Here is the second one. Many thanks go to my beta Joe Lawyer, for looking the chapter over for me.
Hogwarts staff room, October 2nd.
It was the first of several routine meetings between the Hogwarts professors and several things had already been discussed. The troubles of the upper years, the poor quality of the school brooms, the Quidditch cup, the latest shenanigans of the Weasley twins and so forth.
Things were drawing to a close now and all the other professors had already left, leaving just Dumbledore and the four heads of house.
"And what of our first years?" The Headmaster opened, mostly wanting to hear about Harry Potter .
"Among my lions, young Mr. Weasley is proving to be troublesome." McGonagall said with a frown. "He is continually late in turning in his assignments and they are invariably of poor quality. If this keeps up, I am going to need to write home to his parents."
All of them winced, not wanting there to be another reason for Molly Weasley's strident voice to thunder from the inevitable Howler that the woman would send her youngest son upon hearing of his poor academic performance.
"On the other hand, Ms. Granger is proving to be an exceptional student." She went on.
Snape gave a small sneer at the mention of the girl. He found her eagerness to please incredibly annoying, particularly her habit of turning in essays that were nearly twice as long as required. Anyone could regurgitate facts from a book and he didn't appreciate the extra work she was giving him by doing it.
"My badgers have settled in without any issue." Sprout took over the narrative. "But Minerva, I simply must comment on Mr. Longbottom. That boy has an amazing green thumb for Herbology."
"He has an even more amazing explosive thumb for Potions." Snape added condescendingly. "Not a single class goes by without something exploding in his general vicinity."
"What of your snakes, Severus?" Dumbledore interjected before the Herbology professor could launch into a rant against the Potions Master.
"Nothing out of the ordinary." Snape said shortly. Unlike the others, he was not inclined to talk about his Slytherins.
"I see." Dumbledore said the same as he did every year when Severus gave the same curt answer. "What of the Ravenclaws, Filius?"
"The only one that truly stands out is Mr. Potter." Flitwick admitted. He knew perfectly well that he'd been kept for last exactly because he had the Boy-Who-Lived in his house. "Though he does not have Ms. Granger's precision for theory, his practical work is simply extraordinary, even better than that of his mother. So far he has always been the first to master a new spell."
"The same for Transfiguration." McGonagall added. "Not even his father had this kind of talent for it."
"His talents are apparently restricted to wand waving, as his ability with potions is mediocre at best." Snape sneered.
"Loathe as I am to agree with Severus, he is right." Sprout said, still a bit steamed from the earlier comment against her favorite first year. "He seems entirely disinterested in Herbology."
"There is one other thing." Flitwick said uncomfortably, knowing that what he had to say next would not be well received.
"Yes, Filius?" Dumbledore prompted.
"Mr. Potter has asked me if it would be possible for him to stop attending DADA, History of Magic and Potions and study the subject matter on his own."
There was a moment of shock before Snape ended it.
"So the arrogant brat is already looking for special treatment?" He asked bitingly.
"Severus." Dumbledore said warningly before turning back to the Charms professor. "Did he say why?"
"He did." Flitwick confirmed. "He frankly admitted to me that Quirinus' stutter makes the class too slow for him."
McGonagall and Sprout sighed, fully understanding the situation. Talking to Quirrell was a chore when it took him forever to finish a sentence. Trying to listen to him lecture would be even worse.
Miraculously, Snape kept his opinion to himself.
"History of Magic...well, you know Binns." Flitwick continued, shrugging in an embarrassed manner. "As for Potions, he has come to me with a complaint about Severus vanishing his supplies and constantly singling him out during class."
"Perhaps I would not have vanished his supplies had he brought proper ones." Snape retorted.
"Yes, Mr. Potter told me of his preference for muggle stationery and I won't dispute your right to demand that all students use a quill and parchment in your class, but did it truly warrant you destroying his supplies? And I note that you didn't respond to the accusation of singling him out." Flitwick said back with narrowed eyes.
"Someone has to curb his ego." Snape sneered.
"What ego, Severus?" Flitwick demanded. "The boy spends all his time either in the library, in class or in his room. Occasionally he explores the school, but that's all. He hasn't made any friends yet and seems to have no intention of doing so."
Despite not showing it, Snape was a bit startled by that. Potter not having any friends? He hadn't really looked into it, but now that Flitwick mentioned it, he did recall that the boy didn't engage in much conversation while eating in the Great Hall.
"And yet he thinks that he can drop three classes and do them on his own." He shot back, mostly to cover up his surprise. He had a reputation to uphold.
"It is a moot point either way I'm afraid." Dumbledore interjected. "Though I admire young Harry's desire to learn, if we allowed him to skip certain classes, then everyone would want the same privilege and most of those would not have the same drive to learn that he does."
There was also the fact Dumbledore didn't want the boy to isolate himself any further.
Though Flitwick could appreciate the headmaster's point, he had a feeling that it would just cause Harry to ignore the lecturing of Quirrell and Binns and do his own thing. Snape would not be so easily ignored and the diminutive Charms professor could only hope that Severus would apply some restraint. Harry's fame would make the entire situation unpleasant for all involved if things continued to escalate.
After that staff meeting was over, Snape paid closer attention to Potter.
He had been surprised to see the boy go to Ravenclaw instead of Gryffindor, seeing as both his parents had gone to that house. He'd also been expecting him to be running about the school with a gang of like-minded hooligans by now, breaking rules and causing trouble everywhere.
But Flitwick was indeed correct. The boy was quiet, introverted and studious. Nothing at all like his father and only slightly more like his mother. In fact, Snape was reminded rather jarringly of himself as a first year. A himself who didn't have Lily as a friend.
His face still looked too much like that of James Potter and Snape felt the old anger come back every time he saw it, but he decided to lower the verbal abuse to the level he aimed at everyone. He would reserve judgement for the moment.
"Ha!" Harry yelled unnecessarily, thrusting out his hands and focusing all his will into making a mighty fireball blast forth from them.
The most pathetic fireball that the world had ever seen was his result.
Harry slumped, feeling kind of ridiculous to have made such a dramatic buildup, only to produce that little flicker. He wasn't going to be casting any firestorms soon, that was for sure.
