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The Wizard of Silence

Chapter Text

The Wizard of Silence
Charmed/Harry Potter AU XOver
by Corwalch



Halliwell Manor – December 22, 1985
Patti Halliwell had just finished getting dressed for work, when she saw a column of blue-white light appear in her mirror. Recognizing it a whitelighter orbing in, she turned expecting it to be hers, but found herself facing a stranger. While she was certain she had never met him before, there was something familiar about him.

This Whitelighter appeared to be to be in his twenties or thirties, but she knew that he might be much older than that. He was blond and well-built, with the sort of boyish charm that was probably a big hit with the ladies.

Before she could say a word, he spoke up, “Miss Halliwell, my name is Leo. I’m sorry to intrude like this, but I must speak with you and your mother. I need your help for one of my charges and time is of the essence.”

Patti could see how worried he was about his charge and gestured toward the door. She led him downstairs into the sun room. “Please wait here. I’ll go get my mother.”

######

Leo took several deep breaths as he prepared himself to meet a woman he hadn’t seen in over twenty years. In fact, the last time he had seen had been at the death of her first husband Alan in ’63. His death had hit Penny pretty hard and because of it, she had closed herself off from the free spirit she had been.

When Penny Halliwell entered the sun room, it was clear from the way she looked at him, that she didn’t remember him and her first words confirmed that guess.

“My daughter said you need our help, Whitelighter.” Penny Halliwell got right to the point.

“Yes, ma’am. As I told your daughter, I need your help to save one of my charges. He is living in England.” Leo told her. “His name is Harry Potter and he is five years old, but he may not make it to six if his Aunt and Uncle have their way. Harry’s parents were both magic users who were killed by a warlock named Riddle, when he was just a little over a year old. The warlock also tried to kill Harry but because of an old piece of protection magic done by his mother at the moment of her death, and his own innate magical ability, he was able to turn the spell back on the caster. Unfortunately, the returned spell wasn’t enough to vanquish him, but it did leave him almost powerless and without a body.”

“Could you please get to the point!” Penny demanded.

“Sorry ma’am,” Leo apologized. “About a week ago the boy became ill with a variant of strep that he caught from his cousin. Because the Dursley’s hate anything having to do with magic, including their nephew, they have not taken him to the hospital or to see a doctor. To be truthful, they really haven’t taken very good care of him since he came to live with them. They treat him as little better than a slave and think that abuse will drive the magic out of him. Up until now because of the nature of the spell placed on him by his mother, the Elders have refused to let me directly intervene, but that changed today. He is very ill, and if it is left untreated much longer the boy will die. As it is, he may be severely handicapped. I finally managed to convince the Elders, that the boy needs to be removed from their care, if he was to have any chance of fulfilling his destiny.”

“You still haven’t explained how this affects us. Or why you need our help.” Penny reminded him.

“I was getting to that.” Leo told her. “As I said because of the nature of his mother’s sacrifice and the final spell she cast with her dying thoughts, Harry is safest with blood kin, and that’s who the Elders want him to stay with as well. The Potters were wanded magic users and those in charge of the wanded magical community, left the boy with Dursley’s, because they were thought to be the boy’s only remaining kin. They didn’t know about your daughter, or your granddaughters, which means the boy would be safe here as well. Because of the wards surrounding the Dursley house, only blood kin, or Light magic users can enter to get the boy, which means that, because you are related to his only other living aunt and a white magic user, I can get you past the wards. What I need from you, Ms. Halliwell, is help getting him out of that house and a place for him to live, and maybe be loved, for the first time since he was a baby.”

Penny Halliwell stared at the whitelighter in shock for a moment, then quickly put the pieces together. There was only one person that both her daughter and granddaughters could be blood kin to -- Alan’s sister. She’d left San Francisco a few months after Alan’s death, and Penny had lost contact with her. “You’re telling me that my grand-nephew is in danger, from his own family?”

“Yes ma’am.” Leo nodded. “The other reason I came to you, is because the boy has one other thing in common with your family. While he will be capable of doing wanded magic, he comes from a long line of Wiccans. He is going to need training in how to use those gifts he inherited from the Talbot family line. We will also need to get his parent’s things from the Dursley’s, as well as his great-grandmother’s Book of Shadows. It was left to Lily by her mother, but because of Petunia Evans hatred of her sister, she hid the book along with the other things that were left to Lily in her mother’s will. I think that if Petunia had known what the book was she would have burned it, or at least tried to.”

A honking sound outside interrupted their conversation.

“Give us a moment, Leo.” Patti requested then called, “girls, Andy’s mom is here. Get your things.”

The was a rustling sound in the dining room and then three dark-haired girls came into the sun room. Even with their powers bound, Leo could already see how powerful they would one day be. These were indeed the Charmed Ones, though the littlest one looked more like a little imp right now, with that mischievous look on her face.

“You three have a good day with the Trudeaus.” Patti instructed as she and her mother hugged and kissed them. “And Phoebe, try not to get into trouble.”

“I be good, mommy.” Phoebe promised, trying to look solemn, but failing.

Once the girls were out the door and in the Trudeau’s car, they turned their attention back to Leo and what he wanted from them.

Leo looked back and forth between the two women. “Will you ladies help me to help him? Please!”

Penny knew from the expression on her daughter’s face that Patti wanted to help the boy, just because he was an innocent that needed their help. She was going to help simply because no child should be abused, especially by their own family. “If he really is Janice's grandchild then I owe it to her to try and help him.”

She turned to her daughter. “Patti, can you call in and tell them won’t be able to make it in today?”

“I should be able to, but what shall I tell them?” Patti wanted to know.

“In this case, the truth,” Penny told her daughter. “Your cousin’s child turned up on our doorstep this morning, very ill and you and I are taking him to the doctor’s. And while I’m gone, call Eddie, if the boy is as sick as the whitelighter claims, we’re going to need his healing touch in addition to modern medicine.”

As her daughter went to make the necessary calls, she turned her attention to Leo. “What time is it there?”

“About 5 or 6 in the evening,” Leo told her, relived that she had agreed so easily.

Some of the relief he was feeling, must have shown on his face, because she told him, “Don’t be so surprised, I may have a well-deserved reputation for being something of a bitch, which is why you want me to come with you instead of my daughter, but I won’t leave ANY child in a dangerous situation if I can help it. Give me a moment to get a hat and coat, then we can go.”

When she returned she told the whitelighter, “And once we’ve got the boy, I want you to get me everything you whitelighters have on this Warlock Riddle. If we’re going to be protecting the boy, we need to know what we’re protecting him from.”

Chapter Text

Immovable Object: Dursley meet Irresistible Force: Halliwell

Vernon Dursley was just about to pick up his fork and start on his dinner when the doorbell ran. Growling, he threw his napkin on the table and stalked to the door, muttering about rude, inconsiderate people.

He opened the door to find an older woman and young man standing on his front porch. Glaring at them, he growled, “not interested. Leave!”

He slammed the door and turned to head back to rejoin his wife and son at the dinner table, but a persistent knocking stopped him before he’d taken a single step. Furious, he flung open the door and shouted, “Do you not understand English? I told you we weren’t interested. Now bugger off!”

Slamming the door, he locked it, satisfied that they wouldn’t be bothering him anymore. He hadn’t gone more than a couple of steps back toward the kitchen when something heavy slammed into the wall hard enough to make some pictures fall off. Feeling a blast of cold air move past him, Vernon became enraged and forgetting that he had locked the door, turned back toward the open doorway, intending to drive the stubborn fools off his property for good.

Before he had a chance to utter a word, or take a step toward the people now standing in his hallway, the woman asked, “Didn’t your mother teach you any manners, Vernon Dursley? Your behaviour has been extremely rude so far.”

“I will not stand here and be lectured to by someone who has just broken into my house.” Vernon bellowed.

“I would advise you not to take that tone with me, Dursley.” While the woman’s voice remained calm there was a definite hint of a threat in it. “I am not someone you want to have angry at you. I am quite capable of and willing to make your life extremely miserable, especially since I know how well you treat your relations.”

To demonstrate her point, the woman waved her hand at the open door and it closed just as violently as it had opened, knocking more things off the wall.

######

Petunia Dursley, not used to hearing her husband slam the door that hard or that often, decided to take a look and see what was going on.

The sight that greeted her was Vernon, looking pale as he stared at the older woman standing front of him. Something about the woman seemed familiar, but Petunia couldn’t put her finger on what it was. Stepping into the hall, she asked, “Vernon, is everything all right? Your dinner is going to get cold.”

“Go on back in the kitchen. I’ll be back in, in just a minute, as soon as I get rid of these damn freaks.” Vernon growled, not taking his eyes off the woman.

“Vernon, Vernon, manners.” The woman chastised. “You should know better than to treat your relations like that.”

“We are not related.” Vernon growled.

“Oh, but we are,” she countered. “True, it’s by marriage, but we are still related. And believe me when I say I’m not any happier about the connection than you are.” She moved toward Petunia. “Hello, dear, you must be Petunia. I’m your Aunt, Penny Halliwell.”

While the woman had spoken politely, Petunia couldn’t help bristling at her attitude toward Vernon and announced loftily, “I don’t have an Aunt Penny.”

“Yes, you do,” the woman disagreed. “I was married to your mother’s brother, Alan, though as I told your husband, given how I’ve heard you treat those related to you, I’m definitely not going to be acknowledging the connection, once I get what I came for.”

“How dare you?!” Petunia screeched. “You have no right to criticise how I treat my family. I have never raised a hand to my son. I take very good care of him.”

“But what about your nephew, Harry?” Penny countered. “Have you raised your hand to him?”

Petunia paled, but said nothing.

Penny nodded as if her silence confirmed the accusation. “Did you think I didn’t know about him? From what I’ve heard, from very reliable sources, I might add, you treat him worse than a slave.”

“So what?” Vernon interrupted. “We didn’t ask for him to be brought here. He was dumped on our doorstep like an unwanted puppy. We damn well didn’t want him but we took him in, but was he grateful. No. Can’t even do his chores without mucking them up.”

“And do you treat your son the same way you treat your nephew?” The young man spoke up for the first time. “Do you make him do the same chores?”

“Of course not.” Vernon looked indignant at the very idea. “My son’s not an abnormal freak. He doesn’t need to have the freakishness beaten out of him.”

“And what freakishness would that be?” Penny turned her attention back to Dursley.

Not realising the hole he was digging for himself, Vernon spat. “Magic! Unless it’s driven out of him, he’ll be like you, and his parents, an abnormal freak, not fit to be around the rest of us.”

“You should be aware Vernon that your son has just as much of a chance of being an... abnormal freak as Harry. After all it runs in the family.” Penny informed him.

“You’re a god damned liar.” Vernon roared. “My son is not a freak. He’s a good boy and has never hurt anyone. He’s not an abomination like that Potter brat...”

“Vernon, I warned you.” Penny interrupted, her voice taking on an icy tone as she recited, “If you don’t have something nice to say, then silence shall be the rule of the day.”

Petunia saw Vernon’s mouth continue to move, but nothing came out of it. She paled as she realized what Vernon meant when he called Penny Halliwell a freak. “You’re a witch! What did you do to my husband?”

“Of course, I’m a witch,” Penny agreed, “just like your grandmother was and your sister was as well as others before them. As for what I did to your husband, I’m teaching him a lesson in manners. Until he has something nice to say, that he really means, he won’t be able to say a word.”

“What do you want? We want nothing to do with your kind. Why bother us?”

“Your mother would be very disappointed to hear you say that. From what I remember of her, she was a very loving woman, who would always give a helping hand to anyone. As for what I want, I’ve come for Harry. You and your bigot of a husband have come very close to killing him and I don’t intend to let you continue to mistreat my grand-nephew.” Penny told her. “Where is he?”

Petunia’s eyes flashed briefly to the cupboard under the stairs with the padlock on it.

“You locked him in a cupboard!” Penny stared at the woman in shock. “Leo, keep an eye on her. I’m not done with her yet.”

Leo pulled Petunia Dursley out of the way, as Penny Halliwell knelt in front of the locked door and recited. “At my knock, remove the lock.”

She rapped once on the cupboard door and the lock vanished. Quickly opening the door, she pulled on the cord for the light. What she found shocked her. The boy was underfed and looked as if he were child of three and not five. She could feel the heat radiating off his body from the fever that was burning it up. Carefully picking him up, she took him out of the cupboard, while trying to insure that the oversized clothes didn’t fall off his thin frame.

Once she was back on her feet, she requested, “Leo, please take him. Do what you can for the fever, but leave the rest alone for now. If I’m going to get custody I may need to prove he was a victim of child abuse.”

Petunia paled when the young man’s hands glowed with a kind of blue-white light where they came in contact with the small boy he was holding. “You’re a wizard too. Get away from me you freak.”

Leo looked at her the expression on his face one of disgust, “Actually, Mrs. Dursley, I’m not a wizard. I’m a sort of Angel. I protect and help witches and wizards.” He looked at Penny. “I’ve brought his fever down, but he’s still very sick and the infection’s already done irreparable damage. We need to get him out of here.”

“We’ll be leaving in just a few minutes.” Penny Halliwell assured him. “Mrs. Dursley and I just have a few more matters to take care of, before we leave.”

“What matters?” Petunia stared at the woman huffily. “You’ve got what you wanted. Take that abnormal brat and get out of my house.”

“Oh, but we aren’t done yet Petunia Evans Dursley. For one thing, you are going to sign this.” Penny pulled a folded piece of paper out of her pocket and held it out toward the woman.

Petunia ignored the piece of paper and stated, “I’m signing nothing.”

“Yes you will unless, you want me to call the police. I am quite certain that given the evidence we have,” she pointed to the very sick little boy in Leo’s arms, “the police would be quite willing to arrest you and your husband for child abuse and attempted murder.”

“We didn’t abuse him or try to kill him.” Petunia stated flatly.
“Bull,” Penny contradicted her. “You left his illness untreated and he is almost at the point of death. I think that counts even in British legal circles as attempted murder. And I’m sure that if the police were to have a doctor check Harry out they would find all the signs of child abuse that I know, from unimpeachable sources, was inflicted by you, your husband, and your son. Then again even if the courts don’t try and convict you for attempted murder, they will get you and your husband for child abuse. Which will mean jail time for the two of you and if the prisoners in British jails are anything like the ones in American jails, they take a dim view of child abusers, which means you and your husband would be considered lower than the cockroaches to them. And your so-called ‘good boy’ of a son will wind up in state care. I wonder if the people to whom he will be fostered out, if he’s even fostered out, will treat him the same way you’ve treated your nephew. One can only hope so.” Penny smiled at a sudden thought. “And even if the British legal system is too short-sighted to convict either of you for your crimes, you may want to consider what the magical community would do to the three of you once I let them know what you did to Harry.”

Petunia paled at the thought of what those freaks might do to her precious Dudley in retribution for their treatment of that freak and grabbed the piece of paper. “What is it, any way?”

“It merely states that you as Harry Potter’s guardian are giving up custody of him to me and my daughter who is his only other living adult blood relative.” Penny smirked. “And that you will make no claims on anything he has or may have in the future.”

Petunia quickly read the short handwritten document and found it to be exactly what the woman claimed. Grabbing a pen out of the drawer in the hall table, she scrawled her name on it and handed it back. “There. You have what you wanted, now leave.”

“Not quite yet.” Penny shook her head. “There is still the matter of Harry’s belongings.”

“That brat has nothing unless you want to count that moth eaten blanket in the cupboard.” Petunia countered.

“Oh that’s where you’re wrong.” Penny disagreed once more. “You do have some things that don’t belong to you or your family and I intend for them to go with their rightful owner.”

Petunia crossed her arms looking at the woman defiantly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I am talking about the things that belonged to Harry’s mother and father that you now have in your possession as well as those things left to Lily by your mother that you never saw fit to give her.” Penny told her, causing her to pale even further.

“Anything that belonged to my freak of a sister and her husband was burned.” Petunia sniffed in disgust. “We weren’t going to have any of that bizarre stuff in this house. As for my mother’s things, they are mine, and you will not have them.”

“I know your kind, Petunia Evans Dursley. You wouldn’t have destroyed anything that was worth money or that you could take pleasure in knowing you were keeping from its rightful owner. You will either bring me ALL of the things that belonged to the Potters or were left to your sister by your mother, or I will get them myself. And if I get them, then I won’t guarantee that this house will still be standing when I’m done. They will take the most direct route to get to me, through floors, walls, …people.” Penny was tired of dealing with this woman. “Your choice, but you should know my patience is at an end, not that I had much to begin with.”

Realising this woman was deadly serious, Petunia quickly headed upstairs to the attic. She brought down several small trunks, placing them on the floor near the man holding her despised nephew.

“Is that all of it?” Penny asked.

Petunia nodded, not daring to say a word in case the woman took it the wrong way.

“Well let’s just make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, shall we.” Penny extended both hands. “From everywhere within this house, I summon to me anything that belonged to Lily Evans Potter or her spouse.”

There were the sounds of something falling from upstairs and the dining room. Several pieces of jewellery flew down the stairs and into her waiting hands along with several books, including one very thick black one with a locked clasp on it. A couple of figurines came floating out of the living room along with an intricately carved box that also had a lock on it.

Penny waited to see if anything else would show up, before saying a spell to send the things to the Manor. Then she moved so that she was standing next to Leo and the boy, but held up her hand to stop him, before he could orb them away. With a final look at the Dursleys, she said, “From now until your dying day, you will pay for what you’ve done to your sister’s son. The golden rule states; Do unto others as you would have done unto you. So it was written, so for the Dursley’s; father, mother, and son, let it be done.”

As Petunia and Vernon stared at her in horrified disbelief, Penny Halliwell placed her hand on Harry’s back, and the three of them vanished in a column of blue white light.

Chapter Text

This is your cousin, Harry

Patti Halliwell paced around the sun room, checking her watch every few minutes, waiting for her mother and the whitelighter to return. She had no doubt that her mother would be returning with her nephew but she didn’t know what kind of shape he would be in. The fact that her mother ask for Dr. Edward Wyeth to come here, meant she thought the situation was going to be serious and require more than just his usual Homeopathic skills or even his regular doctor’s skills.

She had already prepared her mother’s room to receive the boy, since the only other available rooms would need to have some work done on them before they could be lived in again. The fact that her mother’s room was the warmest and the sunniest this time of year had also been a big part of her decision. There was also the fact that with him in her mother’s bedroom, her daughter’s wouldn’t be quite so likely to come barging in without any warning. While her girls were special to her and she considered them her angels, she also knew quite well that they could quickly turn into little imps from hell, finding mischief anywhere, but the one place they wouldn’t barge into uninvited was her mother’s room.

From what little she knew about child abuse, the children who were hurt by it, depending on the level of the abuse were often quite skittish and easily startled, until they knew that the abuse was not going to continue and even then some of the instincts learned by abused children never completely went away. The girls and Harry were going to have to get used to each other slowly. The only one of the girls who might understand even a fraction of what Harry was going through would be Prue, since she had had a friend who had also been abused, until the girl’s father had been arrested. She’d have to remember to have a word with the girls so that they would understand why he might be shy or reluctant to do anything with them for a while.

She checked her watch again. Ed had assured her he would be there in an hour, because he had one more patient to see at the clinic, before he could safely turn the remaining patients over to someone else for the rest of the morning.

Patti resumed her pacing, her thoughts turning briefly to the Dursley’s. She did wonder what her mother was going to do to them. The Wiccan rede was usually “An it harm none, do as ye will” but that went right out the window when an innocent was in danger, then the laws of just retribution came into play if it was a human who caused the danger. With demons or warlocks you just destroyed them. The only thing that the threefold laws of retribution didn’t allow was for the death of the guilty party at the hands of the witch, but that still left her mother with a lot of room to work. Whatever was done, Patti was certain of one thing the punishment would definitely fit the crime. Her mother was a master at delivering poetic justice.

Patti’s pacing continued until several small trunks, a box, and some figurines that she had never seen before appeared in the corner of the sun room. A few moments after they arrived, her mother and the whitelighter orbed in. He was carrying an unconscious boy.

“Which room?” Leo asked.

“Did you make up mine or yours?” Penny asked.

“Yours.”

“Good,” as she led the way to her room, her mother requested. “Would you get the Polaroid, Patti?”

“Why do you need that?” Patti wanted to know.

“I intend to document of whatever signs of abuse there may be, in case we need to use it to get custody of him.”

By the time Patti returned with the camera, her mother had already stripped the boy down to his underwear. Harry’s chest and arms were covered in bruises. Some of them yellowish green of fading bruises and others were a deep purple, indicating they were more recent like maybe within the last day or so.

As Penny held out her hand for the camera, the front doorbell rang.

“That should be Dr. Wyeth.” Patti headed down to let the man in.

####

“Which of the girls has been hurt?” Dr. Wyeth wanted to know.

“None of the girls.” Patti told him as she led the way up to her mother’s bedroom. “We got word earlier today, that a child who is related to us was in danger of dying due to abuse and neglect and my mother went to get him and bring him back here.”

Being a Wiccan himself, Edward asked, “and have the people who hurt him been dealt with?”

Patti grinned just a little. “My mother went after him, what do you think?”

“That they are alive, but that they are going to suffer for a very long time to come.” Edward responded. “Your mother has payback down to an art form.”

“You should know, Eddie.” Penny spoke up with a slight grin on her face. “Fortunately for you, you learn quickly not to repeat the same stupid mistakes.”

Dr. Wyeth held up his hands. “Peace, Penny. We settled that years ago you and I. Where’s the child you want me to look at?”

Penny stepped back and let him into the room.

The sight of the bruised thin body nearly took his breath away. As many times as he had seen abused children, he would never get used to the fact that someone who was an adult could hurt a child. He quickly moved to the bed and the younger man who was standing nearby got out of his way.

“And you are you?” Edward asked the young man knowing there was something special about him.

“I’m Leo, his whitelighter.”

“What can you tell me about his condition?” Dr. Wyeth addressed the question to the Whitelighter, knowing he would have a better idea than Penny of all that had been done to the boy. As the whitelighter talked, he scanned the boy starting from his feet and working his way up, his fingers a few inches from the boy’s body.

The virus had a strong hold on the boy given his already weakened condition. He was underweight and malnourished. Physically he resembled a child of three or four, but Edward didn’t believe that was his real age. There were minor hairline cracks in his lower legs, but fortunately there had been no breaks and those were old. Some recent bruising to the kidneys caused by either blows from fists or feet. Some abdominal bruising, but no serious bleeding. There were several recently fractured ribs and some others that showed prior signs of being fractured, though none of the present or past ones appeared to have been completely broken, thank the gods. The boy’s right arm had been broken at one point and was professionally set. Apparently his caregivers had decided they couldn’t hide that one. When he reached the boy’s throat he had to do a deeper scan to confirm what he found. The virus had done a lot of damage here and some of it was irreparable, even for a Healer as skilled as he was. The virus had spread from his throat to his ears through the Eustachian tubes, but the damage done there was repairable. The boy’s skull showed signs of some hairline cracks, but so far nothing had been broken.

“To a certain extent, this boy is lucky.” He told them once he finished the scan.

“Lucky!” Penny couldn’t believe he would say that.

“Yes, lucky.” Dr. Wyeth went on to explain why. “I don’t know how long they had him...”

“A little over four years,” Leo supplied.

“In that time, he’s only had one broken bone and that was professionally set.” Edward continued. “He has lot’s of minor hairline fractures, in his legs, ribs and skull but no major breaks. Whoever was abusing him, didn’t want it found out. That’s the good news.” He took a deep breath and continued, “because he is underweight and malnourished the strep infection has gotten a real good hold on him and it has done some damage. The nerves in his vocal cords are dead, not even I can repair the damage. I don’t even think the whitelighter will be able to heal them.” Leo looked sad as he confirmed the doctor’s guess with a nod. “This child will never be able to speak again. On the upside, the infection hasn’t gotten too far in his ears and I will be able to repair the damage there, so he won’t lose his hearing. I should also be able to get rid of the infection and fever.”

“Is there anything we can do to help?” Penny asked.

“If it is at all possible, I need you to share some of your power with me.” He told her simply. “Given that this child is extremely ill, it is going to take a lot of power to heal him. Now usually I would have a few days to prepare myself for something like this, but he doesn’t have that kind of time. Have you done any magic in the last few days, Patti?”

“No.”

“Good,” he then formally inquired. “Sister, would you share your power with me, so that this child we may heal?”

“Yes,” Patti agreed without a moment’s hesitation.

“Are you sure you only need Patti’s help?” Penny wanted to know.

“While it would work better if there were three,” he told his friend and occasional nemesis, his expression serious, “you have no doubt performed at least one retribution spell today.” He held up his hand to stop her before she could say anything. “I know it was justified, but the emotional residue left behind by it, would taint your magic, interfering with what I need to do.”

“Can I help?” Leo asked.

“Can you share your power at a lower level, whitelighter?” The doctor wanted to know. “While I have no doubt that Penny and Patti can both handle your power at its normal level, I can’t. It would burn me out. You would need to share it as if you were a small gentle stream flowing into a river.”

Leo nodded.

“Then you and Patti stand behind me.” The doctor instructed. “Each of you place one hand on my shoulders, then take each other’s hand to complete the circle.”

When they had done this, he told them, “Open yourselves to me, so that I may receive what you offer freely.”

As Penny watched over them, a pale golden aura surrounded her daughter and a blue-white aura surrounded the Whitelighter, Leo. A few moments later, a deep green glow that was brighter than Eddie’s usual aura when he was doing a healing, surrounded the doctor, and flowed over Harry. It ebbed and flowed, in some places like around Harry’s head and throat, it seemed to pool and become an even darker green. When the healing passed the fifteen minute mark, Penny began to get a little worried. It normally didn’t take this long for Eddie to do a healing, even on a very ill child. If it went on much longer all three of them could be dangerously drained. Even so, she was going to make sure that both men had a good meal before they left and that her daughter had a good meal and a long nap, before the girls came home.

Just as she was beginning to get seriously concerned, the light faded from all four of them and Patti and Leo just stood there swaying a little.

“Eddie,” she kept her voice low, “is everything ok?”

“That was cutting it too close, Penny.” Her old friend looked up at her from where he was seated on the bed. “If we’d been any later getting to him, he would have died. I could feel the others waiting for him, just beyond the doorway.”

“Thank you, Eddie.” Penny leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you for my grand-nephew’s life. Now let’s get you three downstairs, and I’ll fix you something to eat.”

####

Patti checked her watch as she came down from her long nap. It was almost 5 o’clock. “Mom, why did you let me sleep so long?”

“You needed it dear.” Penny told her as she set the table. “Did you check on Harry, on your way down?”

“He’s still asleep.” Patti told her. “I setup a monitoring spell to let us know when he starts to wake up.”

“Good,” Penny came out into the living room to check on her daughter. “How are you feeling?”

“Still a little tired, but better.” Patti assured her then changed the subject. “The Trudeau’s should be dropping off the girls soon. I hope they behaved themselves.”

As if her words had summoned them out of thin air, three young girls who were laughing loudly came in the front door. Patti quickly went over to them and told them “Girls, I need you to be quiet, ok.”

“Why mommy?” Phoebe wanted to know.

“There’s a little boy about your age named Harry, upstairs and he’s been very sick, so he’s sleeping right now.” Patti told her.

“Are his Mommy and Daddy here too?” Prue wanted to know.

Patti knelt down in front of all three girls, making sure she had their undivided attention. “No, his mommy and daddy died when he was a baby. Prue, you remember Emily and how her father was with her?” At Prue’s nod, she continued, “well the people he was living with were like Emily’s dad. That young man who was here this morning, he told us that Harry was in danger and that because grams is his aunt, we were the only ones who could legally take him away from his other aunt and uncle and be able to keep him once the law gets involved. Your grams and I talked it over and because we know you girls have a lot of love to share, we decided we didn’t mind sharing you with a little boy who hasn’t known any love since he was a baby. Do you girls think you can do that?”

The girls looked at each other for a moment, before Phoebe said, “mommy, we need to share you and grams with him too, ‘cause he’s gonna need your love too.”

The usually silent Piper spoke up as well. “Can we see him mommy?”

“Yes, but you need to be quiet ok.” At the girl’s nods, she led them up to their grandmother’s room.

As they stared in silence at the dark-haired boy, lying asleep in the bed, Patti softly said, “girls, this is your cousin Harry.”

Chapter Text

I’ve always wanted a brother

Harry woke to the feeling of lying on something soft with something warm covering him and knew he wasn’t in his cupboard, because his bed wasn’t this soft. Had his Aunt and Uncle finally taken him to Hospital? He’d tried telling them for the past couple of days that he wasn’t feeling well, but they had just accused him of lying and being lazy. The last clear memory he had was of feeling very hot and dizzy as he was hoovering the sitting room.

Opening his eyes, Harry took a look around. While he wasn’t able to make out all the details, this definitely wasn’t like any hospital room, he’d ever seen. It looked more like somebody’s bedroom.

“Hello Harry,” an unfamiliar voice startled him.

Harry turned in the direction of the door, and saw a dark haired lady standing there. He opened his mouth intended to reply to her greeting, but nothing came out. He flinched, expecting this unknown lady to yell at him and call him rude for not responding, so he tried again to say ‘Hello’, but again nothing came out. What is going on? What’s wrong with me?

“It’s ok, Harry.” The dark-haired woman had moved closer. The bed shifted slightly as she sat down.

He quickly lowered his eyes to the bed, not knowing what to expect from this strange lady.

“Do you remember being sick, Harry?”

Harry nodded, not raising his eyes from the bed.

The woman put her hand under Harry’s chin and raised his head, until he was looking her in the eye. “My, you have lovely green eyes.” She seemed slightly embarrassed at her comment. “Sorry, but I’ve always had a weakness for green eyes. Your great-uncle Alan had them too.” She shook herself slightly. “Anyway, where was I… oh yes. You were a very sick little boy when we got to you and the doctor who treated you told me that because the infection you had went untreated so long, it caused permanent damage to your vocal cords. I’m sorry we didn’t get you out of that house sooner Harry.’

Harry stared at her surprised. She sounded like she really meant it. He had never had anyone say they were sorry to him and mean it before.

He stared at the woman speculatively. She looked like a nice lady, older than Aunt Petunia, but not as old as Mrs. Figg. She seemed to be a lot nicer than Aunt Petunia. He wondered if she would mind if he asked her some questions. He mentally shrugged and decided to find out. It was better to know now rather than find out painfully later. After giving a few moments thought to how he was going to do it, he met the lady’s eyes and pointed to himself and then pointed down toward the bed he was sitting on.

Pleased at a sign that the boy’s spirit wasn’t broken, Penny smiled. “Did you want to know where you are, or how you got here?”

After another moment’s thought he held up two fingers, hoping she would understand he wanted to know the answer to both questions.

“Well, you are in San Francisco, California…”

Harry felt himself gaping like a fish, as she added, “that’s in America. As for how you got here, a colleague of mine told me you were in danger at your Aunt’s and that they weren’t taking very good care of you, so I went with him and got you from your Aunt and Uncle’s.”

Penny decided to wait a few days before she told him about his magical gifts and the fact that he was now living with a family of witches.

Harry pointed his finger at the lady.

“Who am I?” She pointed to herself.

Harry nodded.

She sighed, looking a little thoughtful. “My name is Penny Halliwell and I’m your great-aunt. Though with the way you probably feel about your Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, you might just want to call me Grams or Grandma, like my granddaughters do.”

Before Harry could think of a way to ask all the questions he wanted answers to, his stomach growled loud enough to be heard by Penny and she laughed. He thought her laugh sounded nice.

“I think your stomach is saying ‘Enough with the questions, feed me.’ Am I right?”

Harry blushed, then nodded.

“It’s just going to be liquids for the next couple of days, I’m afraid.” She told him as she got to her feet. “The doctor said you need to build up to solid foods again, so I’ll go get you some soup.”

(AN: I had intended to leave this chapter here, but a little one crept in and demanded to be heard)

Harry was still trying to wrap his mind around the idea that he had actually gotten his wish; that an unknown relative had come and rescued him from the Dursleys, when a childish voice startled him out of his thoughts with a soft, “hello.”

He turned his head in the direction of the doorway and saw a little girl who appeared to be about his age, peering around the edge of the doorway. He waved at her, then pointed to his mouth and shook his head.

“I know.” She looked over her shoulder into the hallway before stepping into the room. “Mommy told us you’d been sick and it tooked away your voice.” She came right up to the bed and stuck out her hand. “I’m Phoebe, an’ I’m glad you’re gonna live wit’ us.”

Before Harry could take her hand, an older woman’s voice that wasn’t his Great Aunt’s called. “Phoebe, where are you?”

Phoebe scampered to the door, saying, “not s’posed to be in here, til you’re better, but wanted to see you. I always wanted a brother, and now I got one.”

Chapter Text



Leopards, Pandas and Snakes. Oh my!

May 27, 1991

Harry woke when the streaming sunlight hit his face. He rolled over and looked up at the ceiling of his bedroom, performing his morning ritual of silently thanking whatever power it had been that had brought the Halliwell’s into his life. I have a family!. Even after five and a half years that thought never ceased to amaze him.

Phoebe, Prue, and Piper all treated him like he was their brother and even introduced him to their friends as their brother, even though he was technically their cousin. Patti, their mother, had taken it one step further, intending to adopt him, but she had drowned at a summer camp she was working at before all the legal stuff could be finished. He had missed her almost as much as the girls. Patti had been the closest thing to a real mother he could remember having.

The only one who didn’t treat him like a member of the family was the girl’s father, but he tried not to take offense at it. Penny had told him that the girl’s father didn’t like her either and to just ignore him, if he didn’t want to have anything to do with him. So on the days when the girls were with their father, he spent his time learning how to do magic with Grams. Grams refused to let him call her Aunt Penny, saying she didn’t want him thinking of her like that because of Aunt Petunia.

Knowing the girls would be up soon and that if he didn’t hurry, he would be last in line for the bathroom and would have little if any hot water for his shower, Harry moved to his dresser and began pulling comfortable clothes out of it, to wear for the school trip to the zoo.

When his eyes landed on the thick, latched, black book in the bottom dresser drawer, Harry’s thoughts wandered back to his sixth birthday and the day he’d learned that Uncle Vernon was wrong; there is such thing as magic.

He still remembered the surprise he felt at being told it was his birthday on July 31st then to find himself the recipient of a birthday party for the first time in his life. It had just been family that time, but it was the best birthday he’d ever had, not to mention at that point, the only one he’d ever had. The Dursleys had never celebrated his birthday or even told him when it was.

It was later that night though that Harry had seem for himself that magic was real and had been told that he was a witch himself. He had always thought that ‘witch’ meant a female magical user, but they had explained that it was one term that applied to someone who could do real magic.

Grams and Patti had taken him up to the attic after the girls had gone to bed and had done a spell that brought his parents spirits into the attic partly to prove it to him and partly so he could meet them, since he hadn’t seen them since he was a baby.

Once his parents had gotten over their shock at his not being able to speak and venting their anger against the Dursleys and whoever had been stupid enough to leave him there instead of with Sirius, not to mention wondering where Sirius was, they had resigned themselves to the inevitable. Harry wasn’t growing up with them or any of their friends and that he wasn’t even in the same country any more. It seemed the only thing they did know for certain about this Sirius person was that he wasn’t dead, because he wasn’t there with them, but they felt slightly guilty about getting so caught up in being in heaven, that they had neglected to check on friends and family and hadn’t known that things had gone horribly wrong for their son. Despite that Harry had had a wonderful visit with them, telling them all about the things that were happening now in his life, with Grams or Patti acting as interpreter for him. His signing at that point was till largely finger-spelling, but he could manage some signs.

After his parents were gone, he had surprised Grams and Patti as well. The old adage that 'your other senses will compensate for the lost one' had taken on a new meaning that night, in a way they hadn’t expected. His magical ‘senses’ had compensated for his loss of speech by making him a telepath, and he hadn’t known it until that night. He had shouted ‘thank you’ in his head, but Grams and Patti had heard him. Needless to say they had been as surprised as he was, by the development.

He’d been ecstatic at the idea that he would be able to communicate with Phoebe, Piper, and Prue, but when he’d tried saying something to Phoebe the next morning, she hadn’t heard him. It had taken Grams a little while to figure out why. He could be heard by whoever he wanted as long as they were an active magic user and with their powers bound, the girls weren’t able to hear him.

One thing was for sure, his telepathic ability had made it easier for Patti and Grams to teach him magic. They had also drilled into his head that no one outside of the family should know about it because it gave him an advantage if he ever needed to defend himself. Neither of the older witches had believed in hiding the truth. The way they looked at it; forewarned was forearmed, especially if a dangerous warlock was after you. They had told him what they knew about Riddle aka Voldemort and the fact that he or his followers were probably still after him.

#####

As Harry stepped out of the shower, he heard someone pounding on the door. He quickly dried off, got dressed and opened the door to find Prue standing there with her makeup and clothes.

Before she could step into the bathroom, he quickly signed, ::In case I forget later, good luck with your interview.::

She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks Harry.”

Harry smiled and headed downstairs to see if Grams needed any help with breakfast.

####

“Hurry up, Harry!” Phoebe’s voice called and he could hear her footsteps coming down the hall. “The bus is going to be here any minute.”

Harry didn’t bother looking up from tying his sneakers. He knew if he did he would see his cousin standing in the doorway of his room, trying to make him move faster. If he hadn’t tripped while clearing the breakfast dishes and gotten food all over his clothes he wouldn’t have had to come back up to change and would’ve already been down there waiting for the bus right along with her.

He shook his head and smiled at her impatience. Pheebs was one of those people who couldn’t seem to be still for more than a few minutes at a time. He was used to her though and wouldn’t trade her for anything or anybody.

“Come on, Harry,” Pheobe’s voice interrupted his musings, “or they’ll leave without us. I, for one, don’t want to miss the zoo. Nor do I want to start out the day on Mrs. Cawston’s bad side. I don’t know why she doesn’t like us.”

::It’s me she doesn’t like,:: Harry signed as he moved down the hall with her. ::She just lumped into her dislike for me because we’re related and you are acting as my interpreter in class.::

“You’re probably right, but that still doesn’t explain why she doesn’t like you.” Phoebe persisted. “I mean she’s hated you since first day of class and you didn’t do anything wrong.”

::Well, look on the bright side,:: Harry told her, ::after Friday, we won’t have to put up with her any more.::

“True,” Phoebe brightened at the thought then she said. “Come on, hurry up.”

Grams was waiting for them as Phoebe came thundering down the stairs. Penny glared at her granddaughter. “Young lady, what have I told you about running in the house?”

“Sorry, Grams,” Phoebe looked down at the toe of her shoe that was rubbing against the floor.

Before Penny could say anything further, a horn honked outside and Phoebe squealed, “the bus is here,” before darting out the front door.

Penny shook her head. “Goddess, I wish I had her energy.” She looked at Harry who was still standing at the foot of the stairs. “Better get a move on, if you don’t want to get left behind. And try and keep Phoebe out of trouble.”

Harry nodded and gave her a kiss on the cheek, before following his cousin out the door.

When he got on the bus and made it past Ms Cawston’s disapproving face, Harry found that Phoebe had saved him the window seat, but she was currently involved in a rapid fire conversation with one of her girlfriends. Phoebe shifted slightly so he could sit down, but otherwise ignored him, which suited him just fine right now.

Harry looked up toward the front of the bus and the teacher who was sitting there with a much older boy sitting beside her. While there were older and younger children on the bus since this was a reward for those students who had gotten in the top 10 percent on the scholastic achievement tests they’d had to take earlier this month, he recognized all of them if only by sight except for that boy. In fact the boy looked like he should be in junior high or high school like Piper or Prue. Harry wondered why he was on the bus with them. He also knew that Mrs. Cawston was mad at him because he had gotten one of the highest scores for the whole 4th grade. Phoebe might not know why the woman hated him, but he did.

4th grade had begun his first year in a ‘normal’ school instead of the academy where they had taught school courses and signing. Grams and the girls had been so proud when his teacher at the Academy had told them he was ready for regular school if he wanted to go. Phoebe had been especially pleased that she was going to have her ‘brother’ with her in class and that she had the important job of acting as interpreter for him.

Mrs Cawston had made it quite clear on the first day of classes that she didn’t like children with ‘special needs’ in her class. She felt it slowed her class down have to cater to them and that he should be in a school that specialized in children like him.

Harry looked out the window and smiled in memory of how Grams had put a stop to her more overt attempts to get him out of her class.

The first math test he’d brought home had had an “F” on it and he had shown it to Grams, hoping she could help him figure out what he’d done wrong, since he had followed the all steps the teacher had shown them. While Grams was no math wizard, she could do the basics without a calculator and she hadn’t found anything wrong with most of his answers. She had shown the test to a former friend of Patti’s who was a high school teacher in another district, and that woman had said that she would’ve given the child who took the test a “B+” since there were only a few answers that were wrong.

Armed with that information and a signed letter stating that fact, Grams had made a copy of the test and after whiting out the X’s, took it to the principal of Harry and Phoebe’s school and asked her to grade the test. The principal had also given it a “B+” and according to Grams had gotten very angry, when she had seen how the teacher had graded the same answers. According to Grams, the principal had made it quite clear to Mrs. Cawston that prejudice wouldn’t be tolerated and that from that day forward any time she gave a test to her class, the principal was to receive a copy of Harry’s test before it was graded and if the tests ever disagreed by more than a few points without a very good reason, Ms Cawston was going to find herself looking for another job.

####

When the bus reached the zoo, Harry saw a number of other school buses. There were also a number of cars with adults getting out of them. Harry remembered the principal telling them that some of parents were going to be helping out on the field trip, as he followed Phoebe and the others to the gathering point.

“May I have your attention?” A man Harry didn’t recognize called out to the crowd.

It took a few minutes before it was quiet enough that he could continue. “I want to welcome you to the San Francisco United School District’s ‘Day at the zoo’. In case you don’t know who I am, my name is Thomas Murray. I am the Superintendent of the San Francisco United School District. All of you are here because you scored in the top 10 percent on the scholastic achievement tests at your schools and as promised we have arranged a day off at the zoo and then later in the afternoon, if the weather co-operates we will be going to a nearby water park.”

The kids gave a loud cheer.

“Now we have about five hundred kids here and enough parents and teachers that we will be dividing you up into groups of ten with two adults to kind of keep an eye on things.” He told them. “Each group will be done by grade level. Parents and teachers you already have your group numbers so if you could hold them up, I will read off the list of names. When I call your name please go to the adults who are holding up the group number I have given you.”

The assignments went smoothly, until the Superintendent got to: Potter, Harry. Harry had been assigned to Group 8 while Phoebe was in Group 3. Phoebe quickly got the attention of one of the adults in her group. “Sir, Harry Potter needs to stay with me.”

The man, whose name tag identified him as ‘Mr. Darby’, asked. “Why?”

“Harry is my cousin and he can’t speak. I have been acting as his interpreter since we started school together.” Phoebe told him, her expression serious.

“Mr. Murray,” Mr. Darby spoke up.

“Yes, sir.”

“We need to make a slight change in group assignments.” Mr. Darby spoke up. “I have just been informed that Mr. Harry Potter can not speak and Miss Phoebe Halliwell is his interpreter. So we either need to move Miss Halliwell to group 8 or Mr. Potter to group 3.”

Mr. Murray didn’t allow the surprise he was feeling to show on his face. None of the teachers had mentioned any children with ‘special needs’ when they submitted their lists of those students who would be going on the field trip. “All right, Mr. Potter, please join Miss Halliwell in group 3 and Mr... Duncan, please go to group 8.”

Once everyone was sorted into their group, Mr. Murray issued his final instructions. “Children, please stay with your group. The zoo is very large and it would be very easy to get lost. If you do get separated from your group, please find one of the zoo employees and tell them who you are and which group you are in. The Security Office has a list of the group leaders and they will be able to get you back to your group. Other than that, have a fun day.”

####

Phoebe and Harry spent an enjoyable morning, looking at the big cats, the special exhibit of Pandas that were on loan from the San Diego zoo, the meerkats, the monkeys and the birds of prey. Phoebe had found the snow leopards to be fascinating, while Harry had to be pulled away from the falcons in the birds of prey exhibit. He couldn’t help hoping that he had the shape-shifting ability that was mentioned in his family’s Book of Shadows. He wanted to fly like a falcon if he did.

The group stopped at the McDonalds in the zoo for lunch and after lunch it was decided that they would go to the reptile house then the aquarium.

In the reptile house, they ran into the group Mrs. Cawston was helping with and the unknown teenager was with them as well. Harry also noticed that some of his classmates were there.

“Whose the guy with Mrs. Cawston?” Phoebe asked before Harry could say anything.

“He’s Mrs. Cawston’s son, Gary.” Sammy told her, then warned them. “I’d stay away from him. He’s a bully. He’s been pushing some of the kids around, but never when his mother can see him.”

Watching the boy, Harry could believe Sam’s claim. The teenager looked bored and kept thumping the glass fronts of the larger reptile tanks. Harry guessed he was trying to get some reaction out of them.

They waited til Gary was slightly out of range before going up to look in the tanks. The smaller ones up top held the smaller lizards and snakes of all kinds, while the larger lower tanks held the bigger snakes and lizards. While Phoebe didn’t mind snakes and lizards, she was happier these were behind thick glass. She followed Harry as he looked them over intently. As he moved from the tank that was holding a gila monster, and knelt down in front of the one holding a Boa Constrictor, he signed to Phoebe as he thought about it. ::It must be very boring in there, you know. Having to be stared at all day and stupid people like Gary thumping on the front of your home when you’re trying to take a nap. I bet he wishes he were anywhere but here.::

Phoebe nodded her agreement, but both of them were surprised when the boa raised its head and nodded too.

“Did you see that,” Phoebe gasped. “That snake nodded as if he understood everything you signed, but that’s impossible.”

::I agree it should be impossible,:: Harry signed to her as he thought quickly. The snake couldn’t have understood his signing, but he had been thinking it too and maybe the snake had heard his thoughts. He hadn’t thought he was projecting, but maybe he had been. He looked at the snake and thought, /Can you understand me?/

The snake’s head nodded again.

“Get out of the way.” A voice growled, and Harry heard Phoebe shriek as someone pushed them off balance and out of the way.

When Harry looked over at Phoebe, he saw her cradling her wrist, and looked back at the person who pushed them out of the way. He saw red when he realized it was Gary. He thought to himself, if you want an up close personal look at the snake you should have one. The next minute the glass was gone from the Boa Constrictor’s tank and it quickly slid out and over Gary, before heading for the nearest storm drain. It needed to make it there before the zoo people could catch it.

As it slid past Harry, it hissed and Harry heard, “thanksss my friend. I hope I ssscared him enough for hurting your fellow hatchling.

Harry nodded briefly as the snake slid away, then looked back at the tank. The glass was back. Well he now knew he had one of his family’s talents, shifting. He also knew he was going to be in big trouble with Grams. He wasn’t supposed to do magic outside the house.

Chapter Text



Dumbledore vs Halliwell: Who would you put your money on?

Hogwarts, May 27, 1991 9:30pm

Dumbledore was finishing up some paperwork when one of the charmed objects on the far book case began chiming. It was gradually getting louder, so the Headmaster went over to see which object wanted his attention. He was surprised when it turned out to be a small glass box with a lock of dark hair in it. There was a pale, pulsing light surrounding it as well.

It took him a moment to remember who that lock of hair belonged to and why it had been charmed in the first place. He had taken the lock of hair himself, just before he left young Harry with the Dursleys. He’d done it partly to insure the wards around the Dursleys home were properly set, but also in case of an emergency. And after the wards on the Dursley’s home on Privet Drive had come down, he had been very glad that he had thought to take the precaution.

######

Flashback
December 24, 1985
The wards falling at #4 Privet drive set off alarms at both Hogwarts and the Ministry. Dumbledore quickly gathered Minerva and Snape and created a portkey that took them right to Privet Drive.

When they got there, Dumbledore had expected to find Death Eaters attacking the house, but instead found a crowd of muggles watching as firemen worked to try and put out a house fire. It looked like the house had been engulfed in an inferno, so Dumbledore suspected it would burn to the ground despite the firemen’s efforts. A quick check of the house numbers revealed the burning home was the Dursleys.

“Minerva, Severus, I need you to see if you can find Harry and the Dursleys in this crowd. If you find them, get them over to Arabella’s.” Dumbledore ordered. “I need to find the Aurors and get them to check the surrounding area, just in case for either the Dursleys, or Deatheaters. We’re probably going to need to arrange a safe house for the family.”

The crowd’s attention was on the fire and not on the strangely dressed man and cat who were making their way through the crowd. The two had quickly separated. As Snape moved among the muggles he overheard snippets of conversation that indicated that most of them were more concerned about the fire spreading to their homes and not the fact that one of their neighbours was going to be homeless and had quite possibly lost all their possessions. From a few other comments the Potions Master overheard that weren’t related to the fire, he gathered the Dursleys weren’t very well liked. It took a few minutes for Snape to realize that he saw no one in the crowd who even vaguely resembled Lily and decided to ask some muggles if they knew where the Dursleys were. All of them pointed him toward a large man, a slender, horsey faced woman, and a fat little boy who were standing a short distance apart from everyone else.

When he was close enough to speak without being overheard, Snape asked. “Are you Mr. and Mrs. Dursley?”

Glaring at the intruder, Vernon demanded, “What do you want?”

“Albus Dumbledore would like to speak with you and your family.” Snape told him, then asked. “Where is your nephew?”

Gone! And good riddance to the ungrateful brat. We didn’t want him any way.” Mrs. Dursley spat venomously. “And we’re not going anywhere with you. Your kind is responsible for us losing our house.”

Snape stared at Petunia Dursley as if she were insane. How could she possibly think that Wizards had caused this fire. Other than the fallen wards there was no trace of magic remaining around the house. He knew for a fact that if a Deatheater had somehow caused the fire, they would have first made sure that all entries and exits from the home were sealed to insure no one could escape.

Pulling out his wand, Snape experienced a brief moment of pleasure at the fearful expressions that crossed the elder Dursley’s faces at the sight of it, then he told them. “You are coming with me, Mrs. Dursley. Albus Dumbledore wants to speak with you and your husband and I have no doubt that he will have a lot of questions for you both; like ‘where is your nephew’ And believe me when I say this, you really do not want him to come looking for you.”

######

When Dumbledore saw the Dursleys being led in at wand point and that Harry Potter wasn’t with them, he asked, “Where is Harry, Severus? Wasn’t he with his family?”

“According to them,” Snape gestured with his wand at the two older Dursleys who were standing against the wall of Arabella Figg’s sitting room, “he is gone. They also aren’t very concerned about that fact. Mrs. Dursley’s exact words were, ‘good riddance to the ungrateful brat’.”

“Where is Harry Potter?” The tone of Dumbledore’s voice made it clear that he expected a truthful answer.

“How the hell should we know?!” Vernon yelled. “It was one of your bloody kind that took him!”

“What do you mean one of my kind that took him?” There was a note of steel in Dumbledore’s voice. “No witch or wizard could have found your home, unless they were told where you lived by someone who lived there, or by me and I assure you I have told no one where Harry was being kept, since he was left with you.”

Petunia recognising the implied threat, put a hand on her husband’s arm and that silenced whatever he’d been about to say. Meeting the Headmaster’s gaze, she told him, “a couple of nights ago, a woman, we had never met before showed up at our house, claiming to be a relative of mine. I knew she was lying of course. I don’t have any relatives named Halliwell. She and some young man she called Leo took the boy.”

Having come in, in time to hear the last part, Professor McGonagall glared at the woman. “And you made no attempt to stop them from taking the boy?”

“What was I supposed to have done?” Petunia countered hotly. “She cursed my husband when he dared to disagree with her. I had my own son to think about. We never wanted the Potter’s brat, but you didn’t exactly give us a chance to refuse, did you? Just left him on our doorstep, like a thief in the night, expecting us to raise that abnormal freak right along side my precious Dudley.”

“We were glad to let the Halliwell woman have the brat,” Vernon put in, “but even though we gave her what she wanted, she cursed us anyway.”

“What do you mean she cursed you?” Dumbledore asked curious. “That’s the second time you’ve mentioned her cursing you. What kind of curses?”

“She cursed my poor Vernon so that he lost his voice. He only got it back this afternoon.” Petunia told him.

“Her second one was much worse.” Vernon growled. “She said we’d pay, all three of us, until our dying day for how that brat you dumped on our doorstep was treated.”

“And just how was he treated?” McGonagall demanded.

“We provided for his needs.” Petunia didn’t meet her eyes. “He had a roof over his head, food, clothing and that was all he deserved.”

Professor McGonagall rounded on Dumbledore. “I told you not to leave him with those awful people. I told you they were the worst sort of people.”

“HOW DARE YOU!” Vernon bellowed. “You freaks dump an unwanted child on us and expect us to take care of him, and then you have the bloody nerve to call us the worst sort of people. If that child was so ruddy important, then your lot should have taken care of him and not dumped him on us. You can’t blame us for how the boy gets treated, when you get rid of a child like so much garbage in the middle of the night!”
End Flashback


##########

Even now five years later, Dumbledore had to admit that the last thing Vernon Dursley had said had been true. He had dumped the child on them and expected them to treat him like family. He’d had no idea how deep their hatred of magic had run. He had just thought it was dislike, not the utter loathing they’d displayed. What he had expected to happen when Harry finally came to Hogwarts was that the boy would be lonely and wanting love, because the Dursleys wouldn’t have given him that, which meant that once he experienced the affection and esteem the wizarding world had for him, his loyalty would be to them and not his family.

Dumbledore had tried to find the witch who had taken Harry, but could find no records on a witch named Halliwell anywhere in Europe. Nor had a quiet search conducted by any of the European Ministries of Magic locate a witch who matched the description that they’d dragged out of the Dursleys. The general belief at the Ministry was that the unknown witch had given the Dursleys a false name to prevent them from tracking her and retrieving the boy-who-lived. The Ministry decided to keep the whole thing quiet for as long as possible. No need to panic the Wizarding world by letting them know that their saviour had vanished into thin air and couldn’t be located. Fudge’s opinion was that if Harry was still alive that his magical signature would show up on the Ministries detectors as soon as he started to do uncontrolled magic. And if the boy-who-lived was dead, then they had at least five years to come up with a cover story about what happened to him.

Not willing to trust the Ministry to track down the boy, Dumbledore had had Flitwick charm the lock of Harry’s hair so that the first time Harry performed magic they would be able to locate him, and finally he had after five years. That pulsing light and chiming meant. Harry Potter’s magical signature had finally been detected. The boy had finally done magic outside whatever protections the witch who had taken him had set up. Now all he had to do was get him and convince the witch who had him to allow him to take young Potter.

“Locus Harry Potter,” Dumbledore said, waving his wand above the box.

The words: San Francisco, California appeared above the box.

“Enmys,” he requested.

San Francisco, California appeared again and a moment later USA was added to it.

Dumbledore sighed. He should have expected this. The unknown witch had obviously put a charm on the boy to prevent a locator spell from revealing the boy’s precise location. He threw a handful of powder into the fire and called, “Minerva.”

“Yes, Headmaster,” the deputy headmistress’ head appeared in his fireplace.

“I need to speak with you when you have a moment.” Dumbledore requested.

“I will be right up once I finish with Mr. Peterson.” She told him.

####

About ten minutes later there was a knock on his office door.

“Come in, Minerva.” Dumbledore requested.

“You wanted to see me, Albus?” The Deputy Headmistress inquired.

“Yes, Minerva,” Dumbledore smiled, “I just wanted to let you know that I will going out for a few hours tonight and when I return, I should be bringing a guest.”

“Now! It’s late Albus.” McGonagall blinked in surprise. “Why can’t it wait until tomorrow?”

“Because of the time difference,” Dumbledore told her. “I don’t think the Headmistress of the Firebird Academy in Sedona would appreciate me showing up in her office at 1 in the morning.”

“And why do you need to make a sudden trip to a magic school in America?” McGonagall hated it when Dumbledore made her dig for answers.

“Because it is the closest magic school to San Francisco, California.” He said with a smile.

“Albus, I have a number of things still to do tonight, so would you please stop beating around the bush and tell me why you are going to Sedona, New Mexico?” McGonagall requested stiffly.

“One of the locator charms went off today.” Dumbledore turned his attention to his dish of lemon drops. “We now have a general location for young Mr. Potter.”

“Oh, so that’s why you’re going to Sedona.” McGonagall caught on, then she thought of something. “Why didn’t the locator spell give you a more precise location than San Francisco?”

“The witch who took young Potter evidently anticipated that someone might try and use a locator spell to try and find him, so she cast a counter spell to block any attempts at getting a precise location.” Dumbledore met her gaze. “Personally, I think the only reason I got as much information as I did on Potter’s location, is because the magic young Harry performed was powerful, emotion-driven, and uncontrolled magic. That always shows up on the magic detectors.”

“Are you going to let the Ministry know that the boy’s been found?” Professor McGonagall wanted to know.

“Not right now,” Dumbledore looked serious for a moment. “I would like to avoid getting either Ministry involved if at all possible. This is a delicate situation and needs to be handled carefully, so it doesn’t blow up in all our faces. We still don’t know why this witch took Harry, or even how she got past the wards protecting him in the first place. The fact that she did, would seem to indicate that she has access to previously unknown and powerful spells. I don’t know all that much about the American Minister of Magic, I do know that if I told Cornelius that young Mr. Potter had been located, he would want to make a big production out of trying to get him back. If this witch chose to make a fight out of his attempt, people could get hurt, including young Harry.”

####

Penny Halliwell wiped her hands on a dish towel, before opening the door. The person on the other side of it was something of a surprise. You normally didn’t see someone with that long a beard, not even in San Francisco. In fact, she thought to herself, if he were wearing a robe and carrying a large hourglass and a staff, he might be a dead ringer for Father Time.

“May I speak with Mrs. Penelope Halliwell?” The man requested politely.

“It’s Miss Halliwell, and you’re speaking with her.” Penny told the stranger. “How can I help you?”

“My name is Albus Dumbledore,” he paused as if waiting to see if she recognized his name. “I would like to speak with you on an important matter regarding Harry Potter.”

Penny was instantly on guard, expecting an attack. “You definitely aren’t a cop and I know you aren’t a teacher at Harry’s school, so what business could you possibly have with him or me?”

“I really don’t think this is the kind of conversation you would want to have out in the open, do you?” Dumbledore pointed out.

“If you think I’m letting you into my home without knowing why you’re here, then you must not be thinking clearly.” Penny countered.

Seeing that she wasn’t going to let him inside without more of an explanation, Dumbledore sighed. “As I said, my name is Albus Dumbledore. I am headmaster of a school called Hogwarts in Britain. My school is similar to the Firebird Academy in Sedona, where your daughter was invited to attend over twenty years ago. I know you are aware of the boy’s gifts since you used similar powers to remove from his relatives care in Britain over five years ago. I came to make arrangements to get him properly schooled in the use of his gifts at the same school his parents went to.”

Dumbledore wisely made no mention of his intention to keep Harry in Britain and find a new home for him once he had him away from this witch. Remembering the rather odd smirk on Headmistress Kerr’s face and her suggestion just before the portkey had activated out of the Firebird Academy, he intended to be very careful about what he told this witch.

When he had explained the situation of a student who had been enrolled by their deceased parents having gone missing, Headmistress Kerr had obliged him by checking her prospective students list and had indeed found a Harry Potter on it. She didn’t make the connection though with the boy-who-lived, since Potter was a common name in the States. She had tried to get him an address for the boy, using the same type address quill that Hogwarts used, but the spell, that had prevented the locator spell Dumbledore had used from working, also blocked the address quill, even though it was more of a passive spell.

He had kind of expected that, and gave her the only other piece of information he had, the name Halliwell. Headmistress Kerr’s face had taken on an odd expression for a moment then she had gone to her files and pulled one file out of a drawer. Firebird Academy had apparently sent an acceptance letter to a Patricia Halliwell over twenty years ago and she had sent back a rejection letter. Firebird Academy and the American Ministry had gone in person to try and convince the girl and her mother that she should go. The result had been a failure and apparently a clear warning from the mother, Penelope Halliwell not to come back.

While Headmistress Kerr had reluctantly provided him with a portkey to take him to a secluded area in a nearby park and the address of the Halliwell home, just before the portkey activated, she had laughingly suggested to Dumbledore that if he was really serious about confronting Penelope Halliwell, then he’d better make sure he was wearing dragon hide underwear.


“Harry is being properly educated in the use of all of his gifts.” Penny bristled at the implication that she wasn’t taking proper care of her grand-nephew. “I am taking very good care of my grand-nephew, unlike my good-for-nothing niece and her horrible family. How are the Dursleys, by the way?”

“I really couldn’t tell you,” Dumbledore admitted. “I haven’t seen them since their home burned down at Christmas time five years ago.”

“Couldn’t have happened to a nicer family.” Penny smirked, rather surprised that the spell, she’d cast, had caused something that bad that quickly. They must have been really nasty to Harry, to get that kind of three-fold payback within a few days of the spell being cast.

Dumbledore got back to the matter at hand. “Miss Halliwell, I did not mean to imply that you weren’t taking proper care of young Potter, but we do need to talk. May I come in?”

Even though her instincts were telling her to keep this man out, something else was telling her she was going to have to deal with him now, otherwise he might do something foolish later on, so Penny reluctantly stepped back and allowed him into her home. She led him through the sitting room to the sun room. Prue and Piper were going to be out until this evening, but Phoebe and Harry were supposed to be home in a couple of hours. If this man was still here when they got home, she wanted him as far away from her children as possible, or at least far enough to buy her time to get them to the attic, if this man proved to be a follower of that Warlock Riddle.

“Given that you mentioned the Firebird Academy, I presume you are part of the wizarding community.” Penny commented before he had the chance to say anything.

“Just as you are,” Dumbledore agreed. “Though I don’t know why you didn’t want your daughter trained in the use of her magic at a proper wizarding school.”

“I am not part of the wizarding community. Nor was my daughter.” Penny contradicted his claim. “My family have been witches for over four hundred years and we’ve done just fine in teaching our daughters the Craft without the benefit of your so called schools. I don’t need a wand to work my magic, unlike your kind. You wanded witches and wizards are rather limited. You lose your wands and you really can’t do much magic at all.”

Dumbledore hid his shock at the realization that he was dealing with a wandless magic user. Wandless magic user were very rare and that might explain how she was able to get past the wards. They had been set to first check for wand cores, since no witch or wizard would go anywhere without one and then determine the intent of the witch or wizard. It was one reason he had put Arabella Figg in the area to keep an eye on the boy. As a Squib she had no wand and very little magic in her, therefore she wouldn’t set off the wards.

“Mrs. Dursley said you claimed to be a relative of hers, when you showed up and took the boy,” Dumbledore began, “and while you claim to be Potter’s Great Aunt, she denies that that you are related to them in any way.”

Penny wasn’t real surprised by the fact that Petunia Dursley was still in denial about the fact that she was related to a family of witches. She wondered what Vernon and Petunia would do if their precious son suddenly started doing magic. It was in her bloodline after all, since they were descended from the Talbot’s. Petunia would probably faint dead away. “Well she would. Believe me I’m not any happier being related to that family of bigots than she is being related to me. If I could sever the blood tie I would, but that would also cut off Harry from his blood tie to my family and I have no intention of doing that.”

“How exactly are you related to Potter?” Dumbledore wanted to know.

“That’s none of your business.”

“That boy’s safety is my concern,” Dumbledore countered firmly. “I placed him at the Dursleys for a reason. Petunia Dursley and her son both had a blood kinship to the boy and as long as he was with them he was safe from Dark wizards.”

“I think I’ve kept the boy safe enough.” Penny disagreed. “It took you five years to find him and even then you had to have help. I’ll bet the only reason you were able to find out where he lived was because the Firebird Academy kept a file on Patti. I shall have to talk to them about that.” Then she let out a dark laugh. “As for his being safe with the Dursleys, I have to question your idea of safety. Followers of that... Voldemort may not have been able to find the boy, but he damn well wasn’t safe with his family.”

She looked long and hard at Dumbledore, before commenting, “and maybe that’s what you wanted.”

“What are you talking about?” Dumbledore quickly schooled his face into an impassive mask. “Why would I want the boy to be harmed by his relatives? I had someone in the area to keep an eye on him, to make sure he wasn’t being hurt.”

Penny nodded, listening to what an inner voice was telling her, “You may have had someone in the area, but I’ll bet they had no legitimate reason to go into that house at any time. And I know for a fact that once the boy was left with that family, no one from your wizarding community, ever went by to check up on the boy. Hell, even Child Protective Services does that when they place a child. They may not catch anything, but they at least check by every now and then. Physical abuse is almost always hidden, old man, and when it can’t be hidden, the child is suddenly ill or clumsy. And there’s other kinds of abuse as well. The kind that doesn’t leave any physical scars.”

The voice in her head, and she was willing to bet it was either Patti, or possibly Harry’s mother Lily, had one final thing to say, and it made Penny stare at the old man before her in shock. “You were conditioning Harry, just like Pavlov did his dogs to get a desired response. If the Dursleys hadn’t carried things almost too far during his fifth Christmas, so that I got involved, he would have gone through at least five more years of being treated as a nothing, a slave, before going to your school where he would have been treated like the equivalent of a rock star. Then you would have sent him back to Hell, to remind him what he had to lose.” Penny clapped her hands. “I congratulate you on your plan. It would have probably worked, if I hadn’t interfered…”

/Grams,/ Harry’s mental voice startled her. /We’re pulling up out front. Phoebe’s been hurt./

Dumbledore had his mouth open, getting ready to respond, when Penny interrupted, “You’ll have to excuse me for a moment. I suddenly remembered minor emergency I need to deal with.” She looked around the room and all the doors leading to the sun room suddenly closed. She walked to the doors leading to the sitting room and opened one, then she said, “While I am gone, in this room you will stay. From it you will not stray.”

####

As Penny reached the front door, she heard a loud crash from the sun room. Dumbledore’s curiosity must’ve gotten the better of him or he didn’t recognize a spell when he heard one. She just hoped he hadn’t broken any of the furniture when he landed.

When she opened the door, Penny saw Mrs. Tonish, the principal of Phoebe and Harry’s school opening the door of a car. While she was relived when she saw Phoebe getting out of the car with only an Ace bandage wrapped around her left wrist, she still hurried down, asking, “What happened? How did Phoebe get hurt?”

“I wish to offer my apologies for Phoebe’s injury.” Mrs. Tonish said. “She was knocked over by a teenage boy who is the son of one of our teachers. Fortunately she only has a sprain, some scrapes, and a mild headache. Harry just had some scrapes and bruises The doctor at the zoo clinic said to leave her wrist strapped up for about a week and she should be fine.” Mrs. Tonish paused before continuing, “Again I would like to apologize on behalf of the school district for what happened. The teacher in question neglected to tell us was that her son had been expelled from his school last week for bullying one of the freshmen. She is currently on suspension and her son is currently in Juvenile Detention. Mr. Murray the Superintendent also told me to tell you that if you want to have Phoebe checked out by your own doctor, the school district will reimburse you for the cost, since this was the result of neglect on the part of one of our teachers.”

Penny gave Phoebe a quick once over. It didn’t appear to be anything more serious that what the principal described, but she was still going to get Dr. Wyeth to check her over, once she had dealt with the matter of Mr. Dumbledore. Glancing at her nephew, she instructed, “Harry take Phoebe upstairs to her room. Phoebe, I want you to lie down for a while. Harry stay with her until I get up there and make sure she stays in bed. I’ll be up in a bit with some aspirin for you, Phoebe.”

Her granddaughter must’ve had more than a mild headache, either that or the sprain was causing her a lot of pain because there were no protests from her as Harry led her into the house.

“Who was the teacher?” Penny demanded, wanting answers from the principal. “And just how did it happen?”

“Mrs. Cawston,” the principal replied quickly, She had seen Penny Halliwell angry before and it was not something she wanted directed at her. “According to what I was told, Mrs. Cawston’s son, Gary, pushed Harry and Phoebe out of the way of one of the snake habitats. Shortly after that things apparently got rather chaotic as the snake in that tank somehow got out, and then slithered over Gary on his way out of the reptile house. From what I was told Gary Cawston wasn’t in much of a position to resist arrest when the police took him away. He was in a state of shock according to the Clinic doctor.”

“Couldn’t have happened to a nicer boy,” Penny commented. “I do hope the school district is going to deal appropriately with Mrs. Cawston, because if they don’t, I will.”

