Harry Potter, Squatter

By Enterprise1701_d

Chapter 56

Mrs. Norris' whiskers bopped as she twitched her nose back and forth. One of the horrible little beasts that made her human's life a misery had just entered the kitchens, a place forbidden to them!

Quickly she turned and made her way to the stairs; it would be a short flight up the steps to the ground level. She had to alert her human so he could catch the little beast when he left the forbidden areas.

Honestly, it was all work, all day, but thankfully her human was a good servant and ensured she had plenty of food. Besides, catching the little beasts felt like hunting.

And Mrs. Norris liked to hunt.

She reached the stairs quickly, but stopped when she noticed someone sitting on the top of said staircase.

He looked normal enough, golden fur and silver claws, but there was something dark and dangerous in those amber eyes, and Mrs. Norris suddenly felt on-guard.

The golden-furred cat continued to sit where he sat, the tip of his tail bopping up and down to show his displeasure.

Mrs. Norris wasn't one to back down. This was her territory, and no newcomer would displace her from her territory! They should be thankful that she even allowed them onto her property!

The golden-furred newcomer seemed more amused than angry by her defiance, and she watched his ears pivot towards her. His head lowered, and his lips curled back to reveal shiny silver teeth.

She suddenly found herself on the African savanna, at the bottom of a hill, looking up at a golden-furred lion eyeing her with hungry interest.

The next moment, she was back at Hogwarts, at the bottom of the staircase, looking up at the interloper.

She pivoted her ears submissively in the opposite direction and lowered her head in supplication, hoping to earn some reprieve to figure out her next step.

He raised one paw and licked it.

The dismissive motion sent a jolt through Mrs. Norris. She wasn't going to be allowed past him, not without submitting.

She didn't want to submit.

The new cat must have realized this to, as he slowly lowered the paw he had been licking, and effortlessly started to curl his back.

Suddenly, she was back on the savanna, at the bottom of the hill.

It was instinctive; she didn't even try to put up a fight. Immediately, she lowered herself to the floor in supplication.

He leapt off the top step, paws barely touching the middle step before he was next to her at the bottom. She mewled pitifully and rolled to the side, revealing her belly and neck.

He scoffed and nosed both her belly and her neck, making it clear that he could have killed her, and that she existed only because of his pity and mercy.

He sat again, and eyed her as she slowly crawled upright, then made a motion to the kitchens.

She understood immediately. The horrible little beast in the kitchen was the servant of this powerful monster, and she was not to bother him lest she earn his master's displeasure.

She mewled again and slunk off in the direction she had come from, making it clear she wasn't going to alert her own servant. As she did so, she wondered if the little beast knew he was under the protection of such a powerful master, or not.

Likely not; the little beasts that populated the castle rarely were perceptive enough for it.

As Mrs. Norris left, Nemmy went back to his bath. No way was a common and ordinary cat going to get his human in trouble. Not when he was around to prevent it.

0000

Harry returned to the Hufflepuff Common Room accompanied by Professor Sprout. Unfortunately for him, he had underestimated the Speed of Gossip at Hogwarts. As such, it looked liked every Hufflepuff was waiting for him to return.

"It's the munchkin!" Tonks crowed as soon as he stuck his nose inside. "And Professor Sprout!" she added, on a substantially different tone, when the professor followed.

"Professor Sprout is going to set up a silencing charm for me," Harry explained.

"Oh? Is that why you got called to the Headmaster's office the day you arrived, and to Professor Sprout's office on your first full day?" Tonks teased.

Professor Sprout, with a wide grin on her lips, remained silent and slipped into the dormitories.

"The Headmaster wanted to introduce me to my godfather, and he wanted to talk about something but that got postponed. And yes," Harry answered with a grin, basically supplying an answer to both proposals but knowing just fine that it wasn't an actual answer.

Tonks laughed. "Fine, if you want to play it that way, I won't interrogate you," she said, before crossing her arms. "By the way, what is this that I heard about you teaching your classmates to do transfig on their first day?"

Harry grinned. "The regular way does just the one thing very well, but nothing else. It's highly refined, requires very little energy, and treats magic like a science experiment of cause and effect. I basically gave everyone a bit of a shortcut to get quicker results using the same spell." He cocked his head, and thought for a moment. "Think of it like screaming 'just work!' and having it work."

"It's exhausting, though," Justin interjected. "I was wiped after using it twice." Most of the first-years nodded.

Tonks looked like she was torn between being shocked and being proud and ended up looking neither. "Is that the reason that munchkin over there fell asleep?" she asked, pointing to one of the comfortable couches, where Sally-Anne had curled into a ball and was fast asleep.

Harry nodded. "Did she eat?"

"I forced some food in her," Megan said. "She was too out of it to taste it, though."

