Chapter 1

A Viral Idea

Harry Potter and his Universe belong to J. K. Rowling and some corporations.

This fan fiction is not for profit.

"The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution."

Fuck this lying bastard!

"That's.. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard!? Are you.."

Harry felt his stomach lurch as he saw the marked lessening of Dumbledore's twinkle. He struggled made his face look wonderfully sincere while seething inside.

"Err.. Of course sir.. Just as you say.."

He's onto me. Fuck fuck fuck..

There wasn't a thing in the world an eleven year old kid could do to prevent the Obliviation spell the Headmaster cast.

Dumbledore sighed and murmured, "From the top then.."

Harry Potter is the most contrary, willful little wretch it has ever been my displeasure to meet!


Kings Cross and Vernon. Vernon in all his tubby glory. Vernon of the many descriptors. Glowering, sneering, spiteful, angry (lots and lots of angry), hateful, petty, abusive, bigoted... The list was endless really.

"Move it boy, I've better things to do that waste time on your worthless self!"

Harry began stage one of the Get Vernon Killed prank.

It will be brilliant! I'll get him in Gringotts then tell him he can't have a bit of it. He'll go mad and the goblins will end his arse.

"About that esteemed Uncle.. I'm actually worth a fair bit of money. My parents set up a trust fund for me. At Gringotts. The wizarding bank. It's near here, Charring Cross actually. Lovely piles of gold, actual gold."

Pitiful. Greed washes over him like a tide ladies and gentlemen! Animal cunning next.. Wait for it.. Yes! Next up, bluster and maneuver..

"First thing when we get home you will be writing to close your account."

"They don't do it like that Uncle. I will have to go in there and sign. Probably in blood."

He should like that. He always enjoys me bleeding.

"We will be stopping to make a withdrawal Potter. You've been a burden on my family long enough, it's well past time we were compensated for our trouble dealing with your freakishness!"

Bystanders might have thought the hand that Vernon kept on Harry as they made their way to the car park was protective. Harry knew it was proactive.

Vernon wasn't a totally stupid man. He studied Harry in the rearview mirror as he drove, forcing his way through London with his horn and his shouting.

"Where is your ruddy bird?"

"She hates the cage, she'll meet up with me later."

Vernon's piggy eyes narrowed, he knew something was off.

"The freak claims to have some money in some crackpot bank his kind uses Pet, what to you think?"

Aunt Petunia sniffed and glared at Harry. "Potter was always well dressed. Lily said they were doing well, it's possible. It would be so like them to deny us our due. There is a freak bank in their area.."

After Vernon won a shouting match to secure a parking spot somewhat close the the Leaky Cauldron he reefed Harry from the back seat and got a good grip on Harry's ear.

"One wrong move boy and I will put you in a world of pain, do you hear me?"

"Absolutely Your Eminence."

He was quick for a fat man, very quick. He wasn't as quick as Harry though and he made a fundamental error in letting go of his nephew in order to swing at him.

Harry bolted away from his uncle, at a flat out run in three steps, a start any Olympian would have admired. Vernon took a lot longer to just gain steerage much less to reach flank speed. Harry bolted into the Leaky, laughing. He waved cheerily to the crowd as he circled back to the door and stood in it, holding it open and shouting into London, "Over here you fat bastard! You want to steal Harry Potters gold? Over here!"

A muggle guardian of a magical child had been shown the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron so the repelling charms and the notice-me-not wards accepted Vernon just as they were designed to do.

Vernon thundered into the Leaky, beet red and screaming for Harry's blood.

The wizarding world had been long denied any chance to show their appreciation for what the Potters had done. The clientele of the Leaky sized the day and made their appreciation abundantly, oozingly, repulsively clear.

A slug, or a snail without shell, or something remarkably like that, but weighing 150 kilos and steaming gently in it's slime, twitched amid the scattered furniture.

Harry considered the job near enough to complete for the present.

He slid a hand into his pants pocket, the pocket he had ripped the bottom out of, and wrestled his wand free of the strings tying it to his thigh. He pointed his wand at the ceiling.

"Here now Mister Potter! You can't be doing magic out of school!"

Harry nodded to Tom,"I won't cast a spell sir." He kicked the massive thing at his feet.

"Can you hear me you dumb bastard? I hope so. Here is some joyful news for you. I will never return to your house. Ever. On my life and magic I so swear."

There were over two dozen witnesses to Harry's vow.

In the Headmaster's office a spindly silver instrument erupted in black smoke and stopped spinning. Dumbledore, who was working on the never ending details of administration, saw the ward monitor fail and swore. He raced to his fireplace then flooed away to Arabella Figg's house.

Harry looked around the Leaky, at the crones and codgers, at the hags and drunks, at the people who had done more for him in a minute than any adult had in his waking memory.

"Thanks. Thank you. It might have gone badly if you hadn't helped me. Umm.. What should we do about?" Harry gestured vaguely at the vastly hexed Vernon.

Tom, wrinkled and bald, bent with years of hard work and centuries of listening to drunken lies, assured Harry everything was under control.

"I've called the Aurors lad. They will be along directly. Have a seat. They'll want a word with you, I've no doubt."

Harry joined two hags at a tiny table just to the side of the muggle entrance. They had been quick to cast and very creative. "Tom, could I have some dinner? Would you ladies like another sherry?"

Harry very much enjoyed his dinner and his impromptu charms lesson.

It hadn't been an emergency floo call. The Aurors heard from Tom at the Leaky often enough that it was part of their routine. It was a bar, and a dust up wasn't that unusual, though the nature of the call raised a few eyebrows. Muggles didn't often get in the Leaky.

