“The station is here somewhere,” I murmured.
Admittedly, it had been a very long time since I’d gone to school. I knew I had to walk into one of the barriers, but which one? Trying for nonchalance, I leaned against a barrier. Solid. I scuttled to the left. Still solid.
Six attempts later, people were looking at me oddly. I groaned, slumping against the wall only to go toppling backwards. Luckily, there are charms that keep Muggles from noticing things like that.
I somersaulted a dozen times, causing bystanders to jump away in fright. Finally, I landed on my knees, arms outstretched.
“I meant to do that!” I shouted.
“Are you the guy who back flipped into the station?” a redheaded boy asked, staring at me with the appropriate level of worship.
“Yes,” I said, “Yes I am.”
“I’m Ron Weasley,” he said.
I shuddered. I remembered the Weasleys. They were a threat through sheer force of numbers. No matter how many you killed, there was always another to take its place. At one point I had considered them a possible target for the prophecy but had found that – for once – they were not spawning.
“I’m Harry Potter. You may have heard of me; I defeated the Dark Lord Voldemort. If you haven’t heard of me, I’m Harry and I defeated Voldemort.”
I had no particular interest in chatting, but the Weasley was quite capable of carrying on a conversation without my input.
Shortly afterward, a round-faced boy poked his head into the compartment. “Sorry,” he said, “but have you seen a toad at all?”
“Nope,” I chirped, “Who’re you?”
“Neville Longbottom,” he said. So this was the other child of prophecy. He didn’t look like much, but I was never one to be fooled by appearances.
“I have an idea,” I said. “Accio toad.”
Four toads sped towards me, bouncing against the walls. One of them had dragged its cage along with it.
“Is one of these yours?”
Longbottom nodded. “Trevor’s the one on the left.”
“Good. I’ll give him back to you on one condition. You have to swear a magical oath that you will never, ever harm me no matter what I do.”
I burst into laughter. “Just kidding!”
I wasn’t kidding. Longbottom was a serious threat, but I also wasn’t going to push this. Not yet.
After Longbottom fled the room, toad in hand, the Weasley turned to me. “Hey, Harry, how come you know that spell?”
“I defeated Voldemort as a baby. I’ve only gotten better since then.”
The train continued to chug along as I ignored him. A couple of hours later, a pale, blond boy with a pointed nose strode into the room, two lackeys at his heels. Oh Merlin, Lucius had finally managed to clone himself.
“Is it true?” Malfoy said. “They’re saying all down the train that Harry Potter’s in this compartment.”
“Really?” I gasped. “Harry Potter. No way! Have you checked the whole train?”
Malfoy looked surprised, but quickly regained his composure. “No, I haven’t,” he said.
“Good luck, then.”
The blond left.
“Did you just send him all ‘round the train to look for you?” the Weasley asked.
“Oh, he seems like a pretty smart guy. I’m sure he’ll be back soon enough.”
An hour later, a very unhappy Malfoy, his face reddened from exertion, barged into our compartment. “You’re Harry Potter!”
I put on a look of innocence. “I never said I wasn’t.”
“Well, I’m Draco Malfoy and I was hoping to speak to you” – he glanced disdainfully at the Weasley – “Privately.”
The Weasley bristled. I held out an arm. “Quiet, I know exactly how to handle this.”
I smirked. “So, you wish to join me. Your foresight is commendable, and I assure you that – should you choose to be my minion – I shall allow you a sliver of my eventual glory.”
Malfoy sputtered in indignation. “I’m a Malfoy. Malfoys are not minions.”
He stormed from the room. Lucius always was a drama queen. I suppose this might have been easier had the boy not been under the impression that I’d killed me.
“That was brilliant, Harry. You really showed him,” the Weasley said.
“Yes, I suppose I did. Although it would have been nice to have a minion…”
“I’ll be your minion,” he offered.
I sighed. “No. That would be too easy.”
