The Emerald Circle - kannachan27 - Harry Potter (2024)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Hogwarts, Year 1, Part 1 Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 2: Hogwarts, Year 1, Part 2 Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 3: Summer Part 1: The Daring Rescue of Harry J Potter Summary: Chapter Text Chapter 4: Summer Part 2: Breakfast at the Burrow Chapter Text Chapter 5: Summer Part 3: A Little Bit of Quiet and Some Time to Heal Chapter Text Chapter 6: Summer Part 4: A Week with Charlie Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 7: Summer Part 5: Diagon Alley Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 8: Summer Part 6: Final Week of Summer Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 9: Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 1: Platform 9 and 3/4 Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 10: Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 2: To Hogwarts! Summary: Chapter Text Chapter 11: Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 3: Week 1 Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 12: Hogwarts Year 2: Part 4 — Sunday Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 13: Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 5: September and October Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 14: Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 6: THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 15: Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 7; Accusations, Accusations Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 16: Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 8 Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 17: Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 9; Quidditch 1 Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 18: Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 10; Flashpoint Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes:

Chapter 1: Hogwarts, Year 1, Part 1


Harry's first year at Hogwarts is somehow completely different than anything he had ever experienced before and completely the same.


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Lying in his four poster bed in Gryffindor Tower, Harry James Potter wonders if the universe was playing a giant, elaborate prank on him. He’d never been a prankster, and he’d done his best to follow all of Aunt Petunia’s rules, and he’d even tried really hard to get worse marks than Dudley in school — honestly, he didn’t know what he’d done to deserve any of this.

Because, really? Magic?

Better than Smeltings, though, and infinitely better than Stonewall High.

As long as he could get used to living in a huge, drafty castle. Which, Harry thought, would be a problem. There were so many things that could go wrong in such a huge castle, but also he was not sure what the rules of this new place were. Harry was used to knowing the rules, and being able to follow them in order to remain safe. Sure, Uncle Vernon changed the rules sometimes, but Harry would eventually figure it out again, and he had survived every punishment he’d ever been put through.

Now that he knows about it, he wonders how many times he’d only survived because of his magic. He rather suspected that it was the only reason he was still alive.

“Thank you, magic,” he whispered, feeling a hum deep inside of him in response.

He would start learning magic tomorrow, but he was too nervous to fall asleep. He hadn’t even been able to practice any spells yet. All of his new purchases had been locked up in the cupboard under the stairs as soon as Hagrid had deposited him back at Number 4 Privet Drive, leaving him without instructions besides to take the train from King’s Cross Station on September 1st — not even directions on how to get there.

It had been decidedly odd to see a family of red haired witches and wizards wandering around in the Muggle section of the station, speaking loudly about magical things as if there was no separation between the two worlds. Even odder when the mother of the older children had taken him under her wing as if she’d known he would be there, watching, and directed him how to cross onto the platform.

Harry tried not to linger on the oddity, and instead turned his mind to the upcoming school year. He had met two people who were determined to be his friends — Ronald Weasley, and that giant of a man called Hagrid — but he hadn’t even been able to introduce himself to anyone else from his House during dinner or after they’d been bustled off to their dormitories for bed after the Welcome Feast. He’d briefly caught glances of faces and snatches of names during the Sorting — a familiar blond boy named Draco Malfoy, an older looking first year with brown hair and unusual golden eyes named Theodore Nott, and the final student of their year named Blaise Zabini, all three of them Sorting Slytherin and apparently that meant he was not to speak with them.

He wondered if he would make any friends, or if it would be a repeat of primary school where he had to play a part that was never him just to survive. For some reason, he had a feeling that it would be more dangerous to let his true self show, even though he was surrounded by other wizards.

He wasn’t Freak anymore. But he also couldn’t be Just Harry. Everyone already knew him as Harry Potter, and the two on the train — the girl with the bushy hair and the redheaded boy — acted as if they knew everything about him already. Plus, they’d mentioned some books that he showed up in. Which was just absurd. He’d barely known anything about this world, but there were books written about his life?

Did everyone know he’d grown up in the cupboard under the stairs? That he was starved and beaten and mistreated? That he didn’t expect to live to adulthood because of the atrocious way his Aunt and Uncle treated him? And they just left him there? Harry rather hoped they didn’t know anything about that, or else he would have some serious concerns about the so-called Wizarding World.

Which, he thought, was rather self-centered of them to call themselves, actually. “Wizarding World,” as if there were no other wizarding communities on Earth. Were all witches and wizards governed by the same body? Or were there different wizarding governments per country or region? Harry imagined it must be at least somewhat like the EU — assuming a wizarding government overseeing a specific area would then answer to a larger, international body. He was sure that there must be something like that, but he’d have to look them up, which would mean finding a library… and that was something that he couldn’t bring himself do do, just yet, not when he needed to figure out who they all expected him to be and what the new rules were.

There was no guaranteeing that the wizarding rules were the same as the non-wizarding ones, after all, but the punishments for breaking them were likely far more severe considering they could be magically healed and punished all over again.

Speak only when spoken to, don’t look anyone in the eye, never be the first person to eat, don’t be rude, chew with your mouth closed — those were just a few rules that he had memorized over the course of his eleven years. A few of many rules, perhaps, but they were critical. However, none of the rules he followed held more weight than this: show them who they’re expecting to see.

Or, rather, it could be summed up as: be anyone but yourself, Harry.

Showing them what they’re expecting to see could become very, very dangerous. He’d learned that the first time he tried to show off the “misbehaving, dangerous, mentally ill delinquent” that the neighbors in Surrey had expected to see.

Harry yawned. He would have to figure out who this new community of wizards wanted him to be in the morning. For now, he just wanted to spend the night being Just Harry.

Just Harry, who had magic.


It doesn’t take Harry long to figure out that, whichever version of Harry Potter this world wanted him to be, it wasn’t someone that Harry was comfortable with.

The redhead, Ron Weasley, decided that Harry Potter was his best friend. This honestly would have been great, only he’d also decided that he could decide for Harry who he interacted with. This earned him a rivalry with the blond boy who had insulted Hagrid at the robe shop, and also kept him from figuring out if he really would have gotten along better in Slytherin because he’d quite loudly declared all of Slytherin to be off-limits, as well as Dark Wizards in Training. Whatever that all meant.

This meant that Harry, in fact, was not able to interact with anyone that he wanted to because of Ron Weasley’s interference. When people approached Harry, they were warned off in some way, and if Harry tried to approach someone else, he was directed elsewhere by Ron — usually for a game of Wizarding Chess or Exploding Snap. It made it quite difficult for Harry to make friends, even among the people that he shared a dormitory with.

He’d noticed some interesting people while they were being Sorted for their Houses, and he’d seen some people that he wanted to make friends with in their classes, but every time he tried to speak with anyone — including Neville, Dean, and Seamus, who they literally slept next to — Ron had something to say or somewhere they both needed to go immediately. Fellow Gryffindors were not safe, Slytherins were definitely not safe, and it was impossible to meet any of the Ravenclaws, let alone the Hufflepuffs!

There would certainly be no apologizing to the blond boy from the robe shop, just like there had been no speaking to the goblins while he was out shopping with Hagrid.

Ron Weasley broke every rule Harry had ever learned at Petunia Dursley’s feet about proper behaviour. For that matter, so did Hagrid — but both were immediately friendly and interested in being friends with Harry, while others gave him a wide berth and never seemed willing to approach him for an introduction let alone friendship, so Harry learned quickly to bite his tongue and pretend that it didn’t bother him to be so isolated. Two friends was better than none, after all.

Harry also figured out that Ron Weasley was someone who had no interest being friends with smart people, and would rather spend his time talking about Quidditch than studying. He insulted Hermione Granger enough that Harry fell quickly and easily back into his habit of intentionally answering questions wrong during his homework assignments.

Harry had mixed feelings about Hermione Granger. While he understood her ravenous thirst for knowledge about the magical world, even more when he overheard that she’d also come from the Muggle world, he thought that her approach to showing it was quite heavy-handed and certainly did her no favors. Still, he would have liked to at least sit with her in the evenings and compare notes on the magical world he’d encountered so far— he would even have liked to get a lesson or two on how to write better with a quill, as his handwriting was atrocious and Ron was absolutely no help with it. (When he asked the upper years, they all thought that he was joking— how could Harry Potter not know how to write with a quill and ink?)

He quickly learned that he could do a little bit better than Ron in classes, but never score higher than one grade level above him, and never ever show interest or proficiency of any sort in Potions class. It was fine if he was good in Charms and Transfiguration, once the professors commented that his parents were both skilled in those subjects, but there was something about Potions that made Ron scowl before they’d even been to their first class.

Potions, which could not have gone any more dreadfully wrong than it had gone on their first day. Potions, which Harry had been looking forward to more than any other subject. Potions, where Harry had listened as if ensnared by the professor’s introductory lecture, feeling his magic buzzing inside of him to the point that he’d half expected to vibrate out of his skin.

Potions, where the professor already hated him and apparently knew and despised his father. Maybe the professor would be willing to tell Harry his father’s name? Harry’d even be willing to sit through any of the long, rambling rants the man had if it meant he would know anything about his parents. Maybe the professor even knew about his mother?

Harry wished someone — anyone — would talk about his mother.

So, Harry read his school books from cover to cover, tried not to frown at Ron Weasley, and tried his best to learn the material while he intentionally made little mistakes in his essays and tried desperately to force his magic to work for the practical lessons.

It takes Harry a while to get used to casting magic, and it feels unnatural – ha! – to try and channel the magic through his wand instead of through his body. He’d done accidental magic many times over the years, though he hadn’t known it at the time, and it had never been as difficult to access as it was now that he’d started school. Once he figures it out, though, he feels like he’s pushing all of his magic through his wand, which vibrates in his hand, and he spends each night recovering from the exhaustion.

It’s a good thing he is eating more food than he’d ever seen before, or he doesn’t think he would be able to keep up. But just because it’s more food than he’s ever eaten before, it doesn’t mean that he’s eating an acceptable amount. Especially not for a growing boy, and especially not for a magical child.

In fact, barely a day after the disastrous flying lesson that earned Harry his spot on the Gryffindor Quidditch Team, Harry finds himself adopted by two of the Weasley brothers. Fred and George Weasley quickly displace Ron, one twin sitting on either side of Harry while Ron sits across from him at the table at nearly every meal, their friend Lee Jordan joining them instead of pitching a fit about adopting a new first year. They’re quick to call Captain Oliver Wood over to join them, and the meals occasionally turn into Quidditch strategy meetings, but it keeps the attention off of Harry and how much — or little — he eats, so he is satisfied with it.

He didn’t count on Fred and George paying attention to his food intake, though, and he certainly did not expect them to take him under their wings and do their best to correct the issue. They sneak food onto his plate, and sometimes if Harry isn’t careful to eat everything that they give him, George will sneak bites of food into his mouth when Harry goes to respond to something in the conversation.

So, ever the survivor, Harry quickly adjusts to eating anything that comes directly from Fred and George, but he stops truly fighting it after they take him aside after Quidditch practice:

“Now, ickle Harrikins,” Fred starts. Somehow, Harry always knows it’s Fred.

“We know that you’ve heard the rumors about us—“

“And what rumors they are!”

“But while we are dedicated pranksters—“

Very dedicated.”

“And while we will never pass up an opportunity for a good laugh—“

“We solemnly swear we’re up to no good,” they chorus.

“We promise we will never prank your food,”

“But you have to promise to do your best to eat it all.”

Their voices were light, but their eyes were solemn.

“But…” Harry looks between the two of them, his green eyes wide behind his broken glasses. “I promise I’m already doing my best to eat everything. I’ve never had this much food before!”

The twins exchange a look, and nod to each other.

“If you tell anyone, we promise we’ll deny it to our dying day,” Fred says.

“But we only want to help,”

“And we’ll never do anything to hurt you.”

“Can you try and trust us?”

Harry felt like they were having two — or three? — different conversations.

“I really am trying my best, though,” Harry mumbles. He flinches when he feels an arm wrap around his shoulders, and looks up to see George staring at him with an unreadable look on his face. “I don’t know what you want from me.”

“Trust, Harry?” George asks quietly.

Fred leans back against the wall of the locker room, his whole body casually relaxed but his eyes and jaw were set in a serious expression that Harry had never seen before. “You trust us to protect you on the Pitch,” Fred said. “Trust us to protect you on the ground, too, yeah?”

Harry feels himself nodding before he can think of any reason not to agree. Harry already trusted them in the sky, so it was simple enough to trust them on the ground. It was harder to trust them with… other things. But he didn’t think they were asking for all of his trust right away. Just a start. And he could do that.

He’d never had someone who wanted to protect him before.

George’s arm around his shoulder squeezes tightly, and Harry feels himself drawn sideways into his chest, the other arm coming up to wrap around him as well. It makes Harry’s breath shudder and freeze in his lungs as those two long arms wrap around him and pull him closely against George’s chest.

When was the last time someone held him?

“We’ve got you, Harry,” George’s voice said from above him. “Whatever you need, yeah?”

Harry felt his shoulders shaking, but his face was pressed into a warm, scratchy jumper and Harry found himself stop fighting as strong arms held him and refused to let go.

“Incoming,” Fred’s voice said. “Looks like Hufflepuffs. Ready to go, boys?”

Harry took a deep breath and prepared to step back, but George didn’t let him go until Harry looked up at him, green eyes bright and his face pink and splotchy.

“You’re a good kid, Harry,” George said softly. “Lean on us when things get hard, okay? I promise we can take whatever you throw at us.”

Harry tried to smile but couldn’t do more than just twitch his lips. “Even if I don’t want to be Harry Potter?”

Fred scoffed. “What are you talking about? You’re just Harry. Ain’t that right, Georgie?”

“Right you are, Fred. Now, c’mon Harry, let me fix your glasses for you before we go up to dinner. We’ll even get Ollie to teach you some of those weatherproofing spells for the next game, yeah? That’ll cheer you up.”

And so, Fred and George adjust both their approach and the amount of food that they put on Harry’s plate until his body gets used to the rich food that dominates the Gryffindor table. They learn where Harry’s limits are, and how best to navigate the days when Harry can’t bring himself to eat anything during meals, and sometimes they sneak foul tasting potions into Harry’s pumpkin juice that they swear is only to help.

By the time Halloween comes around, Harry was finally able to eat what Fred and George considered to be the bare minimum of “acceptable” without coercion. He had a long way to go, but he no longer felt sick during each meal.

Thanks to Fred and George’s efforts, Harry was starting to feel better and healthier than he had ever felt in his life. His body and magic were finally starting to grow, especially thanks to his regular meals and the way he had to force his magic to answer him. Unbeknownst to him, his overuse of his magic just to make regular spells work was enough for it to double, then triple, even as he felt the strain and fought through the exhaustion. When he was finally able to sleep through the night without the nightmares plaguing him and the exhaustion settled down, the spells grew easier from his developed magic.

His magic strained inside of him, pressing and pressing until there was finally a crack in the seal that was holding it all back on Halloween, when Harry’s need demanded his magic come to his call while he faced against a full grown troll in the girl’s bathroom. Only a tiny sliver was able to sneak out and answer him, but that was enough for what he needed.

Even if all he’d managed to do on Halloween was jump up on the troll’s shoulders and shove his wand up it’s nose, his magic had come to his call when he’d asked for it. It gave his jump the extra boost he needed to reach his arms around the troll, gave his thrust a little extra force when his wand went up the troll’s nose. That was enough for Harry.

The tiny bit of extra magic was enough for Harry to tackle his practical spellwork in classes, no longer scoring near the bottom of the class with Longbottom but able to inch closer to the middle. With Hermione now joining their rag-tag group of three, and willing to give him some tips on his practical work, Harry was able to cast a little more efficiently.

Harry learned that Hermione, too, did not like it when someone outshone her academically, and the he claimed it must have been a lucky day for him when he got higher marks than usual on an essay in Charms class. This is how Harry realizes that “Hermione helped me study” was not going to be an effective strategy, and he would need to continue his deception of friends and teachers alike. He found himself strangely grateful for whatever difficulties he had with casting, that he did not need to pretend to struggle with the practical work the same way he struggled with theoretical.

Still, his freed magic continued to grow and grow, getting used to the demands that Harry made of it and always having to do as much as it could with the tiny bit that was available to him. As it grew, he mastered control of it again and again. And if Hermione and Ron thought that he was doing better in classes because of Hermione’s new friendship, heavy-handed though her help was, he did not correct them.

He was just glad to feel the warmth of his magic in his chest, growing steadily now that he’d stopped pressing it down and instead was encouraging it to grow within him. He felt the magic in his chest flutter and vibrate whenever he was subject to Fred and George’s attention, felt it growing and stretching when he accepted food from them and got a full night’s rest, and on the few occasions where one or both of them would wrap him up in a hug he could feel the magic in his chest practically purring.

A lot could change in one month, let alone the two that he’d been at school.

With his first Quidditch game coming up in November, Harry couldn’t be more glad to have Fred and George by his side, and his magic responsive and growing inside him.

Of course, he was Harry Potter, which meant that his life was never going to go the way he wanted it to. And Harry Potter was just the type of person to have his brand new broom go into absolutely uncontrollable fits during his first Quidditch game, versus Slytherin of all houses, when he couldn’t afford another attack on his nerves.

Harry was thankful for the trust that had built up between himself and the Weasley twins, and also with Oliver Wood, trusting them to keep the quaffle and bludgers away from him while he sought out the snitch and held on to his broom for dear life. But that trust didn’t mean he was any less startled when he nearly swallowed the snitch and ended the game.

It just meant he wasn’t worrying about the bludger coming at him when he was busy trying to stay on his broom and demanding his magic make the broom behave. A little bit of magic to keep himself on his broom shouldn’t have been too much to ask, but he knew that he was working with different equipment than everyone else. He just didn’t know why he had such trouble controlling his magic.

Apparently nobody noticed his problems with his magic, though, because nobody had said anything about it aside from teasing him about his grades — lower than they should have been, as his parents were both rather talented and intelligent. Skipped you, didn’t it Potter?

Still, he was able to release a little bit more of his magic that day and it purred in his chest while he struggled to catch his breath and pretended not to notice that Professor Snape’s robes were on fire in the teacher’s box.

They didn’t expect Harry Potter to care about a Professor who was nothing but cruel to him, after all, so he didn’t.

He did lean in a little closer when Oliver escorted him to the Hospital Wing, though. Oliver was trying his best to make Harry feel safe, and Harry appreciated it, even if the fifth year boy was awkward around a first year student. In the end, Oliver kept up a running commentary about Quidditch, and Harry’s brilliant flying, and easily traded off for Fred and George when they arrived at the Hospital Wing to check on him.

A quick chat with Madame Pomfrey and he was released to Gryffindor Tower, now that she was content that he was all in one piece and not splattered on the ground. She didn’t even cast any diagnostic spells on him, which Fred and George claimed was a nice bit of luck.

Ron and all his brothers were staying at Hogwarts for the Christmas holidays because Mr and Mrs Weasley were going to Romania to visit Charlie.

(Charlie, Harry had learned, was the sort of man everyone wanted to be — intelligent, good looking, and with more daring in his little finger than Godric Gryffindor had in his entire body. Charlie was Quidditch Captain and Prefect, and strong and loyal, and he worked with dragons in Romania. And more than all of that, he was funny and unyieldingly kind.)

This meant more time for Harry and Ron to ignore the mystery of Nicolas Flamel and more time to play Wizard’s Chess — which Ron was very good at — and for Harry to listen to Ron plot different ways to get Malfoy expelled — which Harry didn’t care about but nodded along to each of Ron’s schemes anyway.

Harry would just be satisfied if Draco Malfoy left him alone, thanks. But apparently his non-engagement in the arguments, taunts, and petty battles wasn’t enough for Malfoy to get the point that Harry didn’t want to be involved and certainly didn’t want to be feuding. It certainly wasn’t enough for Ron to get that message, either, as he just got louder and more obnoxious about it when Harry didn’t respond.

Harry wondered what he could do to clear the air between them, or if he was forever going to be stuck on Malfoy’s bad side because of whatever made Ron hate him. Aunt Petunia would send Christmas cards to Mrs Number Seven and compliment her roses, especially when they were feuding, but Harry rather thought that Malfoy would rather swallow a dungbeetle for breakfast than receive an apology letter or well wishes from Harry Potter.

Waking up early on Christmas morning, Harry encountered something he hadn’t expected: a small pile of packages on the foot of his bed. After waking Ron, Harry quickly unwrapped his gifts, delight warming him as he received the first presents he could remember.

A hand-carved wooden flute from Hagrid — Harry played a few hesitant notes and set it aside for later, pleasantly surprised at the joy such a small bit of music brought him. He would have to learn how to play, assuming he could keep the instrument from Dudley over the summers for long enough to sneak away from Privet Drive.

A 50 pence piece from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, quickly set aside and gifted to Ron who was oddly delighted at the strange Muggle money. Harry didn’t know what they’d meant by their note, but he assumed it must have been a notice that he’d agreed to stay for the winter holidays and didn’t think anything else of it. It was more strange that they’d thought to send him anything for Christmas at all.

He tore open the lumpy parcel Ron admitted was from his mother, only to find a thick, hand-knitted jumper in emerald green and a large box of homemade fudge.

Harry wasted no time pulling the jumper on over his large pajamas, immediately feeling warmer. He also tried a little bit of the fudge, and wondered if there was a way he could make it last until his birthday. He would have to ask someone — maybe Professor Flitwick. He had no doubts that Fred and George would know, though he felt a little shy about asking Oliver even though he was older than all three of them and could certainly help Harry with the small requests he made every now and again. A fifth year surely had ways to keep treats fresh, especially when he brought snacks back from the village every now and again, right?

Hermione, despite her parents being dentists, had gifted him a large box of chocolate frogs.

The most curious was the final package, which was very light. He picked it up, only for something fluid and silvery-grey to slither out of the wrapping and onto the floor. Harry picked it up in time for Ron to exclaim, “It’s an invisibility cloak!” with an awestruck expression on his face, immediately suggesting that Harry tries it on.

So Harry threw the cloak around his shoulders. Ron yelled, and when Harry looked into the mirror he found that his head was suspended in midair with his body completely invisible.

His magic purred in contentment, wilder and happier than it had ever felt, and Harry wondered about the strange cloak that felt like coming home to a place he had never been.

Ron handed Harry the note that had come with the parcel, his eyes tracing over the narrow, loopy writing that he could not recall ever seeing: Your father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was returned to you. Use it well. A Very Merry Christmas to you.

Whoever sent this to him, Harry decided, really should have given it back to him much sooner. Anger sparked in his belly as he thought of all the possessions he didn’t know he had, just existing out in the world with people who could never know the value a single item related to his parents would ever have to him. And since he didn’t know they existed, there was no way he could ever retrieve them.

Before Harry could say or do anything else, the dormitory door burst open and Fred and George bounded into the room, energetic, cheerful, and chatty. Harry quickly pulled off the cloak, and smiled as he realized that they all matched. Fred and George each wore blue jumpers — F for Fred, G for George — “Ron doesn’t have a letter on his, so it’s clear she doesn’t think he ever forgets his name. But we’re not stupid . We know we’re called Gred and Forge!”

Harry just laughed, and Fred winked at him. Soon, Percy was sticking his head into the room and all the Weasley boys piled out of the room, talking over each other and leaving Harry alone and smiling at the first Christmas gifts he’d ever received, all his anger forgotten in the wake of their holiday cheer.

When Harry and the others went down for Christmas dinner, he didn’t protest as Fred and George piled his plate high with every kind of food he’d never imagined he would one day be able to eat. He pulled a wizard cracker with Fred, which didn’t just bang but went off with a blast like a cannon and engulfed them all in a cloud of blue smoke while a rear admiral’s hat exploded from the inside along with several live, white mice. They laughed and laughed, while George filled up a plate of Christmas pudding for Harry, who couldn’t bring himself to say no to the treats and several other Christmas crackers, shared amongst the Weasley boys that surrounded him.

By the time he left the table, he had several new things, including a pack of non-explosive balloons, quickly traded to Ron for a box of Bertie’s, a grow your own warts kit, which he gifted to one of the Ravenclaw first years, and his very own new wizard chess set, which Ron and Percy had decided they would break in together later that evening.

It was an extremely long, but enjoyable, day. Harry was exhausted by the time he lay down to go to sleep, but strangely wired, as if there was something he was forgetting and could not rest until it had been completed. Slipping his hand beneath his pillow, his fingers closed in on something slippery and smooth, his magic purring and stretching as soon as his fingers made contact with it. The cloak , he thought, suddenly feeling wide awake with his magic buzzing and itching inside of him.

This cloak had been his father’s.

He remembered the note, and the way it made his magic itch inside of him. Suddenly he felt like he needed to use the cloak, like he had to go explore right now before anything else happened, before he even got a full night of sleep or could tell anyone but Ron about it’s existence. The words from the note repeated over and over in his mind: use it well .

Use it well.

Which meant he had to use it. So, before he’d even made a conscious choice, Harry was pulling on his slippers and sneaking out of the common room, hearing the Fat Lady calling for him to reveal himself while he walked quickly down the corridor.

Where should he go? The only thing that came to mind was finally exploring the Restricted Section of the library, and the magic that mingled with the cloak’s purred inside of him at the thought of new knowledge, of arming himself with something that they could never take away from him.

In nearly no time, Harry had entered the library and was searching the Restricted Section, squinting at the titles he could not make out and straining his ears to hear the whispering that came from the books. The first book he reached for screamed when he opened it, and Harry soon found himself faced with Filch and Snape— their wild eyes did not see Harry, but that did not mean he was safe.

Harry moved as quietly as he could, soon realizing that they were long gone, and wherever he was hiding right now was as safe as any other place he could be. It turned out to be an abandoned classroom. But that’s not what caught his attention.

A magnificent mirror, as high as the ceiling, stood on two clawed feet with an ornate gold frame, as if someone had simply put it in the room with the intention to move it later. There was an inscription carved around the top: Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.

Something about it made his magic prickle, but he stepped forward to look into the mirror anyway, and his breath caught in his throat.

It was Harry, pale and looking very scared, and behind him were at least ten others that looked like him, with Fred and George on either side of him and soft smiles. A woman standing right behind him was smiling and waving at him, but when he reached back to where she was, his fingers grasped only air. She was not there.

She had dark red hair and her eyes — bright green, exactly the same shape as Harry’s. Mum? He wanted to ask, but she was smiling widely at him, her eyes overflowing with tears. The man next to her — tall, thin, untidy black hair, and glasses — wrapped his arm around her and pulled her to him. The Fred and George in the mirror reached out and ruffled reflection Harry’s hair, while his eyes greedily took in the faces of everyone else around him. He saw other faces that looked like his, green eyes, noses, black hair, and even an old man who had Harry’s knobby knees.

There was even a man and woman standing just behind Harry’s parents that looked almost identical to them! As far as he knew his parents didn’t have twins, but these two were near copies, if a tiny bit older looking. His parents looked terribly young, for adults.

There was no Aunt Petunia, no Uncle Vernon, no cousin Dudley.

It was just his family. And they all wanted him.

Something in his heart ached, and he felt his magic tugging inside of him, desperately seeking his attention as he pressed his nose into the mirror, soaking in the sight of a family he had never known who, against all odds, seemed to want him back. He did not know how long he stood there, gazing into the mirror, but eventually he needed to leave.

He locked eyes with the woman who could only be his mother. “I’ll come back,” he promised her. “I’ll come back.”

It hurt to leave, and he could feel the hollow ache in his chest as he took that first step away from the mirror, but he knew he could not stay here all night. He could return, though, and that would be good enough.

Maybe he would tell Ron about his family. It would be nice to share it with someone. It felt like a secret that was too big to keep inside himself, like if he tried to keep it in he would explode.

Of course he told Ron about the mirror, and even though something inside of him wanted to keep his invisibility cloak jealously to himself he’d offered it up to share for the evening so they could visit the mirror. His magic itched inside of him again, but this time there was no warm embrace from the magic of the cloak, no feeling of coming home when he put it on.

It was almost enough to make him call the adventure off, leaving him suddenly bereft. As if the blessing of the cloak was suddenly taken away from him, as if he was now unworthy of whatever unique magic made it meld seamlessly into his own.

When he and Ron finally found the mirror, Harry felt his magic tugging insistently at him again, felt the itch inside of him as he got closer and closer to the mirror. He let Ron go first, knowing somehow that he would spend too much time standing in front of it staring at the family he had lost before he’d ever known them. He knew he would stand in front of it forever, if he could.

He wanted to see his family again. He wanted to stare at the faces that surrounded him, memorize their features so he could recognize them out in the world or recognize their descendants. Maybe he had other cousins out there who would want him.

Maybe he had other family out there that could love him.

His heart broke a little when Ron told him the vision that left him staring, transfixed. It wasn’t family. It wasn’t friends. It wasn’t Ron and Harry and Hermione. It was just—

“I’m alone,” Ron exclaimed. “I’m different, I look older — and I’m Head Boy! I’m wearing the badge like Bill used to, and I’m holding the house cup and the Quidditch cup — I’m a Quidditch captain, too!”

It was just Ron.

Harry wondered what it meant, that his heart hurt so much at not being included in his friend’s mirror vision. He wondered what it meant that Fred and George were in his.

It made him feel incredibly alone, suddenly, the knowledge that his best friend didn’t see him at his side while all of his dreams were coming true. So, Harry tried to tamp down the loneliness that rose up inside of him and Ron smiled at the image in the mirror, until suddenly a noise outside of the classroom alerted them to someone patrolling the corridors.

The boys sneaked past Mrs Norris and back into their dormitory, and Harry curled up in his bed with the curtains closed and his invisibility cloak wrapped around him, wishing for that feeling of love-acceptance-joy-family to return.

He didn’t sleep that night. He spent all day feeling trapped in his head, listless, turning down every invitation to play chess or go exploring or play in the snow — even invitations to go to the library!

When he finally went to bed that night, his hand brushed against the note he kept underneath his pillow — Your father left this in my possession … Use it well … — and suddenly his magic was buzzing inside of him, itching for activity, and he’d pulled on his invisibility cloak and clambered out of the portrait hole again before he realized he was on the way back to the strange mirror that left him feeling lonelier than ever.

He was settled in front of the mirror, staring at the woman who looked so much like his mother but wasn’t, and trying to memorize the shades of yearning that colored the smile on the man who wasn’t his father, his hands pressed against the glass that separated them and wishing he was just a little bit closer, that he could feel their hands pressing up against his from where they reached for him through the glass —

“Back again, Harry?”

The looks on Lily and James’ faces turned to stony fury as they lifted their eyes from Harry’s, and the images in the mirror wrapped their arms around mirror Harry and pulled him out of sight, pushing him behind their mirror twins who seemed to grow taller. Harry, startled, turned around to see Professor Dumbledore sitting on one of he desks by the wall.

Harry’s magic buzzed inside of him like a swarm of angry insects, and Harry swallowed, his entire body feeling like ice. “I — I didn’t see you there, sir,” he said quietly.

The headmaster’s smile was soft and indulgent. “Strange how nearsighted being invisible can make you,” he said. Harry said nothing, and the headmaster continued speaking. “So you, like hundreds before you, have discovered the delights of the Mirror of Erised.”

“Mirror of Erised? I didn’t know it was called that, sir.”

“But I expect you’ve realized by now what it does?”

Harry tilted his head. “It, well, it shows me my family—“

“And it showed your friend Ron himself as Head Boy.”

“How did you know —?”

That indulgent smile again, as bright blue eyes looked over half-moon glasses at Harry. “I don’t need a cloak to become invisible,” Dumbledore said gently. “Now, can you think what the Mirror of Erised can show us all?”

Harry shook his head.

“It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone and the best of all of them.” His piercing eyes stared through Harry. “This mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth, Harry. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, and have even been driven mad not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.”

Harry felt dread curdling in his belly at the thought, knowing how close he could have been to that fate.

“The mirror will be moved to another location tomorrow, Harry, and I have to ask you to not go looking for it again. If you ever do come across it, you will be prepared. Remember, it does not do to dwell in dreams and forget to live. Now, why don’t you put that admirable cloak back on and get off to bed?”

Harry felt the itch in his magic at the suggestion, but was powerless to resist, finding himself wandering back towards the dormitory before he could wonder why Dumbledore was waiting for him in that room, and why he had left such a dangerous object out for them to run across in the middle of the night when he knew what it could do to anyone who found it.

Harry did not tell Ron about that final night of wandering, but he did make sure to keep the cloak close to him after he’d noticed Ron asking about it — he told his friend that he’d been caught using it by Professor Dumbledore and wouldn’t be able to use it until summer.

“I’m really lucky he didn’t take points for it, honestly, considering he caught me wandering around after curfew.”

“Yeah, mate. Lucky, that.” Ron shrugged. “Shame he locked it up, though.”

Harry didn’t correct him, merely smiled blandly at the assumption that it’d been confiscated while Ron pitched different ideas to protest confiscated items.

What was most concerning to Harry were the recurring nightmares he had of his family disappearing in a flash of green light while a high voice cackled with laughter, all while he stared, his nose pressed into the glass that separated them, his body wasting away to nothing while he was unable to help. On those nights, he wrapped himself up in his father’s cloak and wished for the warm embrace of the magic he’d been stupid enough to take for granted.

After the realization about Ron’s greatest wish, Harry found himself putting some distance between them where he could.

He partnered with Neville Longbottom in Herbology, who was actually quite kind if dreadfully shy, and with Hermione during Potions class. He spent more time with the Quidditch team while they prepared for the match against Hufflepuff, lamenting when Oliver shared the news that it would be Professor Snape — allegedly the one Ron and Hermione insisted was after the now-identified Philosopher’s Stone — that would be refereeing the match. And all meals were spent sandwiched quite happily between Fred and George Weasley who rewarded him with an extra bit of treacle tart on particularly hard days, delighting him with stories and jokes that made him smile.

On the day of the Quidditch match, Harry’s nerves had been settled by the combined efforts of Fred, George, Oliver, and even Neville — he somehow caught the snitch within the first five minutes of the match, and if he wasn’t already on a broom he’d think he would have been flying from the joy that filled him.

Ron had, apparently, gotten into a scuffle with Draco Malfoy during the match and dragged Neville into it. It lost them points, but Neville was a little bit more confident the following week, and Harry was touched that he’d made an attempt to stand up for Harry.

Any attempt Harry made to thank him resulted in Neville blushing bright pink and stammering, so Harry stopped trying to mention it and instead spent more time with the shy boy, even partnering with him in Herbology class more regularly.

It didn’t seem like enough, but Harry was finally able to spend a little time outside of the strict group of friends that Ron insisted on, so Harry would take what freedom he could.

After spending most of the year being compared to Charlie Weasley, who could have played Quidditch for England if he hadn’t decided to work with dragons, Harry does not wait even a day to write a letter to him when they find out Hagrid is trying to hatch a dragon egg in his hut. Sure, he’d promised not to tell anyone, and he’d been uninvited to tea for the rest of the year because he told Hagrid what he really thought about trying to raise a dragon in a wooden hut, but if there was anyone who might know what to do about a baby dragon it would be Charlie “the dragon tamer” Weasley.

Dear Mr Charlie Weasley,

Hello. My name is Harry Potter. I know we haven’t been introduced, but I have heard a lot about you from the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and I’m friends with your brothers Ron, Fred, and George. They told me you work with dragons, so I wanted to ask you for a favor. I know it’s rude to ask favors of someone you’ve never met before, but it’s also a bit of an emergency, so I apologize in advance for my rudeness.

A friend of mine at Hogwarts has somehow ended up with a dragon egg, which is apparently supposed to be hatching soon. I don’t think it’s smart to try and raise a dragon in a wood house, but they won’t listen to me when I say anything, and they’re determined to keep it.

Is there a way that you could come and talk to them about it? And hopefully you can get a better result than I did when I tried. Short of going to Professor Dumbledore, I don’t know what else to do. I don’t even know if you can raise dragons in England!

Please let me know if you can help either way. If you can’t, I’ll do my best to figure it out.

Thank you very much,

Harry J Potter

Charlie’s response was mostly confused, but overall very willing to come by to talk to Hagrid about the dragon, promising that he would take care of it and make sure the dragon hatched safely and had a good home. It also invited Harry to tea at Hagrid’s the following week for a proper introduction.

Harry honestly wondered how Charlie had known it was Hagrid he’d been talking about, but decided it was better not to ask and just to assume that it was another “Charlie Weasley thing” or that Harry, being only eleven, was really quite easy to read. And with Charlie showing up so quickly, Harry honestly couldn’t be mad — it wasn’t like he’d been trying to be sneaky with this particular thing, after all.

Harry went to Hagrid’s to see the man sobbing into the arms of a very tall, darkly freckled redhead with long hair, who was staring quite cheerfully at a newly hatched baby dragon sitting on the table and belching little fireballs. The redhead turned a sunny smile at him.

“You must be Harry.” Harry could only nod.

He didn’t think he’d ever seen a prettier person. And that big pretty smile was being directed at him!

“Hi,” he croaked, his green eyes wide. “Is that a dragon on the table?”

If Harry hadn’t been so astounded, he would have kicked himself.

Charlie laughed. “Sure is! It only just hatched. Luckily, I’ll still be able to take it back with me the way I’d planned to, or this trip would have gotten me in a lot of trouble. Poor Hagrid here doesn’t want to let me take it back with me.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t want to get you in any trouble.” Harry looks down at his dirty trainers.

“Don’t worry about it, kid. And don’t call me sir — my name’s Charlie, and I’d like you to use it, yeah?” Harry nods. “Now, come and have some tea with us and tell me all about your adventures. If you’re spending time with my terror twins, there must be some fun stories to tell!”

And so, with Hagrid playing with the baby dragon on the table, cooing and crying in equal measure while the dragon sets his bushy beard on fire, Harry and Charlie have tea.

While Harry picks at his rock cakes and tells story after story of his life and adventures, before Hogwarts and up to now, Charlie pays careful attention to words both spoken and unspoken. His blue eyes don’t miss a single detail as he observes Harry’s body language, his little flinches and starts, the way he tenses or relaxes based on how Charlie responds. He pays close attention to the casual way Harry speaks, but especially how he drops the most horrific details into conversation as if it was nothing special or unusual.

Suddenly, some of the questions in Fred and George’s letters were making sense, and he did not like the story that was being told. He’d thought they were exaggerating or imagining things being worse than they were, but now… If anything, he thinks the twins were understating how bad it could be. Now he had more questions for them, and would have marched up to Gryffindor tower if he didn’t have a dragon to escort to Romania at midnight.

Still, Charlie did his best to keep his posture relaxed and open, his questions light and curious, burying every bit of surprise and outrage and judgment under layers of intentional calm, a skill learned for wrangling mischievous brothers and honed with dragon’s fire. He watches as Harry relaxes more and more — how Harry begins to open up and bloom under the attention, soaking up every bit of kindness and caring that Charlie can give him.

The dragon had fallen asleep, curled up on the table in front of Hagrid, by the time Harry was eagerly sharing his adventure that resulted in him meeting a three headed dog, and Hagrid finally weighed in on the story.

“His name’s Fluffy, an’ he ain’t just a three headed dog, Harry, he’s a mighty fine cerberus.”

“A cerberus?”

“Yeh. An’ even though he gave yeh quite the fright, Fluffy’s really quite harmless.”

Harry looked up at Hagrid, a frown stretching across his lips. “Hagrid, one head is the size of my entire body. I don’t think harmless means the same thing to me as it does to you.”

“Well o’ course not, Harry! You gotta know how to handle creatures! See, Fluffy makes for a great watchdog — but he falls asleep quick as anythin’ to a lullaby! An’ I’m sure Charlie here has all sorts o’ tricks for workin’ with dragons!”

Charlie nods slowly. “He’s right, Harry— but so are you. There’s a reason so many different training classes and certifications are needed for working with magical creatures. I never would have been allowed on the Reserve if I hadn’t gotten my NEWT in Care of Magical Creatures and been an assistant for Hagrid here, after all.” He nods at Hagrid, who blushes brightly, pleased. “But there are also a lot of creatures, like thestrals, that are misunderstood or people are afraid of them, and they’re really quite gentle.”

Harry brightens. “Like snakes? Lots of people are afraid of snakes, but I think they’re really cool! Did you know that snakes are actually really important symbols in many cultures for healing? I learned about that in the library during primary school.”

Charlie finds himself nodding. “Exactly like that, Harry.” He looks out the window and barely keeps himself from cursing out loud. The sun had nearly set, and it was definitely at least halfway through dinner. “Why don’t I walk you up to the castle so you can get some dinner? That’ll give Hagrid some time to say goodbye to our little dragon friend privately, and if we get caught by any of the teachers you’ll have an adult escort and won’t get detention. Sound good?”

Harry finds himself reluctant to leave, but nods along anyway. “Thank you for tea, Hagrid.” He looks at the dragon. “And happy birthday, little dragon! I’m glad I got to meet you.”

Charlie notices how Harry seems to draw deeper and deeper inside of himself the closer they get to the castle, and after a little bit of careful prodding ends up getting an agreement from Harry to write each other.

“I have five younger siblings, Harry — I promise you I don’t mind anything you want to write about. Even if it’s questions about your homework, I’m happy to write back.”

“But isn’t that a lot of letters?” Harry worries. “If you have all five of them writing you all the time, and your parents, and your other brother— Bill, I think?”

Charlie laughs. “Yes, it’s Bill, he’s the oldest of us. And, don’t worry, Harry. The only ones who really write me are the twins, and they always write me together. I’m willing to bet a letter from you would actually cheer me up a lot. So write me at least a little, okay? Even if it’s just to talk to me about dragons and Quidditch.”

Harry laughs and agrees. “They all call me ‘the new Charlie Weasley,’” he complains lightly, faking the pout that spreads across his face. “It’s all I’ve heard since they put me on the team.”

“Really? I thought they were calling you the youngest Seeker in a century?” Harry snorts. “But to hear Fred and George tell it, you’ll be better than me in two years. So keep at it, yeah? And maybe we’ll play a Seeker’s game one of these days, just you and me.” Harry stares up at Charlie, his green eyes bright and wide behind his glasses, and Charlie can’t help but tease him. “But we won’t be able to do that if you don’t write me!”

It’s enough to make Harry laugh. “Mean! Okay, I’m convinced. I promise I’ll write.”

“All the time?” Charlie presses. “I really do get lonely in Romania. I’d like a friend back home to write to every now and again.”

Harry blushes. “Alright.”


It takes another week for Harry to feel comfortable writing Charlie, but when he receives a reply back he finds out that the dragon was a female Norwegian Ridgeback, and as per his agreement with Hagrid they have named her Norberta.

Harry writes excitedly about Quidditch and dragons and magic, having nobody to talk to about these things in the way that he really wanted to — they all expected something from Harry Potter, but Charlie made it feel safe to be Just Harry in a way that only the twins did.

He confessed to Charlie that some magic was harder to do than others, but all of it was difficult for him to do right now, even if it was better than it had been at the beginning of the year — Charlie didn’t have any advice about that, but told him to keep an eye on it and promised that it was normal for his magic to take time to adjust, especially if he’d been raised without magic and had been trying his hardest not to use it. Harry sometimes writes about classes, and sometimes he writes about weird things that happened as a child, wondering if it was magic or if it was him doing something Freakish even for the magical community. Charlie often responded casually, with questions and reassurance and comfort.

Because of this, Harry stopped worrying about the questions that he asked Charlie, knowing that he would do his best to explain and that Charlie had never once called him a freak, even though he’d expressed concern for Harry or mentioned something was unusual.

Charlie, remember how we talked about snakes at Hagrid’s? Do you know anything about talking to snakes? When we visited the zoo for my cousin Dudley’s birthday, I accidentally used magic to let the snake out of it’s enclosure and it talked to me about wanting to go back to Brazil. It was WICKED! I wonder if I could talk to dragons the same way? I didn’t know that I was talking a different language, it just sounded like English to me, but it’s not something I’ve heard anyone mention at school. I’d look in the library, but I don’t even know where to start!

Sometimes Charlie’s responses were so casual, they were more of a messy scrawl with blots of ink decorating the parchment. The response to this letter was so careful that it instantly put Harry on edge. He’d stumbled on a topic that he would need to be very careful about in the future, somehow, and he could only feel relief that it had happened while corresponding with Charlie, who he’d learned could be trusted. Not just to keep his secrets, but to provide Harry with unbiased information and allow Harry to draw his own conclusions and keep his own opinions.


While this is not the first time I’ve heard of this skill, it is fairly unusual in Britain. It’s worth noting that the British wizarding community is very close minded compared to other magical communities around the world, especially when it comes to certain magical abilities. Unfortunately, this is one of those abilities and I’d advise you to be very careful with it while you are in school.

It is definitely a skill that you would find helpful if you’re considering working with magical creatures in the future, and I also wonder if you would be able to speak to dragons using it. I don’t think you said, but were you able to understand Norberta? She was only an infant, so she may not have been speaking at the time — if she was, it would have been really interesting to hold a conversation! In the meantime, let’s not test it until you’re older and I can bring you to the Reserve for a proper visit.

Some magical abilities are hereditary, so I’d suggest looking into your family tree to see if anything comes up that way. It’s not a skill I can remember being passed down in James Potter’s family line, but maybe it’s something from your mother’s family. Lily Evans was a Muggleborn, but she could have been from family lines that went Squib. It’s worth looking into, either way.

The goblins at Gringotts can do a heritage test, among other things, and they may even be able to give you a read out of inherent magical abilities, but it costs a decent amount of money. It might be something worth looking into in the future. They only offer them in person, so you’d have to wait until school is out for the year to visit them and go through the procedure. There was a classmate of mine that actually recommended everyone who was Muggle-raised or Muggle-born visits the bank and requests at the very least a lineage and inheritance test, and I’ve often thought it was a great idea. You never know what you can find — especially since some gifts can go dormant in the family and awaken generations later! My friend Nymphadora Tonks is a Metamorphmagus, and that’s a skill that came from the Black family and only just resurfaced with her, so it’s definitely worth checking into.

I’ve got to finish up now, so I’ll send this off with Hedwig now, but remember: I’m always willing to answer your questions, so don’t ever be afraid to send anything you have my way, even if it’s just a problem you’re having with your homework assignments!



I've left some fun little easter eggs in this chapter - can anyone find them?
How do you like Harry's relationships so far, especially with Charlie and the twins?
Is there anything specific in this chapter that really stood out to you?
Let me know in the comments! I'm also extremely excited to read any guesses or theories you may have about the development of this fic!

Chapter 2: Hogwarts, Year 1, Part 2


Wrapping up Harry's first year at Hogwarts!


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Harry, Ron, and Hermione end up going to visit with Hagrid regularly, with Harry excitedly passing on information about little Norberta to her Mummy. It makes Hagrid smile and cry in equal measure, and Harry thinks he has a permanent bruise on his shoulder from the amount of times Hagrid claps his enormous hand on it.

Honestly, Harry isn’t sure how he’d ended up losing over a hundred points, getting detention, and ultimately heading into the Forbidden Forest tracking down something that was killing unicorns at close to midnight. He especially wasn’t sure how it had been him and Hermione , nor how poor Neville had gotten dragged into it, with no Ron in sight.

He was eleven . Why was he being sent anywhere to deal with a situation as serious as this? He rather thought that Malfoy had a point, as he listened to the boy ranting about telling his father, but when he tried to say so he was silenced by Hermione’s poisonous glare and a rather pointed question to Hagrid.

It wasn’t long before they’d split up in two groups — Hagrid, Hermione, and Harry going one way with Hermione keeping a stony sort of silence after Harry's agreement with the arrogant blond boy, and Malfoy, Fang, and Neville going off in another direction. It wasn’t long after having a strange meeting with someone Harry learned was called a centaur, before they reunited and the groups were shuffled again, with Harry and Malfoy going off with Fang, who was apparently a coward.

It was the first time Harry’d gotten alone with Malfoy since they’d met in the robe shop over the summer, and Harry was struck with the desire to extend an olive branch in some way. Anything to prove to the other boy that Harry was willing to be civil, and maybe get one of the wands to stop targeting him.

He had to try, at least.

“You know? I reckon you’re right about this detention, Malfoy. Do you think Mr Malfoy would be able to do anything about it, though? Only, Hagrid made it sound like you’d be more likely to be expelled than get this detention canceled. Still, I really think this isn’t the kind of task they should give to first years— do you hear that?”

There was something ahead of them, and it spooked Malfoy enough that he screamed and ran off, taking Fang and the light with him while Harry tried to scramble up from where he’d tripped over a root of some sort and fallen on the ground.

They’d barely been alone for more than five minutes before they were separated and Harry was on his own again.

He’d never expected to actually find something — some one ? — with their face pressed into a bleeding, silver wound on a unicorn, and he certainly didn’t expect the searing pain from his scar that followed.

Harry thought he’d sworn off adventures for the rest of the year, after everything that happened during the winter holidays, but here he was running for his life again while half blind from the stabbing pain in his head.

If it wasn’t for the young centaur, a palomino with white blond hair and the clearest blue eyes Harry had ever seen, who had stopped and rescued Harry, he honestly doesn’t think that he would have survived the night.

Things were a little blurry after that for a while.

Even though Harry seemed to cause some sort of argument among the centaurs he’d met before when they found him being carried by Firenze, Harry couldn’t help but keep his arms wrapped around the warm centaur who’d decided he was worth saving and comforting. He couldn’t stop his shaking, couldn’t stop remembering the fear that had suffused his body from head to toe.

Still, he had to say something to the kind being who had saved his life and stood up against his own people to protect Harry.

“I’m sorry to cause an argument, Mr Firenze. I can walk; I don’t want you to be in trouble because of me, and I didn’t know it was a bad thing for you to carry me like this.”

Firenze was quiet, though he did not stop walking. “You are a foolish foal to take responsibility for the adults around you, and even more foolish to deny the help that is freely given to you. I will not leave you to walk when you have yet to stop shaking, youngling, and I will certainly not leave you by yourself so deep in the forest you should never have entered in the first place.”

Harry sniffed, feeling his throat tighten with tears he refused to shed. “Thank you, then.” Harry’s voice is quiet, barely even a croaky whisper, but Firenze says nothing about it, merely reaches his arm back to pat Harry gently on the back. They were silent for a time, and Harry didn’t know if it was because Firenze preferred the silence or if it was because he was done speaking to Harry. Whichever it was, Harry really hoped that he hadn’t offended Firenze. Firenze had been so kind to him.

Firenze came to a slow stop when they passed through a particularly dense patch of trees, and he suddenly began speaking again. “Harry Potter,” the centaur began, “do you know what unicorn blood is used for?”

Harry shook his head, thinking about it. “We’ve only used the horn and tail hair in Potions. I don’t remember reading anything about it, either.”

“That is because it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn. Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime.” Firenze paused, letting the truth and horror of that statement sink in before continuing. “The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.”

Harry stared at the dark trees surrounding them as he digested that information. “But who’d be that desperate? If you’re going to be cursed forever, death’s better, isn’t it?” He certainly could never see himself choosing a cursed existence like that over death, and he had faced death too many times in his short lifetime. He rather thought he’d know.

Firenze agreed with him. “It is, unless all you need to do is stay alive long enough to drink something else — something that will bring you back to full strength and power — something that will mean you will never die. Harry Potter, do you know what is hidden in the school at this very moment?”

Harry gasped. “The Philosopher’s Stone,” he whispered, his mind whirling. But if it was the Elixir of Life that they were after, then who

“Can you think of nobody who has waited many years to return to power, who has clung to life, awaiting their chance?”

It was as if an iron fist suddenly clenched itself around Harry’s heart, as he remembered something Hagrid had once said about the one called You-Know-Who: “Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die.”

The dread was so thick that Harry couldn’t bring himself to speak.

All this time he thought they’d been dealing with a teacher, not some horrific ghost from his past that somehow had not managed to die.

“So you understand, yes?” Firenze asked softly. Harry nodded, his hair brushing against the palomino’s back. He knelt. “This is where I leave you, youngling. Hagrid will be here shortly. You will be safe now.”

Harry dismounted and looked up at Firenze, meeting those sapphire blue eyes. “I feel like I’ll never be safe again,” he whispered. Something shifted in those blue eyes, and Firenze was reaching out a hand to Harry, resting it gently on the boy’s head.

“I wish you good luck, little one. The planets have been read wrongly before now, even by centaurs. I hope this is one of those times.” He lets his warm hand fall, gently brushing against Harry’s cheek. “Safety is not something one such as I can promise you,” Firenze said softly. “But there is change coming for you, Harry Potter. Now is not the time to lose hope.”

Harry swallowed the sob that wanted to exit his throat, straightened his shoulders, and nodded. He could do this. He’d never felt safe before — fine. That’s nothing new. But he could trust in the promise of change. And he was no stranger to hoping for impossible things.

“I will leave when Hagrid arrives.”

“Mr Firenze?”

“Just Firenze, little Harry Potter.”

Harry smiled a tremulous smile. “Do you think I could visit with you again? Maybe… maybe at the edge of the forest sometimes?”

The centaur smiled gently and knelt before Harry, pulling the boy into his arms and giving him a gentle squeeze. It made Harry’s insides tremble, and suddenly all he wanted to do was crawl into bed with Fred and George and cry his eyes out. He’d never spent the night with them before, never felt like he’d be able to do it even if he wanted to, but suddenly it was the only thing he could think of doing.

“Our paths will cross again, little one. Now go back to your Gemini, and do not come back to the forest without Hagrid by your side.”

And then, too soon and not soon enough, Hagrid was joining them with Neville, Hermione, Fang, and Malfoy trailing behind, ready to return to the castle.

Ron had apparently waited up for them to return and had fallen asleep on the couch, so while Hermione stopped in the common room to wake up Ron and tell the story of their adventure, Harry made his way directly to the third year boys’ dormitory. He opened the door as quietly as he could and snuck in, his body still trembling and cold as he made his way slowly into the dark room.

It was George who woke up first, pointing his wand at the door where Harry stood. After a few seconds of blinking, trying to get rid of whatever dreams were left in his eyes to convince him that Harry Potter was standing in his dormitory bedroom, George scrambled out of bed and wrapped his arms around the boy.

“Harry, blimey, you’re freezing!” George whispered, pulling Harry further into the room. “C’mon, let’s get you into something warmer. Why aren’t you in your bed, ickle lion?”

“D-detention,” Harry whispered, his teeth chattering. He hadn’t felt the cold until now.

“Detention?” George exclaimed. “This late? But you’re a firstie! Why’d they keep you?”

“Took us to the forest. I— George, can I…?” Harry hiccuped. “I can’t…”

“Lemme wake up Fred first, okay? We’ll get you changed and warm, and you can tell us all about it, and then we’re all skiving off class tomorrow and you’re going to get some sleep. What do they think they’re doing , taking firsties into the Forbidden Forest in the middle of the night?”

George led Harry over to Fred’s bed, poking his brother in the cheek and practically shoving Harry into his arms once Fred opened his eyes.

“Georgie? Wha— Harry?!”

“Gotta get him changed, Freddie — check him over real quick, would you? They took him into the Forest tonight. He only just got back, but he feels like he’ll never be warm again.”

Just like that, Harry was wrapped up in warm arms and a toasty comforter, Fred’s body pressed against his back as they shuffled him around.

“What happened, Harry? Tell good ol’ Freddie while Georgie gets you ready for bed.”

So, with George efficiently brandishing his wand — “Switching spells, Harry” — to exchange Harry’s dirty clothes for clean, worn pajamas — “You can keep them, they’re too small for me anyway!” — and a barrage of cleaning and hygiene spells Harry’d never heard of before but swore he would learn, Harry trembled and stuttered his way through a retelling of his evening. By the time he’d finished telling the story about Firenze, Harry felt like the cold had seeped into the core of him, leaving a dread so deep that he’d never be warm again, and Harry had needed to backtrack and explain some of the other adventures he’d had that year to make everything make sense to the twins.

“From what I can put together, it sounds like Snape — or whoever, if it isn’t Snape — is trying to get the Stone for Voldemort…” Harry’s breathing picked up again as he considered it, knowing that he was in a classroom with someone who was potentially working for the man who killed his parents as a child.

Fred, though, had had quite enough of Harry working himself up into another worried fit. “That’s it, Harrikins. The rest of that thinking can wait until morning, after we’ve got at least a pint of hot chocolate in you and something decent for breakfast.”


“No,” Fred’s voice was serious and would allow no objections. “I want you warm, fed, and rested. I want you safe . I want you snuggled up here between me and Georgie, with no nightmares and no worries that anyone else is going to attack you tonight. It can wait until tomorrow.”


“What did your centaur friend tell you to do tonight?”

Harry blushed. “He told me to go back to my Gemini.”

“And you did,” George said. Fred nodded.

“I don’t know what that means, though? I mean, I just—“ wanted you , he didn’t finish.

“Sometimes they call magical twins ‘Gemini’ because we’re two parts of a whole,” George explains. “And you came to me and Freddie because you knew we’d take care of you, right?”

“Just like we promised we’d do,” Fred interjected. George nodded.

“So trust us to keep you safe on the ground, little Seeker. Just like every other time you’ve trusted us this year. We promise we’ve got you.”

Harry swallowed, feeling tears burning his eyes again. Not for the first time, he realized they really meant it when they promised to keep him safe.

“But what if something happens?” Harry whispered. “What if something happens and Snape steals the stone and I’m—“

“Asleep? In a castle full of fully trained magical adults? And students who have six years more of magical training than you have?”

Harry didn’t have anything to say to that.

“If it makes you feel any better, Dumbledore is also here. Can you trust that he would protect the school, even if you can’t trust that we will protect you ?”

Harry found himself nodding, though he didn’t know if it was true or if he was just giving in.

He found he wanted to give in to the warmth that surrounded him, the smell of Fred and George surrounding him, the blankets wrapped around him and the strong arms that held him. He felt his shoulders shaking, felt himself being pulled closer against a chest while the other twin’s chest pressed against his back.

“We’ve got you, Harry,” the twins promise.

So, finally feeling the warmth returning to his body, Harry found himself crying silently in their arms until he was too exhausted to cry anymore, and then he found himself drifting off to sleep.

When the boys woke up in the morning, nobody said anything about Harry sneaking in the night before. Just like that, Harry was accepted — with a request that he stays quiet if everyone’s sleeping when he sneaks in, a request that was easily accepted.

After that, it became quite common to see Harry sharing a bed with one or both of the Weasley twins in the mornings. It becomes even more common once he realizes that, wrapped up with either Fred or George, the nightmares don’t bother him quite as much as he’s used to.

Harry doesn’t know how he ended up making it through his exams that year, but he suspects it had an awful lot to do with the number of nights he spent in the third year boys’ dormitory, wrapped up between Fred and George or just studying with them in the common room while they kept him well-watered with the best hot chocolate he’d ever tasted.

Harry was, however, bothered by frequent stabbing pains in his head ever since his trip to the forest, along with nightmares that combined the dreadful green light with a hooded figure dripping silver blood, and some days the only thing that settled him enough to sleep was being pressed between Fred and George, or falling asleep with at least one of them promising that they would keep watch for him.

He missed the worried looks they exchanged between themselves, but he noticed that they’d started putting potions in his pumpkin juice at dinner to help with his headaches. It makes him grimace— he thought he was finally done with potions in his pumpkin juice.

When they’d all finally finished with their exams, Harry flopping under a tree by the lake with Ron while Hermione went through her exam papers afterwards, Harry was beyond ready to go to sleep, if only his head would stop hurting. Instead, he watched the Weasley twins and Lee Jordan tickle the tentacles of the giant squid who was basking in the warm shallows of the lake, every now and again whooping and waving to Harry.

Ron was too warm and relaxed to really say anything, let alone fret about exam scores, and Hermione was more concerned with the scores that would come out in a week’s time, while Harry was just trying to fight the anxiety that seemed to follow him everywhere these days.

His magic buzzed inside of him, making him want to move and pace, and with the pain in his scar so similar to that night in the forest, Harry was making some connections he didn’t want to make. He tried to remember what Fred and George had told him: there were plenty of more powerful people in the castle who stood between Voldemort and the Stone; it wasn’t all on him; Harry James Potter is a first year in Gryffindor, not some immortal, immensely powerful being whose job it is to protect things that really ought not be hidden in a school in the first place.

Unfortunately, none of these things worked, and he felt himself getting more anxious.

“Maybe we should check in with Hagrid,” Harry says. “It’s weird, isn’t it, that all he’d ever wanted was a dragon and suddenly he got one. Especially since Fluffy’s his pet — do you think someone knew about it, and that’s why?”

“Harry, mate, I think you’re mental.”

“Ron, that’s really quite rude. Harry, stop rubbing your head — maybe go to Madam Pomfrey if it’s bothering you so much?”

“I’m not ill, though! Madam Pomfrey can’t help!” Harry snapped, rubbing at his forehead harder. “I don’t like this. What if someone found out how to get past Fluffy?”

Ron snorted. “Neville would play Quidditch for England before Hagrid lets Dumbledore down, Harry. I don’t think he’d tell anyone how to get past that beast if his life depended on it.”

Harry felt the dread curdle in his spine because — of course he would. He’d already told Harry, after all, and Charlie was there when he did it. It hadn’t been intentional, and Harry hadn’t thought anything of it when he did. It didn’t take much to get Hagrid talking, and Harry hadn’t told Ron or Hermione that he knew how to get past Fluffy. If someone else had tried, someone who had bad intentions…

Harry scrambled up off the ground. “I’m going to ask him about it anyway, and then I’m going to check with Professor Dumbledore just in case. Something feels off.”

Ron sighed. “Fine. But when it turns out to be nothing, we told you so.”

Harry didn’t say anything, but the three of them made their way to Hagrid’s hut.

None of them said “I told you so,” but it took everything in Harry to keep from shouting it.

With the dread pooling in his gut, and Hagrid sending them back to the castle, Harry really hated being right. He hated it even more when they ran into Professor McGonagall, who told them that Dumbledore had urgent business in London with the Ministry for Magic, and that he would be back tomorrow.

Being completely dismissed when they shared their concerns about the Philosopher’s Stone was really just the topping on the cake after that. And then they ran into Snape, which really only made things worse, and put Harry into an awful temper.

By the time supper came around, Harry was full of anxious, angry energy, and not even Fred and George could get him to eat. He’d argued with Ron and Hermione, who both insisted that if he was going to go down through the trap door that Fluffy was guarding that they would follow behind him. Harry considered going without them, and then he considered covering the three of them in his invisibility cloak, but ultimately Harry just sighed and the three of them snuck out of the common room after curfew, the invisibility cloak stuffed in Harry’s pocket, with his wand and the wooden flute Hagrid had given him for Christmas stuffed in the other.

After that day when the magic stopped responding to him, another moment of rejection, Harry decided he would not be sharing the cloak again. It didn’t mean he needed to be stupid about it, though. If he needed it, he’d rather have it on him. He’d also rather not run the risk of losing it and not being able to ever retrieve it… so it went with him nearly wherever he went, these days.

He wasn’t expecting for Neville Longbottom to catch them out of bed, standing up from an armchair with Trevor the toad clutched in his pale hands. He further wasn’t expecting Neville to try and stop them from leaving, or for Hermione to cast a spell that caused Neville’s arms and legs to snap together, leaving Neville immobile on the floor.

“Hermione, we can’t leave him like this!” Harry hissed, his eyes wide and fixed on Neville.

“We have to, if you want to stop Snape!”

“Can’t we— can’t we at least put him on the sofa? If you won’t reverse the spell?”

It felt like a betrayal of his friendship, not only that he let Hermione cast a spell against him, but that he was leaving Neville there, especially on the floor. “I can’t lift him alone,” he begged. “Please, guys?”

In the end, Ron agreed to help Harry lift Neville, and then they both waited impatiently for Harry at the portrait hole.

“I don’t want to leave you, Neville, but something bad is going to happen tonight and I tried to warn a teacher but they didn’t listen to me. If— If we’re not back by dawn, make sure Professor Dumbledore knows we tried to protect the Stone, okay?” Harry stared down into Neville’s worried eyes. “I don’t want to go, but nobody would listen to me when I asked for help, so I guess I have to do it.” Harry pulled in a ragged breath. “Okay. Time to go.” Harry looked down at Neville one last time. “You really are one of the absolute best blokes around, Neville Longbottom,” he said, and turned and walked away to the portrait hole where Ron and Hermione were waiting for him.

A harp at the feet of a sleeping cerberus guarding a trap door. Devil’s Snare, with snaking tendrils wrapping around their bodies until Hermione set it on fire and they dropped to the ground. Glittering keys in the shape of birds, only one of the hundreds able to unlock the door going forward. A life-size game of Wizard’s Chess, where Ron had been General and sacrifice both so that Harry and Hermione could continue onwards. An even larger mountain troll that had thankfully been knocked out before they had even arrived, but was undeniable proof that whatever adversary they were chasing had arrived before they had and was waiting ahead.

A logic puzzle and black flames, with only poison or advancement being the options. A logic puzzle, not a magic puzzle, because most Wizards thought with their wands instead of their brain.

All tasks that three eleven year old school children were able to easily overcome together.

Harry didn’t like any of this, and he ultimately sent Hermione back through the flames to get help for Ron and hopefully bring back reinforcements, and she sent him forward to stall Snape long enough for help to arrive. Help that may not arrive in time because Dumbledore was in London, Snape was likely down here with them, and McGonnagall hadn’t believed them that the Stone was in danger.

Only, when he arrived in the final room with that familiar mirror, he didn’t find himself facing Snape but rather he was face to face with Professor Quirrell.

Harry felt as if the whole world had tilted on it’s axis as he reconsidered events of the entire year. The jinxed broom where Snape had been set on fire — but Hermione had knocked into Professor Quirrell, then, hadn’t she? The intimidation by Snape, who had probably been watching Quirrell all year, yet Harry and Ron had read the situation backwards. The random bursts of pain in his scar whenever he was in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, while he was out in the forest, and today when Quirrell was making his move.

Horrified, and desperate to keep Quirrell talking, Harry asked question after question, finding it almost inconceivable that Professor Snape had been trying to save Harry for most of the year, and here Harry was — putting himself in the very danger that the Professor had been trying to keep him out of.

Well, if Snape or McGonagall had listened to him when he’d said that the Stone was in danger tonight, then he maybe wouldn’t have been here all by himself, would he?

A sudden thought crossed his mind and he grimaced. Charlie was not going to be happy to hear this story. Not. At. All. And Harry really couldn’t blame him, or bring himself to care that much about it. After all, Harry wasn’t happy about it — and Harry really had done everything he could to make sure someone else was handling it! It wasn’t his fault that none of the adults he should have been able to trust didn’t listen to him about the danger.

Quirrell snapped his fingers, and ropes sprang out of thin air and wrapped themselves tightly around Harry in a display of magic Harry had never seen from Quirrell before. The man kept mumbling to himself, and Harry tried to distract him by asking question after question until the professor finally decided to ignore him and get closer to the Mirror.

The Mirror of Erised, which showed nothing more or less than the heart’s truest desire.

Dumbledore had made sure that Harry knew exactly how that particular artifact worked.

Harry wondered, if he looked into the mirror right now, if it would still be his family that showed up or if it would be something to do with the Philosopher’s Stone. He wondered what it would take to get Quirrell’s attention on him fully again, if there was a way to stall until Hermione came back with reinforcements. And he wondered if this had been part of Dumbledore’s plan all along, to make Harry face down whatever came for the Stone.

Finally, and to Harry’s great horror, a second voice responded to Quirrell’s — a voice that was neither his nor Harry’s, and seemed to come from Quirrell himself.

“Use the boy,” it said. The voice was high and thin, and it was a voice familiar to Harry from his nightmares. A voice that Harry had no reason to believe was real.

And then suddenly, Harry was free — Quirrell had clapped his hands and freed Harry from the ropes, directing Harry to walk over in front of the mirror and stand in front of it.

All Harry could think was that he must lie, no matter what he saw in the mirror, he must lie and it must be the best performance of his entire life, or else there was no way he was getting out of here alive.

He saw himself reflected in the mirror, pale and afraid, before it smiled at him and pulled out a blood red stone from his pocket. Mirror Harry winked and put it back in his pocket — the same pocket that held the invisibility cloak, which the mirror showed tucked up and around the edges of the Stone before it disappeared back into his pocket — and as it did so, Harry felt a heavy weight that had not been there before.

“Well?” Quirrell hissed. “What do you see?”

“I see myself shaking hands with Dumbledore,” he said, trying desperately to remember what Ron had seen in the mirror — something more normal than the dreams of a freak unloved by his family. Something believable. “I— I’ve won the House Cup for Gryffindor.”

“Lies,” the voice hisses. “He… lies…”

Harry swallows, his throat incredibly dry and his tongue feeling thick in his mouth. He averts his eyes. “Fine,” he croaks. “Fine. You’re right— I lied. That’s not what I see when I look in the mirror.” The shame burns behind his eyes.

“Tell me,” the voice hisses, “tell me what you see.” There’s a thread of understanding in that high pitched voice. As if it knows. As if it understands.

Harry shakes his head, trying to hold on to what little courage he has. He has to stay strong, he has to wait until someone comes or he can leave on his own. He has to pretend he doesn’t have the stone. He has to keep Quirrell distracted and talking.

“Let me speak to him… face to face.”

Quirrell objects, but still he reaches up and begins to unwrap the turban from his head. As it falls, he turns his back to Harry, who would have screamed if he could make a sound: there was a face on the back of Quirrell’s head with terrible, glaring red eyes, and slits for nostrils.

“Harry Potter,” the voice said from the back of Quirrell’s head, “Look at what I have become. Speak the truth of what you see in the mirror, and know that I can tell if you lie.”

