During the train ride before third year Harry has a close encounter with a dementor that causes him to absorb the soul fragment within him, granting both knowledge and power. Features Harry with a ...
I I I
Hermione was stuck in a quandary, puzzling over a problem that lay in entirely new territory for her.
She was wondering if a boy liked her. Specifically, she was wondering if Harry liked her.
The girl had to admit that she'd had something of a schoolgirl crush on him ever since reading about him in so many of her books. But the boy she'd met on the Hogwarts train had not lived up to any of her expectations, so it had been easy to suppress those feelings. She'd cast them aside completely by the time Halloween rolled around and Ron said those horrible things to her.
That had landed her alone in a bathroom when a troll came rampaging through the castle.
Hermione had looked up the laws and customs involving Life Debts, and she owed one to Harry for having saved her then. Ron came to her assistance only because Harry dragged him, and he was the one who'd caused her to be in danger in the first place. You couldn't endanger someone's life and then save it from a situation you'd created and earn a Life Debt. That would be silly, and lead to all sorts of problems.
Of course, there was very little that wasn't silly in the wizarding world, but that one, at least, seemed to be based on rules of magic, and those made sense, most of them. You couldn't cause a problem, and solve it, then expect a reward - the causing and the solving equaled out. If anything, there would be lingering blame from the causing, as the upset and turmoil that created before it got solved left a lingering minus credit.
Harry, on the other hand, never did or said anything to hurt her feelings that day, or indeed any other. The kind boy was oblivious as anything, clueless and shy to a fault. It made her feel brave and outgoing just being around him, by contrast; which was an odd feeling, actually.
All of which kept distracting her from her point, although the sight of him riding that troll like it was a bull at a rodeo had done wonders for reviving that sense of wonder she'd first discovered reading about his story.
It gave her shivers still to think of it. That was the single bravest thing she'd ever seen anyone do - and he'd done it for her. She'd been so overcome with her impression of him after that she hadn't been able to stop hanging around him, and Harry had generously accepted her and made her his friend.
She didn't kid herself about Ron. She'd always had people like that around, trying to take advantage of her. All Ron wanted was for her to be his two-legged homework machine, and the legs were optional as far as he was concerned. He had no use for her other than getting around his own work, and his frequent arguments over the stupidest things underscored that.
Really, Ron had only two things he argued about. One was facts, and he was always wrong about those, so it was a wonder that he even tried to argue with her about those anymore. And the other was him just being mean, saying things that hurt her in order to 'take her down a peg' for having been right about all of her facts.
The boy was a leech, and Hermione would not have put up with his constant whining and begging for homework help (he essentially wanted her to study FOR him! Really! The whole point of this was to learn things for yourself!Did he ALWAYS expect her to be around to cast his spells for him? Honestly!)had it not been a prerequisite for hanging out with Harry.
Harry was the most isolated boy she ever knew. He even had more trouble making friends than HER! And if that wasn't an odd statement to make about a celebrity, she didn't know what was. But it was as if he'd been afraid of everyone around him, all of the time, like he'd break if they'd talked to him!
And that was the second time in a row that she'd managed to distract herself from the real issue: Did Harry like her?
Until this summer she would have said: No, not possible.
Ron was lazy and wanted to be carried through life mooching on the work of others. And, until this summer, at least, Harry had been going along on that pattern to emulate his first friend. Neither had discovered the existence of girls yet, nor were they likely to soon.
But then something had changed to have broken that pattern. Harry had woken up to study and started trying hard.
Then there had been that terrifying event on the train, where she'd nearly lost him. For a time there, she'd been certain she had, that he'd be gone out of her life forever, and worry and concern made her impulsive, so she'd hugged him the first time she'd seen him up, awake and alive.
Then he'd swung her around. It'd made her feel... girly.
Hermione was almost fourteen years old. She'd been going through puberty for some time, and was nearly over it. Her figure had rounded out some, not that you could tell through Hogwarts robes, and she had discovered interest in boys, although she knew she was unattractive, so hopelessness had driven out most of her desires to explore that topic.
Harry having picked her up and swung her around had been the first moment she'd truly felt like a young lady who might be desirable to boys, rather than a genderless thing who hung out with boys.
