Chapter 05 - Adjusting to the New Reality
Alyx walked over to Bob and stared him down. "So you're finally going to do it?"
Bob looked at her nervously. "How did you find out about it?"
"You can't hide from me!" She snapped. "I know you too well."
Bob looked down sheepishly. "I didn't want you to know," he mumbled.
"How could I not know? You're sitting there with the file up on your monitor!" She exclaimed.
Bob blinked and suddenly looked very relieved. "Oh! That. Um... yeah you caught me, I admit it. In fact, I'll even admit that we don't own Harry Potter."
Bob hit the save key, then shut down his computer and walked away whistling.
Alyx nodded sagely then she paused. "That was too easy," she grumbled to herself. "What else could have done this time. The Llama fence is operational, so he can't get any more llamas into the house."
She stared suspiciously at her husband's retreating back. She was about to follow him when the doorbell rang. Seeing Bob sprinting away at top speed she went to the door and opened it.
"HI!" squealed the naked girl. "I'm Pamela from the Naked Donut Delivery Service!"
Pamela thrust a box of chocolate donuts into Alyx's hands.
"I'm going to kill him," she muttered, then she slammed the door on the overly endowed delivery girl.
Alyx turned to the audience. "Read the chapter and please ignore Bob screaming. He must die, really, it's for the Greater Good."
Adjusting to the New Reality
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Great Hall (September 2nd)...
A subdued and quiet Ron, Ginny and Hermione made their way down to the Great Hall for breakfast. They had hoped to speak to Harry yesterday after the feast, but they'd been unable to find him. Ron reported that he hadn't been in the dorm room and his bed had not been slept in. Nor was his trunk present.
Hermione and Ginny had finally allowed Ron back into their group, but he knew he was on probation. One small step out of line and he'd be bat bogeyed for sure. The truth was that his comments in the Prophet were not well received by many of the Gryffindors, who rightly viewed it as an attempt to stab Harry in the back.
Dumbledore had introduced Jean Summers last night at the start of term feast, and welcomed Madam Umbridge back as their Defense Professor. The rumor was that the toad-like woman's posting at Hogwarts was Minister Scrimgeour's way of punishing her for her support of Fudge and his administration.
The students were less than enthused to find her back, but then so was she. And unlike last year, this year she lacked the support of the Ministry.
Harry's absence started the rumor mill running wild. Some thought Harry had run away to live among the Muggles, while others were sure he had been captured by Voldemort. Still others were certain that Harry was off somewhere preparing his mutant minions to assault the wizarding world.
"She's a dead ringer for Lily Potter," Hermione murmured, staring at Jean at the staff table. "Harry has to be around somewhere. She's his aunt!"
"Dumbledore didn't introduce her as such, but that has to be her. She's even got Harry's eyes," Ginny agreed with a touch of jealousy. Jean was a very beautiful woman. Ginny felt her eyes were one of her least attractive features. Other than that, she was rather pleased with how well she was growing. She had a good figure, having inherited her mother's attributes before she succumbed to the ravages of bearing seven children.
"That makes her a mutant, too, doesn't it?" Ron asked, cautiously. Hermione's talk with him had helped him see the light, but he was still uncomfortable with the concept.
Hermione frowned, looking at him. "So what if it does? She's still a witch, Ronald."
Ron dropped his eyes. "I'm just saying, that's all."
Hermione rolled her eyes, but looked back at the head table quickly when she heard a sound she'd never heard at Hogwarts before. Someone had a mobile phone and it was ringing! The electronic tones were unmistakable.
Jean turned away from speaking with Hagrid and reached into a pocket. Pulling out her phone, she flipped it open and put it to her ear.
"She's got a working phone!" Hermione gasped.
Around the hall, half-bloods and Muggle born stared at Jean in shock, while the pure bloods looked on in confusion.
Jean spoke softly into the phone for another minute, then she snapped it closed and put it back in her pocket. She looked at the kids in the hall and grinned knowingly.
"I've seen that expression before," Ginny muttered. "Harry grinned the same way when he charmed Fred and George bald for the day. Something is about to happen."
Hermione turned to say something when those in the hall were nearly deafened by a thunderous crack, followed by a low rumbling that shook the castle to its very foundations.
"What in the name of Merlin?" exclaimed Ron. He stood up and drew his wand.
Hermione saw that Jean was hurrying from the hall. "Come on," she said tensely. Standing, she quickly followed the new Professor, Ginny and Ron on her heels.
Jean stopped just outside the entrance hall and stared skyward. She hadn't noticed the crowd of students and teachers forming behind her.
"Look!" someone shouted.
"What is it?" cried a Slytherin student.
The sunlight glinted off a canopy as a two seat jump jet rocketed past the castle again, then went ballistic.
Jean laughed and shook her head when she saw the jet climbing in a tight corkscrew, bleeding off speed as it rocketed skyward.
Harry topped out the jet around twenty thousand feet, then he pushed the nose of the small supersonic jet over and accelerated through the sound barrier again.
The crowd of students flinched when the thunderous sound hit them. It was much softer than the first one, coming from the much higher altitude.
Harry rocketed nearly straight down, pulling out with only a hundred feet to spare. The rumble of the passing pressure wave pressed on everyone, knocking some off their feet. He barrel rolled away from the castle, heading in the direction of the lake.
Hagrid stepped up to stand next to Jean. "He's showin' off again."
"Yeah, but flying is one of the things he really loves to do," she replied. "He feels free when he's up there."
The small jet flew over the lake, bleeding off speed before it looped back around and headed toward the castle. The sound of the engines altered as the jet slowed and Harry brought the craft from cruise to hover mode.
Jean listened to the students and laughed.
"What is it? Is it dangerous?" shouted one of the students.
"Get everyone inside! It's coming back!" shouted another.
"It's a jet! But that isn't possible. They can't work here," exclaimed Hermione, despite the obvious evidence before her.
Harry brought the small jet to a full hover twenty yards from the entrance to the castle, then he gently lowered it to the ground. He paused just before touching down and small hatches opened in the bottom of the craft as he extended the landing gear. He touched down and killed the engines, which continued to whine as they powered down.
The twin seat jet had been slightly modified by Harry. He had run across a book on World War Two aircraft and fell in love with the idea of nose art. The nose of his jet was painted with vibrant red and yellow flames, contrasting with the silvery sheen of the rest of the plane. Near the flames was the name 'Dragon Flight', with a fire breathing dragon wrapped around the words, wings extended.
As Jean and Hagrid walked forward, the canopy opened and Harry stood up. He was wearing his flight helmet and a black single piece flight suit. With the helmet on, no one knew who he was. He climbed down from the cockpit and pulled off his helmet, then grinned rakishly at Jean.
"Hello, mum. Miss me?" he asked.
Jean stepped forward and hugged him. "You're a cheeky one today, aren't you? Did you have a good flight?"
He nodded and held her tightly for a moment. Giving hugs was still new to him, but Jean was different. They both knew that she wasn't his real mother, but it didn't matter to either of them. "I just thought I'd give them an entrance to remember," he replied, then he pulled from her embrace.
"It's Harry!" someone shouted. A number of the girls in the crowd gasped. Harry had grown a few inches and filled out a lot. Logan had made sure that, after a summer of working out, Harry was a fit example of a human male and the effort wasn't lost on the girls of Hogwarts.
Several of the students surged forward, including Ron, Hermione and Ginny. The three stopped a few feet from him, looking hopeful. Harry glanced at them, then sniffed and turned away. He wasn't in a mood to deal with them now, and probably never would be.
Ron's expression darkened, while Hermione and Ginny looked crestfallen.
He turned to the jet and opened a side panel. He placed the helmet into the compartment and pressed a hidden button to close the canopy. Then he pulled his wand and gave it a negligent wave. The jet shrank down until it was only a few inches long. He reached down, picked it up and slid the jet into his pocket, then he turned to Hagrid.
"Hello, Hagrid. Everything all right?"
"Jus' fine, Harry. Mighty interestin' way o' comin' to school. Sirius would be proud."
Harry blinked and smiled up at his friend. "Yes, he would, wouldn't he? This is almost as good as his flying motorbike."