Dawlish looked around for a rookie to send but they were all running other errands. He waited a bit for one to show as he thought about the chance for a quick pint.

The pint won.

Dawlish stepped from the fireplace with authority and confidence. He very nearly tripped over a massive something that occupied a good bit of the floor space.

"Cor! What the hell is that?"

He listened as the very happy crowd told him about their spirited defense of The Boy Who Lived.

Meanwhile on Charring Cross road, Petunia set her sights on the blank spot of wall next to the record store, the spot that she knew hid the door her Vernon had entered. She walked directly at the spot, keeping her eyes on her feet, and hit.. wall. Just wall. No Vernon, no door, no least little hint of a way to reach either.

She screamed in frustration, retreated, and started again.

Inside the Leaky, Dawlish turned towards the muggle entrance, towards the tiny table with three heads jammed tight together whispering. There were occasional flurries of wand movement demonstration and lots of laughter.

"Potter? Harry Potter?"

The smallest of the three at the table, a wild haired lad, a wiry little fellow with amazing green eyes hidden behind cheap spectacles, a boy with a lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead, pulled away from the hags, laughing with them about some last bit of deviltry they had taught him. The boy grinned at the hags and whispered, "Thanks, Amanda, Chloe. So, next Tuesday, here for dinner?"

They nodded happily and tottered off to the floo. They were completely soused and made a giggling flailing production of flooing away.

"Yes sir?"

Dawlish knew with the ease of long experience that while the words were polite, the tone even and docile, Dawlish just knew this boy was a handful.

"A pleasure to meet you Mister Potter. I am Auror John Dawlish. I need to ask you a few questions."

Auror Dawlish was competent and thorough. It was quickly clear that Harry Potter had been treated very poorly indeed by his mum's sister and her family. Dawlish stopped his questioning and suggested that Harry might want some privacy for the interview but Harry declined saying, "These people helped me. They can hear exactly why that was a good thing to do."

It wasn't long before Dawlish flooed the Auror's Office demanding dispatch of an investigation team to Number 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey.

A very unhappy Albus Percival Brian Wulfric Dumbledore stepped from the green flames of the Leaky Cauldron's floo to take charge shortly after that.

"I shall see to matters from here Auror Dawlish."

Dawlish ignored him and made for the fireplace. Albus had bigger fish to fry. He marched over to Harry, talking as he walked.

"Mister Potter I am very relieved to see that you are well. I had feared the worst. Come with me, my boy. We must get you to safety then I will endeavor to repair the damage caused today."

"But sir? There is Auror Dawlish right over there talking in the fireplace, and these people helped me once, they would again?"

The crowd swarmed around Harry with many a back slap and much hair ruffling while they assured Dumbledore they would be very happy to hex the crap out of anyone meaning Harry Potter harm.

Privately Albus wondered where they were during the war.

Someone kicked Vernon as a demonstration of proof. Harry really enjoyed watching Dumbledore realize the giant slug thing was Vernon. There was a lot of shouting, a lot of drunken posturing over who hit the muggle with what hex. All the stories ended the same, ".. and then the lad swore his oath!"

Such a headache, I have. Such a headache!

"He swore an oath?"

"Aye, a proper one! Life and magic! We all saw it seal. Quite powerful for a wee lad, our Harry."

"Life and magic what? Mister Potter what have you done?"

"I swore on my life and magic I would not live with the Dursleys."

"No lad, that wasn't the way of it. Oaths are picky things, you have to remember what you say and say what you mean. You swore you wouldn't return to his house."

Tom kicked Vernon just to make clear who 'he' was.

Harry nodded his thanks to Tom, drew his wand and pointed it at the ceiling. That was as far as he got before Dumbledore wrenched his wand away.

"No more oaths tonight Mister Potter. Take my arm, I shall escort you to safety."

"No. I don't want to go with you."

Albus couldn't have looked more stunned if someone had clocked him with a cricket bat. Buried somewhere in the crowd a few people sniggered. Albus was a well known genius so no one was surprised that, as stunned as he was by the temerity of the brat, he managed a bit of offense.

"As Headmaster I am your magical guardian Mister Potter. I will see to your security."

Harry knew that tone of voice. It didn't take Legilimancy to know he was in trouble. He didn't need to be Hermione smart to know that heading off alone with dear old Albus wouldn't end up with Harry happy.

"Auror Dawlish I need help. I don't want Dumbledore or Dursley near me. Should I do another vow maybe? Is there a Children's Services? Why do you have my wand Headmaster? I want it back."

Dawlish had known from the instant Dumbldore stepped out of the floo that the whole mess was way above his paygrade and wouldn't end well for him unless he stepped sharply to the side. He had tossed floo powder in the fire as soon as Dumbledore was clear and made the call for his boss while Albus got handed his arse by Harry.

Amelia Bones stepped from the fireplace with another two Aurors coming out on her heels. Albus began to swear in some long dead language and Dawlish slumped with relief.

"Dawlish, report."

"Yes Ma'am!"

John spent the next few minutes catching Amelia up. During John's report Dumbledore made repeated attempts to end the whole affair and send everyone on their way.

Everyone ignored him, something that didn't please him at all. Harry edged through the crowd, maximizing the number of people between himself and the Headmaster.

Finally a pair of interns from St. Mungo's arrived to see about fixing up Vernon. They made a few desultory waves of their wands, shook their heads, and dropped a portkey on the great slug. Normally they would take the portkey with their patient but this was a special case. They weren't about to touch the thing.