He'd long ago figured out that the magic was linked to his emotions. The more powerful the emotion he was feeling, the more powerful the results of his accidental magic had always been. Unfortunately, summoning up emotions on demand was simply not that easy. He'd been practicing with his magic for years and had managed to get some results even when he wasn't feeling incredibly distressed, but it was slow going.
With his wand though...
He took out the holly wand and slashed it through the air, sending a band of fire scything through the air. It wasn't much and would singe some eyebrows at best, but he'd gathered that it was impressive for a firstie that had only been at Hogwarts for a month and a bit.
He'd also noted that he didn't really need all the ridiculous swishing and flicking that everyone else was using. Nor did he really need to say the words of the spells. It seemed obvious to him that the power was neither in the wand motions nor in the words, but in the intent of the caster. He had no idea why they were being taught in this kind of backwards manner.
Well, whatever. He wasn't going to argue about it and bring attention to himself, so he just pretended to swish and flick like everyone else. There was too much attention on him as it was, thanks to that stupid Boy-Who-Lived crap.
It got a bit lonely sometimes, but not so much that he would be willing to attempt getting closer to his yearmates.
The only one that he had any regular contact with was Su Li, and that was only because she happened to be his potions partner. As luck would have it, Su was herself a quiet girl focused on her studies and didn't really try to engage him in conversation.
Padma Patil had tried to talk to him once, looking horribly embarrassed about it. As it turned out, she'd been nagged into it by her Griffyndor twin sister Parvati, who wanted to know about the Boy-Who-Lived. Harry managed not to be too annoyed with Padma for that, though her sister was another matter entirely.
The rest of his yearmates had gotten used to his prickly personality by now and kept a polite distance.
Outside of Ravenclaw, the only people he truly registered among the students were Draco Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson and Hermione Granger.
The puffed up blond idiot occasionally threw out a snide remark that he probably though was clever, but did little else than that when Harry failed to react to his taunts.
Pansy he'd only noticed because she apparently belonged to the family that had taken over the Potter family business. He'd considered talking to her about it, but the pug nosed girl was distinctly unpleasant to be around and a hanger on for Draco. He might have to do it one day, but he'd been putting it off so far. It wasn't as if he could actually do anything about it yet.
As for Hermione...well, that girl seemed to be taking his seemingly easy grasp of practical spellcraft as a personal challenge and sometimes even gave him a smug look when she answered the theoretical questions correctly, when they shared classes at any rate. She seemed to be under the misconception that they were rivals or something. For such a smart girl, she was a right idiot.
Harry was sitting in a quiet corner of the Hogwarts library, reading. Away from his foster parents and their army of hair stylists, his hair had reverted to its natural Potterness and become hopelessly messy. It was probably taking revenge for the years of neatness imposed on it.
Harry was actually considering growing it long, mostly because a lot of fantasy spellcasters seemed to have long hair and thought it would be cool, but also because he knew it would piss off Robert and Katherine. Probably not a good idea just yet, but he promised himself to look up information on hair growing spells or potions.
He wasn't reading a book on spells at the moment however, but rather a history book. Binns was indisputably an authority on the Goblin Wars – an exceptionally boring one – but he had thus far been useless for anything else.
He was doing this because he wanted to know about the history of wands. Where had they come from? Why were they so widespread? What had been used before them? Had any kind of foci been used before them?
He had managed to learn that it was the Romans who had first discovered the secrets of wandlore and spread their use so far and wide, though it had still been centuries before every single magical had a wand. Originally, they had been reserved for the elite only. There were a great many flowery descriptions about the Roman war wizards and how their wands had allowed them to sweep away the primitive sorceries of the cultures conquered by Rome. There were no mentions of what those primitive sorceries actually were though.
No matter which history text he looked up, he could find nothing about the magics used before the advent of wands. The best he got was some mentions of the Viking runecrafters, some of whose arts were still in use today and which he would be learning in the Ancient Runes class that became available in third year. That was a rather fascinating subject and something that he had already started reading up on.
Now, Harry was willing to believe that a lot of knowledge had been lost since those times – It was about two millenia ago after all – but for nothing to be known? That had the feel of deliberate historical editing.
Combined with his suspicion that wands were somehow used as a method of control by the Ministry of Magic and the many restrictive laws on magic use that he'd found, it felt like a cover-up. Whatever the Ministry was hiding, Harry wanted it.
He took a longing glance towards the roped off Restricted Section. All of the really good stuff was undoubtedly in there. He knew that Hogwarts predated the Ministry of Magic by over five hundred years and therefore had a considerable amount of autonomy. It was highly likely that there were numerous texts in the Restricted Section that the Ministry would prefer were destroyed or locked away somewhere. He especially wanted to see if there were any books on ritual magic in there. The Ministry categorized all ritual magic as Dark and banned it wholesale, which really stuck in his craw. He'd been looking forward to performing some self-improvement rituals, if there were any.
Unfortunately, Harry had not yet figured out a way to get in there without attracting all the wrong kinds of attention.
But he would. He was going to get in there and learn whatever super secret magic was being hidden. Then he would make himself a proper tower and call it something properly dramatic like...the High Tower of Sorcery or something. And he would cackle and throw lightning at the Ministry fools who would attack it in an attempt to steal his power!
Harry coughed and aimed a rueful grin at the history book in front of him, which just so happened to be opened on a page detailing the exploits of Yngvar the Insane, a Swedish Dark Lord from the 7th century, so called for his use of an unknown(or deliberately forgotten) spell that called a storm of lightning from the heavens. He was considered insane because lightning storms were a bit random and couldn't be aimed, which eventually spelled the end of Yngvar when it fried him instead of his enemies. What he'd actually been trying to achieve with this Thor impersonation, the book didn't say.
In fact, Harry had noticed a recurring theme of unclear motivations for quite a few past Dark Lords. Europe as a whole averaged at least one Dark Lord or Lady per century, often a bit more. The 14th had been particularly eventful, producing one every twenty-five years with clockwork precision. The two most recent ones, Voldemort and Grindelwald, had the most clearly defined motives and unquestioningly deserved to be called Dark Lords.
