This Time Around
As someone who's done a few different stories set in variant Harry Potter
universes, I like to cross-pollinate a bit just for the fun of it sometimes. And so yes, the reference to the hand-holding Carrow sisters is a nod to Flora and Hestia from Holly, Phoenix, Diamond, Elm
. Oh, I'd like to thank the folks over at Dark Lord Potter right now. Because they hate me and feel a need to create threads expressly to bash me as a person, under the guise of 'reviewing' any Harry Potter
story I post, I've now got my fic scattered over about a dozen different sites that dredge DLP's forums to populate themselves, and my reviews and hits have literally doubled. So… thanks for being unable to let nonexistent slights from the past go, I suppose?
The first week of classes was fun, reminding Harry of the simple joy of magic back in his first year at Hogwarts. Mostly because… well, it was his first year. Again. As best he could tell - he hadn't wandered off in search of the third year and above elective teachers - all the same professors were here and acted the same. Well, Flitwick hadn't fallen off his stack of books in excitement the first time he called 'Harry Potter' in Charms… but he had done it a few seconds earlier for 'Neville Longbottom', which was close enough in Harry's book.
He'd been looking forward to a chance to finally one-up Hermione - which wasn't really fair, considering he had seven years of very advanced training on her - but found himself denied both in that class and Transfiguration, where she and Su had quickly paired off. Dean and Megan had done likewise, drawn together as friends by their shared muggle upbringing. That left him with Daphne, one of the Gaelic Girls, Anne, Neville, or the Boy-Who-Lived's lapdog, who also answered to the name Larry. Like Neville or Larry, the answer was a no brainer.
This time with a friend of equivalent intellect by her side, Hermione raced through the first lesson even more quickly than the first time, she and Su egging each other on in a competition to be the first with a properly transfigured matchstick. Under other circumstances, they would have come in first and second, earning Gryffindor ten points a piece for their work. Unfortunately for the two girls, they were competing against someone who had mastered the lesson seven years ago. With a haphazard flick of his wand, Harry turned his matchstick into a needle, earning him ten points and a comment about his father's prowess in the discipline.
Daphne was the only member of their quartet to struggle with the assignment and after watching her fail for the fifth time, Harry reached out and put his hand over hers. After seeing her blast Neville the night before, he knew she had power and control to manage something this simple. Even if she was unfamiliar with the spell in question - and he doubted whoever had tutored her before Hogwarts had skipped over transfiguration basics entirely - it still should have been no problem for her… assuming she was approaching it the right way. Rather than lecture her, though, the way Hermione was prone to when she knew something that someone else didn't, Harry asked her a simple question. "How did you manage a stunner so easily last night, Daphne?"
"Easy, I just focused on the idea of stunning Lardbottom for that look he gave me, harnessed the power, and funneled it through my wand to keep it from being wild magic. Come on, Harry, you're from a magical household. You should know something that sim…" Daphne abruptly trailed off and looked from Harry to the matchstick and back. Harry just smirked and raised an eyebrow. Turning her attention to her matchstick, Daphne waved her wand and said the incantation on the board, the slim shaft of wood warping and shifting into a perfect sewing needle. "Well I'll be. Thanks, Harry."
As much as he tried to be surprised, Harry couldn't even manage to fake it when neither Larry nor Neville managed to finish the assignment by the end of class. Each received a hefty homework assignment for their trouble, one he'd done himself the first time around. Heh. That'd keep them down in the library and away from him for a while. Victory was his… even though he really hadn't done anything.
In Charms, Su and Hermione again paired off to compete against each other, leaving Daphne and Harry together. Neither minded too terribly much, though, and after Harry once again stymied the dynamic duo's quest to be the first to perform the class's assignment - in this case, levitating a feather - he started tickling Daphne with his flying feather. Faster than she'd managed in Transfiguration, Daphne mastered the spell and almost poked his eye out as she whipped her feather shaft-first at him, a rather familiar smirk on her face as she let it drift away before dive-bombing him again.