“She will be dealt with, Miss Halliwell.” Mrs. Tonish promised.

“Good, now if, you’ll excuse me, I need to see to my granddaughter and grand-nephew.” Penny told her, then before Mrs. Tonish could get in her car she turned and said. “Thank you for bringing them home.”

“I’m just sorry they had to miss the rest of the field trip.” Mrs. Tonish told her.

#####

Penny didn’t bother going to check on Dumbledore before she headed upstairs. She could hear him moving around in the sunroom.

In Phoebe’s room, she found the children sitting on the edge of Phoebe’s bed discussing what had happened at the zoo.

“I thought I told you to lie down, young lady.” Penny commented.

“But I’m not tired,” Phoebe complained.

“Maybe you’re not, but you did hit your head, or you wouldn’t have a headache.” Penny pointed out.

“It was just a little bump,” Phoebe protested. “My wrist hurts more than my head.”

“Well, while the doctor at the zoo may have said you have a minor headache, you are going to stay in bed until I can contact, Dr. Wyeth and see if he can work you in this afternoon.” The tone of Grams’ voice indicated that was the end of the matter.

She turned her attention to Harry. “Harry, I need you to go up to the attic. I have something I need you to do for me up there.”

Harry nodded and left the room.

######

When Penny reached the attic, she found Harry pacing.

“You’re not in trouble though I know what you did.” Penny told him. She was fairly certain he had manifested at least one of the powers of the Talbot line, Shifting and she needed to confirm it. Because if he had done magic outside the wards of the Manor, then that would explain how after five years this Dumbledore person was able to track him down, albeit with a little help.

Harry sighed relieved and asked, /What do you want me to do, Grams?/

“Well first things first,” she told him as she sat down. “I’ve already heard from Phoebe about what happened at the zoo and now I want hear from you about what happened in the reptile house.”

/Ok,/ Harry sat down in front of her and began. /After lunch we went to the reptile house, and found Mrs. Cawston’s group was there as well. We’d managed to keep from meeting them all morning. We found out from one of the other kid’s in her group that the teenage boy with them was her son, Gary and that he was a bit of a bully. He must’ve been pretty bored because he was thumping on the glass fronts of the habitats, trying to get the lizards and snakes to react and most weren’t. Anyway Phoebe and I were looking at this Boa Constrictor and I was telling Phoebe that it must be awful boring in there, you know being stared at and having people thump on the front of your home all the time. I must’ve been thinking it too, you know the way I’m talking now, because I think the snake heard me. It raised its head and nodded to me and Phoebe saw it. I thought at it again asking if it could understand me, and the snake nodded again. Can animals understand telepathy, Grams?/

“I don’t know, we’ll try and find out some time.” She told him “Go on with the story.”

/Anyway, next thing I know, Gary pushed me and Phoebe out of the way in order to get to the habitat. I guess he must’ve seen the snake moving and wanted a better look. he didn’t seem to care that he might have hurt us, and I remember thinking that if he wanted to see the snake that bad, he should get up close and personal with it. Next thing I see is the snake slithering over Gary on its way out of its habitat, because the glass front had disappeared./ He looked up at her worried. /I didn’t meant to do it Grams, but I must’ve ‘shifted’ the glass. Didn’t stay gone for long though. As soon as I got distracted it was back, but the snake had gotten all the way out before that happened./

“I know you didn’t mean to,” Grams reassured him. “That bully hurt your cousin for no reason and you reacted, wanting to protect her from further harm.”

/That wasn’t the oddest thing though, Grams,/ Harry put in eagerly. /As the snake passed me on its way out and it hissed at me and I could understand it! It thanked me for setting it free./

Penny stared at him in surprise. That was something she hadn’t expected. She knew of witches who could understand animals and make themselves understood by them, but she’d never met one before. She’d worry about that later though. “Harry, I need you to do something for me. I need you to call the name Leo with your mind.”

/Who is Leo?/ Harry asked.

“You remember I told you that some witches have whitelighters?”

He nodded, /like Patti did?/

“Yes, like Patti did.” Penny’s face grew sad for a moment. “Anyway, you have a whitelighter and his name is Leo. Because someone tracked that burst of magic you had at the zoo, I need to talk to him and he won’t come if I call him.”

::I’m sorry,:: Harry switched to signing.

“It’s not your fault, honey.” Penny reached out and gave the boy a hug to reassure him Sometimes he still fell back on the habits ingrained into him by the Dursleys, like taking the blame when things went wrong simply because they’d always blamed him when things went wrong. He was just grateful they hadn’t had him any longer than they did and that she and Patti had been able to undo most of the damage they’d caused, otherwise who knows what could have happened to this loving, wonderful child. “Someone attacked a member of your family and you were trying to protect her and believe me, protecting others from harm, is one of the best reasons in the world to use magic, as long as you don’t get carried away. Anyway, it would have happened sooner or later. We couldn’t keep your magic bottled up in this house forever, not if you are to achieve your destiny, whatever it may be. One more thing before you call Leo. He is the only one outside the family who can know about your telepathy.”

/Leo,/ Harry called. /Leo, can you come here for a minute please?/

They had to wait a few minutes before a column of blue-white light appeared in the attic.

“Hello Harry,” a man he’d never met before greeted him. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you. I see the Halliwells have been taking very good care of you. You’re looking a lot better than the last time I saw you.”

/Hello Leo,/ Harry smiled at the man with the golden-brown hair. Even if he hadn’t known the man was a whitelighter, there was something about the man that would’ve encouraged Harry to trust him.

“You spoke!” Leo had been expecting to have to read sign language.

“He can after a fashion,” Penny told the whitelighter. “The only people capable of hearing it though are those capable of performing real magic, or people with gifts like yours.”

“Hello Miss Halliwell,” Leo nodded his head in greeting toward her, but couldn’t take his eyes off Harry. While he’d checked up on the boy from time to time, just to make sure he was doing ok and didn’t need any help, this was the first time in over five years he’d seen the boy up close.

Harry was slender child with messy dark hair. The boy was also a little smaller than your average ten year old, but given the fact that he had been starved a lot during the 4 years he lived with the Dursleys, that wasn’t all that unusual. It was the eyes that held Leo’s gaze though. They were deep emerald green and they were lit with the fire and joy of life that had been absent before. He knew when Harry got to the point where girls were desired for more than just friends, this young man was going to highly sought after and quite probably break a few hearts as well.

“Leo,” Penny pulled the whitelighter’s attention away from the boy. “I asked Harry to call you because I have a few questions that I need to get answers to.”

Leo felt compelled to warn her, “I will tell you what I can, but you know there are some question I won’t be able to answer.”

“I know,” Penny knew that even if the whitelighter did have the answers in some cases they were forbidden to reveal them, because the person they were guiding had to figure the answers out for themselves. All a whitelighter could do in that case was nudge them in the right direction. “There is a man downstairs named Albus Dumbledore. He claims to be the headmaster of a school called Hogwarts. Exactly who is he and what does he want with Harry?”

Harry stared at Grams in surprise. Someone was here to see him. Why? He didn’t ever remember hearing or reading about a school called Hogwarts. He turned his attention to Leo who was looking up at the ceiling then looked back down at Grams.

“Albus Dumbledore is indeed the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland” Leo told her. “As for what he wants with young Harry, while no Whitelighter or Elder can read minds, we know that he wants Harry back in Britain to eventually deal with... that problem of theirs.”

“Forewarned is forearmed. Harry knows about Riddle, or as the wizarding world calls him, Voldemort. Stupid name if you ask me, though I suppose we’d better start using it, since they don’t know his real name.” Penny told the Whitelighter. “I kind of thought he might be here because of that Prophecy. I just wish you guys had more details on it, than that it involves Harry and this warlock.” There was a brief pause. “Next, given that he is going to have to face this Voldemort at some point, does Harry have to go to Hogwarts or will any magic school do?”

“He does need to go to a school for witches and wizards. He is going to need to learn wanded magic, so he can defend himself and others from it, since it is the type Voldemort uses. While he doesn’t have to go to Hogwarts if he doesn’t want to, there have been certain events foreseen, that could turn out worse, if he isn’t there to help out.” Both Harry and Penny could tell Leo was choosing his words with care.

/What if I don’t want to go to magic school?/ Harry inquired. He didn’t want to be sent away from the only family he had known. /I mean what can they teach me that you can’t, Grams?/

“While I would love to say there isn’t anything they can teach you that I can’t, it would be a lie.” Penny knew very well why he didn’t want to think about having to go away. “As Leo said you need to learn to wield the type of magic your father used, and that is something I can’t teach you. However I will continue to teach you the Craft and how to use your mother’s Book of Shadows, so you don’t have to rely solely on wanded magic.”

She paused then met his eyes her expression serious. “When going up against a warlock of Riddle’s apparent caliber, it is always a good idea to have an ability the opposition doesn’t know about and a backup plan. Those who practice nothing but the Black Arts rarely care how they get their power or who gets hurt as long as they get what they want. Then there are those like you and I who are thrust into the role of protectors of the innocent because of our powers and while I wish you didn’t have to assume your role until you were an adult, I’m afraid that is not to be.”

There was another pause and a sigh, “I also wish that you didn’t have to leave us, even if it is only for a little while. Since I know I won’t be there to see it happen, I am still hoping you will be the one to teach the girls the Craft and how to use their magic, when their powers are finally unbound. You need to survive, Harry and that means you have to understand how to defend yourself against the type of magic Voldemort will use. Just remember one thing Harry, no matter how it might seem, you’re not alone in this fight. You are never alone.”

Harry could tell that she meant every word of what she was saying and reluctantly had to agree. If he was to have even a hope of surviving to do what Grams wanted, then he had to learn the type of magic Voldemort would use against him. /All right, if I have to go to a magic school, it may as well be this Hogwarts place, given that Leo says I’m going to be needed there./

“Harry,” Penny requested, “would you go down and check on Phoebe for me? Knowing her, she’s not lying down like I told her to. Be sure and tell her that I’m going to be down in a few minutes and that if I find her out of bed, she will be grounded for a month.”

Harry nodded and left the attic.

“There are a few more things I need to know and something I need to arrange with you, Leo.” Penny spoke up before the Whitelighter could orb out.

Leo nodded, knowing that her questions would pertain to Harry.

While Penny understood that Harry had to go where he was needed, she had no intention of allowing Dumbledore to be in complete control of things. “When the Firebird Academy tried to recruit Patti, the travel instructions included transport to Sedona, and from there a bus was supposed to take the children to the school. How are children taken to Hogwarts?”

“There is a train that leaves from a special platform at King’s Cross Station in London that takes the students to Hogsmeade. It’s a town near the school.” Leo told her. “Why?”

“I wouldn’t put it past this Dumbledore once he has Harry in Britain to try and pull a fast one to try and keep him there.” Penny told him. “Before I agree to his going to Hogwarts, I want to know I can count on you or another Whitelighter to take Harry to the pickup point and to bring him back home even if Dumbledore does try something? Each time he has to go. There are other things that will need to be taken care of later, but right now I just need to know I can count on the Whitelighters to do this, or Harry doesn’t go to Hogwarts. I’ll send him to Firebird Academy instead.”

“I don’t think we’ll have any problem arranging that. I’ll also looking into setting up a safe house in England or Scotland with one of the Guardians there, in case it’s needed. There are a few well-warded old wizarding estates that those in the wizarding community don’t know about, because the families that owned them died out a long time ago.” Leo assured her. “The Elders made it quite clear they wanted Harry to stay with you. He needs the love and support you and the girls provide and he needs to learn the magic you can teach him.”

#####

Dumbledore looked up as he heard the door on the far end of the conservatory open. After recovering from being shocked and flung across the room, he had performed a number of tests trying to remove the barriers that were keeping him confined, up to and including removing a door, but he had been unable to take down the barrier. Nor had he been able to figure out how Miss Halliwell had managed to place the spell. All the wandless magic users he had met and he had to admit they were few, used gestures the same as wanded wizards to direct their magic. She obviously used a different type of magic than the one he was familiar with.

The person coming in turned out to be Miss Halliwell. She was carrying a tray containing two pitchers and several glasses. Behind her was a dark-haired, slender boy in glasses, carrying a plate of biscuits. He looked a lot like James Potter, so this had to be Harry.

Before he could greet the boy, Miss Halliwell spoke up. “Since you’re from Britain, I didn’t know whether you would like iced tea, so I brought some juice as well.”

“Either one is fine,” Dumbledore couldn’t help wondering what had caused her sudden change of mood. When she’d left the room, he would’ve sworn she wanted to gut him and now she was being almost civil. “Hello. You must be Harry.”

The boy looked up after putting the plate of biscuits on the table and nodded.

“Do you want juice or tea, Harry?” Miss Halliwell asked.

Harry made a hand gesture. Miss Halliwell nodded and poured him a glass of red juice.

She then handed Dumbledore a glass of ice tea, then held up the plate of biscuits, and asked, “Would you like a cookie?”

“No, thank you,” Dumbledore shook his head. “How have you been, Harry?”

Harry stuck his thumb against his chest and spread his fingers out, mouthing a word that Dumbledore couldn’t hear.

“Fine,” Miss Halliwell said.

“Can’t Harry speak?” Dumbledore asked concerned.

“Not since before Christmas of 1985,” Miss Halliwell told him, “thanks to the Dursleys. He’s just lucky he didn’t lose his hearing as well.”

“Explain!” The headmaster demanded, then added, “please,” when he saw her stormy expression.

Instead of answering, Miss Halliwell poured another glass of juice and handed it to Harry. “Would you please that that up to Phoebe?”

The boy, who had begun to look uncomfortable with the direction the conversation had taken, nodded.

Once Harry had left the room, Miss Halliwell looked at Dumbledore and said. “He’s already lived through it and doesn’t need to hear it rehashed for your benefit.”

She took a few deep breaths to calm herself before continuing. “You left a defenseless baby with people who didn’t want him!” Her glare was hot enough to melt granite. “You never bothered to ask them if they wanted the child, nor did you bother to check up on him, despite your claim that you had someone in the area, that doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility for what happened to Harry. Because they hate magic so much, when Harry got ill just before Christmas in 1985, they decided to withhold medical treatment. By the time I was alerted to the situation and came to get him, Harry was very close to death. While the Healer who saw him was able to save his life and keep him from losing his hearing as well, irreparable damage had already been done to his vocal cords.”

Before Dumbledore could say anything, there was a knock, and they both looked over and saw Harry standing in the doorway. He made a series of rapid signs toward his great aunt, and she nodded, holding out her hand to him. Harry stepped back into the conservatory and over to her side.

“What did he say?” Dumbledore asked.

“He wanted to know if we were done discussing the Dursleys and I told him yes.” She told him. “Now we are going to discuss Harry’s magical education.”

Dumbledore stared at her in surprise. Was she giving in without a fight?

“First of all,” Miss Halliwell continued in a no nonsense manner. “Harry and I both know that he must learn how to use your kind of magic. The thing that must be determined is where he will go to school, assuming that he can do your kind of magic without a voice. If he can’t learn it without being able to speak, then he’ll just stay here, and I will continue to teach him the Craft that his mother would’ve learned, if she hadn’t gone to your school.”

“I do not know if there is a way to for him to do our kind of magic without a voice.” Dumbledore admitted. “I will have to check with the school’s mediwitch to see if there is a spell that can make one’s thoughts heard like the spoken voice.”

“Next;” she stated firmly, “while Harry does have some say about which school he will be going to, as his legal guardian, I have the final say. So assuming there is some way to give him a speaking voice, before either Harry or I say yes to his going to this Hogwarts of yours, we are going to see it. I am not going to send my great-nephew far away from my protection…alone… without knowing what the school looks like and what kind of education he will be given there.”

“I’m afraid it is not possible for Harry to see the school, madam. The children see the school for the first time on September 1st. It is tradition.” Dumbledore told her.

“Tradition be damned!” Miss Halliwell got to her feet. “We have the right to make an informed choice about Harry’s magical education, up to and including the location he chooses to go to. If you choose not to accommodate the concerns of a guardian, Harry will be gong to the Firebird Academy, if,” she smirked, “they are brave enough to send him a letter.”

The headmaster was not pleased at the way this woman was thwarting his plans for young Potter, not to mention that she was making him nervous. He had a feeling that if she’d gone to Hogwarts, she would’ve been put into Slytherin. His original plan of portkeying away with the boy, once he got hold of him, had swiftly been discarded after his first encounter with the barrier she had put up to keep him in this room. And while he might have agreed to showing them the school just so he could get his hands on young Potter, he couldn’t figure out how to avoid bringing the witch along. He didn’t know if she knew about portkeys, but he had the feeling she wasn’t going to let him touch the boy without her also being in contact with him. Even though Hogwarts was supposed to be uplottable, the last thing he wanted to do was bring her there, because she might have someway of marking the location so it could be found again later. He needed to try and convince her to let Potter come on his own on September 1st.

“Madam, you do not understand,” Dumbledore protested. “Our children’s magical education begins from the moment they get their acceptance letters. While the Potters have been accepted to and attended Hogwarts since the school was founded, it has been a tradition that no child ever sees the inside of the school before their first day. Harry deserves the very best magical education available and that he will get at Hogwarts. He will also be very well protected there. You won’t need to worry about his safety.”

Miss Halliwell glared at him. “No, it is you who does not understand. Let me make this perfectly clear, Albus Dumbledore, I don’t trust you any further than I could throw the Tower of London. You have made bad decisions regarding my great-nephew and I do not trust you to take proper care of him. Those children who go to your school sight unseen, their parents probably went there didn’t they?”

“Most of them.” Dumbledore decided not to mention the muggle parents who never had seen the school and couldn’t have seen it the way it really was, given the magic surrounding the school, even if they had been taken there. He now understood why Headmistress Kerr had laughed and suggested he wear dragonhide. This woman was a formidable opponent and one he should not take lightly, if he wanted to get Harry back in Britain.

“Well, I am not one of those parents.” Miss Halliwell pointed out. “I have no intention of letting one of my children be sent off to a school I have never heard of, and don’t know anything about, beyond the name and the fact that is in another country, without seeing it first. And since Harry also has to decide if he wants to go so far away from his cousins, you are going to be breaking your tradition and he will see the school right along with me. If you don’t intend to allow that to happen, then you can say good-bye to Harry right now and I will escort you to the door, because you are wasting my time and I have a child I need to take to the doctor to make sure she wasn’t badly injured on a school field trip.”


Enmys – specifiy.

Chapter Text

Has Snape met his match?

San Francisco, July 30, 1991, 2am

Penny sat with Harry in the living room, waiting for the arrival of the Headmaster of Hogwarts, who was providing their transportation to the school. It wasn’t that she trusted the man, she didn’t, but his way was going to be a lot quicker. She was also fairly certain that Dumbledore wasn’t going to try anything to keep Harry until he had the boy in England. Penny was reasonably confident he wouldn’t want to try anything until he could be sure of backup since he didn’t know how her power worked or what its limitations were. The other reason she was willing to trust Dumbledore’s method of transport is because she didn’t want to leave the girls with their father for any longer than he was supposed to have them during the summer. She had been lucky that he’d had to split up the two weeks he normally took them because of his job, so she had arranged for him to take them for their second week, starting on Sunday, explaining that she and Harry needed to take care of some business involving his deceased parents.

While they were waiting, Grams had Harry practicing his shifting talent, by moving things from one spot to another in the room. His control had really improved over the last couple of months, but Grams was still only letting him work with non-living things. She’d told him if he kept improving at the same rate, then they would start on living things like plants next. The only limitation they found so far was he couldn’t ‘shift’ something to or from a place he’d never been. She said that would probably come with time, but other than that she’d made it quite clear she was pleased with his progress.

While Harry really didn’t want to leave the Manor or his family, he was kind of curious about this Hogwarts school that Dumbledore was trying to get him to go to. He knew he had to learn the kind of magic this Riddle knew, if he was to have any kind of hope of defending himself and others from it.

He couldn’t help smiling at the memory of watching Grams wear the British principal, no he was called a headmaster, down on all points in their discussion. The man had fought valiantly, Harry had to give him that, but Grams had simply out-stubborned him. She had refused to yield on any of the things she wanted set up for Harry’s protection while he was at Dumbledore’s school. Given that she had final legal say, at least as far as muggle law was concerned, over Harry Potter, Dumbledore had finally given in.

Harry looked at the clock and wondered jut how much longer it was going to be before Mr. Dumbledore showed up. Then as if his thoughts had called the man, Mr. Dumbledore appeared with a faint pop.

“Hello, Harry,” Dumbledore greeted the boy with a smile. “How have you been since I saw you last?”

Harry signed, ::fine:: and Grams translated, “Fine.”

“Would you like a lemon drop, Harry?” Dumbledore held out a small white bag.

Harry shook his head. He never accepted things from strangers and while this Dumbledore wasn’t exactly a stranger, he didn’t know him all that well yet. While in appearance, the man looked like a kindly old grandfather type, Grams and Patti had taught him to look below the surface. He had learned that the ugliest looking person could be the sweetest of souls, while the most beautiful looking could be truly evil. He would wait and see which one this man turned out to be before he trusted him.

Pocketing the bag, Dumbledore turned to face Miss Halliwell. “I hope you don’t mind madam, but I took the liberty of asking the school’s medi-witch, Madame Pomfrey, to have a look a Harry, to see if there is anything that can be done to give him his voice back.”

Penny shrugged, not caring one way or the other. There was no point in telling him that no magic in this world could regenerate dead nerves, he would have to hear that from someone he trusted.

Relieved that she had no objections, Dumbledore clapped his hands once and asked, “Are you ready to see Hogwarts, Harry?”

Grabbing his backpack and the gym bag he normally used for the YMCA, Harry nodded then moved over to join his great-aunt, who had picked up her overnight bag and purse.

Dumbledore pulled a large, old-fashioned looking key from the pocket of his robes and held it out toward them, explaining, “This has been turned into a portkey and it will take us to Hogwarts. All you have to do is touch it and once I activate it, we will be in my office.”

Harry took hold of Grams’ hand and waited until she had placed her fingertips on the key before doing the same. When Mr. Dumbledore said, “portus,” he felt as though something had gripped the inside of his stomach and was jerking him forward.

######

The room they suddenly appeared in, was full of such interesting looking stuff that Harry didn’t know what to look at first. There were a number of portraits scattered around the room and the people in them were… moving. Just as he was moving over to examined some of things on a nearby table, Harry heard the rustle of wings and a soft, quavering musical note, that made him feel as if someone had just said “hello” to him. Turning to see where it had come from, he saw a large red and gold bird settle onto a perch between the window and the desk.

Seeing the boy’s interest in his familiar, Dumbledore told him, “That’s Fawkes. He’s a phoenix and my friend.” Then completing the round of introductions, he told the phoenix, “Fawkes, this is Harry Potter and his Aunt Penelope Halliwell.”

The phoenix stared at Penny Halliwell for a few moments before inclining his head toward her and singing a few notes in greeting to them.

“A pleasure to meet you as well, Fawkes.” Penny told the phoenix.

Harry signed something to Grams and she told Dumbledore, “Harry would like to know if Fawkes will allow him to pet him?”

Before Dumbledore could say a word, Fawkes left his perch and flew to the arm of the chair nearest Harry. Dumbledore chuckled slightly, “I think you have your answer, young Harry.”

Harry carefully stroked the bird’s feathers, and the phoenix trilled its appreciation at the attention.

“Halliwell, did you say?” A male voice questioned from the far side of the room.

“Yes, Phineas, that is what I said.” Dumbledore confirmed.

“And your family line, madam?”

Penny was surprised to realize that it was one of the portraits to the left of the desk that was addressing her and not another person. “Warran, and you are?”

“Phineas Nigellus,” Dumbledore was surprised to hear the respect in the portrait’s voice, “ma’am. I’m pleased to see that the Warran line has continued. I met some of your ancestors in the late 1800’s when I was travelling in California and they helped me out of a spot of trouble, but I never got the chance to repay the favour.”

“They wouldn’t have expected repayment, sir.” Penny told the man in the portrait who was dressed in old-fashioned clothes.

“I know that,” he sounded a little testy now. “However it would have been nice to do something for them, since they put themselves at great risk for me.”

Dumbledore listened to the conversation between Phineas and Miss Halliwell with great interest as he went to place a firecall to the Hospital wing. He was pleased that he would have a magical source he knew and trusted, to pump for information on this Halliwell witch. However as he leaned over the fireplace and called, “Madame Pomfrey,” he missed seeing the woman mutter something under her breath as she stared at Phineas’ portrait.

Penny didn’t know if the spell she’d put on the portrait would work, but she couldn’t afford to take the risk of not doing it. Until she checked the Book of Shadows, she wouldn’t know how much contact the person, this painting was supposed to represent, had had with her ancestors. She didn’t know if this Phineas person had found out about the prophecy of the Charmed Ones, and she couldn’t risk anyone in the wizarding world finding out. There were already enough Demons and warlocks who would love to see her granddaughters killed before they came into their true power and she wasn’t going to let the essence in this portrait, put them in even more danger.

While he continued to pet the humming phoenix, Harry watched in fascination as Mr. Dumbledore threw something into the flames of the fireplace. The flames instantly turned green and shortly after he’d called into the fireplace a woman’s head appeared.

“Yes, Headmaster,” the disembodied head spoke up.

“Madame Pomfrey, the boy I spoke with you about earlier is here.” Dumbledore told her. “I thought we might as well get the examination out of the way first thing, so I wanted to see if you were available now.”

“Of course, Headmaster,” the school’s nurse assured him. “I’ll be waiting for you.”

Once Madame Pomfrey’s head disappeared from the fireplace, Dumbledore turned his attention back to his guests. “Miss Halliwell, if you and Harry are ready, I will take you to the Hospital wing. I have arranged for the Deputy Headmistress. Minerva McGonagall to give you a tour, once Poppy has concluded her examination of Harry. I have also made arrangements for you both to accompany Hagrid to Diagon Alley tomorrow to get Harry’s school supplies, since he is going down there on some business for me.”

“You are getting ahead of yourself, Mr. Dumbledore.” Penny countered, as they walked down a hall lined with more moving portraits and few suits of armour that also appeared to move. “I haven’t agreed to Harry’s going here,… yet.”

Dumbledore wisely said nothing, until they reached the infirmary. Once there, he called out, “Madame Pomfrey.”

“Yes, Headmaster,” the voice was followed up by the appearance of a woman who looked a little older that Grams and seemed to have a no nonsense air about her.

Dumbledore performed introductions, “Poppy, this,” he placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder, “is Mr. Harry Potter and this is his Aunt.”

The woman’s eyes flew to Harry’s forehead, where his lightening bolt scar was just visible beneath his fringe of bangs. Harry began to feel slightly uncomfortable under her stare. It was almost as if he had ceased to exist and the only thing she could see was the scar. Nobody at home ever stared at it, at least not for long, The kids at school would some times ask how it happened and he would tell them he got it when his parents died.

Grams, as if she knew how uncomfortable Harry was beginning to feel, spoke up when the woman continued to stare at Harry and say nothing. “My nephew is not here, madam, for you to goggle at. Kindly refrain from staring at him like some exhibit in a zoo.”

That seemed to snap the school nurse out of her daze and she became all business as she pulled out her wand. “Harry, if you would have a seat on one of the beds, I’ll give you a quick examination and we’ll see if there’s anything we can do to get your voice back.”

“Poppy, I will leave you to it,” Dumbledore told the medi-witch. “How long do you think it will be?”

“We should be about a half an hour, Headmaster,” the mediwitch told him.

“Ma’am, I’ll have Professor McGonagall meet you here in about thirty minutes then to take the two of you on that tour.” Dumbledore informed her. “Poppy, please see me in my office when you are done.”

Harry looked at Grams, not really wanting to go through with this, but Grams nodded, indicating she wanted him to do what the woman said. As Harry perched on the edge of the nearest bed, the school nurse brought a tray over and asked, “Miss…?”

“You don’t need to know my name to perform an examination.” Grams told her crisply. “All you need to know is that I am Harry’s Aunt.”

Madame Pomfrey didn’t know what to say to that. “Can you tell me, how Mr. Potter lost his voice?”

“Harry got sick with a variant of strep and the Dursleys, with whom your kind left him,” Penny’s voice took on a frosty edge, “let Harry’s condition go untreated too long. As it is, Harry is lucky to be alive and still have his hearing.”

The nurse hmm’d for a moment before pointing her wand at Harry and muttering something that Penny couldn’t hear.

########

Snape’s Potion Lab
Snape sealed the last potion vial with a sigh. Three days he’d been stuck in his lab. The headmaster didn’t even know he was here. He’d come straight down here from the infirmary, with Madame Pomfrey’s list and gotten to work on it Three days of his holiday lost because some damn fool from the Ministry removed the wards on the Hospital wing, just long enough for Peeves to get in and wreak havoc in the potions storeroom of the infirmary. Snape vowed to himself that if he ever found out which idiot was responsible, they were going to pay. He was just grateful that those fools from the Ministry, hadn’t been able to take down the wards he’d put around his quarters, his office, his private potions lab and classroom, otherwise Peeves might have made an even bigger mess.

He understood why the new wards were necessary, given that Flamel’s invention was going to be kept here as of tomorrow, not that the Ministry knew that was the real reason. The wizards that Fudge had sent to help set up the new wards, at Dumbledore’s request, were under the impression that they were being added because Harry Potter was supposed to be coming to school this year. Snape’s lip curled into a sneer at the thought of Harry Potter being at Hogwarts this year, as far as he knew, the boy was still missing. He wasn’t looking forward to teaching the son of James Potter, assuming that Dumbledore had finally found the boy. He had no doubt the boy was going to be just as arrogant and assuming of his right to do whatever he wanted as his father before him.

As he levitated the potion vials into their racks so that he could carry them to the Hospital wing, Snape, double-checked them against his list to make sure he had them all. Picking up the carrying cases, Snape closed up his lab, and reset the wards, before heading for the Hospital wing, so he could deliver the potions to Madame Pomfrey and get out Hogwarts before Dumbledore realized he was here. He wanted to get back to enjoying the remainder of his summer holiday as soon as possible and if the Headmaster found out he was here, he had no doubt that the man would find some way to delay his return home.

Snape entered the Hospital wing intending to drop the potions off on Pomfrey’s desk and depart, that way he would avoid seeing anybody, but he was brought up short by the sight of a dark haired child sitting on the edge of one of the beds. The child looked up at his appearance and then just as quickly looked down again, because he apparently wasn’t who the boy was expecting. That brief glimpse had been enough though, the face was that of James Potter and the eyes behind the glasses were Lily Potter’s. Harry Potter had been found. Oh joy! He wondered how Dumbledore had managed to find the boy, let alone get him away from the witch who had taken him.

Snape walked by the boy and headed for Poppy’s office to deliver the potions. Pomfrey thanked him as she took the cases and headed for the potions storeroom. As he headed back out, Snape couldn’t resist stopping beside the bed young Potter was sitting on, and saying, “I see Dumbledore has managed to retrieve our missing ‘celebrity’.”

The boy stared at him, a puzzled look on his face.

“What? Are you pretending ignorance, Potter?” Snape continued in a sarcastic manor. “I’m surprised. I would have thought that once you knew what a hero you were, you would want to lord it over the rest of us. Merlin knows you father would have, if he were alive and you must be nearly as arrogant as he was.”

Harry stared at the man, wondering why someone he had never met before seemed to hate him. The man mentioned his father. Had his dad done something to him? If he had, then the stranger must’ve thought it was something really bad, if he was willing to hang on to a grudge more than ten years after his father was dead.

Sneering at his continuing silence, Snape went on, “What, still nothing to say, Mr. Potter. I never thought I’d see the day when a Potter would remain silent. Could your silence possibly be because you know I am right and you are just as arrogant as he was?”

Harry kept his hands by his sides. He knew that even if this pale scowling man could understand sign language, nothing he said would change his mind. Grams had called it the Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up way of thinking and had said that those people who had that mindset, you couldn’t get to change their mind even if you used a case of dynamite. While Madame Pomfrey had told him to remain seated on the bed, Harry began slowly backing away from the stranger, in case he was like the few memories he had of Uncle Vernon. When Uncle Vernon had been mad at him, he had learned to fear the times he stopped talking because that would be when he would start hitting. What he really wanted to do was call Grams and alert her to the problem, but he couldn’t risk it. He didn’t know if this man could do magic and if he could, then he might be able to hear him when he spoke telepathically. Grams had made it very clear that his telepathy was supposed to stay a secret.

######

As Penny came back into the main area of the infirmary, she saw her great-nephew slowly trying to put some distance between himself and the stranger who was standing in the aisle between the two beds, blocking Harry’s most visible escape route.

“I see you still have nothing to say, Potter,” the man’s voice was dripping with sarcasm. “I have no doubt that the witch, Dumbledore took you back from, allowed you to get away with anything, inflating that ego of yours to the point where you think you can do anything and you will never suffer the consequences... just like your father. I’m warning you now, you had better think again.”

Penny had heard enough. Gesturing slightly with her hand, she sent the man flying toward the opposite wall.

While he hadn’t been flung hard enough to knock him out, the noise he made when he landed on nightstand, knocking it over, brought Madame Pomfrey out of the Potion’s storeroom.

“Professor Snape!” Madame Pomfrey sounded shocked as she watched him get up off the floor. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.” Snape growled. “Potter, somehow, managed to knock me across the room.”

“Actually, Harry didn’t do it,” an unfamiliar voice announced as a woman Snape had never seen before came into view, “I did.”

“And just who are you?” Snape wanted to know.

Penny chose to ignore him for the moment, instead she went to Harry, wanting to make sure he was okay and that the stranger hadn’t managed to do him any physical harm. Harry was quick to reassure her that he was okay.

“Who are you?” Snape growled again.

Penny turned to face the man, making sure to keep herself between him and Harry, and calmly said, “I’m the witch, Dumbledore didn’t manage to take Harry Potter away from. Madame Pomfrey here called you a professor. Are you a teacher here?”

“Professor Snape teaches potions here at Hogwarts.” Madame Pomfrey announced before Snape could say anything.

Harry looked at the tall, pale man with the oily hair in dismay. If he went to this school, he might have to take classes a person who didn’t know him, but clearly hated him. He wasn’t sure if he liked the idea of being taught by a teacher who might be ten times worse than Ms. Cawston.

“Oh, and here I thought that maybe he taught classes on how to attack children who can’t fight back.” Penny commented sarcastically.

Snape bristled at the strange witch’s criticism. “I did not attack the boy, I was merely pointing out a few facts to make sure that Mr. Potter didn’t have an over-inflated idea of his importance in the wizarding world.”

“That isn’t what it sounded like to me,” Penny contradicted him. “You sounded like a man with an enormous grudge against this boy’s father that you have decided to take out on his son, since the father is no longer available for you to take it out on. It is a very childish person who won’t let go of a grudge, once the other party is dead.”

Penny paused for a moment, “I expected better behaviour from a teacher, Professor Snape. After all, you are supposed to set an example for your students.”

Before Snape could come up with anything to say in response, Professor McGonagall came into the Hospital wing and stopped and stared at the unexpected sight of Severus Snape in the hospital wing, engaged in a glaring contest with the woman that Dumbledore had told her was Harry’s current guardian. Knowing the grudge Snape held against Harry’s father, McGonagall just hoped he hadn’t done anything to wreck their chances of getting Harry into Hogwarts. Dumbledore had made it quite clear they were dealing with an unknown and powerful witch and the only way to get Harry back into the Wizarding world, was to separate him from this witch, long enough to make other arrangements for his future care.

McGonagall quickly concealed her surprise and greeted her fellow teacher, “Professor Snape, I didn’t know you were back.”

“I’m not,” Snape growled.

“He was just replacing the potion stocks that Peeves destroyed a few days ago.” Madame Pomfrey told her

“And now that I have finished with that task, I will be returned to my well-earned holiday.” Having gotten the last word, Snape gave the occupants of the room one last glare, before heading out the door.”



(AN: I realize this is a very short chapter and I had intended to include the visit to Diagon Alley, but that would have taken much longer. And besides, it was kind of fun to watch Snape have to make an orderly retreat, don’t you think?)

Chapter Text

Did we just go back in time?

Dumbledore’s Office, July 30, 1991 3:30pm

Dumbledore was looking over the report that Poppy had given him on Harry Potter. He had really been hoping that Madame Pomfrey would find something that medical wizardry could do, that Muggle science and the Halliwell woman’s brand of magic couldn’t do, to be able to give Harry Potter, his voice back. However according to Madame Pomfrey, medical wizardry, did not yet have the ability to regenerate dead or damaged nerves.

The other thing that concerned Dumbledore was the confrontation that had apparently occurred between Miss Halliwell, Harry, and Professor Snape. He knew that Severus still had a grudge against Harry’s father, James Potter. While Poppy hadn’t seen or heard all of the argument, he just hoped that whatever had been said or done, it wasn’t irreparable Right now, he had to worry about damage control, with regards to the Halliwell woman. Now that he had found the boy, he couldn’t risk losing young Potter again and it was very clear that Harry would follow her lead, at least for the moment. He had hopes that that would change once he had managed to separate the boy from her. His main objective at the present was to get the boy into Hogwarts, without harming the Halliwell witch to do it, otherwise Harry, who clearly cared for his great-aunt, would never agree to stay here of his own free will. Once Harry saw how important he was to the wizarding world and how much he was wanted and needed here, Dumbledore felt certain that Harry would do the right thing and agree to remain, then he would place him with a Light wizarding family like the Weasleys or the Longbottoms. He would need one that was very powerful, since the blood protection magic bond could not be used. There were no wizarding families who were related to Lily Evans and he certainly couldn’t place the boy back with the Dursleys, even if there were a way to prevent the Halliwell woman from finding them. Petunia Dursley’s signing a document that gave away her legal rights to the boy had dissolved that protection for good. However until he knew the level of damage done by the Potions Master, he wouldn’t be able to make any plans.

Sighing, Dumbledore reached into his desk drawer and pulled out the amethyst medallion, he had been hoping he wouldn’t need to use. As he studied the runes carved into it, he heard Phineas comment from his portrait, “so there’s no chance medical wizardry can give the boy back his voice.”

“I’m afraid not,’ Dumbledore told him. “I’m just glad you remembered this medallion that Headmaster Chyma used after that miscast spell took his voice. What amazes me is that no more were created. This kind of amulet would come in very handy for wizards with speech impediments as well.”

“I agree,” Phineas nodded, “but unfortunately for the wizarding world, the witch who created it, died before she could write down the spell and charms she used.”

Before Dumbledore could say anything further, there was a knock on his office door.

“Come in,” Dumbledore called.

Professor McGonagall came in followed by Harry and his Aunt.

“Well what did you think of Hogwarts, Harry?” Dumbledore asked the boy who had gone back over to pet Fawkes again.

Delivering one final pat to Fawkes, Harry turned to face his aunt, and began gesturing with his hands.

“The castle is kind of neat, but why isn’t it lit with regular lights?”

As Harry’s Aunt, and Minerva was still annoyed that the woman refused to give her name, translated those hand gestures, a missing piece of the puzzle fell into place for the Deputy Headmistress. Harry Potter couldn’t speak! All through the tour, she had just thought him extremely shy around strangers, when he didn’t answer her questions. His aunt had done most of the talking, even answering questions she had asked the boy. She was glad she had kept her opinion on what she thought was extremely rude behaviour to herself, whenever the woman had done that. The boy must have been signing his answers all the time, only she missed seeing him do it, until now.

“Muggle technology doesn’t work in the wizarding world,” McGonagall told him. “unless it’s been charmed to do so in some way. Surely you already knew that, Harry, since you live with a witch?”

Harry gave her a look as if to say ‘that make’s no sense’ then signed again to his aunt.

“What is a ‘muggle’?” She translated, then added. “I’ve never heard that term before, either.”

“A muggle is a person with no magical ability.” Professor McGonagall told them. “Those children who attend Hogwarts who come from families with no magical ability are called muggle-born. If you don’t call them muggles, what do you call them in America?”

“We call them people. We don’t stick a biased label on them...”

“Actually madam,” McGonagall interrupted her, “there are some who use an even worse term to describe those with magic, born into non-magical families. They call them mudbloods.”

“I see.” Penny nodded. “So there are levels of prejudice among those in the wizarding world. I can’t help wondering if you also have a biased label for those born to magical families that have no magic?” At the flush that rose in McGonagall’s face, Penny told her stiffly. “It seems as if you view those with no magical ability as somehow less than you, simply because they can’t do magic the way you do. They can do their own form of magic. It’s called technology and it’s a wonderful thing to have.”

“Wizarding kind aren’t the only ones capable of some form of intolerance, madam.” McGonagall countered just as stiffly. “Muggles are also capable of prejudice, against things like the colour of one’s skin, a person’s religion, or their sexual orientation, just to name a few.”

“Ladies, I think we’re getting off the subject here,” Dumbledore quickly intervened, when it looked like this might turn into an ugly fight between the two women, “and that is giving Harry his voice so he may attend Hogwarts and get the best magical education available to him.”

Harry was relieved when the Headmaster intervened. Grams was not one to hold back on her opinions and it seemed as though this Professor McGonagall might be capable of matching her barb for barb.

“Well, Mr. Dumbledore, what did your medi-witch tell you about Harry?” Penny asked the older wizard.

“She confirmed that there is no way to restore Harry’s voice.” Dumbledore admitted. “Now normally that would mean a child would be unable to attend Hogwarts since most spells and charms have a vocal component to them, but thanks to Phineas here, we have a way to give Harry his voice.”

“What do you mean.” Professor McGonagall couldn’t help noticing that Harry’s ‘aunt’ sounded very suspicious.

Dumbledore picked up an amethyst medallion on a silver chain. “One of the previous headmasters of Hogwarts lost his voice due to a miscast spell. A witch, whose name I unfortunately do not know, created this amulet for him?”

“May I see it?” Penny held out her hand and when Dumbledore handed the amulet over, she asked. “What’s it supposed to do?”

“According to what Phineas told me and what I’ve been able to find out myself, it allows thoughts to be heard as spoken word.” Dumbledore explained. “It doesn’t broadcast all thoughts, just those the wearer wants heard. This would mean that the only one besides the four of us the only one who'll know that Harry can not speak will be Madame Pomfrey. No one else need know.”

“Covering your backside huh.” Penny guessed.

“No,” Dumbledore countered. “I’m actually protecting Harry’s.”

Harry looked at the Headmaster with interest as he continued. “While I am not saying that the children who will be attending Hogwarts with Harry would wish to do him harm, like anywhere else in the world there are those who crave power and will do whatever is necessary to achieve it. Harry is looked on as a hero in the wizarding world and if someone who wanted power found out about the amulet, they might try and get it to remove a potential threat to their gaining power.”

Penny could read the hidden meaning in what Dumbledore was saying: there would be children attending this school whose parents were followers of Riddle. “What you really mean to say is that you don’t want the children whose parents are followers of Voldemort to find out that the one who caused his defeat ten years ago, is now handicapped. Nor do you want it known that Harry acquired this disability in the first place, while under the care of the people you chose to place him with, because no one from your world bothered to check up on him to make sure they were taking proper care of him.”

“The headmaster did his best for Harry at the time.” McGonagall countered heatedly. “It’s not his fault that the Dursleys abused Harry.”

“And you never voiced any doubts about leaving the boy with them? Or thought to check on him yourselves?” Penny wanted to know. “Harry’s mother went to school here. Surely someone in this school knew how Petunia Evans felt about anything with even the barest hint of magic in it. Are all the teachers in this school so convinced that this man is infallible that they would let him do anything... to anyone?”

“Ladies, I think we’re getting off the topic again,” Dumbledore put in quickly before the discussion could escalate out of his control.

“How does this thing work?” Penny was willing to let the man change the subject -- for now -- and returned her attention to the unfamiliar runes carved onto both sides of the amethyst disc.

“From my research and Phineas’ recollections, once Harry puts the amulet on and strokes the face of it counter-clockwise, it will take any thoughts he wants heard and turn them into spoken words. To deactivate it, he just strokes the face of the amulet clockwise.” When he glanced over at Harry, he saw he had piqued the boy’s interest and suggested, “Give it a try, Harry.”

Harry looked over at Grams and she nodded, but before she handed it over, he saw her lips moving, and guessed she was saying some kind of protection spell in case the Headmaster tried to pull any tricks.

Harry stroked the disk, counter-clockwise as he had been instructed and then asked. ‘Can you hear me?’ and smiled when he heard the young male voice.

‘Grams, I can talk!’ Harry jumped up and down for a moment and then turned to the Headmaster and smiled at him for the first time today. ‘Thank you sir.’

“You’re very welcome, Harry.” Dumbledore smiled at his antics. “I am pleased I was able to find a way for you to speak so that you can attend Hogwarts this year.”

‘Am I going to be going to school here, Grams?’ Even though he already knew the answer to that, Grams had made it quite clear that Mr. Dumbledore wasn’t to know, otherwise they’d lose all their bargaining power. Also given his earlier meeting with Professor Snape, whom he’d learned, from Professor McGonagall, would be one of his teachers, Harry wasn’t real eager to come here. The last thing he needed or wanted, was a male teacher like Ms. Cawston.

“Mr. Dumbledore and I still have few things to resolve before I can answer that Harry.” She told him, the expression on her face serious.

Not wanting the Deputy Headmistress or Harry to hear what was bound to be a heated discussion, Dumbledore asked, “Minerva, would you mind taking Harry outside to see Hagrid, while his Aunt and I discuss a few things?” Then he told Harry, “Hagrid is the groundskeeper among other things and I’m sure he would enjoy showing you around his domain, Harry.”

‘Grams?’ Harry questioned.

“Hagrid won’t hurt him,” Dumbledore was quick to assure Miss Halliwell. “In fact, he has been looking forward to seeing Harry again.”

“You remember what I told you to do if there was trouble?” At Harry’s nod, she said, “then go ahead Harry. I’ll join you in just a bit.”

Once Professor McGonagall and Harry had left the office, Dumbledore turned his attention back to Penny Halliwell. “Have a seat, Miss Halliwell and we can begin discussing these other matters you feel need to be resolved, before you let Mr. Harry Potter take his rightful place at Hogwarts.”

Penny refused the offered seat. “There is only one issue and it is quite simple; your Potions Master, Professor Snape.”

#####

Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley, July 31, 1991
Hagrid shifted nervously from foot to foot as he knocked on the door of the room across the hall from him. He hoped it would be Harry that opened the door and not the woman, that Dumbledore had introduced as his aunt. While the woman had been very polite to him, he kind of got the feeling she was like Professor Snape, waiting for him to step out of line, then she would pounce.

Part of his nervousness came from the conversation he had overheard between the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall, when he’d gone up to get the letter he needed to get stone from Gringotts.

“And then there was the incident with Peeves.” McGonagall was telling the Headmaster.

“What did Peeves do?” the Headmaster inquired.

“He’d poured Slippery Slope solution on the floor from near the base of the main staircase to the entryway of the Great Hall,” McGonagall reported. “Harry’s feet hit it and he lost his footing. Peeves started to cackle about ickle firsties not supposed to be here yet. Harry’s aunt made a gesture with her hand and stopped Harry from hitting his head on the stairs. You didn’t tell me she could do wandless magic.”

“What did Harry’s aunt do to Peeves?” Dumbledore asked.

“I had just started taking Peeve to task, when she interrupted me and glaring at him she said something along the lines of if he ever caused harm to her or Harry again, that he would spend the rest of eternity chained to the wall of a dungeon.” McGonagall told him. “Peeves started to laugh, but then he looked at her and bowed, then stammering something like an apology as if he were facing the Bloody Baron, he took off.”


Hagrid had never heard of Peeves giving any witch or wizard the level of respect/fear he gave the Bloody Baron, the Slytherin House ghost, not even the Headmaster and any witch who could terrify Peeves was not someone Hagrid wanted to get on the wrong side of. He didn’t know how Harry had come to be with this woman when he knew that the boy had been left with the Dursleys and Dumbledore hadn’t enlightened him. Hagrid got the impression that the woman rattled Dumbledore at least a little bit, enough to make him cautious in his dealings with her and it would take a witch as powerful as he was to make the Headmaster act cautiously. It also meant that she was someone, Hagrid didn’t want to cross.

Hagrid got his wish, as the door opened to reveal Harry, who smiled at the sight of him. ‘Hello Hagrid.’

“Hello Harry,” Hagrid greeted the boy. “Are you and your Aunt ready for breakfast and to go to Diagon Alley for your school things? She did say she wanted to get started before the Alley got too crowded.”

Harry turned his head back onto the room for a few moments. ‘She said we’ll meet you down in the dining room in a couple of minutes.’

Hagrid nodded and turned to go downstairs.

########

Harry and his aunt got downstairs in time to see an owl drop what looked like a newspaper on the table Hagrid was sitting at, then flutter down onto the table. They reached the table in time to see the huge man put some little bronze coloured coins in a leather pouch tied to the owl’s leg.

‘You use owls to deliver your newspapers?’ Harry asked intrigued as the owl flew off.

“They also deliver mail.” Hagrid told him. “Owls are dead useful.”

“What were those coins you put in the owl’s pouch?” Penny asked as they sat down across from him.

“Knuts, wizarding money.” He reached into a pocket of his coat and pulled out a handful of mouldy dog biscuits, a small gold key and some coins. “The gold ones are Galleons. The silver ones are Sickles. And the bronze are called Knuts. There are seventeen Sickles to a Galleon and twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle.”

Hagrid looked over at Harry and asked, “ye still got yer letter, Harry?”

‘Yeah,’ Harry pulled the parchment envelope Hagrid had given him the night before out of his back pocket to show it to him. ‘But Hagrid, I don’t think we’ve got enough to get all the stuff on this list.’

“Don’t you worry about that.” Hagrid assured the boy as he held up his hand and motioned for Tom to come over with their order. “Did yeh think yer parents didn’t leave yeh anything?”

There was a few moments silence as their food was delivered, then Harry told him honestly, ‘Well, I know I got the things that were left with the Dursleys and since I knew our home had been destroyed, I really didn’t think there could be anything else.’

“Yer parents didn’t keep their gold in the house, boy!” Hagrid told him after taking a few bites. “That’s why our first stop is going to be Gringotts. Wizard’s bank. Aside from the errand I have to do there fer Dumbledore, we need ta get yeh some money so yeh can get yer school stuff.”

‘Wizards have banks?’

“Just the one. Gringotts. It’s run by Goblins.”

Harry’s fork dropped onto his plate. ‘Goblins?’

“Goblins,” Hagrid repeated. “Yeh, never want to mess with Goblins, Harry.”

“That’s very true.” Penny agreed, then asked. “How secure is Gringotts?”

“A person would have ta be mad ter try and rob it. It’s got spells -- enchantments. They say there’s dragons guarding the high-security vaults. Then yeh gotta find yer way -- Gringotts in hundreds of miles under London, see. Thief’d die of hunger before getting out, even if they did manage ta get their hands on summat.” Hagrid told her. “Gringotts is the safest place in the world fer anything yeh want ter keep safe. Only one place safer and that’s Hogwarts. Oh, an’ before I forget, you’ll need this,” he handed Harry the tiny gold key, before scooping the rest of his things back into his pocket.

‘What’s this?’ Harry examined the key.

“It’s the key ta yer vault at Gringotts.” Hagrid told him. “Dumbledore gave it to me last night ta give ta you.”

“Dumbledore seems to have a lot of trust in you.” Penny observed.

Hagrid puffed up slightly with pride. “He usually gets me ta do important stuff fer him. Escorting you -- getting stuff from Gringotts -- knows he can trust me, see.”

The rest of breakfast was completed in silence.

As they got up and started to go to the back of the Leaky Cauldron, Harry collided with a chair that was pushed back from its table too quickly for him to avoid it. The resulting collision left Harry and the man who had been sitting in the chair sprawled on the ground.

‘I’m sorry sir,’ Harry quickly apologized to the man. ‘I just couldn’t get out of the way in time.’

“No it was my fault, I should have...” the man’s voice trailed off as he caught sight of the lightening bolt scar on the boy’s forehead. Then in a louder voice he announced, “Bless my soul... you’re Harry Potter. What an honour.”

After they had both gotten to their feet, the man grasped his hand and began shaking it. “Welcome back, Mr. Potter, welcome back. My name is Diggle, Dedalus Diggle.”

Silence fell over the patrons of the Leaky Cauldron as what Diggle had said was passed outward like ripples in a pond. The next moment there was the sound of a lot of chairs scraping against the floor. Harry was quickly surrounded by a crowd of people all speaking at once and reaching out to try and shake his hand or simply touch him.

It took several minutes before Penny was able to get through the crowd to Harry’s side because they kept shifting his position. She could tell from the look on the boy’s face that he wasn’t happy being the center of attention. He never had been. He hated being seen as different.

Hagrid followed Harry’s aunt, in order to prevent any disasters from happening. This woman had some unknown powers and from what he’d heard, was capable of doing wandless magic, which up to now he’d thought only Dumbledore could do. And while the patrons of the Leaky Cauldron were proving to be a little overenthusiastic as they welcomed their hero back, but they only wanted to greet the one who had freed them from Voldemort nearly ten years ago. She might not understand that they were no threat to Harry.

Hagrid reached the boy just as his aunt took hold of his arm, apparently intending to get him out of there, and spoke in a loud voice, before she could say anything. “Must get on -- lots ter buy. Come on Harry.”

Harry and Penny followed in Hagrid’s wake as he cut a path through the crowd. On the edge of the crowd though a pale young man with a nervous twitch in his eye, caught the big man’s eye.

“Professor Quirrell!” Hagrid called out surprised. “Harry, this is Professor Quirrell. He’s going to be one of your teachers as Hogwarts.”

“P-P-Potter,” Professor Quirrell stammered as he grasped Harry’s hand, “c-can’t t-tell you how p-pleased I am to meet you.”

‘What sort of magic do you teach, Professor Quirrell?’ Harry wanted to know.

“D-Defence Against the D-D-Dark Arts,” muttered the professor as though he rather not think about it. “N-Not that you n-need it, eh, P-P-Potter?” He laughed nervously. “You’ll be g-getting all you equipment, I suppose? I’ve g-got to p-pick up a new b-book on vampires, m-myself.” He looked terrified at the though of vampires.

“Let’s get going, Hagrid.” Penny spoke up, then glared at a woman who why trying to get Harry’s attention yet again.

When they got into the small walled courtyard, Harry asked, ‘What was that all about back there?’

“Yer famous Harry. They all just wanted to meet the-boy-who-lived. And thank you, fer what you did.” Hagrid told him “Even Professor Quirrell was tremblin’ ter meet yeh -- mind you he’s usually tremblin’.”

“Is he always that nervous?” Penny asked.

“Oh, yeah. Poor bloke. Brilliant mind.” Hagrid told them. “He was fine while he was studyin’ outta books but then he took a year off ter get some first hand experience... They say he met vampires in the Black Forrest and there was a nasty bit of trouble with a hag -- never been the same since. Scared of his students, scared of his own subject -- now where’s me umbrella?”

Harry’s head was swimming at the idea he was famous. He knew he had survived a supposedly unsurvivable curse when he was a baby, but that had been because of his mother’s sacrifice, not anything he’d done.

Hagrid’s voice saying, “Right, stand back Harry, ma’am,” pulled him out of his thoughts.

As he watched, Hagrid tapped a brick in the wall with the tip of his umbrella. A moment later, the brick Hagrid had touched, began to quiver then wiggled. As he continued watching the brick, a small whole appeared in it, and it got bigger and bigger. Within seconds, they were facing an archway large enough for Hagrid to pass through comfortably.

“Welcome to Diagon Alley, Harry.” Hagrid stepped back to let them get a good look through the arch.

Harry felt as if he were going back in time as they stepped through the archway. The cobblestone street that twisted and wound til it went out of sight had buildings on both sides of it that looked like something out of a historical movie about the 18th century. As they went up the street, Harry found the buildings and people interesting to look at. There were tables in front of some of the shops with things like cauldrons, books, or strange silver instruments he had never seen before. The Apothecary shop had barrels out in front of it and as they passed Eyelops Owl Emporium, he could hear soft hooting coming from within the shop. He also saw what looked like a broomstick in one shop window and heard one of the boys who had his nose pressed up against the glass saying, “It’s the Nimbus 2000... fastest broom ever.”

“Gringotts,” Hagrid announced, pulling Harry’s attention to the white building in front of them. It towered over the little shops.

As they climbed the front steps to the bronze coloured doors, Hagrid identified the creature in the scarlet and gold uniform. “That’s a goblin.”

The goblin bowed as they walked inside and found themselves facing a pair of silver doors with words engraved on them, that attracted the eye:

Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed,


Penny felt the magic embedded in the words begin to stir and quickly pulled her eyes away from the door and resisted the urge to continue reading. She quickly shook Harry’s shoulder to get his attention off the words and the spell they were trying to weave.

Harry looked at her puzzled. Penny quickly signed, ::Spell in the words on the door. You were casting it on yourself.::

::Interesting deterrent to thieves.:: Harry signed back, having gotten a little further along than she had.

Unaware of what had happened, Hagrid led them into the main area of the bank, commenting, “like I said, yeh’d be mad ter try an’ rob it.”

Walking up to the first free goblin that was sitting behind a desk, Hagrid said, “Mr. Harry Potter would like to take some money out of his vault.”

“And does he have his key?” The goblin wanted to know.

“Harry,” Hagrid nudged the boy whose attention was on a nearby goblin who was weighing rubies as big as eggs.

‘Huh,’ Harry sounded slightly distracted.

“Show ‘im yer key.” Hagrid prompted.

‘Oh,’ Harry pulled the little gold key Hagrid had given him, out of his pocket. He handed it to the goblin when it held out its hand.

After the goblin had returned the key to Harry, Hagrid handed over an envelope

“I’ve also got a letter here from Professor Dumbledore,” Hagrid stated importantly, and then in a stage whisper, “it’s about the You-Know-What in vault 713.”

The goblin read the letter carefully, then handed it back to Hagrid. “It all appears to be in order. I will have someone take you to both vaults.” Then he called, “Griphook.”

As the new goblin, Griphook, started to lead them away, Harry noticed his Aunt wasn’t beside him. He turned to look back at her.

“Go on, Harry, I’ll wait here.” She told him. “Besides, I have a few questions for this gentleman.” She pointed her finger at the goblin, who looked back at her a little surprised, thinking their business was concluded.

As Harry rejoined Hagrid, he heard Grams telling the goblin, “Interesting spell on the door...”

The door Griphook led them through came out into a narrow stone tunnel, lined with lit torches. The goblin led them to a set of little railway tracks and after he whistled a little cart raced up to them.

The cart hurtled through the maze of tunnels. Harry tried to remember the order of the turns, but gave up after a few minutes as they came to fast for him to keep track of. At one point he thought he saw a burst of fire down one of the tunnels and turned to see if it was a dragon, but he was too late.

‘Hagrid, do you suppose that was a dragon?’ Harry pointed behind them.

“Might’a been.” Hagrid relaxed a little at the thought of a dragon from where he was sitting so rigidly. “They say Gringotts has ‘em. Crikey, I’d like a dragon, meself.”

Before Harry could ask Hagrid any more questions, the cart came to a sudden stop. Griphook got out, followed by Harry and Hagrid. Extending his hand, the goblin said, “key please.”

As the goblin opened the door, green smoke came billowing out. Harry gasped at the mounds of gold, silver and bronze coins that were revealed as the smoke cleared. It looked like a fortune. He wondered if he could give part of it to Grams and if he did, would she accept it.

Hagrid helped Harry put some of the coins into a bag that had been provided by Griphook. “That should be enough to see you through a couple of terms.”

They got back in the cart and the goblin took them deeper into the maze of tunnels. Colder air whipped past them until the cart again came to a sudden halt in front of vault 713. There was no hole for a key, so Harry was curious about how it could be opened.

After the Goblin ran his finger down the door and it vanished from sight, Griphook told him, “if anyone but a Gringotts goblin tried that, they’d be sucked right through the door.”

Looking into the vault to see what required such special security measures, Harry was surprised to see it was just a little package wrapped in brown paper and string.

Picking up the grubby little package, Hagrid tucked it into one of the inside pockets of his coat. The big man looked over at Harry and said, “Best not to mention this to anyone. Ok?”

Harry nodded.

Once they were back in the main area of the bank, Harry asked his aunt, ‘Did you find out what you needed to know?’

“Yes. They have a branch closer to home that you can use if necessary.” Grams told him as they headed out of the bank.

They started their school shopping trip at Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. Hagrid had told them he would meet them back there in a bit, because he had something he needed to do. Harry suspected that he was going to get himself something strong to drink to recover from that wild cart ride, but that the big man didn’t want to say that in front of Grams. Maybe he thought Grams would disapprove.

Harry could understand why he thought that. So far Grams had given those they’d met in the Wizarding world the impression that she didn’t like them or the things they believed in. It wasn’t quite true.

While Grams had some very definite opinions about right and wrong and what was and wasn’t important, she would never openly disagree with the way someone else behaved, unless the other person’s actions brought harm to those she cared about or was responsible for. Grams believed very strongly in the Wiccan rede of: An it harms none, do as ye will. However, if it hadn’t been necessary that he learn what they could teach him, Harry had a feeling that Grams would have told the wizarding world to take a flying leap. He knew that Grams saw them as a negligent and untrustworthy, because they had been the ones to leave Harry with the Dursleys unsupervised.

The visit to Madame Malkin’s had left a rather sour taste in Harry’s mouth, that the ice creams that Hagrid had brought back with him did much to correct. It was there he had encountered his first young wizard, a blond boy with a pale pointed face. Harry was willing to bet any amount of money that the boy was an only child. He had that attitude of I want it and my parents will get it for me. And from some of the things he had said about children who were born to non-magical families, Harry was also fairly sure that his family was one of those that were racial, if that term could be applied to magic, bigots.

They went through the other shops fairly quickly. The only books they got at Flourish and Blotts besides the ones on the school list were: Most Potent Potions and a book on wandless magic. Grams had told him she wanted to see how the wanded types viewed the Craft.

As they left the Apothecary, Hagrid checked Harry’s school list again.

“Just yer wand left – oh yeah, an’ I still haven’t got yeh a birthday present.”

Harry stared at Hagrid surprised. ‘You don’t have to, Hagrid.”

“I know I don’t have to.” Hagrid told him. “Tell yeh what, I’ll get yer animal. Not a toad, those went out of fashion years ago. An’ I don’t like cats, they make me sneeze. I’ll get yeh an owl. All the kids want owls. Like I told yeh before, they’re dead useful, carry yer mail an’ everythin’.”

“Why don’t you get Harry’s owl, while we get his wand.” Grams suggested. Her thumbs had pricked at the mention of the wand. Something was going to happen and she didn’t want Hagrid to be there when it did.

“All right,” Hagrid smiled, pleased that she was letting him give Harry this gift. “Yeh’ll want ta go ta Ollivanders.” He pointed to the shop at the end of the row. “Only place fer wands.”

The shop Hagrid had directed them to, appeared narrow and shabby. The peeling gold letters over the door read; Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 B.C. And in the dusty window there was a single wand laying on a faded purple cushion.

Like Hogwarts, Penny and Harry could feel the currents of magic running through the shop as they entered it. While the shop appeared empty, she and Harry both knew that the tinkling bell ringing in the depths of the shop, if not the shifts in the magical currents would soon bring someone out to greet them.

They were looking at the rows of narrow boxes, when a soft voice said, “Good afternoon.”

An old man came out from between the shelves of boxes, his wide pale eyes shining in the gloomy shop.

‘Hello,’ Harry greeted the odd looking man, whom he assumed was Mr. Ollivander.

“Ah yes,” the man said. “Yes, yes. I thought I might be seeing you soon Mr. Potter.” He looked closely at Harry, unnerving the boy slightly with his unblinking stare. “You have your mother’s eyes, my boy. It seems like only yesterday that she was in here, buying her first wand. Ten and a quarter inches long, made of willow. Nice wand for charm work.”

He continued to gaze at Harry as if he were seeing something no one else could see. Harry found himself wishing the man’s eyes would blink, because the stare from those unblinking silvery eyes was beginning to feel a little creepy.

“Your father on the other hand, favoured a mahogany wand eleven inches. Pliable. It had a little more power and was excellent for transfiguration. Well, I say your father favoured it – actually, it’s the wand that chooses the wizard.”

“And that’s where…” Mr. Ollivander touched the lightning bolt scar on Harry’s forehead. “I’m sorry to say I sold the wand that did it,” he admitted softly. “Thirteen and a half inches. Yew. Powerful wand, very powerful, and in the wrong hands… If I had known what that wand was going out into the world to do…”

Harry felt a strange surge of relief when those strange silvery eyes spotted Grams.

“I don’t believe we’ve met before.” Ollivander’s intent silvery eyes studied the woman. “I remember every wand I’ve ever sold and to whom they were sold, but I don’t remember selling a wand to you and you most definitely aren’t a muggle.”

“You didn’t,” Grams studied the man just as intently. “I’ve never had a wand. I have no need of one now.”

“Indeed,” the man’s gaze became slightly unfocused for a moment, before he paled and bowed slightly. “Accept my apology for not recognizing what you were madam. It has been a long time since a follower of the green way entered my shop. Not since the time of the Founders I believe. Have you come for one of my crystal drawing wands?”

“Maybe another time,” Grams told him, smiling for the first time. Her instincts were telling her she could trust this person and that he would not betray that trust.

::Green way?:: Harry questioned, using one hand to finger spell it, so the wandmaker wouldn’t see it.

::Old term for Wiccan magic.:: Grams signed back just as subtly, then she turned her attention back to the wandmaker. “I would respectfully like to ask that you not tell anyone about me. The wanded magic users seem to have forgotten much about the green way and I would prefer to keep them in ignorance if possible. It will allow me to continue to protect my nephew.”

“As you wish, sister.” Penny knew that Ollivander would keep his word. “It is a shame that some of the old ways were lost in the Separation. They could be of great use now.” Ollivander looked back at Harry with the same unfocused gaze for a moment. “Perhaps your nephew will be the one to bring some of the old ways back to the Wizarding world. His mother before him also had the potential for the old ways, but like seeds waiting to be planted, it was unused in her, probably til the day of her death. In Mr. Potter however, I see the old ways have taken root and begun to flourish.”

Before Penny could comment on his perceptions, the door to his shop opened and Hagrid came in with a cage containing a snowy owl.

“Rubeus! Rubeus Hagrid!” Ollivander greeted the large man. “How nice to see you again... Oak, sixteen inches, rather bendy wasn’t it?”

“Yes sir, it was,” Hagrid agreed.

“That was a good wand. I suppose they snapped it when you got expelled.” Mr Ollivander observed.

“Yes it was,” Hagrid was shuffling his feet nervously, then added brightly, “but I’ve still got the pieces.”

“You don’t use them?” Mr. Ollivander questioned sharply.

“No, sir.” Harry noticed that Hagrid gripped his umbrella rather tightly, as he said this, as if he were protecting it.

Mr. Ollivander gave him a suspicious look, before returning his attention to Harry. “Mr. Potter, let’s get on with getting you a wand. Which is your wand arm?”

Harry considered the question for a moment before responding, ‘I’m mostly right handed, sir.’

While it was true that he used his left hand for some things, about the only thing he did regularly with his left hand was signing and that was because signing usually involved two hands for most words. He was having to fight the habit of signing his words while he was here. Dumbledore didn’t want the wizarding world to know he couldn’t talk and in this one thing, Grams had agreed with him.

Pulling out a measuring tape with silver markings from his pocket, Mr. Ollivander began to take measurements of Harry. As he did so, he talked about his wands and what they were made of.

Once he finished taking his measurements, Ollivander went to the shelves and taking down boxes. While the wandmaker was busy selecting boxes, Harry noticed that the measuring tape seemed to have taken on a life of its own, because it was now measuring the distance between his nostrils.

“That will do.” Mr. Ollivander said without looking behind him and the tape measure dropped to the floor.

When he turned back to face Harry, he handed him the first of the wands he had chosen and told him, “give it a wave.”

Harry did and nothing happened. More wands were tried, with the same results. Some of them were taken out of his hand almost as soon as they touched it. However instead of discouraging the wandmaker, it made him more excited.

“Tricky customer, but not to worry, we’ll find you a wand.” Ollivander disappeared into the back of the shop and came out with a slightly dusty box.”

