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AU. When Sirius and Remus go looking for Peter Pettigrew, they make a wrong turn and someone else finds him first. Eight years later, Sirius owns a book store and Remus manages it for him. When Harry stumbles into the store and they find out the truth, they decide it's time to be Stealing Harry. (SB/RL slash relationship in later chapters.)

Author Notes:

At one point in Chapter 12, I have used dialogue verbatim from The Philosopher's Stone. In this instance, sections of the Quidditch Match, especially Lee Jordan's commentary, have been lifted or paraphrased from the book.

When they met the next morning for breakfast, Harry was relieved to see that everyone was in one piece; apparently nobody'd been caught and, over toast and cereal, they took turns telling their stories. Padma had been the one Peeves had followed, but she'd lost him in the maze of corridors and stairways leading to the Ravenclaw eyrie, and at least Filch had followed Draco and Harry instead. Neville had fled to Gryffindor at top speed and said he had been too excited and nervous to sleep, and just a little afraid that Filch had seen him and would be coming after him. Instead of going to bed, he'd gone down to the Common Room and sat and talked some more with Nearly Headless Nick.

"You look knackered," Draco said.

"Going to go back to sleep, I think, in a bit," Neville yawned, "now that I know Filch followed you two. Had a thought, though."

"Mark your calendar," Padma teased. Neville stuck his tongue out at her.

"I was talking with Nearly Headless Nick about how he couldn't join the Headless Hunt," Neville continued. "And I had this idea, maybe...well. We all did what Draco wanted to do, I thought perhaps we could take turns..."

"Doing divinations?" Draco asked, delicately pulling the crusts off of his toast.

"No," Neville said scornfully. "Er...I guess you could call it having adventures."

"I think I've had quite enough adventure for one school year," Padma sighed.

Neville looked crestfallen. "But it'd be a good deed..."

Draco leaned forward. "What is it?"

"Well. Nick and I were talking and I thought there might be a way to...get him into the Headless Hunt. It's some work, mind you, but..."

"Is there?" Harry asked warily. "A way, I mean?"

"Should be," Draco said thoughtfully, apparently catching Neville's drift. "Where's he buried?"

"Some chapel in the forest, on a trail off the road to Hogsmeade," Neville answered.

"Oh, I read about that in Hogwarts, A History," Harry exclaimed. "Back in the early days they had a lot of Christians at the school and they insisted they needed a chapel -- "

" -- so they built one down by the river," Padma finished. "Well, what used to be a river. It's in the middle of the forest now, though. People stopped using it a few centuries ago."

"Why?" Draco asked interestedly.

"Dunno," Harry said. "Book didn't say."

"Anyway, he said he was under a stone down there," Neville said. "He got very nostalgic about it, said it was awfully nice for a ghost to have a good-looking grave. He says he goes down and sits and looks at it sometimes."

Padma looked horrified at the notion. "How depressing!"

"He doesn't think so," Neville answered.

"Could you take us there?" Draco asked.

"What're you going to do?" Harry demanded. Draco gave him a wolfish smile.

"Me?" he asked. "Neville did say he wanted us all to do it."

"It's, er..." Neville looked uncomfortable. "Well. It's a very traditional magical activity in some circles...."

"Neville," Padma warned.

"I thought we might go grave-robbing," Neville blurted.


It took some time to plan everything out, which was probably just as well; Padma and Harry had both been shocked at the idea, at first. Even Draco, who'd caught onto it early, was squeamish about actually doing it. Still, Neville reasonably pointed out that they'd have Nick's permission, so it wasn't really grave-robbing. It was more like...grave re-decorating. And they had to admit that when Neville asked Nick about it, the ghost's whole face lit up.

"It won't be any work at all -- just a little chop," he said, and Padma looked a little green. "I had a good preservation spell put on; as a ghost one can insist on this kind of thing, but I never even thought of anything like this...."

