The Many Faces of Harry Potter 5

“The Many Faces of Harry Potter: Chapter 5”

By = Fayanora

 

Chapter Five: Stones, Snakes, and House Elves

 

Note: Text in 'Italics and British quotes' is Parseltongue.

 

Note two: A little canon-y dialogue and narration in here, too. The Dobby scene in canon just has so much that's still great that works here, too. Again, I try to avoid it as much as possible.

 

One week. One week they had to stay in Hogwarts before being sent to spend the rest of the summer with the Weasleys. At first, Harry and the rest of the collective thought that was a ridiculously short amount of time, as they were keen on exploring the castle. But in that week, the only people in the castle besides them, Dumbledore, Hagrid, and Filch was... well, that was it, really. Even Snape had left, to who knew where. Hagrid was still busy with his gamekeeping chores mostly, Dumbledore remained as aloof as usual up in his office, and Filch had a nasty habit of following them around everywhere they went, sure they were up to no good. They occasionally got out to visit Hagrid, but mostly it was a lot of boredom in the empty Griffindor tower, unless they wanted to spend every five minutes facing Filch's wheezy accusations or dodging his cat, Mrs. Norris.

The only reason they were spending any time at all in the castle over the summer, from what Dumbledore had intimated, was because they were waiting for Nicolas Flamel to arrive. He would need a couple days to use the Philosopher's Stone to make enough gold and Elixir of Life to last him and his wife another year or two, and of course this required Zoey's presence and cooperation. Though nobody said why he was making extra, the collective knew it was in case Voldemort made Harry and the others pop their clogs.

Iliana had been gone almost that entire week, vanished Inside, hopefully recovering from the trauma of having killed in self defense. Dumbledore did come down from his office a couple times that week to ask after her and suggest that she see a mind healer over the summer, but Harry had no satisfactory answers for him, for she rarely appeared even internally.

Of all the things about that week, Iliana's disappearance was bothering Harry the most. He'd gotten so used to the body being in Iliana's form that the body having his original form again just felt weird to him. And... wrong, somehow? He worried, as he tried to get to sleep at night, that he'd been fading away and might die out, to let Iliana replace him, which he most assuredly did not want to do. But all the same, it felt weird being in a boy's body all the time again.

Pretty much the only sign they'd had all that week that Iliana was even still around was the fact that she continued to have nightmares whenever they slept. Nightmares that often woke them up in a cold sweat, making further sleep pretty much impossible.

On the sixth day, Dumbledore and Harry were sitting at the lone table in the Great Hall having breakfast (because with so few people in the castle there seemed no point to have more than one table, according to Dumbledore) when the headmaster coughed slightly to get his attention.

“Yes, sir?”

“Ah yes, Harry, I wanted to let you know, Nicolas sent an owl, and he will be here by noon at the latest. He will need an hour to set up his equipment in one of the labs in the dungeons, but he will need the Stone after that point. So I will fetch you at 1pm. Please let Zoey know to be ready to retrieve the Stone.”

Harry nodded, continuing to dig into his kippers. “Yes, sir.”

“Good. With that out of the way, has there been any word from Iliana?”

Harry swallowed, then shook his head. “No, sir. She keeps having nightmares, though, at night. I've been up since 4 am today because of one of them, in fact.”

“Hmm. I will send some owls today, to try to speed up getting a mind healer appointment for her, in that case. She should not be hiding from her troubles, they will only get worse the more she does.”

“Okay, sir. I'll continue to try to coax her out.”

“Excellent.”

After breakfast, Harry glumly went back up to Griffindor tower, taking a number of shortcuts so he could minimize the chance of running into Filch. When he got up there, he stared at his belongings, thinking about Iliana, about getting out of the castle in two days, and – oddly – about what he would wear when he did. He of course had Muggle clothes, if the circus tents that had been Dudley's counted as clothing. Looking at the hideous things again, he suddenly knew he didn't want to wear any of it ever again. He was free of the Dursleys, so he wanted to be free of any reminders of them. On a sudden, unexpected whim, he grabbed up all his old Muggle clothes (except his underpants), carried them downstairs in his arms, and threw them all in the fire, watching them burn. This meant he wouldn't have any Muggle clothes for the trip to the Weasleys, but he didn't care; he could Floo directly to the Burrow if he needed to, right? And from there to Diagon Alley, no doubt.

“Harry,” Dumbledore said, making Harry start and turn. The headmaster was there in the Griffindor dormitory, looking into the fire at the burning clothes.

“Er...” Harry said. But the headmaster just chuckled.

“Nothing to worry about, my dear boy. If I'd been forced to wear such hideous apparel, I can imagine I'd want to burn it as well. No matter. You have your inheritance, and Gringotts can exchange wizarding money for Muggle money, so buying new Muggle clothing will pose no problem for you. The only sticking point, of course, is what you will wear to the Muggle stores. But I shall solve that now for you.”

Dumbledore got out his wand and drew in the air with it, making a folded black t-shirt and folded pair of blue jeans appear on a nearby chair. Harry looked at them and felt, oddly, that they looked wrong too. But he couldn't figure out why he felt that way, so he just picked them up and smiled at Dumbledore.

“Thank you, sir. Shall I put them in my room before we go?”

“Yes. I am early anyway, and Nicolas learned patience many centuries ago besides.”

Harry nodded at this and ran up to put away his new clothes in his trunk. When he got back downstairs, Dumbledore nodded.

“This way, Harry.”

