With only Ron at his side, Harry waited outside the Great Hall. Getting away from his other friends hadn't been any trouble at all; he'd just told them he wanted to get away from them for a bit.
With dinner dying down, students began leaving the Great Hall, passing through the corridor. Most of them were in robes with trim of silver and green. Harry and Ron were in the corridor that the Slytherins usually left through.
It wasn't long until they sighted a short figure with platinum blond hair, with two larger boys on either side.
Draco Malfoy clearly saw them as well, and they already had his attention when Harry said, "I'd like to talk to you," said Harry. "In private."
Malfoy said, "If you want to talk in private, why bring the Weasel?"
"I figured he could talk with your helpers about The Quidditch. More polite that way."
"Fine," snapped Draco. "Crabbe, Goyle. Give us a minute."
Harry and Draco moved aside into a little alcove, Draco torn between curiosity and impatience, Ron, Crabbe and Goyle standing uncomfortably a little ways off.
Draco said, "What is this about, Potter?"
Harry smiled. A certain degree of directness, or at least, pretended directness, had always worked best with Dudley. "We're not getting along very well. I'd like to fix that."
Draco Malfoy smirked. "Oh, Potter? You wanna be friends? Maybe if you beg."
Harry said, "I don't want to be friends with you. I don't like you. I just want you to be stop bothering me or my friends. That way, I won't have to bother you either."
Draco's smirk widened. "Do I bother you, Potter?"
"I just said that. You ought to work on your listening comprehension. I'd be worried if I were your mum."
"Don't talk about my mother."
Harry said, "I didn't. I was talking about you. And, no disrespect, but if you keep bothering me and mine, I'll have to bother you back. No choice, you know. Tit for tat, and we don't want that headache, right. So I'm asking for a truce, that's all." He extended a hand.
Malfoy ignored it and snorted. "You think you can bother me? If you do anything, my father will hear about it, and you'll be out of Hogwarts in a minute."
Harry's grin was a grimace. "Yes. Your father." The guy with the enslaved, beaten house-elf. Who had worked for Baby-Loser, according to Ron. "You'd really go crying to daddy? Think he'd be impressed?"
"At least I have a father."
"At least? Is that the best you can say about him? That he isn't dead."
Harry said, "This could get nasty. So let's call it quits."
Draco said, "There's no reason for me to 'call it quits,' against the half-blood son of a blood-traitor." Draco turned about and walked away, taking Crabbe and Goyle with him.
Harry stared after the receding form of the platinum-haired boy.
Moving next to Harry, Ron said, "You alright, mate?"
"Hmm? Why wouldn't I be?"
"The look in your eyes right now. It's a bit..."
"I'm just thinking."
A parliament of owls brought two broomsticks to the Gryffindor breakfast table, dropping them off with Harry Potter. Other students gathered around, and Harry didn't like people pushing into his personal space or looming over his food, so he stood and swung his elbows about to make them back off.
"What've you got there, mate?" said Ron.
For answer, Harry tore off the brown packaging paper, revealing two shiny Cleansweep 8s.
From other students, there was a good deal of jocularity that Harry hardly noticed, asking if he planned to fly both at once.
Harry pointed to the red-headed twins who were on the The Quidditch team. They were looking hungrily at the brooms and leaped up when they realized Harry was calling for them.
Carrying the brooms, Harry walked with the twins to the edge of the Great Hall, for privacy's sake, and said, "You two," said Harry. "Your the batters on the The Quidditch team, right?"
"Batters?" said one.
"It's Snape who swoops around a like a great bat. I wouldn't wonder if he could fly."
"But we're beaters. On the Quidditch team. I'm Fred and the ugly one on my left is George. We're Ron's older brothers."
Harry blinked. "Oh. So, about the brooms. I thought I might let you use them. But they're still mine, I'd be lending them to you, though perhaps for the school rules we have to say they're yours. But I'd like a little rent, say."
"I'm not paying anything," said George, crossing his arms. "And neither is George."
Harry said, "The other one is Fred. You're George."