About the others, Harry was less sure. The books all seemed to agree about how evil and powerful they had been, but none of them said anything about their goals aside from going against the established authority. Before the Ministry of Magic, there had been a High Wizard's Council – of which the Wizengamot was a remnant – and before that, there hadn't been enough magicals to truly separate themselves from the non-magical kingdoms of the time. The only thing common to every single Dark Lord or Lady was the fact that they'd been giving the people in charge the middle finger.
It was giving Harry the distinct impression that the bureaucratic overlords simply did not like powerful wizards or witches. Which, in retrospect, was so blindingly obvious that he really should have guessed at it without need for three days of being buried in history books. Mediocre wizards in positions of authority would naturally be wary of the very powerful ones, either as rivals or simply as people who could ignore the politicking and do as they pleased.
Probably a good thing that I'm planning to take a little trip once I finish Hogwarts. He thought to himself, recalling his intentions to study magic that the Ministry deemed illegal. That would get him branded a Dark Wizard at best, possibly even a Dark Lord if he ended up being powerful enough.
Dark magic? What a laugh that was. They'd just learned the levitation charm a day ago and Harry could think of at least three ways to kill someone with it off the top of his head. How was that any better than the painless Killing Curse? Dead was dead and he wasn't going to let some government lackey tell him otherwise.
Granted, Dumbledore was an example of an extremely powerful wizard and he seemed to have avoided the Dark Lord appelation, but Harry wasn't sure he counted since the man apparently held the top position in both the British Wizengamot and the International Confederation of Wizards, essentially making him the man that decided whether someone was a Dark Lord or not. The fact that every mention of such powerful wizards that weren't Dark Lords were invariably high up in the government only confirmed his theory.
The boy in question yelped and nearly sent the books crashing to the floor, something that was sure to earn him the eternal enmity of the supremely cranky librarian.
He turned to look at his ambusher and saw the fifth year prefect, Penelope Clearwater. The girl had – for some reason – taken it upon herself to talk to him every once in a while.
"What?" He asked, a touch more rudely than he intended.
"The Halloween feast is about to start, I figured you'd lose track of time again and came to get you." Penelope said, her eyebrows drawn into a tiny frown at his tone. Harry was frequently irritated when someone intruded on his reading and had swiftly claimed the title of 'most anti-social Ravenclaw'. It was a prefect's job to look after the younger years and Penelope was determined to live up to that, but Harry Potter sometimes made it difficult to talk to him without getting annoyed.
"I don't celebrate Halloween." He said tersely. He wasn't a particularly celebratory person at the best of times, but Halloween was especially disliked ever since he'd learned how and when his parents had died. He didn't remember them and had come to terms with the fact that they were gone a long time ago, but they had died to protect him and he wouldn't celebrate their deaths. Not to mention that he'd come to loathe pumpkins since coming to Hogwarts and the Great Hall was sure to be hopelessly spammed with the hated plant right now.
"You must be hungry though." Penelope insisted softly, picking up on his increased dislike and being considerate enough to guess at the cause.
"I'm not." Harry insisted back.
Which was of course the exact moment that his stomach betrayed him with a loud rumble.
"Alright, so maybe I am hungry." He conceded. "But I'm not going to eat in the Great Hall. I've got some snacks in my room."
Penelope sighed at his stubborness. "Come with me, I can at least show you where to find the kitchens."
That caught his attention? Students could go eat in the kitchen? He could avoid the Great Hall altogether!
Unaware that she had just unintentionally facilitated further anti-social behavior from the boy that she was hoping would eventually open up a bit, Penelope led him to the lair of the Hogwarts house elves.
While Harry did find the excitable house elves to be a bit much, he was also very interested in learning about a magical race. The Goblins were the only other one he'd met so far and they hadn't looked like the type to tolerate the questions of an eleven year old. He could respect that, since he wouldn't be too keen on indulging someone's curiousity either.
The house elves were more than happy to tell him anything he wanted though, and he even managed to talk to them about the kind of food and drink he preferred, so it was all good. Their extreme friendliness was a bit off putting to someone like him, but the excitable creatures apparently had a supernaturally good sense for when someone didn't want them around and toned it down as soon as Harry started feeling discomfited by the attention.
Because he was not a Griffyndor, Harry was not around when Ron Weasley tossed a careless and hurtful remark at Hermione Granger out of frustration. He didn't not know that she'd run away in tears.
Because he wasn't at the feast, he didn't hear Quirrell announce that there was a troll in the dungeons.
When Penelope burst into the kitchens with a crazy tale about a troll being loose in the castle, Harry merely looked at her oddly, muttered something about a random encounter and followed her to the Ravenclaw common room.
Unlike Harry, Ron was acutely aware of the fact that his housemate was missing. For a critical minute, he waffled over the decision of whether he should tell a teacher or not, wanting to escape blame for the situation. Quirrell had said that the troll was in the dungeons hadn't he? Hermione wasn't down there, so she should be safe, right?
His sense of guilt and responsibility – unused though it was – eventually won out over his desire to hide from the situation and he went to McGonagall, confessing everything.
McGonagall and Snape charged into the bathroom just in time to see the troll raising its bloodied club from the misshapen ruin of Hermione Granger's body.
A full grown mountain troll was a hideously strong creature with a highly magic resistant hide, but that didn't protect it from the angry spellwork of the enraged Transfiguration Mistress and the cooler but equally deadly Potions Master.
The Great Hall was both full and silent, something that was highly unusual.
In front of the staff table stood Dumbledore, wearing dour black robes and a remorseful expression.
"It is my sad duty today to inform you of the death of a Hogwarts student. Last night, Hermione Granger was attacked and killed by the troll that professor Quirrell warned us of. She was an exceptionally bright witch, with a bright future ahead of her. There will be no classes this week as the Ministry's Aurors investigate and take statements, please allow them to do their jobs without interruption and cooperate with their requests. Thank you."
The Aurors came and went, taking statements and investigating the situation. Less than two weeks after Hermione's death, things went back to relatively normal.
Harry was baffled.
A student had died, so why was everyone acting as if it was no big deal? He knew that Hogwarts was largely autonomous, but this was ridiculous. Had a student died from something as easily preventable as a wild animal roaming in through the front doors in a muggle school, the Headmaster and staff would have been in serious hot water, private school or not.
A look at the Daily Prophet article provided some clarification.
