Harry & the Mysterious Curse of the GirlWhoLived

2: Friends and Enemies

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

Harry and the Mysterious Curse of the Girl-Who-Lived

CHAPTER TWO: FRIENDS AND ENEMIES

Harry stood in the middle of King's Cross, laden with packages, nervous and excited. His only companion was the beautiful owl Hagrid had given Harry, whom Harry had decided to call "Hedwig" after a name he found in A History of Magic. Harry often found himself talking to his owl over the summer, although the most he got back were varying glances that Harry liberally interpreted to mean all manner of things. It was still far better than talking with the Dursleys, who were avoiding him all together.

The previous month hadn't exactly been pleasant, but the Dursleys had moved Harry to Dudley's second bedroom, in a display of begrudging generosity that left Harry deeply suspicious. Surely they didn't expect him to start throwing about horrible magical hexes at them after only just getting his wand - and not even started school yet.

Although it did leave Harry curious as to how things might have been when Aunt Petunia and his Mum were kids - did Petunia get hexed or pranked badly with magic by her sister? It sounded hilarious, although perhaps if it was true, that might have led to Petunia's terrible hatred of magic. And Harry did think he remembered Hagrid saying that magic wasn't permitted in the Muggle world. So young Petunia shouldn't have gotten hexed - well, unless she deserved it for being awful.

That Harry could believe far more readily.

Harry had spent most of his time reading over his schoolbooks, trying to get up to speed. He was terribly worried that his Muggle-raised background would leave him at the bottom of the class. What if they expelled students for bad marks? Harry couldn't bear the the thought of having to go back to the Dursleys after being kicked out of a school for magic. How Uncle Vernon would grin triumphantly that "You weren't worth anything even by their standards, were you?"

Well, Harry wasn't about to let that happen if he could help it. Harry was the first to admit he wasn't the best at schoolwork, although he did well enough at the Muggle schools. He didn't care for homework and tests, but then who did? Dudley did horribly at school and was always still coddled by his parents, but Harry had stopped expecting any recognition for any effort from his relatives long ago. They had reached a sort of compromise: as long as he didn't say anything when the grades arrived, they didn't accuse him of trying to show Dudley up.

Actually, Vernon often used Harry's higher marks as an insult, in the manner of "Dudley knows far more about what really matters in life, of course, not that pansy book nonsense", whatever that meant.

But now, searching for Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, Harry was beginning to become a bit worried. There was a Platform Nine and a Platform Ten, of course, but nothing in between. Harry wondered if there was a hidden entrance like to Diagon Alley, but Hagrid hadn't mentioned anything about it. Maybe it had slipped his mind - but there was no way for Harry to ask for clarification.

Asking the guard was no help, although Harry was careful not to mention the Platform's name, just the destination of Hogwarts and the departure time of eleven o'clock. The guard didn't know of any trains leaving at eleven, and hadn't even heard of Hogwarts. He seemed to think Harry was pulling a fast one, although the guard should have realized that was ridiculous considering everything Harry was lugging around.

It was only ten minutes left until eleven, and Harry was beginning to get a bit desperate. He began to consider his options. Maybe he could carefully use his wand to poke at the walls for hidden doors.

But then at that moment, a family of red-haired people passed by, chattering to each other, and Harry caught a key word or two.

"- Muggles all around us, no notion of Hogwarts at all -"

Harry whirled around to see a plump woman escorting four red-haired boys, one clearly the eldest, then two twins and a younger brother. A short girl trailed behind them, tugging on the mother's robes. The boys each had a trunk similar to Harry's, and one was carrying an owl. Feeling hopeful but painfully anxious, Harry pushed his own cart after them. Perhaps they would use the hidden entrance Harry suspected was around and Harry could just follow, acting as if he knew all along.

"Okay everyone, do you remember the platform number?" said the boys' mother, looking frazzled and out-of-sorts. Harry couldn't blame her, really.

