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Introduction:

harry potter
Harry moved quickly once he was out of the mans sight and slipped into Gringots. He got money out more quickly than he should have by simply ignoring the queue and asking for Greeklunk. His old goblin acquaintance quickly helped him refill his pouch for another year. While he was down in the vault Harry stuck his t-shirt in his bag and instead took out a long robe with a hood. At Greeklunk’s confused expression he said…

“Someone back up on the street that I‘d rather didn‘t recognise me.”

“Oh right. Bloody paparazzi.”

Harry stepped back out into the street and did his school shopping quickly. When he walked back past Fortescue’s the wizard was still there, showing the waitress a long scar on his arm.

*

Harry stood in the country lane and rechecked the letter he held in his hand. He was sure he was at least in the right village and probably on the right road. It was just that the road went a long way in both directions and Ron’s advice on getting to his house had been rather vague. Like he’d only really seen the surrounding countryside from the air. Harry folded the letter away and shrugged, there was always another way. He walked over to a where a farmer was sitting near his tractor, fiddling with something in the engine.

“Hi. I’m looking for the family of ginger people who keep owls as pets.”

“Down the lane, turn left at the co-op.” The man said without looking up. “And tell the man I need my wrench back.”

*

Harry had to resist the urge to break into a run as he caught sight of the Weasley house. Outside it in the overgrown garden he could see three boy working, flinging something he couldn’t make out over the garden wall. Harry smiled, they were expecting him today but he hadn’t exactly been able to give them an exact time. As he walked closer the door to the house opened and Molly Weasley (Ron had told him all about his family) emerged, carrying a tray with drinks on it. Behind her a young girl (must be Ginny) stepped outside and leaned against the doorpost looking bored. None of them seemed to have noticed him yet, or maybe the tan had changed his appearance a bit. As he stepped up to the front gate he spread his arms wide.

“Aloha!”

“Harry!” Ron jumped in surprise “You‘re here.” The twins jumped up too and ran to meet him, but the most extreme reaction came from the youngest Weasley. Ginny went dead white under her hair and her mouth seemed to move as if she was trying to say something then she bolted through the still open door.

“She has some sort of objection to aloha?” Harry asked the ginger crowd.

“Nah, mate.” Ron shook his head. “She‘s been jumping and squeaking every time we so much as mentioned your name. Guess you in the flesh was just too much for her.”

“Ron, be nice to your sister.” Mrs Weasley’s voice was stern for a moment then turned soft again as she turned back to Harry. “She‘s just shy Harry. I‘m sure she‘ll get over it the more she sees of you.”

“Probably.” Agreed Harry “The hero thing doesn‘t last. I‘ve been told on repeated occasions that I‘m a massive disappointment.”

“Who told you that?” Molly Weasley looked aghast.

“Snape.”

“Yeah but he said you had floberworms for brains too.” Said Ron. “And we’re fairly sure that’s not true.”

“Right.” Chimed in one of the twins. “We‘re pretty certain they‘re doxy droppings.”

“At least that’s up the evolutionary scale.”

*

But Ginny’s odd behaviour didn’t stop. Harry found that she was incapable of staying in a room that he was in and that any attempt to speak directly to her was enough to send her scurrying away. One morning when he came down and found her curled up on the sofa with a magazine he decided to put a stop to it.

“Ginny.” She stiffened and looked like she was about to flee. “Don’t run away please.” He walked around and sat next to her on the couch. She looked like a small rodent confronted by a snake, eyes wide open and too scared to run. “Can you tell me why you run every time I try to talk to you or enter the room?” Silence, except for the twitching she could have been petrified. “Look Ginny I don’t know what it is but could you please talk to me. We‘re going to be going to school together for the next six years. Could you talk to me. Please.”

“Y… you…” Harry had to strain to hear her faint whisper. “you destroyed you-know-who.”

“Oh you‘re still thinking about that?” Harry waved his hand dismissively. “That happened ages and ages ago. No one cares about that. Apparently Markus Mandy Michelson is everyone’s hero now.”

“You‘ve got the scar.”

“I‘ve got a lot of scars. Which one in specific?” Ginny reached out to point at his forehead and Harry brushed away the hair to reveal the scar. But apparently this was too much for Ginny and she bolted up the stairs almost knocking over Ron.

“What‘s that about?” He asked sleepily.

“She‘s still shy around me. That sucks.”

“Why are you so messed up about it.” Ron asked. Then looked up as if he remembered something. “You were acting like this about Hermione too, last year. Back before she liked us.”

“And that turned out OK.”

“You‘re not gonna climb up a chimney again are you Harry?”

“No Ron but I think I do think I need to take drastic action to correct this situation.” Harry thought for a moment then latched onto a brilliant plan. An amazing plan. Possibly the greatest plan he had ever devised. “You have a few brooms here right?”

“Five last time I looked. My old one, the twins, Percy’s and one Charlie left here.”

“Excellent. I would like to play some Quidditch.”

“But Harry you can‘t play Quidditch. The last time you got on a broom you made a complete fool of yourself.”

“Exactly!”

*

This was the worst plan he had ever come up with.

“You have to follow through.” Ron made a jabbing motion with the flat of his hand. That meant follow through Harry knew, the hand signals were about all he‘d picked up during the game. “Just concentrate on following through. That was the problem that time.”

“No Ron, the problem was that I flew into a tree.” Harry tumbled to the ground and spat out a leaf. “What’s the signal for ‘You’re about to fly into a tree‘?”

“There isn‘t one, we’d have to invent it just for you.” Ron helped him back on his broom and they flew back up to join the twins. Ginny was sitting a little ways away watching them, when Harry had fallen out of the tree she had jumped up in shock. But as Ron and the twins had begun laughing at him he had seen a shadow of a smile cross her face as well. That shadow was all that was keeping him from giving up the entire endeavour and getting his feet back on solid ground.

“Right.” Ron said as they hovered at their end of the pitch. “You make for the right hand side. I‘ll pull them off to the left then pass it to you. Then you can score. Got it?”

“Aye aye Captain!” Harry saluted and almost overbalanced.

“Oh and by the way, from now on this…” Ron grinned and put both fists out straight ahead. “… from now on that means tree.”

“I would punch you Ron, but I‘d fall off if I tried.” Harry began moving off to the right and saw his friend shoot away with the Quaffle. After a moment Ron turned and chucked it ahead of him. He rushed forward to catch it, fumbled it, then snagged it in one hand.

“I got it! I got…” Thump!

Harry struck the ground hard and rolled to a stop in the long grass.

“Ow.” Harry put his hand to the back of his head and sat up. Looking right into the face of Ginny Weasley. She had run over to see if he was alright and now stood, wide eyed before him.

“There didn‘t used to be four of you.” Harry pointed at her with a shaking hand. “Stop being four of you, person… girl… Where am I?” Harry blinked and looked around blurrily. A small noise brought him back to the present and he looked forward. Ginny had her hand over her mouth and was trying hard not to laugh. Little sounds kept escaping like steam out of a kettle.

“You‘ve got steam in your mouth!” Harry tried to get up and fell back on his behind. “Like water but… broken. Where are my glasses? The four of you should be able to find them.” And with that Ginny burst out laughing.

The four Weasley’s carried him off the pitch and Fred and George (who seemed to have experience with head injuries for some reason) pronounced him fine.

“Maybe we should take a break.” Ron said worriedly. “You know, give him time to recover.”

“Better idea.” Harry tossed his broom to Ginny. “You take my spot. I am never ever ever ever ever ever getting on one of those again. From now on I walk where I need to go.”

“Hey! I don’t want her on my team.” Ron said angrily. “That‘s not fair when we’re already behind!”

“Ron…” Harry pitched his voice to match Mrs Weasley’s “Be nice to your sister! And besides, your choices are me or her.”

“Welcome to the team Ginny.”

*

“See! No one can beat my team!” Harry grinned and slapped his chest as the game drew to an official close.

“What do you mean your team.” Ginny glided past him smiling and laughing. “When you went off you were eight goals down. How can you say you won?”

“The team won.” Harry explained with sweeping hand gestures. “And we all played a part in that.”

“And your part is?”

“Cheerleader. I really should get some pompoms.”
________________________________________


Note: Right, thats the second year started.

Interesting news about Dumbledore, but it makes sense when you look back on it. Does kind of make it more tragic however. The champion of accepting people for who they were died without ever himself being accepted. He probably never even told anyone. The bit about how he didn't move against Grindlewald was interesting too and puts the whole thing in a new light. What if Grindlewald was well aware of Dumbledores feelings and used him to gain power in safety? Knowing full well that Dumbledore was the only one who could have posibly stopped him. Ah well...

This is why we need JK Rowling to write some prequels.

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#include "standard_legal_disclamer.h"

Ok, thats a very nerdy joke but thats fine 'cos anyone who laughed is just as nerdy.
________________________________________





Kings cross was crowded beyond belief as the Weasley clan crossed the station towards platform nine and three quarters.

“Hurry up.” Mrs Weasley herded her various charges towards the barrier. “Right. Come everyone, while the muggles aren’t looking.” One by one the redheads shot through the barrier. Harry waited until last, as the summer had drawn to a close he had wondered if perhaps he might not be let back into the school. He had got the book list but perhaps that had been automatic.

“You go first. I‘m fine.” Harry motioned Mrs Weasley ahead of him. “I want to enjoy my last moment of freedom.” She disappeared through the barrier and Harry took a deep breath. There wasn’t much more he could do to put this off. He started running forwards, lowered his head and closed his eyes as he reached the barrier.

Crack! Harry bounced back and fell to the ground gasping. The barrier hadn’t opened! He put his hand to his forehead and it came back bloody. His mind reeled.

“They don’t want me back.” Harry blinked and looked up at the clock. Less than a minute till the train was supposed to leave. “They expelled me.”

Harry stayed on the floor despite the odd looks he was getting. There didn’t seem to be much point in getting up. The clock ticked over the hour. The train was leaving.

Harry looked down platform ten and thought he saw a wisp of smoke rise from beyond the tracks. Where was the wizards platform anyway? A mad idea struck Harry and he was stood back up in a flash. His feet seemed to move of their own accord and he took first one then another halting step along the platform. Another wisp of smoke. He broke into a run and willed his legs to carry him faster and faster.

“it’s a steam train.” Harry dodged past a startled conductor at the end of the platform and jumped down onto the tracks. “It takes a while to speed up.” He pumped his legs for extra speed.

“Digger!” Harry reached onto his backpack and flicked his owl’s cage open. “Catch me up at Hogwarts!” Harry shot to the edge of the train tracks and looked down. The normal, muggle train tracks coming out of kings cross were raised up on a sort of long bridge, raising them several stories above the city streets. Harry glanced down in time to see the end of the Hogwarts express squeeze itself out from between the bricks of the bridge and head off down a track that looked disused. Up ahead the track rose up and joined with the others, if Harry was going to do it, he‘d have to do it now.

“Please! Oh god please let me still be born lucky!” Harry prayed silently, then launched himself off the side.

He crashed into the top of the last carriage and hung onto it for dear life. The train was beginning to pick up speed and Harry crawled to the edge. Thankfully the carriages window was open. Harry swung his bag in through it then slid down into it himself.

“Harry Potter. Nice to meet you.” He said to the aghast first years who’s carriage he’d dropped into. “See you at Hogwarts!” Harry walked shakily out the door. Once he was safely in the corridor he leaned against the wall and slid down till he was on the floor. He wanted to get up and find his friends but for some reason none of his limbs seemed to work. He caught a glimpse of himself in the glass in front of him and blinked in shock. He looked a wreck! Blood ran down the left side of his face and was matted into the hair above.

“M… Mr Potter.” Harry looked around and saw the witch with the trolley standing looking at him. Harry gulped for air.

“Two cauldron cakes please.” He said, trying to think of something that would calm his nerves.

She wordlessly handed him the cakes and took the price of them without once taking her eyes off him. When he was about to leave she finally said.

“Did you… just… jump onto the train.”

“No.” Harry shook his head “No. Definitely not. You‘d have to be crazy to jump on a moving train.”

*

Harry moved down the train as quietly as he could. Trying to find his friends without drawing too much attention. Unfortunately talk travelled fast on the Hogwarts express and he couldn’t go five steps without encountering another stare or pass a group of students without them breaking out in a fit of whispering.

“So pathetic attention seeking Potter strikes again.” The voice was behind him. Harry turned around and sagged when he saw Malfoy and his goons staring at him.

“Malfoy I really don’t have the energy for this now.” It was true. Harry would have liked doing nothing more than simply collapsing on the floor there for the remainder of the journey. “Could you please, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, bugger off and die like the diseased piece of distended rectum flesh you are.”

“Big talk for a kid who can barely stand.” Malfoy took a step forward and Harry retreated. “And I don’t see your little friends here to help you today. This may just be my lucky day.” The three Slytherins advanced on him and Harry drew his wand when…

“Potter!” Harry turned and saw professor McGonagall standing in the carriage. Malfoy and his bodyguards disappeared through a door. “How in Merlin‘s name did you get here?” She grabbed him and pulled out her wand, touching it calmly to the cut on his head then whisking away the blood on his face. “I just spent an unpleasant few minutes arguing with Molly Weasley who was franticly trying to get us to stop the train. She seemed to be under the impression that the barrier had sealed with you on the other side.”

“It did.” Harry nodded. “That’s how I hurt my head.”

“But then. How did you get here?”

“You honestly, really and truly don’t want to know.”

“Harry…”

“I jumped onto the train.”

“YOU JUMPED ONTO THE TRAIN!”

“The barrier had sealed up! There wasn‘t any other way! And besides, I had a head injury. I‘m not sure I was in an entirely rational frame of mind.”

“That is beside the point Mr Potter, but after the stunt you pulled at the end of last year I suppose I should not be entirely surprised.” She straightened up “We will have to discuss this further in my office at Hogwarts. At the very least you will receive several days detention.”

“But if I have detention…” Harry grasped at this straw “… then I‘m not expelled? Right?”

“No Mr Potter. Not this time.” She began walking away down the train. “Go to my office when we reach Hogwarts.”

“After the sorting?”

“As soon as you reach the castle.”

“Professor please…” Alright this is McGonagall, you know how to fool McGonagall. She acts tough but she’s all mushy inside. “… my friend’s sister’s getting sorted today and she‘s worried about it. All her brothers are in Gryffindor, whole family really. I should be there for her. Please?”

“Alright Mr Potter. After the sorting.” McGonagall’s eyes had gotten softer as Harry had spoken. “But before the feast.”

“Of course Professor. I‘ll be there.”

“And I will owl Mrs Weasley to inform her you are safe.” She turned away and Harry was left alone once again in the corridor.

*

Harry eventually found the Marauders compartment and slid the door open.

“Hello freindlies!”

“Harry!” Hermione’s mouth dropped open. “Ron said you couldn‘t get onto the platform!”

“Couldn’t.” Harry noticed Ginny sitting quietly in the corner of the compartment. Ron had probably been told to keep an eye on her. “Had to acquire entry to the train by… other means.”

“Apparation?” Padma had apparently also caught some sun over the summer, though it was less noticeable on her. “You do know that’s illegal.”

“Couldn‘t care less. But no.”

“Portkey?” Neville seemed to think for a moment. “Or a broom?”

“No.” Ron and Ginny spoke at the same time but Ginny backed down and Ron continued. “Harry swore blind he‘d never touch another broom.”

“Oh god I know what it is.” Parvarti put her hand to her mouth and began shaking her head. “I was talking to Lavender down the other end of the train. I thought she was joking.”

“What is it?” Hermione asked and the marauders seemed to hang waiting for the answers.

“You jumped onto the top of the train.” The marauders turned as one to look at him.

“Maybe.” None of his friends seemed to want to speak.

“Harry...” Neville broke the silence. “…you‘re crazy.”

“I know.” Harry sat as the other snapped out of their shock and started speaking all at once. “It‘s beginning to worry me.”

*

The train meandered its long journey through the hills and Harry ducked out of the conversations around him. His head still hurt and he didn’t have the energy to entertain people. He leaned against the cold window as rain started to streak down, leaving little trails on the window pane. He closed his eyes and lay there for a long while. Little trails of water, swirling, drowning.

“Harry.” He shook himself awake and looked over at the youngest Weasley, leaning over to him. “Are you alright?” Harry looked around the compartment, the rest of his friends were still talking amongst themselves. “You‘re face was all scrunched up like you were dreaming.”

“Oh, are we there yet.” Harry kind of wanted to get back to sleep. Even if it was to bad dreams.

“Not for a while.” Ginny bit her lip worriedly. Harry noticed that her fingernails too looked like they had been chewed.

“Worried?” Harry grinned as she jerked in surprise. Harry waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t worry. You‘ll love it there. Lessons are easy, specially charms. Friends everywhere. Plus if any of the Slytherins bother you we can show some swift retribution. We’re feared by that house.”

“That‘s kind of what I‘m worried about.” Ginny glanced at the red edges on Harry’s robes.

“Ah.” Thought Harry. “My guess was right, and I just made that up to soften up McGonagall.”

“You‘re worried about the sorting.” Harry said out loud. “Want to be Gryffindor?”

“Yes. If I don’t my brothers ‘ll never forgive me.”

“Then tell it so.” Harry looked at the young girls startled expression. “You know what the sorting hat is right?” nod. “Then tell it you want to be a Gryffindor. Don’t take no for an answer. It’s your life, don’t let a hat make decisions for you.” Harry leaned back down and closed his eyes again.

*

“What the hell?” Ron voiced what they were all thinking as the marauders moved away from the train at Hogsmead. Ginny had left to take her little boat ride and the six friends now stood in front of a line of carriages, each drawn by a thin scaly horse with folded leathery wings. “Charlie told me the carriages pulled themselves?”

“Maybe they’ve changed since your brothers day.” Said Harry climbing into one of them. “And besides…” He looked around “No one else seems to think anything’s amiss.”

“Still think this is weird.”

*

Ginny Weasley stood fidgeting in front of the hall as the sorting hat finished its song. She was so nervous she wanted to bite her nails despite the face they were already worn to the pith. Well, at least she was a Weasley. Her name would be called near to last. She saw Harry on the Gryffindor table spinning three forks in the air in front of him. She tried to catch his eye but failed, he was talking to his real friends. Everyone began to pay attention as Dumbledore stood up.

“Before we begin the sorting I‘d like to announce two things. One is that, despite what this empty chair seems to indicate, we have found a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.” Ginny looked along the teachers table and saw a lank-haired professor grimace. She giggled, that must be professor Snape. “Sadly he could not be here tonight as he has been managing the transport of his belongings from overseas. Rest assured that he has my full confidence and he will introduce himself, probably at length…” did the lank-haired professor just grimace even more? “…in your first lesson with him tomorrow. Now the second thing is that we will be doing this years sorting backwards.”

“What?” That prompted a murmuring about the hall.

“Yes, call it an old mans fancy. Now let us continue so that we can enjoy a brilliant feast after we are all done.” Dumbledore sat back down but the murmuring hadn’t ceased. McGonagall then took her place, the expression on her face clearly showing that the Headmaster had not discussed this with her. She looked down at her paper and read…

“Weasley, Ginevra.”

“What! Oh…” Ginny thought as she walked out in front of the school. “Backwards…” The last thing she saw before she pulled the hat down over her eyes were the Marauders turning to watch her.

“Another Weasley, seems I see those on almost a yearly basis. But a Weasley girl? Why I haven’t seen one like you in…”

“I chose Gryffindor.” It seemed to her that the hat gasped loudly all around her.

“That’s not quite how it works Weasley girl.”

“No. That is how it works. Harry told me I could choose my house. I want to be in Gryffindor.”

“Quite brave of you to just shout it out it like that. Almost forces me to pick Gryffindor.” Shout it out?…Oh god!

“Ah… You didn‘t realise you were speaking out loud?”
Ginny lifted the brim of the hat just enough to see around the Hall. There was whispering everywhere, and every face had an identical visage of shocked astonishment. Her eyes searched out her brothers at the Gryffindor table. Percy had buried his face in his hands and seemed to be trying to pretend it all wasn’t happening, Fred and George were watching her with huge evil grins and Ron, Ron just looked confused. Her eyes flickered past Ron to Harry and their gazes locked, then the boy did the oddest thing, he pulled up his sleeve, put his hand palm out and jabbed forward.

Follow through

Ginny glanced back at the teachers table, where every face mirrored the astonishment of the students. She glanced back to Harry and he jabbed again. Well, if she was gonna follow through then there was only one thing for it...

“Yep.” She said, trying to not have her voice break out in whimpers. “Definitely Gryffindor.” And with that she pulled the hat off her head, set it down on the chair and walked steadily towards Harry. She blanked out everything else in the hall, the whispers rising, the teachers, everything. There was a seat next to Harry and she was sitting in it. She reached the bench and hopped onto it, everyone was looking at her.

“Stay perfectly calm.” Harry’s voice but she swore his lips barely moved. “Look straight ahead and don’t give them any sign they’re getting to you.” Easy for him to say! She stayed exactly where she was as the silence crawled on. Then something touched her hand by her side. A candy of some kind. Without a word, and before the silent stares of the whole hall, she brought out, unwrapped and calmly ate a liquorice wand.

Every eye in the hall turned as they heard McGonagall clear her throat then…

“Kingston, Victor.”

It was as if the hall had been holding its breath the entire time and now let it out in a wave of chatter. Ginny felt someone clap her on the back and looked sideways into Harry’s face.

“Thank you.” Ginny breathed through the noise. “I didn‘t know what to do. I didn’t even realise I was talking out loud.”

“Figured as much.” Harry said glibly and offered her another liquorice wand. “Good thing I was paying attention, who the hell is Ginevra Weasley?”

The small boy with exquisitely waxed hair and sunglasses apparently named Victor Kingston had reached the hat and was looking down at it worriedly. He looked like he was about to pick it up then looked at the tables in the hall.

“Ravenclaw. I think I like Ravenclaw.”

“On the plus side you may have started a revolution.” Harry had leaned in to talk to her again. “On the minus McGonagall’s gonna kill you…”

A vague looking girl was now looking at the hat thoughtfully before declaring that she was going to “The red haired girl’s house.”

“Are you our new house mascot Ginny?” Fred leaned over and grinned at his sister.

“We could make up some new banners if you like.” His twin leaned in from the other side of the table.

“Leave her twins.” Harry was holding her by both shoulders away from her older brothers. “She tricked the hat, swindled McGonagall, caused a cross house revolution and all in front of the entire school!” Harry grabbed her and hugged her from behind. “You can‘t have her! She‘s ours!”

“What’s he talking about.” Ginny didn’t think she could grin more than she was as she shot the question at her brother across the table. But it was Parvarti Patil who answered her.

“He means that you‘re the type of person who goes for what they want and has the nerve to see it through and doesn‘t care what the rules say or who thinks what!” She stuck out her hand “Welcome to the Marauders.”

By the end of the day Ginervrador House (as it was briefly called) had an unusually large class of first years. Filch had to move some of the beds.

*

As Harry trudged back from his first detention with McGonagall that night (polishing hundreds and hundreds of brass buttons that were just going to be transfigured into beetles anyway) he leaned on the wall near the portrait hole and closed his eyes for a moment.

“Harry Potter sir!”

Harry opened his eyes and immediately realised his head injury must have been worse than he thought. The Hallucination had long pointy ears and was wearing some sort of ragged cloth like a toga.

“Wha…?”

“Harry Potter should never have got on the train!”

“Who?” Harry shook his head but the small figure remained “What and/or who are you? ”

“Dobby sir. Dobby the house elf.” The odd little creature bowed to him, its nose almost touching the floor. “Dobby is truly sorry to have caused trouble for such a great wizard as Harry Potter. But Harry Potter must leave Hogwarts!”

“Caused trouble? What trouble?” Harry slid off the wall and stood straight. His wand was inconveniently tucked in an inside pocket, hard to reach. Was this creature a threat? “What are you talking about?”

“Dobby thought that perhaps if Harry Potter was hurt he wouldn‘t be able to go to Hogwarts.”

“What precisely…” Harry heavily enunciated the word “… are you talking about.”

“Dobby thought that if the platform closed…”

“That was you!” Harry snapped forward like a shot and caught the little creature by the arms. The thing whined and tried to break away but he held on. “I could have missed the bloody train!” The creature nodded and whimpered a little more. “I could have been killed! Wait… knockturn alley…” Harry remembered the rubber wall. The elf stiffened again and he seemed to be avoiding Harry’s eyes. “That was you as well! Why WHY!” He picked the thing up and shook it roughly. “Are you trying to kill me? Are you?” The elf was truly crying now and Harry let him go. The pitiful thing crawled away from Harry and sat on the floor, looking up at him with its huge, tear filled eyes. It looked like a kicked puppy.

“Look, I‘m sorry.” Harry reached out towards the elf but it shied away. “I didn‘t mean to hurt you. The hospital wing isn‘t far, can I…”

“No!” Dobby’s face became a mask of fear. “Dobby cannot be seen. Dobby‘s masters can never know. Dobby isn‘t hurt, Dobby gets far worse than this at home. Dobby’s masters are…” the elf seemed to stiffen for a moment then he rushed over to the wall and began hitting his head on it hard.

“Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby!”

“Wait! Hey, Stop!” Harry was torn between the need to stop it hurting itself and trying to avoid grabbing it again since he’d obviously hurt him. He pulled his robe off, quickly balled it up and (between head bounces) slid it between Dobby and the wall. The poor elf continued on for a couple of hits, apparently not realising he was now cushioned, then dropped to the floor.

“Thank you sir.” The elf’s voice was a little quaky. “Dobby almost spoke ill of his masters.”

“Dobby…” Harry saw a need to tread carefully here. “If, IF remember! Hypothetically I asked who your masters were. Would you have to punish yourself?” The elf quickly nodded.

“If I asked you to write it?” nod.

“If I asked you to act it out like charades?” The elf appeared to think about this, cocking its head to the side. Then he nodded.

“If I asked you to tell me why you want me to leave Hogwarts?” the elf’s head stayed very still. “How much can you tell me without having to punish yourself?”

“Danger. Dobby knows that danger has come to Hogwarts. Death…”

“If I asked you whether your masters were involved?” Dobby tensed like a rod. “Just IF remember, if I asked you that would you have to punish yourself?”

Dobby nodded. Harry smiled, that meant his masters were involved. Otherwise why would he be forbidden to tell anyone?

“And is I asked what form the danger would take?”

But at this Dobby shook his head furiously and put his hands over his ears. The poor elf began rocking backwards and forwards and keening.

“It‘s OK Dobby. You don’t have to tell me.” The rocking stopped and the elf uncurled.

“Harry Potter will leave Hogwarts?”

“No. But I will be careful, very careful.”

“Harry Potter must leave, Harry Potter is in danger.”

“I usually am Dobby.” Harry leaned forward conspiratorially. “That just makes it more fun.”
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Please review, especially if you think it's bad. Really, it'll help me improve.

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“Wonder if he‘s cute?” Parvarti wondered quizzically as the second years wandered to the defence against the dark arts classroom. They had the class first period Monday, so would be the first to meet the new teacher. “Dumbledore said he‘s foreign, so I bet he‘s cute.”

“I just wonder if he‘ll be a good teacher.” Hermione hung her head a little. “After a year of… of bad teaching we need to catch up. We‘ll be lucky if we can make it up in time for the OWLs.” Harry could tell she had been about to say Quirrell, but had stopped herself. As far as he could tell none of his friends wanted to think about the events at the end of last year.

“Well, so long as he only has one face, I‘ll be happy.” Harry stuck his hands behind his head and laughed. “Right?” The others stopped for a moment, then grinned with him. “Thought so. Anyway…” Harry was the first to the door and pushed it open. “… after Quirrell we can‘t do much worse can we?”

“Pipsqueak! Told you I‘d see you again!”

“No…” Harry looked across the room at Markus Maximus Michelson “…please no…”

“Take a seat up front my good lad! I can already tell this is going to be one of your favourite classes!” The marauders filed in the front row and the other student moved in behind them. All of them looking a little apprehensively at the booming muscled figure in front of them.

“The name’s Professor Markus Triple-M Michelson. I‘ll be your Defence against the dark arts teacher this year. Thought I‘d take a break from the globe-trotting to pass on some of my knowledge to the next generation!” He swept his hat off and spun it across the room, it landed neatly on top of a suit of armour. “ Oh and by the way the Ms stand for Maximus, Mighty and Magesto but they might as well stand for Muscular, Magical and most of all Masculine!” He laughed and put his fists on his hips. “So, on to the Matriculation!” He grabbed the register off the table and began yelling out names, variously chuckling at the odd names and winking at any girl who answered him quickly. When he got to Potter he said

“Know you‘re here Pipsqueak! Don’t need to even ask!” then went on. Harry dreaded looking backwards but did so anyway. Near the back Draco Malfoy looked at him and mouthed the word pipsqueek then sneered. Harry groaned, he‘d never hear the end of this.

When the register was finished the professor strode up to the front of the class. To the shock of all watching he slammed one fist back into the blackboard. Words jumped off the surface as if they had been jolted into being.

“Duelling!” The professor said and indeed this was the title on the board. “Who here has cast something harsher than jelly-legs at another wizard?”

A few hands went up around the class, including Harry’s. Neville gulped and tried to hold his hand as low as possible, but Padma took it and jerked it up.

“You there!” Markus pointed to Neville. Padma giggled. “What have you used?”

“Full Body Bind sir.” Neville appeared to be wishing he had a hole to crawl into.

“Good! Good solid spell! Incantation, for those who don’t know is Petrificus Totalus. And who did you use it on?”

“McGonagall.”

“Mc…McGonagall?” A nervous titter of laughter ran around the classroom. “Right, OK. Um… Anyone else?” He pointed at Harry, “How bout you pipsqueak?”

“Acerbus cuspis.”

“The pain-spear spell.” The teacher stopped moving and turned back towards Harry. “A curse originating in the time of the inquisition, considered by many to be Dark Magic?”

“Er…”

“And who did you use it on?”

“Quirrell.”

“Right OK.” Michelson shook his head. “Before we dredge up any more assaults against Hogwarts teachers lets start on something else. Who here knows what a shield charm is?” Many of the hands went down (though not of course, Hermione’s) “Right! we’ll start there.”

*

The class let out an hour later. Many of the students had the after-effects of minor jinxes and hexes on them from when their shields hadn’t been good enough or when their opponents had been too good. Professor Michelson seemed to think all of it extremely funny and laughed outrageously at every furiously-dancing, uncontrollably-coughing or unnaturally-warty student before cancelling their affliction and sending them on their way. Half way through the class he had picked Harry to demonstrate some more serious hexes to the class. Harry‘s shield charm wasn‘t nearly good enough and he ended up suffering for every spell that winged his way.

“I hate him! I hate that muscle-head bastard!” Harry ranted as they walked to history of magic. “He knows my name and he keeps calling me pipsqueak! He singles me out! He will pay for this! Right?”

The other marauders kept a safe distance, giggling behind their hands.

“You know Harry, he seems to be a pretty good teacher.” Hermione said. Harry rounded on her. “I mean, some adult wizards can’t do shield charms and he managed to get half the class doing them in just one lesson.”

“He keeps calling me short!” Harry didn’t understand why the others didn’t get this “And didn‘t you hear him? Mighty, Majestic, Mouldering… He loves himself!”