Batting at the feather until he managed to pin it to the desk, Harry waited for Daphne to release her spell before relaxing and leaning in, nodding towards where Su and Hermione appeared to be having a dueling banjos moment going, the muggleborn repeatedly trying to outdo her Asian companion, only to have Su perfectly mimic her feather's movements each time. Somehow, her hair had survived a visit to the sixth and seventh year female prefects and she'd taken Su's advice that day, braiding the red sections and ending each with a gold bead. He found it rather fetching on her, or at least as fetching as he could find an eleven-year-old girl without feeling like a pedophile. "So, how long do you think it'll be before she goes to a professor to get her hair fixed?"
"Not sure. The question is, do you want to let it last that long?" Daphne's eyes flicked from Harry to Hermione and back. "If she does go to a professor, she might ask them to do more than fix it. Maybe, I don't know, see if they can figure out whose magic it is on her in the first place? And she may be new to magic, but she's a mean one. She'd probably start learning some nasty little spells just to get her revenge." Hmm. She had a point there. "You should have heard her swearing while she fussed with her hair this morning. Some of the things that come out of that girl's mouth… I've never heard such creative yet disturbing examples of profanity in my life. She's even worse than my father was that time he found out my mother had spent a quarter of the family's budgeted galleons for the year on new shoes."
Hmm. If this version of Daphne's family was equally as rich as the version from his universe… that was a whole lot of shoes. Harry looked down at his feet. He only had two of them: one left and one right. What did someone need that many shoes for?
Given that he'd never liked his fame, Harry had found the following day particularly amusing. So many others, Ron among them, had wanted to be him in his old world and so it was fun to step back and watch as someone else experienced what he lived with… even if it was just an evil dungeon-dwelling bat.
"Ah yes. Neville Longbottom. Our new… celebrity." Snape went through roll call before his dark eyes rose from the parchment, sweeping back over the class slowly. "You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion making. As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses… I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even stopper death… if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."
There were snickers from the Slytherins, although Harry couldn't call either side of the room the 'Slytherin side'. Tara had decided to take Su's advice and pair with Harry, on the condition that the decently capable Su pair with the dismal Pansy to ensure her housemate didn't do too badly. That left Hermione and Daphne together, the rest of the Gryffindors and Slytherins scattered around the clump of interhouse cooperation in the middle of the room. Snape sneered as he looked back and forth between his goddaughter and the son of his school nemesis before whirling and turning his attention to… "Longbottom! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
"I don't know, sir."
Sneer firmly in place, Snape clucked his tongue. "Tut tut, Longbottom. Fame clearly isn't everything. Let's try again, shall we? Longbottom, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"
Neville, looking as clueless as usual, gave a helpless shrug. "I don't know, sir."
"Decided not to open a book before coming to my class, eh, Longbottom?" Harry smirked; he, Hermione, Su, and Daphne had taken over a corner of the common room the night before with their copies of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi
and Magical Drafts and Potions
. Oddly enough, Hermione had barely touched either before that point, not finding magical horticulture or the brewing of potions to be particularly fascinating subjects, but all four were now passably informed in case Snape turned his attention their way. "What is the difference, Longbottom, between monkshood and wolfsbane?"
Neville sighed. "I don't know." Then the unfairness of his situation finally seemed to occur to him, and he glared at Snape. "Why are you picking on me? I bet nobody else in here could answer those questions either!"
After pondering his request for a moment, Snape grinned evilly at Neville. "Five points from Gryffindor for your insubordination, Longbottom, and another five for coming to class unprepared. But… very well. Let's see if one of your housemates can lose you even more points. Potter!" Harry looked up from the notes he'd been jotting down; he'd been expecting Snape to launch into a tirade ending with him demanding the answers he'd just given them be written down and had decided to get a head start. But if the Death Eater wanted to play… "Asphodel and wormwood. What happens when I combine them?"
Harry just smirked back at the potion master. Well, he had gotten permission from Lily, after all. He had the mother of all pranks in mind… he just had to get Snape in there too. "I'm going to go out on a limb and say… some sort of potion. Right?"
"Amusing. Asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of Living Death, Potter." Drawing closer, Snape loomed over Harry and Tara, staring down with malicious black eyes. "Perhaps you can tell me where a bezoar comes from, then, since you lack knowledge of basic potions?"
Pondering that for a moment, Harry shrugged and just kept smirking. "An apothecary?"
