Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter nor am I making any money off of this fanfic. All author notes will be at the end of chapters in the future. Please note that this is AU so be prepared for lots of original characters and non-Hogwarts settings. Many thanks to Sage Defender for editing.
Harry didn't want to get out of bed. He didn't see why he should, he just had the worst day of his life. Why did his name have to come out of the Goblet of Fire? His best friend believed he cheated and was selfish about it. The school was likely to turn it's back on him again. And all Harry wanted was a calm 'normal' year but that was spoiled. Did he really have to leave his nice cozy bed? When Dean Thomas' alarm started blaring he knew he'd have to face his roommates again if he didn't get moving.
Why would he want to speak with the jealous or clueless guys? They didn't believe him and none of them seemed to grasp that he might be in danger. What a lovely start to November! Oh, how Harry wished he didn't care.
He sped through his morning routine and left the room before Dean had dealt with his alarm. The guy didn't care for mornings and he would press the snooze button forever. Harry found Hermione waiting in the common room like it were any other day. At least he still had a friend. That was certainly step up from the Dursleys.
"Harry, you know I support you. I willing to get your breakfast if you want to eat somewhere else."
"I might as well face the music, Hermione. I'm not a coward and I didn't do anything wrong."
"I know Harry"
They quieted when they realized all the eyes in the great hall were on them. Yep Harry was right, he was, yet again, an unwilling participant in a 3 ring circus. What gave his classmates the right to stare?
The whispering barely started up when the pair had taken their seats at Gryffindor's table. Harry could hear the clicking of someone's determined shoes as the person headed straight to the head table. He didn't waste his time to look up until Hermione had elbowed him. A white headed witch was having a heated discussion with the headmaster. The lady some how appeared old and ageless at the same time. He supposed that she was some how involved with the tournament.
"They were pointing at you Harry."
"How is that any different…" Harry tried to state as his friend glared at him.
"Shush, I can make out most of what she say."
"She claims that you were magically added to her school's roll. She already read the paper about your entree into the tournament and she doesn't look thrilled."
"Dumbledore did suspect I was entered into the tournament as a student from another school. But I don't see how that is going to change anything. I'm still bound to the contract."
"Professor Dumbledore, Harry. She demanding to see the goblet and the contract."
Moments later the monstrosity that had bound him unwilling to compete was yet again in the center of the great hall. By that time every student was paying attention.
The strange witch raised her voice, "Are the champions here?"
"I don't see Durmstrang's champion." She stared at the professor. Dumbledore relented, "I'll send for him. It shouldn't take long, why don't you join us." Dumbledore motioned to the food.
"I'll pass," stated the curt witch before she let her eyes wander.
Harry quickly asked after the strange lady caught his eyes, "Hermione do you have a clue as to what she planning to do."
"She said something about testing a theory but that could mean anything Harry. The headmaster did tell her that he believed you didn't enter yourself."
"How did she respond?"
"Glared at him like she did when he stated that Krum isn't present. Please, eat Harry."
Harry smiled. That witch had spunk if she could stare Dumbledore down. Most people lost their will when his eyes would start twinkling. Harry wondered about the witch's age and why she looked ageless while he waited.
Dumbledore stood and addressed the student as Victor Krum entered the Great Hall. "Pupils, this is Headmistress…"
"Right, Right, this is Principal Lawson. She is an enchantress from the 'Red' cooperative and is going to be test the binding contract."
The principal raised her wand. "Students, the Goblet of Fire is an old impartial judge. I doubt it has the power to tie someone to more than one binding contract. Willing parties to the contract will find a blue string attaching them to the Goblet of Fire and the contract," She stated as she performed a complex spell.
Three blue threads attached to the Champions, the contract and the Goblet. A reddish brown thread attached itself to the Goblet then the witch and Harry.
Harry stood up and asked, "And what does this mean?"
"That you had no involvement in this matter, child." She stated loud enough for everyone to hear. "Professor, now would be a good time to retire to your office. If you would join us, Harry, when you're finished eating."
"That was amazing Harry. Hopefully everyone believes what is in front of their own eyes."
"I don't care about that, Hermione. What do you think she has planned? And can I trust her? And why couldn't Dumbledore do that?"
