HPBFL CH 12

CHAPTER TWELVE: RIVALRY

Cepheus Granger was confused, was there another boy with the same name as him? He could hear the whispers going up and down the table like wildfire, but he looked up at the head table where an incredibly old man on a throne seemed to be staring at him. Honestly, the look was creeping him out a bit as the boy felt a hand nudge him forward. He looked around to see Harry, the boy he had met recently, and his sister was smiling at him. Shrugging mentally, he stepped up to the chair where the teacher Professor McGonagall, he thought, placed the Hat on his head. Before the Hat went over his eyes, he noticed Harry watching him intently.  Though the stare did not bother him as much as the creepy old man.

“Black, eh?” The Hat spoke in his ear, making Cepheus jump, “You possess some of your great-grandfather’s power; you’re also as mischievous as your father, and you have the courage of your brother.”

“Father?” Cepheus asked curiously. He knew he was adopted, but was Harry, his brother?

“Yes, Sirius Black is your father and Arcturus Black is your great grandfather. Your brother started a few years ago, though I don’t think he knew it then,” the small voice mused, “did you not know your heritage?”

“I was adopted at birth,” explained Ceph, “I was only told of my adoption when my Hogwarts letter arrived,”

“Well, you will be a powerful wizard,” the Hat went on, “with Slytherin, you could be on the road to greatness.”

“Please put me in Gryffindor with Harry Black, now that I know he must be my brother,” understanding dawned on Ceph, especially as to the impromptu visit of Sirius and Harry Black. He wondered if they had already known about him, why was he abandoned?

“Are you positive?” the small voice broke his thoughts, “well, it’s the choices that make us, so I shall put you in GRYFFINDOR.”

Everyone could see the relief on his face as he walked to the Gryffindor table while the rest of the hall remained quiet, not sure what to make of this Black. The last Black had been Regulus years before. Now once again, there were two Blacks, if the papers were to be believed. He passed the first years and took a seat next to Hermione as Harry examined him from the corner of his eye. Several more names passed, such as Brick, Savannah- Hufflepuff. Chadwin, Eric- Hufflepuff. Two others became Ravenclaw and Slytherin, respectively, when a name made Harry perk up.

“Evans, Mark,” Harry looked at the small brunette as he walked up to the Hat, remembering the times he had saved the boy from Dudley’s gang.

“Do you know that boy?” Cepheus asked.

“He lived in my neighbourhood; Dudley and his gang used to beat him up a lot,” Harry responded, not really thinking about what he was saying. He never noticed Hermione’s frown or Neville’s interested look.

“Gryffindor,” the Hat cried out. Harry clapped louder than anyone else. Mark gave the older teen a surprised looked when he saw Harry but took a seat with the other first-years. The names continued to be called until the next name drew Ron’s attention.

“Monahan, Riley,” a brunette lad walked brazenly up to the chair, confident of the house he would be put in.

A Monahan, your father was a Slytherin and your mother a Ravenclaw, but you could be so much more,” the Hat mused to itself, “your future holds so many possibilities, some good and some bad.”

“Just get on with it, I’m going to be following my father’s footsteps,”

“Perhaps if you had a better role model and less of your father’s influence, then maybe let’s see how about- GRYFFINDOR.” Riley sagged; no one in his family had ever been a Gryffindor. Ron looked gobsmacked, and Harry looked on with interest as though he knew something.

“What’s up with you?” Hermione asked the redhead, noticing his expression.

“His father is close friends with Lucius Malfoy and probably a Death Eater,” Ron replied as Riley found a seat.

“That doesn’t make him a Death Eater,” Harry spoke up once, ending the conversation, then returned to watching the sorting. Soon they reached S.

“Selwyn, Danica.” After Harry’s dealings with the Selwyn’s during the summer, he was interested as the young blonde girl almost swaggered forward. Like Malfoy’s sorting five years earlier, the Hat barely sat on her head before shouting out:

“Slytherin!” Danica ignored her fellow first years in favour of sitting close to the Slytherin Prince. Draco, however, dismissed the young upstart as he continued to watch the first years. Theo Nott engaged the girl in conversation; they seemed quite familiar with each other. As the sorting continued, Harry looked up at the head table, noticing a distinct absence.

“Hagrid’s not there,” he spoke suddenly. Hermione and Neville looked to the table, noting that there was a giant-shaped hole at the table. Then Neville gasped.

