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Author Notes:

A/N: I do not own Harry Potter. Nor any of the DC Comics Characters mentioned herein. But you knew that.

A/N2: This continues to be an extremely AU fic. Ron Weasley's first year at Hogwarts has all the adventure a budding hero could want, but Ron is more than a little confused by how, even here, he has somehow remained the sidekick.

 

Twenty five minutes to go.

Did everything have to take forever?

Harry moved off to speak with Sue Bones from Hufflepuff. The 'puffs were running some sort of infiltration effort that Harry had high hopes for. Sue and her Hufflepuff cadre were good at what they did. Very good. Everyone underestimated the Hufflepuffs, a mistake Sue exploited at every opportunity.

"Ron," Hermione said as a movement in the Forbidden forest caught my attention. "I'm worried about Har..."

I'm gone before she can complete the second syllable of our friend's name, leaving my robes in midair and pulling my cowl over my face. I'm in the forest, and I find what made the motion that caught my eye.

Giants. Two of them. A normal wizard facing off against a pair of giants would be dead.

But then, I'm not a normal wizard, am I? Speed is what Barry always called a 'Force Multiplier'. It allows you to do things that a 'normal' person cannot. Being able to operate in a time-frame that your opponents cannot even perceive is a definite advantage. I kick it into high gear and after pushing myself as fast as I can comfortably go in such an enclosed area, I use Wally's new trick.

I come to a sudden halt with a massive oak between the giants, and me. I place my hands on the trunk. With a thought, I pass my stored kinetic energy, my inertia into the tree.

The oak explodes, sending lethal speed force enhanced fragments into the pair of giants, shredding their bodies.

They're dead, they just haven't noticed yet. Barry always cautioned against killing, but recognized that sometimes it was necessary. This was a war after all, a war the giants had joined knowing they would be killing children.

I returned to Hermione, her attention focused on my afterimage remaining on her retina. I peeled my mask back, vibrated my way back into my robes still hanging in midair, slowed my perceptions, and waited.

"ry" she said completing her sentence as I imagined I could hear the two giants fall in the forest. "I need you to help me keep an eye on him. You know how he is; he'll see everyone who gets hurt as being all his fault."

I nodded. Barry had shown me the way. He had set the example of what a Hero does, how he lives and if necessary, how he dies. Nothing was going to harm my friends today. Not as long as I had breath enough to run.

---oooOOOooo---

I was eleven.

I had spent the last year learning about speed.

Ginny and I had returned to the Burrow a week after the thunderstorm that changed my life, but the distance between our homes hardly inconvenienced my training and adventures with Wally and Barry. If I pushed myself, the time it took me to cover the distance between the Burrow and Blue Valley was just under twenty three seconds. Both Wally and Barry could do it in less.

Mum, of course, noticed the change in me almost immediately. It was when we sat down to the first meal after Ginny and I returned. Much to Mum's displeasure, I had never been much of an eater. I would pick at what was on my plate, and then push what remained around with my fork until allowed to leave the table.

After the trip, I ate like a starving man. Barry blamed this change on how my metabolism linked into the Speed Force, all I know is that I'm always hungry, and Mum loved that. There was nothing that woman enjoyed more than seeing her children eat. So, I made her happy. The problem was remembering to eat slowly.

On our fifth run together, Barry presented me with my own uniforms. They were like his, but a lovely Chudley orange instead of Red. He also presented me with a ring to store a uniform in. The ring was a bit large on my hand, but it did some sort of Muggle Magic that shrunk and enlarged the uniform depending on if the uniform was going in or coming out. It was really cool to watch, but I was pretty sure that I could improve on it once I learned the necessary magic. I managed to talk Bill into hiding the ring behind a heavy Notice Me Not charm. I think I left him with the impression that the ring was associated with some silly kids club.

Even the coolest guy in the world (just ask him) will fall for a little kid being a little kid. I ran that scam on Bill far more often than I like to admit, and for far longer than I should have. No matter how old I got, he always saw me as his baby brother.

My adventures with Barry involved solving a few crimes, which was seriously cool. Barry was the smartest guy I ever met, and he taught me a lot. He also showed me how to use his 'cosmic treadmill', which allowed us to run through time. The Treadmill was really frustrating to me, because I couldn't use it by myself. I just didn't have enough speed. To activate it Barry or Wally had to be on it with me. Barry just laughed at my depression over that and told me not to worry, as I grew and got stronger, I would be faster.

My adventures with Wally were different. Wally was as much a hero as Barry, but where Barry was a member of a group called the Justice League, a group that didn't take Wally or me seriously, Wally was a member of a group that didn't take ME seriously.

The Teen Titans. They were a varied group. Wally, of course, was a member, but there was also an older kid named Roy, who went by the name 'Speedy' for some reason and shot trick arrows with a bow. He was amazing to watch, accurate with his bow, and fast... Not as fast as Wally or me of course, but for a normal lad, he almost blurred when he moved.

Garth was a dark haired bloke who claimed to come from Atlantis and who could breathe water and talk to fish. I have to admit I wondered long and hard how that power-set was useful in any way at all.

Donna was different. Outwardly she was a happy older girl, well, older than me anyway, but somehow she always seemed kind of sad. I'm not sure why. They called her Wondergirl, and she was insanely strong, fast and she could fly... sort of.

Then there was Dick. They called him 'Robin'. Dick was the kind of bloke who looked at you and you just knew that he was figuring out the best way to do you damage. Not in a bad way, really, I mean, I don't think he did it consciously, but he most specifically did it with everyone, and I don't think the others noticed. When the group got together, they goofed around with each other, listened to music, and ate a wonderful food called 'Pizza' but you could tell that Dick was never really relaxing in any meaningful way.

Robin was the Team leader when they went out to fight their battles, which struck me as odd at first because he really seemed to be the least talented of them all. Then I went along for a fight.

