The Dawn of a New Era
Long note here, but necessary. Firstly, I wasn't quite sure of how to do brooms in this story because… well, I never quite got the naming behind the brooms in canon. They were nine years ahead of the current year in story time and didn't match the publication year or year Rowling wrote each story, either. Maybe we got the Firebolt because Rowling realized how stupid it was? At anyways, we have the Nimbus 2001 in 2001 here, and next year will see the Nimbus 2002. Harry has a Nimbus 2000 at home because the other Harry got it the year before. Also, when we get to the dream sequence… many of my OCs and INOs - characters like Daphne and Tracey and Su who I fleshed out into real characters myself - are physically patterned on my friends using growth charts of their real height and measurements at certain ages. One of them was even wearing the same size bra as the average British adult woman during her second year of Hogwarts. There are a variety of body types and sizes in life, ranging from large to small and everything in between. Don't like it? Find a way to crawl into your television and live in Hollywood's world of anorexia and height extremes.
For the Sorting Hat, day-to-day life was generally rather peaceful. Apart from the one time a year when he had to sit on students' heads and determine which house they were best suited for, his days were filled with the quiet solitude of the headmaster's office. Every now and then though, the headmaster received a visitor or two that disturbed the Hat's peace and quiet… such as was occurring at the moment.
"I demand you do something about Potter, Albus! One of his friends just assaulted a member of my house, and the things I've seen in his mind…" Severus Snape trailed off, shivering violently. "He's a disturbed, deviant spawn of the devil and I want him out of this school before he corrupts my goddaughter irrevocably. I already dread the next time I'll be facing Lord and Lady Malfoy. Particularly the latter…"
Before the headmaster could respond, Minerva McGonagall rounded on the sallow, hook-nosed professor with eyes flashing. "What you've 'seen in his mind', Severus? Perhaps we should be starting this discussion with an explanation as to why you're using legilimency on my students, and then we can move on to whatever complaints you have with members of my house?"
Holding up one hand, Albus Dumbledore waited for the two to turn their attention to him. "Minerva, you know that Severus has my complete trust. I have authorized him to use any and every method at his disposal to ensure the safety of Hogwarts, especially given what we've hidden in the bowels of the school this year, and that includes legilimency. Now Severus, I know you had your problems with both James Potter and Lily Evans when the three of you were in school together… are you certain that your past is not clouding your view of the present?"
"Yes. Despite your authorization, I don't make a habit out of invading the minds of my students, for Minerva's information. But I felt it warranted after Potter made a pair of rather… unsettling… comments to me in front of the class." Both Dumbledore and McGonagall gave him their full attention, which caused Snape to pause and fidget uncomfortably. "When I dove into his mind, I found that it was in fact shielded… strange but, given who his mother is, not inexplicable. With minor effort, I was able to breach them and the first thing I encountered was… something that disturbed me greatly. I extracted the memory at my first convenience and have spent a week studying it but…"
Dumbledore leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desk as he waited for the explanation. "Yes, my boy?"
Visibly uncomfortable, Snape stalled for a few more seconds before sighing. "It was a memory of him partaking in a sexual encounter. No, he didn't walk in on one. It was from his perspective. It was with not one but two partners, and one had a very familiar shade of red hair. The other had black hair."
McGonagall gasped and leaned back in her chair, eyes bouncing from to Snape to Dumbledore several times. "You can't be suggesting what I think you are, Severus. Harry Potter, sexually abusing… I assume you're referring to one of his sisters when it comes to red hair and perhaps one of her friends for the other girl? I simply don't believe it. I refuse to believe such a thing could happen right under Lily's nose, what with her staying home to raise her children…"
"And if that was the case, that would be a very interesting question that would need answer. But you are jumping to an incorrect - albeit understandable - conclusion. Tell me, Minerva, do you remember where Lily hails from originally?" McGonagall shook her head and Snape sighed, slouching back in his chair. "Cokeworth, within walking distance of my parents' house. I grew up with her and, as you may or may not remember, we were good friends up until fifth year. While I can't say I knew intimately in the sense that James Potter does, I was very familiar with her body… we used to go swimming and such when school was out and muggle swimming outfits are quite scandalous compared to what the wizarding world finds acceptable. No, I didn't just recognize the hair, I recognized the person." Hands clenching at the arms of his chair, Snape scowled. "Harry Potter is not sexually abusing his younger sisters. Harry Potter is in an Oedipal relationship with his own mother. And the third participant in their unnatural liaisons is Narcissa Malfoy."
There was a long moment of silence, and then Dumbledore began laughing loudly. "Oh, Severus, I didn't know you had a sense of humor. I haven't had someone trick me so completely since the Weasley twins last semester." He slowly began to trail off as Snape failed to crack a smile. "You are joking, aren't you, Severus?" The potion master shook his head. "Sweet Merlin."