“Well…” Parvarti chipped in “He is cute.” Harry’s face became stony and dark. “And he… winked at me.”

“You‘ll see.” Harry turned and began back towards the history of magic classroom “You‘ll all see! After you meet him a few times you‘ll agree with me about Markus Mary Michelson!”

*

But they didn’t.

Defence Against the Dark Arts quickly became the most looked forward to lesson by the entire school. Every few lessons Markus Michelson would introduce a new combat spell and work with them, pulling them with laughs, belittlement and encouragement, to perfect the spell. From disarming and stunning through to shields and self-defence he taught everything with an identical laugh and identical arrogant attitude. Harry remained sullen and silent in these lessons especially when the inevitable happened and he was called up to help demonstrate a new spell. He had tried to get the marauders riled up to play a prank on Professor Michelson but they had flatly refused. Harry had to content himself with dropping potion on a group off Slytherins that gave them oozing boils. It had been quiet complex, whoever the pus hit when the boils exploded developed them as well.

It was on his way back from heavy detention that he heard someone yell. Harry saw a first year rush past him upstairs and followed him, towards the noise. A group of students were gathered on the third floor. Harry pushed through them without a thought and stopped at the front to see a horrific sight. Painted on the wall in what looked like blood were the words…

Arise those of ancient blood! Cast out the impure from this house of our fathers! Be true to your bloodline! Destroy the enemies of the heir! This is the call to arms!

Harry glanced to his side, lined up next to one another stood a group of Slytherins. Malfoy, Goyle and Flint stood side by side, each wearing identical expressions of Glee.

On the floor in front of the letters crouched poor Victor Kingston, the kid who’d liked the look of Ravenclaw, curled up in fear behind his sunglasses.

Harry moved closer on instinct and put his fingers to the boys neck.

“What are you doing?” A voice behind him hissed but he ignored them.

“He doesn‘t have a pulse.” Harry murmured, trying to move his fingers around for a better feel. “No pulse. Get Madam Pomfrey! Get Dumbledore!”

“Both are here Harry.” Harry looked up to see the Headmaster walk to the edge of the crowd. He stood back gratefully as the school nurse went to work.

“Is he… dead?” An older Ravenclaw at the edge of the circle asked and a whisper of breathless shock swept the crowd.

“No.” Professor Dumbledore said calmly “He appears to have been petrified.”

“Will he recover?” Harry noticed that the Ravenclaw was a prefect, she had probably known Victor.

“Yes Miss Clearwater. I think so, in time.” Tension seemed to go out of the group but the prefect pressed on.

“Professor…” She glanced up at the writing on the wall. “Victor was a muggleborn, do you think that there‘s any danger?”

“I am sure I can trust every student here to act in a way that does not dishonour the good name of this school.”

“Yeah right.” Harry thought and glanced back at Malfoy and the other Slytherins. “Seems a war’s been called. People are already choosing sides.”

*

The first attack happened just the next morning. Hannah Abbot was found with a broken arm at the bottom of the steps leading down to the Hufflepuff common room. Her bag and books strewn haphazardly at the top. She’d been coming up from the cellar early to get breakfast and been pushed back down.

Professor sprout took her to the hospital wing. But no one had seen what happened, not even Hannah, and no matter how much they asked the Professors couldn’t find who had done it.

The next day a group of Slytherins cornered a first year in one of the upper corridors and began hexing him over and over. Only Flitwick happening past had stopped worse happening.

In a matter of weeks it was no longer safe for a muggleborn or half-blood student to be out on their own. Madam Pomfrey was being worked of her feet by the stream of injuries coming into her care.

Then, one morning, Oliver Wood the Gryffindor Quidditch captain was petrified in the prefects bathroom. The teachers had tried to keep a lid on it but the words that had been scrawled on the walls somehow got out.

Mudbloods and blood-traitors cower in fear! The heir of Slytherin returns and the chamber has been opened. Rise up around his standard! Spill the spoilt blood on the ground!

“It‘s getting worse.” Harry said as they walked towards their next class. “I mean just look!” He gestured out the window.

There was a huddle of students scurrying along the wall and slipping in a door. A moment later a group of Slytherins hurried into the courtyard with their with wands out.

“Harry no!” Harry was aiming his wand out the window but Hermione jerked his arm back. “If we start fighting back things will escalate! We have to let the teachers handle it.”

“They can‘t.” Padma said dully as they passed the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom “Not on this scale.” Her sister nodded silently. Her normally cheerful mood dulled.

“Padma‘s right Hermione.” Ron shook his head. “Things are just getting worse and besides, we can‘t afford to lose any more Quidditch players.”

“Is that all you care about!”

“I just meant…”

“Shut up.” Harry snapped back at them irritably. “Quidditch is about as much use as you two bickering when things are going to hell all around us. We‘ve got to do something.”

“But what?” Padma said, shaking her head. “This isn‘t like Quirrell Harry. There‘s no evil genius behind it. Its half the school, trying the kill the other half and we don’t know till too late which is which.”

“With some we got a pretty good idea.” Harry murmured darkly as they passed a group of Slytherins. The Marauders curled around Hermione like a human shield as they passed and only spread back out after they had gone. A second later Harry’s wand vibrated in his pocket. “Damn it!” Harry motioned the others to quiet and the sound of hexing could be heard above them. They broke into a run towards the nearest stair.

*

“Leave him alone!” Ginny’s own voice sounded shrill in her ears. She stepped in front her injured friend and tried to swallow her fear.

“What? Protecting your mudblood boyfriend traitor?” Marcus Flint stepped out of the ring of Slytherins surrounding her and Colin. “Step aside for me. I‘d rather not spill wizard blood, even your families, unless I have to.”

“Mico Harry.” Ginny whispered, holding her wand out in front of her. Hoping he was in range. “Mico Harry.”

“Your boyfriend doesn‘t look up to much.” Flint said stepping closer and eyeing the quivering Gryffindor. “Maybe you want a real man?”

“Mico Ron. Mico Hermione.”

“What’s that?” Flint leant forward to hear. “That supposed to be a hex? Ha! What‘s it do?” Flint laughed and his cohorts around him started laughing too.

“It summons demons!”

As Marcus’ head jerked up a bludgeoning hex struck him in the chest. He was thrown back and his friends drew their wands as the marauders rushed them from the stairwell.

*

Harry was the first to admit that he probably wasn’t destined to be a duellist. His first strike against the seventh year had been lucky and he now found himself shielding for his life in the middle of a war-zone. Other students from other houses had been drawn in or joined in or been pushed in by the crowd and now the corridor was filled with flashing lights and cries of pain.

“You‘re dead Potter. Oh you‘re dead.” Flint advanced on him and Harry ducked behind a statue as the big Slytherins curse smashed into the ground near his feet. A second one smacked into the stone wizard and it began to topple over. Harry scrambled out as it crashed to the floor and jabbed his wand at his assailant.

“Expelliarmus!” The spell struck Flint but his thick, sausage-like fingers were curled tightly around his wand.

“Confringo!” Harry leapt out of the way of the blasting curse and fell badly on his shoulder. He threw his own back in answer and the snake stumbled backwards. Harry jumped to his feet and shot a bludgeoning hex only to have it rebound off a shield and smack him in the chest. Tumbling backwards he landed on his back among the debris. His wand skittered off along the floor. A shadow fell over him and a huge booted foot slammed onto his chest, holding him down.

“Hello Potter.” Flint pointed his wand at Harry’s face. “Now I‘m gona have some fun.”

A moment later Flint was thrown off him as a sweeping wave of light shot through the corridor, forcibly pulling opponents apart.

Harry’s hand darted out and grabbed his wand while he looked for the source of the spell. His eyes found Albus Dumbledore standing at the end of the corridor with several other teachers behind him.

“Is any student here injured or in need of the hospital wing?” His voice was stony as he eyed the assembled students. A few students raised their hands. Dumbledore nodded and turned to speak to the teachers behind him. “Please escort them there.” No one spoke as the wounded were gathered up. Harry saw Markus Michelson handing Ginny her bag with one hand while picking Colin up in his other. As Professor McGonagall walked past him he caught her eyes for a moment, they were cold, harsh and disappointed. When the last of the injured were gone the Headmaster turned back to the remaining students.

“Now can anyone tell me why this happened? Why Hogwarts students saw fit to turn this corridor into a battleground?” He looked over the students and Harry realised that he and Flint were right out in the middle, the two of them surrounded by emptiness. Somehow the ringleaders had been singled out. “Why students who I thought I could trust to act in good faith instead acted like fools?”

No one spoke. No one wanted to draw attention to themselves.

“You will all return to your common rooms now. Tomorrow morning you will all come to the great hall where you will spend your Saturday in silence. You will return the day after that and for many weekends to come until I decide that the peace and quiet of the school has returned. Your parents will also be informed of your disappointing behaviour.” Dumbledore gestured at the children. “Go off now. Not you Harry!” Harry was drawn back by Dumbledore’s voice. Marcus Flint smirked at him with his troll-like smile and slinked off. Harry followed the Headmaster in silence as he turned and walked off through the school. He stopped before a gargoyle on the second floor.

“Sherbet Lemon.” The childish password seemed oddly out of kilter with the situation. They remained silent as they were raised up by the staircase and walked out into the Headmasters office.

Harry glanced around in wonder at the odd silver machines, many moving or making soft sounds, filling tables around the edges of the office. His eyes were drawn to the perch behind the desk where a tired looking red bird sat. Even as Harry watched another of its feathers fell off and twirled towards the floor.

Dumbledore caught it before it hit and slipped it into an inside pocket of his robes. He turned and sat behind the heavy desk. Saying nothing, he regarded the student before him over steepled fingers.

Harry knew that with any other teacher this was the time to be quiet and look guilty, but with Dumbledore he might actually be better off explaining.

“Professor.” He began and licked his dry lips. Dumbledore’s eyes flicked to his. “I heard the sounds of someone being attacked nearby and I went to see whether I could help. When we… I got there Marcus Flint and some other Slytherins had the first years surrounded.” He couldn’t tell what effect this was having on the Headmaster. His expression was inscrutable. “I fired a spell to make them back off and they responded, I never thought that so many other students would be drawn in or that it would snowball like this. I‘m sorry.”

“You cast the first hex?”

“They had been beating up Colin Creevey before we got there.” Harry felt too guilty to lie. “But I threw the first combat spell yes.”

“Several students are injured Harry.” Gods teeth the ragged bird was eyeballing him as well. “And there was some structural damage to the school. Several paintings were damaged and statues broken.”

“I was just trying to help sir. I didn’t want any of that.”

“And with this atmosphere of fear already around the school you have given everyone another reason to hate each other.” Harry felt very small in front of the continued stare. “Worse, you have escalated this problem with your actions. Next time people will be even quicker to draw wands in anger. Next time the hexes will be worse and people could be seriously injured Harry, do you understand that?”

“Yes sir.” Harry thought of Marcus Flint’s smirk. Next time they wouldn’t wait to taunt people.

“Today you chose to fight hatred with anger and violence. That way will always breed further hatred do you understand that?”

“Yes sir.”

“See that you do not repeat this mistake.”

“Yes sir. Thank you.” Harry walked out of the office. All the way to the door he could feel the old mans eyes on his back.

*

Harry walked back slowly to the Gryffindor common room. By chance the route took him back past the battleground. Some attempt had been made to clean up but the place still felt damaged. Great chunks were missing from the stone and the broken paintings had all been taken down. The passage was bare. Harry saw movement at the other end and tensed for a second, then relaxed as he saw red hair and freckles.

“Ginny?”

“Harry.” The little girl moved up the corridor towards him. Stopping just a little way down from him. “I‘m so sorry I got you into trouble. I shouldn‘t have micod for you. Hermione said you could be expelled.”

“If I was expelled every time Hermione said I would be I‘d be some sort o’ world record.” Harry walked up to his newest recruit and ruffled her hair. “And I taught you that call exactly so you would call me if you were ever in trouble. All this…” Harry waved his hand at the damage and shook his head. “Not your fault. But why are you back here? Shouldn‘t you be in the common room.”

“I was… waiting… for you.” Ginny glanced to the left and bit her lip.

“Remind me to teach you to lie convincingly Ginny.” Harry looked into her eyes. There was a surprising amount of fear there. “Why don’t you want to tell me? You don’t have to you know.”

“Lost something.” Ginny’s voice became smaller with each word she said. “A Diary. Must have fallen out in the fight.”

“Your diary‘s missing?” Harry shook his head. “Did you write anything bad in there?”

“Not my diary.”

“Whose? Nicking someone’s diary is all very marauder of you but…”

“I found it in my books before I even got here. Thought maybe it got left there.”

“Who‘s was it?”

“The front said it was Tom Marvolo Riddle‘s.” Ginny was acting almost like when he’d first met her.

“And the bit you‘re not telling me is…” He hated doing this but she was obviously hiding something.

“It was… special.” Ginny seemed to shrink into the ground a little. “It spoke to me.”

“Spoke? It could talk?”

“No, he wrote back when I wrote him things.” Ginny curled up on the floor and hugged her legs up to her chest. “It was blank but it wrote back. He was so nice. I had someone to talk to finally.”

“Someone to talk to?” Harry scratched his head. What did she mean? “You have six brothers don’t you?”

“I can’t talk to them.” Ginny began to sob a little. “They don’t understand. They laugh at me. Tom understood. And now he‘s gone. What if someone else picks him up? What if he tells them the stuff I wrote?” Ginny looked up shocked and scared and suddenly broke down into tears. Harry just stood there, he didn’t know what the hell to do.

“I mess everything up.” Ginny gulped between sobs. “I lost Tom and everyone‘s going to read him! I messed up the sorting! I started a fight and almost got you expelled!”

“Ginny listen to me.” Harry tried grabbing her shoulder but she wouldn’t look at him. With his other hand he cupped her face and brought it up so he could see her eyes. “Tom sounds like a good friend, I‘m sure you can trust him to keep your secrets. I mean, other people must have had the diary before you and Tom never told you any of their secrets right?”

Merlin’s beard, he didn’t know what he was doing. What did he know about comforting people?

“And as for this.” He pointed around the corridor. “All this we can fix. We can fix everything, don’t worry. I‘ll help you.” He was babbling, as if she’d care about the corridor.

“And…” Ginny had stopped crying at least. “You don’t hate me?” Harry shook his head.

“Only when you cry. Gryffindors don’t cry.” He regretted it as soon as he said it, that wasn’t what she needed to hear. As he had often done before Harry asked himself where Hermione was when he needed her. She would have known what to say. He smudged a sleeve against Ginny’s cheeks to get rid of the tears. At least he could do that right.

“Come on. Lets get back to the common room.” He stood up and held out a hand to her. “And as for having a friend to talk to…” He pulled her into a rough hug then let her go. “… what am I a stranger?”

“Harry.” Ginny was looking up at him now. “Why couldn’t I have had you as a brother instead of Ron?”

“Because I‘m not ginger and my skin can take a tan. Why’d you ask?” But Ginny didn’t answer him.

“She’s probably distraught.” Harry thought, putting an arm over her shoulder and walking with her towards Gryffindor tower. “I‘m no good at this sort of thing.”

________________________________________
I own none of the characters, places, ect...
________________________________________



As days went by Harry found it harder and harder to keep his word to Dumbledore. Little fights were breaking out all over the school. A student could hardly go from lesson to lesson without seeing people running scared or hearing hexing.

Harry and other willing students had arranged to walk any muggleborns too and from lectures. It helped, a little, with both the students themselves and Harry’s guilt. But every time he heard cries in the distance or saw a grin on the face of a green robed student he shuddered, but kept walking. Worse it seemed like more and more students from other houses were answering the call and more and more dangerous hexes seemed to be thrown around each day. Just a few days ago Su Li had been found with deep cuts all over her, like she‘d been rolled in glass. Worse, she had been inside the ravenclaw common room.

Harry knew that he was at least partially to blame for the escalation in violence but he knew who was really to blame, Markus Michelson!

Half the spells being thrown around had been taught to them in Defence class and Professor Michelson had been pushing them, hell even encouraging them to fight. His first class had been on duelling! Harry would had pointed this to people and (even from Hermione) got grudging agreement.

It seemed that the muscle-bound teacher had realised his mistake himself. As the violence mounted the teacher had looked more and more distressed and tired. That day (for the first time ever in his class) they had taken notes from the textbook.

Harry grimaced as he looked around the classroom, a group of Slytherins with Malfoy in the centre sat near the back, with their heads together. Harry turned back to his work and shook his head.

“Maybe Dumbledore‘s wrong.” Harry looked up in shock, Neville was sitting next to him. “Maybe, you know… we should try to do something.”

“Last time we tried to get involved things went worse Neville. Much worse. I don’t want to screw up again.”

“But, we can‘t just let this go on.” Neville was looking at him a little desperately. “You‘re going to do something, right?” Harry glanced back at the group of Slytherins. They were grinning now.

“Give me an option.” Harry flipped the page on the book in front of him and dipped his quill again. “’cos I‘m fresh out of them.”

Harry felt his friend lean away from him. He had heard the quiet hope in his friends voice and felt bad for dashing it. But what could he do? He would only make things worse, he couldn’t interfere.

And he kept that promise.

For about five hours.

*

Harry closed his book and looked around the library trying to work out if it was worth checking it out. He had been considering employing some of the spells in Secrecy and Illusion to get students safely between lessons but they were irritatingly either to complex to be preformed quickly or to simple to be of use. He had been trying to find similar books in the library but the Hogwarts seemed to have very few of them.

Harry’s face twisted into a real smile for the first time in a while. It was almost like they didn’t trust the students.

He quietly decided that the book wasn’t worth it and got up. Madam Pince was hovering nearby frowning at the students cluttering up her library.

“Go on out.” She hurried Harry out and gestured at the other students. “I have to close up.”

Harry shook his head and trudged away from the musty place. It was dark already, and Harry hunched a little as he walked down the echoing corridor alone. The fact that he was this scared to be alone in the heart of Hogwarts disturbed Harry a lot. It reminded him of cold streets where you were never really safe, never well enough hidden. Harry‘s step quickened as he thought of the warmth of Gryffindor tower.

Was that a cry? Harry’s feet slowed and he moved to the side of the staircase he was on. There it was again, coming from the top of the staircase. Harry lowered himself flat to the stairs near the top and slipped a periscope out of his pocket, taking care to keep quiet he pushed it above the top step.

He could see two people cowering on the floor and three around them in a circle. One of the three moved forward, Harry groaned inwardly as the moonlight shone on Malfoy’s blond hair. That made the other two Crabbe and Goyle. It also made him outnumbered.

“So little mudblood.” Malfoy was speaking softly in the dark above the stairs. “What kind of spell shall we use next?” One of the students rolled over on the floor and Harry saw her clearly for the first time. A Ravenclaw, perhaps a year or two ahead of him. Her chocolate skin had raised red blotches like bee stings. It looked like she had been hit with stinging hexes. Lots of stinging Hexes.

“No! Please stop, please.” The girl whimpered, she sounded like she was crying.

Harry gritted his teeth, this was too much. Dumbledore be dammed! Harry glanced around for something he could use to help him. He might get one of the Slytherins from a surprise attack but he certainly couldn’t beat the other two. If he took out Malfoy he’d be left fighting two students larger than him at the top of a tall staircase. On the other hand if he took out Crabbe or Goyle he’d be left duelling Malfoy who repeatedly outperformed him in defence class. Neither of the students on the floor looked up to helping him.

“Maybe something darker.” Malfoy drawled and his cohorts chuckled. “I‘ve read about this frostbite curse…” That bloody did it.

He’d get Malfoy and deal with the other two somehow. Harry was just about to push himself up when a voice from across the landing spoke.

“Move away Draco.” The three Slytherins glanced away from their prey. In the shadows of an archway a figure was just visible, wand held firmly at waist height in the ready position. “Just go back to the Dungeon.” The voice was tired but firm. Malfoy squinted into the darkness then sneered.

“Split.”

“Malfoy.” The figure moved a little into the light. He was a Slytherin boy, maybe third or fourth year with shaggy black hair and bags under his eyes to match his voice. “You have one of mine down there.” He nodded to the other figure on the floor. Harry noticed for the first time that it was another Slytherin.

“Well…” Malfoy appeared to consider for a moment. “This one is no fun anymore anyway, Goyle stunned her or something by mistake and we haven’t been able to wake her up. In the interests of house unity I‘ll let you take her.” The boy apparently called Split stayed silent for a long moment, his eyes flickering to the forms on the floor, then said in his tired voice.

“And the other as well.”

“Oh we‘ve only just started on her. Got some new stuff to try out.”

“Give them to me Draco.” Split moved forward slowly holding his wand out. “You three are just second years, you don’t want to fight me.”

“And you are outnumbered.” Malfoy trained his wand on the newcomer and his two goons did the same.

“And you are surrounded.” Harry stood up and aimed his wand at Malfoy’s chest. “So back up wormbait.” All the Slytherins faces showed shock. Malfoy rounded on the older Slytherin

“You even taking help from Gryffindors now.” He laughed. “How low can you sink?”

“Just go Malfoy.” Split covered his surprise and gestured away down the corridor. “You know you just lost this.” Malfoy grimaced, but he seemed to concede.

“No fun anyway.” He aimed a kick at the ravenclaw girl on the floor prompting a yell from Harry but merely a twinge from Split. “They just curled up.” with that Malfoy turned and strode down the corridor towards the dungeons.

Harry moved forward quickly. The Slytherin was already crouching over his housemate so Harry knelt down to check the Ravenclaw.

“Can you hear me? Are you hurt besides the face?” Harry looked over her but she didn’t seem to be hurt anywhere else.

“Made…” the poor girls voice was very quiet and dry “Made me drink something.”

“Ok. You‘ll be ok.” Harry glanced over to his ally of necessity. “Hospital wing?”

“Well obviously.” The boy fixed him with a withering stare. “You carry Vanessa.” He gestured to the student by his feet. “You don’t look like you can manage her.”

“I can manage fine!” Harry pulled the arm of the Ravenclaw over his shoulder and pushed himself to his feet.

The two of them walked in silence with their burdens towards the Hospital wing and Madam Pomfrey. At the bottom of the third staircase Harry leaned against the wall and tried to suck in air. Split wordlessly held out an arm. Harry laughed under his breath and they swapped passengers. Harry managed the last two staircases easier and they pushed their way through into the Hospital wing.

“Madam Pomfrey?” Harry called out and she bustled in, her eyes too looked tired. Harry wondered idly what his looked like these days. “Two more.”

“Well put them…” Madam Pomfrey cast about then realised she no longer had any free beds. “…there.” She pointed her wand and two new beds appeared, squashed in between the ones already there. Harry gratefully laid his charge down on the new bed and looked down at her. It was the first time he’d properly got a look at her, she seemed younger than him so probably a first year. She had long brown hair and pale skin. She seemed to have passed out at some point. “Do you know what was used on them?” The school nurse had already gone to work on the injured students.

“She,” Harry pointed to the other bed. “Was forced to drink something. Plus what look like stinging hexes.” Madam Pomfrey glanced at the bed nearest Harry and looked up questioningly. Split answered her.

“Vanessa was unconscious when we found her. They said they stunned her, may have been miscast since they couldn’t wake her.”

“Very well.” She began moving her wand around over the two students, bathing them in pale blue light. “I will report this in the morning. Your heads of house will no doubt want to speak to you to get the details.” Harry recognised the dismissal and walked out of the hospital wing.

He surprisingly found Split following him up a flight of stairs. The Slytherin common room was definitely the other direction.

“Not that I don’t enjoy the attention but why are you following me?”

“I‘m not.” This was all Split seemed to think was necessary. They walked side by side up another staircase.

“Harry Potter.” Harry held out his hand. The other boy rolled his eyes.

“I know.” But he grasped the hand for a brief handshake. “Joshua Split. But I prefer Split.”

“You don’t like Draco Malfoy much?”

“You don’t like Draco Malfoy much.” They climbed higher. Harry began to wonder if the boy intended to accompany him all the way to the common room. “I hate Draco Malfoy”

“I can sympathise.” Harry kept walking for a moment before realising his companion wasn’t following. Harry turned and found Split just standing there in the middle of the seventh floor corridor. “What? You waiting for the headless hunt to pass?”

“No.” The Slytherin glanced both ways down the corridor then looked him up and down. “Suppose you can be trusted.” The boy walked first one way then the other, back and forth along the hallway. Harry was about to ask what he was doing when a door slowly faded into view out of the wall.

Split rapped on it three times, then twice. He got the same signal in return and Harry heard something heavy moved from the other side of the door. Harry moved to see in as the door was pulled open from the inside. Someone in the room gasped at seeing him out there.

Inside the room there stood six bunk beds along one wall. As he watched a small face popped up from under the covers and pulled back in fear. Harry’s eyes were drawn to the rest of the room, over a round table where some students had been playing cards. They too were now staring at him.

“What is…” But Harry’s roving eyes began to answer his own question. Near one bed was tacked a faded rolling-stones poster and a sock tossed negligently over a chair had Homer Simpson on it. “You’re the muggleborn Slytherins?”

“Muggleborn, half-blood…” Split pushed the door closed with Harry inside and flopped on the nearest bed. The other students seemed to take this as a sign that things were alright and went back to what they were doing, but Harry caught them glancing back at him. “And anyone who gets in Malfoy‘s way when he’s hexing someone.”

“How many non pure-blood Slytherins are there?”

“That will admit it?” Split scoffed. “You‘re looking at them.” He pulled out a crisp packet from beside his bed and split it open. Lounging there munching he looked distinctly un-wizardly. “Me and Emma Stoats are the only full muggleborns.” He pointed to one of the card players, a tall seventh year girl who glanced up at her name being spoken. “Oh, and Elizabeth now. Thanks to your little friends stunt at the sorting she actually chose this house. Nice and ironic eh?”

“And you live up here now?” Harry thought for a moment about how he’d felt earlier that evening. Hanging on to the thought of getting back to the common room.

“Well did you think we were going to stay in the dungeon?” Emma Stoats said without taking her eyes off her cards. “The locks on our doors aren‘t that good.”

“I know. One allohamora and they pop open.”

“And you know that how?” Split tossed his empty packet on the floor near his bed where there were a few others. Harry just grinned at him.

“Josh?” A first year on a top bunk sat up. “Where‘s Vanessa?”

“Hospital wing Liz. Malfoy caught her.” Harry looked around the room for a reaction but each face just showed resignation. Suddenly Split’s head jerked up. “Damn it.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a thin pair of glasses. “I took these so they wouldn‘t get smashed when I carried her.” The boy pulled himself up tiredly.

“I‘ll take them back.” Harry offered holding out his hand. “It‘s on my way anyway.”

“It‘s not even slightly on your way.” Joshua said with a sneer, but handed the glasses over. Harry thought he saw relief flicker under his shaggy fringe before the boy sunk back down onto his bed. Harry turned to leave then looked back.

“Gryffindor password’s Aigipan.” Every head turned at that. “You know where the entrance is?” One or two heads nodded. “Good, come anytime.”

“Why you telling us?” Elizabeth again from her bunk.

“Well it‘s only fair.” Harry glanced out the door then moved to open it fully. “I can get into the Slytherin common room.”

*

Harry slipped back into the Hospital wing wondering if it was after curfew yet. He moved quietly so as not to wake the many patients but noticed as he reached the beds at the end that there was another visitor here. The Ravenclaw girl he had carried (most of the way) there was curled up on her bed but another girl was sitting on a chair nearby. The girls were holding hands and had apparently fallen asleep like that. Harry put the glasses down on a side table trying not to wake them, then turned to leave.

“The nurse told me you brought her in.” Harry twisted back, the new girl had her eyes open and was speaking quietly. “My friend.” She nodded at the sleeping girl.

“I carried the other one.” Harry nodded at little Vanessa. “Joshua Split carried your friend. You know him?” She had looked up and grinned at the name.

“She‘ll like that.” The girl disengaged her hand and motioned Harry away from the beds. “She likes him.” She giggled.

“When she wakes up you can give her some good news then. Malfoy offered to let Split take the little one without a fight, but he wouldn‘t leave without your friend. A regular knight in sulky armour.”

“And what was your part in it?” They had stopped near the doors, away from all the sleeping patients.

“What else?” Harry grinned. “I was the cavalry.” Harry brought his hands together like a claw. “Caught ‘em between us. Intricately planned strategy.” He held out his hand. “Harry Potter, don’t roll your eyes.”

“Cho Chang.” As she took his hand Harry noticed she had light calluses, where had he felt that before?

“Quidditch team right?”

“Seeker.” Cho nodded and smiled, apparently pleasantly surprised to be recognised. It had been mostly a guess on Harry’s part, he rarely went to the games. Her face became sombre again a moment later. “But seriously, thank you. For helping Lucy.”

“It was nothing, thwarting Malfoy‘s like a civic duty.” But a little memory surfaced in his head. A name, maybe he’d heard it in the corridor at some point? “Lucy… Kingston?”

“Yep.”

“Then that her brother isn‘t it.” Harry pointed over at another bed where the petrified boy lay.

“Yeah.” Cho nodded sadly. “Her parents wanted to take her out of school, but she wanted to stay.” She glanced back at the girl on the bed. “She didn‘t want to miss out.”

“I‘m sorry.” It was all Harry could really think to say.

“Don’t apologise.” She turned back to him. “If you hadn‘t got there who knows what they‘d have done.” Cho shook her head again and moved back towards the beds. Harry was once again at a loss for words and turned out of the wing to trudge up the stairs for the second time that night.

It was on a long dark stretch of hall that he heard a voice behind him.

“Fancy seeing you again tonight Potter.”

*

Harry fought rage and hatred as he turned around slowly.

“Not surrounded any more are we Potter.” Malfoy drawled, flanked by his two shadows. “And you seem to be all alone. How utterly convenient.” The blond boy moved forward with his wand out. “Did you like what I did to the mudblood’s face? She didn’t need her looks anyway, like anyone would touch a mudblood.” Harry kept his emotions tightly under control and said nothing. “What, no witty comeback? Well you’ll sing in a moment or two. You‘ve had this coming a long time Potter, so I‘m going to take a long time over this. I‘m going to really enjoy myself.”

“Don’t bet on it. Acerbus Cuspis!” Harry charged every ounce of rage and hatred he had been holding in into the curse. Ribbons of silver lit the whole hallway, covering the three Slytherins who cried out in pain and fell to the floor.

“Expelliarmus!” Malfoy’s wand flew off somewhere. But Harry wasn’t done. He grabbed the startled second year and yanked him off the ground, pinning him against the wall.

“Adhaereo!” Harry slapped Malfoy’s arms back to the wall as the fixing charm took effect. The Slytherin dangled there struggling, his feet a good foot off the floor.

“Let me down Potter or el…”

“Shut up!” Harry pointed his ward right at Malfoy’s face. Some of that rage must have been left over because his wand flared red sparks causing the hanging boy to cry out in pain again. “There, see how you like it? You two stay down!” Harry pointed his wand at Crabbe and Goyle, just starting to lift themselves off the floor. “Or I swear I will hex his face off and that WILL scar I guarantee it!” Harry turned back to his nemesis who was still vainly trying to drag himself off the wall. “Stop moving! Stop moving and listen.” Harry rested the tip of his wand right between Malfoy’s eyes, the boy did indeed stop moving. “You are a pathetic lowlife-scumbag Malfoy you know that? You are a sick little bastard and you are finally gonna pay for it.”