Robin scared me more than the villains did. The least powerful of the group, he may have been, but he more than made up for his perceived lack of power in sheer bloody mindedness. Later I asked Wally about Dick.

Wally said that Dick's partner was a real head case. I wasn't sure what that meant, but I nodded as if I did. Wally went on to tell me that of all the Heroes operating in the world today, the only hero the bulk of the villains really feared was the Batman... and more than a few of those were also frightened by Robin.

Add me to that list.

I play a mean game of chess. I lose occasionally, but never more than two games before I can figure out the way my opponent thinks and use that to beat him. I made the mistake of challenging Dick to a game.

He crushed me, five games in a row. I never had a clue what he was thinking the whole time. That was very weird. I didn't like it, I never challenged him again.

The Titans, well, they treated me like a crup that has learned not to make messes in the house. Sometimes that really annoyed me, because I was sure that if I hit my top speed, I could clean all their clocks... Other than Wally of course...

And Robin. There was no way I was ever going to go up against Robin.

Anyway, life was good.

Then it was September 1st.

---oooOOOooo---

In all honesty, with the excitement of my runs with Wally and Barry, I'd forgotten about Hogwarts. Still, even speedsters have to go to school. Wally was starting his second year at something he called 'high school' soon and Barry told me that he still occasionally took classes, so I decided that going to school wasn't going to bother me all that much.

Besides, it wasn't like I had a choice.

That is how I came to be on the platform watching a skinny kid with glasses struggling to lift his trunk onto the train. George and Fred gave him a hand before I could get away from Mum and Ginny.

"Ron," Mum whispered as she licked her thumb and rubbed at a smudge over my left eyebrow, "that poor boy had no idea how to find the Platform. I think he might be Muggleborn. Keep an eye on him would you? There are some who would go out of their way to make him feel unwelcome."

"Okay Mum," I said, accepting her kiss on my cheek before I started for the train.

It was going to be a long ride... Maybe I could duck out and see what Wally was up to...

Making my way down the aisle, I spotted the skinny kid sitting alone in a compartment. I reflected on how Mum was right, he did look lost. If any of the Pureblood fanatics got hold of him, they would eat him alive.

For a moment I considered offering an excuse for intruding on his privacy, something like "Everywhere else if full", but that would be pretty stupid, considering the train hadn't even started moving yet, so I just slid the door open.

"Want some company?" I asked.

He nodded shyly.

"Thanks," I said shoving my battered trunk into the overhead storage. I flopped into the seat across from him. "I'm Ron Weasley," I said.

"Harry Potter," he said in response.

---oooOOOooo---

I blinked. Twice. Harry Potter? I was in a compartment with Harry Potter?

I know, I know, I'm sounding like a fanboy, but... Harry Potter! I'd heard stories about him my whole life. I mean, it wasn't like I was Ginny with her nightly bedtime stories featuring the Boy Who Lived, but I learned to read with the Adventures of Harry Potter series.

But looking at him then, I got the feeling that he hadn't been awarded special consideration allowing him to have a wand at 5. That he had never actually captured a Pirates' frigate with his genius troll confidante and plucky squib sidekick. This skinny kid likely never led his team of magical adventurers in exploring the caverns of the giant mountain gnomes, and probably never ended up fighting his way out of the castle of the evil Muggle Queen.

I think that was the moment that I realized that those stories were just that, stories.

Then I did something stupid. I knew it was stupid as I did it, but I did it anyway. It was as if I couldn't help myself.

"Do you really have..." I pointed to his forehead. "You know..."

Harry lifted his fringe to show a scar shaped like a lightning bolt. I stared and still couldn't believe what was coming out of my mouth, "So that's where You-Know-Who...?"

"That's what I'm told." Harry said with a sigh. "I don't remember it."

"Wow," I breathed realizing what I was doing and getting control of myself. "That sucks," I said echoing a term I had heard Wally use more than once.

"So, are all your family wizards?" Harry asked, seeming to find me as interesting as I found him. It was a while before I discovered that this was an aspect of Harry. He truly liked people and was almost always interested in what they had to say.

The two of us bonded on that train ride in a journey punctuated with visits from Draco Malfoy, an odd Muggleborn girl named Hermione Granger who was looking for a toad, and of course the famous Hogwarts Express Sweets trolley. I shared my Mum's roast beef sandwiches and Harry about bought out the trolley, and kept shoving more toward me until I gave in.

A man can only ignore chocolate for so long.

Malfoy was looking for Harry, hoping to form some sort of alliance it seemed. In doing so, the blond wally insulted me and my family. Harry told Malfoy to piss off over that, which lead the ponce to start making threats.

Malfoy left without actually doing anything, of course. I was quite impressed with Harry's ability to ignore an obvious bully like Malfoy. Maybe those stories had some truth in them after all.

Not too long after Malfoy left we were treated to an appearance of a bossy little force of nature came into our lives looking for Trevor the toad. We didn't know what she was going to come to mean to us at the time, of course, but we knew she was there. After looking for the toad, looking askance at the goofy joke 'spell' I tried to use to tease her a bit, and announcing that she had already read the years course books, she left us to continue her mission.

Harry and I just exchanged looks after she had left, and we started to laugh.

---oooOOOooo---

I'd already decided that I was going to do Fred damage. 'Wrestle a troll' he had said. Yeah right. All I had to do was put on a talking hat.

Waiting for the Sorting was hell. All waiting was hell actually. Barry had been worried about that at first until he decided that it wasn't hurting me. He was of the opinion that my mind was operating at something like three times normal speed. It didn't make me any smarter, but it did make waiting for the world to catch up to be an unending hell.

What it really meant is that I had to be constantly on guard against my own speed.

I watched as the others were all sorted. A bunch of kids I didn't know... Oh Sue Bones, a girl who I had met at a Ministry function, she went to Hufflepuff, but I didn't really know her. The bossy girl went to Gryffindor, surprising me a little; I'd figured her for a Ravenclaw. Malfoy went to Slytherin, of course. Where else would a vile little daddy's boy go?

