Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Brothers Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author’s Note: This chapter is a bit more AU than my previous ones. Also, the future Harry sees in his visions is not necessarily the future you all remember from the books. I’m going to stay somewhat true to the basic timeline of GoF, but the story will start to differ more obviously now.
I know Professor Vector is the Arithmancy instructor, but I’m making it so that she is both the Arithmancy and Ancient Runes professor, as there doesn’t seem to actually be a runes instructor.
I’ve now finished chapters 13, 14, 15 and most of 16, and will be posting one every few weeks after this. My hopes are that by having a couple chapters backlogged, I’ll be able to limit anymore major time lapses in between updates for a while.
“Harry!” was the first thing he heard as he stepped out of the Floo at the Leaky Cauldrons. Floo’ing was an experience that would never be among his favorites, even though he had become better at it this summer. Thanks to following Ollivander’s advice about trusting magic, he longer fell flat on his face at least.
Turning slowly to keep his balance, he saw Hermione at one of the tables with her parents. Harry had hoped he’d have a bit of time to head to Ollivander’s before meeting the Grangers but didn’t count on the last minute Weasley madness with getting ready.
"Hermione," said Harry as she engulfed him in a hug. "It’s good to see you too." And he meant it. The past week at the Weasley's without her had nearly been more than he could handle. Mrs. Weasley meant well, he knew, but it was just too much and it felt like he was being smothered at times. Ron, too, had been getting on his nerves, and that bothered him. Ron has always been a good friend, but Harry had changed this summer and Ron was still the same as ever.
The Weasley’s soon arrived behind him and Harry spent a few minutes talking with Mr. and Mrs. Granger while they got their rooms. Once they had everything settled in their rooms though; Harry, Hermione, and Ron said goodbye to her parents and set off to get their supplies.
The experience of shopping in Diagon Alley was nothing special to Harry as he spent much of the last two summers there. To Ron and Hermione, though, this was still a rare experience and he couldn’t help but laugh and be caught up by their enthusiasm.
“Where are you going Harry?” Hermione asked later that afternoon as she looked up from the book she was reading. After finishing up with their shopping lists, they’d all met back up at The Leaky Cauldron for a late lunch.
"I was just going to visit Ollivander for a few minutes to thank him for all the help this summer." Harry replied, he’d thought Hermione would be too engrossed in the book she was reading to even notice he was gone.
"Oh, can I come with you? I really wanted to ask him about some of the things you told me. Several rules on potion making go against everything our school books have suggested, but they obviously worked. I was also very intrigued by a few of the history books as well as the biographies and journals you mentioned."
Harry didn’t see why not as Ollivander never seemed to mind Katie visiting, and doubted he’d mind Hermione. “Sure, what about you mate?”
Ron nodded while wolfing down a last bit of dinner, which sparked a few comments from Hermione about his manners. After that they hurried through the short walk to Ollivander’s. Once they entered Ollivander’s though, he saw something he hadn’t counted on- Ollivander was busy with a group of clients.
A few of the people Harry recognized. Mr. Prater was an older gentleman with balding grey hair who had a shop here in Diagon Alley selling obscure magical items. Mrs. Daniels he first saw last summer and knew she regularly dealt with several merchants in the alley, though he wasn’t sure what she did exactly. Mr. Pyrrus was another older man that Harry had seen speaking with Ollivander a couple times when he’d come in during the summer, but had never properly met.
Miss Reanna was someone who was hard to miss. She was taller than most men, though no-where near as tall as Hagrid, and probably one of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. She had long blond hair, blue eyes, flawless skin and a perfect figure. Katie had not so kindly elbowed him when he had stared at her earlier in the summer and he had learned not to do it again. She was a foreigner, though Harry couldn’t place where she was from, and Harry would have expected her to leave after the World Cup with the rest of the Quidditch fans.
Ron muttered in pain and Harry turned in just in time to see him rubbing his side. He smirked. Apparently Ron had made the same mistake of staring as Harry had earlier in the summer.
There was also a muscular middle-aged man with dark hair and broad shoulders that Harry didn’t know. Standing close to him was a younger man who was probably only a few years out of Hogwarts, and was dressed in rather tattered clothing- something close to what Harry would have worn before this summer.
“Ah, Mr. Potter, do come in.” said Ollivander, “We were just finishing up here and will be but a few minutes more.”
Harry took his friends into the back room of the store where he spent most his time during the summer. Hermione was interested in a few of the books he mentioned during the summer, so he took a couple off the shelves to show her. She was interested in several of the books, but one of the biographies and another book on the cultural history of the wizarding world were her favorites. He decided to ask Ollivander if she could borrow them before they left.
