What if Harry and Draco's first meeting in Madam Malkins had happened differently? What if Hagrid had not been the one to pick him up? How would Harry's views of the world have been changed if he d...
Draco offered a hand and Harry slowly shook it, unsure of the general cleanliness and ease in Draco's posture compared to his own dirty cloths and slightly slumped shoulders.
Apparently his name was enough to give him some wiggle room in regards to his appearance however, as Draco spared his state only a brief once-over and the slightest up-turning of his lips before returning his gaze to Harry's face.
"Welcome to our world, Potter. Once you get your wand sorted out, trouble like this," his eyes barely dipped down to the hole in the left shoulder, "won't be a problem ever again. Of course, I can't say for sure why you'd even bother to keep such rags, but to each their own..." he trailed off.
Before Harry could answer that Madam Malkin finally returned from the back of the shop with a single set of robes draped over her left arm and shoulder, wand tucked behind one ear as she approached the two of them.
She smiled after coming to a stop and asked, "Getting along well? Good, good, all Hogwarts students-to-be should get a head-start on budding friendships!" she said happily, barely pausing after her question to let them each initiate a slight nod.
"Now, I know some students usually come from a family of a-like sortings, especially bigger ones like the Weasleys," beneath her overly-kind tone Draco snorted quietly to himself and Harry looked at him questioningly, but Madam Malkin didn't notice and carried on.
"Usually when we get a customer in who comes from a family like that, its asure-bet to add the House patch along with their names to the first set of robes. A simple swapping charm can correct the rare mistake, of course," she told them.
Harry had no idea what she was talking about, and he had no trouble leaning over and asking, "Houses? Sortings?" in confusion.
Draco's pale gray eyes widened.
"You don't know about the four Hogwarts Houses, Potter? Come now, really?" he asked in return, beginning to have some doubts over the way their wary friendship was developing now. "Merlin's robe, Potter, haven't you even read the basic history book?"
Harry shook his head no with a grimace in place.
Draco sighed dramatically, as if this pained him considerably to be offering up more information for practically nothing in return, but he answered as the witch carried on droning about one thing or another overhead.
"Each student gets sorted by the sorting hat, who chooses which of the four Houses each of us will spend the next seven years with. Each House is named after one of the four founders- Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, Godric Gryffindor, and Helga Hufflepuff," he recited with extra emphasis on the last names.
Harry nodded somewhat mutely and offered a low "Thanks, Draco," in response.
The other boy nodded.
"You owe me a favor now, though." Draco told him with a hint of that same up-turned lip in the beginning of a sneer. Harry didn't bother contesting it and just nodded back, about the same point that Madam Malkin finished her long-winded speech and asked them which House they wanted patched to their robes.
"Slytherin, of course." Draco told her imperiously.
She squinted for a moment down at him and then reached up for her wand, then waved it quickly and pressed the slightly glowing tip to the pair of right-most robes over that arm.
Several rapid hisses escaped as a proud House crest burned into the surface over the right breast pocket, and then whipped around further to the left side and hesitated on a flickering note.
"Name, please?" she asked.
"Draco Malfoy." He answered in the same tone as before, eyes watching the magic in the slightest curiosity. He had never seen such a spell used, and Harry himself had his eyes transfixed on the effect in minor wonder.
Draco's name burned itself into place with another slight flick of her wand, and then six duplicates sprang out from the back of the original to gently float up and fold themselves neatly into tight bundles, and were then being shrunken down to pocket-size and settled upon a polished silver tray nearby.
"That'll be three Galleons and one Knut, dear," she told him.
Draco reached into his pockets and drew out a small red velvet money pouch from which he fished out three of the golden hub-cap sized coins and a single smaller silver one.
"I've no Knuts on hand at the moment," he said, eyes glancing to Harry's own, "I don't think they're worth carrying. Most anything of value costs gold or silver."
She blinked at the response but took the proffered money and turned to deposit them in the register on the far side of the room again. In the lull Draco studied the new robes interestedly as Harry mulled over the names of the houses.
"What other families have usually been grouped into a House together?" Harry asked him to fill the silence, suspecting it would cost him another favor but wanting to know more about the amazing world he was a part of now.
Draco looked back at him with a barely concealed sigh, picking up one of the robes and tossing it from hand to hand lightly. "Well, you've already heard the worst of the lot- Weasleys, Potter, are about the most trashy family of Purebloods you're ever going to meet in our world." He said contemptuously.
"Whatever you do, don't get mixed up in their lot- I might just have to hex you if you do." He added, and Harry couldn't decide if the other boy was being serious about it or not, and so just nodded again and waited.
Draco continued, still throwing his robe around like a ball. "Good. After them its my own family, the Malfoy's, and we've always been sorted into Slytherin. The Black's would probably come next, though I've heard from mother the last one sorted wound up in Gryffindor- seemed to think it was a rebellious indulgence at the time, bloody git couldn't change his mind after the fact."
"The Bones' have generally entered Ravenclaw, and even the Longbottom's are split between Slytherin, Gryffindor, and usually Hufflepuff." He said, now frowning as he considered any more prominent families and either came up short or ran out of ones he cared to mention.
Harry looked surprised to hear of so many different families, and Draco caught it in time and asked why.
At Harry's reluctant response, "I.. just didn't think their were so many." Draco let out a short bark of laughter before remembering the state of the dark-haired boy and realizing he probably didn't actually know better.
"Potter, when we get out of here, you and I are going to Flourish and Blotts and I'm going to cram that history book down your throat- you'll either learn what you need to avoid embarrassing our kind, or die trying." He said in complete honesty this time.
Harry was used to similar threats and nodded meekly, and as Madam Malkin returned at last she handed Draco a number of silver coins, then looked down to Harry himself.
"Well, dear? What House would you like?" she asked him.
Draco's unsmiling face waited to hear as well.
After a short moment that felt very much longer he repeated Draco's choice. After-all, it was better to have at least someone he knew when he got to Hogwarts than to start off completely alone again.
"Good decision, Potter," Draco told him a little less sharply than before, and either Madam Malkin finally processed the name or she unclogged her ears enough, because she sputtered in mid wand-wave.
"P-p-potter? Harry Potter?" she asked him shortly. Harry jumped at the reaction and his hair moved aside enough to reveal the scar- and she clutched at her heart as if in dire pain.
"Harry Potter!" she repeated the name in a stage-whisper, utterly surprised and more than a little dismayed as the house of snakes finished burning into his new robe, and with the name already declared it too appeared in short order before spitting out six exact clones.
For a long moment she stared at the effect she had cast and very nearly set them on fire, but Harry was already drawing out his smaller and more ragged looking black pouch and fishing out four Galleons.
Usually when an adult got the look on their face that Madam Malkin did, he began to run for cover, and this was only slightly different as he tossed the coins onto her silver tray, scooped up a handful of the shrunken robes before they could even land, and dashed toward the doorway.
Draco watched him go with faint surprise, then shoved his own robes into a pocket and, sparing the flabbergasted woman an unsavory glare, marched quickly after the other boy.
He finally caught up with Harry a block away, the fatigue such a simple if hasty exit had brought on clear from the way Harry was panting and leaning over his knees, body shaking on every breath.
"What the bloody hell is wrong with you, Potter?" the other boy demanded when he was within earshot, sparing the surroundings and the bemused looks of nearby witch's and wizards an unpleasant look. He didn't want to inspire another reaction- out of them or the one he had just reached.
Harry swallowed back another few gulps of air before leaning back wearily, giving the passersby just as much of an unpleasant look, though his was wide-eyed and somewhat spooked. "Well?" Draco said sharply when no answer was forth coming.
Harry glanced at him uneasily. "Bad things... bad things happen... when adults look like that..." he trailed off uncertainly, not wanting to explain any further.
Draco tapped afoot on the pavement and shook his head, clearly unsatisfied with that, and he muttered something beneath his breath about the trouble this whole process had become.
On the other hand, helping out one of the most famous wizards of the modern time could have its benefits, and once Potter got older and perhaps more skilled, if he could maintain that fame, than Draco would be the one most remembered for going the extra step at the beginning.
He took a step forward and placed a hand on Harry's nearest shoulder, and the scrawnier boy nearly jumped again. "Calm down, Potter. What happens?" he asked in a less biting tone of voice.
Harry's troubled green eyes flickered. He obviously didn't like being touched, but he stood stiffly in place and managed to answer quietly after a few more moments, "I blew up my uncle last time... when he finally deflated, I wasn't let out for more than a month. The catfood ran out after the first week..." he said reluctantly.
Something appeared in Draco's eyes that made Harry take another step away from him, the way the area around the eyes crinkled and his mouth entered its first fully formed sneer.
"Catfood?" he repeated incredulously.
Maybe before the shop he might have questioned what Harry was telling him, but after seeing the way the other boy was reacting, not to mention the way he was dressed in practically rags and had no idea of what anything was if their conversation therein was much to go on, Draco found himself growing outraged.
It was one thing, after-all, for a house-elf to be treated like that. Even blood traitors and undeserving mudbloods. But a Half-blooded wizard? The wizard who had been the Dark Lord's downfall?
"Don't you dare make another mad dash, Potter," he began sharply. Harry froze in place at the tone and look he was receiving. "We're going to get you a wand, and after that and perhaps a history book, we're going straight to my father."
Harry didn't know what to say to that. "Come-on!" Draco added and grasped him by one hand before dragging Harry off toward Ollivander's further ahead. Along the way Harry wondered how Draco's father was going to do anything about his aunt and uncle, and what that would probably end up costing him, too.
If Draco was impatient, he managed to keep the worst of it off his face as first ten minutes, and then twenty ticked by, and still no wand Olivander presented to him seemed to fit.
"Difficult, most difficult," the wand-maker murmured beneath his breath as he snatched back an ebony colored wand and slapped one made of birch instead into Harry's hands; a feeble moment later and it, too, had been grabbed back.
"Mister Potter, I can rarely recall the last time I have ever had so much trouble delivering a match between wand and wizard. If this goes much longer I may not be able to supply you at all!" Olivander said in a tone at odds with the look of subtle bemusement on his weathered face.