Pulling the wand out, he handed it to Harry. “This one is Holly and Phoenix feather, nice and supple. Unusual combination, but give it a try.”

When Harry took the wand, he instantly knew this one was different, because he felt a sudden warmth in his hand. Raising the wand, he brought it down with a swish and red and gold sparkles, like a 4th of July firework shot out of the end of it.

Hagrid congratulated him.

Mr. Ollivander looked pleased, then thoughtful. “Curious,” he murmured, “very curious.”

‘What’s curious, sir?’ Harry asked as Mr. Ollivander wrapped up his wand.

Mr. Ollivander looked serious. “I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single wand. It just so happens that the phoenix who provided the tail feather for your wand, gave just one other. I find it very curious that this wand should choose you, when its brother -- gave you that scar.”

Harry looked at him surprised.

“Curious how these things happen.” Mr Ollivander again fixed him with that unnerving stare of his. “I think we must expect great things from you, Mr. Potter... After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things -- terrible, but great.”


(AN: While I had intended for there to be a disagreement between McGonagall and Penny, the topic that came out wasn’t the one intended, however, every time I went to remove or change that section something would stop me so it stays. It does need a bit of work though so any suggestions on how to make it better will be read, but may not be used. The 2 women are not going to get along. They are both strong-willed and fiercely protective, like tigresses with cubs, which is bound to lead to clashes, even if Penny did trust the wizarding world. Which she doesn’t. )

Chapter Text

I’m off to join the wizards


King’s Cross Station, Sept 1, 1991, 8:30am

Since it was the height of rush hour, none of the commuters noticed a column of blue-white light appear in a corner near the entrance to the station and leave behind a man, a boy with a trunk, and a cage containing a snowy owl.

Grabbing a nearby cart, Leo quickly helped Harry load his school trunk and Hedwig’s cage onto it. Then they headed toward the train platforms.

While the appearance of a caged owl did get them a few odd looks, both Harry and Leo were pleased to see that their early arrival had insured that no one would be paying too much attention to them. Leo’s bringing him to the station so early had served another and more important purpose, making sure that no wizard or witch saw them together, or how they had arrived.

Leo brought the cart to a halt beside the brick wall that divided Platforms 7 and 8. Kneeling down so he didn’t have to shout over the noise in the station, Leo told his charge, “This is as far as I can go with you, Harry. Aside from the fact that I don’t know how the portal to Platform 9 and 3/4 would react to my powers, it is best that we make sure no wanded witch or wizard can connect you to me, even though none of them usually come in this early, there’s always a chance they might. Also, we,” a quick glance upward told Harry that Leo was referring to the Whitelighters and Elders, “know that they have the ability to cast glamours that allow them to look like some one else. They even have potions that can transform someone into an exact copy of... say you that would be good enough to fool your Aunt.”

‘Not for long it wouldn’t.’ Harry countered with a grin, imagining what Grams would do to any wizard stupid enough to try it.

“True, but they wouldn’t need to fool her for long to cause a lot of harm.” Leo pointed out. He didn’t have to imagine what Penny would do to anyone foolish enough to harm her family. She had quite a reputation among the Whitelighters as a witch you did not want to piss off.

Beginning to feel a little like a secret agent with all the secrets he was having to keep and the double life he was going to be living for awhile, Harry suggested. ‘In that case, maybe we should have some kind of special greeting.'

“A good idea,” Leo agreed. “It will come in very handy if one of the other whitelighters has to pick you up.”

He was pleased by the caution Harry was showing. Penny and Patti had done a good job raising the boy, so far. Harry was already using the medallion that Dumbledore had provided, instead of telepathy or signing, just in case wizards had come to the station early.

‘It should be something they don’t know about and wouldn’t be able to find out easily.’ Harry looked thoughtful. ‘maybe something to do with the Warran line rather than the Talbots.’

After a few moments thought, Leo suggested, “How about this: ‘Melinda’s granddaughter sent me’?”

Harry nodded in agreement and added. ‘Then I’ll reply: ‘Patti sent you?’. Then you or the whitelighter who comes in your place will say: ‘No,’ and give one of the names of my cousins. We can start with Phoebe and then you pick the next, only you or they can’t use the one that was used last. That way it’s random.’

After a few moments of silence, Harry asked, ‘How do I get on the platform, Leo?’

“The easiest way and the one that will draw the least amount of attention is to learn up against the brick wall dividing Platforms 9 and 10” Leo told him. “You’ll just slip right through the portal, like stepping through a door.” Getting to his feet, the whitelighter told him. “Go on, Harry. I’ll wait here until you’re through.”

Pushing his cart carefully through the crowd, Harry moved toward the brick wall separating Platforms 9 and 10. As soon as he got close enough he could feel the muted flow of magic that went to create what felt like an archway in the wall. Leaning up against the wall where he felt a hole in the magic, Harry found that Leo’s description had been accurate. It felt like he was pushing open a door.

The transition was almost instantaneous. One moment he was in King’s Cross station and the next he was coming out of a wrought iron archway into an old-fashioned train station. There were two signs hanging from the roof of the station. One said Hogwarts Express and the other said Platform 9 3/4. Next to the station there was a scarlet red steam engine that the smoke stack was just beginning to give off smoke.

As Harry pushed his cart down the station platform, he didn’t see anybody around who would be able to help him load his trunk onto the train. Well, I did arrive early, he decided. Maybe the people who take care of the train are off on a break.

‘Looks like we’re gonna have a bit of a wait, Hedwig.’ Harry observed, as he gently stroked the owl’s feathers.

Hedwig hooted in agreement.

Harry was glad that the owl had gotten over her fit of anger toward him. When she had been left at the old wizarding manor with the guardian, Harry had thought she had understood why she had to stay there and not with Harry in California. Aside from the fact that it would be very hard to explain to the girls, why he was suddenly keeping a snowy owl for a pet, Harry hadn’t wanted Hedwig to work herself to death, trying to deliver mail to and from the states. He had explained to her that while he would not be living here, this was where she was to deliver all mail for him. Given his shifting talent he and Grams had worked out a way for him to shift mail from the deep lower drawer of his dresser, to a second trunk that was at the guardian's manor. The guardian would then give this mail to Hedwig to deliver to him. However when Leo had brought him back to the castle a couple of days ago, he was willing to swear she was as mad at him as Phoebe had been when she found out he was going to England to go to school.

########

Flashback
Halliwell Manor, August 14, 1991
Grams stood at the foot of the stairs and called, “Pru, Piper, Phoebe, can you three come down here please?”

It sounded like thunder as the three girls stomped downstairs.

“What’s up Grams?” Pru asked.

“Harry and I need to speak with you.” Grams led them into the solarium where Harry was already waiting.

The girls didn’t know what to make of Harry’s solemn expression.

“Harry, is something wrong?” Phoebe asked.

Harry shook his head.

“Then why do you look as though you’ve been told you’re gonna have to face Ms. Cawston all by yourself?” Phoebe wanted to know.

“Phoebe!” Piper sounded shocked. They all knew that woman had picked on Harry just because he couldn’t speak.

“What?” Phoebe didn’t understand what she’d said wrong.

“We really don’t want to talk about that woman,” Piper pointed out. “She wasn’t a nice person.”

“I know that.” Phoebe told her. “I was just saying that he looks like he’s just been told that he’s gonna have to spend another year with her.”

::Not far off:: Harry put in darkly, though no one saw his comment. He was thinking about Professor Snape whom he would be facing in a couple of weeks.

“Girls, please!” Grams interrupted before Pru could get involved. “What I needed to talk to you about is the fact that Harry is going to be leaving in a couple of weeks to go to school and except for coming back for Christmas, he’ll be away about ten months. And if this school works out, then he’ll be going there until he’s eighteen.”

“Why?” Phoebe looked at her grandmother stunned.

“You remember when Harry and I had to go to England a few weeks ago?”

The girls nodded.

“We had to go talk to the lawyers that are responsible for Harry’s parent’s estate.” Penny lied glibly. “They’ve been looking for Harry since we got him in ’85. From what they told us, Harry has a trust fund to see to his needs til he’s eighteen then he will inherit his parent’s estate. One of the other things they told us was that when Harry was born, his parents enrolled him in the school they both went to and that he’s supposed to start this year.”

To say that all three girls looked shaken would be an understatement.

Finally Pru asked, “They can’t force him to go, can they, Grams?”

“No, they can’t,” Penny confirmed. “They can’t even force me to send him there, since I am his legal guardian.”

“Then why does he have to go?” Piper was confused.

“Because he deserves a chance to learn about where he came from,” Grams began only to be interrupted.

“I don’t want him to go.” Phoebe stamped her foot.

“Well, he is going, Phoebe.” Grams countered firmly. “At least for one year. He’ll have a chance to learn about his family...”

“His family...” Phoebe scoffed. “His family over there didn’t take very good care of him the first time they had him and they shouldn’t have a second chance to try and hurt him.”

“Well, he’s not going to be staying with the Dursleys.” Grams told her. Even if I knew where they were, she thought to herself. “I’ve made arrangements for him to stay with some friends of mine over there, in the few days before school. And the family I was talking about him getting to know are his parents. Don’t you think Harry deserves to know about his parents?”

“I. Don’t. Want. Him. To. Go.” Phoebe repeated stubbornly. “He shouldn’t go. He won’t have anybody to talk to over there, or talk for him. Harry belongs with us not them. Where were these lawyers when he was being hurt? They’ve proven they can’t be trusted to take care of him.”

She ran out of the room, not wanting to hear another word.
End Flashback


########

Unlike Hedwig, Harry reflected ruefully, it had taken Phoebe until the day before his departure to get over her anger at his going away from them. By that time Harry had begun to think his ‘sister’ was never going to speak to him again, at least not til he came home for Christmas. After Gram’s announcement, Phoebe had spent most of her days out of the house. Where he didn’t know, but Grams hadn’t looked too worried, so he knew she wasn’t in any danger.

He had spent most of his time going over his books, especially the Potions ones. Grams had told him she wouldn’t put it past the bozo who taught Potions to have some hard questions designed to humiliate the class. She’d told him about an Accounting professor Patti had had in college, who on the first day of class always enjoyed trying to make her students feel like they were ten inches tall and dumber than a box of rocks. Grams had conceded that the woman was probably a very good accountant, but she just didn’t have the patience to teach and in Grams opinion, if you didn’t have the patience to teach you shouldn’t be teaching. She had even suggested a few things to try and help him not be afraid of Professor Snape, such as imagining the teacher in underwear, the stranger the better. When he’d told her he couldn’t do that, she’d come up with something even better. She’d taken him to a club in the Castro district, for some inspiration.

Remembering the people who worked in that club, Harry couldn’t help thinking, Grams, certainly knows some interesting people.

(AN: For those of you who don’t live in the US, have been living in the back end of beyond for the past 20 years, or are too young to know, the Castro district in San Francisco is the area where the Gay community primarily lives or maybe I should say lived given that they have spread out. It is also well known for having the unusual types of clubs such as drag or transvestite.)

Harry remembered the last full day he spent at the Manor at least, until Christmas, quite well.

#########

Flashback
Harry was packing some of his winter clothes in the second suitcase he was taking with him, when Phoebe came to his room. A quick glance at the bed assured him that none of his school books were visible.

“Harry,” Phoebe was standing in the doorway shuffling her feet.

::Hi, Phoebe:: Harry couldn’t help wondering why she was here, given that she’d been avoiding him, like the plague, ever since Grams told them he was going to go away to school ::You can come in, you know. I’m not going to bite.::

Phoebe giggled as she came in and plopped herself down on the bed.

Harry resumed his packing, waiting for Phoebe to start talking.

“Harry, please stop doing that.” Phoebe begged.

::I have to finish packing.:: Harry told her. ::My flight for New York leaves tomorrow morning.::

“I don’t want you to go.” Phoebe told him.

::But I am going.:: Harry pointed out. ::It’s already been decided, remember?::

“Why?” Phoebe wanted to know.

::Why what?:: Harry countered. He was fairly certain he knew what she was asking about, but with Phoebe you could never be entirely sure. Sometimes following her logic gave him a headache.

“Why is Grams sending you to a school in England?” Phoebe asked stiffly. “You’re not English. You’re American. You don’t belong there.”

Harry smiled. ::The school is in Scotland and technically I am an English citizen. I was born there, remember?::

It was true. Since Patti was never able to complete the intended adoption, his official citizenship was still British. However when the judge had made Grams and Patti his legal guardians, he had issued Harry with a temporary dual citizenship until he turned eighteen, to avoid possible issues with the INS. Once he turned eighteen, he could decide for himself if he wanted to become a full US citizen.

“Picky, picky,” Phoebe just glared at him. “And you’re avoiding my question. Why do you want to go to school so far away?”

Knowing he couldn’t tell her all of the reasons why, Harry settled for telling her part of it. ::I don’t want to, but I need to.::

“That makes no sense.” Phoebe was confused. “If you don’t want to go, then don’t go.”

::I have to.:: Harry repeated. ::It’s what my parents wanted. Tell me something, Phoebe. If you’d never had a chance to know your mother and then you found out that you had a chance to learn about who and what she was, would you take it?::

Phoebe looked thoughtful, then reluctantly said, “I... suppose I would.”

::That’s what I’m doing.:: Harry told her. ::I don’t know anything at all about my parents. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon didn’t like me asking questions. My parents planned for me to go to the school they went to in Scotland. They even paid for it. Now I have a chance to find out something about them and how they were when they were growing up. Maybe even see some pictures of what they looked like. I don’t want to lose this chance, Phoebe.::

He paused for a moment, watching Phoebe’s face carefully. ::I also don’t want this to come between us, Phoebe. You are part of my family...::


############

“Hey, what are you doing on the Platform so early?” A male voice startled Harry out of his memories of that afternoon. “You shouldn’t be here for another couple of hours.”

After making sure his bangs were covering his forehead, and the scar, Harry looked up and saw a man with slightly greying hair standing a few feet away. He wasn’t wearing robes like some of the other wizards Harry had seen. He was dressed in a pair of old-fashioned pants with suspenders and an equally old-fashioned, stained shirt.

‘Sorry,’ he apologized to the stranger, ‘but I had to come early, because the person dropping me off had to go to work early.’ Pulling the ticket he’d been given with his letter out of his pocket, Harry looked at it. ‘Besides, this ticket doesn’t say when we’re supposed to start arriving, just that the train leaves at 11:00.’

“Well, that’s true,” the older man conceded.

Harry added, ‘And I figured it would be safer to wait here, instead of out in the main area of the station. Especially since Hedwig had been getting a few odd looks.’

“Are you a muggle-born?” The man asked.

‘I wasn’t raised in the wizarding world, if that’s what you mean.’ Harry countered as he dug through his book bag for something to read.

“I kinda thought so,” the man nodded in understanding. “Wizard folk know to start arriving around 10 and most muggle-borns usually don’t start arriving til then either.”

‘Should I leave then?’ Harry asked

“You don’t need to,” the man quickly assured him. “It’s just that the train isn’t ready for passengers yet.”

‘That’s okay, I’ve got plenty to read.’ Harry held up a paperback book.

The stranger finally introduced himself. “I’m Mike. Let me know if you get hungry. One of the guys usually goes across to the muggle cafe across from the station around 9:30.”

Fairly certain that he would be hungry by then, Harry simply asked, ‘Let me know when they’re ready to go and I’ll go across with them.’

He’d been too nervous to eat when he got up this morning and now that he had finally begun this journey, he was starting to calm down which meant he would want something to eat soon.

############

“Station’s packed with muggles.” Molly spoke up, as she got closer to Platform 9 and 3/4.

Dumbledore had asked her to keep an eye out for young Harry Potter and to make sure he made it through the Barrier. So far though, she hadn’t seen any child matching the description she’d been given.

“What’s the platform number?” She asked in a slightly louder tone, hoping the boy was nearby.

“9 and 3/4!” Ginny piped up, then she begged, “Mum, can’t I go...”

“You’re not old enough, Ginny. Now be quiet.” Molly told her. Looking around she still saw no sign of the boy. “All right, Percy, you go first.”

Once he was through the barrier, she pointed to one of the twins and said, “You next, Fred.”

“I’m not Fred. I’m George.” Her son sounded exasperated with her. “Honestly, woman, you call yourself our mother? Can’t you tell I’m George?”

“Sorry, George dear,” she apologized.

“Only joking, I am Fred.” The red-headed twin smiled as he took off for the barrier at a run.

As soon as he cleared the other side of the Barrier, Fred saw a dark-haired boy step away from a nearby trash bin and directly into his path. Since the boy had his back to the Barrier, he hadn’t seen Fred’s entrance. Fred quickly tried shifting the direction of his trolley, even though there was no way to completely avoid hitting him.

Once he’d managed to pull his trolley to a stop, Fred hurried back to check on the smaller boy. “I’m so sorry. I came through the barrier a little too fast, and by the time I saw you it was too late. Are you all right?”

George came through the barrier in time to see his brother helping a smaller, dark-haired boy to his feet. Pushing his trolley over to join them, he asked his twin, “Who’s this?”

“Don’t know, just sorta ran into him.” Fred told him

“My brother, the human bludger,” George commented, seeing the smaller boy was limping slightly.

‘What’s a bludger?’ the dark-haired boy questioned as he pushed his bangs out of his eyes.

“A bludger is used in the game of...” George’s explanation trailed off as he caught sight of the lighting bolt shaped scar on the dark-haired boy’s forehead. “Blimey, are you --?”

“He is.” Fred put in, having caught sight of the scar as well. But when the dark-haired boy made no comment, he asked uncertainly, “aren’t you?”

‘Aren’t I what?’ Harry couldn’t figure out what they were talking about, until he remembered that he’d just brushed his bangs out of his eyes.

The twin’s next words confirmed his guess as they said at the same time, “Harry Potter.”

‘Yeah, I mean, yes, I am.’ Harry told them.

The two boys were staring at him as if he were a cross between a rock star and some strange exhibit in a zoo. He had the feeling that he had vanished as far as they were concerned and all that remained was his scar. He hoped the rest of students at Hogwarts weren’t going to be like this or it was going to get old real fast.

Before Harry could get too uncomfortable with them staring at his scar, an older woman’s voice called out, “Fred. George. Are you here?”

The twins turned their heads and looked toward a red-headed woman who seemed to be searching for them on the crowded station platform. Gratefully, Harry used their moment of distraction to escape back to his compartment on the train. He had chosen one of the rear cars, figuring the others would fill up first and he would have privacy longer. He had always been uncomfortable with attention. Even though he had lived with the Halliwells longer than the Dursleys, he still equated attention with trouble. Any time he had gotten more of the good kind of attention than Dudley, it had always meant a beating and then time in his cupboard. Because of them he dreaded being singled out as anything special, always preferring to stay in the background. Hanging around with Phoebe that had always been easy, since she tended to draw the attention to her, because she was such a lively person. Unfortunately he was beginning to have the feeling that it wasn't going to be quite so easy to fade into the background at Hogwarts.

Once he was back in his compartment, Harry sat down near the half open window, where he could see the twins and the red-head that he assumed was their mother, without being seen. The woman had at least two other red-headed children with her, and Harry couldn’t help wondering if they were the twins’ brother and sister. There was a slight resemblance other than the red hair. He also couldn’t help wondering how their mother managed to tell the twins apart, since they appeared to be identical down to the last freckle, as far as he could tell.

Their mother had just finished cleaning something off the younger red-headed boy’s nose and Harry had heard the twins refer to him as ‘ickle Ronniekins’ which meant his name was probably Ronald or some variation of it.


“Where’s Percy?” The woman asked.

“He’s coming now.” One of the twins told her. Harry still didn’t know which was Fred and which was George.

Harry saw an older boy come striding up in billowing black robes and wearing a shiny badge that looked like it had a ‘P’ on it. So far he was the only one Harry had seen who was already in his school clothes. As soon as he was in earshot, he told the group, “Can’t stay long, Mother, I’m up front. The Prefects have got two compartments to themselves.”

This Percy reminded Harry a little of the leaders of some of those protest groups he saw on the news. The ones that were pompous and puffed up with their own self-importance and who’s groups never amounted to much, other than maybe some occasional press when it was a slow news day.

“Oh, are you a prefect, Percy?” One of the twins sounded surprised. “You should have said something.”

“You know I think he did,” commented to other. “At least once...”

“Or twice...”

“An hour...”

“All summer.”

As the twins burst out laughing, Percy growled, “Shut up.”

“How come Percy got new robes?” One of the twins asked.

“Because he’s a prefect,” their mother said fondly. “All right dear, have a good term and send me an owl when you get there.”

She kissed Percy on the cheek before he left, then turned her attention back to the twins. “Now, you two -- you behave yourselves, this year. If I get one more owl telling me you’ve... you’ve blown up a toilet or --”

“We’ve never blown up a toilet.” One twin protested.

“Great idea though,” the other observed. “Thanks mum.”

“It’s not funny.” She sighed then said, “Look after Ron.”

“Don’t worry, mum, ickle Ronniekins will be safe with us.”

“Shut up.” Ron ordered, his face from what Harry could see was reddening slightly.

“Hey Mum, guess what?” One of the twins spoke up. “Guess who we met?”

“You mean who you ran into, don’t you?” the other one countered.

“Who?” Molly was looking around the station trying to see if she could find Harry Potter.

Harry Potter!

That brought Molly’s attention back to the twins. “You ran into him, Fred.”

“It was an accident, mum.” Fred spoke up quickly in his own defence. “He stepped into the path of my trolley, just as I cleared the Barrier.”

“Was he ok?” Molly wanted to know. “Are you sure it was Harry Potter?”

“Seemed to be. He disappeared when you hollered at us.” Fred shrugged. “Saw the scar on his forehead and when I asked, he said he was.”

Glad that he had made it through the barrier though she wondered who had told him how to get through, Molly was debating going on the train to look for the boy and make sure he was all right, when Ginny asked, “Oh mum, can we go find him? I want to see him.”

“No, Ginny,” Molly told her firmly. “He isn’t something you goggle at in the zoo. Was he alone, Fred? Were his relatives with him?”

“Seemed to be alone.” George told her. “Didn’t see anyone nearby, and I think if they had been they would’ve come running after Fred, here, accidentally knocked him down.”

“Never mind that,” Fred spoke up quickly, wanting to divert his mother’s attention, seeing the glint of fire in her eyes. “Do you think he remembers what You-Know-Who looks like?”

It didn’t have the desired effect though and his mother sternly ordered, “I forbid you to ask him about that, Fred. As if he needs to be reminded of that on his first day at school.”

“All right, all right, mum.” Fred held up his hands in surrender. “I won’t ask him.”

Seeing the quick look that Fred gave his twin, Harry was fairly certain that the other twin might ask him, since he hadn’t promised not to.

A moment later a whistle, alerting those still on the platform that the train would soon be leaving.

“Hurry up and get on the train,” their mother ordered.

After making sure their trunks were on board, the three boys did so. Then they leaned out the window so their mother could kiss them good-bye as their younger sister began to cry.

“Don’t Ginny,” Fred requested, “we’ll send you loads of owls.”

“We’ll send you a Hogwarts toilet seat.” George quickly added.

George!

“Only joking, mum.” He assured his mother.

As the train began moving he saw the boys’ mother waving and their sister began running alongside the train, half laughing, half crying. When the train started going too fast for her to keep up, Ginny began waving as well.

Sitting back down in his seat, Harry wished that his family could’ve been here to see him off and that Phoebe could have come with him But it was not to be. Grams had told him that the girls’ powers would not be unbound until after she was dead and that her death would not occur until the girls were in their twenties or early thirties and until that happened the girls weren’t to know about witches or witchcraft.

#########

As houses flashed past the window, Harry was both excited and a little worried about what awaited him at Hogwarts. Most witches, never had a dangerous destiny, they just spent most of their time trying to maintain the balance and help out those who couldn’t work magic in little ways to try and make their lives better. However, as Grams had once told him the more power you had, the more responsibility you had to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves from the dark forces in this world and like the girls who would one day be the Charmed ones, he had his own destiny to fulfil and it was unfortunately going to be a dangerous one.

He was also a little worried about what awaited him at Hogwarts. Leo had said that there were certain events that were going to happen that would turn out worse if he weren’t there. That meant that besides going to learn the type of magic his parents had used, he was going to be at Hogwarts to try and prevent something from happening or at least to keep it from turning out too badly. It was a scary idea that success or failure rested on his eleven year old shoulders. Was he really ready for it? Well, he told himself, it’s too late to back out now, even if I wanted to.

The door to his compartment slid open and Harry looked over to see the red-headed boy, Ron, standing in the doorway.

“Is anyone sitting there?” Ron pointed to the empty seat opposite Harry. “Every other compartment is full.”

Harry shook his head. ‘Nope, so far I’m the only one in here.’

Ron sat down and after taking another look at the dark haired boy sitting across from him, looked out the window.

Harry knew his long bangs were covering the scar again, so even if the boy were looking for it, he wouldn’t have seen it.

The red-headed twins appeared in the doorway of the compartment a few moments later, grins on their faces and one of them said. “Here you are, Ron. We’ve been looking all over for you.”

“Well, here I am.” Ron told them.

The other twin spoke up, “we’re gonna go down to the middle of the train...Lee Jordan’s got a giant tarantula. Wanna come?”

Ron shuddered and said, “No thanks.”

Before they left, one of the twins asked, “Harry, did we introduce ourselves?” When Harry shook his head, they struck a pose and announced, “We’re Fred and George Weasley and this is our younger brother Ron. See you guys later.”

Harry barely had the chance to say, ‘bye’ before the door slid shut behind the twins.

“Are you really Harry Potter?” Ron wanted to know.

Harry nodded.

“Oh, I thought it might’ve been one of Fred and George’s jokes.” Ron told him. “And have you got the...”

‘The what?’ Harry asked.

“The scar.” Ron pointed toward Harry’s forehead.

‘Yes, I do.’

“Can I see it?” Ron wanted to know.

‘No,’ Harry told him and anticipating the next question, added, ‘and no I can’t remember what happened the night Voldemort killed my parents.’

Ron stared at the dark-haired boy amazed. “You said his name!” then added in a low voice. “Nobody ever says You-Know-Who’s name.”

‘Don’t see why not. It's just a name.’ Harry shrugged, and got up to get his book bag off the luggage rack, intending to get a book to read since this train ride looked like it might turn boring. The train gave a sudden jerk as his hand wrapped around the strap, sending him to the floor and scattering the contents of the bag.

Ron knelt down to help him get all his books back in the bag, curious about what the boy-who-lived read. Picking up a thick book, he asked, “What’s this?”

‘History book from my other school.’ Harry put it back in the bag, before Ron could see the title said American History. 'My Aunt wants me to keep up with my regular schooling as much as possible.'

“Muggle schooling?” Ron couldn’t believe it. “Why?”

‘Non-magical schooling,’ Harry countered. ‘As for why, so that I have a chance at a good job in the non-magical world, once I finish school.’

“But you’re a wizard! Not to mention the Boy-Who-Lived!” Ron couldn’t understand why anyone would willingly want to learn muggle history if they didn’t have to. “You don’t need Muggle history to live and work in the wizarding world.”

‘My family lives in the non-magical world, and when I am done at Hogwarts, I most likely will be too.’ Harry told him. Seeing the other boy didn’t understand, and trying to find some common ground with the red-headed boy, he asked, ‘Are all your family wizards?’

“Er -- yes,” Ron said then paused “At least I think so. Mum may have a second cousin who’s an accountant, but we never talk about him."

No common ground there. Harry hoped the disappointment he was feeling wasn’t showing on his face. While the wizarding world had some cool stuff, the people in it were proving to be something of a let-down. True he hadn’t met a large number of wizards yet, but with very few exceptions like Mike on the train platform, most seemed to regard the non-magical world as something to be ignored, or in some cases kept as far away from the wizarding one as you could get it, even if it meant barring those who could work magic from coming into the wizarding world, if they came from non-magical families.

It wasn’t right and Harry knew it. If there was thing he had learned living at the Halliwells, it was that family mattered. You shouldn’t act like they didn’t exist, especially if it was because of something they had no control over. It didn’t matter if they could do magic or not. Nor did it matter if they were evil and you ultimately had to vanquish them. It didn’t matter how far apart the kinship was, after all he was technically a second cousin, or if you only saw them rarely, they shouldn't be ignored as if they didn't exist. Harry felt that Ron should have at least known this cousin’s name, even if he knew nothing else about him other than that he was an accountant. He was beginning to wonder if he could find any common ground with this boy.

Not knowing what caused the silence and wanting to break it, Ron asked, “What’s it like, living with muggles?”

‘I like living with my aunt and cousins. I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else’s family, even if they are a bit crazy at times.’ Harry told him honestly, then quickly changed the subject before he could ask something Harry couldn't tell him, by asking, ‘What’s it like growing up in a wizarding family? I mean you’ve got three older brothers and all.’

“Five actually," Ron told him, looking a little gloomy at the thought. “I’m the sixth in my family to go to Hogwarts and I’ve got a lot to live up to. It won’t matter how good I do though, because they’ve done it first. Bill, he’s my oldest brother, was head Boy at Hogwarts. Charlie, he’s now working with dragons, but he was Captain of the Quidditch team while he was at Hogwarts. Then there’s Percy. He’s a Prefect and wants everybody to know it. Fred and George, while they mess around a bit and get into trouble, they still get really good marks, and everyone thinks they’re really funny. With five older brother’s, I never get anything new. I’ve got Bill’s old robes, Charlie’s old wand, and Percy’s old rat.”

Reaching into his pocket, Ron pulled out a large, fat grey rat that seemed to be sleeping.

“His name is Scabbers and he’s useless. My Dad got Percy and owl because he made prefect, but they couldn’t aff--,” The red-headed boy broke off suddenly, then finished by saying, “I got Scabbers instead.”

Harry didn’t see anything wrong with not being able to afford an owl. Before he found out about the money his parents had left him, Harry had gotten used to sometimes having to wait for things. Money had been very tight at the Halliwells, especially after Patti had died.

He had never missed having things because, while things were nice, they couldn’t replace love. Yet here was a boy who clearly had love, but seemed ashamed because he didn’t have things and wouldn't have any way to stand out from the crowd. Harry's initial impressions of the boy sitting across from him were that while he might make a good acquaintance, he wouldn't make a good friend. Ron seemed to be the kind who would never be satisfied with being in the background and would always want something better. Time would tell whether his impressions were correct or not.

Turning his attention to the window, Harry saw they were in the countryside now and the houses seem to be getting further and further apart and there were now sections of forest. Harry turned his attention back to his history book, since Ron didn’t seem to want to talk right now.

###########

Since they were in a car near the end of the train, not too many people came by their compartment and no one else disturbed them for a while. Some time after noon, according to Harry’s watch, there was a clattering sound outside the compartment and Harry looked up to see a woman pushing a cart.

“Anything off the trolley, dears,” She asked with a smile.

Ron’s ears went pink as he told her, “I’ve got sandwiches,” but from the expression on his face, Harry knew, Ron clearly didn’t want to eat them.

Harry had finally found something that was common to both the magical and non-magical worlds. Mothers would makes lunches for their kids that they didn’t want to eat and would either swap with someone else, if they could find someone willing to take it, or simply not eat it at all.

Harry stepped out into the corridor and looked the cart over. There wasn’t any of the candy or snacks he was used to seeing. Instead there were things like; Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs, Cauldron Cakes, Pumpkins Pasties, and bottles of some strange burnt orange coloured drink. Harry got some of everything that looked interesting and carried it back into the compartment.

“Hungry are you?” Ron commented, looking at the sweets lying on the seat beside Harry.

‘I am a bit, but then again I’ve never seen this kind of candy before.’ Harry admitted.

Ron pulled out a wrapped package of sandwiches and opening it, pulled one apart with a grimace. “Mum, never remembers that I don’t like corned beef.”

‘You can have one of these, if you want.’ Harry offered, holding out a pasty, familiar with the routine from school.

“I don't have anything to trade, other than the sandwiches and you wouldn't want one of them.” Ron said, looking from the sandwich to the pasty. “It’s all dry. She hasn’t got much time, you know,” then he added, “what with the five of us at home.”

‘Oh, go on,’ Harry urged continuing to hold out the pasty. He didn't like the idea of someone going hungry, if he could help it.

Looking at the pile of snacks on the seat, Ron gave in and shoved the sandwiches to one side. They sat there, eating their way through the pasties and candy. Not exactly the most nutritious lunch, Harry reflected, but there is no one around to complain either.

‘This isn’t really a frog is it?’ Harry asked holding up the box that said Chocolate Frog on it.

“No,” Ron assured him. “Check out the card inside though. I’m missing Agrippa.”

‘What?’ Harry didn’t understand that at all.

“Oh that’s right you wouldn’t know.” Ron nodded. “Chocolate Frogs have cards inside the box. You know the kind you collect. These are of famous witches and wizards. I’ve got about five hundred so far, but I’m missing Agrippa and Ptolemy.”

Harry opened the package, curious to see what the wizarding world’s version of a trading card looked like. Taking the card out of the box with one hand while he ate the frog with the other, Harry found himself looking at an image of Albus Dumbledore.

‘I got Albus Dumbledore.’ He told Ron.

“I’ve got about ten of him,” Ron told him. “Can I have a frog? I might get Agrippa.”

Harry waved his hand at the pile of frog boxes as he read what the wizarding world considered important facts to know about Albus Dumbledore. When he turned the card back over he was astonished to discover that Dumbledore’s face was gone from the card and said, ‘Hey, he’s gone!’

“Well, you can’t expect him to hang around all day can you?” Ron said, then told him, “don’t worry, he’ll be back. I got Morganna again and I’ve already got six of her. Do you want it? You can start collecting your own.”

Harry hadn’t known the photo on the front of the card was like the paintings he’d seen at Hogwarts, but as he watched, Dumbledore came back into the picture. The Headmaster smiled a shy smile.

Once all the frogs were opened and devoured and Harry’s wizarding card collection had a good start, they turned their attention to the Every Flavour Beans.

“You want to be careful with those.” Ron warned him. “When they say every flavour, they mean every flavour. You’ll get all the ordinary ones like peppermint, chocolate, and marmalade, but there’s also liver and spinach and tripe. George reckons he got a booger flavoured one once.”

Picking up a green one, Ron bit into it carefully, and then just as quickly spit it out. “Yuk! Sprouts!”

They enjoyed trying out the beans as the countryside sped by outside their window. Harry had so far tasted; coconut, buttered toast, baked bean, strawberry, a hot one that Ron said was probably curry, and grass.

The countryside had changed from neat fields to woods, twisting rivers, and dark green hills, when there was a knock on their compartment door. A round faced boy, that Harry had seen come on to the Platform shortly before George had hit him with his trolley, came in.

He was tearful as he asked, “Have you seen a toad at all.”

When they shook their heads, he wailed, “I’ve lost him! He keeps getting away from me!”

‘I’m sure he’ll turn up.’ Harry tried to reassure the boy.

Still looking miserable, the boy said, “Well, if you see him...”

He left a moment later.

“Don’t know why he’s so bothered.” Ron commented. “If I’d brought a toad, I’d lose it as quick as I could.” There was a brief pause. “Mind you I don’t have much room to talk, given that I brought Scabbers.”

He looked down at the rat still snoozing on his lap and said in disgust. “If he died, you wouldn’t notice a difference. Tried to turn him yellow, yesterday. Thought it might make him more interesting. Spell didn’t work though.” Looking at Harry, he said, “look I’ll show you...”

Rummaging around in his trunk, Ron pulled out a battered looking wand. It appeared to be chipped in places and Harry could see something white showing at one end.

“Unicorn hair’s nearly poking out.” Ron observed as he turned back toward Scabbers. “Anyway....”

Before he could say anything more, the door to the compartment opened again and the boy who’d lost his toad was back, only this time there was a bushy brown haired girl with him. She was already wearing her Hogwarts robes.

“Neville’s lost a toad. Has anyone seen it?” She asked in a bossy sort of voice.

“We’ve already told him we haven’t seen it,” Ron told her, but the girl wasn’t listening.

Instead she was looking at his wand. “Oh are you going to do some magic? Let’s see it then.”

Ron looked taken aback as she sat down.

“Er, -- all right.” Clearing his throat, Ron recited, “Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow, Turn this stupid fat rat yellow.

Harry knew it wasn’t going to work before the wand even touched the rat. It was a made up rhyme with no power or intent behind it.

As Scabbers stayed grey and fast asleep, the girl asked, “Are you sure that’s a real spell?” Then before Ron had a chance to respond, she continued on. “If it is, it’s not a very good one, is it? I’ve only tried a few spells myself, and they’ve all worked for me. Nobody in my family’s magical and I was ever so surprised when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased of course. I mean, it’s the very best school of witchcraft there is, I’ve heard -- I’ve learned all our course books by heart, I just hope it will be enough -- I’m Hermione Granger by the way, who are you?”

Harry stared at the girl amazed. He’d never thought he meet somebody who could best Phoebe at saying a lot in one breath, but this girl just might’ve done it.

“I’m Ron Weasley,” Ron muttered.

‘I’m Harry Potter.’

The girl stared at him in amazement for a moment. “Are you really?” At Harry’s nod, she said, “I know all about you, of course -- I got a few extra books for background reading and you’re in Modern Magical History, Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts, and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century.”

‘I am,’ Harry couldn’t help feeling surprised.

“Goodness, didn’t you know?” When Harry shook his head no and she started talking very fast again, “I’d’ve found out everything I could, if it was me. Do either of you know which house you’ll be in? I’ve been asking around and I hope I’m put in Gryffindor. I’ve heard it’s the best house. I heard that Dumbledore himself was in it. I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn’t be too bad... Anyway we’d better get on with looking for Neville’s toad. You two had better change, we’ll be there soon.”

And with those parting words Hurricane Hermione left, taking Neville with her.

As they changed into their school uniforms, Harry and Ron talked about Ron's older brothers Bill and Charlie and what they were doing now that they were out of school. About the break-in that had apparently occurred at Gringotts in one of the high security vaults. Then the topic had wandered to Quidditch and when Ron found out that Harry knew nothing about Quidditch, he started describing the game enthusiastically.

He had just started in on the finer points of the game, when the compartment door slid open for a third time. This time it was three boys who came in and Harry recognized the pale one in the middle at once. He’d seen him in Madame Malkins. He was looking at Harry with a lot more interest than he’d shown in Madame Malkins.

“Is it true what they’re saying up and down the train?” The pale boy spoke in a demanding way. “They’re saying that Harry Potter is in this compartment. So, is it you?”

Harry nodded as he looked at the other two boys. Both of them were kind of heavy set and from the way they were positioned around the pale boy, they looked like bodyguards.

Noticing where Harry was looking, he said carelessly, “Oh this is Crabbe, and that’s Goyle. And my name is Malfoy, Draco Malfoy.”

There was a slight snort from Ron that might have been choked back laughter and that brought Draco’s attention to him.

“So you think my name’s funny do you?” Draco sneered, taking in the worn robe and the red hair. “No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair and more children than they can afford.”

Ron’s face went red with anger as Draco turned his attention back to Harry. “You’ll soon find out, Potter, that some wizarding families are much better than others. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort, now do you?”

He held out his hand for Harry to shake, but Harry eyed him coolly, before saying, ‘I think I can figure out who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks.’

While Malfoy’s face didn’t turn red like Ron’s had, there was a definite flush of anger across his cheeks. “I’d be careful if I were you, Potter.” He warned Harry. “Unless you’re a bit more polite, you’ll end up going the same way as you parents. They didn’t know what was best for them either. Hang around with riffraff like the Weasleys and it’ll rub off on you.”

Both Harry and Ron got to their feet, reacting to the implied threat.

“Say that again,” Ron growled, his face going even redder.

“Why, do you intend to fight us?” Malfoy drawled.

‘If you don’t get out now, we will,’ Harry said, hoping he wouldn’t have to put any of the moves, he’d learned in his self defence classes at the Y to use.

“But we don’t want to leave. We’re still hungry and you’ve still got some food.” Malfoy told them.

Goyle reached for one of the chocolate frog packages, but before Ron could even make a move to try and stop him, Goyle let out a loud yell.

Scabbers had sunk his teeth into Goyle’s knuckle and the rat was currently hanging from it. Malfoy and Crabbe backed away as Goyle swung Scabbers around and around, until the rat released its hold and flew into the window. Once Goyle was free of the rat, all three boys disappeared.

Hermione Granger appeared a few moments later demanding to know what was going on, as if everything that happened on this train were her responsibility. They told her very little.

A few minutes later the train slowed down and then came to a stop.

As they exited the train, Harry heard a voice calling, “Firs’ year! Firs years over here!”

When Hagrid caught sight of Harry, he called, “All right there, Harry?” At Harry’s nod, he called, “All firs years, follow me.” With a cautionary “Mind yer step, now.”

Hagrid led them away from the station and down a steep narrow path that seemed to be enclosed by darkness. Nobody said much as slipping and stumbling they followed the bobbing lantern, held high above their heads.

“You’ll get yer firs look at Hogwarts, in a sec,” Hagrid told them. “It’s just around this bend.”

The narrow path had widened out to reveal the edge of a dark mirrored surface that could only be a lake and perched on a mountain on the other side of it and reflected in the water was a huge castle. All the windows seemed to be lit and the starry sky, made a wonderful background for the castle’s many turrets.

There were a lot of “ohhs” as the first year students got their first glimpse of the castle.

“No more than four to a boat,” Hagrid instructed, pointing out the small boats waiting at the edge of the lake.

Ron and Harry were joined in their boat by Neville and Hermione Granger.

“Everyone in?” Hagrid called from the boat he had all to himself.

When nobody said anything to indicate they weren’t ready, Hagrid said “FORWARD!”

The little boats began moving across the smooth surface of the lake, making barely a ripple in the glass-like surface.

On the other end of the journey, as they were climbing out of the boats in the underground harbour, Hagrid who was checking the boats as people climbed out of them, called out, “Hey is this yer toad?”

Neville took a look at what the large man was holding and called out gratefully, “Trevor!”

Hagrid led them up a steep path to a large door, that he banged on with his fist.

The door swung open almost immediately and Harry saw Professor McGonagall come out wearing emerald green robes. The first time he’d met the woman, his impression of her was that she was someone you didn’t want to cross and seeing her now, Harry still had the same impression. She looked stern and forbidding.

“The firs years, Professor McGonagall.” Hagrid told her.

“Thank you Hagrid.” She nodded to the large man as she opened the door wide enough to admit them all.

The first years followed her across the stone floor. Harry heard the droning sound of hundreds of voices coming from a doorway to his right. The rest of the students must already be in the Great Hall. She led the first years to a small chamber off the great hall and they clustered tightly together, peering about nervously.

Professor McGonagall waited a few moments and then began her speech. “Welcome to Hogwarts. The start of term feast will begin shortly, but before you take your seats, you must be sorted into your Houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony, because while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. Classes will be taken with the rest of your House. You will sleep in your House dormitory and your free time will be spent in your House common room. The four Houses of Hogwarts are; Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin.”

Here she paused for a moment. “Each House has its own noble history and has produced outstanding witches and wizards. While you are here at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your House points and any rule breaking will lose them. At the end of the year, the House with the most points will be awarded the House Cup, a great honour. I hope each of you will become a great credit to whichever House becomes yours.”

She looked over the assembled group of very young looking First years, and spotted Harry Potter standing next to what could only be the youngest Weasley boy, given his fiery red hair, and breathed a sigh of relief. The first part of Dumbledore’s plan to separate the boy from the Halliwell woman had been done. Returning her attention to her welcoming speech, McGonagall continued. “The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes, in front of the rest of the school. I suggest you smarten yourselves up.” Her glance roamed over the assembled group stopping on Ron, Neville, and Harry among others. “I will be back for you when we are ready. Please wait here, quietly.”

Harry looked around beginning to feel a little nervous. Headmaster Dumbledore or Professor McGonagall hadn’t mentioned anything about a sorting when they were here in July. He couldn’t help wondering what it involved. Since Ron had had five older bothers, who’d already gone through it, he asked, ‘How exactly do they sort us into our Houses?’

“Some kind of test I think,” Ron told him. “Fred said it hurts a lot, but I think he was joking.”

Harry couldn’t help wondering what kind of test it would be. Couldn’t be a magical kind of test, because those from non-magical families wouldn’t know that much magic, yet, unless they were like the Granger girl who it seemed had practically devoured her books. He could hear her going over all the spells she had learned and wondering which one she’d need.

Before he could worry about it too much, people behind him began to scream, making him jump about a foot in the air. Turning to find out what was causing them to scream, Harry caught sight of twenty, pearly white, slightly transparent people gliding across the room from the back wall. The ghostly people seemed to be arguing about someone.

One who looked like a fat little monk was saying, in a slightly hollow voice. “Forgive and forget, I say, we ought to give him a second chance...”

“My dear Friar, we’ve given him any number of second chances. Peeves, gives us all a bad name and he’s not really even a ghost....” the apparition that was wearing a ruff around his neck and tights suddenly noticed the first years. “I say, what are you doing here?”

Nobody said a word.

“New students,” the friar exclaimed joyfully. “About to be Sorted, I suppose?”

That got some nods.

“Hope to see you in Hufflepuff,” the Friar called. “My old house, you know.”

“Move along now,” Professor McGonagall’s voice called out. “The Sorting Ceremony’s about to start.”

One by one the ghosts floated away through the walls, as McGonagall ordered, “Form a line, single file.”

##########

The Great Hall looked more magnificent than when he had seen it with Grams. The ceiling was reflecting the night sky outside and it seemed to be lit by thousands of candles that were floating in mid-air. The rest of the students were sitting at the four tables that had been there in July, their House banners now clearly showing over the tables. There were gold plates on the tables in front of each student and across the front of the hall was the teacher’s table. Professor McGonagall led them down the aisle to the teacher’s table.

In front of the head table, there was a three-legged stool with a patched witches hat on it. Harry couldn’t help wondering what kind of test would involve a patched old witches hat. It was a few moments before he realised that the Hall had gone silent and everyone was starring at the hat. The hat twitched and then a rip opened near the brim, like a mouth and the hat began to sing.

(Insert sorting song here)

The whole hall burst into applause when the hat finished its song and the hat bowed to the individual tables before becoming still again.

“I’m gonna kill Fred.” Ron muttered. “He was going on and on about wrestling a troll and all we have to do is try on a ruddy hat.”

Harry nodded feeling slightly relieved, though he did wonder how a hat was supposed to figure out which House you belonged to. Surely everyone had the qualities it mentioned as being desired by the Founders of those houses. How was it supposed to know which one was the right one?

Professor McGonagall pulled out a roll of parchment and said, “When I call your name you will come up here, put on the Hat and be Sorted into your House.... Abbot, Hannah.”

The first girl went to Hufflepuff and the Professor moved through the list. Soon each House had had at least one new member.

Finally she called, “Potter, Harry.”

The whole hall went silent again, except for some whispers of:

Potter, did she say?”

The Harry Potter?”

Students stood up or craned their necks, trying to get a look at the boy-who-lived as he walked up to the Sorting Hat.

As soon as he was seated, McGonagall placed the Hat on his head and it was as though someone had dropped the Cone of Silence on his head. All sound in the Great Hall had vanished.

Difficult,” Harry heard a voice say in his head.

/Who are you?/ Harry thought back at the voice.

I am the Sorting Hat.” The voice told him. “It is my job to make sure you get placed into the right house, but you are going to be a difficult one to place.

/Why?/

You have all the qualities the Founders desired for their students.” The Hat’s voice told him. "You are very loyal to your friends and family. A quality prized by both Godric and Helga, but while you are not afraid of hard work, you are much braver than the average Hufflepuff. You have a good mind, and would do well in Ravenclaw, however the desire of knowledge for knowledge’s sake is not what drives you. You see knowledge as more of a means to an end. You also have plenty of courage which would earn you a place in Gryffindor and more than enough cunning to survive in Slytherin. Oh and what’s this...? We haven’t had a follower of the greenway in this school in a very long time.

/Please,/ Harry begged the Hat, /don’t tell anyone about that. My family’s lives could be at stake if you do./

Don’t worry, I shan’t tell anyone.” The Hat was quick to reassure him. “Godric, my master, had a great respect for the old ways and was very sorry to see them disappear from the wizarding world. But we are not here to discuss History. We are here to Sort you, young Harry Potter.

/And where do I belong?/ Harry wondered.

Strangely enough I’m evenly divided on you and that’s a first. You are cunning enough, good at thinking fast in situations where there is no time for elaborate planning, and have a few other talents that would mark you as belonging to Slytherin, but your courage, loyalty and desire to protect your family and friends coupled with your desire to help others mark you as belonging to Gryffindor.

There was a few more moment’s silence, before the Hat spoke again, “You should know that Dumbledore spoke with me earlier today. He wanted you placed in Gryffindor, no matter what. Ordinarily I would ignore his requests, but in your case, given that you have no real need to prove yourself thanks to your family’s love and because you do have an exploitable weakness though no one knows about it yet, it must be...

Everyone in the hall was beginning to wonder what was going on with Potter’s Sorting. The Hat seemed to be taking an awful long time in Sorting the boy-who-lived.

Suddenly it shouted, “GRYFFINDOR!”


Chapter Text

First Week of School and It’s Crazy



As soon as the hat was removed from Harry’s head, all the noise in the Great Hall came rushing at him as if someone had just lifted the Cone of Silence.

As he headed over to the Gryffindor table, he saw everyone at the table was standing and cheering as if they’d just won some sweepstakes.

Ron Weasley’s older brother.... Percy took hold of his hand as soon as he was close enough and shook it vigorously, while the twins yelled, “We’ve got Potter! We’ve got Potter!” as if he were some kind of prize.

As soon as he could get his hand free of Percy’s, Harry headed down the table trying to find a spot that wasn’t surrounded by too many people. He wound up sitting on the opposite side of the table from the ghost with the neck ruff. The ghost attempted to pat Harry on the arm but his hand went through, leaving Harry feeling like it had been plunged into the icy water of San Francisco bay. He couldn’t help wondering if his parent’s touch would feel the same way.

From where he was, Harry could see everyone at the head table. Dumbledore was there, looking very pleased with himself. No doubt he was thinking that he had gotten the Sorting Hat to do what he wanted. Hagrid was also there and the large man gave him a thumbs up. He was sitting next to a woman with grey flyaway hair under a patched hat who was talking to a woman dressed in a rather severe looking black outfit. He also saw Professor Snape looking like he had swallowed something sour, and sitting next to Professor Quirrell, who looked like he might faint if you said ‘boo’ to him. The purple turban the Defence Professor was wearing made him look a little weird.

There weren’t too many left to be Sorted now. The boy, Ron Weasley was sorted into Gryffindor as he had expected to be and took the empty seat next to him. The last one sorted was Blaise Zambini who went into Slytherin.

As he looked down at the empty golden plate in front of him Harry’s stomach growled wanting to know when it would be fed. He didn’t have an answer for it, but hoped it would be soon. Those snacks on the train felt like they’d been eaten ages ago.

The Headmaster got to his feet looking like a benevolent grandfather. With a smile he said, “Welcome to another year at Hogwarts. It is a pleasure to see so many returning students as well as so many new faces. Before we start our feast, I would just like to say a few words. Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!”

“Is he... a bit mad?” Dean Thomas asked uncertainly.

“Mad?” Percy put in. “He’s a genius! Best Wizard in the world! But he is a bit mad, yes.”

Harry had his doubts about that. Living in San Francisco as he did, he had met his share of eccentric people. Some of them were truly eccentric and few who were pretending to be eccentric. A number of them had come through his Aunt’s home from time to time. A few had been truly mad, but in a harmless way like Emperor Norton I who had been a well known figure in the history of San Francisco. His instincts were telling him that Dumbledore was trying to appear like an eccentric kindly grandfather, but it was just an act.

“Potatoes, Harry?” Percy asked spoon in hand.

Harry had been so engrossed in his thoughts that he had missed the arrival of the food. He nodded his thanks to Percy as he put chicken and steak on his plate along with carrots, peas and a few things he’d never seen before, just to give them a try.

By the end of the meal Harry felt thoroughly stuffed and was starting to feel a little sleepy.

Dumbledore had gotten to his feet again and started talking so Harry let his eyes roam the hall. They wandered up to the head table and most of the teachers and staff was listening attentively as the headmaster warned about a third floor corridor being off-limits. The only two who weren’t were Professor’s Quirrell and Snape. Quirrell seemed to be discussing something with Snape. It was when Snape’s eyes met his that the odd thing happened and it was very sudden. The dark eyes met his just for a moment, but in that moment, he felt a sharp pain radiate out from the scar in his forehead.

Pressing the heel of his hand to the scar, Harry softly said, 'Ouch.'

“Something wrong, Harry?” Percy had heard that gasp of pain and taking his Prefect duties seriously felt compelled to ask in case he needed to see Madame Pomfrey.

Harry shook his head. The pain had vanished as quickly as it had come. One thing he was sure of though, Snape’s eyes were full of the same dislike he had seen in the infirmary over a month ago. He couldn’t help wondering if the man would curb his dislike. Grams had made it very clear that she wanted to know everything that happened no matter how minor. Harry had the feeling that if Snape didn’t keep his dislike to himself, he would wind up dealing with Grams and Grams on a vendetta is something he wouldn’t wish on anybody.

######

Harry listened as the snores of the other first year boys filled the dormitory then checked his watch again. Pushing the button to illuminate the dial he saw it was now 11:30. He’d better go down to the common room now. He wished he had a better place to do this, but he didn’t know the castle well enough, yet.

He got to the entrance to the common rooms from the dorms and looked around to make sure the room was empty. Thankfully it was so he wouldn’t have to use the excuse of being homesick. He certainly couldn’t use one about a time difference as no one here was supposed to know he didn’t live in England.

In the main area of the common room Harry stood with his back to the fireplace and closing his eyes, felt for the magic in the room, trying to find the strongest point.

It took several tries to find the magical center of the room and oddly enough it wasn’t anywhere near the physical center of it. Instead it was in a shadowed alcove, containing a table and a couple of chairs.

Harry moved the table and chairs, so he would have room for the protective circle he needed to set up. Pulling the silk bag out of his bathrobe pocket, he began to lay out the contents; five stones both gem and clusters, chosen by him, a large vial of coarse, unrefined salt, one white votive candle and matches, the spell he and his aunt had come up with, a small wreath of ivy picked from the wall of the guardian’s home and last but not least five small branches of birch, holly, ash, hawthorn and oak.

Picking up all the clusters except the clear quartz one, Harry again closed his eyes, then placed the clusters where it felt like they belonged. The amethyst cluster had gone behind him. The citrine cluster he put in front. A chunk of turquoise went to his right and a chunk of jet to his left. Gathering the remaining items, Harry resumed his position within the circle.

Concentrating, on creating a circle of blue-white light, Harry carefully poured the salt in an arc between each of the stones to complete the circle. Settling the ivy wreath on the stone in front of him, he positioned the branches in the shape of a pentagram on the wreath, before setting the quartz cluster in the center of it.


After lighting the votive and placing it behind the wreath and quartz cluster so the light reflected through the quartz, Harry pulled the spell out of his pocket and read it over a couple of times to make sure he had it right. Returning his glance to the quartz cluster that was now sending off some prisms of rainbow light, Harry chanted:

‘Magic that dwells within these lands and walls,
Guide and keep me safe
While I reside within your grounds and halls.’


Harry felt the magic within the room flow into the circle, making the salt and stones glow. As the glow rose from the circle and flowed toward him, Harry heard a squeak.

Once glow enveloping him disappeared, Harry quickly thanked the magical forces within Hogwarts for answering his call, then softly called out, ‘Who’s there? Show yourself!’

A thin figure about the size of a three to five year old child stepped out of the shadows near the fireplace. Because it was standing between him and the fireplace the only things he could make out were its bat-like ears which were twitching and that the being seemed to be wringing its hands as if nervous or afraid.

Guessing that the unexpected display of magic had spooked the little creature, Harry set about trying to calm it. ‘Hello. Who are you?’

“Iz Tally, master.” The creature told him in a high squeaky voice.

‘You don’t need to call me master, Tally.’ Harry told her. At least he assumed it was a her. ‘You can call me, Harry. I am not your master. If I am not being too rude, Tally, what are you? I’ve never seen a being like you before.’

“Tally is House Elf.” She announced proudly as she came up to the edge of the salt circle where the glow had been moments before.

‘And just what is a House Elf?” Harry couldn’t help being curious. He didn't remember seeing anything in his Book of Shadows or his Aunt’s that described a creature like the one before him.

“House Elf takes care of Master’s home and family using House Elf magic.” She told him. “Tally belong to Hogwarts. Is good place to work. Headmaster Dumbledore current Master, though he not like being called that.”

It sounded a little like slavery to Harry but he asked about it just in case. He knew from Grams that some magical creatures had to be bound to a place or another being to survive. ‘Are you a slave, Tally? Or is this by your choice?’

“No, Tally House Elf.” Then seeing the boy didn’t understand, but wanted to she said. “Harry, sir, House Elf have to have family and place to belong. If loses place, and not able to find another, then House Elf can die.”

“Harry sir, is Tally permitted to ask question?”

‘Of course you can ask but whether or not I answer will depend on the question and if I have the answer.’ Harry told the house elf cautiously.

“What is you doing, Harry sir?” Tally gestured at the items surrounding him on the floor.

‘Tally, if I tell you will you promise to keep it secret?’ Harry wanted to know. ‘I promise what I did harmed no one at Hogwarts, but no one can know about it. It would put my family’s lives in danger.’

Tally’s eyes seemed to get even bigger if that were possible and she said, “Tally tell no one. Not even other house elves.”

Listening to the internal prompting that was telling him that Tally would take any secret he told her to her grave, Harry told her, ‘I cast a spell asking Hogwarts to guide and keep me safe.’

“You is a Green Wizard!” Tally softly exclaimed. “Been many many years since old magic ways practised at Hogwarts.”

‘And no one can know that I am!’ Harry told her.

Sensing the urgency behind his plea and listening to the castle, the house elf quickly assured him. “Iz telling no one.”

‘Thank you, Tally,’ Harry felt relieved then he decided to ask. ‘Tally, do you know of a place I can go to in case I have to work more green magic? A place where no one could detect it?’

Tally was silent for several minutes, and then said, “Iz sorry but not knowing such a place. Might ask Hogwarts when need place. Castle can show you.”

Harry nodded his thanks as he used his Shifting gift to put all the salt back in the vial. Once he had the rest of his spell casting items back in the silk bag, Harry headed back up to his dorm room.

“Good night, Harry sir.” Tally called as she went back to work.

'Good night, Tally.'

#######

It didn’t take long for Harry to fall asleep, but his sleep was anything but restful. For some strange reason Quirrell’s purple turban invaded his dreams. It kept telling him he had to request a transfer to Slytherin, because that was where his destiny lay. At first it felt kind of odd having a conversation with a turban, but given that he’d had a conversation with a witches hat earlier this evening, maybe it wasn't so strange in the wizarding world.

When he told the dream turban quite firmly that he was going to stay right where he was, it tried to smother him while Malfoy and Snape could be heard laughing in the background. He finally managed to pry the turban off only to see a flash of green light and hear a woman scream.

Waking up at that point, Harry felt grubby and shivered slightly because he was covered in sweat. Parting the curtains on his bed and putting on his glasses, he saw that the morning light was just beginning to stream in the nearest window. No one else was stirring, so Harry decided to take a shower.

When he felt ready to face the day, Harry headed back to the dorm room to grab a book to read before going down to the Great Hall. As he reached the bottom of the stairs that led to the Great Hall, Harry silently thanked Hogwarts for its aid in guiding him and felt something similar to warm hug engulf him.

The whispers started as soon as he entered the Great Hall. Because there were so few people in the hall at this hour of the morning the acoustics in the room allowed their words to be clearly heard by Harry.

“There he is.”

“The dark haired boy with the glasses who just came in.”

“Does he have the scar?”


########

It only got worse from there. Everywhere he went, there were people standing outside open classrooms, or standing on tiptoe, trying to get a look at him or more precisely -- his scar. He was beginning to wish he could separate himself from it, so they could watch it walk around and ignore him.

Harry hated it. One of the lessons he had learned from the Dursley’s that had never been unlearned, was attention was a bad thing. Phoebe was the one who relished attention, though she was just as happy if he got noticed.

Ron Weasley tried to go just about everywhere with him and seemed to be enjoying Harry’s notoriety. All the attention was beginning to help Harry understand how Princess Diana must feel about people poking their noses into her private life and watching her everywhere she went. He remembered a conversation that Phoebe and Piper had been having about her just before he left. They had been talking about how she had given an interview where she lamented the fact that her private life was no longer that and that how things she did were either blown out of proportion or sometimes misunderstood.

One such event for him had been when he and some of the other first years had gotten lost near the out of bounds third floor corridor. Peeves had found them and was preparing to play a nasty prank on them when he caught sight of Harry near the front of the group. The poltergeist had taken off with a shriek of “not him!”

All the first years had been warned by Percy, that the Bloody Baron the Slytherin house ghost was the only one Peeves was afraid of and therefore the only one who could control him. The first years hadn’t expected the poltergeist to turn tail and run at the sight of one of them.

He hadn’t been able to explain that the only reason Peeves had run was because of the spell Grams had placed on him and with Ron embellishing the story any time anyone asked about it, no one believed him when he tried to tell them anything different.

Other than History of Magic and Defence Against the Dark Arts, the classes had all been pretty interesting so far. He was finding out that in the world of wanded wizards there was apparently a lot more to magic than just waving a wand about and it was definitely very different from the magic that Grams had been teaching him.

Having something of a green thumb, Harry had expected to enjoy herbology, but the plants Professor Sprout had in her greenhouse he had never seen before.

Transfiguration and Charms had been ok, especially once Professor Flitwick had stopped falling off the pile of books he stood on every time he said Harry’s name. Professor McGonagall who taught Transfiguration was also his Head of house and she was as Harry expected her to be. Hard but fair for the most part.

The thing Harry couldn’t understand was how they expected anybody to learn anything in History of Magic. It wasn’t the fact that the class was taught by a ghost. It was that Professor Binns was boring. Harry was certain that if Binns were the sport commentator at either the Superbowl or the World Series, that he would put everyone to sleep, including the players. Even Hermione Granger who was a very overeager student had trouble staying awake through the droning monotonous voice. Harry was of the opinion that they should patent the ghost and send him to visit all those people who had trouble sleeping a few minutes of listening to that droning voice would put them out like a light.

Defence Against the Dark Arts was almost as bad, but while he didn’t fall asleep in Professor Quirrell’s class, Harry wasn’t sure he was going to learn much from it either. Aside from the fact that the classroom reeked with the smell of garlic, any time one of the student’s tried to get the professor to talk about the Dark creatures he’d faced such as the zombie he’d gotten his purple turban for taking care of, the professor would quickly change the subject to something like the weather.

Harry also got the feeling there was something not quite right about Professor Quirrell. He didn’t feel the same as he had when Harry had met him Diagon Alley. Grams had taught him how to read auras when he was about eight or nine. She’d told him it was a good way to tell what was going on with someone. He didn’t do it all that often, because when he opened himself up to see the auras, he also saw the colours of the magic that flowed around him. The thing was now that he was in Hogwarts he couldn’t see Quirrell’s aura at all, not that it had been all that strong when he’d met him in Diagon Alley, but he’d been able to see it. Then again, it could be all the magic flowing around him that was messing with his perceptions.

The class Harry had been dreading was on Friday, and it was the first class. The Gryffindors had Double Potions with the Slytherins.

At breakfast, Ron told him. “Snape’s Head of Slytherin. According to Fred and few of the other older Gryffindors he always favours his house. We’ll know if they were right soon enough.”

Having met Professor Snape the first time he was here, Harry didn’t doubt that claim at all, but made no comment about it.

As Harry started in on his breakfast, he heard the rustle of wings and hooting that indicated the arrival of the morning mail. He looked up expectantly. Grams had told him she would put all letters in a manila envelope in his bottom dresser drawer once a week, so last night he had shifted any manila envelopes from the drawer to the trunk in the Guardian’s home and told Hedwig that he had done so. Now all he had to do was wait and see if anything arrived. He caught sight of snowy owl coming in near the end of the stream of owls.

She was carrying a rather fat manila envelope in her talons and what looked like a folded note in her beak. Reliving her of the note and the envelope, Harry fed her some bacon. Stuffing the envelope into his book bag, he turned his attention to the unexpected note and found it to be an invitation from Hagrid to come down for tea that afternoon. Borrowing a quill from Ron, he quickly scribbled a reply that he would be there and gave it to Hedwig who took off to deliver it.

“What’s in the big envelope?” Ron asked around a mouthful of toast.

‘Letters from home,’ was all Harry said.

Harry had eaten about half of his breakfast before he gave into the pleading little voice in his head that was demanding he read the letters now. Pulling one of the smaller ones out of the big envelope, he recognised the scrawl as Phoebe’s. It was several pages long and Harry couldn’t help smiling at some of the things she’d written.

He got so lost in his letters from home that Ron had to nudge him hard and say, “Harry, we’d better get moving. We don’t want to be late for Potions.”

Shoving Prue’s letter back in his book bag with the others, Harry followed Ron and the other Gryffindor first years to the dungeons.

When Harry got his first look at the potions lab, he thought it looked more like a mad scientist’s lab out of one of those old black and white movies. The flickering torchlight illuminating the potions lab revealed jars with dead animals floating in them. The only thing missing was the monster on his slab and the mad scientist cackling over it.

They had just taken their seats when Professor Snape swept in. Going to the front of the room, he began to call the roll. Just like every other teacher, he paused at Harry’s name. However unlike the others, he commented in a soft sarcastic tone. “Ah yes, .... Harry Potter. Our new -- celebrity.”

Harry kept silent, not wanting to give him an opening. Not that he needed one last time, Harry reminded himself as he heard Malfoy and some of the other Slytherins sniggering and settled the rest of his supplies on the table.

As he opened his notebook and took out a pen, Snape strode over and picked it up. Holding the notebook between his thumb and forefinger as if it were contaminated, he asked. “What is this?”

‘A spiral notebook to keep my notes in, Professor.’ Harry gripped the piece of jet in his pocket, trying to keep calm and not let his nervousness show. This man wanted him nervous if not outright scared of him and he was determined not to give him that satisfaction.

“So our celebrity thinks that he’s too good to use the same supplies as everybody else.” Snape commented with a sneer.

Time to try Gram’s idea. He focused his thoughts on how Professor Snape would look dressed in that gold outfit George wore at the Impressionist club, when he wanted to look like Dolly Parton. The image of a greasy haired, hooked-nosed man dressed as a well-endowed Dolly Parton, made Harry smile as he calmly replied, ‘My Aunt felt that it made more sense to have my notes organised in one place instead of on pieces of parchment that might get lost. The work I have to turn in will be on parchment and will be done with a quill as required.’

“We’ll see about that.” Snape dropped the notebook on table an expression of disgust on his face.

Stalking back up to the front of the lab, Snape began his opening lecture to the first years. “You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion making.”

While Snape spoke very softly, the students caught every word he said. There was a subtle air of menace about the man that allowed him to keep a class silent without much effort.

“Since there is little foolish wand waving here, I am certain that many of you will not believe this 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, and even stopper death -- if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.”

Ron nudged Harry in the silence followed and rolled his eyes.

Snape suddenly snapped out. “Potter! What would I get if I added powered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

Harry mentally scored two points for Grams. He was asking advanced questions in an effort to make his students feel stupid.

Meeting his gaze, Harry said. ‘It makes a powerful sleeping potion called the Draught of Living Death, sir.’

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Hermione Granger’s hand go down.

Remembering something Grams told him, Harry added, ‘and if you add St. John’s Wort, Angelica, and a little ground copper to the potion, you get a vanquishing potion for a Calleach Demon.’

“Five points from Gryffindor for lying, Mr. Potter!” Snape told him.

‘I did not lie, sir.’ Harry countered. ‘My Aunt vanquished one last week.’

“Another five points, Mr. Potter,” Snape responded. “Now if you are finished disrupting my class with your little fantasies, perhaps you could tell me where to find a bezoar?”

Deciding not to push the point about the demon for now, Harry told him, ‘I don’t know sir.’

“Pity,” Snape sounded patronising. “Clearly fame doesn’t guarantee intellect, especially if the individual is living in their own fantasy world.”

Knowing Snape was trying to provoke him into saying something rash, Harry stayed silent. He could see that Ms. Granger’s hand was up again, but Snape was ignoring her in favour of his chosen prey.