"No, I'm Fred," said the one who'd been introduced as George.
"And I'm George," said the one who'd introduced himself as Fred. "He's Fred. Everyone always confuses us."
"Does it matter?" asked Harry.
"Of course it matters. We're different people, with different hopes, dreams and internal lives."
"I don't believe you," said Harry. "So, about the brooms. I believe you two are known for playing pranks without getting caught. Is that correct? It seems oxymoronic."
"It's right," said one. "We usually don't get caught. Even if everyone else knows it's us, they can hardly ever prove it."
"Good. But this time, maybe it would be better if people really didn't know it was you. Draco Malfoy. I don't just want him to have a bad day. I have been paying attention a little, and I think having Gryffindor enemies might actually be good for him. Might help his standing in his own house. Instead, I want you to completely and utterly disgrace him in the eyes of his own team."
The twins looked to each other, exchanging a conversation with just their eyes. One of the twins said, "We already got him once for what he said. Stink bombs. But to really hurt his rep in Slytherin…" He looked intrigued. "That's an interesting challenge. You're very serious about this."
"I'm always serious. So, do we have a deal?
Both twins frowned. The one who'd been Fred first said, "There are lines we don't like to cross. Malfoy is a little git, but he's a second-year. We won't do anything too bad to him.
"That's fine. Just do the worst that you will."
The twins assented with shrugs, and Harry handed over the brooms.
What Harry really wanted was for Malfoy to be gone, because Hogwarts was supposed to be perfect and Malfoy was messing it up. But he'd done enough, and Malfoy didn't deserve any more of his attention.
Ron and his friends were at their usual seats in the library, doing their homework. Or Hermione and Neville were. Harry was skimming a book on Enchantment, and Luna was sticking her head in Myrtle's chest and blinking a lot.
"That is so creepy," Ron said again.
Hermione tapped his essay with her quill. "I told you ten minutes ago that your supporting details in this paragraph don't support the topic sentence and you still haven't fixed it."
"It's fine," said Ron.
Myrtle floated over the table, reading the paragraph upside down. "Hermione's right," she said. "You need to fix it."
Ron kept his trap shut. He had several clever comments to make about a ghost hanging around with them, but Myrtle would start crying and Harry would not be very displeased.
Frowning, he admitted to himself that the body of the paragraph really did disagree with its main idea, and figured it was easier to change the main idea. He just hoped that wouldn't make the whole paragraph disagree the with conclusion.
It did, didn't it? Squinting, Ron scrawled in a tiny, 'While some might argue,' at the top of the paragraph, and a 'however,' at the bottom.
There. Concession and rebuttal, wasn't it? Hermione would be impressed. He just needed to write the rebuttal, was all.
Ron was grumbling his way through that when Ginny approached the table and cleared her throat. She was pale and nervous, but her jaw was set.
"Hey Ginny," said Luna, from inside Myrtle.
"Hello Luna," said Ginny. She cleared her throat again, until Harry looked up and the whole group was gazing at her expectantly.
Ginny said, "I would like to join the group."
Ron opened his mouth to say that his little sister was not joining the group and she needed to get her own friends, but Harry was quicker off the mark.
Harry said, "It's not that easy. You need a thing. Look, we all have things. Neville's a nice bloke who's very good with plants and is much braver on the inside than he seems on the outside. Ron's an irritable Mum, and he's smarmy and good at chess. That's not quite enough, but he got in early so it's okay. Hermione's really smart and really studious and she might be the leader, I'm not sure. Luna's crazy, but an interesting crazy that lets her notice truths others don't. Myrtle's a ghost and knows all about the blitz, and she's probably the first person Baby-Loser ever killed."
Myrtle stuck her chest out proudly.
"And I'm a Transfiguration prodigy, plus I'm Harry Potter, which is very convenient. You're a red-head, and that might be a good start if you're fiery too – are you fiery? – but it's not enough. Is there anything you're very good at?"
Ginny said, "I'm pretty good with hexes, for a first year."