As much as it wanted to, the Sorting Hat couldn't keep silent any longer and burst out laughing, drawing all attention to itself. "Oh Severus, you foolish little man. The Potter boy has shields the like of which you wish you could develop. I felt them when we conversed; he had to voluntarily lower than and start the conversation with me before I could sort him. Me, an artifact created by the Founders themselves. Do you really think you of all people have the power to break through shields that I could not? You saw nothing more than what he wanted to show you."
Hopeful blue eyes turned to the hat. "Truly?" Dumbledore rose from his seat, rounding the desk and approaching the Sorting Hat's perch. "Are you certain that whatever Severus saw was a deliberate distraction?"
"As certain as I can be without trying to penetrate Potter's mind myself to ascertain the truth. I have no doubt that if he'd chosen to, he could have forced me to sort him into whatever house he wanted by preparing a mind that would show me just what I was supposed to see. The boy possesses uncanny natural ability in the mental arts." Actually, they were abilities honed with great practice and care, brought over when the seventeen-year-old was stuffed into a younger body in this universe, but the enchantments that forced him to keep the students' secrets prevented him from saying as much. The outright lie about being able to affect the sorting… well, a bit of embellishment never hurt anything. "Suffice it to say, Severus, that Potter probably knew of your unrequited interest in Lily from discussions with her. Therefore, when you decided to invade his mind, he conjured up a mental image that would both disturb you enough to break the connection and remind you of what you lost. Almost makes me think the boy should have been in Slytherin…"
"And his inclusion of Lady Malfoy?"
The Sorting Hat snorted. "And this is why neither you nor Minerva were considered for Slytherin, and Severus made his way there on his ambition alone. He was under mental assault by the godfather of a friend of his. A position that denotes both responsibility to that friend… and a connection to her family. Why not choose the mother of his goddaughter? The wife of his close friend? What's that phrase I've heard the commentators use when you listen to quidditch on the wireless in here, Albus? Adding insult to injury?"
Letting out a long sigh of relief, Dumbledore wandered back over to sit in his plush chair. "You see, my boy? It was just a prank, albeit a tasteless one that shows a level of maturity most boys his age lack. I dare say that young Mister Potter takes after his father in more than just looks, hmm? Perhaps in the future, though, you should stay out of his mind just to avoid any further… misunderstandings." Snape scowled but nodded sharply in assent. "Now, Minerva, what did you want to see me about?"
McGonagall eyed Snape for a moment, clearly not thrilled about letting the subject drop, before turning her attention to the headmaster. "I need an exemption from the first year broom ban for two of my students: Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. They're going to be Gryffindor's reserve keeper and starting seeker, respectively, and it would keep me from needing to do something ridiculous. Such as, say, purchasing two Nimbus 2001s for my own use and just happening to loan them out to Granger and Potter regularly."
"Oh yes, what a brilliant idea. Let's reward the students who disobey their instructors and assault fellow students." Snape lurched up out of his chair and stomped toward the door. "No wonder your house is full of a bunch of little terrors."
Leaning in her seat, McGonagall called back over her shoulder. "Perhaps if your students could manage to walk the halls without starting fights, my students would walk the halls without ending them. Quid pro quo, Severus." The black-clad man paused for a moment before exiting the headmaster's office, slamming the door behind him. McGonagall returned her attention to the man who actually mattered in the situation. "Well, Albus? You know you want to see what happens when the first muggleborn player in the history of the school takes the pitch."
Grinning, Dumbledore stroked his beard slowly. "It does have the potential to be rather amusing, yes. And I doubt lack of official permission would stop a Potter from bringing a broom onto the grounds now that he's on the team. Very well. Have young Mister Potter write home to ask that his broom be sent to the school. As for Miss Granger, owl Quality Quidditch Supplies for a Nimbus 2001. Have them charge it to my vault."
That brought the conversation to an end and McGonagall rushed from the headmaster's office to deliver her good news. As soon as she was gone, the Sorting Hat chuckled. "You do know that you're going to have to wear me to the Gryffindor versus Slytherin game this year, right?"
"Yes, of course. I might even give all the house elves some time off so they can watch. It promises to be an interesting game. Why?"
"Good. Corner the Weasley twins one day this week and tell them I want to put ten galleons on a Slytherin getting hospitalized if Wood gets knocked out and Granger goes in."
"That, my friend, is what I believe the children call a 'sucker bet'. Besides, what would you do with ten galleons?"
"…bribe one of the house elves to clean me? Honestly, Albus, have you seen me lately? And I think that Longbottom whelp had lice…"
Yawning and stretching languorously, Harry put his feet up on the seat across from him and stared out the window of his compartment as his fellow students and their parents bustled up and down Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. Lily and Narcissa had come and gone, dropping off the five of them and departing before the Ministry's 'crack' auror team had even arrived to provide platform security. Not that Harry could blame his mother. She and her ex-husband got on like oil and water now that they no longer had to maintain a pleasant façade for the children and the last thing she needed was to end up as the target of another Rita Skeeter article for causing a scene at King's Cross. The door to his compartment slid open and four familiar heads peeked in, pulling him from his thoughts and making Harry grin. "Good morning, Angels."