Padma, out of habit and possibly to get accustomed to the idea, began doing extra-curricular reading on the history of magical grave-robbing, which ran mostly to Dark Arts tools and necromancy. Harry, feeling Padma was more than up to the task, read fictional Muggle books about it instead, and passed on the juicy bits at mealtimes and during their study-sessions. Neville, ever-practical, planned it for the last week-end before the Christmas holiday, and began stockpiling what Harry referred to as 'the tools of the Resurrection-Man's trade': he badgered the Weasley twins into showing him some spells for lifting stones and picking locks, 'borrowed' a crowbar from the strange assortment of Muggle tools behind Hagrid's shed, and got Nick to help him draw a map of the chapel. When it came to thinking up ways to actually get to the chapel, he was out of luck, but that was what Draco was for. Each plan the pale-haired boy came up with was more devious and amusingly complex than the last, like the game of Mousetrap that Remus used to have under the desk at Sandust, back before they'd moved to Wales.

Still, despite their intricate planning, they had schoolwork to do, and Quidditch season was fast approaching. Harry, at team-practice three times a week, often came to the study sessions exhausted and simply sat, chin propped on hands and eyelids drooping, listening while the others swapped research. Poor Neville was still blowing things up in Potions and Draco, despite extra homework, continued to transfigure things into flat things rather than the things they were intended to be. Padma patiently walked them through what they were doing wrong, and only occasionally did they get to pay her back by mocking her inability to remember the proper names for the constellations in Astronomy class.

Harry occasionally wondered if it was odd that he seemed to be competent, if not exactly stellar, in almost everything, but there wasn't a whole lot of time to meditate on it. His first Quidditch game was fast approaching, and although he felt ready, Marcus Flint was not free with his praise for the young, attention-grabbing newest member of the team.

And then there was Wood.

When he was eight or nine, Harry had been allowed to visit Hogwarts and even stay overnight at the invitation of Oliver Wood, who'd taken a shine to the small, dark-haired boy known as Parvus. There were times Harry had wanted nothing more than to be Oliver Wood, to be a Quidditch player in a scarlet uniform and know all about all the different teams. Now he was a first year and Oliver was in fifth, and they were in different houses; Oliver knew Harry had been Parvus, but they had no real reason to speak, and Harry knew it was cool to ignore the first-years.

Still, he often caught Oliver watching him, once he'd been recruited to Slytherin and word had more or less gotten out. He didn't know what to do; if a fifth-year disliked him there was not much that could be done, he supposed.

Oliver was still his Quidditch idol, all the more so now that he was a Captain and not just equipment-boy. Harry worried about playing against Gryffindor in their first game, and what Oliver would think of him if Slytherin won -- or if they lost. He would fly his best, of course, but if his best wasn't good enough, or if his heart wasn't in it, he knew he'd fail. And if he lost his first ever game, there was also Professor Snape's disapproval to consider.

The night before his first game, Harry was trying to soothe his nerves in the library, hiding amongst the books. He'd pretended to read for a while before giving up, and soon he'd have to go back to the dormitories, but at least then he could pretend to sleep. He wasn't expecting anyone to come across him, but as he was preparing to tidy away his schoolwork and go back to the dungeons, a shadow blocked out the light from the candles in the wall-brackets.

Harry looked up into Oliver's face, and swallowed.

"Harry," Oliver said, and sat down. "Can I have a word?"

Harry nodded, heart thudding in his ribcage. What if Oliver threatened him, or told him not to play...

"Listen, Potter," Oliver tried again, then sighed. "I thought for sure you'd be Gryffindor," he said. "When you went up to be Sorted, I mean."

"Sorry," Harry murmured, acutely aware of another person he'd disappointed by being Slytherin.

"No, I mean, you still seem like a decent kid," Oliver said, "It's just, you know. I was waiting for Parvus to come back to school so he could join the Gryffindor team, eventually."


"And nobody expected that you'd make the team in your first year, lucky sod," Oliver added. Harry glanced at his face, and saw an odd half-affection there. "So...."

"So," Harry echoed.

"Good luck tomorrow," Oliver said, holding out a hand. Harry stared at it dumbly before realising he should shake it. "Play like hell, Potter. Gryffindor isn't going to go easy on you lot. Must say I'd half like to see you win, just to wipe that smirk off Flint's face the next time he tries to tell me he's got to babysit you on the field."

Harry grinned a little. The babysitting quip didn't hurt; it was a long-standing joke on the Slytherin team.

