By = Fayanora
Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, is a young and abused Black boy with Asperger's syndrome, and is hated by his guardians, the Dursleys. A little over a week before his birthday, he discovers that he is also a wizard, and the Dursleys knew all along. Not only is he a wizard, but he's also famous in the wizarding world! An AU fanfic.
Note: Fanfiction. Not making money off this. J. K. Rowling gets all the credit for the Potterverse.
Note 2: Italics means a private thought but "italics in quotes is parseltongue." Unless it's an incantation or emphasis.
Chapter Two: Prudence
The next day, Harry tested a theory, by sending a letter to Ron with Hedwig. If that didn't work, he would have to rely on Luna to get messages to Ron, and maybe she and Ron could owl the others. He hoped, though, that seeing Harry's resolution, Dobby would give up on trying to waylay his mail. He was relieved, and surprised, when a letter arrived for him late in the evening.
“Netty sees you has got a letter, sir. Dobby is hopefully gone home then.”
“I hope so too, Netty.”
He read the letter, which was apparently Ron trying to sum up the letters he'd tried sending before. Luckily, Harry would be going to the Weasley's again soon. But knowing that this letter got through, he wrote letters to Hermione, Danzia, Antigone, and Angela, updating them on everything. Then for good measure, he sent one to Hagrid as well. He had a hard time figuring out how to get all the letters on Hedwig's legs, and couldn't. But then he looked at Netty folding the last of his laundry, and had an idea.
“Hey Netty, do you think you could pop over to Hogwarts and borrow four school owls and bring them to me? I've got too much here for Hedwig to get alone.”
Netty jumped with joy at this and said, “Oh yes, sir! Netty is glad to be doing that for you. It is very interesting indeed.”
“Oh, and if you could deliver this one to Hagrid before you go to the owlery, that would save a sixth owl trip.”
Netty took Hagrid's letter and saluted. “Netty is being back soon, sir!” And with a crack, she vanished.
While he waited for her to get back, he tied his letter to Antigone to Hedwig's leg and told her who to send the letter to. She blinked her understanding and took off out the window.
Ten minutes later, another crack announced Netty's return. She looked very peculiar with an owl in each hand, one on her head, and another on one foot. He quickly relieved her of the feathery burdens, setting them on the bed.
“Thank you, Netty. You're awesome.”
“You is most welcome, sir. Netty has this for you too, sir.”
She pulled a letter from Hagrid out of her tea towel toga, which he took. Reading it, he saw it basically said that Hagrid was glad to know what was going on; he'd been worried Harry was snubbing him.
Soon, the four owls were flying away from the house, and Harry sat down to read a book he'd owl-ordered a week ago. An example of wizarding fiction, it was quite an interesting read. (Why Dobby had let that through, he didn't know, but that was a mystery for another day.) But this time, something in the book made him pause. It was a reference to a wand holster. Naturally, this made him think. Given all the things wands could do, and given that accidental magic was still possible with wands (especially if you moved the wand wrong or said the wrong incantation), it was remarkable that they weren't required safety equipment.
He couldn't let the idea go; he put the book down, and wrote a letter to Dumbledore. Since Hedwig had done so much lately already, especially with Dobby messing about, he decided to send it later. However, when Netty saw who he was writing to, she offered to take it to him. Shrugging internally, he let her do it, once it was finished.
Dear Professor Dumbledore,
I was reading a book just now that referenced wand holsters, and I realized that wands are very dangerous, and should probably have holsters. I don't yet know where I can buy one, but I intend to get one for myself, and I thought perhaps I'd bring it up with you as a school safety issue.
Since Netty has volunteered to take this letter to you, I'll save myself some more writing by having her explain what has happened with another house elf named Dobby here recently. Thank you for your time, sir.
Hoping you are well,
Harry J. Potter
It was a bit sparse of a letter, but he was tired of writing today, so he left it at that. He folded the letter and handed it to Netty, who vanished off to Hogwarts again to deliver the letter.
Albus Dumbledore was upset. It had been a whole year since he'd found out he was wrong about the Dursleys, but he had recently been to see them himself, which had finally made the situation real in a way it hadn't before. Seeing their behavior, in combination with the images in their minds he'd gotten from his legilimency, he felt very upset with them and with himself for so misjudging them. He prided himself on being a good judge of character, and he had failed. Granted, he'd never actually met Petunia or her husband in person before that day, merely corresponded with Petunia when she was a child. People change a lot when they grow up, he knew that better than most.
