Author: Izzy Hound
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Family, Time Travel
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Canon-Level Violence and Attitudes, Swearing, Death – Minor Character, Discussion – Death Eater activity
Author Notes: Thank you PhoenixRising253 and Daisy May for helping me wrangle my story and thanks Penumbria for all the awesome art.
Betas: Daisy May and PhoenixRising253
Word Count: 75,470
Summary: Terrible things happen to wizards who mess with time, that’s what Hermione had said. Harry hadn’t done anything but here they were, the perfectly normal, albeit accidently time travelling, family of number four Privet Drive. Now all Harry needed was a plan…
They didn’t make it back before the Prophet but thanks to the buffet Harry was able to skip dinner and all the curious stares and sit in an out of the way classroom. Dudley who had snagged a copy of the paper was sitting beside him pulling increasingly disturbed faces as he read.
“It can’t be that bad can it?”
“Yeah it can,” Dudley shuddered as he pushed it away. “If I have to hear you described as that poor little heroic orphan one more time, I think I’ll scream. I mean everybody else is just referred to by their surname if at all though I’m apparently called the heroic little orphan’s cousin on his dear mothers’ side.”
“Of course, you are, better than Duddykins though.”
“Yeah, yeah laugh it up.”
“Have you read this utter twaddle,” Hermione hissed shaking a copy of the paper as she slumped down beside them. “Mums got better written bodice rippers, pirates and all.”
“Yeah but in those books doesn’t the young, rich, orphan always get kidnapped and then fall in love with their abductor?” Dudley said while given Harry a strange look.
“I am not getting abducted by pirates or married. So, we’re going to move on even if the fact that Dudley read at all in our childhood is a revelation.”
“Shut up.” Dudley muttered cheeks flushed. “I though pirates were cool, but they weren’t in those books.”
“Boys. Now what happened because this rubbish is worth less than the paper it’s written on and that’s saying something.”
“We we’re hoping you would tell us. We spent most of the day sitting in one conference room or another with only a brief interlude in the courtroom half of which was done under silencing wards,” Harry admitted.
Unfortunately, the quality of news coverage didn’t improve the next day if anything it got worse with sensationalist interviews with anybody who wanted five minutes of fame and a future law suit for slander.
“What’s up Dudley?” Anthony asked. Harry glanced up and saw his cousin frowning over a letter that arrived in the evening post.
“Mum’s being called to testify tomorrow.”
“Really, that’s good isn’t it?” Hannah asked.
“Yeah I guess I, just worry about her not being magical and all.”
“Aunt Amelia will look after her. It’s not just British press watching proceedings and there’s no way the Ministry wants to look worse on the international stage than they already are,” Susan reassured while patting Dudley on the arm.
“Really?” Hermione scanned her paper again. “I didn’t see anything about that in the Prophet.”
“That’s hardly unsurprising,” Anthony replied. “There’s no way they’d let on that the outside world is scrutinising us. Did your aunt tell you?”
“Nope. I saw the robes of the international times report when in court the other day and what I think was an ICW scribe.”
“So, everything has to be above board then or else we’ll be sanctioned to the end of the Millennium at least,” Anthony nodded. “Surprised the ICW haven’t stepped in citing conflict of interest for the British Ministry.”
“Aunty thinks that it’s because they don’t want the cost and paperwork but will step in if they see an opening. So, everything is above board.”
“Sorry but who are the ICW?” Hermione asked although Harry was also curious.
“The International Confederation of Wizards, they represent their own country on the international level and make sure no single country goes too far off the rails.”
“Oh, so it’s good that they are watching?”
“Yeah especially for your Aunt, Harry as nobody is going to be rude to her in front of the world. Although she may not get much space in the press reports, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
“I’m sure she could live without being called the heroic little orphan’s mother’s sister.” Dudley agreed.
“Or the heroic little orphan’s Muggle guardian on the maternal side,” Hermione chimed in.
“Heroic little orphan’s aunt on his dear mothers’ side.” Hannah added, “It’s closest to what they called Dudley.”
“Well?” Harry asked as he watched his cousin open the latest letter, he had received in the evening post.
“It’s from Mum.”
“I think we all guessed that, but what does it say?” Unlike other nights the Prophet hadn’t arrived and so Dudley as the sole provider of news was getting far more scrutiny than before.
“Let him read,” Percy admonished the group. “We won’t find out anything if you keep interrupting him.”
“Well I think I know why the Prophets late,” Dudley said.
“Why?” several people asked some leaning forward so not to miss the reason.
“I was about to tell you. But it appears that Snape confessed this evening really late in the day.”
“They’re having to reprint then,” Percy pronounced. “No way they’d miss out on this.”
“Exactly what did he confess too? there’s loads of crimes he’s accused of,” Harry asked.
“Well he admitted he was a Death Eater, although that’s’ hardly surprising,” Dudley looked at Harry. “He was the one who killed our Grandparents.”
Harry felt an arm settle around his shoulder. One of the twins, George, Harry believed was the owner. Hannah and Susan shuffled in closer to Dudley.
“I guess that’s made Aunt Petunia happy getting them justice.”
“Yeah I think Mum’s pleased to get the truth, angry too seeing as they use to give Snape food and things and he repaid them with murder.”
“No good deed and all that,” Harry muttered. He felt kind of sick, Snape had killed his family and then spent years tormenting him in the past timeline all while knowing he was the reason Harry was an orphan and why he’d never met his grandparents. He truly was a bastard.
“Fuck,” everybody looked back at Dudley. “I just read ahead and well, he tried to justify that they didn’t matter, that they were just Muggles better kill them than a wizard.”
“What an arse.” Harry gave Hermione a shocked look, she’d never sworn in the last timeline. “What an unbelievable arse, I’m going to rip out his beard.”
“Hermione, Snape doesn’t have a beard,” Percy tried to calm her down.
“But Dumbledore does, and he employed that rat bastard, well not the rat bastard that’s confusing him with Pettigrew. But Snape who’s a slimy git who, who…” she wiped a tear from her face and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry I’m making this about me, when he killed your family.”
“It’s okay. Well as much as it can be in this horrid situation,” Harry said pulling her in to a hug with him and George who had pulled Harry closer as well. “I mean it’s insulting to everybody with Muggle family that he was here, it’s just our bad luck it was our family he killed.”
Harry glanced up at Dudley checking that his cousin was okay with his statement. Dudley however was giving him, and the letter panicked looks. “Dudley?”
“Maybe we should finish this elsewhere, not so public,” Dudley muttered looking around.
“Your parents, Snape pointed Voldemort to your parents.”
Harry swallowed there was a ringing sound in his ears. Why did he feel like he’d been punched in the gut, he already knew this? He’d been told.
“Right, up we get. Let’s go somewhere else.” Percy said while standing up. The rest of their friends followed, and Harry found himself pulled along with them, a twin on either side of him for support.
They made their way to their normal unused classroom where Percy and Oliver got to work making it more comfortable.
“I’m sorry,” Dudley muttered in his ear.
Harry glanced around everybody was giving them space. “It’s fine, I already knew. It’s just out there now. I guess and I’m going to have to deal with it.”
“Yeah, Mum said that he made a deal to keep your Mum alive for him.”
“Merlin, what a creep. I mean seriously what a monster,” Harry shook himself trying to shake of the thought.
“You okay?” Oliver asked giving him a concerned look.
“Yeah, I mean it’s not every day you learn your teacher killed your grandparents and made a deal to get your mum as some kind of participation trophy.”
“He… I bet your mum would have killed him herself if she’d known,” Susan muttered. “Lily Potter was known to be a fierce witch who nearly took down You-Know-Who in a duel more than once. She’d splatter Snape across the pavement.”
“Yeah. Anything else of interest in the letter?” Harry asked rather than dwell on his memory of Voldemort honouring his servants demands.
“Right. Yeah.” Dudley looked down at the letter and then back at Harry looking concerned.
“Don’t tell me it gets worse. How can it get worse?” Harry groaned before flopping on to a newly transfigured beanbag.
“Well he turned up at the house after the attack, apparently he knew it was going to happen and lurked outside like the creeper he is. He then went into the house and cried over your mother’s corpse for a while before running off when others turned up.”
“The… I. You know what that doesn’t surprise me,” Harry sighed.
“Yeah. He also revealed that Pettigrew was the secret keeper and he was the one who betrayed your parents.”
“Merlin… First Pettigrew was alive all along and now Black’s not the secret keeper. Did he do anything he was accused off?” Oliver groaned flopping back onto another beanbag.
“I mean, I kind of hope he did, because otherwise he spent a decade in prison for no reason,” Hannah said broking the silence. “In the worst wing of Azkaban too.”
“They surely aren’t so corrupt?” Hermione trailed off at the looks she was getting.
“Fudge is Malfoy’s lacky and with Black in prison his son stands the chance to get a large inheritance.”
“But Percy … Fudge wasn’t in power then was he? It was Bagnold, I read that in a History of Modern Magical Britain.”
“Yes, but she was retiring. Crouch was going to take over but his son was outed as being a Death Eater.”
“Who got a trial,” One of the twins interrupted.
“Good point Fred, but his son’s actions turned opinion against Crouch and the newly exonerated Malfoy sponsored Fudge who worked in the departments of Magical Accidents and Catastrophise…”
“They’re the ones who blamed Black for the death of Pettigrew in the street explosion,” Susan hissed looking utterly furious.
“You mean it was a stitch up from the start, that’s obscene!” Hermione was looking equally as angry.
“It fits though. Fudge lies and gets to be Minister and his sponsor gets a huge inheritance. Snape who also knows, manages to get a job teaching children and no prison time and his godson is set for life. The only ones to suffer are an innocent man.” A man Snape hated Harry recalled, Snape was probably rather gleeful at keeping it a secret.
“And a child.”
“What do you mean Dud?” Ron had till now been keeping quiet.
“Well Black…” He glanced over to Harry. “Can I?”
“Right, well in the summer we found out that Black was Harry’s godfather and meant to look after him if anything happened to his Mum and Dad.”
“Your godfather?” Percy asked eyes wide. Harry nodded. “Do you think it was done to try and guardianship of you as well?”
Harry shrugged, “Maybe.”
“Thank Merlin, Dumbledore gave you to family.” Ron said to a vague murmur of agreement from the rest of the room.
“Why, what Hermione?”
“Why did Dumbledore give Harry to Muggles rather than clear his godfather, that way he could stay in the magical world and be prepared for everything.”
“That’s…” Harry cut himself off, last time around Dumbledore had told him it was so he could have a childhood, while at the same time admitting they were going to be long hard years. There was no consistency in the man’s actions.
“He’s a school teacher and a politician, surely it’s not his choice. Plus, we know his choices are highly dodgy.” Hermione was apparently not going to forgive or forget.
“That’s a good point. He could also have called into question why he never saw the trial. He attended all the other ones arguing for clemency on their behalf. It’s why none of them were kissed but imprisoned.”
“He what?” It was, Harry though a good job Dumbledore wasn’t nearby. Hermione was radiating magic in her fury. “He argued for clemency when they murdered and tortured, Muggles and Muggle-borns and anybody who opposed them? I will be having words with McGonagall, that man is no champion of Muggle-born rights.”
“He’s…” Ron who was once was cheerleader in chief of the headmaster couldn’t manage to rally a response. How much had changed already Harry wondered.
They sat in silence, caught up in their thoughts of corruption and greed. “Does the letter have any more bombshells Dud?” Harry asked breaking the silence.
“Bombshells?” Anthony asked, he’d been sitting quietly making notes.
“They’re sort of like highly destructive fireworks designed to kill and destroy.” Hermione replied as Dudley scanned through the letter to find where he had left off, several magical raised shuddered at the thought.
“Right, nothing more about the trial, but she says that Susan’s Aunt has promised to look into Dad’s death as there is enough evidence to believe that somebody with magic is involved.”
“That’s good. Worth having to go to London and be around magic for then.”
“Yeah, she thinks it was worth it.”
“Do you think the Prophet has arrived yet?”
“Maybe, Hermione. Though I doubt it’s going to be any more informative than the letter,” Oliver pointed out.
“True, but it’ll let Harry and Dudley know where they stand and how much shielding them from curiosity we’ll need to do.” Harry felt his cheeks warm. Hermione was always there for him. When he was called the Heir of Slytherin, last time people were talking about Black and during the Fourth Champion mess and now, when she had every right to furious about her own treatment. It was good to know despite all the differences she still considered him a friend.
“I’ll go.” Anthony said getting up. “Better find Ernie and Neville too, they’ll be wondering where we are.”
The Prophet, while less informative, was much more sensationalist and Harry and Dudley spent the next day being stared at. The presence of the self-appointed guard was at least keeping them safe from invasive questions.
“At least it’s the weekend tomorrow and we can hide.” Harry muttered as an upper year Ravenclaw gave him a watery eyed smile.
“Yeah, I’ve got serious sympathy for that snake in the zoo,” Harry snorted back a laugh at his cousins’ comment.
“At least we’ve got protection, Malfoy hasn’t.” Their speculation about the Malfoy’s last night wasn’t isolated and several others had drawn similar conclusions. The glaring absence of any mention of his father in any copy of the Prophet was giving the rumours life rather than supressing them.
“Dumbledore is remarkably absent too.”
They heard a haughty sniff and Hermione sat down by them. “He’s probably arguing for clemency again. Terrible man,” she added bitterly.
“Or dodging angry letters, the Prophet has declared open season on him unlike certain others,” Neville added giving Malfoy a pitying look.