"Good enough, thanks, Megan," he said as he quietly approached the sleeping girl. Carefully, he reached out and touched her shoulder, before closing his eyes and checking her energy network.

As he had thought, she was critically low on energy, and slowly regenerating it from digesting food. Slowly, he fed the most minute trace of energy into her underdeveloped system. "Sally-Anne?"

"Mes?" the sleepy girl said, sleepily.

"You should go to bed, Sally-Anne," Harry suggested as he lifted his hand from her shoulder.

"Mes," she agreed, slurring the word, slowly untangling herself and getting to her feet. She started dragging herself in the direction of the wall that housed the doors to the dormitories.

"You might want to go with her," Harry suggested to Megan. "I don't think she knows her bed by heart already so she may get lost."

Megan giggled and stepped up. "Imagining her sleeping in a cupboard somewhere," she defended herself as she took Sally-Anne's hand and started dragging the girl in the proper direction of the door.

Harry struck down the unbidden flashback of actually sleeping in a cupboard.

"So, are you going to explain or will I have to get serious?" Tonks asked as Megan guided Sally-Anne out, one hand on the sleepy girl's elbow.

"Explain what?" Harry asked, confused.

"Your… alternate method, Munchkin. Explain, or do I have to tickle it out of you?" she asked, making threatening wiggle-motions with her fingers.

"Oh, that," Harry said with a shrug, totally dismissing the 'threat' of being tickled. He was pretty sure he could defend himself against his cousin. He basically repeated the explanation he'd given Justin, expanding slightly on it.

"In short," he concluded. "It means you're brute-forcing the spell. You'll get results quicker, but it's costly in terms of energy. The better you get at the spell itself, the less energy you'll use."

Hufflepuff house as a unit was silent, staring at him.

He felt uncomfortable when nobody said anything.

"That's probably the most revolutionary explanation in magical theory I've ever heard," Tonks finally said. "Munchkin, does it really work?" she asked, looking at Justin.

"Yes, it does," he re-confirmed.

"Is this what you're using?" Tonks asked Harry.

He shook his head. "No, I don't use spells like this. I build the image completely in my head, then basically force it on reality. Mar- my teacher told me it usually takes decades to be any good at it. I still struggle with it, but I'm making progress."

"'Making progress', he says," Gabriel Truman, their fifth-year prefect, said. "Uses wandless magic and now has his class casting spells on their first day, and he says he's 'making progress'."

Harry shrugged uncomfortably. "My tutor says he thinks I might make a pretty decent magic user in twenty years or so," he explained, causing snorts among the Hufflepuffs. "On the other hand, some of the lessons he's teaching me come in handy for casting regular spells, like the brute-force method. Quantity over quality."

"Quantity has a quality of its own, Munchkin," Tonks told him.

"Do you have to call us that?" Harry asked, plaintively.

"I'll make you a deal," Tonks replied with a big grin. "You grow up and I'll stop calling you a munchkin."

Harry grumbled.

"Now, about those exercises you promised," Tonks said.

"Maybe I should find someone else to be my cousin," Harry said, crossing his arms and looking away.

"Aww, don't be like that!" Tonks laughed, throwing herself at him and grabbing him into a hug that definitely wouldn't be on Artie's 'approved' list, considering his face was planted in her chest.

It was definitely uncomfortable. Not physically, mind you, but mentally. He was reminded again of Mister Apollo's perverted comic book, and how upset Artie and Hestia had been.

"There! Isn't that better?" Tonks laughed as she released him.

"No," Harry said coolly, glad to be free. Her face fell dramatically as some – if not most – of the Hufflepuffs started laughing. He wasn't sure what they were laughing about, but it seemed to be in support of him, so he would take what he could get.

"Anyway, I'll teach you an exercise," he said, turning away and looking at the Hufflepuffs. "You'll need to practice, though. Magic, real magic, is something you learn by doing."

"What will it do, this exercise?" Justin asked, curious, and stepping up to Harry.

"It'll expand your magical reserves," Harry explained. "If you have more energy, you can throw more energy at a problem. At the same time, if you have more energy, you can do the same thing multiple times without running out, like poor Sally-Anne."

"Cool," Ernie said, joining the impromptu conversation while everyone else basically waited for him to finally get to the good bits. "So how much magic do you have?"

"I… am not sure," he finally admitted. "Remember, I do magic in a different way, so I generate magic a different way, too." He held up a hand while everyone started shouting. "It took me a year to be able to cast the simplest magic using this method. It's slow, it's painful, and it's not something I should teach everyone."

The disappointed groans practically made the walls shake.

"Can you show us?" Justin asked, eagerly.

"Yeah! Show us!" the shouts were, if possible, even louder than the disappointed groans had been.

The demigod shrugged, closed his eyes, and started building Shen. He spread his arms, unaware that the Common Room had stilled. They had all felt something fill the air, even if they could not see or feel it.

