Part One: Chapter Two
-△⃒⃘- The Greengrass Contract -△⃒⃘-by ncronan
Chapter 2: Reactions
"Betrothed?" Tracey Davis gasped. "When? Why? To who? Don't tell me it's Malfoy?"
Daphne put her head in her hands, clutching her hair. They were currently in Daphne's room, with Jesse back in her usual spot. They were both seated at Daphne's bed. Daphne was drinking some tea and Tracey was sitting next to her, staring open-mouthed at said girl. It was early morning, and Tracey had arrived later than she had expected. With only a day to go until the boarding of the Hogwarts Express, Daphne was desperate to have at least some prior knowledge of her betrothed before their meeting. If Daphne stuck out for anything, it was her confident, condescending persona that everyone believed to be her real personality (except Tracey and Blaise, of course). Her 'Ice Queen' title was not earned through pleasant chats, nor goofy smiles. Unfortunately, her persona did nothing to discourage the advances of Draco Malfoy and Theodore Nott (who was a nice boy, but was slightly taken up in the pure-blood elitist ideas, and was also pretty overweight).
"Thank Merlin it's not." Daphne sighed. "If it were, I'd have swum all the way to France, where his ancestors are still milking their cows."
Tracey laughed, and inquired again, "So, who is the one who you shall tie the knot with?"
"Tracey!" Daphne hissed, but there was a tug at the corner of her mouth. "This is not funny! Or anything good, for that matter?"
Tracey's eyes widened in mock-terror. "It's not Goyle or Crabbe, is it? There would be a silver-lining, though. You would have the cutest little gorilla babies."
Daphne punched her friend in the arm. "Dammit, Trace! You've put thoughts into my head that I may have seizures from!"
Tracey rolled around on the bed laughing. "And – if – it were – with – Draco, you could make – cute – little – albino rodents!"
Daphne choked on her tea, half from disgust and half from a chortle that was making its way to her face. Tracey was still laughing, hard. "I – won't – even – get – started on – Theo and your - walrus babies!"
At this, Daphne couldn't contain her laughter, and she too, laughed with her friend. After several minutes, they calmed down, and Daphne lapsed back into sadness again. Tracey looked at her seriously. "Sorry, Daph, but you needed that."
Daphne sighed. "Yeah. I did." They sat in silence for half a minute, before Tracey became too agitated.
"So, who is it?" Tracey asked. Daphne didn't answer for a while, but she finally said,
"Potter. It's the damn Golden Gryffindor." Daphne let out. Tracey's eyebrows went up.
"You didn't hear? Harry Potter's gone missing!" Tracey exclaimed, and Daphne perked up.
Tracey continued, "It happened during early August. Dumbledore went to check on him at his Muggles' house, and he wasn't there! They said some rubbish about Potter running away, but Dumbledore wasn't allowed to check with Legilimency. He's been searching Surrey for a month."
Daphne knit her eyebrows. "Potter lives with Muggles? Alright, Trace, back up. I need you to spill everything you know about Potter right now. Go."
"Okay, so apparently, Potter lived with his Muggle aunt, uncle, and cousin until he was 11. When he was 11, he first learned about magic, and came then went to Hogwarts. Those baggy clothes he wears? Those are most likely hand-me-downs, from his cousin. No else knows very much about his home life, not even Granger, but I think Weasley knows something. He said some rubbish about Potter being jailed in his own room, but Potter's very secretive about what he does over the summer and things. Anyway, when he first came to Hogwarts, he was super skinny and short, but no one knows why. And then there were those stories about how he killed Quirrell, and then the basilisk, and then his godfather was the mass murderer who got killed by dementors. That last part might be true, since we all saw him do that Patronus at one of the Quidditch games. That was amazing. He started growing a bit at the end of last year, too. I have a feeling he's probably taller than Granger and Weasley now, even though Weasley's lanky as hell. As for Potter's romantic life, he's barely had any action at all. I heard that he has a little group of admirers, biggest of which is the girl Weasley, and I heard that the little boy Gryffindor, Creevey, is gay, and has a crush on Potter. Bit creepy, if you ask me. Took pictures of him in Second Year and whatnot."
Daphne blinked at Tracey in surprise. "How the bloody hell did you know all of that?" and Tracey shrugged.
"You and I both know we started getting interested in the male population last year. I mean, you did plenty of research on the Ravenclaw you dated. Who was it?"
"Terry Boot, but it didn't work out, since he was a wimp when it came to asking me out to Hogsmeade. In fact, most of the boys in our year are still sissies when it comes to talking to us girls. And you dated Michael Corner, right?"
"Right. But whenever we'd go to Hogsmeade, he'd just go hang out with his friends and leave me." Tracey responded. "But enough of that! What are you going to do about Potter?"