"Are you done Amelia? May I see to my charge at long last?"

He wasn't twinkling. He wasn't dispensing lemon drops.

Harry gave the Headmaster points for persistence. Persistence was a virtue Harry was more than a little familiar with.

Harry didn't remember the Obliviation of course. He did remember a profound distrust of his Headmaster. "Ahh.. I don't think so. I told you I don't want to go anywhere with you. Doesn't anyone else find it creepy how badly this old man wants me alone with him?"

Amelia didn't find that amusing at all although several of the by now very drunk crowd did.

"Mister Potter.." She gave up, shook her head, and took him by the arm. "You will be with me for the next few days Mister Potter."

They vanished from the Leaky with a soft pop.


The Ossuary was a large house. It had been the seat of the Bones family for centuries. It was a solid building, built of a mellow sandstone with a slate roof. It had been built in troubled times and showed it. The windows were narrow, the doors few and stout.

Still, it had been made into a welcoming house, with ivy softening it's martial lines and the vast gardens creating glowing swaths of color around it. On the flagstone terrace two young people sat eating breakfast, a pretty red haired girl and a rumpled looking little boy whose brilliant green eyes sparked with mischief. They were the age just before hormones made their lives hell, the last gasp of childhood. They seemed to be friends, and to be happy.

"What do you want to do today Harry?"

The boy sat back and sipped his tea, looking out over the rainbow spray of flowers, the soft emerald of the lawns.

"Neville would love this. Dunno? Maybe a bit of riding? Then homework, Hermione will kill me if I don't stay at it."

Susan sighed and gave up for the present. Harry was a nice guy, a really nice guy, not at all what she had thought he was. A nice guy and so completely Granger's it was disgusting.

"Fine, riding it is. None of your foolishness though!"

Harry rode like he flew, wild and fierce. Unfortunately he lacked the preternatural skill on a horse he had in such abundance when he flew a broom. Makes him human at least. Very human and very bruised.

"Yeah, alright. Any word from the starchies?"

Susan scolded while smuggling a grin. "Will you stop calling the Ministry that? Auntie works there. Is she a 'starchy'?"

"No. Well.. She can be a bit stiff.. But in a good way!"

"She's had a hard life."

"Haven't we all?"

The two orphans sat in the glowing sunshine of a July morning, birdsong and the rustle of leaves around them.

The snap of an apparition behind them had Harry rolling out of his chair. It proved to be a good choice as a red spell zipped over him. There was a split second pause then another spell smacked into Susan as she struggled to free herself from a tangle of chair legs and table. She was thrown out of her seat to slump boneless on the flagstones.


A greenish yellow house elf popped into place next to Harry. The elf managed to cast a shield just in time to prevent a sickly purple curse from hitting them. With a staccato series of finger pops by the elf the attacker lost his wand, was bound in barbed wire, and was stunned.

Harry and Mustard raced to Susan, praying she was alive.

She was, she was fine, she was only stunned.

Later Harry would learn their attacker was a man named Thorfin Rowle, that he had Voldemort's Dark Mark on his left forearm, that he had made his way through the Ossuary's security by bribery and the Imperious curse.

Dumbledore stood on every rooftop he could find to crow about how very right he had been. The Death Eaters would try for Harry he had assured everyone, and one had. Albus loved being right even more than Hermione.


Harry and Susan sat side by side at the witness table on the edge of the open floor. Courtroom ten stretched around them, vast and dark, rough stone and guttering torches, tiered benches acted as seating for the leaders of Magical Britannia. The Wizengamot sat in judgment, Rowle was chained to a chair in the center of the open arena. Harry took in the scene and thought, Next up, the Christians and the lions!

It didn't take long, a few drops of Veritiserum, a few questions, and Thorfin Rowle was instructed to rise and receive his sentence. He was likely to spend a few years in Azkaban.

"But? Can I say something?"

The elders of the Wizarding world were surprised that little Potter dared to interrupt them. Well, most of them were surprised.

Dumbledore and Bones flinched.

Fudge, the idiot, scenting headlines, sniffing for a chance to curry favor with a very popular public figure, asked, "What is it Mister Potter?"

"Well.. Aren't you going to ask him if he had help? Who the other Death Eaters are? What else he's done wrong?"

"I'm sure Madame Bones has asked all the relevant questions Mister Potter, you have nothing to fear from this man."

A tall man, white haired though not old, imposing and vastly cold, smiled slightly at Fudge's response.

Harry gave off an air of humility, a puzzled timid humility.

"Yes sir, certainly not from him. But what about the others? He might know something, something that could keep us all safer?"

Madame Bones grabbed a knocking opportunity by the throat and stood to address the Wizengamot, "It is true that my Department has been restricted to questions about this isolated incident."

Malfoy made a curious gesture. Across the chamber from Malfoy a man with glazed eyes stood and screamed one word, his wand pointed at Rowle, "Reducto!"


Days later, days without rest, Harry sat on an examining table in St. Mungo's pediatric ward. Susan and Harry didn't sleep well, not since the trial, not since Thorfin Rowle exploded over them. Harry wasn't sure he slept at all. It was a lot to handle, especially after Quirrell.

He wanted to cry sometimes and didn't know why. It scared him to be so out of control.

Sue had withdrawn. She tried not to, she tried to be brave and loyal, but being near Harry brought back the thick rain and the soft impact of the larger bits. It was easier for her if they were apart.

He sat shivering and watching the cheerful animals cavort on the walls of the room. They were a lifetime away from him, the animals belonged to a world where the worst of it was dragon pox.

