First a response to a few people that continue to hold out hope that Hermione will somehow continue play a part in this story...Nope, she's deader than a door nail and staying that way. No ghosts either. Sorry xD.
Special thanks go once again to Joe Lawyer for beta-ing the chapter.
Now then, a merry Christmas or its equivalent to those of you who celebrate it.
If you're like me and don't celebrate it then...uh, carry on as normal?
Harry spent no more than three days at 74 Cromwell Road before he went back to Diagon Alley to take care of some business. Robert and Katherine had not been too happy about his newly developed sense of independence and tried to protest, in response to which he may or may not have implied that they would have their memories wiped if he didn't do this.
Losing access to him ten months out of a year was putting quite a crimp in their plans to parade him around as their perfect son, which he knew was likely to become a problem soon. They might be terrified of the idea of some wizard messing about in their heads, but that wouldn't last forever. Hopefully the situation wouldn't implode before he was ready to be shot of them.
The reason for his visit to Diagon Alley was an appointment with the solicitor to whom he'd sent a letter before the school year had ended. He'd been a bit surprised at the speed with which the appointment had been arranged. Either the Wizarding World had less legal business, or his fame was being useful for a change and speeding things up.
That was still a while off however, as he'd come to Diagon Alley early with the express intent of looking around without a Hogwarts professor trying to direct his shopping.
All in all, he didn't find too much of interest that he hadn't seen on his first trip through, but there was one thing he found that made the entire trip worth it even if everything else turned out to be a bust.
"A Bag of Holding?" Harry asked admiringly, his eyes fixated greedily on the unassuming little bag. "How much?"
"Lad, this here's a Mokeskin Pouch." The shopkeeper said chidingly. "And I don't think a muggleborn could afford it, they're rare and expensive."
While Harry was glad to see that the simple disguise of normal clothes and a cap worked to disguise his identity just as well as the first time, he was more than a little annoyed by the condescending attitude. The shopkeeper wasn't trying to be condescending and his tone was actually rather friendly, but the casual assumption that muggleborns wouldn't have enough money to buy the good stuff was still grating.
Granted, Harry was not exactly a muggleborn, but he was honestly wondering about the lack of muggleborn Dark Lords if this was the kind of shit they had to put up with all the time.
And the shopkeeper was also wrong. That thing was a Bag of Holding, end of discussion. What the hell was a moke anyway?
"How much is it?" Harry repeated himself.
The shopkeeper sighed in exasperation at the persistent boy. "Two hundred galleons."
"That is pretty expensive." Harry agreed.
"I told you-"
"I'll have to come back with the money later, could you reserve it for me?" He kept on talking, not letting the shopkeeper finish the 'I told you so'.
"You mean you can afford it?" The shopkeeper asked in surprise.
"Yes." Harry answered tersely.
Friggin' Diagon Alley shopkeepers should be replaced with NPC's. They'd be less annoying that way.
"So Mr. Potter, what can we do for you today?" The solicitor said eagerly. Representing the Boy-Who-Lived would be a huge coup for him.
"I would like to take legal action against Enid Pennifold, the author of the Harry Potter book series, for using my name without permission." Harry answered simply.
"I see." The solicitor said thoughtfully. "If she has truly been using your name without permission then you certainly have legal grounds to do so, but I must warn you that removing the books themselves from circulation will likely prove impossible at this point."
"I thought as much." Harry admitted. "I'm actually more interested in profiting from it."
"You don't care what she wrote about you?" The solicitor asked with raised eyebrows.
"As you said yourself, removing the books from circulation will be impossible, so the damage is already done. A percentage of past and future profits made from these books will have to do. If at all possible I would like this settled quietly and without media interference."
"That we can certainly do." The solicitor agreed. "I will send you an owl once the preliminary negotiations are finished."
Harry thanked the man and shook his hand, surprised but pleased that things had been so simple.
Now it was time to go to Gringotts and withdraw the money for the Bag of Holding.
And for another talk with Gorefist after that. He had a feeling that he would not be the goblins favorite person after this talk, so it was better to withdraw the money first.
"Mr. Potter, to what do I owe the pleasure this year?" Gorefist asked, his tone making it clear that it was not a pleasure of any kind.
"I just came to warn you that I will be receiving a substantial deposit of money to my vault sometime in the near future." Harry said evenly.
"I am afraid there is a 200 galleon fee attached for every two thousand galleons deposited." Gorefist grinned nastily.
"Not this time there isn't." Harry disagreed calmly, having expected something of the sort. "In fact, you will also be lowering the fee on our previous arrangement down to 5%."
"Why would I do that?" The goblin asked, his grin becoming decidedly uglier.
"Because if you don't, I will simply stop using the services of your bank."
Gorefist's grin faltered. If the Potter heir pulled all his gold out of Gringotts, he would be left the manager of an empty vault. He would be a laughing stock. Even if there was a high likelihood of the Potter fortune getting stolen outside of Gringotts, that wouldn't help him.
"You cannot use any other bank!" He snarled. "Our treaty with the Ministry of Magic forbids it."
Ah yes, the Goblin-Wizard Treaty of 1726, which explicitly states that no ICW member nation would use any bank other than Gringotts. The goblins had been able to force that concession from wizardkind after a two decade long war.
Unfortunately for them, they had not looked at the small print, which said that in return for this they agreed to be bound by the laws of the ICW and the local Ministries of Magic forevermore, essentially turning the goblins into a vassal nation. The full treaty was a great deal more verbose of course, but that was the gist of it. This being a magical contract, it was still in effect.
Except in America. The American wizards had helped their muggle counterparts throw off the control of Britain during the American Revolution, but instead of fighting British wizards, they'd elected to slaughter the goblins.
North America was still technically part of the ICW, but their relations with Europe were colder than one of Snape's smiles.
The goblins had rebelled several times against wizards after that. In fact, every time that the Ministry breached the treaty in the slightest way, the situation had erupted into violence. That was why the goblins stuck so scrupulously to the letter of any agreements these days, it was easier to find loopholes that way.