Daphne shrugged helplessly. "I'm going to meet with him on the train -"
"Oh, want a good snog already? Boot wasn't good enough? You did snog a couple times, I remember -"
"You're one to talk! You broke up with Corner because his hands kept venturing too far south." Daphne retorted. Tracey glowered.
"Yeah. That pervert. But we keep going off topic, dammit! What are you gonna talk about with Potter?"
"I'll tell him about the contract."
"He doesn't know yet?"
"No, how would he? He replied to my letter saying that his parent's Will just referenced it."
Tracey whistled. "Daphne, this is an amazing opportunity to mold Potter into the perfect guy."
"Open your eyes! He's famous, powerful, and most likely easily manipulated! I've also heard that he's pretty compassionate. You two'll be a nice match -"
"No, we won't! We're polar opposites!"
"Exactly. I reckon Weasley and Granger'll end up together. Their complete opposites, and they bicker a lot, but they steal glances at each other all the time. I won't be surprised when -"
"Enough about that! What should I do with Potter?" Daphne cried. Tracey shrugged.
"Get to know him. Your heart may never open up to him, but your mind can. The sooner you two warm up to each other, the sooner you can snog – I mean, be happy."
Daphne sighed, and put her head in her hands again. "Well, I'll wing it, then. If what you've said is true, he'll be as more clueless than I am."
Tracey nodded. "That's the spirit! And you can teachhim how to snog, just the way you like!"
Daphne's response was a punch to the arm and another cold look.
His greatest enemy. The antagonist of his life. Again, Harry found himself thinking of this as he leaned against a tan, stone arch. Although the early September sky was bright, blue, and cloudless above the glass ceiling of King's Cross Station, it was slightly chilly, and Harry flipped up his hoodie. Harry had decided, before arriving, that he would wait and see what Daphne actually looked like before entering Platform 9¾. His vague memories were far from ideal when he sought to remember the face of the Slytherin girl.
King's Cross Station was a very pretty place, with its massively high ceilings and train whistles going off in the distance. Crossing his arms, he, watched the hurrying throngs of Muggles, seeking their next destination as quickly as possible. His thoughts wandering back to its main train, Harry decided that no Muggle was his enemy. Sure, the Dursleys were bad (on the border of abusive), but Harry dealt with such bigotry at Hogwarts, too. The Malfoys were just as bad, but then again, they weren't the ones that hurt him . . .
Shaking himself from bad thoughts, he went back to his list. Dumbledore and the Dursleys were off, which meant that the Malfoy family was off, too. Next was -
Harry was wrenched from his thoughts once again when he heard the words, "Platform 9¾,"
Looking in the direction of the sound, he found a little, nervous family of three; a mother, father, and a little eleven year old with a large trolley in front of her. Harry felt sorry. This youngster was obviously Muggle-born, and was just as lost and confused as Harry had been on his first time. Pitying the child, Harry walked over and knelt down slowly, flipping off his hood, so that the kid could see Harry was clearly not trying to attack her. Her parents were distracted, looking around them, trying to find some help.
"Hey. Are you going to Hogwarts this year?" Harry murmured.
The kid, wide-eyed, nodded. Harry felt the urge to smirk, but held it in.
"I can show you how to get onto the Platform, if you like." Harry said, and the kid nodded again, a smile of relief forming on her features. Harry straightened up, getting the parents' attention, and spoke to them,
"Is your daughter going to Hogwarts this year?" Harry asked quietly. Although not widely known, the Statute of Secrecy said that one wasn't even supposed to speak of magic with Muggles near you, but Harry figured that if he spoke quietly enough, the Muggles would be too busy to give them a second glance. Entering into his first year, Harry was very lucky that Molly Weasley was not aware of that particular Clause in the Statute, otherwise Harry might never had made it onto the Express.
The parents looked absolutely relieved. "Thank God there's a wizard here -" The man said, exasperated, but Harry quickly put a finger to his own lips.
"Statute of Secrecy. We can't talk that loudly, or the other Muggles might here." Harry said in a quiet tone, and the man shut his mouth, quickly. Harry smiled and nodded.
"I can take your daughter through, if you like." Harry said quietly and gently. "It's simple, but you can't come with. Unfortunately, only those with magic in their blood can pass the wall, so you should say your goodbyes right now."
The parents hugged the girl and wished her goodbye and the like, and when they were done, Harry held out his hand for the girl to take. She took it cautiously, and Harry said in her ear, "Don't be scared. We're going to walk into the wall, and everything will go dark for a second, but just keep holding my hand, alright?"
The girl paled slightly but nodded again. Harry nodded to the parents, who thanked him over and over, and Harry took the trolley from her, saying that he'll push it for her.