"Good morning, Harry!"
Chuckling at his friends' now familiar antics, Harry flicked his wand and used a pair of Expansion Charms to stretch the compartment out until it was large enough to accommodate ten instead of the normal six. Su was the first to enter the compartment, spinning to sling her travel bag up into the overhead rack and smacking Harry across the face with her hair. As he sputtered and tried to get a few strands out of his mouth, she placed Maau Tau Jing's cage next to her bag and then claimed the spot on his left. Harry raised an eyebrow at her actions - especially after a greeting like that - but Su just grinned in reply. "What? It's fun watching the missus get cranky that someone's in 'her' spot. Both of them do, come to think of it. You've got two very possessive ball and chains. Balls and chain? Balls and chains? Still don't know what the proper plural of that is…"
Harry just rolled his eyes at that, watching as Hermione stuffed her own carry-on into the overhead rack, cooing at Crookshanks for a few seconds before putting his cat carrier up next to her bag. And then he bit back a cry as she kicked the side of his leg hard, knocking his feet off the bench to make room for her. Ow. Bloody girl still couldn't just ask politely. Hermione lowered herself into the seat across from him, clearing the way for the last two Angels. Tracey was first, shooting Su an amused look before taking the seat on Harry's other side. Last came Daphne, once again displaying the bizarre filial obedience that had sprung up because of her half-sister's relationship with him as she stowed Tracey's bag for her before taking care of her own. When that was done, she turned back to Harry and bowed at the waist. "God morgen, min herre."
If he didn't already have a number of titles to his name, being referred to as 'my lord' might have actually freaked Harry out. As it was… "God morgen, min datter." He gestured to the spot between Tracey and the window and Daphne curtseyed before seating herself, turning her attention to the bustling crowd on the platform as she searched for the absolute last person Harry wanted to see on any given day. His eyes drifted down to her left arm, bared by the brown leather vest she was wearing, and he smirked. It was remarkable how… Hermione-esque… the formerly anemic girl had become in the last few years. It was by and far a change for the better, but still amazing to behold. Speaking of physical changes over the years, though… Harry eyed the girl sitting beside him. Well, there were a few changes in Tracey's case, but few that he could comment on in polite company. "So… I like what you did with your hair. It's very… different."
"Wow. You mean you still remember I have a head? What's next, you actually managing to look me in the eye when we talk? Two points to Gryffindor for attempted subtlety, ten points from Gryffindor for being so horrible at it." Tracey's words were softened by her teasing tone and smirk, not to mention the fact that Harry knew she enjoyed the attention. At least she enjoyed his attention; other boys who made a habit of staring tended to have problems walking down the hall without tripping over non-existent objects. Reaching up, Tracey ruffled her now two-toned blonde and mahogany locks before letting her hand slide down, nudging the neckline of her black t-shirt to one side so she could tug gently on the Ravenclaw blue strap of her bra. "But yes, something's new this year. Or improved, at least. Sixth year is being brought to you by the number thirty-six and the letter E."
Harry and Hermione's jaws both dropped at that but it was Hermione who managed a response first. "…you just violated one of my favorite childhood memories. Dirty
Sesame Street jokes, Tracey? Are you fucking serious?"
"I dare say Anastasiya Black would have a problem with that…" Laughing even as Hermione groaned at the deliberate misinterpretation of her question, Harry looked over to find the leader of his group's younger year standing in the compartment's doorway, a smirk tugging at her lips. Even now, after almost five years in her presence, Harry was still amazed by how different this version of Luna looked. It wasn't any one minor thing, either; she joined Daphne, Tracey, and - to a lesser degree - Hermione and Su in being one of those people who just plain looked different in this world. For one, she was a giant in this world. Well, half-giant technically, but he'd been thinking more in the colloquial meaning of the phrase… a very tall person. She'd towered over him by nearly eight inches when they first met and while time had narrowed that gap, she was still a bit over two inches taller than him and still growing. Thankfully her gene pool hadn't left her with Olympe Maxime's - or, Merlin forbid, Hagrid's - figure; instead, everything was simply scaled up proportionally for a body that was nearly a foot taller than 'his' Luna. Most of her hair pulled back to reveal the pointed ears that carried over even into her human form, Luna toyed with one of the bangs that hung loose and framed her face for a moment, looking around the compartment before deciding on a seat and taking a step towards the window. Harry's hand shot out, bringing her to a halt as he touched her knee. She looked down curiously and he responded with a raised eyebrow as he tugged at her Gryffindor red and gold candy cane tights. "Hmm?"
"Aren't you in the wrong house for Gryffindor pride, Luna?"
"What can I say? Sometimes, something other than blue is a nice change of pace."