Harry nodded somewhat tiredly, almost dejectedly, having expected as much after the first fifteen hadn't worked for him. "I unders-" his words were cut off as the wand-maker snapped his fingers, eyes flickering uncertainly, and stood up straighter before turning about and rushing back down the farthest aisle of shelves.
He returned after close to a minute, carrying the fairly old wand box in his hands almost delicately. "This, Mister Potter, is perhaps the only wand I have any faith left in for you to make your ally over the rest of your hopefully long life." He said quietly and very nearly gravely, as though the words carried much more weight than could be presented otherwise.
Nervously he watched the lid be slid aside and the thin shaft of wood within was presented to him upon folded cloth, and Harry slowly reached out his right hand and wrapped his fingers around the proffered wand.
Instantly a spew of orange sparks rushed from the tip and a long shudder crept down Harry's arm, entwining within him a connection between wand and wizard.
Olivander nodded sharply once in approval before setting the now useless box aside, eyes clearer than before as he gazed down.
Draco muttered out a "Finally!" and stepped forward to clap Harry on the right shoulder.
"It is very curious that such a wand be the one you should most align toward, Mister Potter," Olivander began in the same grave tone. Draco shot him a dark look at the thought that this would possibly extend any further, but Harry turned to stare up at him.
"There exists only one other wand with the very same core as your own, a wand long lost and the wizard long exiled from our domain. Its twin gave you that scar ten years ago, Mister Potter," Olivander said with no notice of the blond's expression.
Harry idly reached up to touch the faint scar on his forehead. "You may work great things with that wand, Mister Potter, great and terrible things. I only ask that you give a moments thought before you take that shuddering leap." Olivander concluded, stepping over to the register and typing up the price.
"Seven Galleons." He added in a semblance of normality again. Wide-eyed, Harry wandered over and drew out his money pouch again, digging out the required gold and passing it over. "Good luck, Mister Potter," Olivander said, staring after the two of them for long moments as Draco hurried Harry out the door.
In the quiet that followed, the aged wizard drummed his fingers along his weathered desk in consideration of the instructions left behind along with the second phoenix feather over a decade ago.
"... Perhaps Albus' owl can wait for a time. I think it would do him no great harm given the owner."
It was still yet another fact he hadn't been aware of properly.
The dreams of a violent flash of piercing green light, the almost-hollow screams of a woman, and a faint and echoing cry of varying pitch that had accompanied his days in the cupboard for so many years.
Professor Quirrell had made no mention of how precisely he had received the scar, only that as a baby it was a leftover remnant from a failed curse by the man who had killed his parents.
He seemed to be learning more and more about his history from anyone and everyone around him, and the lies his aunt and uncle had given even when flat out confronted by the storm of letters and owls and over-all signs of magic that followed them from motel to motel left a dull ache behind.
His thoughts were interrupted by another long groan from Draco as they arrived at the book store some minutes later.
For a long moment they stood there looking in on the various students and their families before the blond directed them elsewhere.
"Alright, Potter, listen up. I don't have all the time in the day to help you adjust to our world, and frankly I'd rather not waste what remains of it in that travesty of a line helping you pick up your books." He said.
Harry sighed and nodded, beginning to pace back toward it before a hand on his shoulder stopped him again.
"It would really do you well in the future to wait and hear out what the other person has to say before you make a fool-hardy decision like that again, Potter. This is exactly why I wanted to get you that history book earlier- you've no concept of proper composure or anything of the like." Draco told him irritably.
"You can browse my copy for the meanwhile. And I'd rather appreciate it if you at least put on one of those cloaks you purchased before we go any further," he added in a tone of uncertainty for the first time since they had met, once again sparing the dark-haired boy's ragged clothing a dirty look.
Harry had forgotten about them after everything else, but he was surprised by what Draco had just told him. Another bit of uncertainty ran through his features before he smiled a little weakly and tugged one of the shrunken cloaks loose. He looked it over and tugged at the edges for a few moments before Draco stopped him.
"This might just be one of the most important spells you're going to learn regarding things like this, so keep it in mind for the future, Potter." Draco said and lifted his wand once he had Harry's attention.
"Finite!" he intoned firmly.
The cloak hesitated a moment before springing to life, flowing out and opening up to full size in seconds. Harry hastily snatched at the sleeves before it could fall anywhere and then shrugged it on over his plain cloths.
"Thanks, Draco," he said sincerely, already feeling less like an outsider.
The blond nodded and waved it away. "Just don't think of trying anything like that outside of the Alley or until we get to Hogwarts, my father said. Now let's get you brought up to speed so you don't embarrass either of us in half an hour!"
Harry grimly approached when Draco finished explaining things not-quite a full hour later to his father, a tall and even more white-blond-haired man with a heavy-looking cane and finely-tailored clothing, and called over for him to step up.
"It's an honor to meet you, Mister Malfoy, sir." Harry said as politely as he could, not quite meeting the older wizards eyes.
Lucius stared at him blankly for a long moment, then examined his form and the scar now in clear sight after a short time fussing with the hair to get it out of the way beforehand.
"Harry Potter." Lucius responded with the slightest pause between first and last names. "I have heard much about you, Mister Potter." He turned to stare at Draco, and continued, "Unfortunately not nearly all of it is, shall we say, good."
He dipped the end of the cane against the corner of Harry's school robe and glanced at the state of the clothing beneath.
"Pitiful." He added distastefully, rising to his feet.
"Dobby!" with a distant crack! something between a bat-eared beast and a miniscule rodent, with hideously over-sized tennis-ball-wide eyes burst into the space before Lucius and next to Harry himself.
It took every ounce of his self-control not to turn and run from the creature, but a shudder still ran through him, and Draco hummed softly in approval-it wouldn't do for Harry to become attached to a house-elf, and having probably lived as one that kind of a connection could indeed be made at this point.
"Escort Mister Potter and Draco toward the Inn, and then finish acquiring both of their supplies. I have business to attend toward." Nodding his head toward the dark-haired boy, Lucius placed a hand to Draco's shoulder to show his own approval over the decisions made so far that day before vanishing on the spot with a similar crack! of noise.
Draco let out a heavy sigh of relief, then smiled brightly.
"You heard my father, Potter, lets go! You're in for a treat today, and after tonight your life will probably be better than it ever has before." He said.
Harry was as much confused as ever, and for a long moment he looked down at the creature quivering on the ground with what might have been concern.
Draco promptly took him by the hand and lead him forward again at a good pace, and the creature demurely began to follow at a proper distance.
Over the next few hours he learned more than he could possibly have imagined about the wizarding world. His brain felt exhausted and he honestly didn't think half of the information gathered in the last section had even been processed.
The meal that was brought up to their room was quite possibly the best thing he had ever tasted, and just leaning back in the chair to sleep seemed like such a good idea that his eyes were closed and he was halfway to a snore when the same crack! pierced the air and snapped him back to attention.
The creature struggled to set down the cauldrons filled with numerable supplies, including the books still required. At his side came an unexpected result, however- Professor Quirrell.
The purple robed man strode forward quickly.
"T-there you a-are, Mister P-p-potter!" he exclaimed with the atypical stutter.
Draco grimaced, but Harry shook his head.
"Sorry Professor!" He said sincerely, having forgotten quite easily beneath the weight of everything else that he was meant to meet up with him at the Leaky Cauldron after finishing up the shopping.
"N-no problem this t-t-time, f-fortunately I r-r-recognized the h-house-elf," Quirrell answered.
"How did you recognize him?" Draco asked in surprise and more than a little concern.
Quirrell smiled at the corner of his lips, an unpleasant result overall.
"I k-know your f-f-father, Mister Malfoy," he answered and left it at that, which really did not do much to satisfy Draco, but asking for more would have been rude at that point given the inconvenience that had already happened on his occasion.
"If y-you are done, M-m-mister P-potter, shall w-we d-d-depart?" Quirrell asked him.
"Sorry to interrupt, Professor, but we are waiting for my father to return. He told us to wait here until he finished up business elsewhere." That was not strictly true, but it was close enough for Harry to not contradict what Draco was saying.
For a bare moment Quirrell's features slackened and seemed to grow into a mask of hard neutrality, but then the moment had passed and he was nodding again, saying, "O-of course. I m-m-must deliver s-something to H-h-hogwarts, so s-shall I i-intrust Mister P-potter to your c-c-care?"
Draco nodded, and Quirrell directed his gaze to Harry, who likewise nodded in agreement. With the confirmation in place, Quirrell turned and strode out the door and down the stairs, waiting to emerge outside where he could disapparate.
"Unbelievable. And he's supposed to teach us Defense against the Dark Arts this year?" Draco muttered, shaking his head. Harry looked at him.
"I know he talks kind of... funny, but Professor Quirrell brought me from the Dursleys. If it wasn't for him, I'd probably still be stuck on that rock in the middle of the ocean they abandoned me on." He said in the same kind of weary and resigned tone of voice as he had earlier in the day when telling Draco about his reaction in Madam Malkins.
Draco gaped at him, eyebrows slowly creeping up to his hairline, and he mouthed the last of that sentence over twice.
"Those bloody buggers!" He snarled in indignation after a few seconds, clenching his wand tightly enough for sparks to rise from it.
"The more I hear about those filthy beasts you've lived with, Potter, the more I find myself disgusted. You're a wizard and they've been able to treat you worse than a prisoner of Azkaban!" he said, but after a moments thought he grimaced, and Harry asked what that meant.
"I may have gone a bit far there, Potter. But Azkaban can not be much worse- its Greater Britain's only prison for wizards, and its haunted by something father called Dementors. I've heard quite a few of our extended family members are locked away there for crimes ten years ago." Draco explained in much the same manner as he had everything else that day.
"I don't have any other family, though..." Harry disagreed.
"You'd be surprised, Potter. We're probably distant cousins through my mothers line and your grand or great-grand parents likely come from a branch of the same tree." He responded.
Harry leaned forward now, mouth slightly agape. "Cousins?" he repeated the word slowly.