The Slytherin’s eyes were crossed as he tried to look at the point resting on his nose, he was even quivering.

“Her brother, her god-damn brother in the hospital wing! And you force her to drink some poison and hex her while she lies on the floor like the little coward you are then you laugh.” Harry moved his closer till he was right in his victims face. “Well it stops now you hear me. All of it stops. You lord it over the other worms like the lord o‘ worm-hill so you make them stop or else Malfoy. Oh yes, I can make good that threat. Remember first year? I know where you sleep Malfoy. I know and I can find you any time I want. So from now on any time any Slytherin hurts anyone in this school it is officially your fault and it will come back around Malfoy. Right back to you. Anything anyone in this school suffers you suffer twice over. From now on Malfoy EVERYTHING COMES BACK TO YOU!”

Harry’s spit peppered Malfoy’s face but the quivering boy didn’t seem to notice. His eyes were wide and glued to Harry. Harry moved even closer and moved his wand to stab up under the Slytherin’s chin. He squirmed and twisted his head trying to get away from the sharp wood point. Harry jerked his head back around with his other hand so he could look straight into those terrified grey eyes. “So keep your fucking house in line or I will get you. Understand?” The boy nodded quickly. Harry waited for a moment then nodded then jerked his wand away.

“Good.” He turned and strode off down the hallway without another word. Let him work out how to get off the wall.

*

The next day Harry watched from an upper window as a group of Slytherins walked past a first year Gryffindor who‘s bag had spilled out all over the floor. As she noticed them coming she froze in fear but Malfoy jerked his head to the others and walked on. Some of them looked shocked but he just jerked his head again and they eventually moved off.

“Did you do something?” Padma had waited with him and was now looking at him shrewdly.

“Yes.”

“What?”

“I…” Harry glanced out the window again and sighed. “You know what Hermione keeps saying about not sinking to their level?”

“You sunk?”

“Like a stone.”

________________________________________
The fragile peace teetered often enough over the next few weeks but it never broke. Whispers flew around the school about what might have caused the sudden thawing of tension and most hit not far off the mark. Harry caught professor Dumbledore watching him during breakfast one day and looked away guiltily.

“How long do you think it‘ll last?” Ron asked one day in defence class. It had become a good class to chat in. Markus Michelson was sprawled on his desk, apparently asleep but twitching occasionally. “You know, the peace.”

“Until Malfoy forgets.” Harry flicked over the page in his defence book, at least pretending to pay attention to the lesson. He had told the marauders what had happened in general terms but had kept back the details. Like that he had used the pain-spear spell and how good it had felt to do so.

“Christmas maybe.” Padma finished another line and dipped her quill for more ink. Only her and Hermione actually bothered to take notes anymore. “He’ll probably forget over the break then everything will start up again.”

“You‘ll have to remind him then Harry.” Ron jabbed him in the ribs. “Eh?”

“Maybe.” Harry tried to look engrossed in his defence book. He really didn’t want to think about what would happen if Malfoy forgot.

Markus Michelson snorted and rolled over. They took that to mean that the class was dismissed.

*

The teetering and fragile jewel that was Harry’s peace did last till the winter break and Harry waved his friends off among crowds of students who (although eyeing one another nervously and muttering) were staving off actual violence. Unlike last year Harry would be alone in the castle for Christmas, all the marauders had plans for family Christmases and he would have felt like an intruder at any one of them. Harry turned and walked slowly back into the castle, he was the last marauder there. Virtually the last Gryffindor come to that, with everything that had happened very few students in any house had wanted to stay.

Joshua Split passed him on the stairs carrying a very muggle-looking suitcase. True to form he had a crisp packet open in the pocket of his robes, munching them as he walked. He nodded at Harry before carrying on down to the entrance hall. Harry tried to work out how many students would be at Hogwarts. Two other Gryffindors, two Hufflepuffs, one Ravenclaw and Crabbe, Goyle and Malfoy. Harry shuddered, why the hell was Malfoy staying for Christmas? Didn’t he have a giant mansion made of gold to go to?

Harry chuckled in the empty hallway and gave the fat lady the password reminant. He sat down at the now empty marauders table and pulled over a book. There was one benefit to being here alone, he might actually know a question in class once in a while.

*

A few days later (having got truly sick of his schoolbooks) Harry was wandering the corridors when he noticed that he was near the outcast Slytherins room.

“Split‘s not staying over break.” Harry thought. “Have the others gone back as well?” He walked backwards and forwards and saw the door appear on cue. Three taps, then two. Harry waited a long moment then heard a scraping on the other side. The door opened slowly.

“Oh it‘s you.” Vanessa pulled the door open for then closed it behind him. “What are you doing here.”

Harry looked around. It looked like her and the girl called Elizabeth were still there, they had pulled most of the pillows and comforters off the beds to form a kind of nest in one corner of the room. Several stuffed toys had moved there as well, including a worn looking rabbit with one ear.

“I was checking to see if anyone was still here. Didn‘t expect to find anyone. Why are you staying over Christmas?”

“My aunt and uncle are holidaying in Spain.” Vanessa said, then added to Harry’s confused expression “I live with them.”

“Oh, what about you?” Harry turned to the other girl.

“Isn‘t it obvious? I‘m keeping Vanessa company.” Harry felt a sudden warmth of feeling towards the little pair in front of him.

“Where have you been hiding yourselves though? I haven’t seen either of you at meals.”

“We don’t want to eat with Malfoy.” Elizabeth pulled a sweet packet from the corner of the nest and ate one. “It‘s not safe.”

“So what have you been eating? Too much Honeydukes is bad for you y’know.”

“Josh showed us a way you can get to the kitchens.” Vanessa curled up next to her friend. “We slip down at night. It‘s not safe otherwise.”

“Ok. That stops now.” The two girls looked up. “From now on you can eat safe at my table ok?” The girls looked at one another and something seemed to pass between them. After a moment Elizabeth nodded. “Also this stops.” Harry pointed around at the room. “Your not living alone here anymore. Get your stuff and move it to the Gryffindor tower.”

“That’s not allowed.” Elizabeth took the initiative again while her friend just looked on. “What will everyone in your house say?”

“Currently everyone is a fifth year doing so much OWL revision she wouldn’t notice if a herd of centaurs moved in to the common room and a first year who I‘m not sure notices anything much other than the imaginary butterflies flitting round her head.”

“Luna Lovegood?”

“That’s the one.” Harry grinned. “Please move your stuff. Otherwise I‘m just gonna be sat there worrying about you all break and that gonna be a very sad Christmas for me. Please?”

Another long look passed between the two girls then Vanessa giggled and nodded.

“Ok, we‘ll come.”

*

Harry reasoned in the days that followed that there was no reason to stop with just the Slytherins. With that in mind Harry embarked on a campaign of persuasion and cajoling with the aim of moving entire remaining population of the other two houses to the Gryffindor common room.

“Because it‘ll be fun. You remember fun, you have that in Hufflepuff right?” Harry quipped at the amused Susan Bones.

“Yes we have fun.” Susan shot back at him amicably, leaning against the railing in one of the courtyards and bundled up tight against the cold. Like the rest of Harry’s year she was used to his idiosyncrasies. “Its just that students aren’t usually allowed in each others common rooms.” She didn’t add that Harry wasn’t supposed to tell people the password, knowing by now the futility of asking him to follow the rules.

“No one is going to care.” Harry flicked snow at her, causing her to bat at him and almost push him off the railing. “The passwords‘ll change after the break anyway and its not like the teachers’ll mind.”

“You mean not like they‘ll find out.”

“Mind, find-out, what’s the difference? Anyway, your alternative is staying in the Hufflepuff cellar… alone.” Harry rubbed an imaginary tear out of his eye. “Well alone except for Stevens which I class as far inferior to alone.”

“He is beginning to get on my nerves…” Susan looked thoughtfully down at the ground around her feet.

“Come on.” Harry urged. “Everyone together for Christmas. If we have to stay locked up here we should make the most of it right?” She looked at him appraisingly then smiled.

“Will you teach me to juggle?”

“Erg,” Harry slapped his hand to his forehead and groaned “If that’s what it takes…”

“Ok, I‘ll come. If only so you have the full set.”

In the end the teachers probably did have a good idea what was going on, the fact that all but three of the student came down to breakfast together was definitely a clue. But either because they had their own holiday plans to think about or because they actually approved of what Harry was doing they did not complain. One thing was for certain, Malfoy did not approve and scowled openly across the great hall at them at every meal. Harry took this as reason enough for all his efforts.

*

When Christmas finally came Harry and his cross-house compatriots rushed gleefully to the tree and filled the Gryffindor common room with shredded wrapping paper.

“But if you open it carefully you can reuse the paper.” Mathew Stevens complained at which point Harry soaked him with water. The refilling spray bottle from Neville was quickly becoming his favourite gift. “Hey!”

Harry grinned then spluttered as another jet of water hit him in the side of the face.

“Aguamenti charm.” Martin Fredric the sole Ravenclaw said in a lecturing tone. “You‘ll learn that after owls.”

“I‘ll learn you!”

The ensuing water fight turned the paper to mush and it was a sodden but laughing group that stumbled down to a late breakfast.

*

Weeks later Harry was sitting out in the cold sunlight idly flicking through a Christmas present (a spell book on permanent and semi-permanent charms) wondering how hard it would be to make an invisibility cloak when a shadow fell across him.

“Potter.”

Harry answered without looking up.

“Malfoy, something I can avoid helping you with?”

“Do you have to make some pathetic attempt at humour every time you open your mouth?”

Harry glanced up and fixed Malfoy with a flat stare. The smirk disappeared from the Slytherins face and he backed up a step.

“I was coming to warn you.” The words seemed to tumble out of his mouth like he wanted to get them out of the way. “I couldn’t stop it so it‘s not my fault.”

“What isn‘t?”

“I‘ve been stuck here but my friends have been meeting up over the break. Making plans.” Malfoy glanced around as if checking no-one was watching. “I only found out because Montague came back early.”

“The outsider for once Malfoy.” Harry smirked evilly. “See how it feels?”

“Will you please be serious!” Malfoy swallowed and continued at a whisper. “Something bad is going to happen.”

“Bad how?” Harry flipped his book closed.

“I don’t know. It was planned over break like I said. It’s not my fault.” Malfoy added the last bit at a rush.

“We‘ll see. What do you know about it.”

“First day back. Montague said everything had to be ready for the first day back.”

“What had to be ready?”

“I don’t know!” Malfoy wrung his hands and stepped back a pace. “I keep telling you I was out of the loop here at Hogwarts. I shouldn‘t be held…” But Harry cut him off.

“If you tell me its not your fault one more time…” Malfoy fell silent and Harry began pacing backwards and forwards, thinking desperately. “Do you think you can get Montague to tell you what’s happening?” Malfoy shook his head quickly.

“He won‘t say. I think someone told him not to.” Malfoy suddenly stood up. “Someone‘s coming!” And with that he strode off quickly into a corridor.

Harry buried his face in his hands. He had so hoped that the unpleasantness of the term was over, that he could have something approaching normality for once, to go to school without conspiracies and threats. He chuckled wryly, he should have known better.

*

Harry waited anxiously as the school term approached. One or two other early starters filtered back into their various houses and Harry’s impromptu recruits into Gryffindor went back to their own houses.
All except Vanessa and Elizabeth, they didn’t really have a house to go back to. As Gryffindor students filtered back they eyed the new arrivals warily and complained until Harry took them aside and explained in no uncertain terms where they could stick their complaints.

Finally, a few days before the start of school, Harry pulled together the courage to do what he had been putting off for a while. He went to warn Dumbledore.

“Sherbet Lemon.” The gargoyle statue obediently moved aside and Harry moved up the long staircase and knocked on the door at the top.

“Enter.” Harry pushed the door open to see Dumbledore sitting at his desk look up curiously, then he frowned. “Harry that password is not to be used by students.”

“I‘m sorry sir, but I needed to tell you something.”

“And you seem to be being rather free with certain other passwords as well.” At this Harry drew himself up.

“That I’m not apologising for. Would have been stupid for everyone to spend Christmas alone, especially the first years.” He met Dumbledore’s gaze this time and didn’t falter.

“Harry you cannot decide which rules to obey and in what situations. I thought I made that clear in our last conversation.” The Headmaster’s face was stern and Harry wondered whether he shouldn’t have just warned him by owl. “If you cannot abide by the rules of this institution…”

“Abiding by the rules wasn’t working.” Harry was almost surprised to hear his own voice, even though it was coming at barely a whisper. “People were getting hurt all the time. It was only a matter of time before something worse happened.”

“So you take the law into your own hands? Sink to their level?” Dubledore’s voice was quiet now but his words seemed to light a fire in Harry’s chest.

“You think that‘s how it was? How it works? You think things would be better around here if I‘d just let Malfoy carry on?” Harry shook his head and glared at the old man. “Must have taken you a lot of ivory to build a tower this big. I pity the poor elephants.”

“Insolence!” Yelled one of the portraits on the wall.

“Mr Potter.” Dumbledore stood up, his chair scraping back loudly. His hands were clenched in fists on the desk in front of him. “I am the Headmaster of this school. Please try to address me with something resembling respect.”

“You should be thanking me you still have a school! That it’s not a rubble heap full of corpses!” Dumbledore’s eyes were glinting dangerously and his mouth had formed a hard line, but Harry wasn’t finished. “It‘s not like you were doing anything to stop it! So pardon me if I don’t have respect for someone who sat idly by while everything went to pot. Not such a good decision in my book, bit of a bloody mistake. One of many you‘ve made recently. Anyone remember who hired Professor Quirrell? Not such a good decision there either. In fact…” Harry thought back and stiffened angrily. “… the first ever decision you made about me was to put me on the doorstep of an abusive home and ruin the next seven years of my life so NO Dumbledore. I don’t respect you.” Harry saw with surprise that the Headmaster’s angry face had twisted into something different. Was it regret? A long moment passed before he spoke.

“Harry…” He said finally as if speaking from a deep well. “…you are not wrong about some of the things you have said. I am as capable of mistakes as any other human. And for what it is worth I am sorry for placing you with your aunt and uncle. There were reasons at the time. And I know that you can, in your mind at least, justify what you did to Mr Malfoy. I know all about justifying questionable actions. But I implore you to exercise restraint. The road you are travelling goes to dark places and each act along its path grows more easy to justify.”

Harry didn’t respond, he didn’t quite know how to. All the reasons Harry had for doing what he did still made sense, they just paled when faced with the calm assuredness of Professor Dumbledore. The deep voice full of knowledge that held some sort of obscure pain. Or guilt. Harry felt like he was falling slowly down a deep hole. He moved his hand up to scratch his steadily reddening neck and felt leather under his fingers. The leather cord. As his fingers touched it he felt the shell pendent move against his skin.

You must trust that you know the path you need to walk, not anyone else, and above all you must trust yourself. “I don’t know how to act except to do what seems right at the time.” Harry drew himself up. He wasn’t angry anymore. He just needed to speak. “And I hope… I trust that I know how far I can go down that path without turning black. And I know the Slytherins are planning something big for the first day back and if I find out what it is I‘m going to try and stop it. That’s what I came to tell you.”

Dumbledore sat back down and regarded him quietly. When he spoke it was very slow and careful, as if picking through a minefield.

“What is that around your neck Harry?”

“It was a gift.”

“May I see it?”

“No.” The two wizards stared at each other for a few moments more. The whirring of the silver machines was he only sound to be heard.

“Very well Harry, you may go.” Harry grasped onto that with relief and turned away from those piercing eyes.

*

The days crawled forward and Harry became more on edge with every passing hour. He had warned some of the other students there to be on guard and owled the rest of the marauders tell them the bad news but still no information was forthcoming. The day of the arrivals dawned bright and cold and Harry waited anxiously in the entrance hall with his wand concealed up his sleeve.

He saw the first few students wander up from the gate, walk into the entrance hall and greet their friends, then walk off down a corridor. Harry relaxed a fraction, the attack couldn’t possibly happen until all the Slytherins got there. Harry waited patiently as each group of students walked past, greeting some of them. Marcus Flint walked past at the head of a group of Slytherins. He sneered at Harry and his hand seemed to twitch towards his wand. Harry just watched him as he walked out of sight. Perhaps he had been wrong about who was the ringleader?

“Harry!” Harry turned at the sound of his name and felt some of his stress fall away as he saw the marauders.

“Hey guys. Did you miss me?”

“Yes Harry.” Padma rolled her eyes. “Every time I heard something conceited or arrogant I thought of you.”

“I‘m touched.” Harry grinned then grew serious. “Did you get my last owl?” The marauders nodded.

“Did you tell Dumbledore?” Hermione asked pointedly. She looked relived when he nodded.

“How did you find out anyway?” Ron asked him.

“Overheard Malfoy taking.” Which was true in a way. “Listen, people in the other houses know and are getting prepared. Hopefully they‘ll hole up in their common rooms where they can’t get got at and stay there till tomorrow. But we still don’t have the slightest clue what they actually have planned and that makes my nerves itch.”

“What else can we do?” Neville was hovering around the edge of the group.

“Nothing much. That’s what‘s really screwed up.” Harry jerked his head back towards the school. “Come on lets go. Before we get frostbite out here.” The marauders followed his lead and trouped up to the common room.

*

But frostbite was not off the agenda for long. Harry tucked his arms in and tried to get out of the wind behind a chimney stack while still keeping watch through the windows far below. Although of course they couldn’t see into the Slytherin dungeons, there were only a limited number of corridors that led up from the entrance. Currently a marauder was watching each and every one of them. Well… unless there were secret passages that they didn’t know about.

Harry hunched down further and glanced over at the next roof where Hermione was clearly visible, sitting cross legged on the dark tiles. Harry knew that Neville was hidden somewhere on the roof on the other side (probably in the shadow in the lee of a little crooked tower) but for the life of him he couldn’t spot him. Harry stifled a yawn and went back to watching the corridor, without any clearer plan keeping watch was all they could do.

Had his wand just mico’d in his pocket? Harry grasped the dark-red wood and felt the vibration clearly, a quick glance left and right showed him who it was. Neville had appeared out of the darkness and was gesturing for him to come. When the boy saw him notice he turned and disappeared down the other side of his roof.

“Damn it! mico Hermione!” Harry passed on the signal and scrambled towards Neville’s position. He caught up to him soon enough and choked back a oath when he saw what his friend was looking at. It looked like an army. “Must be half of Slytherin house!”

“They aren‘t all Slytherins.” Neville’s voice quavered a fraction as he said that. “I saw Filch try and get in their way. They just hexed him, didn‘t even stop.”

“Where are they going?” Harry hissed.

“I don’t know. The kitchens are that way. Maybe they‘re going to poison everyone!” The two students slunk along the roof to keep up with those below them.

“You don’t need an army to poison people.” Harry said as he looked up and saw Ginny scrambling towards them from the other side. “Bets on the Hufflepuff common room. Come on, if we bomb it we can make it there before them.”

“Oh great.” Ginny groaned and turned around. “Back the way I came.” The three of them broke into a run.

“Why Hufflepuff? Why the hell?” Harry ranted as they ran. “Surely they hate us more by now!”

“Does Hufflepuff have more muggle-borns?” Neville guessed, sounding winded.

“No, we do now.” Ginny shook her head. “Maybe its just that their common room is closer. Or underground!”

“I guess we‘ll find out when we get there won’t we!” Harry yelled back as he darting ahead “Wouldn‘t want to spoil the surprise!” He slid down a long roof and dropped into a bush. Shaking himself free and ignoring the two thuds near him he dashed down the tiny corridor nearby and pulled to a stop behind a pillar. The smell of cooking wafted through to him as he leaned around the edge. He pulled back an instant later. They were all there, the Slytherins, they seemed to be talking quietly. One of the older ones seemed to be explaining something while the others looked on but Harry’s heart was beating in his ears and he couldn’t hear anything.

Harry glanced up and down the corridor. The Slytherins had stopped mere meters from the painting of a vase of yellow roses that covered the entrance to the Hufflepuff common room. Harry was right between them and it. He felt someone move behind him and spun around with his wand out, then relaxed.

“Ginny.” Harry whispered. “Where‘s Neville?”

“Broken ankle.” She was panting and looked scared. Harry shushed her to be quieter. “What are they doing?”

“Talking.”

“Talking?”

“Yep.” Harry nodded. “Run back and find Dumbledore. I told you the password didn‘t I.”

“Hermione’s already gone.” Ginny was gripping her wand in her small hand. She was trembling.

“Then follow her!”

“No!” Ginny shook her head. “This is my fault. I need to help.”

“Moron! This is no-ones f… you hear that?” Harry cocked his ear against the wall. The muttering from the Slytherins had stopped and all he could hear was the occasional shuffle of feet. Then a voice called out.

“Brock.” And the painting dissolved like smoke, leaving a dark opening visible. Then another voice, high and reedy “Colloportus.” And an odd squelching noise came from the direction of the painting. But still there was no movement from the Slytherins.

“I don’t like this…” Harry ground his teeth. But then Slytherins all yelled at once, as if in one voice…

“SERPENSORTIA!”

Then there was a flash of light, the sound of running feet like a stampede and harsh laughter dwindling away as the footsteps left.

“That’s it?” Harry said, shocked. “They took an army here to play knock down ginger?”

“Harry? Do you hear something… moving?”

Harry’s heart froze and he stepped around the pillar.

“Ahhh!” The floor moved in a black tide. Hundreds of snakes slithered and hissed along the ground towards him. In the vanguard of the wave one rose and hissed at him, little flaps flipping out like a cobras. “Ginny run!” Harry gestured her away but she stepped out next to him and jumped back, grabbing his hand, when she saw the snakes.

“Harry! What do we do!”

“Like I have a clue!” They retreated towards the Hufflepuff common room as the snakes advanced. More and more seeming to rise up on their tails to watch them. “How about…Flagrate!”

A burning line scratched across the floor in front of the snakes but it wasn’t thick enough to phase them. They just piled over and kept coming.

“Back through the door!” They jumped through. Harry barely registered the yellow hangings and low, beamed ceiling. He cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled. “Wake up Hufflepuffs! How do you close your bloody door!”

“Harry!” He spun back to see Ginny pointing her shaking wand at the hole. A long dark snake, the size of a python was dropping over the edge of the step into the room. “What now?”

“I don’t know! Jinx it or something!”

“What Jinxes work on snakes?”

“Well I wouldn’t try jelly legs!” Harry aimed his wand at the massive snake “Confringo!” But the blasting curse barely shifted the massive snake. It only hissed louder and began coming right at him. “Diffindo!” Red lines appeared on the snakes hard flank but it kept coming. It shook itself and coiled up, hissing and staring right at Harry’s face.

“Its going to strike!” Ginny yelled.

“Oh, screw it. Acerbus Cuspis!” Once more the dark spell flew from Harry’s wand and struck the serpent hard. It convulsed like it had gone mad, its hard muscled coils smashing a chair to splinters. Harry repeated the spell, trying to fill himself with the rage that had made the spell so effective last time. The spears of light came out faster and brighter. The snake shook with pain then went still, either passed out, stunned, dead or wisely deciding to play at one of the former.

“What is this racket.” A few robed figures appeared from one of the rounded corridors. One at the front had the head boy badge pinned to his pyjamas. “Students are trying to sleep in… WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!”

“Its a snake Frankie. You can tell by the legs it hasn‘t got.” Harry turned to the massed Hufflepuffs and picked out a familiar face. “Susan! How do you close your painting!”

“What Harry?” She rubbed her eyes like she’d just got up. Which, Harry noted from her yellow pyjamas and big, fluffy, hedgehog-shaped slippers, she probably had. “Are the Slytherins attacking?”

“They have attacked! There’s about a million more of those…” Harry pointed at the giant snake on the floor. Then back at the hole, through which a few smaller snakes were already climbing. “Out there so how do you close the picture!”

“Brock!” Someone in the crowd had caught on. “You say the password again. Brock!” But the painting remained open. More snakes piled in. “Brock… brock!”

“They sealed the door Harry.” Ginny said suddenly. “Colloportus, it sealed the door open.”

Harry cursed, he should have remembered that. It was in Beyond Alohomora.

“Anyone know a counter?” Harry glanced at the Hufflepuffs clustering around then back at the rapidly filling doorway. “Anyone?”

“Yes.” Said a tall girl in the back of the crowd. “It takes five minutes and you have to be touching the door.”

They all glanced back at the waterfall of black now falling out of the hole.

“Yeah… that’s not gonna happen.” Harry drew his wand and pointed it at the hole. “Help me guys! Confringo!”

“Impedimenta!” “Stupefy!” “Reducto!” Spells Harry didn’t know were yelled out all around him. The snakes were blasted back one by one but they kept coming. “Herpestidae!” Made a shadowy brown creature appear that tackled a black asp and bit it on the neck but it was overwhelmed by the flood. A revulsion jinx pushed the crowd back but it was not enough. Some fifth years pushed a couch in front of the snakes and pushed it over on top of them but they just kept coming, climbing over the obstacle.

“Incendio!” Harry yelled. But he missed, barely grazing the large asp that he was aiming for and hitting the couch. With a bang it burst into merry flame and the snakes on top of it shrivelled and hissed, dropping off charred. Harry grinned despite himself. “Another couch!” Harry pointed to the right of the one already there. “And one on the left too!”

“Got you Harry!” One of the older students yelled as he levitated a heavy yellow chesterfield out of an alcove and dropped it with a squelch on the snakes trying to skirt the side of the obstacle. “Incendio!” And that couch began burning too. Harry glanced to the other side and saw some heavyset students throwing cushions on an already burning couch.

“Back now. Back.” Harry motioned everyone away from the flaming wall. And breathed a deep breath. “Think that should stop them? Until Dumbledore comes I mean.”

“It should.” Susan Bones rubbed a hand over her sweating brow. She had gone quite red. “I’m scared of snakes.”

“No one likes snakes.” Harry winked and waved back at the couches. “Even extra crispy. You seem to be holding up though.”

“I‘m a Hufflepuff.” Susan seemed to find some strength in those words and stood up straighter. “We don’t get scared easily, and we don’t run away even when we do.”

Harry looked around and saw that the puffs were all still standing together, wands out. Even the little first years stood shoulder to shoulder with their housemates. Not a single one had left since the battle started.

“Go Hufflepuff house…” Harry grinned and pushed his sweat filled hair out of his face. His eyes found the only other Gryffindor in the room. “Regretting your choice Ginny?”

“Regretting yours?” Ginny grinned then her eyes widened and she pointed. “Harry!”

Harry’s eyes followed her pointing finger and he saw what had made her yell. Floating up from behind the flames the snakes came, squirming and writhing on the air as they levitated over the couches.

“Oh, COME ON! Give me a break!” Harry yelled and the spells began to fly again, blasting the snakes out of the air as they floated over. But once again there were simply too many, once they were past the burning wall the snakes fell to the ground and continued their advance. “Now I know why they picked Hufflepuff.” Harry thought as he backed up, casting hex after hex. “Its in the basement, there‘s no way out.” They were back to the bedroom doors now, the snakes still coming.

“Back in the rooms!” The Head Boy, Frank Cobalt yelled.

“And plug around the doors with sheets!” Harry yelled as he darted back into a room. Instantly he felt like his bones were being pulled back while his body stayed where it was. He was thrown back on the floor and rolled, jumping up and scrambling away as long fangs bit the stone where he had been.

“Harry! This is a girls room!” Harry was pulled to his feet by Susan Bones. “The door won‘t let you in!”

Harry glanced around but there were snakes between him and every other door. “Then you get in and shut the door!”

Susan gave him a withering look and turned to the snakes with her wand drawn and a determined look on her face. Harry grabbed her and tried to push her towards the door, only to find himself on the floor again being pulled up by his collar.

“Before you try manhandling me again.” She stated flatly. “You might want to try gaining some weight and height. You really are titchy.” She darted back and slammed the door on the startled girls inside.

“Wonderful.” Harry hexed for all he was worth. But their backs were already to the door and there was nowhere left to go. “I hope you realise your bit of pointless heroics has earned you a grizzly death.”

“And a place in Gryffindor heaven.” Susan said shakily but with a laugh in her voice. Harry nodded and managed a half smile. “You never did teach me to juggle.”

“Bit late now. Well…” Harry eyed the snakes rising up to strike then shut his eyes. “…bye!”

The snakes lunged.

“Sacesiassce!”

Harry opened his eyes and saw the snakes poised on the point of biting.

“Sissciaszysscasi.” The snakes withdrew and began to slither back the way they had come. Harry looked around for the source of the odd voice.

“Scicceozaz.” The hissing serpentine voice was coming from a cloaked figure standing by the door. He was motioning the snakes out, keeping them moving. He was standing right in the centre of the stream but none of them were biting him.

Doors around the common room began to crack open and scared faces peeked out. As the snakes left the students filed out of their rooms. No one spoke, they were all simply watching the cloaked figure. The man raised his hands and pushed back his hood. Frankie Cobalt was the first to speak.

“Oh my god. You‘re a Parselmouth!”

Standing there, robed and haggard and with large bags under his eyes, was Markus Michelson.

________________________________________
Disclamer. You know the drill.
________________________________________


Harry and Ginny followed Professor Michelson silently as he walked slowly up through the school. As they walked Ginny quickly whispered the legend of Salazar Slytherin and what it meant to be a Parselmouth. Harry listened in shock, it was all too much to take in. Other teachers has arrived soon after Professor Michelson and begun vanishing the serpents. They had left just as Professor Sprout began trying to restore Hufflepuff house to liveable conditions. All the while Markus Michelson had just stood there, with everyone staring at him.

“Where are we going?” Harry asked the teacher in front of them bluntly. Markus turned and smiled.

“You, my little rapscallions, are out after curfew among other things. So we are going to talk to Dumbledore. Luckily your friend already got him up out of bed.” Markus opened the door to his own office. The walls seemed to be covered with odd trophies and native art. On one wall there hung a wooden shield painted with bright colours that spun and shimmered on the surface. A short sword hung above the desk, it had just one curved edge and the end didn’t have much of a point. It resembled a machete more than anything else.

Inside the office three figures waited, with very different attitudes. Hermione stood twitching, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. Marcus Flint lounged his large heavy body over a chair, his expression arrogant and sneering. Dumbledore was, as usual, inscrutable.

“Hello again Harry. How has your path been treating you?”

“I…” Harry was struck silent by the question for a moment then smiled. “There were some snakes on it.”

“So I have heard.” Dumbledore looked over at Hermione, who withered under his gaze. “Miss Granger woke me from a pleasant dream involving my favourite pair of shoes eloping with each other to tell me that she looked out the window of Gryffindor tower and saw one quarter of my school was marching to war. But when I sent teachers to find out the root of the problem the only students found out of place are the two of you.” The old wizard looked over the rims of his glasses at Harry and Ginny. “I have only asked Mr Flint to come here because Miss Granger insists that he is involved.”

“Stinking Mudblood.” Flint muttered.

“I heard that Mr Flint.” Dumbledore said pleasantly. “Please refrain from such language, you are not helping your case.”

“I haven‘t done nothing wrong professor.” Markus Flint grinned in what he must have thought was an endearing way.