"Potter! What the devil was that contraption? What do you think you're doing, making that kind of noise?" snarled Snape. He had pushed his way through the crowd of students.
Harry glanced at Jean, who was watching the pair with a frown. He knew she didn't want him to start anything with the man, but he wasn't going to take his shit anymore.
"That, Professor, was a two seater supersonic jet aircraft powered by four GE F414-400 engines capable of producing twenty two thousand pounds of thrust per engine. It's capable of flying at Mach 2.1, has a maximum cruising range of seventeen hundred nautical miles and a ceiling of fifty eight thousand feet," Harry replied calmly, then he smiled and linked his arm with Jean. "Shall we do breakfast?"
Snape blinked at Harry in confusion, not understanding a word he'd just said.
Jean barely controlled her laughter. She nodded and pulled him towards the castle, leaving many of the students standing in shock.
Most of the students broke up a few minutes later, heading back into the castle. Three remained behind, feeling as though a part of their lives had been ripped away forever.
"Here now, why the long faces?" asked Hagrid.
"He hates us," Ginny said softly through her tears.
Hermione placed an arm around the younger girl's shoulders. As much as she wanted to deny Ginny's statement, she knew she couldn't. The look Harry had given her said it all, his expression echoing the hurt and anger he felt. She sighed and hugged Ginny harder as both girls sought comfort from each other.
Hagrid frowned. "Well, what did yeh expect? I suspect tha' he'll come around eventually, but yeh three hurt him bad. He trusted yeh, loved yeh like kin, an' yeh lied to him." He then pointed a huge, meaty finger at Ron. "Yeh know how much he hates seein' his name in the paper, an' yeh had to let tha' Skeeter woman know he's a mutant. I don' know where yer head is, Ron Weasley, but yeh might want to think about some o' the other infamous Gryffindors. Yeh don' want yer name to be remembered right up there with Pettigrew, do yeh?"
Ron stared at his feet. His conversation with Skeeter was the one act he regretted the most. Even more than losing Hermione as a possible girlfriend.
"I need to get down to the paddocks an' deal with a sick hippogriff, but I want yeh each to consider this. Harry feels like he's alone, Dumbledore's actions fer the last year were almost as bad as what Pettigrew did. Pettigrew betrayed his parents, which resulted in their death. Dumbledore ignored Harry an' tha' got Sirius killed. Ask yerselves if yeh want to be lumped in with those two. Dumbledore's a great man, but he's blind as a bat an' nearly as dumb when it comes to Harry."
With one last, hard look, Hagrid turned and walked away. He sincerely hoped they would come to their senses, but he wasn't too sure about them.
"He's right," Ginny said. "It's time we start thinking for ourselves. We knew that lying to Harry wouldn't go over well, but we blindly followed orders. We all knew that he wasn't being treated well at home, and we did nothing. I'm not doing that anymore."
Taking a deep breath, she straightened her shoulders and walked back into the castle with Hermione and Ron close behind her.
Dumbledore stepped from the shadows next to the castle, his face was wet with tears.
Muggle Studies Office, Hogwarts (September 2nd)...
The door opened and Ginny walked into the office. Jean turned and spotting Ginny, she moved to sit behind her desk. She knew exactly who Ginny was, now all she had to do was find out what she wanted.
"Yes, Miss Weasley?"
"I'm sorry to disturb you Professor, but I'm worried about this class. The rumor is you don't want to use the standard textbook," Ginny replied softly. "I might have problems getting the book you want us to use."
Jean frowned seeing the regular textbook Ginny was holding, it looked like she was the fiftieth student to use that book.
"I don't want to use the standard textbook because the book was woefully inadequate, Miss Weasley. I have a number of texts and magazines here which we'll use instead. But you didn't come here just because of a textbook did you?"
"No, ma'am," Ginny said in a whisper.
"Why don't you tell me what's on your mind then, Ginny. It is Ginny, correct?"
Ginny nodded and she looked down at her feet for a moment. Jean frowned and did a quick surface scan of her thoughts. She was surprised at how much the girl was hurting over the loss of Harry's friendship and more. She sucked in a breath when it dawned on her.
"You're in love with him and you never meant to hurt him," Jean said, surprised.
Ginny gasped and looked at her in surprise. "How?"
Jean shrugged. "I'm a telepath. Just a very brief surface scan showed me what the problem was."
Ginny nodded, but she really didn't understand the words, then she looked at her feet again. "I don't even know how to approach him anymore, Professor. He's not talking to Ron or Hermione, so I can't ask them. I know he'll never love me, especially now, but I owe him a life debt and I need my friend back in my life."
Jean leaned back in her chair. "I'm not sure what I can tell you Ginny and I certainly don't want to raise your hopes falsely. My son is not ready to forgive just yet. Besides, Harry thinks you're dating someone else."
Ginny looked at her perplexed. "I'm not dating any... Oh, Merlin! He believed me what I said to Ron on the train?"
"I don't know about that, but he thinks you're dating Mr. Thomas," Jean replied. "I take it that isn't the case?"
Ginny shook her head vehemently in denial. "No, I only said that to annoy my brother." Then something the Professor said sunk home. "Wait... Your son?" she gasped.
Jean smiled broadly. "Yes, my husband and I adopted Harry. He's going to keep his name, but I'm his Mum."
"If anyone deserves that kind of happiness, it's Harry," Ginny said softly.
Jean leaned forward on her desk and looked at the girl for a moment, then she made a decision. "Ginny, you need to understand that while what you and your friends did, in the grand scheme of things, was pretty minor. It came at a point in his life when he had just about given up. It was another straw on the back of a camel that had already broken.
"I won't give you any false hope, but Harry will come around. He's still working it out in his mind, separating things into little bits so he can understand what happened. Don't crowd him, give him time and let him work it out for himself.
"Finally, if you hope to share any part of his life, you need to understand that he is no longer just a wizard. You saw how he arrived at school today. He is embracing the fact that he is a mutant with a vengeance. When he graduates from this school he will most likely try to live a life that combines what he thinks are the best pieces of Muggle and wizarding life. It is a good thing that you are taking this class, but you'll need to study beyond what will be offered here if you want to really be a part of his life."
Ginny nodded thoughtfully. "I'll do my best, Professor. I want my friend back."
"I'll give you one final word of advice then, Ginny. Harry isn't like other boys. In some ways he's more mature and in others, he hasn't a clue what to do. If you intend to sit back and wait for him to say he likes you, you'll wait for a very long time. He's never really experienced any love that he can remember. When the time comes, the girl that wants him is going to have to take the lead and show him what love is, and what he can and can't do."
"That should give you something to think about. Now, off with you." Jean said with a smile.
Ginny smiled shyly back and left the office.
The Great Hall, (September 3rd)...
Harry sat at the empty end of the Gryffindor table. He hadn't spoken to any of his dorm mates since he arrived yesterday. In fact, other than speaking to his Mum and Hagrid, he had barely said ten words yesterday.
Now he sat, working on some physics problems that Professor Xavier had given him. His friends sat at the other end of the table looking at him wistfully. He ignored them, instead opting for the challenge of exploring the laws of thermodynamics.
"So. Potter, despite being a freak, you decided to return to Hogwarts anyway. One would have thought you'd learned your lesson after you got your dogfather killed, but I guess mutants aren't capable of learning," said a hated voice.
Jean, watching from the staff table, tensed, waiting for Harry's response.
She could feel Snape's smug attitude from his chair several places down and she suddenly realized, Snape was in charge of all the Death Eaters in the castle. Malfoy was just following orders.
Malfoy waited joyfully for Harry to explode in front of everyone. His comments were pitched to carry to every corner of the hall.
Harry's eyes narrowed for a moment, then he did something no one expected. He started to laugh.
Malfoy blinked in shocked surprise. No one laughed at him.
"Christ, Malfoy, you're pathetic. All these years I thought it was part of my job to keep you in your place, but I just realized you never left your place. You're a pureblood waste of space that someday soon will be fertilizer. I don't know why anyone is afraid of you. You couldn't spell your way out of an unlocked room. I've seen Muggles more frightening than you."