Though the article had been scathing in tone towards Dumbledore in particular and the Hogwarts professors in general, two things stood out.
The first was the fact that the article itself was on the third page instead of on the first. You'd think that a student death at school would be big news.
The second thing was the title of the article.
Muggleborn student dies in tragic incident!
Tragic incident? That was one way of calling it.
The fact that it mentioned Hermione's blood status at all brought another thing into sharp focus. The Wizarding World lagged behind its mundane counterpart in more than just technology. Long lives made for slow social changes and discrimination based on self-entitlement was much more prominent in magical society than it was in the muggle one.
Harry wasn't blind to the attitude that some purebloods had towards the muggleborn. There wasn't much of that in Ravenclaw, but it was hard to miss the way that certain purebloods refused to sit next to the muggleborns. It was hard not to hear Draco Malfoy's bigoted commentary.
He hadn't been in any way close to Hermione, so he couldn't honestly say that her death upset him, but it had gotten him to realize something. The girl had been so competitive with him because she'd probably been looking for someone to share her academic interests in. He'd thought her stupid then, thinking that she just wanted to be the best, but now he was the one that felt stupid. She'd probably been hoping to make a friend in the only way she knew how.
He promised himself that he wouldn't be so quick to judge in the future.
The Christmas holidays rolled around and Harry found himself in a much emptier Hogwarts.
He could have gone back to the Shaws, but that would inevitably mean attending some kind of high society event with them. An empty castle would have been more fun than that even if it didn't have a huge library.
Besides, he had something that he wanted to talk to the Ancient Runes professor about and the holidays were the best possible time for it.
Actually finding professor Babbling's room in the castle had turned out to be surprisingly difficult and it wasn't until he'd thought to ask one of the house elves that he succeeded.
"Mr. Potter?" The professor confusedly asked once she'd opened the door to his knocking. "Is there something I can do for you?"
"I had some questions about runes that I was hoping I could ask you." Harry answered.
"You were studying Ancient Runes on your own?" She asked happily, always pleased to hear that a student was interested in her specialty.
"Yes." Harry nodded. "So, do you have time to talk?"
"Yes of course, please come in." Babbling invited and opened the door to let him in.
Harry looked around the room curiously, having never seen a teacher's quarters before. It was bigger than his own room in the Ravenclaw tower by quite a bit, which was only to be expected, but other than that it was fairly similar. It also had a small sitting area that his room didn't have. The most notable feature of the room was the large desk covered in parchment that he presumed contained various school work assignments on runes and such.
"Have a seat." Bathsheda said, gesturing to the couch and taking a seat next to him. "Now, what was it you wanted to know?"
"I looked over the theory, but I have some trouble understanding how symbols could have any kind of magical power." Harry admitted. "It doesn't make any sense to me that just inscribing a symbol and charging it with magic would confer a certain property to the item being inscribed."
"Ah, this is a question that I am asked frequently, though not usually by first years." The professor said wrily. "Tell me Mr. Potter, have you also wondered why wand motions are neccessary?"
"Err..." Harry stalled a bit, but figured that there was no point in playing dumb. "I'd just assumed that they were used as a method of tricking people into focusing properly on a spell, the same as incantations."
Bathsheda's eyebrows climbed into her hairline in surprise, realizing that the boy in front of her must already be capable of casting silently and motionlessly to have come to that conclusion.
"You are only partially correct, Mr. Potter. The incantations are indeed just a trick to focus the mind of beginners on the effects of a spell, but the wand motions serve an actual purpose. You see, when you wave your wand, it pulls on your magic in specific ways and shapes it into the desired spell effect. The field of Arthmancy concerns itself with which wand motions are best suited to a certain spell effect. It is possible to cast without motions, but it requires a much greater focus on the part of the caster." She explained.
"I see." Harry said pensively.
"I must admit to being impressed that you have the mental focus required to cast both motionlessly and silently at your age. These are things you would have usually learned in your sixth year, so it is very rare to find a child your age capable of it." The professor praised.
Harry rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment at the praise. After struggling for years to manage anything at all with wandless magic, it was practically child's play to use a wand.
"So the runes...they don't have any actual meaning, but are just shaped in a way that directs the magic to a certain effect?" He asked, getting back to the point of his visit.
"Once again, you are only partially correct." Bathsheda told him. "Many of the runes in use today were created with the help of Arithmancy, which is a fairly modern field of study in comparison to things like Charms, Potions and Transfiguration. These runes are indeed shaped with a singular purpose in mind and it is perhaps a misnomer to call them 'ancient', as they are not that old in the grand scheme of things. There are however, older runes also in use that truly are ancient. These runes represent concepts and ideas and can have multiple meanings. They are typically more powerful than arithmantically developed runes but also less precise as their effects may vary based on the understanding and intent of the one who charges them with magic."
"Wouldn't it be possible to use a completely made up rune in that case, as long as you assigned it meaning?" Harry asked, confused.
"Theoretically yes, but you would be aware that the runes were made up and therefore subconsciously make them meaningless." Babbling explained with a small grin, enjoying the conversation. Mr. Potter had clearly done quite a bit of research on the subject and she was looking forward to having him in her class in a few years. "There is also an unproven theory in the academic circles that the older runes have been in use for so long that their meanings have become imprinted on the wild magic of the Earth, which is why they are more powerful."
"That's an interesting theory." Harry commented a bit absently. "I had just one more question."
"By all means."
"The books all seemed to agree that writing runes on yourself either wouldn't work or was downright dangerous, but they didn't explain why."
"Ah, that." Bathsheda said with a bit of a grumble. "I have long thought that every book on runes should contain more thorough warnings about such practices and I make sure to mention it during my classes."
"So it can be done?" Harry pressed.
"Yes Mr. Potter, it can, though it is most unwise." She admitted. "Merely using a quill to write runes on your skin and charging it with magic would achieve nothing, as the magic would be superficial and resisted by your body. Tattooing them into your skin would confer some effects, but likely not ones that you would wish. There would be a conflict between the intentions of the tattoo artist and yourself, leading to a wide variety of unpredictable complications. Furthermore, the runes would be attempting to make changes to your body and magic and would not have the necessary power to do so, once again causing nothing but complications. Even worse, wizards differ from muggles in that their magic eventually wears away the ink in a tattoo, so even if you had managed to impart some kind of positive effect to yourself through a rune tattoo, it would eventually disperse and quite likely harm you in the process."
