The school year starts, and annoyances pop up.
Tuesday, September 1, 1992
Escorted by Jason, Harry and Hermione arrived at Platform 9 3/4 forty-five minutes early. Hermione, on the verge of full adolescence, was overwhelmed by Jason and intrigued by the now-lean, muscular, and studious Harry. Hermione may have already read through all of Lockhart's books, but he would never stir aheartbeat.
The pair settled into their compartment quickly. Neville found them some ten minutes later. A number of other students in their year came by to say hello to Hermione, and then to Harry as well. Harry was impressed that Hermione seemed to know everyone in their year. Even two Slytherins, Tracey Davis and Daphne Greengrass, said hello politely.
The Weasleys surged onto the train with just a few minutes to go. Ron looked through the cars until he found Harry. He was trailed by his sister and a tiny nervous blonde with long hair. "Hey, Harry!" Ron said, dragging his caged rat in. "Neville, Hermione."He looked back at Harry. "Why didn't you ever write?"
"I did," Harry answered tightly.
Ron frowned. "Hedwig never showed up."
"My relatives killed her," Harry said pointedly while the others glared angrily at Ron. The Dursleys' killing Hedwig had been in the news reports, along with the stories about Harry. Ron, however, had not really read them. "I had a letter delivered to you in mid-July. It was placed on your pillow and spelled so that only you would really notice it."
"Really?" Ron concentrated for a moment. "Oh, I remember now. Ithought it was some joke of Fred and George's. Sorry." With that, Ron dismissed the summer and turned around. "Don't you two have someplace else to go?" he demanded.
"No," Ginny retorted. "I don't want to sit with Percy, or Fred and George for that matter, any more than you do."
"Mum said you should sit. . . ."
"With one of my brothers. If you aren't my brother, say so now,"Ginny pouted.
"That doesn't work on me like it does Dad, Bill, and George," Ron retorted. He glared at Luna. "And what's your excuse, Loony?"
Luna recoiled slightly. "I don't know anyone else," she said nervously. She had not been away from her father for more than afew hours since her mother's death. She had hoped she might find some friends.
"Ronald, don't be a prat," Hermione commanded. "Come in, you two, there's room."
Luna sat next to Hermione (who was next to Harry), while Ginny sat next to Neville. Ron came in last, as both girls had kicked him on the shin (Ginny twice) and it took him a minute to recover.
After everyone introduced themselves, Luna asked, "If you don't mind, are the stories about you this summer in The Daily Prophettrue?"
Harry shrugged. "More or less. I really don't want to talk about my relatives, and I can't talk about most of the rest of it."
"I understand," Luna said. She looked at Ginny, who was alternating between gazing at Harry and glaring at Hermione, before going back to Harry. "I was sorry to hear about your familiar."
"Thank you," Harry managed.
From there, the group relaxed. They spent the trip talking, mostly aimlessly, although Luna ruthlessly pumped the second years about the staff and the classes, which Hermione enjoyed. Harry treated everyone to snacks from the cart, although Hermione made them eat their sandwiches first. Harry was kind enough to trade one of his chicken Panini for one of Ron's corned beef sandwiches.
Only Hermione and Luna noticed Harry glancing at times in Ron's general direction, a puzzled look on his face.
Harry was not totally surprised when Draco and his two bookends showed up about two thirds of the way through the trip. Also not really surprisingly, Malfoy was smirking.
After a few moments, Harry asked, "Did you want something, or did you need help getting your face unfrozen?"
Malfoy's smirk faltered for a moment, but he quickly recovered. "I never thought Muggles had many uses. Now I know they can't even do something simple, like get rid of you."
"They came a lot closer than your father's master did," Harry said, holding his temper. "I guess that makes Muggles superior to your Dark Lord Voldifart."
Ron, Neville, and Ginny all stopped mid-wince, while Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle stopped mid-outraged expression.
Luna giggled, while Hermione rolled her eyes.
Malfoy couldn't quite recover, as he both needed to deny that his father followed the Dark Lord, and yet had been offended by the term Potter had used. He couldn't figure out which to do first, and so was making inarticulate noises.
"Yes, yes," Harry said dismissively, "we know. Your father didn't really follow Moldifart, he was so weak-minded that the great evil sorcerer whose magic couldn't kill a toddler could control him and about twenty others, all at the same time, even though it's impossible to use the Imperius Curse on more than one person at atime. And we know that the Great and Evil Dork Lord, who was really a half-blood named T. . . ."