“She’s really here then!” Neville sneered.

“Who?” Hermione asked.

“Umbtich” was the reply she received. She was shocked the usually timid Neville would say something like that. Then she considered that he was different this year, maybe it was being with Harry and Draco a lot of the summer, or perhaps he had just grown up.

“Madam Umbridge, she was at my Trial, then at the Wizengamot. They announced if Dumbledore could not find a DADA teacher, the Ministry would provide one,” Harry explained.

“Obviously, Dumbledore could not find a new DADA,” Neville added miserably.

“Or maybe, it fell into his lap,” Harry spoke up darkly. Hermione had only heard bits and pieces, but not the whole story regarding Dumbledore’s interference with the Black Family. She was stopped from saying anything as the Headmaster got up to say a few odd words, then announced dinner.

“So, you’re, erm, my brother?” Ceph asked curiously, looking at the dark-haired boy.

“Yes, though we’ll talk about that more after dinner,” Harry returned.

“OK.” Harry smiled at the boy, getting a shy smile back.

“He’s plotting something; he’s never this quiet,” Hermione laughed, diffusing the tension.

“Oh, a little prankster, hello young Black, a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” one of the twins said, budging Ron up as the other took a seat next to young Ceph.

“We’ll see if we can make a new marauder of you yet,” the other twin added. Hermione and Harry looked at each other and burst out laughing. Everyone looked at them as though they were loonies from crazy town. The conversation continued with one or the other giggling every now and then. The twins did not know what to make of them.

 “Well, now that we are all digesting another magnificent feast, I beg a few moments of your attention for the usual start-of-term notices,” said Dumbledore. “First years ought to know that the forest in the grounds is out of bounds to students — and a few of our older students ought to know by now too.”

“Mr Filch, the caretaker, has asked me, for what he tells me is the four hundred and sixty-second time, to remind you all that magic is not permitted in corridors between classes, nor are many other things, all of which can be checked on the extensive list now fastened to Mr Filch’s office door.

“We have had a few changes in staffing this year. We are incredibly pleased to welcome back Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be taking Care of Magical Creatures lessons; we are also delighted to introduce Professor Umbridge, our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.”

There was a round of polite but somewhat unenthusiastic applause. Harry and Hermione exchanged slightly panicked looks; Dumbledore had not said how long Grubbly-Plank would teach. Dumbledore continued, “Try-outs for the House Quidditch teams will take place on the —”

He broke off, looking inquiringly at Professor Umbridge. As she was not much taller standing than sitting, there was a moment when nobody understood why Dumbledore had stopped talking, but then Professor Umbridge said, “Hem, hem,” and it became clear that she had got to her feet and was intending to make a speech.

Dumbledore only looked taken aback for a moment, then he sat back down smartly and looked alertly at Professor Umbridge as though he desired nothing better than to listen to her talk. Other members of staff were not as adept at hiding their surprise. Professor Sprout’s eyebrows had disappeared into her flyaway hair, and Professor McGonagall’s mouth was as thin as Harry had ever seen it. No new teacher had ever interrupted Dumbledore before. Many of the students were smirking; this woman obviously did not know how things were done at Hogwarts.

“Thank you, Headmaster,” Professor Umbridge simpered, “for those kind words of welcome.”

“Fake, you mean,” Ron muttered, and Harry knew what he meant. He was still annoyed with the redhead, who had been glaring at Neville through the whole of dinner. Umbridge cleared her throat again with that stupid noise.

“Well, it is lovely to be back at Hogwarts, I must say!” She smiled, revealing very pointed teeth. “And to see such happy little faces looking back at me!”

Harry glanced around. None of the faces he could see looked happy; on the contrary, they all looked taken aback at being addressed as though they were five years old.

“I am very much looking forward to getting to know you all, and I’m sure we’ll be perfect friends!” Students exchanged looks at this; some of them were barely concealing grins.

“I’ll be her friend as long as I don’t have to borrow that cardigan,” Parvati whispered to Lavender, and both lapsed into silent giggles. When Umbridge spoke again, it was more like when she spoke in the Wizengamot, more business-like.

“The Ministry of Magic has always considered young witches and wizards’ education to be of vital importance. You were born with the rare gifts that may come to nothing if not nurtured and honed by careful instruction. The ancient skills unique to the Wizarding community must be passed down through the generations lest we lose them forever. The treasure trove of magical knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished, and polished by those who have been called to the noble profession of teaching.”