"Professor Dumbledore, Harry. I don't have a clue what she has planned. I do hope you can trust her as you're some how bound to her or her school. American, I suspect. Harry, Professor Dumbledore's advanced degrees are in transfiguration and alchemy. Enchantment is a different field, I believe it includes advanced charms and runes. You need to eat Harry."
"Hopefully this mean I don't have to compete. What is it Hermione?"
"Cedric Diggory is… well I think he wants to apologize."
Harry waved him off as he didn't see the need.
"I'll see you later, Hermione."
The headmaster's gargoyles wouldn't let Harry pace the hall for the few moments that he wanted to collect his nerves. The spiral of steps were open for his use without him asking and the annoying stone creatures lectured him on promptness, making him aware that he was late. It wasn't Harry's fault that Hermione made him sit and eat a real breakfast instead of the piece of toast he was planning to swallow on his was up to Dumbledore's office.
Harry could hear more than 2 voices talking in the headmaster's office. He recognized Professor Lupin's voice immediately. Maybe this wouldn't be that bad. He didn't even get a chance to knock on the door before it opened for him. Harry couldn't contain himself when he noticed the large black dog seated by Remus. He took the seat next to Remus and buried his head into his godfather furry coat.
The visiting witch smiled at the childish action. Ms. Wendy, a name she earned from the children, loved getting new students, but this one took the cake. Someone had entered the boy into a tournament for of age students claiming he was part of her school. She didn't even know how they knew of the little cooperative where she worked. She had never heard of it before she started teaching there.
The 'Red' cooperative was best described as a modern commune. Not that the description really explained the co-op. It was one of the solutions to the complex problems of the wizarding world in the States. The United States was in it's infancy and the 2 official magical schools could not or would not provide service to all of the magical children. Cooperatives or other small schools provide alternatives to the magical pull outs that were presented at the public schools. The country required all magical students have proficiency in mundane subjects but made no provisions for a minimal magical education or funding. The state of magical education was a mess, but at least it wasn't a failing system filled with former glory.
Principal Lawson felt dreadful about taking the boy away from Hogwarts but leaving him here would conflict with her vow to protect her charges. She could not replace the rich history found in the castle, but that meant little when it came to a good education.
"Professor Dumbledore, lets drop the shenanigans. I prefer people be upfront with me. Animagus, I prefer speaking to you in a form you can talk back in."
"Harry, my boy, it's all right. Americans don't even recognize your godfather's conviction since he had no trial."
Sirius transformed. "Albus that doesn't mean that she isn't entitled to her own opinions. Sirius Black, Ma'am"
"I presume that you did not betray your best friends or kill over a dozen people."
"You are welcome to join us, but only if you seek asylum."
"The States weren't willing to consider it when I made contact earlier this year."
"The 'Red' cooperative is part of tribal lands and they are governed differently. If the Chief's Council grants the request, and they will, the US has no choice but agree due to treaties."
"Pup" Sirius questioned Harry.
"I don't have a clue.."
"I'm sorry, the dog distracted me. It's nice to meet you Harry and please call me Ms. Wendy," the lady smiled. "The Goblet of Fire has bound you to a cooperative educational contract. That contract is breakable but I fear that if it's voided then the Goblet will bind you to the tournament's contract."
"Pup, we," Sirius pointed to himself and Remus, "believe it's safest for you to join the co-op's school."
Harry could see that Dumbledore was not pleased with this. The headmaster stood before he started speaking, "Harry, my boy, it would be better for you to take your chances in the tournament. We don't know if this isn't an elaborate trap to get you somewhere less secure."
"I don't, I didn't want to compete."
"You need to make a decision, and I don't want to see you lose your mother's protection," the Headmaster stated. His body posture showed that he believed his choice was the only correct one. The headmaster's views did not please Harry. He had a way out of the possibly deadly tournament.
"Headmaster it is not his choice," the guest stated bluntly. "I'm sorry, Harry, but you are a minor. It's appalling that you are bound to a contract against your will but you are still bound to it."
"It can be broken."
"That doesn't make it right. You want the child to risk his life in a tournament designed for of age students."
"Ma'am you don't…" Dumbledore was cut off.
"No, I don't, nor do I care when you want to place one of my students in danger."
"He's not your.."
"Check your enrollment. I assure you he is my student."
The marauders motioned to Harry to join them in a nook by the bookshelves.