Harry was showing Ron a few of the cooler magical items around the place when Ollivander came in followed by the group he’d been speaking with before. He called Harry over and officially introduced him to everyone. The dark haired man was named Edmund, and worked as a consultant here in Brittan for an international firm. Harry had thought that his Uncle was stiff, but this man seemed to take the stereotypical British Gentleman to new levels.
Edmund’s son, Raseir, was actually older than Harry originally thought and had graduated Hogwarts seven years before. Raseir’s accent was odd; you could tell he was definitely British, but there was something else there that Harry couldn’t place. Ollivander had dealt with the young man regularly over the past few years to retrieve several of the rarer components for his wands. He was also one of the reasons they were all meeting here today. Apparently Raseir was having an enchantment done that required the use of an Alchemist, as well as several other types of craftsmen.
After Raseir left to look at something else in the shop, Ollivander came over and carefully handed him a metal circle that was rather heavy for its small size. The gold and silver twined circle- which was the size of a large ring- was heavily enruned and Harry could almost feel a tingling of magic just by holding it.
“Place it on your wand before you leave for Hogwarts,” Ollivander told him. “Ensure that you keep your wand, and your harness, with you at all times tomorrow. And, that includes when you fall asleep. Understood?”
Harry was no longer surprised by the serious tone Ollivander took with him and just nodded. The old man was rather complex and could change from a kind grandfather to a serious teacher in a split second. Harry always found the way people in his life could change their moods so effectively to be rather disconcerting. If he was happy, angry or sullen, he generally stayed that way for a while; generally until a reason to change occurred. But so many others around him seemed to just be able to hit a switch and change at will. It was just one more reason why he felt so handicapped and inferior sometimes.
Then Ollivander introduced to him to Trenton Pyrrus. He was the enchanter that would be used, and a very old and good friend of the wand maker. It turned out that Mr. Pyrrus was actually one of the men Ollivander had hunted the Chimera with. When Harry showed the man his wand holster, the man told a rather amusing- and hopefully exaggerated- story about the three full days of stalking the creature, four hours of preparation, ten minutes of chaos, and then two weeks in the hospital. Having spent so much time in the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts, Harry tended to believe that portion of the story.
Taking a look around Harry found Ollivander with Hermione while Ron was seemingly listening to Raseir talk about some object he had in his hands. Before he could go over to them, however, Reanna and Mrs. Daniels came over.
Jennifer Daniels was probably somewhere near the age of his Aunt Petunia, and rather normal looking when compared to the blonde next to her. Probably only a little taller than Hermione and just a tad shorter than himself, she had long black hair, an angular face, and turned out to be what was known as an infuser. Harry didn’t have a clue what that meant at first, but learned after talking with her a bit. Infusing took the natural magic available all around us and ‘infused’ it into any item capable of receiving and holding the magic- in this case a rare diamond.
Reanna was a manipulator. He laughed at that at first, but it seemed that the wizarding world had a slightly different meaning for manipulator than the muggle world did. Reanna could manipulate the mind. One moment she looked like a blue eyed goddess, and the next she was a dirty old hag, a few moments after that she disappeared completely and in her place was a small tree. When she changed back Harry just stared at her in shock. It wasn’t transfiguration- or even an illusion- which he could at least understand. To Jennifer and to everyone else in the room, she had continued to look the same. It was only Harry who saw anything different.
It was amazing to learn all about their jobs and Harry ended up having a great time talking with them. Admittedly, he was learning quite a bit today, but this visit was turning out a lot different than he expected. In the beginning of summer Ollivander kept his work completely separate from Harry, sending him to the backroom any time someone came in. After the ritual earlier in the summer though, he did start involving Harry in the on goings of the shop a bit more. Never before was it to such an extent though.
Ollivander and Edmund came back over to talk with Reanna again, so Harry made himself scarce and went to check on his friends.
“You have a magical grade diamond?” he heard Hermione ask as he walked over to where she was talking with Raseir. “It must have taking a long time to save up enough to buy it.”
“Not really,” Raseir replied with a shrug. “If you think of other magic that would be helpful, let me know. I’ve got a few more with me.”
“You have more?” she asked, clearly amazed that the vagabond looking man could have such expensive items. Even with her parents successful practice it would take a good portion of their entire year’s profit to buy a single crystal that size.
