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Archive for June, 2014

All-New Ultimates #4 Review

Not exactly enthusiastic about this issue, but I’ll review it all the same. This is my review of All-New Ultimates #4.

The comic begins with the detective who was killed by having Styx lay hands on him waking up in the autopsy room and walking off into the streets. He promptly gets run over by a truck driver who had a gun and looked like he was committing a crime, besides the aforementioned hit-and-run, and falls into a sewer. This is the type of thing I would suspect in regular Marvel, but meh.

Meanwhile, the girls of the team decide to have a day out at Coney Island. Kitty’s naturally too famous to be wandering around, but she manages to play it off like she’s just a look-a-like, while Dagger secretly stops a criminal from getting away. The girls then chill out on the beach.

With the guys, Cloak is defending his turf from a few junkies while Miles and Ganke discuss how he got kissed by the villain who kicked his ass a few issues ago. That’s the last we see of them this issue as the girls talk about their love-lives next and Jessica drops the bombshell about being a clone of Peter Parker and that she has an interest in females, specifically redheads and Jewish girls. That ends when Lana gets a call from her boyfriend, who gets shot in the head minutes later. Second boyfriend of hers to bite the dust, I want to mention, as the next two pages cover a gang war going on between the various factions.

Lana goes home to check on him only to find him dead and get a face-full of Devil’s Dust from the Serpent Skulls, who came after them for breaking up the last deal. While under the effects of the powder she’s not in control of her actions and Diamondback plans on having her lead them to the rest of the team. Two of the men threaten to do unsavory things, but Diamondback cuts that shit out right there. She’ll kill, but she won’t tolerate that shit.

The comic ends with Lana crying as she stares helplessly at Poey’s corpse, about to be used as a tool to kill the rest of the New Ultimates.

Okay, review time…

Yeah, this issue is getting a hit from me. Not only was it boring, considering it was a downtime issue in the middle of an arc rather than the end, but we cut to what amounts to a Gang War going on everywhere and these guys are taking a day off!

Anyway, 3 out of 5 at best.


June 2014 Grim Tales Update 2

Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics

New Warriors #6 Comic Review

The comic opens with Water Snake leaving behind a page of what appears to be one of her hallucinations, only this page starts belching black smoke. It turns out to be a book of sins, written by an evil known as the Darkhold, and that page forms a small man from the smoke. You can tell this will be ominous filler at best and the real meat won’t be until later on.

Anyway, a mountain popping up in the middle of the city bay draws the attention of the Avengers, who were already on high alert from an energy burst over central Europe from the High Evolutionary’s Old Base. All this did was basically save them a trip as the mountain is in a half-phased state where they are there, but not there using techno-babble. At the same time we see the Inhumans are getting the blasted verbally by some construction workers in a tone reserved for Mutants while three of them plan on tracking down Mark Sim to take them to their master.

Back with Justice, he and Speedball are talking to Iron Man and Captain America about the situation while Thor is basically keeping the rest there until he receives order from the other two. Hummingbird pesters him to let her try and lift his hammer, Sun Girl wants to leave but he won’t let her, while Water Snake is seeing the munchkin and is the only one who can, so naturally when he does something to Thor to freak her out she hits him, starting the next brawl.

Justice and Speedball are in a different battle of sorts, where they have to defend their names as New Warriors. Iron Man says their brand is tarnished while Captain America says the two of them are more than welcomed at the Avengers tower, but the team should be folded into the Avengers. Justice denies it by saying they simply don’t trust the because, despite everything they did before and after Stamford, they don’t trust them, which makes Speedball ready to lay on the hurt judging from his hand behind his back.

It makes sense seeing as most people directly blame the New Warriors and Speedball personally for that, so hearing all that would naturally piss him off. Justice, however, tells them that while it would always be a part of the Warriors’ past, just like Civil War is theirs, they were there while the Avengers weren’t and he’d gladly be a Warrior rather than an Avenger and quits right there.

Can I take a moment to say, FUCK YEAH JUSTICE! I’m tired of everyone being folded into the Avengers. Congratulations, you’re my new favorite next to Scarlet Spider.

Anyway, back with Thor manhandling them so hard that it could be seen at the Avengers Tower, Scarlet Spider tells Hummingbird to deal with Water Snake, whose acting like she’s on a bad acid trip. Hummingbird notes that there’s bad stuff in her head and then does something so that the others can see the evil munchkin bugging her. It tries to possess Thor, but Aracely goes demigod of fire on it and turns it to ashes. By the time Justice and the others get there, Thor and the others are partying.

Later, in Brooklyn, Mark the Inhuman returns home to tell them about what he’s become, but the other Inhumans are there to bring him into their faction. They do this by blowing up his home as the comic ends.