"Pup, let them duke it out. I believe that witch may be able to match Dumbledore in power. I like her spunk."
"He's not happy with me," Harry muttered to his feet.
"He doesn't need to be Pup. Besides this is not your fault Pup. You didn't do anything."
"I agree with Sirius. She didn't get the chance to tell you but you don't have to go by yourself…"
"You're going too?" Harry questioned.
"Of course, Cub."
Harry completely ignored Ron when he entered the common room. He was still angry at the jealous prat. The red head should act like his best mate. It serves him right to feel the heat of his poor decision. Harry didn't care since he was leaving for the rest of the school year. Ron would have to figure out how to live with himself by himself.
Hermione sent Harry an understanding nod as her best friend joined her by the fire.
"Harry we don't have time to talk now. Class starts in 15 minutes. I got your bag ready for you."
"Hermione, I won't be attending class."
"Harry, you have to."
"Mione, I'm going to attend another school to keep me out of the tournament."
His bushy haired friend took a sharp breath and sat back down on the sofa.
"When do you leave?"
"After dinner. Apparently it is the easiest time to make the time transition. I need to go pack."
Hermione nodded. "You will write?"
"Of course… umm… sorry I'm not good at this."
"Oh, Harry I doubt anyone is… please don't get into any trouble. Can we take a walk around the lake before you leave?"
Harry agreed and told her, "I'll see you at lunch. Now hurry or you'll be late."
"Remus, I finished packing. Are they still going at it?"
"No, Principal Lawson is shopping in Hogsmeade. Sirius is playing the part of a watch dog."
Harry laughed at that. "Do you know anything about the school?"
"Not much but the headmistress…"
"Americans. Anyway, she left some information packets for us to read. Harry, there are some things you need to understand before we go. If Sirius is granted asylum over there, then he can't leave until he gets a fair trial here. Professor Dumbledore believes that the wards around your aunt's house will fail because of how the school's contract is written."
"Isn't that better for Sirius than running from the law?"
"I think so, but I also know that Sirius doesn't like to feel trapped or tied down." Harry nodded with understanding. "That's not all Harry, the contract I signed means I have to stay with the cooperative for a full year."
"You didn't have to do that."
"Harry, it's employment of sorts. To be honest, the only other job I've had that came close to it was the Professorship here. She knows about my affliction and doesn't find it a problem. A werewolf must have a sponsor to even go to the States so I've never been."
"At least that's a point in her favor. My aunt's house never been a home and my parents never wanted me there. What else do you know?"
"American magic is viewed as wild in nature. They don't tend to follow European conventions. This should be quite the adventure, hopefully without the risk you'd find here in the tournament."
"At least I get to be with the both of you."
Remus shook his head as he handed Harry his packet to read.
The packet appeared to be constructed out of a never ending composition book. It started with the history of the 'Red' cooperative. The co-op's name had been in enchanted by those who founded it. The name always appears to be in the language of the people discussing it. The cooperative had petitioned the natives for sanctuary and protection before the area became a state. This is why the cooperative falls under loose tribal law instead of the US magical governing body. The cooperative was more than a school. It was an interwoven community that reminded Harry i* Communism. Everyone thrived or shriveled together. The school portion of the community was stated to have Montessori and Reggio Emilia influences. Harry didn't have a clue what that meant other than they were proud of it.
Every member of the community was required to contribute to the community. For students this meant a require amount of time spent in the 'school rooms' and chores. The adult had required work before they could pursue their own interests. The members came from all sorts of backgrounds.
The only magical children's home for that region of the US is located inside of the cooperative . It houses close to 90 children at any given time.
The cooperative currently had 84 properties connected by S.O.C tubes. Harry suspected that the tubes were like the Floo system. The cooperative had created multiple protected fields, utilized by the local werewolf population, who didn't have to sign a contract.
Harry continued to analyze the confusing information until Sirius and his new principal came back.
Professor McGonagall walked in with Harry's new principal. Harry was a bit concerned about whatever discussion they just finished. He knew his adventures had been challenging on his head of house.
"Mr. Potter, I expect to see you back here next year. Gryffindor is going to need its seeker back." The Professor gave her goodbyes and left.
"I'm afraid I'm not a follower of British etiquette. I hope you don't mind if I call you Harry," The principal asked.
