Chapter 11

Disclaimer: I don't own Leverage or Harry Potter. I just play in the sandbox.

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JP was the only first year at the Gryffindor table, which probably meant that the rest of them were still in the Infirmary. He took the opportunity to observe some of his fellow students without distraction.

Some of the upper years were already starting to bring schoolwork with them to meals. Almost all of the Ravenclaws had a book out or were peering over a shoulder at someone else's book. There were fewer studious Gryffindors that he could see, though he did notice two identical redheads conspiring over a rather thick tome a little further down the table. JP was pretty sure those were Ron's brothers, though he hadn't said anything about them being studious.

In fact, now that JP thought about it, Ron had spent part of the train ride moaning about all the mischief and mayhem those two caused.

JP liked mischief and mayhem.

He was just putting together a plan for introducing himself when bodies and bags began to thump down at the table around him. He smiled at his returning year-mates.

"All clear of toxic sludge?" he asked, eyeing them as they settled into their seats. Neville had conspicuously sat himself at the very edges of the group, and he didn't appear anxious to make eye contact.

Ron scowled. "Boils hurt," he complained. "I am never partnering with Longbottom ever again."

Neville hunched lower. "Sorry," he muttered, just at the edge of JP's hearing.

"It was kind of exciting, though," Dean said, grabbing a sandwich off a platter in the middle of the table. "I didn't know potions could explode like that!"

"They aren't supposed to," Hermione said primly.

"I want to know how he did it," said Seamus with a broad grin.

"Don't you go trying to explode cauldrons," said the brown-haired girl that wasn't Hermione - JP couldn't remember her name from the sorting. She was frowning at Seamus with fond exasperation.

"Ah, come on, Lav," he whined, taking a big bite of his sandwich. "You know I like explosions," he added with his mouth full.

"Yeah," she said, her lips curled in distaste as her Indian friend laughed. "How could I forget?"

"So you two know each other?" JP asked, deciding to steer the conversation away from exploding cauldrons. Neville looked grateful for the reprieve.

"Sure," said Seamus, swallowing. "A lot of us with wizarding parents know each other a little."

"Our mums are good friends," added 'Lav.' "They were at school together, so we used to have play dates."

JP nodded and listened with growing interest as his new friends began sharing anecdotes of their wizarding childhoods. Hermione and Dean looked equally intrigued, and Ron especially seemed to enjoy the attention. Even Neville could be coaxed into sharing a story.

"What about you, Potter?" asked Parvati, craning her neck to peer at him down the table.

Startled, JP pointed at himself and raised his eyebrows. The girl giggled and nodded. He swallowed his food and shrugged.

"I wasn't raised around magic," he said, though by this time it shouldn't have been news to anyone.

"Yeah, but you were raised in America," said Lavender.

"Honestly, I had a pretty normal childhood," he said with a helpless shrug. There was no way he was going to start talking about the family business right now. Even if they were an ocean away, he'd had it drilled into his head early that no one was ever to know what his aunts and uncles did for a living.

He was spared from anything more by a prefect coming by to remind them that lunch was over and they only had ten minutes to collect anything they might need for their afternoon classes. He'd brought his books with him, but the other First Years immediately scrambled up to go to the Tower. JP dragged his feet a bit, not particularly excited by the prospect of another Defense Against the Dark Arts class.

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It wasn't until they were gathered at dinner that JP had an opportunity to gripe about their morning Potions class and, more specifically, Professor Snape.

"Is it just me," said JP, "or are some of our teachers weirdly psychotic?"

"JP!" Hermione sounded scandalized. "They're professors!"

"Right, sorry," he said, smiling contritely. "Are some of our professors weird and a bit psychotic?"

The other boys laughed while Hermione spluttered indignantly.

"Admit it, Hermione," JP pressed, still grinning, "Quirrell is an odd duck."

"He's," she paused, looking like the next words cost her, "he's a bit strange."

"And Snape," he added, raising his eyebrows and leaning toward her conspiratorially.

"Well," she deflated a bit, "he definitely plays favorites."

"And he has it in for JP," added Dean with a smirk.

"Right!" JP threw his hands up. "That's weird, right? He doesn't know me, how can he hate me already? Usually it takes teachers at least a month."

"But that's only two of the professors," pointed out Neville. "Professor Sprout isn't weird or psychotic."

"Neither is Professor McGonagall," said Seamus. "She's just strict."

They went on to discuss the rest of their professors' quirks, but JP couldn't help steering the conversation back toward Snape's behavior that morning.

"If it was just the Gryffindor vs. Slytherin thing, why would he single me out like that?"

"Maybe because you're the Boy-Who-Lived," said Ron with a little shrug. "I mean, he's the Slytherin head of house."

"I don't see the connection," said JP.