Harry could not look away from those red eyes, and found himself confessing the truth: “I see my mother and father beside me, and family I’ve never met who look just like me. A family I have never known and can never meet, because they’re all dead.” His voice breaks and he swallows the sob down. “A family that wants me,” he whispers.

He can last a little bit longer. Just a little bit longer.

“Finally,” the thing that Lord Voldemort has become hisses, “you speak the truth.”

Harry’s knees shake as he fights to remain standing, as Quirrell’s body walks backwards towards him, it’s hands reaching for him. “You will get the Stone from the mirror for me, or you will meet the same end that your parents did. Better save your own life and join me, than leave as your parents did, begging for their lives.”

“Liar,” Harry whispered. He had no voice left to speak with, but somehow he knew this: his parents had not begged for their lives to be spared.

“I always valued bravery, and yes, boy, your parents were brave. I killed your father first, you know, but your mother needn’t have died. She was only trying to protect you. Now, get me that Stone, or she will have died in vain.”

“No,” Harry said, trying to force his voice to remain strong. “I won’t.”

He sprinted towards the flame door, hoping that Voldemort and Quirrell both thought he would move towards the mirror instead of away from it, but when the voice called out “Seize him!” Harry knew that he would have to go down the same way he always did when cornered by Dudley and his gang: kicking and screaming and fighting for his life.

Harry felt a needle-sharp pain sear across Harry’s scar, his head feeling as if it would split in two the moment Quirrell’s hand closed around his thin wrist. When Harry looked, the skin was blistering before his eyes, and Quirrell had released him, staring at his fingers.

Again, Quirrell lunged as Voldemort shouted orders, and soon Harry had been knocked clean off of his feet with Quirrell landing on top of him, both hands around Harry’s neck, the pain in his head blinding him even as Quirrell howled in their shared agony.

Wherever their skin touched, it blistered. Not just Quirrell’s skin, but Harry’s too.

Harry reached up and plastered his small hands to Quirrell’s face, knowing that he might not survive this encounter but he would rather go down fighting than give in to death and madness, and when Quirrell writhed too much for Harry to keep a hold on his face, Harry reached for the throat, holding on as Quirrell had held him, screaming and screaming—

There was a crack that echoed inside of him, and all Harry could feel was the blinding pain and overwhelming agony as his vision darkened to black and his magic rushed to greet him, stronger than he’d ever felt it before, his skin cooling even as it cracked and blistered and burned.

He thought he heard someone calling his name, but by the time the thought registered, he was already losing the battle to the darkness, and the last thing he saw was Professor Quirrell, inches away from his face, turning into ash.

Eleven years old, and already he had killed someone.

When Harry woke up in the hospital wing, it was to the view of Professor Dumbledore leaning over him, entirely too close for comfort, and the feeling of a massive headache.

Harry whimpered and slammed his eyes shut. “Too bright,” he whispered.

Harry tried to take inventory of himself without moving, and he felt a lump in his pocket that shouldn’t have been there. He released a breath he hadn’t been aware he was holding — the Philosopher’s Stone was safe, and wrapped up in the invisibility cloak.

Harry felt like he still couldn’t rest — it was time for part 2 of the act: who Dumbledore expected to see in the bed in the Hospital Wing, having just faced against the monster that was Lord Voldemort possessing his Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.

Harry had the sudden thought that Dumbledore would expect him to be a boy that didn’t know he was a murderer. It made him want to laugh almost as much as he wanted to cry.

Maybe one of these days, he would be able to put down the mask and be Just Harry. But in front of the man who left a dangerous object unguarded in a school full of children and ensured that Harry and only Harry knew exactly how it worked before moving it, and then used it as the final step to hide the Philosopher’s Stone? Harry didn’t think he could trust that man with Just Harry.

That man wanted something else — something similar to what Ron wanted. And, well, Harry had been playing the part that Ron wanted to see for most of the year. He could do it again.

He was so tired of pretending.

“Professor?” Harry whispered. “Can you turn the light off?”

“Of course, Harry.” Professor Dumbledore said. “There, that should be better. You should be fine to open your eyes now, dear boy.”

And, so, Harry did.

He was in a bed at the Hospital Wing, with a pile of gifts and snacks on the table next to the bed, his oft-repaired glasses within easy reaching distance. He hadn’t been changed out of his clothes, and they scratched against his skin, but someone had at least spell-cleaned him so he was not covered with the ashes that smeared across his clothes.

Ashes of a body that used to be Quirrell that Harry had killed.

Harry tried not to think about that.

“Professor Quirrell?”

Dumbledore frowned. “Unfortunately, Harry, we were not able to save him after the being that possessed him had fled his body. I assure you, however, that we are doing all we can to seek out that spirit and minimize the damage that could be caused, however we are but a school.”

Harry nodded, a confused look on his face. “And the Stone?”

“Safe and sound, my boy, I assure you.”

Harry nodded. “I— Professor, Quirrell, he… he tried to make me get it out of the Mirror. But—“

“Ah, yes, that was a bit of my ingenious plan, if I do say so myself. You see, my boy, the Stone could not be retrieved from the Mirror of Erised unless the person wished to take it out but had no wish at all to use it.” He looked over the top of his glasses at Harry, a bit disapproving. “I would say that I am a bit surprised you were not able to retrieve it, my boy.”

“What?” Harry tried to laugh, but the sound got stuck in his throat. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m only an eleven year old boy. If I’d managed to get that thing out of the mirror, they would have killed me for it! There’s no way I wanted that thing in my possession.” He huffs. “Not that it matters,” he admits softly, “I didn’t even see the thing in the mirror.” He glances up at Dumbledore and then looks at his hands, as if ashamed.

And, he realized, he does feel shame somewhere deep within him. Because he realizes that there’s a part of him that would probably have wanted to use the Philosopher’s Stone — not right away, but eventually, maybe. The part of him that recognized that he would die one day, his friends would die one day, and if he had the ability to keep them with him just a little bit longer… who wouldn’t want that?

But his deeper shame was this: with an item that can make gold, what orphan wouldn’t be tempted to use it so they would never have to go without food again?

Dumbledore’s eyebrows shot up. “Really? Not at all?”

Harry shook his head. “I saw my family in the mirror, sir. You know that. My mum and my dad. And they,” Harry took a shaky breath before continuing on, “they were so proud of me for standing up to him. For being so brave.” He looked up at Dumbledore. “It was kind of comforting, you know? To see them again, when I thought I was going to die. To think, for just a second, that I wouldn’t die alone.”

“Oh, my dear boy…”

Harry yawned, shifting in the hospital bed and feeling the brush of the Stone in his trousers pocket. “I’m sorry, sir. I’m still really tired.”

“Not at all, my boy, I understand this has been quite the trying day for you.”

He wanted Dumbledore to leave now. Still, Harry had a part to play, and so he asked Dumbledore a great number more questions and received answers that could have been truths and could have been lies, but either way were not satisfactory. Especially not the answer about the truth being a “great and terrible thing” — the truth was the truth, no matter how horrible, and Harry would always rather know.

Harry had even tried to ask Dumbledore if he needed to go back to the Dursleys for the summer, or if he could go somewhere else, stay with friends, even — considering how little time he spent with the Headmaster, this was as good a time as any — but Dumbledore told him sternly that everyone must return to the homes that they had left from, and no matter how much Harry had tried to argue, Dumbledore refused to hear anything else.

Dumbledore even pointed out the gifts that his friends sent him to distract from the topic, noting that while it was not present, Fred and George sent him a toilet seat, which had been a bit of great fun. Not that anyone else thought so, but they probably felt that Harry would appreciate it.

When Dumbledore finally leaves, Madam Pomfrey tells him that Ron and Hermione would be permitted in to see him for only five minutes, and they would be the only people allowed in to see him.

Harry rather wishes that he had been given the choice in which visitors to permit, wondering if Neville had been okay and if he would forgive Harry for leaving him in the common room.

So even though he wanted nothing more than to sleep until the train left Hogsmeade Station after the Leaving Feast, Harry was forced to repeat the entire gruesome story to Ron and Hermione, who stayed significantly longer than the five minutes that Madam Pomfrey had set as the limit. Harry honestly wished that she had enforced it this once rather than allow the exception.

After all the visitors had finally left, and Harry was scolded for attempting to get out of bed, Harry had to admit defeat. He reached under the blanket, into his pocket, and brushed his fingers against the cool fabric of his father’s invisibility cloak and he felt the magic curl around his own like a cat settling down for a nap. It was enough to make Harry curl up under the blanket and press his face into the pillow, gritting his teeth against the tears that wanted to fall. And then, eventually, he fell asleep.

Harry woke up the next day feeling much better, and like a weight had been lifted off of his chest, his magic more responsive than it had ever been. He begged and wheedled, playing every card he could of being an eleven year old boy, until Madam Pomfrey declared that he was able to go to the end of the year feast, and then when she agreed, she announced that he had a final visitor to see him.

It was Hagrid. Hagrid, who took one look at his tiny body in the stark white hospital bed and burst into tears, apologizing and assigning blame, and promising Harry that he’d never do something so stupid again, and saying — of all the things — that he should be chucked out of the magical world to live as a Muggle.

And, really, Harry had long since reached his limit, but this was just too far for him to accept.


“All fer a bleedin’ dragon egg!”

“Hagrid, he’d have found out somehow, this is Voldemort we’re talking about. He’d have found out even if you hadn’t told him.”

“Yeh could’ve died,” Hagrid bawled, “An’ don’ say the name!”

Really, with an invitation like that, how could Harry refuse?

“VOLDEMORT!” Harry bellowed, and Hagrid was so shocked he stopped crying. “There. Hagrid, I’ve met him, and I’m calling him by name.” Though if someone told him why they were so insistent on not saying the prat’s name, he maybe would’ve listened. Harry always did best with more information, not less.

Harry tried to cheer Hagrid up, and eventually, Hagrid wiped his nose on the back of his hand and announced that he had a present for Harry. Harry hoped it wasn’t more rock cakes.

It turned out to be a handsome, leather-covered book, and when Harry opened it, it was full of wizarding photographs. Smiling and waving at him from every page were his mother and father.

Hagrid explained what it was, and how he’d gotten the photographs, and even though Harry couldn’t say a word Hagrid understood, and continued to tell him stories about his parents, pointing out each of the photographs and telling him who had sent which pictures.

His precious objects had gone up in number by one, and Harry decided he really needed a way to make sure that they stayed on his person at all times. But that was a question for summer Harry to solve, and right now Harry just wanted to watch his mother twirling in his father’s arms while another boy with long black hair threw his head back and laughed.

When Harry was finally able to leave the Hospital Wing and head down to the leaving feast, all he really wanted to do was turn around and go up to bed after stowing his invisibility cloak, photo album, and the Stone in his trunk.

Instead, he settled in at Gryffindor table with his spell-cleaned uniform, surrounded by the colors of the Slytherin House as they’d ultimately come out on top of points this year and won the House Cup. Harry found that he really could not care less about that competition, even though he’d been one of the people who had lost Gryffindor the most amount of points over the course of the year — he actually topped the combined point loss of Fred and George Weasley, which was worth an award all on it’s own, he thought.

Fred and George settled Harry between the two of them, surreptitiously casting various spells on him that made him feel much cleaner and more settled than whatever spells Madam Pomfrey had used on him, and they all settled in to listen to Dumbledore giving announcements.

Harry may have been a first year, but he thought it was unusual for House points to be given during the leaving feast, and especially after the whole Hall had been decked out in Slytherin regalia for celebration. But, he listened with wide eyes as Dumbledore awarded Ron, Hermione, Neville, and himself the exact amount of points to not only tie with Slytherin but to ultimately tip them over the edge and win the House Cup.

Neville kept sneaking glances at Harry, but Harry just couldn’t bring himself to ask what Neville wanted to talk about, and Neville didn’t approach him either. Coward’s way out or not, Harry was just glad to have one less confrontation when the countdown to facing the Dursleys had officially begun.

And then, suddenly, they all had their scores from the final exams, and they were packed up, on the train, and preparing to leave for where they each called home.

Harry exchanged promises to write over the summer with Ron, Hermione, Neville, Fred and George, and had even received the directive to write from Charlie or else he’d be dropping by to check on him as soon as he could get out to Surrey in August. Ron promised he’d ask his mum to set up a time for Harry to visit, and Hermione fretted about her parents getting the time off but ultimately said she would look him up and give him a ring regardless.

Ron headed off first with Hermione to introduce her to his mother, and Neville stopped Harry while Fred and George struggled to pull their trunks down from an overhead compartment.

“I have things to say to you, Harry P-Potter,” Neville said, glaring fiercely down at Harry. “So you better expect a letter from me and an invitation to Gran’s for my b-birthday.”

Harry blushed brightly. “Is that a threat, Neville? I feel like that’s a threat.” His lips quirked in a smile.

Neville huffed, flushing pink as well. “Y-yeah,” he decided. “It’s a th-threat.”

Harry grinned. “Okay, Neville. Consider me very threatened. I’ll look for your letter.”

Neville nodded, once, then opened his mouth to say something else. An older woman’s voice called his name, and he said, “That’ll be Gran,” instead of whatever it was he had been planning to say.

“See you, Neville. Have a good summer.”

Harry watched as Neville made his way across the platform to meet an older woman with some sort of bird on her hat, and then wondered how long he could delay looking for the Dursleys.

As it turned out, he didn’t need to try and delay the meeting with the Dursleys because Fred and George had finally dragged their trunks out from the train and were waiting for him when he turned around.

“You don’t want to tell us what goes on in that home of yours,” Fred started, his face unusually serious and a hard glint in his eyes.

“And that’s fine,” George interjected.

“For now.”

“For now,” George agreed.

“But you’re giving us your address before I let you go back to those Muggles—“

“And you’ll write us at least twice a week—“

“And you’ll promise that you’ll contact us the moment things get bad.”

“Our version of bad, Harry, not yours.”

Harry felt so much that he was starting to feel overwhelmed by the sensations flowing through his body. His heart was in his throat, beating so loudly that he could barely hear Fred and George over the sound.

“Nod if you understand.”

Harry nodded.

“Good lad. Now, write your address for me—“

“—and expect us to send an owl in two days.”

“We’ll be working to get Mum and Dad to agree with having you stay the summer, but it might take some time. Don’t give up on us if you don’t hear anything, okay?”

“I’ll send you my notes from second year—“

“Or maybe we can get Percy’s—“

“But that way you can get a head start even if you can’t practice the magic, okay?”

Harry nodded again, handing Fred the piece of parchment with his address written on it before George whisked him into his arms and gave him a strong, squeezing hug. In moments, he transferred arms and it was Fred who was hugging him.

“Don’t be a stranger, you hear?”

“Charlie said he’ll work on mum with us, too, and he’ll try to visit in August if we haven’t heard anything. That’s the soonest he could get off of work, and it’ll give us a good excuse to come pick you up for a visit.”

Harry felt his knees wobble. “Okay,” he croaked.

Two months. He could make it through two months.

But then Mrs Weasley was calling for the twins, and Vernon was bellowing for him, Harry didn’t have time to put his thoughts in order. He could only take a deep breath and force himself into stillness.

He was returning to the Dursleys, but this time it was with the knowledge that he was a wizard. He was not a freak. He was not a burden. He was magical.

And he was no longer alone.

That would have to be enough.


What was your favorite part of this chapter? Let me know in the comments! I actually really love the return from the forest with Firenze and the moments with Neville. (I mean.... you can't just give a "I'm off to die" speech to someone and then expect them to forget all about it!)

Chapter 3: Summer Part 1: The Daring Rescue of Harry J Potter


Harry has had... a rough summer. Fred and George wait as long as they can.

Chapter Text

Fred and George wait as long as they can before they steal the car and try to go to Harry. Unfortunately, their parents catch them stealing the car and refuse to act when they explain their worry about the little firstie they’d taken under their wing for the last year. Molly and Arthur wouldn’t even humor the twins’ request to Apparate them to Little Whinging, Surrey, and check on him in person — maybe even spend the day together with the little lad.

Bill and Charlie weren’t around, and they were still waiting for Errol to come back from Romania with a response from Charlie. Percy told them to mind their own business, absolutely sure that if Harry wanted anything to do with them he would have returned their letters already. Ginny was insufferable and also the baby of the house, but even if she’d been older they wouldn’t have involved her because she was the one who always told their parents about the mischief – real and imagined – that they caused so they’d get in trouble.

So they pestered Ron about Harry until Ron finally threw his hands up and agreed to come along with them one night to check on their friend. They pack a first aid kit and potions and an extra blanket in the trunk of the car, just in case.

They really wish that they didn’t need it, but when it turns out they do they couldn’t have been more glad they’d prepared for it.

They’d imagined the worst things that they could think of after Harry hadn’t responded to any of their letters, but they didn’t expect bars on the window, or bruises covering skin that stretched over a skeleton, all progress they’d made with Harry reversing over the course of barely two months apart. They hadn’t expected to see green eyes burning brightly with magic, in the way that made it clear that this magic was the only thing holding this boy together.

The reality was so much worse than they could ever imagine.

Fred sends Ron down to the window with a long rope, instructing him to tie it to the bars and attach it to the car before clambering back into the cab. Fred drives the car straight up, revving the engine as hard as he can until he hears the bars come off of the window and Ron can grab for them.

The sound wakes Harry, but Harry doesn’t seem to see them even as his bright — too bright — green eyes look straight up at the three Weasley brothers. Hedwig hoots and squawks, calling their attention into the rest of the room, and not just on Harry, lying motionless on the bed, his arms wrapped around his middle.

The very empty room, and Hedwig who has been locked in her now very dirty traveling cage.

“Ron, take the wheel — do not let it move from this window. George, get Harry. I’ll get his stuff,” Fred’s voice is hard, with no room for argument. “If I can’t find his trunk, we’ll have to go without it.”

The twins wasted no time hauling Harry into the car, sending Ron scrambling back into the front seat to take the wheel as George wrapped Harry up in the blanket they’d brought and Fred jumped through the window into the room to grab Hedwig — passed easily into the car — and searching the room for Harry’s trunk. Ron took the wheel and George wrapped up the trembling Harry Potter in his arms.

Safe. Harry was safe. He repeated it to himself, over and over, trying to make himself believe it. But George couldn’t stop his own trembles, and he couldn’t help the way that Ron’s shoulders were shaking either.

He knew that Fred would protect them all, but he would have to protect Harry. He could protect Ron and Harry until Fred got back in the car. It would have to be enough.


Harry was only twelve . What kind of monster would do this to a twelve year old?

He knew Harry had to be hurting, knew that he was holding Harry too tightly, but Harry didn’t make a single sound as George’s arms tightened around him, and George couldn’t bring himself to let Harry go.

Ron did not attempt to take Harry out of the warm embrace of George’s strong arms, and Harry was glad. His skin was so sensitive that the clothing he wore, light though it was, made him ache and clench his teeth whenever it rubbed against his skin. The extra blanket wrapped around him was bad enough, but if Ron tried to move him… Ron was always rough with him, rougher than Harry could usually stand, but if he tried to move him right now… Harry didn’t know what would happen, but it would hurt.

Harry was so sick of being hurt.

“I’ve got to go into the rest of the house,” Fred called up to them. “His trunk isn’t—“

“Under the stairs,” Harry croaked. “Bottom stair creaks. Careful.”

George repeated his words to Fred, and the twins shared a serious look before Fred took off again, pulling an ordinary hairpin from his pocket and picking the lock before disappearing through the door.

George scooted further into the boot, pulling Harry with him. “Easy, Harry, I’ve gotta move ya so we can get out of here, okay? Fred’s on his way back, an’ we don’t wanna stay here longer than we have’ta.” Harry nodded. “Ron, be ready to trade out—“

“Get Harry up here so they don’t try and grab ‘im George—“


“She’s in here, Harry. I’ve got her in the seat now, see? Think we can get you over the back, or should you stay in the boot?”

“Can’t move,” Harry gasped, feeling a sharp pain as he tried to do just that. “Hurts.”

“Okay, so we’re not moving you, and I can’t give you any potions until we’re further away and can look you over.” They waited, just trying to catch their breath, and suddenly George was moving again, reaching out to grab the trunk that Fred was pushing out the window.

The bedroom door slammed open and it was Uncle Vernon storming in the room, his face purple with rage as he saw his nephew escaping out the bedroom window into the trunk of a very magical, very flying car.


In moments, the both the trunk and Fred were joining them in the car, and Fred was yelling for Ron to step on the gas, reaching up to close the boot door before Vernon could grab one of their ankles.

As they flew away from Number 4 Privet Drive, Fred and George promised they would do everything in their power to make sure Harry never had to return to that awful place again. If their mum wouldn’t listen to them, they knew that Charlie would.

They were sure now, more than ever, that Harry would have awful stories to tell about his time living with his Aunt and Uncle, and they would not like any of them. Hopefully it would be enough.

They couldn’t imagine that it wouldn’t be enough to get him out of there.

Soon, Fred was switching spots with Ron, clambering into the driver’s seat and setting course for the Burrow.

“Harry?” Ron asked. “You alright, mate?”

“Thirsty,” Harry said, licking his lips in an attempt to wet them, but his tongue was just as dry as the rest of his mouth.

Ron heaved a sigh, relief flowing through him. “Got some water here,” he said. He handed it off to George, who shuffled them around so Harry could try and drink the water himself, positioning himself to catch the water bottle when he noticed how badly Harry shook. “Want me to let Hedwig out? I reckon I can pick the lock well enough — not enough to do a door, mind, but enough to get her free.” Harry nodded immediately, and Ron set to work.

“Send her to Charlie,” Fred said. “We were waiting on a reply, and he’ll recognize Hedwig.”

Ron nodded, and when he got the door open he stroked the feathers on her back. “Poor Hedwig, you were locked up all summer too, weren’t you?” She cooed in response. “Go to Charlie Weasley, will you? Let him know Harry’s safe now. Charlie will take care of you.”

Hedwig turned her bright yellow eyes on Harry, who nodded, and with another coo she allowed herself to be escorted to the window of the Ford Anglia and jumped out, intent on reaching Romania as fast as her wings would carry her.

They shuffled around while Harry drank the water, and eventually they were all situated comfortably for the long ride, with George sitting behind Harry, legs spread wide and Harry leaning back against his chest, and Ron sitting in the back seat, kneeling over the back so he could watch Harry and George.


“Hurts,” Harry said, wincing as he tried to squirm out of the blanket George had wrapped around him.

George pulled, and the blanket unwrapped, leaving Harry dressed in the oversized rags that passed as his clothing, his skinny arms still wrapped around something that he pressed to his chest. “Better?”

Harry nodded, then unfolded his arms, setting whatever was in it down between his legs with a loud thunk. It was clear that there was an invisible package of some sort, but—

Harry made a motion like he was unwrapping something, and soon a pile of shrunken books, packages, and letters was visible on top of a silver fabric.

“Somebody was… stopping my mail,” Harry spoke slowly, the words still sounding rough as they scraped their way up his raw throat. “Didn’t get them until now, and then— Vernon—“

“Don’t worry about telling the story right now, mate.”

“Yeah, Harry, we know you weren’t ignoring us. Hard to miss when we found you like that.”

George pressed his cheek into Harry’s dirty black hair. “Worried us something fierce though, little lion. I told you we’d come get you.”

Harry relaxed into George. “Couldn’t write,” He explained. “Tried. Then— Hedwig.”

“You’re forgiven, Harry,” Fred called from the front seat, where he was listening to them but still trying to do his best to drive the flying car home. “We’ve been trying to get Mum or Dad to listen to us for weeks, once we realized you weren’t writing back. We know it’s not your fault, okay?”

“Throat still sore?” George asked. Harry nodded. “Okay. Ron— pass that first aid kit over there, will you?” Ron passed it over and looked at Harry, worry dominating his features.

Harry couldn’t bring himself to smile at Ron, to promise that it wasn’t as bad as it looked, or that he would be okay. Honestly, he thought, it was probably worse than it looked, and he knew it probably looked pretty bad.

“Stomach soother first,” George decided, handing Harry a small glass vial. “It’ll make everything stay down easier. Hopefully it’ll help your throat, too, since it’s got a bit of a numbing agent in it. I’ve got a pain reliever, too — do you need that right now or do you want to wait?”

“Now, please.”

“Thought you might. That should help your throat, too, and I really don’t want to give you too many potions on an empty stomach. Drink it down, and then don’t move, Harry.”

“I sent Harry some sweets,” Ron said, “Looks like he might have some of the food packages in his pile of mail. See? Pumpkin pasties.”

Fred called back, “If that’s the case, I know I sent him some of Mum’s potato soup last week. The preservation charm should still be good. Might even be warm, if I got the timing right. Ron? I wrapped all of mine in blue.”

Ron clambered back over the seat and sat in front of Harry, cross-legged and grinning. “Might as well stay back here with you, mate. Here, lemme sort through all this and—“ Ron choked, his ears going bright red as he looked between his two brothers. “Blimey, that’s a lot of food. Did you send Harry every dinner we’ve had this summer or something?”

“Or something,” the twins chorused. George didn’t smile, and Ron couldn’t see Fred’s face.

“If you think we’re ignoring how skinny he was last year—“

“No way! I’m not sayin’ that, I’m just—“ realization dawns on Ron and his face pales in horror. “Is that what had you in so much trouble this summer? Mum caught you sneakin’ food?”

George grimaced, but he didn’t deny it.

“And that’s why you stole the car a few weeks back, too?”

“We thought something might be happening, and when Harry didn’t respond to any of our letters—“

“We were going tonight, whether or not anyone else came with us,” Fred put in. “I don’t care if we get punished for it, we weren’t letting Harry stay there one more night. And if I need to Floo Charlie and get him to take Harry to the Reserve for the rest of the summer, you know I will, Ron.” He grunted. “Might just do that anyway, come to think of it.”

With a little more shuffling, Harry was soon setting aside the empty potions vials and sipping soup from a baby blue thermos, wincing every time George brushed up against him.

“I’ve got some bandages, and some stuff to spread on bruises and—“ George’s voice broke off as his fingers brushed against Harry’s torso and Harry went suddenly still. “Harry, we’ve got to take off your shirt to put it on you,” he continued, his voice low and raspy, intentionally calm in a way that Ron had only heard it once before, when he was really young and had gotten really hurt when they’d been playing in the creek.

Ron had been worried before, but now there was a put of dread opening up in his stomach and he didn’t know if it would ever close up again. Last time Ron heard that kind of voice, he’d been taken to the hospital.

“I can wait,” Harry insisted, his voice suddenly panicked and high. “It’s not that bad, really.” He looked back and forth between George and Ron, his green eyes burning brighter than they had been before.

But Ron knew enough about growing up with and around magic, that your magic could step in if things got too bad for too long, and he’d really only thought it was a fairy story that eyes could glow with a person’s magic. In the stories, it was always a sign that a person was so close to dying that the only thing between them and Death was their magic, and if it went for too long the magic could burn out.

He didn’t want Harry to get to that point, and if that meant he had to let his brothers take care of his best mate and pretend that he wasn’t paying attention, well. Ron was a big brother, too.

“I’m sorting your mail before we get home, mate — looks like you’ve got a lot of interesting stuff in here, too, though I don’t know who’d be sending you a book about magical snakes. Hermione, probably.” And just like that, Ron gave himself a job and turned away from Harry, pulling the invisibility cloak towards himself and taking the stack of mail with it.

“We bring extra clothes, Freddie?” George called, his voice still that intentional calm.

“Should be an extra shirt and jumper in the pack, but I don’t think we have any trousers that would fit him.”

George nodded. “Gonna have to get this off you, mate. I don’t like the way you’re moving.”


“Y’know Harry,” Ron interrupted, lifting up one of the brightly wrapped packages and watching the way the light reflected off of the shining paper, his voice matching the too-casual tones that Fred and George were using. He didn’t need to know everything to pick up on some of what was going on, and he definitely didn’t like the picture it was painting. “After Charlie moved out, it was always George that took care of our bumps and bruises while we were out playing. Sometimes it was because we wanted to keep playing, or because Mum would pitch a fit, but he was really good at it.” Ron smiled at George. “The best, really.”

George sketched a small bow. “Thanks, Ronnie. Charlie taught me before we went off to Hogwarts. Said Fred didn’t have the patience for it, and we needed someone who knew how to treat our bang ups if we were gonna keep causing trouble.”

“And blowing things up. Don’t forget about blowing things up, Gred.”

“And blowing things up, of course. We got really good at that bit.”

“As long as they don’t blow me up, I’m fine with it,” Ron rolls his eyes. “But if George says he thinks there’s something wrong, you really should trust him to take a look at it. He’s loads nicer about it than Mum.”

“Hardly any lecturing!” Fred agreed. “Probably saved my fingers more times than I can count.”

Harry took another long swallow of the warm potato soup before he set it aside and took a deep breath. “Okay.” He took a deep, shuddering breath. “Just. Don’t— don’t say anything, okay?” And then, like he had every time he needed to change his clothes, Harry held his breath and screwed up his face, twisting around and moving as little as he could to inch the shirt up and over his head before pulling it off. He didn’t make a sound.

The car was filled with a heavy silence in the wake of Harry’s revealed torso.

“I’m going to need Ron’s help with the bandages, Harry,” George said softly. “I don’t know, but— it looks like something might be broken.” He took a steady breath. “We’re going to need Charlie. Mum—“ he choked on the words. “Mum might send you to the hospital if she sees, and—“

“And they’ll send me back to the Dursleys because technically you’ve kidnapped me,” Harry said flatly. “It won’t be the first time I’ve been sent back there after I’ve run away.”

Ron looked up at the defeated tone he’d never heard from his best mate and immediately wished he hadn’t.

It was so much worse than he could have imagined. He didn’t know how it could have gotten worse than what they’d already seen, but somehow it was even worse with Harry’s shirt off.

His own family had done this to him. The thought made Ron nauseous.

“Can we… do something about the bruises before we wrap him up, George? Anything?” Ron took a deep breath, his mind whirling as fast as it could. “And is Dad’s camera—“

“The pictures always disappear,” Harry said quietly. “Every time. And the nurses always forget. I don’t know how.” He laughed, barely a hiss of air through his teeth. “But now that I know magic exists, it opens up loads of possibilities, doesn’t it?”

“Our memories are admissible in court,” George says. “And I’m willing to take Veritaserum if they think they’ve been tampered with.” He takes a deep breath and holds it before letting it out in an audible puff of air. “Good thinking, Ron. But, more than anything else right now, I want to try and get some of this taken care of. Looks like it hurts somethin’ fierce, eh Harry?”

“Like I took a few bludgers to the ribs,” Harry admitted. “But honestly it’s not the worst—“ Harry snapped his mouth shut, his teeth audibly clicking together.

“Harry, mate, please tell me you weren’t going to say this isn’t the worst you’ve ever got it?” Ron begged, his blue eyes wide and horrified.

Harry said nothing, his jaw clenched and his expression wiped clean of anything except stony stubbornness.

“How’s the pain doing, Harrikins? Any better now that the potion’s had some time to kick in?” Harry nodded, but didn’t say anything. “Good. Ron—“ George handed over a jar of paste he’d dug out of the bag by his side. “Start putting this on his front, will you? Gentle as you can.” He hesitated. “Don’t be afraid to use it all. More, in this case, is probably better than not using enough.”

Ron nodded, taking the jar of paste and scooting forward. He folded the edges of the invisibility cloak back over the pile of mail and packages, picking it up and moving it behind him. Realizing he didn’t want to crush it accidentally, he reached back and uncovered a corner of it, making sure it was at least partly visible but still keeping it all collected together. Then, he moved to be within easy reaching distance of Harry’s chest.

“Heya, mate. Don’t know if this is gonna be cold or what, but it’ll be loads better than whatever that feels like now, yeah?”

Harry smiled tightly. “Sure, Ron.”

George met Ron’s eyes over Harry’s head, his lips pulled in a tight smile of his own and his eyes as serious as Ron had ever seen them. “It’ll soak into the skin quick, if the front’s anything like his back. There’s a pain relief element to it, too.”

“We’ll be comin’ up on the Burrow soon, boys, so whatever you can do, just do it fast. Mum’s awake from the look of things, and if we don’t want Harry to get shipped off to Mungos before we can tell our side of things we’ll want him wrapped up and dressed before we land.”

Ron cursed and dipped his fingers into the jar, scooping out a large portion of the cool gel. “Guess we’ll do it quick, then. Sorry ‘bout this, mate.” Flattening his hand, Ron smeared the gel over Harry’s front, from shoulder to shoulder and then down his chest and belly. Harry just winced and took sharp little inhales as Ron’s hand passed over his ribs, and then within minutes he was relaxing with a look of wonder coming over his face.

Ron watched anxiously as some of the darker bruising lightened, wishing he could do something else — anything else — to help Harry heal from this.

“Hey, George, did you say you think my ribs might be broken?” Harry asked.


“Don’t wrap it, then.” He winced when one of George’s fingers pressed into one of the wounds on his back. “I tried that once and it made things worse. Harder to breathe, too. Ribs apparently heal up just fine on their own — there’s no real way to splint them, and if you try and wrap them up you could puncture something. Like a lung. And that would be much worse than a broken rib.”

“So… don’t use the bandages?”

“Not for my ribs. The other stuff probably should be covered, unless it’s healing over?” He shrugged. “Aunt Petunia had to take me to the emergency department because Vernon punctured something once. I remember hearing them talk about how to take care of broken ribs, and something about how she should have taken me in right away instead of trying to treat them at home or something.” He scoffed. “I think the story was that I’d been climbing a tree or fell down the stairs or something like that, and she didn’t think it was too bad so she wrapped it up at home.”

“Sounds like a real piece of work, your Aunt.”

“Oh, yeah, she’s right pleasant, that one. But now I don’t have to see her until next summer, if I’m lucky, thanks to you.” Harry hummed, his eyes fluttering closed. “Whatever’s in that gel works real good, George. Feels loads better.”

“Good to know. I’ll be sure to keep that recipe for the future, yeah?” Harry nodded. “Ready for us to wrap you up like a mummy and get dressed again? We’re probably too close to let it set and dry.”

“About ten minutes out, now— that’s the main road, there. I can’t go any slower without dropping out of the sky.”

“Right. Quick and loose, Ron. You ready?”

And in minutes, Ron and George had a roll of white bandages wrapped around Harry’s middle, from underneath his arms all the way down his abdomen, the end of the bandages melding into the rest of it when they’d reached the end of the roll. They quickly pulled an oversized jumper over Harry’s head, just in time for Fred to call out a warning and begin the descent into the Burrow’s yard.

“We’ll have to check on it again when we can get you into one of our rooms. I don’t want to risk the wounds getting infected when we’re already— well, not healthy is putting it nicely.”

“I honestly don’t care what you do at this point,” Harry said, yawning. “As long as I can get some sleep, I think I’ll be fine.” He looked up at George, his face going a brilliant red. “I— I mean—“

George wrapped his arms around Harry again, holding him loosely, and rested his forehead on Harry’s shoulder. “I know what you mean, Harry,” he whispered, his voice hollow and tired. “Bet you haven’t had any decent sleep since you left Hogwarts, have ya?”

“Okay, boys— it’s showtime. Looks like Mum’s coming, do we have everything?”

Ron leapt into motion, reaching for the bag that George had pulled all of the medical supplies out of and bundling up the invisibility cloak’s precious parcel again and shoving it all into the bag, then shoving that bag into Hedwig’s dirty cage and curling his fingers around the handle of Harry’s trunk. “Got it. I’ll put it all in my room, Harry — all the way at the top of the stairs. Don’t think we’re going to get away without Mum screaming the house down, though.”

“Brace yourself for touchdown,” Fred called, just as they landed with a small bump.

Harry took a deep breath, holding it, before letting it out slowly, his face showing no sign of the pain he must have felt, and all traces of exhaustion wiping away.

“Not exactly how I wanted to meet your mother,” he said lightly. “But I suppose it’ll have to do.”

Ron laughed. “Not exactly how I wanted to have you over for the first time either, was it? But boy am I glad that you’re here now!” He glanced out the window and back at Harry. “It’s not much, but it’s home.”

Harry smiled, a tiny trembling thing on a face that was still far too pale with eyes that were far too green, but it was a genuine smile. “It’s wonderful,” he insisted.

With Ron busy wrangling Harry’s things, and Harry minding his limited range of motion, it left George to reach over and pop open the door of the car so they could clamber out of the boot.

The door opened just in time to show the sight of Mrs Weasley marching across the yard, a scowl on her face that caused all of the chickens to scatter away from her path: directly towards them.

“Mornin’ Mum!” George said in his cheeriest voice.

Coming to a halt in front of them, her hands on her hips, Mrs Molly Weasley did not look very cheery.

Chapter 4: Summer Part 2: Breakfast at the Burrow

Chapter Text

Summer Part 2: Breakfast at the Burrow

“So,” Mrs Weasley started, staring down at the three boys, her brown eyes glinting nearly red in the morning light as she turned the gaze on Fred who was quietly joining them. In that moment, even though all three of her sons were taller than her, Mrs Weasley looked at them as if they were no taller than ants. “You’ve come back, have you? All of you alive?”

Fred stood up straighter at her waspish tone, taking a step in front of the other boys as if he would position himself between them and Mrs Weasley.

“Do. Not.” Mrs Weasley hissed venomously. “Do you have any idea how worried I have been?” In her rage, the fire in her eyes grew, and she seemed to grow, too, towering above them all. “No note. Beds— empty! Car— gone!” Her voice raised with each word, and as she began a truly memorable and horrible diatribe, the other boys shrank back from her, hiding Harry behind them, but Fred refused to cower. “You could have been seen, you could have lost your father his job, you could have—“

George tried to interrupt — “They were starving him, Mum!” — but Mrs Weasley just kept going as if she hadn’t heard him.

Finally, Fred had reached his limit.

“THEY WERE KILLING HIM,” he bellowed, throwing his arms wide. It stopped Mrs Weasley in her tracks, the words drying up in her mouth as if she’d been hit by a silencing charm. “He was nearly dead when we got to him, Mum, and we’ve been asking for your help to check on him for weeks now! Do you know what we would have found if we’d been even a day later?” Fred hated that he felt his tears burning in his eyes and his voice caught and broke in his throat. “If he hadn’t turned into an obscurial, he would have been a dried out husk, that’s what would have happened, Mum! We told you— they don’t feed him, we said. Not a single happy memory of his family, Mum. Flinches, we told you!”

The tears burned paths down his cheeks, but he continued anyway, knowing that this would be the only chance he had to make her listen, and dear Merlin if she didn’t listen now then he’d get right back in that car and take Harry to Romania without stopping because at least one person in his family had listened when he’d written about Harry throughout the year, and Charlie had actually come to check on the little Seeker and had left more worried than before, agreeing with the twins’ assessment of the situation.

“There were bars on his window, Mum! They locked him in his room! There was a flap on the door barely big enough to fit a plate through and no sign he’d been fed, and no access to a toilet! His eyes were glowing with his magic there was so little left of him! And you expected us to leave him there? Do you expect us to send him back? Because I won’t! I won’t let him go back there, Mum! And I’ll leave right now if you try to make me!”

Mrs Weasley deflated, the sight of her headstrong son crying more than enough to subdue her even as her mind struggled to take in and understand everything he had said. But while she hadn’t digested everything he just told her, her eyes took in the most peculiar sight:

Fred, crying and desperate, standing in front of her with his warms spread wide as if to block her view of three other boys, one of them his twin and the other his youngest brother, who clutched desperately at a tiny boy with black hair who’s green eyes burned far too brightly on his pale face.

Yes, she thought. Yes, three of her children had asked for her help, she realized, and quite insistently too. She’d caught the twins sneaking food outside of meals, which was unusual, and then she’d noticed them eating smaller portions of meals after they’d been punished for sneaking the food away. They’d tried to sneak out with Arthur in the mornings when he left for work, more than once, and they’d used every charm they had to their name to get her to agree to take them to some place in Surrey for a visit, before they were caught stealing the car while she was distracted inside the house. If it hadn’t been for her quick glance at the clock, and seeing their hands move from “home” to “traveling” they would have succeeded.

She’d thought they were just pestering her about visiting a new friend. Not attempting what was very clearly a rescue mission. One that had been direly needed, she now knew.

She’d often wondered what Houses had caused the Hatstall when they’d been Sorted in their first year, and they’d never tell her, but this was the first time she suspected it might have been Hufflepuff and not Slytherin that called to her most mischievous boys.

Fabian and Gideon would have been so proud of them. Part of her ached for them, but her choices were her choices, and she would have to live with her brothers never meeting the nephews that took after them so well. Fred and George were Weasley by birth and name, but they were Prewitt by blood and magic — Prewitt through and through.

“Of course he can stay, Fred,” Molly whispered, her voice hoarse and heartbroken. She didn’t need to be a medic to see the boy needed a Healer, and she couldn’t deny that her family magic was reaching out to the boy already, wrapping him up and demanding that she fixes what’s wrong with him. She didn’t need to be a medic to notice that Fred was right, and the only thing that kept him standing was the magic that burned inside of his body. And she would be a cruel being indeed if she sent him away from the ones who clearly meant to keep him safe — even from her, their own mother — and back to the place that had harmed him badly enough that he shook from head to toe with terror. “Of course he doesn’t need to go back there.”

Horror rose in Molly’s gut, mixing with shame and sending the last remains of anger at her children away, driving it inward instead. She had done this, she thought. She’d barely even met him, and he was terrified of her. The family magic that she had inherited, that she had always shown such skill with, flinched from her. She promised it that she would do better. Promised herself that she would do better.

Not for the first time, she cursed her flames for burning so fast and so hot. If they were even the slightest bit slower to light, perhaps she would have seen what was standing before her instead of making her son suffer and share all of his friend’s secrets. Perhaps she could have saved them all some pain. Still, she could learn from her mistakes and do better.

“You’re right,” she says quietly, her voice broken and subdued. “You asked me and I should have listened to you instead of dismissing your concerns. I will do better next time.” He looked over the group of boys again, noticing how pale they all looked, and how tired. “Come along, then. I’ll whip up some breakfast for all of us, hmm? And then it’s time for bed, I think.” She reached for the wand she’d tucked in her apron’s front pocket, noticing the immediate flinch and tiny whimper of pain before deciding to leave it, her concern growing. “Harry, dear? I really am quite glad to see you, though I wish it was under better circ*mstances.”

He smiled tightly at her. “Me, too, Mrs Weasley. Thank you for letting me stay.”

His voice was so soft, so hesitant, that it broke her heart a little more. What had they done to this poor boy? “Of course, dear. Lets get you warm and fed, and tucked into bed.”

It took everything in her to keep her back straight and turn towards the house, leading them all inside and bustling about the kitchen as if nothing was wrong. She remembered a few other black haired boys who moved the way Harry was moving right now, and she didn’t like the picture that was being painted in front of her.

George had been asking about a first aid or medic class since the previous autumn, saying that he was thinking about maybe even pursuing a junior certification alongside his OWLs. She knew he’d read at least one of Charlie’s books, and had caught him practicing healing his siblings’ scrapes more than once while they were playing. She’d easily slipped a book of useful healing potion recipes into his bookshelf after he’d come home for the summer, asking if she would sign off on a request for the healing elective for the coming year. She hadn’t thought much of it aside from him wanting to fill in a gap she knew the older brother had occupied — like her Percy, trying so hard to fill Bill’s shoes — but now she wondered if the reason for his sudden interest was sitting at her breakfast table.

She liked even less the implication that, even after George had helped, it was still burning through his magic for Harry to do something as simple as sitting at the breakfast table, pressed between Fred and George while Ron brought his things upstairs.

Molly twitched her wand, setting breakfast into motion for the whole family, and considered what little she knew about the situation. Starvation, Fred had screamed at her, and it had not sounded like it was a matter of days.

“Harry, dear? Is there anything specific that you can’t eat? Allergies and the like,” she asked, trying to keep her voice as calm and casual as she could.

The response came not from Harry, sitting at the table, or from Ron, who’d reappeared at the base of the stairs, but from George, who’d reached out and accepted something from Ron. Something that was wrapped in one of her many blue towels that had gone missing.

“Harry was able to drink that potato soup you made for us last week while we were on the way here,” George said quietly. “He doesn’t usually do well with anything rich or greasy, though.” George tilts his head to meet Harry’s burning green gaze. “Think you can do some scrambled eggs and toast, little lion?”

“Maybe with some peanut butter, Harry?” Fred suggested. “We don’t have pumpkin juice, but some milk might settle your stomach better.”

Molly didn’t hear Harry’s response, if he gave one, but George called out for her that they’d all have the same thing.

“I still want bangers, if she’s makin’ ‘em though,” Ron insisted.

“Yes, of course,” Molly said, waving her wand and sending plates and silverware to their places on the table. Within moments, she’d bustled over with several sausages and fried eggs to Ron’s plate, the scrambled eggs portioning themselves out and finding their way to others while the toast buttered — and peanut buttered — itself before doing the same. And then, of course, she set the dishes to washing themselves as she heard the first of her children making their way down the stairs.

Well. The children who hadn’t been out all night, anyway.

“Come in and sit down for breakfast,” she called, “but mind you’re dressed — your brothers are home and have a friend over.”

She heard a squeak and then the steps thundered back upstairs, and she smothered her smile. Ginny, then, and the least likely of all of the children to come downstairs dressed properly. She started fixing Ginny’s plate, next to Ron, the same way she knew her daughter took breakfast and tea every other day.

“This’ll be Ginny coming down now,” she told Harry. “I assume you’ve been told all about the boys, but you’ve yet to meet our only daughter.”

“Littlest sister,” Fred said, waggling his eyebrows.

“She’s been a right terror, talking about how excited she is to meet you,” George warned.

“She’ll probably ask you for an autograph, mate,” Ron said apologetically. “Just tell her to piss off if she starts bothering you about it.”

“Ronald Weasley, I hope you don’t talk to your sister that way!”

“’Course not, Mum, but Harry doesn’t need to deal with a fangirl at home, does he? Gets enough of that at school, he does.”

Molly sniffed. “Quite right. I’ll speak to her about it, so let me know if she does begin to pester you about it, Harry dear. Now—oh.” She turned back to Harry, seeing that most of the food she’d portioned out to him was still on his plate, small forkfuls missing as if he had only taken a few bites before he stopped eating. George held a piece of the peanut butter toast in his hand, the other quickly retracting from where it’d been near Harry’s quickly chewing mouth, and he had a guilty look on his face as if he’d been caught doing something he oughtn’t have been doing. “Are you finished, Harry, dear?”

She noticed the blue kitchen towel was folded neatly in front of his plate, next to an empty glass and an old thermos that had gone missing the week before.

Harry smiled. “It was really quite lovely, Mrs Weasley,” he said. She wasn’t sure if it was the lighting or her imagination, but he looked more pale than he had before breakfast. “Only, I’ve eaten a lot already today and I’m really very tired. Is there somewhere I can—?”

Fred immediately stood up, his plate empty, and braced Harry with a hand on his back, “’Course, mate. Let me get you settled in our room — it’s on the second floor, so you don’t need to worry about so many stairs. Georgie can trade out in a minute, yeah?”

George nodded. “Just gotta grab our re-stock kit and I’ll be up in a few.” He glanced nervously between the landing of the stairs and Molly. “I might help Mum with the dishes for a mo’, before the others come back down, actually. Won’t be long, little lion.” His smile fell the moment Fred had Harry turned away from the table and was leading him slowly out of the kitchen, and he turned his pale, worried face to Molly as soon as the first steps were heard on the stairs.

Molly knew her boys, so she said nothing as she looked back and forth between Ron’s tense face and George’s already begging posture. “I’m not going to like this, am I?” She asked quietly, sitting down at the table and spooning some sugar into her tea.

George tensed but said nothing.

“I didn’t know it could be that bad,” Ron whispered. “Never seen nothin’ like it before.”

She took a sip of her oversweetened tea, set it aside, and folded her hands in front of her so George could see them. “What do you need?”

She hadn’t seen such a look of helplessness, fear, and despair on George’s face since Ronnie’d fallen in the creek and split his head open while they were playing. The horror and dread curled in her stomach again, tighter, making her wish she hadn’t eaten before having this conversation. Just like that, she knew it was going to be bad.

“Ron? Will you go ask Harry if he needs anything from his trunk? And make sure Ginny knows she’s not to bother him while he’s resting, will you?”

Ron nodded, relieved, and scampered off to do what she’d asked, as if he also hadn’t wanted to be present for this conversation and was glad to have the distraction.

“He needs a healer, Mum, a proper one, but he won’t see anyone if he thinks they’re going to send him back,” George started. “And from the sound of it, they’ve sent him back before, maybe with Obliviators. I need more potions, and definitely need some skele-grow and some nutrient supplements since I can’t make those on my own yet and he can’t keep down food yet.” He rubbed his eyes. “It took us all year, and he’s worse off now than he was in October!” George sniffed. “If he’s broken more than just his ribs, I won’t be surprised, but he’d never tell us where he’s hurtin’ unless he couldn’t get away with hiding it anymore.”

And Molly’s heart broke a little more for that boy her children had brought home. If he was a dragel and not a wizard, she thought, my blood and magic might be enough to heal some of it. But the Potters weren’t dragel-kind, and Lily Evans was a Muggleborn, so there was no chance of Harry being anything but human.

“I’ll do what I can,” she promised George. He looked up at her, lost. “And if you still want those medic classes, I’ll sign off on it, but you won’t be getting that owl or the new broom you and your brother were asking for.”

“Please, Mum,” George begged. “I’ll even work in the summers, I’ll find someone to mentor me in the village, and volunteer with Pomfrey—“

“You won’t need to do any of that just yet. But if you’re serious about this, I expect you to work for it, do you hear me? So think long and hard about what you’d choose if you had to pick between being a medic and, say, playing Quidditch.”

“Medic, no question.” George’s immediate, certain answer surprised her.

“And you’re sure?”

“Absolutely.” He looked over his shoulder, as if he could follow the path Fred and Harry had taken upstairs, before turning back to look her in the eye. “I can’t leave him alone, Mum.” He pursed his lips. “Me an’ Freddie? Sometimes I think we’re the only thing he’s really got.”

“But Ron—“

“Ron loves the idea of being Harry’s best friend, Mum, but I don’t think he knows what that means. Not really. He’s my little brother and I love him, but you know how he gets. And Harry… Harry’s already been hurt too much, Mum. There’s things he tells me an’ Freddie that he’d never tell Ron in a million years, no matter how close they are.” He hesitated. “You know the Potters were an old, rich family, and you know how much that’s gonna upset Ron when he realizes that Harry’s inherited all of that gold. Ron’s always been more upset than the rest of us about the hand-me-downs, and more jealous of Ginny for getting new things. He might not mean it, but eventually he’s gonna hurt Harry because of it.”

Molly sighed, but decided to let the thought settle in her mind and chew on it for a little bit before speaking about it. She knew he was right, however — Ron was the one who had the most extreme reactions out of all of her children regarding their wealth or lack-there-of. “You know we try our best. What else can we do?”

George shrugged. “Maybe see about getting Ron a new wand before we go back to school this year?” He hesitated. “Me an’ Freddie have been saving up for some stuff, but… if you’re serious about the medic classes, I’m willing to use some of that to help with Ron’s wand?”

“But Ginny—“

“Can try out all the old family wands just like all of us other kids have, Mum. You can buy her a new one next year if it doesn’t work. But Ron’s stuck with Charlie’s old wand, which probably works okay but we all know what they say about ash — it’s dangerous tryin’ to keep using it as it is. And if it helps his friendship along with Harry just a little bit this year, would it be such a bad thing?”

She paled, bringing a hand up to her mouth. She’d forgotten Charlie’s old wand was ash. “You’re right, of course.” Ash wands were never to be passed down, forever loyal to the first to wield it and dangerous in the hands of all others, just as likely to send a spell rebounding as it was to not work at all in the hand of the new wielder.

“And if you don’t need to worry about new Quidditch gear for me an’ Fred this year, you’ll have a little extra left just in case Ginny needs a new wand anyway, if we play it smart. And we always try to play it smart, mum.”

Molly nodded. “I’ll discuss it with your father. You and Fred count up your savings and let us know how much you’re willing to share towards Ron’s wand.” She glared at him. “I am not going to let you spend all of your savings for this, not even knowing how much this will help out this year, you hear me?” George nodded. “I know you and Fred have been saving for a long time, and I respect that you boys are being smart and making good decisions with your pocket money. But this is a good idea, George.” She reached over and took his hands in hers. He wasn’t even fifteen and already his hands were growing larger, with long, thin fingers. Soon they’d be a man’s hands. “I’m so proud of you. When’d you go and grow up on me?”

George blushed. “Had to happen sometime, Mum.”

She squeezed his hands and then released them, smiling sadly at him. “It always happens when we look away for a moment too long. One moment, you’re a silly little boy distracting me so your brother can steal a biscuit, and the next you’re budgeting your savings for medic training—“

“—and a joke shop!”

“—and a joke shop,” Molly rolled her eyes. “You realize you’ll have to get your grades up before they’ll let you in the Healing class at Hogwarts, don’t you?”

George nodded. “Freddie and I already decided we’d rather have our real marks for the OWLs anyway. Nobody wants to invest if the inventors don’t have the grades to back them.”

“Quite right. Now,” Molly swallowed the last of her tea and looked at George across the top of her mug. “Do you think this Harry of yours will let me cast on him?”

George immediately shook his head. “Some days he won’t even let me or Freddie point our wands at him for a drying spell. His always make his hair stick up all over the place.” He sobered. “Today… Today is going to be a really bad day.” His frown deepened. “I wasn’t kidding about needing to restock the entire first aid kit. Or the skelegrow. If we’re lucky, Freddie got him to fall asleep up there.”

Molly nodded. “I’ll come by and check on him this afternoon. I assume you or Fred will be staying with him?”

“Me,” George said immediately.

“Okay. You let me know what you need, and I’ll try and get it for you, okay? Even if it’s a healer— I’ll call around, see if anyone can contact one off the clock for us.”

“Honestly, with the way his magic’s responding right now… he might heal himself enough that one won’t be necessary for the immediate injuries. His back was already healing up before I got the bandages on him in the car.”

“You’re going to have to tell someone all of it eventually, George.”

He met her eyes, and his expression was all Weasley stubbornness. “Can you get my memories submitted to court and guarantee that he won’t ever go back there?” Molly blinked and said nothing. He knew she couldn’t guarantee such a thing. He nodded. “Until he can get out of there for good, I might be the closest thing he’s got to a healer in his corner. Well,” he smiled, “and Charlie, of course.”

At this point, Molly thought she couldn’t be surprised again. Apparently, she was wrong. “Charlie?” She said, faintly.

“Took a real shine to ‘im last year,” George said cheerfully. “Charlie might actually stop by in a few days to see Harry, if he doesn’t Floo first, since he was the backup plan.” His smile trembled. “Charlie actually knows more than all of us about Harry, I think.” He shrugged. “Got Harry talking up a storm last year, apparently, and they’ve been writing like mad ever since. I won’t be surprised if Charlie comes in with the cavalry, an’ all that. Said to expect him in August if we didn’t hear from Harry by his birthday and,” George shrugged again, “it’s August and none of us heard from Harry by his birthday.”

Molly nodded, flicking her wand in several directions. One of them was to the doorway to cancel the silencing and re-directing charms she’d placed after Ron left the room. Several bottles came zooming across the kitchen from various cabinets and she handed them to George, giving him directions on how to use each of them.

“Stomach soother first or he won’t be able to keep them down,” she reminded him.

“Yes, Mum. And he’s got another cup of that potato soup of yours from the other night that he’ll drink before anything else.” He nudged the thermos she’d noticed earlier. “He drank all of it on the way here. Maybe you could make something like it for supper tonight?”

Molly’s smile trembled. “If you think he’d be able to keep it down, I will. I saw how pale he was when Fred brought him upstairs, the poor dear.”

George smiled softly. “We’ve got a month before school starts up again, and then the whole rest of the year to get him on his feet again. If I can get extra ingredients from Snape, and Madam Pomfrey clears me — us, really — to brew for the hospital wing, we might even be able to keep it from getting this bad again. That’s the hope, anyway.”

Molly knew her boys weren’t dragels — she’d made sure of that — but right then there was nothing in her mind than pure certainty that her twins would have made for excellent pareya. It was too early to tell, as they wouldn’t have inherited before they turned sixteen, but the baseline was there, even without the instincts.

Good pareya, she thought proudly, watching George leave the room.

She wouldn’t be surprised if her twins came to her in a few years, wondering if it was normal for them to feel this way about another boy. Wondering, too, if it was okay for them to be in a relationship with the same person. But that was the thing about magical twins, she’d tell them, they were one soul in two bodies — how could they not fall in love with the same person, and how could that person not fall in love with both of them back?

No, it wouldn’t surprise her to find herself with courtship questions for one Harry Potter in a few short years. Not at all.

She didn’t think she could pick a better partner for her twins, either, but she would have to wait and see what kind of boy this Harry ended up being when he wasn’t exhausted and healing from the kind of traumas no twelve year old boy should have to face on their own.

In the meantime, while she waited for the rest of her children to come down for breakfast, she had several lists to make — including a list of ingredients for the kind of medical potions she hadn’t had to make since Bill and Charlie were crawling around her knees and she’d contracted out to brew while Arthur worked long hours at the Ministry. Healing potions that were always needed, but often difficult to find on the shelves of apothecaries for prices that ordinary folk could easily afford — healing potions she had not needed to brew in many long years but still knew the recipes by heart.

Chapter 5: Summer Part 3: A Little Bit of Quiet and Some Time to Heal

Chapter Text

Summer Part 3: A Little Bit of Quiet and Some Time to Heal

When George finally stepped into the bedroom that he shared with Fred, his arms full of potions, he was struck by the sight that greeted him and had to pause to fully appreciate it, wishing he had a camera and a free hand to immortalize this moment.

Fred was sitting up in bed, back pressed against the wall, with Harry curled into him, back straight and pressed against Fred’s chest but legs curled up and over Fred’s, pressing his face into the hollow of Fred’s neck. They were both fast asleep, and they both had small smiles on their lips, the tension drained from their bodies and leaving nothing but trust and the bone-deep need for true rest behind. Fred’s arms tightened around Harry and his eyes fluttered open when George pushed the door open, but his eyes closed again and the last of the alertness drained from his body now that George was back.

George wasn’t worried — he’d happily keep watch while Fred caught up on some rest. Fred had been so focused on driving — flying? — the car back and forth from Privet Drive, after all, with no opportunity to rest or relax for even a moment. He quietly crossed the room, setting the potions down on Fred’s desk and glancing around the room to take in the small changes. It seemed like Ron had brought all of Harry’s things down, instead of just digging through his belongings and guessing what he would want. Ultimately, that was good, and it gave George something to work with.

He quietly crossed their small bedroom again and closed the door, flicking the sign they kept on the outside to “do not disturb” knowing that his siblings would respect the request for privacy even if their mother wouldn’t, before he flopped on his own bed, releasing a giant breath. He needed to breathe. He needed to stay strong. He needed not to feel like he and Fred had broken every last bit of trust that Harry had ever showed them in a single morning.

He needed something to do with his hands while his brain thought itself in circles.

Sorting through Harry’s packages and mail would be a simple task, though by the look of it when it had been revealed it might be time consuming. That would also be a task with a low failure rate, and be something he could do to make things less overwhelming for Harry once he woke up. Plus, even though Ron had started it, George’s sentiment from earlier was true: Ron would inevitably grow jealous of all of the mail Harry had received, gifts that had been sent to him for his birthday, or the connections Harry should have been making.

As George slowly picked through the surprising amount of mail that Harry’d brought with him, all of it unopened, he realized that there were truly a surprising amount of connections Harry was making — and not making. Of the two of them, George was better versed in social and political maneuvering, so he’d have to make sure to take some time to check in with Harry about his plans and who he was actually wanting to interact with in the coming years, as Fred wouldn’t be able to provide Harry with the kind of useful information he would need as the heir of an older family.

Truly, George wouldn’t be able to provide him with much either — but it would be better than nothing.

George separated out the food they’d sent to Harry — likely to be returned to the kitchen — and their own letters, a separate pile of mail and packages that was from Charlie and made it quite clear that Harry’d been understating the amount of writing they’d been doing over the past year, and a significantly smaller pile of mail from Ron and Hermione. There were three thick, high quality envelopes from Neville Longbottom, and a single letter from Oliver Wood paired with a brightly wrapped package for his birthday. George further separated out any of the gifts that were likely to be birthday presents, as most of them had colorful wrappings or a card attached, and he decided that Harry might want to open those first.

It took barely any time to sort through it all, and then to separate out all of the food that they’d sent that’d likely go bad shortly and the snacks that would keep for longer, and soon George was left with empty hands and a growing list of things he wanted to be doing in his head. Not a very good combination, though if he were Fred it would certainly result in some explosions. Still, George had never been great at sitting still and not doing anything. There was a reason he was the more active of the two twins, after all — for some reason he was quieter than Fred but took out most of his aggression and frustration on the Quidditch pitch.

That was not an option at the moment, however, as he needed to stay with Fred and Harry. Even though he knew that they were safe, and Fred knew they were safe, they’d spent too many nights with a Harry who’d been wound up and on his last thread of sanity and patience to know that he would never sleep if someone wasn’t keeping watch — not when he was hurt or injured in any way, at least. If he was just unsettled, it was simple enough to get him to sleep, and often it was easier to snuggle him up between Fred and George with both boys sleepy and warm, letting their clear lack of concern about their surroundings signal to Harry that they were safe and unconcerned.

When Harry was hurting, though, for whatever reason, he would not settle unless someone else was awake and he knew that they were keeping watch. And, somehow, he always knew. Fred and George had tested it a few times — if one of them dozed off while they were on watch, or the transition between them was unclear, Harry would tense and his sleep would turn light and fitful. He’d wake with every sound, and then all of that rest that they were trying to encourage would be gone. So in moments like this, Fred would have remained dozing, listening for George’s footsteps, and he wouldn’t have allowed himself to fall asleep — not truly — until George had taken up the watch.

George knew that there was a word for what this was, knew that it signaled something horrible in Harry’s past, but he didn’t know where to find the information or even if he truly wanted to know. Sometimes, he just didn’t want to know. It was enough to know that this was — more than a habit, a necessity of Harry’s life, and that there was a reason he had developed this wariness, this awareness.

Like so many things that had happened that day, it broke George’s heart.

So, although George could not join Ginny and Ron outside where they were de-gnoming the garden again, and he could not go up the hill to the field they practiced Quidditch, George knew there were some things that only he could do. He had to stay in the room, because Harry would wake up again if George left, and he could look over some of the notes that he and his brother had been working on putting together for pranks and experiments that were not pranks but would be called pranks… or he could pull out the books on healing that he had been collecting over the years and refresh his memory on them.

While healing had never been a passion for him in quite the same way that the pranks had been, he’d always been drawn to it for some reason. Now, his eyes taking in Harry’s too-small form, he wondered if he had finally found the reason for it. A reason that only his soul knew, a reason that the universe had decided for him years in advance and had been tempting him with so one day when they met, he would have the skills to be what was needed. So he wouldn’t be too late to help.

But first he could count up the savings he’d told his Mum about, and make sure they’d have enough to get Ron a decent wand and perhaps even help with Ginny. He’d already promised it, after all, and no matter how annoyed he was with his youngest brother he didn’t want the prat to get hurt. A wand from Ollivander’s was 7 galleons, after all, and one of the most important tools a wizard had — Ron really needed to have his own, especially going into his second year, and if that meant that they didn’t get extra pranks from the shops then George supposed he and Fred would just have to make their own through the year. The only thing they really needed to buy this year were the fireworks for their Hogwarts send off dinner, and he was sure that Mum kept a couple extra sickles around to make sure that still happened. After all, she had been the one to start the tradition with Bill.

They weren’t ready yet, but maybe they could even start selling their own pranks. Or, hell, they could start taking bets on Quidditch during the year. There were several different ways that they could make money during the school year, even if not all of them were strictly legal. They’d already tried out a couple different things.

George counted out the equivalent of 7 galleons, knowing he wouldn’t have to fight Fred about it but also knowing that he had several good reasons to convince him if he ended up needing to, before sliding the rest of the coins back into the green ceramic dragon he’d taken them out of and hiding them away again.

He dithered about for a few extra minutes, and then he eventually sighed, grabbed one of the earlier introductory texts to healing, and settled on his bed to review spells he’d never seriously considered needing to use but the spells now felt more important than any of his other school work.

With a friend like Harry Potter, who never looked for trouble but nonetheless always found himself neck deep in it, George knew that his healing skills would be put to the task before he was ready to pass the first practice test.

It was several hours later that Harry woke with a muffled gasp, pressing his face closer to Fred, and Fred gently ran his fingers down Harry’s hurting back, trying to calm him down. The gentle touch was unusual, and initially it made Harry tense up before he realized he recognized the arms that held him and the scent that tickled his nose.

“Shh, little lion, you’re safe now.” Fred’s voice was quiet but rough with sleep. “You’ll be all right, Harry, I’ve gotcha.”

Harry let himself relax into the arms that were holding him, his heart slowly calming. “Fred?”



On the other side of the room, George chuckled. “You wanna take him or should I?”

“I’ll take him — I could do with a wee myself. How long were we sleeping, anyway?” Harry felt Fred’s legs stretching underneath him. “Feels like it’s been a few hours, at least.”

“Up you get, Harry— gotta get you up before Fred can move,” George said cheerfully, coming around so Harry could see him over Fred’s shoulder. “We can get some more potions in you, now that you’ve woken up, and even some lunch if you’re feeling hungry. Mum came up to check on us a while ago, and she said she’d keep some soup under stasis for you.”

Harry accepted George’s hands, finding getting out of bed to be a fair bit more difficult than he remembered getting into it to have been. He put it down to still being half asleep, and figured he would be going back to sleep shortly after the trip to the loo.

Fred, who stretched his entire body as long as it could go while yawning as loudly and obnoxiously as he could make it, apparently had a different idea than Harry. As soon as he climbed out of bed, he started reaching for various things, and it wasn’t until his arms were nearly full that Harry realized what he was looking at.

“Shower time, then food time, then more medicine for ickle Harrikins,” Fred confirmed cheerfully.

“And probably should Floo Charlie before he shows up with the cavalry,” George added, swiping some of the potions from his desk. “I’d say write him, but he’s been waiting a while already and might have decided to travel when Hedwig showed up without a letter.”


Harry smiled. He so rarely saw one of the twins awake and the other mostly sleeping, he thought he would end up cherishing this moment no matter how badly his body ached. But, he thought, following Fred to the nearest bathroom — “Just upstairs, across from Ron’s room, mate” — even though he was exhausted, his wounds didn’t hurt as badly as they had before.

The three of them took turns using the loo, and then Fred and George rounded on Harry, working together with quick hands to tug off his borrowed clothing along with the bandages that had dried in the hours they’d spent wrapped around his body.

Harry was honestly surprised by how little it hurt.

“Pain reliever potion, then shower, Harry?” the vial of potion was held up in front of his face, and Harry took it carefully, drinking it down again as one of the twins started up the old shower, the pipes protesting as they filled with water.

“One of us can help you with your back. I’d really hate you to hurt yourself more trying to reach — and then after, we can put more of this one on the wounds. They’re actually healing up really nicely. Way quicker than they we’d expect them to be healing, actually.”

Harry bit his lip. He hadn’t ever needed help with his back before — or, maybe, he hadn’t ever been offered help when he actually needed it. Either way, he felt awkward about accepting it, and he wasn’t hurting that much right now.

“Go an’ let Mum know we’re up, will you Georgie? I think I can handle Harry for now, and you can probably use a cuppa while we’re in the shower. You didn’t get a nap like we did, after all.”

Harry blushed. That, more than anything, made it clear that he wasn’t going to get through this without accepting at least some help. With Fred and George, it was so much easier to give in and let them take care of him than it was to fight it. For some reason, he found, he didn’t really want to fight when they were offering to take care of him.

So, Harry stepped into the shower while Fred and George shuffled around each other in the small bathing room, and he tried not to feel too weird about letting himself be cared for by soft, gentle hands. He tried not to cry as he realized he’d never been treated so kindly.

“Alright there, Harry?”

Harry swallowed, feeling his tongue thick and fat in his mouth. He tipped his head back, allowing it to rest against Fred’s chest while the shampoo was rinsed away. “I think today might be the best day of my life,” he confessed quietly.

For a few minutes, there was no sound other than the splash of the water against their bodies while Harry soaked up the comfort he was being allowed and Fred turned that statement over and over in his head.

“No,” Fred decided. “Just the first of many, I think.” His fingers brushed against Harry’s closed eyelids as he finished washing the conditioner out of his hair, too, and ran those gentle fingers through the thick black locks. “The first of many, many good days.”

“Please don’t make promises you can’t keep, Fred,” Harry whispered, blinking open green eyes to meet Fred’s blue under the water. “Not to me.”

Fred’s smile was a little bit sad. “I never do, Harry.”

When the boys were finally done luxuriating in the hot water — unlike Muggles, their water was heated by magic and they never needed to worry about running out of hot water or paying extra for it, Harry was told when he asked — it was a simple matter of minutes for Fred to pat Harry’s back dry and start spreading the various potions that George had left out for them. He kept his hands gentle and light, but his sharp blue eyes noticed the way the wounds he hadn’t seen before were spread all over Harry’s back, along with the old scars that he had never seen before.

His little lion had been hiding more than they’d expected, and he already anticipated many late nights staying up with George, fretting about how they could help Harry.

