A/N: Sorry for the delay in getting this chapter finished, but I hope to get back on track and post this story faster and more often. Real life got in the way along with a serious case of writer’s block. (Read as too many plot bunnies all wanting attention at once.) But I’m back and ready to help Harry make a mess of Hogwarts, and most especially poor little Tom Riddle.
Harry was sitting at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour. He was waiting for his friends to find him, and was using the time to test a new flavour for Mr. Fortescue. Apple flavoured with maple and cinnamon, and just a pinch of jalapeno. Not the best he had ever had, but the flavours complimented each other just perfectly to keep the heat from over-powering the sweet flavours.
A soft growl alerted him that someone was approaching, and he quickly looked around to see who it was. He was happy to find that the three people he most wanted to see were here, and they were followed closely by Mrs. Weasley. His smile was unmatched by anything in his recent memory. Here were his sister, future wife, and the closest thing he would know to a mother, accompanied by his best mate.
“H… Harry? Is that you?” Hermione asked hesitantly. She then caught sight of the famous scar and knew that this was her best friend/little brother. “You’ve changed.”
“That’s stating the obvious, Hermione,” Ron chuckled, turning his attention from the now irritated witch to look at Harry more directly. “So what hap… Bloody hell. A Gri… a Gri…”
“A Grim,” Harry finished for him with a smile. “Yes, he is.” Ron paled considerably at this pronouncement.
However, Ginny wasn’t quite so easily fooled. “Um, Harry,” Ginny started, “if that is a Grim, then why is it out during the daytime?”
Harry chuckled softly. “Good observation, Ginny,” he said. Then to Ron, “Sorry, mate, you just made it so easy. I couldn’t resist.”
He continued after placing his hand on the dog’s head and scratching its ears, “This is Knickers.” The embarrassed looks on the four faces in front of him caused him to chuckle, again. “There is a story behind that name. I’ll tell all of you later. Now how about joining me for some ice cream, my treat?” Harry motioned to the other seats surrounding his table.
It took only a little coaxing from Harry to get them to join him. And while they enjoyed their ice cream, Ginny revealed that she had indeed been promoted to third year, along with Luna Lovegood. Both girls were quite excited it seemed, because this was an honour accorded to only a very few throughout the history of Hogwarts. Hermione was very excited to learn this, and started talking about the classes and the changes to their schedules that came about in the third year. As few as one or as many as three classes would be added to their schedules, depending on what they had chosen. In an effort to stop her from becoming engrossed in the topic of school, Ron said, “We know you are excited about school, Hermione, but if you don’t finish your ice cream soon, we won’t have time to get all of our shopping done.”
“Oh,” she said and finished her treat. As she did so, she looked at her two best friends, and mentally took note of the changes the summer had brought about.
That can’t be Harry, she had thought as they approached the young man seated at the booth. He was enjoying a treat which resembled nothing but a fruit concoction with scoops of ice cream and other toppings piled into a bowl. The hair was the right colour, but it was noticeably longer than she remembered, back in a ponytail, just as Ginny had described her older brother Bill’s. There was also an earring in his left ear. She continued to scrutinize this person as he rose to greet them all. Even though he introduced himself as Harry, he was more muscular, or, well, more toned, muscle-wise. He was most certainly taller than Harry had been at the end of school. His wardrobe was certainly better, meaning his clothes looked like they were made for him rather than peeled off of a baby elephant and thrown over him. The last thing she noticed was that the earring in his left ear was shaped like the flower of a lily.
In his ears were what looked to be earphones, and they were plugged into what appeared to be a portable CD player. “That’s not possible,” Hermione said softly to herself. They should not work here with so much magic around. Then she noticed the CDs lying on the table by the book he had been reading as he ate his ice cream. “How?” she asked, and then amended, “Where?”
The names on the cases, she noticed, were of groups that had been fairly popular over the last few years, and a couple of them appeared to be soundtracks of movies from the past decade. She recognized groups like Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, and The Bangles; there were also some movie soundtracks like Iron Eagle, Streets of Fire, and Saint Elmo’s Fire. Where did Harry develop his taste in music, I wonder, she thought to herself.
Finally, Hermione took in the whole picture of Harry and his surroundings; they spoke of independence and a sense of self-assurance that he most certainly lacked at the end of the last school year. The clothes he wore were dark but not black and they had the quality of bringing out his features, mostly his face, but they also complemented his toned physical form. They were not tight, but were still form-fitting. This whole scene worked together to make Harry one of the best looking boys she could remember seeing in her life. Then her eyes drifted to Ron, her not-so-secret crush.
