Harry Potter and the Hermetic Arts

Chapter 30: End of an Era


"Ugh..."

Harry groaned as he returned to his senses. He could feel the blood pounding in his ears, and it felt like somebody had been beating on his head with a sack of potatoes, a feeling he wasn't completely unfamiliar with.

Opening his eyes, he found himself look up at the expectant faces of his favorite Ravenclaw and two favorite Gryffindors, and he sat up slowly.

"Where am I?" he asked. "How long was I out?"

"Abandoned classroom, and a couple hours, so just after dinner time in the Great Hall," Hermione said, before wrapping him in a tight hug. "I was really worried about you there for a moment, you know? I thought we might have lost you."

"How'd we get here?" Harry asked.

"Same way you said you'd carry me out before we found the brooms," said the Ravenclaw cryptically; Fay and Neville shared a confused look, then shrugged. "I thought you wouldn't want to go to the hospital wing, given what we were doing, so I needed Fay and Neville to help me get you back out of your bag; you're heavier than you look."

"I hope that explains why I'm wearing a shirt now," said the Hufflepuff. "We get the thing?"

"What thing?" Hermione asked coyly.

"That thing," Harry said, and the two Gryffindors shared another glance. "Yay big, wrapped in paper and tied with twine?"

"Oh, this thing?" Hermione asked, pulling the paper-packed package out of her robe pocket and holding it up with a wide smile on her lips. "Yeah, it looks like I have it."

"What is that?' Fay asked.

Hermione looked to Harry for direction, unsure what to say next; everything she had done up until the moment had been in good humor, but she realized just then they were at a crossroads, and what happened next could affect everything to come.

Harry looked at the two Gryffindors solemnly. "Once in, never out," he said grimly. "We tell you what this is, you can never go back to the way things were before."

Fay and Neville shared a look, swallowing nervously.

"We're in," said Fay, and Neville nodded in agreement. "We didn't come this far just to sit out."

"All right, then," Harry said. "But before we continue, you'll need to swear to keep this secret to your graves and beyond. Word gets out, we'll all be in the drek."

The Gryffindors exchanged another look, then nodded in unison.

"I swear I'll keep this secret from anyone and everyone who isn't in this room," said Fay.

"I swear I'll keep this secret to my grave and beyond, even if I become a ghost," Neville said at the same time.

"Not that I don't believe you, but I'm going to need more than that," Harry said, reaching into his pockets and drawing his switchblade, flicking it open. "Call it a silly superstition normal people have, but give me your left hand."

Warily, Fay extended the hand the Hufflepuff had asked for, flinching as he nicked her palm with the tip of his blade, drawing an angry red line of blood before letting go and doing the same to his own hand.

"Shake," Harry said, extending a hand, and the pigtailed girl complied; when their hands clasped and palms touched, their blood intermingled. "Now repeat after me: 'I swear I'll keep the secrets of the circle.'"

"I swear I'll keep the secrets of the circle," Fay repeated solemnly.

"And now you, Neville," Harry said, and the two boys repeated the ritual with one another. Only after they were finished did the Hufflepuff say, "And now, we are blood."

Then, he turned to Hermione. "All right, we're good here. Show them."

Carefully, the Ravenclaw girl set the package on her lap and gingerly unwrapped it, revealing the red stone within. It was the size of a balled fist but oddly shaped, and seemed to glow with a light from within.

"It's beautiful," Fay said, before catching herself. "What is it?"

"Philosopher's Stone," Harry said calmly.

"How?" Neville asked.

"I can't tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it after we're done," Harry intoned.

"It was this?" Neville asked, realizing the implication.

"Yes," Hermione said.

"What are you going to do with it?" Fay asked.

"Divide it up, of course," Harry said, pulling out his friction folder and flipping it open. "Give it here, Danger."

"What if it breaks?" Hermione asked, tentatively.

"If it breaks, it's still the Philosopher's Stone," Harry countered. "We'd just have a lot more pieces instead of just a few."

The Ravenclaw grudgingly handed the Stone to her best friend, who placed it on a desk before hovering the blade over the object for several moments and then finally bringing it down on the bright red stone. Where the knife cut the Stone, the glow dulled, but when he was done, the two pieces each radiated a brilliance of its own.

Looking at the two pieces over for a long moment, Harry tossed one to Hermione, and though she nearly bobbled the catch, she managed to secure it.