Still, the time they spent quietly tending Harry’s wounds and even — especially — the time they’d spent together, just quietly existing, in the shower had done them a lot of good. Harry was comfortable with Fred’s hands on his body, no longer tensing up when he noticed Fred getting nearer. There was an instinctive trust that had been missing between them, and it was now present.

Fred was so glad to see another one of Harry’s barriers falling.

“Do you need the bandages again, Harry? George left us a fresh roll, if you do.”

Harry shook his head. “I know it doesn’t make sense, but I actually feel a lot better.”

Fred wasn’t sure what his back had looked like earlier, but he knew that Harry had healed an awful lot since they’d picked him up — rescued him, really — from his Aunt and Uncle’s house in Surrey. So, Fred didn’t doubt that Harry was feeling better.

Still, he wasn’t sure if Harry was better enough to go without bandaging the wounds, or if the potions smeared on his back would be enough to take care of the rest of it. Further, he wasn’t sure how Harry’s ribs were doing, and didn’t really know how to check that, but Harry was no longer flinching at every single touch and movement.

That meant that Harry was doing better, right?

Still, it was impossibly fast healing even for a magical child. With the way Harry’s eyes had been glowing when they found him, Fred knew that his magic had been active for a long time and had probably been working overtime in order to keep Harry alive and conscious. He didn’t know what that meant for his healing, or how long it would last for, and he really didn’t want to reach a point where it was no longer good enough and he accidentally made things worse.

Thankfully, Harry’s eyes were no longer glowing.

“Then, let’s go get some food in us, shall we?”

Harry smiled up at Fred, nothing but pure joy and adoration in his face, and Fred felt his heart thump suddenly in his chest, and his face heating up.

Well, Fred thought. This was going to become quite awkward eventually, wasn’t it?

Fred and Harry made their way downstairs, Harry dressed up in some of Fred’s old clothes, and they were met with practically the whole family in the dining room. There were two chairs open between George and Ron, and they were waved over with hardly any extra fanfare as everyone chatted amongst themselves.

“Feeling better, mate?” Ron asked, shoveling another forkful of mashed potatoes into his mouth as he looked Harry over.

“Loads,” Harry affirmed, settling into the chair that Fred pressed him gently towards. “Er—“

“Oh, Harry— let me get that soup for you, dear. Have you taken your potions yet?” Mrs Weasley bustled away from the table into the kitchen, returning with the bowl, spoon, pot, and ladle all bobbing in the air behind her before Harry could respond.

“Not yet, Mrs Weasley.” His eyes were wide as, within minutes, she had a bowl set before him filled with the same potato soup that he’d devoured in the car, a tall glass of milk in front of him, along with some fresh, warm bread and five vials of potions. “Oh. Er? Thank you?”

“You’re very welcome, Harry dear. Drink all of the potions before you eat the soup, mind. There’s plenty of food if you want seconds after you finish.”

Harry just nodded and followed her instructions after receiving a gentle poke from George. He quickly swallowed each of the potions, hearing muffled chuckles around him every time he failed to hide the face he made, and soon he was sipping on the thick milk and warm soup, turning an ear to the conversations around him as he ate.

Percy was happily debating… something… with George, gesturing with his fork to emphasize whatever point he was making, a bright pink flush high on his cheeks indicating the pleasure he was taking from the conversation, despite what the scowl on his face said. Harry honestly couldn’t keep up with it, let alone follow enough of the conversation to figure out what they were talking about in the first place.

Across from them, Mrs Weasley sat between her husband and daughter, easily navigating two different conversations and fussing over them. Neither of them reacted to Harry joining them at the dinner table, so he assumed that there had been a conversation earlier — either while he was asleep or in the shower — explaining his presence. Mr Weasley caught Harry looking and winked at him before turning back to his wife and attempting to redirect her fussing to focus on Ginny, who had gone quite pale when she’d realized Harry was looking across the table at her.

On his other side, Fred was chatting in low voices with Ron about various things, including gnomes in the garden and planning a pickup Quidditch game within the next few days. Harry thought he heard Fred ask something about schoolwork, but he could have misheard it as Percy suddenly shouted “a-ha!” and pointed his fork at George.

“Honestly, Percy, you really shouldn’t point your fork at other people while you’re still eating!” Mrs Weasley scolded. Percy blushed brightly and settled down again, scowling at George as if he had done it on purpose.

With mealtimes this loud and exciting, it was no wonder the Weasleys seemed to be so at home at the Gryffindor table in Hogwarts.

Even without him saying anything, the family seemed to understand that he was not really up for talking at the moment, and they all left him to enjoy his soup while they interjected in each other’s conversations. But all too soon, Harry was reaching his limit, starting to feel more than a little sick as he took in more food than he’d had access to in weeks — even knowing that one of the many potions he’d consumed before eating his soup had been a stomach soother and nausea reducer, he still wasn’t able to eat the entire portion of potato soup.

“All finished, Harry?” Mrs Weasley’s face was kind when he glanced up at her. “You ate quite a lot!” Harry made a face. “Well, you may not think so but— that bowl was set to refill automatically once you finished it, so if you still have soup in there, that would be why.” She smiled. “Rather have too much food than too little, I should think.”

Harry nodded. “It was delicious, Mrs Weasley. Thank you.”

“Oh, such a polite boy! The rest of you could really learn from him, you know!”

“Now, Molly,” Mr Weasley laughed, “they are your children, after all.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean, Arthur?”

“Nothing, dear, nothing. Didn’t mean a thing by it!”


Harry tried to hide a smile, but ended up covering a yawn with his hand instead, his eyes widening. How could he still be so tired? He’d only just woken up! But, he supposed, he had still been quite tired before he’d taken that shower earlier.

Mrs Weasley caught it, though — somehow. Her brown eyes raked over him, assessing, before she nodded briskly. “Might as well get off to bed, Harry dear, and let those potions do their jobs. I know at least one of them has a drowsiness component, so it doesn’t surprise me to find you’re nearly asleep. I’ll leave it to you to decide between the twins and Ron’s room, though I reckon it may be easier to stay with the twins tonight and decide tomorrow after we get a better look at your ribs, yes? Now, off with you lot while I clear this mess — Percy, Ginny, if you wouldn’t mind helping me with the table? Thank you, dears.”

And just like that, everyone was dismissed from the table and going their separate ways, and it seemed that the decision for where Harry would sleep that night was already made without hardly consulting him on it.

On the one hand, Harry really didn’t want to make any decisions right now. On the other hand… it felt like he’d barely had any say in anything since he’d gotten off the train once school had let out for the summer. And he certainly didn’t appreciate Mrs Weasley mentioning his injured ribs at the dinner table like that. He could get really angry about it if he let himself. With another big yawn, Harry decided he was too tired to let himself.

“Harry, mate?” Ron’s voice came from beside him, making Harry tense and then relax. “Sorry, thought you heard me comin’. Tough luck, havin’ to kip with the twins tonight — they don’t snore, mind, but I doubt there’s enough room for three of you in there.”

Harry smiled softly. “It won’t be my first time staying with them, so I honestly don’t mind at all. Probably more room here than in Gryffindor boys’ dorms after all.”

Ron stared. “Huh?”

Harry blushed. “Oh, you hadn’t noticed? I probably shouldn’t’ve said anything, then. Sorry.”

“What’d you mean, mate?”

“It’s just… I spent the night with them a few times last year, is all, so I’m used to sharing with them. None of us mind it.” He hesitated. “It’s no bother, honestly, if you want to keep your room to yourself while I’m here. I’m honestly not sure how good I’ll be on the stairs, and you said your room was all the way up top, right? Before the ghoul?”

Ron nodded, though the confused look on his face did not go away.

“It was — not fun — going up there for a shower earlier, and I don’t know if I would’ve made it without Fred and George helping me, honestly. Dunno if I’d be able to make it up and down all those stairs before my ribs and back heal up.”

Ron nodded again, and his face smoothed out — suddenly everything made perfect sense. Of course his best mate was concerned about his injuries! That made way more sense than Harry wanting to spend time with his stupid twin brothers. “Sure, mate. It looked pretty rough, and Fred and George have the room closest to the bottom. It’s probably easier on you to stay with them. Don’t send one of them up my way if you get sick of ‘em though, okay? They’re your problem to deal with, now.” He blinked. “Oh, but if you change your mind and want to stay with me, let me know and we’ll get it set up!”

Harry smiled. “Sure, Ron. And— thanks for bringing my stuff down earlier. I appreciate it.”

Ron’s ears went red. “’Course, mate. You’re lookin’ dead on your feet, though — go get some sleep. We can play tomorrow, okay?”

Harry nodded. “Sure. G’night, Ron.”

“Night, Harry!”

So, Ron thundered up the stairs — not unlike one Dudley Dursley, though several stone lighter — and Harry followed more quietly, peeking at each door until he saw the plaque that labeled “Fred and George” and made his way quietly into the room, the door having been left open a little bit.

He was the first one back, though that didn’t surprise him.

He took in the room overall — twin beds set across from each other, one against each wall, a shared wardrobe, two desks overflowing with parchment and notes and various different materials and covered in what looked to be old burn marks, with a large window set into the wall above the desks and two different bookshelves placed nearest to the bed of the twin they belonged to — and smiled as he made his way over to the desk that was temporarily home to his trunk and the rucksack they’d shoved everything in just that morning.

Harry was pleasantly surprised to see his mail had been taken out and sorted according to sender, neatly piled on the desk and ready for him to look through. Must’ve been George’s work, Harry thought, reaching out for the first letter he saw.

It was from Charlie, and Harry smiled at it while he settled down on George’s bed, tucking his feet up under the dark blue comforter.

Harry, it read in Charlie’s sturdy, blocky handwriting.

I really hope you’re doing okay, but I’m quite worried about you. I’ve decided that I’m going to take some time off of work and head back to my family home for a little bit this summer, and I really hope I get to see you when I do.

I just got a letter from the twins. Fred and George have both written me, and they say you aren’t answering any of their letters either. I’ll keep this shorter than I planned, because I have a feeling that you aren’t doing this on purpose, and that these letters are either not reaching you or you’re not able to respond to them if they are.

I really hope you’re at least able to read them right now, even if you can’t respond to them, and that they give you some hope in whatever situation you’re experiencing. Wherever you are right now, Harry, and whatever you’re doing, I don’t want you to ever think that you’re alone or that you don’t have people who care about you. I know I care about you. Very much. And I am very worried about you.

So, if I don’t hear anything back from you by your birthday, I promise you that I am going to return to England and find out where you are, and I will get you out of there no matter what it takes. So if you can read this but you can’t answer, I just need you to hold on a little bit longer until I can come get you.

The twins said that they have a plan, and they’ve managed to get Ron to help them. Regardless of whether it succeeds or fails, Harry, I will be there in two days.
I really hope you’re with them when I arrive. If, for some reason their plan fails and you aren’t with them when I get there, I want you to remember that I am going to come for you, okay?

I really hope that you’re able to read this, Harry.

I’ll see you soon.


This letter must’ve been days old, at most, assuming that the twins had told Charlie about their most recent plan to come get him. Harry ran his fingers along the lines of dark blue text, feeling like his heart was in his throat.

“Harry?” Harry looked up, and George was standing in the doorway, his red hair dark and wet, a stricken look on his face. “Oh, Harry,” he said quietly, closing the door behind him and crossing the room to crouch down in front of Harry. George reached up for Harry’s face and brushed his thumbs across his cheeks.

Was Harry crying? Is that why his face was suddenly wet?

A sob worked it’s way out of Harry’s throat, and suddenly he was being pulled into George’s arms again. So similar to that morning, only they were both warm and dressed and fed, and Harry had potions in him that were taking away all the pain.

“I’ve got you, Harry,” George promised. He heard the crinkle of the parchment as Harry pressed closer. “Was it a letter?” He felt Harry nod. “Can I see it? Or can you tell me what’s— Oh.” George rearranged them so he held Harry against his chest, letting Harry have all the contact and comfort that he wanted without smothering the poor boy, but he pulled out the crumpled letter and held it in one hand, unfolding it just enough to see Charlie’s handwriting before setting it aside.

If Harry was crying because of Charlie, that was okay. Charlie was always good at making people cry for only the best reasons — usually because he was so good at making others feel loved and supported and important. George could read the letter later, or if Fred came in before Harry settled down he’d just have Fred read the letter out loud. Either way, Harry was crying in his arms again and needed comfort now.

George wasn’t as good at it as Charlie, but he’d learned how to be someone that others could go to for a hug or a kiss to a bruised knee. Percy was never going to be that kind of big brother, and Fred was full of too many sharp edges for the others to feel comfortable with seeking that kind of aid from. Hell, the last time Fred had tried, his magic had gotten warped and caused the anti-nightmare charm he’d been casting on Ron’s teddy bear to invert on itself and had actually caused the nightmare rather than keep it away.

But George was very good at giving hugs, now, and very good at giving them to Harry.

He heard the door snick shut again, and glanced up to meet Fred’s worried blue eyes. “Letter from Charlie,” he said, nodding his head towards it.

Fred nodded and crossed the room, settling on the bed on the other side of Harry and unfolding the letter, placing one hand on Harry’s head while he read it. Soon, Fred was shoving the letter aside and pressing up against Harry’s back, wrapping his arms around both George and Harry.

“Charlie really cares about you a lot, doesn’t he, Harry?” Fred asked gently.

Harry nodded against George’s chest.

“He’s really the best at making people feel loved, isn’t he?”

Harry nodded again.

“You wanna see him in a couple days? If you don’t, we can tell him everything’s okay now and we’ve got you, but if you do want to see him we’re okay with it.”

“More than okay!” George cut in.

“Right chuffed about it, honestly. So, what do you say, Harry? Do you wanna see Charlie?”

It was barely there, but George could feel the nod against his chest.

“Okay. Then, we’ll see Charlie. And you and me and Georgie can cuddle up in bed, and nobody needs to worry about getting hurt anymore, and if you need to cry you can cry, and if you need a hug you can get as many hugs as you want. Okay?”

“I don’t know what I did to deserve you,” Harry whispered, his voice thick.

“You don’t need to know, Harry. You just need to know that you do deserve us.”

“B-but I don’t. I’m just a— a freak who—“

“You’re just Harry to us,” George interrupted, “and you deserve every little bit of love we can give you.”

“And in case you missed it from that letter, Harrikins,” Fred said softly, “we love you quite a lot.”

“So much, Harry,” George added. “We love you so much.”

When Mrs Weasley stopped by the room to check on them later, she found the three of them just like that: asleep on one bed, with Harry curled up between Fred and George, their arms wrapped around each other. Not wanting to disturb them, she simply flicked her wand and sent Harry’s glasses to the desk with his rucksack on it, and turned out the light before closing the door and leaving them as they were.

They hadn’t expected Charlie to arrive the following morning while they had been sleeping. Charlie must’ve left as soon as Hedwig had arrived, or perhaps even before she had gotten there because the first thing that Fred saw when he opened his eyes was his older brother’s worried face looking down at him, Charlie’s big warm hand in his hair.

“Hey, kiddo.”

Fred tried to smile up at Charlie, but he couldn’t muster his usual bravado. The hand in his hair just ruffled it a bit before leaving, and Charlie backed up a few paces from the bed.

“You three ready to get up? It’s early still.”

“Charlie?” George’s voice came from below Harry, still thick with sleep. His blue eyes opened and, indeed, it was a hazy vision of Charlie that he saw. “Hey, Char,” George said, smiling up at his brother.

Charlie smiled back.

“Harry, time to wake up,” George said softly to the boy who was still clinging to him. “Your other favorite Weasley brother is here.”

“Wanna sleep,” Harry mumbled.

George huffed. “You an’ me both, little lion, but that’s not happening now that Charlie’s here. Don’t you wanna say hi? He came just for you.”

Harry shook his head, making George roll his eyes.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him have this much trouble waking up,” Fred commented, trying not to laugh. “He’s gonna regret it so much when we tell him later.”

“Regret what?” Charlie asked, raising an eyebrow. “You can’t tell me you’re going to blackmail him already?”

Fred snorted. “After the reaction he had last night? I think he’s gonna crawl into a hole when he finds out he was trying to hide away from you, of all people.” Fred rolled his eyes and decided to take matters into his own hands, pulling Harry up and away from George.

Harry’s green eyes opened and he yelped at the sudden change. “Fred, what—“

“Hiya, Harry.” Charlie said, his voice warm and amused, with a smirk on his face.

Harry’s eyes landed on the third Weasley in the room and his face went bright red. “H-hi Charlie,” he said, suddenly shy and wide awake. “C-can you hand me my glasses, please?”

Fred handed him his glasses, grinning from ear to ear as George finally managed to sit up. “So, Harry, you wanna take back what you said a few minutes ago? Something about, oh, I don’t know, going back to sleep and not saying hi to your other favorite Weasley?”

Harry’s face went impossibly more red. “I’m awake now,” he promised, “really!”

“Uh huh. I’ll pretend I believe you.” Charlie backed up to give the three space to get out of bed, leaning against the closed door and looking them over with a critical eye. “Now, which one of you is going to tell me what’s been going on before I start guessing?”


“It wasn’t—“

“Actually, before that, will you check Harry’s ribs, Charlie? We fell asleep last night before we could look at them again, and it might give us a good idea what to start with today.”

Charlie turned his bright blue eyes on Fred. “And why does Harry need his ribs checked, Fred?”

“…because they were broken yesterday and I don’t know how quickly his magic’s been healing him this summer?”

Charlie turned those eyes on Harry, who seemed to shrink under the gaze, and nodded once. “Guess you’re getting back on that bed and telling me a story while I check you over, Harry. Shirt off, please, and I’ll be casting some spells on you while we’re at it. So you better start talking.”

Harry nodded and sent Charlie a sheepish smile. “Really, I’m feeling much better!”

“When we got to his Aunt and Uncle’s house yesterday, it looked like he’d been burning magic for days,” George said quietly. “Anything would be an improvement on that.”

Charlie frowned. “Yeah, I’ll say.”

“Sorry, little lion, but if Charlie says you’re getting a checkup, there’s no getting out of it.”

“I’m not a healer or anything, but there have been plenty of scrapes on the reserve and not enough people to fix them, so we all pick up a little healing and first aid.”

“Sit.” Harry sat. “This is going to be a diagnostic charm.” Harry nodded, and Charlie cast first one spell, and then another, his brow furrowing at the results he got. “Well, I’ve gotta say that I don’t like anything of what I’m seeing, but I imagine I’d like it a lot less if I’d been here yesterday.” He crouched down in front of Harry and opened his arms. “Your ribs are healed up enough that I can give you a hug, if you want one. I know that I really want to give you a hug, at least.”

If it had been anyone else asking, Fred and George knew that Harry wouldn’t have moved a single centimeter. But this was Charlie. Charlie could get a dragon to listen to him, and could probably talk a dragon into a hug, too. So it didn’t surprise them to find Harry, who had been so overwhelmed at the thought that Charlie could possibly care about him just the night before, throwing himself into Charlie’s arms.

“Sure am glad that he’s been diagnosed as huggable, huh Gred?”

“Right you are, Forge. Not like we didn’t sleep all cuddled up together or anything.”

Charlie laughed. “Well, you asked about the ribs first thing, so I wanted to make sure before I squeezed him to death or made them worse. Looks like they’ve healed up fine, though — I’m guessing you gave him some skelegrow?”

“Might’ve been why he was sleeping so hard overnight,” George suggested. “Mum gave him some right before dinner. But he’d also had more than a few potions beside that one.”

“If you get me some parchment I’ll do a deeper scan— or not.” Charlie looked down at the suddenly very tense Harry in his arms. “Harry?”

“Can’t you just check and see if everything that’s wrong right now is better and forget about all the rest of it?”

Charlie sighed. “I don’t like the way you said that, Harry.”


“I mean— I do want you to get a full history scan, more than just outside of Hogwarts. Especially since you were raised by Muggles — who knows if you’ve gotten your vaccinations! But that’s not something I’m able — or even qualified — to do. And I doubt Madam Pomfrey does it at Hogwarts, even though she really should be doing that. I found out that other schools do it once a year, can you believe it?” Charlie shook his head. “Sounds like Hogwarts is really behind the times now, but nobody wants to make the changes to keep up with the other schools in other countries. Anyway. The most I can go back is a recent history — maybe within the past few months, depending on the scale or number of the injuries you’ve had. But it’ll help us know what to focus on the most.”

Harry chewed his lip and peeked around Charlie to look at Fred and George, who each had a worried but serious look on their faces.

“We need to get you one of those deeper historical scans, little lion,” Fred said when he saw Harry peeking at him. “But for now, if we know what’s been done— I know you said the pictures always disappeared, but if we have this along with our memories from getting you out of there, it might be something, yeah? Will you let Charlie try?”

Charlie’s eyes sharpened on Fred. “You’re trying to build a case, then?”

“We have to try something,” George stated. “I know we’re young, but our memories are admissible in court. And you’re not qualified as a healer but —“

“But first aid certification is plenty for this to be admissible as a legal record, too. Yes, it’s admissible under the ICW at least. But we might not be able to do as much as you want to, and I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up.”

“As long as he doesn’t have to go back there again, I’ll be happy,” Fred said.

“We’ll do what we can,” Charlie agreed. “Even if it’s not a lot, we can at least start laying the groundwork and say that we tried. So, what do you say Harry? Will you let us try?”

Harry looked up at Charlie hesitantly, and then he nodded. Slowly, the stubborn face he’d worn most of the previous year took over his features. “Even if it doesn’t do anything, doesn’t change anything,” he said, “I still want to say that we tried.”

Charlie nodded once, sharp and decisive. “Then we’ll try.”

Within minutes, Harry was sitting on the bed again and Charlie had a roll of parchment on the floor in front of him unraveling more and more as the charmed quill listed injury after injury. Harry’s stubborn, mulish face did not change even as Charlie felt dread settling deep in his gut at the injuries he saw listed on the page and lighting up on Harry’s body.

“Good news is that Mum’s potions seem to be doing their jobs just fine, and your magic must’ve been working overtime to heal everything else this summer,” Charlie decides to say, glancing at his brothers who shared the same pale, distraught look. “The bad news is that I don’t know how to fix even half of what else is showing up on this scan, and if you’re not willing to see an actual healer about it this summer there’s nothing else that I can do for you.” He smiled, but it was a thin, grim line on his freckled face. “This is as good as it’s going to get at the moment, though I’d hesitate to give you a clear bill of health.”

“Think he’s well enough to play Quidditch with the three of us?”

Charlie rolled his blue eyes. “Should he? Probably not for a couple of days. Will he do it anyway? Probably.” He snorted. “I’m betting Harry probably shouldn’t have been playing Quidditch in the first place, based on his health.”

“But he does—“

“—and none of us ever got health checks.”

“Of course not.” Charlie blew out a long breath. “So I’ll leave it to Harry’s discretion when he feels well enough to get back on a broom, but I definitely don’t want him playing rough with anything for the next several days at least. So no tackling him, you two.”

“I’ve gotta practice for the year, anyway — Wood would hate to find out that his Seeker hasn’t been doing drills over the summer! Can you imagine?”

Fred rolled his eyes. “You’ll just have to remind him that you can’t do drills because you live with Muggles, mate. He’s a halfblood — he’ll understand that you live in a Muggle neighborhood. He won’t like it, mind, but he’ll understand.”

“Oh. Really?”

“Really, Harry. He seems like he’s Quidditch crazed — and he is — but he does have some common sense knockin’ around in that brain of his.”

“Wouldn’t be able to stay on as the Captain of the Quidditch team without having good grades,” Charlie added. “Solid EEs, at least, in most cases.”

“Someone should tell Ron that,” Harry grumbled.

“Hmm?” Charlie raised an eyebrow. “Why do you say that?”

Harry blushed, not meaning to have his words overheard. “Er, well— did I tell you about the Mirror of Erised?” The three redheads looked confused. “No? It, er, it’s a mirror that shows your heart’s greatest desire…?” They all shook their heads.

“Not even a little familiar, Harrikins.”

“Oh. Maybe I… have some more things about last year that I should tell you?”

Charlie snorted and stood up, dusting off his knees and snatching the quill and parchment from the ground as he did. “Understatement of a century, little dragon. For now, what does this have to do with Ron?”

Harry blushed. “Well, he and I went together the second night after I told him what I’d seen in it, and one of the things he’d seen was Quidditch Captain. He was Head Boy, too, I think.” Harry shrugged, his expression brightening when he realized he could move with less pain than before. “Only, he doesn’t try very hard when it comes to his school work and spends a lot of time slacking off. If you need good grades for Quidditch Captain—“

“You need stellar grades to even be considered for Head Boy, too,” Charlie interrupted, nodding. “If those are things he honestly, truly wants, he’s going to have to make some changes now and put in the work for it. I’ll talk to him about it, now that I know it’s something that was on his mind.” Charlie reaches out with his left hand and places it gently on Harry’s head, smiling when Harry beamed up at him. “Thanks, little dragon.”

Harry blushed. “Thank you for trying, Charlie.”

“Of course!” Charlie ruffled Harry’s hair. “Let’s go get some food, and probably some more potions for you if I’m honest Harry, and then we can spend the rest of the day together, okay?”

“Harry’s still gotta tell us about his summer, since he never answered any of his letters,” Fred teased. “Though he’s got a lot of mail to get through besides just ours. It really piled up.”

“It’s not my fault a crazy house-elf decided to steal my mail to keep me from going back to Hogwarts! Dobby even did magic while I was at the house — sent the pudding crashing to the ground while my Aunt and Uncle were having a business dinner, only I’m the one who got in trouble from it. Got a warning letter about accidental magic and everything.”

Every time Charlie thought his eyebrows couldn’t possibly climb any higher, they did. “There is just so much wrong with everything you said, Harry, and I don’t know where to start. When was this?”

“Found out about it on my birthday, I think. That’s the day Dobby showed up and ruined pudding. That’s the house elf’s name. He taunted me about not getting any letters from my friends, not even for my birthday. It was… a couple of days before Fred, George, and Ron flew out to get me, actually,” Harry said, careless of the way his words made the three Weasleys freeze and stare at each other in dawning realization and horror.

Harry had been hurt so badly because a house-elf had done magic in front of the Muggles that he lived with, and Harry had been blamed for it. Not only that, but somehow the magic had been reported to the Ministry and was logged as being Harry’s magic.

“Can’t say I’ve ever wanted to hurt a house elf before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything,” Fred muttered to George, trying to keep his expression casual and light.

George shrugged one shoulder but ultimately agreed. “Think it knew how it would end, though? I mean, it certainly knew enough that any magic would get Harry in trouble, but—“

Fred shrugged. “Not sure I care, honestly. It must’ve known enough, and still did it to get Harry in trouble, and possibly expelled from Hogwarts. That’s enough for me.”

“Please don’t hurt the house elf,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “I think he’s honestly been hurt enough as it is — Dobby talked about having to iron his hands and other punishments. Still, if I never see Dobby again I’ll be happy about it. Once is enough.” He tapped his chin, brow furrowing in thought. “Though I think I’ve seen him at least once before, while I was out in the garden earlier this summer. His eyes looked familiar.”

A knock came at the door, before Ron was opening it and sticking his head into the room. He blinked, seeing four people in the small room instead of the three he had been expecting. “Oh. Erm. Hello? Mum wants everyone downstairs for breakfast.”

Charlie nodded. “I’ll let these three get dressed, Ron. Why don’t I go downstairs with you?”

Ron brightened. “Really, Charlie? That’d be brilliant!”

Fred stuck his tongue out at his older brother, who responded by reaching out a long, tanned arm and ruffling his hair.

“Save some food for us,” George called, turning to pull some clothing from the wardrobe for the three of them.

Charlie laughed. “You’ll have to come downstairs soon, then. No dawdling.” He followed Ron out of the room, and before the door had closed all the way they heard Charlie asking Ron about any goals he had for school.

“Quick change, then breakfast—“

“—potions for Harry—“

“—and maybe some flying?”

Harry grinned. “Honestly, I’d be happy enough just getting outside for a little while. I’m still tired, and those potions are going to make me sleepy… but I don’t want to be stuck inside for the rest of the summer.”

George nodded. “That’s easy enough, then. Hey, maybe Charlie will show off his skills on a broom for you while he’s here!”

“Really?” Fred and George nodded. “Wicked! I’d love to see him fly — I could probably learn a lot from him. Even if I’m not allowed to fly yet.”

“Then get dressed, little lion, and we’ll get this day started.”

Fred laughed. “It’s always some sort of chaotic mess, but it’s home. This is probably the quietest you’ll ever get.”

Harry’s smile turned smaller, softer, but no less genuine. “It’s brilliant.”

Chapter 6: Summer Part 4: A Week with Charlie


Charlie's come for a visit, and everyone at the Burrow breathes a little easier.


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Summer Part 4: A Week with Charlie

In the end, Charlie was only able to stay at the Burrow for a little less than a week. He had originally only been planning to stay for a couple of days, but with the combination of the last letter received from the twins and Hedwig showing up without a letter for him, he’d taken a couple of extra days off of work and left early to get there. He even called the Reserve once to reschedule his return so he could spend a couple more days with the family.

He spent the extra time with all of his siblings, and Harry noticed the way they all seemed to flourish under his attention and wilt again once Charlie announced he would be returning to the Reserve.

Harry was not immune to the charm that was Charlie Weasley, however, and he knew it. He’d been lucky enough to see some fantastic flying and was disappointed that he’d been denied time in the skies with Charlie on his Nimbus. But Charlie was used to stubborn, persistent younger sibling types and did not give in because Harry pouted up at him with big green eyes.

“You’re still healing, little dragon,” Charlie kept telling him. “There’s plenty of time for us to fly together in the future, so just be patient and get better, okay?”

Harry hated being patient. But the one time he’d reached for a broom, Charlie had turned his bright blue eyes on him in the coldest glare he’d received and Harry had to make a quick decision on if he really wanted to test Charlie’s patience.

Harry realized he really, really didn’t want to find out what would happen if he did something Charlie didn’t like. He could wait until school was back in session to fly, and maybe he would get to fly with Charlie the following summer.

So instead, Charlie showed off his amazing flying skills and Harry carefully made note of the moves Charlie was teaching him for the following Quidditch season, even jotting some of them down on a spare bit of parchment. And Harry spent a lot of his time with Charlie revising material from the previous year that he’d had trouble with at the time, noticing how much easier it was to learn with Charlie explaining things to him. It was even easier when he didn’t have to hide how quickly he grasped the material, since Ron still scowled every time he saw Harry with his nose in a book. Instead, Charlie praised him for his quick wit, or corrected his mistakes with a fond smile and an easy to follow explanation.

Harry tried to make time for Ron, but he seemed to be more disagreeable than ever. It didn’t matter if Harry invited Ron to sit and study together, explaining that Harry’s ribs still ached or he was too tired to play for long — Ron scowled, turned up his nose, and stomped away. If Harry was studying with Charlie, Fred, or George, the result was the same. All Ron wanted to do was fly, and if Harry couldn’t fly with him then there was no point in spending time together. (Harry tried not to show how much that hurt, and he was grateful Ron waited until he was alone to say something, or else there’d be a big scene about it with pranks galore, he was sure.)

Harry also finally found the time to tell Charlie all about the adventures he’d had the previous year but hadn’t been able to find the words to write about in his letters. He wondered about the look of intense concentration on Charlie’s face while he told the stories, and the pointed questions, but didn’t think too much about it.

Harry found it was just so easy to talk to Charlie, and he never had to worry about what he was saying or whether Charlie would be upset, even if it was something he knew Charlie didn’t like to hear. He knew Charlie would rather know, and would rather have the truth. It was actually something that Harry could relate to and respect, and he found that he respected Charlie more and more each day that passed.

He never felt like Charlie was treating him differently than his siblings or making him into the favorite — he was just included, the same way that all the other family members were being included. It was nice. He was even more aware that he was being included in the same way as the others when Charlie introduced him to one of Ginny’s childhood friends — he’d gone to pick her up and bring her over to play with them, but he wanted to make sure Harry knew who she was.

Little Luna Lovegood had looked up at him with the biggest, brightest blue eyes he’d ever seen and wrapped her little hands tightly around his. “We are going to be the best of friends, Harry Potter,” she’d whispered to him, her smile stretching wide across her face. She’d turned that grin on Charlie immediately and thanked him for the introduction.

Luna found it very easy to talk to Charlie, too — even though she’d come over to spend time with Ginny, Luna had sat with Charlie and Harry until suppertime talking about all kinds of magical creatures and their habitats, doing little dragon impressions that made Charlie laugh so hard he fell over, and then they just laid in the grass together comparing shapes they saw in the clouds. Ginny never once came over to speak to her friend, and Luna looked a little sad when he’d asked her about it but only shook her head and started talking about another trip her father was taking once she left for school, asking Charlie if he had any thoughts about what Mr Lovegood might find while he was gone.

When Luna left for the night, she’d wrapped her arms around Harry in the softest hug he’d ever received, and told him that she was looking forward to seeing him at Hogwarts. Harry found himself hoping that Luna would visit again before the summer was over, and smiled through the gentle teasing from Fred and George, and Ginny’s blushing jealousy.

Late at night, when everyone in the house was supposed to be asleep, Harry’d find himself curling up on the sofa next to Charlie, whispering stories about what it’d been like to grow up with the Dursleys. Little secrets that the twins didn’t know, that Ron never asked about, that could never be shared in the light of day. He’d let himself confess how much it hurt to know he was unloved by the only family he had, and then he’d let himself be pulled into Charlie’s strong arms and try desperately to believe that there were people who loved him now. Every night he fell asleep crying in Charlie’s arms, and woke up to Fred and George’s gentle smiles.

Harry couldn’t bring himself to ask if Charlie shared the stories. He didn’t think he wanted to know, and if Fred or George knew his secrets they weren’t telling.

Unfortunately, Charlie ended up having to leave for the Reserve the same day that they had all planned to go to Diagon Alley for their school supplies, and he’d regretfully told them over breakfast that there was no way he could reschedule. Apparently, he had already rescheduled his return once, and twice was pushing it.

And so, Harry was hugged just as much as the other Weasley siblings, and Charlie was leaving through the front door of the Burrow in what felt like a whirlwind after exchanging promises to write during the school year.

It had been the best summer Harry had ever had, but he couldn’t help but feel a little lonely once Charlie was gone. He wondered if the other Weasleys felt the same.

It seemed to be only minutes after Charlie left, and it was off to Diagon Alley for all of them, using something the family called “the Floo” to travel to the Leaky Cauldron. Like so many other things, Mrs Weasley must have figured Harry knew what she was talking about and how to use this very magical mode of transportation, because she only gave him a brief reminder to speak clearly and sent Fred and George along ahead of him.

At least Fred and George could be counted on to try and explain what was happening, though their mother was rushing them along.

“Throw the Floo Powder into the fire, Harry, and step into the flames once they’ve changed color.” Fred and George stepped into the large fireplace as one before Fred continued the explanation. “Then you just say where you’re going, like this! Diagon Alley!”

And just like that, the twins were gone and Mrs Weasley was pushing him forwards to grab a pinch of Floo Powder and head through the fireplace himself.

Despite Fred and George giving him rather clear instructions and a demonstration, Harry still felt overwhelmed when he found himself on the floor, covered in soot with broken glasses and no Weasleys to be found, and hearing a very familiar, but muffled, whining voice getting closer to him by the second.

Somehow, wherever he had ended up, Draco Malfoy was here and whining — about Harry of all people, really? — to his father. There was only one good response to this: Harry needed to run away, and if he couldn’t run then he had to hide.

He’d been making his way slowly towards the glass door of the shop, but soon he could see Draco and Mr Malfoy in the doorway in addition to hearing Draco’s voice clearly in the shop instead of slightly muffled from behind a door. Harry looked around and decided that he’d hidden in worse places than the clean, black cabinet he saw standing behind him, and he scrambled inside. He closed the door, jamming his fingers between the door and the frame to keep it from latching, and peered through the gap just in time to see the Malfoys passing by his hiding spot.

While Draco whined, Mr Malfoy seemed to mostly ignore him, steering his child with a stern hand and expressionless face.

“—and of course everyone thinks he’s so smart, that perfect wonderful Potter with his stupid hair and his fancy new broomstick—“

Harry grinned to himself. He hadn’t heard anyone actually call him smart, especially with how poorly he’d been doing in classes. And really, Draco Malfoy had told his father at least a dozen times? Maybe Harry would have a shot at befriending the other boy this year, if he could actually get some time alone with him.

Keeping an ear on the conversation Mr Burke and Mr Malfoy were having — something about the Malfoy patriarch needing to sell a great many things because of Ministry raids? — Harry crept out of the cabinet and snuck away, trying to stay out of sight until he could sprint to the door.

Draco tried to wheedle his father into getting him a gift while they were in the shop, and Harry suddenly found himself feeling so grateful to the spoiled prat that he considered coming back to buy him the Hand of Glory himself if it kept the adults distracted long enough for Harry to leave without any trouble.

As much as Harry wanted another chance to befriend Draco Malfoy, he knew that the pureblooded snob would not give him the light of day if he’d shown up covered in soot and wearing broken glasses. Especially not if his father was nearby.

Thankfully, Harry was the quick and quiet sort, so he’d made it out of the weird shop without alerting the three other occupants even as the bell above the door sounded as he opened it. Harry escaped and found himself in a dingy alleyway that seemed, at first glance, to be devoted to at least a few stores dedicated to the Dark Arts — or maybe they were just run-down and poor, but there was a nasty window display dedicated to shrunken human heads across from the shop he’d just exited, and that was plenty for Harry to make up his mind.

Not the place he wanted to be wandering around, half-blind and covered in soot. Though, he thought, it was probably magical enough that he could risk a repairing spell on his glasses.

He decided to risk it, and was quite happy to have newly repaired glasses on his face, as well as using a quick charm he’d learned from the twins to get rid of the soot that had covered his body. Feeling marginally better and more sure of himself, Harry thought that he would like to explore some, only to deflate when he realized he had to get back to the Weasley family before they came looking for him.

If he’d kept his invisibility cloak on him, he could wander to his heart’s content. But he’d decided a trip to Diagon Alley for school shopping ultimately wasn’t worth the risk of losing the cloak, and he’d left it tucked away with his photo album in his trunk.

There were two older wizards watching him from the shadowed doorway of another shop, both dressed in shabby clothing and speaking lowly to each other. Taking a deep breath and scrounging up his courage, Harry started walking towards them.

“Excuse me, sirs,” he started, once he was close enough to see their surprised faces. “Which way is the Leaky from here? I’m supposed to meet a friend and got a bit turned around.”

The older looking of the two barked a laugh, revealing stained yellow teeth. “I’ll say, lad. An’ bollocks of steel, approachin’ strangers on yer own in Knockturn, aye?”

Harry smiled sweetly. “You were already looking at me, and I thought it would be rude to leave without saying hello. Most people would think it’s an invitation to a conversation, you know?”

“Got some manners on yeh, then?”

Harry shrugged, feeling nerves alight in his belly from the way the second man’s sharp brown eyes looked him over. “Always easier to be polite first and rude later than it is to make up for a bad first impression. I did get separated from my friend in one of the shops, though, so I’d appreciate if you pointed me in the right direction.” He suddenly felt the need to get away from the two men, their eyes making him uncomfortable the harder they stared at him. “I’m running late meeting up with them, and I don’t think Mr Malfoy appreciates tardiness when we’ve got a reservation.”

The men suddenly paled, looking back at each other. “Don’ wanna keep Mr Malfoy waitin’ none,” the first man agreed quickly. “Diagon’s jus’ there,” he pointed, “keep goin’ straight down that way an’ you’ll take a left at the apothecary at the corner. Quicker ‘n gettin’ back to the Leaky from here, anyway.”

Harry smiled brightly up at the men. “Thank you so much! I appreciate the help, sirs!”

He waved at the two and walked quickly down the alley in the direction they’d told him, never knowing that he’d rounded the corner just in time for Hagrid to exit one of the buildings himself.


What was your favorite part of this chapter? A last minute addition, mine was the surprise introduction of Luna Lovegood! Now, we're off to Diagon Alley for the required Annual Shopping Trip!

Chapter 7: Summer Part 5: Diagon Alley


In Diagon Alley, Harry finds himself mourning his decision to be a good boy who listens to adults instead of being the rebellious pre-teen that he felt himself becoming.


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Summer Part 5: Diagon Alley

Harry hurried to meet up with the others, knowing that no matter what they all needed to go to Gringotts and would be heading there directly. He didn’t know if he’d end up meeting everyone out on the streets, or if they would have all headed into the bank and were simply waiting for him to join them. He figured that he’d head to the bank first, since that was their ultimate destination, rather than wander through the crowds. It ended up being the best choice, as he saw Hermione standing on the white steps in front of the bank with two people who could only be her parents, quietly discussing changing their Muggle money for Wizarding money.

Hermione glanced up, her eyes darting around the crowds as if it was something she had gotten in the habit of doing, but she froze when her eyes slid over him and turned sharply his way. Hermione blinked and jerkily took a step towards him before stopping, likely unwilling to leave her parents.

Harry didn’t mind, though, and he smiled at her while he walked over to the three Grangers, stepping carefully up each of the steps that led to the bank, walking quietly so he did not interrupt their conversation.

“Harry!” Hermione called happily, once he was in earshot. Her parents heads’ jerked up from where they’d been leaning towards each other for their conversation and they looked over at Hermione and followed her gaze to where he was approaching. “Oh, Harry, it’s good to see you! Come meet my parents!”

He waved quickly and found himself laughing, pausing on the steps to catch his breath before continuing towards her. “It’s good to see you, Hermione.”

She twisted her fingers together in front of her, wanting nothing more than to reach out and pull him towards her, but she remembered Ron’s letter about how they’d found him earlier that summer all too clearly. She didn’t know how quickly or slowly ribs healed. She didn’t want to hurt him any more than he had been, and it was going to be a long day as it was — if he was freshly healed, it would be a long enough day anyway and they’d be returning to school soon. She could put off a hug for a little bit longer.

But as she dithered and fretted, Harry had come close enough to her that he could wrap an arm around her shoulders and give her a squeeze. “Introduce me to your parents, Hermione?”

Hermione blushed bright red, her grin fierce and full of pride, and she introduced them. Dr and Dr Granger, dentists — Harry’s heard plenty of stories over the year, and they’ve heard plenty of stories about him over the summer since their daughter came home from school. They’re so happy to meet the friend that means so much to their little girl, and he’s so happy to meet the adults that raised Hermione.

They’re all headed into the bank, the Grangers intent on completing their task of exchanging currencies, when Harry heard his name being called and he turned to look over his shoulder.

Mr and Mrs Weasley, along with all of the rowdy children that came along for the trip, were rushing towards the bank, waving their hands and calling for him.

Harry pursed his lips, thinning them for a moment before forcing the expression to relax into nothing. “It’s our other friend, Ron, and his family,” he explained to the Grangers apologetically. “I got separated from them when we got here, and they’re probably going to want to meet you.”

The two looked at each other and shrugged. “It’s fine,” Hermione’s mother said. “We can all go in together. I’m sure you and Hermione don’t want to split up now that you’ve found each other, so we can do most of our shopping together.”

And so, the Grangers meet the Weasleys.

Somehow, Mrs Weasley ended up with Harry’s Gringotts key — and every time he asked for it back, she somehow never heard him. She also seemed to have something to say every time he tried to speak with the goblins, interrupting or speaking over them at every opportunity. Then, she and Harry were in the carts below the bank moving too quickly to talk and with Mrs Weasley looking quite green besides. They stopped quickly at a nearly empty vault, the small pile of money in it quickly scooped up into Mrs Weasley’s purse — mostly knuts and sickles and a single gold galleon — before they were going deeper into the depth of the bank.

Harry felt shame and guilt eating him up when he compared his own vault, full of gold and silver, to what he had seen of the Weasleys’ family vault. He tried to imagine how it would be possible to buy all the school supplies for another year at Hogwarts, and a new first year at that, with a handful of sickles and a single galleon. Wands were 7 galleons, after all, and that meant nothing to him and his apparent generations of wealth— but it meant everything for a family like the Weasleys, who had nothing but love and kindness to give.

Once they reached the surface, Harry tried to head back to the goblin teller, now very curious about the accumulation of wealth in his vault, only to find himself waylaid by Mrs Weasley again, her arm wrapping gently around his shoulder and directing him towards the exit of the bank.

Harry tried to wrestle his frustration down again, realizing that for the second time he’d been at the bank the adult who accompanied him would not be allowing him to speak to the goblins. Once could be an accident, and twice a coincidence, but three times was a pattern — Harry wasn’t sure he wanted to let it get that far.

“Mrs Weasley, before we leave for the day, could I come back to the bank?” Harry asked as she led him down the steps. “I have some questions that I wanted to ask…”

Harry didn’t have any specific questions prepared for the goblins at Gringotts, but he could easily find some if that was the excuse it took to get his answers. He vaguely remembered something from one of Charlie’s letters during the school year, but couldn’t quite recall what it’d been about, only that he should check in with Gringotts for some answers. Charlie had reminded him to check with Gringotts before he’d left, but the details were just out of reach.

Mrs Weasley huffed. “I’m sure Arthur and I can answer any questions you have — no need to go back to the bank for that, dear. Besides, we certainly won’t have time to go back before you’re returning to Hogwarts.”

“Then maybe I could come back while everyone’s still split up?” Harry pressed. “I don’t want to bother you or Mr Weasley while you’re busy.”

“Nonsense, Harry. You’re no bother at all.” She squeezed his shoulder. “Come along, now, we have a busy day ahead of us, especially with Hermione and her family joining in today! You need to stay with someone the whole time we’re out, after all.”

Harry pressed his lips together tightly. Definitely a pattern, and not one that he liked. Why was it so important that Harry stayed away from Gringotts, or that he was always accompanied by an adult while he was there, and most importantly: why was he not allowed to ask his questions?

In the end, Harry had to go along with what Mrs Weasley demanded of them. And, yes, it was a demand. So, he’d tagged along with Ron and Hermione to get ice cream and catch up on how Hermione’s summer had been going. Every time he tried to veer off into one of the stores, either Ron or Hermione would catch him and pull his attention away, dragging him off to whatever they’d decided they were doing.

Frankly put, Harry was beyond annoyed and found himself wishing that he’d stayed in Knockturn Alley rather than rejoining with the group. It honestly reminded him of how things were at Hogwarts, with him being unable to go off on his own or make his own decisions or relationships. Like he was constantly under surveillance or being chaperoned.

Harry was twelve now, thank you very much. He could be trusted with some independence. And, yes, Ron and Hermione were older than him, but they were also twelve, so why did they get to be in charge of him while they wandered the Alley?

He wasn’t even allowed to pop in to say hello to the twins and Lee Jordan when they passed Gambol and Japes joke shop!

So, like he had gotten used to the previous year, Harry pushed his frustration and budding resentment down until his face was nothing but a pleasant mask of a boy enjoying the day with his friends, pretending that there was nothing more exciting on his mind than spending insane amounts of money on ice cream treats.

When they met up with everyone at the bookstore an hour later, Harry was beyond done with this trip and was already looking forward to going back to the Burrow for the rest of the summer. Maybe he’d write back to Neville and explain why he’d missed out on the birthday party and hadn’t even responded to the invitation, or maybe even send that letter to Draco Malfoy that he’d been avoiding writing all summer.

Actually, the letter to Draco Malfoy seemed like a much better time than standing in line behind whatever… that crowd was doing here for Gilderoy Lockhart. Harry peered around one of the adults in the crowd to read the sign. Apparently Mr Lockhart, who made up almost the entire book list, was in Diagon Alley for a book signing of all things today. Harry really would rather not be present, but alas — he also needed to pick up his books today, and this was where they were being sold, so he had no choice in the matter.

By the time the whole situation was behind him, Harry found himself mourning his decision to be a good boy who listened to parents instead of being the rebellious pre-teen that he felt himself turning into. Not only had he been immediately recognized and manhandled, but he’d somehow been made into the center of attention and gotten his picture taken for the newspaper. He really should have stayed in Knockturn Alley or ditched the Weasleys for the day.

At least now Ginny had a selection of free, signed books, for Defense Against the Dark Arts, and he had undeniable proof that there was some sort of bad blood between the Weasleys and Malfoys and not just Ron and Draco feuding. He tried to stay out of it, and did not respond to any of the taunts sent his way, but at the end of the day he really just wanted to go home. Even if he didn’t really know where home was — anywhere but here sounded like a good place to be.

Whatever caused the altercation between Mr Malfoy and Mr Weasley, Hagrid’s sudden appearance was enough to break it up. Both adults looked more than a little winded, and Mr Malfoy’s hair was in disarray. Harry didn’t care to know why they’d been fighting, nor did he care to get involved with it any more than he’d involved himself in the younger Malfoy and Weasley pair’s feud, but ultimately Hagrid drew attention to him. Again.

“All righ’ there, Harry?” Hagrid’s booming voice called over the crowd.

Anyone who wasn’t paying attention to them before suddenly had their eyes trained on the group, looking for a peek at Harry Potter out shopping for the day at Diagon Alley.

Harry plastered a thin smile to his face. “Thanks, Hagrid!”

It was a cold comfort, but Harry just grit his teeth and imagined crawling into George’s bed once they got back to the Burrow, knowing that he could hide away in the twins’ room and nobody would think anything about it or question his decision. Even though he was feeling much better than when he’d arrived, it was still hard for him to spend the whole day active, and they’d gotten used to him disappearing for a few hours at a time. Whether that was to take a nap or just rest, it would serve him well for the rest of the summer.

Harry knew without asking that he definitely wouldn’t be allowed to go back to the bank after that entire debacle, even if he explained his plan to Mrs Weasley, and certainly not without having another adult along as a chaperone. He turned the thoughts over in his head as the group headed back towards the Leaky Cauldron to Floo back to the Burrow.

It wouldn’t matter to her that he wanted to put together a couple of pouches of money to split between various Weasleys — though he had no doubt she would accept the money from him, as he’d caught George paying for Ron’s wand and Fred paying for Ginny’s books. He thought she would appreciate him paying her back for hosting him for the summer, regardless, and he guiltily remembered the empty vault he’d seen at the bank.

He also wanted to replenish the funds he’d used while purchasing school supplies that day, and pull together some money to pay back Fred and George for all the potions that they’d been feeding him through the summer. Whether they bought them all or brewed them, Harry knew it could be expensive, and he didn’t want to be a burden on his friends.

Harry did have an idea of how much money he’d spent the year before, and knew that he had taken out more than enough money to get him through the rest of this school year if his spending habits remained the same. Only, he knew he wanted to make some different purchases in the coming year — especially now that he had friends, and birthdays, and Christmas to worry about! — and that would end up being more expensive than the year before, when he’d really only bought candy and treats via owl order at Ron’s insistence.

He’d just have to be more careful with his purchases if he wanted to make the most of what he’d withdrawn for the year. Less candy, for one thing, which would inevitably make Ron scowl and Hermione beam. And maybe he could spend some time shopping around for better deals instead of ordering everything all at once, especially since he knew about Knockturn Alley now. After all, he was twelve — he could plan his purchases better! And now that Charlie was involved in his life, he had an adult that he could look to for advice and questions.

Charlie, at least, allowed him to ask his questions and always, always answered.


When will our Harry x Independence OTP become canon?! Sadly, that's a slowburn romance.

We have a Hermione appearance! There's been very little of her in first year because she only really joined the boys after Halloween and spent much of that time orbiting around them rather than integrating herself into their existing friendship. Here, we see Harry and Hermione getting along by themselves and also how things go when Ron is with them. She's still learning how to Friend, but she's trying very hard. Unfortunately, she's had to try very hard all by herself this summer except for Ron's very short replies to her very long letters, so she has a lot of learning to do.

Alas, no solo Gringotts conversations or inheritance tests this trip -- thank you to those of you who've been paying attention and have asked about it!

Hopefully next chapter will be the last of the summer 1992 chapters and we can start second year with a bang!!

Tell me in the comments what you're most looking forward to in Harry's 2nd year! Do you have any relationships you'd like to see develop? Characters you'd like to see introduced? Activities Harry finds himself involved in? (To my dragel friends -- we don't get any dragel stuff in Harry's POV until 3rd year at the earliest, so please be patient until then!)

Chapter 8: Summer Part 6: Final Week of Summer


Time passed in the way that all time in a liminal space inevitably does: slowly, then all at once.


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Summer Part 6: Final Week of Summer

With a week left of the summer holiday, the Burrow was bursting with activity. Everyone in the house was constantly doing something or being interrupted by another person, whether it was packing for school, finishing up summer homework, or even pretending that there was nothing more urgent than throwing the gnomes out of the garden again.

Harry had already finished his summer homework, thanks to Charlie and the twins keeping him company while the others were flying and he was stuck on the ground. He was still filled with the bone-deep ache of exhaustion, so flying was out of the question — even though it was the only thing that Ron wanted to do after Charlie talked with him about Quidditch captaincy. He still liked to spend time outside, though, whether it was taking short walks around the property or just sitting in the sun. He’d often borrow a book from Percy or the twins and sit under one of the small trees near the clearing the siblings went for flying and Quidditch.

Ron spent practically all of his time in the sky or playing chess alone in his room. Harry couldn’t do most of the physical things that Ron wanted to, and he was no good at chess, but he was still able to take walks and hold conversations, though Ron thought that would be more boring than schoolwork and left Harry to his own devices.

It honestly made Harry feel a bit lonely. But Harry was used to being alone, and he could often find one of the twins or even Percy, who was willing to spend time quietly with Harry as long as he didn’t interrupt whatever Percy was working on. Harry was very good at remaining quiet and not interrupting, and Percy was always willing to share his school notes and answer questions.

Ginny spent most of the summer locked away in her room, writing away in a black journal she must’ve gotten with her school books at Diagon Alley. None of the Weasleys questioned this, so Harry figured it must be normal and he didn’t push her to spend any time with him. It was weird sharing a house with someone that didn’t speak two words to him, but it also was nothing unusual.

Time passed in the way that all time in a liminal space inevitably does: slowly, then all at once. Harry could appreciate the magic in that, too.

Harry also found himself eating almost constantly, some sort of snack to nibble on appearing by his side throughout the day no matter where on the property he was. It was especially nice when he was already exhausted from a walk and needed to stop for a break.

Of course he’d caught on that it was the work of the twins. They weren’t trying to hide it. On the one hand he was glad because he found himself getting hungry throughout the day, and it was nice to immediately take care of that need instead of shoving it down, but on the other hand…

“George,” Harry whined, “I really don’t need another sandwich.”

George just shrugged. “Sure you do. Especially if you want to be off of nutrient supplements any time soon. Keep this up and you’ll still be on them in December.”

Harry pouted at that. “Fine, I’ll eat the stupid sandwich.”

George beamed, reaching out to ruffle Harry’s hair. “Thank you, little lion!” George settled down in the grass next to Harry, passing over the sandwich. “You know the drill. Lots of smaller meals and snacks throughout the day until you can handle a regular sized meal, Harry. I know you don’t like it, but we’ve had to start all over again because of your awful family. You lost every gram we put on you and then some, and that’s even without the extra strain from running on nothing but magic for several days.” He bumped shoulders with Harry. “We just want you safe and happy, you know?”

Harry smiled up at George, feeling suddenly shy at the attention. “I know.”

George blushed. “What are you up to right now, Harry? More cloud gazing?”

He hummed. “I finished reading all of my mail last night and wanted to start responding to the letters, so I was thinking about the responses and decided to take walk. This is my break.” Harry leaned back so he was supporting himself on his hands and tilted his face up to the sky. “The sun feels really good right now, so it’s nice, but I’m also really frustrated — you know? It’s annoying that I have to stop so much.”

“Well, yeah. But you’re still healing, you know? And you’ve been pushing yourself.”

Harry snorted. “Not like that’s going to matter when we go back to school. I can just hear Snape now, complaining about Potter needing special attention and building a reputation of tardiness. Probably say I’m just like my father again, or some such.”

George shook his head, a wry grin on his face. “Something like that, I’m sure, though I bet your mum was never late to anything a day in her life.”

Harry shrugged. “Wouldn’t know, would I? Nobody ever talks about them.”

George leaned close, resting his head on Harry’s shoulder. “Bet we could ask around for some stories, though. Won’t hurt for me and Fred to try, right?”

Harry held his breath. “You would? Really?” His voice was so small. “It’s just— nobody ever answers me when I ask about them, or they say they will but—“

“’Course I’d try, Harry. It’s for you.”

He can hear Harry’s breathing stutter, feel the shoulder shake under his cheek, but George kept his eyes closed while he waited for Harry to collect himself and decide. Harry’s head bumps into his own when he rests it gently against him.

“Thank you,” Harry whispered.

George doesn’t say anything else, content with sitting quietly with Harry even as his mind works away at the new project he’s taking on. He knows some people who would’ve known the Potters, and he can always ask the professors. Even just one story would be more than Harry has now, but he wouldn’t be satisfied with that and neither would Fred. His thoughts were interrupted as Harry sighed, making him sit up and look over at the brunet who had returned to eating his sandwich.

“What’s with the face?”

“Born with it.”

George snorted. “Try again, mate.”

Harry shrugged, taking another bite out of the sandwich. “Just worried, I guess. Thinking about how I’m supposed to respond to Neville— he doesn’t know about this summer, you know? And he… he was really looking forward to spending our birthdays together.” Harry looked up at George. “Did you know his birthday’s the day before mine?” George shook his head. “It’s wicked! Only… he’s really upset that I didn’t respond to any of his letters over the summer, not even to tell him that I couldn’t go to his birthday party, and…”

“Well, that’s easy, innit?”

“Wha— George, how is it easy?”

“Just write him an’ say that you’re sorry you couldn’t respond until now, you didn’t get any of your mail and your Muggles took your owl away for the summer, but you’ll catch him up on the train.”

“And he’d believe that? I mean, it’s true and all but…”

George shrugged. “’Course it’s believable, Harry. Even purebloods get punished by their parents. You don’t need to tell him anything you don’t want to. He’d probably figure you’d been grounded or something.”

Judging by the blank look on Harry’s face, it was something he’d either never considered or had no experience with. George knew enough about life at the Dursleys to know that there was another boy there, and that Dudley was a “perfectly normal” boy according to his parents, but that look said there was a lot more going on than Harry’d shared. George didn’t like it one bit.

“What’s really bothering you about it, Harry?” George asked softly.

Harry looked away and shrugged, stuffing the last bite of the sandwich in his mouth as he considered. He started picking at the grass below them when he answered. “What if I’ve already messed it up?”

“Messed what up?”

“Neville,” Harry whispered. “I wanted to be friends with Neville, but what if this was my chance and I messed it up and now he doesn’t want to be friends with me?”

George took a deep breath, held it, and let it out slowly.

This was good, actually. Harry was showing a desire to know other people. George wasn’t Ron, didn’t want to keep Harry all to himself, but… it was nice, knowing that he was one of the only people Harry turned to for comfort. He tried to squish down the jealousy squirming in his gut.

“Then you apologize,” George said lightly. “You tell him that you want to be friends with him, and you messed up, and you want to try again. But I know Neville, Harry — he’s already a little sweet on you, and he wanted to be friends with you last year already. You don’t need to worry so much.”

“What if… what if it’s not just Neville?” Harry mumbled. “What if I messed up with someone else and I want to fix it? What if… what if an apology isn’t enough, or they don’t want me because of my other friends?”

George tried to ignore the squirming, tried to squash it down harder. “You can still try, Harry.” His curiosity won out over the jealousy, and he found himself asking, “Who’s this other person, then?”

He wasn’t prepared for the way Harry’s green eyes flicked up towards him, full of fear, before they looked away.

“Hey, whoa, you don’t need to tell me if you don’t want to—“

Harry shook his head. “I just… what if you don’t want to be with me because I like them, too? Ron never…”

“Ron’s a jealous prat and he doesn’t see what’s in front of his face half the time,” George spat. Harry flinched at the tone. “I know we’re brothers, Harry, but you know we’re not all like that,” George tried to soften his tone. “You know he’s my brother and I love him, but I’ve also known him his entire life.”

How did Ron get brought into all of this? George thought. Weren’t we talking about letters? He tried to track the conversation in his mind, remembering what Harry was saying and acting like, and it hit him.

George let out a slow exhale. “You’re worrying about Ron, aren’t you? Not the letters or the mystery friends.”

Harry nodded, his face drawn and miserable. “He’s—“

George snorted. “I know exactly what my baby brother’s like. No wonder you’re worried about even poor Neville. Ron’s not going to like that.” He leaned closer and dropped his voice low. “But you know what, Harry? That’s okay. He doesn’t have to like everything you do. You’re allowed to be just Harry, and he can be just Ron, and you don’t have to do everything together all the time. Me ‘n Freddie are different people, too, didn’t you tell us that?” Harry nodded. “And neither of us minds it when Lee goes and spends time with others. So make your friends, Harry, and don’t worry about anyone else while you’re doing it. They’re your friends. It doesn’t matter if Ron doesn’t like them — Ron can have his own friends.”

Harry thought about what George was saying, and some of the things he wasn’t saying, turning it over in his head again and again. But, really, George hadn’t been leading him wrong in the year that they’d known each other, and Harry knew he could trust him. So, he’d decide to trust George with this, too.

“I know he’s going to be mad about it,” Harry whispered, “because one of them’s Draco Malfoy.”

The silence between them grew and grew, and Harry felt the sharpness of anxiety cutting into him before suddenly George was laughing — cackling, really — and pulling Harry back with him to lay in the grass.

“Oh, Harry,” George said, tugging him closer, “You sure do make things harder on yourself, don’t you?”

Harry just nodded and tried not to feel miserable about it.

But something in him kept circling around the idea of Draco Malfoy, telling him that he should get close, try again, like it knew that there was some kind of irreplaceable relationship just waiting to be built between them, if only he found the courage to reach out.

“I don’t mind if you want to chase after the little blond prat,” George said quietly, “but you gotta know that there’s a lot of history with the Malfoys and the Weasleys, and everyone’s going to say something about Harry Potter being friends with a Malfoy because of what his dad did in the war.”

“I don’t care what his dad did in the war!” Harry said, hotly. “I’m not trying to be friends with his dad, am I?”

George cackled again. “You keep that attitude, little lion. You’re gonna need it.”

It took a little while for George’s laughter to die down, but when it finally did quiet, Harry turned over on his side and looked up at George’s smiling face. “Do you think it will, though? Work, I mean. With Draco.”

George’s smile was soft. “’Course I do, Harry. It’s you, after all. And if you need any help wrestling that dragon, I’m sure Charlie’s got some tips. Don’t know how much help me an’ Fred’ll be but we’ll help with whatever you need, too, if it means so much to you.”

“It does,” Harry nodded, his face serious. “I don’t know why, but for some reason it does. He does, I mean. Draco. And I already messed up before.”

“Then we’ll help. But I gotta warn you, he’s on a whole different level than us — when we say rich prat we’re talking like… rich as the Queen levels of rich, Harry. Proper noble an’ all. Compared to that, Weasleys are… well. You know how we are, Harry. We never tried to hide it. Poor’s poor.”

Harry nodded, taking in that information. “How about this, then?” Harry smiled up at George. “Rich prat or not, he’s still a twelve year old boy. What do other boys my age like to do? Wizarding ones, I mean.”

George grinned. “Well, that’s easy!”

And with that, George was off, happily telling Harry stories about growing up in the wizarding world. Harry listened, taking note of different activities that he’d like to try but couldn’t because the Weasleys didn’t have access for whatever reason, paying especially close attention to the things that he could do while at school.

Draco Malfoy wouldn’t lower himself to play a game of footie, but he’d probably be up for a Seeker’s game.

Dear Neville,
I’m so sorry that I haven’t responded to any of your letters this summer. Thank you so much for writing me, it really helped cheer me up. It’s a long story, and not a very happy one, but I promise I’ll tell you what happened when I can see you again, okay? For now, I hope you understand that I wasn’t able to receive any of my letters for most of the summer and Hedwig wasn’t allowed out, either.

I really appreciate the birthday card and I’m looking forward to the gift you mentioned, but you really didn’t need to get me anything. If you don’t mind, will you save me a seat on the train to Hogwarts and we can rise together? I want to know all about your summer! I’ll buy you whatever you want from the trolley lady as a late birthday gift.

I really am sorry, Neville. I hope you’re willing to give me another chance.
See you at school!

Dear Harry,
I hope you don’t mind me writing, but I’m too excited to wait for school to start up! I’m really glad that Charlie introduced us this summer, and I would have been really sad if I had to wait to meet you for even another year. Can you imagine if I had to wait to see your smile until you were 15? It would be a sad world, indeed.

Which do you like more, Harry? Necklaces, bracelets, or earrings? Oh, but you don’t have your ears pierced, do you, so it’s probably necklaces or bracelets. If you do want earrings, though, Mummy taught me a charm how to do them before she died, and I would be oh so happy to do them for you!

I think I’ll be in Ravenclaw, but I would like it if you’d let me eat with you at Gryffindor sometimes while we’re at school. Maybe we ought to study together? I’ve read all of the books for DADA and that author really doesn’t have a single clue about anything, does he? I think it’s going to be a dreadful time, but Daddy says I still need to go to class even if the Professor is a dimwit.

I hope you still want to sit together on the train, Harry. But if you don’t want to sit with me, I’ll understand. Ginny said we’re not to be friends anymore, though I don’t know why, so it won’t be the first time a friend didn’t want to stay friends with me.

Daddy says I need to finish up this letter, so I’ll leave it off here.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer, Harry. Please tell Fred and George I’m looking forward to their back to school firework show, and ask them to have it outside this year please.



The last day of the holiday, Mrs Weasley made all of Harry’s favorite foods for dinner, including a delicious treacle pudding that he was tempted to pack with the rest of his school supplies under stasis. Fred and George, true to Luna’s prediction, set off fireworks after dinner was finished, and Mrs Weasley actually looked like she was enjoying it for once instead of biting back reprimands. By request, they had set off the fireworks in the backyard instead of the kitchen, and that probably had something to do with Mrs Weasley’s candor.

They were all sent to bed earlier than normal, with a stern reminder that they would be leaving for King’s Cross Station first thing in the morning — first thing meaning at dawn, Ronald, not ten — and all their packing needed to be done tonight if they were to get there on time for the train.

Curled up in bed between Fred and George, Harry couldn’t fall asleep because he was so excited he could practically feel himself vibrating with it. The three of them whispered to each other, suddenly going silent when they heard the floor creak or Mrs Weasley poked her head into the room to check on them.

“Okay, mates. Time to sleep for real this time,” Fred decided. With his arms wrapped around Harry’s middle, it was a simple task to dance his fingers along Harry’s side and make him squirm from the ticklish sensation.

“Fred!” Harry protested, trying to stifle his giggles, “how am I going to sleep if you’re tickling me?”

George grinned. “Yeah, Freddie. Harry’s got a point. I might just have to steal him away from you if you want us to sleep.”

Fred gasped. “You will not.” Yet he still didn’t stop his fingers, pressing himself even closer to Harry’s back and meeting George’s mischievous grin with one of his own.

“Fred, please?” Harry gasped, trying to squirm away. Ultimately he didn’t get too far, locked between two strong arms and bracketed on either side by a twin. He failed entirely at keeping his giggles from escaping, and decided it was time to ask for help. But when he looked up and saw the mischievous grin on George’s face, he knew he was beat. “George?”

“Dunno what to tell you, Harry,” George said innocently, pressing just a little closer to Harry. “Freddie’s right— and you’re such an easy target, too, lying here between the two of us!” And just like that, Harry lost the battle, Fred and George both tickling him until there was no way to hide his giggles and tears were flowing freely from his eyes.

Thankfully for Harry it was only a few minutes of tickling, squirming in between Fred and George, before they heard the creaking on the stairs from pounding footsteps coming their way again and stopped their tickle torture.

“Boys!” Mrs Weasley’s sharp reprimand came from behind the door. “That’s enough!”

“Sorry, Mum!” the twins chorused, grins wide on their faces and mischief in their voice.

“Go to sleep now or I will separate the three of you!”

Over the past weeks, Mrs Weasley had found that was one threat that immediately worked on all three of them, and it was no different this time: their faces sobering, Fred and George pulled their hands out from underneath Harry’s borrowed pajama shirt.

This was also the second time she’d scolded them tonight. They all knew that they wouldn’t make it to three — instead of a scolding, that would be when they’d be separated, and the door would be locked from the outside and only able to be unlocked by Mrs Weasley in the morning. They’d found out the hard way once this summer already, and none of them had enjoyed it.

“Yes, Mum!”

“Goodnight, Mrs Weasley!” Harry called to her.

“Goodnight, boys!” she called back.

They listened to the footsteps going back upstairs, holding their breath as the door upstairs finally slammed shut and they could breathe again.

“You got us in trouble!” Harry hissed, turning to look over his shoulder and glare at Fred. “Again!”

Fred snickered. “So sorry, Lord Harrikins, I won’t do it again.”

Harry kicked his foot back, knocking into Fred’s shin as he continued to laugh. “You better not — your Mum’s not joking, and I do not want to spend another night listening to Ron snoring!” He scowled. “It’s bad enough I’ll have to hear it all year as it is.”

“Well,” Fred drawled, twining his long legs with Harry’s shorter ones, “you know we won’t ever complain about you crawling into bed with either one of us once we’re back at school. So long as we don’t get caught by a professor, I don’t see what the trouble is with you sleeping with us every now and again.”

Harry relaxed back into Fred, now that he seemed to be done causing mischief in their bed. He looked up at George, who just smiled at him. “Yeah?” Harry asked.

