Disclaimer: I still do not own Harry Potter.

Author's Note: Thank you so much for the wonderful reviews. I really appreciate them all.

One of you mentioned that you wish I would update faster. I'm really sorry about that. Things had been crazy for a while so that was why I was updating more slowly. I hope in the future to update more frequently, at least once a week or so, because I have other stories I am working on as well. Would it help if I do a quick chapter recap at the beginning of a new chapter? Please let me know.

Remember, at the end of the last chapter, Harry talks to the girls about meeting Marcus Flint on the Quidditch pitch that evening to start training to be Seeker. Harry knows that Flint has an ulterior motive, however, and plans to watch him closely to try and suss out what's going on.

Okay, I hope you enjoy this chapter.

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That evening after dinner, Harry made his way out onto the Quidditch pitch. It was the second time he would be meeting with Flint, and he was nervous. When he'd met him two nights ago, he'd been on high alert, not knowing what to expect. What did this bully of a boy really want with him? Harry recognized that look in the boy's eyes; it was one of plotting and scheming. Harry was onto him, but he didn't want to let him know it.

But Flint was good, Harry would give him that. He hadn't given him anything to go on - he had just walked Harry through the ins and outs of Quidditch, and told him about all the different parts of the game in a lot of detail. He'd put him through his paces, seeing how fast Harry could fly and showing him how fast a Snitch could move.

Never had Harry felt more elated than when he was in the air. There was something about flying that amazed him; he'd never felt such a feeling of excitement and euphoria before in his entire life. He couldn't wait to see an actual Quidditch match so he could get an idea what flying with an actual team would be like. Flint had told him that being a Seeker meant you had to be the fastest flyer on the team, and Harry felt giddy with the realization that he would be able to soar above the skies if he made it onto the team.

When Harry got onto the pitch, he saw that Flint was already in the air. Harry went to the broomshed and grabbed one of the school brooms, and then joined him.

"It's about time you got here, Potter," the older boy grunted. Harry couldn't believe how brutish he looked - how was it he resembled a troll so much? Even his voice made him think that one would sound like that. If it wasn't for what Harry was getting out of it, he wouldn't have found any problem with showing Flint just what he thought of him.

"Sorry," he said, not feeling the least bit apologetic. He knew he wasn't late; Flint just reveled in giving him a hard time.

"Sure you are," Flint drawled. "Now, are you ready to fly?"

"Of course. What would you like me to do today?"

Flint laughed. "Polite little thing, aren't you?" His smirk put Harry on edge. "I'd like you to catch the Snitch again, but this time I want you to do it in a faster time. If you make the team next year, you're not going to show us up. I refuse to allow us to be defeated by the likes of Gryffindor."

Two could play that game, and two would, Harry thought as his mind went through several comebacks to that statement. "Well, let's hope that old Gryffindor can't get one past you, then. I've heard stories about how you only win because you play dirty."

Flint's smirk grew wider, not offended in the least. "The ends justify the means," he said in a sing-song voice. "We won, and that's all that matters. Real Slytherins think that way, Potter. You want to fit in, don't you?"

Harry tried not to rise to the bait. Of course he wanted to fit in, but why should that mean he had to act like the pathetic sludge that was Dudley and his gang, and Malfoy and his goons? All they ever did was play dirty.

Thankfully, he was back in control the next moment. As time passed, these moments of fear and doubt were lessening in intensity. His friendship with the girls was teaching him that being liked was not the most important thing. They had faced years of prejudice growing up just because their parents had been Slytherins, and now they were continuing their legacy. "It doesn't matter what people think of you as long as you're comfortable in your own skin," was their motto, and Harry knew it was a good phrase to live by. So he wasn't as rattled by Flint's words as he would have been at the beginning of the year.

He thought again of how the entire school had looked at him in awe before his Sorting, because he was the famous Harry Potter. He remembered his vow to himself that night to defy everyone's expectations of him. A thrill of delight went through him when he realized how much it was working. Flint's words stirred up thoughts of what might have happened if he'd tried to ask the Sorting Hat to reconsider his House placement. He somehow thought it would be worse to be worshiped and idolized for something so traumatic than to be loathed and scorned because he was a Slytherin. With this realization, a burst of vindictiveness surged through his gut at the fickleness of the witches and wizards around him. Those days of wishing he had been placed in Gryffindor were gone; they'd become less and less frequent as his days in Slytherin went on.

Something flitted through Flint's eyes, and he pounced like a predator who had found where it could play with its prey. "I sense your anger," he said in his growling, monotone voice. "Care to tell me why?"

"No, not really," said Harry. He chastised himself for letting Flint see his feelings.

"That's too bad. I'd be interested to know, but I can see you're holding your cards close. Ah well, I s'pose it's time for you to start flying."

Harry wasn't fooled; he knew Flint was only letting it go for now. Harry had to choose his next moves. What should he tell him? What would Flint do with the kind of information Harry was holding deep within him? The boy might be a troll, but he was smarter than Harry had originally given him credit for.