The hall fell silent as Harry continued to laugh. Finally, he waved a hand at Malfoy as if he were shooing him away. "Go away, Malfoy. You're not worth the effort. Tell your master to send someone with talent next time and stop pestering me with amateurs."
Several students at other tables started to laugh nervously and Malfoy looked around wildly. Snape glared at him as if trying to will him into some sort of action. Harry sat, his nose back in his book, scribbling in a notebook and occasionally tapping some numbers on a calculator.
Malfoy snarled and reached for his wand. In a blink, Harry was out of his seat and had Malfoy's arm in an iron grip.
Draco's eyes widened in fear. He never even saw Harry move. No one had.
"You haven't got what it takes to take me on, little boy," Harry hissed quietly enough that only Malfoy could hear. He pulled up his magic behind his eyes and they started to glow menacingly. "Fuck with me and I will make you vanish. This is the only warning you are going to get, Malfoy. Heed it, or die."
The hall watched as Harry held Malfoy by one hand. He whispered something in Malfoy's ear and the boy's already pale complexion turned white. Harry paused and then said something else. That was it for Malfoy, the final straw. He started to shiver violently and his bladder let go.
Harry backed away in disgust. "Go away, little snake. Go find some children to play with," Harry said in a low tone that carried throughout the hall. Several shivered hearing those words said so coldly by the golden boy of Gryffindor.
Harry turned and walked around the table taking his seat again. Malfoy whimpered, his eyes darted around. He could see everyone staring at him and whispering. He whimpered again and ran from the hall.
Harry packed up his books calmly, then he stood and started to walk out of the hall.
"POTTER!" shouted Snape, shoving back from the Head table and standing. "Detention with me tonight!"
Harry continued walking, but as he did he lifted one hand with the middle finger extended. Snape frowned as most of the half-bloods and Muggle born broke out in laughter.
"I'm canceling that detention, Professor," Professor McGonagall said. "I will remind you of what Professor Dumbledore said concerning Mr. Potter. In addition, he did nothing to warrant being punished. In fact, I think he showed admirable restraint. You can tell Mr. Malfoy that he has detention with Mr. Filch for the coming week, and he's lost fifty points for his house. Never have I seen more reprehensible behavior!"
Snape scowled, not use to having anyone override his punishments. Minerva, however, was the only person other than the Headmaster,who could do so. Wrapping his cloak around himself, he stormed from the hall.
Minerva leaned back in her chair and allowed herself a slight smile. Dumbledore had told the staff that under no circumstances were they to allow Snape to be alone with Harry Potter. Dumbledore didn't explain his reasons, but the staff accepted his edict without question.
"Thank you, Minerva. I know Harry well enough to know he would not have gone to that detention, which would have only caused further problems," Jean said softly.
"He cannot continue showing such disrespect, Jean. I know what Albus asked us to do but..."
She stopped when Jean placed a hand on hers. "Before you jump too harshly on Harry, ask the Headmaster to explain. Tell him I said it was alright for you to know."
Minerva looked at her uncertainly, then she nodded. She would speak with Dumbledore about this.
At the Gryffindor table three friends stared at Harry's retreating back and worried.
"What did that mean? That bit with the finger?" asked Ginny.
Hermione blushed. "It wasn't nice, Ginny. Let's leave it at that."
Ginny nodded doubtfully. She knew Hermione knew what it meant and didn't understand why she wasn't telling her.
"Did you see what he did to Malfoy? He scared him so bad he pissed himself!" Ron chortled.
"Ron!" Hermione and Ginny both said at the same time.
"I'm more interested in how he managed to get from the table to holding Malfoy's wrist so quickly," Hermione said softly.
"We know Harry is a mutant, but has anyone said what his power is?"
Hermione's eyes narrowed and she looked at the area where Harry encountered Malfoy. The mess had already been cleaned up by some house elves. She picked up her wand and walked over to that spot, casting several detection spells, but they didn't give her any clues. Frowning, she walked back to her spot.
"Nothing," she huffed.
"Well, what did you expect? If he used his mutant power, would any magic detection work on it?" Ginny asked.
Muggle Studies Class, First day of classes (September 4th)...
Jean waited patiently while her third year students filed into the class. This was her first class of the year, and these students were taking Muggle studies for the first time.
"Good morning, class. I'm Professor Jean Summers, your instructor for this class. I'm also an accredited Doctor, what you would call a healer."
Jean walked over to the board and started writing.
She stopped and turned to face her class. "Many of you wonder why Muggle Studies is taught at Hogwarts, a few of you may even think Muggles are beneath your notice. But for every wizard, there are roughly one thousand Muggles. Think about that for a moment. Now, think about this. You, with your wand, have the ability to kill one person at a time. The Muggles, on the other hand, have invented ways to kill people by the thousands. You can talk to someone on the other side of the country, the Muggles can talk to someone on the other side of the world. Your brooms can carry you several hundred meters in the air, the Muggles have machines that routinely travel thousands of meters higher and hundreds of kilometers per hour faster than your broom."
She walked over to a small television and video deck that Harry and Hank had fixed to work at Hogwarts and she popped a tape into the player. The class gasped when the screen flared to life and images started rolling across the screen. A crowded Manhattan street, a B52 bomber taking off, the space shuttle, a plane landing on an aircraft carrier, a shot of an audience watching star wars. She pressed a button killing the audio while the images continued to flash across the screen.
"In the past two hundred years, mankind has made advancements in science and technology that have brought us further than any advance made in the previous two thousand years. Man has walked on the moon," she said, then paused as the class giggled.
She smiled back at them. "You laugh, but he's walked on the moon, his machines have landed on Mars and explored the depths of the oceans. He's harnessed energies beyond your imagination."
Someone raised a hand and she nodded at the girl. "But Professor, my father says that we need to understand the Muggles only enough to keep them fooled about our world. If they are as numerous as you say, how can we do that?"
Jean leaned against her desk. "Miss Murphy, the only answer I can give you is, you can't do it for much longer. The wizarding world is going to split. On the one hand there will be people like yourselves, people who have some knowledge of the Muggle world and know that we can't hide for much longer. There will also be those who refuse to believe that the Muggles will find out about us. Those of you who are smart, will learn enough that you'll be able to function in their world.
"The Ministry would have me teach you that the Muggles are still using horse drawn carriages and gas lamps to light their homes. They would like you to believe that electricity is only a fad that fade away in a short time."
She stood and walked over to the combination Television/Video tape player and placed a hand on it. "There are two hundred and eighty million people in the United States, and more than five hundred million televisions. That's nearly two televisions per person, all powered by electricity. And that, boys and girls is no fad."
Jean walked back over to her desk. "Now in this class we'll explore some of the machines the Muggles use. There's no way we'll be able to look at everything, so instead we'll investigate the life of a mythical family living in a typical home. We'll look at the machines and knowledge needed to live in such a home and we'll read from a selection of books, magazines and catalogs which I have up here," she said pointing to a bookcase filled with books.
She walked back to her desk and opened up two small boxes. "Everyone come up here and pick up a notebook and a pen. If you were in a Muggle school you'd already have these items. For this class, I will not accept homework on parchment. You will be given Muggle paper and I expect you to use the pens to write with."
One by one the students came forward, taking the pen and small notebooks, some even seemed afraid of the objects.
Jean turned back to the blackboard and started to write, as she did, she said, "The first thing we will look at is power generation..."
Defense Against the Dark Arts Class...
Harry filed into the classroom and scanned the seats for a moment before picking one furthest from Ron and Hermione. Both looked at him wistfully for a moment before turning back to their books.
When the door closed and Dolores Umbridge stepped into the room, Harry's eyes widened. No one had told him she was still teaching this class! Frowning, he turned and reached into his bag, pulling out a small recorder.
Hermione glanced over at his desk and did a double take, spotting the recorder. She looked at Harry questioningly, but his face was expressionless. He sat with his recorder running and his text book open.
"Good morning, class," Umbridge said.
"Good morning, Professor Umbridge," mumbled several of the students.
"Now now, that wasn't good enough. Let's try it again," she said. "Good morning, class."
