The Ritual of Hogwarts – Part 1

Status:
  • Rough Draft
  • Work in Progress
Content Rating:
  • R
Fandom(s):
Harry Potter

Relationship(s):
Harry/Seamus, Susan/Justin, Draco/Lavender, Neville/Blaise

Warning(s):
  • Discussion - Child Abuse
  • No Beta
Genre(s):
  • Challenge Response
  • Time Travel
Word Count:
25,754

Author's Note:
Relatively canon through fifth year, no Horcruxes, light may be not so good and evil might not be as bad as it seems. Unofficially written as part of Rough Trade’s November 2015 Up Close and Personal challenge – theme was Time Travel and the story had to be written from a single point of view.

Summary:
After everything that Harry had been through since coming to Hogwarts, finding out about the prophecy involving him and Voldemort within hours of losing his Godfather was pretty much the last straw. When you’re at your wits end with no idea where to go for help, suddenly it’s an easy decision to trust in an ancient ritual calling on Hogwarts for help.


Harry wasn’t sure how no one noticed the blood on his hand as he made sure to drag it briefly across the rough stones of the Entry Hall’s wall. Ron and Hermione were bickering with each other again, though he wasn’t actually all that upset as at least that meant they were finally leaving him alone. He’d been alone all summer, with little contact from anyone from the wizarding world and what contact he had had hadn’t been from them. Harry was, to put it mildly, pissed off.

For once the blood he was shedding at Hogwarts wasn’t from an accident or an attack of some sort. This was totally self-inflicted and was hopefully the next to last step in a ritual he’d been working on since returning to the Dursleys’ after the end of his fifth year. The silver lining in his desertion was that he’d had both plenty of time to think about things as well as plenty of time to complete the ritual.

Hearing Hermione’s voice go up a notch in volume, he rolled his eyes and moved slightly further away from them as he made his way through the mass of returning students to the Gryffindor table. He took his seat, smiling at Neville who settled across from him, as the other sixth year students arranged themselves around them. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes and counting to five slowly, when Ron pushed his way in beside him and Hermione took the seat beside Neville.

Harry still hadn’t spoken to anyone since entering Hogwarts; that was part of the ritual as well. Though calling it a ritual made it sound much more complicated than it actually had been. He’d found it in the Library the previous year when he’d been camped out in a dusty corner to avoid Hermione’s questions about how he was or Ron’s constant whinging about studying.

The book had been in surprisingly good condition considering where it had been located and had a number of interesting spells he’d made note of to look into further. This one though had been listed as a ‘ritual’ due to the very specific timing of it as well as the steps involved in completing it. It could only be completed before your sixth year and it was supposed to help you figure out the answer to your most difficult problem, though that might be a bit of a simplification of the actual description.

It didn’t involve any actual ‘magic’ as far as Harry could tell. It was mainly a lot of thinking about things interspersed with a bit of bleeding which he was all too familiar with. Happily this was more along the line of a paper cut and not ‘bitten by a basilisk’ or ‘used to resurrect a Dark Lord’ levels.

Knowing that the last step needed to be completed soon, he pressed his still bleeding hand to the underside of the table and closed his eyes to focus on what he needed to say.

“Harry, are you okay? You’re being very quiet. You’re not still upset about this summer are you? We really…”

He pushed Hermione’s voice from his awareness and focused on what he’d come up with over the summer. ‘I need to take control of my life, but I don’t know who I can trust and how to make it possible. Please, Hogwarts, I humbly ask for your help with this.’ It was broad but it covered quite the list of questions and issues he’d come up with over the summer.

He could feel Ron’s tugging at his arm and Hermione’s increasingly shrill requests to tell her what was going on begin to fade out, along with the other normal sounds of the students returning from holiday and catching up before the sorting began. He kept his eyes closed until it was completely quiet, focusing on his request fiercely. When he finally opened his eyes it was to a very changed Great Hall.

Neville was sitting across from him, eyes wide and looking a bit freaked, though also strangely euphoric. Seamus was a seat down from Neville, staring around him in shock, mouth open slightly. He heard a muffled sob from his right and turned to see Lavender, hands pressed tightly to her mouth, eyes glistening.

“Oh thank Merlin,” she whispered, “it worked.”

Harry pulled his hand from beneath the table and looked at the uncut palm. The blood was gone, the cut was healed completely. Final step completed successfully. He too felt a bit weepy in the moment but took a deep breath and startled when the doors to the Great Hall opened, sounding louder than normal in the abnormally silent room.

The woman who entered was both someone he’d never seen before, but also someone he felt he’d known forever. She was dressed in wizard robes and her brown hair fell long and wavy down around her face and shoulders. She smiled at them then, a friendly sort of sideways smirk, before coming to stand at the end of the Ravenclaw table.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen so many petitioners at one time. While I am happy to see so many who believe in the power of asking for the help they need, I hurt at the fact that there are so many of you that need to.”

Looking across the Hall, Harry could see Draco, looking rougher than his normal well put together appearance, and Blaise Zabini sitting at the Slytherin table. At the Hufflepuff table he could see Susan Bones and Justin Finch-Fletchley, both looking a bit pale as they turned in their seats to stare at the woman.

Peering around his own table he didn’t see any additional 6th years. Eight of them had trusted an unknown ritual to help them with whatever issues they had in their life.

He turned his attention back to the woman, who had yet to introduce herself, and watched as she finished her perusal of his classmates. She gave a decisive nod and took a deep breath.

“Okay, first things first. Unless you’ve suddenly decided not to go through with the ritual you just completed, we need to leave this room. If you have decided not to, just stay seated and all will return to normal momentarily, otherwise, please come with me.”

There was no hesitation in any of them as they quickly got to their feet and headed back to the doors. They followed her out into the Entry Hall and into what appeared to be a Sitting Room just off it, though there’d never been one there before.

The room was brightly lit and cozy with a fire burning in the fireplace and a number of comfortable looking couches grouped around a table in front of it. Harry took a seat in the corner of one of them, with Neville and Lavender joining him. Seamus settled with the two from Hufflepuff while Draco and Blaise shared a third. The woman took a chair to herself and simply smiled at them until they were all settled.

A house elf in a strange looking uniform popped in once they were settled and left a tea tray and a line of eight potion bottles.

“Thank you, Jacks.”

He bowed silently before popping away again.

“Excuse me,” Susan said hesitantly, “but I have to ask. Who are you?”

The woman laughed. “Have none of you figured it out? After the whole ritual you all just completed?”

“You’re Hogwarts,” Draco said quietly. “You’re who we requested help from.”

“Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it,” Harry whispered to himself, remembering when he’d heard the Headmaster say that his second year.

“Yes, Draco, you are correct. I’m not surprised you figured it out, all things considered. And Harry, while I don’t believe Dumbledore meant for you to take it this literally, he was still right in what he said then. You have all asked me for help. Spent a lot of time actually over the past couple months going through a process to get that help and here I now am.

“The founders knew they wouldn’t live forever, no one ever does, and they wanted to be sure that their students were always to be cared for. They hoped that the processes they’d set up would lead to the students having good teachers and a trustworthy Headmaster to go to if they had problems, they but couldn’t depend on it. As the period going from 5th year to 7th year can be so traumatic for students, they created the ritual for the beginning of 6th year. After they’d come of age in Magic, but before they were officially adults in the wizarding world.

“They made it so you had to find the spell yourself, many do but they don’t believe. They don’t want it hard enough, believe in it strongly enough, to go through with it. You can’t share it with anyone, you can’t even talk about it until after it’s completed and even then only with someone else who went through it as well.”

“But how would a spell, or ritual even, be powerful enough to do something like this,” Justin asked. “Nothing we’ve covered in class would seem to support this amount of…” he sighed. “You’re apparently a living, breathing avatar of our school. Even with magic, how is that possible?”

“Well, only slightly living and breathing, but yes, I am a physical representation of the school. The founders believed that having someone to speak to would be more comfortable for students than simply talking to a wall. And, even in magical schools, walls talking back to you could be considered creepy.” She smirked at them as they laughed. “Are you aware of why the founders chose this location to build the school?”

“I always thought it was because it was remote enough to help keep it hidden from the muggles,” Lavender answered.

“That was certainly a consideration, but the real reason it was chosen was because we currently sit on the crossing of two of the largest ley lines in this area. While many magical areas form along ley lines, as they can be used to power wards for homes and businesses, most of those are small. They’re along the lines of streams. The ley lines we have here are the size of the Amazon River and Hogwarts sits where two of them intersect. Because of this, the founders were able to use that magic during the building and infused it into the very stones of the school. In many ways, the school is alive. Even during the normal school year, I can move the stairs when I want to, I can shift rooms and doors when needed. I power the portraits and support the ghosts that live here. Granted, I don’t physically manifest normally, that was specifically set up for this ritual so that I can more easily see what you need help with and facilitate you receiving that help.

“So, that brings us back to all of you and why we are all here. Each of you has asked for help with something very important to you, something that you probably consider very private. You might even be embarrassed by it, but despite that, we still need to discuss it. Now I’m sure you all noticed the potion vials Jacks left earlier when he brought our tea. They are what you might call a liquid wizard’s oath. They will ensure that your secrets stay within the group of us here and that none of us can use that information against you, whether to embarrass you or hurt you.”

Hogwarts looked around the room at them all and Harry felt that glance warm him. It was comforting and made him feel safe, though that wasn’t so odd as he’d always felt safe at Hogwarts even when realistically he knew there were things, or people, there trying to kill him.

With a deep sigh, Harry leaned forward and took one of the vials and tossed it back. Grimacing only slightly at the sour taste, he picked up two more and turned to look at Neville and Lavender.

Each reached out, somewhat reluctantly he thought, and took the vials he handed them and quickly drank them down. Neville grimaced at the taste as well and quickly handed back the empty vial and reached for his tea to try to clear the taste from his mouth. Lavender handed him hers as well and he returned them all to the table in time to notice that the others had drank too.

Everyone was quiet for a while as they refreshed their tea and tried to clear the taste from their mouth, but eventually Hogwarts must have decided that they’d stalled long enough.

“Thank you. While I don’t believe that anyone here would’ve used your secrets against you, now you all have the security of knowing that they can’t. Now, who would like to begin? You can simply tell us what your request was at the end of the ritual, or you can go into more details, whatever you’re most comfortable with.

When no one looked like they were going to volunteer to go first, Harry gave a mental sigh and decided to once again step up. “My request was around how I need to take control of my life, but I don’t know who I can trust and how to make it possible. Dumbledore has controlled my life since at least my parents died, and probably before then too. He’s keeping secrets from me, big ones that caused the death of my Godfather last June. There are so many things I don’t know about the wizarding world, and I’m supposedly supposed to save it from a powerful, crazy, evil wizard? Really? When was I trained for that? You know, this is the first time I’ve ever asked for help from someone and had them believe me and actually agree to help? And that ‘someone’ in this case is actually a magical castle.” He snorted.

“I think you’ll find that there’s probably a number of us here with similar requests,” Draco said wearily. “I too want control of my own life. I want to understand my options and be able to choose freely the path I want to take and be able to successfully defend those choices from those who would choose for me. I don’t want to take the Dark Mark and follow a ‘powerful, crazy, evil wizard’,” he smirked at Harry, who grinned back. “But the school paints all those in Slytherin with a dark brush no matter what our personal leanings are and our families can be just as bad.”

“Exactly. My family has always been neutral, neither dark nor light but happily in the grey.” Blaise took over after his housemate finished. “My mother has currently left the country as she’s not sure she’s safe and isn’t actually sure what side is more dangerous to her. She’s not sure she feels I’m safe here either, but I do have to finish my education. I want to be able to protect myself and her. I need to learn how to do that.”

Susan stepped up next. “My family wants my Aunt and me to leave as well. They don’t think we’re safe here since we were targeted before and my parents were killed. But my aunt believes in her duty and refuses and I understand and respect that. I chose not to leave either when she offered to transfer me to another school. I need to know what I can do to help, to make my home safe for myself, for my family and my friends. I’m tired of sitting back and expecting someone else to do it for me. It’s not right,” she said looking over at Harry apologetically.

Justin reached over and took her hand and she learned into him a bit. “I envy those of you whose parents are happy you’re here. My parents are muggles and the magical world has started to terrify them. They don’t consider Hogwarts to be a safe place for me to be after the unexplained death of one of our teachers first year, me getting petrified second year – without them being told it had happened, an escaped prisoner hanging around third year along with all the ministry’s Dementors, our classmate Cedric being murdered fourth year and then the announcement of the rebirth of he-who…” he paused and looked at Harry before continuing, “Voldemort last year. They blame me for the fact that they’re now in danger and they didn’t want me to return. But I am a wizard and I need to know how to control my magic and I don’t want to let fear of what might happen control what I do with my life.”

“You’re not the only one whose parents weren’t happy to let you return, mate,” Seamus said. “My mum was not happy about me returning, but agreed that it was best I continue my education. I’m hoping to figure out what I want to do with my life. I feel lost a lot of the time, like I’m not sure why I’m doing what I’m doing but not sure who I can ask directions from. No one here at the school really seems to take an interest in us, at least not in Gryffindor. We’re considered brash and thoughtless, outgoing and brave, without a logical thought in our brains between us and there’s no way to break the stereotype. I’ve lost who ‘Seamus’ is because of this and I want him back. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin again.”

It hurt to see the expression on Seamus’ face. Since he did live partly in the muggle world, he was one of the few people Harry was able to keep up with over the summer via normal post. While he knew he’d been unhappy about something, nothing of this had come up in his letters. He wondered if Seamus had said anything to Neville about it, though if he had Harry was aware that Neville would take those confidences to the grave; that was just the kind of guy Nev was.