Okay, Review Time…

This issue is mostly the aftermath of the last arc and the start of the new one. Quite frankly, I liked it a lot since it showed how much Justice values his team’s name. Anyone who stands up to Captain America and Iron Man on solid ground has earned that much respect from me. While the whole evil dwarf thing seemed contrived, I call it interesting filler and give the issue a 5 out of 5.

Amazing Spider-Man #3 Comic Review

Hey folk, it’s time for my review of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man once more as he picks up the pieces of his shattered life in the wake of Otto taking his place for several months. Here’s my take on Amazing Spider-Man #3.

Our comic opens with Cindy, aka Silk, walking on the walls, bored out of her mind as she looks upon a photo of her younger brother, who she hadn’t seen in years. She obviously misses him and wonders just how much of his life she’s missed since she gained her powers. It’s enough to make her break down the steel door of the bunker she’s trapped inside and fish through the keycode combination until an auto-message plays telling her it’s for the best that she remains where she is. Silk concedes for the time being, although she’s clearly not happy being locked in.

Black Cat, on the other hand, is busy reflecting on her circumstances as she robs a penthouse. Thinking about how she lost all the things and respect she had, she muses she needs to make the Spider pay to get them back. Electro, in the meantime, can’t even sleep because his powers have gone out of control and starts a fire in a decrepit apartment complex.

On Peter’s side, his employees are working their asses off to get the Electro-Scanner finished ahead of time because they’ve seen what Otto was like when he was playing the role of Parker and don’t want to be on his bad side. To their confusion, he’s almost chipper and introduces Casual Friday, so they think he’s Bipolar. You can’t blame them.

Sanjay is just as confused, even though she was happy he announced they were done with Spider-Man, as to why they’ve suddenly switched gears. Anna Marie covers for him and decides to help Sanjay finish up Otto’s work because, Super-Villain or not, his brilliance deserves to be passed on. While it is still over her head, she’s got the robot butler of his to help her out.

At the scene of the fire Electro started, MJ’s boyfriend is being a Firefighter and saving lives when Peter arrives. He sends his men to gather data while he dons his costume. Black Cat watches on the News and decides to get on with her revenge while JJ is getting his own T.V. Show.

Peter and MJ’s boyfriend clear the building when Black Cat shows up. He tries to tell her it was Otto, but she doesn’t care. So he takes it a step further by acting like Otto to confuse her until she decides to even the numbers. Peter gets Ollie outside where MJ greets her new boyfriend and Peter states she was right in the best thing he can do is give her a shot at a normal life without him. He then goes back to his men, who Black Cat managed to steal both their wallets and the Electro-Scanner.

As the comic ends she tracks down Electro and decides the two of them need to work together if they’re going to get revenge.

Okay, Review time.

I liked this issue a lot. We got to learn more about Silk, including that she was separated from her family because of her powers. Maybe she was radiated by the spider while Peter wasn’t so they keep her locked up. Or the usual exploitative government thing.

Anna Marie was enthralled with Otto’s brilliance and is intent on seeing it carried on and she’s living up to the promise of helping Peter. I love this woman. Please don’t turn her into the next Doc Ock Marvel.

Anyway, 5 out of 5.

Robin’s blown secret identity

Arousing Grammar

It’s a normal day at Gotham County High School.  No supervillains unleashed deadly chemicals into the water fountains.  No bad guys let loose dangerous wild animals throughout the halls.  No evildoers stashed explosives in the lunch meat.  But Tim Drake wishes any of those would have happened instead of what actually occurred.  Y’see, being Batman’s partner takes not just incredible skills and intelligence, but the ability to lie your balls off to anyone you care about.  And today in Robin #124-125, written by Bill Willingham and drawn by Francisco Rodriguez De La Fuente, poor Robin receives a massive blow that won’t heal with a few bandages and some pills.



So when Robin’s job involves leaping on rooftops and karate chopping criminals, he’s bound to receive a few scratches and bruises along the way.  But having to explain to his father that a football smacked him in the eye as…

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Avengers Undercover #6 Review

The comic opens with Deathlocket enjoying herself by shooting at her fellow villains as they play some perversion of Mario Kart, only she has a laser rather than a Blue Shell. Either way, she thinks to herself that she shouldn’t like this as much as she does, musing on how she should be a bookworm and how listening to her father never got her anywhere considering he turned her into what she was. As she finishes up Chase asks what she sees in the Shovel Boy that Molly beat the crap out of not too long ago, and she says she likes him for the same reason people like him: He knows how to have a good time and he’s sweet and uncomplicated.