"SHUT YOUR FACE!" Malfoy screamed.
"Malfoy, I've heard five year old girls scream with more balls than that. Why don't the three of you go follow each other's butts in a circle somewhere else until someone finds you who cares." Harry stood, pushed the confused Malfoy out, and shut the door.
While Hermione started to say, "Harry," Ron broke in with, "That was bloody marvelous!"
"It was not!" Hermione insisted.
"Moldifart?" Neville asked. The other version was too close to the real name to say.
"Being afraid of him makes some sense, but to be afraid of a name?"Harry asked.
"Maybe," Hermione said. "Still. . . ."
"I didn't start it," Harry said firmly. "I am not a pacifist, Hermione. I'll never let myself be abused again." Harry's voice hardened, and Hermione and Luna could detect the underlying pain."Ever."
"Not even by Snape?" Ron asked.
"No," Harry answered firmly. "If it's someone I can't handle, Ihave people I can turn to now, who will listen to me."
"The Headmaster. . . ." Hermione broke off when she saw the look on Harry's face.
Harry looked at Ginny, who nearly squeaked. "What did your other brothers say about Snape?" Harry asked.
"That he's mean, nasty, and unfair," Ginny allowed nervously."Well, Percy says he's unpleasant, but Bill, Charlie, Fred, and George all have said how nasty and unfair he can be."
"Supposedly, the Headmaster knows most of what goes on, so he must know how Snape pretends to teach. And some parents must have complained to the other Heads of House or Dumbledore. If they haven't stopped him before, why would they stop him now?" Harry shook his head. "But now I can go over his head if I have to, to outside people who might be able to put some pressure on Snape."
"Harry," Hermione said warningly.
Harry laid his hand over her wrist. "I know, I can't be petty or anything. But if I have a real problem, this year I have people Ican turn to who might be able to do something about it."
Harry didn't notice the reactions he had caused as he sat back and picked up a chocolate frog. Hermione was blushing slightly, while Ginny was glaring at Hermione and Neville was looking confused. Luna was looking at Harry and Hermione with a thoughtful look, while Ron was looking at the chocolate frog card hopefully.
"Is this one you needed?" Harry asked Ron.
"All right! Agrippa!"
The rest of the trip was quiet. The quartet found their new places at the table, leaving room at the bottom for the fifth year prefects and up to fourteen new first years.
Ron was quickly fidgeting, wanting the feast to start. He only sat quietly when Lavender, seated next to him, threatened to hex his hair purple. Hermione, seated between Harry and Neville, and across from Lavender, gave her a smile of encouragement while ignoring the whispers about the strangers at the head table.
Nearly all the students were Sorted quickly. Only two students took some time. Both Luna and Ginny could be seen concentrating, and Ginny had even muttered objections. In the end, both were Sorted into Gryffindor.
After the Feast, Gilderoy Lockhart was introduced, and his wide smile elicited numerous sighs from many of the female students, and a few of the males. The other three wizards at the table, in long white robes, were given a different introduction.
"While the Forbidden Forest is still that, forbidden and off-limits to students, there will be a group of Druids from the North American Confederation also living there. I assure you, and with no insult intended, that their presence there does not make the forest any less dangerous."
The three figures bowed.
"They or others of their group will be here on Saturdays and Sundays, sharing their view point of magic and metaphysics for those interested in learning the Old Ways." With that, the School Song was sung, and the students dismissed.
"Wait for me outside the painting," Harry whispered in Hermione's ear. She nodded and he made his way towards the white-robed figures, one of whom was actually Jason, although the other two were actually Druids.
"Potter! begone! You have no business here," Snape commanded with his usual (less than) pleasant tones.
"Pardon me, Professor, but I was told to report. . . ."
"Nonsense! That's one detention. Now, begone."
"I am sorry, Professor, but I have my orders. And I will have to protest your detention."
Snape opened his mouth, but found himself shoved into the base of the Hufflepuff table with a powerful hip-check. He swirled around to demand satisfaction over the bruising he had just received, but the threat died on his lips. Snape had nearly two inches of height over Jason, but Jason packed at least fifty more pounds of muscle. He had also been successfully threatening people for over three thousand more years than Snape, or the Dark Lord for that matter.
"Listen, you piece of Death Eater shit," Jason growled, "if you give Potter one detention, take off one point, or mis-grade one potion, I will cut your balls off and stuff them down your throat while pouring salt on the little gash they occupied."