“That is what we are here to determine. For a start Miss Granger would you mind telling me what you saw out the window of the Gryffindor common room.”

Hermione began telling her marginally falsified story haltingly and nervously but Harry had trouble listening. Ginny was pulling on his sleeve, trying to get his attention, she nodded her head to a table nearby piled high with defence books. Harry followed her gaze and alighted on a book lying open to the first page. From that angle Harry could only just read the three words there.

Tom Marvolo Riddle

The diary. Why was it here? Was it connected to everything else or did this sicko just like reading a little girls secrets? Harry shook his head trying to get all his thoughts in order but he was running on adrenalin and no sleep and it felt like his head was full of cobwebs. Painful cobwebs. There was no chance he was going to work this out before the morning. He caught Marcus Flint looking at him curiously and tried to look like he was paying attention. Hermione finished off her story and stood waiting for a reaction from the two teachers present.

“Mr Flint.” Dumbledore turned to the seventh year. “Your response to these allegations?”

“Lies sir.” Flint grinned. “Filthy Mudblood lies.”

“Mr Flint! You will mind your language and refrain from allowing such slander past your lips.”

“Of course sir. But its still lies, I‘ve done nothing wrong.”

“Mr Potter, Miss Weasley. I’m sure you have a side to this story?”

“Yes sir.” Harry jumped in before Ginny could speak. “Hermione told us what she saw and we ran down to the kitchens corridor while she went off to alert you.”

“You did not think to alert a closer teacher. Or a prefect.”

“Didn’t think of that at the time, we were a bit tired. When we got there the Slytherins conjured snakes, opened the Hufflepuff cellar and sealed the door open.”

“I can personally attest that there were a great number of conjured snakes in the cellar tonight professor.” Markus Michelson added. “Would have been trouble for someone without my talents.”

“Talents for dark magic.” Harry muttered.

“You might want to also watch what you say Mr Potter.” The Headmaster said. “I was going to give you both a severe detention for your blatant disregard for curfew. However my Mr Cobalt and Mr Diggory and several other prefects seem to be under the impression that you saved Hufflepuff house. The word hero was being bandied around. So I believe I will take twenty points for each of you, including Miss Granger, and leave it at that.”

“We save everyone’s life and lose sixty points?” Harry thought, fuming. “Unfair.”

“And you Mr Flint.” Markus Michelson fixed the Slytherin with a critical eye. “Have the honour of having detention with me.”

“You can’t prove I had…”

“No I can’t. But you have grossly insulted this beautiful and intelligent young muggleborn witch in my presence. Twice. So for the next two weeks you will have detention with me.”

*

“Sixty points!” Ron shook his head ruefully. “How can he do that?”

“He‘s the Headmaster.” Harry growled. “He can do whatever he wants.”

The Marauders lounged at their table in the common room. The students had been given the day off to allow the Hufflepuffs to recover from their night time ordeal. Harry had needed the extra sleep too but he and his friends had instead woke up early to give them time to discus the things. Ginny had reluctantly let Harry tell everyone about the diary and they had agreed it could be significant. Markus Michelson’s status as a parselmouth brought the greatest gasp.

“How can they let him teach here then?” Parvati had demanded, her hands to her mouth. “They’re all dark wizards. Every one!”

“Did they even know?” Her sister added reasonably. “Harry said the Head Boy was shocked.”

“But they have to fire him now right?”

“Dumbledore won’t kick him out.” Harry groaned from his position lying on his arms on the tabletop. Breathing in the fumes from burning conjured snakes in a tight and airless cellar had made him fairly ill. Ginny was feeling the effects too, she was curled up on her chair and she hadn’t spoken more than a word or two since they had begun. “Not unless he actually murders someone in front of him.”

“But he basically has!” Parvarti countered. “We all know Salazar Slytherin was a parselmouth. Remember the messages? The heir of Slytherin returns. Its him! Has to be.”

“Its just like Quirrel.” Neville said, his ankle already snapped back into shape by madam Pomfrey. “Dumbledore probably just doesn’t have proof. Or else surely he would have done something.”

“Parseltongue is proof.” Harry stated flatly. “Dumbledore’s just refuses to do anything. He‘d rather sit in his tower.” The others looked at him like he’d gone mad. “Well he does. Why hasn‘t he done anything?”

The others just looked at him glumly. They didn’t have any answers.

*

Over the unscheduled break the school quietened down a little. The Slytherins shot glares full of daggers at everyone wherever they went but there was no violence. It was almost as if the failure of their grand plan had made them skittish. The whole school moved forward with an atmosphere of icy tension, a standoff that both sides knew wouldn’t last.

“Another day, another trip through no mans land.” Padma quipped as the marauders moved out of the potions classroom in a tight huddle. “Anyone else tired of this?”

“Better than the fighting.” Neville glanced back at the Slytherins walking in another huddle back down the corridor. “Much better than the fighting.”

“They‘re planning something.” Harry shook his head. “Bloody Flint is planning something.” Every time Harry had passed Flint in the corridor for the past few weeks the seventh year had forgone his usual scowl and grinned slyly.

“Are you sure its Flint? Not Malfoy?” Ron scratched his head.

“I think… I get the impression Malfoy got cut out of the loop over Christmas. He wasn’t part of the snake army that’s for sure.”

“Probably didn’t want to risk his own neck.” The Marauders filed into the defence classroom and immediately dragged their books out. There was no point expecting anything else…

“Books away children! We‘re back to the practical as of today!” The class looked up at Professor Michelson in shock. The bags under his eyes remained but he seemed as bubbly and full of energy as he had at the start of term. “Hex-Deflection, this week we start with Hex deflection. Pipsqueek, come up here and help me demonstrate.”

*

“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!” Harry yelled as soon as the marauders had quit the classroom. The lesson had been lively, instructive and (if it had been under other circumstances) fun. “He spends half of last term in a funk and sleeps through classes while planning god knows what afterwards! Then he gets revealed to the entire school as a dark wizard, everyone hates him and he‘s bloody vivacious! He‘s just switched from petrifying people to trying to confuse us to death! I do. Not. Get it!” The other marauders just giggled as they followed the ranting figure of Harry back to the common room.

Markus Michelson’s return to his happy place did not stop with that one lecture but continued. Eventually even the bags under his eyes disappeared and he looked, in every way, exactly as Harry had first seen him. Everyone wondered about this odd turnaround, but one night Harry decided to try to find out why.

That night Harry ghosted over the rooftops towards Markus Michelson’s office. He squatted down near a chimney and glanced down at the closed windows. They were darkened and the curtains were drawn, probably locked and spelled too. Harry glanced one way then the other then slowly lowered himself down to a different window and slipped in. Tiptoeing along the corridor he reached the door to the office.

“Alohomora.” Harry tried the handle quietly but the door remained firmly shut. “Specialis Revelio.” A faint blue glow showed thought the door crack, near the handle, pulsing like a heartbeat.

Harry hid the glow with his body and glanced behind him but there was no one around. Hopefully Filch was patrolling some other area of the castle. Harry tried to cast his mind back to Beyond Alohomora. Intermittent blue glow meant something specific he was sure. “Finite.” Harry tried hopefully, and the glow disappeared. But the door still didn’t open. Harry groaned, of course. He hadn’t cancelled the locking spell, he’d just cancelled his revealing charm. Repeating the charm brought back the glow. What did blue mean? Colloportus was red, he’d looked that up after the dungeon episode. Fixing charm! Blue was a fixing charm and the pulsing meant it restored itself if you tried to cancel it.

“Eximo.” Harry spoke the counter then quickly followed with “cesso.” The heartbeat fluttered, then faded. His hand trembling, Harry opened the door.

“Harry Potter must not be here!”

Harry spun on the spot then groaned. “Dobby! What are you doing here!?”

“Harry Potter must go now!” The elf was frantic, hopping from one foot to another. “Please!”

“Shut up!” Harry waved his hands at the crying elf. “Quiet! Please!”

“Must go now! Must go! Go now!”

“Dobby, please!”

“Danger!” The elf’s wide eyes were full of tears and he was pulling on his ears in distress. The elf glanced to one side and his keening became more frantic.

“Over there?” Without another word Harry dashed the way the elf had looked.

“No Harry Potter! That is the Danger way! Run the other way!”

“What’s this danger eh?” Harry looked around the corridor he’d just run into. “Michelson? Slytherins?”

“No no no no no.” The elf had grabbed Harry’s hand and was trying to drag him the other way. “Please go.”

“Get off… What’s that?” A scratching noise. Where was it coming from? Harry looked down at the elf but Dobby had gone totally rigid. It sounded like something moving. Harry moved forward, there was a door there, a side passage with gratings on the floor. It was louder here, coming from under the floor.

“Harry… P…p…potter must go.” Dobby wasn’t sobbing anymore but he was shivering. Uncontrollable tremors. “Please Harry Potter. Run.”

The scratching grew louder and louder then stopped, suddenly. One of the grates on the floor shifted, like something was nosing up from underneath.

“Don’t look in its eyes!” Dobby squealed. Then vanished with a crack. Something in Harry snapped as the little figure disappeared, and he turned and ran as fast as he could. Behind him he heard a crashing clang as the grate was tossed aside. He reached the door and slammed it closed before dashing down the hall. Splintering wood told him that whatever it was was following. Harry pelted down another hallway and skidded on the polished floor. With a crash that sounded like a bomb going off he collided with a suit of armour. Smashing to the floor Harry felt a stabbing pain in his ankle.

“Oh please let someone have heard that.” Harry hobbled to his feet and cried out in pain as he tried to put weight on his ankle. “No no no.” Harry looked back the way he had come, a shadow was just slinking around the corner. The snout of a snake came into view when Harry jerked his head back. “Don’t look into its eyes. Oh god, someone help me.” Harry tried to hobble away but he could barely hop down the corridor. He glanced back before he could stop himself and saw the snakes massive coils, too close. Harry grabbed the window near him and, not caring, flung himself out.

He landed on the slanted roof a few feet below and rolled. A drainpipe jutted from the wall a few feet away where it spouted from the mouth of a gargoyle. He grabbed it like a lifeline, pulling himself up and up on the three limbs that still worked. When he reached the top he slid onto the tiles and lay there trying to catch his breath. Below him he could hear the scratching still, and a hissing. It stayed there for a long time while Harry lay there, and he lay there a long time even after it was gone.

*

“Reparo?” Hermione shook her head at Harry and buried her face in her hands. “You used Reparo on a broken ankle? Why?”

“You try climbing off a roof with one working foot.” Harry was being supported by Ron as he hopped towards the hospital wing. “And it’s fine.” That was purely a lie. The foot had just about worked for long enough to get him off the roof when morning came. However it seemed like the spell had some odd effects when used on living tissue. Like the fact that his bone was now breaking, healing and re-breaking in a painful cycle.

“Madam Pomfrey is going to have a heart attack.”

She didn’t in fact have a heart attack. She did however call Harry an idiot.

“Why did you not simply come to me Mr Potter?” She said while pulling various odd coloured bottles out of a cabinet. “You have made your injury much more difficult to treat.”

“Thought I could miss off a few extra classes.” Harry grinned then screamed as his ankle snapped again.

“Was it worth it?”

“I guess not.”

“Do try to remember that next time Mr Potter. Next time you… trip over your own feet.” She smiled down at him.

“How long do I have to stay here then?”

“Overnight I‘m afraid Mr Potter.” She handed him a bottle of a greyish potion that looked like glue. “You should be thankful. At least we won‘t have to use Skele-Gro.”

*

Harry checked the clock again, it was almost three in the morning. Thanks to the potion the breaking cycle had slowed. His bone had stayed broken for almost an hour now. Madam Pomfrey had said that if it lasted an hour and a half that would mean that the errant spell was fully leached out and the bone could be set properly. He lay back, thankful for the other potion that had dulled the pain.

“Dobby is sorry Harry Potter sir.” Oh great.

“You have to stop appearing like that Dobby, really. Just come in through the door or something.”

“Dobby is sorry Harry Potter is hurt.”

“I guess I should thank you. You tried to warn me.” Harry rolled over and looked the elf in the eyes. “I just wish you could have been more specific like ‘Hey there‘s a big snake coming to kill you.’ or something. Unless the snake was another one of your tricks, like the wall.”

“No Harry Potter Dobby had nothing to do with that snake.”

“Right, I th…” Harry’s eyes narrowed. “With that snake?” Dobby hung his head. “You might as well tell me Dobby.”

“Dobby levitated some other snakes.” Harry’s memory presented him an image of a burning couch with serpents floating over it.

“Dobby listen to me. Look at me.” The little elf’s head tilted nervously and his eyes met Harry’s green ones. “There were a lot of people in that cellar other than me. If you have some weird thing where you want to force me to leave this school fine. I can take it. But do not bring anyone else into this. You could have killed someone.”

“Dobby was watching. Dobby wouldn‘t have let them get that close.”

“What about the one that almost bit me?”

“Dobby‘s master… called him away.”

“And you just left?”

“Dobby must answer when his master calls. Dobby must obey it is a house elf‘s duty.”

“Why don’t you just leave?” Harry looked over Dobby and his dirty pillowcase. It was hard not to pity him, even if he was trying to kill him. Dobby was obviously a victim of whoever these masters were. “Can‘t you leave?”

“The only way a house elf can be freed is if they is given clothes.” Dobby shook his head, he looked very defeated. “And Dobby‘s masters is never doing that.”

“So leave.”

“Dobby can not leave unless…”

“Why?”

“The clothes is the only…”

“Why? Just leave, or better yet just don’t go back. You‘re out now aren’t you?”

“Dobby is a house elf. A house elf…” Dobby shook his head. “A house elf cannot disobey an order from its master.”

“Why? You don‘t owe them. From what you’ve said they seem to have given you a pretty screwed up life. Don‘t punish yourself!” Harry added as Dobby nodded then stiffened. “Its ok… don’t.” Dobby relaxed again.

“You see this is what they do.” Harry continued. “They make them think you owe them. The Dursleys, my aunt and uncle you know. Treated me like dirt, I got nothing from them but pain and neglect same as you. But they act like they‘re doing you a favour. Twist your mind up so they even have you thinking they‘re doing you a favour. But all it takes for you be free of them is to want to be, ‘cos then they don’t have a hold over you any more. Walk away from them… damn it.” Harry heard a crack.

“Mr Potter?”

“My leg just un-broke. Never mind, where was I? Oh yeah you don’t need clothes, just leave them.” Dobby seemed to look around like he could hear something Harry couldn’t.

“Dobby has to go.” And with that he vanished again.

“Great.” Harry spoke to the empty hospital wing. “You could at least have kept me company.”

*

“Ready to go?” Ron leant in through the door to the Hospital wing.

“Yep.” Harry slid off the bed.

“Then we should probably hurry. This place is going to be swarming in a minute. There‘s been another attack.”

“What? When?”

“Don’t know, but someone else is petrified.” Ron shook his head. “Looks like the Slytherins are attacking their own now.”

“Their own?” Harry felt ice in his chest.

“Slytherin fourth year, name was Split I think.” Ron shrugged.

“Joshua Split.” Harry sat back on the bed with his head in his hands. “You go on, I want to wait for him.”

“Ok.” Ron looked confused. “I‘ll wait with you.” They didn’t have to wait long. Soon Dumbledore walked calmly into the Hospital wing, levitating a startled looking Split. Behind them trailed Professor Snape looking sourly at them and Lucy Kingston who was sobbing into a handkerchief. As the Headmaster lowered the boy onto the hospital bed Harry crossed the room and looked at his face. His eyes were wide in shock and his mouth hung open.

“Is he going to be alright?” It was an inane comment, but it was all Harry could think to say.

“Yes Mr Potter.” The Headmaster nodded. “He will be fine eventually, the same as the others.”

“I did not realise you knew Mr Split, Potter.” Snape stepped up beside the Headmaster. “I know Split as a model student. I thought he has better taste.”

“He‘s a Slytherin.” Harry said quietly. “How good can his taste be.”

That evening Harry took Vanessa and Elizabeth to visit Split. Lucy Kingston was there again, glancing between her brother and her boyfriend

“I know they‘ll be alright once the Mandrakes mature.” She nodded as if trying to convince herself. “But I can’t help wondering what could have happened if they had hadn’t been found.”

“But they were. And they‘ll be alright. No use worrying about things that didn’t happen right?”

“I guess. It‘s just lucky Professor Michelson found him.”

“What?”

“You didn‘t hear. Professor Michelson found Josh. When Dumbledore arrived he was already there.”

Harry just stared at her. But suddenly another voice broke through to him.

“Oh so he‘s just petrified. Pity, unlike you he won’t even have a scar.” Harry turned at that drawling voice. Malfoy stood in the doorway to the hospital wing. “I could give him one of course, right in the middle of his mudblood face.”

“Well Malfoy, you came to the right place to get the shit kicked out of you.” Harry crossed his arms. “Madam Pomfrey, can patch you up and I can have the fun of finding whole new ways to hurt you.” Harry glared at Malfoy while the two first year Slytherins backed away towards Splits bed, as if even petrified he could afford them some protection. “Get out.”

“But I was visiting my housemate during his convalescence.”

“Out.”

“Alright I wasn‘t visiting him. I hate his filthy mudblood guts. I‘m here to talk to you.”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

“How touching. Get out.”

“Potter.” Malfoy glanced around the Hospital wing. The five of them were the only ones awake. He looked back and spoke through gritted teeth. “Please.”

Harry paused a moment then turned to the Ravenclaw behind him.

“Can you walk those two back to Gryffindor tower. They know the password.” Lucy Kingston nodded. As Harry turned and walked towards the door Vanessa spoke.

“Don‘t go, he‘s dangerous!”

“I think I can handle him.” Harry said over his shoulder and walked out of the wing. A few steps down the corridor took them to an empty classroom. “Ok, Talk. And this had better be good.”

“I’m warning you Potter.”

“Are you threatening me?”

“No I‘m warning you. As in warning you that something bad is going to happen.” Draco glanced around again. “It‘s Flint.”

“It usually is.”

“He‘s… I don’t know precisely what to call it… recruiting.” Malfoy rubbed the back of his hand nervously. “He‘s been talking to people, lots of people. Getting big groups together to talk about their collective blood purity and their obvious superiority.” There wasn’t a trace of sarcasm in Malfoy’s voice as he said the last bit.

“I have three questions.” Harry held up three fingers. “One: That’s exactly what you talk about so why aren’t you with them? Two: Why are you telling me? Three: Why are you so ugly?”

“I am not with them because…” Malfoy trailed off and licked his lips. When he began again it was in a calculating voice. “Although I approve of their message I think their choice of leadership is lacking.”

“Ah…! If you can’t be the head of the club you don’t want to be a member?”

“Precisely. And as for question two… well I thought we could work together. For now we have the same goal.”

“Wait, isn’t Flint basically your lapdog?” Harry tried to jog his memory. “Didn’t you once say you basically owned him?”

“Yes I… Where did you hear that?”

“Um… gossip?” Harry grinned, remembering he had been hiding in Malfoy’s chimney at the time. “Can‘t you just pull rank on him?”

“I tried and that’s the scariest thing. His family is up to their eyeballs in debt to my father, I threatened to call in that debt and he just laughed. Said money wasn’t important anymore. Not now that he had heard the call.”

“The call?”

“That’s what they call themselves The Called. Those who answered the call to arms, the call of Slytherins heir.”

Harry took a moment to digest that.

“Are you telling me that Flint has turned this into some kind of cult?”

“That’s what I‘ve been trying to tell you Potter!” Malfoy grimaced. “They say that all previous bonds and obligations are void when compared to the call. All debts are off, all oaths broken. This is a problem for me because I have lost the level of control I usually have over my house. This is a problem for you because next time they attack the threat of detention and house points won’t stop them. Expulsion won‘t stop them, they don’t care about Hogwarts any more.”

“Bloody hell.” Harry buried his face in his hands and tried hard to digest what he was being told but it seemed just too extreme to believe. “I thought Flint was basically a thug.”

“So did I.” Malfoy nodded. “But he seems different since the… Hufflepuff incident, which I had nothing to do with. I guess we both underestimated him.”

“Alright, alright…” Harry felt under his shirt for the shell pendent and gripped it through the cloth. It made him feel better, a little. “Here‘s what we‘re gonna do… You have the names of these… Called?”

Malfoy wordlessly handed him a scrap of parchment. There were over fifty names listed.

“Not all of these are Slytherins.” Harry said checking down the list. “Four ‘puffs, six Ravenclaws, sixteen Gryffindors!?”

“Surprised?” Malfoy sneered. “As I’ve always said, Gryffindors are arrogant. And all of the houses have pure-blood students crying out to be given the recognition they deserve. And would you like to know the other reason so many Gryffindors joined?” Malfoy looked happy and condescending, never a good combination in him.

“Against my better judgement… Yes tell me.”

“You.” Malfoy grinned smirkily. “They seem to think you’ve usurped your house, acting like you speak for all of them. Plus they seem to think that your abysmal performance in the house cup last year was partially due to your activities.”

Harry winced. He was well aware that his house’s performance was almost entirely due to marauder activities. Well, them and the twins.

“Alright, I get it. I‘ll deal with it. And I‘ll get in contact with friends in the other houses and cut him down to just the Slytherins.”

“Even if you do he still has over thirty Slytherins at his beck and call.”

“I can‘t stop what he does inside the dank confines of your dungeon.” Harry stood and moved to the door. “I‘ll deal with the rest of the school, you deal with Slytherin.”

“Fair enough. By the way…” Malfoy caught him before he reached the door. “This changes absolutely nothing.”

“I know, I know. We‘re co-conspirators, not friends. And I still hate you.” Harry gritted his teeth and frowned. “I still hate you what you did to Vanessa and Lucy and the others.”

“And I still hate you and your friends and mudbloods and blood traitors in general. And unlike you…” Malfoy ran his fingers through his hair as he swaggered out the door. “…I‘m far from ugly.”

*

“Why are we meeting like this?”

“You mean in secret?”

“No, I mean in a girls bathroom?”

Harry glanced around the Marauders crowded into the depressing bathroom. They were looking at him expectedly.

“We‘re meeting here because…” Harry turned to Parvarti. “Why are we meeting here?”

“You said you wanted somewhere secret. No one ever comes here because of Moaning Myrtle.” Parvarti shuddered involuntarily.

“Who in the hell is Moaning Myrtle?”

“Hell is the operative word…” Padma muttered.

Harry glanced around but saw no-one.

“Still not understanding.” Harry shrugged but a voice filtered in from behind the wall.

“Did someone say my name?” A pale figure faded in through the wall, lank hair falling haphazardly over her spotty face. Beneath her thick glasses her eyes looked puffy, like she’d been crying. When she was fully through the brickwork she blinked in surprise at the crowd filling her bathroom. “Why are you here? Have you come to laugh at me? Laugh at poor, moaning, fat Myrtle.”

“Why would we bother doing that?” Ron said, apparently not noticing the shushing motions Hermione was making at him. “Bit like flogging a dead horse eh? Get it? Get it? Dead horse…” Hermione buried her face in her hands and the Patil sisters both took an involuntary step back from Ron. Ron’s cheeky smile vanished from his face as the ghost turned to face him, murder in her puffy eyes.

“Oh yes! Not only is Myrtle DEAD! She‘s also ugly like a horse!”

“Its just an expression…”

“You boys are all MEAN and EVIL!” Myrtle screeched right into Ron’s face. The poor redhead was glued to the spot with terror. “And how about you!” Myrtle spun and faced Neville. Ron looked profoundly relived. “Are you going to hurt me too!”

“No no…” Neville backed up with his hands out in front of him.

“You think I‘m ugly!”

“No, pretty!” Myrtle hesitated, Neville pressed on. “Very pretty, nice… ears?”

“NICE EARS?” Harry was surprised the screech didn’t break off tiles. “You‘re making fun of me AGAIN!” Harry couldn’t suppress a giggle and the vengeful ghost rounded on him. “Are you laughing at me too. All boys are the same, you all…”

“What’s your full name Myrtle.” Harry cut her off mid sentence. She looked shocked, he supposed not many people had ever asked her that. “I mean I assume Myrtle isn’t your last name any more than Moaning’s your first.”

“M…Myrtle Henderson.” She had stopped crying. If anything she looked confused by this turn of events.

“Miss Myrtle Henderson. How would you like to help us…” Harry moved closer and stage-whispered into her ear. “…with some mischief.”

“Some… mischief. What kind of mischief?” Myrtle moved even closer. Harry squashed down a shiver as the ghost brushed against him.

“Harry…. What are you doing?” Ron had managed to find his voice again finally.

“Recruiting.” Harry glanced over the translucent shoulder of the ghost. “Do you realise how insanely useful a picket that can walk through walls could be. And unless I miss Miss Myrtle‘s attitude entirely she seems primed for some nefarious snooping. Have I missed my guess Myrtle?” The ghost blushed, tinting her floating, smoky form bubblegum pink. “Thought not. Can I count on you Myrtle?”

“Oh yes Harry.” The lascivious grin on the spectres face drove traces of doubt into Harry’s mind. Had he pushed this a little too far? Oh well, Follow through.

“For now could you watch the corridor? Some friends of mine are meeting me here…” Harry rattled of the names of the invited conspirators. “… and its imperative that we‘re not overheard. Mind playing lookout for us?”

“Not at all, not for you.” Myrtle swooped away through the wall and the marauders all looked at Harry. Expressions of disbelieving shock were becoming more and more common Harry felt.

“She‘ll be useful. And honestly I don’t see what‘s so bad about her.” They continued to stare. “Quite pleasant once you get to know her.”

Further discussion was cut off by the arrival of the other people invited to the meeting. Susan Bones stepped in quickly and smiled when she saw the people already there. Cho Chang moved in slower while glancing around the corners of the bathroom (probably checking for ghosts). Her fellow Ravenclaw Lucy Kingston followed close behind her and said…

“Isn‘t this Myrtles ba…”

“She‘s out.” Harry explained and shared a grin with his friends. “She won‘t be bothering us. Now eyes front girls…” Harry snapped and they all looked at him curiously. “I need your help. Something happening that spreads over the entire school and the entire school needs to stop it. I can’t do it alone, I‘m sick of doing it alone, I really need your help.”

The bathroom was silent for a moment then Cho spoke up…

“You know you’ve always got it Harry. What do you need us to do?”
________________________________________


Wow, getting quite a few reviews now. But i still need more! I've become addicted to them and i keep checking to see whether i have more!

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f I was JK Rowling I'd have more stuff, a designer suit, a PS3, an expensive car, a fountain of gold, two X chromosomes...

I do not have these things. By a process of logic I am not JK Rowling and therefore do not own Harry Potter.
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The called and the chosen.

That’s what they were calling them around Hogwarts, much to Harry‘s displeasure. Flint’s Called and Harry’s Chosen. Harry however, had the utter glowing satisfaction that the Chosen were winning. Flints support had been slashed to just the Slytherins and even there he had only a loyal kernel, a fragment of the support he once had.

As Harry walked silently through the corridors he passed Malfoy once more surrounded by his usual crowd of sycophants, mute evidence that most Slytherins had defected back to their old leader. For all that he hated Malfoy Harry had to admit that it hadn’t turned out to be a bad deal, Malfoy got his pride back and Harry had got peace. And it was peace, the chosen (Harry hated that name, it was overdramatic. He preferred to think of them as junior marauders.) had stopped the violence largely without using violence in return. It had just happened that wherever the Called tried to meet each other a teacher or a prefect or a big group of Harry’s little soldiers were already there. People were wondering how he always knew.

Harry smirked, between an informant and a ghost it was lucky Flint had any secrets left. Harry rounded a corner and stopped dead. His smile dieing on his lips. In front of him was a bitter tableau, the last thing he ever wanted to see.
TRAITORS!
The chamber is open and the Heir prevails but you betray him!
So each and every one of you will suffer!
Each and every one will die!
This is only the beginning Mudbloods.


The words were scrawled on the wall were nothing to what was under them. Colin Creevy, an irritating but earnest first year, was curled up un the floor with the white sheen of petrifaction on his skin. He was clutching his camera like a lifeline. Standing above him with his wand drawn was Professor Michelson.

The student and the teacher stared at each other for a long moment. In the silence Harry heard his heart racing.

“Good Harry. You‘re here.” Professor Michelson nodded. “Run and get Dumbledore, I‘ll get this poor chap to the Hospital wing.”

Harry didn’t move except to grip his wand tighter.

“Are you disobeying your teacher Harry? Get Dumbledore.” Markus Michelson bent down and reached for Colin.

“Step away from him.” Harry raised his wand and started forward. “Or I swear to god I‘ll kill you.” Professor Michelson stopped but didn’t back away.

“Death threats Harry?” Michelson laughed. “Do you really think you‘d last five seconds in a duel with me?”

Harry never got to answer as the sound of running feet filled the hallway. A moment later Dumbledore was there, pushing past Harry to examine the petrified child. Harry kept his eyes trained on Markus.

“Albus.” Professor Michelson smiled. “I was just trying to send for you. He‘s been petrified like the others.”

Harry felt more jostling bumps and looked around to see other teachers and students crowding into the corridor. Despite the witnesses there was no way he was leaving Colin alone now. He cleared his throat.

“Do you want me to take him to the Hospital wing Professor?”
*


Harry dropped into a chair near the petrified Gryffindor’s bed and tried to marshal his thoughts. The marauders stood around him without speaking. At the other side of the bed the two semi-Gryffindors, Elizabeth and Vanessa, stood silently. They had been visiting Joshua Split but had come over when they saw Colin brought in. They knew him. They took classes with him. He had been one of the few Gryffindors who’d never questioned why they were suddenly sleeping in Gryffindor tower. He had just greeted them cheerfully. They’d liked him. Harry’d liked Colin too, he was one of the few people shorter than him.

Harry shook his head, this was too much. And they had been winning.

“Do you think…” Neville started and then stopped, unsure of himself.

“Go on Neville.” Harry tried to smile encouragingly at him, but couldn’t find it in himself. “God knows I don’t have any bright ideas.”

“I was thinking Hogwarts might have to close.” He looked at his feet while saying it. Harry didn’t answer him, he just glanced around the Hospital wing. Too many of the beds were occupied.

“They’ve been talking about it.” Parvarti spoke quietly. “Our parents have…” Her sister tried to shush her but she kept talking. “ Our parents have been trying to get us to leave for a while. They say its not safe anymore.”

The crew fell silent again. Parvati was watching Harry, like she was trying to gauge his response.

“Aren’t you going to say something Harry.” Hermione urged him.

“It’s not safe anymore.” Harry’s own voice felt dead in his ears. They stared at him.

“But…” Ron was looking at him shocked. “Dumbledore‘s here. Its got to be safe.” Harry didn’t even have the energy to respond to that but Ron pressed on.

“And you Harry. You‘re here.” Harry felt a dry laugh escape his lips. “No its true. You‘ve helped loads. Right everyone?” Harry heard murmured agreement and felt an arm fall across his shoulders. Ron was uncomfortably hugging him. “Everyone looks up to you Harry. You‘ll think of a plan.” Something snapped in Harry and he slapped Ron’s arm away.

“I‘ll think of a plan! Why?!” Harry glared up at the shocked faces of his friends. “Why?! Why me? Because I‘m bloody sick of it do you hear me. Let me tell you straight out. I. Don’t. Have. A. Bloody. PLAN!” Harry was yelling but he felt his voice catch in his throat. He stood up and turned away from them all.

