The holidays have come, and Harry grants Draco and Hermione's wishes, while Ginny makes a mistake.
Draco protested loudly about the idea that Harry could be the Heir of Slytherin, or anyone else important. Many ignored his protests, claiming that Malfoy would disparage anything which raised the status of Harry Potter. For Harry and Hermione, it illustrated the fact the Malfoy was a silly, stupid git, who should have been throwing suspicion in Harry's direction.
The twins, of course, seemed to enjoy the whole situation. Percy and Ginny seemed to be the only members of Gryffindor who did not get a laugh at the expense of the Slytherins every time the twins spouted off their nonsense, proclaiming Harry 'King of Snakes' and such, although a few, like Luna, Hermione, and Harry himself, tried not to show their amusement.
Harry was the only eligible Gryffindor who did not attend the announced Dueling Club. Harry went through three different training exercises twice each week, and so was maintaining his conditioning. While he could not yet command most powerful spells, there were a few he could, and the Brotherhood had competed with each other in coming up with low-powered but 'interesting' hexes and curses for Harry to learn.
Harry had learned them all.
They also had Harry casting most of the lowest powered spells silently, usually a sixth year skill. He had even managed to a few wandlessly, although they were still pretty erratic, and was working on Parsel-magic.
Harry had wanted to attend the new club's first meeting, but heeded his advisors' advice, which was to keep his talents hidden. When he found out afterwards that the whole thing had been a disaster, with Lockhart making a fool of himself and the students involved more in a brawl than a meeting, he was happy he had skipped.
The next day, a strong snow storm raged outside, forcing most of the outdoor classes, Herbology, Care of Creatures, and Flying, to stay inside. Hermione managed to convince Harry to spend most of the afternoon in the library.
He was glad he had spent the afternoon with witnesses before dinner, as there was another attack later in the afternoon, just before the Druids came to patrol. This time, it was the Muggle-born Hufflepuff Justin Finch-Fletchley and, more oddly, the Gryffindor ghost Sir Nicholas who were Petrified. Harry had been sitting with Susan Bones and Tracey Davis, as well as Hermione the whole time, so when Justin had been found by Professor McGonagall's last class of the day no one could blame him.
As Crabbe and Finch-Fletchley had nothing in common other than being second years, this made everyone even more nervous -especially most of the other second years. Unsurprisingly, when the list went up for those staying over the winter holidays, no one was interested. In the end, only a few would wind up staying, including the Weasleys. Hermione had been planning on going home, but her parents had been invited to attend a seminar in Australia, and Hermione preferred staying with Harry than flying over the holidays. The Weasleys claimed they were staying because they did not wish to travel to Egypt to visit Bill, but in actuality, of course, they could not afford to all go.
Malfoy found himself alone in Slytherin. Crabbe was petrified, and Goyle had refused to stay. Daphne told Hermione about the loud dust-up the two had had on the subject.
Harry just hoped it would be a quiet holiday.
Harry had a busy holiday, not even counting his homework. He celebrated the evening before the solstice with the Brotherhood and the morning of the winter solstice with the Druids. He celebrated the evening of Saturnalia with the one Roman member of the Brotherhood, Brother Marcus.
Harry liked the solstice celebrations. From Brother Marcus, Harry had picked up the idea of giving silver presents. He gave Hermione and Ginny (and sent to Luna) a charm bracelet with a little silver pot, and had sent the silver charm to the Brotherhood members he knew.
The afternoon after the students left for the holidays, Sirius Black and his friend Remus Lupin showed up. (Several members of both the Druids and the Brotherhood could perform the Homophus Charm, to instantly change the werewolf back into his normal form, so it was safe to visit around the full moon.)
Harry had never thought he could feel sorry for Snape, but he and Black were at it from the moment they laid eyes on each other, with Black usually coming out ahead. Dumbledore and whichever members of the Druids or Brotherhood present had to separate the two several times.
Black also taunted Draco Malfoy, but only when there were no other adults present. Now that he was exonerated, he was the official Head of the House of Black. Harry wasn't sure if Black really could dissolve the marriage of his first cousin Narcissa to Lucius Malfoy, but obviously Draco thought it possible, from his reactions.