“Well maybe you can answer this one for me, Potter.” Snape leaned over him and asked. “What is the difference between Monkshood and Wolfsbane?”

Harry smiled as he said, ‘there is no difference between them, sir. They are the same plant which also goes by the name of aconite and if improperly handled can be very deadly.’

Snape clearly hadn’t expected Harry to be able to answer any of his questions, let alone get two out of three right because he snarled at the rest of the class, “Well, why aren’t you writing any of this down! And for your information, Mr. Potter, a bezoar is found in the stomach of a goat and will save you from most poisons.”

Still picturing Snape in that gold Dolly Parton outfit, Harry smiled as he said, “I will remember that, sir.”

######

Harry spent part of Saturday afternoon writing letters home. The ones to the girls would go out the way he and Grams had arranged, but Grams had told him to ‘shift’ a letter to her after he had his first class with Professor Snape.

Harry had waited til the next day before writing the letter, to give his anger over Professor Snape’s unfair accusation a chance to cool. If he’d written the letter while he was still upset about Snape accusing him of deliberately allowing another student to be injured, he might have wound up saying something that would get the Potions professor flung through the walls of Hogwarts and not just into them.

Even as he related the event from a calmer perspective, Harry still couldn’t understand why Professor Snape blamed him for Neville and Seamus’ potion accident. He’d been too busy trying to prevent Ron from causing the same accident to their cauldron to worry about what anybody else was up to. He knew all too well from watching his Aunt brew potions that sometimes the results could be explosive if put together wrong and sometimes even when put together right. Of course hers were usually meant to vanquish something so that was to be expected.

As he reread the letter to make sure he hadn’t left anything out, Harry couldn’t help wondering how Grams was going to react to it. Grams hated bullies and it was quite clear, at least to Harry that Snape fell into that category.

Ron had been right about that. The only ones safe from him were the Slytherins.

A Slytherin could probably blow up every cauldron in the room and escape punishment.

He also made sure Grams was aware of the break-in at Gringotts and that it had been the vault Hagrid had gone to when they were with him that had been broken into. While he didn’t think there was any danger to Grams and the girls from whoever had been after that grubby little package, it was better to be safe than sorry, just in case they thought she might have it.

Letters completed, Harry let Hogwarts guide him to the owlery.



AN: Stick around to see what Grams does to Snape.

Chapter Text

You’ve Got Mail



Halliwell Manor


“Grams, I’m home.” Phoebe called as she came in the front door.

“I’m in the kitchen,” was the response.

Dumping her school books on the table, Phoebe headed for the kitchen and found her grandmother standing over the odd pot she sometimes used. Grams was holding what looked like blue, greasy strings and as Phoebe watched she dropped them into the pot.

Wrinkling her nose at the awful smell that was now coming from the pot, Phoebe commented. “I hope that’s not dinner.”

“And what would you do if I said it was, young lady?” Grams asked.

“See if one of my friends would invite me to dinner, or starve.” Phoebe told her. “That stuff stinks. What are you making?”

Looking down at the pot and adding a pinch of some powder to it, Grams told her. “I’m working on a project for someone.”

“Are you dyeing something for them?” Phoebe asked as she took a seat on one of the barstools on the other side of the stove.

“In a way,” she responded mysteriously. “It’s supposed to be used to teach a lesson.”

“Well I hope it smells better after you get done, or no one will get close to the person who supposed to be teaching it.” Phoebe observed.

Since she was getting to the part of the potion where the spell had to be said, Grams quickly told her, “You might want to go upstairs. The mailman brought you something today.”

“A letter from Harry?” Phoebe asked her face lighting up with hope.

“Uh huh,” Grams nodded.

Phoebe took off like a rocket.

Penny heard her feet racing up the stairs and for probably what was the millionth time, wished she had half that child’s energy.

#########

Phoebe squealed when she saw the letter sitting in the middle of her pillow. Picking up the letter she gnawed her lower lip as she stared at it. She didn’t know what to expect from this first letter. Was he doing all right? Were those people treating him, okay? Did he have someone to talk for him, or had he had to resort to writing everything down?

This was the first time she had been separated from her ‘brother’ for more than a couple of weeks and she missed him very much. She’d been very worried about Harry being away from his family and the people who knew him. She was fairly certain that those people would mistreat her brother and that he was safer at home. She didn’t know why her grandmother couldn’t see that.

Ripping open the flap on the envelope, Phoebe pulled out the letter and started reading it.

Hi Pheebs,

I’m writing this in the common room of my House and by house I don’t mean the same thing I would if I were home. Hogworth School has the students separated into 4 houses; Lion, Raven, Badger, and Serpent. Don’t ask me why they named ‘em that. All I do know is they were named for the animals that represent the traits the four people who founded this place liked.

Lion House is for those who are courageous and outgoing. I think the people in this house, usually wind up in some kind of dangerous public service field like the police, firefighters, or soldiers. According to what I’ve found out about my parents so far that’s the house they were in and it’s where I wound up. Unfortunately, I don’t feel very brave or courageous. I think the reason they thought I belonged here was because I faced down a bully on the train ride up. You know how I feel about bullies.


Phoebe remembered all too well how Harry felt about bullies and knew that just from the little Harry had said that Lion House was the right place for him. He was always sticking up for the underdog and those younger than himself, though she doubted he would be a police officer or a firefighter. You had to be able to talk in those jobs.

Grams had insisted that Harry and all the girls learn how to protect themselves, so she had enrolled them in self defense classes at the Y as soon as they were old enough to start learning. She, Piper and Prue hadn’t kept up with the lessons, but Harry had taken to it like a duck to water and had gone to classes up until he left for England. Phoebe had noticed that Harry never would stand up for himself though, unless he was pushed too far and if that happened watch out. He would however defend others though, especially if they’d done nothing wrong, other than be different.

The incident Harry had been talking about had occurred during the first part of the school year last year. One of the other fourth graders who had a reputation as something of a bully had been teasing another boy, Joey, who was kind of slow and clumsy. Joey was the kind who wasn’t very good at sports, and given that his mother was one of those overprotective types, he’d never developed any self-confidence. The bully and his cronies had been pushing him around when Harry decided to get involved. Given that Harry couldn’t speak, they had thought he would be another easy target. After all they’d been calling him ‘the dummy’ since the start of the school year and he hadn’t retaliated. Using the skills he’d acquired over the last four years at the Y, Harry had run rings around them and hurt their pride more than anything else. They quickly learned that Harry was not one to be picked on and that got him his first real friend, outside of the circle of people Harry knew because of her and those he’d known at the Institute. He’d also helped convince Joey’s mom that he needed to learn how to protect himself, so that she allowed him to take some defense classes at the Y with Harry and those had been a real help at building his confidence.

Returning her attention to the letter, Phoebe picked up where she left off.

Raven House is for those who are wise, or in this case like learning. Personally, I think I should’ve been put here, since I like to learn, but I didn’t have much say in the matter. Probably for the best though. From what I’ve seen of the older Raven students, they would be labeled geeks if they went to school back home. They always have their nose buried in a book or are working on something and when you ask them about it, you can only understand 1 word in 10 or 100.

Phoebe shook her head at the thought of her brother being a geek. Nope that’s not my brother.

Badger House is another one I would have thought I would fit in because it’s for those who are determined and not afraid to work to get what they want. Most of the older Badgers I’ve seen so far are the busy quiet type. You know the one who can fade into the background and never be noticed, but are the ones who do all the work that has to be done to keep everything running.


Phoebe shook her head once more as she read the description of the students in Badger House. That’s not you either, Harry. I don’t think you could fade into the background if your life depended on it.

She’d seen him try a few times when he first came to live with them. Those stupid Dursleys had taught him that the safest thing he could do was stay unnoticed, but he didn’t have that kind of personality. Even when he wasn’t doing anything, he couldn’t be overlooked. There was just something about her brother that drew people to him.

The last house, Serpent House is the one I’m glad I didn’t get in. It is for those who are supposed to be cunning and will do whatever is necessary to achieve their goals, but to me it seems to be a house populated by nothing but bullies. There may be a few good people in there, but they are really well hidden. That’s the house the bully got into. His name is Malfoy, Draco Malfoy. The way he said his name made me think of a very snobby James Bond. Can you picture it? James Bond with his nose in the air sounding for all the world like he is better than everybody else as he introduces himself with, “Bond. James Bond.” As if all the peons should be grateful he even talked to them. It’s a good thing I couldn’t talk or I would’ve burst out laughing.

The train ride up here from London was wonderful, other than meeting this guy, Malfoy. The scenery was so spectacular that I know Prue would love to take pictures of it. Maybe once we finish school, the four of you can come to Britain with me to travel around and see the sites. Lord knows, I haven’t seen much of country yet, other than the area around that house Grams’ friend lives in and bits of London and the train ride, but what I have seen so far, is sooo beautiful.

You should see this school. It’s an old castle on a lake! We’re talking turrets, battlements and the whole nine yards. Right now the weather is like home only no fog. But I am glad I packed all those sweaters, sweats and flannel shirts though because it’s supposed to get really cold in October or November, so I’m gonna need them soon.

Part of the reason there are four houses is because there is a competition between them for the House Cup at the end of the year. There are points awarded for correct answers and points taken away for misbehavior, real or perceived.

I’ve finished my first week of classes and already have my votes for least liked classes. History, mostly because the teacher puts you to sleep. He sounds like that guy in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? You remember the one who kept saying Bueller over and over and then later on when you saw his class as he was lecturing, half the students were asleep, but he didn’t seem to notice. This guy’s the same way.

The other class, I’m not fond of, is Chemistry and that’s because the teacher hates me like Ms Cawston did, though not for the same reason. It seems he went here to school with my dad and mom and he and dad must’ve had some problems, though I haven’t managed to find out just what happened yet. Unfortunately he also seems to be someone who is unwilling to let go of a grudge and since my dad isn’t around anymore, he’s transferred it to me. I’m hoping if I just ignore him, he’ll leave me alone, but I doubt it. As you can guess, he has already taken a number of points from me, just for existing.

I’ve met a lot of people but I haven’t made any good friends yet. Then again, it’s only the first week of school, so there’s time. A lot of people want to hang around me though, probably because they heard I took care of that bully on the train and another one here in the school. There is one kid I would like to get to know. He kind of reminds me of Joey, his name is Neville. I’m gonna try and see if I can talk to him in the next couple of weeks.

I got your letter and am sorry that I am missing all the fun at school. I wish I was there with you, but unfortunately I have no choice but to be here, at least for now. I will see you at Christmas, since they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here.

Write back soon with all the news from there.

All my love to my favorite sister,
Harry


#######

When Phoebe came back into the kitchen, she was a little subdued. She did notice that Gram’s odd pot was gone and it looked like she’d started on preparations for dinner.

“Hi sweetie,” she called as she watched Phoebe head for the frig. “Just juice or a piece of fruit honey. We’ll be eating in a couple of hours.”

Phoebe nodded, without looking at her.

“Is something wrong, Phoebe?” Penny asked. “Did Harry say something bad happened in his letter?”

“Not really,” Phoebe took a seat on a barstool and watched her grandmother chop onions. “I just miss him. He did mention a teacher who didn’t like him because of his dad though.”

“He told me about that, too.” Penny washed her hands and came around to give her granddaughter a hug. “And honey, we all miss him.”

“Then why did you make him go?” Phoebe demanded. “He could’ve stayed here and be in fifth grade with me. Why did he have to go away?”

“Phoebe, he’s not gone for good.” Penny raised her chin so she could look her granddaughter in the eye. “I know you’re not going to understand this right now, but everyone has things they need to do in this life, even if it’s something they don’t want to do. Harry’s going to this Hogworth school is just one of those things. He has a destiny to fulfill and it’s not always going to be here with us. Harry inherited a number of things from his parents and I’m not just talking about money or possessions. He has to go where he can learn to use those gifts that they gave him. You wouldn’t want him to waste his talents would you?”

Phoebe shook her head then asked. “Did he have to go so far away?”

“Yes, darling, he did.” Penny returned to her onions. “His parents had already paid for his education at that school, and it couldn’t be transferred to anywhere closer. The trust fund they left for him, will take care of his expenses for everything else.”

“Will you promise me one thing?” Phoebe wanted to know.

“If I can,” Penny told her.

“If this school turns out not to be a safe place for Harry, to learn how to use these gifts of his, will you take him out and bring him home?”

“Of course I will,” Penny seemed surprised she had to ask that. “I would no more leave him in a situation he couldn’t handle, than I would leave you in one.”

“Well, I still don’t like him being so far away.” Phoebe stated firmly.

“Well, why don’t you go write him a letter then he won’t be quite so far away.” Grams told her practically.



(AN: This is just a short interlude. Gram’s revenge will be in next chapter, I promise.)

Chapter Text

What Goes Around Comes Around



As Harry read the new notice about flying lessons beginning on Thursday, he was ecstatic about the idea of learning how to fly. Or he was til he got to the bottom of the notice and saw the class would be with the Slytherins.

‘Great,’ Harry muttered as he stepped away from the notice board. ‘Just what I always wanted, to look like a fool in front of a bragging bully like Malfoy.’

Ron, who was close on his heels, told him. “Maybe it won’t happen. You told me yesterday, you’ve always wanted to fly. Maybe you’ll be a natural at it.”

Actually, Harry reflected, I mentioned it last night as well as last week in the dorm, along with wanting to know when we would start learning, so you weren’t the only one who heard me.

Catching sight of Neville as he headed out the portrait hole and realising this would be a good way to lose Ron even if only for a little while, Harry told the red head, ‘I’ll see you down in the Great Hall in a while for dinner.’

He’d been trying to talk with Neville ever since he got out of the hospital wing and it looked as if he might finally have his chance. Darting out of the portrait hole, Harry ran after the other boy.

Catching up with him in one of the classroom hallways, Harry called out, ‘Neville, wait up!’

The round faced, slightly pudgy boy halted near one of the empty classrooms and turned to look questioningly at Harry. He wasn’t used to people seeking him out. “Did you need something, Harry?”

Once he was close enough not to be easily overheard, Harry told him, ‘I wanted to talk to you about the potions class.’

Seeing the serious expression on the other boy’s face, Neville said, “You’re not still worried about what Snape said are you, Harry? You know about you being responsible for that potions accident. It wasn’t your fault.” Neville told him with certainty, before adding, “I don’t think I’m going to do all that well in potions.”

Lowering his voice, Neville admitted, “Professor Snape scares me. I know it doesn’t seem right for someone sorted into Gryffindor...”

‘He scares me too.’ Harry didn’t like the way the other boy was running himself down.

“You didn’t act like you were last Friday.” Neville seemed surprised by his admission.

‘I learned from my aunt to never show my fear, if I can avoid it, or as my cousins like to put it: Never let ‘em see you sweat.’ Seeing that Neville didn’t understand the reference, he explained as he led the other boy into an empty classroom. ‘Think of Professor Snape like a shark. When a shark smells blood in the water, they will attack. Snape knows when people are afraid of him. In fact I think he deliberately tries to make the students afraid of him. I think even those in his own house are afraid of him, they just don’t show it. Those who are more obvious in showing their fear he attacks. If you don’t let him get to you, or at least let it appear that he’s not getting to you, then he will go in search of easier prey.’

“Easier said than done,” Neville muttered, then asked. “What did you do to keep him from getting to you?”

‘My Aunt showed me a few tricks.’

“Spells?” Neville asked misunderstanding. “I thought you were living with muggles. What kind of magic can your Aunt do?”

‘The things my aunt taught me to use to handle my fears aren’t magic. They’re things anyone can learn.’ Harry told him. ‘And yes, I am living with family that can’t do magic,’ at least not yet, he thought to himself.

“What things?” Neville wanted to know. He was willing to try anything that would help him be less afraid... as long as it wasn’t painful.

‘Well, she taught me how to meditate for one thing.’ Harry told him. ‘It helps you to stay calm and it’s also useful in working through things.’

“Can you teach me?” Neville asked eagerly.

‘I think so.’ Harry replied. ‘We can start tonight if you want.’

“Yes, please.” Then he asked, “What else did your aunt teach you?”

‘To use my imagination.’ Harry told him and seeing the puzzled look on the other boy’s face he elaborated. ‘She told me that in situations involving people that I’m afraid of, to imagine them dressed in totally ridiculous outfits. In the case of Snape, I imagine him dressed up as Dolly Parton.’

“Who is Dolly Parton?”

‘A rather well built singer’ Harry held his hands up at chest level to indicate what he was talking about.

Neville blushed slightly before saying, “I don’t think I could do that.”

‘You never know until you try.’ Harry countered. ‘But if you can’t picture him dressed up like a woman, try seeing him dressed up like a clown or something equally ridiculous.’

“I'll try,” but Neville didn’t sound very confident.

After looking at his watch, Harry said, ‘we’d better hurry or we’ll miss dinner. Meet me in the dorm around eight, Neville, and I’ll give you your first lesson in meditation.’

Neville nodded and followed him out of the empty classroom.
As they walked down to the great Hall, Harry had another idea that might help Neville. The Tai Chi he did every day was very good for helping get the mind and body in balance. It had certainly helped Joey overcome his clumsiness.

‘Neville, if you want to learn it, I would be willing to teach you Tai Chi.’ Harry made the offer.

“What is Tai Chi?” Neville asked curious. “I don’t remember ever hearing of it before.”

‘It a combination of exercise and meditation that helps the mind and body work together.’ Harry told him. ‘It’s not strenuous. It’s made up of gentle flowing movements.’

“Do you really think it could help me?” Neville knew he was clumsy and felt a little grateful that Harry Potter was willing to help him.

Harry shrugged. ‘It certainly couldn’t hurt. I usually try and do it early in the morning before breakfast, or before I go to bed. Do you want me to wake you so you can join me tomorrow?’

Neville nodded as they entered the Great Hall.

Ron had saved Harry a seat. However the other seats around him were already taken, so Neville moved quietly down the table looking for somewhere to sit.

########

At three-thirty Thursday afternoon, Harry and Ron with the other Gryffindors behind them hurried outside for their first flying lesson. Harry noticed that Neville and Hermione Granger were following a little slower than the rest. He knew why Neville was nervous, and it was because he felt clumsy and uncertain of himself. He also had a good idea of what was causing Granger’s case of nerves. She seemed to be afraid that she wouldn’t do well because this wasn’t something you could learn out of a book, even though she had tried. She had spent most of breakfast and a good part of lunch, reciting facts she found in a book called Quidditch Through the Ages.

Despite doing fairly well in his first lessons in meditation last night and Tai Chi this morning, Neville had been hanging on her every word, hoping that something she said would help him do better on a broom.

The Slytherins were already there and Madame Hooch arrived a few minutes after the Gryffindors. Her hair was short and grey and lay against her head like feathers and her eyes appeared to be round and yellow like one of the hawks Harry had seen at the zoo.

As soon as she saw they were all there, she barked an order for them to get beside a broomstick.

Once they were she told them, “Stick your right hand out over your broom and say: UP.”

While everyone shouted “Up” all at the same time, not all the brooms responded the same way.

Harry’s was only one of a handful that actually rose up into the soon-to-be rider’s hand. Hermione Granger’s rolled over on the ground, while Neville’s didn’t move. The fact that Neville’s voice was quivering, clearly indicating that he wanted to keep his feet firmly on the ground, was probably what was keeping his magic from working with the broom. He didn’t know if inanimate objects could think in the wizarding world, Wizard portraits not withstanding, but if they could, then Granger’s and Neville’s brooms both knew their prospective riders didn’t want to leave the ground.

Finally though all the brooms were up and Madame Hooch showed them how to mount their brooms, before going up and down the line of students correcting things like stance and grip.

Ron sniggered when Madame Hooch told Malfoy his grip was wrong. Harry shared a grin with him. They both remembered Malfoy bragging about what a good flyer he was.

Madame Hooch had returned to the front of the group. “Now, when I blow my whistle, I want you to kick off from the ground hard. Keeping your brooms steady, I want you to rise a few feet in the air, then come back down by leaning forward slightly on your brooms.”

Apparently Neville was even more scared that he was going to be left behind than he was of leaving the ground, because no sooner had Madame Hooch put the whistle to her lips than he pushed off hard.

“Get back down here, boy!” Madame Hooch called.

Neville who had had his eyes closed when he pushed off, opened them at her call and saw the ground was quickly slipping away from him. Harry saw his face whiten as the broom continued to rise and then Neville lost control of the broom and slid off it. He hit the ground with a thud and a crack.

Madame Hooch and Harry raced toward the injured boy, but the teacher got there first, and Harry heard her mutter, “broken wrist,” as she helped Neville to his feet.

Turning to face the rest of the class, she ordered, “None of you is to move while I take this boy to the hospital wing. All brooms will stay on the ground. If I see one student in the air, you’ll be out of here faster than you can say Quidditch.”

As she led Neville back into the castle, Harry heard Malfoy laughing, “Did you see his face? The great lump.”

The other Slytherins joined in on the laughter.

Parvati Patil snapped at him. “Shut up Malfoy!”

“Ooh sticking up for Longbottom.” Pansy Parkinson, a hard faced Slytherin commented “Never thought you’d like fat little cry-babies, Parvati.”

While Parvati and Pansy were going at it, Malfoy spotted something glittering in the grass and darted forward to pick it up. “Oh, look, it’s that stupid thing, Longbottom’s gran sent him.”

The thing, Neville had called a rememberall glittered brightly in Malfoy’s hand.

‘Give that to me, Malfoy.’ Harry ordered quietly, holding out his hand.

Everyone stopped talking in order to see what was going to happen between these two.

Smiling nastily, Malfoy said, “I think I’ll leave this somewhere for Longbottom to find. How about -- up a tree?”

Before anyone could stop him Malfoy had mounted his broom and was in the air.

As he watched Malfoy, Harry realized the other boy hadn’t been lying, he could fly. But Harry wasn’t about to let him keep Neville’s rememberall.

‘Give it here, Malfoy.’ He called.

“Come and get it, Potter!” Malfoy taunted.

As Harry grabbed his broom, Hermione Granger grabbed his arm and shouted. “No! Madame Hooch told us not to move. You’re going to get us all in trouble.”

Pulling his arm out of her grasp, Harry told her, ‘And sometimes, you just have to do the right thing, even if it gets you in trouble.’

A moment later he was in the air and it felt wonderful. As the wind rushed past him, Harry felt a surge of joy run through him. This was so easy! He couldn’t understand why everybody couldn’t do it. He made his mind up, if he did have his family’s shapeshifting ability, then the first thing he was going to turn into was a hawk or a falcon.

He heard gasps and whoops below him as he pulled up on the broomstick and went higher.

Once he was level with Malfoy, he took great pleasure in the stunned look on the other boy’s face, before saying, ‘Give it here, Malfoy, or I’ll knock you off your broom.’

“Oh yeah,” Malfoy sneered, but there was a slightly worried expression on his face. He clearly hadn’t expected Harry to be that good on a broom.

Knowing instinctively what to do, Harry leaned forward and shot toward Malfoy, like a bullet out of a gun. The other boy only just got out of the way in time.

‘There’s no Crabbe and Goyle to protect you up here, Malfoy, so give it back.’ Harry ordered, getting ready to make another pass.

The same thought seemed to have occurred to Malfoy, because he said, “If you want it, catch it,” before throwing hard it toward the nearby castle wall, before racing toward the ground.

While those below saw Harry racing toward the glittering ball, to Harry it was all occurring in slow motion. He knew that even if it didn’t hit the wall of the castle, it would break if it hit the gravel paving below, so he had to catch it before either one of those things happened. He caught it about a foot from the ground, in time to pull out of the steep dive he had gone into.

He toppled gently onto the grass as the other Gryffindors raced over to congratulate him, rememberall clutched tightly in his hand.

A moment later, he heard, “MR. POTTER!”

#######

It was dinnertime before Ron caught up with Harry, and was able to find out what happened after McGonagall had taken the other boy away.

“You’re joking.” Ron forgot about the piece of steak and kidney pie that was halfway to his mouth. Then after looking around to make sure nobody else could hear, he hissed. “McGonagall made you, seeker? But first years never -- you must be the youngest house player...”

‘In about a century,’ Harry completed for him. ‘At least that’s what Wood told me.’

As Ron continued to gape at him, Harry told him, ‘I start training next week, but don’t tell anyone because Wood wants it kept a secret.’

Fred and George Weasley had come into the Great Hall at that point and spotting Harry they hurried over.

Speaking in a low voice, George said, “Well done, Harry. Wood told us. We’re on the team too -- Beaters.”

“I tell you this year we’re gonna win that Quidditch cup.” Fred added in an equally low voice. “We haven’t won since Charlie left, but this year’s team is going to be brilliant. You must be good Harry, because Wood was practically skipping when he told us.”

“Anyway, we’ve got to go. Lee Jordan reckons he’s found a new secret passageway out of the castle.” George told them

“Bet it’s that one behind the statue of Gregory the Smarmy that we found during our first week here. See you.”

No sooner had Fred and George disappeared, than less welcome company showed up; Malfoy and his two goons.

“Having a last meal, Potter?” Malfoy drawled. “When are you catching the train back to the Muggles?”

‘You’re a lot braver now that you’re back on the ground and you’ve got your little friends with you.’ Harry observed.

While neither of Malfoy’s goons was little, given that there were teachers at the High table, the only thing Crabbe and Goyle could do was crack their knuckles.

“I can take you on my own, any time.” Malfoy said with a sneer. “Tonight, if you want. Wizard’s duel -- Wands only. No contact. What’s the matter Potter? Never heard of a wizard’s duel before I suppose.”

“Of course he has,” Ron spoke up before Harry could say a word. “I’m his second, who’s yours?”

Malfoy looked Crabbe and Goyle over for a moment, before saying, “Crabbe. We’ll meet in the Trophy room at midnight all right? It’s always unlocked.”

With that Malfoy left.

Harry glared at the other boy for a moment. ‘Please don’t go making any more commitments for me in the future, Ron.’

“What’s wrong?” Ron didn’t understand why his friend was angry. “You didn’t want to let him call you a coward, did you? You’re Harry Potter for Merlin’s sake.”

‘And you’re Ron Weasley.’ Harry countered. ‘Does that mean you’d like it if I accepted a challenge for you, that you didn’t want? What is a wizard’s duel any way? And what did you mean you’re my second?’

Still not understanding what he’d done wrong, since he knew that no one would ever challenge him to a duel, Ron started eating again. “A second is there to take over if something happens to you during the course of the duel like you die.” He quickly hurried to reassure the other boy. “That usually only happens in proper duels. Neither you or Malfoy know enough magic to do any real damage.”

That’s where you’re wrong, Ron. Harry thought to himself as continued to listen to the other boy. He was fairly certain that Malfoy had no intention of showing up. What the Slytherin probably intended to do was report them for being out of bed and get them in trouble. It was a pity that Ron couldn’t see that possibility, given that he was so wrapped up in his grudge with Malfoy about what the other boy had said on the train.

“The best you and Malfoy will probably be able to do is shoot sparks at each other.” Ron concluded.

“Excuse me.”

Both boys looked over to see who was talking to them and it turned out to be Hermione Granger who was sitting nearby.

“Can’t a person eat in peace?” Ron complained.

Ignoring Ron, Hermione directed her attention toward Harry. “I couldn’t help overhearing...”

“I’ll just bet you couldn’t.” Ron muttered.

“...and you mustn’t go wandering around the school at night. Just think of all the points you’ll lose Gryffindor, if you’re caught and you’re bound to be. It’s really very selfish of you.”

“And it’s really none of your business,” Ron told her, “so why don’t you butt out.”

######

Ron woke Harry about eleven-thirty. Neville hadn’t returned yet from the Hospital Wing when they had all turned in so Harry guessed that Madame Pomfrey was keeping him overnight, maybe he’d gotten a concussion.

Harry hadn’t intended on going, but Ron was determined not to let him besmirch the honour of the Gryffindors, by chickening out. Ron finally convinced Harry to go, by pointing out that If he didn’t show up, then Malfoy might start bullying other first years besides Neville, but that if he could beat Malfoy, they would have something to hold over the git’s head to get him to leave them alone.

They had almost reached the portrait hole, when a voice spoke up from the chair nearest them. “I can’t believe you’re going to do this Harry.”

A lamp flickered on revealing the someone to be: Hermione Granger.

Ron was furious. How dare she interfere. He was looking forward to watching Harry Potter put Draco Malfoy on the ground. “Go back to bed!”

“I almost told your brother, Percy. what was going on.” Hermione countered. “He’s a Prefect. He’d have put a stop to this.’

Now that he’d decided to go through with this, Harry just wanted to get it over with. ‘Come on, Ron.’

Pushing open the portrait of the fat lady, he and Ron climbed out the portrait hole.

Hermione followed them out, hissing like an angry goose. “Don’t you care about Gryffindor. Do you only care about yourselves. I don’t want Slytherin to win the House cup and if you’re caught, you’ll lose all those points I got from McGonagall today for know about Switching Spells.”

“Go away.” Ron growled. Couldn’t this girl take a hint?

“All right, but I warned you. You just remember what I said when you’re on the train headed home tomorrow. You’re so....”

What exactly they were Harry and Ron never had the chance to find out, because when Hermione turned back to the portrait hole intending to go back inside, she found the painting empty. She was locked out of Gryffindor Tower.

“Now what am I going to do?” She asked shrilly.

“That’s your problem,” Ron told her before Harry had a chance to speak up. “We’ve got to get going. We’re going to be late.”

Before they had even reached the end of the hallway, Hermione caught up with them.

“I’m going with you.” She told them quickly.

“No you’re not.” Ron countered just as quickly.

“Do you think I’m gonna stand outside the common room all night, waiting for Filch to catch me? If finds all three of us, then I tell him the truth, that I was trying to stop you and you can back me up.”

“You’ve got some nerve,” Ron told her hotly.

‘Shut up both of you,’ Harry ordered. ‘I just heard something.’

“Mrs. Norris?” Ron asked, squinting into the darkness.

‘I don’t think so.’

It wasn’t Filch’s cat, Mrs. Norris. It was Neville, curled up asleep in an alcove out of the way. He stirred at their approach.

When he saw who it was, he said, “Thank goodness. I got lost on the way back to the tower and then I couldn’t remember the password.”

‘It’s Pig snout, Neville, but it won’t do you any good.’ Harry told him. ‘The Fat Lady has gone on a visit. You’ll have to come with us.’

Ron looked like he wanted to object, but Harry quickly told him, ‘We can’t leave either of them out here for Filch to find.’

“Not to mention that the Bloody Baron’s been by here twice.” Neville added.

They all shuddered slightly at the mention of the Slytherin House ghost. Even the Slytherins weren’t fond of their House Ghost.

“All right,” Ron agreed looking at his watch. “But if either of you get us caught, I’m not going to rest until I’ve learned the Curse of the Bogies that Quirrell told us about and used it on you.”

‘How’s your arm, Neville.’ Harry asked as they headed toward the trophy room.

“Fine,” he held it out for Harry to see. “Madame Pomfrey fixed me right up.”

Can you keep it down!” Ron hissed, “or we will get caught by Filch.

Amazingly they made it to the trophy room without incident.

However Malfoy and Crabbe weren’t there. But then again Harry hadn’t expected them to be.

“Maybe he chickened out,” Ron whispered.

Hearing a sound in the other room, Harry said, ‘Quiet.’

All four of them heard a voice and it wasn’t Malfoy’s. It was Filch’s.

“Sniff around, my sweet, they might be lurking in a corner.”

They barely made it out of the trophy room before Filch came in.

They crept down a gallery filled with suits of armour, but Neville hearing Filch getting closer, let out a frightened squeak and broke into a run, only to collide with Ron and send them both tumbling into a suit of armour.

‘RUN,’ Harry yelled.

The four Gryffindors sprinted down the hall, not bothering to look back to see if Filch was following. They swung around a door post and then up one corridor and down another. Harry was in the lead, but he was hopelessly lost. He could only hope that the internal guide he was following would lead them on a path that would keep them out of Filch’s hands.

‘I think we lost him,’ Harry panted as he leaned up against the cool stone of the wall.

Neville was bent double, wheezing.

“I -- told -- you,” Hermione gasped, holding her sides. “I -- told -- you.”

“We need to get back to Gryffindor tower fast.” Ron told them.

“Malfoy tricked you.” Hermione continued talking to Harry as they headed down the new corridor. “You do realize that don’t you. Malfoy was never going to meet you. Filch knew there was supposed to be someone in the trophy room, so that means Malfoy tipped him off.”

Harry made no comment, because there was nothing to say, but he was a bit annoyed with Hermione harping on about the subject just now. Didn’t she know there was a time and place for everything, including I told you so’s and now was most definitely not the time or place.

They hadn’t gone more than a dozen paces down the new hall when a doorknob rattled and then something came shooting out of the classroom in front of them.

Damn!

It was Peeves. He caught sight of the group and gave a squeal of delight. The shadows in the corridor apparently prevented him from recognizing Harry.

“Shut up, Peeves -- please -- you’ll get us thrown out.” Hermione begged.

“Ickle firsties out at night.” Peeves cackled as he bounced in front of them. “Naughty, naughty, you’ll get caughty.”

‘Not if you don’t give us away. Please, Peeves.’ Harry pointed out.

“Should tell Filch, I should.” Peeves tried to sound saintly, but his eyes were glinting wickedly. “It’s for your own good.”

“Get out of the way,” Ron snapped taking a swipe at the poltergeist.

That proved to be a big mistake as Peeves bellowed, “STUDENTS OUT OF BED! STUDENTS OUT OF BED DOWN THE CHARMS CORRIDOR!”

The group ducked under Peeves and ran for their lives, right to the end of the corridor, where they encountered a locked door at the end of the corridor.

“We’re done for!” Ron moaned as he tugged helplessly at the door. “This is the end!”

They could hear footsteps coming toward them as Filch ran toward Peeves’ shouts.’

Before Harry could try the unlocking charm Grams had given him, Hermione pushed him out of the way as she grabbed his wand. Tapping the lock she whispered, “Alohamora!”

They heard the lock click and the door swung open. They quickly piled through the door and closed it behind them. Pressing their ears to the door they listened intently.

Filch had apparently found Peeves, because they heard him saying, “Which way did they go Peeves? Quick tell me.”

“Say ‘please’.”

“Don’t mess with me Peeves, now where did they go?”

“Shan’t say nothing if you don’t say please,” Peeves said in his annoying sing-song voice.

“All right -- please.”

“NOTHING! Ha haa! Told you wouldn’t say nothing if you didn’t say please!”

They then heard Filch stomping off cursing.

‘He thinks this door is locked so he won’t even bother checking it.’ Harry whispered, then feeling Neville tug on his bathrobe, he turned to see what the other boy wanted.

As soon as he turned his head, he saw why Neville wanted his attention. There was a creature behind them that was either straight out of a nightmare.

Filling the whole area that they had thought originally was a room, but instead seemed to be a corridor, was an enormous three headed dog. It was sitting still, all six eyes staring at them. Harry was fairly certain that the only reason the creature hadn’t attacked yet, was because they had surprised it as much as it surprised them. However if the growls coming from the three throats were an indication, it was rapidly overcoming it’s surprise and would attack. They had to be in the forbidden third floor corridor. They must’ve come in from the other side, because he hadn’t recognized it as they approached

Harry’s mind was coming up blank for a spell to try and calm the dog, so he quickly groped for the door knob and ushered the others out the door before it worked itself up to a charge.

As Harry and the others headed back to the Gryffindor tower, he couldn’t help wondering why Hogwarts had led him to that door, when there must’ve been other places they could’ve hidden from Filch.

Once they were back in the common room, the boys sank into chairs, the adrenaline rush wearing off quickly.

“What are they thinking, keeping that monster in a school?” Ron wanted to know.

Hermione had apparently recovered her breath and her bad temper because she told him hotly, “Didn’t you use your eyes? Didn’t any of you use your eyes? Didn’t you see what it was standing on?”

Harry thought back for a moment and nothing was coming up. Hazarding a guess, he said, ‘the floor?’

“No, not the floor. It was standing on a trapdoor. It’s obviously guarding something.”

Glaring at Ron and Harry, she said, “I hope you’re pleased with yourselves. We all could’ve been killed -- or worse, expelled. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to bed.”

“No we don’t mind,” Ron commented as she stormed loudly up the stairs to the girl’s dorm. “We didn’t even ask you to come along in the first place. Did we, Harry?”

Harry didn’t respond, in fact he looked like his mind was a thousand miles away.

“Harry,” Ron called, but the other boy didn’t respond.

Instead Harry followed Neville upstairs, his mind had gone back to the day that Hagrid had taken them to Gringotts. Hagrid had said that only one place was safer than Gringotts and that was Hogwarts. If Hermione Granger was correct and that dog was guarding something. Remembering the article he had read in Hagrid’s hut he knew the vault that had been broken into was 713 which meant he now knew what had become of the grubby little package Hagrid had retrieved for Headmaster Dumbledore.

########

Harry smiled at the stunned look on Malfoy’s face as he, Ron, and Neville entered the Great Hall. His guess and Hermione’s had been right. Malfoy had tried to set them up.

The morning after, Ron had thought that meeting the three headed dog had been a fine adventure and tried to get Harry and Neville involved in a discussion of what it might be guarding.

Neville didn’t even want to think about the dog and Harry could understand his feelings. Neville wasn’t the kind whose bravery was evident, however he was certain that if push came to shove, then Neville would find himself surprising a great many people, himself included.

While Harry thought he knew what the dog was guarding, he didn’t feel like enlightening Ron as to what it was, at least not right now. It had been because Ron couldn’t stop running off at the mouth that he’d been put in a dangerous situation in the first place. Yes, he’d gone along, but only because he wanted to try and prevent further trouble later. But the situation could’ve been avoided entirely, if only Ron would learn to think before he acted or opened his mouth. He had the feeling that they hadn’t heard the last from Malfoy. Like any bully he would keep poking until he got the desired response.

While Hermione Granger had taken a seat near them, she was refusing to talk with them, which might or might not be a blessing. She had a fine mind, but no tact and seemed to be overly devoted to following the rules. He knew that sometimes you couldn’t follow the rules. Sometimes you had to follow your instincts, even if they went against the rules. He couldn’t help wondering how Hermione would react in a situation where the only choice was not to follow the rules.

They were halfway through breakfast as usual when the owls came into the Great Hall as usual. This time everyone’s attention was caught by six large screech owls that were carrying a long thin package. Like everyone else, Harry was curious about who the package was going to. He was stunned when they fluttered down in front of him and left the package, taking off again without waiting for a treat. They had hardly gotten out of the way when a small tawny owl dropped a letter in front of him.

Harry decided to open the letter first, which turned out to be a wise decision as the first word were:

DO NOT OPEN THE PARCEL AT THE TABLE.

It contains your new Nimbus 2000, but I don’t want everyone
knowing you’ve got a broomstick or they’ll all want one.

Oliver Wood will meet you tonight on the Quidditch field
at 7 o’clock for your first training session.

Professor Minerva McGonagall


########

Snape was surprised when a letter dropped unexpectedly on the table in front of him. He had been watching the long package that had come in, until it was dropped in front of Potter. He really had no desire to know what that spoiled arrogant brat had gotten. He was expecting any mail. He looked up to see which owl delivered it and thought he recognized the snowy owl as being the one that belonged to Harry Potter.

The letter was addressed to: Professor Severus Snape, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The envelope wasn’t red, so it wasn’t a Howler. The handwriting was not the childish scrawl he usually associated with his students so it had to be from “that woman” Potter called his Aunt.

So Potter went running to mama, or at least the closest thing he has to one. Snape thought with a sneer as he watched Potter study his package at the Gryffindor table. Such a brave little Gryffindor.

Longbottom appeared to be showing the arrogant brat something, the post owl had dropped in his hand.

A cautious man by nature, especially given that he had once been a spy, Snape pulled out his wand and checked the envelope and its contents for curses and hexes.

“Do you always do that to your mail?” Dumbledore inquired as he watched his Potions Master cast spell after spell at the innocent looking envelope.

“Only when it comes from the parent or guardian of a Gryffindor.” Snape told him dryly.

“Well surely they would have sent you a Howler.” Dumbledore pointed out reasonably.

“I believe this to be from the woman Potter claims is his Aunt.” Snape countered. “I prefer to err on the side of caution when dealing with a witch whose powers I do not fully know. Given that she is American she obviously went to one of the American Wizarding schools...”

“Actually she didn’t go to any wizarding school, she was home-schooled, I believe is the phrase.” Dumbledore put in, then asked concerned. “And just what could you have done to annoy Harry’s Aunt this early in the school year, Severus. I believe you have had only one class with him so far.”

Dumbledore’s mind was racing wondering if he was going to have to do some kind of damage control. The Halliwell woman had made it quite clear that she would not allow Snape to carry his vendetta against James over to Harry, and that if he couldn’t control the other wizard she would or she would pull Harry out of Hogwarts. He needed to get through this first year and then he could arrange for Harry to go home with the Weasleys and petition the Ministry to change the guardianship once the boy was settled in.

“I don’t know that I did anything to annoy her.” Snape disagreed, clearly annoyed to be thought of as in the wrong. He knew that Dumbledore had plans to get the boy away from that woman that he didn’t want interrupted, but for the headmaster to automatically assume he was at fault was intolerable. Why couldn’t he believe the Potter brat might be the one at fault. “After all as you’ve pointed out, I’ve only had him for one class... so far.”

“Well, then open it,” Dumbledore smiled encouragingly. “Maybe she wants to thank you for not carrying your grudge against James Potter over to the boy.”

Snape just gave the headmaster a sour look, before complying with the headmaster’s request.

Inside was a single piece of paper and three strands of what looked like blue string, that felt greasy to the touch and stank, in the confines of the envelope.

Setting the strings to one side, Snape turned his attention to the note.

Professor Snape,

My nephew has told me you didn’t believe him when he told you that St. John’s Wort, Angelica, and a bit of ground copper when combined with your Draught of Living Death would create a potion to destroy a Calleach demon. In fact he told me you accused him of lying. I think you should be made aware of one fact. My nephew rarely lies and never about anything important.

Enclosed are three hairs from the Calleach demon I destroyed. You may subject them to whatever tests you wish, but you will find they are not human or animal. Nor is it something manmade.

He also informed me that you accused him of deliberately allowing another boy to be hurt, when you know this is untrue. According to my nephew, his workstation was in front of the other boy’s. So unless he was born with eyes in the back of his head, there was no way he could have seen what the other boy was doing, or that he was about to make a potentially harmful mistake.

You should’ve been warned to bury your grudge
Because you have not, now I shall be judge

Given that you will not give a quarrel with a man long dead
Choosing to continue it with his son instead

From this day on for any punishment or grade unfair
Then all the colours of the rainbow neon brite shall be in your hair


The note wasn’t signed.

Snape sneered as he ripped the note to shreds. Did that woman really expect him to be scared of a bit of bad poetry. There had been no charms, curses or hexes on the envelope or it’s contents, so it was quite clear that while the woman had at least one bit of wandless magic, she was all apparently all bluff beyond that.

Stuffing the greasy blue strands into the envelope with the torn up note, Snape got up and headed down the Great Hall to where Potter was sitting.

“Potter.” He interrupted the conversation the boy was having with another Gryffindor.

Harry looked up. ‘Yes sir.’

“Pass on a message to your aunt.” Snape ordered. “Tell her it will take a lot more than bad poetry to get me to change my teaching methods.

Harry quickly squashed the urge to smile, as he replied, ‘I will pass on your message, sir, but may I also give you a piece of advice.’

“What could an arrogant brat like you possibly have to say that I would want to hear?” Snape responded before sweeping out of the Great Hall.

‘Oh maybe, be careful what you ask for, because you may just get it.’ Harry commented, even though the potions teacher was too far away to hear.

“Did your aunt really send him some poetry?” Neville wondered why anyone would want to.

Seeing that everyone around them was listening intently, Harry answered honestly. ‘I don’t know what she sent him. But if it was a warning about what he did last Friday and he ignores it, she will escalate.’

“How did she find out?” Hermione Granger wanted to know

“Use your head.” Ron told her sarcastically, making her go red in the face. “Harry told her.”

“Harry, we don’t need to make Professor Snape any angrier toward the Gryffindors than he already is.” Hermione told him seriously. “It will cost us House points and you may even wind up in detention with him. You don’t want that do you? Maybe you should just edit what you tell her, so that it doesn’t sound quite so bad.”

Harry gave her a look that clearly said: Are you crazy? ‘Aside from the fact that, even after one class, I don’t think Professor Snape should be teaching, because he doesn’t seem to have the patience for it, I have no intention of lying to my aunt, Miss Granger. I’ve seen her angry before and believe me when I tell you that Professor Snape is a lightweight compared to my aunt.’

The other listening first years tried hard to imagine someone scarier than Snape, other than maybe You-Know-Who and they couldn’t. They did however give Harry a look of respect tinged with a little awe at the idea that someone wasn’t afraid of Professor Snape and that someone was Harry Potter a first year Gryffindor.

######

Ron and Neville followed Harry out of the great hall. He had promised they would see what was in the package once he got it up to the dorm. The only thing he had told them was that it had been sent by Professor McGonagall.

Halfway up the stairs though they found the way barred by Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle. Malfoy seized the package out of Harry’s hands and felt it, before saying, “That’s a broomstick.”

He looked at Potter with a mixture of spite and envy. “You’ll be in for it now. First years aren’t allowed a broomstick.”

‘That’s rich coming from you.’ Harry told him. ‘Weren’t you the one who told me you were going to smuggle one in?’

Malfoy’s face became even redder. So he hadn’t managed to do it, Harry thought.

Professor Flitwick appeared at Malfoy’s elbow before the blond had come up with something to say. “Is there a problem boys?” He looked back and forth between the six boys. “You haven’t been arguing have you?”

“No sir,” Malfoy smiled at the thought of getting Harry in trouble. “Potter’s been sent a broomstick, sir.”

“Oh yes, Professor McGonagall told me all about the special circumstances.” Professor Flitwick beamed at the dark haired boy. “And just which model is it, Mr. Potter?”

‘A Nimbus 2000, sir.’ Harry enjoyed the pasty white expression that settled on Malfoy’s face. ‘And I have Malfoy to thank for it too sir.’

“Well that’s very nice.” Professor Flitwick turned to Malfoy and said, “It’s nice to see a student who is willing to go beyond House prejudices and do something for a member of a different House.”

The grin on Malfoy’s face looked positively sickly as he watched Harry go up the stairs with his broom.

#######

Snape stalked around the classroom as the Slytherin and Gryffindor first years continued working on the burn salve.

At the beginning of class, he had ordered Finnegan and Potter to switch places. If the Longbottom child acted the same way he did in the first potions class, Snape had no doubt the potion would be botched, if not another cauldron destroyed.

As he got closer to Potter and Longbottom, he saw Potter put out his hand and stop Longbottom from putting the wad of milkweed into the cauldron and say something to the other boy.

While mentally congratulating Potter on his quick reflexes that prevented another cauldron explosion, he said aloud, “Five points from Gryffindor for talking, Potter.”

‘Sir, we were discussing the assignment.’ Potter told him. ‘We do need to be able to speak to each other to avoid accidents.’

“Another ten points for talking back to a teacher, Potter.” Snape snapped out. “Another outburst will earn you detention for a month, Mr. Potter.”

There was a series of gasps from around the room, including from among his own Slytherins. Surely they couldn’t be surprised by his actions? Then he noticed that they were all staring at him.

“Did I say you could stop working?” Snape hissed at the gawking students. “Get back to work or there will be ten points deducted from everyone who doesn’t.”

Once he was certain they were all busy with their cauldrons, he went into the small bathroom off his office to see what had so startled his students.

His face still looked the same, but his hair was now a multi-coloured rainbow.

Remembering the note he had gotten earlier, Snape growled and stalked back into the classroom, barking out orders. “Everyone, stop what you’re doing, clean up your work areas, and get out of here.” Then he growled, “Potter, you will remain.”

There was solemn expression on the brat’s face as he nodded.

#######

Once the potion’s classroom was empty of the other students, Snape rounded on Harry. “I am assuming that the potion your aunt used is one that works on contact, hence the greasy blue hairs she sent me, knowing that I would want to prove you and she were liars all over again. What I want to know is how to reverse it and you're going to tell me, Potter.”

‘I don’t know how to reverse it.’ Harry told him. ‘The only potions, I’ve ever helped my Aunt make, are the ones that work immediately.’

Harry had decided when the Potion’s teacher’s hair had acquired that multi-coloured punk look that he wasn’t going to tell the man, that he had activated the potion when he read the spell Grams had included in her note. He knew that she had figured out how to duplicate the effect the Gringotts goblins had used with the anti-theft spell carved into their doors, so that the reader cast the spell on themselves.

“And I think you’re lying.” Snape growled, leaning over the desk the boy was seated at. “I think you know exactly what your Aunt put in that potion and I want to know the formula now! I want to know how to reverse it and if you don’t start talking, I will take a hundred points from Gryffindor and you will have detention with me for the next month.”

Potter’s face took on a stubborn expression. ‘Then you’ll just have to do that sir, because I can’t tell you what I don’t know. However, knowing my Aunt the way I do, if you do then your hair is probably going to stay that way for quite some time to come. I noticed that it changed as soon as you took points for something I had to do, talk with Neville. You took those points unfairly and the moment you did, your hair changed to what it is now.”

That silenced Snape for a moment. Remembering some of the words that had been written in the note, he knew he couldn’t punish the brat no matter how much he wanted to, for his refusal to undo it. At least he couldn’t if he ever wanted to get his hair back to normal. That meant someone else would have to do it. He doubted that McGonagall, Potter’s Head of House would do it, and he wasn’t about to tell any of the other teachers why he needed them to punish Potter, or the cause behind his neon coloured hair would be all over school within hours. That only left Dumbledore to try and force the truth out of the brat, or deliver the appropriate punishment, because he’d be damned if he was going to go around with a rainbow coloured head any longer than he had to.

“Come with me, Potter.” Snape snarled as he headed for the door.

Harry followed the Potion’s teacher as he led him to the gargoyle that stood in front of Headmaster’s office.

“Tootsie Rolls,” Snape told the gargoyle and it slid aside.

As Harry followed him up the stairs, he heard a raised voice through the door.

“...has a right to know where the boy has been and how he’s been raised,” a pompous male voice was saying. “For all we know that woman could’ve been raising him to be the next Dark Lord.”

As Harry watched the expression on Snape’s face grew even more sour, if that were possible. Apparently he knew the owner of the pompous sounding voice and didn’t like him at all. From the sound of the man, Harry had a feeling he wasn’t going to like him either.

Snape knocked on the door and heard the Headmaster s voice say, “Come in.”

The Potion’s Master gestured for Harry to go before him into the office.

“Ah, Harry,” Dumbledore greeted the boy with a smile. “How did you know I was going to send for you? Do you perhaps have some skill at Divination?”

‘If you mean seeing the future, no sir. I came with Professor Snape. Maybe he’s the one with the Divination skills.’ Harry told him as he studied the other man.

He was portly and wearing a pinstriped, lime green robe with a matching bowler hat and from the smile that was hastily pasted on his face, Harry had a feeling that he really didn’t want to know him.

Seeing the direction of Harry’s gaze, Dumbledore introduced the other man. “Harry, this is the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge. Cornelius, this is Mr. Harry Potter.”

“Hello, Harry,” the man in the pinstriped robe put out his hand. “I’m glad to finally meet you. We at the Ministry have been worried about you being missing for a very long time.”

‘I wasn’t missing,’ Harry countered, as he took the man’s hand and then quickly let go. ‘I was with my family.’

The smile on the man’s face froze for a moment before he said weakly, “Yes, you were with the Dursleys until you were about five and a half and then you were abducted.”

‘I prefer to think of it as rescued, sir, after all the Dursleys were abusing me.’ Harry was amazed at how calmly that admission came out and found himself even more grateful that Penny Halliwell had indeed rescued him, otherwise he might now be a cowering wreck afraid of his own shadow and probably letting these people walk all over him. Her family’s love and support along with a lot of counselling had helped him see the Dursleys were the ones at fault not him, and even though he still had the occasional episode of backsliding into Dursley trained behaviour, they were now few and far between.

The smile on Fudge’s face became a sickly parody of a grin at the unspoken allegation that the Ministry failed to keep a proper watch on the Boy-Who-Lived and that they had done nothing to stop him from being abused by his own family. “And where are you living now, Harry?”

‘Right now, I’m living at Hogwarts.’ Harry told him.

Fudge quickly tried a different tactic, because he needed to locate this woman who been rearing Potter for the last six years. He had to make sure she said nothing to the press about the Ministry’s failure to keep the Boy-Who-Lived safe. He also wanted to have her questioned under Veritaserum to make sure she hadn’t been grooming the Wizarding world’s hero to be the next Dark Lord. “And where is this woman who rescued you living? I would like to thank her for her service to the wizarding world.”

‘I’m sorry sir, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you that.’ Harry met the Minister’s gaze without flinching. ‘My Aunt does have the right to her privacy after all. And given how people here have reacted to me, I’m fairly certain she wouldn’t keep her privacy if you knew where to find her.’

Fudge started to bristle and the implication that he couldn’t keep a secret.

“As fascinating as I am sure this all is,” Snape interrupted with a snarl, “I didn’t bring Mr. Potter up here to meet the Minister.”

A moment later he regretted speaking up, because that brought the attention of both men to him and his rainbow coloured hair.


“Severus, what happened to your hair?” Dumbledore was the first to speak.

“The woman, Mr. Potter calls his aunt happened to it, and Mr, Potter refuses to tell me how to reverse the potion she used.” Snape ground out from between clenched teeth.

Dumbledore’s attention turned to Harry. “Is this true, Harry? Are you refusing to tell him how to reverse the effects?”

‘No sir,’ Harry looked the Headmaster right in the eye. ‘As I told Professor Snape, I have no idea what potion she used or how to reverse the effects.’

“Why would your aunt do this, Mr. Potter?” Fudge butted in.

“Minister,” Dumbledore spoke up before Snape could says something he wouldn’t regret to the Minister. “This is a school matter, not a matter for the Ministry. I believe our business is concluded.”

“For now, Dumbledore, for now.” Fudge jammed his bowler hat on his head and left.

Once the door was closed, Dumbledore, turned his attention back to Harry. “Harry, do you know why your aunt would do this to Professor Snape?”

Harry shrugged. ‘Probably because of how he acted toward me last Friday.’

“And just how did he act?” Dumbledore wanted to know.

‘He tried to insult me by saying things like fame not guaranteeing intellect and then claiming that I had deliberately allowed another student to be hurt so I could look good.’ Harry reported matter-of-factly.

“And you told your aunt about this.” The headmaster concluded.

‘She told me to tell her about my classes with him, because she wanted to know if he’d stopped trying to carry on the vendetta he had with my father.’ Harry told him.

“Headmaster, you aren’t honestly going to believe this cock-and-bull story are you?” Snape countered. “I punished the boy for his misbehaviour in my class last Friday. He decided to get even using his aunt as the means and now he won’t admit it or tell me how to reverse the effects.”

Harry saw the Headmaster’s eyes go to the man he knew was standing behind him. “Harry is Professor’s Snape’s version of events true? Did you lie to your aunt, so that she would punish Professor Snape though he did nothing wrong?”

Harry continued to meet the Headmaster’s gaze. ‘No sir, I did not lie to her or you. What I told you is the truth. My Aunt is one of those people who can spot a lie faster than a politician can finish telling it. I learned a long time ago, it was better not to lie to her, since the punishment tended to outweigh the crime.’

“Do you know how to reverse the effects?” Dumbledore wanted to know.

Tired of repeating himself, Harry simply said, ‘No, I do not. But I do know that he can avoid it happening in future.’

Dumbledore seemed surprised by that admission. “How?”


‘My Aunt told him precisely what he has to do to avoid having that,’ Harry gestured at the multi-coloured hair, ‘happen again.’

“And just what does he have to do?” Dumbledore inquired.

‘Well, I don’t exactly what she wrote in her note to him,’ Harry admitted, ‘but given that he acquired his punk look after he unfairly took points from me for having some necessary conversation with my potion’s partner, Neville, I would say that it will at least happen any time he unfairly takes points from me. My aunt would also most likely apply it to any student he dealt with, since she doesn’t like to play favourites.’

Snape looked horrified at the idea that he might have this multi-coloured hair for the rest of his life, unless he refrained from tormenting students, and that was one of the few joys he had in life.

“Severus, what were the contents of the note?” Dumbledore wanted to know.

“You mean aside from chastising me for punishing this arrogant brat unfairly, there was a bit of drivel at the end that said because I was unwilling to give up my grudge that for any grade or punishment that was unfairly given, my hair would look like this.” Snape gestured to the multi-coloured strands.

‘That means he can’t give any points to Slytherin that they haven’t earned either.’ Harry pointed out. ‘Because that would be a grade unfairly given.’

The expression on Dumbledore’s face became serious as he said, “Harry, I can’t explain why, but it is imperative that you convince your aunt to remove that spell. I must also request that from this point on you not to tell her the full truth about what happens between you and Professor Snape.”

‘Sir, I wish I could, but you have to understand, I can’t force my aunt to do anything.’ Harry could tell that Dumbledore meant it when he said it was imperative. ‘The only thing I can suggest is that if you want the spell removed, you are going to have to ask her to do it and you are going to have to provide a very good reason for why she should. As for telling lies to my aunt, I’m sorry but I can’t do that either. I don’t want to get on my aunt’s bad side. If I suddenly started reporting to her that Professor Snape was treating me like a human being and not something that crawled out from under a rock, she would know something was up, and she would escalate, fearing the worst. That’s if she didn’t pull me out of Hogwarts completely.’

“Are you going to let him get away with that, Headmaster?” Snape couldn’t believe his ears. He had seen the headmaster talk people into doing things they didn’t want to do before. He had never seen the man fail at it and yet he was failing to convince an eleven year old boy to do what he wanted him to do.

“Severus, I will have a talk with Harry’s aunt as soon as I can,” Dumbledore told him. “I think I can convince her to undo it. However since Harry has said he doesn’t know how to undo what was done, I don’t see any reason to detain him any further, do you?”

Snape growled, but said nothing.

Harry was willing to bet that the potions teacher wanted him roasted slowly over hot coals.

“Harry, I believe you are due in Herbology.” Dumbledore said after giving him a note. “Give that to Professor Sprout if you wind up running a little late.”

Chapter Text

Lets Get Ready To Rumble. Dumbledore and Halliwell: The Rematch




Dumbledore stared out the window of his office, his mind going over and over the few scraps of information he had on Penelope Halliwell, trying to find a way to handle this new situation that she had created.

It annoyed him that all of his attempts to learn anything about the Halliwell family and the kind of magic they did, had failed other than to know that it was some kind of wandless magic. No one else in the Wizarding world had encountered witches or wizards from the Halliwell family, other than Phineas and the headmistress at the Firebird Academy, and both of them were rather close-mouthed about the Halliwell family, except to warn him against digging into their background. And all attempts to find out anything about them through muggle sources had also been unsuccessful. All the reports he got back from muggle detectives made them appear to be a perfectly normal muggle family, with no hint of anything odd in their family history. Dumbledore didn’t like unknowns and was determined to find out how their magic worked and if necessary use it or them to help defeat Voldemort. An unknown type of magic, might be the thing to turn the tide in the upcoming war.

Until Severus had shown up with his multi-coloured hair, he had thought that Miss Halliwell’s personality was very similar to Minerva’s, very protective of those they were responsible for. Her actions with Severus had shown that she also had a vicious streak a lot like Severus’ that he would do well not to underestimate. His objective right now though was to get her to undo whatever spell she had cast on the Potions Master. He could only hope that unlike Severus, Miss Halliwell was willing to be reasonable.

It also frustrated him no end that one of the many things that Halliwell witch had forced him to agree to before she would even consider letting Harry go to Hogwarts was a magically binding oath that prevented him from telling anyone who didn’t already know, where the boy had been living all this time. So, a few hours before dinner, Dumbledore let Professor McGonagall know that he was going to visit Harry’s Aunt, so that she would at least know his general location.

He had to admit he’d enjoyed using that oath to frustrate Cornelius, when the Minister had demanded to know where Potter had been raised, but it still annoyed him that the witch had gotten the better of him on all points. Until today he had been able to temper his annoyance with the knowledge that he would have the last laugh when he placed Harry with the Weasleys at the end of the year. Now he was having to rethink his plans, just in case she had some scheme already in place to thwart him.

Dumbledore was not blind to his Potions Master’s many faults, though quite a few people, including Minerva thought he was. Severus was a perfectionist and hard on those who couldn’t meet his exacting standards. Part of the reason for that was because mistakes in potions could often-times be fatal. Severus unfortunately was also well known for having little patience with fools and children. In fact a number of the parents of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff students had voiced their objections to keeping Severus in the position of teacher of potions, but he had always managed to convince them that Severus was the best available and they subsided into grumbling acceptance. Dumbledore knew that Severus’ lack of patience with children was a definite problem, but as long as no harm was done to the children, he felt that the man’s skills as a Potions Master, along with the other services he had performed and was still performing for the Light, more than made up for his lack of people skills.

Snape’s cover as an arrogant Slytherin pure-blood Head of House was too important to risk. If the children of Deatheaters reported any atypical behaviour to their parents, such as his being fair to other houses, then his loyalties might be called into question. Dumbledore was also honest enough to admit to himself that if Snape was forced to be nice and fair to other houses, to avoid the multi-coloured hair, it just might drive him to share the ward at Saint Mungos with Neville Longbottom’s parents. Now he just needed to make the Halliwell woman realize just how important Severus was without giving too much away and that she needed to leave him alone. He was not about to let her actions put the Light’s only well placed spy among the Deatheaters at risk.

############

The young woman who opened the door in response to Dumbledore’s knock, proved to be a very pleasant surprise, given that he’d expected to be greeted by Penny Halliwell. At a guess he would say she was about the same age as the seventh year students at Hogwarts so that would probably make her the oldest granddaughter, Prudence. He found himself smiling in response to the grin that appeared on her almost pixie like face and the sparkle in her dark eyes.

Pru couldn’t help the grin that appeared on her face when she got her first good look at the man on their front porch. After all it wasn’t every day that you saw someone who made you think of Father Time standing on your doorstep. But that was the first thought that had popped into Pru’s head when she saw the long white beard, small, round glasses, and old-fashioned suit that the old man was wearing.

Recovering quickly and remembering her manners, Pru asked. “Can I help you, sir?”

The stranger smiled and there was a twinkle in his eyes as he said, “I hope so, my dear. I am looking for Penny Halliwell. Can you tell me if she is at home?”

“If you’ll give me a few minutes, I can check and see, Mr....”

“My name is Albus Dumbledore.” He told her.

“I’ll be right back, Mr. Dumbledore.” And to his surprise, she closed the door without inviting him in.

As she headed into the kitchen, Pru was willing to bet the stranger had probably thought she was rude. Some would have at least invited a stranger into the entry hall, but her grandmother had made sure they all understood that strangers were not to be invited in until you found out why they were here. And since this Mr. Dumbledore wanted to see Grams, then she would be the one to decide if he was to be allowed in.

“Grams, there’s a man named Albus Dumbledore at the front door asking to see you.” Pru told her.

“Albus Dumbledore?” Phoebe piped up. “What a funny name. What’s he look like, Pru?”

Pru couldn’t help smiling in agreement with her sister’s observation. “Well, I think he’s British, and he looks like those pictures we see on New Year’s Eve of Father Time, only instead of a robe he's wearing a suit. He has a long white beard, small round glasses and he was wearing a suit that looked like it came from the thirties or forties.”

“Piper, dear, would finish making breakfast please?” Penny requested.

“Sure, Grams,” Piper eagerly took the spatula from her. She loved to cook.

Though her grandmother had quickly regained her composure, Pru saw enough to bet that she wasn’t very fond of this Mr. Dumbledore. He couldn’t have been one of her old husbands. As far as Pru knew there had only been seven of them and she had seen pictures of most of them. Besides this man was way too old to have attracted Grams interest.

“Is everything okay, Grams?” Pru asked quietly.

“Everything’s fine dear. I just have some business to take care of.” Penny patted her oldest granddaughter on the arm. “Pru, when you all get done with breakfast, would you please make sure that Piper and Phoebe get off to school. I have a feeling my business with Mr. Dumbledore is going to take a while.”

“I will.” Pru promised.

#############

When the door opened again, Dumbledore was looking at the woman he had come to see.

“Has something happened to Harry?” Penny Halliwell asked before he could say a word.

“Harry is perfectly fine. I would never allow anything bad to happen to him.” Dumbledore was quick to reassure her.

“Well given your past track record, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t take your word on that.” Penny told him. “If you’re not here about Harry, why are you here?”

“I came to discuss the spell you placed on Professor Snape.” Dumbledore told her.

“Oh, has he already given himself a punk look?” Penny didn’t bother to hide her glee. “Oh my, he is a fast worker.”

“Can we discuss this somewhere a little more private than your front doorstep?” Dumbledore requested.

Through she looked a little reluctant, Miss Halliwell gestured for him to come in. He followed her to the sunroom.

Once both doors were closed, Penny said, “What is said in here is not for others to hear.”

“I couldn’t agree more, madam.” Dumbledore took out his wand and cast a silencing charm on the room.

Penny didn’t bother telling him she’d already done that, instead she asked, “Why did you come here to discuss Professor Snape?”

Dumbledore decided to get straight to the point. “I came to ask you to remove your spell from him.”

“And why would I want to do that?” Penny inquired calmly. “The man brought this situation on himself. Aside from the fact of how I heard he conducted his first class, which has me more convinced than ever that he should not be teaching, he chose to carry his grudge with Harry’s father over to Harry. That means he chose to ignore your warning to bury it. You did tell him that I wouldn’t stand for his taking whatever grudge he had against James out on Harry, didn’t you?”

Dumbledore nodded. “I did.”

“Then he deserves what he got for ignoring your warning.” Penny stated firmly. “Unless I am mistaken he is an adult and not a child and therefore should be mature enough to bury his grudge against a dead man.”

“He has strong reason for that grudge madam that you are not aware of.” Dumbledore calmly pointed out.

“But Harry is not responsible for what his father did.” Penny countered. “Given that he is a Potions Master, I would assume he is intelligent enough to know that carrying grudges like that is how feuds get started. Instead of being an adult and realizing that Harry is not his father, not matter how much he might look like him, Professor Snape chooses to act like a child, transferring the grudge to Harry who had nothing to do with the problems between Snape and his father.”

“How do you know what James Potter looked like?” Dumbledore couldn’t help being curious.

In the things they had sent to Petunia for Harry to have, he had purposely made sure there were no photographs of his parents, or anyone else in the wizarding world. Aside from the fact that it would raise awkward questions, if anyone saw them, he had wanted Harry’s only knowledge of Lily and James Potter to come from those in the wizarding world, preferably him. He had known that Petunia wouldn’t tell Harry anything and that the boy would be craving that sort of information once he got to the same school they had gone to. He had planned to use that information to further cement the ties Harry had to the wizarding world.

Penny quickly covered her blunder by saying. “Lily’s parents had a photo album and it had a few pictures of the two of them, among all the pictures of Lily. It was in a trunk of things I got from the Dursleys when I got Harry. Harry looks like a younger version of the young man in the snapshots.”

“Well, I’m glad Harry, got to see what they looked like when they were younger and more carefree.” Dumbledore lied, inwardly seething over the fact that he had forgotten to check for muggle pictures of the couple. Of course they had spent some time with Lily’s parents, and like all parents, they would have taken photos of the boy or girl their child was dating.

Once he was sufficiently recovered, Dumbledore said, “I think we are straying from the topic. While I agree that Severus has issues that he needs to work out with regards to James Potter and his son, I don’t think embarrassing him in front of his students is the right way to help him learn to work them out. In the long run it will only make him angrier at Harry.”

“The punishment I gave Professor Snape wasn’t only for Harry.” Penny told him. “The only reason it appears that way is because the man is using Harry as his primary target because of James Potter’s actions.”

“I don’t understand.” Dumbledore told her baffled.

“I don’t play favorites.” Penny explained. “As I said, based on what Harry told me of his first class with the man and the one time I saw him in action, I do not think the man should be teaching. I wonder how many potential future Potions Masters he has destroyed with his teaching methods. While I know that it is not always possible, a teacher should try teach in the way that best helps a student learn. Snape, I have no doubt, terrorizes just about every student he comes in contact with, unless they show an aptitude for potions. And even then, I bet he only shows them tolerance.”

