Back again. I re-read the last chapter once I posted it. Immediately there are things I would rewrite to be clearer, but no changes that I would make to characters or their interactions.

Because I like to discuss stuff I created a Forum for this story. You can ask me questions there.

There didn't seem to be any urgent errors anyone wanted to alert me to so I'll roll with it.

Romance will be slow burn. No twelve year olds sleeping in the same beds, holding hands, and bonding souls. I have never liked soul bonds and marriage contracts here. There is nothing wrong with their use as plot devices except for their overuse and the rush to make things happen immediately.

I always thought it was odd that everyone talked about how similar Harry and Voldemort were. That's why I had Dumbledore get him. I wrote that scene with the scene from the half-blood prince where Dumbledore talks to Tom Riddle open to compare.

Important!So other people's thoughts and memories will be in brackets. Harry's thoughts will be in italics. Let us begin with the first half of first year!Important

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"All you have to do is take a close look at yourself and you will understand everyone else." - Isaac Asimov

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"Look!"

"Where is he?"

"I don't see him."

"Wearing the glasses?"

"Did you see his face? Did you see…you know…it?"

Very subtle.

Harry thought.

"His scar?"

The whispers followed Harry from the moment he left his dormitory the next day. People had lined up outside classrooms and stood on tiptoe to get a look at him, or doubled back to pass him in the corridors. A redheaded boy from Gryffindor was pointing with a grin on his face.

Harry wished they wouldn't, he already found himself missing his cupboard, and just wanted to concentrate on finding his classes. Navigating minds was a difficult task, but the castle was an absolute labyrinth, and if he made a mistake he had to wait for stairs to return. He huffed indignantly.

Harry dodged a vanishing step before turning around. Apparently, the staircase he had chosen went somewhere different on Tuesdays, or depending on its mood. Consistent landmarks were difficult to find because the armor and paintings wouldn't stay still.

He was forced to sidestep Mrs. Norris, whom he was almost certain was trying to purposefully trip him, sending him tumbling down a floor or plummeting to the ground way below.

Who designed this castle?

But there was magic, and he loved it. He loved tracking the planets and constellations at midnight every Wednesday atop the astronomy tower. He was told the locations of planets could affect potions and ambient magic. He wasn't sure what it meant yet, but knew that it was important. He was less enthused about taking care of plants in Herbology, despite Professor Sprout's various assurances regarding the twisting potted plants and fungi.

He eyed one with thick, spiraling vines. It writhed slowly in place, and he was almost certain that it eyed him back.

On the other hand, he absolutely loathed the History of Magic teacher. If Peeves' disturbances weren't enough to convince him to learn how to banish ghosts and poltergeists, then Professor Binns' teaching did the trick.

Some teachers were excited to see him, like Professor Flitwick, the Charms teacher. He fell off his pile of books the first time he called Harry's name for the register. Flitwick had later confided that his mother was quite the talent with charms, and Harry resolved to come by again to find out more about his mother.

He was astounded when Professor McGonagall changed her desk into a pig… but to be honest, he didn't think it was that useful. How often would he need pork that desperately? Harry had already practiced their first transfiguration, so completed it flawlessly, much to Hermione's chagrin. The bushy-haired girl huffed and looked down at her pointy, matte-grey match. It was most certainly still made of wood, and not particularly sharp. Hermione tended to lecture as much as possible, and even those who sat far away from her were not particularly safe. It annoyed Harry to no end.

The class everyone had been most looking forward to, was Defense Against the Dark Arts. Unfortunately, Quirrell's lessons didn't live up to the expectations. He once felt a pinch behind his eyes during the class and nearly fell out of his seat, much to Malfoy's delight. Harry looked around for who could have poked at him, but saw no one. He had to assure himself that Legilimency was rare, and he doubted the stammering Quirrell had the talent. That aside, Harry was always worried he would smell like garlic the rest of the day after being in that class and he occasionally felt his scar give a painful throb.

He had been excited for potions, but it seemed that Professor Snape had taken an immediate disliking towards him; although, he couldn't imagine what he might have done wrong. Professor Snape, like Professor Flitwick, started the class by taking a register. Unlike the diminutive Professor however, he paused at Harry's name only to make a harsh comment or two.

Professor Snape finished calling their names and looked up at the class. His eyes were dark. He asked Harry a series of questions which he had no answer for. He resolved to look up the answers later though. He would master potions.

Harry met the giant Hagrid once or twice in the Halls and always stopped to say hello. He always made sure to smile politely at the large man during meal times, even while the other students gossiped about the latest break-in to Gringotts.

Harry decided that his favorite room was the library. It was massive. On his first visit he had stopped to ask the librarian everything he could think of, so he would know where to go. She glared at him and made sure he knew not to use magic near the books, but was far politer once she believed he was sufficiently cowed. Harry liked to believe that she had favored him for asking about her library, but he might have just been reading into things.

The biggest surprise was Daphne Greengrass. She would occasionally walk with him in the halls with her friend Tracey Davis, the freckled girl from the boat. She would also opt to join him in the library on occasion, and sit with him while he studied. When he found an empty room to practice his spells in, she made sure to stop by frequently. She occasionally asked for small pointers regarding the casting of spells but soon learned he was useless for the theory, even though he was top of the class in terms of casting. It was odd that she would meet with him. He found himself thinking about it a lot.

"Your wand movement and incantation are perfect for the spell." He was trying to walk her through the needle transfiguration.

"Then why isn't it working?" She gave him a glare before turning back to her second match stick. The first one was a little too… singed, to work with. Enough so that they had decided to just start again.

He felt her frustration alongside a tide of more tangled emotions.

[A building…a girl who looked like Daphne but had shorter and slightly darker hair... a tawny owl]

She's homesick.

He realized.

Harry had felt that quite a bit from students around the castle, and found it a strange concept. Sure, he sometimes missed his cupboard, but not the building. Not the people who lived there, certainly.

Harry looked at her in concern. She might be his first friend – he wasn't quite so ignorant as to not realise that much – it was the why that drove him mad... She seemed smart, and rarely thought about his scar, at least that he could see, and made an effort not to stare at his forehead.

