last time he'd seen her. After the
petrification of Mrs. Norris, Ginny had started becoming more and more
sickly looking and had developed bags under her eyes. It looked like some
time away from the castle and its basilisk controlling Heir of Slytherin
had done her a world of good.

"Hi." She greeted quietly, self- consciously reaching up to touch the


hairband that Harry had given her.

"Hello Ginny, did your owl have wrackspurts too?" Luna greeted and asked.

Ginny replied while giving the blonde a baffled expression. "What?"

"Apparently, owls can't find me for some reason." Harry translated.

"Really?" Ginny asked in surprise. "We just thought that Errol was so old
that he forgot how to fly to places he'd never been to before, so we sent
your presents to Hogwarts."

XXXXX

Once they got settled back into Ravenclaw tower, they discovered that one
other person aside from Luna and Ginny had apparently decided to send
Harry a Christmas present.

It was a small package, and mysteriously unsigned.

Harry had the irrational hope that the Headmaster or some other
benefactor had decided to give him another priceless magical artefact,
despite how unlikely that was.

"Open mine first!" Luna insisted, apparently excited to see his reaction
to her gift.

He did so, removing the bright wrapping paper.

"Is that...a necklace of butterbeer corks?" Ginny asked in bafflement,


staring at the item in question.
"Yes." Luna confirmed sagely. "It keeps away the nargles."

"Thanks." Harry said with what he hoped was a convincing smile rather
than a confused one. He did recall Luna saying something about nargles
being thieves, so he figured that her heart was in the right place.
Besides, it was the thought that counted when gift giving during
Christmas wasn't it? Which kind of made Luna's odd gift better than the
randomly chosen hairband he'd gotten for Ginny.

"Daddy was going to give you a free lifetime subscription to the Quibbler
as well, but that wouldn't make much sense if owls can't find you." Luna
added with a frown.

"That's alright Luna, I can just borrow your copy." Harry told her,
secretly relieved. From what he'd seen, the Quibbler was almost like a
magical parody of a tabloid. Occasionally funny, but not something he'd
want a lifetime subscription to.

"Mine now." Ginny piped up, pushing the gift into his hands.

Harry started unwrapping it, but the redhead was apparently too nervous
to stay quiet about it.

"I wasn't sure what to get you, especially after you got me this
beautiful hairband." She babbled, making Harry stop and stare at her.

"Ginny..."He started slowly, finally getting an inkling as to why she


kept fingering the item. "That hairband is nothing special, I got it for
you because I didn't know what to get you either. It's a bit nicer than
average, but muggles pretty much mass produce them."

It hadn't quite dawned on him at the time he was buying it that there was
no such thing as an assembly line in the Wizarding World. He wasn't sure
about the food, but all of their clothes and jewelry were handmade. To
someone who'd never had contact with the non-magical world, a machine
produced accessory would probably look a lot more expensive than it
actually was.

"Oh." Ginny blinked. "You mean there are more hairbands like this in the
Muggle World?"

"Thousands, probably more." He confirmed.

Ginny felt a strange mixture of disappointed and relieved by that. On one


hand, it meant that her gift wasn't going to look subpar in comparison.
But on the other, it also meant that the boy she had a crush on hadn't
been making a show of affection.

"The Charmingly Charmed Book of Charms Theory?" Harry read the title of
the book he'd just unwrapped, staring in bemusement at the animated stick
figures dancing energetically across the back cover. Sometimes, wizards
really didn't know when to stop spelling, enchanting, jinxing, hexing or
otherwise magically altering stuff.
"I know you like to read and you're really good at Charms, so I thought
you'd like it."

"Thanks."

"Err...my mother also got you a present." Ginny continued reluctantly,


handing him a lumpy package with even more reluctance.

Blinking, Harry took it and opened it, revealing a thick, emerald green
sweater with a big golden 'H' sown into the middle.

"She made me a sweater?" He asked, baffled. That was usually the domain
of grandmothers with the annoying habit of pinching cheeks from what he
knew, though he had fortunately avoided that particular childhood
experience.

He had to admit that it was a nice sweater though. It would no doubt be


very warm, if one could ignore the embarrassment of having a giant
initial plastered across the front of it.

"It's a Weasley sweater, she makes one for each of us every year. I guess
she decided to make one for you this year too." Ginny explained, flushing
with embarrassment at the antics of her mother.

What she didn't mention was that her mother had made Ginny one that was
very similar and was obviously meant to be part of a set. She might have
a crush on Harry, but her mother's unsubtle insinuation was far too
embarrassing to ever see the light of day. Her matching emerald green
sweater with a big gold 'G' on the front was going to stay at the bottom
of her trunk until the end of time.

"That's awfully nice of her. You're lucky to have a mother that loves you
so much, Ginny." Luna said with a dreamy smile.

An awkward silence followed, both Ginny and Harry being well aware that
Luna's mother had died in a botched magical experiment a couple of years
ago. The blonde girl was not particularly skittish about the subject, but
she always became even more spaced out than usual whenever she thought
back to it.

"Alright, lets see what this last one is then." Harry said with a bit of
forced cheer in his voice.

Both girls were equally curious about the mystery present and leaned in
closer as Harry opened it.

Ginny flushed bright red as the mystery was solved.

"Oh my, she has a very nice pair of boobies." Luna ascertained
scientifically, peering at the moving magical photo with rare intensity.

Harry nodded in agreement, staring at the image of a seventh year


Ravenclaw doing a little dance in a sexy nightie that was a least a size
too small. A distant part of his mind noted that she'd probably bought
the item in a muggle lingerie store. Either that, or the Wizarding World
took the 'secret' part of Victoria's Secret literally. Most of his
attention was captured by the flesh being displayed by the curvy
seventeen year old with brown hair and blue eyes however, rather than
where'd she'd gotten the see-through garment. His runes prickled even as
the blood rushed southwards.

"Who is she?" Ginny asked, her tone accusatory and jealous despite her
best efforts.

"I don't know her name." Harry answered truthfully. He did know however,
that she was one of the girls that had caught him staring and had raised
her eyebrows at him pointedly. He'd been glad to escape being glared at
at the time.

The thought that she would send him a sexy picture had never even crossed
his mind as a possibility. Sometimes, life was good.

"You need to get rid of it." Ginny stated.

"That would be very rude." Luna countered before Harry could object to
the redhead's declaration. "She obviously wanted Harry to have it. What
if he threw away your gift? How would that make you feel?"

"It's not the same thing!" The redhead insisted, her voice rising in
pitch in her desire to combat Luna's logic.

"Why not?" Luna asked cluelessly.

"Because...because it just isn't!"

"Well that's not much of an argument, is it?" Luna frowned.

"Hey look, there's a note!" Harry interjected, wanting to end the brewing
argument. He was inclined to agree with Luna though. A lot of that
agreement originated in the fact that her reasoning would end up with him
keeping an animated photo of a sexy girl, but still.

"'Have fun polishing your wand.'" Luna read out. "How did she know that
your wand needs polishing?"

Both Harry and Ginny flushed bright red, quickly understanding the
euphemism.

"Did she find you polishing it during one of your free periods, Harry?"
Luna continued.

"NO!" Harry exclaimed in a near panic with his face burning, forgetting
for a moment that Luna had meant that literally. "I mean, no. I'm sure
she just assumed that it...errr...needs polishing." He finished
awkwardly.
How in the six hundred and sixty-six pits of the Abyss was Luna not
making the connection between the sexy girl, wand polishing and
masturbation, he had no idea, but he'd be damned if he was going to
explain it to her.

"I could help you if you don't know the proper technique." The blonde
offered innocently.

Amazingly, Harry felt the erection he'd gotten from the moving photo
withering from the sheer volume of blood rushing to his face.

"That's alright, Luna. I'm sure I can do it myself." He answered


painfully. A quick look at Ginny let him know that the redhead had long
since lost the power of speech and would be of no help in ending this
conversation.

"Are you sure? Daddy showed me how he polishes his before I left for
Hogwarts you know."

Harry's face shifted from bright red to a sickly green. He knew, he knew
that Luna hadn't meant it that way, but there was no blocking out the
mental imagery.

"I think I'm going to go lie down for a bit." He said, forcibly derailing
the conversation.

"You are looking a bit peaky." Luna agreed.

XXXXX

The next morning found Harry in his room, reading the book that Ginny had
given him and munching on a pre-breakfast sandwich that Blinky had
brought him. The house elves were all well aware of his appetite by now
and seemed to be extra fond of him for the additional work it gave them.

The book itself was actually surprisingly good in a 'Charms theory for
dummies' kind of way. Granted, it was meant for children ranging from
eleven to fifteen in age, but Harry found it a bit simplistic after
slogging through the tomes in the Restricted Section. It did provide a
bit of insight into things that the more advanced tomes assumed the
reader already knew however, such as a few focusing exercises for casting
magic properly.

He shut the book with determination and held up a pen, focusing on his
desire for the pen to levitate.

After the amount of practice he put into it, the writing implement did so
easily. Then, as per the suggestion of the book, he sent it on a slow,
looping glide across the room. It wasn't something he'd thought of doing
before, but it was surprisingly difficult to keep it focused in a single
direction instead of having it flail every which way. It was a jerky and
uneven flight as he struggled to keep his focus on the multiple elements
required for a smooth one, but it got easier the more he practiced.
Technically, the book said to do this with a wand, but Harry was as
determined as ever to avoid looking ridiculous by waving that silly stick
about. It would undoubtedly have been worlds easier, but he was rather
leery of the idea of being deprived of magic by something as simple as
having his wand taken away.

Also, he still hadn't been able to stop thinking of his wand as some kind
of magical penis ever since last night. The act of doing magic with a
wand felt kind of like giving his magic a good wanking at the moment. A
minor issue really and one that would be easily ignored during classes,
but it did give him a little extra incentive to master wandless magic.

A knock on the door sent his pen clattering to the floor.

"Come in." He called as he picked it up.

Ginny stuck her head inside, giving him a smile that might be classified
as 'overly bright'.

"Morning." She greeted cheerily. "Want to get...breakfast? Harry, why do


you have a sandwich in your room?"

"I like to have a little snack before breakfast." He defended.

"A little?" Ginny asked disbelievingly, walking up to what looked to be


the remains of a considerably sized sandwich.

"I'm a growing boy." Harry simultaneously lied and told the truth.

"O...kay." Ginny conceded, having heard that one from more than one of
her brothers over the years. "So, want to get breakfast?"

"I'm waiting for Luna to get up. Speaking of which, why are you up
already? You usually sleep in."

"I just felt like getting up early today." The redhead said a bit
defensively.

"Alright." Harry shrugged and dropped the subject. It was none of his
business if she wanted to change her sleeping habits.

"So, um, what did you do with...you know...it?" Ginny asked awkwardly,
blushing madly.

Harry knew what she was talking about instantly. He was also reminded of
a very interesting 'wand polishing' session during which the sexily
animated girl in the magical picture had done a striptease for him.

Magic was so awesome. And perhaps his fame had some upsides to it too.

"That's none of your business." He said quckly with a heavy blush on his
face, wanting to cringe as soon as he'd said it. He might as well have
told her exactly what he'd been doing with that picture last night.
"Harry, you have to get rid of it." The redhead said, disapproval
permeating her tone.

"Why?" He asked back, his own tone stiffening. "Luna had a point last
night, the girl obviously wanted me to have it."

"It isn't right." She insisted. She'd woken up so early exactly because
she didn't want Luna around to argue with her about it.

"Why?" He challenged again. No way was he giving up that picture. There


was a criminal dearth of erotic material in the Wizarding World as it
was. Not that he'd really looked for any, but he hadn't caught so much as
a hint of it so far.

"It just isn't!" She yelled in frustration. "You shouldn't be looking at


pictures of some tramp that you don't even know!"

Harry just stared at her, trying to contain the urge to yell back at her.
Fortunately, he succeeded. He'd spent practically every night since the
beginning of term working on his Occlumency for at least a couple of
hours before he went to bed and his temper was finally becoming
manageable.

He was still pretty pissed off though. He'd thought that Ginny was
getting better about the stupid crush she had on him, but apparently not.
He most certainly did not owe her anything and wasn't going to pander to
her jealousy.

"I'll look at whatever the hell I want." He snapped.

"Fine then!" She snapped back tearfully. "Keep your thrashy picture if
it's so important to you!"

With that, she stomped out, slamming the door for good measure.

"It's not about the damn picture anymore." Harry muttered to himself with
a long sigh.

He hadn't been too enthused about Ginny at first, but she'd grown on him
after a while. He wasn't so fond of her that he would be willing to give
in to her jealous tantrums though.

XXXXX

Ginny grumbled in her sleep as a weight settled itself on her midsection.

Then she batted her hands at whatever was poking her in the cheek.

"Psst! Ginny. Wake up."

The combination of irritating pokes and the voice brought the redhead out
of slumber, causing her eyes to slowly open.
And see the form of Luna sitting on her stomach, smiling at her. The
gloom, combined with Ginny's sleep addled mind, made her look very
creepy.

Naturally, Ginny screamed.

"Hello." Luna chirped, apparently unperturbed.

"Luna?" Ginny hissed, voice heavy with incredulity. "What are you doing
here?!"

"I seem to be sitting on your stomach." The blonde answered in all


seriousness.

"Why?!"

"I needed to talk to you and you've been avoiding me and Harry all day."

"And why do you need to talk to me so badly." The redhead grumbled


sourly, reminded of the blow-up she'd had with Harry in the morning. His
obvious determination to keep hold of that slutty photo had put a serious
hole in her image of the Boy-Who-Lived.

"Because you've been avoiding me and Harry all day. I want to know why so
that I can fix it and we can all be friends again."

Ginny sighed in resignation and slumped back into the bed. "Could you get
off me now?"

"I could." Despite saying that, Luna made no move to actually do so.

"Luna, get off."

"Okay."

The blonde clambered off the redhead and settled herself on the mattress.
An awkward silence ensued for a while as Luna waited for Ginny to say
something, while Ginny didn't know what to say.

"It's about that naughty picture isn't it?" Luna asked shrewdly after a
few minutes of silence.

"Yes!" Ginny cried out. "I just don't understand why he wants to keep it
so badly."

"She has very nice boobies." Luna reasoned.

"But he's the Boy-Who-Lived!"

"Yes, and boys like boobies."

Ginny spluttered incomprehensibly for a moment, flustered by the utter


certainty of Luna's replies.
"But he's a hero! He should find his true love, not...not...stare at a
dirty picture that some tramp sent him!"

Luna peered at her closely for a few seconds before replying. "Didn't
your parents tell you that boys are more interested in boobies than true
love? Daddy told me that the day before I left for Hogwarts."

Ginny flushed in embarrassment. No, they hadn't told her that, but she
had heard more than one outraged rant from her mother when she'd found a
dirty magazine in Fred and George's room. They must have somehow gotten
it from the Muggle World if their mother's rants about the indecency of
muggle women was anything to go by.

"But he's not just any boy." She protested weakly.

"But he is a boy, so he must like boobies." Luna insisted. "We can ask
him tomorrow if you want to make sure."

"No!" Ginny blurted out, blushing again.

Another few minutes passed in silence, a more comfortable one this time.

"Do you think he'd like my boobies?" The redhead asked eventually, her
voice barely audible.

"You don't have any boobies." The blonde trespasser informed her bluntly.

Ginny slumped into herself.

"But don't worry, Harry doesn't seem to be picky about what kind of
boobies he likes. He spends a large part of his mealtimes looking at all
the ones he can see, so I'm sure that he'll like ours once they grow."

That wasn't really what Ginny wanted to hear. Being just another pair of
breasts for Harry Potter's viewing pleasure was a far cry from her dreams
of a happily ever after with the Boy-Who-Lived.

XXXXX

A few weeks passed mostly uneventfully. Ginny became progressively more


withdrawn, but Harry didn't press her on it, figuring that it was just a
consequence of their argument. Luna did try, but was fended off by
assurances that she was just tired.

Then the routine was interrupted by another attack, but there was no
petrification this time. This time, Terry Boot was found dead in the
hallways.

XXXXX

"The Ministry arrested Hagrid?" Harry asked incredulously.

They were in his room, as it had become a sort of unspoken private spot
for them. They couldn't use one of the girls' rooms because they had an
alarm attached to them if a boy tried to enter them. The reverse did not
apply for some reason.

"Yes, he was the one to get blamed when the Chamber of Secrets was opened
the last time, fifty years ago." Luna confirmed sadly. She liked Hagrid.

"That doesn't even make sense!" Harry said in exasperation. "If they're
running on the assumption that Slytherin's Heir hates muggleborns, Hagrid
is hardly likely to be the culprit."

"The Ministry doesn't often make sense."

Harry snorted. That sounded about right.

"There's even talk about Dumbledore being relieved of his post as


Hogwarts Headmaster and closing down the school." Luna continued. "It's
almost exactly like it happened fifty years ago."

"It was me!" Ginny suddenly cried out, her face deathly pale.

"What was you?" Harry asked slowly, staring at the near frantic redhead.
She'd been trembling pretty much since Boot was found dead.

"I was the one who opened the Chamber!" She blurted out. "I mean...I
think it was me. I blacked out again and then Terry was dead and now
Hagrid got arrested..."

"Ginny, slow down!" Harry cut off her babbling, more than a little
alarmed. "I think you'd better start from the beginning."

So she did. She laid out pretty much everything from the mysteriously
appearing diary of one T. M. Riddle and how it would talk back to her and
even show her its memories, to her blackouts and how they always happened
during an attack.

"A Tom Riddle was credited as 'exposing' Hagrid the first time." Luna
said contemplatively. She had looked into it with her father during the
holidays.

"Ginny, could you show us this diary?" Harry requested, getting a


terrible suspicion about the item. Simple spellwork wouldn't be enough to
make a diary interactive to that degree.

Ginny agreed and shuffled off to her own room to get her bag, coming back
a minute later.

As soon as she handed it to him, he felt the insane urge to write


something into it despite what Ginny had just told him. He was more than
wary enough of it to immediately think of a compulsion charm though, so
he resisted. If the diary was a phylactery as he suspected, then writing
into it was the last thing he wanted to do.
Now the only thing left to do was decide what to do with it. Something
obviously had to be done, but none of them had any idea how it would
affect Ginny if it was either destroyed or left intact.

As much as he didn't trust the old man anymore, Harry reluctantly


concluded that he would have to talk to Dumbledore about this.

XXXXX

"Professor Flitwick has informed me that you had an urgent matter you
needed to discuss with me?" Dumbledore prompted.

Harry nodded, still unsure of the wisdom in going to Dumbledore with


this.

Looking around the room, it was obvious that the rumors of the old wizard
getting sacked were true. He had been in the middle of packing his
possessions and there was an air of sorrow about him. Even Fawkes was
looking a bit dispirited.

"I think I might know what's been going on with this whole Chamber of
Secrets thing." He admitted at last, seeing no alternative but to rely on
the Headmaster for help in dealing with the problem.

Dumbledore sat up, suddenly looking far more intense than before.

"Then by all means, tell me."

It was presented like a gentle prompt, but the sudden pressure of


Dumbledore's magic made it an order.

Harry swallowed, this was the first time that he'd felt another wizard's
magic pressing against his own. It gave the old man an aura of power and
authority that no amount of grandfatherly twinkling could hope to hide.

"I'd like to ask you something first." He ventured, continuing when the
Headmaster gave him a nod to go ahead. "Is it possible for a wizard to
make a phylactery?"

Dumbledore frowned, puzzled. The term was unfamiliar to him, but the
level of nervousness he could see the boy across him exuding at the
question gave it an ominous weight.

"What is a phylactery?"

"An item in which an evil magic user might hide their soul in to achieve
a form of immortality, a soul jar in other words."

Dumbledore could feel his insides going cold at the explanation. How was
it possible for the twelve year old boy to know of such dark magics? He
was certain that he had purged the Hogwarts Library of any mention of
Horcruxes.
"Where did you learn of such things?" He demanded, forgetting his
grandfatherly persona for a moment. Harry simply couldn't be allowed to
turn evil. The Wizarding World would never survive a struggle between
Voldemort and another rising Dark Lord, especially one as powerful as
Harry was looking to become.

Harry sank deeper into his chair as Dumbledore's presence swelled


further. He tried to apply his nascent knowledge of Occlumency to control
his fear, but it was hard. The old wizard was so much stronger than him.

"It's a common theme in muggle fantasy fiction." He explained with far


too much squeak in his voice for his taste. "An evil wizard sacrificing
his humanity in exchange for power and immortality."

Dumbledore blinked and slowly settled down, aided by a calming song from
Fawkes that was probably meant for both wizards.

Muggles had conceived the idea of Horcruxes, all the while believing that
magic didn't exist? Or had some whispers of the foul creations survived
among them from the times before the Statute of Secrecy? It didn't matter
he supposed, what mattered was that Harry had seen fit to come to him to
ask about it. While the fact that he even knew that it was possible to
make a Horcrux was not at all a good thing, it was heartening that the
boy had come to him with this. Dark wizards did not in general come to
him for advice on how to perform evil magic.

"Am I to take it then that you believe such a object to be behind this
year's troubles?" He asked, his mind already making connections. The last
Heir of Slytherin had been Voldemort and a Horcrux of the man would
certainly be capable of possessing a student and repeating what had
happened fifty years ago.

Harry nodded and drew a thin book out of the Mokeskin Pouch that
Dumbledore had noticed he always kept at his waist.

The book was placed on the desk, helpfully signed 'T. M. Riddle' as if to
confirm his suspicions.

Just to be sure, Dumbledore cast a few diagnostic charms over the diary
even though he already knew what they would tell him. Indeed, the thin
book was a cesspit of corrupt magic.

"You have done a great thing to bring this to me, Harry." He said
eventually.

He meant it too. Now he finally had confirmation that Voldemort had


indeed created Horcruxes. He had only been able to speculate before this.
Though the Dark Lord's soul was no doubt a shattered and mangled thing
from the abuse he'd put it through with his evil acts, a piece of it
would not simply fly off and attach itself to Harry's forehead unless
there was something more going on.

The diary must have been created while Tom Riddle was still in school and
knowing him as Dumbledore did, he doubted that Voldemort would have been
satisfied with just a single Horcrux despite the consequences of creating
them.

"How did you come to posses this?"

Harry did his best not to squirm. This was the part that he had really
been hoping to avoid, but knew he couldn't. He didn't want to land Ginny
in hot water, but he had little doubt that the Ministry wouldn't care
about her being possessed if they could imprison Hagrid on evidence so
flimsy that it was practically non-existent.

"A student had it." He evaded.

"Ms. Lovegood or Ms. Weasley? Ah, Ms. Weasley." Dumbledore said, taking
his cues from Harry's expression and body language.

"She didn't even know it was her." Harry hastened to explain. "She just
kept blacking out and guessed that it might be. There's also a compulsion
on the diary that was manipulating her to do it and keep quiet."

"I know, Harry." Dumbledore interjected, making a calming motion with his
hand. "This is a cursed object left behind by Voldemort and an eleven
year old can hardly be expected to perceive it for what it is. No blame
shall fall on young Ms. Weasley."

"You'll forgive me if I don't believe the Ministry will be that


reasonable." Harry replied cynically.

Dumbledore gave a short sigh at the unfortunate truth of that. Cornelius


had not listened to his protestations of Hagrid's innocence, wanting to
be seen 'doing something', so it was quite likely that he'd jump on poor
Ginny as if she were Voldemort himself. A helpless, eleven year old
Voldemort of course. Cornelius had regrettably never been brave enough to
actually do something as dangerous as act against a real threat.

"You needn't worry Harry, I will handle the Ministry."

They had no time to deal with that right now however, as the current
situation had to be resolved quickly before the Ministry did anything
else unutterably stupid, such as offering Lockhart the position of
Hogwarts Headmaster. Triumphing over Slytherin's basilisk and revealing
that it was a cursed object at work would be enough to restore his
reputation and reclaim his position.

Not that he had any intention of actually fighting the basilisk. The
ancient serpent's hide would be obscenely magic resistant by now, not to
mention its powerful Killing Gaze. A quick apparition to grab a rooster
would be the most he planned to exert himself.

That just left the problem of gaining access to the Chamber of Secrets.
He'd found it some time ago after learning that he was dealing with a
basilisk, but had been unable to open the path. The barrier in Myrtle's
bathroom was linked to the wards, but not even the Headmaster could open
them. No doubt it would take a Parselmouth.
"I realize that you have done much already Harry, but I find myself in a
position where I am forced to ask you to do a little more."

"For example?" Harry asked warily.

"I have discovered where the Chamber of Secrets is, but it takes a
Parselmouth to open it." Dumbledore explained and continued before Harry
could say anything. "Know that you will be in minimal danger and that I
have no intention of engaging the basilisk in battle."

"Couldn't we just leave it alone?" Harry questioned. "I mean, we have the
diary. If we destroy it, then there won't be anyone left to open it."

"I left the mystery alone fifty years ago and it has resulted in the
current situation." Dumbledore said sorrowfully. "I would rather not risk
history repeating itself a third time."

He would also probably not regain his position as Headmaster without some
significant achievement. The glory of Grindelwald's defeat that had
carried him through the last time was much more distant now, nor had he
been Headmaster the last time.

XXXXX

"You know, I'm not sure we could make a less epic start to the slaying of
a powerful monster if we tried." Harry grumbled as he walked into the
girl's bathroom behind Dumbledore, a live rooster in his hands.

"How so, Harry?" Dumbledore asked, amused in spite of the dire situation.

"You're wearing bright yellow robes, I'm carrying a chicken, and we're
going into a girl's bathroom." The boy replied dryly.

"Rooster." The much older wizard corrected.

"It sounds like the start of a dirty joke." Harry continued, ignoring the
correction. "'A boy walks into a girl's bathroom holding an old man's
cock.'"

Dumbledore stopped and looked at his student strangely before finally


speaking. "I presume that this is Ms. Lovegood's influence?"

"It would be something she'd say, isn't it?" Harry admitted with a slight
blush.

Luna would probably be entirely clueless about the sexual connotations


though. Or at least she'd be pretending to be clueless. Harry wasn't sure
yet whether his blonde friend was really as oblivious as she acted.

"Indeed. Her father was, and I presume still is, the same."

"Why are we in a girl's bathroom anyway?"


"I have been able to deduce that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets
is in here, by the sinks."

"Salazar Slytherin put the entrance to his Chamber of Secrets in a girl's


bathroom?" Harry asked incredulously.

"It would appear so."

"He was either very cunning or a pedophile."

"The truth is a wonderful and terrible thing and probably best left
unknown in this case." Dumbledore said, gesturing towards the sink with
the snake carving. "Command it to open in Parseltongue if you would,
Harry."

Harry focused on the image of a snake in his mind just like he'd
practiced and spoke. "Open!"

The circular array of sinks separated and revealed a long tunnel into the
dark.

Harry peered into the depths, a question forming in his mind.

"If you knew the entrance was here, why didn't you simply blast it open?"

"Alas, magic is rarely so straightforward." Dumbledore explained. "Had I


done so, all I would have to show for it is a ruined bathroom and no
secret entrance."

The only reason he hadn't asked Harry for help sooner was a desire to not
involve the boy in such a dangerous matter. Unfortunately, his caution
had availed him nothing save to place the death of another student on his
conscience.

"I will ask you to go no further Harry, but there may be other
Parseltongue locked doors in the Chamber." He said, looking down at the
boy.

"Let's just get this over with." Harry sighed, staring down into the dark
hole.

Moaning Myrtle chose this moment to pop out of her preferred cubicle.

"If you die down there, you can share my toilet." She offered.

"Thank you Myrtle, that is most generous of you." Dumbledore said and
jumped into the hole.

Given the choice between a creepily giggling ghost and a dark hole
leading to one of the most dangerous monsters in the magical world, Harry
swiftly followed.

XXXXX
Harry slid out of the tunnel after a fairly exhilirating ride, shoes
crunching on the bones of countless small animals.

"Well this isn't creepy at all." He muttered sarcastically.

"Quite," Dumbledore agreed, quickly casting a few cleaning charms to


remove the filth they'd picked up during their slide. "Come Harry, but be
cautious. If you see or hear anything, shut your eyes."

"Don't have to tell me twice." Harry agreed and followed the old wizard
deeper into the chamber.

It didn't take them long to come across a massive discarded snake skin.

"It is even larger than I thought." Dumbledore said, shaking his head.

"Do all basilisks get this big?" Harry asked, staring at the skin with
wide eyes. He hugged the rooster a bit more tightly, knowing that it was
the key to this mad venture.

"There has never been a record of a basilisk living this long."


Dumbledore explained. "I suspect that they never stop growing."

They moved on and reached another Parseltongue sealed door, beyond which
lay the Chamber proper.

"This guy really had a thing for snakes." Harry observed, noting the many
serpent statues lining the walkway.

"Indeed." Dumbledore agreed and gestured for Harry to give him the
rooster. "The basilisk must be very close now, would you be so kind as to
give me back my cock now?"

Harry gave a nervous chuckle as he did so, recognizing the humour for
what it was, an attempt to relieve some tension.

They stalked forward slowly, Dumbledore keeping his wand trained on the
rooster held in his other hand, ready to compell it to crow at a moment's
notice.

"Professor, I just had a thought." Harry said quietly.

"Yes, Harry?"

"The crow of a rooster seems like an awfully specific vulnerability, not


really something likely to occur naturally."

"You would not be the first to wonder about that. Despite logic
indicating otherwise, that particular weakness is not bred into the
creatures deliberately. Rather, it is a result of the nature of its
hatching. Something about the process makes a rooster's crow resonate
fatally with the basilisk's own magic." Dumbledore lectured.
"So there's no chance of it being immune then?" Harry asked, much
relieved.

"No Harry, you can rest assured that my cock is stronger than Slytherin's
snake." The old wizard assured, beard twitching with his smile.

Harry snorted in amusement. He might be wary of Dumbledore and the


manipulative streak that his grandparents had warned him of, but at least
he had a sense of humour.

"Intruders in the nest? Not the master. Food? So hungry. Smells good."

The hiss resonated across the chamber, too low for human hearing but
perfectly audible to a Parselmouth.

And also to the rooster, which squawked in reply.

The hissing stopped for a moment before returning with a vengeance.

"BIRD BIRD BIRD! SERPENT KILLER. NO NO NO NO, WON'T DIE. CAN'T RUN.
NOWHERE TO RUN. MUST KILL!"

"Get ready!" Harry called urgently, alarmed by the half-mad rambling of


the basilisk. "It's coming right at us!"

Dumbledore nodded, hearing the rapid movement of the enourmous snake


through the tunnels built into the sides of the Chamber. He waited only a
moment longer before casting a compulsion on the rooster and forcing it
to crow.

The basilisk let out a hissing roar as the crowing echoed through the
Chamber before smashing heavily into the ground off to the side, also
making a large splash in the shallow water.

Harry and Dumbledore waited tensely for any sign that the basilisk was
still alive. A full minute passed before they relaxed and started moving
warily towards the place where they'd heard the crash.

"Do not look it in the eyes, they may still have some power even in
death." Dumbledore warned.

"Got it." Harry acknowledged.

They found the massive carcass quickly enough, looking more like a dark
grey rock formation than a snake.

"I guess that's it then." Harry said, still jittery with nerves from the
oddly anti-climatic finish.

"Almost, there is one more thing to do." Dumbledore said as he handed the
rooster back to Harry and drew out the diary.

"What are you going to do with that?" Harry asked.


"Aside from being incredibly potent, basilisk venom is also known to have
a corrosive effect on magic. If my guess is correct, it should have the
ability to destroy Voldemort's diary." Dumbledore explained.

It would also save him a great deal of questions from the Ministry about
unauthorized uses of Fiendfyre.

Harry said nothing and simply watched as the much older wizard approached
the basilisk's mouth, taking care not to look at the eyes. With a wave of
his wand, he forced open the massive jaw, revealing a mouth full of fangs
instead of the usual toothless mouth of a snake. With a quick Accio, one
of the fangs was pulled out and driven through the diary. The wail
released by the booklet was confirmation that the Horcrux was destroyed.

"What about the basilisk?" Harry asked once it was done, the whole thing
once again feeling very anti-climatic. He hadn't expected that prophecy
to be resolved quite so...neatly.

"What of it?" Dumbledore blinked, oblivious to the fact that Harry had
just assumed that Voldemort was finished once and for all.

"Could we sell it?"

Dumbledore hummed thoughtfully. He'd been so focused on killing the beast


and regaining his position as Headmaster that he hadn't thought of it,
but the boy definitely had a point. For a basilisk of this size and age,
half the Potion Masters and magical leatherworkers in Europe would beggar
themselves before it was completely harvested and sold, which was a
process likely to take several years. The eyes alone would net an
astronomical sum.

Hogwarts could certainly use the funding, not to mention the Order of the
Phoenix in the event that Voldemort's return proved impossible to
prevent. It would make it easier to regain his Headmaster position if he
came bearing gifts.

"An excellent point, Harry." He said.

"You said that the hide is magic resistant?" Harry asked speculatively,
eyeballing the craggy dark grey scales. He rather liked the color.

"Extremely so." Dumbledore confirmed.

"I've heard about dragonhide robes, would it be possible to make them out
of basilisk hide?"

"It would. They would not be as impact resistant as dragonhide, but they
would be much more magic resistant."

"I'll claim enough of its hide to make a few adult sized sets then and
samples of any useful ingredients harvested if I ever decide to make use
of them, such as the venom. The rest of it we can sell. I'm assuming that
my share can easily be delivered to my Gringotts vault?"
"Your share?" Dumbledore echoed, surprised by the mercenary statement.

"Of course, 50%. You found the Chamber, but I opened it and neither one
of us can really claim to have done the lion's share of the work since we
killed the bloody thing with a rooster. You get to take whatever you want
from the carcass before we sell it of course, what with both of us having
equal claim to the body." Harry continued happily.

"There is more to life than galleons, Harry." The old wizard sighed,
disappointed by the decidedly unheroic greed that the boy was displaying
right now.

"And all those other things in life will be much easier with galleons
than without them." Harry countered. After getting ripped off by the
goblins that first time, he was no longer willing to let easy profit slip
through his fingers. "You didn't think I was going to hold your cock for
free, did you?"

"I...very well." Dumbledore capitulated and shook his head with a weak
smile at the joke. He couldn't afford to alienate the boy over something
so trivial, especially when he was entitled by law to claim a share due
to his aid in slaying the beast.

XXXXX

"If I may have your attention, please." Dumbledore said just before the
evening meal that very same day.

The Great Hall quieted and turned its attention to him curiously.

"I know that the year has been difficult, filled with fear and sorrow,
but now it is over. Earlier in the day, Harry Potter and myself have at
last unraveled the mystery behind the Chamber of Secrets."

The student body burst into excited murmurs for a moment before settling
down again to listen to the old Headmaster.

"The mythical monster said to be hidden in the Chamber was a basilisk,


whose lair was most cleverly hidden. Mr. Potter and myself found it and
ventured into the Chamber this very morning, slaying the beast in its
lair."

"But who was the Heir?" Someone yelled out.

"Voldemort." He replied, resisting the urge to sigh as practically


everyone in the Great Hall flinched, yelped, screamed or otherwise
displayed an unseemly level of fear over a name. "A cursed object he had
left behind had possessed a student and forced them to open the Chamber.
The name of the student in question will remain secret unless they wish
to inform you themselves."

Another bout of murmuring spread through the students, this time


speculation on the identity of the possessed party.
"Additionally, for the next few days Hogwarts will be hosting several
wizards and witches specializing in the harvesting of large magical
animals. I request that you do not get in their way. That will be all
from me right now, thank you."

That should do the trick. The legend of the Boy-Who-Lived would grow, as
would the enmity between him and Voldemort. His own involvement and
connection to Harry would ensure that he would be able to retain his
position as Headmaster without any overt difficulty.

Lucius Malfoy would no doubt try to protest, but Dumbledore knew how to
handle Lucius.

It truly was unfortunate that the re-opening of the Chamber had resulted
in another death, but he had not dared to close the school. The then-
unknown Heir of Slytherin would have been set loose on the world in that
case. Terry Boot's death was unfortunate, but it was better than the many
other deaths that a resurrected sixteen year old Voldemort would have
caused.

XXXXX

Harry, Luna and Ginny had almost made it up the first flight of stairs
towards Ravenclaw tower before they were halted.

"Potter!"

Harry's face twitched with irritation at the sound of Draco Malfoy's


outraged yell. Of course the blond idiot would take offense to having the
attacks on muggleborns ended. Why had he even entertained the idea that
Malfoy might be clever enough to be less obvious about his prejudices?

Turning around, the three of them saw the huffing and puffing second year
stomping up the stairs, no doubt intending to get in Harry's face about
his part in putting an end to the whole debacle.

Harry had no desire to deal with the idiot, so he focused his will and
launched a weak, wandless banishing spell at Malfoy's leg.

The leg was thrown back, completely destroying the blond's footing and
sending him crashing face first into the stairs. He managed to catch
himself with his hands before he actually got hurt, unfortunately.

"Maybe you should learn to walk on even ground before trying to tackle
stairs, Malfoy." Harry mocked, taking an inordinate amount of glee in the
blond's humiliation. He'd been insufferable ever since Halloween. More
insufferable than normal at any rate.

"You tripped me!" Malfoy accused angrily.

"With what?" Harry asked sarcastically, raising his hands to show that
they were empty. "My mastery of wandless magic?"
There were some giggles from a few students who'd seen the whole thing,
causing Draco to flush in angry humiliation.

Shaking his head in exasperation, Harry restarted his speedy retreat to


his room. He had no doubt that everyone and their mother would want to
know the whole story and he wasn't sure that his reputation for being
unapproachable was going to be a sufficient shield.

XXXXX

Harry closed the door to his room with a feeling of relief.

What in the bloody fucking hell had Dumbledore been thinking, announcing
that to the entire school? He'd felt like a germ under a microscope with
the way that people had stared at him all the way through dinner. Luna
and Ginny's stares had been the worst, silently willing him to explain.
At least he hadn't said anything about sending Moldywarts off to his
final death with the destruction of the phylactery.

Was this supposed to be some kind of payback for the 50% share of the
profits on the sale of the carcass he'd claimed?

His stewing was interrupted by an insistent knocking on his door.

Harry sighed, knowing exactly who was on the other side.

Resigned he opened the door and was placed into bewilderment as a tiny
redhead grabbed him in a tight hug.

"Thank you." She mumbled.

"You're, uh, welcome." Harry replied with an akward pat on the back.
Ginny had been a bit twitchy ever since he'd taken the diary away from
her, so he could guess that its destruction had helped her somehow, but
he still had no idea how to deal with this.

"Did you really have to kill that poor, lonely basilisk, Harry?" Luna
asked sadly.

"It was going to eat us." He said dryly, recalling the creature's
mutterings before it had detected the rooster.

"Oh poo, and I so wanted a basilisk friend."

Ginny finally let go at that point, looking up at him curiously despite


her blush. "How did you even kill it?"

"Dumbledore got a rooster from somewhere. It wasn't as dangerous as he


made it sound."

"Could I have an interview, Harry?" Luna asked excitedly, her previous


dismay over the serpent's death forgotten. "Daddy is sure to want to
write an article about how you and Headmaster Dumbledore used your cock
to slay Slytherin's ancient snake."
Harry turned his eyes skyward with a sigh, somehow not even surprised
that Luna had once again managed to be so innocently crass. He'd been
expecting it really.

XXXXX

February 14th

Harry had barely left his room for the whole day, rightly fearing the
level of attention he would get on this day.

Ginny had been acting extra weird for the past few days. No doubt she'd
be upset about his refusal to even show his face on what was supposedly
the most romantic day of the year, but that was her own problem. Her
crush had somehow managed to become both better and worse after the diary
situation was resolved.

Better, because she was less obvious about it most of the time and worse
because it had apparently solidified into some kind of emotional
jawbreaker. He rather thought that the girl needed counseling to deal
with the fact that her body had been used to kill someone, but the
Wizarding World had apparently never heard of psychiatry. Instead, Ginny
seemed to have convinced herself that everything would be fine as long as
he was there. Seeing as his paricipation in destroying the phylactery had
been minimal, this belief seemed a tad unjustified to Harry.

Ginny was just going to have to learn how to deal with the
disappointment, because he simply had no romantic interest in her and
didn't see that changing. Her bouts of sullen jealousy were even starting
to put a strain on their friendship despite Luna's best efforts at
playing the intermediary.

The cause of much of this jealousy was his continued interest in the
older girls, especially the one who had sent him that picture.

He didn't even know her name, but he had trouble looking her in the eye.
Ever since Dumbledore's announcement, she'd been prone to winking at him
whenever she caught him looking at her. She clearly had no trouble with
her self-confidence, but Harry had no idea how to deal with it, so he
tended to just blush in embarrassment.

His rune enhanced libido made him want to talk to her and see what
happened, but he was still twelve. Talking to a seventeen year old girl
that had given him a naughty picture was way outside of his comfort zone.

Either way, he had dreaded Valentine's day and decided to avoid any
embarrassing situations by keeping himself locked up in his room.

He'd spent most of the day eating the steady stream of snacks provided by
the house elves and meditating.

According to the book he'd found there were two ways to learn Occlumency.
The quick way and the slow way.
The quick way involved getting a skilled Legilimancer to brutally and
repeatedly violate your mind until you developed an instinctive defensive
reaction and threw the invader out of your mind.

Aside from Aul'El preventing this approach, Harry had not been overly
keen on the idea even if he could have found someone to do this to him.
It sounded incredibly unpleasant and wouldn't even help to achieve his
goals. He didn't need to train his subconscious into a viciously
territorial attack dog, he needed to tame it.

The slow way involved a lot of sitting still and trying to clear your
thoughts.

Harry had been at it for months and would have long since given up if he
didn't know that there was a point to it.

The meditation had helped to control his angry outbursts to some degree,
but so far he hadn't managed to sink into the trance-like state that the
book had described.

Until now that was.

After hours of struggling with the concept of 'letting go', Harry had
just been so tired of it all.

His irritation with Ginny's crush, the embarrassment having gotten caught
staring at several of the older girls, the frustrated lust of a pubescent
boy that was exceedingly unlikely to get fulfilled anytime soon, the
restless desire to explore magic away from the restrictions of Hogwarts
and the Ministry, the impatience at his slow progress with wandless
magic, the yearning to perform another ritual and countless other things.

In his frustration with all the messy complications of life, his mind had
wandered. He'd started thinking about how ultimately pointless it all
was. Humanity was just one species, on one ball of rock, orbiting one
star, in one galaxy. They could all get wiped out tomorrow and the
Universe wouldn't even notice.

Somewhere during his ruminations, he'd left his worldly concerns behind
and begun drifting lazily through a comfortable emptiness. It was like a
mental safe place where nothing could reach him.

A good twenty minutes later, Harry came out of the trance and smiled even
as the ache in his lower back and the hunger in his stomach ruined the
sense of peace he'd felt.

He had managed the first and arguably the hardest part of Occlumency.

XXXXX

June 2nd
Potions class had become almost pleasant for a while after the basilisk
was killed, mostly because Snape was in an ebulient mood over getting to
experiment with fresh basilisk parts that Dumbledore had given him access
to. Even more so when the headmaster also gave him access to phoenix
tears to neutralize the venom's magic destroying properties and see what
could be done with it.

It hadn't lasted long of course, as this was Snape we were talking about.
The dour man's relatively good cheer dissipated in about a month,
returning him back to his default factory setting.

Still, Harry couldn't really complain too much about Potions. Yes, Snape
was kind of a bastard and unnecessarily harsh with students, but he was
still better than Binns or Lockhart. Even a bastard with no idea how to
teach properly could impart some of his knowledge, whereas Binns was
basically a sleeping spell given form and Lockhart would have been better
served giving fashion tips in a Witch Weekly column.

The usual tense atmosphere that Snape imparted to a classroom was


shattered by a disgustingly cheerful knocking.

Snape had only a moment to glare at the door and wonder which idiot
thought it a good idea to interrupt his lesson before the idiot in
question simply barged in.

"Good day, Professor Snape." Gilderoy Lockhart said jauntily, oblivious


to the mood. "Please excuse the interruption, but I'm sure you'll
understand once I've told you what this is about."

"I quiver with anticipation." Snape drawled coldly, displeasure dripping


from every syllable.

It flew straight over Lockhart's head. "I've arranged for myself and Mr.
Potter to have an interview with a reporter from The Daily Prophet
regarding the events of the year, so I'm sure you'll see fit to excuse
him from his lesson."

Snape turned his menacing black eyes on the boy in question, a string of
insults and mockery already on his tongue.

"You arranged for me to have an interview without even asking my


permission?" Harry demanded with his face flushed angrily, beating Snape
to the punch. "Were you born this stupid, or did it take specialized
training?"

Lockhart seemed taken aback by the hostility, clearly unable to


understand how anyone could be upset about being able to talk to
reporters.

Snape was mildly impressed by the venom and disdain that Potter had
managed to put into his retort, not that he was ever going to admit it.

"Go with him and handle this, Potter." He said instead. "I'll thank you
not to let your fame intrude on my lessons in the future."
Snape observed the boy's thunderous expression with interest. This level
of provocation would have resulted in an explosion earlier in the year.
Albus was clearly correct. Potter was practicing Occlumency.

XXXXX

"... Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, has been receiving private tutoring
from famed author and monster hunter, Gilderoy Lockhart..."

Harry fumed as he read the article that the baboon of a DADA teacher had
contrived to put into the Daily Prophet.

After getting sent out of class by Snape, he'd summarily ditched Lockhart
and gone to the library, leaving the fop to deal with the press himself.

Clearly, the man was so desperate to leech off his fame that he was
willing to risk outright lying. Well, two could play that game.

XXXXX

Ministry of Magic,

Depatment of Magical Law Enforcement

To whom it may concern,

I have recently become worried about certain goings on in Hogwarts School


of Witchcraft and Wizardry and felt that they should be brought to your
attention. I have reason to suspect that the current Defense Against the
Dark Arts Professor, one Gilderoy Lockhart, is abusing his position of
authority in order to extort sexual favors from the sixth and seventh
year female students.

He has proven himself an inept teacher over the course of the year and
many students across all seven years have stopped attending his classes.
Those who remain are mostly girls, which seems suspicious to me.

It may be that the troubles experienced by Hogwarts earlier in the year


are making me see foul deeds where there are none, but I implore you to
investigate nonetheless.

Signed,

A concerned student.

Harry finished writing the letter with a sense of vindictive


satisfaction. A similar letter going out to the Daily Prophet would make
sure that it would be investigated even if the DMLE was initially
inclined to dismiss the letter.

The reporters would tear strips out of the Ministry if such a claim
wasn't investigated and they would tear strips out of Lockhart regardless
simply because they were reporters.
The charges were entirely fabricated of course, but that made little
difference. The media shitstorm would almost certainly cost Lockhart his
job and reputation even if the man was squeaky clean(which Harry strongly
doubted was the case).

That would show that pompous windbag to try using him to boost his own
fame. He'd been trying to get Harry alone ever since the year started,
but had redoubled his efforts since the fiasco with the basilisk. The
surprise interview he'd attempted to spring had simply been the last
straw.

XXXXX

"Following a brief but thorough investigation by the DMLE, Gilderoy


Lockhart has been charged with numerous illegal uses of the memory charm,
as well as abuse of his position as a Hogwarts Professor." Dumbledore was
saying to the Great Hall.

The students launched into a flurry of murmuring, whispering and general


speculation, stopping only when the Headmaster cleared his throat to once
again get everyone's attention.

"As he will be spending the next sixty odd years in Azkaban, the post of
Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor is now vacant. Seeing as the
school year is nearly over, there is little point in replacing him, but I
am sure that you will be able to manage the remainder of your studies on
your own."

There were several loud snorts at this, not all of them from the
students. Anyone who had gotten anything DADA related done this year had
done it on their own.

"As a final note, the Ministry would like to thank the concerned student
who alerted them of this and are offering a reward if they come forth and
are able to prove their identity. That is all, tuck in."

While the rest of the Great Hall once again erupted into furious
conversation, Harry merely looked stunned.

The 'fabricated' charges he'd leveled at Lockhart had actually been true?

"Blimey."

XXXXX

Last night before the students leave.

The door to Harry Potter's room opened quietly and then closed with equal
silence.

The late night intruder who had done the opening and closing padded over
to the bed on silence charmed feet. There was a short rustle of cloth and
then the intruder grabbed the edge of the quilt and very slowly lifted it
away from the sleeping boy.

Harry had never had any reason to be a particularly light sleeper and so
remained firmly unconscious.

He continued sleeping even as the bed dipped under the extra weight of
another body and the quilt was pulled back over both of them.

It was only as a mildly cold hand was dragged over his ticklish abdomen
that he began waking.

His thoughts were decidedly foggy for a few seconds, having stayed up
fairly late because of his Occlumency practice and only slipping into a
deep sleep a short while ago as a consequence, but he did eventually
cotton on to the fact that his bed was rather more crowded than normal.

"Hello Harry." Said the witch who had shown such concern about the polish
of his wand with her Christmas present.

"Hi." Harry replied in the cracked voice of emerging manhood. He most


definitely did not squeak and anyone who said otherwise was spreading
slander.

"I've seen you looking at me, Harry." She whispered into his ear hotly,
rubbing one of her bare legs across his.

"Uhm, sorry?" Harry managed, any sense of eloquence lost. From what he
could feel, she was wearing the very same nightie that had been the fuel
of so many wand polishing sessions this year.

"Well aren't you precious?" She chuckled, running her hand over his
chest. "Were you this shy when you faced Slytherin's basilisk?"

"That was different." He rallied, not liking being called shy in typical
teenaged fashion even if he wasn't one quite yet according to his age. "I
had a cock with me."

The innuendo only dawned on him once it was too late.

Her hand slipped into the boxers that served as his sleepwear and wrapped
around the one part of him that was fully at attention. "Feels like you
have one with you right now."

Harry went as rigid as if he'd been hit with a pretrification spell.

"You might be wondering why I'm here." She went on with a smile that was
barely visible in the dark, gently fondling what she'd grabbed earlier.

That had been a distant question in his mind. As far as the rest of him
was concerned, the unannounced visit of a pretty girl in his bed was not
to be questioned, especially after she'd stuck her hand in his underwear.

He wasn't really up to speech anymore, but he did manage a nod.


She pressed herself closer up against him and her fondling became more
vigorous. "Well, I just thought that you deserved a proper reward. Do you
want it?"

Nod nod.

"I want to hear you say it." She insisted huskily. "Tell me that you want
it."

He swallowed thickly, embarrassment at an all time high. "I want it."

"Louder Harry, say it like you mean it."

"I want it!"

"Good, good. Now just relax and let me take care of you."

He did as he was told and very quickly made a mess in his boxers.

Harry drew in deep breaths as she continued to squeeze her fist every
other second, making his discharge run over her fingers.

"You wouldn't happen to have had anything to do with Lockhart getting


arrested, did you?" She asked after a few minutes.

"I was the one that sent the letter to the DMLE." He admitted instantly.

"How did you know that he was fooling around with the upper year girls?"
She asked curiously.

"I didn't, I just wanted to get him in trouble." He once again admitted
instantly.

She let out a giggle. "And here I thought you were protecting our
virtue."

Harry flushed at her teasing tone. "I would've sent the letter sooner if
I'd known."

"Don't worry about it, Harry. Those bimboes have no one but themselves to
blame for buying into his lies."

All this talk about a teacher sleeping with his students brought Harry's
mind around to the fact that he was twelve and that what had just
happened was almost certainly illegal.

"Er, you won't get in trouble for, um, this, will you?" He asked
nervously.

"Were you going to tell on me, Harry?" She teased.

"No." He was quick to assure.


"Such a gentleman." She teased some more, though Harry wasn't sure if he
could really be called a gentleman in this case. "But no, there won't be
any legal trouble even if someone does find out. The magical world has a
much looser interpretation of the age of consent than the muggle one and
it's also assumed that strapping young wizards like yourself wouldn't
refuse the attentions of an older witch in any case."