Harry wrinkled his nose slightly. Something had been bothering him for a long time, something he'd only become aware of now, as Dumbledore spoke; he had realized that he didn't like being called Harry.

More accurately, he'd been aware of this for some time, he just hadn't been aware of being aware of it; and no, it wasn't a Multiple thing. It was like when Al had become aware of the absurd convenience of Hagrid managing to find a dragon egg without looking for one, but not really fully getting it until later.

As Dumbledore led him down to the dungeons to find Flamel, Harry thought about this new realization, wondering about its origins. Was it because he'd thought his name was Boy for so long, because of the Dursleys, that he'd actually introduced himself as Boy in kindergarten and become an instant laughingstock? He'd only heard any of the Dursleys say his real name after that incident, when he had – angry and embarrassed – demanded to know his name, and Aunt Petunia had finally told him, once she'd stopped laughing at him long enough to get it out. Dudley said it sometimes, of course. The name was associated with pain and ridicule... so was that it?

His introspection was cut short when Dumbledore announced that they were there. He let Harry in, and Harry got his first look at Nicolas Flamel.

The man was short, hardly taller than Harry, and had a full beard, but he looked no older than 40, so his resemblance to Dumbledore ended there.

“Harry,” Dumbledore said, “this is my good friend Nicolas Flamel.”

“Ah, you must be the Potters,” Flamel said, in an accent that Harry couldn't place. Al couldn't, either.

But then, he's several hundred years old, so that complicates matters, Al thought.

“Yes, that's us.”

“Dumbledore tells me that one named Zoey has the Stone.”

Harry nodded, looking around at the lab the man had set up. It was quite complex, like something out of an old gothic mad scientist movie, but without the Muggle technology.

“I'll see if I can get her out, then, sir.”

Zoey? He inquired within.

They glowed bright white, shrinking; suddenly a 6 year old with black hair, light brown skin, and one green eye, one hazel eye was standing there, wearing a pink pinafore dress and black Mary Janes, with a pink ribbon in her hair. She was holding a blood red stone in her right hand.

“Hello Mister Flamel. Are you looking for this?” She handed it to him.

“Yes, indeed. Thank you, my dear.”

Dumbledore twinkled at her. “Well best run along, dear. This will take a few hours. There's no point waiting around for that span. I will fetch you when it is time to resecure the Stone.”

“Righty-o, Mister Dumbledore Sir” she said cheerfully, before literally running along out the door.

“Oy there, no running in the corridors!” a wheezy voice shouted at her as she left the room. She turned to see Mister Filch slouching quickly in her direction. “Don't think I'm afraid of whipping you just because you're a little girl, missy.”

“Sorry, not my scene,” she said innocently. “But maybe Madam Pince will let you whip her instead?”

As Filch gaped in red-faced astonishment at her, Zoey skipped away, humming a happy song to herself.

She decided it was a beautiful day to go outside, and so she did, spending her time hunting around the grounds for animals to coo at. She saw several rabbits, a fox, and some frogs, but none of them wanted to stick around for long. But then she spotted a grass snake by the black lake.

'Hello there, little snakey,' she said to it. 'How are you this fine afternoon?'

The snake lifted its head and regarded her curiously. 'I am well. How are you?'

'I'm good, too. Are you hunting?'

'I was.'

'Should I leave you be?'

'Yes please.'

'Okie dokie. I wish you luck!'

'Thanks, strange human.'

She watched the snake slither off into the water until she couldn't see it anymore, and went off in search of more snakes.

 

When Dumbledore approached Zoey later, she was sitting cross-legged on the grass, stroking a grass snake's head, appearing from a distance to be speaking to it. As he got closer, however, he thought he heard her hissing and spitting at it without drawing breath, which froze him in his tracks. He suddenly remembered Iliana having said, at the beginning of the last school year, that Alastair had been commanding the snakes. Dumbledore had wondered, then, if it had been Parseltongue, and now he was certain. This fact lent some weight to a theory of his he'd been rather hoping he was wrong about, especially given that the Potter collective had an innocent (more or less) child among them.

He started walking again, and – apparently sensing his presence at last – Zoey looked up and smiled at him.

“Is it time to put the Stone back already?”

“Yes, I'm delighted to say that Nicolas and his wife are now well prepared for another year. More, in fact. It is always best to have extras, in case of emergencies. So your new friend shall have to slither off now, I'm afraid.”

“Okay, Mister Dumbledore Sir,” she said. She turned to the snake and said, 'See you later, Miss Snakey.'

'I hope so. You are warm, and I like warm things.'

The child let the snake go, and got up to follow him back to the dungeons. He considered her in silence the whole way there, wondering if he should tell her about the meaning of her gift, or not. Finally, though, he decided he ought to.

“Miss Potter?”

“Yes, Mister Dumbledore Sir?”

“I am curious about something. Were you able, perchance, to understand what that snake was saying?”

“Well, yes. Can't all magical people speak with snakes?”

“No, it is a rare gift, called Parseltongue.”

“Partial-tongue?”

“No, Parseltongue. With an S, not a T. And it is a gift I think you would do best to keep quiet. I do not personally have any prejudice against the gift, but many in the wizarding world consider the gift to be associated with dark magic.”

Oh lovely, something else to worry about, Al said.

Ignoring him, Zoey nodded at Dumbledore. “Okay, I'll keep it quiet.”

Zoey was pensive the whole rest of the way back, and during the process of re-securing the Stone. Harry briefly appeared before Zoey came back out. Having secured the Stone, Flamel said his goodbyes, and Zoey went back outside to speak with her new friend.