Hushed whispers filled the Hall as I approached the Sorting Hat. I ignored them, tracing the footsteps of my younger self and sitting upon the rickety stool. Hundreds of curious faces stared up from the Great Hall, but they were quickly blocked from view as the Sorting Hat fell across my eyes.
Its voice echoed between my ears. “I know this mind,” it said. “Tom Riddle?”
“Don’t call me that!” I mentally snapped, “I’m Harry Potter.”
“Yes, I suppose you are. Aren’t you?”
A chuckled shook the hat. It continued, “But, whether or not we’ve met before is of little consequence. The question is where to put you. You haven’t changed much. You’re obviously rather cunning, ambitious, a parselmouth…”
“Really? But you would do so well in Slytherin,” the Hat said.
“I’ve already done well in Slytherin. Now I want to do well, in Gryffindor.”
The Hat hummed thoughtfully. “Sure, are we? How strange. Gryffindor doesn’t suit you very well at all. The only worse house would be Hufflepuff.”
“Of course. Your own song all but admits that it is the house of stupid, ambitionless cowards.”
“Not what I was going for, but I’ll admit that wasn’t the most flattering of my songs. Ravenclaw, perhaps, if you’re so averse to your true house. You certainly possess the Eagles’ madness, and you’re clever enough.”
“No,” I hissed. “I detest riddles. Send me to Gryffindor with all the other little paragons of light.”
“I’ve already cursed three of the Founders’ artifacts. Would you like to make it four?”
I could hear the other students murmuring as my Sorting dragged on and on. This was growing suspicious, and I began to fear I might lose what little advantage my fame had given me.
“Then again, it was brave of you to argue, challenging me without a proper plan in place. Why, that was downright GRYFFINDOR.”
The final word echoed across the Hall and my new house burst into cheers. I suppressed a very Slytherin smirk. It wouldn’t do to make a poor first impression, after all.
“Now, p-please open your books to p-p-p-page thi…th-thirteen,” Quirrel stuttered.
As much as I loathed wasting my time with an idiot, I reminded myself that this was a good thing. The fewer teachers Dumbledore had to hire in the next six years, the less chance he had of accidentally getting someone capable of breaking my curse.
You see, all truly powerful curses must have an escape clause. Many are used to punish an injustice. Should the injustice be righted in some other way, the curse will end.
My curse upon the DADA professorship would be lifted when Dumbledore found an applicant that was as well suited to the position as I had been.
Of course, if Dumbledore had ever been willing to hire talented professors, _I _would have gotten the job.
“Potter! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?” Severus Snape demanded.
I said, “The Draught of Living Death.”
Severus sneered. “The Draught of Living Death, sir. Ten points from Gryffindor for disrespecting a professor.”
Ah, Severus, my most loyal servant. It was good to see that, even a decade after my disappearance, he continued to attack my enemies. I suspected this would negatively impact my Potions grade, since I currently was one of my enemies. Nevertheless, his devotion was admirable.
“Where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?” he snapped.
“The stomach of a goat, sir,” I told him smugly.
Severus’ eye twitched with frustration. “Twenty points for smirking. What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?”
“There is no difference. Would you like to hear its third name?”
“Fifty points for your cheek!” Severus roared.
That year, I was determined to singlehandedly win the House Cup.
“Aren’t we going to the Halloween Feast? Harry? Er, Harry?”
I gritted my teeth against the Weasley’s verbal spew. He had attached himself to me like some sort of parasite. Of all the many, many Weasleys, why did I end up with the least talented one?
“I don’t like parties, Ron,” I explained with forced patience.
Ron whined, “Come on, it’ll be fun. Please?”
“No,” I said. My self-proclaimed best mate trailed behind me like a stupid puppy.
I grumbled, “Oh, for Merlin’s sake. Just go by yourself; I can hear your stomach growling from here.”
The boy wrinkled his nose in confusion. “My stomach isn’t growling.”