"Good morning, Professor Umbridge," replied most of the students. Harry remained silent.
"Excellent. This is NEWT level Defense Against the Dark Arts. Since so many of you did so well on your OWLs, the Ministry felt I should return this year. We shall continue the class the way we did last year, since that worked so well."
Harry scowled at the woman. She was talking about the students doing well because of the DA, not her teaching.
"Now, open your books to chapter one and begin reading," Umbridge said.
The class did as instructed and Harry shook his head. Reaching into his bag, he pulled out another book to read. He dropped his textbook back into his bag.
It took Umbridge thirty minutes before she realized that Harry was not reading the standard textbook.
"Mr. Potter! I thought I told you to read your textbook?" she asked in a sweet voice.
Harry looked up at her, his expression hard. He let a little of his magic slide up behind his eyes to give them an eerie green glow. "I've already read the text for this year, Professor," he replied calmly.
"Don't take that tone with me, Mr. Potter! I don't know how you managed to obtain the scores you did, especially when I failed you last year. Obviously you cheated on your exams to earn your fifth place rank."
Harry sat with his arms crossed and his expression stonily neutral, listening to her rant.
"You're not going to get away with things like you did last year, Mr. Potter. I want you reading your textbook. If you don't, I'll see you get expelled and your wand gets snapped!" Umbridge said smugly.
Harry smiled frostily at the woman, then he waved a hand. The book on his desk closed by itself, lifted and moved back into his book bag. His defense book lifted out of the bag and floated into Harry's hand.
The class gaped at the display of wandless magic and Umbridge took a step back.
"Wandless magic is impossible!" she sputtered fearfully. Then her eyes widened as she realized her threat of snapping his wand was empty. He had no need of a wand!
"Funny, they said the same thing about Voldemort's return. But there you have it," Harry said coldly, then he opened his book and pretended to read.
The class broke out in muffled laughter, causing Umbridge to glare at them.
The Great Hall...
Harry sat down at an empty end of the Gryffindor table. He was bored out of his wits. So far not a single class had presented him with any sort of challenge.
"You've finally stopped hiding."
He looked up to see Luna sitting down across the table from him.
"Hello to you, too, Luna. Now, what are you on about?"
"All these years you've been hiding, Harry. I knew it; I could see it. You pretended to be a poor student when you really weren't."
Harry frowned at the girl and she giggled. "Oh, don't be angry, Harry. I didn't tell anyone your secret. We all hide to some degree. You just did it better than most."
"What about you, Luna? Are you hiding also?" he asked, intrigued by the idea. It made sense in a way. With the Dursleys, he went out of his way to achieve mediocrity, but with Jean and Scott he wanted them to be proud of him so he did his absolute best. He thought about his OWLs and realized that he did as good as he did because he had come to understand that the Dursleys never cared what grades he got at Hogwarts.
"I don't need to hide," she replied with a sad smile. "Most people never see me anyway."
"That's not true," he protested. "I see you."
She leaned closer, smiling at him. "That's sweet of you, but look around. Everyone is buzzing about your wandless magic, but few of them see you as you really are. Hermione is pleased that you did as well as you did, but she's also worried that you may pass her by."
Harry's eyes narrowed. "Did they ask you to speak with me?"
She gave him a stern look and he immediately felt ashamed of himself. He knew Luna would not approach him just because someone asked her.
"You know me better than that," she replied softly.
He dropped his gaze. "I do and I'm sorry."
She smiled brightly at him. "Apology accepted. Now, do you want to know what Hermione's biggest worry is?"
Harry sighed and nodded. When Luna was this determined, there was no derailing her.
"She's worried that you won't need her anymore, academically or as a friend. It's tearing at her and she's terribly unhappy."
Harry sat back and scowled at her, crossing his arms.
Luna looked at his expression and smiled sadly. "I think she's not the only one that's hurting. Come talk to me when you work things out better. I don't like seeing you hurting like this," she said, then she stood and walked back to the Ravenclaw table.
Harry looked around and saw that Luna spoke the truth, as usual. A good many students were staring at him and whispering about his use of wandless magic today.
"Was that a wise move, Harry?"
He glanced back to see Jean standing behind him. She moved to sit next to him. "Was it necessary to show off like that?" she asked again.
He reached into his bag and handed her his recorder. "Listen to this tape. You'll find about thirty minutes of silence, then her threatening me because I read the text book already. Most of the sheep will think, wrongly mind you, that I just demonstrated my mutant ability."
Jean frowned at his sheep comment.
"Mum, she was threatening to snap my wand over nothing, I had to show her that she couldn't threaten me," he told her.
"I don't know. I mean, I know you didn't do it to show off, but still, everyone is talking about it," she replied.
Harry shrugged. "It can't be helped. Besides, I'm used to them talking about me. Mostly, I just ignore it. They'll believe whatever the latest rumor is anyway, no matter how hard you show them the truth."
She nodded slowly. She didn't like his attitude towards the others, but she could understand it. She stood and ruffled his hair fondly. "Do be careful," she said with a grin.
"Mummm," he whined and moved to fix his hair.
With a laugh, Jean walked up to the staff table.
At the other end of the table an entirely different conversation was going on.
"He wasn't in bed when I got up this morning," Ron said softly.
"Half the world wasn't in bed by the time you got up, Ron," Ginny grumbled. "I spoke to Neville, who got up at seven, and he said he wasn't there then either."
"One of the third years got up at five for a run to the loo. She said she saw him out the window, running around the pitch," Hermione said, then she added. "I still can't believe he achieved fifth place ranking. He had to have really good scores to get that."
"Highest score ever recorded in Defense," said a voice.
The trio looked up to see Luna standing there. Ginny motioned for the girl to sit.
"How do you know that? Scores are supposed to be confidential!" hissed Hermione.
"Oh, come on, Hermione," said Luna with a roll of her eyes. "I'm a Ravenclaw. When two of the top spots are taken by Gryffindors, we Ravenclaws do anything to find out exactly how well they did. Knowing the scores of your mates is part of the package when you're a Ravenclaw. So when you and Harry bumped two Ravenclaws out of the top ten, the entire house went to work trying to discover your scores."
Hermione leaned closer. "And?" she demanded.
"You did really well, but Harry beat your scores in Defense, Charms and, surprisingly, Potions. He received the Governor's award in Defense, while you took the award in Runes and Transfiguration. His other scores were quite good, but not record breaking," replied the blond.
Hermione leaned back, looking thoughtful.
Luna leaned in and looked around carefully to see who might be listening. "They expected you to push a Ravenclaw out of the top ten Hermione, but no one expected Harry to do it also. They really are quite upset by it all," she whispered.
Hermione looked annoyed and Ginny started to laugh at her expression.
"Fine," she snapped. "What about his wandless magic then?"
Luna glanced up the table and saw that Harry had already left for class. "You know, Hermione, for a bright girl you can be really stupid at times. The papers were full of news about Voldemort, Harry and that prophecy. Your friend has had to face him more times than anyone else. Can you really begrudge him any sort of advantage? He didn't sit down one day and say 'I think I'll develop a very rare talent just to annoy Hermione'."
Ron started laughing until Luna shot him a dark look. He gulped nervously and looked down at his plate.
"Keep still, Ron. I'm not ready to deal with you, but I will break you of your habit of speaking without thinking," Luna said softly.
"Lots of luck," muttered Ginny darkly.
Luna smiled at her. "Don't give up hope, Ginny," she said airily, then she stood up and went back to her table.
"That one is barking, I tell you," muttered Ron.
"Maybe, but she sees more than most," Ginny replied thoughtfully.
Dumbledore sat back on his chair and stroked the feathers of his familiar. "A most interesting day, my old friend. Young Harry locked horns with our Defense Professor and now she's afraid of him. And from what I can find out, all he did was levitate some books!"
Fawkes trilled and Dumbledore grinned. "Yes, I know, wandless magic. It is an amazing development. Ah... we have company."
Dumbledore turned to face the door and waited ten seconds.
"Come in, Severus," Dumbledore called from his desk. The old man tensed slightly. Now that he was aware of Snape's treachery it was hard for him to maintain a congenial facade.