Well, that explained the lack of gender wards on the doors of the boys
rooms. Lockhart must have gotten in trouble for it because he was a
teacher then.

"That's good to hear." Harry said for lack of anything better. He was
keenly aware that she had not yet removed her hand from his member.

"I'd best get going." She said about half a minute later, removing her
hand from his underwear, reaching for her wand and using a quick
scourgify to remove the mess on it.

Harry stared openly as she bent over to pick up her robes, giving him a
very nice view of her rear end in the process.

Being famous definitely had its upsides.

"I don't even know your name." He said once she was dressed.

"Probably better that way." She replied instead of answering the implied
question. Then she leaned over him and gave him a gentle kiss on the
lips.

"I hope you enjoyed the wand polishing lesson, Harry." She teased,
smirking at his stunned look. "I hope the 'supplies' I gave you for
Christmas help you keep it in top shape."

She left after that, leaving the shocked Harry to stare after her for
quite some time before he snapped out of it.

Maybe it was because he'd just woken up, or the fact that he hadn't had
any control of the situation, but the kiss had somehow had more impact
than the handjob.

Based on the concealing robes, Harry had figured that the Wizarding World
was full of prudes. While he had never been more glad to be wrong, this
definitely bore further investigation.

XXXXX

"What are you smiling about?" Ginny asked on the train ride back to
King's Cross.

"Just a pleasant memory." Harry answered, his smile not fading.

"It must have been quite relaxing." Luna observed. "You're not usually
this mellow. "
"You could say that." He agreed after a moment, inordinately proud of
himself for not blushing.

"What was it?" Ginny asked curiously.

"Something magical." He joked.

"Fine then, keep your secrets." Ginny huffed.

That was exactly what Harry intended to do, even if telling the redhead
that he'd gotten a midnight handjob would probably put her off the silly
crush she was still nursing. It was equally likely that it would make her
all indignant and outraged, or worse, determined to invade his bed in the
middle of the night as well.

XXXXX

"There's my daddy." Luna said happily, pointing at a tall and thin man
with shoulder length hair that was completely white and who somehow
managed to dress even more eccentrically than Dumbledore.

"And there's my parents." Ginny chimed in, pointing at two redheads. Not
that it was necessary, seeing as another four Weasleys were making their
way over to them.

"Come on, Harry. I want to introduce you." Luna chirped, dragging her
friend over to her father.

"Okay." Harry agreed bemusedly. Luna wasn't usually so forceful, so he


figured that she must really want this.

"Daddy." She squealed once she was close enough to hug her father,
letting go of Harry's arm in the process.

"Hello again, turnip." The man replied, returning the hug gladly.

Harry watched the whole thing a bit awkwardly, but still smiled. The two
were obviously close, which was not something he could really relate to,
but he was happy for his friend.

"This is my friend, Harry Potter. And you already know Ginny." Luna said
after a few moments, gesturing to them.

"Wonderful! I'm Xenophilius Lovegood, call me Xeno. Would you like to go


snorkack hunting with us over the summer?"

"Errr..." Harry stammered, completely taken aback by the sudden


invitation. At least it wasn't the usual Boy-Who-lived reaction that he'd
grown to dislike so much. "Thank you for the offer, but I'm afraid I
can't. I've got a lot to do over the summer."

"Same here." Ginny quickly added.


"Some other time then." Xeno said cheerfully. "It was nice meeting you,
Harry."

"Likewise, Mr. Lovegood." Harry replied.

"Xeno." The man corrected.

"Xeno." Harry repeated agreeably, finding himself liking the strange


man's manner.

Luna and her father made their goodbyes after that and left.

"Right, let's go meet my parents then." Ginny said after a moment.

Harry simply nodded, not at all looking forward to that. Molly Weasley's
semi-frequent howlers hadn't given him a particularly grand impression of
the woman. It would be rude to avoid it though.

They didn't even make it to the gathering of redheads before the twins
started in on their routine.

"Well look who it is!"

"The Ravenclaw Weasley-"

"-Come to mingle with us simpleminded Gryffindors."

"We are honored by your intellectual presence, m'lady!"

"Shut up!" Ginny yelled at them, embarrassed by the teasing.

"Fred, George, lay off." The plump matron warned

"But of course, mother." They chorused and continued on regardless.

"We wouldn't dare embarass ickle Gin-Gin-"

"-in front of the Harry Potter."

Harry aimed an annoyed look at them. The twins might be good for a few
laughs, but sometimes they really didn't know when to stop.

"Then you are...?" The father of the bunch breathed, further annoying
Harry with his awed reaction.

"Yes, Harry Potter." Harry interjected. "It's been a pleasure meeting you
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, but I'm going to have to run. My ride is probably
getting impatient."

Molly looked like she was about to say something more, but apparently
decided against it, allowing Harry to escape the family of redheads
without any further fuss. He could still hear Ginny voicing her
displeasure at the twins even as he stepped through the portal to the
muggle side of the station.
Ginny had already asked him if he wanted to spend part of the summer at
the Burrow, and he was more glad than ever to have refused. He was sure
that the Weasleys were good people, if a bit too pushy at times, but
living in the same house as them would have quickly driven him spare. If
the lack of privacy didn't get him, it would be the lack of quiet.

Besides, if he hung around with them, how was he supposed to get anything
technically illegal done?

XXXXX

Though his name for me invokes images of Jay and Silent Bob, Salma Hayek
doing a striptease, George Carlin playing a cardinal of all things, a
shit demon and a threat-of-apocalypse-by-technicality, I think we can all
agree that Alan Rickman made a great Severus Snape in the HP movies. RIP
and all that.

Until next time.

Chapter 6

I've made a minor but relatively important edit to the previous chapter.
Namely, I've changed it so that Harry is now convinced that Voldemort is
dead since his phylactery(the diary) is destroyed. It was pointed out to
me that he would have no reason to think that Voldemort would or even
could- have more than one. This may or may not have any effect on the
story as it goes forward, but it was a blunder on my part that needed to
be corrected.

This chapter was a pain in the ass to write, which is why it took so
long. Special thanks to Joe Lawyer, who was instrumental in refining it.

XXXXX

Harry walked through the door of his foster home with a faint sense of
resignation. He would have much rather skipped the hollow reunion routine
that Robert and Katherine were no doubt going to be intent on going
through even though there was nobody to see it.

"I'm home." He announced without enthusiasm.

He heard them coming a second later.

"Welcome...back?" Robert said, trailing off in confusion as he took in


the changes in his adopted son.

"What are they feeding you at that school of yours?" Katherine asked,
sounding genuinely amazed. "You're huge!"
Harry shifted awkwardly. The Weasleys hadn't commented on his size,
probably out of politeness and Xeno Lovegood may not even have registered
anything strange, but he knew that he was too big for his age. He might
be just shy of thirteen years old, but he looked closer to fifteen thanks
to the runes. He'd even caught the first hints of facial hair growing on
his chin a while ago. To the Shaws, who hadn't seen him for ten months,
the difference in his appearance must be massive.

"Just a growth spurt I guess."

Katherine came closer, reaching out to touch the mess that was his hair.
It too was growing faster than normal and now hung just above his
shoulders. It was currently at that annoying midway length where it was
long enough to be annoying, but not quite long enough to be put into a
ponytail.

"And your hair is a complete mess again." She fussed. "We'll have to get
it cut soon."

Harry leaned away from her, not even bothering to be annoyed anymore. Of
course she'd be worried about appearances right away. He'd stopped hoping
for a hug by the time he was nine. That, and her perfume was stirring up
his libido, which was still creepy.

"I was actually thinking of growing it long." He told her, taking an


inordinate amount of pleasure in the appalled expressions it got him.

"No son of ours will be going around looking like some long-haired
hooligan." Robert said firmly, his wife nodding in agreement.

Harry's expression brielfy twisted in irritation at their narrow-


mindedness. Fortunately, he'd prepared some countermeasures ahead of
time.

Not for the sake of his hair mind you, but it would be a good test.

Taking a deep breath, Harry used the months of Occlumency practice to


suffuse his mind with a feeling of calm. Then he focused it and sent a
pair of wandless calming spells at his foster parents.

"It's really not that big of a deal." He said in a conversational tone


that hid his anxiety to see if it had worked. "We're not in the 1950s
anymore, lots of men wear their hair long these days."

"I guess it won't be a problem if you style it properly." Katherine


agreed with some reluctance.

Robert was still frowning however, clearly more resistant to either the
idea or the effects of the spell. "I still think it would be better to
keep it short."

Harry sent another calming spell at him, feeling incredibly pleased with
the fact that it produced no flashy jets of light.
"Men frequently wear their hair long in the Wizarding World. It's
tradition."

A tradition for Heirs and Lords of Noble Houses that had pretty much died
out and which Harry didn't give two shits about, but he needed to test
how much he could bend the wills of his nominal guardians. If he could
use this to talk them into not objecting to him keeping his hair long,
then he might also be able to use it to dodge any kind of responsibility
for the whole summer.

Illegal? Mildly.

Immoral? Definitely.

"Alright." Robert capitulated, being a proponent of tradition. "But only


if you get it styled into something elegant instead of the rat's nest it
is now."

Convenient? Extremely.

XXXXX

Harry stared at the row of hair products in consternation, wondering if


long hair was really worth it if he had to bother with all that crap.
Maybe the Wizarding World had some kind of enchanted soap that simplified
hair care? It probably did, he'd noticed a trend in the differences
between the magical and non-magical. The magical world made small things
incredibly convenient, but lacked wide scale sophistication, whereas the
non-magical world excelled at large projects but contained numerous day
to day inconveniances that couldn't simply be magicked away.

His introduction to the inconveniances of the non-magical female had been


arranged by his foster mother. Calming spells might have worked to
convince her that there was nothing wrong with a boy having long hair,
but that was because she'd been upset about his refusal to comply and her
personal dislike of the practice.

Convincing Katherine that it didn't need to be fastidiously taken care of


would have taken an Imperius. She had seemingly decided that if he was
going to keep the long hair, then they were going to make a day of it.

Harry had not been that bored in a long time and spent most of the day
practicing his Occlumency. How women could find that enjoyable was beyond
him. He had to admit that he had enjoyed having a pretty hairdresser
massaging his scalp though, slightly embarrassing though the trip to the
obviously female targeted business had been.

At least he'd managed to buy that high-powered laptop he'd been meaning
to get in addition to learning entirely too much about hair care. Now if
only he could figure out how get a charger running in Potter Manor.
Enchanting an object into being some kind of self-propelling dynamo
wouldn't be a problem for him at this point, but putting together a gizmo
to take advantage of it would be.
XXXXX

Charlus and Dorea had been eager to hear how the Chamber of Secrets
business had been concluded and were amazed that Harry had participated
in the slaying of an ancient basilisk, even if it was with a rooster.
They were also quite proud of him for making a profit out of instead of
letting Dumbledore claim the entire carcass.

"Whoever slipped your friend that cursed diary must have been a Death
Eater." Dorea theorized.

"And Dobby was probably their house elf." Charlus added.

"Probably." Harry agreed.

"I can only be thankful that their foolishness resulted in Voldemort's


soul container being destroyed." Dorea said with a shudder. "It does not
bear thinking of that he might have returned if such things function as
you said, Harry."

"No mention of soul containers in the Black Library?" Charlus asked.

"There very well might be, my family would certainly not think twice
about keeping knowledge of such foul magic alive." Dorea replied with a
distasteful frown. "It was not something I had ever considered reading up
on, nor did my Head of House at the time allow me free access to the
library since I was not of the main line."

"I guess we should just be glad that Voldemort didn't get a chance to
regain his body." Charlus said with a sigh.

"Would I be able to access the Black Library?" Harry asked thoughtfully.


He knew that creating a phylactery himself more than likely carried a
steeper price than he was willing to pay, but he still wanted to learn
about it. Dumbledore was the only person who seemed to know anything
about the subject and asking him didn't strike Harry as a smart thing to
do.

Neither Charlus nor Dorea were too happy about the direction of Harry's
interests right now, but they weren't really people. They were portraits,
and family portraits are always made to help the still living members of
the family. Since Harry was the last Potter, they were compelled to obey
his orders and answer his questions regardless of their own opinions.

"No, you were never keyed into the wards. The war with Voldemort has not
been kind to the House of Black; most of its members are dead and the
rest in prison. I believe that Sirius is next in line to become Lord
Black, but he is currently rotting in Azkaban." Dorea finished bitterly.

Harry had done some investigating into his parents and their friends
after being told about them by his grandparents. That was why he knew
that Pettigrew was dead, that Remus Lupin had seemingly vanished off the
face of the Earth and that Sirius Black was in Azkaban for betraying his
parents to Voldemort, as well as the murder of twelve muggles and Peter
Pettigrew.

Sirius had been like a son to her and Charlus, they would have adopted
him if it wasn't for inter-House politics. The idea that he would have
betrayed James and Lily to Voldemort was ludicrous. The memories that
Harry had unlocked after performing his second ritual had only reinforced
that belief. After all, why would Sirius have just given Harry to Hagrid
if he had really been in Voldemort's service?

No, whatever had happened that night, they were certain that Sirius was
innocent of betraying the Potters. The charges of murdering Pettigrew and
twelve muggles were harder to dismiss however, especially if Pettigrew
was the real traitor. Sirius had always been a hothead and it was far
from impossible that he might have thrown out a careless blasting curse
in the throes of rage.

"You must have been quite the school hero for the rest of the year after
that." Charlus said with forced amusement, trying to move away from the
depressing topic.

"You could say that." Harry grumbled a bit, though a smile pulled at his
lips. Most of the school might have been annoyingly curious, but his
mysterious late night visitor had certainly made up for it with her
particular show of gratitude.

"Did any girls get crushes on you?" Dorea teased.

Harry shrugged, though he couldn't quite keep a tinge of pink off his
cheeks. Aside from Ginny, he wasn't aware of any crushes, but that wasn't
what he was thinking about.

"I know that look." Charlus said with a grin. "James and Sirius always
had the same shifty look on their faces when they'd just been having a
discussion about witches and didn't want us to know about it. What
happened, Harry? Did a pretty girl show you her gratitude with a kiss?"

"Yes." Harry admitted, electing not to mention what had happened before
the kiss.

"Who was she?" Dorea asked curiously.

"I, er, don't know."

"How can you not know?" Charlus asked, baffled. "Surely she didn't just
walk up to you, kiss you, and then leave without ever introducing
herself?"

No, she just snuck into my room in the middle of the night, gave me a
handjob, kissed me and left without introducing herself. Harry thought to
himself with a mental snicker despite his embarrassment.

He could only give another shrug to Charlus though, having no idea what
to tell the man without outright lying, which he was reluctant to do.
"Harry, how old was this girl?" Dorea questioned suspiciously.

"Errr, she was a seventh year." He admitted with a nervous fidget.

"Going after the older girls, eh Harry?" Charlus chuckled while Dorea
muttered disapprovingly.

"She went after me." Harry corrected, lips being pulled into a grin.
"Said that she wanted to show me how much she appreciated my efforts."

"Women do like poweful wizards." Charlus said, exchanging a sly look with
his grandson.

"Men." Dorea huffed, hiding her own amusement.

XXXXX

Harry spent the next couple of weeks in intense study, desperately trying
to bring his knowledge of mathemathics and arithmancy up to the point
where he would be able to perform another ritual. Learning how to use a
computer to help with that pursuit also took up some time, but all in all
he felt that he was making good progress.

It was fortunate that unlike spells, rituals were fairly structured


things and he could re-use a lot of the work from his previous two. The
task of precisely defining the movements of the knife was time consuming
and difficult with only a miniscule margin for error, but it did not
contain any of the bizzare variables that magic introduced into
spellcraft. It was essentially pure science, reliably predictable and
math heavy, whereas crafting a new spell was oftentimes more of an art.

Robert and Katherine occasionally tried to drag him off to some social
event or another and kept making plans for turning his birthday into one.

Judicious application of calming spells and what weak compulsions he


could cast kept things under control for the most part. Any sense of
guilt that Harry might have felt at magically messing with their heads
was overshadowed by his relief at having a means to get them to bugger
off.

He received no letters from either Luna or Ginny, which was to be


expected given his little owl problem. He still had no idea how he was
going to deal with that, if it even could be dealt with. The three of
them had agreed not to bother with letters over the summer due to a
combination of that issue and him not having an owl of his own, but there
was another letter he was expecting that would probably turn out to be
problematic when it couldn't be delivered.

Namely, his Hogwarts supply list for third year. In all likelihood, he
would need to explain himself to an irate Deputy Headmistress come August
when the school owls found themselves unable to deliver anything to him.
Filling his days with nothing but sleeping, eating and study quickly
began to make Harry a dull boy however. He still kept at it in spite of
that, which turned him from a dull boy into a frustrated one and then an
angry one, at which point he became about ready to set his notes on fire
if he had to look at one more symbol.

Seeing as this would be incredibly counter-productive, he decided to take


a day off instead.

XXXXX

Standing in a bus on the way to the cinema, Harry debated whether he


should praise or curse the capricious whims of the weather.

The July temperatures in London usually hung around 20C, but 2013 was
turning out to be an unusually hot year. Furthermore, July 22nd was
turning out to be an unusually hot day in an already unusually hot year,
with temperatures going over 30C.

Harry had not yet mastered wandless cooling charms and was reduced to
sweating it out like everyone else. At least the bus had air
conditioning.

On the up side, he was standing next to the seat of a pretty girl that
was perhaps sixteen or seventeen years old, who was wearing a pair of
very short jean shorts and a black tank top that gave him a perfect view
down her cleavage. The Wizarding World could boast about a lot of things,
but sexy female clothing was not one of them. He hadn't even realized
what he was missing until he saw the barely perceptible sheen of sweat on
a pair of firm teenaged breasts. The compulsive power of rune enhanced
puberty kept his eyes glued to the sight of them.

The girl looked up. She saw him staring.

"See something you like, Green-Eyes?" She asked, both as a warning and
challenge.

Shite. I really need to stop getting caught doing that. Time to dip into
the excuse box, Potter.

"I'm sorry," He began with an awkward smile. "I go to a boarding school


with a very strict dress code and I don't get to see pretty girls in
anything but stodgy uniforms for most of the year."

The girl snorted, either amused or unimpressed. Harry couldn't quite


tell.

Harry bit his lip, an idea popping into his mind. He'd gotten used to
having friendly company around, which was why he'd decided on going to
the cinema instead of staying in his room and fooling around on the
internet or gaming like he usually did, but it still wasn't the same as
having Luna around(or even Ginny).
This girl was a complete stranger and might very well be mildly pissed at
him for the staring, but they were already sort of talking and he could
use the company. As a bonus, she was quite pretty, had almost certainly
never heard of the Boy-Who-Lived(the chances of her being a witch or
having a magical relative had to be insanely remote) and would probably
assume that he was only slightly younger than her instead of the not-
quite-thirteen year old that he actually was.

"Listen, I'm sorry about the staring. How about you let me take you to
dinner and a movie as an apology?" He offered, employing his hard earned
skill at Occlumency to keep any hints of nervous stutter out of his voice
and the much resented etiquette lessons that Robert and Katherine had
forced on him to sound smoother than he felt.

She looked up at him again, this time speculatively. She had a small
metal stud in her nose and another one in her tongue if his eyes did not
deceive him. Her eyes were a very dark brown and her hair was obviously
dyed black. Aside from her jean shorts and tank top, all she had on her
were a pair of scuffed trainers and a deliberately beaten up looking tan
green bag that sported a plenthora of doodles depicting what he guessed
were band signs.

His foster parents would have been horrified if they knew that he was
associating with someone like her, which just made it better as far as he
was concerned.

"Are you asking me on a date?" She asked.

"I guess I am." He replied evenly, doing his level best to keep the blood
away from his face.

She stayed quiet for a while, deliberately prolonging his torment.

Most of her already mild irritation at his peeping had dissipated when
he'd apologized, so she was not entirely opposed to his suggestion and it
wasn't like she'd had any plans for the day in the first place. The black
haired boy was more polite than what she was used to and a bit on the
young side, but not at all bad looking, had the most gorgeous green eyes
she'd ever seen and probably had money to spare if his mention of going
to a boarding school was true. As far as random date requests went, this
one was actually quite appealing.

"Alright, Green-Eyes, I'll go on a date with you."

"Harry." He introduced himself with a smile, offering her his hand.

"Zoe." She smiled back, taking the hand.

XXXXX

Harry had already learned with Luna that being around people that didn't
expect anything from you could be fun. He learned with Zoe that just
goofing off for a while was very liberating. He couldn't even recall the
last time he'd felt so relaxed.
They went to an 'all you can eat' type restaurant first, where he decided
to show off a bit by eating enough for three grown men, much to his
date's disgusted awe and fascination.

After that they went to see a movie, where Harry learned that Zoe was one
of those people that liked to point out plot holes, logic failures and
inconsistencies rather than watch quietly. They didn't make any new
friends there.

Harry mentioned reading somewhere that the Headmaster of his school


enjoyed ten-pin bowling, which had Zoe suggesting that they go do that
since neither of them had ever tried it. As it turned out, they both
sucked at it.

Harry paid for everything without really giving it much thought. He'd
grown up rich, but rarely spent anything until recently. He remembered
what it was like to be poor all too well and had no desire to return to
that through careless spending, no matter how unlikely it was. He hadn't
expected to have this much fun on their date and the last thing he wanted
to do was spoil it by being cheap.

The day had to end eventually though and the two of them set off toward
home, though it was long after it had gotten dark.

"I can't believe that you're stuffing your face again." Zoe was saying in
exasperation, staring at the subway sandwich Harry had picked up a short
while ago.

"I'm a growing boy." He replied with the standard excuse.

"You'll be growing sideways if you don't watch it, you plonker." She
threw back with a wide grin.

"You're just jealous." He retorted smugly.

"Damn right I'm jealous!" The girl exclaimed loudly, scowling playfully.
"You've been shoving food down your gob the whole bloody day like it's
nothing. If it tried that, I'd be the size of a bus in a month."

"A double decker." Harry agreed with a laugh.

"Prat."

They lapsed into silence for a while, just waiting for their respective
buses to arrive to take them home while Harry finished off his latest
meal.

"Harry, listen..." Zoe started, suddenly nervous. "I had a really great
time today..."

"So did I." He replied, wondering what she was trying to say.

"...But I don't think we should be doing this again."


Harry blinked at the sudden serious turn the evening had taken.

"I didn't really expect us to." He admitted after a moment. "I don't get
much free time. Today was an exception because I was overworked, but I'm
going to be busy for the rest of the summer and then I'll be off in my
school for ten months. I like you, but I never expected this to be more
than a one time thing."

And that wasn't even mentionning that he had to keep magic a secret from
her. He had no idea what the protocol was for bringing someone new in on
it, but he suspected that it was pretty draconian. Not that he had an
abundance of respect for the Ministry's laws, but he did have respect for
the consequences of those laws.

"Yeah...I kind of have a boyfriend already anyway." She admitted,


scratching awkwardly at the back of her head.

Harry blinked again and stared at her for a long few seconds.

"Won't he be upset that you went on a date with me?"

"We're having a bit of a break right now, so it's cool."

"Huh...okay then."

They lapsed into silence again, a significantly more uncomfortable one


this time.

"So...this school of yours gives you homework to do over the summer?" Zoe
asked after a minute.

"Yep, quite a lot of it actually." None of which he'd even looked at yet.
The preparations for the next ritual had consumed all of his attention.

"Barbaric."

"Absolutely."

"We can still stay in touch though, right?" She asked brightly. "You can
never have too many friends."

Harry winced. Staying in touch while he was at Hogwarts would be quite


the feat. Owls and the Floo Network were the only ways for students to
communicate with the outside world and neither would work for talking to
someone that didn't know about magic.

"That might be a problem." He said after a few seconds. "The school I go


to is seriously isolated. I'd be shocked if there's so much as a phone
anywhere within fifty kilometers of it."

In fact, he knew that there wasn't one.

Zoe's face fell into a sad expression.


"You don't have to lie, Harry. If you're mad at me for not mentioning my
boyfriend, then just tell me."

"I'm not lying." Harry insisted. "There really isn't any phone or
internet access at my school."

"Where the hell do you go to school, the middle of the Atlantic?" She
asked sarcastically, not at all convinced.

"Some Scottish Highland in the ass end of nowhere actually." He admitted


ruefully.

"You're serious?!" She asked incredulously.

"Afraid so."

"What could they possibly be teaching you up there without any


technology, the best way to shag a sheep?"

Harry snickered, having a bizzare mental image of McGonagall


transfiguring a desk into the aforementioned animal and tutoring them in
the proper technique to shag it in true Scottish fashion. It certainly
gave him a new perspective on the possible alternative uses of
transfiguration.

"It's a very...traditional...sort of place." He evaded, rapidly


developing an appreciation for how much bullshit the non-magical family
members of wizards and witches had to shovel to keep magic a secret.

"Keep telling yourself that, sheep shagger."

"I'll have you know that everyone there is very right and proper, they
would've been scandalized by your pierced tongue and poor manners." Harry
retorted lightly, knowing that he was probably right. The wizard-raised
would be both baffled and horrified at the idea of having a metal stud in
one's tongue.

"So it's a bunch of snobbish sheep shaggers?" She asked.

Harry gave it a moment's thought before giving a slow nod. He could


easily imagine Draco Malfoy with his nose up in the air even while
shagging a sheep. He wished he hadn't imagined it, but it was too late
for that now.

"A lot of them are snobby."

"I'm actually kind of surprised that you aren't." She admitted.

"Why? Because my foster parents are snobby twats?" He asked with a raised
eyebrow.

"Foster parents? I thought they were your real parents."


"Nah, my real parents were murdered by a psychotic neo-nazi when I was a
year old." That was as good a description for Voldemort as any.

Zoe recoiled in shock despite his casual tone and stared at him in
horror.

"Don't worry about it, it was a long time ago. I've gotten over it."
Harry assured her.

Well, I've mostly gotten over it.

"I guess that explains why you're not a snobby rich kid, haha." She said,
giving a nervous (and quite fake) laugh.

"Sorry, probably shouldn't have just blurted it out like that."

"It was a bit of a surprise." She admitted and they went silent again.

"I think that's your bus." Harry said about a minute later, seeing the
vehicle in question approaching.

Zoe bit her lip at that, suddenly looking a bit indecisive for a moment
before her face firmed in resolve. The next thing Harry knew, she was
mashing her lips up against his.

Eyes going wide in shock, Harry responded on a clumsy autopilot, feeling


the now familiar shiver of magic pulse from his runes as his arousal
rose. He was barely aware of his hands going around her to grab her rear
end as he began to respond more enthusiastically.

"My mum isn't coming home until tomorrow." She whispered into his ear
when they separated, the invitation clear.

Later on, Harry would have liked to say that he had considered this offer
carefully and thought about various factors such as his brief
acquaintance with Zoe, her uncertain relationship status, his youth and
several other things.

In reality, most of his higher reasoning had migrated south along with
his blood. Indeed, his most complex thought was something along the lines
of 'I'm getting laid!'.

Inexperienced with this kind of situation and unsure of how to accept, he


merely gave her butt a squeeze and leaned in for another kiss.

XXXXX

They got on the bus together and spent an impatient ten minutes touching
in a way that didn't really help with the waiting.

Then they made a B line towards the apartment building where Zoe lived
with her mother, her father not being around for reasons that Harry had
felt it unwise to press her on. An interesting session of heavy elevator
snogging and a short walk down the hallway later, they were through the
door of the flat.

Harry had only a few seconds to take in the small-ish living space as Zoe
led him to her room. It was fairly tidy, but the pile of towels on the
couch, a few dirty dishes in the sink and traces of dust in places
betrayed the fact that the people living here were not as obsessive about
neatness as he was used to. Teeny would have a nervous breakdown at the
thought of a mess being left anywhere in a place that people lived and
Robert and Katherine would turn their noses up so high that they'd be
able to collect rainwater with their nostrils.

The thought of his foster parents penetrated the lust currently fogging
his brain and he recalled that he had to do something.

"Hang on a second." He said, pulling out his phone. "I need to call
Katherine and tell her that I'm not coming home today."

"They don't like you slipping the leash?" Zoe smirked, toying with the
waistband of her shorts.

"You could say that." Harry grumbled. "I wouldn't put it past her to call
the police and make a huge scene."

And not out of worry that he'd been kidnapped or something either, since
it would hardly be the first time that he'd slept over in Potter Manor.
No, she'd do it for the publicity. Then she would spend the next month or
so milking the 'I was so scared' card before it got old. She probably
wouldn't do it since it might also make her look neurotic, but it was
best to not give her an excuse.

Sometimes, Harry got the distinct feeling that Robert and Katherine were
actually hoping that someone would kidnap him, just so that they'd have a
legitimate reason to plaster themselves all over the news.

"Go ahead then." Zoe said, still smirking and starting to take off her
clothes.

Harry had some trouble finding the name of his foster mother with the
impromptu striptease going on in front of him. To be fair, the mismatched
pair of black bra and blue thong was a lot more interesting. He did
manage to call her eventually though.

"Hello?" Katherine answered with her usual overdone sense of poise.

"Katherine, hi. I'm not going to be coming home today." Harry said
without preamble, the majority of his attention fixed on Zoe.

"Sleeping over in the magical house your parents left you again?"
Katherine asked rhetorically, a fair bit of bite in her words. "Robert
and I would really like to see it one day, you know."

Harry did know, the two of them hadn't stopped wheedling about it since
they'd learned that he actually owned something. Call him paranoid, but
Harry wasn't keen to let them anywhere near Potter Manor. He feared for
the antique furniture at the very least, even if two non-magicals didn't
really have any right to them according to wizard law. Both Robert and
Katherine had a sense of entitlement to rival any wizard and were sure to
attempt getting their mitts on anything they could. He didn't even want
to think about their reaction to the vaults full of gold he had in
Gringotts.

"You know it's not that easy." He said back, a trace of irritation
seeping into his own tone.

Zoe looked at him curiously and suddenly developed a mischievous grin.

"Yes, so you said. These wards of yours that are supposed to repel non-
magical people." Katherine replied, dubiously. Not that she doubted their
existence, merely their ability to affect her. She was just about
arrogant enough to think herself too strong willed for that."But it's
your house. Couldn't you disable them or something?"

While Katherine had been talking, Zoe had taken the opportunity to yank
his shorts down to his ankles, leaving him suddenly and unceremoniously
exposed.

Harry gaped at Zoe in shock at the unexpected move. She winked back up at
him from her kneeling position and pushed him to sit on the bed.

"Harry, are you still there?"

"Wh- yeah, I'm still here." He said, sounding much more flustered than
before.

"What happened? You sound strange."

Inwardly cursing nosy foster mothers who couldn't just end the fucking
call already, Harry made up a quick excuse.

"Um, the carpet grabbed my leg."

Zoe slapped a hand over her mouth to keep from bursting into giggles at
what probably sounded like an outrageous lie to her.

"Animated carpets. Honestly, I will never understand why anyone would use
magic for something like that."

Neither would Harry to be perfectly honest, but he was for once glad that
wizards and witches were generally insane enough for pretty much anything
to sound plausible.

"Me neithER!"

"What was it this time?"

"Stubbed my toe." Harry answered with strain in his voice.


He hadn't of course, since he was quite stationery. The real reason was
that Zoe had apparently gotten impatient and decided to start him off
with a blowjob, though the amused gleam in her dark eyes suggested that
she was also doing it to add some extra difficulty to his phone call.

"Figures that you'd be clumsy with how fast you're growing. I read that
people that grow quickly tend to be less aware of their body." Katherine
commented, oblivious to the fact that her audience couldn't care less if
he tried.

"That's great." Harry replied, not sure if he was saying it to his foster
mother or the girl currently demonstrating the uses of a tongue stud
during oral sex.

"You must have hit your toe really hard, you sound like you're in a lot
of pain."

"Yes, pain." Harry agreed, clenching his teeth tightly as Zoe suddenly
hollowed out her cheeks and began sucking on him earnestly. "Listen
Katherine, I really need to do something about this."

What he really needed to do was warn Zoe that he was about to blow and he
could hardly do that with his foster mother still on the line. He'd
already tried to tug on her hair but she didn't seem to be getting the
message.

"Alright, but do look into lowering those wards later."

Unable to hold back any more, Harry resigned himself to getting yelled at
for unloading in a girl's mouth without warning her.

"Harry?" Katherine asked, no doubt hearing his heavy breathing through


the nose as Zoe kept on sucking through his orgasm, apparently unbothered
by the lack of warning.

"Yeah, I got it. Talk to you later, Katherine." Harry said and ended the
call, trying not to sound too relieved when Zoe popped his oversensitive
cock out of her mouth.

While Harry took a moment to catch his breath, Zoe took a tissue and a
bottle of water from her bag, spat the semen she'd so industriously
extracted from him into it and then gulped down a few mouthfuls of water.

"Sorry." He apologized with a wince.

"Don't be, you taste a lot better than Jeff ever did. Man eats too much
cheese." Zoe replied with a shrug.

Not exactly the response he'd been expecting, but Harry made a note to
investigate the effects of food on the taste of his sperm.

"I meant for not warning you." He clarified.


"Oh Harry, you really think I couldn't tell?" Zoe chuckled, stepping
closer until panty clad crotch was practically rubbing against his nose.
There was a small spot of wetness on the blue fabric that made her own
arousal clear. "It was obvious, even if you did cum as quick as a
virgin."

"I am a virgin." Harry admitted, resisting the surprisingly strong


temptation to bury his nose in her crotch. The runes had settled down a
bit after his orgasm, but the faint smell of her arousal was quickly
bringing his own back and the magic with it.

"Really?" There was a hint of incredulity in Zoe's voice that baffled


Harry. He looked fifteen at most and she couldn't possibly be more than
seventeen, though she was probably sixteen. What was so strange about
being a virgin at that age?

"Really." He confirmed, looking at her a bit oddly.

"We'll have to do something about that." She said with a smirk, pulling
his shirt off, unclipping her bra and sliding her thong down her legs to
expose her recently shaved crotch. "But first, how about getting me
ready?"

It was quite obvious what she wanted and Harry wasn't opposed to it in
the slightest. The smell was certainly enticing.

He leaned in closer and hesitantly dragged his tongue across her slit,
unsure what to expect. To his mild surprise, there wasn't much of a taste
to her sex aside from the salty tang of her sweat from the hot day and a
very faint musk that corresponded to the smell of her.

Zoe's hands went into his hair as he continued his slow exploration of
her lower lips, getting bolder every time she made a sound of pleasure.
He kept it up for a minute or two before becoming dissatisfied with the
position. With him sitting down and her standing in front of him, he had
fairly limited access and he wanted to change it.

Zoe made a small sound of disappointment when he nudged her to get on the
bed, but she did it anyway, settling herself on it and spreading her legs
for him. She looked like she was about to say something, but stopped
herself when he once again went for her crotch with his face.

"You're doing pretty well for a virgin." She said with a pleased sigh,
running her fingers through his hair. "Most boys don't like licking a
girl, they just stick it in and start hammering away."

Buried as he was in muff, Harry couldn't respond, but he couldn't for the
life of him understand why anyone would dislike this. Sure, he was almost
painfully hard, but there was nowhere he'd rather be right now. Besides,
she'd sucked him off and it seemed only right to return the favor.

"Higher." She directed, tugging on his hair.


Harry obliged and moved upward, leaving her vaginal opening alone for
now.

"Just a little bit higher."

Puzzled as to why, he nonetheless did as he was told and moved his tongue
a little bit higher. He figured that his tongue had nearly completely
left her nether lips when she suddenly bucked with a quickly indrawn
breath.

Intrigued by the powerful reaction, he dragged his tongue over the same
area again.

"Yes! Right there." Zoe gasped, her hand clenching in his hair almost
painfully.

That was exactly what he'd been about to do either way, so Harry was more
than happy to follow her directions again. Several more long licks over
the area revealed a little nub of some sort that appeared to elicit an
especially intense reaction, so he began to focus on it exclusively.

This quickly had Zoe panting her way to an orgasm, squeezing her legs
around Harry's head to stop him from abusing her overstimulated clitoris
any further.

"Wow...not bad." She breathed. "You were a bit clueless at the start and
a bit too rough at the end, but not bad at all. I give you a six out of
ten in licking pussy."

Wiping the spit and other fluids off his jaw, Harry shot her an amused
look. "You have a scale?"

"Oh yes." She confirmed with a giggle. "'one' is 'painful and not at all
pleasant' and 'ten' is 'explosive squirting'."

Harry didn't really know how to respond to that, so he just ran his hand
across her still spread legs and shuffled closer, lining himself up with
her opening.

"Wait." Zoe stopped him, reaching over to a small nightstand and pulling
out a condom. "Put that on. I'm on the pill, but we wouldn't want to have
any accidents, would we?"

This ended up being Harry's introduction to the frustration of dealing


with condom packaging.

"Give it here." Zoe said in exasperation after seeing him fumble with the
prophylactic for a full fifteen seconds without success. With easy
motions that betrayed a lot of practice, she quickly ripped the packaging
and wrapped the latex tube around his shaft.

"Come on in." She beckonked once that was done, spreading her legs lewdly
in invitation.
Feeling a mix of eagerness and nervous anticipaton, Harry moved forward
and placed his hands on the enticing pair of breasts that had started
this whole sequence of events, sinking into her wet warmth at the same
time.

Once he was completely inside her, she suddenly pulled him down on top of
her, wrapping her legs around his waist and grabbing the back of his head
to whisper in his ear.

"Your virginity is mine now, Harry, and you're never getting it back."

He looked at her incredulously and she burst out laughing, apparently


unable to keep a straight face.

"Sorry, I've always wanted to say that." She explained with a giggle.
"Now get to the shagging, and try not to blow your load in thirty seconds
again."

XXXXX

Ever since he'd completed his first ritual and discovered the unexpected
side-effects, Harry had occasionally pondered what a rune like Uruz would
mean for his sexual stamina. He hadn't noticed any particular difference
during his many wand polishing sessions, nor had he lasted long during
the surprise handjob at the end of his second year, but he hadn't wanted
to dismiss the possibility.

He finally had a definite answer.

"Why are you hard again? How are you hard again." Zoe asked plaintively,
exhaustion evident in her tone.

"Must be magic." Harry quipped, snickering at his private joke.

He may not have lasted very long the first couple of times, but his
recovery period was turning out to be inhumanly fast. He'd also built
enough stamina that he was lasting a much more respectable length of time
by round six, which was now.

"Well you and your magical cock are going to have to calm down because
I'm running out of condoms. I can't use them all on you, in one night no
less."

"I'll buy you as many as you want tomorrow." He offered, flicking his
tongue over one of her nipples.

"You're damn right you will, but I'm tired." Zoe continued in the same
plaintive voice as before. "And sore. And sweaty. I just want to take a
shower and go to sleep."

"Want me to wash your back?" Truth be told, he was pretty tired himself
and wouldn't mind a shower and sleep either, but teasing the girl he'd
exhausted was making his ego skyrocket.
She snorted. "Nice try, but our shower isn't even close to big enough for
that."

"Aww."

"Tell you what, Harry. I'll give you another blowjob in the bathroom if
you stop poking me in the arse with that thing." Zoe offered tiredly.

"Okay." Harry quickly agreed.

He might be tired, but a blowjob was a blowjob.

XXXXX

The next morning, Harry left Zoe's apartment block with a skip in his
step after leaving behind a twenty pound note to pay for the amount of
condoms he'd used, feeling subtly different than when he'd gone in. For
all the effort he'd put into learning Occlumency, his hormones had still
been all over the place ever since his first rune set. They were still
all over the place and would continue to be until his accelerated puberty
was over, but the sex seemed to have made it a bit better. The magic in
the in his runes felt a bit less chaotic.

Or it could just be that he was in a good mood and was imagining things.

XXXXX

Harry got back to work on his ritual after that, finding it much easier
now that he was no longer wound tighter than a steel cable.

He resisted the urge to do more with Zoe than send an occasional text,
regardless of the understandable urge to focus on the pretty girl instead
of the preparations to carve a set of symbols into his skin with a knife.
All the reasons for why getting too close to her was a bad idea were very
valid and he'd checked the Ministry guidelines for introducing an
uninformed and unrelated muggle to magic. It was exactly as draconian as
he'd suspected it would be.

Basically, if they weren't immediate family such as a sibling, spouse,


parent or child, then it was illegal to tell them. Meaning that unless he
married her(which he obviously wasn't intending to do, considering his
actual age and their brief acquintance), he'd have to keep Zoe in the
dark or else be charged with violating the Statute of Secrecy if he got
discovered. Naturally, they'd wipe her memories as well, including her
memories of him. Harry wasn't so confident in his ability to fool the
Ministry that he'd be willing to risk it and that wasn't even taking into
account how Zoe herself might react to the notion of magic.

On the home front, his foster parents continued their attempts to use his
birthday as an excuse to organize something, only to run afoul a constant
stream of calming charms and mild compulsion spells from him until it was
too late. Harry could only breathe a sigh of relief at getting through
his birthday without any fuss for a change.
As expected, he received no owls, not from Luna or Ginny for his birthday
and not from McGonagall for his school supplies.

He wasn't surprised when she showed up personally the next day.

XXXXX

"Would you care to explain why the Hogwarts owls seem unable to locate
you, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall asked once they were settled in the sitting
room.

"I couldn't say, Professor." Harry said evenly, being well prepared for
this conversation. "All I know is that it's been going on since
Christmas. Luna and Ginny weren't able to send me their presents either."

"And you did not think to inform anyone of this?" The old witch asked in
a displeased tone.

"I didn't think it was that big of a deal." Harry shrugged.

"Having an Owl Ward set up around you without your knowledge or your
magical guardian's permission is indeed a 'big deal'." McGonagall huffed
and pulled out her wand.

Harry sat still while she waved it over him and muttered to herself. This
was the most nerve wracking part of the experience, where he could do
nothing but trust that Arhain would be able to frustrate her efforts at
determining the truth. He would have very much liked to tell her that he
didn't want anyone casting diagnostic spells on him, but he knew that it
would only serve to make them suspicious. Dumbledore, being his magical
guardian in loco parentis, would probably force the issue and Harry would
be legally forced to comply.

Even the more progressive laws of the mundane world didn't really
consider thirteen year olds as people in the legal sense. Rather, it
considered them as something very close to the property of their
guardians, similar to pets really. Sure, it was to protect them from
making any hugely stupid decisions due to their youth, but it still
rankled.

"That's strange." McGonagall said, looking perplexed. "I can't find any
trace of an Owl Ward."

Harry resisted the urge to say something dismissive. Being cheeky about
it was not the way to deflect suspicion.

"What is it then?" He asked instead, politely.

"I don't know." She answered with a frown, making another few swishes
over him with her wand. "I'm not detecting anything out of the ordinary."

Harry held back a relieved sigh. Arhain was working.


"We will need to have the Headmaster and perhaps Poppy examine you
further when you return to Hogwarts."

And there was the downside. Unexplained mysteries made people curious and
nosy.

XXXXX

A few days after McGonagall's visit, Harry happened to be passing through


the living room where his foster parents were watching TV when he caught
sight of a very interesting article on the news.

"Mass murderer Sirius Black has escaped from prison and is considered
armed and extremely dangerous. If you see him, contact the police
immediately. Do NOT approach him."

The article was accompanied by a picture of the man looking quite


deranged, with an elbow length tangle of hair, pasty white skin, sunken
eyes and rotten teeth. He was much changed from the few memories of him
that Harry had, but it was undoubtedly his godfather.

There was no information on which prison he'd escaped from, which gave
Robert something to complain about, but Harry knew which one it was. He
would keep a wary eye out for any unusually large black dogs this year.
Even if he was almost positive that Sirius had nothing to do with the
deaths of his parents, there was still a good chance of him actually
being guilty for the other crimes he'd been imprisoned for and there was
no telling what state the dementors had left him in over the past twelve
years.

XXXXX

Mid August

Harry pushed away from his desk and thrust both his arms into the air
victoriously, a feeling of deep satisfaction filling him.

He lowered them after a few seconds and slumped into a lazy, relieved
slouch.

It was finally done. The symbols were chosen, the arithmancy checked out,
everything had been triple checked both by himself and the computer. The
ritual was ready.

Seven words, this time in kanji. He'd not quite realized how much trouble
that particular alphabet would give him when he'd chosen it, but he
hadn't wanted to back out of using it simply because it would be
difficult.

Unlike the Norse or Avariel runes, kanji characters were far more complex
in appearance and often had multiple characters per word, making them
take more cuts to carve as a result, but they were not as ambiguous in
meaning and thus far more predictable. He would be glad to have them
carved and get it over with.
Tomorrow. Right now it was time for a nap so that his brain stopped
hurting.

XXXXX

Sorcery

Poison

Cleanse

Lungs

Kidneys

Liver

Intestine

Harry kept these seven words firmly in mind as he stepped into the ritual
circle and felt the built in petrification spell take hold.

The purpose of this rune set was simple. To increase the speed at which
poisons and foreign magic was purged from him. The downside of it was as
obvious as it was simple. It would also work against beneficial magic and
medicines, as healing spells were still foreign to his body and medicines
were really nothing more than targeted poisons. He deemed it a fair
exchange.

"Majutsu."

The knife rose and began carving the two character word into his right
shoulder. It took longer than any of his previous runes because of the
complexity, but that was how it was. Harry ignored the pain as best he
could and sank into an Occlumency trance, focusing on the meaning and
purpose of his newest rune.

When it was done, he felt his magic move into the freshly carved wound
and settle into a tense wait. It wasn't a latent bit of magic anymore,
but something that had been given a purpose that needed to be fulfilled.
Harry smiled. The same had happened with Raido, so he knew that it was
working as it should.

"Doku."

A single character word this time, carved into his left shoulder. His
magic settled into it just as easily, but the sense of anticipation grew.

"Kiyomemasu."

A four character word, carved into his upper breastbone. This time, the
magic already held in the previous two runes joined the latent magic
flowing into the new one, taking further direction from it.
Now to tell it where to go.

"Haiz."

This one was a bit different than the three before it. He had two lungs,
so two sets of the two character rune were carved into his chest, where
the organs in question were.

As soon as it was done, he felt the previously prepared magic rushing


into his lungs.

Harry gasped in wonder, getting a true feel for his lungs for the first
time in his life. A shiver of sensation ran through his first set of
runes and he could feel their magic joining that of the ones he'd just
carved, instinctively knowing that their healing effects were being put
to work to undo what little damage his lungs had accrued over his short
life.

"Jinz."

The knife moved to his back and began carving another two set of two
character kanji over his kidneys. His magic filled them the same as it
had his lungs, repairing any damage to them and enhancing their natural
purpose of purifying the blood.

Another important bit of information came back to the forefront of


Harry's mind as this happened.

The lungs did not have pain receptors.

The kidneys did however, as Harry learned when he felt a dull burn flare
up in them as they were magically enhanced beyond normal capacity.

Knowing that there was no choice but to keep going and hope that it would
pass quickly, he hurried on with the last two parts of the ritual.

"Kimo."

The knife made quick work of the single character word and the burn
spread to his liver as well.

"Ch."

The last word was also just one character, which the knife carved into
the soft tissue of his petrified, unmuscled stomach. Predictably, his
entire intestinal tract began burning painfully.

The ritual dropped him unceremoniously into the small pool of blood that
had run down his legs, leaving him groaning pitifully as the burn
continued to slowly worsen.

He hadn't anticipated that little wrinkle, for which he knew that Charlus
and Dorea were going to give him knowingly pointed looks and Teeny would
confine him to bed for the next few days, all the while wringing her
hands nervously at her inability to make the pain stop and making him
feel guilty for worrying her.

Good thing he'd told Robert and Katherine that he'd be spending a few
days with a friend from school. The last thing he wanted was to deal with
them while feeling as if his organs were being microwaved.

XXXXX

Harry spent the next couple of days experiencing the joys of his body
suddenly having much more effective filtration system, complete with such
wonderful features as a burning pain when taking a piss. It fortunately
settled down after the initial change, for which Harry was grateful. He
had been briefly worried that he'd made a huge mistake and had a lifetime
of constant pain to look forward to, but it turned out that all was well
as soon his body was brought down to a lower toxin threshhold than it had
been at before.

He still felt that the end result was worth it, but he wouldn't soon
forget that applying magical changes directly to one's organs hurt.

Once that unpleasant experience was over with, Harry suddenly found
himself with some free time on his hands before the summer ended. Sure,
he still had to do the homework that Hogwarts had assigned him, but that
was a day's work at the most. Two if he was slow about it.

Zoe had sent him a few texts that were a clear invitation for another
date and later a repeat of their last encounter, but he had reluctantly
begged off due to his desire to finish the ritual. There wasn't anything
like that holding him back now though.

Mind made up, he took out his phone and started writing the text. Sure,
Zoe was technically in a relationship with someone already, but that was
honestly between her and this 'Jeff' character that he presumed was her
on-again off-again boyfriend. Zoe could tell him to back off at any time,
but until then he was going to treat her as if she was single.

XXXXX

Harry boarded the Hogwarts Express early, as had been his habit for the
past two years. He wanted to stake a claim on an empty compartment,
rather than end up in a situation where he had to sit with strangers.

He'd gotten to meet up with Zoe an additional two times, both of which
had ended with sex at her place. Apparently her mother often spent the
night with her own current boyfriend, which left Zoe plenty of alone time
for her own activities.

It had quickly become obvious to Harry that he was being used for his
money as much as for his company, as Zoe had picked out a list of
activities that were well out of the sensible budget of a normal teenager
on both days and never mentioned the fact that he always left behind more
money than a few condoms warranted.
He didn't really mind, truth be told. The expenditure for him was far
from huge and it ended in sex. Zoe didn't seem any more interested in
making something more of their arrangement than him, for which he was
thankful, as it would be simply impractical for him to get involved with
a muggle girl at this point. He hadn't expected his spur of the moment
date request back in July to formulate into having a summer fuck buddy,
but he was certainly not complaining.

At the very least, it had reduced the amount of incidents where he was
seized by the sudden urge to bend his foster mother over a table. That
had never stopped being weird, even if he'd gotten kind of used to it.

Luna walked in some time after him, followed by Ginny who barely boarded
before the train started moving. Luna had some amusing stories to tell
about her snorkack hunting adventure, but Harry was far more interested
in what Ginny had to say for a change.

"There are animated skeletons in the Egyptian tombs?" He asked with


surprised interest.

"Yeah, but some of them were really weird. My brothers said that one of
them had two heads because of some curse or other that was in there." The
redhead explained enthusiastically.

"You didn't see them yourself?" He wondered.

"No." She scowled. "Mum didn't let me see, said that it was 'no place for
a young lady'. Pah!"

Harry's lips twitched into a smile at her irritability. He'd have been
angry too in her position.

"So she didn't let you go into any of the tombs?"

"Only the ones that the curse breakers have already cleared, and even
then only if Bill went with us."

"Your oldest brother? The one that works for Gringotts?" Harry asked,
inwardly wondering why anyone would want to work for the little bastards.

"That's him." Ginny confirmed.

"What kind of claim do the goblins have on the tombs of humans?" He asked
further, perplexed.

"Errr..." Ginny stammered, stumped by the question.

"It's part of the treaty they have with the ICW." Luna offered dreamily.

"The ICW gave them free access to the resting places of long dead
Egyptian wizards?" Harry asked sceptically.
"The Egyptian tombs hadn't been discovered yet when the treaty was
signed. That specific clause of the treaty gives them ownership of any
place where the magical dead were interred as long as it is over two
thousand years old. Rather short-sighted of them in retrospect, but
that's what you get when you don't protect yourself from buzzing grox
pixies." The blonde girl explained.

"Why do you even know that?" Ginny wondered, ignoring the mention of yet
another potentially imaginary creture with the ease of practice.

"Oh, I've known about the dangers of grox pixies for years." Luna
explained.

"Not that! Why do you know so much about some treaty between the goblins
and the ICW from hundreds of years ago?"

"Daddy and I were doing research on Egypt to see if we might find any
crumple-horned snorkacks there, but it seems that our original thinking
was correct instead. They prefer colder climes, which must mean that they
have fur."