"You're distracted and not focusing on the spell. You're thinking of the end result without picturing it changing." He thought she was going to snap at him for a second. She instead took a deep breath and pointed her wand at the stick, waving it in the prescribed motions. The transfiguration sort of worked, and Daphne squealed excitedly. It was certainly better than Hermione's transfiguration earlier.

"It's better than Grangers," she whooped, as if in agreement.

But Granger did it partially yesterday.

Harry didn't say it. Hermione Granger annoyed Daphne as much as she did Harry.

Harry picked up the match and inspected it. The shape hadn't changed all that much, but it was definitely metal. It wasn't as accomplished as his own, but it was good. He set it back down.

"Finish it. Focus on narrowing the end and putting a small hole for a string." She looked at him. She had already been pulling out another matchstick from a box.

"Or start from scratch," he said quickly, not wanting to actually tell her what to do. She giggled at his behavior and Harry felt certain that he made a mistake.

She's laughing at me.

She finished her metal match before starting on a new one.

"Do you miss your home?" He asked her, he wanted to try and help, even if he was worried endlessly about making a faux pas.

She nodded. "I write to my sister and mother, but it's not the same as actually talking with them. They're family, you know?" She immediately looked horrified as the words left her mouth and winced, pre-empting his reaction.

He laughed openly though, an actual laugh. He shook his head. "No, I can't say I do." He was still smiling, and could feel the relief radiate off her.

Acting normal around Daphne got easier, and he managed to have many conversations with her friend Tracey. She talked a lot, and very quickly. A conversation with Tracey was fairly easy. You just had to ask her for her opinions about some class or well-known painting in the castle and she was off, holding the conversation all on her own.

"Are you looking forward to the flying lessons later?" He asked as the three of them walked to lunch.

Tracey grinned.

"Quidditch isn't for me, but sometimes flying on training brooms was fun. I had several as a I child. I had to give them up because eventually they started to misbehave, you know? The charms on them would go all fuzzy. I used to chase them around the house because I swear they started trying to avoid me-"

He caught an image of a broom spiriting out of a closet, just out of the reach of two hands. He chuckled softly at the foreign memory. He was getting better. He used to only get a single image for a memory, like a snapshot. Now he got three or four, although it only happened for strong memories. Enough to create motion, like a movie, if only barely. Two frames of a girl's arms frantically grabbing for a small broom, if that. Something between moments which helped him know what he was seeing, though it wasn't exactly an image.

"-It was probably because I crashed so much. I don't think they liked it when I flew them, but I can't be too sure. You don't think we'll be hurt, do you?"

Harry doubted it, but he had practiced the episky spell on himself nevertheless. Daphne hadn't been happy when she saw him cut the back of his hand to practice, but had relaxed slightly once he explained himself. Healing spells had always been high on his list. They were simply useful to know.

"-Do you think the brooms here have personality, like mine? The school brooms are supposed to be fairly odd, but I don't know how enchanted objects do that. Have you noticed how the armor suits moves all the time? How do you think that happens? There isn't, like, a brain or anything in them. So how do they think? Or, how could my brooms see me coming!? They didn't have eyes!"

He knew Daphne was thankful that he didn't mind Tracey's talkativeness. Why should he care? He was just glad he wasn't really expected to answer. He no longer panicked when someone would talk to him, and articulating himself, as well as responding to others, was getting easier every day. Although, his heart still jumped into his throat whenever Daphne would suddenly sit down next to him in the library, or when Tracey would stop talking to him and expect a response, blinking at him with big eyes…like she was doing right now.

"We could ask Flitwick about it, he would know."

He knew it would upset her if she thought he hadn't been listening, even if she sometimes berated herself about talking so much.

"I suppose that's a good idea." She mused absently. "Did you know he is supposed to be part goblin?" He did; she had already told him that twice, and that was just today. He nodded back all the same. She and Daphne split off from him to go to the Slytherin table while he came in and sat next near to Su Li, still at a respectful distance.

She smiled at him, waving shyly, and he smiled back in greeting.

"Hello Harry."

"Hey Su." He was close to his housemates, or closer to them than he had ever been to another group of people besides Daphne and Tracey. She turned back to her lunch and he prepared a plate.

Lunch was delicious as always.

After lunch it was time for the flying lesson. Everyone was losing their minds about it. Or seemed to be. Harry had read a little about the sport so he knew the basic rules. Though, he couldn't quite remember if the snitch was worth a hundred and twenty points or a hundred and fifty. Or maybe just a hundred.

Alright, so he didn't know much, but he knew the balls and some basic rules. That had to count, right?

Draco Malfoy certainly knew more, and he wasn't shy about saying so. He complained loudly about first years never getting on the house Quidditch teams, and told long, boastful stories that always seemed to end with him narrowly escaping Muggles in helicopters.

Indeed, every single person who grew up in the wizarding world had similar stories. Michael Corner and Terry Boot had told several stories about near misses and incredible dodging skill. The sort of death-defying stunts sure to impress their housemates. Even Mandy Brocklehurst had boasted about racing her sister.

There had been some debate in the common room about muggle and wizard sports. Terry Boot had had an argument with Anthony Goldstein about Anthony's Tottenham Hotspur's 'Yid Army' poster, which eventually moved on to muggle and wizarding sports in general. The poster had made Michael Corner nervous, he could often be seen glancing at it, sure that the players would move as soon as he would look away. Despite Harry's and Anthony's insistence that it was normal, Michael believed he was being pranked somehow.

Harry could easily see through their lies about riding brooms with a glance, their words dripped with falsehoods, but they seemed to be having fun with it. It didn't take a mind-reader to realise that, on some level, they all knew the others were lying too. It confused Harry more than why no one had banished Peeves.

Neville Longbottom, the boy with the teleporting toad and unfortunate name, had evidently never been near a broom. His Grandmother had – with seemingly prophetic foresight – seen fit to never let him near one. Harry quietly agreed, eyeing the boy with the almost constantly-red Remembrall. Neville was missing his tie today, and probably a few other pieces of clothing. The boy had detonated his matchstick in transfiguration with impressive, if alarming, force. Harry felt that the remembrall was a good thing for Neville to have, even if it didn't seem to help him much. His grandmother had tried her best it would seem.