Professor Umbridge paused here and made a slight bow to her fellow staff members, none of whom bowed back. Professor McGonagall’s dark eyebrows had contracted so that she looked positively hawklike, and Harry distinctly saw her exchange a significant glance with Professor Sprout as Umbridge gave another little “Hem, hem” and went on with her speech.

“Every Headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts has brought something new to the weighty task of governing this historic school, and that is as it should be, for, without progress, there will be stagnation and decay. There again, progress for progress’s sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation . . .”

Harry found his attentiveness ebbing, as though his brain was slipping in and out of tune. The quiet that always filled the Hall when Dumbledore was speaking was breaking up as students put their heads together, whispering and giggling. Over at the Ravenclaw table, Cho Chang was chatting animatedly with her friends. A few seats along from Cho, Luna Lovegood, had got out The Quibbler again. Meanwhile, at the Hufflepuff table, Ernie Macmillan was one of the few still staring at Professor Umbridge. Still, he was glassy-eyed, and Harry was sure he was only pretending to listen in an attempt to live up to the new prefect’s badge gleaming on his chest. Further down, Robyn seemed to be sitting on her own, staring at the wooden table, picking at something on her finger.

Professor Umbridge did not seem to notice the restlessness of her audience. Harry had the impression that a full-scale riot could have broken out under her nose, and she would have ploughed on with her speech. The teachers, however, were still listening very attentively. Hermione seemed to be drinking in every word Umbridge spoke, though judging by her expression, they were not at all to her taste.

“. . . because some changes will be for the better, while others will come, in the fullness of time, to be recognised as errors of judgment. Meanwhile, some old habits will be retained, and rightly so, whereas others, outmoded and outworn, must be abandoned. Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness, and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited.”

She sat down. Dumbledore clapped and was joined by a couple of the other staff, but none of the students joined in. Dumbledore now stood up, looking over the students. He paused when he caught Harry’s eye frowning a little.

“Unfortunately, a little bit of bad news, Madam Pomfrey has had to leave on family business, but I am delighted to say Madam Tonks has agreed to step in, she is a healer at St Mungo’s and will also be teaching a new class about Healing for fifth years and above.” Harry, Neville and Hermione clapped the loudest, which was a bit more enthusiastic than Umbridge and Grubbly-Plank.

“Now, our bellies are full, and I’m sure I’ve bored you with my announcements. Let us get you back to the Common Rooms for the evening.” Now dismissed, everyone began talking loudly, leaving for their Common rooms.

“Come on, Ron, we’ve got to direct the firsties to the Common room,” Hermione reminded the boy. He groaned, getting a sharp look from Hermione but followed along beside her.

“It’s nice to spend more time with you. Hermione’s always talking about you,” Harry looked down to see Ceph grinning cheekily.

“I’m sure she is,” he winked at the boy, remembering what the boy had told him at their home.

“Mister Po-, erm Black, the headmaster would like to see young Master Black,” Professor McGonagall got their attention. Harry noticed Andromeda nearby, nodding at him.

“I’ll take Cepheus up to the Headmaster then,” Harry replied.

“He did want to speak to you, but later with Mister Malfoy,” McGonagall told him. Harry noticed Draco lingering in the vicinity.

“Professor, were you asked to sit in with Cepheus as he is one of your lions?” Harry asked, receiving a headshake, “it’s a bit odd that an eleven-year-old boy has been asked to be left alone with a strange man.”

“He’s well creepy,” Ceph spoke up as Harry tried not to laugh.

“Now that you mention it, it does seem a little unusual. Very well, then, Mister Malfoy, you may as well come,” the Transfiguration teacher spotted the blond boy lingering.

“Scar Head,” Malfoy muttered with a grin as he fell alongside the other fifth year.

“So, what do you think of the school so far, Cepheus?”

“Call me, Ceph. Cepheus is a bit much!” the boy replied.

“I wonder what your real mother was thinking when she called you that,” Harry mused.

“Except for you, Scar Head, everyone else in the family is named after a star,” They had reached the Headmaster’s office. Professor McGonagall went in first, followed by Andromeda as the three students sat outside waiting.