“Then what is that…Oh.”
I quieted at the sight of an enormous troll. Yanking my minion into the nearest room, I desperately cast every locking spell I knew on the door.
“This is the girls’ loo!” the Weasley protested.
“There is a troll in the hallway. It will eat us…On second thought, maybe you should leave. I’ll wait here.”
“There’s a troll?” a shaky voice asked from inside the stall. The tearstained, reddened face of Hermione Granger, a First Year Gryffindor, peeked out at us.
I sighed, “That is exactly what I just finished explaining. Now, if everyone would kindly shut up before it hears us and decides to investigate – ”
At that moment, the troll’s club smashed through the door, which is the main weakness of most locking charms. I’ll admit that I panicked. Trolls are magically resistant, the Weasley was far too small to serve as a human shield, and two deaths in ten years is far too many.
“Evanesco troll,” I murmured. The troll disappeared.
Hero worship filled my minion’s Weasley eyes. “Wicked.”
Hermione asked, “Where did it go?”
I shrugged. “Where does anything that’s vanished go?”
We stood there for a few minutes, contemplating the nature of nonexistence. At least that’s what I was doing. I don’t know about the children.
Then, shortly after we all should have died horrible deaths via bludgeoning, the professors arrived.
“What on earth are you thinking?” McGonagall demanded, “Why aren’t you in your dormitory?”
“We were supposed to be in the dormitory?” the Weasley asked.
“Indeed,” Severus purred, “but I suppose it is beneath you to listen to mere professors. Fifty points from – ”
“Wait!” Hermione interrupted. “We didn’t know we were supposed to be anywhere because we weren’t at the Feast. I…I was helping Harry and Ron to study for Transfiguration and we lost track of time. We were going to the Great Hall when the troll appeared. Harry dragged us into the loo and we hid.”
“And just where is the troll now?” Severus inquired, dark eyes glinting maliciously.
“I don’t know sir,” she said. “It couldn’t find us, so it left a few minutes ago.”
“I think it went to the left,” I said.
Hermione sighed. “I’m not so sure. I never realized trolls could move so fast.”
She stared up at the professors with big, innocent eyes. I grinned. Not only was Ms. Granger clever, but she was apparently an adept liar and surprisingly loyal, considering our previous lack of a relationship. If she was as talented at dueling as she was the simpler magics, she would resemble a younger, saner Bellatrix. As we hurried to our dormitory – dismissed by the professors – I seized the chance to recruit a new minion.
“Hermione,” I said sweetly, “Do you want to be friends?”
Merlin bless the simple interactions of children.
Dumbledore peered across the desk at me as I squirmed in my seat. Admittedly, fighting a mountain troll was bound to be noticed. Particularly since they never found it.
“Lemon drop, Mr. Potter?”
I nodded, quietly pocketing the candy.
“How have you been settling in?” the old man asked kindly.
“It’s been brilliant, sir,” I said, carefully mimicking the diction of my classmates, “I’ve made friends with Ron ‘n Hermione ‘n a bunch of other Gryffindors. Charms is pretty neat, and I’m real good at potions. I don’t think Professor Snape likes me much, though…“
Throughout this rambling speech, I’d kept my eyes firmly lodged on Dumbledore’s desk. After all, I was just a timid little first year talking to the scary, scary Headmaster who could READ MY MIND.
Dumbledore chuckled, “That’s just Severus’ nature, I fear. Do not worry, my boy, he likes you as well as anyone. May I ask what about my desk is so fascinating?”
I winced. Dumbledore was diabolical, I knew, and far too skilled at seeing through my ruse. Now, I would have no choice but to stare into his twinkling, mind-reading eyes. What did First Years think about, anyway? I reluctantly looked up, a shy smile on my face and a few choice memories at the front of my mind.
“So, Mr. Potter” – he paused for a moment to skim my thoughts – “I’ve heard you like Quidditch?”