Classes passed in a bit of a blur, it seemed as if the teachers were too anticipating the fallout from the presumed last day of the trial.
Once again, the Prophet was delayed. But this time Harry was surprised to find himself the recipient of a letter. Turning it over in his hand he smiled when he saw the writing. Sirius was free. Carefully opening the letter under the curious looks of his friends he began to read.
“Dudley, let him read.” Hermione reprimanded.
“You all interrupted me,” his cousin huffed but fell silent. Eventually Harry looked up to be met by a sea of curios faces.
“Pettigrew also confessed, tried to pull a Karkaroff.” He winced slightly not sure how to explain his knowledge of that Death Eater trial, but it appeared nobody noticed.
“And?” Hermione encouraged.
“They found him and Snape guilty, both of them flipped on anybody they could think off and arrests were made, including Malfoy and Fudge.”
“They’ll be able to wiggle free again, a lot of them were already cleared by the courts,” Percy pointed out. “Unless they have new charges for them.” Harry shrugged unsure of the details.
“Still, it’ll make them uncomfortable…”
“And cost them a pretty coin too,” The twins added.
“Anyway, Sirius Black has been declared innocent and is being compensated. He thinks he can bring civil charges against some of them if they miss out on criminal cases. So definitely going to cost some of them.”
“Hah,” Ron grinned waving his piece of roast beef around triumphantly. “Serves em right,” he muttered before resuming eating.
“That’s good,” Hermione agreed.
“He also wants to meet me but gets that it may not be possible with school. But that means he can get healing and sort himself out and give a better first impression. He’s not sure where he’s staying so, he’s going to send me a letter once he gets things sorted out.”
“Tell him to go to mum’s,” Harry gave his cousin a horrified look at the suggestion.
“I don’t think she’ll go for that. What with the magic and the innuendo the neighbours will come up with.”
“I’m not saying she trots him in like a new toyboy,” Harry’s stomach lurched at the thought and even Dudley grimaced as he thought his comment through. “What I’m saying is magic can hide him and it will give him time to sort things out and face the magic world on a better footing after relaxing they could go on a picnic somewhere quiet.” He gave Harry a significant look as he said the last bit. “It’ll be safe for him too what with the wards.”
“It’s a good idea.” Oliver agreed. “Also give them time to sort out guardianship and the like.”
“Oh, Sirius has Magical guardianship, he made sure of that before he left, they handed it over no problem probably to stop another civil suit. Which also solved my letter problem apparently, they were all being sent to my previous guardian, Sirius is going to sue for them to be handed over.”
“Who had it before?” Hermione asked looking puzzled.
“I was classed as a Muggle-born, so the headmaster had it like he does all the others…” Harry trailed off, Hermione’s eyes were almost glowing incandescent with rage.
“Heee…” She hissed. “Thatttt.” She shook her head and took a deep breath. “No, I refuse to let that pathetic thing discompose me. How do I get it changed?” Her voice was tightly controlled.
“You get somebody else to file an application with the Ministry then you, your parents and the new guardian have to sign it. Then the Ministry has to approve. I can contact my parents, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind,” Oliver offered.
“Thank you. I would appreciate that.” She gave him a small smile.
“Sure, I’ll send it tonight. Want to head up to the Owlery Harry before the news hits?”
“Yeah, that’s an idea.”
The weekend was a relief, Harry could hide from the curiosity. The Prophet had turned up and the truth was out, and everybody wanted to ask his opinion on the matter.
He’d yet to comment but so far Hermione had reported that according to rumour he was inconsolably crying in the bathroom with Myrtle. Ran away from school to enact a blood debt against Britain and most concerningly of all, gotten married to Malfoy.
Unfortunately for Harry, Draco wasn’t able to counter the rumour due to the fact he wasn’t in school. His absence had been noted Saturday morning and after careful sifting through the school gossip they had discovered his mother had turned up on Friday evening and removed him due to an illness in the family.
Harry was pretty certain that was a euphemism for your Dad has been arrested and your godfathers got life in prison. But he could be wrong, maybe one of the Blacks had not taken the news well. He couldn’t remember which were alive at this point, not many of them were alive by his third year.
Professor McGonagall was apparently of the same mind as Harry and was hiding, probably from Hermione who wanted answers, mostly about how their Headmaster could be such an abysmal person. McGonagall probably had similar questions herself but seeing as the headmaster was still absent, they’d have to wait.
Still it wasn’t all bad news, some of it was horrifying. Like the fact Sirius and Aunt Petunia were now housemates. Dudley and Harry had spent Sunday comparing letters from their respective guardians and were left to conclude that introducing them was a bad idea. Not because they didn’t get on but because it seemed they were; vengeance could make the strangest of bed fellows.
Perhaps most interesting of all was the letter from Luna. Harry had sent her a few letters in the past couple of weeks since they had parted ways on the platform. However instead of a request for an interview she instead sent him a recipe for dog biscuits, with the written assumption that he’d know somebody who wanted it.
He’d momentarily panicked that he’d somehow given his game away and the next issue of the Quibbler would be about time travel and he and Dudley would be taken away. After all Sirius animagus form somehow was not yet common knowledge having been ignored during the trial. Sirius had confessed during initial questioning and had agreed to pay a fine therefore closing the matter.
After showing the letter to Dudley his cousin had talked Harry of the proverbial edge. Mostly by reminding him that he’d written to her about Fang, Hagrid’s dog, after she’d written of an interest in magical creatures.
Harry’s relationship with Hagrid wasn’t the same as the first time, the giant hadn’t been his first friend in the magical world and the source of his knowledge, they hadn’t even met beyond the boat ride. He suddenly felt the absence of the friendship. He was enjoying his new ones but that didn’t mean he had to ignore Hagrid who probably would appreciate a friendly visit.
The biscuits could be a good way to build a relationship. Harry figured he needed to do something to reach out to the man. Or else they could wake up one day in May to find the castle besieged by a dragon, if Hagrid’s hut lasted that long.
Not that Harry was planning to leave Quirrell in play long enough to provide the egg. But so much had already slipped out of his control faster than he could imagine. What’s to say that Quirrell couldn’t get hold of an egg sooner?
Better to be safe than sorry, and while he was hesitant of Hagrid’s friendship with Dumbledore and the way Hagrid had been used to feed Harry information on the stone. Maybe enough had changed that Hagrid would be more cautious of the Headmaster, more questioning for his own sake if nothing else.
But at least Hagrid wouldn’t be going to Azkaban this time. Lucius Malfoy was less likely to act with the diary if it hadn’t already been seized. Plus, the prisoner transfer and trial protocols were surely going to be tightened to stop another situation like Sirius’. Fudge was likely in trouble too and not going to be wanting to be seen as acting even if those action were pointless and illegal, if he was still in power at all.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Dog biscuits,” Hermione gave him a startled look.
“Luna sent the recipe for Hagrid I think, but I don’t know if I should give him the recipe or make them first?”
“Make them,” Harry glanced over at the twins who sat down by them. “Hagrid’s a great bloke but his cooking is an acquired taste.”
“If you manage to get a bite in that is, he can certainly put the geology in a rock bun,” Fred agreed.
“Oh, guess it’ll be after Christmas then,” Harry sighed, hopefully dragon eggs were hard to get, and he didn’t need to worry about the other man accidently giving away information on Fluffy so soon in the year.
“Nah, come with us we’ll take you to the kitchens.”
“The elves will be willing to help; they love a challenge.”
“Elves? I haven’t heard of them,” Hermione muttered.
“Yeah, house elves. Not a lot written about them, kinda secretive but dead helpful.”
“Come on and meet them too.” With that Harry found himself being escorted to the kitchens, S.P.E.W badges dancing before his eyes.
It’s not that Harry didn’t appreciate her campaign, he really did, it was just at the time he’d had a lot going on and wearing a badge with the word SPEW written on it hadn’t done great things for him.
Maybe this time when all the elves were happy and not helpfully trying to kill, or worse. expel Harry or drinking themselves to death, she would take more time before beginning. If nothing else she would need more help with spell work giving them time to suggest alternative names and strategies. He could deal with it. I mean who didn’t love a leaflet campaign.
“Well?” Hermione’s question startled him out of his contemplation. “This is just a corridor. Is this one of your pranks. If we’re out too much longer, we’ll miss curfew.”
“Ah fear not, the kitchen is right there.” He bowed with a flourish towards the fruit bowl.
“Or rather Fred, it’s right pear.” Laughing at his brothers joke Fred stood up and tickled the pear, making it squirm away and the door open.
“Oh, how magical. Do all painting lead somewhere like our portrait does?” Hermione asked looking as delighted as she sounded.
“Not all, little lady but stick with us and we’ll show you the world.”
“Or at least the secret bits of the castle. After you,” George said helping them through the gap.
The kitchen was bustling with after dinner activity, Harry thought he saw the beginning of several pastries which were hopefully for breakfast.
“Is you be wanting something? Kittle be helping you,” An elf said bustling up to them, several others were evidently listening in and poised to act at the slightest indication of want.
“Err, I have a recipe for dog biscuits and wondered if you could help. They’re a gift for Hagrid,” Harry stuck the last bit on just in case they thought he wanted them personally. He’d tried one once when hiding from Ripper, and once was more than enough.
The paper was swiftly taken from his hand and a briefly consulted before he was quizzed on size shape and decoration, by an eager group of young elves.
Half an hour later Harry and the twins managed to extract Kittle from Hermione’s clutches and with the batch of bone biscuits embossed with Fang’s name they raced back to the common room. Harry was certain he saw the Marauder’s Map being shoved in a pocket, but before he could innocently ask, they were rushed on.
Monday rolled around and Harry’s self-imposed exile was over. He shuffled into the Great Hall surrounded on all sides to be met with complete indifference. The students and teachers present were gathered round in huddles.
“What do you think happened?”
“Dunno best way to find out is join them,” Dudley sighed before settling on the end of Hufflepuff table. “I wasn’t expecting all this when I came to magic school. Nobody mentioned the drama, it’s like living in a weekly television show. When I’m not even the main character.”
“On the upside that means you won’t suffer some near fatal injury which you miraculously survive from,” Hermione agreed while Harry struggled to hide his wince. She had no idea how close she was to the truth with such a comment considering the injuries he racked up at the end of each year.
“Right…” The wizard raised were giving them confused looks.
“It doesn’t matter,” Hermione dismissed them. “Let’s focus on what’s going on now.”
“Fred go nab a paper will you.”
“Percy, such a command. But for you bother dear we shall.” The twins got up and went in search of news.
“Hang on a sec,” Harry muttered and grabbed the bag of dog treats he brought with him before heading up to the main table. “Err Hagrid these are for you.”
The man in question looked up at him with a confused look. “Well bless me heart it’s young Arry and you have something for me?”
“Yeah, I mentioned your dog to a friend who like animals a lot, Luna Lovegood and she sent me a recipe, so I made these…” He trailed off feeling like an idiot.
“Lovegood’s? Good folk them,” Hagrid replied enthusiastically.
“Yeah I met Luna on the train when everything happened, she’s starting next year.”
“Well you’ll have to write me thanks for me. Fang ‘ll be enjoying these. How are you settling in?”
“Err… Great, lots of friends.”
“I’ve seen. Like your Mum you are, but that’d be because of yer aunt I reckon. Good lady that, taking you in what with suddenness of it all. It’s a rotten business I tell you.” Hagrid’s voice was raising towards the end.
“Shush now, Hagrid. There’s enough going on without us making a scene over it all,” McGonagall gave him a tight smile. “Now don’t you worry what’s left of the school board is looking into things.”
“That’s great Ma’am. Nice meeting you properly Hagrid,” Harry said trying to excuse himself.
“Aye. You’ll come down to me house and have some tea, bring yer friends too. Friday work for yer?”
“That’s great Hagrid. I’ll be there.” With a quick smile he headed back to his friends.
“Harry. Have you seen?” Hermione asked while pulling him down beside her all without taking her eyes of the page.
“Nope, sum it up please.”
“Fudge is out, Malfoy is in prison, and Dumbledore has lost all of his political positions. There were emergency Wizengamot meetings all weekend.”
“That’s good isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. But all that also means Dumbledore has more time to focus on the school,” she replied.
“Suppose McGonagall will be relived take some of the stress of her,” Percy mused. “At least something good out of all of this.”
“Do you think he’s coming back then?” Harry asked, last time Dumbledore had been under such scrutiny they’d asked him to leave the school.
“Ministry has no say in the school Harry. It’ll be down to the board,” Percy explained.
“McGonagall just said that what’s left of the board will be dealing with everything.”
“Makes sense Malfoy has been on the board for the past few years and rumour has it been buying his way.”
“Couldn’t get rid of Dumbledore though could he,” Ron smirked. “Mind you he could have just waited and saved some money. Ah well, his loss, bet he’s regretting it now though.”
“So, Dumbledore’s coming back?” Hermione sought clarity.
“Most likely. If he’s any kind of competent man he’ll have spent his favours on keeping the school and accept the political positions as a loss,” Percy mused.
“Great, let’s hope he’s a foolish fool.” Hermione muttered.
Dumbledore wasn’t a foolish fool and allegedly returned to school. Not that he was seen much. He no longer attended any meals or oversaw detentions. Malfoy had yet to come back, he wasn’t expected to return till after Christmas. But the school continued on without either of them. If anything, morale was higher than ever, and the houses were no longer a point of contention amongst the students.