Humans and goblins had been enemies since time immemorial, always warring against each other for one reason or another, but mostly for the simple fact that both seemed to be intolerant dicks with a superiority complex. When wizards had discovered the secrets of wandlore, the balance had begun tipping in favor of humanity. Goblins had been trying to figure out a way to make wands for themselves ever since, with no success. After the 1726 Treaty, they were banned from using them, alongside every other non-human.
The goblins had never forgiven that bit of treachery, even though they would have done the exact same thing if given half a chance.
Harry had a long time to consider how to prevent himself from getting swindled in the future after his first meeting with Gorefist, so he'd researched the history of the goblins and their conflict against wizards in particular and humans in general with a dedication that would have made Binns proud.
He'd discovered that greed was an integral part of the goblin psyche. Greed drove the short but vicious creatures more than any other impulse.
"I never said anything about using another bank." Harry replied evenly.
"Where will you keep your gold then, wizard?" Gorefist demanded, twisting the last word into an insult.
"That is no concern of yours, goblin." Harry emulated, though he suspected that he hadn't managed to put as much venom into it as his account manager.
Truthfully, he had nothing personal against the goblins, but he wasn't going to let himself get robbed just because they were nursing an old grudge against wizards.
Gorefist snarled again, slamming his hand angrily against his desk.
Harry had to fight hard not to jump. They might be midgets, but goblins were still pretty scary.
"You cannot withdraw from the main Potter vault until you are of age." Gorefist reminded him angrily.
"I know, I am intending to use that time to improve my ability to guard my gold." Harry replied, still keeping his voice calm and even.
"A hundred galleons for every two thousand and 15% for the transfers out of your trust vault." Gorefist growled out, seeing that the boy was dead serious.
"seventy five galleons for every six thousand and 5% for the transfers."
"One hundred galleons for every three thousand and 13% for the transfers."
"Seventy for every five thousand and 4% for the transfers."
"That is not how you negotiate, wizard!" Gorefist snapped in outrage. "Eighty for every four thousand and 10% for the transfers."
"You didn't seem bothered about charging unfairly exorbitant fees to me last year, I'm not going to be bothered about negotiation protocol now." Harry replied with a mocking smirk. "Fifty for every five thousand and 3% for the transfers."
Gorefist roared in outrage and gripped his desk hard enough that his claws gouged the wood.
"Fine! We are agreed, NOW GET OUT!"
Harry simply nodded and left the office, leaving behind a fuming goblin that spent the next twenty minutes inventively cursing his ancestry in Gobbledegook.
Harry spent those same twenty minutes walking off his adrenaline rush. He'd been preparing for that confrontation for months, but it had been a lot more intense than he'd expected.
So very satisfying though.
Now he just needed to figure out where he was going to put all that gold in the event that he actually needed to take it out of Gringotts. He somehow doubted that the Bag of Holding that he was even now going to buy would hold all of it.
A few days later.
Harry blinked at the sight of the house elf in his room, baffled as to why one of the excitable creatures would be here.
The house elf gave a bow so low that his long nose touched the floor.
"Hello?" Harry greeted, bemused.
"Harry Potter." The house elf exclaimed loudly enough to make Harry glad that his room was fairly far out of the way. "So long has Dobby wanted to meet you, sir. Such an honor it is."
Harry winced preemptively, knowing that his next words were likely to elicit a dramatic reaction. Unfortunately, the alternative was to treat the house elf like a lesser creature and he just couldn't do that. Judging by the stained pillowcase that Dobby was wearing, he got enough of that already.
"Would you like to sit down?"
"S-sit down?!" Dobby wailed predictably. "Never...never ever..." There was a moment of incomprehensible blubbering before Dobby made sense again. "Never has Dobby been asked to sit down by a wizard! Like an equal."
"Not a Hogwarts elf then?" Harry asked, having enough experience with house elves to know that trying to comfort one was liable to just set off another round of hysteria. He felt bad for the little creatures, especially this one since he seemed to be bonded to a less than pleasant master, but attracting the attention of his foster parents wouldn't help anyone.
"No, sir." Dobby answered, much more calmly now. "But Dobby has come to warn Harry Potter! Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts!"
"There is a plot, Harry Potter. A plot to make terrible things happen at Hogwarts. Dobby tried to stop Harry Potter from getting mail from his friends at Hogwarts to make him not want to go back, but Harry Potter was not getting any mail from his friends!"
Harry's lips twitched in humor. He probably should be upset about a house elf trying to screen his mail, but the thought of Dobby attempting it, only to discover that he wasn't getting any letters was just too funny.
"I'm afraid I haven't made any friends the past year." Harry explained.
"No friends? The great Harry Potter has no friends?" Dobby asked, blinking in apparent bafflement.
"Better no friends than bad friends." Harry shrugged, not really wanting to explain his entire situation. The two people who had first attempted to befriend him, Ron Weasley and Draco Malfoy, would definitely fit into the 'bad friend' category at least.
"Harry Potter is wise." Dobby stated, nodding compulsively as if he'd just heard something profound. "So Harry Potter will understand that he must not return to Hogwarts."
"Can you tell me what this terrible plot is?" Harry asked.
"Dobby cannot, sir."
Of course, that would be a much more direct betrayal than merely coming to warn him.
"It has something to do with Voldemort, doesn't it?" Harry sighed in resignation. This was practically a textbook example of foreshadowing and given the prophecy that Dumbledore had told him at the end of first year...
"Say not the name!" Dobby screeched, clapping his hands over his floppy ears.
"Right, so does it have anything to do with him?" Harry asked again, this time with an eyeroll.
"No sir, not with He-Who-Must-Not-be-named." The house elf answered.
"It doesn't?" Harry said in surprise. "Who does it have to do with then?"
For a moment, Dobby looked as if he was going to answer, but then he started smashing his head against the nearest hard surface.