My eyes widened. “Doesn’t everyone like Quidditch?”
Seemingly convinced of my innocence, the Headmaster cheerfully sent me on my way. I clutched the lemon drop in my pocket. I later subjected it to every diagnostic and detection charm in my repertoire, but I never could discover what he’d spiked it with.
I can only assume that he was using a particularly insidious poison.
“It’s an invisibility cloak,” Ron breathed, a look of awe on his face.
I studied the note tucked into its folds. It was unsigned and my paranoia was screaming to burn the cloak before it could be used against me.
“But who would send this to me?” I mused aloud. “I mean, this thing is worth more than your life, Ron. Honestly, I could sell your entire family and only be able to buy a few feet. And you have a very large family.”
I didn’t exactly have a lot of allies. The Potter family was dead and all of the wealthier Purebloods wished to murder me. In the end, I concluded that it must be the doings of Dumbledore.
I wasn’t certain how this would be used against me, but there was no other reason for such a gift.
Dumbledore was a far greater dark lord than I could ever hope to be. He was fifty steps ahead of everyone else, so far ahead that – by the time his plans came to fruition – everyone involved had already died. My only hope was to throw him off balance by planning no steps ahead.
“Why are you a floating head?”
I grinned. “Somebody gave me an invisibility cloak for Christmas. These things wear out after a couple of years, so I figure I might as well use it. After tripping people got boring, I decided I’d just wear it like a regular cloak.”
“Oh,” the girl said, “I guess that makes sense.”
“For heaven’s sake, Harry, it’s been three days, aren’t you ever going to take off the stupid cloak?” Hermione groaned.
“The cloak isn’t stupid,” I insisted.
The Weasley sighed. “Mate, it’s getting kind of weird.”
“Look, it’s very useful. I can use it to hide and freak people out, and it’s great for spying. Actually, here, let me show you.”
I closed the cloak around my companions. When the only person to pass by during the next several minutes was Longbottom, searching for his toad, Hermione looked about ready to storm away. Suddenly, a shrouded figure strode past.
“The Philosopher’s Stone will soon be ours,” the figure murmured.
“Ha!” I exclaimed. “I told you it was useful.”
“I can’t let anyone else get the stone,” I told my minions. Luckily, they didn’t notice that I said “anyone else” instead of “anyone.”
“We’re coming with you,” the Weasley said, Hermione nodding in agreement.
I laughed weakly. Dumbledore was out of the castle and tonight was my one chance to steal the Philosopher’s Stone. “Oh, you don’t need to do that. I really don’t need witness-er, companions. I’ve got this pretty well covered. I did defeat Voldemort, after all.”
“You are not going alone,” Hermione insisted.
Stupid, pushy minions.
“Stupefy,” I drawled, smirking as the cerberus froze in place.
“So, what do we do now?” the Weasley asked.
“A trap door!” Hermione cried.
I strode forward, opening the trap door. “Now, we have to be very careful because anything could be down there. This is guarding a very dangerous artifact, after all, so the traps are almost certainly deadly…Ron, you’re first.”
“Wait, why do I have to be first?” he asked.
I sighed. “Well, we can hardly afford to lose Hermione; she knows everything. Mostly, however, it’s because you are the most Gryffindor of us all.”
The Weasley took this as a compliment. It was not intended as such. Still, it got him down the hatch, so I can hardly complain.
“Gah! There’s something down here,” he yelled. “I’m all caught up in it, and it keeps pulling at me.”
“Hm…Lumos.” The light allowed me to see down into the hatch. In retrospect, I probably could have done this before sending in one of my minions, but there’s no use worrying about it now.
A series of vines had hold of him. I frowned. “Incendio.”
“Ah!” the Weasley cried.
Once the vines were sufficiently cleared, I hopped down, followed by Hermione. The Weasley curled against the floor, whimpering.
Hermione asked, “Ron, are you alright?”
He groaned. “Did you really have to set me on fire?”