He breathed out and opened his connection to magic. Deep inside himself, his protective tower opened its shutters.

He opened his eyes as magic detonated within and around him. No longer did he see the students; instead he focused on the presence that was Hogwarts. It definitely wasn't alive, or a Genius Loci, but that was simply because it had yet to accumulate enough presence, enough experience, to do so.

It was a nexus of learning, a place of wisdom and knowledge, and it would nurture all that came to it for schooling.

He'd forgotten how good it felt to be connected to magic this intimately, and reminded himself that he had once almost become addicted to it.

Releasing another breath, he let the connection drop. His vision shifted back to normal and suddenly he looked back at the students rather than the overwhelming presence of Hogwarts.

They had given him a really wide birth, it seemed. Someone had even shoved the furniture aside.

"Right," Tonks said, sounding odd. "Nobody ever ask Harry to do that again."

The Hufflepuffs nodded. Harry looked confused. "Was it that bad?" he asked.

"You shoved the furniture aside just with your presence," Tonks answered, still sounding odd. "You looked like one of those mages from the storybooks. You know, like the one where you supposedly rescued some princess from a castle."

Harry groaned. "Not that again," he protested. "For the last time, it was a cave, not a castle, and Mel is only a princess by technicality."

More silence in the Common Room.

"Right," his cousin said, softly. "Rescues technically-princesses from caves, and is on good enough terms to call her by name."

"Melinoe isn't that bad," Harry muttered.

"Good enough terms to call her with an affectionate nickname, even," seventh-year Penny Haywood said. Tonks just nodded.

"We definitely will need to hear that story," Tonks said.

"I told it at the opening feast," he answered with a sulk.

"Pretty sure I didn't hear it if you did," his cousin answered honestly. "It's a large table, Munchkin."

"Maybe you should give us the exercise first, then tell the story again?" Justin offered. "Calm the ravenous masses before they come after you and all that."

Chuckles rose from the Hufflepuffs, while some of the more impatient members had the grace to look vaguely embarrassed.

"That is what I like to see," Professor Sprout said from a corner of the Common Room, where she obviously had been standing for a while. "Everyone getting along and learning from each other. And Harry? I will definitely need to hear that story, and we should have another conversation regarding certain things you can do."

"Oooh," Hufflepuffs muttered.

"Nothing bad, I assure you," Sprout said with a smile. "Simply laying some ground rules and all that."

Harry sighed. This was going to be a long evening, he could tell.

0000

A couple of hours later, hours that hadn't been as bad as he'd feared, Harry sunk into bed. The events of the day seemed to catch up to him, and he clutched the covers to his chest while he buried his face in his pillow.

For a moment, he wondered why killing those giant spiders affected him so much.

Then, he realized why.

It was the first time he'd failed so horrifically at talking an enemy down. Annabeth's attacker had been too quick and they were basically already fighting with Harry simply shouting at him to stop, so he didn't count. He'd talked down Arachne. And when he went to rescue Thor, those Frost Giants had already kidnapped his friend and he basically had no chance to talk them down. Maybe the Hydra – which he still jokingly called a 'Tentacle Demon' on occasion – counted as well; he hadn't talked that one down, either.

But then, again, it was a monster. Despite the fact that he was able to reach a compromise with Nemmy, and he was a monster, too!

This time, he had time. And he engaged those spiders in conversation. And he'd tried his very best to talk them down… and they simply wouldn't hear of it.

He felt like he had let Hestia down, even if the goddess in question had been with him in spirit while he baked a thank-you for Artie and Zoë.

He tried to get some sleep, but a few hours later, his mind still spun. It was too quiet. The silencing charm did its job too well.

He was aware, due to his other senses, that people were nearby. But now he couldn't hear them, which unnerved him even more. He sat up, and sighed. This dormitory thing was something that bothered him. He was too used to being by himself.

Swinging his legs from his bed and sitting upright, he debated on returning to the temple. Then, he remembered how Professor Sprout had asked him not to do that. While he hadn't technically made the promise in words, he had still nodded in agreement.

Hestia would probably be disappointed if he weaseled out of a conversation based on a technicality. Hermes would probably applaud him for the ingenuity, but Hestia definitely wouldn't appreciate it, he felt.

So, he felt he only had two options. One was to simply tough it out, not sleep until exhaustion forced him to sleep and adapt to the new environment. The second was to go and find a different place to sleep without leaving the grounds.

That last part made him think he could probably set up a tent in the enchanted forest, the Genius Loci would probably love it if he did that. Then again, it was also a technicality… he was supposed to sleep in the dorms, after all.

He probably could get away with sleeping on a couch in the Common Room, which would only get him a decent night's rest until the first Hufflepuff woke up in the morning, though.

He didn't really have any good options for a good night's sleep. Annoying.