Without another word, Harry walked confidently towards the wall, with the girl in nervous tow. When they were several feet from the wall, the girl fidgeted, but held on nevertheless. When they finally hit the wall, everything went dark for a second, and suddenly, they were in another place: an identical copy of one side of King's Cross, but this train was black and red, with large headlights and wizards in robes rushing around it.
Looking back, Harry found that the girl had her eyes squeezed shut, and was holding her breath, and Harry laughed. "It's alright, kid, we're there."
The girl let out an awe-inspired gasp, and looked all around her. Whispering, "How did you do that?" Harry laughed again. He put a finger to his lips. "It's a secret," was his reply. "what's your name, by the way?"
The girl answered, "Natalie McDonald*," as Harry pulled her forward and pushed her trolley.
"That's pretty, but not as pretty as mine. Harry Potter, at your service." Harry said cheekily, and the girl giggled. Harry stopped at the side of the tracks and wheeled her trolley up next to the line of several others, explaining to Natalie that they would be transported magically to Hogwarts.
Leading the girl onto the train, he gestured down the long hallway. "You can go find a compartment with some of the other first years. Tell me if any bother you. If anyone calls you 'mudblood', come to me immediately so I can whip him into shape,"
The girl giggled again, and Harry held out his hand. The small girl placed hers in his tentatively, and Harry bent down and kissed it. "Pleasure to be of service."
The girl giggled one last time before rushing off down the hallway.
And from behind him, he heard, "Potter, move along. Third compartment from the last."
Daphne walked down the hallway confidently, clearing her mind as to prepare the right responses for their conversation. The boy in front of her, his back facing her, was several inches taller than the Harry Potter that had left on the Express last Year. That, and he was – thicker. He sported broader shoulders, with nice-fitting clothes and slim jeans. Daphne shivered. She had hoped that she'd be at least his height, so that Potter would be at the disadvantage, having to look up at her and loose confidence.
She watched as Potter ushered the kid down the hall gently. Tracey was right; he seemed nice enough. Mustering her courage and putting on her emotionless mask, saying, "Potter, move along. Third compartment from the last."
Harry whipped around, and Daphne could finally study the important half of Potter's body. His glasses were gone, and he was more tan than any other student she'd seen on the train. His teeth were perfectly straight, and his hair was messy as hell, but somehow made him seem rugged. He was not necessarily 'muscled' but more toned int the upper body, and his slim jeans fit him very well. Daphne now remembered, to her extreme embarrassment (and to his, if he found out), that Potter's arse was quite the looker. His green eyes was the main piece of his face: they were bright and sparkling, and went with his green and black hoodie very nicely.
Harry's eyes dimmed slightly when he recognized her, and the smile fell from his lips, to be replaced with an uncertainty that mirrored what Daphne was feeling at the moment. He nodded at her, "Greengrass," and walked down to their designated compartment. Passing several Gryffindors ("Why is a Slytherin following Harry?") and Slytherins ("What is Daphne following the Golden Boy for?"), Harry and Daphne stopped at the sliding door. Seeing that a girl was already in it, Harry looked questioningly at Daphne, and Daphne just nodded and gestured into the compartment. "Not scared of a couple more girls, are you, Potter?"
Surprisingly, Potter didn't say anything, and just slid open the door and entered the compartment. Daphne was mildly surprised. From what she'd heard, Potter couldn't keep his mouth shut when people ridiculed him, but apparently, that, too, has changed.
Stepping in, and sliding the door behind her, Daphne stepped and sat across from her betrothed, next to Tracey.
The minute the door was closed, Harry's wand appeared in his hand, he murmured a privacy spell on the door, and he turned on the girls.
"Alright, what the hell is going on? What do you want?" Harry asked demandingly, but not gruffly. Daphne and Tracey were taken aback, expecting Harry to be more stammer-y and blush-y. Tracey immediately sought to find dominance in the conversation.
"The same could be asked of you, Potter. What's the privacy charm for? Expecting a good snog?" Daphne silently approved of Tracey's tactic to try and unbalance the boy, but Harry saw it coming. With only a slight tint of pink to his cheeks, Harry shrugged and said, "Greengrass was secretive in her letter, so I suspect she won't want this thing to go around the masses."
Tracey stared at him for a long while, and then nodded. Then, in an over-exaggerated nudging of Daphne, she whispered loudly, "I like him. You better tell him the secret now."
Daphne glared at her, and Harry was further confused. "What's this about, then? I have to meet with my friends."
Daphne sighed, and remorsefully said, "Potter, you and I are betrothed."
Harry's demanding and confident demeanor vanished immediately. Instead of stammering, he opened his mouth and no sound came out. "Wha – oh, that's funny. Malfoy must have thought this absolutely hilarious. Well, you can tell him that I won't fucking stand for him anymore. If he touches any of my friends, I'll rip him limb from limb."