Of course, he was more upset with himself for trusting someone so precious to somebody he'd never actually met before. What had he been thinking? Had he been so impressed with his own cleverness at knowing how to strengthen the protection Harry's mother had given the young man, that he'd not even stopped to consider the foolishness of putting a child with someone he only knew from one letter when she was a child?
Sighing, he leaned back in his chair. Yes, that had to be it, he thought. It was a known failing of his, that he sometimes got so caught up in his own cleverness, so excited that he could do a thing, without really stopping to consider if he should do it. But never before had this known failing resulted in something this bad. A child had been abused, and neglected. And considering how important this child was, and how important it was that Harry be whole and loving and good, it was a lucky thing indeed that he'd turned out as well as he had, under those circumstances. Sure, he had issues with headaches among other things, and some of that was due to his having what the Muggles called Asperger's syndrome – he'd seen that information in Harry's eyes, and his own research seemed to indicate it was accurate – but how much of that was nature, and how much was nurture (or lack thereof)? He didn't know.
Then Netty came with a letter from Harry, which he read. Then she told the story of Dobby and what he had been doing, and as much about the why of it as Dobby could say. This worried Dumbledore even more; what danger was coming to Hogwarts? There had already been danger last school year. Danger that had resulted in the passing of an old friend of his. Dumbledore sent Netty back, and continued to brood. When Dumbledore had told Nicolas that Voldemort had almost gotten the Stone, Nicolas had been so horrified, he'd insisted the Stone be destroyed. Albus had tried to dissuade his friend, tried to come up with alternatives for protecting it, but it had been to no avail. Nicolas and Perenell were adamant about it; they did not want someone as evil as Voldemort becoming immortal and unbelievably wealthy, and they were prepared to die for their convictions.
He cursed himself. What had he been thinking, bringing something like the Stone into a school? And bringing in a dangerous Cerberus and a troll to help guard it, no less! It seemed like madness, now. He could not figure out what he'd been thinking at the time.
Albus read over the letter again. Harry was more concerned with safety at almost 12 than he, the bloody headmaster, had been lately. And how? He'd been through a war, for Merlin's sake! He should be more concerned about safety than most.
“Fawkes, please tell Professor McGonagall to come to my office.”
The phoenix nodded, then vanished in a puff of flame, returning a few minutes later. Dumbledore waited patiently until there was a knock on his door.
“Come in, Minerva.”
The door opened, and sure enough, it was his deputy.
“What is so urgent, Headmaster?”
She sat, looking expectant. He, however, stood and paced, arms behind his back.
“When you told me last year about Harry's situation, Minerva, I was shocked and upset. But it did not really become real to me until I saw things for myself recently. It has made me think. I was not sure what to do about these thoughts, however; not until I received this letter from young Mr. Potter.”
He handed the stern woman Harry's letter for her to read. She read over it carefully. When she opened her mouth to talk about the second part of the letter, he headed her off by telling her what Netty had told him.
“But that is not why I called you. Dobby's warning is cryptic and will need more time to work out. But I do believe young Harry is right, about wand holsters. I believe we should add them to the list of requirements for all students.”
“Yes, I see your point, Dumbledore, but have you seen Gilderoy's book list? The Weasleys and who knows who else are going to have a hard enough time paying for all that without wand holsters for,” she paused, thinking, “five children. And you know them, they don't take charity. They won't even take help from the Fund,” she said, referring to the fund that paid for materials and books for poor students.
He nodded thoughtfully. “Good point. Tell Gilderoy he is allowed no more than two required books on the syllabus. If the others are so important, he can use gemino to make copies of his own editions. Tell him he is to submit his revised list by no later than 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. And add wand holsters to the list of required equipment, please.”
She nodded. “I'll do that, Headmaster.”
He nodded at her in the way they both knew meant she was dismissed. But before she left, he said, “And if you can let the others know I shall be attending tomorrow's staff meeting, I would much appreciate it, Minerva.”
“Of course, Headmaster,” she said before leaving.
With her gone, he sat down again, lost in thought once more.
A couple days after Netty delivered the letter to Dumbledore, the man himself finally sent him a letter back.