Dawlish stood leaning against a wall, keeping watch over Harry. Susan and Harry always had an Auror with them now, an Auror who had given Madame Bones a vow to protect them. John worked most of the days. He was a nice man, not overly bright, but plenty nice. Harry liked him. He didn't talk much, he didn't try to make it better, he let it be, let Harry know with the occasional touch that he understood.

A Healer came into the room looking fussed.

"Err.. Hello Mister Potter. I'm Healer Stanyan, Luke Stanyan. I'm sorry for the delay but we are having difficulty locating your records. Have you any idea if you were seen under another name?"

"I've only seen a doctor once sir. For primary school."

"You've... You've only been seen by Muggles? Well.. That would certainly explain the lack of records. Who saw you after your.. When your.. After that Halloween?"

"I was fifteen months old sir. I haven't a clue. Dumbledore would know, you could ask him? I've been told Sirius Black found me in the house at Godric's Hollow. Rubeus Hagrid took me from Black and delivered me to Dumbledore in Surrey the following evening. Professor McGonagall was with Dumbledore and Hagrid when they left me overnight on a doorstep. That's as much as I've learned."

Healer Stanyan went as pale as the sheet on the exam table. Dawlish took a deep breath and vowed again to see Harry happy.

"Well then. Let me just.."

He began to wave his wand over Harry while chanting in various tongues as a quill dashed across parchment recording the flashing symbols and numbers that bloomed and faded around Harry. It wasn't long before his work centered on Harry's scar. He didn't appear at all pleased with what he was learning.

After Stanyan finished he stared at Harry with a worried frown on his face, rubbing his chin in thought.

The Healer seemed to come to a decision and hustled over to the tiny fireplace mounted five feet up the wall. He tossed a bit of floo powder into it and called out "Hogwarts Infirmary!" before sticking his head into the green flames.

Harry gave the magical world a half point for managing enough innovation to at least get someone off the floor while they made a call.

After a good deal of conversation Stanyan reached into the fire then wriggled and fussed about for a bit before finally managing to pull a fairly large pile of parchment from the flames.

Stanyan took his time looking through the records, humming here and there, looking more and more agitated as he worked his way to the last of the pile.

"Nothing?" he asked himself.

Stanyan returned to the little floo, tossed in some powder and called out, "Hogwarts Infirmary!," again.

It must have been a very lively discussion because Harry and Dawlish could hear bits of it, incredulous questions, defensive answers, and often the name 'Dumbledore' said with increasing venom.

He was a very angry healer by the time the call ended.

"I have just spoken to Madame Pomfrey. She treated you that Halloween. In fact other than your visit to the muggle healer, she is the only one who has treated you. Please understand me Mister Potter, Poppy Pomfrey is a very fine school matron. She is not a fully trained Healer. She is not by any means an expert in treating dark curses. None of them are! Damn Dumbledore and his hubris!"

"What's wrong?"

"Well.. That's the thing, I'm not sure what's wrong, lad. There is a very great deal of dark magic bound to your curse scar. A very great deal. So much dark magic that you should be badly affected by it. You should be a right foul little git, tearing about burning cats, bullying whoever you can, that sort of thing."

Stanyan glanced at Dawlish who shook his head, "Naw. He's a handful for sure, but not mean. Quite the opposite. Pretty easy to like the little bugger actually."

Dawlish winked at the blushing Harry who suddenly became very interested in his trainers.

For the next hour Healers swirled around Harry, poking his forehead, casting spells, chattering at one another, each a paragon of erudition and clashing opinions. Hermione would have loved it. Harry, not so much.


Dear Hermione;

I don't like portkeys. You guessed it, I was sick as a dog by the time we got to Port au Prince. What is it with magical travel?

It's magic! It's impossible to stay upright, or clean, or keep your breakfast down! Brilliant!

Haiti is amazing. There is magic everywhere, there doesn't seem to be any barrier between the mundane and the magical.

A lot of the magic is what we would call dark. They just call it voodoo. Most of it is ritual based, dancing and drums and fires and very scary things. Worse than Snape scary.

The priestess that led my ritual was an amazing woman, I'd love for you to meet her. Tante Sorcière is the name I was told to use. I'm pretty sure that's not what her mum called her when she was a wee lass, but I dare you to call her anything else.

It seems a bit of the Dark Wanker latched onto me that Halloween. Tante Sorcière was livid when she figured out what was causing the dark magic in my forehead. She seemed to take it as a personal insult that old Voldie would try so hard not to die. Big believer in balance that one.

I know you will want all the details, but I haven't many. I was under the whole time. It must have been something though, the place was wrecked when I came to and everyone was really scared. Dawlish won't say a thing about it.

I feel a lot better, clearer, cleaner, maybe smarter? Stop laughing!

Oh! They said at the worst of it, it looked bad for our side but things tipped our way when a phoenix flamed in! Just my luck yeah?

Anyway, I'll see you on the Platform if not before.

Missing you badly

Your best friend



She saw him first. He looked good, he looked tan and strong. Still thin, still small for his age, and the hair, wild and lush. She hung back and studied him for a minute, watched him shake Neville's hand and grin up at young Mister Longbottom.

He was different, not as hunched, not as fearful or as beaten down, or something like that. He looked good except for the shadows in his eyes.

"Hello Harry."

He spun to face her and his eyes blazed with happiness. He took two quick steps to her and crushed her to him in a fierce rocking hug, laughing.

"It's so good to see you Hermione!"

She tried to hold herself stiff of course, to hold herself back from melting into him as she so dearly wanted to do. He was twelve. Twelve and a boy. Her mum had explained all that to her in disturbing detail this past summer.