"I see." Harry said again, looking thoughtful. "Thank you, this was very informative. Could I come talk to you again if I had any more questions?"
"Of course." Bathsheda agreed, wanting to encourage his obvious interest in runes.
On Christmas morning, Harry found himself puzzled upon seeing a present with his name on it at the foot of his bed.
He knew it wasn't from the Shaws, as those two treated every holiday as an opportunity to suck up to someone at one social event or another. The only present he'd ever gotten from them was clothing that they expected him to wear to one of said social events. It had rather ruined the point of Christmas to him.
Upon opening it, he saw that it held a shimmering silvery cloak. He could practically feel the tingle of magic under his fingers as he touched it. A little experimentation led to the awed realization that it was an actual invisibility cloak. Who in the world could have possibly given him this?
A look at the attached card provided only some bafflement.
Your father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was returned to you. Use it well. A Very Merry Christmas to you.
There was no signature to the note written in loopy handwriting, but a little guesswork allowed him to figure out who it was.
He didn't really know anyone in the Wizarding world aside from the people in Hogwarts. It wasn't likely to be the students, as he wasn't exactly that close to any of them and he strongly doubted that they would have given him such an obviously valuable artefact.
Most of the teachers were also excluded, on grounds of him being familiar with their handwriting already. The only one that it might have been was professor Babbling, but he'd only talked to her once so she wasn't likely to have given him such a thing.
Having excluded all of his aquaintances, he tentatively assumed that it was sent by the headmaster. He seemed like the type to hoard magical items. Reading over the note again, he came to another realization.
He gifted me with something that technically belongs to me in the first place? Or failing that, re-gifted me with something that my father gave him? And he admitted it as if it was no big deal? Wow, that's just...wow.
Harry had to be impressed by the sheer gall of the man, though he was too happy with the invisibility cloak to take much umbrage.
After all, the headmaster had just given him exactly what he needed to pay a clandestine visit to the Restricted Section. But first, there was a present to send out. He'd gotten the idea for it months ago, but hadn't been planning to actually go through with it, as it had the potential to backfire on him quite spectacularly. The invisibility cloak had put him in a gift-giving mood though.
"Could I talk to a house elf, please?" He said to the empty room, not sure if it would work.
"You's needing Blinky?" Apparently, it did work.
Severus Snape started in surprise as a Christmas present appeared on his desk. He had already received the usual bottle of firewhiskey from Minerva that would last him a year, as well as the bag of muggle candies from the headmaster that he had summarily disposed of as usual.
Nobody else ever gave him presents. Ever.
After casting every detection spell he knew on the small parcel, he was forced to conclude that it was not a trap and that someone had indeed done so.
Warily unwrapping it, he stared in slowly rising anger at the muggle notebook and pen, exactly like the ones he'd forbidden Potter from using in his classroom.
The cheeky brat was mocking him! Just like his useless, arrogant father! James bloody Potter would...would...would not have done this. No, James Potter would have played some juvenile prank in the halls or during dinner, and he would have done it a lot sooner too.
This was the kind of passive aggressive response that Lily would have given him after she came down from the initial hot tempered rage.
I thought you might appreaciate the convenience of being able to take notes for your potions in one place without the hassle of inkpots or ink splotches.
The equally passive aggressive note wasn't signed, further reinforcing Snape's sense of nostalgia as he stared at the neat handwriting.
The boy had obviously never heard of self-inking and ever-neat quills before, nor of the enchanted notebooks that never ran out of pages. Lily had been dubious about wizarding stationery at first too.
Without the face of a miniature James Potter making him angry and no people around for which to keep up appearances, Snape spent his Christmas morning in nostalgic reminiscence of the only friend he'd ever had.
It was very late and the Hogwarts library was dark, silent and empty.
Empty, except for the invisible Harry Potter strolling through the Restricted Section, hungrily looking at the books. There were so many things he wanted to look up that it was hard to decide what to pick first.
Obscure spells had a strong draw to the mindset of an eleven year old, but Harry pulled his attention away from those, knowing that he didn't have the power to cast them yet and having enough caution not to try it anyway.
Eventually, he came across something that he had wanted to know ever since he'd learned about the Wizarding World.
The Theory of Rituals: The Magick of Sacrifice.
Harry swallowed nervously, wondering if this was a book detailing the proper way to sacrifice a virgin, which he had no intention of doing.
On the other hand, the book was using Ye Olde English in the title, which was always a good sign.
Albus Dumbledore was feeling a mite frustrated.
He knew that Voldemort would return and he knew that Harry Potter was prophesized to vanquish him.
The problem was that Harry Potter did not seem very heroically inclined. He had been curious about the parcel that Hagrid had retrieved from Gringott's, but not enough to look into it any further. He hadn't been inquisitive enough to take a peek behind the forbidden door in the third floor corridor. Albus wasn't even sure if he was aware of the break in at Gringott's. Not that Dumbledore really wanted him to try getting passed the defenses, but he had hoped that Harry would be curious. A powerful sense of curiousity was essential for a hero and Harry Potter simply didn't have it.
The boy was actually alarmingly disconnected from the Wizarding World. Aside from his obvious desire to learn magic and the tenuous link to his dead parents, Harry Potter had literally no ties to Wizarding Britain.
Not for the first time, Albus lamented the boy's placement in Ravenclaw. Even Slytherin might have been better, though it would have undoubtedly been difficult on him. At the very least, it would have forced him to interact with his peers, whereas Ravenclaw had a well known reputation for fostering introversion.
This wasn't usually something that Dumbledore would interfere with, but Harry Potter had a destiny ahead of him and that destiny would not be fulfilled by studying magic in seclusion.
He was well aware of the boy's recent excursions into the Restricted Section, but did not bother to stop him. What difference did it make anyway? The boy would have to die in order for Voldemort to be defeated once and for all, so his dabbling in illegal magics was of no concern. The knowledge might even come in handy at some point. The primer on ritual magic that he'd read the other night was hardly alarming anyway. Despite the ominous title and what the Ministry had to say about it, it was little more than a theoretical discourse on the nature of magic, with a focus on rituals. Dumbledore had removed the worst of the reading material in there during Tom Riddle's seventh year. He still regretted not doing it sooner.