"Mine?" she asked, and when the Hufflepuff nodded, she carefully wrapped the half of the stone back in the brown paper she had taken it out of.

Sizing up the remaining half, Harry carved off about a fourth of the remaining stone, then sliced that portion in half before handing the two shards to the Gryffindors. "Yours," he said.

"Why are ours so small?" Fay asked, not exactly an accusation, but not exactly not one either, even as she stared at the small glowing fragment in her palm.

"Your risk was low," Harry said calmly. "All you two had to do was cause a distraction. Danger and I did the heavy lifting, so we get more."

"So, then why does she get more than you?" Fay pressed. "It had to be your plan."

"She hauled my ass out of there when I couldn't go on," Harry said. "Think of it as a gratuity."

There was no more protests, as both Fay and Neville were absorbed with staring at the glowing red shards in their hands.

"Remember, you can't tell anyone about this," Harry said, a reminder, and the Gryffindors nodded in agreement. "We square?" More nods. "All right, Danger and I are going to head out."

Leaving the stoners behind, the best friends departed the classroom, but they had only managed to get three doors away before Hermione grabbed Harry by the hand and pulled him into another classroom, a look of displeasure on her face.

"What was that?" she asked.

"What was what?" Harry asked innocently.

"That thing you did with Fay and Neville," Hermione said hotly. "And don't you dare tell me it's just a superstition; you wouldn't do it if it was just that."

"You're right, it's not," Harry said calmly. "It's a blood pact, a type of ancient blood magic ritual that's actually practiced pretty commonly in normal society, though they don't get the benefits. Read about them a while ago; they're supposed to be completely unbreakable."

"You had me make a blood pact without asking or telling me first?!" Hermione demanded, chocolate brown eyes fiery bright.

"Had to," Harry said, though he took a step back at the girl's apparent anger. "I didn't know if I could trust you."

"And do you trust me now?" she barked, stepping back into Hufflepuff's personal space.

"Of course I do," Harry said. "You saved my life."

Hermione glared at her friend for a long moment before her expression softened. "I forgive you," she said, enfolding her best friend in a comforting hug. "You're still a terrible person, though."

"I know I am," Harry said softly.

"So, what did you do to the mirror?" Hermione asked as she finally broke off the embrace.

"Something spontaneous to achieve an effect not unlike Mordenkainen's Disjunction," Harry said.

Hermione needed a moment to recall what that was; then, she gasped in horror. "But, if you used that on an artifact like the mirror must have been, you might have lost your magic!"

"I know," Harry said. "But after what we went through, I couldn't let it all be for nothing."

"But, what about your magic?" Hermione asked again.

"Well, I guess I better test it," he said, before glaring at the door into the room. "Muto terram."

Realizing what her friend had done, Hermione rushed over to the door, trying the handle and finding it refusing to budge. She pulled on it, with the same result, and suddenly felt relieved.

"Looks like my magic went nowhere," Harry said. "Guess I got lucky."

"Really lucky, you stupid… twit!" It took Hermione a moment to find the word she wanted, but Harry couldn't help but smile at the affectionate insult.

"Well, we should go," Harry said. "Tomorrow morning, in front of the library, just after breakfast? No lessons, no exams, so no excuses for skipping out on the Hermetic method."

"Tomorrow morning," Hermione agreed with a nod, smiling brightly, excited by the challenge.

~ooOoo~

Though he could not show it, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was in a state of panic.

Quirinus Quirrell was gone, and with him, the Philosopher's Stone and the specter of Voldemort.

That had not been the plan.

Young Harry had been meant to face the trials of the Stone with his friend Ronald Weasley and that hanger-on Hermione Granger before confronting Voldemort for the first time and learning he would have a bigger part to play in the war to come. It was why the trials had been designed in the way they had been, so even first year students could pass them with a little bit of thought.

Instead, Voldemort had absconded with the Philosopher's Stone, and young Harry Potter was none the wiser.

This was not good. With the Stone, he would be able to restore his body and become immortal; soon, he would be impossible to defeat, and his reign of terror would begin anew.

Furthermore, young Harry Potter had donated the Cloak of Invisibility to House Hufflepuff, leaving him with no method of retaking possession of the artefact without causing a public outrage that could spread beyond Hogwarts if the Prophet got hold of the story; he could not imagine what could have driven the boy to do such a thing, and Dumbledore had nearly choked on a lemon drop when Pomona had cheerfully told him what had happened.