“Well, my parents want me here,” Lavender said bitterly. “How else am I supposed to make connections so I can marry well? They’ve been talking about marriage contracts since before I started here and insisted that I behave accordingly. I must be pretty and pleasant and not too bright because what man would want a woman who was too intelligent? I’m so bloody sick of it all! I’ve learned how to play the game to keep my parents off my back, but they’re now talking about setting things up without my consent if I don’t manage to arrange something ‘good enough’ before seventh year. I can’t do that. I need to find a way to get away from them. I aced my OWLs. My parents were horrified! I didn’t tell them that I plan to do some independent studies this year. I’ve already gotten permission from the necessary professors to help me out. I wish I could do one in Potions, but I know Professor Snape would never allow it. I think if I can get to graduation without them shackling me to some horrible man with the appropriate pedigree, I think I’ll be okay, I just don’t know that they’ll give me enough time.”

Neville was the last to speak and he was silent for a little while after Lavender finished. Finally he looked up and around the room at his fellow classmates before focusing on Hogwarts. “I grew up being afraid that I wasn’t magical, or at least not magical enough to make up for the fact that I lived while my parents were tortured into insanity. I was so happy to get accepted to Hogwarts and thrilled to be sorted into Gryffindor, though afraid I’d never be considered brave enough to truly fit in. But I did my best and I made friends and I started to believe more in myself. But it was hard. I always felt like I was fighting against myself to do it.

“This past year I went to the Ministry with Harry and a few other people to try to rescue his Godfather who we believed had been taken captive by Voldemort. Instead it was a trap and we had to fight our way out against some of the most powerful Death Eaters out there. During that, my wand was broken which meant that this summer my Gran finally took me to Ollivander’s for a new one. There I found that there have been some serious spells cast on me to affect my magical abilities, my emotions, my memories… you name it and it’s probably been done to me. Ollivander wasn’t able to remove them, because of who likely cast them, but he still fit me with a new wand as best as he could, with a warning that I needed to get the spells removed as soon as possible as it was hurting my magic.

“I didn’t tell my Gran as, while she’s not a follower, she does trust Dumbledore and I don’t know how she’d react to the thought that he’s played a part in what Ollivander believes has been done to me. I’d already started the ritual by the time I learned about this, so it helped me focus my thoughts on what I needed. I need to know how to fix what’s been done to me and I need to know what to do to fix the others he’s probably done this to as well. Because if I rated blocks on my magic, alterations to my memories, charms to affect how I feel about things and who knows what else; what would he do to someone important like Harry as ‘the-boy-who-lived’ or Draco as the son of Lucius Malfoy?”

Harry’s heart sank at the thought and looking over at Draco he could tell that the thought of having even less control over his life than he already thought he had was a devastating one to him too.

-X-

“Thank you all for being so honest about the issues that brought you here, that made you so willing to take a leap of faith on something you could not have known would have worked. Now, I know it’s getting late and you have not eaten yet, which needs to be corrected immediately. You also need to know where you’ll be living during the course of time you’re with me. So we’ll take care of both and I’ll have the elves serve your dinner there. If you would follow me.”

She rose from her chair and headed back to the door with the rest of them scrambling to get up and follow her. She led them to the stairs and up to the Fourth Floor corridor. Where there had once been a wall to the left of the landing, there was now the opening to a new hallway with a couple doors off to the right.

At the end of the short hallway was a large painting, the kind that often guard doors in the school. There was a man comfortably seated behind a large wooden desk with a burning fire in the fireplace in front of him. Harry could read the name ‘Myrddin Emrys’ on the plaque in the top of the ornately carved frame. While he could see the fire crackling and could tell the man in the painting was writing something, the man was otherwise ignoring their approach.

“This will be your home while you’re here and one last donation of blood will be needed before you can enter. If you’d place your palm here,” she pointed to a particular section of the frame, “it will taste your magic and you will be able to enter at will. No need for a password.”

“Who’s here to try to sneak in anyway?”

Harry could hear Justin whispering to someone behind him and grinned when he heard the sharp exhale of air signifying that someone had just elbowed him hard in the stomach. Probably Susan.

Blaise stepped forward and put his hand against the frame in the designated location. He gave a slight start as a green light traveled around the outside of the frame. He stepped back and Draco took his place. When it came to be Harry’s turn, he found out that there was a bit of a shock that occurred at the same time as the prick for the blood which was why they were all jumping a bit. Once they were all done, the man in the picture put down his quill and turned to face them.

“Welcome to Myrddin’s Tower. I am Myrddin and I will be guarding your entrance while you reside here. If you have any issues, feel free to come to me with them.” He gave them a slight nod before turning back to his work as the painting swung out to give them entrance.

Hogwarts led the way inside.

Harry was expecting something like the Gryffindor Common Room, comfortable and cozy, but sized appropriately for the number of people who would be living there. What he saw when he got inside was a bit more than that. It was at least twice the size of the Gryffindor Common Room and thankfully not decorated in any specifically house associated colors. There was a large fireplace on the far end of the room with an arrangement of couches and a coffee table set up in front of it. On either side of the fireplace, behind thickly hanging drapes, were large bow windows with window seats in them and an assortment of pillows scattered across them.

In the center of the room was a large table with seating for eight. Around the rest of the room were smaller seating areas for two to four people and areas where you could study at smaller tables. The wall the door they’d just entered from was covered in built in bookshelves, though Harry wasn’t able to read any titles from where he was standing.

There were arched openings on the walls to the left and the right of the entrance. The right one appeared to lead to a stairway based on what he could see while the other appeared to be the entrance to a hallway.

“Wow, I’m impressed. I didn’t know there was anything like this in the school,” Susan said softly as she joined the others in wandering around to look at things once their stupor wore off on entrance.

“Not many have ever been given the opportunity to see this tower,” Hogwarts responded. “This will be your common area. You can work here, relax, have meals as you feel like it. You are welcome to change things or make additions to the room as you like, though you all need to agree to them as you all do live here.

“To the left,” she said pointing to the entrance to the hallway, “there’s a bathroom, storage closet for cloaks, scarves, brooms – anything that you might need for going outside that you don’t want to leave in your rooms. There are also a number of… study rooms. There’s a bit of a trick to them, though I have a feeling you’ll have no problem figuring things out. If I’m wrong, let me know and I’ll tell you how to work them later.

“Your rooms are all off the stairwell to the right. One room per floor and you’ll see your names already posted. The house elves assigned to the tower have already unpacked you and set up your rooms for your use, but if you can’t find something or have any issues with how things are arranged or the way it’s decorated, just call for them and they’ll be happy to help you out. Their names are Marie and Baxter.”

She paused for a moment to consider, then continued. “Dinner will be served here tonight,” she gestured at the large table in the center of the room, “and I’ll rejoin you here in the morning for breakfast and to go over the rest of the details of both the ritual and how the next little while will go. That said, do you have any questions tonight? Oh! I forgot to mention, but the top of your tower is a garden space.” She laughed at Neville’s immediate expression of interest. “Try to wait until the morning to explore, Neville, you’ll have plenty of time to do so. Anyway. Questions?”

Lavender looked around before turning back to Hogwarts. “I think we’re all a bit overwhelmed for now, but this space is amazing, I can’t wait to see my room and I know I’m going to sleep well tonight for the first time in ages because there’s now actually hope that I can do something about my problems. Thank you!”

Hogwarts quickly crossed over to her and pulled her into a hug. “Oh Lavender, thank you. Thank you all for believing in me and yourselves. This was a leap of faith and I will do everything I can to help you all fix what’s wrong in your lives.” She stepped back and smiled at the students standing around her. “Now you relax. I’ll have the elves bring dinner in a few minutes then get some sleep. Tomorrow will be a very busy day.”

They were all still for a moment after she left before Seamus broke the silence. “You know, while I’m curious about how much time we have and what we can do with the ritual, I think my brain would explode if I had to deal with any more information today. I don’t know about you, but I was so stressed on the train and once we got here trying to make sure I did everything right that I’m surprised I didn’t bloody well faint once the Lady showed up.”

Harry started laughing, though it probably wasn’t as funny he was acting. He was soon joined by the others though so he figured they were all just releasing the tension. Seamus winked at him when he looked over at him and all he could do was grin as he tried to catch his breath.

Justin looked like he was having similar problems and he staggered over to the table, pulled out a chair and collapsed into it, still chuckling weakly. “Oh, did I need that.”

“Me too,” Susan agreed, taking the seat next to him.

The rest of them followed suit, trusting that dinner would be coming soon and they could at least be ready for it.

A minute or two later, two house elves in uniforms similar to the one Jacks had worn earlier popped into the room. The one Harry figured was Marie based on the fact that her uniform had a skirt snapped her fingers and plates, glasses and utensils appeared on the table. Once she was done, Baxter snapped his fingers and platters of food appeared on the table.

“Thank you, Marie & Baxter. Should we send word once we’re done with dinner?” Lavender asked.

“No need, young lady,” Baxter replied with a bit of a bow. “We’ll check back later and clear the table. Call us if you need anything else in the meantime.”

Marie gave a bit of a curtsey before they both popped out again.

“Well, ladies first?” Draco offered, picking up the platter closest to him.

Susan shook her head, “I say serve yourself from what’s in front of you and pass it on. Though I appreciate the consideration.” She smiled a bit tiredly and reached to pick up the serving spoon in the bowl closest to herself.

The others followed her lead and they were soon eating hungrily. It was strangely quiet for the first meal back after break, but it hadn’t been a normal day and Harry knew he wasn’t up to small talk and it was still a bit awkward talking about anything too personal around the non-Gryffindors. Things had gone incredibly well so far, considering how contentious relationships between at least Gryffindor and Slytherin usually were, but he’d wait to see if it stayed that way. He didn’t plan to start anything himself and without Ron around to stir things up they’d probably be okay.

“Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think I’m ready to head up for the night. I’d like to see where I’ll be staying while I’m still awake enough to appreciate it,” Blaise said, pushing his empty plate slightly away from him.

Looking around the table, they all looked exhausted and Harry figured he looked the same. Most were nodding in agreement and they had soon pushed themselves from the table to head for the stairs.

Despite the height of the ceiling in the Common Room, there weren’t many stairs up to the first landing. There was only one door off it and it had Harry’s name beside it. He now remembered Hogwarts saying there was only one room per floor so the seemingly short number of stairs would be appreciated by the others who still had to go further up.

“Goodnight, guys,” Harry said as the others continued up, waving and calling back ‘good night’s to him too.

The door appeared locked when he first tried the knob, but he noticed that the door frame had similar carving to the picture frame they’d come in through and figured he’d try the same thing that worked for it. He found what looked to be the appropriate area of carving and placed his hand on it, once again feeling the prick and small jolt of electricity as a green light raced around the outline of his door. With a click the door opened.

First thoughts upon entering… There were none. He was in total shock. Lights flared up around the space illuminating what was certainly not the basic dorm room he was expecting or even something like the guest room the Dursleys had for Aunt Marge when she came to visit. This was a flat. An entire flat that had his name on it. He ducked his head out the door again just to check that his was the only one listed. It was.

He softly closed the door to his new home and leaned on it while gazing around. He could feel the grin stretching across his face and was suddenly feeling wide awake as he pushed away from the door and started wandering around the space.

He had his own corner fireplace and sitting area with a couch and a couple comfortable looking chairs. There was an area with a small table and two chairs and cabinets that looked like ones he’d see in a kitchen, though there were no actual appliances for cooking.

Through some glass double doors he found an amazing office / study space with loads of bookcases along three of the four walls, only broken by a massive window. His school books and writing supplies were already unpacked and stored in the room, though the bookshelves were otherwise rather empty. He’d have to fix that.

Down a short hallway was a door that lead into what he thought had to be called a ‘Master Suite’. There was an enormous walk in closet to the right through some sliding doors. Glancing inside showed the embarrassingly small amount of clothes he owned either hanging from the rack or in the drawers of the large chest of drawers. Immediately in front of him when he exited the closet was the largest bedroom he’d ever seen. His bed was in front of the window with nightstands to either side. There was a loveseat and end table in another area. The entire floor was covered in a thick rug.

The only other door in the room led to the bathroom. It had a large bathtub with what looked to be a similar number of taps as the one from the prefects’ bathroom. There was a walk in shower as well as the normal toilet and sink.

All in all, he was amazed at his new living arrangements. He couldn’t imagine what he’d want to change, but since he could, he’d consider what he’d like over the next couple of days and see what he came up with. But for now the adrenaline was wearing off and he was dragging as he got ready for bed. He had no idea what time it was – maybe adding a clock would be one of the changes he’d make – but he was ready for sleep. The morning would be here soon enough. He couldn’t wait.

-X-

“We discussed a number of important things yesterday, things that will certainly affect your time here and what you wish to accomplish during the time we have. What we haven’t yet touched on though is just how much time that will be.

“The beginning of the ritual is always on the first day of your 6th year, September 1st. The last day of the ritual is also always on the same day, the first day of your 6th year. If you checked the calendar, you would see that today is August 31st. You will continue to live through the days in reverse until the Winter Solstice. At that point time will revert to its normal direction and you’ll return to the time this all began.

“This gives you over 16 months to work with. There are limits, of course. While there are ways to access the ‘real world’ during this time, it’s obviously easier to do while we’re not going backwards. There are also limits to what we can access. The main contact is through Gringotts…”

“Gringotts?” Neville interrupted, blushing slightly. “I can see it being useful, very in fact, but I’m surprised they allowed it. How is that even possible?”

“It’s possible due to the ley lines I mentioned yesterday. Many people forget that the Founders weren’t just important because they created Hogwarts, they were involved in many other events in the wizarding world. One of which was coordinating the opening of the Diagon Alley location of Gringotts. Due to that relationship and the fact we’re connected by the ley lines we both sit over, we have a very unique opportunity to work with the Goblins during this time and, through them, with many other areas outside the bank.”