Cute. Harry pulled his hand back, letting Luna proceed over to take the seat on Hermione's side of the compartment against the window, before turning his attention to the girl Luna had arrived with. Doing his best to imitate her Scottish accent, he waved the Hufflepuff in. "Aw'right, Lara?"
"Oye, you really need to stop doing that, Harry. You sound ridiculous." Harry offered Lara a two-fingered salute for that comment, narrowly dodging her retaliatory kick as she entered the compartment. What was it with him and physically abusive girls? Shaking his head, Harry gave Lara a quick once-over, shaking his head in amusement at her newest attempt to deal with her piebaldism. Her trademark white streak was finally gone, split in half and framing her face in a style superficially similar to Luna's, with the left streak dyed purple and the right streak gold. He'd heard her muttering about laser surgery towards the end of last year and indeed, the lenses held in place by her purple plastic frames this year seemed thinner than the ones he'd seen her wearing in the past, spelling the end of the bug-eyed look she'd previously shared with Trelawney. And Lara being Lara, the outfit wasn't complete without one of her seemingly endless supply of purple and gold Pride of Portree shirts. The young Scot took up a spot on Hermione's side of the compartment opposite of Luna, leaning up against the glass and peering out into the hall. "So, where are the twins? Any of them, for that matter?"
Harry furrowed his brow, a bit surprised - at least now that she'd mentioned it - that the expanded compartment was as empty as it was. Normally they'd be turning people away by now. "The Malfoys… not sure. We got dropped off together but even Tara wanted to split up for a bit. Say hello to their dormmates and other friends before they settle in with us for the ride. Flora and Hestia, probably off scaring younger students. Ellen, tagging along behind Siobhan while she does her social butterfly thing. My sisters… well, Hermione's here. You know they'll pop up eventually."
Chuckling, Hermione pointed to her right, drawing Harry's attention to where his younger sisters were standing in the doorway. Jasmine was in the front, Albiona's cage in hand and her shorter hair brushing against her chin as she looked around, Rose waiting patiently behind her and playing with the end of her butt-length braid. "Or they could pop up now." Entering first, Jasmine received a quick peck on the lips from Hermione and then stored her owl's cage before taking the seat between Hermione and Luna. Even though it wasn't the first time he'd seen it, Harry again found himself feeling the tiniest bit of empathy for how Ron must have felt: even if Hermione was his friend and a certified Good Person, seeing his little sibling with anyone romantically was… ugh. Then Hermione kissed Rose as the girl seated herself to Hermione's right and his jaw dropped. Hadn't they promised to… right, he had no room to talk. Not even going to go there. "So..?"
"A new piercing in each ear, two more in my eyebrow…" Jasmine trailed off, only to giggle at Hermione's pout. "…and I got my tongue pierced. Dad's trying to suck up to us so he can be The Cool Parent and I figured I'd milk it for all it's worth. He wasn't thrilled about another trip to Metal Morphosis, but Rose wanted to go to the Apple Store again and Persephone's in Diagon Alley still doesn't do anything beyond earlobes. You know, I still haven't figured out what I want to do when I graduate. Maybe I can open my own tattoo and piercing parlor to give her some competition. Hire Rose to do the books, pick up Dean to design tattoos… don't know any tattoo artists but I bet the Carrows would fall over themselves to get in on something that lets them cause pain for a living…"
Harry couldn't really disagree with that, although working at a certain establishment down Knockturn Alley would earn them far more money for far less effort… and he was not going to vocalize that thought because he had no desire to get into a discussion about BDSM with his sisters. Conversation stalled momentarily, making the sound of the door opening once more sound ridiculously loud. Harry looked over and found himself caught between smiling and grimacing; while Tara was tied with Tracey at the top of people he enjoyed spending time with… Draco was tied with Neville at the bottom. Oh well. He had a responsibility to keep the ferret out of trouble these days, and keeping him on a short leash was infinitely easier than doing damage control. "Miss me already, Draco?"
Sneering, Draco followed his sister into the compartment. "Hardly. No, it seems that Mother's decision to shack up with a mud…gleborn and her muggle-lover wunderkind has destroyed what little respect I still commanded. Since I'd like to make it to Hogwarts without getting beaten, cursed, or both, I decided that… discretion was the better part of valor." Frowning, Draco watched as Tara none-too-gently displaced Su and took the Chinese witch's spot at Harry's left hand. "Although we seem to be one seat short. Easy enough to fix, though. Skunk. Get out."
"Rach thu agus a' sgaoil am leathar de bhur paithar."
After staring at Lara blankly for a moment, Draco turned back to Harry. "I have no idea what she said, but I'm guessing it wasn't something agreeable?"
Harry snorted. "And here I thought all the smart wizards went to Ravenclaw." As if anything Lara said in Gàidhlig around them was polite. Ever. Save for occasional conversations with her fellow Scots at school, it was pretty much exclusively reserved for use as her 'swear in a way that authority figures can't understand so I don't get in trouble' language. But now, before his step-brother managed to piss off Lara further… Harry rose to his feet and drew his wand. Before he could cast a new set of Expansion Charms, though, a knock on the door drew his attention and he groaned at the sight of two pairs of familiar faces. Evidently he was wrong about the Carrows and Williams being able to amuse themselves. Flicking his wand, Harry slid the door open. "Alright, someone go see if one of the neighboring compartments is empty."