Dumbledore quickly hid his surprise at her accurate assessment of Severus’ teaching methods. He had always been of the opinion that if Severus hadn’t needed the protection of Hogwarts as much as Dumbledore needed his services as a spy, then he would most likely have locked himself away in a potions lab somewhere, where he could experiment with potions to his heart’s content and never have to see another child.

“While I agree, that Professor Snape’s teaching methods are not ideal,” Dumbledore began, “the making of potions can be a dangerous activity.”

“I am very well aware of that.” Penny interrupted. “The results of some of mine have been quite explosive.”

“Then you understand why Professor Snape must be able to maintain rigid control over his class so that he can avoid any such disasters.” Dumbledore told her. “He won’t be able to maintain discipline, if he has to worry about acquiring rainbow colored hair every time he disciplines a student. Not to mention the fact that his rainbow colored hair would be a major distraction to the students.”

“I made provision for that.” Penny countered. “I know a teacher has to be able to maintain control over their class and if there is no fear of punishment, the children will run wild. If the punishment or grade given is fair, nothing whatsoever will happen to the Professor’s hair. The only time any thing will happen, is when he gives a grade or punishment that he knows is unfair to anyone. This includes those students he favors with good grades they have not earned.”

“And that is where we have a problem Miss Halliwell.” Dumbledore tried again.

“I see no problem,” Penny interrupted. “I am teaching the man a lesson he should have learned a long time ago... restraint and that actions have consequences. As an adult, he should know better than to take out his anger and impatience on children. As a teacher, he should also know that children will learn better, if they are encouraged and not terrified.”

“I did not come here to have a debate on the proper style of teaching, madam.” Dumbledore tried not to let the annoyance he was feeling show. “The British education system is a little different from the American one.”

“So what you’re telling me is the British education system condones verbal and possible physical abuse of its students.” Penny couldn’t resist commenting. “If that is the case, then I will be pulling Harry out as soon as possible. He doesn’t need another reminder of the Dursleys.”

Seeing he wasn’t getting anywhere by being calm, Dumbledore decided to let a little of his annoyance show. “I never said that, Miss Halliwell. I merely said that you can not judge the British education system by the American one.”

Since his anger didn’t seem to be fazing her, he paused for a moment, trying to recover his calm demeanor. “We are getting off the subject again. Will you remove the spell you placed on Professor Snape?”

“So far, you haven’t provided a good enough reason for me to want to.” Penny met Dumbledore’s stare with one of her own.

The headmaster cursed silently to himself. If it wasn’t so important that he retain Harry’s trust at least for now, Dumbledore would have hexed her with the worst curse he knew and he knew some pretty bad ones. Ones that fell into the gray area between light and dark magic. He knew though that if he harmed the stubborn woman before Harry’s trust in him was built up enough, then he would lose the child of the prophecy. Harry might still be part of the wizarding world, but it would be because he was left with no choice and not because he stayed of his own free will. That might lead to another Riddle being created and that he did not need.

Harry was already experiencing the regard the wizarding world held him in and he knew it was a heady feeling, having experienced it himself after defeating Grindelwald. Through Minerva he was allowing the boy to have a privilege that no first year had ever had before. He was going to be the Seeker on his house’s team. By the end of the year, he expected to have the boy right where he wanted him and the boy would willingly want to stay and not go back to the Halliwells. Once out of this woman’s hands he would be able to mold him as he needed to be to stand up to Voldemort and defeat him.

Sighing Dumbledore realized he was going to have to lay some of his cards on the table, if he was going to get anywhere with this vexing woman. It had been years since he had to deal with someone who wasn’t at least mildly in awe of him. Even Voldemort and his Deatheaters, who would cheerfully dance on his grave, were still a little in awe of his power. That was part of the reason the Dark Lord had never come out and directly attacked him, because he wasn’t sure he could win, not that he would ever let his minions know that. Instead he would plot and plan, and work around him, using the wizarding world’s weaknesses against them.

His expression serious, Dumbledore told her, “It is imperative that you remove the curse. Severus is performing an invaluable service to the wizarding world even now. He is keeping an eye on the children of the Deatheaters as well as their parents. To do that, he has to project a certain image to the world. If he suddenly has to be fair to all the students, his life not to mention the service he is rendering to the wizarding world could be placed in great danger.”

He paused a moment before adding, “if something happens to Professor Snape, then it won’t be long before Harry’s life may also be placed in danger, since we will have no forewarning of any plots to harm him. What Professor Snape is doing and his actions even though you may not approve of them are protecting all the students at Hogwarts.”

Miss Halliwell didn’t look too impressed by Dumbledore’s claims about the gravity of the situation. She was silent for several minutes before commenting, “So Professor Snape is a spy, is he? I wouldn’t have thought he would make a very good one considering he is hard to overlook and the fact that he will not let go of a grudge, even when it is in his best interests to do so. I’ve always heard the best spies are those no one would suspect or that can go unnoticed, even if they are the only ones in a room. I’ve also heard that the best spies can keep their mind focused on their jobs and not go chasing after old enemies.”

Penny began pacing. It helped her to think.

Dumbledore waited in silence to see what she was going to say next. He had told her more than he should have, but he needed to get that curse removed, or Severus might be severely hampered in his activities.

“I will remove the spell.” Penny announced suddenly.

Dumbledore started to smile, pleased that he had gotten his way, only to have his feelings of elation dashed by her next words.

“Yes, I will remove the curse, but only if certain conditions are met.”

“What conditions?” Dumbledore eyed her warily.

Penny smiled, but it was the type of smile that did nothing to reassure the headmaster. “He won’t have to do anything too complicated. Professor Snape must stand up one night during dinner in the Great Hall and formally apologize to my nephew for: a) calling him a liar regarding the Calleach Demon and b) for accusing him deliberately allowing another student to come to harm when there was no way he could have prevented what happened.”

Glaring at Dumbledore, she told him. “I will give you a letter to take to Harry and it must be unopened when he gets it. Once Harry lets me know that Professor Snape has fulfilled the conditions I have set, I will send him another letter to remove the spell.”

Realizing the woman wasn’t going to budge an inch about her conditions for removing the curse from Severus, Dumbledore nodded. “I will tell Professor Snape your conditions.”

“I would also suggest you pass on this warning from me.” Penny added as she reached into the bamboo desk for paper and pen. “Tell him he either stops taking his grudge against James Potter out on Harry, or the next time it will be much worse and I won’t remove it, no matter who asks me to.”

Chapter Text

Trick or Treat



Snape waited until he reached an unused section of the dungeons, before he vented his anger by blasting old, no longer useable furniture to bits and then reassembling them so he could blow them up again.

Damn that Potter brat! Snape cursed as he fired a blasting curse at an old desk. I thought that my humiliation because of James Potter was finally over, but no, his son seems determined to carry on his father’s work.

After about an hour of blowing things up and imagining it was the Potters and Potter’s interfering aunt he was blasting to bits, Snape felt able to turn his thoughts back to what Dumbledore told him were the conditions from Potter’s infernal, meddling aunt for reversing the curse.

Flashback

Stalking up the stairs to Dumbledore’s office, Snape was in an even fouler mood than he had been that morning.

The curse that witch had used resisted all attempts to conceal it from glamour charms to hair dye and that meant he had to endure the giggles and snickers of the students as they saw his multi-coloured hair. The only bright spot in the whole mess was that he had gotten to take some legitimate points when the students disobeyed his instructions about not concentrating on their work.

As he reached to door to Dumbledore’s office and was getting ready to knock it opened and Snape was confronted by the person he least wanted to see... Harry Potter.

Clutching a handful of envelopes Potter turned to say, ‘good night, Headmaster. Thank you for bringing back the letters.’ Then he bumped into Professor Snape as he started to head down the stairs. ‘Excuse me,’ he apologised as moved to one side and started to head down the stairs.

“Watch where you are going Potter.” Snape growled.

‘I said, excuse me, sir,’ Harry pointed out stopping two steps below. ‘I’m sorry I didn’t see you, sir.’

“You’d better head back to Gryffindor tower now Harry.” Professor Dumbledore spoke up before Snape could say something else.

‘Yes, sir,’ Harry headed down the stairs. “Thank again sir.’

“You’re welcome Harry.” Dumbledore called then said, “Come in Severus.”

Snape came in and sat down, the expression on his face sour as he noticed Dumbledore was picking through one of those ever-present bags of candy he always seemed to have in his office.

“Lemon drop?” Dumbledore offered the bag to the Potions Master.

“No, thank you.” Snape just glared at him waiting for Dumbledore to get to the point.

“I didn’t see you at dinner.” Dumbledore observed.

“I prefer to eat alone until this matter is resolved.” Snape told him.

“Ah yes... about that....” Dumbledore began.

“Did you convince her to remove the curse, or not?” Snape interrupted.

“She has agreed to remove the curse,” Dumbledore told him.

Snape was pleased to see the Headmaster hadn’t lost his ability to convince people to do things they didn’t want to do and asked. “Where is the potion to reverse this?”

“As I said, she agreed to remove the curse,” Dumbledore repeated, “only after you have met certain conditions.”

“Conditions! What conditions?” Snape growled.

“You must formally apologise to Mr. Potter in the Great Hall at dinner for calling him a liar regarding something called a Calleach Demon and for accusing him of deliberately allowing another student to be hurt, when you knew there was no way he could have prevented it from happening.” Dumbledore laid out Miss Halliwell’s terms. “Once Harry has written her that you have done so, she will send you something to remove the curse.”

“You must be joking.” Snape couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “I have to say ‘I’m sorry’ to Potter and in
public! Do you have any idea what kind of trouble that would cause?”

“I know exactly what kind of trouble it can cause, but those were her terms.” Dumbledore told him. “I tried for over three hours to get her to change her mind, but she refused to budge.”

“You said that Mr. Potter has to write to her and tell her that I have apologised is that right?” Snape inquired.

“Yes.” Dumbledore confirmed that he had said that.

“Then it’s simple, all you have to do is get Mr. Potter to tell her I did.” Snape concluded. “She will never know the difference.”

“I’m afraid that is an order I can not give, Severus.” Dumbledore told him. “Mr. Potter has already indicated his unwillingness to lie to her and I do not wish to force him to do so. I am currently trying to get Mr. Potter away from that woman and back into the wizarding world. I would prefer Mr. Potter’s choice to stay to be voluntary and forcing him to lie to his aunt would not achieve that goal by the end of the school year.”

“Then we will just have to forge his handwriting.” Snape concluded. “It shouldn’t be that difficult.”

“I thought of that as well,” Dumbledore admitted. “However you saw those letters that Mr. Potter left with?” At Snape’s nod, he continued, “His aunt was most insistent that they were to be given to Mr. Potter unopened. I have no doubt that just like in the wizarding world, she has a way to insure that if anyone other than the intended recipient opens it first there will either be nothing there or the message will disappear. She probably put a code phrase in for him to use in his next letter to her so that she will know the letter came from him.”

“Aren’t you giving the woman a little too much credit?” Snape wondered. “You are beginning to remind me of Moody.”

“As much as I hate to say it, in the case of Harry’s aunt, I think it is better to err on the side of paranoia.” Dumbledore observed.

“So we have no choice?” Snape couldn’t believe that he would be forced to publicly apologise to... Potter.

“I see no other option at the moment Severus.” Dumbledore admitted. “Do you?”

End Flashback


Even now almost three hours later, Snape still had no idea how he was going to get around the conditions that stupid woman had set for reversing the curse.

He was a Slytherin as well as the Head of Slytherin House and Slytherin’s were well known for their cunning. However his ingenuity seemed to have deserted him at the moment.

Finally he decided to go do an extensive analysis on those greasy strands of string to see if he could figure out the potion she had used. Once he knew what had gone into it, he would be able to undo the potion without having to adhere to that woman’s conditions. He was one of the world’s foremost Potions Masters after all so it shouldn’t be that hard.

##############

Gryffindor Tower earlier

Ron and Neville met Harry as he entered the common room.

“What did the headmaster want to see you about, Harry?” Ron wanted to know.

Before Harry could answer him the Weasley twins hurried over and told him. “Harry, Wood is waiting for you down on the Quidditch Pitch. You’d better get down there.”

Looking as his watch, Harry saw it was 7:30. ‘Oh crap! I’m late. Wood’s not going to be happy about that. Neither is Professor McGonagall.’

Jamming the letters Dumbledore had given him into his pocket, Harry hurried back out through the portrait hole.

He collided with Oliver Wood, who was heading back to the Gryffindor common room, a short distance down the hall.

As Wood helped Harry back to his feet, he asked, “You okay, Potter?”

‘I’m fine.’ Harry assured him. ‘I was on my way to join you on the Quidditch pitch.’

“You don’t need to.” Wood told him. “It’ll be getting too dark to see out there soon. We’ll try again tomorrow.”

‘Sorry about that,’ Harry apologised as they headed back toward the Fat Lady.

“Couldn’t be helped.” Wood shrugged. “Fred told me the Headmaster called you to his office just as dinner was ending. Quidditch takes second place to that.”

From the tone of the older boy’s voice, Harry was willing to bet he had mentally added ‘unfortunately’ to that statement. If Ron and Wood’s reactions were anything to go by, then a lot of the young wizards seemed to be obsessed with Quidditch. Having never seen the game he didn’t understand why, but figured it was the same way a lot of boys back home were as obsessed with football. He personally preferred playing soccer, but he wasn’t obsessed by it.

As they stepped back through the portrait hole, Wood asked, “Why did the headmaster want to see you? Or is it something you can’t talk about?”

Harry shrugged. ‘The headmaster went to see my aunt earlier today and she gave him some letters to give to me.’

Fred and George were near the portrait hole when they came in and it got their attention when Harry mentioned his aunt. Moving quickly George laid a friendly arm on Harry’s shoulders and steered him toward Fred. “Dumbledore’s business with your aunt wouldn’t have anything to do with why Snape’s hair is suddenly multi-coloured, would it?”

‘I don’t know.’ It was the truth after all. Dumbledore hadn’t told him, but given that the elderly wizard was determined to get the curse reversed as soon as possible, it was a good guess. ‘The headmaster didn’t tell me why he went to see her, just that he had.’

“But she did curse him,” Fred observed, then when Harry didn’t agree right away, he asked, “didn’t she?”

‘What makes you so sure my aunt did anything to Snape?’ Harry tried to sound puzzled.

“Oh maybe because we heard he got a letter from her this morning. Then during your potions class his hair turned all the colours of the rainbow and from what we heard it was right after he took points from you.” George pointed out.

The common room began to grow quiet as they listened to Fred and George talk about what had happened to Snape.

The Gryffindors had thought at first that the Weasley twins had somehow managed to prank Snape until Ron Weasley told them about the letter and that Snape seemed to think that Harry Potter or his aunt was somehow responsible for what happened to him. Ron had then told the older Gryffindors that Harry wasn’t as afraid of Snape’s anger as he was of his aunt’s. That had set off a flurry of speculation about how a muggle, for it was a well-known fact that Harry Potter had been sent to live with his muggle relatives, could perform such a complicated curse.

“Did your aunt curse Snape?” Seamus Finnegan finally asked.

“Don’t be silly, Seamus. How could she have? Everyone knows that Harry has been living with muggles since You-Know-Who killed...” Hermione’s voice trailed off as she realised what she was about to say and whom she was about to say it in front of.

Harry quickly took advantage of the ensuing silence that Granger’s lack of tact had created and headed up to his dorm room so he could read the letters Dumbledore had given him. He could hear the others start in on Hermione about what she had said, but right now he really didn’t care very much. That girl seemed to have the same problem Ron Weasley did. Pru had called it terminal foot-in-mouthitis. He was glad though, that unlike Ron, she wasn’t in the habit of dragging others into trouble with her habit of speaking first and thinking later.

After reading the letter Grams had sent, Harry stared at the other three letters trying to decide which one to read first and finally decided to read Phoebe’s. It looked thicker than the other two.

Dear Harry,

When I told everybody at school you were going to school in a castle, they got soooo jealous. They’d thought you had gone back to Brewers until I told them you were going to private school your parents had already paid for. They were kind of upset like me that you had to go so far away, but they can’t wait til, you get back.

I’m sorry to hear that you have a teacher like Ms Cawston there. Given that they have different teachers like in junior and high school is there any chance you can try and get another teacher for the same class or even a different science class? I hope so.

Have you been able to explore the castle yet? Have you found any secret passages or dungeons? Does the place have ghosts in it?


“Harry,” Neville’s voice interrupted his reading.

‘Yes, Neville,’ Harry folded the letter and stuck it back in the envelope.

“I just wanted to know if you were all right.” Neville told him. “I mean given what Granger said.”

‘I’m fine,’ Harry assured him. ‘While Miss Granger didn’t intend to hurt me with what she’d said, she could’ve picked her words better. I’ve had a long time to get used to the idea that my parents were dead and that Voldemort killed them. I do miss them though.’

Neville shuddered at the mention of the Dark Lord’s name. “You’re awfully brave Harry.”

‘What makes you say that?’ Harry wanted to know.

“You said the Dark Lord’s name.” Neville told him. “Nobody ever says his name other than Dumbledore.”

Looking at the other boy, Harry said, ‘I don’t see why they don’t. He has a stupid name if you ask me. Who would name their kid Voldemort? I mean what nickname did he go by in school? Voldie? Personally, I like my aunt’s nickname for him.’

“And what does your aunt call him?” Neville couldn’t help being curious.

‘Moldy Voldie.’

##########

On Saturday evening Harry hurried through his dinner so he could get upstairs, get his broom and get out to the Quidditch pitch before anybody else saw him. He wanted to try it out before Wood joined him.

Ron had tried to tag along so that he could have a go on the broom, until Harry reminded him that Wood wanted to keep the fact that he was to be the Gryffindor Seeker a secret. He had pointed out that if Ron were seen flying the broom above the Quidditch pitch, it wouldn’t be a secret for very long.

In his eagerness to fly, Harry mounted his broom and took off once he reached the field. His flight path took him close to the three hoops at one end of the field. He circled them a couple of times and wondered what part they had in this wizarding game. The outer two rings looked a little smaller than the middle one, which appeared to be big enough to fly through.

He hovered close to it for a moment studying the ring, then backed his broom up and made a run though it and raced his broom through the ring on the other end. He did a couple of loop the loops through that hoop before punching the air in victory. Being able to fly almost made it worth being separated from his family... almost.

He continued to fly around the field until he heard a voice calling his name. Looking down he saw Oliver Wood setting a wooden box on the ground. Harry took his broom up and then dived like the hawk at the Birds of Prey show at the zoo had done, before pulling out of the dive at the last minute, so that the tips of his sneakers brushed the ground.

Wood looked at him impressed. “I see what Professor McGonagall was talking about. You’re a natural on a broom. Potter.”

Opening the box, Wood, began to explain the game of Quidditch to Harry. Once he had shown Harry the golden snitch that was going to be what he was responsible for, Wood pulled a bag of golf balls out from behind the box and told him, “It’s going to be too dark soon to practice with the Snitch, so we’ll use these instead. Mount up, Potter.”

Harry spent the rest of the time until the sun was almost gone catching the golf balls that Wood threw all over the field. Harry was impressed with how far and how hard he could throw them. He couldn’t help wondering what some of the football coaches at the high schools would have done if they saw him throwing a football like that. He was willing to bet they would have all been drooling and trying to get their hands on him.

Wood in the meantime was dancing in place as Harry caught every golf ball he threw. The Quidditch cup was theirs this year!

############

It took two weeks before Snape finally gave up and admitted defeat. While he had managed to identify every ingredient in the potion on the strands Potter’s infernal aunt had sent him, every counteragent he’d made failed. He was a Potions master and yet no matter what book he consulted, none of them listed any potion that could do what this one was to his hair made out of the ingredients he’d identified. Every evening he would try the new potion he’d come up with and in the morning he would wake feeling smug because his hair was back to its normal colour, but the first time he wrongly took points, the rainbow coloured hair was back.

About the only upside to the whole mess as far as he was concerned was that he was able to take points legitimately after telling them to pay attention to their work and the students failing to do so.

Snape’s presence at the teacher’s table Saturday evening, set of a flurry of speculation among the students, given that he hadn’t been seen at dinner in the Great Hall for the past couple of weeks. All the low voiced conversations made the Great Hall sound like a swarm of bees.

The students were also surprised and slightly disappointed to see that Snape’s hair was still its usual greasy looking black. Usually by now it had been turned multi-coloured. Had Snape finally figured out how to counter the curse? A lot of the students present hoped not. It had been a form of revenge for them. Knowing that when he took points from them for something that wasn’t their fault, he would wind up with hair that was coloured like a muggle clown’s.

According to the rumours floating around the school, the curse had been put on Snape by Potter’s muggle aunt. Though it was anybody’s guess how a muggle had managed it and some of those guesses had been wilder than others. And even though Potter was neither confirming or denying that his aunt had anything to do with the prank on Snape, his friend Ron Weasley had told anyone who asked about the letter Snape had gotten from Potter’s aunt and that his hair had changed colour for the first time after that.

There were a number of students hoping he hadn’t found the counter for a very different reason. All of them had had pranks played on them by Fred and George Weasley and they were now enjoying the looks of frustration on the twin’s faces. The twin’s reputation as pranksters was in danger because a muggle had been able to pull a prank on Snape that nothing and no one in the wizarding world could duplicate or counter.

Snape glared at the dark head he could see near the end of the Gryffindor table as he waited for the meal to end. He’d managed to find only one minor loophole in the conditions set by Potter’s aunt for removing the curse. She had said he had to apologise in public, but she never stipulated how many people it had to be in front of, or how many people had to be able to hear it. Snape waited until the students were getting up to leave, so that his approach would not be noticed before he headed toward the Gryffindor table.

Reaching the Potter brat just as he stepped away from the table, Snape called, “Potter.”

‘Yes sir,’ Potter turned to face him.

Snape caught his breath once again as he saw Lily’s eyes staring out at him from James Potter’s face. He also couldn’t help sneering at the sight of some of the Gryffindors who had stopped and were watching him carefully. What did they think he was going to do, harm Dumbledore’s ‘golden boy’? In front of witnesses! He had more sense than that.

“Mr. Potter,” Snape started to speak and then it felt as if something were blocking his throat and preventing the words from coming out. Swallowing, he tried again. “Mr. Potter, I would like to apologise for calling you a liar with regards to the Calleach Demon and for accusing you of allowing Mr. Longbottom to be hurt.”

The Potions Master’s voice had been so low that Harry could barely hear it over the voices of the other students. While he had no doubt that it was hard for a man like Snape to apologise, Harry couldn’t help the smirk that briefly crossed his face as he commented in a voice that was loud enough for those closest to him to hear, ‘I doubt that this is quite what my aunt had in mind for you to do, but I will tell her that you have apologised.’

Snape walked away, without acknowledging what Harry had said, his robes billowing out behind him.

Once Snape was out of sight, Ron tapped Harry on the shoulder and asked in a shocked voice, “Mate, did Snape just apologise to you?”

‘I guess so,’ Harry shrugged as he headed for the door.

Seamus Finnegan hurried to catch up with Harry and Ron as word began to spread that Professor Snape had apologised to Harry Potter and asked, “Why would he do that?”

‘Do I know how the man’s mind works?’ Harry countered.

“It has something to do with your aunt doesn’t it?” Ron guessed. “I heard you mention her, just before Snape left. So she did curse him somehow? How’d she do it? I mean she’s a muggle, how could she work magic?”

‘My aunt knows a number of people who know how to do a lot of things.’ Harry said mysteriously, not wanting them to know that Grams really could work magic. He hadn’t lied after all. Grams really did know a lot of people who could do a lot of different things. He knew even after only a month here that wizards didn’t think outside the box much and that they would assume she knew someone who could do real magic.

Ron and Seamus followed in silence as he headed back to the Gryffindor common room. He could hear the rest of the Gryffindors somewhere behind them all chattering loudly. Even though he couldn’t make out what they were saying, Harry was fairly certain he knew what they were talking about, and knew that by tomorrow they would treat him with even more awe and reverence because to them through his aunt, he had somehow gotten Snape to cave, when no one else’s parents had ever been able to do so. He also knew that he wouldn’t be able to convince them he was just a regular person, just like them. They had stuck him up on this pedestal and weren’t about to let him show that he was only human. He wondered how long it would be before something knocked him off it and whether it would be something he had actually done or that he was alleged to have done that would make them hate him?

Once he had cleared the portrait hole, Harry headed for the first year boys dorm, partly to avoid the awkward questions, at least for a while and partly so that he could get the letter off to Grams. Taking a notebook and pen out, Harry pulled the curtains of his bed closed to get some privacy so he could write the letter and ‘shift’ it off to Grams, then figure out how he was going to answer all the questions that were going to be asked tomorrow.

#############

It took about a week for everything to go back to normal, or at least as normal as it could get in magic school. It turned out to be the longest week of his life at least in Harry’s opinion.

Every time another student came up to congratulate him over the fact that his aunt had gotten Snape to cave, he couldn’t help wondering if their parents were wimps. Had none of the other student’s parents ever stood up to Snape? If not, then it was a real good indicator of just how cowardly they all were. Surely, even if they wouldn’t stand up for themselves, a parent would stand up for their child, if they were being attacked.

Harry had taken to keeping the medallion turned off when he wasn’t in class, otherwise he was certain he would have been yelling in frustration over the fact these people didn’t seem to get the message that he didn’t want to talk about what happened between him and Snape. That and the fact, that between practises for the first Quidditch match and lots of homework, keeping him busy, were the only things that kept Harry from screaming in frustration.

##############

Snape sat in the Great Hall, picking at his breakfast. He was waiting for the morning owls. He had noticed that Potter’s owl always delivered mail to him on Friday and while he wouldn’t admit it to anyone, he was hoping that today the snowy owl would have a delivery for him as well.

Flashback
As he was getting dressed, Snape heard a voice calling his name from the living room.

Putting on a robe, Snape went into the living room and saw Lucius Malfoy’s head in his fireplace.

“What can I do for you, Lucius?” Snape asked the disembodied head.

“I’ve heard from my son that a rumour is going around Hogwarts that you apologised to Harry Potter.” Lucius Malfoy began. “I told myself that Draco must have misunderstood. There is no way the Severus Snape I know would apologise to a
Gryffindor. And he certainly wouldn’t apologise to Harry Potter. Please tell me that Draco just misunderstood something he heard?”

“I’m afraid he didn’t.” Snape was surprised it had taken Malfoy this long to get the news.

“Did that meddling old fool Dumbledore make you apologise?” The elder Malfoy asked.

“Unfortunately not,” Snape countered dryly. “If it were Dumbledore, I probably could have put it off indefinitely or done it in private. Potter’s meddling aunt insisted on the public apology. It was part of her terms for reversing the hex she had placed on me.” Snape was very careful in his choice of words. Dumbledore had made it very clear that no one other than those who had met and felt the woman’s power were to know that Potter’s aunt might be anything but a muggle. “I think even you would find it hard to maintain a scary reputation with your hair resembling that of a muggle clown.”

“How could a muggle put a hex on you that you couldn’t reverse?” Malfoy inquired, since Snape’s explanation made no sense. After all even though they had never been able to find out where the boy was being hidden, all the Deatheaters who had managed to avoid being sent to Azkaban, knew that Potter was staying with his mudblood mother’s relatives. “Is it possible Dumbledore has been lying all these years?”

Snape again chose his words with care because none of the Deatheaters with the exception of himself, knew that Potter had been removed from the Dursley’s home over five years ago and that was one of the things that Dumbledore and the Ministry had all agreed should be kept secret. Even if they did have different reasons for wanting it kept secret. “I don’t know. Dumbledore is the only one who knows anything about the annoying woman and whatever he knows he is keeping to it himself. It may be that Potter’s aunt has had contact with witches and wizards and one of them made the curse up for her.”

“A curse that you a Master of the Dark Arts couldn’t reverse?” the elder Malfoy was openly sceptical.

“The curse appears to have come in two parts.” Snape told him. “A potion which I was able to figure out right away, but no matter what counteragent I tried, the multi-coloured hair would always return the first time I took points unfairly or gave points that weren’t earned. The spell component I couldn’t locate. There was nothing in any of the books here that when combined with that potion would have produced the effects that this one did. If it weren’t for the source, I would almost think this was some stupid prank of the Marauders, but given that there is only one of them left who is not in prison or dead, I doubt that she could have gotten this from them.”
End Flashback


Snape’s mind returned to the present when he heard the hooting of the owls as they entered the Great Hall. He looked up briefly to see if Potter’s snowy owl was amongst them and saw that she was. Another quick glance showed that she was heading toward him. A cloth pouch dropped from her talons onto the table in front of him, landing with a gentle thud before she headed toward her master with a number of envelopes in her beak.

Snape pulled out something that looked like it was wrapped in what the Muggle Studies teacher had called ‘plastik’ out of the pouch. He remembered well the childish pleasure the man had taken in popping the little bubbles that had covered a clear square sheet of the stuff. The outside of the plastik appeared to be covered in something similar to spellotape. As Snape cut open the package, popping a number of the bubbles, Dumbledore leaned over and asked. “Is that the counteragent, Severus?”

“It would appear so, Headmaster.” Snape examined the thick oily substance that was in the small wax sealed glass vial. There wasn’t much of it.

“There’s a note,” Dumbledore pointed out helpfully. “Maybe it contains instructions on how to use it.”

Picking up the note, Snape saw there was more poetry.

Because you’ve done as you were told.
Your hair will no longer be covered in colors bold.
Put this in your hair and comb it through,
And that is all you have to do.


He noticed there was a postscript.

PS: There is not enough for you to test so you will just have to take my word that it will do what I say it will.

Snape quickly and discreetly left the Great Hall, wanting to get this done before his first Potions class with the Gryffindors and Slytherins.

################

It had taken almost two weeks after Grams removed the curse from Snape before the other students stopped grumbling about the fact that the greasy-haired git was worse than before, now that he no longer had to worry about his hair changing colours. In fact it had taken til Halloween morning for them to really stop, and Harry thought it was only because something else had taken their attention. The first Quidditch game of the season was only a couple of weeks off and it was going to be between Gryffindor and Slytherin which from all Harry had heard was usually the most exciting game of the season, if not the most dangerous.

When Harry woke on Halloween morning, he smelled something wonderfully spicy in the air and wondered what the house elves were making for Halloween. It almost smelled like the pumpkin pie that Grams made at Thanksgiving. Harry sighed briefly, knowing that he wouldn’t be there this year for Thanksgiving.

When they got down to the Great Hall for breakfast, Harry followed his nose to the small loaves of orangey brown bread and the small dishes of some brown spread that looked like, but didn’t smell like apple butter. Feeling a little adventurous, Harry had one of them with his scrambled eggs and bacon. When he took his first bite, Harry moaned with pleasure. He didn’t know what the bread or brown spread was, but they were good. He made a mental note to see if Tally would give him the recipes or tell him where he could get some. He was certain Grams and Piper would love to have them.

###############

In Charms class, there were cheers when Professor Flitwick announced that today they would be learning how to make things fly. After breaking them into pairs, Flitwick placed a feather on each desk and told them they would be starting with something simple that wouldn’t hurt anyone if it dropped suddenly.

By the end of class though, only a couple of people had managed to get their feathers in the air. Harry though he had tried to arrange it differently had wound up sitting with Seamus Finnegan instead of Neville had been one of them after Flitwick replaced the one that Seamus had set on fire. Hermione Granger had been the other, though she had managed to annoy her partner Ron in the process.

In that bossy manner that she had, Hermione had tried to correct everything that Ron was doing, until the red head had thrown down his wand in disgust and challenged her to do it. She had gotten it right on the first try.

As they were heading through the halls toward their next class, Ron was complaining loudly to those around him. “It’s no wonder she hasn’t got any friends. I’m not surprised that no one can stand to be around little Miss Know-It-All.”

Harry felt someone push hard against him and then head past him. He recognized the bushy brown head as Granger’s. ‘She heard you.’

“So,” Ron countered hotly. “You know I’m right. She hasn’t got any friends simply because she’s a pushy know-it-all.”

‘That’s beside the point, Ron.’ Harry told him. ‘You shouldn’t go out of your way to deliberately say hurtful things about someone who’s done you no harm. How would you feel if someone said that about your sister?’

“Ginny?” Ron laughed. “Ginny’s not a know-it-all. And she definitely won’t be like Granger.”

Seeing that once again Ron didn’t understand what he was trying to say, Harry gave up and walked the rest of the way to class in silence.

################

Hermione didn’t join them in class, which was something of a surprise. For a moment there, Harry thought jokingly to himself that the world must be coming to an end if Hermione Granger was missing a class. She didn’t turn up for lunch or any of their afternoon classes either.

After the last class, Harry spent a little time trying to look for her, but the castle was huge. He even tried asking Hogwarts for help, but got the impression from the castle that she wanted to be left alone. He decided that if she still hadn’t shown up by the end of the feast he would speak to Professor McGonagall and see if she could help her.

Joining the others in the Great Hall for the Halloween feast, Harry was amazed at the change in the place. There were swarms of live bats flying around the room and the normally free-floating candles were illuminating carved jack-o-lanterns above the house tables. As he took his place beside Neville and Ron at the Gryffindor table, Harry heard Lavender and Parvati talking about how Hermione was in the girl’s bathroom and that she was refusing to come out. At least he could understand why the castle wanted to let her have her privacy. What he couldn’t understand was why none of the other girls wanted to help her. Even though she was bossy and had almost as little tact as Ron, she was still a girl and surely they should have wanted to help. Or was it because they were airheads like some of the girls into back home. The kind that Pru and Piper often ran into who didn’t want to do anything that would risk then losing their popularity because they were seen helping someone who was considered uncool. He personally didn’t know how you could tell the difference, since most of the girls seemed at least to him to be giggly airheads, but he would ask Piper when he was back home, maybe she would tell him. He also decided to try and save some of the food for Hermione, since it looked like she wasn’t going to be joining them for dinner either. He had no doubt that she would be hungry.

The food had just appeared on the golden plates used for the feasts, when Professor Quirrell ran into the Great Hall. Leaning over against the table nearest to the teacher’s table, he gasped loudly, “Troll.... in the dungeons.... Thought you should know.” Then he keeled over on to the floor as the students began to panic.

As the noise from the panicking students got louder, it took several tries by Dumbledore to get silence by shooting fireworks from the end of his wand. Each of the explosions had been louder than the last until he finally had the silence he needed to be heard.

“Prefects, lead your houses back to their dormitories.” Dumbledore ordered. “I want all teachers come with me to the dungeons.”

Feeling that he was finally in his element, Percy ordered. “Follow me. I want all first years to stick together.”

In a effort to avoid being trampled, Harry, Ron and Neville waited, until most of the Gryffindors had gone past before they joined the throng leaving the Great Hall.

“I wonder how a troll go into Hogwarts?” Neville asked, even though his companions had no more idea than he did.

“I don’t know,” Ron told him. “From what I understand they are supposed to be really stupid.”

‘It was probably let in,’ Harry commented absently.

“Do you think Peeves would have done it?” Neville inquired.

“Might’ve.” Ron put in. “Probably thought it would be funny. If he did it as a Halloween joke though it’s going to backfire on him. The Bloody Baron will deal with him once he finds out. The dungeons are Slytherin territory.”

As they passed another group of students hurrying in the opposite direction, Harry remembered there was someone who didn’t know about the troll. ‘Hermione!’

“What about her?” Ron didn’t understand why he was thinking about that know-it-all at a time like this.

‘Hermione doesn’t know about the troll.’ Harry reminded them. ‘She’s been in the girl’s bathroom since Charms class.’

Ron bit his lip at the reminder of the unkind things he’d said. “We’d better go get her then. Let’s just make sure that Percy doesn’t see us. Last thing I need is a Howler from mum about not following the rules.”

‘Are you coming with us, Neville?’ Harry asked.

Neville jumped, looking pale, then nodded.

Slipping down an empty side corridor, they headed toward the girl’s bathroom. They were almost there, when they heard footsteps coming quickly up behind them.

“Percy,” Ron hissed as they darted behind a statue.

It wasn’t Percy though. It turned out to be Professor Snape. He didn’t look to the right or left, instead he quickly moved up the corridor and out of sight.

“Where he’s going in such a big hurry?” Ron wanted to know. “The dungeons are in the opposite direction.”

“I don’t know and I don’t wanna know.” Neville told him. “Let’s just get Granger and get back to the common room before we’re missed.”

‘He’s heading for the third floor,’ Harry said as they continued on their way to the girl’s bathroom.

Smelling something foul in the air, Ron asked, “Can you guys smell that?”

‘Yuck,’ Harry got a disgusted look on his face. ‘Smells like dead, rotting fish.’

Neville looked like he was going to be sick.

‘There’s the girl’s bathroom.’ Harry whispered as they heard the sound of grunting and the thud of heavy feet coming up a nearby corridor. Suspecting that it was the troll and that he was no longer in the dungeon, Harry ordered ‘Let’s get in there, before the troll shows up. Grab the key Ron and we’ll lock the door once we’re inside.’

Hermione Granger was coming out of one of the stalls, wiping her eyes on the sleeves of her robes, just as the three boys darted in and did something she couldn’t see to the door. When she realised that they weren’t leaving, she said stiffly, “This is the girl’s bathroom.”

‘Hermione be quiet!’ Harry ordered as they moved further into the room. ‘There’s a troll out there.’

“A troll!” Hermione snorted in disbelief. “Surely you can come up with a better story than that.”

Before they could try again to silence her, the bathroom door slammed against the wall with a thud, and the noxious odour of the troll preceded it into the bathroom.

The troll upon spotting the group of first years, lumbered toward them his club raised.

‘Neville get Hermione out of here.’ Harry moved quickly to separate himself from the group, trying to attract the troll’s attention. ‘Ron, help me distract the troll.’

He had been shouting over the loud grunts the troll was making and noticed that the echoes of his voice were confusing the troll as to how many people there were. The troll swung its club at Harry since he was the closest target and Harry just managed to dodge out of the way so that he shattered a sink instead.

Gritting his teeth and trying not to let his fear overwhelm him since Harry was counting on him to get Granger out of the bathroom, Neville ran over to grab Hermione who stood frozen place at the sight of the troll. “Come one Hermione!”

When she still didn’t move Neville tugged hard on her arm, Neville told her, “We’ve got to get out of here, Granger!”

His movements however had attracted the attention of the troll and so when Hermione finally moved it wasn’t so much because of Neville as it was to escape from the troll’s club.

‘Ron! A little help would be appreciated!’ Harry called trying again to get the troll’s attention off Neville and Hermione.

“Oy, pea brain.” Ron called as he threw one of the pipes from the damaged sink at the troll. That got his attention away from the two who were still trying to make it to the doorway.

Harry noticed that the troll was slow and clumsy and realised that if they could make it fall, then they could get out of here. He needed something to make the floor slippery and the only thing he could think of was liquid soap and the only place he knew where to find it was at the manor or the grocery store where Grams usually shopped. He didn’t need a lot, so he focused his attention on shifting all the liquid soap from the kitchen and laundry room to the floor under the troll’s feet.

He was so busy concentrating on bringing it here, that he never noticed the troll’s club swinging toward him, until Ron slammed into him knocking him to the ground.

“You need to pay attention mate, or that troll will knock your block off.” Ron told him as they both dodged the swinging club again.

‘You’re right.’ Harry agreed. He could see the patch of soap on the floor, but it was no longer under the troll’s feet. ‘Ron, see that wet patch on the floor, we need to try and get the troll to step in it. It might make him slip and fall.’

“You’re nuts.” Ron told him. “What happens if he falls on us?”

‘It might be our only chance, unless you’ve got a better idea.’ Harry pointed out as they again dodged around the troll making it roar with rage.

The troll raised its foot to take a step towards them, as Ron raised his wand and said the first thing that came to mind, “Wingardium Leviosa!

The troll’s club flew up out of his hand as his foot came on the slick patch of clear liquid soap. It rose high over the troll’s head, as its arms flailed and its feet tried to regain their balance on the slippery floor. The club came back down and struck it in the forehead just as it started to fall over on to its back.

“Is it dead?” Neville asked from near the doorway.

“I don’t think so,” Ron told him. “I think we just managed to knock it out.”

There was a sudden slamming noise and the sound of running feet coming toward them. A moment later the room was filled with teachers. Snape, McGonagall, and Quirrell were all staring in amazement at the unconscious troll lying on the bathroom floor. Quirrell however quickly went from amazement to whimpering shock as he sat down on the nearest toilet.

As Professor Snape checked on the troll McGonagall glared angrily at the four Gryffindors. “What were you thinking?! Why aren’t you in your dormitory? Don’t you realise the danger you placed yourselves in?”

“Ma’am if they hadn’t found me, I’d be dead by now.” Hermione spoke up, but before she could says anything else and Harry could see that she was about to, he told her at least part of the truth.

‘Hermione has been in the bathroom all day because someone said something hateful to her.’ Harry didn’t look at Ron as he said this. ‘We knew she didn’t know about the troll. We were just trying to get her back to the dormitory before something happened, only the troll found us first.’

Harry had the impression that Professor McGonagall was a little like Grams. She could spot a deliberate lie a mile off, and he hadn’t exactly lied, he just hadn’t told the whole truth either.

“Is this true, Miss Granger?” McGonagall asked.

“Pretty much, ma’am.” Hermione agreed looking a little disappointed that she couldn’t finish whatever she’d intended to say.

“Well I must say you were pretty lucky.” McGonagall looked over at Snape who confirmed with a nod of his head that the troll was not a threat, at least not right now. “Not many first years can take on a fully grown mountain troll and live to tell about it.”

Looking at the three boys, she told them, “Twenty points for each of you boys and Professor Dumbledore will be told about your act of selflessness. Now why don’t you head back to your common rooms, the Halloween feast has been moved there.”

Snape glared at them as they headed toward the door and McGonagall added one last thing as they reached it. “Miss Granger, if you ever need a place to collect yourself again, please remember that my door is always open to the members of my house. That way we can avoid a repeat of this incident.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Hermione nodded as she followed the boys out of the room.

As soon as they were on their way back to the Gryffindor common room, Harry asked quietly, ‘What were you going to tell Professor McGonagall?’

Hermione looked at him in surprise. This was the first time he had started a conversation with her. “Only that I had gone looking for the troll because I thought I could deal with it on my own.”

“You were going to lie to McGonagall?” Ron stared at her in amazement. “You were actually going to claim that you disobeyed an instruction from the Headmaster to go look for a troll?”

“Uh huh,” Hermione was looking at the ground in front of her.

“Why?” Ron asked suspiciously.

“Because you didn’t have to come after me.” Hermione pointed out. “You didn’t know that troll was close by and even once you did, you didn’t leave me to face it alone.”

Harry didn’t bother pointing out that she might not have needed saving, if Ron could only learn to think before he spoke. Maybe tonight’s activities would make him think twice before he stuck his foot in his mouth again, but he wasn’t holding out much hope.

When they reached the common room they found it was packed and noisy. The four of them remained together throughout the rest of the evening, enjoying the food and drinks that had been sent up. Harry reflected it was like what Bogart had said in that movie ‘Casablanca’ this was going to be the start of a beautiful friendship.

###########

It took a long time for the party to wind down and Harry was beginning to worry that he might not be able to do the ritual he wanted for his Samhain observance. It took until 11:30 before he felt it was safe enough for him to go downstairs with the supplies grams had sent him over the last couple of weeks and out the portrait hole.

Silently he asked the castle to guide him somewhere where he could complete his ritual before midnight without anybody finding out. Following the inner promptings of the castle, he went up a couple of flights of stairs and there before him was a door. When he opened it to his surprise he saw what looked like the attic of the manor.

Quickly closing the door behind him and thanking the castle, Harry set out the white candles in a large circle and lit them. Grams had left the choice of how he observed Samhain up to him and he wanted to talk with his parents at the school they had gone to, so she had supplied him with the spell and necessary ingredients to do so. Stepping back he focused his attention on his parents as he spoke the words of the spirit calling spell.

‘Hear me now
Hear my cry
Spirit from the other side
Cross now the Great Divide’


It took a few moments before the spell took effect, but then they were standing there in front of him.

“Oh Harry, how you’ve grown.” His mother said, reaching out a ghostly hand to touch his face.

Her touch wasn’t cold like the ghosts of the castle and Harry couldn’t help wondering why. Was it because they had passed on to the other side? Deciding not to worry about that right now, he settled down to enjoy his visit with his parents. It wouldn’t be for very long, since he didn’t have the power yet to bring them through at any other time other than Halloween, the time when the walls between the worlds were the thinnest and they would go back up at midnight.

Chapter Text

Holiday Mischief


November, at least to Harry, had arrived with a vengeance. While he was used to cold weather since Grams usually took he and his cousins up to the Sierra Nevadas after the first snow fall up there, this was a new experience, especially in a drafty castle.

He had taken to wearing his long johns under his school clothes for extra warmth because he didn’t think the teachers would appreciate him wearing his sweatshirts to class. Snape especially wouldn’t appreciate him wearing them down to his cold drafty dungeons. He’d already made a mental note to pick up a few more pairs when he and Leo went back to New York so he could catch his flight home.

Today however, Harry wasn’t worrying about the cold. Instead he had overactive butterflies in his stomach because today was the day of his first Quidditch match.

What had him a little worried was that despite Wood’s best efforts the news that he was going to be playing as seeker had gotten out. Depending on the House they were in the reactions of the students had varied from congratulating him to saying that they were going to be running around on the field under him with a mattress to catch him if he fell.

His family had been very supportive of his playing and they all seemed to be certain he was going to do well. He had told Pru, Piper, and Phoebe that he was going to be playing soccer on his House’s team and they had all wished him luck. Phoebe had even sent him a rough drawing of a trophy when she found out that if their team won all its matches they would be award the school championship cup. She had put on the bottom of the drawing that she wanted to be the first to give him the cup she knew he was going to win.

Grams who knew that he really was going to be playing Quidditch had also wished him luck, but she had also cautioned him to be careful saying she had no desire to explain to the girls how he broke every bone in his body while playing soccer.

After dressing in a grey sweat shirt and jeans, Harry headed down to the Great Hall to get breakfast. As he passed a window that looked out onto the Quidditch pitch, he could see Hagrid bundled up and doing something to the brooms.

When he reached the Great Hall, Harry nodded to Hermione as he sat down at the Gryffindor table.

Given that Wood had been calling a lot of extra practises since Halloween, Harry had had cause to be grateful that Hermione was now a friend. She had been a godsend in helping him keep up with his homework so his grades wouldn’t start slipping. She had been kind enough to check over his homework and help him find any errors so they could be fixed. She has also lent him the book she had borrowed from the library before their first flying lesson: Quidditch Through The Ages, so he could read up on and understand the sport a little better.

After their adventure with the troll, he, Ron, Hermione, and Neville seemed to have formed their own study group in the corner of the Gryffindor common room. He had heard some of the other Gryffindors commenting on what a strange group they made and the fact that they couldn’t understand why Potter was hanging around with Hermione, even if he had saved her life from a troll. He had to admit they were right about the oddity of the study group. Ron was one of those who just seemed to want to skate by, putting only the minimal effort into his studies, while he and Neville tried to do the best they could even if they weren’t the brightest in the class. Hermione though was the exact opposite of Ron though. She seemed determined to wring every last bit of information out of her books for every assignment and that usually led to her papers being twice as long as they had to be.

Harry had noticed that a few of the teacher’s winced whenever they saw Hermione’s homework, though they never said anything to her about it. They probably knew that it would do no good. Professor Snape so far had been the only one to get her to stick to the length he wanted and not go beyond it, but he had had to use what Harry would have called shock therapy to do so.

Snape had only put up Hermione’s habit of writing extremely long essays twice, before telling her that if she handed in another essay that was longer than he had requested he would give her a zero on the assignment and take ten points from Gryffindor, for her failure to follow his instructions. Hermione must have thought he was kidding, though why she would think that was something Harry couldn’t figure out. It was quite clear that the man had no sense of humour. She had received a rather rude awakening on this fact when on the next assignment, she had done a five foot essay on the effects of various types of lemon grass on the potions that required them, instead of the two feet Snape had requested. After taking one look at the roll of parchment she had spent three hours on, Snape told her she had failed to follow his instructions and therefore would receive zero for the essay and was docked the promised ten points from Gryffindor. The expression of utter shock on her face when Snape had told her that, had been one that Ron talked about for hours in the boy’s dorm, until Harry reminded him that the last time he had said such hurtful things Hermione had nearly been killed by a troll.

Harry couldn’t help wondering how she would react if she really did fail one of her courses, since grades seemed to be the end all and be all of Hermione’s existence. He made a mental note to talk to Grams and his cousins to see if they had any ideas of what could be done for Hermione because she needed to realise that there was a world outside of classes, studying, and homework.

Thinking about Snape reminded him that he was going to make another try at getting Quidditch Through The Ages back from the Potions Master some time soon. The man had confiscated the library book yesterday after making up a rule about library books not allowed outside the school so he could take points away. They hadn’t been outside the school grounds. They had been in the courtyard and that was school grounds and a lot of the older students had been studying outside when the weather had been nice in September and October, so they knew he was just looking for an excuse. He’d said as much to Ron, Neville, and Hermione as they watched the greasy haired man limp away.

Remembering the limp, Harry’s thoughts went back to last evening when he’d made his first attempt to get the book back so Hermione could return it to the library.

Flashback

He decided to try and see if Snape would give it back if he went to the staff room and asked. The idea in his mind being that Snape couldn’t refuse in front of the other teachers. He had gotten quite a shock when he opened the staff room door. Snape and Filch were the only ones there and Snape had his robes raised above his knees as Filch was trying to help him tend to his bloody and mangled leg.

He remembered very well Snape’s words before the man realised Harry was there. “
Blasted thing. How are you supposed to keep your eyes on all three heads at once?

Before he could back out of the doorway, Harry heard a gasp and then, “
POTTER!

‘I didn’t mean to interrupt, sir,’ Harry told him. ‘I just came to get the book back that you took from me this afternoon.’

“Even if I did have the book here, why would I give it back?” Snape growled, limping over to face the boy.

‘So that it can be returned to the library by the person who took it out, sir.’ Harry told him. ‘Sir, not to be rude or anything, but you might want to get Madame Pomfrey to have a look at your leg instead of tending it yourself.’

“I can take care of my own injuries just fine. I would suggest that you keep your nose out of business that doesn’t concern you, Potter.” Snape tightly clenched his fist as if he were restraining the impulse to hit Harry. “I would also suggest that you return to your common room, before I dock so many points from Gryffindor that they won’t get out of negative territory for the next hundred years.”

Without another word and without the book he had gone after, Harry returned to the Gryffindor common room in a much more thoughtful mood than when he’d left it.

When he rejoined his friends in their corner of the common room, Ron saw that he didn’t have the book with him and asked, “Wouldn’t he give it to you?”

‘Said he didn’t have it.’ Harry told him.

Seeing something in Harry’s expression that the other two had missed, Neville asked, “What’s the matter?”

In a low voice, Harry told them what he’d seen in the staff room.

“So that’s where he was going when we saw him on Halloween.” Ron breathed. “He went up to the third floor to try and get past that dog. He’s after whatever it’s guarding. I’ll bet he was the one who let the troll in. It did come in through the dungeons after all”

Hermione had instantly disagreed. “No,... he wouldn’t. I know that Snape’s not a nice person, but he wouldn’t steal something that Dumbledore is trying to keep safe.”

“Hermione, you have to get rid of this idea that all the teachers are saints or something.” Ron snapped.

“I’m with Ron on this, Hermione.” Neville told her. “I think he was trying to get past that dog and to whatever it’s guarding.”

“What about you. Harry?” Hermione noticed that he had been silent since telling them what he had seen.

‘I know he’s up to something and it involves that dog.’ Harry told her. ‘He isn’t an innocent in this, no matter how much you would like to think he is, Hermione.’

“What could that dog be guarding?” Neville wondered.

End Flashback



Ron plopped down into a seat beside Harry and tapped him on the shoulder when he gave no indication that he saw him, asking. “Everything all right, Harry? Are you ready for the game, mate?”

Bringing his thoughts back to the present and the fact that he would soon be facing the Slytherins in front of the whole school, playing a game he had never even seen before, Harry shrugged. ‘Guess so. We’ll find out if I am in a little while.’

#############

Harry followed the rest of the team out of the Gryffindor locker room and onto the pitch. All seven of them were dressed in scarlet robes. Even though he knew it probably wouldn’t change for another few years at least it felt weird to know that he was the smallest member of the team. A few years ago, he had been worried because he didn’t seem to be growing as quickly as the other boys around him. Dr. Weyth had explained, that because the Dursleys had starved him when he was younger, that this was normal. He’d been told to expect his biggest growth spurts when he hit puberty because his body was still playing catch up among all the other normal processes that went along with growing up.

As they entered the pitch, Harry saw that the stands were full of cheering students and teachers. He also saw near the Gryffindor banners a fluttering banner that said: ‘Potter for President’. He grinned for a moment at the thought of America’s reaction if they realised they’d elected a witch for President.

When they reached the center of the pitch, Harry saw Madame Hooch waiting and the Slytherins who were wearing green and silver, approaching.

Madame Hooch glared at both captains, before saying, “I want a nice, fair game from all of you.”

Harry noticed that she seemed to be staring hard at the Slytherin Captain as she said this. The Slytherin Captain Marcus Flint tried to give her an innocent look, but Harry was fairly certain that Madame Hooch wasn’t buying it. If he hadn’t already known Slytherin’s reputation, Madame Hooch’s expression would have warned him this was probably going to be a very dirty game.

“Mount your brooms!” Madame Hooch ordered.

Once they were all mounted, Madame Hooch blew her silver whistle and fifteen brooms shot into the air. Her aide on the ground opened the box with the Quidditch balls and released them, throwing the quaffle into the air.

As Harry took his position above the Quidditch pitch, he could hear the twins’ friend Lee Jordan start the play-by-play for the game. Wood had told him to keep above the action for as long as he could, since the Slytherin beaters had a habit of trying to take out the other team’s seeker.

“Budge up there.” A voice spoke up from behind Ron, Neville, and Hermione where they were standing watching the game.

Recognizing the groundskeeper from when he’d gone to visit him with Harry, Ron said, “Hello Hagrid,” as they shifted over to allow him to join them.

“Bin watchin’ from me hut,” Hagrid told them, patting the binoculars hanging from his neck, “but it isn’t the same as seeing it from the stands. Has there bin any sign a the Snitch yet?”

“Not yet.” Ron told him, returning his attention to the game. “There hasn’t been much for Harry to do yet.”

“If he’s kept outta trouble that’s somethin’,” Hagrid used his binoculars to scan the sky looking for Harry.

Harry continued the scan the area looking for a sparkle of gold. The first time he thought he’d seen it, he nearly got clobbered by a Bludger, but it turned out to be the reflection off one of the twin’s watches.

“All right there, Harry?” Fred yelled as he chased after another bludger that Harry had just dodged and sent it in the direction of the Slytherin Captain Flint.

Harry didn’t bother replying as he caught sight of a flutter of gold near one of the Slytherin Chaser’s ear. The Chaser had dropped the quaffle as he realised what was beside him. He dove after that flutter of gold and was followed by the Slytherin Seeker Higgs. Higgs was good, but Harry was faster. He almost had his hands on the little gold ball, when someone suddenly got between him and the Snitch, forcing his broom to go off course with him holding on for dear life.

Harry could hear the Gryffindor side of the stands yelling in outrage as Madame Hooch awarded a penalty shot to Gryffindor for Flint’s deliberate blocking attack. He could also hear Lee Jordan going n and on about what Flint had done and Professor McGonagall reprimanding him for it. He on the other hand, once he’d gotten control of his broom back, resumed his search for the Snitch, which had once again vanished.

It was just as he successfully dodged another bludger, that Harry’s broom gave an unexpected lurch. For a brief moment he thought that he hadn’t been quite as successful at dodging the bludger as he’d thought and that maybe it had hit the broom, when it gave another, even stronger lurch and he had to grab on with both hands to stay on. He was fairly certain a Bludger couldn’t cause this type or damage, which meant that something external was acting on his broom. Someone had cast a spell on his broom!

Harry gripped the broom tightly with his hands and knees as it continued to fly erratically. As he fought to stay on, Harry’s mind raced trying to come up with a counterspell.

In the stands, Hagrid mumbled, “Dunno what Harry thinks he’s doing.” He followed the progress of the Nimbus with his binoculars. “If I didn’t know better, I would think he’d lost control of his broom... but that’s not possible...”

His words brought the attention of Harry’s friends to the broom that was slowly rising higher and higher. Other people also became aware of the situation and started pointing up at him. There were gasps from a number of throats as Harry’s broom started rolling over and over.


As the broom came out of its third barrel roll, Harry called out,

Guardian spirits all around
Please help keep me from falling to the ground.



Those in the stands saw Harry’s broom give a sudden hard lurch, and then he was left hanging in the air from his broom.


“Did something happen to his broom when Flint blocked him?” Seamus wondered.


The twins had also seen what was going on and had abandoned the bludgers and were trying to get close enough to Harry to catch him if he fell. However every time they got close enough, the force controlling Harry’s broom would take him higher.


“Naw that couldn’a done it.” Hagrid disagreed, though his voice was shaking. “Can’t nothing interfere with a broom like the Nimbus Two Thousand... exceptin’ maybe powerful Dark magic. An’ no kid can work tha’ kinda magic.”

Hermione grabbed Hagrid’s binoculars and started searching the crowd.

Just as Ron was about to ask her what she was doing, she said triumphantly, “I knew it.”

“What?” Ron wanted to know.

“Look at Snape.” She handed him the binoculars.

Ron quickly scanned the crowd as mist started to roll in. He found Snape in the middle of the stands opposite them. He had his eyes fixed on the sky and seemed to be talking to himself. That was all he saw before the mist started making it harder to see him.

“He’s doing something.” Hermione told him as she began pushing her way through the crowd. “He’s jinxing Harry’s broom.”

“What can we do?” Neville asked as he followed Ron and Hermione over to the other stands.

“Leave it to me.” Hermione told them as she headed up into the section where Snape was sitting.

She didn’t know where the mist had come from or what was making it so thick so fast and she didn’t care. It was buying Harry time. It was making it harder for Snape to see his target clearly and from what she had read about jinxes, eye contact with your target was very important.

As she moved down the row behind Professor Snape, Hermione was concentrating so hard on reaching her target and the words that she had to say, that she never noticed that she knocked Professor Quirrell head first into the row in front of him. Kneeling down so she wouldn’t be seen, Hermione said the spell and bright blue flames shot out of the tip of her wand and onto Snape’s robe.

The sudden yelp from Snape told her that she’d done her job in diverting his attention and she quickly scooped the flames off his robe and into the glass jar she had in her robe pocket. She headed off before he discovered her presence even through the mist, which now seemed to be thinning as rapidly as it had come.

By the time she had rejoined the other two, Harry was back on his broom. A moment later, they saw him speeding toward the ground and as he got closer, he clapped his hand over his mouth as if he were going to be sick. She heard Neville moan as Harry hit the ground, landing on all fours. They saw him cough and then something gold popped out of his mouth.

‘I got the Snitch!’ he called, holding it up for everyone to see.

Needless to say the game ended in complete confusion, with Marcus Flint protesting the Gryffindor win, because Potter had almost swallowed the bloody Snitch. Madame Hooch however refused to disqualify the game because Potter hadn’t broken any rules.

################

Staring at the canopy of his bed, Harry was finding it hard to go to sleep.. His mind just wouldn’t shut down. It kept going over and over the events of the day; from the attack on his broom, to the discussion in Hagrid’s hut later.


Flashback

“I’m telling you it was Snape!” Ron continued to insist. “Hermione and I both saw him jinxing Harry’s broom. He was muttering and wouldn’t take his eyes off him. He didn’t even break eye contact when that odd fog came in.”

“Rubbish,” Hagrid disagreed as he poured another cup of strong tea for Harry, Ron, and Hermione. “Why would Snape do somethin’ like that? I know he’s not fond of Harry, or any other Gryffindor for that matter, but he has no reason to want to hurt Harry.”

“I know all about jinxes, Hagrid.” Hermione countered. “I’ve read all about them. For a jinx to work, the caster has to keep eye contact and believe me when I tell you: Snape never took his eyes off Harry’s broom.”

Harry took a drink from his cup to keep from saying something he shouldn’t to Hermione. He wasn’t supposed to know any more about magic than they were, but it was stupid to think you knew everything there was to know about a subject, simply because you read a book or books about it. Grams who was every bit as arrogant as Professor Snape in her own way, and who had been using magic almost all her life, wouldn’t have said something like that because she knew there were things out there she didn’t know and hadn’t encountered yet. That was why her Book of Shadows and his kept growing. Every new force for good or evil encountered and every new spell used for a specific purpose went into the Book so it would help future generations. Hermione had only been working with magic for a couple of months and yet she was so certain that she knew everything. He wondered how long it would take for her to realize that not all the answers she would need in life or when it came to using magic could be found in a book.

Hermione mused thoughtfully, “I do wonder where that fog came from. I mean it appeared at just the right time and from out of nowhere. Then it left as soon as the threat to Harry was dealt with.”

‘Maybe one of the teachers did it?’ Harry suggested, ‘or maybe one of the older students?’

Hermione looked stunned at the idea and asked Hagrid. “Can wizards control the weather?”

“That only happens in fairy tales. Even Merlin couldn’t control the weather.” Ron told her. “Any way, we don’t have time to chase fairy tales. We need to figure out how to stop Snape before he really does kill Harry.”

“An’ I’m tellin’ ya that Snape has nothin’ ta gain by killing Harry.” Hagrid repeated.

Remembering the bloody, mangled leg he had seen the night before, Harry said, ‘that’s not entirely true Hagrid.’

“Huh,” Hagrid stared at him puzzled. “What would Snape have to gain if you were hurt or killed?”

‘My silence about what he was up to on Halloween night, when the troll got in.’ Harry told the large man. ‘I know that he tried to get around that three headed dog on the third floor and got hurt in the process. He may be trying to steal whatever it’s guarding.’

Hagrid stared at him in surprise. “How do you know about Fluffy?”

Fluffy?” Ron looked like he’d swallowed a lemon, pits and all. “That thing’s called Fluffy? And how do you know what it’s called.”

“Oughta know. He’s mine after all.” Hagrid told them. “Bought ‘im when he was a pup off a Greek chap at a pub las’ year. Lent ‘im ta Dumbledore fer a bit, ta guard...”

Having a feeling this was part of the reason he was at Hogwarts in the first place, Harry asked eagerly, ‘Yes.’

“Can’t tell ya any more.” Hagrid told him gruffly. “It’s Top Secret, it is.”

“But Snape’s trying to steal it.” Ron countered.

“Rubbish,” Hagrid replied. “Snape’s a Hogwarts’ teacher. He wouldn’t do anythin’ of the sort.”

“Then why did he try to kill Harry, if not to silence him about what he saw.” Hermione calmly pointed out. “Remember both Ron and I saw him jinxing Harry’s broom.”

Harry was surprised at the change in Hermione. Yesterday, she never would have accused a teacher of being involved in anything underhanded, but today’s events seemed to have knocked Snape off that pedestal that she had placed all the teachers on.

“Codswallop! I don’t know why Harry’s broom acted the way it did, but Snape wouldn’t try an’ kill a student. Now you three just listen ta me. Yer meddlin’ in things that don’t concern ya. You just fergit all about that dog an’ you fergit what it’s guardin’. That’s between Dumbledore and Nicholas Flamel....” Hagrid’s mouth shut abruptly as he realised what he’d just said.
End Flashback



He grinned slightly as he remembered Neville’s reaction to the name of the three-headed dog when he told him about it after their meditation session. He had to agree with Neville about one thing. If ever there was a dog less deserving of the name Fluffy, it was the one in the third floor corridor.

############

November flew by, for which Harry was grateful, because even though he had friends, he was missing his family. Inbetween homework, classes and other activities, including trying to find out who Nicholas Flamel was, Harry was counting down the days to December 20th and the train, which would take him back to London so he could see them. They were learning more now in class even though for Harry it was still weird using a wand instead of a spoken spell to shape the magic.

Potions was the only class that hadn’t changed that much from the first day. Snape was still very nasty to the Gryffindors and Harry in particular. Harry had made it a habit to partner with Neville to try and help the other boy through and it usually worked, unless Snape hovered over their shoulder like he was today.

Today Snape had them working on a pain relieving potion. From the directions, Harry knew it was a potion that required extreme precision in both the adding of ingredients and the way it was prepared. One mistake in either timing or the order of the ingredients and they might wind up with a highly acidic brew instead of the potion they were after.

Neville tried to ignore Professor Snape who seemed to have decided today was the day to spend most of the class time harassing Harry and by extension him, since he was Harry’s Potions’ partner. Whenever he wasn’t handing out point to the Slytherins or taking points from the other Gryffindors, Snape seemed to take great delight in singling out them. While Harry had told him he was doing better in both the meditation and tai chi lessons, Neville still couldn’t help feeling nervous every time Snape came close to him. The man always gave him the impression he wanted to chop him up for potion ingredients. Harry had done what he could to try and get the man to stop hovering around their workstation, but while that had gotten him to move away for a little while, it had also cost Gryffindor ten points and gotten a Harry chewed out for not grinding the Blessed Thistle leaves fine enough. Personally Neville thought if they had been ground any finer, they wouldn’t even be visible.

Neville picked up the ground Blessed Thistle and prepared to add it to his potion, only to have Harry softly tell him. ‘Not yet, Neville, you need to wait another minute.’

“I said no talking, Mr. Potter.” Snape growled.

Snape’s sudden appearance at Neville’s elbow caused his hand to jerk and some of the ground herb fell into his cauldron. The reaction was immediate. The contents of the cauldron turned a dull orange and smoke and a stench rose from it. Harry quickly pulled him out of the way before the cauldron belched out a blob of orange goo in Snape’s direction. The Potion’s Master dodged it and the orange glob landed on the desk behind them and began eating it’s way through the desk.

When Neville’s cauldron started to bulge alarmingly while the contents continued to bubble and belch, Snape quickly encased it in a magic bubble-shaped shield to prevent further damage to his potions lab.

“Stupid boy,” Snape glared at Longbottom. “You are a hazard to the Wizarding world. How someone as inept as you obviously are at magic got a letter to Hogwarts boggles my mind. You are a disgrace to your family and the Wizarding world, Longbottom.”

Harry could feel Neville’s arm quivering under his grasp as the class listened to Snape verbally rip the other boy to shreds. Finally he’d had enough and calmly told the Potions Master, ‘you are partially to blame for this accident sir. You startled Neville while he was holding some of the ground thistle. If I didn’t know better, I would say you did it deliberately.’

“Your comments have not been requested, Mr. Potter.” Snape growled. “Fifty points from Gryffindor for your insolence and you will have detention here tonight. Don’t be late or you will have detention every night for the next month.”

Without saying another word, Harry returned his attention to his potion as Snape waved his wand and floated the now melted cauldron in its bubble shield to a location where it wouldn’t cause much damage.

Once they were far enough away from the Potions classroom where they wouldn’t be overheard, Ron commented. “That took some guts mate. Talking back to Snape like that I mean.”

‘Well he deserved it.’ Harry told the other boy. ‘He knows Neville gets very nervous when he’s nearby and he seems to delight in terrifying him.’

“Maybe you shouldn’t have said what you did Harry.” Hermione commented as she came up behind them.

“Why not?” Ron wanted to know. “He was just sticking up for his fellow Gryffindor.”

“Snape is already mad at you and even though you disagree with our idea that he was trying to kill you...”

‘Only because it would be too obvious that he was the prime suspect.’ Harry pointed out.

“Anyway, as I was saying, there’s no need to make him even angrier at you.” Hermione continued. “You’ve lost points for Gryffindor and gotten a detention that is going to put you in close contact with him tonight. Who knows what could happen.”

‘He won’t do anything stupid or obvious, because everyone knows I have a detention with him, so if I come back hurt or worse after it, it will make him look bad because everybody will automatically assume he was to blame.’ Harry told her. ‘Don’t worry. Snape may be a lot of things, but I don’t think really stupid is one of them.’

############

It was about two weeks after the incident in potions and his subsequent detention that Hedwig made an unusual delivery from Harry’s family. Usually on Fridays she brought him a packet of letters, but this time she brought him a box about the size of one of Hermione’s books.

