Harry’s Return

Title: Harry’s Return
Author: Keira Marcos
Beta: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Episode: 1
Fandom: Harry Potter
Relationship: Harry/Hermione
Word Count: 12,371
Warnings: Off-screen child abuse, discussion of child abuse and violence against a child
Author’s Note: You know I hate Ron and Ginny Weasley, right? See Series page for further author notes, warnings, and ratings.

Harry's Return

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– – – –

Wizengamot Chambers
November 6, 1982

“You have no bloody right to keep him from me,” Sirius Black said bluntly. He focused entirely on Albus Dumbledore as he spoke. “Thanks to you all, I spent six months in Azkaban without even being questioned. It has been a year since I’ve seen my own child. I’ve proven with magic and blood that I am Harry Potter’s third legal parent. The will of James and Lily Potter specifically named me as his guardian should they both perish. This body is infringing on my rights as a parent and as the Regent of the House of Potter.”

“Lord Black, we understand your position thoroughly. You’ve stated it before this court on five different occasions. Our decision stands, Harry Potter will remain hidden in the Muggle world. It is for his own safety,” Dumbledore said gravely.

“His situation isn’t even being monitored by the Children’s Protective Services—he’s being denied his basic rights as a magical child and as the future head of the House of Potter. He’s nearly three years old, Albus, and in most households, he’d begin his education in the matters of his estate at five. How can you sit there and deny him his own heritage? I’m perfectly capable of protecting my own child!”

Albus paused because for the first time in the ten months that Sirius Black had been actively seeking access to his godson, members of the court were nodding their agreement. “We all agreed that Harry Potter was better served to stay hidden.”

“He’s the future Earl of Gryffindor,” Augusta Longbottom said. “Are you to sit there and say that he is to be denied his heritage until you invite him to Hogwarts? Lord Black at least has the right to visit his godson and teach him our ways. To be honest, I don’t agree with Harry Potter being raised in a Muggle home. He deserves the full breadth and richness of his own heritage, Albus. We sit here—alive today because of the child. Are you going to deny him the love of the only parent he has left? Is that what you’re saying to us all? Are all of our children at risk of being removed from our care if you decide they are safer in the Muggle world? Would you toss my Neville in a Muggle house and leave him ignorant of his magic and his future responsibilities? Because that’s what you’re doing to Harry Potter. Frankly, I believe we owe him better than that. We certainly owe Lord Black better than that.”

Albus sighed. “Do you think this is what I want? He’s not safe among us and you all know that. Keeping him hidden in the Muggle world is… the right course of action.”

“It isn’t your right to decide that,” Sirius said quietly. “You’re going to give me no choice but to appeal this to the ICW, Albus. It’s the last thing I want to do but I will make an international mess of this situation if you do not give me access to my son. Have you even checked on him since you left him?”

Albus paused and lowered his gaze at the multiple looks he received. “I have not.”

The court exploded into fury but Sirius Black just looked… gutted.

“Do you even know if he’s still alive?” Sirius demanded.

Minister Bagnold, who had barely kept her job after it was revealed that nearly forty wizards and witches had gone to Azkaban without trial, leaned forward. “We made this decision months ago, Lord Black. Your sentimental attachment to the boy aside, he is safer in the Muggle world.”

Augusta Longbottom took a deep breath. “I don’t see how allowing Lord Black to visit his godson would be out of line.”

“Madam, I don’t believe disrupting the child’s family situation serves him.”

“Wait,” Sirius held out a hand. “Family? Merlin help you, you old bastard, do you mean that literally? Did you leave my baby with Petunia Evans?”

“Who is Petunia Evans?” Augusta Longbottom demanded. “Lord Black? Do you need a Healer?”

Sirius held up a hand as he gripped the podium he’d spent most of the morning standing behind. “Just… give me a minute.” He accepted the water that was pressed into his hand and drank deeply before setting the glass aside with a shaking hand. “I… Albus, I am begging you to tell me you didn’t leave Harry with Lily’s sister, Petunia.”

“He is safe with family,” Albus said quietly and stood when Black went weak at the knees. “Sirius?”

“Petunia hated her own sister,” Black said hoarsely. “She told us… Petunia said we should smother Harry when he was born because the world needed less freaks not more.”

“Albus Dumbledore!” Augusta Longbottom shouted. “Did you leave the Boy-Who-Lived with this horrible Muggle woman?”

“Families take care of each other,” Albus said firmly. “The location of Harry Potter is and will remain a Secret.”

– – – –

“Sirius.”

“I can’t leave him, Remus,” Sirius murmured. “I’ve already hired a Muggle investigator to find Petunia. I don’t know her married name. I don’t think… I don’t remember if Lily ever mentioned it at all. She never said much about her sister after that last letter—you know the one where she told her sister about Harry and sent a picture of him?”

“I remember,” Remus said lowly. “Lily cried for days over it. I wanted to hunt down the woman and force her to apologize and for the record, I don’t expect you to leave him behind. I’m just saying that staying here in Britain isn’t serving you or him. Prepare you petition before the ICW—open your townhouse in Paris and stay there while you take care of that.”

“I can’t be that far from him,” Sirius argued. “The investigator I hired isn’t going to be stymied by the magic that Dumbledore is using to hide Harry. He’ll find her and my boy.”

“Then what?” Remus asked. “Will you kidnap him? The ICW wouldn’t protect you, Sirius. I know. Okay? I know how much this eats at you.”

“Would telling the Wizengamot that we were a triad… help me?” Sirius asked.

“No, you know a Consort has no more legal standing than a godfather in such situations. If Harry were your biological offspring then yes but he isn’t. James fathered him.” Remus rubbed his face with tired hands. “When will you… is there a point where you’ll give this up and let him stay where he is?”

“No,” Sirius said. “Not if he’s with her.”

The floo activated and both men tensed out of habit. Years of war had taught them nothing good came from a late night floo call. “Lord Black?”

“Yes?” Sirius rolled to his feet and walked to the floo.

“You’re requested at St. Mungo’s. The matter is urgent.”

“I… who is hurt?” Sirius asked with a frown.

“Your godson was brought in forty-five minutes ago and his condition is dire. Come now.”

– – – –

Sirius let himself be lead into the room by Remus. There were several aurors, including Amelia Bones who had been working with him on his appeals to the Wizengamot. She’d done a lot to look up laws and inheritance procedures though none of it had mattered in the face of Dumbledore’s stubbornness. Minerva McGonagall stood as she saw them.

“What…”

“They had to sedate Albus,” Minerva said. “In fact, they had to subdue him by force at the scene—he damaged most of the Muggle neighborhood when he lost control of his magic.”

Sirius’ stomach dropped. “Albus Dumbledore lost control of his magic?” He turned as the Healer who had fire-called him entered. “Healer Daniels.”

“Lord Black,” Daniels offered his hand. “First, your godson’s condition is stable and he will make a full recovery.” He carefully guided Sirius to a chair and sat him down. “He’s magically exhausted; though that’s not a surprise considering how much accidental magic he discharged.”

“Harry doesn’t…” Sirius took a deep breath. “His magic settled very early but he hadn’t exhibited any problems with accidental magic, Healer Daniels. He was summoning his own toys by his first birthday.”

Daniels proffered a potion. “This is calming draught. I’d like you to take it before I say more.”

Sirius took the vial. “You said he was stable.”

“He is.” Healer Daniels glanced at the potion and relaxed slightly when Black downed it. He took the empty vial from the man’s hand and pocketed it. “Your godson is severely malnourished—to the point that had he spent even another week in the situation he was in, he would have died of malnutrition.”

Remus put a hand on Sirius to keep him seated and took the chair beside him.

