Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Prodigium :: 04 :: Things

04 • Things

He boarded the train early and found a compartment, tossing up an aversion ward to secure his privacy, and settled in to consider the myriad ways his plans might unfold—or, perhaps, be discarded entirely. The passing scenery became a dull blur after a while, which further helped him to retreat into his thoughts. It was when the train began to slow that he realized McGonagall had not given him any idea of what to do once he arrived. Was he supposed to go with the first years, or the other students? What an annoying woman. Well, he did have to be sorted, so. . . .

It was awkward settling into a boat with mere children, and the blatant staring. McGonagall gave him another tight smile at the other end when she saw him and approached to inform him that, “You will be sorted first, Mr Potter.”

Children nearby gasped and went wide-eyed at this confirmation of his identity, but thankfully were too shy, unnerved, or polite to begin pestering him with questions. His first view of the Great Hall in person was mildly interesting, but having seen it already via memory he was not impressed as the first years were. Irritation set in when it seemed as though every set of eyes landed on him, and deepened when Dumbledore rose to announce to everyone that Harry Potter had come to Hogwarts.

‘Like they wouldn’t have known that in a minute or so anyway,’ he thought scornfully, then strode forward when McGonagall called his name. He eyed the hat with suspicion, but suffered to sit down and have it placed on his head; incriminating memories—his own or those stolen—had long since been tucked away, from the time that he learned of Occlumency.

Within seconds the hat yelled, “Ravenclaw!”

He was shortly seated among the allegedly intelligent students, who eyed him with disturbing gleams in their eyes, but were respectful enough to remain silent as the first years were sorted. It was when the food appeared that the boy next to him spoke.

“Welcome to Hogwarts. I am Anthony Goldstein, Head Boy this year.” When Harry merely nodded he continued, “Allow me to introduce the Ravenclaw prefects. Morag McDougal is the seventh year female prefect.” Anthony gestured slightly.

“Pleased to meet you,” the indicated girl said.

“For sixth year we have Emma Peel and John Steed.” Both murmured a welcome. “For fifth year we have Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee.” Once they had given their hellos Anthony said, “If you have any problems or issues while at Hogwarts, please consult with a prefect first. They are here to not only help maintain order, but to answer questions and other things of that nature. If necessary they will direct you to our Head of House, Professor Flitwick. He teaches Charms. The Head Girl this year is Sally-Anne Perks of Hufflepuff. I’m sure you’ll run into her at some point. For now, however, why don’t we enjoy the feast.”

Harry loaded his plate and engaged in desultory conversation, asking several questions to be expected from a new student, then concentrating on his food in order to let the first years pipe up. He felt mild amusement at the guardian of Ravenclaw, and wondered if the questions put forth were tailored for the age of the recipient or not, but chose not to ask. He was very pleased that he had a room to himself, which was explained away as the necessity of a private place for each Ravenclaw to study, though each room had some kind of a ward on it which would alert the prefects if help was needed, such as in the case of an accident.

*

The next morning he was enjoying breakfast, only mildly distracted when a very short man—presumably Professor Flitwick—stopped by to hand out schedules. He was annoyed that Hogwarts did not have enough staff to allow for students to take all classes given, and resolved to take the NEWTs for Care of Magical Creatures and Muggle Studies anyway. It almost seemed like a conspiracy to make sure students were not well-rounded, and were forced at too young an age to decide on their future careers.

Then again, given that the curriculum of Hogwarts was skewed toward relatively unchanging disciplines, with little to no focus on classes which could enrich a student’s life, he was not all that surprised. While chess might be useful as a way of trying to develop an analytical mind he had no desire to join that club. Nor did he consider the gobstones club to be of any use at all. And one sport only, which only had openings for seven students per house? Pfft. These people seriously needed to have a few lessons from the muggle world applied like a beater’s bat to their heads.

“May I see your schedule, Potter?” came Anthony’s voice from his right.

He slid it over and continued with his meal.

“Well, I’m in all of your classes,” Anthony remarked, “so I can escort you to them until you learn your way around the castle. If you’d like.”