To make matters worse, young Harry was doing poorly in Charms and Transfiguration, two of the core classes in the Hogwarts curriculum, as well as Flying, which he had not attended since the original incident had sent him into a wall and then to the hospital wing; the public uproar would be deafening if he were to be expelled from Hogwarts, and thus it had taken Dumbledore all of his considerable persuasive powers to convince Filius and Minerva to give Harry no more than a grade of Poor in their subjects, arguing the answers of his impeccably-answered written exam more than demonstrated his flawless understanding of the material, even if he showed no practical aptitude for it, which he suggested was due to factors outside of Potter's control.

Looking out at the end-of-year feast, Dumbledore's eyes passed over the rows of students at the Hufflepuff table; as always, young Harry was nowhere to be found.

Drifting away through the crowd of students, his eyes met those of the Ravenclaw girl who hung onto young Harry's coattails, and in that moment, he decided to have a look at what she knew about Harry Potter.

One little peek wouldn't hurt; after all, her Muggle parents would never know the difference.

What he found there was no surprise: everything Hermione Granger knew of Harry Potter painted the picture of an ordinary boy, good in his classes but terrified of flying after the incident during the first lesson, unable to use magic but thorough in his knowledge of all magical theory, a sociable but otherwise lonely boy who spent more time with books than he did other people. Though he could not find any memories in Granger's mind of time spent together with young Harry and Ronald Weasley, that was to be expected; after all, she was just a hanger on, and Ronald Weasley was Harry Potter's true friend.

Satisfied by what he had found, even though it was of no help to him, Dumbledore allowed his eyes to drift away from the girl's.

The Ministry would not believe him even if he warned them of Voldemort's return, and they would never be of help until it was too late.

So, behind his jovial demeanor presiding over the end-of-team feast, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was panicking.

~ooOoo~

When the results for the exams were revealed on Wednesday, Harry was not surprised by what he received: Poors in Charms and Transfiguration, a Troll in Flying because he had failed to show for the exam, and Outstandings in everything else. He was lucky, in a sense, Hogwarts still followed the traditional of British educational system policy of promoting students even when they failed multiple subjects so long as they had not missed significant time with absences, and Harry had not missed a single lesson during the entire year, meaning he would progress to the second year even despite his abysmal showing in the practical spellcasting exams.

Hermione, of course, received the highest marks of the year, Outstandings across the board, and she was very proud of it; Fay had done likewise, albeit to a lesser degree, getting Exceeds Expectations in everything except Astronomy and History, where she earned Acceptable marks. Neville scored well too; with the aid of the natural, plant-based anxiolytic, he had lost his anxiety around the Potions master and earned a mark of Acceptable in his subject, and though the rest of his results weren't exceptional, he managed an Outstanding in Herbology that made him glow with pride whenever it was mentioned.

There was still a week left before the Hogwarts Express back to London, and Harry needed to square things with Liv. He would be gone from Hogwarts for the summer, and he was not sure how she would take the news.

~ooOoo~

Not well, apparently, although that had not been the type of answer he had hoped for.

After taking up residence in the Forbidden Forest, the Norwegian Ridgeback hit a growth spurt; now, she was the size of a large horse when she tucked her wings, which made it difficult for Harry to breath with her mounting his chest.

§You can't leave me here alone!§ insisted the dragon, her face inches from the boy's. §What if something scary shows up? I need you here to protect me!§

§You're a slottin' dragon,§ Harry hissed back. §What the drek would scare you?§

§I don't know, but something scary?§ Liv said. §You have to stay!§

§They won't let me,§ said the boy, then winced as the dragon pressed more of her weight onto his body. §Wait, what if there's a better way?§

§I'm all ears,§ the dragon said.

§No, you're all dragon,§ Harry quipped. §I don't even know where your ears are.§

§Focus, Harry,§ Liv said, leaning even further onto the boy. §You were saying?§

§Well, maybe instead of me staying here, you could come with,§ Harry gasped. §You'd have to promise a few things, though.§

§I'm listening.§

§We'll be going into normal human society, so you'll have to stay in human form the entire time we're there.§

Scales and flesh quickly melted away, and Harry found himself being straddled by a naked girl, albeit one without any sexual characteristics, giving her the look of a life-sized Barbie doll.

§I can do that,§ Liv said, grinning.