“All these people!” Harry waved his hands at the petrified students. “You think I have a clue what to do?” He held his head in his hands.

“Its too much.” He couldn’t have stopped talking now if he tried. “Malfoy and Flint and Michelson and Snakes and Elves and Bloody Tom Riddle. I have them going round and round in my head but I can’t put anything together.”

“You do it!” He whirled and pointed at Hermione. “Or You!” He waved at a shocked Padma.

“You could have been Ravenclaw. You work it out because I can’t. I don’t have a plan. I tried but I can‘t.” He collapsed onto the floor of the Hospital wing, he noticed the tears falling onto his lens’ but he couldn’t stop.

“I just can’t do it. I‘m not smart enough, I‘m not strong enough. I only beat Malfoy ‘cos I used the pain-spear. Had to use it again on the snakes. I ran away from the other snake. I‘m a coward and I’m stupid and I‘m sorry. But I don’t have a plan.” Harry’s hand snaked into his collar and held fast to the little shell pendent, the edges of it cutting into his palm.

“I‘m sorry.” He whispered. “You were wrong. I‘m not up to this. I don’t know what I‘m doing.”

Harry stayed sitting there on the floor, crying and sobbing. He felt his friends crowding around him, someone was hugging him, he didn’t know who. He had screwed up his eyes as hard as he could. Someone (Ginny maybe? She had small hands) kept stroking his hair and making soothing noises. He felt a tissue pushed into his hands and tried vainly to use it on his eyes. He couldn’t believe he was doing this. No one spoke, for which he was grateful. Perhaps he could just pretend this hadn’t happened? But the silence was broken in the last way he would have ever expected…

“Did you say Tom Riddle?”

Harry’s eyes flashed open. Vanessa was staring at him open-mouthed. “Yes.” He managed to croak in a voice that didn’t sound like him. “Do you know something?”

“My…” Vanessa looked scared and was gripping the side of the bed very hard. “I don’t know… I don’t…”

“Whatever it is… Please?” Harry heard himself beg. “You can tell me. You just saw me have a breakdown on the floor. Whatever it is it can’t be worse than that can it?” Harry saw Elizabeth reach out and close her friends hand in both of hers. “Please…”

“My parents… are in Azkaban.” Harry heard the marauders around him gasp and shushed them into silence. “They were arrested three years ago for muggle baiting. I live with my aunt and uncle.” Vanessa swallowed hard. “My dad is older than mum. He used to get drunk, talk about what he did in the war. He… they both worked for the Dark Lord.” Harry felt another gasp and Vanessa turned away and buried her face in her hands.

“’nessa you don’t have to be scared.” Harry shook his head. “When the fights started you followed Split not Flint, you‘re good.”

“I chose Slytherin.” Vanessa spoke through her hands. “I was scared of my aunt and uncle. I was given a choice and I still went to Slytherin.”

“And you ended up in Gryffindor anyway.” Harry tried to keep the eagerness from his voice, he needed to know what she did. “Please be brave for me. Be a Gryffindor now.” Vanessa nodded and started talking again.

“My fathers name is Tortor Gibbon…” Harry saw Ron’s jaw clench and quickly grabbed his arm, he didn’t know what was going on but nothing could be allowed to stop Vanessa speaking. “He used to talk about how proud he was. That he was one of the first to pledge his loyalty, one of the first to serve the Dark Lord. How he went to school with him, knew him before he even took his name. While he still had his old name. While he was still Tom Riddle.”

No one moved. No one spoke. It felt like no one breathed.

“Tom Marvolo Riddle was Voldemort.” Harry could feel the spark. All the pieces in his head seemed to be coming together. “The diary was Voldemort’s.” Harry heard Ginny let out a cry and saw Hermione move to comfort her but it was background, it was all pushed to the sides of his mind “Markus Michelson has the diary of the Dark Lord. That should be enough for Dumbledore.”

Harry looked around him and realised he was still kneeling on the floor, he had a balled up wad of tissues in his hand.

“Help me up.” Arms grabbed him. “We‘ve got work to do.” He blinked the last remaining tears out of his eyes.

“Neville, Ginny…” Neville looked up but Ginny didn’t. “Ginny! You need…” Harry had been about to comfort her but at the last minute decided on a different tack.

“Ginny wake up! I need you here, are you a marauder or not? Up!” She jerked up off Hermione’s shoulder and stared at him. “The two of you GET DUMBLEDORE. He‘s changed his office password by now but don‘t take no for an answer. Find McGonagall, anyone, make nuisances of yourselves until you get him! GO!” Neville and Ginny bolted for the door.

“Bring him to Michelson’s office when you get him. That’s where the rest of us are going. Vanessa…” Harry turned to the little girl. “… you are amazing. Never change.” With that he whirled to the rest of the marauders and drew his wand. “Michelson‘s office now. Lets end this!”
*


Harry grabbed the door handle and yanked at it. Unsurprisingly it didn’t move. Harry glanced back at his friends.

“I should be able to break through, did last time. Go up there and keep watch for me.” Harry pointed at a stained glass window. “Mico if Markus comes alone.” The marauders moved off, except for one.

“Harry.” Hermione said. “Shouldn‘t we just wait for Dumbledore? He should be on his way, do we have to break in?”

“Probably not but I can‘t just wait here Hermione. Honestly I‘d go crazy right now if I wasn‘t doing something.” Harry turned back to the door and heard Hermione move away.

Harry used the revealing charm and removed the fixing charm and temporarily deactivated a sepulcralis curse that hadn’t been there before and swung the door open. Moving as fast as he could he scoured the tables that were set around the room, the book wasn’t where it had been last time. He began checking the bookshelves when he felt his wand vibrate. He slipped to the door and glanced out quickly. Instead of Markus Michelson he saw only one thing. Green scales and a long muscled body.

“Guys RUN!” Harry yelled at the top of his voice while darting back into the office. “Don’t look into its eyes! Coepto incantatem!” Harry reactivated the sepilcralis curse on the door and stepped back in terror. The slithering noise got closer on the other side of the door and Harry raised his wand in fear. As the noise got right up to the door he saw a flash of light around the frame and an inhuman screech. The curse had worked. There was a loud thrashing from beyond the door and the room shook as if something was throwing its weight repeatedly against the wall. Harry heard an almighty crunch and then silence. Then slow slithering sounds as whatever it was moved off.

Harry knew he shouldn’t but as soon as the noise had moved off he ran forward and pulled the door open. The hallway was in ruins, paintings smashed and armour thrown everywhere. There were chunks of rock all over the floor, Harry knew what those must have been from. Sepilcralis, the entombing curse. It encased your body in rock, just leaving your head out. The snake must have been strong enough to shake itself free.

Then Harry saw something else that made him stop in horror. The running feet in the distance as someone came to investigate were nothing, all sound was gone. Harry stared up at four frozen figures, pressing up against a stained glass window that was no longer there, it had been smashed by the beasts angry throws. Ron, Hermione and the Patils, all petrified. Hermione had her wand in her hand, she must have sent the mico before she was frozen. Her last act was warning him. She hadn’t even wanted to come. Petrified just because he couldn’t sit still for five minutes.

Harry dragged his gaze away from them and saw the people who had arrived. Ginny and Neville standing there shocked staring first at their petrified friends then at Harry. Dumbledore standing behind them with all the heads of house flanking him and Markus Michelson standing arrogantly to one side.

“Harry…” Dumbledore’s voice was soft and carried nothing of what was going on in his head. “…do you have something to tell me?”

“Yes.” Harry turned to him. He tried to imagine how he looked, sweating, his clothes a mess, his eyes still puffy from the breakdown in the hospital wing and standing in the middle of a destroyed corridor with his wand out. “I have something to say.”
*


Dumbledore led them into Markus Michelson’s office while Professor Flitwick and Professor Sprout began levitating the petrified Marauders down. Harry turned once he was inside and began to speak before anyone else could.

“Headmaster, Professor Michelson is behind the attacks.”

“Harry, do not make baseless accusations.” Dumbledore said harshly.

“Its not baseless. He‘s a Parseltongue!”

“That in itself proves noth…”

“He has been at the sight off the last two petrifications!”

“Doing his job as a Hogwarts teacher!”

“The last two times I’ve broken into his office I‘ve coincidently been attacked by a giant snake! This time it petrified my friends!”

“Broken into his office?” Snape sounded as happy as Harry had ever heard him. “You admit it in front of four Hogwarts teachers.”

“Get bent Snivillus. This is important.” The shocked look on every teachers face showed Harry exactly how far over the line he was. But he couldn’t stop now, he had just seen something in a cabinet behind the potions master. Moving so fast no one had a chance to question him he darted to the cabinet and grabbed the handles. It wouldn’t open.

“Where‘s the key!” Harry whirled and yelled. He pointed at Professor Michelson. “Tell me!”

“Mr Potter you are in quite enough trouble as it is.” Professor McGonagall was looking at him with something between anger and sadness. “You will be expelled of course but perhaps if you stop now you can avoid criminal charges.”

Harry felt like he had been hit in the gut but he was running on adrenalin now and the chances of him stopping were zero. He turned and grabbed a heavy statue. Ignoring a yell from behind him he smashed the glass of the cabinet and grabbed the diary triumphantly.

He felt himself grabbed from behind and turned to look directly into Dumbledore’s eyes. Far from bright and twinkling they looked like burning ice.

“Harry Potter you have…”

“…saved your arse.” Harry cut in thrusting the diary at the most powerful wizard in the world. “Read it! You will read it!”

No one in the room breathed as Dumbledore slowly reached out and took the slim book. His long ancient fingers moved over the cover and opened it to its first page. He stopped, for a moment Harry thought he had been petrified as well. Only the old wizards eyes moved, back and forth as if he was reading that one line over and over.

“Markus.” When Dumbledore finally spoke it was almost a whisper. Almost a prayer. “You know what this is.” It wasn’t a question but Professor Michelson answered anyway.

“Yes.”

“You know who this is.”

“Yes.”

“Why did you not tell me?”

“I thought you had enough on your hands.” Markus replied evenly. “I am more than capable of dealing with cursed items.”

“Albus what is it?” Snape sounded almost interested. Dumbledore wordlessly held the book out for Snape and McGonagall to see. The Deputy Headmistress stared in horror and the potions master recoiled as if he’d been struck. Snape turned on the Defence Professor. “And you did not see fit to tell us about this!” Harry didn’t envy Markus Michelson.

“As I told you at the start of the year Mr Snape.” Michelson replied evenly. “I am the Defence against the Dark Arts teacher.”

“Oh this goes so far beyond you teaching duties.” Snape’s voice dripped with hatred. “You should have told us the moment this came into your hands.”

“I was…”

“Enough.” The Headmaster cut them both off. He sounded tired. “How did you find out about this Harry?”

“I’ve known he had the diary for a while. I saw it in his office. But I didn‘t know who Tom Riddle was until today.” Harry looked Dumbledore in the eye as he spoke. “I broke in here to make sure he wouldn‘t have chance to hide the diary from you.” Harry said, hoping they had forgotten he had broken in twice.

“And you sent Mr Longbottom and Miss Weasley to find me.” Dumbledore finished for him. “Once again I find that you have totally reasonable and indeed honourable reasons for your rule breaking. Perhaps it is my judgement that is failing…” Harry said nothing. “Does it have any powers that you know of.” Harry opened his mouth to speak then realised that he wasn’t supposed to know anything about what was in the diary and shut it again.

“It writes back if you write in it.” Markus volunteered. Dumbledore waved his hand and a quill appeared as if from no-where. Opening the book to the first page he wrote…
Hello Tom.


The words faded and were replaced with.
Whatever you do to this book I will reveal nothing to you.


“It said that to me as well. Albus I…” but Dumbledore cut Markus off.

“I will hear your excuses later Mr Michelson. Probably when you give them to the aurors. Until then you are removed from all teaching duty at Hogwarts. Clean out your office.”

“But..!” For the first time Harry had ever seen Markus looked flustered.

“Professor Snape will cover your classes.”

“No!” Harry couldn’t keep that from escaping and the four teachers turned to him. “Um… never mind. Go back to what you were saying.”

“I think we had covered everything Harry. I‘m sure you have homework to be doing.”

“I might…” Homework had never been Harry‘s priority. Harry walked to the door and slipped out quietly. Neville and Ginny were waiting there for him.

“Dumbledore‘s calling the aurors.” A vast weight seemed to have been taken from his shoulders. “And he‘s not a teacher here anymore.” Harry felt like crying again, he felt so light. It was over. He had done it. And he wasn’t expelled or dead or anything. “The mandrake draft won‘t take that much longer to get ready then we can tell the others.” Was he crying? He couldn’t tell. The relief was just too much.

“Its really over?” Ginny asked, stepping closer.

“Yes.” Harry breathed. “It is… For this year!” Harry grinned and hugged his two friends. “I‘m sure next year will be much more interesting!”
*


Harry somehow reached his bed in Gryffindor tower and crawled in. It was only seven o’ clock but he didn’t really care, he had lost enough sleep over the past year that he held no embarrassment over going to sleep at this hour. Neville and Ginny were doing the rounds, telling everyone the good news. He could hear people moving around downstairs and above him but he just burrowed further into his blankets. His childhood had taught him to sleep through most anything. How far he’d come from that. Harry drifted off to sleep.

He walked along Tottenham court road in his Hogwarts robes, no one noticed. It was full of people but not one of them moved. Petrified. All of them. Harry walked up the street and ducked into an orchard, apple blossoms fell everywhere. Perhaps he was safe here? No, he had to get back to Hogwarts. He turned back to the entrance to head back to the road.

“You wouldn’t last five seconds in a duel with me.”

Harry spun at the sound of Markus Michelson’s voice but instead of the teacher he saw himself. Looking down at him condescendingly.

“You‘re not good enough.”

Harry blinked and it was Dumbledore looking down at him with eyes full of sorrow.

“I‘m so sorry.”

Harry blinked again and he was alone with the blossoms. He could hear the river nearby running fast over rocks. Harry turned and hurried out of the orchard. The road was empty like before and Harry hurried towards Hogwarts, ducking through an alleyway and breaking into a run to get there quicker.

The ivy was longer than he remembered but eventually he climbed up to the gate of the castle. He pushed the great doors open and walked into the great hall. It was empty but the walls were covered in murals. Little finger paintings like children would do. He could still hear the river but it sounded closer now. He could even feel the spray on his face. His face was cold. Deathly cold. Wake up. What?

“Wake up!”

Harry opened his eyes and looked straight up at Moaning Myrtle. She was floating over his bed, right over his face.

“Myrtle?” He said, still groggy and disorientated.

“You have to come. Please! He’s got Ginny!” Harry jerked upright and fell out of bed.

“What!”

“Flint took Ginny! I saw him, and he has the diary!”

“How? Dumbledore has… No…” Harry staggered over to Neville’s bed and jerked the boy out of bed.

“Harry?” The last remaining marauder brushed his hair out of his eyes. “What is it?”

“Its not over Neville.” Harry followed the floating form of Myrtle at a run out of the door. “It‘s not over!”
*


Myrtle stopped outside Markus Michelson’s office and Harry didn’t have to be told that something had happened here. A whole new level of carnage had been added over the one that had been present here last night. The door itself had been totally stove in, the frame itself lying in pieces on the floor. Harry stepped in with trepidation.

The smell of blood hit him. Behind him he could hear Neville retching on the floor. The room was unrecognisable, not a thing had escaped the destruction. Harry moved forward towards the forlorn figure in the centre, slumped against the desk. Markus Michelson.

His wand was in one hand and his sword lay discarded on the floor. He was covered in wounds and one of his legs was bent in an odd way. And the handkerchief he usually wore draped around his neck had moved up. He’d tied it around his eyes. Harry stepped closer and pulled it off him. His head lolled to the side lifelessly.

Harry put his fingers to Michelson’s neck, not really expecting anything but was rewarded with a weak pulse.

“Myrtle!” He yelled. “Run and get Madam Pomfrey!” He turned back to the teacher. “Markus! Markus Michelson! Markus Maximus Mighty Magesto Michelson!”

“You remembered all of them…” The voice from the teacher was almost beyond hearing. “…people usually don’t.”

“I didn‘t remember all of them.” Harry smiled wanly. “I forgot Mary and Mucus. Madam Pomfrey will be here in a second. You‘ll be alright.”

“Not alright… basilisk venom… lethal… always…” Markus’ voice kept fading in and out. “He took… the girl.”

“Did you see where?”

“Tried to protect her… Tried to stop him…” Harry’s insides turned to ice. He’d been so very wrong about this man. “Hard to fight… when you can’t… Sure I hit it once or twice… Did I ever tell you about… this time I was in Brazil?”

“No. Tell me when you‘re better.”

“Bit me just once… on purpose… wanted me to be awake… give you message.”

“Message?” Harry waved Neville in closer so he could hear too.

“Come to the chamber… come or she dies… bring teachers… and she dies.”

Harry swallowed. His heart was beating in tune with his terror.

“Where? Where‘s the chamber?”

“He said… bathroom… girl ghost…”

“Myrtle‘s bathroom?” Markus nodded. “Is there a password?”

“Password’s…” Markus seemed to be fading out. “… open… he said open…”

“That simple?” Harry asked. Markus nodded then slumped.

“… Sword?” Harry frowned, not understanding, then saw the fingers of Markus’ hand twitching. He moved the sword into his hand and saw Markus’ fingers curl around it limply. “…thanks… pipsque…” but then his eyes closed and he stopped speaking.

A moment later Harry heard running feet and Madam Pomfrey ran in followed by a floating Myrtle.

“What happened here?” She demanded. Harry flapped his hands uncertainly but Neville saved him.

“Basilisk bit him. Conscious when we found him dropped off a second ago. Shallow pulse. Cold.” Neville rattled that off in one breath and Madam Pomfrey instantly grimaced and pulled her bag open. Rummaging around in the bottom she pulled out a long red feather.

“Fawkes!” She gripped the feather in both hands. “Help me.”

Harry never heard whether her call was answered as he had already darted out the door and was sprinting for the second floor.
*


Harry smashed through the door at a run and skidded to a stop on the tiles.

“OPEN!” Harry yelled.

“What are you doing in here.” A girl pushed out of a cubical. “This is a girls bathroom you know?” Harry drew his wand and blew a sink off the wall. The girl cried and jumped away from him.

“You have three seconds to get the hell out of here!” The girl was gone before he’d counted to two. “Open! Open up!”

“Harry are you alright?” Harry spun and noticed Neville and Myrtle in the doorway.

“Its not working!”

“Maybe that’s not the password. Maybe he was delirious.” Neville bit his lip in worry.

“Then what do we do!?” Harry threw his hands up. “We don’t even know where the entrance is!”

“I think I do.” Myrtle volunteered.

“You do!”

“There are some places in Hogwarts that the ghosts can’t go. They‘re warded against us. Dumbledore‘s office for example.” Myrtle pointed to one of the sinks. “There‘s a pipe behind there, I can do down it below the dungeons but no further. Its blocked.”

Harry ran up to where Myrtle floated in the air, threw his arms around her and kissed her floating cheek. “You are a true marauder Myrtle. One of us. You are amazing!” Harry released the startled ghost and ran to the sink. “Open!” But the sink didn’t move. “No… But that’s got to be the entrance!”

“What do we do?” Neville asked. “Go around?”

“Yes! That’s perfect!” Harry turned to the pink glowing ghost nearby. “Myrtle, you know the pipes around Hogwarts. Is there another way to get down to the same place as this pipe goes?”

“I… I think so…” She said dreamily.

“Take us there, please!” The ghost flowed out through a wall and Harry was running again to keep up. They ran passed startled students until Myrtle came to rest in a disused classroom on the third floor.

“Through here.” She said and disappeared into the wall.

“Myrtle!” Her head reappeared. “We need a way we can go!”

“There isn‘t one.” Myrtle floated out to stand next to them. “Its all walled up.”

“Then what…” Harry began but Neville had already stepped up beside him.

“Reducto!” An almighty crack made Harry cover his ears and chips of stonework flew everywhere.

“Alright!” Harry yelled as soon as the noise died down. “Reducto!”

“Reducto!”

“Reducto!”

“Reducto!”

“Reducto!” Harry blasted the last of the rubble from the hole they had made in the wall. He heard murmurs in the nearby corridor. “Colloportus.” Harry sealed the door shut.

“I‘ll go first.” Harry stepped into the dusty pipe and gripped his wand between his teeth as he shimmied down. After he had lost sight of the entrance he heard Neville begin above him.

After a tortuous few minutes Harry dropped into a tiny round passage and got out of the way so that Neville could drop down behind him. It was pitch black but was soon lit with a faint wan light as Myrtle floated through the ceiling. They wordlessly followed her. After many squelching meters they emerged into a larger chamber.

“Here we are.” Myrtle announced importantly. “The Via Mortiferus.”
________________________________________


You didn't think it was going to be that easy did you?

________________________________________
I own none of the stuff I'm not supposed to.
________________________________________


It was a broad stone room, the stones underfoot slick and stinking. A tiny rivulet of dirty water ran from the entrance of the room to a giant hole in the floor. Underneath there was a massive sloping pipe, twice the width of a tube train. It was clogged with debris and garbage in places and the tiny drip of water made the pipe slick as glass.

“There?” Harry asked. Myrtle nodded. “We don‘t even know if this is the right way.”

“I think we do.” Neville pointed at a corner of the room where a load of green shapeless scraps were lying. Harry took a closer look.

“Snake skin?” Harry gulped.

“From a big snake.”

Harry looked back down the pipe. There was no way someone could go down that and not hit the garbage drifts. Some of them had broken bottles or pieces of metal in them.

“We can’t just slide down, we‘ll be killed.” Harry shook his head. “Maybe if we blast all the stuff we can see…”

“Then it‘ll be at the bottom waiting for you,” Myrtle pointed out.

“I know!” Neville cried suddenly. He ran over and grabbed the two biggest pieces of snake skin. “Think Basilisk skin is as tough as Dragon skin?”

“Can I hope it’s tough enough to save us up here…” Harry wrapped his piece around him as tightly as possible. “… but not so tough the Basilisk kills us when we get there?”

Neville smiled wanly.

“Neville whichever of us gets there gets Ginny out.” Harry met his friend’s eyes and moved closer. “We don’t worry about anything else.”

“I know Harry.” Neville nodded.

“I can‘t follow you,” Myrtle sniffed. “But if you die you‘re welcome to share my toilet. Either of you.”

“Death doesn’t seem so scary now eh?” Harry grinned and moved to the edge. “Well…” Harry tilted his head up and closed his eyes. “Could use some of that luck now…” And with that Harry jumped off the edge.
*


Harry felt the stone skidding under him even through the snake skin. He was traveling faster than he thought and it was only a moment before he smashed into a garbage pile. It felt like he was being smashed with clubs but the skin didn’t break and he kept going. Another smacked into his legs and set him spinning across the pipe like a top.

He could hear Neville screaming but couldn’t see him. Another heap took him in the chest and soon he was screaming too. The whole world reduced to the moving stone under him, his own screaming in his ears and the sudden excruciating bursts of pain as he hit things.

The hits became less and less frequent as Harry fell and he at last opened his eyes. As soon as he did so his feet hit water and he went under. Harry’s mind went blank. Get out! Get out! Get out! He flailed wildly against the skin that was still wrapped around him and managed to slip out. Surface! Air! Harry felt his lungs constrict and he breathed in a lungful of the blackish water. His chest felt like fire. His foot touched bottom and he kicked out as hard as he could. His head broke the surface and Harry half coughed, half vomited up the water he’d breathed in plus everything he’d eaten in his entire life. Shaking, he stood up and pushed his gunk-filled fringe out of his eyes. Then he realised what he had done and looked down.

The water barely reached over his hips.

The realisation made him gag again and he emptied another load of bile into the already mucky water. He reached into his robes and pulled out his wand, thankfully undamaged. He lit it and surveyed the scene. He was in a tunnel, waist deep with disgusting black water full of general garbage. It went on for a ways in both directions, then turned off into junctions and split away into darkness. God it was cold down here. Harry saw his Basilisk skin floating nearby and wrapped it around his shoulders like a cloak. A fixing charm made sure it stayed there, not that it helped much.

Then Harry realised something. Neville wasn’t there; he had been right behind him a moment ago. Harry looked back up the pipe he’d fallen out of but there was nothing as far as he could see. There had been turnings off the pipe. He must have just been shunted a different way by the garbage. At least, Harry hoped that was all that had happened. Hopefully they‘d find each other eventually. He saw a kitchen knife floating by its handle nearby and grabbed it. With shaky fingers he scratched an H into the wall next to him, followed by an arrow. Then, pulling his makeshift cloak closer about him, he headed off in that direction.

Harry slogged through the water until he came to a junction. It was impossible to tell which way was right, so Harry just scrawled another marker on the wall and kept going. He had no idea how long he walked through that freezing water. How many arrows he scrawled on the walls. Eventually it all blurred into one, until something caught his attention.

Skeletons. Lots of them, floating in the water. Not food animals either, rats and small birds. Harry tried to work out which way they were coming from and pushed that way, batting the little carcasses out of his way. There was a break in the brickwork here. Just big enough for a big snake or a small boy to crawl through. Harry dragged himself up and looked around. He was on the floor behind a giant pillar carved with serpents. He looked up and saw a bank of them at the other side of the vast chamber.

“Ah, Mr Potter. You have chosen to grace us with your presence.”

The voice came from somewhere he couldn’t see. On the other side of the pillar somewhere. It sounded like Flint’s voice but the words didn’t seem like ones he’s choose.

“You might as well come out; I’ve been waiting for you.”

Harry was too tired to come up with a better idea and stood on numb legs. He walked out slowly from behind the pillar. Flint stood proudly in front of a monstrous statue. Ginny was lying still by his feet, unconscious. But was it Flint? It was almost as if a shadow was overlaid over the Slytherin’s stocky frame. A shadow of a taller man, thin and cold, with high cheekbones.

“Hello Tom.” Harry stopped in the middle of the room a few meters from the shadowy half-figure. He had his wand gripped tight in his right hand and a solid knife in his left. He knew he looked horrific, he was probably swaying, but he felt as strong as he had ever been.

“Hello Harry. Why in Merlin‘s name didn‘t you just use the front door?” Tom/Flint laughed chillingly.

“You gave me the wrong password. I said ‘open’ but it didn’t work.”

“Ah… I told him the password was Sizzasc, Parseltongue for ‘open’. He must have got confused. That can happen when you‘re dying, or so I’m told.”

“By the end of the day I can guarantee you‘ll know for sure.”

The split apparition laughed again and Harry could swear he heard two voices there. A gravely deep one and a smoother nasal one.

“Can I ask you one thing?” Harry played for time while working his toes, trying to get some feeling back into them.

“Ask away Mr Potter. A condemned man should have his questions answered.”

“How did you get the diary back from Dumbledore?” Harry was genuinely curious.

“Oh… that is an interesting one.” Tom grinned. “The truth is the old fool never had the diary.”

“?”

“Let me start at the beginning. With poor Ginny Weasley, you do know that she was responsible for the first few petrifications?”

“I guessed.”

“Good. It’s good to know you‘re not a fool. Like her.” Tom kicked the prone body in front of him. “I took control of her to open the chamber and scrawl my call to arms on the wall. But it backfired on me, during one of the fights I had so wanted to cause the diary fell from her bag. And it was spotted by Markus Michelson.”

Harry thought back. He remembered seeing Markus picking up Ginny’s book bag after the fight the day she lost it.

“He recognised that it was a cursed object if not just how cursed and, in his arrogance, thought he could deal with it himself. He fought me with his magic every night, trying to find a way to destroy the book.”

“And he looked more tired every day…” Harry shook his head. He had so badly misjudged the man.

“And then something wonderful happened!” Tom spread his arms wide. “While on a detention for the insufferable Michelson a wonderful man chanced upon the diary. Marcus Flint. His father had been one of my servants during my rise to power and had told his son my true name.” Tom paused. “An offence which in normal circumstances I would punish him for, but in this case it has come to a good end. Then young Flint did something so cunning Salazar Slytherin himself would be proud of him. He constructed a fake diary.”

“Oh…” the pieces began to fall into place in Harry’s head once more.

“Only capable of simple phrases obviously. ‘I am Tom Riddle’, ‘I will never tell you my secrets’, that kind of thing. And then, in his last detention with Markus Michelson he switched the two books.”

“Michelson didn‘t notice the difference?”

“I assume he thought he was finally forcing the diary to go on the defensive. Finally winning.” Tom laughed the peculiar double laugh again. “And in the mean time I finally had a willing servant. One I didn‘t have to manipulate or control. Oh, no, he wanted me to control him. Wanted the power.” Tom reached up and patted Flint on the shoulder. It was the first motion the shadow had made that Flint hadn’t done as well. “I initially thought I would drain his energy to return to the world. He was indeed wiling to make that sacrifice to help me but I decided that he is simply too useful to me.” The apparition glanced down at the figure at his feet. “Instead I will use hers.”

“What!” Harry took an involuntary step forward.

“Yes, Harry Potter. I will drain her and return. You think I told you that long winded story because I wanted to? That I was stupid enough to let you buy time like that? No… by buying time you have been giving me time to grow stronger. And what have you gained?”

“Well, I can feel my fingers now…” Harry grinned through the muck covering his face. A truly evil grin. “Oh, when you come back you‘ll probably need a wand.”

“I…”

“Here have mine.” Harry held his wand out and tossed it lazily through the air.

Voldemort wore a shocked expression as the wand landed in his outstretched palm.

“Potter-” But he got no further as Harry’s knife stabbed deep into his chest.

“… and you need nimble fingers for knife throwing.”

“….” Tom tried to speak but only a croak came out. A trickle of blood drew down the side of his mouth. Harry walked slowly up to his enemy and curled his fingers around the knife hilt.

“Confused yet you motherfucker?” Harry tore the knife out and Voldemort collapsed onto the ground spurting blood. Harry grabbed his wand and nicked Flint’s for good measure, then stumbled shakily over Ginny prone form.

“Hey Gin…” Harry shook her, trying vainly to wake her. “Ginny?” She didn’t stir. Her skin didn’t even feel warm. “Wake up…”

“Ssssss……” Harry turned in a flash. Tom had his eyes open and a serpentine hiss escaped his mouth. “Saseeciss. Sassozziss. Sss…” Harry ran up and savagely kicked him in the jaw. But the damage was done. With a grinding noise the mouth of the great statue opened and Harry saw a flash of green before he turned away in fear.

“Ginny we need to go!” Harry tried to lift her and failed. He would have found it hard going if he hadn’t just gone through torment. As it was he settled for dragging her across the floor by an arm while the hissing got closer. Harry aimed a hex over his shoulder without looking but apparently it didn’t connect because the Hissing got closer. It was catching up. Harry abandoned Ginny and ran to the other side of the room yelling “Hey! Over here! Me!” but he tripped and spun as he fell. Without thinking he looked right into the face of the Basilisk.

And laughed! It was a wreck! A giant burn stretched half the length of its side and the tip of its tail was a burnt off stump. A massive slash marred its throat below its head and, most importantly, its eyes were gone. Replaced by a gaping wound.

Markus Michelson had got in more than a few shots!