Snape walked into the office and sat heavily in one of the chairs.
"I find a nice lemon drop is always comforting after a difficult day." Dumbledore asked, offering the dish of candies.
Snape just stared at him for a moment.
Putting the dish down Dumbledore looked at him. "So, how was your first day of classes?"
"I thought you said that Potter had achieved an outstanding in Potions?"
Dumbledore blinked. So, that is what this visit is all about, he thought.
"Yes, he did. In fact, he received the third highest score for last year. You should be proud of that. You taught him well," Dumbledore said with a smile.
Snape scowled darkly. He didn't want to do anything well with Potter, except to make him bleed.
"Then kindly inform Mr. Potter that he has detention with me tonight for skipping the first day of class," Snape said smugly, then he stood.
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Professor," Dumbledore said mildly. "Harry didn't skip your class. He is not taking potions at Hogwarts."
Snape whirled to stare at Dumbledore. "What do you mean?"
Dumbledore's expression darkened slightly. "I mean what I said. He is receiving outside tuition in the subject from an accredited Potions Mistress every Saturday. Therefore, he did not skip your class and the detention is unnecessary."
"And you allowed this?" he asked incredulously, pacing angrily.
"Indeed. His taking Potions with another teacher was a requirement of his returning to this school. Had I not allowed it, he would have enrolled in Beauxbatons. I'm afraid you didn't make a good impression on Harry's mother," Dumbledore replied.
"That woman!" he snarled. "She's got half my third years terrified, and the other half telling people that the wizarding world is doomed."
"Does she now? Well, she did say she was going to bring Muggle studies up to date with reality," Dumbledore replied with his eyes twinkling.
"Reality? She's lying to the students! She's telling tales of men on the moon and weapons that can kill millions!"
"She isn't lying, Severus."
Snape stopped his pacing and stared at him. "Eh?"
"I said, she isn't lying. The Muggles have sent men to the moon, and do have weapons that can kill millions. When it comes to war, the Muggles sadly out perform us at every turn. You'd do well to take a turn outside of your dungeon once in a while and see what the real world is like. We walk around thinking we're better than Muggles and in their ignorance they have surpassed every thing we have achieved."
Dumbledore smiled gently. "Now, unless there was something else, Professor, I will let you get back to your Potions. Don't worry about Mr. Potter. I'm sure he's being well taught."
Confused, Snape walked from the office wondering what, exactly, had just taken place.
"Come in, Mr. Potter," Professor McGonagall said from her desk.
Harry walked in warily and sat down. To his surprise, McGonagall stood and walked over to a tea service. She poured herself a cup of tea, and then handed Harry a chilled butterbeer.
"I suppose you're wondering why I asked you to stop by today?" she asked.
McGonagall sat down and leaned back in her chair. "Mr. Potter... Harry, I wanted to tell you how impressed I was with the tutoring you provided for your Aunt."
"My mother," Harry said flatly, his expression hardening.
McGonagall nodded. "I apologize, Harry. She is your mother and that is all that matters. Forgive me, it will take me some time to get used to the idea. Your mother... Lily, was a close friend of mine. She will always be your mother in my mind, but I'm getting off the point. Your tutoring, taking her part way into third year subjects, was well done and her excellent skills are a testimony to your teaching skill. I also commend you on your decision not to teach her Potions.
"Teaching is a rare talent, and it's even more rare to discover a teacher who knows his or her own limitations. You did exceptionally well in Potions on your OWLs, but still didn't feel comfortable teaching the subject. That was a smart move on your part. I would hope you consider teaching as a possible profession. The ability to pass information along and do it well is quite rare."
"Thank you, Professor."
"I also noticed in class today that you seemed to have no problem with the Transfiguration problem."
Harry smiled slightly. "America has no silly underage magic restriction, Professor. I managed to get plenty of practice in this past summer, plus my magic seems to work easier now."
"All your spellcraft is coming easier to you now?" Minerva asked, intrigued.
"Would you be willing to undergo a simple test, perhaps this weekend, Mr. Potter?"
Harry frowned. "I'm sorry, Professor, but I'll be out of the castle from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon."
Minerva sat up and stared at him. "What do you mean?"
"I'm surprised the Headmaster didn't inform you. I'm taking private Potions tutoring over the weekends instead of taking Snape's class."
Harry shook his head, then looked at her. "Professor, you can deduct all the points you want, you can issue detentions even, but I will not give that Death Eater any respect. The only thing Snape deserves is a Dementor's kiss and hopefully I'll be around to see it done. No matter how much you might wish it, not you, nor the old fool running this school can force me to give Snape one iota of respect," he said angrily, then he stood. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have homework for two different schools to complete."
McGonagall watched in astonishment as Harry stalked from her office. She frowned and walked over to her fireplace. Throwing some floo powder into the flames stepped. "Headmaster's office!" she shouted and vanished from the fireplace.
Dumbledore looked up and smiled when Minerva stepped out of his fireplace. It seems that Severus is not the only one upset this evening, he mused. I wonder what has ruffled her fur tonight?
"Good evening, Professor. This is an unexpected surprise," he said. "Lemon drop?"
"Why didn't you tell me that Harry Potter wasn't taking Potions with Severus? I know you said you were keeping them apart, but I didn't know it had gone that far."
Dumbledore leaned back and sighed heavily. "Sit down, Minerva, and tell me what has happened."
Minerva sat stiffly in one of his chairs, glaring at him. "I had Mr. Potter in to talk to him. I wanted to try to arrange for us to test his levels again. He informed me that he would not be spending a lot of time in the castle come the weekends because he was getting independent tutoring in Potions."
"When I tried to correct him about giving Severus the respect a Professor deserves, he nearly exploded. He said the only thing Snape deserved was the kiss and he hoped he'd be there to see it done, then he stormed out of my office. Really, Albus, I understand he's had a rough time and he's recovering from that, but we cannot allow him to show any form of disrespect towards the faculty."
"Minerva, it is important that we do not press Harry on this particular issue. I know it sets a bad precedent, but..."
"But nothing, Albus! You cannot allow this to continue."
Dumbledore sighed and then he picked up his wand and cast several powerful privacy charms.
Minerva arched an eyebrow at him.
"Last Christmas holiday when it became apparent that Harry, through no fault of his own, had a link to Voldemort, I thought I was right in my decision to push the boy away, to keep him at arms length. I ordered Severus teach the boy Occlumency in order to protect his mind. I was afraid that I would encounter Voldemort in Harry's mind during a session if I taught him myself. It never occurred to me that Severus would do anything but teach him."
"And we all know how well that turned out," Minerva said sarcastically. "He didn't learn it nearly well enough."
"That is because he was never taught Occlumency, Minerva. I trusted Severus to be man enough to push his hatred for Harry's father aside and teach him what he needed to know. Instead, he used his abilities to torture him, forcing him to relive his worst memories. Severus pulverized his natural defenses, opening him up for attack. Through my own arrogance, I allowed an innocent boy to get pushed to the very brink of insanity and I did nothing about it!" Dumbledore exclaimed, his hand slapping the desk hard. "I will use every means at my disposal to fight this war, Minerva, and yes, I knew the Dursleys would be difficult, but there is no way I would sanction Severus' mistreatment of Harry Potter. He was told to teach the boy, not abuse him."
He took a few calming breaths, then he looked at the shocked McGonagall. "The only reason why I even tell you this now is because you are trained in Occlumency. You understand the meaning of what I'm telling you, and why this cannot be told to anyone."
"Yes, Minerva, I know," he replied tiredly.
"But what... why are you keeping Snape here then?"
He shook his head sadly. "I can only say that it is important in our efforts to defeat Voldemort. But it's equally important that we make sure that Harry and Severus do not come into close contact. Now you understand why Harry hates him so much. He is recovering from that, and you know it is not an easy process. He has a lot of anger, much of it justified. I cannot stress this enough, Minerva; if you come across Harry when he is having problems controlling his emotions, send for his mother. Do not try to intervene yourself."
Minerva nodded unhappily. "I never did manage to arrange testing for him."
"I'll see if Filius can manage something in the next week or two. From what Mrs. Summers has told me, his powers have increased. She suggested that somehow they were tied to his other abilities."