§And you'll have to talk in human instead of draconic,§ the boy said. §Normal people would think it weird if you just kept hissing and growling instead of talking like they would.§

"I can do that too," said the dragon in a girl's body.

"That's good, but you're also going to need to learn to act more human-like," the boy said. "If the normal human government finds out you're a dragon, they'll do worse than kill you."

"There's worse than dying?"

"There's dying, and there's dying badly."

"Very well, then, teach me to be more like humans."

"We got a week to do that, but you're going to have to work hard and practice even when I'm not around to keep you company."

"I can do that."

"Good."

~ooOoo~

Packing his things for the trip home was easy for Harry; after all, he practically lived out of his haversack, so he had never really unpacked into the room he shared with Roger Malone, who desperately tried to cram everything into his suitcase the night before departure.

The morning of the day they were to return home, Harry found Liv waiting for him at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, full of nervous energy. Quickly, he helped her put on clothes from his own wardrobe: a T-shirt, hooded jumper, boxer shorts and jeans; he did not have shoes for her, but the dragon seemed to enjoy the sensation of being barefoot anyways.

Nobody seemed to notice anything strange about the extra body during the boat ride across the lake and back to the train platform; as they boarded the train, Liv clutched Harry's sleeve, clearly nervous at the sheer crush of humanity around her.

It took Harry a few minutes to find the compartment Hermione had parked herself; when he rapped on the door, she looked up from the book she had her nose in, smiling when she recognized her friend and nodded for him to come in.

"Who's this?" asked the bushy-haired girl when the barefooted figure came into the compartment behind the casually-dressed boy.

"Liv, Hermione Granger," he said.

The girl frowned but stood up without a complaint; only then did Harry realize what was happening and shook his head. "No, no, no, that's her name," he said. "Liv. It's Norwegian."

"Oh," Hermione said, before extending a hand. "I'm Hermione Granger."

"I'm Liv," the dragon in a girl's body said in kind, grasping the proffered hand with her own. Greetings and introductions had been something Harry had focused on teaching her, and he was glad she had taken to it. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"I haven't seen you around before," Hermione observed.

"I live in the forest," Liv answered.

"You're the dragon?" Hermione asked, understanding the implication, and Liv nodded.

Hermione spun towards Harry. "Why didn't you tell me dragons could take human form or that they could speak English?"

"You didn't ask," the boy said, shrugging. "And Liv speaks everything."

The Ravenclaw's eyes narrowed in suspicion. Then, the turned back towards Liv, asking "Est-ce que tu parles français?"

"Oui," answered the dragon. "Jeg snakker faktisk bedre norsk."

"I don't know what that means, but that's not French," Hermione said, looking to Harry.

"C'est norvégien," Harry said. "Je parle aussi toutes les langues."

"But, how?" Hermione asked, flabbergasted. "Just two months ago, you couldn't understand a word of French."

"I'm cheating. I've got tongues on," the boy said, smiling wryly. "Liv's got it on all the time."

"Dragons can use magic?" the Ravenclaw asked, disbelief written all over her face. "Please tell me this is just a prank you're taking too far."

"Show her, Liv," Harry said, and the dragon in a girl's body raised a hand, a ball of fire suddenly coalescing an inch above her palm, floating freely in the air and turning in circles.

Hermione started to ask a question, but a knock on the door interrupted her; Fay and Neville were at the threshold, and Harry waved them in.

"Who's this?" asked Neville, meaning the dragon.

"Fay Dunbar, Neville Longbottom, Liv."

"Well that's rude," huffed Fay. "We just got here and isn't space in any other compartment."

"No, that's my name," said the dragon in a girl's body. "It's Norwegian, for 'life', and goes back to the ancient Norse 'hlif', which means 'protection'."

"I'm sorry," said the pigtailed Gryffindor, staring at the ball of fire in the girl's hand as she stowed her luggage overhead. "I just thought Harry was telling us to get out. What is that? It's so cool."

"I was just showing Hermione I could use magic," Liv said.

"Of course you can use magic; you're a student at Hogwarts and you're not Harry," Neville said, shooting a teasing grin at The-Boy-Who-Lived.

"I'm not a student at Hogwarts," said Liv, closing her hand and crushing the ball of fire in it, sending tongues of flames squirting out of her clenched fist. "I'm a dragon."

There was a moment of dead silence. Then, Liv's face blanched. "Wait, Harry told me I'm not supposed to tell people that."

"Norbert?" asked Neville. "Is that you?"