It had been an addictive feeling. Wanting to feel more of it, she'd hugged him again the next day... and Harry had returned it.
Now all of the confusion, wondering about the topic of the male gender, that she had skipped over by dismissing those thoughts and urges came back with a vengeance. And she had to talk about it, thinking it over wasn't doing her any good at all. She just kept going around in circles.
Hermione sighed, figuring it was time she bite the bullet and go swallow her pride to join in those 'giggling in a corner' conversations Lavender, Parvati and their friends were having, discussing makeup tips and so on, obsessing about boys. She'd resolutely avoided them until now, but... sigh.
She'd been a bookworm for a very long time now. It had always been asafe refuge where no one could challenge her. Now... now it looked like it was time to try being a girl.
She hoped Harry appreciated this, even though deep down she was certain he wouldn't. Boys didn't develop those sort of feelings until later than girls, and both boys in her life were substantially younger than her. She felt certain girls were still 'icky' to both Harry and Ron. She knew she was going to be disappointed.
But, at the same time, something in her was desperate to try.
I I I
Harry arrived back at Hogwarts in plenty of time and joined his two friends for breakfast, pausing to take a pair of potions with his meal.
One generous aspect of having reported his abuse to official mediwitches at St. Mungo's was that they had immediately prescribed potions to correct the damage from the massive, long term maltreatment and abuse.
Nothing could have made Harry happier.
The Dursleys had worked him hard and fed him next to nothing. If he'd eaten well all that time, he'd have been a solid mass of muscle under those too-large clothes, but that would've been a threat to Dudley. So, instead, they'd starved him, and now Harry looked like a survivor out of a Nazi death camp. Except the potions were supposed to fix that right up, and he might just get all of that muscle he'd earned out of all of that heavy labor.
Harry could hardly wait, and to make the whole thing better, his bones ought to be less fragile, he ought to have more energy, and they'd even given him ointments to treat all of the scars on his body from Vernon and Petunia's beatings, Harry Hunting 'games' he'd lost, and bites from Aunt Marge's dogs.
His eyes might even get better, correcting the damage of constant abuse, dim light and starvation had done to stunt their proper development. That was something he was eagerly looking forward to, as glasses were a handicap he didn't need at all in that which was to come.
Where now he was the least physically fit and able student of his year, with all that damage corrected, and the muscles he'd earned filling out, he ought to be far and away the best.
The best was always a good thing to be. In particular, in this case where he was going to try impressing people, and that was hard to do as a scrawny, underfed, puny and broken thing.
A scrawny, underfed, puny and broken thing that Dumbledore had carefully arranged for him to become, directing his entire childhood toward that end.
No, Harry considered Voldemort less of a threat to him than Dumbledore. All Voldemort had been going to do was kill him, quickly, cleanly and painlessly. You didn't suffer under a killing curse, it just killed, an instant death, over with in under a second.
Dumbledore hadn't been merciful enough to kill him. No, he was an expert on how to make a body suffer worse than death. He'd arranged for Harry to be tortured and brutalized, his mind and ego crushed under constant inhuman treatments that ought to have made hardened criminals blush in shame.
Of those two, Dumbledore was clearly the worst offender, and he was the one who was presently in power. Trying to avoid him was the higher priority, as he was the more immediate, more dangerous threat.
Of course, he couldn't just come out and say it. No, that campaign would be hard fought, and the only way to do it would be one step at a time, unravel a scheme here, a plot there. To do otherwise would be to invite disaster. The Headmaster had no effective limits to his own actions. He wielded too much power in too many places to be confronted directly. Albus would have to be sidestepped, for now, and that was going to be difficult, if possible at all.
Having eaten breakfast, where Ron was jabbering about all of the brooms and things he'd like (and he'd spent the money he gotten from selling Scabbers at least a dozen times already, from the way he talked), with Hermione sending Harry shy and calculating looks out of the corner of her eyes, the trio got up to go off to their first day of classes.
On his way out, Harry stopped by the Ravenclaw table to thank Luna for that article she'd written about what happened on the train, and presented her with the notes he'd taken of his dispositions at the Ministry, 'for a little light reading.' And he left with a wink.