"That's nice," said Harry. "Work at it. Maybe you can become the Dueling Queen of the First Year, then reapply."
"So shoo," said Harry, waving her away. "Come back later. Dueling is fun, so if you can be a decent dueling partner for me, you're in. Probably. Good luck. I'm rooting for you." He gave her a thumbs up, returning to his book.
Ginny rushed off to the Defense Against the Dark Arts section of the library.
The Astronomy class didn't only do observations at night. The most important star in the sky wasn't ever visible then.
The second-year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs were at the top of the Astronomy Tower, practicing measuring the sun's altitude and azimuth, and generally enjoying the view of Black Lake and the Forbidden Forest, and the cool fall breeze.
Class was interrupted when, with a running start and an impressive launch, Harry Potter leaped off the Astronomy Tower.
Harry plummeted. Above him were the shrieks and yells of his classmates, Hermione's, "HARRY JAMES POTTER!" the loudest of them all.
Harry laughed, suffered a bad moment when it seemed as if the ground really was approaching too quickly, but then came a tug around his waist and his fall slowed, slowed further still, and stopped entirely with him about three feet off the ground.
He kicked his legs, swung his butt around, shimmied, and finally got his feet on the ground.
"Hah!" said Harry.
"HARRY!" Hermione yelled again, from the top of the Tower.
The students rushed down the long spiral staircase, heedless of Professor Sinistra telling them to slow down.
Ronald Weasley had been pretty damn pleased about Harry needing less supervision as time passed, but those instincts were still there. He was the first to reach the staircase, and the first to reach the bottom.
"Bloody hell, mate!" he shouted as he sprinted toward Harry. "What was that about?"
Calm and dignified, Harry allowed Ron to grasp his arms and said, "My underwear has become most superior," he answered. "I've incorporated anti-fall features. I thought of it when you were doing The Quidditch. They work. I'll make one for everyone on the The Quidditch team. Ron, you'll get the first one."
"I'm not bloody wearing your underpants," said Ron.
"They're not mine. I just make them. I've been going to see Hagrid on my own. He knows some acramantulas, so he's able to get me their silk nice and cheap. Don't tell anyone, because we're not exactly licensed, but it's good stuff, really top end, and-"
Pale, choking on the words, Ron said, "Your underpants is made from giant spiders?"
"Spider silk, Ron. It's fine. It's good. It feels great. It's so soft."
Most of the rest of the student body reached the ground, Hermione loudest among them, and Neville palest
"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?" said Hermione, stomping toward him.
Harry repeated his explanation about the anti-fall features for the underwear.
Hermione said, "YOU WOULD'VE DIED IF IT HADN'T WORKED!"
"I had Dudley do it first," said Harry. "Last night. The underwear worked great."
"YOU WOULD'VE DIED IF IT HADN'T WORKED. IF IT HAD MALFUNCTIONED!"
"Are you using the Sonorous Charm?"
"NO! I'M JUST THIS ANGRY! WHAT IF THERE'D BEEN A PROBLEM?!"
Harry said, "The only real problem so far is weight distribution. I don't think I have to say what happens with my crack if I don't get things right. Not comfortable."
"I HOPE YOU'RE IN DETENTION UNTIL YOU DIE!"
Professor Sinistra arrived, and very nearly arranged it.
Harry was in the common room with forty sets of underwear laid out in front of him, all of the softest, smoothest silk. Some were for males, but most were lacy, frilly things in bright colors. Several girls had agreed to show him theirs, after he'd explained what exactly he meant by, "Hi, I'm Harry Potter, can I see your underwear?", and he had found female underwear more aesthetically interesting than male underwear, and had so made more of it.
Hermione was sitting on the other side of the common room, red hands gripping the book she was hiding her face behind, pretending, for reasons that Harry didn't grasp, that she didn't know him, but most of the other Gryffindor girls had gathered around.
Harry held up a particularly cute pair of red, lacy underwear and began to speak.
