Dancing in the dark, Harry meets the Slytherins, Hannah and Hermione and Justin oh my!, and Harry talks to Tonks.
[*Harry Potter and the Marriage Contracts.
Chapter Nine – Growing Up
December 24, 1996
Neville followed Harry into the bank. The scion to the Longbottom family was concerned about his friend’s state of mind. When Harry stumbled into his sitting room, he had been on the jagged edge of panic. The story had poured out of the frightened young man. Neville’s first thought was that Harry had somehow misunderstood what Ginny and her mother had been talking about, but the more he thought about what he had observed of the younger witch’s behavior the last school year… Neville managed to get Harry calmed down, and begged off of the preparation for the Ministry Ball that he and his grandmother were scheduled to attend that evening. He was still going to have to go, but at least he didn’t have to spend the day in getting ready.
Harry approached one of the Goblins in the reception area, a few words were exchanged and the Wizards were escorted to an ornate (if oddly subterranean) office.
“Lord Potter.” A Goblin sitting at the desk looked up to welcome Harry. “And who is your friend?”
“This is my friend, Neville Longbottom Bank Manager.”
Neville felt his mouth go dry. Bank Manager? He was in the presence of Ragnak? Neville knew Harry had the Potter fortune behind him, but how rich was he?
“Ah, Lord Longbottom, welcome. It speaks well of you that you are with Lord Potter. Your father stood by James Potter when he assumed his responsibilities as well.” Ragnak of Gringotts turned back to Harry. “Am I to assume that you wish the future Lord Longbottom to be present for our discussions?”
“Yes Bank Manager. Neville has been raised in the Wizarding culture, while I have not. He is my advisor in things dealing with that culture.”
“Very well Lord Potter. When you came to us last night, I quite frankly thought that you were imagining things. Then I reviewed your claims. I find that I must apologize to you, if anything you are an optimist. There have been multiple withdrawals from your vaults over the last 15 years, none of which can be accounted for with the manner in which you were raised and cared for. We found evidence that reports of abuse toward yourself has been covered up for the last 14 years at least. Perhaps most disturbing, during your examination by our healer last night, evidence of at least five separate obliviations were found.”
“Five?” Neville reached out to put his hand on Harry’s shoulder seeing his reaction to that news. “Can they be reversed?”
“If Lord Potter wants us to try, we will make the attempt. We have Goblin healers readily available, if you would prefer a human healer that might take a day or two, what with the human holiday.”
“I don’t want to wait; they’ll be looking for me. No Goblin has ever lied to me or tried to control me. I’ll trust your healer Bank Manager. But first, I would like you to secure my properties for me.”
“You mean the Black house at Grimmald place?”
“Yes. Since you can speak of it, the Fidelus hasn’t been recreated on that property. I would like to contract Gringotts to establish a new Fidelus on the property.”
“That can be done by end of business today Lord Potter.”
“Thank you Ragnak. Might I ask that Bill Weasley of your cursebreaking department not being used on this account?”
The Bank Manager appeared to be startled. “Do you have problems with Cursebreaker Weasley’s work?”
“Not at all Bank Manager. However, Bill’s family is aligned with Albus Dumbledore, I wouldn’t want to put him in a position that might cause him to have divided loyalties. I’m not saying that he would, I just don’t want to put him in that position.”
The Goblin nodded. “A reasonable precaution. Who did you want for your secret keeper?”
Neville watched his friend as he considered. If asked Neville would step up, but he hoped that Harry had someone else in mind. Harry’s face brightened.
“Could you recommend a reliable young Goblin who might be looking for a small well paid position?”
November 13, 1997
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
It was a beautiful night for November, hovering about minus three. It had been below zero for most of a week, the air crystal clear and crisp. The Lake had just today completely iced over and the first snow of the season had not yet fallen.
Harry and Daphne were out for an evening stroll, their breath fogging the air. Harry took Daphne’s gloved hand in his own, feeling her squeeze back at him.