A notice about flying lessons turned up on the common room notice board and Harry realised that they were in October. The first month had been so very intense with everything going on but at the same time it hadn’t been. He hadn’t actually done anything apart from his school work and a single day trip to court.
He flopped back on his bed exhausted. The first time around it had been very much him with Hermione and Ron, occasional betrayals aside, against the world. He had stood alone and what’s more it had been expected of him to do so.
But this time from the very start he’d been supported; by Sprout, by Gringotts and the older students and prefects. Was this the same universe or some alternate reality where everything was a little bit better? Did a little bit of knowledge really change so much that he was able to be a child this time around?
“Hey, you wanna head down?” He glanced up Neville was standing in the doorway.
Another change, Neville was much more confident this time. Was it by chance or had he utterly screwed everything up beyond all recognition and yet get the result he wanted? Was this who Neville was meant to have been? And was it was going to catastrophically back fire on Harry at some point?
“Yeah, I’m coming just nervous, never flown before. I mean Sirius said I had when I mentioned the lesson in my last letter but…”
“Kid’s brooms are different anyway. I managed on them but couldn’t even get a normal one to listen to me, part of the reason everybody thought me a squib.”
“You’ve never flown?” Another thing Harry had forgotten, Neville’s first lesson had ended up with him in the infirmary. The excitement of getting on the team had eclipsed the reason why. He’d been a bit of a shallow git when he was eleven.
“No, but how hard can it be.”
“That’s the spirit, Hemione’s been reading up on it, did she tell you it was the earliest method of magical transportation?”
“Yeah, along with any other fact she can find on it, though most seem to be about quidditch.” Neville agreed. “She’s starting to sound like Oliver.”
“Which is annoying.” Dean interrupted them as they made it in to the common room. “Quidditch I mean, how can a school with a population of several hundred only have one sporting activity for thirty students at the most?”
“Probably because it’s a terribly dangerous sport.” Hermione said as they joined the group of nervous first years. “The injuries listed in Quidditch Through the Ages are horrifying! Did you know in 1853 two entire teams died due to mid-air collisions in fog? Why even play in such thick fog, it’d be utterly dull for any spectators?”
“Err… The weather is nice today though,” Harry said looking out of a window as they headed to the great hall, Neville was looking slightly queasy.
“Oh, don’t worry Neville, apparently the bludgers and the ground were to blame, along with over consumption of alcohol, so we’ll be fine.”
“Morning.” Ernie greeted. “Looking forward to flying lessons? Ours are tomorrow not sure why we can’t all go together though.”
“Not enough brooms, from what I’ve heard. They still haven’t got new ones,” Anthony said from where he was sitting.
“Really, Anthony, where did you hear that do you have a source,” Lavender sat down beside them a notebook in hand.
Permission to start the newspaper was slowly progressing. However, the Headmaster’s reluctance to show face and the probably huge mountain of paperwork he was drowning under due to his actions meant nothing had yet to happen. That didn’t mean Lavender didn’t have a collection of articles ready to go to print as soon as she got the green light.
“What do you think they’ll fill the lesson time with after the flying lessons?” Hermione asked as she checked her schedule.
“What do you mean Hermione?” Harry asked feeling confused, last time there hadn’t been anymore lessons in the empty period.
“I mean the first month it was filled with tours and library visits and some special lessons, for those going to court. Now we have flying lessons, what do we have next? I haven’t found any kind of schedule.”
“There isn’t one. I mean I heard they use to put etiquette and health classes and the like in the empty slots, as well as things like art and estate management, but they haven’t for the past few years. They’re now considered free time for personal studies and the like,” Oliver answered.
“Bill had career taster sessions in second year to help him decide his choices. I remember him telling mum about them. I wonder why they stopped it would have been helpful especially for those who are new to the magical world,” Percy added.
“Really useful.” Harry agreed remembering his confusion in second year when it came to his choices. He’d mostly copied Ron as he figured he’d know what he was doing. “Do you think we can bring them back?”
“With a petition or something, show that there is interest amongst the students,” Dudley suggested.
“Oh, that’s a great idea.” Several others were nodding along with Hermione while Lavender was scribbling notes as fast as she could.
“You want more lessons?” Ron looking wild eyed glanced around the group.
“Well yes. It’s rather strange having such an empty timetable. At Muggle school we have lessons through the day with a strict schedule of breaks. It’s only in the last two years of secondary education that students have empty periods,” Hermione explained.
“It partly so empty to allow your magic to recover after each lesson you use it in. Magic is like a muscle, it needs constant use, but straining it can cause damage,” Oliver replied. “But that doesn’t mean any of the options we just mentioned can’t be used to fill the gaps as they’d be non-magical.”
“Another mystery,” Ernie said rubbing his hand together.
“Another disservice to Muggle-born and raised you mean. All implemented under our not so benevolent Headmaster,” Hermione muttered.
“Right,” Harry said cutting Hermione off. It wasn’t good to let her build up steam with her rants against the man, she nearly always ended up looking sad and lost at the end of them. “We’re going to be late.”
The Gryffindor first year students glanced at the top table and seeing how empty it was grabbed their bags, it was after all a long walk to the quidditch field.
“Have fun,” Ernie waved to them as they rushed off.
Flying lessons went well, nobody got hurt and while Harry didn’t make the team, he didn’t particularly care. Last time he had tried to use quidditch to prove he was more than the Boy-Who- Lived, that he had a place in the magical world, that if he could prove his worth he wouldn’t have to go back. But his early placement on the team, without even taking part in try outs and his top of the line broom probably made him look entitled.
But this time he wasn’t alone he had family in the magical world. Dudley was growing on him and they probably could be considered friends by this point. Both of them seemed determined to be better than what their childhood could have made them. Petunia was a different matter, but with distance, and an extra four years of hindsight, Harry could admit Vernon played a larger role in his punishments and he was no longer a fixture in their life.
“Harry, McGonagall wants a word with you in her office,” Percy interrupted his musings on his family relationships. What was it this time, what had happened? What had gone wrong? Ignoring the curious stares, he slipped out the common room.
“Ahh, Harry sit down,” The biscuits and tea set were in place McGonagall was give him a sad look. “Now I have a bit of bad news.”
“Umm…” Harry’s heart sunk what had gone wrong? Were Petunia and Sirius okay? Harry took a deep calming breath, Dudley wasn’t here so had to be something else, maybe Pettigrew had escaped or Snape.
“Your godfather had written with the hope of having you go visit your parents graves on the 31st and I had given permission while the Headmaster was out of commission,” she pursed her lips. “However, the Headmaster has now rescinded this permission and I regret to inform you that you will no longer be able to attend.”
Harry closed his eyes he’d been looking forward to the visit. More for the chance to see Sirius than sentiment. He’d never been to his parent’s grave, he didn’t even know where they were, or what it would be like to visit them. But it wasn’t the catastrophe he had been imagining.
“I’m sorry lad.”
Harry nodded his head, throat tight with disappointment. He had wanted to see Sirius who was healing and free. He wanted the connection, which had been so fleetingly available the first time around.
Sirius had scheduled their planned visit around his healing appointments which from Aunt Petunias letters were at least putting some flesh on his bones and calming the storms in his eyes. Why did Dumbledore continue to block Harry from connecting to Sirius and what would he do next? Would they be allowed out at Christmas?
“I’ve tried to appeal the decision, but the Headmaster seemed insistent that all pupils stay in the school, he’s going to cancel the Hogsmeade visits too, and that’ll make things a barrel of laughs here,” she shook her head. “Well, try not to worry and have a biscuit and take a moment to compose yourself.
“Did he give any reason?” Harry asked after eating some shortbread.
“No. If I we’re to guess he doesn’t want to open the school for scrutiny after everything that has happened. So, he’s keeping everybody close while he gets his ducks in row.”
“So we’re being punished for his mistakes,” Harry muttered.
She gave him a sad smile and nodded. “I’m sorry lad. I would ask that you keep the news of the restriction to yourself tonight, I will inform everybody at breakfast.”
“Take another biscuit, and head back now, curfew will be soon. I’m sorry that your return to the magical world has been so tumultuous. We can only hope things will return to an even if not better keel.”
The news delivered the next morning went down like a lead balloon. There were angry cries around the room. McGonagall shamelessly threw the absent Headmaster under the bus.
“You’d think he’d be trying to keep us happy,” Dudley sighed.
“He’ll have an excuse, something about protecting us from curiosity. The press has been packed outside the gates trying to get news from Dumbledore,” Fred said.
“We’ve seen them as we’ve been going to quidditch practice,” George agreed.
“My Dad’s been writing, asking if he has any news to share on his radio show,” Lee added. “But Dumbledore is pretty much missing in action.”
“He’s a coward and we’re giving him too much attention, it’s probably what he wants,” Hermione hissed.
“Yeah, but it means, I’m stuck here Halloween instead of going to see my parents with Sirius.”
“Oh,” Hermione threw her arms around him. “That evil bastard.”
Oliver, put his arm around Harry’s shoulder too, “I was about to say that Halloween here is fun, a great party, but all things considered it’s rather obscene to expect you to gorge on sweets and party especially when it’s the tenth anniversary.”
“Yeah, I was going to their grave. I’ve never been, nobody told me, or Aunt Petunia where they were buried. We don’t have any photos of them or anything because of how shady my hand over to Aunt Petunia was, but McGonagall’s said she’d see if she can find any.”
“I don’t suppose you would, with them all being magical photos…” Hermione trailed of looking thoughtful.
Harry leaned in to the embrace Oliver was offering, freely given comfort was something new to him, but he found he didn’t mind it. He watched the twins communicate with their brothers through some complicated eyebrow manoeuvres. He’d find out what they were up to soon enough.
“Mum’s written,” Dudley interrupted. “Already been told about our house arrest. She said Sirius is going to take her to the graves and then maybe go out and about a bit, a trip down memory lane. She said to send her a letter for your parents if you’d like.”
“That’s a lovely idea. Maybe you could send a photo along too,” Hermione suggested.
“Maybe, I don’t want it falling into the hands of the press or something though.”
“I imagine that your godfather would do a traditional funeral rite with anything you send. Normally done at the burial, but due to all your absences, doing it now would be acceptable. It means the items would be burnt in a sacrifice to magic and the peaceful return of your parents magic to its source,” Percy said.
“Oh, that sound okay I guess, but I don’t have any pictures of me.”
“Come on Harry, several upper years have cameras I’m sure they’ll agree to let us borrow one, we can take some photos after class if you like,” Oliver offered, while Hermione squirmed in her seat.
“Do you think they’d take my picture too, with you, if you don’t mind just to show my parents that I do have friends. I think, they think I’m making it up so as not to seem lonely. I didn’t have any friends before coming here.”
“Sure,” Harry agreed quickly.
“Not a problem, we can all put a few knuts towards the developing potion costs and take loads, I’m sure other people parents aren’t going to object to happy photos,” Oliver agreed.
“Cameras are not very expensive, in themselves, you could look at getting one for the newspaper or yourselves,” Percy suggested.
Halloween came around sooner than Harry had expected. The Prophet never one to be tactful decided to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Voldemort’s defeat with a front-page picture of the destroyed cottage Harry had lived in with his parents.
At least he wasn’t the only one suffering Harry mused as he saw the ugly grimace on Quirrell’s face. Petty, but Harry was willing to own it. Hell, he may even help the twins enchant snowballs to hit Voldemort in his turban covered face this time.
By the look of it the front page was also going down badly with most of the student body. Several were in tears and he was getting sympathetic stares from all quarters.
They hadn’t done that the first time around. His presence at court and Sirius’ case had obviously brought him to the front of public consciousness and the Prophet was trying to capitalise of the situation.
Harry wasn’t impressed, and wrote a letter to Sirius suggesting he sue whoever thought it was a good idea. Hopefully Sirius would get it done, if he hadn’t already got on their case. He mentioned the terrible children’s stories about him too, just in case Sirius hadn’t come across those yet. Harry wanted those out of circulation.”
Petunia and Sirius’ strange bromance was still going strong. They had written to say thank you for the photos, and after visiting the graves, they were going to burn Riddles bones and any other Riddle ancestors they could find.
While Sirius hadn’t been directly told about the family’s time travel adventure, Petunia had managed to convince him that it was necessary to keep Voldemort defeated. They were saving the reveal till Christmas when Sirius was more healed and mentally robust. They figured Harry being present would limit any overt emotional outbursts that could cause them problems.
Not telling Sirius had never been an option. He needed to know to help them. And they all needed him to know so they could heal as a family. A secret that big would fester and ruin everything.
“Come on, maybe well get some terrible impromptu quiz that’ll require all our focus and they won’t stare at us in class.”
“Hermione you’re the only person I know who wishes for surprise tests,” Harry said as he let her drag him from the room.
“Well it would be a good distraction,” she said with a smile.
There weren’t any quizzes, but then there hadn’t been any last time either. Flitwick taught them to levitate feathers and without a resentful Ron, the lesson passed without issue.
Ron was doing well in Hufflepuff and surprisingly seemed to be more willing to do his work. Harry was starting to think his presence and fame had been a greater problem to Ron than he’d ever let on. Harry letting him ride on his coattails had stunted Ron’s education and emotional growth, so maybe this time the boy would grow into a better person. They were still friends, even if they weren’t as close, but all of them had more friends this time.
The only significant difference with their day was Quirrell didn’t turn up to teach his class. They had all turned up for their lesson to find the classroom locked and a scrap of paper pinned to the door telling them classes were cancelled due to illness. Theirs was the first lesson to be cancelled, or else they would have received an announcement before then.