Harry was sorted into Gryffindor and was staring at me expectantly as Professor McGonagall called my name.

"Ronald Weasley."

I approached the stool where the Hat was waiting for me. It suddenly occurred to me that I might be putting my 'secret identity' at risk. As I set the hat down over my head, I tried to think of ways to protect my secrets.

-Weasley?

What if the talking hat started spilling all of my secrets? My blood went cold. Wally's secrets? Barry's?

-Weasley?

This was horrible! I couldn't risk my identity! Much less anyone else's. I had to get out of there.

-Weasley!

I sat up suddenly. A voice in my head? Oh yeah the Hat.

-Godrick's beard boy, slow down! Your thoughts are going to set my felt afire!

I realized what I had been doing... I had kicked my perceptions up a notch or two without noticing. I took a deep breath and pushed myself back down into real time. I immediately felt the drag of dealing with the world again.

Sorry hat, I thought.

-I've been sorting children for a thousand years boy , the hat sputtered in my head. -I've never come up against a mind like yours.

Sorry again, I thought wondering if the hat did anything other than complain.

-I do quite a bit more than complain, Weasley , the hat huffed in my mind. -And be at ease, your secrets are safe with me.

Oh, I responded thinking about the silliness of a mind reading hat, and then wondering what the hat thought about that thought. So, what do you say hat? Gryffindor?

-Where else would I send a Weasley, boy? The hat laughed, - with your goals and what you've done since your magic saved your life...

My magic saved my life?

-Of course it did. You were struck by lightning as your cousin touched you. Magical children frequently have episodes of accidental magic in life threatening situations. Your magic recognized that what your cousin was doing was protecting him from the lightning, so it found a way to duplicate his abilities in you, so as to keep you alive.

Well, that made sense.

-You've been given a gift Weasley, make sure you use it. It will serve you well in...

"Gryffindor!"

---oooOOOooo---

After the sorting was finished, the Headmaster set the theme for the year by announcing that everyone should avoid the 3rd floor, unless we wanted to die.

Of course I'm serious. He stood there flat footed in the Great Hall and announced he had something so dangerous that being around it could kill you in the school.

What do you think? Of course some of the students started looking for it. My older Twin Brothers especially. They never could resist that kind of challenge.

No, they never found it. Despite looking the entire year, they never even got close.

Oh, no, it was real.

I found it. Well, Harry, Hermione, Neville Longbottom and I did. We were out after curfew and were hiding from the Caretaker when we stumbled on it. But that happened later.

It didn't take long for us to settle into a routine. We had class, we had homework, and we had time off. There was usually too much of the first two and never enough of the third.

There were four other lads in my dorm room, Harry, of course, Neville Longbottom, Dean Thomas, and Seamus Finnegan. We all got on. We traded our class notes and played games. Seamus and Dean bonded as did Harry and I. Neville was such a shy lad, he tended to spend most of his time on his own, though he joined in whenever all of us were together. There were also three girls in our year in Gryffindor, not that any of us were all that interested at the time. Parvati Patil, Lavender Brown, a pair of girlie girls, and Hermione Granger, the bushy haired swot rounded out our cohort.

Classes were classes. A bit more intense than those I had with my mum, but still classes.

Professor McGonagall, our head of house was strict and demanding in class, but Merlin! Did she ever know her stuff. She taught Transfiguration and she quickly showed that she could change pretty much anything into anything else. In our first class, before she even took role, she showed that she could change herself from a cat to a human. That was so cool. Then she changed her desk into a pig and then back again.

Charms was taught by the head of Ravenclaw house, Professor Flitwick. He was the least demanding of all the staff, there were rumors that he had some goblin in his family, which might have accounted for his small size. His classes were fun and full of new things all the time... Of course it was in his class I set in motion events that almost got someone killed. More on that later.

The Head of Hufflepuff house taught Herbology. Professor Sprout, yes, that was her name, loved her subject as all the other Professors. Her classes were interesting enough, and a chance to actually do something as opposed to all the theory we got in Transfiguration and Charms. Herbology might have been my favorite class if so many of the plants involved were actively trying to kill us.

Herbology. That's the study of magical plants. Most magical plants have defenses that Muggles have never… Muggles. People without magic.

Well, yeah, sort of. At a Teen Titans meeting, Dick told us stories about fighting Poison Ivy and her plants. Let me assure you, compared to most magical plants, her plants were cute little annoyances, and compared to Professor Sprout, Poison Ivy was an amateur weekend gardener.

Then there was Potions. The Potions Professor was the most prejudiced, unfair, arse who ever taught any subject, anywhere.

You have no idea.

No, you don't. Look, did this 'jerk' teacher of yours ever ignore physical attacks on students? Did he ever look at a young girl who was being disfigured and announce that he saw no difference? Did he allow favored students to sabotage the class projects of the rest of the class?

I ran, a whole lot, to burn off the anger I had for that man. Snape was protected by the Headmaster, so you'll be hearing about him throughout my story.

The Headmaster? Albus Dumbledore. I know you've never heard of him, but he's a legend in the Magical world where I come from. A war hero, the most powerful wizard in the world according to pretty much everyone, the only man Voldemort feared. My family all but worshiped him.

I think the real problem is that he started to believe his own legend.

---oooOOOooo---

Harry and I bonded over homework and the oppression of the teachers and staff. I taught him to play wizarding chess and he taught me things about the Muggle world. It was funny, as much time as I had spent with Wally and Barry, there was so much I had no clue about.

For some reason, Malfoy still felt he needed to be a twat. Just because he could, he started some trouble with Neville Longbottom, and Harry stood up and defended our friend.

Malfoy challenged Harry to a Wizards Duel. Harry had no clue what the Slytherin was talking about, so of course, I let my mouth outrunning my brain, and I accepted in his place, and nominated myself as his second.