Harry was a bit confused as to how Luna and her father intended to find a
crumple-horned snorkack if they were still guessing about the creature's
appearance.

"Luna, how can you even be sure that snorkacks have crumpled horns?" He
asked just for the sake of his curiousity.

"Oh, we aren't, but it makes sense." Luna answered cheerfully. "After


all, if they didn't have crumpled horns, then they wouldn't be crumple-
horned snorkacks."

Harry exchanged a glance with Ginny, both of them silently agreeing that
the circular logic was as childish as it was unassailable and decided to
drop the subject.

"Sooo, what else did you see in Egypt?" He asked, shifting the
conversation back to his main interest.

Ginny was more than happy to talk about her holiday, her crush on the
black haired boy still not fully gone, especially since he seemed to be
going in the 'tall, dark and handsome' direction.

As he listened to the redhead describing the magical side of Egypt, Harry


became ever more determined to see it for himself one day.

Unlike the Weasleys however, he wasn't inclined to only see the goblin
approved areas. How hard could it be to slip past the ornery midgets?

XXXXX

The three of them continued to have a sporadic conversation for another


few hours, intersped with some reading when Ginny brought up something
she'd been skirting around ever since she got on the train.
"Did you hear about Sirius Black escaping Azkaban?"

"No, but I did read about it." Luna replied, looking up from her upside
down copy of the Quibbler.

"What about it?" Harry asked, deciding not to respond to Luna's little
witticism.

"Aren't you worried?" Ginny asked nervously. "I mean...he was You-Know-
Who's right hand man and responsible for...you know."

"The death of my parents?" Harry asked with a raised eyebrow, inwardly


scoffing at the notion.

"Yeah." Ginny said quietly.

"Not really." Harry shrugged. "If he's smart, then he's already left the
country."

He didn't really believe that though. The picture that Charlus and Dorea
had painted of Sirius Black was of a man that thought with his heart
rather than his head and that was assuming that he was still sane, which
was far from guaranteed. The only mystery were the man's goals.

The train slowed and jerked to a stop at that point, halting the
conversation in the process.

"Why are we stopping?" Ginny asked, knowing that they couldn't possibly
be at their destination yet. The Express arrived at Hogwarts in the
evening and it was still afternoon. A dark and stormy afternoon, but
afternoon nonetheless.

Harry knew this just as well as her and went to look out the window in an
attempt to divine the cause of their stop.

"It's getting cold." Luna said quietly, her breath misting.

Harry had noticed that too, but he was far more worried about something
else. His constant practice with wandless magic had given him a
sensitivity towards ambient magic that he was quite sure most people
didn't have. Whatever was causing the temperature to plummet was
definitely not natural, but it didn't feel like any magic he'd ever
sensed either.

He had scoffed at the notion of magic being divided between Dark and
Light ever since the first time he'd heard that there was a class called
Defense Against the Dark Arts. It seemed far too much like some idiot's
justification for villifying magic they didn't like rather than anything
that had a basis in reality. The only way he could describe how this
unnatural cold felt however, was capital-D Dark.

"There's something moving out there." He said, noticing the dark shapes
flitting through the sky, apparently unbothered by the rain and the wind.
"It's the dementors." Luna said faintly, now hugging her legs to her
chest.

"But the dementors aren't supposed to leave Azkaban." Ginny protested.

"Nobody is supposed to escape Azkaban either." Luna argued, a note of


distress in her tone that her voice didn't usually carry.

"They've boarded the train." Harry interjected grimly, reaching for his
wand. He wasn't sure what good it would do in this situation, but it was
better than cowering helplessly in a corner.

"How can you tell?" Ginny asked fearfully.

That was a good question that Harry didn't really have an answer for. He
hadn't seen them do it, but the sense of Dark felt much closer now and
had split off into several distinct blobs.

He was not liking this whatsoever. The cold was more than just a drop of
temperature, it felt as if the very warmth of the world was being leeched
away, bringing with it a powerful but unnatural fear and depression. His
grip tightened around his wand. He'd never much cared for it as anything
other than a crutch until he could easily use magic without it, but right
now the echo of a phoenix's magic within the feather it held was
comforting.

The closest dementor finally reached their compartment, bringing with it


the cold and the Dark. It was close enough now to begin affecting their
minds much more strongly.

Luna and Ginny both had the misfortune of having some pretty bad
memories, Ginny from last year and Luna from the day that she saw her
mother die. Both of them had already retreated as far into the
compartment as was physically possible and buried their heads into their
knees in a vain attempt to block out the memories that came flooding back
to the forefront of their minds, some of which they'd blocked out.

Harry had also backed up gainst the window, but was shakily aiming his
wand towards the door, somehow knowing that the thing outside it wasn't
intending to just pass by as it had all the other compartments.

He was proven right as it slowly pulled open the door and began to glide
in.

Harry wasn't spared the misery and memory inducing effects of the
dementor any more than the girls, but he did have the advantage of having
come to terms with them already. Yes, the memory of his mother's murder
was pretty terrible, but he'd seen it a year ago already and put it
behind him. He would have liked to have parents, but he'd stopped pining
for them a long time ago. Similarly, the memories of his life with the
Dursleys and in the orpahange were far from pleasant, but not
debilitatingly horrible even with the dementor augmenting them.
He was no keener to have the soul sucking creature coming any closer to
him than any other sane person though and sent a powerful gout of flame
at it.

The fire guttered out before it could hit the dementor, the draining
effect of its aura snuffing out the magic behind it harmlessly.

Starting to get a little desperate to stop the thing from advancing,


Harry sent a cutting curse at it. He saw it hit, but there was no effect.
It was like his spell had simply vanished, its cutting edge without
meaning.

The dementor was well into the compartment by now and Harry was starting
to panic. He didn't know any spells that were guaranteed to be useful and
he probably couldn't muster the focus necessary even if he did, so he
resorted to desperate measures. That being that when in doubt, explosions
were usually a solution.

He cast the most powerful blasting curse that he could manage, knowing it
was a terrible idea even as he did it. The few feet of distance between
him and the dementor was not even close to the recommended minimum for
casting any kind of explosive spell. If it worked, it was entirely likely
to kill everything in the compartment except the dementor itself.

The spell rocketed out of his wand, the magic frayed and barely formed
due to his lack of focus, but powerful all the same.

The dementor was struck center mass, but there was no explosion. The only
thing Harry felt was his magic vanishing into the depthless sense of Dark
exuded by the creature in the same way as his previous spells, as well as
the warmth of the world and the happiness in peoples minds.

Then it was on top of him, its cadaverous fingers griping his head and
turning it upwards into the shadows of the hood.

Harry once again heard the screaming of his mother, but it seemed to come
from a great distance. His magic felt as if it was freezing, however
little sense that made. The runes scattered across his body, where magic
was infused into flesh, became so cold that the skin turned blue in
seconds. The four organs that he'd runically enhanced over the summer
were similarly affected, though much more severely.

But none of that mattered when the Dark was so close.

XXXXX

Albus Dumbledore looked on as Poppy finished working on his most


important student, feeling deeply concerned.

It hadn't escaped his notice that Harry was incongruously large for his
age. A growth spurt was nothing odd, but the one that Harry was having
stretched credulity. Neither James nor Lily had been exceptonally tall
people after all, so their son's current size was quite unusual.
He'd been hoping for an excuse to give Harry a thorough medical
examination for a while, but this wasn't what he'd had in mind. The
strange situation with the owls would have sufficed. Harry nearly losing
his soul to a dementor was something he'd have preferred to avoid,
convenient though it was as far as excuses went. He had barely been able
to keep the information from reaching the ears of the Ministry. The last
thing anyone needed right now was for Cornelius to come blustering in and
making a bigger mess of things. It was a good thing that Remus had been
nearby to drive the dementor away.

"How is he doing, Poppy?" He asked when the Hogwarts matron approached


him.

"Still unconscious but stable." She said with a tired sigh. "It's almost
like the dementor was trying to freeze him solid. If his lungs, liver,
kidneys and intestines had gotten any colder, they would have formed ice
crystals and killed him. It was a near thing as it was, my spells didn't
work as well as they should, but his body fortunately seemed to recover
on its own. I've never seen the like of it, but I've never heard of
anyone coming so close to losing their soul and surviving either."

"Will there be any permanent consequences to young Harry?"

"I couldn't say." Poppy replied with a frown. "The organs I mentioned are
still saturated with his magic and operating at a much higher level than
normal. He also has a similar but less pronounced effect across the rest
of his body."

"Thank you, Poppy." The old wizard said with a smile. "When do you think
he will wake up? I need to speak to him."

"He needs rest, Headmaster." Poppy said with disapproval.

"It will not take long." Dumbledore assured her.

XXXXX

Harry was mildly surprised when he opened his eyes. Given what his last
few memories were, he should be dead. Oddly enough, there was absolutely
no emotion attached to his near death experience. He felt the same as if
he'd just realized that water was wet.

This must be the Hogwarts Infirmary. He'd never been here before, but
only a place of healing could be so obnoxiously white. He'd never
understood the reasoning behind that. I don't think I like it much.

"Good evening, Harry." Came the voice of Dumbledore from nearby.

"Is it?" Harry wondered.

"I suppose it could have been better." The old wizard conceded.
"Dementors do tend to ruin one's day."

"There was so much Dark." Harry murmured, mostly to himself.


"I am sorry that you had to go through that, Harry." Dumbledore sighed
regretfully.

Harry wasn't really upset about it. He wasn't sure if that was because of
the strangely trance-like state he was currently in, or because he'd
actually found the Dark strangely comforting in his last moments of
consciousness. When the biting cold and grotesque appearance of the
dementor had ceased to matter, it had been beautiful in its own way. He
had been ready to sink into it and let it have him forever.

"Minister Fudge insisted on a dementor presence despite my objections."


The old man went on, oblivious to Harry's thoughts.

"To search for Sirius Black." The much younger wizard said with
certainty.

"Yes."

"They won't find him." If he'd slipped past them in Azkaban, then he
would certainly have little trouble doing it in the open.

"I agree, but the Ministry unfortunately does not."

"Of course it doesn't, it wouldn't be the government if it wasn't both


stupid and incompetent." Harry said, finally starting to shake off the
strange lethargy.

"That is a very cynical viewpoint for someone so young." Dumbledore


commented.

"I've found that I prefer to be cynical and occasionally wrong than


idealistic and constantly disappointed." Harry retorted, sitting up on
the bed and grabbing his wand from the nearby table. "What happened after
I passed out?"

"Professor Lupin arrived just in time to drive off the dementor."

"Lupin?" Harry asked sharply, recognizing the name of one of his parents
supposed friends.

"Am I to take it that you know of him already?" Dumbledore asked


shrewdly.

"I've heard of him." Harry said with a shrug, inwardly cursing his own
reaction. There was no need to inform the old meddler what he knew and
what he didn't.

"The dementor affected you most severely, my boy. I don't suppose you
know why?" Dumbledore asked, changing the subject when he saw that Harry
had no intention of talking about it. He didn't want to come off as
overly pushy and alienate him.
Harry remembered the way that his runes had burned with cold fire in the
dementor's presence. As far as he understood it, a wizard's magic was not
physically part of their body, so it was no doubt having magic bound to
so closely his body that had caused the effect.

Not that he was going to volunteer that information.

"I don't know." He lied. "Frankly, I'm more interested in why it attacked
me specifically."

Dumbledore wasn't entirely convinced that he wasn't being lied to. The
strange way that the boy's magic was infused into his body and some of
his organs did not look like anything he'd ever seen before, nor did it
look natural. A wizard's magic simply did not work that way normally.

More to the point, Harry's body appeared to be...too old. It was


something of a sketchy assessment since there were no spells that
determined the age of a person, but Madam Pomfrey's examination as well
as the one he'd performed before the boy had woken up pointed to a level
of maturity of someone in their mid teens.

There was an off chance that it had somehow occured naturally, but it was
far more likely to be the result of something that Harry had done to
himself.

He was terribly curious about it, but once again decided not to push. He
needed Harry to trust him, and he'd learned a long time ago that asking
uncomfortable questions did not inspire trust.

"I see. Should you should ever discover the cause, I would appreciate it
if you would indulge an old man's curiosity. It is not often that I
encounter something new."

That would hopefully let Harry know that he did not intend to judge and
could possibly even help. If the boy was half as smart as he suspected,
then he would catch the implication. It was crucial that the boy see him
as a mentor, and for that to happen, Dumbledore had to act like one.

"Of course, sir." Harry lied with a smile, swinging his legs out of the
bed. It hadn't escaped his notice that Dumbledore had neglected to answer
his implied question about why the dementor had attacked him.

"Madam Pomfrey will be most upset if you leave the infirmary without her
permission." The old wizard said, seeing that the boy was intent on
leaving.

"That's too bad, but I feel fine and I'm not staying in bed just to make
her feel better."

"It is unfortunate that I still need to speak to Poppy about something."


Dumbledore said, also getting on his feet, completely unphased by the
boy's surly attitude. He didn't much like being a patient either. "I hope
that you will not use this opportunity to sneak to Ravenclaw tower while
her attention is elsewhere."
Harry raised an eyebrow as the elderly wizard walked off towards the
healer's office and then shrugged. If Dumbledore wanted to give him a
distraction while he escaped, then that was fine with him.

XXXXX

"Harry!"

The shout greeted him almost as soon as he entered the Ravenclaw common
room, attracting the attention of several of the upper years as well.

Ginny all but smashed into him in her eagerness to give him a hug, which
Harry returned awkwardly for a moment before gently pushing her away.

"Hello Harry." Luna greeted much more calmly, though it was obvious to
anyone who knew her that she was relieved to see him.

"Hi."

"What happened to you?" Ginny all but demanded. "The dementors were
pretty hard on me and Luna, but you looked like you'd frozen to death!
They had to portkey you to the infirmary."

Harry's eyebrows went up at that. He hadn't known that bit.

"Nearly having your soul sucked out is apparently bad for your health."
He joked.

"No doubt." Luna agreed. "Would you be willing to speak about your near-
soulless experience in an interview with the Quibbler?"

"That's not funny." Ginny scolded, glaring at them both.

"Err...sure, Luna. We can do it tomorrow." Harry offered, quirking a


smile at Ginny's even more pronounced scowl.

He couldn't help but find the whole thing a bit ridiculous. Both Luna and
Ginny were a bit on the petite side, which meant that he now towered over
them by a considerable margin. Even if he was only a year older than
them, it was sometimes hard not to feel like he was hanging around kids
that were three or four years younger than him, especially in light of
the things he'd been up to during the summer.

"Alright there, Harry?"

The question was accompanied by a hand on his shoulder and he turned to


look at the year's Head Girl, Penelope Clearwater. He noted with some
shock that the girl who had occasionally come to talk to him back in
first year was now actually a shade shorter than him. Granted, Penelope
was not prodigiously tall by any stretch, but it was still a bit of a
surprise to find himself looking down at someone that had been nearly two
feet taller than him only a couple of years ago.
"Yeah, I'm fine." He replied after a moment, giving the girl a smile. It
was much easier to be confident around people when you weren't looking up
at them.

"Good." Penelope said with a nod, returning his smile. "Try to stay away
from the dementors in the future, yeah?"

"I'll try, I'd certainly prefer to kiss girls than dementors." Harry
joked.

The Head Girl gave a short laugh, accompanied by a small blush at what
could be taken as flirting if you squinted.

"Even I'd rather get kissed by a girl than a dementor." She joked back,
inwardly very pleased at how different he was from the anti-social boy
that he'd been in his first year. She'd always felt that Harry was trying
too hard to isolate himself back then and it was gratifying to see that
he'd loosened up a bit. She had no idea what had caused him to be so
prickly with people when he'd started Hogwarts and she wasn't going to
ask, but she did like to think that she'd helped him move past it.

"I can kiss you if you want." Luna offered out of the blue.

The joking mood screeched to a halt at Luna's words, everyone trying to


figure out if she was serious or not.

"Is she joking or not? I can't tell." Penelope eventually asked, giving
up on figuring it out.

"No idea, I can never tell either." Harry shrugged, being less affected
due to experience.

"I'm as serious as a crumple-horned snorkack." Luna said firmly.

Which tells us nothing. Harry thought wryly, giving Penelope another


shrug when she looked to him for clarification.

"Right." The Head Girl said after a moment, deciding to just ignore the
small blonde's strangeness. "You three had better head off to bed, it's
past your usual curfew already."

XXXXX

Penny had felt the assessing gazes of several other girls on her ever
since Harry's appearance in the common room. It wasn't the first time
that this had happened. Curious students had seen her talking to him
before and had wanted to know what he was like since the boy tended to
avoid social contact.

It felt a bit different this time though.

"So, Penny.." Opened up Bryanna Torres, a dark haired, blue eyed seventh
year whose slightly olive skin tone betrayed a hint of medditeranean
ancestry a few generations back. ".We saw you talking to Potter."
"Yeah, so?" Penny returned cautiously.

She and Bryanna had never really gotten along too well, the other girl
possessing a cunning and ambition that should have by all rights landed
her in Slytherin, as well as a beauty that drew many a boy's attention,
whereas Penny was fairly plain and straightforward. Not that they were
enemies or anything like that, but they hadn't really interacted since
third year, when Bryanna had started moving in completely different
social circles.

"He's looking pretty good." The other girl noted, too casually to be
real.

And with that sentence Penny realized what Bryanna was aiming at.

It wouldn't be the first time that an ambitious girl from a Common House
like Bryanna had targeted the younger Heir of a Noble House in an attempt
to increase her own status.

It could theoretically happen the other way around as well, but it was
much less likely. Witches, even those not of main Noble lines, were
guarded far more carefully against that sort of thing. That had taken a
while for Penny to wrap her mind around, being a muggleborn as she was.
The Wizarding World's only definition for rape was a violent and/or
magically compelled man-on-woman assault, which seemed especially strange
to her with an equalizer like magic being present. Anyone proposing the
idea of statutory rape to magicals received only baffled looks, as if the
mere concept was lunacy. Even slipping someone love or lust potions was a
legal grey area.

It was frankly astonishing that it happened as little as it did, though


Penny knew that might simply be her ignorance on the subject.

The reason for Bryanna's sudden interest in Harry was unlikely to be his
looks, but rather his money and status. His youth would only make him a
more tempting target because it would leave him vulnerable. Heirs of
Noble Houses weren't normally subjected to this kind of thing because
they had parents who could easily ruin a girl's family and future in the
Wizarding World for attempting to install herself as the future Lady of a
Noble House in such a manner.

Harry had no parents to protect him however.

"He's only thirteen, Bryanna." She said disapprovingly in an attempt to


get the other girl to back off.

"Funny, he doesn't look thirteen." Bryanna countered with a smirk,


abandoning subtlety since it was obvious that her intentions had been
guessed.

Penny had noticed that, it was in all honesty hard not to, but it didn't
change the fact that Harry Potter was thirteen and thus entirely too
young to be dealing with the advances of a girl four years his senior.
The problem was that she couldn't even go to anyone about this.

Professor Flitwick was a great teacher, but he was part goblin and had
certain goblin sensibilities. A refusal to meddle in other people's
issues being one of them.

Headmaster Dumbledore would just wave it off like he waved off


everything. For all the respect that Penny had for the aged wizard, he
tended to be extremely hands off. Snape was a good example.

McGonagall would simply refer her to Dumbledore.

Even if she could have gone to anyone about it, it would make her a lot
of enemies in Ravenclaw that could make her life very difficult for the
rest of the year.

What a mess. She'd just have to warn Harry and hope for the best, which
Bryanna was probably expecting her to do anyway. Hopefully her ambitious
fellow Ravenclaw was overestimating her own appeal.

Bryanna spent another twenty minutes attempting to get information on


Harry out of her, but Penny was for once glad to be fairly clueless. The
green-eyed boy was not exactly liberal with information on himself, so
she had little to go on. It wouldn't stop them of course, but it wasn't
going to be as easy as they'd hoped.

Chapter 7

Nothing much to say up here this time, except to give credit to Joe
lawyer for his excellent beta-ing skillz.

XXXXX

Among the myriad of Dark Creatures in the world, none are as foul as the
dementor. Their origins are unknown, though it is speculated that they
form in places of great suffering, though it is equally likely that it is
the other way around and that it is their presence that makes a place
miserable. There are records of their presence in other locales around
Europe, but Azkaban is the only place that one may reliably find a
dementor in recent times.

Several Dark Lords have been able to rally them to their cause over the
centuries. Many a Dark Wizard has also lost their soul in the attempt,
making any attempted alliance with them a dangerous undertaking.

Classified as a Non-Being, the dementor is not truly alive and thus


cannot truly die. The Patronus Charm is the only spell known to have any
effect on them and it is also by means of this spell that the British
Ministry of Magic keeps control of the creatures. Though even the
strongest Patroni will not destroy a dementor, it appears to cause them
enough discomfort or even what passes for pain that they can be
threatened with it.

The exact level of intelligence possesed by dementors is unknown, but is


presumed to be fairly close to sapience, as they are able to understand
speech and recognize certain individuals.

Harry closed the book and stared at it thoughtfully. It had contained far
less information on dementors than he'd hoped, but the mention of the
Patronus Charm was certainly useful. He would make it his business to
learn that particular spell as soon as possible.

Being helpless as the soul sucking abomination advanced on him was not an
experience he cared to repeat.

Unfortunately, the book offered no hints as to why it had targeted him in


particular. There was a chance that he, Ginny and Luna simply had more
traumatic pasts that the other students, but there was no way to verify
that short of interrogating all of Hogwarts and there was no guarantee
that it was even the reason for the dementor's keen interest in him.

The entire incident had also raised several other questions in his mind
that he would now very much like to have answered.

What was a soul? How was it connected to his magic? Why had the
dementor's presence frozen his magic? What was the Dark?

Unsettling as the near death experience had been, it had also posed so
many fascinating questions about magic and revealed truths that he had
previously scoffed at. He now knew with absolute certainty that there was
indeed something Dark about magic, which likely meant that there was also
Light. He still strongly doubted the popular interpretation of it, but he
could no longer discount the entire concept.

His own experiences with the capricious nature of his runes made him
equally wary of both. For all that people liked to equate good with Light
and Dark with evil, Harry suspected that neither was particularly benign
when meddled with.

XXXXX

Harry observed Lupin carefully as the man lectured the class on the
subject of boggarts, wondering what to make of him.

According to Charlus and Dorea, Lupin had been a dear friend of his
parents, but a few things simply did not add up.

He had no memories of him ever being over for a visit before Voldemort
had attacked the Potter home, unlike Sirius and Pettigrew. Furthermore,
unlike those two, Lupin had been neither imprisoned nor dead, and yet he
had never come to check on the son of his dead friends.
Even assuming that he hadn't known where Harry was, it had been two years
now since his return to the Wizarding World. Surely the man could have
dropped by? Stranger still, he hadn't even attempted to approach Harry
since the school year had begun. The whole dementor thing would have been
a perfect excuse, but Lupin seemed content to pretend that Harry was just
another student to him.

All around strange behavior for someone that was supposed to have been a
very close friend of his parents.

"Who wants to go first?"

The question knocked Harry out of his thoughts as the class formed a line
in a sort of ordered chaos.

Most of his classmates had understandable fears, that being all sorts of
monsters. There was one Hufflepuff girl whose name Harry couldn't recall
that had a giant carnivorous tomato for some bizzare reason though.

Everyone was generally able to turn their fear into something funny and
laugh at the transformed boggart, which got Harry to thinking again.

He'd come across the boggart while researching dementors a few days ago
and had been puzzled. It was a Non-Being just like the soul sucking
monsters currently haunting every entrance into Hogwarts, but a decidedly
more benign one. Little more than a pest really, as the only conceivable
way for a boggart to actually hurt someone was through shock induced
heart attack or maybe scaring someone off a ledge.

Yet for all of that, Harry could still feel a little piece of Dark from
the shape shifter. It was tiny in comparison to the dementor on the
train, but it was definitely there. Fascinating.

He knew what he would see once his turn came up. Aside from a few
memorable occasions of nearly traumatising himself with a horror themed
video game back when he'd been nine, there was only one thing that came
to mind when he thought of his fears.

The boggart transformed into a perfect copy of the dementor from the
train, but it was not nearly as frightening. It could change its form all
it wanted, but it could not replicate the same sense of Dark. He wasn't
afraid of the dementor's outer sppearance so much as he was of what it
represented, which was not something that could be faked.

He was shocked however, when he began to feel a familiar misery seep into
his mind, ignoring Aul'El and his Occlumency like they were nothing just
like the dementor had done. Similarly, he felt a weak chill in his runes
and a more intangible chill in his magic. It wasn't even close to being
as powerful, but the mere fact that it could replicate even a tiny speck
of a true dementor's power implied all sorts of interesting things.

Lupin jumped in front of him then, perhaps mistaking his surprised


staring at the boggart for paralyzing fear.
The boggart instantly transformed into the silvery sphere of a full moon,
which Lupin quickly turned into a balloon and sent fluttering away.

What a strange thing to be afraid of.

XXXXX

Remus sighed heavily once the third year Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff class left
the room, taking with it the son of his friends.

He had no idea what to do about Harry.

He had never seen the boy as a baby, they had already started pushing him
away by then, suspecting him of being a spy for Voldemort.

He understood their reasoning. He was a werewolf and werewolves had been


Voldemort's allies during the war. The Ministry and its oppressive
werewolf legislation made sure of that, though Fenrir Greyback would have
undoubtedly allied with him either way. It didn't make the experience any
less bitter for Remus though, who would have died for his friends in a
heartbeat.

James, Sirius, Peter and later Lily had been the closest thing to pack
that non-werewolves could be, and they had cast him out. For all that
Remus tried his hardest to suppress and deny the beast within, he could
not do it completely. From that place inside his soul where the wolf
resided most of the time, it had howled its grief and fury at being so
betrayed.

When Harry was born, Remus had been in Germany, ostensibly speaking to
the werewolves there about a possible alliance with the Order of the
Phoenix or at least staying neutral. In retrospect it had been to get him
away from Britain and any possible information that he could have passed
on to Voldemort.

When James and Lily had been killed a year later, he'd still been in
Germany, though he had long since stopped talking to the werewolves
there. He'd grown rather bitter and resentful of the suspicion everyone
had of him and decided to simply not go back to Britain if that's how
they were going to be. Their deaths, Peter's death and Sirius' betrayal
had hit him hard despite the gulf that had grown between them and he'd
never mustered the will to go back.

Then came Dumbledore's letter, asking him to teach DADA in Hogwarts. It


was a job that he'd never dreamed he'd be able to have with his
condition, but he had still been hesitant to return to Britain. The
werewolf laws in Germany were better than in Britain. Not by much, but
enough that he had been able to keep a job. Not a great or enjoyable job,
but a job that allowed him to eat and have a roof over his head.

But he owed Dumbledore a lot and he had always wanted to teach, so he had
come back despite his misgivings and now he was faced with Lily's eyes
looking out from James' face, both of them too old to belong on a
thirteen year old.
Dumbledore had been stingy on the details of Harry's life when
questioned, which Remus figured was a ploy to make him actually talk to
the boy himself.

But it was so hard. What was he supposed to say to the son of the people
who had been like family to him? Family that had cast him out, but who he
had still loved.

XXXXX

Dinner time in the Great Hall.

"Hey, Potter! I heard you nearly wet yourself in front of a boggart


yesterday."

Harry sighed at the continued idiocy of one Draco Malfoy. The blond
Slytherin hadn't stopped trying to mock him over the dementor incident on
the train since the start of term and had apparently gotten a second wind
upon hearing that his boggart was also a dementor.

"I'd like to see what you'd be like in front of a dementor, Malfoy!"


Ginny retorted angrily, face beginning to flush with the well known
temper of redheads everywhere. "From what Fred and George told me, you
ran into their compartment and all but begged them to protect you from it
on the train."

"Shut your mouth, Weaslette!" Malfoy shouted at her, his own pale face
developing a few blotches of red.

"Excellent comeback, Malfoy. That sure proved her wrong." Harry said
dryly, finding the blond idiot's taunts tiresome at best. The whole
experience had gotten so repetitive that not even his runes could be
bothered to prickle. It was kind of like constantly being bothered by a
yippy little dog.

Malfoy's anger swelled further at the dismissive tone. He loathed being


brushed off and that was exactly what Potter had been doing ever since
first year, treating him like he didn't even matter. Aside from that one
incident at the start of second year when he'd thrown a goblet at his
face that was.

"It's too bad the dementor didn't Kiss all three of you and remove some
of the filth from the world." He snarled furiously.

There was a series of gasps from the Ravenclaws around them, shocked that
he would say something like that.

Harry was unphased though, having been exposed to the internet for years
and having many an angry twelve year old threaten to fuck his mother or
worse. The fact that he had been ten at the time only served to make him
feel more mature than his age warranted.
"I could say the same about you and your pet apes, but I won't. But I
could."

Draco managed to look even more constipated at Harry's lack of reaction


and opened his mouth to say something else when he was beaten to the
punch.

During this entire time, Luna had been focusing on her food to the
exclusion of all else, but now that her mashed potatoes were shaped like
a castle with a little gravy moat, the conversation going on around her
finally penetrated her focus.

"Draco? When did you get here?"

Her polite question had the Malfoy scion spluttering in pure rage,
believing that he was being mocked by the crazy second year, who was
clearly acting like he was so unimportant as to be beneath her notice.

An understandable assumption, but completely wrong. Luna had simply been


putting a lot of effort into her potato castle.

The perceived insult had him reaching for his wand, though he wasn't
entirely sure what he was going to do with it yet.

"Malfoy!" A different female voice cut into the action. "Ten points from
Slytherin and detention for drawing your wand on another student."

"How dare you?!" Draco yelled at her at the top of his lungs, outraged
well past the point of reason. The nerve of the mudblood to give him a
detention!

"I quite agree with Ms. Clearwater, Mr. Malfoy." Flitwick chimed in from
where he'd approached behind the Slytherin. "Drawing a wand on another
student outside of a classroom and without the supervision of a professor
is a serious offense."

"When my father hears about this.." Draco seethed, putting his wand away
and stomping off.

Harry shook his head in disbelief at the antics of the blond idiot. If
there was anything that proved that the Sorting Hat could be convinced to
sort according to a student's wishes, it was Malfoy's placement in
Slytherin. The boy was clearly a Gryffindor.

He raised his goblet of water towards Penny in a mocking sort of toast


for helping to get rid of the pest, exchanging amused smiles with her. No
doubt the muggleborn Head Girl had taken her own measure of enjoyment in
smacking down the uppity pureblood.

His eyes went further up the table towards the seventh year girl that she
had warned him about, seeing her already looking at him. Deciding to be a
bit adventurous, he winked at her.
Bryanna's eyebrows shot up in surprise before a smirk stretched across
her face. This might be easier than she'd thought.

"Did you just wink at that seventh year?" Ginny demanded in a harsh
whisper.

"So what if I did?" He asked back, not liking her tone. If Bryanna was
going to do what he suspected she was going to do, then he fully intended
to take advantage of the situation and shag her silly. If Ginny couldn't
deal with that, then they were going to have a problem.

Taken aback by the confrontational response, Ginny quickly backpedaled.


"Uh, nothingI just, uh, wanted to know why."

That had to be the worst lie that Harry had ever heard, but he didn't
call her out on it. He wasn't interested in dealing with Ginny's crush on
him and felt more certain that he would never feel the same with every
day. She just felt too much like a kid to him for that, even if he was
only a year older than her. His accelerated growth was making a mess of
his personal relationships, making him too old in physical maturity to
fit in with his peers but too young in years to fit in with those older
than him. He was doing his best to ignore that bit of discomfort since he
knew that there was nothing he could do about it, but he was poignantly
aware of it. The last time that he'd felt truly comfortable around
another person had been with Zoe, which said a lot about the situation
considering their arrangement.

"I just felt like it." He told her, his tone making it clear that the
subject was closed.

The redhead went into a sulky silence and started pushing around the food
on her plate, appetite gone at being shut down like that.

Luna stared at Harry and started blinking furously.

"Luna, what are you doing?" He asked, looking at her strangely.

"I'm winking at you because I feel like it." She replied, still blinking
furiously.

"That's blinking, not winking." He informed her.

"No Harry, it's definitely winking." She insisted.

"Winking is only done with one eye." He reasoned.

"This is double winking."

A laugh burbled up Harry's throat at the ridiculosuness of it all,


leaving him chuckling into his goblet for quite a while, made worse by
the fact that Luna was still double winking at him like she had something
to prove.
"Don't ever change, Luna. Don't ever change." He told her, still
chuckling. Whether she had done it on purpose or not, the slightly
irritable mood that Ginny had put him in was gone now.

XXXXX

There were two spells that Harry felt he needed to learn as soon as
possible.

The first was the standard contraceptive charm that prevented pregnancy,
because of the high chance of getting laid. It had once seen some fairly
widespread use, but had since been phased out in favor of a potion that
needed to be taken once a month.

Both had to be applied to the woman, which presented something of a


problem for Harry. He would have honestly preferred a spell or potion
that would simply make him infertile for a while, but it apparently
didn't exist. Not that he would trust a potion to work on him with his
most recent set of runes, but it was the principle of the thing.

He was incredibly grateful for the fact that Zoe had insisted on a condom
despite being on the pill. The possibility of getting a girl pregnant at
his age made him queasy just thinking about it. He was nowhere near ready
to be a father.

He was probably just overthinking it, as both the spell and potion were
highly reliable, but he still would have liked to have the extra
security.

The second was the Patronus, the reason for which was obvious. The
dementors floating around the castle made him nervous.

It was a rather interesting spell with the way it needed to be charged


with a happy emotion and there was an extra tidbit of knowledge on the
dementors in the description as well.

Apparently, the reason why the Patronus was effective against them was
because it was a purely positive force that couldn't feel despair. It was
anathema to them. The book didn't explain how a Patronus avoided falling
prey to the dementor's ability to nullify other spells, but Harry figured
that there was something about the emotion charged into it that blocked
that ability.

It was also a very difficult spell because it took some seriously


powerful happy thoughts to form it properly. This was a problem, because
Harry couldn't think of anything like that off the top of his head. His
life was comfortable and pleasant aside from a few irritants like Malfoy,
Snape and his foster parents, but it had no outstanding moments of
happiness either.

The happiest thing he could think of on short notice was the time he'd
spent with Zoe, but he somehow doubted that the memory of a fun day and
the physical pleasure that followed would cut it. Still worth a try, but
Harry wasn't holding his breath on it.
"That's some pretty advanced magic you're studying."

Harry jumped slightly at the unexpected voice, having been so deeply


absorbed in his thoughts that he hadn't noticed anyone coming up behind
him.

"Sorry if I scared you, I just couldn't help noticing that you were
studying the Patronus Charm." Bryanna said with a smile, taking a seat
next to him. "Dementors making you nervous?"

"You could say that." Harry replied, wondering what her angle was. Coming
up to him and starting up a conversation like this was more than a bit
odd considering their lack of previous interaction, but he was willing to
play along with it for now.

"Me too, I can't believe that Fudge thinks posting those monsters around
a school is a good idea." Bryanna commented.

"He must be pretty worried about Black." Harry responded noncommittally.


Everything he'd heard about the current Minister of Magic made him out to
be something of a buffoon, but he wasn't going to share that opinion just
yet.

"I'm surprised that you aren't."

"I've got a feeling that I'm in a lot more danger from the dementors than
from Black." He said wryly.

"You're probably right about that." Bryanna agreed. "Any luck learning
the Patronus?"

"I haven't gotten around to attempting it yet." Harry told her honestly.

"Want to give it a try together?" She asked with a smile. "Hogwarts


doesn't teach that spell and I'd like to know it just in case."

Harry looked at her speculatively for a few seconds, wondering if she was
seriously intending to act like this conversation had happened by mere
chance. Eventually he just shrugged and agreed to her suggestion. She
seemed smart and her desire to learn the Patronus was probably genuine
even if she was using it as a pretense to get close to him, so having her
along might help with learning the spell at least with the aid of a wand.

XXXXX

"Expecto Patronum!"

The problem, Harry decided, was definitely mustering together enough


happiness on demand to cast the spell.

"Expecto Patronum!"
Not to mention that the book had not been particularly heavy on the
details. Was the type of happiness important? Could a sadist conjure a
Patronus by thinking of all the people he'd tortured?

"EXPECTO PATRONUM!"

It seemed unlikely that such a twisted form of happiness would work. This
consequently meant that the source of that happiness had to be an
important component. Following that train of logic, there surely had to
be one or more specific types of happy memories that would work better
than others.

"You know, learning the spell might work better if you actually tried to
cast it." Bryanna said peevishly.

"I like to think about what I'm doing before waving my wand around."
Harry said back, not really sparing the older Ravenclaw too much
attention, making her huff.

A properly cast Patronus called a spectral guardian into existence, so it


was probable that thoughts of safety would work best.

"Expecto Patronum!"

But safety wasn't in and of itself a happy thought. Perhaps thoughts of


protection? A strong guardian standing between the caster and the world,
someone held close, loved and respected.

"Expecto Patronum!"

That could be a problem if it was the case. Harry couldn't think of a


single adult, or indeed anyone at all, that he would trust to protect
him.

"It's not working." Bryanna said in a not-quite whine, clearly


frustrated.

Well of course it wasn't. Judging by the frequency of her attempts, she


was probably cycling through her memories and hoping to pick the right
one by accident, or perhaps she was trying to somehow force the spell
into working through sheer repetition. That kind of approach was the
province of meatheaded warriors swinging around giant shafts of sharpened
steel, not mages. Her frustration at the lack of success had turned into
the reason for the lack of success.

Weren't Ravenclaws supposed to be thoughtful intellectuals that


considered things carefully before acting? I guess you can't rely on
stereotypes all the time.

Deciding to finally give the spell a try, Harry stopped pacing the room
and drew his wand.

With a deep breath he focused on the most memorable event in his life
where he'd felt like an adult could protect him. Ironically, it was a
memory that the dementors seemed to enjoy bringing to mind when in his
presence, that being the death of his mother at the hands of Voldemort.

Not a particularly cheerful thought, but learning of the lengths that his
mother had gone to in order to protect him did bring him a measure of
happiness. Deliberately setting yourself up as a sacrifice to protect
someone else was the most powerful demonstration of love there was.

A silvery mist left his wand, hovering in the air for a moment before
dissipating.

Bryanna stared at him in disbelief.

"How in Merlin's name did you do that? You've spent the past hour just
pacing around the room and then you manage to get some results on the
first try without even saying the incantation."

"Calm down, take your time and think of a memory where you feel safe and
protected, then concentrate on channeling that feeling into the spell."
Harry advised.

Bryanna looked dubious, but did as she was told nonetheless.

"Expecto Patronum!"

A familiar silvery mist left her wand.

"I did it!" She exclaimed happily, jumping to give him a hug.

Harry noticed that she had rather strategically shoved his face into her
breasts. They were very nice breasts, a little bigger than Zoe's if he
wasn't mistaken. He felt his body respond and his runes tingle, but
controlled it tightly.

"Congratulations." He told her once she let go, idly wondering how much
of her current behavior was an act designed to sucker a nave thirteen
year old into developing a crush on her. She was acting somewhat
differently than how Penny had described her.

"Thanks, now why don't you try it again, this time with the incantation."

"No."

"Why not?" She almost demanded. "If you were able to get a mist out
without one, then you're bound to have more success if you try casting it
properly."

"I'd rather put in a little extra effort to learn it silently than shout
gibberish into the air." He replied dryly.

"I don't understand you at all, it's like you enjoy making things harder
on yourself." She said in exasperation.
Harry wondered what she'd think of the fact that he wouldn't even be
bothering with a wand if she wasn't here. She might not understand why he
wanted to do things the hard way, but he didn't understand why everyone
else wanted to cripple themselves by relying on their wands so much.

"Maybe I just like the challenge?" He offered with a small grin.

Bryanna looked at him oddly for a moment and then let out an amused
chuckle.

"We've been here for a while, you want to get something to eat?" She
asked with a brilliant smile.

Harry's stomach gurgled in agreement with the idea. It had been nearly
two hours since the last time he'd eaten.

XXXXX

".and that's when I learned that combining Arithmancy and Divination


doesn't really let you accurately predict the future, especially if
Divination is taught by a drunken fraud like Trelawney." Bryanna
finished.

Harry hummed in agreement around a mouthful of particularly juicy carrot.

Ginny glared sullenly at the older girl, resenting her presence with the
fiery wrath of an insecure preteen who was sure that the pretty seventh
year was trying to catch Harry's interest and doing a far better job than
she ever had.

"Are you going to put your penis in her vagina, Harry?" Luna asked
dreamily.

Harry spat out the half-masticated carrot in surprise.

"What?" He croaked out.

"That's what Ginny's nargles are screaming at me."

"Well, Harry? Answer the girl, are you going to put your penis in my
va~gi~na?" Bryanna sing-songed with a salacious smirk, having recovered
from her surprise the fastest. The little blonde friend of Harry's was
quite the character.

Though caught off guard by the bold question, Harry gamely ignored the
heat creeping up his neck and looked her in the eye.

"Anything is possible."

"Truer words have never been spoken." Luna agreed, thinking of all the
snorkacks that were just waiting to be discovered.

Ginny rose to her feet in a single violent motion and stomped off.
"What's her problem?" Bryanna asked, knowing perfectly well what the
redhead's problem was.

"She might still be upset about not having any boobies for Harry to look
at." Luna hazarded a guess.

Harry let out a weak chuckle. He had a feeling that this was going to be
the event that ended the friendship between him and Ginny. He'd found the
redhead annoying at times, but she had become a friend. He wasn't going
to change his behavior to appease her though. It wasn't like he owed her
anything and this stupid crush of hers was really the thing that bothered
him the most about her. She could either get over it or sulk about it,
but it would be entirely on her.

XXXXX

Harry sighed despondently in his Ancient Runes class. It was just so


boring. He'd already learned all of this on his own back in first year.

An unfair thought perhaps, since the class was no doubt pretty


challenging to everyone who didn't have a two year head start, but that
didn't chage the fact that he was just wasting his time here. He'd had
the same problem in Artihmancy, except worse since he'd needed to study
that one even more in depth for his rituals.

"Mr. Potter, stay behind please." Professor Babbling said when the class
was over.

Malfoy threw him a mocking look on his way out, which Harry ignored. The
blond ponce currently had his arm bandaged as if he'd been grievously
injured by that hippogriff in his Care of Magical Creatures class, but
everyone knew that he was faking it. Well, Parkinson seemed to be buying
it and Malfoy's two pet goons probably didn't have enough brain cells
between them to see it, but everyone with any sense knew that he was
faking it.

According to Luna, who had heard it from Ginny, who had heard it from
Ron, he was playing up the injury to make the hippogriff in question,
Buckbeak, look more like a vicious monster than it actually was and get
it executed. The ponce had apparently ignored Hagrid's instructions and
provoked it and was now looking to get it killed in a spectacular example
of pettiness. Malfoy truly did live up to the spoiled rich brat
stereotype.

"I've noticed that you don't seem to be paying attention during class."
Babbling commented once they were alone.

"I'm sorry, Professor. It's just that.." Harry started, not sure how to
word it.

"You already know the subject matter." She finished for him.

"Yeah." He said with a nod.


"I thought this might happen." She said, rubbing her forehead in
consternation. "Professor Vector tells me that it's the same with her?"

Harry simply nodded in confirmation.

This presented a problem for both Bathsheda and Septima. Both of them
were rather fond of Harry, who they had gotten to know from his
occasional visits over the past two years. Both of them had also been
looking forward to having him in their class, but it served nobody if his
time was being wasted going over things that he already knew. It wasn't
often that a student came around who wanted to study ahead and they
didn't want him to start resenting the time he spent in their class
simply because he was too far ahead to benefit from it.

"If the opportunity were made available to you, would you want to stop
attending Ancient Runes and Arithmancy and replace it with private
tutoring from myself and Professor Vector?" She asked.

Harry's eyes widened at the offer. Private tutoring would allow him to
accomplish more in less time, work at his preferred pace instead of the
one set for a class of wildly different ability and actually make
progress instead of waiting for everyone else to catch up to him.

"That would be perfect."

It was kind of funny actually. He'd never been this studious before
coming to Hogwarts. But then again, he hadn't been learning magic back
then either.

"I will need to speak to the Headmaster about this arrangement, but I
don't foresee any problems." Bathsheda said, feeling that she'd made the
right decision by making him this offer.

It would give both her and Septima some extra work, but they felt that it
was worth it. Neither of their classes often got a student that seemed to
have a genuine passion for their respective subjects and they were
terribly reluctant to slow him down to the pace of the others.

XXXXX

"Harry, could I talk to you in private for a moment?" Ginny asked


awkwardly.

Harry was somewhat surprised that the redhead had actually approached
him. She'd been avoiding contact with him for a couple of weeks now, ever
since that one time that Bryanna had joined them for lunch.

He knew that Luna had tried to play mediator and get Ginny out of
whatever funk she'd worked herself into, but there hadn't been any
apparent success.

"Alright." He said with a shrug and followed her to an out of the way
room that looked like it hadn't been used in forever.
"I've been talking to some people." Ginny started, her voice full of
conviction. "Harry, that seventh year is just trying to get her hands on
your money or take advantage of your fame."

Harry stared at her incredulously for a few moments and then started
laughing.

"She is!" Ginny near yelled. "Just think about it. Why would a girl that
old suddenly start spending time with you?"

"Ginny, I know." He said, still chuckling.

"You know?!" She blurted out incredulously. "Then why are you still
hanging around her?"

"I'm waiting to see how far she's willing to go." He told her honestly.

She stared at him uncomprehendingly for a while before it dawned on her


what he meant.

"You're just going along with it because you want to see her naked?!"

"Oh, I'm hoping she goes a lot further than that." Harry replied, a smirk
pulling at his lips.

Ginny stared at him some more, then started to look almost heartbroken.

"What happened to you, Harry?" She asked sadly. "You didn't used to be
like this."

"I believe the technical term is 'puberty'." Harry grumbled


sarcastically. Why were people in the Wizarding World so surprised that
he wasn't some kind of saint? Oh right, because of those fucking Harry
Potter books. Even after knowing him for a year now, Ginny still
occasionally made assumptions about his personality based on those. The
fact that he was making money off them now was their only redeeming
quality.

"Look, I know that you have a crush on me." He started, ignoring the way
her face flushed at having it openly stated like that. He'd ignored it
the previous year in the hope that she'd get over it herself, but enough
was enough. "But nothing is ever going to come of it. I don't like you
that way and I never will."

"Why not?" Ginny demanded, looking simultaneously angry and upset. "Is it
because my boobs aren't big enough for the great Harry Potter?"

"Essentially, yes." He said bluntly, deciding to ignore her almost


Malfoy-esque insult. "You're just a kid."

"I'm only a year younger than you!" She screeched in outrage, reminding
Harry poignantly of the time that her mother had sent a howler to Fred
and George.
"I like older women." He retorted.

This gained him another outraged scream, though this time it was wordless
and accompanied by an angry exit, complete with door slam.

Harry sighed in the empty room, wondering how this was going to play out.
At least that silly crush was probably dead and buried now, Mystra be
praised.

XXXXX

"So, how goes Project Potter?"

Bryanna looked back at the Slytherin seventh year who had asked the
question, seeing the same curiousity in the eyes of the other two as
well.

Aside from her, the group consisted of Slytherin Tiana Day, Gryffindor
Jade Dawson and fellow Ravenclaw Isabel Morris.

Aside from the two Ravenclaws, they had only become friendly with each
other the previous year when they began contemplating the future and
finding it lacking. Inter-house rivalries had suddenly started looking
petty when faced with the fact that school was coming to a close and the
uncertain future that lay beyond it.

None of them had liked the conclusions they'd come to about their likely
futures, from which their current plan, jokingly called 'Project Potter',
had come together.

"Honestly, not as well as I'd hoped." Bryanna admitted with a sigh. "He's
not the bumbling boy I expected him to be, not even close. He's still
young, but he must have some prior experience with women. He's too self
assured around me not to."

The other girls looked both thoughtful and disgruntled by that, no doubt
thinking who that experience could have been with.

"So you're saying that someone already got to him last year?" Tiana asked
with a frown.

"I don't know, maybe. Either way, I don't think I'll be able to sucker
him into falling for me."

"We could slip him some Amortentia." Jade suggested.

"Don't be ridiculous." The Slytherin girl snapped, continuing with a


sneer that was aimed more at the situation than at the Gryffindor girl.
"If it gets out that a bunch of 'commoners' dosed the Heir of a Noble
House with a love potion they'll feed us to the dementors."

Left unsaid was the fact that if it happened the other way around, it
would have merited a slap on the wrist at best.
"It's too bad that Clearwater wouldn't help us with this, she's been
friendly with Potter since his first year." Isabel sighed.

"Clearwater's a muggleborn." Bryanna said dismissively.

"True."

They all had a muggleborn or second generation parent and had nothing
against muggleborns, nor did they buy into the 'purity of magical blood'
claptrap. The problem with muggleborns was that they didn't really grasp
the situation in Wizarding Britain until after they left Hogwarts, by
which time it was often too late. They had themselves heard it from their
parents, but it hadn't truly sunk in until last year.

The old Noble Houses controlled pretty much everything; the government,
the law, the money and the media. The Wizengamot was hereditary, which
meant that the judicial branch of the government was also hereditary. It
was in theory possible to climb the ranks in the Ministry regardless of
blood status, but in practice you didn't get very far if you weren't 'the
right sort' according to the purebloods that ran it or at least had a
powerful patron. Not all of those Noble Houses were bigots, but there
were enough of them to cause a lot of problems.

The real problem though, was money. The old Houses had it and everyone
else..didn't. Pureblood, halfblood or muggleborn, all of it was
subordinate to the almighty galleon.

The Common Houses consisted of families that had been around for a few
generations already, but couldn't really rise in status because the old
traditionalists were doing their absolute best to keep the Wizarding
World static, usually by maintaining a market monopoly and preventing any
uppity Common Houses from getting as rich as them. The only simple way to
actually manage a class jump was to marry into a Noble House and there
weren't many Heirs that would look twice at a non-pureblood. Lily Evans
had probably never quite understood what a lucky break in terms of
personal status she'd caught with James Potter, though she hadn't lived
long enough for it to really matter.

"Shag him." Tiana suddenly stated.

"What?" The rest of them blurted out in surprise. They were aware that it
would likely progress to that point eventually, but this was a bit
sudden.

"Shag him." The other girl repeated, keeping her eyes fixed on Bryanna.
"If you can't manipulate your way into becoming the next Lady Potter then
shagging him is the next best thing."

"I don't know, Tiana. That's a pretty extreme escalation and there's no
guarantee that anything would come of it." Isabel said uncertainly.

"It's our last year here and he's the only one we can mess with safely.
The only other Heirs we could try to cozy up to that wouldn't backfire on
us are Longbotton and Bones. One is a nervous wreck and none of us have a
cock to use on the other, not to mention that both Augusta Longbottom and
Amelia Bones would destroy us if we moved on them. I'd do it myself, but
I can't slip into his room at night since I'm not in Ravenclaw."

"Do you think it would work?" Bryanna asked thoughtfully.

"You can't seriously be thinking of doing this." Jade said incredulously.

"Tiana has a point, this is our last year and it is the best chance we'll
ever have." Bryanna replied pensively.

"I think it's worth a try." Tiana interjected before any more protests to
the idea could be offered. "If we wait for him to get out of Hogwarts,
he'll have women throwing themselves at him left and right just because
he's rich and famous, which means that we'd be just another couple of
sluts looking to shag the Boy-Who-Lived. If this is going to work, we
have to do it before that happens."

"That sounds a lot like whoring ourselves out." Isabel said


distastefully.

"You wouldn't be the one doing it!" Tiana snapped peevishly. "You've
already got a boyfriend and Jade still thinks she can get Wood to mount
her without transfiguring herself into a broom-"

"Hey!" Jade protested indignantly.