The conversation was much more subdued after that, though; even the snake noticed.

'What bothers you, human?'

'I just found out that being able to speak with you like this is considered bad by a lot of people, just because a lot of bad people had this ability too. It's a rare gift, the headmaster told me.'

'Ah. So you must keep it a secret?'

'Yes.'

'Does that mean you have to withdraw the offer to let me inside the castle where it is always warm, even in the cold months?'

'No. I'll keep you anyway. I'll just have to be careful. Maybe if I concentrate, I can tell the difference between this partialtongue and English.'

She sighed, then invited the snake to crawl up and around her arm. Then she took it inside, up to their room in the Griffindor dorms, and let the snake coil around her shoulders as she packed their belongings, as they would be going to the Burrow soon. She kept the snake, which she named Aqua, with her all day long and even into bed with her, explaining to it about being a Multiple before she went to bed, just in case they switched in their sleep.

 

Zoey woke up the next morning surprised to find that Iliana's nightmares had felt distant, like a storm on the horizon, during the night. It was curious, and Al wondered if it was because Zoey was so bubbly. Zoey just shrugged and went down to breakfast.

The headmaster was there at the table already when she sat down.

“Ah, Miss Zoey Potter. Still with us, then? Good, good. Incidentally, my dear, you'll want to pack today, for I will be taking you to the Burrow in time for lunch today.”

In between bites of her scrambled eggs, she said, “Yeah I kinda figgered. So I packed last night.”

“Good, then we can leave all the sooner. Shall we leave after breakfast, then?”

“Sure. How're we getting there, Floo?”

“I think it would be more secure, actually, if I were to take you by side-along Apparition.”

“What's that?”

“Apparition is disappearing from one place and instantly reappearing elsewhere.”

“Oh, like teleporting?”

He chuckled. “Yes, I suppose that is the Muggle term for it. But, er... the experience is often unpleasant for beginners, and tends to cause nausea. But if you lose your breakfast, my dear, Molly will be more than happy to replace it for you.”

“Molly is Ron's mum, right?”

“Correct. I call her Molly, but you would probably be best to call her Mrs. Weasley.”

“Yeah, I noticed – or Al noticed, really – that you tend to call adults by their first names, even other professors, and with kids it's a mix of first names and Mr/Miss Whatever, or something like 'my dear boy.' Al thinks it's weird, and says that the adults look either offended or exasperated depending on how used to it they are. Like, he's not sure but he thinks it's some kind of rule you're breaking.”

“Ah, yes. Well I hope you all will forgive an old man his eccentricities,” he said, twinkling at them before going back to his bacon.

Sounds to me like another way of saying 'I'm Dumbledore, muthafuckas, I do what I waaant.'

Zoey giggled at this. Dumbledore looked curiously at her, apparently cluing into the fact she wasn't giggling at him.

“Am I to assume that Alastair has said something amusing to you?”

“Yeah. But it was a little rude.”

He twinkled at them again, to which Al replied with an image of himself rolling his eyes. She snorted into her pudding at this.

After breakfast, Dumbledore helped Zoey get their trunk downstairs by calling a house elf to do it. Zoey stared in amazement at the elf, with its large head, huge eyes, and batlike ears for the brief time that it was there. When it left, she looked up at Dumbledore.

“What was that?”

“That was a house elf. They are magical creatures that are servants for us. Hogwarts is home to over 100 of them. They clean, cook, tend the fires, make the beds, and other things besides.”

“Really? So why do we need Mr. Filch?”

“Ah. As to that, the mark of a good house elf is that it is never seen unless summoned, or unless you were to find your way into the kitchens. So we need Mr. Filch for messes in places and times that elves cannot do it, as well as to maintain order in the corridors.”

“Al wants to know why, if that's the case, you need someone who can't do magic for that job. He says it would be better to have a fully qualified wizard do it.”

“Mr. Filch is more than capable.”

Zoey's face contorted into a scowl, which was a strange thing to see on her face. “What a load of rubbish. That's not an answer. I mean, I have nothing against the man, it's just that he's obviously miserable here, surrounded by constant reminders of his perceived inadequacy. It's no bloody wonder he hates the students.”

“Ah. Alastair, I presume?”

Zoey's face raised an eyebrow at the man. “Yes.”

“Well, now is not the time to discuss it, my dear boy. I--”

“Don't call me 'boy,'” Al-Zoey interrupted. “That term has a lot of baggage for us, it's what the Dursleys called us. Harry didn't even know his real name until kindergarten.”

“Ah. I apologize, Alastair. I was unaware of that. I will endeavor to remember not to do it again. Ah, here come the carriages.”

Zoey's face lost Al's annoyed expression at once as she beamed. “HORSIES!” she shouted, pointing at the thestrals pulling the carriage. “Horsies horsies horsies HORSIES!”

“Thestrals, my dear; they're thestrals.”

“Yeah I know, Hagrid said so already. But they're also horsies!”

Dumbledore chuckled at that. “I suppose they are, at that.”

“Why're we getting in the carriage if we're using side along teleportation?”

“Apparition, my dear. Hagrid had this one ready already because I had originally planned to use the Floo at the Three Broomsticks, so I wouldn't need to go to the trouble of connecting the castle to the Floo network, but then I remembered that Voldemort had been here recently, and decided it was more secure to do side along Apparition. But it seems that your unexpected readiness caused me to forget to inform Hagrid to unhitch the thestrals, so here they came as originally scheduled. We may as well use them, since they are here. It is rather a lengthy walk to the gates, after all, and I am not as young as I used to be.”