When Harry woke up Christmas morning at his usual time of 5:45, he saw a huge pile of presents at the foot of his bed. He went through his morning exercises, showered, and made it back to his dorm a little after 7:00, just as Ron was waking up.
"Wow," Ron said when he came back from the loo, looking at Harry's pile with envy. "Quite the haul!"
"Well, let's open the best present first," Harry said.
"What's that?" Ron asked, wondering how Harry could tell.
Harry held up a squishy package. "Our jumpers from your Mum, of course!"
They had just pulled their jumpers on when Hermione knocked on the door and then came in, levitating her presents. "Ginny wants to sleep in, and the twins are fighting with Percy in the Common Room. May I unwrap my presents here?"
With that, the three abandoned their burgeoning teenage dignity and ripped into their piles. Harry was disappointed, although not totally surprised, to see the envious looks Ron continually cast at both Harry's and Hermione's presents.
Hermione's parents had mostly sent clothes and some technical Muggle books on astrophysics and linguistics that were beyond Harry, and seemed to depress Ron. Neither was Ron happy with the earrings Harry gave Hermione, which matched her charm, especially when he learned that Harry had not sent copies to Luna or Ginny. Neither Ron nor Ginny knew that Harry had his mentors layer protections on the charms given to Hermione and Luna.
Sirius had sent Harry an old book on wizarding matrimonial customs, which had made Harry and Hermione blush and Ron pale. The Brotherhood had not loaded Harry down with presents but had sent some interesting books, which pleased Harry, interested Hermione, and rather depressed Ron even more. Some of the Druids had also sent books on their religion to both Harry and Hermione as well.
Ron and Ginny for whatever reasons seemed rather down for the rest of the morning and afternoon, but none of the other Gryffindors really paid much attention. Percy was busy reading a thick book on international wizarding conventions, while the twins were playing with an advanced mixed potions/chemistry set Sirius had decided to give them once he had met them a few days before. Harry wasn't sure why the older men's nicknames for each other had so impressed the twins, and on the whole he suspected he was better off not knowing.
Sirius, Remus, Jason, and Cobra joined the small group gathered for the holiday feast. Snape and Malfoy were not present, mostly, Harry correctly suspected, so they would not have to put up with Sirius. Harry liked both of the friends of his father's, but he was rather leery of Sirius Black, in part because he had more mischievousness than the Weasley twins combined and in part because he was worried his godfather might try to take him away from the Brotherhood. Harry had little doubt that Dumbledore would be happy to help, if it were possible.
Without any Slytherins, this left the others at the table as the targets of Sirius' barbs. He seemed to take delight in teasing Hermione and Ginny about Harry, and Harry about the two girls. Sirius spent most of the end of the feast telling tales of Lily, which Harry would have liked to have enjoyed, except that it seemed at the end of each story, either Hermione or Ginny (or both) wound up being subtly being put down. Harry was glad Luna was not there to be teased as well.
In the end, Hermione excused herself after Sirius made one remark too many, and Ginny had muttered something which made Ron snort and Hermione tear up. "So," Sirius asked Harry before Hermione was even ten feet away, "are you going to be the gallent knight and follow one lady, or the gallent squire and entertain the other?" Hermione ran at that point.
Harry heard a soft sob from the retreating Hermione, and saw the trembling lip of Ginny. He glared at Sirius. "Perhaps I should be the ancient hero, who silences the monster who hurts school girls."With that, Harry stood, patted Ginny on the shoulder, and took off after Hermione.
Remus, Jason, and Cobra exchanged looks. "Go ahead," Remus said."He doesn't listen to me."
Jason and Cobra stood and pulled the protesting Sirius from the room to have a talk with him.
Meanwhile, Harry had quickly caught up to Hermione. "Sorry," she sobbed. "I forgot to take my potion last night, so I'm a bit over-emotional because I had to take a stronger dose this morning."
"Potion? Are you all right?" Harry asked, concerned.