Hopefully, she'd write another article out of that material. The more angles out of which he could attack Dumbledore's plots, the more likely Albus was to abandon his servants to escape the blame himself. And without the Supreme Mugwump's protections, the Dursleys were doomed from all they'd done.
Good riddance. They deserved it. They'd done everything they could to earn the worst punishments a government could give for child abusers. Death would be too good for them.
Harry got shaken out of his thoughts by them arriving at the tower for their first class of Divination.
I I I
Divination class was not Harry's favorite, and the teacher was batty as anything. However, as she pronounced his imminent demise, he met her gaze and read her mind just to confirm she was full of it, and came across some fascinating information.
Namely, a prophecy the professor probably didn't recall at all, that named him as the one who could defeat Voldemort. More specifically, he got more of that prophecy than Snape had been able to overhear and pass on to Tom.
'Neither can die while the other survives, huh? Interesting.' Harry thought. 'Pity the guy was a madman who couldn't be trusted, otherwise he and I could come to some sort of arrangement, and both be immortal.'
They all came out of class and, while the others were milling around, a few of the girls in their year being terribly impressed with their bogus teacher, Hermione was fidgeting nervously and checking around for a place to hide.
Harry sidled up to her and took her arm. "Hey Ron. Give us a minute, I'm going to go feel up her boobs. We'll meet back with you downstairs, alright?"
The gossiping girls shushed, scandalized.
Ron's eyes grew round and he dashed off, panicked.
"Harry!" Hermione objected, shocked, blushing and outraged all at the same time.
He dragged her into a convenient broom closet and took out his Time Turner. "What? You don't want him to suspect what is actually going on, do you? We're going to be doing this all year. What more convenient excuse could you think of for always vanishing off together? This way everyone thinks they know what is going on, and won't bother to question further."
"You'll have the whole school thinking I'm a scarlet woman!" she objected, then muttered, "Actually, it's probably too late to stop that now."
He stopped and stared at her. "Very well. I'm listening. You come up with a better excuse, and we'll use that one. You can slap me in the face and rush off, all embarrassed, to tell everyone how I tried to take advantage of you. I'll even serve detention for it. Your reputation will be saved. But first, a good excuse we can rely on to get away for private moments to turn back time."
She stared at him helplessly for several long moments.
"We're going to be late for Muggle Studies," he gently reminded, lifting his hourglass on its chain. "These things only turn back by hours, not by 'hour and ten minute' intervals."
"You're not feeling up my boobs!" she told him firmly.
"Wouldn't dream of it," he quipped, then stopped himself. "No, wait. I lied. It actually keeps me up at nights, wondering what they're like, and wanting to find out. I keep picturing you in mussy hair and a Hogwarts tie, and nothing else, teasing your mouth with a quill as you ask me if I want to do homework together. But, sadly, they don't have an anatomy course at Hogwarts. It's all independent study. Curses, another dream destroyed!"
Hermione had never blushed so much in her life! Her cheeks were crimson, and she couldn't tell if he was joking or not.
Although that did seem to resolve the question of if he'd passed out of the 'girls are icky' stage. No boy without hormones could've teased her like that!
"You don't actually think that," she told him morosely, tired of lying to herself and just wanting to face the truth.
He reached forward and kissed her firmly on the lips. After releasing her, he quipped, "Wrong. And anytime you want someone to prove your boobs are attractive, I'm your man! I promise a most thorough examination, rigorous testing, and my own personal certification drawn from my expert opinion on how wonderfully they measure in my 'wow, boobs!' category! But I can already tell your history of good grades will be kept up in this vital department."
She slapped his shoulder lightly, ashamed of him and secretly pleased at the same time. She liked it. She couldn't quite understand all of those feelings a whirl inside of her, but she liked them all, a lot. And she secretly wanted him to keep doing things that made her feel that way.
"People are probably already saying I'm your girlfriend," she told him, testing for what his reaction would be.