Unfortunately Harry had waited too long staring and his laugh had told it where he was. It dived and bit down around him. Harry had no chance to dodge, he felt like he had been put in a vice, pressing down on his chest all around and he cried out hoarsely. He thought he heard his ribs crack then the pressure lifted and he staggered back. The Basilisk looked, if anything, confused.

Harry checked himself over. Hurting, bruised, broken ribs but no teeth marks and no poison. Harry’s hand fell on the silvery-green, makeshift cloak he had around his shoulders and started in shock.

It couldn’t bite through its own skin!

Harry got up from where he was kneeling on the floor and tightened his grip on his wand. It was wounded, its master was gone and he had a cloak it couldn’t bite through.

“Hey you! Ugly!” The Basilisks head snapped around just in time to have an Incendio spell hit it right in the mess where its eyes had been. Its screech of pain was inhuman and it writhed its massive coils in torment. “Acerbus cuspis!” Harry sent the pain-spear winging straight into the massive burn on its side and was rewarded with another shriek. It smashed its tail around, trying to knock him over but he just ducked and fired a stinging hex into a gaping wound he hadn’t even noticed before.

“Here!” Harry yelled again and as its head whirled around he sent another curse into its face. But this one missed and the great snake lunged forward and bit Harry around the legs. The only part of him unprotected by the cloak.

Harry felt a burning pain as a tooth pierced his leg. He felt himself being lifted into the air and cried out again. It was holding him up in its mouth like a dead rat. Harry clung to its snout and with the last of his strength plunged his wand into the mess that had been its eyes.

“Reducto!” There was an explosive sound and Harry felt himself fly through the air and hit the floor hard. As he looked up through bleary eyes he saw the Basilisk swaying in the air. Blood gushed from its mouth and eyes like some perverted fountain and it screeched like nails on a chalkboard. Then, with one last cry, it went still and fell like a great tree, crashing onto the stone and lying there still.

He had done it.

Harry dragged himself back to lean against a pillar. He looked down at his leg. Yep, there was a huge tooth hole right there in his thigh. No escaping it. Harry gulped then smiled. He supposed it didn’t matter if he was dying. His hand reached up into his shirt and held tight to the pendent there.

“You knew I could do it,” Harry whispered. “You knew I could do it.”

“Harry?” Harry glanced across and saw Neville’s round face poking out from the hole in the wall. He has glancing between Harry and the giant serpent.

“Ginny‘s there.” Harry tried to point but found he couldn’t. Neville got the message though and disappeared. He reappeared a moment later carrying Ginny in his arms.

“Harry can you get up?”

“No Neville, I can‘t.” Harry managed a wry smile. “Sorry.”

“Harry…”

“Can you get out? I don‘t…”

“It’s OK. While I was looking for this place I found a pipe that lets out near the lake. I can get back there. I left markers.”

“You left marks…” Harry suddenly couldn’t keep from laughing. “I taught you… you left marks…”

“Yeah Harry.” Neville sat down beside him and put his hand on Harry’s shoulder. His face said that he knew Harry wasn‘t getting out of there. “Just like you did. That’s how I found you.”

“You did it right… I did it right.” Harry looked at the dead serpent. “I did it right. Get her out.” Harry ordered and Neville stood.

“We‘ll be back for you. You know your…” Neville stopped and rubbed his eyes. He was crying. “We won‘t leave you down here.”

“I know. Go.”

Neville was shaking as he made his way to the crack in the wall and pushed himself through. Then pulled Ginny after him.

Harry leaned back and closed his eyes.

“How sentimental.”

Harry’s eyes flickered open and he saw Tom Riddle leaning casually against the great bulk of the Basilisk. He wasn’t fuzzy or transparent anymore, he was solid. And he had a wand.

“You took yours and Flint’s wands.” Tom answered his question before he asked it. “But you forgot about Ginny‘s.”

“Oh…” Harry glanced at the crack in the wall. Neville’s light was still visible, slowly passing away.

“Go on, call for help. He can probably still hear you.”

Harry kept his mouth tight shut. Neville was getting out with Ginny. That was all that mattered.

“Good choice.” Voldemort moved forward and snatched Harry’s wand from his unresisting hand. He threw it into the shadows by the great statue. As an afterthought he sent Flint’s wand and the knife after it.

“As he was dying Mr Flint preformed me one last service.” Voldemort smiled. “He gifted his remaining life to me. Restoring me.” Voldemort moved even closer. Harry tried to slide himself away but found he didn’t have the energy, the poison had almost run its course. His eyes flickered back to the crack in the wall. It was totally dark. Neville was truly gone.

“Lord Voldemort. Killed by a knife?” Tom Riddle shook his head. “Never. It could never happen.”

“Fine,” Harry mumbled. “Give me back the knife.”

“No Harry.” Tom raised his wand. “I think I will err on the side of safety in this matter. I think I will simply kill you. Now. Ava-”

But he got no further as the massive door to the chamber was flung open. Tom Riddle stepped back in shock as the room was filled with glowing golden light.

“Get the hell away from him!” Framed by the doorway and glistening with water and sweat stood Markus Michelson, sword in one had, wand in the other and with Dumbledore’s phoenix circling above him. Bathing the room in light.

“You!” Tom aimed a dark purple curse at Markus, who shot it out of the air with a silver one of his own.

“Yes. ME!” The teacher strode forward and smashed a hex into Tom Riddle’s hastily raised shield.

“Markus!” A second hex drove Riddle further from Harry.

“Maximus!” Tom Riddle shot a spell back but it was easily deflected.

“Mighty!” Tom Riddle yelled something unintelligible and a giant shard of steel sprang into being and shot towards the teacher. Markus just swatted it away with his sword.

“Magesto!” A massive black curse that looked like it was made of tar drove Tom to his knees.

“Mary! Mucus! Michelson!” The teacher drew level with Harry and stopped, his wand vibrating in his hand. “And you will not touch him you sick, dead freak!”

Harry noticed the phoenix land beside him but ignored it. If he was going to die then we was going spend his last few minute enjoying the show.

“You dare to challenge me!” Tom Riddle stood from where he had been thrown. “I am the Dark Lord!”

“Wrong!” Michelson barked. “You are the Dark Lord at age eighteen! Not even that, you‘re a shade of the Dark Lords teenage self! A shadow! A lie!”

Harry could now see why Dumbledore had hired this man. He came off as a fool most of the time but that was because he wanted to. He saw no reason to be serious all the time. But actually get him into a fight and he became like red-hot iron.

“I am the Dark Lord! Lord Voldemort! Avada Kedavra!” A jet of green light shot across the room but Markus Michelson yelled something and a chunk of stonework broke off of the wall, smashing into the curse as it flew.

“Orbitus!” Markus yelled and chunks of floor around him were ripped from the earth. They began the spin around him like planets and he advanced on the juvenile Dark Lord like the wrath of worlds.

“Avada Kedavra!” Michelson didn’t even blink, just let the curse impact itself on one of the orbiting rocks. Even through the shower of gravel he kept walking.

“AgniparvataH!” Michelson yelled and a glowing symbol flew across the room and exploded on a silver shield that Tom Riddle had made. Even so it caused the stones around him to glow white hot and crack under the strain.

It was at approximately this point that Harry realised he wasn’t dead. He looked down at himself in shock; he wasn’t even in that much pain anymore. Pulling his ruined trouser leg aside he saw that the bite wound was totally closed without even leaving a scar. He looked at the bright red bird that had alighted next to him and grinned. It looked like he was going to live another day.

“Maquixtia!” The cry brought Harry back to the moment as he saw Professor Michelson break out of a prison of massive black vines and creepers. “KhaNDana!” A bolt of blue light bounced of Tom Riddles shield. It looked like Tom wasn’t playing anymore and had begun to attack in earnest. Already Professor Michelson had been forced to give ground and almost all of his rocks were gone.

He had to do something to help!

Harry cast about for a weapon but his wand and knife were too far away. His eyes came to rest on the blackened diary lying discarded on the floor. Ah…

Harry crawled down behind the corpse of the Basilisk, ignoring the spells that occasionally winged over him, until he was crouched behind the remains of the tail with the little book a few meters away. Harry glanced back at the fight and waited for the right moment. Unfortunately he could not wait long…

Voldemort twisted his wand in the air and jabbed it upwards like a spear. A shining star of flickering lightning exploded above him like a nova. Swinging his wand down he flung it at Professor Michelson. The teacher’s shield shattered like glass and he screamed in pain as the lightning struck him. Harry knew he had to act now! He darted out from behind the Basilisk and grabbed the book.

“Drop him!” Harry yelled at the Dark Lord. “Drop him or I‘ll destroy it!”

“Hm…?” Voldemort turned to look at Harry. The lightning stopped but Professor Michelson didn’t move from the floor where he had fallen. Voldemort crossed his arms and stared at Harry mockingly. “How?”

“I‘ll just… Oh…” Harry cringed a memory from earlier stung him. Professor Michelson had tried for weeks to destroy this thing. Harry opened it and tried to tear a page off. It felt like paper but for the life of him he couldn’t so much as scratch the surface. Harry looked up at the quietly chuckling Dark Lord. “How embarrassing.”

“I take it back Mr Potter,” Tom Riddle said raising his wand. “You are a fool.”

But Harry felt a weight land on his shoulder. He looked up to see the Phoenix that had healed him standing there. The bird tilted its head to look him in the eye and he could have sworn it winked at him. Then it spread its beautiful scarlet wings and burst into flame.

Harry screamed as the fire curled up around his head but then jerked back in shock, it wasn’t burning him! He felt the flames wreath all around him but they felt more like a warm breeze. They covered his face and eyes and he could see nothing but a wall of light. Harry felt something in his hand shift, he wasn‘t burning but the diary was!

Harry held the diary in front of him and felt the claws on his shoulder release for a moment then felt the weight transfer to his arm. Somewhere outside the flame someone was screaming but Harry couldn’t tell who. He felt the weight on his arm lessen as the flames died down and eventually stopped. Harry felt the last flame recede and stood for a moment, completely disbelieving. Something about what he had just gone through didn’t feel normal or even magical. It felt somehow greater, older and far more powerful.

Harry realised he still held his hand out in front of him, clenched. He released it and watched as black ash slowly trickled out from between his fingers. Right in the middle was a tiny ugly chick that looked up at him with its featherless face. Of the diary there was nothing.

Harry looked around the now battle-scarred chamber. There was a giant burn mark right where Tom Riddle had been standing. Not even ashes had been left of him. Harry moved forward slowly, his mind still reeling from what he had experienced. He came to a stop in the middle of the room and fell down on his knees, unable to walk further. He cradled the little bird in his hands and asked it…

“What the hell just happened to me?” The bird just chirruped in response but another voice gave Harry an answer.

“Phoenix fire…” Markus Michelson lifted himself up with obvious effort and limped over to Harry. “…it only burns up evil.” The professor sat down and began running his wand over his muscular arms, fixing the burns and bruising.

“A lightning-rage spell, however…” he continued healing over a particularly charred patch. “…burns anyone. Oh snap out of it kid!” He added seeing Harry’s shaken expression. “I’ve only ever heard third hand stories of people who were actually inside a phoenix’s rebirth flame and they all agree it’s an experience. None of them say it renders you catatonic!”

“Wha?… yeah sorry.” Harry shook his head to clear it and looked over at his teacher‘s healing efforts. “Do you need any help with that?”

“Just spot me any bits I‘ve missed pipsqueak. Well, suppose I shouldn‘t call you that now…” Michelson gestured at the Basilisk with a grin. “…but now you won‘t have any excuse for low marks eh?”

“Yeah…” But the Professor’s use of his nickname had reminded him of something else and he felt guilt bubble up in his veins. “I treated you pretty badly this term.” Harry hung his head. He didn’t want to meet Markus Michelson’s eyes.

“Really? How so?”

“I thought you were the one behind the attacks. I broke into your office. Twice.” Harry shook his head but didn’t look up. “I helped all the rumours against you, started most of them. I threatened to kill you. I got you fired. I almost got you arrested. And then you almost died protecting one of my friends. I‘m… I‘m so sorry.” Harry forced himself to look up and meet his teacher’s eyes. Michelson had stopped his healing and was looking at Harry with just a hint of a smile.

“Oh… that.” Markus Michelson smiled broadly and clapped Harry on the arm. “Don‘t worry about that.”

“What? But…”

“Harry I thought you understood. You gave me my sword when I was dying.” Professor Michelson was speaking as if this was the most obvious thing in the world. “Then I saved your life. Then you saved mine. We‘re warrior-brothers now.” The giant man reached out and held both Harry’s shoulders. “Brothers at arms.”

“Brothers at arms?” Michelson nodded. “That a wizard thing?”

“Sure…” Markus Michelson pulled him to his feet and preformed a quick drying charm. “… in certain Scandinavian magical cultures.”

“Good enough for me then.” Harry grinned. “So… How do we get out of here?”
*


“…and then Flint, he grabbed me.” Ginny Weasley clutched her mother’s hand as she sobbed and shuddered through her story. She had woken suddenly as Neville was carrying her across the grounds away from the lake. When they reached the castle they had been mobbed by teachers and dragged almost bodily up to the Headmaster’s office. Her parents had been there (her mother crying, her father ashen-faced and grim) and she had been enveloped in a giant wet hug.

But as soon as Madam Pomfrey had said that she was unharmed the questions had begun and she had been forced to haltingly tell her story, starting with the first time she found the diary mixed in with her books. Neville hadn’t said anything since she had woke up. He had just curled up in an armchair and stared out with empty eyes. She knew something was wrong but he wouldn‘t say anything, she just hoped he found his voice again now her part of the story was over.

“… and then he did some spell on me and I blacked out.” Ginny looked over at Neville hopefully. She saw Dumbledore’s gaze move to the poor nervous boy.

“Mr Longbottom?” The Headmaster moved over and placed his hand on Neville’s shoulder. “Please…”

“We… me and Har…” Neville cut himself off and bit back a sob. He looked back up and kept talking in a hollow voice. “We found Professor Michelson dying. He said we had to go find Ginny, that if we told any teachers then Flint would kill her. We broke our way into the pipes, slid down. I got separated from Ha… We got separated. When I found him the Basilisk was dead. He‘d killed it, but…” The room was silent as Neville wrapped his arms around himself and broke into tears. “…He‘s dead! It bit him! He‘s dead.”

Ginny felt her mother’s fingers clench around her arm and looked up. Molly Weasley was shaking her head in disbelief. Ginny looked back at the Headmaster. The old man had backed away and collapsed into a chair. His usually sparkling eyes were dead and empty.

For her own part she just shook her head.

“No!” Ginny felt the room turn to her. “He‘s not dead!” She dashed the tears out of her eyes. “He wouldn‘t die! He can‘t!”

“Ginevra…” Her mother had pulled her closer. “… I know it seems like that but…”

“No! He needs to be here!”

Her mother just moved to stroke her hair.

“Ginny please…” another voice called out. “…If you keep telling them I‘m alive you‘ll ruin my dramatic entrance.”
*


Harry looked out across the office and laughed at the various expressions of shock.

“Wooo…” Harry wiggled his fingers at them. “I‘ve come back to haunt you!” But he got no further as Ginny dashed at him and tackled him to the ground.

“You‘re alive! You‘re alive!”

“Oh so now it‘s a big shock.” Harry grinned as he lifted Ginny off him and levered himself to his feet. He kept one hand on his friend’s shoulder for support and walked further into the office. He stopped suddenly as he caught sight of a figure he thought he vaguely recognised. A white haired man with a long cane, topped with a crystal. He was staring down his nose at Harry with scarcely concealed contempt.

“Who‘s this bastard?” Harry jerked his head at the man and he felt Ginny stifle a giggle. Even Professor McGonagall (who would have usually yelled at him for such language) seemed to be concealing a small smile behind her hand.

“My name is Lucius Malfoy.” The man’s voice didn’t bother to conceal the contempt. “And I am here as a representing the school governors and their opinions on this… unpleasantness.”

“I remember you now.” Harry pointed at the man. “I asked you the way onto platform nine and three quarters before I met the Weasleys. You tripped me up and laughed.” Harry felt the air in the room cool by an appreciable degree. “And the unpleasantness is over. You can go.”

“Oh yes? And do we simply take your word for it?” Lucius sneered at Harry. For the first time Harry noticed the scrawny figure crouching behind him. Dobby the house elf was attempting to hide behind his master.

“I can show you the Basilisk‘s corpse if you like.” Harry realised he was still wearing clothes caked in mud and blood and held them out for Lucius to see. “You slide through garbage, land in faeces and drag yourself through a mile or so of freezing, putrid sewage. Anyone know a good dry-cleaners?”

“Is that what all that is? I just assumed it was your normal clothes.” Lucius sneered at him. “You are a street urchin are you not?”

“Look…” Harry eased forwards until he was standing unsupported. “… I‘ve had a long day. A long, unpleasant day. Just get out. You‘re not needed here.”

Lucius Malfoy smiled.

“I was leaving anyway. The stink in here is unbearable.” And with that the man strode towards the door to the office. Harry saw Dobby follow him cringing and said…

“You know. I wasn‘t joking about the mile of freezing sewage.” Both Lucius and Dobby turned back to him. “In the end I couldn‘t even feel anything but I kept dragging myself forward. Because I knew I had to and so nothing else mattered.” Harry glanced down and caught Dobby’s eyes. “Almost nothing is impossible if you just push through. Just keep walking towards what you want, one step at a time.”

“How uplifting.” Lucius turned. “Come Dobby.” He began to walk until a small voice brought the whole room to a stop.

“No.”

Lucius turned, his face a mask of disbelief.

“What?” But Dobby had begun to move, walking very slowly away. “Come back here now!” Dobby cringed and his feet seemed to twist of their own accord.

“One step at a time.” Harry knelt down and reached out his hands towards the elf. “Come on…”

Shuddering so badly it looked like he was one step away from a fit, Dobby continued his silent walk.

“Dobby, obey me!” Dobby cried out and fell to his knees but continued forward at a crawl. As he reached Harry’s outstretched arms his shuddering stopped and he fell to the ground in tears. Harry gathered him up as he sobbed and sniffled through his long nose.

“You have subverted my servant!” Lucius Malfoy’s face was twitching with barely controlled rage and his hand seemed to twitch on his wand.

“You should have taken better care of him,” Harry replied levelly, staring the man down. “Go now. Just gather your precious shreds of pride and go.” Lucius Malfoy drew himself up.

“Fine, I don’t need a disobedient servant.” He tossed one of his gloves on the floor near the elf and stalked away. Harry let out a long breath. The sobbing elf in his arms reached out without looking and snatched the glove from the floor. Dobby clutched it to his chest with both hands but didn’t stop crying. Harry glanced back over his shoulder at the shocked face of Albus Dumbledore.

“Room in the kitchens for another elf, Headmaster?” Dumbledore blinked in surprise, then smiled. “I think this one needs a good home.”
*


“You have given me a lot of shocks today Harry,” Dumbledore spoke to the boy sitting on the other side of his desk. The Weasleys had gone home, Dobby had been taken down to see the kitchens and Neville and Ginny had returned to the tower for some much needed rest. Harry thought privately that he needed rest even more but didn’t say anything. Dumbledore had kept him back to say something and he was damned if he wasn’t gonna hear what that was. “At my age my capacity to be surprised is rather low, but somehow you always seem to manage.”

“I‘m always unexpected.” Harry grinned.

“Yes, you are.” Dumbledore met Harry’s green eyes with his own sparkling ones. “I fear I misjudged you this year Harry. I gave you discipline when I should have given guidance and I lectured when I should have listened. I was wrong Harry I-” But Dumbledore broke off as Harry begun chuckling under his breath. “Something amusing?”

“Just a little sense of déjà vu.” Harry smiled as he recalled the events not even an hour ago. “Only I was on the other side. Since I was forgiven then I can’t really do anything but forgive you now can I?” Harry grinned at the Headmaster. “It‘s ok, really.”

“Very well Harry.” Dumbledore leant back in his chair. “But I do believe some reward is in order for your heroics today. I believe an award for special service to the school for yourself and Mr Longbottom would-”

“Professor, I don’t know about Neville but could I ask for something else?” Harry saw the Headmaster’s eyebrows rise in surprise. “It‘s just… there‘s this group of Slytherins, Vanessa Gibbons and Elizabeth Heathland and Joshua Split. Couple of others too. They‘ll know all the names if you ask them. They‘re the Muggleborn ones or the Half blood ones or Pure-Bloods that had the guts to stand up to Malfoy and Flint. They shouldn‘t have to go back to the dungeon. They shouldn‘t have to go back to where they have to live with the kind of abuse Malfoy and his like dole out. They‘re not safe there, and they shouldn‘t have to stay there just because some stupid hat told them to. I want you to let them change house.” The office fell into silence again for a moment before Dumbledore answered.

“Once again Harry you manage to surprise me. But I‘m afraid it is not possible, never in the History of Hogwarts has a student switched houses. And even though the sorting hat’s choices seem strange sometimes, it always has the right idea about people.”

“So what? So what if they‘re more cunning than they are smart or brave? Does it matter, does it mean they should have to live with people who think they’re scum? Professor…” Harry raised his hand to stop the Headmaster retorting. “… you just saw a house elf drag himself across the floor to earn the right to choose. Just give these students the same chance. Please…?” Harry looked pleadingly at the headmaster and saw his words sink in. Dumbledore took his glasses off and rubbed his temples.

“First the sorting and now this. Will you only be happy when the entire school is Gryffindor?”

“I‘ll be happy when the entire school is happy. Or at least reasonably content. Come on Professor…” Harry added spreading his hands. “…I‘m cold, I‘m tired, I want a shower and I want to go to bed and we both know you‘re going to say yes.”

Dumbledore’s smile gave Harry his answer.
*


“Wait? It wasn‘t Markus Michelson.”

“No Ron, it was Flint.”

“But we knew it was Michelson.”

“Apparently we‘re morons.” Harry shrugged. The petrified students were only just being woken up. Each of their reaction had been uniquely priceless. Harry ticked them off in his head…

Joshua Split had been awoken with a kiss from Lucy Kingston and had promptly pulled the curtains around his bed to continue what she’d started.

Oliver Wood had gone from horizontal to vertical in a fraction of a second and yelled “Quidditch! Is it over? Did I miss it? Did we win?”

At first they had though the potion hadn’t worked on Colin Creevey before they discovered that he’d woken up and fainted dead away when he saw Harry standing next to him.

Victor Kingston had run to the sound of his sister’s voice when he woke up then run back out from behind the curtains yelling “My eyes! My eyes!”

And now the Marauders had joined them in the land of the living, Harry had spent the first few minutes explain what had happened in their absence and the next half hour fielding questions., most of them from Ron who couldn’t quite seem to get his head round the idea.

“Honestly Ron.” Hermione shook her head at him. “It all makes perfect sense when you know the diary was fake.”

“But he did have the real diary.”

“Yes but only for a while…”

Harry covered his ears and let Hermione explain the things she herself hadn’t known an hour ago. She’d probably do a better job anyway.

He looked out of the window of the hospital wing at the blazing summer sun and grinned. Maybe it was time to begin making plans for the coming summer. Maybe he should get a guitar…
*


Harry saw Markus Michelson off at the gate, his trunks looking decidedly odd with various native artifacts strapped to the sides.

“Do you have to go?” Harry had asked while helping him load up his carriage.

“Never intended to stay,” Markus quipped as he loaded a large wooden statue into the carriage. “Told you before, I was just taking a break from my travels.”

“Where do you think you‘ll go?”

“Oh I don’t know. Africa maybe…” Professor Michelson shrugged his wide shoulders. “… could try and get myself roped into a Nundu hunt. They’re always fun.”

“I‘ll take your word for it.” Harry shook his head as he passed up a small carved statue. It was a snake, and looked quite old. “So, you always been a parselmouth?”

“No.” Markus looked down at him grinning. “Some central American shamans practice demon summoning. I visited a tribe whose totem was a snake-god, almost all their ceremonies were parseltongue. That’s where I learnt it. Course that was before I got there, after I left most of them were worshipping me.”

“Yeah yeah yeah.” Harry rolled his eyes chuckling as he tossed up the last box. “Guess that’s everything.”

“You know pipsqueak, I wasn‘t joking about the brothers thing.” Markus Michelson reached out and put one of his big hands on Harry’s shoulder. “You ever need me you know where I‘ll be.”

“No I won’t,” Harry said with a grin. “But I‘m sure Digger‘ll be able to find you.” Michelson nodded.

“Take care of yourself kid.”

“You too, Professor.”

Harry watched as the carriage slowly moved out of sight around the bend in the road then slowly walked back up to the castle. When he reached his room he lay down and stared at the ceiling for a long time. There was someone else who had helped him this year, someone he really should have thanked a long time ago. Harry drew out a quill and started writing.

I should have written to you a long time ago, but its been a hectic year. I don’t know if you know already but things got pretty bad here.

Harry chewed the end of his quill; it was hard to know exactly what he was trying to say. In the end he settled for…

Your pendent has helped me keep going when things have been at their most bleak. If that was it’s magic was for then it’s worked. It’s worked like a charm.
________________________________________


This chapter is grammatically correct thanks to the superb beta Colon.


Well that's another book done. The next chapter should be coming soon. Be prepared to leave the suburbs of pseudo-cannonvale and enter AU city in Harry Potter and the Torrent of Ages!

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I wish I owned Harry Potter, I really do. But I don't. Maybe if I'm very, very good Santa will bring me the legal rights for Christmas.
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Harry Potter dragged his feet as he trudged along the pavement down the once familiar road. This summer, like the last, had been fun and relaxing. Harry had lazed the majority of the holiday away in Spain, juggling, studying and learning to play the guitar that he now carried slung over his left shoulder. Well, learning and being taught.

Thinking that Dumbledore had probably had enough shocks the previous year Harry had negotiated his holiday instead of sneaking away like he had planned. The Headmaster had been happy to oblige him and had only really had two conditions, that he be near wizards and that he check in daily. Neither had been too much of a strain so Harry had chosen to visit the Spanish village near where the Academia Atsingani was located. Or at least where it was located currently: the school had been founded by Romani and had a tendency to move around the country at unpredictable intervals.

“What do you do if you’re left behind?” Harry had asked one of the students living nearby while the young man showed him the rudiments of guitar playing.

“We hop on a broom and try to catch up.” The entire school had a sort of que sera, sera attitude that Harry found he liked.

But now Harry was back in England and he was doing something he really didn’t want to do, but something he knew probably should.

Harry loved his new wizard life and had never missed any part of his old one. But still he felt like he needed to close that chapter properly. Close it so he knew he never had to come back. Harry took a deep breath and knocked on the door of number four Privet Drive. A moment later it was opened.

“Yes? What do you- YOU!”

“I don‘t want to stay.” Harry held a hand up to silence his uncle. “I don’t want to be here any more than you want me to be here. I just came back for the stuff I left, then I can leave and never come back.”

“You left here! You can get out!” Vernon Dursley was even more fat and angry than Harry remembered. “We don’t want you here! The day you left was the happiest of my life and if I don‘t see you gone from my property I‘ll…”

“You‘ll what, uncle?” Harry slid his wand from his pocket so his uncle had a clear view of it. The fat mans eyes bulged and all the blood seemed to drain from his face. “I know what I am now. Interesting that you never thought to tell me, but I know all the same. So I want my stuff. The small insignificant amount of possessions I was ever allowed under your roof. Then I‘ll be on my way.”

“Y… I don‘t….” Vernon Dursley blustered but Harry just cocked his hear to one side as if to say ‘well?’

“Get in then. Before the neighbours see you.” Harry obligingly slid in thorough the front door and allowed his uncle to slam it closed behind him. “Petunia!” Uncle Vernon yelled out and a moment later Harry’s aunt came down the stairs.

“What is it dear? Is… oh…”

“Long time no see.” Harry grinned at her shocked expression. “Don’t mind me… I don‘t intend to stay.”

“Where did we dump his things Petunia?” Uncle Vernon asked brutishly.

“Under the… under…” Petunia was still opening and closing her mouth like she’d seen a ghost but managed to point at the cupboard under the stairs.

“Ah. Should have known.” Harry pushed past his uncle and jerked open the cupboard. Sure enough, there beside a new washing machine, was a smallish cardboard box. Harry pulled it out and opened it. Clothes now too small for him, a school workbook or two - that was all he’d really expected. Harry was under no illusions that picking up his stuff was for anything more tangible than his own peace of mind. “Looks like it.” Harry closed the box and slid it into his leather backpack. It was a good backpack; he had bought it in Spain. Harry never understood why wizards lugged trunks around when they could charm smaller bags to carry just as much yet weigh almost nothing. Probably just a wizard thing, he reasoned. Same as quills.

“That everything?”

“Yes it is,” said Petunia at the same time as her husband said,

“What about that box in the attic?”

“Box in the attic?” Harry watched his aunt’s face fall. “Yes aunty dearest. What about the box in the attic?”

“That’s… but…”

“Just get it for him so he can leave Petunia,” Vernon grumped. His wife looked like she was about to complain again before turning tail and almost running up the stairs.

Harry heard a noise behind him and glanced over his shoulder.

“Hi Dudley.” Harry’s cousin was almost as wide as the door he was standing in. “Yes that’s right! I‘m back.”

“Harry… eh? What happened to you? You weren‘t like this when you left.”

Harry wondered for a moment whether his aunt and uncle had told Dudley about magic, but then realised what he meant. Harry did look different, with his hair long enough to synch into a pony-tail and a guitar case slung over one shoulder, he looked nothing like the oppressed and timid boy that had been scared out of Privet Drive all those years ago.

“I grew up.” Harry hitched his bag higher and grinned.

“Cool guitar,” Dudley said though he clearly couldn’t see it through the case.

“I remember you had one yourself before I left. What happened to it?”

“Smashed it through the TV.” Dudley smiled at the memory of destruction. “It was too hard to play.”

Aunt Petunia came back down the stairs a moment later and thrust an old shoebox into his hands.

“Right, you have everything.” Vernon had apparently been waiting for this and pulled the door open. “Out! Now!”

“Well uncle…” And now for the real reason for the visit. “… there‘s just this minor bit of paperwork from my school.” Harry pulled the Hogsmeade form from his pocket.

“If you could just sign this, it’s nothing important, then I can be on my way.” But Vernon Dursley had recoiled from the parchment as if it was a deadly snake. “Just one little signature…”

But his aunt took things out of his hands. She strode forward and grabbed the Hogsmeade form before tearing it in quarters and stuffing it back into his unresisting hand.

“Get. Out,” Petunia said from between clenched teeth. “Freak!”

Harry stared at the pieces of parchment in his hands then up into his aunts eyes. He disdainfully opened his hand and let the scraps of paper fall onto the floor of number four.

He would not let them know they had got to him. He would not give them the satisfaction.

“Ah well.” He brushed his hands against each other casually. “Never mind. Guess I‘ll be going then.”

“Nice to see you again Dudley.” Harry doffed an imaginary cap to his cousin and tucked the shoebox under his arm. “Petunia…” Harry nodded at his aunt and strode out the door. The last sound he heard before it closed was,

“Dad, I need a new guitar.”