Harry startled from his thoughts when Nemmy jumped up on the bed with him; the pint-sized monster also didn't seem to appreciate the silencing charm.

"Alright, Nemmy," Harry said as he scratched his unusual pet behind the ears and under the chin. As the cat started purring, he shifted his perception and observed the silencing charm. Time to do some work, and figure out a way to get some sleep.

0000

Everyone had been looking forward to Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Professor Quirrell didn't disappoint. As the man had told Harry during that fleeting meeting in the Leaky Cauldron, he'd spent the summer traveling through Eastern Europe – and used the first lesson as an opportunity to teach them about Vampires and Strigoi, wrapped in what was basically a vacation story.

Harry had to applaud the mastery involved. He was also glad to know that, despite his advantage in magic itself, his lack of knowledge about the magical world wasn't a huge hindrance. Lots of students hadn't even known they were witches or wizards until they received their Hogwarts letter. Thankfully, Hufflepuffs with magical backgrounds, like Susan Bones, were eager to help out their new house-mates, and a variety of study-groups were easily and quickly arranged.

Near the end of the week, when everyone was starting to get a feel for the castle and were able to get around without getting lost – not often, anyway – the Hufflepuffs were debating that day's lessons.

"We have the morning off," Susan said, pointing to a lesson plan that had seen far too much use that week. "But this afternoon we have Double Potions with the Ravenclaws."

"With Snape," Hannah added. "I've heard some dreadful stories. We'd better be prepared, he values preparation before anything else."

Tonks, who had taken to sitting close to her favorite group of 'munchkins', interjected. "Not that he will come out and say so," she cautioned. "He's a rather… unconventional… teacher. He also values his House before everyone else, but he won't grade you unfairly. Do the work, keep your head down, be prepared so you can answer his questions when he asks them, and you'll pass his class."

The first-years nodded, eyes wide.

"Has anyone prepared anything?" Justin asked.

"I only read the first chapter of Magical Draughts and Potions," Harry said. So he'd gotten bored last night, still having trouble sleeping in a dorm and all that. The other first years snickered; someone muttered bookworm quietly.

"Right," Tonks said. "After breakfast, you munchkins are coming with me. I'll show you how to figure out what to prepare for in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, there's a trick to it. Then we'll go over some of the things I remember from my first year. I wish I still had my notes."

"Right, note to self, keep notes and pass them down to the next generation," Harry said.

"Hey, I still have my notes at home," Cedric said, seated not far away with the other third-years. "I'll write and have my parents send them over."

"That's a good idea," Tonks said. "We can bundle our notes and help out new munchkins."

"Do you have to keep calling us that, Prefect Tonks?" Justin asked, tacking on her title in an attempt to guilt her into letting it go.

"I told you the deal," Tonks said with a giggle. "You grow up and I'll stop calling you all munchkins."

Harry snickered. He didn't mind being called a 'munchkin' all that much now that he'd gotten used to it, and it was hilarious to see some of the others get worked up over it.

"Is there like a democracy involved with prefects?" Justin asked jokingly. "Because I feel we should have a vote on electing a new prefect."

Tonks pulled an over-the-top face, using her metamorph abilities to enhance the effect. Unable to help herself, she burst out laughing moments later, causing the first years to join her.

"Don't worry, Cousin Tonks, I'll campaign on your behalf," Harry said, still laughing, and patting her shoulder in a comforting manner.

"Aw, thank you, Harry," The seventh-year said with a grin. "Because I'm awesome, right?"

"Because you're family and I'm supposed to stick with family," he answered immediately. "No matter what." The first-years, and most of the students surrounding them, broke out into renewed laughter.

"I believe that's called a 'burn', Tonks," Penny Haywood said.

Tonks just pulled more faces. For some reason, she looked lighter for the laughter. Then Harry remembered that people bothered his cousin because of her abilities. The fact that he and his friends were just joking around with her without mentioning those abilities were probably a huge relief to her.

He made a mental note to find out the people bothering his new cousin. He should have a chat with them, and explain they shouldn't be bothering people with awesome abilities. Especially if said people were family of his.

0000

That afternoon, the first-year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs were standing outside the dungeons where the Potions classes were held.

"I heard someone in Gryffindor had an accident," Padma Patil from Ravenclaw said. "According to my sister, a boy added something at the wrong time and melted his cauldron. Professor Snape was livid."

"Note to self," Justin said out loud. "Follow instructions carefully."

The Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs nodded seriously. Harry suddenly felt relieved to know that he didn't have a pewter cauldron, but a copper one. To aid in potency, he remembered.

"I do wish the Potions lessons were held someplace else, though," Susan said with a small shiver. "It's cold down here."

A lot of the girls from both Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff nodded in agreement. Most of the boys looked at each other. To them, while it was cooler here than at the main castle, it wasn't exactly cold.