“Sure.” Harry reclaimed his schedule and stuffed it in his pocket. It wasn’t like he needed it. “Anything I should know about the various professors?”

“I don’t know about the Defense professor as we get a new one every year. Rumor has it that the position is cursed. The only ones you might have issues with are Professor Binns and Professor Snape. Binns is a ghost and has a tendency to put people to sleep in his class. Snape, on the other hand, is harsh, perhaps because potion making is dangerous in the hands of those who like to fool about or are just plain ignorant. I wouldn’t be put off by his demeanor, though. He’s not the one in charge of the NEWT, and we do have in-house tutoring sessions for anyone having difficulties. And Ravenclaws tend to just ignore Binns and study history on our own. We’ve worked up our own study guide to indicate what things are likely to show up on the OWL and NEWT.”

While he was pleased enough to see that Ravenclaw house appeared to be at least somewhat sensible, he did have to wonder how it was possible for someone like Binns to even still be teaching. Surely people would have complained? The same went for Snape. Perhaps he should check through his ill-gotten memories again to see why someone as respected as Dumbledore made no move to correct things. He nodded at Anthony and finished up the rest of his meal, then followed the Head Boy off to Potions.

“Well, it seems our celebrity has finally seen fit to grace us all with his presence,” Snape had tossed out as an opener. “We’re all so incredibly fortunate to have you with us. Tell me, Mr Potter, did you use confundo on the sorting hat to end up in Ravenclaw? That is, assuming you can even cast any spells.”

It went downhill from there, with Snape taking points off him for the flimsiest of reasons, which outraged his house mates given that his answers were perfect as was his potion for the day. On the way to lunch Anthony said, “He really has it in for you. I wonder why? Normally we don’t have too much trouble with him, but I can see this is going to be ghastly this year. No matter, I suppose. We can make up the points elsewhere.”

“Now that I’ve experienced him for myself I have to ask if no one has ever complained about him? That isn’t teaching, it’s bullying and gross negligence.”

Anthony shrugged. “I’m sure the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff students have, but it doesn’t seem to have done any good if so. I wouldn’t recommend being out after a certain hour, curfew notwithstanding. He’ll probably find more excuses to take points.”

Lunch passed quickly enough and then it was off to Herbology, which went pleasantly. He ended his day of a mind to mist Snape the first chance he got.

*

Albus, using skills hard won over his long life, spent breakfast, lunch, and dinner covertly watching Harry Potter, wondering how he could help the young man vanquish Voldemort. Aside from being intelligent he could see no real indication of the “power he knows not”. And he had no excuse for calling Harry up to his office as yet, though perhaps in a week or two he could inquire about how he was settling in.

If he was as intelligent as Minerva claimed, though, the child might question his interest given that he had visited a grand total of one time thus far, so why care now? Still, the idea of even mentioning the issues of the prophecy and Voldemort to a child just now entering the wizarding world. . . . No, perhaps after he had been with them for longer.

*

Harry soon came to realize that many of the girls within Hogwarts saw him as prime marriage material. Or at least, he assumed that to be the case given their excessively fluttering lashes, how the rate of giggling increased exponentially, and how often they blushed if he so much as even looked vaguely in their direction. There was one redhead in particular who seemed to pop up everywhere he went, as though she had bribed someone to get his schedule. At least she was a year younger and in a different house. Since the girls in Ravenclaw had some sense of decorum and the Slytherin girls simply ignored him, he had to assume she was either a Gryffindor or a Hufflepuff. He quickly made it a policy to never look directly at any female student unless they were the type to treat him as a person and not a meal ticket, and even then he was suspicious.

By the time Friday rolled around he was heartily sick of the attention. After breakfast he went with the others for their first Defense class, word from the younger Ravenclaws having revealed that Lupin seemed to be an all right sort. The second he laid eyes on the man he knew he was a werewolf and wondered how Dumbledore had managed to get that approved.