He noticed after a second, released her and stepped back. The light in his eyes died. "Alright Hermione? Anything wrong?"

This is SO not happening Mother.

She pounced.

They found an empty compartment, Harry and Neville and Hermione. It was a lot easier to get the trunks into the rack with a Leviosa charm rather than last year's struggle.

"Where is Susan?"

"She's off with her friends Hermione. After that trial we kind of drifted apart."

He read her as easily as he always did, "Nothing on her! She's a good sort, it's just.. Well, she was very shaken and it's taking her a bit to move past it is all. Overall, it was my best summer ever. Madame Bones and Susan made it that way."

The Gryffindor vibes were thick in the air. They talked easily, laughing at Neville's impersonation of his Gran meeting Malfoy Senior. The Dowager Longbottom hated Lucius with a burning passion and bollocked him every chance she got.

Hermione had a bone to pick. "Why didn't you write? I had that one letter from you but never an answer to any of mine."

"Damn it!.. That little bastard!"

"Harry James Potter!" She pinched him a good one.

"Sorry. Some house elf named Dobby was stopping my mail. I didn't get your letters Hemione. I guess you guys didn't get mine other than the muggle post I sent to you? This Dobby says there is going to be big trouble at school and I should stay away. I think he even sealed the portal against me, Dawlish had to apperate me onto the platform when I couldn't get in the regular way."

Neville thought for a minute, "Dobby? I've not heard of a Dobby. I'll write Gran, she can ask Mipsy who Dobby's Master is, all the elves know one another."

Hermione felt a bit of shock that a wizard would do something so logical. "That's a great idea Neville!"

She sat beside Harry, starting with a prim six inches between them. There was an odd gravitational pull between them and in minutes they were crammed together. Neville smirked when they didn't seem to notice. They all watched the platform for the Weasleys.

Just the noise level doubling would have been clue enough, the mob of red hair tumbling through the portal cinched it. The Weasley family had arrived.

Shouts, hugs, warnings, a flurry of luggage piled in the corridor, more shouts and hugs, a final flurry of warnings and the Express pulled away from the platform.

Another flurry of activity saw the two youngest Weasleys tucked into the compartment with Harry, Hermione and Neville.

"You can buzz off now Gin."

Hermione reached across the compartment and thumped Ron in the head, saying, "Ronald you are the most uncouth, callous, little monster it has ever been my misfortune to befriend! Ginny you are very welcome to sit with us if you like."

"She bloody isn't very welcome! And don't hit me!"

"Ignore him Ginny, he's full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Poor Ginny didn't know what to do, where to look. She tucked herself into the corner so she could watch the corridor and listened to Ron and Hermione fight. She stole a look at Harry Potter every now and then, when she dared. Both she and Tom were very interested in him.

They had to be past the half way mark, it had been hours and the trolley lady had visited with her array of sweets. The boys had played snap, letting Ginny take part after a few hands. She had decimated them.

Hermione was quite comfortable, tucked in firmly against Harry, a book in her lap. The others were napping and the smell of burnt eyebrows had finally cleared out. She flipped a page, humming.

Outside their compartment she heard low voices, low and vicious, and soft crying. One voice she knew for sure. Malfoy. It had to be Malfoy and his thugs.

"Up you lot. Wake up. Malfoy is up to his tricks out there."

Harry was up first, wand in hand, growling softly. Neville stood while Ron blinked and rubbed at his eyes. The three of them moved to the door, Harry slid it back and stepped into the corridor. Hermione shifted her wand to her left hand so she had a clear shot around Harry, Neville moved to his right. Behind them Ron lumbered to his feet and looked around for his wand.

It was Malfoy, lurking over a tiny little blond girl. Sneering and totally vile. "You're pathetic Lovegood, a waste of magic. Your father went insane after your stupid mother killed herself and you just followed right along didn't you?"

She was past Harry before she thought about it, past him and nose to nose with Draco while Harry scooped the tiny girl up, spun, and set her on the seat next to Ginny.

Draco just switched his sneer to Hermione, amused, contemptuous. "Mudblood. It's discouraging to see you back. You've interrupted our entertainment, you and your scummy friends. Can't have that now can we lads?"

"You are the lowest form of filth."

He was a beautiful boy, classically handsome, with chiseled features and cold gray eyes, beautifully dressed as always.

Harry was back, standing at her shoulder, Neville just behind her on the other side. Draco's eyes flicked to each of the boys. He dismissed them.

He drew his wand, slowly, casually. She felt as if she was watching someone else as she plucked it from his hand, rammed it into his stomach and snapped it.

"No more. All my life I have endured offal like you. No more."

Was?.. Was that me? Did I just say that?

Crabbe and Goyle surged forward but Harry stunned one and Neville leglocked the other with no trouble. Draco whipped his hand around to slap her face but she ducked under it. Harry knocked him on his arse with a straight shot to the chin. It was a beautiful hit, snapping Draco's head around hard enough that they heard some of the vertebrae in his neck pop.

The blond whimpered and scrambled back from them before he got to his feet. He was bleeding heavily from a badly split lip, looking far less groomed.

He looks much better when he's bleeding.

"What spell can we cast that would force a bit of humility into his inbred skull?"

Neville snorted, "Hermione, we'd need more than a spell, we'd need a miracle."

Harry wrapped his left arm around her, pulled her tight to him. Their wands never wavered from the pile of Slytherin boys before them. Draco dredged up some courage with the rapid approach of other students. Hermione thought Draco might be the angriest person she had ever seen. He was to furious to shout.