Considering the man was a host to the dark git and this time, the first time around, he had unleashed a troll on a school full of children left Harry slightly concerned about what he was getting up to. But at the same time, he couldn’t suggest they go hunt the man down. It would be odd especially as Quirrell still fluctuated between fearing and ignoring Harry in class.
Harry didn’t think that Quirrell had been so obvious in his reactions towards Harry last time, but then last time he hadn’t outed all of his Death Eater support from the castle in the first week. Snape had often lurked near Quirrell towards the end of the year last time, maybe he had been helping rather than threatening the man like they thought.
It was therefore possible that Quirrellmort considered Harry a threat far greater than he had last time. That meant the man wouldn’t behave the same and he wasn’t, so how could he predict what was going to happen.
Had he somehow messed up to the point that Quirrell had the stone? Last time Quirrellmort had confessed that Dumbledore’s absence had been why he went for the stone. But the Headmaster was still here just very disengaged from the running of the school to the point that if he was seen it was cause for wild speculation and mass protests at the location of the sighting.
But was Dumbledore’s distraction enough to make the stone vulnerable? Was the stone even at the end of the gauntlet of tasks? He’d come across the Mirror of Erised at Christmas and so the stone couldn’t have been put in place till after that? Was the third floor at the moment still a decoy and only once all parties were engaged turned in to the trap for Harry and Voldemort.
Because there was no way Harry wasn’t supposed to go after the stone what with all the tasks being almost tailor made for him and his friends. Had the Headmaster sat and watched him for the first term plotting away behind a grandfatherly mein?
And what would happen this time with the man so absent? Or was he absent? He still had Harry’s invisibility cloak. was Harry being stalked, and could he get the cloak back? It was unlikely that it would be handed over anonymously this time. It would either be a bribe for his affection or withheld. Could he get Sirius and Gringotts to retrieve it? But how to do so without having an explainable reason to know of its existence.
Mind spinning Harry stumbled along with the rest of his housemates through their unexpected free period and the lessons which followed. Thankfully his absence of engagement was not remarked upon. Rather he received more sympathetic looks.
The banquet was everything it had been last time and all the more horrific for it. At least one of the elves had twigged that gingerbread cottages covered in sweets were not a good idea this time and replaced them with ghost ships.
“Well, this sucks,” Hermione sighed while snagging a carved fruit figure as it sailed by. “How could anybody think an entire meal of sugary things was a good idea, we’ll all be starving by midnight with more than a few cases of stomach aches I reckon.”
“You’d have thought it would just be a pudding with some stews or pies beforehand so that we’d actually eat something,” Dean agreed.
“It’s also meant to be fun, but we’re not sitting with most our friends,” Harry pointed out. “It’s like somebody told adults we like sugar and this should be fun but somehow they missed the mark.”
“Exactly, Harry. It’s all a rather forced event. At my Primary school we had an evening event with apple dobbing and eating doughnuts off a string without using your hands. A big buffet too and dancing. It was more fun than this and I didn’t even have friends then.”
“Oh, that sounds way more fun,” Lavender sighed, to resounding nods of agreement. She glanced at Harry suddenly looking concerned. “Not that we should… that is too say… oh dammit.” Harry got the impression if she was standing up, she would have just stamped her foot.
‘It’s fine. I think my parents would want me to have fun. Sirius said in his last letter that they both loved school parties, so I think they’d want me to enjoy them too.”
“I’m sure they’d want you to enjoy your time here like they did, so all we have to do is make this place fun again,” Hermione agreed. “Although another petition may not work as we haven’t heard back about any of the others.”
“Write to the press and make it sound like Dumbledore’s turning the school into a new Azkaban,” Lee interrupted. “They’ll go for it as its totally in their current anti-Dumbledore stance. Plus, it’ll make it harder for it to go away.”
“So, we claim that’s because Dumbledore can’t throw innocent people into prison anymore, he’s turning the castle into a new one. Yeah, I can see that as a front page. I say we write to Skeeter; I’ve been reading her articles. Unethical as they are, she can make a story,” Lavender chimed in and Harry found himself voicing his agreement. If nothing else, they could start blackmailing her earlier and save Hagrid and Hermione some pain.
Before they could plan any further the bang of the doors being flung open startled them. It would seem Quirrell was following the same plan even without the Headmaster at the feast.
“Is he drunk?” Lavender hissed as they watched him stagger down the room. “I thought they said he was ill.”
“Maybe, there is no way Madame Pomfrey would let him out her care if he was,” Percy murmured.
“He only got ill midway through the day, he could have been drinking, he did look at bit shaky this morning at breakfast though,” Hermione said.
“I…” Quirrell swayed dramatically. “A troll in the dungeons, I thought you should know,” He fell flat on his face.
Just like the first-time screams, and panic filled the room as people got up and started to run towards friends, family and doors. Harry kind of hoped Quirrell got stood on, it would serve him right.
“That is enough.” The doors swung closed and McGonagall wand aloft descended from the front table. “You will all be fine. Filius, Silvanus, Hagrid with me please. Pomona, Charity, remain here with the children, I’m sure the prefects will help you. I’ll seal the doors once we leave, nothing will get in, or out.”
“What about me?” Slughorn said looking a bit put out.
“You’ll be taking Quirrell to Madame Pomfrey, I’m sure Rolanda will help. Sybil I’m sure you can divine a route to see you and Madame Pince safely to the Headmaster, he may as well be informed about what’s going on.”
“Aurora, and I can head to the closest floo and summon the DMLE,” Professor Vector said drawing her wand.
“Good. We’ll get word to the elves as we pass by, stay together.” With her last command McGonagall led the teachers out the door, Quirrell floating limply in front of Madame Hooch’s wand. The door closed behind her with a solid thud.
“Well, this is a bit of excitement isn’t it. Now what shall we do to pass the time?” Sprout said hands on hips surveying the room. Nobody replied unsure of what to do in the situation. “Now there’s no point ordering you back to your tables so let’s move them to the side. Prefects move your own tables, the rest of you up here, that’s it.’
They gathered in a huddle around the teachers table and watched the tables and benches pushed aside. They were Harry noted piled in front of the doors. It made him feel a bit safer as ridiculous as it was, he, Ron and Hermione had beaten the troll last time, with barely any spell knowledge.
Which was suspicious, now that he thought about it. Had somebody already done the heavy spell work to subdue the creature? And why? What did they gain but Harry’s friendship with Ron and Hermione? Harry stood there feeling shocked. Had the Headmaster really risked them just so he would become friends with those who would help him get to the stone. Or was he now more paranoid than Mad Eye?
“Now then let’s get comfy, shall we and have some more to eat, no point letting things go to waste, we’re safe here,” Sprout suggested to the slightly shell-shocked room.
Harry found himself settling into a group of his friends. The twins had loaded a ship up with snacks and had floated it over before enchanting an anchor to keep it from drifting off.
“I take it this doesn’t happen normally?” Harry asked breaking the nervous tension.
“No, it’s never happened. The wards must be in a bad shape.”
“Percy. What does that mean? I mean we sort of discussed it because of Pettigrew but not in detail,” Hermione asked twisting her robe in her hands, last time the troll had caused her to freeze in fear. Harry shuffled closer to give her comfort.
“They’ll need to be reviewed and possibly boosted. The press will slaughter Dumbledore for this, and the school will need to close for a few weeks so the work can be done. Probably Christmas, as they won’t leave it too long, not now,” he explained.
“But there’s still November to go. Will we okay?” Dudley said looking worried.
“I suspect they’ll bring a temporary ward matrix and put it around the school till then. It’ll mean we can’t go in or out. But seeing as we can’t do that anyway it won’t make a big difference apart from making us safe.”
“You, know a lot about this Perce?” Ron was sitting huddled safely in the middle of the group of his brothers, slowly eating toffee.
“I talk to Bill.”
“They won’t close the school then?” Harry asked.
“Nah, doubt it. I mean the schools gone through worse before. But a few people may be pulled out by parents,” Oliver added. “Hopefully it’s not going to screw up the quidditch season.” Percy elbowed him in the ribs.
“You know. I don’t get it. What was Quirrell doing in the dungeons? his classroom is on the fourth floor,” Hermione asked breaking up the quidditch argument beginning to break out around them.
“Maybe he went to get a potion,” Anthony suggested, from where he had been quietly sitting. “He wasn’t teaching because he was unwell, and he was staggering. Seeing as his mastery is troll management, he must be severely under the weather to not attempt to subdue the creature.”
Harry sat silently unsure how to bring up the fact the dungeons were a decoy. How could he know that? It’s not like he was any good at divination. Did he even think they should be discussing it? Quirrell was a dangerous wizard who was unlikely to take any curiosity from them well.
But how could he get that across to the group who at the most thought him a slightly creepy alcoholic. Possessed by the presumed dead, darkest lord of the century wasn’t going pop into anybody’s head. Harry hadn’t even considered until confronted with the truth last time.
Although maybe it would come out sooner. Quirrell was after all going to Madame Pomfrey. Surely, she wouldn’t miss a dark parasitic growth out the back of her patient’s head.
“I guess Madame Pomfrey will sort it out,” Harry broke into the debate. Hoping that she could and that nothing sinister occurred to her.
“True. But I’m not sure he fainted,” Hermione said looking speculative. “I mean my parents are dentists and people faint there kind of regularly, so I did a first aid course and most people don’t fall like that.”
“Ignoring the fact your parent’s profession is apparently deeply terrifying. What do you mean?” Percy asked ignoring the snorts of amusement from the Muggle raised.
“That his descent was far too controlled and he was leaning backwards until he fell to his knees and then flopped face first. If he fainted, he’d have sunk down in one or at least gone with gravity. That’s what happens from what I’ve seen,” She shrugged a bit sat the end.
Harry assumed that Voldemort didn’t fancy having his not face smashed into the stone flooring but didn’t care about his hosts. Harry had to wonder why people joined him, he had no evidence that any minion had been treated well.
“Drunks looking more possible then,” Oliver sighed. “We haven’t had a drunk Defence teacher yet, nice to see a bit of variation. Damn I betted on highly improbable magical accident through incompetence.”
“Err. What do you mean?” Dudley questioned looking bemused.
“Oh, didn’t anybody tell you? The position is cursed. We get a new teacher for that class every year. They always last a year, if that so we place bets at the end of the previous year about how the replacement will go. Fairer that way as you don’t know who will be foolish enough to take the job.”
“How do you get in on the bets?” Harry asked, he hadn’t heard about this last time, maybe because he was off having adventures instead.
“The book goes around where you write your bet down, fees a sickle but you can bet more than once. If nobody wins, the pot rolls around to the next year. Stop frowning Percy, its practically a school tradition and don’t think I don’t know how you managed to afford that new wand of yours,” Oliver said with a wink making Percy blush.
A crack echoed through the room; Harry’s wand was in his hand pointing towards the sound. He looked around noticing he wasn’t the only one. A house elf stood frozen trying not to fidget.
“Ah Sial, what is it?” Sprout asked gently moving towards the creature slipping her wand away. Most of the room followed suit.
“The Miss McGonagall be asking me, to tell you that they be finding a nasty troll on the third-floor stairs and that Miss Trelawny be killing it with a crystal ball. But it be best the children to be staying here while the castle be checked for anymore nasty beasties. I be bringing some bedding.”
“Ah excellent, well done Sybil,” Sprout looked a bit shocked. “Well some sleeping bags will do nicely, I think. Camping under the stars, reminds me of when I was girl.” The elf popped away and excited whispers echoed from the room.
“Didn’t think Trelawny had it in her,” Oliver muttered.
“Is she the colourful one with big glasses?” Harry asked pretending ignorance when in reality he’d been trying his hardest to stay away from her, he didn’t need her uttering prophecies around him.
“Yes, teaches divination, often has some of her nick-knacks with her. First time I’ve heard of her being useful though, normally too far gone in her sherry.”
“Oliver. She’s a teacher,” Percy hissed before pulling a complicated series of faces which Harry assumed were to do with his ongoing issues with authority figures. “She did just save us from a troll.”
“I didn’t think crystal balls had such protective features,” Hermione mused.
“They don’t. George and I borrowed one once and they’re just crystals grown in magically rich areas carved with magical clarity enhancing runes. But they’re dead heavy, bet she lobbed it at the thing.”
“The elf did say she found it one the stairs. If she hit it right and the stairs moved it could have fallen,” Harry said joining in the speculation.
“But why throw something, surely a spell would be safer.”
“Ah but Hermione, trolls have magically resistant hides, to get a spell to penetrate is difficult. That’s why McGonagall took such a magically strong group with her and Hagrid who’s just strong and more magically resistant than the average wizard.” Percy began to lecture. “However, Harry is right in assuming the fall would kill a troll, that’s probably also why we’re being kept in here, they’ll want to get that tided up before we see it. Trolls are after all solitary creatures outside breeding season, which is not now, so having two in the castle would be highly unlikely. Although one is really very strange in itself, I doubt we’ll ever get the truth of the situation.”
“There’s a Cerberus on the third floor, the troll could have been drawn to that,” Fred said while getting an elbow in the side from his twin.
“What? How do you know? Tell me you didn’t go and look? I promised Mum I would keep you safe and I’ve already failed and now this. You keep going and putting yourself in such trouble,” The twins had the grace to look shamefaced.
Harry grabbed Hermione and Dudley’s hands and pulled them away from the Weasleys giving them space for their family drama. He settled down in a huddle of other first years, listening to rumours about what could have happened.