“I love it when it’s like this.” He said. “The first real cold of the year, before it gets all snowy and messy.”
“The stars are beautiful, but it’s COLD.”
Harry pulled her closer. “Cold you say? Could you use a warm up?” Leaning into her, he captured her lips.
After an indeterminate amount of time, she broke the kiss out of breath, looking up into his face she saw a few snow flakes in his hair, looking around she saw that the fat flakes were everywhere around them, gently drifting down in the calm air.
“Impressive Potter.” She said her eyes dancing with inner laughter. “You kiss me and make it start to snow.”
He pulled her closer. “Fear my power!” he whispered as he kissed her again.
An hour later the pair entered the castle laughing. Carefully used charms cleaned the snow from their clothing and vanished the residue from the floor. That action earned them an unseen approving nod from Filch. The caretaker had no great love for students, but this one… Argus Filch had no illusions as to what would have been waiting for him had Voldemort succeeded in his plans. This boy had prevented that, and from the caretaker’s detached point of view, had asked nothing in return, other than to be left alone. Filch could respect that.
The Greengrass girl took the boy by the hand and led him off. The caretaker nodded to himself, then made his way to the school exit. He and Hagrid had their normal Thursday night out at the Three Broomsticks…
Daphne lead Harry through the dungeons to the entrance to the Slytherin Dormitories.
“Would you like to come in?”
“Very much. The only question is will I be all that welcome?” Harry ran his hand through the unruly thatch he called hair. “It’s no secret that I’m not the favorite person of a portion of your house.”
“If I say you’re welcome, you’re welcome.” Daphne leaned into a familiar stretch of bare, damp stone wall and whispered a password. The stone door concealed in the wall slid open. Daphne stepped through the door way, pulling Harry behind her.
The Slytherin common room was just as he remembered it from second year: a long, low underground room with rough stone walls with round, greenish lamps were hanging by chains from the ceiling. A fire was crackling under an elaborately carved mantelpiece ahead of them, and several Slytherins were silhouetted around it in high-backed chairs.
“What the hell are you thinking bringing HIM here Greengrass?” Pansy Parkinson shrieked from one of the high-backed chairs.
“Who are you to tell me who I can take anywhere Parkinson?” She turned to Harry. “I’ll be right back” and she headed down the stairs to her dorm.
Harry watched her walk away, enjoying the way her hips moved. As soon as she was out of sight he turned to find an even dozen wands pointed at him. He raised both his hands level with his head, waggling his fingers. “I come in peace.” He intoned with a crooked smile.
“Oh quit being idiots.” Draco Malfoy slurred from a darkened corner of the room. “Fucking Potter and Fucking Neville Longbottom fought their way through more than twenty Death Eaters and still managed to kill the Dark Lord. What chance to you morons stand?”
The wands slowly lowered, though the death glares remained. “Thank you Draco.”
“Fuck you Potter.” The blond took another pull on the bottle. “You’ve ruined my life; I just didn’t want you inflating your reputation by killing any more of what pass for my friends.”
Harry removed his cloak and scarf, quietly shrinking them wandlessly before putting them in an inside pocket of his robes. “Your life is what you make it Draco. If you allow what I had to do to survive ruin your life, then that’s your problem, not mine. I’m not going to apologize for living. I never set out to hurt you, in fact other than the times you were being an ass to me and my friends you weren’t really ever an issue.”
“Take a seat Harry” Millicent Bulstrode said from one of the nearer chairs
“Thank you Millie.” Harry sat on one of the empty sofas. “Nice. Your furniture is a lot nicer than what we’ve got in Gryffindor Tower.”
“How did you win?”
Harry looked to the girl who he vaguely recognized as a 5th year. “What do you mean?”
“You’re a half blood. How did you defeat the greatest Pureblood wizard ever?” the girl asked.
Daphne returned to the common room, now dressed in black slacks and a black cashmere jumper. She sat next to Harry, pulling his arm around her shoulders.