Hermione Granger was almost as nervous about flying as Neville was, if for different reasons. This was something she couldn't learn by heart out of a book, though she had done her utmost to try. Harry had seen her in the library reading Quidditch Through the Ages. It was a dense tome even he wouldn't touch. He could hear her lecturing the other Gryffindors this morning from half the hall and two tables away.

Of course, she still looked nervous standing with the rest of them in the cloistered quad that had been set aside for the lesson.

Their teacher, Madam Hooch, arrived precisely on time. She had close-cropped, gray hair, and alarming yellow eyes like a hawk.

"Well, what are you all waiting for?" she barked. "Everyone stand by a broomstick. Come on, hurry up."

Harry glanced down at his broom. It was old and some of the twigs stuck out at odd angles. He was sure that it was fine… probably.

"Stick out your right hand, over your broom," Madam Hooch called sharply, wisely stood far away from Seamus Finnigan, who produced explosions more violent and frequent than Neville.

Someone must have warned her.

"Now say, 'Up!'" She commanded firmly.

"Up," Harry all but whispered. The wood snapped firmly into his hand. He grinned.

Later, Harry would watch as Neville floated away uncontrollably, then start to fall. Harry watched him fumble his Remembrall and, before he knew what he was doing, he was twenty feet off the ground and had the little glass sphere firmly in-hand. Harry found himself smiling, enjoying the wind whistling past him and exhilaration of feeling his fingers close around the ball. He would, however, be wrong about what he had thought earlier, about them not getting hurt.

Neville fell, and he hit the ground with a noise which made Harry think of the Dursleys. Harry watched Neville's broom float away, lazy and free. He felt weirdly certain that it wasn't coming back. Harry descended to the ground, still holding the Remembrall, as Madam Hooch collected the boy. But, when she picked him up to take him to the Hospital Wing, Harry's Head of House had come excitedly waddling across the grass.

"Marvelous catch Mr. Potter, truly marvelous. Would you follow me for a moment?"

Had he been watching for something like this?

He dragged Harry off to meet with the Ravenclaw captain. Stating that Harry had potential as a seeker. Roger Davies, a chaser on the Ravenclaw team, later informed him that all the Heads of Houses watched the lesson to spot talent. He learned from Flitwick that his father possessed a talent at the game and had played as a chaser for Gryffindor. Harry didn't know what to feel about this alleged similarity to his father. He knew that it was important, as a nebulous concept, but it was a strangely distant feeling.

Daphne had practically dragged him away after dinner.

"You're going to be a seeker?" She seemed more thrilled at the idea than he did.

"Well, I don't have a broom," he stammered out, "and I really don't know the game that well, and there are supposed to be try-outs. Don't tell anyone, I'm supposed to keep it a secret."

Daphne looked at him like he was crazy.

"Everyone already knows all about it! It's not a secret at all! Tracey heard from Millicent who was… anyway, the rumor is that Flitwick sent out a letter requesting a broom for you. Someone saw the address on the letter he sent from the Owlery-"

I need to check on Hedwig.

"-and since first years can't bring their own brooms – and there's no way you can be a seeker on the school brooms – I imagine that he'll be the owner and he'll loan it to you for certain occasions."

Harry thought for a moment. "Like Quidditch games?"

"And practices." She nodded. She still seemed really excited.

Flitwick had indeed ordered a broom for his personal pleasure. A Nimbus 2000, which he allowed Harry to use. He had explained it all with a wink, eyes full of mischief.

Daphne had been very pleased that she was right about Flitwick's plan when Harry told her later.

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Of course, it was only natural that he would eventually run into a problem.

He was practicing his flippendo spell in the classroom he had claimed for practice. It was a knockback jinx he had read was a precursor to spells like Depulso. He was now certain he had meandered down the wrong type of banishing charm, as these wouldn't help him get rid of Peeves at all. He was pushing small objects around and knocking over desks with it when Daphne came in, wringing her hands.

A nervous habit.

He frowned.

Tracey was walking behind her, which was somewhat odd. Tracey rarely joined them here. Sometimes she did, but it was the exception more than the rule. She was also quiet and not meeting his eyes, and that really set off his warning flags.

He frowned deeper.

"What happened?" He asked. He could feel their nervousness. It was making him nervous, which made him want his cupboard.

He focused.

"I made a mistake," Daphne began, stepping forward slightly. "So, earlier this morning Tracey and I were talking to Millicent. We were talking about you being the youngest seeker to play here for such a long time and Malfoy… and Gregory and Vincent, that is, Goyle and Crabbe-"

She is being very meandering.

"Anyway, Malfoy wanted to challenge you to a wizard's duel. He was fairly insulting and I, ah… I accepted. I offered to be your second, though, - of course Crabbe is Malfoys and, I'm really sorry." She seemed to be pleading with him while simultaneously apologizing.

"What did he say that was insulting?" The question seemed to catch her off-guard. "Was it about your family again?" He remembered something like that on the train.

She nodded. Harry never had a family for anyone to insult. Not really. But he imagined that if he did, he might react similarly.

"What do you want me to do?" He was confused. She took his words as acceptance of something though and smiled slightly, while Tracey stopped shifting her weight back and forth, from foot to foot.

"The duel is tonight, in the trophy room at midnight. Do you want to practice or-" She seemed excited. He knew what a duel was, but she was taking it awfully seriously.

"-Will you bring him here now?" He asked her. She looked shocked. He had never interrupted her before, he realized. She already felt bad about accepting the duel on his behalf and was worried that he was mad at her.

"Sorry. I'm not mad or anything, I just want to talk." She accepted that and looked relieved.

[He's really hard to read sometimes.]

Daphne's thought was almost audible.

Harry didn't think that was true, but he didn't say anything as she left, Tracey trailing behind her. He hit the desk next to him with a flippendo, more forcefully than he had before. The desk rocked off the ground slightly and was mildly deformed by the blow. Harry sighed and repaired it with another gesture – it took a few waves. He then came back to the basic stunner. The pale bolt of light was practically pink, nowhere near the deep red of the more powerful stupefy. And he had practiced the disarming spell, but he never used it against anything that could be disarmed. He wasn't sure what would work, and he didn't know what Draco knew. He also knew that Daphne seemed to want him to do this, so what could he say? Should he say no?