Ron, on the other hand, had changed as she'd expected. He was taller and leaner than he had been the previous year, and his freckles really stood out against his skin, something common to a redhead who had spent a lot of time in the sun. That was understandable also, because he had spent most of his summer holidays in Egypt with his family. Even after all of that, his clothes were still hand-me-downs and looked like they had seen better days. His hair looked like it always did, and he was smiling like he had just won the Galleon prize draw himself as he showed his brand new wand to everyone who would pay any attention to him.
He was so proud of it because it was the first new thing his parents had purchased for school. However, this was her Ron, and she could take the tough times with him. Now if I could only get him to do his homework more and waste less time on meaningless pastimes, she thought as she looked him up and down. Once she had achieved that simple condition, he would be much closer to her idea of a perfect husband. “If he would just notice that I’m a girl,” she whispered softly to herself while gently shaking her head.
Hermione finished her ice cream as they all stood to go finish their shopping. Harry paid for the ice cream and thanked Mr. Fortescue for his assistance on the “History of Witch Burning” essay for History of Magic. The old gentleman laughed and returned his own thanks for Harry’s willingness to be a tester of new ice cream flavours. With that, they departed to Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions.
When they arrived, Molly tapped Harry on the shoulder and said, “While Arthur and I are grateful for your gifts to Ginny, you really should not spend so much; you will need that money when you are older.”
He smiled in return. “I understand that you think I am spending too much money,” he said, “but I wanted to give her a gift that would be practical. I also didn’t want to spend too much time looking around the women’s and girls’ clothing sections, so I actually do not know how much some personal items of clothing may cost.” He blushed faintly when he told her this. And seeing this blush, she understood what type of clothing he meant. “And besides,” he continued in a conspiratorial whisper, “I don’t think it would be appropriate for a thirteen-year-old boy to be buying underclothing for a twelve-year-old girl.” His blushing went well past what might be considered normal, but his shy smile caused Mrs. Weasley to giggle softly.
Hermione and Ginny both smiled at this while Ron just shook his head muttering, “Barmy, the whole lot of them.” This statement caused the whole group to laugh. Hermione thanked Harry for the gift he had sent her, and even Ron thanked Harry for the gift he had given him. Harry had told him in the included letter that, if he wanted, he could consider it his next ten Christmas and birthday presents, but had known Ron wouldn’t complain about the set of books on chess strategy, as well as a play-by-play account of all the greatest games every played. Some of them went back almost five millennia.
Both girls spent their gifts buying new robes for school; Molly, Hermione, and Ginny loved every minute of the task of selecting clothes to try on. “Even though she loves her books, Hermione is still a girl,” Harry commented to Ron, whose response was, “I know.”
That evening they gathered around the table for dinner after the children had packed everything from their shopping that day. Harry had introduced Knickers to Fred, George, Mr. Weasley, and Percy in the order they came in. He then proceeded to explain how the dog had come by his name.
“Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting to find the neighbourhood bullies mistreating such a large animal. They usually reserved their cruelty for smaller ones and also children.” He took a sip of pumpkin juice before continuing, “So you can imagine the shock I had when I went to see what the commotion was about. I still don’t know what possessed me to do it, but I decided to distract them away form Knickers here, and after evading them, I returned to find him still there.
“I was surprised at first until I noted two things; the first was the rope around his neck which was almost too tight. The second was that he was wearing a pair of ladies knickers.” Harry blushed at this and the dog hid his face under his paws as if to say, I am so embarrassed. “He didn’t seem afraid of me, and I managed to get the rope off of him. I then began the arduous task of finding a name for him. I’m not sure how I knew he was a stray, but I did. I may eventually think of a better name, but Knickers just seemed to fit him.” Harry chuckled at his own joke as did most everyone at the table.
“But, Harry, what are you going to do with him tomorrow? You can’t take him to Hogwarts,” Hermione asked.
“Actually, I can, as Professor Dumbledore and McGonagall both agreed that it was a good thing,” Harry managed to respond before she could start in about breaking the rules, and how much trouble he could get into. “I read the same letter you did, Hermione; however, rather than assume those were the only animals allowed, I asked if that were the case and was told that it was a general rule, but exceptions were made all of the time when requested in advance. I asked for an exception in this case and received a resounding yes. That answer was good enough for me.