“You mean Voldemort?” Harry asked. The girl nodded. “Voldemort wasn’t a Pureblood, he was a half blood like me.” Harry thought for a moment. “Actually for what little it matters, he was even less pure than me. Both my parents were magic users, his father was a Muggle.”
“You lie!” the girl hissed.
“Why would I lie? It’s in the public record, you can look it up. Tom Marvolo Riddle, born to Merope Gaunt following a love potion induced love affair with a Muggle named Tom Riddle. Named for his father and maternal grandfather, Riddle was sorted into Slytherin house and was Head Boy for the ’44-’45 school year. He’s in the school records. If you keep a record of the House Rolls like we do in Gryffindor, you should be able to look him up.” Harry thought for a second, and then drew his wand, doing the air-writing anagram trick with Tom Marvolo Riddle transforming to ‘I am Lord Voldemort’. “Even his name is a double joke. He anagrammed his given name to come up with ‘Lord Flight from Death’. Riddle used the Blood Purists to his own ends. I mean think about it. When he died, those who wore his mark died as well. Why? Because he slaved the Death Eater’s magic and life to his own. Beyond that, he BRANDED them like farm animals. Would someone who truly believed in the superiority of the Purebloods do either of those things?”
The fifth year evidently had enough to think about and returned to her studies with a look of confusion on her face.
Tracey had come to join Harry and Daphne on the sofa. Blaise Zabini sat on the arm of Millie’s chair and a quiet conversation started between the five began, ranging from the current class load, every one’s preparation for the N.E.W.T. exams, and the chances of Slytherin and Gryffindor houses in the Quidditch cup. In a lull in the conversation Harry pointed to a portrait next to the exit to the dungeons.
“Is that portrait new? I don’t remember it from the last time I was here.”
A sudden silence filled the common room. Evidently pretty much everyone had been listening.
“And precisely when were you ever in the Slytherin Common Room before Potter?” Ted Nott asked from across the room.
Harry could feel every eye in the room on him. That had been a mistake. “Second year during the Christmas Holidays.” The looks he continued to get (including from Daphne) told him that they weren’t satisfied with that answer.
“It was during that whole people saying I was the ‘Heir of Slytherin’ thing. We thought that Malfoy was doing it all to make me look bad.”
“Calling you the ‘Heir of Slytherin’ is not how I would make you look bad, Potter. One doesn’t make someone look bad by complimenting them,” the blond said from his darkened corner.
“Look, we were all younger and fairly stupid back then. Being called the Heir of Slytherin might not be an insult inside Slytherin house, but to the other houses it was tantamount to my being labeled the next Dark Lord.”
Malfoy considered that and nodded. “You still haven’t explained when you were in our common room.”
“Yeah, well Hermione brewed some polyjuice potion,”
“In second year? She brewed a potion that takes more than a month as a second year?” Tracey interrupted.
“Morgana, she is infuriating. It’s bad enough she’s at the top of every class, then she has to do things like that to prove how much better she is…”
“She didn’t do it to show anyone up Tracey, she did it to help me. If it was up to her, no one would ever know about it.” Harry saw every eye still on him, and sighed. He wasn’t going to get out of telling this story. “Anyway, the polyjuice was ready Ron and I got hairs from Crabbe and Goyle…”
“Who did Granger get hair from?” asked Millicent Bulstrode. “Don’t deny it; she wouldn’t have let you two idiots out of her sight.”
“Uh, from you Millie, anyway we took the potion and made our way into the dungeons.”
“You may have looked like Slytherins, but you still didn’t know the password, how did you get in?” Ted Nott asked.
“Draco found us and we followed him in.”
“Wait, I remember that. I thought Goyle and Crabbe were being particularly stupid that day, but Bulstrode wasn’t with them.” The blond said.
“Hermione had a bad reaction to the polyjuice.” Harry was NOT going to tell the Slytherins that Hermione Granger had used cat hair in her polyjuice. She would kill him as soon as word reached her. “She spent a few days in the hospital wing following that. Anyhow we found out that Draco had no clue as to who the ‘heir of Slytherin’ was, so we got out. The polyjuice was wearing off anyway.”