“Wizards don’t like to think about it, but Goblins have their hands into everything and they are loyal until you cross them,” Draco said. “And luckily, while they can hold grudges against families due to actions of some members, they shouldn’t have issues with any of us specifically due to our age. So I don’t have to worry about being treated badly due to my father’s actions.”

“Very true, Draco, and your relationship with me will help you even more,” Hogwarts explained. “There is an alliance between Hogwarts and Gringotts that many have forgotten. The last few Headmasters certainly haven’t been aware, nor have they cared to look to find it, but the Goblins haven’t forgotten. They just aren’t going to remind anyone who hasn’t made an effort.” She smirked a bit, “And it doesn’t help that they absolutely despise Dumbledore. He’s luckily they do business with him at all, though he does generally go through someone else when he needs things done.”

“Like when he had Hagrid pick up the stone out of the vault before our first year,” Harry asked.

Hogwarts groaned, “Don’t get me started on the stone and what that man was thinking when he brought it into this school! But yes, using someone like Hagrid, whom the Goblins have nothing against, to do business for him.”

“So what are our limitations when working with Gringotts? If they’re to be our intermediaries for this time, what can they do for us? Or, maybe the better question is what are they willing to do for us?” Blaise asked.

“Wait! Hold on, don’t answer that yet,” Lavender broke in. “I’m sorry, I need to take some notes and I didn’t think to bring anything down when we were just planning to meet for breakfast. Give me a minute to get something.” She started to push back from the table they’d all been sitting at since breakfast ended.

“No need. Marie?”

“Yes, Lady?” Marie popped into the room to the side of Hogwarts’ chair, doing her usual slight curtsey.

“Lavender needs some materials from her room, could you collect them for her?”

“Of course, Lady.” She looked over at Lavender.

“Oh, thank you! I have a blue journal and pen on my desk, if you could bring me those, I’d greatly appreciate it.”

“Actually,” Harry broke in, “I’d really appreciate it if you could bring me my school bag as well. It should have what I need in there already.”

She nodded and disappeared.

“You two are actually going to take notes?” Seamus teased.

“Humph! See if I let you borrow my notes in a month when you’ve forgotten all the details,” Harry joked.

“That’s okay, Lavender will let me copy hers. Right, Lav?” They laughed when she simply rolled her eyes at him.

Marie returned with their belongings and handed them off. Harry pulled out a pen and a notebook he’d been using over the summer to take notes on the ritual and turned to a new section.

“Okay, so you said that Gringotts will be able to do things for us outside of normal banking type things, but I have a number of banking questions as well, so hopefully that won’t be an issue. Do we send them a letter to let them know what we need? How do we communicate with them,” Harry asked.

“Quick questions, things that can be answered within a couple of hours can be done at any time by letter. Anything that takes longer than that will need to wait until the second half when we’re once again moving in parallel time streams. Also, during that period, in person meetings are possible from very specific locations. You can’t actually go to the bank, so you can’t visit your vault for example, but we do have a way to ‘overlap’ in a manner of speaking that does allow face to face interactions if they would be helpful.”

“And we can place orders for books or other items through them, for example, since we can’t leave?” Susan asked.

“Yes, they actually do that for some clients normally, though most don’t think to ask. In fact,” she paused, looking thoughtful, “I’ll request that they send over lists of what they do offer and the rates they change for those allied with Hogwarts and that will give you the chance to consider what you might request from them and when to do so. Jacks!” Seconds later the house elf silently arrived. “Thank you, Jacks. Could you bring me supplies so I can send a letter to the Goblins?” He nodded and popped away, returning fairly quickly with paper, pen and ink.

It took little time for Hogwarts to finish her letter. She folded it once the ink was dry and laid her hand over the outer flap for a minute. When she lifted it there was what looked to Harry like a purple wax seal, though he wasn’t close enough to see specifics.

“If you could see this gets to the Goblins immediately, I would appreciate it,” she said handing it to the elf.

“I will handle it immediately, Lady,” he said before bowing and disappearing from the room.

“There. I think you’ll all be surprised by the range of services they offer to those who know enough to ask.” She smirked.

“Would it be easier to hold off on the rest of our Gringotts related questions until after we get the list? No need to ask a bunch of questions if a number of them will be answered in a few hours if we just have a bit of patience.” Justin peered around the table where most were nodding in agreement.

“Okay, fine with me. We can revisit this topic later on in the week as needed. Now,” she said, smiling brightly and rubbing her hands together in what appeared to be glee, “for the next topic of discussion: health checkups!”

Harry groaned and mock glared at her when she laughed at him.

“No, really, it is the next step. It is the school’s responsibility to make sure you’re as healthy as possible while you’re here and that is even more important for anyone here in your situation. While we’re checking for things like illness, vitamin deficiencies, or anything else physical that might affect your ability to perform magic or learn, we’re also looking for things like your vision, Harry. While magic can’t fix everything, sometimes it can, so there may be a chance to fix your vision so you don’t need glasses anymore.

“Also, Neville mentioned memory modifications, magical blocks, emotional manipulations… those need to be fixed! It’s horrendous that they happened at all, worse that they were possibly done by someone connected with Hogwarts and I refuse to leave them be. So, a full magical workup will be done to see where the issues are. They’re not as straight forward to fix, but I have access to the best people there are and there’s been nothing yet they couldn’t correct. We do the assessment early on so we have the time and I can arrange additional help if it’s needed.”

Harry had already started his mental list of things he wanted checked out when he remembered that he had his notebook right there and started jotting down the mental list – fixing his vision, what’s up with the curse scar hurting all the time, is there any way to make him taller, did the Dursleys’ treatment of him mess anything else up… He noticed it had gotten quiet and looked up to see everyone watching him.

“Sorry, I didn’t want to forget my list. If I’m spending even more time in the infirmary, I want it to be worthwhile.” He shrugged and grinned.

“Don’t worry, I doubt Madam Currie has designated a bed for you quite yet, though depending on the length of your list, that may soon change.” Hogwarts smiled as she rose from the head of the table. “We can get a start on the assessments before lunch. If they run long we’ll complete them this afternoon and discuss them tomorrow.”

Harry and the others trailed behind her as they made their way down to the third floor. On the little bit of the castle they passed, Harry was surprised to see slight differences in where things were located from what he was used to. ‘I wonder if the Marauder’s Map will work here and, if so, if it can show me what’s different? Because I didn’t see the humpbacked witch in its usual spot. Though I guess that could be because we’re sorta stuck in the castle for the next sixteen months.’ Good thing he was used to not going places!

Madam Currie was obviously waiting for them. Harry’s first thought upon seeing her was how he was never going to get her confused with Madam Pomfrey. The next was that this was what Parvati would be aspiring to look like in a couple years, once she stopped trying so hard to look beautiful and just let it happen on its own.

“Come in, come in! I’ve been waiting for you all morning. I thought you’d gotten yourself lost on purpose to not come.”

“Never, Madam Currie, we simply had a lot to discuss and a lot of details to touch on first.”

They were all pointed to take a bed and were soon settled comfortably sitting to see what would happen next.

“The need the full work up, Madam Currie, as thorough as possible. We have proof that at least some of them have memory blocks or changes, blocks on their magic, spells to affect their emotional state and general health issues.”

“Dear Merlin! That’s horrible. We haven’t had a bunch that bad in centuries.”

“I know, but I’m counting on you to get them straightened out. I’ll leave you to it and let me know if I need to arrange for specialists to deal with anything you discover. It’s important to do this right.” She smiled at them all before leaving the room, shutting the double doors firmly behind her.

“Well,” Madam Currie said, “At least she didn’t lock us all in here. Now, I have your basic infirmary records already and have reviewed them, but what we’ll be doing now will be a much deeper scan. What we’ll start with is a general overview then we’ll go deeper where issues are found.” She moved to the potion closet and returned in a few minutes with a tray. There were eight vials filled with a red potion and a pile of parchment and quills.

She started handing out one of each. “I’m sure you thought you were done with the bloodletting once you got here, but you were wrong. At least you have lots of experience in safely drawing your own blood as you all need to add five drops of it to the vial. Swirl it around until the color changes, it’ll be somewhere in the blue to purple range. Dip the quill in it once. They’re clean, I promise,” she said and smiled at the face Susan made at that. “Set the quill on the parchment somewhere flat, you can use the bedside tables, then drink the potion.

“You may want to lay down for that as I don’t know how long it’ll take the potion to work and it can feel quite odd as it does so. Ignore the quill for now, but it will be documenting what it finds that we should look into fixing. It can be very picky, so don’t be concerned if the list is really long. The parchment will grow to fit.”

She gestured at them to get moving and Harry pulled out his wand to make a small cut in his finger. She was right. He’d gotten really good at this over the summer. He carefully dripped five drops of blood in before healing his cut. He swirled it about twelve times before the potion turned a deep navy blue color. Looking around the room, most appeared to have medium to dark shades of blue, though Justin’s was more on the purple side, maybe a deep plum? And Lavender’s, amusingly enough, looked like a darker shade of lavender.

Figuring he’d put it off long enough, Harry put his parchment on the table and dipped the quill into the vial. It soaked up a bit of the potion, causing the quill itself to take on the deep blue shade. He placed it on top of the parchment and got comfortable on the bed. Taking a deep breath, he tossed back the potion.

It wasn’t as horrible as he was expecting, not really having a flavor at all actually, but there was a full body shake afterwards like he’d had something incredibly sour. He put the vial down and slid down until he was lying flat and closed his eyes.

There was an uncomfortably warm sensation running throughout his body and he could feel twinges occurring occasionally as it moved. He thought he could hear the quill scratching, but refused to look. He didn’t need to know. Not yet at least.

Despite the slight discomfort, he was actually able to nod off for a bit until a sharp pain in his head had him bolting upright in the bed.

“Mr. Potter, are you all right?”

Harry looked up into the concerned face of the mediwitch. “My head. The scar. Sharp pain. Hurts.” He took sharp breaths between every other word, trying to speak past the pain.

“Oh dear. I can’t give you a pain potion during this, but let me see if I have anything else that might help.” She moved away from the bed while Harry continued to press on his forehead. The pain wasn’t as sharp now, but it had left behind a throbbing that was just as bad.

“Here you go.” She handed him a cool cloth that smelled of peppermint. “Put that on your head and lie back. Take deep breaths and try to relax. You’ve understandably tensed up and that’s not helping anything.” She looked over at the parchment. “I think you should be close to finished. If you’re not feeling better by then, I’ll be able to give you a headache potion.” She gently urged him back down and positioned the cloth where she wanted it.

Harry focused on taking deep breaths, enjoying the peppermint scent which was a nice change from the medicinal smells he usually was subject to while here. Slowly his muscles un-tensed and the throbbing in his head receded. It wasn’t completely gone, but it was much improved.

He was feeling quite lethargic when he finally heard Madam Currie tell them they were done for now.

“I’ll need to review these in more detail,” she explained as she silently summoned all the parchments from around the room. “You’re probably feeling rather tired now and you need to eat. Head back to your Common Room and I’ll have food sent to you. Relax this afternoon, explore the castle or go outside for a bit, or simply read something fun for a while. Whatever you do, don’t worry about these,” she said brandishing the papers she was holding in the air. “I’ll send an elf with a time to come discuss and it won’t be until tomorrow. So forget about them for now. Now, Mr. Potter, how is your head?”

“Hard,” he said grinning.

“I have heard that about you,” she responded as the others laughed. “Has the headache improved? Do you need something to help with the pain?”

He considered it for a bit before shaking his head. “I think it’s okay. If that’s not the case after lunch, I’ll send you a message?”

“That would be fine. Mr. Longbottom, how are you doing?”

Harry looked over to see that Neville looked like he’d had a serious nose bleed at some point while they’d been there. He was still looking rather pale, but nodded that he was fine.

“I’m okay, Madam Currie. The bleeding appears to have finally stopped.”

She walked over to peer at him closely and cast a quick spell to check something before giving a short nod. “You seem to be back to normal, but take it easy for the next couple hours. If you feel light headed or start bleeding again, contact me immediately. You should be fine though.

“Okay now, be off with you all. I have way too much work to be doing to be spending my time entertaining you lot.”

Harry carefully got to his feet and grabbed his bag, following behind the others as they walked out chatting. He caught up with Neville who was walking a bit slower than the others.

“Are you okay, Nev? I didn’t see what happened, but it looked like you were bleeding pretty badly there for a while.”

“I have no idea what happened, Harry. One moment I was lying there deciding what sorts of plants I want to add to my rooms, the next there was this horrible feeling of pressure then all of a sudden it feels like my face was covered in blood.” He shivered a bit. “I have to say, not a feeling I want to become familiar with. It took a while to get the bleeding stopped. I was feeling a bit light headed to begin with, but it’s better now. How’s your head? You gave us all a bit of a scare when you shot up like that. I don’t know how you didn’t scream, based on how inflamed the scar looked when you moved your hand. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it that bad.”

Harry gingerly felt his forehead and agreed that the scar did feel a bit more raised than normal. “I can imagine. I don’t know that it’s ever felt that bad before and it’s been pretty painful at times in the past. I really hope she can find a way to do something about it,” he said wistfully.

“I’m sure she will. Even if they have to call in someone to help. This is our second chance, Harry. We can’t fix everything wrong in our lives, but as much as we can fix will be. I already have a wish list and it’s only the beginning. I think we both are going to have to learn how to dream big here. We’re too used to being forgotten and overlooked in all the wrong ways.

“You’re right. It’s too easy to be overlooked. All they see is the image they want to see and it’s been easier for us both to not challenge that view. But part of taking control of our own lives will be acknowledging that we have to fight it. Make them see where they’re wrong and, more importantly, believe they’re wrong ourselves.”

“Well, that’s easy. And what will we do for the other fifteen and a half months?” Neville said sarcastically as they both laughed.

“Enough serious talk, you two,” Seamus popped up in front of them as they reached the entrance to their tower. “You’ve had a rough morning and need to eat.”