That went double for Harry, who had been to Alaska with Zoë. Where she had taught him the basics of celestial navigation.

He felt warm just from remembering how close they had sat together while she taught him.

He missed spending time in the wild with her.

The dour Professor strode up, opened the door, and ushered them in. Harry ignored the terse words coming from the teacher. Miss Athena wasn't the most polite teacher he had, either, so he was used to it.

Harry looked around the classroom as they found seats. It was a creepy place – which meant that it immediately had a couple of extra 'coolness' points added in Harry's mind – and had pickled animal parts floating in jars in cabinets along the walls.

The professor started by taking roll call, like Professor Flitwick had done in Charms.

He paused at Harry's name.

"Ah, yes," the professor said, softly. "Harry Potter. Our new… celebrity."

The Ravenclaws stayed silent, but the Hufflepuffs seemed to tense up at the perceived threat to one of their own. Especially one of their own who had gotten them all a jump-start on Transfiguration.

The professor said nothing else and continued with the roll call, and finally looked up at the students. Professor Snape had dark, black eyes, devoid of any warmth or compassion.

"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potionmaking," he spoke, still in that whispering tone. They caught each word regardless, his very mannerisms enforcing silence and attention in the class. "As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses... I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death. If you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."

"Cool," Harry whispered, excited about the class. It sounded like an area of magic that Hestia would be very good in, with her gift for cooking.

The teacher snapped to one side, and suddenly he was pointing at Harry, with arm, hand, and finger extended. "Potter!" he snapped. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"

Oh! That one was in the Potions handbook! "A sleeping potion called 'The Draught of Living Death', Professor?" he asked.

"Is that a statement or a question?" Snape asked, his eyes narrowing.

Harry swallowed. "A statement, Sir. The Draught of Living Death."

Snape stared at him for a few seconds longer than polite, then nodded curtly. "It seems that fame hasn't gone to your head and you opened a book before class," he stated.

Harry nodded.

"Good," the man said, then looked for another victim. "Patil!" he said, pointing at Padma. "Where can I find a bezoar?"

"In the stomach of a goat, sir," the witch replied.

Snape gave a curt nod. "And what does it do?"

"It can save you from a lot of poisons, Sir," she answered.

Another curt nod from the professor, before he scanned the room. "Finch-Fletchly. What is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?"

Harry remembered them going over this in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi that morning, under Tonks' tutelage, but he hoped Justin did as well.

His friend frowned as he thought. "I… don't think there is a difference, Sir," he replied, uncertain.

"You think," Snape said, coolly.

Justin swallowed, seemed to straighten his spine, and replied confidently. "There's no difference, Sir."

Another curt nod from Snape. "It seems that some of you, at least, aren't dunderheads and prepare for classes," he said. "One point to Finch-Fletchly, Patil, and Potter." His voice changed subtly when he reached Harry's name, which the demigod in question found rather odd.

They were then divided into pairs, and Harry was pleased to note he was teamed up with Justin. The professor then set them to make a simple potion to cure boils.

Justin looked strangely at Harry's copper cauldron before they started weighing dried nettles and crushing snake fangs and stewing horned slugs.

As Harry worked, with Godslayer turned into a potions knife, he asked his weapon whether it would absorb the properties of the various potions ingredients.

Sorry, Boss. I only absorb attacks from enemies, remember? And as much fun as I'm having with pretending, these potions ingredients aren't any more your enemy then the ingredients for your stew are.

Harry blinked. But Thor's lightning?

Was deflected at you by an enemy, remember? And the spoils of victory like the acid and the venom of the Hydra were spoils of its attack, so they count.

Class continued in silence, and Justin seemed happy to play assistant to Harry who actually, really enjoyed the class. Snape wasn't the first harsh and cold teacher he'd had, and so didn't mind the professor stalking the room and watching them like hawks.

Seriously, this class reminded him of cooking so much that it felt almost nostalgic.

When they finished, and had bottled their potion, Snape seemed to study Harry and Justin's phial longer than the others.

"Copper, Potter? Too good for pewter?" he asked.

Harry stopped himself from saying his mother had given him advice. He only just in time remembered that his mom was supposed to be dead in the magical world. "I have some letters from my mom," he said instead, making it sound like he found the letters instead of received them. "She explained the difference between the cauldron materials. Apparently, she used copper."

Snape was silent and stared at him for a few long and uncomfortable moments. "I will be watching you, Potter," he finally said, in a tone that was halfway between a promise and a threat – almost as if the professor himself didn't know what tone to use. "You can go. Full marks." The last sounded as if the man was conflicted about it.

0000

That evening, the first-year Hufflepuffs were all sitting together, just eating and chatting, when Harry's meal was interrupted by the arrival of a rather bossy Gryffindor girl.