Titters of laughter greeted his flippant answer, at least until Snape looked up and his glare cowed the class. "Technically correct… once they have been harvested from the stomach of a goat. They can save you from most poisons, which is what makes them relevant in my domain. Neither potions nor the requisite equipment seems to be your forte… perhaps ingredients? Monkshood and wolfsbane. What's the difference, Potter?"
"Oh, I know this one. They're the same. It's also called aconite. According to my mother, if you dice it up really finely, it's a great way to add a little flavor to your tea. Potion masters in particular seem to enjoy it." Harry narrowed his eyes as he met Snape's gaze, wondering how far he'd have to push the man verbally to get him to lash out with legilimency. "Particularly Aconitum ferox
." Oh yes, he would love to give this man another dose of Aconitum ferox
if he could manage to get away with it. Nothing beat a nice mug of elf-made hot cocoa, some biscuits, and watching your childhood tormentor vomit and then asphyxiate as his respiratory system failed…
The look on Snape's face made it very clear to Harry that the man knew exactly what he was implying, and given that he'd attributed the comment to his mother, it made him even more curious about how far things had fallen between the two former friends in this universe. Then the professor's eyes drifted down to Harry's book, widening as he took in the scribbles that filled the margins, all written in a looping script far too feminine to be his. "Mister Potter… would you care to tell me why your book has been defaced before your first class period?"
Harry looked down at his book and then smiled as his gaze met Snape's. If this didn't push him over the edge, nothing would. "They're my mum's. We had enough money for new ones, but I decided to bring hers with me instead. Now that I think about it, the whole thing makes me feel a bit like royalty. Knowledge is power and I'm inheriting power from my parents… it's almost like being a Prince, wouldn't you say?" Harry gave the professor a cheeky little wink, pushing the man over the edge and sending Snape crashing into his occlumency shields with the subtlety of a wounded dragon. Harry's grin widened. Showtime.
Mentally begging forgiveness from all the deities he could think of, Harry began to work quickly, pulling memories together to craft a fake image in his mind. The centerpiece was taken from one of his wilder sexual escapades with Luna: a ménage à trois with the Daphne of his world. It had come after a particularly rough battle and more drinking than was probably advisable, but thankfully they'd been able to laugh it off in the morning and remain friends without things being too awkward… although he was pretty sure he'd caught Luna staring at Daphne's chest once or twice in the days that followed when she thought nobody was looking.
Carefully selecting a portion where he was taking Luna from behind as the blonde buried her head between Daphne's legs and the Slytherin leaned her head back as she moaned loudly - which meant less work for him since there were no faces to change - Harry got to work altering the necessary visible details. A few times that summer Lily had bundled the family into the van and taken them the fifteen minutes south to the local beach, making it quite easy for Harry to twist Luna into Lily in his mind, substituting in his mother's hair color, current length and style, and adding the few birthmarks he'd seen when his mother wore a swimsuit to Luna's flawless skin. Daphne took a bit longer to work over and was based more on assumption than fact, but soon enough Harry had her looking like Narcissa… or hopefully close enough to Narcissa to fool Snape.
Somewhere between amused and utterly disturbed and repulsed by what he'd done, Harry pushed the image forward into a buffer zone and then let his shields flutter as Snape probed a nearby section. Taking the bait, Snape slammed all his strength into probing the 'weakened' area and after a moment, Harry let the outer layer of shielding fall to expose the fabricated memory. After a moment of hesitation, possibly suspecting a trap, Snape latched on… and then abruptly turned almost as green as his house's colors in the real world as he was treated to the incestuous - plus one - tableau. The connection broke abruptly as Snape stumbled back, wrenching his head to the side. "Fifty points from Gryffindor. The potion is on the board. Get to work." Protests broke out from both sides, the Slytherins unhappy with the lack of actual instruction and the Gryffindors complaining about both that and the point removal. "Now! Or I'll have you all serving a week's detentions with Filch!"
Harry smirked as he and Tara got to work. Game. Set. Match.
"It's been three days and he still won't stop glaring at you. Do I want to know what you did to my godfather back on the first day of Potions, Harry?"