"-, however unlikely that is, so she's not going to do it either. That
leaves me and Bry and I'll tell you right now that I would much rather
shag that boy in every single broom cupboard in this damned castle than
end up like my mother, working as a low level clerk for a pureblood boss
that keeps taking credit for everything she does but can barely even wipe
her own arse without a house elf to help her."

Tiana took a deep breath to calm down after her rant and continued in a
much calmer tone. "The fact is that wastes of space like Flint and that
little shit Malfoy are going to have everything handed to them simply
because inbreeding is popular in this pisshole of a country. Screwing
Potter wouldn't be whoring so much as it would be.an investment into the
future. Either me or Bry, or hell, even both of us if we can find
somewhere out of Ravenclaw tower to do it, shag him nice and lazy, talk
him into investing into our little business venture while he's still
blissed out and promise him a small stake in our future profits.
Everybody wins and all it takes is getting a little sticky with what is
actually a pretty handsome thirteen year old. If we're lucky he might
even get us off."

While Isabel and Jade flushed in embarrassment like the virgins they
were, Bryanna stared back at her Slytherin friend, carefully considering
her arguments.

"I'll introduce you to him during the first Hogsmeade weekend."

"Both of us then?"
"Might as well. Better safe than sorry."

"And we can finish each other off if he turns out to be a


disappointment?"

"There is also that, yes."

"I'll wait for you in the Three Broomsticks."

"Good, now we just have to find a room with a bed."

"I'll ask the house elves if they know any."

XXXXX

Halloween.

"I can't believe he's going to Hogsmeade with that tramp." Ginny muttered
resentfully.

"She has-" Luna started, only to get cut off by the irate redhead.

"Nice boobies. Yes, I know."

She'd kept her distance from Harry ever since their argument. She simply
found it impossible to get around the fact that he was stringing the
seventh year girl along on the off chance that she'd jump into bed with
him.

Not that Bryanna was spared her anger, since the older Ravenclaw was
actually the instigator of the situation.

It just didn't make any sense to her. Harry was supposed to be a hero!
Alright, fine, Ginny was willing to admit that the mental picture of him
she'd had before meeting him wasn't entirely accurate, but he still
hadn't been like this last year!

He'd defended her on the train when Malfoy had insulted her. He had
tutored her and Luna when it became obvious that Lockhart didn't have the
first clue about Defense Against the Dark Arts. He had quickly figured
out the problem with the diary and helped Dumbledore deal with the
basilisk. He might not have been the same Harry Potter as in the books,
but there had been no doubt in Ginny's mind that he was a hero.

Now he was suddenly looking to get into a girl's knickers and getting mad
at her for bringing it up. She had grudgingly accepted the fact that Luna
might have a point about boys, but that had been just looking. The fact
that he was actively working towards the goal of having meaningless sex
with a girl he didn't even know was beyond her ability to accept.

The fact that he'd called her a kid and that he liked older women was
another point of contention, especially in light of the fact that she
could barely think about sex without blushing while he treated it so
cavalierly.

So she'd distanced herself from Harry and waited for him to come
apologize. Her brothers had always apologized to her when she got upset.
They might drag their feet sometimes, but they always did it in the end.

But Harry wasn't her brother. Furthermore, he seemed to have no intention


of trying to fix their friendship and now he was going to Hogsmeade on
what could technically be called a date with a seventh year with no sign
of being bothered by the situation.

Now she was starting to worry that there wouldn't be any apologies or
making up. Indeed, it was looking as if there wouldn't even be a
friendship anymore.

This wasn't how things were supposed to be and she had no idea what to do
about it. Confused and upset by the way things were going, she
reluctantly decided to write to her mother. She'd held off on it so far,
not wanting to go running back to her mother to solve her problems, but
she needed advice that wasn't a flat statement about boobies.

Luna was actually very smart beneath her absent demeanor, but she just
didn't get it.

XXXXX

Luna watched as Ginny pinned her letter to one of the school owls and
sighed.

She could understand the redhead's position, she really could, but it was
just silly of her to be upset at Harry for being himself. If he wanted to
play with Bryanna's boobies and she let him do it, then Luna could only
smile at them and hope they had fun. The fact that Ginny was upset by it
baffled her.

But Ginny was also being herself with her attempts to get Harry to stop
being himself, so she didn't say anything. Hopefully, her failure would
teach Ginny that you couldn't transfigure a person into a different
person and they could all be friends again.

No matter how detailed you made a potato castle, it was still just a
bunch of mashed potatoes . People could learn a lot from potatoes.

Ginny should have spent more time making and contemplating potato
castles.

XXXXX

Harry wasn't quite as enthused about Hogsmeade as the other third years,
owing both to his aversion for large crowds and the way that some people
stared at him. On the other hand, he had a pretty girl on his arm and was
able to feel shamelessly smug about the jealous looks he'd caught amidst
the staring. The Hogwarts rumor mill had of course been hard at work
spreading speculation about the status of their relationship based on
limited information, which was now 'confirmed' by the two of them going
to Hogsmeade together. This had seemingly elevated him into some kind of
pseudo-legendary figure among the boys in his year and possibly even
those in the year above him.

As for Hogsmeade itself, he thought that the little wizarding settlement


was veryquaint. It was the only purely magical settlement in all of
Great Britain according to Bryanna, which said quite a bit about how tiny
the magical population had to be.

She had taken him on a short tour of the village and then suggested they
go to the Three Broomsticks for a pint of butterbeer to warm up.

Morbidly curious if butterbeer was actually made of beer and melted


butter and having no better ideas, he'd agreed.

Now he found himself sandwiched between Bryanna and a friend of hers that
went by Tiana.

Bryanna and Tiana. If Tiana wasn't a pale, curly haired brunette with
hazel eyes, they could've been twins with names like that.

Her convenient presence in the Three Broomsticks was unlikely to be a


coincidence given that they were friends. The Slytherin crest and green
trim on her robes also hinted at the fact that she might be an ambitious
schemer.

"So Bry tells me that you've been helping her learn the Patronus." Tiana
commented, casually letting her hand fall to his thigh.

"We've been helping each other." Harry replied, trying not to fidget as
the familiar prickle of magic passed through the runes on his back,
followed by the equally familiar lust.

"Don't be shy now, Harry." Bryanna teased, her own hand dropping to his
other thigh. "I wouldn't be half as far in learning it if it wasn't for
your insight."

Harry took a deep breath in a vain attempt to calm the dull fire going
through his loins. It had been over two months now since his last
rendezvous with Zoe and he was discovering that solo sessions of wand
polishing were simply not having the same effect anymore. Bryanna's light
teasing and seemingly innocent touches since the start of term certainly
hadn't helped.

Now he had two very pretty girls giving him some very damned blatant
signals and it was a struggle not to grab them by the hair, kiss them and
then drag them to the first empty room he could find. He knew that this
had to be because of whatever ambition they were hoping to use him for,
but it didn't really make the situation easier.

The proprietor of the establishment decided to approach them at that


point, and just so happened to be a curvaceous MILF in the first set of
cleavage baring robes Harry had seen thus far. It was hard to say how old
she was with the way that magic slowed down aging, but she was definitely
rocking the mature older woman look.

"Well isn't this a familiar sight?" Madam Rosmerta drawled in an amused


fashion.

"Excuse me?" Harry questioned after quickly clearing his throat to


prevent any embarrassing breaks in his voice. He was just glad that
Bryanna and Tiana had surreptitiously removed their hands from his
thighs. That would've made it really hard to pay attention to any
conversation.

"I was just reminded of your father andhis friends."

Harry noted the slight pause and correctly guessed that she had been
about to mention Sirius.

"They liked to come in here too, often with girls on their arms.
Shameless flirts they were."

Definitely been about to mention Sirius. Lupin did not come across as a
very flirty individual and Pettigrew had been.unattractive, to put it
lightly.

"I can certainly see why they would flirt with you." Harry replied, the
words slipping from his tongue before he could even think to stop them.

Fortunately, Rosmerta only burst into laughter instead of taking offense.

"You really are your father's son, aren't you? Except that you're
starting even younger. I'm Rosmerta, but you can call me Rosie." She said
merrily. "You girls need to be careful around this one."

"I'm sure we can handle him." Tiana smirked, hand snaking out to give
Harry's thigh quick squeeze.

"I'm sure." Rosmerta said with an answering smirk and adopted a more
professional demeanor. "What can I get you?"

"Three butterbeers please." Bryanna ordered.

"Coming right up."

Harry took the opportunity to check out the proprietor's swaying rear end
and found it to be just as appealing as the rest of her. Truly, magic was
wonderful for preserving a woman's sex appeal well past the age when a
non-magical female would have probably lost it already.

A quick look around the tavern let him know that the other patrons were
mostly minding their own business, though Ginny's brother Ron seemed to
be staring at him with an angry sort of jealousy from where he was
sitting with his Gryffindor friends for some reason. That was pretty
random, but it wasn't as if Ron was actually important.
"You know what, Bry? I think we aren't trying hard enough if Mr. Smooth
here has time to flirt with Rosmerta." Tiana commented, sliding her hand
a bit further up his thigh.

"I have to agree." Bryanna said, mirroring the action.

Harry held back a groan. It was going to be a long day, but like hell was
he going to let himself be teased like this without retaliation.

"And what are you going to do about it?" He asked, boldly reaching out to
return the teasing with a thigh squeeze of his own. Only to Bryanna
though, as he hadn't known Tiana long enough to be quite that bold.

"Harry!" The way she breathed out his name, with a mix of surprise and
pleasure, had to be just about the sexiest thing he'd ever heard.

"Tsk tsk, Potter. It's bad form to pay attention to just one of us and
ignore the other." Tiana commented from his other side.

Knowing an invitation when he heard one, Harry reached out with his
unoccupied hand to give her leg a squeeze too.

"That's better." The Slytherin girl said huskily.

"You three might want to cool off a bit." Rosmerta said as she deposited
their butterbeers on the table, making the teens jump in surprise because
they hadn't noticed her approach. "You're making me all hot and bothered
just looking at you."

"Sorry." Harry said sheepishly, embarrassed by the gentle reprimand.


Things really had been going a bit out of hand for a public space.

"I know how it is." She replied wistfully. "I used to be a teenager too
once, a long time ago."

"Nonsense, you can't possibly be a day over thirty." Harry responded


instantly in a knee jerk reaction that had actually been trained into him
by Katherine for when she wanted some older woman to feel flattered by
her 'charming son'. Inanely enough, it had been among her more effective
schemes.

Apparently it worked on pub owning witches just as well as it did on


snobby muggle women, as it sent Rosmerta into a peal of delighted
laughter.

"You're quite the sweet talker, aren't you Harry?" She asked with a
teasing lilt to her tone.

"I try." He responded with a shrug, not wanting to admit that that last
one hadn't been entirely intentional. The flirtatious compliment had been
sincere for a change though. Rosmerta might not look as young as thirty
anymore, but she still looked damned good, which was more than could be
said for almost every other woman he'd said that to before.
"You're succeeding." Rosmerta returned with a flirtatious smile and
turned to leave. "Wave me over if you need a refill."

"Should we leave you alone so that you can focus you attention on
Rosmerta?" Bryanna asked, amused.

"I was just being friendly." Harry defended, semi-truthfully. He knew


that barmaids would often flirt as a matter of course because it kept
people coming back, but he did find her undeniably attractive. It didn't
help that the two girls on either side of him had gotten him seriously
randy and predisposed towards flirting.

"Suuure you were." Tiana drawled out, clearly not believing him.

XXXXX

Sirius had intended to make an attempt to infiltrate Hogwarts on


Halloween, but there was one thing that he wanted to do first just in
case he failed and ended up being dementor chow.

He had to see Harry, had to see if his godson was alright. He hadn't been
able to find him before, but he had to see him. The rage he felt for the
cowardly rat hadn't abated in the slightest, but his previous failure had
instilled enough caution in him to acknowledge the admittedly high chance
that he was going to die in the attempt to extract revenge for James and
Lily's murder.

In hindsight, rushing off half-cocked after Wormtail had betrayed them to


Voldemort had been a bad idea, but he hadn't been in a particularly
rational mood at the time. He still wasn't truth be told, though at this
point it was because of twelve years of dementor exposure rather than
homicidal rage.

But getting back to the point, he had to see Harry first. He knew that
there was always a Hogsmeade weekend before Halloween, which was by far
the safest avenue for him to get a glimpse of his godson.

He stayed in his Animagus form and stuck to the woods around the village,
keeping his doggy nose up in the air, hoping to get a whiff of his
godson's scent. It would undoubtedly be different after twelve years, but
he hoped that he could still recognize it.

Hours later, he had all but lost hope and started thinking that maybe
Harry hadn't been able to leave the castle for some reason. When the
barely familiar scent wafted into his nose, Padfoot accidentally planted
his face into the dirt in his eagerness to get a look.

Stalking stealthily through the outskirts of the forest, Sirius caught


sight of his quarry as they moved towards the Shrieking Shack and did an
almost cartoonish rendition of a canine jaw drop.

Harry was.tall. Too tall for his age. Tall enough that Sirius seriously
wondered for a moment whether he'd spent more than just twelve years in
Azkaban. He looked so much like James that it hurt to look at him, though
he kept his hair at a length more reminiscent of Sirius himself, nor did
he wear glasses. Sirius couldn't see color in his Animagus form, but he
was sure that the boy's eyes were still Lily's beautiful emerald green.

The fact that his godson had not one but two witches that looked to be
seventh years keeping him company nearly overrode his self control and
had him running towards the boy to lick his face in a display of pure
pride.

Once the initial reaction passed though, Sirius felt a stab of pain in
his chest, remembering better times with his best friend. For all that
James had been chasing Lily rather obsessively since third year, he
hadn't shied away from the occasional date with other witches. He and
Sirius would often bring whichever girl they were goofing around with at
the time to the Three Broomsticks for a pint of butterbeer and an amusing
bit of flirting with the ever delightful proprietor. Their dates would
invariably get jealous of the attention they were giving to the older
woman, giving the two of them an opportunity to make it up to them later,
sometimes in very pleasurable ways. Quite a few broom closets and
abandoned classrooms held fond memories for him.

Lost in his grief and memories, Padfoot unintentionally whined loudly.

XXXXX

It turned out that butterbeer was not as disgusting as its name implied.
It was in fact rather delicious and had some kind of magic in it that
spread warmth over the whole body when drunk.

To Harry's minor annoyance, his runes made quick work of that due to it
being a foreign magic. He hadn't considered that when carving them. It
wouldn't have stopped him as it really was a minor thing, but the
oversight displeased him. It was good to have confirmation that it worked
at least.

They had stayed in the Three Broomsticks for a while, having a


conversation intersped with flirting and teasing touches. Not as intense
as it had been at first since they hadn't wanted to get another warning
from Rosmerta, but still enough that Harry felt the magic in his runes
prickling in an almost annoyed fashion at the time it was taking to get
to the main event.

He had no idea what kind of plan Bryanna and Tiana had cooked up, but he
could hardly wait to get to the part where they tried to take advantage
of him.

After leaving the tavern, the girls had suggested taking a look at the
Shrieking Shack, which was supposed to be the most haunted place in
Britain, though nobody seemed able to say why exactly that was.

That was about the time when they all heard a loud, canine whine and
turned to look at the source.
A very big black dog was staring at them from between the trees, it's
eyes lightly shining.

The three students froze in surprise. The dog froze in surprise.

"Is that.a grim?" Tiana asked slowly, as if afraid that the sound would
provoke it to attack.

Harry knew exactly what that dog was and it wasn't a grim. It looked a
lot more ragged than he remembered, but it was undoubtedly Sirius'
Animagus form, Padfoot.

"I don't think so." Bryanna replied uncertainly, squeezing Harry's arm as
if to reassure herself that she wasn't alone. "Grims are supposed to be
spectral and this one looks solid."

Harry knew that he had to do something and fast. There was an opportunity
here, but he could already see Sirius getting ready to bolt. He still had
a few questions about the night that his parents had died and Sirius was
possibly the only person who could give him the answers he sought.

"It's Padfoot." He said, making things up as he went. "He's my dog, but I


have no idea what he's doing all the way up here."

"Your dog?" Bryanna and Tiana exclaimed in surprise, echoed by another


whine from an equally surprised Padfoot.

Sirius had no idea how to react. He'd known that it would have been too
much to hope for that Harry would remember him, but it seemed that his
godson did indeed remember. He couldn't have known the name of his
Animagus form otherwise.

"He wouldn't hurt anyone, would you, Padfoot?" Harry asked pointedly,
staring at the dog Animagus. If Sirius had a wand and the intent to use
it, then Harry didn't fool himself into thinking that he could take him
on in a straight fight, but he'd shown zero aggression so far.

He'd long since deduced that the dementors hovering around the school
were supposedly for his protection in case Black went after him, which
was in his opinion a completely asinine security measure. If the Ministry
was right, then this was the best chance that Black was ever going to get
to kill him.

Padfoot let his tongue hang out of his mouth and panted happily, trotting
over to the three of them and giving Harry's hand a lick.

"See? He's harmless." Harry said, wiping his drool stained hand on his
robes.

"I guess." Tiana said dubiously, still staring at the hulking canine
warily.

Now what? Asking them to give me a moment alone with a dog would be
suspicious and I can hardly talk to Sirius with them around.
It was a strange situation that compelled a teenager to ditch two pretty
girls that seemed intent on having their way with him, but that was what
Harry found himself doing. Lust simply had to take a backseat this time.

"Excuse me for a few minutes girls, I need to get Padfoot back home." He
said to Bryanna and Tiana, making up his mind on a course of action.

"Okay." They agreed, still a bit uncertain about the whole situation but
much more composed than they had been before.

"Teeny." Harry said softly.

The small house elf popped in, looking happy at being called.

"You's called for Teeny, master Harry Potter sir?" She asked earnestly,
already looking around for things to do.

"I did." He confirmed. "Could you please transport me and Padfoot here
back to the manor?"

"Teeny can be doing it!" She proclaimed, not even questioning why he
suddenly had a dog.

"I'll be back in a few minutes." Harry assured the girls and vanished
with the quiet pop of a house elf apparition.

Bryanna and Tiana exchanged glances

"Didn't he tell you that he lives with muggles?" Tiana asked.

"Wondering about the house elf?"

"Yup."

XXXXX

The three of them appeared in the sitting room of Potter Manor with the
same quiet pop that they had disappeared with.

"Is you and the doggy wanting something to eat, master Harry?" Teeny
asked a second later, knowing what Harry's appetite was like.

"Not right now, thank you." Harry refused politely, once more wishing
that he could have gotten the little house elf to stop calling him
'master'. Unfortunately, her lower lip started wobbling tremulously
whenever he tried to bring the subject up and he ended up backing down.
She was an expert in emotional blackmail.

Once Teeny had made herself scarce, Sirius transformed back into human
form, making Harry tense warily even though he'd been expecting it.

"Harry." The bedraggled man in Azkaban prison robes said, spreading his
arms and taking a step forward as if to give him a hug.
"Hold it right there." Harry said firmly, taking a step back and raising
his arms defensively. "I'm fairly sure that you didn't betray my parents
and that you don't mean me any harm, but that doesn't mean I trust you."

"It was Pettigrew!" Sirius said loudly, looking a little wild eyed now.
"He was the traitor!"

"What about the twelve muggles that you supposedly killed?" Harry
pressed.

"Also him. He shouted something about me betraying James and Lily when I
cornered him and then fired off a blasting curse."

"Alright, I believe you." Harry nodded after a moment's consideration,


having already known that the situation was fishy and seeing no
particular reason for Sirius to be lying to him. "But I'm still not
hugging you, you stink."

Sirius stared at him in shock for a second and then burst into near
hysterical laughter.

Harry frowned slightly in consternation. It hadn't been that funny.

"I bet you'd prefer a hug from those two girls of yours, eh Harry?"
Sirius ribbed once his chuckles had subsided.

"Obviously." Harry said drolly. "Speaking of which, we'll need to


postpone the rest of this meeting for another time. I need to get back
before anyone gets suspicious. Stay here and keep out of sight until we
figure out a way to get your name cleared, I'm sure that Teeny will be
glad to have someone to take care of."

"Wormtail!" Sirius suddenly shouted. "He's in the castle, I have to get


him!"

"Wormtail?" Harry questioned, the name(nickname?) being unfamiliar to


him.

"Pettigrew!" Sirius spat impatiently. "He's a rat Animagus, been hiding


out as the Weasley's pet rat ever since he framed me."

"Scabbers?" Harry wondered, having heard quite a few complaints about


Ron's pet rat from Ginny as well as occasionally seeing it at meals. That
ugly thing was an Animagus? He'd never seen Pettigrew transform in his
memories and hadn't honestly thought that such a weak looking wizard was
capable of it.

"Whatever he calls himself!" The escaped convict growled, throwing his


hands up into the air angrily. "I have to get back there and kill him for
what he did."

"I'll catch him." Harry stated. It shouldn't be too hard since the rat
wouldn't expect him. Getting him away from Weasley without anyone
noticing would be the bigger issue. Moreover, a living Peter Pettigrew
would be exactly the kind of evidence they'd need to prove that Sirius
was innocent.

"NO!" Sirius screamed, suddenly lunging to grab Harry by his robes. "He's
mine!"

Alarmed and angered by the sudden attack, Harry pried the man's hands off
and roughly shoved him to the floor. Not a feat of strength that a normal
thirteen year old would be capable off, but he was physically older than
his age, had a minor strength boost from his runes and Sirius was so far
from being in good shape that it wasn't even funny.

"Don't be an idiot!" Harry spat angrily. "Everyone is on the lookout for


you. You'll never succeed without alerting him and then he can just make
a run for it. We'd never find him again if he escapes."

"I'm sorry, James." Sirius said contritely from the floor, sounding close
to tears. "You're right, we'll do it your way."

Harry ignored the fact that he'd just been called by his father's name.
The dementors had obviously not done Sirius' state of mind any favors.

"Stay in the manor and keep out of sight, nobody is going to look for you
here. I'll get Pettigrew and then we can figure out how to solve this
mess." He instructed, taking a deep breath to dispel the last of his
short burst of anger. "I really have to get back, but Charlus and Dorea
have portraits up on the first floor if you want to talk to them."

Too bad that wards can't be used to keep someone inside them, he's far
too unstable for my liking. Harry thought, holding back a grimace.

That was a strange quirk of wards. They could do a lot of things,


including block apparition and portkeys, but keeping someone from just
walking past them was something that was impossible to do. It could be
set up to trigger effects for anyone doing so, even lethal ones, but that
only worked from the outside coming in. Azkaban would have been truly
inescapable if it were otherwise. Line style exclusion spells such as the
Age Line were the only exception, but they weren't really wards and
couldn't be anchored to anything, which meant that they needed to be
frequently reinforced.

And on that note, he was going to need to tell Teeny to keep the man from
leaving. He wasn't likely to get more than one opportunity to make a grab
for Pettigrew and Sirius did not strike him as the subtle type.

Sirius blanched at the thought even as he got to his feet. Talk to James'
parents? The people who had shown him nothing but kindness and whose son
and daughter-in-law he'd killed with his stupidity? A horde of dementors
sounded less scary, even if they were just portraits.

XXXXX
"Got your dog sorted?" Bryanna asked once Teeny had popped Harry back to
Hogsmeade.

"Yeah." Harry nodded. "Crazy mutt was all set to make another trip up
here and took some convincing to get him to stay put."

"I don't think we have time to visit the Shrieking Shack anymore." Tiana
said with a small frown. "It's nearly time to go back to Hogwarts."

"Alright, lets go then." He said, his mind already chewing over the
problem of Pettigrew.

"Oh Haaary~." Bryanna sing-songed. "Aren't you forgetting something?"

Harry turned to stare at her, seeing both girls holding their hands out
for him to take.

Oh, right. That was still happening. Maybe the Pettigrew problem could
wait for another day.

Chapter 8

Guest review responses! I haven't done one of these in a while.

Partha Lahiri: Could you please specify which part of the fic puts such a
fire in your crotch? I'd like to know so I can put more of it in. Clearly
I must be doing something right if I can evoke such a powerful emotional
reaction.

XXXXX

Living back in Potter Manor after Azkaban had been an emotional


experience for Sirius.

He'd nearly cried when Teeny had told him that she'd drawn him a bath and
laid out a clean set of robes for him. He had cried when he took his
first bite of food in twelve years that didn't taste like it had been
scraped off a troll's arse or fished out of the garbage. It had taken him
a good ten minutes to convince Teeny that there was nothing wrong with
her cooking after that. The Potter house elf had always been an insecure
little thing.

It was then that he had decided that there had been enough blubbering.
Sirius Black was not some emotionally fragile preteen girl that kept
bursting into tears at the slightest provocation. He was a manly man and
would act like it.

That resolve had lasted exactly one hour, which was the time it took him
to build up the nerve to go talk to Charlus and Dorea's portraits. He'd
started bawling again as soon as they told him that they didn't blame him
for James and Lily's deaths.

Sirius still felt responsible, but didn't argue. He'd never had it in him
to argue with Charlus and Dorea.

XXXXX

Remus spent the majority of the Halloween feast staring at the son of his
friends, still wallowing indecisively over how or even if to approach
him.

Dumbledore had told him that the boy seemed to somehow know about him
already. It would be so much simpler if Harry deigned to make the first
move, but he couldn't put that all on Harry without being a hypocrite.

James and Sirius had always been the ones who made things happen in the
Marauders. Charismatic James Potter and bold Sirius Black, getting in and
out of trouble as easy as breathing. Remus had participated in their
antics eagerly, happy to have friends at all with his condition, but he
hadn't been a driving force like James or Sirius. Peter had been even
more of a follower than him and couldn't even boast the same kind of
intelligence and skill that would have made him their equal the same as
it did for Remus.

Harry wasn't really much like James in temperament. Not nearly as social
or boisterous and too studious by half.

But sometimes he reminded him so much of James that it was hard to keep
from calling him the wrong name. Times like now, when Remus had heard
that he'd gone to Hogsmeade with one seventh year witch and left it with
two. Remus had once been terribly envious of his two friends' easy way
with the opposite gender, something that he'd always had to avoid due to
his lycanthropy even when the opportunity presented itself. Nowadays it
was just another regret among many.

And speaking of regrets...

One of the larger ones was sitting at the same table as him, occasionally
shooting a glower at Harry.

Snape had been a favored target for James and Sirius, no doubt a result
of James' near obssesive infatuation with Lily and Sirius being the
supportive best friend by backing him up. Severus' friendship with her
had riled them like nothing else. Remus and Peter hadn't participated in
picking on the dour Slytherin often, but they hadn't protested either.

It had felt too good to have someone that he, a werewolf, could feel pity
for to do that and Peter had likely had a similar reason, minus the
lycanthropy. A shameful realization about himself that had come far too
late to be helpful. It was one of the main reasons that he didn't try to
retaliate or defend himself from Snape's veiled barbs these days. He
deserved them.
Not that Severus had been a helpless victim. He'd given almost as good as
he'd gotten in many cases, which was particularly impressive since he had
always been outnumbered. In truth, Remus had always strongly suspected
that Severus was a more powerful wizard than any single one of the
Marauders.

However much he enjoyed teaching, he found himself wishing that he hadn't


accepted Dumbledore's offer. There were too many regrets and memories in
this place, staring out at him either from the black eyes of a man too
bitter, proud and resentful to accept his apologies or from the bright
green of a teenager who looked at him with indifferent curiousity at
best.

He couldn't wait for the feast to be over. The cheerful armosphere did
not suit his mood.

XXXXX

A little further down the table, Snape glowered so darkly that not even
Dumbledore attempted to bother him with his infuriatingly inane chatter.

Halloween always put him in a foul mood. Lily had died on this day and
the innumerable twits infesting the world celebrating it grated on him.
The fact that Potter had deigned to grace the Great Hall with his
presence on this day for the first time since coming to Hogwarts made it
worse.

Rumor had already reached him of the brat's neophyte forays into the
philandering ways of his father and it curdled his opinion of the boy
more than anything else could have, along with his mood.

He couldn't wait for the feast to be over. The last of the firewhiskey
that Minerva had gotten him the previous Christmas sounded particularly
appealing right now.

XXXXX

Oblivious to the regard of the two professors, Harry continued eating as


he absently reached into the pocket of his robes to give the note it held
a squeeze. The message it held made his blood boil even as it sent a
nervous flutter to his stomach.

Come to the seventh floor after the feast, the opposite side of the
corridor from the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy. We'll be waiting.

Bryanna had slipped him the note before she'd left, with Tiana following
shortly afterwards. He felt almost as nervous as the first time with Zoe.
How did threesomes even work?

But he also couldn't wait for the feast to be over. It would be fun
learning how they worked.

XXXXX
One the feast was over Harry slipped away from prying eyes and made his
way up to the seventh floor. It was less expansive than most of the
castle, being as high up as it was, so there shouldn't be any trouble
finding the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy.

Granted, he had no idea what it looked like, but he figured that someone
that wizards titled 'the Barmy' would be doing something pretty fucking
crazy.

Trying to teach trolls how to do ballet defnitely fit the bill. Why would
anyone want to do that anyway?

But the ambitions of insane wizards were really of no importance to Harry


right now. What was important was the door on the opposite side of the
corridor. Harry cautiously opened the door and froze as soon as he
stepped inside.

He hadn't been sure what to expect of this room, but what he got was not
it. It was rather large, with several dozen floating candles giving it a
warm orange glow. It was somewhat bare of furniture except for the
exccessively large bed. Harry absently noticed the deep crimson bedding,
but most of his attention was on the two women currently occupying the
bed.

Bryanna and Tiana were laying on their sides, facing each other with
their legs entangled, echanging languid kisses.

Harry had assumed that the Wizarding World would be as intolerant of


homosexuality as it was about a lot of other things, but he was very glad
to be wrong for a change. When thinking of it later on, he would
eventually conclude that the contempt that magicals had for monotheistic
religion was likely the main reason for this surprising tolerance, but he
was entirely too distracted to be thinking about that right now.

The girls noticed him at that point and separated from each other.

"Looks like it's time for the main event." Bryanna said huskily, giving
Harry a smouldering look.

"Finally." Tiana muttered under her breath.

The two of them had decided to get each other ready just in case Harry
was one of those guys that liked to just get to the main event and fall
asleep right after, like their first times had been. If he did end up
being like that, then they'd at least be plenty wet enough for it to only
be disappointing instead of unpleasant.

The only problem had been restraining themselves to just kissing and some
light petting and not getting started without him. That would have run
counter to the whole point. They weren't really lesbians or even
bisexual, but there was nothing wrong with getting a bit of relief with a
friend. Especially when the pickings among the male population were so
slim.
Harry watched in entranced fascination as they got off the bed and walked
towards him. Both of them were wearing sheer nighties that simply had to
be enchanted. They looked as though they might have originally come out
of a muggle lingerie store, but no regular fabric could shimmer so
enticingly as it moved. It looked as though they were made of impossibly
fine metal, with Bryanna's being bronze and Tiana's silver. They had
nothing but bright blue and green panties under those, an amusing nod to
the color of their Hogwarts houses.

He'd just taken in that interesting little detail when they reached him,
one after the other giving him a deep kiss without preamble.

"You're overdressed, Harry." Bryanna whispered into his ear as two sets
of hands started undoing his robes. "Lets fix that, shall we?"

Busy as he was kissing Tiana and running his hands over her thinly
covered body, Harry couldn't respond, but he definitely wasn't going to
object.

There was one thing that absolutely had to be done before things went any
further though.

"One moment." He said breathlessly after separating his lips from those
of the Slytherin girl.

Then he drew his wand and quickly cast two contraception charms.

"Protection, Harry?" Tiana smirked. "That's very responsible of you, but


we're already on the potion."

"Better safe than sorry." He shrugged and eagerly leaned back to kiss her
before she could respond.

They left a trail of discarded clothing on the floor as they stumbled


towards the bed, by which time Harry had nothing but his underwear left
on him.

Harry grabbed Tiana's legs when they reached the edge of the bed and
lifted her onto it, covering her body with his own immediately after.

Guess I get to be first. She thought humorlessly when she felt him
hooking his thumbs into her panties and pull them off.

Instead of having a male member of underwhelming size shoved into her, he


had her gasping in surprise as he dived for her crotch mouth first, with
every indication that he'd been dying to do just that.

Harry had in fact been dying to do just that, having developed something
of an oral fixation with Zoe. Maybe it had been his desire to reach the
coveted ten out of ten on the cunnilingus scale, or maybe it was the ego
boost that hearing a woman panting in pleasure while he ate her out gave
him. Either way, he wasn't going to miss out on a chance to do it.
Seeing her friend making sounds of pleasure that didn't sound faked,
Bryanna made a facial expression somewhere between a smirk and a pout.
Smirking, because it looked like Tiana's plan to fake their orgasms
wouldn't be needed and pouting because she wasn't getting any attention.

Then her expression changed all the way into a smirk as she got an idea.
First, she pulled off her own nightie and panties, then she tugged down
Harry's underwear to get him completely naked.

With a critical look that she would've kept off her face if he could see
it, Bryanna examined Harry's package and nodded to herself. It wasn't
really anything to write home about, but it was impressive for a thirteen
year old. At the very least it would do more than tickle when he put it
in.

Running her hands gently over the exposed genitals, she leaned over to
him and spoke in her most throaty voice.

"I'll be expecting the same treatment, so don't exhaust yourself too


quickly."

Harry groaned his agreement into Tiana's crotch, incidentally making the
Slytherin groan as well. His jaw was not going to thank him for it, but
he fully intended to do just that.

XXXXX

One hour later.

Bryanna grunted as Harry sheathed himself into her from behind, the
entrance being very easy due to her previous orgasm leaving her well
lubricated.

Tiana was sprawled on her back next to them, the trickle of semen leaking
from her attesting to Harry's own recent ograsm.

An orgasm that he seemed to have already recovered from.

Harry looked down at the witch he was thrusting into, feeling the
familiar thrill of power that this position gave him. It was even more
pronounced than it had been with Zoe. Unlike his muggle friend, Bryanna
had a tangible power within her that he could feel when he was this
close. A power that felt submissive to him when he took her like this.

Lost in the moment, he decided to see if he couldn't push things a bit


further.

Bryanna leaned her head back eagerly when she felt a hand grabbing her
hair. The combination of being taken from behind and having her hair
grabbed felt good.

She didn't think much of it when he pulled her head a bit to the side and
thrust into her hard enough to nudge her forward.
She did notice however when he started pushing her head towards Tiana's
soiled crotch.

"Lick her." Harry ordered with a grunt as he pushed himself all the way
into her and stopped moving. "We wouldn't want her falling asleep now,
would we?"

Bryanna wanted to protest, but something about the situation made her
inner walls clench with anticipation around his shaft. She wanted him to
start moving again and damn if his commanding behavior wasn't hot.

So she gave in and set to work on getting her friend off again, ignoring
both the taste of Harry's seed and the protesting mewl that Tiana made to
the stimulation.

Seeing a witch four years his senior give in to his desire sent Harry
hurtling over the edge of his second orgasm entirely too fast, but he
didn't fight it and released into her with a drawn out groan.

Drawing in big gulps of air, he watched her arse sticking into the air
and a drop of sperm trickle from her opening. He could already feel his
arousal returning at the sight. He was going to be hard again in a
minute.

He had something else that he wanted to do though.

Not bothering with a wand since neither of the two girls could see him,
Harry focused on what he wanted and sent a cleaning charm at Bryanna's
crotch.

The Ravenclaw girl jumped slightly as the spell removed not only his own
leavings, but also the wetness generated by her arousal.

"Harry!" She gasped, sounding a mixture of scandalized and aroused. "Did


you just cast a spell at my fanny?!"

"Get back to licking." He told her with a grin and planted his face in
the aforementioned fanny. After all, he'd made her dry again and that
just wouldn't do.

Bryanna groaned at having his tongue applied to her again. The spell had
been like a jolt of cold power right to her privates, so his hot tongue
was feeling particularly good right now. The position was also new and
exciting to her. She'd never gotten licked from behind before.

And speaking of licking, she went back to flicking her tongue over the
tired Slytherin's clitoris.

Harry had a point. Tiana had no business falling asleep already. Shagging
the overly virile third year had been her idea and by Merlin she was
going to help tire him out.

XXXXX
Two hours later.

Tiana opened her eyes blearily as she heard Harry groan and spurt out
what couldn't be more than a few drops of sperm into her abused snatch.

She was currently lying on her stomach and mostly just happy to let the
boy do whatever he wanted until he tired himself out.

Bryanna was already passed out next to her, having thrown her under the
metaphorical bus earlier and told Harry to leave her alone and use the
Slytherin to satisfy himself. The bitch.

Neither one of them had expected Harry to have that much damned stamina.
Oh sure, he technically cheated by giving himself breaks and resorting to
the use of his tongue , but at the end of the day, he was still the one
that had exhausted them instead of the other way around. The after sex
business proposition they'd planned was just going to have to wait until
morning.

She felt the bed dip as a new weight shimmied between her and Bryanna.
She hadn't even noticed him getting off the bed in the first place.

To her great relief, he merely pulled both of them close and settled down
to sleep. If he'd tried going anywhere near her groin again, she might
have just slapped him. If she could be bothered to lift her arms that
was.

Instead she just settled into his side and took a deep breath, taking in
the smell of food.

Wait...food?

He'd gotten himself a snack before getting back to bed?

The absurdity of his appetite made Tiana giggle sleepily as she fell back
into slumber.

Harry raised an eyebrow a the weird giggle/snore hybrid that the


Slytherin girl had just made, wondering what the hell she was dreaming
about.

Eh, no matter. He was way too exhausted to really care. He'd almost been
too exhausted to eat, but the gurgling emptiness of his stomach would
never have let him sleep.

XXXXX

The morning after was greeted with parched throats, full bladders,
terrible morning breath and sore nethers.

Fortunately, there was a bathroom attached to the room, the house elves
were always happy to provide assistance with anything food related and
minor healing spells could soothe the soreness.
Once all of that had been taken care of, they went back to snuggling on
the bed.

"Where did you girls find this amazing room?" Harry asked with a sigh,
sinking into the deliciously soft pillows.

"The elves call it the Come And Go room, or the Room of Requirement.
Apparently you just have to pace across the hallway three times and think
about what you want."

"And the castle just reads your mind and makes the room?" Harry asked
incredulously.

"Looks like it." Bryanna shrugged.

"Huh, that's interesting."

Very interesting. In fact, Harry was quite sure that he'd just found a
new favorite room in the castle.

"So...Harry, what did you think of what we were wearing?" Tiana asked
casually, dragging a finger along his chest.

"Those sexy nighties?" He asked with a grin. "I loved them. Where did you
find those anyway? It doesn't look like something that you could buy in
Diagon Alley and I could feel the magic in them."

"We made them." Bryanna said proudly. "Well, us and two other friends."

"That's quite a talent you've got there." He complimented.

"Thank you." Tiana accepted graciously. "We've been thinking of opening a


clothing store that caters to more...modern tastes than Madam Malkin's,
but it's hard to start up a business in the Wizarding World."

Harry smiled wryly, the realization dawning on him.

"So you hatched a plan to seduce an orphaned heir to a Noble House and
get him to foot the bill." He said dryly.

Bryanna and Tiana exchanged glances and shrugged, giving up the pretense
of casual conversation. This had been supposed to happen while he was
still mellow from the sex and sleepy. They hadn't counted on him being
able to wear them out, but they had to deal with the situation as it was.

"Yes." The Ravenclaw girl said with as much dignity as could be mustered
in the situation. "So, will you do it? You said that you liked our work
and we have plenty of other ideas for things, not just night clothes and
underwear."

"Explain the whole situation to me and I'll think about it." He said, not
keen to agree to anything just yet.
"It's fairly simple really." Bryanna began with a shrug. "All four of us
are of the opinion that the Wizarding World could do with a fashion
update and want to open a clothing store. The problem is that getting the
start up capital is damn near impossible and the pureblood pricks running
the Ministry start bleating protests every time someone tries to do
something different."

Tiana took up the narrative from there. "You might have noticed that it
looks like we just took some muggle clothing and enchanted it, which is
fairly close to the mark. We haven't figured much of the sewing spells
that are used in creating clothes because those tend to be professional
secrets, but buying stuff made by muggles, enchanting it and reselling is
simple enough if you've got the skill."

"The problem is that some pureblood could easily decide that he didn't
like what we were doing, throw some money around and get it classified
under 'Misuse of Muggle Artefacts' to make the whole thing illegal. So we
were hoping that you would give us the start up gold and let us use the
Potter name." Bryanna finished.

"How would using my name help?" Harry asked curiously.

"Lords of Noble Houses get all kinds of exemptions to the law, including
the one about misusing muggle artefacts. If they made it illegal for you,
then they'd be making it illegal for themselves too." She answered and
continued with a mutter. "As if a bra was an artefact."

The two girls went quiet and Harry mulled over their words. He'd never
much cared for the ungainly robes that wizards liked so much and was
definitely in favor of having alternatives, but he had noticed how
tradition obsessed the culture was. They weren't likely to turn a profit
for years. In fact, the entire venture could quite easily just end up
being a huge money sink.

That being said, it could also turn out to be spectacularly successful.


The muggleborns would almost definitely like it, just as certainly as the
purebloods would hate it. The halfbloods were a toss up. An important
toss up as they made up anywhere between 60 and 80% of the population.

"How much would you need?" He asked after a few minutes.

"A few thousand galleons at least." Bryanna said with wince, knowing that
it wasn't a small amount of money, but also knowing better than to
sugarcoat it. They'd need that money to buy the space, build up stock and
advertise, not to mention living expenses since they'd essentially be
unemployed during that time. If he refused them, then their only other
avenue would be to take a loan from Gringotts and only idiots borrowed
money from the goblins. Their interest rates were ruinous.

Harry wasn't too bothered by the number. The basilisk carcass had sold
for truly ridiculous sums, enough that he had no worries about running
out of funds by the time he reached adulthood even if he became quite an
extravagant spender. It wasn't as much as he had in his main vault, but
it would probably be comparable to the fortune of a very minor Noble
family.

"I'll give you ten thousand." He said, lips quirking at how their eyes
widened. "BUT, I want majority ownership. 60%."

"Then you'd be the one owning it, not us." Tiana grumbled. She wanted to
be her own boss, not an employee in someone else's business.

"I'm the one taking the risk here, not you." Harry pointed out. "If this
idea of yours sinks, I'll be the one taking the hits."

"I don't suppose we could convince you to lower that percentage down to
49?" Bryanna asked coyly, hand reaching to fondle him between the legs.

"I have a better idea." He said with a grin.

"Really?" Tiana asked, clearly sceptical.

"I give you the money and keep the 60%, you wait for me to claim lordship
before opening your store and focus on building up stock in the meantime,
I keep your business afloat for as long as it takes to start turning a
profit. Once it does start turning a profit you start paying back my
investment, for which I won't charge any interest by the way. When
however much debt you've accumulated to me is paid off, I turn over 20%
to each of you."

The girls exchanged contemplative looks. It was, all told, a fairly good
deal. They would have needed to wait for him to claim lordship in any
case to protect them from any possible legal fiction concocted by the
uptight purebloods. The part about not charging interest for the
investment and turning simply handing them 40% of the business once it
was repaid was particularly generous and not something they could expect
to get from anywhere else.

"There are four of us though." Bryanna reminded him, taking note of the
fact that she and Tiana would have majority ownership with this
arrangement. Not an entirely displeasing idea, truth be told.

"Well I'm not seeing the other two here, so I'm not inclined to give them
larger shares." He returned. "Speaking of which...how would you two feel
about keeping me company for the rest of the year?"

The girls exchanged another glance at that, knowing exactly what kind of
company he wanted. They hadn't really planned for any future trysts, but
they didn't want anything jeopardizing their future either and were far
too cynical to assume that Harry was a decent enough bloke to not take it
personally if they refused, Boy-Who-Lived or not.

"I'm sure that something could be arranged."

Besides, even if Harry wasn't the most amazing lover ever, he was
enthusiastic, had stamina and wasn't shy about putting his tongue to work
to get a girl off. That mostly made up for his somewhat limited
experience. Who knows, he might even learn a thing or two about properly
using that cock of his eventually.

XXXXX

Molly read over the letter that her daughter had sent her again and
frowned, still unsure how to reply to it.

Ginny had been so excited to have made friends with the Boy-Who-Lived
last year and now this had happened.

Molly was well aware of how the heirs of Noble Houses tended to act
during the later years of their Hogwarts education. She'd always been
fiercely disapproving, but had kept it mostly to herself since it didn't
concern her. Aside from that one fool incident with a love potion that
Arthur had later forgiven her for, she'd held herself to a higher
standard than both the witches throwing themselves at noble heirs and
those selfsame heirs taking advantage of their status to bed them.

Now Ginny was asking for advice on how to regain her friendship with one
of those types and if she was reading between the lines correctly, also
how to catch his interest.

Ron had been rather uncomplimentary of him at the start of his first
year, calling him rude and arrogant in his letters, but that had tapered
off after that poor muggleborn girl had been killed by the troll. Her
youngest son had never been quite the same after that, feeling partially
responsible for her death as he did.

Harry had seemed like a nice enough boy when they'd met him at the train
station at the end of the previous school year, if a bit terse and oddly
tall for his age, so she figured that they'd merely had a rocky first
meeting. She'd wanted to invite him to spend part of the summer at the
Burrow, but had held off when he seemed to be in such a hurry.

Molly could admit to herself that she was also slightly disappointed to
learn that Harry Potter would act like any other entitled lordling. She'd
expected better from the boy who had defeated Voldemort. Dumbledore had
told her before the start of Ginny's first year that Harry needed a
friend, so she'd thought that he'd be a bit on the shy side. Apparently,
that had not been exactly the case.

What was she supposed to tell Ginny? That Harry was likely to keep
bedding a stream of witches that were no doubt hoping to become the next
Lady Potter? That he was probably going to start receiving marriage
offers at the first sign of acceptance? That it was entirely possible
that quite a few of those witches would settle for being his mistresses?

That was another not spoken of practice among the Noble Houses that had
always grated on Molly's more conservative sensibilities. Marriages in
pureblood society were often based on social status or business deals
rather than any kind of affection, which naturally led to both the Lord
and Lady of a House having one or more lovers on the side. They'd produce
the agreed upon number of children, attend social functions together and
pretend to be a functional family, but ignore each other the rest of the
time in favor of their respective dalliances.

She didn't want that kind of future for her daughter. She would always be
grateful to Harry for recognizing the cursed diary for what it was, but
she didn't find her daughter's crush on the Boy-Who-Lived cute anymore.
She also handily ignored the fact that she had subtly encouraged said
crush.

A dark corner of her mind whispered about the Potter wealth and how nice
it would be to have access to it through Ginny, but she ignored that.
There were more important things in the world than money, her daughter's
happiness being one of those things.

XXXXX

Prongslet,

We didn't really get a chance to talk, so I decided to write you a


letter. Not really sure what to say to be perfectly honest, the last time
I saw you, you were turning James' hair green because he tried to make
you eat broccoli and now you're practically grown up.

I should have been there for you. I should have taken care of you instead
of going after Wormtail that night. Charlus and Dorea told me a bit about
your life and the people you live with now. You could come live with me
once this thing with Wormtail and my fugitive status is settled.

I say 'come live with me', but what I really mean is that I could take
guardianship of you. The Black family home isn't any more cheery than
Azkaban, so I wouldn't subject you to living there.

That was an interesting offer, but Harry wasn't sure if he would be


taking the man up on it. Yes, Robert and Katherine were annoying, but
they were familiar. He'd learned how to handle them a long time ago and
his recent dabbling into compulsion charms made it almost trivial to keep
them out of his hair. Not to mention that switching guardianship would
likely involve quite a bit of legal wrangling that he was keen to avoid.

On the other end of the spectrum was his godfather. A wizard would
certainly make for a more convenient guardian in many ways, but only as
long as he didn't actually try to act like a parent. Harry had no more
use for a parent, especially one that fancied himself as being
responsible. Responsible guardians would not let their charges perform
rituals of blood sacrifice or give them unlimited access to the more
questionable reading material of the Black Library.

Harry had no real interest in becoming a Dark Wizard in the traditional


sense, but he very much wanted to get at those books. The Potter family
library was nice, but suffered a crippling dearth of anything that
smacked of dark magic. The Black family was both several centuries older
and far less hampered by morals.
Charlus and Dorea had obviously not said a word about his rituals, which
was good. He hadn't had time to order them to keep quiet about those and
it was nice to know that they knew better than to blurt out that kind of
dangerous secret even if they thought it was for his own good.

On the whole, he was leaning towards rejecting Sirius' offer. He would


have to think about it some more, but so far it looked like a lot of
hassle for little gain. Sirius didn't have to be his legal guardian to
open the Black Library after all.

I know that we don't really know each other and a letter isn't a very
good way to change that, but needs must, so I'll just go and properly
introduce myself.

I am Sirius Orion Black, also known as the white sheep of the Inbred and
Most Pompous House of Black, and your dogfather...

After that mocking introduction, the letter delved into Sirius' first
meeting and instant friendship with James Potter on the Hogwarts Express,
as well as their meeting with Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew and some of
their adventures.

The words were full of nostalgia and more than a small amount of hatred
whenever Pettigew, and surprisingly Snape, came up. At least it explained
where Snape's animosity for him was coming from, petty though it was.

...I'd like to hear about your own Hogwarts adventure, the friends you've
made, the girls you've charmed.

Yours truly,

Padfoot.

P.S. Don't underestimate Pettigrew. He might not look like much, but he's
as slippery as his Animagus form and can be dangerous when cornered. I
know that your plan makes sense, but I'm still not comfortable with you
going after him alone. Remus would help you if you asked him. Hells, even
Dumbledore would probably help you.

Harry snorted. Like hell was he going to ask either a virtual stranger or
a manipulative old man for help. He didn't know Lupin well enough to
predict his reaction and giving Dumbledore any more information to work
with was the absolute last thing he was going to do.

Sirius had spoken about Lupin at length, even talking about his werewolf
status as though Harry already knew about it. That was somewhat careless
of the man, but Harry did have to admit that the clues had been there.

He was still not going to approach the man, despite Sirius' waxing
eloquent about what a loyal friend he was. Lupin meant nothing to him and
wasn't someone he trusted, so he would be doing this by himself.
The rat would have no blatantly obvious reason to suspect himself hunted
now that Sirius was safely in Potter Manor, which would make taking him
relatively easy.

He couldn't take him too soon though, as he would then run into the
problem of getting out of Hogwarts with the rat. House elves were exempt
from the Hogwarts wards and could apparate through them freely, but they
couldn't take passengers through them.

The Christmas holidays would provide the perfect exit, he just needed to
grab Pettigrew a short while before then.

Harry supposed that he could have told the teachers about this, but he
simply didn't trust them not to bungle it all up. He especially didn't
trust Dumbledore. The old wizard should have had more than just an
inkling of Sirius' innocence, so his inaction on the matter came either
from incompetence or some darker agenda.

No, better to handle it himself and keep it quiet until it was too late
for anyone to meddle. If word got out about this, he knew that the
Ministry would react in the usual fashion of politicians everywhere.
Namely, they would do everything in their power to save face and sweeping
the whole thing under the proverbial rug was the simplest way of doing
that. Innocent or guilty, Sirius Black represented a problem and an
embarrassment for the Ministry.

Before he made any plans for Pettigrew however, it would behoove him to
reply to the letter. If nothing else, he needed to get to know Sirius
before he could decide on the matter of guardianship.

XXXXX

Somewhat contrary to Harry's thoughts about him, Dumbledore did not have
any sinister agendas involving Sirius Black, nor was he even particularly
incompetent in this case.

He had not been told that the Potters had switched their Secret Keeper.
Hagrid, however big his heart was, did not have the brains to match. When
the half-giant had taken Harry from Sirius, he had assumed that the man
had given the baby up out of a desire to avoid fighting him right after
losing his dark master and had reported that to Dumbledore.

Dumbledore had believed him. It would be pretty hard to fight while


holding a baby after all. Furthermore, Black had not known the prophecy.
Had probably not known about the measures taken by Voldemort to avoid
death.