“There is more?” Sirius questioned hoarsely.

“We’ve vanished the bones in his legs, both feet, and his left hand to regrow them. He has already been dosed with Skele-gro.”

“What?” Sirius demanded. “Why?”

“The Muggle man…” One of the aurors began. “He was kicking and beating the child when a severe burst of accidental magic exploded around them. His name was Vernon Dursley.”

“Was?” Remus questioned.

“He was killed in the magical backlash,” the young woman said. “The woman, Petunia, she’s in a Muggle hospital. The Chief Warlock refused her magical healing.” She swallowed hard. “Dumbledore lost it. It took six of us to stun him when we found the boy in the house.”

“Can I see him?” Sirius asked.

“Only you,” Daniels said. “I’ve watched you spend most of the last six months trying to get your child back, Lord Black. As far as I’m concerned the only way Harry Potter leaves this hospital is in your custody.” He stood and helped Sirius stand. “We have him in a private room.”

The trip down the hall to a room guarded by two aurors was done in silence. Both men nodded at him grimly and Sirius took a deep breath. “Kingsley?”

Kingsley Shacklebolt cleared his throat. “It’s bad. I’ve never… I’m just really glad we got there in time.”

Sirius nodded and took a deep breath as Daniels led him into the room. He walked around the privacy screen and would have sunk to his knees if the Healer hadn’t had a firm hand on him. He was all but carried to a chair next to the bed. The shimmering healing field around the bed did nothing to hide the bruises on the child’s face, arms, and chest. The blanket on the bed was almost flat where his legs were being regrown.

Sirius reached out hesitantly and Daniels guided his hand to Harry’s right hand. “Here, Lord Black, be careful not to jar him.”

Sirius nodded and looked over his son’s face, fury boiling in his gut despite the calming potion he’d been given. “When can I move him?”

“I’m unsure. Your plans?”

“I’d like to transfer him to St. Joan’s in Paris the moment it is possible. I won’t give those bastards in the Wizengamot a chance to take him from me again.”

Harry turned his head and his eyes opened slowly. Sirius watched, hoping for some sign of recognition. The green eyes remained dull from the pain potions but Harry’s fingers tightened around his and Sirius took a deep breath.

“Hey pup.”

Harry’s eyes widened and his fingers went tighter.

“It’s okay, baby, I’m here,” Sirius whispered. He shifted forward and knelt beside the bed. “I’m here.”

Daniels guided his free hand into the field so he could touch Harry’s hair. “He has a concussion so be careful.”

“He looks so small,” Sirius murmured.

“The malnutrition,” Daniels said grimly. “We’re working on that with the potions. He’ll make a full recovery, Lord Black. It’ll just take a while and a lot of patience.”

“Daddy,” Harry whispered.

“Yes,” Sirius murmured. “I’m here. Everything is going to be okay.”

– – – – –

Thirteen Years Later

They were an hour early for the train but his father had wanted to do a security check and get Harry in ahead of the crowds. It was the first time Harry had been in London in eight years. Sirius had returned habitually over the years to see to their estates, meet with Dumbledore, attend Wizengamot meetings, and endure a lecture about keeping the Boy-Who-Lived out of the country from the Minister for Magic. The Ministry of Magic had tried to sue him, more than once, before the ICW after Harry turned eleven and refused to come to Hogwarts. Harry had been living in France at the time in a well appointed home with private tutors the likes of which had stunned the ICW. Fudge, who had been elected Minister just six weeks after Harry Potter had left Britain, had been highly criticized for attempting to usurp Lord Black’s rights concerning his godson.

Invitations to attend Hogwarts had come every summer and every time Harry had sent back a politely worded refusal. This year, however, he’d replied with his intention to attend for his NEWT studies. The family ring of the House of Potter gleamed on his hand, catching the morning sun as his godfather returned to him, putting away his wand.

“Well?”

“Everything is fine,” Sirius said. He tucked his hands behind his back. “You don’t have to do this, you know.”

“I do,” Harry murmured. “She’s been in danger and nearly killed every year that she’s attended this school and I couldn’t very well show up at her house and demand she come with me. We’ve never even met as far as she’s concerned.”

Sirius sighed. “I don’t regret taking you to look at the Book of Souls, Harry, truly I don’t but I regret the burden it has placed on you all of these years.”

“If you hadn’t, that troll would’ve probably killed her in her first year,” Harry said. “If Emmie hadn’t been there to save her…” Harry trailed off. “Then that utter idiot, Ron Weasley, had the gall to take her into the Chamber of Secrets!”

Sirius sighed. “How were we to know they’d follow his little sister down there? Neither of them are a parselmouth so they shouldn’t have been able to open the sink! You took care of it. And Emmie is with her right now—making sure that nothing happens to her. She kept those love potions out of her cup last year at six different meals. She kept that vicious Bulgarian from not taking no for an answer after the ball.”

­Harry nodded, his jaw tightening in fury. When the house elf they’d assigned to look after his soulmate had returned to Paris to tell them what had happened with Viktor Krum, Harry had lost it. He’d been amused and even pleased that Hermione had been taken to the Yule Ball by the famous wizard. He’d destroyed half their townhouse in Paris and chain apparated half way to Scotland when he’d found out that older boy had intended on forcing himself on her. Emmie had cast an impotence curse on the man before Hermione had even realized his intent.

They had no idea was who trying to dose her with love potions but Harry planned to find out. And that person was going to suffer one way or another.

He received owls daily from witches all over the world wanting to see him, date him, or to put it bluntly—fuck him. He was pretty sure that nearly every single witch at Hogwarts except for his soulmate had written him asking him to come to the school for classes or at least for a quidditch match. She was also the only witch he would’ve responded to. He’d written her one letter—when it had been published that she was top student at Hogwarts last year in the Daily Prophet for having receiving twelve OWLs. It had been a simple note, congratulating her on her academic achievements. He hadn’t thought it was completely out of line but she’d never responded. However, she had played hostess for Hedwig for three days per Emmie’s report and had sent his father a thank you card for the gift certificate he’d sent.

Hedwig had come to him on his eleventh birthday, a gift from Hagrid. The half-giant had visited him over the years, the first time to apologize for delivering into Harry the hands of his abusive Muggle relatives. Harry had just been five. Hagrid had cried as he explained himself and Harry had forgiven him. It had been overwhelming to have the love and loyalty of someone he had no recollection of meeting.

Over the years, Hagrid had proven to be an interesting and fun loving friend. He and Harry had spent a month in Romania over the summer of his fourteenth birthday at the Dragon Preserve. Hagrid had also been his ally at Hogwarts—doing his part to protect and keep track of Hermione Granger. Because of Hagrid, he had a few pictures of the girl at the school though they were always in a class setting.

Coming to Hogwarts would’ve never been on his agenda if it hadn’t been for his soulmate. He really lamented her choice to attend the school in Scotland. He’d had Beauxbatons heavily recruit the girl much to Madame Maxine’s amusement. But that endeavor had failed spectacularly after Minerva McGonagall visited the Granger home.

“Was I wrong not to tell her?” Harry asked quietly. “Should we have done this differently?”

“Before you claimed your ring, you were in no position to protect her or yourself. Coming to Hogwarts before now was completely out of the question. As for telling her in advance, her parents are religious fanatics and if it hadn’t been for Emmie they would’ve probably gone through with that exorcism over the summer. Not that would have done anything but traumatize her, but the point remains. Before she accepted the educational offer to attend Hogwarts, they could’ve refused on her behalf and the Ministry would’ve bound her magic and memory charmed the whole family.”

“Still, I feel as if I’ve lied to her for years,” Harry admitted.

“As far as she’s concerned, you’ve never met.”