Yeah, I'm an idiot.

Long story short, Harry, Neville, Hermione and I ended up in the school's trophy room at midnight. Hermione had joined in, mostly I think, out of a morbid curiosity as to what a Wizard's Duel was like. She had insisted on coming along, threatening to inform my older brother Percy, a prefect, if we rejected her.

As for Malfoy, the bloody wanker never showed up. We tried to get back to our Common Room, but ended up running from the caretaker to avoid being caught out of bounds and getting detention. The four of us ended up down a corridor in an unused part of the castle. We found a locked door, but Filch was right behind us.

I was about to use my speed to vibrate the door open when Hermione pulled her wand and cast an unlocking charm. Typical. That sort of spell was on the 3rd year syllabus and she just did it as a firstie. Once the door was open, we piled through it and closed the door behind us where it locked again as the charm wore off.

We could hear Filch outside the door, talking to his cat. The four of us held our breaths as he tried the door, and didn't start breathing again until we could hear him leaving.

That was when Neville noticed what else was in the room with us.

---oooOOOooo---

Have you ever turned around and discovered that you had locked yourself in a room with a gigantic three-headed dog?

I don't recommend it.

Two of the three heads started growling menacingly, while the third lunged forward to snap, his huge maw closing inches from Neville’s face.

This had the four of us running from the room screaming. I’m not sure, but I think I loaned them some of my speed, but I’m not sure.

Yeah, I can lend my speed. It’s sort of like the inertia transfer thing, I didn’t know how to do it then, but I think I may have done it accidently. We were back the Common Room before we knew it, managing to avoid being seen by any of the prefects or staff who roamed the halls at night.

Once we were safely back in the Common Room, Hermione read us the riot act, pointing out that we could have been killed.

Of course, being Hermione, she couldn’t leave it at that, so she finished up with ‘Or worse, expelled.’

That girl had some odd priorities.

---oooOOOooo---

Why am I telling you about this girl? Because she's important to the story.

Yeah, I liked her, I mean, not at this point in my story, but , later, yeah.

Back then, she and I were more or less at war. She was the best student in our year, and I was the laziest. She made it her mission in life to make me realize my potential, and I made it mine to annoy her.

The whole thing came to a head on Halloween of our first year. In charms, we were covering Levitation charms on feathers.

Because it's easier to levitate something light than something heavy, I mean think about it.

No, I don't know why anyone would make a spell to levitate a feather. It's a learning process. Walk before you run, right?

Anyway I was failing spectacularly, while Hermione's feather was happily floating around the room. Miss Bossy Boots decided that my problem lay in my pronunciation of Leviosa .

Yeah, she was right, but that wasn't the point. At least not really.

I put up with it all through class, and when exiting with Harry and the lads, I commented on how insufferable she was and suggested that she might not have any friends.

It wasn't until she pushed past me in tears, that I realized she had been behind us.

Yeah, I'm a prince.

---oooOOOooo---

Hermione didn’t turn up for the next class and wasn’t seen all afternoon. On our way down to the Great Hall for the Halloween feast, I overheard Parvati Patil telling Lavender Brown that Hermione was crying in the girls’ bathroom and wanted to be left alone.

My sense of being a berk grew with her Parvati's every word. The looks that she and Lavender were shooting me didn't help.

But the moment we entered the Great Hall, where the Halloween decorations put Hermione out of my minds.

Hagrid had outdone himself. A thousand bats fluttered from the walls and ceiling while a thousand more swooped over the tables in low black clouds, making the candles in the pumpkins flicker. The feast appeared suddenly on the golden plates, as it had at the start-of-term banquet. I was reaching for a baked potato when Professor Quirrell, the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor came running into the hall, his turban askew and terror on his face. Everyone stared as he reached Professor Dumbledore’s chair. The terrified man slumped against the table, and gasped, "Troll… in the dungeons… thought you ought to know."

He then sank to the floor in a dead faint.

And the Great Hall descended into chaos, until the Headmaster used his wand to fire off several noise makers.

"Prefects," he rumbled, "lead your Houses back to the dormitories immediately!"

My brother, Percy was suddenly in his element. "Follow me! Stick together, first years! No need to fear the troll if you follow my orders! Stay close behind me, now. Make way, first years coming through! Excuse me, I’m a prefect!"

Yeah, that was Percy. Always making sure everyone knew he was a Prefect.

"How could a troll get in?" Harry asked as we climbed the stairs.

"Don’t ask me, they’re supposed to be really stupid," I said. "Maybe someone let it in for a

Halloween prank."

They passed different groups of people hurrying in different directions. As we jostled our way through a crowd of confused Hufflepuffs, Harry suddenly grabbed my arm.

"I’ve just remembered… Hermione."

"What about her?" I asked, confused by his bringing her up.

"She doesn’t know about the troll."

I bit my lip. She was out moping because of me. Some hero I was turning out to be. I tried to think of a way to get Harry to head off to the Common Room on his own, allowing me to do a covert retrieval, but I could tell by his expression he was going to find her, whether I came along of not. That figured. Even at Hogwarts I was going to be the sidekick. "Oh, all right," I snapped. "But if Percy catches us, this was your idea."

Ducking down, we joined the Hufflepuffs going the other way, slipped down a deserted side corridor, and hurried off toward the girls’ bathroom. We had just turned the corner when we heard quick footsteps behind us.

"Bloody hell," I hissed, pulling Harry behind a large stone griffin. "That will be Percy."

But I was wrong to be worrying about my officious older brother. Peering around the statue, we spotted Snape. He crossed the corridor and disappeared from view.

"What’s he doing here?" Harry whispered. "Why isn’t he down in the dungeons with the rest of the teachers?"

"Search me."

Quietly as possible, we crept along the next corridor after Snape’s fading footsteps.

"He’s heading for the third floor," Harry noted.

I held up my hand to stop him. "Can you smell something?"