This letter is to let you know that I will be coming to pick you up from the Dursleys at 5 o'clock tomorrow. Please have your things ready to go before then, and please warn your aunt and uncle of my arrival.
Albus P. W. B. Dumbledore
P. S. = I received your letter, and we shall discuss it in person once we have arrived at the Burrow, as I feel a letter would be too impersonal.
Throwing the letter aside, he rushed to get his things together, but Netty couldn't stand him just tossing stuff in the trunk, and dug it out to organize it for him. He rolled his eyes and let her carry on. Instead, he focused on getting all his stuff onto the bed and letting her do it.
While she did that, Harry went downstairs and coughed to get his aunt and uncle's attention.
“What is it now, boy?” Vernon asked irritably.
“Professor Dumbledore is coming to pick me up tomorrow. He'll be taking me to a friend's house for the rest of the summer.”
“Good. What time is this... man... coming to get you?”
“Five PM, the letter says.”
“Well you let him know he'll be getting you and leaving, there'll be no mucking about, understand?”
“I understand. I'll tell him.”
Luckily, Hedwig had been back for over a day, having brought a letter from Antigone with her. He went back up to his room and wrote a quick reply.
“Got a letter for you, Hedwig. It's for Professor Dumbledore,” he said as he tied it to her leg. “Go on to Ron's place when you're done, I'll be there tomorrow in the afternoon. Ron can take care of you until then.” She blinked her understanding and flew out the window with it.
The next day, he spent switching between pacing his room and attempting to read, until he finally took his trunk down to wait for Dumbledore. His aunt and uncle were dressed in their best clothes, hoping to be a little intimidating.
At five o'clock exactly, the doorbell rang. Harry ran to get it. Dumbledore was wearing a completely different suit, one which was yellow with blue stars and looked like it was made of silk. He also wore a bright purple stetson.
It went surprisingly smoothly, considering his aunt and uncle could only stand there grimacing or biting their tongues. They weren't sure the enchantments prevented them from speaking their mind about Dumbledore in front of Harry, and they weren't about to test it. So Dumbledore came in, helped Harry with his trunk, and they left for Mrs. Figg's place to disapparate.
After getting to the Burrow but before anyone had noticed them, Dumbledore said to Harry, "The letter we shall discuss in front of the others. First, though... I think I know what Dobby was trying to do by dropping the crock pot."
"Oh? What's that, Professor?"
"I believe Dobby did not realize that Netty being there meant I had gotten number 4 added to the list of wizarding households, as part of the strings I pulled to make your circumstances there more bearable. Which means that Dobby was laboring under the misconception that doing magic in your aunt and uncle's house would get you in trouble with the Ministry."
"I don't quite understand, Professor."
"Well, the Trace can only detect magic done in the home or basic area of an underage witch or wizard, and cannot detect exactly who did the magic. So had your relatives' house still been listed as a Muggle household, Dobby's actions would have gotten you in trouble for using magic out of school."
"Do you mean, sir, that kids in wizarding households can do magic all they want and the Ministry would never know?"
"That is correct in essentials, yes. The Ministry relies on wizarding parents keeping their children in check."
"I suppose that makes sense, given the Statute of Secrecy. Still seems a little unfair to me, though. Without Netty there, there would have been no witnesses to what would have been a very odd situation of a house elf in a Muggle house."
"Yes. Luckily for you, Dobby's plan did not work. I believe Netty was a surprise to him."
They were approaching the house now, and Molly Weasley came running up to meet them. Harry prepared himself mentally for her to make some comment about how underfed he was, but she didn't this time. He wondered if that meant Netty's meals had helped him fill out a bit. Then too, their first week there, Netty had bemoaned the state of his hand-me-downs from Dudley, and with his permission, she had shrunk them so they fit him properly; so that may have helped his appearance, too.
When he got inside, he was only mildly surprised to see Luna calmly sitting at the table nursing a cup of tea. Hearing him come in, she stood up and held her arms open. Ginny, who had been at the table too, got up and left as Harry and Luna embraced.
"Harry!" Luna said. "It's been much too long since I've gotten to touch you. Touching someone you care about is the only way to keep away Voojles, you know."
"Voojles?" he asked curiously.
"Yes. They're related to Dementors, but they're tiny and invisible. They make you sad but they're not very dangerous."
"Well I'd be glad to help you ward off Voojles," he said, holding her hands.