“I don’t buy them from the Ministry,” Raseir explained. “I buy them from the source. It’s cheaper that way.”
“What do you mean the source? The International Confederation clearly states that all magical grade gemstones may only be sold after receiving proper approval by the local Ministry.”
“Actually, you can buy them from the corrupt officials for slightly more, but without the whole fuss of being approved. That’s beside the point though. You’ve forgotten that the world is a lot bigger than just the International Confederation. That one,” he said, gesturing to the diamond in her hand, “is from the mines in North East Russia, Yakutsk to be precise. You’d be amazed at what type of deals you can get by heading up there during the dead of winter.”
“Bloody Hell,” said Ron, having apparently finished his talk with Mr. Pyrrus. “Scotland is bad enough in the winter. I don’t even want to imagine heading that far north. It can’t be safe.”
“Not really, no,” agreed Raseir. No one really wanted to travel through their -50 degree winter temperatures. “The spring and summer are when traders normally visit. I learned early on though, that if you wish to succeed and make money, you need to do something others won’t.”
Ron seemed to forget all about his aversion to cold after the comment about making money, and began questioning Raseir more thoroughly on the selling he did and how much he could make.
"I don't sell many of my nicer items for Galleons, not normally at least. And it’s not about the money per se; I generally just trade one item for another, but almost always get a better deal than what I started with. I also keep a lot of rare and expensive items on hand as payments for other services like now," he told them while gesturing towards the other side of the room where Ollivander stood with his father and the others.
"As for where and what,” Raseir added. “I trade with the wizards of Central and South America for the magical glass from the volcanoes around there, and for some rare spices. Often I’ll also have specific requests for items from someone I know. Ollivander, for example, has use for a few of the rarer wood and feathers from the area. I generally don’t trade much else there though, as Brazil is part of the ICW.”
“I also make a couple other little stops around the continent,” he said a moment later. “But the next areas I regularly deal with are the deserts of the Sahara and Arabia. There I trade for cloth and other linens that are enchanted to keep the wearer comfortable regardless of the temperature- no one is as good at those charms as those local tribes. With a friend’s help I trade a bit of everything in Asia for various items, but mostly for the rare Silver Silk they’re famous for, or anything else that peaks my curiosity. Depending on how my deals have gone and the time of the year, I sometimes head towards the islands of the South Pacific, as well as Australia and New Zealand before heading back up to the north to trade for more diamonds and ore.”
“You don’t do any trading here?” Hermione asked while Harry was stunned silent by the casual mention of so many magical places he barely knew existed. He wondered what it would be like to visit them. This summer he saw a bit of magical Brittan that he never knew existed and now wanted to see the rest of the world as well.
"Europe is far too stuck on Galleons for my taste. I prefer trading directly and leaving the Ministries, and Goblins, out of it. On a rare occasion I’ll sell some of my nicer items here, but mostly it’s just my lesser enchanted clothes, spices, and other miscellaneous things.”
"Still," Edmund added, having come over after finishing his conversation with Ollivander. "Your own people deserve some of your nicer wares as well. Europe’s trade with the more obscure corners of the world is quite rare and it would be good of you to help. I know a few honest shop keepers with places in the major cities throughout the Confederation and would be willing to throw in a good word to them about you."
'His own people,' Raseir knew his father didn't mean it as an insult to anyone else. He was just a patriot who truly believed in the need to help his own country first and foremost. It wasn't that Raseir disliked the country he'd been born and raised in; he just wasn't so sure he preferred it all that much compared the others he often visited. In fact, he wasn't so sure his people were even near the top of that list.
"Of course father," Raseir said needlessly. "I'm not about to trade with the Ministry, but I'd appreciate your help with the shops." Raseir waited for the reprimand. The speech about the usefulness of the Ministry he had heard so many times over the years, but it never came. A testament of his father’s own distrust of them. This should have made him feel better as his father was finally starting to show some of the same distrust for the Ministry that Raseir had known for several years now, it did not though. Instead, it made him feel even worse somehow.
“Very well, I will speak to them. I have another appointment and must be leaving. Do not forget that your mother expects you for dinner tonight.”
Raseir left for a moment to see his father off. Ron, at having heard the mention of food, decided they should go for some ice cream before heading back to the Leaky Cauldron. Harry was about to comment that he’d only just eating when he realized that they’d been there for well over an hour already.
"Well, what do you think?" Ollivander asked after watching the three students leave.
“He has potential, that much is certain. Even from the passive scans I performed it was obvious. This may just be possible.” Trenton Pyrrus replied.