"Nine and three-quarters!" piped the girl. "Same as every year, Mum. But this year's different, Mum! She's going to be there!"

The mother gave her daughter a look of long suffering exasperation. "Ginny, enough. You'll meet her next year when you get into Hogwarts."

"But maybe, you know, I could go instead of Ron? Who would know?"

A tall and thin boy whirled, his mouth dropped open. "Oi!"

"He has a point dear," said the lady. "You'll get your letter next year and have a wonderful time. Now then, we're late, shall we?"

"I'll go first, Mother," said the eldest boy. "I'll keep an eye out anyone blocking the path."

"Thank you Percy, go ahead then!"

One of the twins leaned over to the other and said just loud enough to be heard, "Thank you Poncey."

The other twin shook his head and rolled his eyes.

Harry watched for the secret, but it made no sense; the boy stepped forward into the wall and just vanished. How did he get through?

"Fred, you next," the plump woman said.

"I'm George, not Fred," said the boy. "I can't believe you got us confused, after knowing us our whole lives?"

"Sorry, George, dear, I'm a bit out of sorts this morning."

"No worries, Mum, I really am Fred," said the boy, and off he went, and simply vanished, much to Harry's astonishment. His twin went next, and Harry watched carefully, but whichever twin it was just vanished right before the barrier. Now how did that happen? Harry wished one of his books had mentioned anything about all this.

But it didn't seem like he had much of a choice, so he moved over to the mother and cleared his throat politely. "Excuse me," Harry said.

The woman blinked in surprised, then smiled widely, clearly seeing that Harry was a wizard as well. "Hello, dear," she said. "First time at Hogwarts? My Ron's new, too," she said, pointing at the last of her sons, a tall and thin boy with the same flaming red hair as his siblings.

"Yes, that's right," said Harry. "Maybe you could tell me... I mean I don't know how to -"

The woman smiled kindly down at him. "Oh, don't worry a bit, young lady! It's simple to get onto the platform. You see, that barrier between platform nine and ten is just an illusion. You simply have to race forward, don't stop, and you'll be just fine on the other side. Go ahead, we'll be right behind you!"

"Er - okay, thanks," said Harry. He looked at the barrier, worrying about its apparent solidity. But it was supposed to be a magic entrance, wasn't it? Harry walked quickly towards the barrier, whispering "There's no barrier, there's no barrier" to himself. Finally he broke into a heavy run, and closed his eyes, waiting for a crash.

But nothing happened. Harry opened his eyes and pulled his cart to a halt. He gazed around in wonder at the platform packed with people. A sign overhead said Hogwarts Express and behind him stood an archway where the barrier had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on it.

Well, thank goodness.

Many of the carriages were already filled, so Harry moved down the platform, watching for an empty seat. Only a few people were still outside, mostly parents and other adults, although there was one sad looking boy with a round face. He was kicking the ground next to an older lady.

"You'll find your toad, Neville," said the old woman with a sigh. "You always do."

"I guess so," said the boy glumly.

Harry felt a bit embarrassed for the toadless boy, he clearly remembered Hagrid saying toads were not popular pets. And honestly, why would they be? After a few minutes, Harry finally found an empty compartment near the end of the train. He began to heave his trunk toward the train door, but it was so heavy that that it slipped through his fingers and banged against the floor.

"Whoa, you shouldn't be doing that by yourself! Want a hand?" It was one of those red-haired twins, Fred, or possibly George; Harry couldn't quite remember which was which.

"Thanks, yes," Harry said with a relieved smile.

The red-haired twin nodded with a grin and called over his shoulder, "Oi, Fred! C'mere and help this member of the tribe!" It didn't take long to get the trunk into the compartment with the twins' help.

"That was right nice of you," said Harry. "What did you mean by 'member of the tribe'?"

The one Harry thought was Fred laughed. "George, can't believe you said that."

George scowled. "I just mean you've got red hair like us, although I guess yours isn't as unlucky orange."