“No, just stalked her through Emmie and Hagrid,” Harry snapped. “Not to mention suppressing the memory of the one meeting we did have. That’s not creepy at all.”

Sirius grinned at him. “You’re nervous.”

“I’m not nervous, Dad.”

“Oh, yes you are,” Sirius said with a laugh. “Oh that’s charming, the Boy-Who-Is-Immune-To-Veela is afraid of meeting his pretty little witch.”

“She’s not mine,” Harry said softly. “She just… there is just potential there. What if she hates me? What if she bought into all those articles Skeeter wrote about me being a stuck up, arrogant, twat who couldn’t be bothered to visit his own country? Why didn’t she respond to my letter?”

“Harry, there is more than potential,” Sirius said quietly. “So much more—she is your match in every magical way. As for your note, it was rather impersonal which was the point at the time. Perhaps she thought it was a form letter or maybe even that it wasn’t genuine. Hedwig isn’t well known as your owl, yet. You’ve been using Margot for your letters for years and people recognize the Black crest on her amulet.” Sirius pulled a flat box out of his robe. “The goblins finished the protection amulet for Hedwig. She should already be at Hogwarts unless she stopped to hunt or rest.”

Harry took the box and tucked it into his own robe. “Right then.”

Sirius grinned. “Right. Well, you have your mirror, the trunk, and the map?”

“And my father’s cloak,” Harry assured. “I’m all set.”

– – – –

Minerva McGonagall was the last of the staff to arrive for the final meeting before the students arrived for the year. She’d known for a month that Harry Potter would be joining them but she’d not told anyone as per his request. He’d not wanted to deal with questions or the Ministry concerning his decision and she hadn’t blamed him. She’d visited the Sirius and Harry over the years—the first time to ask him to change his mind about attending Hogwarts but then she’d returned because he was bright and lovely and he’d asked if he could call her Aunt Min.

“Well, Minerva?”

“Fifty-three first years will be arriving today,” she began, settling her parchments around her. “Also, we’ll have a sixth year joining us.” She met Albus’ gaze and found the elderly wizard beaming. He’d been heart broken by what had been discovered about Harry’s life with his Muggle relatives but Sirius had allowed Albus no direct contact with his godson.

“May we hear his response, Min?” Albus asked cheerfully.

“Of course,” Minerva ignored Severus’ sneer. She was going to enjoy this part quite a lot.

“Dear Aunt Min,

I’ve thought it over and Dad agrees, reluctantly, that a more structured environment for my final two years of education would be beneficial to my future. I also believe that meeting my peers in magical Britain is a good idea.

You’ll be pleased to know that I received my International NEWTS in Potions, History of Magic, Muggle Studies, and Dueling as we expected I would. Do let Professor Flitwick know that his letters and the two weeks he spent with me in July over the summer were such an immense help with my Dueling NEWT. My examiner for that practical exam indicated that with a bit further study I would be ready for my Mastery.

My animagus training also finally bore purposeful fruit around the first of August. You’ll be quite pleased with my easy transition and my form stayed true to my bouts of accidental magic in the past. Dad and I took a portkey to Canada to vacation with Uncle Remus and we romped about in the forest for a solid week. The portkey was a nightmare, though. I would’ve rather travelled as a Muggle. I kept my form the entire week. I registered both with the French Ministry and the ICW as required and Dad told me that you’d be able to help me register privately with the British Ministry.

I wanted to thank you again for traveling to Paris for my birthday and your gift was easily the best I received (ever). Dad is jealous that I didn’t make over the Firebolt he bought me like I did your gift but he refuses to admit it to me.

For my NEWT classes at Hogwarts, I’d like to take: Transfiguration, Charms, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures, Defense Against the Dark Arts and if Professor Flitwick has the time I would be honored to accept the extra tuition he offered me over the summer in Formal Dueling.

I’m forwarding you the testimonials of my tutors in various subjects as well as my International OWL and NEWT results in case there are any questions.

All my love,
Lord Harry James Potter
Earl of Gryffindor

She put down the letter and basked in the stunned silence that followed.

“Why has he already taken NEWT examinations?” Poppy asked first.

“Harry began studying Potions when he was six years old because he was told his mother was a gifted brewer. He’s had a wand since he was eight,” Minerva explained. “A custom one created by a wandmaker from Africa. The French Ministry gave him a special dispensation to have it before he turned eleven. He also picked up a second wand in Diagon Alley when he did his school shopping because Ollivander insisted when Harry went in to buy a new holster. History of Magic and Muggle Studies were favored heavily because he loves to read and because he and Lord Black often travel in the Muggle world. Formal Dueling—the Black family were well known at one time for their performances in professional dueling. Harry picked it up easily after his tutors realized how fast he was.”

“He’s quite talented,” Flitwick admitted. “I’m thrilled to offer him the extra tuition for his Mastery, Minerva. Just thrilled. I can take him second and third periods on Mondays. We should both be free for it. He’ll need a few books. I’ll make a list and send them to Sirius. We’ll spend the first week working on his form and style, which is really his most serious flaw. Professional dueling requires flare and he’s rather like a dragon.”

“Blunt and vicious,” Minerva agreed and smirked at just how accurate her colleague’s description of Harry was.

Flitwick grinned. “Yes, well, Sirius had that coming. He had no business turning the lad’s hair green.”

“What did Harry do in retaliation?” Dumbledore asked with a frown.

“Broad spectrum hair removal,” Flitwick said with glee. “Sirius’ hair fell out everywhere. He walked around bald for a week before the potions finally started to work.”

Minerva bit down on her lip and Albus laughed.

“He’s already achieved his NEWT in potions?” Severus asked. “How is that… his International NEWT? That is impossible. The test is more stringent than the mastery exam for Britain. No one takes the International NEWT in Potions if they can avoid it by getting certified by their own ministry.”

Minerva pulled a copy of Harry’s NEWT scores from her stack of papers and slapped it down in front of him. “Oh, it’s true. Not only did he achieve the NEWTS in all of those subjects—he received Outstandings in all of them.” She cleared her throat. “Which brings me to Lord Black’s letter.” She pulled it out and gave Albus a pointed look before beginning.

Minerva,

You are hereby declared an enemy of the House of Padfoot for buying my son a better gift than I did. How you managed that will remain a mystery all of my life. I bought the boy the best, fastest racing broom on the market and he opens your shiny box and he goes into raptures. I’ll never live down the shame. Next year I’m buying him something more awesome than you. We’ll see who wins this war!

Harry decided to attend Hogwarts. I understand and support his reasons but I don’t like it. I’ve watched the news over the years and I don’t think Hogwarts is safe. To that end, I’m sending his long time companion and house elf, Dobby, to see to Harry’s personal safety. This is not up for debate and if anyone tries to keep that elf from his side, I will remove Harry from the school.

Harry has probably already informed you of his International OWL and NEWT scores. We were very pleased with his results. I knew his decision to attend Hogwarts was coming; which is why I encouraged his Potions tuition above everything else.

He adores the subject and frankly, I’ve heard enough about Severus Snape’s teaching methods over the years that I could not bear the thought of him stamping out Harry’s passion for the art. He studied so hard to honor his mother and he has all of Lily’s passion and imagination for brewing. Last year, he refined Wolfsbane for Remus—and as a result, his favorite uncle no longer suffers so much after his transformation. Harry and his tutor have a paper coming out in Potions Quarterly next week as a matter of a fact, detailing his refinement process.