Dumbledore wanted to believe that Sirius was not so far gone as to murder
a baby even if he had fallen into the ways of his family and betrayed his
friends to the Dark Lord, so he did. It made him feel better to think
that there was still a spark of good even in otherwise evil people.

Assumptions made by people with below average intelligence were


dangerous. Assumptions made by optimists were equally dangerous. The
entire scenario would have made markedly less sense without one or both
of these things.

That was why he had not protested too much when Barty Crouch had told him
that Black had confessed and been thrown into Azkaban without a trial.
There had been so much work to do then that it was far from the only
procedural shortcut taken in the wake of Voldemort's death. If Sirius had
in the end seen the error of his ways and confessed to his crimes, then
there was no need to make a big procession of it.

Had Harry come to him for help with capturing Pettigrew, Dumbledore would
have been ecstatic. Not only would he get to help an innocent man, but he
would also get to show Harry that he could be relied on and trusted.

As it was, it never even crossed Harry's mind to tell Dumbledore anything


and the old wizard himself spent his nights pondering other problems.

Like how to get Fudge to call off those blasted Dementors and how much
truth there was to Harry's supposed 'relationship' with a seventh year
girl. Possibly two seventh year girls.

He actually had a fairly good idea of what the truth really was. The
broad strokes of it at least.

He could have tried to put an end to it, but frankly, it played into his
own plans quite well. Harry getting suckered into a marriage to an
ambitious young lady would perhaps be emotionally damaging to the young
man, but it would give him the strong tie to Britain that Dumbledore had
wanted to establish for some time now.

It might even allow the Potter family to produce a successor before


Harry's inevitable clash with destiny, remote though the possibility was.
It would be a shame for another old family to die out, so he was quietly
wishing the ambitious Ms. Torres and her friends the best of luck.

"Things are progressing rather well, wouldn't you say, Fawkes?" He asked
in a murmur.

The phoenix trilled sharply.

"I am trying, my friend. I am certain that I will be able to convince the


Minister to recall the dementors before long." The old wizard soothed. He
knew that the presence of the soul sucking horrors had not agreed with
his feathery friend. Phoenixes and dementors didn't get along. At all.

XXXXX

"Were you planning to be a ward specialist or enchanter, Harry?"


Professor Vector asked curiously as she examined his work.

Harry frowned thoughtfully. "Not really. Why do you ask?"


"Because you are quite advanced in the type of arithmancy required for
that kind of work, much further than in the fields that deal with spell
creation." She explained.

Ah, that would explain her assumption. Harry had needed to figure out the
more rigid equations used in rituals and those had quite a bit of overlap
with warding and enchanting, but had comparatively little interest in
deciphering wand movements.

"I hadn't really thought about it." He answered semi-truthfully. "That


type of arithmancy just comes easier to me."

"Hmm, we'll have to give spellcasting theory some more attention. It


tends to pop up in the OWL tests more frequently than static magic."

Harry's lips curled brielfy in distaste. He didn't particularly care


about a test score on a very stupidly named test. Knowing why this wand
movement worked better than that one was of little interest to him.
Wandless magic worked on a completely different principle that he was
only beginning to understand for all that he had managed to get a few
spells to work with it, but he knew enough to know that no arithmantic
knowledge of it existed.

"I'd prefer to keep working on general theory and static magic." He said
instead of voicing his distaste. "It's much more interesting and I'm sure
I'll be able to pass the OWLs either way."

Vector looked uncertain for a moment but then nodded her assent. She'd
offered him private tutoring exactly because Harry had been bored stiff
in her normal class. He might not get a perfect O in his OWLs by
neglecting spellcasting theory, but what he wanted to study featured more
prominently at the NEWT level. Nobody cared about your OWL scores if you
had a NEWT in the same subject, for better or for worse.

XXXXX

Ginny was dawdling and she knew it.

She'd gotten a response from her mother over a week ago, but had still
not done anything about the ever widening gulf between her and Harry.

She'd been hoping that her mother would be able to tell her how to get
Harry to go back to normal. A vain hope in retrospect, but one born of
seeing her father usually abiding by the wishes of his wife.

Instead, the letter had essentially advised her not to get mixed up in
whatever Harry was doing, with embarrassing extra emphasis on not trying
to prove to Harry how grown up she was by trying to sleep with him. It
didn't say that she shouldn't be friends with him, just that she should
let go of any feelings she might have developed for him.

Not exactly what Ginny had wanted to hear, nor particularly useful as far
as ways to get close to Harry again were concerned. She'd been angry
after their last talk, but she still wasn't entirely willing to give up
on him.

That was why she'd been procrastinating enough to put Ron to shame. She'd
been stubbornly hoping that the situation would somehow resolve itself.

Surprisingly even to her, it seemed to have done so.

Harry wasn't spending so much time around that seventh year tramp
anymore. They still seemed to be on friendly terms, but their interaction
was noticeably less frequent.

If Harry was distancing himself from the older girl, then maybe he was
seeing the error of his ways? Or maybe he'd simply gotten tired of
humoring the gold digging slut. Either way, Ginny felt that this was the
perfect time to go talk to him.

As she usually did when she wanted to talk to him privately, she woke up
early and made her way to his room, knowing that he too had a propensity
for waking up early. Their different schedules and his habit of
disappearing at random meant that it was by far the best time to catch
him alone.

Just as she was about to knock on the door, it opened.

And revealed the very gold digging slut that she'd thought that Harry had
stopped associating with, still in the process of fixing her mussed up
hair and crumpled robes.

The two stared at each other in surprise for several long moments before
Bryanna carefully shut the door behind her.

"What were you doing in Harry's room?" Ginny demanded, anger leaking into
her tone at the discovery that the truth was not as palatable as she'd
thought.

Bryanna looked at the redhead incredulously, knowing that it was


perfectly obvious what she'd been doing in his room.

Then she smirked, grabbed the younger girl's chin and leaned in close. "I
was tutoring him, tutoring him all night long."

Not really. She'd fallen asleep after he'd worn her out, only to wake up
with his face between her legs again. His strange fascination with
licking pussy was going a long way towards making their arrangement
pleasant rather than demeaning. Men who enjoyed doing that were just so
rare. And he was getting better at it too.

The redhead slapped her hand away, obviously fuming. That just made
Bryanna laugh as she walked away. The Weasley girl had been acting kind
of bratty since the start, so riling her up like this was terribly
amusing.
Face burning with anger and humiliation, Ginny fled back to her own room.
Before now, Harry's words had only been an abstract sort of thing. Seeing
a girl coming out of his room early in the morning and all but admitting
to having sex with him really made it hit home.

XXXXX

Pacing alone in the Room of Requirement, Harry pondered his Patronus.

He still hadn't managed to get more than mist out of it. Without a wand,
he hadn't managed anything at all.

Perhaps casting such a difficult spell wandlessly was being overly


ambitious at this stage. The only spells he had managed to get working
without a wand so far were very simple in purpose. Spells to give light,
levitation charms, minor compulsions, that kind of thing. Any spell that
had more than a solitary component was exponentially more difficult to
cast without a wand. He still hadn't managed more than the most minute
changes with wandless transfiguation.

There was a certain structure to spells that made it enormously difficult


to form them without the aid of a wand. The magic simply fell apart if he
tried to shape the spell with nothing but his will.

But it could be done. His limited success proved it. And if it could be
done, then he was damn well going to do it. He would unravel whatever
mystery there was behind magic, and then he could do away with the use of
a wand. The magical focus made him feel more like a cripple every day.
How everyone else could be so attached to their wands escaped his
understanding.

But getting back to the Patronus, he simply couldn't cast it. No memory
that he could dredge up was powerful enough to call forth the guardian.
Experimentation showed that he was correct in his original assessment;
thoughts of protection and safety worked best. After all, you couldn't be
happy if you weren't safe.

He strongly suspected that the popular formula of using the happiest


thought you could muster was a direct result of the misery inducing aura
of a dementor. A simplistic line of thinking that was in tune with the
usually simplistic view that wizards had of magic.

Sometimes, he despaired over how mundane they managed to make magic. The
only person in the Wizarding World who had so far kept magic actually
magical was Luna. That was probably why he liked her so much.

In any case, he clearly needed to rethink his approach to the Patronus.


The memory of his mother's sacrifice was tainted by grief and loss and
ultimately unsuited for the purpose. But nobody else came to mind when
thinking of protection, he'd always needed to look to himself if he
wanted protection without any strings attached.

Himself...there was an idea.


It can't be that simple...can it?

Having nothing to lose by trying it, Harry decided to focus inward


instead of outward when trying to call the guardian.

Sinking into the Occlumency trance that he had begun to use pretty much
every time that something needed deep contemplation, he focused on the
image of what he had seen in the Mirror of Erised during his first year.

He was sure that the mirror would show him something subtly different if
he were to look at it again. He hadn't been able to determine the
features of his companion then, but now he was certain that it would be a
woman.

Luna would be there too of course. He'd gotten so used to the eccentric
blonde and her spit-take inducing statements that it was hard to imagine
life without her.

Ginny...ehhh, he wasn't sure about her. He'd been willing to let bygones
be bygones if she could drop that stupid crush and start acting normally,
but she hadn't. She still tended to either avoid contact or look at him
as if he'd done something wrong, which he knew he hadn't. At this point,
he'd be perfectly happy if she decided that their friendship was over.

No, Ginny would probably not be making appearances in the Mirror of


Erised if he looked at it again.

Then there was himself. He'd be wearing something made of basilisk hide,
Harry knew. He'd been eagerly waiting for the day when he stopped growing
so that he could get some of that stored hide tailored into an article of
clothing.

His appearance was secondary however. What really mattered was that he
would have all the things that he wanted in life. The freedom to do as he
pleased, the company of people he could trust not to attempt using him in
their schemes and the power to protect it all, to keep it from being
taken from him.

Yes, he would be powerful enough to keep the world at bay, but that was
for the future. For now, he would be strong enough to hold off the Dark.
He wasn't going to be a snack for the dementors. He still had so much
that he wanted to do. They weren't going to take his future from him.

Harry focused on that determination, that desire to protect himself and


the things he held dear and pushed it into the spell.

A luminescent raven flew forth from his wand, making a circuit around the
room before alighting weightlessly on his shoulder.

He smiled widely at his success, all the while thinking of how very
appropriate the animal was. He had always been fond of ravens.

XXXXX
With the Christmas holidays approaching, Harry decided that it was time
to make a move on the rat.

He had pondered how to go about this for some time and eventually decided
that keeping things simple was for the best.

"You said you wanted to talk to me?" Ron Weasley asked cautiously as he
entered the empty room.

He'd received a surprising message from Potter with a request to speak to


him privately.

He was wary and suspicious of this, as the Ravenclaw third year had never
showed any inclination to speak to him since their first meeting on the
train years ago.

Ron didn't trust Potter. Ravenclaws were a weird lot and that seventh
year Slytherin girl he was sometimes seen with made him even less
trustworthy.

Ron was also terribly jealous of the taller boy, though he didn't admit
this even to himself. Potter had wealth, fame and most recently he also
had a lot of good looking female company.

He'd encouraged his sister to break off ties with him. Ginny should never
have been a Ravenclaw to begin with, she belonged with her family in
Gryffindor. There was nothing to be done about her wrong sorting, but
they could still get her some proper friends.

"I did." Harry confirmed, looking down at his redheaded yearmate. The
quicker this ended the better. Weasley was a loud and opinionated little
idiot at the best of times, so actually interacting with him more than
necessary was a chore. He was essentially Malfoy-lite; slightly dumber,
lazier and a less blatant waste of air, but just as prejudiced in many
ways. "I want to buy your rat."

"Scabbers?" Ron blurted out in shock. "You want to buy Scabbers?"

His incredulity was entirely justified. Why would anyone want to buy a
mangy old rat?

"I do. Ten galleons."

Ron gaped some more. That was a completely stupid amount of money for a
mere rat. You could buy a whole swarm of them for that much.

"Why?" He asked, getting some of his surprise under control.

"I've heard it's a very long lived rat. I'm curious." Harry evaded.

"I'm not going to sell Scabbers to you so that you can...dissect him or
something!" Ron retorted hotly.
Harry sighed in exasperation. "I'm not going to dissect him. The worst
I'll do is cast some diagnostic spells, but you can rest assured that I
won't harm him." The dementors can do that for me.

"He's been with our family for twelve years." Ron said uncertainly, his
greed warring with his loyalty to his pet.

"I know, that's why I'm interested. Look I'll give you fifteen galleons
for a rat that probably isn't going to live much longer. It's a bargain
any way you look at it."

Ron hesitated. "I don't know..." He was still reluctant to part with his
faithful rat, but that was a lot of money.

Harry struggled to keep the irritation off his face. Deciding to help the
redhead make a decision, he wiggled his fingers and tossed a few
compulsions his way.

It's just an old rat, he'll probably die soon anyway.

That's a lot of money.

I want that money. I NEED it.

Ron still looked to be harboring doubts, to Harry's considerable


surprise. The annoying little idiot must be more attached to the rat than
he thought if he was able to resist that kind of temptation.

"That's more than twice what a new wand costs." He commented idly. "I've
noticed that yours was looking a bit worn out. It seems pretty dangerous
to me to be using a damaged and poorly suited wand. Probably makes your
spells a lot weaker too."

Ron's resistance finally started crumbling at that. He'd always wanted to


stand out and the sudden power boost of a new wand would certainly help
him with that. He'd even have enough leftover money to buy a few other
things as well.

"I'll...I'll go get him for you."

"Thank you." Harry said, waiting for the boy to turn his back. When he
did, he pulled out his wand and sent a much more powerful compulsion at
the redhead.

I better not tell anyone about this. I'll just tell everyone that
Scabbers got lost somewhere.

XXXXX

Ten minutes later, Harry had stuffed Wormtail into a pre-prepared cage
that was enchanted to be unbreakable, ignoring Ron's protests about
Scabbers being house trained and not needing to be caged. If he tried to
transform, it would kill him, which would not be as good as having him
alive, but the corpse of Peter Pettigrew would still be useful as
evidence and Harry was not inclined to be so charitable to the betrayer
of his parents as to be overly concerned whether he was handed over to
the Ministry alive or dead.

XXXXX

Remus looked on as the students boarded the Hogwarts Express, going home
for the Christmas holidays.

Harry was leaving too. Remus had hoped that the boy would stay so that
they could finally talk, but it looked like it wasn't going to happen
that way.

Not that he was oblivious to the fact that he could have approached the
son of his friends at any time in the past few months, but had kept
putting it off instead. It was entirely possible that he would have done
the same even if Harry had stayed.

Remus was actually quite ashamed of himself. He was waiting for a boy of
thirteen to make the first move instead of plucking up the courage to do
it himself. It was getting harder too. The longer he waited, the more
awkward the whole thing became. By now he was actually starting to think
that it might be best to just leave well enough alone.

"I take it that you still have not spoken to young Harry?" Dumbledore
asked from beside him.

Remus heard the gentle admonishment in the Headmaster's words, but could
only shrug helplessly in response. He'd meant to so many times, but lost
the courage every time he saw Lily's eyes in James' face.

"I do not believe that he will reject you, Remus." The old wizard said
softly.

"I just doesn't seem like he needs me." The werewolf replied.

"Harry is remarkably mature young man." Dumbledore agreed.

That was what worried him so much actually. Despite having made friends
in recent years, Harry still gave off the feeling of being aloof and
separate from the people around him. It would not do for the Chosen One
to be indifferent to the fate of the people he was supposed to be saving.
He needed to be invested in the fate of Magical Britain by the time of
Voldemort's return.

Which was why Remus' procrastinating was starting to exhaust Dumbledore's


patience enough that he was seeing fit to prod the man along.

"But one can never have too many friends or family."

"After the holidays. I'll talk to him after the holidays." Remus
determined.

XXXXX
As he had done the previous year, Harry took the Hogwarts Express to
King's Cross, but called Teeny for transportation to Potter Manor as soon
as he was somewhere private.

"Sirius, you're looking better." Harry greeted when the man came into
view.

Sirius really did look better. Not as gaunt or as pale, his previously
matted hair cut to hang down to his shoulders and his beard styled into a
neat goatee. Even his teeth had been repaired from their previously
rotten state.

"Amazing what some good food and time away from the dementors will do for
a man." Sirius replied jokingly, taking the opportunity to get a better
look at his godson. "Have you gotten taller again?"

"I hear that happens a lot with teenagers." Harry replied with dry
sarcasm.

"But you're almost as tall as I am!" Sirius protested.

Not that Sirius was hugely tall. He'd been the shortest of the Marauders
after Wormtail, something that had always privately annoyed him. James
had been a couple of inches bigger than him and Remus had been a
veritable giant in comparison. They'd caught up eventually, but Remus had
remained the tallest at six feet and two inches.

"Yes, I know." Harry replied with a smirk, rather pleased by that. He had
no doubt that his growth would slow down soon, but for now he was going
to enjoy the height discrepancy.

Sirius looked briefly torn between irritation and amusement before his
expression turned grim.

"Do you have him?"

"He's in my trunk, safely locked in an unbreakable cage." Harry said with


a nod.

"I need to talk to him before we turn him over to the DMLE. I need to
hear what he has to say for himself." The escaped convict growled,
everything in his manner speaking of murderous rage.

Harry knew it was probably a bad idea, but he wanted to hear it too. He
might have gotten over the deaths of his parents, but he too harbored a
deep well of anger for the one who had betrayed them.

XXXXX

They had Teeny strip one of the unused rooms bare to remove any possible
hiding spaces. Then they sealed every exit to prevent any escape
attempts.
Only once that was done did Harry take the cage out of his trunk, curling
his nose in disgust the whole time.

He had not been overly diligent in either feeding the rat or cleaning up
after him for the week that he had had him, so Wormtail was in a sorry
state by now. He'd given him enough food and water to survive, but he'd
taken quite a bit of vindictive pleasure in leaving him to wallow in his
own filth.

Wormtail had been living in a state of terror ever since Ron had handed
him over to Harry in exchange for a fat sack of galleons. The whole thing
had come so out of the blue that there had been no time to think, no time
to make decision. He'd been stuffed into a cage before he'd even properly
registered the situation and hadn't been let out since.

Worse, he knew that Harry knew the truth. The boy hadn't really spoken to
him, but the anger burning in his green eyes was a clear enough
indication.

Now he was being unceremoniously dumped out of the cage, but there was no
relief to be found in finally being released from his filthy prison. Not
with his old friend Sirius in the room with him and looking fit to tear
him to ribbons with his bare hands.

"I need a wand to force him back into human form." Sirius said, staring
coldly at the cowering Animagus that apparently had no intention of
transforming himself.

Wordlessly, Harry handed over his own.

A minute of Wormtail doing his level best to dodge Sirius' spells and
Pettigrew was once again in human form for the first time in twelve
years.

He was a sorry sight, and not just because spending so much time in his
Animagus form had left him looking permanently ratlike. Short, fat,
balding, ugly, shifty eyed. It was like someone had designed a human
being for the express purpose of looking untrustworthy. His parents must
have been really good at not judging by appearances, because Harry
himself wouldn't have trusted someone like this to guard a chamber pot.
Someone else's chamber pot at that.

"Sirius, Harry." Pettigrew simpered, as if greeting long lost friends.

"Why, Peter?" Sirius demanded angrily. "Why did you betray James and
Lily?"

"I didn't mean to!" Pettigrew whined pitieously. "But the Dark Lord...
You have no idea of the powers he possesses. Just ask yourself what you
would have done in my place."

"I WOULD HAVE DIED FOR THEM! LIKE YOU SHOULD HAVE DIED FOR THEM!" Sirius
roared, completely enraged by the insinuation that Wormtail had just
made.
Pettigrew flinched back violently, knowing that he'd blundered by saying
that. He still had the Dark Lord's wand on him as well as his own, but he
dared not use either. Not with Sirius already pointing one at him. He'd
never get a single spell out. He tried a different tactic instead.

"Harry, please! Your father wouldn't have wanted me dead. James would
have shown mercy." He didn't really believe that, but he was desperate to
survive.

"HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO HARRY!" Sirius yelled again, interrupting any
response from Harry himself.

"Don't let him kill me, please!" Wormtail begged, scrabbling towards
Harry nearly on all fours.

"Get away from me!" Harry snapped in disgust and backed away. Pettigrew
was by far the most revolting person he'd ever encountered, both
literally and figuratively. The way that the rat was begging for his life
was making him so angry that his Occlumency was threatening to be
overwhelmed for the first time in quite a while.

Unlike pretty much every other Occlumancer, Harry had almost completely
ignored the part designed for defending the mind from external intrusion.
Instead, he had focused on enhancing his ability to control his emotions
and to improve his memory.

This was generally a terrible idea, as it actually made it easier for a


Legilimancer to rifle through a mind that was well organized but
undefended.

Normally, an Occlumancer would first learn to clear their minds into


blankness on demand. Once sufficient skill in that was reached, it was
possible to create a wall of non-thought to keep Legilimancers out. Of
course, a Legilimancer could force their victim to make mental
associations by projecting their own thoughts and follow that thread of
thought into their memories, leaving it up to the individual skill of the
practicioner to decide the winner of the mental struggle. Those who were
particularly skilled could even section off their minds to present a
false front, duping the Legilimancer into thinking that what they saw was
the whole of someone's mind and not just another front. That particular
skill was pretty much a requirement for a wizard spy.

Only once that was mastered was it advisable for the Occlumancer to begin
putting the chaos of one's mind to order. This had great benefits for
emotional control and memory, but it wasn't a skill that could ever be
mastered. Much like the actual defensive parts of Occlumency, it was an
ability that had no real upper limit and needed to be practiced often
lest it degrade.

Harry practiced his Occlumency almost religiously, knowing that he was


much more at risk of losing control of his emotions than most people.
"Harry! Please!" Wormtail howled as Sirius cast what was essentially an
upgraded version of a stinging hex at him, the only difference being that
this one felt rather more like a hot stove than a hard slap.

The problem with trying to control your emotions was that the cause of
said emotions was often still present and making things harder. In this
case, that would be Pettigrew's incessant begging for mercy.

Sirius was quite clearly not getting any calmer either if his
progressively crueler spell selection was any indication.

"Shut up." Harry ground out, wanting both of them to just stop until he
could shift the fury he was currently feeling to the back of his mind
where it could be dealt with later.

But they didn't stop. Sirius had a mad glint in his eye that didn't
indicate self-control and was getting disturbingly close to the
Cruciatus, heedless of the fact that Harry's wand would carry that spell
history.

"I'm sorry!" Pettigrew sobbed.

"Shut up!" Harry repeated, louder and angrier this time. His runes felt
like a thousand angry ants crawling over his body.

He was ignored again. Sirius kept on screaming a stream of vitriol at the


cowering rat Animagus, intersped with moderate-to-severe torture curses.
And of course, Pettigrew was in no state to consider the fact that his
begging was only making things worse.

"Make him stop!" He wailed, somehow managing to sound even more pathetic
than before. "Lily wouldn't have wanted this! Please make him stop! Do it
for your mother, Harry."

Sirius looked about fit to explode with rage at that, pushed completely
beyond rational thought at having the traitor invoke the name of the
woman he'd betrayed to draw some mercy out of her son.

Harry wasn't much better off than his godfather. He'd been exerting
monumental effort to not give in to his rage and join in, but everyone
had limits and Pettigrew had just exceeded them.

"SHUT UP!" He roared, thrusting his hand out at the rat and willing him
to stop his infuriating begging with his whole being.

Harry had long since noted that powerful emotions made it easier to use
magic without a wand. He had also noted that they tended to twist the
spells into something different. The more powerful and chaotic the
emotion, the more the spell deviated from the purpose intended by its
caster.

Harry had only wanted Wormtail to stop talking, but that last sentence
had pushed him beyond the limits of his control. His spell came out
powered by the full force of his rage and rage was not a precise emotion
by any means. Whereas a normal silencing spell might be a scalpel, his
rage turned it into a broadsword. This was further compounded by the fact
that Harry didn't actually know how to cast a wandless silencing spell,
so he had just brutally pushed his magic outward, furiously demanding
that it do his will.

The problem was that Harry kind of wanted to hurt Wormtail too.

The spell roared out of his hand, tinted the fiery orange of a blasting
curse. It streaked towards the traitor's mouth just as Harry had
intended. It also silenced Wormtail just like Harry had intended.

Unlike what Harry had intended, it did so by blowing his head and a good
portion of his chest into gory pulp.

The two still living wizards stumbled back from the explosion of gore
that painted the whole room in bloodsplatter, expressions of shock on
both of their faces.

Sirius looked to his godson and worked his jaw in an attempt to say
something, but nothing came out. Wormtail's sudden death had snapped him
out of the mad haze he'd been in, but now he was simply so shocked that
words seemed wholly insufficient.

Harry was in an even worse state. The rage had gone out of him with the
spell and the shock of the fact that he'd just killed someone left him
reeling. The disgusting sight of a man's open chest cavity spilling
pulped internal organs across the room didn't help. He quickly added to
the mess by voiding his stomach on the floor.

I killed a man.

I murdered a man.

Harry felt something crack inside him at the realization and not in an
entirely figurative sense at that. He could feel the change in his magic.

There was no way to describe it with words, no analogy that would


suffice. The closest thing he could think of was a pane of glass or a
mirror that had been hit hard enough to crack but not enough to break. He
could practically feel the newly made cracks in his soul and magic
spreading through him as the psychological impact of what he'd just done
sank in.

He was distantly aware that Sirius was stammering something but it was
all just so much noise. Teeny had showed up at some point too and seemed
to be panicking about something. Probably the mess.

The absurd thought made him want to giggle. Judging by the worried looks
he got, he might have actually giggled.

Then things somehow managed to get worse.


As the cracks kept spreading, another sensation became known to him.
Arhain suddenly began to radiate cold. He barely noticed at first, but
then it began to spread. First to Aul'El and Da'Roir, which were part of
the same set, then to the other two sets with whom it shared weaker
connections, fingers of cold creeping through the anchors of his magic.

And with the cold came the Dark. It seeped through the newly made cracks
in his soul, grasping at him and his magic just like the dementor on the
train had done.

Harry gasped at the feel of it and damn near panicked when he saw his
breath misting as it exited his chilled lungs.

He ignored Sirius and stumbled out of the room at a sprint, wanting


nothing more than to get outside. He needed to think and a room that
reeked of blood, death, vomit and most recently, shit, wasn't helping
with that.

He made it out the front door in record time, falling to his hands and
knees as soon as he reached the outside. It was December and the Hogwarts
Express had taken a long time to get to London, so the sky was already
dark.

"Alright, don't panic. Think." He said to himself, staunchly ignoring the


slow creep of Dark through his damaged soul and the chill of his breath
that had nothing to do with the season.

It took a little while to force his mind away from the murder he'd just
committed and focus on his more pressing problem.

He didn't for a moment believe that this was a normal reaction to a kill,
not even to a murder. That meant that it had to be something to do with
him and the only thing it was likely to be was his runes.

My runes, what did I do with my runes that would cause this? Does it have
something to do with the dementor? No, it has to be earlier than that.
Nobody else can sense the Dark like I can. They feel the effects of the
dementors but not the Dark that makes them what they are.

There was only one rune he could think of that would be responsible for
this.

Arhain.

Stealth. Secrets. Shadows. The Dark of Night.

He'd only used it for its association with secrets and stealth. He'd
thought its association with darkness to be irrelevant. He'd thought of
it of course, it was impossible not to, but he'd considered it to be just
a pointless bit of fluff. It came out of a game after all. There was
nothing scary about the night.
Now Harry looked up into the night sky and wondered how many stupid
wizards had made the same mistake, accidentally dabbling with forces
beyond all mortal comprehension.

Because now that his soul had cracked open, the Dark had found a way
inside. It must have lingered around his magic ever since he'd carved
Arhain into himself while thinking of the infinite void of space, just
waiting for the day when something happened to put a crack into his soul.
It could very well be the reason why the dementors had been drawn to him.

He could feel the Dark clearer now than he ever had and the sheer
vastness of it threatened to undo him. It was everywhere, stretching
across the whole of the Universe, it's hungry cold presence held back
only by the raging fire of the stars. He realized with painful clarity
that this must be the reason why magicals constantly kept braying about
the dangers of Dark Magic. They had long since forgotten what the real
Dark was, but the warning itself had survived.

He knew what he had to do now. Another ritual, this one invoking the Sun
and stars, the Light. He'd already been preparing one, so much of the
groundwork was already done. It would have to be modified, but not by
much. He hadn't thought that the Sun had any noteworthy magic in it when
he'd chosen it, now he had to wonder if it hadn't been some magical
instinct that had made him decide to use the Avariel runes again, this
time invoking an entity in direct opposition to the Dark.

Harry let out a half hysterical laugh. Every book on rituals that he'd
ever read about had warned against invoking unknown or disparate forces,
now he was deliberately going to do the latter as a counter to his
accidental use of the former. It was an incredibly reckless course of
action that had a good chance of killing him in a truly spectacular
fashion.

But there was no choice. If he didn't do it, the Dark would consume him
from within and leave him hollow.

Chapter 9

To those of you who have asked if I got some of my ideas from reading
"With Strength of Steel Wings", yes I did. It was the fic that convinced
me to try my hand at a HP story and I recommend it highly.

And for those of you noting the influence from Dark Souls, yeah I've been
watching lore theory videos on youtube a lot lately.

Much credit goes to Joe Lawyer for his help in polishing up the rough
edges on the chapter.

XXXXX
Sirius stared at his fleeing godson's back, feeling as if the world had
just taken a sharp left turn without warning anyone.

Pettigrew was dead.

The thought was as satisfying as it was horrible.

He hadn't meant for things to go that far, but once Peter had started
talking and begging for his miserable life, still making excuses even
now, the familiar red haze from twelve years ago had come down. Sirius
was actually surprised that he'd limited himself to non-lethal spells,
but that was probably more to do with the fact that his mind had been on
causing pain and he hadn't been in any state to shift mental gears.

He'd picked up quite a few nasty spells from his family even if he hadn't
wanted to and Azkaban had given him a long time to fantasize about using
them.

The fact that it would now be much harder to prove his innocence was a
distant secondary concern to the fact that Harry had killed someone.
Thirteen was way too young to have that hanging over you.

Then was the fact that Harry had cast a lethal spell without his wand.
The most wandless magic that Sirius had ever seen had come from
Dumbledore, but even that had been just parlor tricks and not really
anything too impressive aside from the fact that it was wandless.

But his godson's astonishing achievement wasn't important right now. He


needed to go see if Harry was alright.

He found him outside, kneeling in the snow and staring at the night sky
with a look that was hard to decipher. It looked like something between
shock, awe and a sort of horrified realization.

Harry picked himself up before Sirius could make his way over, his face
now hardened into an expression of driven purpose that he'd last seen on
Lily's.

"Harry..." He started, not really sure what to say to make this situation
better.

"Not now, Sirius." Harry snapped, brushing past him roughly.

Sirius shrank back, incorrectly assuming that his godson was angry at him
for losing it with Wormtail.

Not wanting to let things stew, he ran to catch up to the stomping


thirteen year old and grabbed him by the shoulder.

"Harry, I'm so-"

He made it no further than that. Harry spun around and grabbed him by his
robes, actually lifting him off the ground, much to his incredulity.
"What part of 'not now' do you not understand?!" Harry hissed furiously,
tossing him aside and sending him stumbling into a couch. "Whatever you
have to say, say it later. I have somethig that I have to do. Until then,
don't bother me."

And Sirius obeyed, cowed into submission by a boy twenty years younger
than him. He obeyed because Harry seemed so much more than just a
thirteen-year old wizard in that moment. Too tall and too strong and too
powerful. Age didn't mean much when he could feel the unmistakable
pressure of a powerful wizard's magic pressing threateningly into his
own, daring him to rise up in challenge.

Worse than any of that though, was the sense of something inhuman staring
out from Harry's eyes.

XXXXX

Harry regretted blowing up at Sirius like that, but he was still grateful
that it kept the man off his back. He'd apologize later. He had no time
to talk about the giant fuck up they had to deal with now. He had no time
to deal with the fact that he'd killed a man. He had no time to explain
to his godfather about the wandless magic and the runes, which he knew
that he was now going to have to do.

The only thing he had time for was to finish preparing for the next
ritual and he didn't even have as much time for that as he'd have liked.

His soul had stopped cracking and the spread of Dark had slowed, but it
was still spreading nonetheless. He expected that it would always be
there even if his next ritual managed to balance it out enough to save
him.

What the Void took, the Void kept. Of this he was certain. He had made a
sacrifice to that entity, giving it a place in his magic in exchange for
power. He had done it ignorantly, unknowingly, but he had done it all the
same. It would not leave.

So many questions and theories crowded his thoughts, but he had to focus.
He had to hurry before the Dark did more than merely ooze through the
cracks in his soul, before it started taking things that could never be
regained. Because he was afraid that it would do worse than just kill
him. If it wanted that, it only needed to wait. Everyone and everything
went to the Void in the end. Harry wasn't sure how he knew that, but he
knew it.

What he was truly afraid of here wasn't dying, it was the grim certainty
that dementors weren't really Non-Beings at all, but the empty shells of
wizards who had dabbled with the Void without taking the necessary
precautions. Now nothing more than hollow carriers of Dark, their magic
turned into a conduit for the Void, existing to take things from a world
that was otherwise protected by the Sun.

XXXXX
A day later, the final preparations were complete and the ritual was set
to begin.

Harry could feel that the Dark inside him had grown stronger, but not yet
so strong that he was too late. It had been getting harder to focus,
harder to feel afraid of what was happening to him. The world now seemed
just a touch surreal, as if he was looking at it through a dirty pane of
glass. As the Dark grew in strength, his sense of self waned.

Harry wasn't oblivious to the rather disturbing similarities that his


situation had with the Dark Souls game franchise. He'd never really
played it, but he had had quite enjoyed its quite interesting lore, as
well as its surprisingly deep and subtle plot.

The fact that he was now intending to link himself to the Sun in order to
stave off the Dark amused him and terrified him in equal measure. He
remembered all too clearly what happened to the Chosen Undead if he
decided to link the fires in the Kiln of the First Flame.

He really hoped that he wasn't going to set himself on fire doing this.
It was going to be his last ritual one way or another, because if this
worked then he didn't want to risk upsetting the balance with any further
additions.

He had originally been intending to perform this ritual in the Potter


ritual chamber like all the others, but it just didn't feel right to do
this one beneath the ground.

That was why he was now making his way away from the manor in the pre-
dawn darkness, moving towards the east. The light covering of snow
crunched under his shoes as he walked and the night was cold and black,
seeming even colder and darker because the skies were clear. The moon and
stars did nothing to counter that feeling when he could feel the Void
pressing in around him.

He turned his mind away from that, knowing instinctively that focusing on
it would only make things worse. He focused on making a suitable platform
for the ritual instead, using the wand he'd retaken from Sirius on his
way out to transfigure a flat stone surface and then inscribing the
instructions on it that would allow the knife to act independently.

This time, there was no hesitation as he took off his shirt and began the
ritual.

"Ca'Daith."

Grace. Power. Music of the Stars.

A rune to to call on the Light magic that he was now certain was inherent
to the stars and also to make sure that he did not rely completely on the
Sun. It would be the height of irony to find out that this final rune set
only worked during the day. He decided to have it carved just under his
left collarbone. It seemed appropriate to have it mirror Arhain.
"Yen'Lui."

Balance. Harmony. Chaos.

This rune's sole purpose was to ensure that the clash of Light and Dark
inside him didn't have explosive results. He feared that the Sun would
burn him out if he did not use this rune. There was an uncomfortably high
chance of it happening anyway. This one was carved on the lower end of
his breastbone, equidistant from both Arhain and Ca'Daith.

"Sol."

The Sun. The Ever Seeing Eye. Consciousness.

This rune was doubled and carved into his temples. He'd been planning to
use it to enhance his eyes and give himself the ability to see magic as
well as expand his capacity to feel it. That had now become its secondary
purpose, but Harry was still pleased that he was able to sneak in one
final enhancement.

Once the carving was done, Harry took a deep breath and waited tensely,
knowing that the ritual was not over yet. Of the three runes, only
Yen'Lui felt active, which was as he had expected. The other two would
become active once they were hit by sunlight, which should be any second
now if the brightening sky was any indication.

He grunted in surprised pain as the first rays of sunlight broke over the
horizon and washed over him. He hadn't expected that magic born in the
violence of the Solar Core would be gentle, but its fierceness still
surprised him. How had wizards ever gotten the idea into their heads that
Light was gentle?

Ca'Daith and Sol burned. Yen'Lui prickled madly as it attempted to temper


the violent reaction between Light and Dark.

Harry shut his eyes tighly as Sol executed its purpose. They stung
terribly and he felt them bleed from the sudden change. He'd expected
that, so it didn't worry him.

At the same time, he felt his perception expand as the rune's power
touched his mind. The sensations were jumbled, unfamiliar as they were to
him, but what was happening inside him was clear.

Dark gave way before Light as was its nature, but with the understanding
that it would still be there, that it could never be pushed out. His
other runes broke open and bled as Light burned through them. Where Dark
was cold and slow, Light was fire and voraciously consumed all it
touched.

Once it had pushed the Dark out of all the runes except Arhain, where a
shard of Dark was connected to the infinite Void and could not be burned
away, it surged into the cracks in his soul. It didn't hurt in the
physical sense, but Harry knew instantly that he had preferred the gentle
creep of Dark. Given the slightest opportunity, Light would burn him to
nothing.

It was a decidedly uncomfortable experience to feel the Dark slowly


relinquishing its grip on the edges of his damaged soul as Light
advanced, but there was nothing to do except endure it as Yen'Lui worked
to keep things from spiralling out of control.

But there was one chunk of his soul that the Dark had grasped tightly and
seemed intent on taking. It had nearly pulled it away from the whole.

No, not my soul. Harry realized, now seeing that the piece did not match
the rest of him. It had a dormant quality to it, but it was
unquestionably foreign. That isn't mine, it doesn't belong there. How did
a piece of someone else's soul attach itself to me?

It must have been with him for a long time, to have gone undetected until
he'd cracked his soul enough to expose it. Unlike the rest, this one
piece felt as if it been rather haphazardly attached to him and had come
loose once his soul was no longer whole.

Voldemort, it has to be. Something of him must have been left inside me
when he tried to kill me.

Not really sure what he was doing, but knowing that he definitely did not
want that madman's soul latched on to his own, Harry pushed. He focused
on that foreign soul shard and began forcing it out. He had been afraid
of what would happen if the Dark took any of his soul, but it was more
than welcome to the piece of Voldemort.

Its already tenuos grip on him broke once he rejected it so completely


and the Dark took it instantly, as it did all unanchored souls.

With that done, the Dark put up no more struggle and allowed Light free
reign.

Squinting with painfully stinging eyes, Harry shuffled back towards the
manor.

XXXXX

Sirius hadn't been quite sure what to do with himself for the past day.
Neither Teeny nor Charlus and Dorea would tell him what Harry was up to,
but he was sure that it was something big.

His godson had locked himself in the study and hadn't left it since. His
wand was still in Sirius' possession, apparently being considered
unimportant, which was an attitude that Sirius had never expected to see
from any witch or wizard. Then again, he hadn't expected to see this
level of wandless magic either.

In the absence of anything else to do, he had put Wormtail's gruesome


remains into stasis and stuffed them into an unused trunk. He was quite
unrecognizable, but there were magical ways to determine a dead wizard's
identity by his blood as long as they had his magical signature on file,
which the Ministry should have. The corpse could still be useful.

Finally, after he had nearly paced a hole into the floor in fruitless
worry, Harry had come out of the study.

Unfortunately, all he had done was grab his wand from Sirius possession
with a terse warning to stay inside. He'd tried to get some answers out
of Charlus and Dorea again, but they merely looked uncomfortable and
still refused to speak. The only thing they would say was that it was
Harry's secret to tell and that he should leave him alone to do what he
was going to do.

Finally, Harry came back, but Sirius couldn't feel anything besides
stunned horror at the sight of him.

His godson was only wearing a pair of pants and streaked with blood from
head to toe. Even more disturbing were the twin trails of bloody tears
coming from his eyes, eyes that were so bloodshot that the sclera had
effectively turned completely red and whose green color now gleamed
visibly with magic.

"Harry?" Sirius asked cautiously.

"Not yet, Sirius." Harry replied with weary clam. "Let me get cleaned up
first, then we'll talk.

Sirius looked worried, but nodded all the same. His godson had been up to
something obviously dangerous and quite probably illegal, but it seemed
like the worst was over. He could wait a little longer to get answers.

XXXXX

XXXXX

"...and here we are." Harry finished, slouched in an armchair.

Sirius looked at his godson, looking less like some kind of eldritch
abomination and more like a human being now that the blood had been
cleaned off, his sclera had gone back to white and he was dressed in a
comfortable bathrobe. He could almost convince himself that nothing had
changed, if only it wasn't for the rune that he could plainly see carved
into his godson's forehead now that he'd been told it was there and the
shimmer of magic in his eyes that made them a touch brighter than they'd
been before.

It had been quite a tale and Sirius wasn't sure whether to be impressed
or horrified.

"Harry, don't take this the wrong way, but what the hell is wrong with
you?" He asked in a deadpan tone of voice. "What kind of eleven year old
is introduced to magic and thinks 'I think I'll ritualistically mutilate
myself'?"
"The kind that grew up thinking of all the cool enhancement rituals he
could do?" Harry asked rhetorically.

Sirius went on as if he hadn't said anything. "And then, when you figured
out that your first set was giving you the urge to shag your foster
mother, you didn't think that it might have been a good idea to rethink
things?"

Harry didn't know it yet, but this was mildly hypocritical of Sirius. It
wouldn't have stopped him either. Well, it would have if it had made him
lust after his own mother, who had been a hag in every sense of the word
except the literal one, but being attracted to a fine piece of ass like
Katherine Shaw would not have bothered him in the slightest, no matter
his relation to her.

"It seemed like a fair trade." Harry shrugged. "An overactive libido and
a bad temper in exchange for a stronger body and faster maturation? I
regret nothing."

"And your second set, the one that nearly turned you into a dementor just
now?" Sirius demanded. That had been an unwelcome revelation and he
wasn't sure if he believed his godson's claim of dementors being the
leftovers of wizards who'd carelessly dabbled with Dark. It was just too
creepy for words.

"That one I might have done differently if I knew what was going to
happen." Harry admitted.

"Might have?!"

"Despite the close shave, I'm actually pretty happy with the way things
turned out. You have no idea about all the things I see and know now." He
could see the magic in the manor and in Sirius and he could feel the Sun
in the sky. There were so many things that he had been blind to before.

"And Wormtail?" Sirius challenged, becoming frustrated with his godson's


recklesness. He'd thought that Harry was a lot like Remus; quiet,
studious, thoughtful and he was, but when it came to magic he was a
hundred times as reckless as all the Marauders put together.

Harry sobered instantly. He'd been trying not to think of that.

"We might still be able to use him to clear your name, we'll just have to
be creative about the cause of his death."

"That's not what I meant, Harry." Sirius said gently.

"I know."

"You don't have to feel guilty. I probably would have killed him myself
if you hadn't done it."

"Sirius, I killed a man because I lost my temper. Don't patronize me."


And he couldn't even feel too sorry about it for any reason but for the
fact that it would make proving Sirius' innocence harder. Yes, he wished
that he hadn't done it, but he was not as broken up about it as he felt
that he should be.

The worst part was that he didn't know if that was yet another side-
effect of his runes or if it was something about him. Were the runes or
his exposure to Light and Dark meddling with his sense of morality, or
was he simply somewhat lacking in that department to begin with? Either
way it was a disturbing thought.

He could feel the potential to cast the Killing Curse within him now. It
was such a terribly simple spell, as simple as Lumos. Nothing but raw
killing intent given power through magic. No shield could block it
because it was so pure in its intent that only something equally pure
could block it. Something like a mother's willing sacrifice for her
child. It wasn't an Unforgivable because the spell was Dark or evil, it
was an Unforgivable because you had to be a killer already to cast it.

XXXXX

That evening found Harry on the highest balcony of the manor, looking to
the west.

He and Sirius hadn't managed to work out a viable solution to his


fugitive status just yet. They had tentative plans, but nothing that they
were in a hurry to implement at this point for fear of it backfiring
spectacularly. Wormtail's death made things complicated. They'd have to
spin it in a way that didn't make it look like murder.

Now Harry was waiting for the sunset, running his hands over his
invisibility cloak and wondering at the piece of Dark he could see and
sense in it now. Such a strange thing that he'd carried it around for
years and never known it.

He'd read that invisibility cloaks tended to degrade into uselessness


after a few years, but this one had by all accounts been around for
decades at the least. Harry knew that this was due to it being infused
with Dark. It had to be one of a kind, as he doubted that the secrets to
this kind of craft had been shared beyond the original maker. Maybe
Sirius would know about any legendary invisibility cloaks or similar
artefacts.

When the Sun began to set, Harry observed it with a rapturous smile. He'd
never paid much attention to sunsets before, but now he found them
impossible to ignore.

How could he, when he could feel the Sun's blinding presence recede to
make way for the Dark and the stars? The Sun was too close and too
powerful. It blotted out so much. Now that it had set, he could see and
feel the distant Light of uncountable billions of stars against the
backdrop of Dark. He'd never thought that something so beautiful could
exist. Even more, it was echoed inside his own soul. The Light inside him
waned with the Sun, making way for Dark, speckled with the Light of the
distant stars.
If given the choice to redo things with the knowledge he now had, he
wouldn't change this. The risk of death and hollowing had been worth it
to be able to see magic as he saw it now. He would have done it in a more
controlled manner, but he would have done it anyway.

"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes
turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will long to
return." He murmured to himself, recalling the old quote from Da Vinci
that he'd come across years ago. It fit the situation perfectly.

Now that he'd seen past the tiny perspective of wizards, he could never
again confine himself to that world. Wizards who learned spells but did
not know them, who used magic but did not know it, who's best explanation
boiled down to 'it just was'. It would drive him mad as surely as having
to pretend that he was a toddler again.

XXXXX

"Legendary invisibility cloaks?" Sirius said in surprise. "Why would you


want to know about that?"

"There's something special about this one." Harry answered, holding up


his father's cloak but not elaborating further.

"I don't really know the story behind it." Sirius said with a shrug. "I
know that it's a Potter family heirloom, but that's all."

"And that doesn't strike you as strange?" Harry asked pointedly.


"Invisibility cloaks aren't supposed to last that long."

"A lot of old magical artefacts are pretty extraordinary by today's


standards. To quote a muggle, 'they don't make 'em like they used to'."

"I'm surprised that you can actually quote a muggle." Harry snorted.

"I'll have you know that I'm actually very knowledgeable about muggles."
Sirius protested indignantly. "My family hated them, so I made sure to be
as muggle as possible. I even got myself a motorcycle, though I did
enchant it to fly. That's actually where I heard that particular saying."

"Riiiight." Harry drawled laconically, deciding not to ask whether Sirius


had a license. "But back to the point, legendary invisibility cloaks?"

"Nothing really comes to mind." Sirius admitted. "The only thing I can
think off is the tale of the Deathly Hallows, but that's just a
children's story."

"Tell it to me."

"Aren't you a bit old for bedtime stories?" The dog Animagus teased.

Harry just rolled his eyes and waved at him, silently telling him to get
on with it.
"I'll tell it to you if you tell me how your night with those two lovely
ladies of yours went." Sirius bargained. He and James had always swapped
details about these things, but Harry was proving to be a more secretive
fellow. James hadn't become like that until he'd gotten together with
Lily.

Harry rolled his eyes again. "What's there to tell? We met up somewhere
private, we got naked, we had sex, we fell asleep."

"You can't cheapen your first sexual experience like that, especially
since it was a threesome!" Sirius protested.

"I lost my virginity back in July." Harry replied blandly.

"Damn!" Sirius cursed.

"What?"

"That means you were twelve at the time."

"So?"

"That means you ditched your virginity two years sooner than me."

"So?"

"How am I supposed to be a rolemodel if you outperform me in everything?"

"You can stick around and provide a morale boost by showing me how great
I am in comparison."

"That's harsh, Harry."

"So is life, now get to the bedtime story."

Sirius grinned at the banter, fondly remembering similar verbal spars


with James. His best friend might be gone, but something of him had
survived in his son.

"Alright, fine. It goes like this..."

XXXXX

House elves were weird.

That was Harry's conclusion as he watched Teeny use some magic with his
new magesight, as he'd requested. The small house elf's magic looked like
nothing he'd ever seen. He had admittedly not seen much since he'd only
just acquired the ability to see magic, but it just looked...weird,
almost like human magic, but so warped.

He'd tried to enlist her help in figuring out wandless magic soon after
he'd first come to the manor, but that had been a dead end. House elves
had no idea how they used magic, they just did. That had been quite
frustrating to hear at the time. How can you use something if you didn't
know how you used it? His persistent questioning had nearly driven Teeny
to tears when she had been unable to answer him, so he'd let it go.

House elves also couldn't use spells in the same fashion as wizards. In
fact, they couldn't cast spells at all. The closest aproximation they
could make was a blast of force that could pass for a banishing or
bludgening spell. Pretty much everything else they could do revolved
around their duties as servants, which made sense in light of the fact
that house elves would literally die if they weren't bonded to a master
or a powerful magical location for an extended period.

Which of course made not a lick of sense if you took it out of the
Wizarding World sandbox and looked at it from a broader perspective.
There was simply no conceivable situation in which an entire sapient
species would evolve to be slaves to another, no matter how special
witches and wizards thought they were.

Conclusion? House elves weren't natural.

Admittedly it was a conclusion based mostly on conjecture, but it made


more sense to him than the alternative, especially when the feel of their
magic was taken into account.

"Teeny, do house elves eat?" He asked.

"Sir?" She asked, confused.

"Do you need food the way that I do?"

"No sir, house elves only be needing a master's magic." She answered with
a shake of her head, sending her big ears flopping everywhere.

Definitely unnatural. Harry was betting on some kind of sophisticated


homunculi that had over time developed sapience. He certainly wouldn't
put it past some wizard to have gotten the idea to create a servant race
because he couldn't be bothered to fluff his own pillows.

Probably best to keep that bit of conjecture to himself. He couldn't


think of a single positive outcome if he started spread that around. At
least not right now.

XXXXX

"You know that this is illegal, right?" Sirius asked wryly.

"Sirius, you are a fugitive from the law and I am harboring you, not to
mention the mangled carcass we have stashed in a trunk. I hardly think
that the legalities of you teaching me to apparate four years ahead of
schedule are noteworthy."

"Alright, just checking." He'd tried. If Harry didn't want to be a


responsible citizen, then far be it from Sirius to try and make him one.
With a noisy crack, Sirius apparated about three feet to the left.

"Huh, that's interesting." Harry commented.

"What is?" The past few days with his godson had shown Sirius that Harry
sometimes noticed things about magic that most people missed. Lily had
that quality too, though not quite the same. Maybe it was due to them
having a muggle upbringing.

"I wonder how it works?" Harry mused, apparently to himself.

"The way it was explained to me is that you have to keep the three D's in
mind. Destination, Determination and Deliberation. You need to keep the
destination fixed firmly in your mind, you have to be utterly determined
to reach it, and you have to be very deliberate but unhurried about it.
Once you've got all that, you just kind of...will yourself to wherever
you want to go."

"Yes, that's how you do it, but how does it work?"

Sirius blinked. "What?"

Harry sighed. Honestly.

Sirius frowned. Lily had sighed exactly like that whenever someone said
something especially stupid to her. James had gotten sighed at like that
a lot.

"Do it again."

Sirius shrugged to himself and apparated again.

"Again."

Crack.

"Again."

Crack.

"Again."

"Harry, why am I apparating back and forth like this?"

"Because I'm trying to figure out how exactly you're using your magic to
create a pathway through space without killing yourself."

"Such a bloody Ravenclaw." Sirius complained. "Just try it already. I'm


pretty sure that I can fix you if you end up splinching yourself."

