Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, obviously.
It had only been a few days since he had somehow survived the Chamber of Secrets, and once again Harry Potter felt like the Magical World was completely mad. Death Eater and unrepentant monster Lucius Malfoy had unleashed a beast that could have easily wiped out an entire generation- a 60 foot long snake that could kill with a glance, let loose in a school full of children, including his own son, and yet he walked out of Hogwarts a free man.
Albus Dumbledore was supposedly the greatest wizard alive and had an enormous amount of power as the head of the magical version of British parliament as well the magical version of the UN. But he let a man whose actions had terrorized and nearly killed students under Dumbledore's supposed protection go with a mere twinkle in his eye and a warning to behave himself. Was it any wonder the Death Eaters had caused so much destruction if the great hero fought terrorists with little more than stern words?
Of course, this was also the second year in a row that a boy who grew up in a cupboard had to save the school from the most evil Dark Lord in history. What made this pitiful fact even worse was that he had been shunned by almost the entire school because he could speak to snakes, which obviously made him a Dark Lord in training. They turned on their hero in the blink of an eye because they were all completely mad.
These thoughts made it a bit clearer why he had been abandoned to a life of slavery and abuse after saving them all as a baby- why would these crazy people bother caring about the fate of their savior?
Unfortunately, these thoughts also left Harry quite distracted as he wandered the halls of Hogwarts before dinner and left him lost somewhere high up in the castle that he had never been before. He turned a corner after hearing two familiar laughs and ran into three of the Weasleys.
Ron and the twins were standing over a dark-haired girl from Slytherin who would have looked nearly in tears to most people. But Harry saw something else- a haunted, broken look of someone who had seen far too much pain. It was something he saw in the mirror sometimes, and something he took great pains to never let anyone else see.
"What's the matter little snake? Your monster nearly took our sister from us," Ron was sneering at the girl who he realized was Pansy Parkinson. Ironically, Harry had often seen her sneering whenever he'd been classes with her as if she were far too noble to speak to a commoner from Gryffindor.
But now, she was just a girl whose wand was lying ten feet away and who had three much larger boys taunting her, menacingly. Her legs were still shaking from the obvious jelly-legs curse. It was too much for Harry's sense of honor to handle, whether these boys were his friends or not.
"Leave her alone!"
The twins turned to see Harry coming down the hall pulling out his wand. Ron replied, "She's just a slimy snake. You know she's gonna end up a Death Eater like her boyfriend Malfoy." None of the Weasleys noticed, but Harry saw a look of revulsion cross Pansy's face. Whether it was the mention of Death Eaters or Malfoy, he couldn't tell.
"I said leave her alone."
"No reason not to prank a Slytherin, Harry. They'd do much worse to us," Fred or George said. How would Harry ever be able to tell the difference if their own mother couldn't?
"I don't care if she's a Slytherin, you three need to back off."
"What's the matter with you, mate? The filthy snakes were taunting us all year about how they'd kill off people like Hermione," Ron said.
"Malfoy was the only one who ever said that."
"And his little pets like her all laughed it up," Ron argued.
"You can't change the snakes, Harry. They've been rotten for centuries," said the other twin.
"I don't care. Leave her alone."
"You gonna fight us over a stinking Slytherin, mate? What's wrong with you?" Ron looked as if he couldn't believe Harry wouldn't join him.
"I hate bullies," Harry said in a low voice.
"I killed a giant fucking snake to save your sister. I'm not afraid of you three. Now go find someone your own size to pick on."
The Weasleys backed up and the twins at least had the decency to look a bit ashamed. "It was just a bit of a joke," Ron mumbled as he walked off with his brothers.
Harry picked up her wand and walked over to Pansy. He held it out to her and offered her a hand up. "Why did you help me?"
"I hate bullies."
Pansy looked at him, wondering just who Harry Potter really was. Something about the boy-who-lived didn't make sense. Then she had a flash of recognition, a sense of familiarity, and her heart both broke for him and soared for herself. It was a feeling of hope, something she had almost forgotten, but maybe he could be the hero she never dared to believe would rescue her.
She should her head and asked, "Why don't you wear your family ring, Potter?"
Harry stared at her for a moment and asked, "What family ring?"
"The Potter family ring. You are the last Potter, heir to an old and powerful family," she replied. Now something really didn't make sense about him.
"I've never heard of a Potter family ring."