Malfoy and his morons walked in a few minutes later, followed closely by the two Slytherin girls. It made Harry wonder, not for the first time, where the Slytherin common room was.

"Well Potter, you wanted to speak to me?" Draco drawled imperiously. He still had that smirk. Harry found himself wanting to duel the boy.

[Filch…Expel…Trophy…Potter…Duel]

A lot of that was unhelpful. There was jealousy too, and the feeling of being snubbed. The handshake and Quidditch were the likely source for these feelings. Harry thought for a moment.

"You're trying to trick me," Harry murmured. He felt Daphne's confusion and Tracey made a noise like a mouse being stepped on.

Draco just looked stunned.

"You don't intend to meet me tonight. You're trying to get me expelled." Daphne's clear shock told him she hadn't considered that angle.

Draco scowled. "You think I'm afraid of you?" He denied fiercely. "You wish, Potter."

"That's not what I said." He turned his back to Draco and rubbed his jaw in thought. Stepping away. He could almost hear Draco fuming behind him.

Just when Draco began to say something, Harry spoke again. "Why don't we duel now then?"

Harry turned around. He saw the look in Draco's eye and didn't need to use his talents to see that he had him trapped.

"Fine. Where?" Draco's responses were stiff now. He didn't actually expect to have to duel.

"Here," Harry murmured. "Stand there, opposite me."

Draco sneered, "I know how to duel, Potter."

But he went and stood opposite him all the same, Crabbe and Goyle off to the side. Daphne was now watching on in interest, but Harry needed to focus. It took him surprisingly little time to clear his mind.

"Do you mind if Tracey counts us off?"

Draco shook his head and Harry turned to the girl in question. "Do you mind at all?" She shook her head as well and stood to Harry's right and Draco's Left.

"Bow first!" The excited girl all but squeaked. Harry bowed to Draco and Draco gave a short wobble which could technically be called a bow.

"Three!"

[Serpensortia first, then I'll hex him while he's distracted.]

Harry didn't know what Serpensortia did. Not for certain. He was, however, willing to bet that it had something to do with snakes. A snake wouldn't threaten him… or would it? Were summoned snakes different? He made a back-up plan just to be safe. It might cause him to be bitten as if by a snake, though.

"Two!" It was hardly words which left Tracey's mouth. She was bouncing.

A biting spell was unlikely to have such a particular incantation, so he made a plan to deal with a snake should it obey him, and one should it not. He would disarm Malfoy at the same time Malfoy cast his spell. He would have time. The snake would need to close at least some distance. If it obeyed him, the duel would be over. If it didn't, he would use the knockback hex and the duel would be over…That was assuming his disarming spell worked.

"One!" That wasn't even a number. Just a squealing noise.

She's more likely to need a trip to the hospital wing than either of us.

Harry cleared his mind. He was ready.

"Go!" That was more audible, but still.

"Serpensortia!"

"Expelliarmus."

A snake flew from Draco's wand and landed between them. Harry's spell struck true and he caught Malfoy's wand… or rather he tried. As he turned his attention to the snake he fumbled the wand. He was sure it looked ridiculous.

"Ssstop," he told the snake, hoping nobody noticed his error. The snake froze, along with everybody else.

Harry bent down and picked up the wand. "I believe I win. Now go away."

Draco and his lackeys looked downright petrified. Harry tossed the wand towards the door and gestured at it with his own. They didn't move until Harry decided to give the snake directions to the first floor where it could use a window to escape. They gave terrified shrieks and stumbled over themselves to escape.

Daphne looked at him in awe and shock. Tracey was little better.

"What?" He asked. "That was what you wanted, right?" Why was he always confused?

"You can talk to snakes!"

"You're a parselmouth?"

He nodded. "I've always been able to talk to snakes."

Daphne looked flabbergasted, and again Tracey could only mirror her friend's reaction.

He shrugged. "It's not a big deal." It was his least useful magical talent. How often could speaking to snakes be useful? Today, for the first time in his life, brought that count up to a total of once.

"It's a huge deal!" Tracey told him, eyes still wide. "How are you not in Slytherin? Didn't you know about You-Know-Who? He could do it too."

He just nodded with a shrug. "You're both still acting odd."

"We're acting odd?"

He nodded again. "Ever since you came in here earlier. I thought you'd be back to your usual selves after the duel was over."

He grabbed his things and departed for the Ravenclaw common room. He had his first Quidditch practice tonight. He figured they would be back to their usual selves by tomorrow.

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"Did you hear?"

"A snake? Really?"

"…Slytherin…"

"You-Know-Who was one too, don't you know."

"What did it sound like?"

"I don't believe it."

They were all always so loud. Daphne and Tracey continued to act normal around him for a few days, but it was just an act. Still, they soon fell back into their usual rhythm once they realized this revelation hadn't actually changed anything. Of course, Hermione no longer attempted to lecture him. It seemed she frowned upon his duel and this was his punishment. Harry enjoyed this punishment so much. In fact, it might have been his favorite ever.

On the flip side, Slytherin students now leered at him, his Ravenclaw house mates gave him a much wider berth, and there was some hostility and awkward silence in the dormitory. He ignored it, of course. Silences made other people uncomfortable faster than they ever would for him. He simply made sure to maintain his polite attitude at all time. No point feeding the flames. They were only nervous of him and, so far, hadn't actually done anything against him.

Gryffindor was a different matter, as what seemed to be the entire house had taken to glowering at him during meals. He ignored them too. It was just a magical talent, he reminded himself. Neville was, thankfully, the exception there. After Harry gave him back his Remembrall, visiting him in the hospital wing, he had elected to occasionally join Harry in the library and ask his help with spells. Harry had agreed, in return for Neville's assistance with Herbology, where the other boy seemed to shine. Harry's own talents in the subject were… less substantial.

He found his first Quidditch game fast approaching and, as the days were ticked off the calendar, he found himself genuinely nervous. His first practice was, much to his disappointment, spent entirely grounded. The captain had gone over plays with the team, then took each group aside and gave them individual plays to work on. It took the entire practice. Harry had been confused about why Flitwick hadn't left the broom out for him, but it made a great deal more sense now.