"Yes, Potter, cousins! I'd need a different book from the history one we went through earlier, but I'm sure we have one back at the manor. Dobby!" Draco ordered at the end, and the hitherto unseen house-elf flickered back into view at the blonds feet.
A sneer appeared on the boy's face. "Get up and go retrieve any familiar archives we have, any genealogy books, and if you can't find one than go buy some!" he ordered.
Kissing the hem of Draco's robes wearily Dobby disapparited with the usual noise.
"I have.. family..." Harry repeated the words softly, as if that more than anything else so far proved to test his belief where even magic had been accepted.
Draco said nothing more on the subject until the house-elf returned with a thick, red leather bound tome, bearing the title, "Moste Anciente House of Malfoy," and snapping his fingers, it flipped open and began to flutter through pages until it finally landed on a highlighted path.
A thinly scrawled tree depicted the recent additions to the Malfoy line, including who the married-to wife or husband was related with back as far as four generations, though some areas had been darkened and the names smudged.
And there, on one corner of bland parchment, sat the name Charlus Potter, though who he was succeeded by was too much trouble to make out. The initial letter may have been an 'I' at one point, or even a 'T'.
"Well, Potter, we definitely have a common ancestor, though I can't tell any more than that. My great-grandfather comes from the same generation as what should be your own, so they were at least brothers or perhaps step-brothers."
Turning the book around in midair he pushed it over to Harry, who took it in his hands almost reverently as his wide green eyes scanned the page.
A pang of emptiness filled him for a long moment, before the slightly growing friendship he had somehow struck up with Draco settled back into position.
"Thank you..." he whispered, bringing up one hand to rub at his eyes hastily before he could start shedding tears.
Draco grimaced at the reaction, but he kept any harsh comments about it back in lieu of the reminder that they had grown up under vastly different households.
He shuddered to think what he would have looked like, stranded with a bunch of ignorant and hateful muggles and having no idea he had anywhere or anyone to whom ask for help from- for ten long years, no less.
Before anything more could be said the door to their room was pushed open and a slightly balding man in striped overalls rushed in, followed by a straighter-backed and more composed Lucius Malfoy.
The first man openly gaped at the two soon-to-be-first-year-students, and his eyes instantly latched onto the scar over Harry's eyes. "Merlin's beard!" he exclaimed heavily, finally dropping his gaze back onto Harry himself and then to the robe he was wearing.
He saw the Slytherin symbol there and nearly jumped out of his skin, lower jaw dropping even further as he repeated a more deliberate curse before remembering that he was facing two eleven-year-old's.
"I think that- What is that book doing here, Draco?" Lucius changed his thoughts in a moment at the sight of the slightly dusty tome.
"Potter wanted proof that he has cousins in the wizarding world and not just a group of filthy muggles, father. I sent Dobby to fetch it to help prove my point, and I was right that we're distantly related- there's a Charlus Potter in one corner." Draco explained quickly and not a little smoothly.
"I see." Lucius said quietly and then reached forward and rapped the tome smartly over the top page with his cane, vanishing it back to the original location. "If you had just waited a time longer, I could have done the same- in far more detailed manner, I assure you, just as I have for the Minister here."
Harry and the other man met each others gaze. "I can hardly believe what Lucius has told me, so much like James it seems amazing..." he trailed off in what was sure to become a rambling string of sentences if left uninterrupted.
Lucius provided that interruption cleanly.
"We have come back here to assure the Minister that such is fairly accurate, and indeed he has no place among muggles when there are several families with closer, magical bonds. His godfather, for example, should have taken possession long before anyone else."
"Unfortunately, considering the circumstances of his incarceration, it seems more likely that the the bond should pass to the next available family member to Black, in which case it should have been his own cousin, but we've been over this already. With both Sirius and Bellatrix in Azkaban, the role goes to the next nearest family outside of it."
And, at last, he paused.
"I do not think the Tonk's family through Andromeda Black, having been stricken from the records of the Black Family Archives of which I can confirm a copy is available in another genealogy book at my home, would be accepted by the bond," and again he paused, now watching the Minister, who finally looked back to him intently.
"Thus, then it should fall to Narcissa and myself to watch over Mister Potter, as she is the youngest and next in line of the Black heiresses. If she agrees, I believe we can work out an accords to continue Mister Potter's upbringing." Lucius finished rather neatly.
Harry had listened to all of this and barely been able to keep up, his head swirling with information, until he finally sat up and paced away. Draco frowned at the unexpected reaction.
"Are you okay, Potter?" he asked in actual concern.
Harry shut his eyes, and Lucius spoke up, "Perhaps Mister Potter is simply overwhelmed. That is completely understandable, given the circumstances of his arrival to the wizarding world. Would you care to return to your muggle relatives after this trip has been completed, Mister Potter?" he asked slowly.
Flashes of his life there sprang up easily, and for a long time the panic seemed to run wild within him, but at last a soothing calm gathered. You never want to go back there, do you? If you do, merely stay silent. Simply keep your voice to yourself, a calming voice spoke from somewhere in his mind.
However... if you want to escape them, to leave, say no. Just say no, Harry Potter. Just say... "No!" He finally shouted, clutching his head painfully, eyes screwed up. "I don't want to go back to the muggles!" he said as his emotions returned quite firmly.
Lucius tutted in approval, his cane tip dipping back against the floor boards almost imperceptibly. "There you are, Cornelius. Straight from his mouth- he has no desire to return to the prison that they would dare call a home. In fact... if you cared to rally any off-duty Aurors, I am sure you would find more than enough evidence to prove that Mister Potter has no place in that house."
The Minister looked flat out torn. He was clutching a previously unnoticed green bowler hat in his hands and wringing it back and forth tightly, and at last, he said, "I think it would be wise to consult Dumbledore on the matter, Lucius."
The Malfoy head slammed his cane to the floor three times sharply.
"Do you, now? I do not. But to each their own- I expect that he would be content to allow the savior of our kind to languish in a domain of abuse and terror- have you even looked at the state of the boy? The clothing beneath the robe, the underfed appearance? Would you say that he is old enough to join Hogwarts this year from the look of his form?" Lucius fired off quickly with the first hints of anger gliding into his tone.
Cornelius stammered, but Lucius didn't give him the chance to deny anything.
"It is apparent that Harry Potter is not welcome in his current home, and that his rightful legal guardian is my wife. If you try to force the matter I may be forced to inspect the budget of our yearly donations to the Ministry." He threatened.
At last the words seemed to be found.
Cornelius squared his shoulders even as his gaze fell once more upon the small boy, honestly far too short and scrawny looking for the age of eleven, leaning on his knees as he tried to come to wraps with everything of the last few days finally crashing down upon him at once.
"...No. No, Lucius, I shan't push the matter. I merely need the proper signatures, and you and your wife may claim legal guardianship of Harry Potter." He said in something close to whispered disbelief, as though he could not understand why his mouth was saying such words or even why he had such a hard time accepting them.
Lucius nodded once.
"I shall floo her at once and meet you at the office." He said firmly, and Cornelius spared Harry one more look before stepping out of the door.
Once he was gone Lucius in turn looked Harry over, then knelt and whispered something to Draco for a long minute, before he departed after the Minister.
A while later, and exhaustion overcame the worst of the tirade of emotions flowing through Harry, and he leaned his head forward and shut his eyes tightly enough to fall into an uncomfortable sleep as all the while Draco looked at him in mixed confusion and concern.
A month later saw some alterations to the way Harry generally reacted.
He had been called in that night to sign the paperwork, more for a general closing of any potential loopholes others might try and utilize to separate him from the Malfoy's than any true requirement of the law.
Draco was less critical of him and his lack of knowledge in that time frame, and he helped Harry to adjust to life within the massive manor. Both Narcissa and Lucius were at least flatly-polite to him, more so her than he given the friendship with Draco.
They allowed him to keep the wretched cloths he had walked in with, but they were long since patched and repaired to such a pristine state that it was impossible to tell the difference.
Really, a month wasn't nearly enough to get comfortable around nigh-complete strangers, or a brand new and alien environment, or to react in many ways like the muggle-child he used to live as among such blatant wizardry and lifestyles.
For the most part he spent his time roaming the massive yard and trying to come to grips with the fact that he had family in the world.
He ate better than he ever had before, he slept with a dreamless sleep potion every night until he could relax enough for it to come naturally to him, and he learned.
There wasn't much the Ministry could do about either him or Draco practicing on the Malfoy family grounds.
If anything, all they could do was sigh irritably and check off a mark for future reference to add to a politely addressed letter requesting that no under-age magic be performed by anyone on the property, and even then the letter could go unopened and ignored as they liked.
The biggest interruption to the way things were occurring came in the arrival of Headmaster Dumbledore.
It happened after the first week, when Harry was still very much unsure of how to go about things, and he was reading one of the transfiguration's chapters in his book by the pond in the front yard as Draco practiced his spell work not far off.
The nearby albino peacocks calmly dipped in and around him, mostly avoiding Draco's wand waving, vanishing behind hedgerows and ornate statues only to appear again in moments or minutes.
They all fled from the thunderous crack! that was very nearly a roar of apparition outside the front gates. A moment later and a silvery-glowing and far more majestic-looking bird swept past the dull iron and soared in through an open window, and both Draco and Harry himself stopped what they were doing to cautiously stand up.
A man's voice echoed out of the open windows, and it did not sound pleasant.
"I see that you have overstepped your position at the Ministry, Lucius. Allow me to reassure you that matters have been looked into and properly adjusted at the Dursley household, and while you may lay claim to guardianship by the word of the now-deceased James and Lily Potter placing their faith in Harry's godfather, it is his blood-relatives that hold claim to his proper and legal protection."
It continued gravely.
"If Harry is not returned to his proper household, I will be forced to rally the Wizengamot in opposition of what is surely an illegal-conduction with the Minister for Magic. He belongs with his family, as I am sure you agreed at the time, being distant cousins, a matter of which I have requested to be looked into quite thoroughly through official injunctions within the Ministry to verify."