Zoey nodded at this and climbed into the carriage. Dumbledore got in behind her, and the two thestrals began heading down at a light canter to the gates. It wasn't until they got there that Dumbledore spoke, giving a command to them to stop, which they did. They got out, got Zoey's trunk out, and Dumbledore sent the thestrals back to Hagrid.

“I will send your trunk along ahead of us, it will be easier this way.”

She nodded. He pointed his wand at the trunk, and it vanished.

“Take my arm now, dear. And prepare yourself.”

She did, and soon she felt like she was being squeezed through a dark rubber tube, before suddenly appearing in a grassy field. She felt a little woozy, but managed to keep her breakfast down. She still had to lean against Dumbledore, though.

When Zoey regained her composure, she looked up at the sight of a very tall house that looked like a barn had been added to multiple times until it was a tall structure that was plainly being held up by magic.

“Oh. My. Goodness!” she said, her eyes wide. She began to laugh delightedly at it.

“Welcome to the Burrow, Miss Potter.”

They began walking toward it. They'd barely begun when a rubenesque woman with flaming red hair came bustling toward them from the door.

“Mrs. Weasley?” Zoey asked Dumbledore.

“Yes, that is Molly Weasley. Hello, Molly!” he said to the woman, who had gotten within earshot.

“Dumbledore! And...” she looked at Zoey curiously. “Who is this?”

“This is one of the Potters. Her name is Zoey. Zoey Potter, meet Molly Weasley.”

Zoey held out her hand. Mrs. Weasley took it, still looking confused. “One of the... OH! Yes, she has the... well...” she trailed off, her eyes flicking to the scar that was always on their forehead no matter who was Out, “and I remember you explaining it to me, Albus. Several people in one body, and the body changes form from some of the switches, right?”

“Yes, ma'am. It is very nice to meet you at last. Ron talks about you a lot.”

“Thank you, dear. He talks of you a lot too. Well, I don't think he's mentioned you in particular, but he's mentioned Harry, Alastair, and Iliana. Er... how many of you are there, anyway? If it's not rude to ask.”

“It's fine. So far, it's just me, Harry, Iliana, Alastair, and Tier.”

“Tea-air?”

“It's German,” Zoey explained. “Means 'beast, animal.' He's a little feral, but nice.”

“Ah. So just the five of you, then?”

“So far as we know.”

“Two girls and three boys, then?”

Something in their shared mental space twinged at that, but Zoey didn't know what it meant, so she just replied, “S'far's we know, ma'am.”

Mrs. Weasley tut-tutted. “No more of this 'ma'am,' business please, dear. Just call me Mrs. Weasley, if you call me anything at all.”

“Okie dokie then.”

Dumbledore coughed slightly to get their attention.

“Sorry to interrupt, Molly m'dear, but I have matters to attend to back in Hogsmeade, so I shall have to leave you for now. Enjoy your summer, Zoey, Everyone.”

Mrs. Weasley and Zoey said their goodbyes to the man, who tipped his hat before disappearing with a small pop, and soon Zoey was following Mrs. Weasley into the house.

“Iliana! Is that--” Ron shouted, falling short in both speech and momentum as he saw Zoey. Recovering quickly, he smiled and said, “Hey there, Titchy.”

“Ronald, don't be rude to the poor dear.”

“S'okay, Mrs. Weasley.” She turned to Ron, punching him so hard in the arm that he exclaimed in pain. “Right back atcha, Lanky.”

“Ah, do our ears deceive us?” said one of the twins, who were coming down the stairs. “Are those the dulcet tones of our favorite troublemaking Potter, the esteemed Zoey Potter?”

She blushed, and exaggerated looking embarrassed. “Flattery will get you everywhere. Well, maybe not everywhere.”

The twins, to everyone's surprise, turned beet red. Molly blinked, then laughed.

“Well, now I've seen everything.” She shook her head, then turned to Zoey. “Did Dumbledore bring you along by side along Apparition? Were you sick in the grass, dearie?”

“He did, but I'm fine. I got a little woozy, but everything's still in there.”

“All the same, dearie, from what I've heard of those relatives of yours, I'd feel better if you ate something else.”

“Well, maybe a biscuit, if you have one.”

Mrs. Weasley summoned the biscuit tin with her wand. “There you go, dearie.”

“Do we get biscuits, too?” asked the twins and Ron.

“No. You had some already, and knowing you, you'd eat yourself sick if I let you.”

“Ah well,” said Fred. “Doesn't hurt to ask.”

Ron started to lead Zoey up to his room, but Mrs. Weasley stopped him.

“No, Ron; I don't feel comfortable letting her sleep in your room. She can sleep in Ginny's room.”

“Mom! She's 6! What do you think I am, some kind of sicko? Besides which, they already sleep in our room at school.”

“Yes. With three other boys. I don't understand why Dumbledore allows it, honestly.”

“Where're they supposed to sleep? There's two boys in their collective, they can't use the girl's dormitory.”

“They should have their own room, if that's the case.”

“If it'll help, I can bring Harry back.”

“Hmm... but what about Iliana, dear?”

“She's been in hiding ever since she killed Quirrell in self defense.”

Molly looked concerned again. “Yes... yes I heard about that. Of course Dumbledore explained it all in an owl, the poor dear. I hope something can be done for her. But no, dear, you can stay if you want; there's no need to switch on our account. If nothing else, you can always kip on the sofa.”