“I am Harry’s guardian while at school; I will also be Cepheus’ once we make it all official,” They heard Andromeda’s voice after several minutes, and it was icy. Harry and Draco shared a grin they knew that voice well, the ‘I’m terribly angry with you’ voice.

“Come in,” the Deputy Headmistress said a few moments later. Harry led Cepheus inside, putting a hand on the boys’ shoulder possessively. His dominant wand hand twitched, ready to summon his wand to him. Harry took notice of Severus Snape in the corner of the room as he watched the dark look on the Headmaster’s face fade away, replaced by his grandfather mask, Harry realised.

“Firstly, Cepheus, welcome to Hogwarts; how was your trip across the lake?” Dumbledore asked. Harry noticed his eyes were twinkling slightly. Wandless Leglimancy, that is impressive.

“Albus, could you please use the proper terms? It’s Lord Black,” Harry interrupted the man making him lose his direct eye to eye contact with the boy.

“Mr Black!” McGonagall uttered. “The Headmaster will have your respect.”

“If the Headmaster would show us some respect, then I will use his correct titles,” Harry replied, “In the classroom, you may refer to us as Mr Black, but in more formal settings, it’s Lord Rendlesham or Lord Black for my brother.” Harry heard a cough, knowing Andromeda was trying to hide her laughter. Ceph looked between the two, not quite realising what was being suggested.

“You’ve never had any respect for the teachers,” Snape snarled, stepping out of his corner. Harry turned on the potions master then back to the Headmaster.

“I can understand Professor Snape is here for Mister Malfoy, but you have yet to speak to Mister Malfoy. Are you finished with my brother? Then we can discuss what you wanted to talk to us about,” Harry suggested. Dumbledore knew he was backed into a corner.

“Yes, Lord Black may go,” the Headmaster swallowed the toad in his throat.

“A prefect is waiting downstairs to escort him to the Tower,” Professor McGonagall told them.

“Thank you, go on, Buddy. I’ll be up in the tower shortly,” he motioned the boy out, who looked back but nodded. As the door closed, the adults all looked at the two teens.

“Why do you have two wands?” Dumbledore asked bluntly, sitting back in his leather chair; Harry could see the shift in magic. To anyone else, it would make him seem more prominent. However, his natural empathy allowed him to see the magic.

“It is necessary for protection,” Harry answered simply.

“But surely you are safe behind Hogwarts walls,” the Transfiguration teacher added tight-lipped. Snape remained quiet, merely watching the two boys.

“Safe!” Harry barked, almost laughing, “I’d like to point out in the first year I faced off against Voldemort and a three-headed dog, in my second year, I dealt with the Chamber of Secrets. In my third year, I was attacked by a crazed mass-murderer and a werewolf, and my fourth year was the resurrection of Voldemort.”

“You really think I’ve been safe!” he added, and the adults looked at him, astonished.

“Might I add that the Dark Lord will send assassins to those he believes are traitors,” Draco gave a side-long look at Harry, “He doesn’t yet know that Mother and I have left permanently, but he’ll be furious when the prodigal son does not come to him.” 

“There are worse things out there than Voldemort,” Harry did not break his stride at Draco’s revelation. However, McGonagall stared at the blond.

“You’ve turned your back on your father?” she asked, shocked.

“Sirius offered my mother sanctuary, and she took it without telling me; I didn’t agree at first. But I have spent the last three weeks with Granger, and she isn’t as bad as I expected,” the boy shrugged. Harry observed them all; Dumbledore’s mask dropped briefly in surprise while only Snape’s eye twitching revealed he was just as surprised.

“Can they be traced?” Snape spoke up suddenly.

“Are you a stooge for the Ministry now, Severus?” Harry asked, smirking at the Potions Master. Said Potions Master glared at Harry, how dare this impertinent boy call him by his first name? “Neither Draco nor I can have our wands traced; the Ministry Trace Ollivander puts on his wands have been removed.”

“While not against the rules, it is highly irregular,” Dumbledore mused, but Harry thought he knew the man enough to know he was annoyed. Harry bit back another comment as Andromeda stepped in.

“I have been assured by His Grace and Lady Malfoy that both sets of wands are legal and safe. If I have the boys’ agreeing to use one wand during lessons, will that be agreeable?” Harry and Draco nodded their heads as Dumbledore looked them over.