"Alright, alright! I get it! You can't answer." Harry cried quickly, now wanting the excitable but friendly house elf hurting himself.
"Dobby is sorry, Harry Potter sir!" Dobby wailed. "Dobby cannot betray the masters."
"It's alright, I understand." Harry tried to reassure. "I'm guessing you don't like serving your current masters?"
"Dobby does not." The house elf confirmed, wringing his ears wretchedly. "Dobby wants to be free."
Harry grimaced. For a house elf to say that they wanted to be free, whoever Dobby was bonded to had to be really bad.
"I might have an idea about how to get you free, would you like to hear it?" He asked.
Dobby nodded frantically.
Harry leaned close to the house elf in a conspiratorial fashion. "Alright, here's what you do..."
That same day, Dobby returned to Malfoy Manor and did not immediately begin punishing himself for going to warn Harry Potter of the impending danger at Hogwarts. Soon, there would be no more need to punish himself, so Dobby felt that he could get away with a little rebellion.
The next morning, before any of the Malfoys woke up, Dobby did not start making breakfast as he usually did. Instead he went to the closest forest and looked for the slimiest, most disgusting creature he could find. This turned out to be a regular slug, but it was more than suitable for the purpose.
He put this slug into one of Lucius' socks and prepared it for the man as he always did in the mornings. This was the plan that the great Harry Potter had suggested and Dobby was sure that it would work. It was a very clever plan.
Unfortunately, things do not always go according to plan.
When Lucius slid his foot into the sock, he quickly discovered the slimy surprise and pulled it off, staring at his soiled foot in disgust.
"Elf! What is the meaning of this? What have you done" The blond man demanded harshly.
Dobby had been standing nearby, waiting with bated breath for the moment when his master would throw the sock away in disgust and he could swoop in to grab it out of the air, thereby freeing himself.
But Lucious had not thrown the sock away in disgust, holding it away from him instead.
Compelled by the bond, Dobby confessed to attempting to engineer his own freedom, though the question was vague enough that he was able to leave out any mention of Harry Potter or his unauthorized trip.
Lucius, infuriated at the mere notion that his house elf thought it could trick him like this and worse, nearly succeeding, pulled out his wand and angrily fired off a killing curse. He momentarily regretted killing his servant, but quickly rationalized that it was better than having a house elf around that thought it was clever.
Harry hadn't been too concerned when Dobby hadn't come back the next day. When the second day passed however, he did get concerned. By the time that the third day rolled around, he had accepted the fact that his plan had failed and hoped that the consequences for Dobby hadn't been too dire. He feared that they had been, given what little he knew of the house elf's masters.
It was also on this day that he received his solicitor's owl.
I have spoken to Ms. Pennifold and explained to her your displeasure at how she used your name to sell her books.
She was quite mortified to hear of this. Apparently, she wrote the first one in a fit of inspiration after the fall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and never intended to publish it, but was persuaded into doing so by a friend and things simply snowballed from there.
She agreed to pay you a sum of thirty thousand galleons as compensation, 40% of any future sales, as well as agreeing to add a disclaimer to the effect of the books being entirely fictional. Overall it is considerably more generous than what I had expected to get out of this for so little effort. Ms. Pennifold has also asked if you would be willing to participate in a book signing to endorse future sales some time in the future.
Harry put down the letter and rubbed his face tiredly. Great. Now he was not just worried about what had happened to Dobby, but he was also feeling like a jerk for siccing a lawyer on a woman that had no malicious intent with her books, even if they were bloody ridiculous. As for the book signing idea...yeah, he had absolutely no desire to do that right now, maybe not ever.
This day was already shaping up to be simply spectacular and it wasn't even noon. Now all he needed was...
"Harry? Remember that we're having important visitors over in the evening. Come down so that we can go over the itinerary again." Katherine Shaw's voice came from the intercom that they had felt the need to install in his room for some reason.
Harry groaned miserably. He'd forgotten all about that stupid dinner party. The day officially sucked.
Harry approached the doors of Potter Manor with some trepidation. All of these old manor houses were said to be heavily warded and he was taking a bit of a gamble in assuming that the wards would recognize him as a Potter himself. They should, but he wasn't 100% sure that they would.
It was a pretty impressive place and he was sure that the Shaws would want to move in if they knew about it. At the very least, they would probably want to take all the antique furniture that was undoubtedly in there.
Deciding to just get on with it, he grabbed the doorknob and tried to turn it. It didn't budge, but it did prick his palm to taste his blood. With a brief shimmer, the doors swung open.
Smiling with mixed relief and eagerness, Harry wandered into the manor, turning his head in every direction in an attempt to take in the foyer. It was a bit on the ostentatious side for his taste, but it was his.
"Hello? Is anyone here?" He called. He knew there wouldn't be any people, but there might be portraits or house elves.
A tiny blur barreling into his legs nearly caused him to lash out with an instinctive burst of wandless magic, restrained at the last moment.
"Master Potter sir!" The house elf wailed in an unpleasantly high female pitch. "You's finally came! Teeny was waiting for so long!"
Harry smiled awkwardly and patted her head as the little house elf continued to blubber against his leg. What do you say to calm down a hysterical house elf?"
"Umm, sorry?" He ventured.
Teeny's horrified gasp let him know that it may not have been the right thing to say.
Fortunately, calming Teeny down didn't take too much effort once the initial hysteria was out of the way. The small house elf had all but demanded to be bonded to him immediately after that. Harry was still a bit iffy on the subject of having a thinking creature bound to him in lifelong servitude, but Teeny's wobbling lower lip and watering eyes every time he stalled eventually wore down his resistance and he gave in.
She'd gone into a cooking frenzy after that, determined to feed him the best meal he'd ever had and Harry didn't have the heart to tell her that he'd already eaten.
While Teeny cooked, Harry decided to explore the manor, wondering if he might find portraits of any relatives. He knew that they were just imprints of people, but it would still be nice to talk to them.