He had no real fear of Harry joining up with Voldemort. The Dark Lord would never suffer a rival to his power and being destroyed by a year old baby would be an unforgivable insult to him. Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort would be enemies no matter what, but Harry might just decide to leave Britain instead of fighting if he had nothing tying him here.
If only he had been sorted into Gryffindor! Albus was sure that he would have become fast friends with Hermione Granger. They had been similar enough.
The girl's death had shaken the old headmaster far more than he let on. Minerva had often told him that keeping the Philosopher's Stone in Hogwarts was a terrible idea, but he had been sure that it was for the best. He had been sure that he would be able to handle the shade of Voldemort without there being any danger to the students. He wasn't sure any longer.
For all the pretty words that he had spun for the Aurors about the troll wandering in through a hitherto undiscovered secret passage, Dumbledore knew that it was his fault.
Regardless of his shaken confidence, he desperately needed to get a better handle on Harry Potter. Wizarding Britain and the Light would need a champion in the dark times that were approaching and Dumbledore knew that he was too old to fill that role himself. He had already been too old in the last war. A successor had to be moulded, even if he would die at the end of the conflict. Perhaps another miracle would allow Harry Potter to survive, as it had when he was a baby. An old man could hope, even if it was a fool's hope.
In the meanwhile, the Mirror of Erised would hopefully reveal if the boy had any desires that could be useful. A discreet compulsion charm would make sure that he found it.
Harry had no idea how exactly he'd ended up in this abandoned classroom with the weird looking mirror. He'd just felt an insatiable desire to wander about Hogwarts and basically stumbled upon it.
That was a bit odd for him, as he had no desire to interact with Filch, the miserable bastard. The man apparently couldn't grasp the fact that there was a slightly different set of rules in play during the holidays and had tried to get him in trouble for imagined infractions several times already.
Honestly, what did he even do at Hogwarts? His post as caretaker seemed to be completely made up just so that the bitter man would have an excuse to stay at the castle.
But for some reason, he felt the need to wander tonight and how here he was, staring at a tall mirror with a gold frame and clawed feet.
It was an interesting looking mirror, but the image it showed was the true puzzle. Instead of reflecting his proper image, it showed Harry the way that he hoped he would look as an adult. Tall and broad shouldered, long haired and roguishly handsome, with an aura of power draped over his shoulders like an invisible mantle. He was also wearing a rather badass looking set of robes that looked a great deal more practical than the nightgown-esque apparel that wizards actually tended to wear, more like a sort of half-robe or something.
Even more puzzling than the skewed reflection of himself, it also showed someone standing next to him. This person was utterly indistinct. He couldn't tell the color of the hair or eyes, couldn't put his finger on height or body shape. He thought it might be a woman, but the more he looked, the less certain he was of that. It was as if his mind was simply unable to focus on the figure aside from determining that there was a figure.
There was an inscription on the top, spelling out 'Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi', which told him nothing. He couldn't even begin to guess what language that was in.
There was something compelling about the image, but Harry could not for the life of him determine what it was. The vision of his adult self seemed obvious enough, a representation of his hopes perhaps, but what about the other figure?
Harry hated riddles. In fact, the bloody door knocker that asked you a riddle every time you wanted to enter Ravenclaw tower was the thing that he found the most irritating about his house. He'd had to wait for someone else to answer the damn thing quite a few times already, though he was getting the hang of answering correctly by sheer force of repetition.
Usually when confronted with a particularly irritating riddle that he couldn't solve, he would abandon it for a time and maybe come back later, but not this time. There was something about this image that made him want to understand it.
"Captivating, is it not?" An old voice asked from behind an indeterminate amount of time later, startling him quite badly.
"Headmaster?" Harry asked, bewildered. "What are you doing here?"
Dumbledore chuckled in amusement. "I could ask you the same thing."
Harry flushed in embarrassment, realizing how his blurted out question must have sounded. "Sorry, sir."
"It is quite alright, my boy." The old wizard said kindly. A little rudeness was the least he could tolerate from Harry in exchange for the compulsion he'd cast on him, even if the boy didn't know it.
"So, err, what does this mirror do?" Harry asked awkwardly.
"The clue is in the inscription, but you must remember that it is a mirror." Dumbledore hinted.
Harry frowned in confusion and looked at the inscription again. With the rather large hint he'd been given, it didn't take long to guess that he had to read it backwards.
"I show not your face, but your heart's desire?" He wondered.
"Indeed, the Mirror of Erised does not reflect ourselves, but the deepest, most desperate desires of our hearts." Dumbledore clarified. "Men have wasted away before it, yearning for what it shows them, even if they know it to be impossible. Perhaps especially if they know it to be impossible."
"What do you see, sir?" Harry ventured carefully, knowing that it was a personal question.
Dumbledore looked at the mirror, seeing his family once more unbroken and whole around him and feeling the familiar ache in his heart that always accompanied the image. His parents standing together happily, Ariana alive and well, Aberforth reconciled with him. His old friend and lover Gellert next to him, not a Dark Lord but a good man. It was an impossible dream, and all the more painful for it.
"I see myself getting a pair of thick wooly socks for Christmas." He finally answered. "People always get me books for Christmas, you see."
Harry didn't believe that for a moment. Socks were simply not something that you could have a desperate desire for unless you were stuck barefoot in the cold. He wasn't going to say anything though, as his question had been quite personal.
"Orphans often see their parents returned to them, would I be correct in guessing that this is what it shows you?" Dumbledore asked, fibbing at little. The Mirror of Erised had not been exposed to orphans as far as he could remember, but it seemed a reasonable guess.
"No sir, it doesn't." Harry answered with a small frown.
Perhaps if the Shaws had not adopted him, that is what it would have showed him. He knew better now than to wish for his parents to be returned to him. He had no doubt that they had loved him and it would be good to see them, but things could not go back to what they could have been. They would have tried to set limits on him that he had already outgrown. They would do it out of love and concern, but it would have infuriated him all the same. He didn't fit into the role of 'eleven year old son' anymore.
"Truly?" Dumbledore queried with an eyebrow raised in surprise. "May I ask what you see?"