He personally had no particular issues with them, but he could not imagine that the bigoted pure-blood society of Britain would be so relaxed about it. Then again, the fact that there had been no rumors about his lycanthropy only served to prove that magical people—or their children, anyway—were woefully unobservant. The strange looks he kept receiving from the man reminded him that he needed to mist Snape, and perhaps he would check this one out as well. Later that night, after everyone else was sleeping, Harry transformed to mist and began wandering the halls, knowing that Snape often patrolled in the hope of catching students.

It took a week but he was able to ascertain the location of both their quarters, and was then able to mist each of them. Snape hated him because he was the child of James and Lily Potter, because James was a bigoted jerk, because he was obsessed with Lily, and because the man was not mature enough to direct his anger where it ought to go. He had, in effect, become something he despised: a bully.

Lupin, on the other hand, was a close friend of his father’s, but Lupin was sadly lacking anything resembling a sturdy backbone. Not even friends who knew what he was and accepted him had given him self-confidence. Lupin was content for the moment to gaze at him from afar. If the man had any sense at all he would have moved to a country with less restrictive laws and made a proper life for himself. Harry saw no particular reason to bother with him.

Snape, however, was interesting. That man’s sick mind brought about a number of ideas. The fact that he was allegedly a spy for Dumbledore yet was truly on the side of Voldemort made him more than a fair target. But not for consumption yet, oh no. Too easy, and too suspicious. He had a much better idea.

Not long after that (thanks to judicious use of non-wand magic) and Snape could be seen eyeing that redhead. Harry only witnessed it during meals, but had to assume it was also occurring whenever the girl had Potions. The girl, for her part, seemed to be distracted from her fangirlish mooning and was often observed giving Snape puzzled and almost irritated looks. Harry spared a moment to consider whether what he was doing was wrong or not, then shrugged. Maybe he should mist her, too, just in case.

As it turned out she was all set to use love potions on him if she wasn’t getting the attention she thought she so richly deserved from him, along with his money and fame. That having been revealed, he spared it no more thought. Why quibble over screwing around with the lives of sick-minded minions and psychotic fangirls who had or planned to do illegal things? Even so, he would be checking anything he ate and drank from then on, in case she wasn’t the only one.

The male redhead who glared at him constantly turned out to be her brother, who felt betrayed that Harry had had the nerve to be sorted elsewhere from Gryffindor. It caused him to wonder if the rest of that family was as mentally unbalanced as these two and was pleased he had never officially met any of them.

As time went by more and more reports showed up in the Daily Prophet about mysterious attacks, usually on muggles. His fellow students gossiped like mad about them, but never seemed to make the connection with Voldemort despite reports of the Dark Mark appearing, and a good many of them seemed not to care as it was “just muggles”. The muggle-born students did not take kindly to that attitude, but their classmates had a curious blindness when it came to that, aside from the pure-blood supremacists.

He almost expected something heinous to occur on Halloween given the timing of the original attack on his person and the troll incident, but doubted at the same time, as Voldemort had been keeping a relatively low profile since the 1991-1992 school year. Harry spent several minutes, as he always did on that date, to honor the memory of his parents, and participated in the feast in a subdued way. Thankfully, his fellow Ravenclaws seemed to infer from his attitude why, and did not question it. Others, however. . . .

“Not enjoying the feast, Potter?” came from behind him, at the Slytherin table.

Harry shifted so he could easily glance over his shoulder; a blond with a narrow, pointy face was looking at him expectantly: Malfoy. “The food quality and variety is better,” he said vaguely, then turned back to his table. ‘How on earth did someone so tactless get into Slytherin?’ he asked himself. ‘Is Malfoy just defective? Not a good opener, in any case. Maybe I should eat him and see how his father reacts, and how it would impact Dumbledore. It’s been a while since I’ve had a live one. Though, perhaps only if he already has the Dark Mark. After all, it’s not a crime to be a bigoted asshole, just potentially detrimental to one’s health.’

On the way back to the dorms he was annoyed to see a redhead pop up in his peripheral vision. A quick glance verified that it was the psychotic fangirl, and he was appalled to see that she had noticed his action. A dreamy expression transformed her face from merely plain to outright vapid, but it changed suddenly to one of irritation. He did not stick around to find out why.