Hermione colored. "Can we just say it's a woman's issue, and that it's normally not a big deal?"
Harry frowned in confusion for a moment, and then semi-comprehension dawned. "Ah. What did Ginny say to you?"
"Come on. Sirius was teasing her about being too young, but that she could grow up very pretty, and she said something to you. What was it?"
Hermione scowled, but said, "Let's just say she made a remark about my teeth, and leave it at that, okay?"
"Weasleys are the envious sort, aren't they?" Harry said. He took Hermione's hand and led her to one of the walls that looked out over one of the courtyards, and sat her next to him on the wide window ledge. "Hermione, you're my best friend."
"Thank you, Harry. You're my best friend, too," Hermione said thankfully. She realized that Harry was still holding her hand, and she squeezed his a little.
"There are things I think I need to tell you, but you'd have to learn proper Occlumency. If I can, may I arrange a tutor for you next summer?"
"I'd like that."
Harry looked at his friend. "Hermione. . . ?"
Harry took her other hand and leaned towards her slowly. Hermione looked surprised for a moment, but squeezed his hands, shut her eyes, and puckered slightly.
Harry very lightly kissed her lips, and both young teens held hands more tightly. "You're very special," Harry said, "and I think you have a very pretty smile."
That made Hermione smile a little. "We're too young to, well, be more than special friends," Hermione said, a little regretfully.
"Then you're not just my best friend, but my special friend." This time, when they kissed, they held on just a little bit longer.
"Now there's something I wish I didn't have to see."
Hermione jumped, but Harry merely turned and glared at Malfoy."What exactly did you say?" Harry asked politely.
"I said," Malfoy snipped, "seeing the two of you kiss is something I wish I never had to see."
Hermione heard Harry hiss something as Malfoy sneered, but she didn't understand it. Her attention went back to Malfoy as he shrieked.
"Something wrong, Malfoy?" Harry asked politely.
"Where are you?"
"Whatever do you mean?" Harry asked with an innocent tone which would not have fooled a toddler.
"Stop it!" Malfoy shouted again, this time pulling his wand.
"Accio! Naughty, naughty, Malfoy." Harry caught the wand.
"What did you two do?" Malfoy cried out from the floor, where he had landed after the hex took his wand.
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked, puzzled.
"I can hear you, but I can't see you!"
"It sounds like you got your wish," Harry said. "An alleged pure-blood like you should know better than to make a wish with your hand on your wand, even if it was in your pocket. Come on, idiot, let's see if the Headmaster can straighten you out."
After Harry told his story, Dumbledore asked, "Mister Malfoy. . . ."
"I did nothing I tell you!" Malfoy shouted. "Potter or his Mudblood whore did something to me!"
"Temper, Mister Malfoy!" Dumbledore snapped. Seeing all the eyes on him. "That will be ten points. Oh, and one point from both you and Miss Granger for being alone in the corridors. You both know better. Come, Poppy, Professor McGonagall. Let us see what we can do for Mister Malfoy."
Hermione took Harry's hand and mouthed the word, "Summer?" Harry nodded. The pair ignored the sick looks on Ron and especially Ginny's faces.
"I don't know how you get your self into these situations, Harry,"Percy said mournfully.
"It runs in the family," Remus put in.
"Believe me, I rather these things didn't happen to me," Harry said.
At that point, Jason, Cobra, and a rather chastised Sirius came into the hall as well. "Did we miss something interesting?" Sirius asked, brightening.
The other Gryffindors, save one, were back in their common room, and that one student was in her room, hurting. Harry and Hermione had been holding hands. Ginny was still in a temper about it.
She took a deep breath and pulled out the diary. It was adisturbing object in many ways, and she often had bad dreams, even during the day, when she used it. Still, she had to complain to someone.
She inked a quill, and wrote: Dear Tom. I'm sorry it's been so long since I've written.
Meanwhile, Cobra and Jason had escorted Harry to the classroom the Druids and the Brotherhood used on weekends.
"Do we need to clear your wand before Snape makes Dumbledore check it?" Jason asked, concerned, "or did you already do it?"