"Doesn't mean you're going to win, though," Oliver added, rising to go. "I won't lie and say that winning isn't everything, but I'll give you this advice for free: people remember blokes who played well and honourably more than they remember who won, ten years down the line. You play a good game and you have nothing to be ashamed of. Or afraid of."

Watching Oliver, Harry nodded belatedly, and stood as well. "Why're you telling me this?" he blurted, as Oliver began to walk away. The boy turned as he walked, and grinned.

"Little firstie like yourself needs all the help he can get," he said, and vanished around a corner. Harry gathered up his bag and papers and left the nearly-empty library, heading towards his dormitory and his bed. He didn't think he'd sleep much; now that he knew what was expected of him, he had a whole new set of worries.


The following morning dawned clear and sunny, and Harry was woken by Snake tickling his ear with his forked tongue, demanding eggs for breakfast. He was late getting to the dining hall and the other three had already gone to their separate tables, but Draco and Neville waved at him and Padma gave him a broad grin. Neville was wearing Gryffindor colours -- of course he would have to, Harry realised, after a brief pang of betrayal -- but Padma had a green bow tied around her braid, and Draco's highly-prized yellow tie had been charmed green, probably by an older student.

Snake happily devoured the runny yolk on his fried egg while Harry was distracted keeping Crabbe and Goyle from pulling a just-arrived Hedwig's tailfeathers, until finally Hedwig snapped at Crabbe's hand and flew off in a huff, leaving Harry with two letters, one sealed with Sirius' scarlet wax and one with an elaborate fold Remus liked to use. He opened Remus' first; it was a page-long letter, not unusual for Remus. Skimming it, Harry realised it was meant to be a soothing distraction from pre-game jitters, full of news from Diagon Alley and polite gossip about the customers at Madam Schaeffer's shop. He folded it and tucked it in his pocket, turning to Sirius' more imposing-looking note. He slit the wax with his butter-knife and unfolded it, warily.

Inside was an inky canine nose-print and only a few scrawled words:

Fly them in circles, pup. Up Slytherin.

Love, Sirius.

PS: If you show this to Snape I'll be forced to disown you.

Harry grinned, put Sirius' letter next to Remus' in his pocket and picked up Snake. Marcus Flint was rising too, gesturing for the team to finish their meals, and across the room Oliver Wood was already leading the Gryffindor team out of the dining hall.

Harry was used to the peculiar quirks of Quidditch uniforms by now. He strapped up his greaves and shin-guards almost mindlessly, stomach churning despite Wood's advice and his godfather's unexpected support of Slytherin. He set Snake in a little drawer in his locker that he'd lined with rags and, with a whispered promise that he'd be back to collect him after the game, followed the others out onto the Quidditch pitch. They mounted up, the game-balls were released...and the game was on.

This...this was Quidditch. This was the game, the Game that Oliver used to talk about; never mind that most of his fellow teammates persisted in cheating or that Gryffindor scored the first points. Harry was a Seeker for a real Quidditch team and he had a job to do, and he was doing it.

And from where he sat the game was beautiful.

Forget Cricket, which next to Quidditch was a clumsy earthbound children's sport; forget the first time he'd ridden the bicycle by himself or the first time Sirius had taken him on the motorbike. Nothing compared to flying, nothing compared to Quidditch.

"-- that's Chaser Katie Bell of Gryffindor there, nice dive around Flint, off up the field and -- OUCH -- that must have hurt, hit in the back of the head by a Bludger -- "

He followed the action from a position above it, circling a little lower and to the east of the Gryffindor seeker. Sirius had written to him in the past few weeks, and though it was never obvious, each letter had devoted at least a few lines to Quidditch; only the third or fourth mention of his father that Sirius had ever made said that James had always made their house Seeker fly lower than the other, the better to see the pitch. It had gone off into a discussion of height versus visibility, but that was what had stayed in Harry's mind -- what his father had done.

" -- Quaffle taken by the Slytherins -- that's Adrian Pucey speeding off toward the goal posts, but he's blocked by a second Bludger -- sent his way by Fred or George Weasley, can't tell which -- "

Harry took a moment to inventively but affectionately curse the Weasley twins.