"One step ahead of you, Harry. We already…"
"…cleared out both compartments. Threatened to…"
"…use the midgets we found for transfiguration practice."
"Evidently our reputation precedes us." Flora and Hestia grinned at him before winking and blowing him a kiss in perfect synch. "You can thank us for our initiative later."
How… nice… of them. Making a mental note to make the rounds with the prefects and heads later so he could find out who the sisters had terrorized and apologize on their behalf, Harry gestured for the others to rise before vanishing both dividing walls. While technically he was defacing Ministry property, he knew his mother would be sweeping the train after it arrived at Hogsmeade to repair the inevitable scratches and dings that came with using anything to transport hundreds of teenagers and she could set the composite coach to rights before anyone who mattered found out. With that realization in mind… "Right then. I did the renovating. Who's doing the redecorating?"
Blinking the sleep from her eyes, Luna Lovegood groaned before rolling onto her back and staring up at the hoarfrost-coated hangings on her bed. These dreams of hers were really starting to become quite vexing. She wouldn't have minded having them if only they occurred a bit less regularly; they were rather interesting, after all. But for some reason, peering into the future brought out her bluer half and as immune to the cold as she might be, her half-jötunn body still found the abrupt drop in temperature that accompanied shifting forms to be jarring enough to pull her from a sound sleep. Not to mention that it was hard to roll over and return to Morpheus's embrace when her bed was practically frozen solid.
WIth another groan, Luna used her tail to flick away the sheets covering her body and then slid out of bed. Thankfully this had become a common enough occurrence that her parents had made provisions for it. Or rather her mother had; her father didn't like to acknowledge anything related to her other half because it forced him to confront some uncomfortable truths that he was much happier ignoring. Stretching out two long fingers, Luna pressed the tips of her index and middle fingers against a pair of Elder Futhark runes her mother had carved into the headboard of her bed, willing a bit of her magic into them. The runes flared a fiery orangish-red and Luna hopped backwards, barely avoiding the first of several successive waves of heat that enveloped her bed, liquifying the icicles and hoarfrost before evaporating the resulting water. Tail curling around her waist, she poked the tip against her covers before recoiling. Well then. She wasn't going to be crawling back in there for a bit. What now?
Looking down at her hands and then over at her bed, at least one thing came to mind: get back into a form that would fit into the bed without her needing to curl into a ball. Luna furrowed her brow and concentrated, working a piece at a time to return herself to as human a state as possible. Her tail disappeared first, her antlers following a few seconds later and letting her hair drop to cascade down her back. Staring at her hand, Luna watched as the markings on her blue skin disappeared, followed by the blue itself as her skin paled to a bluish-white color before shifting to a very human pale pink. The last stage was her hand - and the rest of her body - shrinking down as she reduced her body to something as close to human size as she could manage without feeling intensely uncomfortable.
Now that she was back in a human-sized form, Luna quickly replaced her torn pajamas with a fresh pair and put the old ones in the growing pile of garments her mother needed to repair. That brought her close enough to her bed to poke it again… still too warm to crawl back into. She needed to stall for time. Her eyes wandered the dimly-lit room before landing on the journal sitting on her desk. She could always go through what was quickly becoming a post-dream routine: record, analyze, speculate. And now that one Harry Potter was out of his house and at a place where she could contact him easily, maybe she could finally get a few answers.
She was particularly curious about this 'his Luna' thing, for one…
Absently nibbling on a slice of apple, Harry reread the letter he'd just received as he tried to decide exactly what it meant. Well, calling it a 'letter' might be giving it too much credit; the part actually addressed to him was a few lines jotted on a scrap of parchment that had then been fastened - with a muggle staple, curiously enough - to a stack of pages torn from a book. A journal, to be precise, and a dream journal to be exceedingly specific. At first glance, they were monotonously repetitive: each page was carefully marked with the date and time of the dream, a description of the dream, and then a bullet point list of thoughts and questions inspired by said dream. But it was the contents of the dreams themselves that were disturbing in the extreme.
Someone out there was dreaming that they were him. Seeing through his eyes. Hearing through his ears. Thinking his thoughts.
Someone knew his secrets, and he had no idea who they were or what they might be hoping to accomplish by contacting him.
Whether or not the dreams were genuinely oneiromantic - and they very well might be, he conceded, if they were anywhere near as accurate regarding the future as they were regarding him - was something he could waste time pondering at a later date, along with the specific contents of said dreams. Right now, his problem was… well, he just plain didn't know what to do with himself next. In an uncharacteristically stupid move, he'd let the owl leave without even thinking to slap a Tracking Charm on it, meaning he had no easy way of discovering who this mysterious dreamer was. Well, the handwriting seemed distinctly feminine to him but that narrowed it down to 'only'… how many witches were there in the Isles, assuming it wasn't a foreigner? And what did they want? There'd been no outright demands or even implied future blackmail, but rather a note that was literally only 'I have questions, I think I have answers, I'd rather know I have answers, write me back'. It made no sense at all.