"Neither," Harry answered with a smirk.
Jason glared at Harry and then at Cobra. "What did you teach him?"Jason demanded.
"Why me?" Cobra asked, unexpressive as he usually was.
"You're the only person who's been teaching him whose magic I don't know fairly well."
"Do you think you know all the Master's secrets?" Cobra asked.
"Of course not," Jason retorted, "no more than he knows all of mine. But I think he would have mentioned teaching Harry something along these lines. You wouldn't."
Cobra concentrated for a moment, and both Jason and Harry felt wards going up around them. "You must remember, it was the original builders of the stone circles in western Europe who created the wand, although many other cultures created staffs, some even before the wandmakers. I grew up with neither. I mastered my magic, although I could not be as versatile with it as a wand or staff user, before the First Acolyte started my staff training when I was in my twenties. I based my magic on snake magic, Parseltongue as Harry's culture would call it. Harry took to it like a natural, and not just because of the talents he took from Voldemort."
Cobra looked at Harry. "Would you care to share, my disciple."
Jason was startled by that term. Cobra looked at Jason, which made even the warrior a tad nervous. "I know, you would consider Harry your apprentice or squire or novice or pupil or whatever term you might wish to use. Marcus and Khufu and Zin and perhaps the Master himself think of Harry here the same, while Tutmoses, Zara, and dozens more may soon as well." Cobra smirked. "I think even Scorpion thinks of Harry as his apprentice, although not for his Darker spells."
"Scorpion! He's, well. . . ."
"He's even more antisocial than I? Perhaps," Cobra agreed. "He liked Harry within five minutes, I believe."
"How did you get through his shell?" Jason asked Harry.
"I kicked him in the balls three times," Harry admitted.
"The last person who tried that, well, it wasn't pretty," Jason said, impressed. He sighed, "All right, so I can't consider Harry my exclusive student."
"No, you cannot," Cobra agreed. "Still, Zara believes he is best off under your primary care, and I learned millennia ago to trust his judgements on people."
A horrid thought hit Harry. "You . . . you'll still be around, though, won't you?" Harry asked.
"While you live, I shall be with you," Cobra said simply. "Should any harm you, I shall tear down the world, if needs be, to avenge you. Should you choose the natural order of things, I shall be with you as you cross over if I can. Should you be offered the Brotherhood and accept, I shall mentor you." Cobra placed his hand on Harry's shoulder. "We cannot be killed, Harry, even if our present bodies might be destroyed. Some of us could come back to help you within days, nearly all of us within weeks."
"That includes me, lad," Jason said. "If I were not able to reanimate this body -- which I have done before -- I would be back with you within a week or so."
Harry smiled wanly.
"Now, why not tell your guardian what you did," Cobra said.
"Draco made a wish," Harry said. "Parsel-magic helped create Hogwarts. So, when he repeated the wish, I was able to tie that wish to Hogwarts' magic." Harry frowned. "I think it actually worked in part because Malfoy is in Slytherin, if that makes any sense. I really wasn't sure what I was doing, but somehow, that's what it felt like I did."
"I'm sure you're right," Cobra agreed. "It is old magic, our snake-magic, and it often plays on desires. Unless you find a way to release him, I don't think he will be able to see you or Miss Granger within Hogwarts' wards, unless the spell wears off over time."
"Really," Cobra agreed. "Although that might only be if the two of you were together, as you were then."
"What were the two of you doing?" Jason asked.
Harry blushed. Jason and Cobra looked shocked.
"What?" Harry demanded hotly. "I was just holding her hand!"
"And?" Jason prompted.
"What was that?" Cobra asked.
"I said, I was kissing her," Harry ground out.
"By some British wizarding standards, she is not appropriate,"Jason said, "but by any other standards, she is. I approve."
"She or Miss Lovegood, of your current close circle, are indeed appropriate," Cobra agreed. "I believe you were holding hands when we came into the hall, so it may be that Malfoy will not see either of you, will not see you if you are near each other, or will only not see you if you are in physical contact."
"Have fun finding out," Jason said.