As he got up to go, Daphne commanded him to sit down. Harry stopped, and then glared at her. "Alright, then, prove that you're not lying. Why should I believe that my father, who married a supposed mudblood, agreed to something that only the old wizarding families do to gain political power and money."
Daphne was shocked at the knowledge Harry portrayed. "I swear on my magic that you are betrothed to the first-born girl of House Greengrass. So mote it be."
To Harry's horror, a flash of light surrounded Daphne, and when it disappeared, the Slytherin was glaring at him defiantly. "Well? Good enough for you?"
Harry growled colorful language under his breath. Sitting down, he clenched and unclenched his fists as Daphne still glared at him. "Don't look so alone about this, Potter. You're not the only one unhappy with this shit."
Harry closed his eyes and growled something about, "One goddamn normal year. Is that so much to fucking ask?"
When he had calmed down, Daphne expected him to begin to rant, but instead, he just pierced her with his searching green eyes and said coldly, "Well, what's the plan, oh Ice Queen?"
Daphne glared at him more defiantly. "Listen, Potter. The only way this will work is if we work together on it."
Harry glared at her, and a green fire erupted in his eyes. He stood up and slammed the compartment door open, saying to Daphne, "Talk to me later. I don't have the patience for this bullshit."
There was silence as the young man threw the door close. Tracey looked over at Daphne and suddenly smiled. "Those eyes. Merlin. I almost fainted."
As he stormed out of the small compartment and canceled the privacy charm, Harry considered that he had been too abrupt, and that their conversation probably should have been longer, but he quickly discarded this. With the stress of the upcoming school year (in which Harry planned to do exceedingly well), he wanted as little distractions as possible. And less importantly, Harry wanted to test the waters in the dating scene. Sirius' death had proven that life was indeed short, even from a wizard's point of view, and Harry wanted to make the most of it.
But the bomb that had been dropped on him weighed heavily on his mind. How could he date nice girls when there was a particularly cold one betrothed to him? Sure, Greengrass was pretty, but this meant nothing to Harry – in fact, he decided that Greengrass's beauty was the (for lack of better analogy) the frosting on a deceptively tasty poisonous cake.
For the second time that day, Harry was wrenched from his thoughts when he found that he had stumbled into someone. Faltering in his steps but catching the victim in the process, Harry hoisted the student up by the forearm. Blue eyes and red hair met green eyes and black, and Harry blinked in recognition.
"Ron? There you are!" Harry said, hoping that the redhead hadn't noticed him and Greengrass entering the compartment for their talk, but Harry's friend was not fooled so easily.
"Harry? Blimey, what happened to you? Where were you last month? And why were you with a Slytherin? Come on, Hermione and I have been looking for you for the past ten minutes!"
Harry allowed himself to be dragged back up the hallway and into a compartment that contained several other people. Hermione looked up from her book and blinked at Harry as he sat down, taking a moment to recognize her friend. "Harry? Where have you been? The papers were raging about you running away! And what's happened to you?"
Harry snorted lightly as he accepted a hug from the bushy-haired girl. "Well, thanks. I can see that my new look is well-beloved by those I call friends."
Ron chuckled as Harry slapped one of the other members of the compartment, Neville, on the back. The formerly pudgy Gryffindor smiled nervously. Neville had also changed considerably over the summer; although his round face remained, Neville had lost what seemed to be a lot of weight. "How're you doing, Nev? You've grown over the summer, too? Why aren't the others raging over your new look?"
Neville blushed and muttered a, "Thanks," as the Express began moving at a slow pace. Harry looked over at the corner to Ginny, who was sitting next to Hermione. The redhead had also grown tall and lanky, but now the girly-ness was slowly disappearing from her face, revealing a sharp nose and bright eyes. Hoping not to embarrass her, Harry gave her a side-hug, to which she accepted gratefully.
"How are all of you doing? What'd you do over break?" Harry asked, attempting to divert Ron's previous questions to themselves, but Ron was stubborn and not easily diverted.
"First let's start with you, mate! You disappeared for a month, and then appear here, with a slimy snake, not to mention your new looks! Where were you?" Ron cried, and Harry sighed internally.
"For the last month, I decided that I'd had enough of my relatives, and I went to Diagon Alley to see if I could switch my guardianship. The results are still pending, though. Anyway, I started to working out when I read in a book that your fitness directly influences your magic."
Hermione and Ron's jaws dropped open. The former cried, "Which book?" and the latter exclaimed, "You read?"
Ron's response sent a small twinge of anger up Harry's spine, but he chose to ignore it. "It's a Guide to Magical Theory, Hermione, I can lend it to you when we get to school. And Ron, I did read, because I intend to improve my grades this year. I'm dropping Divination and Care of Magical Creatures, and I'm taking up Arithmancy and Runes. I figure that I'm already a master at Muggle Studies, and my current two classes are next to useless. Hagrid's a decent teacher, but the creatures he brings in are not relevant to what we might actually have to deal with."