He heard the next morning, courtesy of the gossip network which hummed with life nearly every minute of every day, that Red had managed to back herself onto a staircase which just so happened to begin moving, resulting in a fall that should have been fatal. She had been rescued by her now ardent ‘admirer’ Snape. Disappointed that she wasn’t dead or laid up in the infirmary for a few weeks, he still wondered if that would switch her focus at all.

As it turned out the answer was no. Red continued to stalk him around the castle, and Snape became even more inclined to unleash vituperative rants the second he noticed Harry was anywhere in the vicinity. Thinking back on his actions and what he had learned from Snape’s mind he was inclined to find a way to flog himself silly for setting up a situation in which he played the role of James, Red played the role of Lily, and. . . .

Draco continued to toss out the occasional empty phrase, which Harry largely ignored, and things proceeded as usual up until a short time prior to the holiday, when Dumbledore called him up to his office. “So good to see you again, Harry,” the old man said once Harry had seated himself.

Harry replied with an arch of his brow, then said, “I’m sure it is, Albus.”

Dumbledore chuckled after a moment. “I wanted to see how you were adjusting to life at Hogwarts, Mr Potter, and find out if you had any questions or concerns.”

‘Hint taken,’ he thought with satisfaction. “I’m fine, professor. Hogwarts is interesting, but given how much I had read previously, nothing seems out of order.”

Dumbledore nodded congenially, then struck with a not unexpected, “I hear that you have not signed up to stay this holiday. Surely you would prefer to be here than return to the muggle world.”

Harry smiled blandly. “One requires a certain amount of familiarity in one’s life. I’m sure that as time goes by I will be able to integrate the two comfortably.” He got the distinct impression from the look on the old man’s face that Dumbledore could not for one moment comprehend the idea that someone could find anything about the muggle world comfortable or even desirable. But, looking back on some of the memories he had stolen, that made a certain sort of sense.

The man was questionable all around, especially given that flirtation with Gellert Grindelwald. Perhaps he should double-check to make sure the man was still on a vaguely even keel; if not, perhaps he could indulge in a little more torment of his fellow man. He nearly giggled at the thought, having come such a long way from his first kill as a demi-human.

“I see,” Dumbledore eventually said, though it was clear he did not. “Well, please do remember that if you change your mind you can always go to Diagon Alley and floo to Hogsmeade so that you could return to the castle. Though, you might consider learning how to apparate during the break—with a qualified tutor, of course. If you would prefer to wait, however, we do hold lessons here in the castle starting in February.”

Harry aimed a noncommittal smile at the headmaster and replied, “I will certainly think about it.”

Dumbledore sent him off after a few more minutes of meaningless chatter, and Harry was pleased to escape.

*

He stayed at № 12 Grimmauld Place for the break, though he could have used one of the Potter properties. A trip to the ministry secured an immediate appointment to test for his apparation license, and he was shortly away with it, off to Diagon Alley, not that he especially expected to find anything interesting, nor did he have anyone he wished to purchase gifts for.

Red was around, but as Harry was in disguise she ignored him completely. He was browsing the wares of the magical instrument shop when someone outside screamed; Death Eaters had arrived, and by the looks of it, Voldemort was also present. Harry quickly devised a plan and disapparated back to the house, staying only long enough to change his appearance to one of the most recent Death Eaters he had killed, along with conjuring up an appropriate mask and cloak. Then he returned, appearing just inside Knockturn Alley, a fake wand in hand.

‘Sheep,’ he thought, shaking his head slightly. ‘So many bleating people and none of them seem to have the brains to fight back or flee. No, they would rather flail around in a panic.’ He shrugged and stepped out. Voldemort could not be seen so he waded into the fray, absently killing Death Eaters who got in his way, and eventually arrived at an apropos location. A quick spell later saw his mask get shattered off ‘accidentally’ so that Voldemort could see his face (and quite probably wonder where his minion had been all this time).