“You bet,” George confirmed. “After getting to sleep with you like this for most of the summer? Don’t rightly know how I’ll go back to sleeping without my own Harry, honestly.” He smirked. “I might have to sneak in with the firsties —“

“Second! I’ll be a second year! I’m not a firstie anymore!”

He snickered. “Of course, thank you for the reminder. I’ll just have to sneak in with you if you go too long.”

“We came after you once, we’ll do it again!” Fred threatened, laughing.

Harry blushed. “And I’m really glad you did,” he said sincerely, his voice soft with the memory of seeing the car at his window. “But I don’t think the other second years would be too happy with me about sneaking a fourth year or two into our dorm!”

“Probably not!” the twins chorused.

“That just means you’ve gotta do your best to visit,” George declared.

“Of course, your favorite of all the Weasleys might spirit you away in the night anyway,” Fred decided, wrapping his arm around Harry’s middle again and giving him a little squeeze.

“But how will Charlie sneak into the school in the middle of the night, let alone the second year dorms?” Harry teased. He snorted when Fred pinched his side. “Okay, okay, I get it.”

“Nah, now you’ve gotta say it.”

“Who’s your favorite Weasley, Harry?”

“It’s suddenly very important to us.”

Harry blushed. “I’m not telling.”

“No can do! You started it, and now you know how to finish it.”

“If you don’t give us the right answer, I’ll tickle you again—“

“—and then you’ll have to sleep with Ron.”

“Ew.” Harry scrunched his nose. “I guess you’ve got the upper hand on this one.”

“Upper—“ Fred wiggled his fingers, underneath Harry’s arm.

And lower!” George wiggled his fingers, tickling just under Harry’s ribs.

Harry squirmed, biting his lip against his laughter. “Okay, fine!” he chuckled. “The Weasley twins are my favorite of all the Weasley siblings, I promise! It’s just Gred and Forge for me, and they’re tied!”

They’d played this game too many times over the summer for him to forget exactly how he was supposed to answer. And once he said the magic words, the twins stopped tickling him, satisfied.

“Gotcha, Harry!”

“Right answer.”

With a little more moving around, slower and quieter now, the three of them re-situated themselves and were once again comfortable and wrapped up in each other, legs and arms tangled and Harry neatly sandwiched between Fred and George. Then, one of them was yawning and the other two were following suit.

“No more laughing,” Harry protested, grinning even as he tried not to laugh. It was impossible not to giggle at the situation.

“What was that?” George yawned. “Tickle Harry until he—“

“What? No!”

Fred laughs.

The three boys were quiet for a few minutes, and then—

“I think I’m too tired to sleep.”

Fred and George both snort. “Really?” They laugh. “You don’t say?”

Harry pouts. “You’re both being mean to me. I’m too tired to sleep, and you’ve tickled me all night, and now you’re being mean to me.” Harry can feel Fred’s silent laughter shaking his chest. “Stop laughing!”

“Shh, I’m sleeping.”

“No you’re not, you liar!”

“Hey!” George said, “You two might not be, but I’m at least trying to get to sleep.”

Harry slammed his eyes shut. “I’m going to sleep now,” he declared. Sleeping, sleeping, sleeping, he repeated in his head.

It was barely minutes before he was opening his eyes again, finding himself staring into George’s wide blue eyes. George blushed, and Harry found himself blinking in surprise.

“Sleeping,” Harry whispered the reminder, trying to keep his voice as quiet and serious as he could.

It was George’s turn to laugh silently, his shoulders shaking.

Harry closed his eyes again.

Every now and then one of the three boys would let out a little giggle and be poked for it, only for silence to reign again as the perpetrator was scolded and they all tried to sleep again just for someone else to laugh and ruin the quiet.

Until this time, when Harry found himself laughing at nothing and then he was being scooped up and rolled over, his back bumping against the wall before he was resettled and his face was pressed into George’s chest.

Enough,” George grumbled. He wrapped his arms around Harry, one hand buried in Harry’s black hair and the other hand gently rubbing up and down Harry’s back. “Go to sleep, Harry.”

And, really, Harry couldn’t complain about being petted.

It was also apparently very effective because, before Harry knew it, he had relaxed and was falling asleep in George’s arms, a happy little hum escaping him as he pressed his face closer to George’s chest.


This entire chapter had me fighting for a scene with Ron and Ron kept sending me straight to voicemail. I hope you enjoyed the extended Harry/George solo time instead!

Also, for those of you who are interested in such things.... I've now left enough hints that you should be able to identify George's Pareya rank and sub-type(s)!

Chapter 9: Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 1: Platform 9 and 3/4


Harry is off to Hogwarts for his second year of magic school! Surely nothing can go wrong on the way there, right?


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 1: Platform 9 and 3/4

For all the time that Mrs Weasley spent scolding or reminding her children of various things that morning, Harry had to admit that she knew what she was doing when wrangling them all together for the trip to Hogwarts. Everyone had been fed and had come downstairs reasonably dressed for the train ride, all of them had at least one sandwich packed for lunch and waiting for them in a labeled bag and under stasis charms, and the things that they were sent back to their rooms looking for were all lower priority items that didn’t have anything to do with the school list and everything to do with each child’s individual comfort while they were away from home for months at a time.

After a while, everyone was fully packed and loaded up in Mr Weasley’s Ford Anglia: eight people, six large trunks, two owls, and a rat. They had started to leave on time, all packed into the car like sardines even though it had clearly been altered by magic, and they were almost at the highway when Ginny screeched about forgetting her diary.

“Could we send it to you in the post, dear?” Mrs Weasley asked.

“No!” Ginny pouted. “I need it now! I want to write all about my trip to Hogwarts on the train, and the Sorting, and everything before I forget about it!”

Mr Weasley sighed and turned the car around, heading back to the Burrow to pick it up before Harry’d even gotten a chance to wonder when he’d see the house again. Ginny ran faster than he’d seen her go all summer, sprinting back out of the house with a plain black book cradled in her arms like it was something precious, an dthen they were off again.

Harry quickly found himself thankful to the long nights he’d stayed up helping Fred and George pack, because they might’ve missed the train entirely if anyone else called out that they’d forgotten anything.

By the time they’d made it to the train station, there were flaring tempers all around and Harry just wanted to find a compartment to sit in by himself. He’d hide under his invisibility cloak and give himself the solitude he craved as a treat for behaving the entire trip, even as he got elbows in sensitive places.

And so it was a flustered group of redheads and a singular brunet that exited the car, dragging all sorts of oddities with them until Mrs Weasley dashed ahead to grab trolleys, and then they all made it to the wall between Platform 9 and Platform 10.

They were running late, and it made Harry anxious. Weren’t the Weasleys supposed to be good at this? They’d been doing it for years at this point, juggling several children since Bill had turned 11 and made his first trip to Hogwarts, not to mention that Mr and Mrs Weasley had their own experience to fall back on.

It was odd that Harry’d had an easier time with the trip to Hogwarts last year, when he’d had to juggle an unwilling, non-Magical family.

Still, he was told to hang back by Mrs Weasley while she directed the others to go through two at a time — Percy and Ginny, Fred and George, Mrs and Mr Weasley, then him and Ron — and as Ron disappeared through the wall, Harry found himself slowed as if he was trying to push his trolley through thick layers of molasseses. He never made contact with the wall, but he certainly didn’t move through it like he was supposed to, either.

He stopped pushing against the force and it seemed like all the resistance disappeared, only for it to reappear when he started pushing again. So, knowing that magic was finicky even on a good day, Harry took his hands off of the trolley cart and waited.

It took everything in him not to crow in victory when the creature from before — Dobby the house elf — appeared in his dirty, ragged outfit, looking guiltily up at him with huge green eyes and twisting his floppy ears while sitting on Harry’s trunk.

“You here again to give me trouble about school, then?” Harry asked sharply, trying his best to keep his face clear of emotions and his voice down so he didn’t attract attention from the Muggles around him.

“Dobby is being very sorry about before, Harry Potter, sir.” His squeaky voice was low and he twisted his ears even more as he stared mournfully at Harry. “Dobby is not being knowing, sir, that Harry Potter’s Muggles be the same kind of mean to Harry Potter that Dobby’s family is being to Dobby, sir. So Dobby is being very sorry that his flying pudding made Harry Potter be hurt by his family, sir.”

Harry scowled. “So now you know why I can’t stay there?” Dobby nodded, tears filling his bulging eyes as he continued to twist his ears. “If you don’t let me through here and let me get to Hogwarts, they’ll just bring me right back to those Muggles. And if I go back to them, they’ll just hurt me even worse than they did before. Do you understand what that means, Dobby?”

Dobby’s lips trembled. “Dobby is being using his special magic to help Harry Potter sir when his Muggles leave him,” Dobby confesses. “Dobby had to iron his hands and smash his toes for using magic his family doesn’t allow, but Dobby could not leave Harry Potter there to die, sir, he couldn’t.”

“And if you make me go back there, they’ll hurt me even worse than that, Dobby! Only this time, I won’t have someone to heal me, will I?” Harry pressed closer to Dobby and lowered his voice. “My friend said my magic was almost burned out because it was working so hard to heal me from the damage they did to me that night. Said it could have turned me into a squib if it hadn’t killed me first. Is that what you’re trying to do to me, Dobby? Are you trying to kill me?”

“Oh, no! No, no, Mister Harry Potter sir! Dobby is only trying to stop Mister Harry Potter sir from being in danger while he is at the magic school for wizards, sir! Dobby is not—”

“Then you need to let me go to the school, because whatever bad things are happening there this year are still safer than what’s waiting for me back at the Dursleys. And if you don’t let me through the barrier to get on the train, then I’ll just find another way to get to the school — even if I have to send a letter to the Headmaster and ask for a teacher to come pick me up. Do you understand, Dobby the House Elf?”

Dobby pulled his ears down and nodded fervently. “Dobby is understanding, Mister Harry Potter sir. But Dobby is being worried that Mister Harry Potter sir is being in danger at Hoggywarts.”

Harry dropped his voice lower still. “And Mister Harry Potter sir is worried that he will die if he does not return to Hogwarts this year, Dobby. Because he knows that he is safer at Hogwarts than anywhere else, even if Hogwarts is not a safe place to be.” He snorted. “But you already knew that, didn’t you? How long were you watching me, Dobby, that you knew that I’d get in trouble from a little bit of magic?”

Dobby whined, but didn’t answer.

“How long were you watching me to know that my family would decide to punish me the way they did?”

Dobby still didn’t answer.

“Did you know that they starved me, but you still thought it was better than going to Hogwarts where they’d give me food? And you didn’t— How long were you watching me, Dobby, and deciding yourself that you couldn’t feed me while they weren’t looking? I know you saw how they beat me, you said it yourself that you healed some of the wounds before I was rescued— how long do you think I’ll last before they do me in this time, hmm? Do you think it’ll be a day? Maybe two days? And then you’ll have to go back to your family and know that you could have helped me by keeping me away from the danger at Hogwarts, but you sent me back to my Muggle family and straight to my death.” Harry paused, letting that sink in as the little house elf trembled. “Do you want that responsibility, Dobby? Do you want to know in your heart that you were the reason that your precious Harry Potter Sir is dead?”

Dobby sobbed. “N-No, sir,” he hiccupped. “Dobby is being a bad elf, sir, but Dobby is not wanting Harry Potter sir to die!”

“Then let me through the barrier, Dobby,” Harry growled. “Let me through so I can go to Hogwarts, and stop trying to make me leave the magical world. Anything you do to me that will send me back to my Muggle family will end up with me dead, Dobby — you should remember that when you’re coming up with plans to save my life.”

“Dobby is being remembering, Harry Potter sir,” Dobby sniffles, standing shakily on thin legs and bowing so low that his long nose touches Harry’s trunk. “Dobby is not understanding before, Mister Harry Potter sir, and Dobby is being very very sorry.”

The house elf snaps his fingers.

“Is it safe for me to pass through now?” Harry asks, his voice quiet and much more gentle than the steel blade it had been before.

Dobby nods. “You is even being on time for the train, Harry Potter sir. They is almost being ready to leave for Hoggywarts.”

Harry nods. “Thank you, Dobby. Please consider my words from before to be punishment enough for your actions so far. Are you coming on the train to Hogwarts?”

Dobby shakes his head, his ears flapping. “No, sir. Dobby is needing to return to his bad master’s family before Dobby is being missed, sir.”

Harry nods again. “I understand how that is. Go home safely, and try not to get in any more trouble today, okay, Dobby?”

Dobby tears up again. “Mister Harry Potter sir is being remembering Dobby’s name and is also wishing Dobby a safe trip home! Mister Harry Potter sir is truly kind to a lowly house elf like Dobby!”

Harry smiles, biting back the uncharitable things he wishes he could say. “Of course, Dobby. After all, you never wanted me to be hurt. You were only trying to help me, right? Why wouldn’t I want you to be safe, too?”

“Mister Harry Potter sir is truly the greatest of all the wizards!”

Harry snorts. “Sure, Dobby. I’ve got to go to the train, now. Stay safe, okay? Goodbye.”

And at that dismissal, the house elf fades away from Harry’s sight, leaving the boy alone to push his trolley through the barrier, which was now behaving normally. Harry picks up speed once he crosses to the other side, hearing the train whistling and wondering how close he had come to missing it. He runs through the thinning crowd, pushing his belongings as fast as he can towards one of the open doors.


Harry turns in the direction he heard his name being called from, and sees Neville hanging out of one of the windows in the nearest compartment, a panicked look on his face. Harry immediately rushes towards the exterior door closest to Neville, pushing his trolley faster than he’d expected to be able to push it — like most of the weight had been removed. He snorted to himself. Dobby, he thought.

Well, at least the house elf could manage to be helpful in a way that didn’t actually hurt anyone once in a while.

It seems like only moments later, then Harry’s on the train and Neville’s meeting him, grabbing at Harry’s luggage and leading Harry to his empty compartment. Neville’s the one who moves to take Harry’s things and put them away for the trip, moving with more confidence than Harry can recall seeing from him. And then, they’re just staring at each other and standing in the middle of the compartment, waiting for the other person to make the first move. Neither of them move to sit, even when the train starts moving.

Harry doesn’t think he can follow all the emotions that flash across Neville’s face, but he recognizes the thin line of his lips and the stubborn set of Neville’s jaw.

“Did you get my letter?” Harry asks quietly, twisting his fingers into the hem of his shirt. It takes all of his courage to hold his breath and meet Neville’s steely gaze.

“And mine, Harry?” Neville asked, matching Harry’s tone. They were both soft, hesitant, but unwilling to bow first. “Did you get mine?”

Harry looked away first. “Not until— after.” His voice breaks. “After the Weasleys came for me.”

Neville considered that for a few seconds. “You weren’t ignoring me on purpose?” Harry immediately shook his head, and it seemed like everything in Neville relaxed. “You’re forgiven!” Neville declared, then waved his hand to the seats. “But now you’ve gotta tell me about it like you promised and we’re splitting a box of Bertie’s as punishment.”

Harry wrinkled his nose, easily following Neville’s lead. “Punishment?”

Neville laughed, sitting down and leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “Yeah, maybe you’ll get vomit or earswax or soap. That’ll teach you!”


“C’mon, Harry. You said you’d explain and I—“ Neville looked down, all traces of levity leaving his voice. “I think I need to hear what happened, you know? It… it really hurt my feelings this summer.” His voice was quiet, seriousness settling over him like a shroud. “I don’t want to be friends if that’s how you treat them.”

Harry nodded, feeling his heart ache in his chest. “I really am sorry, Neville. I didn’t ignore you on purpose, and I promised I’d tell you, but—“ Harry took a deep breath. “It’s just… it’s going to be really hard for me to talk about. This summer, I mean. But I’ll tell you. It’s not fun, and I… don’t really want anyone to know.”

Neville nodded, looking up at Harry. “I’ll keep your secrets, Harry.” He flashed a grin. “Potters and Longbottoms, right?” He kicked his feet a little. “You never have to ask.”

Harry’s whole world ground to a halt. “Wh-what?”

Neville tilted his head, his smile freezing on his face. “You’ll keep mine, too, won’t you?”

Harry didn’t have to think before his response came, instinct working faster than his brain. “Of course I will!”

Neville nodded. “So you don’t need to worry, Harry. I’m always on your side.”

“But I— Wait, go back, I don’t understand. What do you mean?”


“About— about Potters and Longbottoms?”

Neville’s eyes widened. “Don’t you know?”

“If I knew, do you think I’d be asking?” Harry’s voice was bitter.

Neville snorted. “’Course not. I just… Really? Nobody told you?” Neville sounded amazed.

It was Harry’s turn to snort. “Nev, I was dropped on my Muggle Aunt and Uncle’s doorstep after my parents were murdered like I was a bottle of milk. I didn’t know I was magic until Hagrid tracked me down and delivered my Hogwarts letter when I turned eleven. I bet you’ve forgotten more about being a wizard than I’ll ever learn. Of course nobody told me. Nobody tells me anything, and I don’t even know what questions I’m supposed to be asking.” He huffed. “Not that it helps when they won’t answer my questions, either.”

“I can’t believe— I mean, wow, Harry!”

Harry reached his foot across between them and poked Neville’s shin. “So tell me all ready!”

Neville blushed bright pink. “Right, sorry. I just— Gran would probably do it better? And it doesn’t really mean much until we turn thirteen, anyway, so maybe we can… I can ask her if you could visit for Yule this year and we can both get a refresher and you can ask her all the questions you have? Only, I was supposed to wait for you, so…”

“I’d love to spend the holidays with your family, Neville,” Harry said, impatience seeping through his voice even as something in his stomach lit up with fluttery joy. “But you need to tell me what you meant just now about Potters and Longbottoms — you said it like it meant something, Neville.” Harry’s voice broke on meant, thick with emotion.

Neville blushed. “Right. Er. Sorry, Harry.” He cleared his throat. “It’s just… well, not just, there’s a lot that goes into it all. I guess the easiest way to put it is that the Longbottoms and Potters have always been allies — through thick and thin, our ancestors have stood beside each other. It’s one of the more famous relationships you hear about, actually, like on par with the Weasley and Malfoy feud. So I’m surprised you didn’t know.” He scratched his neck. “I thought you were… maybe not snubbing me, but like, you didn’t think I was good enough? When you didn’t say anything. And I’m supposed to follow your lead, so.”

Harry’s eyes went wide. “So if I didn’t say anything, you would’ve just, what? Stayed quiet the whole time and let me ignore you?”

Neville laughed quietly. “Pretty much,” he said bitterly. “The relationship doesn’t need to be re-re… on both sides. So as long as I gave you my support, it was fine. You don’t really need to do anything.”

“That’s just dumb!” Harry exclaimed. “Of course I’m gonna support you back! If… if you want it.” Harry’s shoulders slumped. “I don’t know how any of this works,” Harry complained. “I can’t even write with a quill! What’s wrong with a biro, anyway? How’m I supposed to know things if people don’t tell me?”

Neville shrugged. “I guess everyone assumes you know? They probably think you… think you’re better than it all because, Boy-Who-Lived, you know?”

Harry laughed bitterly, staring down at his hands twisting together on his lap. “But I don’t. I don’t know anything. I’m just… I’m just Harry.”

Neville reached his foot out to kick Harry’s, copying what Harry had done earlier. “Nice to met you, Harry. I’m Neville Longbottom, and— and if you let me, I’ll be the best support you ever had.” He smiled when Harry looked up at him with bright green eyes. “I know the best friend spot’s already taken, but— I think I can be a pretty good friend, too, yeah?”

Harry beamed at him. “Sounds brilliant, Nev.”

Neville smiled right back. Then: “So. Dropped off like the milk, really?”

Harry groaned. His smile faded away as he nodded and resigned himself to telling Neville a — very shortened and heavily redacted — history of his time with the Dursleys, including the horrible tale of this past summer and the adventures of Dobby the House Elf.

Neville turns out to be a better listener than even Charlie Weasley, and something in Harry’s chest relaxes at the realization that Neville had been serious in his promise to keep his secrets earlier.

Harry’d been in the middle of detailing his rescue via flying car when there was a knock on the compartment door. Neville got up to answer it, opening up the door.

“Er, hullo?”

“Oh, hello! Is Harry in here? I was looking for him, only I wasn’t sure if he still wanted to sit together. I never received a reply to my letter.” Luna.

Neville snorted. “Seems to be a common theme this summer. I’m Neville Longbottom.” He looked over his shoulder at Harry. “Will you answer the lady, Harry?”

“I am Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, and I am so happy to meet you.”

Neville blushed.

“Oh, erm— Yes, Luna, of course I still want to sit with you! And be friends.” Harry blushed. “I would have responded but—“

“You don’t need to tell me why, Harry, it’s okay.” Neville moved to let Luna enter the compartment, and Harry got to see her gentle smile directed at him. “I’m glad to see you today.”

Harry smiled back at her, feeling something in his chest relax. “Hullo, Luna.”

Neville looked between the two. “Anyone else I should expect, or can I close the door again?”

Luna shrugged. “The Weasleys all got on the train before Harry, so I expect at least the twins will be looking for him at some point. They already asked me if I saw him. I saw Ron sitting with a bunch of other boys and a brown haired girl earlier, but I don’t know if they were going to look for you or not. Nobody was behind me, though, if that’s why you’re asking.” Luna adjusted the strap on her baby blue backpack. “Can I sit next to you, please, Harry?”

“’Course you can, Luna.”

Luna beamed up at him and skipped over to sit with Harry, tugging her backpack off to sit on the floor between her feet.

Neville closed the door and followed. “Do you want me to put that up top with our stuff, Luna?”

She grinned at him, too, and he blushed. “You are very kind, Neville Longbottom.” She turned to Harry. “Because you never responded to my letter, you never answered my question. I’d like an answer now, please.”

Harry blinked. “About the dimwit?”

Luna giggled. “No, silly. Do you prefer necklaces, bracelets, or earrings?”

“Oh.” He shrugged. “I honestly don’t know.”

“I like bracelets,” Neville said, his voice shy but happy. “I like the look of rings, but I use my hands too much — I worry about losing or damaging the rings, or if I had an accident and hurt my hand because of the ring.”

Luna nodded sagely. “Well reasoned, Neville Longbottom.”

“You can call me Neville, if you’d like.”

She beamed up at him. “Then you may call me Luna. Thank you for the gift of your first name, Neville.”

He matched her smile, blushing bright red. “A pleasure, Luna.”

She looked between the two boys and sighed happily. “We are going to be great friends.”

Harry smiled. “I hope so,” he said quietly.

“Did you want me to pierce your ears, Harry?”

He jolted. “I— oh, you did ask me that. Can I think about it?”

Luna nodded. “I would be disappointed if you didn’t think before answering. I’m very good at the charm, though.” She brushed her long blonde hair aside, revealing small, delicately pointed ears with several studs in the lobe before covering her ears again. “Mummy did the first one, but I’ve done all the rest.” She looked between the boys again, her blue eyes wide. “You won’t tell anyone, will you? I can trust you?”

“About your earrings?” Harry asked.

Neville’s eyes softened. “No, Harry. About her ears. I won’t tell, Luna. I’ll swear it if you need a vow.”

Luna smiled softly up at him, her entire body seeming to soften. “Thank you,” she whispered. “A promise from you is as good as any vow. And I won’t tell your secrets, either, Neville Longbottom.”

He blinked before his face heated up again, a small smile finding it’s way to his lips. “Well, how about that. Thank you, Luna. Of course, I won’t tell Harry’s either.”

She perked up. “Really? Oh, how exciting!”

“I’m missing something,” Harry stated. They nodded, but didn’t explain so he sighed. “I don’t understand why it’s— her ears?— are a big deal, and I won’t understand until you tell me.”

Neville smiled apologetically. “Some secrets are more dangerous than others, Harry.”

“If I promise to explain it to you in the future, would you wait for that explanation?” Luna asked, her blue eyes bright and boring into Harry’s green. He nodded. “Would you promise not to ask for answers I cannot safely give you?”

“I— I want to say yes, but I also don’t know what wouldn’t be safe, and I wouldn’t know until I asked, so… I can’t promise not to ask, but I can promise to do my best to figure out what’s safe or not before I ask you, and that I’ll respect your answer if you tell me it’s an unsafe question or you can’t answer me?”

Luna considered his response before nodding. “I think I can accept that response, Harry Potter.” She nodded again, more decisive. “Yes, I will accept it.”

Harry felt his magic tingle deep inside of his chest and brought his hand up to touch his heart in surprise. It didn’t hurt, didn’t feel uncomfortable in any way, but… He met Luna’s eyes and although there was still a smile on her face, she looked sad.


“Some questions are more dangerous than most, Harry,” she said. “And it’s best to have a little protection in case someone goes looking where they ought not, don’t you think?”

“I don’t understand.”

Her eyes unfocused, the blue going a little cloudy. “You will,” she said softly. “And when you do, then I will tell you.” She blinked, and the sadness went away and her eyes were again the blue of a clear summer sky. “Until then,” she pressed her pointer finger to her lips, “It’s a secret, okay?”

He nodded. “I’ll keep your secrets, Luna Lovegood,” he said softly. The magic in his chest hummed, and he felt the warmth spread through his body at his response.

Her smile was bright, like looking at the sun — it hurt to look at it directly, but the warmth it brought him was worth every bit of the pain. “Thank you, Harry.” She leaned up and pressed a soft kiss to his cheek. “My ears are a secret,” she whispered, “never to be told.”

Harry nodded, feeling himself warm as her lips brushed his skin. “Because it’s not safe?”

It was Neville who answered, the boy’s gaze reaching something deep inside of Harry. “Life and death, Harry,” he said quietly, but not softly. “It’s the difference between life and death.”

Harry couldn’t breathe. He reached for Luna, and found her hands waiting for him, tiny and warm and dry, turning so he faced her serene face. “You shouldn’t have—“

“I trust you, Harry Potter.” Luna said, her voice light and airy as if it were really as simple as her words implied. “I trust you as if my soul was yours.” She smiled sadly up at him, gently caressing his hand with her thumb. “You know better than most, don’t you? Sometimes the danger looks like those who promise us safety.”

His breath caught in his throat and she squeezed his hands before letting go. She nodded, as if satisfied with his response.

“Safety isn’t always safe,” she whispered, “and so we carry our secrets in our souls, where only those we allow to find us will ever gain access.”

“It goes deeper than the magic,” Neville said softly, his voice awed. “That kind of magic is—“ he choked on his words and shook his head. “Wow.”

“Thank you for letting us find you, Harry,” Luna said gently. “And in the future, I will thank you for finding me.”

Harry’s heart ached, and he knew without asking that this — whatever this was — was a question too dangerous to ask about, let alone answer.

Luna settled in next to Harry again, resting her cheek against his shoulder. The three stayed quiet, each lost in their own thoughts and comfortable in the silence, before Luna speaks again.

“I’m quite fond of necklaces, actually,” she said. “And you never answered me about your preference, Harry. Neville said he likes bracelets the most — would you prefer to match or to wear a necklace?”

Just like that, the silence was broken and they eased into more simple discussions again, the heavy topic dissipating like a warm breeze had swept it away and the tension that came with it leaving too.

“I’ve never had the chance for either,” he confessed. “Can I say both?”

Luna beamed up at him. “That’s the best of all possible answers, Harry! Of course you can say both!”


1) Speaking of things that showed up earlier than they were supposed to.... This Harry&Neville development wasn't supposed to happen until 3rd year. I guess they got impatient.
2) There's a reference in Luna's dialogue near the end of the chapter, did anyone get it? (If so, please scream about it in the comments with me)
3) Who had "Luna is skilled with soul magic" on their bingo card? NOT ME.

Chapter 10: Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 2: To Hogwarts!


Sometimes you need to let kids be kids.

Chapter Text

Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 2: To Hogwarts!

Harry got vomit, earswax, and soap. Along with mustard, ghost pepper, seaweed, toejam, and snot.

“No more,” he begged, coughing and waving his hands in front of his face. “Please, Luna, no more!”

She looked at him with innocent blue eyes and plucked another bean from the pile on the table, handing it over to him. “But, Harry, I think this one is treacle flavored. Don’t you like treacle?” It was florescent orange and definitely — probably — not treacle flavored.

“You’re awful at guessing, Luna! You said the last one was chocolate!”

Neville was laughing so hard he’d fallen out of his seat and lay sprawled on the floor, holding his belly. “A-and the one before that was a-apricot!”

“It wasn’t? I just thought you didn’t like apricot, Harry, but I thought chocolate was safe enough. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was picking the wrong flavors for you.” She blinked up at him innocently. “I really do think this one’s treacle, though.”

Harry shook his head. “Why don’t we eat some other snacks instead? We got so much actual chocolate from the trolley lady, it’d be a shame to let it all sit and melt!”

Luna pouted at him. “But Neville said you had to eat all the Bertie’s Beans until he was satisfied, Harry, didn’t he?”

His jaw dropped in horror. “That is not what Neville said—“

“I don’t know, Harry,” Neville wheezed from the floor, “I think this is a fantastic way of showing me how sorry you are!”

Luna nodded sagely, “See?” She gestured again with the bright orange bean in her fingers. “Now, here. Eat this one, and maybe you can be done.”

Harry groaned. “Please let this be the last one, Nev. I don’t know if I can take anymore.”

Neville sat up, wiping tears from his eyes. “If you can eat this one without making a single sound, I’ll call it. If not, you’ve got to eat every one that Luna hands you from the table. Deal?”

Harry resigned himself to his fate. “Deal,” he said, taking the bean from Luna.

Just pretend it’s orange flavored, he thought, staring at the bean in horror. Pretend it’s something that Dudley’s forcing you to eat and don’t give him the satisfaction. Swallow it without tasting it, and you’re done.

And so, Harry popped the brightly colored candy in his mouth, mashed it once with his teeth, and swallowed before he could think any further about it, refusing to acknowledge it until it was gone and he’d stuck out his tongue. Neville cheered and clapped his hands.

Harry, however, felt his eyes go wide and Luna smiled up at him.

“See?” She said. “Treacle.”

And, indeed, the flavor that bloomed over his tongue was treacle — his favorite.


Harry hadn’t noticed how long the trip to Hogwarts was last year, either on the way to or from the school. This year, he was warm and comfortable in the compartment with Luna and Neville happily chattering away at each other, with a full stomach and his homework completed and even some studying for the year ahead under his belt, so he could relax into the sleepiness that snuck up on him after they’d all eaten lunch. They’d all relaxed into their post-lunch sleepiness, knowing that the first night at Hogwarts was a long one.

Luna was reading a newspaper called The Quibbler, and she flipped it upside down as soon as someone knocked on the door, turning the page and looking for all intents and purposes like she had not a single care in the world. Harry knew better, however, because she had gone rigid all along where her body was pressing into his side, and it chased away the ease that had settled over him. She relaxed a bit when he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and tugged her just a little closer to him.

Neville, who had been reading a herbology magazine while Trevor hopped around on their table, looked up. “Neither of you are getting that, are you?” He asked, resigned.

Harry and Luna just stared at him, lifting their eyebrows.

He snorted. “Yeah, didn’t think so.” Still, Neville didn’t complain, just shook his head and walked to the door of the compartment, arranging himself so he could open the door without letting anyone see past him to the other passengers before he opened it.

He needn’t have bothered, because it was a very happy looking Fred and George who waited on the other side of the door. Neville laughed. “Looking for Harry, I suppose?”

“Won’t say we’re not—“

“—But can’t say we are!”

“Mind if we join you?” They asked.

Neville shrugged and moved aside, already knowing that they were welcome visitors. “Keep it down, though, will you? I think they were about to take a nap.”

The twins moved quietly into the compartment and Neville closed the door behind them, easily settling back into the seat he’d vacated and snatching Trevor from the edge of the table, where the toad had been about to jump off.

“’M not sleeping,” Harry said.

Fred and George settled into seats across from Harry, looking fondly at how he and Luna had curled up together and smiling.

Luna peeked over the top of her newspaper. “He wasn’t,” she confirmed. “But now he might.”

The twins exchanged a look and then grinned, wide and sly. “Might as well get some sleep on the train,” Fred said, “especially since you didn’t sleep much last night.”

“Told you you’d regret it, Harry.”

Harry sputtered. “Wha— No you didn’t, George, you were part of the problem!”

And the solution.”

Harry snorted, and conceded. He probably wouldn’t have slept at all if George hadn’t… done whatever it was he’d done to get Harry to sleep. “Fine, fine.”

“So, Neville,” Fred looked over at the smaller Gryffindor. “You and Harry have a nice chat?”

Neville grinned. “Definitely!” A shadow passed over his face and his smile dimmed. “But… do you know that nobody ever told him, well, anything? Not even about, well… the Longbottoms?”

Surprise lit up the twins’ faces. “We knew, but didn’t think about… well, what everything could’ve meant. We’re tryin’ to fill him in on things as they happen, but…” George shrugged. “We’re not around all the time, and nobody else really seems to notice.”

Luna nodded. “Having an ignorant Boy Who Lived is better for many people, but doesn’t give Harry any power at all, does it? Especially since he’s a Gryffindor. They’ll only be looking at what he shows on the surface.” She glanced over at Harry, and found his green eyes already waiting for her, and smiled. “Good thing we have no desire to give them what they want, right Harry?”

Harry smiled at her. “I can learn,” he said. “I want to learn.”

Fred leaned back and stretched his long legs out in front of him, crossing them at the ankles. “We can only help so much — wrong information is just as bad, or maybe worse actually, than not having any information at all. And like George told you, Harry, us Weasleys never ran in the circles you’ll need help with.” He tipped his head towards Neville. “Longbottoms, though?”

Neville shrugged. “I already told Harry I was writing to Gran tonight. It shouldn’t be too hard to have him join us for lessons over the summer.”

George’s expression went sour and dark. “Make a few backup plans,” he said. “Unless we can get him out of there, summers are going to be very difficult for Harry to learn what he needs to learn about our world.”

“We should be able to manage a visit for Yule,” Luna suggested, rolling the newspaper shut and tapping the corner on her mouth. “Easter, too, maybe. Anything that Harry can learn while away at school would be easiest, I should think.”

Neville looked steadily at Harry, any emotions he felt hidden deep underneath a soothing calm. “There was more that you’re not ready to tell me?” He asked quietly. Harry nodded, and Neville nodded too. “But they know?” He tipped his head towards the twins.

“Some of it.”

Neville nodded again, accepting that. “You’ll tell me when you’re ready?”

“I might… never be ready, Neville.”

“Then, you’ll tell me enough that I can keep you safe?”

Luna reached out to Neville, placing her small hand on the fist he’d clenched in his trousers. “I don’t know nearly anything, but… Neville, as long as he stays there, there is no way to keep him safe.”

Neville nodded, looking down at the pale fingers that were slowly unfurling his own, smoothing them out. “Then you’ll at least tell me enough that I can keep it from getting worse? I know…” He exhaled. “I know it can be b-bad, and some things c-can’t be h-helped… but if we c-can keep it from getting worse, then—“

Harry’s silence was the only response. Neville imagined he’d rather hear the words than the silence, hear Harry say that there was nothing to be done, to hear him admit how bad it was at his relative’s home than to leave Neville wondering what they’d done to Harry.

What was Harry trapped with to leave him this silent? How had nobody noticed for over ten years?

“I want to pro-protect you where I can, Harry,” Neville said. “I ca-can’t do that if I— If I’m the one making it w-worse.” He took a deep breath and met Harry’s eyes. “So I need you to t-tell me if I’m g-going to ma-make it wor-worse.”

Harry nodded, but still didn’t say anything. How could he, when the only thing he could think was can you take my magic away? That’s the only way to keep me safe, and even then it won’t be enough. I’ll still be a freak. Can you make me not a freak? Can you make them want me? There was nothing that he could say.

“Don’t send him anything in the summers,” Fred said softly. “Only reply when he sends you something first.” He glances over at George. “We… we didn’t know that was a rule until this summer. If you send him anything, make sure you send food with it, make it at small and easy to hide as you can. Nothing that has him leaving the house, nothing that makes noise. Nothing overtly magical. Nothing that can be taken from him.”

Harry let them talk, let them make rules that wouldn’t make a difference, let them hope that there was a way they could keep things at the Dursleys from getting worse.

The only thing that would keep things from getting worse was if Harry died. Harry knew that answer wasn’t acceptable, though, so he said nothing.

Luna wrapped her other hand around his and held on tightly.

Luna, too, said nothing. She simply held on to his hand, and Neville’s, and listened.

Harry wondered how much those blue eyes might see.


The rest of the train ride passes quickly, conversations turning serious and carefree in equal measure, and an ease building between Harry, Luna, Neville, and the twins that hadn’t been there before as they plan for the school year ahead of them.

The group was interrupted a few times — once by Ron and Hermione, who stopped to say hello to Harry but quickly left to their own compartment when they realized this one was too full for them to stay the rest of the ride, once by Oliver Wood who was searching for the members of the Quidditch team to confirm their participation or if he’d need to hold try-outs, and once by Lee Jordan who had simply stopped by to remind Fred and George they needed to grab their trunks if they were going to change for Hogwarts.

Fred and George were whisked away for a costume change and returned shortly after, both bright with laughter as they retold their latest encounter with Oliver in the hallway— Oliver, who had gone nearly purple and then white with shock when George told him he’d be juggling medical training with Quidditch and Oliver should hold try outs for a reserve Beater just in case he wasn’t able to manage both things on top of his studies.

You couldn’t tell me that earlier?!” he’d shouted.

Fred reported that Oliver was ultimately quite happy, though, and asked if George would be willing to practice on the team once he’d been cleared by Madam Pomfrey to heal minor wounds that came with training. It made George blush a rather pleased shade of pink and announce that he’d agreed to it.

Soon their compartment was cleaned up, Trevor was stowed away in a small travel terrarium, and all the students were dressed in their school robes with their pointed hats either on their heads or in their pockets.

They were ready to for another year at Hogwarts.


Luna, being the only first year among them, was supposed to take the boats across the lake for her first sight of the school. They can all hear Hagrid’s loud, booming voice calling for the first years, and they know that Luna needs to join them.

Still, she turned her wide blue eyes up at Harry. “Can’t I come with you, Harry?”

Harry smiled at her. “But you get to meet Hagrid, and you were excited about that over the summer. Remember? You can talk to him all about any magical creature, just like you did with me and Charlie, only Hagrid might actually know about them. This is your chance to meet him before anyone else does, and you can set up tea for us all.”

Luna pouted up at him. “But I’ll miss you. And I might get wet. I don’t want to get wet right before dinner.”

Harry laughed. “You can ask a professor for a drying charm. Anything else?”

Luna reached out for him and tugged on the edge of his sleeve. “I’m lonely,” she said quietly. “I don’t… want to go by myself.”

Harry turns his hands so he can lace their fingers together and give her a squeeze. “We can’t sit together tonight because of the feast, but you can sit with me tomorrow morning and tell me all about it, okay? Make sure you pay attention to everything so you can tell me all the little details.”

Luna looked down and nodded.

“What else do you need?”

She blushed. “Will you… will you please give me a kiss on the forehead? For good luck?” She glanced up at Harry. “Mummy used to do that for me when I was little, and Daddy isn’t here to do it, so…”

Smiling softly, his face bright red, Harry leans forward and presses his lips to her forehead. “Good luck, Luna girl. You’ll be brilliant in whichever House you Sort into.”

Luna beams up at him when they separate, grinning ear to ear and flushed pink. “Thank you, Harry. I think… I can do this, now.”

He smiles back at her, the corner going a little crooked. “Of course you can,” he laughs, “you’re Luna Lovegood and you can do anything you put your mind to.”

“Las’ call for firs’ years!”

“That’s you, Luna. Go tell Hagrid hi from me. I’ll be cheering for you from Gryffindor, so just look for me if you get nervous again, okay?”

“Okay,” Luna breathed. Then, she straightened her back, squared her shoulders, and tugged on the straps of her blue rucksack. “I can do this,” she repeats, nodding, before she skips away and is swallowed up by the crowd.

Harry can still hear Luna, though, so he doesn’t miss when she greets Hagrid, asking if they could come for tea after their classes have finished for the week. And then, she was gone, and it’s time for him to follow the rest of his classmates to the castle.

The crowd of students is mostly gone, but Harry can see a line of carriages in the direction that everyone else had gone. Through one of the windows, he can see Neville’s nervous face, all the confidence that had blanketed him while they were alone in the train gone as if it had never existed, and he heads that way, knowing that they promised to save him a seat.

As he approached the carriage, however, he is struck by a sight he had not expected to see. Everyone said that the carriages were pulled by magic, horseless, but that was not what he saw in front of him.

The creatures standing between the carriage shafts were both horse-like and reptilian. Completely fleshless, their black coats clung to their skeletons with every bone easily visible through the skin. Dragon like heads, white eyes without pupils, and vast, bat-like black leather wings, they were nothing like any horse Harry had seen before.

Nobody seemed to notice them. Nobody, it seemed, except for Harry and a tall boy with brown hair who approached the carriage just in front of Harry’s.

Theodore Nott stood there, walking slowly and intentionally towards the creature, lifting his arm and reaching out to stroke the giant beast’s neck. And the creature leaned into it, flicking it’s horse-like tail briefly. Harry doesn’t know how he knows, but he just does — the creature is surprised and pleased at the attention, at the affection. Then, Theodore Nott disappears into the carriage without a backwards glance.

Harry doesn’t have to think twice before reaching out to do the same towards the creature in front of him, watching as the milky white eyes are hidden underneath heavy black lids as the creature leans into his touch. He makes sure to keep his hands flat, fingers extended, the same way he’d seen Nott do it. Despite the reptilian, leather quality of the hide, Harry is surprised to find it warm underneath his touch, and happy to note that the creature leaned in towards Harry just as much as the other one had leaned into Nott.

Harry wondered why out of all the students, only he and Nott seemed to see the creatures. He thinks it’s a question to ask Luna, or perhaps Hagrid.

“Oi, Harry! Did you get lost?”

“Hurry up, mate, the others are leaving,” Ron calls from inside the carriage.

Harry pulled his hand back from the horse’s neck, trailing his fingertips gently across it as he pulls away. He wasn’t ready to leave yet. He wondered if anyone else could see them. He wondered if he would be able to see them again.

Still, he climbed into the carriage and didn’t say anything about the creatures to his friends. It felt special, somehow, and like it should only be discussed with people who already knew.

It felt like a Secret. Like the thought of Luna’s ears. Like the way her magic had tugged on him when he opened his mouth to ask a question that was Not Safe Yet.

He knew he could ask Luna. But maybe he could also ask Theodore Nott.

Chapter 11: Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 3: Week 1


Harry's first week of Second Year is a lot more eventful than he'd planned for.


GILDEROY LOCKHART and COLIN CREEVEY are introduced, bringing with them scenes and allusions to actions/behaviors that include but are not limited to stalking, coercion, repeatedly ignoring boundaries, touching/grabbing without consent, taking pictures of a minor without their knowledge or consent, and objectification of a minor. The scenes are not overtly sexual but some scenes may be perceived in such a manner. They may be distressing to some readers, but I have done my best to convey the feeling and intent of the scene without explicit detailing where appropriate.

Secondary warnings for discussions of canon-typical racism and characters having feelings about it, bullying, and also Harry having a brief panic attack - this is less graphic than other panic attack scenes I have written in the past, but it may still evoke some feelings, especially with regard to fear of an abuser.

We also have some lovely polyamory negotiations, one of my favorite things! Also the teens are starting to explore their instincts and sexuality some more, so we've got discussions of underage kissing and boundary setting. Harry has not weighed in on where he stands with this at the moment.

Also, REMINDER THAT THERE WERE MAJOR DEVIATIONS THAT IMPACT THE OVERALL COURSE OF THE STORY AND HOW EVENTS PLAY OUT BECAUSE OF CANON. One major example: Ron does not have a broken wand. This ultimately changes many things, especially in this chapter.

Those are the major highlights I can think of at the moment. Please enjoy this almost 14k word chapter.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Hogwarts Year 2: Part 3— Week 1

Harry spends most of the Welcome Feast thinking about the train ride, the relationship between the Longbottom and Potter families that was apparently so important that Neville didn’t trust himself to be the one to explain, and what it could possibly mean that something of that magnitude had been hidden from him. He completely misses the song that the Sorting Hat sang this year, along with most of the Sorting.

He finds a heavy gaze land on him, though, and looks up to see the bright blue eyes of Luna Lovegood as she twists her blonde hair through her fingers again and again, waiting to be called. He doesn’t look away until her shoulders relax. And then, her name is being called and she sits down on the low stool like she was a princess and smiles brightly as the Sorting Hat is placed on her head, slipping down over her nose so the only thing left is her smile.

RAVENCLAW, the Sorting Hat shouts.

Harry is the first person in the crowd to stand and cheer, clapping so hard that his hands sting. He doesn’t sit down again until the next name is called, but then he is finding that heavy blue-eyed gaze land on him again and is turning to meet it with a giant smile, now knowing to look for her in Ravenclaw.

Luna meets his gaze with tears in her eyes and a wide smile.

The rest of the Sorting passes in a blur of noise, and he claps along with everyone else when Ginny Weasley is welcomed into Gryffindor, pulled down to sit next to her brother Percy. He barely listens to the speeches given by the Headmaster and professors at the Head Table, and tunes out most of the conversations around him after food appears.

Fred and George take turns spooning things onto his plate, and he lets them, but this time he reaches out and adds his own choices as well. One of them pats his shoulder while the other ruffles his hair. The feast continues around him, but Harry remains lost in his thoughts.

He wonders how this year will be, and promises himself that it will be better than last year.

He has Fred and George, Luna and Neville, Ron and Hermione. He is starting the term with 6 whole people who like him, who want him around. That’s 6 more people than he’s ever had before, and it’s a blessing that he should feel thankful for.

He also has his Invisibility Cloak, which he should start carrying with him again starting tomorrow but now knows better than to share with other people, and an album full of pictures of his family. All of his precious belongings had been stowed away, wrapped in the Invisibility Cloak and placed inside of the rucksack from over the summer.

He thought briefly about the stolen Philosopher’s Stone that remained in his possession before quickly returning his thoughts to the photo album. Some of the pictures were labeled, but not all of them, and it set his curiosity aflame.

He knows at least one person who might be able to answer his questions about who they are, because Neville acts like all generations of Potters and Longbottoms knew each other so maybe Neville can tell him who else to ask, and Fred and George were willing to ask around for more of his family history.

Most of all, Harry had spent the last month of summer studying Percy’s old notes and being tutored by Charlie and studying alongside Fred and George, so he was confident that he could handle at least the first week of classes without too many mistakes. He was sure, too, with a little bit of cleverness he could get Hermione and Ron to leave off about his studies and allow his grades to rise a little — even if Ron wasn’t willing to study hard for Quidditch Captaincy in the future, it wouldn’t stop Harry from latching on to that excuse. Maybe he could spend more time with Oliver Wood this year, too, and learn what actually went into the position to help back up his story.

Besides, Harry thought, blushing as he looked down the table where the hulking sixth year Keeper was telling a story, he liked Oliver Wood. Wanting to spend more time with him wasn’t a lie. And if their next year was Oliver’s final year at Hogwarts, and Harry spread the story that he was planning to train to replace him, it would be a simple thing to act on it. He wouldn’t be old enough for the position immediately, but that was easily overlooked.

Harry loved magic, and Harry loved flying. Was it any surprise that he wanted to get better at both? Surely Oliver, a Sixth Year, would be able to help.


The beginning of the year was always slow, no matter whether it was magical or non-magical school. This year, the biggest difference was his friends: Luna sat with him at the Gryffindor table for breakfast on the first day of classes, the two of them sitting between the twins and across from Ron and Hermione. Neville sat a little farther away, but had promised Harry to partner together in Herbology this year. Everyone at Gryffindor was still waiting for their schedules to be handed out, though Luna had already been given hers by Professor Flitwick, who’d simply winked at her and waved her away when she’d told him she was sitting at Gryffindor for breakfast.

Harry could feel the other eyes on them, though, and tried his best to ignore it and eat whatever he could manage. Luna had made it much easier to ignore the curious gazes when she sat next to him and started asking about his first year classes, so she might have an idea of what to expect. Soon, Ron and Hermione were joining in to give their own perspective on surviving first year, and Harry found he was able to focus less on the people watching them and more on his growing group of friends.

It quickly became clear that everyone else had vastly different experiences of their first year than he did. Luna kept glancing up at him, her brow furrowing, no doubt noticing as he allowed other people to speak, but he just smiled at her and continued eating his breakfast.

All too quickly, yet not quickly enough for Harry’s liking, the schedules were being passed out and the students were being rushed out of the Great Hall to get to their first class of the term. Luna hesitated when it came time for her to separate from the rest of the group, and Harry smiled at her again, letting the others pass by them so he could reassure his new friend privately.

“You’re going to be fine, Luna. I’m sure you will have a lot of stories to tell me about your first day — I want to hear all about it at dinner, okay?”

Luna nodded and stood up straighter, lifting her chin and squaring her shoulders. “I can do this,” she said, her voice trembling. Then, she pulled in another deep breath and repeated herself, more quietly this time but her voice did not waver. “I can do this.”

“Absolutely. Go on, now, Luna girl — come find me this afternoon and tell me everything you can remember. If you hurry, you can follow the Prefect to your first class.”

She smiled at him, waved quickly, and hurried off through the doors to catch up with the other first years that were loitering in the corridor.

Harry knew he had double Herbology with the Hufflepuffs first, so he did not rush as he made his way outside. Before he’d even crossed the vegetable patch, he’d caught up with Ron and Hermione who were arguing about something.

It seemed they were always arguing about something, and it made Harry anxious to listen to their conversations when they were, so he looked around and tried to find Neville. Thankfully, Neville wasn’t too far ahead of them, and he was able to catch up to the blond boy quickly, easily falling into step with him and gaining a large, toothy smile for it.

“Partner with me for the year?” Harry asked.

Shocked, and his face flushing bright pink, Neville immediately agreed. “O-of course! Are you sure you want me, though, Harry?”

Harry smiled up at Neville. “Am I sure I want to partner with the best student in class? Why wouldn’t I want to partner with you?”

Neville’s ears turned pink. “W-well, I’m clumsy and forgetful and—“

“—and still the best student in our year at Herbology. Yes, Neville, I want to be your partner for the whole year. Unless you get sick of me before then, but maybe you’ll just tell me I’m being a prat and we can figure it out before you throw me to the wolves?”

Neville nodded shyly and stuck out his hand for Harry to shake. “Partners,” he said.

Tilting his head slightly in confusion, Harry copied Neville. “Partners.”

Professor Sprout catches up with them and calls out “Greenhouse Three!” and the students redirect towards the new destination, chattering excitedly amongst themselves. They had only ever worked in Greenhouse One before; Greenhouse Three was home to several more dangerous and thus exciting plants, and when they arrived it was just in time to see Professor Sprout unlocking the door with a large key.

“We’ll be repotting Mandrakes today,” Professor Sprout declared. “Now, who can tell me the properties of a Mandrake?”

To nobody’s surprise, Hermione’s hand was the first in the air, waving desperately around, and she’d begun speaking before Professor Sprout had even called on her.

Standing next to Neville, Harry could easily hear the other boy sigh and glanced curiously over at him.

“Well, I just… wish I had a chance to answer, is all. But she’s calling out before I can even put my hand up.”

Harry nodded, familiar with this particular frustration. He had tried to defend her last year, then he had tried to reason with her to give other students a chance to answer. Now, he just waited silently and hoped there would be a teacher — other than Snape — that refused to call on the first person with their hand in the air, or at least someone who did not immediately accept the regurgitated text book answer and looked to someone else to provide more details.

Over a year in, now, and he was still waiting.

Still, the professor accepted all the answers that Hermione gave, textbook perfect as they were, and awarded her with ten points per textbook perfect answer, seemingly uncaring that many students in the class were looking around with furrowed brows, their lips downturned in confusion.

Harry felt much the same way. “What does she mean by the ‘cry’ of the Mandrake?” he whispered to Neville. “It’s fatal, too — isn’t that something we should be really clear about?”

Neville nodded and opened his mouth, presumably to answer Harry’s question, but Professor Sprout chose that moment to wave her arms and give instructions for their next task in the classroom — one that apparently required earmuffs that blocked sound.

They spend class potting Mandrakes, which Harry learned were quite baby-shaped when they were pulled up from the ground, and the cry was literally the baby-shaped plant crying. Harry and Neville were joined by two Hufflepuff girls, and only barely had time to listen to their giggling introduction — Hannah and Susan, nice to meet you! — before Professor Sprout indicated it was time to snap their noise-blocking earmuffs over their head and get to work fighting the wriggling, screaming baby plants out of one pot and into another.

By the end of class, everyone was covered in dirt and sweat, and pretty much everyone was miserable. Neville, somehow, looked even more energized than he had been before, nearly vibrating with contentment as they hurried to Gryffindor tower to clean up before literally running through the corridors to get to Transfiguration.

Harry is forced to sit with Ron for this class, with Hermione on the other side of him, and Harry listens closely to the lecture and takes copious amounts of notes before the practical section of class begins. However, Harry has no luck turning any of his beetles into buttons.

“Hermione,” he hisses, his green eyes wide and pleading, “I can’t tell what I’m doing wrong! Can you help?”

“Just do what Professor McGonagall told us to, Harry!” She snapped, impatient with him despite having already turned her beetles into buttons and her buttons back into beetles. “It’s not that hard to follow directions.”

And Harry had tried exactly what the Professor had told them to do, and he’d tried what the textbook said, and he’d tried mimicking what other students were doing — though Ron hadn’t had much more luck, and had in fact squashed his beetle under his elbow at some point. None of it worked, even when he tried to pull at his magic the way he had last year.

He scowled down at his collection of skittering black beetles. If doing it exactly as he was told to do it worked, then he would have completed the assignment already.

It was like the beginning of last year, again, when he could barely feel his magic, let alone use it. But at least he wasn’t the person performing the most poorly in class — that, somehow, was Ron.

It was a little win, but Harry would take it.

Transfiguration finally lets out for the day, and Harry follows behind Hermione and Ron on their way to lunch. He’s hungry, but he doesn’t think he’ll be able to eat much with the anxiety gnawing away at his gut from doing so poorly in class that day. Still, he manages to eat something while Ron and Hermione bicker away about Defense Against the Dark Arts in general, and Professor Lockhart in particular.

Apparently Hermione has a crush on the Professor, but that’s none of Harry’s business, and he says so when Ron turns to him for backup. All it earns him is a glare from both of his friends, so Harry just stuffs another bite of food into his mouth.

After lunch, they head outside to the overcast courtyard, Hermione pulling out Voyages with Vampires again while Harry takes the opportunity to pull Ron into a conversation about Quidditch.

“I’m thinking about shadowing Oliver, you know? Figuring out how to become the Quidditch Captain after he leaves. Means I’ve got to get my grades up on top of everything else though…”

Ron looks at Harry, his jaw dropped. “Mate, you know I want to be the Quidditch Captain!”

Harry shrugged. “Then try out for the team, Ron. Can’t become Captain if you’re not even on the team. But maybe we can both work together to get our grades up — a few nights a week in the library wouldn’t hurt us any.”

The redhead scoffed. “That’s boring.”

“Heard they won’t consider you for Captain without straight EEs though—“

“Harry Potter?” a boy’s breathless voice asked.

Harry shoved the groan down in his throat before it could think about escaping, and turned towards the mousy-haired first year who was clutching an old Muggle camera around his neck. “Hello. Are you a first year?”

The boy nodded, his face flushing bright pink. “I’m Colin Creevey! I’m in Gryffindor, too.” His excited voice trembled and he stepped forward, pulling his camera up. “Is it— Can I— Can I have a picture?”

Harry stared blankly at him. “A picture,” he repeated, flatly.

“To prove that I met you!” The boy was already raising his camera to his face and stepping closer.

Harry stepped back. “No. No, I don’t— I don’t do pictures, or autographs, or anything like that.”

Colin’s brown eyes brightened. “I didn’t even think — a signed photo!” He stepped closer again, making Harry’s eyes dart around to see if anyone was going to step in or if he was left to deal with this on his own. Hermione still had her head in her book, and Ron stood glowering — not at the kid, but at Harry. “Oh, please, Harry! I know all about you. Everyone’s told me.” Harry tried to tune out the exciteable recounting of everything heroic he had ever been said to do, wondering if he could justify knocking Ron over in order to escape where this eleven year old boy had him cornered, when a mocking voice called out from behind the boy.

Draco Malfoy’s voice, loud and scathing, called out to him as he and Crabbe and Goyle stopped behind Colin, entirely too close for comfort. “Signed photos? Did I hear that right? You’re giving out signed photos, Potter?”

Harry flushed red, knowing his eyes were bright and feeling the moisture collecting in them. “No,” he snapped. “I’m not giving out signed anything to anyone.”

“You’re just jealous,” Colin said haughtily, “because Harry agreed to give me one but not you.”

“I didn’t agree to anything, you—“

But Draco Malfoy didn’t even need to raise his voice to catch attention anymore, with half of the courtyard watching. Still, he kept up his act, drawing his pale hand towards his chest. “Jealous? Of what? I don’t want a foul scar across my head, thanks. I don’t think getting your head cut open makes you that special, myself.”

“It doesn’t,” Harry muttered in agreement. He saw Draco’s grey eyes flash with something unidentifiable before it was gone and he was turning his commentary on Ron.

“I think Weasley wants a photo, Potter. Bet it’s worth more than his family’s entire house—“

“Incoming,” Hermione hissed, closing her book and standing up to meet the newcomer.

“What’s all this?” Professor Lockhart asked, looking back and forth between all the boys, including Ron who now had his wand out. “I heard something about signed photos? Who’s giving out signed photos?”

“Harry is!” Colin exclaimed, nearly vibrating with excitement.

“I am not,” Harry growled. His words fell on deaf ears, though, as Professor Lockhart turned towards him, an interested gleam in his eyes. He caught sight of Draco’s smirking face as the boy slipped back into the crowd.

Tut, tut, young Harry, I should have known. Well, now, I suppose we should give Mr Creevey a double portrait, can’t do better than that, and we’ll both sign it. Just the one, though. Can’t have them making their way through the student body, after all!”

And with his objections being ignored, Professor Lockhart grabbed onto Harry and maneuvered them so they were in a perfect position for Colin’s photo, the man’s fingers holding tightly around Harry’s arm so he couldn’t wrench away.

Harry wondered if he would have finger-shaped bruises there in the morning.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Harry tries to ignore the searing pain of the man’s fingers digging into his upper arm through the photo, and then tries further to ignore the scathing words delivered in what he was sure was meant to be a supportive tone as Lockhart pulls him close to his body and walks with him to the Defense classroom. He lets the insults delivered in such a honeyed tone wash over him and focuses on his breathing, wishing that he was strong like Fred or Charlie and could wrench his body out from the man’s arm, but knowing through experience that even trying that would only get him in more trouble.

He really didn’t want detention, and if he was going to keep up the charade of being interested in Quidditch Captaincy, he would need to be careful about getting them.

At last, they arrived at the classroom and Lockhart let Harry go. Harry wasted no time in yanking himself away and straightening his robes, not sure how they’d gotten so disheveled in the time it had taken to walk from the courtyard to the classroom, and immediately darted into the room to take a seat in the back of the classroom, piling up all seven of his textbooks so he didn’t have to look at the real thing at the front of the class.

He focused on his breathing, trying to push down the nausea that surfaced at the burning reminder of that man touching him and restraining him for the photo, hoping it settled before the professor began to speak.

Ron sat down next to him and teased him about the look on his face. “You should hope Colin doesn’t meet Ginny, or they’ll form a Harry Potter fanclub!”

Shut up, Ron,” Harry snapped, feeling the swirl of panic rising in his gut again. The last thing he needed was for Lockhart to hear the words “Harry Potter Fanclub” and decide to take Harry under his wing again.

Try as he might, Harry couldn’t focus on the introduction, let alone the lecture that followed, and he had done nothing but stare blankly at the three pages of paper that made up a surprise quiz — 54 questions about Gilderoy Lockhart. He hadn’t even tried to answer any of them. By the time Lockhart is lifting a giant cage onto his desk, Harry had given up completely on following the lesson and was instead practicing the various breathing techniques Charlie had taught him over the summer.

And then, Lockhart opens the cage and releases several eight-inch, electric blue pixies.

After that, it is all Harry can do to keep himself safe in the pandemonium.


The next several days pass with Harry trying his best to avoid Lockhart, and turning around to find Colin Creevey had followed him to every class on his schedule and even turned up in the second year boy’s loo once. Not even Luna could cheer him up with the strain that trying to avoid them was putting on him, and she did the best that she could every evening to put a smile on his face during dinner.

She could tell he was faking it, though, and it hurt to see her withdraw into herself again as the days passed by. Her stories became more outlandish, and she started to get lost in thought if they weren’t talking, and more concerning than that was the way her clothing, shoes, and school supplies suddenly seemed to go missing.

There was only so much that he could do, though, and she refused to give him any details, saying it was something she would prefer to handle herself. Honestly, he could respect that, even if it worried him.

When the first weekend finally rolled around, Harry had been planning to sleep in and visit Hagrid with Ron and Hermione late in the morning for tea, but he found himself shaken awake several hours earlier on Saturday morning than he had planned for.

He wasn’t expecting to see Oliver Wood leaning over his bed, dressed in his Quidditch robes and brimming with energy.

“Oliver?” Harry asked. “Whassamatter?”

“Practice, Harry. Time to get up.”

Harry sat up and rubbed his eyes, blinking when Oliver handed him his glasses. “But it…” Harry cleared his throat. “Oliver, it’s the crack of dawn,” he croaked.

“Exactly! It’s part of our new training program — now come on, grab your broom and let’s go.” He stepped aside to let Harry out of the bed, continuing to chatter on about the new training program he’d devised for them. “And especially with George taking time for Medic training this year, we’ll need to get all the extra practice we can, and early mornings work best to accommodate that schedule. We’re going to be first on the field, Harry, none of the other teams have started training yet.”

Harry nodded along as he rummaged through his trunk for his Quidditch robes and his broom.

“Just gonna leave a note for Ron,” Harry said, yawning widely, “and then I’ll be down.”

Oliver clapped him on the shoulder. “Good man, Harry. See you on the pitch in… fifteen minutes?”

Harry nodded, thinking it would take him less time than that to get there, and focused on writing the note for Ron and Hermione. He figured that if his practice took too long, they could always go see Hagrid without him, but that would leave Luna without an escort.

He wrote a second note for Luna and left it with Ron’s, asking him to please give it to her at breakfast — it was a simple note asking her to reschedule their meeting with Hagrid this morning because he had Quidditch practice and didn’t know how long it was going to run, and he’d rather not make her wait the whole day for him. He suggested maybe Neville would be available and could show her around the greenhouses if she asked.

Then he was rushing out of the portrait hole, already running through various drills in his head when he heard a clatter behind him and turned back to see none other than Colin Creevey dashing down the stairs with his camera in his hands.

Harry groaned, not even bothering to hide it, and turned back to the portrait hole to leave, knowing he did not have time for this interruption.

Still, Colin did not take the hint and chased after him through the corridor as he left, calling Harry’s name and chattering about the special development process he’d learned about for making magical, moving photos.

“Not now, Colin, I have to get to Quidditch practice,” Harry said, not even turning around.

“It’ll be quick — look, Harry!” and Colin shoved the picture in front of Harry’s face, so close that Harry’s eyes crossed and he had to back up a step for them to refocus. Sure enough, it was the photo he’d taken with Lockhart, and Harry was proud to see that even his photographic self was putting up a fight and refused to be dragged into the photo frame. “Will you sign it, Harry? Please?”

“I already told you no, Colin. Now leave me alone, I have to get to practice.”

“Oh, I’ve heard a lot about Quidditch, but I’ve never watched a game before!” Colin said, scrambling to keep up with Harry as he increased his pace. “I don’t really understand it, though, and the rules are really confusing. Are there really four balls? And two of them fly around trying to knock people off their brooms?”

“Yes,” Harry sighed, resigning himself to Colin following him to the Quidditch Pitch for practice. Oliver would have kittens, he was sure.

The whole way through the castle and down the sloping lawns to the Quidditch field, Colin peppered Harry with questions and observations, trying to get more than a one word answer from him until they reached the changing rooms and Harry stated with absolute certainty that Colin was not allowed to follow him in.

“That’s okay! I’ll go and get a good seat, Harry! I’ll make sure to take lots of pictures!”

The rest of the team was already waiting when he entered the changing rooms, and they turned to look at him. He just sighed and waved a hand towards the door, answering the question in Oliver’s eyes before it left his lips.

“Over-excitable first year with a camera followed me down from the common room. Apparently we’ve got a new fan.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I wouldn’t be mad if one of you got him good with a bludger, though. Just enough that he stops following me around the castle.”

Nobody takes him seriously, and Harry supposed that’s a good thing. He finds a seat next to a barely-awake George, who greets him with a sleepy smile, and settles in for the lecture he knows is about to follow.

And Oliver Wood does not disappoint: several diagrams later, Fred has dropped his head on Alicia Spinnet’s shoulder and started to snore his way through Oliver’s latest speech about new tactics and Harry is trying to focus on the wiggly lines on the board instead of daydreaming about what he could have eaten for breakfast this morning. It’s over an hour later when Oliver launches into his “We Could Have Won If It Wasn’t For Dreadful Circ*mstances” speech — well-rehearsed and carefully modulated to avoid Harry feeling guilty about being those circ*mstances — and then they’re finally released out onto the Pitch and given permission to kick off.

Harry notices Ron and Hermione had made it to the Pitch, sitting with Colin and eating a whole pile of various breakfast foods that they’d brought out with them while the boy raised his camera back to his face and started taking photos of the team. It didn’t take long for the team to notice them and start asking questions.

“Who’s that?”

“First year with the camera, remember?”

“You sure he’s not a Slytherin spy?”

“Slytherins don’t need a spy, Oliver,” George said.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because they’re here,” George pointed to where the Slytherin team was walking onto the field.

It seemed to be the last straw for Oliver, because he quickly flew towards the Slytherins, his angry shouts getting lost in the wind. It didn’t take long for the rest of Gryffindor to notice something was happening and follow.

“Flint!” Oliver bellowed, landing angrily on the ground with Fred, George, and Harry slightly behind him. “This is our practice time! We booked the field — you can clear off now!”

“Plenty of room for all of us, Wood,” Marcus Flint replied, a smug look on his face as the rest of the team flew down and joined them on the ground.

Harry, nervously looking between the two Captains, musters his courage and speaks up. His knees are trembling, his heart is pounding, and he can feel cool sweat trickling down his back as he speaks, but he knows no matter how angry Oliver Wood gets, he would never hurt him. It was something he had learned well the year before, and he repeated it to himself over and over in his head before he opened his mouth to speak.

“Captain? You know he’s right — if we each take a side of the Pitch, there’s no reason we can’t run drills and they can’t train their new Seeker at the same time. We just need to be creative, is all, and make sure none of us is bumping into each other.”

Oliver fumes, whirling around and opening his mouth to say something, but Harry speaks over him and his words douse the fire that was building up in Oliver’s eyes.

“What’d be worse, Oliver? Quitting practice early, or having to share space with another team?” Harry’s heart pounded in his chest. “We don’t need to do anything new — we can just practice the basics, same as they’re doing. You told me before that it never hurts to go back to basics, right?”

Oliver opens his mouth to make a rebuttal, but Flint says something that makes them all pause where they’re standing.

“I’ve got a specially signed note here from Professor Snape,” he cleared his throat and lifted the slip of parchment in his hand to begin reading, “I, Professor S. Snape, give the Slytherin team permission to practice today on the Quidditch field owing to the need to train their new Seeker.

Suitably distracted, Wood asked, “You’ve got a new Seeker? Where?”

And from behind the six large figures before them same a seventh, smaller boy, with a pale, pointed face that Harry recognized quite well. The smirk belonged to Draco Malfoy. The new Slytherin Seeker.

Harry’s heart thumped hard in his chest. This was the opportunity he’d been looking for all of last year, a chance to mend whatever he’d broken with his carelessness and ignorance. And hopefully a chance to have one less person willing to spit in his face when he made a mistake, though their last encounter didn’t go as well as he’d hoped.

“Lucius Malfoy’s son?” Fred asked cautiously, glancing back to Harry. Harry dipped his head a tiny bit in acknowledgment. “Heard you could fly. Congratulations on making the team, baby Malfoy.”

Draco scowled at Fred, but nodded his head in acknowledgment of the comment nonetheless. He couldn’t be seen having worse manners than a Weasley.

Flint grinned, and there was nothing kind about the expression at all. “Funny you should mention Draco’s father. Let me show you the generous gift he’s made to the Slytherin team.” Now that his son is on it, remained unsaid, but understood, by all the players on the field.

Still, it was a shock when all seven of the Slytherin players held out their broomsticks to reveal the fine gold lettering of the words Nimbus Two Thousand and One on their sleek, highly polished handles.

“Very latest model,” Flint was saying, “Only came out last month.” He sneered at Fred and George, who both clutched Cleansweep Fives a litle tighter, “I believe it outstrips the old Two Thousand series by a considerable amount and, well… sweeps the board with those old Cleansweeps.”

The silence between the two teams was so thick and weighted you could cut it with a knife as the Gryffindors tried to absorb this latest shock.

Flint tilted his head in confusion before saying, “Oh, look. A field invasion.”

Then he turned to look. Harry turned too, his stomach sinking as he watched Ron and Hermione charging across the field, no doubt to see what was going on. They’d barely arrived within hearing distance when Ron was demanding to know what was happening, why they weren’t playing, and most of all what the Slytherins — but mostly Draco Malfoy — were doing on the Pitch during a scheduled Gryffindor practice time.