Hermione was ecstatic as the news, while Ron seemed slightly more sullen. "Can I borrow your notes, too, Hermione? I'm a bit behind, but I think I read enough about it this summer . . ."
Ron shivered and weakly tried to pull a joke. "Starting to sound like Hermione, mate."
There was silence, and Harry looked at him, his anger rising a tiny bit. "What's so bad about that?"
Ron blushed tomato red and stammered, "I – didn't mean -"
He was saved quickly by Hermione, who said, "It doesn't matter. Anyway, what did Ron say about you with a Slytherin?"
At this, Ron's anger rose. This was something he could lash out at Harry with for making him look like a jerk, and so said, "Yeah, Harry. What are you doing with a slimy Slytherin?"
Harry glared at him, and the tension in the room thickened. "Ron, don't generalize. Not all Slytherins are bad, just like not all Gryffindors are good."
Ron scoffed, not backing down. "Name one -"
"Peter Pettigrew." Harry replied immediately, coldness seeping into his voice. Ron shivered slightly, the tension thickening further. After what Harry felt to be a nice, threateningly long silence, he continued in the same tone, "And to answer your question, we discussed something -"
"- that is none of your bloody business." Harry finished. Ron looked lost for a second, and looked to Hermione for help, but she, too, was glaring at him. Defeated, the redhead slumped back in his seat. Deciding to rub it in a little further, Harry continued, "In fact, I'll be back. I have to finished our discussion.
As Harry swept out, Ron sighed. "Wow, Harry's in a bad mood today. I wonder what set him of -"
Hermione sniffed and lifted her head. "Shut up, Ron."
"You're the one that provoked him. First, you insulted his intelligence, then you trash both of us, and then you challenge him again. Dammit, Ronald, it's none of your business to know who he talks to!"
"I'm his best mate -"
"Not for long!" Hermione snarled. "If you keep acting like this, you might as well leave now."
Ron opened his mouth, and then closed it, shocked at being shot down by his only female friend. With false defiance, the redheaded boy got up and stormed out the sliding door, heading the opposite way that Harry had gone.
Hermione kept her glare until she sighed. "I feel so bad . . ."
"Don't. He's been acting that way all summer ever since the money we won in the lottery got stolen. He's disappointed that he didn't get to go to the World Cup." Ginny defended her. Neville nodded.
"Give them time to cool down. They always make up in the end." Neville says, but Hermione shrugged, concerned.
"I suspect that this time will be different." She said quietly.
Harry froze outside of the compartment in which he had met up with the Slytherins. He had heard voices, and vaguely heard Daphne's voice say, "I'll be back, I'm going to the loo."
Acting quickly, Harry slid open the nearest door and slipped inside, and just in time. Daphne stepped out of the third to last compartment and passed Harry's hiding compartment. Sighing with relief, he turned and said to whomever was there, "Sorry about this, guys. I had to hide."
Still looking out the glass, he was spun around when a warm hand touched his. Turning, he found that the little girl he had helped was looking up at him and beaming. "Oh, hi Natalie! Having fun?"
"Absolutely!" she said. Turning on her two friends, she cried, "I told you it was Harry Potter!" as the other kids just stared at him in awe, causing Harry to internally groan.
"Sorry guys, I got to go. Have fun, Natalie, and Natalie's friends." Harry said, sliding the door back open and leaving the chorus of, "Bye, Harry!"
Harry then jogged down the hall and tried to open Daphne's compartment. It was locked, and the windows were dimmed. Harry slid out his wand and murmured, "Alohomora.", and slid open the door quickly, finding that Greengrass's friend and a black guy were in deep discussion. Tracey was in the middle of saying, "- they're betrothed! -" when she found the subject of their conversation was standing there. Crossing his arms and amusing himself at the shocked look on their faces, Harry said, "Planning on keeping any secrets, Davis?" (Tracey blushed), "Alright, I need you guys to tell me about Greengrass. I have to know what I'm walking into."
The black guy quickly got up and sat next to Davis as Harry sat down across from them. Tracey hesitantly began by saying, "Well – shouldn't we ask her first?", and to that Harry snorted.
"No thanks. I bet you 10 galleons that she's asked about me, and that you've given her all that you had on me. Now, please level out the playing field and enlighten me."
Tracey breathed out slowly, and said at top-speed, "Daphne's really secretive, and we're her only friends that she confides in. She comes from a wealthy pure-blood family, but she doesn't like it when people talk about her, she gets suspicious. When she's in public, she acts like what you saw, but when she's alone with us, she's gentler, but still just as smart. Don't underestimate her. She's a wonder at Potions, and is almost as good as -" (she shivers) "- Granger in all the other classes. She dated her first boy last year, but they broke up because Boot was a wimp when it finally came to going on dates. When she's alone in her room, she likes to -"
Harry held up his hands. "Don't say anymore, Davis. I'm surprised and a little disappointed that you'd give away your friend's life like that. And let me tell you now, that I have no interest in knowing about her bedroom habits, thank you very much."