Speculation about the troll ran wild through the school for the next week. Most notable was the fact that the Headmaster had denied the DMLE access to the school claiming the threat had been dealt with.
Various other rumours were tossed around and Professor Trelawny seemed to both wilt and bloom under the attention of the school. Harry was just thankful that she wasn’t predicting people’s deaths.
Harry had a bigger problem to deal with, known to the school as Quirrell. The man hadn’t made it to the infirmary. According to various reports gleaned from teachers, Slughorn and Hooch had temporarily left Quirrell to go and investigate what was going on when they heard Trelawny’s’ battle cry. During this time the man allegedly revived and then turned down medical attention.
More concerningly Quirrell returned to class and was acting highly irrationally, snapping at them and forgetting that he had set assignments. This had increased speculation amongst Harry’s friends that Quirrell had a drinking problem.
Lavender, finally getting approval for her newspaper, was looking for more stories and had suggested they write an expose, but for that they needed evidence. Thus, a suggested stalking cycle was suggested. The school had purchased two cameras, one of which could always be found with those on stalker duty.
Harry was torn; on one hand if Quirrell was being watched he wouldn’t be able to act towards his parasite’s resurrection. On the other hand, the man, wraith thing was a serial murdering, genocidal madman who probably wouldn’t hesitate to kill of a bunch of children, especially those considered blood traitors and mudbloods.
Why had Harry wanted to see more action? Not being involved, while frustrating was kind of nice. This was not nice; it was going to give him anxiety. What’s more only Dudley could understand his hesitance at joining the stalking group. But if he didn’t become involved his friends could end up suffering because they were all in on the plan.
Even worse Harry was concerned that Quirrell had picked up on their suspicious behaviour. Last time he hadn’t, but by that point in the summer term he was jumped up on unicorn blood and barely hanging together. This time he was more with it and probably furious about another failure. It wasn’t going to end well.
But who could he take his suspicions too? He had seen most of the school staff giving Quirrell a few assessing looks when he turned up. Not that he did often as he was shunning eating in the Great Hall. Allegedly it was because he didn’t want to be near Slughorn and Hooch because they had abandoned him during a high-risk situation, but Harry figured he just wanted more time to plot and to avoid the scrutiny he was getting.
Harry rolled over and considered getting up, lying in bed thinking about how everything could go wrong wasn’t going to achieve anything but a bad mood. He needed to do something.
“Hey Harry, you up for a game?” Dean waved a change of clothes at him. They had started an unofficial second Quidditch league. The Quidditch captains took turns hosting and it was open for everybody. It was turning out to be highly popular and the thirty-minute match time limit meant that so far, they hadn’t run too late into the evening.
“Yeah sure.” He enjoyed the game and without the pressure of having to win for his houses honour, he found himself enjoying it more. His only concern was if Quirrell would curse his broom again. The school brooms were dodgy enough that most people would believe it was nothing more than a terrible accident.
Making it down to the pitch he was pleased to see only McGonagall was present out of the teaching staff.
He was safe another day. Harry snorted; at this rate he was going to be giving Mad Eye lessons on paranoia. Somebody had once said a little bit of knowledge was a dangerous thing and they weren’t wrong.
“Ah Mr Potter are you playing today?” Harry glanced up and noticed his teacher was standing by him. She was much more involved in his life this time around, and not just his but all of her students. They’d all had progress meetings with her over the last few weeks.
“Maybe Professor, I might play referee too. Depends on how many are wanting to play,” He shrugged slightly.
“Mmh, you have a skill at playing seeker. You could do worse than try out next year, I don’t think Michaels will continue to play with his OWLs next year.”
“Professor?” Harry asked trying to figure out just what she was getting at.
“You are good lad and I like my team to win.” She winked at him before heading over to help release the training equipment they used in the matches.
“She’s not wrong,” Oliver said dropping a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll build your stamina and make a player of you yet Harry.”
“Run Harry run, while you still can,” the twins laughed as they walked past.
“You okay?” Hermione asked after Oliver moved over to sort out the first two teams.
“Yeah, what’s up with all this?”
Hermione frowned. “You mean people caring. You have friends Harry, it’s what they do. You’ve been all pensive and frowny and it’s too early for puberty so somethings bothering you.”
“Merlin, Hermione. Please don’t talk about that,” he blushed while waving his hand about vaguely.
“Oh, shush it’s perfectly natural and I know you got the same preparatory pamphlets from Madame Pomfrey. But what’s wrong?”
He gave her a long look. “I just feel like somethings not right. That I’ve missed something which I really shouldn’t have.”
“Mmh. It’s to do with Quirrell isn’t it,” Hermione said giving him a knowing look.
“Yes, there’s something there and we don’t know enough to know what it is. It’s terribly frustrating.”
“Hermione don’t push it. I know you like to know things but… Just promise me please that you won’t push it.”
She gave him along look. “It worries you that much?”
“Yes,” Harry admitted.
“Then I won’t do anything without you.”
“Now, help me keep score. Lavender has roped me into keeping the league table while she and Anthony format his report for the next issue of the paper. She is very motivated you know. I was worried that people would find me too intense, with my love of learning. They have done before, but I think everybody has passions and it’s nice to see them and see them accepted. It’s just really great to be here.”
“Yeah it is. I’m glad I came,” Harry agreed.
“Did you see the announcement this morning in the common room? Everybody has to leave for the Christmas break so the wards can be repaired.” Hermione said before she even got sat down.
“Yeah, do many stay?” Harry asked, the first time there had only been a few of them and after that there had been a rush of petrifications, a serial killer with added dementors and an International ball. He had no frame of reference for what was normal.
“Oh a few do, not many though most people want to go home. Mum was planning to have my brothers and I stay while she and dad took Ginny to visit Charlie in Romania, but I think Bill gave her a bit of warning after the temporary wards went up and she’s had to reschedule.”
“So, it’s not a major upheaval for the school then,” Harry said.
“Not really. If it was Easter, that would be a different matter most upper years stay so they can revise in the library without the younger students underfoot,” Percy concluded.
“Still, the Headmaster doesn’t look happy about it,” Hermione said glowering at the man.
Dumbledore had been sitting at the head table more frequently after the Halloween feast. Harry assumed it was so he could control the situation better in case something else went wrong.
Glancing up at the head table, Harry noticed that Dumbledore wasn’t the only one looking sour, Quirrell had a particularly pinched expression. His parasite must be complaining about the lack of extra time to explore.
Which wasn’t good news for Harry because this was going to make him even more unpredictable. Harry had changed too much. He was as blind as the first time around, but he was aware of the threat which made things so much worse.
“Harry you okay?”
“Fine Hermione, just thinking.”
“It looked serious.”
“Well… Christmas presents are a serious business. I have no idea how I’m going to get any though.”
“Owl order,” Ernie chimed up. “You can do everything by owl, works a charm. There are catalogues you can buy to get it all sorted out. Hmm, you may want to squidge a bit in the next issue of the paper Lavender, without Hogsmeade visits some people maybe in the same boat as Harry here.”
“Oh, good point. I’ll probably have to take out an article or two, but we have a proof reading tonight with the editors, I’ll see what I can do.”
“Crisis averted,” Hermione grinned. Harry managed to smile back but all he could think was, if only.
Harry’s feeling of dread was only made worse as the day went on. Quirrell failed to attend any class and then didn’t make it to dinner. Harry was so stressed he skipped out of going to Hagrid’s, in case the man had been put up to dropping hints again. The others accepted when he claimed he wanted to sort out gifts. Which wasn’t entirely a lie as he did write a list of who he needed to give them too, while watching the third-floor corridor until curfew.
But there was no sign of anybody else even showing interest in the corridor, so cold and frustrated, Harry traipsed back into the common room. He needed a better plan. He needed the map so he could keep watch, but even that may not help. It hadn’t shown Pettigrew on it, so would it even show Tom Riddle or Quirinus Quirrell.
Or both, had the twins seen it last time and thought that Quirrell was keeping his boyfriend close, they’d never mentioned it and they hadn’t this time either and they were much more interested in the man’s behaviour this time around. But then they hadn’t mentioned him not showing up on the map and surely, they would have, even if it meant they had to own up to having it. Was the map infallible?
But how much were the twins using the map recently, they knew the routes and they were sneaking out less due to their promise to Percy. Maybe Harry could mention that Sirius had made a magic map of the school when he was near the twins, it would possibly get him a look at it. If nothing else, it would solve the question of who was showing up on the map and where they were lurking.
“You need to relax. Take a potion or something, because cousin, if you keep this up, you’ll give us away and probably make things worse,” Dudley hissed while dragging him into a wall of a disused classroom.”
“No, Harry, no. It’s not just you, it’s me and mum on the line too and you know what? I don’t want the family murdering bastard and his psychotic minions to win either. But you need to pull yourself together.” Each word was emphasised by slamming Harry against the wall.
“Ow, Merlin just when I think you’re improving as a person.”
“You weren’t listening. Now you are. And yeah, I enjoyed it, but you know what I don’t care. Are you trying to self-destruct just so the git doesn’t get the credit, because that isn’t a solid plan, Harry?”
Harry sighed and thumped his head back against the wall. “I can’t control anything. I don’t know what I’m doing. I have no plan. I was going to get him caught going through the traps but now… Christmas means good bye traps, goodbye plan. What can I do?”
“Stop moping and make a new plan,” Dudley said bluntly.
“How? I don’t know what’s going to happen anymore.”
“Nobody does, even Trelawny didn’t know and that’s literarily her job. Didn’t stop her from improvising though did it.”
“Why do I have to come up with the plan,” Harry hissed back frustrated with his cousin with himself and with the entire mess.
“You don’t, but you seem to think you do, so I was humouring you. Not like you think anybody else can do anything, anyway.”
“What did you say?” Harry asked his temper rising at the criticism.
“That you’re a weird ass control freak, who’s freaking out that he’s lost control.”
“I am not a control freak, I’m not a freak full stop.” Harry hissed shoving Dudley out of his personal space.
“Yeah prove, it.”
“Fine,” Harry snapped pushing off the wall and pacing the room. “I think, we have to act, we can’t leave him in play, he’s too unpredictable, he’s feeling cornered. He may lash out and we can’t have that. So…”
What could they do? They… Harry needed the big reveal; he needed the world to be prepared and actually put some effort into saving themselves. They were showing promise already they just need motivation. The trap wasn’t likely to work. Percy reckoned the Cerberus would be gone after Christmas once the wards were redone.
He didn’t know where the stone was and that was the biggest problem. That and he didn’t officially know about the stone. Hagrid had been much more circumspect this time around, but then they hadn’t been as pushy as they tried to get answers to a carefully laid out mystery.
Rather they had found another element a more dangerous element of the mess and decided to pursue that instead. They weren’t the only ones though most of the school were speculating about how much the man had changed since his sabbatical.
The teachers were much more invested in them this time around, but what could they do? Nothing, not without evidence at least. They needed evidence to act, they needed evidence to get the world to react. Pensives were rare so memories weren’t a great option for mass information dispersal.
Lee’s dad and his radio show and Luna and her dad were a means to distribute the news to different audiences and the Prophet would take on the story from them. They just needed something to convince them. Luna’s dad was by the sound of it a bit dippy but would probably enjoy a wraith story, he liked unusual creatures often going on expeditions to photograph them. They had even sent Luna a picture of Dudley’s Dierdre to Luna for her records. Photos. Harry grinned they could take a photo and send it to the press; it could be the latest distasteful front cover.
They had a camera now, officially for the school paper. But could they use that to get a photo of Quirrell and his passenger. Would the wraith escape again like it did the first time? Would it show up at all in any picture they took. Harry had passed out last time, he had no idea what it looked like. So, if he got the wraith out what then? Would that be evidence enough.
“And?” Dudley demanded.
“Photo’s we need some tests done to see if they work on the ghosts and then we get the bastard out of Quirrell and document the shit out of it,” Harry said with a grin. They could do this.
“Great,” Dudley grinned back at him.
Harry froze, “Did you just piss me off into making a plan?”
“You know me cuz and I know you.” Dudley bumped his shoulder playfully into Harry’s as he walked out the room. Leaving Harry feeling like he had once more misjudged his cousin.
It turned out easier than expected to get a photo of the ghosts. All Harry had to do was suggest they interview the house ghost for the magazine in some kind of ghost of Christmas past thing and Hermione was volunteering them both to write it.
On one hand, Harry still felt kind of manipulative about using his friends in such a way but on the other at least they were contributing to the school. They were making things better on so many different levels that this Hogwarts was nearly unrecognisable from the one before.
Nearly Headless Nick was thrilled with the idea of an interview and happily posed for photographs. He also talked for hours about the past and Harry found himself enjoying it. In the end Hermione had suggested Nick talk to the paper committee about being a regular columnist.
Word of Nick’s triumph spread and soon all the ghosts had agreed to at least a small interview, even the Grey Lady. Best of all they got a clear photo of Peeves. From what Harry had read the poltergeist was the closest thing the school had to a wraith.
They could us the camera to record the incident, Harry signed himself up for daytime stalking of Quirrell. He figured that the pictures would come out best in the daylight some of what he read suggests wraith were much less silvery than normal ghosts. He wasn’t going to let Voldemort hide in the shadows, figuratively or literally.
All he had to do know was figure out how to knock his teacher out. Short of borrowing a crystal ball and pulling a Trelawny, Harry was struggling to figure out both the how and the when. Hell, he would happily use a crystal ball properly if it gave him inspiration.