“Don’t worry, sis, I am hoping to stay out of trouble this year, as much as possible. I will be avoiding the Forbidden Forest like I would the plague. I want to try and improve my reputation in the school, while avoiding wasting time in detention whenever possible,” Harry said this with a straight face, but Hermione and Ron both found themselves unsettled by the twinkle in his eyes, almost as if he were daring them to call his words a lie.
Mrs. Weasley seemed cheered by his comment and said, “Now if only Fred and George would follow your example. Merlin knows I have tried to steer them away from causing such havoc at school. And I want to thank you for trying to set a better example for Ginny this year as well.” The small talk continued this way for an hour as they enjoyed course after course of delicious food.
Finally, after they had all finished their pudding, everyone started to get up and go to their rooms to check on their baggage for the following morning. However, Harry still had something to ask. “Fred, George, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley,” he said, “could you four please stay for a few minutes? I have some business to discuss with the twins, and it will include input from the two of you as well.” He addressed this last to the adult Weasleys. “And, Mrs. Weasley, please let the conversation finish before you comment, because I think you will like the conclusion I have for the situation.” She offered a confused look at Harry’s last statement so he continued, “Your opinion on this subject is well known, and I am hoping to offer a compromise which will be beneficial to all of us.” She nodded her acceptance and sat back in her chair.
Turning to the twins, Harry began with a question. “What is your greatest ambition after Hogwarts?”
Their reply was quick and unanimous. “We want to open a joke shop, and put Zonko’s out of business.”
Molly’s derisive snort was her only response for the moment; Harry was thankful for this because it showed that she would at least allow him to present his offer to the twins before she protested. At least, I hope she will, he thought before continuing. “I have a feeling that you could do well at it, but I want to know for certain before I offer to help you with your dream.”
“Now, Harry…” Molly Weasley began to protest, but Harry quickly interrupted her before she could get started.
“Mrs Weasley, please let me finish; I know you will like the terms I am about to set for these two to receive any financial help from me.” He chuckled softly at the look of horror that quickly blossomed on the identical faces of the two Weasley boys.
Arthur Weasley came to Harry’s aid. “Molly love, I’m curious about what Harry is offering, so let’s let him finish.”
“Thank you, Mr Weasley.” And turning back to Fred and George he said, “I have in total one million Galleons to invest in businesses I find to be a good idea. However, I want to be sure that the people who I invest the money with know what they are doing. While I know that you two know joke items and have probably designed some yourself, your school grades make me wonder how seriously you take your plans to own a business.”
They both glanced at each other and then back as he continued. “This is the offer I have for you. I am able to invest one hundred thousand Galleons in your company, as a third and silent partner. You two will run the business and make all the decisions about products.
“Now, this is what you have to do to prove you are worthy of this investment. On your OWLs, you must score an Outstanding in Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, Herbology, and either Arithmancy or Ancient Runes. Of the remaining courses, you will have to score at least an Exceeds Expectations in either Ancient Runes or Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, and Defence Against the Dark Arts. Finally, you will need to score an Acceptable in Astronomy, Muggle Studies, and History of Magic. As for Divination… who cares?”
Harry took a deep breath and exhaled before continuing, “If you manage to do this, then I will invest ten thousand Galleons in any business venture you attempt. Now for the part I know you will love. Your mum gets to choose your NEWT-level classes. You will have to receive an Outstanding in each of those, and at least an Acceptable in the remainder of your NEWTs. If you again are able to reach the goals set, then I will invest the remaining ninety thousand Galleons in any legal business venture you are interested in pursuing.” The horrified look on the twins' faces was matched only by the smile on their mother’s. She had won and she knew it.
Harry carefully laid on the table a contract he had arranged to be drawn up earlier that day, and told the twins, “Be certain that you read it. You will find a lot of information there that you will need to know if you accept this offer.” Then he turned to the elder Weasleys and said, “I don’t know what they are more afraid of, the world finding out that they aren’t the idiots they portray themselves as, or of their mother choosing their classes. Personally, I think that the former is the better possibility, because no matter what courses you choose, Mrs Weasley, they will only gain from the knowledge in the class for their prospective business. There is also a clause for them even making an attempt to fulfill the requirements that have been presented for the deal.”