It took several practices before they actually got up in the air. Even if it was only running drills, the intensity of the experience was wonderful. Although, his least favorite drill had to be juggling two balls the size of a snitch while flying through several obstacles. It was fairly difficult, but Harry quickly grew to understand the importance of it.

On the academic side of things, they were finally making things fly in Charms. The class had been dying to try it out ever since professor Flitwick made Neville's toad whiz around the classroom. A fascinating display for the students, but likely a terrifying one for the evasive amphibian. Curiously, Harry had heard that it was once discovered inside the Ravenclaw common room. Whenever he saw it bouncing through the corridors he eyed it suspiciously. Neville later told him that he rarely knew where it was, and just hoped to find it again before he went home.

In Charms, Harry had been paired up with Lisa Turpin, a mousy girl from his house that he might not have talked to otherwise. She had avoided him since the news about his talent spread, but she quickly warmed up to him when he was polite and well-meaning for their project.

"At least you weren't paired with Hermione," he told her, earning a muffled giggle that let Harry knew that he had done something right.

After a few quick pointers, they both managed the levitation spell quickly enough to earn points for their house. He had accomplished it immediately this time, now that he had practiced, but she was close behind. When they were awarded the points she smiled at him, and Harry attempted to return it convincingly.

Hermione and Daphne managed it too, but Hermione seemed to be driving Ron spare. Not that she was wrong about her corrections.

It's in her tone.

Harry had, however, seen Ron drive her to tears. While she was rude, and more than a little bossy, she didn't deserve that. She was just… lonely. Harry could, despite his misgivings, empathize with that.

Harry had been rather surprised when a prefect came to collect him after Transfiguration. Evidently, Dumbledore had asked to speak with him. He was concerned, and couldn't for the life of him figure out what it might be about. Was it the duel? Would he be sent away? He hoped not.

He apologized to his friends and followed Percy Weasley to a gargoyle. Percy gave it a password, chocolate frog, and it leapt to the side with surprising alacrity for something made of stone. Harry entered and knocked on the door.

"Come in, Harry."

He entered, noting how the door swung shut behind him of its own volition, and saw his magical guardian sitting behind the desk. The man was wearing bright orange robes which Harry was a little concerned might blind him if he stared too long.

"Hello sir."

"Have a seat, if you would?" He gestured to the chair opposite him, and it slid forward to accommodate Harry.

"I'm sure you are wondering why I invited you here." Harry nodded. "I recently heard that you demonstrated one of your unique abilities, particularly, your affinity for Slytherin's familiar."

Harry blinked. He wondered if the professor could say that five times fast. Then he realised the Headmaster seemed to be waiting for him to answer.

"Draco Malfoy summoned a snake, he used a spell, Serpensortia, and I didn't want to be bitten."

Dumbledore nodded. "I am glad you are not showing off your talents for the wrong reasons." He seemed proud, and Harry flushed slightly.

"However," Dumbledore stood. Harry braced himself for his expulsion. "It is not the only reason I brought you here. Tonight is, of course, Halloween. It is the anniversary of a dreadful night ten years ago. The night you received your scar."

"The night my parents died."

Dumbledore hummed thoughtfully. "I was concerned that the night might have some form of impact on your wellbeing. After all, this same night I also delivered you to your aunt and uncle. I was concerned you might have some… past history with them, because of that fact."

Harry shook his head and Dumbledore gave Harry a measured look. There was a beat of silence.

"I am told you asked Professor Flitwick about your mother, He always was proud of her as a student."

Harry remembered the Professor telling him a short story about his mother accidently changing the color of his father's hair in their first year, after he had stopped by and asked.

"He felt as though what he gave you was too little, and so provided me with this." He held up a silver vial and gestured to a cabinet. A silvery gleaming bowl emerged and floated over, settling down between them on the desk.

"These are your Professor's memories of your parents' wedding day. He attended as a guest, close as he was to your mother, even after she finished her education. This is a pensieve, a device for viewing the memories of another."

Harry frowned as Professor Dumbledore poured the memories into the bowl. That hadn't come up in his studies about memories.

"I invite you to view it Harry, as many times as you so desire. Then, when you are finished, I would like for you to rejoin your friends in the Great Hall for the Halloween feast." Dumbledore stood and departed the room. Leaving Harry alone with the memories, and his thoughts.

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When Harry left the room, what felt like hours later, he decided to write Professor Flitwick a thank you, at the very least. He knew why Dumbledore had left, he appreciated the gesture of privacy, though it would have been nice to know how the pensieve had worked. He wiped away his tears and cleared his mind. He had to be ready to rejoin the other students.

Harry recoiled as he foulest odour he had ever smelled drifted around the corner, accompanied by heavy, thudding footsteps that wouldn't have been strange from an elephant. He moved forward, still grimacing, and just spotted a lumbering figure press their bulk through a bathroom doorway. Then, he heard a scream.

He charged towards it, berating himself as he did. It was hard to miss the creature when he rounded the doorway. Twelve feet tall, with ears too large for its ridiculously proportioned head, and a club taller than he was. It knocked the sinks off the walls with a single swing, throwing porcelain shards everywhere as it stomped slowly towards a terrified Hermione Granger.

It turned at his intrusion, staring at him dumbly for agonizingly slow couple of seconds. That was how long it took to make up its tiny mind, shifting awkwardly to move towards him instead, already beginning to raise its club. As it did, Harry made his move.

"Flippendo!" He was more frantic and desperate than he had ever been when casting the spell before.

It struck the top of the club and rocked it into the troll's face using its own hand as a pivot, sufficient enough to deform the club where it struck. The troll collapsed to its knees, shaking its head with angry, confused noises.

I hope its concussed.

"Come on!" He shouted to Hermione, offering his hand. She leapt up and took it without hesitating, and they turned to run before the beast recovered. It made to stand up and placed a hand on the ground as Hermione ran by. She stumbled from the shock, nearly losing her footing on the slick floor, forcing Harry to steady her as they escaped the room. She whimpered, and he looked down at her leg. It was bleeding.

The porcelain!

"Episkey," he incanted, flicking his wand in a well-practised motion. The wound sealed up even as they continued to run.

His eyes darted about frantically once they were outside, and the troll's enraged roar helped him make up his mind.