I must insist that Professor Snape have as little verbal contact with Harry as possible and no physical contact unless the matter is one of life and death. He’ll not have classes with the man as he has no need for them and he is under no circumstances whatsoever to be disciplined by the man. If Harry serves detention—he will do so only with you, Hagrid, his Head of House, or the Headmaster. He is the Lord of the House of Potter and he will be treated as such. Severus Snape is an enemy of the House of Potter and you know why. Harry knows why as well. If Professor Snape or the staff of Hogwarts violate these terms, Harry has been ordered by his Patriarch to report the matter and the consequences will be dire.

I look forward to seeing you at Yule. You’re not allowed to buy Harry anything awesome for Christmas. Get him some books. He could always use more books.

All my love,
Lord Sirius Orion Black
House of Black
Earl of Blackmoor

PS- Do let his Head of House know that he is a STAR on a broom and would be an asset to any quidditch team. He plays Seeker and Chaser.

“Oh, I need a new Chaser,” Pomona said with a smile.

Snape snorted, “As if Potter will go anywhere but Gryffindor?”

Minerva glared at him. “Harry would be a fit for any house, Severus. He is a brave, strong, loyal, smart, and cunning young man whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration for. If you do him any sort of harm while he is here—you won’t live to regret it.”

– – – –

Harry pulled his trunk out of his pocket, resized it to normal with his wand, and put it up on the rack above his bench seat. Dobby appeared then with a small picnic basket. “Hey.”

“Good morning, Master Harry, I got pastries from your favorite bakery back home and your favorite tea in a thermos.” Dobby set the basket down on the bench and rocked back on his heels.

Dobby had been with them for six years—he’d originally been given to Sirius by Narcissa Malfoy as an apology for her having trying to steal from the Black Trust. Sirius hadn’t wanted to punish her after he’d found out his cousin had been escaping from her husband. Sirius had helped Narcissa move to a different country and hide. There was no divorce in the wizarding world and she’d been forced to leave her son behind. A son, Harry figured, who had grown up into his father’s mirror image. Dobby had been with Narcissa since she was a child herself; having originally been a Black elf. He’d gladly returned to the Black family and become Harry’s personal attendant.

“Thanks. Where is Emmie?”

“Emmie be invisible. Miss Hermione be telling her parents good-bye before she boards the train. Emmie be making sure she find your compartment.”

Harry flushed. “No, don’t manipulate her. It’s bad enough knowing what I know and not telling her.”

Dobby eyed his master but eventually nodded. “As you wish Master Harry.”

“Just make sure no one bothers or tries to hurt her—like always. I’d like to spend the trip alone—working on my Occlumency shields at any rate.”

The trip passed quickly and he found himself exiting the train with a group of older kids, most of whom only spared him a few curious glances, and approaching a series of carriages. He slid into one, aware that Dobby had already popped up to the castle to ask Aunt Min where he should meet her. Two girls and a boy near his age or perhaps a bit older entered the carriage, all of them wearing Ravenclaw colors. He frowned at them and turned his head. Emmie had told him about how cruel the House of Ravenclaw was to Hermione because of her grades.

“You’re Harry Potter,” one of the girls said a near whisper.

Harry turned to look at her. “Yes. And you are?”

“Oh, Cho Chang, the Head Girl,” she offered him her hand and he took it. “No one mentioned you’d be here this year. It’s a big surprise.”

Harry released her hand, barely keeping the distaste off his face. He’d heard enough about the girl to actively dislike her. Though Emmie never told him Hermione’s secrets, she had informed him that Cho Chang was especially vicious to Hermione and a younger girl in her own house named Luna Lovegood. Emmie had taken it upon herself to spell all of Luna’s things so that they couldn’t be stolen from her after she’d been in school only a month.

“I had no interest in appearing in the Prophet over something so silly has my school attendance,” Harry said coolly and refocused his attention out the window.

“Oh, well, I’m sure.” Cho said brightly. “This is Marietta Edgecomb and Roger Davies; he’s Head Boy this year. We’re seventh years. Are you here as a fifth or sixth year?”

“I’ve taken my OWLs for all the courses taught here at Hogwarts that I’m interested in so I’ll be with sixth years,” Harry answered after a brief nod towards her two companions.

Thankfully, the carriage came to a stop and Harry stood. He opened the door. He exited and dutifully turned to offer Cho and her friend Marietta a hand out of the carriage. They both giggled and blushed at his display of manners but he ignored them afterward. Dobby appeared at his side with a small note, which he passed to him silently.

“Why is your house elf dressed so funny?” Cho asked.

Harry looked down at the elf in question. He was wearing what boiled down to a butler’s uniform in all black except for a dark red waistcoat and a matching day robe. “I have dual citizenship in France and Britain, Miss Chang. It is a violation of the law in France to mistreat a bonded servant and only proper to dress them as you would yourself.” He read the note and handed it back to Dobby who tucked it into a pocket. “Excuse me.”

He slipped through the crowd quickly as they headed towards the Great Hall and met Minerva McGonagall at the stairs. She offered him a smile and held out a hand, which he tucked onto his arm he offered as she led him into a small area with a bunch of little kids. They all began to ask questions about the sorting and if they’d have to fight a dementor or if it would hurt. Harry was somewhat horrified. One little girl was practically in tears.

Minerva sighed. “Every year, the first years get told all kinds of horrible stories on the train. I don’t know why Albus insists on allowing this tradition to continue.”

Harry frowned. “All right, calm down, everyone. Yelling at Professor McGonagall is really inappropriate.” They all quieted immediately. “Okay, so obviously we’re going to need a battle plan, right? Can’t go into a fight without a plan.”

Minerva bit down on her lip as fifty-three eleven year olds turned to Harry Potter with grave, determined little faces. “Right then, I’ll just leave you to it, Lord Potter.” She grinned at his sour look and the excited squeals after she said his name.

Harry turned to them. “Do you know what the most powerful magic on Earth is?” She paused in the doorway her breath caught as he drew a gleaming blackwood wand. “It’s love and no one will ever love you as much your family. Love can protect you if you allow it especially in times like this. Now, take out your wands and think about how much you love your family and friends. It’s huge in you—the well of your magic is built on it. Now, say Lumos.” Her mouth dropped open as all fifty-four wands lit, bright and beautiful. She exhaled sharply and hurried out into the hall before the wretched boy made her cry.

She called them and they trickled out each one with their wand lit with the charm. Mouths dropped open around the room. She counted fifty-two and she started to go back but Harry appeared carrying a little witch, whose wand was definitely lit but her face was all screwed up with fear. She was going to find out exactly who had scared that child so much and they would pay. Harry said something to little girl and she laughed. He put her down and she hurried over to join her peers.

After each one of them was sorted, they hopped off the stool, shouted Nox and darted off to their appropriate table. A glance at Albus confirmed that he found their display both startling but also endearing. She couldn’t wait to tell him why they had done it. The little girl Harry had helped turned out to be Astoria Greengrass and astoundingly she became the first Greengrass in ten generations to sort into Gryffindor. Her own sister was in Slytherin. Astoria waved to her older sister cheerfully and ran to the Gryffindor table, shouting Nox halfway there much to the delight of half the Hall.

“And finally,” Minerva said dryly. “Lord Harry James Potter will be joining us for his sixth year.” She brandished the hat. “Come along Potter, you made me wait years for this.”

Harry grinned at her but went to the stool and sat on it with a little laugh. She dropped the hat on his head unceremoniously where it sat all of three seconds before shouting out Gryffindor. She gave the other teachers a smug grin and plucked it off even as her house went wild. She wasn’t at all surprised when he joined the first years at the table instead of heading for the older children.

She sat down in her seat and Filius immediately leaned over to her. “Minerva, what was that?”

“The older kids did a bang up job of scaring the first years this year. By telling them they have to fight off dementors. Harry… told them to think about how much they loved their family and friends that it would protect them and he had them all take out their wands and asked them say Lumos. All of their wands lit right up.”