“Well can she at least come up and see my room without me getting the third degree?”

“Yes yes, just leave the door open.”

Ron sighed and rolled his eyes, leading Zoey upstairs. She followed along behind, her eyes going every which way, taking in everything she could.

“Sorry about Mum back there. Honestly, of all the daft things... I don't know what her problem is. Anyway, here's my room.”

“Ouch,” she said, shielding her eyes from the glare of all his myriad neon orange Chudley Cannons posters. “Okie dokie, I don't think I'm gonna go in there, it's painfully orange in there. Gah...” she backed away carefully, then turned about and went around the corner.

“Sorry, Ron. Maybe Harry or Al can look at it later. But my head still hurts from all the orange.”

Ron blushed. “Sorry about that, mate. I guess it is a bit much. Wanna go outside? Mum says we're to stay on the property, because some people from the ministry were here the other day putting up wards for you lot, but there's plenty to do out there.”

“Alrighty. But I think I'm gonna retire, let Harry out.”

“Ah, okay. Later, then?”

“Later for sure. Hold on a moment, gonna go to the loo first.”

Zoey ran into the loo, closing the door, and turned the tap on. Then she said, in Parseltongue, 'Come out, Aqua. I have to switch, and it's best if you're not coiling around me at the time, just in case.'

'If you say so, human.'

Once the snake was waiting on the bathroom sink, she glowed, grew, and became Harry.

'Ah, you smell different, but similar. So she wasn't exaggerating.'

'Yeah,' said Harry.

'May I curl around you again?' she asked.

'Yeah, go on.'

'Ah, so warm.'

When Harry came back out, he found Ron again.

“Let me see your room, Ron; maybe I'll have a better time of it than Zoey.”

As it turned out, Harry had no problem with Ron's room. He could see where it could cause others problems, but as for him, he had no problem of it. After getting a good look around, they decided to go outside and play some Quidditch, so Harry grabbed his broom and headed downstairs with Ron.

On their way out the door, Mrs. Weasley spotted them.

“Is that you, Harry?”

“Hi Mrs. Weasley. Yes, it's me.”

“Glad to see you again. You two going outside, then?”

“Yeah, Mum. Gonna play some Quidditch.”

“Ah, is that so little brother? Well wait for us, and we'll come too,” George said.

“The more the merrier.”

“Where's Ginny? Maybe she can join us, too.”

“I would, but she'd take one look at you and run off, mate. She fancies you, and anyone she fancies makes her very nervous.”

Harry blushed. “Ah. Anyone else available to join in?”

“Nope,” said Fred. “Charlie and Bill live abroad, and perfect Percy is too busy with whatever it is he does in his room to condescend spending time with us plebes.”

“I guess we'll just have to make do.”

It wasn't easy, as it turned out, to play Quidditch with just four people, so they ended up giving up and just practiced tossing the Quaffle around and catching it, going for ever more difficult passes and laughing at one another whenever they failed.

Later that day, as they headed back for dinner, they saw Mr. Weasley Apparate in at a distance some ways away, so they waited for him to walk the rest of the way to the door.

“Hey Dad,” Fred said. “Look, it's Harry. Harry Potter!”

“Ah yes, so it is. Good to meet you, Harry,” he said, holding out his hand. Harry took it with a resigned feeling.

They went in and sat down around the dinner table. As they waited to be served, Mr. Weasley looked straight at Harry and asked him to explain how airplanes stay up in the air. Harry blinked, a bit bemused, but answered.

“I'm not sure, but there's some scientific principle called lift, where if you shape the wings a certain way, it does something with air pressure that pushes the plane into the sky.”

“Amazing! I wonder how they discovered that?”

“No idea.”

“And what about this ekeltricity?”

“Electricity. That's from...” he strained his memory, concentrating. “Well, matter is made of these tiny little things called atoms, and the atoms are made of smaller bits called protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons and neutrons make a nucleus, and electrons buzz around it like planets around the sun. But they can move from one atom to another, the electrons. Magnets do that a lot. I'm not sure how the magnets make the electrons move, but they're part of the electric generators, and that electric power makes lights and stuff work.”

“Absolutely fascinating. And what about--”

“Arthur, don't pester him, it's dinnertime.”

“Sorry, Molly dear.”

Sheesh. Didn't Ron say this guy works in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office at the ministry? Al commented internally. You'd think he'd know this stuff already.

After he'd gotten a solid amount of food into his belly, Harry turned to Mr. Weasley again.

“Did you take Muggle Studies class in Hogwarts?”

“Well yes, of course. I work with Muggles, so an O.W.L. in Muggle Studies is required. Why do you ask?”

Seriously? Must be a shit class, then, Al said to Harry.

“Oh. Just curious, Mr. Weasley.”

As they went back to eating, Harry made a mental note to get Mr. Weasley a book or two about some Muggle science stuff for him for Christmas.

From the kid's section, would be best.

 

Summer at the Weasley's was a lot of fun. Ron (and the twins, when they weren't shut in their rooms making explosions) always found ways to have fun, because boredom in the Weasley household was a surefire way to get set doing chores. But even some of the chores were fun, like de-gnoming. Harry felt bad tossing the grubby little potato-shaped gnomes at first, but they proved to be stupid and mean, so he quickly lost sympathy for them.