The problem was Quirrell hadn’t got any duelling planned until next term, so hitting him with a stray spell in class was out. They also hadn’t yet managed to resurrect the duelling club and getting Quirrell to be a guest demonstrator would be too risky. Plus, there was the issue of traumatising his classmates to contend with. The weekend would probably be Harry’s best bet. He had briefly considered a bludger incident, the irony appealing to Harry, but the wraith outdoors could escape to quickly for a good photo, so he was back to square one.
“You’re daydreaming again cuz,” Dudley smirked at him as they passed in the corridor. They were gathered in the corridor outside the defence classroom. Peeves had knocked over a statue creating a bottle neck which they and apparently half the school were now stuck in.
“Fun lesson?” Harry snarked back rather than give his cousin any satisfaction of catching him brooding again.
“Nope. Quirrell’s in a bad mood, he was throwing stuff, and was seriously shaky” Dudley said giving Harry a warning look. They were going to have to act soon if Voldemort was causing Quirrell to devolve so fast.
“He really isn’t looking forward to Christmas by the sounds of it, needs a good meal in him though, he’s looking gaunt,” Ron agreed.
The spirit of Tom in the chamber had admitted that he stayed in the school over the holidays, that it was his home. So, it wasn’t unsurprising that the wraith was similarly pissed off at the thought of the school being closed temporarily. That and it probably wouldn’t be able to get back in after the break.
“Great, and we’re going to be late too,” Harry sighed trying to peer over the taller students to find a route to the classroom.
“At least we have an excuse and its all of us, Lavender and Parvati are further back in the crowd than we are,” Hermione anxiously muttered as she was knocked into pushing her into Dudley. Harry tried to catch her and a group they staggered into a wall. “Oh, this is ridiculous, at least we can’t get detention for this, or at least I hope not, who knows?”
“At least here we’re protected on one side,” Harry tried to cheer her up.
“But further from our goal,” she retorted.
A rush of magic brushed past Harry. A spell just what they needed in this crush, for some short-tempered idiot to start a mass brawl. It would be like the train station all over again.
Harry tensed, his magic rising to the surface prepared, his fight or flight instinct as taught as it was in the grave yard. He felt another brush of magic and the air above him displace.
He dived to the side taking Hermione and Ron with him, Dudley stumbled to the side but seemed to keep his feet. A solid weight hit Harry along his back pushing him to the floor on top of the other two. The clang of metal and stone rang through the corridor silencing it.
“Harry,” Hermione screamed looking past his shoulder. Her scream was soon drowned out in a wave of additional voices all adding to the panic.
Harry looked to his left and came face to face with the blade of a halberd. Chips of stone littered the floor around it from where it had cut into the stone on its impact.
“Oh, fuck,” he hissed, he looked back at the white faces of Ron and Hermione. “What the, fuck,” they both nodded looking equally as shocked.
“Shit, that’s heavy,” Dudley groaned trying to move the oversized weapon off them and prop it up by the decorative armour it had suddenly detached itself from.
Several others crowded around and helped lift it, Harry found himself being pulled to his feet and brushed off, while being asked if he was alright.
“No, I am not alright,” Hermione snapped as she was helped to her feet.
“Hermione I’m sorry,” Harry said reaching towards her, how hard had he tackled her, he couldn’t remember.
“Oh, shush Harry I’m not hurt. In fact, I am very happy with you but I’m utterly furious with everything else. We could have been killed and to think five minutes ago I was considering detention the worst thing that could happen here… We were nearly decapitated,” she screeched the last part.
Harry looked at the axe and the floor, it had been where seconds before, he had been standing. It would have cut him in two. He felt slightly sick. It couldn’t have been an accident not with the magic he’d felt moments before.
“What, is happening here?” Quirrell shouted down the corridor, with no sign of a stutter in his voice. Harry gave Dudley a terrified look, how long had Quirrell been there? Was he behind the spell, it seemed likely.
A series of babbled replies were shouted down the corridor, none from people who could actually see what had happened. The rumours already varied from a near miss to reports of several mutilated students.
Several people started to panic and try to push their way out of the corridor while others tried to come forwards to help. Shouted orders to stay still only added to the confusion. Harry found himself pushed back to the wall, thankfully away from any more potential threats, unless the celling came down.
“The bastard’s, smirking,” Dudley hissed in Harry’s ear where he had been shoved next to him.
“Who?” Hermione asked, from beside them.
“Quirrell, he’s been standing there a while and hasn’t tried to help or let people in his classroom. I saw him when you were all on the floor.”
“I felt magic just before that thing fell.”
“You think he did it?” Hermione asked. “Because we were looking into him maybe… No, too much isn’t adding up…”
“Yeah,” was all Harry said. “Dud do you think?”
“Maybe.” He reached into his bag and pulled out the camera before giving it to Ron.
“Take pictures,” Harry ordered.
“What?” Ron still pale faced gasped at them. “You want me to do what?”
“Take pictures, Lavender will kill us if we don’t document this mess.” Dudley said pressing the camera at the other boy while giving Harry a significant look. Obviously, Dudley meant they had to act now before there was another attempt.
“Come on. We need to get out of this and find Madame Pomfrey. We’re all bruised up,” Harry reasoned trying to think of an excuse that would get him to the other end of the corridor closer to Quirrell.
“How?” Hermione said giving the panicked crowd a doubtful look. “All we’re going to do is get more bruised.”
“We’ll head to the defence classroom. It’s empty in there. Dud you go first Hermione behind me, and Ron take pictures,” Harry commanded before forging into crowd in the small wake Dudley was leaving.
He felt hands twist in the back of his robe as Hermione hung onto him to stop herself getting lost. A flash from the camera temporarily stunned the crowd and they quickly pushed through towards the other side of the defence classroom.
Harry didn’t particular want Hermione near him when this went down, but better than her getting hurt more through the panicking crowd. And Merlin did the magical world need to learn how not to panic, Harry thought while dodging a school bag to the face.
“Nearly there,” Dudley panted as he led them towards the doorway where Quirrell still stood blocking a way to safety and stuttering uselessly.
Harry swerved to the side to avoid an elbow to his nose and then rather than catch himself, he let himself fall into Quirrell. Hermione’s hands pulled his robes before slipping off and Harry planted his hand directly in Quirrell face knocking him down as well.
The back of Quirrell’s head hit the ground with a satisfying thunk. Hopefully that hurt the dark git, Harry thought as he was shoved away by a screaming Quirrell. He wasn’t unconscious but burns covered his face although they were thankfully not in a handprint shape where Harry had touched it. His mother’s sacrifice was still in place after everything. He hadn’t counted on it but now he was going to use it.
Then Quirrell was screaming more and through the swirling mass of robes and legs Harry saw Dudley pulling at Quirrell’s hands which were blistering under Dudley’s touch.
Not as much as when Harry touched him but enough. His mother’s protection on more than just him? Did it cover all magical children under the wards? Harry pushed the questions aside they could be dealt with later. What mattered now was Harry had help in subduing Voldemort and he couldn’t leave Dudley to do it alone.
He crawled forward and reached towards Dudley and Quirrell. The camera flashed again and then again, and Harry was once again sent flying. He for a moment wished he was bigger and less easily pushed about before his hands fell on bare skin.
Dudley was pulling at the robes and the turban as if trying to help to find what was causing the burning, but from the look in his eye Harry could tell he knew exactly what he was doing.
Another flash and then Hermione was there. Her hands doing nothing but giving them a better alibi for their actions. The camera would only show three scared children trying to help.
Harry could hear more shouting and the number of people around them was decreasing suggesting something somewhere had given way. They had only moments left till their gamble would be played out. Maybe Quirrell was hurt enough that he couldn’t refuse treatment and then DMLE could arrest him, question him, that could be enough.
Quirrell let out another scream before going limp. The turban tumbling off his limp head and the twisted and bruised face of Voldemort was revealed. Harry pulled Hermione towards him shielding her from the view, protecting her even as he and Dudley reared back from the visage. Still Harry kept a hand wrapped around a burning wrist.
Another flash and Ron was screaming shouting and then another flash from the camera. Voldemort’s face twisted in rage. Then seemed to surge up pulling the skin with it. It kept going ripping free and Harry was so glad he’d been unconscious last time because there was no way he wasn’t going to have nightmares.
And still Ron was taking pictures as everybody else ran and fell over in terror. He clicked away and flashes highlighted the flight of the screeching vaguely humanoid shadowy thing as it flew down the corridor. Harry was reminded of the band of the Titanic which had played to the very end as Ron kept up his task.
Another flash, this one different, brighter and far more magical lit up the corridor. Then another and another and the wraith screamed in fury and pain. Before halting in its flight and surging up towards the celling.
And then Voldemort screamed again and jerked away from the celling which was now glowing with light like that of the Patronus charm. The wraith jerked upwards again before flinching away, his escape route cut off.
Instead of trying again he dived down towards the few students still in corridor who threw themselves at the floor to get away and then they were glowing, as were the walls.
Voldemort was trapped.
Another flash from the camera and then Harry saw who was behind their rescue. Flitwick’s wand held firm, hair crackling with magic, was walking towards the wraith. Behind him a shaken group of older students their wands out, each one glowing bright at the tip with the protective Patronus like spell.
The wraith spotting them surged forward screeching and swooped at them like a crow hazing a buzzard. But he was alone and while a few flinched, the spells held firm and drew closer and tighter further tightening the net.
Voldemort turned from them and the professor and tried to flee only to find his escape route was further cut off and instead turned a flew straight towards Harry. The doorway beside him blocked by the same light would offer no escape for the wraith. Harry gripped his wand trying to recall any spell which would help.
His hand he noticed was covered in the glowing protective light. He looked to the side and saw that Dudley and Hermione were also wrapped up in the magical protection. Yet Quirrell was not instead a growing puddle of blood was forming around him and starting to soak into Harry’s own clothing. Was Quirrell dead?
The wraith shrieking was getting closer. Harry tried to push Hermione further aside to protect her from whatever attack he was about to face. Only to find the wraith sailing past him towards the limp form of Quirrell. He seemed to be trying to wiggle into the bloodied mess of Quirrell’s head.
“The body, if he can possess him, he can do magic, we need the wand.” Hermione gasped as she struggled over Harry towards Quirrell.
Harry gave up trying to keep Hermione away and instead joined her in searching through the pockets of his teachers robes, Dudley helping on the other side.
“I’ve got it,” Dudley called. “But it’s in a pocket I can’t find a way in.”
The wraith pulled away from Quirrell’s body and lunged at Dudley startling him, backwards.
“He can’t hurt you,” Flitwick shouted as he worked his way through the frightened mess of students lying on the floor, evacuating them as he went.
“Piss off you demented jack in the box,” Dudley yelled as he swatted at the wraith.
During the distraction Harry reached over and grabbed the seams of the robe ripping his way through the fabric till he could pull the wand free.
He brandished it triumphantly. The camera flashed as the screaming wraith rushed at him. His forehead prickled with pain. But not the same burning pain he had suffered during his previous encounters with Voldemort.
He shrugged it off. He could think more on it later along with everything else. “Throw it through the doorway lad. He won’t get it.” Harry glanced to Flitwick before he lobbed the wand with more force than necessary through the gap. He could have just slid his hand through, but it was so much more satisfying his way.
Flitwick now beside them held a glass container, much like the ones used in potions. But, each face of the cut glass bottle was glowing with the protective spell which covered them.
Flitwick put the bottle down and Voldemort tried once more to escape, only to find that the protective bubble had shrunk to cover only a few feet. “Enough of that now you’ve had your fun,” Flitwick scolded eyes hard.
Then he started to chant in the language of the goblins, Harry couldn’t remember the name of it but thought it was something vaguely insulting maybe they had their own name for it, another thing to ask. Flitwick stood firm under the attempted intimidation from the wraith, wand weaving intricate patterns in the air leaving a shimmering pattern in its wake. As Harry watched Voldemort was pulled screaming with wordless fury towards the bottle.
Another flash and Harry looked towards it. Ron glassy eyed and shaking was still taking photos. But more than that the camera flash drew Harry’s attention away from the wraith’s fruitless battle to escape the bottle and to beyond the protective light.
He could see the older students gathered around them and for a terrible moment Harry was back in the graveyard in another dome of light but surrounded by Death Eaters. He shook his head to try and clear the memory. He could see that the corridor was much emptier and other figures like that of McGonagall were waiting beyond.
The screaming was picking up frequency. But the rest of them were sitting in silence, not wanting to distract their professor from his delicate task of containing the wraith. But also, Harry supposed because what could you say in a situation like this.
As soon as the struggling wraith touched the edge of the bottle lip he was suddenly sucked inside. Harry blinked in shock, after the treacle slow progress it seemed incredibly anticlimactic.
Flitwick reached into his pocket and carefully bent down making sure not to lean over the top of the bottle. He placed a stopper in the gap and quickly tapped it making the two separate pieces of glass fuse into one. Another camera flash.
“It’s secure. You can drop the protection,” Flitwick announced sounding exhausted. The spell shimmered and fell, some of its casters dropping to their knees in the empty corridor before others rushed to help them up and escorted them away.
Ron clicked the camera once more and passed out. Flitwick leaving the bottle turned towards the fallen students.
“How are you?” Harry blinked as McGonagall appeared before him wand out and casting what Harry recognised as a diagnostic charm.
“Bruised,” Hermione spoke up for them.
“Mhh, but at least you have your heads, there were some very garbled reports.”
“Quirrell…” Harry started to say turning towards the teacher.
“Hush now, don’t look.” McGonagall put her arm up to bloke his view before pulling the pair of them into a hug.