" -- Pucey regains the Quaffle, anyway, and he's off dodging another Bludger, excellent double-teaming by the Weasleys -- "

Harry, half-listening to Lee Jordan's commentary, thought he saw a glimmer of gold just above Madam Hooch's ear; yes, the stiff, fixed way she was sitting -- she knew the Snitch was hovering near her head, but she wasn't about to give anything away.

Harry glanced up, and saw the Gryffindor Seeker's eyes on him; he very casually drifted his broomstick away from Madam Hooch, directly into the flightpath of a Bludger. Feigning surprise, he dove for the other way, and the other Seeker saw the Snitch too, but too late; Harry was after the little golden ball, which had zipped away from Madam Hooch as soon as she'd moved aside in anticipation of Harry's charge.

" -- Potter's seen the Snitch! And he's off after it while Wood blocks a throw by the Slytherin Chaser -- gameplay slows as attention is divided between Quaffle and Snitch -- "

The Gryffindor Seeker on his heels, Harry flew past the rest of the game, oblivious to anything but the Snitch in front of him, trusting that the Slytherin Beaters would protect him. He remembered suddenly the first time he'd seen a real one, that afternoon on the pitch when he was eight and a Slytherin girl had shown it to him. He'd reached out just like this, to beat her to the grab --

WHAM! A Bludger slammed into the back of his broom and sent him spinning, his movements making the Gryffindor Seeker tilt off-balance as well; when they finally got control again, the Snitch was long gone. Harry glanced over his shoulder at one of the Weasley twins, who grinned and waggled his fingers in front of his nose, teasingly, before returning to the game. The other Seeker drifted up again, but Harry, on a hunch, dove low. He scanned the bottom of the field curiously, before rising up through the game, blocking a Gryffindor Chaser on his way, and let himself drift towards the Slytherin goal-hoops.

" -- a penalty to Gryffindor, taken by Spinnet, who puts it away, no trouble -- "

When I'm Captain, Harry thought, We're going to stop giving away points by fouling the other team...or at least have a Keeper who specialises in protecting against Penalty shots...

He was scanning the field, eye catching a flash of green or scarlet occasionally, when his broom suddenly...lurched.

He gripped it tightly with both hands, surprised, and lifted his face to feel if there was a backdraft coming from somewhere, but the air was still and calm; just then the broom bucked, and he nearly slid off, holding tighter still. He glanced around to see if there was a Bludger following him, but nothing was in sight.

As he turned back, it pulled a complete three-sixty turn and he slewed around, unable to get his balance before it bucked again, and for a terrifying moment his body was in the air. He caught his ankles around the stick, re-seating himself, and suddenly realised he was in a lot of trouble...


"What's going on?" Padma demanded, as Draco gazed through his omnioculars at the distant figure in green. They'd been a bribe from his mother, one of the few things he'd ever actually asked her for, in return for having to go to Diagon Alley all by himself. He adjusted a knob and they zoomed in another fraction on Harry, who was hanging onto his broomstick for dear life.

"I can't tell!" he said, panicked. "His broomstick's gone wrong somehow, it looks like it's trying to buck him off -- "

"Let me see!" she implored, and he thrust the brass object at her, twisting his hands in his lap as she peered through them.

"It looks like the charms are breaking down, but it's a brand new broom, he told us himself -- " she said. "Look, nobody's even noticed. Someone should do something!"

""Slytherin in possession -- Flint with the Quaffle -- passes Spinnet -- passes Bell -- hit hard in the face by a Bludger, hope it broke his nose -- only joking, Professor -- Slytherins score -- "

"Come on, someone's got to see this," Padma said, looking around frantically. They had gone to sit with the Ravenclaws, since Ravenclaw was right across the aisle from Slytherin and wouldn't mind two Slytherin-supporters in their midst. Draco took the omnioculars back and adjusted the focus outward.

"Oh -- they're not -- " he gasped. "Padma, the Slytherins know, but they're not doing a thing -- there goes one of the redheaded boys from Gryffindor -- "

One of the Weasley brothers had seen Harry's erratic movements and seemed to understand what they meant, but Harry was drifting higher and higher away from the game, and the old broomstick Fred -- George? -- was on didn't have as much speed as a Nimbus.