*

Harry found a bench a safe few streets away and opened the box to see what he had got. It was mostly full of papers and old photos, but a few other things jingled around in the bottom. Harry drew them out carefully: a wizard coin, a quill, an empty phial, a delicate silver locket lying open and a small silver badge with a P on it. Harry looked back over the papers, they were all written in neat, curled cursive. A woman’s handwriting, or a girl’s. These things were his mother’s. Harry hurriedly pushed everything back into the box and shoved it back into his bag; he needed to look at this later when he had more time. He was about to get up and go when a small voice behind him said,

“Sir… You missed something.”

Harry turned, a small child was pointing at something glinting on the floor. It was the locket. It must have slipped out while he was looking at the papers. Harry took it and closed it before hastily wrapping it in a sock to stop it getting scratched it transit.

“Thanks.” Harry was about to turn and leave when he realised something. A hideous shock jolted right down his spine. The child had a lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead.

“What’s your name?” Harry dreaded the answer.

“Harry Potter. Why do you-”

“And what year is it? Ah… I mean how old are you?” Harry amended quickly.

“Nearly four.”

Harry glanced around quickly. Had he somehow travelled to the past or was this kid in his future? Damn it! It was impossible to tell, the roads around Privet Drive probably wouldn’t change for anything short of a nuclear holocaust. The road was empty of any people; the only life he could see was a dog making a spirited attempt to dig its way under a fence.

Harry looked back down at the kid and tried to wrack his memory into shape. Did he remember having this conversation? Did he remember meeting an odd man with a guitar who looked like him? No, no he didn’t remember. But that didn’t mean it hadn’t happened, he didn’t remember a lot of stuff from when he was young.

“Kid…” What to tell him? Should he tell him anything? “Kid you‘re special. Don‘t let your aunt and uncle tell you different.”

The boy blinked at him in surprise then faded. Faded away.

Harry collapsed back onto the bench and held his head in his hands. Without looking up he counted on his finger.

“Evil wizards, giant snakes and now time travel.” Harry banged his head on the hard wood of the seat. “Wonderful.”
*


Harry made it to King’s Cross in plenty of time and crossed quickly onto platform nine and three quarters to be met by an unexpected sight. The doors of the Hogwarts express were closed and what students were already there were milling around uncertainly or talking in whispering groups. Harry spotted the twins right near the end of the platform and wandered over.

“Hi, girls.”

“Hi Harry, had a nice summer?” Parvati chirped at him.

“Not too bad. Thanks for the reading material by the way.”

“Well you did ask for it. Can‘t imagine why.” Padma shook her head and turned back to her contemplation of the unmoving train.

The book they were talking about was a weighty volume they had got him for his birthday. Mrs Patil was a librarian at a massive library in Bath and the twins had made a habit of getting him books on subjects not even touched on by the Hogwarts curriculum. But when he had requested a book on the obscure art of Occlumency, even they had raised their identical eyebrows. It hadn’t just been an idle fancy however - the subject had been suggested to him in a letter. A letter from a girl in Greece with one purple eye. Despite not wanting to disappoint Pythea he’d not made much progress, the book was heavy going. He persevered though.

“When a girl who can see the future tells you to learn something,” Harry had reasoned. “It’s probably in your best interests to put in the time.” Of course according to her he already was an occlumens, he just had to learn to control it. Despite Harry’s absolute respect for the little Greek seer, he looked on that statement with great disbelief.

“Do you know what the hold up is?” Harry gestured at the train. “Can we get on the train?”

“Yes Harry, we can get on the train.” Padma rolled her eyes. “We‘re standing on this mucky, smokey platform purely in the interests of our own health.”

“Can I nickname you sourpuss this year? I think it suits you.”

“I don’t know, don’t you want to not avoid experiencing a scalping hex?”

“No. Or yes… I mean no… Damn your double negatives!” Harry grinned and Padma smiled back at him. “Just tell me what’s wrong with the train.”

“We don’t know,” Parvati answered him and sat down on her trunk. Padma did the same.

“Ah…” thought Harry. “So trunks do have some advantages. Luckily….” Harry reached into his bag and pulled out a folding beach chair. He unfolded it and flopped down. “… I make my own advantages.”

“All we know…” Parvati eyed Harrys chair but said nothing. “…is that they’re going to make some announcement before we get on the train.”

“Don’t they usually make those at the feast?” Harry glanced around. The station was already filling up. Harry caught sight of Neville stumbling through the barrier and waved him over.

“Hi, Harry, Parvati. Hi Padma, do you know what’s wrong with the train?”

“Why do you all assume I know?” Padma snapped irritably.

“Well… because…” Neville floundered. “You‘re smart. You usually know things… about… stuff…”

“Oh… um,” Padma bit her lip and looked slightly guilty. “Well I don’t know this, sorry.”

“Relax guys.” Harry leaned back into his chair and closed his eyes. “Y‘all worry too much. It’s a nice day, we‘re outside, who cares about the train?”

“Smartest thing I‘ve ever heard you say,” Parvati mimicked Harry and they both sighed in contentment as the sun peeked out from behind a cloud and lit up the station. Padma snorted and got out a pack of cards before turning to Neville.

“While these two are photosynthesising you want to play exploding snap?”

Surprisingly Padma lost two games in the next few minutes before a loud murmuring made them all sit up and pay attention. Harry stood up on his chair and glanced around. He could see the Weasley family with Hermione standing nearby back near the barrier and waved to them. They waved back but he saw that they obviously couldn’t reach him through the crush on the platform. He turned the other way and saw the cause of the murmuring, Professor McGonagall was standing on a raised dais at the end of the platform. He watched as she held her wand to her mouth then spoke in an unnaturally loud voice.

“Please listen to me all of you.” The murmuring stopped and Harry stood up on the arms of his chair to get a better view. “When you reach Hogwarts there will be no carriages to take you to the school. Instead you will immediately line up behind your Heads of House; first years follow Professor Hagrid…” McGonagall pointed at the massive man standing next to her. Harry just had time to wonder about the ‘Professor’ bit before she continued. “From there you will be taken by boat to Hogwarts. I must stress to all of you that failure to abide by this will be met with stern punishment. Anyone acting in anything other than a mature and orderly fashion will be similarly punished.”

Harry just stared at her, what was going on? A moment later he felt the chair under him shift and he dropped to the ground with an almighty crash. He stood up and dusted himself off. Everyone around was looking at him.

“A mature and orderly fashion.” Harry heard Professor McGonagall repeat while glaring daggers at him. “Now if you will all enter the train.” The doors clicked open and there was an instant scrum around the entrances as children tried to force their way in. The twins and Neville were chuckling a little.

“You always seem to find some way of being the centre of attention,” Parvati said with a warm smile.

Harry laughed and folded up his chair.

“Come on, let’s get on the train,” Parvati added. “Before all the good seats are taken.”

“Don‘t worry about that sis,” Padma said dryly. “Harry seems to have a full garden set in his bag.”
*


As the Hogwarts express neared the station the differences mounted. Instead of being let off the train as they wanted they were funnelled out in orderly lines to line up behind the teachers. The marauders huddled together. What was going on? After they had lined up in silence the other Heads of house peeled off and they followed McGonagall out of the station.

The students trudged along a muddy, misty path down to the lake. Harry glanced into the sky and saw broomsticks circling. Harry saw Professor Snape swing past, his long hooked nose making him look like a giant crow as he scanned the ground surrounding the students. A moment later Madam Hooch (flying with a good deal more expertise than the potions master) flew past in the other direction.

“Whatever it is that’s happening,” Harry thought. “Its got them seriously worried.”

The boat surprised everyone, a Victorian looking wooden paddle steamer complete with gas lights waited at a long dock at the side of the lake. The students filed on and the boat moved slowly away. As they moved out onto the water the teachers visibly relaxed. The students began to relax too, jumping at the rails and charging up and down the deck.

“Up there guys.” Harry heaved his guitar into a luggage rack and pointed to the upper deck. “Come on.”

“But Harry McGonagall’s up there,” Ron whined. “We won‘t be able to do anything fun.”

“But we might hear what all this is about. Come on guys? Aren’t you curious?”

“Not again Harry,” Hermione crossed her arms. “Let the teachers handle it.”

“I am going to,” Harry said starting up the stairs. “But I want to know what it is they‘re handling.”

“And whether it involves time travel,” he added to himself as the marauders followed him up the stairs.

Up on the top deck it was colder and they could look far out over the lake as the mist curled on the surface of the water. Or was it just mist? Harry looked deeper and squinted through his glasses. The giant squid was right beneath the steamer, shadowing them. Teachers guarding above, the squid guarding below. Harry shook his head, something definitely had them spooked. A moment later a broom swooped down from above and a booted foot nearly cracked the side of Harry’s head. Snape landed in an undignified heap on the deck and tried to get up before tangling his legs in the broom and almost tripping over. Harry heard a few stifled giggles but himself remained silent. What were they laughing about? Snape was better on the thing than him.

“Take it. Don‘t lose it,” Snape snapped and shoved the broom into Ginny’s hands before moving towards McGonagall. Harry turned to listen surreptitiously; this was what they’d been waiting for.

“One of them was sniffing around near the edge of the forest.” Snape gestured away towards eastern shore of the lake. He sounded peculiarly disinterested. “It is gone now.”

“Likely gone to tell the rest of them Severus.” McGonagall was anything but disinterested. She sounded tense, even for her. “Why didn‘t you stun him?”

“They can hardly do anything now.” Professor Snape glanced up at the sky with a wry smile on his face. “All these unnecessary precautions.”

“You yourself helped strengthen the wards over the summer, Severus.”

“That was a necessary precaution.” Snape was unruffled by Professor McGonagall’s flinty stare. “For times other than now.”

“You know they like to take people Severus. Wait and make sure they‘re in a position to strike when the time is right.”

“Wait almost a week?”

“Severus, the safety of the students is our top priority.”

“No Minerva.” Severus’s laconic attitude was gone in an instant. “Finding out what they are up to. Finding out why they move now. Finding out why they grow less fearful each day. Finding out why they are gathering and why they venture further and further outside the confines of the forest. That is our top priority. That is our top priority because until we do Hogwarts is not safe.”

The two teachers dropped off into silence and stared out over the lake. Harry turned around and stared out over the rail himself. When was Hogwarts ever safe? People kept saying that Hogwarts was protected, but Harry had seen precious little evidence of that over his time there. Harry leant out over the rail and stared out over the misty water to the veiled forest, just visible as a dark stain in the distance. Since he’d been into it in his first year Harry hadn’t really thought about the forest. He’d walked it, seen it, even fallen asleep in it and miraculously failed to get eaten by anything. Since that day it hadn’t really scared him anymore. Harry frowned and closed his eyes. Now the forest was something malevolent, ruining what could have been a simple year.

“What are you thinking Harry?” Harry twisted and saw Neville standing behind him.

“I‘m thinking we‘re in for another interesting year Neville,” Harry sighed. “Lets just hope it doesn‘t involve more freezing sewers. That was half the reason I went to Spain you know…” Harry added. “…to warm up again.”

“I know Harry.” Neville moved up next to him on the rail. “I don‘t… I don’t know how I managed it.”

“I don’t know how I managed it either. And I don‘t know how you managed it twice.” Harry grinned at his friend. “That woulda killed me.”

“It did almost kill you.”

“Nah, that was the snake.” Harry was chuckling now. “Anyway you didn‘t just have to get out. You had to carry someone out.”

“That actually made it easier.” Neville was chuckling too. “She floats.” Harry burst out laughing. He turned to his quiet friend.

“She floats?”

Neville nodded, still laughing.

“Ok.” Harry shook his head and leant against the rail. “What are you thinking Neville? What do you think about all this?” Neville sort of drew back into himself and shrugged.

“You know I‘m not really smart or anything Harry.”

“Just give me a guess.” Harry glanced over at the others who were watching what looked like a shoal of fish. “I want your initial reaction.” Neville sort of shrugged again.

“Something in the forest‘s dangerous.” Harry nodded and motioned for him to continue.

“It‘s something that’s always been there but’s acting differently now.” Harry nodded and smiled. He’d got that impression too. In fact he’d got several impressions from the conversation, not that he was going to mention them.

“But something that isn‘t dangerous right now. That’s what Snape said.” Harry saw that Padma had wandered over too them. Neville shut his mouth suddenly, maybe less inclined to talk now that someone else could hear him if he was wrong.

“Either of you hazard a guess as to what?” Harry looked between them, from one to the other. “Something that’s not dangerous now but is in a week’s time?”

“There are… some dangerous plants with weekly cycles.” Neville mumbled. “Some even grow in the forest. But he said something was sniffing down by the shore.”

“What if it’s were-” Padma began but Harry caught her eye and subtly held one finger up, then glanced at Neville, who was still lost in thought. The twin looked confused for a moment then understanding seemed to flow onto her face and she quickly added. “No, it can’t be that. Never mind.”

“Does something special happen in a week’s time?” Harry asked Neville. Neville looked confused then opened his trunk and pulled out what looked like a diary or a homework planner.

“In a week…” Neville’s drew his finger down the page. “Well it’s a full moon… Wait! Werewolves! Could it be werewolves?” Neville looked up with a shocked and surprised expression.

“Of course. And they already live in the forest. They must be gathering.” Harry nodded and looked out over the water. “You should go tell the others, they‘ll want to know about this.” Neville almost skipped as he moved away. Padma fixed him with a knowing stare.

“When did you work out it was werewolves?” she said quietly.

“About when you walked over. I remembered when I was in the forest with your sister, talking about all the nasties that were supposed to live there, and it just kind of clicked.”

“You are either a very good friend or a manipulating bastard.”

“I always thought I was both,” Harry commented dryly.

Any response of Padma’s was cut off as the ship lurched alarmingly to the side. Harry fell against the rail and slid down to the floor before he could catch himself. A sudden pain struck him in the back of his neck.

“Ow!” Harry picked himself up and rubbed the back of his neck. He had even heard something snap as he fell.

“Oh, fine don’t be chivalrous. Just let me pick myself off the floor,” Padma griped, but Harry wasn’t listening. Something felt dreadfully wrong.

Suddenly he was fixed with a hideous certainty, his hands checking around his neck, his eyes checking the floor around his feet. It wasn’t there. The shell, Pythea’s shell pendent was gone. Harry dashed to the side and looked out over the water, as if he would be able to see it floating despite the mist and swells. Then his eye caught a shining glint and he breathed a huge sigh of relief. It had fallen on the lower deck, not in the water.

Feeling like he’d just run a marathon Harry went down the nearest staircase and swung round to the lower deck.

“Leave it! Don’t step on it!” Harry yelled at the first years careening down the gangway. “Just let me… Oh bugger.” Harry stopped moving and let his hands fall to his sides. A student had turned at his cries and picked the pendent off the floor and was now holding it up to the light.

“Interesting piece of jewellery Potter.” Malfoy grinned evilly. “Didn‘t think you were one for decoration. Where did you get it? Never mind, I know. Shell, string, glue from the library, a gift made entirely of free ingredients. This was the Weasley‘s Christmas present to you wasn‘t it.”

“Give. It. To. Me. Now.” Harry didn’t remember drawing his wand but it had somehow ended up in his hand. “Do not screw around here Malfoy.”

“Oh but it’s so sweet.” The Slytherin drew the pendent off its cord to look at it more closely. “You carrying this piece of garbage close to your heart.”

“Malfoy…” Harry took a step closer and held out his hand. Out of the corners of his eyes he could see his friends gathering behind him. “… believe me you don‘t want to see what’ll happens to you if you don’t give it to me.”

“Well if you care so much…” Malfoy smirked and tightened his hand around the shell. “… oops!” And with that he turned and hurled the pendent out across the lake.

“Noooo!” Harry heard the scream fly past his lips and it felt like his heart flew with it. But a moment later a red blur shot past him at shoulder height, darting out over the dark surface of the lake, following the curving ark of the pendent as if climbed to its zenith then fell swiftly to the mist. The blur shot down with it and for a moment both were lost in the whiteness. Then a moment later it re-emerged, travelling slower now. Harry watched as Ginny Weasley floated back down onto the boat next to him on Snape’s broom, held out her clenched fist and said…

“Here you go Harry.” Her hand opened and there it was, not even wet. She’d caught it before it touched the water.

Harry reached out with trembling fingers and grabbed the tiny thing into his hand. Why had he ever kept it on something as fragile as leather? He should get some wire, or a chain. Yes, yes a chain. With unbreakable charms on it. He could ask Professor Flitwick for help making them really strong. Harry looked up then enveloped the youngest marauder in a hug.

“Thank you,” he breathed into her hair.

“That’s ok Harry. You saved me from a giant snake.” Ginny chuckled.

“Believe me…” Harry pulled back from her and looked her straight in the eye. “…we‘re even.”

“Miss Ginevra Weasley!” The marauders turned and saw McGonagall bearing down on them. Harry stepped in front of the others and held out his hands.

“Entirely my fault Professor, you see-”

“I do not want to hear it Mr Potter.” Even Harry didn’t have the guts to stand up to that tone of voice. “Miss Weasley, I was perfectly clear about the seriousness of the situation when I spoke on the train platform.”

“But Professor I was-”

“Not another word Miss Weasley. And using a broom given to you to keep safe by a Hogwarts Professor.” Ginny bowed her head. “Come with me now.”

Ginny obediently moved off after the Deputy Headmistress. Harry tried one last attempt…

“The squid would’a caught her if she fell!”

McGonagall turned and gave him a withering stare before turning and walking up to the front of the ship, the youngest marauder trailing.
*


Ginny clutched the broom in her hands as her Head of House led her across the deck. To her surprise they stopped near a group of seventh years, one of whom McGonagall tapped on the shoulder.

“Mr Wood, I have found you a seeker.”

Ginny’s heart leapt. She wasn’t expelled! Far from it, she was going on the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

“Really?” The older boy looked almost torn, like it would be too painful to hope. “Is she good? Merlin‘s beard but we need a good seeker.”

“She caught a piece of shell smaller that a snitch straight out of a standing start,” McGonagall snapped. “In this mist too, and on a school broom.”

“More than a piece of shell…” Ginny mumbled, defensive of Harry’s treasured pendent. But neither the Professor nor the Quidditch captain seemed to hear her. Then she had a horrible thought. “But I don’t have a broom,” she protested.

“Considering the current situation in the Gryffindor team…” McGonagall shook her head ruefully. “I think we can provide you with a broom.”

“A good broom,” Wood cut in. “A Nimbus 2000, maybe a newer comet. Or you know the Nimbus 2001 is around-”

“We are not made of money Mr Wood,” the Professor said icily.

“Right, right, of course. Better be the 2000.”

McGonagall nodded and walked off humming what sounded like a victory march under her breath. Ginny turned back to the seventh year. Suddenly a memory hit her and her face turned from triumphant grin to horrified grimace.

“Something wrong little one?” Oliver Wood leant over to talk to her.

“I…” Ginny began then continued in a rush. “… I was sort of involved in the stuff last year and I was possessed by an evil book that had Voldemort in it and I set a giant snake on you and it petrified you and that’s the reason you missed most of your last term and I could have killed you.”

“But you can play Quidditch ?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t worry about it then.”
________________________________________


The Beta for this chapter was once again Colon. Thank you!

Please review, I want to know what you think about the departure from canon.

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I feel the need to explain something so no Lupin fans get angry.

In this chapter, and the next few, you may notice that Lupin is a little different than he is in cannon. Specifically a little harsher. I promise I will explain, eventually... Lupin is one of my favorite characters so it pains me to do this to him, but bear with me, it's for a good reason.
________________________________________


The sorting hat’s song that year was the shortest in anyone’s memory.

“Last year a girl, A little girl
Saw fit to break the rule.

I wish to make it fully clear.
I will not be made a fool.

I sort the student, me the hat.
And if you wish to question that.
GO FIND ANOTHER SCHOOL!”

Harry laughed out loud but stopped when he saw that Ginny appeared to be trying to hide under the table. The sorting occurred along normal lines from then on except for the fact that the hat sometimes seemed to be almost spitting its decisions out, as if daring anyone to question. Maybe it was Harry’s imagination.

“Guys…” Harry began after the food had appeared. “… we‘ve got to get back into the swing of things.”

“What do you mean? What things?” Ron said through a mouth full of mashed potato.

“Pranks guys, the reason the marauders exist in the first place.” Harry shook his head ruefully. “Last year we let little things like open warfare in the corridors distract us from what’s really important.”

“Harry please.” Hermione put her hands together as if praying. “Haven’t you had enough excitement. Can’t we just have a quiet year, study, play chess, exploding snap that sort of thing. Besides, we all have new classes this year. We won’t have time.”

“Yeah, classes…” Harry tried to think back. What classes had he chosen? “… those classes I chose… called… um…”

“Care of Magical Creatures and Ancient Runes.” Hermione’s voice took on a long-suffering tone.

“Right! Right yes.” Now he remembered. It had been a process of elimination really. Muggle Studies: too useless, Arithmancy: too hard, Divination: Taught by Professor Trelawney. Much as Harry wanted to learn more about the seers Pythea had warned him about the Divination Professor. “And a fun, studious time will be had by all but between classes, we prank. We prank good. We prank hard. We prank deadly. But most of all…” Harry stopped and surveyed his troops.

“We prank Malfoy.” Parvati finished for him, eyes ablaze. “We make him pay for almost losing you your pendent.”

“Exactly.”

Hermione buried her face in her hands.

“And for tormenting the muggleborn students.” Ron added.

Hermione straightened instantly.

“Of course, we can’t let him get away with it!”

“Children…” Albus Dumbledore had stood up and was addressing the school. The school turned and quietened attentively, except for Harry who was concentrating on rolling a coin over his knuckles. “… and you Harry.” Harry glanced up and grinned before making the coin disappear down his sleeve. “I once again feel the need to make a few announcements before allowing you to return to your common rooms and regale each other with stories if your summers. Firstly I hope you will join me in welcoming a new Professor to the staff, he will be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts.”

“…this year.” A girl near the back of the Ravenclaw table yelled.

“And for as long in the future a he wishes to teach.”

“Lets not kid ourselves here.” Another voice added cynically. Harry craned his neck and saw Joshua Split grinning sardonically in his new blue edged robes. Somehow he had already managed to get them rumpled. He caught Harry’s gaze and nodded amicably.

“In any case…” The Headmaster continued. “I would like to welcome Professor Lupin.” The headmaster waved towards a wizard sitting on his left.

Professor Lupin was definitely a change from Markus Michelson. The wizards robes were patched like they had been repeatedly self-repaired and his hair showed grey. More than that he moved like a man not quite recovered from a long illness, his eyes were tired and lined. There was a smattering of applause, most of it soon stopping. Harry clapped once or twice to show willing but decided to reserve judgment till the first class. The man certainly didn’t look like he would last a year, he looked like he’d be hard pressed to last a month.

Professor Lupin didn’t seem perturbed by the unenthusiastic response, he seemed to take it as normal. Harry’s eyes were drawn across the table and alighted on Professor Snape. The potions master’s (usually so cheery) expression had twisted into something very close to pure hatred. Harry’s eyes flickered to Lupin then back to Snape. There was a story here unless he was much mistaken. Suddenly the Potion Masters gaze flickered up to meet his. Harry felt a nub of pressure on the back of his scull, like a little balloon was being inflated inside his brain.

“Ok Harry! Clear mind!” Harry thought as he breathed deeply and tried to blank his mind. “Clear… clear… breathing…” The nub intensified and the pressure spiked into pain. “blank, walls, darkness, fog…” It was no good, the bulb of pain exploded and a flood of images filled Harry’s mind before he jerked his eyes away. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the Professor smirk triumphantly.

“Secondly…” The Headmaster continued. “I would like to announce that our very own Rubeus Hagrid has agreed to take on a post as the Professor of Care of Magical Creatures.” The cheer this time was louder, but still not great. Harry stood and clapped but not many others did.

“Thirdly, and most importantly…” Dumbledore’s voice took on a deathly serious tone. “… as your unusual means of arrival will no doubt have alerted you there are problems at Hogwarts this year. I truly hope that they will not trouble us but there are some things you must know. The forbidden forest has always been off limits to students, but I must now move the boundary a good deal closer to Hogwarts. There is a line that you will all see on the ground just passed the greenhouses, do not cross it unless you have an undeniable need to visit Madam Pomfrey. And even then there are much less painful ways. I must also insist that all students are inside the castle walls during the hours of darkness. The Quidditch stadium has been closed for matches…”

“No!” The cry went up from several places around the great hall.

“… but the Quidditch cup will still take place in a different venue.” Dumbledore continued to a somewhat placated hall. “I truly hope that none of these precautions are necessary and that we can all have a normal year.” The Headmaster sat back down.

“Fat chance of that.” Harry said swinging around.

“Shh!” Hermione admonished him.

“… and you Harry.” Harry spun back round. Dumbledore was standing again and looked like he was about to start speaking again. Harry obediently fell silent.

“I once again feel the need to make a few announcements before allowing you to return to your common rooms and regale each other with stories if your summers.” What? More announcements?

“Firstly I hope you will join me in welcoming a new Professor to the staff, he will be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts.” We already did?

“…this year.” Hang on…

“And for as long in the future a he wishes to teach.” Oh no… Harry glanced over at Split just a moment before he spoke.

“Lets not kid ourselves here.”

Harry glanced around, no one else seemed to think anything was amiss. He made himself clap for both professors and appear to listen attentively to the restrictions he’d heard just a moment before. As the rest of the school began leaving the great hall Harry grabbed a jug of water and took a long thirsty gulp. It did no good, his throat still felt dry.

“You alright Harry?” Ron had hung back, waiting for him.

“Oh fine.” Harry set the jug back and wearily got to his feet. “Just déjà vu.”

As he turned and walked unhurriedly out of the hall a set of golden eyes watched him go.
*


“A Nimbus 2000.” Ron ran his hands lovingly over the handle of the broomstick. “Wow… I mean… wow…”

“Um Ron? Brother dear? Give me my broom back right now!”

“Right.” Ron handed the broom back over the breakfast table. “Sorry Ginny.” But he kept staring at the broom and his hands kept twitching as if itching to grab it again.

Harry caught the eye of Hermione, the only other marauder not currently clustered around the broom, and rolled his eyes. Hermione smiled but said…

“Some of it‘s actually quite interesting actually Harry. I‘ve read up on flying charms and the Nimbus 2000 is the first to use the new momentum reversal charm for pinpoint turns in…”

“… in conjunction with an aeris-fissio to increase to speed? Yeah, but the Atirabhasa charm produces pretty much the same speeds and it’s a damn sight more reliable. Or you could use Frenum instead of the momentum charm so long as the wood itself is strong enough.”

Hermione’s jaw had dropped open and she was looking at him with disbelief.

“They‘re charms.” Harry explained, waving dismissively. “They‘re easy. And as for the Quidditch talk well… after hearing Ron prattle on for so long I can probably recite the rule book.”

“Harry if you would just apply the same level of commitment you give to charms and pranking to other things like say… potions or defense class I‘m sure you‘d find them just as easy.”

Harry wasn’t so sure, especially about the potions.

“But potions is boring.” Harry took a swig of orange juice (he had never grown to like pumpkin juice). “How can you spend time doing something so boring.”

“Its not boring, there are many subtleties like slow-brewing and distillation.”

“Step one: Read Instruction. Step Two: Follow Instructions. Step Three: Have Cauldron Explode and get yelled at.” Harry mimed an exploding cauldron and laughed. Hermione at least smiled as she took a drink from her glass. “Only step three is of any real interest. That’s why I add so many odd ingredients.” Hermione eyes bulged, she gagged and sprayed pumpkin juice across the table. Spluttering and gasping she managed to say…

“You‘ve been doing it on purpose!”

“Hell yes! It’s not really any fun otherwise.” Harry thought back for a moment, lost in reminiscence. “The one that turned purple and ended up all over the ceiling. That was probably the best one.”

“Let’s just get to class.” Hermione stood up and grabbed her bag. “I don’t want to be late for muggle studies.”

“What are you talking about? We have creatures first don’t we?”

“Oh, right yes.” Hermione bit her lip before nodding. “Let me just go, um, get some spare parchment. I‘ll meet you there.” She moved off down the table quickly. Harry watched her go, frowning.

“That was odd.” Harry took another sip of juice then turned around at the sound of a loud bang. Ron was helplessly flailing at his face, trying to knock away the two leathery wings that had emerged from his nose. One from each nostril. “Tried to grab the broom again didn‘t you Ron?”

“I couldn‘t help myself.”
*


Hermione hurried away from the great hall, very aware of the little golden hourglass hanging around her neck. She had felt Harry’s stare as she walked out of the hall, she would have to be more careful in future. He was too shrewd sometimes. The consequences if someone found out would be awful. McGonagall had made that clear…

“You will have to sign this.” McGonagall had said, pushing a long form over to her. “Make sure to read it carefully.”

She had dutifully read through the document. It seemed to be a standard from, there had been various references to the punishments for different infractions.

“There‘s a bit that’s been written in in different ink at the bottom.” Hermione had noticed.

“We thought it necessary to add that.”

“’I swear that I will never ever ever ever tell Harry Potter about the time-turner.’ You mention Harry by name?”

“We thought it prudent.”

“It‘s underlined.”

“I know.”

“In red.”

“I know.”

“And there‘s a big arrow pointing to it.”

“Just sign the form.”

Hermione had done so and been handed a small hinged box, like a piece of jewellery would come in. On the back had been a tiny label
Time-Turner
Property of the department of Mysteries
Warnings:
Keep with you at all times
Do not attempt to open
Do not use in conjunction with other methods of time-travel
Do not cause paradoxes or interfere with the fabric of causality
Do not swallow


Hermione hurried to her lesson. She just needed to be more careful. This year couldn’t be that hard, could it?
*


“Where are you going Harry?” Parvati called out to him as he stepped out of the main door of Hogwarts.

“Well I was thinking of going to my magical creatures class.” Harry shrugged and grinned impishly. “But if you wanna ditch I‘m game.”

“The magical creatures classes are being held inside this year. Probably because of all the security. Didn‘t you read the notice? I‘m really looking forward to it…” Parvati continued as Harry turned to follow her. “… I wonder if we‘ll do unicorns or maybe an Abraxan.”

“Acromantula and yetis and bicorns oh my!”

“Oh come on Hagrid wouldn’t be allowed to bring those things into the school.”

“Really?” Harry chuckled. “Bet you a galleon whatever we see today has more teeth than me.”

“You’re on.” Parvati had stopped in front of a door on the third floor. All the marauders had, the place held some disturbing memories. Hermione hurried towards them (not from the direction of Gryffindor tower Harry noticed) and stopped nearby.

“Is that…?”

“Fluffy‘s room.” Neville finished for her in a voice full of dread.

“Ooo.” Harry said as he moved to open the door. “I think I hear that galleon calling.”

“Great, y‘r all here.” Hagrid waved the marauders over. The room looked different to when the Cerberus had occupied it. It had been cleaned for one thing and the trapdoor was gone, replaced by flat stone just slightly less worn than the rest of the floor. If you weren’t looking you’d never see it.

The students were sat on cushions in a circle around Hagrid, who himself was standing next to a massive cage covered in a black cloth.

“Sorry we have to have the lessons in here but its for your own good y‘ see. Now, have a look at this…” Hagrid pulled the cloth off and the whole class shied away. “…A six-headed Vorompatra. Ain’t she a beautiful creature.”