There was a few seconds of silence throughout the common room, and then laughter began.
“Not bad Potter.” Draco Malfoy said. “That was devious and sneaky. I didn’t think you had it in you.”
Harry smiled as well. The first olive branch perhaps? “I’ve often thought that the Gryffindors and Slytherins have a lot more in common that either of us would like to admit…”
“There’s no reason to be insulting Potter.” Draco sniffed.
November 15, 1997
The Village of Hogsmeade
The Three Broomsticks:*]
Almost two months.
Hermione Granger sat nursing her butterbeer, ignoring the students all around her. It had been almost two months since her ‘break up’ with Ron. This was her first foray outside the castle since then. She wouldn’t allow Ronald Bloody Weasley to make her into a hermit. She just hadn’t expected it to be so hard, being without Ron. After six years of always having Ron and Harry around, Hermione found herself experiencing an old emotion. Loneliness. She had known that in spades during primary school, never really fitting in, and then she thought that the experience would repeat its self here at Hogswarts until Halloween night first year, when Harry and Ron came to her rescue.
She had stupidly allowed the Weasleys keep her from Harry after Christmas last year. She had gotten most of her relationship with Harry back, but he was so focused on Daphne now… She didn’t begrudge him his happiness with Daphne, or his new closeness with Neville. Part of her wondered what might have happened if only…
“Hello Hermione.” Hannah Abbott said as she slid into the booth. “It’s so crowded in here today. Mind if we join you?”
“Of course Hannah.”
“Oh thanks. You know Justin don’t you?”
Hermione looked over to the young man with the wavy hair. “Of course I do. Good to see you again Justin.”
Justin Finch-Fletchly looked somewhat uncomfortable. “Hello Hermione. I believe the grand manipulator here is trying to fix us up.”
“Justin!” Hannah exclaimed. “What a horribly insensitive, though completely accurate, thing to say!” The Hufflepuff smiled at the squirming pair. “Oh look at the time; I’m supposed to meet Neville at Honeydukes. Toodles!” and the blond girl was gone, melting into the crowd.
Madam Rosmerta appeared at the booth “Can I get you anything?”
Justin looked to Hermione with a raised eyebrow. Hermione looked to her nearly empty butterbeer and nodded with a smile.
“Two Butterbeers please.” The Muggle born Wizard said. As the pubs owner left to fill his order, he turned back to Hermione. “Hannah was unusually subtle today. What is it with people who once they hook up with someone feel the need to fix up all their single friends?”
“I wish I knew. When I thought Ron and I were together, it never occurred to me to…” the emotions Hermione was feeling showed on her face.
“If it helps, it gets better eventually.”
“Excuse me?” Hermione said struggling to regain control.
“It takes a while but you get over it. My girlfriend back home dumped me in late August. She couldn’t deal with another ten month separation she said.”
Hermione could see the sad emptiness she felt in Justin’s eyes. “I’ll get over it you said? When did you get over it?”
“I’ll let you know.” He said with a hint of a smile.
Madam Rosmerta returned to the table with their drinks, taking Hermione’s empty with her. Justin raised his bottle. “To we few, we Muggle born, with a foot in both worlds, understood by neither side, feared by the bigots who hate us, pitied by the bigots who don’t hate us. One day, so very soon we’ll take over, and they’ll pay, oh yes, they’ll pay.”
Hermione couldn’t help but laugh. She raised her own bottle. “Hear Hear!”
On the far side of the bar Hannah Abbott was watching Hermione’s booth carefully, when the pair sitting so far away began to laugh, she got her own private smile. It was so enjoyable with people stopped resisting her sensible suggestions and just cooperated.
“Oh hell.” Hannah found Neville looking at her oddly. “I know that smile. What am I going to have to do? Dispose of bodies or apologize to someone?”