Sure enough, Ginny turned out to flee the room if Harry turned up unexpectedly, and turned red and got clumsy other times when he was in the room. Harry pretended not to notice, even while Al wanted to roll his eyes, and Zoey giggled somewhere deep Inside.

Going to bed the first night in Ron's room had been met with an unexpected complication. Harry had been on autopilot, his mind wandering, and only when Ron shouted “Oy! What the...?” did Harry notice he had been about to change into one of Iliana's nightgowns. He put it away, but strangely he didn't feel embarrassed by the mistake, just annoyed.

Even with Iliana still hiding, and Mr. Weasley's constant questions about Muggle technology, it was the best summer he'd ever had. (Yes, even counting the previous one spent in Diagon Alley and The Leaky Cauldron.) And it was proving to get better, for by the week before his birthday they finalized plans for Hermione to come to his first ever birthday party. Though he'd been free of the Dursleys the summer before, and Hagrid had gotten him a cake and taken him out for ice cream and given him presents, it hadn't been a party; it takes more than two people to have a party, after all. So Harry was very excited for the upcoming birthday.

The next morning, however, something happened that put a slight damper on his excitement. He had gotten an owl from Dumbledore telling him of Iliana's first appointment with a mind healer, to happen two days before his birthday, with a man called Healer Young. He sighed, but accepted this. Iliana needed to get better, after all, and he missed her terribly. So he sent the owl back with a quick scribbled note relaying his understanding.

On the night before the appointment, Harry went to bed as usual. Perhaps sparked by the impending appointment, Iliana's nightmares – which had spent most of the weeks at the Burrow barely noticeable to Harry – came back in full force. They were right in the middle of one about an angry zombie Quirrell grabbing their arms and shaking them, screaming accusations at them, when they woke up screaming. A hand immediately clapped over their mouth, Iliana's mouth (for they had apparently transformed in their sleep), cutting off the scream quickly. Ron grunted, but did not wake up.

Panicking, struggling against the hands holding her down, Iliana began to cry. Not only was she terrified that someone was in her room holding her down, but she was also terrified that Dumbledore had been wrong, that they still had their mother's protection, that she would kill someone else.

'What was that?' she heard Zoey's pet snake say from inside her bedclothes. 'Human, what is wrong?' she asked, but of course Iliana could not answer. 'I will bite anyone who hurts you, though I don't think that will do much more than annoy them.'

“Miss Potter will please settle down, Miss. Dobby is not meaning Miss no harm. Dobby is a good elf. Please, Miss,” said the high-pitched voice. “Please be settling down and be quiet. Dobby is promising you is not to be harmed. In fact, Dobby is here to warn Miss of danger coming to Hogwarts!”

Though unsure whether to believe the voice or not, Iliana calmed down just enough to remember TV shows they'd seen that showed it was a good idea to comply even if your kidnapper meant you harm, at least for a little while.

“Does Miss Potter promise to be quiet please for Dobby to speaks with her?”

Iliana nodded. A part of her was very curious how Ron was sleeping through Dobby's high-pitched voice, even though the elf was whispering. For she now recognized that he was a house elf.

“Good. Dobby is letting go now, Miss, but Dobby is ready to quiet Miss again if Miss screams again.”

And with that, he let go of her. She immediately pushed away from him, squeezing herself as tight to the wall as she could. Aqua, the snake, stuck her head out of Iliana's nightgown (as Harry's pajamas had transformed along with the body) and sniffed the air with wary curiosity.

'You are tense and I smell fear on you. Is that green creature with the large ears the source of your fear?'

Iliana didn't want to find out what Dobby would say if she spoke Parseltongue around him, so she just started stroking the snake's head.

'I shall take that as a no, then,' Aqua replied, and settled back inside Iliana's nightgown.

“Oh Miss,” Dobby said sadly. “Dobby is so very sad that Miss is scared. Dobby is hoping Miss is not being scared, but Dobby is prepared for Miss being scared, for Dobby heard tell of Miss being very scared after she is getting away from the bad dark wizard who is trying to take the Philosopher's Stone.”

I guess they never taught this fellow about the past tense, eh? Al commented to Iliana, but she wasn't in the mood for levity.

“Shut up!” she responded to Al, aloud.

Dobby jerked back, his lip quivering, his large wet eyes watering.

“Not you, Dobby. Sorry, I was talking to Al. But... you probably don't know what I mean by that, do you?”

Dobby looked relieved by this.

“Oh no, Miss, not at all. Dobby is knowing all about your condition, Miss. Dobby is hearing of it from several sources. Dobby is knowing all about the Potters, about Misses Iliana and Zoey, and of Harry Potter, and of Alastair Potter. Dobby is even knowing of one who people is calling Tier.”

“Who'd you hear all this from, Dobby?”

“From other house elves, mainly. They is also saying how great the Potters is, how the Potters is defeating even You-Know-Who. They speaks of your bravery, too. Such an honor it is, Miss Iliana Potter, to be meeting you.”

Iliana wanted to argue with him on some of those points, but got the impression that it would be a waste of time, so instead, she just said, “You said something about danger coming to Hogwarts?”

Dobby nodded so hard his ears flapped.

“Yes, Miss. Dobby has come to tell you, Miss. It is difficult, Miss. Dobby wonders where to begin?”

“Why don't you sit down?” she said politely, pointing at the bed in front of her.

To her horror, Dobby burst into very noisy tears.