To his surprise, Snape found himself believing that this was not athreat, but a statement of fact.
"Greater potion masters than you have found his work excellent, and you had better as well. If you have reason to discipline the boy, tell us first. We will be objective," Jason continued.
"Is there a problem, Severus?" Dumbledore asked, hurrying over.
"No, Headmaster," Snape answered shakily. He withdrew, with the realization that there actually were beings more dangerous than the Dark Lord.
"What is it, Harry?" Jason asked quietly, steering Harry away from the hovering Headmaster.
"Something occurred to me on the train," Harry said.
"Ron's rat, Scabbers . . . it matches the description Black gave you of Pettigrew."
That managed to surprise Jason. "Really?"
"Really. Percy Weasley found it near his father's office at the Ministry back in December, 1981. It was missing a toe on the same forepaw Black claims Pettigrew cut his finger from." Harry frowned."Or do I mean hand?"
Jason considered the information and then nodded. "It doesn't matter, I know what you mean. We'll look into it, so you ignore the rat. Now, scamper off to bed. Don't forget to get up early to do your exercises."
Needless to say, two days later, Ron complained that his rat had gone missing. Scabbers was never heard from again, but in mid-September, the Ministry was rocked when Sirius Black was declared innocent. Fudge, who had been the lead official in the case, and Crouch, who had sent Sirius to Azkaban without a trial, fought atough political fight of blame and counter-blame. Backed by Lucius Malfoy's money and some ruthless operators, like Dolores Umbridge, Fudge nearly won.
However, Umbridge went too far when she tried to blackmail one powerful member of the Wizengamot, who admitted having a Muggle mistress, but proved she did not know about magic. ("If I want aMuggle for a pet, what business is it of that cow-frog?" he had demanded at the end of his impassioned speech to the Wizengamot, after denouncing Umbridge, Fudge, and even Malfoy.) When another scandal blew up after the Equinox, Fudge was dismissed and Madam Bones was named Minister, leaping over several more senior people, as she had been the highest person in the Ministry not touched by the scandals. Crouch kept his position, but was seen to be very haggard, apparently from the stress of the political infighting.
In truth, it was because the stress and time involved in the fight had made him to forget to reapply the Imperius on his son, who had escaped.
In all this, Ron often bemoaned his lost rat, and Percy berated him for being careless.
As for Harry, Snape was, for the moment, content to growl and snarl but nothing more. That left Harry with three other irritations the first month of classes.
The smallest of the three, in every way, was also the most constant. First year Colin Creevey was stalking Harry, camera in hand, the first two weeks of term. In the end, Harry, Hermione, and (to their surprise) Luna came up with a plan which made everyone happy.
Percy Weasley started a two year project for his history class, documenting all of the public areas of Hogwarts. Colin was enlisted as his photographer/sidekick. This kept the two of them mostly out of other people's lives, which made them all happy.
Meanwhile, Professor Lockhart was trying many people's nerves, especially Harry's. The first day, Lockhart had unleashed a cage full of Cornish pixies. Harry and Hermione had quickly dealt with them (to the admiration of the Ravenclaws they shared the class with), but the pixies had destroyed the classroom in the next period, with the second year Slytherins and Hufflepuffs. Susan Bones and Tracey Davis had been bitten rather badly, and Hannah Abbott had suffered a broken wrist.
At Luna's suggestion about the value of building friendships across House lines, Harry had gotten the location of the kitchens from Fred and George. He, Hermione, and Neville had taken the three girls some chocolate cake (Ron had stayed in the kitchen, and served a detention with Filch for being out after curfew when he was caught three hours later).
After that, the second years (and the first and third years for that matter) had to do recitations from Lockhart's books. For some reason, Lockhart especially liked Harry to act out little skits with him.
All this was annoying, but both Harry and Hermione had to admit that the books were moderately well-written, and if they ignored how full Lockhart was of himself, they could still learn something.
Most annoying was Draco Malfoy. He, and usually Crabbe and Goyle, and sometimes Pansy Parkinson and a few of the older Slytherins, had taken to shadowing Hermione and simply glaring at her during the first week. Malfoy, of course, did the same to Harry.
That first Saturday, the Slytherin Quidditch team had confronted the Gryffindors, trying to claim the practice field. Out of this, it was discovered that Malfoy was the new Slytherin Seeker -- if only because Lucius Malfoy had bought the team new Nimbus 2001 brooms.