November 20, 1997
Nyphadora Tonks appeared with a loud crack in her bedroom after a particularly long and stressful shift. What looked like might have turned out to be an interesting evening out terminated suddenly when the ‘gentleman’ in question pulled a photo out of his pocket and asked “Can you look like this?”
It had taken three of their fellow Aurors to peel her off of him. The idiot in question might, or might not make his next shift depending on the skill of the healers. Tonks dropped her uniform cloak onto the chair next to her unmade bed, and had toed off her boots when a mysterious smell suddenly assaulted her senses.
It smelled like… food? What would food be doing in her apartment?
Wand drawn and in bare feet, she padded out of her bedroom to find the sitting room to be… clean. Not a takeout food box or dirty magazine in sight. The horizontal surfaces were even dust free. She had heard of such things, and even vaguely recalled seeing them at her mother’s home and at Hogwarts, but surely such conditions couldn’t exist in her apartment. Still following her nose, she eased the door open to the kitchen to find Harry Potter standing over her table pouring red wine from a bottle to a glass.
“Hey Tonks. You know, you’re quite the slob. Winky, one of my elves, loves you. She says that you know how to make enough work that an elf feels needed.” He picked up the glass of wine and pressed it into her non-wand carrying hand.
“What are you doing here? What’s that smell? And what did you do with my porn?”
“Daphne had things to do with her friends, Hermione has a date. Neville hinted heavily that I was a wheeled broom, which I took to mean not terribly useful, the Weasleys are still pissed at me, and all my homework is done, so I thought I’d come over and cook for my lovely older adopted cousin.” He smirked. And Winky said that your porn was disgusting and is alphabetized by title in the bookcase next to your sofa.
“Lovely SLIGHTLY older adopted cousin. You said you cooked, as in food?”
“Yeah, I’ve got a baked three cheese and sausage spaghetti in the oven.”
“Are you telling me that my oven works?”
“Yeah, it’s perfect. You didn’t know? How long have you lived here?”
“Three years, but that’s not important. You’re not joking, actual food that I don’t have to go out for or have delivered?”
“Yeah, it’ll be done in about ten minutes. Would you like a salad to start?
Tonks pushed her plate away and belched in a lady like manner. “If Daphne lets you get away, I’m going to kidnap you and keep you as a sex slave/cook.”
“It’s good to know I have options.” Harry said with a grin. With a flick of his wand, the table cleared and the dishes were in the sink cleaning themselves.
“It’s not that I don’t appreciate it Harry, the meal was lovely, but why are you really here?”
“About what?” the currently pink haired Auror asked.
Tonks blinked. “Which is it, you’re worried or you’re happy?”
“I’m worried because I’m happy.” Seeing the confused look on her face he continued. “My whole life, whenever I’ve been happy, something has happened and whatever or whoever is making me happy has been taken away. A friend at school chased away by Dudley, a toy Dudley never played with until he saw me with it, Sirius, everything and everyone.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When I asked Daphne out it was only supposed to be a bit of fun. I wasn’t supposed to be happy. I wasn’t supposed to care this much. What happens if she…”
“Harry, don’t do this.” Tonk’s hair went from her favorite bubblegum pink to a mousy brown. “You’ve had a crappy life, but all that’s over. No one is controlling or manipulating you now. If you’re happy, just be happy. If you’re looking for relationship advice, you’re talking to the wrong girl, I usually can’t find a guy who wants me to look like me. But I see my Mum and Dad, or the Diggorys, and I know it can work. You just need to find the right someone. For you it might well be Daphne. I hope it is, but if it’s not, that doesn’t mean you give up, it means you keep looking.”
“At least until I’m old, bitter and alone, like you Tonksy…” and Harry ran for his life with an angry red haired Auror chasing him.
A/N: Many thanks to cpg468 for pointing out I spell and have the grammar skills of a retarded spidermonkey, and correcting the same… And Thanks to Harold Ancell for his assist with making what I was trying to say more intelligible.