"You'll pay for this Mudblood!"

"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?" The worst Weasley had arrived.

"I expect I will pay. Seven galleons."

Percy shooed the Slytherins away then began to rant.

After a few minutes Hermione had listened to all she could. She turned away from Percy, slid open the door to their compartment and took a seat next to the little blonde. Harry nudged her along the bench and claimed the seat next to her. Percy followed, standing in the doorway, still ranting. He was giving her an awful headache.

"Percy, do shut up. If you must berate someone, berate the aggressors. Go scream at the bullies who were harassing Miss Lovegood. You're just yelling at us because you think we won't fight back. Go away."

She slammed their compartment door shut in his very red face. Harry goggled at her. "I think I love you."

"Of course you do, you fool. How could you not?"

It was a long time before they could stop laughing.

Ron and Ginny seemed a bit out of sorts by the end of the ride. Hermione could relate, Luna Lovegood was a very odd little girl.


Ahh.. Yes. This part. I'm so not looking forward to this part. Well, it is my turn I suppose. Can't let Harry always be the one in the wringer.

There stood Percy, simmering with righteous indignation. And Snape was hovering, glowering in malevolent anticipation. And McGonagall, stiff and outraged, full of shocked, starched fury. Not to mention Malfoy and his thugs, as well as a cast of a thousand onlookers.

McGonagall's voice was clipped, arctic, "Granger, Potter, Longbottom I will see you after the feast."

All through the announcements, the meal, all through the Headmaster's speech, Malfoy grinned at her. It was shocking how much she didn't care.

Harry was tucked in tight to her side. He whispered, "What's the worst that could happen?"

She snorted, "Well, not killed.."

"Ahh! Worse! Expelled!"

"I had an epiphany as I stared down that odious toerag standing over Luna. There are other schools and other wands. I don't think the other schools have Malfoys. Certainly another school won't have Surly Snape, or Boring Binns"

"No Voldemort growing out of a Professor's head?"

"I doubt it Harry."

Harry rubbed his chin, miming the appearance of deep thought, "Sounds pretty tame. Can I come?"

"You better! Anything else would seriously disrupt my plans for world domination."

They bumped shoulders gently while Lavender and Pavarti watched and whispered.

Neville passed the treacle tart along to Harry, "I'll miss Sprout though." was all he said. Hermione beamed at him.

"Mate, you can't leave Hogwarts! What about quidditch? What about Gryffindor?"

Ron was upset enough that he had actually stopped eating. He wasn't brave enough to ask, What about me?

"You could come mate."

For a second Hermione felt a surge of irritation. The wart hadn't protested her or Neville leaving, just Harry. But it was Ron, and clueless Ron was her friend. And it was Harry after all, and Harry had more than a little Hufflepuff in him, he was more than a little loyal.

They began their walk to meet the Professors as a march. It was something less than that by the time they entered McGonagall's office. Snape loomed in the shadows with his three students gathered before him. McGonagall was seated at her desk, her lips a thin line. Their head of house glared at them all but started on the one she imagined would be the most pliable.

No more.

"I have seldom been more disappointed in a student Miss Granger."

"I'm surprised to learn that Professor. I was sure you were fully aware that Malfoy is a wretched little bigot and a bully. If it were my duty to mold him into a reasonable human being, he would be a source of infinite disappointment."

She could feel Harry vibrating with stifled laughter. This is actually quite liberating.

"Ten points from Gryffindor! Do not make matters worse for yourself young lady!"

Snape oozed forward, sensing opportunity. "This is beyond mere points Professor McGonagall. No, no, points won't do at all. We are here to decide if Miss Granger should continue at Hogwarts."

"If she goes, I go." Harry shifted closer to her. Neville followed suit, "And me."

This, this is.. wonderful! Hermione was filled with a warm glowing sense of certainty. It would be alright. It was alright.

"Silence! I will get to the bottom of this reprehensible incident. Once the facts are ascertained I will decide what will be done!"

McGonagall glared at everyone. Snape was much less sure of himself when it was his turn to meet her eyes. She did teach him after all.

They stood shoulder to shoulder, Hermione and the two boys. Harry was growling again, that soft rumbling rasp he made when he was battle ready. My lion.

McGonagall locked eyes with Hermione last. "What have you to say for yourself Miss Granger?"

"My parents will expect a full refund on the years tuition."

She was obviously shocked, "You make no defense whatsoever?"

"I haven't been accused of anything."

McGonagall rubbed her forehead with trembling hand.

"Don't pretend stupidity!"

Hermione snorted and glanced at Crabbe and Goyle. The couldn't be as lackwitted as they acted. They'd starve. McGonagall marched on.

"A confrontation was reported between you three and Misters Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle. You, Miss Granger, snapped Mister Malfoy's wand. You, Mister Potter, hexed either Mister Crabbe or Mister Goyle and struck Mister Malfoy. You, Mister Longbottom, hexed either Mister Crabbe or Mister Goyle."

Neville shuffled his feet, looking at the floor, "I'm very sorry Professor, I don't think I held up my end well. I should have done more."

For a split second Hermione thought McGonagall might have been fighting a smile. Harry's hand slipped into hers. It would be alright. It was alright.

"That certainly sounds damning Professor. However your recitation is missing a few key elements. Those three bullies had a first year girl in tears. Malfoy spewed the worst kind of bigoted slurs over all of us when we went to protect and comfort her. Shall I list his insults for you?"

"It doesn't matter what he said Miss Granger. You know this. They are words, just words."