As it turned out, he found them.
"Hello?" He called to the sleeping portraits of a man and woman in what he guessed were their late middle ages, though it was hard to be sure with wizards and witches.
They woke up, looking momentarily confused but quickly focused on him.
"Hello, are you our grandson?" The dignified looking woman asked hopefully.
"I'm Harry." He replied simply.
"James and Lily's boy." The older man with typically messy Potter hair and glasses said, delight in his tone. "You are our grandson. We're Charlus and Dorea Potter, your father's parents."
"Can you tell me about them?" Harry asked. He hadn't been willing to ask this of the Hogwarts professors, but faced with the portraits of his grandparents, he could finally do so.
"Oh, I suppose that means that they weren't able to hide from Voldemort then." Dorea said sorrowfully. "I knew that they shouldn't have trusted Dumbledore."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked warily. He had thought that the old headmaster was a bit strange but trustworthy enough.
"My wife has never had a very high opinion of Dumbledore." Charlus answered.
"Don't sugarcoat it, Charlus." Dorea scoffed. "I wouldn't trust that old manipulator as far as I could throw him."
"Yes well, though my own opinion of the man isn't as bad as my wife's, I would urge you to keep in mind that Dumbledore didn't get to where he is now without being more than a bit ruthless." Charlus added.
Harry nodded slowly. The headmaster had a disarming personality and projected the image of a kindly, wise old wizard well, but Charlus had a point. Dumbledore couldn't have become the most powerful wizard and most prominent politician in all of Europe just by being nice. He would have to keep that in mind in the future.
A few hours later, the meal Teeny had prepared was eaten and the conversation with the portraits of his grandparents had tapered off. Harry hadn't seen much of the manor by that point and decided to explore it further.
It was nothing spectacular for the most part, just a lot of bedrooms, bathrooms and miscellaneous other things that held no interest for him, but a few things did stand out.
The first was the library. It wasn't as massive as the one in Hogwarts and he spotted a lot of the same texts, but there were a few that looked to be unique to the Potter family.
The second was deep in the basement. It seemed like nothing more than a bare stone room, if not for a few things. The location and thick walls would be enough to mark it as a room used for rituals, but what truly clinched it was the box containing an ornate knife in front of it.
It was a pretty thing with a slightly curved silver blade and a gold enameled hilt. A good sized ruby was set at the end of the hilt, glinting in the low light.
Harry was exceptionally pleased to have found such a knife. Rituals could technically be done with any kind of blade, but specialized ritual blades were known to have superior results.
He was eager to get started on this. He had been secretly planning out a ritual ever since he'd started learning about them after all.
Ever since that first conversation with professor Babbling, Harry had been thinking of ways to apply runes to himself as a means of bolstering his physical and magical power.
After getting told that tattoos wouldn't work, he had begun considering more...extreme...measures.
The discussions with professor Vector had helped him calculate what would work and what wouldn't.
Wizard raised children came into Hogwarts with a lot of advantages, but if there was one thing that a muggle upbringing had going for it, it was the years spent in primary school.
Arithmancy wasn't the same as mathemathics, but it was close enough that there was quite a bit of overlap.
A lot of the things he'd wanted to figure out were beyond Harry, even if he'd been working on Arithmancy in his free time, but he had found a workaround for that too.
The internet was full of mathemathicians that would solve any interesting looking problem on a lark. All Harry had needed to do was post his problem on a forum and wait for a reply. As long as he changed the names of some of the variables and took out the bits that would make no sense without magic being involved, he was almost guaranteed to receive an answer that would work for him. It took some effort to dance around the issue of magic, but it could be done.
This kind of cheating workaround had told him that merely using any old knife to carve runes into his flesh wouldn't have enough power behind it. He would either need a specially made ritual knife that was designed to channel magic, or he would need to literally brand the runes into his skin with a red hot branding iron. That was the only sacrifice he could think of that was great enough to make the runes work in the way he wanted them to without a proper knife.
Harry was naturally relieved to have found the ritual knife. He felt enough trepidation at the thought of carving the runes into his skin with a knife that he was not at all certain that he would be able to go through with a branding.
He'd already told Teeny that she was not to come into the ritual chamber for any reason – no matter what she felt or heard – until he called her. Rituals were delicate things and having any extra thinking minds present was always a bad idea.
Now all that was left to do was to actually step into the circle and start the ritual, which was proving to be much harder than he expected.
It was all well and good to plan this thing out, but now that he'd come to the point where he would have seven runes carved into his back by a magically floating knife, he was discovering that much of his courage had deserted him.
He'd expected that this might be the case, which was why the ritual was set up in such a way that it could not be stopped once it was started. Ironically, this made it even harder to make the first step.
It had to be this way though. He couldn't afford to chicken out midway. The rune set was made to work together and carving only part of it would likely be disastrous for him.
He just had to step into the circle and get started.
Any day now.
Harry let out a gusty sigh, closed his eyes and stepped into it with a sense of determined resignation. If he hadn't heard of that bloody prophecy, he might have put this off until he was older. He might even have decided that the price wasn't worth the payout.
But now he knew that he had a not-quite-dead Dark Lord after his hide and he strongly doubted that the tosser would be considerate enough to wait until Harry was ready for him. He wanted to live and he was sure that he could endure a little pain now if it helped him survive later. Standing naked in a cold stone room and staring aprehensively at the inert ritual knife wouldn't do him any good.
Besides, this particular ritual would have more to work with if it was done before puberty kicked in properly.
With another sigh to calm down his nerves, he knelt into the center of the ritual circle, naked as the day he was born.
"Raido." He said, focusing on the rune even as he felt the petrification effect worked into the ritual kick in.
Ritual. Journey. Freedom from imprisonment. Self-mastery.
The rune would mark the start of his ritual, as well as symbolize that the runes would continue to influence him as he grew, making him more than he would have been without them. It symbolized that he was willfully changing his body in ways that people normally can't and release him from the constraints of normal growth.