Padma grabbed Draco and dragged him out of his seat. "Look, Professor Snape's seen -- he's got to do something, come on..."

She led Draco through the stands, towards Professor Snape, whose eyes were fixed on Harry. He seemed paralysed; his lips were moving slightly, but he wasn't doing anything to draw attention to Harry.

Then Harry's broomstick gave a wild jerk and Harry finally fell off, dangling by a hand; now people in the stands were beginning to notice, but Padma, panicked, was hell-bent on reaching Snape. In her haste she dragged Draco down the bench-row, and just as she reached Snape, Draco tripped on a cloak-edge from someone in the row below and tumbled into him, catching himself by grabbing at someone's hair. There was a pained cry, and he picked himself up, going pale.

"P...Professor Quirrell," he stammered. "Oh -- oh I'm sorry -- "

Quirrell was staring up at him, rubbing his scalp and scowling.

"Clumsy ch-child!" he managed, before there was another gasp from the crowd. "Insol-l-l-l -- oh!"

Even the crowd was paying attention to Harry now -- everyone but Marcus Flint and the other Weasley twin, who were engaged in some kind of bizarre one-on-one game that involved a Bludger and a lot of dodging. Padma was pleading with Professor Snape, who ignored her entirely as he stood and vaulted over the edge of the stands, landing in the commentator's box on the other side of the wall. Draco was dusting Quirrell off and doing more harm than good as he tried at once not to annoy him and yet to re-order the professor's short brown hair somehow.

Padma heard Snape shouting at McGonagall; she made out "broomstick" and "stopping play" and "Snitch" before a sigh rushed through the crowd. Harry had regained his seating on his broomstick with the help of one of the Weasleys, who had hauled him up by the seat of his trousers.

From the middle of the Slytherin box, she and Draco stood and stared as Harry began a long descent back towards the pitch, and the rest of both teams began to get their bearings and join in the solitary game Flint and the Weasley boy had been playing. Madam Hooch was flying up to meet Harry, but just then he changed course, abruptly, and Padma sucked in a breath, worried that his broomstick was malfunctioning again. He shot straight as an arrow towards the stands, however, and if one could skid in midair, Harry did so, sliding around and holding out his hand just above Lee Jordan's head.

The smack of the Snitch in Harry's glove was the best sound Padma or Draco had ever heard, shortly followed by the sound of Harry's boots on wood as he dropped into the commentators' box.

Harry, landing between Lee Jordan and Professor McGonagall, held out the Snitch for their inspection, with what looked like an almost hysterical calm.

"Potter...has the Snitch," Lee said slowly, staring at the little ball. "And that's...the end of the game."

"What's the score?" Padma heard Professor Snape demand.

"The score? The score..." Lee had to look up at the charmed scoreboard before he could announce it. "Slytherin wins, one-hundred and eighty points to seventy."


Harry climbed down the ladder from the announcers' box to the grass of the pitch as the others began to land, and ran past Flint completely to grab Oliver Wood's sleeve as he was talking to the Weasleys.

"I didn't mean to," he said, as Oliver turned. "We can play it again -- I'm sorry -- "

Oliver looked down at him, blinking.

"Course he didn't mean to," Fred said. "Listen, a first-year doesn't jump off his broom in the middle of a Quidditch game just to create a diversion, even a Slytherin first-year. It's suicide. He wasn't playing about up there. You all right, Harry?"

"Fine," Harry breathed. "It can't have been legal, someone must have called a time out before I caught the Snitch."

"Afraid not," Oliver said reluctantly. "Fair's fair."

"But nobody was playing!"

"Flint was," George said furiously. "Did you see him?"

"So were you." Fred poked his brother in the ribs.

"You told me to!"

"I never did!"

"You said 'I'm going to get Harry, be here and stay down'!"

"I said 'I'm going to get Harry before he falls down'!"

"Quiet," said a new voice, and Harry looked up to see Professor Snape looming over them. "Harry, Madam Pomfrey wishes to see you. Professor McGonagall has your broomstick."

"But I -- "

"Go, before I'm forced to take points from my own House."

Harry gave Oliver a last apologetic look, and brushed past the Professor. As he went, he heard Snape say, "Is there any objection amongst the Gryffindor team to the legality of Mr. Potter's catch?"