"Not at all Ma'am"
"I see that Remus gave you the information packet I left. If you like, we can start with your questions or I can give you the basic introduction to the 'Red' cooperative."
"It's confusing - like when I found out I'm a wizard. Everything is different. I'm not even sure where to start with questions."
"That is understandable," she smiled. "Umm… why don't I start with my introduction. The children at home call me Ms. Wendy. A name given to me years ago by a group of young boys that loved Peter Pan. Most residents go by nicknames. Don't be surprised when you're given a name or earn a new one. It's part of the culture of the cooperative."
"You are the first student to enroll in the school that was not already living in the cooperative or our group home. This must be very strange for you. As I know it is for me."
"Ms. Wendy is fine."
"Well the packet talked about chore but it didn't say what kind of chores."
"Don't worry. We're not some sort of torture camp. There are a wide variety of chores that you get to choose from. The specifics would be easier to explain when we are on site."
"The school is lead by the individual. So as long as you're meeting the minimums set for you, you get to dictate your path. The mentors and teachers are there to help you succeed The structure of the curriculum is very different than what you're used to here. Professor Dumbledore is concerned that you won't stay on track for you OWL exams. I'm not worried, but if this concerns you, bring it up at your first conference. We will create a tailored plan to meet your concerns. Your first conference will happen within your first week at the cooperative. At that time you will decide how often you want those meetings."
"Harry, do you know what you want to do after school?"
Harry shrugged not knowing how to answer, "Not a clue."
"Don't worry, Harry, that is normal. I'm asking so that we can correctly set up your educational plan. Thankfully, your teachers have been forthcoming with information. Your educational background is different than our average new student's. Most of the children when they come to the cooperative only have a minimal magical education. The American educational system is complicated and many find it lacking. Transfer from schools that compare with Hogwarts are unusual as many are trying to find a place at one not leave it. Our school's expectations are set up by age range. You'll need to pay attention to the 12-15 year olds' lists. If you're agreeable I'll have your wand training set up for you when we arrive."
"If you haven't completed it you will not be allowed to carry your wand around with you." Harry made a face at that. "Don't fret, it shouldn't take you more than an hour to complete. Also, that tray or packet, depending on what you want to call our curriculum, covers many of the basics of the rules for the cooperative."
"What does a normal school day look like?"
"That is all up to you Harry. Every classroom is setup utilizing magic to contain your options and you choose to work through them in whatever order you choose. Mastery comes at your own pace as every student is different. Every class room has at least one teacher or care giver to mentor. This varies depending on the students and the community's needs. Practicals are done in the appropriate places and they come available many times throughout the curriculum. The teachers will help you with any questions."
"I'm not going to understand it unless I see it."
"That might be easier. The system is simplistic but opposite of your current educational system."
"Do we get free time?"
"As long as you meet your minimums, yes. There are plenty of things to do at the cooperative, plus there are trips that you can earn the right to go on."
"Do I get to live with Sirius and Remus?"
"Yes, that will be arranged as soon as they finish the cooperative training for working with children. They're motivated, so hopefully it will only take them a few days."
Harry looked at Principal Lawson's outfit. "Do you wear robes over there?"
"Rarely, and most guys avoid them altogether."
"I don't have much else to wear."
"The cooperative will take care of your wardrobe." Ms. Wendy started flipping through Harry's information packet and said, "You need to read this so you know how to mark your personal belongings."
"Alright, may my owl come?"
"Yes, but use the goblin post when you write your friends here. Transatlantic flights are not advised for owls. We can continue this later as I believe your friends are out of class. Remember Harry that questions are always welcome and expected." Harry didn't need to be told twice before he left to join his friends.
"Hermione let me breathe."
"I'm going to miss you," she stated as she let go of one of her smothering hugs.
"I know, I'll write and I will be back. You'll have to keep me up to date with what's happening at Hogwarts."
"What did you find out about the school, Harry?"
"It student directed as long as your meeting the minimal standards. It's program is influenced by Montessori and Reggio Emilia."
"That's different. I went to a Montessori nursery. It's probably why I started reading so young. Oh, I remember loving all of the activities. It was hard to go to a traditional primary after nursery, they are very different. There are only a few Montessori that continue after nursery here."
"Do you think I'll like it?"