"That's not good," Pansy said as she started to pace. How could he help her if he didn't know anything? Then, she realized she could help him and he, the noble Gryffindor, was bound to help her in return. At least the tiny sliver of hope wanted to think he would.
"We need to somewhere to talk," Pansy said, and suddenly a door appeared on the wall, right next to where she had been slumped on the floor moments ago.
They both turned at the wall then stared at each other skeptically. "That was far too convenient." Pansy looked down the hall, noting they were still alone, before cracking open the door. She then quickly dragged Harry inside.
"Sometimes I love magic," Harry said as he looked at the room. Inside were several chairs and couches, all looking thoroughly over stuffed and comfy, as well as a table with butterbeer and snacks. He grabbed a drink and sat down. "So what is a family ring?"
"I'm guessing you live with muggles?" Pansy asked. The look he responded with seemed to be several different emotions at once, all of them negative. "That's good in a way, one less thing for you to have to overcome. If a magical family were keeping you from your inheritance, it could make things much harder. Did you at least get your vault key?"
"Hagrid brought a vault key to me when he took me to Diagon Alley."
"Why would Hagrid take you? He's basically the gardener, all students from non-magical families are supposed to be met by McGonagall, that's part of her duties as Deputy Headmistress."
Harry thought for a moment, unsure what or how much he should say. He barely knew Pansy, but she seemed to honestly want to help him. Of course, any amount of trust usually had to be pried out of him, but what he'd seen in her eyes made him think that maybe she was someone he could learn to trust. Maybe. He'd just start with a small step. 'My relatives didn't want me to come here,' he thought, but no that might give too much away. "There was some difficulty getting my Hogwarts letter."
Pansy realized by the way he wasn't looking at her that he wasn't saying everything, but she decided not to push. This was there first real conversation after all. "Even so, they should have sent someone who could do actual magic like a teacher." She thought for a moment. "Did Hagrid say who had the key before he brought it to you?"
"I don't think so," Harry thought for a moment, "maybe Dumbledore."
"That is interesting."
"Hard to say with what we know. Which isn't much." Pansy took a drink of water before continuing. "You need to get to Gringotts as soon as possible. Show them your key and ask to speak to a manager. Tell them you are there to receive your family inheritance, which should have them bring out the Potter family ring. Once you put it on, you will be officially recognized as the Potter family head. Normally, you'd have to be older, but as there are no other Potters left, you could have claimed this as early as 11, once you were old enough to buy a wand."
"What good will that do me?"
"As head of your family, you will legally be granted emancipation. You'll effectively be an adult."
"You mean I could live wherever I want?"
"As old as the Potter family is, I'd assume there would be several properties where you could choose to live. Possibly with house elves too."
With the mention of house elves, Harry felt inspired and called out, "Dobby?"
A small crack announced the arrival of Harry's most insanely devoted friend. "The great Harry Potter calls for Dobby?"
"You've got your own house elf?"
"No, Dobby's just my friend."
"Wait a minute, aren't you the Malfoy house elf?" Pansy asked warily.
"No, the great Harry Potter freed Dobby from the bad masters."
Pansy looked at Harry, who was watching the gleeful elf look around the room, and the sliver of hope grew a bit brighter. "You freed a house elf?"
"I tricked Lucius Malfoy into giving Dobby a sock the other night. Malfoy was the one who caused the Chamber of Secrets to open."
Pansy shook her head and sighed. "That makes sense. Malfoy claimed to be under the Imperius curse to get out of going to Azakaban supposedly after the Dark Lord fell, but I'm pretty sure he just bribed his way free. What did Dumbledore do?"
"Nothing," Harry spat bitterly. "He let him walk free with barely a warning. Several students, including my best friend, nearly died, and the bastard just walked out the door."
"Damn, I expected more from Dumbledore than that."
"So did I."
They sat for a moment before Dobby asked, "What can Dobby do for the great Harry Potter sir?"
Harry looked over at the elf. "What are you going to do now Dobby? What do free House Elves do?"
"Dobby will need to find somewhere to live, sir, hopefully with a nice family."
"Don't you want to be free?"
"House elves need to live with a magical family or at a business to survive," Pansy explained.
"That's true Harry Potter sir. Dobby will need to find a good family or eventually Dobby will get sick."
"Well, apparently I am the head of the Potter family. Or at least I will be once I can get to Gringotts. You could be a part of my family if you want."