“I am still uncertain,” Jennifer Daniels told the group.
“Our once great society has stagnated; has corrupted itself into this cesspool of decadence and laziness,” Ollivander said rather heatedly. “For far too long have we sat on the sidelines, watching decade after decade as the younger generations chose what was easy over what was right; greed over integrity. Now we have a method to make the changes we have long known needed to be made. Who else do we turn to but ourselves?”
“There are other ways.”
“It is not only a few laws that need changing,” Warren Prater added. “You cannot expect a system that thrives on greed and corruption to correct itself so easily. It was an interesting concept, but the Confederation has failed. It needs reforming.”
“Reforming, or overthrowing?”
“Do you think we really want that?” Reanna asked her long time friend. "But you have seen the changes just as we. You must realize where our society is heading.”
"How does using children make us any different than the others?” Jennifer retorted. “I will not compromise the fundamental tenants of my principles for any reason. There must be another way.”
“We won’t,” assured Ollivander. “There is no need to lie to or manipulate Mr. Potter. He sought me out to change the future. And change the future he will- with, or without our help.”
“I like the brunette,” Raseir added, changing the topic. There was no need for an argument over this at the moment. “She's as sharp as they come with an intuitive genius that can’t be taught.”
“Really?” Reanna asked incredulously. “I found her idealism and naiveté annoying. She could be a problem.”
“No,” disagreed Raseir. “She'll be a great asset. Once she sees the truth- sees this world for what it has become- she'll loose that naiveté and we will be there for her. We need to start with her soon though. I say we have her visit with the Harry.”
“It's not worth the risk. It'd be too dangerous to bring her in now.”
“Mr. Potter trusts her implicitly, and I do not believe that trust is misplaced,” Ollivander added. “She will come to us of her own volition- her curiosity and thirst for knowledge will allow nothing else.”
With everything already packed and ready from the day before, leaving from The Leaky Cauldron the next morning went smoothly and, rather amazingly, they all arrived at Platform 9 3/4s with plenty of time to spare. Harry couldn’t explain how happy he was to be returning. He’d miss Sirius and Ollivander, and the freedom he had this summer, but seeing all his school friends again just felt right.
“Professor Vector?” asked Harry, as he turned to see the Ancient Runes and Arithmancy professor standing near the front of the train. He’d seen her in the Great Hall many times, but never really talked to her before now, or even paid much attention.
Harry didn’t know how old the brunette was exactly, but it was no-where near as old as Professors McGonagall or Flitwick- though that wasn’t hard to beat. He knew she’d been at Hogwarts from at least their first year, but Harry figured she couldn’t have been teaching for all that long before and wondered if her classes would be any different form the normal.
He actually hoped they would. After having been taught by Ollivander during the summer, Harry wasn’t particularly impressed with the way several of his classes were. McGonagall and Flitwick were good, if a bit bland, and Professor Sprout knew her green houses well. But some of the others like Snape, Binns and Trelawney, were mostly worthless.
“Professor!” Hermione exclaimed a little breathlessly as she, too, saw the young professor.
“Did you have a good summer Hermione?” she asked as she sent a smile towards one of her favorite students.
“Oh, yes! We traveled the Mediterranean. It was absolutely beautiful and I learned so much. I can’t wait to tell you about what I saw there.”
“I’d love to hear about it; however, it will have to wait till later,” she said with a small smile before turning back to Harry. “Mr. Potter, you’ll need to make your way to the first cart once the train gets underway. I’ll be administering your placement examination.”
“Yes Ma’am. I’ll be there.”
Seeing his friends and classmates again was a lot of fun for Harry, and his new social skills were quite handy in catching up with all that they’d done during the summer. He was glad to see quite a few people were reacting well to his friendlier persona. More than a few had also commented on his new looks- though whether they were talking about his lack of glasses or new clothes, Harry wasn’t sure.
Hermione’s room-mate Parvati, along with her sister Padma, came by to talk with her and see how the summer had gone. The stress from everything that had happened with Hermione last year had hurt the friendships between her and her dorm-mates. And though things had actually improved some during the latter part of the year, their friendship had still been slightly strained at the end. The time away seemed to have helped cool any anger though, and Harry was happy they seemed to be getting along again.
Hanna Abbott had abandoned her pig tails during the summer and now showed off her long silky blonde hair. She had arrived with her best friend, Susan Bones, and he was amazed to see just how well the red headed Hufflepuff had developed over the summer. Harry felt a bit guilty at having taken a couple glances towards her chest, and forcefully reminded himself that he was with Katie. Thankfully his dorm-mates Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan arrived shortly afterwards and they all enjoyed a few minutes of chatting before he spotted Katie and her family. Excusing himself Harry headed over to them.