Really, the Slytherin Quidditch robes and gear should have been enough to answer that last question, and Ron was staring at him so intensely there was no way he could’ve missed them.

Draco sneered at Ron. “I’m the new Slytherin Seeker, Weasley. Do keep up.” Draco’s voice was all smug arrogance. “Everyone’s just been admiring the brooms my father’s bought our team.”Ron’s gaze landed at the seven superb broomsticks clutched in the Slytherin team’s hands, and Draco’s smile became a little meaner. “Wonderful, aren’t they?” He said smoothly. “Perhaps the Gryffindor team will be able to raise some gold and get new brooms, too.” He shrugged delicately. “You could raffle off those Cleansweep Fives — I suppose a museum would bid for them.”

The Slytherin team howled with laughter and the members of the Gryffindor team exchanged looks, the corners of their lips quirking with humor despite their attempts to keep a straight face in front of their rivals. Mean-spirited though it may be, when you’re right, you’re right — the Cleansweeps really were that old and should’ve been replaced ages ago. They’d all been saying it.

“At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in,” Hermione said sharply. “They got in on pure talent.” The entire pitch went silent.

Harry was shocked that his friend would imply something like that, let alone outright say it. “Hermione—“

“No one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood,” Draco Malfoy spat, his venomous voice louder than Harry’s surprised exclamation. It got more attention, too, because something about it had Ron reaching for his wand and Fred diving towards Malfoy while George stepped in front of Harry protectively.

“Enough!” Oliver shouted. “Weasleys, back the f*ck down or none of you are ever flying for Gryffindor again.” Everyone halted, and each Weasley on the field stepped away from the Slytherins, though they did not stop glaring at them all. “You’ll get the Pitch for today, Flint. Best train your new Seeker to mind his manners while you’re at it.” Oliver spit on the ground, his nose wrinkling. “A disgusting mouth like that will cause you nothing but problems, no matter how good his flying may be. A damn shame.”

Flint glared at Draco. “He’ll learn, or he’ll be off the team. You have my word, Wood. You know we don’t play like that.”

Oliver nodded sharply. “Good.” He glanced over at Hermione. “Better put him through his paces in practice so he can prove he’s more than just a pretty face with a rich daddy. Apparently not everyone’s willing to believe he earned it himself, and we can’t be having that rumor get around about anyone on the Hogwarts Quidditch teams, no matter what House they’re playing for.”

Hermione scoffed before turning around and grabbing Ron’s arm to drag him back to the stands where they’d been sitting earlier while waiting for Harry to finish practice. She didn’t look happy when she left. But why would she? She’d never been good about being corrected, or proven wrong in any way.

It leaves a sour taste in Harry’s mouth, and he was not sure what to do about it. He knew now was not the time to ask, though, and besides that the Captain was already speaking again.

“Back to the showers and we’re done for the day, Gryffindors.” He smirks. “Can’t have anyone say we beat Slytherin because they didn’t get the chance to train their new Seeker, after all.”

Flint snorts. “Not like we asked for the extra practice time, Wood. Jus’ know better than to tell Snape no.”

Oliver shook his head. “Don’t we all. Well, we’ll leave you to your practice.” Oliver reached out and clasped Flint’s hand, shaking it firmly, and then everyone separated, the Gryffindors heading back to the locker rooms as the Slytherins spread out to kick off into the air at Flint’s call.

Harry just found himself getting more and more confused at the exchange, but he comforted himself with the fact that he knew he could ask — and he knew that Oliver would answer. It was one of the few things he had held onto from the previous year, a precious truth that he’d learned so well that it had etched itself into his bones.

Oliver Wood had never laughed at him for asking questions, no matter how stupid.

So, while they were making their way towards the locker rooms, Harry hung back from the rest, and it wasn’t long before Oliver noticed he wasn’t following along and jogged over to him. They’d stopped not far away from the locker rooms, and the rest of the team went in before Oliver spoke.


“I’m… confused,” Harry admitted quietly. He felt the shame swirling in his gut, but Oliver just nodded.

“About the word, I’m guessing?”

“That, and, well… all of it? I thought you didn’t like Flint? And you’re always talking about how Slytherin’s dirty cheaters, but you defended them?” Harry ran his gloved fingers through his hair, wrinkling his nose as they snagged on a knot. “I feel like a whole other conversation just happened in front of me, and I missed all of it.”

Oliver reached out and gently nudged Harry’s fingers until he’d dropped his hands down to his sides again, and then he wrapped his thick arm around Harry’s shoulders and tugged the smaller boy towards him. “You ever heard that word before, Harry?”


Do not repeat it, Harry Potter,” Oliver snarled, “or I will kick you off this team.”

Harry turned wide green eyes up at Oliver, shocked. “Is it really that bad of a word?”

“You ever hear the word some folks call Black people, Harry?” Harry nodded slowly. His Uncle used it all the time, the same way he used Freak. “This is that kind of word, but for people who come from non-magical families. It’s not just used for Muggleborns — sometimes half-bloods like me are called that, too. It’s a way of saying exactly what it sounds like — we’ve got dirty blood.” Oliver tugged Harry a little closer, and Harry let himself lean on the taller teen, hearing his shaky exhale. “Nasty word with a nasty history. Muggles have racism — magicals have blood purity. Same thing by a different name and wars fought over it all the same… but nothing changes. It makes me sick.”

Harry said quietly, “You know, nobody’s told me anything about the war, even when I ask. They all pretend that the problems that caused it don’t matter anymore because the war ended when I was a baby. But I’m not stupid. I know that big problems that cause wars don’t just disappear overnight.”

Harry felt Oliver nod against his head, the teen’s chin pressing against Harry’s disheveled hair. “And you’re right, Harry. They don’t disappear overnight. I don’t know if the problem ever went away, or if people stopped fighting because You-Know-Who was dead. But it’s a common thought that the people who fought with You-Know-Who… those families… they’re the ones who use that word. It’s a lie, of course — I’ve heard people on Dumbledore’s side use it without even blinking, and you sure won’t hear him correcting anyone when they say it. Hell, there was a teacher from the Ministry here a few years back that used it regularly in the classroom and nobody said anything about it!” Harry hears Oliver snort. “A bunch of self-righteous bullsh*t, is what it is, and nobody cares enough to do anything about it. They just talk and talk and pretend they’re doing something to solve the problems while really they’re still jus’ sittin’ there festerin’ under the surface of whatever pretty lie the Ministry’s feeding us that day. Hell, they’ve even still got slavery in the magical world, no matter what they want to call it!”


The teen sighed. “Sorry, Harry. I— there’s a lot—“ he sighed again and cut himself off. “Sorry.”

“You know, I want to understand. You know that, right?” Oliver nodded against Harry’s head again. “I get it if it’s not a quick conversation. I can learn. I want to know, Oliver. About everything. But tell me about this first. The rest can wait.”

“Half-bloods like to pretend we’re better than everyone else, Harry, but we really aren’t. Purebloods take it out on Half-bloods and Muggleborns, and us Half-bloods take it out on the Muggleborns too. We just pretend we like we don’t. Promise you won’t ever fall into that trap, will you Harry?”

“Course, Ollie. You know I don’t want to be that kind of person.”

Oliver snorted, and the heavy mood broke around them. “You don’t even know what I’m talking about yet, an’ there you go promisin’ your life away. You’re a good kid, Harry Potter, but don’t go makin’ promises you don’t know you can keep.”

“Well, I’ve got you by my side to keep me in line, don’t I?” Harry tilted his head back to grin up at the sky, hoping Oliver can see it too. “I like to think I’ve gotten really good at listening to my Captain after all this time.”

Oliver laughed and pushed Harry away, making him stumble a step or two before he was pulled back against Oliver’s chest again. “Cheeky brat.”

Harry laughed. “So you don’t want me to listen to you, Captain?”

Oliver snarled playfully, “Of course you’re gonna listen to me, Potter. I never said I don’t like you cheeky.”

For some reason, the words made Harry blush bright pink, all the way to the tips of his ears. “Then I’ll… keep being cheeky?” Harry giggled, feeling absurd at the words that came out of his mouth and the slight confusion with which he spoke them.

Oliver laughed. “Good.” He sighed. “I don’t know what I’d do if you came back to me all quiet and scared like you were last year. I think I’d have to— well, I’ll not say what I’d have to do.”

It was the closest Oliver had ever come to mentioning it, and all joy drained from Harry’s body, replaced with the buzzing of fear and anxiety, the urge to run away. But Oliver’s thick, strong arms were still wrapped around Harry and Harry knew he couldn’t break away from the hold if he had tried. It didn’t feel like Lockhart, though. It felt like Oliver was holding him up, like Oliver was supporting him.

Even then, he reminded himself, Oliver was safe. Oliver would never hurt him. Oliver would always protect him, just like the twins. It was that knowledge, from somewhere deep within his gut, that gave him the courage to speak.

“I almost did,” he whispered. “I almost… Oliver, if it wasn’t for the twins, I wouldn’t—“ Harry’s breath hitched and he pushed himself to say the words. “I would have died. From what they did to me. And the twins… got me out.”

Harry could feel Oliver’s body trembling behind him, the strong arms tightening around him and holding him closer, but Harry could not hear anything over the ringing in his ears and the sound of his pounding heartbeat and thrumming blood and his own ragged breaths. He felt something wet landing on his head and wondered if Oliver was crying or if clear skies had turned to rain above them while they’d been talking. Then, they were on their knees in the grass, and Harry was pulled against Oliver’s chest trying to remember how to breathe.

But he was with Oliver, and Oliver would never hurt him, and Oliver would keep him safe.

“I’ve got you, Harry,” he heard, over and over again. Along with the same refrain repeating in his head: Oliver was here, that means Harry was safe. “I’m here, Harry. You’re safe. I’ve got you, Harry.”

“S-sorry,” Harry gasped, pushing his forehead harder against Oliver’s firm chest. “D-didn’t m-mean to—“

“Unless the next thing out of your mouth is a sassy little comment, I don’t want to hear it right now, Potter,” Oliver said tensely, trying to keep his words light but failing to hide the panic in it. “You’re not botherin’ me none, and you just did somethin’ worth a thousand points to Gryffindor, so you stay right there an’ get your feet back under you. A little panic attack’s nothin’ — not the first time, either, remember before your first game? Just focus on— on— on breathin’ or somethin’, because you’re definitely not doing that right now and you need to be.”


His knees were shaking. Scratch that, his entire body was trembling. He wanted the twins to wrap him up in their arms and hide him away from the world. He wanted his body to come back under his control. He wanted to run and never stop.

He wanted to get rid of the fear that Uncle Vernon would find out he told. Somehow, some way, Uncle Vernon always found out when he told.

Oliver’s hands were hot on his back, searing heat that he could feel even through his Quidditch gear, rubbing gently up and down while Harry tried to match his breathing with the body he’d pressed up against. Soon, the hands were wandering into his hair and petting, gently combing through the unruly locks with long, thin fingers, and then wandering down his back again in repetitive, soothing motions.

Soon, Harry’s eyes were closing gently instead of being squeezed shut, and he was leaning into the soft touches, turning his face to catch the gentle fingers tracing their way down his cheek and neck, his breath coming in little interrupted hiccups and soft sighs instead of ragged, gasping breaths.

Oliver’s low chuckle reached his ears. “Are you turning into a kitten on me, Potter?”

“F-feels nice,” Harry retorts, his voice hoarse and thin and a little defensive.

“Well, I’m not complaining about an armful of little Potter kitten.”

“Only people wh-who ever touch me this g-gentle are th’ twins an’ Ch-Charlie,” Harry says, trying desperately to make his case for enjoying the gentle touches.

Oliver doesn’t say anything to that, just continues his long, slow strokes from head to waist and back up again, letting Harry soak up the touch and come back down.

“You know I won’t hurt you, right Harry?”

“’Course. You, Fred, and George p’tect me.” He nuzzles into the hand that brushed against his cheek. “The only ones.”

Oliver takes a shaky breath. “That’s right, Harry.” Harry can hear his voice crack, but he doesn’t know why. “We protect you. What do they always say to you, again?”

“In th’ sky an’ on th’ ground,” Harry mumbled, the words coming to his lips easily. “Ollie, ‘m sleepy.”

He laughed, breathlessly and without any joy to it. An odd laugh. “Yeah, Harry. I bet you are.” His fingers run through Harry’s hair again. “Go to sleep, Harry. I’ll get you back to Gryffindor.”

“’M too big to carry,” Harry protested, but didn’t open his eyes.

Oliver snorted. “Harry, I’m bigger than you.”

“Yeah…” Harry sighed happily. “Lots bigger.”

“Which bed’s yours?” Oliver’s voice carried the hint of a chuckle again, which Harry preferred.


Oliver’s hands paused on Harry’s back. “What?”

“Fred’s,” Harry repeated, trying hard not to slur the sounds together. “Not mine. Please.” And then suddenly, Harry tried to sit up, looking and sounding like he just received a jolt of adrenalin to wake him up. “Or— or I can wait here for him! And you can go! I— Ollie, you probably have a billion things to do today, I’m so sorry.”

“Honestly? I was going to wait for Flint to finish up on the Pitch and run some drills, so I’m in no hurry. Plus, you worried me, Harry, of course I’m not going to leave you.” Oliver frowned down at Harry. “If you want to sleep in Fred’s bed, I’m not going to stop you — I’ve caught enough comments to know that you stay with them sometimes.”

Harry blushed but didn’t dispute it. Not that Oliver thought he would, after being caught so obviously. It wasn’t like they’d been hiding it, and if they were trying to they weren’t hiding it very well from anyone who knew the three of them.

Somehow, thankfully, the teachers had not caught on, or else the entire dormitory would be in trouble and they would probably have lost all the points for the year at once.

“You wanna go now, Harry, or do you wanna wait for the twins?”

“No waiting required, Ollie!” One of the twins called out. “Just waiting for Harry’s decision.”

Harry blushed fiercely. “Guess it’s both, huh? Going now and waiting for the twins?”

“What can I say, we live to please!”

Their silly antics made Harry laugh, and the sound let Oliver relax a little. He looked up to find both redheads walking swiftly towards where he and Harry had been resting in the grass and met two sets of worried blue eyes.

“Up you get, Harrikins,” the twin closes to them said, reaching both his arms out for Harry. “You look like you’re too sleepy to walk in a straight line, let alone up to the Tower.”

Fred,” Harry whined, “Not you, too! I’m too big to carry.”

The three teens looked at each other and then back to Harry, saying in unison, “We’re bigger than you.”

“I’m not a first year!”

George leaned around his brother. “Let me tell you a secret, Harry: you will never be too big for us to carry. If a time comes when you’re big and heavy enough that it’s hard for us to lift you, and I hope that time comes soon, then we’ll just get strong enough to carry you again. Until then, we have magic.” George grinned. “And we are very good at magic.”

Fred snorted. “Better be, we’ve been going to magic school for years.”

Harry laughed again. “Better at it than I am.”

“Oh? Tell me all about your first week while I sneak you away to hide in my bed, little lion. Every time we saw you, there was a pretty little raven singing in your ear.”

Harry blushed. “First year’s been hard for Luna, but she’s learning a lot.”

Fred squatted down and lifted Harry easily into his arms, settling his arms around his neck. “I know, Harry. I’ve been listening, too. We haven’t found where her shoes keep going off to, but we’re looking into it, okay? We’ll take care of your girl, just like we’ll take care of you.”

Harry leaned his face against Fred’s neck, and breathed this thanks against the skin.

“Who is this?” Oliver asked, easily keeping pace with Fred’s casual gait as they all started towards the castle together.

“Luna Lovegood,” George clarified. “Sweet little thing, nothing but big blue eyes and long blonde hair. Wicked smart for a firstie, and Sorted Ravenclaw, but she’s almost as shy as our Harry, here. Imprinted on him like a little bird, she did. It’s the cutest thing.”

“Seems her belongings are growing feet and getting themselves lost, though,” Fred said lightly. “None of the other girls in her year know what she’s talking about when she asks, though, and none of the Prefects seem to have time to help her. Poor thing.”

“I think she’s being bullied,” Harry said, quietly. “But she won’t tell me who’s doing it. She started telling me that… nargles? were taking her shoelaces yesterday.”

“We could try and find out what’s going on, but since none of us are Prefects and we’re all in Gryffindor, it wouldn’t be much help. We can watch out for her, though, Harry. Stop it if we see it. That’s about all we can do.”

Harry nodded. “What about the Professors? Surely Professor Flitwick could do something?”

Oliver snorted. “If we had names and proof, maybe they’d do something. I’m sure you’ve noticed the way they let things go.”

Harry nodded slowly. “Hermione was being pretty seriously bullied last year. I don’t know if it ever stopped, or if she just got better at ignoring it.”

“And the same thing goes on in the upper years, so we’re too busy trying to handle our own when we should be looking out for the kids,” Oliver confirmed. “It’s probably worse in Ravenclaw — they’re pretty cutthroat to begin with. Slytherin seems to have things under control, though whether it’s how they handle things internally or if it’s Snape stepping in, we’ll never know from the outside.”

“Is that why you said what you said earlier? To Flint?”

Oliver hummed an affirmative. “Among other things, yes. Hopefully in the next few days he’ll sit down with little Draco like I did with you, and he’ll figure out if it’s a kid repeating what his parents say at home, or if he actually knows what he’s saying and believes all that tripe.” Oliver’s eyes meet Harry’s from over Fred’s shoulder. “You know what I said earlier, about how some people never enforce it?” Harry nodded. “Professor Snape has never let the use of that word go without punishment. Never, Harry. If he finds out, and he will, there will be some kind of punishment. Even if we don’t see it. It’s the one good thing about him.”


“Nobody really knows why he cares so much, but… well, we know he went to school with your parents. They’re the same age, so they’d be in the same year. Every time I tried to ask, everyone suddenly got real quiet.”

“Same here,” George piped up. “I mean, you can find out what side he fought on in the war pretty easily — just need to look at old copies of the Prophet — but when you start asking about his school days…? Suddenly everyone forgets everything they knew about Snape and doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.”


“I think something happened,” Fred said quietly. “Something big, and probably something to do with your parents. Mum’s said some things about ‘that friend group,’ like there was more than just James and Lily, you know? Something big definitely happened, but nobody wants to say anything. Usually means it’s ugly, or distasteful, or shameful. Something like that.” He shrugged the shoulder that Harry’s head wasn’t resting on. “Well, I just think it’s interesting, is all. That he’s so militant about using that word when he fought with You-Know-Who, and your Mum was in his year and nobody wants to talk about who he used to be friends with. Maybe there’s something there, and maybe there isn’t. But it’s not just about the Potters, is it? Nobody even wants to talk about the other people in their year.”

“Like the Longbottoms,” George said. “Nobody ever wants to talk about the Longbottoms, and not just because of what happened to them.”


George hummed his affirmation. “Neville’s parents. He might talk to you about them, if you ask, but you can find their story in the Prophet, too. Ugly business, all of it. They were in the same year as your parents, too.”

“Nobody even told me that there was a connection between our houses, did you know that?” Harry asked, pressing his face into Fred’s neck and trying to stifle a yawn. “’Course you knew that, I’ve prob’ly told you a million times by now.”

“Mhm. Still waiting for his Gran to write back?”

Harry nodded sleepily. “Says I’ll probably get an invitation for Christmas break and not a single thing before.”

Fred snorted. “That sounds like typical Pureblood nonsense to me, so I’d believe him.”

“Falling asleep, little lion?” George asked.

Harry mumbled something in response, but otherwise didn’t respond, his eyes closed and face pressed into the crook of Fred’s neck.

Oliver chuckled. “I’ll get the door for you so you don’t jostle him.” He jogged ahead of the twins and held the castle door open for them as they passed through.

“Coming with, Captain?” George asked, surprise in his voice as Oliver continued on with them instead of heading towards the Great Hall for a late lunch. Or early dinner. Whatever meal was appropriate for this time of the afternoon.

Oliver shrugged. “Got some things I wanted to talk about privately. Figured you had some questions for me, too.”

George shrugged. “Wasn’t about to make a big deal of it, but yeah. I can guess some of it.”

Fred looked down at the sleeping second year in his arms. “Panic attacks always hit him pretty hard, and it looks like this was a bad one.”

“He asked to go to your bed,” Oliver confirmed, watching Fred’s face carefully.

Fred winced. “A really bad one, then. Whatever it was really shook him. Our poor lion.”

Oliver bit back the explanation he wanted to give, knowing that it wasn’t the time or the place for this conversation. Not with so many portraits watching.

They walked in silence the rest of the way to Gryffindor Tower, and then they made their way to the 4th Year boy’s dormitory before any of them spoke again.

One of the boys groaned when the four of them entered, his eyes immediately finding Harry asleep in Fred’s arms. “Not this again.” He sighed, and then his face softened. “Fine, just give me a minute to get changed and I’ll be outta here, okay man? Poor kid looks like he’s been through enough today. Tell ‘im I’m going after the teachers if they send him back into the Forest, okay? Don’t care if it was Snape, the poor kid doesn’t deserve that sh*t.”

George chuckled. “I’ll let him know. Thankfully it wasn’t a detention today. But hey — thanks for the support.” He looked down at Harry, still secure in his brother’s arms. “And the understanding.”

“’Course, man. I know he hates waking up with other people in the room after… well, after. Even if we’ve got the curtains closed, he won’t tell you anything until we’re leaving.” He slips on his shoes and grabs his bag, hurrying to button his clothes. “I know the kid needs to talk about… whatever it is to someone, and those friends of his won’t listen.”

Fred snorted. “Got that right. You know he’s adopted a little first year raven? Cute blonde named Lovegood. Seems like she’s being bullied, but we can’t do anything until we figure out who’s got it out for her. Keep an eye out?”

“Lovegood? Sure, I’ll spread the word. Point her out to me at breakfast?”

“No need — she’s connected at the hip to this one during meals. You’ll know who I’m talking about when you see her, trust me.”

“Got it.” He throws a jaunty salute George’s way. “I’m off — make sure the kid eats something tonight, yeah? Don’t know how, but he’s skinnier than last year.”

“Working on it. Go kiss your girl or whatever.”

He paused at the door and looked over his shoulder at Oliver, surprised the 6th Year didn’t follow him. “You coming, Captain Wood?”

Oliver shook his head. “Got some things to talk about with the Terror Twins. Practice was interrupted by Slytherins today and I’m not letting that steal a win from me.”

The boy grinned. “Nothing gets in the way of Quidditch.” He nodded. “See ya later, then.”

As soon as the door was closed, the twins flew into motion: George set his wand waving, various switching spells and cleaning charms flying out of it in well-practiced movements even as Fred kicked off his own shoes and moved to get Harry settled into his bed. George’s cleaning charms were aimed at all four of them, while only Fred and Harry got the honor of having their clothes switched out for comfortable, well-worn pajamas. In less than a minute, they were all clean and Fred was climbing into the bed with Harry still wrapped around him.

Oliver turned wide eyes on George, who shrugged. “I’d change you into something more comfortable, but I’m not as familiar with your wardrobe as I am ours, and you need to know what you’re switching into and where it is for the charm to work right.”

“That’s not—“ Oliver sighed. “You do this often, then?” He laughed.

George shrugged again. “Often enough, yeah.”

Oliver stared at the door. “Your roommate knew what was going on without anyone saying a word. This happens a lot, George.”

George shrugged. “Yeah.”

“How often?”

“Often enough.”


Fred spoke up from the bed. “We don’t count anymore, Ollie. We can’t. Harry hasn’t slept in his own bed since he got back to school this year, and if he does he ends up back here within an hour of curfew.”


George shrugged and pulled some clothes out of his wardrobe and started changing. “It’s better than the alternative. If you’re joining our puppy pile, you’re changing, so get comfortable or go sit on my bed. I don’t care which, but apparently you’re not leaving this room right now.”

Oliver blushed bright red. “I—“

“Harry fell asleep with you, so he feels safe with you. If you’re not here when he wakes up, he’ll probably panic and think he did something wrong that made him drive you away, and then he’ll start to spiral, and he won’t sleep again at all tonight. So you’re staying until at least dinnertime, unless he wakes up sooner than that and is okay for you to go.” George grins and it’s all teeth. “Sorry, Ollie, but I don’t make the rules. And I don’t bend them, not for this.” Not for Harry, he didn’t have to say.

It made Oliver feel weirdly better that the Terror Twins won’t bend Harry’s Rules, whatever they were. So he nodded instead, digging through George’s pajamas until he found a set that were close enough to his size that he wouldn’t rip them trying to get them on. “You know I’m wider than you?”

“You know I don’t care? Besides, those were Charlie’s — they’ll fit you just fine.”

Oliver shrugged and changed, setting his gear on the floor in front of the wardrobe in a neat pile, not bothering to fold it. He knew he had to say something, but he wasn’t sure what to say, or how to start.

“Pick a side, Ollie. Usually Harry likes to be sandwiched, so if you’re not okay with me pressed up against your back then you’re spooning Freddie.”

Oliver blushed again and groaned. “How can you say that with a straight face?” he griped, then looked over at George, expecting to see a teasing grin and wiggling eyebrows.

Instead he met wide blue eyes set in a freckled face that was very, very red.


Oliver’s heart skipped a beat.

Well, at least the topic of conversation would keep their thoughts halfway decent. Right? Right. Just… think about what you’re going to say, Oliver, and not about the twins you’re literally crawling into bed with.

“Either is fine with me,” he said, his mouth suddenly very dry. “But I don’t mind being in the middle of a sandwich, either.”

Fred chuckled from the bed. “Good, then you’ll fit right in.” He shifted a little bit, and Oliver dragged his eyes over to meet his, not expecting to find the blue eyes darkening and a wicked smirk curling Fred’s lips. “Come here, Oliver.”

Oh, f*ck.

On suddenly unsteady legs, Oliver walked over to the bed and crawled in, finding himself being easily rearranged by both Fred and George so the three of them were somehow wrapped up in each other and around Harry. Harry, who gave a little satisfied sigh, and managed to get some part of his body touching each of them, skin to skin, while still fast asleep. But, suddenly, the second year’s body seemed to relax entirely, all tension gone.

“There he goes,” Fred whispered, relief plain on his face.

“Good thing we like you,” George murmured into Oliver’s ear. It made Oliver shiver, and he’s sure the twins can feel it running through his body, but neither of them say anything about it.

Oliver cleared his throat. “Well, I hope you still like me after I tell you some of what happened after we left the Pitch today.”

Fred snorted. “I’m sure we will like you just fine, Ollie. But yes — what happened to Harry? He was fine, then he was very much not fine.”

Oliver swallowed, feeling those dark blue eyes focused on his face intently. That look never resulted in anything good, and he’d honestly spent more than his fair amount of time trying to avoid being the focus of it since the twins started Hogwarts.

“He… told me something. About this summer. And he said that he wouldn’t have been alive if it wasn’t for the two of you… getting him out.” Oliver could feel the color draining from his face at the memory, as Harry’s stricken face started out at him, as his legs folded underneath him and he had to go down on his knees to keep Harry from landing on the ground. “And then he…”

“…had a panic attack. Yeah, that happens.”

“He trusts you a lot, doesn’t he? Our Harry.” Fred’s eyes demand something of Oliver, but he doesn’t know what, only that he cannot look away. “He let you touch him. He told you a secret. He’s asleep in this bed with you.”

“He said the three of us protect him,” Oliver found himself confessing. “That we’re the only ones who touch him gently — the three of us, and Charlie.” He grit his teeth. “He was completely out of it, and I didn’t know what to do except tell him that he could trust me to protect him.”

“And he did,” George said quietly, his lips barely brushing the edge of Oliver’s ear. “You asked him to let you protect him, asked him to trust you, and he did.”

“And you protected him, didn’t you, Oliver?” Fred’s fingers find one of Oliver’s wrists and wrap around it, his fingertips gently brushing against his racing pulse. “You protected Harry the best you could until we could come and take over for you.” Oliver swallowed and nodded. “You kept him safe for us.”

“You took care of him.”

“I tried,” Oliver corrected. He felt it bubbling up from inside of him, how he felt like he didn’t do enough or didn’t do it right, or that there was more he could’ve done. But he didn’t know — didn’t know what was going on, didn’t know what had happened, didn’t know how to make it better.

He didn’t know it had ever been so bad that Harry might have died. He felt like he had failed, and something inside of him despaired at the thought that he had failed.

“You did well,” Fred and George say, eerily in unison.

The thing inside of him that felt nothing but pain since Harry’s whispered confession lit up, and Oliver felt tears suddenly roll down his cheeks as he stifled the sob that wanted to come out. For some reason, those simple words felt like forgiveness, and it felt like everything he needed.

“I d—“ Oliver hiccups, “I didn’t know,” he cried, trying to keep his voice as quiet as he could so he didn’t disturb the sleeping Harry pressed against his chest.

“Neither did we. But now that we do, we can try to make it better for him.”

“Oliver,” Fred said quietly. Oliver immediately lifted his eyes to meet Fred’s serious gaze. “That was barely the tip of the iceberg. There is… so much more that we don’t even know about, and we’ve been… trying for over a year now. You did the best you could, okay? You need to believe me.”

“I’ll do better,” Oliver promised.

George pressed his lips gently against Oliver’s neck, smiling when he immediately tilted his head to the side for better access and pressed another kiss there as a reward. “We know. Now go to sleep, Ollie. It’s my turn to keep watch.”

Like it was magic, and maybe it was, the words set something loose inside of him and Oliver felt his whole body relax for the first time in recent memory, and he was falling asleep quicker and easier than he had since his sixteenth birthday.

When they were sure Oliver had finally fallen asleep, the twins shared a secret smile.

“Well, this is a development I didn’t see coming.”

“Oliver? Or Oliver and Harry?”

“Both, if I’m honest. Can’t say I’m disappointed, though.”

They both chuckle and fall silent, lost in their own thoughts. Then:

“Next time, we get him in bed without Harry, and without any hysterics.”

“Oh yes, that’ll be a lot of fun.”


When Harry woke up, he was comfortably smooshed between Fred and Oliver, but could see George in the next bed over with the curtains open, reading by wandlight.

“What?” Harry asked, his voice rough with sleep. “George, did you say something?”

George closed his book and rolled over with a soft smile. “Good morning, Harry.”

Harry shook his head. “No, you said… something… what were you going to rip up?” Harry yawned. “Was weird.”

George frowned. “I didn’t say anything. We’re the only ones awake in here, too, and nobody was sleeptalking…”

“No, I swear I heard something. Ripping, or tearing… something. Was weird.” Harry frowned. “Kind of scary sounding, actually.”

And that was all George needed to climb back into Fred’s bed and wrap his arms around the three of them. “I didn’t hear anything, so I wonder if you were having a nightmare? You know how they sometimes linger.”

Harry yawned. “Maybe. Doesn’t feel like it, though…”

George smiled. Cute. “Go back to sleep, Harry. I’ll stay in here with you for the rest of the night, okay? Does that help?”

Harry hummed thoughtfully before nodding, wiggling one of his arms around Oliver’s back so he could clutch onto George’s pajama shirt. “Feels safer with you near me,” Harry murmured.

“Then I’ll stay. It’s bedtime, anyway.”

“Were you reading?”

George hummed. “Studying. I have a quiz from Pomfrey on Monday before she’ll let me know if I’m in for training or not.”

Harry nodded. “You’ll pass. I know it.”

“You know it, huh?”

“Yeah. Cuz you’re my George.” Harry’s eyes slipped shut. “Of course you’ll pass it.”

And then as quickly as he had woken up, Harry was falling back asleep.

“I’m your George, huh?” George grinned. “Can’t wait to tell Freddie.”

Fred snorts. “You don’t have to. He started squirming before he woke up about that nightmare or whatever. I didn’t hear it either, but it doesn’t sound like one of his normal nightmares.” Fred yawned. “Mind switching out with me?”

George shrugged and silently debated climbing over the pile of sleeping bodies or walking around the bed.

“Go around, you idiot. We both know Oliver would try to sneak out if he woke up right now.”

George snorted but did as his brother asked, quietly slipping his arms into the same position he’d been in while Fred heads quickly towards the door.


Fred turns his head to grin at George. “Yes. And it’s my turn to cuddle with Oliver. Maybe we’ll get up to some mischief in the morning. If you’re awake early enough, you could even join us.”

George groaned. “No fair, you know I’ll be cuddled up with Harry until he wakes up, and you know he’ll want to sleep in. Why tease me with that now? You could’ve just kept it at ‘next time,’ you know?”

Fred shrugged. “You’ll get your turn eventually. Besides, we both know who we’re really waiting for.”

George dropped his head, his ears tinted pink. “Yeah.”

“Sounds like Oliver might be, too. So it doesn’t hurt to play around a little.”

“This is going to be a long few years, isn’t it?”

Fred laughed quietly. “He’s already a precocious little brat, our lion. I’d bet ten galleons that we’re the ones telling him we have to wait until he’s older before too long.”

George groaned again and shook his head at his brother. “Just… keep it quiet, yeah? Don’t want him feeling like he’s unwanted, or we’re stringing him along or anything.”

George could feel Fred’s gaze land on him like a heavy jacket. “We both know I’d rather die than let him think that. Really, Georgie. If I thought he’d mind, I’d talk to him about it. But we both know—”

“He’s too young,” they say in unison.

“I know. I get it. But I worry. I always worry about him.”

“We’ll talk to Ollie about it tomorrow, okay? Make sure he understands where we stand, first, and see if he knows where he stands on everything. But Harry’s only twelve, and he’s already seen and experienced too much. I don’t want him to start worrying about us. Not like that. Not yet. He shouldn’t have to worry about it.”

“He’d try to make us happy, even if it hurts him,” George whispered.

“Yeah. That’s why we’re going to be cool as cucumbers the whole time.”

“f*ck, you’re weird Freddie. I get it. I’m done talking about this. I want to go back to sleep.”

“Be back in two shakes!”

George groaned again before burying his face in Harry’s messy locks, catching the scent of something he can’t describe but knows is Harry — Harry’s sweat, or Harry’s bathing products, he’s not sure, just knows it’s Harry’s. Harry sighs and relaxes more against him.

He blinks his eyes open again when he feels the weight of someone’s gaze on his face, somehow not surprised to see Oliver’s eyes wide open and staring at him.

“If you disagree with any of what you heard, now’s the time to climb out of this bed and never come back,” George said quietly.

Oliver shook his head quickly. “Some questions, but. Overall? You and Fred?” He lets out a deep breath. “Sign me up, mate.”

“And Harry?”

“Is twelve, which all of us know. He’s gonna be gorgeous when he’s older, but he’s still just a kid. Don’t make me feel like a creep by thinking about it now, man.”

George felt the laugh bubbling up in his throat and tried to stifle it. “Join the f*cking club. He’s the same age as Ronnie, and sometimes it feels like I’m going insane.” He shrugs. “Feels like he’s mine, though. Fred says the same thing. Don’t know what it means, but I’d do anything for him if it keeps him safe and happy and healthy. Don’t know what that means for you, either, if it means anything at all. Doesn’t mean I want to throw him into bed yet, though.”

Oliver shrugged too. “It doesn’t feel like he’s mine, but I’m definitely attached to him. Earlier, I… It was like I’d lost every Quidditch Cup in existence all at the same time, broken my broom, and been told I’d never fly again. The thought that I’d failed him, or that I couldn’t protect him. I’ve never felt like that before, and it’s f*cking weird. Still, I don’t desire him like that.” He swallowed. “Not like I desire the two of you.”

George grimaced. “f*cking hell, Oliver, you can’t just say that to me and expect me to fall asleep.” He nuzzled his nose into Harry’s hair again, taking comfort in the close contact.

Oliver was quiet for a moment and then said, “You know it’s the same age difference between us as it is with you and him, right?”

“Is this one of those questions?”


George laughed soundlessly. “Of course it is. There’s a world of difference between fourteen and twelve, you know that. A lot of growing happens in those years, and I won’t take that from him.”

“There’s a difference between fourteen and sixteen, too,” Oliver pointed out quickly.

George snorted. “Not nearly the same thing, and you know it. But, fine. I’ll bite. You want to wait until April, when we’re fifteen and sixteen, is that it? Think it’ll make any difference when the number changes but me and Freddie are still the same? ”

Oliver sighed. “That’s… not exactly what I mean, but it might make me feel a little better about it, yes. So what if we’re dating, and we take it slow until then?”

Arms wrapped around Oliver’s waist and tug him back against a warm chest. “Would it help ease your fears if I tell you, for all we play, neither of us is ready to have sex yet?” Fred’s lips brush against the back of Oliver’s neck. “If I tell you that for all we tease, what we’re really asking for right now is some kissing and maybe a little groping? You won’t take advantage of us, Oliver, and neither of us is going to push you into something you’re not comfortable with. But you’re right — we’re fourteen. We may not be ready to have sex yet, but it doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy touching and being touched by you.” Oliver’s head tilts to give Fred more skin to run his lips over. “It doesn’t mean we haven’t dreamed about what your lips feel like.” He smiles against the skin of Oliver’s neck. “You know, once, a long time ago, the two of us were the twelve year old boy with a crush on our handsome Quidditch Captain. And, I hear, so were you.” The darkness in his voice makes Oliver shiver. “But look where we have you now.”

“Charlie’s been telling stories, has he?”

George laughed. “To Harry, when he starts talking like the sun shines out of your arse. And, since we were there, of course we overheard.” He leans forward. “Sounds like you were a cute kid, too. A little precocious. Asking for a little too much, a little too soon for someone’s comfort. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?”

Oliver blushed. “Sounds like he might be a better man than me.”

Fred snorted. “Charlie’s probably a better man than anyone. I don’t know how he can do it and still be so f*ckin’ cool.”

“If I have to listen to you talk about your sex life for one more minute, I am going back to my own bed,” Harry grumbled, “and then I am going to write Charlie a letter telling on all of you for keeping me up.”

The three teens shut their mouths so hard their teeth clicked together.

“It’s okay, Harry has a crush on Charlie, too.” Fred declared, squeezing Oliver tightly around the middle even as Harry presses closer to them.

Harry snorted. “Who doesn’t? And the answer is yes, Ollie. Now go to sleep. All of you.”

The silence presses in on them before suddenly one of the twins is laughing and the other is groaning so loudly there’s no pretending they’re asleep and they might be waking someone up.

“What?” Oliver hisses, mortified. “What the f*ck was that about?”

“We are so f*cked,” Fred said, covering his mouth and looking upward as if the answers would fall out of the sky.

“If we have to compete with Charlie?” George agreed. “No way we’re winning that one. I don’t even know how he did it, but he’s won and he doesn’t even know he’s playing.”

Charlie doesn’t keep me awake talking about his sex life,” Harry said pointedly.


“He’s got us there,” George said wearily.

“But we haven’t even got a sex life!” Fred hissed.


HOW ABOUT ALL THAT OLIVER WOOD??? I hope you enjoyed him as much as I did!

Also, no, Harry doesn't realize what he's admitted to at the end here -- he's very much sassing off because he's overtired and cranky, and he's having some feelings about the conversation he's overheard but doesn't want to talk about it yet. I'm sure we'll see them soon.

Any guesses on when Harry woke up?

Please leave me comments about your favorite parts, or things you're thinking you've picked up on! I love reading your guesses, and especially love the flailing comments I get in my inbox! They truly make my day and help to keep this project joyful for me.

Chapter 12: Hogwarts Year 2: Part 4 — Sunday


Harry's relaxing Sunday soon turns out to be anything but.

Alternatively: Harry and Luna visit Hagrid and their conversation is... illuminating; Harry has a conversation with Percy, who is well-meaning but his suspicions are completely off-base (or are they?) and then Harry has a perfectly normal dinner where nothing is weird or wrong in any way shape or form.


slight content warning for Harry and Percy's conversation as it makes allusions and assumptions of coercion and non-consensual sexual acts towards a minor. None of this is actually stated in the text, but that is the intended vibe you're supposed to get from Percy's side of the conversation.

Also this chapter was supposed to cover far more than just this one day, but it kept growing and then trying to add anything else??? What can I say, the vibes were off.

Sorry for the lies I told in the comment replies that may have said certain people were being introduced this chapter but they never actually got their screentime. Most of those scenes have been pushed to the next chapter since my entire outline for this chapter got rearranged.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Hogwarts Year 2: Part 4 — Sunday

The next day sees more than a few hastily-written letters being tied to an owl’s leg and sent off to Romania by dinnertime, after Charlie’s owl had landed with a stern glare in front of Harry at the breakfast table and abruptly reminded several young Gryffindors that Charlie’d been waiting to hear from them all week.

Luna leaned close to Harry, resting her head on his shoulder as he opened the letter that had been delivered to him. “You missed dinner yesterday, Harry,” she admonished lightly. “I was worried when you didn’t show up. Is Charlie scolding you for skipping meals, too?”

Harry snorted. “I don’t know yet, but he probably will once he finds out.” He glances her way, green eyes meeting blue. “Are you planning to read over my shoulder?”

She hummed in response, completely unrepentant. “Are you planning to scold me for it?”

He just sighed and looked down at Charlie’s blocky handwriting. No, he wasn’t planning to scold her for it. He knew if he asked her, she would give him privacy.

The thought made something inside him warm.

Little Dragon,
How has your first week of classes been? Remember, I want to hear all about it, even the boring stuff like questions you have in your classes that you’re not comfortable asking your teachers about. Now, that Lockhart fellow… I probably won’t be able to help with his class because I refuse to pick up any of his books (as do most of the people I work with — they’re absolute rubbish and the advice he gives isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on) but I’ll caution you to keep your head down where you can and not to antagonize him no matter how much he annoys or frustrates you. You can always ask Percy for his notes — I’d lend you mine if I still had them, but I know Percy still keeps all of his old class notes in his trunk for easy revision. He’ll be preparing for NEWTs next year, and likely willing to share anything he’d prepared for his OWLs — fifth year and below. Just ask him, yeah?

I remember you were having trouble with casting last year, and we didn’t get a chance to practice over the summer because of Britain’s (and Mum’s, honestly) absurd insistence on half-bloods and Muggle-borns not being allowed to cast outside of school without proper adult supervision. I’ll not be getting into that here, because I don’t have enough parchment in the world to cover that rant, but I think it’s absolutely stupid and should be done away with. They handle these things very differently in other countries. Anyway.

I’ve been worrying that you might have some difficulty with casting again after exhausting your magic the way you did over the summer. How has it been in classes now that—

Luna gasped and looked up at Harry. “Harry James Potter,” she whispered urgently, “You never told me you were having problems with your magic!”

Harry shrugged. “Wasn’t planning to tell anyone who didn’t already know about what happened this summer. And it’s not like my classmates don’t already know that I have trouble casting — they certainly have a lot to say about it when they think I’m not listening.”

She pouted. “Can we talk about it later, though?”

“Are you insisting, Luna?”

Her eyes seemed to glow a bit when she answered in an affirmative. “I am.”

“Then we’ll talk about it later. But just… give me some time to get used to classes again, yeah? I’m not saying I won’t talk about it, just… that we’ll talk about it… later.” He glanced around at the crowded tables that filled the Great Hall. “Not here. Not now.”

“Do not wait too long, Harry Potter. Casting trouble is never something you should put off investigating, and is often a sign that something has gone dreadfully wrong.”

Harry turned back to the letter, but he could still feel Luna’s heavy gaze on him.

He didn’t want to think of anything going wrong, especially not with his magic. His eyes skipped down to the next paragraph.

If I know Oliver, he’s already gotten you started on new drills for Quidditch. Have you—

“Harry,” Luna whined quietly.

Harry looked up at her, surprised she would take that tone with him. Luna could be many things, and often was, but she didn’t whine or beg. She made statements, most often.

“You need to eat. Put the letter away and finish reading it later.” She pouted up at him. “Please? And then maybe after breakfast you can take me to meet Hagrid properly?”

He scowled down at her, knowing he was going to give in to her request anyway but not wanting to go down without a fight. She just blinked and widened her eyes a little bit in response until he finally signed and his shoulders dropped. “Fine,” Harry said. “I’ll eat a little. My stomach is still feeling… off. Since yesterday. But I’ll eat something if it makes you worry less about me, okay?”

Luna nodded, sighing happily as she moved away from him, reaching out for a bowl of porridge and loading it up with as many fruits as she could manage one-handed. “I fear I shall never stop worrying about you, Harry Potter,” she said lightly, handing the bowl of porridge over to him with a soft smile. “But at least I can be content knowing you are well taken care of in my absence.”

Harry snorted. “Your absence? Are you planning to leave me, Luna?” He sneaks an arm around her shoulder and tugs gently on a long lock of her blonde hair. “I’m just getting used to you — you can’t go off and leave me on my own now! What’ll I do without my Luna girl by my side?”

Luna’s face turned bright pink and an enormous grin took over her face.

Someone nearby snorted. “Layin’ it on a little thick, aren’t you, Potter?” Harry looked up to see the older Gryffindor boy covering his laugh with his hand. “Oi, Weasley — I see what you mean. Couldn’t miss it for the world, those two.”

Fred, who had just taken a rather sizeable bite of his own breakfast, coughed and tried to smother his own laugh. “Told ya, didn’t we?” He winks at a blushing Harry. “Our Harry dotes on his little bird.”

“An’ she’s completely gone on him, too. Not even worth takin’ bets with them already makin’ eyes at each other.”

Harry scowled at the older boy. “I’d hope you weren’t making bets about first years, period.”

He shrugged, taking another big bite of toast and considering his answer while observing Harry. Cute baby Potter, acting like he’s a full grown lion with his little glare and his milk teeth. Absolutely adorable. And wholly ineffective. But any attempt at protection had to be rewarded, so he backed down. “Not usually, no. But sometimes you can just tell with people, the way they gravitate towards each other.” He grinned viciously. “Like you and that Malfoy boy — bet’s split on if either of you’ll end up in a grave or in each other’s beds by the end of your sixth year.” He shrugged. “Not that I’ll be here to collect on it, but—“

Harry sputtered, blushing deeply and unsure what he was trying to say, only aware that he should be saying something.

At the Slytherin table, a posh voice cried out, “What?

Titters sounded around the Great Hall as it became clear that the Malfoy in question had, in fact, been listening to Harry’s conversation.

Some coins changed hands. Many of the second year Slytherins left the Great Hall. Conversations resumed. Harry just rolled his eyes, tried to pretend that it didn’t make anxiety swirl in his belly, and took a bite of the porridge that Luna had prepared for him.

It was good. And something about the act — another person that he had come to care about and trust preparing food for him — slowly made the anxiety dissipate, replaced with a fluttery kind of warmth inside of him. He didn’t know what it was, but he could easily find himself addicted to it if he wasn’t careful.

He’d be left aching when they all left him, and it would be more painful than any other time if he allowed himself to get used to this feeling. The warmth, the kindness, the care. Memories of Fred and George taking care of him last year had been the only thing that kept him fighting over the summer, but how many more summers like that could he take? What would happen when it wasn’t enough, and he still wanted to give up?

Harry shook his head sharply and refocused on the bowl in front of him. He liked the choice of fruits Luna had picked, and set his mind to cataloguing them and paying attention to the different sensations and textures of each bite.

He did not want to think about this summer.

Two large, gentle hands found their way into Harry’s hair, patting his head softly and ruffling the hair there before pulling away — a gentle touch that lit him up from the inside as the Weasley twins said their goodbyes and sauntered away with a mischievous look in their eyes. As Harry continued to eat his porridge under Luna’s watchful gaze, the tables around him slowly emptied.

“Finally done, mate?” Ron called from several seats away, his mouth still full of bacon even as he pushed himself up from his seat. “We’ve been waitin’ for ya.”

Harry felt the anxiety twist in his stomach again, feeling the familiar emptiness he now recognized as hunger even as his appetite withered away. He set his spoon down. “Yeah, I suppose.” He glanced at Luna, a bolt of surprise spiking through him as he registered the incredibly sad look on her face before she caught him staring and smiled easily up at him. “We were going to visit Hagrid. Do you want to come?”

Ron scowled. “But we just saw him yesterday!” He brightened up. “If you want to spend time outside though, we could go flying! Just for fun, mind — and you can lend me your Nimbus! It’s been ages since I’ve got a chance to fly on your Nimbus!”

Harry just shook his head. “I didn’t get the chance to see him yesterday because of practice, remember? And I promised Luna a proper introduction.”

Ron wrinkled his nose. “Can’t you skip it? You don’t need to be there for L-Lovegood to meet him.”

Harry could hear Aunt Petunia’s scathing, shrieking voice in his head reminding him of all the ways that it was improper, and immediately shook his head. “I promised her, and I want to visit with him anyway. We can go flying in the afternoon? I’ll nip back to the dorm to grab my broom when I’m done.”

“Nah, forget it, mate. I wanna go flying now, not in a few hours. An’ who knows how long you’ll be there? You always get Hagrid talkin’ for hours, don’t know how you do it…”

Harry bit his tongue before the scathing words could escape him. Because I’m actually interested in what he says, he wants to snap. But he doesn’t. He takes a deep breath and smiles at Ron instead. “Hermione would probably be happy to help you with any of the homework you haven’t finished. She’s probably at the library right now — I saw her leave earlier, before you came down for breakfast.”

“All right, then.” Ron shrugged and lifted his hand in a wave before slouching and making his way out of the Great Hall.

Harry watched him go, feeling something sharp twisting in his chest as he did.

Luna touched his shoulder gently, a knowing look on her face. “That’s the look on my face when I try to talk to Ginny,” she said softly. “No other frown feels anything like it.”

He just nodded. It probably was the same look, even if he’d never seen it — Luna had been very careful about when and how she tried to reconnect with her childhood friend, and always made sure to do it where there was no chance of Harry seeing. He didn’t know why she was so careful about doing it where he couldn’t see, but he respected her privacy.

She always smiled sadly up at him when he asked her why she kept trying. He didn’t truly need the answer — he already knew. Of course he knew. But it was so much easier to notice on someone else than it was to apply that logic to himself.

“Shall we go meet this friend of yours? I’m quite eager to ask him about all the creatures in the forest!”

That brought a smile to Harry’s lips. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Let’s go see Hagrid. Maybe sneak him some of the good pastries so he doesn’t offer us any rock cakes this time.”

She nodded wisely. “I’m sure rock cakes are a delightful treat for many, but not for me.”


Luna and Hagrid become friends just as quickly as Norberta the dragon had tried to set his hut on fire. That is to say: immediately. Harry pretty much sat at the table sipping at his tea and scratching Fang (behind the ears, under the chin, behind the ears again, just above his tail— Fang’s list of places he wanted scratched was endless) while Luna lit up under Hagrid’s attention.

He also learned an awful lot about creatures with names Harry either couldn’t pronounce or couldn’t remember but Luna’s father frequently went on adventures to find. Instead of claiming they were imaginary, though, Hagrid nodded sagely and made suggestions or asked questions.

“Good man, old Xeno,” Hagrid said, turning away from them to fill his mug with more tea, “wish I could read that paper o’ his, but I never could focus for long enough to read ‘is articles.” He considered a moment and shrugged. “Tha’ or it’s a problem wi’ my readin’. Never been tha’ great with me letters.”

Somehow, Luna glowed even brighter. Literally, her skin started shining with a sort of bright white light.

“Luna?” Harry reached out and touched her hand gently where she was holding on to her own mug of tea. “You’re glowing.” He didn’t need to ask to know that this was one of the things she’d mentioned before — a thing that wasn’t safe to do, let alone question.

She blushed brightly and the light immediately dimmed. Luna glanced quickly, nervously, at Hagrid’s back. “Daddy said the first accidental magic I ever showed was making myself glow for Mummy when I was really happy! It still happens from time to time, but I’ve gotten a lot better at managing it.” She smiled sweetly at Harry. “I’m just really happy right now.”

“Tha’s jus’ abou’ the sweetest thin’ I ever heard,” Hagrid said, reaching one of his huge hands up to wipe at an eye as he took his seat back at the table. “Yer a good kid, Luna Lovegood, an’ don’ ever let anyone tell yeh any diff’rnt.” He looked down his large nose at her, his eyes shiny. “I know how mean kids can be ‘bout kids who’re a li’l diff’rnt ‘n most.”

Luna smiled gently up at him, her lips trembling.

“I wonder what my first bit of magic was?” Harry asked quietly. “My Aunt and Uncle refused to talk about what freakish things were happening, but—“

“Yer Aunt and Uncle can go rot,”Hagrid spat. “An’ yer Mum was beside herself with joy when yeh showed off yer magic as a baby, Harry. Wouldn’t tell any o’ us what it was you was doin’, mind, but it made her real happy.” He laughed. “Wouldn’t even tell James what it was the firs’ time, neither. Kept it real close to ‘er chest. Then you started doin’ other things wi’ yer magic — but the first bit? She took that to ‘er grave.”

“I don’t think it’s uncommon to keep it a secret, especially in older families,” Luna said lightly. “Some families believe a child’s first bit of magic is a secret between them and Lady Magick, so they’ll really only talk about the magic they’ve done afterwards. I don’t know if my glowing was really my first bit of magic or if it’s just the first magic Daddy saw me do — Mummy didn’t tell him, but he’d overheard her telling the story to someone and decided it was safe to share.” She shrugged. “It’s also possible that it’s a Witch thing. I’ll never know what we used to do, because Mummy can’t pass down our traditions to me now that she’s dead.”

“There’s special things that witches do that wizards don’t?” Harry asked, his eyebrows raised.

It was Hagrid who answered. “Oh, aye, there’s a lotta that — won’t hear anyone talk about it in public, mind, but it’s still done. Used ta be, you’d hear about the ladies getting together to work some kind o’ big magic, usually after a birth or ‘fore a wedding.” He shrugged. “Never did get any details on it, but then again,” he laughed, “I’m not married, and a man besides! Never had no sisters, an’ my mum died when I was young.”

“It’s a well-kept open secret these days,” Luna said. Harry tried to make that statement make sense in his head and she elaborated. “Most magical families know about women’s magic and don’t talk about it. It’s something that’s passed down from woman to woman, always after her first menses.” She frowned a little, that sad expression darting over her face again before she smoothed her expression. “An honor that I will never have, unfortunately, as there are no women left in my family to teach me.”

“Too many old families lost ta th’ wars over the years,” Hagrid said solemnly. “Even th’ women and children weren’t spared after a time.”

Harry opened his mouth, preparing to ask for more information about the war (wars, plural? As in more than one war that people were mentioning that nobody would tell him about, or acted as if he already knew about?) only to be interrupted by a knock on the door.

Something about the gentle tapping made Luna sit up straight, discomfort radiating through every centimeter of her being. It set Harry instantly on edge.

“I’ll jus’ see who it is,” Hagrid said easily, standing up. “Don’ go nowhere.”

Watching his friend closely, Harry said, “We should be going anyway, Hagrid. Thank you for the tea.”

“Oh, are yeh sure? All righ’ then.” Hagrid continued towards the door and opened it to find Ginny Weasley shoving a black book back into her bag, one hand raised to knock on the door again. “Ginny! Pleasure ta have ya, as always. Come in — Harry and Luna were jus’ leavin’ but I’ve got a fresh enough pot o’ tea.”

Ginny’s tan skin paled rapidly at the mention of who was there, her freckles standing out starkly on her face as her brown eyes shift back and forth between the two of them.

“Hello, Ginny. It’s lovely to see you,” Luna said softly, smiling at her old friend.

Harry waved quickly at her. “We really should be off, though,” he repeated. “Have a nice visit!” It wasn’t clear which of the two he was addressing, but he quickly reached for Luna’s hand, threading his fingers through hers, and tugged her towards the door. “Excuse us,” he said.

Ginny, growing paler by the moment, stepped aside and let the two leave.

“Come t’ see th’ pumpkins again?” Hagrid asked, ushering her into the hut and closing the door behind them. “I can give you a tour o’ the animals, if ya want — mind ya be careful about the roosters.”

Harry could barely hear Ginny’s quiet voice through the door as she responded to Hagrid. Something was tugging at him and making him want to loiter by the door and listen to their conversation. “I’m quite good with roosters — we keep hens at home, and every now and again we get a rooster to bump up the flock.”

“Maybe y’ can help me with them this year!”

Luna tugged their joined hands. “You didn’t need to do that for me, Harry.”

The urge to listen didn’t pass, but he refocused his attention on Luna. “Of course I did. Now, c’mon, we have the whole rest of the day together before classes tomorrow.”

Luna smiled up at him but it was too thin and her face was suddenly far too pale. “I think I’d like to take a nap, actually. Maybe Ron has changed his mind and wants to fly?”

Harry shrugged and squeezed her hand, turning away from Hagrid’s hut and starting the long walk back to the castle. “I can ask. I don’t really want to go back to the Tower just to come back down here, though.” He sighed. “It’s the only thing Ron really wants to do together, though. Flying or playing chess — but I’m not good at chess, and then he complains about how easy it is to beat me.”

Luna hummed thoughtfully, “Maybe you should respond to Charlie’s letter, then.” She cut her eyes up at him with a glare. “Truthfully updating him about your casting problems, of course.”

Harry snorted. “Of course,” He said wryly.

With each step away from Hagrid’s hut, Luna regained some of her color and surety, until she is skipping easily beside him and swinging their hands. Harry’s favorite was when she decided to use his hand to twirl herself, and he made sure to give her an extra twirl or two each time she did it, if only to see the large grin take over her face and hear her happy giggle.

Harry offered to walk her to the Ravenclaw Common Room when they arrived in the entry hall, only for Luna to laugh up at him and tug herself away.

“You’ll be visiting other common rooms soon enough, Harry Potter, and I’ll not let you sneak your way into mine before it’s time.”

Harry, becoming used to her random and sometimes nonsensical comments, merely laughed and watched her skip away before he headed back to his own common room.

He had a letter to write, and now he had several questions.


When Harry arrived at the Gryffindor Common Room, it was mostly empty except for Percy Weasley and Oliver Wood. At a quick glance, it was clear why the room had been vacated: the two 6th Years were standing in the middle of the Common Room having a very loud and very enthusiastic argument. Judging by the piles of books and other things around the room, everyone had vacated rather quickly and had decided they’d rather come back to get their stuff than take the time to pack it away.

He winced at the loud voices that carried his way, even though he had barely stepped through the portrait hole, and tried to ignore his heart racing as he made his way towards the stairs to the boys’ dormitory. Unfortunately, the two 6th Years were standing right in front of the stairs and there’d be no way around them.

Still, he is unprepared for the way the confrontation unfolds and stops him in his tracks: Oliver pushed his way into Percy, poked his index finger into his chest, and said something too low and quiet for Harry to hear, a vicious look on his face. He did not miss the scowl on Percy’s suddenly flushed face, though.

“Fine!” Percy snapped. He reached up and swatted Oliver’s hand away before stepping back. “I’ll speak to her. I don’t see how it’ll make much of a difference, me doing it instead of you.” He sniffed. “I wasn’t even there.”

Oliver snorted. “It’ll make a difference because she respects you. D’you think I’d ask you to handle it without tryin’ myself?” He huffed. “In her eyes, I’m just a Quidditch maniac, an’ she told me so herself when I tried to talk to her.”

Percy deflated. “Fine,” he said again, this time sounding exhausted. “But if something doesn’t change…”

“Ol’ Minnie wouldn’t take the time to do anything about it, an’ you know it, Perce.”

He sighed again. “Yes. Well.” He sighed again. “I’ll let you know what happens.”

Oliver nodded and clapped Percy on the shoulder with the same hand he’d poked his chest with. “Good man.” He sighed. “I’m… sorry I got heated and took it out on you, Perce. I know you’re stressed and you’re doing your best, but—“

“But it shouldn’t be your responsibility, I know. You’ve made that abundantly clear.” Looking a little uncomfortable, and slightly pink, Percy lifted his hand to pat the hand Oliver rested on his shoulder. “No. It makes sense that you’d come to me about it. And I didn’t know you already tried to do something about it, or I would have responded differently. I should’ve asked you about that first instead of just assuming.”

Oliver shrugged, pulling his hand back and stretching his arms above his head. “Figured a lot of people just shove things at you first when they could’ve been handled without the badge. Didn’t want to do the same — I know you, Perce. A badge doesn’t change who you are in here,” he tapped his chest, “and I know that better than the next guy.” He shook his head. “Can’t believe she thinks I’m just a Quidditch prick,” he muttered.

Percy snorted. “I can. But I’ve also known you for six years and see you in classes.” He shrugged. “She’s just a second year, and only knows you as the Quidditch Captain. I bet she doesn’t even know what goes into getting and maintaining that position.” Percy glanced away and blinked in surprise. “Oh, hello, Harry.”

Oliver whirled around and grinned when he saw Harry, too. “Harry!” He suddenly looks towards the stairs and his grin flags a little. “Are we in your way?”

His heart still raced, but the danger had passed, so Harry nodded without saying anything.

“Sorry about that, Harry. I hope you weren’t here long.” Percy wrinkled his nose, but nodded in agreement. “Our argument got a little… out of hand.” Percy snorted at Oliver’s words. “I’m gonna go take a run and cool my head a little.”

“Maybe take a dip in the Black Lake, that’d be more effective!” Percy called towards Oliver’s retreating back.

Oliver laughed and waved his hand. “I’ll try that next time.”

Harry heard the portrait hole open and then close, but he stayed rooted to the spot in front of Percy, the older boy looking at him with a furrowed brow.

“Harry? Did you need something?”

Harry nodded, shifting on his feet and trying to breathe past the pounding of his heart and the sudden tightness in his throat. He tried to force the words out, but his body wasn’t listening to him.

He wanted to cry. It didn’t make sense to have this reaction now. The danger was gone!

Percy, though, had gotten familiar with Harry’s sudden bouts of silence over the summer and had always been better prepared than any of the Weasleys to handle his anxiety. He stepped easily around Harry and headed towards the nearest couch, settling down and patting the cushion next to him. “I was doing some revising earlier when Oliver wanted to speak to me. I’m not planning on going anywhere, and it looks like we have the Common Room to ourselves for a little while. You’re welcome to join me.”

Harry’s fingers twitched, and he extended and retracted them a few times before he nodded. “I… wanted to ask for your help.”

Percy flushed but sat up straighter, a proud smile on his face. “Of course! What do you need help with, Harry?”

Percy kept his tone light and even, not moving too much or quickly, despite finding it nearly impossible to stay still himself. Harry, who had seen Percy at ease and at rest, found it comforting that Percy was going through such an effort on Harry’s behalf.

Harry smiled shyly, a small twitch of his lips, but the next words were easier to speak. “I’m having trouble with my classes.” He pushed past the shame that wanted to strangle him and take his voice, his magic swirling in his gut alongside his anxiety. “Charlie said you might be willing to let me borrow your notes, now that you’ve finished your OWLs?” The words were coming easier and easier, and at Percy’s encouraging nod, Harry found himself relaxing into the same relationship he’d had with Percy for a month now. “I know you’re busy with your own classes, and— and your own responsibilities, but I don’t want to fall behind the way I did last year.”

Percy sat up straighter, his shoulders pushed back and his head lifted high. “Of course I’d be happy to help you out, Harry. You’re right that I’m quite busy, but I can certainly lend you my notes, and if you have questions I am happy to answer them when I can.

Harry’s smile came easier this time. “Thanks, Percy. I really am trying to do better this term, you know? And you were so helpful over the summer. I just… can’t tell what I’m doing wrong in class.”

Percy’s face fell in concern. “And the professors aren’t able to help you?”

Harry shook his head. “It’s like they don’t even notice, and when I ask for help they ignore me.” His heart thrummed again. “Same thing when I ask my classmates, it’s like they don’t hear me, or don’t have time for me, or forget that I asked a question.”

“That’s… quite concerning, actually. Harry, has this been happening all week?”

Harry shrugged, looking down at his old trainers. They were too small, and his toes were pressing against the edges and making them bulge. He was impressed that they hadn’t torn already. “Not much different than how things were last year, honestly. I’m just…” Harry sighed. “I want to do better this year, okay?”

He peeked up and saw Percy smirking a little. “You’ve actually set Quidditch Captain as your goal, then? That’s not a rumor?”

Harry flushed. “It’s not bad, is it? I figured…” He shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know exactly what I thought.”

Percy shook his head. “Want me to let Oliver know about it for you? I imagine you’re not going after his spot on the team for any nefarious reason, but sometimes he gets a little competitive and can lose sight of the conversation. If it’s coming from me, he won’t get too excited and start planning out new Quiditch strategies for the next two years.”

Harry found himself laughing at the thought. “If you want to break the news to him, sure. I know it’s not going to be any time soon, and it’ll probably go to Fred or Angelina before I’m ready to take it, but—“

“But if he knows now, Harry, he can help you develop a plan that helps you maintain your academics and fits into your overall goals better.” Percy leaned forward. “You know they’re going to ask you to pick your electives for next year, don’t you? Those shape your education and in order to get specific jobs you’ll need specific classes while you’re at Hogwarts. You can’t change your mind after your third year, even if you decide you don’t want to go into that career field anymore.”

Harry blinked, absolutely stunned. “I… no, Percy, I didn’t know any of that.”

Percy nodded. “That’s why talking to Oliver about this would be helpful. He can help you decide what you’re looking at for electives and careers, and what would work better with the additional workload of Quidditch Captaincy — or, honestly, just being a member of the team.” Percy rolled his eyes. “I tell him every year he needs to have this conversation with his team, but he never listens to me about it.”

“Part of the reason I want it is so I can spend more time studying and doing better in my classes,” Harry mumbled. “Ron gives me a lot of grief as it is, but I thought if it was for Quidditch, he would get it, and maybe even join in, you know?”

“Well, well! That’s quite the head you’ve got on your shoulders, Harry Potter.” Percy grinned down at him. “Next you’ll be telling me you want to be Prefect or Head Boy!”

Harry wrinkled his nose. “No way. Besides, nobody would respect me as a person enough to take me seriously if I said to stop—“ he slammed his mouth shut so hard his teeth clicked together.

Percy’s eyes were wide. “Harry,” he said slowly, “that’s a significant problem.”

“It’s fine! I’m used to it! It’ll be fine!” Harry could feel that writhing in his gut again alongside the anxiety that swelled up as if it had never left.

“If someone is refusing to stop when you say no—“

Harry shook his head and scrambled backwards, his breathing quickening and his heart starting to race. “It’s fine! It’s under control. I can handle it.”

Percy closed his eyes and took a deep breath. This is Harry, he reminded himself. He’s skittish at the best of times. Back off, Percy Weasely, or he’ll never come to you for help again. That’s a lesson you’ve already learned, so don’t repeat the mistake. “Okay, Harry. I won’t push you to tell me what’s happening, but I want you to know that you can come to me and,” Percy’s throat tightened, “and whatever is going on, it is not okay, and it is not your fault.” He squared his shoulders. “I don’t care who it is, if they’re hurting you—“

“They’re not!”

“But if they start, Harry, and you tell me, I need you to know that I will step in and protect you, okay? I’ll be on your side, no matter who it is. Even if you don’t tell me,” he amended, “I’ll still be on your side.”

Harry nodded jerkily. “I think I want to go get my homework now,” he said quietly.

Percy nodded. “That’s okay, too. I won’t push you to tell me, I know you’re uncomfortable, I just— I just needed you to know that, okay? I need you to believe me.”

Harry nodded again.

“If you want to come back down and work with me, or just ask some questions, I’ll be here until supper, Harry. I’d be happy for your company. If not, that’s okay too.” Percy smiled but it was thin and pained. He already knew Harry’s answer. Pushed too far again, he cursed himself. “I’ll go through my notes and get them sorted for you tonight.”

That made Harry smile. “Thank you, Percy.” For caring. For helping.

“I better see you for dinner, Potter,” Percy called as Harry started walking up the stairs. “I won’t have you missing more meals on my watch.” The words were serious but the tone was playful.

Harry tried to laugh, but felt it get caught in his throat. Instead, he turned just enough that he could speak in Percy’s direction but didn’t lift his eyes from his ratty trainers, and spoke just loudly enough that he knew Percy could hear him. “You’re a good big brother, Percy.”

Then, Harry continued up the stairs. He had a letter to write, and homework to finish, but he was so tired that what he really wanted was a nice long nap.

He could deal with the rest later.


It was a very rumpled, very sleepy Harry Potter that made his way to the Great Hall for dinner that night, clutching his finished letter to Charlie and a list of questions he’d been compiling over the course of the week.

He quietly passed the questions to Percy, who had paused his conversation when he’d seen Harry approach, unrolled the parchment, glanced at it quickly, rolled it up again, and patted him gently on the head. “This will help.”

Oliver leaned around him with a giant grin on his face, “Heard you’re planning to take my spot on the team, Potter,” he snarked.

Harry shrugged. “Figured Captain’s a decent goal to work towards. Probably going to Fred or Angelina before me, though, so I have plenty of time to learn the ropes.”

Angelina blushed darkly and Oliver’s grin stretched wider. “I like the way you think, Potter.” He nodded once. “You’ll do. Keep Thursdays after classes open for me.”

Harry blinked. “Okay, that should be easy enough, but why?”

“Special trainin’ for an aspirin’ Quidditch Captain, o’ course!” Harry blushed, and Oliver winked at him. “Now go eat, Harry. We forgot to feed you yesterday, and that’s on me.”

Oliver turned back to Percy, who immediately started in on whatever conversation they’d been having before Harry interrupted them. “That girl,” Percy huffed, “I tried to talk to her, but I don’t think she heard a single thing I said. Honestly, I don’t think she’d take it any better coming from Dumbledore himself at this point—“

Harry, feeling more than a little confused, quickly found himself seated between Ron and Hermione, who glared at everyone around him and also glared at him. It just made him even more confused.