The same voice carried on once again.
"Furthermore, it is with great regret to inform you that the wards currently keeping me out have no protection against the very method through which I have contacted you, and that I shall step through them in short notice should you refuse to step out and open them for me. You have ten seconds from the moment this Patronus finishes speaking. I suggest you act upon them swiftly."
Harry and Draco looked at one another, one distressed at the thought of going back even if he wasn't comfortable here yet, the other angry at the sheer nerve of whoever was talking to threaten his family with such.
The front door opened and Lucius himself stepped out from the porch, staring at Dumbledore some distance down.
"Harry, if you could go inside with Draco, I believe the following should not be spoken of around you," he said without looking away.
The two boys stepped inside and as they passed, he murmured about having Dobby take them elsewhere and off of the property.
After a few more seconds Dumbledore vanished in a burst of scarlet and gold flames, reappearing within the property and roughly ten feet away from the Malfoy head.
"I think it wiser of you to accept the inevitable, Lucius. Given your past, allowing the very boy who smote your master inexplicably ten years prior to dwell within your household, a boy who may react unconsciously to the lingering traces of your masters-magic within the Dark Mark upon your arm, to share the same space at a dinner table should seem like a truly terrifying concept. Does it not?" Dumbledore offered in the same tones as before.
Lucius carefully kept his emotions in check against the accusations he had maneuvered out of it a decade prior.
"And do you think that Severus should be any safer around the boy? That, if I may go so far against my son's godfather, old-resentments shall prevent Severus from unearthing a decades-long lost-rivalry against a child who looks very near to exactly the same as his nemesis? If I am in danger for merely offering my protection to Harry Potter, I think it far more suicidal to allow Severus Snape to teach him at Hogwarts." He countered quite easily.
Dumbledore clapped his hands thrice in applause for the argument. "How very Slytherin of you, Lucius, turning my point on its head so. Yet somehow I think Severus has a greater chance of enduring any potential backlash due to unforeseeable consequences of which you have no knowledge, and I most assuredly do." He answered.
Lucius pursed his lips.
"Let us move on from this and get to the meat of the matter, shall we? You have no legal precedence to force Harry Potter into living with the very muggles who have nearly killed him. I through Narcissa and the laws of old magic do have a, to use your term, proper claim to supervising how he grows up." He said.
"You likewise have no right to intrude now after ten years of neglect, and let me remind you that as his legal guardians, it is entirely up to us whether or not Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts." The threat seemed clear enough, but to be sure he carried through.
"I am quite content to rekindle old friendships across the seas and ensure both Harry and my own son enjoy a thorough education within Durmstrang."
A low intake of breath came from Dumbledore before he smiled grimly and shook his head, a low and very unhappy laugh coming from him.
"Your own son you may do with as you like, Lucius. But it was the will of James and Lily Potter that their son go to Hogwarts when he turned eleven, and no matter what you may try to do to bend the laws in your favor, I can confirm for you that if this should go to court that you would never gain the permission to go against their wishes.
"Quite simply, do everyone a favor and revoke your oath to raise Harry Potter in this household. It would save you a grand deal of gold in the end, as well as the humiliation of defeat in the courts." Dumbledore finished.
Lucius seemed to consider that for a few seconds, and then he shook his head.
"I am afraid that even if I had any tendencies to change my mind on the subject, it has been dealt with in such a way as to prevent me from even trying; magic, you see, has a better way of judging such matters than more plebeian methods of discussion and threat could hope to achieve," Lucius answered after a few moments of thought.
"By all means, have the Wizengamot draw a gathering and inquisition in regards to the subject; I am quite sure they would be happy to learn you bypassed the law in order to send Harry Potter to his purely-muggle relatives instead of following the instructions set down by James and Lily Potter, or even daring to place him with one of the other numerable cousins in our world- truly, did you believe that Andromeda would smother him as a babe?" he asked sharply, distaste for Narcissa's sister apparent even if she did further his point.
Dumbledore exhaled and leaned back a little straighter, but he had long since grown accustomed to his actions in those early hours and days.
"Sirius Black was clearly incapable of providing for his godson, and given the truth of the matter for where his loyalties dwelt I think we both may assume that setting any further faith into another wizarding family would be tantamount to folly! Muggles," he paused to adjust what he had been about to say, and continued, "may well be dishonest and despicable in the depths of their hearts, but there is great proof of kindness in regards to family more often than naught."
Lucius actually sneered down at the nearly ancient wizard.
"Please do not tell me that this is what gets you through the day, Dumbledore. I saw how those primitive savages lived and the place they kept Harry Potter, and if you think you can fool me into releasing the boy back to such a dwelling, you are heartily mistaken; again, I could not nor would I given the freedom to choose to."
Dumbledore's lengthy eyebrows met together.
"You can't have taken a Vow. You wouldn't dare risk your life or magic for such a minor acquisition." He stated flatly.
Lucius did not smile, though he let out a short laugh.
"You would be surprised what one can gain from small term goals, Headmaster. I have absolute faith that Harry Potter will prove our decision correct in the distance- and I am quite obligated to insure he remains here. And unless you desire two more deaths on your hands, directly by your hands, you would do well to cease your attempts to remove him."
For a long time it seemed that Dumbledore was going to retort in some manner, that he was merely gathering up his reserves to overcome what may or may not truly be an Unbreakable Vow, but after nearly a minute he bowed his head.
"We have not settled this discussion, Lucius, but I won't risk provoking the Vow at this point- no, I think it would be best to allow the noose you have so elegantly slipped about your throat to draw tight by your own doing rather than mine." He finally said, looking back up and into his eyes.
Lucius blinked and adjusted his gaze to just below the older wizards nose.
"Good day to you, Headmaster. Now kindly vacate my premises." He stated firmly, dismissively.
Dumbledore vanished on the spot with a backlash of noise so violent that it shattered the front windows and showered the head of the Malfoy line in shards of glass, irrevocably winning the last-laugh, as it were.
Bleeding and furious, Lucius acknowledged the fact that he should have swallowed another sip of Felix Felicis before emerging from the manor some minutes ago- he did not think that bluffing would work nearly so easily the next time they met.
The day of September the 1st finally broke across the fog-beset Malfoy manor, and following Dumbledore's original and impromptu interruption a few weeks before, the rest of Harry's time passed fairly well and easily.
He could feel the changes they had wrought in him by now, and though sleeping still took him a few hours to come without the aide of a potion, he usually stayed up with a Lumos charm at night to read until his eyes and mind simply couldn't keep up any longer instead anyway.
He had never felt so full and happy after meals, and while he probably wouldn't ever get used to that wonderful feeling, he was no longer plagued by after-wakes of gnawing hunger following lunch or dinner.
He had completed at least a few chapters in each of the required books and in the case of his history and charms books he had actually finished reading them altogether- though, of course, he would definitely go over the initial points that night after the sorting as a refresher.
With Draco's help he had gotten down the general spell lists and become rather good it it, and while his wand work was still unwieldy at best, he was satisfied it wouldn't let him down in class.
And that, such a small degree of belief, of pride and confidence, was more than he had possessed in his life with the Dursleys.
That morning he stirred as the alarm began shrieking near his ears, sitting up quickly and reaching out to touch the windup clock. It settled down only once he tapped it smartly over the top with his wand, and after that began to tick quietly again.
Once more he had drifted off with his book in hand and the faint Lumos charm active, shining up into his eyes once he dropped it back to the table to rub the sleep from them tiredly.
"Oi, Potter!" Draco's less-sleepy and more-presumptuous tone called from outside the door.
Harry glanced down at his messy cloths and quickly cancelled the Lumos with a swift Finite, looking around at the few scattered implements he still had to put away in his trunk.
"Yeah, Draco?" he called back as he strode over to the door and pulled it open. The Malfoy heir stepped in after a moment and looked around the rather small guest bedroom, as if seeking something.
"I see you haven't gotten the train ticket anywhere in sight- which is good to see you've remembered- only you haven't gone and misplaced it, have you?" he asked rather haltingly all at once.
Harry recognized it as faint anxiety, and it was good to know that he wasn't the only one. "No, I packed it away with most of my books a month ago." He answered.
"Alright, then. Breakfast is ready and mother said to have everything packed up beforehand, so we can head out at ten o'clock sharp." His gaze lingered on the items sticking out like sore thumbs.
Harry nodded in turn.
"Thanks, Draco. I'll be down in a minute." He responded and turned to rush over to his trunk. Draco sighed at the loss of proper stance and the haste of his sort-of-cousin- the books were rather vague and the Wizengamot hadn't clarified in easily digestible terms.
At best, it was Draco's own mother that was Harry's nearest-cousin, just as it was Harry's godfather that was his own nearest-cousin. What they were might not even technically count by law given the distance between their respective branches.
Whatever the case was, however, they were still relatives, and Draco respected that and the effort Harry was making to adapt to their way of life.
He waited until the last book and the clock were set nearly-neatly into the trunk at the foot of the bed and then shut before he stepped up to help drag the lumbering weight down the stairs with him.
Harry smiled gratefully.
Apparition was among the worst sensations Harry thought he would ever encounter. He gasped and nearly collapsed to the ground when they arrived on the platform, shrunken trunk in pocket.
Draco helped to steady him even though his own eyes were wide and nearly stunned from the feeling. It was unlike the effect Dobby had used, though still near enough for him to have gotten used to. It seemed Harry had no such stomach or fortitude for that method of travel.
Lucius and Narcissa helped prod them along and through the stone barrier onto Platform 9 3/4ers a few moments later, where several other earlier arrivals were standing around chatting.
"Now, Mister Potter, I believe that there is but one further thing in which you must acquire." Lucius stated calmly, calling out for the semi-useless house-elf a few moments later.
Dobby appeared instantly, bowing and kissing the hem of his masters robes, nearly to the disgust of said wizard if the sneer on his face was much to go by.