The knife started carving the blocky 'R' shaped rune into the base of his neck and the only thing that stopped Harry from screaming was the petrification. He did his absolute best to stay focused on the meaning of the rune and hoped it would work as intended.
When it was over, Harry took a few minutes to get his breath back and blink the tears out of his eyes. It had been worse than he'd expected and he was doubly glad that he had a proper ritual knife. If getting cut was this bad, then a branding would have been unbearable.
He could feel it working though. He could feel his magic flowing into the rune, exploring the new channel and almost eagerly waiting for the next one, as if it knew that it wasn't over yet.
When he felt ready, he spoke the next one.
Trade. Sacrifice. Balance. Exchanged powers. Magical exchange.
A rune to symbolize the sacrifice he was making in exchange for the benefits he wanted. Blood, pain and the permanent scarring of his flesh in exchange for the power of the runes. It looked like an 'X' and it was carved under Raido, along his spine.
Internal growth. Personal development. Gestation process. Male sexuality.
This rune was basically focused on speeding his maturation. He wanted to grow faster, both because adulthood meant freedom and because he did not want to be a child when Voldemort eventually clawed his way back to life. It was represented by a tilted square.
Life force, Physical health. Healing. Vital formative force. Stamina. Vitality. Virility. Vigor. Endurance. Raw primal power.
A rune meant to increase the potency of his body, granting greater physical strength and endurance as well as speeding up natural healing. It was a simple looking rune, merely two lines connected by a third at the top, with the second one being shorter to make the whole rune a bit slanted.
Giant. Active defensive force. Regenerative catalyst. Reactive and directed force.
Another rune to increase his endurance and durability, channel magic to his muscles and bones, make him more resistant to injury, and to further speed the healing properties of Uruz. It looked like an angular 'P', but with the protruding part written in the middle instead of on top.
Disruption. Change according to ideals. Power beyond human ability to harness. Perfect pattern.
A rune that signified that what he wanted was a body stronger than should be naturally his. A rune that was intended to direct the other runes into the purpose of improving him. It looked very much like an 'H', except for the middle line having a downward slant.
Harmony of like forces. Bonding. Shared aims. Optimism. Prosperity.
The final rune in the set, made to bind them all together into a unified beneficial purpose instead of having each of them working independently. It looked like an angular 'P'.
The ritual complete, Harry collapsed forward and gulped down deep breaths of air as he waited for the burning pain across the length of his spine to subside. He could feel his magic moving towards the newly carved runes, leaving him even more drained than the pain had already done.
And then he suddenly became aware of just how incredibly hungry he was.
"Teeny." He croaked.
The house elf appeared and immediately cried in dismay at seeing his bloodied back.
"Teeny, I need food. A lot of it." Harry went on, ignoring her panic. He could barely think about anything save for the emptiness of his stomach right now.
Glad to have a direction, Teeny apparated him into the kitchen, set a bowl of fruit in front of him and started cooking up a storm.
Harry ate four apples, six bananas, two oranges and still felt hungry. The runes on his back continued to siphon away his strength without pause, slowly transforming from open wounds into scars.
Teeny noticed that he'd run out of food and put a bowl of salad in front of him. It was meant to come after the soup, but she couldn't bear to make him wait when he was obviously starving.
It was good to be needed again.
Harry's appetite eventually calmed down and he asked Teeny to apparate him back to his foster parents. He'd been gone for the whole day this time and he didn't want them to be anymore pissy than strictly necessary.
"Harry, is that you?" Katherine's voice came from a bathroom while he was on the way to his room.
"Yes, it's me." He called back without stopping, wanting to do nothing more than fall asleep.
"Robert and I got an invitation to the opera while you were gone, so you'll have the house to yourself."
Harry thanked whichever deity had decided to be merciful today. The opera was one of those things that they left him behind for, probably thinking that it would make them look bad to drag a kid along for something like that.
"Great, have fun." He said back, managing to actually sound sincere. Whoever had invited them must be relatively important if she wasn't even bothering to ask where he'd been all day.
Katherine chose that moment to step out of the bathroom.
"How do I look?" She asked, making little turns so that he could see more of her.
She did this sometimes, fishing for compliments from a child like the self-obsessed bint that she was. Harry had always given her the expected empty compliment that he didn't really mean.
She did genuinely look good though. At thirty two years old, she was still pretty young and her healthy diet and frequent exercise kept her looking beautiful. Combined with the hours she'd no doubt spent in front of a mirror and the tight black dress she was wearing, she was nothing short of stunning.
As Harry noticed this, he felt the blood rush between his legs and a strange squirming sensation started up in his lower abdomen. His body heated up and he felt his eyes getting pulled to her legs and breasts. The runes on his back prickled. His hands twitched with the sudden desire to feel if her arse was as tight as it looked.
A wave of horror made his face go white as he realized what he was thinking.
"You look great." He managed to force out. "Excuse me, I have something I need to do."
He fled to his room before she could do more than look confused by his strange behavior.
As soon as he was in his room and safely away from a woman three times his age that he suddenly found inexplicably sexy, he buried his head into a pillow and screamed in frustration at his own stupidity.
He was a moron. A bloody colossal moron the likes of which the world had never seen.
The runes had more meanings than the ones he'd focused on during the ritual. Professor Babbling had warned him that these types of runes could have unexpected effects.
Uruz also meant uncontrolled rage, misdirected force and brutality. Thurisaz also meant aggressive male sexuality and male sexual prowess.
And those were just two runes. He knew that the others meant a whole host of other things that were no doubt contributing to his suddenly inflammed hormones, though those two were definitely the worst. He'd wanted to speed up his maturation and that's what he was getting, but he was also having all the effects of puberty supercharged to completely stupid levels.
This was not good. In fact, he would go so far as to call it bad.
There was no way he'd be able to function like a normal human being in Hogwarts if this started happening every time he saw a pretty girl. And what if something made him angry? Would he even be able to control himself?