Harry grimaced, having forgotten that his hair looked differently to other people as a "girl". He tried to straighten out his hair, hoping this would appear less girlish.

"What's that?" said one of the twins suddenly, pointing at Harry's lightning scar.

Fred's eyes widened in surprised. "Blimey," he said. "Ain't you?'

"Must be," said George. "Are we right?"

Harry looked between them in utter confusion. "Huh?"

"Harriet Potter," chorused the twins.

"Of course," added Fred.

Harry scowled. He had almost managed to forget about the girl thing. "Oh, her, I mean him," said Harry. "I mean, yes, I am him. Not her, rather."

The two boys looked startled, as though they hadn't expected this answer, and gawked at Harry, who felt a bit embarrassed and slightly annoyed. They wouldn't do this if they thought he was a boy, after all.

"Fred? George? Where did you run off to?" the woman from earlier called out, obviously their mother.

"Coming, Mum."

Fred gave Harry a wink, and George waved once, and then the twins hopped off the train.

Harry sat down next to the window, listening to the red-haired family's conversation. He felt a bit guilty about it, but everyone already knew him - or the girl version, at least, so it was only fair he found out more about other folks.

The twins teased the younger boy Ron, and then they were joined by their older brother Percy, who was a Hogwarts Prefect. The twins had a few laughs about that as well. Harry wondered if they were going to mention meeting him on the train, and then, as if on cue...

"Hey, Mum, guess what? Guess who we just met on the train? You know that red-haired girl who was near us in the station? Know who she is?"

"Who? I don't think she's related to us, if that's what you're asking. Not quite the right shade of red."

"No, it was Harriet Potter!"

The little girl shrieked suddenly, even startling Harry. "That was her? Oh, Mum, can I go on the train and see her, say hello, Mum, oh please... I've waited so long."

"No, you've already seen her, Ginny, and the poor girl isn't something you goggle at in a zoo. She doesn't need to hear any of your stories either. But are you sure, Fred? How do you know it's really Harriet?"

"We asked and she said yes. Had the scar and everything, just like lightning."

"Poor dear - no wonder she was alone, I wondered. She was ever so polite when she asked how to get onto the platform." She frowned. "Not right to have such a young girl by herself going to the train, where ever could her guardians have been?"

Harry imagined Vernon or Petunia escorting him into a hidden, magical doorway and couldn't help but snicker. That wasn't too likely.

"She's a pretty one, don't you think Ronnie?" One of the twins asked, grabbing Ron into a headlock

"Shut up!" Ron yelled, pushing himself free.

The other twin looked curious. "Never mind that, do you think she remembers what You-Know-Who looks like?"

"Fred, that is a horrible thing to ask! She doesn't need any badgering from you or anyone else. When I just think of the poor dear all alone on the platform, not even knowing how to get through the barrier? It's just awful."

The train whistled sounded suddenly.

"Go! The train's leaving!" Their mother shooed the three boys onto the train, and Harry turned away, settling back in his own seat.

The train began to move, faster and faster. Harry felt incredibly excited as the houses sped by, having no idea of what the future might hold - but it was bound to be loads better than not going at all.

The door of the compartment slid open and the youngest redheaded boy came in, looking pale and biting his lip.

"Um, hello. Is, um, anyone sitting there?" he asked, pointing at the seat opposite Harry."Everywhere else is full."

Harry shook his head. "Go ahead."

The boy sat down, and glanced quickly at Harry, then looked away suddenly, pretending he hadn't done anything so obvious.

"Hey, Ron."

The twins were back.

"Listen, we're going down the middle of the train - Lee Jordan's got a giant tarantula down there."

"Right," mumbled Ron.

"Harriet," said the other twin with an enormous grin, "did we introduce ourselves, my lady? Fred and George Weasley. And this is Ron, our brother. See you later, then."