After settling the box gently on the table beside Harry, Hedwig, perched on her master’s shoulder.

‘Thank you, Hedwig.’ Harry told the owl as she started preening his hair.

Holding up some bacon, Harry raised his arm so she could shift her perch and get it. Hedwig hooted softly, then nipped his fingers affectionately before taking the piece of bacon.

“What’s in the box?” Ron asked around a mouthful of food.

Ron’s lack of manners earned him a glare from Hermione as Harry cut the string and then cut open the tape sealing the box. On the very top Harry saw snapshots. The kind that would fit into your wallet and whether by design or luck Phoebe’s was the one on top. Turning it over he saw that she had written: So you don’t forget what I look like. Harry snickered at the idea that he could ever forget Phoebe. She was one of those unforgettable people who had a soul overflowing with life.

Harry’s snicker pulled Hermione’s attention away from her book again and she saw Harry was holding what looked like a muggle snapshot of a dark-haired girl. Curious, she asked, “Who is that, Harry?”

‘One of my cousins. She wanted to make sure I didn’t forget what she looked like.’ From the tone of his voice, Hermione could tell he was rather fond of his cousin.

“May I see the picture?” Hermione asked, holding out her hand.

There was a slight hesitation before Harry handed the picture over. ‘Just don’t hand it around please.’

“I'll give it right back.” She promised.

Hermione had a feeling the picture didn’t do this girl justice. There was something about that face and the lively looking eyes that made her want to meet Harry’s cousin.

“Awful big box for just that picture.” Ron commented, peering over to look at the contents. “What else is in there?”

Having just caught sight of the triquetra symbol on one of the box flaps, Harry quickly closed the box, before Ron could reach in. ‘Just snacks and stuff from home. They know I can’t get them here and probably thought I might be missing a taste of home.’

Harry got up from the table, saying, ‘I need to put this in my trunk before Potions.’

Hermione handed the picture back to Harry. “Your cousin looks like a nice person.”

‘She is.’ Harry agreed. ‘I’m looking forward to seeing her again at Christmas.’

“I would like to meet her.” Hermione said as she followed Harry back up to the Gryffindor common room. “Maybe we could get together over the Christmas holidays.”

Thinking quickly Harry told her. ‘I’m afraid not. We’re going to be visiting some relatives in America this Christmas. They came over last year and this year is our turn. In fact according to her last letter, my Aunt has made arrangements for a friend to pick me up at King’s Cross and take me to Gatwick to meet up with them so we won’t miss our flight.’

“Maybe we can do it some other time.” Hermione suggested looking slightly disappointed.

‘I’ll talk to my aunt and see what she says okay.’

##############

“Come on Harry,” Ron called as he started to follow the other boys out of the dorm room. “You’re going to miss dinner.”

‘No I won’t.’ Harry countered. ‘I need to take care of something before I go down. Save me a place, okay?’

Ron nodded and closed the door.

Getting the box from his trunk, Harry dumped the contents on the bed and quickly found what he was looking for. There were two large packages of what looked like liquorice whips there. Grams knew he hated liquorice. That was Pru’s favourite candy. Putting the rest of the snacks back in the box and that back in his trunk, Harry turned his attention to the liquorice. Grams’ disguise spells were definitely first class. The packages even felt like liquorice whips.

Hoping she hadn’t used one of her more complicated glamour spells, Harry chanted:

Remove the disguise
meant to keep these safe from prying eyes.


For a moment he thought the usual counterspell had failed, but the packages of liquorice slowly changed to reveal two packages of herbs wrapped in plastic bundles. There was a letter fastened to one of them. As he expected it was from Grams.

Harry dear,

From your letter a couple of weeks ago, it is apparent that Snape still has not learned restraint, nor has he given up his grudge. It seems the man will need to be taught another lesson. I’m sorry this took so long to get to you, but I had a hard time locating some of the ingredients needed.

Now, since I doubt that Snape will be foolish enough to touch anything I send and since I have no direct access to that castle, I am going to need you to make up the potion. The instructions on how to prepare it and the spell to say over it are on the next page. The potion itself requires about a week to steep once it has been prepared to reach full potency, so you want to start on it as soon as you can.

Also if I remember correctly your Book has a summoning charm for a Celtic mischief-maker known as a Puck. If you can get one of them to help you, they should be able to slip to the potion into his drink for you.

Once that has been done nature will take its course.

All of us are looking forward to your return.

Love

Grams


Harry put the herb bundles next to his potions supplies and then headed down to the Great Hall for dinner.

############

It was almost eleven before Harry was able to sneak out of the Gryffindor tower so that Hogwarts could guide him to a safe place to make the potion his aunt had sent him the ingredients for. As he rounded a corner, an uneasy feeling swept over him and it sent him scurrying for the nearest hiding place. He just made it into the shadows when Snape swept past his robes billowing out behind him.

Harry sent a quick thought of gratitude to Hogwarts, certain that she had shielded his presence from Snape. That man had an even more fearsome reputation for finding those out past curfew than Filch and Mrs. Norris did. A moment later he felt a warm presence surround him like a hug and smiled. He waited a few more minutes until the uneasy feeling went away, before leaving his hiding place and then followed the promptings of Hogwarts to a closed door behind a tapestry.

Opening the door Harry again found himself in a replica of the manor attic. He didn’t know how it could be here, but that didn’t matter, because he knew that everything he needed to brew the potion would be here.

It took him about an hour to get the potion prepared and before it could be bottled to steep for a week, Harry pulled out the spell his aunt had written and read it over several times before saying:

This man’s true nature is known
Though to most of the world it is hidden from sight.

With one sip through his physical form his true nature shall be shown
From that moment until the end of twelfthnight.


There was a flash of light from the potion as soon as he said the last word and the amount of liquid in the cauldron shank dramatically. He waited a few moments to see if there was going to be any more reaction from the contents of the small cauldron, before opening the small bottle he’d brought, and putting a funnel in the mouth of it, poured the contents of the cauldron into the bottle. There was just enough to fill the bottle. Sealing the bottle, Harry slid it into the dark silk bag he had brought along. The instructions from his aunt had indicated that no light must hit the potion for a week once it was bottled.

############

Entering the copy of the manor attic, Harry moved to set his Book of Shadows on the waiting stand. It had been one week since the potion had been made so now it was time to summon Puck.

Opening the Book to the correct page, Harry read the spell through a couple of times to focus his mind on what he was about to do. It was his first summoning and given that Puck was an unparalleled mischief-maker he couldn’t afford any mistakes, or Puck might turn his attention to him.

I call far and wide
for one whose deeds of mischief are well-known.
Puck, please come to my side
And aid me with some mischief of my own.


Spell said, Harry waited to see if Puck would answer his call.

It was several minutes before a small windstorm appeared in the room. A little creature resembling a faun to a certain extent and slightly shorter than he was, appeared a moment later. There were little horns coming out of his head and there was a lively grin on the ageless face.

As the faun investigated his surroundings, he glanced at Harry and asked. “Ye summoned the Puck?”

‘Yes, I did.’ Harry nodded.

“Tis a long time since I be summoned ta Hogwarts.” Puck commented. “An’ e’en longer since one a the green way requested my aid. What is it ye be needin’ Puck’s help with?”

‘I would like to ask if you would get this potion into the drink of one Professor Severus Snape at breakfast tomorrow morning?’ Harry showed him the bottle.

“Ye hae the shiftin gift, why do ye not do it?” Puck wanted to know.

‘I only came into my gift this year and am not sure that I could get the potion into only Professor Snape’s goblet.’ Harry informed him. 'I don't want to accidentally get it into the wrong goblet.'

“Will it cause the man harm?” Puck inquired.

‘I am a follower of the green way,’ Harry reminded him. ‘The most important law is An it harm none, do as ye will.’

“There’s different kinds of harm, lad.” Puck countered.

‘According to the spell that my aunt sent along with the potion, it is supposed to show his true nature to the world.’ Harry told the faun. ‘It is supposed to teach him a lesson.’

“What lesson?” Puck asked curious.

Harry shrugged. “Well my aunt sent it to me after I told her about how the Professor Snape ripped into a boy named Neville Longbottom, who he knows is terrified of him, after a potions accident that he was at least partially responsible for. Then in the detention I got for defending Neville, the man spent most of the evening insulting my father who died about eleven years ago. He has some kind of grudge against him and has decided to make me the target of it since my father is no longer available. He terrorizes just about every student in the school except those in his own house and those he ignores their misdeeds and blames others for the problems they cause.”

“That still doesn’t tell me what lesson yon professor is supposed to learn.” Puck pointed out. “Depending on the man’s true nature, he could be humiliated and that might not get the lesson across that ye want him ta learn.

‘My aunt said it was to teach him restraint.’ Harry told the faunlike creature honestly. ‘I would just be happy if it taught him to leave Neville alone. That poor boy is afraid of his own shadow.’

“Ye dinna care if he leaves ye alone?” Puck was watching him intently.

‘I can take care of myself.’ Harry told him. ‘While I wouldn’t mind if he stopped blaming me for whatever my father did or didn’t do, it isn’t as important as getting him to leave Neville alone.’

Puck had one final question. “Ye keep mentioning yer aunt, lad. Who is she?”

‘Penny Halliwell.’

“I see where ye git yer sense a right an wrong from boy. Penny Halliwell is very well known amongst us. T’will be an honour ta help ye.”

‘Thank you.’ Harry handed the potion over.

“Yer quite welcome, lad.” Puck told him. “An’ if ye ever need my help again, ye just call.”

###########

It was halfway through breakfast when there was a loud shriek from the nearby Hufflepuff table and silence fell over the Great Hall. Everyone was looking around trying to find the source of what ever had made the female Hufflepuff scream and heard a chair fall back from the Head table. It was a few moments before they realised she was staring at the end of the table where Professor Snape usually sat. However when they all looked over there, instead of the usually greasy haired Potions Master, there was a green creature standing there, who appeared to be bald except for the white topknot on top of his head and a very well pronounced stomach. A few of the muggle-born students, Harry included began to laugh as they realised that he looked like the Dr. Suess character the Grinch.

And almost as if thier thoughts caused it to happen, a deep gravelly voice began singing:

You're a mean one, Mr. Snape.
You really are a Wyste.
You're as cuddly as a mudmaw,
You're as enticing as a Green Vise.
Mr. Snape.

You're a mouldy avacado
With a greasy black peel.

You're an ogre, Mr. Snape.
Your heart's as empty as a ghoul.
Your brain is full of Arolakias,
You've got Twig Blight for a soul.
Mr. Snape.

I wouldn't touch you, with a
thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.

You're loathsome Mr. Snape.
You have poison in your kiss.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick Basilisk.
Mr. Snape.

Given the choice between the two of you
I'll take the seasick Basilisk.

You're a foul one, Mr. Snape.
You're a nasty, smelly troll.
Your heart is full of dragon dung
Your soul is an overflowing toilet bowl.
Mr. Snape.

The three words that best describe you,
are, and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."

You're a Joroc, Mr. Snape.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a lump of bone ooze
Covered in moldy green spots,
Mr. Snape.

Your soul is an unpleasant dung heap overflowing
with the most disgusting bunch of
rubbish imaginable,
Bound together in tangled up knots.

You disgust me, Mr. Snape.
With your manners like a Jermlaine.
You're a crooked jerky Goblin
And you ride a crooked Hyppotane.
Mr. Snape.

You're a three decker Catoblepas and toadstool sandwich
With arsenic sauce.


While the students didn’t recognize all of the creatures mentioned in the odd song, they were quick to realise it was meant to be an insult to the Potions Master. Most of the students began laughing, except those in Slytherin.

Professor McGonagall got to her feet and shouted for silence. Once she had it, she demanded, “Fred and George Weasley, front and center.”

Once they were standing in front of the head table, she told them, “Undo the spell at once.”

“But we didn’t do it.” George Weasley told her.

“Nice bit of work though.” Fred observed.

“Now boys,” the Headmaster spoke up. “I enjoy a joke as much as the next person, but you need to reverse it.”

“Honestly Headmaster,” the twins spoke as one. “We didn’t cast any spell on Professor Snape, or put any potion in anything he ate or drank. We swear we didn’t.”

“Very well, boys return to your seats.”

“You’re not just going to let them get away with this are you?” Snape growled, grateful that his voice still sounded the same.

“They had nothing to do with your transformation, Severus.” The headmaster told him in a low voice as he looked over at the Gryffindor table and saw Harry studying Professor Snape intently with a grin on his face. “I can think of only one person who might have done it, but is there a reason why she might have had cause to.”

The noise level in the Great Hall rose again as Snape stormed out, his flat bare green feet slapping on the stone floor.

As Professor McGonagall resumed her seat, Dumbledore leaned over and whispered, “Would you tell Mr. Potter join me in my office after breakfast?”

“Of course Professor,” McGonagall nodded.


(Author's note: For those who are curious as to what the monsters mentioned in the song look like, just have a look at the D & D monster manuals)

Chapter Text

Merry Christmas to All



Harry wandered into the kitchen wondering where his cousins were. He found Grams in the kitchen, reading the paper and drinking her coffee.

Not seeing the girls in the room, he knew he was safe using his telepathy. /Morning Grams./

“Morning dear,” Grams got up and went to the stove. “Did you sleep well?”

/Yes, I did./ Harry poured himself a glass of orange juice. /Where is everybody? I would have thought that Phoebe would’ve woken me up earlier./

Setting the frying pan on the burner, Grams sounded annoyed as she told him, “Pru got called into work. As for Piper and Phoebe, Victor showed up about an hour ago and wanted to take them Christmas shopping. He promised to have them back late this afternoon.”

Harry made no comment. He knew that Grams’ annoyance wasn’t directed at him, but at the girl’s father. She hated his habit of showing up with little or no warning. Victor seemed to take great delight in trying to disrupt any plans Grams might have made. Not that he was successful all that often, given Grams’ stubborn streak Harry thought to himself, but he did manage to succeed every once in a while.

As she started making bacon and eggs for him, Grams asked, “What happened with the potion?”

/It turned Professor Snape into the Grinch!/ There was a large grin on Harry’s face as he told her this. /Then Puck must’ve decided to put in his two cents, because as soon as the other students noticed the change, the Grinch song started playing in the Great Hall, but the lyrics were changed to fit Professor Snape./

“The Grinch!” She seemed surprised then looked thoughtful. “It fits him, I guess. From your letters, I have the distinct impression that he hates children. Makes me wonder why he became a teacher. Surely there are easier ways for him to do what he needs to do.”

While Harry was curious about what it was that Snape needed to do, he didn’t ask her about it. He’d learned a long time ago that Grams wouldn’t part with information until she was ready to, either because it was too dangerous for him to know just now, or because it wasn’t any of his business. Harry doubted that even a demon could force Grams to give up something she wasn’t ready to part with.

“How did he take it?” Grams wanted to know.

/Not well./ Harry told her. /He’s in hiding and probably won’t come out until after twelfth night. Snape can dish it out, but he can’t take it./

“Well, hopefully he will have learned his lesson, but I doubt it.” Penny set three strips of bacon on a paper towel. “How did Dumbledore take it?”

Harry shrugged as he poured himself some more juice. /He called me into his office. We talked for a bit. I petted Fawkes. And my head felt a little funny before I left./

“Your head felt funny.” Grams pounced on that. “Funny how? Was it like the pain in your scar that you told me about?”

Harry thought about it for a moment before telling her, /No it wasn’t like that. I think it was kind of like the way my head felt when Barrias was poking around trying to stir things up so you would be too busy with me, to help Lizzie’s mom keep her safe from her dad./

Grams looked thoughtful. “So Dumbledore seems to possess some kind of ability to see into a person’s mind, or read their thoughts. Do you think he saw anything he shouldn’t have?”

/I don’t know./ Harry told her. /When I felt it, I was thinking about Castran, that last demon I helped you with before school started. He may have seen that, but I doubt he would know what it meant. From the little I’ve been able to find in the library they know little if anything about demons./

As she handed over his breakfast, Grams told him, “Well since we have the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon free, we’re going to Chinatown to visit the Magician’s Row. We need to try and find out what he’s doing and how to counter it.”

/I also need to try and find some information on Nicholas Flamel while we’re there./ Harry told her as he dug into his scrambled eggs.

“Who is Nicholas Flamel?” Grams wanted to know.

/You remember that attempted robbery at Gringotts I told you about and the package Hagrid took from that same vault the day we were in Diagon Alley?/

“Yes.”

/Well, I found out by accident from Hagrid that the package he took from the vault belongs to Nicholas Flamel and I know he provided Dumbledore with a three headed dog to guard it./ Harry told her.

Grams looked even more thoughtful. “Harry, from what you know of Hagrid, would you trust him with a secret, one that must never be revealed to anyone like say… our Book of Shadows?”

Harry seemed to be surprised by the question, but gave it some thought. /No I definitely wouldn’t trust him with that. While Hagrid is a good man, I have seen how easily he lets things slip out without intending to./

Penny paced. “That makes me wonder why Dumbledore trusted him with the knowledge of this thing belonging to Nicholas Flamel, given that he must know how easy it is to get something out of Hagrid. And whatever this thing is, someone is obviously willing to go to great lengths to get it. I don’t know that much about Goblin magic, but from what little I’ve seen of it, I respect it. They protect what is theirs or what has been placed in their charge as if it were theirs, which means anyone who managed to get into then back out of that vault without getting caught had to use powerful magic to do so, possibly black magic. Then there’s that the troll you told me got into the school around Halloween, and I agree with what you wrote me about that incident it was clearly meant as a distraction, probably from another attempt to try and get the item.”

/I don’t know if I told you, but Snape was attacked by the three-headed dog that night./ Harry put in. /Ron thought he was trying to get past the dog to what it is guarding./

Grams pursed her lips then shook her head. “I don’t think so. Something tells me that would have been too obvious. I think he went to see who was trying to get the item and got caught by the Cerberus.”

/Do you think this is the thing Leo mentioned I needed to be there for?/ Harry wondered.

“Probably,” Grams agreed. “I also think that maybe Dumbledore is setting you up to try and protect it.”

/Why would he want to do that?/ Harry wondered, not doubting her.

“I don’t know,” She told him.

Grams resumed her pacing. “I wish we knew the whole of that damn prophecy, but not even the Elders know what it says. Or if they do, they’re keeping it to themselves and I hate that. I can’t plan for things I don’t know are coming.”

Harry didn’t know what to say to this, because he agreed with her. He hated it when people kept secrets from him, especially when they directly affected him and there was no way of knowing after the fact if his knowing would have changed the outcome or not.

#################

Penny and Harry stepped into the store that sold Asian cooking and medicinal herbs among other things, and after nodding to the clerk, they headed toward the rear of the store and stepped out into the courtyard. Unlike the one behind the Leaky Cauldron, this one was laid out as a place of rest and quiet, with wonderful smelling herbs and flowering plants, a flowing water fountain, and several cages with small songbirds in them.

Taking out his wand, Harry stepped over to what looked like a bricked over archway and tapped the keystone with it. The bricks filling the archway peeled back to reveal a street that contained shops that looked like a mixture of Asian and American design, some old and some newer.

The first time they had come in here back in May, Grams had smiled when she saw the stores and their contents. She had told him they had done a good job in balancing Magician’s Row using Feung Shui, Wiccan as well as other forms of magic to balance and protect the stores on Magician’s Row. It appeared that at least from what he had seen so far in San Francisco, the magical population of America, like the rest of American culture, had taken the various types of magic and put them together, trying to make sure that none of it was lost. That was radically different from the magical population of England, where they were still using quills and parchment instead of moving some things into the twentieth century and seemed to think there was only one way to do magic.

Grams led the way to the Knowledge of the Ages bookstore about halfway down the Magician’s Row. This bookstore was very different from Flourish and Blotts in Diagon Alley. There were several comfortable chairs scattered about the store and a couple of aquariums in strategic positions in the store.

As there weren’t any customers in the store when they stepped inside, they weren’t surprised when an ancient gentleman in old fashioned silk robes stepped up to them bowed. “Welcome back to my humble store. How may I serve you today?”

Penny Halliwell bowed back and told him. “Mr. Fei, my nephew just got home from school for the Christmas Holidays and he told me that before he left school, it felt as if someone were poking around in his head. I came to see if you had any books that might cover the various forms of mental attack and what defenses there might be against them.”

The ancient gentleman looked at Harry thoughtfully. “If I may ask which school is he going to? That information would help me determine the best sources for the information you seek as there are several different mental disciplines that would allow another access to a person’s mind with or without their knowledge. I must say though and I do not mean it as an insult, that whoever did it must have been very clumsy for your nephew to detect it. Usually practitioners of the mind arts are very subtle and skilled, especially if they are doing it without someone’s knowledge because they do not want to be detected.”

“My nephew was subjected to a mental attack by a demon several years ago and it left him very sensitive to such contact whether from telepathy or other forms of mental contact.”

Mr. Fei gave Harry a bow of respect. “You are a very strong young man to have come through such a mental attack with no permanent damage. It has always been my understanding that demons are very reluctant to loose their prey once they have it.”

‘I have my Aunt to thank for my surviving relatively unscathed.’ Harry told him simply. ‘She taught me well what I needed to do to drive the demon off. As for the school, I am going to Hogwarts.’

Mr. Fei’s eyebrow rose in surprise, but didn’t ask why the young magic user was going to school so far away when there were very good schools within the US. It was none of his business after all. Turning his attention back to Penny, he told her, “They teach only one kind of mind magic in the European schools. It’s called Legilmency and the defense for it is called Occulmency. I have several books on the subject over here, as well as books on other comparable forms of defense.”

As Mr. Fei led Grams away, Harry went over to one of the other clerks, an Asian girl who was dressed in regular street clothes and asked, ‘Excuse me, but do you have any books containing information on Nicholas Flamel? I’m trying to prove a point about him to one of my classmates and I couldn’t find any books on him in the school library.’

“Nicholas Flamel,” the clerk repeated and Harry nodded.

The clerk looked thoughtful for a moment and then led the way to the back of the store. “I think we do. Nicholas Flamel is a famous Alchemist so if we have anything on him it would be in the Alchemy section.”

The clerk ran her finger along the shelf and pulled out a book. After a quick check, she flipped the book open to a particular page and then handed the book to Harry. He read the paragraphs below the picture of the smiling waving man. He looked to be in pretty good health for an elderly looking man and he was holding a dark, blood red stone.

Alchemist Nicholas Flamel (pictured above) is shown with his most famous creation the Philosopher’s Stone. He is only the alchemist in Wizard history known to have successfully created the Philosopher’s Stone. There have been a number of reports of the Philospher’s Stone throughout the ages, but Mr. Flamel has the only one currently known to be in existence. This stone is widely known even among muggles for its ability to turn any metal it touches into gold. It is also prized by wizards for its ability to create the Elixir of Life. While it is believed that the Elixir of Life will make you immortal, this is an erroneous claim, since it must be taken at regular intervals to maintain its effect.

While there was more about the other things Nicholas Flamel had done in the field of Alchemy, Harry didn’t need to read any more. He was now fairly certain about what the Cerberus was guarding.

“Did you find what you needed to prove your point or prove theirs?” the clerk asked as Harry put the book back on the shelf.

‘Mine,’ Harry told her. ‘I tried to tell my dorm mate that anything that you have to take regularly, couldn’t properly be considered a source of immortality, merely an aid to long life. If someone is truly immortal, they don’t have to worry about dying or doing any of the normal things necessary to keep on living, now do they. I mean not even vampires or elves are truly immortal, they just live a lot longer than humans. I think the only ones who are truly immortal are the Gods.’

“That’s quite true, though most people wouldn’t look at it that way.” She nodded. “Is there anything else I can show you?”

Harry thought about it for a moment then said, ‘I have a friend who is new to magic. She just found out this past summer she was a witch and she is a bookworm. Do you by any chance have a book that would tell someone about the various types of magic practiced in the world?’

“How old is she?” The clerk asked.

‘Eleven like me,’ Harry told her.

“Then I have just the thing.” She led him to a different part of the store.

She pulled a book that was about the size of a hard backed copy of Lord of the Rings off the shelf and handed it to him. “This is the best book for beginners who want to know about the different ways magic is practiced and it doesn’t talk down to them. It’s a safe book in that it doesn’t tell them anything about the Black or as some call it the Dark Arts.”

Harry thumbed through several chapters before looking up and telling her, ‘this will be perfect. Thank you.’

When he rejoined Grams at the front counter, he saw she had picked up two books.

“Did you find anything?” Grams asked.

‘Just this,’ Harry set the book on the counter. ‘Thought it might make a good gift for my friend Hermione at school. She’s nuts about books.’

The books were totaled up and Grams paid him the requested amount of wizarding currency.

“Do you need anything else from Wizard’s Row?” Grams asked as they left the store.

‘Can we go by Gringotts and get some of the galleons converted?’ Harry requested. ‘I’d like to go by the Dragon’s Hoarde to get a present for Neville and maybe one for Ron.’

############

Harry loved going to the Dragon’s Hoarde. While not the largest, it was one of the best Wiccan/New Age stores in San Francisco. When Grams had first brought him there a few years ago she’d told him that she preferred coming here for whatever supplies she needed if she had the time. The other nice thing about the Dragon’s Hoarde was they would make custom jewelry using wire wrap and he was probably going to have to use that service to get what he wanted for Neville.

“Do you know what you want to get for your friends?” Grams asked.

::I want to get Neville an amulet made of jet and hematite.:: Harry told her. ::He needs confidence and protection from all the anger and negative emotions Snape is putting out.::

“Good choices,” Grams agreed. “And we can add a little bit of help to that for him. What about for the other boy… Ron?”

::I don’t know really.:: Harry told her. ::He has a quick temper that gets him into a lot of trouble, because he speaks without thinking things through. If he’s not careful, it’s probably going to get him killed.::

“What about getting him an amulet of onyx?” Grams suggested. “It is supposed to aid in emotional balance and self control.”

Harry gave it a few moments thought and nodded. Ron would probably wear it and not think it was too girlie.

It took Harry about an hour to find the right stones, ones that felt like they belonged to the people he intended them for and arrange for their mounting. Jason had promised they would be ready by Christmas Eve and Grams had promised to pick them up for him.

################

Harry had just finished putting girl’s gifts under the tree when he heard the front door open. He recognized Phoebe’s and Piper’s voice and headed toward the entry hall. They were chattering happily with someone and Harry supposed it must be their father since they’d been with him almost all day.

“Harry!” Phoebe squealed, dropping her bags so she could drag him over to join them. “I wish you could’ve come with us. Dad took us to a movie after lunch and shopping. We had a great time.”

Looking up into their father’s face, Harry doubted that their father wanted anything to do with him. While Victor had no reason to dislike Harry, Harry knew quite well the man objected to the time he got to spend with his daughters. Harry wondered if he wished he could have the time that Harry got to spend with his girls, but if that were the case, then why didn’t he try getting a job in San Francisco, instead of always traveling. Harry resented the man’s glowering look. It wasn’t his fault that the man cared more about his job than his daughters.

“Hello Victor,” Penny Halliwell greeted the girl’s father flatly from the doorway to the dining room then she instructed the girls. “Put your things away girls. We’re having dinner early tonight Phoebe, since you and Harry are going to that Christmas party with Janice tonight and I know you don’t want to be late for your party, Piper.”

Once the girls and Harry were out of earshot, Victor glared at Penny and said, “I wanted to take both girls to a candlelight service with me tonight. One of the local churches is having a service near the bay and I thought the girls might enjoy it.”

Knowing full well that Victor was trying to pull the girls in the direction of Christianity and away from the Wiccan beliefs that had sustained and guided her family for almost four centuries, Penny told him. “I’m afraid that’s not possible. The party that Phoebe and Harry were invited to has been planned for over a month. If it’s any consolation though, it’s being sponsored by Janice’s church which is a Catholic church. And Piper is going to another Christmas party with some of her friends.”

“This isn’t over Penny.” Victor told her.

“It is for now.” Penny turned to go back into the kitchen not waiting to see if he stayed or left.

#############

“Merry Christmas!” Phoebe’s cheerful voice called as something bounced on Harry’s bed.

Harry rolled over and eyed the blurry shape that he was willing to bet was Phoebe’s.

“Come on sleepyhead, it’s time to open presents.” Phoebe tried to jerk him up, but he refused to co-operate.

::You do realize this means war don’t you?:: Harry signed quickly before pouncing on his ‘sister’ and tickling her.

Phoebe shrieked with laughter as she tried to squirm out from under him as his fingers that found all of her ticklish spots. “Harry! Harry! Please!”

::Yield?:: Harry finger spelled with one hand while he continued to tickle her with the other.

“No!” Phoebe shook her head in denial.

“You’d better say uncle, Pheebs.” Piper counseled from the doorway. “Otherwise you may never get your presents and you’ll be keeping the rest of us from ours because we have to referee you two.”

Harry and Phoebe shared a look before Harry rolled off Phoebe. She darted at Piper and sent her scurrying downstairs shrieking with laughter. Harry followed a moment later, glasses in place.

Grams had a slightly disapproving look on her face, but Harry thought he saw a twinkle in her eyes as she watched their antics. Pru just looked at the ground and shook her head though Harry thought he saw the edges of a smile on her face.

When the two of them had brought Piper to the ground and were tickling her, Grams finally said, “When you three are done, we can open presents.”

Phoebe quickly broke off her tickle attack and headed for her favorite spot by the lit tree.

“Is everyone ready?” Pru asked once Harry and Piper were seated on the small bamboo loveseat.

Harry nodded as Phoebe and Piper said, “yes.”

Pru read the label off the first package she’d taken from under the tree, “Piper,” then she handed it off to Phoebe who always acted as the runner.

It took only a few minutes to pass out all the presents. Once the last gift had been delivered to Grams, they took turns opening them, starting from the youngest: Phoebe (because her birthday was after Harry’s) to the oldest: Grams. Harry having less gifts was finished sooner, but he’d gotten a couple of thick, warm sweaters, that Grams said were for school, a wooden case filled with art supplies for sketching in pen and ink and several books on how to sketch various things.

“It’s kind of lucky you got that sketchbook at the White Elephant Christmas party at Janice’s church.” Phoebe told him when he’d opened the art supply kit that had been from the three girls. “Now you can draw us a picture of that Hogworth’s school you go to. I want to be able to show the other kids this castle of yours.”

::It’s not my castle.:: Harry commented. ::I’m surprised you didn’t give me a pocket camera.::

“Nope, a camera can’t put a person’s feelings into the picture.” Phoebe shook her head. “I’ve seen you draw and you do it well. I always felt like I knew what you were thinking or feeling when I look at your drawings, even the bad ones of the Dursleys. I want something that looks like a fairytale castle that I can hang on my wall.”

::I’ll see what I can do.:: Harry promised, wondering how he was going to work it into his current schedule at school, not to mention the other reason he was there.

The girls and Grams had apparently decided to save his gifts for last this year, and Harry started to get slightly nervous. He hoped Grams would like what he had gotten her.

Grams went first. Once the paper was gone, she found herself holding a jewelry box. “I hope you didn’t spend a lot of money on this.”

::Who else am I going to spend my money on, except my family?:: Harry countered. ::But no I didn’t spend a fortune on it.::

While the necklace had been somewhat expensive, Harry wasn’t going to tell her that. Personally, he thought that she and the girls deserved a lot more than this for saving him from life with the Dursleys six years ago.

She opened the box and found an elaborate filigree heart lying in a velvet nest. Taking it out she saw a clasp on the side and realized it was a locket. Opening it, she found four compartments for pictures and each one was filled with a picture: one of each of them; her granddaughters and Harry.

::I wanted you to always know we were with you, even when we are far away.:: Harry told her.

After putting the locket on, Penny held out her arms to her great-nephew. He came into her embrace and as she hugged him, she whispered. “Thank you, for such a lovely gift.”

Pru went next kind of surprised at the size of her package. It wasn’t huge, but it was bigger than she usually got even from her father. Once the wrapping was gone and the box open, Pru found herself staring at 35mm Nikon and several rolls of film.

Looking into her ‘brother’s’ worried green eyes, she told him, “Harry, this is too much. You shouldn’t have spent so much on me.”

::Who else do I have to spend it on if not my family?:: Harry repeated, pleased that she liked his gift. ::I know how much you love taking pictures and to do good at it, you need a good camera. When you get to be famous, I want to be able to tell people I gave you your start.::

Pru wrapped her arms tightly around him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you Harry.”

Piper stared at the box in front of her, wondering what wonderful surprise lurked inside for her. Unlike Pru, she carefully unwrapped her present, not wanting to damage the lovely paper. Inside she found several cookbooks with recipes from different countries and lots of small packets of cooking herbs that were hard to get in this country, unless you had a lot of money. The labels on the packets said Harrods which was a place she hoped to visit one of these days. She really wanted to go through the Food Hall.

“Harry, I don’t know what to say.” Piper began.

::Do you like it?:: Harry wanted to know.

“You know I do.” Piper grabbed him and gave him a big hug and a kiss. “You know how much I love to cook.”

Having seen what he got the others, Phoebe was curious about what Harry had gotten for her. When she opened it, she found a couple of shirts; one a deep red and the other a creamy white. They were made out of a soft silky feeling material and she saw they are covered on the neck, hems and sleeves with elaborate embroidery. Pulling one of the shirts out and holding it up, she said softly, “Harry they’re beautiful.”

::I thought you might like them.::

“What’s in the little bags?” Piper wanted to know.

“What bags?” Phoebe looked around but couldn’t see anything other than wrapping paper.

“They fell beside your leg, when you lifted up the shirt.” Piper told her.

Phoebe dug among the shreds of wrapping paper that surrounded her until her fingers closed on two soft cloth pouches. Whatever was in them was small and shifted under her fingers. Opening the first one, she poured the contents out and found herself holding a pendant of crossing lines and circles with a small pale blue stone mounted in the middle of it.

::It’s celtic knotwork,:: Harry signed when she looked up at him. ::The store clerk told me the design came from the Book of the Kells. Do you like it?::

“It’s beautiful Harry.” She opened the other bag and found another pendant made up of a different set of lines and curves with a silvery white stone in the center of it.

Pouncing on him she gave him a very enthusiastic hug before saying. “I love all my presents. Thank you.”

################

On New Year’s Eve, Harry found himself up in the attic helping his aunt not only with the spells for a good New Year, that had to be cast just as the clock struck midnight, but she had told him tonight would be the best time to place the charm on Neville’s amulet. She had trusted Harry to come up with the word for the spell himself after warning him not to make it too powerful, because the best spells for what he wanted for his friend were the ones that worked with what he already had, even all they did was help him find it.

Under his aunt’s watchful eye Harry set the amulet he intended for Neville in the center of the pentacle and placed five larger stones at the points. Then he placed lit votive candles in between the points to complete the circle. Once he was satisfied with everything, he chanted:

Spirits of Earth, Water, Fire and Air,
We bid you welcome as you draw near,
Your aid I ask with this charm
To keep my friend Neville calm and safe from alarm.
And when fear within him swells,
Help him find within himself the place where courage dwells.


A few minutes after he finished the spell, the necklace began glowing with a white light. It was nearly ten minutes before the light died away.

Once Harry had thanked the spirits for their aid and released them, Grams told him “Very well done Harry.”

/Thanks Grams,/ Harry picked up the necklace and placed it in the silver foil box, then blew out the candles.

He had already the done the spell on Ron’s necklace and hopefully the power invested in the onyx charm by the spirits of Earth and Water would help keep him from going off half-cocked, but for some reason after casting the spell he was doubtful it had been as effective as the one on Neville’s necklace. It might have been because there wasn’t as close a bond with Ron as there was with Neville, but only time would tell.

“Are you ready to go back to Hogwarts day after tomorrow?” Grams asked as they headed downstairs.

/I wish I didn’t have to, but yes, I’m packed and ready to go back./ Harry told her.

“Good night dear and Happy New Year.” Grams kissed him on the cheek as they reached the second floor.

::Night Grams and Happy New Year to you too.:: Harry headed off to bed.

################

Harry sat in a compartment on the train, waiting for his friends to arrived so he could give them their presents. The Platform was starting to get busy so he figured they would be here soon. When he’d arrived at the Guardian’s home, he’d found presents waiting for him from Ron and Neville. He’d left them unopened intending to open them where they could see him do it. That was half the fun of presents after all: wanting to see their reaction as they opened your gift. Since Hermione had known he was not going to be in the country, if she had gotten him anything, he expected her to give it to him on the train ride up.

“Hi Harry,” Hermione came in, pulling her trunk behind her. “How was your Christmas?”

‘Over too soon,’ Harry told her.

“Aren’t you anxious to get back to Hogwarts to learn more spells?” Hermione seemed surprised.

Harry shrugged, ‘I would learn magic no matter where I was.’

“Harry, Hogwarts is one of the best magic schools.” She sounded shocked by his blasé attitude. “You won’t get a better magical education anywhere else in Europe.”

Harry didn’t bother disagreeing with her. He couldn’t tell her the truth and trying to argue the point might make her suspicious.

“Harry, can I ask you something?” Hermione wanted to know.

‘You already did,’ Harry joked.

Hermione just glared at him for a moment before going on. “When did you learn sign language and why did you learn it?”

Harry was rummaging in his backpack and stopped to stare at her. ‘How did you find out I knew sign language?’

Hermione didn’t hear the note of worry in his voice. “When my parents and I were leaving the station we saw you standing there with a man, I guess the one you told me your aunt had arranged for you to meet. You were making hand gestures at him and it took me a moment to realise you were using sign language.”

Relieved Harry told her at least part of the truth. ‘I learned it when I was younger. I have friends who can not hear and I wanted to be able to talk to them.’

“Could you teach it to me?” Hermione wondered.

‘Sorry Hermione, but between Quidditch and classes, I just don’t have the time right now.’ Harry told her.

Hermione looked disappointed, but before she could try and pursue it, Neville and Ron entered the compartment.

“Did you have a Happy Christmas, Harry?” Neville asked as he settled down on one of the seats.

‘Yes I did,’ Harry told him. ‘I also got you guys something for Christmas. I’m sorry they’re a little late, but it took a little while to find what I wanted.’

He handed out the three presents as the train whistle blew its warning blast.

“Oh,” Hermione got up and dug in her book bag, “and I got one for you too.”

‘Thanks Hermione,’ Harry sat back down and proceeded to open the three gifts.

“A necklace! You got me a necklace!” Ron sound vaguely disgusted. “You need to get your glasses checked mate, or did you forget that I’m a boy.”

‘No I didn’t forget Ron.’ Harry told him. ‘It’s a protection amulet.’

“What’s it s’posed to protect me from?” Ron wanted to know.

‘Well one thing it is supposed to help protect you from is your habit of sticking your foot in your mouth, like you did just now and like you did at Halloween.’ Harry told him not bothering to hide his annoyance.

“It’s not working too well is it?” Hermione noted, as she unwrapped the package Harry had given her.

‘He’s not wearing it yet.’ Harry told her ignoring Ron for the moment.

“Is mine another protection amulet Harry?” Neville asked as he studied the round black and silvery grey stones that were bound together.

‘Yes, but a different kind,’ Harry told him. ‘It’s supposed to help you keep from being afraid when you’re around Professor Snape.’

“You really think any amulet can do that?” Neville couldn’t help being curious.

‘It certainly couldn’t hurt.’ Harry pointed out. ‘And if nothing else, it may help you find the courage within you to do it on your own.”

“Thank you Harry,” Hermione squealed as she began thumbing through the book. “You know I didn’t know there were other kinds of magic that could be practised.”

‘I thought you might not,’ Harry told her.

“There is no other kind of magic than the one we learn to use at Hogwarts.” Ron told them scornfully.

‘But there is, Ron.’ Harry countered. ‘The aborigines in Australia don’t use wands to work their magic and there’s also Voodoun.’

“Isn’t Voodoo Dark magic.” Hermione pointed out. “I remember Professor Quirrell saying something about the Voodoo Practioner he had to take care of in Brazil.”

‘I think it’s properly called Voodoun.’ Harry told her. ‘And from what I heard about it from my aunt, for most who practice it, they use it to enrich their lives and some of them use it to help them keep things around them in balance. As with any magic, as my aunt is always saying, it is the intent of the caster and not the magic itself that determines whether a spell is good or evil. Some of the spells we have learned so far could just as easily be used to hurt or kill as they are to help.”

“Your barmy mate,” Ron told him. “Nothing they’ve taught us so far can kill.”

Harry thought hard for an example that would prove his point. ‘What about Winguardium Leviosa? You used it to knock out that troll, remember. It could just as easily be used to float someone up to a great height and when you take the spell away, they come crashing to the ground and unless they are immortal, they’re dead.’

That silenced Ron for a moment til he saw the packages lying on the other side of Harry. “Oy mate, you haven’t opened our gifts yet.”

‘I wanted to wait until I was with you.’ Harry told him.

There were two packages from Ron. One contained a bulky, handmade sweater of dark green, while the other held several packages of Chocolate Frogs.

‘Thanks Ron,’ Harry told him

“Mum made the sweater.” Ron told him. “She makes a new one for use every year. At least you got a better colour than I did. She always makes mine maroon and I hate maroon.”

From Hermione, he had gotten some more Chocolate frogs and from Neville, a book on martial arts and magic.

After Harry thanked him, Neville explained, “I thought this might be a good book for you since you’re so fond of that Tai Chi and that Karate that you told me about.”

‘I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.’ Harry told him making Neville flush with pleasure at getting his friend the right gift.

Neville knew that Harry wasn’t the bookworm that Hermione was, but had hoped given his interest in those muggle martial arts that it might be a good choice.

The rest of the trip was made in relative silence as Hermione read the book Harry had given her and the three boys played games of Exploding Snap.

###########

Harry noticed that Snape wasn’t at the feast and pointed this fact out to the others.

“Do you suppose he’s still that strange green creature?” Ron asked.

“I don’t know,” Hermione looked thoughtful for a moment. “Did the twins ever admit that they pranked him?”

Ron shook his head. “They still insist they didn’t do it, even with Mum threatening to ground them until they were old and grey. She finally decided they must not have done it, but Merlin only knows who did.”

Harry ignored the discussion after doing a quick calculation and realising that Snape still had three days to go as the Grinch, which meant they probably wouldn’t have Potions tomorrow. He was also certain that once the effects of the potion Snape had taken were gone, that Snape would be back to his usual nasty self.

He also quickly decided to change the topic, before someone brought up the suggestion that his aunt might’ve done it again. Keeping his voice low, he told them, ‘I found out who Nicholas Flamel is.’

That got their attention.

“Who is he?” Hermione wanted to know.

‘According to the book I found him in, he is a famous Alchemist and is most famous for creating a Philosopher’s Stone. He has the only one currently known to be in existence.’

“What’s a Philospher’s Stone?” Neville had never heard it mentioned before.

Hermione sounded slightly awed as she spoke up before anyone else could say anything. “I read about it. It’s supposed to turn any metal it touches into gold.”

‘And it makes the Elixir of Life.’ Harry added quickly.

Ron looked slightly awestruck at the idea of having a stone that would turn any metal into gold, then thinking quickly, he asked, “Do you thinks that’s what Fluffy is guarding?”

‘Has to be. From what I remember of the package Hagrid took out of the vault, it was about this big.’ Harry held up his cupped hand to give them an idea of the size ‘And in the picture I saw of Flamel with him holding the Philosopher’s Stone it fit rather neatly into the palm of his hand.’

“That’s got to be it.” Ron slapped his hand on the table, but fortunately it wasn’t noticed over all the other noise. “That’s got to be what Snape is after. It makes sense.”

“”I still don’t think it’s Snape who’s after the Stone.” Hermione told the three boys. “I mean it would be too obvious now wouldn’t it.”

“Hermione have you forgotten that he tried to get past the dog at Halloween!” Ron’s voice rose slightly, but not so much that those around them could hear much of the conversation. “And let’s not forget the fact that he tried to jinx Harry’s broom during that first match.”

“I know Ron,” Hermione agreed, “but I think we’ll need a lot more proof before we can accuse him to Dumbledore or anyone else. Do you really think the Headmaster is going to believe some first year students over a teacher?”

“So we just keep looking for it.” Neville commented reasonably. “we either find the proof that Snape is after it or we’ll figure out who is.”

##############

The return feast had been a loud and noisy affair that continued once they’d reached the common room. The other students were discussing where they’d gone or showing off some of the presents they got over the holiday. Harry who was kind of tired after his long day just headed up to the first year dorms, to get ready for bed with Neville and Ron following behind him.

Harry came to a standstill several feet from his bed when he caught sight of the package lying there, wrapped up in brown paper.

“What’s up mate?” Ron asked as he had to do some quick footwork to avoid running into Harry.

‘Look,’ Harry pointed at the package on the bed.

“What is it?” Neville wondered.

“Maybe it’s a Christmas present from Hagrid?” Ron suggested.

‘Can’t be,’ Harry told him. ‘I got that already. He sent me a handmade flute. If it is a Christmas present, seems kind of odd to leave in the middle of my bed here. Why didn’t the person just send it by Hedwig or one of the school owls?’

Ron shrugged. “Dunno, open it and find out.”

Harry couldn’t argue with that logic and carefully opened the package, ready to jump back if something popped out of it. It was lighter than it’s bulky appearance would suggest, and when he opened it, Harry found himself staring at a pile of shimmering, silver cloth. Pulling it out, he discovered it was a rather long cloak.

Ron gulped in surprise then said “Blimey, mate, do you know what you’ve got there?”

Harry shook his head.

“That looks like an invisibility cloak. My dad told me about them.” Ron sounded awed. “Who would give you an invisibility cloak. Those are really really rare?”

“There’s a note,” Neville pointed to the piece of paper that had slid from the folds of the cloak to land on the ground at Harry’s feet. “Maybe that will tell you who sent it?”

Harry picked up the note. While there was no signature, it did say: Your father left this in my possession. It’s time it was returned to you. Use it well and have a Happy Christmas.

‘The note says that it belonged to my dad and that the person was just returning it.’ Harry told his friends as he folded up the cloak and put it in his school trunk.

“Your dad had an invisibility cloak that is sooo cool.” Ron was thinking about trying to get Harry to lend it to him, so he could try and prank Malfoy.

“I’m glad you have a piece of your father’s past back, Harry.” Neville told him sounding slightly solemn. “Are we going to practise tonight?”

Harry yawned. ‘Not tonight Nev, I’m kind of tired not to mention that my mind is on other things right now. How bout we do it in the morning?’

“Okay,” Neville headed off to his trunk so he could start getting ready for bed. He was kind of glad that Harry didn’t want to practise Tai Chi tonight. He was kind of tired himself.


(AN: No evil cliffy this time, just a nice quiet holiday. I hope you enjoyed it.)

Chapter Text

Meeting the Enemy

Harry woke quite early on Sunday morning, just as the sun was beginning to fill the dorm room with light. Sighing he tried to go back to sleep, but gave up the effort after a while when his stomach started growling, letting him know he was hungry. He decided to get up, get something to eat and then explore the castle a bit since he didn’t know when the others would be up. He wanted to see some of the areas he hadn’t yet been in either with Grams or as part of his daily trips to class.

In the Great Hall he found there were a few other early risers, though most of them seemed to be older Ravenclaws, with their noses buried in a book while they ate breakfast.

As Harry ate he gave some thought to where he was going to explore first and finally decided to start in the lower reaches of Hogwarts. He knew Hogwarts would warn him if he were approaching anything dangerous. He wondered if he would find any secret passages.

On most of the floors that Harry investigated, there wasn’t much to see, other than empty and dusty classrooms or corridors that seemed to lead nowhere. He suspected they led to secret passages or rooms, but after a cursory check he couldn’t figure out how to open them if they were. He didn’t waste time on a more thorough check because he wanted to join his housemates for lunch.

At the end of one of the third floor corridors, Harry turned around having reached a spot where he could see the grounds and part of the lake from the windows there. His stomach started grumbling letting him know it was near lunchtime. As he headed back and passed an open doorway on his left that led to what had appeared to be a disused classroom, Harry caught the flicker of something moving out of the corner of his eye and a flash of bright light. Curious he entered the classroom to see who or what it was.

The room was definitely an old classroom. There were a number of desks pushed up against the far wall, covered with a thick layer of dust. There were also some upended trashcans sitting on top of the desks. Another flash of light brought Harry’s attention to a tall, mirror in an ornate gold frame standing on two clawed feet. A quick glance at the doorway, showed a beam of sunlight coming through at just the right angle to hit the mirror and cause the flash of light he’d seen and the thing he’d seen moving must have been his reflection.

Moving closer, Harry wondered why such a fancy mirror had been left in a no longer used part of the school. He couldn’t see any flaws in the glass or the frame. If the mirror had been magically dangerous, surely they would have had it in a more secure location in the school given the number of children who might have accidentally stumbled on to it. And if it wasn’t dangerous, then why put it in this out of the way classroom?

On top of the frame he saw an inscription had been carved: Erised stra ehu oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi It almost looked like a spell, but the words made no sense. Moving so that he could see the if there were anything written on the rest of the frame, Harry saw his own reflection appear as expected but what startled him was what appeared in the mirror with him. In a half circle around him were Pheobe, Piper, and Pru and standing behind them were Grams, Patti,… and his parents.

A quick glance behind him confirmed that his family wasn’t really there, but when he turned back to face the mirror they were still there his family. If he had been in any doubt before as to whether this mirror were magical or not, he was no longer, because it had somehow called forth those he most wanted to see and have with him right now.

Reaching out a cautious hand, Harry wanted to see if it was a portal that would allow him to touch them. He pulled back his hand several times before actually making contact with the cool glass, his curiosity greater than his fear that it might take him somewhere he didn’t want to go. He was still fairly certain that it wasn’t dangerous otherwise it wouldn’t be here at all.

While he didn’t feeling his family’s hands clasp his, Harry saw that they clasped and covered his counterpart’s and that made him feel a little less lonely in this school far from home.

“Here you are, Harry.” The headmaster’s voice startled him and he pulled his hand away from the mirror. “Your friends have been looking for you.”

As he turned to face the headmaster, though not without one last look at the images in the mirror, Harry’s stomach growled. Surprised to find that he was very hungry since it should still be a few hours until lunch, Harry checked his watch and was shocked to discover that he had lost several hours in front of the mirror.

‘I seem to have lost track of time,’ Harry commented as he gave the Mirror’s image one more glance before stepping firmly away. He didn’t know whether the person who had created the mirror had been good or evil but he definitely didn’t want to get caught by the image it projected, just like a fly in a spider’s web.

“That’s very easy to do with the Mirror of Erised. You are not the first to be entranced by its images.” Dumbledore told him with a smile. Dumbledore guessed that Harry had seen his parents in the Mirror. After all, what else could produce such a tone of longing, but the longing for what you had never had and he had definitely never had his parents around. Another tie to bind him to the wizarding world and not that meddling witch’s family in America.

‘The mirror is enchanted then,’ Harry concluded. ‘I thought it might be when I saw my family in it. I know that they couldn’t be here. I thought at first it might be a portal to somewhere else.’

Dumbledore shook his head as he confirmed Harry’s guess. “No it is not a portal. What the Mirror of Erised shows the person who gazes into it is their deepest, most heartfelt and in some cases most desperate desire. You who are an orphan because of Voldemort long to see you parents and so it shows them to you alive and well and with you. The way you wish they were.”

Harry didn’t bother to tell the headmaster that he had seen more than just his parents in the mirror. He had seen his whole family, all of them together the way he wished they could be.

“Well, let’s get you back to your friends, shall we?” Dumbledore gestured toward the door.

‘Yes, sir,’ Harry gave the Mirror one last glance, before heading toward the door.

“The Mirror will be moved to a new location, Harry, so I ask you not to try and find it again.” Dumbledore advised him.

‘I won’t, sir,’ Harry promised then told him, ‘Headmaster, my Aunt asked me to give you a letter, but I haven’t had a chance to do so until now. Would you come with me to Gryffindor tower, so I can give it to you?’

Harry was walking in front of Dumbledore, so he didn’t see the flicker of unease that quickly passed over the Headmaster’s face at the thought of opening a letter from Penny Halliwell. He remembered very well what happened to Professor Snape when he received his first letter from the powerful witch.

Harry looked back at the headmaster when he didn’t receive an answer to his question. ‘Headmaster, will you come with me so I can give you my Aunt’s letter?’

Dumbledore schooled his face into an unconcerned mask before asking, “Do you know what she is writing to me about?”

Harry shrugged, ‘Nope, she said it was personal, so I didn’t bother asking. She did say that my giving it to you would save her having to send it by owl though.’

Harry had his suspicions though that the letter had something to do with Dumbledore’s attempts to keep him at Hogwarts over the Christmas holidays and his attempts to pry into Harry’s thoughts. Ever since he’d been back at Hogwarts, he’d made it a practice to recite the spell Grams had given him every day and night to protect his thoughts from prying minds.

Giving Harry a false, grandfatherly smile, Dumbledore told him, “Let’s go get that letter, shall we.”

##############

As Dumbledore entered the Great Hall for the evening meal, he heard a snick sound, and the weight of his beard suddenly felt different. Looking down, he saw his beard had been cut in half and was a bright lime green.

The teachers had all seen the Headmaster pause as he came in the teacher’s entrance to the Great Hall and were surprised when they saw half his beard vanish into thin air, while the rest along with his hair became a bright lime green.

Snape, who was back to his usual nasty self walked up to the Headmaster before he could back out of the room not even bothering to conceal the smirk on his face. “And just what did you do to annoy the Halliwell witch?”

“I did nothing, to either her or Harry,” Dumbledore told him.

Bringing a lock of lime green hair into view, Snape told him, “This tells a different story. Not to mention this...” Snape tapped the lime green beard that now only came a short way down his chest. “Did you receive a letter from her recently?”

“Yes,” Dumbledore admitted, “but I didn’t open it.”

“Obviously the envelope was dipped in whatever contact potion caused this.” Snape gestured to the lime green hair. “But I don’t know of any potion that would cut a person’s beard in half. Maybe you should go read the letter to find out what made her mad at you.”

The several of the Slytherin students who were nearest the head table noticed their Head of House approaching the Headmaster and seeing the sudden change of colour to the Headmaster’s hair, started sniggering. A few of the girls further down the Slytherin table, looked up to see what was causing them to snigger and upon catching sight of the Headmaster’s lime green hair started giggling, and that brought the attention of students from the other House tables to the Head table.

Percy looked up to see what was causing the laughter at the Gryffindor table and saw Professor Snape talking to someone with lime green hair and very short beard. It took him a moment to realise it was Dumbledore and when he did, he turned to his twin brothers and said stiffly, “Fred, George, twenty points for playing a prank on the Headmaster!”

Fred and George looked up at the head table and burst out laughing.

“Undo the prank or it will be one hundred points from the pair of you and mum will be informed of your actions.” Percy told them sternly.

“We didn’t do it, Perc.” The twins told him soberly. At his disbelieving expression, they added, “we swear on our magic we didn’t. Besides we have no great desire to die any time soon and mum would kill us if we had.”

Percy realised they wouldn’t swear that kind of oath even in jest if they had done it. “Well then who did? No other Gryffindor would dare attack like this.”

Knowing that Harry’s Aunt had somehow already pranked Snape... twice, the twins looked up and down the Gryffindor table for the link to only other possible source of the sudden change in Dumbledore’s hairstyle. They spotted him down near the end of the table with Ron, Neville, and Hermione sitting around him. Getting up they went down and shifting Ron over sat down one on either side of him.

“Oy mate, what’s with the competition?” Fred asked.

“And why that particular target?” George wanted to know.

“Not to mention, how did she do it?” Fred put in. “There’s been no owl post since breakfast this morning and your owl made no deliveries today.”

‘What are you talking about?’ Harry looked at the twins baffled.

Fred pointed toward the Head table and all four first years saw Dumbledore heading for the teacher’s entrance, his lime green hair drawing their attention like a beacon and that had the Slytherin’s laughing from one end of their table to the other. Some students from other Houses were also laughing, but most just looked shocked that someone would play a prank on their beloved headmaster.

“Harry! Why would your Aunt attack Professor Dumbledore?” Hermione demanded in a shocked tone. “He a good man. And he hasn’t done you any harm. Nor has he harmed anyone else in Gryffindor.”

Harry knew he couldn’t tell her about Dumbledore’s attempt to violate his mind, because he doubted Hermione or anyone else would believe him, given that they all seemed to have the Headmaster up on a pedestal and thought he could do no wrong. The attempted violation of his thoughts had been the reason Grams had sent a warning to the older wizard and not the Headmaster’s attempt to keep him at school, though she had been very annoyed by his predictable attempt to prevent him coming home for the holidays. He also knew they couldn’t be told that the only reason he’d detected it was because he was a telepath and after Barrias’ attempts to influence him, he was even more sensitive to those who tried to read his mind.

Shrugging he told her, ‘I don’t know that my aunt is responsible and neither do you. You shouldn’t go around accusing people without all the facts Hermione, that just makes the person you accused mad especially if they didn’t do it.’

“Your aunt has cursed Professor Snape before.” Hermione reminded him. “Twice as a matter of fact.”

‘With good reason,’ Harry countered. ‘He wouldn’t rein in his hatred of my father even after being told to do so. And he verbally attacked Neville and then me.’

“One of the reasons she hexed Professor Snape was because of me.” Neville was surprised. It wasn’t often that an adult came to his defence if they weren’t part of his family and even his family wasn’t really all that strong in their defence of him, unless it was his physical safety that had been threatened.

His curiosity aroused, Neville asked. “What one was it?”

‘The Grinch,’ Harry told him and at his puzzled look added, ‘just before we left for the Christmas Holidays.’

“Oh, that one,” Neville smiled at the memory of what Snape had been turned into just a few weeks ago.

“Well she might have had a reason to teach professor Snape a lesson but I can’t see any reason she could possibly have for wanting to humiliate Professor Dumbledore, he’s done no harm to anyone?” Hermione wanted to know.

‘None of us know that she did,’ Harry repeated. ‘I told you, Hermione, you shouldn’t go making accusations without proof. How would you like it if someone accused you of something without proof.’

#################

Dumbledore quickly left the Great Hall and headed back to his office to open that dratted letter. On the way back to his office he had tried to undo the curse using Finite Incantatum, even though the Potion’s Master had told him he didn’t think it would work, because it hadn’t when his own hair had become a multi-coloured nightmare, but the way Dumbledore looked at it he hadn’t anything to lose and it certainly couldn’t make the situation any worse. He’d been wrong and Snape had been proven right when his hair and beard had gone white for a moment, making him think he had succeeded, before changing to fuchsia. While the headmaster didn’t mind wild colours in his choice of robes, in fact he was quite pleased that it was something he was known for, he didn’t like having his hair or beard that colour.

He had been so certain that if he ignored the letter, nothing would happen to him. He had planned on having McGonagall open the letter in the morning since she was Harry’s Head of House and it might be information she needed to know about him instead of about Dumbledore’s attempt to detain him at Christmas.

“Lemon tarts,” Dumbledore growled at the gargoyle that guarded his office.

Fawkes stared at his bonded in surprise. When had the man decided to wear such wild colours in his hair and beard? He trilled a note of inquiry to the older wizard.

“It’s not my choice,” Dumbledore growled, gesturing to his beard. “This is curtsey of the Halliwell witch.”

Dumbledore was willing to swear that the bird snickered at his predicament as he reached into his desk drawer to pull out the envelope containing the Halliwell witch’s letter. The envelope had been sealed with a wax seal with a simple celtic knotwork design on it. As he opened the envelope, he made a mental know to check out some of the books they had on celtic symbols to see if the symbol had any meaning besides being decorative.

Dumbledore,

I know I should be saying that I am disappointed by what you tried to pull, but I expected it. You should be thankful that I am a woman of my word, unlike you.

You should know that trying to keep Harry from his family is not the way to gain his trust. I warn you now if you try it again, you will not like the results. Remember, I only promised that he would go to your school for one year. I never said anything about his returning and if you try to prevent him from returning home, he will never set foot in your school again. This is your only warning, Dumbledore. Do not interfere with my family. You don’t want to make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I angry, (assuming you survived the experience).

And lest you think you have escaped my wrath
Your beard shall be cut in half
And your hair and beard’s sheen
Shall become lime green

Whether or not this letter is opened by you.
The curse within shall come true
In the Great Hall
Where it can bee seen by all

A word of warning also I give to you
If my spell you try to undo
Your hair and beard shall change its hue.

Penny Halliwell


Dumbledore crushed the piece of paper into a tiny ball and pointed his wand at it. “Incendio.”

While it wasn’t as satisfying as the idea of hitting Penny Halliwell with one of the borderline hexes that he knew, it would have to do.

Resigning himself to a sleepless night, Dumbledore went to his private library and pulled out some of the books he had on lesser known magics, ones that were no longer used by the modern Wizarding world. Somewhere there had to be a clue to the type of magic she was using and a way to counter it.

###############

Harry smiled to himself as he left the locker room and headed back to the castle after everyone else had already headed back to celebrate Gryffindor’s victory over Hufflepuff. It had been his second match of the year of the year and he had approached it with a slight amount of concern after Wood told the team that Snape was going to be refereeing the match. Ron had been so worried that he had spent days trying to convince Harry to fake an injury so that Snape couldn’t try and take him out. Snape hadn’t tried to harm him though, instead what he had tried to do was give Gryffindor so many penalties that Hufflepuff would win by default. Harry was fairly certain that that had annoyed the Hufflepuffs no end because his actions were telling them that Snape didn’t think they had a hope of winning unless he helped them by cheating. The end result of Snape’s cheating had been the fastest Quidditch match in Hogwarts if not the whole of Quidditch history.

Remembering the expression on Snape’s face as he barrelled past him in pursuit of the Snitch, the smile on Harry’s face widened even further. It quickly vanished however as he reached the broom shed and saw some wearing a cloak with a hood sneaking down the steps of the castle in the twilight. Even at this distance, he recognized Snape’s prowling walk and wondered what the man was doing sneaking out of school while everyone else was at dinner.

He didn’t stop to think as he mounted his broom and quietly followed the man as he headed toward the Forbidden forest. He had to fly carefully through the trees and lost sight of Snape for a while. Flying lower he circled the tress until he heard voices a short distance away and recognized Snape’s and... Quirrell’s. Landing on the wide branch of a nearby towering beach, Harry moved carefully along the broad limb until he was right over them and could hear what they were saying clearly.

“...d-d-don’t know w-w-why you wanted t-t-to meet here of all p-p-places.’ Quirrell stuttered.

“I would have thought that would have been obvious, fool.” Snape spat. “To keep our conversation private. The students aren’t supposed to know about the Philospher’s Stone or that it’s at Hogwarts after all.”

Pleased that he had guessed correctly about what was being hidden at the school, Harry leaned forward trying to hear what Quirrell was mumbling.

“Have you been able to find out how to get past Hagrid’s three headed monstrosity yet?” Snape interrupted the other man’s mumbling monologue.

“B-b-but Severus, I-I-I...” Quirrell stammered.

Grabbing the front of the Defence professor’s robes, Snape shook him and told him, “You don’t want me as an enemy, Quirrell.”

“I-I-I d-d-don’t know what y-y-you’re talking...”

An owl hooted nearby startling both the men below and Harry. He nearly lost his balance on the tree limb above them and missed part of their conversation.

“...do what you have to do to get that information. I am not a patient man, remember.” Snape growled.

“B-b-but I-I-I don’t know how...”

Snape looked back over his shoulder toward the castle. “It looks like we’ll have to have another little chat later. Take so time and think about where your loyalties lie.”

Snape threw his cloak back on and strode off back toward the castle, while Harry watched Quirrell who was standing right below him seemingly petrified.

###############

Upon entering the Gryffindor common room Harry was met at the portrait hole by Hermione who demanded to know. “Harry, where have you been? The match was over a long time ago.”

Ron came over and pounded him on the back, shouting. “We won! You won! We won! Talk about showing Slytherin who’s best. I gave Malfoy a black eye while Neville tired to take on Crabbe and Goyle single-handed! Madame Pomfrey says he’ll be fine and should be out of the Hospital wing by tomorrow.” Ron pulled Harry into the main area of the common room. “We’re having a party to celebrate and we’ve been waiting for you. Fred and George nicked some cakes and stuff from the kitchens...”

Harry was surprised to hear that Neville had taken on both Crabbe and Goyle. He hadn’t thought his shy friend had progressed that far in overcoming his fears. He was glad though to hear that Neville wasn’t too badly hurt. Before Ron could launch into a blow-by-blow description of Snape’s humiliation at Harry’s hands, he told them. ‘Never mind that, we need to go some place and talk.’

They followed him a short way down the corridor and after checking an empty room to make sure Peeves wasn’t there, they went in and closed the door, so they couldn’t be overheard.

“I was right!” Ron crowed once Harry had finished telling them about the meeting between Snape and Quirrell. “I knew Snape was going after the Phlisopher’s Stone!”

Hermione quickly brought Ron back down to Earth. “Given that Snape needs Quirrell’s help, there must be other things guarding the Stone, besides Fluffy. That means it will only remain safe as long as Quirrell continues to stand up to Professor Snape.”

“Then it’ll be gone by the end of next week.” Ron moaned as he ran his fingers through his hair. “Quirrell probably won’t last past next Tuesday.”

‘Maybe, maybe not,’ Harry wasn’t so sure that Quirrell was as cowardly as he appeared. There was something odd about the man that made him uneasy, but he hadn’t figured out what it was yet.

#############

In the weeks following the secret meeting that Harry had witnessed, Quirrell appeared to be thinner and paler, but he didn’t seem to have cracked under the pressure that Snape had to be applying. Snape on the other hand was even more short tempered that usual, if that were possible. He growled at students when he encountered them in the halls.

Harry, Neville and Ron had been taking turns checking the door in the third floor corridor to make sure it was still locked and that Fluffy was still growling on the other side. And on one of his visits, Harry put a ward of protection from his Book of Shadows on the door. While it might not prevent anyone from entering, it would alert him, if the door were breached by any method other than the key, so he could get help to stop whoever it was from getting the Stone.

Hermione had other things on her mind than protecting the Philospher’s Stone. She spent most of her time when she wasn’t in class working up study schedules and Harry even saw her colour coding her notes. She had also been bugging all three boys, trying to get them to do the same.

“Why should we bother, Hermione? The exams are months from now.” Ron protested after she had dragged the three boys down to the library to do some studying.

“The exams are in exactly ten weeks which is not all that long and that time will be gone before you know it.” Hermione countered crisply. “In fact to someone like Nicholas Flamel, I willing to bet that it’s probably no more than the blink of any eye.”

Ron threw down his quill in disgust as Hermione handed him the study schedule she’d made for him. “There’s no way i’m going to remember all that. Not mention that there’s no time for other things.”

“What? Like wasting your time keeping track of Quidditch?” Hermione glared at him. “You need to study so you can pass your exams if you want to get into second year. End of year tests are very important.”

“But you already know this stuff,” Ron pointed out, “why are you studying it again?”

“I’m studying so I can pass my exams, like you should be.” Hermione shuffled some pieces of parchment around. “I should have started reviewing a month ago. I don’t know why I let you distract me. I don’t know what’s gotten into me...”

“What we’ve been doing is important too.” Neville reminded her. “We have to keep Professor Snape from getting his hands on the Stone.”

“Nothing is more important than getting a good grade.” Hermione insisted.

‘There is one thing more important,’ Harry looked up from his copy of One Thousand Magical herbs and Fungi.

“What?” Hermione growled. “Oh, I know... Quidditch!”

Harry shook his head, ‘No life. Remembering to live each day and enjoying every last minute of it.’

Hermione just stared at him in disbelief. What made him think she didn’t know how to live and enjoy life. Just because she wasn’t acting stupid and flippant about her education didn’t mean she didn’t know how to have a good time. She always had a good time with her parents going to museums, seeing sites of historical interest, among other things.

“Give it up Harry,” Ron advised as he got up from the table. “She doesn’t understand and probably never will since it’s not something you can learn from a book.”

Hermione just threw up her hands in disgust and returned to her studying.

Harry shrugged thinking Ron was probably right and returned to his essay on Dittany for Herbology. He was quickly distracted again when he heard Ron say, “Hagrid! What brings you to the Library?”

When Hagrid came into view, Harry noticed he was trying to hide something from them and he wasn’t being very subtle about it. He also looked very out of place in his moleskin overcoat.