He was sprinting down the corridor, Hermione in tow, when Professor McGonagall burst around the corner. She waved her wand and Harry felt himself fly towards her to a surprisingly soft landing.

She advanced on the troll with Professor Snape and Professor Quirrell behind her. Quirrell was clutching his heart and seemed closer to collapse than even Hermione. Snape, on the other hand, already had a silvery spell on the tip of his outstretched wand. It stuck the beast right in the centre of its putrid bulk, and didn't get back up.

"What on earth were you thinking?" Professor McGonagall hissed, serious agitation in her voice when she turned on them. "You're lucky you weren't killed. Why aren't you in your dormitories with the other students?"

Snape gave Harry a measured, piercing look.

"I was just coming down from the Headmaster's office," Harry began. "He summoned me earlier."

"That was hours ago," Professor McGonagall snapped.

"I was in there for a long time," he explained, feeling oddly calm as he spoke. Angry adults were something he had plenty of experience with. "I was coming back to join the feast when I smelled it. I approached it when I heard Hermione scream and I cast a spell."

"And which spell," Snape interjected softly, "might I ask, did you believe was suitable for taking down a fully-grown mountain troll?"

"I used the knockback jinxon its club. It was stunned for a moment, the club hit its face. I grabbed Hermione and we tried to run. And well… you arrived."

Professor McGonagall gave him a shrewd look, before shifting her attention.

"And you, Ms. Granger? You never attended my class earlier today."

"I well…" She glanced at Harry, so he gave her what he hoped was an encouraging look.

"I was upset by something Ronald Weasley said after charms. I was in the bathroom all day," she glanced down, cheeks flushed, "hiding."

Professor McGonagall's face couldn't have softened faster.

"Fifty points to Ravenclaw is in order, I believe." Professor McGonagall decided, eyeing Hermione's leg. "Ms. Granger, why don't you come with me to the Hospital Wing? We'll let madam Pomfrey to have a look at that."

"Harry healed me," the girl interjected.

"With what spell?" Professor Snape asked, snappishly.

Hermione paused for a moment. "The incantation was episky, I think."

Harry looked down. Now he was the one with red cheeks.

"Well. you should still see madam Pomfrey all the same. Five more points to Ravenclaw for a well-cast spell."

Professor McGonagall took Hermione's shoulder and gently led her away. Hermione gave him one last look before she departed.

[Thank you…]

After that, Harry and Hermione became friends, of a sort. There are some things you can't share with another person without ending up closer for the experience, and it turned out that a twelve-foot mountain troll just so happened to be one of them.

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Quidditch season had begun as November brought the first lazy flakes of snow to the highland landscape. Harry felt incredibly anxious for his first game against Hufflepuff. Cedric Diggory was supposed to be a good seeker. He breathed steadily, not knowing which was worse - people telling him he'd be brilliant, or people telling him they'd be running around underneath him holding a mattress. He kind of hoped somebody would do that. At least he would feel a little safer.

Of course, there were new challenges for him socially as well. Daphne could not stand Hermione, so he was now forced into a weird juggling act his friends. Just the knowledge that Hermione was now his friend drove Daphne to feel several weird emotions Harry couldn't untangle. However, when his relationship with her had not changed in the slightest, she soon relaxed and accepted Hermione in her own way. That was to say, distantly.

Harry studied with Hermione and practiced magic with Daphne and so far, keeping the separate like that appeared to be working. Neville on the other hand, couldn't seem to find his voice whenever Tracey was around, mostly stammering. So, Harry took some measures to keep them separate as well, if only for Neville's sake. Still, he hoped Neville would get over whatever it was soon.

A part of him hoped it had nothing to do with his parseltongue abilities. The rest of Gryffindor now seemed to avoid him like the plague.

Harry never expected to have the problem of too many friends. It made him wish for the cupboard, but tinged with an unfamiliar warmth inside his chest.

They're all so strange.

Hermione tended to lecture still, and be more than a little bossy, but nowadays a sharp reminding look was enough to make her realize what she was doing and try to relax. She had also lent him Quidditch Through the Ages, which turned out to be more interesting than he had originally thought.

The day before Harry's first Quidditch match, Daphne decided she wanted to walk around outside with Tracey and himself. Naturally, he refused because he wanted to practice magic, so, they had collectively decided to walk around outside in the freezing courtyard during break anyway. Harry wondered what else Daphne would drag him into.

Harry was forced to conjure a blue flame so that they could pass it between one another to stay warm. Tracey's story about the prefect's bathroom was abruptly cut short when Professor Snape crossed the yard. Harry noticed at once that Snape was limping. Professor Snape hadn't seen him doing anything wrong, but he seemed to be looking for a reason to tell Harry off anyway.

"What's that you've got there, Potter?"

It was Quidditch Through the Ages and Harry showed him, not foreseeing how a reprimand could come from this.

"Library books are not to be taken outside the school," the Professor snapped. "Give it to me; and that will be five points from Ravenclaw, Mr. Potter." Harry handed it over without complaint.

Later, Harry made his way down to the staffroom and knocked to retrieve the book. There was no answer, so he knocked again. Nothing. Perhaps Professor Snape had left the book inside? It was worth a try. When he pushed the door open enough to peer around though, he nearly gasped.

Professor Snape and Filch were inside, alone. Professor Snape was holding his robes above his knees. One of his legs was bloody and mangled. Filch was handing Snape bandages.

"Blasted thing," Snape was saying. "How are you supposed to keep your eyes on all three heads at once?"

Harry tried to shut the door quietly, but Professor Snape had seen him.

"Potter!" Professor Snape's face was twisted with fury as he dropped his robes to hide his leg.

Harry gulped. "I just wondered if I could have my book back."

"Get out! Out!"

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When Harry told his friends what he had seen, Tracey, perennially attached to the Hogwarts rumor mill, had provided an answer.

"The third-floor corridor has a Cerberus behind it, a three-headed dog. They're supposed to protect things, but I don't know what. There's supposed to be several in Gringotts for defense. I've heard they also have dragons down there, but they're way harder to train. At least, I think so. A Cerberus is just a dog and they're easy to train, right? Like, man's best friend, and stuff. My family even had this dog- "

Daphne pinched her, and Tracey scowled in faux irritation as Daphne giggled. Tracey continued, actually sticking to the topic at hand this time.