Harry sighed but nodded, choosing to ignore the "my lady" remark. "Bye", he said, while Ron sat there, looking like he was about to explode. He clearly wanted to ask Harry if he was really Harry Potter, but he was trying very hard not to say anything impolite. Harry smiled slightly, a bit amused.

"Come on, out with it," Harry finally said with a laugh.

"Are you really Harriet Potter?" Ron blurted out.

Harry nodded. "Harry, actually," he corrected.

"Oh - well, I thought it might be one of Fred and George's jokes," said Ron. "And have you really got - you know..."

He pointed at Harry's forehead.

Harry pulled back his bangs to show the lightning scar. Ron stared.

"Wow, the Girl-Who-Lived. You have pretty hair." Ron's face blanched, as if he hadn't meant to say this.

But Harry was not at all ready to forgive the boy, no longer so amused. "I am not a girl! I do not have pretty hair!"

Ron held up his hands. "Sorry, Harriet, didn't mean to offend you."

Harry sighed. "Never mind, I suppose I should have expected it. Just get one thing straight and we'll be fine." Harry pointed a finger at Ron's face. "Don't ever compliment me with anything girlish again, or even say anything about me being a girl. Got it?"

Ron nodded frantically. "Um, not a word, Harriet. Is, um, Harriet okay to use?"

"Well, I'd prefer Harry."

"Oh good then," Ron sighed in relief. "I really didn't mean to offend you, Harriet. It's just you're kind of famous. Well, you already know that, of course." Ron now looked petrified. "Oh, Merlin's beard, I don't know what I can even say to you!"

"Actually I was raised by Muggles," Harry said, hoping to relieve some of the obvious tension. "So I didn't even know about the fame business until last month. I didn't even know I was a wizard until I got the letter."

"Wow, really?" Ron looked dumbstruck. "I mean, I had heard rumors you were living with Muggles, but you didn't know about You-Know-Who and everything?"

Harry shook his head. "Nope, it was a shock to me, I can tell you," he said with a laugh.

Ron laughed as well, finally relaxing a bit.

"So are all your family magical?" asked Harry, who really had been wondering about this.

"Yeah, mostly," said Ron. "My Mum has a second cousin or something that's a Squib, but well, he's not important."

"Forget that guy, you must know all sorts of magic already."

"Well, not that much really," Ron said, shaking his head. "Well, to be honest, I don't actually know any." He frowned. "Although I guess I heard a few things from my brothers over the years."

"My relatives didn't teach me anything," Harry confiding. "They were pretty horrible. Wish I'd had three wizard brothers."

"Five," said Ron almost angrily. "Bill's the eldest, he's off treasure hunting for Gringotts and was head boy, then there was Charlie, Quidditch champion and he works with dragons!"

"Wow!"

"Yeah, exactly. Percy you saw, he's a prefect, so Mum and Dad are proud to pieces! As for the twins, well, they seem like troublemakers, and they are, but they're smart and always get great marks in class. Everyone loves them. After me, there's just my sister Ginny, you saw her too. I dunno, Harriet, it seems like Hogwarts isn't gonna be much fun at all for me, all that pressure." He reached for his jacket pocket but then stopped. "You don't care about all that, I'm sure. I know some folk have it much worse than me."

Harry shrugged. "Well at least you knew about magic. I didn't even know my parents left me money until I went to Diagon Alley last month. At the Dursleys, I didn't even get new clothes - I had wear Dudley's old ones. And they've never even given me proper birthday presents; last one was a clothes hanger, if you can believe that."

Ron's mouth dropped open. "You had to wear a boy's clothes?" He looked at Harry's clothes and winced. "I mean, not that that's bad, I guess. Sorry, I didn't mean to mention anything girlish."

Harry chuckled. At least Ron was learning not to call Harry a girl - maybe Harry would be able to pretend no one else did either. "It's fine. I guess growing up you must've heard all about my weird story with my parents and Volotredi?"

Ron gasped.

"What?" said Harry.