Harry paused.

"No, sir," Oliver answered. "Fred's sure it was an accident."

"I am equally sure it was not," Snape said, and Harry's heart sank for a second, before he added "That broomstick was hexed. I should like to know by whom. Rest assured, if it is a Gryffindor, Professor McGonagall and I -- "

He had half-turned as he spoke, and caught Harry lingering.

"Potter! Pomfrey this instant!" he snapped. Harry fled, to where Padma, Neville, and Draco were waiting for him with Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall. He was immediately surrounded by students, pounding him on the shoulders and shaking him cheerfully; Madam Pomfrey was shouting for them to stop it this instant, that he could be hurt and should be seen to, but Harry had never felt happier in his whole life.


The thrill of Harry's victory lasted the rest of the day and well into the school week; to be a first-year playing with the big kids was cool enough, but to have won the game after almost falling to his death...that was something else again. The rest of the school didn't seem as bitter about Slytherin's victory as Harry thought they would be; this may have been because of Draco and Padma's deft handling of their respective houses, and Oliver Wood threatening to take a Beaters' bat to anyone who grumbled.

Professor McGonagall went over every inch of his broomstick and could find nothing wrong with it; likewise, Madam Pomfrey said he didn't appear to be under any curses. Harry hadn't heard what Professor Snape said to Professor McGonagall, but Neville, meaning to come by his Head of House's office to ask about a homework assignment, had lingered just close enough to get the gist of it; Snape was sure someone had hexed his broomstick, and didn't know who, though apparently he had suspicions he wasn't willing to share with McGonagall yet.

"Could be him, you know," Padma said, over a study-session-turned-gossip-meeting. Harry glared at her. "Well, if I were hexing you I'd do that to put people off the scent. So would you. That's Slytherin for you."

"What reason would Professor Snape have to hex me?"

"What reason would anyone else?" Neville asked. "Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised if Flint got mad at you for stealing the limelight and did it himself."

"A student couldn't do that kind of magic, not during a match, not against a Nimbus," Draco pointed out. "Maybe it was just...a freak accident or something. And if you had been killed," he said, drawing them back to the reason they were there, "Then at least you wouldn't have to write nine inches for Transfiguration. Ech."

"Nine? Everyone else only has six," Padma said.

"Well, everyone else makes their bowls look like goblets," Draco said embarrassedly. "Not dinner plates."

"Still flattening?" Neville asked sympathetically.

"It's just so boring, making a bowl look like a basically bowl-shaped thing," Draco said. "I lose interest and wham. Dinner plate."

"Maybe you should make it look like a really fancy dinner plate," Harry said. "I mean, if you're going to be bad at something, you should be bad at it with style."

"Slytherins," Padma muttered.

"Speaking of which, did you hear about the Gryffindors blowing up the Potions classroom last night?" Draco said, leaning in close. Neville put a hand over his face.

"I heard something explode, but sometimes that's just Professor Snape making something complicated. He says sometimes potions are supposed to -- "

"No, tell us about it," Padma asked Neville, interrupting Harry. "What happened?"

"Well, Ron Weasley and Seamus Finnegan got in trouble for something or other -- Neville, do you know?"

"No," Neville said, from behind his hands.

"Anyhow, they had a detention from Snape and they were supposed to be organising the potions supply jars. So the rest of the Gryffindors decided to go help them out -- " Draco snickered at Harry and Padma's mutual eye-rolling, "Except Neville, cos he was with me going over Astronomy. They all trooped down there and Granger said she knew a spell that would do it."

"Granger knows spells for everything," Neville moaned.

"I bet she doesn't know -- " Padma began hotly, taking the remark as a personal challenge, but Harry waved a hand to stop her.

"Go on, Draco," he said.

"Well, apparently her spell worked okay but she organised them alphabetically and they're supposed to be arranged so that the most-used stuff is lower down. Which meant Lavender Brown had to have a try and she broke one jar, and then when Ron Weasley tried to clean it up he broke another jar and the two got mixed together and Dean Thomas dropped the jar he was holding and the whole thing exploded." Draco chuckled. Neville moaned again. "So there they all were and Professor Snape came in and found the entire Gryffindor first-year class standing around with their hair on end and soot all over their faces..."