“Fascinating, I can’t wait to get him in class. We’ve only ever discussed defensive and offensive charm work. I know he studied magical theory with Frances Delacour for the last two years.” Flitwick wiggled in his chair.

– – – –

There were nine first years for Gryffindor, four boys and five girls. Hermione had taken care to memorize their faces and names as they were sorted because she took her Prefect duties very seriously. Right now, all nine of them were hovered around Harry Potter. They’d all been disappointed when he hadn’t show up for their first year and quite horrified when the Ministry had tried to force him to return to Britain for school.

He was very attractive, tall with a lean but athletic build. His hair was long, but pulled to his nape with a simple ebony clasp. His robes were obviously tailored and expensive. She’d heard Ron Weasley complaining about the dragon hide boots and how expensive they must have been. He also had a shining platinum wrist watch, but it was the ring on his wand hand that had gained the most attention at the table. Even if Professor McGonagall hadn’t revealed that he’d claimed his title, the ring would’ve given him away. She glanced at him again and found him taking a piece of cake away from the boy across from him. She started to get up but the boy laughed and gamely went back to eating his dinner. He used his wand three times in a period of five minutes, cleaning up one mess or another the children had made.

“He’s gorgeous,” Ginny said under her breath. “And look how good he is with the first years.”

“They seem to like him,” Hermione agreed.

She thought back to the letter she’d received over the summer while she was at the Burrow. Ginny had openly scoffed at the idea that it had been real. It hadn’t taken much for the younger girl to convince her that Harry Potter would never take the time to congratulate her on an article that had appeared in the Daily Prophet. So Hermione hadn’t sent her reply.

Her heart sank into her feet when a very familiar beautiful snowy white owl entered one of the enchanted windows at the top of the hall and sailed right down to him. The owl had stayed with her for days before departing; obviously disappointed that Hermione wasn’t going to send a response. She glanced towards Ginny who had gone red in the face. Hermione honestly didn’t know if it was anger or shame that made the youngest Weasley flush.

“Merlin, Hermione,” Ginny whispered. “He must think you’re such a snot for ignoring his note.”

The owl landed easily on Harry’s outstretched hand and the kids around him leaned in closer as he apparently introduced her. She barked at him and he gamely fed her piece of chicken off his plate. He allowed Astoria Greengrass to pet the bird for a few minutes before lifting his hand. The owl gracefully took flight and left the hall, all without delivering a letter.

– – – –

The common room in the Gryffindor tower was just as Sirius had described. The prefects had everyone gathered around to discuss passwords; Hermione Granger had passed out maps to the first years and told them how they’d all receive their schedules in the morning at breakfast. Ron Weasley was apparently the other sixth year prefect but he’d done very little during the meeting.

“And Katie has some quidditch announcements,” Hermione said finally and turned the floor over to her.

“Hey, all, I’m the Captain this year—we need one chaser, a seeker, and a keeper,” Katie Bell focused on him. “Lord Potter, it’s my understanding from Professor McGonagall that you are… an exceptional, professional level flyer. Have you played quidditch?”

“Call me Harry,” he said first. “I’m a decent chaser and I played seeker for a couple local youth leagues at home.”

She eyed him. “You have the build for both, but you’re a little on the tall side for seeker. Do you have your own broom with you?”

“Yes.”

“If you’re willing, I’d like to see you at tryouts.”

“I’ll have to see how my schedule plays out to be honest. I have a lot of work on my plate; my father has turned over half my estate for me to manage.”

“I understand. Just let me know. McGonagall only allows us to practice four hours a week.”

Harry nodded and stayed put as the first through fourth years were herded off to their dorms. Hermione and Ron Weasley returned shortly and laid out a few points about curfews, broom closets, and bullying of which they both seemed to agree had taken on a life of its own due to the Slytherins.  There was also a brief announcement about picking up contraceptive potions in the infirmary, which caused most of the witches to blush to some degree or another.

His mirror vibrated twice in his pocket but he ignored it. He knew his Dad wouldn’t be going to sleep anytime soon.

“And finally, Potter what was up with the first years and the Lumos charm?” Ron Weasley asked.

Harry sighed. “Some arse on the train managed to scare them all half to death about the sorting. I understand it’s some weird sort of tradition to tease them about wrestling trolls and whatnot but whoever did it, and Astoria wouldn’t tell me who, had them all petrified by telling them they’d have to fight off dementors. I’m surprised a few of them hadn’t pissed themselves. She refused to go out into the hall because she said a dementor would get her.”

“Oh, that’s horrible,” a red headed girl he knew to be Ginerva Weasley, said. “Who would do that?”

“None of them appeared willing to say,” Harry said. “So I taught them how to cast the Lumos charm while we waited. Just… I don’t know, to get their minds off of whatever they’d heard. They all buy into that Boy-Who-Lived tripe so I told them if there was a dementor I’d take care of it.”

“Tripe?” Ginny Weasley parroted after him. “I mean… well, you did survive the Killing Curse.”

“Not because of anything I did,” Harry said bluntly. “My mother sacrificed herself for me. A magical sacrifice is a terrible and wonderful sort of power, you know.” He started to say more but Astoria Greengrass came rushing down the stairs and made for him, her wand in hand. “Hey kiddo.”

“I can’t…” Big fat tears rolled down her face. “I can’t get my light to work and it’s so dark.”
Harry titled his head. “Afraid the dark?”

“Yes, bad things happen at night.”

“Good things happen to,” Harry said carefully and plucked her off the floor and into his lap. “Let’s see… the moon comes out at night. It is a very special magic, you know.”

“It makes werewolves,” Astoria retorted which caused several in the room to laugh.

“Well, no, it doesn’t make a werewolf it simply forces those who have been cursed to change their shape which is, you’re right, a very terrible burden. But the moon also gives life to many magical plants, which are used for healing. Unicorns are always born in the light of the full moon. Did you know that?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“In America, the Druids dance under the light of the full moon and perform powerful acts of green magic… when I was about your age I attended a renewal festival in Alaska. Do you know where that is?”

“It’s a state in the United States but it’s kind of stuck off the side of Canada.”

“Exactly,” Harry agreed. “During this festival I watched a coven of very powerful druid witches use the light of the new moon to give life to a dying forest. By morning, a land that was almost barren had trees as far as the eye could see. So good things can happen at night, too.”

“Why won’t my light work?” Astoria brandished her wand with a frown.

He caught her wrist with a laugh and light grip. “Easy there, you should never whip your wand around like that. Magic is more than a gift, it’s a responsibility and a wand is tool of great power. You could hurt yourself or someone if you don’t take it seriously.”

“Sorry,” she bit down on her lip.

“Right then. Your light isn’t working because you’re upset. The Lumos charm is all about intent but your emotional state can make performing any magic difficult.”

“So if I get upset I can’t do magic?”

“Or you’ll do too much magic,” Harry admitted. “Once, I received some very disturbing news and I let my temper get the best of me. My Dad had to stun me to stop my magic. Then I spent three days cleaning up my mess. I don’t recommend it.”

“I once threw my dance instructor across the room ‘cause he yelled at me,” Astoria confessed. “I had to write him an apology even though my daddy fired him.” She frowned at her wand. “Lumos.” The tip sparked briefly but faded and her lip trembled.

“I’m pretty sure Gryffindors don’t cry,” Harry said gravely and grinned when she huffed. “Just relax, close your eyes think about your mum. What did she tell you before you got on the train today?”

“That I was smart and I’d do well in school. And that it didn’t matter where I was sorted that she’d always love me,” Astoria repeatedly dutifully. “And if I did really well I could get a kitten for Christmas.”