Harry took a deep sniff and his expression told me that he had found the same foul stench as I had, a mixture of old socks and the kind of public toilet no one seems to clean.

Then we heard it. A low grunting and the shuffling footfalls of gigantic feet. I pointed down the hallway at something huge moving toward us. We shrank into the shadows as best we could and watched a huge monster emerged into a patch of moonlight.

It was a horrible sight. Twelve feet tall, its skin was a dull, granite gray, its great lumpy body like a boulder with its small bald head perched on top like a coconut. It had short legs thick as tree trunks with flat, armored feet. The smell coming from it was incredible. It was holding a huge wooden club, which dragged along the floor because its arms were so long.

The troll stopped next to a doorway and peered inside. It waggled its long ears, seeming to make up its mind, then slouched slowly into the room.

"The key is in the lock," Harry muttered. "We could lock it in."

"Good idea," I said, while wondering why a key would even be there, as I hadn't seen another key anywhere in Hogwarts.

We snuck up to the open door, our mouths dry, praying the troll wasn’t about to come back out.

Harry jumped forward, grabbed the key and slammed the door shut, locking it with a twist of his wrist.

"Yes!"

Flushed as we were with our victory, we paused to high five each other before we restarted our search for Hermione. Then we heard something that our hearts stop… a high pitched, terrified scream coming from other side of the door we'd just locked.

"Oh, no," I said, amazed at the randomness of it all.

"That’s the girls’ bathroom!" Harry gasped.

"Hermione!" we said together.

It was the last thing we wanted to do, but what choice did we have? Wheeling around, we ran back to the door and turned the key, fumbling in our panic. Harry pulled the door open and together, we ran inside.

Hermione was huddled against the wall on the far side of the huge room, screaming in terror. The troll was advancing on her, knocking the sinks off the wall with its club as it went.

"Confuse it!" Harry shouted desperately. I paused for a moment trying to figure out what he meant by that, and then I grabbed a tap, and threw as hard as I could at normal speed at the troll's head, followed by a hail of other debris too fast for anyone else to see.

The troll stopped a few feet from Hermione, reaching up to feel where I had hit him with roughly half the room's fixtures. It lumbered around, blinking stupidly, to see where the attack had come from. Its beady little eyes settled on Harry. It hesitated, then forgetting about Hermione, it made for him instead, lifting its club as it went.

"Oy," I shouted. "Pea-brain!" I threw a pipe at it.

The troll didn’t even seem to notice the any of the things I was throwing at it, but it appeared to have heard me and paused again, turning to face me instead of Harry, giving my friend time to run around it to Hermione.

"Come on, run, run, run!" Harry shouted at Hermione, trying to pull her toward the door, but she didn't seem able to move, terrified as she was, but at least her screams had stopped.

The shouting and the echoes seemed to be driving the troll berserk. It roared again and started toward me, seeming to have decided that I was nearest and had no way to escape.

Perfect, just what I wanted. If Harry could get Hermione moving and out, I could keep the troll busy until either I found it's weakness or I was forced to vibrate through a wall to escape.

But when Hermione couldn't move, and Harry found he wasn't strong enough to carry her. He also saw that I was apparently trapped. Harry then did something that was both very brave and very stupid: He took a running leap and somehow managed to end up with his arms wrapped around the troll’s neck from behind.

The troll likely couldn’t feel Harry hanging there, but even a troll will notice if you stick a long bit of wood up its nose, and Harry’s wand had still been in his hand when he’d jumped, it had gone straight up one of the troll’s nostrils.

Howling with pain, the troll twisted and flailed its club, with Harry clinging on for dear life; any second, the troll was going to rip him off or catch him with one of the wild swings of its club.

Hermione was still collapsed on the floor in fright. Realizing that I couldn't just throw things anymore, I pulled out my own wand… and drew a complete blank as to what I should cast. Out of sheer panic I heard myself shout "Wingardium Leviosa!"

Evidently, this time I'd gotten the pronunciation right. The club was wrenched out of the troll’s grip and rose high, high up into the air, turned over slowly as it soared, before it dropped, with a sickening crack, onto its owner’s head. The troll swayed on the spot and then fell flat on its face, with a thud that made the whole room tremble.

Harry slowly got to his feet, shaking and out of breath. I just stood where I was with my wand still raised, staring at what I had done.

As usual, it was Hermione who spoke first.

"Is it… dead?" She asked

"I don’t think so," said Harry, "I think it’s just been knocked out."

Bending down, Harry pulled his wand out of the troll’s nose. It was covered in what looked like

lumpy gray paste.

"Ugh" he said emphatically "I'm never going to get this clean." He carefully wiped his wand on the troll’s trousers.

The door slamming open made the three of us look up. We hadn’t realized what a racket they had been making, but of course, someone downstairs must have heard the crashes and the troll’s roars. Professor McGonagall had come bursting into the room, closely followed by Snape, with Quirrell bringing up the rear. Quirrell took one look at the troll, let out a faint whimper, and sat quickly down on a toilet, clutching his heart.

Snape bent over the troll, his wand at the ready. Both of us spotted the Potions Master's leg, which was bloody for some reason. Our attention was pulled to Professor McGonagall who was staring at Harry and me. I'd never seen her look so angry. The likelihood of being declared heroes for our actions suddenly seemed a bit remote.

"What on earth were you thinking of?" said Professor McGonagall, with cold fury in her voice. Harry looked at me, and I realized I was still standing with my wand in the air. "You’re lucky you weren’t killed. Why aren’t you in your dormitory?"

Snape gave Harry a swift, piercing look. Harry looked at the floor.

Then a small voice came out of the shadows.

"Please, Professor McGonagall — they were looking for me."

"Miss Granger!"

Hermione had managed to get to her feet at last.

"I went looking for the troll because I… I thought I could deal with it on my own… you know,

because I’ve read all about them."