"Don't call me that!," the dragon in a girl's body snarled hotly, flashing teeth as smoke wafted out of her button nose. "My name is 'Liv'!"

"I'm sorry, Leave," Neville apologized quickly, shrinking back. "I didn't mean anything by it."

"But dragons are supposed to be beasts," Fay said. "How can she speak English?"

"How many magicals speak draconic?" Harry asked, then waited only a short moment for a response before continuing. "If you assume an entire species are just animals, then of course you're going to assume they don't have any way to communicate."

"We have to tell everybody," Fay said. "If people knew dragons could talk, it'd change how they'd think of them."

"You can't," Harry said flatly.

"Why?" Fay demanded.

"Secret of the circle," the Hufflepuff said.

"But it could change the world!" Fay protested.

"It won't," Harry countered. "If wizards find out, they're not going to think dragons are sapient and they should treat them better, they're just going to assume Liv is the exception and they'll cut her up and try to figure out how they can use it against other dragons."

"I don't believe it," Fay insisted. "People care about dragons."

"I hate to say it, but he's probably right," Hermione interjected. "Human history is the history of people treating those different than them as less than human and just assuming they're savages with nothing worth saving, and that's just the way people think about other humans, not even a completely different species."

Fay looked to Neville for support, but all he did was shook his head. With a sigh, she slumped in her seat. "Fine, I'll keep it a secret."

"So, why are you on the Hogwarts Express?" Neville asked the dragon.

"Harry's letting me go with him so I won't be lonely over the summer," Liv said brightly. "He'll protect me from anything scary."

Neville and Fay both shot Harry a look, and all the Hufflepuff could do was shrug helplessly.

"Really?" asked Fay, flashing the Hufflepuff a mischievous grin. "Can you tell us about all these scary things Harry will protect you from are?"

It was going to be a long train ride.

~ooOoo~

"Hey Harry, this is my mom…"

The ginger never finished the sentence; without breaking stride, Harry swiftly struck him in the throat with a closed fist and kept on going, slipping into the crowd even as the ginger clutched at his neck and his older twin brothers gawked at the back of the limping Hufflepuff, mouths agape in awe at the sudden outburst of violence. A step behind him with a hand on his jumper, Liv blew a raspberry at the gathering of gingers; Fay had taught her the gesture while on the train, and it was suddenly her favorite thing to do. Harry could only hope she would grow out of it soon.

Harry jostled his way through the crowd, pushing forward with extended elbows that dug into flesh and forcing people to give way to his progress; unaccompanied by any adults, he was difficult to spot in the sea of humanity, and it gave him enough anonymity to avoid being caught.

Escaping platform nine and three-quarters, Harry flagged down a cab and rode it back to Surrey, unwilling to risk any more public transportation until Liv was better socialized.

Arriving at his new house, Harry strode to the front door with confidence, eyeing the lock briefly before incanting "Muto terram" softly; the bolt clicked unlocked, and Harry swung open the door.

"Surprise!"

The sudden illumination and sound of bursting explosive charge as he and Liv stepped across the threshold made Harry spin around, pulling Liv close to shield her with his body. A promise was a promise, even when it wasn't bound by blood or magic.

"Are you alright Harry?" asked a soft, feminine voice, and Harry turned towards it to see Karen, dressed in a baggy jumper that fell over one shoulder, revealing skin. Behind her were the other regulars from Bourne's Comics and Games, his Irregulars, though they all shared the actress's look of concern. On the floor were various paper streamers, and he realized the noise had been party poppers.

"Just surprised me, is all," the boy said, before releasing the girl in his arms and presenting her to his friends as he closed the door and locked it. "This is Liv. She's a dragon, and she'll be staying with me."

"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance," said the dragon in a girl's body, curtsying with an imaginary skirt just as Harry had taught her to.

A moment of silence hung in the air awkwardly. Then, Shaun raised the beer in his hand as if to make a toast. "Leave it to 'Squeak to bring home a dragon. There's never a dull moment whenever he's around."

With that, cheers filled the room.

~ooOoo~

"Romy," said Harry with a nod as he found the graduate student in the kitchen getting herself a fresh beer from the refrigerator.

The initial flurry of activity had passed; he had already regaled his friends with his (sanitized) experiences of his second term at magical boarding school, and the party had broken up into smaller clusters. The dragon in a girl's body was still new and amazing to his friends, and it gave him an opportunity to slip away to talk to them one-on-one.