“Actually, yes,” Hermione answered for me as she inspected the shriveled remains of the plant. “This is Devil’s Snare. It’s very sensitive to light. With so much of it, a lumos probably wouldn’t have been enough to free you. I can’t believe you recognized it so quickly, Harry.”
I said, “I’m very talented, and it’s commendable that you took the time to enlighten Ron.”
…and me. To be honest, I didn’t know anything about Devil’s Snare. Most plants react poorly to fire, however, and incendio is one of those neat little spells that’s useful in every situation.
“Um, can you get up?” Hermione asked.
“We’ll just have to venture forth without him,” I declared.
“But he’s hurt!” Hermione said. “We can’t just leave him here.”
“Oh, he’ll be fine,” I said. “Right, Ron?”
He groaned again.
“I’m pretty sure that means right. Come along, Hermione.”
She was really much easier to convince than I expected. I don’t even think she looked back as we walked to the next room, which was filled with flying keys and broomsticks.
Hermione frowned at the flock of keys. “One of these must open the door, probably something a bit older and silver, to match the handle. I suppose we have to use the broomsticks and catch it. But neither of us is any good at flying…If only Ron wasn’t hurt…”
“Eh, we don’t need him,” I said. “Accio working key.”
A silver key with bright blue wings – one already crumpled – zipped from the air to my hand. When I set it in the keyhole, the door opened immediately.
She gasped. “How did you manage that?”
“Hermione, there must be fifty keys up there. They can’t all be real keys that open things. That would be ridiculous. It would make far more sense to make a bunch of fake keys with only one that works.”
Magic is so much simpler with the proper use of adjectives.
The next room featured a giant chess set that blocked our path when we tried to walk past.
“We need to play,” Hermione said. “Oh, now I really wish Ron was here.”
“We could just fly over,” I said. “There are broomsticks right there.”
Hermione bit her lip. “I don’t really like flying.”
I patted her on the head, which would have been far more patronizing if I hadn’t been forced to reach up to do so. “No one intelligent really likes flying. It involves sending yourself high in the air on a very thin platform with minimal protective charms.”
“You’re not making me feel any better about this,” Hermione said.
Ah, yes, comfort. I could do that. “…But, with appropriate caution, we shall hopefully avoid dying horribly.”
Hermione looked a bit green. Retrieving brooms from the previous room, I handed one to her, and we lifted off. Admittedly, it probably shouldn’t have taken ten minutes to cross a thirty-foot-long space. Yet I feel that we are vindicated by the fact that neither of us plummeted to our deaths.
Black flames surrounded us. We kept well back from them, as neither of us wanted to end up like the Weasley. Hermione solved the riddle quickly enough, though.
“This one will take us forward, this one back, and these are poison,” she said.
I took the tiny bottle that would send the drinker forward. “Only looks like enough for one of us, Hermione. I will go, of course.”
She pouted. “No it isn’t. If we just took tiny sips…”
I shook my head. I really didn’t need her interfering when I stole the stone. “No, no, definitely not enough. Besides, you should go back and take Ron to the Hospital Wing. He’s probably dying right now.”
Hermione looked horrified. “You said he would be fine!”
“Yes, well, I was being optimistic. Now I’m not. I’m not saying he’s _definitely _in horrible agony, but you should probably check.”
She took one last lingering glance at the flames. “Well, I suppose I should. I wish I could go with you, though…”
As much as I respected Hermione’s complete disregard for her friend’s well- being, Dumbledore could be coming to stop me at this very moment. “Goodbye, Hermione.”
She gave me a quick hug and wished me luck before rushing back through the fire.
I stepped warily through the black flames, eyes primed for any sign of the Philosopher’s Stone. No, I didn’t need it, not with my horcruxes. Nevertheless, one can never be too immortal.
I nearly fell over in shock when I spotted Quirrel. The professor was crouched in front of an ornate mirror, tapping the glass experimentally. I suddenly realized that his stuttering, his idiocy, and his horrible teaching were all an act.