The ten foot tall ostrich-like creature stuck its heads through the bars and glared at the students with all twelve of its red, beady eyes. Then it drew back its heads and screeched like a banshee.

“Her name is Isabelle.” Hagrid said fondly.

Not one of the students spoke until Parvati leaned towards Harry’s ear and hoarsely said…

“You owe me a galleon.”
*


The shaken marauders made their way to defence against the dark arts.

“It‘s eyes… It kept staring at me.” Neville kept mumbling as they walked down the corridor.

“It was staring at everyone Neville it had six bloody heads!” Harry threw his hands up in the air and shook his head.

“He probably just wanted to start the year with a bang.” Hermione rationalized, kneading the edge of her robes in her fists nervously. “The rest of the classes won‘t be like that. Surely?” She even seemed to be rocking back and forth a little. Ron tentatively reached out and rested his hand on her shoulder comfortingly.

“We can only hope. Though perhaps we shouldn’t.” Padma said dryly.

Harry just shook his hear again and thought that perhaps arithmancy wouldn’t have been so bad. As they entered the defense classroom Professor Lupin looked up from what he was doing. The marauders were the first ones there.

“You needn’t find your seats students, we will be going somewhere else for the lesson today.” The teachers voice was horse and tired. The marauders waited for anything further instructions but none came, the professor had gone back to writing something on a sheet of parchment.

Harry shrugged and made three juggling balls appear from thin air (the first time he’d done this half of Gryffindor house thought he’d mastered conjuring, it had been weeks before anyone had caught on to the sleight of hand) and began spinning them idly. When the rest of the class were there Professor Lupin called the register then rose wearily from his seat and told them all to follow him. As they trouped through the school Harry whispered…

“Where do you think he‘s taking us?” But the answer became apparent almost instantly as they entered the staff room.

“Now, I do not want any of you to become alarmed. But there is a dark creature in this wardrobe, a boggart.” Most of the class ignored his warning and became alarmed. “Mr, Longbottom is it? Mr Longbottom would you come to the front please.”

Neville gingery moved to the front of the class. Harry listened with half an ear to the description of the properties and proper defense against boggarts. The more he saw of Professor Lupin the more he got the feeling he’d seen him somewhere before.

“Alright Mr Longbottom?” Damn! Should really have listened to that. “Ready? Go!” Professor Lupin flicked his wand and the cupboard opened. Out stepped Isabelle in all her glory.

“Oh bloody hell! Not again!” Harry yelled.

Neville seemed to have been petrified, his wand rigid in his hand as the gigantic bird stomped towards him making the ground shake. Then he seemed to snap out of it and yelled…

“Riddikulus!” The elephant-birds six heads suddenly snaked together into a tangled knot and it fell to the floor.

“Good, good! Next one up.” Professor Lupin was smiling and motioned Susan Bones up. The boggart became a snake and was quickly changed into a slinky.

“Ok, I get the idea.” Harry thought as he slowly moved up the line. Rats, bats, toads and spiders were changed into more amusing things and Harry thought it might actually be fun to see what happened when he came face to face with the creature. The last student in front of him moved away and he stepped up, wand in hand. The boggart seemed to ripple for a moment, then shot forward. For a moment Harry saw a blue flash then he felt water all around him and his mind became a blank slate full of terror.

“Can’t breath! Air! Air! Can’t breath! Can’t…” Harry flailed helplessly. “Drowning!” Harry’s thoughts were interrupted as the water disappeared. Harry caught a flash of something globe-shaped and silver before he dropped to his knees on the floor.

“Are you hurt?” Harry looked up at the sound of the Professors voice then shook his head. “Perhaps this will teach you to pay more attention when your teacher speaks in future.” With that Lupin turned away and started talking to the rest of the class, lecturing them on other boggart properties. Harry felt an arm snake around his shoulders and looked up to see Hermione’s sympathetic face.

“Why didn‘t you speak the charm Harry?”

“Couldn‘t breath.”

“The water wasn’t real you know.” But Harry just shook his head.

“Couldn‘t breath.”

The class was dismissed a few minutes later. Harry slouched along a few steps behind the rest of the marauders with his hands in his pockets. Malfoy would surely have spread this story across half the school before the end of the day and the other half by breakfast. Harry decided he hated Professor Lupin.
*


The next day Harry was bodily dragged from lunch by Hermione.

“Come on, or we‘ll be late.”

“And would that be so bad.” Harry tried to dig his heels in to slow her down but he just ended up stumbling (why did he have to be smaller than everyone?) “Are you that excited about ancient runes?”

Harry was the only marauder joining Hermione in that subject. In addition to the care of magical creatures they were all taking, and now regretting. Ron and Parvati had signed up for divination, against Harry advice. Neville was taking muggle studies along with Padma who was the only marauder doing three electives (“Why!” Harry had asked. “And arithmancy?”). Apart from Hermione of course, who was doing everything.

“I am excited!” Hermione entered the classroom and took a seat right at the front.

“Not the seat I would have chosen but whatever.” Harry thought as he sat down. “At least nothing in this class can eat me or drown me.”

“Good morning class. I am Professor Babbling.” The professor looked a little like an older Hermione, but a more dotty one. She had noticeable ink stains on her cuffs and even a smudge on her cheek. She was obviously good at her subject though if the detailed calligraphy that hung in scrolls behind her desk was any indication. “Well shall we get started.”

Harry rested his head in his hand as the Professor begun explaining some obscure runic script in quick flowing speech while scraping symbols on the board. After about half an hour she asked them to translate a bit of it. Harry turned to Hermione.

“I assume you noted all of that down?”

“Well of course!”

“Good.” Harry held up a sketch of a dog with fluffy ears. “Because I didn’t.”
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Questions, comments, anger? Please review.

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Despite the extra precautions around the school classes continued more or less as normal. Hermione’s hopes had been correct and Hagrid had just been trying to start the year big. Creatures class was, from then on, not quite so terrifying. Harry had reduced his own fears by talking to professor Flitwick who had assured him that all the cages Hagrid had were built with the strongest unbreakable charms. Flitwick himself had inspected each one of them. Harry felt better after that and tried to convince the other students of the same thing.

“Unbreakable charms won‘t break.” Harry said to Susan Bones as they wrestled a writhing vine into a pot and packed it down with clay. “He could bring anything into class and, so long as its in a cage, it should be fine.”

“I know that. I mean, I know that’s true but its not the same when the creature‘s actually in front of you.” Susan shook her head, she had a spot of earth on her cheek. Harry reached out and brushed it off for her, ignoring the odd fluttering feeling in his stomach.

“Well…” Harry swallowed and continued. “… at least its not snakes!” Harry jumped at her hissing and holding up a piece of vine, making it wriggle like a snake. Susan snorted and shoved him backwards into a flowerbed.

Harry left herbology with mud all down his back.

“Not one word.” He warned the snickering marauders. “We‘ve got a job to do tonight remember?”

The marauders quieted down. It was true, tonight Draco Malfoy would pay.
*


Harry slid along the wall up to the entrance to the Slytherin common room. Myrtle (intentionally dimming herself) wafted through the wall. A moment later her top half slid back into sight and she gave him a wink and a thumbs up. Harry made one last check around for the lookouts he knew were at each end of the corridor then said the password. Grinning he slipped into the common room and up the stairs. How had they ever managed without a ghost?

It took Harry a good five minutes to open Malfoy’s door. Obviously after last year the third year had seen fit to add some extra protections to his apartments. Harry glanced over the boys bed. Malfoy’d got rid of the teddy bear at some point but seemed to miss it, he had his blankets bunched up in front of him and was hugging them. Harry shook his head and made his way to the dresser. Harry opened the top drawer ever so slowly and sprinkled a liberal amount of a dark powder inside. He then did the same with the other drawers and with the clothes hanging in the wardrobe. Chuckling to himself silently Harry slid out of the room and closed the door.

The next morning Harry watched for Malfoy carefully during breakfast but he never showed. Most likely in the hospital wing Harry reasoned, the lesions had probably burst by now.

“Step 1, success.” Harry leaned back and shared a broad smile with the other marauders. “On to step two. But that will have to wait for the weekend.”

“But it‘s a Hogsmead weekend?” Ron pointed out.

“Yep, step two takes place in Hogsmead. Let me tell you about it…” Harry began but was interrupted by Hermione.

“But Harry you can‘t go to Hogsmead. You don‘t have a permission form, its not allowed. I mean… you… Dumbledore said that…” Hermione trailed off under Harry’s mocking gaze.

“I have left the country against Dumbledore‘s wishes. I shouldn‘t think the school grounds will provide too much hassle. Now…” Harry leant forward conspiratorially. “This is what I think we should do, cut in if you‘ve got some suggestions.”
*


The Saturday sun rose bright and early as did the students eager to be off to Hogsmead. Harry waved his friends off at the front gate in a mood of mild panic. He had made a promise to meet them early outside the three broomsticks but, despite his cockiness, he actually didn’t have the faintest clue how he was going to leave the grounds.

Ginny had wanted to come with him but he had refused saying at the time that it would be too obvious she wasn’t supposed to be there. Now he was regretting it as she might have been able to fly him over the wall. Harry walked up to the gate but saw Filch checking students as they wandered out, there was no way he could get out that way.

Harry walked along the wall in the direction of Hogsmead looking for some crack or flaw. He could probably have climbed the wall in places but for the fact that he knew they were not mere stone. He reached the lakeshore without finding anything and was about to turn back when an idea struck him. The lake. Harry scrambled down to the edge of the water and looked out to his right, cliffs for a good thirty meters but a scrap of beach after that. He could even see the road the carriages went along.

Remembering the boggart Harry eyed the water with deep suspicion. But it looked like it was his only option. He would probably be alright so long as his head was above water.

“The things I do to get Malfoy.” Harry shook his head as he took off his shoes and tied the laces together so he could loop them around his neck. He reluctantly stepped into the water and winced at the cold, he went deeper and began to follow the cliff around. Eventually the lakebed sank and he could no longer touch it with his feet. Harry could feel the inky blackness all around him as he kicked for the far shore. The water sapped his courage and Harry’s heart raced until he was able to put his feet back on land.

Harry drew himself up onto the beach and wasted no time in performing a quick drying charm on his clothes before heading up into the village.

In Harry’s opinion the marauders were not impressed enough that he had managed to leave the castle.

“Where were you?” Padma hissed. “You’re late, we‘ve been waiting.”

Harry just rolled his eyes and said…

“Is he here yet?”

“No.”

“Then I‘m not late.” Harry started off down the road and the marauders didn’t really have a choice but to follow him. They all trouped into madam puddifoots to the surprise of the proprietor, she rarely saw groups of more than two in her shop. The third years moved towards a pair of hufflepuffs sitting at the table nearest the window.

“Hi!” Harry greeted brightly. They looked up. “I know you don’t want to be disturbed but we are playing a massive prank on a hideous git known as Draco Malfoy. Oh you know him too? Well the only way we‘ll be able to watch the results of our masterful deception is if we can have this table. So, do you mind?” The couple looked at each other for a moment.

“Draco Malfoy?”

“Yes.”

“Mind if we watch too?”

Harry smiled

“Course not. In fact…” Harry turned and addressed the whole shop (after a quick eye scan to see that there were no Slytherins present). “… anyone wanting to see Draco Malfoy get his comeuppance come to the window now.” Harry heard chairs squeak back and the other four couples in the café all crowded around the window.

“There he is!” One of them pointed. Draco Malfoy was scurrying down the street, occasionally scratching at his chest and arms. Harry twirled his wand around and held it under his chin like a microphone.

“Ladies and gentlemen…” He began. “… I would like to welcome you to the first ever episode of The New Marauders TV Show! With our special guest… Malfoy!” Several of the patrons were shooting him odd looks but others were grinning.

“Earlier this week somebody impregnated Mr Malfoy’s clothing with brech powder which, as you know, causes serious problems to any bare skin it touches.” A snickering began all around Harry. “And yes, the powder got on his underwear too.” Malfoy was almost level with them in the street now.

“Now Malfoy knows by now that pretty much all his clothing is infested so as soon as he reaches Hogsmead he‘s going to need to visit…” Draco ducked into the shop opposite. “… gladrags wizardwear. What Mr Malfoy is unaware of is that we have an agent inside gladrags wizardwear, hidden using the magic of his kind. I think we should all take a moment to thank Dobby the house elf for his work in this endeavor.” Harry and the marauders clapped and a few of the others did too, getting into the game of it.

“It probably won‘t take Malfoy long to get his stuff since it is just school robes for the most part. But you see the other thing of which Mr Malfoy is unaware is that Mr Dobby has made sure he gets the clothes we pre-prepared. These clothes have a jinx on them, a jinx commonly known as the emperors-new-clothes jinx.” A couple of the students broke out laughing. “Ah, so you‘ve heard of it, or can at least guess what this little spell does. For those that can‘t… Ah! Here‘s Mr Malfoy now.” Some of the café crowd laughed, some looked away and some just grinned in glee as Malfoy walked off down the street in his ‘robes’ oblivious to the stares he was getting from everyone.

“Of course we left him his boxers.” Harry continued. “There are some things I just don’t want to see.”
*


“Even though I am truly terrified right now.” Harry thought as he swam back past the cliffs. “That was so worth it. Malfoy won‘t live this down for years.”

Harry was right, the whole school knew how Malfoy had walked through Hogsmead and into the three broomsticks half-naked. The whole school had a fair guess as to who was responsible too. Over the next few weeks the marauders were treated to another chapter of ‘The many knowing and calculating stares of Minerva McGonagall’ but no one could prove it.

“We need to do more stuff like that.” Harry said to himself as they waited for the defense class to begin. “I wonder where Snape buys his robes?”

The others just grinned. A moment later Hermione hurried in through the doors looking flustered before landing down in her seat.

“Where did you go Hermione?” Ron questioned. “We all left divination at the same time.”

“What do you mean?” Padma turned around. “We were just in arithmancy.”

“We were all just in transfiguration.” Harry argued, confused. “We must have all been there, it‘s not an optional class.”

“Harry are you crazy?” Ron asked, stunned.

Any retort Harry had been about to deliver was lost as the door to the classroom banged open and Severus Snape strode in. Arrogantly making his way to the front of the class he stood behind the desk.

“Professor Lupin.” Snape said smugly. “Is unavailable to teach today due to ill health.” The teacher smirked. “So I will be taking today’s lesson. Turn to… ah! Werewolves! Chapter 32.”

“But Professor!” Hermione began but Harry shushed her to silence. He wanted to know where Snape was going with this. Did the potions master want them to guess what was threatening the school? The students began scribbling away, making notes on the chapter when Harry felt a shadow fall across him.

“Mr Potter, taking notes? I might almost think I was imagining things.” Harry looked up, directly into Snape’s eyes. This time he didn’t even have time to attempt to clear his mind and the pressure broke through instantly. Harry tore his gaze back down to the paper in front of him. Harry heard a triumphant snort from above him but ignored it.

“Learning all I can about werewolves sir.” Harry said flippantly. “Especially since they live so close.”

“Closer than you know Potter.” What was that about? But Snape continued on a different tack. “Did you enjoy the Hogsmead weekend Potter?”

“Professor you know I don’t have a permission form. I could never go to Hogsmead.” Harry tried to look innocent, unsuccessfully. “It would be wrong.”

“Really, I have been hearing from members of my house who saw you in Hogsmead that weekend.”

“Well Professor I hate to tell you this but I heard a member of your house walked into the three broomsticks in his under shorts so I don’t know how far you want to trust their judgment.”

“Oh and I suppose you simply heard about that from second hand accounts?” Snape sneered.

“Oh Professor you know if I‘d been there I would have taken the opportunity to throw mud at him. No mud ergo I was not there.”

“Do not be flippant with me Mr Potter. Thirty points from Gryffindor. I know your type so well Potter. You are just like your father.”

“Whatever.” Harry grumbled as the teacher moved off.
*



Professor Lupin was back in charge of the class after the weekend and, much as the man was inexplicably cold towards him, Harry welcomed the return. Anyone was better than Snape.

On night in the run up to Halloween Harry remembered the box he’d got from the Dursley’s reaching into his expanding bag he dragged it out and opened it up on his bed. With the contents strewn out it seemed a lot less. Harry quickly separated the papers into junk (bills, old homework assignments, soppy love letters) and interesting stuff like photos.

One of the photos caught his eye and he drew it out, six figures stood on the grass outside Hogwarts. Older students, sixth or seventh years. Harry’s eyes found two students on the left of the picture locked in an embrace. One with eyes like his and the other with everything else, his parents.

But Harry had noticed something else, nearby them was another student, the only one in the picture who seemed to be sitting still for it to be taken. He knew that face, he’d been lectured by it earlier that day. That must have been where he recognized professor Lupin from, he must have caught a glimpse of him in the picture. Sure enough on the back of the picture were scratched some names in pencil, Remus Lupin appeared near the bottom of the list.

Harry frowned, if his parents and Lupin had known each other why was the Professor being so cold to him? Harry pushed the box’s contents back into it and slid off the bed. He would have the answer to this puzzle. Moving through the deserted common room Harry pushed open the portrait door.

“Is it even worth telling you its past curfew?” Said the fat lady but Harry just smiled at her and shut the door. Moving silently he made his way to the defense teachers office. Luckily there was still a light peeking out from under the door. Harry went to the door and knocked.

“One moment.” Professor Lupin opened the door in a faded dressing gown. “Oh its you. Shouldn‘t you be in your common room.”

“I came to ask you something.” Harry drew out the photo. “About this.”

Lupin seemed to draw into himself, then deflate and sigh.

“Ah.” Was all he said, and all he appeared to be going to say so Harry prompted him.

“You knew my parents.”

“Yes I did. I was in the same year as them.”

“And the same house.” Harry pointed to the robes of the people in the picture. “And you and my mother were prefects together.”

“Yes you have sufficiently proven that you are observant.” The student and teacher still hadn’t moved from the doorway. Lupin had not invited him in. “Where did you get this?”

“In a box of my mothers old stuff. Nothing much, letters, photos, a locket.”

“Lilly didn‘t wear a locket.” For the first time Lupin seemed vaguely interested. “She wore a pendent.” Harry frowned and drew the silver thing out of the box. “Yes that’s it. It’s a pendent.”

“But it was open…” Harry looked closer at the little thing. It was true that now it was closed the seam around the edge was almost invisible and the thing was thin enough to pass for a solid pendent. Harry tried to get a fingernail in the crack but the thing seemed to be solid.

Was it a locket or had he imagined it? No, it was a locket because it had been open when he first got the box. He’d closed it so it wouldn’t get damaged. Harry put it back in the box and mentally filed it under mysterious.

“Seems like you know a lot about her for someone who was just in their year. Seems like you must have known them. You and the other people in this picture.”

“Everyone but me in that picture is dead.” The usually mild mannered Professor snapped, but Harry was in no mood to take this anymore.

“Really,” Harry flipped the picture. “Rose McKinnon? Sirius Black? Peter Petigrew?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” The teacher roared and Harry took a step backwards. “Rose was tortured and killed along with her entire family during the war! And the other two, well? Sirius Black betrayed us all to Voldemort and got Lilly and James killed. Poor Peter managed to track him down the next day and made him pay at the cost of his own life. We found both their bodies in the wreckage left behind by the duel. In the course of two days I lost everything. Can you understand that? Can you even comprehend?” Harry bowed his head.

“No, I guess I can’t.” He moved to leave then turned back and said. “Do you want the picture?” But the Professor had already closed the door.
*


“Ginny eat something. Anything.” Parvati leant over the table with a plate of fruit and held it out for her. Ginny just shook her head and tried to breath evenly. Stroking the handle of her broomstick calmed her a little, but not enough to make eating anything an option.

To be fair it was a wonderful day for Quidditch, not a cloud in the sky and a pleasant breeze. Ginny just wished she were playing on the pitch behind the burrow not in front of the entire school.

“Time to go sis.” She felt a hand on her shoulder and saw Fred hovering over her. “Don‘t worry, you‘ll feel a lot better once you get up there.”

“Yeah,” His twin chimed in “Our first match we felt just the same, everyone does.” They led her away from the table. Just as she was leaving she saw Harry shudder suddenly and look around like he had just woken up before sighing and burying his face in his hands.

“What was that?” She thought as she left the Great Hall in a stream of people.

“Do we even know where we‘re playing yet?” She said to break the silence.

“We took a look-see earlier.” George’s face broke into a broad grin. “It‘s bloody brilliant.”

“Where is it then? Tell me you gits!” Ginny kicked her brother in the shin lightly making him stumble.

“Oy! We need our beaters in top condition!” Wood was stalking over. His face showing no sign of humour. “No playing about. This is the most important match of the year! Slytherin are the team to beat. They won the cup last year and the year before and they all have new brooms courtesy of Draco Malfoy.”

“I was just…”

“Well don’t! Lets just get to the pitch.” Wood stalked off.

“Don’t listen to him Gin.” Fred wrapped his arm round her shoulder.

“He‘s just stressed out. We tried to lighten him up earlier but he hexed us both good.”

Ginny giggled. She knew what her brothers ‘lightening up’ had probably involved.

Just then the new Quidditch venue came into view and Ginny gasped. A massive stand had been erected at the edge of the lake, hanging onto the cliffs and built up on the beaches. The goals stuck straight up from the rippled water.

“Awesome isn‘t it.” George breathed and he and his brother set off towards them. Ginny was about to follow them when she felt a hand encircle her arm. Looking back she saw Harry’s familiar face. He looked tired and sort of deadened. The last time she had seen him like this was back when the blood war was at its height, when there seemed to be no answer to it. Back when he had almost given up. It wasn’t quite that bad yet, but it was similar.

“About an hour and a half into the game.” Harry said quickly. “You should probably check around the base of the Gryffindor goal.”

“How do you know?”

“Déjà fucking vu.” Harry said in a low growl before walking off towards the stands. Ginny shook her head worriedly, Harry swore a bit more than the rest of them but he usually saved it for serious situations. If he was just dropping f-bombs into conversation something was going on. But whatever it was it was going to have to wait. Her first proper Quidditch match ever was about to start.
*


“Go! Go! GO!” Ron screamed and the crowd screamed with him as the two seekers dove for the snitch..

“He‘s blocking her.” Parvati yelled and pointed.

Suddenly the snitch spun and snapped back directly towards the seekers. For a moment the crowd held its breath as the two players came together in a swirl of robes. Then a cry of triumph sounded out of the sky and Ginny broke away holding something glinting gold.

“She did it!” Ron leapt from his chair, he had never been prouder of his little sister. He turned to Harry who was laughing more than cheering, head thrown back and eyes sparkling.

“Of course she did. Marauders don’t lose.” Harry snapped a grin then his face went grey and he pointed back into the sky where Ginny was still hovering, showing off the snitch. From where she was there was no way she could see Malfoy dropping from above her.
*


She had won! She had really done it! It had been touch and go for a moment there but she had grabbed it right out of Malfoy’s hands. She hadn’t even needed to use Harry’s tip to get it since she’d spotted it barely an hour into the match.

She saw a shadow cross over her and looked up just in time to see a boot smack into her face. She heard a massive crack and suddenly she was falling, a mess of broom and robe. Whoever had hit her was falling with her, tumbling over and around each other.

A moment later she hit the water and a moment after that the lake bed, the water hadn’t been nearly deep enough to slow her fall. She kicked up as best she could in robes and boots but she was waterlogged and barely moving. After what seemed like an eternity she just managed to break the surface before being dragged back under. She felt for her robe clasps and snapped them off before starting to kick back onto the surface. But she was too worn out and hurting from the collision, the sunlight on the surface tantalizingly close.

She felt the swells from someone in the water with her and a moment later felt herself lifted up by a giant hand on her back. She broke the surface and gasped one desperate breath after another.

“Y‘r alright now. Y‘r alright.” She heard Hagrid’s voice and looked down into ruddy face. He was just tall enough to still be able to stand on the bottom but even for him the water came up to his chin. “Gave us all a bit of a scare.”

“Who hit me?” Ginny’s head was still swimming from the lack of oxygen.

“Malfoy.” The groundskeepers voice had gone low and dangerous. “Snape picked him out‘o the water with a spell but no-one could see where you ‘ad gotten yourself to.”

“I didn‘t get myself anywhere.” Ginny croaked. Now that the water was shallower Hagrid sat her on his shoulder then finally set her down on the pebbled beach. She could see her team-mates rushing towards her across the shingle. Behind them by the stands she saw the marauders hurrying towards her. Professor Snape seemed to be trying to block them and was shouting something, Harry simply ignored him and ducked underneath his arms. A moment later they had all crowded around her and she was forced to repeat the words ‘I’m fine’ over and over to stop them fussing over her.

“Deplorable! Disgusting behaviour!” Somewhere else on the beach she could hear Professor McGonagall yelling in another part of the beach. Ginny stuck a finger into her ear and wiggled it around. It was full of water and everything sounded distorted. “I have never seen the like.”

“Minerva it was clearly an accident.” Snape had sidled over. “If it had been intentional do you think he would have let his own broom become damaged like that.” He pointed away to the side at where Malfoy’s broom lay, cleanly split in the middle with the bristles knocked far out of whack. Ginny suddenly had a sinking feeling.

“Professor?” McGonagall turned towards her. “Has someone found my broom?” McGonagall raised her eyebrows, perhaps she hadn’t realised it was missing. The teacher turned towards the lake, raised her wand and said…

“Accio Ginerva‘s broom.” For a moment nothing happened then something flew out of the water, something much too small. A moment later another joined it. No one spoke as a pile of shards and splinters grew near Professor McGonagall’s feet. Even the bristles came out, ending up in a sodden heap.

Ginny heard her head of house turn on Malfoy again and start yelling but it felt like background noise. Kneeling down she picked up a few splinters of wood and let them fall through the cracks in her fingers. Growing up with six brothers gave you all sorts of training in how to hold in tears but nothing was working. She felt herself start sobbing and covered her face with her hands so no one would see. It wasn’t working. Giving up she stood and ran away through the crowds on the beach. She couldn’t look at anyone right now.

The last thing she saw before she left was professor Snape levitating the shards of both her and Malfoys brooms into a garbage can, a look of glee on his face.
*


Harry watched her go. He wanted to go after her but didn’t have the faintest idea what he’d say when he caught up.

“Someone please…” Harry gestured after Ginny, a plea clear in his voice.

“We got it.” Padma nodded and her, her sister and Hermione began following the fleeing redhead. Harry felt himself bunching his fists and saw that the people next to him were doing the same.

“No one does that to a Weasley.” Fred muttered.

“No one does that to a marauder.” Harry shook his head and punched his fist into his palm. “Not and gets away with it.”

“Malfoy‘s gonna pay.” George chimed in shaking his fist. “Screw prankster rivalry, you want to help us Harry? All of you guys?”

“Won‘t make Ginny feel better.” Harry felt a spark light in his brain. “But I know what might. And I‘ll need your help. You in?”

“In an instant.”

“Obviously.”

“And we‘ll need outside help too, people who helped us last year. A lot of stuff could go wrong, even the first step’s a doozy and they just get harder after that. Ron, Neville I definitely won’t have much time for my assignments for a while. Savvy? .”

“We got you Harry. But what do you have in mind.”

“Humiliation.”

“But I thought you said we weren‘t going to get Malfoy directly.”

“We‘re not.” Harry smiled his crocodile smile. “We‘re gonna let Ginny do it.”
*


Over the next few weeks Harry became a ghost. He rushed into lessons late or barely by the bell and began to look even more tired than Hermione. He could be found at odd times in the library or pawing over odd sheets of parchment with the Weasley twins, speaking in whispers.

Madam Pince had raised her eyebrows further that Harry had thought humanly possible when he’d taken out certain books. But none of them were actually restricted so she stamped them out with only her usual level of distain.

“Mr Potter do you seriously think I will believe this is your essay?” McGonagall had confronted him one lesson. “When the handwriting is not yours and in fact strongly resembles Miss Grangers. What are you spending all your time on anyway?” Harry had simply leaned closer to his teacher and whispered…

“Winning you the Quidditch cup.”

They had no homework set that lesson.

Harry lost so many points in Snape’s classes that he considered simply not turning up since that would lose him less overall. However potions gave him the perfect opportunity to smirk at Malfoy over his cauldron. Everyone in school knew Harry was up to something and it was an easy guess as to who was the intended target, even the target himself. Malfoy spent potions class sweating under Harry’s gaze, wondering what he was planning.

“What are you up to Potter?” Malfoy had confronted him after one lesson.

“I‘m not up to anything Dracs.” Harry gave his nemesis a thumbs up. “Just surfing along you know Que sera sera.” As Draco hurried off Harry glanced back at the potions master. Again the pressure mounted and he lasted barely a count of five before he had to tear his eyes away. He thought he saw Snape mouth ‘just like your father’ before he turned away. Harry shook his head to clear it, Snape wasn’t a priority right now.

Harry signed up to stay at Hogwarts over Christmas but encouraged the marauders to visit their families.

“I have so much still to do I‘d be bad company anyway.”

“Wish we could stay mate.” Fred said shaking his head dejectedly.

“Yeah, we promised we‘d help you then we just leave.” George also shook his head, unconsciously falling into the exact rhythm of his twin.

“Don‘t worry. It‘ll be finished by the end of the Holidays anyway.”

Harry’s Christmas presents were as good as they always were, the standard Patil book set this year was basically a big encyclopedia of charms and Neville had found him a jesters hat that flashed different colors as the bells jiggled. Hermione had got him a homework planner.

“Bless her.” Harry thought, taking a bite of Honeydukes chocolate. “She tries.”

Harry was waiting by the steps as the students returned from the their homes with a parcel wrapped in paper under his arm. He caught sight of the marauders plus Fred and George coming and walked out to meet them.

“Is that it?” Fred said excitedly.

“Is it finished?” His twin added.

“Yes and yes. And its awesome!” Harry moved past the twins to stand in front of their youngest sibling. He thrust out the parcel. “Merry Christmas. This is kind of from the twins as well. Well everyone helped actually.”

“Don‘t do yourself down mate.” Ron said. “It was mostly you.”
*


Ginny looked down at the parcel in her hands, it dawned on her that it was very broom shaped.

“You didn‘t buy…” She began but Harry stopped her.

“I didn‘t buy. I repaired. Was a lot of fun actually. Thinking of doing it when I leave school.”

“But my broom was far too broken to repair.”

“Your nimbus 2000 was too smashed to fix. Malfoy’s 2001 on the other hand had a fairly simple break. Reparable with a little effort. And he just threw it away like garbage.” Harry tutted and shook his head. “Wasteful.”

“And you fished it out?”

“Wouldn‘t be the first time I‘ve dumpster dived Gins. Now unwrap the damn thing.”

Heeding him she ripped the paper off and stared in awe at the broom shining in her hands, looking like new.

“It doesn’t look just like a 2001.” She said running her hands down the recursively curving handle.

“Well we used some parts left over from your broom as well. Plus she’s got some different charms and spells we researched and we corrected the list on the tail end.” Harry shrugged. “Guess she‘s kind of a chimera really.”

“Did you name her?” Ginny asked, quickly slipping into usage of the female pronoun.

“I hadn‘t but I think I just did. The Chimera.” Harry leant forward conspiratorially. “And you and her, my little protégé, are going to win us the Quidditch cup.”
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