"Take this sack of gold and select two of the finest Owls in Diagon Alley for purchase. I expect it to take no more than fifteen minutes- and ensure you acquire the other items required for proper care and ownership. Go!" He ordered after drawing out the same small red velvet sack of Galleons and Sickles that Draco had used at Madam Malkins a month prior.
Hesitantly Dobby reached up to accept the gold and silver before sparing the two boys a quick glance and vanishing far more quietly now than before. Harry watched the creature go with a feeling of pity.
"Seeing as we are very nearly upon the train and toward Hogwarts itself, I trust that you two may entertain yourselves enough to pass the remaining time easily. Before much longer the rest of them will arrive, and I unfortunately have a job to perform- your mother shall convey all the sympathy and such necessary for the both of us. Good luck, Draco, Mister Potter." Lucius told them simply and rested a hand on either of their shoulders for a moment, lingering more upon his own child's before disappariting just as quietly as Dobby had managed.
Harry felt heat rushing into his face at the touch and partial-kindness of the act, and he smiled without realizing it. "Well, come on then, Potter, lets find somewhere to duel and make sure we can show the other brats a thing or two," he said confidently, completely at ease now and not nervous in the slightest about performing even more technically-illegal magic at that point.
Harry nodded a little bemusedly and trotted after him as Narcissa conjured a seat all to herself and drew an envelope from her pockets to peruse again.
A short time later and things began to pick up quickly.
Dobby delivered a magnificent black eagle-owl whose name was to be decided by Draco, along with its gilded golden cage and the finest owl treats available, while a slightly less majestic tawny and black dotted owl looking rather like a transfigured leopard sat within a paler white cage for Harry himself.
"M-masters owls, Ma'am," the house elf told Narcissa quietly and set the cages down. She barely looked up from the lengthy letter from Mrs. Greengrass to acknowledge the quality of the creatures, then nodded once in satisfaction and scanned the slowly filling platform for her son and pseudo-cousin.
"Leave them here and begone." She ordered flatly as she finally found them a ways off sending off red and green sparks as they called out spells and hexes, careful not to do anything seriously endangering.
The Slytherin emblem gleamed off of Draco's chest proudly, and his name was still glowing faintly, but while Harry's own idea for his House was shining as well, they had all agreed it would be for the best to obscure his name until the sorting occurred and as such it had been blacked out to match the rest of the clothing.
Dobby did as told and vanished, and she returned to her letter with interest.
Just as Draco's father had predicted as the minutes trickled by more and more families began to arrive.
As the two boys progressed further and further into the admittedly-limited amount of spells they felt were safe- or no more than moderately endangering, given that Narcissa was nearby and would in theory correct anything too serious if she didn't feel like teaching them a firm lesson instead- it was noticed that the effect was working quite well.
A few of the other soon-to-be-sorted first-year-students gathered around to watch the exchange of spell work. Harry's stamina had increased from its pathetically short peak a month earlier to a point that, even after close to twenty minutes after the fact, he was still able to step a few paces aside to dodge in a fair manner.
Despite the coolness of the platform sweat trickled through his hair and ran down into his face, but a simple ever-clear charm on his glasses kept the fluid was obscuring his sight in the slightest.
He heaved out a quick breath and flicked his wand forward, just as a rush of pale red light sent it soaring from his hand. Both of them turned to look at the intruder in their showmanship of skill and found a dirty-blond haired boy looking particularly smug as he directed his wand to face Draco now.
"Who're you?" Harry asked before Draco could say something more sharply, even though he felt rather cheated for losing the match by an outsiders help.
"Zacharias Smith," the other boy said promptly, and as if waiting for that he gave a very slight bow and smiled yet wider still. "My family has roots running all the way back to Helga Hufflepuff herself, you know."
Harry exchanged a look with Draco at that declaration.
He didn't know of anyone of great interest in his own family line to speak of, save for the un-named Black great-great grandfather from whose sons he and Draco shared a common ancestor through.
He wondered if giving even his first name in response might be too much information, and in the meanwhile Draco happily filled in for him. "I've heard of you, Smith. A bit too common blood stretching back toward her, if the available trees are to be accepted. I, on the other hand," he paused to make sure the other boy was suitably engaged- and he was most assuredly working out the insult there, given the narrowing of his eyes, added, "have no such impurities. Being descended from the Black's has an advantage like that, don't you agree?"
The name of Black caught Zacharias by surprise, and Draco carried on, "I'm Draco Malfoy, and this is Harry Black." That wasn't technically any more accurate than if Draco had called himself Draco Black.
"Before you so rudely interrupted, we were in the middle of a serious duel. Of course," he added more loudly, looking at the other students still listening nearby in either curiosity or, perhaps, faint disgust, "I'm certain that we could both handle you rather easily, Smith, if you had simply had the courage to face us head-on instead of attacking from behind-" and he finally spied the House emblem on the front of the other boys robes and nodded toward it as he smiled on the inside.
"How very Gryffindor of you."
Zacharias sputtered in outrage at the comment, finally managing to gather up the wit to respond after several seconds. By that point both of the other boys had shrugged him off and returned to Narcissa's side to examine their new pets with interest, pausing only long enough for Harry to snatch his wand up from the platform a short distance away.
As was to be expected, Draco took to his own eagle-owl quite readily, looking over the gleam of the feathers and the sharpness of its beak in a satisfied manner. It stared him hard in the eye for a long moment and he returned the look, smiling.
"I'll find a name for you before we reach the end of the train ride, owl." He said to it and felt amusement as it gave him the cold shoulder, flicking the tail feathers and turning the head to look at the other owls and students on the platform.
Harry on the other hand was still staring at the tawny and spotted owl in the silver cage with not only surprise but a similar expression of faint doubt that he had worn when Professor Quirrell had picked him up that dark night over a month ago.
"She's... she's beautiful..." he said quietly at last, reaching up a finger and stroking the nearest feather carefully. The owl blinked amber eyes at him and hooted softly in return twice, leaning forward as if preening for him, and Harry repeated the motion.
Draco watched and nodded approvingly. "Pretty, yes. Not quite as regal, but very pretty." He said. "What kind of a name do you have in mind?"
Harry glanced back at Draco and paused to consider. "I.. don't know. I kind of forgot about getting an owl once we started dueling. What do think I should name her? I'm not really good with names and I don't want to give her a bad one." He responded.
"Huh," Draco sighed as he examined the spotted appearance of the feathers more closely, pacing around the cage to get a better look. "I'd avoid anything related to history, or at least until you've a better idea of her personality, and obviously you wouldn't apply any kind of food or location unless you just felt like embarrassing the poor owl." He said as he thought.
He mentally checked off any names that might also fit his own unnamed owl for the moment as he went through anything that sounded good, and Harry's eyebrows met as he tried to come up with something fitting.
"Mythological names might work, of course," Draco added as another area came to mind. "If you're sure she's definitely female, and given the closeness in look to a leopard, a great hunter..."
"Artemis? Minerva?" He finally suggested, filing away Perseus as a possibility for his eagle-owl.
Narcissa interrupted before Harry could answer him. "Unless you wish to suffer potential trouble for irritating the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts, I would choose the former, Harry." She told him firmly.
Harry nodded. "Artemis? Do you like that name?" he asked his owl. For along moment she stared back at him, then hooted twice and blinked one more time before ducking the head beneath a wing and going to sleep.
He stared, unsure of the answer.
The rest of the hour was passed by route of Harry perusing the small but detailed book Draco's father had given him the previous morning, something of a late birthday present. It was a miniature of the
Families of Magical Britain and their respective bloodlines tracing back to the fourth generation- for now.
Every year that he passed on the way to adulthood would reveal the next generation back until, as he turned of age, it finished edging out as far back as could be historically accurate by the best records available.
The reasoning, as Lucius had told him while he continued to run his hands over the slim black leather backing, was to help him recognize those whom he should associate with and whom to judge as either possibly useful in the future, or flat out best to avoid.
What had not been mentioned was that it would secretly record the line of Harry's friends and relay that information to the original copy in the Malfoy household.
Once or twice Zacharias approached to start up something, but after Draco's Jellylegs Jinx took him by surprise twice in a row, the future-Hufflepuff student deemed it unwise to risk a third humiliation and chose to ignore them any further.
Draco passed the time in relative boredom, and he sighed beneath his breath in relief when the whistle of the train sounded at the fifteen minute mark before departure.
The platform had crowded up rather well by that point and most of the families around rushed forward, dragging all manner of trunks, cages, and packages with them.
Narcissa looked up from the book she had taken to reading in the meanwhile and set it aside to lean forward and hug her son loosely. "Behave and try not to irritate Severus- that goes double for you, Harry," she told them as Draco squirmed uncomfortably, and Harry nodded with a simple "Yes, ma'am," in response.
Together they hefted the cages up and began to push through the surge of students and taller bodies in the way, and in minutes they had settled down in a car near the back of the train comfortably.
The whistle pierced the air shrilly again and those still struggling to board hurried up even further, and a short few minutes later the last student had successfully stepped over the stairs in time to avoid being left behind.
The year had officially kicked off, and in several hours time, the news of Harry Potter's arrival at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry would be spreading throughout most of Diagon Alley.
His sorting would rekindle the old rumors from ten years past.
"Potter, Harry," read off an aged witch in scarlet robes bearing the Hogwarts coat of arms along the right breast, a stark black hat perched precariously over her gray hair and the winding list of first-year students clutched between the fingers of her left hand.
For a moment after she read the name it seemed like nothing had changed, but once everyone in the hall realized whose name she had uttered an uneasy silence ran across every table in the room.
He stepped forward nervously at the result of just his name being spoken aloud, still unused to the fact that it could hold such significance among their society, and focused upon the very nigh-ancient looking, withered-hat sitting upon the stool next to the witch.
He was indeed thankful toward Draco's mother for the suggestion that he choose Artemis instead of Minerva for his owl's name after hearing the stern old witch's name was indeed the latter.
In about ten seconds that felt more like an hour and a half, he had reached the stool and sat down with the hat slumping over his ears and eyes and nose, muffling the faint murmur of the Deputy Headmistress as she took in the pre-selected House emblem etched into his robes.