Mr. Bell wasn’t with them as he was working today, but Katie, her little sister, Alexia, and Mrs. Bell were all just off to the right of the entrance. Though Mrs. Bell was a witch and Alexia knew magic existed, the family hadn’t known she was magical until her invitation to Hogwarts arrived earlier in the summer. Because of that she’d never been to the platform to see Katie off before and was eagerly taking it all in. Harry couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm and remembered his own awe at arriving into the magical world only four years before.
After a hug from Mrs. Bell, who made sure to ask Harry to watch out for her little girl, Katie quickly went off to meet up with Fred and George. Alexia had been pestering Katie with questions about Hogwarts since she came back from her camp out at World Cup a few days before, and she desperately wanted a break. With all the people around they didn’t kiss or do anything other than talk with the twins, which was a slight disappointment to Harry.
After talking for a few minutes though, they all boarded the train and Harry made his way to the front and found Professor Vector was already there waiting for him, reading none other than Witch Weekly. He wasn’t sure how many witches read that magazine, but offhandedly wondered if she had believed in Lockhart like so many other witches. Maybe that was how the fake had gotten his job- women.
The compartment was setup a bit differently than normal. On the right side was the regular bench setup, but the left bench had been removed and in its place was a typical student’s desk and chair.
“Come in Mr. Potter,” said the professor as she sat down her magazine.
The door slid closed behind him and Harry was surprised when all the noise instantly disappeared.
“A simple privacy ward to prevent and disruptions,” she explained. “This compartment has also been cushioned to absorb much of the vibrations from the train.”
Harry nodded and took a seat at the desk. A surprisingly thick exam was waiting on the desk for him and he looked at it with growing trepidation. He learned a lot about Ancient Runes during the summer and had felt confident about taking the exam, until now at least.
A soft laugh interrupted his thoughts and Harry glanced up to see his, hopefully, new teacher smiling at him.
“The exam isn’t going to bite,” she teased. “I also don’t expect you to know everything in there perfectly. The purpose of today’s examination is to prove that you already know the basics, and have put in the extra effort to learn it on your own during summer. Your commitment to the subject is more important than memorization of details at the moment.”
Feeling a lot more confident again, Harry picked up the stack of parchment and began to work his way through it. The test was surprisingly easy and difficult at the same time. Some of the sections he knew extremely well and had no problems answering. A few others were difficult, but felt he managed them well enough. There were, however, two sections that really threw him off. No matter how hard he wracked his brain, he couldn’t figure them out. One excruciating piece of parchment was left nearly completely blank. A second piece was filled with vague sprawling paragraphs where he tried to come up with logical answers from what he knew about runes in general. Needless to say, he wasn’t feeling all that confident by the time he finally put down his quill.
After handing the exam to Professor Vector, Harry headed off in search of his friends. Katie was in a compartment with a couple of her friends but he decided to check in with Hermione and Ron first. They were only a few doors away and he found a few additions to the compartment this year. Neville, who had sat with them from time to time before; Ginny, and a shorter blond hair girl named Luna. While most the others nodded or said hello to him, Ron, surprisingly, did not and just continued to glare out the window. Hermione answered Harry’s unasked question with a shake of her head, and mouthed the word ‘Malfoy.’ Apparently he’d missed one of the bi-annual Malfoy train confrontations and without him being there to draw Malfoy’s attention; the spineless snake must’ve concentrated on his red headed friend.
The rest of the train ride went fairly well. Hermione started in on questions about his exam, and he tried to keep things optimistic while still showing his concern for the few parts he just didn’t remember. Luna and Ginny were both going to be taking Ancient Runes this year as well, so they had a bit of fun talking about the class. It was actually all the boring talk about runes that snapped Ron out of his funk and Harry picked up on something that Hermione apparently didn’t. Ron had not eating any candy.
The candy lady, as they liked to call her, would’ve done her rounds long before Harry finished with his exam, and he doubted Ron had enough to buy any for himself. Faking a bit of hunger, he asked Ron if he could track down the lady and grab some snacks for the compartment. In truth, Harry really was looking forward to eating them. Ever since his first train ride to Hogwarts, the feasting of chocolate had become something of a tradition. Ron’s mood was back to normal by the time he returned- the encounter with Malfoy obviously forgotten- and the group spent the next half-hour having fun before Harry decided to take a trip to visit Katie and see how things were with her.