Fred and George came in and wolf-whistled. Luna didn't react; Harry just rolled his eyes.
"Fred! George! That's enough of your teasing, both of you. Why don't you go outside, unless you'd rather I give you work to do?"
"Sorry Mum," they said in twin-stereo. "We'll be good," they said, slipping outside.
"Hmph," Mrs. Weasley said good-naturedly. "That'll be the day. Hello, Harry my dear, would you like some tea?"
"Yes please, Mrs. Weasley."
"Such a polite young man, you are. I know some people who could do with taking lessons from you."
As Molly bustled around the kitchen preparing Harry's tea, he and Luna got to talking. It was only after several minutes of this that they noticed Dumbledore had come in and was sitting down.
"Dumbledore!" Molly said, astounded. "Would you like some tea as well?"
"No thank you, Molly. My bladder would protest if I had anything else to drink right now. Anyway, Harry?"
"I mentioned in my letter that I would discuss your recommendation with you here. If you're amenable to it, I should like to get that out of the way now so you can get on with spending time with the lovely Ms. Lovegood, even though the others are not present."
Harry blushed, his brown cheeks darkening from it, but he nodded.
"Well I thought it was an excellent suggestion, the wand holsters; Alastor, I know, would approve."
"Alastor Moody, an old colleague of mine, an Auror. Dark wizard catcher," he said when Harry looked confused. "Yes, he's always bemoaning the lack of wand safety. Which reminds me, I should inform him of this change, he'll be interested to know."
"Okay," Harry said, curious why Dumbledore hadn't said this in a letter.
"Dumbledore," Molly said, "did I hear you say something about wand holsters?"
"Yes, Molly. Wand holsters, thanks to Harry's suggestion, are now required equipment for all students."
Mrs. Weasley beamed. "Excellent! I used to use one, but lately I've been using my wand so much I'm afraid I've lost track of it. Oh, let's see," she said, absent-mindedly setting down Harry's tea and wandering off talking to herself, "five wand holsters to buy now, and who knows what the book lists even look like yet..."
"Anyway, Harry, there is more I wish to discuss."
"It seems you and your friends made some other suggestions, which came up in a staff meeting. Suggestions I very much agreed with. Thanks to you, Harry, there is now a Wizard Studies class for Muggleborn students."
"Wow, cool. Can I sign up?"
"Yes, I thought you might like to, given that while you're technically halfblood, you were raised by Muggles. Professor McGonagall assumed you would want to join."
"Who's teaching it, sir?"
"Why, I am, Harry."
Harry's and Luna's eyes both went wide. "You'll be teaching classes, Professor?"
Dumbledore chuckled. "Why yes, Harry, I will. After all, I used to teach Transfiguration. But since that position is taken, and I have the necessary skills, I decided to take up the post."
"Well that sure will be different. I look forward to your classes, sir."
"Thank you for your kind words, Harry. Or, as I shall have to get used to saying again, Mr. Potter. And Ms. Lovegood," he said, nodding at her.
"Why thank you, Professor Dumbledore."
Dumbledore smiled. "Now let's see... ah yes, and one other thing. Your Muggle Academia Club is also being given official club status, and as such, you will be allowed to put up signs about it on all the House notice boards."
"Cool, thanks! Sir."
"You are again welcome. Oh, and that reminds me, Muggle Studies will also be a required course for all wizard-raised students below NEWT level. We decided the NEWT students had quite enough to be going on with as it is."
Harry beamed. "Wow! Makes me almost wish I could go, if only to see Draco Malfoy's reactions."
The three of them laughed about that.
"So who's teaching Muggle Studies?"
"A kind and gentle soul named Charity Burbage; she has been our Muggle Studies teacher ever since Professor Quirrell switched to Defense Against The Dark Arts."
"That evil git, teaching Muggle Studies?"
"Yes, in hindsight maybe not the best choice, but he showed no signs of being evil until long after he returned from a sabbatical to study his new subject in person the summer before he taught.
"Anyway, Harry, I believe that is all. Feel free to tell the others these things, even though they will find out soon enough. I must be getting back to Hogwarts. I shall see you again in September, the both of you." He winked at them and left the room, saying goodbye to Mrs. Weasley before he left.