"Has she said anything about his other abilities?"
Dumbledore frowned. "No, she hasn't, and other than his altercation with Mr. Malfoy, we have no real idea of what they are. I am reluctant to ask, but I also know his abilities could very well be the power needed to defeat Voldemort."
Minerva stood and glared at him angrily. He had once again managed to sidetrack her from the issues. "I don't like this problem with Snape, Albus. What he did to Mr. Potter is criminal. How many more students do you have to endanger before you realize that man is a menace?"
Minerva turned and exited his office using the floo.
Dumbledore bowed his head. "Too many more, old friend, but it's necessary," he said sadly.
Headmaster's office, (Friday, September 8th)...
Dumbledore rapped on his desk, calling everyone to attention. All of the teachers settled in their seats and faced the Headmaster. It was time for their weekly staff meeting.
"It's been an interesting first week. Ponoma, had you had any luck with your first year girls?" Dumbledore asked.
"No, Headmaster. At first I thought they were leaving the castle. It's not uncommon for a first year to attempt to run away if they've never been away from home before. Three years ago I had a boy try to run home again. These girls are just missing."
Dumbledore frowned. "I see. Filius, do you think you could give Professor Sprout a hand in attempting to locate her wayward Hufflepuffs?"
Flitwick nodded and made a note on a piece of parchment in front of him.
"Pardon me for saying so, Headmaster, but you don't seem overly concerned about these missing students," Jean said.
Dumbledore smiled benignly. "I'm not concerned, Professor, because I know the girls are in the castle and are in no danger. You see, everyone at Hogwarts, students and Professors, are linked to the castle. At any given point in time I can query the castle and find out if the person in question is all right. Had Hogwarts not reported that our missing students were in the castle and happy, I assure you, I would have Aurors searching the grounds even now."
Satisfied, Jean nodded and leaned back in her chair. Several of the teachers smiled at her, but a few frowned. Notably Snape, Trelawney and Umbridge.
"On another note, Professor Sprout, once again the Board of Governors has turned down your funding request for an additional green house, I'm sorry to say," Dumbledore said consolingly.
Sprout scowled and nodded at the Headmaster.
"Next Order of business. Madam Hooch, the Ministry has approved the plan to provide security during Quidditch matches, so you may contact the team captains and arrange for practice sessions."
Hooch nodded, then she looked up. "Gryffindor still hasn't picked a captain for this year."
"I want Potter as captain," McGonagall said loudly.
"Impossible! I banned him for life!" snapped Umbridge.
"You did what?" exclaimed Jean. She turned in her chair and eyed the toad like woman.
"That's right, I had him banned for life and you can't do anything about it. Bloody mutant shouldn't even be allowed in this school," Umbridge said with a sneer.
"What did he do to deserve such a punishment?" Jean asked through clenched teeth.
"He and one of those dreadful Weasley twins struck Draco Malfoy, a son of a noble and important man," Umbridge replied silkily. "He got what he deserved, the little sneak."
Snape sat in the corner smiling to himself.
"Well, lord knows we must cater to the sons of acknowledged Death Eaters," Jean said scathingly. "Not that it matters, Harry wasn't planning on playing anyway."
Both McGonagall and Umbridge frowned, but for different reasons.
"How dare you call someone as upstanding as Lucius Malfoy a Death Eater," Umbridge said angrily.
"Oh, please. The man was pardoned for being a Death Eater. All that means is that the government decided to ignore his crime. He should have been executed, but Fudge was nearly as corrupt as Malfoy is," Jean replied.
"What would you know?" Umbridge sneered in a haughty tone. "You're an unwelcome half breed like your bastard nephew."
Jean smiled at the woman. Several of the teachers were now openly laughing and Dumbledore was knocking on his desk trying to gain everyone's attention.
"At least I'm human," Jean said mildly. "What species were did your mother breed with? I'm guessing toad or maybe some kind of lizard."
McGonagall barked out a laugh and Umbridge stood. She pulled out her wand and stared at it unhappily. Before she could even point it at Jean, she noticed the wand had been snapped. The wand was broken near the midpoint and tilted at an angle, barely holding together.
It had been a trick that Harry had drilled into her. Using her telekinesis she could snap a wand pointed at her in a split second now.
"You must of sat on it. Someone of your size should be more careful where you put your wand, Professor," Jean offered. "Now please, stop interrupting the good Headmaster. He is trying to run a meeting."
Flitwick fell off his chair laughing while Jean turned back to Dumbledore. "I'm sorry, Headmaster. Please, do continue."
Dumbledore stared at Jean for a moment, then nodded. Umbridge glared at the red head who ignored her.
"Yes, well, I've reviewed the point activity for the past week and approved all outstanding detentions. Also, I would remind those of you on patrol duty to start checking the broom closets. I understand Miss Brocklehurst has started early. She was caught, along with Mr. Finch-Fletchly, in the astronomy tower in a rather shocking state of undress. So please be diligent. It's been more than twenty years since we've had a witch become pregnant under our watch. I'd rather not have to repeat that."
Several of the teachers snickered, while McGonagall's lips compressed into a thin line.
Dumbledore smiled at them. "Unless someone has some new business, I'll call this meeting to a close?"
"Professor? I would like to request the opportunity to take my classes into the field sometime during early October," Hagrid said.
Jean smiled knowingly. Like Harry, she had developed a soft spot for the large half giant. She made it a point to visit with him every few days and he delighted in showing her some of the more interesting creatures he collected for his classes.
Dumbledore turned to the large man. "A field trip? It must be quite a beast if you are willing to take the children to it."
Hagrid nodded fervently. "Oh, aye, it is, Professor. I can't tell you the location, but the owners have promised portkey access in order for me to show off an ancient North Sea Sea Dragon that is clutching."
Dumbledore's eyebrows nearly merged with his hairline. "An ancient Sea Dragon? How extraordinary! Make sure you get the necessary permission slips," he replied, then he paused. "Do you think the owners of the property would mind my visiting as well, Hagrid?"
"I'm sure Harry won't mind, Headmaster," Jean said with a grin. "But he does have a few security precautions for the visit that I'll discuss with you at a later date."
Hagrid smiled broadly and chuckled while Dumbledore blinked owlishly in surprise. Shaking the surprise off, he stood.
"If there is no further business, I'll let you all go, but I ask Professors Summers, McGonagall and Vector to remain behind for a moment."
Jean sat back down and considered using her abilities to find out what the old man had up his sleeve.
Dumbledore waited until the others had left before he turned to Jean. "Professor Vector brought to me an interesting tale which might interest you. Vivian, if you would please?"
Vivian Vector nodded and turned to Jean. "Yesterday I was walking around the fifth floor corridor, not far from the Charms classrooms when I came upon several Slytherin students roughing up a first year Hufflepuff. I stopped them from hurting the boy any further and issued them detentions."
Jean frowned. "And what does this have to do with me?"
Vector sighed. "The problem, Jean, is that barely twenty seconds earlier, I passed Harry walking the same corridor from the opposite direction. There was no way he could have missed the problem and he did nothing about it. Today the story was all over the school about how Harry Potter walked by some Slytherins beating up on a Hufflepuff and didn't do anything about it."
Jean leaned back in her chair and sighed. "Did someone make him a prefect without telling me?"
Vector looked shocked at the question. "No, he's not a prefect."
"Then tell me by what right should people expect Harry to be their defender? This is part of what I have been trying to tell you, Headmaster. Harry does not believe the wizarding world is worth saving. You did that to him and you continue to do it to him.
"Now Harry is being trained to defend himself, but he's also being taught to avoid a fight whenever possible, and not to fight unless it's absolutely necessary. Tell me, was the boy in danger of dying or severe injury?"
Jean shook her head. "No, there are no buts in this. Be thankful he didn't get involved. Harry's form of fighting is brutally efficient and very lethal," Jean said. "I am not going to yell at my son for avoiding a fight. And if you want him to fight for your world, you better start showing him that it's worth fighting for."
Dumbledore leaned forward in his chair. "What do you mean, Jean? Please explain."