"I don't know… you saw what it did to him. Do you want to know?" After thinking about that for a few, Tara shook her head and Harry chuckled before gesturing to the seat beside him. "Didn't think so. Anyways, what can I do for you? I know I said you can join my friends and I whenever you want but if you do it too much, Snape and the other Slytherins might start causing problems for you. Not to mention Draco."
Tara just waved her hand dismissively, circling around the library table and taking the seat beside Harry. "My mother knows most of the other Slytherins' mothers, and so if they really are stupid enough to start problems because I want to spend time with family, I'm sure they'll end up with a nasty letter from home about it. Draco… let me worry about Draco." There were two muffled thuds and then Harry looked down as something came to rest on his lap. A foot. Harry looked from it to Tara's face, raising an eyebrow, and she scoffed at him before nudging his thigh with her other foot. "Well, go on then."
As her other green and silver striped foot came to rest on his lap, Harry set down his quill. "You know, I never should have let you listen in when I talked to your mother about how much Luna loved my foot massages. Besides, you have it easy compared to the rest of us. If anyone has a right to complain about hurting feet, it's Hermione, Su, Daphne, or Tracey. Or me. We're the ones with dorms on the seventh floor."
"You do remember I'm a Malfoy, right? I don't walk places, I send Dobby there to get things for me. Any walking is too much walking in my book. I've been walking. It makes my feet hurt. Rub them." Tara's spoiled words made Harry roll his eyes but he reached down and began rubbing the sole of her foot. Mostly because he knew arguing was futile and the sooner she was satisfied, the sooner she'd leave him alone. Homework naturally came easily to him but it was still time consuming and the sooner he got his work finished, the more free time he'd have left that weekend. "Ahh. Much better."
As he slowly moved down from the ball of her foot to the arch, Harry shook his head. "If you think this is bad, wait until we start Astronomy. All the way up to the top of the one tower at Hogwarts that's taller than the one my dorm is in." Tara let out a groan; whether it was due to that or what he was doing to her feet, Harry wasn't sure, but he decided to keep up the teasing. "And since I don't see you taking Muggle Studies, look at your choices for third year electives. Care of Magical Creatures… out on the grounds. Divination? North Tower. Ancient Runes is up on the sixth floor and the classroom for Arithmancy isn't too far from Gryffindor Tower's portrait. No matter what, you're doing some hiking."
Tara pouted as she pondered the problem. "Hmm. I wonder if I can get away with signing up for your classes and just using you to bring my homework to me and deliver it the next class? Probably not, even if I am a Malfoy. Hmm. Well, I see only one solution to this problem." Leaning forward, she squeezed one of Harry's biceps. "I'll get you trained up by third year and then I can ride from class to class on your back."
"…I am not giving you piggyback rides around Hogwarts, Tara. Especially when you're thirteen."
"Aww. And here I thought I was your favorite second cousin once removed?"
"No, that's Dora. And if you try to turn me into your steed, Cassie might pass you too."
Four tables away, Hermione let her book drop back onto the table as she gave up on any pretense of studying and looked from Harry and Tara to her friends and back. "Am I the only one freaked out by the two of them? They're eleven. And they're cousins. I'm not sure which part of that is worse. Hmm. No, the more I think about it, the equally gross both parts seem."
Daphne spared a quick glance up from her essay for Professor Flitwick before shrugging and returning to her writing. "I don't see the problem. Or what age has to do with anything, Miss 'Chicks Dig Scars'." Hermione narrowed her eyes at Daphne for that one. She'd told her new friends about her preferences because she'd wanted to get the freaking out and ditching done with now, rather than a few years down the road after she'd become emotionally invested in the three. Surprisingly, all three had been accepting enough and Su had even joked that she'd keep an eye on Hermione to make sure she didn't make a fool of herself around their peers once she matured to the point that she actually started looking for a girlfriend. "Harry's mature for his age, we all know that. It's odd. That doesn't change that he's mature. We like it, remember? It's why we spend time with him? So if he did become the first boy in our year to get a girlfriend, it really wouldn't surprise me. Now, not that I think there's anything going on between them, but even if there was? It's not like their parents are siblings, Hermione. They're second cousins once removed; you have to go all the way back to Cygnus Black to find where their trees meet. And don't even look at me like that, you know I know these things."