"I see. So Gryffindors should ignore a girl being badly bullied by three older boys? Stand by while she is being told she is insane just as her father is? When she is told her mother killed herself due to stupidity that her daughter has inherited, Gryffindors should do nothing? Malfoy repeatedly called me a Mudblood, is that acceptable? In what circumstances should a Gryffindor exhibit courage Professor?"

McGonagall turned to stare at Snape who seemed to find a corner of the ceiling worthy of study.

"The rest of it please."

"Malfoy drew on me. I took away his ability to magically harm me. Crabbe and Goyle lunged at me, Harry and Neville put them down. Malfoy swung at me, I ducked while Harry protected me."

Neville grumbled, "..should have done more.."

"Lies!" Snape hissed the end of the word. It was a disturbing sound. "Once again my Slytherins are defamed by those jealous of their station! Once again Potter and his thugs use virtue to clothe their aggression!"

In a flash Hermione's wand was out and pointed to the ceiling. "I swear on my magic I have told the truth in this meeting. Lumos."

She was furious and frightened. The light spell was nearly blinding.

"Nox. May I urge you to encourage Professor Snape's students to swear they are telling the truth? Is veritiserum necessary?"

True to form, Malfoy blustered, "I have no need to swear anything! I have given my account of Granger's unwarranted attack and I stand by it. Lovegood is mad, nothing she says should matter, she should be at St. Mungo's not Hogwarts. Granger is obviously trying to discredit me."

"Miss Granger, as you have sworn on your magic that your recounting of the matter is true and as you retain your magic, I will accept your version of the incident. You will pay for Mister Malfoy's replacement wand. You three are dismissed."

Hermione stepped forward to stack seven galleons on McGonagall's desk. She dearly wanted to leave thirteen pieces of silver as well. They stared at each other for an instant, student and teacher, neither moved though the distance between them grew. Hermione felt adrift and numb as one of her idols proved to have feet of clay. She led the boys from McGonagall's office.

"He's not done."


Neville coughed and blushed, fighting his shyness as he explained, "He's not done. Malfoy. You snapped his wand. That's the worst insult you can give a pureblood. You may as well have said he doesn't deserve magic."

"He most certainly doesn't!"

"What will he do Nev? Just his crash test dummies? The whole of Slytherin?"

Neville blinked away Harry's muggle reference. "It's a very personal insult, he'll want it to be him and you Hermione. It's always been words and a bit of pushing till now. Expect him to do more, maybe a lot more. Expect all of Slytherin to back him."

The twins snatched her as soon as she got past the Fat Lady. Percy hovered around them trying to listen in as they began to plot how they could defend her. She held the anger bubbling in her as long as she could.

"This is ludicrous! If the staff of this school was halfway competent none of this would be our concern! I should not need to protect myself from violent bigots! It is not 1957, this is not Little Rock! This whole thing is bizarre and barbaric and supremely callous!"

Harry stared at her, tired and stressed, "Do you really think the adults will do anything Hermione? The same adults that lured a Dark Lord into this school? Dumbledore is a genius. Everyone says so." Harry leaned into her space, inches away, green eyes full of passion.

He's to close, much to close..

"Let's talk about what we know. They didn't care last year Hermione. Their plot was more important than our safety. You know what else? I'm not sure they are competent. Dumbledore told me he destroyed the stone. He had the perfect lure to catch a Dark Lord and he destroyed it. Did he lie and not destroy it or is he really stupid?"

Harry had left her side to pace back and forth, studying the carpet, frowning in thought.

"Unless.. Unless it actually worked. Did the trap work? Did they catch who they wanted? Did they catch us? Just how did three first years make it through to the Stone? Hagrid gave me a flute for Christmas. Nev and Devil's Snare but Nev was smarter than we were. Me and brooms, Ron and chess, you and logic. We'd already beaten a troll."

Ohh.. more of that. More logic.. Logic is really very attractive..

"While I don't disagree with your analysis, I think you have extrapolated beyond the reliable range of your data set. We should test your theory. What if we demand they do their jobs?"



Dumbledore looked up from his Daily Prophet to see Potter, Granger and Longbottom standing in front of him. No Weasley? Interesting.

"Yes Mister Potter?"

"How do I formally request the staff address a school wide problem?"

"You're doing well so far, please continue."

"I'm requesting something to be done about hate speech and rampant bullying."

"We are. The three of us." Neville turned very red after daring to speak.

"I'm afraid I can't change minds Mister Potter, only offer information so minds can change themselves. You stand with Miss Granger, the top student of your year, the brightest witch her age and a muggleborn. Your mother was a muggleborn, also brilliant and a very powerful witch. The truth of the matter is plain if anyone cares to look. Was there anything else?"

Something about him was off. That's a lie. Hermione thought. He lied.

"Nothing else sir. I haven't asked you to change minds. I've asked the staff to address bullying and hate speech. What will you do?"

"For my part, I will continue this discussion with you. Shall we say seven tonight in my office?"

The Headmaster made some gesture with his wand and the noise in the Great Hall vanished.

"The password is Ice Mice."

Dumbledore noted with interest the muggleborn students all around the Great Hall returning to their meals and their gossip. At the Gryffindor table the Weasleys huddled around Potter, Granger and Longbottom. Little Malfoy's reaction would have been instructive but he was being fitted for a replacement wand. The overall tenor of the snakes was clear. They were restless and discontent at the mention of a curb on their prerogatives.

What Albus didn't see was the viral replication of a thought. Across the hall the muggleborns, the half bloods, the blood traitors were embracing a new idea.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Seated on his golden throne the Great White Wizard speared a kipper and had his own thought.