It’d been a week since he’d really spent any real time with her and he was looking forward to it. Angelina and Lee were there with her this time, along with a couple friends that Harry had seen around, but never met before. He had a good time chatting with them all and was once again amazed to find himself in the middle of the conversation. It really was a noticeable difference as he’d never even talked with a couple of the girls, and before this summer, he would have just sat there and listened silently as the others talked amongst themselves.
He stayed there with Katie for the rest of the trip and only headed back to his compartment to grab his trunk as the Hogwarts Express began to slow down. Quite a few people stopped by to talk, a few for Harry, but generally fifth or sixth years to talk to Katie or one of her friends. Katie had taken his hand in hers nearly as soon as he sat down, and pretty much kept it in hers the entire time. Harry was amazed by how such a small act could seem so monumental. They’d snogged plenty that night at the world cup, and it’d been great, but somehow such a simple thing as holding her hand was nearly as good.
From the looks that were being sent his way by everyone stopping by for a visit, Harry knew it’d been noticed. He was sure the rumor would be all over the train before they ever arrived at Hogwarts. And, from the jealous looks sent his way by several of the guys, not everyone was exactly happy about it. Surprisingly though, it didn’t bother Harry at all. It was quite the opposite really, as their jealously made him feel good about himself. He still wasn’t sure how exactly it had happened, but somehow he’d managed to- as Ron would say- bag a bloody hot bird.
The rumbling of thunder and the splattering of rain greeted them as they finally exited the train. Yells and screams from the first years, and probably a few of the older years as well, echoed all around the Hogsmeade station.
Chaos. Welcome to Hogwarts.
Harry tried to get over to Hagrid, but with all the students pushing the opposite way, he settled with yelling a greeting instead. He could only just make out one of Hagrid’s giant arms waving back towards him before he was engulfed in the crowd.
Ron and Hermione somehow managed to save one of the horseless carriages for their group and Harry eagerly joined them. The chaos of Hogwarts was always fun. The pelting rain, on the other hand, he could do without.
The wind picked up as the carriages slowly rolled through the sweeping path to Hogwarts, swaying this way and that so hard that it was nearly impossible for him not to bump into his friends. Once the carriage arrived they all made a mad dash for Hogwarts’ massive front doors, and safety from the rain.
Everyone was thoroughly wet from even that short of a run, but that didn’t dampen his spirits any.
Harry was finally home!
There was some sort of hold up trying to get into the Great Hall and rumor quickly circulated that Filch was making everyone dry off before entering. After only a few minutes of waiting though, they were able to slowly enter the hall and Harry understood the real reason as to why it’d taken so long. The Great Hall was now… well. Great. It was at least four or five times larger than its normally size, and Harry was suddenly hit with violent flashes of his memory.
He’d seen this giant hall before, and if the feeling he was getting from it was anything to go by it, it wasn’t good. Glancing over at Hermione’s pale face, Harry realized she, too, had seen this before, and also didn’t like whatever she remembered of it. Ron, thankfully, was too busy gawking at the new hall to notice the look they shared. The little bit of the memories he’d seen during the summer had largely been horrible. Now things in them were already started to come true… Harry didn’t know what it meant exactly, but whatever it was- it wasn’t good.
The lack of a new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor was noticed almost immediately once they were all settled. In the previous three years Harry had not yet had a defense professor who lasted more than a year. And, if rumor were to be believed, there hadn’t been one single defense professor to return back to Hogwarts the next year in over six years. Professor Lupin, the only decent defense teacher he had so far, was forced to resign last year thanks to Snape’s big mouth.
The sorting was actually pretty interesting to Harry. For a variety of reasons, he hadn’t actually seen the ones for his second or third year, so this was the first he would witness since his own sorting.
Small, tiny, midget like girls and boys were sent up to the three legged stool and sorted into one of the four houses. Harry could guess which ones came from families with older witches or wizards, as they generally weren’t quite as scared as the others. By the time it finished Gryffindor had gained 11 new students; Hufflepuff 14; Ravenclaw, 12; and Slytherin, 9.
The feast itself was a very welcome distraction. Chocolate and snacks held him over on the train ride, but it’d still been a long day and he was hungry. The sheer amount of choices available always amazed him, and Harry took his fair share of nearly anything that looked delicious. The food was a great as always and the only thing that took away from his pleasure was Hermione’s comments about the slavery of house elves.