He felt jumbled up, and his stomach hurt, and his head was aching, and he was just so tired. He honestly had no idea how he was going to eat his food, or why he had bothered to come to dinner in the first place.

Food. Empty plate in front of him. Right, he needed to fill that. Why did that feel wrong?

He was so tired. That must be what was wrong — he was just too tired for things to make sense. Sometimes he got like that, and then he would just need to stay in his cupboard for a little while, and everything would go back to normal and he’d be fixed.

Harry!” Hermione hissed. “I was talking to you!”

“Oh, sorry, ‘Mione,” Harry mumbled. “I think I need to go back to sleep,” he yawned, “I just took a nap, but I’m even more tired than I was before I went to sleep.”

Ron nodded sagely, shoveling food into his mouth. “Nap so good it’s a shame to interrupt it. Yeah, I’ve had a few of those.” He looked uncertain for a minute, but then he lowered his voice and spoke again. “You should still eat something, mate. But if you want, I can take that to the owlery after dinner and have it delivered for you.”

Harry opened his mouth to agree, but found himself shaking his head and wrapping his fingers tightly around his letter to Charlie. Weird. Ron simply shrugged and went back to eating.

Harry tried to follow Hermione’s fast-paced words, but the whole world felt like it was flooded with treacle, and all the sounds were warping together into something he couldn’t understand.

What was he doing?

He saw his empty plate, and at least that made sense. Right, he was eating dinner. But what did he usually eat? He couldn’t remember.

He’d just copy Ron, he decided, matching his plate with what he saw on his best mate’s, and lifting the fork to his lips. He had to force himself through the task, each bite mechanical and each bite of food twisting his stomach unpleasantly and tasting like ash in his mouth, but he managed to eat enough that Ron stopped sending him worried glances.

“I’m going to post this letter and head to bed,” Harry told Ron and Hermione before standing up. Ron waved at him, more focused on another helping of potatoes, and Hermione just sighed.

Oh, Harry realized. He recognized that look. He must’ve interrupted her.

“If I’m still feeling off in the morning, I’ll go to the Hospital Wing,” Harry said, despite nobody making any demands or requests of the sort. In fact, Hermione’s eyes widened and Ron looked confused, like they were surprised he had even thought going to the Hospital Wing was a viable option. He tried to justify his response and found he couldn’t think of any reason he’d actually consider going, just that it felt like it was the right thing to say. “If I’m going to make an actual go at being Quidditch Captain, I need to be able to pay attention in class, right Hermione?”

Hermione sniffed, making a small noise as she did so. “Too right. And you can’t make the grades you need by copying off of me, so don’t even think about it.”

Some deep resentment stirred inside of him, but he couldn’t be sure why her words bothered him so much. She was his best friend, of course she’d know what was normal for him, and if she said he copied off of her for classes, then…

Maybe it’s because he was tired. He always got irritable when he was tired.

“Well, starting this week I’ve got mandatory study sessions with Wood, so I won’t be needing to do that anymore,” Harry grinned at her. “Every Thursday after classes, so don’t plan anything with me for that time, okay Ron?”

Ron’s eyebrows rose but he grinned. “Okay, mate.”

Harry yawned and wobbled on his feet a little. “Okay. Well, I’m off before I fall asleep standing up.”

He waved and made his way out of the Great Hall, his eyes landing briefly on a worried pair of Weasley twins sitting on either side of Luna Lovegood, who looked immensely sad as she gazed after him. He sent them a little wave and carried on, clutching his letter like a lifeline, knowing that he needed to post it before he went back to sleep.

For some reason it felt important, even if he couldn’t remember what the letter was about.

He didn’t remember the trip to the Owlery, or back to Gryffindor, or even climbing into his own bed with any clarity, but when he woke the next morning it was with a very clear memory of a sensation he had gotten used to: the sensation of being watched.


I tried to figure out how to work this into the chapter but it didn't fit anywhere, and the timeline of the next chapter is too far away that it won't work, so I'll just put it here:


Fred and George received a reply from Charlie several days after they'd hurried to send him a letter complaining about how Harry had used him as a threat. "You're making us look bad," they'd complained. "Harry already likes you more than us, but now he's decided that he can make us behave better by saying he's going to tell you what we're doing. It's daft!"

The letter they received in response to their several feet of complaining and whining was three simple words: "Did it work?"

The twins looked at each other in dawning horror. Did it work?

The answer was obvious: yes. It worked rather well, in fact.

"Merlin's soggy left bollock," Fred whispers.

George agreed and whispered his own set of curses under his breath. "Harry can never know," he declared.

Unbeknownst to them, Charlie had also sent Harry a short letter praising him for effective use of his resources and giving him blanket permission to use the Threat of Charlie on his unruly brothers in every case that did not involve sneaking off to do something related to dragons. "They'd never believe it," he admitted. "I went mental for anything involving dragons, so they know I don't have a leg to stand on." He'd drawn a messy image of a teenager on a broom, flying off to see a dragon on the other side of the forest. "Neither do you, my little dragon. And you know it -- after all, that's how we met."

Chapter 13: Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 5: September and October


September and October pass.


I'm utilizing the "f*ck it" principle for this chapter. I finished writing and said "f*ck it" and am posting it immediately without going back and reading or doing more editing because I am so done with this chapter. I need to call it done and get it away from me. So, apologies for it not being up to my preferred quality and standards. Hopefully it's still understandable and enjoyable. Transition chapters are my least favorite.

But, hey. JKR didn't give us anything for this time period. We just jumped straight to the end of October.

2024/05/05: I edited several scenes in this chapter~

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 5: September

Harry’s week is long and frustrating, the confusion and fatigue following him through to the end of Wednesday before it finally starts to improve. He doesn’t know why he can’t sleep well when he’s in his own bed, but he refuses to ask for potions and he tells the twins that he needs to get used to sleeping alone again.

He sits between Ron and Hermione in every class that week except Herbology, where he’s partnered with Neville again. In Potions, he is stationed a table over from Theodore Nott and Blaise Zabini, but is working alone because his randomly assigned partner for the day had missed classes due to an illness.

It was oddly peaceful to be sitting by himself with a bubbling cauldron in front of him, no shoulders pressing close to him or another person in his space.

Nott and Zabini are quiet, but every now and again Harry can hear little snorts of muffled laughter or a quiet curse to go along with a whispered conversation.

It’s a nice change than any other time he’s sitting near Slytherins in Potions, and he thinks he will search them out the next time he’s running late and needs to sit on the edge of the Gryffindor side. They’re not the worst Slytherins, and Harry had even caught the two of them glaring at an approaching Slytherin student who would’ve dropped an ingredient in Harry’s cauldron.

He knew it would’ve been bad, because Nott had scathingly asked her why she’d gotten the wrong ingredient. “Don’t you know your beetle eyes from your newt eyes?” He’d smirked. “Hopefully you weren’t planning to blow us all up by using those in this potion.”

She’d been red-faced and stuttering when she’d made her way back to the supply closet to switch out her ingredients after that, and Snape had been a scowling shadow hovering over her for the rest of class.

Zabini catches him looking and winks at him before turning back to the potion they were brewing.

They don’t exchange words or anything, and they’re long gone before Harry can even pack up his bag, but the entire interaction makes butterflies alight in Harry’s stomach and the thought of seeking them out to thank them leaves him breathless. By the time he makes it to Snape to hand in his vial of the day’s potion, though, the butterflies have all died and the flowers had wilted — Snape grades his potion and that day’s participation as a Poor and sets him an extra foot of homework to explain the effect that chopping versus dicing the ginger root would have on the potion. All thoughts of Nott and Zabini were long gone by the time he made it to dinner.


Harry sat between Luna and Hermione at dinner, with Fred and George seated across from him and Neville on the other side of Luna.

“Alright, Harry?” George asked.

Harry sighed and shrugged. “I’m still not feeling well, but it’s better than yesterday. I think I’ll give it another night. I could’ve just overworked myself.”

Fred shrugged. “You know where to find us if you need to take a break.”

Harry smiled up at him. “I appreciate it, Fred. I have my meeting with the Captain tomorrow, but I was thinking about flying a little bit afterwards if the weather’s nice.”

George swore. “I’m meeting with Pomfrey tomorrow for another test. Fred’s my test subject.”

Luna linked their ankles together but didn’t say anything, focusing her wide blue eyes on the soup she had chosen for dinner instead.

Hermione started to suggest he meets up with her in the library afterwards and stops herself, blushing brightly. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I forgot. You already told me it’s a study meeting, but I just can’t imagine Wood studying anything seriously! I keep thinking it’ll be just another Quidditch practice.”

Fred makes a face. “Ollie does most of his studying with Percy or in his dorm, Hermione, but he does study. Quidditch Captains need to score high EEs and Os to keep the position — didn’t anyone tell you that?” Fred’s voice was a little sharper than normal.

Her brown eyes widen and her mouth drops open. “Wh— No, nobody told me!”

Harry just nodded. “It’s one of the reasons I wanted to focus on my scores this year, and why I’ve been studying so much. I didn’t do well enough last year to really even consider going for Captain, so I want to revise 1st Year material as well as keep up with this year’s curriculum. Oliver said he would help me out with it when he’s got time, but we’ll also be covering more in depth Quidditch strategies than what we’d cover during practice, and he wants to do some leadership training as well. There’s a lot that he says he wants to teach me, and not enough time for it all. But first on the list is getting my grades up, so I’ve been staying up late reading.” Almost as if on cue, Harry yawned and quickly covered his mouth with his hand. “I was going to study some more, especially since I got that Poor in Potions today, but… I think I should just go to sleep early.”

Hermione nodded decisively. “You’re looking rather peaky, actually.”

Harry reached for his pumpkin juice, only to be stopped by Luna’s delicate hand on his forearm. “Luna?” He asked, pausing and turning to look at her. They were physically affectionate, but she rarely interfered while he was eating and usually allowed him to keep his hands free.

Her bright blue eyes were large and sad. “Why don’t you try some of my tea, Harry? Daddy sent me the leaves this morning, and I think you’d like it. I asked Daddy for something that will help you sleep and have a fast recovery.” She held up her dainty purple tea cup. “It’ll go better with your pudding than the pumpkin juice.”

Harry immediately accepted the warm purple tea cup from Luna and took a sip, smiling softly at her. His eyes widened at the light, fruity flavor that danced over his tongue. “This is…” He took another sip and scrunched up his face, trying to identify the flavors. “This is really good!” He couldn’t separate them and name them, but there was something herbal and something fruity, but overall it was light and not too sweet.

“Drink it all, Harry,” Luna instructed softly.

He finished the entire cup in three more mouthfuls, and Luna reached out to take it from him. She glanced down to see the remains of the leaves in the bottom of the cup and nodded, satisfied.

“And now you should go directly to bed,” Luna said. Her smile was strained.

But Harry was already nodding along to her suggestion. “I’m too full for pudding anyway. Goodnight, everyone. See you at breakfast.”

A chorus of goodbyes, and Harry was walking back to the Gryffindor Tower, somehow feeling like the lightness of the tea was traveling through his body. By the time he reached his dorm, changed his clothes, and crawled into his four poster bed, there was a low buzzing feeling throughout his entire body but the noise in his mind had finally gone silent.

Harry fell asleep and for the first time all week, his dreams were quiet and peaceful.


Harry was able to make it through classes that day with little trouble, finding himself able to pay more attention while the Professors were speaking and actually taking notes instead of doodling in the margins. His appetite was returning, so he was able to eat everything that George put on his plate during breakfast and managed to finish most of his meal during lunch. Then, after his afternoon classes flew by, it was time for him to meet with Oliver Wood.

True to Fred’s words the day before, Oliver told him that he did most of his studying in his dorm, so they would be spending the evening together in the 6th Year Boys’ dormitory. Harry didn’t mind — he was used to spending time in the older boys’ dorms after all the time he’d spent with Fred and George last year.

“What are you having the most trouble with, Harry?”

Harry found himself answering before his mind caught up to the question. “Can you help me with my casting?” He blanched, wishing he could take the words back as quickly as they’d come.

Oliver only raised his dark eyebrows before nodding slowly. “What specifically are you having trouble with, Harry?”

“My theory work seems fine, but I think I’m missing some important parts that nobody’s really explaining. It’s the casting that keeps giving me trouble.” He huffed. “I don’t know what the problem is.”

“Well, why don’t we start with what you’ve been working on this week and go from there? It’ll do me some good to review the basics, myself.”

Harry beamed up at Oliver. “You mean it?”

He nodded. “Get to work, Potter. I need to see what I’m working with.”


After a long afternoon spent casting and reviewing his notes from classes with Oliver, Harry was advised to discuss it with Percy again and then visit the Professors during their office hours.

“It looks like you’re doing everything right,” Oliver had said, “only it’s clearly not getting you the expected outcome.”

So Harry and Oliver headed down to dinner and Oliver made Harry a plate of food for the first time, causing Harry to blink up at him in surprise.

Oliver blushed. “I, er. I see the twins do it all the time, so…”

Harry smiled brightly at him. “Thanks, Ollie.”

Harry ate everything on his plate, far quicker than usual, before he was pushing himself up and away from the table, waving goodbye to his friends that were just arriving to dinner.

He wanted to finish up his homework so he could spend the weekend flying. If he finished it all tonight, he’d be free immediately after classes tomorrow and wouldn’t have to worry about it.

He’d waited, he’d planned, and now it was time to put his plan into action.

It was time to tackle his Draco Malfoy problem.


After dinner on Friday, Harry rushed to his dorm to grab his broom and practically flew down the stairs to the front door. He’d overheard Flint telling Draco to meet him on the Pitch after dinner, so he knew that his target would be there. If he was quick enough, he could intercept them.

He hadn’t expected to pass a scowling Marcus Flint on the way back to the castle. They nodded at each other, and Harry quickened his pace.

He didn’t need to worry — Draco Malfoy was lying on his back in the middle of the Pitch, his arms splayed wide on either side of him, staring at the clouds. As Harry got closer, he heard the blonde talking to himself in a frustrated, low voice.

“What does it matter, anyway?” He suddenly shouted. “It doesn’t!”

It made Harry stop in his tracks. “Er, hello?”

Draco was up and facing Harry in moments, pulling his wand out to point at him. “Spying, Potty?”

Harry shook his head, his heart beating frantically in his chest even as he kept his voice calm. “Just came out to do some flying. I thought you’d heard me coming. I wasn’t exactly quiet about it.” He lifted the corner of his mouth in a small smile. “I didn’t mean to startle you. I didn’t hear anything important — something doesn’t matter, is all I caught, and you shouted that bit, so…”

The blonde stowed his wand and huffed, stalking closer. “Clearly, you’re interrupting.”

Harry shrugged. “Thought I’d ask you to fly with me a bit, since you’re out here. Maybe you could show me how wizards fly just for fun, or we could race. Charlie told me there’s something called a Seeker’s Game but didn’t explain anything about it.”

Draco looked at him like he’d grown an extra head or two. “What are you going on about, Potter?”

“I’ve only ever flown for Quidditch. Last year you said you’d been flying for ages, so. Maybe you could teach me how wizards fly for fun?”

He scoffed. “As if. You hate me.”

Harry shook his head. “I don’t, though. Whatever you’ve got going on with Ron has nothing to do with me. It’s just hard to get you by yourself, is all.” Harry rubbed at his neck. “I, er. I wanted to apologize for last year, by the way. I was overwhelmed and rude, and I didn’t mean to be, and I’m sorry. I’d like to be friends, if we can.”

The boy sneered. “You think we can be friends now, Potty? After everything?”

Harry shrugged again. “I hope so. I think we can at least agree to a truce, and give it a go, don’t you?” Harry stuck out his hand, a shaky smile on his lips. “I want to start over. So. Nice to meet you, Draco Malfoy. I’m Harry.”

Scowling, with a pink flush creeping across his face, Draco reached forward and clasped his hand. It was cold but the long fingers were strong. “I still think this is stupid, Potter.”

Harry huffed, trying to stifle the grin that stretched across his face. He couldn’t. “Do it properly. Aren’t you supposed to be the one with better breeding?”

Draco tilted his nose up a little and huffed himself before he was bowing over their clasped hands. “A pleasure to meet you, Harry Potter.”

“Harry,” he corrected. “Just Harry. I don’t… I don’t want you to call me Potter.”

Draco raised his eyebrows and pulled his hand away. “No? They’re an honorable family, all things considered, and well respected. That’s not something to throw away lightly.” He paused. “Harry.”

Harry shook his head. “I’m not throwing it away. I just…” He ran his free hand — the hand that had just shook Draco’s — through his hair. “I don’t know anything. And I’d like to be more than just a Potter to you. I want… I want to be just Harry.” He looked up at the sky, noticing that the clouds were clearing up. “I’ve only ever just wanted to be Harry.”

Draco scoffed, but his voice was gentle. “Probably some sort of Muggle nonsense. But have it your way Pot— Harry.”

Harry smiled. “I’d like to call you Draco, one day. If you’ll let me.”

Grey eyes looked at him, trying to read something that Harry had no idea how to answer. “We’ll see.”

“Wizards don’t do that, do they? So it’s still last names with you?”

“Do you have a problem with my family name, Potter?” He spat.

Harry shook his head. “Just… trying to be clear, is all. You don’t want me to call you Draco, yeah? So I call you Malfoy?”

The other boy sneered. “It’s a name I take pride in.”

Harry nodded. “That’s fine. I’m glad you’ve got something you can— I’m—“ He growled at himself. “Names are important,” he tried again, his frustration bleeding through his voice, “but I don’t know any of the rules, so you have to teach me or be okay if I bollocks it all up. Clearly, you weren’t okay with me getting things wrong last year. I don’t want to get it wrong again, so I’m trying to check that I’m doing it right.”

Harry took a deep breath. Clarity, he told himself. Part of the plan had been absolute clarity. Even if it was embarrassing, he had to be honest and he had to be clear what he wanted. Both with himself and with Draco. They had no room for misunderstandings between them if he wanted this to work out.

He tried again. “I want you to call me Harry. I don’t mind if you call me Potter when we’re in public, but I’d prefer you call me Harry all the time and definitely in private. I get that it’s weird for you, but I don’t know why it’s a big deal.” He breathed in through his nose and held it for a heartbeat before slowly breathing out through his mouth, feeling his frustration lessen with each deep breath. “I’m trying to ask you if you want me to call you Draco or if you want me to call you Malfoy. I think you want me to call you Malfoy. I need you to tell me what you want me to call you so I can get it right.”

“You’re f*cking weird, Harry Potter.”

Harry laughed and ran his hand through his hair again, suddenly feeling tired. “Thanks.”

They stand in silence for a few more moments before Draco looks to the sky again, making a decision and speaking quietly. “One day,” he said, “I think I’d like it if you call me Draco.”

Harry nodded, his shoulders relaxing with relief. “But not today.”

“Not today, no.”

Harry smiled. He could work with that. “So, Malfoy — you wanna fly?”

The grin Malfoy gave in return was sharp and vicious, nothing but edges. “You’re on, P— Harry.”

It was the first time Harry could get on his broom and just fly — no practicing Quidditch moves, no drills, no laps, no comparisons or jealousy holding him back from pushing himself to do his best… Just Harry, and Malfoy, and two brooms that were so close in specs that it didn’t make too much of a difference.

They were just two boys having fun.

When they finally landed, they were both pink-faced from the air and their laughter, grinning widely, and laughing as they stumbled towards each other and collapsed onto the ground in a heap.

“That was fun,” Harry said, leaning his head back. He thinks he landed on Malfoy’s legs, but couldn’t be sure. His whole body was buzzing from adrenalin — very different to how it was during a match.

“Can we do it again?” Malfoy asked quietly. “This, I mean.”

Harry scrambled up and flipped himself over so he was on his knees peering up at Draco Malfoy’s pretty grey eyes. “Every week,” Harry suggested quickly, breathless. “For the rest of the year. Merlin, yes, I want to do this again. With you.”

Malfoy laughed, and Harry was struck at the way his joy lit up his face. This laugh was so different to every other that he’d heard. Harry wanted to make it happen again and again. “Merlin, Harry, you can’t just say that to a bloke. Give him some warning, yeah?”

Harry grinned at the fond tone. “You called me Harry,” he said softly, tilting his head.

Pink dusted Malfoy’s pale cheeks. “Well, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt for you to call me Draco when we’re alone.”

Mission successful, Harry thought to himself, feeling the butterflies taking flight in his stomach again.

“We have the whole weekend free?” Harry suggested lightly. “If you want to fly again.”

But Draco Malfoy snorted. “Slytherins have tutoring, and this is my weekend to help the firsties. Maybe next week.”

“I’ll just be happy to fly with you again,” Harry said quietly. “Or studying. Or anything, really. I’m… not exactly picky.”

“Oh no, I agreed to tutor firsties. You’re far too gone for me to help.”

Harry felt the pain when the insult landed, knowing that some of it was his own fault for not trying his best in classes until it was too late. Even now, he wasn’t applying himself in classes for the theory. “Captain Wood and Percy Weasley are going to be tutoring me anyway, so that’s fine. I’m hoping they can help me get my grades up this year.”

“With that harpy of a friend in your ear? Come now, P—Harry, I heard her accusing you of cheating more than once. She always does it loudly, and in public. With your dismal performance in class, it’s earning you a reputation.”

He shrugged. He couldn’t deny it — Hermione didn’t like it when he scored higher than her. “I told Hermione I was planning for Quidditch Captain in the future. That means getting my grades up. Sometimes that means I’ll score higher than her.” It made him feel nauseous to think about, though. “You know how she gets when someone tells her she’s wrong.”

Everyone in their year had been witness to some spectacular arguments when someone tried to correct Hermione — even if that someone was a teacher. It was part of what earned her the reputation of a know-it-all — not just her insistence on a textbook-perfect answer, but her inability to be wrong and take corrections gracefully.

Draco looked at him like he had three heads again. “But everyone has heard her accuse you of cheating. And worse — you never say anything to correct her about it. That’s as good as admitting she’s telling the truth.”

Harry furrowed his brows. “I didn’t say anything because she wouldn’t believe me that I did it myself, and I didn’t want to have a fight with her at breakfast. How is that the same as me admitting to cheating?”

“Because you didn’t defend yourself, and that means you agreed with her.”

Harry shook his head, feeling more and more confused. “I know I didn’t cheat, and you know how much Hermione hates it when people correct her or tell her that she’s wrong. I just didn’t want to start a fight with her in public. So I waited until after breakfast.”

Seeing this wasn’t going anywhere, Draco shook his head. “But because you didn’t dispute it when she accused you, in public, it’s going to be assumed that it’s the truth and you did, in fact, cheat. It might have consequences you weren’t prepared for. This kind of thing is the most basic of basics, Harry. Definitely something to keep in mind for the future.”

Harry stared. “Are you joking?” He could feel a laugh bubbling up in his chest, tinged with the slightest bit of hysteria. “Is that… is that really how things work here? Someone… someone accuses you, or a rumor starts, and that’s it? That’s the truth?”

It was just like primary school. Dudley accusing him of cheating, or of switching their homework, and the teachers all believed him over Harry. Harry had started off defending himself, but soon it became clear that nobody would believe him. It was Harry’s word against Dudley’s, and Harry had a reputation as a delinquent and a liar, so eventually Harry had stopped trying to defend himself, knowing nobody would listen.

“Unbelievable,” he whispered, scowling.

“You’re a public figure,” Draco said. “Get used to it.”

“But I’m twelve.”

“And yet, you’re Harry Potter.” Draco rolled his eyes. “You should know this by now.”

Harry scowled, his mind whirling with everything he could say.

He wanted to shout about how unfair it was, that he was thrust into this strange world with no guidance and expected to know everything the same way that Draco Malfoy knew everything. He wanted to cry, that the more things changed the more they stayed the same, that both his non-Magical and Magical schools treated him the same and nobody cared whether he failed or succeeded. He wanted to disappear and go anywhere else.

He had the gold for it, after all. If he really wanted to, he could leave the country, even. He didn’t know how, but he was sure it was possible. Somehow.

Instead of giving in to his anger, or voicing his frustrations and helplessness, he sighed and settled down on the ground and watched the clouds.

“I don’t know anything,” he said quietly, “and the more I ask, the more clear it is that nobody’s going to teach me.”

Draco settled next to him and scoffed. “Well, that’s awfully dramatic of you,” he said. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

Harry couldn’t help but smile. He really, really liked the sound of that.

“I’m not a cheater,” Harry confessed, “but I’m so tired of defending myself and nobody believing me that I’ve given up.”

“Well, it’s only going to earn you a reputation of a cheater if you let it go on unchallenged. You may not want to do something, but you have to do something about it. Publicly.” Draco let the silence sit between them for a moment before adding. “Sooner rather than later, Potter.”

Harry sighed, feeling the exhaustion in his bones. “I know.”

And then the wind blew, and it took the heavy topic away with it, and once again they were just two boys sitting in the grass, staring at the sky.

“This was nice,” Harry said quietly.

Draco just hummed his agreement.


Harry’s September passes in a whirlwind of activity between his Quidditch practice with the team, his weekly tutoring sessions with Oliver on Thursdays and Percy on Tuesdays, weekly visits to Hagrid on Saturdays with Luna, and spending as many afternoons flying with Draco Malfoy that they can fit around the weather. He starts defending himself against Hermione’s accusations of cheating, loudly reminding her that he’s been studying with upper years, and just because she doesn’t see him in the library it doesn’t mean he isn’t doing his own work. The rumors of him being a cheat disappear slowly after that, but they do disappear for a time. The amount of arguments he gets in with Hermione grow, though, and he has taken to loudly reminding her that he’s being tutored by two upper years every time she starts in on his grades.

Harry considers pulling out the Invisibility Cloak to avoid Colin Creevey and Professor Lockhart more than once, but then he remembers that it’s hiding the Philosopher’s Stone that he definitely shouldn’t have, and it’s more important to keep that hidden in his trunk than anything else. He’d checked his precious package over the weekend, making sure everything was secure in the rucksack from the summer before wrapping the Invisibility Cloak around all of it and covering it all with the oversized clothes from Dudley.

He needs to find somewhere safer to hide his precious items, but he doesn’t know how to use magic to protect his belongings, yet. He’d asked and been rebuffed by the upper years, saying the spells were to advanced for him — if he was doing better with casting the second year spells, they’d let him try, but they kept telling him to focus on your schoolwork for now, Harry.

Ron and Harry pick up chess and gobstones and exploding snap — Harry fails at all of them — and Hermione starts to teach him how to knit before giving up in a huff when he tells her that his fingers won’t cooperate with him. He asks Hermione to help him find a fiction book to read for fun, and soon he’s discussing his latest reads with her over hot chocolate and biscuits on Sunday mornings.

Hermione stops accusing him of cheating when his grades inch higher and higher, now solidly scoring EEs on theory portions of assignments, but he can tell from the angry frown on her face when he gets his assignments back that she’s not happy with him whenever he scores an O.

He tries to pretend he doesn’t hear the way Ron and Hermione talk about Luna when they think he can’t hear, how they call her the same names that others do, how Luna talks more and more about the creatures and less and less about her studies, how Looney Lovegood never wears any shoes and she’s starting to develop callouses on her feet.

Luna asked him to allow her the time to solve her own problems, and he’s respecting that. It doesn’t mean he likes it. But when he confronts her about it, she just tugs his head down to rest on her chest and he listens to her calm heartbeat and tries not to cry.

Neville takes him to Greenhouse Two on Sunday afternoons and shows him different ways to take care of magical plants — soon they’re comparing the ways he had learned to garden and Neville is gently correcting him, a natural understanding of the flow of magic that Harry never understood but was trying to learn. It’s Neville’s steady presence that lets him relax and find himself enjoying his time surrounded by nature in a way that he hadn’t felt in years. Harry finds himself confiding in him about the never-ending lists of chores from the Dursleys while their hands were covered in dirt, and doesn’t say anything when he notices Neville’s agressive weeding once Harry ran out of quiet words.

The first time Draco Malfoy sits with him in Potions is the last time someone tries to throw something in his cauldron while Snape’s back is turned. It is not the last time he partners with Draco. Sometimes he looks up and sees Nott and Zabini staring at him, and whenever he does they’ll smile at him before turning away. (It makes the butterflies in his stomach flutter, and he suddenly remembers the gentle way Nott had treated the thestral.)

Every now and again, Luna will make him drink the special fruit tea that her dad sent to her, and it helps to clear his head. It’s usually a few days after he’d wandered around in a haze of tiredness and confusion. Those were the days that he felt the eyes on him the most, but the pervasive feeling of being watched never quite disappeared.

He gets a weird letter from Charlie, just one sentence: Little Dragon, are you getting my letters?

But then it’s the end of October, just a few days before Halloween, and Harry’s so focused on everything that’s suddenly going on that he can’t respond to Charlie.

Just as well. He hadn’t gotten any of Charlie’s letters since the beginning of September.


Some more Theo in this chapter for everyone who's commented about him because he's really not supposed to exist yet in Harry's mind but we know he's around. Sorry - he gets his actual intro in 3rd year.

I've tried for several chapters to get the Draco scene in and he's here!!!! He's finally here!!!

Chapter 14: Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 6: THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED


At the end of October, suddenly everything seems to be happening all at once.


UPDATE: This chapter has been re-uploaded due to several minor errors that needed correction. I took the opportunity to add or change some bits while I was at it.

COLIN CREEVEY WARNING for this chapter. We already know he's behaving inappropriately towards Harry, and there is a moment where Harry relays to us some more of what's going on with Colin. Gentle reminder that Colin Creevey is a stalker who takes photos of Harry without consent and does not recognize boundaries.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14. Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 6: THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED

Harry finds himself tromping his way back to Gryffindor Tower late in the afternoon a few days before Halloween, cursing the stormy weather and Oliver Wood’s unimpeded enthusiasm for Quidditch. Yeah, okay, Fred and George had somehow managed to spy on the Slytherin Quidditch Team during practice one day and had reported their massive leap after upgrading all of the brooms — Harry could have told them that, no need for spying, what with his weekly flying sessions with Draco Malfoy — but there was no reason to send them back to the tower wet, muddy, and miserable. Could he have taken a shower in the changing rooms? Yeah, probably. Could he have asked for one of the twins to cast a cleaning charm of some sort on him? Again — yeah, probably. But it was still raining and windy, and he’d still have to trek back to the castle through the mud, so he’d really just be getting dirty all over again. Might as well handle everything all at once.

Maybe he was dirty enough that Colin Creevey wouldn’t recognize him when he got back to the Gryffindor Common Room. The thought made Harry snort in disbelief. Even in his own head he couldn’t make himself believe it. The first year recognized him in every attempt at a disguise he’d tried, followed him through the corridors and to meals and even to his classes relentlessly, and Harry thought he’d caught sight of the boy creeping out of the bathrooms once when Harry was leaving the showers, trusty camera in hand. He knew for certain he’d woken up more than once to the sound of a camera shutter, but hadn’t been able to catch Colin in the act.

Harry was trying to pretend that he didn’t exist, but couldn’t lie to himself that even the thought of Colin Creevey was enough to make his skin crawl in discomfort. He was considering asking Fred and George if he could just stay with them for the rest of the year, and if he could use the upper years’ bathroom while he was at it, to avoid the boy. But he couldn’t bring himself to ask and, really, he could handle it.

He’d be lying if he said he hadn’t been considering sleeping wrapped up in the Invisibility Cloak, though.

Still, Harry is making his way towards Gryffindor Tower, his muddy socks squelching inside his trainers and making him wish for the heat of the shower, when he comes across Nearly Headless Nick — or, Sir Nicholas, if you were trying to be polite and found the ghost alone — who is muttering to himself about the requirements of… something.

“Hello, Sir Nicholas,” Harry said.

The ghost looked up, startled. “Hello, hello,” he greeted, smiling at Harry. The ghost folded a transparent letter and made to tuck it away into one of his pockets. “You’re looking troubled, young Potter,” Nick said.

Harry’s lips quirked into a quick smile. “I’m cold, wet, and muddy from Quidditch practice,” he said. “You’re looking troubled yourself, Nick. I hope it’s nothing too serious?”

The ghost flushed, his cheeks burning white on his otherwise smokey complexion. “Yes, well. It’s a matter of little import…”

“But it’s upsetting you. I could lend you an ear, if you’d like?” Harry wiggled his toes and grimaced. “I’m only in a hurry to get clean, and you seem like you could use a friend.”

Nick smiled widely. “You are such a kind child, young Harry. Most don’t care a whit for the troubles of ghosts, and you always take the time to ask.”

Harry just smiled at Nick. He was far too familiar with people seeing him and pretending he was invisible until they needed him. Sometimes all it took was a little bit of kindness and attention.

Though they were dead, ghosts were people too. He couldn’t understand how the others in the castle could ignore them.

“As I said, it is a matter of no importance. Only, I applied for… well, it’s not important. But I received this letter in reply that I don’t fulfill the requirements…”

“That sounds disappointing, sir.”

Nick sniffed. “Yes, actually. But you would think, wouldn’t you, that getting hit forty-five times in the neck with a blunt axe would qualify you for the Headless Hunt!” Nick pulled the letter back out of his pocket and shook it out, unfolding it.

Harry nodded. “It sounds like it was painful for you, sir.”

“Nobody wishes more than I do that it had all been quick and clean, and my head had come off properly. And, yes, you’re quite right — it was excruciatingly painful, and even in my afterlife it has brought me a great deal of pain and ridicule.” He huffed and looked down at the letter. “May I read their response?”

Harry nodded decisively.

We can only accept Hunstmen whose heads have parted company with their bodies. You will appreciate that it would be impossible otherwise for members to participate in hunt activities such as Horseback Head-Juggling and Head Polo. It is with the greatest regret, therefore, that I must inform you that you do not fulfill our requirements. With the very best wishes, Sir Patric Delaney-Podmore.

Harry grimaced. “That sounds horrid, Sir Nicholas, I’m sorry.”

The ghost nodded and stowed the letter away again. “Half an inch of skin and sinew holding my neck on, Harry!” He stressed. “Half an inch! Most people would think that’s good and beheaded, but oh, no it’s not enough for Sir Properly Decapitated-Podmore.”

“I couldn’t imagine why,” Harry said lightly, “Although I can see his point about, erm, Head Polo. But it seems to me that’s the least important part of the Headless Hunt.”

Nick nodded decisively. “Yes, you do truly understand.” He sighed. “Thank you so much for listening, Harry. I needed to get that off my chest. Now, I shan’t keep you—“

Nick’s sentence was interrupted by a high pitched mewling from somewhere near Harry’s ankles. They looked down to see a pair of lamp-like yellow eyes staring out of the caretaker’s skeletal grey cat, Mrs Norris.

“Yes, indeed— you had better get out of here, Harry. Filch hasn’t been in a good mood all day. He’s got the flu, and some third years accidentally plastered frog brains all over the ceiling in dungeon five, besides. He’s been cleaning all morning, and if he sees you dripping mud—“

Harry nodded. “Right,” he said, backing away from the accusing stare of Mrs Norris.

He was not quick enough, however, because Argus Filch burst suddenly through a tapestry to Harry’s right, wheezing and looking around for whoever was breaking the rules. Harry didn’t know if it was through some kind of magical connection with his cat, but he somehow always knew where the trouble was happening and who was causing it.

The man looked sick, his face red and ruddy, with a thick tartan scarf wrapped around his head, beady eyes watering as they landed on Harry in all of his wet, muddy glory.

“Mess and muck everywhere,” he growled, the sickness clear in his thick voice as he eyed up the dark puddle that had formed underneath Harry’s feet from his Quidditch robes, “I’ve had enough of it, I tell you! Follow me, Potter!”

“Mr Filch, shouldn’t you be in bed? Or the Hospital Wing?”

“Think ‘e knows better’n me, does ‘e?” Filch growled to Mrs Norris, who followed quickly, weaving herself between the caretaker’s legs as they walked towards the office. She meowed in response.

Harry stared forlornly at the extra set of muddy footprints he was leaving on the floor. It would be an awful mess to clean, and he thought it would’ve been a better bet to just send him the rest of the way to the dormitory to clean up. Still, he followed the caretaker quietly, trying to match his steps with the muddy footprints that already existed where he could.

Having never been inside of Filch’s office before — most students tried their best to avoid it when they could — Harry looked around curiously. The room itself was dingy and windowless, lit by a single oil lamp that dangled from the tow ceiling. It smelled faintly of fried fish, which set his stomach to grumbling and reminding him that he hadn’t eaten yet. Wooden filing cabinets lined the walls, meticulously labeled and Harry could catch names of students — Fred and George Weasley had an entire drawer to themselves on a shelf that seemed to be dedicated to specific students. Squinting, he was surprised to find the drawer immediately above Fred and George belonged to “James Potter and Sirius Black.” His father? He wanted to ask about it, wanted to ask who Sirius Black was, but he knew he wouldn’t be getting any answers from Argus Filch, not when he was sick and already so angry at him for something he didn’t have much control over.

Harry found himself glancing repeatedly at the highly polished collection of chains and manacles that hung on the wall behind Filch’s desk. He’d hoped the rumors had been exaggerated, but they seemed to be true — Filch was always begging Dumbledore to let him suspend students by their ankles from the ceiling and bring back other forms of corporal punishment.

Filch grabbed a quill from the pot on his desk and shuffled around looking for parchment, muttering to himself the whole time. Harry tuned him out, knowing that whatever he had to say wouldn’t be anything Harry wanted to hear, and that no matter what Harry had to say, the caretaker wouldn’t listen. Not with words like “crime” leaving his lips, which Harry thought was rather a lot for just a bit of mud to clean up.

“What should your sentence be, eh, Potter?” Filch said, squinting over at him even as he dabbed at his streaming nose.

Harry opened his mouth, planning to volunteer to clean the floor that he’d muddied, only to be distracted with a loud bang sounding from the ceiling of the office, so loud that it made the oil lamp rattle. Harry wasn’t sure if this was something normal or not, until Filch flung his quill down onto the parchment, splattering ink everywhere, and roared, “PEEVES!”

Without a backward glance at Harry, Filch ran from the office, taking Mrs Norris alongside him to go confront the school’s poltergeist. Although the menace wasn’t a being that Harry particularly liked, he couldn’t help but feel a sudden rush of gratitude towards Peeves for the distraction.

Still, Harry wasn’t sure if he should stay, or if he should take the opportunity to escape to Gryffindor Tower. He considered his options based on past experiences — if he wasn’t here when Filch got back, his punishment would likely be doubled or made worse in some way. Maybe he would get permission to restrain Harry and use a cane on him. No, it was safer to stay — at least then Mr Filch would see Harry was willing to accept his punishment, and might go easy on him for obeying the rules.

Harry eyed the moth-eaten chair next to the desk, wondering if he should sit or not. It wouldn’t be his first time left standing until the authority figure returned to hand out his punishment, but at the same time he didn’t know how long Peeves would keep Filch distracted. He was tired, he was exhausted… and he was muddy. Harry decided to stand, but he would do so near the chair just in case he was instructed to sit down.

His attention was caught by the only other thing that was on the desk: a large, glossy, purple envelope with silver lettering on the front. There looked to be papers or parchment underneath it. His curiosity bubbling up inside him, Harry leaned forward to read what the envelope said.

KWIKSPELL: A Correspondence Course in Beginners’ Magic

Harry could hardly breathe, his exhilaration was so vast and powerful. A correspondence course? He wondered if it would be something he could take, if it would help him at all or if he’d be able to do it in the summer. Perhaps, he thought, it would be an option for his inevitable expulsion from Hogwarts.

He quickly lifted the purple envelope and read the parchment sitting just underneath it, more of the curled silvery writing flowing across the document and encouraging his curiosity.

Feel out of step in the world of modern magic? Find yourself making excuses not to perform simple spells? Ever been taunted for your woeful wandwork?

There is an answer!

Kwikspell is an all-new, fail-safe, quick-result, easy-learn course. Hundreds of witches and wizards have benefited from the Kwikspell method!

Madam Z Nettles of Topsham writes:
“I had no memory for incantations and my potions were a family joke! Now, after a Kwikspell course, I am the center of attention at parties and friends beg for the recipe of my Scintillation Solution!”

Warlock D J Prod of Didsbury says:

Harry skimmed through the rest of the accolades, the names meaning nothing to him but his excitement growing. This could be what he needed to catch up with his peers in class and figure out what was wrong with him. There was even a page detailing the proper way to hold his wand, something that no teacher had taught him and assumed he’d known!

He quickly thumbed through the pages, fascinated by all of the information provided, and looked for the name of a correspondent that he could send a letter to for more information. Hearing footsteps shuffling closer in Filch’s distinctive way, Harry quickly arranged the parchment on the desk, setting the purple envelope back on top of it, and stood quietly next to the chair.

Still, he couldn’t keep his eyes from returning to the purple envelope that promised him help he could only dream of receiving. He could ask Charlie and Percy, yes, but an actual course that was made for people like him who struggled with magic? He was practically vibrating with the excitement it gave him.

No more teasing. No more “one shot Potter,” who was only good for destroying You Know Who as a baby and worthless at magic ever since. No more wondering what was wrong with him, wondering if maybe whatever he’d done when he was a baby had taken a toll on his magic to leave him so weak and drained. No more wondering if it was the Dursleys who had done this to him — if their attempt at snuffing out his magic had actually worked.

Filch returned, entering the room with a gleam in his eyes that might be fever or might be excitement, muttering triumphantly to a purring Mrs Norris about an extremely valuable vanishing cabinet. He stopped cold when he saw Harry, all color draining from his face when he saw where Harry was standing.

Perhaps Harry should have sat down, after all.

“You!” Filch seethed. “Have you been going through my things?” His eyes glanced at the purple envelope, which Harry suddenly realized was sitting a little crooked on the stack of parchments. “Did you read—?“

Harry shook his head quickly, lying through his teeth. “No!” He said. “I bumped into your desk on accident, sir, and— and something fell, but I set it back on the desk.” His heart thumped in his chest. “I didn’t read anything while you were gone, sir, though I saw my father’s name on a drawer.”

Filch sneered. “A troublemaker, he was, your father and that Sirius Black of his.” He coughed thickly. “Well, if you didn’t go through my private— not that it’s mine— but if you didn’t read— Well. Anyway, you best be off so I can get this report filed on Peeves.”

Not willing to look past his stroke of good luck, Harry nodded and made his way carefully back to the door of the office, taking care to step only where wet or muddy footprints had dried.

The grumpy caretaker might not appreciate it, but it was a small consideration Harry wished the Dursleys had made, and he would rather eat an entire lemon than repeat the things they had done to him. Just because Argus Filch was an awful man and should not be in school with children, didn’t give Harry the right to make his life worse.

Harry quite thought he was better than that, thank you very much.

Harry hurried back through the corridors, trying to make it back to Gryffindor Tower without attracting attention from anyone else, but he had to stop when he heard Nearly Headless Nick calling his name.

“Did it work?” The ghost asked excitedly, gliding out of one of the classrooms. Behind him — or perhaps the proper phrasing would have been through him— Harry could see the wreckage of a large black and gold cabinet that must have been dropped from a great height.

“Was that you?” Harry asked.

Nick nodded, standing taller and puffing his chest out a bit. “I persuaded Peeves to crash it right over Filch’s office,” Nick said quickly, “Thought it might distract him from—“

Harry grinned. “It was brilliant, thank you! I didn’t even get detention. You really helped me out.” His grin fell, remembering what they had been talking about earlier. “I really do wish there was something I could do for you about the Headless Hunt,” he said.

Suddenly, Nick stopped in his tracks. Unfortunately, Harry kept going and found himself stepping through the ghost, feeling all of a sudden as if he had stepped through an icy shower.

“I’m sorry, Nick, I didn’t mean to. I know it’s terribly rude—“

“Not at all, Harry. I just thought— why, there is something you could do, after all.”

Harry perked up. “Really?”

“If it wouldn’t be asking too much, Harry, I’d quite like it if you would attend an event I’m hosting this Halloween. It will be my five hundredth Death Day,” the ghost explained, drawing himself up and looking proud.

Harry was unsure whether it was something to be happy about or sorry about, so he simply nodded. “Five hundred is quite a milestone,” He said cautiously.

Nick nodded. “Quite right. Now, if you wouldn’t mind, I will be holding a party down in one of the roomier dungeons. Friends will be coming from all over the country for the occasion, you see, and it would be an absolute honor if you would attend.” He looked down at Harry. “Sir Patrick and his cohorts will be coming, you see.”

Harry nodded instantly. “Of course I’ll come.”

Nick beamed at him, the ghost’s grey flushing out to white across his cheeks. “Wonderful, wonderful. Of course, I understand if you would prefer to attend the school feast—“

“No,” Harry said sternly. “I would prefer to celebrate your special day. It’s not every day a person celebrates their five hundredth Death Day, after all.”

“Thank you, Harry. Now, Mr Weasley and Miss Granger would be most welcome to come as well—“

“Er, perhaps you might want to ask them yourself? It would be an honor coming directly from you, and I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise.”

Nick nodded, coming around to the idea. “Of course! You’re right. I shall ask a few other students, as well.”

“Is it okay to ask a Ravenclaw, Sir Nicholas? I have a friend who quite enjoys events like these.” He didn’t know that Luna would like it, but he knew that being invited to a unique event like this would intrigue her, so the least he could do was to ask. It would give her something to take her mind off of the bullying, anyway, and it would certainly give her something pleasant to write her father about.

Perhaps even Fred and George would be interested in coming, if only for the novelty of it, but he would leave that to the ghost to decide.

But Nick only nodded. “Yes, yes, why don’t you ask them? Not too many, though.”

Harry shook his head. “Just the one. And Ron and Hermione, of course, along with any others that you might invite. You said it was Halloween?”

“Yes, and it’s planned to be at the same time as dinner, some come ‘round at about seven, though we ghosts won’t be able to provide any food for the living. It might be best if you eat a large lunch that day.”

Harry nodded. “I’ll let Luna know. I’m sure she’ll look forward to it — I know I am.”

“And may I ask another favor of you while you’re there, Harry?”

He shrugged.

“If you should get into a conversation with Sir Patrick, could you possibly mention how… very frightening and impressive you find me?”

Harry smiled. “But Sir Nicholas, I do find you to be both terribly frightening and impressive. Why, I think the only House Ghost to have you beat would be the Bloody Baron!”

Nick laughed heartily. “That’s a good lad. Can you believe it, Harry Potter at my Death Day celebration?” He shook his head. “Well now, it’s time for you to be off. I daresay you’ll have a difficult time getting clean as it is, we don’t want to invite any further stench to linger.”

Harry laughed. “I’ll wash extra carefully. And I’ll be sure to let you know about Luna — if she doesn’t find you first herself.”

“Wonderful! Now, off with you, Harry Potter!”


When Halloween finally arrived, Harry tried his best to go through the day normally. It was the anniversary of his parents’ deaths, he had learned the year before. There was something somber inside of him that demanded he stopped and listened, that he did something to honor their memory. Something that was not going to a gigantic feast and celebrating… whatever it was they were celebrating.

Harry actually thought that attending Nick’s Death Day Party was closer to the celebration that he’d like to be having, and it seemed that Luna agreed with him. Of everyone who had been invited — living, at least — she was the only other person who had arrived with a smile on their face, actively involving themselves in conversations with the ghosts and learning about them.

Somehow, the small blonde girl would ask a ghost how they had died and find herself with a cheerful companion chattering away for several minutes. Harry had found his courage shriveling up whenever he opened his mouth to ask a question or start a conversation, and instead hovered closely behind her to listen to the ghost telling their — usually ghastly, dramatic, and probably hyperbolic — recounting of their untimely death. Sometimes, he’d interject to ask questions about their lives, and was met with matching smiles from both the ghost in question and Luna that made him blush.

Ron and Hermione had shown up, but spent most of their time talking quietly with each other near the buffet table covered in stinky, rotting food, casting disdainful glances around at everyone in the room. They had asked Harry no less than three times if he was ready to leave, yet every time he insisted that they could go on without him they steadfastly refused to do so.

Harry didn’t quite understand why they didn’t leave if they were having such a bad time — he’d never forced them to come, and he was enjoying himself enough. He wasn’t even that hungry, since Luna had brought him a small snack when they met up to walk to the party together. He’d suggested that Ron and Hermione head back to dinner, having heard their stomachs growling more than once, but they didn’t want him to stay here alone with all these ghosts.

Harry wouldn’t be alone, he had Luna by his side. But regardless, it felt like a day that was appropriate to spend surrounded by ghosts and listening to them telling their stories.

There was a weeping ghost of a teenage girl that Harry was working up his courage to approach — Hermione had whispered a warning that her name was Myrtle and she haunted one of the girls’ toilets, so he knew this would be his only chance to speak with her — but something happened every time he opened his mouth to call out her name.

This time, he refused to be deterred, only for his interruption to come in the form of Nick clearing his throat and requesting the orchestra stop playing for a moment so he could speak.

“Pardon the interruption, Sir Nicholas,” Luna said sweetly, “I have to leave immediately after your speech, so I’d like to say goodbye now so I don’t interrupt you when I leave.”

Nick dabbed at his eyes. “Luna, you sweet girl, thank you for your consideration. Of course, of course, leave when you must, it was an absolute pleasure to have you here, my dear.”

Luna curtsied, and Nick continued with his speech, only for Sir Patrick and the rest of the Headless Hunting Party to start up another game of Head Hockey partway through. Harry ignored the scuffle that followed, turning to Luna curiously.

“You still have some time before curfew, though?” Harry asked.

She nodded. “Oh, yes. But my textbooks have started to go missing, you see, and I’d quite like to do my homework this week so I need to go to the library first.”

Not for the first time, Harry felt anger bubbling up inside of him and wished for the Invisibility Cloak to be wrapped around his shoulders so he could follow Luna. He wasn’t sure what he would do if he found them, but at least he would learn who was bullying her, and he might have a chance at getting her things back for her if he did. The desire was so strong inside him that it practically set his skin crawling, like a deep itch that he could not scratch.

As if Luna could follow his thoughts, she glared at him. “I am perfectly capable of handling my own matters, Harry Potter, and I won’t forgive you for interfering in them.” He knew she was serious.

“And I have solemnly swore to let you handle them in your own way while you are capable of doing so,” he repeated dutifully. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it any.”

Grinning up at him, Luna popped up on her toes to give Harry a kiss on the cheek, wiping the scowl away as if it had never been there. “It is because the restraint is harder for you than the action that this is so meaningful, Harry. Still, with every moment, you are showing me honor and respect and care. What more could a girl want?”

“You say the word, Luna, and—“

Luna skipped away in a twirl of skirts, her happy giggle floating back to him. “I won’t even need to speak, Harry. You’ll know. You always seem to know. I’ll see you at breakfast.”

Ron and Hermione sidle up to him, each of them glancing back towards the door that Luna had skipped through in a clear and desperate plea. He sighed and spoke quietly before they could ask — again — if it was okay for them to leave now.

“Why don’t the two of you head back to the Great Hall and see if you can make it in time for pudding? I want to say goodbye to Nick before I leave, and it seems he’s got his hands full with… all of that.” Harry waves his hand towards the ghostly brawl taking place, with several heads flying through the air and Peeves cackling above it all. “I’ll head back to the Common Room afterwards if I’m here for much longer, so you don’t need to wait for me.”

Ron glances at Hermione, back at the brawl, and then back at the door, his hands coming to rest on his stomach. “If you’re sure, mate…” he hesitates.

Harry nods. “Absolutely. If you hurry, you might even be able to catch dinner before it switches over!” He rolled his eyes. “Though I don’t know why you didn’t listen to me when I warned you there wouldn’t be food for us here.”

That seemed to seal the deal for both of them, because within moments Ron and Hermione are through the door, not even calling out a farewell to their gracious host and the guest of honor.

Harry shakes his head. “Sir Nicholas?” He calls out, approaching the ever expanding brawl of ghostly figures — he thinks he can see Myrtle in the mix, now, swinging someone’s detached head by their ghastly ponytail. “Sir Nicholas, I have to get going now. It’s been — dreadfully fun — and I’m deeply honored you invited me to celebrate your five hundredth Death Day with you today.”

The Gryffindor ghost pushed his way through the crowd. “Of course, my dear boy! Head on back to the Tower, now, perhaps stop by the kitchens for a little something to warm you up. You’re looking rather peaky. And thank you so much for coming.”

Harry blushed. “Can I tell you something, Sir Nicholas?”

The ghost straightened up. “Of course!”

“It was really nice to celebrate like this. You see, I learned that my parents also died on this day, and—“

Nick leaned in, his head falling off his shoulders in his excitement. “Really?

Harry nodded seriously. “Yes, and it seems all anyone living wants to do today is celebrate. I’d really rather spend my time today thinking about them and, well, honoring them I suppose.” He waves his hand to encompass the party as a whole, noticing that it had suddenly gotten much quieter in the room, as if all of the ghosts present were listening. “This was a lot more what I had in mind when I thought about how I wanted to spend the day, now that I know when they died. So, erm, thank you, I suppose. For the invitation to your own event, but also for the opportunity to… to mourn my parents and celebrate them as well.”

Nick wiped at his eyes. “Well, I’ll be, Harry Potter. It’s an honor to share my Death Day with James and Lily, and even moreso to bring your soul some peace. And here I was, thinking that you were doing me the honor by attending my humble celebration.”

Harry smiled awkwardly. “I have a better idea of how I’d like to spend the day next year, thanks to you. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Professors will let me skip the feast again. I’ve no doubt I’ll be in detention for this as it is. I really should be going, sir.”

The ghost straightened up and popped his head back to his shoulders. “Of course, my dear boy. And don’t you worry about getting detention, I’ll pop over to speak with Minerva tomorrow morning and explain everything. I’d go tonight, but I have no doubt that she will be enjoying the festivities until well past the proper hour for visitors.”

Harry’s smile grew more genuine. “Thank you, sir, I appreciate that. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”

“And you as well, dear child! Be careful on the way back, surprises are afoot on Hallows’ Eve, and you don’t want to be caught up in any of the carefully executed mischief.”

Confused, but taking the joyful warning for what it was, Harry left the party and started the trek back to Gryffindor Tower. He doesn’t make it far before he stumbles to a stop, clutching at the wall and looking around, his face going pale and his body trembling as he tries to find a reason for what he’d just heard.

The same voice from his nightmare. The same words, repeated over and over again: rip, tear, kill. The same muttering about being hungry, which he’d thought had been Fred and George commenting about having missed dinner that night.

It hadn’t been a nightmare. Not unless he was dreaming right now, not unless magic made it possible for you to dream while you were awake, and he’d been somehow dosed with whatever substance made that possible within the last few minutes in the worst kind of prank he could imagine.

His knees were shaking, his heart pounded in his chest, and as he heard the voice fading away — time to kill…, it said — he knew he needed to find a teacher, knew he had to try to intercept it if he could, even if it meant trading his life. The voice was moving somehow upward, and Harry knew he could make it to the stairs from here with ease, that one floor above was full of teachers and students alike and he wouldn’t have to face them alone.

Not like with Quirrell, and the shade of Lord Voldemort that had been attached to his head.

Harry’s body was moving, running up the stairs and towards the entry hall before he realized it, running faster when the voice yelled about smelling blood—

And then Harry arrived, stopping suddenly as his eyes took in the gruesome scene before him, trembling and panting the whole time. Something was shining on the wall ahead of him, and he found himself stumbling a couple of steps closer until he was able to make it out, his stumbling steps causing him to make splashes from the puddle of water on the floor. He had to squint, but words had been painted on the wall between two windows, written with large letters and shimmering brightly red in the light cast by the flaming torches. There was a metallic smell in the air that Harry tried desperately to ignore, a sense of dread growing in his stomach.


The letters were about a foot high and unevenly spaced, as if someone short had had to stand on their toes to write the first part of the message. But his eyes were drawn towards a dark shadow underneath the message, the feeling of sickness creeping slowly through his body as his eyes refused to identify the shape.

It was Mrs Norris, hanging by her tail from the torch bracket, her eyes wide and staring, her body stiff as a board.

Harry, wondering if she was dead, finds himself splashing forward and falling to his knees in front of her, crying out in shock even as he reaches up for her and tries to quiet the sobs escaping him.

She was a cantankerous old cat, but she was just a cat. How could someone harm her? He was no great fan of her, or of her companion, but that didn’t mean he wanted her harmed.

“Mrs Norris,” he pleaded, “Mrs Norris, c’mon,” but he knew it was useless.

Harry didn’t have a chance to get anyone, and the voice he had followed here was long gone. A rumble thundered through the corridor, along with the sounds of hundreds of feet and the loud, happy chattering of hundreds of well-fed people — a clear sign that the feast had finished and the students were being released for the evening.

The noise died suddenly as the people entering the corridor were close enough to see the strange scene: a sobbing Harry Potter on his knees in the middle of a puddle, reaching out a trembling hand towards an unresponsive Mrs Norris hanging from a light fixture, and an ominous message written in red on the wall behind her.

Then, Draco Malfoy’s voice sounded through the quiet, and Harry could pick up on the tiniest tremble that could only be noticed because of the familiarity with his voice over the course of several weeks.

“Enemies of the Heir, beware!” He shouted. “You know what that means, don’t you?” The sneer was back in his voice, but it sounded reedy and afraid to Harry.

“Mudbloods,” Goyle’s gruff voice responded. There was a murmur of agreement through the crowd.

“Is that you, Potter?” Draco’s voice called out again, sounding closer than it was before. Harry looked up to see that Draco had finally pushed his way to the front of the crowd, his cold grey eyes looking suddenly alive and feverish, his usually bloodless face flushed like it was after a good flight. There was a grin on his face that struck Harry as wrong wrong wrong and his eyes glanced back and forth between Harry and the hanging, immobile cat, the blond’s sharp mind drawing some sort of conclusion. He turns his nose up and declares, “Well, we know the message can’t be you — unless you’ve suddenly gotten better at magic, your hands would be covered in paint.”

“And yet,” Snape’s silken voice says, “Mr Potter is somehow the first to arrive on the scene.”

Chapter 15: Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 7; Accusations, Accusations


Harry has several eventful conversations.


I have updated Chapter 11 with an overall warning that I'm repeating here. I have also made some small changes to the previous chapter -- mostly minor errors I didn't catch while doing my final edit or touching up some areas that could have better flow.

The warning is applicable to the entirety of 2nd Year:
GILDEROY LOCKHART and COLIN CREEVEY are introduced in Chapter 11, bringing with them scenes and allusions to actions/behaviors that include but are not limited to stalking, coercion, repeatedly ignoring boundaries, touching/grabbing without consent, taking pictures of a minor without their knowledge or consent, and objectification of a minor. The scenes are not overtly sexual but some scenes may be perceived in such a manner. They may be distressing to some readers, but I have done my best to convey the feeling and intent of the scene without explicit detailing where appropriate.

I am also revisiting and revising the tags, so if there's something specifically you think should be tagged but isn't (I'm talking story-wide, not just incidentals that I try to catch and warn for in the chapter notes, because there is a tag limit on AO3 now and I will likely need those spots eventually) please let me know.

Related: what is your opinion on tagging pairings that will or may happen well before the romance plotline begins? I'm leaving many of the pairings un-tagged at this time and only adding them as they're solidified and relevant to the immediate storyline/the year of the story I'm currently writing.

Now that all of this is out of the way, I hope you buckle up and enjoy the chapter!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

15. Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 7; Accusations, Accusations

Moments later, several professors push forward through the crowd and stop alongside the surly Severus Snape, chief among them is a frantic Argus Filch.

“My cat! My cat! What happened to Mrs Norris?” He shouted, pressing forwards with his eyes wide, clutching at his pale face in horror. His eyes fell on the shaking Harry Potter, kneeling in the water in front of Mrs Norris’ stiff body, the boy’s hand falling into his lap. “You!” He roared, taking several jerky steps forward, “You killed my cat!”

Harry sobbed harder, shaking his head. He was so cold.

“Argus,” Dumbledore’s voice was calm but stern as the elderly wizard swept forward, past Harry, and detached the cat’s body from the torch bracket. “Come with me, Argus.” His glittering blue eyes swept the corridor. “You too, Mr Potter.”

“Albus,” Filch whimpered, “Albus, my cat—“

Harry didn’t think it could get much worse, but then Gilderoy Lockhart stepped forward, speaking quickly and eagerly offering his office up for their use.

“My office is nearest, Headmaster — just upstairs — please feel free—“

“Thank you, Gilderoy,” Dumbledore said.

“Why, I’ll bring along young Harry as well, shall I?”

“That would be most helpful, Gilderoy. Thank you.”

As the rest of the professors dispersed the crowd, Filch was led by Professor Dumbledore towards the stairs and followed by Professors McGonagall and Snape, and Lockhart rounded on Harry, wrapping his large hand tightly around Harry’s bicep, tugging the boy up until he stood on wobbly knees. Harry winced and tried to pull away, but Lockhart’s fingers just tightened.

Harry felt the panic and dread swirling in his gut, but knew that nothing would come of it if he complained or asked the professor to let go of him, so he stumbled along, tripping over his feet in his effort to keep up with the professor’s long, quick strides.

He couldn’t feel his fingers anymore, and the professor’s hand was a burning hot band around his arm. He couldn’t be sure if it was just the cold or if it was the fear, but he thinks he might be trembling. He tried to hold his breath and didn’t release it until they’d entered Professor Lockhart’s office and the man finally let go of him.

Harry pressed his back up against the nearest wall by the door, trying to ignore the flurry of movement along the walls from the many portraits of Lockhart either dodging out of sight to make themselves presentable or trying to get a better look at what was going on. He decided to count his heartbeats while the Professors chatted amongst themselves, discussing what was wrong with Mrs Norris and whether or not he was the one who had killed her.

He didn’t, he didn’t, he didn’t—

He didn’t think they would believe him, though. Not even Professor Dumbledore, who would surely expel him if he listened to Filch’s sobbing accusations that Harry had killed his cat. And for what? Why would he kill the cat?

“I don’t even know what a squib is!” Harry shouted, the first thing he’d uttered since being dragged into the room. “I never touched your cat, Mr Filch, I promise, I’d never hurt Mrs Norris—“

“Liar!” Filch bellowed, sniffling loudly. “He saw my Kwickspell letter, Headmaster, and we all know what a troublemaker these Potters are—“

Harry wanted to cry, but he forced himself to grit his teeth.

“If I might speak, Headmaster,” Professor Snape said from where he’d been watching everything in the shadows, a small smirk on his pale face. The headmaster nodded and Harry could only feel the dread in the pit of his stomach get worse. “Potter may very well have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but there certainly are a rather strange set of circ*mstances at play here, aren’t there? Why was he in the upstairs corridor at all? Why would he not be at the Halloween feast where he was supposed to be, like all of the other students?”

The other adults nodded and they turned to look at Harry expectantly.

Harry chose to focus on Professor McGonagall, knowing that she would be the one to receive the information anyway. “Sir Nicholas invited me to his Death Day Party,” Harry began.

“Who?” Several voices asked. Including Professor McGonagall, he was disappointed to realize.

Harry blinked and looked at each of the adults slowly. “Sir Nicholas? The Gryffindor ghost? You know,” he gestured to his neck, “Nearly Headless Nick?” He grimaced. “What an awful name. Anyway, Nick, he— a few days ago, he’d invited me to his Death Day Party, which is like… a celebration or, or a recognition? Something. It’s to recognize the day he died, and apparently is a really big deal for the ghosts—“

“Get to the point, Potter.”

Harry nodded and continued, speaking faster in the hopes that Professor Snape wouldn’t interrupt him again. “Well, it was his five hundredth death anniversary, and he was celebrating, and he invited me and a few other students — Ron, Hermione, and Luna were there with me but left early —“

“And why didn’t you leave with them?”

Harry pursed his lips in a thin line at Professor Snape’s snappish question. “Well, sir, Luna left to go to the library before Sir Nicholas gave a speech, and Ron and Hermione left during the speech. I waited until Sir Nicholas had finished, and it’s only proper to congratulate the host on a successful event and thank him for the invitation before leaving—“

Someone — several someones, actually — scoffed, as if the thought of Harry Potter minding his manners was an impossible thing, and it made the dread swirl in his gut again. What had he ever done to make these people think so poorly of him? Still, he pressed onward.

“So, I waited until Sir Nicholas had finished and we had a quick conversation before I said goodbye. I assumed that dinner had finished or would finish shortly, so I headed back towards Gryffindor when— when I saw—“ He couldn’t finish, his eyes glued to Mrs Norris’ still form lying on the desk.

Harry asked in a quiet voice, “Is she really dead?”

“Merely petrified, my boy,” Professor Dumbledore assured him.

Snape snorted. “So you expect me — us — to believe that you headed back towards your Common Room without any supper? I didn’t think ghosts provided food fit for living people at their parties.”

Harry shrugged and tried his best to keep his tone even when he answered. “It wouldn’t be my first time going without eating, Professor. One day won’t set me back too much, and I made sure to eat a snack before going to the party because Sir Nicholas warned me there would be nothing for me to eat there.”

The Potions Master sneered. “I suspect, Headmaster, that Potter is not being entirely truthful, and suggest that it might be a good idea if he were deprived of certain privileges until he is ready to tell us the whole story. I personally feel he should be taken off the Gryffindor Quidditch team until he is ready to be honest.”

“Really, Severus!” Professor McGonagall said sharply, “I see no reason at all to stop the boy from playing Quidditch. The cat wasn’t hit over the head with a broomstick. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Potter has done anything wrong except for missing out on the Halloween feast he was expected to attend.” She looked at him expectantly.

“Sir Nicholas said he was going to speak with you about the party tomorrow, Professor, once all of his guests have retired. He expected that you would be ‘enjoying the festivities’ tonight, he said. Whatever that means.” Harry shrugged. “But he also assumed that you’d known about the party, since he’s been talking about it all week and invited practically every Gryffindor in Second Year and above over the last few days.”

Red spots of color appeared on Professor McGonagall’s cheeks and she nodded sharply, clearing her throat. “Yes. Well. I shall speak with him about it in the morning, then.” She glanced around the room. “Are there any other concerns, or can we send Mr Potter on his way?”

“My cat has been Petrified!” Filch shrieked. “I expect the perpetrator to be held responsible, and punished with the utmost severity befitting the crime—“

“—and, as we have just heard, Mr Potter has given us a reasonable explanation for where he was when the crime had taken place. It will be verified in the morning, with further investigation into the matter,” Professor Dumbledore’s voice was calm, but he stared over his half-moon glasses in such a way that Harry felt he was looking straight through him when the light blue gaze landed on him.

Something about those eyes on him, that heavy, expectant gaze, made him itchy.

“For now, we know that Professor Sprout has recently managed to procure some Mandrakes. As soon as they have reached their full size, I will have a potion made that will revive Mrs Norris.”

“I’ll make it,” Lockhart butted in. “Why, I must have done it a hundred times — I could whip up a Mandrake Restorative Draught in my sleep—“

“Excuse me,” Snape said icily. He somehow sounded more upset with Lockhart than he ever had with Harry. “But I do believe I am the Potions Master at this school, therefore it is my duty to brew such potions.”

There was an awkward pause and Harry resisted the urge to shift on his feet.

Dumbledore nodded at Harry. “You may go,” he said.

Harry wasted no time, leaving the room and returning to the Gryffindor Common Room as quickly as he could without running.

Harry hoped it would not come back to bite him, but even he knew that hearing voices was not a normal occurrence in the Wizarding World. If he mentioned that, nobody would believe him about anything else for the rest of his life.

Once a freak, always a freak, it seemed.


By the time he’d climbed through the Portrait Hole and entered Gryffindor’s Common Room, the story had spread through nearly the entire House. A bell had tolled while he was on the way back, signaling that midnight had come and gone, but there were still more than a few people awake and chatting in the Common Room when Harry arrived.

He pushed past them, ignoring all of their questions in favor of heading directly to his bed. He wanted to curl up underneath his blankets, wrapped up in his Invisibility Cloak, safely hidden from the world until everything disappeared.

Still, that was not in the cards for him, and he quickly changed into his pajamas before closing the curtains of his four poster around him, burying his head in the pillow, and letting his tears flow.

He wished Fred and George would burst into the room. He wished they’d crawl into bed with him and wrap him up in their arms, and hold him and make him feel safe. He wished they would promise him everything would be all right, and if it wasn’t all right yet then they would make it right.

But he wasn’t a baby anymore. He was twelve now.

Luna didn’t need something to be wrong for him to wrap her up in his arms or hold her hand, but she was still eleven and a girl besides. It was okay for her to want someone to comfort her, even if it was just because she felt a little lonely or sad.

Harry had to be strong. He couldn’t rely on someone else to be there every time he wanted a hug, or someone to hold his hands, or tell him things would get better. He had to be strong on his own.

Nobody was waiting to save him at the Dursleys. He had to be able to save himself.

He allowed himself to cry silently, clutching his pillow to his chest. Crying was allowed, but only once in a while, and only when he was alone in bed, with nobody to see or hear him. He used to cry in his cupboard, after all, and as long as he was quiet about it he didn’t get in trouble for it.

It was the only weakness he allowed himself to have, and he fell asleep with salt tracks drying on his face.


The next several days were difficult for Harry. Luna quickly realized that something had happened and found any reason to hold Harry’s hand that she could, sometimes asking him if he would give her a hug or just hold her because she was feeling homesick — Harry knew it was for his benefit, though, and was unendingly grateful for her quiet acceptance.