“Dudley?” Harry asked instead.
“He’s fine he managed to shuffle away and is on his way to Madame Pomfrey for a check over. You’ll see him in a moment once I get you there. Can you stand?”
She pulled them up carefully still shielding them from what was increasingly likely Quirrell’s dead body. “That’s it steady now. Rolonda a hand if you may.”
Harry found himself being escorted through the empty corridors of the school away from the corridor. “Where is everyone?” he blurted out as he saw an abandoned classroom school books strewn on the desks still.
“They’re safe in the Great Hall, don’t you worry,” His head of house murmured gently pushing him onwards.
“Are we not going to talk about what happened?” Harry asked when he realised, they were heading to the hospital wing rather than her office or that of the Headmasters.
“This is more than a tea and biscuit situation lad. You need looking at, you’re a walking bruise, come on now.”
Harry blinked owlishly at her, every other time he’d had an adventure he’d gotten interrogated first, apart from first year when he was unconscious. Maybe it was concession to his age Harry mused as he found himself being half lifted onto a bed. He really needed to put on some body mass.
Harry was beginning to get fidgety on his hospital bed. He was slightly amused to note that it was the one he always ended up in. But more than anything he wanted answers.
At least when he was getting questioned, he could get a vague idea of what was going on and which bits of what happened were important. But here all he got was terrible potions. Which admittedly had taken the edge of the pain which had been promising to become a deep ache.
“Hey Harry,” he looked up as Dudley was sidling in to join him.
“You’ll get in trouble,” Harry felt compelled to point out.
“Nah, we’re golden, Madame Pomfrey told me to come here, said I’d stop you attempting a jail break.”
“Oh. How you doing? How’s everybody doing?”
“Bruised, terrified, confused.”
“Is that you or everyone?”
“Both, it’s well… nobody knows what to make of it,” Dudley said giving him a searching look.
“I don’t know, I mean, it’s not what I planned,” Harry admitted.
“So, you had a plan then?” the sharply asked question caused both boys to glance over. Hermione shuffled in to join them.
“I mean not get more bruised was the plan,” Harry tried to deflect.
“Mmh, that didn’t work,” she sighed. “Keep your secrets for now I guess you’ll tell me when you’re ready.”
“Hermione… If it helps, we have no idea about what all that was,” Harry gave her half an apology.
“Oh, I could tell that too. Ron’s okay too by the way, I saw him he’s awake and had a calming draught. Saw Dean and, Seamus too, they were sitting with Ernie and Hannah. Susan was here but I think she was trying to get a hold of her aunt.”
“Good, hopefully she succeeds.”
“You’d think so, a dead teacher is harder to get rid of than a dead troll, right?” the last part of Hermione’s question sounded uncertain.
“Yeah. Come sit up here, you too Dud,” Harry said patting his hospital bed.
“Do you think Mum will get Sirius to agree to send us elsewhere for school after this and the troll?” Dudley asked after settling on the end of the bed.
Harry shrugged slightly. “I dunno, things are going to have to change here because of the wards. Why?”
“Just, I have friends here you know, it’s nice,” Dudley admitted, and Harry had to wonder how close he had been to any of his old gang. Was he with them just to stop them from turning on him?
“Friends are great,” Hermione agreed. “Hopefully Mr. and Mrs. Wood let me stay. If not, I hope we go to the same place.”
“Ahh there you are. Now let me see how you’re doing?” Madame Pomfrey swooped in wand at the ready. “Well if I had my way you’d be tucked up in here nice and safe overnight with some dreamless sleep, but the Headmaster seems to think you should be in his office.”
“Poppy?” McGonagall was joining them too it seemed. “I see you’ve informed them. Are they well enough because I will damn well put my foot down if need be.”
“They’ll do but nothing strenuous and bring them straight back here. If you’re not back by six, I’ll come and get them myself. And a dose of pain relief before you go.”
Harry found himself swallowing down a potion and shuffling out the room behind his head of house. Thankfully they were moving slowly, Harry was honestly surprised at how beat up he was, he’d had less painful quidditch matches.
“Now we’re going to the Headmasters office, he has some questions.” McGonagall stopped and gave them a serious look. “Not a single one of you is trouble I want you to understand that.” Harry smiled; how many times had he been told that already this term.
“Yes, ma’am,” Harry said while the other two murmured their agreement.
“Now then, Fizz Wizz. Don’t look at me, the Headmaster chooses the ridiculous passwords. Up we go.” They all climbed on to the moving stairs behind McGonagall and were led into Dumbledore’s office it was as Harry remembered it.
“Ahh, our heroes are here,” Dumbledore smiled at them as they entered. Harry looked around. A furious Flitwick stood by the desk on which sat the bottle. “Come sit.”
Before they reached the wooden chairs in front of them McGonagall whipped out her wand and turned them into a sofa and arm chair. “They’re terribly bruised, hard seats like that would do them no good.”
“Indeed,” was all, Dumbledore said in response “Now then,” The door opened interrupting him.
“Headmaster. I insist you contact St. Mungo’s or at least the apothecaries. The children need potions and we simply do not have enough in stock to meet demand,” Slughorn blustered as he swept in.
“I’m in a meeting,” Dumbledore rebuked.
“Hogwash, the children have just got here, you’ve not even got started. Now about these potions, which are desperately needed.” Slughorn continued fishing out a list from his pocket.
Harry was impressed that the man was willing to go to bat for them and he wasn’t even a head of house.
“I’m sure the children don’t mind, why don’t you see to the potions,” McGonagall spoke up on their behalf.
“I don’t believe bringing in extra people will be helpful at this point. Best get on top of it in house, no need to cause a mass panic” Dumbledore retorted his smile looking strained and then sickly in the suddenly green light from the fire.
“What is the meaning of this,” Dumbledore shouted rising and staring furiously at the cohort of goblins which had just invaded his office. Harry glanced to his side and was pleased he wasn’t the only one who had shrunk back at the display of temper.
“We are here to check on our kinsman. You denied our entry ignoring the agreement between our people ratified following the last rebellion. So, we ignored your wards.” The one at the front of the group said before turning to Flitwick. “Are you well? We felt you pull on a significant amount of family magic.”
Harry’s eyebrows shot up. He supposed that answered the question of if Flitwick was part goblin. Dumbledore was fuming and Slughorn was looking speculative. Harry was quite happy to sit back and watch.
“Tired. There was a dark wraith attacking the students. I contained it.” Flitwick gestured towards the bottle sitting on the desk.
“Hmm.” The same goblin as before hummed before heading towards the bottle and tapped a finger on the top. Harry felt Hermione flinch beside him. “The signature is familiar and very dark. The wards may be in a worse state than imagined for you not to detect this being in the school Headmaster.”
Harry glanced towards Dumbledore who seemed to be simmering with rage, his grandfatherly appearance nowhere to be seen. The rest of the room seemed unfazed and if anything looked speculatively at the bottle.
The goblin turned back to the bottle and let out a sharp hiss of unfamiliar words at the bottle. The other gripped their weapons and shifted them into a more threatening position while glaring at the bottle. Fawkes flew from his perch and settled wings wide on the sofa behind them and softly trilled.
“You can’t know that,” Dumbledore snapped.
Harry, confused, turned to McGonagall hoping she’d at least let him know what was going on. Sensing a curious gaze, she leant over to them. “They believe that the spirit in the bottle is the one who failed to rob them over the summer.”
“Awfully convenient then that Filius had a bottle capable of containing it on his person,” Dumbledore smiled. Gasps echoed around the room.
“How dare you,” Flitwick hissed. “You were the one to suggest an enchanted container for Peeves, due to his recent unsettledness. Brought about by your lack of care of the wards, letting foul things within these halls.”
The cheerful chime of a bell made Harry jump. He was pretty certain that Hermione and Dudley did too, but everyone else was distracted by the drama before them. The bell rang again and again.
Slughorn moved over to the fire and then stepped back as the flames turned green. “Really Horace,” Dumbledore snapped looking away from the furious goblins.
“Minerva,” Madame Bones said by way of greeting as she scanned the room taking in the occupants. “I’ve heard some concerning things and brought reinforcements.” Behind her stood a mixture of robed figures some Harry identified as Aurors and others in deep grey robes with hoods up so their faces could not be seen.
“Amelia. Thankfully Filius managed to gain control of the situation and capture the being before there were any more fatalities,” McGonagall said rising from her arm chair.
‘Fatalities,” Hermione whispered from beside him. Fawkes bent down and gently nuzzled her.
“Quirrell I guess,” Harry whispered back but the adults seemed not to notice their discussion.
“Madame Bones this is a school problem and there is no need for the DMLE, Minerva over stated matters,” Dumbledore interjected with a firm smile.
“We have already established Mr. Dumbledore, you don’t always quite grasp where your authority ends or the finer details of the law,” Madame Bones gave an equally firm smile. “But I’ll happily remind you that dead bodies under mysterious circumstances are most certainly my problem.”
“Indeed. But the Unspeakables need not stay,” Dumbledore replied looking like he had eaten one to many of his lemon drops.
“Ahh, but unidentified dark spirits possessing people is our problem, shall we share, they do say it’s a problem halved.” A flat and indistinct voice came from the grey hooded figure closest to Harry, it made the comments more sinister than amusing.
Harry subtly tried to move away from the figure. He didn’t like being near those who hid their faces and had too much power over others. Although he didn’t want to get too near the Headmaster who was looking increasingly sour before smiling brightly at them all. “I’m afraid you’ll have to take it up with my other guests, after all they believe they have a claim on it too.”
“Master guard?” Madame Bones asked with a raised brow.
“That being tried to steal from the Horde, by your and our treaty we have the right to deal with it.”
Arguments broke out around them as the three different groups tried to argue their claim on the wraith. Dumbledore sat down looking briefly satisfied with himself before Slughorn sensing an opportunity began to pester him again about the needed medical supplies.
“Do you think we should leave?” Hermione whispered to him.
“I dunno if we can get past them,” Harrys said pointing at the large group of adults between them and the door, some gesturing wildly.
“Maybe we should just wait it out.” Dudley agreed. “I mean can we even get out of the stairway, the gargoyle jumped back in place behind me.”
A goblin broke away from the group and slipped through the fireplace. Nobody else seemed to notice. McGonagall had given up refereeing the argument and was tapping the glass bottle in a way which would get you thrown out of an aquarium.
“Do you think it can feel what she’s doing?” Hermione asked having also spotted their teachers action.
“Who knows but it’s kind of satisfying,” Dudley shrugged.
“Yeah, look they’re back,” Harry pointed out as the fire again flared green.
“Master Slughorn, the bank is arranging delivery of the requested ingredients, and a few of the more time demanding potions. I’m sure you shall manage to make the rest.” The goblin announced manging to temporarily silence the debate around them.
“Really,” Slughorn rubbed his hands together. “Through this floo or…?”
“This one. I’m afraid the way the Headmaster is holding the wards means the rest are too unstable for the transfer of magical ingredients.”
“I mean really,” Dumbledore said getting up again.
“Headmaster Dumbledore, I’m beginning to wonder if you have any concern for the children who are allegedly in your care.” Madame Bones managed a level of scorn in her delivery that would have made Aunt Petunia deeply envious. A quick glance at Dudley showed Harry he’d heard the same thing.
“Not at all,” Dumbledore hissed. “That is to say, I have every care regardless of what you think. I was concerned with transporting the ingredients.”
“My colleagues will happily help,” Bones volunteered the Aurors.
“I think Dumbledore was right the first time about how little he cares,” Hermione muttered under the cover of the potion’s delivery and Slughorn organising their removal. An emotionless chuckle suggested that one of the Unspeakables had overheard her.
“Now that we have sorted that,” the Goblin was positively smirking. “I can also reveal that the spirit is not identity less therefore the Unspeakables have no direct claim on the being.”
Slughorn who had been on the way out the door with the last box put it down and focused on the conversation. It was Harry supposed far too exciting information to give up on and Slytherins put a high value on knowing secrets.
“You know the being?” Madame Bones asked when no more information seemed to be forthcoming.
“Yes, we have identified them as being Tom Marvolo Riddle.”
Bones looked confused and the Unspeakable gave nothing away. McGonagall’s hand flew to her chest and she sunk down into the armchair beside them. Dumbledore looked almost gleeful. But most interestingly in Harry’s opinion was Slughorn who was staring at the bottle as if he could see the twisted form within.
“Impossible,” Slughorn gasped hand clutching the wall behind him. “Impossible he died.”
“That would help explain the wraithness of him,” the amused unspeakable from before pointed out.
“Who was Riddle?” Bones demanded. Nobody responded.
“I don’t think it matters,” Dumbledore deflected.
“Oh, that reaction means it does. Minerva who was he?” Bones said turning towards their group.
With a shaking hand Minerva raised her wand and spelt the name in the sky much like Tom had done in the chamber, then before them the letters rearranged spelling out the feared moniker.
Hermione let out a startled shriek and Harry was certain that he and Dudley looked spooked enough that nobody would remark on their reaction.
“The Ministry,” Bones began, her monocle had fallen was dangling from the chain, swing backwards and forwards in a slightly hypnotic way Harry noticed.
“The Horde,” the main Goblin replied. Harry really wanted to find out their names it felt wrong to just refer to them by species, even in his head.
“Oh, Merlin what have I done,” Slughorn moaned as he slid down the wall head cradled in his hand. Everybody dismissed his reaction, but Dumbledore who Harry noticed, who was giving the man an interested but not particularly caring look.