“If they promise to use just one wand, then the Heads and I will agree to let them keep the wands. If they do not obey, their second wands shall be locked away in my office,” Dumbledore told them sternly, not noticing Harry rolling his eyes.

“As for your disregard for uniform,” Professor McGonagall began.

“I have read the rules back to front; there are no rules against wearing school uniform at the Welcoming Feast,” Harry replied stubbornly.

“You’re turning into Granger,” Draco sniggered, earning a glare from his Head of House.

“We cannot make an exception for you,” the Scottish woman continued.

“On Monday, I shall be in uniform,” Harry conceded. Harry figured that was everything when Andromeda spoke up.

“Headmaster, Professors, Draco’s ‘defection’ for lack of a better word, must not be known at the moment,” she told them.

“I’m going to try speaking to several Slytherin’s, see if I can stop Voldemort from destroying more young lives,” Draco added maturely. Snape could not contain his surprise at the young Malfoy using the Dark Lord’s name.

“That seems like a good idea,” Dumbledore answered after a few moments, “Harry, I have declined your right to drop divination.”

“Excuse me!” Harry asked, his anger coming off him in waves.

“Professor, may I ask why you have not allowed Lord Rendlesham to drop Divination?” Andromeda asked, using his proper title.

“He has been doing it for two years; he cannot have a free period and will not be able to take any of the other subjects as he has not studied them,” Professor Dumbledore explained like he was talking to a child. Andromeda drew herself up, not missing his condescending tone.

“Lord Rendlesham will be studying in my Healing lessons at those times, if you do not change his rota back to what was agreed by the Deputy headmistress and the Duke of Anglia, I will be speaking to the Board of Governors about your blatant disregard for parental wishes,” she told the man icily. Even Professor McGonagall was glaring at the Headmaster. Harry and Draco were trying to keep straight-faced at the old man being put in place.

“I doubt they will overrule me on this,” He replied coldly, his usual countenance gone.

“We will see, Headmaster. Until then, as his guardian, I am pulling him from all Divination lessons,” Andromeda snapped back, ready to usher the two boys’ out.

“Could I possibly speak to Harry alone?” the Headmaster’s voice stopped her. Andromeda turned to the man. If looks could kill, he would be dead.

“Actually Headmaster, unless His Grace or I am present, you cannot speak to Lord Rendlesham alone,” Andromeda said formerly, before pushing Harry and Draco out of the door. They were almost to the Great Hall when Andromeda lost her composure, “The absolute nerve of that man.”

“Don’t worry, Aunt Andi, we’ll just have to be careful about how we proceed,” Harry reassured the woman, reminding her of their plans. She took a deep breath and looked over at her cousin’s boy. He had matured a lot since she had met him at the beginning of summer.

“Goodnight, Master Malfoy”, She said a bit stiffly in case they were being watched, “and goodnight Harry, have a nice weekend and look after your brother,”

“Brother,” Harry said to himself as he wished them both goodnight. He had gone nearly fifteen years without a proper family, now he had a father and a younger brother. He wandered up to the seventh floor, wandering if their plans would have to change with the arrival of Dolores Umbridge. He considered Cepheus, though he barely knew the boy; I wonder what he is like?

“Password?” The portrait of the Fat Lady asked, breaking his thoughts. Harry looked around, realising he was in front of the Gryffindor portrait.

“Hmm, what?” he asked, his mind not catching up.

“Password?” the portrait asked patiently.

“Felix Culpa,” the woman in the portrait nodded and swung open. He was immediately besieged by noise and warmth. Ron and Hermione seemed to be fending off questions as Cepheus looked overwhelmed as he was asked about his time in the Headmasters office. By the roaring fire, the First Years were sat talking excitedly.

“Quiet,” Harry shouted over the hubbard and instantly was met by silence as everyone’s attention turned to him, “There has always been school rivalry by the four houses, and rivalry is good in small doses. However, we need to start making more friends between the four houses, especially Slytherin. They have become isolated, and I’d like Gryffindor to lead by example and start making friends with the Slytherins. Second, through the Seventh years, you will find it the hardest to make friends with our fiercest rivals, but you must try. First-years I encourage you to make friends with your counterparts in Slytherin, and perhaps this will start a new era of friendship between all houses,” Many of the older Gryffindor students stared at him in shock; the biggest rivalry in school was between Harry Potter and Slytherin Prince Draco Malfoy.