"Whatever. If you can name how close someone is on your family tree, they're too close, Daphne. And I'm sticking to that." Hermione stared at the quietly talking pair for a long moment before looking away. She knew it wasn't jealousy; even at her age she had a defined enough set of aesthetic preferences and Tara definitely didn't fit them. Neither did anyone of the opposite gender, which eliminated both halves of the pair. So why did they bother her so? Maybe Daphne was the weird one and Su or Tracey would vindicate her? "Tracey? Su? Help me out here?"
Peering up from a Potions essay, Tracey shook her head rapidly. "Leave me out of this. Besides, what makes you think I know anything about normal families or relationships?" Touché.
Su wasn't any more helpful. "You're really making something out of nothing, Hermione. Like Daphne said, if there was something going on - and I'm with her, I think they're just close because he's known her longer than anyone here at Hogwarts - it wouldn't be that weird. There are a lot fewer wizards and witches than muggles. Of course family trees overlap more than muggles' do."
"Welcome. And it could be worse. At least they're not as weird as those Carrow twins from the next year up. They walk around holding hands."
All three girls let out squeals of disgust… and were promptly shushed by Madam Pince.
His second week of school brought something Harry had been dreading: flying lessons. Not that he was afraid of flying, far from it. But evidently this Neville Longbottom had more in common with Harry's prior self than just the scar: he too wanted to be seeker for the Gryffindor team, although he saw it and the bending of the 'no brooms for first years' rule to be his right as the Boy-Who-Lived rather than a privilege. Arrogant brat.
It left Harry with a bit of a dilemma, though. What did he do if the Remembrall situation - or something close enough - came up again? Did he let Neville take care of it, securing the boy a position on the Gryffindor team? Well, assuming he actually had any skill, which Harry doubted. If he did let Neville go and he failed, not only would the Boy-Who-Lived not be on the team but then neither would he, at least until second year. But if he did allow the events of his old universe to replay themselves completely, he'd end up standing out even more and breed further resentment from Neville's corner in the process.
Su and Daphne were both old hands on brooms by this point, having come from pureblood families, while Hermione was again a bit nervous. At least she wasn't terrified of heights or flying in this universe. As best Harry could tell she was just nervous she'd be horrible at flying, and that was primarily because she wanted to play quidditch later in her Hogwarts career. Hopefully she'd be at least a passable flier, though; even if it turned out she was unsuitable for quidditch, it would be nice to have her able to join him on the pitch in her spare time instead of nagging him about revising the way her old self had.
After lunch that day, the Gryffindors and Slytherins made their way out onto the grounds for their first - and only, Harry mused, unless the others had been given further classes he'd been exempt from - flying lesson. As disgruntled as the girls had seemed before with the girls' charmed skirts, Daphne and Anne certainly seemed jealous of the trousers Hermione and Megan were sporting for the lesson. There were two rows of ten brooms lying on the grass when they arrived and without a thought, the two houses moved to stand facing each other with the brooms in between. Again, Harry found himself standing next to Hermione to form the buffer zone between the sexes on the Gryffindor side, with Blaise and Tara doing the same for their house.
There were actually only eleven Gryffindors on the field for the first few minutes, the twelfth only appearing as he stumbled along at the heels of the arriving Madam Hooch. "For the last time, Longbottom, I have nothing to do with the house's quidditch teams. I am merely the referee for the school's matches. If you are willing to attend try-outs on a school broom and are selected by Mister Wood, then perhaps you'll be allowed to have a broom sent from home but that's not my decision." Huffing, she stopped at one end of the brooms, forcing Neville to run all the way down to the other to take up a spot next to Larry. Her yellow, hawk-like eyes raked back and forth over them a few times and then she nodded. "Right then. I assume everyone is in a spot where they can hold their dominant hand out over a broom? Which means right-handed flyers to the left of the broom and vice versa. Is anybody in the wrong position?" There was a chorus of vaguely negative replies and Hooch gave a sharp nod. "Now hold your hand out over the broom and say 'Up!'."
A few brooms rolled over and twitched. Neville got a rude shock as his flew up to hit him in the face before dropping to the grass again, making him stumble back and fall on his ass. All of the Slytherin boys and most of the girls got theirs off the ground on the first try, Tara included, while Bulstrode's broom appeared to be trying to burrow underground to get away from her. Harry reflexively closed his fingers around the shaft of his broom as it jumped to his hand, letting out a sigh of relief as his friends managed it just as easily.