"You'll need self discipline but I don't see why you wouldn't like it. It just different. What did they say about being prepared for your OWLs?"
"Only you would ask about that. Dumbledore is concerned, but Ms. Wendy isn't worried. They have minimum requirements. I assume that those work."
"Harry be respectful."
"She asked for me to call her Ms. Wendy. There is no disrespect."
Hermione glared at Harry but let it go.
"Remus and Sirius are going with me."
"Is that safe?"
"Ms. Wendy is making Sirius seek asylum. Once he has received it, he will not be able to leave unless he is to receive a fair trial here."
"That's better than running from the law."
"I'm excited about that. It will be great to learn more about my parents and get to know Sirius."
"Are you going to make up with Ron before you leave?"
"I don't know Hermione. I won't start anything but I won't refuse if he apologizes. It hurt."
"He been watching us this whole time."
"He a Gryffindor, he can figure out how to come over here."
Hermione wasn't pleased but she understood her friend's reaction. She noticed a the irregular flow of branches as they walked around the lake, hopeful it's some snogging pair. "I'm excited for you. Harry think of this as something special..."
"Malfoy," Harry snarled at the obnoxious boy who interrupted them by coming out from behind a tree.
"Still thinking you're special. Oh, the powerful Harry Potter had to have some hag save you from certain death. You're just a wimp."
Hermione pushed Harry back as he started to growl. "I see you haven't learned after three years, your rants are meaningless. Harry is special. You should leave before…"
"A Malfoy will never listen to a mudblood," loathed the blonde.
Hermione smiled to Professor McGonagall who had walked up behind them. The Professor cleared her throat. "Mr. Malfoy, I see you'll be joining me for detention. Now is as good a time as any," she stated before nodding goodbye to her students.
Malfoy glared but wasn't stupid enough to do anything before he followed the Professor back to the castle.
"Harry let's finish our walk around the lake."
Ron waited until the last minute to apologize so Harry talked him into walking him to the headmaster's office.
"Will you get to play quidditch there?"
"I don't know, Ron. I didn't ask. I'll have my broom, so I hope I will at least get a chance to fly."
"Malfoy is going to be worse without you."
"He's an idiot even if he isn't stupid. Don't let him get under your skin. Pair with Hermione in potions and you'll be alright."
"I'll see if you can come over this summer. Man I'm going to miss you."
"Bye, mate," Harry wave as he went up the headmaster's stairs.
Like the last time the door opened before Harry had the chance to knock. Ms. Wendy and the Marauders were seated around the room waiting for him.
"Harry, before we leave, I would like to explain how we planned to deal with the time change. The cooperative is 6 hours behind us. The plan is for us to finish out the day in the cooperative. What I mean is that we should stay up until at least 9 o'clock cooperative time or 3 am your time. A pepper-up potion will be made available to help accomplish the change. This method is the simplest way to transition between time zones."
"Have you ever taken a portkey?" She asked.
"Yes, but my landing was horrible."
"I'll help him," Remus stated. "Harry, you'll need to learn to walk with the portkey or your landing will always be disastrous. This time I'll hold on to you but try to paces your steps with mine. Normally we'd have to go to an international travel site but Ms. Wendy has privileges."
"You have to touch the globe."
Moments later Harry felt a pull from behind his navel. Remus' arm was wrapped around his middle. Harry could feel him walk at a slow pace. The relaxed movements seemed odd against the swirling colors and wind. This trip last longer than his last. Portkey magic was amazing, you could travel halfway around the world in a matter of minutes.
Remus was holding harry up when they landed. It was jarring, but at least he didn't land on his face. By time he got his balance again, Ms. Wendy was standing next to a large wooden gate.
She smiled to the group and said, "Welcome to the 'Red' cooperative. After we enter this gate, we'll be inside of the wards. They can't be passed unless you use a gate like this and then only if you have permission. The 84 different properties are connected with our sock system, something you will only find at the cooperative. This is also where we part. I will take Harry and Puzzle should be here in a few minutes to start your training."
"Don't worry, Pup, we'll be quick."
"You can write if a few days seems to long." Ms. Wendy stated.
S.O.C. - Specified Outlying Connections (Cheesy I know but it better than calling them sock tubes. It will be explained in detail in a later chapter.)
All constructive feedback is welcome