Hermione grinned at the boy, knowing this was the start of his plans to get the school united; with the help of Draco, they would be able to stop Slytherin from becoming even more isolated.

“So smart, “

“And insightful is our youngest Seeker,” Fred and George mocked the teen as everyone went back to what they were doing discussing this new thing. Harry turned to join Hermione and Ron, meeting Cepheus eye briefly. A hush fell over the Gryffindor Common Room as someone came down the steps. Ginny Weasley had changed from the school uniform and once again wore the clingy dress that made the fourteen-year-old look older. Many of the boy’s stared at her while the girls seemed scandalised. Ginny ignored them and walked up to Harry.

“Harry, you’ve grown more handsome over the summer,” she stated and stepped into his personal space, her body touching his. Ron watched with wide eyes, unable to take them from the horrific scene taking place. Meanwhile, Hermione was observing Harry and noticed his frown, seeing him step back slightly. She never realised how close her hand was to her wand.

“Ginny, this isn’t you,” Harry’s mask was slipping.

“I’ve always been like this but hid it well,” she purred as she tried to step forward again, but he put his hands on her arms.

“I don’t believe you have, so I’m going to suggest you head up to your dorm room before you do something you regret,” Harry responded, releasing her and stepping back.

“You’re no fun,” she pouted; a flash of anger lit up her eyes before she flounced away back up to her dorm room. Harry’s eyes followed her before finding Cepheus; he had a few things to explain.

The pair of them sat by the fireplace as Harry explained their father was a noble, and as the younger son, Cepheus was entitled to the title of Lord Black.

“Does that mean we live in a grand old house?” the boys’ eyes were wide.

“We do have a big manor house, but we’re not going to take you away from your parents,” Harry reminded the boy.

“That’s good; I love them and my sister,” Ceph said with a big yawn.

“Go to bed, kiddo; we’ll talk more about this tomorrow. I’m sure Dad will want to meet you ‘properly.”

“Thanks, Harry,” Ceph said, sleepily going off to his dorm. Harry grinned, heading up to the fifth-Year dorms. It almost felt like coming home if he didn’t now have a home. Unbuttoning his shirt, he began to undress as Neville, Dean, Seamus, and Ron entered. Abruptly Seamus and Dean went quiet, seeing Harry already in the room.

“Alright, Dean, how was your summer?” Harry asked cheerfully.

“Good thanks, better than Seamus’,” Dean replied awkwardly.

“What happened?” Harry looked visibly concerned.

“Me mam didn’t want me to come back,” Seamus replied, his back turned to Harry as he pottered around his bed.

“What? Why?

“She didn’t want me coming back to Hogwarts,” Seamus returned, still refusing to look at Harry. “Because of, well, you.”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked, confused. His heart was beating faster as sudden comprehension hit him as Seamus answered his question.

“Well,” repeated Seamus, still avoiding Harry’s eyes, “she . . . er . . . well, it’s not just you, it’s Dumbledore too…”

“She believes the Prophet?” Harry spoke glumly. “Thinks I’m crazy or a liar while Dumbledore’s an old fool?”

“Something like that,” mumbled Seamus. Harry didn’t answer; he was beginning to get angry now.

Harry, if you told everyone what happened that night with Diggory, perhaps they’ll believe you,” this came from a surprising source. Ron was looking over at him encouragingly. The other boys’ bar Neville were all looking at him eagerly.

“Why don’t you read the Prophet?” Harry replied bitterly, “like Seamus’ mum, they seem to know everything.”

“Don’t bring my mum into this!” Seamus shouted.

“I’ll call out anyone that reads that dishrag if they believe that, then their stupid,” Harry responded hotly.

“Oi, don’t call my mum stupid!” 

“If you’ve got a problem sharing a dormitory with me, go and ask McGonagall if you can be moved, stop your mummy worrying —”

“Everyone calm down; we’re not going to get anywhere arguing and shouting,” Neville spoke up, looking between the pair. Harry snorted and ripped his curtains closed.

Mist hung in the air in tendrils but was quickly burnt off as Harry completed his run alongside the Forbidden Forest’s edge. He stopped, looking over the Black Lake as he took a pull from his bottle. After a few minutes, he transfigured two sticks until they were about three foot in length. Harry began a delicate Dance using the sticks and calming his mind down after the meetings and confrontations last night. September was continuing to be unseasonably warm, so sweat trickled down Harry’s back.