“S-sit down!” he wailed. “Never … never ever …”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, “I didn’t mean to offend you or anything —”

“Offend Dobby!” choked the elf. “Dobby has never been asked to sit down by a witch or wizard — like an equal —”

Iliana, trying to say “Shh!” and look comforting at the same time, ushered Dobby into a sitting position on the bed where he sat hiccoughing, looking like a large and very ugly doll. At last he managed to control himself, and sat with his great eyes fixed on Iliana in an expression of watery adoration.

“You can’t have met many decent wizards,” she said, trying to cheer him up.

Dobby shook his head. Then, without warning, he leapt up and started banging his head furiously on the window, shouting, “Bad Dobby! Bad Dobby!”

“Don’t — what are you doing?” Iliana hissed, springing up and pulling Dobby back onto the bed. “You'll wake Ron!”

He must sleep like the dead, to sleep through this racket.

“Not to worry, Miss. Dobby is putting a silencing bubble around the two of us. Your weezy will not wake, he is not hearing us.”

“Then why'd you--”

“Dobby is having very sensitive ears, Miss,” he said, pointing at his large, batlike ears.

“Ah, that explains it.”

“Anyway, Miss... Dobby had to punish himself, Miss,” said the elf, who had gone slightly cross-eyed. “Dobby almost spoke ill of his family, Miss. …”

“Your family?” This time it was Harry that had spoken, using Iliana's voice. Dobby did not, of course, notice.

“The wizard family Dobby serves, Miss. … Dobby is a house-elf — bound to serve one house and one family forever. …”

Harry decided it would be too complicated to explain to Dobby that he was talking to Harry now, when they were still in Iliana's body, especially since that could change at any moment. And anyway, Iliana was still present, listening raptly, so he let the elf continue to think he was speaking only to her.

“I've seen house elves before, at the school,” Harry said. “Do your family know you’re here?” he asked curiously.

Dobby shuddered.

“Oh, no, Miss, no … Dobby will have to punish himself most grievously for coming to see you, Miss. Dobby will have to shut his ears in the oven door for this. If they ever knew, Miss —”

“But won’t they notice if you shut your ears in the oven door?”

“Dobby doubts it, Miss. Dobby is always having to punish himself for something, Miss. They lets Dobby get on with it, Miss. Sometimes they reminds me to do extra punishments. …”

“But why don’t you leave? Escape?”

“A house-elf must be set free, Miss. And the family will never set Dobby free … Dobby will serve the family until he dies, Miss. …”

Harry stared.

“You're a slave,” he said. “Holy shit... This makes the Dursleys sound almost human. Can’t anyone help you? Can’t I?”

Almost at once, Harry wished he hadn’t spoken. Dobby dissolved again into wails of gratitude. Despite what Dobby had said, he and Iliana couldn't help but turn to look at Ron, who was still fast asleep.

“Iliana Potter asks if she can help Dobby … Dobby has heard of your greatness, Sirs and Misses, but of your goodness, Dobby never knew. …”

Harry, who was feeling distinctly hot in the face, said, “Whatever you’ve heard about our greatness is a load of rubbish. We're not even top of my year at Hogwarts; that’s Hermione.”

“Harry Potter is humble and modest,” said Dobby reverently, his orb-like eyes aglow. “Harry Potter speaks not of his triumph over He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named —”

“Voldemort?” said Harry without thinking.

Dobby clapped his hands over his bat ears and moaned, “Ah, speak not the name, Miss! Speak not the name!”

“Sorry,” said Harry quickly. “I know lots of people don’t like it. Ron complains about it all the time. But it's just a name, isn't it? It doesn't even sound like a real name. I bet he made it up.”

“Miss is...” Dobby looked thoughtful, as though weighing whether he could speak or not. “Miss may possibly be... may possibly be not exactly totally on the inc--” he gritted his teeth, his whole body tensing, then started bashing his head against the bedside table. In a panic, Harry and Iliana both tried grabbing him, and ended up nearly knocking him over instead, almost falling out of bed themselves.

“Thank you, Miss. Dobby is almost saying too much.”

“It's okay, Dobby. I understand it's difficult for you.”

Dobby nodded. Harry opened his mouth to ask a question, but Dobby beat him to speaking.

“Dobby heard tell,” he said hoarsely, “that Harry and Iliana Potter met the Dark Lord for a second time, just weeks ago … that the Potters escaped yet again.”

Harry nodded and Dobby’s eyes suddenly shone with tears.

“Ah, Miss,” he gasped, dabbing his face with a corner of the grubby pillowcase he was wearing. “The Potters is valiant and bold! They has braved so many dangers already! But Dobby has come to protect the Potters, to warn them, even if he does have to shut his ears in the oven door later. … for Harry and Iliana Potter and the others must not go back to Hogwarts.”

There was a silence broken only by Ron's grunting snores in the other bed.

“W-what?” Harry stammered. “But I’ve got to go back — term starts on September first. I belong here, in this world — the wizarding world — and at Hogwarts.”

“No, no, no,” squeaked Dobby, shaking his head so hard his ears flapped. “The Potters must stay where they is safe. They is too great, too good, to lose. If the Potters go back to Hogwarts, they will be in mortal danger.”

“Why?” said Harry in surprise.

“There is a plot, Iliana Potter. A plot to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year,” whispered Dobby, suddenly trembling all over. “Dobby has known it for months, Miss. Iliana Potter and the others must not put themselves in peril. They is too important, Miss!”

“What terrible things?” said Harry at once. “Who’s plotting them?”

Dobby made a funny choking noise and then banged his head frantically against the wall.