Unlike the old wizard, Harry did not consider the image to be anything massively private and he very much wanted to understand it.
Dumbledore listened attentively as Harry described what he saw, using a light touch of Legilimency to see the image for himself.
"I may know what it represents, but let me ask you one more question to make certain." He said when Harry was done talking, waiting for the boy to nod his permission. "Are you happy with your foster parents?"
"Not really, no." Harry answered reluctantly. "It isn't a bad place to live, but putting up with them is a bit of a chore sometimes."
Having used Legilimency just then to see if he was being told the truth, Dumbledore knew that Harry considered any interaction with Robert and Katherine Shaw to be a chore. He held back a sigh. No wonder that the mirror did not show him his parents. Getting adopted only to have his hopes of a loving family crushed by reality had no doubt been a heavy blow to a young child.
"In that case, I believe that the mirror is showing you the image that you associate with freedom and independence, yourself as a powerful adult." He said, not letting his thoughts show.
"And the other figure?" Harry asked.
"I presume that it symbolizes your well hidden desire for companionship." Dumbledore answered. "Believe me when I tell you this, young Harry; all the power and riches in the world will not make you happy if you have no one to share them with. This is a truth that the powerful often do not realize until it is too late, if they do at all."
Headmaster and student both left the room after that, both of them thoughtful.
Dumbledore pondered how this new information could be used to inspire a sense of loyalty and responsibility towards Wizarding Britain in Harry Potter.
As for Harry, he reassesed his life goals. He remembered that virtually none of his books featured a solitary protagonist, something he had never considered before but it seemed obvious now. The antagonist was always alone, surrounded by minions at best, while the protagonist had friends. He didn't have any worries about suddenly developing the urge to rule the world, but he had to admit that he did feel a bit lonely. Perhaps making a friend wouldn't be such a bad idea?
Harry quickly discovered that making a friend was a great deal harder than simply deciding that he would try it. He had not the foggiest idea about how to make friends with someone after he'd spent months isolating himself. None of his yearmates approached him anymore and he couldn't quite bring himself to approach them either.
The status quo continued as the months slipped away and Harry eventually gave it up as a bad job, deciding to try again next year.
Instead, he continued to spend his time studying and practicing magic, sneaking into the Restricted Section as time allowed. He also made a few more visits to Bathsheda Babbling to talk about runes and to Septima Vector for Arithmancy. Both teachers were glad to discuss their subjects with him, unaware of the idea that slowly took shape in his mind.
Albus Dumbledore noticed the continued isolation of Harry Potter and sympathized with the boy, having plucked the reason for it out of his mind. Trying again next year did indeed seem to be a reasonable course of action.
He knew that Ginny Weasley would be coming to Hogwarts next year, so perhaps he could arrange something there? The Weasleys were a staunchly Light family and would no doubt quickly accept Harry into their midst. She would be a Gryffindor of course, but that wouldn't be too difficult a hurdle to get past.
He was still a bit disappointed by Harry's lack of interest in the mystery of the third floor corridor, but he wasn't willing to manipulate the boy into investigating it. Having already lost one student to the club of a troll, he had no desire to lose another to the fangs of a cerberus. Especially not when he was sure that Harry would play a crucial role in the coming war.
There was a bit of a minor emergency in April, when Hagrid nearly burned his hut down with a dragon of all things. Fortunately, Albus had become aware of it just in time and contacted Charlie Weasley, who was able to help sneak the little bundle of teeth and rage away from the school before the half-giant found himself serving time in Azkaban for illegally hatching a dragon.
Upon learning how exactly Hagrid had come by a dragon egg, Dumbledore knew that Voldemort was on the move. With that, the incidents of killed unicorns also suddenly made sense.
Quirrell and an increasingly impatient Voldemort found themselves stumped by the final hurdle on their quest to get the Philosopher's Stone. All the other defenses had been pathetic(except the cerberus, that one had actually been dangerous), but this final one was proving incredibly problematic.
And then Dumbledore showed up.
"You wanted to see me, sir?" Harry asked as he stepped into the headmaster's office.
"Indeed I did, my boy." Dumbledore replied jovially, gesturing to a chair. "Please have a seat."
Harry did so, looking around the office curiously. There were all sorts of odd devices scattered around, as well as a rather ostentatious gold perch that was currently empty.
"Lemon drop?" Dumbledore offered, breaking Harry from his inspection of the office.
"No thank you." Harry declined politely. "Professor Flitwick said that you had something you needed to discuss with me?"
Dumbledore noticed with some dismay that Harry refused to make eye contact with him now. The boy had apparently found a book on the Mind Arts in the Restricted Section and was now practicing the most basic form of defense against mental probing. Namely, not letting it take place to begin with. Wise of him, but so very inconvenient for Dumbledore.
"Indeed I do Harry. It concerns your summer accomodations."
"What about them?" Harry asked, confused.
"You may not know this, but it was I who placed you with the Dursleys ten years ago." Dumbledore admitted.
"Why?" Harry asked with an edge to his voice, his eyes narrowing a fraction. He had no good memories of that place.
"Even though Voldemort was gone, many of his followers were still free and would have killed you if given the chance. The nature of your mother's death confered unto you a powerful protection, a protection I was able to extend to encompass the entirety of your aunt's house for as long you lived in the same home as her. I never expected that they would treat you so poorly and for that you have my most sincere apologies."
"Alright, but how is that important now?" Harry asked a bit tersely, wanting to move away from the subject of the Dursleys.
"Have you been at all curious as to why I declared the third floor corridor off limits this year?"
"I was." Harry admitted. "But I decided not to check if you were joking about the 'painful death' part after the incident with the troll."
Dumbledore's eyes dimmed as he remembered the girl who had died because of his blunder. Now that he knew that Quirrell had been possessed, he could also guess that the troll had been set loose deliberately. Contrary to popular belief, the school wards did not give him omniscient knowledge of all that went on in Hogwarts' walls.
"Behind that door was a series of traps that led to a great prize, a prize designed to lure Voldemort into the open." He explained.
"Isn't he supposed to be dead?" Harry interrupted.
"He is supposed to be, but I have long suspected otherwise. Just the other day, my suspicion was confirmed."