He returned his attention to Fred and George. “That clause says that if you make a credible attempt to meet the contracts requirements, I will invest a minimum of one hundred Galleons for each OWL and NEWT you receive. Now, are there any problems or part that I failed to discuss?”
“Yes,” one began.
“How are we to live up to the reputation of the Marauders if we have to spend this entire year studying?” the other finished. Harry had ceased trying to tell them apart and simply lumped them together in his mind as the Weasley twins. That was all he had to say on that matter.
He answered them with a chuckle, and then said, “I have it on good authority that at least two of the Marauders held either the title of Prefect or of Head Boy.”
“How could they?” one twin asked.
“They were the biggest rule-breakers the school has ever known,” the other added.
“But according to both Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall, they were also the top students in their year except for my mum. But even she could not outdo two of them in Transfiguration. So one of them got to be Head Boy; in fact, the only thing that had kept him from being the Prefect for his year also was the fact that he had spent so much time in detention that the professors thought it would set a bad example to appoint him to the task.”
At this the twins looked dumbfounded. Not one but two of their heroes had been Prefect and Head Boy? Their looks seemed to be saying, “How could they have betrayed the troublemaker’s code like that?”
“Oh, both of them stayed troublemakers throughout school; they just tried to set a better public example for the younger students, and not get detention as much.”
The discussion continued for more than twenty minutes before the twins decided that the contract was to their benefit, and that they could achieve the required scores. After the signatures were in place, Fred and George departed to their room, and left Harry to talk with Mr and Mrs Weasley. Turning to them, Harry said, “Yes, I know people think Sirius Black is after me, but I also know the whole story that most everyone else has missed.”
Both elder Weasleys looked at each other and Mr Weasley asked, “Who told?”
A glance at Mrs Weasley by Harry and a slight nod from Mr Weasley brought the simple answer, “The memories are there, and my parents told me I could trust him.”
“So this was a significant danger… What do you mean, your parents told you to trust him?” Arthur asked.
“Letter in my vault and, as I said, the memories are there. Trusting him just comes naturally. Unfortunately, the evidence to clear him won’t be available until the end of my fourth year, almost two years from now, so it is important to keep him hidden until then.”
“So he isn’t a danger to you, then?” Molly asked.
“No more than anyone who wants to spoil his godson; after all, he missed twelve Christmases and birthdays. I think a better example to use would have me say, no more than Fred would be a danger to George,” Harry replied. “Although, if they were both to fall for the same girl, I could see some really nasty pranks passing between them until they decide who gets to ask her out. Frightening thought, really.”
Realizing Harry’s meaning, both older Weasleys relaxed a bit and even winced at the thought of the prank war that would ensue if this were to ever happen.
Harry answered what questions he could for the next few minutes, and then quickly begged off so that he could get to bed since they had an early day the next morning.
After seeing to his trunk and making certain all his school things were packed away, Harry settled down and quickly reviewed his plan for the next day. The prank was ready and everything was taken care of. Professor Dumbledore had even approved the prank himself, saying that since no one would be harmed, it would be a great start-of-year event.
“Well, Paffu,” Harry mumbled to his companion as he settled into bed, “it’s all arranged, and I even managed to slip the fake rat tonic to Ron for that traitor. Dobby should have fun terrorizing him until I decide when to have him set free. Good night.” And he snuffed the candle before drifting off to sleep.
In his dreams, he relived his visit with the Egyptian witch, Bast, the so-called cat goddess. He entered the room and was a little surprised to see a large number of cats of every shape and size all together in this one place. When a particularly large lioness approached him, he had first drawn back. Then he found himself transfixed by her sleek and graceful form even though she was nearly as large as an elephant.
After examining him for a few moments, she returned to her human form and said, “Welcome, young one. We have much to discuss. First, tell me what you think of my friends,” and she gestured around the room. It had been full of all manner of cats, from small house-cats and Kneazles to dire lions like her own Animagus form. His answer apparently amused her because afterwards she had sat and talked with him about cats and their uses.
“You actually have two feline Animagus forms; surely I can help you to master them.” He had gladly accepted her help, and had soon mastered the house-cat. The winged sabre-toothed cat had taken him far more effort, given its inherent magical nature. However, he persevered and eventually managed to master it as well.
After that, she encouraged him to spend some time in both forms and even talk with the other cats in the room with them. Her parting words to him rang in his ears then. “Though cats seem to be disinterested in their surroundings, they will never be surprised because they always know what is going on around them. Use this knowledge to your advantage.”