As he flew around in search of the tiny golden ball, he wondered if Flint's dumb persona was a mask. Harry knew a thing or two about masks; he'd had to in order to survive his treatment by the Dursleys. When he'd gone to primary school, he'd seen immediately that other children were adored and cherished by their parents, not kept in spider-infested cupboards under their family's stairs. Dudley and his gang never lost an opportunity to show Harry how much of a loser he was, and anyone who tried to befriend him learned what it felt like to be at the end of their fists. Harry had learned many tools and skills to stay out of their way, and had constantly worn a mask in front of his teachers to hide that there was anything wrong at home. Adults were so wrapped up in their own little worlds that they wouldn't notice any oddities if they weren't right in front of them. He didn't trust any adult to aid and assist him, so what was the point in showing them anything at all? He'd learned not to trust them as far as he could throw them.

And so far, Hogwarts hadn't disproved any of this. None of the teachers had put a stop to any of the bullying or snide comments that were thrown at him in the corridors by others in the school. When Malfoy played pranks on him, it was up to Harry to deal with them.

But for the first time in his life, he had friends. He did not trust them with his deepest secrets; he was wary of anything more intimate than what was already shared between them. But adults? Forget it. He cursed himself for having any hope that things would be different at Hogwarts than they were on Privet Drive - he should have known better. Why should it upset him that his hopes were dashed? Hadn't it always been the case?

"Are you paying attention, Potter?" Flint bellowed at him. "Quit stewing in your melodrama and find the bloody Snitch, will you?"

"Yes, Master," Harry mocked, and flew at top speed, his emerald eyes searching the skies for the winged ball.

"That's more like it," Flint said, sounding impressed. Harry was disconcerted at how Flint seemed to be pleased by Harry's insults rather than angry. No bully had ever acted like that before. Flint was certainly an odd duck, Harry thought as he finally saw the Snitch flitting around by the goalposts.

After several more catches, Flint called him down. "That's enough to be getting on with for now," he said, that ever-present smirk on his face. "You will meet me again on Wednesday, and I want to see more progress from you. Quit dillydallying, Potter. You don't want to know what I'll do to you if we lose a game, and it's your fault. Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal," said Harry, trying not to be intimidated by the fierce manner in which Flint was staring at him. Those blue eyes of his seemed to analyze his every move, scrutinizing every breath he took.

"Good," Flint murmured. "We'll make a Slytherin out of you yet, don't worry."

"Who said I was worried?" Harry said, doing a dramatic curtsey as he started walking away. Flint's laughter permeated the pitch as Harry left, the sound seeming to echo all around him.

Harry sighed as he traversed the path back down to the dungeons. That had certainly kept him on his toes. A shiver racked up his spine as he considered Flint's strange and conflicting persona. I'm almost sure of it, he thought as he took the last few steps to the common room. Marcus Flint isn't all he seems.

And whatever he's hiding, and whatever his end goal is, I'm going to figure it out, he promised himself.

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Hiding under a Disillusionment Charm, Lord Voldemort's idiotic vessel spoke softly as Marcus Flint made his way off the Quidditch pitch. "What are your thoughts, my Lord?"

A twisted smirk crept onto the deformed monster's face. "My, my, my. Harry Potter is piquing my interest more and more," he said, his voice a hiss of malevolence, greed, and want. "He is certainly learning to hone his skills. This may be more difficult than I presumed."

"But Flint will be able to work his charms on him, my Lord, won't he?" asked Quirrell. "I saw the desire in those accursed eyes of his. He sees the same thing as you do, my Lord, that the wizarding world is made up of fools."

"Of course Flint will win him over. Do not doubt me, you imbecile," snarled Voldemort. "And when I return, he will be rewarded. His parents, however ..."

Mr. and Mrs. Flint had been servants of his. When he had been exiled, the cowards had claimed they had been under the Imperius Curse. They had gone back into regular society, pretending he had not existed at all. He wished for nothing more than to curse them into oblivion - they would rue the day they showed disloyalty to him, and he would make sure of it. It was a stroke of genius that he was using their son to win over the Potter brat.

When his vessel had taken Flint aside and told him he wasn't the stuttering laughingstock that he masqueraded as, it hadn't taken much for the boy to agree to help him. He was more than willing to study Harry Potter and to play with his mind. He would suss out his hopes, wishes, and desires, and lure him into the darkness. It was plain to see that Harry possessed an aura of power that could be put to good use. He was not going to be Dumbledore's stooge - Lord Voldemort would not allow it.

"I don't doubt you, my Lord," said Quirrell quietly.

"See that you don't." Lord Voldemort's red eyes pierced the darkness of the night as the breeze picked up. "Before long, Harry Potter will be in our clutches. Those fools will never see it coming."

And indeed, the rest of the wizarding world had no idea what was about to hit them. Lord Voldemort was certainly looking forward to the chaos that was to come.