At once he felt something soft and tired-sounding brush up against his thoughts, and a voice much the same rang within his head and not his ears.
"What a quandary you present, Mister Potter, what a scenario indeed," the voice spoke.
He did not much like the sound of that.
"And well you shouldn't, given the notion planted in your mind! Relax dear boy, I issue no harm, merely a jesting measure to measure your determinations on this front." The same voice responded to his concern easily.
"You have no place in the house of badgers, of this I have no doubts; where hard work is harder work than you should dare have learned of so soon in life. We rid such notion from the list, and leave but three left to peruse thoroughly," the voice continued.
"Willing genius indeed dwells deep at thought, yet not a fountain of untapped wit so rapier sharp," the voice said and paused to consider something, adding after a few more moments, "the drive to soar is available in your heart, but toward what ascension would it mount?"
He had no idea what that meant, which probably supported what the voice was getting at.
"You have seldom been brave enough to invoke the courageous and foolhardy charge toward risk and wild chance, abandoning the chase for triumph against such steep odds after years of sub-servitude defeat," the voice intoned and, for the first time, he felt a sense of... perturbed anger? Or disappointment, perhaps. He didn't enjoy the feeling it invoked inside of him that he was something of a coward.
It paused at that again for a moment. "Not a coward, Harry Potter. A maimed spirit in desperate need of repair, only minimally tempered to endure in recent days." The voice had returned to its weary tone.
That put him even more on edge nevertheless, and he was beginning to wonder if it might dismiss him entirely despite his desire to join Draco in Slytherin.
"Yes, that is the last choice to make, of wandering deep within the den of snakes. I feel great prospects lay at heart about your core, firmer than any other element of these four potential Houses," the voice finally said and drew silent again.
Harry held his breath. It was now or never, waiting to hear if he would make it to the House he longed to join.
A faint sigh came at that. "And so you go. That is where you would most be satisfied, if not wholly whole. I welcome you to your House, Harry Potter, the domain of... SLYTHERIN." The voice seemed to scream the word out, and Harry nearly fell off the stool as it echoed within his eardrums as well as in his mind.
He tugged it off of his head and felt the silence in the air rustling, as if he sat before the heart of a hurricane, and then it had swept over him in a rush of noise and jeering shouts, feet stamping and voices murmuring loudly and quietly alike.
Harry slid off the stool and straightened his back as Draco had done, and quickly strode over to the loudest table of all to join his fellow housemates.
Unnoticed at the staff table, the already waxy tones of the resident Potions Master paled considerably further as the Sorting Hat declared Harry Potter's house.
It was not entirely unexpected given what he had been told by Dumbledore, and the few rather biting letters sent between himself and Lucius afterward, but the fact that he would have to play host to his enemies son for seven long years sent a bitter chill racing down his spine.
Even if he lacked his fathers swagger and arrogance, a decidedly possible thing from the descriptions he had read, it was inevitable that Lucius-through-Draco would mold such an outcome by no later than the third year at-best.
As if aware of the way his thoughts were racing, he felt the unmistakable weight of Dumbledore's gaze settling upon him and resisted the urge to look into their silvery-blue depths- least his fury at the promises drawn out of him at the older wizards meddling thoughts and intentions cause him to do something unsavory, such as switching out the mead for a degree of Drought of Living Death.
No, he couldn't do that. It was just the thoughts of Potter digging their poisonous claws back into his mind and altering his perception of the one man responsible for his continued freedom, who had drawn his will to live back from the edge ten years ago as he cradled Lily's ruined frame to his chest.
He directed his gaze to follow the boy over to the proper table and sank down into a seat beside his godson, trying to observe the clarity of the green eyes for some sign of Lily in their reflection.
Beside him Professor Quirrell quietly tapped him on the wrist, and in an instant Severus' eyes were boring into the lesser wizards own.
"What," he asked flatly.
Professor Quirrell managed a very faint smile and inclined his large purple turban in the direction of the Headmaster, indicating the eldest male's desire to talk.
Reluctantly and with no way out of easily avoiding it now, Severus turned his eyes upon the Headmaster.
"A staff meeting, I think," was all that was said to him before the last student to be sorted sat down, and Albus stood to give the usual announcements.
Severus grimaced and turned back to his currently empty plate with a wearisome internal sigh.
There was no chance of salvaging Lily's memory with the look of James Potter so clear in the child's face, and the posture that was as-yet missing would ensure the second-coming soon enough.
The rest of the sorting concluded with few other such upheavals as Harry's own, and he tried to blend in and keep up with the cursory and flatly curious stares like Draco and his father had explained to do; as though they did not matter.
As the last newly inducted student sat down at their respective table, the Headmaster clapped his hands twice for attention and rose.
"As per our usually occurring introductions and announcements required of a newly begun year, I have quite a few messages to spread to our students both old and now welcomed new to these most auspicious and encompassing halls," he said, and smiled perhaps a little too brightly to be entirely real.
"For now, however, such words must wait until our bellies are roundly full and a satisfied smile has assuaged our expressions for the time. Tuck in!" and on those final words he sat back down and clapped once more.
Instantly the empty golden platters before the masses were overflowing with a multitude of entrees, from roast beef to carved turkey, half a dozen differently mashed and roasted potatoes, vegetables from every definition in the British Isles and some beyond them, and an assortment of jugs with a strange orange juice filled to the brim next to all of these.
The clatter of hundreds of hands scooping up the various foods for their own meal occurred on and off for twenty minutes, including into a most-agreeable desert menu, before as the Headmaster had predicted, everyone was well and heartily full and most were happy to grin contentedly.
The Slytherins were not such a group, however.
The older students were sitting still with neutral expressions as the middle-years looked around in vague disinterest, and it was only a few of the not-in-the-know first years such as Crabbe and Goyle that were showing their satisfaction at the dinner.
Draco imitated the others and kept himself from showing anything as Harry couldn't help but sigh contentedly, looking off to the head-table for the aforementioned messages now that everyone was sated, and sure enough with a sweep of his silver beard the Headmaster arose again.
"Now, onto the matters I have to explain. All students are forbidden from the aptly-named Forbidden Forest, least you wish to stumble upon such unpleasant things as the resident Acromantula scavenging for a human-sized meal; on the bright side, you would have to wander very far indeed to stumble therein, so onward still; the Centaurs, whom dislike living in such proximity to the castle and will not hesitate to intimidate if not outright punish those they cross paths with; and many more known lesser-magical creatures." He said rather more gravely than his some-what-too-cheerful tones of before.
The effect had a rather nice go of scaring the younger students and definitely catching the attention of most of the others, who had apparently not been informed of such things in prior years.
The older Slytherins were definitely giving the Headmaster proper attention, at any rate.
He continued, "I say these things not to unduly scare and frighten you, but to educate you that danger does lurk within our world, to those whom come from less-informed families both magical and mundane alike. The Ministry would not allow us to remain open if students were regularly abducted, eaten, or beaten by such creatures, so you need not fear for your life unless you take that dire risk and step therein."
"With that warning given, it is important to know that wandering the school halls after nine o'clock at night is not forbidden as much as it is strictly frowned upon without a legitimate reason, and I use that word instead of the easily mistaken-for excuse as that is not something we accept." His sharp gaze wandered over the Gryffindor table in particular as it swept over the students.
He continued after a few moments.
"A reason may include finishing up a detention, the prowling duties of the Prefects and respective Headboy and Headgirl, and meeting with a teacher to begin said detention or answering a request submitted by one. I myself recall Headmaster Dippet keeping several of us on round-the-clock call to explain our homework in the sixth year."
And here he laughed lightly, attempting to break the somber mood set by his first message.
A few others laughed with him, but most barely smiled weakly.
"An excuse, on the other hand, is returning a book to a friend in another House, or to the library, which is closed by ten o'clock. A trip to the kitchens, bathrooms, or classrooms is likewise unacceptable, and when any of you who may think to try such are inevitably caught, you will lose an abundance of house points and have no fewer than two detentions assigned," he carried on, reducing the mood right back down into a concerned spiral.
"Having given such grave warnings, I would like to conclude on a lighter tone; the gifts of magic we are now endowed with and enabled to utilize can bring forth wondrous things if you are willing to learn them. The doors of each and any teacher are always open to our students should they need or merely wish to discuss their subjects and homework more thoroughly- and now, to bed. Up and on your way! Follow the Prefects!" he called out in a pleasant tone.
The students pushed back from the tables and began to follow after those with the gleaming badges pinned to their chests, a multitude and sea of golden red, silvery blue, copper yellow, and platinum green.
Harry followed next to Draco and kept his questions to himself until they were out of the majority, just as instructed to earlier on, and though he was definitely uncertain about what an Acromantula was he had no intention of approaching one nor the forest where it dwelt if he could avoid it.
After a few minutes they descended past the large staircase and began to walk down into the rather colder dungeons, approaching a wall of particularly slimy and molded over fashion. "Egyptian Asp," intoned the lead student, and the wall shimmered lightly. He ducked his head down and stepped through much like the platform to the Hogwarts Express.
The others followed.
After everyone had arrived within the moderate-sized common room, the senior students blocked off the stairway and in a show of superiority and smugness, banished the first years into the nearest armchairs and couches with a sweep of several wands.
Harry in particular landed with a flat thump against a couch and nearly bounced right off of it, grasping at the armrest tightly and winching at the motion. An intimating fellow with a name of Marcus Flint burned into his robes stepped forward at that point, along with a fairer-looking witch named Gemma Farley.
Flint's eyes roamed over her form for a moment in distaste before he spoke up.
"Alright, you little cretins, listen to what we have to say and pay bloody attention, 'cause if I have to repeat this to any of you, I'll be making sure its chiseled in permanently," he threatened.
Most of the other students looked up at him firmly. "Your a part of Slytherin now, the House of Champions, the only house in this school worth a damn- you think Merlin was sorted into Hufflepuff? You think You-Know-Who took his lessons outta Ravenclaw? No!" he snarled, jumping from one wide-eyed student to the next.