Maybe, just maybe, the Ministry restrictions weren't all because they were a bunch of weak willed weenies too scared of magic to use it to the fullest.
Another realization interrupted his cursing streak. He had to hide the runes or he'd be in deep shit if someone saw them. He was nowhere near ready to openly challenge the Ministry on this.
The only way that he knew how to hide them in any kind of practical manner was with another ritual.
"We warned you that it wasn't a good idea." Charlus was saying, sounding far too smug for a painting.
"It'll be fine as long as I can control it." Harry defended. Despite the unexpected side effects, he still thought that the ritual was an overall success.
"Can you control it?" Dorea asked pointedly.
"...maybe." Harry said after a long moment. "I've already prepared another ritual that should work to improve my memory and willpower, as well as hiding my mind and runes."
"Harry, your first rune set was focused strictly on your body. Do you really think it's wise to use runes that affect your mind?" Charlus asked with some exasperation.
Harry swallowed. No, he did not think it was wise, but he didn't have much choice. He couldn't allow his mind to remain an open book for a skilled enough legilimancer. He couldn't allow his runes to stay visible. He couldn't allow the new impulses of his body to have this much power over him.
The first rune set remained a constant drain on his magic and continued to give him a voracious appetite, which he knew would be the case until he stopped growing. Fortunately, the drain was not so severe that it would kill him, but a portion of his magic would be constantly shunted towards improving his growth and thus be unusable for spells.
"It'll be fine. I'm using less volatile runes this time and only three of them instead of seven." He said with more confidence than he honestly felt.
After coming home for the summer, Harry had reserached how much correlation there was between muggle and wizarding knowledge of Norse runes.
To his surprise, it was identical.
This had emboldened him with the idea to use symbols that were completely foreign to the knowledge of British wizards.
He had always intended to hide his mind with a rune, and his original idea had been to use the Japanese kanji for Void to do it.
After what had happened with his first rune set, he'd decided that something else would probably be better. He was just a bit nervous about the possibility of turning himself into a mindless vegetable if he carved Void into his forehead.
In the end he had decided to use a completely fictional set of runes. Professor Babbling had warned him about making up random squiggles and assigning them meaning himself, but he wasn't making these up himself.
Just because these runes happened to belong to the Avariel, a fictional race of winged elves from the Forgotten Realms, it didn't make them meaningless.
Remembrance. Memory. The Strength of Stones.
A rune that looked like a par of stylized mirrored J's with a another stylized bar connecting them just beneath the top. It would improve his memory and bolster his willpower to be as immovable as rock.
The ritual knife carved the rune into the back of his head, scraping across his skull as it cut through hair and flesh.
When it was finished and his magic flowed into the new rune, he felt a burst of memory.
A thin and pale abomination of a man with red eyes. His mother begging for his life, offering hers in exchange. The specifics written in her own blood and hidden under the carpet. Her life for his, willingly given. The greatest sacrifice. The green flash of a killing curse. Voldemort destroyed in the backlash as he tried to violate the blood contract that he had unknowingly agreed to when he killed his mother.
Harry gasped for air as the short but intense memory played out. Tears gathered in his eyes that had nothing to do with the pain throbbing in the back of his head. He could remember his mother, he knew her voice and face. Knew that she had given everything to protect him.
A few more hazy memories came from the fog of infancy.
His father, a messy haired man with glasses. More carefree than his mother but with the same faintly grim air about him.
Another, more playful man with a barking laugh that sometimes transformed into a big black dog the way that McGonagall could transform into a cat and let him ride on his back. Sirius.
A very short man with grubby skin and watery eyes. Peter.
Sirius finding him in the wreckage, giving him to Hagrid. The half-giant delivering him to Dumbledore and Dumbledore in turn dropping him off on the Dursleys doorstep. Petunia's attempts to treat him like family but her demeanor steadily souring as he continued to display accidental magic.
It took him nearly an hour to calm his emotions enough to continue the ritual.
Stealth. Secrets. Shadows. The Dark of Night.
A stylized cross, with the horizontal line curling in opposing directions at both ends. Carved just under his right collarbone.
A rune to hide his other runes, showing others only the unmarked flesh they expected to see, lightning bolt scar not included. The same effect as an exceptionally powerful Notice-Me-Not charm that could not be dispelled or pierced without his permission.
That Which Cannot be Known or Comprehended.
It looked like a stylized letter 'A', but with the connecting line looping back on the left side. The last rune in the set of three, carved into the middle of his forehead.
It would not build barriers around his mind in the way of Occlumency. Rather, it would make it utterly impossible for anyone but him to understand his thoughts and memories. Any legilimancer that tried to invade his mind would gain nothing but confusion.
Harry settled into his seat on the Hogwarts Express and pulled a book from his Bag of Holding.
He expected that his second year at Hogwarts would be more eventful than his first. There was the unknown plot that Dobby had warned him off, as well as his continued study of magic.
Perhaps the most difficult thing would be his attempts to make a friend. He honestly had no idea how to go about doing that. Initiating social contact was most definitely not one of his strengths. Perhaps his housemates will have forgotten some of his admittedly rude responses to their initial attempts to talk to him and try again? One could only hope.
After a lot of thinking, he could admit to himself that he may have...overreacted a bit to their fixation on his fame. Most of them had no doubt been brought up hearing ridiculous stories about the Boy-Who-Lived. It wasn't their fault that their parents had no sense of objectivity and kept filling their heads with nonsense. He would have to try not to be so snappish this year if it happened again.
He wondered how his runes would affect his temper. He hadn't had the opportunity to find out just yet.
The powerful surges of desire every time he saw a pretty woman still occurred, but he'd learned to control the effects to some extent, or at least conceal them.