I dropped his wand. Hermione Granger, the world's biggest teacher's pet, was telling a downright lie to a teacher?

"If they hadn’t found me, I’d be dead now. Harry stuck his wand up its nose and Ron knocked it

out with its own club. They didn’t have time to come and fetch anyone. It was about to finish me off when they arrived."

I blinked. No, this wasn't right. I wasn't going to let someone else take the blame for my actions. It wasn't what heroes did. It wasn't something Barry would do, so it wasn't something I would do.

"No," I said. "Professor, Hermione is trying to take the blame for this. This is all my fault. It was because of me and my mouth that Hermione wasn't at the feast, it was because of me she wasn't there to hear about the troll. Harry and I came to warn her, figuring it was safe because the troll was supposed to be in the dungeons."

"Mr. Wesley, please. Do you really expect me to believe such a contrived story?" the Professor asked, staring at the three of us, "Miss Granger, you foolish girl, how could you think of taking on a mountain troll on your own?"

Hermione hung her head. Harry was speechless, and I quite agreed. Hermione was the last person to do anything against the rules, and our Head of House was flat out refusing to believe the truth. It was as if Snape had started handing out sweets.

"Miss Granger, five points will be taken from Gryffindor for this," said Professor McGonagall. "I’m very disappointed in you. If you’re not hurt at all, you’d better get off to Gryffindor tower. Students are finishing the feast in their houses."

Harry and I watched in silence as Hermione left. Then Professor McGonagall turned to us.

"You two were insanely lucky, but not many first years could have taken on a full-grown mountain troll. You each win Gryffindor five points. Professor Dumbledore will, of course, be informed of this. Mr. Weasley, you nearly lost points in your feeble attempt to protect Miss Granger from the consequences of her actions. You may go."

We hurried out of the chamber and didn’t speak at all until we had climbed two floors up. It was a relief to be away from the smell of the troll, quite apart from anything else.

"I can't believe old McGonagall believed Hermione's lies over my truth, " I grumbled.

"Hey," Harry consoled me, "At least we got points. Five anyway, once she’s taken off Hermione’s."

"It was nice of her to try to get us out of trouble like that," I admitted. "Mind you, we did save her."

"She might not have needed saving if we hadn’t locked the thing in with her," Harry reminded

me.

We had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, and offered the password.

The common room was packed and noisy. Everyone was eating the food that had been sent up.

Hermione, however, was waiting for us at door. There was a very embarrassed pause while we tried to think of what to say to each other. Then, none of us looking at either of the others, we all said "Thanks," and hurried off to get something to eat.

From that moment on, Hermione Granger became our friend. There are some things you can’t share without ending up bonding, and fighting a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.

---oooOOOooo---

Did I say the Hermione always followed the rules?

The next few months proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that either Harry and I were world class corrupters of innocent rule followers, or that we didn't know Miss Granger very well.

This girl was involved in smuggling a dragon from the school…

Yeah, a dragon.

No, not a monitor lizard or a komodo. A dragon. As in fire breathing, wings and evil intent.

Yes, I'm serious.

They grow to about the size of a bus, but this one was only a hatchling. A horribly evil vicious little hatchling. It was about three feet long when we got rid of it.

Well, Hagrid, the grounds keeper was insane about animals. The more massive and evil the better. He's always wanted a pet dragon, so when someone offered him a dragon's egg, he didn't even hesitate.

He completely forgot he lived in a wooden hut and that dragons are born belching fire.

Yeah.

No, I wasn't around for the great adventure of smuggling the dragon off the grounds, because the little monster bit me.

Yeah, even with my metabolism, I still swelled up like a balloon, so I missed out on getting the beast to my older brother Charlie… And I missed out on them getting caught, and the detention they had in the Forbidden Forest the next night.

Yeah. Forbidden Forest.

Well, 'Forbidden' as in going into the forest was likely to have you end up dead.

Yes, I'm serious. Why would I make something like that up?

Well, centaurs, who aren't necessarily all that friendly. Spiders.

I hate spiders.

Laugh it up. I'd like to see you in the middle of a acromantula colony when they decide you're no longer a friend, but dinner.

Well, yeah. Acromantula are sentient, and some of them can speak English.

About the size of a car.

Again, why would I make something like that up? The bloody things are terrifying.

I don't know about any square cube law, but I've personally seen an acromantula larger than my dad's Ford Anglia hanging from a strand of silk as thick as my wrist. Observation overrules so-called laws every time.

Hell, I don't know. Let's just say 'magic' and leave it at that.

Anyway, Hermione got her first ever detention, and ended up in the Forbidden Forest with Harry, Neville and Malfoy, and Harry encountered the Dark Wizard that killed his parents when he interrupted a unicorn being killed, all the while I was laying in the hospital wing moaning about my swollen arm.

Then, at a Quidditch match she set a teacher on fire thinking he was cursing Harry.

Well, no. The teacher was Snape, and it turned out that he was counter cursing Harry to protect him from the teacher who was actually cursing him, but setting Snape on fire distracted the bad guy long enough that Harry caught the snitch and won the game.

I'm still not positive that we were the ones corrupting her.

Based on Snape's bloody leg that Harry and I observed on Halloween and his apparent cursing of Harry's broom, he and I came to the conclusion that he was after the Philosopher's Stone. Hermione disagreed, but she did agree that something was going on.

It all came to a head at the end of the school year. We were all convinced that Snape was making a final push to get to the stone. We tried to go to the teachers, but none of the staff would believe us, and the Headmaster had been called to the Ministry of Magic. The three of us decided that we needed to prevent the Stone from being stolen by stealing it ourselves.

---oooOOOooo---

Just how stupid I was back then can be summed up in three words.

I was a preteen hero, a speedster capable of moving through walls and whatever traps the staff had placed to protect the Stone. I had a secret identity, so the most obvious thing for me to do would be to get away from Harry and Hermione and use my speed to retrieve the Stone before Snape (or whoever was after it) could blink. And that very opportunity presented itself to me, courtesy of my best friend.