He tugged them into the room and pushed them into seats before settling down beside Harry.

Lavender smiled at them before calling for Marie. “We’re ready for lunch whenever it’s convenient.”

-X-

The afternoon was spent in the rooftop garden. They’d had to remind Neville of Madam Currie’s instructions on relaxing as he was immediately wanting to race all over looking at things.

To be fair, it was a pretty amazing place, even considering they were in a magic castle. The garden was as large as Harry’s flat and had a number of greenhouses along the one side while the rest of the area had various sitting areas and containers with plants growing out of them at sometimes odd angles.

Closest to the covered entrance to the space was a fire pit set up with comfortable seating that looked like it had been carved out of logs. It was surrounded by low growing bushes and flowering plants.

There was an area in the center of the roof with a series of benches that crisscrossed each other. It had containers around it with what looked to be various herbs and had overhead screens that could be moved to offer shade or not to wherever you might be sitting on the benches depending on what you wanted.

Other areas were scattered about that had seating for anywhere from two to four people, sometimes as many as six if you got cozy. They were all surrounded by different types of plants and Neville had pointed out a number of interesting specimens while they explored. Blaise, of all people, pointed out a number of plants that could be used when brewing potions and Lavender stepped in with the more medicinally oriented ones.

Harry pointed out the pretty ones and Seamus helpfully critiqued the arrangements of how they were planted – ‘Look how they artistically arranged this green plant here next to that green plant. And that lighter green one looks nice placed beside the variegated green one, though perhaps they might consider adding something in a nice darker green shade…’

Neville helpfully pushed him into a small fountain they found a little further in.

They made Neville promise to wait to explore the greenhouses at a later date. They reconvened at the fire pit, though it was warm enough a fire wasn’t needed, and took a seat.

“Dear Merlin, what have we gotten ourselves into,” Draco said with a sigh and a slight smile.

“Whatever it is, it’s not my fault,” Harry teased.

“Like I believe that, Potter,” Draco responded with a sneer as the others laughed. Harry just smiled.

“It’s a good question though,” Susan said, once they’d got the laughter under control. “This was definitely a whole ‘leap of faith’ thing we all did – very Gryffindor of us, wouldn’t you say?”

Blaise simply studied his nails and Draco rolled his eyes.

She smiled at them both. “Sometimes you just have to be brave and hope for the best. Based on what it looked like Madam Currie was finding, I think that alone would make all this worthwhile. I only got a brief glance at mine and didn’t understand all the terminology, but I saw quite a few things with the notation ‘memoria’ or ‘sensus’ which seems to me like someone’s been playing with my memories and emotions. I am not okay with that. I’m hormonal enough on my own without someone screwing around in my head or messing with how I feel about things.”

“Do you really think Dumbledore is behind all this,” Lavender asked, looking at Neville.

“I don’t know. I know he has to have done some of it based on what I found out this summer, but I have no idea if he’s been playing with only a couple of us or if it’s more wide spread. Or if maybe there’s more than one person doing this. And if there are, they have to be good because, Susan, your aunt runs the DMLE. If anyone should be able to figure out that there were spells being cast on you, it would be her so if she isn’t aware…”

“So what should we do about this? Do we just wait until Madam Currie figures out how to fix us?” Draco sounded a bit frustrated.

“Well,” Harry said thoughtfully, “while I can’t say I believe it, considering my experiences here the past five years, I’ve been told by many people that ‘Hogwarts is the safest place there is’ maybe even safer than Gringotts. Now some of that may be based on people’s impression of Dumbledore being this all powerful wizard, but some of it has to be based on the castle itself and the defenses it has. Its wards or something.

“Now you would think those would be set up to prevent someone, even the Headmaster, from altering people’s memories or casting spells to affect their emotions or magical abilities. Or, if they can, it has to be in very specific ways and situations. I suggest we try to figure out how this is being done. Partly to see how it happened and fix it, but also to figure out how to stop it happening again.”

“You’re right, Harry. If it was done to us once without us noticing it, there’s no reason it couldn’t be done again unless we figure out how it was done and make it so it’s no longer possible.” Seamus leaned forward in his seat, staring blindly out across the garden. “I’d think the wards should protect us, but it’s obvious they haven’t been. Who has the ability to change them or add to them? Can we do it? Can we get Hogwarts to do it, mention it over breakfast or something?”

“I’d think if she could do it herself, she already would have,” Lavender said sadly. “I can’t see her sitting back and letting things like Trolls and Basilisks run around the school freely.”

“Okay, so that’s what we can be working on while we’re getting fixed up. We can research the school, its history. How were the wards set up and who can make changes to them? What should they be able to protect us from? When, historically, does it seem like they changed? The Chamber was opened fifty years ago and the Basilisk killed a student. It seems like there were issues at that point already, and Dumbledore was here by then, though not Headmaster. Maybe he’s just taking advantage of something that someone else started.”

Lavender had pulled out her notebook again and had been quickly making a list as Draco spoke. “Do you think we’ll be able to find information on this in the Library? It seems like they’d have that sort of information hidden away where students couldn’t find it.”

“Hogwarts says she access to all sorts of things, I would think that should include the history of the school and how it was built. And information on wards can’t be difficult to get. I have a number of books myself, though they probably aren’t as in depth as we’ll need. Though,” he paused then smiled, “I bet Gringotts has some amazing information on wards. I doubt they’d give us anything on theirs, but in general, maybe.”

“Do we want to do this then? It would be something to do for now while we’re getting settled. It can’t hurt to know either and I’d think that the Founders’ work on building the castle would be fascinating.” Lavender flipped the page in her notebook and quickly started writing again. “Should we start in the library or talk to Hogwarts first?”

“Why not do both?” Justin shrugged. “There’s eight of us, we can try different approaches or different areas of research. Anyone have a preference?”

“I’d like to research the wards,” Lavender said eagerly.

“I’ll help,” Draco offered. “I can check the books I have as a start, but we’ll probably need more advanced texts than I’ve had access to so far. My father hasn’t been willing to let me into the parts of our library where there are books that I could use against him and Flourish and Blotts only carry a limited selection of some things.”

“I know, it’s very frustrating,” Lavender sighed.

“You should try used book stores or second hand shops,” Harry mentioned, brow furrowed slightly, “I’m pretty sure I’ve found some really interesting things there that you can’t get in normal stores.”

“Like what?”

“That… is a really good question and I don’t know why I can’t give you an answer.”

“Well, I think you mentioned something about an old potions journal in one of your letters last summer,” Seamus said after considering it. “And this summer there was something about… spell creation?”

“Yes,” Neville agreed, “You mentioned reading a book on the spell creation process and how to use arithmancy to predict what approach to take when developing them. I remember because you said you were going to send something to the twins about it to use in their shop.”

“I don’t remember that at all, Neville. Seriously, this summer? We’ve only been back a couple hours, and those were on the train, how could I not remember something I wrote to you guys about this summer?”

“Could something have been done on the train? We were thinking Hogwarts, but maybe it’s more widespread or starts earlier.”

“Or maybe it’s just me.”

“It’s not always about you, Potter,” Draco sighed.

Harry laughed. “No, there are many things in this world that have nothing to do with me, I agree, but how else would my memory of this summer be full of holes? I remember that I can find interesting books at junk stores, but not remember what they are or that I’ve had conversations with people about them? And I’ve apparently done it for at least the past two summers based on the letters I sent Seamus, yet no one ever says anything to me about them during the school year? It’s just a bit suspicious.”

“Well, based on that it really isn’t just you since Seamus and Neville appear to forget to mention your conversations during the school year as well.”

“True,” Harry conceded the point with a smile.

“So, Harry, do you think you still have the books? You could have something useful in there if you’ve been collecting odd finds.”

“Maybe,” he said a bit doubtfully. “I can’t imagine that I’d get rid of them, but I don’t know where I’d store them because I couldn’t leave them at the Dursleys’ and they didn’t seem to be in my trunk since I would’ve thought they would’ve been unpacked with the rest of my belongings.”

“You said you found a case for them,” Seamus trailed off, trying to remember what he’d read. “This is ridiculous! Baxter?”

A moment later a house elf Harry had yet to really speak to popped into the fire circle.

“Yes, young sir?”

“Hi, Baxter. I was wondering if you could bring me something from my office? It’s a dark blue letter organizer. I believe it’s in the top left drawer.”

“Right away, sir.”

He was back in a couple of minutes and, after handing over the organizer and asking if there was anything else he could bring them, he disappeared back to whatever he’d been doing before.

Seamus opened the organizer and expanded one of the sections within, flipping through a large stack of letters.

“Just how many letters have I sent you?”

Seamus was distracted, still trying to find a specific letter. “Oh, fifty or so over the past couple summers.”

“Fifty? I don’t remember that. At all. That’s creepy. Oh, not the letters,” he quickly clarified at Seamus’ hurt expression, “just that I can’t remember writing that many. Or receiving that many from you either. I know we’ve written each other via muggle post, but not to that extent or about anything too serious.”

“Do you remember getting letters from me then? Or Luna?” Neville looked at him curiously, mindlessly playing with a leaf he’d pulled from one of the nearby plants.

“I know we’ve exchanged letters, but I don’t remember a lot about them and I don’t remember ever hearing from Luna. I just met her really last year, in the DA, right?”

“No, not at all actually. We’ve been friends with Luna since our fourth year,” he said softly.

Harry closed his eyes tightly, feeling tears threaten.

“Found it!” Seamus was a welcome distraction. “You mention finding a boundless case that fits in the bottom of your trunk. It has been tuned to you and therefore can’t be seen or opened by anyone else. Which explains why it wouldn’t have been unpacked by the elves.”

“What exactly is a ‘boundless case’? I’ve never heard of one.”

“I have one myself, to hide my books from my parents. It’s basically a bottomless box that you can use for storage. They’re various sizes. It sounds like you have one that fits the dimensions of your trunk. They’re not actually ‘bottomless’, but they’ve been expanded greatly to allow storing lots of stuff in what appears to be a small space. Since it’s been tuned to you, you should be able to see it if you look in your trunk and it should open for you.”

“Thanks, Lavender. I appreciate the information. And thanks for checking for me, Seamus. I can’t wait until I find out what’s going on with my memory. Look, I think I’m going to go look for this case and see what I have in it. Depending on that, I’ll take looking into the history of the school, how it was created and how things have changed over the years. Does that work for everyone?”

No one disagreed, so he got to his feet to head back down to his room.

“I want to put this back in my room, do you want some company? I’ll even help shelve books if you have too many. As long as I can borrow anything really interesting.” Seamus grinned at him.

“Sure, I wouldn’t mind some company. You guys catch us up later at dinner, okay?”

With a final wave the two headed back to the stairs. They stopped off briefly to allow Seamus to return his letter organizer to his office, before continuing down to Harry’s room.

As they reached his door, Harry realized that this was the first time he’d ever been in a position to have a friend come over to his home for a visit. The fact that this really was a ‘home’ and not just a dorm room was slowly sinking in as well, leaving a lingering feeling of awe. He was getting excited at the thought of personalizing things. He’d never had the opportunity to before.

He opened the door wide and gestured Seamus inside. “Welcome to my home.”

-X-

Harry was a bit scared by just how many books he’d managed to acquire without remembering anything about it. Of the two and a half walls worth of bookshelves in his office, he had probably filled up the equivalent of a full wall and a quarter of another though he and Seamus had spread them out around the room to be better able to group things by subject matter.

“I think you’re going to have to change the name of this room from your office to your library,” Seamus grinned as he took another couple of books and added them to the history section.

“Maybe,” Harry said in a somewhat distracted tone of voice.

“You okay,” Seamus asked, turning to look at him in concern.

Harry snorted. Very rarely had his life been considered ‘okay’. “It’s odd. I don’t remember buying these books. I don’t remember reading them. But I can pick up a book, like this one, flip through it and remember that there was a really interesting section in it that talked about the interactive properties of the materials that make up your wand and certain potions and spells. It’s the main focus of why, historically, wizards and witches would learn to cast wandlessly. I remember thinking that this would be something that should come up in our classes at some point, but it never has.”

“I’ve never heard anything about that and I would’ve thought that the upper years at least would’ve mentioned it if they covered it in their classes.”

“I know. And there’s another one,” he paused while looking through the shelves with books on magical creatures. “Yes, this one!” He pulled a very old looking book from where it had been shelved. “This one, I remember, talks about the reality of ‘pure blood’ status in the magical world. How it’s not wizarding families that don’t intermarry with muggles or muggleborns, but those that are more closely aligned with magical creatures. Apparently magical creatures are pure magic, while witches and wizards are at most half breeds. So the more creature blood or gifts you possess, the more ‘pure’ you are.

“There was a thought actually that muggleborns were signs of a strong creature heritage surfacing and countering the human heritage to make that person a witch or wizard.” He put the book back on the shelf and ran his hand along the spines other books on the shelf, stopping on one further down. “This book, I think, countered some of those arguments, but did agree with the thought that the closer creature connection your family line had, the stronger your magic.”

“Wouldn’t that just cause the pure blood faction’s heads to explode? Having to be related or connected to a ‘creature’ to be considered a pure blood?” Seamus said in wonder. “Do you think it’s true?”

“Don’t know. I can’t remember if I’ve read anything else about it right now to support or contradict it. But I can see some truth in it. Consider house elves, for example. They have amazingly strong magic and don’t need wands to use it. They’re born with the ability to do magic and only get stronger with age. Have to say that they seem more powerful than wizards to me. Thankfully they don’t want to overtly take over because I think they could do it,” he said with a grin.

“That’s the truth. They already control most things as it is. There’s whole families that wouldn’t survive if they didn’t have elves taking care of everything for them.”

They both grinned at that thought and continued organizing and shelving the last of Harry’s books.

They finally finished and went to collapse in two of the comfortable reading chairs that had been placed near the window. Harry called for some drinks and they relaxed while they sipped their juice.