"How did you do it, Harry?" Hermione asked, somehow suddenly appearing next to his shoulder.

Harry blinked in surprise, looked up, mentally switched gears, and said, "Hi Hermione. Good to see you. And how did I do what?"

The girl looked surprised for a moment, as if suddenly realizing she hadn't been perfectly polite. "Sorry. Good to see you too, Harry. I've been frantic over Transfiguration. You managed to help your classmates cast quicker, and I just can't figure out how – I mean, I follow the books perfectly, and none of the other journals or reference works I could find gave any indication-"

Harry looked amused, and cut her off. "It's one of the little tricks I picked up," he said. "How about I show it to you after dinner? We can go to the library."

Hermione looked surprised again, before the surprise gave way to relief. Almost as if she had expected him to turn her away or something. "Thank you," she said, softly.

"Have you eaten yet?" he asked kindly, because it looked like the poor girl had worked herself into quite a state.

"Just a bite," Hermione said, brushing it off.

"No, no, no," Harry said. "You need food. No food means no fuel, which means no magic. Can we make some room, guys?" he said, in one breath, turning from her to the other first-years, who laughed and immediately started shuffling over, creating an extra place.

As Harry had half-way expected, the House-elves were on the ball and a new place-setting appeared after the space was created.

"Thank you," Harry said to empty air. For a moment he had the curious impression that said mid-air vibrated.

"Come on, Hermione, have a seat. You need to eat something," he told her as she shyly sat down with the other first-year Hufflepuffs. "Everyone, this is Hermione, we met on the train. She was helping someone find their lost pet."

Hufflepuffs by nature were helpful folk and that little tidbit did more to cement her welcome than Harry's vouching for her did. He then proceeded to introduce the Hufflepuffs to Hermione, while filling her plate with a well-balanced meal.

"I can fill my own plate," Hermione protested, although it sounded more as if she wasn't really sure what to think.

"You came over on an empty stomach," Harry said on a rather mothering tone that came straight from Hestia's handbook.

"Oh," Hermione muttered. A few moments later, she added, "Thanks," in a tiny voice and started eating. Harry gave her an approving nod, happy to see her eating.

After dinner, Harry and Hermione got up, and Harry was surprised to see that quite a few of the other first-year Hufflepuffs got up to follow as well.

He didn't mind, if people wanted to learn more then he was perfectly willing to teach them more.

"Picking up strays, Potter?" A voice asked from behind Harry's back, causing him to turn around and be confronted by Draco and his two big friends.

"Draco!" Harry said, happily. "Greg! Vin! Nice to see you guys again. How have things been?"

Draco blinked, surprised at the reception, while Greg and Vin nodded slowly. "We've been well," Greg said for the both of them. "Hard work."

Vin nodded silently in agreement. "Definitely," Draco said, seeing a chance to get back into the conversation. "Father warned me that it would be, though. But still, it's a surprise."

Harry nodded agreeably. "The teachers do seem to like handing out extra work," he said.

"Yeah," Draco muttered, not sounding at all happy with that particular development. "Anyway, I just wanted to give you a head's up about picking up strays. You need to be careful who you associate with."

Harry looked confused. Most of the Hufflepuffs accompanying did not. Hermione did not, either, and her shoulders seemed to sag slightly.

"What do you mean, Draco?" Harry asked. "I mean, if you're talking about Hermione, she's a perfectly nice girl."

Hermione shot his shoulder a grateful look.

Not that he noticed.

"I'm sure she is," Draco replied casually. "I'm talking about her being a mudblood. You'd better be careful so you're not seen as being for the wrong side."

Hermione shook and turned, but before she could go anywhere, Harry somehow had an arm in front of her, stopping her. The Hufflepuffs, meanwhile, had closed ranks around her. More than one wand had come out of pockets.

"Oh, What's this?" a chirpy voice asked. As they looked, Tonks walked up, wearing a nasty sort of smile. "You're not causing any trouble are you, Cousin Draco?"

Draco looked like he'd swallowed a lemon. "No, no trouble at all. Cousin Tonks," he grated out.

"Cousin?" Harry asked Tonks.

"Oh, didn't I tell you? My mum and Draco's mum are sisters," Tonks revealed. "That makes the two of us cousins. His mum and my mum don't get along all that well, so we met only a couple of times, but Cousin Draco seems to have a nasty case of mouthing-off disease that I had to cure him of."

Draco's face twisted further.

"Cool, that makes us cousins, too," Harry said happily to Draco, who looked like he had no idea what was going on, nor what to do now.

"Through Dorea Black?" the platinum blonde boy finally asked.

"Yup," Tonks said, popping her p.

Draco really didn't know what to say now, and finally decided that 'bolting' was the best course of action. "Anyway, I just wanted to help warn you," he said quickly and nervously, before making a break for it, bypassing the entire group.