"I'd rather not test that belief, now do it again."

"Fine." Crack.
"Again."

Crack.

"Again."

Sigh. Crack.

"What does it feel like to apparate?"

"Kind of like being squeezed through a tube actually. Pretty unpleasant


until you get used to it."

"Hmm, do it again."

An even more dramatic sigh. Crack.

"What's with the crack?"

"No idea, but it happens every time someone apparates?"

"Probably just violently displaced air then, but better safe than sorry.
Do it again."

Sigh with eyeroll. Crack.

"Ah, I see."

"What are you seeing, oh wise one?" Sirius asked dryly.

"You're forming a narrow pathway through space and then forcing yourself
through it. The interesting part is that the 'exit' side of this little
magical wormhole has to be anchored in some way to the planet for it to
be safe. That must be why rushing it leads to splinching, you don't
anchor yourself properly and come out wrong. How you're managing to do it
subconsciously escapes me though, probably lucky chance.
Maybe...hmm...Apparating into the air doesn't work, does it? "

"No. In fact, apparating onto anything at all that isn't solid ground is
a good way to get splinched, sometimes even killed and there's even
stories of people vanishing altogether, never to be seen again." Sirius
said, a bit confused as to how Harry had guessed that. And what the hell
was a wormhole anyway?

"A quirk of thought then. You automatically associate solid ground with
the planet and that's apparently enough to keep you safe. Rather amusing
how close to messy death you are every time you apparate."

"There you go, scaring me with all these theories like a typical
Ravenclaw." Sirius said. "I really need to teach you a few Gryffindor
qualities."

"Blockheaded stupidity isn't a quality, Sirius."


"Your mother said that a lot, but I never gave in to her peer pressure."

"Obviously."

"Well then smarty pants, why don't you show me how it's done?"

Harry honestly thought apparition to be a rather insane mode of travel,


but instantaneus teleportation was entirely too useful a skill to not
learn simply because it was crazy. Occlumency helped him fix the image of
his destination in his mind and then he simply willed himself to pass
through the intervening space in a wormhole made of his own magic, making
sure that the exit was latched on to the planet to prevent any mishaps.
Earth wasn't a stationery object in space after all and he had a feeling
that those people who had disappeared had ended up drifting through
vacuum.

Crack.

Sirius hadn't been kidding, that really was unpleasant.

"Showoff."

Harry smirked at his godfather, openly gloating at one upping him.

"So, is there any other illegal bit of magic that you'd like to learn
today?" Sirius asked sarcastically.

Harry considered it for a moment and then nodded. He could practice


apparating later.

"The Animagus transformation."

Sirius was surprised for a moment and then chuckled gleefully.

"Ah, a new Marauder in the making!"

"Hate to break it to you, Sirius, but I'm not much of a prankster." Harry
pointed out.

"I'm sure we can turn you into one." Sirius said with authority and then
affected a pensive look. "But I think we might want to wait until the
summer to start teaching you that. It's not something that you can do in
a few days."

For one thing, the Animagus transformation could be dangerous and Harry
had demonstrated a disturbingly large amount of recklessness with
dangerous magic. For another, if he tried to finish it on his own and
screwed up, he'd have to go to McGonagall to fix it and that would expose
the secret. Being an Animagus was way more fun if nobody knew it.

XXXXX
In the end, Sirius and Harry decided to deal with the Pettigrew situation
over the summer. Neither one of them had any faith in the fairness of the
government, one from bitter experience and the other from a deliberately
cultivated sense of cynicism, so making hasty decision was a no-no. They
would communicate through letters for the rest of the school year and
hammer out a plan to be executed during the summer. Harry would have the
free time to deal with it then and this was something that his fame would
actually be useful for. Besides getting laid that was.

Harry sighed in his train compartment, alone for now. Hogwarts was
starting to become a nuisance. He still loved to learn about magic, but
other things were starting to pile up and he couldn't keep putting them
off until the summer all the time. Not to mention that he was outpacing
the curriculum and starting to become quite bored in a number of classes.

"Hello again, Harry." A dreamy voice greeted as the door slid open.

Of course, there were upsides to Hogwarts, Harry conceded with a smile.

"Hey Luna."

"How was your Christmas?" She asked as she sat down.

"It was interesting." He replied, barely managing to keep the sarcasm out
of his voice.

"I suppose it must have been." Luna agreed, peering at his eyes.

Harry knew that they were too bright. His green eyes had always been
vibrant, but now they verged on the point of glowing. No doubt a side
effect of the Sol runes constantly keeping a bit of Light in them.

Mercifully, Luna apparently decided not to ask questions. "I had a visit
from Ginny."

"Oh?" Harry questioned, more out of a desire to move past the topic of
his eyes than any real curiousity. Luna's 'go with the flow' attitude was
something that he'd always liked.

"Yes, she wanted to wish me a merry Christmas and speculate about how
many girls you're sleeping with."

"Really?" Ginny had drifted off into acquaintance status this year,
apparently unable to deal with the fact that he was nothing at all like
she'd imagined. She clearly wasn't above gossiping though.

"Ginny thinks there's only Bryanna, but I'm pretty sure that you've also
got one in Slytherin."

Harry was normally very reticent with information of any kind, he hadn't
even told Luna about his invisibility cloak, but right at that moment he
felt like being honest. Maybe keeping quiet about this just didn't seem
important anymore after what had happened recently, or maybe Sirius was a
bad influence on him.
"I actually have three. There's also this muggle girl that I meet up with
during the summer."

Luna clapped her hands excitedly at the news. "Oh, that's wonderful! It
makes my Christmas present even more appropriate!"

"How so?" Harry asked, bemused.

Instead of answering, Luna went for her trunk and dug out a book.

"'The Lovegood Guide on how to Love Very Good'?" Harry read the title,
even more bemused.

"My great-great-grandmother was making a study of sex magic and preparing


to publish that book before the European Ministries unanimously classed
sex magic as a Dark Art in 1870. She wasn't able to publish it after
that, but she still finished it." Luna explained without being prompted.

"How in the world could sex magic be classed as a Dark Art?" Harry
demanded irritably. Of all the stupid things to classify as a Dark Art...

"It was first used by the Succubi and the Ministry deemed that anything
used by them had to be a Dark Art."

"Succubi are real?" Harry asked incredulously.

"Not any more. The last of them was killed in 1637." Luna answered
mournfully.

"Let me guess, they weren't the soul sucking demons of myth but just a
misunderstood race of gorgerous women?" Harry ventured. He wouldn't put
it past wizards, or in this case more likely witches, to wipe out another
species out of some misplaced sense of righteousness.

"Its never been proven that they sucked out souls." Luna chirped, causing
Harry to blink at the implications of the statement. "There's a short
exposition on Succubi at the beginning of the book if you're interested."

Harry was indeed interested and would be reading the book cover to cover
as soon as he got the chance, but first he had his own gift to give.

"I've got something for you as well." He told Luna and went for his own
trunk.

"He's so cute!" Luna squeed, looking at the hamster that Harry had just
handed her.

"He's more than just cute," Harry said sternly, putting herculean effort
into keeping a grin off his face. "this is Boo and he's a miniature giant
space hamster."

"Really?" Luna asked in awe.


"Really." Harry confirmed. "He will smite evil and gouge out its eyeballs
whenever he sees it."

Perhaps playing on Luna's eccentricies was a bit mean, but he hadn't been
able to resist. The mental imagery had simply been too hilarious and the
girl certainly seemed to be happy with her new pet. Hamsters and rangers
everywhere were surely rejoicing.

XXXXX

The return to Hogwarts was a bit distracting to Harry. The thestrals were
touched by Dark. He hadn't expected that, though perhaps he should have.
The realization distracted him thorougly and made him poor company on the
ride back as he considered the implications.

Was that state natural or had some overly curious wizard wanted to see
what would happen if he infused a winged horse with Dark? He was going to
need to investigate that eventually.

So preoccupied was he that he barely noticed the speculative looks


several people gave his eyes, wondering if their memory was playing
tricks on them or if they had always been that bright.

His thoughts were still on the thestrals when he felt yet another
presence of Dark, this time as Dumbledore rose from the staff table to
make a speech.

"I have at long last been able to prevail upon Minister Fudge to recall
the dementors back to Azkaban, as it seems clear that Sirius Black has no
intention of coming to Hogwarts." The old wizard was saying.

Harry registered the words, but only barely. He'd noted the absence of
dementors on their approach to the school, so that answered that little
mystery, but most of his focus was on the wand he could sense in
Dumbledore's sleeve.

It radiated Dark, just like his invisibility cloak. It was the only wand
in the Great Hall that did so. The phoenix feather wands were like a tiny
spark of sunlight to his senses, well suited to explosive bursts of
magic. The unicorn hair wands felt like a gentle stream of moonlight and
were probably better off used for calmer magics. The dragon heartstring
ones strangely did not give off a feeling of fire as he had expected, but
of a more robust and enduring strength.

Dumbledore's wand though...it could only be the Elder Wand. Sirius had
been disparaging of the tale of the brothers Peverell, and Harry had to
agree that them meeting an anthropomorphic manifestation of Death and
getting it to give them super powerful magical doodads for no easily
explicable reason was unlikely, but he had been willing to give the story
the benefit of the doubt in some measure. He may not be prepared to
believe that Death was a person, but he was more than ready to believe
that the three brothers had dabbled with Dark and learned how to use it
to enchant certain items.
Now that he'd lain eyes on the wand, that belief was all but confirmed.
He had to wonder where the Resurrection Stone was.

XXXXX

As soon as he was alone in his room, Harry cracked open the book Luna had
given him and started reading.

Sex magic is something that has long been thought of as the domain of
certain non-human magical beings. Given the recent thrust by the Veela
Covenant to be recognized as equals under wizard law, I decided to
research it myself and publish my findings so that we may better
understand the Veela and their magics.

The decision of the European Ministries of Magic to classify all sex


magic as a Dark Art the previous year and prohibit its use has put an end
to this intention, but I will still finish this book if only for my own
purposes.

The first mention of sex magic dates back to Ancient Sumeria and the
sorceress that would later become most widely known as Lilith, the Queen
of the Succubi.

Little is known of Lilith's origins, but it is known that she was born
human. Her transformation into a Succubus has long been an unanswered
mystery and will likely remain so. The other thing that is known of
Lilith is her mastery of sex magic.

After her transformation, Lilith spent a millenium ensnaring the minds of


wizards and witches alike and consuming their magic to sustain her life
and power. For this reason, she eventually became revered as a fertility
goddess and feared as a voracious demon.

This was a time long before wands and magic schools, meaning that trained
magic users were few and far between and none of them very powerful.
Lilith's Succubus transformation had among other things granted her
immense control over fire and her ability to enthrall the minds of near
any magical being made her unassailable by magical means. She was
eventually slain by the hand of the muggle Hero-King Gilgamesh, who was
immune to Lilith's enthrallment ability due to his lack of magic.

But Lilith had spawned a legion of Succubi daughters during her long life
and they continued to prey on wizardkind, learning from the death of
their mother and adopting a more subtle approach by targeting mostly
those who were young, untrained, easily seduced or otherwise vulnerable.

Though popular muggle folklore portrays the Succubi as horned and bat
winged demons, they were in fact indistinguishable from human women, save
for their beauty, allure, intrinsic control of fire and the ability to
partially transform into a hybrid bird creature at need. This made it
easy for them to hide amongst human populations if they were careful and
fed on the unwary or ignorant.
Their fortunes turned with the establishment of Hogwarts and similar
magic schools later on. With fewer and fewer victims going untrained and
unguarded, they were forced to go after more risky prey. The increased
danger and lack of sustenance took a great toll on their numbers.

Unlike their mother, Lilith's daughters were unable to breed more Succubi
and the last was eventually killed in 1637.

One among their number, the Succubus Velana, did however learn to spawn
more children that were not Succubi. These came to be called Veela. They
are possessed of similar powers as the Succubi, but much weaker. However,
Veela also do not need to prey on magicals for survival and have been
able able to endure despite the stigma of their origins.

After centuries of being hunted, Veela have now successfully won their
acceptance in the majority of Europe, though their innate ability to use
sex magic has been classified as a Dark Art in a rather transparent
attempt to limit their influence.

Harry kept on reading long after he would have usually gone to bed,
completely absorbed in the book. Much of the writing done by Luna's
ancestor was theory and speculation, in no small part due to the fact
that sex magic could not be done with a wand.

Which was exactly why Harry found it so fascinating in the first place,
even beyond the subject matter.

It was well into the wee hours of the morning when something occured to
him.

"How the hells did Luna know that I wouldn't give a shit about the
Ministry prohibition, or that I would like the wandless aspect?" He
wondered, baffled. "Did she know, or was it just a coincidence?"

He pondered the vagaries of his friend for another half hour before
metaphorically tossing his hands into the air in frustration and going to
bed.

XXXXX

Harry sighed in his Charms class.

They were currently going over the Freezing spell, which Harry had known
for some time. Even if he hadn't known it, he could have gotten the hang
of it within minutes. Even watching the energy flow with his newly
acquired magesight had gotten old already.

Flitwick was a good teacher, but Harry was bored out of his skull in his
classes these days. Now that he could see magic as well as feel it, it
seemed like he had an easier time mastering wandlessly what his
classmates struggled to master with a wand.

XXXXX
Transfiguration was an interesting subject that was quickly becoming as
dull as Charms.

While doing it wandlessly had always been a problem, doing it with a wand
was simple enough, even if a dragon heartstring wand would have been
better suited for the task.

Now that he could observe the process happenning, he was starting to


figure out the nuances that would let him do it without a wand.

This had the unfortunate side-effect of making the class itself mostly
superfluous. He spent almost the entire time ignoring McGonagall and
doing his own thing.

XXXXX

"Potter, stop staring at your cauldron and start brewing!" Snape shouted.

Harry jerked in surprise, having gotten caught up in watching the magic


of the ingredients interacting in his cauldron.

"Sorry, sir." He apologized and went to complete the potion.

Half an hour later, he was once again staring at his unfinished potion in
fascination, wondering at the strange swirls and eddies that his stirring
was making in it. He had no idea what any of it meant, but it was
mesmerizing. All that 'stir clockwise six times and counter clockwise
four times' crap was finally making some sense.

"POTTER!"

XXXXX

"Harry, please stay after class."

Harry raised an eyebrow. Looks like Lupin was finally done waffling. His
indecisive shuffling had been getting beyond obvious in the lead up to
the Christmas holidays.

When they were alone, Harry decided to ask the obvious question.

"Was there something you wanted, Professor?"

"Harry, the Headmaster tells me that you are aware of my relationship


with your parents." Lupin stated after taking a bracingly deep breath.

"Yes."

Cue uncomfortable silence.

"I'm going to be late for Herbology." Not that he cared too much about
that particular class, but standing here and waiting for the werewolf to
get to the point was pretty tedious.
"I was wondering if you'd like to hear a few stories about them
sometime." Lupin offered hopefully.

"Not really, I think I've got a general idea of the kind of people they
were." It wasn't likely that he had anything new to add to what he'd
already learned from Sirius, Charlus and Dorea.

"Harry, I'm sorry." Lupin suddenly said.

"What for?" Harry asked, puzzled.

"For never checking up on you, for not getting in touch when you started
Hogwarts."

"Whatever your relationship with my parents, you don't and didn't owe me
anything." Harry pointed out.

Remus winced at the even response. Perhaps he hadn't owed James, Lily or
Harry anything, but it was a poor friend that didn't check up on the
orphaned son of his friends.

"I still should have checked up on you. I couldn't take you in because of
a medical condition I have, but I should have checked up on you."

"I did well enough without you." Harry replied, not deigning to inquire
about the oblique reference to lycanthropy.

Remus winced again. That was another way of saying that he'd do well
enough without him from here on out as well. Harry was being decidedly
lukewarm about getting to know him, and Remus couldn't blame him. He
wasn't upset about the absence, but he wasn't eager to get to know him
either. It would've been easier if Harry was angry at him. That at least
would have been clear.

"I'm going to need a note for Professor Sprout." Harry prompted.

Remus wrote him a note and spent the next twenty minutes brooding over
past regrets. He'd really dropped the quaffle with Harry and there wasn't
much he could do about it now.

XXXXX

Aside from Potions, the only class that had actually become more
interesting since his little Christmas adventure was Astronomy.

He still thought that the telescopes could do with replacing. The


enchantments on them made them substantially more powerful than they
should be, but that just meant that the newer models would be even
better.

That being said, it was hard not to develop an appreciation for the night
sky when he could practically feel the stars singing in his magic.
"Have you got it, Harry?" Professor Sinistra asked, nudging him over so
that she could take a look herself.

"Almost." He replied and let her do it, taking a private enjoyment at the
feel of her breasts brushing against his back when she leaned over him.

And that was the other reason why he liked Astronomy. He was terribly
tempted to flirt with the beautiful dark skinned Professor sometimes. He
didn't, because that could turn out very problematic, but he was
seriously tempted.

How ironic. Ginny had asked him earlier in the year whether he liked
older women and he'd said yes mostly to get her off his back, but now it
was turning out to be true. Women thirty-plus years in age did more for
him than girls in their teens.

Sinistra was thirty-three. Vector was forty. Both of them were hot. He
couldn't show even a hint of his attraction without making things very,
very awkward. He didn't even know if they were in a relationship.
Sometimes, life was just plain unfair.

Harry vowed to himself that he would try to sleep with at least one of
them before he left Hogwarts.

XXXXX

Back at Potter Manor.

Sirius put down the glass of firewhiskey that he'd been about to drink
and put a hand to his chest, wondering about the fierce burst of pride
he'd just felt for his godson.

XXXXX

Harry returned to his room in a state of mild sexual frustration, which


was pretty much normal for these late night Astronomy classes.

To the sight of Bryanna lounging on his bed, wearing what appeared to be


a set of chocolate underwear, obviously enchanted to behave as it if were
fabric.

"Hey lover."

Life might be unfair sometimes, but it could also be very good at other
times. He'd been wanting to give some of the stuff he'd read in Luna's
book a try for a while now, but he had needed a partner to do so. Luna's
great-great grandmother had postulated a lot of theories, but only
practice would determine whether they held any weight.

"I thought you could use a snack before bed."

Lots and lots of practice.


"I am feeling rather peckish." Harry admitted, quickly divesting himself
of his clothes and firing a contraceptive charm at his midnight visitor.

Bryanna rolled her eyes t his paranoia. He still didn't trust the potion
to do the job.

Harry paid her exasperation no mind as he climbed on the bed, zeroing in


on her chocolate covered nipples.

Harry had no real idea how to implement the techniques described in the
book, but he figured that he couldn't go far wrong if he started out by
licking the chocolate off her breasts. He had magesight now, so enough
experimentation was sure to yield results.

XXXXX

Bryanna let out a shuddering gasp as she rode Harry to her third orgasm,
coincidentally triggering his fourth. She had no idea what he was doing,
but his member felt even better in her than that vibration spell that
Tiana had taught her at the end of last year.

Harry smirked to himself as Bryanna collapsed on top of him and nuzzled


his neck, taking deep breaths all the while. Being able to see her magic
reacting to his efforts was proving inordinately useful in figuring out
how to please her. The book was written from the perspective of a woman,
but it hadn't been too hard to adapt the knowledge.

"Mmm, what have you been doing over the holidays?" Bryanna nearly purred
out, feeling deliciously satisfied. Harry had definitely been improving.

"Oh, this and that." He replied mysteriously, rubbing circles on her


lower back and seeing if he could magically stimulate the nerves that
were supposed to be there.

"Well keep at it." She instructed, mashing her chest into his and already
feeling a slow heat returning to her groin despite her recent orgasm. The
fact that she still had him sheathed inside her and was leaking a slow
trickle of sperm from her opening was only making it better.

"Yes ma'am." Harry chuckled, slowly refining his technique based on the
feedback feel he was getting from her own magic.

They stayed that way for a while, content to take a short break and let
the desire build before they jumped back into the sex.

"What do you think about having a meeting with all four of us girls
soon?" Bryanna asked out of the blue, raising her head to look him in the
eye.

Harry raised an eyebrow in surprise. "You mean..." He finished by


pressing her down more firmly on his once again erect member.

Bryanna laughed lightly, realizing what she'd just implied. "You wish,
Potter. No, that's not what I meant."
"Pity." He grinned. He could already imagine how jealous Sirius would be.

"Isabel drafted up a contract and we'd like you to take a look at it."
She elaborated

"Sure." He agreed, starting to press kisses to her neck. "But I'm not
interested in contracts right now."

"What are you interested then?" She asked huskily.

His hands went to cup her rear end and then he quickly spun them around
so that he was the one on top.

"Oh, I could think of a thing or two." He said and kissed her, thrusting
his hips forward in the same movement and delighting in her grunt of
pleasure.

XXXXX

Harry wasn't sure if he liked Isabel and Jade.

They weren't rude or anything of the sort, but he was getting the
distinct impression that they held a mild resentment for him because he
was sleeping with their friends.

Harry could appreciate what the situation looked like from an outside
perspective, but he was also quite sure that Bryanna and Tiana didn't
find keeping him company at night to be distasteful. Tiana's unsubtle
complaint earlier that he was neglecting her was a good indicator of
that, as was Bryanna's shameless abuse of their shared House status to
get more solo nights with him.

Either they were enjoying the situation as much as him or else they
should abandon the clothes store idea and go to Hollywood.

Isabel came off as being rather starchy in addition to the slight social
awkwardness that seemed normal for Ravenclaws. She'd presented him with
the contract with the kind of stiff backed poise he'd expect from
McGonagall. She obviously wanted to get this over with as soon as
possible.

The Gryffindor of the group was a somewhat different matter. She looked
like she was just waiting for an excuse to get mad at him.

Harry couldn't be 100% sure, but he thought that they were both magically
weaker than Bryanna and Tiana. He had no hard evidence to support this as
his magesight and magic sensing only told him whether something was
magical or not and didn't quantify it, but a gut feeling told him that
Isabel and Jade were simply weaker people.

This same gut feeling had been giving him impressions of the people
around him ever since his return to Hogwarts.
It told him that Luna was a generally flighty person who drifted through
life without much concern, but there was something broken in her that
paradoxically made her stronger than she seemed.

Ginny; an insecure little girl wrapped up in a mixture of sulky


resentment and longing. That's what she felt like around him at any rate.
He didn't know if there was more to her or not.

Malfoy; a front of arrogance shoring up a brittle core, not nearly as


strong as he liked to portray himself as. He felt as if he would shatter
if the illusion of superiority was taken from him.

Lupin; the inner wildness of his wolf wrapped in walls of fear and self-
loathing. There was steel in him, but it seemed to be turned inward, as
if he was most afraid of himself.

Snape; bitter and hateful with a core of guilt and self-loathing even
stronger than Lupin. There was a fatalistic sense of determination too,
as if he was dead set on finishing something and cared little for the
aftermath.

These were all just vague impressions that only got marginally clearer
the more time he spent around the people in question. It was also clearer
with some people than others. Harry suspected that it was clearer with
the more powerful wizards and witches.

Dumbledore was for example a pillar of calm over a deep well of grief and
regret. There was an unshakable determination in him to accomplish
something, at any cost. It made feel very dangerous.

By contrast, people like Isabel Morris and Jade Dawson were much less
noticeable. Their souls did not shine as bright and would have faded into
the background if there were more people present. As it was, Bryanna and
Tiana nearly eclipsed them. His pretty bedwarmers were far more self-
assured than their friends, more driven and just...more.

Harry couldn't quite help himself from labeling people like them as NPCs.

But he wasn't here to woolgather, he was here to inspect the contract.

"I'm sorry, but I can't sign this." He finally said, not needing to watch
to know that all four girls had tensed.

"You said you would!" Jade snapped peevishly.

Tiana kicked her in the shin, muttering something about Gryffindors all
the while.

"Is there something wrong with it?" She asked lightly.

"Yes." He responded bluntly. "Its way too simplistic."

"It covers the terms that we agreed on." Bryanna pointed out.
And hadn't that been a bitch to explain to Isabel and Jade. They hadn't
been too pleased at the fact that they would be minority owners in the
future no matter what, as the original plan had been for equal shares.
They were especially displeased that Harry had decided this based on the
fact that they hadn't participated in the seduction plan.

Bryanna and Tiana were secretly pleased about reaping greater rewards for
the gamble they took, not to mention that Harry had become very enjoyable
night time company lately.

"Which was talked over a period of about five to ten minutes." Harry
pointed out. "This contract works well enough if you aren't planning to
turn a profit. The use of the Potter family name will protect your
business from being shut down by a made up reason by some uppity
pureblood, but it does nothing to protect you from anyone that might want
to muscle in on it for themselves later on. At the very least I want a
clause included that forbids any of you from selling your share to anyone
except me."

"What business is it of yours who we would sell it to?" Jade demanded,


earning herself another kick from Tiana.

"I suspect that the Potter family lost its vineyards and pottery business
to the Parkinsons exactly because of something like this." Harry
retorted. "Trusted managers given emergency authorization because the
owner was unreachable or dead, then in comes Lord Parkinson making veiled
threats of what might happen to those same managers and their families if
they don't sell. I still need to investigate if that's what really
happened, but after what I've learned from Bryanna and Tiana and my own
research it seems like a likely scenario. The point being that if you
can't sell to anyone except me, then that means that you can't be
threatened, bribed or blackmailed into it either."

Jade and Isabel paled at that, obviously having never considered it. Even
Bryanna and Tiana were a bit perturbed.

"Wouldn't that make you a target then?" Isabel ventured.

"I'd be Lord Potter by then." Harry replied with a self-deprecating grin.


"I checked the laws. I can legally kill people for stuff like that, among
other things."

"And we can't." Tiana stated with a small sneer, getting another clue as
to how exactly it was possible for the purebloods to keep a deathgrip on
the economy. She'd missed that nugget of information in her earlier
research.

"Nope, only Lords can issue honor duels." Harry confirmed wryly. Not that
it was done much anymore as that was a rather extreme course of action,
but there were non-violent alternatives. That was no doubt the main
reason that the Noble Houses generally stayed out of each other's
business.

"Alright, we definitely need to add that." Bryanna stated firmly.


"We probably need to add a lot of other things." He said. "I'm not a
lawyer and there's probably a thousand other loopholes that I'm not
seeing. I'd suggest that we meet over the summer and get a professional
opinion on this, both muggle and magical."

"Why muggle?" Tiana asked curiously. "We're not really planning to have
too much contact with the Muggle World. As soon as we get good enough at
making our own clothes, we might cut contact with them entirely aside
from buying some materials."

"Because my dear, while the muggle side of business might not have any of
this Noble garbage involved or perhaps because of it , it is ten times
as cutthroat. "

XXXXX

Harry grinned as he tossed a compact fireball at the target that the Room
of Requirement provided for him.

Moving on to the next thing, he carefully began crafting a blasting curse


between his hands, infusing the raw magical energy with his intent, all
the while keeping it controlled. With a flick of his wrist, he hurled it
at another target, demolishing that one as well.

He moved on to other spells after that. Stunners, disarming hexes,


various transfigurations and more.

Now that he could clearly see and sense what was going on, wandless magic
was no longer such an impenetrable mystery. It was slow, far too slow for
combat purposes at this point, but also far more controlled than anything
he could do with a wand and no less powerful.

Wands allowed a wizard to skip the difficult process of learning to


manipulate magic with their minds alone. Some wands were better suited to
certain things than others, but they could all be used for more or less
everything. The interaction between core, wood and whatever else a
wandcrafter did made sure of this.

Truly, whoever had figured out modern wands had been a genius with few
equals, but in allowing magic users to skip the journey, so much had been
lost.

For example, Modern wizards and witches used the Tempus charm to find out
what time it was, but they never once considered what was involved with
such a spell.

If Harry wanted to cast that particular spell wandlessly, he had to take


into account the position of the Sun in the sky, the Earth's axial tilt,
the form that he wanted the information to take and several other things.
It took him half an hour to craft the spell and his results were very far
from accurate.
With a wand, you just had to give it a little wave and something in the
stick and the movements allowed you to bypass all the nuances and skip
right ahead to the results. It was rather disturbing how sophisticated
wands actually were, but he supposed that they would be after two
thousand years of refinement.

The problem was that they had made wizardkind lazy. Obscenely so. Wands
had sucked all the wonder and mystery out of magic by reducing it to a
bunch of swishing and flicking. It was no wonder that modern day wizards
were so unimpressive when they didn't really have to exert any kind of
real thought to cast spells. Oh sure, you needed a certain level of focus
to use magic with a wand(though even that was drastically reduced through
the use of wand motions), but it was not even close to the mental
dexterity required to weave a spell with only one's mind and will.

Harry moved on to the Patronus. It took him fifteen minutes to shape the
spell and work his desire to protect into it, but he could change the
size of his raven at will, increase its power to blinding luminance or
reduce it to formless mist.

So what if it took an age to cast right now? With enough practice, the
mental process would eventually become so familiar that he would be able
to do it in an instant.

A quick check of the time told him that he was going to be late for his
Charms class. Again.

With an aggravated sigh, Harry restarted the process of forming his


Patronus. Charms class was a waste of time anyway.

XXXXX

"Has anyone noticed anything...strange about Mr. Potter's behavior


lately?" Minerva asked.

"He's sometimes taken to staring at his cauldron like a confounded troll


ever since Christmas." Snape replied with dry derision.

"Severus!" She said sharply, but the Potions Master was undaunted by her
warning.

"While I wouldn't phrase it in the way that Severus did, he has been
acting a bit erratic." Flitwick added. "His practical work is as good as
ever, but his written work of late has been subpar to say the least. His
homework has the feel of being rushed to completion without care for the
quality."

"It is the same with me." The Transfiguration teacher said with her brow
furrowed in thought.

"Me too." Remus added quietly.


"He actually turns in passable essays to me." Snape admitted grudgingly.
The quality of Potter's potions had also been steadily increasing, but he
wasn't going to admit that unless he absolutely had to.

"He is diligent enough with me as well, though obviously not interested."


Sprout chimed in.

"Still, this is a worrying trend." Minerva continued. "And the sudden


drop in his work quality isn't even the worst of it, he actually skipped
one of my classes the other day and then refused to come to the detention
I assigned him!"

"Err, Minerva." Flitwick said with an embarrassed cough. "He's skipped


three of mine already."

"And you just let him do it?" She asked, mildly scandalized. No wonder
he'd refused to come to detention if his Head of House was letting him
get away with it.

"I talked to him about it and he admitted to being bored stiff in my


classroom." The half-goblin Professor admitted. "He was easily able to
demonstrate mastery of what we covered in those classes, to a degree that
made it obvious that he'd known the spells for some time already. The
curriculum is simply moving too slowly for him. I suspect that might also
be the reason for his poorly done homework, he probably doesn't want to
waste time on things that he already knows."

That had the deputy Headmistress looking thoughtful. She still didn't
appreciate the boy outright ignoring the punishment she'd set for him,
but this shed some light on his behavior.

"Surely you cannot be thinking of allowing the brat to skip a year or,
Merlin forbid, allowing him free reign to decide which classes to
attend?" Snape questioned, his opinion on the matter clear.

"Well there is hardly any point in forcing him to attend lessons that he
has no use for." She retorted huffily.

"What do you think, Albus? You've been awfully quiet." Flitwick asked.

Dumbledore had indeed been quiet, listening to the conversation and


turning things over in his mind.

"Professors Vector and Babbling tell me that they believe that Harry may
be able to take his OWLs for Arithmancy and Ancient Runes over the summer
if he continues to progress at the current pace." He said.

"That's quite impressive, I had no idea he was so far along." Flitwick


said, ignoring the soft snort from Snape.

"Indeed, Septima and Bathsheda have nothing but praise for the boy."
Dumbledore chuckled. "I think that they enjoy having a student take such
interest in their subjects, which are often considered to be quite
onerous."
"So what is to be done about Potter?" Minerva pressed.

"I will talk to him first and then determine what to do." Dumbledore
decided.

XXXXX

Ever since his last ritual, Harry found that he could no longer sleep
through sunrise or sunset. The change in his magic as the sun rose and
set would always wake him.

Because of this, he often made his way to the top of the Astronomy Tower
to watch as it happened. At the very least on the days when it wasn't
cloudy.

These trips had also been an opportunity to spend some time just
thinking, mostly about the fact that he had killed someone. He'd turned
the event over in his mind countless times, but he simply could not bring
himself to feel particularly bad about the killing itself. Wormtail had
been a loathsome human being, a coward, traitor, murderer and who knows
what else. His death would go unmourned by those who knew the truth and
only the fact that it made things more difficult for Sirius made it
regrettable.

Eventually he'd simply gotten fed up of attempting to dredge up some kind


guilt or horror at the act. He just didn't feel it and apparently
wouldn't no matter that society didn't approve of killers.

Remarkably, the cracks in his soul seemed to heal a bit once he stopped
wrestling with himself over it.

"Back again, Harry?" Dumbledore asked as he walked up to stand beside the


tall but young teenager.

He hadn't been able to divine the reason for Harry's quick growth, but he
was by now certain that it wasn't natural. It didn't seem to be affecting
him aside from that though, so he let it go despite his curiousity. The
answer may yet come to him later.

"It's a nice morning." Harry replied noncommittally, having sensed the


old wizard's approach. "It'll be a beautiful sunrise."

"You have been coming up here frequently of late." Dumbledore commented.


"May I ask what prompted this sudden fascination with the Sun?"

Harry's lips twitched into a small smile. Anyone would be fascinated by


the Sun if they knew what he knew and owed their continued existence to
the ball of fiery gas.

"There is something special about seeing the world bathed in Light." He


said instead, leaving out the fact that if forced to choose, he would
have to say that he preferred the Dark and the stars.
"There is indeed," Dumbledore agreed. "but I had not thought that a boy
your age would be able to appreciate it."

"You might be surprised by the things I can appreciate." Harry retorted,


mildly irritated by the mention of his age. He'd once felt thirteen
despite the size of his body, but he didn't anymore. Too much had
happened for him to stay a child.

"Such as the lovely female company you keep?" Dumbledore chuckled.

"Hm, I guess it was too much to hope for that the rumor mill wouldn't
catch wind of that." Harry grumbled.

"Alas, the Hogwarts rumor mill rarely fails to spread about uncomfortable
secrets."

They lapsed into silence as dawn approached, an unspoken agreement


passing between them to watch the sunrise in silence.

They had a surprise late arrival in the form of the Headmaster's phoenix,
who arrived on Dumbledore's shoulder in a burst of flame just a minute
before the event.

"Have you come to watch the sunrise as well, Fawkes?" Dumbledore asked
with a smile, reaching up to ruffle the firebird's chest feathers.

Fawkes trilled in agreement, shooting a look towards Harry that he would


swear was distrustful.

Harry felt a shiver of discomfort go through him, but ignored it. The
phoenix was a creature of Light, so it was only natural for its song to
be mildly unpleasant to him now that he was full of Dark.

The small discomfort passed as the Sun rose over the eastern mountains
and pushed back the Dark. Harry was always slightly sad to see it happen.
The Sun's overpowering presence was simply not as beautiful as the
multitude of distant stars.

Fawkes trilled curiously, hopping from Dumbledore's shoulder over to


Harry's and poking his beak in the younger wizard's temple. Right into
the hidden Sol rune in fact.

"Oi, cut that out." Harry protested, gently pushing the firebird's head
away.

"He seems to like you." Dumbledore chuckled. "Or perhaps is confused by


you."

Harry figured that the phoenix must have sensed it as the magic present
in his soul shifted from Dark to Light. Being strongly aligned with
Light, the phoenix was probably naturally sensitive to things like that
in ways that wizards generally weren't.
Fawkes continued to make a pest of himself for the next few minutes, much
to Dumbledore's amusement. He'd never seen his phoenix act like this
around anyone before, but he took heart in it. Phoenixes were generally
attracted to good people when they deigned to interact with them at all,
so this boded well for the future.

"What do you want?" Harry finally asked in exasperation.

Fawkes trilled a beautiful song that resonated in his magic wonderfully,


but was ultimately unhelpful in figuring out what the ostentatious
feather duster wanted.

"What, do you want to praise the Sun in jolly cooperation?" Harry asked
sarcastically, starting to get annoyed by Dumbledore's chortling.

Fawkes trilled happily.

"Was that a yes?" Harry asked with some incredulity.

Fawkes repeated the same trill.

"O...kay." Harry said dubiously, feeling entirely ridiculous but willing


to try it if it would get the feathered menace to stop poking its beak
into his head.

I can't believe that I'm doing this. He thought to himself. And with an
audience no less.

Staunchly ignoring the embarrassed blush creeping up his face at what he


was doing, Harry put his feet together, extended his arms as far as they
would go and raised them into the air, as if to embrace the sunlight.

This robbed Fawkes of his shoulder perch of course, but the phoenix
solved that problem by jumping on his head and raising his wings in a
mimicry of Harry's arms, releasing a song full of nostalgic joy as he did
so.

"Happy now?" Harry asked, unable to quite muster any irritation because
of the sheer feeling that the phoenix had packed into the song.

Fawkes trilled in the manner that Harry was starting to associate with
agreement and flamed away.

"What was that?" Dumbledore asked, intensely curious. "I have never seen
Fawkes act so strangely before."

"I think...I think that he might have missed the days when the Sun was
worshipped as a deity." Harry said slowly, mostly guessing but it felt
right. Obviously, the rituals from those days weren't likely to bear much
resemblance to something that he'd taken out of a video game, but the
core purpose was the same and that was all that Fawkes seemed to have
cared about.
"I suppose that is possible." Dumbledore mused. "The phoenix was revered
as a representative of the Sun in many ancient cultures."

"Anyway, did you have some reason for coming up here this early in the
morning on a weekend, sir?" Harry asked, wanting to move past this little
situation before the old wizard stopped asking 'what?' and started on
'why?'.

"Ah yes, I had nearly forgotten in all the excitement. I was supposed to
discuss your education."

"What about my education?" Harry asked warily.

"It has come to our, that being the Professors, attention that you are
not feeling sufficiently challenged in some of your classes."

"I was always good at Charms and Transfiguration." Harry said with a
nonchalant shrug.

"And the others?" Dumbledore prompted.

"We're mostly doing creatures in defense, so I do still learn new things


there, but I would probably be quite far ahead if we were doing spells.
I'm not really interested in Herbology, so I'm just slogging through
that."

Dumbledore blinked in slight surprise. "How refreshingly honest of you to


say so, Harry."

"I've recently discovered a newfound interest in Potions, but I'm no


further ahead than anyone else." Nor was it likely to happen any time
soon. The kind of experimenting he wanted to try with potions wasn't
really something that he could do right now, as it would be very time
consuming.

"It's much the same with Astronomy and you already know that I'm taking
private lessons in Arithmancy and Ancient Runes."

"Yes, I have heard from Professors Vector and Babbling that you are doing
quite well in your electives. So well in fact that they feel you would be
able to take your OWLs in those subjects during the summer if you
continue to apply yourself as you have."

"Couldn't I take Charms, Transfiguration and maybe Defense too while I'm
at it?" Harry asked. He'd already spoken to Vector and Babbling about the
possibility.

"I am afraid that the Ministry does not offer early OWLs for core
classes." Dumbledore answered.

"Why not?"

"As you may know, getting an OWL in one's core classes represents the
minimum required education as decreed by the Ministry of Magic. They
ceased offering early OWLs for those classes after an incident some three
hundred years ago when a magical prodigy managed to get all of the
required OWLs in the summer after her second year and decided to leave
Hogwarts to advance her studies further on her own."

"Why was that a problem?"

"Normally it wouldn't be, but you must recall that this was a thirteen-
year old girl. She was not the most cautious of people and caused a
severe breach in the Statute of Secrecy after an altercation with a
belligerent muggle teenager. Incidentally, that was also how the
Reasonable Restriction on Underage Sorcery came about."

"Lovely." Harry said dryly. "Was that all?"

"Ah, no. Forgive an old man's digressing, but I actually came to talk to
you in order to assess if it would prudent to offer you the opportunity
to audit higher year Charms and Transfiguration classes at your own
discretion."

Dumbledore would have once hesitated to offer the boy such a thing, but
it was obvious by now that Harry was not going to be making friends in
his own year. He was cordial with most of them, but not in any way close.
Better to use the opportunity to build goodwill with the boy than to hold
him back in the vain hope that he would somehow befriend people that he
had not for the past two and a half years.

"I'm assuming that this is being offered since you mentioned it?"

"Indeed. If you choose to accept, then Professors Flitwick and McGonagall


will periodically test you to make sure that you are keeping up with your
studies, but you will otherwise be left alone to study the material on
your own."

"I'd like that." Harry said.

"Very well then, I wish you the best of luck." Dumbledore nodded. "But
one final bit of advice if I may. Do not get so consumed in your studies
that you forget to have fun."

"Oh, I don't think you need to worry about that." Harry replied with a
small smirk.

"I am glad to hear it." Dumbledore said with an amused smile of his own
and left the Astronomy Tower.

Harry stared after the old wizard, wondering what exactly he was playing
at. Either there was no actual plot or it was a seriously subtle one.

XXXXX

Harry winked at Bryanna and Tiana, taking vast amounts of amusement at


their wide-eyed stares.
"Mr. Potter, I know that the Headmaster has given you leave to audit any
Transfiguration class you wish, but do you not think that a seventh year
class is a bit too advanced for you?" McGonagall asked disapprovingly. In
truth, she was thinking that he had picked this particular class for the
sole purpose of dropping in on his...girlfriends, or whatever they were.

"I'm just trying to get a feel for where exactly I am in terms of


ability, Professor." Harry answered calmly.

"Very well." McGonagall conceded grudgingly. "But I do not want you


attempting to cast the spells you will see here. Human transfiguration
can be dangerous if done improperly and is not something that should be
attempted lightly."

"Wouldn't dream of it, Professor." Harry semi-lied. He certainly wouldn't


attempt it lightly, but he would eventually attempt it if he felt that he
could do it.

McGonagall was somewhat reassured about his seriousness when he did not
attempt to communicate with Ms. Torres or Ms. Day in any fashion, but
instead kept his eyes fixed firmly on her and listened attentively. His
focus was almost unnerving in its intensity in fact, but better that than
to have him treating one of the most difficult branches of
Transfiguration carelessly.

Harry spent the entire lesson studying how the energy flowed as the other
students transfigured each other into various things. He could see why it
was considered difficult, as the caster also had to take the magic of his
target into account in addition to their own.

This would probably be useful when he and Sirius got started on the
Animagus transformation.

XXXXX

The rest of the school year proceeded without any overt excitement from
then on. Harry kept up a sporadic attendance of Charms and
Transfiguration classes, in an order that nobody could really make sense
of, but Flitwick and McGonagall couldn't deny that he was well ahead of
where he should be so they couldn't protest much.

Lupin kept up a strange balance between wanting to approach him again and
staying away, drowning in self-pity all the while. Harry was honestly not
seeing much of the clever werewolf that Sirius sometimes talked about in
his letters. Professor Lupin had more in common with an old man waiting
to die. It might have helped him to know that Sirius was not a traitor,
but blurting out that kind of dangerous secret to make someone feel
better was just stupid.

Snape continued to be as unpleasant as possible because of what he saw as


the Potter spawn getting special treatment, but his odium had become
something of an unremarkable backdrop to Potions by now and failed to
really get much of a reaction out of Harry. He took points constantly, he
made rants occasionally and he glared ceaselessly, but Harry simply
didn't care enough about Snape's personal opinion of him to take it to
heart. He had what he wanted and the Potion Master's hissy fits meant
exactly bugger-all.

Unbeknownst to Harry, this passive disregard and failure to rise up to


the provocation was wearing Snape out. He couldn't really escalate any
further in a school setting and there was only so long that you could
rail at someone who didn't care before you ran out of steam.

On the more friendly teacher front, Vector and Babbling had decided to
double the number of lessons per week they had with him, apparently
determined to have him pass the Arithmancy and Ancient Runes OWLs over
the summer with a solid O.

Harry could only be thankful that Bryanna and Tiana seemed more than
happy to help him out with the tension that the increased amount of time
spent with the beautiful Arithmancy teacher was causing him, even if it
did nothing for the numerous detention fantasies he was accumulating.

XXXXX

Last weekend before the end of the school year.

"You know, I think I'm actually going to miss these little get-togethers
of ours." Tiana said musingly, stretching out in the decadently luxurious
bathtub that the Room of Requirement had provided.

"Not as much as me." Harry said mournfully from beside her. "Who's going
to keep me company at night when you two graduate?"

"I'm sure you'll find some other girl to seduce." Bryanna snorted from
his other side. "Maybe you can even invite Rosmerta or Professor Vector
into your bed."

"I should never have told you that I have a thing for older women." Harry
sighed with a smile.

"I'm still offended by that by the way." Tiana chimed in teasingly. "You
have two sexy teens in bed with you and you fantasize about old women."

"They're not old, just older." Harry protested. "And do you want me to
kiss it and make it better again?"

"Merlin's balls, no." She groaned. "I think my clitoris might revolt if
you went anywhere near it again."

Harry said nothing in response, merely smirked with supreme smugness.


Nothing like bringing a girl to several screaming orgasms with magically
enhanced cunnilingus to boost one's ego. That book of Luna's might be
just about the most awesome gift he'd ever received.

"Would you look at that smug look on his face?" Bryanna commented. "He
learns how to properly lick pussy and suddenly he thinks he's the king of
the world."
Harry reached over and gave her nipple a pinch, enjoying her squeak.

"So, when are we going to meet up during the summer?" Tiana asked a few
minutes later.

"I'll contact you when I know." Harry replied. "I'm going to have a lot
to do during the summer and setting up meetings with a couple of lawyers
is the least of it."

"What else will you be doing?" Bryanna asked curiously.

"I've got to take my Arithmancy and Ancient Runes OWLs at the Ministry,
track down the old managers of my family's business and talk to them
about why exactly that business now belongs to the Parkinsons and a few
other things."

Things like getting Sirius to teach him how to become an Animagus and
getting him acquitted.

"What about yout muggle girlfriend?" Bryanna teased. He'd told them about
Zoe one day when they asked who'd popped his cherry, because it obviously
hadn't been them.

"She's not my girlfriend, she's a friend with benefits." Harry said with
dignity. "A lot like you two actually."

"You really should get a muggle girlfriend." Tiana suggested with a


smirk. "I can already see the outraged headlines in the Prophet, 'Boy-
Who-Lived dates a muggle! How far has our saviour fallen?'."

"Amusing as that would be, I'm not going to get a muggle girlfriend just
to spite Wizarding Britain's elite." Harry snorted. "Besides, I doubt
they'd be that obvious about their prejudice. The headline would probably
be something like 'Boy-Who-Lived dates a muggle! Are Britain's witches
not good enough for him?'."

"They just need to set you up with a nice middle aged witch and that'll
be that." Bryanna teased.

Harry groaned. He really shouldn't have told them about that.

"How about Molly Weasley?" The Ravenclaw girl continued.

"Don't even joke about that!" Harry retorted sharply, shuddering


theatrically. "There's a very big difference between a sexy mature woman
and an overbearing broodmother."

He knew that he was probably being overly harsh, especially as he'd


personally met the woman for a grand total of thirty seconds, but he'd
learned enough from second hand sources to steer well clear of her.
Ginny's commentary and the occasional howler she sent had painted a
picture of a woman who meant well, but who was also very opinionated and
had not the slightest clue when to ease up. That wasn't even mentionning
that she wasn't the slightest bit attractive as far as Harry was
concerned.

"Well enough about Harry's fetishes." Tiana declared, ignoring his


exasperated eyeroll. "Since this is our last night together, I've
prepared a little something."

The other two looked at her curiously as she grabbed her wand and gave it
a wave, causing three goblets and a bottle of wine to float towards them.

"Goblets for drinking wine? Really?" Harry questioned wryly as she poured
him some. "This makes me feel more like Conan the Barbarian than a
wizard."

"Who?" The girls asked blankly.

"Right, I forgot that you wizard-raised savages don't know anything about
the classics." Harry sighed.

"At least we aren't some muggle-raised bumpkin who thinks that goblets
aren't appropriate for drinking wine." Tiana retorted.

"What are we drinking to?" Bryanna asked before the conversation could
devolve into a string of playful insults on the differences between a
muggle or magical upbringing.

"To profitable partnerships." Tiana suggested, raising her goblet.

"To future successes." Bryanna added, bumping her own goblet against her
friend's.

"And fringe benefits." Harry finished with a grin, mirroring their move.

"Cheeky little cunt." Bryanna smirked.

"That is not language fit for a Lady." Harry told her snobbily.

"Ah, but as a mere commoner, I can be as vulgar as I please. If that


bothers my Lord, then he should have let himself be duped into a
marriage." She retorted coquettishly, batting her eyelashes in an
overdone manner.

"I can ruin my life with a serious relationship anytime, but I'm only
going to be young once." He countered, grinning. He had been somewhat
upset about their plan when he'd first heard of it, but they'd become
friends since then and he couldn't fault their ambition or even their
reasoning. Prospects for them really weren't great in Britain.

"I'll drink to that." The girls said in unison. They hadn't been enthused
about the idea of marriage before hitting twenty either, seeing it only
as a means to an end, so this turn of events was actually preferrable to
them.
The three of them brought the goblets to their lips and took a large gulp
of the wine.

"You know, judging by how fond people are of alcohol, I expected it to


taste better." Harry commented, smacking his lips with a distasteful
grimace.

"Maybe it's a bad vintage?" Tiana asked weakly, having not been too fond
of the flavor either. "I don't know a thing about wine, so I just picked
one at random."

"It's not that bad." Bryanna commented, taking another sip.

Harry exchanged a look with Tiana and shrugged. They didn't see what was
so 'not bad' about it, but to each their own.

XXXXX

Harry and Luna had a compartment to themselves on the train ride back to
King's Cross. Luna had tried to invite Ginny along, but the redhead
wasn't as insensitive to social awkwardness as the blonde, so she had
declined and gone to sit with her brothers.

Harry was thankful for that. He didn't hate Ginny, but he'd rather not be
in prolonged close contact with her anymore. That constant gloom she gave
off about the way he lived his life was more than a little off putting.

So the two of them had spent their time discussing what they would be
doing over the summer, though Harry had to lie about quite a bit of it.

Luna had been happy to tell him all about the trip to Germany's Black
Forest that she had planned with her father. Apparently there was a
magical section of it that still remained hidden from muggles to this
day. She'd even invited him to come along, but he had had to decline
despite his interest in seeing the place. He simply had too much going on
this summer to accept.

Of course, the experience wouldn't be quite complete without Draco Malfoy


stopping by to visit.

"I'm surprised you don't have those two halfblood whores in here with
you, Potter." The poncy Slytherin sneered.

Harry scowled at the interloper, irritated by the insult to Bryanna and


Tiana more than anything else. "Get lost, Malfoy."

"What's wrong Potter? Don't like hearing what they are?" Malfoy
continued, sneer firmly in place. His omnipresent goons chuckled
sycophantically.

It was at this point that Harry noticed that the little shit was using
the doorframe for support since the train was currently passing a fairly
bumpy area of the tracks.
Carefully hiding a smirk, Harry grabbed hold of the door with his magic
and slammed it closed over Malfoy's fingers.

The Slytherin howled in pain and collapsed to the ground, clutching at


his smashed-but-luckily-not-broken fingers.

"You alright there, Malfoy?" Harry asked, no longer bothering to hide his
amusement. "That looked like it hurt."

"When my father hears about this..." Draco tried to threaten, but it come
out as more of a pained sob.

"He'll do what? Have the door executed?" Harry asked sarcastically,


making a reference to the hippogriff that had been killed by the Ministry
at the end of the school year on Malfoy senior's initiative. Even Harry
had noticed how mopey Hagrid had been after that and he didn't even have
any real contact with the half-giant.

"I know you did this, Potter!" Draco screeched.

"Sure I did, Malfoy." Harry replied with a practiced deadpan. "Just like
I made you trip into that suit of armor a few weeks ago, right? And
without a wand in both cases too."

To be fair, that was exactly what he'd done.