Thanks to living with the Dursleys for so many years, Harry understood all about being used to clean, cook, and generally take care of people that treated you horribly. He could see why Hermione was angry, but he had a hard time picturing Dumbledore and McGonagall- the two people in charge of Hogwarts, and most likely the elves- of acting like the Dursleys. Either way, the food was already cooked and leaving it would only waste all their efforts. Even with the Dursleys, Harry would rather they eat his meals than to just leave all the food he spent time making.
Once almost everyone had finished eating and the volume of the great hall rose, Dumbledore stood and addressed the students.
“As you may have noticed,” said Dumbledore, smiling around at them all. “The great hall has been expanded dramatically. This is due to an international event that will be starting in a week’s time, and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of our time and energy. However, I am quite certain that it will be an enjoyable experience for all. I take great pleasure in announcing that this year, Hogwarts…”
Whatever else Dumbledore was going to say was cut off as the doors to the Great Hall burst open.
A man shrouded in a black cloak stood at the entrance way. Harry had a very bad feeling about him. There was nothing specific from his memories, but a foreboding feeling that left him unnerved. The man’s twisted and weathered face was unlike anything he’d ever seen before, yet at the same time chillingly familiar.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Dumbledore said brightly once the man reached the head table. “May I introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Moody.”
Moody. Harry had a name for the man, now if only he knew why he felt like he did.
“As I was saying,” Dumbledore said after clearing his throat to gain everyone’s attention. “Hogwarts is to have the honor of hosting a very exciting international event this year, an event that has not been held in over two centuries. Several of the largest schools of witchcraft and wizardry will be joining us this year; Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, Durmstrang Institute for Magical Learning, The Gaia Institute, Salem’s Magical Academy, and the Victoria school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
“It is our hope,” Dumbledore continued, “that by hosting these fines educational centers here at Hogwarts, you will be able to establish friendships that will last throughout your life and help usher in a new age of international cooperation and respect.”
“The schools will be arriving seven days from now on Friday the 8th, and will be staying with us for the remainder of the year. I know how important it is for you to all be alert and rested for your lessons tomorrow, so I shall now let you leave for your dormitories.”
Dumbledore sat down again and there was a great deal of noise as everyone got to their feet and swarmed out of the hall.
“Five schools. We’re going to have five more schools here. I mean, where are they going to fit?” Ron asked once they made it back to Gryffindor Tower.
“Well, the castle is huge mate. There’s loads of empty space.” Harry replied.
“Yeah, but enough for five extra schools? Even if they aren’t all as large as Hogwarts, that’s still a lot of extra people.”
“At its height Hogwarts housed more than two thousand witches and wizards,” said Hermione. “I mean, really, did you think they needed this huge of a castle for three hundred students? Hogwarts is still recovering from its lowest enrollment ever- during the height of the last war. And if either of you would read Hogwarts, A History, I wouldn’t have to explain this to you.”
“Why would we bother reading it?” Ron asked. “You already have it memorized.”
“What do you know about the other schools?” Harry asked her quickly, hoping to prevent the beginnings of another row.
“Well, Beauxbatons is in France of course. I visited it with my parents during our summer vacation after second year. It’s a beautiful school and they are known to have an excellent charms program- Scholar Fallon is well known throughout the world for her work.”
“The Gaia Institute is in Brazil; located inside the Pedra da Gávea of Rio de Janeiro. They’re best known for their teachings of nature based magic. Basically, they work with nature to achieve the end required rather than trying to manipulate it. Instead of levitating an object, they might add wings to it. Or, instead of conjuring a chain, they’d probably prefer to grow a vine.”
“Salem Magical Institute is located in North East America.” Hermione continued, talking over Ron who tried to make some comment about the Brazilians. “I’ve read a few contradictory books about them. From what I can infer though, there are a couple competing schools of thought for how to use magic. Relatively speaking, it’s a rather new school at less than two hundred years old, and they- like much of America- are still trying to work out their own niche in the magical world.”
“Durmstrang was originally founded somewhere in the Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights, near modern day Estonia. The exact location has been kept secret due to security concerns as there have been a few big uproars in parts of the magical community due of their use of blood magic and rituals. That the location is so closely guarded is one of the main reasons it’s survived so far.”
“They’re Barbarians!” Ron told them quite heatedly. “The French are bad enough, but I can’t believe Dumbledore invited them. And the Brazilians are nearly as bad!”