“So, you want some help researching the history of the school? I’d be happy to help you look into how the school was built. It would be amazing to figure out how they were able to incorporate the ley lines into the school’s development.”

“I need to see if I have any books on ley lines before I think I’ll be able to understand any of it. They haven’t covered that here and I only have a very basic understanding of what it even means. I have an image from muggle fantasy novels, but I have no idea what the magical reality of it is.” He shook his head in frustration before letting out a deep sigh. “But I’d appreciate help with the research. I’d like to ask Hogwarts if she has anything from the founders on it. Surely they wrote down their plans or had journals about what they were doing. If anyone would know what happened to them, Hogwarts would.”

“Makes sense to me. When are you going to talk to her?”

“Maybe this evening. I don’t know if she was going to join us for dinner tonight or not, but Marie or Baxter should be able to either get a message to her for us or tell us where we can find her ourselves.”

“Sounds good…”

He broke off as they heard a chime from the door.

“I have a doorbell?” Harry muttered as he gave Seamus a confused look before getting to his feet and heading to the door, Seamus close on his heels. He opened it to see another uniformed house elf standing there with a handful of envelopes.

“My apologies, Mr. Potter, for disturbing you. And you as well, Mr. Finnigan. I’m here to deliver your appointment information from Madam Currie.” He held out one envelope to Harry before flipping through the others, pulling one out and handing it to Seamus. “If you have any questions, please contact me. My name is Devan.” With a bow, he popped away.

Harry slowly shut the door, staring down at the envelope with a fair amount of dread. He felt Seamus gently take a hold of his arm and allowed himself to be led over to the couch.

“You want to open it now or wait until later?”

“I want to know what’s going on with me, but I dread finding out just how bad it is.” He sighed. “Well, not reading it isn’t going to help things and this is just the meeting to discuss what was found and figure out a plan to deal with it. This is the easy part.” He carefully ripped open the envelope and skimmed the text to see that he was due in the infirmary mid-morning the following day to go over his results.

He looked up to see that Seamus had opened his as well. “I’m to go mid-morning, what about you?”

“Just after lunch.”

He nodded, “Well, I’m going to obsess over this for the rest of the day if I don’t have something to distract myself. Want to go see if we can meet with Hogwarts and see what our research options really are?”

“Yeah, let’s go do that.”

-X-

It had been surprisingly easy to find Hogwarts and explain what they were hoping to find. She quickly agreed to find reference materials for them and have them delivered to their rooms to share. When she asked what brought on this interest, they mentioned some of the things they suspected were involved in the issues they’d all noticed with them and the school and how they were looking into various things that could play a role.

Hogwarts had considered for a while after they’d mentioned the topics they wanted to research, at least that had been mentioned before they’d left the group, and said she’d arrange to have additional references on those topics added to the bookshelves in the Common Room for them all to use. They’d spoken for a bit longer before she’d excused herself to take care of what she’d promised to do and said she wouldn’t see them until the following evening unless something came up.

They’d thanked her and wished her a good evening before heading back to their tower, taking a wandering path around the school which allowed them to see a number of areas that were different than they were used to. They noticed that the doors to the Great Hall were closed and locked. So was the one to Gryffindor Tower when they ventured up to the seventh floor to explore. It was odd, something to ask about later, but as they had the rest of the school to wander around in, it wasn’t a problem.

-X-

Considering what he had to look forward to the next day, Harry had slept pretty well. It was still a shock to wake up in his own space and he had a feeling it would be that way for quite a while. He decided to have breakfast in his room, knowing he’d just get nervous if they were all together discussing what they’d hear that day. At dinner the night before he’d learned that Lavender would be the first to meet with the mediwitch, followed by Justin, himself and Susan before lunch and Seamus, Neville, Draco and Blaise after lunch.

He’d just settled at the small table in his room when there was a knock on his door. Opening it, he found Seamus and Neville standing a bit uncertainly in the hall.

“We know you said you didn’t want to eat with the group this morning, but we didn’t really want to eat alone. Too much time to dwell on things,” Neville said. “Besides,” he took his hand out from behind his back, “housewarming gift!”

Harry laughed as he took the potted plant from Neville and bowed them into the room. “Welcome. Please, join me for breakfast.”

Baxter popped in as they entered, dropping off food and place settings for three before adding a third chair.

Harry waved them over to the table while he went to put the plant on the window sill. It was nice to have a bit of greenery there and with all the windows and light, he could probably add many more. Though maybe not as many as Neville would likely wind up with now that he didn’t have to worry about roommates experimenting on them.

Speaking of… “Have you guys done any decorating since we moved in?” He took the last seat at the table and started serving himself some breakfast. “I know we have free reign on what we do with our rooms, but I have to say I don’t even know where to start.”

“Well, paint’s an easy thing. You can change the color of the walls or the color of things like curtains. There’s no… stuff on the walls either. They probably have paintings or wall hangings, that sort of thing that you could hang around the place.” Neville suggested.

“We can also rearrange the space if you want things in different locations. I’ve been considering different seating, but I’m giving it a bit of time to see how I use things.” Seamus gestured around them, “I’m not really sure how to use this area as we don’t have a kitchen, but this seems to be set up for dining. It seems a bit of wasted space, but since we already have offices to work in, I don’t need to put that here.” He shrugged and picked up another bite of food.

They discussed how they might change the rooms around and make them more personal while finishing up their meal. Harry then took Neville in to see his library, in case he wanted to borrow anything, and to also show Seamus the books that had appeared in his room from Hogwarts.

Eventually the others decided to head back to their rooms since it was about time for Harry to head to the infirmary. Seamus had opted to not borrow anything right now as he had his own books to read, but Neville had picked out two of Harry’s that he thought would cover his research topic of place based mind altering spells. He also picked up a Herbology journal Harry had found for when he needed a break from more serious reading.

After they left Harry jotted down some notes about things he wanted to talk to the elves about concerning his rooms then grabbed his school bag. He checked to make sure he had his notebook and a pen to make notes for himself, then headed down to the Common Room to head out.

He saw Draco and Blaise at one of the corner tables playing chess and waved as he walked through, but didn’t stop to talk. He could feel the nerves twisting up his insides and wasn’t up to any additional conversation right now.

He didn’t pass Justin on the way over, so either there was a decent amount of time built in between the appointments or Justin hadn’t gone straight back to the tower when his ended. The double doors were standing open and he walked in hesitantly, looking around to see if anyone was inside.

There was no one obviously in the infirmary, but he could see the door to the mediwitch’s office was open so headed in that direction. He could see Madam Currie sitting behind her desk writing and knocked on the door frame to get her attention.

“Ah, Mr. Potter, right on time. Come on in and have a seat.” She got up from her desk and came around to a more casual seating area to the right of the door. She gave a wave of her hand as he entered and the door lightly closed behind him.

Madam Currie took a seat across from him and a tea tray appeared on the table between them, though neither made a move to pour themselves a cup.

“Do you want me to do this the nice way or the blunt way?” She asked, looking at him directly.

“Please, just tell me exactly what’s going on, no evasions, no half-truths.”

“Okay then, blunt way it is. Mr. Potter, you are a bloody mess. Someone’s been messing with your memories and emotions for years – the emotions since you would’ve started school here and your memories since you were quite young. You have a number of blocks on your magical abilities to the point where I’m shocked you’re even able to do magic or have the ability to complete your classwork. The treatment you’ve had with your relatives has left your body in a weakened state that will take a while to fix as it will have to be done in stages to not tax your body too much. And last, but certainly not least, you are still suffering from the remains of various curses put on you since probably the night of your parents’ death.”

She gave him a half smile before continuing, “Now, the good news. These are all things that can be fixed or corrected. They’re not going to be quick. Like the issues with your body, the issues with your magic, memories and emotions will have to be unwoven in a specific order and it’ll be tricky work. We’ll be unraveling a very large knot made up of many different threads. It’s difficult and time consuming, but I’m very good at much of the work that needs to be done and we’ll be calling in an expert to deal with the rest. While I won’t be giving you specifics, you aren’t the only one here with similar issues and we’ll be calling in a Goblin expert to help out with things. When they arrive, they will be with us until the end of your time here. It will be a rare opportunity for all of you as once they are done helping with the healing, they will be available to teach you about Goblin magical abilities. Now, I know that was a lot to dump on you so quickly, but you wanted blunt. Do you have any questions?”

Harry had been quickly jotting down notes on what she’d been saying, trying to make sure he got everything documented. “Thank you for giving it to me straight like that. How long do you expect the healing to take and when will you be starting? If there are eight of us with various issues, and only one of you, it seems like this could take a while.”

“Well, it will probably be a couple of months at least since you’ll need time to recover between a number of the procedures and I will be alternating you all in and out. Somethings, though, will only take a potion and some observation to make sure they’re going well, so I can help more than one of you at a time. As far as when we will begin… some things will begin tomorrow. In particular, you’ll be starting on a particular nasty tasting potion regime in the morning and you’ll be taking that for at least the next six months. We’ll see how things are going after that and adjust accordingly. That will help correct a number of the nutritional deficiencies you have that will allow me to do more wide spread healing. I think in about a month I’ll be able to correct your vision for you and you should grow a couple inches over the next year or so.

“The emotional manipulations will likely be the first we work on removing as they are most likely to affect you during this time as a number of them appear to be geared towards some of your fellow students. I’ll likely bring in most of you in a couple days for that and do it all at once.”

She leaned forward and poured a cup of tea, handing it towards him to fix how he liked before pouring another for herself and adding a lump of sugar and some lemon. “This will not be easy for you, Mr. Potter. Much of this process will be physically painful. A lot will likely be emotionally difficult as well. You’ll have to re-learn how to wield your magic, most likely, due to the blocks that were placed on you. Just remember that we are all here for you and will do our utmost to help you get through this and take back control of yourself and your life.”

Harry blinked back tears at that and simply nodded at her before taking a sip of his tea.

They sat there in silence while they both finished their cups then, when they were done Madam Currie sat hers back down on the tray and smiled brightly at him. “Well, unless you have more questions, you are now free to go. Please enjoy the last potion free afternoon you’ll have for months and expect your first treatment in the morning. I’ll send you a message when the next round of fun and games is scheduled to begin.”

Harry rolled his eyes at her and barely controlled the impulse to stick his tongue out though, judging by her laughter as he left, she was well aware of what he wanted to do.

-X-

The potions were every bit as bad as she’d said. Not that he’d disbelieved her, but so often people tried to play off just how bad medicines could be that it was actually a relief to have her be telling the horrible honest truth.

He also wasn’t the only one taking potions with breakfast, though he certainly had the others beat with the number he was taking and the amount of time he’d have to take them. He was such a lucky guy.

Harry sighed. Actually he was pretty lucky. He’d been going to Hogwarts for five years now and had spent more than his fair share of time in the infirmary and none of the medical issues had apparently been noticed. Or, if they had been noticed, nothing had been done to help him with them. All things considered, he couldn’t imagine why anyone in the medical field would be able to ignore problems like he had in one of their patients, but for now he would give Madam Pomfrey the benefit of the doubt that it wasn’t malicious on her part. It wasn’t easy though.

As he wasn’t due any other healing for a couple days, he’d set up in the Common Room to read through some of the books he’d been given and see what he could figure out about how the school had been built. He was starting with something he thought looked like a personal journal as it was hand written, but he was startled to realize that it appeared to have belonged to Salazar Slytherin. As far as he knew, nothing remained of his personal works, or surely someone would’ve brought them to light to counter the whole ‘heir of Slytherin’ nonsense Voldemort had been spouting.

Apparently it was some sort of magic Hogwarts had, but it was fascinating reading. The four Founders were more than simply four friends who wanted to start a school. They were considered the ruling council of the magical race, at least in Britain, which obviously led to the current reverence that they were held in, though the real reason behind it appeared to have been lost.

They’d wanted to use the castle as not only a school for their young, but also as a seat of power to guide and protect the magicals of their world. That was one of the reasons they’d chosen the location they did. The ley lines would allow them to connect with their people and better help them when needed. They planned to build a room in the heart of the castle to hold the magical controls for both the castle itself and the other areas under their control. With them set up, there should be more areas like Hogsmeade that were protected for magical beings to live in. The Forbidden Forest should be safe for all, not a haven for dangerous creatures.

The whole idea was fascinating to Harry and he couldn’t decide if the idea hadn’t actually been possible for them to accomplish or if somehow in the following hundreds of years, the controls had broken or been turned off somehow. Hopefully further in he’d find out which hypothesis was correct and, if they had been successful, he could figure out how to fix the controls or turn them back on again.

“Hi, Harry.”

He’d been so involved in his reading he hadn’t noticed the others had slowly joined him in the room, scattered around wherever they were most comfortable. Susan appeared to have been sharing a table with Justin and Seamus before venturing over to get his attention.

“Sorry, you startled me. How are you? Can I help you with something?”

Susan grinned and tipped her head back at her table where Seamus was watching them looking a bit unsure. “I’m good, thanks. I heard from Seamus that you had quite the collection of books and I was wondering if you had any magical law books that you wouldn’t mind me borrowing? I have a couple I got from my Aunt, but they’re all recent and I wanted some comparisons from older ones to see where different rules and such were introduced.”

“That’s fine, I think I have a couple you can take a look at, but why does Seamus look like I’m going to be upset about your asking me for books?”

“I think that’s carry over from another part of the conversation we were having, but possibly he thinks he shouldn’t have mentioned the possibility of someone outside of your roommates borrowing things?”

As he’d never really had things for others to borrow, he had never really had to think about it, but in this case, borrowing books to do research to help them all wasn’t a situation that he would get upset about.

“Well, at least for my books, I’m okay sharing. Do you want me to get them now or later?”

“Now would be great, if it’s not a problem. I’m pretty familiar with the ones I have.”