“Nice moves,” a voice spoke from behind him breaking his concentration. Harry turned to find Draco leaning against a tree. Like Harry, he was wearing Mundane shorts and a T-shirt.    

“Getting some exercise?” Harry asked with a smirk.

“Got to keep up with you,” Draco replied with a partial sneer.

“Drop the act, spots,” Harry returned, rubbing his chest down with a towel before he found a tree opposite Draco to lean on

“It’s not an act; I really do need to keep up with you,” Draco protested. “Padfoot and Moony were slave masters; I’ve only ever beaten you once,”

“Because I’m better than you,” Harry shrugged.

“You’ll never be as good as me, Pup,” Draco replied with a grin, getting a glare from the dark-haired boy.

“Don’t call me Pup; only Dad and Remus can call me that,” Harry growled. Draco grinned at how easily the boy was calling Sirius dad now. “We need to get someone in Voldemort’s camp; he’s been silent since he returned.”

“Can you not use Snape and the Order?” Draco asked.

“Dad refuses to work with the Order, and Snape is just a bastard,” Harry replied.

“Some were wondering why I didn’t start anything with you yesterday,” Draco commented.

“Maybe we need to stage a fight?” Harry asked, “Do you think you can bring any of them to our side?”

“I’m pretty sure there are several Slytherin’s that don’t want to go to the Dark Side, but they are reluctant to get involved with Bumbledore,” Draco admitted.

“That seems to be the case with the Neutrals; I need to start making some more friends.”

“That will be hard with the Weasel; he wants to keep you to himself,” Draco smirked. “Do you reckon he fancies you?”

“You’re a dick,” came the reply as Harry gathered his stuff, heading up towards the castle.

“Be careful around Dumbledore, you nearly lost it last night, and you can’t let him see through you,” Draco warned.

“I know, but the manipulative old fool annoys me.” Harry went off in a different direction so that the pair weren’t seen together.

Minutes later, Harry stood in front of the mirror in the shower. He opened his toiletries to get out his wash stuff.

“Hi Harry,” Ceph exclaimed, entering with a couple of first years. Although he seemed to be nervous around the older boy.

“Would you like me to show you around the castle today? Then we can talk on the quidditch pitch,”

“That sound pretty cool,” Ceph shrugged nonchalantly, but he looked eager.

“Are you looking forward to your first day of classes on Monday?”

“A bit nervous,” the boy returned, then looked at Harry’s shirtless torso, “Do you lift weights?”

“Excuse me?” Harry washed his face with a flannel as he looked at the curious Child.

“I wondered if you lift weights because you seem quite muscular,” Ceph rushed, “I wanted to know what you did so I can try and not be bullied.”

“Are you being bullied?”

“Oh no, not here, but when I was at the Muggle school, the other boys would hit me and call me names,” Ceph looked smaller than an eleven-year-old as he shuffled his bare feet on the tiles. Harry looked at him, then smiled.

“Were you popular with the girls, kiddo?” Harry asked. Ceph looked up and smiled at the term of affection.

“Well, I had a lot of friends who were girls.”

“Boys can be cruel, and they were probably jealous. You’ve got Dad’s look, buddy. I reckon several of the girls had crushes on you, making the other boys envious,” Ceph’s face went bright red with embarrassment, “Now go get showered, or you’ll be late for breakfast.”

In the Great Hall, Hermione slowly ate her breakfast as she considered her best friend, Harry Black. They had held hands a couple of times now, and he seemed much more attentive to her than he had ever been. Hermione knew she had a crush on Harry but could he possibly like her back. Her eye caught the sight of Ginny, who appeared upset but determined. When she had come down with that dress on approaching Harry, Hermione had realised how jealous she was. Today she could reason and wondered what had caused the change in the younger girl. Hermione noticed that Ginny had seen Draco, a big smile erupting on her face. Hermione almost laughed; she knew Draco would never go near Ginny in a million years.

“What are you grinning at?” Neville asked, taking a seat opposite.

“I think Ginny’s going to make Harry jealous by flirting with Draco.” Neville barked out laughter.

“I wish I could see her face when she finds out he’s got a crush on –“ But whatever Neville was going to say was lost as the pair heard loud voices coming from just outside the Great Hall. There seemed to be a circle of students, so most likely a fight. As a Prefect, she decided to stop it. Half-way there, she heard her brothers voice and got angry with him for starting fights on the second day of school, even though teaching had yet to begin. She was just about to push through the circle when a hand checked her.