Indeed, Voldemort did spot him, a faint look of confusion flitting over his face, and then shock as Harry raised his wand and sent an overpowered severing charm which nearly took the man’s head off; Voldemort was dead seconds later. Harry cackled madly, drawing the attention of nearby Death Eaters to the death of their leader, then disapparated back to the house, where he switched his appearance to another consumed Death Eater. A quick rummage through his potion collection produced a particularly pernicious poison, and he was off again, this time to Voldemort’s hideout.

He chuckled a little; protections meant so little when one could steal the information directly from the holder of them. Nagini was easy enough to find and the poison was spelled into her bloodstream and tissues with barely a thought. She was dead in less than a minute, and another Horcrux had been taken out of the equation. Before he left he ensured his false face was seen by at least one minion, then disapparated a final time.

After cleaning up and having a nice meal, Harry checked over his Horcrux collection. All three were still viable, so he consumed Ravenclaw’s diadem and Hufflepuff’s cup; the items themselves remained intact, but the soul shards within were destroyed. Not bad at all for his first Yule holiday in the wizarding world.

The next morning he was treated to blaring headlines via the Daily Prophet, screaming out the news that Voldemort had not only been spotted in Diagon Alley, but had allegedly been killed, too. Minister Fudge claimed it was all a prank in extremely poor taste. Also of interest was the revelation that Ronald and Ginevra Weasley had been kidnapped during the attack—because they were from a family of blood traitors, as speculated by the reporter.

‘So much for that stalker of mine. I wonder if Snape is having fun?’

*

Albus called an emergency meeting of the Order of the Phoenix the second word got to him about the attack on Diagon Alley, thanks to Arthur and Molly Weasley. A surreptitious call to Poppy saw Molly sedated by sneak attack and carted off to the infirmary, and then the meeting was able to get underway. Tonks and Shacklebolt, as eyewitnesses, were able to report on the events in question, and Arthur added his own information, which was admittedly little.

“So you’re saying it was a Death Eater who killed him?” Albus asked.

Both aurors nodded. “At least,” Kingsley clarified, “it was a man dressed like one. His mask got shattered by a stray spell, but I didn’t recognize the face.”

Tonks shook her head.

“And the body?”

“Taken away by the Death Eaters,” Tonks said.

Albus nodded, repressed a heavy sigh, and turned to Severus.

“The Dark Mark has faded again, so I must assume that it was truly the Dark Lord at Diagon Alley.”

“Does this mean that You-Know-Who is really gone this time?” Hestia asked.

Albus shook his head thoughtfully. “We cannot be certain of that. After all, he has already risen once from what was thought to be his defeat. It is possible he could do so again. He has obviously done something to ensure his survival.” He turned to Severus and asked, “Any idea of where Mr and Miss Weasley might have been taken?”

Severus shook his head. “I have yet to be summoned. If you remember, after his first defeat I attempted, on your orders, to access his headquarters, and failed due to how the protections had changed. The check I made after the mark darkened was the same. I must assume that any given Death Eater must be summoned in order to get past the wards at least the first time.

“That being so, given that it seems the Dark Lord has again been defeated, it is possible they have been taken elsewhere, such as the home of a Death Eater. More than one of those families has dungeons in their homes, as was customary for pure-bloods. I know for a fact that Lucius Malfoy does.”

Albus took a sherbet lemon from the dish on his desk. After tucking it between cheek and gum he said, “Will one of you share a memory of the attack? It may be that Severus will recognize the man you saw.”

Shacklebolt immediately set his wand to his temple, so Albus fetched out a small projector pensieve. Moments later the attack was being watched by all present.

“Reginald Higgenbothem, a lower level lackey,” Severus stated. “Not particularly bright from what I remember, but he was apt at taking orders and following them exactly. I do not recall anything which would have led me to believe he would turn against the Dark Lord.”

The meeting degenerated quickly after that, with the usual orders being given out to collect information and stalk certain people, and broke up in time for dinner.