“No problem,” he said pushing to his feet. “I’ll run up now and get what I have.” He paused by the table she’d been sitting at and rested his hand on Seamus’ shoulder while looking at Justin. “I’m going to grab a couple books Susan needs. Are you looking for anything that I might have a copy of that I can get while I’m there? Seamus, you didn’t need anything before, but let me know if that changes.” He felt the shoulder under his hand relax a bit.

“No thanks, Harry,” Seamus said, looking up at him. “I got a number of interesting ones to go through for now, but we’ll have to catch up later on what we’re finding.”

He nodded in agreement before looking back at Justin in question.

“I’ll probably mainly be looking at the ones you let Susan borrow, but if you find anything specifically on magical creature rights, I’d love to take a look.”

“I’ll see what I can find.” With a light squeeze to Seamus’ shoulder he headed out of the room and upstairs.

He was happy he and Seamus had spent so much time sorting his books when they were unpacked as it made it easier to find a couple that looked like they could be interesting. He had a couple on magical law, though couldn’t remember anything about them as he flipped through them, so maybe they were more recent – after his brush with the Dementors last summer and the trial that had followed? He also had one or two on magical creatures and the sections on werewolves and house elves seemed somewhat familiar, so he probably had read them at some point, though he couldn’t remember the contents.

It was frustrating to realize that he should know these things, but not be able to remember anything about them. He was about to leave the office again, when a small section of books caught his attention. They were all on wizarding customs and what he would consider manners for various situations. On a whim he picked up one of them and took it as well. While it wasn’t quite light reading, it would be a nice break from the founding of Hogwarts and could be quite useful. Even more useful if he was allowed to remember the content after reading.

He returned to the Common Room and handed over the books he’d pulled for Susan and Justin before returning to his table. He settled down to read Slytherin’s journal for a while longer, taking copious notes on what they’d planned to do as well as what they’d actually done once they got started. It was fascinating, but after a while he felt his head would explode from trying to understand all the concepts he was reading about. He had a separate list of topics he wanted to look into and planned to talk to Hogwarts about more supplemental reading in the near future.

He packed away his books and notes and settled back to read the book on Wizarding customs. He got through the first chapter before he frowned, pulled out a new notebook, then flipped back to the beginning of the chapter again. This time as he read, he started making notes on things he was reading.

At the end of the first chapter, he glanced up and around the room finally spying Draco sharing a couch with Blaise. Both appeared to have been reading, though they were quietly talking now, books lying face down on their laps.

“Draco?”

He looked over, a confused expression on his face at being called. “Yes, P… Harry?”

“If you have some time later on, could I ask you some questions about something I’m reading?”

“Aren’t you looking into the founding of Hogwarts? I’m not really an expert on…”

“I am, but that’s not what I have questions about. I’m taking a break and was reading a wizarding customs book and I’m a bit confused about some of the things I’m reading about. You seemed like a good person to ask about things.”

Some of the confusion on Draco’s face cleared, though he still seemed confused about why Harry would be asking him about anything. “My schedule’s rather free this evening if you’d like to talk after dinner?” He suggested a bit hesitantly.

“That would be fine. Thanks!” Harry smiled at him, causing his confusion to increase again, though he tentatively smiled back before returning to his conversation with Blaise.

Ignoring the questioning looks from the others in the room, Harry turned back to his book and started on the next chapter. He was sure by that evening he’d have all sorts of things he wanted to check on with Draco.

-X-

After dinner Harry and Draco sat down together in the Common Room to go over the questions Harry had come up with as he read the first couple chapters of his book. As none of this had ever been mentioned to him while he’d been going to Hogwarts, he wasn’t sure how much was still accurate and what was something he should be concerned with remembering.

“So, wizarding customs? I figured most questions like that would’ve been answered first year during the intro meetings we all have. They generally cover a mini ‘wizard studies’ class and review manners and customs and…” He paused, finally noticing the look of shock on Harry’s face.

“Intro meetings?” Harry questioned. He turned to look at the other Gryffindors seated around the room. “Guys, were there wizarding introduction meetings our first year?”

“I think Dean got an invite to something early on, but I don’t know what. I actually got the impression it was related to getting a checkup in the infirmary though, so probably not.”

“I don’t remember anything either, Harry. But Gran did ask about it. When I said we hadn’t had anything she sent me a bunch of information she said I’d need, but most of it was stuff she’d already reviewed with me so I ignored it.”

“Lavender?”

“Parvati never mentioned anything and Hermione was so standoffish those first couple of months that I’d have no idea what she was up to. Anytime she wasn’t in the dorm or the Common Room I assumed she was in the Library if we weren’t in class.”

“Good point. How about the Hufflepuffs, Susan? Justin? Did you guys have these classes or meetings or whatever they are?”

Justin looked over at Susan before turning back to Harry, “Yes, the first couple Saturday afternoons, Professor Sprout had all the first years and any of the upper years who wanted a refresher together in the Common Room to review what she called basic information for getting along with other wizards. Manners, customs, general information that it’s assumed that all wizardborn students would’ve grown up knowing.”

“So was it just our year of Gryffindors that didn’t get this information or did Professor McGonagall not tell any of our house about this stuff? Have we all got a bad reputation with the rest of the school because we don’t know any better? Or at least the muggle raised students? Neville, you said this was stuff your Gran had taught you, is that just something she’d do or is it stuff that would really be known by everyone raised in the wizarding world?”

“I don’t know, Harry. My Gran’s a bit obsessive because I’ll be head of our house when I turn seventeen. I’m going to have to know how to act when I’m in the Wizengamot or handing our family’s estate. But to an extent, it should be something everyone knows about because they’re based on our history. There are reasons why we do things the way we do or act in a certain manner. That’s not to say that they haven’t changed over the years and the meaning might not be the same anymore, but it still means something.”

“And it’s really disturbing that you haven’t been taught any of this, Harry,” Draco broke in. “How are you expecting to handle your family’s estate if you’ve had no training?”

The thought of that startled Harry into laughter. “My estate? What estate? I have a trust fund and my family consists of three muggles that hate me and everything I stand for. Do you think I dress the way I do because I’m just stingy with my money? No, I dress this way because these are all the clothes I have because they’re all my Aunt and Uncle were willing to provide me with. There’s no ‘Potter Estate’ that I’m just modestly not mentioning to keep anyone from getting jealous of my oh so wonderful life. I have nothing!” Harry was breathing heavily when he finished. He closed his eyes and rubbed his face with his hands, trying to ignore the silence that was the result of his rather hysterical outburst.

He felt someone sit down beside him on the sofa and gently place their hand on his arm. “Um, Harry…” He recognized Seamus’ voice but refused to lower his hands because now the embarrassment had set in and he didn’t want to face any one.

“The thing is, even I know there’s a Potter estate and I’ve mainly lived in the muggle world since my dad’s muggle. I’ll admit it’s not common knowledge who you live with, but it has been thought odd that you dress the way you do considering that you’ll be able to take over as Lord Potter when you come of age.” Seamus was talking softly, but Harry knew everyone in the room could hear him. He was also trying to get Harry to lower his hands and finally he gave in, though he kept his eyes closed as he leaned his head back against the back of the sofa.

He heard someone else move in front of him then heard Neville’s voice, much closer than it had been before. “Harry, that you don’t know this, that your family history has been purposefully kept from you is BIG. You should’ve been contacted by Gringotts about this ages ago. You also should’ve heard,” he paused slightly before continuing on, “I’m sure Sirius had a will, Harry, and you should’ve heard about that this summer. There’s something really wrong that nothing’s been said to you about the Potter lordship and possibly the Black one as well. They were also an Ancient and Noble house.

“With the way time works for us currently, I don’t know if we can do anything about this now, or should do anything yet, but come December, I think you need to have some serious discussions with someone trustworthy at Gringotts. Either they’re not being allowed to contact you for some reason, or you’re being betrayed by your account manager. Neither is acceptable.”

“In the meantime though, we can get you up to speed on all of that. Everything you’ll need to know to successfully be able to succeed in that world.” Draco promised. “And if the other Gryffindors,” he said nodding to the other three, “or even Susan and Justin, want to join in or participate, they would be welcome. It can’t hurt to know how to play the game even if you’re generally a Reserve player.” He smirked.

Harry was still reeling at the thought of the possibility of two lordships, but managed to nod and smile in agreement to Draco’s offer while the others were quick to accept as well. Conversation stalled a bit after that and Harry excused himself to return to his room. He’d had about as much excitement as he could take for the evening.

-X-

The next couple weeks followed a similar pattern. Every couple of days Harry would spend anywhere from an hour to a half a day in the infirmary having Madam Currie do work on him to correct the issues he had with his health as well as some of the more minor ones affecting his magic or memories. There had only been one session dealing with the effects on his emotions and that was one they’d all had together early on.

At the end of their first week, they’d all been called to the infirmary, given a potion to take, then put to sleep for a while for it to take effect. That was able to clear out the minor spells that they believed were influenced by Hogwarts or possibly the Express itself to cause disagreements between the houses and cause dislike or distrust. She felt that the Express’ spells must be rather weak and the main ones in the school and since they’d barely returned before this, they hadn’t had a chance to sink in again. They’d been able to get along as well as they had been simply because they were able to fight off the effects once they were away from the school and the spells’ influence. Then they’d get on the train at the end of summer and start to be influenced all over again.

Harry actually felt that most of the issues on the Express with Draco were simply due to the fact that he just truly hated Ron and that hatred was mutual.

Other than the regular intervals of nasty tasting potions and spells to strengthen his body enough to make it safe to do more advanced healing, they all spent a lot of time researching. Harry had become fascinated with the control room Salazar had mentioned in his original journal and was making his way through everything he could get his hands on relating to it. He’d tried asking Hogwarts about it, but she seemed unable to discuss it, so he let the matter drop for now.

He and Seamus were trading off books and keeping a list of clues as to where it might be located and how it might be accessed. Then there was another batch of notes on how they thought it could be controlled. They’d consulted with Lavender and Draco, who were researching wards in general and specifically what types Hogwarts has, or maybe should have, to see how they would be implemented. Were there signs they could be looking for?

Despite having supposedly only minor work done by Madam Currie, Harry was finding that he was often incredibly exhausted. She explained that it would get better, but for now he was just going to have to deal with it as his body was trying to make up for almost fifteen years of near neglect and that could take a lot out of a guy.

So, while attempting to be understanding of his limitations, he spent even more time reading when he was sick of research. He’d often hang out on the roof garden, either in one of the more open areas when he was feeling more social, or in one of the smaller sitting areas he’d found when he wanted a bit more privacy.

Neville would join him on occasion, distract him with what he was doing in the greenhouses, and ask him questions about what he was reading now. Or see if he was interested in another plant for his room. He had said yes a number of times now and had a few plants in every room at this point.

Seamus would stop by as well. Make sure he was feeling okay, tell him stories about what the others had gotten up to while he was otherwise occupied. Sometimes he would just bring his own book and they’d sit quietly and read for an afternoon.

They were still waiting for the Goblin specialist to arrive, though they’d been told by Hogwarts that, based on her conversations with Madam Currie, it would probably be about two more weeks before it would do them any good for him to show up.

Harry thought it was a bit suspicious that it was taking so long to help the others when he was sure they didn’t have as extensive of health issues to deal with as he did. He brought it up one time when they were all in for a checkup and was told that yes, he was indeed the most messed up of the bunch, but she’d decided that like things should be fixed at the same time as much as possible. It could cause more problems if one person’s memories were fixed while another’s weren’t as they might be about the same topic and she was trying to avoid that. Such as Harry not being able to remember books that he’d read, but that Neville and Seamus remembered receiving mail from him about. That was frustrating enough, and it was a relatively small issue.

“Be patient, Mr. Potter, I do know what I’m doing and there is a plan for how this is going. That being said, if any of you have concerns, please feel free to bring them to me. I’ll do my best to explain the reasoning behind what I’m doing. If there is a legitimate reason to change things though, I will be happy to do so.”

“I apologize, Madam Currie. I have a possibly understandable distrust of authority figures, but you’ve given me no reason to feel you’re keeping things from me that I need to know. I’m sorry I’m taking my anger at others out on you.”

She snorted, “That was rather minor. Surely you could do better than that if you were truly angry with me. While I don’t agree that you should be abusive about it, anyone who is in charge of making sure you are healthy should be willing to listen to your concerns and respond to them honestly. I’m sorry that you haven’t had that before now. Once you’re back, I’ll give you a list of things to look for in a Healer and I suggest you go that route in the future, instead of dealing with the school’s mediwitch.”

“What’s the difference between a Healer and a Mediwitch? Aren’t they both like muggle doctors?”

“No, not at all. Mediwitch level training is for general medical problems. They know a lot about lower level issues that people may have. That’s what makes them perfect for things like schools because generally you’re not going to be dealing with major problems, but things like broken bones or colds. Anything more serious than that should be referred to a Healer. Healers can treat the basic things, but have also had much more training in more serious issues like spell damage and the few diseases that can affect magicals.”

“So are you a Healer or a Mediwitch? I know Madam Pomfrey is a mediwitch and I’ve been assuming you are as well.”

“I am a Healer. Back when the school began, that’s what the Founders wanted to have in the school. Considering the society of the time, when they were in school was the main time most students had access to healing so there was often older injuries or illnesses that needed to be corrected. Sometimes even parents or family members not currently enrolled would come for healing so they needed someone as trained as they could be to deal with all of that.”

“Are you saying,” Lavender broke in, “that you’re the Healer from when the Founders started the school?” They were all looking quite shocked at that thought.

“Yes and no. I’m obviously not the person they hired as she would be long dead, and is. What I am though is an imprint of her that, like the representation of Hogwarts you have been interacting with while here, is able to take physical form when we have people inhabiting the castle for this ritual. I continue to learn from modern developments in healing because of our connection to the ley lines, so I’m always able to help those that come here.”