“Jus’ lookin’,” the shifty tone of Hagrid’s voice caught their interest immediately. Realising this, Hagrid tried to distract them. “What are you lot up to?” Looking at the books spread out over the table, he inquired, “Yer not still lookin’ fer Nicholas Flamel are ye?”

“We found out who he is ages ago.” Ron told him smugly. “And we know what Fluffy is guarding. It’s the Philo…”

Shhhh!” Hagrid interrupted him then looked around to see if anyone was paying attention. “Ye don’t want ta go blabbin’ about that in public.”

‘Hagrid, I have a couple of questions.’ Harry told him softly. ‘Aside from Fluffy what else is guarding…’

“SHHHH!” Hagrid hissed again. “Lissen – come and see me later… I’m not saying I’ll tell ye anything, mind but ye don’t want ta go rabbiting on about this around the other students. Yeh aren’t supposed ta know an’ they’ll think I told yeh.”

Hagrid left the library without saying another word.

“I wonder what he was really here for?” Hermione eyed the stacks speculatively. “He was hiding something behind his back and moved it to the front as he left.”

“I’m going to find out.” Ron headed into the section where he’d first seen Hagrid and returned a few moments later with an armload of books. “He was looking up stuff about dragons.”

Dragons!” Hermione whispered. “Now why would Hagrid be looking up information on such an odd subject. There aren’t any dragons at Hogwarts, so he doesn’t need it to take care of an injured one. There aren’t even any wild ones in Britain for him to study.”

“Yes there are,” Ron countered, pleased that he knew something she didn’t. “There’s the Welsh Green and the Hebridian Black. The Ministry has a hard time keeping the muggles from finding out about them. They keep having to memory charm the muggles who have seen one.”

‘When we went to Diagon Alley, Hagrid told me that he’s always wanted a dragon.’ Harry told them.

“He can’t have gotten his hands on one, can he?”

“I hope not.” Ron told her. “Aside from the fact that it’s illegal to breed them, a dragon can’t be tamed, not even the ones that have been raised from an egg in the Reserves. According to my brother Charlie, it takes several people to handle 1 dragon and even then there are accidents. You should see the burns Charlie has gotten from the ones he works with at the Romanian reserve.”

“I hope he doesn’t have one.” Neville murmured, his face paling at the thought of a dragon on the Hogwarts grounds.

##############

When they arrived at Hagrid’s hut later that afternoon, they four first years were surprised to see all the curtains were closed.

When Harry knocked, Hagrid called out, “Who is it?”

Once they’d identified themselves, he let them in and quickly closed the door behind Ron. They found the inside of Hagrid’s hut stifling and for some reason even though it was very warm outside,, Hagrid had a roaring fire going in his fireplace.

As if he’d invited them down for tea, Hagrid played host, even offering to make them a stoat sandwich. They declined the offer, having no desire to eat stoat. Harry didn’t even know what a stoat was but was fairly sure he wouldn’t want to eat one.

“Ye wanted to ask me sumpthin.”

Harry could tell that Hagrid want to get them out of his house as son as possible and that was probably why he’d offered them stoat, knowing they would turn it down, thereby hastening their departure. Having been nominated spokesman by the other three, Harry began, ‘we know there has to be more than Fluffy guarding the Stone. We would like to know what it is or they are.”

Hagrid frowned at them before saying, “I can’t tell ye that and for very good reasons. Firstly cause I don’t know meself.” Then he added in a slightly angry tone. “’Sides ya know too much already. The only reason I’m tellin’ ya any a this is ‘cause ya already know about Fluffy, though how ya found out is beyond me.”

When he paused for breath, Ron put in. “If we already know so much, what would it hurt to tell us the rest?”

“The Stone is here ta keep it safe.” Hagrid told them. “Ya shouldn’t be gettin’ involved, ‘specially considerin’ that somebody already tried ta steal it from Gringotts. Whoever that was, they have to have access to powerful Dark magic and that’s not someone ya want ta be messin’ with. Leave it to Dumbledore and the teachers.”

“Oh come on Hagrid, you might not want to tell about what is guarding the Stone, but you do know. You know everything that goes on at Hogwarts.” Hermione’s flattering tone won a twitch of Hagrid’s bushy beard and they were sure he was smiling, pleased by the compliment. “We were wondering who’d done the guarding. I mean who else would the Headmaster trust enough to guard the Stone along with you. I mean he’s trusted you with the first line of defence for the Stone after all and that shows what high regard he has for you.”

Hagrid’s chest swelled with pride and he preened a little at Hermione’s words of praise. Ron just smiled, pleased with Hermione’s handling of the man.

“Well,” Hagrid looked thoughtful, “I don’t s’pose it would hurt… Let’s see… you already know that he borrowed Fluffy from me. Some of the teachers added protections of their own. Professor Sprout, Professor Flitwick, Professor McGonagall,” he ticked them off on his fingers. Professor Quirrell did something an’ of course Dumbledore put in something as well.”

Hagrid looked at his raised fingers. “’M fergettin’ somebody.” He ran the list over again in his head, then said, “Of course, I fergot Professor Snape.”

Snape!” Ron got a little sick at the thought.

“Yeah, Snape.” Hagrid gave Ron a look of annoyance. “Yer not still going on about Snape bein’ after the Stone are yeh? Look I know he’s not a favourite with Gryffindors, but Dumbledore trusts him. He’s helping ta protect the Stone. He wouldn’t be stealin’ somethin’ he’s supposed ta keep safe.”

‘I suppose there was a lot of discussion about who was going to do what.’ Harry commented in an offhand way. ‘I mean you’d have to make sure the protections weren’t being duplicated.’

Hagrid shrugged. “I suppose there must have been, except fer Fluffy. Dumbledore kind’a asked to borrow him at the last minute. Said he wanted on final protection that no one else knew about.”

Hagrid didn’t realise that he had given them another piece of the puzzle and it explained why Snape wanted Quirrell to find out how to get past the dog. Hagrid wouldn’t tell Snape if he asked because he was a Slytherin and the large man didn’t trust Slytherins. One glance at the other three told Harry they were thinking along the same lines.

“So only you and Professor Dumbledore know how to get past Fluffy, right?” Hermione wanted to confirm their suspicions.

“Thas right. Only me and the Headmaster,” Hagrid looked proud of that fact. “And neither of us will ever tell a soul.”

Harry doubted that was the case, given how easy it was to get the gamekeeper to reveal things without realising he’d done it, but Harry kept his thoughts to himself. Wiping the sweat off his face, Harry asked, ‘Hagrid, can we open a window? It’s awfully hot in here.’

“Sorry Harry, but I can’t.” Harry noticed that he gave the fireplace a nervous glance as he said this.

‘Hagrid… what’s that?’ Harry moved to get a closer look, but he had a feeling he knew what it was.

In the heart of the fire was a large black egg, bigger than an ostrich egg. Harry was fairly certain that he was looking at a dragon’s egg.

Ron recognised it too. “Where did you get that, Hagrid? Those are really rare. It must’ve cost you a fortune.”

“Actually, I won it off a stranger in a game of cards at the pub in the village.” Hagrid told them.

“He could have sold in Knockturn Alley for a fortune.” Ron observed. “Why would he risk it in a card game with someone he didn’t know and who might’ve reported him to the Aurors for illegal trafficking in dragon eggs?”

Hagrid looked as if the question had never occurred to him. “I thought he was just glad to get rid of it and I wanted it.”

“Guys,” Hermione interrupted. “How Hagrid got the egg isn’t all that important right now. What is important is what are we going to do about it.”

We are not going to be doing anything.” Hagrid glared at Hermione. “I will take care of the egg and when it hatches, I’ll raise it like a good mummy should.”

“Hagrid, you don’t know the first thing about raising dragons.” Hermione pointed out. “Not to mention the fact that when it is hatched it will start growing and if a dragon is like any other baby animal, they grow very fast in their first year.”

“I’m not going into this blind, Hermione.” Hagrid told her pulling a book out from under the pillow on his bed. “I’ve been readin’ up on takin’ care of dragons. I know the book is a bit outdated, but it has everything in it that I need to know to raise a dragon up good and proper.”

He opened Dragon Breeding for Pleasure and Profit and turned a few pages before pointing to a section of it. “See here, it tells you how you can figure out by the egg what kind of dragon you have. According to the book, what I got is a Norwegian Rdigeback and it’s one a the rarer ones.”

Hermione tried again. “Hagrid, you live in a wooden house and you want to raise something that breaths fire.”

It was clear that Hagrid wasn’t listening to her. He was humming to himself as he stoked the fire and watched the flames surrounding the egg rise higher.

###############

So over the next few weeks, in addition to worrying about how long it would be before Snape found out how to get past Fluffy, and dealing with all the extra homework that was being given to them, Harry and his friends now had to figure out how to convince Hagrid to give up the dragon egg, before anyone realised that he had it.

Every attempt they had made so far had met with failure. Hagrid had just kept telling them that he knew he could raise the dragon just like its mum would have. He had even asked Grams for advice on how to get him to give it up before the dragon hatched, but her suggestion would only work if there was an imminent danger of the dragon being discovered. Harry thought it would work though, given how Hagrid felt about Dumbledore.

And unlike the others Harry had one more thing to think about. After finding out about the dragon’s egg, Harry had shifted a letter to Grams outlining what had happened since Christmas. In her reply, Grams had agreed with him that the timing was a little too suspicious. She had pointed out that there was no doubt that every teacher in the school knew of Hagrid’s desire for a dragon, even though it was illegal for anyone in Britain to have one and now all of a sudden Hagrid had his heart’s wish, provided by some chance met stranger.

Given the Snape’s obsession with potions, Grams doubted that he would voluntarily give up a dragon’s egg, even for the Philospher’s Stone, because it was a ready source for so many different potions ingredients. She hadn’t discounted Quirrell being the provider of the egg, probably through someone he might’ve known in the Dark Arts community, who had or could get their hands on a dragon's egg. If that had indeed been the case then it would be a good way for Quirrell to get the information that Snape wanted without the risk of implicating himself. She had also reminded him that it might not be either of the two men, and he shouldn’t ignore the facts he had, not to get caught up by the most obvious solution that Snape was after the Stone. Whoever was after it would want to avoid implicating themselves until it was too late to stop them from getting their hands on the Stone, but she did agree that Hagrid had indeed told them how to get past Fluffy, probably without realising he’d done it.

The only other useful suggestions she had had was too keep his eyes open for any situation that would put Dumbledore out of commission for a while or else take him away from the school, because if she had been the one who was after the Stone she would have waited until he couldn’t interfere. Her reason had been very simple. Whatever Dumbledore had put in place to protect the Stone was probably the only unknown for the thief and they would want as much time as possible to deal with it. She had also sent him a second spell to place on the door to Fluffy’s room. She’d told him it would act like those dye packs the banks used on thieves, so they would be able to identify the thief. He’d added the spell that same evening he got her reply.

############

It was few weeks after they’d found out about the dragon egg that Hagrid sent Harry a very short note: it’s hatching!

Ron wanted to go down right after breakfast and see the dragon hatch, but Hermione refused to skip Herbology and Neville didn’t want to go anywhere near a dragon – even if it was a baby one.

“Hermione, how many times in your life will you be able to see a dragon hatch?” Ron made another attempt to convince her to skip class as they headed toward the greenhouses for their Herbology lesson. “This may be a once in a lifetime opportunity and you want to miss it.”

“We’ve got lessons.” Hermione snapped tired of this discussion. “Some of us care about passing our exams. Besides the trouble we’d be in if we got caught would be nothing compared to the trouble…”

‘Both of you shut up!’ Harry ordered in a low voice when he realised that Malfoy was nearby and watching them intently. The expression on the Slytherin’s face made him nervous.

#################

It had taken persistence on Ron’s part, but he’d managed to convince Hermione to go down to Hagrid’s during their morning break. Their timing couldn’t have been better, because as soon as they entered Hagrid’s hut the dragon broke out of its shell.

Unlike other baby animals Harry had seen before, the dragon wasn’t a pretty sight. It was definitely a baby only a mother… or Hagrid, judging by the sappy expression on his face, could love.

Hagrid’s next words confirmed Harry’s belief. “Isn’t he beautiful

Hagrid reached out to touch the baby dragon’s head, but the dragon objected to the contact by snapping at his fingers and showing sharp pointed fangs.

Hagrid just laughed. “Look, he knows his mum!”

“Hagrid, just how fast will a Norwegian Ridgeback grow?”

Harry knew that Hermione was about to make another attempt to convince Hagrid to give up the dragon.

Before the large man could reply though, his face lost all colour as he stared at the window. He leapt to his feet and headed for the door.

‘What is it, Hagrid?’ Harry had been startled by his unexpected actions.

“There was someone lookin’ in through a gap in the curtains.” Hagrid told them. “Some kid. He’s running back up to school.”

Harry looked past Hagrid and recognised Malfoy’s silvery blond head. They were really in for it now. Malfoy had seen the dragon.

‘Hagrid, the dragon has to go.’ Harry told him firmly. ‘Someone like Malfoy will only hold off telling someone for a while. He’ll wait until there’s either something for him to gain and then threaten to reveal Norbert’s existence. Or he’ll just reveal that you have an illegal dragon when and where the news will cause the most damage. Either way we can’t count on him keeping quiet forever.’

“I’m not giving up Norbert,” Hagrid told him firmly.

“Norbert?” Ron looked kind of sick at the name.

“That’s what I’m gonna call ‘im.” Hagrid told them. “He’s mine and I’m not givin’ ‘im up.”

“Hagrid, you can’t keep him. It’s illegal for anyone outside of the dragon reserves to be seen with a dragon, unless they area accompanied by the dragon’s handler.” Hermione put in. “You won’t be able to keep him if Malfoy tells his father and then his father has you arrested for harbouring a dangerous creature.”

Hagrid paled, but his face remained stubbornly set. “Norbert’s not dangerous.”

“But he will be Hagrid,” Hermione pointed out. “Dragon’s grow very fast and Norbert will soon out grow your house. Once that happens how long will it be before he’s seen? Malfoy would just have to wait for that to happen and even if Norbert doesn’t attack anyone, he can claim that you were endangering the children at this school.”

Seeing the expression on Hagrid’s face begin to waver, Harry pulled out the one hold card Grams recommended he use. ‘And do you think you will be the only one Malfoy’s father will have arrested? He’ll probably get Ron, Hermione, and I expelled because we knew you had the dragon, but didn’t tell anyone, but given the way I’ve heard Malfoy talk about how his father feels about Dumbledore, I have no doubt he will have him arrested as well.’

Hagrid’s face took on a stunned expression as if this idea had never occurred to him. Encouraged, Harry continued, ‘And even if Malfoy Sr doesn’t manage to get Dumbledore thrown in prison with you, he will certainly see to it that he is removed as Headmaster of Hogwarts and possibly McGonagall as Deputy Headmistress.’

Seeing that Hagrid was really listening this time, Hermione added, “all Malfoy has to do is wait about a month for Norbert to get too big to keep in your house. That’s if he doesn’t burn it down first. And even if Draco Malfoy is not patient enough, his father might be. He’ll know that all he has to do is wait about a month, for the dragon’s normal instincts to take over and he’ll have the chance to remove Dumbledore. How were you going to keep him from attacking Fang or one of the students once he got too large for you to control?”

“I would’a taught him ta leave the student and other animals alone by then.” Hagrid told her, but it was clear from the expression on his face that Hagrid had never considered what to do with the dragon, once it became too large to hide in his house.

‘Hagrid, you can’t be with him all the time and just like with some dogs sooner or later Norbert’s natural instincts will take over and there will be dead or injured students as a result.’ Harry pointed out yet again. ‘All the Malfoys have to do is wait for that to happen then they can step in and get rid of the dragon, you, and the Headmaster.’

“But the Headmaster doesn’t know I have Norbert.” Hagrid pointed out. “They won’t get rid of him because a somethin’ I did.”

Seeing that Hagrid’s resistance was weakening, Harry pressed harder, using the fact that Malfoy knew to drive the point home. ‘You think that will matter to Malfoy’s father? Dumbledore is the Headmaster. He’s supposed to know about everything that goes on at his school that could affect or endanger the lives of the students and if Malfoy’s father is really determined to get rid of the Headmaster, that’s how he’ll put it out. That the Headmaster knowingly let you keep a dangerous creature on the Hogwarts ground. If Norbert attacks someone, it won’t matter then if Dumbledore knew or not, the other parents driven into a frenzy by Malfoy Sr.’s words will no doubt be out after the Headmaster’s blood.’

Harry paused for a moment to let that sink in. He didn’t know where the words or eloquence was coming from but he didn’t fight the source of it, because he could see he was reaching Hagrid. ‘Is that what you want to happen? That is undoubtedly what will happen once they find out about Norbert. The Headmaster will lose his job and may go to prison because you wanted to keep an illegal dragon!’

“He can’t fend fer himself yet.” Hagrid looked pained. “I can’t jus dump ‘im in the woods, it wouldn’t be right.”

Harry conceded that the large man had a valid point. Aside from the fact that dumping a baby dragon in the woods might unleash a bigger problem down the road, if it managed to survive, if it didn’t then it would almost be like drowning a puppy or a kitten if it died. He didn’t need or want to attract any bad karma, so they had to find some safe way to get rid of the dragon without killing it.

Then Harry remembered something Ron had mentioned a few times before. ‘Ron, you said your brother Charlie works with dragons in Romania, right?’

“Yeah, so?” Ron didn’t see why he was asking at first, then he finally caught on. “You want me to see if he could come and take this dragon off our hands?”

“Do you think he would?” Hagrid’s face lit up.

Ron shrugged. “All I can do is ask him. Harry will you let me borrow Hedwig? I’d rather not use a school owl.”

‘Sure,’ Harry told him.

“So all we have to do is hope that Malfoy doesn’t decide to do anything with the information he has, before we can get the dragon out of here.” Hermione summed up the problem. “That’s assuming that Charlie’s willing to help us.”

###############

Knowing that it was important to her master that he get this as soon as possible, Hedwig tapped on the window that led to the room her master was currently in.

Her master was clearly pleased to see her, because he praised her for doing the job so quickly and so well as he fed her some owl treats.

When she had eaten the last one, her master told her, ‘I’m sure you’re tired after that long trip, why don’t you go up to the owlery for some rest.’

Hedwig hooted in agreement and went back out the open window.

After making sure no one was nearby, Ron in a low voice told them. “Charlie said he’ll take the dragon, only problem is that we have to get Norbert up on the tallest Astronomy tower Saturday for some friends of his to pick up.”

After a few moments thought, Harry told the other three, ‘I think my invisibility cloak should be big enough to hide us and Norbert.

“Thank Merlin, he hasn’t gotten too big yet.” Ron sighed. “Can you imagine how hard this would be a few weeks from now?”

“I don’t think I should go with you.” Neville told them. “I don’t want you to get caught because of me.”

Even though Neville’s clumsiness had improved, stealth in this case was very necessary, so Harry nodded and said, ‘You can act as our lookout here. I’ll leave Hedwig with you and if someone comes looking for us here, just send her to find me, okay.’

‘I’ll send Hagrid a note tomorrow to let him know.’ Harry told Ron and Hermione who were going to be helping him move the dragon. ‘I think we should avoid being seen down there until Saturday, if only to keep Malfoy guessing.’

“And hope and pray that Malfoy doesn’t decide to say anything about Norbert in the meantime.” Hermione added.

###############

The remainder of the week seemed to go by very slowly after they got Charlie’s letter. The four Gryffindors also noticed that Malfoy had started spending a lot of time somewhere near them both in and out of class.

‘He is losing points for cunning.’ Harry observed as they sat down at one of the tables in the library. ‘I thought Slytherin’s were supposed to be cunning, but he’s just so obvious.’

“You know why he’s following us around?” Ron growled having bumped into Malfoy as he was coming out of the Hospital wing. “He even followed me up to the Hospital wing when I went to get treated for that snapdraon bite.”

‘He’s making sure he doesn’t miss it, when or if we do anything about Hagrid’s little problem.’ Harry told the three with him in a low voice.

“Not to mention, he’s probably getting tired of sitting on this secret.” Neville put in.

“Oh no!” Ron moaned as he stared at the pages of his Herbology book.

“What’s wrong?” Hermione asked.

“Charlie’s letter is gone!” Ron hissed.

“The one about Saturday?” Hermione asked.

“Yes.” Ron growled.

“Just making sure, that’s the one you meant.” Hermione held up her hands in surrender.

‘Was your book left alone anywhere?’ Harry asked.

“Madame Pompfrey made me leave it in her office while she took care of my hand” Ron told them and then smacked his forehead. “Malfoy was standing near her office when I came to get my book. He knows about tomorrow night.”

‘Well it’s too late to change our plans now.’ Harry tried to sound calm and not let his worry show. He wondered if this was how Grams felt sometimes when things didn’t go quite right when she was fighting a demon. ‘There’s no way an owl could reach Charlie before tomorrow night. Not to mention this is probably going to be our only chance to get rid of Norbert, so we’ll have to take it. If he stays much longer, it will probably be harder to get Hagrid to let him go. At least Malfoy doesn’t know about the invisibility cloak so that gives us an advantage.’

“And we’re going to need it.” Ron commented gloomily.

#############

When they reached Hagrid’s hut, they found that the gamekeeper had Norbert already packed into a crate and was sobbing uncontrollably.

“He’s got lots of brandy and rats.” Hagrid told them as he blew his nose on his tablecloth sized handkerchief. “I also packed his teddy bear, so he wouldn’t get lonely on the trip.”

The crate rocked from side to side and there was a ripping sound from within it. Harry had a feeling that Norbert hadn’t liked his travelling companion and had removed him from the trip plans.

Hagrid continued to weep as Harry and Hermione covered the crate with the Invisibility cloak. Ron hadn’t been able to come with them because he was in the Hospital wing. He’d had a reaction to something in the potion he’d been given for the Snapdragon venom.

“Bye Norbert,” Hagrid blubbered as they lifted the crate. “Mummy will miss you and will never forget you.”

Halfway to the Astronomy Tower Harry felt a warning twinge from Hogwarts and gestured with his head for Hermione to move sideways into the shadows.

Hermione didn’t understand why Harry wanted them to move into the shadows, but she did as he requested. As they set the crate down, she saw a lamp flare to life further up the hall and was glad she had followed her instinct to trust Harry, because even though they were hidden under an invisibility cloak it still might be possible for someone to hear them moving. She did make a mental note to ask how he knew someone was coming. She certainly hadn’t heard anyone.

As the pair waited for the person to either go by or head in the opposite direction, they were treated to an unusual sight. McGonagall came by in her tartan bathrobe, pulling Malfoy along by the ear.

“Detention!” She was telling the Slytherin whose ear she held onto tightly. “Twenty points from Slytherin for being out past curfew.”

They could see Malfoy was wincing in pain and felt slightly, only slightly sympathetic about his plight.

“You don’t understand, Professor,” Malfoy tried to explain. “Potter is smuggling a dragon somewhere tonight.”

“Nonsense!” McGonagall scoffed. “What utter rubbish! Surely you can come up with a better story than that Mr. Malfoy. When we get to my office, I will be summoning your Head of House…”

McGonagall’s voice faded as she and Malfoy continued down the hall.

Harry and Hermione barely managed to contain their laughter at the scene they had witnessed until they reached the Astronomy tower.

After they’d removed the invisibility cloak, Hermione danced in place and sang, “She gave Malfoy detention and didn’t believe him!”

‘Let’s save our celebration over Malfoy’s downfall until we get back to the Gryffindor common room all right.’ Harry advised her and he scanned the sky looking for a sign of riders on broomsticks.

They’d been up on the tower for a while with Norbert thrashing around in his crate, before four broomsticks came sweeping down from the starry sky to join them.

Knowing that time was running out, they helped the four riders secure the crate in the harness that had been rigged to carry it. Once it was secure, Harry and Hermione watched until they and Norbert were out of sight.

Harry had been so preoccupied with making sure the dragon got away unseen, that he missed Hogwarts’ warning of approaching trouble until it was too late. As they were turning to go back downstairs, Filch’s head appeared in the doorway. He was slightly out of breath, Harry noticed, so he must’ve run all the up here to make sure they didn’t get away, given there were several corridors off the tower stairwell.

Blocking the doorway, Filch smiled an unpleasant smile. “Well, well, what do we have here? Why it looks like students out of bed.”

Not wanting his father’s cloak to be confiscated by Filch, Harry quickly shifted it to his trunk. He would tell Hermione later that he went back to retrieve it once everything had calmed down.

As Filch dragged them to McGonagall’s office, Harry tried to come up with a believable excuse for why they were out past curfew, not to mention up on top of the Astronomy tower that no student was allowed to on when they were not in class. Just they approached McGonagall’s office, he had an idea. He quickly shifted the jar he knew Grams used to contain the ashes from her Samhain rituals into his bathrobe pocket.

When he saw who else was in McGonagall’s office, he was glad he had done so. She was still dealing with Malfoy and Snape was apparently there as well.

The expression on Snape’s face as Filch told the teachers where they’d been found was one of having received a wonderful and unexpected gift from the gods.

“See I told you!” Malfoy crowed. “I told you they were trying to smuggle a dragon out of school!”

“Mr. Filch, did you see any signs of a dragon having been up on the Astronomy tower where you found Mr. Potter and Miss Granger?” McGonagall asked the caretaker.

“No Professor,” Filch was forced to admit, then added, “but who knows how long they were up there before I found them.”

“Thank you Mr. Filch.”

The caretaker left the room looking slightly disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to watch the proceedings, but he knew a dismissal when he heard one.

Once the door to her office had closed behind the caretaker, McGonagall fixed the two wayward Gryffindors with a frosty glare. “Mr. Potter, Miss Granger, would either of you care to tell me what you were doing out of your dormitories after curfew?”

Hermione didn’t say a word. She kept her eyes lowered to the ground, not wanting to see the disappointed expression on McGonagall’s face. She looked up to the woman and considered her an icon.

“Did you have a dragon in your possession up on the tower tonight, Potter?” Snape growled.

Harry took a deep breath and said, ‘No Professor Snape. How would I have gotten my hands on a dragon? I mean from what I’ve heard about them, they are illegal to own.”

Snape slammed his fist down on McGonagall’s desk, startling everyone. “You’re lying Potter. Tell me the truth!

Harry met his gaze evenly as he said, ‘I told you the truth. I do not now, nor have I ever owned a dragon. Neither has Hermione, Ron, Neville, or anyone else in the Gryffindor tower.’

Harry felt a tickling in his head similar to what he felt from Dumbledore just before Christmas. He hadn’t known there was another mindreader in this school. Not sure if the shield was still intact, he mentally recited:

A shield around my mind I place,
my thoughts to guard.
Let it be black as deepest space
And diamond hard


The tickling, probing sensation vanished and Snape looked both surprised and frustrated.

“Mr. Potter, why were you on the Astronomy Tower when class was not in session not to mention after curfew?” McGonagall asked. “You know it is forbidden to be up there unless it is during class.”

Harry met McGongall’s gaze, reminding himself to keep it simple. ‘I was doing something my Aunt asked me to do.’

“What?” Snape growled, instantly suspicious. No mention of that wretched woman was ever good.

Harry still kept his eyes focused on McGonagall. ‘An old friend of hers died recently and the last time she spoke with my Aunt, she asked her to make sure that her ashes were scattered over the land of her birth on the night of her birth. She was born in Scotland near Edinburgh. My Aunt promised that her wishes would be carried out and gave me the jar containing her ashes since I’m attending school here in Scotland and asked me to spread them.’

“Why didn’t you tell one of the teachers, we could’ve made arrangements for you to do it earlier this evening?” McGonagall wanted to know.

Harry looked embarrassed, ‘I forgot, until I opened up my trunk to get something out of it tonight and saw the jar sitting there. I figured I could nip up there, after everyone was in bed, scatter them and get back before I was missed. Hermione came along when she found out where I was going because she didn’t want me going alone.”

“Is this true, Miss. Granger?” McGonagall asked.

Hermione looked up, nodded and then looked back down at her slippers again.

“You can’t possibly believe this fairy tale!” Snape demanded.

“It should be fairly easy to prove, one way or the other.” McGonagall countered calmly. “Turn out your pockets Mr. Potter.”

Carefully pulling the clay jar out of his bathrobe pocket, Harry handed it to her. ‘Her ashes were in here. I will need to bring that back to my aunt.’

McGonagall looked at the jar carefully. It was old and there was the Celtic symbol embossed on the front that she hadn’t seen in years; the triquetra. Opening the lid, she sniffed the contents carefully and then ran a finger along the inside of the jar. When she pulled her finger out it was black with soot and covered with some bits of ash.

She returned the jar to Harry and said, “Twenty points each from Gryffindor for being out past curfew, even though you thought you had a good reason. You and Miss Granger will also be serving detention with Mr. Malfoy for being out past curfew.”

“And Mr. Malfoy’s claim that Mr. Potter had a dragon in his possession?” Snape wanted to know.

“I am satisfied that it was an attempt to get Mr. Potter in trouble once he found out about them being out of their dorms, which means he broke curfew first in order to be aware of the fact that they were out.” McGonagall told him. “I don’t know why Mr. Malfoy felt it necessary to concoct a story about Mr. Potter having a dragon, and unless he can provide real proof of its existence I am satisfied with Mr. Potter’s explanation as to why he and Miss Granger were out of their dorms.”

#############

The following morning, Hermione finally had a chance to ask Harry about the jar he’d had in his robe. She was certain that Harry hadn’t had it when they went out to Hagrid’s and he’d had no time to get it after they’d returned to the castle with Norbert. “Harry, where did you get that jar and how did you know we’d need it?”

Harry had decided last night that he was going to stick with the story he told McGonagall, if she asked him about it. ‘I told McGonagall the truth last night. I had it when we went to Hagrid’s.’

“But where are the ashes?” Hermione wanted to know. “I know you didn’t scatter them while you were on the tower. I would’ve seen you doing it.”

‘No I didn’t,’ Harry agreed, ‘but I did scatter them on the way to Hagrid’s. You were walking in front of me under the cloak, remember.”

Hermione nodded then changed the subject. “What do you think our detention will be?”

‘I don’t know,’ Harry told her. ‘The only thing I hope is that it isn’t with Snape.’

Hermione nodded her head in agreement.

###################

They received the notice about their detention about a week before exams were due to start and it indicated that they were to meet Filch near the front entrance at 11pm that evening.

When they arrived they found Filch and Malfoy waiting for them.

Malfoy sneered at them and said, “Sooner or later your luck is going to run out, Potter.”

‘You’d better pray you aren’t anywhere near me when that happens,’ Harry told him, ‘or your luck might just be gone as well.’

“Follow me,” Filch instructed, a smile on his face as he picked up a lantern. "After tonight, maybe you will all realise the rules are there for a reason. It’s a pity that they won’t let the old punishments like the rack and the lash be used any more. I always thought that was a much better deterrent, but what’s in store for you tonight will be almost as good.”

He led them out on to the grounds and down to Hagrid’s hut.

“What are we doing down here?” Malfoy wanted to know.

“Ya finally showed up, Filch.” Hagrid commented as he came out of his hut with a crossbow in hand.

“Had to wait for them, didn’t I.” Filch countered.

“Well ya delivered ‘em so ya can head back ta the castle.” Hagrid told him as he closed the door of his hut after Fang came out.

“Just so ya know,” Filch told the three first years. “This detention isn’t going to be a walk in the park. You’re going into the Forrest and I doubt you’ll all come out in one piece.”

“Stop scaring ‘em, Filch” Hagrid ordered. “We got work ta do and yer keeping me an’ them from it.”

“I’ll be back at dawn, for what’s left of ‘em.” Filch said before he stalked off.

Hagrid glared at Malfoy blaming him for the loss of Norbert, before smiling at Harry and Hermione. “Hi ‘ya Harry. Hermione.”

Malfoy crossed his arms and said, “I’m not setting foot in that forest.”

“If ya want ta remain at Hogwarts ya will.” Hagrid countered not caring at all. “If ye want ta be expelled fer violating school rules, you can head on back ta the school right now and tomorrow morning you’ll be put on the train home with a snapped wand. I’m sure yer father would love to hear how ya got expelled in yer first year.”

Malfoy remained where he was, but he was going to have the last word. “My father will hear about how Dumbledore endangered the students.”

“Yea, yea,” Hagrid gestured toward the forest. “Let’s get going. Time’s a wastin’.”

Near the edge of the forest, Hagrid pointed out a small puddle of silvery stuff gleaming in the moonlight. “See that, that’s unicorn blood. We’re looking fer a badly injured unicorn. It’s the second one this week. I didn’t find the first one in time, but we’re gonna find this one.”

“And what about what hurt the unicorn in the first place?” Malfoy put in snidely. “What’s to stop it from hurting us?”

“Nothing in the forest will hurt you as long as you are with me or Fang.” Hagrid told him. “We’re gonna split up, cause I found traces of blood in a number of places, so it’s been moving around quite a bit since it was hurt.”

“Fine, but I want Fang.” Malfoy told the gamekeeper.

Hagrid shrugged. “Okay, but you should know he’s a coward. Harry would you go with him? I’ll take Hermione with me.”

Harry nodded and set off with Fang and Malfoy.

As they moved deeper into the forest, he got to listen to Malfoy mutter about what his father was going to do to Dumbledore and Hagrid, when he was told about this.

Finally, Harry’d had enough. ‘Draco, if you want the thing that’s attacking the unicorns to find us, please do keep talking, otherwise shut up.’

Malfoy glanced around him worriedly but even though there didn’t seem to be anything around, he shut up.

The splatters of silvery blood were increasing leading Harry to believe that they were soon going to find the unicorn. He just hoped it was alive. As they walked, Harry tried to remember the healing spells that Grams had taught him and the ones in his own Book of Shadows.

Abruptly they came to a clearing and Harry saw something gleaming white lying on ground at the far side of the clearing. Before he could move toward it, he heard the sound of something slithering nearby and froze. The pair of boys saw a shadow kneel over the unicorn’s neck and began to drink its blood.

The sight of that caused Malfoy to shriek, “AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!”

That drew the attention of the creature to them and it started moving toward them, like a snake moving along the ground. Harry felt a sharp pain in his head as Malfoy took off with Fang on his heels.

Harry knew he didn’t have much time and fighting past the pain, he ground out;

Powers of Earth, Air, Fire, and Sea,
lend your aid to me.
This evil one has caused irreparable harm
Banished from the forests for all time it shall be
To protect the forest community


A bright white light filled the clearing and Harry heard the creature howl as the spell took effect.

Blinking his eyes to clear away the spots, Harry stumbled toward the unicorn. It was alive, but just barely.

Reaching out with his magic, he placed his hands on the unicorn’s neck and chanted:

Mother Earth lend me your aid
so a unicorn’s life may be saved.


Green and gold light surrounded his hands and flowed over the unicorn as he finished chanting. When the light vanished, Harry was exhausted as if he’d just finished a major karate competition. The unicorn though was struggling to get to its feet. Harry heard a gasp from the forest and looked around trying to see who was there.

A moment later a centaur stepped into view and bowed to him.

Chapter Text

Race for the Stone


Harry tried twice to get to his feet so he could return the centaur’s bow. The second time he barely made it to knees before collapsing back down to the ground. Deciding to stay where he was for the moment, Harry returned the centaur’s bow by leaning forward slightly, hoping the centaur wouldn’t take offence.

Harry couldn’t ever remember feeling this tired after working magic before. He knew from Grams that when you did magic, you had to use some of your own power to make the spell work, but none of the spells he had done before ever left him feeling this tired and he’d never heard Grams or Patti mention it after one of their big fights against Demons or warlocks who had been trying to eliminate his cousins before they could come into their powers.

Maybe it was because I did two spells one right after the other. He had put everything he had into making them work after all.

A few moments later, he heard a voice ask, “How are you feeling, youngling?”

Harry hadn’t know that centaurs could move that quietly, but when he looked up, he saw four horse legs in front of him and a large hand was extended down toward him.

As Harry took his hand the centaur told him, “I am Firenze. It has been a long time since a Wise One, even one as young as you walked these forest paths.”

‘Why would you call me a Wise One?’ Harry wanted to know. ‘I’m not really that smart.’

“Actually it’s a title of respect youngling.” The centaur explained as he helped the young wizard stand on his wobbly legs. It was clear to the centaur that this young wizard had exhausted himself by what he had done on the unicorn’s behalf. “While the term has become corrupted and turned into wizard, it refers to a person who works the old magicks, ones that are more in tune with the natural order of things and therefore are more powerful. It’s also been a long time since any magic user called on Gaia for help to heal a magical creature or had her respond to that plea.”

The centaur was further shocked when the young wizard leaned up against the side of the unicorn and the unicorn made no move to step away from his touch. Female unicorns were notorious for not wanting to have anything to do with males, even virgin ones because they tended to be too violent for the unicorn’s sensibilities. Female unicorns when they had to deal with humans, unless they were of a mixed race preferred to deal with females since they were usually less violent than human males.

‘I wasn’t going to let the unicorn die, if I could help her.’ Harry didn’t bother to deny what he had done. A centaur was a magical creature so it would have felt the spell he cast to save the unicorn.

Firenze had expected nothing less from a follower of the Old Ways. “What are you doing here in the forest youngling? I know from Hagrid that the forest is forbidden to all students, especially at night and these days that is a good thing since something is out here killing the unicorns.”

‘I was serving detention with Hagrid,’ Harry told him tiredly. ‘We’d split up to try and find the unicorn and my companion ran as soon as we encountered the creature.’

“You encountered the creature and you are still alive?” Firenze stared him dumbfounded.

‘Yea, I was just able to drive it off before it could finish killing the unicorn.’ Harry admitted.

“Well, then I think I should get you back to Hagrid before it comes back.” Firenze grabbed the boy around the waist and lifted him onto his back since it was quite clear the young Wise One wouldn’t be able to walk very far on his own.

‘Thank you,’ Harry drooped against his back. ‘You and the rest of the creatures in the forest shouldn’t have to worry about that creature ever again.’

When nothing more was forthcoming, Firenze asked, “What do you mean?”

Harry pulled his head up and looked the centaur in the eyes. ‘I did a spell to cast the creature out of the forest permanently. If it worked right, that monster will never be able to enter the forest again.’

The unicorn whinnied as Firenze turned to leave the clearing with Harry on his back. Turning back, the centaur waited to see what the unicorn wanted. It reached its head back and nipped some of the longer strands of its mane and gave them a tug. When they didn’t come free, she started to try again, but Firenze said, “allow me.”

As Firenze gently removed some of the now wet strands from her mane one at a time, he commented, “I assume these are for young Harry.”

The unicorn nodded.

When Firenze had six of the strands, he held them up for the unicorn’s inspection. She nodded and gestured with her horn toward the boy leaning tiredly against his bare human back. Handing the strands of white mane back to the boy, he told him, “she would like you to have these. Unicorn mane hair freely given is very rare. Some can occasionally get tail hair, but rarely mane hair unless it has been rubbed off on a tree or something. She is doing you a great honour, young Harry.”

‘Thank you,’ Harry smiled at the unicorn, too tired to do anything more.

The unicorn nodded again then vanished into the forest.

Firenze barely made it to the edge of the clearing before an angry male voice shouted, “Firenze, what do you think you are doing? Why are you carrying a human on your back as if you were some sort of mule?”

Firenze turned back into the clearing and saw two other male centaurs on the far side of it. “Bane. Ronan. Young Potter here has exhausted himself saving a unicorn’s life and I was taking him back to Hagrid so he could be returned to school.”

Bane snorted in disbelief as he moved closer. “I don’t believe you. No human would bother to save a unicorn’s life. They’ve shown repeatedly that they have little regard for the magical creatures of the world.”

“This young human is a follower of the old ways.” Firenze stated. “Those who follow the old ways do protect the innocents and what is more innocent and pure than a unicorn. He also said that he drove off the creature that has been killing them.”

“Now you go too far, Firenze!” Bane scoffed. “There is no way this little human could have driven off an evil creature like that.”

‘Firenze,’ Harry spoke up quickly because he couldn’t let the centaur tell Hagrid what he’d done. ‘We need to keep that between us. Hagrid can’t know because he would tell Dumbledore and the headmaster isn’t supposed to know about that.’

“Isn’t supposed to know what youngling,” the one Firenze had named Ronan asked.

‘I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you, I can’t take the risk,’ Harry told him. ‘Firenze already knows because he saw, but no one else can. My aunt doesn’t want anyone in the wizarding world to find out.’

Bane felt vindicated when Harry wouldn’t admit to what Firenze claimed for him. “See, I told you, this human is just trying to claim credit for something he didn’t do.”

Harry hated being called a liar and mustered some strength to defend himself, ‘Actually centaur, I did! However unlike you I don’t feel the need to prance around and declare my superiority over others.’

While Bane was standing there stunned into silence by the unexpected rebuke, Firenze decided now was a good time to get Harry back to Hagrid before Bane took it into his head to do something stupid. The stars had indicated this boy was important and he needed to survive long enough to fulfil the purpose the stars foretold for him.

‘Firenze,’ Harry spoke up a few minutes later. ‘Why was that creature attacking unicorns? What is so special about their blood?’

Firenze was silent for several minutes before he answered. “Unicorn blood will keep someone alive even if they are inch away from death. However if the blood is not freely given, in other words the unicorn is slain to get it, the person who drinks it will live only a half life, cursed from the moment the stolen blood touches their lips because they slew something pure and innocent to get it.”

Staring at the back of the centaur’s head, Harry tired to make sense of it. ‘Knowing the price they would pay, who could be that foolish? I mean a cursed, half-life is no life at all so why do it?’

“There are those who are so evil and so desirous of clinging to life that they will take any risk, youngling.” Firenze answered him carefully. He had a good idea who the creature had been but he was forbidden by the stars from telling young Potter outright. “You know of one of them. He gave you that scar on your forehead. All this creature may want to do is stay alive long enough to reach something that will guarantee them a longer life.”

‘The Philosopher’s Stone,’ Harry whispered, ‘then that creature was Voldemort.’

“Possibly,” Firenze refused to commit himself. “If rumours are correct, he is trapped between life and death because of his attempt to kill you. The Stone would be a great prize to him, or another like him because it would give them the closest thing to immortality it is possible to have.”

Before Harry could ask another question, they heard a voice calling, “Harry, Harry, where are you? Are you all right?”

Looking up Harry saw Hermione rushing in their direction followed closely by Hagrid.

Firenze helped Harry down to the ground and he was a little more stable on his feet as he assured her and Hagrid, ‘I’m fine.’

“What about the unicorn?” Hagrid wanted to know.

“I will take care of it Hagrid.” Firenze knew that Hagrid would think the unicorn was dead, but the young Wise One had asked for his silence and he would give it.

“Evening Firenze,” Hagrid greeted the centaur.

“Good evening Hagrid,” Firenze looked down at Harry. “Good luck, youngling and may the stars watch over you.”

Without another word, the centaur returned back the way he had come.

##############

“What happened out there, Harry? Malfoy came running back claiming that there was something out there and that it had gone after you.” Hermione asked quietly as she, Ron, and Harry finished up breakfast the next morning. Neville had already left because he was helping Professor Sprout transplant some magical herbs in one of the greenhouses and she’d noticed he had a real gift for it.

‘I’m not really sure,’ Harry kept his eyes focused on the table. ‘I don’t remember much after the cloaked creature appeared. I felt a lot of pain in my head as it started moving toward me, then there was a bright flash of light and it was gone.’

“Hagrid and I saw the flash but didn’t know what to make of it or where it had come from cause it was so bright.” Hermione told him. “Hagrid tried to get Malfoy to lead him back to where he’d left you, but he refused. Nothing Hagrid said would get him to do so.”

“That slimy snake!” Ron growled.

Wanting to get Ron off the subject of Malfoy before he attracted the attention of Snape whom Harry could see coming down the aisle between their table and the Hufflepuffs, Harry said, ‘the next thing I clearly remember is that centaur, Firenze showing up and bringing me back to you and Hagrid.”

“What were you and he talking about?” Hermione wanted to know. “Hagrid and I couldn’t hear what you were saying.”

‘We were talking about why anyone would want to kill a unicorn for its blood.’ Harry told her. ‘Firenze told me that it would have to be someone evil who was dying, because the blood of a unicorn will keep them alive, but that it wouldn’t be much of a life. He thinks that this creature is just trying to buy itself time until it can get something that will give it a better shot at life.’

“The Stone!” Hermione was quick to catch on to what Harry was talking about.

Harry nodded, ‘It might be Voldemort….’

“Please don’t that name.” Ron begged.

‘It’s just a name, Ron. You shouldn’t be afraid of a name.’ Harry pointed out then lowered his voice as he returned to the subject they were discussing. ‘When he was taking me through Diagon Alley, Hagrid told me that no one has really seen Voldemort since my parents were killed. He might be the one behind the unicorn killings trying to stay alive long enough to get the Stone. Whether Snape is helping him or not, the only thing neither of them knows is how to get past Fluffy….’ He paused, looking thoughtful, ‘or do they?’

“What do you mean?” Hermione was lost.

Harry didn’t answer, instead he got up and quickly headed out of the Great Hall, just as an owl flew in and landed beside Dumbledore.

Ron and Hermione glanced at each other and quickly followed their friend, wanting to know what he was talking about. They caught up with Harry halfway to Hagrid’s hut.

“Harry, what were you talking about back in the Great Hall?” Ron asked as soon as he was close enough not to have to shout. “There’s no way You-Know-Who or Snape could know how to get past Fluffy. The only ones who know are Hagrid and Dumbledore. There’s no way that Hagrid would tell would either of them that.”

‘He wouldn’t knowingly do it,’ Harry agreed. ‘But Hagrid has always wanted a dragon. He told me so in Diagon Alley. I find it a little odd that the one thing Hagrid wants more than anything else in this world just happens to show up in a pub he frequents, when the only thing Voldemort needs to get the Stone is information Hagrid has. I mean who would wander around with a dragon’s egg in their pocket and then risk it in a card game when they could sell it to an illegal dragon breeder or an apothecary for a lot more.’

Ron and Hermione stood their stunned for a moment by what Harry was implying, then raced to catch up with him again.

“Harry, You-Know-Who isn’t going to try for the Stone as long as Dumbledore is here.” Ron told him. “It’s a well-known fact that he’s afraid of Dumbledore. The Stone has been safe all year, and once school is out, they will probably move it again.”

‘It isn’t safe, Ron.’ Harry disagreed. ‘Voldemort’s time is running out. He can’t keep using unicorn blood to stay alive. Firenze told me it will backfire on the person who killed the unicorn sooner or later.’ Harry didn’t bother to tell them that there was no way Voldemort would be able to set foot in the forest again to make a try for another unicorn. They didn’t need to know about the spell he’d cast. ‘He has to get that Stone soon. He’ll find some way to distract the headmaster, just like he did at Halloween and make another try for the Stone, only this time he will be successful because he now knows how to get past Fluffy.’

Hagrid was just coming out of his hut with a bowl and a basket of peas as they approached. “Hullo you three, bet yer glad yer exams are over. Care for a drink or summat?”

Ron started to say “yes,” but Harry interrupted. ‘Hagrid, I need to ask you about the person you won Norbert’s egg off of.’

“What about him?” Hagrid didn’t seem all that concerned.

‘What did the man look like? Had you ever seen him before?’ Harry wanted to know.

“Can’t rightly recall what ‘e looked like ‘cause he was wearing a hooded cloak.” Hagrid scratched his chin for a moment. “Never seen ‘im before or since, but they get all kinds of strange people at the Hog’s Head and some a what goes on there ain’t exactly legal.”

Taking a handful of the peas, Harry started helping the large man shell them. ‘What did you two talk about, I mean before he told you about the dragon’s egg he had? Was Hogwarts mentioned at all?’

“Well yea,” Hagrid nodded. “He asked me what kind’a work I did and when he heard I worked at Hogwarts, he asked me what kind’a creatures I took care of here. I guess he was curious. There’s a lot a things in the Forbidden Forest you can’t find anywhere else. I think I told ‘m the only thing I wished there was in the forest was a dragon, because I’d always wanted ta take care of one. That’s when he told me about the dragon’s egg he had and that he was willing to wager it in a game of cards if I could prove I would take good care of it. I told ‘im that after taking care of Fluffy, a dragon wouldn’t be no trouble at all.”

“Did this man seem interested in Fluffy?” Hermione tried to keep her voice calm, not wanting Hagrid to clam up when they needed this information.

“Yea,” Hagrid was surprised by how interested they seemed in the stranger. “Nothing surprising about that though. I mean how many three headed dogs do you see, even if yer in the trade? I told him the trick with Fluffy was ta play ‘im some music when he’s agitated and he’ll drop right off ta sleep if ya do…” Hagrid then realised who he was talking to and said nervously, “I shouldn’t a said that and I’d appreciate it if ya would fergit I did.”

The three Gryffindor first years nodded. They had no intention of telling anyone that Hagrid had told them how to get past Fluffy, just like he had told someone else in a pub all to get a dragon’s egg.

##########

“We need to tell the Headmaster,” Hermione told Ron and Harry as soon as the reached the main doors for Hogwarts.

For once Ron didn’t argue with her. “Yeah, the headmaster needs to know that Snape and/or You-Know-Who knows how to get past Fluffy and is bound to make a try for the stone, so he can move it before they get the chance.”

‘The problem we’ve got is how do we tell him this without mentioning Norbert?’ Harry reminded them of why Hagrid had told someone how to get past the Cerberus.

“We’ll have to worry about that when we get there,” Hermione decided. “Do either of you know the way to the Headmaster’s office?”

‘It’s this way,’ Harry gestured up the main stairs.

They were halfway down a hall that thought lead to the Headmaster’s office, when a crisp voice called out, “What are you three doing inside on such a nice day?”

The three first years turned to see Professor McGonagall standing there with an armload of books and an impatient expression on her face. When none of them answered her right away, she said, “Well, I asked you a question?”

‘Please ma’am, we need to see the Headmaster.’ Harry told her. ‘It’s very important.’

“Important is it?” McGonagall just stared at them. She was very familiar with children this age. At eleven every minor incident assumed the proportions of becoming a matter of life or death when it was in fact something as simple as an argument with a friend. She had thought Miss Granger to be more mature than her years until now. Maybe the girl just put up a good front. “Well, I’m afraid it will just have to wait. The Headmaster left for the Ministry on urgent business shortly after breakfast.”

At the pallor on their faces, McGonagall was certain they would now claim it was a matter of life and death and the next words out of Miss Granger’s mouth confirmed it. “Professor, do you know when he will be back? It’s very important that we talk to him.”

“The headmaster has other things to do besides talk to children who should be outside with their yearmates in the sunshine.” McGonagall drove them back toward the stairs.

“Someone’s going after the Stone!” Ron burst out, trying to make Professor McGonagall understand why it was important they talk to Dumbledore.

McGonagall stopped trying to herd them down the stairs in surprise. “And just how did you find out about that?”

The three first years winced at the Voice of Doom their Head of House had just used, but they stood firm. They weren’t going to tell anyone but Dumbledore about what Hagrid had accidentally done.

Acting as spokesman for the trio, Harry told her, ‘I’m sorry ma’am but that is something we can only discuss with the Headmaster.’

McGonagall didn’t look at all pleased with his answer. “When the Headmaster does return, he will have more important things to deal with that three children who go poking their noses into matters that don’t concern them.”

“Ma’am,” Hermione tried again to convince her. “We need to speak to the Headmaster. We have to tell him someone will be making a try for the Stone. He needs to move it.”

“Miss Granger, while I don’t know how you three found out about the Stone, let me assure you that it is protected by the strongest spells and traps possible.” McGonagall began herding them down the stairs again. “You can be assured that the Stone is in no danger from anyone, but you three are in danger of losing more points for Gryffindor, if you don’t get outside with the rest of your classmates and enjoy your free time.”

Ron looked as though he might say something further but Hermione pushed him out the door before he had the chance to cost Gryffindor any more points.

“What are we going to do?” Ron asked once they had found a quiet spot near the lake to sit.

‘I doubt the thief will try anything before tonight.’ Harry told Ron Reassuringly. ‘I don’t think another distraction like the troll would work to keep the teachers occupied, especially if McGonagall remembers what we told her.’

“The thief is going to count on stealth and surprise this time.” Hermione agreed. “If I were going to do it, I would wait until all the students were supposed to be in their dorms because the teachers and prefects will be distracted looking for those students who are out of their dorms.”

After a few moments, Ron nodded in agreement with that reasoning. “They will most likely be trying to catch Fred and George cause they always try an end of term prank, not to mention they will be trying to stop Peeves. Fred and George told me he is always very active near the end of the term.”

‘So what we’ll do is sneak out after everyone has gone to bed and the prefects are on patrol. We can hide under my father’s invisibility cloak to avoid being seen.’ Harry suggested.

“Hi guys,” Neville came over to join them. “I had the most interesting time helping Professor Sprout repot some of her baby Devil’s Snare. It had to be done in the dark.” Silence greeted this statement. “What’s going on?”

Harry, Ron and Hermione filled him in on what they’d found out and what they intended to do.

“Are you sure we should be going after the thief?” Neville asked. “I mean the person is going to be an adult wizard or witch, what are four first years going to be able to do to stop him or her. Surely we sure try to convince one of the other teachers like Professor Sprout or Professor Flitwick that the Stone is in danger.”

‘Neville, I don’t think we’d have any better luck with them than we did with Professor McGonagall.’ The only one Harry was certain wouldn’t have questioned the information was Grams, but she wasn’t here. He just hoped he was up to this task. ‘The teachers see us as too young. They think we can’t possibly understand what is going on, so they won’t listen to us, unless we provide them with the kind of proof they can’t ignore. We don’t have that, so they will ignore anything we say because we are children.’

“So just the four of us are going to try and stop Snape?” The very though of it made Neville nervous. Harry, Ron and Hermione hadn’t felt they should tell the very nervous Gryffindor that they might actually be facing Voldemort and not Snape. They could se that he was nervous enough over the thought of chasing Snape.

‘We’re the only ones who know what’s going on.” Ron reminded him.

“And,” Hermione added, “we may not know as much as the teachers, but we will certainly be able to surprise the thief and maybe slow him down.”

While Neville was no longer as clumsy or nervous as he had been at the beginning of the year, thank to the Tai Chi and meditation exercises he and Harry did every day, it was clear the other boy had several years to go before his clumsiness would be completely gone, not to mention his nervousness. It was clear to Harry that even the thought of going after Snape had Neville ready to jump pout of his skin. Not wanting to damage the other boy’s growing self-confidence, Harry chose his next words with care. ‘Neville, you don’t have to come with us if you don’t want to. I’m not going to force anyone to come with me, but I have to at least try and stop this thief.’

“Well, I’m going with you.” Ron told him.

“Me too,” Hermione put in.

Neville swallowed hard and then a determined look appeared on his face. “When do we go?”

########

As soon as Gryffindor tower had been silent for a while, the four first years met back up in the common room. Harry made sure he brought the owl-shaped flute Hagrid had made him as well as is invisibility cloak. It was the only source of music they had since none of them had a good singing voice.

Harry wasn’t so sure the flute would be needed. While coming down to the common room, he’d felt the ward he’d placed on the door to Fluffy’s room get tripped. That meant the thief was already on his way past the first obstacle and they were in a race to see if they could stop him before he could get away. Harry just hoped the traps that had been put in place by the teachers would be enough to slow him down. They were now in a race to see if they could stop the thief before he could get away with the stone.

Even though they were covered with the invisibility cloak, the four Gryffindors still moved with care through the halls of Hogwarts, because they knew the cloak wouldn’t cover the sound of footsteps. One the stairway down to the third floor they encountered Mrs. Norris. As she stared at the place where they were standing motionless, as if she could see them, Harry offered up a silent plea to Hogwarts that this would be the one night she would ignore them… that she wouldn’t alert Filch to the fact that something was going on. A few moments later as if in answer to his plea, Mrs. Norris turned away and headed on up the stairs.

Harry sent a silent thank you to Hogwarts as Neville released the breath he’d been holding. In a low voice, Neville said, “I hope she isn’t on her way to get Filch.”

“Well, let’s get out of here, just in case she decides to.” Ron urged them.

They moved on as quickly and quietly as they could. They’d almost made it to the forbidden third floor corridor, when they spotted Peeves coming toward them. All four of them froze in place not even daring to breath.

Peeves hovered in place near them, looking around suspiciously. “Can’t see ya, but know there’s something there. Whether ye be ghostie, ghoulie, or student beastie, ye can’t hide from Peeves.”

Peeves appeared to be trying to decide what he should do. “If there’s summat that shouldn’t be creeping around, I should tell Flich or McGonagall. They’d put a stop to you fer sure.”

The poltergeist nodded as if coming to a decision, but before he could vanish, Harry stepped out from under the cloak. ‘You don’t want to do that, Peeves. Remember what will happen if I come to harm because of you.’

Peeves opened his mouth as if to scream, and Harry quickly said, ‘I need you help Peeves.’

The poltergeist stared at the first year in surprise and suspicion. “You need Peeves’ help. Why?”

‘Someone is trying to steal something hidden in the castle, but when I tried to tell Professor McGonagall, she didn’t believe me. I’m going to try and stop the thief before he can get away.’

“An ickle firstie like you is gonna try an’ stop a thief?” Peeves was openly sceptical. “What are you wanting Peeves to do?”

‘If I’m not back by midnight, find a teacher and tell them I went to try and stop the thief who was going after the Stone.’ Harry instructed the poltergeist.

“You want to get Peeves in trouble with the Mad Lady?” Peeve was unwilling to incur the wrath of Harry’s formidable Aunt. He could feel the tendrils of her curse reaching out to him for even talking to this ickle firstie.

‘Nothing will happen to you, because I asked you to do this.’ Harry promised ghost and then at Peeves’ manic grin, he felt compelled to add, ‘The only way you could get in trouble with her, is if you told someone before midnight.’

Peeves gave him a sloppy salute. “Don’t worry, Peevesie will be on the job and make sure no teachers bother you ‘til after midnight.”

‘Thanks Peeves,’ that hadn’t been quite what Harry had been after, ‘but he didn’t have time to stay and try and explain.

“Harry, are you sure you should’ve done that?” Ron asked once Peeves was out of sight. “What’s to stop him from going for a teacher now?”

‘He won’t,’ Harry was certain of that.

“How can you be so sure?” Hermione wanted to know. “And who is this mad lady Peeves was talking about? It sounded as if he thought you knew her.”

‘I don’t know any mad ladies, so I have no idea who he was talking about.’ Harry lied. ‘As for why I don’t think Peeves will go for a teacher before midnight, it simple. In Peeves mind two hours is more than enough time for us to get into so much trouble that we will be in detention for the rest of our lives.’

“If we’re lucky,” Ron muttered.

Even though Harry had expected it, he was still a little surprised to see the door to Fluffy’s room standing wide open. He would’ve thought that Voldemort would’ve wanted to keep his theft quiet, at least for a little while, but then again, maybe he suffered from the same arrogance Grams said most Demons and Warlocks had.

Harry could hear faint strains of music coming through the open doorway. The snores from the giant dog almost drowned it out.

“Do you think the thief is still in there?” Neville gripped his wand nervously.

“I doubt it,” Hermione answered, as they came out from under the invisibility cloak. “While Hagrid may consider Fluffy to be a puppy, I doubt anyone else would spend any more time than they had to with a giant three-headed dog.”

Because Fluffy’s snores were so loud once they’d entered the room, it was several moments before Harry realised that the harp’s music was slowing down as if it were about to stop. Moving closer to the harp as if studying it, Harry chanted in a whispery voice:

Magical Harp keep playing your piece
until someone bids you cease.


“Harry, looks like he’s already gone down.” Ron called from near the open trap door.

The four Gryffindors stared down into the dark hole.

“Can you see the bottom?” Ron wanted to know.

‘Nope,’ Harry told him.

“Who’s going first?” Neville stared at the dark square in the floor nervously.

‘I will,’ Harry volunteered. ‘I’ll call out once I’m down. If you don’t hear anything in a few minutes, then get up to the owlery and send a message to Dumbledore. Use Hedwig, she’s the fastest owl up there.’

Ron looked like he was going to argue, until Harry told him, ‘There’s no point in all of us going down if it’s not safe. Someone has to alert Dumbeldore.’

Ron nodded reluctantly. Someone had to be able to go for help and he was the fastest runner among them, after Harry.

Harry lowered himself very carefully over the side until he was hanging there by his fingertips. As he dropped into the waiting darkness, he noticed that the fall seemed to go on forever. Because he couldn’t see where he was going, the end of it was unexpected as he landed on something that felt soft in places and bumpy in others. The thing he’d landed on rustled as well and it took his fingers a moment to identify what he had landed on. Why would someone put a plant down here? They needed sunlight didn’t they? Maybe it was a compost heap.

“Harry, are you okay?” Neville called down a few moments later.

‘Yea,’ Harry told them, ‘I seem to have landed on a pile of plants. You can come on down. The landing is fairly soft.’

“Plants?” Neville questioned as Ron and Hermione dropped through the hole.

‘Yea,’ Harry confirmed. ‘Think it might be a compost pile though it’s an odd place for one.’

“Yes, it is,” Neville sounded thoughtful as he dropped through the hole to join the other three.

As Harry heard the thud of Neville’s landing, he also felt something slither across his waist. ‘Guys, be careful. There’s something alive down here and it just grabbed me around the waist.’

“Don’t move anyone,” Neville ordered, sounding calm for the first time since they’d met him. “Riscutempora.”

A shower of sparks like those given off by a firework lit up the area around him.

“We’re on a large pile of Devil’s Snare.” Neville told the other three. “According to what Professor Sprout told me, the larger ones entangle and then strangle their prey. It’s weakness is light and fire.”

“Well, I don’t know the light spell, do you?” Ron was beginning to get a little worried as the Devil’s Snare slowly crept up his body. It had already immobilized his legs. “Wait, you said fire.”

“Yes,” Neville had to resist the urge to struggle, but Professor Sprout had told him that would just make the plant move faster in its determination not to lose its prey.

Harry caught on to what they were talking about. ‘Hermione, we need fire.’

“There’s no wood,” Hermione was beginning to sound panicky

You’re a Witch, Hermione,” Ron reminded her. “You’ve been making fire all year.”

They heard her muttering and then patches of blue flame appeared and began spreading over the Devil’s Snare. Recoiling the plant released its prey as the fire continued to spread.

“Good thing you are good in Herbology, Neville,.” Ron congratulated his fellow Gryffindor as they moved down the corridor and away from the burning plant.

“I’m just glad I remembered what Professor Sprout told me about them, when I was helping her.” Neville sounded pleased by the compliment.

“Good job with that Fire charm, Hermione,” Harry put in.

The four first years slowed down as they heard a rustling and clinking sound up ahead.

“Do you think it’s a ghost in chains?” Neville asked as they continued to move toward the lighted doorway at the end of the passage.

‘I doubt it,’ Harry told him. ‘From what I’ve seen so far of ghosts in the Wizarding world, they really can’t affect much and so they wouldn’t be able to do much to stop anyone.’

As they got closer, they could see a lot of tiny shadows fluttering around in the light.

‘Wings!’ Harry concluded.

“Birds or bats, do you think?” Hermione inquired.

‘Not bats, no screeching,’ Harry replied after listening for a few moments.

Once they cleared the doorway, they saw the wings belonged to enchanted keys of various sizes and shapes. On the far side of the room was an iron bound door with an old-fashioned lock.

When her unlocking charm failed to open the door, Hermione eyed the flying keys speculatively. “If we want to get through that door, it looks like we have to find the right key in that swarm and get it.”

‘To do that we need to be able to fly.’ Harry added.

“And here’s a broomstick,” Ron pulled it out of the shadowy corner where it had been hidden.

Harry took the broom, ‘I’m the best flyer. We’ve just got to figure out which is the right key.’

Ron studied the lock. “It’s got to be one of the bigger ones.”

“And most likely silver in colour like the lock and handle.” Neville added helpfully.

The four first years scanned the swarm of keys, trying to find the right one.

“I think it’s that one,” Hermione pointed out a large silver coloured key that wasn’t flying as well as the rest.

Harry watched the key for a few moments. It kept to the shadows as if trying to avoid notice. One of it’s wings appeared to be slightly bent. ‘I think you’re right.’ He mounted the broom. ‘Here goes nothing.’

He spent several minutes in pursuit of the wounded key. It seemed determined not to be caught again. He finally managed to trap it in a corner where it couldn’t escape his grasp. It continued to struggle, trying to get away as he headed to the ground. Before it managed to slip out of his grasp, Harry jammed it in the lock and turned it. Once the door was unlocked, he released the key and it took off, listed to the left even more than before, looking for all the world like it had drunk too much and was trying to stagger home.

The next room was pitch back, so as soon as they entered the four of them spread out a little to make themselves harder to catch.

Harry had taken no more than three or four steps, when the room suddenly filled with light and he found himself facing a giant chessman. When he tried to move around it, the chessman moved the block his progress. He noticed the same thing had happened to his companions.

“Looks like we are going to have to play the game if we want to get access to that door across the room.” Hermione stated the obvious.

‘It looks like you’re up, Ron.’ Harry commented. They all knew he was the best chess player in Gryffindor tower. He’d even beaten several of the seventh years who were considered up and coming masters of the game.

Looking over the floor and the positions of the pieces, Ron told them, “It looks like anyone who wants to go on will have to take the place of one of the pieces and play the game.”

Hermione and Neville paled slightly, they’d seen how brutal a game of wizard chess could be on the pieces, but nodded indicating they were going on.

Ron studied the chessboard intently before telling the other three Gryffindors which pieces he wanted them to replace. Once they were in place, Ron took over the Knight’s position.

After making sure they understood they weren’t to move off their squares unless he told them to, Ron began to carefully make his moves. He wanted to protect his friends and still give them the victory they needed to be able to move on.

Time lost all meaning as the game began though it seemed to move fairly quickly to Harry. Ron showed little hesitation in his instructions, but the ferocity of the chessmen as the took out there opponents was more unnerving at this level than it was when watching or playing it from above.

All sudden time seemed to resume its normal pace when there was a longer than usual pause in the instructions being given by Ron. Harry looked up worried that something might have happened to the red head. Ron was surveying the board as if looking for something.

“Harry!” Ron finally called form his position on the Knight’s horse. “I’m going to have to let the Queen take me.”

‘Ron, no!’ Harry shouted back and his cry was echoed by Neville and Hermione.

“It’s the only way.” Ron told him. “I’m the Knight. If the Queen takes me, you’ll be able to checkmate the King.”

“There has to be another way!” Hermione protested

“It’s the only way to move on and stop the thief.” Ron countered. “The only other possible move would take Harry out and I’ve got a feeling he’s going to be needed to stop the thief.”

Seeing he couldn’t change Ron’s mind, Harry told him, ‘Just be careful.’

“You too,” Ron braced himself and then made the move that would allow Harry to win the game.

As soon as Ron’s move was completed, the White Queen swung her sword violently at the horse and boy. The sound of crashing stones echoed through the room as Hermione shouted, “Ron!”

‘Don’t move!’ Harry ordered the other two in case their instincts prompted them to go to Ron’s aid. He needed to make the final move or Ron’s sacrifice would be in vain.

Moving quickly, Harry stood before the White King and said, ‘Checkmate.’

The White King stared at him for a moment before dropping his crown onto the chessboard in front of Harry and departing the field.

Free to move all three remaining Gryffindor first years ran over to check on Ron. He was alive, but unconscious. Fortunately for Ron the White Queen appeared to have hit the knight’s horse and not him.

‘Neville, would stay with him please?’ Harry requested. Something was telling him that Neville’s part in this was through and someone needed to look after Ron.

“All right,” In a way, Neville was relieved not to be going on. The traps were getting harder and he doubted he would be much help with the next ones.

‘See if you can get Ron into the Key room.’ Harry suggested. ‘There are a few places in there you can hide him in case we don’t manage to stop the thief and he comes back this way.’

Neville nodded. “I’ll do my best.”

“We know you will Neville.” Hermione could see the determination in his eyes. “We’d help you move him, but the room might be charmed to reset the game.”

“I’ll take care of Ron.” Neville assured them.

As Hermione and Harry headed across the chessboard to the ironbound door, she asked, “How many traps do you think are left?”

‘Three.’ Harry was certain of it. ‘We’ve made it past Hagrid’s, Sprout’s, Flitwick’s, and I’m fairly certain that the chess game was McGonagall’s. That leaves us with Quirrell’s, Snape’s and Dumbledore’s. I don’t think we will catch up with the thief, until we get to Dumbledore’s trap.’