"Honestly, Hermione's a perfectly nice girl," Harry said, half to himself. "And what's the whole 'mudblood' thing about, anyway?"

"It's a racist slur," Tonks stated coldly. "Against people with no magical parents."

Harry scoffed at the notion, but before he could say anything else, Draco seemed to have regained his courage.

He turned, and from down the hallway leading to the Great Hall, he said, loudly. "Just keep what I said in mind, Harry. You don't want to associate too closely with mudbloods."

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. Hestia give me strength, he said to himself, not expecting an answer.

He half-turned to Draco. Something seemed to fill him as he did so. It felt like Hestia.

He looked perfectly nice and friendly. He looked approachable and amicable and just like he always did.

And yet, there was an infliction in his voice.

"I'm sorry, Draco? Did I just hear you use a profane slur?" he asked in a deceptively kindly tone.

Draco was half a hallway away, and yet he could see Harry's eyes. "I…" the Slytherin boy said, stopping. "No?" he offered, suddenly feeling quite small and scared.

The undertone in Harry's voice abated. "That's what I thought. Because my cousin would never use such a nasty term, right?" he asked, the tone suddenly coming back for the question.

Draco swallowed. "No," he said again.

Harry smiled and the undertone went away entirely. Draco turned and fled, two friends following him as he beat it down the hall.

0000

"Harry just asked me for strength," Hestia told Artie as she put her cup of tea down. "I wonder why…" she looked to one side and focused on what her favorite mortal was up to. It took just a fraction of her power to take in the situation and look into the past conversation. "Well now, that just won't do," she stated and gave Harry a bit of a leg up.

Artie sipped her tea and focused on the same events. "What is he up to this time?" she asked with a tiny smile, before seeing the same things Hestia was seeing – an upset Hermione, Harry with his arm protectively and supportively around her, and a racist bigot who had triggered the whole situation.

Harry was standing up for one of her own, so she decided to help out. "No, indeed it won't do," she said, smiling dangerously as she slipped Harry a bit of her own power as well.

Aunt Hestia is the carrot. You better not need me as the stick, boy, the Goddess of the Hunt thought maliciously at Draco as she felt her power take hold within Harry.

"Did you see the look on his face?" Artie snickered moments later. "That one will need a change of trousers."

"Artie," Hestia said, trying for 'stern and disappointed', but unable to completely keep her own amusement out of it.

Artemis just grinned, not at all repentant.

"Now, you were telling me of the events yesterday that left Harry quite shaken," Hestia said, changing the topic.

"Can you believe it," Artie said, her tone hardening. "There was a colony of giant man-eating spiders in the forest on the grounds of the school. So, of course, Harry ran into them within twenty-four hours of his arrival."

Hestia looked upset. "I was assured the school was the safest place in Britain," she stated.

"Well, it probably is now," Artemis replied casually. "Harry was doing very well on his own. Zoë and I probably wouldn't have had to intervene in person if he hadn't had an unlucky trip."

Hestia sighed; poor Harry's luck went up and down like a yo-yo. She felt so bad for him.

"And that made him upset?" she asked.

"They were sapient," Artie explained. "He probably tried to talk them down, given how he tries to emulate you. Unfortunately for him, they were quite vicious towards mortals."

"Other than Arachne, I am not aware of any spider creatures in Greek History," Hestia mused.

Artie shrugged. "Me neither. Maybe they're British. Or something else. Mortal magic users have some hideous things stashed away, it could even be one of those."

"I suppose," Hestia mused. "Still, I am glad to hear you helped out Harry. Thank you, Artie."

Artie waved the thanks off. "He's one of the few decent males out there, and him trying to emulate you is just icing on top."

Hestia looked amused, but remained silent for a few moments. Artie took another sip of her tea.

"He baked you a cake, didn't he?" the Goddess of the Home finally asked.

"With Nutella frosting. It was delicious," Artie answered without remorse.

0000

"Harry?" Justin asked.

Harry looked at his friend.

"Don't take this the wrong way, mate, but you can be an absolutely terrifying bloke, you know that?" his friend said.

"Who? Me?" Harry asked, pointing at himself with his free hand, completely baffled. "Nonsense. I just try and live up to Hestia's example and be friendly with everyone."

Justin snorted. "You looked like he was one wrong answer away from ripping his head off."

Harry laughed. "I was a tad upset he used such a nasty slur, but I wouldn't have harmed him," he answered casually. "Come on, let's get to the library so we can get Hermione some answers."

"Thank you," Hermione said, although it sounded like she didn't know what she was thanking him for.

When they arrived at the library, Hermione was about to show them to her favorite table. Ignoring the fact that Hermione had a favorite library table after less than a full week at Hogwarts, Harry went to see the librarian.