“Why not work together,” McGonagall snapped seeming to rouse once more. “Let the DMLE get their answers and then the Horde can dispose of him as you wish, although I do hope permanently and painfully.”
“Questions must be asked; why did he surface now? And what was in the bank that he was willing to risk going after?” Harry shifted under the sudden attention the Unspeakable’s questions caused.
“The Headmaster visited the vault and emptied it hours before the attempted theft. The boy may not be the focus,” the Goblin, who Harry was going to ask Flitwick the name of so he could send a thank you card, interrupted the scrutiny on him. Instead Dumbledore found himself the focus of the group’s attention.
“The stone,” McGonagall murmured, drawing their attention.
“Professor that’s enough,” Dumbledore snapped.
“Oh, shush, that blasted thing has drawn that obscenity into the school. Think of the children.” She turned to face the rest of the room. “Albus has borrowed the Philosophers Stone for study.”
Hermione gasped; she wasn’t the only one.
“I recommend, Headmaster that you remove it from this building immediately and take it to your own accommodation and study it in your own time,” Bones bit out.
“The safety of it couldn’t be guaranteed elsewhere,” Dumbledore tried to defend his actions.
“The children come first you dratted man! If you can’t look after it, you shouldn’t have it!” Harry got the feeling that McGonagall was referring to more than the stone as she said that.
“It better be gone by morning or you will go down with several hundred counts of reckless child endangerment and all your favours are used up old man,” Madame Bones threatened.
“Sort it out,” McGonagall ordered as well. “Come along you three, evidently there’s no need for you to stay, and Madame Pomfrey will be here soon enough to chivvy us along as it is.”
The three of the awkwardly got to their feet and shuffled over to the door where Slughorn was still guiltily mumbling to himself.
“Minerva,” Bones interrupted as their professor bent down to pick up the abandoned box of potions. “I wished to speak to the boys about something else, perhaps in the morning when this has settled down a bit? I’ll be coming back to make sure the stone is gone anyway.”
“Indeed,” McGonagall replied while Harry gave his cousin a confused look. “Come along now.”
They soon found themselves back in the hospital wing where Harry wasn’t sure if Madame Pomfrey was happier to see them or the potions. She seemingly compromised by putting them in bed and feeding them one each of her new supply.
“Hey,” Ron waved at them from his bed, he had more colour in his cheeks than when they’d left. “Where were you? Everyone said you were okay, but you were gone, and I was worried.”
“We had to go to the Headmasters office,” Harry answered for them.
“Really? You’re not in trouble are you because I think I took enough pictures we could use them to get you off.” Harry smiled at the boy, this was the Ron he’d wanted to be friends with on the train, the caring kid rather than the jealous one.
“Nah, I think he just wanted to ask questions,” Harry replied. “You were really into taking those photos though.”
“You think? I was petrified, so scared of that thing and what Lav would say if I didn’t get photos for her report. Come to think of it I was almost more scared of her, she can hurt us after all and she’s pretty.”
“I wouldn’t tell her she’s scarier than a wraith,” Harry advised remembering how terrible the boy had been at getting a date for the ball in fourth year.
“Yeah good point, but man can girls be scary, you haven’t met my younger sister, psycho I’m telling you. So, what did Dumbledore want to know, I didn’t see him there, when it was all going on.”
“Yeah, I didn’t either. He never got around to asking and things just kept getting more complicated and people were turning up with potions and arguing with each other.”
“That sounds dead awkward.”
“It really was,” Dudley agreed.
“I mean what was there to argue about than the fact there was a crazy ghost thing in Quirrell,” Ron asked.
“Blame, and how they can benefit off the misfortune,” Hermione joined in their conversation. Harry noticed that the three of them by some unspoken agreement weren’t mentioning the fact that the wraith had been Voldemort.
“Flitwick kicked arse though. Did you know he was a duelling master? I heard some of the others talking about it earlier. I think I’d like to see a proper duel; it sounds really exciting. Maybe Dad will take us to one over the holidays.”
“Come along now, enough chit chat you need to eat up and then, some visitors will be allowed but not too long you all need a good night’s sleep,” Madame Pomfrey scolded them as she swept past towards a bed where Harry could hear somebody crying.
“Bet Percy and the twins are going spare with worry,” Ron muttered ears flushing red before lightly picking at his food.
“I could hug you but, Madame Bones would end up putting me in a bed next to you after she’d finished with me,” Oliver said as he sat down between Harry and Dudley’s bed.
The Weasleys were congregated around their youngest brother. Most of their year and all of their housemates had stopped by to see for themselves that they were alright. Lavender had been so impressed by Ron’s bravery when Dudley had told the story for the blushing boy, she’d kissed him.
Madame Pomfrey had in the end ushered everybody, but family out. Oliver managed to stay due to his parents having guardianship of Hermione.
“Yeah, she’s fierce, and potion happy,” Harry agreed.
“Sprout ended up rallying the seventh years into making the latest batch so count yourself lucky you’re in here and getting the good stuff,” Oliver grinned at them. “But still glad you’re alright. First, we heard was you’d been beheaded and then possessed, or you were trying to possess each other’s bodies.”
“The axe was a near thing,” Dudley said. “Think it was Quirrell that made it fall. Those things are stuck solid.”
“Yeah, makes you wonder how long that has been going on. Might explain the garlic and turban and the stutter. Still he’s dead and it’s not even Christmas. Merlin, I don’t think we’ve ever had one last such a short time,” Oliver said rubbing his face looking tired.
“That’ll throw off your bets,” Harry pointed out rather morbidly.
“Nah, I doubt anybody went for dead by being possessed by dark spirit, the pot will roll over to whoever takes over the position. Hope we get somebody decent.”
“Not sure how much worse you can get,” Hermione pointed out. Oliver saluted her but then he didn’t realise that it had been the Voldemort, that would be an uncomfortable discovery for the rest of the school.
“Oliver,” Harry said breaking the silence.
“Lavender took the camera and Ron took a lot of photos. I know she’ll want to develop them but maybe don’t let her tonight. It was…”
“I won’t, I’m sure they’re going to be nightmare worthy. We’re sleeping in the Great Hall again, anyway, means she won’t have the necessary stuff to develop them.”
“Thanks,” Harry yawned, suddenly exhausted by the events of the day despite not actually doing all that much.
“You got it kid. Now sleep the lot of you,” Oliver ordered.
Harry awoke slowly. He watched the enchanted Christmas decorations throw around the early morning light. If he put on his glasses Madame Pomfrey and her potions would be there and he wanted a bit of time to think.
So much had gone differently, he had done so little and yet so much more had been achieved. Part of him was annoyed. Was his best worth so little? But he was also happy, ridiculously happy that he had people fighting his corner for him.
He had real friends, who were there for him. He had family, hell he sort of had a good relationship with Petunia. Then there was the fact that they had Voldemort. The Horde wasn’t going to keep it a secret that the person behind their security breach had been captured. They’d publish it with his name and others were going to know who Riddle was like McGonagall and Slughorn had, like Bones now did.
Then there was the fact the information could come out before a new Minister was elected. That would mean they couldn’t hide it and they could blame the previous governments inactions. Blame, Harry was coming to realise, is what kept the wheels of bureaucracy turning. That and money.
“Harry you awake?” he looked over at Dudley.
“What do you think Bones wants to talk about?”
“She said something different. So, nothing about yesterday, don’t know what that leaves.”
“You don’t think it’s’ about our …” Dudley trailed off and Harry realised he was trying to mention their time travel without actually saying it.
“Nah, probably about Sirius and stuff from that trial, our grandparents maybe” Harry answered.
“That’s a good point. You think Mum and Sirius know what happened yet?”
“They’re not here or trying to beat down the door, so I’m guessing not.”
“Do you think any of our parents know?” Hermione asked from his other side.
“They have been informed. Now then who wants a potion?” If Madame Pomfrey was expecting a cheerful response to her question, she was disappointed.
After breakfast Professor McGonagall turned up to take Harry and Dudley to their meeting. They walked down the corridor like a pair of condemned prisoners.
“Come now you two, I’m sure that it’s nothing serious,” McGonagall tried to rally them as she settled them into her office.
Harry gave the tea and biscuits laid out a damning look. “Oh, shush child they’re good manners and not the portents of doom you keeping acting like they are.”
“Now Madame Bones said she’d be here soon. It’s been a long night. Although you’ll both be pleased to hear that the blasted stone and damned wraith are both gone from these halls. Not soon enough but it’ll have to do.”
“Who got them?” Harry asked while nibbling on a biscuit too nervous to truly eat one.
“The stone went back to the Flamel’s who were horrified to find out that the thing had been kept in a school of children, Dumbledore isn’t going to be allowed to borrow it again. I believe it is once more in the bank behind proper security.”
“Like dragons, is that what the Cerberus was for?” Dudley asked then looked slightly guilty.
“Considering your friendship with the Weasley twins I’m not surprised to find out you know about that. But I sincerely hope you weren’t foolish enough to go near it.”
“We promised Percy, not to ma’am,” Dudley vowed while Harry nodded along.
“Good. But yes, that’s another thing we got out the castle last night. A spring clean in the dead of winter. Very refreshing.” A knock interrupted them, and Madame Bones entered.
“Ah you’re here, excellent. I assume you’ve kept them informed?”
“I have just been doing so.”
“Great, before we begin, I just want you both to know that I’m very impressed with your discretion concerning the sensitive information you heard last night. It speaks well of your character. The information will be released after we interrogate the thing more thoroughly and the school term ends. No need to cause more chaos.”
Harry nodded; he could see their point but at the same time the secrecy rankled. He decided not to mention the pictures. It wasn’t as if they were a secret within the school by this point and it was up to the DMLE to get their own sources. He’d done a lot to get them where they were already.
“Now what I wished to talk to you about is the matter of Vernon Dursley.”
“Dad?” Dudley blurted out. “What’s he got to do with this?”
“As you may have been informed, we had reason to believe a magical person was involved in his death. Yesterday we managed to get confirmation of this.”
“He was killed by a wizard then,” Dudley asked sounded far younger than either his ages. McGonagall patted his hand.
“A Death Eater,” Harry guessed.
“Not exactly, it would appear that Mr. Dursley was unhappy with you both having magic, young Mr. Dursley’s being a rather late onset surprise.”
“Yeah, he needed space to clear his head,” Harry offered.
“Well it would appear he was trying to find a way to remove the magic from you both, and he was happily using Mr. Potter’s name to find somebody to help him achieve this.”
“Merlin,” McGonagall breathed out looking horrified.
“Unfortunately for Mr. Dursley, a squib and former priest called Gary Cracknell heard of this and invited Mr. Dursley to meet him.”
“He wanted to steal our magic,” Dudley guessed.
“No, he wanted to protect it. While it seems that Cracknell has no love of the magical world the taking of magic from children, and Harry Potter in particular,” Bones gave him a sympathetic look. “Was too much for him. Many in the squib community consider you a hero for stopping Voldemort.”
“So, he tried to protect us,” Harry said feeling conflicted, Murder wasn’t a solution he could be comfortable with, but at the same time not having Vernon in their lives was making things better for them at least.
“Yes, and he killed Vernon,” Bones continued.
“I’m not sure how that makes me feel,” Harry admitted not looking at Dudley.
“Cracknell’s actions are not on either of you boys, I don’t want you to think that,” Bones ordered.
“But, if he’s a squib how did he mange to use magic to hide it?” Dudley asked instead.
“His sister is a witch and while she thinks of squibs as inferior and is very much a blood purist, she is enough of a political animal to know being related to the person who killed a member of Mr. Potters family whatever the reason, wouldn’t be good for her social standing.”
“What’s her name?” Harry asked curious, trying to think of if they’d met them in either timeline.
“Delores Umbridge, Undersecretary to the former Minister of Magic.”
“That toady,” McGonagall hissed. “Simpering fool dressed all in pink. I can see it, she’s ugly enough to do something like that.”
Harry could vaguely picture the woman McGonagall was describing, she’d been at the trial and her picture in the paper recently. “Wait isn’t she in the running for Minister?” Harry asked.
“She was, now she’s awaiting trial, but we need a new Minister first, she and her brother can bond in their cells over Christmas, it’s a time for bringing families together after all,” Bones replied with a pleased smirk. “Her arrest will be on the front news today; the reason will follow soon enough.”
“Oh. How soon?” Harry asked. He was pretty sure they would be in for a few weeks of intense scrutiny after the corridor incident, toppling a ministerial candidate would only make things worse. Especially when the attempted magic removal was brought up.
“Within the week, I imagine,” Bones replied.
“Talking of families, I believe under the circumstances you may leave school a bit before the official break. I’m sure Sirius will be here to pick you up soon. Why don’t you head down to your friends and say goodbye, before packing?” McGonagall suggested.
“Will the Headmaster let us?” Harry asked remembering the earlier outing which had been cancelled.
“He’s busy lad, but even if he notices, he’s already set the precedence with Mr. Malfoy. Off you go now,” McGonagall dismissed them.
Getting up Harry headed out the office Dudley in tow. Things weren’t perfect in this life but they’d somehow ended up better than the first time around. Whether it was because of his actions, or despite them, Harry wasn’t sure. But that didn’t matter right now. What mattered was checking on his friends and then getting out of dodge before the news hit.
Heading down the stairs Harry smiled, he was looking forward to Christmas, Sirius would be there, Petunia probably didn’t blame them for Vernon’s actions, they could relax and start looking forward. There was so much still to do but change was in the air and he wasn’t the only one who could sense it.