He leaned forward, took hold of her arms, and kissed her again. "There. Now you are an honest woman. Actually, I think I forgot a step." He got down on his knees before her, looking up and clasping her hands in his."Hermione, will you be my girlfriend? Or, if not, can you pretend? At least until you can think of a better excuse for always running off together, I mean? And, if you do, could you please help me plan the staging of our massive, public breakup? If you throw a few curses at me, and I dodge out of the way, we can probably get Draco Malfoy with a couple of good ones. But it's all in the timing!"
Giggling, she nodded and helped him stand back up.
Then she bit her lip, and told him, "But it's only for pretend!"
She would have liked to claim more of him, but didn't want to get hurt too badly when he eventually wised up that there were better girls than her out there that he could catch who weren't unattractive bookworms.
Rising, he gave her a hug and asked in her ear, "While we're pretending we're going out, do you mind if we pretend to snog in the common room?"
"HARRY!" she squealed, happily scandalized.
He chuckled, then quirked a grin at her. "You do realize that I'm going to have to whisper wicked things to you on occasion, so you'll be properly blushing, mussed and flustered when we leave our broom closet rendezvous together? Actually, I might have to aid to get the mussing done manually. Wouldn't want our secret not-snogging to get revealed for lack of evidence, would we?"
She gave him a glare made terribly ineffective by a lack of any real feeling behind it. A grin wormed its way onto her face a little later.
She wanted to deny the knowledge, but knew he didn't meant it. Still, it was nice to hear it, even if it was just him joking. And it was nice for him to play at flirting with her. It made her feel less frumpy and unlovable. Although she desperately wished it could be real, and couldn't quite squash all hope it was.
"Well, now we're late." Harry sighed, looking at his watch. It was apurely mechanical one that could work inside the magic fields of the castle."C'mon, we'll spin back two hours, and spend forty minutes of it in the library."
Hermione sighed and licked her lips, a little disappointed the teasing was over, even though it had been more than she could bear at times. Finding her courage, she took a step back into old habits and scolded, "We'll just have to be late. Professor McGonagall made me promise not to use it any more than necessary, and specifically mentioned I was not to overuse the library."
Harry took his own necklace, brought her close, and looped it around both of their necks, an arm around her waist to keep her near and tight. As he spun it back the two hours, he calmly argued, "But what is necessary?Tell me, oh divine Hermione. How long is a day?"
"Twenty four hours," she answered primly, then sucked in her bottom lip. "Divine Hermione?"
"I've got to practice our act." He winked saucily at her, exactly the sort of thing that made her unsure of whether he was kidding her or not. Argh! When did Harry get so confusing?
"And how long is a typical working day?" he continued, not yet releasing her.
She tried hard to ignore that part, licking her lip again. "Eight hours. Actually nine, but that includes an hour for lunch, and doesn't account for commute or traffic. Some people have to work longer, but it's generally agreed that's not healthy. So it can't count as average, only extreme."
"Exactly!" he gave her a little squeeze, then released her and took his chain off from around her neck (actually disappointing her a lot as they lost that close contact). "Do the math yourself. Employers ask everything they can get out of their employees without doing lasting harm. Over centuries, more has been tried and tested over and over again, but what they can get away with without 'lasting harm' has been determined to be about eight hours of work a day. That leaves two hours of taking care of yourself or sleeping for every hour of work."
He swept her out of the broom closet into the now-empty hallway, and led her by the hand down the stairs a little less than an hour before Divination was to start, chatting all the while, "More work changes those proportions, so demands more support time to compensate to avoid becoming unhealthy. Say our two extra classes only add on four extra hours of work, two sitting in the room listening to lectures, and another hour apiece doing homework. That's a fairly standard program. But to maintain a healthy paradigm, we must have not only those four hours, but another eight in addition to them: four for sleeping, and four for doing whatever, taking in an extra meal and playing around I suppose, just to stay happy, healthy human beings. Anything less does lasting harm, as has been proven by what we've already discussed."
Hermione was thinking hard, chewing on this argument he'd offered. "Yes, I suppose I can see that," she allowed, then spoke doubtfully, "But that's not going to be easy to adjust to. Our bodies have a certain rhythm of their own. Mom always calls it our Body Clock. It won't be easy going to thirty-six hour days, even if we are getting a large enough proportion of sleep."