Since I was covered by an invisibility cloak, Quirrel had yet to detect my presence.
“Avada Kedavra,” I whispered. Too focused on the mirror to see my spell, he crumpled to the ground. Immediately, a dark mist rose from his body and wooshed through the flames.
“That was weird.” A quick incendio charred Quirrel’s corpse and I kicked it to the side.
“Now, how do I get the stone?” In the mirror, my reflection (an older, distinguished-looking professor) shrugged and smiled mischievously. Neither physical nor magical attacks had any effect on the mirror and I was about ready to slam my head into the thing when Dumbledore burst through the flames.
“Headmaster!” I exclaimed in surprise. “This isn’t what it looks like. Y’see, I realized that someone was going to steal the stone and Quirrel attacked me and then he burst into flames.”
I waved my hands around for emphasis. This is why I usually prepare my cover stories ahead of time.
Dumbledore looked pretty happy, considering his current DADA teacher was dead at his feet. Perhaps he was just relieved that this one lasted the term. “That was your mother’s love, dear boy. It protects you.”
I blinked in surprise, “My mother’s love is fire?”
He chuckled, “Something like that.”
“So, you’re not punishing me?”
“Of course not,” he reassured me. Wow, I’d just murdered a teacher, and I didn’t even get a detention. They weren’t nearly this lenient when I went to school.
The Great Hall was already decked out in green and silver when my minions and I entered. The Weasley muttered under his breath and sulked, but I was in a great mood. I waved to Snape. He didn’t even hiss, so I suspected he was in a good mood as well. When Longbottom’s toad skittered beneath the table, I barely even thought about stepping on it.
“Can’t believe we lost to a bunch of snakes,” the Weasley said.
“They’ve managed to win for six years in a row,” Hermione said. “It’s hardly surprising they did it again.”
The toad had leapt onto the table and was currently ruining the pudding. One of the older Weasleys carefully circled it, wand at the ready. Perry, I think.
Ron said, “It’s all because Snape’s a bastard.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “If Harry didn’t pick fights with him so often…”
I beamed. “Oh, yes, it’s definitely my fault.”
Dumbledore called for our attention at the front of the room. He smiled, as if we weren’t all on to him. “Another year gone! And I must trouble you with an old man’s wheezing waffle before we sink our teeth into our delicious feast. What a year it has been! Hopefully your heads are all a little fuller than they were… you have the whole summer ahead to get them nice and empty before next year starts…
“Now, as I understand it, the House Cup here needs awarding, and the points stand thus: In fourth, Gryffindor with three hundred points; in third, Hufflepuff with three hundred and fifty-two; in second, Ravenclaw with fourth hundred and twenty-six; and, in first place, Slytherin with four hundred and seventy-two.”
There was clapping and cheering, mostly from me. The Weasley asked, “Mate, what are you doing?”
“Demonstrating good sportsmanship,” I declared. “I think it’s telling I’m the only one doing so.”
“But there are some last minute points that have yet to be awarded,” Dumbledore said, eyes gleaming with nefarious intent. “To Mr. Ronald Weasley, for keeping a cool head in the face of fire, I award fifty points. To Miss Hermione Granger, for mustering the courage to fly, I award fifty points. To Mr. Harry Potter, for protecting an irreplaceable heirloom, I also award fifty points.”
I frowned. Huh, still twenty-two points behind. I’d really expected worse from the old man. I asked, “No one else has done anything heroic lately, have they?”
It was at that moment that the older Weasley lunged for Longbottom’s toad. He cried out triumphantly, “Aha! There you go, Neville.”
Dumbledore chuckled. “Finally, to Mr. Percival Weasley, for returning a younger student’s lost pet, I award twenty-three points.”
Gryffindor yowled its approval.
“Oh come on,” I said. “He’s blatantly cheating.”< Previous Next >