Gemma let him rant about the greatness that was expected out of each and every one of them for another fifteen seconds before she twirled her wand in the air and locked his tongue to the roof of his mouth. His narrowed glare focused intently upon her, but she just stepped forward another foot and one of the other older years dragged Marcus back.
"What my fellow sixth-year was trying to say is that we're cunning, ambitious, intelligent, loyal, and when the times call upon it, fierce. We empower the traits of the other three houses and meld them all together among ourselves- Marcus, for example, is ambitious and often fierce, while I am intelligent in addition, and the others of our year take up the slack with loyalty and cunning." She told them quietly.
"We expect you to find out what traits you have inside of yourself and unify them together with your fellow first years to create a bond that, while close individually, with be abjectly positive to the name and outside appearance that embodies Slytherin at this school. You are to check your emotions outside of this common room, and you'll learn to manage it with respect toward your elders here, too, if you know whats good for you." She finished with a taut smile.
After a few seconds she and the rest of the older students departed, leaving the first and second years alone. Harry finally let go of the couch and realized he had a cold sweat, and for the first time since learning about magic a month ago, he wondered what he had gotten himself into here.
Draco looked less shaken, and Harry carefully stood up and walked over to him. "Better than father said it would be, that speech." He said calmly up to the darker-haired boy, motioning toward the empty seat next to him as another pair of boys walked up.
Draco smiled at them, recognizing the others.
"Good to see you again, Nott, Zabini." He greeted.
Nott ignored him and stopped in front of Harry, examining his appearance critically, while Zabini returned the greeting and started up a light conversation as he waited to see what the fourth Slytherin would do.
Harry's first instinct was to offer a hello, but weeks at Malfoy Manor had taught him better, and he kept his silence to withstand the scrutiny. "I'll be watching you, Harry Potter. My father sends his regards." Nott finally said neutrally, eyes passing straight over Draco as if he were not there, and headed toward the first years room.
Draco frowned at being snubbed by a boy he had known for several years now and filed a mental note to send his eagle-owl back home with a letter regarding their fathers.
Harry looked nonplussed at the statement. "Do you know-?" he began, and Draco spared him a disapprovingly look.
"Right." Harry corrected himself, recalling the rules for discussions at school.
He offered a hand to Zabini as the other boy hadn't shown any hostility so far, and after trading grips and getting a greeting in return things began to pick up.
The school year flickered past.
As Gemma and Marcus Flint had more or less ordered that first night, the Slytherin first years maintained a solid image and began to forge a sort-of bond between themselves.
Draco picked up where Harry's talents faded, loaning aide as needed, while Harry's skill for Charms served them both good.
Zabini had a good enough hand at Transfiguration to spare him detention when he couldn't even so much as turn the matchstick silver in the first lesson, and while Nott kept to himself as much as possible, he would offer advice to Zabini who in turn would spread it onward to the other two.
Potions, unfortunately, could not be salvaged.
The very first lesson was fine, as he followed the instructions with little trouble, and though he had a feeling the Professor did not like him, it was probably because of something dating back to his own father just as he had learned Nott's father was in a feud of some kind with Draco's once the letter came back.
No, it was over several lessons that it became apparent his skill was merely adequate, and that was not tolerable to the Professor and their Head of House.
He in particular was expected to brew potions above the level of the rest of the students that year, and he could hardly complain when they turned out no worse than average.
He did not lose points, but the condescending look as he was continually held back after class and pressed over why he could not do better soon had him weary and disappointed to attend the class- he could not satisfy the Professor, and the one time he actually turned in a potion worse than the others, he was given detention practicing until he finally did get it right.
That night he didn't return to the common room until midnight, holding a signed slip of parchment with the reason why he was out so late from his Head of House should one of the other teachers on patrol spot him.
He missed breakfast in the morning and barely arrived to the first class of the day on time.
September faded into cool Autumn and October in such a manner, and before they knew it Halloween was soon upon them.
The halls were lit by ethereal blue and green flames shaped in imitation of an hollowed-out skull, the eyes flickering eerily as the jaw snapped-to and grinned lecherously whenever a student approached.
Inside of the Great Hall a multitude of transfigured jack o'lanterns hovered above their heads and displayed a proper yellow glow from natural candles, and depending on whose table they belonged to, the lanterns were shaped into the corresponding house's animal.
The ghosts were dressed up for the occasion, and several more were in attendance than could usually be seen roaming about the halls, looking truly ghastly behind some kind of glamor applied for the night.
Harry had never seen such a glorious celebration before, and his eyes turned away from the faint lightning in the sky to look down upon a spectacular sight at the floor; an unlucky Gryffindor had stepped on one of the numerable holiday-specific trick tiles and sunk up to his waist.
The boy's flaming-red-hair conflicted with the embarrassed tone of his face as he struggled and beat upon the floor uselessly. "Oi, Ron! We'll make sure to save you a few chicken bones once you finally get out!" another alike-headed student a few years older called merrily down to the other boy.
A rude hand gesture was the follow up response, much to the further amusement of most of those gathered in the hall save the boys Head of House, the older witch who had conducted the sorting from the looks of things as she descended from the staff table to scold him.
Harry noticed that the rest of the Slytherin first years he was close with hadn't moved any further in yet despite being passed by others arriving for the feast, and they all looking a little unhappy about the thought of stepping on a similar tile and getting mocked by the rest of the school for it.
"My turn for fierceness?" He asked them without losing much of his enthusiasm.
Draco shrugged. "I do owe you for the Wingardium Leviosa adjustment." He offered mildly.
"How about we go together, then? Any longer and everyone else is going to start having a go at us for being cowards." Zabini reluctantly suggested.
The word struck an unpleasant chord in him in remembrance of the Sorting Hat's message, and Harry nodded and stepped up.
Less then a minute later they had all successfully traversed the potential sinkhole-path without incident and taken their seats successfully.
The meal passed rather easily and even some of the other Slytherin's weren't able to resist snickering when Professor Quirrell triggered another tile just past the staff table. He sighed good-naturedly about it and reclined where he was, satisfied to charm another platter and goblet over until the time-release counted down and freed him.
When all was said and done, the Headmaster stood up once more. "A mere one sixth of our year has already passed, and yet there is already a great development among our students, as you begin to craft out friendships that may well and happily endure far beyond these walls and throughout the years to come." He said.
"I am happy to have no news to spread regarding vanished or maimed students thus far, despite the flood of letters from a multitude of concerned students that are now neatly folded and transfigured into a magnificent paper sculpture of this school within my office. The contrast of the frozen howlers in particular adds a wonderful tint for the windows." He said, still smiling, but the tone of his voice had changed into something slightly-less warm, and many of the students were fidgeting.
"I expect better of you in the future- it is entirely justifiable to write to a loved one in concern over the Forbidden Forest, but allow me to reassure each and every one of you that your health and continual safety is taken into account from the moment you set foot within these ancient, hallowed halls." His tone had definitely lost any semblance of warmth to it, and in response the glow of the lanterns dimmed accordingly.
"I will not permit harm to come to any student who has been accepted into Hogwarts so long as that student exercises the proper sense of intelligence and attention required to not actively seek their demise, thus the warnings the Minister insisted be given this year." He began.
"If you choose to wander into the Forest, the wards set up to defend you against undue pain and trouble will not stand firm in protection. If you choose to fly upon the Quidditch Pitch, the wards will not save you from jumping off of your broom."
"Be mindful, always, and do not do me the dishonor of thinking I have so little concern for your lives as to not keep these threats at bay as I may." His voice had filled with a sort of power that drew in the gaze of every other person within the hall- except for one or two, and they were fellow Professors.
"The next time I receive a letter screaming of negligence and lack of interest in your futures, I will personally escort that wizard or witches child up to my office and Floo them home for the rest of the week to reassure the concerned guardian that their child is safe." He warned.
Without anyone realizing it the light in the hall suddenly brightened as he released the power that had been gathering. The students more or less flinched, and the Headmaster received a wary few looks from the other Professors, but he leaned forward on the table and smiled brightly as if the conversation was one of good cheer again.
"I trust that this message will be carried back to your parents. If they see fit to take you from Hogwarts, they may do so, freeing them of their concerns entirely though I would prefer not to lose any more of you than necessary- the graduating class must unfortunately carry on." He said.
It was with a somber mood that the Halloween festivities concluded, and the students carefully progressed beyond the double doors out into the rest of the school.
Within the Slytherin Common room again, Harry pondered what the Headmaster had told them, and Draco seemed to have just as much of a curious expression on his face.
"I think Dumbledore was one of us, Potter." Draco told him after a few moments of thought.
"Really?" Harry asked. Draco stood up and gestured for the other boy to follow him to their dorm room and then unlocked his trunk to pull out Hogwarts, a History.
"After that speech and the way he threw his power around so casually, I'd hazard a strong yes in that direction," he said as he flipped it open and began scanning down the index until he found a section underlined as Notable Students in Recent Times.
Harry craned his neck to get a better look and spotted the name first, listed as attending school for the first time in 1901- ninety years before his own sorting, and yes, next to his name was the emblem for Slytherin.
Beneath it was a list of his achievements, and both of them were suitably impressed. "Potter, if at least one student doesn't get expelled from school following tonight's speech by one month, I'll eat my hat. I had no idea Dumbledore was one of us!" he said as if dismayed.
"Going by the way he wants you taken back to those filthy beasts, I'd say he had an idea of your situation and beyond that a plan for it. Why else would he fight so firmly to get rid of you? Father warned me that night that we were probably interfering with one of Dumbledore's carefully laid plans for the future!" Draco carried on.
Harry frowned. "You can guess all of that based solely on his sorting and personality tonight?" he asked doubtfully.
Draco frowned back at him. "Not just tonight, Potter, but several things we've seen before as well. I'd be even more wary outside of our house than you usually are from now on."
"... Alright." He agreed uncertainly.
Normally he had no trouble accepting what the other boy told him, but he had an unpleasant feeling about this discussion and the way it was headed. If the Headmaster knew he was treated so much like a common dog, if he knew the kind of suffering that had been inflicted and yet still chose to ignore it, solely because the older wizard had been a Slytherin almost a century ago and might have some kind of reason for the continuation of his misery...