Has it gotten that bad then? Interesting.

Albus dismissed the issue in favor of contemplation of his larger concern, the trio who brought the issue to him.

A direct appeal to authority from young Potter. Not at all what I would have expected given his childhood. It must be Granger, certainly it's not Longbottom, Augusta has gelded that boy quite thoroughly.

He felt the glow of a job well done, the satisfaction of a craftsman secure in his skill.

At the Ravenclaw table a tiny blond girl wished that pudding was offered at breakfast. All her shoes had gone on walkabout sometime last night, it was most puzzling. Pudding was a well known aid to puzzle solving. At least she found it to be so.


"He won't do anything you know. No one will. This is our world mudblood, you're not welcome. You're an affront to magic."

Malfoy in all his hissing prissy malevolence. With his goons, his bint, and most of his housemates.

"Let me guess.. Judas tree and jackal hair, two inches, limp, suited only for cursing someone in the back."

She glanced at the gathering of Slytherins backing Malfoy, snorted, and pointed at the sputtering ponce, "Cunning? Ambitious? Malfoy certainly isn't exhibiting any Slytherin traits. Is he." They said nothing, they just faded away. They could count, even Malfoy could count.

She huffed at Harry and Neville who had nearly collapsed, leaning on one another and laughing their fool heads off. They resumed their walk to the Headmaster's office, moving through the gathering of what seemed to be every muggleborn, every friend of a muggleborn, every blood traitor still at Hogwarts.

That was amazingly fun! If he pulls his new wand on me, I'm breaking it.

Neville held her chair for her. It was a very nice feeling. Harry sat to her right, Neville to her left. Dumbledore beamed at them from behind his desk, his phoenix glowing in the corner by the window.

"Lemon drop?"

The three students declined taking candy from the stranger.

"I recall a conversation on a very similar topic with your mother and her best friend Harry. I'm afraid you will be as unhappy with me as she was."


"There are bigoted people in the Hogwarts community. There is bullying. Any reasonable person in authority could institute measures that ameliorated such reprehensible behavior. To do so would be a disservice to our students."

Albus paused to sip his tea. He didn't believe for a second Neville's puzzled frown, or his tentative timid question, "Umm.. How does that work exactly Professor?"

Longbottom again, this is most unexpected. I would have bet it would be years before he scraped himself together.

"School should prepare you for the real world Mister Longbottom. The closer school mirrors the real world, the more useful your preparation."

She is truly a scary little witch. I haven't had such a challenge since Harry's dear mother.

Her voice snapped with cold, "To be clear Headmaster, the closer your school mirrors a pestilential sink hole rife with the worst of humanity the better it serves your students?"

Dumbledore burst into laughter. "My goodness! I don't think even Lily Evans was so vehement. Ahh, the idealism of youth."

Albus took another sip of tea and said, "Essentially you are correct. Many assume the leaders of the magical world endeavor to see the Light triumphant. Some struggle to see the Dark ascendant. The truth is we work to see magic preserved. Magic as a whole, Dark and Light are different sides of the same coin. Magic prospers as a whole when both are maximized."

Hermione's eyes narrowed, "That's an unstable solution, it will oscillate out of control."

"Well, yes my dear, that is very true. The Dark periodically does try to overwhelm the Light, as it must. The Light through strife and sacrifice endures. The Light is, by it's nature, creative. Eventually the Light blooms again."

The Headmaster nearly glowed with the glory of the Light resurgent.

"The Weasleys are a fine example, seven children! Seven! And all magical! Dark families are not nearly so prolific."

Harry felt sick. ".. No.. NO! HELL NO!"

"Oh my." Three rapid flicks of the Elder wand immobilized them. Another flick silenced them. Dumbledore sighed and sipped his tea, shaking his head. He cast a compulsion to remain at Hogwarts on all three as a first step

"Yes, you would say that my lad. I'm afraid that your refusal can't be allowed. The Light must have it's sacrifice and I shall guide you on your path. It is the way of it. It is old magic, bloody and glorious."

"I think it is time for what the muggles so charmingly call an attitude adjustment."

Albus beamed at the little Potter. "Legilimens!"

Dumbledore brushed aside the boy's natural defenses, ignoring the passive ward he activated assuming it was some stop gap measure instituted by Bones. He began to roam around getting the lay of the land. What to do, what to do. He can't be docile, can't change him much.. He really doesn't like me at all! How discouraging. Still, one does what one must for the Greater Good.

Tante Sorcière jolted awake and fumbled in her nightstand for the dolls. One was a shapeless blob of black with red button eyes, one was a bearded white wizard in a tutu. She whacked the wizard doll on the nightstand and hissed, "You leave that child alone!"

Dumbledore's gasp of surprise turned into a scream of pain. His right arm broke, his shoulder dislocated and three ribs snapped but the worst of it was the concussion.

Tante Sorcière felt Harry's guardian ward reset. She tossed the doll in the drawer with a grin and went in search of some rum, cackling as she danced to the kitchen. Dumbledore was always a supercilious asshole at ICW meetings and just so damn white.

Harry, Hermione and Neville sat with their eyes bugged out, immobilized, silenced.

In three common rooms the quills slaved to the Quick Quotes Quill in Hermione's book bag stopped moving. Everything else exploded into motion. A copy of the Hufflepuff transcript left on an express owl bound for Amelia Bones. Arthur Weasley and Xeno Lovegood would also get copies and many other copies would make their way out of Hogwarts while the Headmaster healed.

The concept, the viral idea, mutated as it spread. It really doesn't have to be this way. FIGHT BACK!