"Well," Ron made a 'you-know' face. JP returned with a 'no-I-don't-just-tell-me' face.

"Honestly," inserted Hermione, "didn't you do any research into your own legend?"

"I," JP blinked, startled. "No," he said. "I didn't think that there would be anything to research."

"You're in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Famous Witches and Wizards of the Modern Era, Revised, just to name two."

"If it makes you feel any better," said Dean with a serious expression on his face, "I didn't research myself, either."

They all laughed, and the conversation drifted again, but JP was struck by the fact that he hadn't even thought of looking for books that might mention his supposed defeat of the Dark Lord. He'd have to ask Uncle Nate the next time he called home.

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Saturday afternoon found JP sitting in the Library across the table from Draco Malfoy. His crew was nowhere to be seen, though JP didn't assume that meant they weren't around. The blonde was looking particularly pompous, sure of his superior social standing. JP was content to allow Draco a bit of posturing, mostly because it revealed a lot about how the elite purebloods treated those they saw as inferior.

And knowledge, after all, is power.

"I know that you're new to the wizarding world, Potter," said Draco, voice wonderfully condescending, "but you must know something about your station."

"I know that I am considered by most of polite society to be a halfblood," he began. He wasn't sure why wizards were so obsessed with blood purity, but he had no doubt that Draco would be explaining it in great detail. "My father was a pureblood in good social standing, and he was well enough off that he and my mother were able to leave me some money when they died."

Draco frowned when JP shook his head.

"That's all I know," he said with a shrug.

"To begin with," said Draco, "a wizard who wishes to make something of himself must know his lineage and history. For example, you and I are distant cousins through the Black family. You are also cousins with the Crabbes, the Weasleys," this was said with some distaste, "and most of the other purebloods at Hogwarts. It is important to know how close or distant the relationship, and whether you are beholden to another family due to blood or tradition."

JP blinked at him. "And," he paused, searching for how to phrase his response in words that weren't 'you mean we're all inbred and that's why you think we've got strong magic?'

"How does a person gain this information," he asked instead. He was proud of himself. It was a much more diplomatic question that was less likely to land him in a blood feud with the Malfoys that would apparently affect generations yet to come.

"Your family book, of course," said Draco, looking at him as though even a muggle-raised Gryffindor like him ought to know these things.

"Ah, of course," JP said, smiling sharply. "And," he said, smile sharpening further, "where do you recommend I look for this family artifact? Since, as you know, my entire biological family is dead."

"It's likely in your family vault," Draco shrugged, unconcerned. "You should definitely look for it the next time you go to Gringotts. Hopefully your parents knew better than to keep it at home."

"And why is that?" JP asked, not sure he wanted to hear the answer.

"Well, because their house burned down, of course," Draco was frowning again. "I assumed you at least knew the basics, Potter."

"Yeah," he said dully, "sorry. I wasn't thinking."

"Anyways, until you've read the family book, you're going to have to do a lot of guesswork. Luckily things tend to be a lot less formal here at school. Let's begin."

The next thirty minutes were filled with formal phrases, bows, and polite social distances. In lieu of information about alliances and feuds, Draco advised JP to treat everyone he met with unfailing politeness.

"Because all wizards are ever so polite to each other," griped JP as he picked up his bag to leave.

"Yes," agreed Draco.

JP gave him the hairy eyeball, but decided not to press it. Like it or not, this lesson - and all future lessons - were favors the blonde was doing for him. Alienating him would be at cross-purposes with JP's ultimate goal. Draco was a bit of a weasel, but JP definitely preferred to be on the same side.

"Thank you, Malfoy," he said instead. He executed a perfect bow that communicated respect, thanks, a farewell. Malfoy smiled and nodded, indicating his social superiority, friendly welcome, and farewell.

JP left before it could get awkward.

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The Sunday morning post included his owl, laboring under the weight of the duffle bag she carried. Feeling guilty about making her carry the package all the way from Portland to Scotland, JP quickly offered her the bacon and sausage from his plate.

"Thanks Ponzi," he whispered, scratching the beautiful snowy owl. She cooed and continued to pick at his bacon, obviously not in a hurry to fly off to the Owlry.

"What's in the bag?" asked Seamus, looking over curiously.

"I forgot a few things at home," JP admitted.

Seamus nodded and didn't press. As soon as JP finished his breakfast, he left the table and headed back to the tower. He had a bag to explore!

As he suspected, the duffle turned out to contain his rappelling gear as well as a few other useful items. It also had a note: Dear JP, You're lucky your owl can't carry a safe. Next time, don't forget the important stuff. Love, Auntie Parker.

JP smiled fondly and began inventorying the ropes and clips. Those staircases were still calling his name. Besides, it was about time he got into a little trouble.