Then how was he supposed to turn out?
What was he supposed to do about it?
The seed of concern had been sown, and it could only grow from there in the times ahead.
As Fall flickered through into a white and snowy Winter, over the Christmas holiday Harry returned to Malfoy Manor along with Draco, and he spent much of the time catching up on current events outside of Hogwarts when he wasn't reading further ahead in his studies.
That niggling doubt about his safety and upbringing thanks to the Headmaster simply wouldn't be put down, but it was temporarily displaced by the news in the Daily Prophet leading up to the eve.
Daily Prophet, December the 21st, 1991
BREAKING NEWS! OUR VAULTS AT RISK?
by Rita Skeeter
A little under four months ago, the esteemed bank of wizarding-Britain's peoples, Gringotts, was broken into by an as-yet unnamed late wizard and accomplice in the act, one Cuthbert Mockridge of the Goblin Liaison Office, who was not on-scene for the assault to our greatest stockhouse of gold in the country, but was later apprehended at the Ministry of Magic after a passing auror heard Mister Mockridge murmuring anxiously to himself within a restroom stall nearby.
He has been tried and, due to tensions between wizards and goblins and the many known and infamous wars between us and they, Minister Fudge quickly had Mockridge sentenced to Azkaban in an attempt to appease them.
Any attempt to wrangle free the information of who was captured and executed in a showing of typical goblin justice at Gringotts has met with a flat tide of rebuttals and, in one unfortunate case, the loss of an ear.
"The moment our property was stepped upon, the subject became a matter of goblin-only responsibility- did we ask for the name of that fool in your so-called Goblin Liaison Office who sold out our kind? No, we allowed you to do with him as you would, given the property he was on at the time of the incident in question. Be grateful we haven't closed the bank down while we await the corpse-transfer ceremony."Said the Gringotts spokesgoblin.
A little information on that last part of the paragraph, for those uninformed about such things; a corpse-transfer ceremony was often inducted between two warring tribes at the end of a battle, so that the dead could be further maimed by the respective tribes-goblins to whom each dead belonged. It was also used to trade in certain situations, and it seems they are holding out until they can get their little-taloned hands upon poor Cuthbert.
For more information on his situation, see pg 4, section 1.
Depending on your history lessons(which, given the Professor, I'm sure we all missed out on an abundance of direly important details), the last time Gringotts was shut down was in the wake of dark wizard Grindelwalds duel with equally impressive gray wizard and infamous alchemist Albus Dumbledore.
The usage of pure-gold objects to destroy the dark wards and curses before they could reach the latter wizard sent the value of galleons after the fact plunging downward, and the goblins of the day closed down the marble doors in order to re-estimate the value accordingly.
For further information on the duel, backlogs of the original Daily Prophets may be re-issued for a limited time during the season, so place your orders now to get all the pertinent details on Hogwarts current Headmaster!
Draco's father had left it out on the table after finishing up with it earlier in the day, knowing that Harry had taken to browsing it when he wasn't dealing with his homework, and it was with a frown in place that Harry memorized the address and cost and set the Prophet back on the table where he had found it a few minutes before, then headed out to find Artemis in the small Owlery in the back of the manor.
Gringotts was supposed to be the second-most secure facility in all of magical Britain, following only behind Hogwarts itself. That a wizard could break in at all had to undermine the trust people would have in the bank, even though the culprits were caught in the process.
If the goblins chose to host another rebellion, just what were they supposed to do about it? He'd definitely look into at least getting a portion withdrawn in the near future.
A few minutes later and Artemis had set out to the Prophet with the required last spare galleons from his school shopping trip attached. What gold he had left prior to that had already been invested in the upcoming event.
December the 25th came and went on the journey to the New Year, and from there into a cool Spring once again.
For the first time in his memory Harry actually received Christmas gifts, only the second set of his life, and the first set had come when he was not even six months old.
The wand-holster came courtesy of Draco and Mister and Misses Malfoy, while Zabini provided him an adequate Transfiguration-support book, giving advice and general knowledge tips to help his less than average skill level a chance of improving ahead of the curve.
An additional and self-warming winter cloak and gloves were probably the most unexpected of the lot, however- they came courtesy of Professor Snape, his head of house. He couldn't puzzle out why the man who seemed to be approaching a degree of despising his very sight would do so, but he accepted it as a strange quirk for the time when Draco also received a similar, if slightly higher quality, set.
He had been remarkably and understandably happy. For the first time in his life, he truly had friends and a place that he was glad and comfortable to be at.
When he and Draco returned to the school afterwards his investments had paid off well, receiving a warm welcome back from most of the other first-years in Slytherin.
Over the next couple of months his studying had also gathered him a noticeable improvement in classes. He couldn't honestly do any better in Potions without flat-out ordering a masters-class brew and somehow slipping it past the Professor's watching eye, and so merely took to performing every action as clearly and cleanly to the detail as he could.
It still didn't earn him any favor, but at least he wasn't scolded over trying as usual after the first few lessons of near-perfect application- and a subtle lowering of his fellow year-mates own applications in response to his request that first night in the common room.
Another improvement that followed was one of the least likely any student to take the class could possibly imagine- in History of Magic he was making an effort to at least listen and try to read any particular notes of comparison.
If the goblins were going to shake things up he wanted to have an idea in advance, and Professor Binns was usually lecturing them about the wars and rebellions of old anyway, so what better way to look into his concern about their gold?
But for the most part he found nothing to indicate Gringotts had ever been disturbed in all the rebellions. After a while he forced himself to keep listening and checking, but in the back of his mind he still wondered.
The remainder of the school term flickered by swifter than Harry might have imagined, going from class to class on a daily basis as the Summer heat began to take over.
Before he knew it the end of year exams were upon the school, and though he was remarkably excited about proving his knowledge and actually getting a passing grade for the first time in his life since he was five or six years old, he could hardly believe nine months had swept by him.
The change in just three-quarters of a year could make astounded him; he was happy, he had friends he could rely on as much as they relied upon him, he was actually learning and making progress in his life rather than being confined to a standstill like he used to be, and above all, he felt like he had an idea what his life could actually become.
Mister Malfoy had responded to his concerns over the goblins enough to allow for a short trip after the school year concluded, though how much would be withdrawn or if anything would change at all had yet to be confirmed.
As was usual, the Headmaster made his grand-if-concerning speech to the students, saying farewell to the graduating Seventh Years and bidding a welcome hastening of the summer holidays for the rest of them who would be returning later that year.
"It is with great pleasure that I have some news to give to you all," Dumbledore said toward the conclusion, sparing a few moments to look at each table in longing.
"Professor Quirrell has survived this years curse unharmed, and taking the blessing for what it is, has gratefully retired. While this means we must find a new teacher for our empty Defense against the Dark Arts position, it also indicates that the role may finally be purged of the final remnant that our late Dark Lord had so graciously left behind some twenty years ago." Dumbledore told them.
"I expect that applications for the role will begin rolling in over the summer and that we may actually have to take a vote to decide who shall be instructing you! Now," he paused to let his smile fade away, standing up a little straighter.
"With any great news, we must always allow for the chance that grim tidings will catch apace and begin to darken our thoughts, and it is thus that I must also give a general warning in regard to a certain subject that occurred only recently," His voice had grown from the bright cheery tune to a more reluctant one.
"As you probably have not heard, the greatest alchemist to appear among us for at least half a millennium has at last embraced the great demise and walked over into the final journey we all must make some day." He paused a moment, as if considering his words carefully, and then continued.
"Nicholas Flamel has passed beyond the living at the age of 116, leaving behind a widow and the remnants of his ancient store of knowledge. In honor of our great friendship, in his will he has agreed to donate much of that alchemical knowledge to our own library within Hogwarts, and as such come this September the 1st, any student from the third year onward will be able to take out a loan on one book at a time. What further restrictions must be in place will be confirmed as of that date and over several meetings with Mrs. Flamel." He said with the first hints of true sadness displayed that year.
"I ask you all to take a moment and give toast to his memory and the help he has given to the improvement of our society, for this world would surely be a lesser place without his aide toward it." He lifted a magnificent golden goblet and waited until every other person in the hall had done likewise, then downed the liquid within in a single slow gulp before setting it back to the table.
"Thank you. The results of the Quidditch Cup will be announced in short order, and then we may at last bid farewell to one another."
Harry turned to Draco at their table. "Who was Nicholas Flamel?" he asked curiously.
The name was not one he recognized, though he was impressed by the age attained- most muggles died well before seventy, and he hadn't seen any indications beyond the Headmaster that wizards lived to such an age.
"No idea. I haven't heard anything about him in our history books, and we've had Merlin within the index, so I can't suppose he had much of a role in influencing the school or general Britain at all." Draco answered honestly.
Harry glanced back at the staff table. Perhaps Professor Dumbledore was deliberately misinforming them, or as he was beginning to believe, the older wizard was succumbing to old-age and his mind was failing him.
He'd find out before returning in September, that was for sure...
End of Year One.
Well, that's the last time I upload anything via html file. Cut the majority of the italics and erased spaces all over the place! Oi! If you catch any more errors, please let me know.
Okay, that said, this is intended to be done in one-chapter=one-year sessions, so it will likely be a good long while between updates, in particular because I haven't touched this for almost two years - everything above was originally written and posted by the end of September '11, and I only recently thought to post it here at ficwad.
Nicholas Flamel's age is an intentional lie, as are the circumstances behind any donations he is making to the school. Dumbledore isn't the kindly grandfather, as should be apparent, and he is rather more conniving in order to get his goals across, so I suppose you could label him as a Manipulative!Dumbledore for this.
The Malfoy's aren't as... well, Malfoy-like as they are portrayed in canon, either. Expect some degree of character-growth as the story goes on, especially as Voldemort grows closer to revival.
We haven't seen the last of Quirrell, by the way, nor necessarily the Philosophers Stone.
Thanks for reading.