Mounting their brooms, the students waited while Hooch patrolled up and down the two rows, checking their grips and where they were positioned on the broom. "Now, when I blow my whistle, you kick off from the ground. Decently hard, mind you, the charms on the broom take a second or two to kick in and if you don't get high enough you'll be smacking your shins into the ground instead of flying. Once you are in the air, keep your broom steady until you're confident. Lean back and rise a few feet, then lean forward and point the nose down to descend again to the ground. Slowly. On my whistle… three… two… one…"
Harry kicked off, easily leveling off into a hover and looking over at Hermione and the girls. Su and Daphne followed suit and then came the moment of truth: Hermione. He was worried over nothing, though; his muggleborn friend made the transition from ground to air as smoothly as Su and Daphne. "Huh. That's it? This… this is too easy." Hermione grinned and rose a few feet before tipping to one side, rolling her broom a full three hundred and sixty degrees before straightening up. Leaning forward, she descended until her feet touched the ground again and looked around. "Now what?"
Before Madam Hooch could issue new instructions to the class, shouting broke out from the boys' end of the line, coming from both sides. Harry sighed as he watched Neville and Draco shout at each other at ever-increasing volumes, eventually culminating with the hovering Draco rocketing forward and knocking Neville off his broom. Even though they weren't too far off the ground, Neville evidently landed just wrong and Harry winced as he heard a sickening crack that heralded at least one broken bone.
"Longbottom! Malfoy! Ten points each from Gryffindor and Slytherin for your inane posturing and another five from Slytherin, Malfoy, for your attack on Longbottom. I want everyone's feet on the ground right this minute." Hooch stomped over to where Neville was curled in a whimpering ball on the grass. Leaning down, she pulled his arm away from his chest and waved her wand over it. "As I suspected. Broken wrist." Standing again, she glared at the rest of the class. "I need to bring Longbottom to the hospital wing. If I see any of you back in the air, you will regret it. Especially you, Malfoy."
Everyone in the class nodded their assent but, true to form, as soon as Hooch and Neville were out of sight, Draco dashed forward to scoop up a certain familiar Remembrall and began playing with it. Evidently Neville had problems remembering the lessons he'd gotten early thanks to his Ministry blah blah blah. Hmm. Neville was out of the way and Draco seemed intent on giving him the same chance all over again. Coincidence or providence? Did he risk things might turn out differently here or did he go for it? Harry debated with himself for a moment but in the end, he couldn't resist the urge. "Hand over the Remembrall, Malfoy."
Looking him up and down, Draco thought about it for a moment before sneering and shaking his head. "No, I don't think I will, Potter. Maybe I'll leave it up a tree for him to find. See if the fat braggart can actually manage to get up there and fetch it or if he's completely worthless on a broom."
Draco lifted off the ground again, Remembrall in hand, and Harry waved off the protests of his friends as he mounted his broom and gave pursuit. As Draco leveled off, evidently not trusting the rickety school broom to take him much higher, Harry zoomed around behind him and started circling the blonde slowly. "Just you, me, and the sky, Malfoy. You sure you want to do this?" Draco eyed him uncertainly and Harry lifted his hands from his broomstick as he continued to circle, shrugging off his flapping robes and let them flutter to the ground beneath them. "Falling those few feet broke Neville's wrist. What do you think might happen if I ram you off your broom from this high up? Now give… it… up…"
"Fine. You think you're so great, Potter?" Sneering, Draco drew his arm back and hurled the glowing red Remembrall towards the school, where the upward slopping ground would ensure he'd run out of time to catch it faster. Harry hadn't thought Draco that clever. Or maybe he wasn't and Harry was just giving him too much credit. Either way, there was a ball that needed catching and he was just the person for the job.
Wheeling around, Harry dove after the ball, pushing the battered school broom to top speed as he pursued his target. He knew he couldn't catch it too early, though; it had to be spectacular, now that he'd committed to this course of action. If it wasn't, he'd just earn punishment for defying Madam Hooch's instructions and not the seeker position. Finally, two feet above the ground, he wrapped his fingers around the Remembrall and pulled up. His toes brushed gently over the grass, leaving two ruffled paths behind him as he came to a complete stop.