“All right!” cried Harry, grabbing the elf’s arm to stop him. “You can’t tell me. I understand. But why are you warning me?” A sudden, unpleasant thought struck him. “Hang on — this hasn’t got anything to do with Vol — sorry — with You-Know-Who, has it? You could just shake or nod,” he added hastily as Dobby’s head tilted worryingly close to the wall again.

Slowly, Dobby shook his head.

“Not — not He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Miss—”

But Dobby’s eyes were wide and he seemed to be trying to give Harry a hint.

“You seemed to be agreeing when I said his name sounded made up. Was he known by another name before?”

Dobby said nothing, and didn't move, which said everything.

“Do you know his previous name?”

Again, another significant silence from the elf.

“But you can't tell us?”

“Oh Miss, would that Dobby could, Miss!”

“I understand. Is his previous name known to many?”

At this, Dobby tensed up, wringing his hands.

“Okay, you can't tell me. Got it. Lemme think...” but he was out of questions.

Ask him if Moldywart is foreign.

“Was... was You-Know-Who born on mainland Europe?”

“Dobby---”

Ron gave such a loud snore that both of them froze. Dobby regarded Ron, and though Ron appeared to be going back to sleep, he looked panicked.

“Dobby is sorry, Miss,” he whispered, “but Miss's Weezy is waking up. Miss must promise Dobby she is not going to Hogwarts! It is much too dangerous! You need to be going back to the Dursleys, Miss, where Miss is safe!”

“Can't, Dobby. I no longer live with them. It's not safe there anymore. And it wasn't really very safe there to begin with. The Dursleys are horrible people, they barely fed me, my bedroom was a cupboard under the stairs, they worked me half to death, and I had no friends until I came to Hogwarts. Even if you told me the only way to avoid dying this coming Thursday from a painful death was going back to them, I wouldn't go back, even if there was any point. I'd rather die than abandon the wizarding world and my friends.”

Dobby's look of horror intensified the more he spoke. “What?” Dobby said, struggling to whisper, but his voice rising sharply into almost the dog-whistle range. “Why is Miss not staying with Miss's family anymore?” The panic in his squeakier and squeakier voice was clearly climbing, and fast. He jumped up, crying and moaning and pulling on his ears, as he ran around the room.

“Miss is not safe! Miss is not safe! No no No No NOOooooOOooo... this is not happening, this is can't be happening, Dobby can't be failing, NONONONONONO....”

“Uhhhh,” Ron moaned. “take the kettle off the fire, mate...”

“Dobby, quiet down!”

'Shall I bite him now?' Aqua asked peevishly, slithering out of Iliana's nightgown entirely.

'No! No biting!' Harry commanded her, not even noticing or caring he was using Parseltongue.

Dobby began bashing his head against the wall, tears falling from his eyes.

“Stop it!” Iliana had taken control again and was pleading with him, trying to pull him away from the wall. “Stop hurting yourself!”

“DOBBYISFAILINGDOBBYISFAILINGDOBBYISFAILIIIIIINNNNGGGG!”

With a pronounced grunt, Ron woke up. He took in the strange scene before him for a split second – the self-harming elf, Iliana trying to stop him, and an annoyed snake slithering off the bed fast as it could – before shouting and falling backwards out of bed, tangled up in his sheets, cussing fit to make a sailor blush.

By this point, Dobby was wailing at the top of his lungs, so much water coming from his eyes that you could've filled a Thermos with his tears thrice over, still banging his head against the wall, which had set the ghoul in the attic off, moaning and clanking up a storm. Iliana was hardly surprised when Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and the rest of the Weasleys came running to see what all the ruckus was about, the two adults with their wands out, looking sure there was danger... until they gaped in bewilderment at Dobby banging about, Iliana (whom the adults had not met yet) trying to pull him from the wall, and Ron trapped in his bedding, his language getting more and more foul with every passing second.

“What in blazes...?” Mr. Weasley asked weakly, having no effect on the chaos before him.

It wasn't until Mrs. Weasley snapped out of her astonishment and shouted at the top of her voice, that Dobby stopped, going still as stone. This abrupt stop took Iliana off-guard, and she fell over backwards onto Ron's bed.

Dobby turned slowly towards Mrs. Weasley, his panic-stricken eyes quivering.

CRACK! The room fell into fresh chaos at Dobby's sudden Disapparition, until once more Mrs. Weasley restored order.

 

It took a solid hour, once they'd extricated Ron from his sheets, for Iliana to relay the parts of the night the others had missed. When she was done, everyone stared at her for a moment, then at each other.

“Well,” Mrs. Weasley said. “I don't know what to think, so I'm going to make some tea and then send Dumbledore an owl about all this. I suggest you send one too, Iliana; yours should be more accurate.”

Without another word, she hurried off to the kitchen. Everyone else followed her, sitting around the table. Everyone but Iliana, however; she couldn't sit still, so she insisted on helping Mrs. Weasley, who set her to fetching cups and saucers for everyone.

“Well that was certainly a night I'll never forget,” said Ron.

Neither will I, Iliana thought. Neither will I.

Unable to sleep again, Iliana wrote a letter to Dumbledore about the incident, and sent Hedwig off to deliver it for her. Then she carefully went around the house hissing for Aqua, finally finding the snake in the loo, drinking out of the toilet. Luckily, it had not gone in all the way, and was quite dry when it slithered back around her arm. She went back to bed, even though she couldn't sleep, and just stared at the ceiling, waiting for her appointment later in the day.

 

 



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