Tracey smiled weakly. "Sorry, I ramble. But I, too, am a little surprised and disappointed that you don't want to know Daphne's bedroom habits. She needs a good snog fest, and so do you."
Harry snorts and says, "You don't know anything about me, Davis."
"Oh, you want to bet, Potter?"
At that moment, the door slid open, revealing a suspicious Daphne. "What are you doing here, Potter?"
Harry rolled his eyes as Daphne sat down next to Tracey. "Oh, nothing. Davis here was just about to tell me what you do alone in the bedroom."
Daphne hissed in anger and turned on Tracey, who threw her hands up in the air. "I was just kidding! I was gonna end the joke by saying something like, 'she reads'. Don't freeze me to death, O Ice Queen!"
Daphne relaxed a bit, and Harry laughed. "You gave ground much to quickly for a Slytherin, Davis. I am both surprised and disappointed that you don't live up to your house name."
Tracey shrugs while Daphne bristles. "You just as bad as Weasley, Potter? Going to assume all of us evil and Gryffindors are all goody-two-shoes, eh?"
Harry looks off out the window for a moment. The landscape of northern Scotland was lush and green, with trees growing along the rolling hills of grass. Harry murmured, half to himself, "No. I made that mistake last year, and it won't happen again."
There was silence as the three Slytherins tried to figure out what the boy meant.
After several moments, Harry looked back and pierced Daphne with his bright green eyes. "Greengrass, meet me in front of the statue of Gregory the Swarmy, on the fifth floor corridor, tomorrow night at around 6 o'clock, two hours before curfew."
Tracey wolf-whistled. "Already wanting to get to the snogging? I thought we discussed this!"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Says the person who will most likely try to convince her to snog me."
To that, Tracey had to agree, and so their second conversation ended with Harry leaving the compartment, seeking refuge away from the Slytherins and Gryffindors alike and deciding to sit with his new first year friend instead.
Night had fallen when the train came to an abrupt stop. All members of the compartment were jolted in their seats, and Harry grinned when one of the girls rubbed their head in pain. They had all gotten dressed several minutes earlier (in turns, of course), and the First Years were dressed in the traditional Hogwarts robes with a gray tie and an empty emblem on their chest, while Harry had his newly fitted black, red and gold robes on.
The moon shown in through the window and sent rays of white light through the nervous-looking First Years. Harry patted Natalie on the head assuringly.
"Don't be scared, Natalie. To get Sorted, you just have to put on a Hat and it tells you what House you'll be in." Harry said gently, and the other students sagged in relief.
"Some twins told us earlier that we'd have to fight a troll to be in Gryffindor." Natalie said, breathing out. Harry snorted.
"Those are the Weasley twins. Don't talk to them too long, or you'll get a headache. Also, don't anger them. They're the supreme pranksters of the school, but they're nice to those who are nice to them."
Five minutes later, Harry stepped outside of the train, free of the First Years. Breathing in what was finally not stuffy, hot air, Harry scanned the supposedly self-pulled carriages. Seeing one that was not all the way full (and didn't have a particular redheaded Gryffindor on it), Harry jogged up and found the three students upon it watching him, openmouthed. That is, two of them; the other, a blonde girl in the year below Harry's, simply kept reading a newspaper that was upside down and murmured, "Hello, un-bespectacled boy." Pretending not to be unnerved, Harry smiled at them, and said, "Hey, girls. Is there any room?"
The two girls (twins) quickly assured him that there was much space left and that they would be very happy if he sat with them, and Harry obliged. The twins looked Indian, and Harry greeted them formally by taking their hands and pressing his lips against their knuckles. Wary of the blonde, Harry said, "Hello. Of course, I know Parvarti and Padma Patil, two of the most beautiful girls in our year, but I haven't met you. What's your name?"
The blonde girl put down her newspaper slowly and smiled. She had massive pink and purple glasses on, and her magnified eyes behind them looked big and distant. "Luna Lovegood, or as some people call me, Looney."
Harry frowned, and the girl smiled at him more. "It's quite alright, you don't have to say anything. I can tell what you would have. You know, Harry, you have much less Nargles than you did last year. What happened?"
One Patil twins, Parvarti, (on the verge of drooling) said almost dreamily, "Yeah, what happened? I'd like some."
Her sister giggled and nudged her as Parvarti blushed furiously. They both had matured at what seemed to be exactly the same rate, and they were both extremely cute. But (to Harry's frustration), neither of them held a candle to the icy beauty of a certain Slytherin. Thinking this, Harry mentally slapped himself. He would not be happy about the contract, if it was the death of him.