Wait for it.
Wait for it…
"Harry Potter!" Ah, there was an angry Professor McGonagall, right on time. "Never, in all my time at Hogwarts… how dare you… might have broken your neck and how would I have explained that to your parents… not even James pulled something that stupid in his youth…" Composing herself with visible effort, she waited until he dismounted from the broom, taking it from him and shoving it into the approaching Hermione's hands. "Potter. Follow me. Now."
Hermione, Su, Daphne, and even Larry and Neville's other followers looked ready to protest until Harry silenced them with a shake of his head. Tossing the Remembrall to Anne, who he'd seen with Neville's group lately, Harry obediently followed behind his head of house, having to jog to keep up with her impatient, long-legged strides. It was hard to summon anything approaching the same sense of dread he'd felt last time around, though, seeing as how he had a pretty good idea how this was going to play out. Still, he did his best to at least look nervous so McGonagall wouldn't get suspicious, skidding to a stop behind her as she came to a halt at the Charms classroom. "Professor Flitwick? Might I borrow Wood for a moment?"
A too mature yet partially immature portion of his brain wanted to comment on how utterly dirty that sounded, but Harry managed to keep his mouth shut. Plastering on a look of confusion, Harry followed along as McGonagall led him and his future captain down the hall and into an empty classroom. Oliver was the first to speak up. "Erm, Professor? What's going on? Charms isn't exactly my strongest subject and this is my OWL year…"
McGonagall waved off his protests and then proceeded to make introductions. "Potter, this is Oliver Wood. Wood… I've found you a seeker."
Suddenly, Oliver's scholastic concerns melted away in the face of quidditch talk. "Are you serious, Professor?"
"No, she's Professor McGonagall. Sirius is my godfather."
After a moment of silence, McGonagall sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I had hoped I'd never hear that pathetic joke again after Mister Black graduated. He has a daughter starting here next year too, doesn't he?" Harry nodded and McGonagall gave an outright groan at that. "Wonderful. But yes, Wood, he's a natural. Caught a falling Remembrall on a school broom with only a foot or two to spare. I doubt Charlie Weasley could have pulled off a move like that."
Oliver looked ecstatic, walking in a slow circle around Harry. "He's just the right build for a seeker, too. Light… speedy… Potter, you have a decent broom at home you can send for, right?" Harry nodded but looked over at his head of house, raising an eyebrow. "Err, assuming we can get that pesky first year broom ban lifted for him, Professor?"
"I shall speak to Professor Dumbledore and see if we can't bend that first year rule, yes. Heaven knows we need a better team than last year. As good as Weasley was… flattened in that horrible match against Slytherin. I couldn't look Severus in the face for weeks…" McGonagall trailed off before turning and peering sternly over the top of her glasses at Harry. "I want to hear that you're training hard, Potter, or I may punish you for today's incident after all. Understand?"
Harry nodded, then something occurred to him and he bit his lip. It would be pushing his luck… but it was just so bloody brilliant, he couldn't help himself. "Professor? Could you ask about getting the broom rule lifted for Hermione Granger as well?" McGonagall gave him an odd look and Harry turned to Oliver. "Unless you have a brother who's also on the team, I'm assuming you're the Wood who plays keeper for Gryffindor? Which would make you the Wood that my cousin Dora mentioned in a letter home a few years ago, who took a bludger to the head during his first game and then spent the next week in the hospital wing?"
"Err, I suppose?"
Turning back to the professor, Harry continued to weave his web. "I bet Gryffindor lost that game, right? I mean, without a keeper, the other team could run up sixteen goals in no time and then let Gryffindor catch the snitch and it wouldn't matter." McGonagall nodded slowly. "Now… is there a rule in place that keeps the house teams from having reserve players for if someone is too sick to play or gets injured during the game?" She shook her head; Harry had already known the answer but had asked anyway just for appearances. "Hermione plays goalkeeper for her field hockey team back in the muggle world; you had to repair her leg when you visited from what she told me. It's a sport where they try to get a fist-sized ball past her into a net. And it's moving a lot faster than a quaffle. Can you think of anyone more perfect to be Gryffindor's reserve keeper for if Wood gets hurt again? And when he graduates, Hermione can take over as keeper so we won't have to go through a new captain and a new keeper at the same time. The team will be used to Hermione already."