Jean sighed. "You still don't see it. You expect him to leap to your defense and that isn't going to happen anymore. He is Harry, not some special weapon, not some creature of destiny. Tell me, Headmaster, did it occur to you that a letter from you to that rag, the Prophet, might have put an end to those hateful articles and opinions? Even if it didn't, it would have shown Harry that you actually cared about him. I can assure you, it occurred to Harry that such a letter would stop the cruel things being said about him.
"Both Harry and I have been forced to register as dark creatures because we're mutants. You're the head of the legislative body in this country. Tell me, have you even tried to put aside those insane restrictive laws? Doesn't it embarrass you to know that Britain is the only country in the world to consider mutants, and other humanoid species as animals, lower than humans? Believe me, it embarrasses Harry.
"The Americans are crowing because the famous Harry Potter has been granted political asylum and citizenship. They granted him protection from the oppressive British Ministry. The American Department of Magic is wooing Harry in the hopes that he will live in America when he leaves school. Politically, it would be a feather in their cap and a snub to the British. Harry doesn't want to give up his citizenship, but he is ashamed of his country and he knows that the other countries won't put up with Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
"What have you done to improve security for this school? Everyone says Hogwarts is the safest place in Britain and we all know that, for Harry, that's a complete and utter lie. And I'm sure Cedric Diggory's parents would agree with me. Harry's in almost as much danger here as he was with my abusive sister. The only difference is that, now, he can and will fight back if provoked.
"He's making plans already for post Hogwarts. He wants to attend a Muggle university in America. He's already thinking about relocating all of his Gringotts accounts to the States and liquidating his British holdings. Think about that. The Potter and Black fortunes moved overseas and their holdings in Britain liquidated. Harry doesn't know it, but the move will push your stagnant economy into a collapse. Ragnok told me that himself, Gringotts is already taking steps to secure their position, should Harry move his holdings overseas.
"This week has been especially hard on him. He's very lonely and he feels the isolation most keenly. He'd like to make up with some of his friends, but he doesn't know how!"
Jean leaned back in her chair and let out an explosive breath. "He is turning into a fine young man, one which my sister and her husband would have been inordinately proud of. I know Scott and I are. But in some ways, especially in those involving other people, he's emotionally stunted. Petunia and her family went out of their way to show Harry as much hatred and anger as possible. Those two emotions he is an expert at."
Jean paused and glanced at Vector. "He's lost and groping for a path. You keep shoving him in a direction he refuses to go in. And he won't go in that direction until he believes in it."
She stopped talking to listen, through the open window she could hear the building whine of jet engines. Harry was heading back to Blackmoor Castle for his Potion lessons. He could have taken his portkey, but he preferred the time in his jet. It was one of the few times he had to himself.
She stood and walked to the door. Before opening it, she paused and turned. "Consider it carefully, Headmaster. Harry won't wait forever. Every time you hear that sound, a little piece of Harry Potter, the wizard, dies," she said softly, then she turned and walked out of the office.
Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, unhappy with what he had been told. He looked out the window and saw Harry's jet receding in the distance at high speed. He was shocked at how fast it was.
"Thank you, Vivian, Minerva. That will be all for now," he said, dismissing them.
The two women left the office and Dumbledore stared out the window long after the aircraft lights had vanished in the distance.
Hogwarts Library (Sunday, September 10th)...
It was the clicking sound that first impinged on her consciousness. She was trying to write an essay on the uses of boomslang skin in skull bleaching potions and the clicking kept interfering with her concentration. Following the sound back to the source she walked into a rarely used corner of the library. There, sitting at a table next to a window was Harry Potter. The clicking sound had a surprising source, although in retrospect she shouldn't have been surprised. Harry was typing, poorly, on a small notebook computer.
Seeing Harry alone, Hermione decided it was time to confront him and get this out in the open.
"Harry?" she said quietly.
Harry paused his typing and bowed his head. "What?" he said tensely.
She took a few steps closer. "I was hoping I could talk to you?" she asked in a hopeful tone. "I don't have many people to talk to anymore."
Harry looked up at her for a moment then back down at his work. "I don't know Hermione. Too much has changed. The Harry you knew doesn't exist anymore."
Hermione choked back a sob. "Please?"
Harry sighed and tapped a few keys on the keyboard before closing the lid, then he gestured towards an empty chair.
"I heard about that Hufflepuff," she said, sitting. She was groping for a topic that would be fairly neutral. Sadly this topic wasn't neutral.
"Hermione, it's not my job to save the world. So some Slytherins were roughing up a Hufflepuff, it's not like they were going to kill him. You once complained to me about my 'people saving thing', and that isn't the reason why you're here now," he replied flatly.
She glanced at him, his expression was a blank mask. For the first time Hermione truly didn't know what Harry was thinking and that bothered her more than anything else.
"You've grown hard."
Harry glared at her. "Yeah, well, being sent back to an abusive home every year will do that to a person," he replied angrily, then he stood. "Look, I'm not about to sit here listening to you rattle off complaints about what I've become. If people don't like what I've become, then they need to change what they are doing because I became what people made me."
Hermione lunged in her chair, grabbing his hand. "Please, I'm sorry... I really wanted to talk to you."
"You have a funny way of showing it. First you complain that I don't save some first year and then you call me hard? Might I remind you that you asked to talk to me, not the other way around. At this point, I think I could live quite happily without you in my life."
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
Harry reluctantly sat back down and crossed his arms in front of him. "Talk then. Don't insult, don't complain. Talk."
Hermione nodded several times, then she looked down at her hands clasped in front of her on the library table. "When Professor McGonagall asked my parents if I wouldn't mind extra classes over the summer, I admit I was surprised to find that I was supposed to keep that a secret from you."
Harry frowned and leaned back in his chair.
"I wasn't happy with the requirement, Harry, but Professor Dumbledore thought you would take it bad if you discovered that Ron, Ginny and myself were getting extra training and you weren't."
Harry snorted. "I didn't take your training nearly as bad your lying to me. How do you think that made me feel, Hermione? That you would be willing to cheapen our friendship because some old egotistical bastard told you to? He's turned you into a follower. Did you even question his decision?"
She shook her head and several tears rolled down her cheeks. "I didn't and I know I should have. I'm sorry, I hurt my best friend."
Harry leaned forward and took off his glasses, then he wiped his face tiredly and chuckled softly. "Mum and Professor Xavier have been making me examine why my friends did what they did. And how I feel about it. You need to understand how far I had fallen, Hermione. When I got home I could have gleefully killed the Dursleys or myself. It didn't matter in my book."
Harry spoke in a whisper, refusing to meet her eyes. "All my life I have been a tool for people to use. A pawn, a puppet, something to be trotted out to do a task. Clean the house, mow the lawn, let Dudley and his friends beat me, don't dare complain about being hungry. Save the stone, save Ginny, save the school, save the prophecy... Gee, thanks for the effort, now go back to live with people that feed you three times a week if you're lucky and beat you when they feel like it. We'll come back for you in a couple months and let you escape those Muggles. We'll let you attend school where people can fear you and hate you and the government will call you insane and dangerous."
"Every so often you get trotted over to the Weasleys where, for a few blissful weeks, you get to see what has been forever denied you; a family, people who love unconditionally. Then you lose the one chance you had a family of your own, and that manipulative bastard tells you to be a good boy and go back to the Dursleys again. Oh, and did I forget to tell you, Harry, that you really are the savior of the wizarding world? Only you can kill Voldemort.
"Well, the wizarding world can go burn in hell. If they're willing to allow a child to be treated like I was, they don't deserve to be saved. Let Voldemort have them."
Hermione shivered listening to Harry, his voice was so cold and flat. He glanced up at her and she could see the pain in his gaze. It nearly killed her knowing she helped put it there. His words and emotions were so shocking to her that she never even registered his cursing.
"The really ironic thing," Harry said bitterly, "is that I learned that it came down to me and Voldemort less than a hour after Sirius died. And that old fucker had the balls to say that my ability to love is what will destroy Voldemort. What a pile of dung! What do I know about love? I still flinch when my own Mum hugs me. Love is a cruel myth, Hermione; it doesn't exist. If that's the power he knows not, then the wizarding world is truly fucked because their Chief Mugwump arranged for me to never experience it."