"You said her real name!" said Ron. "Bloody hell, I don't think I've heard it said from anyone other than my Dad."

Harry frowned. "Hagrid did say it was bad luck or something."

Ron waved his hand dismissively. "Nah, Harriet, nothing like that. Just makes people uncomfortable is all." He grinned. "Somehow I think it's not so bad when you say her name. Probably earned the right, yeah?"

The two kept talking about various things until a bit past twelve, an older woman came by with a cart loaded with candies. Harry was starving, so he got one of everything.

"Wow, you like your sugar, huh?" Ron shook his head with a rueful grin. "Just like my sister." His eyes widened as he realized what he had said. "Um, not that I'm calling you girlish, of course!"

Harry laughed. Ron and his polite but impolite ways were starting to grow on him. "Come on, have some too. I got too much for just me."

Ron blinked and smiled. "Well, all right, thanks." He helped himself to a few treats. Harry found a curious candy, a pack of Chocolate Frogs. Ron quickly explained that they came with cards of famous witches and wizards.

Harry's Chocolate Frog had the card of Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts. The card was filled with all sorts of interesting and pointless facts. Harry felt himself getting highly amused when the bearded man actually walked out of the frame of the picture. Magic was pretty fun, when Harry didn't let the girl annoyance bother him.

A bit later, they heard a knock on the door of their compartment and the round-faced boy Harry had passed on platform nine and three-quarters peered in, looking teary eyed and a bit terrified.

"Sorry to bother you two," he said, "but have you seen a toad at all? Small dark green one?"

Harry and Ron shook their heads.

The boy's face pinched, as if he was about to cry, but he pulled himself together. "I keep losing him," he said softly. He then looked at Harry and reddened. "Oh, I don't know what to do."

"He'll turn up," said Harry. "I mean, how far can a toad even go?"

"Yes, I suppose you're probably right," said the boy miserably. "Well, if you see him..."

He left.

"Toads!" Ron shook his head. "The kid should be happy he's lost it, who wants a toad as a pet? Mine's nearly as bad, at least he's old."

"Oh?"

Ron paled. "Never mind, nothing to worry about Harriet." He shrugged. "Well, I got him from Percy after all." He slumped in his chair. "Even my wand is from someone else."

"Well I do know how that is," Harry reminded Ron. "The robes I got last month were the first new clothes I've ever had. The Dursleys never gave me anything new."

"The Dursleys are your relatives? Muggles, right?"

Harry nodded.

Ron frowned. "Oh, they sound awful. I was never one of those types to hate Muggles; my dad's kind of mad into them, to be honest. But maybe I was wrong." He looked quite troubled at the possibility.

"Don't let my terrible relatives change your thinking," Harry reassured. "There are good Muggles and bad Muggles, just like there are good wizards and bad ones. Heck, I even met a pretty bratty kid in Diagon Alley who was as bad as Dudley - that's my cousin. So I figure you should really judge folks by how they act, rather than anything else." Harry paused. "I mean, I'm not trying to be all inspiring or anything, that's just how I see it."

Ron nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, I see your point Harriet. You're pretty smart, actually." He grinned nervously. "That kind of compliment is all right, eh?"

"Yeah, it's fine," Harry said with a chuckle.

The compartment door slid open again, interrupting their conversation. The toadless boy was back, but this time he had a girl with him. She was already wearing her new Hogwarts robes.

"Has anyone seen a toad? Neville's lost one," she said. She had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth.

"We've already told him we haven't seen it," said Ron. "It's not like it had far to go after all, right?"

The girl raised an eyebrow. "Very well. Have you two been talking about magic?"

"Um, a bit," Harry said. "We both come from different places, after all. I was raised by Muggles and Ron's family is all wizards. But my parents were magical too, though."

"Really?" said the girl excitedly. "How fascinating. I was raised by Muggles, too, of course, but nobody in my family's magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, I mean, it's the very best school of witchcraft there is, I've heard. I've learned all our course books by heart, of course, I just hope it will be enough - I'm Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?"