McGonagall's jaw dropped for a moment before she composed herself. "That… is startlingly brilliant, Potter. You look so much like your father that sometimes I forget you seem to have inherited your mother's intelligence. Five points to Gryffindor for… something logic-related; I can't think of a good way to phrase it right now." That earned her shocked looks from the two students and she shrugged before offering a small smile that looked odd on their normally stern head of house. "You act as if I'm unaware of Professor Snape's tendencies. If he can take points away for little to no reason, I can award them for the same. Now run along. I'll let you know about Miss Granger's situation as soon as I talk to the headmaster."
While Oliver returned to class and McGonagall left, presumably to talk to Dumbledore, Harry remained in the room and watched from the window as the class continued to learn basic flying technique from Madam Hooch. Hermione really wasn't half bad for someone who'd never touched a broom before. Certainly not the prodigy he was, but… hell, probably better than Ron. Turning her into a keeper wouldn't be that hard.
After the bell tolled to indicate the current class period was over, Harry grabbed his bag and made his way out of the abandoned classroom. Heading for the ground floor, he instinctively scowled at the sight of Draco walking with goons, the trio laughing at something as they made their way into the Entrance Hall. Probably because they were under the mistaken impression that he was being punished at the moment, perhaps even expelled. It was tempting, oh so tempting, to hex the little shit just on general principle. Would anyone actually miss him if he was stuck in the hospital wing for a day or seven? Then again, if Draco hadn't pulled his stupid stunt, Harry wouldn't have regained his status as youngest seeker in a century here in this new world… so he couldn't really complain, now could he? Not to mention that Narcissa might take exception to him hexing her offspring, even if she wasn't greatly attached to Draco.
Walking closely behind the trio of Slytherins came Su, Daphne, and Hermione, talking loudly about what had happened during their flying lesson. As they spotted their wayward friend, they broke into a run - or, in Daphne case, a fast yet refined walk - towards him, Hermione accidentally bumping against Draco as she passed. "Oy! Mudblood! Watch where you're going!"
Su and Daphne kept moving but Hermione came to an abrupt stop and Harry let a wide grin stretch over his features, knowing what was about to happen. As much as he should be the mature one in his group of friends, being older by six years… there was something infinitely satisfying about watching immature, egotistical little purebloods get beaten up. Especially by a girl. Even more so when that girl was someone who was supposedly their lesser. Dropping her book bag with a loud thump, Hermione slowly turned to face the Slytherin. "What did you just say?"
"You heard me, mudblood." Far braver now that he was back on the ground - and away from Harry - Draco made a show out of brushing off the spot where Hermione had brushed against him. "I don't need you getting your filthy mudblood germs on my robes. Who knows what I might catch from you?"
Hermione stomped forward, hands curling into fists. Somehow Harry doubted that Draco had yet to hear about Hermione's antics on the Hogwarts Express; perhaps he was dismissing the danger because she had inflicted pain on Neville the muggle way? He knew from experience, though, that having your bones broken by brute force was just as painful as by magic. Stopping in front of the arrogant pureblood, Hermione held up her left hand and extended her index finger. "Call me a mudblood… one more time."
Leaning in, Draco grinned widely. "Mudblo…"
He didn't get to finish.
Hermione extended her middle finger to give Draco the two-fingered salute before her right hand came up and drove itself into his nose with a sickening crunch. Stumbling back with a cry, the blonde tripped over the hem of his robes and fell flat on his arse, staring up at Hermione in fear. "God. You purebloods are supposed to be sophisticated. Learn some bloody fucking manners." Turning away, she scooped up her bag and marched over to Harry. Pausing in front of him, she crossed her arms over her chest and glared. "What?"
"Has anyone ever told you that you have anger management issues, Hermione?"
"Yes. Now tell us what happened to you when McGonagall took you away before I punch you."
"Just checking." Wrapping an arm around her shoulders, Harry pulled her down the hall as Su and Daphne fell in behind them. "As for our lovely deputy headmistress… let me tell you the tale of a poor little half-blood and his angry head of house…"