Harry had a good time at the Weasley's the rest of that summer. True, his news of a new required course that most of the Weasleys would have to take and he didn't caused a mixed response. Mr. Weasley, of course, was fascinated. It turned out Muggle Studies hadn't been offered in Hogwarts at all back in his day, or he would have been among those taking it. He was looking forward to learning second-hand from his children.
What caused a bit more controversy even than that, was Harry inviting his three Slytherin friends over to his birthday party. He had at least asked the Weasley's permission first, but it was only when he asked that he remembered that he'd never sent any letters to the Weasley's parents; it had never occurred to him to do so. And Ron had apparently forgotten to mention the three Slytherins, too. In the end, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley decided to trust his judgment, but they were disappointingly wary of the three girls during the party, even after he'd explained their role in the adventures his previous year.
"Don't worry, Harry," Antigone had told him at one point. "We're used to it by now. And honestly, I'm kind of surprised they're taking it even this well. Our two Houses have been at odds... well, ever since Moldywart came to power. Maybe even before then."
"You shouldn't have to be used to it. There are bad people in every House, and good people too."
"Yeah, well... something else to work on, eh?"
He nodded his agreement, and continued eating his cake, trying to ignore the fact that either Mr. or Mrs. Weasley were always somewhere they could keep an eye out on the three Slytherins.
Of course, it didn't help that Danzia had brought a python to the party, wanting to see Harry's parseltongue firsthand. Not wanting to make Mrs. Weasley any more uncomfortable by revealing this gift of his to her or Mr. Weasley, he and the others - even Ron and Hermione, and even Ginny - snuck off to where they normally played Quidditch to watch.
"Her name's Circe," Danzia explained. "Go on, say something to her."
"Uh," he said, looking at the drowsy snake. "Hello. How are you?"
The snake looked up at him, as though astonished. "You speak our language?" it asked.
"Yeah, I guess. I don't know how, I just do. So... how are you?"
The snake cocked its head. "Well, I suppose I'm fine. My human keeps me warm and fed. I guess my only complaint is that dark green room she takes me out in, in that one place. It's a bit creepy, and chilly."
"What'd she say?" Danzia asked impatiently.
"She's fine, mostly. Doesn't like the dark green room you take her out in."
"Dark green room?" Danzia said, thinking.
"The creepy, chilly one."
"Oh! The Slytherin common room! We have a view of the underside of the lake, the light coming through is dark green."
"Do you mean the room with the view from beneath water?"
The snake nodded. "Yes, that's the one."
"Looks like you're right. She agreed there's a watery view."
"Wow, this is so cool. I wish I could do that, too."
Harry continued practising parseltongue with Circe for another hour, before the snake grew tired. But it was long enough for Harry to begin recognizing when he was speaking parseltongue and when he wasn't. He'd even managed to look right at the snake and speak English at it. Of course, Ron was uncomfortable the whole time; he didn't like being reminded that his best friend had what was considered a dark gift.
Despite some friction, though, Harry enjoyed his stay, and was sad when it was drawing to an end. Also excited to be returning to Hogwarts, though, too. The Weasleys, Harry, Hagrid, Luna and her father, and Hermione all met up in Diagon Alley in the last fortnight of August to go school shopping.
Mr. Lovegood was... interesting. Strange like Luna, but more vivacious, unlike his daughter's calm and centered vibe. But his energy seemed to bring the same energy out in Luna, which Harry enjoyed seeing; for even then, something about her made her easy to be around.
The trip first took them to Ollivander's, where Luna got her first wand; everyone else was there, too, getting wand holsters. From there they went to get other equipment, potions supplies, and finally ended up in the bookstore, which was absolutely packed with people, because someone named Gilderoy Lockhart was signing books. Harry couldn't go in there, the noise was too much. He gave some gold to Luna, who had volunteered to get his books for him, and waited outside with Xenophilius, Luna's father, listening to him talk about crumple-horned snorcacks.
When Harry saw Draco Malfoy and his father go into the store, apparently having not noticed him, Harry got a vibe of potential trouble, and went inside, braving the noise. Mr. Lovegood followed him in, and so they both witnessed the elder Malfoy perusing one of Ginny's books just before the fight that broke out between him and Mr. Weasley, until Hagrid appeared and pulled them apart.
"Ere now, ere now," Hagrid said disapprovingly. "Yeh're both grown men! Why can't yeh be more like yer sons, eh? Harry and Draco ent too keen on each other, but at leas they're polite an civil ter one another!"