Harry stared at her, his gaze piercing her, pinning her to the chair.
"What you, Ron and Ginny did was pretty minor. Had it come at any other time, I'd probably be a bit annoyed at you and I'd yell and scream for a bit before telling you not to do it again. It caught me at a time when everything was piling up to a breaking point.
"I read your letters, already knowing that my friends were being trained and they all told the same lie. It made me feel like someone had placed a stone on my chest, crushing me," Harry gestured, making a crushing gesture with his fist. "The pain was real, Hermione, as real as any cut you've had, or ache after being cursed. At that moment I knew I was totally alone, I wasn't Harry. I was just a tool of Dumbledore's prophecy."
Harry lowered his gaze, staring down at the table, his voice dropped to a whisper.
"Things simply cannot go back to the way they were. Too much has changed and I don't know if I will ever be able to forgive Ron for talking to Skeeter. He's betrayed me twice now and I'm not willing to give him another chance to hurt me."
Hope surged in her chest.
"And Ginny and myself?" she asked hopefully.
He sighed and looked at her again. "Do you know how much what you did hurt?" he asked plaintively.
Hermione nodded, her expression anguished. "I'll give you my oath not to do it again," she whispered.
Harry nodded his head. "Your word has always been good enough for me, Hermione. Just don't do it again. I don't think I could handle it happening again."
Hermione lunged out of chair, grabbing Harry in a hug and sobbing against his shoulder. He held her stiffly, awkwardly patting her back.
After several minutes she pulled herself together. Harry wandlessly conjured a handkerchief, causing Hermione's eyebrows to nearly merge with her hairline.
He handed it to her with a sheepish expression. "Just a little trick I picked up," he said quietly, as if it were totally ordinary.
Hermione gave him a look he recognized very well and he couldn't help but smile. "Yes, Hermione, I'll tell you about it. I'll even loan you the book I used, but don't expect much. I got the impression that the author expected it to be a lot harder than I found it."
She returned his smile, then her expression turned serious again. "Actually, Harry, there is something I would like to ask of you," she said timidly.
Harry eyed her warily. "Yes?" he replied, wondering what she could possibly want, especially so soon after making up.
"Do you think I could use your mobile phone to call my parents once in a while? I spent most of the summer away from them and didn't get to spend much time with them."
Harry started laughing softly.
She pushed his shoulder. "Don't laugh! You could earn a fortune selling electronics that works around magic! And that jet! Where did you get it?"
"Why, do you want a ride in it?" he asked grinning broadly.
She frowned at him uncertainly. He wasn't serious, was he? she asked herself. He's not a professional pilot, but this is a jet and not a silly broom, and he did fly it rather well.
"Er, perhaps another time, Harry," she replied weakly.
Harry's expression fell slightly, then he brightened again. "Right, well to answer your other questions, the electronics are shielded, then powered by batteries that I've enchanted to never run out. Even my jet is shielded. A friend and I developed a carbon polymer shielding that we could spray the electronics with. Well, to be honest, he developed it, I just provided the magic to test against it."
"I'd like to talk about this more, but you realize that you need to speak with Ginny?"
Harry scowled and rubbed his temples slowly, trying to ease the building headache this conversation was causing. Ginny was another topic that seriously troubled him.
Hermione reached across the table and clasped his hand in hers. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be pressuring you."
"I'll talk to her, or you can tell her I won't bite her head off if she wants to talk to me. I'm just not sure I can relate to her anymore. The same goes for nearly every pureblood in this school."
Hermione looked perplexed by his remarks. "What do you mean?"
Harry reached into his pocket and withdrew a small device, he placed it on the table. "What is this?"
"It's a calculator," she answered promptly.
"Right, would Ginny know that? Or Ron or Neville?"
"No," she admitted reluctantly.
"I'm working on my homework for my other classes, the ones I'm not taking here. Would Professor McGonagall know about natural selection and the theory of evolution?"
"No, she wouldn't. None of them would. But they don't need to know those things, do they?"
"Look around you, Hermione. Their world is doomed. If Voldemort doesn't destroy it, the Muggles will. It's inevitable."
"Their world? You sound like you're not a wizard, Harry," she replied disapprovingly.
Harry shrugged. "I'm a mutant, according to the Ministry mouthpiece, a dangerous dark creature. I'm tolerated, like Hagrid or Remus, but that's all. When I'm done at Hogwarts, I intend to attend a real university and live among the Muggles. I don't want to be part of this society when it collapses and if you're as smart as I think you are, you won't stick around either."
"You are not a dark creature, Harry Potter!" she snapped.
He could only shrug in reply. The simple fact was, no matter her opinion, Wizarding Society believed otherwise.
The two were silent for a long while, then Hermione spoke again. "She loves you, you know. Not the Boy-Who-Lived. You. She knows you'll probably never love her the way she wants you to, but she'll happily accept being your friend."
Harry shook his head. "It's too soon, besides, can you imagine little Ginny Weasley living among the Muggles?" he asked with a slightly bitter laugh.
Hermione leaned forward. "She would for you, Harry," she replied hotly. "As long as you didn't take away all her magic, she'd live just about anywhere with you. Just because you live with Muggles doesn't mean you need to renounce all your magic, you know."
Harry glared at her. "I said I'll talk to her. That's the only promise I'm willing to make at this point, Hermione. And for your information, just because I'll live among the Muggles doesn't mean I intend to act like one, or live like one. Muggles are little better than Wizards in my book."
He stood and placed his books and his computer in a space charmed book bag. "Listen, we can argue about this all day and the only purpose it will serve is to make us mad at each other again. We just made up and the wounds are still too fresh to start another fight. If we do, there'll be no turning back."
Hermione slumped back in her chair and nodded. "Can I at least sit with you during meals?" she asked.
He smiled weakly and nodded, then turned and walked out of the library, leaving a very worried Hermione behind. He had changed over the past summer, becoming harder, more cynical and disillusioned with the world. It wasn't a change for the better.
Gryffindor Girls Dorm, later that same night...
Ginny looked up from her homework. She sat cross legged on her bed. "Hi Hermione, what brings you down to the fifth year dorm?"
Hermione smiled and peeled off her robe before climbing onto Ginny's bed, then she cast a privacy charm.
"I spoke to Harry today... He seems changed, a lot," Hermione replied.
"Can you honestly blame him? Considering what the summer was like for him, I'm not surprised he's changed," Ginny replied, then she looked at her friend anxiously. "Did he say anything about me?"
"He said he won't bite your head off if you talk to him, but he also thinks that too much has changed... He's stopped thinking of himself as a wizard."
Ginny looked down at her hands which were nervously twisting her blanket. "He's going to push us away, isn't he?"
"Only if we let him. But I'd approach him carefully, if I were you. He's not very fond of your brother at the moment and from what he said, I sort of doubt he'll be forgiving him anytime soon."
Ginny's expression fell, then she nodded. "I knew I should have killed him when I had the chance," the girl muttered angrily.
For once, Hermione had nothing to say.
Bob's Special Note:
Recently I've posted a number of short stories while I work to get back into the groove of writing. A lot of people have made comments about wanting to see more of this story. I haven't abandoned it, but I will admit that I have lost a fair amount of interest in it.
The reason for that is simple. Voldemort.
Harry Potter and Dumbledore's Army
Harry Potter and the Spiritus Crystalis
Sunset Over Britain
Sunrise Over Britain
All of those stories have dealt with the issue of Voldemort. In fact I have a number of very large plot bunnies that will never see the light of day because of Voldemort. Frankly it's become rather old and hard to come up with new and interesting ways of killing off the bugger.
Other story lines, aka Wizards Fall, are more interesting to me as a writer because they aren't constrained by the mighty dark lord. The marriage law fic was another example of a post Voldemort world in which I had a greater freedom to play.
Mutant Storm is not abandoned. But it will probably go in directions that few will anticipate solely because I'm tired of dealing with Voldemort. The update schedule will be sporadic, but hey, it's not like you can demand a refund eh?
This story has been marked as suitable for adult readers only.