“What are you going to name your kitten?”

“Dorrie if it’s a girl,” Astoria said decisively.

“Okay, take a deep breath and try again.”

She inhaled and exhaled slowly. “Lumos.” The wand tip lit up vividly white as she opened her eyes. “Oh, there it is.” She scrambled off his lap and darted towards the stairs. “Thanks Lord Harry!”

“They must have really scared her on the train,” Hermione said quietly. She tilted her head. “You know that’s not how they taught us that charm.”

“I’ve never had mine light that brightly either,” Ron Weasley said. “Is that because she’s powerful?”

“I think it’s more a measure of how afraid she is of the dark,” Katie said. “We should talk to Professor McGonagall about what happened on the train.”

Hermione sighed. “I saw Astoria on the train during my patrol. She was in a compartment with her sister, Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson.”

“Well no wonder she doesn’t want to tell,” Ginny said. “If her own sister didn’t interfere.”

“I don’t think that explains it completely,” Harry admitted. “She isn’t the only one. They fed on each other like a mob, by the time they arrived at Hogwarts nearly the whole lot of them were a nervous wreck. I’m surprised half of them didn’t end up in the lake.”

“Malfoy and Parkinson are the Slytherin sixth year prefects, one or both could’ve used their rounds to spread the little rumor about dementors around,” Katie Bell said. “With that badge on, those poor little kids probably thought they were serious.”

The portrait door opened and their Head of House entered just as a high-pitched scream sounded from the first year girl’s room and five little girls came all but tumbling down the steps.

Minerva stared at them in surprise. “What is going on here?” She demanded. She huffed when Astoria ran right past her and ended up back in Harry’s lap.

“Ma’am, someone on the train told the first years they’d have to fight a dementor before they could be sorted. It’s apparently given them all night terrors,” Hermione said and winced when Astoria promptly burst into tears and buried her head against Harry Potter’s chest, her wand still lit and held tight in her fist.

“Oh that is the bloody limit!” Minerva snapped. “Miss Greengrass, stop crying all over Lord Potter.”

“It’s okay, Aunt Min,” Harry murmured. “She’s… pretty overwrought.” He patted her back and cleared his throat. “Hey, Astoria, did you bring a stuffed animal with you to Hogwarts?”

“I have my unicorn,” Astoria whispered. “It’s on my bed.”

He let his blackwood wand slide out of his wrist holster. “Accio Astoria’s unicorn.” The stuffed white animal floated down the stairs seconds later and right into his hand. “What’s his name?”

Astoria lifted her head and sighed. “Her name is Ashley.”

“Well, she’s beautiful,” Harry said. “Did you know that my Dad once had to stay in Azkaban?”

Astoria nodded. “Lord Black got put there without a trial. It was a big scandal before I was born.”

“That’s right,” Harry said. “He had nightmares for a very long time, you know, because of the dementors.”

“They’re bad.”

“But a healer in Japan modified the Patronus spell to help my dad.”

“How?” Astoria asked taking her unicorn in her free hand.

“By creating a charm that would allow an object to be imbued with the power of a Patronus,” Harry admitted. “And we used the charm on his pillows. It’s the first magic I ever learned to do with my wand because it has to be reapplied every six months or so.” He swirled his wand in a gentle motion and hissed so lowly it was subvocal, “Vigilia expecto patronum.” A silver and purple stream of parselmagic flowed out of his wand enveloped the unicorn and it took on a gentle, comforting glow.

“Oh.” Astoria’s eyes went wide and the other girls in her dorm came close. “Ashley will keep us safe now?”

“Yes, no dreams about dementors and definitely no dementors. Just put in her your window and she’ll protect everyone, okay?”

“Thank you, Lord Potter.”

“It’s no problem Elisa,” Harry said as the girl offered Astoria her hand.

Minerva cleared her throat as the five of them left together, each of them touching some part of the now enchanted unicorn. “Well done, Lord Potter. Ten points to Gryffindor.” She took a deep breath. “Anyone have a theory on who did it?”

“Astoria seemed to be the one most affected and she shared a car with Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson,” Katie Bell said. “And honestly, if a prefect had told me I’d face a dementor when I was a first year I would’ve probably believed them.”

“Fantastic,” Minerva snapped. “Potter, your suite is through that doorway over there. There is no portrait or password, but if you feel the need to have one it can be arranged.” She pointed to a third set of stairs that Hermione hadn’t mentioned in her house briefing. “Dobby has already set up your things but let us know if you need anything. There is a charmed window for your owl.”

“He gets his own room?” Ron Weasley asked with a frown.

“Yes, the Earl of Gryffindor has his own rooms. He has responsibilities that extend far beyond school work, Mr. Weasley, and requires he privacy for those matters.” She paused at the portrait. “Miss Granger, Miss Weasley, and Miss Bell, please keep an open ear for the first year girls.”

“Ma’am,” Harry began. “I think I do need a portrait and a password. Probably tonight. I’d rather not have one of those little girls come barging into my rooms… unannounced.”

Minerva’s eyes widen. “Quite. I’ll return after I speak to the other heads about the dementor issue.”

Most of the crowd separated after leaving him with what looked mostly like sixth years.

“I’m Dean Thomas, Lord Potter.”

“Seriously, call me Harry,” Harry said.

“Well, I’m Seamus Finnigan and this here is Neville Longbottom. You already sort of met Ron when he was half-arsed being a prefect while Hermione did all the work.”

Harry would’ve laughed if the red headed boy hadn’t outright glared at Seamus. “It’s great to meet you all.”

“I’m Lavender Brown, this is Parvati Patil, and Fay Dunbar. You’ve already sort of met Hermione—you know when she was doing all the prefect work. Oh, and this is Ginny Weasley, she’s the fifth year prefect but she mostly hangs out with us since her roommates think she’s still a bit crazy after her first year.”

Ginny blushed, sighed, and glared at Lavender who just shrugged.

His mirror vibrated again and he reached into his robe pocket to tap it three times. A signal that would make his Dad’s mirror chime letting the older man know he couldn’t talk but would call him back.

“So why didn’t you come your first year?” Ron blurted out.

Harry shrugged. “Politics, mostly. I’m not very fond of the British Ministry’s behavior, most especially all that pure-blood crap. The discrimination against werewolves is also extremely off-putting. The lack of regulations for the safety of house elves in Great Britain is an absolute disgrace.”

“I know,” Hermione exclaimed. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to free them.” She frowned when several people around them laughed. “It’s a serious matter, you guys.”

Harry leaned forward. “Hermione, I can call you Hermione, right?”

“Yes, of course, Lord Potter,” she blushed.

“Great, you do realize that freeing house elves would kill them, right? They need the symbiotic relationship with wizards and witches to keep their magic, which starts to fade when they reach adulthood and without magic, they will die. Freeing a house elf against their will is a gross abuse of power.”

“But surely… I mean they’re slaves.”

“Have you ever spoken with one?” Harry asked gently.

“I… no the ones in the castle sort of run from me.” She deflated. “Which I don’t blame them for since I’ve apparently been trying to murder them all since my second year. They must think I’m some kind of terrorist.”

Harry laughed. “You can’t free them, Hermione, by giving them clothes. Only the Master of a house elf can free one and it requires more than a single piece of clothing if the elf is unwilling. Granted, elves will use such an event as an excuse to break a bond if their master is abusive but to free a house against their will requires a magical push by the wizard or witch breaking the bond. The bond between an elf and a magical person is extremely hardy magic due to what it accomplishes. If they are running from you it’s because they’re playing with you.” He looked around them. “And the lot of you should be ashamed of yourselves for not telling her. She’s very smart. What if she’d figured out some kind of spell to free them or something?”