To the surprise of both teams and their hangers-on (Parkinson, Crabbe, and Goyle, plus two older girls who were dating two of the players for the Slytherins; Hermione, Neville, Luna, Ron, and Ginny for the Gryffindors), Harry had burst out laughing.
When Harry had calmed down, Harry turned to Wood. "Oliver, we have to send Mister Malfoy a thank you note."
"Why?" Wood asked, confused.
"The way Malfoy flies? The Slytherins have been eliminated from taking the Cup for the next six years." Harry smirked at Flint. "No matter how much they cheat."
The Slytherins were stunned. Never had Potter really talked back to them when he was taunted.
"There's no use fighting for the field," Harry went on. "Snape doesn't have the right to override the schedule, but since he babies the Slytherins so much, we might as well let them have it. It won't do Malfoy any good."
"You only got on because of your name," Malfoy shouted in desperation.
"And yet he caught the Snitch in both games he played," Hermione snapped. "We'll see how well you do."
"Keep to your place, you filthy little Mudblood!"
Harry's wand was instantly under Malfoy's nose, faster than most of their eyes could follow. "Apologize," Harry growled, trying to imitate Jason.
"I'll tell my father," Draco whimpered. Behind him, the Slytherins tried to draw their wands, but were easily out-drawn by the Gryffindors, led by Ron.
"Of course you will," Harry said, in a voice that actually was becoming very frightening to everyone but Hermione and Luna."You're too much of a coward to fight a battle on your own. Now my mother was Muggle-born, and Hermione is my best friend. You insult my House when you use that term. I, Head of the House of Potter, hereby declare that Hermione Granger, having no House of her own, is under the Protection of the House of Potter. Now, apologize."
Harry's voice had dropped, and all of the students could actually feel the power coming off of Harry. It wasn't caused by anger, but by determination.
"Apologize," the Slytherin Keeper, who was also a prefect, ordered. The other Slytherins looked at him in surprise. "Potter is the Head of an Ancient House, just as I may be, and just like some of you might be. No matter our opinions on certain matters, some lines should not be crossed, at least not lightly. Now, apologize."
Flint had considered his options. "Apologize," he agreed. "Beat him on the field, and then you can crow." He liked the brooms, but didn't like having an untested Seeker.
Draco swallowed, nearly in tears and terrified that the slight urine stain would soon become visible under the Quidditch robes. "I apologize for using that term."
Harry's wand disappeared. "Apology accepted," he said. Harry bowed to the Keeper and then to Flint. "Gentlemen, we will meet on the field of play." Flint, the Keeper, and another of the Seekers returned the bow.
When the Slytherins were out of earshot, Hermione turned on Harry and hissed, "And just WHAT did all that mean?"
"Err . . . well . . . you see. . . ."
"You had better KNOW what it meant," Hermione stated firmly.
"It's a very old custom, Granger," Wood said. "There are magical families, and then there are important magical families. Now, you'd learn all this the summer between your fifth and sixth years, if you continue with history. All of the great families used to have patron/client relationships, more like the Romans than the medieval nobility. In that respect, Harry claimed you as a client, something he couldn't have done until you were seventeen if you were from a magical family. He will defend you as if you were family. Unless you deny him, you will aid him as if you were family."
"So they're brother and sister?" Ginny asked hopefully.
"Oh, no, they can even get married if they want, although that's not common," Wood said, making Ginny scowl and Harry and Hermione blush.
Meanwhile, Draco Malfoy was sounding off. "I can't believe you allowed Potter to call us cheaters!"
"Of course we're cheaters, idiot," the Keeper sneered. "Nearly every chance we think we can get away with. It intimidates the'Puffs and the Ravenclaws, and drives the Gryffies crazy."
"Notice what he said," Flint snapped. "If you get caught, deny it, but remember you shouldn't have tried. Breaking the rules only works when you get away with it."
The two Beaters slapped their palms with their bats. "So either don't cheat," one said.
"Or don't get caught," the other added.
NOTE: Luna, after three years of abuse and bullying in Ravenclaw, was very eccentric. However, she showed at Slughorn's party in HBP that she could, and would, act fairly conventionally. She was not very eccentric in DH. So, here she is very shy, very small, and magically insightful to a small degree (which will grow slowly). With no abusing Ravenclaws, she won't be nearly as eccentric.