"Well, there you are," Harry said quietly, pointing at the door to Fluffy's room where it hung ajar, "Snape’s already got past Fluffy."

Seeing the open door somehow seemed to impress upon all three of us what we were facing. Underneath the invisibility cloak, Harry turned face Hermione and me.

"If you want to go back, I won’t blame you," he said. "You can take the cloak, I won’t need it now."

Remember those three words that could sum up how stupid I was? Here they are: "Don’t be stupid," I said, totally missing the irony.

"We’re coming," Hermione agreed.

Harry pushed the door open.

Inside we discovered the Cerberus waking up, Harry put the dog back to sleep with a handmade flute Hagrid had given him for Christmas. From there we encountered some Devil's Snare, which Hermione saved us from with her bluebell flames after a bit of proding, from there we encountered a room with a door that could only be unlocked by a single key among hundreds of keys… and did I mention these keys flew with wings? It took the three of us on brooms to catch it, with me boxing it in from above and Hermione from below so that Harry could snag it.

Once we had the key, we opened the locked door.

"Ready?" Harry asked us, his hand on the door handle. We nodded and he pulled the door open.

The next chamber was so dark we couldn’t see anything at all. But as we entered the room, light suddenly flooded the room to reveal that we were standing on the edge of a huge chessboard, behind the black chessmen. Facing us, across the room, were the white pieces. Harry, Hermione and I stood silently for several moments taking it all in. I couldn't help it, I started to grin.

"Now what do we do?" Harry whispered.

"It’s obvious, isn’t it?" I asked. "We’ve got to play our way across the room."

Behind the white pieces they could see another door.

"How?" asked Hermione nervously.

"I think," I explained, "we’re going to have to be chessmen."

I approached the Queen's black knight reaching out to stroke the horse's mane. At once, the stone sprang to life. The horse pawed the ground and the knight turned his helmeted head to look down at me.

"Do we need to join you to get across?" I asked.

The black knight nodded in response.

I turned to my friends.

"This needs thinking about…" I said. "I suppose we’ve got to take the place of three of the black pieces…"

Harry and Hermione stayed quiet, watching me think.

The plan came together in my mind. "Now, don’t be offended or anything, but neither of you are that good at chess…"

"We know, and we’re not offended," said Harry. "Just tell us what to do."

"Harry, you take the place of King's bishop, and Hermione, you replace the Queen's Rook."

"What about you?" She asked.

"I’m going to be a knight," I said.

The chessmen seemed to have been listening, because at these words the knight dismounted and along with the bishop, and rook turned their backs on the white pieces and walked off the board, leaving three empty squares that Harry and Hermione took.

"White always plays first in chess," I said, mounting the stone horse and peering across the board.

A white pawn had moved forward two squares.

In response I directed the black pieces. They moved silently wherever I sent them.

"Harry," I called out. "Move forward diagonally four squares to the right."

I think Harry and Hermione were shocked when the King's knight was taken. The white queen smashed him to the floor and dragged him off the board, where he lay quite still, facedown.

"Had to let that happen," I said, not taking my eyes from the board. "Leaves you free to take that bishop, Hermione, go on."

Every time one of our men was lost, the white pieces showed no mercy. Soon there was a huddle of limp black players slumped along the wall. Twice, I only just noticed in time that Harry and Hermione were in danger. I darted around the board, taking almost as many white pieces as we had lost black ones.

"We’re nearly there," I said. "If white makes the wrong move…"

The white queen turned her blank face toward me.

"Yes…" I said softly, "It’s the only way… I’ve got to be taken."

"NO!" Harry and Hermione shouted.

"That’s chess!" I snapped. "You’ve got to make some sacrifices! I make my move and she’ll take me… that will leave you free to checkmate the king, Harry!"

"But Ron!"

"Do you want to stop Snape or not?" I asked.

"Ron…" Hermione whispered.

"Look," I insisted. "If the pair of you don’t hurry up, he’ll already have the Stone!"

It had finally occurred to me that I needed to get away from Harry and Hermione so that my speed could contribute to the fight. There really was no alternative.

"Ready?" I called, "Here I go… now, don’t hang around once we’ve won."

I stepped two squares forward and one to the left, and the white queen pounced. I expected that she would strike at me as she had the King's Knight earlier. That's the only excuse I've got for being caught by surprise when her blow came through the stone horse I rode. I'd never been hit harder. Oblivion claimed me.

---oooOOOooo---

Hermione's face swam into focus in front of me.

"Ron," she said. "wake up, we've got to get help."

"What?" I asked intelligently. "Where's Harry?"

"After you were hurt, we went on," she explained, while trying to pull me to my feet. "We got to a point where only one person could go on. Harry's alone, we need to get help."

"You go," I said as I feigned more weakness than I felt. "I'll slow you down. I'm ok now, once I'm more steady on my feet, I'll follow you."

The indecision on Hermione's face was almost too much for me, but then she decided and said "I'll be back as soon as I can."

I waited until she was gone before I got to my feet, and for the first time that day, I ran.

---oooOOOooo---

The room after the chess room contained a troll, one laying on the stone floor unconscious. Had Harry and Hermione had to fight it, or was this an example of Snape's handiwork?

I passed through to the next room and found a wall of black flames in front of me. The wall behind me suddenly flared in purple fire.

A trap, I thought as I moved through the room, pausing to examine the small table with the seven crystal vials and the sheet of parchment.

I decided that the potions were unimportant and passed through the black fire, vibrating thought the wall.

It wasn't Snape. The man attacking Harry was Quirrell.

I didn't? I'm sure I told you about Quirrell. Timid fellow, completely out of place in his subject, he wore a turban and stunk of garlic.

No? Ok, well now you know all about Quirrell, only now I could see that his turban was missing and on the back of his head was another face. Chalk white flesh, with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake. Voldemort.