"You know? You're absolutely right," Harry agreed. "The body has a wisdom all its own. We should listen to it. After all, they are right about most things concerning them. Well, that settles it, then. Twenty-four hour days it is!"
"But that way we'll never get to all our classes!" Hermione halted, objecting.
Harry allowed his momentum to carry him around to face her, grinning."Ah! But you misunderstand me! I said we would be forced to take twenty-four hour days, but I meant we must take two of them for each one everyone else experiences! That way our body clocks stay in alignment with what is both healthy and normal, and we are not overworked or damaged in any way."
"But even supposing we do, three of our classes are held at the same time!" Hermione shook her head, disagreeing. "Twice through each day wouldn't be enough to get them all, and three is just preposterous! Where would we eat and sleep for one thing? We can't afford to risk running into our past selves!"
"One set of meals in the kitchen, one sent up to our quarters, and one in the Great Hall with our classmates, is a complete solution as far as meals go," Harry informed her with a grin. He'd been originally shooting for two days, one of twenty five instead of twenty four hours, which was a comparatively small adjustment. But since she was the one to bring up three, who was he to disagree? "And, if I can arrange proper sleeping quarters so we only have to spend one night in our dormitory beds per cycle, things should work out. Don't you agree?"
Then he sweetened the pot, leaning closer to touch foreheads and whisper,"Just think of all of the extra side projects we could get done in all that time, and the additional reading."
Hermione blushed, flustered that he could play her buttons so easily, and amazed that he'd almost convinced her using logical, reasoned arguments. It wasn't like the old him, but he'd really changed over the summer. "They'd have to be just as secure as our dorms. I don't want to have to explain things to McGonagall if anything goes wrong, or wake up to find some Slytherin has found us and done something awful to us in our sleep!"
"Deal!" He shook her hand almost too quickly, before trotting off. "There is one place not far from here that I can show you right away. It's called the Room of Requirement, and is one of the most secure places in the building. Even the Headmaster's office is easier to gain entry to - mostly because this room is so secret that far fewer people know about it. That secrecy would be lost if we were to invite scads of people in, and the room would be useless for hiding out in after that. So you must agree to keep it private between us, even if we don't agree to use it as our alternate quarters. For the other, there are some VIP quarters near the greenhouses that have been unused in a couple of centuries. The last person to even visit them graduated in 1945, but I just happen to know the password, and they are clean."
"I'll have to look before I approve of anything," Hermione insisted.
Harry brought her to a stop in a seventh floor corridor, still grinning. Holding her hands, he ordered, "Think of your ideal living quarters, then walk back and forth three times to make the door appear."
Puzzled, she did so.
The room was absolutely perfect.
I I I
It's been pointed out that Dumbledore LIED when he told Harry the prophecy."Neither can live while the other survives" was plainly untrue, unsupported by any of the facts. Voldemort went about his merry old way having fun and doing what he liked for years after getting a body back but before the final battle, and Harry's misery was all Dumbledore's doing (which hardly counts as being mandated by Destiny).
When you consider the actual facts as they worked out in book seven. The way it was revealed there was that for Voldemort to die, Harry had to die first, and vice versa.
So, the true prophecy should have been closer to the facts, "Neither can DIE while the other survives."
Because that's the way the resolution worked. The way Rowling wrote it, one of them had to die before the other could be eliminated. According to book seven, so long as Harry lived, Voldy could die over and over again and just keep coming back each time, and so long as Voldy lived, Harry could as well.
However, no manipulative old coot worth his lemon drops would allow either of two parties capable of destroying each other, but undefeatable except by the other, pair up in any kind of partnership. So he'd arrange to get the two of them at each other's throats, preferably in a form of mutual destruction.
So, in the original books, Dumbledore lied.
But now that Harry's learned it 'from the source' as it were, he can take arrangements to suit his own goals. And, if it were possible, he'd try to get Voldemort turned to stone, or otherwise permanently incapacitated without being dead. That way he'd keep his own oracular protection, without letting an enemy loose to do harm.
And, make no mistake, he considers Voldemort his enemy. It's just that Dumbledore is a far more immediate one.