"I'm Ron Weasley," Ron muttered, clearly taken aback.

"Harry Potter," said Harry, himself a bit amused at the excited girl.

"Are you really?" said Hermione a bit skeptically. "I've heard all about you, of course - you're in several books I've read. I don't know how much of is true, of course. Is it really true what it says about you in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts?"

"Well, I don't know," said Harry, feeling dazed. "I haven't read that one. I didn't even know I was in any books at all."

Hermione huffed, looking down her nose in disapproval. "I can't say I'm surprised, if you are who say you are. Of course, I'd have learned everything I could if it was me, but that's neither here nor there. I suppose you know all about Hogwarts, already? No reason to discuss it any longer, is there?" She sniffed. "Now, if you will excuse me, I believe Neville is still missing his toad. Oh, and you too ought to change, we're nearly there."

And she left, taking Neville with her.

Ron and Harry looked at each other in a kind of stunned amazement.

"That was nuts," Ron said finally, shaking his head. "She's an odd one. Whatever house I'm in, I hope she's not in it. Crazy girl. Um, not that I'm saying all girls are like that." Ron gulped in panic. "Um, not that I meant to talk about girls at all!"

"Settle down, Ron," Harry said in a soothing tone. "I think we can both agree Hermione is a bit - unusual, is that fair?"

"Yeah, definitely," Ron agreed. "But I still wouldn't want to be in her house."

Harry shrugged, not entirely caring that much. How bad could it be, really?

"So what house are your brothers in?" he asked.

"Gryffindor, the lot of 'em," said Ron and he sighed. "Mum and Dad too, naturally. Expect they want me to follow tradition and all that. Maybe Ravenclaw wouldn't be too bad, not really, but imagine Hufflepuff! They'd pretend it was fine, but I'd know it wasn't. And Slytherin?" He shuddered. "They might disown me."

I don't know what they'll say if I'm not. I don't suppose Ravenclaw would be too bad, but imagine if they put me in Slytherin."

"I don't know much about the houses, but I think my parents were in Gryffindor and You-Know-You was in Slytherin."

"That's the house Vol-, I mean, You-Know-Who was in?"

"Yeah," said Ron and he slumped back in his seat.

"Don't worry so much," Harry said teasingly. "You'll get wrinkles."

"Really?" Ron asked.

"Um, no, that was a joke."

"Oh," Ron laughed. "I thought you were serious." He shook his head. "Must be a Muggle thing. Oh wait a minute!" Ron suddenly looked thunderstruck. "I just realized! Quidditch! You don't know anything about it!"

"Well, I know a little," Harry said carefully. "But it's not like I've seen a game or anything."

"That's awful. It's the best game in the world, you'll see. Each house in Hogwarts has a team, and they play for the House Cup. It's brilliant. My brother Charlie was Seeker for Gryffindor til he graduated."

"Can you tell me more about Quidditch?" Harry asked. He didn't mind asking Ron for clarification; unlike the boy in Diagon Alley, he wasn't arrogant and creepy, and he was far more coherent than Hagrid.

Ron beamed and was off, explaining all about the four balls and the positions of the seven players, describing famous games he'd been to with his brothers and the broomstick he'd like to get if he had the money. He was just taking Harry through the finer points of the game when the compartment door slid open yet again, but it wasn't Neville the toadless boy, or Hermione Granger this time.

Three boys entered, and Harry recognized the middle one at once: it was the pale boy from Madam Malkin's robe shop. He was looking at Harry with the same creepy smile he'd had back in Diagon Alley.

"Well, well, look who it is," he said. "Rumor is that Harriet Potter's in this compartment. I should've known you were someone special, eh? Well, I suppose I did at that, didn't I?"

"Well, nice to see you too," said Harry casually, not meaning it at all, but he was far too relaxed to care about the brat. He glanced at the large boys flanking the spoiled blond boy.