Brushing away his insecurities, Harry explained what he had done over the summer, obviously leaving out any major details concerning a certain contract. When he talked about his morning runs, Padma blurted if she could come and watch him. Blushing as furiously as her sister, she slapped her hands over her mouth, and Harry laughed.
"You may, but I get up at seven. If you think I'm -" (Harry flipped his hair jokingly, and the twins laughed) "- worth it, you're welcome to watch."
Parvarti nodded knowingly. "It's alright, Padma and I are used to getting up early, especially in the summer to do yoga stretches."
Less than appropriate thoughts flashed through Harry's mind, but he quickly brushed the perverted ideas away. "Well, I'd be happy to have you. You can even run with me if you want."
The twins squealed at this, and the four continued to talk in peasant conversation until the carriages stopped and they hopped off the carriages and onto the ground in front of Hogwarts. As always, it was large and looming, and though not 'grim', it definitely had a serious or solemn feeling about it. Torches lit up the turrets like beacons and the hundreds of window flashed and moved with activity. 'Home sweet home,' Harry thought. 'What a nice place to finish my list.'
Cold feelings towards Ron were especially visible when Harry was seated at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. To his right was Neville, and to his left was Hermione, and to her left was Ron, but Hermione (bless the girl) was doing her best to speak as little as possible to said boy.
When he had first walked in, Harry had immediately been pierced by the Headmaster's cool blue gaze. When Harry looked back at him, the old man seemed to sag with relief, and Harry snorted. Most likely he'd want to speak with him before he went to bed, which was fine with Harry. He had several things to say to the Supreme Mugwump.
But the Headmaster wasn't the only one staring at the Boy-Who-Lived. To his disgust, almost half the student population whipped around in their seats to see the lost (and returned) Savior. After gaping and pointing, they began whispering. Harry didn't want anything to do with whatever they were saying.
The Sorting went by rather quickly (Harry was determined to remember the look on Natalie's face when the Hat had cried, "Gryffindor!"), and when the food had appeared, Harry's disgust for his ex-best mate increased when Ronald dug in like a starved piglet. This increased Harry's hate, too, as he thought to himself, 'You don't know the meaning of starved, you pampered brat.' Harry had then separated himself from the fatty foods and gone for the ones rich in protein and nutrients. And instead of pumpkin juice, he found a cup of milk sitting on his placemat, and Harry silently thanked Dobby for his loyalty. Unfortunately, his appetite was ruined when he saw bits of chocolate fly from Ronald's full mouth as he talked to Dean across from him.
When they had finished their feast (Ronald had stashed several extra treacle tarts in his robes), Dumbledore stood up and did what seemed like an X-Ray scan on all the students.
"So! Now that we are all fed and watered, I must ask for your attention while I give a few notices. Mr. Filch, the caretaker, has asked me to tell you that the list of objects forbidden inside the castle has, this year, been extended to include Screaming yo-yo's, fanged frisbees and Ever Bashing Boomerangs. The full list compromises some four hundred and thirty seven items, I believe, and can be viewed in Mr. Filch's office, if anyone would like to check it." (the Weasley twins whooped with laughter and the said caretaker glared murderously at them)
"As ever, I would like to remind you all that the Forest is out of bounds to students, as is the village of Hogsmeade to all those below third year. It is also my painful duty to inform you that the inter-house Quidditch Cup will not take place this year." Outrage spread and it took several minutes to quiet everyone down. As he waited, Harry noticed that Dumbledore popped something red and werewolf-shaped into his mouth and sucking on it with saggy cheeks. When things had quieted, Dumbledore stored the candy in one of his cheeks and continued,
"This is due to an event that will be starting in October, and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of the teachers' time and energy – but I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely. I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts -"
Suddenly, the animated night sky above everyone's heads flashed gray, and lightning flashed through the Hall. As students screamed, there was a ball of red light that flew up into the ceiling, causing it to suddenly stop and look again like the night sky. Everyone followed the path of the spell to a scar-covered man with a massive fake eye, stomping up to the Head's table with a wooden leg. Dumbledore too this into step ("May I introduce our new DADA teacher, Professor Moody."), and continued with his previous train of thought.
"As I was saying, we are to have the honor of hosting a very exciting event over the coming months, and event which has not been held for over a century. It is my great pleasure to inform you that the Tri-Wizard Tournament will be taking place at Hogwarts this year."
As chaos erupted over the students, Harry lapsed into thought. Hopefully, this Tournament would not interfere with his schoolwork and general plan for the year. Having read about the Tournament, Harry continued to be distant until he was jolted back into the waking world by Hermione. Dumbledore was still going -
"- and the other schools will be arriving in two day's time. Please represent our school in a courteous way."