“She couldn’t have done that,” Ron scoffed.

“It was a spell that created the ability of elves and magicals to bond in the first place,” Harry returned evenly. “It is entirely possible someone that is studying arithmancy and runic magic could come upon a theory to break that magic.”

Ron frowned at him. “How do you know what she’s been studying?”

“She was only on the front page of the Prophet for straight Os on her OWLs and being at the top of the year over the summer. They think Hermione will break more records when she takes her NEWTs,” Ginny said sarcastically. “Lord Potter sent her a note congratulating her, after all.”

Harry bit down on his lip when Hermione winced. “I’m sure I’m not the only member of the Wizengamot to send their congratulations.”

“No, I received about fifteen letters from various Wizengamot members and several offers to apprentice after Hogwarts from people within the Ministry,” Hermione murmured. “There were over a hundred letters after that article congratulating me. I even received several gift certificates for Flourish & Blotts.”

The portrait door swung open and Minerva reentered with a portrait in one hand. “Your many greats grandfather, Niall Gryffindor, insists on guarding your… virtue, Lord Potter.”

Harry sighed. “Really?” She flipped the portrait around and a handsome man with black hair and sparkling blue eyes grinned wildly at him. “How did a copy of you get to Hogwarts?”

“I was a fantastic wizard,” Niall defended.

“Right,” Harry frowned. “Listen you old reprobate, I’ll let you guard my door but you will mind your manners. If I catch you or hear of you saying one lewd or bawdy thing to a witch in this tower I’ll have Dad deactivate your master portrait at Potter’s Keep.”

Niall bowed. “As you will, Lord Potter, I’ll keep all of my best jokes to myself.”

“And your clothes on,” Harry added.

“And my clothes on,” Niall agreed. “You were much more fun before you put that fussy old ring on, you know.”

Harry just sighed as his Head of House took the portrait up the set of steps that lead to his room. She returned shortly and inclined her head towards the door.

“Lord Potter, if you’d come with me… I have a task for you.”

“Of course,” Harry said and stood. He followed her out of the common room with small glance in Hermione’s direction. “Is something wrong?”

“Just a bunch of horrified first years,” Minerva said. “All of the Hufflepuffs were trying to sleep in their common room—they’d gone so far as to develop a schedule so they could sleep in shifts. The Ravenclaws were trying to learn the Patronus Charm, now two of them are magically exhausted and the Slytherins all ended up in the boy’s dorm where they set up a blanket fort and an intent ward.”

“Well… at least this situation inspired team work,” Harry said dryly.

“I told the other Heads about the stuffed animal you enchanted. So… some were donated to the cause. This won’t be too taxing for you?”

Harry paused. “I’m not entirely sure. It’s not the same as casting an actual Patronus but I’ll be going to bed shortly after this so it won’t matter.”

They entered a small classroom where the rest of the Heads were lingering with a few students and the Headmaster.

“Lord Harry!” A frankly tiny Hufflepuff girl hopped up from her seat with a teddy bear and a stuffed dragon. “Can you come stay in our dorm?”

Harry plucked her up off the ground and set her on the desk she’d been sitting at and sat down in the chair she’d vacated. “Well, no, Cassie, I have to stay in my own dorm and where would I sleep?”

“We have a very comfortable couch,” Cassie Lipscomb said seriously. “And there are nice chairs and a fire. You could have my blanket and you could take Joe’s pillow.”

“Then what would Joe do?” Harry asked as he drew his wand.

“Sacrifices have to be made,” Cassie said gravely and offered him the dragon. “This is Puff. He is Joe’s. The boys are going to share him.”

“Well, let’s make Puff a bit magical,” Harry said with a small grin and glanced up when she laughed. “Do you know the story of Puff the Magic Dragon?”

“He lived by the sea,” Cassie said. “My parents are Muggles, you know.”

“I didn’t,” Harry admitted. “Where I grew up, it’s rather rude to presume and beyond the pale to ask for such information. It doesn’t matter, you know.”

Cassie frowned. “She said dementors would get me and Joe first because we’re mudbloods.”

Harry’s mouth dropped open. “Cassie, that is a very ugly word. Please don’t say it again and it’s never okay for someone to call you that—no matter who they are. Understand?”

“Yes, Lord Harry.”

“And it’s just Harry,” he said with amusement. “Vigilia expecto patronum.” He cast first on Puff then shifted his wand to the bear when Puff was putting off a satisfying glow.

“This is Elvis by the way,” Cassie said of the bear.

Harry laughed as he ended the charm. “Well, Elvis is ready to fight off dementors in your dorm.”

She nodded. “All right, I’ll tell the others. If you’re sure you can’t come live with us?”

“Sorry,” he said and helped her down. He turned to the two Ravenclaws because the boy from Slytherin was hiding behind his head of house. “Well, Paul and Jessica. What do we have?”

“This is Terrence,” Jessica said decisively as she put down a stuffed Hippogriff. “And this is Albus.” She dropped a stuffed Hungarian Horntail dragon down in front of him. “They were our best, most fiercest options. But Louisa says she can owl her parents for something bigger.”

Harry glanced at the Headmaster and found the older man amused. “Right well, there is a lecture about size and might and right in there somewhere but I don’t have it in me to make it right now. Do remind me later.” He turned to Paul who had also had two. “Why so many?”

“Ravenclaws have two person rooms, sir,” Paul explained. “So we have four rooms to cover but we could all share if casting so much would make you sick. We don’t want to make you tired before you make some for Slytherin.”

“I’m fine,” Harry said.

Paul nodded. “All right then, this is Charlie and Superman.” He put a small stuffed panther down then a plushy of Superman. “Superman is in Muggle comic books, you know.”

“I’ve always been a bigger fan of Batman myself,” Harry confided as he cast the charm with a murmur. “He had to depend on his brain as much as the technology he had created, you know. Superman is great, of course.”

“I like Spiderman,” Paul said. “But I left mine at home. I figured I might get made fun of but I’m going to ask Mrs. Christin to send him.”

“You can borrow Hedwig if you like—arranging travel for the Amazing Spiderman is very important business after all.” Once he was done, he motioned the kids to pick them up and the moment they did he could see the relief on their faces as they were touched by the magic.

Flitwick lead them away with a silent nod of thanks.

“Right then,” Harry said as he turned in his seat. He raised an eyebrow at the boy. “Ready Darius?” The boy actually leaned into Snape and bit down on his lip, which was unnerving to say the least. None of the kids from Potter Redoubt had ever feared him before. “I haven’t bitten anyone in years.”

Snape prodded the boy and he finally came across the room and carefully set a very accurate looking basilisk on the desk followed by a three headed stuffed dog with fluffy coat and an animated tail.

“Care to tell me why you’re so nervous?” Harry asked carefully.

“She said… she said you wouldn’t be nice to us now because we sorted into Slytherin. That you’d hate us because… because of You-Know-Who.”

“Oh, well is this the same person that told that you’d have to fight dementors at your sorting?” Harry asked dryly.

“Yes.”

“Well, she’s proven to be a liar already, hasn’t she?” Harry asked as he lifted his wand. “Which is rather a disgrace. It is one thing to be a liar but to be such an obvious one is embarrassing. As to hating you because you’re in Slytherin—that’s ridiculous. I happen to actually like snakes quite a bit,” Harry confided. “I have five in my home in Paris. They make excellent and cunning companions. I received a new one for my birthday—from my absolute favorite aunt.”

“What sort?”

“An elemental viper,” Harry admitted. “Would you like to meet her?”

“Oh yes,” Darius said, wide-eyed.