"Behold, Superior Underwear. Self-sizing, within thirty percent. Temperature regulating, breathable, ever dry, and equipped with a triple redundant fall arrester. " He stroked it, showing off the flaps and teeth. "These teeth are, as, requested, more elegant than in the prototypes. Polished stainless steel with refined, curved, feminine lines."
He waved it from side to side and showed the front and back, just like the tall skinny women did in Aunt Petunia's shows.
Harry continued, "And the whole ensemble can be cleaned by house-elves, as in our normal laundry service, and with standard cleaning spells, and, for those of you muggle-born, yes, they are machine washable, but I advise putting them on the delicates cycle. And of course, every pair has the HP brand signature, personally signed by me."
The girls came forward to examine his wares. Harry listened closely, since product research was important, and took cooing as the highest praise.
The teeth were a more popular feature with the older girls than the younger ones, for reasons Harry didn't know and didn't care about.
He had made four sales when the black girl who he thought was on the The Quidditch team said, "What about, when, you know?"
"Once a month," said the Quidditch girl.
"I advise washing it much more than once a month."
She rolled her eyes. "No, I mean, what does, does it do anything to accommodate our womanly cycles?"
Harry blinked. Cogs were turning in his brain, aerating inscrutable allusions found in books he'd read. Harry said, "I'm sorry, but it doesn't have any anti-pregnancy features. It's on the outside, not the inside."
The other girls had stopped talking, listening to the conversation, and there was a lot of giggling. Another one, having turned almost as red as Hermione, said, "No, not, not that. You have, in your pants, you know, underneath, you have."
"Y, you've named it?"
"I name all my body parts. What about it?"
Haltingly, too many of them speaking at once, and then all falling silent together, the girls explained about their womanly cycles.
When they were done, Harry said, "So as I understand it, you have a slit which contains a pee hole and a tube about like an expandable garden hose, with a small, pinched end. Is that accurate?"
"Well," said Melissa, the prefect. "It's not like a garden hose. But essentially."
"And you're telling me that, monthly, blood and other stuff drips out the garden hose."
"Yes," said Melissa.
Harry raised his voice. "Hermione, are you hearing this?"
"Yes," squeaked Hermione, sounding as if she were about to die.
"Is she having me on?"
"No," squeaked Hermione. "It's true."
"That's horrifying," said Harry. "Isn't there anything you can do stop it?"
"There's a Charm," the The Quidditch girl said. "But it's not perfect. The potion is better, but most people don't bother with it when the charm works almost as well and doesn't cost anything."
"Huh," said Harry. It did explain the stains on Aunt Petunia's knickers. "What is it even for?"
"Getting pregnant," said Melissa. "So we can have kids later. But I don't see any reason why a girl should ever have a period. We should only ovulate when we want to get pregnant, and we should get pregnant on the first try. With modern advancements in potions, it ought to be possible."
"That's not my area," said Harry. "Maybe if you talked to Professor Snape?"
She rolled her eyes. "I'm not asking you for help."
"Right. Okay. So. The underwear. I'll just worry about the underwear. What do you normally do for the blood and gunk and stuff?"
That was a touchy subject, but it got a lot easier when one of the girls ran up to her room and returned with an example.
The hilarity had largely died down, Harry busily playing with designs, when he glanced up, squinted in thought, and said, "Wait. The baby also comes out the garden hose?"
The feminine underwear bit was interesting for me to write. (I'm a dude.) I wrote the first version based on my imagination, as I usually do, but got a female friend to consult on revisions. Little was changed.
I've published the first four chapters of an original story of Wattpad. It's called Skeleton of a Dead God. By Jonathan Lake. Please check it out. I have these weird ambitions of succeeding as a writer some day.
I was thinking, 'Gosh, Hagrid hasn't been in this year, I feel bad about it, Hagrid's great, I should mention him in this chapter somehow,' and suddenly Harry Potter was a black marketeer.
You may notice that Harry's tactics, thus far, for dealing with Malfoy are very Malfoyesque. Using money, cleverness and other people.
Skeleton of a Dead God, if you'd please.