George had finally been approved to perform first aid on the Gryffindor Quidditch Team during practices and he would be assessed later in the month to see if he could help during a match. He reported on his progress every evening at dinner. He said that Madam Pomfrey had faith in his ability so far, but it would be a matter of him choosing to focus on the match itself and getting to the patient in time, and he admitted he wasn’t sure where he’d fall until it finally happened.

“But if you had to choose, which would you pick?” Harry asked. “Assuming that you were equal in all other ways.”

“It would be hard,” George admitted, “but ultimately I think I’d choose to leave the team.”

“Oi!” Oliver called down the row, hearing that. “You’re not leavin’ us until you graduate. Not even in a casket, y’hear me Weasley?”

George smirked, but there was something a little wobbly about it.

“Nah, that’s not fair, Oliver.” Harry shook his head. “What if we make it an actual position? Team Medic? He can be the reserve player for the position, in case the main player gets sick or something and can’t make it, then he could play instead but he wouldn’t be primarily the medic that match. Still around in case of an emergency, though.”

Oliver chewed his food, a thoughtful look on his face, before swallowing and pointing his fork at Harry. “And that is what’ll make you a good Captain, Potter. Keep it up.”

George smiled at Harry, making him feel warm all over, and they continued with their discussions.

Every so often, Harry caught the sound of his name, or noticed someone staring at him. Not that it was unusual, but it was happening more and more often since Halloween, and conversations would suddenly stop when he passed.

Occasionally, he’d catch Ginny Weasley glaring at him during breakfast or dinner.

November continued the pattern of perpetual exhaustion that had begun in September, something that he’d thought he was used to but had clearly underestimated because it was weighing on him even more strongly since Halloween. He had a tiny kernel of peace inside of him from Halloween that hadn’t been depleted, and he clung to it like a lifeline.

Harry glanced up when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye, seeing Draco Malfoy getting up from the Slytherin table — Draco was staring right at him and, once noticing Harry’s eyes flashing to his, the boy tipped his head slightly. Harry nodded once, making it seem like he was looking back down at his mostly empty plate of food, and when he looked up again Draco had made it through the doors of the Great Hall.

“I’m done,” Harry says quietly. “Gonna head out. Don’t hurry on my account, okay?”

Hermione looks up at him. “I have to go to the library, Harry. Do you want to come with me? I’ll just be a moment, if you don’t mind waiting, and we can head out. I only need to grab a copy of Hogwarts: A History — I still can’t believe I forgot mine at home!”

Harry shook his head. “I might meet you after, if you’re still there, but I think I want to get a little fresh air.” He glances pointedly around at the chattering students who are all pretending not to listen to his conversation, or looking away after having stared at him a little too long. He knows that Hermione’s aware of them — Harry’d complained more than once about feeling like a spectacle.

Hermione grimaces but ultimately she turns back to the remains of her food, swatting at Ron’s hand when the redhead tried to take something off of her plate, and she quickly resumes whatever conversation she was having with Dean Thomas.

“I’ll come with you, just to the stairs,” Luna said softly as she stepped away from the table.

Harry nodded and said nothing, feeling the eyes on him again. This time, when he looks, he sees the glare that Ginny Weasley is sending his way before she ducks her head and opens a black book, writing frantically with her quill.

Harry wonders briefly if she was looking to be a writer or a journalist one day — he never saw her without that journal, trusty quill in hand — and then dismisses the thought, allowing Luna to thread her arm through his and lead him away. She made it look like he was leading her, of course, but Harry smiled, knowing that she was always aware of the things that made him uncomfortable and looking to resolve them before they became unbearable.

Things as simple as not knowing how to lead a lady while they were walking together were easily taught when your partner was as understanding as Luna Lovegood.

They passed through the large doors of the Great Hall and Harry looked around, seeing that they were alone.

“You’ll be careful, won’t you Harry?” Luna asked, stepping away from him.

“’Course I will, Luna.”

She chewed on her bottom lip — he noticed it looked chapped and pink, like she’d been worrying it a lot, and he considered saying something about it before her blue eyes flashed up to meet his gaze again. “Will you let me do something without asking any questions about it until I tell you it’s safe?”

Harry opens his mouth, the instinctive response to say no, to ask what it was she was going to do before she did it, but he caught the reflection of the torchlight as it bounced off of her long, sparkling earrings, and remembered his promise. Don’t ask questions that aren’t safe. Instead of asking, he considers Luna; he considers the amount of trust he holds for her.

Does he trust her enough to allow her to do anything without asking?

He’s surprised to find that the answer is yes. So instead of saying anything, he smiles gently down at her and takes a few steps to the side, leaning against the stone of the castle wall. “Here?”

She shakes her head, but there’s a fond smile on her face. Her blue eyes are nearly glowing when she looks at him, and though her smile does not so much as tremble, her eyes rapidly fill with tears. “No, silly,” she says, her voice somehow clear as day and showing none of the emotion filling her eyes, not a hint or stutter to betray the devastation in her gaze, “We should go somewhere more private.”

She reaches out her hand for his, and her small fingers hold on to him like she is terrified to let him go.

“I’ll follow you, then,” he says, trying to play along despite his whirling mind. She doesn’t look away from him, just tugs at his hand and starts walking backwards towards the main castle doors. The tears fall silently down her cheeks and she does not blink.

He walks a little faster, and as they turn a corner he notices Draco Malfoy standing by the doors, blond hair bright as a beacon, pacing back and forth and chewing on his delicate thumbnail. Draco looks up when he sees them coming and brightens quickly before frowning, his gaze landing on Luna.


Luna hums, “We should step outside for this conversation, yes?”

Draco whirls around and opens the door, glancing over his shoulder at her as if he knows something is wrong, while Harry plays that word on repeat in his mind — Cousin. Was Draco Malfoy somehow related to Luna Lovegood? Clearly, if that was the form of address Draco had chosen, but how?

Luna tightened her fingers around his and he tried to wipe the thoughts from his mind. Not important. Not when Luna had that blank look on her face but her eyes were fuzzy and overflowing with tears. Not when Luna didn’t look like herself, didn’t act like herself.

Not when Luna asked to do something that was not safe in a place she had always told him was not safe enough for any sort of conversation he wanted to keep private. The bumblebee has eyes and ears everywhere, Harry, she’d told him more than once. He didn’t understand the words, but he got her message — loud and clear.

Clearly, the risk was worth the reward this time, whatever had happened.

The moment they step outside and the door closes behind the three of them, Luna turns and throws herself into Harry’s arms with a heart-wrenching sob, trembling as his arms wrap around her.


“I can’t tell you Harry, I can’t, but it’s so bad, and I’m so sorry—“ she buries her face into his neck and lets loose a muffled yell. “It’s worse than I ever imagined and there’s nothing—“

Harry looks over her head and locks gazes with a wide-eyed Draco Malfoy, who looks even more lost and confused than he feels. “Luna girl, it’s going to be okay. Whatever it is.”

She trembled in his arms and he could feel her shaking her head, trying to get closer to him. His entire body felt warm, and every time she released a giant sob that wracked her entire body something inside of him tingled.

It felt like she was doing something to him with magic.

“I tried, but I can’t—“

He looked down at her, noticing the way her face had gone red and puffy, how she glowed brightly under the moonlight, the way her eyes were nearly luminescent and the overall thinness of her face that he’d never noticed quite this way before. Something dangerous, he thought.

“Did you do your best?” He asked softly, cupping her face and wiping the tears from her cheeks. Too thin. Thin like his. Thin like months spent eating nothing but bread rinds and thin broth and working too much. Thin like sickness hidden under layers of clothes and makeup and magic.

“I did, Harry, I’m sorry—“

“Shh, Luna girl. If you did your best, that’s all you could do. You tried for me, okay? It’s more than anyone else has ever done.” He pulled her closer, feeling her body trembling and realizing it was from more than the emotion, more than the cold. “I won’t ask, and you won’t tell me, okay? Come here, Luna girl, I’ve got you.”

“I’m sorry, Harry, I’m so sorry—“

“No need for sorry, Luna,” he whispered, rubbing her back and threading his fingers through the ends of her long hair. He tugged them gently through the strands, hoping it brought her the same comfort it did when she played with his hair. “Tell me how to help you.”

He could feel her smile against his neck and knew it was not a kind thing. “Too late for helping, Harry Potter.”

“I don’t accept that,” he said immediately, and it was as if he’d cast a spell for the warmth that flooded his body. He felt her gasping into his neck, felt her pressing closer to him like she was trying to crawl inside of his body, and even knowing there was no way for them to be closer he pulled her tighter against him. And then he pushed his magic like he had when he’d held onto Quirrell’s face, pushed it with all his might so it would respond to him, and knew that he could help Luna if it just listened to him for once instead of fighting him every step of the way.

There was an ache inside of him, a pressure, and then a release as something snapped — then Luna gasped and threw her head back, glowing blue eyes thrown wide as her mouth opened and she screamed, her voice thin and high.

The sound was gone almost as soon as he’d registered it, and she slumped in his arms, the magic slipping from his grasp just as quickly as it’d come, causing him to stumble and take Luna down with him. He managed to catch himself — and Luna — before they took to the ground, and straightened up with her still in his arms.

Luna smiled softly up at him. “Yes,” she said decisively, “I do think I’ll keep you.”

There was a snort from somewhere in front of them, and Harry looked up to see Draco kneeling in front of them several paces away, his arms outstretched as if he’d planned to catch them when they fell.

“Now you’ve gone and done it, Potter,” He smirked, but his eyes were soft when he looked at Luna. It was a gentler expression than Harry had ever seen the boy make. “You’re never getting rid of her now.”

Harry shrugged, pulling Luna closer to him, and she nuzzled into his body gently this time, seeking comfort and not… whatever it was she was pulling at him so desperately for.

“I don’t think I’d want to, to be completely honest.” He blushed. “Erm, sorry about— all that?”

Draco shrugged. “Sometimes things happen around Luna and— and Auntie Pandora,” he whispered her name, “Things that have no explanation. I know not to ask.” He raised his eyebrow. “And you know not to tell.” It was not a question, and the steel in those words was nothing less than a threat.

Harry huffed. “Cousins, huh?” He couldn’t help the wistfulness in his voice.

“After a fashion. The same way as most Purebloods in this country, I’ve no doubt, though ours is a… distant relation.” He rolled his eyes. “Distant enough that neither of our families would tell us more than that, certainly not the name of our common ancestor nor our exact relation to each other.”

“It’s Mummy’s family, though,” Luna said quietly. “That’s all we know.”

“And it’s enough,” Draco snarls, “no matter what anyone else says, it’s enough for me, Lu.”

“I think you ought to tell Harry what you wanted to say before they come looking for us,” Luna said instead of answering him. She did pat the stone next to Harry’s leg, though, and Draco settled down next to them.

He was quiet for a few moments before speaking. “I wanted to apologize for— that night.” Harry didn’t need him to specify which one, the image of a bright eyed and grinning Draco clear in his mind. “If I had known it was you, I’d never— You know I wouldn’t have—“

“Does it only matter because it was me? Or because it was your friend?”

“I… Harry, I’d like to think we’re friends, now.”

“Me, too.”

“It matters because it was you, and you are my friend. Not because you are Harry Potter, who is my friend.”

Harry lets the words sit, rolls them around on his tongue. Then he says, “I can accept that.”

Draco presses just slightly closer to him, just enough that Harry’s able to feel his warmth, that his skin buzzes from the proximity. “You know I didn’t mean it, right? What I said about— about your—“

Harry’s stomach sinks. “About my magic,” he whispers. He feels the shame crawling up his throat, wants to be sick about it all over again.

He’d drafted the letter to Kwickspell and asked for more information, if they could send him supplemental materials. He’d been on his way out of the Common Room to post it when Ron had found him. They sat down by the fireplace and Harry had explained about the letter, excited to share his discovery with his friend. But Ron had scoffed and said it was a course for Squibs, and Harry wouldn’t be in Hogwarts if he was a Squib, in fact he’d never have been allowed to return to the Wizarding World, good riddance — then he’d taken the letter and thrown it into the fire.

Harry had been devastated, and for the first time in a while he had climbed into Fred’s bed, wrapping himself up in familiar scents as he cried himself to sleep waiting for the twins to return from the Hospital Wing. They hadn’t asked, just wrapped their arms around him, and he didn’t tell them what had set him off. He returned to his own bed the next night, cursing himself for his weakness, but he couldn’t pretend that things were normal with Ron and had skipped classes that day until he could face his friend at dinner. He’d cried himself sick until lunchtime and resolved to do better in the future.

“It was the first thing I could think of,” Draco confessed quickly, “I didn’t notice anyone was there, just the words on the wall, and when I saw you I—“ he swallowed. “They all think you did it,” he whispered, “and I said the first thing that might put doubt in their minds, and I knew it would hurt you, and I’m sorry I said it but I’m not sorry I did it.” He lifted his chin.

Harry found himself leaning towards the warmth of Draco’s body, surprised when he didn’t move away and their shoulders bumped. “You tried to protect me?”

Hesitantly, Draco nodded. “I did.” He swallowed before confessing, his voice hoarse, “I tried the only thing I could do, and I don’t think it worked, and I— I regret how I did it, but I tried.”

Harry nodded. “Then you’re forgiven.” He looked down at Luna and smirked. “But you need to take her back to Ravenclaw — she won’t let me near the Common Room for some reason.”

Draco looked down, too, seeing Luna dozing on Harry’s lap. When he raised his head to look at Harry, it was with a mischievous grin. “If she won’t let you into the Common Room, then she certainly won’t let me anywhere near the Tower. No, Harry, she’ll probably wake up as soon as you start moving.” He looked away, turning his eyes to the sky instead. “Are you ready to head back?”

Harry shook his head. “Not really. But I have to, don’t I?”

Draco didn’t answer. “Do you ever think about just… running away from it all?”

The boys just sat together for a few minutes, Draco’s quiet words stretching between them. Like so many of their discussions, usually after several hours of flying and taking place sprawled on their backs in the grass, there was no need for words for questions like these. It was a dangerous question, yes, but more dangerous was the answer.

They didn’t need words to know the answer. The solid press of Harry’s arm against Draco’s, and the presence of the sleeping girl in his lap, was enough.

There was no escape for people like them. Wishing for it was futile, but under the dark sky, their features lit only by moonlight, they still wished.

And then, as if by silent agreement, they stood up — both of them holding on to Luna so she didn’t fall while Harry got his feet under him — and stepped back into the roles that they were expected to play. Just like every day they left the Quidditch Pitch, Draco’s sneer was back on his face, and Harry locked away the softest parts of his heart as he reached out for Luna.

“Lu,” Draco called softly, his face clear of emotion, “Lu, you have to go now.”

Her eyes fluttered open and they were the clearest blue Harry had ever seen, no longer glowing, no longer dangerous, no longer secret. “Thank you for watching over me, Draco,” she said, reaching out a pale hand to rest it on his cheek. He closed his grey eyes when her hand connected. “I am glad I chose you, too, you know. I’ve always been glad to call you mine. Whatever that looks like for us.”

Draco brushed the back of her hand with his fingertips, the gentlest caress, and her hand dropped. The breath he took was deep, shuddering, but it was all he needed to build himself back into the Draco Malfoy that the rest of the school saw swaggering in the corridors every day.

“Goodnight,” he said. And then he was gone, swifter than a bird taking flight, leaving Harry and Luna standing outside by themselves.

Harry and Luna let the silence rest between them and quietly followed suit, the only words between them now too dangerous to give breath. Their hands met and parted again in a farewell, and then Harry was alone again, on his way to Gryffindor Tower, feeling lonelier than ever after spending so much time in intimate closeness with two of the people he cared about the most.

Harry felt the eyes on him again, as he walked through the Gryffindor Common Room towards the boy’s dormitory, but when he turned to look, it was empty except for Ginny, her head down as she poured over that black book of hers, writing furiously with a bright brown quill held tightly between her gloved fingers. He turned away again, brushing it off as just more of the same and knowing there was nothing he could do about it, and headed back towards his cold, lonely bed.

At least he had the upcoming Quidditch game to look forward to. Charlie hadn’t answered his letters — probably busy with the new hatchlings he’d mentioned over the summer — but Harry hoped Charlie would be allowed to attend the match. The Slytherin vs Gryffindor match was always a spectacle, Harry had been told, and family members were allowed to come and watch the matches if they notified the school in advance.

Yes, Harry thought as he got changed into pajamas and crawled into bed, he would just daydream about the Quidditch match, with his eyes closed, until he fell asleep. He could imagine—

On the edge of sleep, Harry thought he heard something, but he was too far gone to make out the words.


This is not the chapter I set out to write, but it is the chapter we were given, so I guess we can be glad for that. Now I'm going to scream into my pillow and start writing the chapter I had intended to write today before Luna showed up and hijacked the fic.....again. That being said.....

WHAT. DO. YOU. THINK???? I dropped a LOT of bombs in this chapter, along with a lot of information. I've had lots of questions about whether Harry is sleeping with the twins still, and I hope I've cleared them up in this chapter. It's sad boy hours for Harry, folks, and he's deep in it.

In case it's not abundantly clear by now, I love all your comments whether they're emoji bombs or feral 500+ word essays with a billion questions and theories about what's going on. I love it when you tell me you're rereading, I love it when you leave comments that say "I just want to leave another kudos but AO3 won't let me!" and I love it when you just leave some love! Each little drop in the dopamine bucket gets me hyped to write more, and that's how I've somehow managed to write checks current overall word count 97k words since November 1 2023. I appreciate you all so much!

Chapter 16: Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 8


Several people are inching closer to their breakpoint. When everything finally shatters, where will the pieces fall?


Thank you everyone who's been commenting or reaching out to talk to me about this story! I absolutely love talking about it, and I have so many ideas for things to come. I hope you're all as excited as I am!

Also, a general heads up -- there be spoilers in the comments! I'll answer pretty much any question about the story, and usually in detail, so don't be afraid to ask! (If you don't want an answer, just let me know you're not looking for the answer and I'll do my best to respond without spoiling, but I still appreciate your curiosities!)

I would also LOVE to know how many of you are familiar with Scioneeris' dragel universe, and who here is strictly Harry Potter fandom!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Chapter 16. Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 8; Tipping, Tipping...

Several days later, the whole school was still talking about the “Chamber of Secrets” — even Ron and Hermione had gotten in on it, sharing their theories. Hermione claimed to have read about it before and as the days went on she spent more and more time reading, frantically searching through her growing collection of books for any hint of it to share, her normally messy hair getting progressively more frizzy and tangled as she went.

Harry offered to help her with it while she was reading, during one quiet night when it was just the two of them curled up on a couch in the Common Room, but Hermione had snapped at him that she didn’t need help with anything, thank you very much, and reminded Harry to mind his own business — including his own messy hair. Harry had turned back to his own reading, feeling shame and hot anger crawling up from his belly.

Was he really that bad? Was offering to help his friend the wrong thing to do? Was hair, somehow, something that nobody should comment on? But that didn’t make sense — everyone was commenting about his all the time, and people had absolutely no problem touching it even when he asked them not to or pulled away from them. Did he make a mistake again?

Did the rules change again?

He just wanted to help.

“I’m going to bed,” Harry said quietly, realizing that he couldn’t focus on the words in front of him. He was too busy thinking about Hermione and how he’d messed up this time.

“Don’t forget about tomorrow’s homework,” Hermione called to him, not even looking up.

Harry grimaced. He’d done it already. Hell, he’d done it while sitting next to her! “Goodnight, Hermione,” he said instead.


Harry woke up with a Weasley in his bed. Tall, slim, but with muscular arms that wrapped around him and pulled him tight to his chest. Harry looked up, but couldn’t see his face in the dark.

“Hey?” Harry asks, sleepily reaching up to pat at the twin’s hair.

The arms hold him tighter, and the tall body curls around his in the way that only George does, like he’s trying to protect Harry with his entire body.

“Hey, hey, I’ve got you. Lemme turn around,” Harry whispers, suddenly feeling awake and alarmed. His shoulder strains a little bit from the way it’s being pulled, and he wants to wrap his arms around George, hug him back.

He realizes that George’s body is shaking, and suddenly nothing else matters. Harry uses the arm that’s in the air and wraps his hand around the back of George’s neck, tugging him closer.

Harry didn’t need to know what had happened to George, not after the amount of times the twins had comforted him like this. But if he did find out? There was going to be a reckoning.

“Easy, George,” Harry said softly, “I’m right here. I’ve got you. I’m not leaving.”

George is gone by the time Harry wakes up in the morning.


Hermione demands answers about the Chamber of Secrets during History of Magic class, and all Harry can do is stare at her while she frames her argument as being educational rather than based in rumors and hear-say, pressing their ghost teacher on a subject that he clearly had no interest in speaking about.

Despite it being one of the most interesting interactions that had ever happened in History of Magic, Harry finds himself wanting to sink into the floor as all eyes in the room turn to look at Hermione and, by association, him.

He should have sat with Neville today.

“You all know, of course, that Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago — the precise date is uncertain — by the four greatest witches and wizards of the age.” Many students nodded their agreement, and Harry found himself sitting up a little straighter and leaning forward, focusing on the ghostly professor. He hadn’t known. “The four school Houses are named after them: Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin. They built this castle together, far from prying Muggle eyes, for it was an age when magic was feared by common people, and witches and wizards suffered much persecution.”

Professor Binns paused, looking around at the class and finding almost everybody had turned their gaze to him, paying rapt attention. He cleared his throat and flushed white before continuing.

“For a few years, the founders worked in harmony together, seeking out youngsters who showed signs of magic and bringing them to the castle to be educated. But then disagreements sprang up between them. A rift began to grow between Slytherin and the others, specifically. Slytherin wished to be more selective about the students admitted to Hogwarts.”

Harry nodded, finding himself agreeing with Slytherin — if it was over a thousand years ago, there would be a lot of discrepancy between the students they accepted, but most importantly would be literacy. If they accepted everyone, they would also have to teach non-magical subjects like reading and arithmetic, at least if it was anything like now—

“He believed that magical learning should be kept within all-magic families. He disliked taking students of Muggle parentage, believing them to be untrustworthy. After a while, there was a serious argument on the subject between Slytherin and Gryffindor, and Slytherin left the school.”

Harry blinked. That wasn’t the argument he’d expected. But he considered it, tilting his head and tapping the feather of his quill against his chin. His family didn’t trust him because he was magical. It made sense that it would work the opposite way, didn’t it? And if the magical population was being persecuted, of course it would make sense that the magicals wanted to remove themselves from non-magical society entirely, including children.

He didn’t necessarily like it or agree with it, but he could understand it. And, really, isn’t that part of the reason they teach history in school?

Mutters spread through the class, and Professor Binns pursed his lips, raising his voice to talk over them until the class settled down again and he could speak normally.

Reliable historical sources tell us this much,” he emphasized, “but these honest facts have been obscured by the fanciful legend of the Chamber of Secrets.” The ghost rolled his eyes, making his thoughts on that abundantly clear. “The story goes that Slytherin had built a hidden chamber in the castle, of which the other founders knew nothing.”

Harry’s eyebrows rose. If that was the start of the legend, no wonder everyone wanted to know about it. It sounded like the beginning of one of Aunt Petunia’s soap operas. Four people, close friends and colleagues until one of them abandoned the others after a row, only for them to uncover a secret that had been hidden beneath their noses for years…

Someone should write a book about that instead of a toddler who didn’t die when his parents did.

“Slytherin, according to legend, had sealed the Chamber of Secrets —“ Harry rolled his eyes at the name. Of course it was called the Chamber of Secrets. “And none would be able to open it until his own true heir arrived at the school. The heir alone would be able to unseal the Chamber of Secrets, unleashing the horror within, and use it to purge the school of all who were unworthy to study magic.”

Professor Binns scoffed, looking annoyed at the whole thing. “Arrant nonsense, of course,” he said. “The entire school has been searched for evidence of such a chamber, many times, by the most learned of witches and wizards available. It does not exist. Simply a tale told to frighten the gullible.”

Harry could see why Binns was annoyed. This was what everyone was excited about? A secret room from a horror story? And it was true, too, that the students were excitedly whispering amongst themselves and watching Binns with an expectant gleam in their eyes as they waited for another juicy tidbit.

Hermione’s hand flew up into the air again and she was speaking before Binns even turned back to face her. “Sir, what exactly do you mean by the ‘horror within’ the Chamber?”

Harry rolled his eyes. He knew Hermione must have read at least one collection of fables in her lifetime. Surely she could think of some stories that would fit.

“That,” Binns said dryly, “is believed to be some sort of monster, which the Heir of Slytherin alone can control.”

The class continued to whisper amongst themselves, with some speaking out like Hermione had. Only, Hermione at least had the grace to pretend she was being polite by raising her hand.

Seamus Finnigan, Parvati Patil, and Dean Thomas all seemed to press towards one point:

Only the true heir of Slytherin would be able to find the Chamber of Secrets, they probably had to be a Dark Magic user, and the heir of Slytherin had to be someone with a blood relation to Salazar Slytherin himself.

Harry could already see the rumor catching and spreading through the class by the time Professor Binns snapped that it was beyond time to return to real history. For once, Harry could relate to the ghostly professor, and relished the return to facts.

Things somehow only get worse after class, Ron and Hermione pressing close to him on either side as they walk through the busy corridor to drop off their bags before heading to dinner.

“I always new Salazar Slytherin was a twisted old loony,” the word comes easily to Ron’s lips and sets Harry’s stomach rolling, “but I never knew he was the one who started all this pureblood stuff.”

“But it sounds like it existed already? He was just the only one of the founders who thought it should apply to the students,” Harry said, wincing as someone shoved their elbow into his ribs.

Ron scoffed. “Clearly he’s the one who made it into a big deal, then, Harry. Weren’t you listening? Anyway, you couldn’t pay me to be in his House. If the Sorting Hat had tried to put me in Slytherin, I reckon I’d’ve got the train straight back home…”

Hermione nodded fervently, voicing her agreement, and Harry’s stomach dropped.

He hadn’t meant to keep it secret for so long, not really, but he’d never told Ron and Hermione how the Sorting Hat had considered him for Slytherin. Ron had made his stance on the House clear, and Harry hadn’t been willing to risk their friendship.

Now? Now Harry wondered if he even liked Ron as a person, let alone as his best friend.

“That’s really not fair though, is it? You’re here to learn magic, and you learn magic the same no matter what House you end up in.”

Ron wrinkled his nose at Harry, the freckles distorting at the grimace. “That’s right, you’ve been spending your time with a Slytherin, haven’t you? Traitor to your own House.”

“Excuse me?” Harry reared back.

Ron huffed and wrapped his arm around Harry’s shoulders. “Well, I bet you’ve learned your lesson, now that you know about what a bad bloke Slytherin was. No more spendin’ time with Malfoy. Nothin’ good about that family, anyway. Not a single one of ‘em weren’t Dark Wizards.”

Harry jerked himself out of Ron’s grasp, scowling, only to bump into someone else, who let out a small squeak when their bodies connected.

“Hiya, Harry!” The boy looked up at him with wide eyes, pressing closer in the crowd.

“Hullo, Colin,” Harry said through gritted teeth, pulling himself away from the younger boy too.

“They’re talking about you in my class!” Colin started. “A boy said—“ but then Colin was pulled along by the tide of moving students and Harry could barely make out his squeaky farewell.

Harry pushed forward, away from Ron, Hermione, and Colin, only to stop when he recognized the deserted section of the corridor where Mrs Norris had been petrified. He stared at the empty chair next to the wall that still bore the message from that night. The corridor had been destroyed, but the message stayed on the wall as clearly as the night it had appeared.


What an awful week.

Footsteps echoed, and he turned slowly to see Ron and Hermione jogging to meet up with him, annoyed looks on both of their faces.

“What’d you run off for?” Ron calls out to Harry.

Harry, though, is not listening. He is staring at the scorch marks on the floor, following the marks to a line of frantically scattering spiders, all of them climbing up towards the nearest window.

How odd, Harry thinks, watching as no less than twenty spiders aim for the same crack in the window pane, seemingly desperate to get away from here. He’d never seen spiders act like that in his life, and he had befriended many spiders while living in the cupboard under the stairs.

Hermione came up behind him, peering over his shoulder to see what had him so fascinated. “Spiders?” she asked. “Have you ever seen spiders act like that? They’re acting a little… odd, don’t you think?”

Harry nodded, distracted by their movements. The more he watched, the more he thought they looked panicked, scared of something in their space that they were unused to.

Something that was not human, because he’d never seen any of the spiders in the castle acting like this.

Hermione’s voice sounds again, and he hears Ron respond — something about being afraid of spiders after Fred turned his… teddy bear? Into a giant spider. Harry reminded himself to ask about that story, sometime, knowing that there was more to it than Ron was letting on. Still, he tried to remember what the corridor had looked like that night — tried to focus on something other than the memory of Mrs Norris’ stiff body and the way his legs refused to move.

“Wasn’t there water on the floor?” He asks, looking around. “Where did it come from?” Someone — Filch, probably — had wiped it all up, and there was no discoloration of the stone to show where it had gotten wet.

Ron ambled over, and he pointed to a door just a few paces past where Filch’s chair had been set up. “There, probably. It’s the closest door in this area, anyway. But I don’t—“ he jerked his hand away from where he’d been reaching towards the brass doorknob. “Can’t go in there,” Ron said gruffly. “Girl’s toilet.”

Harry nodded. “So, the water could’ve come from there.”

Hermione rolled her eyes and started towards the bathroom herself. “Honestly. Don’t you boys know anything? This is Moaning Myrtle’s place — there won’t be anybody in there.” She pointed out the OUT OF ORDER sign hanging on the door. “Come on, let’s have a look.”

She and Ron headed into the bathroom, and Harry paused at the doorway.

He wanted to knock first. Sure, it didn’t make sense — Ron and Hermione had already entered the bathroom, so the damage was done — but on top of being a girl’s loo, it was also the home of a ghost.

The least he could do was knock on her door.

And so, feeling foolish, Harry knocked on the door. He waited a few seconds and then reached for the handle, letting himself in, only to see Ron and Hermione arguing with the sad looking ghost from the Death Day Party.

The ghost looked up at him as he stepped through the doorway and brightened. “Oh, hello, Harry! It’s so nice to see you again!” She floated towards him, happily leaving Ron and Hermione behind.

Harry smiled up at her, feeling a pain in his chest. She had died so young — not just any ghost, but a Hogwarts student, her Ravenclaw crest still pinned in it’s place of honor on her robes. “Hello, Myrtle. It’s lovely to meet you. I was looking forward to speaking with you at Sir Nicholas’ celebration, but —“

She nodded. “Those Headless Hunt hooligans!” Myrtle wrinkled her nose. “I’ll never understand why Nick wants to join them so badly — they’re rude and rowdy — ruining everything!”

He nodded in agreement. “If I’d known this was where you spent your time, I would have come to visit sooner.”

She shook her head so hard that her long hair whipped her in the face. “Oh, no, Harry,” she said, “it’s really better that you don’t visit me here, but I’m so very glad you want to speak with me.” She looked down at her transparent feet. “Nobody wants to see poor, dead, whimpering Moaning Myrtle,” her voice was thick with tears.

Harry could relate, and stepped forward, reaching his hand up to hover just above her shoulder, making sure not to touch her ghostly self. “It’s lonely, isn’t it? But I’ll visit with you, and Luna will too, I’m sure. She’s a Ravenclaw, you know? Just like you. I’m sure she would appreciate a visit sometime. She had been looking forward to meeting you at the party, but with everything that happened afterwards… Well, it’s been quite busy.”

“That’s why we’re here, you see—“ Hermione interrupted, glancing between Harry and the ghost. “We wanted to ask you if you’ve seen anything funny lately. A cat was attacked right outside your front door on Halloween.”

“Did you see anything?” Ron asked.

Harry raised his eyebrows. That was rather sudden. “Well, Myrtle was at the Sir Nicholas’ Death Day Party, same as me and Luna. If she got here before I did, she must’ve had to travel quite fast, because she was still there when I left.”

Myrtle sniffled. “Oh, Harry, it was awful!”

“What happened, Myrtle?” he asked.

“That nasty Peeves, is what happened!” She sobbed. “I wasn’t paying attention when I came back, you see. Peeves upset me so much I left the party early, and— Oh, Harry, I came in here and tried to kill myself. Then, of course, I realized—“

Harry’s heart ached for the ghost. It didn’t take a lot to put together the story of a bullied student, killed or dead by her own hand in a school bathroom, now bullied relentlessly through her own afterlife. “Myrtle,” he said quietly, “do we need to ask the Baron for help with Peeves?”

“But how could you kill yourself?” Ron asked, “You’re already dead.”

Harry stared at Ron, his jaw dropping. “Ron!” he hissed, in disbelief. “You can’t just—“

But the damage was done, and Myrtle sobbed, rising up the air and retreating towards her toilet, diving into it headfirst and vanishing from sight, though her sobbing could still be heard. The water splashed all over the floor, and Harry had to quickly jump out of the way or he would have also been splashed.

A vicious voice inside of him crowed in victory, seeing that Ron and Hermione had not avoided the toilet water. They deserved that, he thinks, for being awful to Myrtle.

She may be dead, but she was still human. Was a little compassion such a difficult thing?

“Honestly,” Hermione said, her voice a little shaky, “that was almost cheerful for Myrtle.” She shook her head and took a deep breath. “Come on, let’s go.”

The three of them leave Myrtle’s bathroom, and Harry calls out a soft farewell to her before passing through the door. He hates to leave her there all alone and crying, but she didn’t seem like she would be surfacing again any time soon. He wouldn’t be any help to her.

Instead, he turns on Ron and Hermione the moment the door closes behind them, seething with rage. “How could the two of you talk about her like that? Did you even listen to yourself?”

“Like what?”

“She’s just a ghost, Harry! She’s already dead.”

“That doesn’t mean she hasn’t got feelings—“

But it was at that moment that Percy Weasley interrupted them, stopping suddenly at the top of the stairs, an expression of complete shock on his face that ran counter to the polished gleam of his Prefect badge.

“That’s a girls’ bathroom,” he gasped, looking around to see if there was anyone else present before hurrying closer. “What were you two—“

While Ron sputters something about looking for clues, Harry finds himself thankful that Percy looked directly at him and waited for the answer.

“I got separated on our way back from class, you know how the corridors are.” Percy nodded and allowed Harry to continue speaking, while Ron snapped his mouth shut and Hermione whipped her head around to stare at him in shock. “Well, I stopped when I noticed where we were — I didn’t want to get caught here again, I can only imagine the kind of trouble I’d get in even if I wasn’t doing anything! — but then Hermione said that this was Myrtle’s bathroom.”

“Moaning Myrtle,” Hermione corrected, “She’s known as Moaning Myrtle, Harry.”

Harry cut a glare at her. “Myrtle was one of the ghosts I had been looking forward to meeting at Sir Nicholas’ Death Day Party, and Hermione said nobody ever used this bathroom.”

Percy was wringing his hands, but looked a little more settled than he had been. “Still, Harry, you know what it looks like. Why, coming back here while everyone’s at dinner—“ He shook his head. “If I were anyone else, Harry—“

“I know! I know. But you know me, Percy, and you know that I’d never h-hurt Mrs Norris. I really did just get separated, and then I wanted to say hello to Myrtle.” Harry smiled slightly, blushing. “She told me off, just the same as you did, about it being a girl’s bathroom. I’m going to bring Luna next time, and we’ll meet with Myrtle outside of the loo. I think we need to meet her here, though. I was planning on asking, but she got… upset.”

Percy nodded slowly. “I know you’ve heard the rumors, Harry,” he said cautiously. “You know the first years are… overexcited by all of this business. Why, Ginny’s been distraught for days, seems to think you’re in danger of being expelled.” He shook his head. “I’ve never seen her so upset before. Fred, George, and I, we’ve been trying to calm her, but—“

“Oh, please,” Ron huffed, “You don’t care about Ginny. You just care about your stupid chances at being Head Boy—“

“Ron!” Harry snapped, in tandem with Percy.

“Five points from Gryffindor,” Percy said tersely, his pale skin flushing red as he fiddled with his Prefect badge. “I’ll be going now, since you’re aware of what it looks like and have a workable plan not to have it happen again.”

Harry nodded, Ron’s accusations circling in his head. “I’ll come with you,” he decided, cutting a glare to Ron and Hermione. “I’m not hungry, anyway.”

Percy rolled his eyes, reaching out to ruffle Harry’s hair affectionately, the angry flush already fading away. “I’ll bring you to the table myself, you little troublemaker. Honestly, you think I’d ever hear the end of it if I let you skip another meal?” Percy nodded to Hermione. “Best be off to dinner, all of you. Don’t get caught here again. And Ron, behave before I have to write Mum about your behavior.”

Harry laughed. “Best write Charlie instead — even the threat of him is enough to keep the twins in line!”

They started down the stairs and heading to dinner, quickly leaving Ron and Hermione behind as they carried on with their conversation.

Percy looked intrigued, a small smile tilting the corners of his lips up as he considered it. “Really? I’ll have to keep that in mind for the future.” His smile fell. “Only, Charlie hasn’t been responding to any of the letters I’ve sent him. I don’t know how well that would work.”

Harry nodded, “I think he must be really busy with the hatchlings. He’s never gone this long without writing me back before, and I had a lot of questions for him…”

“Oh? I know I’ve been busy the past weeks, Harry, but you can still come to me with questions.”

Harry smiled shyly up at Percy. “I know. I just don’t want to be a bother, is all. You’ve already helped so much, and you’re probably doing a lot of hard things in your class. Plus you’ve got your Prefect duties, which are a big responsibility...”

Percy shook his head, but he stood taller and lifted his chin with pride. “Nonsense, Harry. You’re no bother at all. Now, I know Ron seems to be a lost cause, but you’ve managed to wrangle the twins just fine, and that makes you as close to an honorary Weasley as it can get in my eyes. You might as well be another brother,” Percy teased, making Harry flush with delight. “That aside, you are still one of my lions, and it’s my responsibility to help you when I am able.” He grinned. “Second year coursework is something I can do in my sleep, Harry. I promise you won’t be bothering me with it.”

They stepped through the doors, into the Great Hall, and immediately Fred and George raised their heads, grinning and calling Harry’s name.

“Go on, now,” Percy said fondly, pushing Harry forward gently. “Go eat and tell them all about your day. You know they’ve missed you. They talk about you all the time.”

Harry flushed. He didn’t know that, actually. Harry takes a step forward, pausing when Percy hesitantly calls his name. He looks back and sees that Percy, too, is looking a little awkward.

“We all worry about you, Harry. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if something’s going on, okay? I remember that talk we had, and I still mean it.” He chewed on his lip before coming to a decision. “I hear the rumors, Harry. And I don’t like what I’m hearing, but I want to hear the truth from you, okay? Whatever it is, I’ll listen. Any time.”

Harry found himself jerking his head in a nod and then turning away when Percy raised his hand in farewell, making his way over to Gryffindor table to sit in the seat that had opened up between Fred and George.

They both look tired. George has bags under his eyes, and Harry doesn’t realize what he’s doing until he’d reached out and brushed his thumb underneath, caressing the thin skin there in concern. George just smiles tiredly at him, reaching up to squeeze his hand.

“Hungry, Harry?” Fred asks, already handing him a plate full of all the things Harry liked.

For the first time in days, Harry was ravenous. He ate everything on his plate.


Harry wasn’t sure, exactly, that Ron and Hermione had gone to dinner like Percy had suggested. They had certainly gone somewhere together, arriving back in the Gryffindor Common Room loudly enough to make Harry look up from where he had curled up on one of the plush chairs by the fireplace with a book Percy had let him borrow.

They stalked towards him with displeasure clear on their faces, and Harry found himself sitting up quickly and sliding the torn bit of parchment he was using as a bookmark into the book before shutting it and hiding it behind him. It was a third year book, and one that he knew Hermione didn’t have access to or know about.

The last thing he wanted to do was start a fight, but based on the looks on their faces? It was definitely on the list.

Harry was so exhausted by them. It didn’t matter if he tried to be the person that they wanted him to be, or if he was himself — no matter what he did, it was never enough. He was so sick of failing, so sick of not being good enough for them.

He was sick of comparing the relationship he had with them to the friends he had found in Fred and George, in Percy, in Luna and Neville — only to find that he yearned for that same closeness with Ron and Hermione, instead of the other way around.

It made him feel like he was the traitor Ron called him.

But Ron and Hermione were his first friends his age, and wasn’t that enough?

Somehow, it didn’t feel like it was enough anymore. But, still, he held onto that fact like it was a lifeline. It certainly felt like it, especially with the two of them stomping their way towards him. A quick glance around found the Common Room emptying quickly, some of the upper years rolling their eyes and muttering about another fight happening in the Common Room.

“Hello,” Harry said cautiously, once Ron and Hermione had approached close enough.

Hello, he says,” Ron scowled, nearly growling the words, “After abandonin’ his friends.”

Harry’s brows furrowed and he sat up straighter. “Abandoning you?” He echoed.

“Well, you did leave us in front of the bathroom, Harry,” Hermione snapped. “And then you sat with the twins at dinner instead of waiting for us—“

“But… I usually sit with the twins? They’re my friends, too, you know, only I don’t have classes with them like I do with you, so I sit with them at dinner.”

“And at breakfast you sit with Loony Lovegood—“

Harry felt his hold on his temper slip as that name left Hermione’s lips. “What did you just call her?” Harry’s voice was ice cold and sharp as a knife.

Hermione scoffed. “That’s what everyone calls her, Harry. Really, you ought to be used to it by now.”

He looked at her with wide, disbelieving eyes. “So, I should start calling you a buck-toothed know it all, then, is that it? Because that’s what everyone calls you?”

“What? Of course not, Harry, that’s mean—“

YOU’RE BEING MEAN!” Harry bellowed, springing up from his chair. “How do you think Luna feels with everyone calling her names, Hermione? Just because she doesn’t show it doesn’t mean it hurts any less than when people call you names!”

“But everyone knows she’s not right in the head, Harry, it’s different—“ Ron interjected.

“No, it’s bloody not!” Harry yelled over Ron, his voice cracking. He could feel the tears burning behind his eyes but tried not to let them fall. “Nobody likes being called names, and you of all people should know better, Hermione. Especially after last year.”

Hermione sniffed, a little “hmph!” escaping her as she turned her nose up.

Harry wanted to pull his hair out. “I’m going to bed,” he said, suddenly tired. “I don’t—“ He sighed and shook his head. “I’m going to bed.”

“But we have something we were going to talk to you about!” Ron complained.

Harry grit his teeth. “If you can’t talk to me without insulting my friends, then I don’t think I want to talk to you at all,” he hissed.

“Nah, mate, it’s about the Heir of Slytherin.” Ron glanced at Hermione, who nodded encouragingly. “Hermione and I think we’ve got it figured out. Sit back down, yeah, and we’ll talk about it.”

But Harry very much did not want to talk about it. Still, the look in their eyes meant that they would just follow him into the dorms — probably into his bed, even if he closed the curtains around him — so giving in and listening to them was the easiest way to deal with them.

“Fine.” He said, sitting back down and reaching behind him for Percy’s book. “Talk.”

“We think it’s Draco Malfoy,” Ron said quickly.

Harry laughed. “Absolutely not,” he said. “If this is what you want to talk to me about, I’m going to bed.” He stood up to leave again, this time keeping his fingers wrapped tightly around the book.

“We have a plan to get him to admit it!” Hermione spoke quickly, her voice rising as she went. “All we really need is a way to get into the Restricted Section and—“

Harry glared at Ron. “And Ron told you that I have a Cloak that makes me go invisible,” Harry finished for her.

She nodded.

Harry shook his head, huffing a breath through his nose. “Unbelievable,” he muttered. “Absolutely unbelievable.” He looked at Hermione, then Ron. “As luck would have it,” he said lowly, “I do not have an invisibility cloak anymore because it was confiscated at the beginning of the year.” He glared at Ron. “And even if I did still have it, I’m not lending out a family heirloom to anybody. Especially not someone who goes around sharing my secrets.”

“But it’s not a secret, mate! It’s just us and Hermione!”

He rolled his eyes. “If I wanted people to know about it, I would have told them about it myself.” He shook his head. “So, no, whatever the plan is? I’m out.” Harry scoffed. “Doesn’t matter anyway, if you think for even one second Draco Malfoy’s the Heir of Slytherin. There’s not a chance that can be true.”

“You’re just saying that because you think he’s your friend!” Ron accused. “You started going flying with him, instead of me, your best mate, and now you think you’re better than us! You think Malfoy’s not an evil prick— you’re takin’ sides with the enemy, mate!”

Harry blinked several times, trying to digest the words Ron threw at him, trying to hear anything over the sound of his blood rushing in his ears.

Something cracked inside of him. He thought it might be his heart.

“I’m saying that it doesn’t make sense for him to be the Heir of Slytherin. If the Malfoys were related to Slytherin, do you think they’d be keeping quiet about it?”

“It makes sense, though,” Hermione said slowly. “After all, he did call me a Mudblood.”

“Don’t you start saying that word, too, Hermione,” Harry hissed. “Not when you know what it means when you say it. What it means for us when you say it.”

Hermione looked taken aback by the venom in Harry’s voice. “If it’s a name about people like me, I should be able to use it too. I should be allowed to take it back.”

Harry shook his head. “I can’t believe this,” he muttered. “If Draco Malfoy, who you believe to be the… the… the magical version of the anti-christ, has stopped using that word in public, you still think he’s evil and going around murdering cats, but for some reason you think it’s okay for you to say it?” He huffed. “You realize that my mother was Muggleborn, too?”

Hermione looked at him as she often did — like she thought he was stupid. “Oh, Harry, everyone knows that.”

Harry could feel his tongue thickening, the words getting stuck in his throat. He wanted to scream. He wanted to tell her that it wasn’t the same when she used it, that nobody should use it, that something inside of him curled up and wept when he heard that word used, that he wanted to scream until he was hoarse about anyone calling any magical person “dirty blood” — but none of the words would come out of his mouth.

He wanted to tell her that, because his mother had “dirty blood” it meant that he did, too.

But somehow everyone only ever saw James Potter when they looked at him. Never Lily Evans.

She continued on like Harry’d never interrupted her. “Anyway, I have a plan, and all we need to do is get a book from the Restricted Section. It’s a potions book — Professor Snape said the Polyjuice Potion was in a book called Moste Potent Potions — and then we can brew the Polyjuice Potion. We’ll figure out a way into the Slytherin Common Room, disguised as Crabbe and Goyle, and then question Malfoy about it so we can know for sure.”

There were so many things wrong about that plan but—

“Why Crabbe and Goyle?” Harry asked dully.

“They’re his best friends, Harry. Everyone knows that. Do keep up.”

Harry grit his teeth. Draco had said plenty of things about Crabbe and Goyle over the weeks that they’d been flying together, but “friends” had never been one of them. Usually he’d referred to them as nuisances, annoyances, and on one memorable ocassion, stalkers hired by his father. “Hermione,” he said carefully, through gritted teeth, “Crabbe and Goyle are not people that D— Malfoy speaks to regularly.”

Ron snorted. “Everyone sees them together, mate. Everyone.”

Harry took a deep breath. “I can think of twenty better ways to get information from Malfoy than — Merlin, you’re talking about pretending to be someone else, Hermione! And sneaking into another Common Room!”

“Well, yes, it does break at least twenty school rules—“

“No.” Harry shook his head. “No, I’m not getting involved in this. I won’t tell the professors or a prefect, but I don’t want anything to do with any of this.”

“Choosing Malfoy over your real friends again, are you?” Ron growled. “Figures.”

Harry shook his head again, exasperated, and stood up, clutching Percy’s book tightly. “I won’t tell M-Malfoy about it,” he said. Because I’m assuming you’ll see what a stupid idea it is, he didn’t say. “But I’m going to sleep now. And I’m not interested in any part of this plan. So leave me out of it.”

Harry ignored the sound of them calling his name as he stormed away. He didn’t even bother changing into his pajamas before he crawled into bed, shoving Percy’s book under his pillow and crawling in after it, burying his face so deeply in the pillow that his glasses dug into his face.

He wanted to scream. He wanted to cry. He wanted…

Harry took a deep, shuddering breath and sat up.

It wouldn’t be bad, right? If he went to find the twins. George had been struggling, and he’d come to sleep with Harry. Maybe… maybe Harry could go to George. Maybe it was okay for him to go and cuddle his friend because he needed the comfort.

His mind made up, Harry left as quickly as he’d come, slipping quietly out of his dorm and heading towards the door he knew belonged to the twins. He opened it slowly and poked his head inside, seeing all the familiar faces of the twins’ dormmates.

“Oi, Weasleys — your teddy bear’s here.”

“Oh, can it,” came Fred’s voice, before his head poked through the drawn curtains of his four poster bed. His face brightened with a wide grin when he saw Harry.

“Hi,” Harry said, suddenly feeling shy. He took a few steps into the room and closed the door.

But Fred just threw open the curtain so Harry could see he was welcome, and waved him closer. “It’s our little lion! Wonderful for you to join us, Harrikins!” His voice was exuberant, even though his face was drawn and tired. “We’ve been waiting for you. Come in, come in!”

Harry blushed, but he walked closer to the bed, glancing around and relaxing when the others in the room had all returned to whatever they had been doing, and any heads that poked out of curtains had retreated.

Harry clambered up into Fred’s bed, and the redhead closed the curtains around them. He winked at Harry. “Silencing charms are up, so you can talk. But George is—“ he stopped himself.

“I’m worried about him,” Harry confessed.

Fred nodded, pushing his fingers through his thick red hair. It was growing out, and Harry found himself wishing the twins wouldn’t cut their hair for a while, that they’d let it grow long enough that Harry could thread his own fingers through it and play with it the same way he did Luna’s. Harry blinked when Fred spoke, sighing. “Pomfrey let him start early instead of waiting until after Christmas. Neither of us really knew what it would look like once he started working with her and getting actual training, but we thought there would be more time.” He shook his head. “Instead, George is trying to juggle his classes — and actually apply himself, like we promised — and the training. Plus Quidditch, even though Ollie gave him the go ahead to miss practices if he needs to be at the Hospital Wing. And you know we’re still working on our— well.”

Harry nodded. It was always more than pranks with these two. They’d shared some of their larger plans with him, knowing that he wouldn’t laugh at their goals, and he knew how much work they needed to put in to even begin working on some of their larger projects.

Knowing Harry understood what he was eluding to, Fred nodded. “So it’s just been a lot. An’ nobody’s gonna look after Georgie but me, you know, so I’m— I’m tryin’ to do all of that on my own, plus keep him together…”

“It’s a lot,” Harry said.

Fred smiled grimly. “It’s a lot,” he confirmed. He glanced at the closed curtains, towards his brother’s bed. “But it’s George. I’d do anything for George.”

Something warm bloomed in Harry’s belly, and he smiled gently, scooting closer to Fred. “You’re doing a good job, Fred. It’s not your fault there’s more than one person can handle.”

The redhead’s smile changed, just a little bit, but there was hope and relief in his blue eyes again. Really, that’s all Harry wanted to offer — a little bit of comfort.

“He’s supposed to be studying right now, but neither of us would be mad if you interrupted him for a little snuggle time,” Fred said, wiggling his eyebrows. The levity was forced, and Harry could read the plea underneath the words.

So, Harry shuffled closer to Fred until he was able to lean into his side. Fred immediately wrapped an arm around Harry and tugged him closer, nuzzling his face into Harry’s hair. “I’ll check on him in a minute. I want to visit with you first.” He smiled sweetly up at Fred. “I don’t get a lot of time with you by yourself, you know. Sometimes…” he hesitates, unsure if his words would come out the way he meant them, but pushes through because it’s Fred. “Sometimes, I just want you.”

The arm around Harry’s shoulders squeezed tightly, and Fred didn’t say anything for a moment. When he did speak, his voice was a low rumble, rough like he was holding back tears. “Thanks, Harry.”

The warmth in his belly bloomed and spread through his body like a mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night. He’d helped. Even though it was just a tiny little thing, it was enough to help.

He wanted to remember this feeling.

He didn’t know how long they sat together, with Harry held closely to Fred’s chest, the older boy just breathing in the scent of Harry and soaking up the quiet comfort he offered so readily, but at some point Fred relaxed against him and started nuzzling Harry’s neck, making him giggle.

“That tickles.”


“Your nose is cold.”

“So are my hands. Maybe you should warm them up for me, little lion.”


But it was too late, and Harry started shrieking with laughter as Fred’s cold fingers slipped underneath his shirt to tickle his sides. He squirmed and wiggled, but he didn’t try too hard to escape the hold Fred had on him.

But then Fred was laughing, and Harry’s heart was suddenly so full that it ached, and he realized that he could spend forever just like this. He didn’t ever want Fred to be alone again, he never wanted Fred to leave him, he—

Harry was left suddenly breathless by the thought that he loved Fred and would do anything to make him smile like this, anything to make him laugh like he didn’t have a single care in the world.

He’d never felt it before, never known what it felt like to receive, but… It had to be love, right? This feeling that made him warm down to his toes.

Harry smiled up at Fred, who’d tipped them both over and was hovering above Harry with a satisfied smirk on his face at a game well won. Mirroring what he’d done that morning, Harry reached up and gently ran the pad of his thumb under Fred’s eye.

The smile fell off his face, but the softness was still there, along with an intense look in Fred’s blue eyes that burned straight through him.

“I miss seeing you smile, you know,” Harry whispered. “You don’t have to fake it with me. I can always tell when you’re smiling for real and when you’re pretending.”

Fred’s lips twitched, but whether it was to frown or to smile Harry couldn’t be sure. “You’re the only one who cared to learn the difference.”

“It’s because you’re my Fred,” Harry said, like it was the simplest and most obvious thing in the world to him. “Of course I’m going to notice.”

The intensity was back in Fred’s gaze again and Harry wanted to squirm underneath him. But then there was the faint sound of something buzzing, and Fred nearly leapt off of Harry to grab at his wand.

Oh. An alarm spell? Harry thought he’d have to ask Fred to teach him, because that was useful.

“Would you mind checking on George?” Fred asked quietly, almost guiltily. “Usually I’d do it, but… I think…”

Harry immediately nodded and sat up on his knees, crawling to the edge of the bed closest to George’s bed. “I wanted to visit with him, too. But you both deserve to have some alone time, don’t you think?” Harry turned his head and smiled at Fred. “I’ll stay with him tonight, and you can get some sleep on your own, okay? N-not that I’m against sleeping with the two of you or anything,” Harry hastened to add, “It’s just that I know you need some space, too, and you’ve been—“

Fred cut him off, smiling gently. “I get it, Harry. And I appreciate it. I’m less worried, if he’s going to be with you.”

That warm, wriggling feeling was back in his belly, and he smiled at Fred before slipping through the curtains. With two steps, he was at George’s bedside. He paused, took a deep breath, and pushed his nerves down.

It was George. And, just like with Fred, he knew somehow that George needed him. And Harry knew that he’d needed the time with both of them, already feeling his aching, hurting parts receding as he spent time with the twins.

They all needed each other. And that was okay.

Taking another deep breath, Harry reached his hand out, feeling along the drawn curtains until he found the split and could stick his fingers through it. He tugged on the curtain just a little — the best he could do to mimic a knock, before ultimately deciding to crawl into the bed with only that small warning.

When he pushed his head and shoulders through the gap in the curtains, smiling up at George and opening his mouth to say — he wasn’t sure what he was going to say, actually, because the sight he was met with made his smile fall and his heart ache. He climbed into the bed and wrenched the curtains shut again as quickly as possible before he was scrambling up the bed to where George was.

A ruddy-faced, tear-stained, hyperventilating George.

Harry pushes his way past piles of books and rolls of parchment — all neatly set aside but not yet put away — and nearly throws himself at George, wrapping his arms around him as tightly as he can.

George lets out a loud, heart-wrenching sob and clings to Harry.

It makes his heart hurt. But how many times has George held Harry while he fell apart? It’s nothing to do the same, to wrap George up in his love and hold him, to stroke his hair and whisper quiet sibilant words of comfort like he’d done for himself when he was a child in the cupboard. It’s nothing to ignore the tears falling down his own face and hold George tighter.

Eventually, the tears stop, and George’s arms loosen, but Harry does not stop whispering, does not stop stroking, does not let George go.

I won’t leave you,” Harry promised quietly. “Cry as much as you need to, George, I won’t leave you.

“Harry?” George croaks, his voice quiet and hesitant in a way Harry had never heard it before. Not even when he’d been looking at Harry’s destroyed back at the beginning of summer. “Harry, what language is that?”

“English?” Harry answered.

He felt George shake his head before the redhead was pulling out of Harry’s arms, blue eyes serious. “No, Harry. That wasn’t English. I think… I think it was Parseltongue. The snake language.” He paused. “Can you talk to snakes, Harry?”

Harry immediately nodded, smiling softly. “I used to talk to them all the time in the garden when I was growing up. Aunt Petunia got really mad about it, though, so I stopped.” He tried not to remember the punishment he’d received once Petunia was done shrieking about his freakishness. “It sounds like English to me, though.”

“Does anyone else know, Harry?”

Harry immediately shook his head. “Charlie told me not to tell, so I haven’t told anyone and I haven’t spoken it since I let the snake out at the zoo— George? You’re making a scary face.”

And he was. His blue eyes had gone dark and intense, a different sort of intense than Fred’s had gone, a deep frown on his face, and it looked like his mind was whirling. All thoughts of his tears were gone, even though the physical remnants of them were still on his face.

“Promise me,” George said in a low voice, “Promise me, Harry, that you won’t use it until this whole Chamber of Secrets nonsense is over. Promise me you won’t tell anyone or talk about it or even write about it.”

Harry bobbed his head, confusion creasing his brow. “Okay,” he said slowly. “It’s not like I talk about it a lot, anyway. But, George, sometimes I use it and I don’t know. Was I… was I speaking, uh, snake language just now?”


“Parseltongue,” Harry repeated.

“You’re a Parselmouth.” George hesitated, and then decided to plow forwards. “That’s one of the things that Salazar Slytherin was known for, Harry. He could speak to snakes. There’s records that his whole family could — and You-Know-Who could do it, too.”

Harry swallowed. “No wonder Charlie told me not to say anything,” Harry whispered.

George nodded. “It’s just a language, but—“

“But they’ll think I’m the Heir of Slytherin if they find out,” Harry realized.

George turned sad blue eyes on him. “Oh, Harry,” he said, “They already think you’re the Heir of Slytherin.” He scans Harry’s body and his eyebrows raise. “What are you wearing, Potter?” George scolds, reaching for his wand. “You really didn’t change into pajamas yet?”

Harry blushes. “I— erm.”

Several switching spells later, Harry is settled more comfortably in his usual set of borrowed pajamas, spell-cleaned, and curled up in George’s lap, their chests pressed together and Harry’s head resting on George’s shoulder.

“I know what they’re saying about me, George,” Harry confessed softly. “I won’t pretend it doesn’t bother me, but… I know I can’t change their minds about it.”

George nodded. “Me and Freddie ‘v been trying, you know? But all it does is make people stop talking about you when we’re around.” His arms tighten around Harry’s back. “We can’t protect you like that.”

Harry huffs a laugh. “I’m not asking you to protect me, George. I just…” He swallowed against the thick knot in his throat. He’d said it once, hadn’t he? What’s the harm in saying it again? “I just don’t ever want you to leave me,” he whispered.

“Oh, Harry,” George breathes. “Of course we’re not going to leave you.”

“If—“ Harry’s throat tenses, and the words get caught, his whole body lighting up in the response that he’d recognized as danger danger danger. “I can take a hit, if that’s what it comes to,” he whispers. “Or— or you can yell at me.”

“Harry, no—“

“I just don’t want you to ever leave me.”

George tilts Harry’s face up by his chin, and his heart breaks at the despair in those green eyes. “I have no plans to ever leave you, Harry Potter. But I don’t ever want you to say that you’re okay with someone—“ he swallows. “Not ever, Harry. Nobody should ever hurt you like that, and if they do, you fight back or you leave and you don’t go back.”

“It would hurt more if you left me, though,” Harry confesses.

“What if it’s not forever? What if— what if we need to walk away and calm down for a minute?”

“But you’re not leaving?”

“Do you think you’d feel safe if we told you we need a minute first?”

We, George said, because he knew Fred would never leave Harry either. We, because Fred would be just as horrified as George was to realize that Harry would rather be abused than abandoned. We, because George was going to have to hold Fred back from murdering Harry’s entire Muggle family.

Harry shrugged. “Maybe?”

George searched Harry’s green eyes, his heart breaking at the haze of confusion he found there. He settled Harry’s head back on his chest, tugging him closer and holding him just a little tighter. “We’ll figure it out, Harry.” George feels his throat thicken with tears. He’d thought he had run out, but here they were, back with a vengeance. “We’ll work on it together.”

Harry nodded. Together, he thought. That sounded nice.

“George?” George hummed. “I’m worried about you.”

George squeezes Harry tightly enough that he squeaks, making George laugh. “Thank you, Harry.”

“Last night…” Harry can’t continue.

“Did I scare you?”

“Only a little. I realized it was you right away, and then I wasn’t scared anymore.”

“Good,” George sighs, leaning his head down so he can have just one more point of contact with Harry. “I’m sorry, still. I know I woke you up.”

“You’re allowed to,” Harry says decisively. “George, you can come to me the same way I come to you, okay? You don’t have to ask, or— or wait. I want to take care of you back.”

“This is all I need, Harry.” He squeezes Harry again, gentler this time. “This is more than enough.”

“You’re going to make yourself sick from working too hard,” Harry complains. “Is there something I can do to help?” He feels George shake his head. “Then at least let me do this, okay? Whenever you need it.” He smiles. “Just like Luna.” The comparison makes him blush.

“You do spend an awful lot of time cuddling with her, come to think of it,” George thinks out loud. His fingers tap along Harry’s back, intentionally hitting ticklish spots that make him squirm. “Are you sure you’ll have enough for me?”

“I’ll always have enough for you, George. Promise.”

It earns him an extra squeeze.

“Harry?” Harry hums inquisitively. “I’m tired.”

“Let’s go to sleep, then. But set your books on the floor, would ya?” Harry wiggles his way out of George’s arms and climbs underneath the blankets. George always has extra blankets, and Harry appreciates it extra after the day he’d had.

A few minutes later, George is back and climbing under the blankets with him, wrapping around Harry the same way he had the night before.

“Thanks, little lion,” George whispers.

Harry gives George’s arm a squeeze and doesn’t say anything.

Within moments, George is asleep. Harry stays up to listen to his soft snores until they finally lull him to sleep, too.


FINALLY! A lot of you have asked "where's the twins?" so here is your answer - they're in the background doing a LOT of things and trying their best to protect Harry alongside whatever it is they've got going on in their own lives. Which is a lot, especially in George's case. He'll be okay, it's just going to take some time for him to adjust to the workload.

Well, @dragel discord server? Is that what you were hoping for when you voted for "George crying"? (I actually ended up cutting the scene short because I wanted to focus more on the comfort, and then Harry made a plot accident happen..)

Also, re: Harry's conversation with George about preferring them to hit/yell than leaving him... yeah, it's a thing. It's also Harry being extremely traumatized and used to getting beaten/yelled at and treating it as "normal" - this is absolutely not going to feature in any way, or be a possibility. He has a long way to go in his recovery journey, and not all of that is going to be pretty or healthy.

More and more has been added to this chapter, resulting in me pushing other stuff back.... so we've added an additional 2 chapters to the outline. Can you believe that Year 2 was supposed to be complete over 8 chapters ago?! Yikes, folks. Just... yikes.

Next chapter should be Quidditch!

Chapter 17: Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 9; Quidditch 1


Finally, the Gryffindor VS Slytherin Quidditch Match arrives!


General Book 2 Warning that Gilderoy Lockhart and Colin Creevey exist.

There's a lot going on in this chapter, so enjoy! See you at the end notes~

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

17. Hogwarts Year 2 - Part 9; Quidditch 1

Over the next two days, Ron and Hermione try to get Harry involved with their plans to trick and interrogate Draco. When that doesn’t work, they press him about other things — soon, Harry is finding himself avoiding them just as actively as he’d been avoiding Colin Creevey and Professor Lockhart.

He falls into a pattern that he could easily see himself keeping to for the rest of the year. Breakfast with Luna and Neville, dinner with the twins and Oliver, and lunch with anyone he could convince to spend time with him. He’d met several of the Hufflepuffs through classes, sharing tables with them during Herbology, though Justin Finch-Fletchley and Ernie MacMillan were decidedly uncomfortable every time Harry spent lunch at the Hufflepuff table, eagerly chatting with Susan and Hannah. Harry spent more time going over Quidditch strategies with Oliver, and the rest of the team surrounded him during dinner to discuss their plans for the upcoming game.

He goes to bed early and spends the hours until he falls asleep writing letters. He writes several long, rambling letters to Charlie — Charlie might not be answering him, but at least he can keep him informed on what’s going on, assuming his own letters are arriving. He pushes down the tiny voice that cries out for Charlie, the growing loneliness and sense of having done something wrong, shoving it in the same hidden pit that constantly asked why he was so unwanted.

Harry spends more and more time paging through the photo album of his parents, touching the moving photos gently with his fingertips and trying to memorize the features of each person.

By now, he recognizes the man with the long, black hair who is always smiling, arms wrapped around James or Lily, but never named despite the number of photos he appears in. Harry’s heart aches for the man in the photo, wondering who he is and if he still smiles like that. Harry thinks it suits him, and wishes that nothing in the world had taken that smile away. He hopes the man is still alive, or if he’s dead that he died smiling.

There’s another man pictured, though less frequently, with second hand clothes and worn Hogwarts robes, and the kindest golden brown eyes Harry had ever seen. The black haired man was in several photos alone with him, their arms wrapped around each other, and Harry was happy to stare at their soft smiles.

Although the cheerful photographs make him smile, Harry can’t deny that there’s a small corner of his heart that wonders why neither of them had tried to find him, assuming that they were alive. He tries to quash that voice down, the way he had his entire life, knowing that thoughts of escaping the Dursleys were hopeless and would bring him nothing but false hope and trouble.

Harry spent more than a few hours writing and re-writing his first letter to this “Remus Lupin” fellow, his heart aching a bit more when he thought about the possibility of this friend also being dead. Still, he posted the letters at breakfast, hoping for a response.

He’d asked for a couple of stories about his parents. He hoped that Mr Lupin wrote him back.


On the last day of classes before the Gryffindor vs Slytherin Quidditch game, Harry rushed out of Defense Against the Dark Arts, his face aflame from spending the entire time acting out the roles that Professor Lockhart assigned him — today’s being a werewolf — and shut the door just in time to hear Hermione asking the Professor for a pass to the library’s Restricted Section. If he’d had to ask for that pass after spending the entire class being manhandled by Lockhart, he may have lost all nerve for what he’d planned to do next.

Since he had spent the entire class period being pounced on, yanked around, pinned to the floor, and instructed to howl or moan a little louder, however, he was in a foul enough mood that he didn’t think twice about opening his mouth when he saw platinum blonde hair rounding the corner.

“Oi, Malfoy!” Harry called, lengthening his stride to catch up to the other boy.

Draco stopped and turned around to look at him, raising elegantly arched eyebrows. “Potter?” There was an undercurrent of warning in the boy’s voice, a reminder that they might fly together sometimes but they were not friends.

Classes had just gotten out, so there was a growing number of students in the corridors, with more and more stopping to watch what the Potter and Malfoy boys were up to this time. Crabbe and Goyle had stopped behind Draco, watching the scene with a vaguely constipated look on their faces — Harry thought they were going for menacing — and it reminded Harry that he had a part to play, too.

So he pushed his shoulders back and relaxed his hips into an easy, confident pose.

“Tomorrow’s your first Quidditch match, I just wanted to see if you needed any tips.”

Draco smirked, but there was genuine humor dancing in those grey eyes of his. He knew just as well as Harry did that it had been Harry asking for flying tips over the last two months they had been flying together.

“I think I’ll do just fine, Potter.” He winked. “But thanks. I’ll remember you offered to help when we beat you tomorrow.”

Harry huffed, trying not to laugh at the show Draco was putting on.

“Fancy a wager, Malfoy? On who catches the snitch first?”

The blonde sniffed, lifting his chin. “What could you offer up that would possibly interest me, Potter?”

Harry shrugged. “I haven’t got much, but you’re always making comments about my clothes. So how about I let you update my wardrobe?” He smirks. “Since it’s so offensive to you, and all.”

Draco laughed. “Oh, Potter — I would do that for free. I don’t need you to embarrass yourself for the opportunity. No, I think not.”

The comment stings a little, which surprises Harry. He’d known it was a long-shot, knew that Draco genuinely did hate his wardrobe, but the part of him that offered it up as an option had actually wanted to see what Draco could do with that kind of permission.

Even if Draco Malfoy chose to use the opportunity as a way to embarrass Harry, anything was better than the cast off rags from his cousin.

Still, Harry was good at this game of playing someone he was not. So he smiled and shrugged like it didn’t matter. His mind raced as he tried to think of something that could match the challenge he’d been issued. Something outrageous and manageable that would interest Draco enough to accept a public interaction. “Okay, fine.” Harry lowered his voice a little and leaned closer, knowing that anyone could report them to the Professors and likely would at any moment. He spoke quickly. “How about the loser sneaks into the Restricted Section? I’d say loser spends the night in the Forbidden Forest, but I wouldn’t want either of us to get expelled.”

Draco smirked. “Now that is interesting, Potter. Shall we discuss the terms when I win?”

Harry leaned back, satisfied smirk on his own face. “After the game. But I don’t think you’ll be winning.”