Harry glanced at Draco, who did indeed look embarrassed by his father's actions, and was glancing at Harry as if to gauge his reactions.
The two men gave pseudo-apologies and went their separate ways, just in time for--
"Did someone say Harry Potter?" A blond, handsome man with a face more gleaming teeth than skin came over. "It IS! It IS Harry Potter! Hey you, over here, let's get us both in the picture."
His eyes wide with horror, Harry tried to run for it, but the strange man grabbed his shoulders and pulled him into a photo. The bright lights added to Harry's already growing sensory distress, and he felt a headache coming on. By habit, he tried to grab a headache cure potion, but the man's grip on him didn't let him. So the pain just grew as the man talked. Harry could scarcely make out what he was even saying, something about he was going to be teaching at Hogwarts? That thought made him even sicker.
And so it was that in front of dozens, maybe scores of witnesses, Harry puked all over the front of Gilderoy Lockhart's robes, due to his position at the time.
"Uh-oh!" Lockhart exclaimed. "Poor boy is just so excited to see me he tossed his cookies, poor lad. But no worries, my boy. Evanesco!" he said, causing both the sick and part of his robes to vanish. Seeing this, Harry ran the other way to get away and out the door. Those of his friends who could, followed him.
"Harry?" Luna asked. "Here, drink this, if you think you can keep it down," she said, handing him a bottle of headache cure potion. He took it with shaky hands and nodded, unwilling to risk opening his mouth just yet.
Ron glared toward the bookstore. "Malfoy - the one still in school I mean - was laughing fit to burst. Strange thing, though, I don't think he was laughing at you, not exactly anyway. I heard him say something like 'Did you see the look on that great git's face when Potter got sick all over him?' "
Harry shrugged, but said nothing. His head was still pounding, though, amping up towards more sick; since the only thing worse than the migraine he was having was puking with said migraine, he risked things long enough to down the headache potion. Thankfully, it did its job quickly and, now the pain was gone, it only took him a few more minutes to recover, Mrs. Weasley now fussing over him, taking his temperature with her hand.
Once Harry was feeling better, they went to the Leaky Cauldron, where he got something to eat before they finished up their shopping. Thankfully he was done, though others weren't, giving him time to look in on Quality Quidditch Supplies. Though he had no interest in playing Quidditch, he did remember how flying had felt, and decided it would be prudent to get himself a broomstick. So it was that he returned later with a Nimbus 2000 under his arm.
When it finally came time for them to leave for school, they rushed about making sure they had everything, it all fitting in the Ford Anglia Mr. Weasley owned because of magic expansions he'd done. The fact that they had to keep going back for things, including Ginny's diary, slowed them down considerably. They were almost late to the platform.
Everyone else having gone ahead, only Ron and Harry remained. They ran at the barrier like normal, and BOOM! They smashed right into it, causing chaos as books, clothes, and owl feathers flew everywhere, Hedwig squawking so loudly some people were talking about animal cruelty.
Getting their things together, trying to reassure the Muggles, they finally went off to the side, checking the barrier again a couple times.
"It's stuck, what're we gonna do? The train's leaving in... about 20 seconds!" Ron said, beginning to panic.
"Don't worry," Harry said. "We have options. This is probably Dobby's work, I'll bet anything. We've never had a problem before, have we?"
"Well no. What're you gonna do, though?"
Harry opened his trunk, hoping what he sought wasn't broken, and was delighted to find the two-way mirror intact.
"Luna?" he said at the mirror.
"Harry? Where are you? I saved you a seat."
"We have a bit of a problem. The barrier sealed us out. I suspect Dobby's interference."
"Oh. Well I'll tell the others, then. What are you going to do in the meantime?"
"I have someone I can call for help. She can get Dumbledore or someone to get me."
"Netty?" Luna asked.
"Well, I wish you luck then, Harry."
He bade her farewell as well, and then put the mirror in his pocket.
"Netty? You can't call a... her here, Harry! Not in front of all these Muggles!"
"I know that. Come, let's find somewhere safe."
After a few minutes of looking, they decided to leave the trunks and things by the car, Ron outside keeping watch. Harry climbed into the boot of the car and, Ron shielding the inside of the boot from view, Harry whispered, "Netty?"