"Hey 'Squeak," Romy said. "What's up?"

"Got something for you," said the boy, before retrieving a small, paper-wrapped package from his pocket.

"What is it?" asked the noirette as she accepted the parcel from the boy.

"A piece of the Philosopher's Stone."

"The Philosopher's Stone? Elixir of life? Lead into gold?"

"Maybe even more," said the boy. "I want you to find out."

"But I don't know anything about medicine."

"You could run tests, though, and you're still at university, so maybe you can find somebody in the biochem or medicine departments who you could have vetted and then work with to figure out just how much the Stone can do. But before that, you could work on the transmutation part of the story, see if it'll do more than transform metal into pure gold."

"Who would I even get to vet someone?"

"Jason seems to know people; I'd start with him."

"So, this is the Philosopher's Stone."

"Well, a little less than half of it; I had to split it as payment for services rendered in a run."

"What have you been doing 'Squeak? What aren't you telling me?"

"You know I can't tell you what I can't tell you."

Romy sighed. "This isn't supposed to be how science works. I can't get this peer reviewed."

"No, you can't, and you can't tell anyone you have it, either," Harry said. "Imagine if word got out you had the secrets of immortality and unlimited pure gold at your fingertips; it might get stolen, or even worse, you might get dead."

The chemistry major nodded solemnly. "I'll keep it a secret; you can trust me."

"I know I can trust you; that's why you're the one I'm leaving it with."

Harry then reached into his pocket and fished out his friction folder, passing it to Romy.

"What's this?" she asked.

"Monoknife. Don't know if any other tools can cut it without causing it damage, but I know for a fact that knife can. I know you'll need to shave off pieces for testing, so I'm giving it to you."

"What about you?"

"I'll make another one."

"I'll be careful with this one."

"You damn well better; wouldn't want to come back to find you missing fingers."

~ooOoo~

While the others had sat down to The Endless Summer on VHS in the living room, Harry decided it was time to take a tour of the house he had never seen after its renovations had been completed. While it hadn't been as he had imagined, he nonetheless enjoyed the open layout of the ground floor immensely.

It was upstairs where he found a surprise; though two bedrooms, including the master bedroom, were unoccupied, the third had its door closed and locked, and he found himself curious as to why that was. If there was already a tenant living there, why weren't they at the party? And, if they weren't at the party, what were they doing?

Harry rapped on the door with his knuckles, then waited, but there was no response; he was about to knock a second time when Karen emerged from the bathroom connected to the hallway and said, "That's my room."

"Did not know you lived here," said the boy, his face barely betraying his surprise.

"I hope that's not a problem, me renting a room in this house," the actress said, concerned. "It didn't feel right to keep living with mum and dad now that I'm a star on the telly, and I knew this house would be perfectly safe."

"Actually, I like it," Harry said. "Now I know I can trust the person who'll have the house to themself when I'm away at boarding school. I just hope you won't mind living with me and a dragon."

"She seems nice," Karen said, meaning the dragon. "A little childish, but nice."

"She is a child," Harry said. "I'm taking care of her."

"You're a child yourself," Karen said. "You shouldn't have to take care of someone else."

The boy shrugged, changing the subject. "Hope you don't mind me erecting wards starting tomorrow," he said. "House may be physically secure, but I want to make magically so too."

"As long as I'm awake, I won't mind," the brunette said. "I can help too, if you need me to."

"I think I've got this," the boy said. "I've been researching the necessary runes since exams finished two weeks ago, so I've a pretty good idea what I need to do."

"If you need help, just ask."

"Okay, I will. Thanks for offering."

"It's always my pleasure."

~ooOoo~

"Not enjoying the party?"

Harry turned his head to see Jason standing at his shoulder; the boy had been looking out of the window in the master bedroom, watching the empty streets below with a sense of foreboding, and he was glad the shopkeep was talking to him now.

"You're not really just a shopkeeper, are you?" Harry said, more statement than inquiry.

"What's it to you?" Jason asked, eyes narrowing.

"I killed a man," said the boy. "Had to; it was me or him."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"I don't regret it; he was possessed by the Dark Lord, so I did what I had to do, but I don't think this is over. I fragged the drekhead, but he's already come back from his supposed death once before, so what's to stop him from doing it again?"

"What can I do to help?"

"I have to go to war," Harry said, his tone somber. "I don't have skills for that."