"Dobby would be honored to work for the great Harry Potter sir. Harry Potter would be the best master in the world!"
"I'll do my best Dobby. Will you be alright for the next couple of weeks?"
"Dobby will stay nearby. Hogwarts always has work for elves to do."
"Okay, take care of yourself and I'll call you as soon as I can." That was more than enough encouragement for Dobby, who left with an enormous smile on his face. Harry then turned to Pansy, "So... once I claim the Potter family ring, I'll be able to do whatever I want?"
"To a large extent. I'd recommend getting a solicitor as soon as possible. I assume you've never been paid for all the boy-who-lived crap that people sell everywhere."
"They sell stuff about me?"
"Sure, tons of things. You're one of the 10 most popular quidditch jerseys, a second year amongst the Holyhead Harpies. Not to mention all the books about you. Or the dolls," Pansy smirked at Harry, as his face went a bit green as the realization of his fame sunk in a bit further.
"No wonder Ginny had a crush on me."
"She's far from the only one, Potter." This time Pansy didn't smirk, but looked away with a hint of disgust. Without looking at him, she continued, "Most of the girls raised in the magical world probably do. People have been telling their children bed time stories about the heroic little boy who saved the world ever since then. A lot of people were surprised at how you looked and behaved when you got here. Supposedly, you grew up in a far off castle, learning magic, fighting monsters, and rescuing pretty young maidens from evil wizards. I guess whatever life you had in the muggle world wasn't quite the same as that?"
"Not even fucking close," Harry muttered. Pansy turned to him to see something dark in his eyes. After an awkward moment, Harry asked, "So once I get my ring, I'll be free from my muggle relatives. I assume you'll want something for telling me this?"
"Why would you say that?" Pansy was a bit worried that he'd figured this out.
"It wouldn't be very Slytherin of you to give me valuable information without wanting something in return."
"I'm surprised no one has told you this before. Any of your pureblood friends should have known this. If Weasley was too jealous, at least Longbottom should have said something, or even the Patil girl."
"I didn't know they were all purebloods."
"You've really been kept in the dark then. The Longbottom & Potter families have been allied going back for generations. Even if Dumbledore is keeping you in the dark for whatever purpose, that squib was honor bound to tell you these things."
"He's not a squib," Harry said as he started to get irritated as she seemed to want to insult all his friends.
"Why waste your time getting bent out of shape on his behalf if he's been lying to you this whole time? And please don't start defending Weasley to me either, especially not after today. I can see that you're not stupid, Potter, you must know he's incredibly jealous of you."
"Yeah, I've seen it sometimes. I guess if I'm as rich and powerful as you're suggesting that would make sense, but I still have a hard time believing how famous I am. I had no idea they sold Harry Potter merchandise, although I guess I shouldn't be surprised."
"Imagine that, a nasty little Slytherin girl turning the golden Gryffindor boy into a cynic!" Pansy chuckled mirthlessly.
"I was turned into a cynic a long time ago." Harry looked at her with a smirk that didn't reach his eyes. "You got us off topic. You still haven't told me what you want from me in return for all this."
Harry could tell there was something that Pansy was holding back, but he let the silence play for a few moments. Eventually she sighed and answered him, "If you can get control over your life like I'm suggesting, you might be able to help me. You're not the only one who lives with relatives they don't like."
Both of them knew that this was an understatement and at the same time started to realize that maybe they had a lot more in common than they were willing to acknowledge, at least out loud.
A moment later, they heard a number of voices out in the hall. "It must be time for dinner. Listen, Potter, maybe we can talk some more soon. But if people saw me start hanging out with you all of a sudden..." Pansy trailed off, angered by how precarious things could get for her if any of the junior Death Eaters from her house found out she was cavorting with the enemy.
"I get it, someone like Malfoy could cause you problems for being seen with me. Why don't we meet after dinner tomorrow night? If you can slip out a bit early and find an empty class room-"
"Why don't we just come back here? This room is out of the way."
"Alright, tomorrow night after dinner. We both make sure we're not followed."
"I'd suggest we both get to dinner early, we have a lot to talk about."
"Okay," Harry said as he walked to the door, preparing to leave. "Give me a couple of minutes head start so no one will see us together?"
"Sure. Thanks, Harry, for earlier."
"You're welcome, Pansy."