Having finished his horridly long speech, Dumbledore ordered them all to their respective common rooms, but Harry broke off from the rest of the Gryffindors halfway to their dorms to go and meet with Dumbledore. As he walked through the long stone halls, Harry felt at peace for a moment, and his mind lapsed into a deep train of thought. As a result, he almost ran into his Head of House when he turned a corner, and McGonagall looked at him (having grown, Harry was now level with McGonagall, and so didn't feel as vulnerable under her gaze) in suspicion. "Mr. Potter, what are you doing? You should be back in the common rooms; I was just on my way to give the First Years the speech!"
"Sorry, Professor McGonagall." Harry said respectfully. "I was just headed to the Headmaster's office to have a nice long chat with him."
McGonagall nodded in understanding after several seconds. "Good idea, Mr. Potter. He's been rather moody lately, and reminded me to tell you that he'd want to see you in his office tomorrow. Good luck. I trust you can find your way back?"
Harry smirked, remembering his first Transfiguration class. "Yes, Professor McGonagall. You don't need to turn me into a map to do so."
McGonagall smiled. "Good boy."
And with that, she walked off, and Harry soon found himself in front of the Headmaster's gargoyle. After thinking through possible passwords, Harry remembered the Feast, and confidently said, "Werewolf Watermelon Drops."
The gargoyle seemed to smile as it turned, revealing the staircase to the old man's office. Stepping up the staircase, and knocking on the large wooden door, Harry contemplated what he would say. He never finished this thought, however, for Dumbledore's voice said, "Come in." and Harry obliged.
Walking in confidently and ignoring the random bits and bobs twirling and twisting on the desk in front of Dumbledore, who was in turn in front of a semi circular bookcase that extended up 15 feet. Fawkes the Phoenix squawked in greeting, while Dumbledore sighed. "Ah! Harry, thank Merlin. Where were you, m'boy? Care for a lemon drop?"
Harry sat down in the large fluffy chair facing the Headmaster and said coolly, "I've been in Diagon Alley at the Leaky Cauldron. And no thanks, I don't want to risk getting spiked with Truth Potion and/or Calming Draught."
Dumbledore was shocked, to say the least. Where had the little boy, a nervous wreck, gone? Who was this confident, handsome young man in front of him?
"I'm shocked that you'd think I'd do something like that, Harry." Dumbledore sighed. "Why did you go, and how did you get there? I was worried about you."
Harry snorted at the last comment. "Well, you don't know me very well. I went because I'd had enough of my relatives, and they'd had enough of me. I used the Knight Bus to get there, just like last year."
Dumbledore processed this information. "Harry, m'boy, you could have brought your concerns to me. Also, what did you do there? What potions did you take to get like this, and what motivated you to do so?"
Harry snorted again Dumbledore's questionnaire way of speaking. "Yeah bloody right. You wouldn't have done anything about my situation. While I was there, I did some exercise and ate right for a change. I did it because I'd purchased a book that so helpfully stated that your fitness influenced your magic, which would be helpful to teach us students, by the way. Speaking of what I did in the Alley, I went to Gringotts and read my parent's and Sirius' Wills, and found something very interesting. Tell me, old man, when were you planning on informing me that I was bound in a marriage contract?" Harry's voice rose near the end, emphasizing the last two words. Dumbledore winced at the tone.
"I was waiting for the appropriate time -"
"Appropriate time? The Wills clearly said that I was to be informed by the beginning of the school year!" Harry shouted.
"I didn't feel that you were ready Just for context, how did you find out?"
"Don't draw it away from this, Dumbledore. You and I both know that this is more serious than anything else right now. It was Greengrass, by the way."
"Greengrass? Why are you two not on first-name basis yet? I'd thought when we wrote the contract that -"
Harry spluttered in rage, and threw at him, "You wrote that bloody contract?"
Dumbledore paled, but nodded. "Yes, m'boy. The Greengrasses needed a way to tell everyone that they were indeed part of the Light, and no longer neutral. They wanted to be trusted in the Wizengamot again -"
Harry shook his head and breathed heavily. "Don't feed me lies, Dumbledore. The Wizengamot are filled with idiots and heads of idiot families. They'll trust anyone as long as they're in the inner circle. So can you tell me the real reason of why the bloody contract exists?"
Dumbledore didn't open his mouth, and Harry huffed in rage. "Well, then, I refuse to answer and questions you ask me until you tell me the real reason of why that bloody contract exists."
Dumbledore tried to appeal to him, "Harry, don't be so immature. Please understand that I have other responsibilities -"
"Shut it, old man. I repeat my earlier statement and wish you a good night, and a prosperous year."
With that, Harry stormed out of the room, muttering under his breath about contracts, old men, lies, how stubborn Gryffindors were, and how unfair everything was.
*Please look up the touching story of Natalie McDonald.