He never thought he'd be glad for the silly tailoring of the Hogwarts robes, but he was. They did a far better job of hiding erections than just pants. If not for the robes, he was quite sure that he would have died of embarrassment in his Astronomy classes. Professor Sinistra would have inevitably noticed his persistent little issue, as she often had to get quite close to students to help adjust their telescopes and she was a beautiful woman.
Still, for all the grief that his rune enhanced hormones promised to give him, he was happy with the results. He'd already heard some comments about how he was growing like a weed and it had been barely over a month since the ritual. For a boy who had always been on the short side, that was well worth the discomfort.
He'd wanted to do some more rituals, but he had to bow to the wisdom of his grandparents(or that of their portraits at any rate) and the mothering of Teeny. Overdoing it was probably not a good idea. For all his initial apprehension about going through with it, he now found himself almost eager to do another. Yes, it was painful. Very painful even. But the pain soon faded into memory and the runes stayed forever.
Well, there would be plenty of downtime from rituals while he was at Hogwarts. He somehow doubted that the staff would look the other way if they learned that a student was practicing ritualistic self-scarrification. Too many eyes at the school to risk it.
No matter though, there were plenty of other things to learn.
Unfortunately, he was almost sure that DADA would continue to be a disappointment. He'd been initially excited to hear that a hero of sorts had taken the post, but that excitement had guttered out when he'd skimmed over the books that the man had assigned.
For one thing, every single one of them read like a novel rather than an instructional text. Even worse, they were filled with nonsense and completely pointless information. The man claimed to have briefly fought a werewolf barehanded in one of those books for example.
Now, Harry didn't know too much about what a real werewolf was like, but if they bore the slightest resemblance to the werewolves of muggle fiction, then trying to fight them up close and unarmed for any length of time was a great way to die messily. You'd need to be a real mountain of a man in thick armor and a nice big sword to survive a melee fight with the beasts. Judging by the picture he'd seen of Gilderoy Lockhart, he was...not.
He could be wrong of course, because he as previously noted didn't know much about what real werewolves were like. They could be pushovers for all he knew.
He rather doubted it though.
The door to the cabin opened, revealing a blonde girl with big blue eyes.
"Hello." She said dreamily, stepped inside and took a seat.
"Hello." Harry replied, too bemused by the bold entrance to be annoyed. Well, she hadn't stopped to gawk at his scar, so he would call it a win.
"I'm Luna Lovegood." She introduced herself in the same dreamy tone.
"Harry Potter." He returned, feeling absurdly pleased when she didn't really react to the name.
"Are we going to be friends? Daddy told me I would make friends."
That was easy. Harry thought to himself in muted shock. He'd spent half the summer debating with himself if trying to make friends with someone was worth the initial awkwardness, only for this rather spacey looking girl to just go ahead and ask him like it was nothing.
"Errr, sure?" He answered uncertainly. There was definitely something a bit off about this girl.
"Are you okay?" Luna asked with a suddenly concerned tone. "You sound like you have wrackspurts."
"What's a wrackspurt?" Harry asked in bewilderment.
"They're invisible creatures that float in through your ears and make your brain go fuzzy." She informed him with authority.
"But if they're invisible, then how can you see them?" Harry asked sceptically.
"You don't see them silly, that's what invisible means." Luna chided, making Harry blink at her logic.
"Then how do you know that they're there?"
"You have to feel them." She explained.
"And what do they feel like?" He pressed, now determined to get to the bottom of this.
"Like fuzzy brains and jumbled thoughts."
Harry opened his mouth to ask another question and then closed it as a sudden realization hit him.
"These wrackspurts...they wouldn't happen to cause confusion would they?"
"They very well might." Luna agreed.
"So you were basically just asking me if I was confused earlier?"
"No, I was wondering if you had wrackspurts."
Harry gaped at her for a moment, wondering if he was being mocked. That dreamy expression of hers made for a surprisingly good poker face.
"Oh, the wrackspurts are back!"
He couldn't help cracking a smile at that. Well, he'd avoided contact with the normal people, so he supposed it was only natural that he'd end up making friends with the oddball.
The two continued to chat until the train started moving. Harry discovered that Luna was surprisingly easy to talk despite the occasional off color comment she made. He already liked her more than anyone he'd met in the Wizarding World so far.
Their interesting and sometimes strange conversation was interrupted by the cabin door opening again, this time revealing a redheaded girl with freckles that had a distinctly Weasley look to her.
"H-hi." She said shyly, her pale face steadily moving to match her hair in color. "Can I, um, sit here?"
"Hello Ginny." Luna said in the same vaguely dreamy tone that seemed to be her normal speaking voice.
"You two know each other?" Harry asked with raised eyebrows.
"We used to be friends." Luna elaborated, causing Ginny to shuffle in place guiltily.
"Come in then, I guess." Harry said, not sure if it was a good idea but also not wanting to tell her to go away since Luna didn't seem to mind.
Ginny quickly did so, sitting in a corner and looking as if she was trying to mimic the powers of a chameleon.
"I'm Harry Potter." Harry introduced himself.
"I know!" Ginny blurted out and immediately flushed scarlet. "I mean, I'm Ginny. Ginny Weasley."
Harry tried not to get too annoyed by her behavior and returned to his conversation with Luna. Ginny was mostly silent and just did a lot of glancing and blushing.
She was also very jealous of her former friend for the easy conversation she had with the Boy-Who-Lived.
Her mother had told her that Harry Potter hadn't made any friends at Hogwarts the previous year and that it would be nice of her if she could become one for the obviously lonely boy.
Her mother's words had been like a dream come true for Ginny, who had grown up on stories of the Boy-Who-Lived. Becoming his friend would be amazing.
And now here she was, in the same cabin with him as they rode to Hogwarts, and she was barely able to get a few words out. She wanted to talk to him too, but she'd already embarrassed herself so much and didn't want to make it any worse.
"Hanging around with Weasleys again, Potter? The girl might at least be useful as breeding stock, I suppose." Malfoy sneered as he opened the door about an hour later.
Harry felt a surge of potent anger the like of which he hadn't felt in years. The runes on his back prickled, Uruz in particular.