"Six million points from Gryffindor!" Harry said, in a passable imitation of Professor Snape. He'd been working on it.

"Something like that," Draco agreed. "And now they've all got detention together scrubbing out the hospital ward."

"And they all hate me cos I didn't come along," Neville sighed, folding his hands on the table and resting his chin on them.

"You don't care what a load of Gryffindors think, do you?" Harry asked.

"I happen to be a Gryffindor, thanks," Neville answered.

"But you don't, do you? I mean, clearly you are in superior company," Harry gestured at himself, Draco and Padma with a smirk.

"Yeah, but..." Neville wrinkled his nose. "You ever feel like you're a bit of an outsider in your own House?"

Padma gave him a blank look. Draco pursed his lips, and Harry tilted his head.

"I mean. Ron and Granger are practically joined at the hip with Finnegan, and Dean Thomas says Parvati's already his girlfriend -- "

"Tsk, Parvati," Padma murmured reprovingly.

"And Parvati and Lavender are really good friends...I dunno. It seems like I ought to be friends with some of them, you know? That's the whole point of being Sorted, innit?"

Harry considered. "Yeah, well, Theo hangs out with Crabbe and Goyle, but that's just as well, 'cause I don't like them much. And I spend a lot of time with the older kids at Quidditch practice...although they make a lot of jokes I don't always get," he admitted.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Padma said. "I study with other Ravenclaws all the time. I'm just glad Parvati and I didn't get Sorted together."

"It's a bit different in Hufflepuff," Draco said, drawing one knee up against his chest and wrapping an arm around it, hooking the heel of his shoe on the edge of the chair. "Everyone's quiet, really. I guess we spend a lot of time in the common room together, and my room-mates are all right, but I'd rather be here. I like being a Hufflepuff," he added. "Nobody stares at you funny or anything. And it's the first time I got something I wanted without Mum telling me I had to do something different and getting her way instead."

All four of them fell silent for a while, until Padma cleared her throat.

"Well, this isn't getting our Transfiguration papers done, and we'd better start on that now if Draco's going to have to write an extra three inches," she said. "Who's got a good starting-place?"


Dear Harry,

You should have heard the shouting when we got the evening edition! POTTER SCOOPS SNITCH! It was all over the sports section, though I think it should have been on the front page. Remus says that he's very proud of you, but he thinks the Floo accident at the Ministry of Magic was probably a little more important to get reported above-the-fold. I say he's nuts, what do you think? I'm sending you a copy you can hang over your bed, and one for your locker, and a few for your friends if you like.

I hope you're getting your broomstick checked out. If we need to buy another one, let me know -- the Firebolts are still just prototypes, but Remus apparently has connections I never knew about and we might be able to swing one. It wasn't bucking too badly, was it? It wasn't much covered in the article, and there was just the one photo of you with the Snitch, and you did say you didn't fall or anything. We'll work on dangerous-flying when you come home for the holiday, how's that? Only another few weeks! Andromeda and Ted have already started plotting lots of things for us to do, and Dora -- sorry, TONKS -- says to tell you you're welcome to sing with her and Neville, whatever that means.

I hope you're studying for exams. I hear from Sources that you're doing well in all your classes, so I won't talk any more about THAT.

Let me know where you want to go for Christmas shopping when you come home. We're thinking of taking a trip to Hogsmeade, so perhaps instead of taking the train home we ought to just come and get you from school? What do you think? Moony says we ought to go down to Betwys Beddau and get a goose from the farm down Cwndu road, and some of that fresh plum pudding from the Beddau Bakery, for Christmas dinner. I think he's hinting I ought to take the motorbike. Haven't been allowed to take her out in ages and she's going to be touchy with me if I don't at least fly her around a bit soon. Can you imagine me flying all over with a goose strapped to one side of the motorbike and a pudding on the other?

Ted and Andromeda and TONKS send their love. And so does Moony, but he's sending you a letter himself.


PS: What a silly question, Harry. It doesn't matter to me what house you're in or who your friends are, so long as they're good friends. I will never love you any less for anything you do.

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