"I think that's why we're not supposed to use the corridor. The Headmaster told us we would die if we did, and Cerberus are supposed to be really dangerous. Category XXXX dangerous."

Harry rubbed his jaw where he always did.

"Do you think Professor Snape tried to steal what it was guarding?" Daphne asked.

Tracey shrugged, practically skipping away, likely to spread Professor Snape's leg into that self-same rumor factory.

"What do you think it's guarding?" Daphne asked Harry instead.

"When Dumbledore took me to Diagon Alley, he removed something from a vault at Gringotts. That same vault somebody tried to break into."

"Do you frequently go shopping with the greatest wizard in the world?"

Harry shrugged and proceeded to his and Daphne's usual room to practice some transfiguration.

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"No, he wouldn't, Hermione was adamant. "I know he's not very nice, but he wouldn't try and steal something Dumbledore was keeping safe."

"I dunno Hermione, Snape isn't exactly saintly. My grandmother told me he used to be a Death Eater, you know? One of You-Know-Who's soldiers. She told me he was a silver masked one too. Was, until the day You-Know-Who died." Neville had always been nervous about Professor Snape. Snape seemed out to get Neville as much as he was Harry.

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Harry went to bed with his head buzzing with questions. Anthony snored loudly and harry attempted the muffliato spell, but he hadn't really gotten it down yet. He couldn't sleep. He tried to empty his mind, but that failed too. He was too anxious about his game tomorrow. Lisa had been very encouraging after Charms, and told him the whole house was counting on him. One of the older Ravenclaws had evidently found his father's records, and they were all expecting him to live up to it.

No pressure, or anything.

The next morning dawned very bright and chilly. Harry felt himself relax into the cold. The Great Hall was full of the delicious smell of fried sausages and the cheerful chatter of everyone looking forward to a good Quidditch match. The Slytherin vs. Gryffindor match had been fairly exciting. Gryffindor won, but Slytherin caught the snitch. The flying foxes of Gryffindor, Alicia Spinnet, Angelina Johnson, and Katie Bell, were tremendously coordinated and, despite the attempts by Slytherin to knock them out of the sky, had been practically unstoppable.

"You've got to eat some breakfast," urged Lisa, rapidly becoming Harry's closest friend in Ravenclaw. He never expected to have so many friends in all his life.

"I don't want anything," he insisted unconvincingly.

He didn't need to eat. The elation from those around him sustained him as much as any meal could.

"Just a bit of toast," Mandy Brocklehurst tried from the far side of Lisa.

"I'm not hungry." Harry felt terrible so he reached out to as many minds around him as possible. He had hardly slept and even with the cold damp air comforting him, he wanted to collapse already.

"Harry, you need your strength," said Michael Corner. "Seekers are always the ones who usually get targeted by the other team. You know statistically speaking-"

"Thanks, Michael," said Harry quickly.

He didn't feel much better by the time stepped out onto the field with his with Flitwick's broom, he corrected internally – in hand.

That was until he felt the Quidditch Pitch. It was rich in emotion. When he walked into range of it for his talent, it felt like a depth charge went off next to him. The emotions of the crowd swelling and falling and in time hsi heart beat in time with their roars.

He smiled, the elation and happiness permeating all of his body. Warmth wormed into his fingers and toes as he fed off the screaming student body.

It was lush. A banquet fit for a king and he had it all for himself.

Madam Hooch was refereeing. She stood in the middle of the field waiting for the two teams, her own broom in her hand. That made Harry feel better, she literally had hawk-like eyes.

He saw a Potter for President banner which made him do a double take. He missed what Madam Hooch had said. He hoped it wasn't too important.

"Mount your brooms, please."

Harry mounted his broom to take off.

Madam Hooch gave a loud blast on her silver whistle - and Harry woke up in a bed in the Hospital wing.

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"I keep telling the faculty that it's too dangerous for children to play such a sport," Madam Pomfrey muttered, bustling about. "They keep getting younger. Drink these, there's a good lad."

Harry gagged on the potions.

"What happened I don't…"

"Don't remember? You cracked your skull open after you caught the snitch. Some memory loss is to be expected."

"I caught it?"

She gave him a nod and a concerned look. "What's the last thing you remember?"

Harry wanted to say that the last thing he remembered was her asking him what the last thing he remembered was, but felt it would be inappropriate.

"I remember Madam Hooch blowing her whistle, then kicking off the ground."

She nodded her head in understanding. "You caught the snitch and won the game for Ravenclaw, but something seemed to happen to your broom. I thought it looked confounded and Professor Flitwick took it to his study to examine."

"I won?"

"Yes, I'm assured that when your broom was behaving you flew quite well."

Harry didn't believe it.

"I did?"

Madam Pomfrey huffed at him.

"Drink these, alright? You'll be out in a few more days, but you need to sleep."

Harry drank the much smoother tasting draught, and was asleep in moments.

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His friends were all concerned for him when he was let out. But when he said he didn't remember the match at all, Daphne had giggled. She thought his frustration at not knowing how he did at his first game was hilarious. It was hardly his fault though, he was evidently good at something and had no way to know it.

Daphne's laughter caused Hermione to glower at her, starting her off on a tirade of reprimands for 'insensitivity'. Harry thought they were going to come to spells at one point.

Tracey spent time catching him up on gossip and Neville had kept track of his homework for him, which made Harry's chest feel warm.

He did get to see the memory of his fall through Hermione's eyes. It was a nasty one. He found himself wishing, less jokingly, that someone really had ran around beneath him with a mattress.

"He wasn't blinking, and his lips were moving. He was casting a spell. I know it. I've read all about them."

"I've read all about spells!" Daphne mocked in a poor imitation, if not an inaccurate one.

Hermione was removed by the Matron when she started to shout, and Harry saw victory in Daphne's he caught a trace of some anxiety in Neville's thoughts.

"Is something wrong, Neville?" The boy nearly jumped.

"Well… the other Gryffindors think… it's because of your-" He was stammering worse than usual.