“They’re not barbarians,” Hermione countered. “They just have a different culture and beliefs than us, and if you would ever open a history book you’d see why they believe as they do. I read all about their history and it’s not too different from our own. It’s actually interesting to see where the differences occurred and how they’ve evolve over time.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” snapped Ron. “You’re not from the wizarding world so you don’t understand. They don’t belong here!”
Hermione’s eyes widened and Harry knew she must have been hurt. Even he was a bit surprised Ron would say something like that.
“Oh, you mean that since I’m just a no good Mudblood that I couldn’t possible understand the complexities of the magical society, is that it?” Hermione snapped back at him, the sharp edge to her voice leaving no doubt as to just how angry she was. “Well then you can just see how well you understand your classes without my help!”
“That’s not what I meant!” Ron protested weakly as he watched her storm out of the common room.
“That was crass mate.” Harry told him as he got up to go look for her. The last thing he wanted was another series of fights breaking up their friendship like last year.
Mentally cursing himself for not stopping to grab his map, Harry headed towards the library. While nearly all of the student body was in their common rooms, it wasn’t technically after curfew yet, and he figured it was the place she felt safest- most at home. He didn’t see her at first but as he walked towards the back of the library he heard it. The soft, faint sounds of someone crying. Very little was more distressing to him than a seeing a woman cry, especially if it is a friend doing the crying. It was unnatural and set his nerves on edge. Harry wanted to turn around; to leave and pretend that he never saw anything, or to go back out and make enough noise so that she’d act fine by the time he arrived again.
This was his best friend though, so without really thinking Harry approached her. He knew he wasn’t any good at this sort of thing, and would have preferred a simple argument with Ron, but he had made a promise during the summer that he’d treat her better than last year, and he’d already broken it once at the world cup. Now was the time to try and make up for it.
“Hey,” he said in a quiet voice as he put a hand on the shoulder of his sobbing friend.
“Harry?” she asked as she looked up in surprise. “What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you,” Harry replied.
If there was anything he hated about as much as feeling helpless, it was feeling unsure. And helpless and unsure was exactly what he felt like when Hermione threw her arms around him and continued to sob into his chest. He didn’t know what else to say that, so he did the only thing that came to mind- kept silent and just held her.
After another minute she took a couple slow breaths and wiped away her tears. Her eyes and nose were a mess though, and Harry couldn’t help but feel miserable for her.
“Ron talks without thinking sometimes, you know that. You’re the most brilliant person in the school and know a lot more about the magical world than Ron and I put together.”
“It’s not him. Not really,” Hermione admitted.
“Well, what is it then?”
“It’s just that’s what everyone thinks,” replied Hermione. She was still sniffling a little, but it seemed to have gotten better. “I mean, the Weasley’s aren’t big into the whole Pureblood nonsense, but even they see me as an outsider. I don’t belong here, that’s what they always say.”
“What?" cried Harry as tried to get up and head back to Gryffindor Tower. "The Weasley’s said you didn’t belong here?”
“Harry! Sit down,” she said as she pulled him back down to his chair. “You know the Weasley’s; they’d never say that. I meant the wizarding world in general. I was the top of our year in eight of my eleven classes last year, and broke the school record for highest grade point average in Charms my first and third year. That doesn’t matter to them though. No matter how hard I study, I’ll always be second class.”
“I… um... I know that’s not true?” he tried, caught off guard by the admission. This was much more than he expected when he came down here.
She started to cry into his chest again and Harry searched for something to say. “What I mean is, err… Oh, bloody hell. I’m no good at this,” he finally admitted as he came up blank.
She laughed a little at that and Harry finally felt a more at ease. Laughter he could deal with.
“You’re better at it then you think. Thank you.” she sighed, and pulled Harry in close for a tight hug. Hermione was shivering just a little and her cheeks were still damp, but she felt great against him. It was with a slight start that Harry realized he was enjoying this closeness a little too much.
“Hermione, what’s really going on?” Harry asked, confused by his best friend. This wasn’t right. She knew some of the Slytherins- Malfoy in particular- looked down upon the Muggleborns, but that had never caused this sort of reaction before.
“It’s nothing yet Harry, don’t worry about it. Come on, we have to get back before curfew. Unlike you and Ron, I do not plan on getting into trouble on the first day of school!”
It wasn’t until later that night, in the privacy of his four poster bed that Harry realized what she had said- Yet. Hermione had seen something in the future, he was sure of it, and that’s what had bothered her so much. Now he just had to figure out what it was.
I hope you enjoy the update! Feel free to review and let me know if you have any comments, questions, or critiques.