“That’s bloody amazing,” Seamus said softly.

“I’ve always been amazing, Mr. Finnigan,” she replied, winking at him and causing his cheeks to turn a bit pink and the others to laugh.

“So why don’t we have a Healer here now? We’ve had some very serious accidents in the school, just while we’ve been here, so I have to imagine there’ve been ones before now too. And the current Headmaster, at least, doesn’t seem to be willing to call in St. Mungo’s when we have problems that Madam Pomfrey isn’t qualified for.”

“Years ago, it was decided that the school no longer needed a full Healer on staff as student now had regular access to them at home. They could save money by having a Mediwitch on staff and only call in a Healer when the situation arose that they were needed, as it wasn’t very often.”

“But, the school was set up to require a Healer be on staff, not a Mediwitch, correct?”

“Yes, Mr. Potter. It’s listed in the Charter of the school.”

“So who would have the ability to make that change?”

“I believe it was a joint decision of the School Governors and the Headmaster of the time. As there were no acknowledged Founders Heirs around, they had control of the school and would make changes to suit themselves.”

“Acknowledged heirs? What makes an heir ‘acknowledged’? Voldemort calls himself the Heir of Slytherin, but if he had some control, or way to take control, over Hogwarts I’m sure he would’ve done so by now.”

“You must be an acknowledged heir for a number of things in the magical world. Things like being Lord of a family. Many people can be heirs, but you have to be the acknowledged one in order to become Lord or Lady. For Hogwarts as well, there are probably hundreds if not thousands of people out in the world that can prove they descended from one of the four Founders, but that’s not all it takes. Magic herself makes that judgement, but she has to be petitioned in this case.

“While with lordships, the magic has been built in, so to speak, to the process and it can be controlled to an extent by the will of the family and birth order and who knows what else the family has decided is important for their head to be able to do. With control of Hogwarts, you have to share the bloodline, but you also have to fulfill certain characteristics that the Founders agreed upon, before you can take control.

“Due to the status of the Founders though, many didn’t want that widely known and after their deaths the knowledge of who had the ability to step into those positions was lost. Because of that only rarely were acknowledged heirs able to come into being as they often didn’t know what they were doing when they made their petition and then didn’t understand the power they had after they were answered.”

“Could the Founders’ Heirs fix the issues with the school and the wards and all the other stuff that’s wrong? Well, and make it stick because you know the Ministry isn’t going to be pleased with any changes and even a lot of the current professors probably wouldn’t be happy,” Susan asked.

“Yes, they really could. The Founders had a great deal of control over the magical world. It’s only with their deaths and the knowledge of the heirs that the current Ministry has taken over. Basically the Founders were the rulers of our world and the Ministry is the steward in charge until the Heirs’ return. They probably don’t know it though as that history has been hidden or lost, but Magic herself would support them.”

They’d been sitting around the infirmary for a while now after the latest healing session and it had been long enough that elves had unobtrusively popped in a while back to deliver lunch that they all ate while sitting on the various beds they’d been assigned to when they arrived. Madam Currie had conjured a chair for herself to sit in, once it became obvious that this wasn’t to be a quick conversation, but she also looked quite willing to continue it as long as they wanted.

They’d finally finished eating and their plates and utensils had disappeared again while Lavender had returned to taking notes that she’d had to pause while trying to eat.

“So,” she said, reading back over some of what she’d written, “how do we find out who these acknowledged heirs actually are? Can we petition magic for them or do they have to do it themselves? Though I guess,” she said thoughtfully, “it would be better for them to know what’s going on based on what you said about those that accidently got the position in the past and then didn’t realize what they were. I can see that could lead to some really horrible things for the magical world.”

“And it did. Thankfully Magic realized what was happening and their heir status was revoked before too much damage was done.” She looked at them for a bit, a strange smile on her face, before she continued. “I would suggest that you begin by finding out who the current potential Heirs are. Depending on that, then you can decide if you should contact them in advance or simply petition magic on their behalf and see how it goes. Though I believe that knowing what you’re getting yourself into is better than just blindly jumping in, no matter how good of a Healer you have on your side to pick up the pieces.”

“The problem is finding out who the heirs are then. No one really seems to know for sure, other than by family legends, because no one’s family tree seems to either go back that far or show the name of a Founder. My father said that the Dark Lord was very displeased to find this out as he wanted to be able to show the world that he truly was the Heir of Salazar Slytherin, but it wasn’t possible. It’s his ability to speak Parseltongue that is considered his proof, though outside of Britain that’s a far more common ability and surely not all of the speakers are descendants?”

“Why couldn’t they be? They may not share a close connection, but they could still be of his blood. But the easiest way to know about heirs would be to check their family trees. Before you tell me that they don’t exist, let me tell you they do, though they were hidden away many, many years ago when it was found that they couldn’t be destroyed. In fact you’d have to destroy the castle before that would be possible.

“A former headmaster who wanted to keep control of the school hid them when he noticed that there were a couple potential Heirs starting classes that year. He found a hidden area in the castle and locked them away.” She smirked at them. “Unfortunately for him, a number of the modifications that are made out there, aren’t mirrored here, so you should be able to find them in the Receiving Hall on the first floor.”

“What ‘receiving hall’? You mean the Great Hall? It’s locked, Harry and I tried to get into it not long after we got here.” Seamus said looking at Harry for agreement.

“No, not the Great Hall. The Receiving Hall is to the left of the Entry Hall. It was where the Founders met with those outside the castle who had questions or issues and wanted to petition them for assistance.”

“Well, there’s a sitting room or something like it that appeared once we arrived, but I don’t remember another door…” Susan’s voice trailed off and you could almost see her imagining the layout of the Entry area and trying to figure out where another room could be.

“Take a look later on then, see if you can find it now that you know it’s there. While the family trees weren’t hidden here, some of the work put into hiding them did bleed through, but you shouldn’t have trouble figuring things out once you try to.

“Now,” she said getting to her feet, chair disappearing as she stood, “I think you’ve spent way too much time here today considering you’re not actually required to be here. So, get out. The goblin healer should be here next week and at that point most of you will be spending way more time here than you’d probably like, so enjoying it while you can.”

They gathered up their belongings and headed for the door. Harry could swear that he felt something like wind pushing him gently in the back to get him moving and the doors to the infirmary closed securely after the last one exited.

“Should we go look now,” Justin asked as they reached the grand staircase and could either head up to their tower or down to the Entry Hall.

“There’s no reason not to,” Neville said slowly, “but I have to say that I really want to wait. Not long, but just a little longer. I can’t tell you why, because I’m really interested in seeing them – who wouldn’t be! But…”

Blaise reached out and lightly gripped his shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, Neville. It’s waited this long and can wait another day or two. No one here will really die of suspense, no matter what they might have you believe.” He stared at Neville calmly until he looked up and nodded in agreement.

“Okay then, let’s head back to the tower for a while. Just to be different, I’ve decided to do a bit of reading this afternoon,” Harry said sarcastically as he headed up the flight of stairs.

“And how is that different than, say, yesterday afternoon?” Lavender asked with a smile.

“Because today I plan to read about Gringotts and the goblins. I haven’t really had a chance to read the information Hogwarts got us on the offered services and I’d also like to brush up on how to interact with goblins so I don’t inadvertently insult them in some manner. They might be willing to be helpful because of our relationship to Hogwarts, but I don’t want to mess that up by doing something foolish. Hi, Myrddin,” he called as they approached the door to their tower.

“Hello, young man. I was expecting you back some time ago. Did the healing not progress as expected?”

“No, the healing went fine, we just stayed originally so Harry could apologize for being Harry,” Lavender laughed as Harry poked her. “We stayed late though as we got to talking about the Founders and their Heirs and how all that affects the school and the wizarding world. It was a very interesting conversation, but eventually Madam Currie kicked us out.”

“Later we’re going to go looking for the Founders’ Family Trees. She mentioned that they’re in something called the Receiving Room, but we don’t remember seeing such a room where she says it’s located.”

Myrddin’s expression twitched into a brief smile before reverting to its normal rather calm expression. “Well maybe when you try next time you’ll just find you weren’t looking right.” With that the door clicked open and he returned to whatever it was that he was constantly writing on.

Harry shrugged and pulled the door fully open and led the way inside.

-X-

“The thing you have to remember about goblins is that it all comes down to respect with them. They respect those with money and power, but it will not matter how rich or powerful you are if you disrespect them. They may still do business with you, because they have to, but they won’t go out of their way to be helpful and will more likely do what they can to make anything you need done more difficult or costly for you.” Draco looked around the fire pit where they’d retired to after dinner, a small fire glowing enough to give them light to see each other but not too much in the warm summer evening, to be sure no one had questions yet.

Seeing none, he continued. “Ragnok is the current Lord of Gringotts. He runs the bank and rules those that work within it. He fought his way into the position and will be very harsh on anyone he finds doing anything to tarnish the reputation of the bank. While with human employees that could mean being fired, fined or imprisoned; for goblins that could also include being put to death if the infraction is serious enough.

“Goblins do not like the usual wizarding attitude of treating them like particularly intelligent animals. They expect to be treated like the business owners and employees they are. Speak to them politely, show them the respect that you would expect them to treat you with, and they will do the same.”

“I’m not trying to be rude with this question, because I really do appreciate your going over this for me and the others, but how do you know this is true?” Harry didn’t think Draco would purposefully give them false information, but he’d already inferred that his father was on shaky ground with the Goblins, so where, or who, would he have learned this from?

“You’re not the only one who reads, Harry,” he replied, the tips of his ears turning slightly pink. “I also talk to people. I’ve had numerous conversations with Professor Flitwick about Goblin society and I’ve asked questions of the Malfoy account manager when my father wasn’t around or paying attention. My interest in being polite and doing things correctly has meant that they’ve been willing to explain their culture and how best to interact with them. My father doesn’t know that I’ve been doing this, though he has noticed that they appear to like me better so on occasion he’s used me for errands.”

“I don’t doubt you, Draco, I just wondered where you’d learned this as the only thing we seem to hear about in school are the various Goblin rebellions. Now,” he glanced down at the notes he’d made from his previous reading, “does everyone have an account manager, or is that just larger customers, people with lots of money?”

“You generally only have an assigned, dedicated account manager if you’re considered an important customer. That translates to you having a lot of money. You may have an assigned, shared account manager if you are relatively important and have a decent level of money. Otherwise, if you need the services provided by an account manager, you will use whomever is available when you go to the bank.”

“So Potter and Black likely have their own account managers?” At Draco’s nod, he noted that and went on. “There were quite a few items listed on the Gringotts list of services that I wouldn’t normally associate with a bank: coordinating the buying or building of homes, warding services, personal shopper, mail routing, staff hiring… the list is surprisingly long. They offer these services, but do they really want to do them? They’re a bank.”

“Yes, they’re a bank, but that’s not all they are, though that’s mainly what the wizarding world knows them as now. Those customers that are aware of the additional services offered don’t tend to spread the word. It’s really kept a secret. Would the Goblins like doing such things for everyone? Despite the money it would bring in, probably not. And the prices would go up to price certain customers out of using them. But despite that, they are the best at what they do. Goblins are amazing builders and their wards are nearly impossible to get past. They can ensure the security and safety of your mail delivery and make sure anyone you employ is a qualified and decent person. They don’t offer to do anything that they can’t do as well or much better than anyone else, so if you can afford to go that route, it’s generally best to do so.”

“Wow, I would’ve never guessed. I guess I need to start my list as there’s a number of things I’d like to look into, especially the mail routing. I’m tired of people sending me howlers and things directly.”

“I think Gran went to them to update the warding at home a couple years ago. I know the work was done, but it was while I was at school, so she didn’t give me the details.”

“Father doesn’t want them near ours as he knows they wouldn’t agree with what he’s done with them,” Draco sneered. “I plan to use them for my home when I have the chance.”

“Do you think they worked on the wards here,” Lavender asked. “Is that why we’re not having much luck finding out how the Founders set things up?”

“Maybe…” Draco said slowly, considering the thought. “Didn’t Hogwarts mention that the Founders had been instrumental in the Goblins setting up the original bank in Diagon Alley? Maybe as part of that they had them set the wards here as well. They would’ve still had to leave a way for the Founders to work with them, but they might still have documentation on what they did and how to use it. I certainly think we should ask.”

“It would be helpful it they did because I’m not finding anything in the journals so far. That’s not to say it’s not there, but it would make it faster.”

“Agreed. It should be on the list of things to ask about.”

Lavender nodded and made a note in her master list of topics and questions. As they’d met over the weeks to review what they were finding and refine their topics to look into, it had been growing.

“Have you guys noticed that there are times when Hogwarts isn’t able to answer our questions?” Susan had been mostly quiet during the Goblin and Gringotts conversation and Harry had almost forgotten that she and Justin were sitting in one of the window seats, partly hidden by the curtains. “I was asking her about… I think it was classes available for students to take, or something like that. It was around requirements for certain types of jobs. Anyway, she got sort of confused like and just said that all the courses offered were in the student handbook, as defined in the school Charter.”

“We have a handbook?” Seamus looked confused.

“Not that I’m aware of. I’ve never been given one or heard any of the older students mention it. It’d be nice to have a handbook that listed classes though, and maybe what they would cover and course objectives.” Blaise stared off into space, considering. “Why were you asking about job requirements?”

“Because we’re finding in the laws we’ve been looking into that hiring requirements have changed a lot over the past 50 to 100 years and it would seem to be based on the declining abilities of the potential applicants. Either we’re not smart enough to do the job, or we don’t have the skills to. If it’s skills, then shouldn’t our school be teaching those?”

“That makes sense. Do you think we can find a copy of the Charter somewhere?”

Susan sighed, rubbing the back of her neck with her hand and leaning into Justin a bit. “I hope so, but it won’t be by asking Hogwarts. I already tried. She just said that it could only be provided by formal request and then couldn’t tell me what the request process was without referencing the Charter itself. There’s something odd going on with her when it comes to some things related to the running of the school.”