Harry reread the note a third time. Write her back. How the hell was he going to manage that one now that he'd sent their owl away? It wasn't like he could address a letter to 'The Lady Who Dreams About Me' and give it to a school owl. Groaning, Harry rubbed his temples before reaching for the parchment and quill he'd laid out upon arriving in the Great Hall. He'd been meaning to write his mother - and by extension Narcissa - anyway. Maybe they'd have an idea that was better than 'wait and see what happens'.
…and if all else failed, he could wait and see what happened. After all, whoever it was would probably try at least one more time to get a response to a letter before giving up…
Sorry I haven't written you before now, but it's just been one thing after another for me. I was sorted into Gryffindor, just like you and Dad were. I assume you're proud of me. If you're not… lie. I'll pretend not to notice. Tell the twins I miss them… kinda. Sorta. They're a bit like fungus: they grow on you after a while. Oh, but I definitely miss Dora. Make sure she knows that. If you can tell the three of them both parts at once, that's even better.
So far, Hogwarts has been fun enough. For school. It's a hell of a hike up to Gryffindor Tower, but I've been doing it for seven years and so it's not really a shock the way it probably is for my classmates. Speaking of my classmates - more specifically my housemates - I've got one who reminds me a lot of you. She's a muggleborn, absolutely brilliant, prefers trousers to skirts, and isn't afraid to stand up for what she belives in. Neville Longbottom called her a mudblood and she knocked a few of his teeth out in appreciation. Wicked, huh?
Oh, that reminds me… Evans Charm? How much money have you made off that one, and how have you kept Dad from finding out?
Back on the subject of my housemates… being in Gryffindor means I have to share a dorm with the Boy-Who-Took-One-To-The-Forehead. He reminds me of how you describe Dad acting when he was younger: an arrogant bully, but not a particularly intelligent or funny one at that. So far, Hermione's punched his teeth out and Daphne Greengrass - you should remember her from the tea party I had with Tara - hit him in the face with a stunner. And when he threatened to go after them, one of the prefects disarmed him and sent his wand to Professor McGonagall. Hopefully he'll get better as the year goes on, or one of us might not leave the school alive in June.
If Dad is actually around to see you read this, pretend I actually put in something about him. Since he's probably not, I didn't bother. And make sure you give Cissy my regards next time she's over. Although with the way things have been going lately, she's probably there right now. In which case… hi, Mother. Don't worry, I'm doing my best to include Tara. Or as included as she can be without causing problems for her with the other baby snakes.
By the way, I kinda sorta may have become the youngest seeker in a century after Professor McGonagall saw me during flying lessons. So I'm sending Albiona along too; she can help Silver Star haul my broom up to the school. And before you think I'm joking, try and remember that all this has happened before. All I had to do was put myself in the right place at the right time to make sure it all happened again.
On a more serious - but not Sirius - note… there's a small piece of parchment tucked in with this letter. Yes, that's a girl's handwriting. Don't even think about making more jokes like you did about Su. Someone sent me pages from their dream journal… dreams where they're me. Inside my head. Seeing as me, hearing as me, and… thinking as me. They know my secret. I don't know who they are or what they want, but I was hoping that between you and Mother, you can figure out the former. Maybe one of you two will recognize the writing or you can trick Dora into bringing it to work to have her fellow students analyze it or… something. I need to know who this is and what they might want from me, and I need to know yesterday.
Thanks in advance,
A day later, Harry found himself staring up at the hourglasses and shaking his head in disgust as he took in the loss of points his house had suffered overnight. "Why do I have a feeling that the person behind this has a name that starts with an 'L' and rhymes with 'ongbottom'?" A repeat of the incident where Draco had tricked him into being caught by Filch, he assumed, just played out by Draco and Neville this time. Perhaps someone else would know for sure, though?
Hermione shook her head mutely, staring up at the point totals in horror, and neither Su nor Daphne could provide an answer either. A familiar voice from behind them, though, came through with the explanation. "I was in the hospital wing for a checkup when Longbottom got brought in with his broken wrist. Madam Pomfrey ended up going back and forth between us because I just needed diagnostic spells and he needed a series of charms applied that took a few minutes each to run their course. He got done a minute or two before me and just as I was walking out the door, I heard the end of the Malfoy boy reminding him of the time and place of a duel. Would have been last night. Considering Neville saw me and knew I heard, I didn't think he'd be stupid enough to go through with it. Evidently I was wrong."