Daphne seemed to take pity on him. "It's because you're a parselmouth, like You-Know-Who." She looked at Neville, gaping at her. "What?" She sighed. "You know the Weasley family? The clan of redheads, with the tall boys? The twins? Them. They're a Gryffindor dynasty, they've been in Gryffindor, every single one of them, for the last century. Now here you are, speaking to snakes and hanging around with Slytherins."

"I though the houses didn't matter so much."

"They don't to me, but it's likely Ron Weasley thinks you're evil, or some sort of rubbish. Your victory over Malfoy has the other first years terrified of you. I bet Weasley told you that you shouldn't hang around Harry, right?" She directed the last part at Neville.

Neville gulped and nodded.

"It was hardly a fight, though." Harry protested. "And it's not like I did anything. How often is talking to snakes useful anyway?"

Tracey just shook her head and Daphne threw her arms up in exasperation.

"Wait, how does everyone know about the duel…" He looked right at Tracey who turned pink. Hermione chose that moment to let herself back in, barely wincing at Madam Pomfrey's withering look.

"You really did have a duel with Malfoy? That was true? How could you be so irresponsible?"

He blanched.

"Well, he did win it." Daphne returned politely. He would never understand how she could be polite like that even to someone she disliked.

Hermione looked speechless, but before she could rant Madam Pomfrey swept back in and kicked them all out.

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Christmas was coming, and Harry was excited about that for the first time in recent memory. He had probably overtaxed Hedwig terribly to ensure that he could get his friends the right things. A book for Hermione, because how could it be anything else? An introduction to runes which, even though they couldn't take the class for several more years, were 'ever so important.'

A beginning enchanter's set for Daphne, so she could practice the charms. She told him while they practiced defense spells with one another that she wanted to enchant things for a living, but Harry suspected she just wanted to call herself an enchantress. It only contained a few specially prepared items to enchant; miniature quidditch balls, a stuffed teddy bear to animate, and a combination lock, amongst other things.

He bought an owl for Tracey, after she stated her desire for one several times. They were, he was told, 'just too cute.' He bought some sort of seed for Neville. Some cactus whose name he couldn't pronounce that had a lot of 'm's in it. He had decided, quite last minute, to send a box of chocolate frogs to Lisa.

The lake froze solid at some point, and the Weasley twins were punished for bewitching several snowballs so that they followed Quirrell around, bouncing off the back of his turban.

The Great Hall looked spectacular. There was wreaths of holly and mistletoe hung around the walls. Harry had heard of some prank the Weasley twins pulled involving mistletoe, and endeavored to avoid it. He stepped the long way around every mistletoe branch he could see.

Hagrid had worked hard on it the decorations, and was more than happy to show Harry about. It was almost a tour, except it was one room and he could see everything. Still, he listened to Hagrid explain how the trees grew so tall using some fertilizer Professor Sprout put together every year.

Harry was sufficiently awed, until Hermione approached him insistently.

"How many days ya' got left until yer holidays?" Hagrid asked him.

"Just one," Hermione answered in his stead. "Harry, we should go to the library, don't you think."

Hermione had decided to monopolize Harry's time in the library, much to Daphne's anger. She had also taken it upon herself to find whatever was being guarded on the third floor by scouring the bookshelves. Both he and Neville had attempted to convince her that there was no way she could possibly narrow down the object based on his description of Dumbledore's vault, but she was relentless and had a memory second to none.

If she committed that to actual spells, there's no way I would be first in the class.

But she didn't, so, in the end of term exams he'd managed to snag first in their year, Daphne taking second. It was hardly surprising, considering the hours they spent practicing or studying.

However, he reluctantly agreed all the same, struggling to tear his eyes away from Professor McGonagall forming coils of silver light, before attaching them to the trees, next to Professor Flitwick's brilliant gold bubbles he was transforming into baubles.

"The library?" said Hagrid, following them out of the Hall. "Just before the holidays? Bit keen, aren't yeh?"

"We're trying to find out what the dog on the third floor is guarding." Hermione answered meticulously before Harry could stop her.

"You what?" Hagrid started. "What Fluffy is guarding is between Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel."

"Nicolas Flamel?" Hermione asked

"Fluffy?" Harry asked.

"I shouldn't 'ave told you that. I should not 'ave told you tha'." Harry was worried for the moment that Hagrid might panic. He had no idea how to help the enormous man if he began to have a heart attack.

Hermione gave him an excited look. They turned and marched quickly in the direction of the library.

"Come back 'ere!" Hagrid shouted "Wait!" But they were already gone.

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Despite his and Hermione's best attempts, they found nothing about a Nicolas Flamel in the library while studying. It was later, when he was practicing a color changing charm and a sticking charm with Daphne, that he learned the answer.

"Nicolas Flamel?" She asked.

"You don't know ether?"

He met her eyes and felt a small bit of anger there.

Indignation.

He said stealing the knowledge from her thoughts.

Before he could apologize she answered him.

"Of course I know who Nicolas Flamel is! He's the greatest alchemist of all time. He invented the sorcerer's stone. It can turn metal into gold and create elixir of life. It makes you immortal. He's most of a millennium old, his wife too."

Harry thought about that.

"Well, I suppose that answers the question of what Fluffy is guarding."

"Fluffy?" She asked with a giggle.

He eagerly reached out to her mind, to feel her amusement for himself. It felt bright and he almost leaned into it.

He sighed. "Hagrid told us that the Cerberus' name is fluffy."

She laughed louder at that. He turned her hair pink in faux retaliation. She stuck his wand hand to a desk and left for dinner, almost roaring with laughter.

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"Whatever happens, they say afterwards, it must have been fate. People are always a little confused about this, as they are in the case of miracles. When someone is saved from certain death by a strange concatenation of circumstances, they say that's a miracle. But of course, if someone is killed by a freak chain of events - the oil spilled just there, the safety fence broken just there - that must also be a miracle. Just because it's not nice doesn't mean it's not miraculous." – Terry Pratchett

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God damn writing Tracey is fun. She's so bubbly.

I love her.

A lot of Hermione in the chapter and a lot less Daphne than I wanted but I didn't want to force their personalities into whatever I needed and I had a plot to maintain.

Next time is Christmas and the second half of the year.

Give me specific criticisms and let me know if I made any major mistakes.

Because I like to discuss stuff I created a Forum for this story. You can ask me questions there.

-WG

Edited: 4/5/18