Angry, frustrated and in a great deal of pain, Malfoy sulked off. He was
sure that Potter was somehow the cause of all these weird accidents that
kept happening to him, but the fact that the scarheaded Ravenclaw never
had his wand in hand when it happened left him stumped as to how.

The whole thing was made worse by the fact that nobody believed him when
he tried to explain that he sometimes felt a spell push him off balance.
They just assumed that he was clumsy and trying to cover it up.

He had the same reputation for clumsyness as Longbottom now. Longbottom!

"That wasn't very nice of you, Harry." Luna commented without


recrimination.

"It's not my fault that the door slid closed over his fingers." Harry
defended.

"Really?" Luna asked in honest puzzlement, lifting up her hamster pet to


her face. "But Boo seems so certain that it was."

"Does he now?" Harry murmured, looking at the hamster suspiciously and


wondering for just a moment if he hadn't somehow stumbled across
something other than a normal rodent. Or maybe extended magical exposure
had altered it. "What else does he say?"

"Not much actually, but he is excited to go hunting for snorkacks."

Ah, nevermind. All was well as long as Luna was going on about snorkacks.
XXXXX

Deep in the forests of Albania, the disembodied spirit of a much feared


and now thought dead Dark Lord was reduced to possessing animals, mostly
snakes out of personal preference.

Had Peter Pettigrew managed to escape from his former friend and the son
of those he'd betrayed, he would have eventually followed the clues he
was able to glean from the rats with whom he shared a form, seeking
protection from the enemies he'd made. Had this happened, Voldemort would
have had a servant to help him make a play for a return to physical form.

Alas for the broken Dark Lord, Pettigrew was dead and his other followers
had deserted him, even those few who had an inkling that he was not quite
dead, finding that they liked it better when they didn't have to grovel
before the massively powerful wizard. Political games and economic ploys
might be slower and less satisfying than an eradication of mudbloods by
force, but it was much safer.

Because of this notable lack of servant, the mildly brain damaged Bertha
Jorkins was able to make her way out of Albania without issue and
Voldemort never learned that one of his most faithful, Barty Crouch Jr.,
was kept imprisoned by his father's Imperious instead of in Azkaban.

Instead of that, he continued to stew in his hatred and plot ways that he
might use to return.

Chapter 10

Much thanks to Joe Lawyer for his awesome beta-ing skillz.

XXXXX

As he made his way up to the door of his foster parents' home, Harry
wondered what their reaction to his current appearance was going to be.

At an even six feet now, he was impossibly tall for a not-quite-fourteen-


year old. Well, impossible unless you were Dutch, which he wasn't. His
growth had slowed down recently, so he figured that he might manage a few
more inches at best before it stopped. He was still a bit on the gangly
side of teenagerhood, but was hopeful that he would start filling out
soon.

His black hair rested between his shoulder blades in a neat ponytail,
even the Potter wildness defeated by gravity. Only the ends still tried
to stick every which way, but for the most part ceded defeat with only
mild use of cosmetic spellwork to keep it straight
Harry took a deep breath as he pushed open the door. He didn't keep too
many things here anymore, having gradually moved them over to Potter
Manor, so it didn't take him long to 'unpack' so to speak. After that was
done, he made his way to the living room, where he figured that Robert
and Katherine were currently watching the evening news. He mostly
intended to just say hello and goodbye before he went back to the manor,
and even that only because they expected to see him once the school year
was over.

"Hey." He greeted as he entered the room.

"Welcome back." Robert said in a rather perfunctionary, even cold,


manner. Harry figured that his constant absences must have started to
become terribly inconvenient for them. The disapproval made his heart
bleed. Not.

Katherine didn't say anything, merely walking up to him and looking him
over intently. "If I didn't know better I'd say that you were at least
seventeen if not older." She sounded a bit surprised.

That was about the physical age that Harry figured himself to be as well.
"I must be an early bloomer." He said with a shrug.

"Is that actual stubble on your face? You're shaving already?" Katherine
continued, now sounding quite a bit more incredulous. Height was one
thing, but a beard was something else entirely.

Harry's lips twitched in amusement. He did indeed develop a patchy beard


if he didn't shave often. He'd deliberately let himself grow some stubble
to see how his foster parents would react.

"Yes, I am." He said simply. "Anyway, I just came to say 'hi' before
going back. I've got a lot to do over the summer, so I'm not going to be
around much, if at all."

"You'll need to be here on the seventh, we're meeting with the Burtons
then." Katherine said.

"I can't, I have too much to do." Harry repeated, keeping the grimace he
wanted to make off his face. The Burtons were as bad as his own foster
parents from what he remembered.

"You can take a day off." Robert declared, as if that was the last word
on the matter. "People have been asking questions about where you are and
you need to make a few appearances."

"Their daughter has turned out quite well. I'm sure you'll like her."
Katherine added, thinking to appeal to his hormones.

In this she failed spectacularly. Elizabeth Burton had indeed been a very
pretty girl even a few years back and would by now probably be a very
beautiful teen, but she was utterly vapid. Her personality would be more
interesting if she was unconscious and Harry's libido was not nearly
deprived enough of female companionship to willingly endure that kind of
torture.

"My magical studies are more important." He said, simultaneously weaving


a compulsion spell around Katherine. He firmly ignored the insidious
thought of what else he could compel her to do. It wasn't the first time
that he'd had thoughts of abusing his power like this.

"I suppose..." Katherine conceded reluctantly, the compulsion making her


accept his words as truth.

"Now wait just a minute!" Robert protested at seeing his wife give in.
"You have responsibilities to this family and you've been ignoring them
for long enough already."

"You can handle the Burtons just fine without me." Harry told him,
weaving another compulsion around the man. "The long term investment of
my magic is much more important than having me go with you."

Robert subsided at that, his mind full of the possibilities that magic
would open. Possibilities that Harry had neglected to inform him were
illegal and which he would not carry out even if they weren't.

It was easy to leave after that, but something niggled at his mind
despite the ease with which he had bent the wills of his foster parents
and escaped their blasted socializing. Something had been wrong in that
encounter and he wasn't talking about the questionable legality of it.

He couldn't pinpoint the feeling, but something had simply not felt
right.

XXXXX

The mystery feeling didn't remain a mystery for very long, as it cleared
up almost as soon as he made it back to the manor.

The situation had felt wrong because the gut feeling about people that
he'd gotten used to had been absent. With no magic in them, Robert and
Katherine were blank spots to this new sense he seemed to have developed.
It had been a background sensation for so long that he'd only properly
noticed it once it had vanished and returned.

It had been uncomfortable not to have that extra sense aorund people.

"Harry, are you listening to me?" Sirius asked in exasperation.

"I was thinking." Harry replied, mildly irritated at having his train of
thought interrupted.

"How about you rethink this plan of yours then?" The dog Animagus
prompted.

"It's a good plan." Harry insisted.


Perhaps more complicated than he would have liked but solid all the same.
The Ministry could not be trusted to do the right thing, so a situation
had to be created where too many people knew the truth for things to be
swept under the rug.

That meant the media and that meant reporters. Harry disliked reporters
on general principle and disliked magical reporters as a matter of
caution. The Wizarding World seemed to have much looser laws in regards
to slander than its muggle counterpart. The Daily Prophet had come across
as valuing sensationalism and shock value over facts more than once.

But in this case that could be used. Nothing pleased the vultures more
than a shocking and sensational truth.

"What if it fails?" Sirius asked.

That was a legitimate worry. It was possible that the reporter would
squeal to the Ministry instead of printing the story, but Harry
considered it a low probability. Reporters thrived on controversy like
fungus thrived on moisture. "In that case we'll have to improvise."

"I still think we should bring Dumbledore in on this. He's got contacts
everywhere. He could get this handled without the risk."

"No." Harry scowled. "I don't trust the old man. He was Chief Warlock
back when you were first imprisoned, but he didn't even bother to visit
you once, much less provide you with a trial. I'm not going to rely on
him unless I absolutely have to."

Nothing good ever came of owing favors to powerful people, wizards least
of all.

Sirius frowned but eventually gave a grudging nod. Yes, it was possible
that Dumbledore had been as duped by the deception as anyone, but it was
hard not to feel resentful for twelve years spent in Azkaban.

"I guess I was just hoping to keep you from doing all the work." He
finally admitted with a resigned sigh. "You're way too young to be
pulling my arse out of the fire like this."

"I'm not looking forward to it either, but we don't have a lot of options
with Pettigrew being dead." Harry replied.

They had gone over a lot of possible plans, but using the media to cause
a big scene and drag everything into the open was by far the most
reliable. They could have directly contacted Amelia Bones, the current
head of the DMLE, but Sirius had only her good reputation from over a
decade ago to go on rather than any personal or even recent
knowledge, so it was deemed too risky. They could have gone to
Dumbledore, but Harry refused to consider it as anything besides a last
resort. They could have even tried to contact one of the other European
Ministries of Magic and asked for asylum for Sirius, but they couldn't
predict how those Ministries would react or how corrupt they were.
Even Charlus and Dorea had admitted that using the papers as a platform
to spread the truth before the Ministry could act and causing a public
outcry had the most predictable consequences. Not necessarily the best,
but the most predictable.

The Ministry would panic and demand that Harry and Sirius present
themselves, but they would have to follow procedure unless they wanted a
riot on their hands.

"Well, at least it'll make a good prank." Sirius replied, now smirking.

"I guess you could say that." Harry smirked back. "But enough about that,
I think it's time we start getting serious about the Animagus
transformation."

"I'm always Sirius." Sirius stated with a stone face.

"Yeah, and no matter how much I shave, I'm always Harry." Harry riposted.

Sirius let out a barking laugh and grinned widely at his godson.

"Very well then, my brother in puns, let's make you an Animagus."

XXXXX

Andy Smudgley was a reporter for the Daily Prophet, one of the less
prominent ones. He didn't have Rita Skeeter's penchant for viciousness or
her uncanny ability to ferret out sensitive information, so he mostly had
to content himself with writing fairly mediocre articles.

Upon receiving a letter from the Boy-Who-Lived, offering him the chance
for an interview, he had jumped at the chance without hesitation.

So here he was, standing outside the Leaky Cauldron and waiting for Harry
Potter to arrive.

He wasn't particularly comfortable in the Muggle World, being a wizard-


raised halfblood. The odd looks and amused smirks he was getting from the
passing muggles were certainly something that he didn't appreciate.

"Mr. Smudgley?" A voice questioned, making the reporter look at who had
adressed him.

A tall teenager, with very distinctive green eyes and a lightning bolt
scar.

"Harry Potter?" Andy near-gasped, looking slightly up at the boy who had
vanquished Voldemort. The legend of the Boy-Who-Lived was such that he
didn't even question why a not-quite thirteen-year old boy was taller
than him. It seemed only right for heroes to be tall.

"I thought I asked you not to draw attention to yourself?" Harry sighed,
already embarrassed about having to stand near such an outlandishly
dressed individual.
The reporter was wearing white, knee high socks and lime green crocs, a
pair of tight beige shorts with suspenders and a blue V-neck T-shirt that
was almost definitely made with women in mind. Completing the mismatched
ensamble was one of the old-style cameras that wizards used and a rather
girly looking purse that presumably held his wand.

He looked like a vaguely crossdressing hipster that had just come from
Oktoberfest or something equally baffling, but at least he wasn't wearing
a skirt.

"Isn't this how muggles dress?" Andy asked nervously, afraid that his
lack of knowledge on muggle fashion would cost him the story.

"The weird ones perhaps," Harry answered with a smirk. "but nevermind
that now, we should go."

Andy nodded eagerly. He was determined to make the most of this


opportunity and not dissapoint the Boy-Who-Lived, who must have been
impressed by one or more of his articles to have chosen him over the
other reporters at the Daily Prophet.

Contrary to his thinking, he had not been chosen for any kind of ability.
Sirius had merely liked the fact that he'd made a pun with his name when
reporting on the Animagus' Azkaban breakout.

"Where are we going?" The reporter asked after a few minutes of walking
through the city.

"Somewhere a bit more private." Was the only answer that Harry would give
him in regards to that.

They spent the next ten minutes walking in silence, one of them wondering
where they were going and the other wondering how wizards could possibly
screw up getting dressed as an inconspicuous muggle when they had so many
examples. It was like they got all of their source material from crazy
events like the previously mentioned Oktoberfest, or maybe those fashion
shows with the really screwed up 'clothes'.

"Alright, here we are." Harry said once they arrived.

"But...there's nothing here." Smudgley pointed out uncertainly, looking


around the out of the way alley they had entered.

"Don't worry about that, this isn't our final destination, just a
stopgap. Now, I'm going to need you to stay calm and not panic."

"Alright." Smudgley agreed easily enough.

"Teeny, transport us pelase."

"Yes, Harry Potter sir!" The little house elf said enthusiastically as
she appeared and apparated them into a completely featureless room in
Potter Manor. It was best not to let people know that he was back in
residence.

Despite agreeing not to panic, Andy froze in panic at the sight of Sirius
Black lounging on a chair.

But then a hand was laid on his shoulder and a feeling of calm spread
through him.

"You've got nothing to be worried about, Sirius is only here to give you
an interview." Harry said soothingly.

Once Andy got past the fear of being murdered, he quickly realized the
journalistic value of this opportunity.

XXXXX

"Harry?"

"Yes, Luna?"

"You appear to have Sirius Black squatting in your home."

"Well spotted." Unlike the Daily Prophet reporter, Luna could be trusted
not to reveal that Potter Manor was back in use, or that it contained
Sirius Black.

"Hey, I am not squatting!"

"Squatting aside, Luna, would you like to interview Sirius for the
Quibbler?"

"Not. Squatting."

"It would delay our trip to Germany by a few days, but I think daddy will
understand. So Mr. Black, did you see any crumple-horned snorkacks during
your stay in Azkaban?"

"Crumple what now?"

"Answer the question Mr. Black, or I will hold you in contempt."

"I don't think that reporters can hold people in contempt, Luna."

"Don't be silly, Harry, anyone can hold anyone in contempt. People do it


to me all the time, and you do it to others all the time."

"I...can't refute that statement."

"Not to break up your moment of philosophy, but could we get to the part
where I tell my harrowing story of betrayal and false imprisonment?"

"False imprisonment? Are you saying that you weren't in Azkaban these
past twelve years, Mr. Black?"
"What? Of course I was in Azkaban!"

"Then how was your imprisonment false?"

Sirius worked his jaw as he tried to figure out the little blonde girl's
logic, noticing that his godson was looking terribly amused by the whole
thing.

"Stop smirking, Harry."

XXXXX

"That friend of yours is really something else." Sirius said after Luna
had left.

"That she is." Harry agreed.

"What the hell is a crumple-horned snorkack anyway?"

"No idea, but I admire Luna's determination to find one."

XXXXX

Albus Dumbledore didn't like summers all that much. Oh, the weather was
nice enough, but Hogwarts just felt so empty with the students and even
several of the teachers gone. He couldn't even say that he had less
paperwork to deal with since he had two other jobs, and DADA was an
eternal thorn in his side.

At least he'd learned to expect his DADA teachers to become somehow


unable to continue teaching for more than a year and had a replacement
all lined up. He wasn't angry at Severus for outing Remus as a werewolf.
He knew that there was bad blood between them, though he had hoped that
the Potions Master would learn to leave it in the past.

He could only hope that Alastor would restrain himself a bit in the
classroom and remember that the students were not Auror trainees. Still,
having him around for the Tri-Wizard Tournament would be invaluable from
a security standpoint.

The Tri-Wizard Tournament. How Ludo Bagman had come upon the idea of
reviving that old competition and then convincing the necessary people to
get it done, Dumbledore could not fathom. He had to admit that he liked
the thought of fostering international cooperation, particularly in light
of the fact that he knew that Voldemort would almost certainly rise again
someday, but he had been unwilling to agree to resurrect the tournament
in its original form. He would not condone entering children into a
deadly competition, no matter how skilled with magic they might be.

That at least had been agreed upon without issue by all involved. If only
the rest of it were so simple. It was still being argued as to which
school would have the honor of hosting the event. Karkaroff and Madam
Maxime naturally wanted it to be at their schools, just as Dumbledore
wanted it to be at Hogwarts. This was not merely a matter of prestige,
but also of practicality. It would be quite inconvenient to be away from
his school for that long after all.

Fortunately, tradition favored Hogwarts, as Durmstrang had hosted it the


last time and Beauxbatons the time before that. Wizards and witches do
like their traditions, and even the centuries that had passed since the
last tournament weren't likely to sway people away from that.

These were the thoughts of Albus Dumbledore as he reached for his morning
paper, idly wondering if Ms. Skeeter had printed any more of her vitriol
today. Such a shame that a witch of her potential would spend her time
spreading malicious rumors or gossip, but then, she had been like that
for a long time now. Slytherin had not been kind to her during her school
years, Dumbledore suspected.

It's a Sirius shock! Azkaban escapee Sirius Black tells his side of the
story!

Safely alone in his quarters, Albus Dumbledore gaped unbecomingly at the


headline on his copy of the Daily Prophet.

Yesterday, this reporter received an owl from Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-
Lived, with an offer for an interview. We met outside the Leaky Cauldron
and walked some distance away to a secluded alley, where Mr. Potter
called for a house elf to transport us to an undisclosed location.

Imagine my shock when I found myself face to face with Sirius Black
himself!

But the supposed mass murderer was not at all hostile. He was in fact
rather friendly, though the shadow of Azkaban was still visible on his
face.

Mr. Potter explained to me that the interview he had promised was not to
be with him, but with Black.

The article then went on to reveal the tale of the switch between Secret
Keepers, Pettigrew's betrayal, Sirius' wrongful imprisonment and
subsequent escape, Harry meeting his godfather and offering him shelter
from the Aurors and dementors and finally ending with the interview that
he was now reading.

Dumbledore noted that it said nothing about the means by which Sirius had
escaped, nor did it offer up any real details on the fate of Peter
Pettigrew.

Mr. Potter is well aware that the DMLE will wish to speak to him and
intends to present himself this very afternoon.

That particular line revealed the gist of Harry and Sirius' plan. The
Ministry could not, after all, be seen to act rashly now that the truth
was revealed to the masses, especially with Harry involved as he was. His
status as the Boy-Who-Lived and Heir to the Potter family would shield
him from the usual legal repercussions of harboring a wanted criminal.

Clever though this plan was, Dumbledore couldn't help but wish that they
had come to him for help. He could have made things so much smoother.
Things would now have to play out in the way that Harry and Sirius had
set, but he still intended to be there.

He had clearly failed Sirius grievously once already by not taking the
time to properly investigate the situation, so he would offer what help
he could now. Not only was it a matter of doing the right thing, but also
of keeping contact with Harry once Sirius took over his guardianship.

XXXXX

In the office of the Minister of Magic, there was much less certainty.

"This is a disaster!" Cornelius Fudge moaned. "What am I going to do,


Lucius?"

Lucius Malfoy considered the situation carefully. Fudge was a simple


creature to manipulate, but even a simpleton like him had limits to how
far he could be bent with either words or 'donations'. Not many limits,
but getting him to commit political suicide was one of them.

The exoneration of Sirius Black would reflect poorly on Fudge even if it


had been Barty Crouch and the previous Minister, Bagnold, who had
imprisoned him. The Minister was the face of the Ministry and it would be
the Ministry as a whole who would end up with eggs on their face over
this debacle. The statements he had made about hunting the fugitive down
would not help either.

But that did not mean that simply doing away with Sirius Black would be
possible, not after the truth was plastered all over the front page of
the Daily Prophet. Too many questions would be asked if he mysteriously
disappeared.

Lucius himself had long suspected that Black was innocent. As part of
Voldemort's inner circle, he was aware of the identities of most every
one of the Dark Lord's followers. That such a high profile member would
slip past his notice was unlikely. Possible, but unlikely.

He had congratulated himself heartily over the windfall that the Malfoy
family had gotten under his leadership. With Bellatrix imprisoned and
barren(courtesy of a special, untraceable poison Lucius himself had added
to her evening drink one day), Andromeda disowned, Regulus killed on some
unspecified task for the Dark Lord and Sirius rotting in Azkaban, his own
son was next in line to inherit the Black family and thus absorb it into
the Malfoy line since his wife, Narcissa, was a Black by birth.

But now that was all in danger of being undone. Sirius was Heir to the
House and had never been properly banished from the family despite his
rebellion against everything that House Black stood for. If he was
declared innocent, then Lucius could wave his dreams of absorbing House
Black into Malfoy goodbye.

Unless of course another bout of misfortune happened to befall Sirius


Black. But for that, information was required.

"Regardless of the...distressing nature of this article, Potter and Black


have offered little proof of their words." He finally said. "Potter says
that he will present himself to the DMLE this afternoon and I think that
it would proper for the Minister of Magic to be present at such an
important occasion, in order to judge for himself the veracity of these
claims."

"Yes, yes of course. Black could be manipulating the boy after all, maybe
even keeping him under the Imperious!" Fudge said, getting some of his
composure back. "You'll be there too, won't you, Lucious?"

"If you wish for my advice, then who am I to refuse?" Lucius said,
keeping the irony out of his voice with the ease of long experience.
Weaning Fudge away from his reliance on Dumbledore and making him rely on
Malfoy gold and advice instead had been almost too easy.

XXXXX

Harry made his way towards the visitors entrance of the Ministry of
Magic, once again contemplating the dilapidated nature of this part of
the city. He'd come here a few days ago to make sure that he could find
it and had now apparated himself to a nearby alley.

He could sense several powerful aversion wards affecting the area, no


doubt aimed at those without magic. It probably made this part of London
unpalatable for muggles, leaving it to slowly decay.

He had to wonder if there was some kind of symbolism in having the


magical government housed underground, covered by the filth of the
surrounding muggles. Or perhaps it was the other way around, the presence
of wizarding politics fouling the area.

A line of thought that was most unflattering to wizardkind either way.

Shaking the thought off, he stepped into the red phone booth that served
as the entrance to the Ministry, amused at how completely it failed to be
inconspicuous. If not for the aversion wards, this pristine looking but
long since obsolete phone booth would probably attract a great deal of
unwanted attention. In fact, that might be the reason for the wards in
the first place.

Quickly entering 62442 to spell out 'magic', he waited for the operator
that Charlus had told him would speak up.

"Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name and business."
A female voice droned. It reminded Harry of Binns, though marginally less
monotone.
"Harry Potter, here to meet with Director Bones." He didn't know if he
would actually be meeting with Amelia Bones herself, but it seemed like a
fair assumption.

"Thank you. Visitor, please take the badge and attach it to the front of
your robes." The instruction was accompanied by a rattling as the
aformentioned badge was deposited into a receptacle.

It helpfully proclaimed 'Harry Potter, meeting with Director Bones'.

Harry did as the cool female voice had suggested and pinned the badge to
his robes, a rather more ostentatious affair than he would've liked. He
had been intending to show up dressed in quality, but eminently muggle
clothing. Charlus and Dorea had insisted that he take one of the more
formal robes that were hanging around in the manor however, arguing that
snubbing the traditional wizard's apparel would not work in his favor. He
understood their arguments and it had been part of the coaching they'd
given him on how to comport himself around influential people, however
much it grated on him due to the memory of similar lessons with Robert
and Katherine.

Thus, robes. At least he'd managed to find a set that was a subdued
black.

The floor of the fake phone booth began its slow descent after that and
Harry took the time to get into the proper frame of mind for the events
ahead. He knew that he would likely be stared at by a nerve wrackingly
large amount of people, so he would need to keep his wits about him and
project the image of imperturbable calm.

Fortunately, that was one of those things that Occlumency adepts


frequently learned to do and Harry was advanced enough in the discipline
to do it. No two Occlumancers went about it in precisely the same way as
it was a personalized thing. Harry himself liked to wrap his thoughts in
a peace so deep that it was like Dark. His thoughts were a river of Dark
that swallowed all that entered it but remaining undisturbed. They were
the vast silence between the stars that allowed no sound.

He had practiced such things often since Christmas, so it did not take
him long to get into the proper mindset. He was finished shortly before
he arrived in the Ministry atrium.

It was essentially a very long and wide hallway line with fireplaces that
constantly burned with the green flame of floo travel. To his mild
surprise, the whole thing was decorated rather tastefully, though his
assumption on wizardkind's lack of restraint was vindicated by the sight
of a garish golden statue of a goblin, centaur and house elf looking
adoringly up at a witch and wizard. He strongly doubted that anyone save
possibly the house elf harbored any kind of positive feelings towards
humans.

Sirius had never been here, but Charlus and Dorea had and had explained
to him what he could expect. The atrium was usually the most busy during
the morning and evening hours when people arrived for work or went home,
but saw a fair amount of activity through the day as well. It being three
in the afternoon, it should have been relatively empty, but of course the
statement he'd left in the Prophet and Quibbler that he'd be showing up
in the afternoon had attracted gawkers.

The atrium was therefore full of overly curious busybodies trying to


pretend that they weren't waiting for his arrival, as well as several
Aurors, Dumbledore and the Minister of Magic himself, who quite obviously
were waiting for him if the way they were watching the fireplaces was any
indication. Apparently they'd expected him to use one of those.

Dumbledore spotted him first and swiftly strode over, the Aurors
following a moment later and the Minister lagging behind like a nervous
but eager puppy.

"Harry." Dumbledore greeted genially.

"Professor." Harry returned calmly, dismissing the audience as


unimportant.

"You gave everyone quite the shock yesterday, my boy." The old wizard
commented, his eyes twinkling with amusement. It was not how he would've
dealt with the situation, but he had to admit that Harry and Sirius had
come up with an effective, if loud, scheme. Sirius was likely having a
good laugh at the prank they had pulled on the Wizarding World and he had
to admit that Harry was handling his part much better than he had
expected him to.

"That was the point." Harry stated noncommittally and Dumbledore nodded
in understanding.

"May I present Aurors Shacklebolt and Dawlish, they will escort you to
Amelia bones, which I see you have already surmised." Dumbledore
introduced, gesturing to the two Aurors.

Shacklebolt was a tall man with dark skin and a rather jovial face,
whereas Dawlish was pale and dour looking. Of the two, Shacklebolt felt
considerably stronger. Both men gave him a nod and a short greeting, to
which he replied in kind.

"And of course, last but not least, Conerlius Fudge, the Minister of
Magic." Dumbledore finished, gesturing to the shortest man there.

"A pleasure to finally meet you, Mr. Potter." The Minister positively
gushed and eagerly held out a hand for him to shake.

"Likewise, Minister." Harry replied, but didn't really mean it. Despite
Dumbledore's words, it was quite obvious that Cornelius Fudge was indeed
the least person here, both in magic and in stature. Charlus and Dorea
had met him once and been unimpressed. Harry wasn't impressed either. A
politician more than a wizard and corrupt besides, nothing to him but an
empty title.
But he could definitely be useful. His presence had been expected but not
guaranteed. His gradnparents had advised him to imply that he would
support Fudge in exchange for help with the current situation, but Harry
intended to go a step further than that.

As he shook the pudgy man's hand, he sent a mild compulsion through the
point of contact, urging him to help Harry as much as possible. It was
slightly harder than casting such spells on Robert and Katherine, but not
by much. The Minister of Magic was the weakest adult wizard he'd ever
encountered, weaker even than many Hogwarts students. Harry almost felt
as if the Dark inside him could swallow the man whole.

Fudge laughed nervously and fidgeted with his lime green bowler hat when
he took his hand back. He hadn't expected a boy barely into his teens to
be this imposing, but staring up (how was he so damned tall anyway?) at
those gleaming green eyes, he could easily believe that this was the one
who had vanquished Voldemort as a baby.

He was even more glad now that he had asked Lucius to join them on this
meeting. His good friend and advisor would surely help him make sure that
this was handled properly.

"Shall we then?" He asked after nervously clearing his throat.

"Lead on." Harry prompted, his amusement at how easily bidden the
Minister was a disconnected thing that didn't show on his face or in his
voice.

Fudge nodded in a slightly jittery fashion and started walking at Harry's


left side while Dumbledore took the right and the Aurors took up spots
behind them.

Harry and Dumbledore were comfortable with their thoughts, but Fudge was
apparently not.

"So...Harry, may I call you Harry?" He asked.

"If I may call you Cornelius." Harry replied unhurriedly. He felt nothing
but disdain for the pudgy little man that was many decades his senior but
undoubtedly a lesser wizard in spite of the age disparity. Nothing in his
manner betrayed his true opinion though. He wouldn't be the first person
to have been brought down by those who were less than him because he had
overreached himself. A day would come when gnats like Fudge that hid
their weakness behind politics would no longer concern him, but that day
was quite a ways off into the future. For now, the idiot had his uses.

"Of course, of course." Fudge hastened to affirm, eager to forge close


ties to someone as prominent as the Boy-Who-Lived.

On Harry's other side, Dumbledore withheld an amused smile. He wondered


if Cornelius realized that he had just allowed a barely teenage boy with
no tangible legal or political power to establish an equal relationship
to the Minister of Magic. He wondered if Harry had done it on purpose and
who had taught him if so. He wondered if Harry would even need his help
to resolve this issue satisfactorily, as the lad truly was handling
himself with remarkable poise. He wondered at how advanced Harry's
Occlumency was to be capable of controlling himself like this already.

Dumbledore noticed that he spent a lot of time wondering where Harry was
concerned.

"Anyway, I was wondering where Black was. The article in the Daily
Prophet didn't mention that." Fudge continued.

"I'm not going to tell you that while you have a kill on sight order on
him." Harry replied dryly.

"But I'm the Minister of Magic." Fudge protested, the first notes of an
injured ego coloring his tone. The petulant whine of someone who thought
he deserved respect.

"And as such you are required to uphold the law, are you not?" Harry
asked archly. "It would reflect poorly on you for an innocent man to be
killed due to a...bureaucratic mishap."

"Yes, yes of course!" Fudge was quick to affirm, nearly stumbling over
the words in his haste to be seen as respectable. He didn't want the Boy-
Who-Lived of all people to be his enemy! That would be a public relations
disaster perhaps even worse than this business with Black.

The urge to roll his eyes popped into being in the Dark of Harry's mind
and floated there aimlessly. How had someone this stupid and spineless
ever made Minister?

"I believe that there is more to the story than what we learned from the
Prophet." Dumbledore interjected mildly. "We should not make Harry repeat
himself needlessly."

"Quite right." Fudge agreed as if that had been his idea from the start.

The lull in conversation did not last long, as they came upon a man
waiting for them at the lifts.

Harry didn't even need Fudge's happy exclamation of 'Lucius!' to guess


that this was Draco Malfoy's father. He'd been reminded of his annoying
yearmate since he'd laid eyes on the blond man that was obviously trying
entirely too hard to appear as aristocratic as possible, from his fancy
robes and all the way down to that pretentious snake headed cane. In
addition to that, Sirius, Charlus and Dorea had all described the man to
him.

He and Sirius had gotten a good laugh at their description of the Malfoys
being 'froggy bastards', due to their French heritage.

"Harry, this is my good friend Lucius Malfoy. I believe you are in the
same Hogwarts year as his son, Draco." Fudge introduced enthusiastically,
dreaming of having the support of both Lucius Malfoy and Harry Potter.
"A pleasure." Malfoy said neutrally.

"Yes." Harry said blandly.

Neither offered their hand, well aware that they would be unfriendly
acquaintances at the most unrealistically optimistic best even if they
had never met before. Lucius might have tried to get close to the Potter
brat if he had not already heard from Draco about the antipathy between
them. Attempting to be friendly would only serve to look suspicious.

Harry was merely trusting his gut when it told him that Malfoy senior was
bad news.

"If I might ask, Cornelius, why have you invited Mr. Malfoy along for
this." Dumbledore inquired in the uncomfortable silence that ensued.

Lucius' eyes tightened slightly at the subtle snub. Most referred to him
as Lord Malfoy, but he was technically not a Lord. The Malfoy family had
no seat on the Wizengamot due to being relatively new to Britain and were
thus not a Noble House. They were very rich, and that money kept them
high up in politics, but they were not one of those families that had a
hereditary seat on the Wizengamot. That was another reason that he had
been so eager for the Black family to be absorbed into his.

Truly, wooing Narcissa Black had been one of his better ideas. His father
had been impressed with it too, for the little time that he'd lived after
Lucius had arranged for him to get infected with Dragon Pox.

"He's one of my chief advisors." Fudge argued, unknowingly enlightening


Harry as to the likely reason for his political success.

"Yes, but you will hardly need his advice in order to listen to Harry's
explanation of the Prophet's article." Dumbledore countered in his best
'I'm everyone's wise and friendly grandfather' voice.

"I must say that I agree with the Headmaster." Harry added. "Your
presence and that of the Aurors is expected of course and Professor
Dumbledore is here both as Chief Warlock and as my current magical
guardian, but as I understand it, Mr. Malfoy has no outstanding reason to
be present for this."

He may not trust Dumbledore, but he wouldn't hesitate to use him as a


shield if it was convenient.

"But-!" Fudge moved to protest.

Harry gave him no chance. Malfoy senior felt dangerous and he was not
going to let him be present for this. The compulsion alone obviously
wasn't enough for this.

"Minister." He said implacably, using his magic to press down on Fudge in


a way that the basic five human senses could not perceive."This is a
sensitive matter and it would not do for any more ears to hear than
strictly necessary."
Cornelius looked into those powerful green eyes and felt the heavy regard
of a much greater wizard, even if he didn't understand it.

"I'm sorry, Lucius, but he's right." He said meekly. He didn't want to
send his friend away, but he couldn't gainsay the Boy-Who-Lived in this,
especially with Dumbledore in on it too.

Dumbledore gave Harry a penetrating look. He had felt what the boy had
done. Few wizards had the strength or knowledge to use their magic in
such a fashion and they were generally of the old and powerful variety.
He could do it, but even then perhaps not as subtly as Harry had just
managed. How in the world had a boy of thirteen learned this skill? This
bore investigating.

Lucius's lips thinned in displeasure as the group entered the lift. This,
he reflected, was the problem with people like Fudge. Anyone with half a
brain could yank them around and he could hardly offer the idiot a bribe
in public.

Unnoticed by all, a beetle flew into the lift and hid in an unobtrusive
corner

XXXXX

Harry found the Ministry lifts to be rather puzzling. The atrium was
apparently on the 8th undreground floor, which meant that the visitor's
entrance had taken him quite deep. Now they were going up again.

Wouldn't it have made more sense to have the atrium on the 1st floor if
you were going to build underground? Wizards made no sense.

The short ride passed in silence, as Fudge seemed to be too off kilter
after being made to leave Malfoy behind to chatter.

The walk through the DMLE was similarly short and uneventful, though
Harry did find his attention captured once when they passed through Auror
Headquarters, by a young woman in Auor robes. She was dressed properly
for her job, but her spiky purple hair gave her the image of a punk
rocker trying to infiltrate law enforcement.

She noticed him staring, her hair turned pink and she gave him a rather
saucy wink, prompting Harry to return the gesture with a flirtatious
smirk.

"Who was that?" He asked, quite sure that Dumbledore would know who he
was referring to. The now pink haired Auror was very pretty and looked
like loads of fun.

"Who was who?" Fudge asked in confusion, having missed the short byplay
entirely.

"I believe that Harry was referring to Nymphadora Tonks." Dumbledore


said, sounding amused. "A very capable young lady and a fine Auror." And
Moody's last protg, whom the grizzled old Auror had already recommended
for recruitment into the Order of the Phoenix should it be reconvened.

There was an opportunity here.

"Why did her hair change like that?" Harry asked before Fudge could make
an even bigger ass of himself.

"She is a Metamorphmagus, a natural shapeshifter." The old wizard


explained.

"That sounds very useful." Harry mused. He knew that it was somewhat
typically male of him, but his mind instantly jumped to the bedroom
applications of such an ability.

"Indeed." Dumbledore agreed, sounding even more amused. He'd probably


guessed what Harry had just thought about. "Further deliberation on the
applications of shapeshifting will have to wait though, for we have
arrived at Madam Bones' office."

Yes, Dumbledore had definitely guessed it.

XXXXX

Harry quickly deduced that Amelia Bones was a formidable witch, and not
someone that could be pushed around like Fudge. Hers was the strongest
presence he'd felt so far, bar Dumbledore himself.

The two Aurors left and then it was just her, him, Dumbledore and Fudge
in the room. Something felt wrong about that number, but Harry couldn't
for the life of him place what it was.

"Mr. Potter." Bones said by way of greeting, her displeasure ringing as


clearly as a bell. "You've caused me and my department a great deal of
trouble and embarrassment with those articles in the Prophet and the
Quibbler."

Concern welled up in him at her tone, but was swallowed by the Dark in
his mind and did not affect his composure.

"I apologize," He said calmly. "but I saw no better way to ensure my


godfather's exoneration."

Amelia stared hard at the boy, noting with grudging respect that he
remained unmoved by it. In fact, the only one who looked uncomfortable
was Fudge. She wondered what had happened to Malfoy, whom she knew that
the bumbling idiot had been planning to include on this meeting. Good
riddance either way. She'd been tempted to cleave the bastard's head off
more than once in the past twelve years.

"I'm sure that we can get this handled quickly, Amelia." The Minister
fretted, worrying at his hat.
"We will handle it by the book, if that's alright with you Mr. Potter?"
She stated more than asked in a tone that brooked no disagreement, a
trace of sarcasm showing up at the end.

Harry felt a stirring of decidedly more personal interest in the woman.


She was quite severe looking, but not at all unattractive, though that
monocle was a bit odd. He wondered if she was this forceful all the time.

The thought was pushed aside. This was definitely not the time for that.

"Of course, Madam Bones."

"Good." She said with a firm nod. "Now, the first thing I want to know is
when and how you came into contact with Black in the first place."

"During my very first Hogsmeade weekend. I recognized his Animagus form


and got him away from there before he did something stupid." He felt a
spike of...something when he said that, but he once again failed to pin
it down.

"Animagus form?" Bones asked, talking right over Fudge's surprised


exclamation and noting Dumbledore's lack of surprise at the information.

"Yes, a big black dog. I remember him using it to play with me when I was
a baby." Sorry Sirius, I know you wanted to keep that a secret, but
Bryanna and Tiana were sure to have figured it out after this, if they
haven't already. I might like them, but I'm not sure they'd keep it a
secret and trying, and more importantly failing, to hide your Animagus
ability is the last thing you need.

"Your memory stretches that far back?" Dumbledore asked in some surprise.

"Yes." Harry answered simply.

"Do you remember what it was that caused Voldemort's downfall then?" The
old wizard pressed.

Fudge yelped at the use of the Dark Lord's name, looking like he'd nearly
lost control of his bladder.

Amelia merely twitched, the remnants of an old reflex.

"I do, but I'd rather not talk about it." Harry said. "It's not something
that can really be used in anything other than a very specific set of
circumstances."

Most people did not have months of forewarning that they were going to be
murdered after all, nevermind the skill required to turn their own murder
into a ritual sacrifice.

"Getting back to the matter at hand, what kind of stupid thing did you
expect Black to do?" Bones asked, determined to stay on point despite her
own interest.
"Sneak into the Gryffindor common room and murder Peter Pettigrew." Harry
replied with a bland smile. That odd feeling from before manifested
again, but remained elusive.

This time, even Dumbledore was surprised, though he quickly deduced the
truth. He had assumed that the Weasley family rat had actually been
several rats that Molly and Arthur had kept replacing in order to not
upset their children, but it had apparently been just one Animagus.

"Am I to understand that Peter Pettigrew is also an Animagus and was


hiding in Hogwarts all this time?" Bones asked, guessing at the truth.

"Close, he was a rat Animagus and had been hiding with the Weasley family
ever since his confrontation with Sirius."

"Was?" Bones asked sharply, picking up on the use of past tense.

Harry sighed heavily as he answered. "Yes, was. You see, I bought him
from Ron Weasley just before the Christmas break. Sirius and I were
intending to come forward with him and reveal the truth of what had
happened after Voldemort's defeat."

"So why didn't you?"

"Sirius wanted to talk to him, he wanted to ask why Pettigrew had


betrayed them and I admit that I wanted to hear it too. He was supposed
to be their friend, but he sold them out to save his own skin. Sirius was
always a brash sort and Azkaban hadn't improved his self-control any, so
things got a little out of hand."

"Out of hand how?" Amelia's voice was considerably harder now.

"There was a lot of shouting and we stupidly hadn't thought to disarm the
rat. Pettigrew reached for his wand and I panicked. I didn't even know
what spell I was going to cast, I just knew that I couldn't let him do it
first. Before I knew what had happened, I'd fired off a blasting curse."
Harry did his best to put a tremor in his voice, though he wasn't sure
how successful he was in that. He'd practiced doing it, but there really
was no substitute for the real thing and he couldn't muster much emotion
over this months old issue anymore.

Fudge went a little pale and Dumbledore put a hand on his shoulder
supportively, though he was sure that there was a very uncomfortable
conversation going to happen between them in the near future.

Amelia on the other hand, was clenching her jaw and looking deeply
irritated.

"You mean to tell me, that you have killed a man and presumably had his
body stashed somewhere since Christmas and have deigned to report it only
now?" She demanded slowly, her expression thunderous.

Harry winced, but went on with his explanation. "Sirius and I were at a
bit of a loss as to how we were going to explain this without him ending
up lunch for the dementors. We argued about it for months until we
finally decided that putting that article in the papers was probably the
surest way of doing it."

That those months were also spent planning out how to get away with it
went unsaid.

"Why didn't we receive any notifications about underage magic use?"


Amelia asked suspiciously, seeing a slight discrepancy in the story.

"We were in an area warded against detection at the time."

"Harry, why didn't you come to me with this?" Dumbledore asked sadly. "I
could have helped you."

"You were Chief Warlock when he was first thrown in prison, Professor."
Harry pointed out. "You didn't ensure that he got a trial back then and
we were only going to get one chance at this. There was no guarantee that
he'd get one now."

Dumbledore looked even more saddened by that.

"Wait a second, Black was never tried?" Amelia interjected, momentarily


surprised out of her anger at the way that Potter and Black had played
fast and loose with the law.

"No. From what he told me, he chased down Pettigrew only for the rat to
fire off the blasting curse that blew up the street and the muggles on
it. The explosion had rattled him pretty badly and by the time he'd
gotten his wits about him, he'd already been in Azkaban." Harry
explained.

"Crouch is going to have a lot of explaining to do." Amelia growled.

"Indeed he will!" Fudge hurried to add, eager to be seen as the man that
was correcting past injustices. He might actually benefit from this if he
dumped all the blame on Bagnold and Crouch!

"And speaking of that, here is Pettigrew's wand." Harry said, pulling it


out of on of his robe pockets. "It might still have the trace of that
blasting curse on it, since I doubt that it's been used since then."

Amelia took it and cast Priori Incantatem on it, seeing that it did
indeed register a blasting curse as the last spell to be cast.

"I also have one other wand for you." Harry went on once she did that,
more slowly now. He reached into another pocket and drew out a wand with
a ghastly white bone handle, which he was sure had been a later
affectation instead of something that Ollivander had made for an eleven
year old.

"I know that wand." Amelia said softly "How did you get it?"

"Pettigrew had it with him. I assume that he grabbed it from my room."


"I don't understand, whose wand is that?" Fudge demanded, obviously not
recognizing it.

"Voldemort's, Cornelius." Dumbledore told him calmly, ignoring the way


the Minister flinched.

"All this aside, that still leaves us with you Mr. Potter. You've
harbored a known criminal, even though it seems that he was innocent, and
you've hidden the fact that you've killed someone for months now, even if
it was in self-defense."

"Come now, Amelia, surely you can't blame the lad for wanting to do right
by his godfather? The man has clearly suffered enough already." Fudge
interjected.

"Thank you, Cornelius, I appreciate your support." Harry said, aiming a


smile at the Minister.

Amelia's face went stony for a moment as she saw the way that Potter had
Fudge wrapped around his little finger already, not that it was exactly a
difficult feat. That, combined with Dumbledore's obvious support would
mean that Potter would be getting away with this whole debacle with
barely a slap on the wrist, nevermind a full investigation. The most that
she'd be able to do was put a black mark on his record, anything else
would get waved off by Fudge in an effort to curry favor with the Boy-
Who-Lived.

She hated it when politics got mixed up with the law. She hadn't been
intending to throw Potter into Azkaban over this, he was only thirteen
after all, but the obvious abuse of his reputation, Dumbledore's
protection and Fudge's...Fudgeness, grated on her.

"I want Pettigrew's body, and I want to talk to Black. Immediately." She
bit out.

"Right away, Madam Bones." Harry quickly agreed, seeing that the
formidable witch was most definitely not happy with him.

"You're taking an Auror escort with you." She stated uncompromisingly.

"If I might suggest Nymphadora Tonks?" Dumbledore said, his eyes on


maximum twinkle. "She is a cousin of Sirius' and might serve to put him
more at ease than others."

Harry gave the Headmaster an incredulous look. Was the old man seriously
helping him get hooked up with the pretty shapeshifter?

"An excellent idea!" Fudge contributed, oblivious as ever.

Amelia gave Potter and Dumbledore a scrutinizing look, wondering what


they were up to that involved Auror Tonks.

"Why her in particular?" She demanded.


"She is a most impressive young lady." Dumbledore replied, sounding very
amused.

Amelia knew that this was true. Tonks might be a rookie and bit of a
klutz, but she was powerful and resourceful. She fully expected her to
become one of the best in a few years, after she got some experience
under her belt.

That didn't explain why Dumbledore had suggested her though. There didn't
seem to be anything nefarious about it and it was the kind of assignment
that a rookie would be given, but Black was pretty high profile and she
didn't feel charitable enough to go along with whatever this was.

"I'm assigning Shacklebolt to be your escort."

Was that a flash of disappointment that had just crossed Potter's face?

XXXXX

As Madam Bones' office emptied, Rita Skeeter buzzed stealthily out of the
Ministry of Magic in her beetle Animagus form, nearly vibrating with
excitement over all the material she'd just gathered. The Daily Prophet's
next headline would be sensational!

XXXXX

Harry felt that things had gone rather well, all things considered.
Fudge's presence had been unexpectedly useful, as the man was quite
obviously a politician for hire, supporting whoever would benefit him the
most. Of course, this might be a bit problematic in the future if he ever
expected Harry's support, but no promises had been made.

Amelia Bones had been quite a bit more intense than he'd been expecting,
but he supposed that not every pureblood could be a useless waste of air.
He hoped that he hadn't made an enemy out of her, as a woman like that
could cause him quite a bit of grief in the future if she put her mind to
it.

Dumbledore had acted more or less as expected, aside from that very odd
attempt to contrive an opportunity for Harry to talk to the interesting
Metamorphmagus Auror. He really had to wonder what the old man had hoped
to achieve with that.

The thing that really bothered him about that meeting was the strange
feelings he'd been getting the whole time. It had felt almost like there
was another person in the room, but the only thing he had to go on with
this theory was his gut feeling and the strange spikes of emotion when he
said something particularly surprising.

XXXXX

Sirius had been anxiously pacing through the foyer of Potter Manor ever
since Harry had left for the Ministry, waiting for his turn. His godson
had wanted to keep the use of the place secret, displaying Moody-like
levels of paranoia about information but had eventually conceded that the
DMLE at least would need to be informed now.

It was almost a relief when Harry returned with the tall Auror that he
introduced as Shacklebolt and he was side-along apparated directly to the
DMLE to avoid any lingering gawkers. Even if things went pear-shaped, at
least the tense waiting was over.

It had been replaced by an entirely new kind of tension.

"Sirius Black." Amelia Bones said in a stony tone that betrayed a certain
amount of irritation.

"In the flesh." Sirius replied with a winning smile. He noted with dismay
that Madam Bones seemed immune to his charm.

"First, let me just assure you that you aren't going back to Azkaban
anytime soon. Since Crouch didn't even bother to properly charge you with
a crime before throwing you in there, the Ministry actually owes you
quite the hefty apology, as well as compensation if we determine that you
are indeed innocent." She went on, almost kindly.

"I appreciate that." Sirius said, feeling a certain amount of tension


bleed out of him. It was good to know that Amelia was as fair as her
reputation claimed.

"That being said, I am extremely annoyed by the stunt that you and your
godson pulled." The kindness was now replaced with a growl as she glared
at him. "Now you are going to tell me everything that happened from the
moment that the Potters switched Secret Keepers to the moment that you
set foot in my office and if I find out that the two of you are trying to
pull another fast one on me, then I am going to bury you. I don't care if
your godson has Fudge and Dumbledore on his side, I am going to find a
way to do it. Understood?"

"Yes, ma'am." Sirius nodded, swallowing nervously. What a scary woman.

XXXXX

Harry had an uncomfortable conversation of his own to attend to and his


wasn't even with an attractive older lady.

Dumbledore had somehow arranged for a private room for them and spent the
next few minutes liberally applying privacy spells to make sure that it
was actually private.

Once he was done with that, he turned to Harry and stared at him
inscrutably, saying nothing.

Well, two could play that game. Harry stared back impassively, sinking
further into the deep sense of peaceful Dark that had allowed him to keep
himself composed during this entire nerve wracking experience.
"I see that your study of Occlumency is progressing well." Dumbledore
finally said.

"Yes." Hary replied unhelpfully. The old wizard would have to broach the
subject more directly than that.

"I could have helped you, my boy." Dumbledore said sadly, repeating
himself from earlier when he saw Harry's reticence. "If you had come to
me after meeting Sirius, I would have listened. We could have captured
Pettigrew easily and all of this would never have needed to happen."

Harry heard the implication as clearly as the words. You would never have
needed to be a killer. It would have been better if you trusted me to
handle things for you. He still didn't understand why Dumbledore wanted
his trust so badly.

"You have a history of poor decisions behind you. I couldn't risk having
you make another. Not with this." He said evenly.

Dumbledore sighed in a greatly put upon manner. "I am not perfect, Harry.
I can make mistakes the same as any man, especially when I don't have all
the facts as was the case with Sirius."

"Leaving me with the Dursleys? Leaving the school open with a basilisk on
the loose? You should have had enough information to prevent those."

"There were extenuating circumstances for those decisions." Dumbledore


argued, but declined to elaborate. He was not used to explaining himself
to people.

"Hmm." Harry replied, unconvinced. "It doesn't matter anymore and we've
gotten off topic. This matter is settled, Sirius will get the acquittal
he deserves and become my guardian as my parents wanted."

He was perfect for it too. Still as immature as a man less than half his
age and not at all inclined to be responsible, especially when he seemed
to be looking at Harry as a replacement for his murdered friend rather
than as a child to be protected. A poor parent and one more suited to
doing rather than thinking. Perfect for Harry's purposes, as he'd likely
leave him to do all the thinking.

"Yes, he no doubt will." Dumbledore agreed. He wasn't going to try


getting in the way of that, even though he had some misgivings about
Sirius' ability in that area. "I am merely saddened that the process was
so messy."

"Was that all?" Harry asked, getting tired of the conversation.

"Just one more thing." Dumbledore promised. "Minister Fudge and Lucius
Malfoy may not be sensitive enough to notice what you did, but I am."

"And what did I do?" Harry asked noncommittally, inwardly very worried.
He might have become a great deal stronger since the first time he'd felt
the power of Dumbledore's magic back in second year, but he was under no
illusions that he would be able to match him. Even if their magic were of
equal potency(which it wasn't), Dumbledore was simply too experienced
right now for him to fight in any way. If the old man decided to start
being difficult, then he could be very difficult indeed.

"You wielded your magic as a tool of intimidation, forcing the Minister


to comply with your wishes to send Malfoy away."

Ah, that. The ability to project your will on another by exerting a


spiritual pressure on them. He hadn't expected that any wand-reliant
wizard would be aware of themselves enough to realize that their magic
was more than just a power source for their spells, but he supposed that
had been foolish of him. It had been arrogant to assume that everyone but
him was completely blind.

"I do not know how you are capable of such a thing at your age, but I do
know that you have used some ritual to speed your growth."

Harry's face went completely blank at that, listening silently as


Dumbledore went on.