A muffled pop came from the back of the magically expanded boot. "Young sir is calling for Netty?" the house elf asked.
"Yes. The barrier into the station at platform 9 and 3/4th sealed us out. We suspect Dobby."
"Is sir wishing Netty to unseal it?"
"No, it's too late for that now anyway. I was thinking more along the lines of alerting Dumbledore of the problem."
"That is being one possibility, sir. But Netty is having another idea."
"Oh? What's that?"
"Netty is thinking she could be be taking your things to the train, sirs. You could put the things in here, and Netty can get them on the train, then you and your friend could climb in for Netty to take you."
"Okay, I think that will work." Harry climbed out of the boot and the two of them put everything in. A few muffled pops signaled their stuff was in the train. Finally, they were ready. Harry climbed in first, then Ron.
"Netty is thinking, she can have words with Dobby when she is done here, if you would like, sir?"
"Well, if you can catch him, feel free to try."
She nodded. They each took one of her hands, and with a pop they appeared in the train compartment with the others, startling everyone and making Circe's cage almost fall to the floor.
Once Netty was gone, they started explaining what had happened, and their suspicions about who caused it.
"Blimey," Ron said at last. "Can you imagine if Harry didn't know Netty? We might've had to fly the car to school, or something equally barmy."
Harry shook his head. "No, we had Hedwig, too. Granted, Dobby's interfered with her before. But if nothing else, your parents would have returned to the car eventually."
With that little adventure over, Harry and his friends began to focus on enjoying the trip to school.
When they got off the train, Harry hugged Luna farewell before she went with the others on the boats. "See you at the Sorting," Harry whispered before they parted.
Following his older friends, Harry had his first ride in the horseless carriages that took everyone but the first-years up to school, glad that Dobby's foolish plans hadn't gotten him into any trouble. Before long, they were exiting the carriages and walking through the gates and on up toward the school.
As they walked, Harry's eyes turned toward movement, and saw a large tree in the distance swinging some of its branches around like fists, at something unseen.
"What's that?" he asked his older friends, pointing.
"Oh that," Antigone supplied. "That's the Whomping Willow. It punches things that get too near it, so don't go near it if you can avoid it."
"So noted," Harry said.
Harry excitedly watched the Sorting, despite his growing hunger. He was hoping Luna would end up in Griffindor, even if her family had a history of being in Ravenclaw. He barely paid attention to anyone else, even. But he clapped for everyone Sorted, even the Slytherins, which made Snape look at him with suspicion. Still, his example led others to do the same, even if their applause for Slytherin students was less than enthusiastic.
"Lovegood, Luna!" Professor McGonagall called, slipping the hat onto her head.
After a few minutes of deliberation, the hat finally cried out, "Ravenclaw!" Harry clapped, trying to hide his disappointment. A few minutes later, Ginny joined the Griffindor table.
The table filled up with food, and Harry began eating, stopping just long enough at one point to ask Percy if it was allowed to sit at other tables.
"Well," the older Weasley boy said, "it's generally expected to sit with your own House during the welcoming feast and other important feasts, and its considered a very rude faux pas to do otherwise at such times. During the rest of the school year, though, if you wish to join friends from other Houses for meals, it's generally acceptable, as long as you don't do it too frequently. People tend to think you're unfriendly if you avoid your own House too much."
Harry nodded. "Thanks, Percy."
"Not a problem. Always glad to help out where I can."
"Oh Harry," said either Fred or George, "missing your girlfriend already? How sweet."
"You two knock it off," Percy chided.
"Yes, perfect prefect Percy," they said in twin-stereo.
Someone moved, and Harry's gaze turned toward the movement; it was Ginny, moving down the table more. He frowned, wondering what that was all about.
After the feast was over, Dumbledore gave some announcements, which filled them in a little on the new classes, including where Wizard Studies and Muggle Studies were taught at, for those not in the know. Naturally, there was a fair deal of dark muttering from the Slytherin table, at least until Antigone and her friends shushed them.
On his way out the hall, Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall pulled him and Ron aside to discuss the incident with the barrier sealing them off. One of the happy takeaways from this was that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had gotten back to their car just fine; mildly annoyed at the lid of the boot being left wide open, but as nothing had been in there to steal, they were forgiven.
And so Harry went to bed a little smug that Dobby's plans were failing so far, and fell into a relatively peaceful slumber.
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