Harry reached up and pulled the disillusioned snake from around his neck. It immediately became visible. The small red and black snake curled around his fingers and wrist as he held her out to Darius. “Her name is Rowena.”

“I can touch her?”

“Of course, I wouldn’t have offered if she wasn’t completely safe.” He held out his hand as the boy took the snake from him carefully. “She’s my familiar.”

“That’s so cool, Lord Potter.”

“Harry,” he corrected as an afterthought as he cast the charm on the two remaining stuffed animals. He put away his wand. “Now, if anyone tells you something about me that you want to verify—you can come ask me. Tell the others as well. I have no reason to lie and if I can’t give you an answer I’ll tell you so.”

“Thank you, Lord Harry,” Darius murmured as he gently placed Rowena in Harry’s hand and picked up the stuffed animals. “I’ll tell the others that Pansy is an embarrassingly poor liar.”

“Wait for me at the stairs, Darius,” Snape said as the boy rushed past him.

Harry met the older man’s gaze unflinchingly. “Professor Snape.”

“Thank you, Lord Potter, for your help this evening. I will investigate how this situation developed and punishments will be appropriate.”

“You’re welcome. Those will last six months, maybe less if they all have nightmares but I can recast it easily enough.” He paused. “And Professor? I really don’t appreciate Pansy Parkinson making one of my own wards terrified of me. She’d best learn to keep her mouth shut.”

Snape nodded and Harry was left alone with the Headmaster and his Head of House.

“Lord Potter, it would be…” Dumbledore trailed off. “I would really like to learn to cast that charm. I have meant to go to St. Mungo’s and speak to the Head Healer about it but haven’t had the time.”

“I’d be pleased to show you the way of it, sir. I can cast it in Latin and in parseltongue. I must admit though that the parseltongue version tends to last longer.”  Harry admitted as he stood. He caught himself on the desk when he went weak in the knees. “But perhaps not tonight?”

“No, definitely not,” Minerva frowned as she caught hold of his arm. “And you didn’t tell me you were bringing Rowena with you,” she admonished as the Headmaster took his other arm.

“I brought the paperwork to register her as my familiar. When I told them I was leaving; she pitched quite a fit about being left behind. That’s when I realized we were starting to bond. The others just ordered me to send them English rats,” Harry admitted with a little laugh. The snake in question hissed at Minerva and coiled, visible, around Harry’s neck. “Sir, could you cast a disillusion spell on her? She’s not old enough to do it herself, yet.”

“Of course, my boy,” Albus murmured as they guided him down the hallway to the Gryffindor tower. He pulled his wand and cast the charm easily enough. “Do file the paper work in the morning first thing so we can send off her registration to the Ministry. It will offer her legal protection.”

The portrait swung open for them and they were greeted by four little boys, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. Hermione’s gaze went wide and she frowned. “Lord Potter, are you quite All right?”

“I’m fine,” Harry assured as the Headmaster and his Aunt Min put him in a chair.

“You’re very pale,” one of the little boys said.

“It’s all right, Joel, I was just…” He glanced towards the bear the boy had.

Joel nodded. “Making protectors for the other houses? That’s what I told Miss Hermione. It’s okay, we can wait until tomorrow.”

“No,” Harry held out a hand. “It’s fine.”

“I can bunk down with them, mate,” Ron offered. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Then none of you will get any sleep,” Harry said wryly as Joel hesitantly handed the bear over.

“His name is…” The boy blushed. “Harry.”

Harry grinned. “I noticed he’s from the collection.” He tapped the little black glasses the bear was wearing. “I haven’t worn frames like this since I was thirteen, when I was old enough to start using the vision correction charm.”

“My mum got him for me when I was six,” Joel said, rubbing the back of his neck. “She said it was for a good cause.”

“And it was,” Harry agreed. “All money made from the toys and books—is used to fund the Lily Potter Foundation which pays for Potter Redoubt and the Magical Primary School in Britain and Hogwarts, of course.”

“What is Potter Redoubt?” Hermione asked even as Harry pulled his wand and started to cast silently.

“It is a magical orphanage,” Ron said. “They take in kids with no parents and also Muggle-borns if their parents try to refuse them the right to study magic. The Magical Primary School only started about six years ago and teaches basic stuff. Neither one of us were young enough to attend but Ginny got to go for one year before Hogwarts.”

“If it makes you uncomfortable, I can send it home,” Joel offered.

“No, don’t worry about it. I picked out that bear myself,” Harry promised. “I read all the Adventures of Prongs stories before they are published so nothing sold by the Foundation is done without my permission. It all goes to a good cause, so it doesn’t bother me.”

Joel nodded and all four boys trotted off to bed.

Harry carefully put away his wand and took a deep breath before turning to Dumbledore. “Sir, I’m not going to be able to get to bed by myself at this point. My dad and I went through three apparation points this morning to get to the train since portkeys tend to give me headaches. Between that and all those charms, I’m done in.”

“You have a license to apparate?” Hermione asked, and then blushed when he focused on her. “Sorry, that is none of my business.”

“I have an international license,” Harry murmured as Dumbledore and surprisingly Ron Weasley helped him to his feet. “Thanks Ron.”

“No problem.”

Hermione watched the three of them disappear down up the short set of stairs leading to Harry’s private quarters, flustered and unsure what to do with herself. She turned to her Head of House and found the older woman looking at her with amusement.

“Ma’am.”

Minerva smiled. “Not what you expected then?”

“He’s very good with the first years,” Hermione said. “Most of the boys our age don’t have time for them. Ron keeps calling them midgets and got annoyed with a couple on the train. Lord Potter seems to know all of their names…”

“All of them,” Minerva agreed. “He watched each one get sorted and he has an eidetic memory. It comes from being an accomplished Occlumens. Harry volunteers several weeks every summer to take the kids from Potter Redoubt to various Muggle attractions around the world—Disney World, theme parks, etc. Now that he’s back in Britain, he’ll probably ask permission to leave the school on some weekends to visit them. He takes his responsibilities to his title very seriously and did before he claimed it.”

“He’s beautiful,” Hermione blurted out then blushed furiously. “I mean he’s…”

“He’s quite attractive and charming,” Minerva said dryly. “He’s also a very good man, Miss Granger. I believe you’d find him a good friend and more importantly a true magical peer, something you’ve sorely missed in all of your years here at Hogwarts.”

“Ron is…”

“A spiteful, fickle boy,” Minerva said without reserve. “And you know it. Even now, he’s angling to be Harry’s friend not because of genuine interest but what he feels could bring him with having such a high profile and obviously very generous friend.”

– – – –

Harry sat down on the bed as Dumbledore and Ron released his arms and sighed. “My Dad would have my head for being so silly.”

“I will set up a few wards for you, Lord Potter, so you can sleep in peace,” Dumbledore murmured. “If you are unable to attend classes in the morning, please send a note with Dobby.”

“Dobby!” Harry called and elf appeared immediately. “Could you please arrange to have a pepper up potion for me in the morning when I wake up and I need help with my boots?”

Dobby huffed at him. “Master Harry been drinking? You be only allowed wine on your birthday!”

Ron laughed.

“He’s magically exhausted, Dobby,” Dumbledore said with a twinkle in his eye. “Being a hero for a bunch of first years can be very taxing. And one hundred points to Gryffindor, Lord Potter, for your outstanding charm work this evening.”

Dobby frowned but nodded. He snapped his fingers and Harry’s boots disappeared from his feet and his clothes transfigured into pajamas.

Episode Two: Hermione’s Choice

Keira Marcos

In my spare time, I write fanfiction and lead a cult of cock worshippers on the Internet. It's not the usual kind of hobby for a 40ish "domestic engineer" but we live in a modern world and I like fucking with people's expectations.

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