"Yes, well, the wizarding world has a potion or spell to cure almost anything, but you can't fix stupid. What I want to know is how I slept through him sneaking out. And who he took with him." Harry ran his eyes over the Gryffindor table, spotting Neville and an equally subdued looking Larry beside him. "Never mind. Think I just figured it out." Turning his attention back to his favorite prefect - mostly because Percy was a stiff and he didn't even know the names of the other four - Harry smiled. "So, Cherise, did Pomfrey give you a clean bill of health?"
Raising her arms, the blonde twisted back and forth slowly. "Yep. I'll still get winded easily for a few more weeks but that has to do more with the effort my body is putting into healing itself, not any lingering injuries." Harry nodded but was inwardly unhappy; Cherise had come out of the hospital wing after only three days and sporting unblemished skin. The wizarding world could do a lot medically, but if Cherise had been attacked by Fluffy… either she would have gotten away easily enough that she wouldn't have spent more than a night in Pomfrey's care or she would have looked like ground beef after. But she didn't have a - visible - mark on her. So what the hell had attacked her and how did he get around it when the time came? "Anyways, since if I go over there I'll probably say something I'll lose my badge over, tell the little git that if I catch him sneaking out of bed again after curfew, I'll start using Sticking Charms to keep him in bed. And Merlin forbid he have to go to the loo in the middle of the night."
The mental image made Harry chuckle and he inclined his head. "Will do. But now… I know how Hermione despises anything that gets between her and her food. To breakfast we go." Cherise waved a hand to dismiss them and the quartet of first years made their way over to the end of the Gryffindor table. "So, Hermione, ready for training tonight?"
"Hell no." Hermione scowled as she spooned eggs onto her plate before fixing him with a glare. "You could just owl home and get a broom sent up here. There's no way my parents could just run over and grab me one from Diagon Alley or something, if they can even afford it. I mean, we're well off but I didn't even think to check broom prices because I knew I couldn't bring one and…"
Owls hooted overhead and Harry looked up to find two teams of owls hard at work: Albiona and Silver Star tag-teaming his own Nimbus 2000 from home and a trio of smaller owls grasping a similarly shaped but paper-wrapped package as they descended towards the table. "Hermione?" She looked up and he grinned as her eyes widened. "I don't think a broom is going to be a problem."
Hermione jumped up, food forgotten, standing on the bench so she could grab what was obviously a broom as soon as the owls drew close enough. The trio hooted indignantly as their cargo was stolen, buffeting her upside the head with their wings before flying up and out of the hall. Tearing the paper off, she gasped as she dropped back into her seat, thrusting the broom into Harry's face. "Harry! Look! A Nimbus 2001!"
"Hermione! Look! A Nimbus 2000!" Harry waved his own broom in her face, grinning with exaggerated enthusiasm, until she gave him the two-fingered salute and huffed, dropping the broom on the table. "I know you're excited, but try not to act like Longbottom would. Yes, you have a broom. So do I. Neither of us is supposed to. So let's have a bit more class than some people here would, and not make a big deal about it, okay?"
Sighing, Hermione took the broom and slid it off the table to hide between herself and Su even as Harry moved his to rest between himself and Daphne. "Fine. But I reserve the right to brag to Malfoy that his stupid stunt got the two of us on the Gryffindor quidditch team."
"Only if I'm there to see his face."
After dinner that evening, the pair retrieved their brooms from their respective dorms and, after saying goodbye to Su and Daphne, made their way down to the pitch. It was just as impressive now as Harry remembered it being every other time he'd visited, with its golden hoops on fifty foot tall poles and stands with seats for hundreds. "Ready, Hermione?"
Hermione huffed, swinging the massive bag she had slung over one shoulder and nailing him square in the back. The impact made him stumble forward, causing her to snicker. "For the tenth time in the last five minutes, yes. Now shut up. The more you ask that, the more nervous I get."
"Exactly." Harry grinned at her as he straightened up. "If you're nervous and end up not flying well, it'll make me look better by comparison." Not that he needed that kind of help; they were both good fliers but he was admittedly the far superior one. Not that a keeper needed to have his level of skill. She possessed enough natural skill to handle herself in front of the goals for now and would only get better with experience.
Swinging her bag back and forth, Hermione's eyes narrowed. "I see. What a cunning, cunning plan you have there. And what if I knock you out before we get to practice?" To emphasize her threat, Hermione lunged, letting her bag swing forward towards him again.
Harry dodged her second attack and began to walk away quickly, hoping to stay out of the reach of that downright painful bag of hers. "Then you get to explain to Professor McGonagall why her star seeker is in the hospital wing. Either way, I win and you lose." Hermione growled softly and Harry laughed, hauling arse across the lawn towards where six figures were clustered at the base of one of the stands. "C'mon, they're waiting for us."