“Wait! Watch,” Malfoy said from her side, and she saw Harry coming down the stairs. He passed through the crowd quickly; power and authority seemed to radiate from him. He came up behind Cepheus and looked at the other first-year, Danica Selwyn.

“What’s going on?” Harry purred quietly, almost Snape-like. Speaking of teachers, they were watching with interest but did not move to interfere.

“We’re just having a debate,” Danica sneered, so reminiscent of Draco, Harry wondered if they were related, “About which house is better.”

“Neither. All four houses have their strengths and weaknesses. However, you should be striving to make friends instead of debating the finer points of each house,” Harry responded to the shocked gasps of some. Everyone in the crowd and the Great Hall seemed to be hanging onto his every word.

“If we are all supposed to play Happy families, what’s the rivalry between you and Draco Malfoy we hear so much about?” Danica asked, and there were a few nods from those that had seen it in the last few years.

“I’ll tell you a little tale when I was an innocent first year,” Harry’s voice had become hard as steel and gripped Ceph’s shoulder, “Before we were sorted, I was offered a friendship,”

“An offer I made,” Draco added as he stepped into the circle beside Danica amidst gasps. These two were legends both in and out of Hogwarts; everyone had heard about the famous rivalry between the pair. Now they were saying Draco Malfoy had offered the hand friendship to Harry Potter.

“It was an offer I foolishly rejected. At the time, I didn’t know I was offending him; no-one had taught me any etiquette. Both Draco and I have been rivals for six years, but it is time to put such pettiness behind us. I, for one, respect Draco immensely,” Harry finished, “However, it is not for First years of any house to argue about our rivalry, and which is the better house,”

“I agree, all four houses should be equal this year,” Draco spoke and stepped before Cepheus, holding out his hand. Harry almost grinned as the pair re-enacted the second time they met, but this time he took the other boy’s hand firmly. Whispers raced through the crowd as the six-year rivalry ended, then they dispersed to their tables. Harry led Ceph by the shoulder towards the Gryffindor table. They joined Neville at the table, where Hermione sat down in her former place. Ron had to find a seat next to Neville as Harry placed Cepheus next to him.

“Cepheus Granger! Mum is going to kill you for starting fights on the second day of school,” Hermione scolded the boy. The other three young men looked between the bow-headed boy and their friend.

“Technically, the school hasn’t started yet,” Harry pointed out as he grabbed a roll and some eggs.

“Don’t you get involved. This is between him and me,” Hermione snapped.

“I know you’ve had eleven years with him, but he is my biological brother,” Harry replied quietly with a hint of steel in his voice. Hermione turned back on the boy, knowing she could not argue with him.

“Why did you start the fight?” Hermione demanded her attention back on the small boy.

“I didn’t actually start a fight,” Ceph whined. “I was trying to defend Gryffindor House.”

“Look, Ceph, from what Hermione said, you’re a good kid, so why don’t you leave it to me to protect Gryffindor’s Honour,” Harry told the boy as they finished breakfast. “Now, let me introduce you to Hedwig.”

“Whose Hedwig?” Ceph asked as Harry moved through the castle showing the boy different routes to get to his classes.

“Hedwig is my owl; she’s a very special owl,” Harry explained as they moved up the west tower. The cold wind hit them as Harry, Hermione, and Cepheus entered the room. As Harry stepped foot onto the straw-covered floor, avoiding dead mice and droppings, a white shape was already descending. Hedwig glided to the ground, landing smoothly on Harry’s shoulder. She stroked her beak through his hair, grooming him.

“This is Hedwig; she’s the most intelligent owl ever.” The Owl seemed to sit up straighter, preening at the compliment. “Hedwig, this is my brother Cepheus.”

“She looks beautiful,” Cepheus said, his eyes full of awe as the white bird regarded him, then jumped down onto the smaller boy’s shoulder. He giggled as she began to nibble his ear affectionately. Harry and Hermione’s eyes met over Ceph’s head with a grin.

“She’ll send your letters to Dad. Now have you seen a quidditch match?” Harry asked, changing the subject. Ceph looked up at Harry, wide-eyed, as Hermione grinned. She was a little jealous, but Hermione was glad they were bonding as brothers.

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