Without really thinking too much, he stood up and shoved the mouthy blond with as much force as he could muster.
Malfoy went sprawling into a painful heap with his two juvenile guard trolls, shouting something about his father hearing of this.
Harry wasn't listening though. It was with monumental effort that he managed to resist the urge to launch a kick or two at the trio of downed idiots. He slammed the cabin door shut instead, drew his wand and put a locking charm on it.
"T-thanks." Ginny said quietly, a shy but dazzling smile on her face. The Boy-Who-Lived had protected her honor, just like in the stories!
Harry simply nodded and sat down. He hadn't done it for her. He didn't know her well enough to really be outraged on her behalf aside from the reaction that any decent person would have to unwarranted insults.
Now that he'd cooled down a bit, he could think about what had happened logically and knew that he'd overreacted. He somehow doubted that Malfoy even properly understood what he'd said. In a society without internet access, twelve year olds generally did not learn enough about the birds and the bees to understand the concept of 'breeding stock'. It was possible that the boy's parents had taught him about it, but more than likely he was simply repeating what his father or mother had said and assuming that it was an insult.
Harry stared in fascination at the skeletal winged horses harnessed to the carriages that would take them to the castle. He didn't recall seeing those the previous year, though he had admittedly not paid much attention in this direction either.
"Do you know what those horses are?" He asked of a passing Su Li, hoping that the girl knew something he didn't. He wished Luna was here. Strange creatures seemed to be a specialty of hers.
"What horses?" She questioned back, puzzled.
"They're called thestrals, you can only see them if you've seen someone die." A passing upper year Hufflepuff told them, giving Harry a look of sympathy as he did so.
Harry might have been a bit irritated by that look if his memory didn't flash back to the death of his mother at the words. Perhaps unlocking that old memory was allowing him to see them now?
What a strangely specific form of invisibility.
Ginny hurried over to the stool with the Sorting Hat and put on the ancient magical headwear, eager to get sorted. She could already see Luna and Harry sitting together at the Ravenclaw table and desperately wanted to join them.
Ravenclaw eh? You are much better suited to Gryffindor. The hat said.
But I want to be with Harry. Ginny thought back stubbornly. Her mother had asked her to become his friend and that would be much easier if she was in the same house. She may not have said much to him yet, but she liked what she'd seen of him so far and he had defended her from that prat Malfoy and his insults.
The hat tried to dissuade her a few more times, but Ginny was stubborn and insisted on going to Ravenclaw.
A little known thing about the Sorting Hat was that it didn't so much sort as it helped to guide the children to the house that fit them best. Most children had little opinion on where they wanted to go, but some of them did and went against the recommendations it gave.
Hermione Granger should have gone to Ravenclaw, but her idolization of Dumbledore had her insisting on Gryffindor despite the advice of the Sorting hat.
In an ironic twist, Ginny did the opposite.
Over at the Gryffindor table, four Weasleys stared with slack jaws as their little sister went to the table of blue and bronze. They knew that their firecracker of a sister was not nearly bookish enough to go to Ravenclaw. If there had ever been a Gryffindor Weasley, it was Ginny, so it took no effort to assume that Harry Potter was somehow the cause of the strange sorting given that she immediately sat down next to him.
It didn't mean much to Percy, who merely sniffed at the break in the Weasley tradition of being sorted into Gryffindor.
Fred and George hadn't really paid much attention to Harry Potter so far, but his association with their favorite little sister merited a stern talk about his intentions with ickle Gin-Gin. And a great deal of teasing. And possibly pranks, but that was par for the course.
Ron was the most confused of the lot, as this event did not at all compute with his view of the world. Weasleys went to Gryffindor, that was simply the way of things. How could Ginny be a Ravenclaw?
The time since Halloween and Hermione's death had been hard on Ron. He knew that he shared at least partial responsibility for the death of his housemate.
In truth, he had barely scraped through first year. His usual lack of academic ability coupled with the guilt he'd been feeling causing his normally poor grades to plummet to terrible. It took the help of all three of his older brothers to get his grades to the point where he didn't need to repeat his first year.
His mother had not been happy, but had also tried not to be too harsh with him, knowing the cause of his poor performance. Some of it at least.
He'd mostly managed to put Hermione's death behind him, but he was much more careful with his words now.
He would go talk to Ginny later.
Albus Dumbledore had merely blinked at the unexpected sorting. A Weasley in Ravenclaw? How novel.
Then he saw Harry Potter sitting next to young Ginny and Luna Lovegood and actually talking to someone his age!
He smiled. It may not be exactly what he'd planned when he'd spoken to Molly earlier in the summer, but plans could sometimes go awry in good ways too.
Harry did his best to ignore the discomfort caused by the odd looks he was getting from the other Ravenclaws. No doubt they were wondering about his abnormal friendliness with Luna.
Well, Ginny was here too he supposed.
He would honnestly have prefered if she had gone to Gryffindor like her brothers. The constant blushing and shy glances she'd been giving him the entire train ride had made for a rather awkward experience.
Only the memory of his resolution not to judge as quickly as he had with Hermione stopped him from alienating her right off the bat. The obvious crush she had on him was more than a little annoying and was not returned in the slightest. He had enough problems keeping his eyes off the prettier upper year girls without having to deal with this too.
Luna was a godsend in that regard, her quirky conversation style keeping him well distracted from wondering about the kind of bodies those unflattering robes were hiding. Mostly.
Well, he'd give Ginny a chance to grow out of this rather than pushing her away immediately. Who knows, she might actually find that she didn't like the real him too much.
Yes, I killed Dobby. MUAHAHAHAHAH.
I wonder if this is what George R. R. Martin feels like?
But on a more serious note, Dobby is dead because I didn't want to have a 12 year old outsmarting a professional slippery bastard like Lucius. Events in canon notwithstanding (what the hell was Dobby doing in Hogwarts at the time anyway?).