*

Severus waited until he was in his quarters to laugh maliciously. Albus was such a trusting soul; all it took was a semi-believable, heart-wrenching story. He gathered up a few things and set out, ostensibly to carry out Dumbledore’s orders. On arrival at Voldemort’s headquarters he was surprised to find out that yet another betraying minion had struck, this time killing the Dark Lord’s familiar. Deciding that it was none of his business for the moment he proceeded to the dungeons where his dear Ginevra awaited.

*

“No! No, never! You disgust me!”

Severus snarled and backhanded the girl. Why was she being so uncooperative? Surely she understood the level of his devotion to her? Lily he could understand. The Dark Lord had been willing to let her live at his impassioned request, but mothers had a tendency to sacrifice anything for the sake of their children—even ones spawned from James Potter. Even had she lived he might not have been able to make her see reason. But Ginevra was a pure-blood. An hour later, after several lust potions and an extreme expenditure of energy on his part, he left his dear Ginevra to contemplate the error of her ways.

When he returned the next morning he was devastated. His dear Ginevra had committed suicide by clawing out her throat. Severus was so upset he stalked over to the cell Weasley was in and cast the cruciatus until the boy lost control of his bladder and bowels, then obliviated him and returned to the school.

*

Ginny Weasley, for once in her existence, had something to obsess over aside from the Boy Who Lived. As a ghost with unfinished business she could and would do everything in her power to ensure that Severus Snape got what was coming to him. Funny how being dead changed one’s priorities. To that end she traveled quickly to the Burrow. Her parents wept anew on seeing her translucent form.

“Ginny, sweetheart,” her father choked out.

She gave him a sad smile and nodded. “I can’t move on just yet. I must tell you who.”

“Who?” her father parroted as Molly alternated between sobs and wails.

“Maybe you should call Professor Dumbledore here,” she suggested. “Only him.”

*

Albus called another meeting to discuss any updates. Nobody had anything of particular note to say, partly due to how little time had passed, and partly because most sources were utterly clueless. The Death Eaters who had been captured during the attack turned out to be front line fodder, and thus knew very little of importance when it came to the Dark Lord’s operations. They definitely were not among those from politically powerful families, nor those who had gold to bribe their way out of trouble with, claiming they were “under the imperius”, and thus ended up shipped to Azkaban after a brief mass trial orchestrated by Amelia Bones. She, at least, had pushed through the use of veritaserum, and the prisoners were so shaken by the prospect of dementors that the truth slipped out easily.

Unfortunately, Fudge had waddled into the courtroom near the end of the proceedings, then threatened Amelia’s job if she dared go after fine, upstanding citizens like Lucius Malfoy on the word of some bumbling idiots who were so deeply convinced by the roles they were playing for the incredibly tasteless prank they had pulled that they truly believed they were Death Eaters.

Severus had very little to say, also. “I stopped by Malfoy Manor, ostensibly to visit with Draco, and Lucius was nowhere to be found. Draco informed me that his father was off running some errands, which means he was out on the Dark Lord’s business. I also visited the Goyle and Crabbe families, ostensibly to inform their parents regarding the near-failing grades of Gregory and Vincent in a number of subjects. In both cases the men were absent.”

Albus nodded, a look of disappointment on his face, then reached out for a sherbet lemon. He paused, seemingly indecisive, then retracted his hand, empty of his favorite sweet.

“You lie,” came a voice distorted by rage.

Albus looked sidelong to see that Ginny Weasley had revealed herself at his signal, to force Severus to confrontation.

“You liar!” she screamed. “I was taken to You-Know-Who’s hideout and you were there! You’re the one who tried to convince me you loved me, and I should love you! You were the one who forced lust potions on me, then forced yourself on me, repeatedly! Is it any wonder I killed myself? Traitor! Betrayer!”

Albus heaved a tiny sigh as Tonks and Shacklebolt moved in on a boggled Severus—one knocked him out, the other bound him in place. “Please search him for his wand, any potions, portkeys. . . .”

Shacklebolt shot him a look as if to say, “Don’t tell us how to do our jobs.”

When they were done Albus heaved another sigh. How could he have been so wrong about Severus? How could he have missed it? “My friends, we will have to interrogate him.”