“Why would the Headmaster’s be….” Hermione abruptly stopped speaking as a stench like an open sewer hit her from somewhere up ahead in the passageway.

They both were feeling slightly nauseous when they found the troll lying unconscious on the ground in front of another ironbound doorway. They both remained silent as they checked the area around the troll, making sure there were no other hidden surprises.

‘I’m glad our thief took that one out.’ Harry commented.

Stopping at the door, Hermione asked her question again. “What makes you think Dumbledore’s trap will be last?”

‘It just makes sense for the unknown traps to be at the beginning and the end.’ Harry told her as he opened the door. ‘Trying to find out how to get past Fluffy took Voldemort almost the whole school year. I’m pretty sure that Dumbledore’s won’t be that easy to figure out. My Aunt called him a very sneaky man.’

As she stepped through the door, Hermione asked, “Do you think You-Know-Who will be able to get past the Headmaster’s trap?”

Harry looked at her surprised. ‘Hermione, don’t tell me you’re afraid to say Voldemort’s name. I can understand Ron and Neville being afraid of his name because they were raised by people who are afraid to say the name, but you weren’t. Why are you afraid to say his name? I mean it’s not like he’s going to jump out and attack you just because you did. For all we know it’s not even his real name, which means there is no real power in it, other than the power the Wizarding world’s fear gives it.’

Hermione’s face reddened in embarrassment then she shrugged. “I guess I wasn’t thinking. I just got used to hearing the others call him You-Know-Who.”

They fell silent as they studied the room they had entered. There was a light like a spotlight shining down on a table in the middle of the room. On the table there were seven bottles of varying sizes and shapes.

‘Snape’s trial,’ Harry commented as they moved closer to the table.

When they were within a few feet of the table, flames that didn’t look normal sprang up in both doorways, trapping them in the room. The flames filling the doorway they’d come in through were purple, while the ones in the doorway on the opposite side of the room were black as night.

“The bottles must hold the key to either neutralising the flames, or allow us to pass safely through them.” Hermione moved closer to study the bottles lined up on the table.

‘And this must be the clue,’ Harry held up a roll of parchment he’d found on the floor.

Unrolling it, they both read it and then Hermione took it and read it a second time. Harry could follow some of it, but not all. He knew there were two potions they could use and one would take them forward while the other would take them back. The problem was figuring out which was which.

Brilliant!” Hermione whispered. “A logic puzzle. I have to hand it to Professor Snape. Other than our thief, who may not have even needed the potion, I doubt any other witch or wizard could have made it past this point because they wouldn’t have been able to figure his riddle out.”

‘So do you have any idea which one will take us forward and which one will take us back?’ Harry asked. He’d never been very good at riddles that as intricate as this.

Hermione bit her lip and reread the clue a few more times, before walking around the table and studying the bottles. A few minutes later, she nodded and slid two bottles out of the line-up.

Pointing to the smallest bottle, she told him “that potion will allow us to go forward.”

Tapping the round bottomed bottle, she told him, “this will allow us to go back.”

Picking up the tiny dark bottle, Harry could just make out a line of liquid in it. ‘Looks like there is only enough for one person in it.’

Harry checked the amount in the other bottle. It appeared to contain enough for two people, as long as they didn’t drink too much of it.

‘I’ll go forward, Hermione,’ Harry decided. ‘You go back and help Neville take care of Ron and send a message to Dumbledore. He needs to know that Voldemort is almost to the Stone.’

Hermione bit her lip again. “Are you sure? If it is Voldemort then he’s very dangerous to go up against alone.”

Harry knew he had an advantage because he wasn’t limited to wanded magic, not to mention his ability to shift things, but he couldn’t tell her that, so he just gestured to his scar. ‘If it is Voldemort and not Snape, well I got lucky against him once, maybe I will again. At the very least, I may be able to slow him down until Dumbledore can get here.’

Hermione gave him one more uncertain look before that a swallow of the return potion.

‘Take the potion with you, just in case,’ Harry suggested. ‘If the thief needs it to get back out of here, it will slow him down.’

“But you’ll be trapped too,” Hermione pointed out.

Harry didn’t bother to disagree with her. ‘Better that than Voldemort gets out of here with the stone.’

Hermione looked like she was going to argue some more until Harry sharply ordered her to ‘Go! The sooner that message gets sent the sooner the Headmaster will get here to stop him.

Finally Hermione nodded and headed for the door. “Be careful Harry.”

Harry waited until he saw Hermione pass through the flames guarding the door to the chess room, before he downed the potion in the smallest bottle.

Grimacing at the taste, Harry walked through the black flames guarding the way forward.

In the last chamber, the sight that greeted Harry stunned him. Standing there in an almost empty room, was a purple faced Professor Quirrell. If he had been asked to provide a list of who other than Snape or Voldemort might be the thief, Harry knew that Quirrell would have been way way down on the list of possible suspects. Why would Quirrell want the Stone? Was he planning to give it to Voldemort?

Quirrell spoke before Harry could break himself out of his stunned silence. “I’ve been expecting you, boy. Given how nosey you are and that powerful burst of accidental magic you used to drive us out of the forest last night, my Master was sure you would try and stop us from getting the Stone.”

You were the one killing the Unicorns? Why?

“My Master must survive!” Quirrell told him simply. “A few dead beasts are of no consequence when compared with that!” He paused a moment and pointed his wand in Harry’s direction and shouted, “Incarcerous!”

Harry tried to dodge the spell, but he wasn’t fast enough. He fell forward, bound in thick ropes from his chest to his knees.

Pulling him into the room, Quirrell placed him where he could see what was happening. “Now you won’t be able to interfere, but you will be able to witness my Master’s triumph over Dumbledore.”

Harry looked around the room trying to find something to use as a weapon, but the only thing in the room besides the two of them was the Mirror of Erised. Harry remembered the Troll in the other room and briefly thought about shifting the Troll’s club so that it would be in a position to knock Quirrell out. He gave up on that idea though because he couldn’t remember seeing the club anywhere in that room.

Wanting to distract Quirrell, Harry asked, ‘Was it you that tried to kill me during my first Quidditch match? My friends thought it was Snape.’

“Of course, they would.” Quirrell laughed and it wasn’t a pleasant laugh either. “Snape made the perfect suspect, given his hatred of you and your family, but while he may want you dead, he doesn’t want that to happen until his life debt to your father is paid off.”

‘Life Debt,’ Harry had not heard that term before.

“You mean you didn’t know.” Quirrell found that very funny. “I have found Snape to be very amusing over this past school year. He hates your family with every fibre of his being. However because of the debt he owed your father, he has to try and save your worthless life and that’s why he chose to act as referee at your next game. He didn’t know who was trying to kill you, but he was hoping they would make another attempt so he could save your life and then he would be free of the debt. Not that I would be stupid enough to do anything while Dumbledore was there. I simply bided my time because I knew that a nosey brat like you wouldn’t be able to resist trying to stop me and then I could deal with you once and for all. ”

‘You had everyone fooled with your cringing coward act didn’t you.’ Harry commented. ‘I mean even Snape believed it and I wouldn’t think he was easy to fool.’

“He isn’t,” Quirrell agreed as a look of fear flitted across his face for a moment. “I had to be very careful not to reveal too much around him and my Master punished me when it took too long to get the information we needed.”

Quirrell’s attention returned to the Mirror as Harry continued to look for something he could use as a weapon. “I see my Master accepting the stone from my hands and rewarding me beyond all my wildest dreams, but the Mirror won’t show me where Dumbledore hid the Stone.”

Given its central location in the room, Harry was fairly certain that the Mirror must be the key to Dumbledore’s trap or trial. He couldn’t help wondering what enchantments had been added to the Mirror so that it wouldn’t reveal the stone’s location. Or would it… but only to the right person?

As if someone had heard his thoughts, Harry heard a voice hiss, “Usssse the boy.”

Quirrell turned and pointed his wand at the ropes binding Harry. They vanished without a word being said. “Come here boy. You are going to help my Master gain the stone.”

‘No, I refuse to co-operate with your master Voldemort.’ Harry remained where he

“You have no choice boy.” Quirrell told him. “Accio.”

An unseen force pulled Harry toward the Mirror.

Once he was positioned in front of the Mirror with Quirrell standing behind him, he heard the man order, “Look into the Mirror and tell me what you see.”

Because he couldn’t move his head to look anywhere else, Harry looked but he wished with all his might not to see anything having to do with the Stone. For a brief moment he thought he’d gotten his wish because the only thing he saw in the Mirror was himself, but a moment later the Harry in the Mirror waved and reached into his pocket and pulled out a red coloured gem and then put it back. Harry felt a sudden weight in his pocket.

The Stone. Somehow the Mirror had given him the Philosopher’s Stone. He had to get rid of it before Quirrell and the unseen Voldemort, for it couldn’t be anyone else, realised he had it. Harry quickly shifted the Stone to the safest place he knew and just in case Quirrell or Voldemort could read thoughts, he quickly and silently recited:

A shield around my mind I place
my thoughts to guard
Let it be black as deepest space
and let it be diamond hard


“Tell me what you see!” Quirrell demanded in a harsher voice.

Thinking quickly, Harry told him, ‘My family is greeting me as I get off the Hogwarts Express. They are so proud of how well I did in school this year and so glad that I am home. I see my parents standing there in spirit and they are smiling and happy to see me too.’

“He’ssss lying!” The unseen voice that Harry thought might be Voldemort’s hissed. “He ssssaw ssssomething in the Mirror.”

Quirrell turned him around and shook him. “What did you see boy?”

‘I told you what I saw!’ Harry tried to avoid looking in his eyes, because even though he had felt the shield spell take hold, he didn’t want to take any chances. ‘I saw my family! Nothing more!’

“He liesss!” The hissing voice spoke again. “Let me see him face to face. I will get the truth from him!”

“Master, are you sure you are strong enough?” Quirrell questioned and then winced as if in pain.

“I am sssstrong enough for thissss.” Voldemort’s voice told his servant. “Let me ssssee him!”

Quirrell unwound the smelly turban from his head and turned so that the back of his head was facing Harry.

It was only the fact that he had seen several demons in their demonic forms before that kept Harry from screaming when he saw the corpse white face with slitted nostrils and snakelike red eyes that was on the back of Quirrell’s head. The man was willingly sharing his body with an evil spirit. Didn’t Quirrell realise that he was dead from the minute he agreed to house this spirit? No spirit, once it gained hold of a physical shell, willingly let go of it without causing major harm to the body it possessed.

“Harry Potter,” the slit like mouth hissed. “Do you know who I am? Does looking on what you have made me frighten you?”

Harry could feel the waves of evil coming from that face and stepped backwards until he bumped into the mirror. ‘You would be Voldemort. As for who did what to whom, you did that to yourself. You attacked me and my family, remember. If you hadn’t, you might still have had a body.”

“Arrogant whelp!” Voldemort hissed in fury. “This is all your fault. I was reduced to mere shadow and vapour, using animals to survive, until Quirrell came. After strengthening myself using the blood of Unicorns, now I have a chance to regain my body and you think you are going to stop me!”

Harry knew he needed a weapon and there was only one source in the room. Turning toward the Mirror he shouted, ‘Yes I will.’

He pushed against the mirror’s frame, trying to knock it over.

Voldemort saw the mirror starting to teeter and shouted, “Quirrell, stop him!”

Quirrell turned and reached out to pull Harry away from the mirror, but the moment he grabbed hold of Harry his hands started smoking.

“Master, I can’t… my hands.” Quirrell whimpered.

“KILL HIM!” Voldemort shrieked.

Harry realised from Quirrell’s reaction that he was the weapon! Using the karate moves he’d learned in class, Harry knocked the Dark Arts professor to the ground. Then before the older man could get back to his feet, Harry straddled his chest and fastened both hands onto the man’s face. Smoke started rising from wherever Harry touched Quirrell’s bare skin.

Quirrell struggled for several minutes before he was able to roll out from under Harry’s grasping hands.

Voldemort continued to shout, “KILL HIM! KILL HIM!”

Taking a couple of deep breaths, Harry got to his feet and pushed Quirrell into the Mirror of Erised. The Defence Professor and the Mirror went crashing to the ground and after a few moments the man’s struggles to get off the Mirror got weaker and weaker before they stopped altogether.

A dark cloud rose from the body and headed toward Harry, obviously intending to take possession, but a moment later a white light flared around Harry and the cloud gave an inhuman shriek before it vanished.

Harry collapsed to the ground unconscious.


AN Only 1 more chapter left of this story.

Chapter Text

Where in the World is Harry Potter?



Harry slowly returned to consciousness and the first thing he was aware of was that he was lying on something soft, which meant that he was no longer in that stone room. The second thing he became aware of was a rustle of cloth that told him he wasn’t alone wherever he was. The only thing he didn’t know was if he was in the Hogwarts hospital wing, back at the Manor, or somewhere else entirely.

Since he didn’t know how long he had been out and wanting to protect the secret knowledge he currently had, Harry silently chanted:

A shield around my mind I place,
my thoughts to guard.
Let it be black as deepest space
and let it be diamond hard.


Once he felt the spell take hold, Harry opened his eyes and was greeted by the sight of something fuzzy and gold above him. His first thought was that it was a snitch, but quickly changed his mind. A snitch wouldn’t have been hovering in place as long as this one had been.

The fuzzy gold thing moved slowly closer and turned out to be the Headmaster’s glasses.

Speaking up before Dumbledore could say a word, Harry asked, ‘Headmaster, how is Ron?’

“Mr. Weasley is just fine.” Dumbledore assured him. “Madame Pompfrey released him a few days ago. He, Mr. Longbottom, and Miss Granger have been very worried about you though.”

Though he would never admit it to anyone, Dumbledore had also begun to get a little worried when young Mr. Potter continued to remain unconscious even after Ron Weasley had been released three days ago.

‘Good,’ Harry was relieved that Ron hadn’t been seriously hurt, or that if he had been Madame Pompfrey had been able to repair the damage.

Harry looked around trying to find his glasses, because looking at a fuzzy Dumbledore was beginning to make his head hurt. As if he knew what Harry was looking for, Dumbledore plucked the glasses off the pile of treats sitting on the nightstand and handed them to him.

Harry stared at the pile of snacks and sweets on the nightstand surprised. Where had those come from?

Seeing the direction of his stare, Dumbledore told him, “Those are tokens from your friends and admirers. The fact that you and Quirrell had a confrontation in the dungeons should be a secret, so naturally everyone in the school knows about it, though rumour is running rampant over how it came about and the end result.”

Dumbledore conjured a comfortable chair to sit in. “While I have heard your friend’s version of events, I would like to hear what happened from you as well.”

While it had been phrased as a request, Harry knew it wasn’t. Though he did keep a few things back, Harry gravely told him about what happened starting from the moment they entered Fluffy’s room. He was solemn because for the first time since he started using his magic, he had been directly responsible for another’s death, though how his touch had killed Quirrell was still a mystery to him. He made a mental note to talk to Grams about it. Maybe she could figure out what it was about his touch that had been so deadly to the possessed man. As Harry went back over the events, he couldn’t help wondering if Quirrell had voluntarily allowed Voldemort to share his body, or had the evil spirit simply taken possession.

As Harry fell silent, Dumbledore commented, “I must say, I am amazed at how well the four of you put things together, and I know about what you didn’t say as well.”

Harry looked at him worried that the mental shield had somehow failed, until Dumbledore told him, “I applaud your desire to protect your friends, but Hagrid has already been to see me and told me about Norbert. He felt guilty about you getting injured because of his desire to have a dragon.”

Harry sighed, relieved that the Headmaster hadn’t found out about his shifting ability and that he had used it to keep the Stone out of Voldemort’s hands. One of the reasons he hadn’t told the Headmaster was because now that he had time to think about it, it was a little too convenient that four first years had been able to get past the traps that Professor McGonagall had been confident would stop a fully grown wizard, not to mention that fact that the Mirror just happen to give him the Stone when all he’d wanted to do was keep it out of Voldemort’s hands.

Wanting to distract Dumbledore, Harry told him, ‘I’m sorry about destroying the Mirror, sir. I know it was old and valuable, but it was the only way I could think of to keep Quirrell from getting the clue to where you’d hidden the Stone. I remember you saying that it showed desires, so I figured you’d somehow hidden a clue to its real location in the Mirror of Erised.’

Dumbledore was surprised by that piece of information, but he quickly hid it and asked. “So you never saw the Stone?”

‘No sir, the only thing on my mind was keeping the Stone safe from Voldemort’s agent.’ Harry gave him a puzzled look and then knowing it would look suspicious if he didn’t ask about it, Harry did. ‘The Stone is still safe isn’t it?’

Dumbledore was silent. He hadn’t expected or planned for this. He had thought that Harry would want to find the Stone, not just want to keep poor possessed Quirrell from finding it. He knew enough from observing young Harry over this past year that the boy wasn’t capable of telling a lie well enough to keep his Occulmency from picking it up. He also knew the boy wouldn’t try to keep something that didn’t belong to him and so he had set the spell up on the Mirror so that the only one besides him who would be able to get the Stone out of the Mirror was someone who just wanted to find the Stone not use it. He sighed, wondering how he was going to tell Nicholas that the Stone was lost forever.

As the silence lengthened, Harry hoped he looked sufficiently concerned as he repeated his question. ‘Headmaster, is the Stone safe? Voldemort didn’t get it, did he?’

Sighing Dumbledore focused his thoughts on the matter at hand which was calming the boy’s concerns. “No, Voldemort didn’t get the Stone, but I’m afraid it is gone forever.”

Continuing the charade, Harry gave him a puzzled look, ‘How can it be gone if Voldemort didn’t get it? Did someone else beat Quirrell and Voldemort to the Stone?’

“No, poor possessed Quirrell was the only one after the Stone.” Dumbledore quickly assured him.

‘Then I don’t understand. What happened to it?’

“The stone was in the Mirror.” Dumbledore told him. “When you destroyed the Mirror to keep Voldemort from getting the Stone, it was lost forever.”

Harry looked thoughtful. ‘You must’ve put a conditional spell on the Mirror then, other wise Quirrell would’ve gotten the Stone when he first looked into it. My Aunt always told me conditional spells were the hardest ones to work through or around.’

“A wise woman, your Aunt.” Dumbledore didn’t bother concealing his pride at how quick-witted Harry was proving to be. He would need that if he were to survive, but he also needed to make sure the boy didn’t find out too much of the truth too soon. “And your guess is correct. It was a very complex piece of spellwork, if I do say so myself. Only someone who wanted to find but not use the Stone would be able to get it from the Mirror.”

Harry nodded in understanding. ‘That explains why I never saw it either, because I only wanted to keep Quirrell and Voldemort through him from getting their hands on it. Neither of us met the conditions you had set up, but the Mirror did showing me knocking it over so it did show what I needed to achieve my desire.’

“It is sometimes very hard to match the desired intent of the original caster.” Dumbledore agreed.

‘What will happen to the Flamels now that the Stone is gone?’ Harry was fairly certain that the Headmaster would think it strange if he didn’t ask.

Dumbledore looked very solemn now. “While the Flamels have some Elixir left, it is not a lot, so I would imagine they will use it to put their affairs in order before moving on to the next great adventure.”

‘You mean they are going to die!’ Harry made a mental note to write Mr. Flamel as soon as he could and let him know what happened with the Stone.

“Death is a doorway we must all pass through sooner or later Harry.” Dumbledore reminded him.

They were both silent for several minutes.

Finally Harry had to ask, ‘Sir, do you know why my touch affected Quirrell that way? I mean I know I had physical contact with the man during the year and that never happened before. Why would my touch burn him when Voldemort was possessing him?’

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “I can’t tell you how pleased I am to hear you using Voldemort’s name. I have always thought this You-Know-Who business was a bit ridiculous, but I was never able to make anyone else realise that they were just helping to perpetuate the fear of the man. Maybe you will start a revolution in your generation of people not being afraid to say his name.”

“Well my Aunt is a big believer in calling things by their names, especially if it is something you fear, not that I am afraid of saying Voldemort’s name.’ He didn’t bother telling Dumbledore he knew that Voldemort’s real name was Riddle. Nor did he bother telling him that knowing a person or creature’s True Name gave you a certain amount of power over it when it came to spells. ‘You haven’t answered my question though, sir. Why couldn’t Quirrell, or rather Voldemort when he was in possession of Quirrell touch me with his bare hands?’

Dumbledore was silent for several minutes as if he were searching for the right words. “The reason Quirrell or rather Voldemort couldn’t touch you is because of the purity of your mother’s love for you and her sacrifice of her life to save yours. One of the things Voldemort doesn’t understand and never will is real love, like that of a mother for her child, or someone for their wife or husband. Your mother’s love for you was so great it left its mark on you, like an unseen shield. And this protection is just as deadly to those who have wholly given themselves to the Dark, like Voldemort, as silver is to a werewolf.”

Harry was silent for several minutes. The Headmaster’s reasoning made no sense. If all it took was pure love like that and the sacrifice of one’s self for a loved one, then Voldemort would’ve been turned into a disembodied spirit if not killed long before he ever tried to kill my parents. Harry had no doubt that other men and women had loved the ones they were protecting just as much as he had been loved by his parents, but they were still dead. He was alive and had apparently managed to turn Voldemort’s spell back on its caster. Whatever it was about him that stopped Voldemort, Harry had no doubt it was tied up in the prophecy that Grams had told him the Whitelighters had told her was hanging over his head, even though they didn’t know the contents.

Curious to see what the Headmaster would say about it, Harry asked, ‘Sir, do you know why Voldemort wanted to kill me?’

Dumbledore sighed heavily. “You finally asked something I can not answer.”

I asked a lot of things you didn’t answer. Harry thought as Dumbledore continued. “ One day, I will tell you what I know, but for now put it from your mind. Believe me when I tell you, you are not yet ready for that information. There will be time for you to understand it when you are older, though I know you do not like hearing that at eleven, however it is true none the less.”

So Dumbledore knew about the prophecy. The only thing that wasn’t clear was did he know the contents, or just the name of the person who made it? Harry made a mental note to let Grams know that he had information on the prophecy. She’d been wanting to get the contents since he’d first come to live with them.

“Is there anything else you would like to ask me about right now, Harry?” Dumbledore wanted to know what was going on in the boy’s mind. He wasn’t able to get in for some reason, even though he knew the boy couldn’t possibly have learned Occulmency yet. He wondered if the boy’s Aunt had done something to try and protect the boy’s mind, but then discarded that idea. Why would she?

‘Yes sir,’ Harry’s expression was serious. ‘What is a Life Debt?’

“Where did you hear about that?” Dumbledore wanted to know

‘Professor Quirrell or maybe it was Voldemort mentioned it.’ Harry admitted. ‘He said Snape hated my father and my family and yet he tried to save my life at the first Quidditch match this year because of a Life Debt he owed my father.’

Dumbledore smiled as he thought about the relationship between Snape and Harry’s father. “Yes those two did hate each other during their time together at Hogwarts. Some say it was hate at first sight. They were rather like you and Mr. Malfoy in that regard..”

Harry had the feeling that Headmaster was trying to be diplomatic. Snape’s feelings for him would be more properly classified as loathing, but he made no comment on the ancient wizard’s choice of words as he continued. “It was during their fifth year at Hogwarts, that your father saved Professor Snape’s life. Because of your father’s actions a magical bond was created between them that can only be erased by Professor Snape performing a service of equal value for you, since he can no longer repay the debt to your father.”

‘Can I release him from this debt?’ Harry wanted to know. He didn’t want a man who hated his very existence tied to him by a magical bond of any kind. He also had the feeling that as long as Snape continued to harbour hatred and loathing toward him that the fates would intervene and prevent him from paying off the debt he owed, if he still owed it after the Quidditch match and given that he tried to referee the second match he was in, he probably did.

Dumbledore shook his head. “I’m afraid not. This is magic at its most complex and impenetrable.”

###########

Harry didn’t manage to get out of the Hospital Wing until the evening of the Leaving Feast and even then he had to practically beg Madame Pompfrey before she would let him out. The woman was worse than a tigress with one cub.

On the one brief visit she’d allowed him with his friends, Harry had been able to tell them what had happened with Quirrell leaving out the part about the Stone being safe.

He’d found out from Hermione and Neville that Dumbledore had met them as they were bringing Ron out of Fluffy’s room and that he had automatically assumed that Harry had gone after the thief. Grams would not be happy to hear that, because it seemed to confirm that Dumbledore had intended for him to protect the Stone all along while making it appear that he was doing it of his own free will.

Ron had told him about Gryffindor losing the final match of the year to Ravenclaw while he had been unconscious and that resulted in Slytherin winning the House Cup for the eighth year in a row.

As Harry was finishing getting dressed so he could go down to the feast, he heard the door to the Hospital Wing open. Looking around, he saw Hagrid standing there with a mournful expression on his face.

‘What’s wrong Hagrid?’ Harry asked worried that something was wrong with the huge man.

“This is all my fault!” Hagrid practically howled.

‘What is?’ Harry had a feeling he knew what Hagrid was talking about, given that Headmaster knew about Norbert, but he wanted to know for sure.

“You winding up in here an’ Ron’s bein’ hurt. It’s… all… my… ruddy… fault,” his last statement was broken by heaving sobs. “Ifen I hadn’t a tol that evil git how ta get past Fluffy, none a this would’a happened. Neither a ya would a bin hurt ifen I hadn’t a wanted a dragon. Dumbledore should’a sacked me but he didn’t. Said I was a good person who’d just made a mistake, but it nearly killed ya!

Harry wasn’t quite sure what he should say to Hagrid, because he was right. It was his desire for a dragon that allowed Quirrell to find out how to get past Fluffy, but then again, he was fairly certain that if playing on Hagrid’s desire for a dragon hadn’t worked, Quirrell or Voldemort would’ve upped the ante. ‘Hagrid, even if you hadn’t told Voldemort how to get past Fluffy, he would’ve found another way and then he would’ve gotten the Stone for sure.’

“You could’a died because a me! And you shouldn’t say that name.”

‘Why not?’ Harry demanded. ‘He’s not going to suddenly appear in the room and kill us just because I did.’ And to prove his point, Harry shouted, ‘Voldemort! Voldemort! Voldemort!

Hagrid flinched each time the Dark Lord’s name was said and Harry’s shouts brought Madame Pompfrey out of her office, wand out expecting trouble.

“What is going on out here?” Pompfrey demanded of the large gamekeeper. “Hagrid, I told you not to excite him.”

‘Sorry, Madame Pompfrey, I was just trying to prove a point.’ Harry apologised to the medi-witch. ‘It’s just a name Hagrid. It has no power other than what you give it and by being afraid to say Voldemort’s name, you give him the power to continue to terrify you.’

Plucking a Chocolate Frog off the pile of sweets on the nightstand, Harry handed it to Hagrid. ‘Maybe this will make you feel better.’

After mopping his teary eyes with an enormous handkerchief, Hagrid took the box. “That reminds me, I got summat fer you too.”

Harry stared at him stunned as the gamekeeper reached into one of the pockets of his coat. He hadn’t expected anything in return. He’d just wanted to make the man feel a little better.

Handing Harry a beautiful, leather bound book Hagrid told him. “I went ta visit a few of yer parent’s friends, cause I knew ya didn’t have any pictures a them.”

Opening the book, Harry stared speechless at a moving picture of his mom holding him as a baby, while his dad, had his arms wrapped around both of them.

While Harry made no comment, just stroking the first picture with his fingers, Hagrid could tell he loved the album. Putting his handkerchief away, Hagrid told him. “We’d better head down to the Great Hall, or there’ll be nothing left for us.”

Their entry into the Great Hall attracted everybody’s attention and when they saw Harry, the room almost immediately fell silent as he walked over to join his friends.

Harry tried to ignore their stares as he sat down next to Neville and across from Ron and Hermione. The conversations resumed as soon as he was seated at the Gryffindor table.

‘What did I miss?’ Harry ignored the questions being fired at him by the curious Gryffindors around them.

“Just Malfoy’s gloating because Slytherin is going to win the House Cup even though they lost their Quidditch match to us.” Ron told him.

“And there’s lots of rumours going around about what happened on the third floor.” Neville put in. “Some of them are really wild and make me want to laugh. Somebody said we faced down a manticore. I personally think Fluffy was bad enough.”

When she saw the puzzled expression on Harry’s face, Hermione described the creature for him.

Harry just shook his head at some people’s imagination. ‘They think a first year could take on one of those? I’m just glad there wasn’t one down there, though maybe if there had been Quirrell wouldn’t have gotten past it.’

Silence fell on the Great Hall again and looking up, Harry saw that Dumbledore had gotten to his feet.

“Before we begin our excellent feast, I want to congratulate you all on making it to the end of another school year. To those who will be moving on from here, I offer my congratulations and my wishes that you be successful in whatever career you have chosen. For those who will be coming back next year, I hope you will return ready and eager to learn, so that you bring honour to yourselves, your families and your House.”

The headmaster paused for a moment. “Now we come to the moment some of you have been waiting for, the presentation of the House Cup. As the points currently stand, Hufflepuff has three hundred fifty. Gryffindor has three hundred seventy-two. Ravenclaw is at four hundred twenty-six and Slytherin is currently in first place with four hundred seventy-two.”

Slytherin cheered and clapped loudly at this announcement, but the other Houses had heard the Headmaster say currently in first place and were waiting to see if something was going to happen to change Slytherins expected victory.

The Slytherins continued to cheer and Dumbledore finally had gesture for silence before he could continue, “Yes, yes, while I congratulate Slytherin on how well they have done, there are a few last minute points that need to be given out before the House Cup can be awarded.”

The expressions on the Slytherin’s faces instantly became suspicious, expecting a trick of some kind.

Dumbledore cleared his throat. “First… to Mr. Ronald Weasley, forty points for the best chess game Hogwarts has seen in quite some time.”

“My brother beat McGonagall’s chess set.” Percy could be heard telling everyone as Ron’s face turned beet red.

When the Gryffindor’s were silent once more, Dumbledore went on. “To Miss Hermione Granger forty points for being able to keep a cool head and using logic to get out of a nearly impossible situation.”

“We’re now in second place,” Ron hissed as Hermione buried her face in her arms, trying to hide from the people shouting congratulations to her.

Dumbledore smiled and once again had to gesture for silence. “The next award is for courage and being willing to help your friends in spite of your own fears. I award Neville Longbottom thirty points.”

The noise level in the Great Hall became practically deafening as the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws realised that those thirty points put Gryffindor in the lead and while they would have preferred to have the House Cup themselves, they were just as happy not to see Slytherin get it for the eighth year running. Especially because it was because of points given to Neville Longbottom, whom the Slytherins had tormented for this whole year. It was poetic justice in a way.

Dumbledore made several attempts to regain control and finally had to resort to firing off flares to silence the room.

“While I am pleased to see how happy you are about this, I still have one more award to make.” Dumbledore told them. “For his determination and courage in stopping one who would cause harm to others had he succeeded in attaining his goal, Harry Potter is awarded sixty points.”

Gryffindor house cheered even louder as they realised they had been awarded one hundred seventy points by Dumbledore for what a group of first years had done, even if they didn’t know all the details about what they’d done.

“Which means a change of decorations is in order.” Dumbledore waved his hand and the hangings and decorations changed from silver and green to red and gold as Snape with a sickly look on his face shook McGonagall’s hand in congratulations.

Harry was suspicious of the timing because the Headmaster could have awarded the points for what happened at any time over the last few days, if he’d really wanted to. Why would he award the points and the House Cup in a way that was guaranteed to anger the Slytherins? Taking the prize away from someone at the moment it was to be awarded was not a smart thing to do Who was the headmaster trying to endear himself to? Him? Well it hadn’t worked.

He hadn’t stopped Quirrell with the expectation of being rewarded. He’d done it because as his Aunt had drilled into him, with power comes responsibility and letting Voldemort have the Stone would not have been the responsible thing to do.

Given that tomorrow they were leaving on the train, Harry knew he would have to be on his toes, in case Dumbledore tried any delaying tactics to keep him off the train.

#########

As Harry and friends were finishing up their breakfast so they could get back up to their dorms to take care of any last minute packing, McGonagall walked up to the table.

“Mr. Potter, Madame Pompfrey asked me to bring you to the Hospital Wing. She wants to give you a final check-up before you catch the train home.” McGonagall told him.

‘I still have some last minute packing to do, Professor.’ Harry really didn’t want to go back and see the school nurse. He’d had a lot of trouble getting out of her clutches last night.

Understanding why he wasn’t real anxious to go, given that Poppy was a very over-protective woman when it came to her charges. “Don’t worry Mr. Potter, I will make sure your packing gets taken care of and that she doesn’t keep you from making the train.”

Harry sighed, knowing he wouldn’t be able to get out of it. ‘All right, see you on the train, if not before.’

The others nodded as Harry got to his feet. ‘Shall we go,’ then as if it were an afterthought, he told her. ‘Congratulations on winning the House Cup, Professor.’

“Thank you, Mr. Potter.” McGonagall looked away unable to meet his gaze. She knew very well that the only reason Gryffindor had won the House Cup was due to four first years, who had disobeyed her. Ordinarily she would’ve taken points and assigned detention, but in this instance she couldn’t because it would be punishing them for doing the right thing, and that was not something she wanted to do.

The walk to the Hospital Wing was made in silence.

Inside, McGonagall told him, “Have a seat while I let Madame Pompfrey know you’re here.”

Harry had no sooner seated himself on the bed closest to the doors, when a bolt of red light appeared out of nowhere and struck him in the side, knocking him over on to the bed.

Dumbledore pulled off his invisibility cloak and went over to get Harry settled into a more comfortable position on the bed.

“You can bring her out now.” Dumbledore called toward Madame Pomfrey’s office.

McGonagall led a slender Gryffindor seventh year with bubble gum pink hair out of Poppy’s office.

The girl stared at Harry for several minutes, before her body began to melt and change shape. A moment later Harry Potter was standing beside the bed his unconscious twin was lying on.

“How long can you hold the transformation?” Dumbledore wanted to know.

“As long as I need to,” Harry’s new twin sounded exactly like Harry. He looked up at the Headmaster, “You just remember our deal.”

“You don’t need to worry about that.” Dumbledore assured the girl turned boy. “You are already enrolled in the Auror’s Academy.”

“Then I had better rejoin my friends, or rather Harry’s.” She walked out of the Hospital Wing.

“Since Poppy will be back soon, we need to finish up.” Dumbledore pulled his wand out again and waved it in a series of complex motions over Harry’s body.

Looking down, McGonagall saw that Harry had been transformed into a blue point calico cat. “Very nice bit of transfiguration.” She complimented the Headmaster. While she had her misgivings about this plan, it was the only way they could separate him from the Halliwell woman. The only thing that bothered her about what they were doing was the fact that they were literally kidnapping Potter to try and protect him. How did that make them any better than the Halliwell woman?

“It’s nice to know I haven’t lost my touch.” Dumbledore picked up the unconscious cat, slid him into a large padded carrying bag, and walked out of the Hospital Wing.

#######

A knock at the front door almost made Mrs. Weasley drop the bowl she was holding. She was expecting a visit from Dumbledore, but he usually flooed in and she wasn’t expecting him until later. She had thought Dumbledore would be going to the train to collect her children and their guest for the summer.

Opening the front door she was surprised to see the Hogwarts headmaster standing there in what were for him very conservative robes of a solid deep blue colour, with none of the unusual patterns he loved so much.

“Headmaster!” Molly stepped back to let Dumbledore in. She hadn’t expected to see him until later when they went to Platform 9 and 3/4.

“Good morning Molly,” Dumbledore’s eyes roamed around the area visible to him and not seeing their youngest child, asked. “Where is Ginny?”

“She’s degnoming the garden.” Molly told him.

“Good,” Dumbledore was pleased by that news. He didn’t want anyone finding out about Harry Potter living with the Weasleys until at least the start of school. By then he hoped that they would have been able to begin the process of getting Harry used to the fact that he belonged in the Wizarding world. It would take a lot of time to undo what ever conditioning she had done to the boy, but Dumbledore was certain that young Potter would one day be a useful member of British wizarding society… once he finally defeated Voldemort that is. “Do you have everything ready? I brought Mr. Potter with me.”

That flustered Molly even more. “I thought we were going to be collecting him from the train.”

“I had to make a slight last minute change in plans, given the capabilities of the woman, Mr. Potter has been living with these past six years.“ Dumbledore shook his head. “As we speak there is a metamorphagus pretending to be Harry getting on the train with your son and his other friends. We need the woman who abducted Harry to think he got on the train and then vanished once it reached London.” Dumbledore paused for moment before continuing. “The most important thing is to keep Harry’s presence here a secret for as long as possible.”

Molly looked slightly horrified. “You surely don’t expect us to keep him prisoner do you? I’m mean that definitely won’t convince him we want what’s best for him.”

“No… no…,” Dumbledore hastened to assure her. “I just don’t want anyone to know he’s here, until Bill returns later this evening and can put stronger wards on the Burrow. That means Ginny can’t see him until you get back from picking up your sons from the train.”

Molly nodded seeing the sense in that. “Well where is Harry? You didn’t leave him outside, did you?”

“No I have him right here?” Dumbledore reached into the bag hanging from his shoulder and pulled out a limp, clearly unconscious cat.

“Albus! What did you do?” Molly demanded, taking the cat out of his hands and checking it over.

Dumbledore looked slightly embarrassed. “I had to stun him to get him out of the castle.”

“You stunned him!” Molly couldn’t believe her ears. “Why would you need to do that? Now you’ve made us as bad as she is. We stole him, Albus! All you had to do was explain to him that it was in his best interests not to return to the woman who had abducted him from his family six years ago. Then tell him you had found another family willing to take him in so he could grow up among his own kind.”

“There wasn’t time.” Dumbledore told her. “He has lived with her since he was five, Molly, and he sees her as his mother the way Lily’s sister was not. He would never have believed me then that she would be a danger to him or cause him to be a danger to others.”

Molly just glared at him as she took the unconscious cat upstairs to the bed she added in Ron’s room. “Well, I hope you realise our job to undo the past six years has gotten a lot harder because you couldn’t take the time to explain things to him. Ron told me he was an intelligent boy. He would’ve understood, once the situation was explained to him that he couldn’t go back to live with that crazy witch. I mean what kind of woman steals someone else’s child? Not to mention we have no way of knowing what she’s been teaching him all these years.”

Molly settled the cat on the bed and looked at Dumbledore expectantly.

A few waves of Dumbledore’s wand and a muttered incantation later, a dark haired child was lying on the bed.

Molly removed Harry’s shoes and slid him under the blankets, making sure to position him so that he would be resting comfortably.

Before they left, Dumbledore remembered something. “Just a moment Molly.”

He went back to where to Harry and patted him down, looking for his wand. Finding it, he pocketed it and then rejoined Molly at the door.

Once the door was closed, Dumbledore put a locking charm on it. “That should keep him in when you go to pick up your sons.”

“Albus is that really necessary?” if Molly hadn’t known any better, she would’ve thought she was dealing with Mad-eye Moody.

“It’s better not to take chances.” Dumbledore told her. “He will be waking in a strange place and we don’t want him to hurt himself or try and get away, until we have the chance to explain things to him.”

Molly said nothing, just shook her head as she went down the stairs. She just hoped that poor child would understand they only wanted to help him, because she wasn’t looking forward to keeping him confined until he came to his senses and realised they knew what was best for him.

########

Given the huge crowd around the train, it was very easy for the metamorphagus to slip away and shift back in to her regular form. Then she rejoined the crowd to say good-bye to her friends.

Ron looked around for Harry who had been right behind him when he had met up with his mum and Ginny. “Hey anyone see where Harry went? He was here a minute ago.”

No one noticed the slight start Molly gave at the mention of Harry’s name. She had been worried that someone had seen her shrink the Potter child’s trunk and slip it into her pocket. “Maybe he couldn’t wait dear,” Molly told her son. “It’s possible he’s already gone through the Barrier.”

“Without saying good-bye.” Hermione commented. That didn’t sound like the Harry she knew.

“Well given the Express is running late today, maybe he didn’t have time to.” Molly pointed out reasonably to the bushy haired girl. “Remember, his family like yours are muggles and they aren’t able to get through the Barrier without help, so they wouldn’t know the train was running a little late.”

“Darn,” Hermione sighed. “I was hoping I would get the chance to meet his cousins this time, especially his cousin Phoebe.”

“I wanted to meet his Aunt.” Neville put in.

“Me too,” Ron agreed. “I have to meet anyone who can annoy Snape that much.”

“Do you think she would share her secrets?” Fred and George chorused.

That distracted Molly as she told them crisply. “You two will not be asking Harry aunt for any pointers in how to prank people. You don’t need any help getting into trouble. Between the two of you you’ve racked up more detentions in the past three years than anyone else in our family.”

“But mum,” the twins protested as they headed toward the Barrier, “we’re no where near the record.”

“And you’d better not get there either,” their mother warned them.

Hermione once she cleared the Barrier and located her parents started looking around for Harry and his family, hoping they might still be there.

“Who are you looking for honey?” Hermione’s mother asked.

“Harry,” Hermione told her parents. “He didn’t wait for the rest of us. I wanted to meet his family.”

“Well, the station has been kind of busy today, but I didn’t see anyone matching the description you gave us of Harry.” Her father told her.

As a small family passed Leo who was standing by the pillar to Platform 9, he heard the father say, “maybe you’ll be able to meet Harry’s family when the school year starts. They will have to go to Diagon Alley for supplies after all.”

“I really want to meet his cousin Phoebe.” The young girl was saying. “Harry said she was a nice person with a big heart.”

Leo had to restrain himself from grabbing the bushy-haired girl to find out if she was talking about Harry Potter. He sent the senses that were connected to his charges out to see if he could locate Harry, but got nothing. He hadn’t even gotten a warning of danger, that meant whatever had happened to Harry had happened quickly before the boy was even aware of the danger he was in, unlike last week when Harry’s life had been threatened in the dungeon room of Hogwarts. He also knew that Harry had to be unconscious or he would’ve been able to locate the boy wherever he was. He should’ve been monitoring Harry since last night given that Penny had suspected that Dumbledore would try something and her instincts were usually very good when someone was a potential danger to a member of her family.

Keeping a mental ear open for when Harry regained consciousness or his captors woke him up, Leo moved to a shadowy area of King’s Cross station and orbed to Hogwarts Owlery to start his search. Looking around he spotted Harry’s owl up in rafters.

“Hedwig,” he called softly.

The snowy owl recognising the blond man as one of Harry’s special caregivers, flew down to land on his arm. She was fairly certain she knew why he was here. Her Harry hadn’t left with the other human chicks. Instead the one in charge of this place had taken him away and when she’d tried to follow, she’d found she was unable to even leave the Owlery. She’d made several attempts over the last several hours, but each time something had stopped her from going to join her master wherever he was.

“Hedwig, I know Harry didn’t make the train.” Leo began. “However because he is unconscious, I can not find him to help him. I know that you can though.”

Hedwig hooted in agreement. As long as he was alive, she could find her Harry.

“Is he still in Hogwarts?” Leo wanted to know.

Hedwig knew that because she was Harry’s familiar this man would be able to pick up more from her than an ordinary wizard would. She sent him an impression that he wasn’t here and direction she was feeling him in, though she couldn’t give him an idea of distance, since even a magical owl’s concept of distance was different from a human’s.

“Has he left the island?” Leo wanted to know.

The distance her master was away didn’t feel as if it went over a large source of water, so she sent him a negative impression.

“Well then shall we go find Harry?” Leo asked.

Hedwig hooted eager to be off.

Leo orbed out, taking Hedwig with him.

######

When Harry woke, he had to strongly resist the instinctive urge to move. His last clear memory was of sitting down on a bed in the Hospital wing at Hogwarts, then nothing. Keeping his eyes closed and pretending to still be out, Harry used his other senses to gather information on his surroundings.

He was lying in a bed, but it definitely wasn’t in the Hospital wing, cause there was no echo like that cavernous room would give. Nor was there the antiseptic smell one usually associated with hospitals. Harry noticed that he couldn’t hear anyone moving around either, so he was probably alone in this room. Harry exercised caution though and did a slow count to five hundred before opening his eyes, just to make sure he was alone.

The first thing to greet his eyes, were walls that were painted a gaudy orange colour. A slight turn of his head brought into view another bed, some clearly magical Quidditch posters, and a clothes cupboard. It also confirmed for him that he was indeed alone in this room, at least for now.

Harry found his glasses on the nightstand that was also acting as the headboard for his bed. However as he moved to pick them up, the bed gave a decidedly loud creak. He quickly shifted back to his former position, closed his eyes, and waited to see if anyone was going to check on the noise.

As he waited, Harry quickly cobbled together a spell to insure that he could move around without being heard.

A cone of silence for ten feet around me let there be
to prevent others from discovering me.
But sounds from outside let me hear
As I make my escape from here.


Opening his eyes, Harry again reached for his glasses. This time the bed didn’t creak, nor did the floorboards when Harry put his feet on the floor.

Harry sat there for a few moments, doing some hard thinking. This was most likely Dumbledore’s big attempt to try and separate him from his home and family. If Dumbledore had been behind this abduction then he had to be in the home of a magical family that the headmaster trusted and maybe even had influence over.

A quick check of the room and through the window told Harry he wasn’t in the city and his trunk wasn’t here. Dumbledore is probably going to bring it by later. Or maybe whoever is keeping me here will. He made a mental note to make sure that he or Grams got the trunk back from the Headmaster and that Dumbledore released Hedwig so that she could go to the safe house. He didn’t care that much about the school stuff, but he definitely wanted his personal stuff back, like his Book of Shadows, his dad’s invisibility cloak and the photo album Hagrid had given him.

Harry went to the door and was not surprised to find it locked. Only a moron would leave the door to the room they’d placed their prisoner in unlocked, giving them free access to a way to escape.

Not sure that the alohomora spell would work even if he had his wand Harry used the one his aunt said was good for almost any lock.

At my knock
unlock this lock.


He rapped gently on the door and heard the lock click. Twisting the knob he was pleased when it opened.

A quick check showed no one in the hallway and a flight of stars twisting their way down.

Seeing and hearing no one, Harry left the room he’d been held in and moved slowly and carefully down the twisting narrow staircase. Harry had made it to the ground floor of the house when he heard a loud popping sound off to his left. It sounded like someone bursting a large balloon and that pop was followed by a creaking sound, probably of floorboards.

That explains why there were no guards upstairs. They must’ve been changing the guard while they thought I was still out. Harry thought to himself as he darted through a nearby open doorway.

The guard when he finally appeared , was a young man in his twenties or thirties with long red hair bound in a ponytail. The guard went over and studied the clock in the corner intently for several minutes before taking a seat on a nearby couch.

Harry felt like swearing. Even though he wouldn’t be heard by the seated man, there was no way to avoid being seen by him.

Thinking quickly Harry chanted:

The man I see before me looks very stressed
and looks like he could use a lot of rest.
Unless he’s in peril of life and limb, I pray
that nothing be allowed to disturb his rest until the break of day.


It took about ten minutes before Harry’s sleep spell took effect. Harry had to bite his lip to keep from crying in frustration as the guard fought the sleep spell. The longer it took for him to go to sleep the easier it might be for someone else to find Harry.

Once the man was snoring with his head on his chest, Harry darted for the closest door and opened it. Seeing no one in the immediate area, he took off, making sure he kept off the road that ran by the house. Picking a direction at random, he headed away from what looked like on the outside a rather ramshackle house.

He had just gotten out of sight of the house, when he heard a voice call out, “Harry!”

He recognised the voice as Leo’s and when he looked up he saw a snowy owl flying toward him. Cancelling his silence spell, Harry called, /Leo!/ as Hedwig landed on his outstretched forearm.

Leo orbed in as Hedwig was settling carefully onto Harry’s arm. She did her best to get a stable perch without piercing the skin of her Harry’s arm with her talons.

Harry was very glad to see his familiar. “Hediwg, you’re such a clever owl. They should’ve known they wouldn’t be able to keep you wherever they had you.”

Hedwig puffed up proudly at the complement as Leo told him, “She was being kept in the Hogwarts owlery. Given you were unconscious when I found out you were missing, I needed her help to locate you. We were about halfway here, when you woke up, but then you vanished again except from her senses.”

Harry looked slightly embarrassed. ‘Sorry about that. I did a silencing spell so whoever was in the house wouldn’t be able to detect me and it must’ve unintentionally blocked you too.’

“Understandable,” Leo told him and then advised, “You might want to write that spell in your Book of Shadows, because if it will block a Whitelighter, it might just keep a demon from tracking you or whoever it is cast on.”

Harry looked slightly worried. ‘My Book of Shadows was in my trunk and I don’t know where it is.’

“Well since it was probably Dumbledore who abducted you he probably has your trunk or can lay his hands on it quickly.” Leo put an arm around his shoulder and led him further from the house.

‘What am I going to tell the girls when I get home without my suitcase?’ Harry wondered.

“That one is easy,” Leo assured him. “Tell them the airlines lost your luggage between London and JFK. We’ll pick you up something in London to wear home. We can leave it to your Aunt to get the trunk back from Dumbledore.”

‘We’ll have to go by Gringotts first then, because my money was in my trunk too.’ Harry told him.

“Can you cast a glamour charm to make yourself look like my son long enough to get into and back out of Gringotts?” Leo wanted to know.

‘I should be able to.” Harry told him.

###########

“Headmaster!” Molly’s voice frantically screeched in Dumbledore’s fireplace. “Someone attacked Bill in our home and we can’t undo the spell!”

“What about Harry? Is he still there?” Dumbledore was dreading the answer.

“He’s gone!” Molly’s words confirmed his fears.

Somehow despite all his careful planning and the fact that he had nullified all possible tracking spells, Penelope Halliwell had managed to steal Harry back.

“Dumbledore,” Molly’s voice managed to pull him out of his thoughts. “Could you please bring Madame Pomfrey so she can check Bill out. He seems to be asleep, but we can’t wake him.”

“Of course Molly,” Dumbledore assured her, though he doubted there was much Madame Pomfrey could do. “I’ll bring her by myself tonight after your other children area asleep. That way they won’t worry.”

“Thank you,” Molly looked relieved. “I already told them that he’d been working very hard for Gringotts and had taken a sleeping potion but that it had kicked in before he could make it to his room.”

After Molly’s head vanished from his fireplace, Dumbledore looked over at Fawkes. “Can you locate Harry Potter? I don’t need you to contact him, just see if he is with his Aunt.”

The trill Fawkes gave before vanishing in a ball of fire, sounded suspiciously like laughter to Dumbledore.

##########

It was several hours before Fawkes returned to the Headmaster and Dumbledore had started to get worried about his companion. While he doubted that Miss Halliwell would’ve done anything to try and harm the Phoenix if she caught sight of him, unless she thought he was a threat to her family, it had still been a possibility.

As Fawkes appeared before him he noticed that the phoenix was holding a letter in it’s beak. Fawkes dropped the letter on his desk and returned to his perch trilling a greeting.

“I gather from the letter that young Mr. Potter is indeed with Miss Halliwell.” Dumbledore commented.

Fawkes nodded, and Dumbledore thought he looked slightly concerned about being detected.

“Are they still in Great Britain?” Dumbledore inquired, making no attempt to pickup the envelope on his desk.

The phoenix trilled a response that Dumbledore had learned over the years meant no.

Sighing Dumbledore studied the envelope in front of him. While the address was upside down, he could see that he was the intended recipient because his name was written in thick, block printing, but he couldn’t make out what was written below it.

Fairly certain of who the sender was and remembering what happened the last time he got a letter from Penny Halliwell, Dumbledore used the tip of a quill to turn the envelope around so that he could read what was written in script under his name.

Don’t worry there’s no curse on the letter, so you can read it.

Fawkes let out a trill of laughter at his companion’s actions.

Dumbledore glared at him, “Think it’s funny do you? Well you weren’t the one sporting the ever changing hair colour for over a month. I wonder if you would laugh if she did something to you?”

Fawkes managed to look vaguely offended. He was smart enough not to try crossing a witch like Penny Halliwell, something his companion Dumbledore had yet to learn.

Fawkes had invisibly followed Harry and his blond companion through London and then stayed with Harry as he followed the boy back to his family. One thing he hadn’t counted on was the witch being able to detect him even when he was invisible. When she had announced that it was time to get home she had given the phoenix a look that made it clear he was to come along too. The phoenix could’ve ignored her silent order, because she wasn’t his bonded, but his curiosity had gotten the better of him and that was how he had wound acting as messenger once she’d gotten the story of what had happened out of Harry.

Fawkes almost felt sorry for his bonded for what he undoubtedly saw as a necessary action for the greater good. Penny Halliwell had promised him that she wouldn’t kill his bonded for trying to separate her family, but that was all she promised. Fawkes was smart enough to know that she didn’t need to harm Dumbledore to drive her point home.

Chapter Text



Smackdown: Halliwell Style

Dumbledore checked his watch to make sure he was on time. Penny Halliwell had made it quite clear in her letter that if he was late she would not even consider allowing Harry Potter to return Hogwarts for the start of the new term and that she would be bringing charges against him and Hogwarts for allowing her great-nephew to be abducted and for placing him in extreme peril.

Dumbledore had spent most of the last month working on what he was going to say to this rather formidable woman, not to mention how he was going to protect himself from her spells, but whether or not he would be successful, all depended on her opening shot.

As he raised his hand to knock on the door, it opened and Penny Halliwell was standing there dressed in slacks, a close-fitting shirt, and what the muggles called trainers. She was clearly dressed for action.

“Come in. We have a lot to discuss.” She ordered before he could greet her. Then once he was through the door, she pointed to the solarium, “in there, for you are not going to be wandering anywhere.”

Dumbledore felt an invisible force surround and shove him through the open door.

“There is no need for such rough treatment, Miss Halliwell,” Dumbledore protested as all the doors to the room slammed shut.

“Our opinions on that differ,” Penny told him.

“Where is Harry?” Dumbledore wanted to know. “I was hoping to speak with him.”

“Why would you think Harry would want to speak to his kidnapper?” Penny wanted to know. “As for where he is, he is taking care of some personal business. A friend is with him to make sure nothing happens to him.”

Leo was proving to be very useful for a pacifistic Whitelighter. He had agreed to take Harry to Central Park where he was to meet Flamel and return the Philosopher’s Stone to its rightful owner. Penny had insisted on that just in case someone learned that the Stone had survived and that Harry currently had it in his possession.

Refusing to let Dumbledore control the course of the conversation any longer, Penny asked. “First things first, do you have my nephew’s school trunk and wand? He has been missing several things that are in it.”

“Right here,” Dumbledore pulled a trunk the size of a matchbox out of his pocket and then using his wand restored it to its normal size. “Harry’s wand is in the trunk.”

Penny opened the trunk to verify the contents were all there.

“Nothing was taken from him, madam,” Dumbledore was slightly insulted that she thought he would steal from a child.

Penny ran her hand over the books looking for one in particular. The glamour that had been placed on the McIver Book of Shadows would only disappear however briefly for her touch or Harry’s. When she found it, she closed the trunk and turned her attention back to Dumbledore. “You should be grateful to your phoenix. It is only because of a promise I made to him that you are still alive. I take threats to my family very seriously and it is usually fatal for the one who does bring harm to them.”

“Miss Halliwell, neither I or any of my staff have in any way threatened or harmed your great-nephew.” Dumbledore did a wandless trust me spell. He didn’t expect it to work completely on Miss Halliwell, but he was hoping it would lessen the hostility she was displaying.

“Oh really!” The sarcasm was very plain in the woman’s voice. “You seem to have a strange idea of what constitutes harm. Well, let’s just examine Harry’s first year at your school, shall we? Or maybe we should first discuss the spell you just tried to attack me with. The one that failed.”

“I didn’t attack you.” Dumbledore protested.

“You cast a spell at me without my knowledge or consent.” Penny countered. “That’s an attack in my book.” She gestured with her hand and Dumbledore suddenly found himself several feet off the ground, hanging in midair. “Now unless you tell me what it was we will see how well you can fly, because you see I only promised Fawkes, I wouldn’t kill you. I said nothing about not injuring you.”

Dumbledore knew from the expression on her face she was deadly serious. “It was a trust me charm. I just wanted to lessen the hostility you were feeling toward me.”

“Instead you ratcheted it up a few more notches.” Penny brought him back down to the ground with a thump. “I told you the day we met, I don’t trust you and I never will. Let me give you a word of warning. If you’re stupid enough to try and cast a spell on me again, Harry will never return to that school of yours. And I’ll chuck you out the nearest window or door.”

Trying for a slight change of subject, Dumbledore suggested, “Shall we discuss Harry’s education?”

“Yes let’s,” Penny agreed with a smirk

“Harry did very well in all his subjects.” Dumbledore told her. “All of his professors have commented on how eager he is to learn…”

“All except Snape, I’ll bet.” Penny interrupted. “I’m fairly certain he was anything but complimentary toward Harry, given that he can’t let go of a grudge toward a dead man and has chosen to transfer it to his son instead. And what about your possessed Dark Arts teacher? I do have some doubt about the competency of you and your staff, given that all of you ignored the warning signs regarding Quirrell. I would have been suspicious the moment he ran in to a room full of children announcing that a Troll was loose in the castle. That should’ve set off all kinds of warnings for you. If he was even remotely competent as a Defense teacher, he should have been able to deal with the troll or at least contain it until more of the teaching staff could be brought in to deal with it. Instead you wind up having three eleven years deal with the troll for you after he has managed to terrify the whole school.”

Before Dumbledore had a chance to open his mouth to defend himself or his teaching staff, she went on, “And while we are discussing competency, why were the traps guarding the Philosopher’s Stone which were supposed to be the best available, so easy to make it past that a four eleven year olds could get by them? If that’s a sign of the very best protections your staff can come up with, then goddess help your magical enclaves, because you are providing a crappy education to the children and they won’t know how to defend themselves.”

Dumbledore bristled. He wasn’t about to let her accuse his staff of providing a shoddy education to the children to the wizarding world. “Madam, the teachers at Hogwarts are the finest that can be had.”

Miss Halliwell made a noise that sounded a lot like the one time Minerva had coughed up a hairball when she was in her animagus form.

Dumbledore ignored it and went on. “The teaching staff at Hogwarts are all experts in their chosen fields of magic and many of the children who graduate from Hogwarts go on to become important contributing members of our society. I don’t know why Harry and his friends took it upon themselves to go after Quirrell when that was the job of myself and the teaching staff, but what is done can not be undone.”

“You weren’t there that day, remember? You’d gone off on a wild goose chase to your so-called Ministry of Magic, or at least that’s what you’d claimed. According to Harry, they’d tried to warn your Deputy Headmistress, but she blew off their warning because they were children and she thought children couldn’t possibly know what they were talking about.” Penny countered. “Not only did you deliberately endanger my nephew by keeping that Stone in the school, but all the other children as well. The traps were nowhere near as formidable as they needed to be to protect something like that. Quirrell shouldn’t have been able to make it past the first one but once he did the other traps should’ve been much harder to get by and much more deadly but they weren’t.” She paused as if the thought had just occurred to her and then hissed at him, “Those traps weren’t meant to protect the Stone by stopping an adult magic user, they were put in place to test Harry, don’t lie to me and tell me they weren’t. You wanted him to test his determination to see if he was willing to do anything to stop Quirrell and save the Stone.”

“That is not true. I would never have endangered a child that way. My staff is the very best,” Dumbledore told her trying to remain calm. The woman was proving to be very quick. He couldn’t have her realizing that he was indeed grooming Harry to be a leader in the wizarding world one day. After he destroyed Voldemort, Harry would be considered a leader in the magical community and he must be ready to assume his place as a leader. “My staff is not made up of cursebreakers or those who place curses. I asked them to come up with traps to protect the Stone and I think they did a fine job at what I asked them to do. We needed to keep the number of people who knew the Stone was at the school to a minimum, which is why I asked for their help. It was believed that between the wards surrounding Hogwarts and those traps the Stone would be perfectly safe.”

“Well it wasn’t was it?” Penny commented dryly. “A group of eleven year olds got past the ‘so-called’ best your teachers could put up and apparently Quirrell had even less trouble than they did. Doesn’t say much for their ability to protect the children in your school if their traps couldn’t even stop an eleven year old.”

“Madam I think you and I will continue to disagree on this until the world comes to an end.” Dumbledore could see that she was not going to come around to his point of view and had no desire to continue pursuing the subject or as the muggle would say he had no desire to continue beating a dead horse. “Shall we move on?”

“With pleasure,” Penny smiled, but it wasn’t a reassuring smile. “I want to know why I was not informed about the attack on Harry during his first Quidditch match. I also want to know why you never saw fit to tell me about Quirrell’s second attack. You know the one that put Harry into the school’s infirmary for almost a week near the end of the school year. I am his legal guardian and should’ve been informed in both instances and yet in both instances you failed to do so. And don’t tell me it was because of the distance involved, because you could’ve sent your phoenix with a message to let me know.”

Dumbledore knew he had to be cautious here. He wasn’t about to admit that he had never notified anyone’s parents when they had badly injured previously, unless the incident had been spread far and wide by the students first. He always preferred to keep events at the school under his control and not have the Ministry or the Board of Governors involved. “Miss Halliwell, unless we have to take the child to St Mungos because of severe injuries, we generally don’t inform the parents of every little scratch or scrape they get, or every time they get hurt in Potions class. After all children do sometimes get into fights or may hurt themselves if they are clumsy or not paying attention to what they are doing. By the time Harry woke up the school year was almost over so I saw no reason to worry you since he was going to be coming home soon anyway. As for the broom, we believed at the time it was a prank that went wrong. We have been investigating since it happened.”

Penny gave Dumbledore a look that clearly said; I’m not stupid, please don’t treat me as if I am or you won’t like the results. “I consider a jinxed broom that nearly caused my nephew to fall off it a serious matter and I doubt any of the children who attend your school would have the skill needed to tamper with it while it was in flight. That means it was an adult and it wouldn’t have taken a genius to realize that then, even if you didn’t know who it was. You made no attempt to pursue the attempted murder of my nephew, why is that?”

“That is where you are wrong madam,” Dumbledore disagreed. “We had been quietly investigating the matter so as not to alarm the students.”

“You knew it was a deliberate attack and yet you didn’t turn the matter over to whatever passes for the police in your wizard enclaves? Why?” Penny glared at him. “That still fails to explain why you didn’t tell me of the attack. I should have been notified the day the attack on Harry’s broom occurred.”

Dumbledore said simply. “To put the attacker off-guard thinking that he or she gotten away with it. I didn’t know it was Quirrell then and given the fact that you have retaliated against Professor Snape twice for perceived crimes, I wasn’t going to take the risk you would lash out at all the teachers. We also wanted to avoid alarming the parents of our other students.”

“That is not a good enough reason.” Penny lashed out at him. “You put Harry and the other students at further risk because it is possible that Quirrell would have attacked again and this time others beside Harry might’ve been caught in the crossfire. Also Snape’s actions warranted the punishment he got and if you were to ask any demon who is familiar with my work, I’m sure they would tell you he got off very lightly. He was only humiliated, not physically harmed. The person who tried to kill Harry once they were known would’ve been treated a lot differently.”

Having had his point proven, Dumbledore merely said, “Thank you for proving my point. What you would’ve done wouldn’t have been right or just.”

“You think not. I suppose you would’ve just slapped him on the wrists and told him ‘now say you’re sorry’ and then let him go on his merry way. That only leads to far worse crimes later one, if the person responsible gets off lightly because you refuse to see them properly punished out of a misguided sense of trying to redeem them. First you punish, then you redeem, otherwise you wind up with people like your Lord Voldemort, because you were too stupid to do what needed to be done.” Penny looked thoughtful as she paced the room. “I wonder if it’s possible to sue you and your staff for failing to keep me adequately apprised of what was happening to my nephew, not to mention the danger you placed him in by having an improperly guarded, highly desired, magical object in your school. I’ll have to check and see about that. I wonder if the other parents might not join me in the lawsuit, once they learn of the danger you placed their children in?”

“That would not be a good idea Miss Halliwell,” Dumbledore told her. “If you bring a charges or a legal suit of any kind the Ministry will get involved and the last thing Hogwarts needs is the Ministry poking its nose any further into the education that is provided to the children of magical Britain.”

“While I agree that the government needs to keep its big nose out of education, how does this Ministry of yours interfering in the magical education of children in Great Britain affect me and mine?” Penny countered firmly.

“With Harry going to Hogwarts they would have some control over him and what he learns.” Dumbledore pointed out, relieved that she at lest wasn’t one of those who advocated more government control over children’s education.

“I haven’t agreed to allow Harry to go back to your school.” Penny reminded him. “Your actions over this past year have not installed a lot of confidence in me that you will take proper care of Harry while he is at your school. And we haven’t even begun to discuss your abduction of Harry.”

“Are you accusing me or my staff of kidnapping Harry?” Dumbledore tried to sound disbelieving, as his mind was working quickly, trying to figure out how to get Harry back at Hogwarts where he belonged “I don’t know where you got the idea that we had anything to do with Harry’s disappearance from Platform 9 and 3/4.”

“Oh I think I got the idea when your phoenix showed up shortly after Harry did,” Penny commented dryly. “And according to Harry, the last place he remembers being before waking in that strange house is the Hogwarts Infirmary. So naturally you go right to the top of my list of suspects.”

Dumbledore tried to look insulted. “Miss Halliwell, I had nothing to do with Harry’s disappearance. I know that he left Hogwarts under his own power along with all the other students because I have a number of witnesses all of them highly reliable who will swear to it. Yes it is possible he was abducted, but it was not by anyone at Hogwarts, in fact he was last seen on Platform 9 and 3/4's at King’s Cross station. It is from there he disappeared. It is possible that whoever took him modified his memory so that he thought that he was taken from Hogwarts and not somewhere else. As for why you saw Fawkes shortly after Harry got home, I asked Fawkes to see if he could locate him so we could return him to those who care about him, when I heard from the Weasley family that he’d vanished from the Platform.”

“Oh please, do you think I am so stupid that I would believe no one in your school knows how to cast a glamour charm, Dumbledore?” Penny’s voice never rose but there was a hint of steel in it. “While I will admit to having some enemies, if one of them had abducted Harry with the intent to use him against me or to just hold him hostage, they would have tied him up and put guards on him to stop him from escaping. There was no one guarding him. He was taken with the sole purpose of keeping him from returning to his family. What were you hoping for that he would agree to stay there and forget those who love him and are a family to him, well you would’ve hoped in vain. Even if he hadn’t gotten away, he would’ve spent every waking moment trying to.”

“Believe what you wish madam,” Dumbledore was certain that she was wrong. Young Harry would’ve come around. Once he knew how much he was needed by the Wizarding world, Dumbledore was certain he would’ve done his duty and agreed to stay. “I doubt I could convince you that we had nothing to do with what happened to young Harry. What I want to know is what will it take to convince you to allow Harry to return to Hogwarts where he belongs.”

“He doesn’t belong at Hogwarts.” Penny disagreed. “He belongs with his family and his family consists of the girls and I. As for my price,” Penny pulled a folded piece of parchment out of her pocket. “I had the goblins draw up a magically binding code of conduct for you. Read and sign it, with your full and correct name and be assured I know what it is because the goblins told me. You will also swear an Unbreakable Vow to alert me any time my nephew winds up in your infirmary, is in danger, to not through your own actions place him in danger again, or to try take him away from his family.”

“And if I refuse?” Dumbledore wanted to know.

“Then my nephew will never set foot in your school again and if you or anyone in your wizarding community tries to take him, then you will gain me as an enemy and believe me, you don’t want me as an enemy.” Penny told him simply. “I believe in the scorched earth policy when it comes to threats toward my family.”

Dumbledore stared at her for several minutes and she met his gaze. He was unable to get into her mind to see just how far she was willing to go. Finally he conceded he had lost this battle. He would not be able to separate Harry from the Halliwell witch, at least not right now. But there was nothing in her terms so far that precluded Harry choosing to stay in the Wizarding World on his own. He nodded in agreement with the Halliwell woman’s terms and his agile mind started working on a way to convince Harry to stay of his own free will.




FINALLY! It’s done! Bunnie is collapsed in a corner having finished delivering its magnum opus. I hope you enjoyed it. The sequel will not be out any time soon, because I am going to try and get Wizard of Goa’uld back on track. That’s a Highlander/SG1 story. Next story to be updated though will be Wiccan Wizard.