"Oh, this is Crabbe and this is Goyle," said the pale boy carelessly, noticing where Harry was looking. "But they're not important." He leaned forward with a toothy grin. "And my name's Malfoy, Draco Malfoy." He bowed in a very pompous fashion.

Ron coughed, hiding an obvious laugh.

Draco Malfoy glared at him. "Was I talking to you, whoever you are? Oh, but I know who you are - my father told me all you Weasleys are the same. Orange glowing hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford."

He turned back to Harry. "My dear, you can clearly see that some wizarding families are far better than others. The Weasleys are all wrong for you to ally with, I assure you. Why don't you come sit with me? Or better yet, why I don't ask Crabbe and Goyle to 'escort' the useless poor boy out of here?"

Ron growled, but then looked back at Harry, suddenly worried.

But he needn't have bother worrying about it.

Harry stood calmly, his eyes twitching a bit, but carefully keeping his face in a pleasant smile. He looked at Ron and winked, although he hoped the redhead didn't get the wrong idea.

But Ron instantly looked relieved and then angry, as if he suddenly remembered Draco's insults.

"Malfoy, was it?"

Draco nodded, preening.

"Well, perhaps you can tell me why you are any better than Ron here?"

"Um, what?" Draco asked, startled. "I don't - I don't understand the question."

"You heard her, Malfoy," Ron said, leaning back in his seat. "How are you better than me?" He looked like he was really looking forward to the answer.

"Well, that's..." Draco looked back and forth in confusion between Ron and Harry. His eyes narrowed. "What did he promise you? You're not some sort of scarlet woman, are you?"

Ron leapt up in sudden fury, clenching his fists in anger. "What did you just say?"

Harry didn't know what Malfoy's obvious insult actually meant, which took much of the sting out of it. Still, he was more than a bit tired of being referred to as a woman - being insulted as woman was suddenly far, far worse.

"Malfoy, I don't know what you're getting at," Harry said slowly. "But I can tell you don't care about what girls have to say. Or anyone else for that matter."

Draco bristled. "That's not true. It's just that girls aren't as skilled as men, that's just common knowledge."

"Is that right?" Harry felt he should defend women, even if he wasn't technically one at all. "What's your mum's name?"

"W-what?" Draco stuttered.

"Well," Harry said with a shrug. "I just want to send her an owl about what you said - you know, that girls aren't as skilled as boys. I'd like to get her opinion, since you clearly learned from her about all this."

Malfoy paled noticeably, looking almost sickly. "Don't you dare! I mean, just please, don't send her any notes!"

Harry glanced quickly over at Ron, who looked like he was about to burst into laughter. Harry smothered a grin, it wouldn't do to laugh at this moment.

"Well, then I think you owe someone an apology," Harry said.

"Fine," Draco grumbled. "I apologize, Potter for insulting your skills. I'm sure you're as good as any man, probably better than Weasley here."

Harry shook his head at that - Malfoy probably couldn't even help himself. "No, I mean you owe an apology to all women. Unless you'd rather me get a second opinion from your mother?"

Malfoy's lips curled and he looked very cross. "You are very uppity, Potter. You'll pay for this insult. I'll apologize to all other women than you - you're clearly inferior to even House Elves." He snorted and gestured to his silent bodyguards, who followed him out of the compartment, pushing their way past Hermione, who was standing in the doorway.

"Oh, that was marvelous," Hermione said with a smile. "Perhaps you aren't so bad after all, Harriet!"

"Perhaps?" Ron asked incredulously.

"Oh never you mind," Hermione snorted. "A boy wouldn't understand."

Harry wasn't sure he understood either - but that was a good sign, right?

And how much longer until they arrived at Hogwarts anyway?

Next time...The Sorting Hat and Everyone's Least Favorite Potions Master

Snape's eyes glittered oddly. "You look quite a bit like your mother, Miss Potter."

Harry didn't know why, but he felt extremely uncomfortable at that moment.

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