Over time, the Potter-Malfoy Pre-Quidditch Wagers would become a central part of the Hogwarts Gossip Mill, with the students talking about them from the beginning of Quidditch season. But for now, it was new and exciting and just two twelve year old boys trying to find another way to be friendly with one another in public.

Rivalries didn’t have to be all bad, right?

Harry reached out his hand and Draco immediately clasped it, shaking firmly.

There was the sound of a camera shutter, and Harry thought this was the first photo he might actually be glad about.

“Potter.” Draco nodded and turned to leave.

Harry tried to ignore the butterflies in his stomach, knowing that he was excited for more than just the Quidditch match tomorrow. Now in considerably better spirits, he headed off to dinner.


Harry woke up early on Saturday morning, having set his wand to buzz like an alarm so he was awake before Oliver started doing the rounds, and he laid in his bed for a while just feeling the prickling of anxiety spreading through his body.

Stop it, he told himself sternly. Fred and George and Oliver are all going to be there, just like always. Fred and George already said they’d stick close to me during the match, just like always. There’s nothing to be worried about.

Still, he couldn’t shake the fear that something was going to go terribly wrong. It got so strong that he eventually decided to haul himself out of bed and head down to breakfast early.

He was not alone, as he found most of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team huddled up at the long, otherwise empty table in the Great Hall. Fred, George, and Oliver were all in a deep but quiet discussion — probably adjusting some last-minute tactics — so Harry decided not to disturb them and wound up sitting squished between Angelina and Alicia.

The girls threw an arm around his shoulders each, squeezing him lightly. “Finally!” Alicia exclaims. “He shows some real taste.”

Harry feel his face heat up. “Sorry?”

Angelina squeezes his shoulder. “I know you probably think most girls are gross, Harry, but I promise we won’t bite you.”

Most girls,” Alicia teases, “but certainly not Lovegood.”

Harry sputters. What does Luna have to do with this? But before he can ask, Angelina’s talking again.

“You should take this chance to eat up, Harry. Oliver probably wants us to run drills after the match, no matter how the game turns out.” She handed him an empty plate. “Go on, we’ll wait for you. Still got a while before it’s time to head out, and you haven’t put on any weight at all this year.” She frowned. “You’re eating regularly enough, we all know that.”

“Can’t forget the row the twins and Oliver got in the first time he tried to keep you from dinner. It would’ve gone down in history books if the papers got wind of it.”

Harry grimaces and hurries to fill his plate with a spread of mostly healthy breakfast foods. It always tasted better when Fred and George picked his food for him, for some reason, but he was perfectly capable of making his own plate.

“You still on those potions, Harry?” Angelina asks quietly.

He wobbles his head from side to side, not shaking it, but also not giving a positive response. “Some of them. Sometimes I have to take extras, or go back on the nutrient supplements if I start feeling sick and the Pepper-Up doesn’t help.” He stares down at his plate, not wanting to see the concern in the girls’ dark brown eyes. “I’m doing a lot better than I was in September, though, so that’s a good thing.”

Alicia snorts and stabbs a sausage with her fork. “Damn right you’re doing better than September. I’ll never understand why they let you go back to those Muggles of yours if they keep—“

Alicia,” Angelina hissed, glancing around at the rapidly filling Great Hall. “Not the time.”

She harrumphed. “Well, I’ll just say, I won’t be mad if they have an accident in the spring that keeps you from going back to them.”

Harry laughed, but his throat was suddenly dry. “They’re awful,” he agreed. “I wish I didn’t have to go back.” He shrugged. “But what can I do?”

The girls each squeezed him again and let the subject drop along with their arms, all of them returning to their meals in companionable silence.

“You know, Harry — if you need to get away from Surrey for a day, you can give me a ring and I’ll come by and get you.” Angelina winked at him. “Alicia and I spend a lot of time together in the summers, and you’re just in Surrey. It’s not too far.”

Harry blinked, absolutely stunned by the offer. “You… what?”

Alicia laughed. “Angelina here just offered to come get you. She’s almost a whole year older than the rest of us, you know — her birthday’s in October — so she’s got some perks in the Muggle world that we all miss out on.” She ruffled Harry’s hair. “You’re not the only half-blood on the team that lives in the Muggle world during the summers, Harry. You’re just the only one we can’t ever get in touch with.”

Harry looked down at his plate. “I don’t get any letters during the summers,” he mumbled. “I don’t know why, but I promise I’m not ignoring you on purpose.”

Alicia ruffled Harry’s hair again. “We figured that out, Harry,” she said quietly, exchanging a solemn look with Angelina. “That’s why we never said anything before. You know that’s not normal, right? You should be getting letters all the time. Not just from us and your other friends, but from random strangers because you’re the Boy Who Lived and a celebrity and all that rot.”

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know what to do about it. And honestly I don’t think it’s something that can be fixed while I’m at school, so it has to wait for a break — and for me to be able to spend time in the magical world for more than the three hours a trip to Diagon Alley takes.”

The girls exchanged worried glances again. “You’re right, but…”

Harry stabbed at a sausage the same way Alicia had, vicious in a way that he rarely let others see. “It seems like any time I’ve asked for help, people conveniently forgot about helping me, so I’m on my own with this one. I even sent a letter to Neville’s grandmother to see if she could help me, but there’s been no replies to any of our letters. Neville isn’t even getting responses from her anymore.” He grins up at Angelina and Alicia, none of his temper showing through his suddenly sunny disposition. “Somebody doesn’t want information getting out of the castle, and somebody doesn’t want me to have information about our world. And whoever it is, they’re more powerful than I am. I’m just a kid — what can I do?” He shook his head and took a savage bite out of the sausage. “I can’t even arrange a damned doctor’s appointment for myself,” he mumbled.

The girls share an alarmed glance and each of them feel a pit of dread forming in their stomach as their thoughts race. Yes, they’d received fewer letters this year than in the past, but it was easily shrugged off because they’d been busy. But if someone — or something — was interfering with the mail in the castle entirely?

There were only a few people in the castle that had that kind of power, and fewer still who would be able to interfere with a child seeking medical care.

“Looks like we’ve got a summer project to work on together, eh, Harry?” Alicia said, matching his bright smile with one of her own. “Let’s not talk about it more until we’re on break.” She elbowed Angelina. “Ange can come get us sometime in early July, yeah? We’ll make a weekend of it.”

“Wha— oh, yeah. Definitely.” Angelina glanced around again and shifted, squaring her shoulders. “Now finish your food, Harry. It’s almost time.”


They head down to the Pitch as one unit shortly before eleven in the morning, knowing that the rest of the school would be following behind. The Slytherin Quidditch Team is nowhere to be found, though they had been spotted at breakfast, so the team all mutters an agreement that they must have headed down already.

That was fine.

“Gives me more time to plan how we’re going t’ crush them,” Oliver says, grinning.

Harry just sighs, knowing that Oliver got a little too enthusiastic before a match, and that was how he worked out his own nerves. Usually he didn’t make it Harry’s problem. Apparently, today might be different than usual.

He looks up at the sky before he heads into the Gryffindor locker rooms. It’s muggy out, and the clouds are thick and darkening, the heavy air tingling on his skin like it’s preparing for a thunderstorm. Harry hopes he’ll be out of the sky before that happens.

They have to hurry and pull on their scarlet Gryffindor robes, because Oliver is already gearing up with his pre-match speech and nobody wants to miss any last minute instructions and have to deal with that kind of row after the match is over.

“Slytherin has better brooms than us — no point in denying it.” The team nods. “But we have better people on our brooms. We’ve trained harder than they have, we’ve been flying in all weathers—“

“Too true,” George mutters, “I haven’t been properly dry since August.”

The rest of the team chuckles, and even Oliver rolls his eyes in good humor.

“We’re going to make them rue the day they thought better brooms could make up for lack of skill!” His chest heaving, Oliver turned to Harry, who straightened. “It’ll be down to you, Harry. Show them that a Seeker has to have something more than a rich father—“

Harry interrupts. “I’ve been flying with him every week for most of the season, Oliver. It’s going to be fine. I’m not worried about his broom, so you don’t need to try and make it better by saying things we all know you don’t really mean.”

Oliver nods firmly. “Good. So you know Malfoy’s flying?”

Every week, sometimes more than once, so I’d reckon I’ve got a good idea. Yeah.”

“Then you get to that Snitch or die trying, Harry, because we’ve got to win today.”

Fred called out, “So no pressure, Harry,” and when Harry met his eyes, he winked.

It made Harry’s serious face crack and he laughed. The tension in the room dissipated, leaving an excitable buzz in the air instead. It makes Harry tingle from the tips of his fingers all the way down to his toes.

“Don’t… actually get hurt, yeah?” Oliver mumbled.

Harry grinned. “No promises, Captain. I’m getting that Snitch.”

Oliver laughed brightly and clapped his hand on Harry’s shoulder, leaving it there as he called everyone to huddle up. Harry could feel the excitement of the group taking hold of him and he stood taller, grinning widely even when they made it outside amidst the cheers of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff Houses, and the boos and hisses from Slytherin. His eyes flash around the stands, taking everything in, and he’s pleased to see a flash of blue among all the red. Luna and Neville sat with Ron and Hermione in the front row of the Gryffindor section.

Oliver shook hands with Marcus Flint, their public rivalry back in force with their threatening glares, knife sharp grins, and crushingly tight handshake before Madam Hooch called for them to prepare to take off into the air.

At the whistle, all fourteen players rose on their brooms towards the darkening grey sky, and Harry pushed himself to fly higher than any of them, squinting around for the Snitch and wishing that he had glasses better suited for him.

“All right there, Potter?” It was Draco Malfoy — shooting directly underneath Harry.

Harry had no time to reply, though, because at that moment a very heavy, black Bludger came pelting towards him. He was able to avoid it, but only just, and he could feel it ruffle his hair as it passed his head.

Malfoy had already streaked off, dodging the Bludger in his own way, but George was heading straight towards Harry with his club in hand.

“Close one, Harry!” George called, streaking past him and giving the Bludger a powerful hit towards one of the Slytherins — Adrian Pucey, Harry thought, squinting at the name on the back of his green robes.

The Bludger changed direction midair and shot straight towards Harry in a very un-Bludger-like manner.

Harry ducked his head, dropping his broom down a foot in the air while George swore viciously and knocked the Bludger back, again — this time farther away, where Malfoy was flying in small, lazy circles above the Slytherin Chasers who had just gotten possession of the Quaffle.

Like a boomerang, the Bludger changed direction and aimed for Harry’s head. Harry could do nothing but lean forward, putting on a mighty burst of speed as his heart raced, hurtling himself towards the other side of the pitch towards Fred, listening to the Bludger whistling in the air behind him.

His mind raced along with his body — Bludgers were supposed to focus on all the players equally, not just one, but this Bludger had come directly for him after it was released. It was like when his broom had been jinxed last year.

And then, of course, it started to rain.

“Fred!” Harry yelled out, right before he dropped into a steep dive. He heard the mighty thunk of the Beater’s bat making contact with the Bludger, heard Fred’s brutal promises detailing a bloody revenge against whoever had tampered with the Bludger, and saw a flash of gold out of the corner of his eye—

“Harry, no—!“ Fred swore again and Harry barely turned in time, Fred’s red robes flashing as he put himself between Harry and the Bludger again, punting the Bludger to stop it from making contact. His blue eyes were dark with fury. “Get the snitch or call a time out, Harry,” he growled.

The Bludger swerved again, but Fred was ready for it this time, swinging with all his might — a loud crack could be heard over the wind as the Beater’s bat broke from the force of the swing. Fred swore again, but George was there in moments, trading bats just in time for Fred to land another solid hit on the Bludger that had — once again — stopped itself midair to come back for Harry.

“We need a time out,” George said, signaling Oliver.

“You’re damned right,” Fred growled. “This Bludger’s obviously been tampered with—“ It launched yet another attack on Harry, who didn’t dare move from behind Fred, who was successfully keeping it from hitting him.

“And you need a new bat, brother.”

Just then, Madam Hooch’s whistle rang out and the three of them dove for the ground, the Bludger still chasing after them.

“What’s going on?” Oliver shouted, hurrying over. He dropped his voice, still speaking urgently as he dropped into a huddle with the rest of the team. “We’re being flattened, sixty to zero— Fred, George? Where were you when that Bludger stopped Angelina—“ he stopped when George held up his brother’s broken bat, a grim look on his face. “What’s that?” Oliver questioned quietly.

“Fred’s bat,” George said, just as quietly, his face wiped clean of humor. “There’s a rogue Bludger on the field, and it’s only going after Harry. I don’t know how, I don’t know who, but someone’s fixed it, and it’s trying to murder him. I don’t like this, Ollie.”

The rest of the team muttered their agreement.

“The Bludgers have been locked in Madam Hooch’s office since our last practice, and there was nothing wrong with them then…” Oliver said, chewing on his bottom lip.

Harry saw Madam Hooch coming closer and closer, and the tingling got stronger as she did. He had to make a decision. “Listen,” he interrupted, “It’s not ideal, but I promised you a win. Get Fred a new bat, and then,” he glared at the twins, who glared right back at him, “I need the two of you to back off and keep the rest of the team safe. I’m not going to catch the snitch unless it flies up my sleeve at this rate.”

“Don’t be thick,” Fred growled. “It’ll take your head off if it hits!”

“Then keep it from getting close but give me room to work!” Harry snapped.

Oliver was looking back and forth between the twins and Harry.

“Oliver,” Alicia hissed, “You can’t be seriously considering this! It’s insane! You can’t let Harry deal with this on his own — ask for an inquiry, at least—“

Several voices raised, and then Madam Hooch was stepping behind Harry, causing everyone to go silent.

“Ready to resume play?” She asked Oliver.

He scowled. “We cracked a Beater’s bat out there and need a replacement.” Madam Hooch nodded sharply, and Oliver opened his mouth—

Angelina spoke up. “We suspect there’s been tampering with one of the Bludgers.”

Harry hissed her name, shocked that she would make the decision. She wasn’t Captain!

Something in Oliver’s shoulders relaxed the moment she spoke, though, and he looked at her gratefully. She caught his glance and winked.

“Oh? Everything seemed to be perfectly fine to me— Of course we’ll replace the bat, but only once. You know the rules.”

Angelina nodded. “If we need another equipment substitute, Slytherin gets a penalty shot,” she recited. “Yes, ma’am. I wanted to report the Bludger and request an inquiry on behalf of our Seeker, who is being exclusively targeted during this match.”

Madam Hooch’s yellow eagle eyes stared into Harry’s green, and he suddenly felt very small. “Oh? Do you wish to postpone the game, then?”

Harry swallowed, feeling the knife’s edge of panic approaching, the tingling spreading through his body. “No,” he said quickly. “No, if you can check it out after the game, I’d really rather just finish playing.”

She nodded, accepting that answer, and turned her eyes away from him. Immediately Harry felt like he could breathe again. “Very well. I will investigate after the game ends, but we will effectively resume as if everything was normal. Does that satisfy?”

Harry spoke before anyone else could. “Yes. Thank you, Madam Hooch.”

She opened her fist, flashing all five fingers, before she dropped her arm again and walked away.

Five minutes until resuming play, and they had to make all five of those minutes count.

Fred and George immediately whirled on Oliver.

“This is your fault,”

Get the Snitch or die trying, you told him,”

“And now look what’s happened!”

Angelina yelled and got their attention. “We’ve got an investigation, which is better than the nothing,” she glared at Harry, “we were originally going to have.”

Harry’s face was drawn in a determined scowl, his green eyes hard and mouth set stubbornly. Oliver knew that look and inwardly sighed. There was no good way out of this situation, and by the end of the night he was going to climb into the Prefect’s bath and take a nice long soak. Assuming he didn’t try to drown himself, that is. Maybe Percy could be convinced to keep him company, and they could commiserate over a certain pair of redheaded twins. If they started in about Harry, they’d never stop, and Moaning Myrtle would have competition for the plumbing.

“You heard Harry — he wants to play it out. So we’re going to play it out. Fred, George — give him some space, but don’t be so far away that you can’t intervene if things get dangerous.”

“Oliver,” Harry complained, “If they’re both—“

This time, Oliver did sigh out loud. “Fine. Fine! George, you’re on Harry. Fred, you’re on the rest of the team. Keep the other Bludger away from our Chasers. Ladies, get us some points so we won’t lose by default when Harry catches that Snitch.”

The team rolled their eyes but regardless snapped off sarcastic salutes to Oliver before they were being called by Madam Hooch, the whistle sending them back into the air with their respective duties at the front of their minds.

Harry kicked off hard, and the heavy rain smeared the dirty on his glasses. He swore, wishing he had taken the time to cast the regular charms on his glasses even as he heard the whoosh of the Bludger behind him and leaned forward, pushing his broom faster — a crack signaled George’s vicious swing connecting with the Bludger, but it only gained him minutes at best.

Faster, he urged, throwing his broom into what was surely a hilarious pattern of zigzags, spirals, rolls, loops, and random dives that made him dizzy but kept him ahead of the slower moving Bludger and allowed him to keep an eye out for the solid flash of gold that would signal the Snitch. Harry heard the roar of laughter from the crowd, Lee Jordan shouting aggravated questions about what he was doing, but he ignored it, jerking his Nimbus to the side just in time to hear the whistling of displaced air by his left ear as the Bludger barely missed his head again.

“Training for the ballet, Potter?” Malfoy’s voice was hoarse as if he’d been shouting against the wind for too long, and Harry could almost see the humor in the stupid twirl he’d been forced into performing to dodge the Bludger again, and he fled in the other direction, flying straight at Malfoy’s frustrated, pointy face, closer and closer until Harry could see the color of his eyes, the same color as the stormy sky behind him.

And then — Malfoy’s eyes went round with shock, or maybe terror, as Harry refused to slow down, but then Harry saw it hovering just above his left ear.

The Golden Snitch.

Harry’s breath caught, his grip on the broom loosened, and he slowed down just a little bit while he wondered How will I get the Snitch without Draco realizing I’m after it or losing it again? and he reached out his right arm, the arm closest to Draco, preparing to speed up and fly past—

Harry screamed as the Bludger smashed into his elbow, the searing pain blocking out everything else as he slid sideways on his rain-drenched broom, somehow keeping one knee hooked around the broomstick as his broom veered sideways, away from Draco. Sounds became muffled, and only the sound of Draco screaming his first name penetrated the fog around Harry’s brain from the pain, but out of the corner of his eye he saw the Bludger coming back towards him for a second hit.

So Harry gritted his teeth and left his right arm dangling uselessly at his side, sobbing through the pain as he adjusted his seat on the broom and leaned forward, directing it back to the unmoving, hovering Snitch. He reached out his left arm, reaching towards Draco and leaning forward until he was only barely hanging onto his broom by the grip of his legs. A wild snatch, and the Snitch was in his hand, the crowd was cheering, someone was screaming his name, and he was falling—

“Harry, Harry, oh f*ck, Potter, you better not be dying on me, just h-hold on—“

That doesn’t make sense, Harry thought, Why’s Draco crying?

“I’m gonna be sick,” Harry gasped, but then he was on his knees in the mud and the world was spinning around him and the voices were getting louder and there were too many bodies, none of them wearing green. The green was important. The green had kept him safe. But then he couldn’t focus on anything anymore because his face was pressed against the muddy ground and he was gagging uselessly, hot tears running down his face.

There was a fluttering in his left hand, and he tightened his fingers around the thing, knowing he had to hold on to it and that it was important, but nothing else.

There were large hands wrapping around his shoulders, and he sobbed as another searing hot wave of excruciating pain flowed through him as he was flipped over onto his back. His glasses had been lost in the movement, and he could only see the flash of white teeth hovering above him.

“No,” he moaned, “No, no, no—“

“Doesn’t know what he’s saying,” Lockhart said loudly, “Back away, now, I can handle this—“

There were several loud thuds and voices yelling his name — George! — and he heard the clicking that haunted his nightmares along with words that couldn’t be distinguished from the pain pulsing hotly through his body and the fog that seemed to suffuse everything.

“Lie back, Harry—“

At the soothing words, Harry felt his panic reach new heights and he tried to sit up, tried to scramble backwards and away, crying out when he put weight on his injured arm.

There was a bright light in Harry’s face, and he sobbed, but then there was a strange and unpleasant sensation starting at Harry’s shoulder and making it’s way down to his fingertips. He leaned over to the side and this time his gagging did what it was supposed to do, and he vomited, nearly choking on the remains of his breakfast as it came up in several heaves while he sobbed.

The clicking and flashing did not stop, though, and neither did the yelling or the sensation spreading through his arm.

“I’m sorry,” he cried, “I’m sorry—“

He didn’t know what he was apologizing for, but he knew if he was in this much pain, he had to have done something wrong and he was being punished for it.

Harry accidentally put his weight on his broken arm when he tried to lift himself up. He wasn’t able to move himself, but it didn’t hurt, either. In fact, it didn’t do much of anything except bend in an unnatural way. Harry forced himself to look down at his arm, and suddenly the sensation made sense. He couldn’t look away, and he thought he was going to be sick all over again.

“Well! The bones are no longer broken, so that’s a success, I’d say. Now go on, toddle on up to the Hospital Wing — Madam Pomfrey will be able to — er — tidy you up a bit, shall we say.”

Poking out of the end of his robes was what looked like a thick, flesh colored rubber glove. He tried to move his fingers, but they did not even twitch. Lockhart hadn’t mended Harry’s bones — he’d removed them entirely.

The haze of panic grew thicker in his mind, and his breathing was ragged.

George finally broke through the crowd that had been holding him back, and several people were now nursing bruises or black eyes as he pushed through to get to Harry. George kneeled down, not worried at all about the puddle of sick, and reached for Harry’s hand.

Harry looked up and he could not hide the stricken look on his face from George.

“Mr Weasley, would you take dear Harry to the Hospital Wing? He could do with having those bones regrown now that they’re all, well, not broken anymore! Ahaha. Yes, well, I shall be going now, pardon me.”

George turned furious blue eyes on the Professor who strode off laughing as if he hadn’t a care in the world. “This is not medicine!” He shouts after Lockhart. Suddenly, Fred is by his side, trying to shush him. “I am literally training in first aid for this reason!” George cries out, sweeping his arm out to encompass the scene. “There is no reason—“

“I know, Georgie, but none of us got down here on time, and when we did we were already too late,” Fred says. “C’mon, time to get Harrikins on his feet.”

“Think he’s in shock again, Freddie,” George mumbles. “Whatever happened, he’s… not okay.”

It was the tiniest bit of relief, but at least his eyes weren’t glowing again.

George got the immediate approval from Oliver to take Harry off the Pitch, easily lifting him into his arms to run across the field to the castle entrance as Harry sobbed into his chest, left arm hooked around his neck while his right arm dangled uselessly.

When they got into the castle, all was quiet and the downpour of the storm locked out behind the stone doors, George walked quickly and tried to keep up some sort of chatter to calm Harry down.

Fred was the one who was good at mindless chatter, not him. But still, he tried.

So he ran the gamut as he hustled towards the Hospital Wing, insulting Lockart, praising Harry’s flying, teasing about falling into Draco Malfoy’s arms like a swooning princess— anything he can think of to lessen Harry’s sobbing and let him know he’s not alone.

“Probably going to need some Skele-Grow for that arm, Harry,” George admitted, glancing down at it.

“Hate Skele-Grow,” Harry mumbled, his breath catching in his throat.

“I know, but I don’t think there’s another way to… fix whatever he did to it. She’s definitely keeping you overnight, but you won’t get any pain potions because of the amount she’ll have to give you. She might be able to put you to sleep, though.”

“A real after-party.”

George snorted. “For the kid that caught the snitch while a Bludger slammed into him? Nah, you’re getting a better party than that. An entire celebration, I’m sure. If Oliver doesn’t, Fred will.”

Harry huffs, the laughter thin and breathy. “Not you?”

George grins — mission successful. “Nah. I’m here, after all. It’ll be planned before I get back, and then we just have to wait for you to be released before we can put it into motion.”

“But I thought— said tomorrow?” Harry’s arm tightens around George’s neck.

George let out a deep breath. “Yeah. Or you could ask Pomfrey for those deeper scans that we talked about over the summer. She can check and reset or repair any of the bones you’ve broken before that didn’t heal properly, if she finds them and adjusts the dose. Then you only have to go through it once.” He chews on his bottom lip before committing. “A Medi-Witch’s testimony and scans would do a lot more towards getting you out of there than anything from two Fourth Years, Harry. Think about it, would you?”

Harry agrees, and they both fall silent, lost to their own thoughts.

Somehow too soon, and yet not soon enough, George is pushing open the door to the Hospital Wing and calling out for Madam Pomfrey.

The older witch glanced over the two of them quickly, pursing her lips. “Put him on the bed and then get out of here, Mr Weasley, unless you’ve got any injuries of your own that need to be seen to.”

“Could I help?” George asked, hastening to do as she said and setting Harry on one of the examination beds.

She rolled her eyes. “Of course not, not with something like this. If they’d let you help before this atrocity had happened, of course, it would be another story. Go on, now. Shoo. Unless you’re willing to help change him into pajamas, you’re not needed here.”

George easily cast the Switching Spell he and his brother had gotten so skilled at, and a barrage of hygiene charms for good measure, then hesitated by Harry’s side afterwards, reaching out to ruffle his dark hair. “You okay here, little lion?”

Harry looked up with pained green eyes and tried to smile. “I’ll be okay, George.”

He nodded, took a breath, and stepped away from Harry’s bed like he was wading through knee deep treacle. He turned back when he got to the door, though.

“Madam Pomfrey?” She hummed in acknowledgment and he continued. “Can I get another Invigoration Draught?”

She turns to look at him briefly, an incredulous look on her face. “Overuse can lead to dependency, you know,” she scolds. Then, suddenly, her face smooths out and she’s smiling playfully at him. “I know it’s a Fifth Year Potions lesson, Mr Weasley, but surely someone of your skill would be able to brew it on your own. Now, if you’ll leave me to treat Mr Potter, I do believe I have my work cut out for me.” She scoffed. “Whose shoddy spellwork is this, anyway? And if they’re not going to let you do the work, what am I even training you for?”

“It was Professor Lockhart, Madam Pomfrey. And Harry tried to refuse treatment from him, but he’d already started casting.”

“That man!” She raged. “Why, he should have come straight to me in that case.”

George scowled and shrugged, trying to keep his tone light. “Harry’s never refused treatment from me before, but I was just landing when Lockhart cast on him. Harry was already out of it, probably from the pain.”

She nodded sharply. “That will do. I’ll take it from here. Oh— and ten points to Gryffindor, Mr Weasley.”

He grinned and tipped an invisible hat in her direction before waving to Harry and leaving.

“I’ll be able to fix this, but it will be painful, Mr Potter,” she warned.

“George said Skele-Grow was likely?”

She snorted. “It’s a definite, in your case. You’ve got thirty-three bones to regrow overnight! I’ll be just a moment — I have to measure out the dose for you.” The Medi-Witch crossed to a cabinet and pulled out a large bottle of Skele-Grow.

“Madam Pomfrey?” She hummed in acknowledgment while measuring out the proper dosage into a beaker, the potion inside beginning to steam as it was activated. “I’ve broken other bones in the past and I don’t think they’ve healed properly,” his fingers throbbed, “Is there anything you could do to check them? If we have to regrow an arm at this point, what’s another couple of bones?”

But Pomfrey didn’t look up from the potion until it was measured properly, and when she did her brown eyes were glazed over. She walked over to him and handed him the beaker, continuing to speak as if she hadn’t heard him.

“Drink it all at once, now, there’s a lad. Regrowing bones is nasty business on a good day, even without dangerous sports and inept teachers involved.”

Familiar with the awful taste of Skele-Grow from over the summer, Harry grimaces and drinks the nasty concoction down. This potion, unlike what he’d drank over the summer, did not warm him so much as burn on the way down, and though he was aware it tasted awful, it was more in the way of the medicinal liquid medicine of the Muggle world than the taste of expired chunks of improperly blended ingredients. It was almost a relief, especially when the taste did not linger afterwards. Still, the stabbing pains in his limp arm began almost immediately.

“Is there something you can give me for the pain?” He called out, suspecting the answer was no, but wanting to ask anyway. “Or maybe to help me fall asleep?”

Madam Pomfrey tutted. “If I could give you something to help you sleep, don’t you think I would have done so? No, with the dose you had to take, it’s not safe to give you anything that will further —“

Harry tried to pay attention, but he felt his attention wandering, and his eyelids started to feel really heavy. He was vaguely aware of Madam Pomfrey tucking him into the bed, and then he was asleep.

Several hours later, Harry had no way of knowing how many, Harry opened his eyes in the pitch blackness of the Hospital Wing and immediately groaned at the sharp, stabbing sensations in his right arm.

“Maybe it’s a good thing she didn’t scan me for other injuries,” Harry muttered to himself. If he had to deal with this along his ribs and his fingers, all at the same time? He doesn’t know how he’d handle it.

But what woke him?

“Potter, what do you mean she didn’t scan you for injuries?” Draco’s voice hissed from the side of his bed. Harry whipped his head around, but couldn’t see him through the dark and without his glasses, which were— being set rather neatly on his nose, clean and mended. Draco’s pale, worried face came into view, though everything was still too dark to make out the details.


“You’re an imbecile, Harry Potter, and I shan’t take that back!” Draco’s voice sounded thick and Harry reached up with his good arm to touch him — he landed rather roughly with a few pats on Draco’s cheek, which made the boy snort. “You’re really not doing so well, are you?”

“Lockhart vanished all the bones in my arm instead of letting George perform first aid like he’s training to,” Harry said, clenching his teeth against a hiss as another sharp pain stabbed at his nerves. “Pomfrey gave me Skele-Grow and I’m regrowing thirty-three bones in my right arm. So, yeah, it’s not the most pleasant experience.”

“I’ll write to Father in the morning— that should never have happened, Harry.”

Harry shrugged. “Nothing new. Especially with Lockhart — doesn’t matter how many times I say no, he does what he wants to me anyway.”

Draco was silent, but reached out for Harry’s left hand, threading their fingers together and squeezing. “It’s not okay. And I will be writing Father about it. He can help.”

“Ron says he was one of the people who fought for You-Know-Who in the War,” Harry said quietly. The silence between them grew thick and tense. “Do you think he would still help, if he knew it was me he was helping?”

Harry knew from the hesitation that Draco wasn’t sure, either.

“I’m still asking, Potter. I’ll just… leave your name out of it.” He could hear Draco swallow in the darkness of the room. “Just in case.”

Harry squeezed Draco’s fingers back. “You came to visit me?”

“I did. I only have a few minutes left, and then I have to leave.” Draco forced a laugh that was more breath than voice. “You won our wager, by the way. Shall I guess what book you wanted from the Restricted Section, or will you tell me?”

Harry’s laugh was suddenly cut off by a hiss when another round of pain hit him. “You snuck in here to see me,” he said through gritted teeth. “I think that’s enough.”

Draco hummed and squeezed Harry’s hand, not releasing him until Harry let go first. “I have to go. But I’m not counting my debt as paid. Not for this. I’m your friend — of course I’m going to visit you when you’re unwell.”

Harry let his hand slide from his grasp. “Thank you,” he said softly. “It really means a lot.”

“Get some sleep, you—“ Draco cut himself off. “I didn’t stop you from falling to your death just to let you die from lack of sleep.” Draco reached out and gently slid Harry’s glasses from his face. “Your glasses are on the table beside you.”

Harry smiled and felt the drowsiness coming back as Draco stepped away from his bed. “Thanks for being my friend, Draco,” he whispered, unsure if Draco could still hear him or not.

And then he was sleeping again, just as peacefully as he’d been when Draco arrived.

Some time later, Harry was once again jerked suddenly awake, his heart pounding as he tried to figure out what had woken him. His arm was still in pain, but it seemed like a near constant prickle compared to the sharp stabbing pain from earlier. It was something he could manage. Then, he realized what had woken him: someone was wiping his forehead with a cool cloth.

“Hello?” he whispered. The soothing sensation of the cloth stopped, as it was suddenly removed from his forehead. Harry couldn’t stop the whimper that followed. “Felt nice,” he protested.

The cloth was back, and Harry sighed in relief, his eyes fluttering shut.

Harry blinked his eyes open again when the cloth moved down to wipe his face and his neck, his caretaker coming into view with their large, tear-filled green eyes.


“Dobby is being very sorry, sir,” the elf whispered. “Dobby is leaving Harry Potter to hurt all by himself and could not come sooner, sir, because Dobby is needing to punish himself for what he did. But Dobby is here now, Harry Potter sir, and Dobby is helping with healing and making the pain go away.”

“I appreciate that, Dobby. Whatever you did, it helped.”

“Dobby is being very sorry to make you hurt like this, Harry Potter sir, but Dobby is being thinking—“

Harry sat up quickly. “What do you mean you’re the one who hurt me, Dobby?”

Tears dripped down Dobby’s long nose and his mouth wobbled.

“Explain. Now,” Harry demanded.

Dobby nodded and set his cloth aside, wiping his eyes and nose with an edge of the dirty pillowcase he worse. Harry eyed the pillowcase with disgust and confusion, but waited for Dobby to speak.

“Dobby thought his Bludger would be enough to make Harry Potter leave school, or perhaps an injury from his Bludger would be enough that Harry Potter is sent to the Wizarding Hospital.”

“We talked about this before, elf,” Harry growled.

Dobby nodded so hard that his floppy ears slapped against his head. “Yes, sir, which is why Dobby tried to send Harry Potter to the Wizard Hospital, sir. Going to the Wizarding Hospital is different than sending Harry Potter back to his awful muggle relatives, so Dobby is being doing that instead.” He sniffed and wiped at his nose with his pillowcase again. “Only they is not being sending Harry Potter to the hospital like they would any other wizard child, even after the Sneaky Smiling Professor is making the injury worse!” Dobby showed his teeth, which Harry noticed looked unusually sharp at some places and dulled or broken in others.

He needed to learn more about House Elves.

“Are you going to tell me why you tried to send me to the hospital?”

“Dobby mustn’t tell, or he’ll be facing worse than lashes!” Dobby shook his head, his ears smacking his head again and again. “Oh, but Harry Potter is in great danger at Hogwarts, and Dobby is only wanting Harry Potter sir to be safe!”

Harry snorted. “Well, I’m not safe at home, and I’m not safe at Hogwarts, and I don’t have anywhere else to go, and nobody’s answering my letters—“ he stopped, eyeing Dobby suspiciously. “Are you stopping my mail again, Dobby?”

Dobby shook his head. “Dobby is not doing it, Harry Potter, sir! Dobby is being a good elf, learning his lesson, and is agreeing to follow the rules Harry Potter sir set when he got on the platform! Dobby is not taking Harry Potter’s mail again, sir, Dobby promises! But…” the elf hesitates. “Something is stopping mail, sir. Dobby is not being able to see what it is, Dobby is only knowing that not all mail is being delivered.” Dobby twisted his ears.

“Stop that,” Harry snapped. “No punishing yourself when you’re with me, Dobby.”

“But, sir, it is the nature of a House Elf to be punished when doing wrong. Dobby is very used to death threats, sir—” Dobby looked strangely proud of that, and it filled Harry with horror and sympathy for the being. “—because he is getting them five times a day at home, sir, and Dobby is being needing to punish himself when he does wrong or if Dobby’s answers are different from what they is being wanting to hear.”

Harry groaned. “Well, I just want the truth, and I don’t care if I don’t like it as long as it’s true.” He eyed the pillowcase as Dobby used the corner to blow his nose. “Why do you wear that thing, anyway, Dobby?”

Dobby straightened up again. “’Tis a mark of the House Elf’s enslavement, sir. Dobby can only be freed of his servitude if his masters be presenting Dobby with clothes, sir, and the family is careful not to pass Dobby even a single sock.”

“Because you’d be free?” Harry asked, curiously.

Dobby nodded. “Because Dobby would be free to leave their house forever and never come back,” Dobby confirmed.

“What if I give you a sock, Dobby? Would that count?”

Dobby’s eyes teared up again. “Harry Potter is so kind to a bad House Elf like Dobby! No, sir, it must come from the Master directly.”

“…but can it work if the Master’s been tricked?”

Dobby went pale. “Dobby is not being knowing, Harry Potter sir, and those is being dangerous kinds of questions to be asking a House Elf.”

Harry nodded. “Okay. Then I won’t ask. And you can’t tell me who your Master is?”

Dobby shook his head. “No, sir.”

“Okay. Tell me why it’s so important that I, of all people, am not at Hogwarts this year.”

“Dobby remembers how it was when He Who Must Not Be Named was at the height of his powers, sir,” Dobby whispered. “We House Elves were treated like vermin, sir — of course, Dobby is still being treated the same way as he was before, sir —“ he looked a little ashamed to admit it and Harry found himself gritting his teeth. “But mostly, sir, life is being better for my kind since you triumphed over He Who Must Not Be Named. The lowly, enslaved, dregs of the magical world like Dobby and the other House Elves is forever being grateful for Harry Potter for that day, even if Harry Potter was a baby and is not knowing what happened. Harry Potter survived and the Dark Lord’s power was broken, and it was being a new dawn for all, sir, and Harry Potter shone like a beacon of hope for those of us who thought the Dark days wound never end, sir.” Dobby sniffed, wiping away tears with his pillowcase again. “And now the Dark days be returning, sir, and Hogwarts is being a place where terrible things are to happen or already being happening, and if the Chamber of Secrets is being opening once more—“

Harry lurched forward, grabbing Dobby’s thin shoulder in his left hand. “The Chamber of Secrets is real, then? It’s been opened before?”

“Bad Dobby,” Dobby muttered, “Dobby is being very, very bad—“

“You’re not bad, Dobby. Tell me — anything you can. You say I’m in danger? But I’m not a Muggle-Born,” Harry says quickly, “How can I be in danger from the Chamber? There was a message — on Halloween — that the Chamber had opened, and a warning for the enemies of the Heir to beware. Do you know what that means, Dobby?”

“Ask no more of poor Dobby,” Dobby cried, his eyes darting to the water jug on Harry’s bedside table. “Ask no more or Dobby is being asking for his Master’s punishment, sir, for Dobby cannot speak of the Dark deeds planned in this place—“

Harry exhaled, long and slow. “Okay, Dobby. Okay. I won’t ask anything you can’t tell me. But you need to stop, okay? No more trying to get me to leave the school. You said it yourself — they didn’t treat me like a normal kid? They should’ve sent me to this hospital?”

“Oh, yes, sir — Quidditch injuries during a match always be going to Mungos Wizard Hospital in case of complications, sir. Especially when they is being caused because of malfunctioning equipment.”

“See? They won’t let me leave. I’m trying to go to my friend’s house for Christmas but he isn’t getting mail back from his family either—“

“—Because the mail is being stopped,” Dobby moaned, reaching up to twist at his ears. “Dobby is not being doing that, Harry Potter sir, Dobby promises—”

Dobby’s ears flickered and his entire body jerked.

“What is it?”

“Dobby must go!” the elf breathed, suddenly terrified. “Stay safe, Harry Potter,” Dobby said, glancing up at Harry with wide, terrified green eyes before disappearing right out of Harry’s grasp.

Harry slumped back into his bed, trying to calm his racing heartbeat, only to sit up again when he heard footsteps drawing nearer.

Within moments, Professor Dumbledore was backing into the Hospital Wing, dressed in a long wooly dressing gown and a nightcap over his long white hair. Harry immediately laid back down and pretended to be asleep, peering out of the curtains at the end of his bed through half-lidded eyes to watch as Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore heaved what looked to be a stone statue onto one of the beds.

“Get Madam Pomfrey,” Dumbedore whispered, and Professor McGonagall rushed to comply, hurrying past the end of Harry’s bed and out of sight while he lay very still, straining his ears to listen.

Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall’s voices were urgent, raised while still being indesipherable to Harry, and then they were back in view, Madam Pomfrey pulling a cardigan on over her nightdress and gasping as she rushed towards the figure on the bed, wand already waving.

“What happened?” she asked Dumbledore.

“Another attack,” Dumbledore said grimly, “Minerva found him on the stairs.”

“There was a bunch of grapes next to him,” Professor McGonagall said. “We think he was trying to sneak up here to visit Potter. They do seem to be close, you know. I’m glad that he takes after his mother in that way — always ready to make friends with people in different years and houses, she was.”

Harry’s stomach lurched horribly, even as his heart fluttered. He hadn’t known that about his mother, and it made him want to stand taller, that he was taking after her in this way. But, still, for McGonagall to claim he was friendly with Colin, and the implication that because he was trying to visit Harry after hours, Harry was at fault for Colin’s Petrification…

Harry raised himself up a few inches so he could look at the statue on the bed, the moonlight now lighting up the room just enough that he could confirm the face belonged to Colin Creevey, his eyes wide and hands stuck out in front of him with that dreaded camera clasped tightly between stone-stiff fingers.

“Petrification?” Madam Ponfrey whispered.

“Yes, but I shudder to think… If Albus hadn’t been on the way downstairs for hot chocolate — who knows what might have…” McGonagall cut herself off with a shudder and the three of them stared down at Colin’s unresponsive body.

Then, Dumbledore leaned forward and wrenched the camera out of Colin’s hands. The rigid arms remained exactly as they had been, held in the air and awaiting the return of his beloved camera.

“You don’t suppose he managed to get a picture of his attacker, Albus?” McGonagall asked eagerly, stepping closer to the old wizard.

Dumbledore didn’t answer and simply opened the back of the camera, where the film would have gone. A jet of steam hissed out of the camera and Harry, three beds away, was able to catch the acrid smell of burned and melted plastic.

“Good gracious,” Madam Pomfrey whispered, her hand coming up to cover her mouth. “Melted. All… melted…”

Professor McGonagall stared at Dumbledore, her face stricken. “What does this mean, Albus?” She asked urgently.

“It means that the Chamber of Secrets is indeed open again.”

“But… Albus, who—“

“The question is not who, my dear,” Dumbledore said, his eyes on Colin. “The question we should be asking is how.”

As the three adults retreat from Colin’s bedside, Dumbledore tucking the camera away into the pocket of his dressing gown, Harry’s mind whirled.

He couldn’t stop that vicious voice crowing inside of him in victory that the first year would no longer be able to follow him around with that camera. No more wondering if he was imagining the sound of a shutter going off in the shower, or racing to get back to his bed and draw the curtains around him when it was time for bed. No more dread when he turned a corner or left for class or tried to get just a little privacy.

No more wondering how many of those photographs had been sold to classmates, family members, and friends.

He tries to feel ashamed or guilty for thinking that way about an eleven year old, but all he feels is an immense, crushing relief.

He hears the Professors bidding goodnight to Madam Pomfrey and settles back into the bed again, closing his eyes and waiting for sleep to come. Eventually, it does.


Harry opens his eyes and sees that it is still dark, the clouds covering the moon again, and he groans. How many times will I wake up tonight? he wonders, though at least his arm had settled down into a dull ache.

“Harry?” Luna repeats again, her voice quiet and shaking.

Harry immediately sits up in alarm. “Luna, what are you—“

Luna stands by his bedside, her face splotchy and red, her arms wrapped around her trembling body. She’s wearing her school robes and barefoot, not even socks to ward off the autumn chill.

Luna,” Harry breathes, immediately reaching out his left arm for her. “What are you doing here? Why aren’t you in bed?”

Luna crawls into the bed, the two of them tugging the covers so she can slide herself under them and curl up against Harry’s side, his good arm settling around her shoulders. It’s that one touch that tells Harry that Luna is trembling from more than just cold. Her shoulders are shaking in a way that she can’t hide, not when they’re so close to each other.

“Are you hiding again?” He asks her, his voice barely more than a whisper. She nods. “You don’t have to hide your tears, Luna. Not from me. Never from me.”

It’s barely a breath later and her face is clear to him, the dark under her eyes looking more like bruising than ever, and red marks on her cheeks from where she’d scrubbed at the tears.

“Luna,” Harry breathes, feeling his heart lurch at the sight of her. “Luna, what’s wrong?”

“I’m scared,” she confesses in a tiny, trembling voice.

“Why? What’s got you so scared?”

She shakes her head and practically dives into him, burying her face in his chest and sobbing. It doesn’t take him long to realize she’d somehow cast a silencing charm to hide her cries, and he wraps his arm around her, holding her closely while whispering every comforting thing he can think to tell her. When she pulls away from him, he brushes the hair out of her miserable face and tucks the long strands behind her rounded ears.

“Promise me, Harry,” she whispers urgently. Immediately, he nods. “Promise me you won’t stop fighting.”

Harry co*cks his head, confused. “I… I suppose?”

“You can’t stop fighting, no matter what, Harry.” Her eyes glow so brightly blue that they’re nearly silver in the moonlight. “Promise me you won’t give up, and everything will be okay.”

Immediately, willing to do nearly anything he can to ease the ache in Luna’s heart, he promises her he won’t give up, and that whatever comes he will keep fighting.

Her eyes flash silver, and for a moment he can see the glow under her skin, and he chokes on his next breath, a sharp pain in his chest as something twists

And then Luna is sighing, the pain receding, and she’s cuddling up against him, resting her head on his chest and listening to his heartbeat in a way he knew brought her great comfort.

Her sleepy voice whispers to him, “As long as you don’t give up, I can come back to you, Harry… So you can’t stop fighting.”

Her sleepiness is catching, and Harry soon finds himself blinking more and more slowly, despite his mind trying to focus on Luna’s words.

His dreams are peaceful and sweet, and he wakes up with the scent of lightly fragrant flowers clinging to his senses.

“Well, I never thought I’d see you sneaking a girl in over night, Mr Potter, but I suppose the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, now does it?” Madam Pomfrey bustled over to his bedside, stopping beside him and placing her hands on her hips. “Even your father wasn’t so reckless to try anything in his second year — I daresay you’ve broken his record!”

Harry’s eyebrows furrowed. “What?”

“Why, your little girlfriend, of course.” Madam Pomfrey tuts. “Looks like the poor girl hasn’t been getting much sleep lately,” she adds, reaching down to Harry’s shoulder.

Luna is still here, curled up with him in the same position they had fallen asleep in the night before.

Madam Pomfrey brushes the pale blonde hair away from Luna’s still sleeping face, a gentle smile on her face. “Poor dear,” she says quietly, before pulling away. “Well, I’ll allow it just this once, but don’t make a pattern of it, Mr Potter.”

Harry smiles shakily at her. “Thank you, Madam Pomfrey.”

She nods sharply. “Sleep a little longer, if you’d like. It’s still early. I’ve cleared you to leave come lunchtime, and a little more sleep would only do you good.”

Harry nods in agreement, closing his eyes again. Luna wasn’t going anywhere, and he was still pretty tired from the night of many interruptions…

Later in the morning, Harry wakes up again — this time to Ginny’s voice, frantic and worried, asking about Colin. He sighs, but does not reach for his glasses, wanting to rest peacefully for a little longer. He knew once he put his glasses on, he would have to face the rest of the world.

If Colin getting Petrified wasn’t a dream, than neither was the rest of it, and he was left with more questions and no answers.

“How did you know about that?” Pomfrey asks sharply, both unsurprised and frustrated. “Well, I suppose the Hogwarts rumor mill is faster than it used to be these days. Yes, Miss Weasley, he is here. Do you want to visit with him?”

“Please! He’s the only friend I have, and I was so worried when he didn’t come back last night! We were supposed to study for Charms together and—”

Ginny stops at the end of Harry’s bed, staring in horror and what will later be identified as a growing anger at the sight of him and Luna Lovegood curled up in bed together, Luna still sleeping peacefully with her head on Harry’s chest. She’s distracted away by Madam Pomfrey, but if Harry had his glasses on, he would’ve gone instantly alert at the glare on her face.

Instead, Harry’s face drawn and grumpy from yet another rude awakening, he just sees Ginny Weasley following Madam Pomfrey to the bed three over from him and stepping behind the tall curtains that had been set up at some point, the curtains blocking the sound of her continued chatter.

He sighs in relief — at least there was a privacy feature to the curtains around the bed. He hadn’t known that. He vaguely remembers Madam Pomfrey telling him he would be free to leave at lunch, and decides he would wait for Luna to wake on her own.

She needed some extra sleep, too. And maybe they could go to lunch together after he grabs an extra pair of socks from his trunk.


Rumors are flying all over the school by lunchtime, all of them claiming that Harry Potter was the Heir of Slytherin and now there was proof.

He’d attacked that first year Gryffindor with the camera! He heard people whispering throughout the school. You know he didn’t like the kid. Maybe this was his revenge?

He skips dinner after his last class, choosing instead to crawl into his bed and draw the curtains around him.

It’s been barely half a day and he already can’t stand the whispers. It’s easy enough to make his excuses by claiming he was still healing from the treatment at the Hospital Wing. It wasn’t completely wrong, after all.

Knowing now that everyone’s letters were being monitored and interfered with somehow, Harry instead starts writing a massive list of lists — he includes a list of things that he’s learned about the magical world, a list of things that he knows he doesn’t know about the magical world, and a list of things he is curious about. Eventually, they would make good conversational topics, or good letters when he couldn’t think of what to write, and he could even compare the answers.

It was a task that would take several days at the beginning, and could easily be added to over time. Harry finally feels like he’s accomplishing something by getting the thoughts and questions down on parchment, and it improves his mood significantly to get started on a project that would be so helpful.

When the members of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team barge in on the Second Year dorm later that night with snacks and drinks they’d snagged from the kitchen and insist on celebrating their win — just for an hour or two, Harry — it cheers him up even more, and helps him to forget the awfulness of the whispering in the halls and classes.

And then two days later, Luna Lovegood’s petrified body is found staring out a window in Ravenclaw Tower. The crystallized tears on her face shine in the moonlight.


I would like to thank Scioneeris' Dragel Discord server for voting for "all the scenes!" which resulted in this cliffhanger. You didn't know what you were signing up to by saying you wanted the Quidditch and Hospital Wing scenes to remain together, but I did and I tried to spare you. I'd also like to genuinely thank the folks there for being willing to chat with me about ideas and just generally being excited about dragels together and keeping me engaged with this work.

Okay, on to some chapter notes!!

Every time Draco appeared in this chapter, he was unplanned. Every. Single. Time. (Except, of course, canon moments in the Quidditch match such as "Practicing for the ballet, Potter?" which remains one of my favorite Draco moments. What a little sh*t.) I think he adds a lot to this chapter, though, so I can't be too mad at him.

YES this is the last time we'll have to deal with Colin Creevey for a while! Unfortunately we've still got Lockhart on screen. Unfortunately x2 I won't be able to feed him to the basilisk, but I'm taking suggestions for other resolutions!!

I wish Harry had even one competent adult in his life, but sadly McGonagall is not one of them.

There are several unsettling things going on in this chapter, and if you've noticed all of them I'm very happy.

Also, LOOK!!! Other people have noticed the mail thing! It's not just happening to Harry!!! And there's an update on the Longbottoms situation!! -- This is why I love when you comment with your questions because it helps me remember to actually put little details like that in the prose. Even though I know what's happening in the background, it's important that you do too :)

As always, I'll answer pretty much any question about the story in the comments - let me know along with your questions if you want spoiler-y answers or if you want a safe answer, otherwise I assume you want as many details as I can give you while still making the story enjoyable!

Chapter 18: Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 10; Flashpoint


Luna isn't gone forever, but Harry has a hard time adjusting to her absence all the same.


For anyone reading this as it's freshly updated, I've made some changes to Chapter 13 and you may want to go back and reread. They're kind of small changes, mostly clarifications or formatting, but the letter Harry received from Charlie is now correctly addressed to "Little Dragon" instead of "Harry" -- that was a major mistake and it's been fixed now.

Thanks for your patience as I worked on this chapter! Updates are definitely slower right now because of a rib injury and pretty excruciating abdominal pain. I don't know HOW it happened, I don't know WHY it happened, and I barely even know WHAT happened, but I've been in pretty severe pain for the last several weeks. It's even taken me to the ER and several trips to my physician. Nobody's finding major illnesses or traumas, so I'm pretty much just taking it day by day and spending a lot of time resting and cuddling up with the hot pack. Today was the first day in weeks that I was able to sit up for more than an hour, and I used that to finish this chapter! (Thoughts, prayers, healing energy, etc all requested and accepted with gratitude for my various health problems) Anyway, I'll do my best!

I'll let y'all read this chapter and hope you enjoy it! See you in the end notes~

Also I want to give a major thank you to AO3 users SoccerQueen237 and soleisland for letting me yell at them about this chapter this month and giving me encouragement even if I only managed to write 100 words that day or even if it was just a daydream day. Little by little, this chapter got written, and it would have taken much longer without the two of you humoring my obsession with this fic!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Hogwarts Year 2 — Part 10; Flashpoint

Harry has no idea how he got through classes the week that Luna was petrified, but he certainly didn’t learn anything while attending them. The few times he’d tried skipping by staying in the dorms, he had been dragged out of his bed — literally — and hauled to classes. When he tried to visit Luna in the Hospital Wing instead of going to class, Madam Pomfrey spelled the door to revoke his access and turned him away until classes were finally over.

He spends the whole week wanting to hit something, or curse someone, or even bite something. He wants to find whoever it was that had been stealing Luna’s belongings and destroy them so they’d never consider taking things that weren’t theres again.

Most of all, Harry wants to cry. But try as he might, his eyes remain dry.

The moment classes let out on Friday, Harry’s rushing to the Hospital Wing to sit with Luna. Madam Pomfrey rolls her eyes at him but allows him through the doors, drawing the privacy curtains closed around Luna’s bed.

Harry doesn’t leave the Hospital Wing for the entire weekend, not even for meals. Madam Pomfrey, in a surprise show of kindness, allows him to curl up on the bed beside Luna’s too still body and stay the night once visiting hours are over.

Fred and George sneak food in for him several times throughout the weekend, and Harry tries to ignore the taste of the potions they’ve added to make up for his irregular meals. The twins take turns telling silly stories at Luna’s bedside and Fred braids small, colorful crystal beads into Luna’s long blonde hair with a gentle smile.

“She used to wear her hair like this when her Mum was alive,” he confides in Harry. “Never was a day she went without beads or flowers in her hair when Lady Pandora was around.”

They only ever stay for an hour, but for Harry that’s enough.

Nobody else ever visits Luna, and even though it’s obvious where he’d be nobody comes to visit Harry while he’s sitting by Luna’s side. Harry tries not to think about how lonely it must be to be all alone in the Hospital Wing while he’s not able to come because of classes, and curls his fingers around Luna’s hand, holding it more tightly than before.

“I promised you, didn’t I?” He whispers against her pale fingers. “What am I going to do without my Luna girl by my side?”

Harry knew that they would be working on a cure, and he’d been especially attentive during Herbology because of it, but he still struggles to tamp down on the impatience rising inside him. Why couldn’t they go to an apothecary and order the potion they needed? Why couldn’t they just order grown Mandrakes? Why did they have to raise the Mandrakes themselves before the specific potion could be made?


Sunday evening, he’s forced to leave by a stern Madam Pomfrey, with strict instructions to go back to his dorm for a shower and a change of clothes, only to find the door warded behind him the moment he’s in the corridor.

He has little choice but to obey, then, and he takes his time walking back to Gryffindor.

Harry isn’t expecting to see Oliver waiting for him when he arrives at the otherwise empty second year dormitory. But Oliver is leaning against the end of Harry’s bed, arms stretched out on either side of him, braced against the wood, and his legs casually crossed at the ankles, his eyebrows drawn together and a worried frown on his face. Harry closes the door quietly behind him and stands up straight, meeting the older boy’s eyes.

“Harry,” Oliver says his name so quietly, with a softness that makes Harry’s insides quiver.

Harry tries to smile, but he can barely get the corners of his mouth to twitch upwards.

Oliver clears his throat. “I know you’re not okay.” Harry doesn’t try to deny it. “I’m letting you out of practice for the next week, Potter. But next week I need you back on the Pitch, and I need your head back in your books. I’ll come get you for tutoring if you skip, an’ I’ll take over for Percy, too.”

Harry knew, he knew, that this was Oliver’s way of caring for him, but in that moment he couldn’t bring himself to appreciate the gesture. He couldn’t stand the way Oliver knew him so well, how he’d give him the time he needed to sit with all of his disgusting feelings and work through the wreck of his heart — beating Luna Luna Luna inside him and aching that she wasn’t there — before making him direct his attention to the future, to the goals he had set at the beginning of the year.

He knew this was Oliver’s kindness, this was Oliver’s understanding, this was Oliver’s support — he knew, and he screams at him for it anyway.

Harry couldn’t stomach kindness in the face of so much pain. In the face of his failure to do better, to protect. He was a Gryffindor, wasn’t he? He was Harry Potter, wasn’t he? What else was he good for if it wasn’t protecting people who were important to him?

He didn’t even recognize the words coming out of his mouth.

Harry yells in his face that he can take his Quidditch pitch and shove the entire thing up his arse, and then Oliver’s arms are wrapped around him and he’s crying, clawing at Oliver’s strong, solid arms that are like iron wrapped around him but hold him so gently.

“I’m sorry,” he sobs, “Ollie, I’m sorry.” He repeats apologies like a broken record, skipping and stuttering over them as the needle caught and making an attempt to explain himself that was easily hushed and comforted away.

Harry’s wrapped up in Oliver’s strong arms and pulled against his chest, and he suddenly feels safe in a way he hadn’t realized he was missing until now.

“I got you, Harry,” Oliver soothes, pulling him closer. “You just get it all out, okay? I’m not leavin’ ya.”

So Harry breaks, and breaks, and breaks, held safely in Oliver’s arms and shielded from the rest of the world until he’s too exhausted to cry anymore and falls asleep.

Harry doesn’t remember getting back into his own bed, but that’s where he wakes up on Monday morning, his head pounding and his eyes aching something fierce. He grimaces and buries his head back into his pillow.

“Harry, it’s time to leave for classes, mate,” Ron calls out to him. “We’re the last ones.”

“I’m not going,” Harry croaks in response. “Ask Hermione if she’ll share her notes with me?”

Ron huffs a laugh. “Good luck with that one, then.” His footsteps cross the room and then pause. “Dunno what’s goin’ on with you, mate, but I hope it gets better soon.”

And then Ron is gone.

“Don’t know what’s going on with me, huh?” Harry scoffs. “I thought everyone knew. They sure won’t stop talking about it when they think I can’t hear them…”

Harry’s throat tenses and he feels the burning in his eyes again. He tries to swallow past it, but he knows.

Now that he’s had a cry about it, he won’t be able to push it back.

At least there was nobody around to hear him this time, but he buried his face in his pillow and tried to muffle the little noises he made anyway, until he managed to fall back asleep.


Harry wakes up to the sound of someone stumbling and a muffled curse, his heart pounding so loud that he can hardly hear past the rushing of blood in his ears. Tanned fingers poke through the gap in Harry’s curtains and tug them aside gently, and before Harry can act on the sudden surge of adrenalin Neville’s worried face pokes through the curtains.

Neville’s light blue eyes soften when they see Harry’s splotchy face. “Heya, Harry,” he says quietly. “Mind if I sit with you?”

Harry scrambles upward and reaches blindly for his glasses, trying to make space for Neville in his bed as she shoves them onto his face. “Okay,” he croaks, his voice hoarse and throat terribly dry. He tries clearing it but it doesn’t help, the scratchy feeling only intensifying.

“I’ve got lunch,” Neville explains needlessly, “and some things to drink — good thing, too, because you sound horrible, Harry.” Neville’s face was still pinched with worry, but he quirks he corner of his mouth up at the joke. “Some potions from the twins, too.”

Harry wrinkles his nose. “Better drink those first, then.”

Neville laughs. “Probably. Can I come in?”

Harry nods, and within moments Neville is toeing off his shoes and clambering into Harry’s four poster bed with a messenger bag that looks suspiciously full. Certainly carrying more than just schoolbooks in there, at any rate. Neville pulls the curtains closed around them again and arranges himself so he’s sitting cross legged across from Harry, his back to the curtains he’d just climbed through.

“You look awful, Harry,” Neville says softly.

Harry snorts. “I feel awful,” he confirms. “Potions?”

Neville’s face lights up in a blush and he scrambles for his bag, quickly unloading everything he’d packed in there. Several potions of different colors, neatly wrapped packages made out of napkins, and the baby blue thermos he had gotten so familiar with over the summer. All of it was more than the two of them could manage on their own, and Harry had a suspicion that Neville wasn’t the only one responsible.

“Fred and George really loaded you up, huh?” He twitched his mouth in a smirk, but it wouldn’t stay on his face.

Neville laughed anyway. “Yeah. They said it’s for if we don’t want to go down to dinner. This way we don’t have to worry about missing any meals, and they don’t have to worry that we’ve been forgotten about.”

“We?” Harry asks.

Neville meets his eyes with the stern, serious look that Harry had only seen a few times. It was the look on his face when he’d pledged to stay by Harry’s side. “We,” he confirmed.

I’ll keep your secrets, Harry, he’d promised. But this was so much more than that. This was devotion. This was companionship. This was the promise that Harry didn’t have to be alone ever again, not if Neville was by his side.

Harry didn’t know what to do with the warmth that flowed through him. This time, the tears that filled his eyes didn’t hurt, and he had no urge to hide them away. “Neville,” he whispered, helplessly.

“I told you, didn’t I?” Neville said quietly. His voice was steady in a way Harry’d never heard it. And if you let me, I’ll be the best support you ever had. “I’m always on your side.”

Harry stared helplessly into Neville’s blue eyes, not knowing what he needed but somehow knowing he didn’t have to ask for it in words. All he needed to do was reach out, and Neville would give it to him. He choked on a sob, and repeated Neville’s name, again and again.

Neville easily moves everything he’d unpacked to the end of the bed and then he reaches out a hand to Harry. Harry grasps it desperately and folds himself over it as he find himself crying with a fervor that put last night’s crying fit to shame.

Something about Neville was safe in a way that he’d never felt anywhere before. Not with the twins, not with Oliver, and not even with Luna. He didn’t need to ask to feel the answer settling over him, similar to the magic from his father’s cloak. This was a person who would be by his side for the rest of his life, who would support him in ways that nobody else could. A person who had only ever asked one thing from him — he wanted Harry. Just Harry. However Harry chose to show up, as long as he was there, that’s what Neville wanted. There were no secret feelings, no quiet discussions in the dark, no worries about what was appropriate or not.

It was just Neville, and it was just Harry.

“Don’t leave me,” Harry heard himself crying, “Don’t—“

Neville squeezed his hand. “I’m not going anywhere,” he promised, his voice choked with his own tears. “I’m right here, Harry. I’m not leaving you.”

Eventually, their tears calm down and they’re able to eat the lunch painstakingly packed for them by Fred and George — a combination of things that the twins had noticed they both liked, along with a small section of Luna’s favorites. It makes them both smile, even though it’s wobbly.

“I miss her,” Neville says softly. Harry cuts his eyes to Neville, studying the slouch of his shoulders. “You don’t have to say it, Harry — it’s clear as day on you, but. I… I miss her, too.”

“You could visit, you know?”

Neville shakes his head. “I tried. Madam Pomfrey isn’t letting anyone else through.”

Harry frowns, thinking about how Fred and George had managed to come by while he was there over the weekend, but now noticing how nobody else had come. Not even Ginny had been by the Hospital Wing to visit with Colin. Not since that first time. “Fred and George came by, though?”

Neville shrugs. “Weren’t they bringing you food? And besides, they don’t count anymore. Not with George taking up his healing studies the way he is.”

“Then you’ll just have to come with me,” Harry decides, a bit of his normal stubbornness peeking through. “I don’t know why she’s letting me visit, not if nobody else is allowed. But I bet Luna would love to hear from you, Neville. Even if it’s just reading her Herbology textbook.”

Neville smiles. “Maybe this weekend we can go together.” He meets Harry’s eyes and his smile drops. “But you have to go to class with me, Harry,” Neville says quietly. “No more skipping. I don’t care if I have to drag you to class and meals the whole year, but you’re going.”

Harry looks down. “Okay,” he whispers. “Okay, I’ll try.”

Neville makes sure that Harry goes to breakfast on Tuesday, sitting next to him in the Great Hall and encouraging him to drink the potion that Fred handed over, gently convincing him to eat at least a slice of toast and drink some tea. It’s enough.

Harry stumbles into classes, sometimes with Neville half a step behind him, a gentle hand on his shoulder guiding him through the classroom door and to a seat. Neville sits beside him in every class, the gentle touch on his shoulder all that Harry needs to ground himself whenever he starts feeling overwhelmed. Neville’s easy companionship is more than enough to keep him in his seat.

When the whispers get loud in the hallway between classes, it’s Neville’s gentle voice that calls his name and keeps him from disappearing into the empty corridors of the castle, Neville’s steady grip on his shoulder that keeps him from running away.

It’s Neville’s gentle guidance that keeps Harry from running to the Hospital Wing the moment classes are over for the day, instead convincing him to go to dinner and eat more than just a little bread and soup, and then pushing him a little further because they still have homework to do.

Harry can’t bring himself to sleep in bed with the twins at night, but he doesn’t need to fight against the loneliness because Neville curls up in bed with him and holds whispered conversations and doesn’t tell a soul when Harry needs to cry.


Professor McGonagall holds Neville back after Transfiguration on Wednesday, so Harry has to make his way to the dungeons on his own for Double Potions. Instead, he finds himself crouching down in one of the empty dungeon corridors, burying his head in his arms and trying to convince himself not to skip Potions. Again. He has no doubt he will already be serving one detention for skipping classes on Monday, though none of the other professors had mentioned it except to note that he was looking better and they were glad to see him in class. It was never that easy with Snape, though.

Harry didn’t want to face him while his heart was aching and his nerves were already so raw.

His thoughts are interrupted by a soft, low voice. It’s familiar enough, something that he’d heard in passing but had never found directed towards him. Harry’s curiosity is enough for him to lift his head and meet the mesmerizing violet eyes belonging to Blaise Zabini.

“Don’t you think it’s time to pick yourself up?” The words are sharp, but the voice that speaks them is laced with a gentle kindness that Harry didn’t expect to find directed at him. “You know she’d be sad to see you like this, Potter.” Zabini moves closer, his steps carefully measured, and he stops barely an arm’s length away from where Harry’s crouched in the corridor. “You can’t possibly believe that punishing yourself like this would make her happy.”

Harry’s throat tightens and he feels himself choking on a sob. The thoughts come, unbidden, and form words that spill out of his mouth without his agreement. “I don’t deserve to be happy,” he whispers, “not while she’s suffering.”

Everything about Zabini softens, then, and he’s suddenly on his knees in front of Harry, ducking his head so their eyes are level with one another. “You’re not taking care of yourself anymore, and you’re not letting anyone help you.”

Harry can’t breathe and his heart races in his chest. He can’t bring himself to look away from Zabini’s hypnotic violet eyes.

“If you want to see something destroyed, all you have to do is ask.” Zabini reaches his hand out, slowly, towards Harry’s face and Harry allows his eyes to close, lashes fluttering softly against his cheeks as the other boy’s dark fingers brush the tears away. “But I refuse to watch you destroy yourself, Harry Potter.” He pulls his hand away, and Harry finds himself leaning forward as if to chase the warmth. Zabini chuckles warmly and stands, taking a step backwards. “This is the only warning I’ll be giving you, so don’t make me repeat myself, hm?”

Zabini pauses when Harry’s voice calls his name, the hoarse croak of his voice surprising them both.

“Did you mean it?” Harry asks.

Zabini doesn’t blink. “Of course,” he says. “I meant everything I said to you just now.”

Harry clears his throat and clenches his trembling fingers into fists. As if he had only been waiting for permission, his mind is clear for the first time since he learned Luna was Petrified, and the guilt and sorrow were burned away by a righteous fury.

I won’t even have to speak, Luna had said. Like always, she was right.

“I want everything they took from her back,” Harry seethes.

Zabini tilts his head in consideration and easily drops down in front of Harry again, those violet eyes pinning Harry in place. “Oh?” He says softly, his voice velvety smooth.

“She told me to leave them alone, to let her handle whoever has been bullying her, and I’ll respect that. But I want everything they took from her and everything she managed to hold on to back.” He forces the words past the lump in his throat and his green eyes are so bright staring back at Zabini. “She deserves to have all her belongings safe and waiting for her when she wakes up.”

Zabini’s grin is sharp and wicked. “That can be arranged.” He stands. “Anything else?”

“I don’t particularly care if something happens to their things,” Harry says quietly. His voice is hard, no trace of forgiveness or mercy in it. “Luna only asked for the people to be left alone, after all, and I’d prefer that they learn their lesson and don’t repeat it.”

Zabini laughs. “Oh, you are fun, Harry Potter. I think I might even enjoy this.”

His footsteps echo in the empty corridor as he retreats, but then they pause. “Now get up and do your girl proud, Potter.” His voice is hard and serious, but somehow so gentle in that moment.

Harry gets up, and his mind feels clear and focused as he takes one step and then another. He has work to do.


I don't know who's scene I loved the most in this chapter?! (Neville? I think it's Neville's.) Everyone is so lovely (except for Ron, he can get stuffed)

I ended up doing some scene shuffling, and even the scenes that I'd already had written out before I started feeling awful got some major overhauls. Some of this was because it didn't fit the mood of the chapter anymore and some of it is because I honestly wasn't able to deliver what I wanted out of the scene with the amount of pain I'm currently in. Thankfully the scenes that got moved around don't need to happen at a specific point as long as they happen some time before Easter of 2nd Year. That gives us a LOT of freedom~

Also there's a hint in one of these scenes that discerning readers may find very interesting...

The Emerald Circle - kannachan27 - Harry Potter (2024)
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