Harry sank deeper into his chair, recalling all the incidents that simply screamed 'plot relevant event' that he'd dismissed so far.
"Please don't tell me that I'm destined to fight him or something." He nearly begged. He was way too young to be fighting Dark Lords. Adventures were supposed to start with killing giant rats in someone's cellar! This was bullshit.
Dumbledore jerked violently in his chair and stared in pure shock, his composure failing him as the boy rather correctly guessed at the truth.
"Oh my God, I am destined to fight him, aren't I?" Harry asked in disbelief, staring at the old wizard's almost guilty expression.
Under his desk, Dumbledore fingered his wand. He'd just inadvertantly let Harry know something that he hadn't been intending to reveal for quite a few more years, but a simple Obliviate could fix the screw up.
...On the other hand, this could be used to gauge how the boy would react to the prophecy. He could always obliviate him later.
"Well, you see Harry, there was a prophecy made before you were born..." He said reluctantly, still not sure if this was wise.
Harry groaned. No matter where they popped up, be it books or games, prophecies were always more trouble than they were worth.
"What does it say?"
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies..." Dumbledore recited from memory, carefully watching Harry for a reaction.
Harry listened attentively and then sighed.
"At least this one is fairly straightforward and doesn't say anything about my father being the Lord of Murder."
Dumbledore blinked. This one? Lord of Murder?
"I am going to have to ask you to explain that, my boy." He said carefully, wondering if there was a second prophecy in play. That could change everything.
"It's from an old computer game I played last year, nothing to be worried about." Harry waved off.
Dumbledore wasn't entirely sure how games could be played on those muggle contraptions or how there could be prophecies in a game, but he was willing to take Harry's word for it since he felt that the boy was telling the truth. He felt no small amount of relief about it too, as a prophecy about a Lord of Murder sounded quite dire.
"So I'm assuming that this scar on my forehead is the mark that Voldemort supposedly gave me?" Harry asked, tracing a finger over the mark in question.
"It is." Dumbledore confirmed.
"What about this 'power he knows not'?" Harry pressed. "Any ideas on what that's supposed to be?"
"I believe it to be love. You see, Voldemort has never known love and does not understand it. It was your mother's love that allowed you to survive his killing curse ten years ago."
Harry looked at the old headmaster oddly for several long moments, wondering if he was serious. He certainly looked serious, but the words he'd just uttered made no sense.
"You'll excuse me if I don't try to combat a ruthless Dark Lord that can apparently cheat death with love. Hell, with the vague way it's worded, the 'power he knows not' could be referring to my ability to lick my elbows." He said slowly. "Speaking of which, are you sure that this prophecy is genuine?"
Dumbledore decided not to comment on the first sentence. Even though he was sure that he was correct about the secret power being love, he also recognized the value of not putting all your eggs in one basket, which was a bit ironic since that was exactly what he ended up needing to do with Harry.
He was also quite impressed that Harry could apparently lick his elbows. He hadn't thought that was possible.
"It is genuine, but I'm afraid that it would not matter even if it was not. You see, Voldemort knows the first part of the prophecy as well and he believes it, which makes it genuine."
"Right, self-fulfilling prophecy. The worst kind." Harry sighed.
"I must say that you are taking this remarkably well, my boy." Dumbledore commented. Had he been making too big of a deal about telling Harry the prophecy?
"Would freaking out make it not true?" Harry asked with rarely used sarcasm.
"No." Dumbledore admitted. Though it would tell me that obliviation is the way to go.
"So...now what?" Harry asked after a short silence had passed.
"I doubt you will need to worry about Voldemort for quite some time." Dumbledore reassured. "He is less than a ghost at the moment and will find it difficult to return to physical form. It is possible that he may be prevented from doing so entirely, but he has always been crafty, so I would not place my hopes on that possibility."
"That's something at least." Harry grumbled, only mildly reassured that he wouldn't need to fight a full fledged Dark Lord in the immediate future. "Why is he still floating around anyway?"
"I am not sure." Dumbledore fibbed. He had no intention of telling Harry about the fact that he was a horcrux. "Now, I believe that we have wandered greatly off topic. We were discussing your summer accomodations."
"Yes, why were we doing that?"
"I will be blunt with you Harry, your home with the Shaws is not safe. The Dursley household was protected by powerful blood wards, which was why I placed you there to begin with. Anyone could attack you at your current residence, so I am offering to let you stay at Hogwarts over the summers." Dumbledore offered, fairly sure that the boy would accept
"That's very generous of you headmaster, but I'm afraid that I can't accept. I have some things I want to do over the summer that I simply can't do at Hogwarts." Harry declined politely. There were quite a few things that he wanted to do over the summer holidays for which he did not want any of the Hogwarts professors present. Things that now had a sense of urgency after learning about that bloody prophecy.
"I must urge you to reconsider, Harry." Dumbledore insisted. "If any wizards with ill intent were to find you there, you would be virtually defenseless."
"Does anyone in the Wizarding World aside from you and professor McGonagall even know where I live?" Harry asked with a frown.
"No..." Dumbledore admitted reluctantly.
"Then I will stay where I am for the moment. I will reconsider it if things start getting more dangerous."
"Are you certain?" Dumbledore tried one last time. "You could do magic in Hogwarts."
"I'm sure." Harry replied, knowing that he was going to be doing a lot of magic over the summer, some of it probably illegal even outside of the underage restriction.
"Very well." Dumbledore sighed. He could have tried forcing the issue but that would likely cause Harry to resent him, which would be disastrous in the future. "Please take this then. Keep it close and and say 'lemon drop' if you find yourself in danger."
"How is a sock going to help me?" Harry asked, bewildered.
Dumbledore smiled and explained the concept of portkeys.
Alrighty, time for a few end-of-chapter notes.
Yes, Harry is a bit unlikable at the moment. That will shift over time.
I'm sure that some of you are upset that I killed Hermione. That's too bad, but she should have remembered to put on her plot armor.
The quick progression is deliberate. Preteen protagonists are a pain in the ass to write.
I know that the lack of character interaction is bad, but there will be more from here on out.
In case any of you were worried, the scene with the Mirror of Erised is not a foreshadowing for possible gayness on Harry's part. I'm too much of a straight male to write a gay protagonist.