CHAPTER ELEVEN: MASTER OF MANIPULATION
Albus Dumbledore looked out onto Hogwarts’s grounds, where in a few hours, it would be flooded with students. Harry Pott-Black would also be back at the school and within his grasp again. Dumbledore wanted to know how the boy had got the information on his real parentage and what he had said for Cornelius to back down.
In the halls of the Ministry, there were whispers of old Alliances renewing and new coalitions beginning. Since returning to the Wizengamot only a few weeks ago, Sirius Black had started to make waves. Dumbledore was using his influence to get the Muggle-born Act working faster. If he could get a grip on the Granger girl, he knew he would have an in-road to Harry. Thank Merlin for the other boy; he would use him as a bargaining chip. Now he just needed to nudge Snape in the right direction.
Another concern was the resignation of several members of the Order of the Phoenix. He had expected Remus Lupin and Sirius Black but had not anticipated Nymphadora Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt or Arthur Weasley quitting. Molly Weasley had been complaining all morning about her husband getting a Mind Healer involved with her daughter. However, he had to keep the woman on his side. Besides Severus, she was one of the best Potion mistress’s he had.
The Headmaster’s eyes flicked back to the Daily Prophet’s headline is Hogwarts safe? The Prophet didn’t play into his plans, but they had been helpful in isolating Harry, so he only had a few friends of the Headmasters choice by his side. A Knock echoed at his door.
“Come,” He shouted. Severus swept in, looking like the overgrown bat the pupils called him.
“You wish to see me, Headmaster,” the Potions Master drawled.
An Indian summer lay across parts of the United Kingdom, especially the south, on September first. Many families had taken time off to see their children off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, so platform nine and three-quarters were teeming with people. From fresh-faced first-years to seasoned seventh-years, all were excited to be returning to Hogwarts. Some were quieter than usual; Ron Weasley looked around the platform for his two best friends. He was now even taller, so he could see over the heads of a fair few students. Ron knew he had been a berk towards Harry but had been gutted when Hermione had stayed with him. He had completely forgotten what he had called Hermione, getting a scolding from his mother for showing his ‘true colours’.
“Hello, Ron,” Lavender Brown winked at him as she walked past. His face seemed to become as red as his hair as he tried to ignore his twin brothers sniggering.
“I don’t want any trouble or letters from the Professors this term,” Molly Weasley told her youngest son.
“I’m a prefect this year, I’ll behave,” Ron pushed his chest out, making a pretty accurate impression of his older brother, Percy.
“You’ve told us once or twice or-“ Fred started.
“Fifty times this week, careful you’ll be turning into Percy soon,” George finished. Ron harumphed as Mrs Weasley gave the pair a death glare. Then the platform seemed to go quiet as a young woman stepped onto the platform shocking the more conservative wizards and witches. Silky auburn hair hung to the small of over the back over a muggle silk-red dress, which left little to the imagination. Long, lean legs peaked out of the dress, which fitted perfectly over her not-so-subtle curves.
“Ginevra Weasley, why did you wear that?” Mrs Weasley sounded scandalised. At that moment, Hermione came through the barrier between worlds. She instantly saw Ron but approached him quite conservatively.
“Hermione, I’ve missed you so much,” Ron grinned as his mother pursed her lips. Mrs Weasley ushered them away from the entrance, where Ron caught a glance of Lucius Malfoy standing alone in dark robes.
“Ronald,” she replied in a cool voice. He tried to remember what he had done to upset her.
“I can’t wait for us to talk on the train; I’ve got so much to tell you,” Ron babbled nervously, unsure of himself in the presence of the pretty fifth year.
“Harry should be here soon,” Hermione spoke again, noticing the gleam in Ginny’s eyes. But then Ginny’s mouth dropped open as a blond teen walked onto the platform. He was wearing a pure white suit, which had been cut to match his lean frame, the white complimenting his hair well. Draco smirked as he entered until he saw his father, then his mask replaced the smile. He approached the older man with slight trepidation.
“Father,” he acknowledged the man. Luckily, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were close enough to hear the conversation.
“You are looking well, son; Europe agrees with you. Though I disapprove of the muggle clothes you are wearing.”
“It’s all the rage in Europe; wizards find the clothing quite fashionable,” Draco sounded bored, but Hermione knew he was alert after spending nearly three weeks with the other teen.
“What is he wearing?” Ron spoke rather loudly, garnering the attention of both Malfoy’s, who sneered at him. Hermione shook her head; the red-head had no subtlety.