Unlike in his original timeline, this time the entire existing Gryffindor quidditch team had turned out for his first practice. The Weasley twins didn't look quite as welcoming as he would have thought, but then again he wasn't friends with their little brother this time around - or in this world, their little sister. Likewise, Katie, Angelina, and Alicia seemed more intent on dissecting the team's newest girl with their eyes than paying attention, which was fine with him. Hermione would need to learn to deal with that sort of intent scrutiny before the first time she played for a crowd. And Wood was waiting with the crate full of balls, ready to kick things off. "Right then. I assume you both have enough of an idea that I can skip the basics? Positions, the kinds of balls, common fouls, and so on?"
"Right. If Hermione needs anything explained, she can ask me. Doubt that'll happen, though. She's read a few books and… well, now she's downright scary when it comes to quidditch knowledge." Harry instinctively ducked, letting Hermione's hand fly through the spot his head had just occupied before straightening up again. "Hey, Wood, Hogwarts uses the international standard rulebook, right?"
Wood looked puzzled at the odd question, scratching his head for a moment before nodding. "Best I can tell, yeah. I can ask Madam Hooch if it's really important, Potter. Why?"
Nodding his head towards Hermione, Harry tapped one hand against the top of her bag. "There's another reason I asked the professor if we could have Hermione as our backup keeper. Hermione, gear up?"
"Yes, Master. Right away, Master. Would you like some tea and biscuits while I'm at it, Master?" The chasers giggled at Hermione's antics and Harry made a show of tilting his head to the side, pondering it. "If you answer that last question, I will come up into your dorm in the middle of the night and kick you right out of bed onto the stone floor."
"Note to self: after Longbottom falls asleep each night, swap it so his trunk is at the foot of my bed and vice versa."
"Note to self: look for Longbottom's trunk and kick that person out of their bed."
"Note to self: come up with new plan."
Hermione let out a snort before dragging her bag a few feet away, opening up some space so she could kneel down beside it, unzipping it and stuffing her hands inside. Wood let out a low whistle. "She's a feisty one. Some poor boy's going to have his hands full with her in a few years." The others chuckled and Harry shook his head; if they only knew. Pulling out a long, rectangular blue object, Hermione pressed it against her left leg and began fiddling with a set of straps. "What's she doing?"
Rubbing his hands together, Harry gestured to his legs. "We wear pads, right? The dragonhide ones, kinda slim?" Oliver nodded. "But in the international rulebook… there's no rules about the pads we wear, other than that they can't be charmed, enchanted, cursed, or otherwise modified during the match itself. Those… are muggle field hockey goalkeeper leg guards. I'll bet you my Nimbus that she can take a bludger to the legs with those on and shrug it off."
The Weasley twins perked up at that one. "Deal! Except I don't know…"
"…what the two of us would do…"
"…with only one Nimbus. Care to…"
"…throw hers into the bet too?"
"Considering I like breathing? No. No I don't." The twins looked at Hermione and winced. Even they weren't brave enough to challenge her, it appeared. Harry turned his attention back to Oliver. "And yes I know, leg injuries aren't that big a deal for you. But… she also has a blocker for her arm. One right now, but we can get her a second." He gestured to where Hermione had moved on to what looked like a glove with part of a leg guard mounted on the back, covering the top of her forearm from elbow to wrist with a wide protective barrier. "There's no rule dictating…"
"…the forearm guards we can wear, as long as they don't have an active enchantment. Bloody hell, how come nobody else has thought of this?" Wood seemed utterly appalled that a pair of first years had come up with something his own quidditch-obsessed mind hadn't. Hermione pulled a last object out of her bag and Oliver groaned. "A helmet. The rules allow for a helmet but most of us don't wear them because they fell out of favor at some point and nobody wants to be made fun of for being the only person on the pitch wearing one."
Harry nodded and gestured for Wood to step back, leaning down in front of his team captain and opening the chest containing the quidditch balls. After grabbing a beater bat, Harry flicked the restraints off one of the bludgers and got ready. "Yeah, but Hermione doesn't want her frighteningly intelligent brain splattered across the pitch and I'm thinking of getting my own helmet because I'm not too keen on the idea either. Hey, Hermione! Think fast!" Bringing the bat forward, Harry batted the bludger her way.
Shrieking, Hermione brought up her blocker into the path of the bludger… and deflected it up and over her head. The impact forced her back a step and she grunted in either exertion or pain, Harry wasn't sure, but it hadn't snapped her arm like a twig and she was still on her feet. That was good news. Then the ball came back around, nailing her in the back of the head and knocking her off her feet. She lay facedown on the grass for a moment before holding up her right hand. "I'm alright!"
"And that was just proof of concept." Harry lazily batted the oncoming bludger up into the air, away from the rest of the team. "We can get her pads with the outer layer made of dragonhide, which will make the pads even stronger. She'll be unstoppable. And look at that, Wood. She took a bludger to the skull and she's still awake. She's got one up on you, eh?"
Eyes wide, Wood looked around at the rest of the team, barely even noticing as Harry batted away the bludger mere moments before it would have nailed him in the face. "If anyone else thinks that was bloody amazing, raise your hand."
Five hands went up.