“We’ve been thinking the problems Madam Currie found with us were due to spells cast on us or the areas we live in that then affect us when we’re around them. Maybe there’s something larger going on here. Something that has truly changed the way the school works. Broken it in some way. While the Hogwarts we’re dealing with here was created by the Founders, when things were working the way they should, but a lot of time has passed since then and who knows what the various Headmasters might have done to corrupt the running of things either on purpose or by accident.”

“Can we trust her then?”

“I think we can trust her to do what she can to help us and I don’t think she’d lie to us, but I think if we come across something that’s gotten damaged, she’ll evade the question or give us some sort of recursive answer that won’t really tell us anything. Madam Currie doesn’t appear to have the same issue, so she may be better able to answer some of our questions.”

“I think our top three questions or issues for now are, one, to figure out just who the potential acknowledged heirs could be,” Lavender summarized, “two, to see if we can find a copy of the original school charter as agreed by the founders and, three, to see if the Goblins have any documentation on how the wards were created for the school and how they’re controlled. Are we all agreed?”

There were nods all around and Lavender smiled in pleasure at having a plan.

“Can we go through Hogwarts to ask the Goblins those questions now, or do we have to wait until after the solstice to get answers? I’d prefer not to have to wait,” Susan asked.

“I think we can still use her to help us contact them, though maybe we’re a bit vague about what we’re asking about. Or maybe we can ask the house elves? She generally gives things to Jacks and asks him to send it to the Goblins, can he figure out how best to do that with our questions too?”

“Good thought, Neville,” Blaise smiled at him warmly, causing Neville to blush as he smiled back. “I can check with Jacks in the morning to see if we can send letters through him directly. Draco? Lavender? Did one of you want to write up the official request? Lavender’s been keeping the list but Draco has the most experience in dealing with them.”

Draco glanced at Lavender, head tilted in question. She smiled back and nodded. “We’ll work on it together and get it to you after breakfast.”

“Sounds good. I think tomorrow we should also look into finding those Family Trees,” he said before looking over at Neville again. “Unless you think we should wait longer. I know you weren’t comfortable with it earlier.”

“No, I’m fine with it. I don’t know why I was so uncomfortable with the idea before, but I do think we need to have the information soon, so tomorrow is fine. We don’t have any healing scheduled and we only have a couple more days before the Goblin healer arrives, which means that our time will be a bit more taken up with fixing the larger problems that have been identified.”

“Good point. Okay, do we have anything else to go over or discuss tonight? If not I think Lavender and I will do some preliminary work on the Gringotts letter then I’m heading up to bed. I’m getting pretty tired.”

As if in reaction to Draco’s words, Harry yawned broadly which started a chain reaction around the room.

“I’m sorry, guys, but I’m suddenly completely exhausted. I think I’m going to head home and get ready for bed. I’ll see everyone down here for breakfast,” he yawned again, “and I guess we can go from there?”

“Go to bed, Harry,” Seamus laughed, “before you put us all to sleep with your yawning.”

Harry laughed and gave a half wave as he rose from the couch and headed towards the stairs.

-X-

Breakfast was quite lively that morning. As they’d all gotten more settled, breakfast was often the one meal they had in their rooms since they had different wake up times, so meeting for breakfast in the Common Room was an infrequent activity. Due to their plans for the day though, they’d all been willing to get an early start and forgo the peace of their own space.

Draco and Lavender were huddled together at one end of the table finishing their revisions to the request letter they were sending to Gringotts. Neville and Blaise appeared to be discussing something they’d been working on in the garden before breakfast. Harry found it hard to believe that someone who always looked as refined as Blaise Zabini would actually enjoy getting dirty in the garden, but he was often to be found up there when he had some free time and wanted to relax. He also seemed to like riling up Neville with controversial uses for various plants, which Harry had to admit was both amusing to see and educational to listen to.

Susan and Justin were much quieter in their corner of the table. Justin honestly didn’t look completely awake yet and Susan was amusedly attempting to make sure he ate without face planting into his eggs. Harry was actually amazed that Seamus wasn’t in a similar situation as he was generally one of the late risers as well, but this morning he seemed quite filled with energy as he watched the others in the room and made amusing comments under his breath to Harry that had him struggling to not break into laughter.

When breakfast was over and the table had been cleared, Draco passed around the final version of the letter for them to read before he and Lavender called for Jacks to see if he would be able to handle delivery of their correspondence. Harry couldn’t hear the conversation, as they’d moved to one of the far corners of the room first, but Jacks didn’t seem to have a problem with it and soon left with the letter.

“Okay, that’s hopefully taken care of,” Draco said as he dropped into an open seat on the couch with the others. Lavender found another spot to sit in and they looked at each other in silence for a moment.

“So do we go now?” Justin asked, breaking the silence.

“You know, we’re going to get down there, thinking this is going to take forever, and it’s going to take 5 minutes to do,” Susan said with a smile. “That’s how all these things seem to work after you obsess over how to deal with them.”

“Yes,” Seamus agreed, “but you also have to incorporate the Harry factor into this which means if there’s a way to make something simple complicated, it will happen around Harry.”

“Seriously, Seamus?” Harry gave him a withering look. “I’m not that bad, really, things just happen.”

“Yes, around you,” he laughed.

Harry stuck his tongue out at him then turned his head to pretend to ignore him. “Well, I’m fine with going now, if the rest of you are ready.”

“Sure, let’s go.”

The eight headed for the door and out to the hallway leading to the great stairs while Seamus and Neville exchanged examples of the odd things that happened around Harry, with Lavender and even Draco throwing in some on occasion. Harry was quite done with the lot of them by the time they got to the Entry Hall.

He looked around the area as he entered, but on the surface nothing looked any different than he was expecting. He could see the front doors to the castle, the barred doors leading into the Great Hall, the new door leading into the sitting room where they’d met with Hogwarts the first night and the normal halls to either side of the Great Hall leading to the stairs and other rooms on that floor. Nothing that appeared to be a ‘receiving hall’.

The others were poking at things and discussing spells that could be hiding the door, but Harry just continued looking around the room. While with magic, many odd things were possible that meant spaces that couldn’t exist actually did, he felt that the only logical space for the entrance to the room would be across from the sitting room. But the wall looked completely smooth and unbroken to him.

Something was tickling his memory, something he’d heard about before. A movie that Hermione had talked about at some point with a character that had been mistakenly called Hogwart at one point which she’d found amusing upon rewatching it because of where she was now going to school. There was something about a maze… yes, it had come up before the third task of the TriWizard Tournament and possible things he might encounter during it.

What he was trying to remember though was something about a worm? Yes, a worm that told the main character how to get into the labyrinth. ‘Well, you ain’t looking right. It’s is full of openings,’ he mumbled to himself, ‘it’s just you ain’t seeing them…’ He thought for a bit more, trying to remember what Hermione had told them. She’d explained the movie in detail, quoting large portions of it as it had obviously been a favorite of hers, and neither Harry nor Ron had ever seen it before. Ron wasn’t even really familiar with the concept of movies which had only added to the explanation. ‘There’s one just across there, it’s right in front of ya…’ That’s it, the opening had been a bit like the one to get to the Hogwarts Express, except it was all done with fooling your perception in the movie. ‘You try walking through it; you’ll see what I mean.’

Deciding to give it a try while the others were busy arguing, he lined himself up with the door to the sitting room and walked directly across the hall to what appeared to be a solid wall. As he got closer, he held his hand up in front of his face to protect himself a bit if he were wrong and took a deep breath before walking through an opening into a large room.

“Harry!”

He could hear yelling coming from the hall and turned to look back at where he’d entered. From this side he could distinctly see the archway that defined the opening to the room and could even see the hall outside where the others were to be seen milling about trying to figure out where he’d gone.

‘Things are not always what they seem in this place,’ he grinned to himself, before walking back and sticking his head out to call the others over.

“Bloody hell, Harry! How did you do that? How did you know…” Seamus was almost frantic as he hurried over to poke at the wall around where Harry’s head was protruding. His eyes went wide as his hand seemingly went through solid rock and he gave a startled yelp as Harry grabbed it from the other side and pulled him through before calling to the others to join them.

He wondered how long it would take for them to join him, but Neville was close on their heels and the others soon followed, though Harry noticed a number of them had obviously held their breath and taken his approach of going hand first, not quite trusting there not to be rock there.

“I think we found the Receiving Room,” Harry said a bit smugly. “Ouch! What was that for?”

“Don’t be such a prat, Harry,” Susan said distractedly as she gazed around the room.

Harry glared at her for a moment before giving it up and turned to check out the room as well.

It wasn’t enormous, maybe a quarter of the size of the Great Hall. There were wall hangings along the walls to either side of the room with a number of two person backless couches lining the walls. Directly across from the entrance were four chairs in a line. They weren’t ornate enough for Harry to call the thrones, but the comparison could certainly be made.

He walked further into the room to get a better look at what was behind them. There were four gilded frames hanging on the wall behind them, though they appeared to be empty. As he got closer he decided that they didn’t look to be empty frames as much as the pictures within them seemed to have fogged over somehow as they were all grey and smoky looking.

“I’ve never seen paintings look like that,” Draco whispered.

“Me either,” Neville replied, also very softly. It seemed that something about being this close to the painting was making them all a little… cautious? Nervous? Whatever it was meant that they all felt they should be a bit more reserved in their actions.

Harry carefully reached out to touch the painting he was closest to. He didn’t touch glass, but what felt like paint and around where he touched appeared a rainbow of waves in shades of blue. He quickly pulled his hand back and the waves slowed and eventually the painting was once again a smoky grey. “That was odd.” He moved over to touch the one beside it, this time the waves were more golden in color but they too stopped soon after he removed his hand. He moved to the final one in the row, as he hadn’t started with the first one, and this time the reaction was very different.

As soon as his fingers touched the surface, the smoke began to boil. Sparks of green showed throughout and it continued even as he jerked away from it in shock. The boiling grew more violent and the green grew until it seemed to cover the entire painting. Once it did, the green sunk into the canvas and slowly an image began to appear.

Harry had a very good idea of who the man in the picture was as the dark haired man solely came into focus. He had a well-groomed goatee and mustache and steel grey eyes that looked directly at Harry once the painting was completely restored. He opened his mouth to speak but paused before clearing his throat and trying again.

“That’s better. Well now, you’re certainly a sight for sore eyes. We’ve been waiting for quite a while for someone to show up and clear that spell from us.” He looked to the side and appeared to notice that the other paintings were still fogged over. “Well, at least my painting has been freed. Why have you not released the others?” He asked, looking around and the people clustered around him and staring in shock.

“Sorry, sir, but your painting is the only one that reacted like this to me touching it,” Harry said apologetically.

“Of course it was! Mine’s the only one that would work for you,” he said staring at him closely, “though Godric’s might work in a pinch, by the look of you. But you others, I have a feeling some of you might have better luck with them.”

Not really understanding what he meant, but willing to try, the others took turns touching the other three paintings. Neville was the first to have any luck as the painting on the far end began to bubble rapidly until it was covered in red which was slowly seeping into the canvas.

Seeing his luck there, Justin and Susan tried what they were sure would be the Hufflepuff painting. While it certainly reacted favorably to Justin, it was Susan’s touch that started the boiling process for it.

As no one was actually from Ravenclaw, they weren’t sure who would be best for that one, but Draco was the one Rowena’s painting eventually reacted to.

Before long all four paintings had been restored and the people within them finally moving around again. There was auburn haired Godric with his full beard and piercing green eyes. Rowena with her long dark wavy hair, brown eyes and teasing grin. And finally Helga with her honey blonde hair pulled up into a wispy bun and blue eyes sparkling at them happily.

“Thank you, all, for removing the stasis charm we’d been placed under. Judging by your dress, we’ve been under it much longer than we expected.” Rowena was looking at them curiously in their mix of school uniform and casual clothes.

“I knew we should’ve built in some safety features for betrayals like that,” Salazar said with a touch of frustration, “Who knows what’s happened in the castle while we’ve been restrained by that two bit…”

“Not now, Salazar,” Godric broke in. “Maybe we should’ve done things differently, but we can’t do anything about it now. We just have to work with what we have. Now,” he focused on Neville, who was looking a bit nervous, “Who might you be and how did you come to be here?”

“I’m Neville Longbottom, sir,” he said with only a small pause to take a deep breath. “I and the others are here after performing the Hogwarts Ritual that takes place before our sixth year.”

“I knew that would be a good idea!”

“Hush, Rowena, let the boy speak,” Helga scolded her. “Go on, dear.”

“There’s not much more to tell. We all performed the ritual and are in our second month here. We’ve been doing research on the school while in between healing sessions and were told we could find the Founders’ family trees in this room in order to discover who the current acknowledged heir presumptives would be who could start fixing the issues we’re finding. I don’t think we were expecting to find your portraits – I think it’s assumed that they were destroyed long ago – but if you could tell us how to locate the heirs, we would greatly appreciate it.”

“Based on that, I’m guessing that none of you were aware that we could only be freed by our heirs,” Salazar stated, eyebrow cocked as he stared out at them.

Judging by the shocked silence from those around him, Harry sort of assumed it came as a bit of a surprise to them as well.

- - - -

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6 Comments:

  1. I’m enjoying your unique take on a sentient Hogwarts. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  2. Oh wow. I remember reading part of this once before, it’s even better now. Thanks!

  3. Oh, I’m following this on Ao3, it’s so nice to see more of it!

  4. This is brilliant! I’m really enjoying it!

  5. Frances NyxFrost Simmons

    Outstanding. What an awesome concept. This is really cool. Love the heirs, I guess Harry really is the Heir of Slytherin 🙂

  6. greywolfthewanderer

    this is awesome!! I am so, so enjoying this. thanks!!!

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