“I believe it’s Georgio Armani; I hear he met the designer at a party in Italy,” Ginny answered. Hermione tried not to snort with laughter; the rumours Draco had fed Pansy Parkinson had been spread about well.
“Whose Georgio Armani? Is he a famous wizard?”
“Where is your mother? I expected to see her,” Lucius ignored the blood-traitors beside him.
“She is just speaking to His Grace; we met him outside the platform,” Draco answered.
“Merlin Ronald, you need to learn about the Mundane world more. Georgio Armani is only one of the top designers in the world. He designs for the rich and the famous,” Hermione replied quietly, getting ready to launch into a lecture, but was cut off by a second youth coming through the barrier.
“Who’s the hottie?” Ginny whispered. Hermione turned to see Harry walked through the barrier, followed by his father. Much like Draco, he wore a suit, but of pure black. He was short for his age, still a couple of inches taller than her. But his face had lengthened, and his long hair hid his scar and vivid emerald green eyes.
“Are you going to be alright?” Sirius asked his son. Hermione knew he meant being close to Dumbledore, especially after some of the stuff Harry and Sirius had shared with her.
“We know I have to be there, Dad,” Harry replied, getting a small smile from the man.
“Lucius,” Narcissa said, walking straight passed the two Blacks. She held her nose high in the air as if something smelled
“Hello, my darling, it’s lovely to see you again,” Malfoy replied, relatively formally.
“Sir Lucius, it’s a pleasure to see you. You know my son, Harry,” Sirius had all the airs and graces of a high-born lord. Hermione and Harry were both trying not to laugh.
“Come on, you better find a compartment,” Mrs Weasley ushered them away. After storing their trunks in a compartment, Hermione took a seat at the window, watching Harry, Sirius and Malfoy.
“Why’s everyone wearing muggle suits?” Ron puffed, slumping down into a chair opposite her. Ginny settled in next to her brother. Hermione wasn’t sure why she was putting up with the boy, but Sirius had asked Harry, Draco, Neville and Hermione to act like their friends for the moment. Until they were certain, Ronald and his family were not dangerous to them. She had quoted Sun Tzu, “Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.” Sirius had grinned at her, and Harry had smiled, making her stomach do butterflies.
“The suit the dark-haired boy was wearing looked to be Giovanni Versace,” Hermione explained, then looking at Ron, she added, “another Italian designer.”
“Can we join you?” Lavender asked, followed by a short tawny-haired girl. They both entered as though the other occupants had answered.
“Hello, Hermione, Ron, how are you?” Neville’s melodious voice came from the door as he took a seat in the compartment. While he wasn’t wearing mundane clothing, he wore a tailored robe with the bear of Longbottom on it.
“You’re wearing Twilfitt and Tattings robes,” Lavender stated.
“I got a bit more involved in the family this year, so Gran felt something a bit more befitting my station was to be worn,”
“Do we have to call you, Your Grace, now?” Hermione giggled. She had mocked him about it a few days earlier when he had visited Harry and Draco. Neville’s eyes sparkled mischievously.
“Only if I can call you Lady Black,” he fired back at her. Ron looked up at her as Hermione swatted the other boy. He had been making fun of her crush since Hermione had told him the week before.
“It would be Lady Rendlesham, and no, we’re not together,” she replied haughtily.
“Lady, Your Grace? Are you royalty?” the small girl asked them.
“Oh, so this is Robyn Taylor, she’s a Hufflepuff third-year,” Lavender introduced the girl, though she didn’t look at all sorry. Hermione was a bit surprised as she thought Robyn was only in her first year.
“I know all about you, Miss Granger, Mister Weasley and Mister Longbottom, the boy that won Gryffindor the House cup in his first year,” she blushed furiously.
“I’m not sure about that,” Neville returned.
“Are you Mun-, erm muggle-born?” Hermione asked, getting a shy nod, “I was like you until this summer, knew nothing about Wizarding culture. It’s like they hide it or something!”
“We don’t hide it, ‘Mione, Muggle-Born’s don’t seem to come looking for it,” Ron rolled his eyes as Hermione gritted her teeth; she hated it when Ron shortened her name. Before she could start again, the door slid open.
“Everywhere is full. Can I come in?” an airy voice asked. Hermione saw Ron wince as Ginny rolled her eyes. Hermione looked at the newcomer. She had straggly, waist-length, dirty-blond hair, very pale eyebrows, and protuberant eyes that gave her a permanently surprised look. Her wand was stuck behind her ear, and she wore a necklace of butterbeer caps.
“Everyone, this is Loon-, er, Luna Lovegood,” Ginny introduced, missing the glare she got from Hermione.