Two minutes later, the entire group was following Madam Pince as she showed them to a hidden hallway branching off the main library, passed a very interesting section that was marked off and labeled as a 'Forbidden Section'.

"These are private study rooms," Madam Pince said in a habitual whispering tone. "They're rarely used, so you can just use room one for now. If it's in use, there will be a label on the door."

"Thank you," Harry said politely and gratefully. As he pulled the door open, and stepped inside, a label of 'in use' appeared over the door's handle.

"Happy studying," Madam Pince told them. "As a note of warning, the same charms exist on these rooms as exist on the rest of the castle, so don't attempt to use them for a private getaway."

The children nodded politely, most of them blushing. Harry nodded along, but didn't really get what everyone was getting worked up about. It was probably something perverted, anyway, so he decided on ignoring it.

"How did you know about these?" Hermione asked curiously, while everyone was getting situated.

"One of my tutors, Miss Athena, has the biggest library I've ever seen. She has rooms like this as well, despite it being her own private library. She's told me that most research institutions have private rooms attached to their libraries, exactly for situations like these."

"That makes sense," Hermione said. "I've never seen them in the local library, though."

Harry shrugged. "Maybe there are differences between public libraries and libraries from research institutions? After all, you want to be able to consult the books and talk about them, but some are really valuable and you don't want them leaving the library."

Hermione nodded slowly; that made sense.

"So, about transfiguration," Harry said, the room suddenly quieting as private conversation abruptly ended and everyone focused on him. Suddenly, he felt a bit uncomfortable at being thrust into what basically amounted to a teaching position.

He drew a breath, and focused on Hermione instead. One on one, he could handle.

He started his explanation and tried to be complete. Hermione looked at him with shining eyes. He just knew he was going to be there a while…

Later that evening, after Hermione had managed to drive off even the most hard-working of Hufflepuffs, Harry finally managed to get away.

Sure, he had to invoke one of the adults' rules and notify her of impending curfew, but needs must and sometimes a demigod had to do what a demigod had to do.

Still, he didn't return straight to the Hufflepuff Common Room.

He stopped instead at Professor Sprout's office, and drew a breath. This wasn't going to be a pretty conversation, he just knew it, but once again, needs must.

He knocked politely and waited for her to call him in.

"Mister Potter," the professor said, sounding halfway surprised. "What can I do for you, ten minutes before curfew?"

"That's what I wanted to talk about, Professor," Harry said, politely, as he sat down in the visitor's chair.

"Oh?" the Professor asked. "What about curfew?"

"Well, not curfew per se," the young demigod prevaricated. "It's more to do with the whole 'staying in the castle' thing."

Professor sprout leaned back in her chair, looking amused. "I thought you might come to see me about that sooner or later," she replied.

Harry shrugged, feeling a bit embarrassed. "I have some responsibilities," he explained. "Most of all, I have some very demanding tutors and going to magic school isn't a good excuse to stop their tutoring sessions," he said, thinking of Athena. The Goddess of Wisdom insisted that 'a proper young demigod' knew more than just magic.

He completely agreed with her, but that didn't mean it wasn't making his life harder.

"I see," Professor Sprout said. "I'm afraid that I can't be the one to grant you exceptions, nor would I wish to do so. All Hogwarts students are supposed to be equal, after all."

Harry looked at her for a few moments. He hadn't been here long, but even he had noticed that not all students were equal.

Professor Sprout sighed. "Supposed to," she re-stated.

"Still, I need to go home for the weekend," Harry replied levelly. "Non-magical boarding schools allow students to go home for the weekend if they are willing and able to."

Professor Sprout sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. Harry thought quite a few people did that when he presented a nicely thought-out argument. Athena would find it acceptable, he thought.

"We are not a muggle institution, Mister Potter," the professor answered.

Harry shrugged. "A school is a school, and you told me this wasn't a prison last time. I want to – I need to – go home for the weekend."

"You can't leave school without your guardian's approval," the professor stated, her voice hardening at his tone.

Harry blinked. "That's all?" he asked.

The professor looked surprised. "All?" she asked.

He nodded and jumped out of the chair and went to the fireplace in her office. "Let me call up Hestia right now. She'll tell you I'm approved."

"Even so, I can't approve such requests. Only the Headmaster can make such approvals," the poor professor said.

"Cool, can we go see him?" Harry asked excitedly.

Professor Sprout sighed. This was going to be a long Friday evening, she was sure of it.

AN: Sadly, mom passed away in the morning on Thursday, February 17th. When she was initially diagnosed, she was given an 18 month life expectancy. It turned out to be six, from August to February. Sometimes, life hands you lemons, and then refuses to let you make lemonade.

I'm sure you will all understand that I needed (and still need) time to pull myself together. I will continue to work on this story as time and my mood allow, but chapters may be a bit further apart. Sorry for that.