"Seize him! SEIZE HIM!" shrieked Voldemort, and Quirrell lunged, knocking Harry off his feet landing on top of him, both hands around Harry’s neck.

I moved. Across the room before Quirrell, either of his faces, could blink, I clouted him upside the head, sending the man off of Harry and sliding across the stone floor.

Quirrell howled in agony, there was no way my hitting him could cause that.

"Master, I cannot hold him" my teacher cried. "My hands… my hands!"

Quirrell rose from where he had landed after I hit him and stared, bewildered, at his own hand. I could see they looked burned, raw, red, and shiny.

"Then kill him, fool, and be done!" Voldemort screeched from his place on the back of Quirrell's head.

Quirrell raised his wand to perform a deadly curse, but I snatched the wand away and Harry, seemingly by instinct, reached up and grabbed Quirrell’s face…

The screams were horrific. Quirrell rolled away from Harry, his face blistering. It was obvious to me that Harry understood: Quirrell couldn’t bear to touch his bare skin, not without suffering terrible pain, his only chance was to keep hold of Quirrell, keep him in enough pain to stop him from doing a curse.

Harry jumped to his feet, caught Quirrell by the arm, and hung on as tight as he could. Quirrell screamed and tried to throw Harry off. I could tell that Harry was hurting as well. The air filled with Quirrell's screams and Voldemort shouting, "KILL HIM! KILL HIM!" and perhaps even my own voice pleading for Harry to release Quirrell so that I could help.

In a sudden burst of strength, Quirrell wrenched his arm from Harry's grip. Harry fell to the ground and hit his head, losing consciousness."

Quirrell collapsed to the stone floor next to Harry and with a final rattling breath, died.

I slowed into visibility, and watched as a vaporous wraith rose from Quirrell's body. The wraith hovered for a moment and then moved toward Harry.

I grabbed for it, to prevent what I knew had to be Voldemort from possessing my best friend as he had my teacher.

My hand passed through the wraith, but somehow, the interaction of my aura appeared to cause the wraith pain. Moving as quickly as I could I grabbed again, and again and again, thousands of time in seconds…

And the wraith fled through the wall.

I considered following it, but I knew I didn't have much time. I checked Harry as best I could, and then returned to the chess room to wait for 'rescue.'

---oooOOOooo---

Hermione ended up spending more time in the Hospital wing than I did. Madam Pomfrey, the school nurse did a quick scan on me and said, "Why are you wasting my time, Mr. Weasley?"

I bit back on my snark and settled down outside the infirmary to wait.

Hermione was released after another hour, and she joined me. Together we waited. We ignored our classes, leaving only to eat and sleep. Harry didn't wake for three days, and even then it was well after dinner before the Headmaster had seen Harry and the Nurse let us in.

And she let Ron and Hermione in. "Only five minutes!" Madam Pomfrey warned.

"Harry!" Hermione looked ready to hug Harry again, but it was clear that Harry was glad she held herself in as his head was still very sore. "Oh, Harry, we were sure you were going to… Dumbledore was so worried…"

"The whole school’s talking about it," I said. "Are you ok?"

It was one of those rare occasions when the true story is even more strange and exciting than the wild rumors. Harry told us everything, at least as he knew it: Quirrell; the mirror; the Stone; and Voldemort. Hermione and I were a very good audience; we gasped in all the right places, and when Harry told them what was under Quirrell’s turban, Hermione screamed out loud.

"So the Stone’s gone?" I asked finally. "The Flamel’s just going to die?"

"That’s what I asked, but Dumbledore thinks that… what was it? ‘To the well-organized mind,

death is but the next great adventure.’"

"I always said he was off his rocker," I noted, quite impressed despite it all at how crazy the Headmaster was.

"So what happened to you two?" Harryasked.

"Well, I got back all right," said Hermione. "I brought Ron round, but he was too weak to make it back, so I was dashing up to the owlery to contact Dumbledore when I met him in the entrance hall… he already knew what we had done, he just said, ‘Harry’s gone after him, hasn’t he?’ and hurried off to the third floor with me following."

"D’you think he meant you to do it?" I asked. "Sending you your father’s cloak and everything?"

"I don't know," said Harry thoughtfully. "He’s a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don’t think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It’s almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could…"

“Yeah, Dumbledore’s off his rocker, all right,” I said proudly. “Listen, you’ve got to be up for the end-of-year feast tomorrow. The points are all in and Slytherin won, of course. You missed the last Quidditch match, we were steamrollered by Ravenclaw without you, but the food’ll be good.”

At that moment, Madam Pomfrey bustled over.

“You’ve had nearly fifteen minutes, now OUT” she said firmly.

Once outside the infirmary, Hermione and I returned to our common room in far better spirits than we had been in since we had returned from our adventure with Harry.

---oooOOOooo---

In the end, the leaving feast had some surprises. Slytherin had won the House cup, but at the awards ceremony, Dumbledore came up with a bunch of last minutes points for our adventure defending the Stone.

It was unfair, and I knew it, but just the look on Malfoy's face made me forget about 'fair play'.

Shallow of me, I know.

On the train ride back to King's Cross, Hermione fretted over her final exams (always mental, that one) and Harry showed us the photo album that Hagrid had put together for him, with photos of his Mum and Dad from before he was born.

I'd never seen Harry so happy over any possession, not even his invisibility cloak, or his wand.

I promised to try to get permission for him to come stay over for part of the summer.

Then we were at the station and I watched as my two best friends vanished into the Muggle world.

I needed to talk to Barry about dealing with wraiths, and I need to hang out with Wally a bit. If Harry was going to come stay with us, that would cut into my Hero training. If first year at Hogwarts had taught me nothing else, it was that I needed a whole lot more practice.

"Good year Ron?" Mum asked as we made our way to the public floo access.

"Only the best Mum," I assured her. "I can't wait for next year."

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