“ ‘Course you can come in,” Hermione invited the girl in as the teen in the dark suit leant against the door. The new girl sat next to a now noticeably nervous Neville but gave him a wide smile.
“Room for one more?” the teen at the door asked.
“Just enough space,” Hermione grinned at her best friend, who settled in next to her. A little close, she thought, but her heart jumped. Hermione shook her head; he’s just trying to make room for himself.
“What’s your name, and what year will you be entering?” Ron asked, unable to hold his curiosity in any longer.
“Surely, you remember your friend?” Harry asked, sweeping his hair back to reveal green eyes. Hermione tried not to laugh at the rest of the compartment goggling at him. Harry adjusted his glasses as he leant back but watched Ginny as she stared between the two of them, her face darkening.
“I barely recognise you; I’ve seen you once in two months,” Ron spluttered.
“That’s more than us,” Lavender added. “You look different.”
“Have you been reading the Prophet?” Harry asked the queen of gossip.
“Yes, we’re so pleased that you found your father,” Lavender gushed.
“Father? I thought your parents were dead?” Robyn spoke up, then clapped her hands to her mouth.
“Harry, this is Robyn; she doesn’t know anything about the Ancient Families,” Hermione introduced.
“Nice to meet you, it’s a long story, but my dad is Sirius Black-“
“The Criminal?” Robyn squeaked.
“Innocent and wrongly accused,” Harry replied as they all heard the rumble of the train as it began to pick up speed heading out of London. Ron watched his friends closely, noting they were awfully close; he felt annoyed because Dumbledore had told him Hermione was meant to be with him. During the summer, Ron was given his prefects badge in a meeting, then asked to watch Harry for the Headmaster. Ginny was destined to be Lady Potter, or Lady Rendlesham now that Harry was a Black.
“Had a good summer, Luna?” Ginny asked, trying to distract herself from the pair in front of her.
“Yes,” Luna replied dreamily as she stared at Harry, barely blinking. “It was quite enjoyable. You’re Harry Potter.”
“Actually, it’s Harry Black now,” Harry returned, getting the same serene smile from her as she turned to Neville.
“But I don’t know who you are?”
“Neville Longbottom, Luna is in Ravenclaw, the same year as me,” Ginny provided.
“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure,” said Luna in a singsong voice. Before anyone could say any more, the door to the compartment slid open. Draco Malfoy stood in the doorway, his gorillas behind him. Harry took note of Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zambini in the corridor.
“Well, well, well, what do we have here? Is this the freak club?” Draco sneered at the inhabitants.
“Nice suit, Draco,” Harry responded smoothly, “I would never have guessed you were into Muggle fashion.”
“What? Who are you to discuss what I should and should not wear?” the blond narrowed his eyes as though not recognising the dark-haired teen before him.
“You should know me. You’ve only tormented me for the last six years!” Harry’s eyes glittered with amusement, Hermione could see. She could also see Draco trying not to let a smile grace his face.
“Oh, it’s Perfect Potter! You didn’t die over the summer; how tragic,” Draco mocked him as the two gorillas laughed in the background.
“It’s Black now, Draco; remember we’re family now. But you’ll find I’m no longer the coward I once was,” Harry warned the boy. However, instead of replying, Draco reached beneath his white blazer. Harry stopped him as the brunet opened his own jacket revealing a pair of shoulder wand holsters with a couple of wands. Lavender thought there was Raven’s engraved on the wood. “Open your Jacket, Ferret, and keep your hands well away,”
“Looks like we’re at a standoff, Po-Black,” Malfoy’s hands twitched as he pulled aside his jacket, revealing a similar pair of wand holsters that held a couple of wands of a deep earthen brown, with what appeared to be a large cat engraved on them.
“Stay out of my way Malfoy, you may think you’re the Prince of snakes, but you are just a Joker,” Harry answered and turned his back, dismissing the other boy. Draco growled but banged out of the compartment and back down the train. Harry found himself looking into several pairs of astonished eyes.
“Why have you got two wands?” Lavender asked.
“Where did you get them?” Ron questioned at the same time.
“The first is my wand from when I was eleven, and the second I had made especially for me,” Harry ignored Lavender’s question, “Over the summer, I learnt a few things about myself and the Black Family.”
“Wow, that was like some Muggle western,” Ron laughed, “I bet old McGonagall is gonna flip.”
“You know nothing about fashion, yet you know about westerns,” Hermione wondered.
“No one at Hogwarts has ever had two wands, I’m not even sure it’s in Hogwarts: A History or the Hogwarts Rule book,” Robyn spoke up. Hermione instantly liked the girl if she read through that ancient tome and the Hogwarts rule book.