"I do not know which, as my own research has unearthed no ritual that
fits my observations, nor do I know what price you paid for it.
Furthermore, I suspect that you did not perform only one such ritual, as
your mind went from completely undefended to impenetrable too quickly to
be the result of Occlumency training."

"Is there a point to this, Professor?" Harry asked, deciding to ignore


Dumbledore's not-quite admission to casual use of Legilimency. He'd
already known that the old man did it after all.

"Yes, there is." Dumbledore said softly. "I would caution you to temper
your lust for power, Harry. I was much like you in my youth. I too
desired power over all other things and resented anything that held me
back from my ambitions. It was only when those same ambitions caused the
death of my sister that I saw the ruin I was causing around me. I would
not wish for you to go through the same thing."

"I'll keep it in mind." Harry said, but was mostly just annoyed by the
little speech.

"I know that I must sound terribly patronizing to you right now."
Dumbledore chuckled self-deprecatingly. "I imagine that my advice is
unwanted and the implication that you would repeat my mistakes resented."

Harry didn't reply, not wanting to make an obvious lie by denying it but
also unwilling to outright agree.

"Wizards and witches have a very strange relationship with power."


Dumbledore went on, seemingly off topic. "They hate it and adore it, fear
it and worship it. The powerful among us do not often get the luxury of
keeping to ourselves as we grow in strength. Whether by our own actions
or by that of others, we find ourselves thrust into the center of
events."
"Is that why you're the Chief Warlock and Supreme Mugwump, despite not
being from a Noble House?" Harry asked with a raised eyebrow, interested
in spite of himself. He knew that neither of those posts required that
the holder be from a Noble House, especially the Supreme Mugwump one as
it was an international position, but they did usually require a lot of
money to get elected, something that he was reasonably certain that
Dumbledore did not have an abundance of.

"Ah, you've noticed that, have you?" The old wizard asked rhetorically.
"Indeed, after my defeat of Grindelwald, there was no shortage of people
eager to foist all responsibility for everything on me."

"And you expect that I will find myself in the same situation?" Harry
guessed.

"You have had a reputation since the night Voldemort attacked you and
have shown great potential in your schooling since then. There are those
who will want to use you and what you represent to further their own
agendas, or seek to remove you if they feel you will oppose them. This is
especially true now that you have drawn attention to yourself."
Dumbledore explained.

"So...what, am I supposed to cower and pretend to be less than I am?"


Harry demanded. Pretend mediocrity to appease the masses unimaginative
sheep? Unacceptable. He wanted to unravel the deepest mysteries of magic,
not quibble over cauldron bottom thickness with a bunch of old greybeards
who had more in common with mundane politicians than actual wizards. Even
becoming a Dark Lord would be preferrable to that.

Dumbledore needed no Legilimency to guess at Harry's thoughts. He had


felt the same way once. He imagined that most of those who stood above
their peers felt that way at some point.

It was so easy to look down on those who were less powerful than
yourself. So easy to become frustrated with society's limitations on
magic use when you felt yourself capable of doing it, of mastering
anything. Dumbledore still remembered the hunger for more and the bitter
resentment at anything that stood in his way. He had been well on the
path of a Dark Lord when Ariana's death had shocked some sense into him.
Sometimes, as he paced in his office late at night, he still wondered if
he could have swayed Gellert away from that path if he had been wiser and
less bullheaded in his youth.

But all that hard earned wisdom would be meaningless to a lad of thirteen
that didn't want to hear it. It had been meaningless to Tom Riddle as
well.

"No, Harry, I do not expect you to do that. It is quite too late for that
even if you wanted to. Instead, I would offer my help in navigating the
treacherous waters you've just entered. I mean no disrespect to Sirius,
but he is not a politician. You are still a few years away from your
majority, regardless of the state of your body, but people like Minister
Fudge will not be stopped by that in their attempts to use you. We may
even be able to squeeze in a few lessons on magic."

Words may be meaningless, but an offer of help and a bribe of knowledge


might work. He could try to steer the boy away from his current path
during their meetings. Harry would eventually need to die in a
confrontation with Voldemort anyway, but it would be much better if he
did it as a champion of good rather than as a rival Dark Lord.

Harry was honestly tempted to accept just for the magic lessons. He might
not trust Dumbledore, but the old man was indisputably an accomplished
wizard. But the fact of the matter was that he didn't trust him and he
remembered a saying he'd heard from somewhere, something about help when
offered but not needed often being no help at all.

Besides, the only politics he intended to do was abusing the shit out of
his noble status. Other than that, he was planning to do his own thing.

"I'll think about it." He said without really meaning it. Better to try
navigating treacherous waters alone than with the help of a shark.

XXXXX

After that conversation, Harry made his way back to the DMLE. For one
thing, he needed to wait for Sirius to finish talking to Director Bones.

For another, he wanted to talk to that cute Auror. This would actually be
the first time that he was so blatantly making the first move with a girl
since Zoe, and even then he'd been given an opening when she'd caught him
staring at her boobs. Fortunately, Harry was finding the prospect of
approaching a girl considerably less daunting ever since he'd killed
Pettigrew. It was morbid as all hell, but killing a person had a way of
changing your outlook on life and that wasn't even mentioning the ritual
shenanigans that had happened immediately after.

It took a little effort to find her, as the area was divided into
cubicles, but he knew her name and it was easy to ask which one was hers.

He found her in short order after that. She was doing paperwork and her
previously vibrant hair had turned a dull brown. It wasn't even as spiky
as it had been earlier.

"Good afternoon." He greeted, giving the wall of her cubicle a light


knock.

She looked up and her mood visibly improved upon having something other
than paperwork to do. Literally, as her hair perked up and turned a light
purple.

"Wo- I mean, good afternoon Mr. Potter. What can I do for you?" Her hair
turned an almost red sort of pink as she stumbled over the words.

Harry was deeply amused at seeing that her hair seemed to act like some
kind of magical mood indicator. She'd obviously been going for a casual
greeting before recalling that on-duty Aurors were supposed to be
officious when talking to civilians, and was embarrassed by her near-
blunder.

"Just Harry please. I've been called Mr. Potter too much today already."
He said with his most charming smile.

"Well then, Harry, I suppose you can call me Tonks since you've saved me
from having to do paperwork for a while." She smirked back, hair going a
more playful pink.

"Not Nymphadora?" He inquired with an exagerrated wounded look.

"No." She growled, hair turning an indisputably angry red.

Okay, dangerous territory.

"Not fond of your name I take it?" He asked.

"You wouldn't be fond of your name either if my damn fool mother had been
the one to pick one for you." Tonks grumbled.

"At least your name sounds special." Harry commiserated. "What kind of
name is 'Harry' for a wizard anyway? I might as well go around calling
myself Tim the Enchanter."

"Was that a Monty Python reference?" Tonks asked with a surprised laugh.

"You understood a Monty Python reference?" Harry asked back with equal
surprise.

"My dad's a muggleborn and he loved those movies, insisted that we watch
them. Mum and I didn't think they were as funny as he claimed, but we
watched them anyway." Tonks explained.

"I'm just happy that I've finally met someone who understood one of my
references." Harry replied with overdone relief. "You have no idea how
much it sucks to make a Conan the Barbarian joke and only get blank looks
in return."

"Who?" Tonks asked blankly.

"Yeah, that's the one." Harry sighed despondently, slumping his


shoulders.

"Aw come one, you can't expect me to get every reference." She protested.

"I guess not, but you really got my hopes up with the Monty Python one."
Harry complained.

"Well, excuuuse me." Tonks apologized sarcastically, smirking widely.


Potter was turning out to be a lot more interesting than she'd expected
him to be. And a great alternative to paperwork.
"How about you make it up to me by letting me take you on a date?" Harry
proposed, once again smiling at her.

Tonks couldn't help it, she burst out into a loud peal of laughter that
probably garnered some very odd looks from the Aurors in the surrounding
cubicles.

"I'm going to take that as a yes." Harry said with dignity. He absolutely
loved that hair of hers. It was keeping mostly to playfully bright pink
colors that he was fairly sure indicated that she wasn't at all annoyed
by his advances. She could probably control it if she wanted to, but as
long as she wasn't bothering, he pretty much got free cues on how well he
was doing.

"Smooth, Potter. Real smooth." She replied, still chuckling.

"I thought we agreed on 'Harry', and I'm still not hearing a 'no'."

"You're funny, but I usually prefer my men a bit...older."

"What a coincidence! I usually prefer my women a bit older, so we've


already got something in common."

"What women?" Tonks snorted. "You might be able to pull off the late
teens look, but everyone knows that you're only fourteen."

Harry decided to make no comment about not being fourteen yet.

"You'd be surprised." He said mysteriously. "If you want, I can tell you
all about it on our date."

"You're serious? You really want want to take me on a date?" She asked
with a raised eyebrow. She hadn't thought that he was actually serious
about taking her on a date, but he apparently really was ballsy enough to
ask out an Auror at his age and expect her to agree to it.

"No, Sirius is my godfather and he's currently getting grilled by your


boss." Harry smirked.

"Merlin's hairy bollocks, that was horrible." Tonks groaned. "I remember
Sirius making that stupid pun when I was a kid, but it didn't sound so
bad back then and I didn't expect it from anyone else."

"You think that's bad? Just wait until I make one with my own name."
Harry said back with a grin.

Tonks looked confused for a moment before it dawned on her what he was
talking about.

"Don't you dare." She warned.

"I mean, I shaved before coming here, but I just can't stop being Harry!"
"You evil git, you're supposed to be a paragon of good, not some pun
spewing monster."

"Don't believe everything you read, I'll keep throwing my darkest,


dankest puns at you until you agree to go on a date with me and Sirius is
probably going to be in there for hours, so I've got plenty of time."

"Fine, I'll go on a date with you! Just...stop."

XXXXX

When Sirius finally got to leave Director Bones' office, he was mentally
exhausted. The woman was like a dog with a bone, and Sirius felt uniquely
qualified to make that comparison.

It had taken forever before she was satisfied with his rendition of
events and even then she'd still piled up a small mountain of conditions
before allowing him to leave.

His Animagus form would be registered now, which just plain sucked. He'd
have to keep an amulet with a tracking charm on his person at all times
that would vibrate if they wanted to speak to him again. He was to stay
inside Potter Manor until a press release could be given that confirmed
his innocence so as not to cause a panic. He was to stay available for
further interviews at all times, until the DMLE was fully satisfied with
their investigation. He was mildly surprised that she hadn't insisted on
collaring Padfoot as well.

Sirius had the distinct feeling that he and Harry had deeply irritated
Amelia Bones.

Now he just had to find his godson and go back home. He knew that Harry
had received a similar set of orders, though slightly more lenient since
he was a minor.

"All done?" Auror Shacklebolt asked as he closed the door behind him.

Sirius liked the dark skinned Auror. The man was polite and respectful
and showed none of the hostility that he'd seen on the faces of some of
the others. He'd been professional and even sympathetic for the entirety
of their admittedly short acquiaintance.

"Yeah." He breathed. "That boss of yours is one tough cookie."

"You should've seen her this morning when the Prophet came in."
Shacklebolt chuckled. "She looked about ready to breathe fire."

"I can believe that, it did feel remarkably like being locked in a room
with an angry dragon." Sirius said with a theatrical shudder. "Now where
is that godson of mine?"

Shacklebolt suddenly looked uncomfortable. "He's been talking to Auror


Tonks while you've been in with the boss."
"Auror Tonks?" Sirius blinked. "Not Nymphadora Tonks? Andromeda's little
girl?"

"That's her."

"And she's an Auror now?"

"That's right, Mad-Eye Moody's last trainee before he retired."

"That's great, I haven't seen her since she was six. Where is she?" He
and Andromeda had never been hugely close, but she was his favorite
cousin by far(admittedly not saying much when the other choices were a
crazy sadist like Bellatrix and a spoiled snob like Narcissa, but
Andromeda was a genuinely decent woman), so seeing her now grown up
daughter again would be nice.

"Right this way." Shacklebolt sighed and led him through the maze of
cubicles.

Sirius had to blink in surprise again when he laid eyes on his godson.
Harry was apparently having a very good time flirting with Andromeda's
daughter.

"So that's how it is?" Sirius demanded when he saw this, bidding
Shacklebolt goodbye as the big Auror went back to work. "I'm getting
interrogated and you're over here, flirting with my cousin the whole
time?"

"Cut the crap, Sirius, you'd do the exact same thing." Harry retorted
dryly without missing the beat.

"You're damn right I would. You make me so proud." Sirius grinned. He


decided not to comment on the fact that Tonks and Harry were related.
Dorea and Andromeda weren't that close on the family tree anyway, not
nearly as close as the first cousin relationship of his own parents at
any rate.

"Wotcher, Sirius. Long time no see." Tonks greeted with a wave.

"I'll say. The last time I saw you, you were just a little girl with
rainbow colored hair that hated her first name." He agreed.

"She still does." Harry said with grin.

"Are you serious?" Sirius grinned back.

Tonks groaned, anticipating some bad puns.

"No, you're Sirius. I'm Harry."

"But I saw you shave today!"

"I know right? It's uncanny."


"Will you two idiots please stop with the puns? I already agreed to go on
a date with Harry." Tonks groaned again.

"Harry, did you get yourself a date by using puns?" Sirius asked, very
much impressed.

"Yep, you could say that I Blackmailed her into it."

"Hehehehe."

"You're monsters, both of you. You should be in Azkaban for having such a
horrible sense of humor."

"That would be quite the punishment."

"This is why people hate their relatives."

XXXXX

Waiting on the muggle side of London, Tonks really had to wonder how
she'd gotten roped into a date with a kid that didn't look quite as young
as he should, nor act like it.

Ah yes, of course. He'd been funny, charming, very persistent and


depressingly enough, more interesting than her usual brand of suitors. If
she had to put up with one more idiot who thought he was being clever by
asking what her 'true form' was, she might have seriously started
considering the use of the Cruciatus as a corrective measure. The fact
that she'd also found him rather attractive was best not considered. That
way lay confusion.

Having a muggleborn father and a pureblood mother had been the cause of
more than one culture clash during her upbringing, such as each parent
having very different ideas on the age of consent. Her mother would not
be at all bothered by this date, but it would be for the best if her
father never heard of it.

It had been good to see Sirius again. She remembered liking him the few
times that he had visited and being very upset when he suddenly stopped.
She hadn't learned about his supposed murder spree until years later. It
was gratifying to know that he was innocent, bad puns and all.

Speaking of Sirius, the man had wished them well on their date(complete
with lewd remark of course) and gone back to Potter Manor. He was
apparently planning to write to a friend of his and spend the evening
catching up since he was effectively grounded until Madam Bones issued a
press release declaring him innocent of all charges. Harry had gone with
him to change out of his robes since they'd agreed that the date was
going to take place on the muggle side.

Tonks was pretty sure that her boss had chewed out both Sirius and Harry
for the way they'd sprung this whole thing on her. The entire department
had tiptoed around her since morning, wary of attracting her obvious
wrath. Even Scrimgeour, the humorless bastard, had looked a bit
aprehensive.

She spotted her date approaching then, cutting through her train of
thought. She had to admit that he cleaned up rather well in his black
shirt and slacks, if a bit monochromatic.

"M'lady." He greeted with good natured mockery, looking over at her


ripped blue jeans, black combat boots, pink tube tob, open black jacket,
decorative black choker and of course, her usual spiky purple hair. "You
look ravishing."

"And you look like like you wouldn't know casual if it bit you on the
arse." She snarked back. They were going to look ridiculously mismatched.

"Ah, but not all of us can look as good as you in casual clothes and I
felt that you deserved my best." He rejoinedered.

"Laying it on a bit thick, aren't you?" She asked dryly.

"Not at all." He grinned. "The punk rocker look definitely suits you."

"Not going to be embarrassed to be seen with me then?" She asked with


exaggerated disappointment, falling into step with him as they started
walking.

"Embarrassed to be seen with a such a beautiful woman? Impossible.


Meeting with that Daily Prophet reporter, now that was embarrassing."

Tonks rolled her eyes at the continued flattery, but was inwardly pleased
nonetheless. It was always nice to be complimented. "What was he wearing?
Some of the more muggle savvy of us in the DMLE have a competition going
on who can find the most ridiculously dressed witch or wizard."

"That sounds like an interesting competition." Harry commented before


describing the Oktoberfest-esque outfit that Smugley had worn for their
meeting.

Tonks shook her head in disbelief once he was done. "I swear, some of
these people have to be doing it on purpose. Either that, or they're
getting their source material from the most out of the ordinary places
possible. A few months back, there was a witch brought to St. Mungo's
that thought all muggles dressed like death metal bands. She'd put a
layer of white paint on her face that was at least an inch thick and used
magic to solidify it."

"You can't be serious." Harry asked incredulously.

"No, that's your godfather." Tonks snarked vengefully.

"I probably deserved that." He admitted.

"Yes, yes you did."


"So what happened with the death metal witch?"

"Nearly suffocated under the paint, probably would have if her sister
hadn't been there to apparate them both to St. Mungo's. I heard that the
healers had to use a paint stripping spell to get her face cleared, took
her eyebrows and eyelashes with it."

Harry winced. "That must've hurt."

"Probably." Tonks agreed. "Where are we going anyway? You never did tell
me what you had planned for this date."

They'd agreed to stick to muggle entertainment for several reasons. For


one, the Wizarding World tended to close its doors earlier. For another,
it simply didn't have quite as much to offer in the way of entertainment
either since it was so much smaller.

That was actually the primary reason that Tonks was so well acquainted
with the Muggle World in the first place. The fun on this side was much
more to her tastes.

"It's pretty late already, so our options are a bit limited. I was
thinking dinner and a movie?"

"Works for me." She'd had the afternoon shift today and hadn't eaten
anything substantial since leaving home.

"I hope you don't mind buffets. Regular restaurants always give out too
small portions for me."

XXXXX

"How are you not the size of Hagrid?" Tonks demanded, seeing Harry finish
off his third plate of food.

"Magic." He answered mysteriously, trying to keep down a grin and not


being entirely successful.

"Seriously, you must eat as much as him." Tonks insisted.

"Nah, not that much." Harry refuted, but wasn't entirely certain. The
Hogwarts gamekeeper tended to eat more in one sitting than him, but Harry
knew that he ate more often.

And that wasn't even mentioning the various supplements he took, such as
vitamins, calcium, iron and magnesium. He'd gotten a bit worried about
nutrition after finding his appetite increased to its current ridiculous
level, and had researched what he might be lacking in his diet. He didn't
want to assume that magic would handle everything and later discover that
his bones had become brittle from growing too fast with too little
calcium or something. It was odd to feel grateful for Katherine's
obsessive nutrition phase that he was even aware of that potential
problem.
Potter Manor now had a room dedicated to the storage of a rather large
amount of dietary supplements that Teeny faithfully brought him every
day. He really wanted to do something nice for the little elf, because
her help had been truly indispensable, but she threatened to cry every
time he tried and there was nothing quite so guilt inducing as a
blubbering house elf.

"Besides, can't you regulate your own figure with your special ability?"
He asked. They were in a fairly out of the way corner, so it was safe to
talk about magic if they were discrete about it.

"Some." She admitted. "But I'd still get fat if I ate like you."

"What are the limits of your shapeshifting anyway?" He pressed, seizing


the opportunity. He'd been burning with curiousity about the ability ever
since he'd heard of it. That had only increased when he'd gotten a good
feel for Tonks' magic. It was far more...fluid or maybe mutable would be
a better term, than what he felt in other magicals.

"I can't add or remove too much mass, but other than that I can do more
or less anything."

"Even gender switching?" He asked further, eyebrows climbing upwards in


surprise.

"Why, you'd prefer to date a man?" She asked back with a smirk.

"I walked right into that one." He said ruefully.

"Yup." She agreed smugly. "But yes, I can switch gender if I want to."

"That's incredible." He muttered. "But how? Wouldn't that require you to


focus on all the internal changes?"

"Not really." She shrugged. "I just focus on what I want and it sort of
happens by itself. I guess my magic must know what to do even if I
don't."

"Fascinating. I wonder if it actually accesses your DNA to get the


relevant information, or does it just forcibly change it?" He mused to
himself, garnering an odd look from his date. "I don't suppose you would
be willing to submit to experimentation?"

Tonks rolled her eyes at both the question and his cheesy grin when he
asked it. "The Department of Mysteries already asked that and I'm sure
you can guess what my answer was."

"No?" He ventured.

"I wasn't quite that polite, but you're essentially correct."

"Ah, too bad." He sighed dramatically. "I was hoping to duplicate the
ability."
He was still going to try.

"Of course you did, bloody Ravenclaw." Tonks snorted. "This is why
Hufflepuff is the best, you nerds don't know when to stop studying and
the less said about Gryffindor and Slytherin the better."

"Can I have just one more question on this topic?" Harry requested.

This time it was Tonks who sighed dramatically, reaching for her glass of
water. "Fine."

"Are you using it to keep your boobs so perky, or is that natural?"

The Auror spluttered with surprised laughter at the impertinent question,


spitting a bit of water over her empty plate.

"See? I can have fun." Harry said smugly while Tonks worked on clearing
her esophagus.

"Touch, Potter, touch." Tonks conceded. "I'm afraid that your question
is stupid though, oh great intellectual comedian. For me, it's more
natural to use my metamorph abilities than not."

"Ah." Harry nodded sagely. "So your boobs are both naturally perky and
saggy. It's a breast paradox."

"How dare you call my girls saggy!" Tonks said, perhaps a bit too loudly
if the odd look from a passing employee was any indication. "I'll have
you know that I barely even need a bra. They're that perky."

"That's definitely something worth bragging about in public." Harry


commented dryly, making Tonks flush in embarrassment as she realized that
their conversation had gotten just a wee bit too loud to still be called
discrete.

She cleared her throat and decided to move away from this topic. "So,
what movie are we going to watch?"

"Let's check." Harry said and pulled out his mostly neglected smartphone.

"Ooh, is that one of those smartphone thingies?" Tonks asked eagerly and
siddled over to sit next to him so that she could look over his shoulder.

"Yes." He confirmed, trying very hard to ignore what her tube top covered
breasts were doing to him as they pressed into his back. They really were
very perky. "I don't get much use out of it with how much time I spend at
Hogwarts, but it's useful during the summer at least."

"I thought about buying one just for the novelty, but the paperwork is
really a pain in the arse when you technically don't exist in the Muggle
World. Not to mention the hassle of keeping it away from magic." Tonks
commented, smirking as she noticed that Harry was sitting a bit too
stiffly to be natural. Poke fun at her breasts would he? See how he liked
it when her breasts poked at him.
"I guess that would be a problem." He agreed, almost managing to sound
like he wasn't distracted. Almost. "Let's see...We've got the usual
choices between sappy romance and car chases and explosions, as well
as...a...few...Tonks?"

"Yeees?"

"Don't take this the wrong way, but do you have two wands in your jacket
or are those your nipples poking me?"

"They might be, you said yourself that my breasts are perky."

"Well, it's just that...they feel awfully long to be nipples."

"They're very perky."

"You are an evil woman, Tonks." And Harry meant that with feeling. He'd
known that the shapeshifting Auror would be loads of fun, but right now
he was getting a serious urge to shag her on the spot. He had no idea how
he was going to survive a whole movie feeling like this.

"I know." She breathed huskily into his ear and deliberately rubbed her
now two inch nipples over his back, having entirely too much fun teasing
him.

"So...um...which movie would you like to see?" He asked distractedly.

"You asked me out, so you should decide." She answered in the same husky
tone. "Hurry, Harry! Before we puncture the Statute of Secrecy."

Harry groaned. "I thought you hated puns?"

"That's what I wanted you to think."

XXXXX

They left the restaurant shortly after that, with Tonks needing to take a
quick side trip to the bathroom to magically repair her stretched out
top, as it had not been made with two inch nipples in mind.

The movie was much less eventful than the dinner, with both of them
taking a metaphorical step back.

Tonks had been a bit embarrassed at her own forwardness, having not
intended to go anywhere near that far. Harry had been much better company
than she'd expected him to be and she'd gotten a bit carried away because
of it.

Harry had taken the reprieve from her teasing to get his libido under
control with some emergency Occlumency. It was harder than he'd expected
it to be, as both his body and magic seemed to have gotten used to
regular intercourse as a means of dealing with that issue. He suspected
that he was going to have a truly epic case of morning wood the next day.
Unless of course he managed to seduce Tonks all the way, but he was
honestly not expecting that to happen. She wasn't the type to jump in the
sack with him for his money or reputation and he didn't think that she
was as easy as Zoe had been either.

Now the movie was over and it was approaching time to go their separate
ways.

"I had a good time tonight, even if you did blackmail me into it." Tonks
said, opening up the goodbye portion of the date.

"You know you liked my puns better than the paperwork." Harry retorted
with a grin.

"That's not saying much, anything is better than paperwork." She shot
back.

"Does that mean that you wouldn't be averse to doing this again?" He
asked slyly, stepping a bit closer. "You know, just to get your mind off
the paperwork."

"I might be open to it, if you agree to lay off the puns." She replied,
not moving away despite his obvious intention to kiss her. He'd been a
better than average date and certainly deserved it.

"I could do that." Harry agreed and closed in on her lips.

Tonks had assumed that it would be a simple peck on the lips, but Harry
was apparently a rather greedy individual as he immediately went for a
deep liplock. She might have protested his forwardness if it wasn't for
the surge of warmth that suddenly exploded through her body and seemed to
crawl slowly down to her groin. It got worse when his hands reached out
to squeeze her butt.

Harry was doing more than just kissing her. He was pressing his magic
against hers in a manner similar to what he'd done with Fudge, but for an
entirely different purpose. Instead of making himself seem more imposing,
he was mingling his own desire with that of the woman he was kissing. It
was a technique that he'd actually learned from that sex magic guide that
Luna had given him, a means of enhancing pleasure by forming a feedback
loop between two people. He'd practiced it with Bryanna and Tiana
frequently, though in that case it had been used during sex.

The kiss lasted a good deal longer than either intended as they lost
themselves in the sensation, but lack of oxygen eventually prevailed and
they broke apart.

"Wow." Tonks exhaled, breathing hard and staring at him with heavy lidded
dark eyes. That hadn't been an inexperienced kiss. Not at all.

Harry smirked at her reaction, more accustomed to it. "Let's do this


again. Soon."
"Yeah." Tonks nodded a bit shakily, trying to ignore the throb of arousal
in her loins.

Harry waited for a few moments longer, still holding on to the slim hope
that she would suggest that they continue this somewhere more
comfortable.

Alas, no such luck. "Well...I'll see you later."

Tonks apparated away with that, her mind on finishing this date with an
application of Mr. Purple, her favorite, heavily enchanted dildo. She'd
put her Hogwarts education to good use after leaving its hallowed halls.

Harry stood there for a while, biting his lip and reflecting on the
double edged nature of establishing an emotional feedback loop. His arm
was going to be so sore.

Chapter 11

For those of you who are interested, FF author Umodin has posted a story
called "Mixedblood", which he says was inspired by my own writing. It has
an OC main character and he's only just started writing it, but give it a
peek if you're curious.

Chapter betaed as always by Joe Lawyer.

XXXXX

"I should go." Remus Lupin said awkwardly.

He'd been about to leave the country when he'd seen the Prophet article
that claimed his old friend's innocence. Filled with guilt once again for
his lack of faith, he'd decided to stay for a little bit longer to see
how things would play out.

Then had come Sirius' letter, asking him to come to Potter Manor and keep
an old dog company while he was grounded.

He hadn't been able to refuse.

That had been last night, much of which Sirius and he had spent
reminiscing and repairing their friendship. He'd spent the night at his
friend's insistence despite feeling like an intruder in Harry's home.

Now it was the morning after and the actual owner of the house was
present, but saying nothing and resolutely ignoring the both of them as
he ate his breakfast.
"You don't have to." Sirius protested, in a nearly canine sort of whine.
"Harry's just being cranky over his failure to seduce my cousin."

Harry shot his godfather a look of contempt, a true teenager look that
spoke volumes about how lame what he'd just said was. "Shut up, old man.
You haven't been with a woman in over twelve years and you're a product
of incest on top of it."

"I'm not old!" Sirius insisted, looking incredibly affronted. "And I'll
break my dry spell as soon as I can go out, the birds will love the bad
boy ex-con image I'll have going for me and I can't help it if my parents
were stupid. You can't go using that argument every time you want to shut
me down."

The good natured bickering reminded Remus of James and Sirius during
their school days so much that it hurt.

"Hmpf." Was Harry's only reply.

"Is it the creepy pedo mustache that Remus has now that's making you so
hostile?" Sirius asked in exasperation. "I'll admit that it bothered me
too at first, but you get used to it."

"What?" Remus exclaimed, startled. Then he ran his fingers over his
facial hair as if to reassure himself (or perhaps it) that it wasn't a
pedo mustache.

"No, it has nothing to do with his pedo mustache." Harry said succintly.
"I just don't see any reason why I should like him simply on account of
his friendship with my parents." He'd given Sirius a chance and the man
had jumped at it. Remus had had all the chances he could've asked for and
had spent them feeling sorry for himself. "The only reason he's even here
is because you wanted to rehash the good old days with someone."

Remus would have dearly liked to remove himself from this situation,
clearly seeing that he was a point of contention between Sirius and
Harry, even if it seemed like a mild one. Harry's obvious disapproval of
his presence made him want to flee.

He wasn't sure if the fact that Harry didn't care about his werewolf
status made that sting more or less.

He was just about to make his excuses and leave when the Potter house elf
popped in and handed Harry the day's issue of the Daily Prophet.

"You's newspaper, master Harry sir!" Teeny announced.

"Thank you, Teeny." Harry acknowledged, getting a beaming smile from the
small house elf before she popped away.

"What does it say?" Sirius asked curiously, seeing the odd expression on
Harry's face.
Harry said nothing, merely continued to read for the next couple of
minutes before wordlessly handing the newspaper to Sirius.

The Boy-Who-Killed? Harry Potter avenges the betrayal of his parents by


killing their betrayer, Peter Pettigrew.

By Rita Skeeter, journalist.

The large headline was accompanied by an animated picture of Harry


walking through the Ministry atrium in the company of Fudge, Dumbledore
and the two Aurors. Accompanied by the headline, it could be misconstrued
as him being arrested.

After yesterday's surprise article portraying a different version of the


events that occurred in the final days of the war against You-Know-Who
than what has been commonly accepted as truth until now, Harry Potter,
aged 13, arrived in the Ministry of Magic to explain himself to the DMLE.

He spoke to Amelia Bones, the head of the DMLE, in the company of


Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge and Albus Dumbledore, giving more
detail to the events first hinted at in yesterday's article.

From then on the article went on to describe a mostly truthful series of


facts regarding the altercation between Sirius and Pettigrew after
Voldemort's downfall, as well as lambasting Barty Crouch for his
overzealous imprisonment of Sirius as well as Pettigrew's twelve years
spent as the Weasley's pet rat.

Then things veered somewhat away from the facts and went into
sensationalist prose.

The Boy-Who-Lived seemed as if he was carved from stone as he


emotionlessly recounted taking Pettigrew's life with a blasting curse,
only his eyes burning with remembered fury. His choice of spell was
perhaps a deliberate bit of irony, as it was with the use of such a spell
that Pettigrew faked his death and framed Sirius Black for his crimes.

Madam Bones was obviously displeased by the way that the law had been
taken into the hands of a private citizen, but Potter immediately
followed up his confession with the wands of Peter Pettigrew and that of
You-Know-Who himself. After presenting these tokens, his claims of self-
defense were accepted and Potter was allowed to go without further issue.

"What the fuck?" Sirius exclaimed. "This can't be a DMLE sanctioned press
release! It makes you out to be some kind of vigilante that only walked
free because you gave them the Dark Tosser's wand as a bribe."

Remus briefly considered remonstrating Sirius for his use of foul


language.

"I don't think it is." Harry agreed. "I've read some of Skeeter's
articles before. The bitch is about as toxic as your average League of
Legends player and seems to get off on putting the worst possible spin on
everything she writes."
Remus realized that it would probably be a bad idea to complain about
foul language.

"League of Legends?" Sirius echoed in confusion.

"Nevermind." Harry waved off, having an idle thought of getting his


technologically impaired godfather to try video gaming. That would
probably be funny to watch.

"You're strangely calm about this." Remus dared to venture.

Harry glanced at him with a frown but decided to answer anyway. "The
people whose opinions I care about aren't going to change because of
this." That wasn't to say that he was happy about it, but what anger he
did feel was contained easily enough by his Occlumency.

"That's a very mature outlook." The werewolf complimented.

Harry's frown deepened, unaccountably irritated at being complimented by


someone he disliked.

"But we can't just let this go!" Sirius protested. "We need to prank the
hell out of her!"

Harry gave his godfather a flat look. "Pranking? Really? What are you,
twelve?" He ignored the minor hypocrisy of his rebuke.

"What else if not pranking?" Sirius near demanded. He knew just as well
as Harry that Skeeter wouldn't be facing any legal repercussions because
of this. The laws about journalistic integrity in Wizarding Britain had
more holes in them than Swiss cheese. The only reliable way of making
reporters back off was to do it outside the law.

Harry looked at over at the other Marauder sitting at the table again and
this time Remus understood that he had definitely overstayed his welcome.
Harry clearly didn't want to talk about this any further in his presence.

"I've got to go." The werewolf said, getting up from the table.

"Remus?" Sirius asked, blinking in surprise at the sudden declaration.

"I'll see you around, Sirius." Remus said, not giving his friend a chance
to protest as he left.

"Did you notice anything odd about this article?" Harry asked once the
werewolf was gone.

Sirius frowned slightly at his godson, wishing that he wasn't so cold to


Remus, but went ahead with the subject change anyway.

"You mean aside from how it insinuates that you're a stone cold killer?"

"Yes, aside from that."


Sirius thought about it and reread it, then it finally dawned on him.

"How could she have known what you were talking about in Bones' office?
Fudge doesn't strike me as the type to keep a secret, but this reads as
if she was in the room with you."

"I felt strange for that whole meeting." Harry admitted. "I kept getting
the nagging feeling that there was another person in the room, but I
couldn't pin it down and I had to focus on Bones anyway."

"Invisibility cloak?" Sirius hazarded.

Harry considered it for a moment before shaking his head. "I don't think
so. She would've had a hard time not bumping into anyone and I'm pretty
sure that my magesight could see a regular invisibility cloak just as
well as it can my special one."

Sirius was briefly stumped by that before another idea came to mind, this
one even closer to home than the invisibility cloak. "An Animagus form!
You could've easily missed it if it was small enough."

They'd already determined that Harry's newly gained sensing ability had
more trouble picking out details for Sirius in his dog form and the
'size' of his magic also 'shrunk' to match his body. If Skeeter was small
enough in her Animagus form, then detecting her could be problematic even
for Harry, especially with Amelia Bones commanding his full attention.

"It's a definite possibility."

"She must not be registered. If she was then she'd never have been able
to sneak into the DMLE like that." Sirius said, a slow grin growing on
his face.

"And failing to register as an Animagus gets you time in Azkaban." Which


Harry's cynical mind identified as more proof of the Ministry's obsession
with control. Animagi were notoriously difficult to keep track of in
their animal forms. "But we can't be sure if she's really an Animagus."

"What else could it be?" Sirius asked with some exasperation.

"I don't know, but I'd rather not make assumptions only to end up being
wrong later." Harry retorted snippily.

XXXXX

Over in the DMLE, Aurors scrambled for cover as their boss stormed
through, her nostrils flaring like that of an angry bull.

The second day in a row that the Daily Prophet had posted an inflammatory
article. First Potter and Black and then that bitch, Skeeter. Both times
kicking dirt on her department as a side-effect.
Amelia Bones wasn't the type to curse out loud, but she was sorely
tempted just then. Time and again she had proposed adjustments to the law
that would hold reporters to a higher standard, but the decrepit old
farts on the Wizengamot shot it down every time.

Well of course they did. It would be hard to use the Daily Prophet as a
propaganda tool if they were actually required by law to print only the
truth.

Unlike Sirius and Harry, Amelia had been dealing with Skeeter's bullshit
for a very long time now and didn't even question how the spiteful
reporter had gotten her information. It wouldn't be the first time that
she'd conjured up some mixture of fact and fiction that had a vague
resemblance to the truth and Fudge couldn't keep a secret to save his
life anyway. Half the Ministry had been yammering on about rat Animagi
and Voldemort's wand within an hour of him leaving the DMLE.

She had intended to release the full details of what she'd learned in a
press release the next day, but now she needed to scramble to do damage
control. She might not be overly fond of Potter right now, but she wasn't
going to let him be painted as a vengeful killer by that sorry excuse for
a reporter.

XXXXX

Several hours later, Skeeter's article changed to include important


details that she'd previously left out, such as the fact that Pettigrew
had tried to draw his wand first and that Harry didn't simply kill him as
revenge for his parents, but the damage had already been done and the
general public opinion of Harry Potter was no longer of some kind of
messianic figure that could do no wrong.

Harry saw the change in the paper and knew that it wasn't going to fix
the damage that the original article had done, but was not overly
concerned with the consequences. Yes, he'd learned to make use of his
reputation instead of being irritated by it and would have preferred for
the knowledge of his killing Pettigrew to be kept as quiet as possible,
but he hadn't honestly expected to stay on that same saintly pedestal
after this anyway. The reputation of the Boy-Who-Lived had become so
inflated that it would never have survived a meeting with reality, it was
always going to be something of a one-shot. Granted, Skeeter's poisonous
slant probably did more damage than would have happened otherwise, but
probably not as much as she'd hoped for.

The DMLE dropped by twice more in the following days to talk to both him
and Sirius again, then his godfather was declared a free man. It all
seemed rather rushed, for which Harry figured he had Fudge to thank.
They'd even dug Sirius' wand out of Azkaban's storage and returned it to
him.

That took care of the biggest thing he had to do for the summer, which
still left him with the two OWLs he had to pass, figuring out the legal
details of the business he was helping Bryanna and Tiana start up,
talking to the former managers of the Potter business interests that had
since been taken over by the Parkinsons and most recently, another date
with Tonks.

He was looking forward to the latter most of all. He hadn't expected to


find himself liking the Metamorphmagus Auror to this degree considering
his general dislike of the Ministry, but he did. Her naturally cheerful
disposition was a stark contrast to his more stoic leanings and he
couldn't help but find himself interested. He'd had a similar experience
with Zoe, but his muggle friend with benefits had made it clear that she
wasn't looking for anything serious and her lack of magic honestly made
anything more than their casual arrangement more problematic than he was
willing to deal with.

Come to think of it, that might be why he'd gotten along with Sirius so
easily too. His godfather somehow managed to be in a good mood most of
the time despite his life being best described as 'a field of crap with a
few flowers breaking through the shit'. He had to respect the man's
determination to enjoy life in spite of everything and the fact that he
treated Harry like an adult didn't hurt either.

Harry knew himself to be somewhat frustrating as a friend. He could talk


to people yes, but he also liked his alone time and he loathed it when
someone tried to tell him how he should live. His early childhood was
characterized by the Dursleys hatred, bullying by other children and
later having his social interactions scripted out by Robert and
Katherine, leaving him with little patience for pushy people.

His short lived friendship with Ginny had fallen apart as much because of
her silly crush as it had because she couldn't understand that. Unfair
perhaps to expect that kind of thing from a preteen girl, especially when
she didn't know the circumstances, but life wasn't fair.

Luna understood though, or maybe that was just how she was. Luna never
complained about his penchant for keeping things to himself or his
disappearances when he wanted to practice his magic in secrecy, never
tried to make him talk about it, never tried to tell him that he should
be anything other than himself. Harry considered himself fortunate to
have a friend like her, as he strongly suspected that he'd have spent his
entire time at Hogwarts alone without her and first year had taught him
that he wasn't so anti-social that he could be happy living in constant
solitude. Enough to push people away though.

The other students were nice enough, but he simply had trouble relating
to them. Even Bryanna and Tiana had only stuck around primarily for the
gold and later for the sex, once he'd gotten good enough at it. For all
that they were on good terms, he had no doubt that they would have
drifted away if their plans for the future didn't hinge on a continued
association with him. Harry had gotten very good at keeping people at
arm's length without even meaning to.

He found himself hoping that Tonks would be another person that he could
manage to really connect with. He wouldn't be surprised if not, but he
would be disappointed. She was the first witch aside from Luna that he
was looking forward to actually getting to know and not just sleeping
with.

XXXXX

"One of the hardest parts of becoming an Animagus is finding your animal


form." Sirius was saying. "It will almost certainly be an animal that you
share characteristics with, but finding out which ones is the problem.
You don't have much of a choice in the matter either and some people
don't like what it says about them."

"I imagine that Pettigrew wasn't too pleased with his form." Harry
guessed.

"You'd be right about that." Sirius laughed harshly, his resentment of


his former friend still clear. "It took him the longest out of all of us
to first transform. Since you mentioned Wormtail, there's another thing
you should know about becoming an Animagus. It will change you, not in a
way that would be instantly obvious, but it will change you. A lot of
people that could have become Animagi choose not to because of this,
aside from the other dangers that is."

"How did it change you and the others?" Harry asked, very interested in
that bit and less so in the dangers. He was sure that Sirius would get
around to mentioning those soon enough.

"It's hard to say for sure, but some of the animal instinct carries over.
For one thing, I think that both James and I became a bit more vigorous
in our pursuit of the ladies after our first transformation."

Harry snorted at the diplomatic phrasing.

Sirius pretended he hadn't heard it. "James also became a good bit more
territorial about your mother and went after Snape any time he approached
her."

Harry frowned at that, vaguely recalling some information from his non-
magical schooling about male deer forming harems instead of mating for
life.

"How long did you and my dad go around seducing girls anyway?" He asked.

Sirius looked at him oddly but answered anyway. "James stopped towards
the end of sixth year when he started getting a bit desperate to win your
mother over. I never stopped."

Ah, so he'd subconsciously been trying to form a harem, but had shaken it
off in order to get the one he really wanted. And dogs were of course
polygamous, so Sirius' aversion to a dedicated relationship would have
only been increased. That fit with a few other distinctly canine
characteristics that Harry had noticed about his godfather.

"Alright, how do I find my inner animal?" Harry asked with a smile.


"It should be familiar to you from your Occlumency training and is really
the only part of learning how to be an Animagus that is completely safe."
Sirius explained. His own Occlumency was crap, only good enough to detect
intrusions, but he could see the parallels. "Not the same though. You're
not looking to clear your mind and stop thinking this time. You need to
sort of sink into your magic and let it show you what your inner animal
is. It'll be something that you're familiar with, but don't make any
assumptions or you'll throw the whole thing off. Once you manage it, you
might get a mental impression or even a vision of being that animal.
You'll have to keep doing this until you're absolutely certain which one
it is."

A few minutes of instruction later, Sirius left Harry alone to try it.

His Occlumency both helped and hindered him in this, but mostly helped.
He was already familiar with meditation and more than aware enough of his
own magic to do it, but he had some trouble not blanking out his mind on
instinct.

A few hours later, he came back to himself with a gasp, a dazed smile on
his face but his mind still on the waking vision he'd just had. Of
looking down at the world from the sky and gliding through the air on
black feathered wings.

Corvus corax. The common raven. He supposed that his Patronus should have
been a hint since he had called the guardian from within himself. He'd
already read up on them a bit thanks to that, but he was going to study
the species in a lot more detail now.

XXXXX

"Blimey, you know your form already?" Sirius asked with considerable
shock when he was told. "Are you sure that you know it? Absolutely sure?"

"Yes." Harry replied, a bit exasperated.

"Don't take that tone with me, young man." Sirius said sternly, but
couldn't quite keep a proud grin off his face. "If you rush into this
thinking that your animal form is something else than what it really is,
you could drive yourself mad or even die. Wouldn't be the first wizard it
happened to because they were impatient."

"Like the Marauders?"

"Exactly like us. In retrospect, it's a minor miracle that none of us


died or lost our minds."

"I'm still on the fence about your sanity, but I get your point and I'll
be careful. I really am sure of my form though."

"That must be some kind of record." Sirius commented, letting the jibe
about his sanity go. It wasn't the first time that someone had cast
aspersions on it. "It took us months just to get our first success and
months more before we could be sure of our forms."
"None of you were Occlumancers." Harry pointed out, not mentioning how
his rituals and wandless practice had left uniquely him aware of his own
magic. "And you were younger than me when you started, not to mention
less amazing. Did you know that ravens are among the most intelligent
animals alive?"

"Ha bloody ha." Sirius deadpanned.

"So, what now?"

"You'll need to, for lack of a better term, turn yourself inside out."

"You mean like...become an animal with an inner wizard instead of a


wizard with an inner animal?"

"That's it exactly. Your human mind is obviously a lot stronger than an


animal's instinct, so you'll retain most of your rationality."

"Most?"

"You might get some odd urges on occassion."

"Sirius, does the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black have canine heirs
wandering the world?"

"Piss off, Harry."

"I'm sorry." The younger wizard apologized, not sounding very sorry at
all. "What else do I have to do?"

"In the old days, wizards would spend years or even decades observing the
animal they were trying to turn into, to become as familiar with them as
possible. You'll still need to do that, but thanks to the wonders of the
modern age, you can get most of the needed information from a book."

"Who needs books when you have Wikipedia?"

"What's a Wikipedia?"

"I'll show you later." Harry was also wondering if watching YouTube
videos of ravens counted as observation. He couldn't see any reasons why
it wouldn't, but it might be best to find some wild ravens just to be on
the safe side.

"Right." Sirius said with a nod, having no clue whatsoever what his
godson was talking about. Probably some muggle thing. He'd considered
himself quite knowledgeable on the Muggle World at one point, but he was
waking up to the fact that it had become nigh on unrecognizable since the
last time he'd ventured into it. The basics were still the same of
course, but a lot of the things that Harry sometimes mentioned as if they
were common knowledge flew right over his head.

XXXXX
With Sirius now being a free man, an opportunity presented itself to do
something that Harry had wanted to do for some time.

"Do we really have to do this?" Sirius whined.

"Yes." Harry stated firmly.

"Couldn't we just burn it instead?" Sirius asked hopefully.

"No."

"But-!"

"Sirius, we are going into that house. If you hate it that much, we can
sell it after we pilfer everything of worth from it."

"Not burn it?"

"If you want to set it on fire that much, then sell it to Malfoy first.
Or Parkinson. Actually no, that's probably a bad idea even if we torch
the place right after."

Sirius sighed the sigh of the resigned. "Alright, let's get this over
with."

With heavy steps, the dog Animagus walked towards the front door of Nr.
12 Grimmauld Place.

Harry looked around curiously as they entered. The large townhouse was
smaller than Potter Manor and the hallways more narrow. In fact, the
whole place gave off an oppresive feeling of gloom. According to Dorea,
the Blacks had once had a manor house in the country as well, but for
reasons unknown, one of the past Lords Black had torn it down and
appropriated this place from its previous non-magical residents. And by
appropriated, Dorea had meant stolen.

They didn't get far before they were accosted by a portrait of woman that
looked as if she had spent her entire life sucking on lemons.

"Ah, so the prodigal son returns." She said, trying to look superior but
only managing constipation in Harry's humble opinion. "And who is this
you've brought with you? What family is he from?"

"What's with the friendly attitude, mum?" Sirius asked bluntly, packing a
lot of scorn into the last word. "Last time I saw you, you were shrieking
at my grandfather to cast me out of the family."

"I heard that you've learned the error of your ways since then, turning
your back on that blood traitor Potter and his filthy mudblood wife and
leading the Dark Lord to them." Sirius' mother answered, her demeanor
darkening slightly at the disrespect.
"I hate to disappoint you," Sirius began sarcastically. "but I was
framed. I've just been cleared of all charges and am once again known as
a muggle loving blood traitor to the world at large."

Could paintings have aneurysms? Harry felt sure that Sirius mother had
just had one.

"YOU FILTH! HOW DARE YOU RETURN TO SULLY THIS HOUSE! KREACHER! KREACHER!"

Ye gods, he'd thought that Sirius had been exaggerating when he'd
described his mother. No such luck though. If anything, the man had
somehow managed to understate it despite making her out to be the most
horrid woman in the world.

"No wonder you wanted to burn the place down." Harry commented as the
portrait of Walburga Black went on a shireking diatribe
about...something. It wasn't very coherent, but it did involve a lot of
screaming about blood traitors and mudbloods.

Sirius' potential reply was cut off when a decrepit looking house elf
popped in, glaring at them with a viciousness that Harry had honestly not
thought the little creatures capable of.

"Filthy blood traitor master has come back." Kreacher said scornfully,
barely heard over the portrait's continued yelling. "Kreacher will throw
you out."

"No, you won't" Sirius said flatly. "I own this house now."

"FILTH! SHAME TO THE FAMILY!"

Kreacher's face twisted with fury as the truth of the words sank in. The
wards had already transferred to Sirius, so he would now have to obey the
master that he hated.

"First, I want you to take that thing's portrait down and burn it."
Sirius went on contemptously, much to the increased rage of his mother.

"Kreacher cannot." The house elf said gleefully. "Mistress is permanently


stuck to wall."

"Then take down the wall." Sirius growled.

"GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT!"

"If Kreacher did that, the house would collapse. Stupid master." Kreacher
sneered.

Harry rolled his eyes in exasperation at the situation, starting to


develop a headache from the portrait's screaming.

"Can you brick her up then?" He asked. He wasn't at all convinced that
the Sticking Charm couldn't be dismantled, but it would be quite a feat
to concentrate on doing that with the painted harpy's constant yelling
Kreacher's mouth snapped shut and he glared at Harry mutinously, refusing
to answer.

"Answer him!" Sirius snapped.

"Yeeeees." Kreacher growled unwillingly through clenched teeth.

"Then do it." Sirius ordered, now grinning at having a solution to the


problem.

"Kreacher has no bricks." The house elf said sullenly.

"Oh, don't worry. I'll get you all the bricks you'll need."

"DISHONOR! DISHONOR ON THE FAMILY!"

XXXXX

"Lovely woman, your mother." Harry commented as they walked towards the
library.

"Isn't she just?" Sirius asked sarcastically. "I'd almost forgotten the
pounding headache that her diatribes gave me."

"What's with the house elf though?"

"Kreacher? He's always been a spiteful little bastard, but I suppose I


shouldn't be surprised. He's never been allowed to leave Grimmauld Place
and had nothing to listen to except my family's rants on blood purity."

"A bigoted house elf, now I've seen everything." Harry said with
amusement as they entered the library.

"Speaking of seeing everything, are you sure you should be looking at


some of these books?" Sirius asked nervously. He was not at all sanguine
about his godson reading up on some of the stuff he knew was in there.

"You worry too much, Sirius." Harry waved off. "I've got no interest in
sacrificing virgins or performing divination from someone's spilled
intestines. I'm much more interested in the theory than the practical
applications."

"You know, by all rights I should be forbidding you from coming anywhere
near these books until I've had a chance to throw out the worst of them."
Sirius commented wryly.

"But you won't because you're the best godfather ever."

"And you'd be pissy about it if I did."

"Knowledge is neither good nor evil, so yes, I would indeed be pissy if


you discarded it."
"Fine." Sirius said, tossing his hands skyward. "I'll go find Kreacher
some bricks, thanks for that idea by the way, and you can browse the
books. Just avoid the cursed ones."

"Who curses their own books anyway?" Harry suddenly asked. "That sounds
like a spectacularly bad idea."

"I told you that my family was nuts." Sirius shrugged.

Harry was left alone after that, Sirius trusting that Harry's magesight
and caution would keep him from running afoul the cursed books. He simply
browsed the titles for a while, waiting for something to catch his eye.

Not all of the tomes were filled with morally(and no doubt legally)
dubious magic, quite a few of them he'd actually already encountered in
either Hogwarts or Potter Manor. He wasn't interested in those though. He
would never have a proper understanding of magic if he confined himself
only to comfortable topics.

Ten minutes of browsing later, he'd found a tome that detailed the
process of using the ritualistic sacrifice of other wizards, witches or
powerful magical creatures to power large scale spells, wards or other
magics. It was grim and sometimes