There was a moment of silence between the two. Then, Jason spoke.

"My friend Jack, not our Jacqueline, runs a program in Nevada; I could probably get you into it for six weeks starting at the end of the month."

"I don't have a passport."

"Funny you should say that; I had one made for you after you came home for Christmas."

"That doesn't sound exactly legal."

"Neither is selling gold on the black market."

"That's a fair point."

A beat followed. Then, Harry said, "Liv will need papers and a spot in the program too; I already promised her she could come with me wherever I go. It was the only way I could get her to let me come back for the summer."

"How'd you end up with a dragon anyways?"

"I made the mistake of taking a run from an asset," Harry said with a sigh. "As you know, it's never a shadowrun until it all goes to drek."

"Still, a dragon?"

"Liv's not even two months old yet."

"In that case, she's a goddamn genius."

"Tell me about it; just being around her makes me feel inadequate. I'm just hoping I can mold her into someone in Arleesh."

"That's pretty ambitious."

"It's that, or she'll kill everybody when she realizes we're all just fragile sacks of meat."

"In that case, good luck with that."

"Thanks, I think."

"Well, it's nice to have you back, even if it's just for a week and a half."

"It's good to be back."

And it was.


Author's Notes: And thus, the final chapter of book 1, and the longest chapter to date.

Banter between Hermione and Harry being intruded upon by reality feels appropriate, given Hermione's lack of worldly experience.

Fay and Neville becoming included in the group as tangential members who know some of the secrets but not all of them feels appropriate for the way Harry wants to use them. Making them swear a blood oath also makes sense for him, and it makes sense to have Hermione learn about it here.

I figured something that cut between molecules wouldn't ultimately damage the Philosopher's Stone in a way that would make it unable to continue doing whatever it is it does.

I like how Harry has to explain risk versus reward to Fay and Neville, but does so in a way that makes sense to their twelve-year-old minds.

Hermione forgiving Harry feels pretty in-character for her at this point, plus she already agreed to do so in their original blood pact.

And thus, Harry's first 9th level-like spell is revealed.

So, why does Dumbledore get nothing but lies from Hermione when he uses Legilimency on her? It's the blood pact she made, which forcibly makes her keep all of Harry's secrets, even against people she doesn't know are trying to steal them from her. Essentially, the magic of the pact has created a version of her mind and memories that feed nothing but lies to anybody attempting to gain information on Harry that he might want to keep quiet.

Harry believing he passed to the next year despite getting two Poors falls in line with what my research showed about the British education system, where a student could fail courses and still advance in years as long as they didn't miss significant class time, and it's the first time his expectations do not really meet the reality of the situation, which I feel is a nice switch.

Liv and Harry negotiating a deal so she can accompany him away from Hogwarts was an interesting bit to write; I chose to gloss over Harry training her to be human-like because it didn't stick out as something Harry would really fixate on as long as she learned quickly, and, being a prodigy, she certainly would.

I love the introduction and the running joke that people think Harry is telling them to leave when he's introducing Liv due to the pronunciation of her name. I also like her sometimes forgetting that she shouldn't tell people she's a dragon, given she's still only a few months old, which means she's not really completely mature yet despite her intelligence.

Harry instilling his paranoia on others just seemed appropriate.

I like using Ron as comic relief in the sense that Harry just inflicts violence on him whenever they interact.

Homecoming party! Harry does not deal well with surprises. I figured the main partying of the party wouldn't interest Harry, so I decided to focus on his individual interactions with people that tied up story points.

And it'll be off to America at the beginning of book 2, to learn properly how to be a soldier and a spy.

I wrote this entire "book" over the space of just over four months while between jobs with an additional three months spent purely on research; as I now have a full-time job, and the next book itself requires quite a bit of research, I expect I won't start publication of the the second book until the end of Q1 or beginning of Q2 2020, so until then, this version of Harry Potter will be on hiatus. The next book in the series will be entitled Harry Potter and the Physical Adept, and I will include a final update to this story when that book begins publication.

One last time for this book, please review and PM.

Credit to Shinshikaizer for the original story pitch and goalie12345 for copy-editing. Furthermore, my thanks to Romantically Distant for additional editing and proofing, Navn Ukjent for providing Norwegian translations, and FalcoD for providing French translations. I wanted to ensure the language used was linguistically accurate, so I'm very grateful for the assistance of my translators.