“Don’t worry, I won’t get in trouble,” Harry winked, getting a giggle from the young girl.
“Why do you need two?” Ron inquired, toning out the young girl. Harry sighed as he looked at the people watching him.
“Like Neville and I, Malfoy is a part of Aristocracy; people could make a lot of money kidnapping the heir of some of the more wealthy families,” Harry answered.
“How are you adjusting to being a Black?” Lavender wanted to know.
“It’s strange, knowing your father is alive after thinking your family was killed fourteen years ago,” Harry replied honestly
“Could you tell me more about the Ancient families? I’ve been in the school for three years, but I didn’t know any of that,” Robyn asked timidly.
“We’ll find some time to tell you about it; I was a bit like you until I learnt a lot this past summer,” Harry closed his eyes as Hermione happily chatted to Robyn about their love of books and the library.
“That’s a rare book,” he heard Hermione say to someone; he opened an eye to see Neville was reading Animagus: The Change within. “I’ve read the first book but didn’t realise there was a second.”
“Oh, this is from the Black Library; Harry leant it to me,” Neville answered.
“They look fascinating; what are they?” Robyn’s eyes were wide and eager. Harry coughed to hide a laugh as Hermione elbowed him, leaning forward to talk to the Hufflepuff.
“The first book Animagus: A guide to change details the basics of becoming an Animagus,” Hermione lectured, “while the one Neville is reading in the next book in the series, going further into the process and even talking about mythical Animagi. Both books are extremely rare; you won’t find them in Flourish and Blotts.”
“Are you wanting to become an Animagus?” Lavender asked the quiet boy.
“I think so, but it can be dreadfully complicated. Not everyone has the Will to do it,” Neville answered.
“What about you, Harry? You’re a powerful wizard,” Ginny asked, fangirling. Hermione gritted her teeth, not liking the jealousy surging through her like fire.
“I’ve decided not to pursue an Animagi form; I don’t want to be in either of my ‘fathers’ shadow, and Dad agrees with me,” Harry replied quietly before closing his eyes once again. Hermione and Robyn kept up their conversation about books as Lavender left them to find her friend while the train continued further north, going from cities to the countryside as darkness drew in. The girls kicked the boys out of the carriage to get changed as the train drew nearer to Hogsmeade. Ron went off to get changed, returning to find Neville sitting back in the compartment. Harry was now wearing over robes with the Black Coat of Arms on the left breast, while the Hogwarts coat of arms was on the other side. The robe was made of the finest silk; the lining was a deep red with a gold border peeking out of the black. As he sat down, he wondered whether he should say something.
“Are you going to get changed?” Robyn asked hesitantly as if she was going to be shouted at. Harry regarded her for a moment, noticing a yellow tint by her eye and the way she held herself like a nervous mouse.
“No, I’m not,” came the reply.
“You’re going to lose Gryffindor points on the first day,” Hermione stated, but there was no fire behind it.
“Actually, no, it won’t; there are no rules against it before School officially starts,” Everyone looked at Hermione, but she shrugged as it was Luna Lovegood that had answered. The train pulled into the station soon after. As Harry got off the train following his year-mates, he began to hear the whispers. Apparently, everyone knew about Harry and Draco’s incident, but the rumours had blown everything out of proportion. The teen ignored them as he walked to the carriages, where he saw strange-looking creatures pulling them.
Harry had ridden the carriage up with Neville, Robyn, Luna and Hermione. Luna had explained all about the thestrals that pulled the carriages. Hermione was not sure what to make of the blond girl after her comments on wrackspurts and nargles. Harry was now sitting at the Gryffindor table’s head, leaning back with his robe thrown over the conjured chair. Neville was on his left and Hermione on his right. Ron was annoyed to find Neville taking his place, watching the two conversing quietly. As the students’ passed, they noticed the double wands and a lot of whispering could be heard. Professor McGonagall walked past one of her favourite students with a look of disdain, followed by the new first-years. Her mouth pursed as she saw Malfoy in almost the exact position as Harry.
Professor McGonagall caught the headmasters glare before his eyes began to twinkle as he saw her glance at him. She merely tutted as the first-years stopped between the Gryffindor and Slytherin tables. As the first-years were closer to Harry, he heard two of them whispering to each other. He caught the dark hair of Cepheus talking to a blue-eyed, blonde girl slightly shorter than the boy.
“I don’t want to be in either Gryffindor or Slytherin,” the fair-haired girl replied to something Cepheus said.
“Why? Those are the two most powerful houses,” Ceph returned as Harry caught Dumbledore watching the dark-haired boy.
“Exactly, we’d have to live up to huge reputations. They have two of the most important people since the founders in them.”
“So what?” Ceph shrugged.
“So what?” the girl repeated. “Draco Malfoy is the Prince of Slytherin, and rumours have it his father is You-Know-Who’s, right-hand man. Then you’ve got Harry Potter.”
“It’s Harry Black now!” Ceph’s chest puffed out. “He’s a really nice guy, my sister tells me they call him the golden boy of Gryffindor. Didn’t he defeat You-Know-Who?”
“He did, but don’t you read the Prophet?” Harry was giving his friend a look, but she merely shrugged, grinning at him. “They reckon he’s gone mad, been spouting off about You-Know-Who and killed some boy called Diggory.”
“How do you know this?” Ceph asked curiously; neither noticed Harry was glaring at them now.
“My family is a pureblood, so I know quite a lot of the old families; we also know some of the reporters at the Prophet,” she answered.
“Was-“ Ceph began but was interrupted as Professor McGonagall cleared her throat, then placed the Sorting Hat on the small chair. It opened it’s brim and began to sing:
In times of old when I was new
And Hogwarts barely started
The founders of our noble school
Thought never to be parted:
United by a common goal,
They had the selfsame yearning,
To make the world’s best magic school
And pass along their learning.
“Together, we will build and teach!”
The four good friends decided
And never did they dream that they
Might someday be divided,
For were there such friends anywhere
As Slytherin and Gryffindor?
Unless it was the second pair
Of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw?
So how could it have gone so wrong?
How could such friendships fail?
Why I was there and so can tell
The whole sad, sorry tale.
Said Slytherin, “We’ll teach just those
Whose ancestry is purest.”
Said Ravenclaw, “We’ll teach those whose
Intelligence is surest.”
Said Gryffindor, “We’ll teach all those
With brave deeds to their name,”
Said Hufflepuff, “I’ll teach the lot,
And treat them just the same.”
These differences caused little strife
When first they came to light,
For each of the four founders had
A House in which they might
Take only those they wanted, so,
For instance, Slytherin
Took only pure-blood wizards
Of great cunning, just like him,
And only those of sharpest mind
Were taught by Ravenclaw
While the bravest and the boldest
Went to daring Gryffindor.
Good Hufflepuff, she took the rest,
And taught them all she knew,
Thus the Houses and their founders
Retained friendships firm and true.
So Hogwarts worked in harmony
For several happy years,
But then discord crept among us
Feeding on our faults and fears.
The Houses that, like pillars four,
Had once held up our school,
Now turned upon each other and,
Divided, sought to rule.
And for a while, it seemed the school
Must meet an early end,
What with duelling and with fighting
And the clash of friend on friend
And at last, there came a morning
When old Slytherin departed
And though the fighting then died out
He left us quite downhearted.
And never since the founders four
Were whittled down to three
Have the Houses been united
And they once were meant to be.
And now the Sorting Hat is here
And you all know the score:
I sort you into Houses
Because that is what I’m for,
But this year I’ll go further,
Listen closely to my song:
Though condemned, I am to split you
Still, I worry that it’s wrong,
Though I must fulfil my duty
And must quarter every year
Still, I wonder whether sorting
May not bring the end, I fear.
Oh, know the perils, read the signs,
The warning history shows,
For our Hogwarts is in danger
From external, deadly foes
And we must unite inside her
Or we’ll crumble from within.
I have told you, I have warned you…
Let the Sorting now begin.
“Has the Sorting Hat ever made a warning like that before?” Neville asked as everyone else talked quietly about the Hat.
“It’s given out plenty of warnings; I read about it in-“
“Hogwart’s: A History.” Harry and Neville spoke at the same time. Hermione harumphed until Harry found her hand.The Deputy Headmistress bought everyone out of their thoughts by stepping up to the chair and pulling out a roll of parchment.
“Andrews, Rochelle,” she spoke clearly. A small black girl with pigtails stepped up to the chair nervously and sat down. McGonagall put the Hat on the girl’s head. It was on her hair, less than twenty seconds before the Hat called out.
“Gryffindor,” the Hat screamed out, and the house clapped politely as the new first-year sat at her new table grinning from ear to ear.
“Bilbao, Anthony,” was sorted into Hufflepuff, and so Professor McGonagall went down the line calling names out another few names until she reached:
“Black, Cepheus.” Harry immediately sat up as Professor McGonagall met his eyes. Here was the confirmation they needed.