Anyway, Chase tries to tell Deathlocket about the spy plan, but they have work to do and hop aboard a plane to A.I.M Island to trash some stuff. On the way over she’s nervous, but because Shovel Boy keeps complimenting her on being a badass, she feels it is sincere since he knows her. Chase sees her getting drawn into it and Shovel Boy, but has to waste time setting some mook on fire.

They get ready to enter into the enemy compound when one of the bad guys shoot a missile and close the exit, which also draws the attention of Captain America. Why he was there alone, I have no clue. But he starts poking around and rescuing one of the A.I.M mooks when Deathlocket gets a lock on him and can snipe him.

Now, here’s the crucible. Shovel Boy is telling her that she needs to take the shot because their friends are inside and Captain America is their enemy now. She knows damn well that a shot to the head will kill, but he insists. He’s the devil on her shoulder at this point, and his words made her take the shot.

The only reason it missed, besides plot, is because Chase is playing the angel on her other shoulder. He starts with knocking her off-shot, setting Shovel Boy on fire, and telling her she’s not supposed to get in this deep. He has to explain that she’s been getting too goo-goo eyed with her boyfriend, who is isolating her and bending her around his finger just like Apex did, and she needs to think for herself.

Then, of course, Shovel Boy gets in a back shot and the two throw down. Chase tells her to pick a side and before she realizes it she takes a shot. The comic ends with Chase bleeding out on the ground from the wound that she just gave him. Is shooting people still fun now, Rebecca?

Okay, review time.

So far this was a mostly Deathlocket-centric issue. She’s not my favorite character, but I do like that we’re getting a look into her mind and what she’s doing. Chase, on the other hand, is playing the role of the sane man, who is trying to stop her from following orders like some kind of love sick machine.

The art was nice. The plot moved. There will be repercussions once Nico finds out about this, so overall it gets a solid 5 out of 5.


June 2014 PPGD Update 2

Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics

Uncanny X-Men #22 Review

It’s time to bring the conflict between Bubblehead and both factions of the X-Men to a close as I give you my review of Uncanny X-Men #22!

The issue opens with Magneto bringing Dazzler to Triage, since Elixir is still missing. Emma and Magneto take a look at her and think that Mystique has gone too far, even compared to them at their worse. I can’t say since I wasn’t around for those times, but what matters is that Dazzler is healed and pissed off.

Meanwhile, in Westchester, the townspeople see what’s happening in the distance and figured it was only a matter of time before SHEILD came after the X-Men and decide to get out of the way. But not before Hijack lives up to his codename and hijacks someone’s car. The school is under attack and has to be abandoned while Maria Hill has to contact the Avengers and White House about this little screw up, as well as ordering Dazzler shot on sight for walking away with no proof she’s involved, which is illegal.

This is when their nuclear anti-mutant payload gets unleashed and they turn out to have even newer Sentinels. Yeah, good luck explaining that. See, you can’t trust SHIELD not to have weapons of genocide.

Anyway, before they all get wiped out, Hijack pulls a big damn heroes and stops the entire fleet from functioning. Although the sell-out was about to switch teams, I’m not question how he got to New York so quickly. What I am questioning is why his powers are working when we know for a fact that Bubblehead made the Blockbuster Sentinel immune to his powers before. I’m calling it an ass-pull, but it gets the job done as he has the Helicarrier open fire on the new killer robots.

The two teams gather as Cyclops and Beast go after the one responsible since his powers were being controlled by nanosentinels by Dark Beast… wait; didn’t Dark Beast get captured in the last issue of Astonishing X-Men, after Iceman froze a good part of the world over? I knew SHIELD couldn’t hold Mystique, but come on! And, as tempting as it is to assume that this is the cause of their broken powers, we all know that the nanosentinels don’t explain why Magik was forced into her dark-side form or why Colossus was screwy and the best Forge could whip up was some tech to keep him all metal, or Magneto, who could sense metal, not noticing.

Ass-pulls all around!

Anyway, the initial blast managed to damage his suit, killing him. But he left a bomb behind that Hijack takes care of. Thus the day is saved, minus the fact that Maria Hill will probably be fired considering that all of this happened on her watch, as Cyclops points out before Dazzler quits because Mystique managed to kidnap her on the Helicarrier and the X-Men were the ones who saved her.

Okay, review time.

Ummm, ass-pulls all around really take away from it all. Let’s be frank, I don’t care about Dark Beast being the one responsible because it’s a lighter ass-pull and… well, no one’s going to miss a version of Beast being dead.

But really, this cluster-fuck was manufactured to try and tie everything up in a neat little bow from the fact that Hijack was selling out to the other team and just so happen to be useful to having a familiar villain be killed off.

On one hand, it’s finally over. On the other, Mystique still got away and, while she lost her main source of MGH, she can always find some other mutant and hook them up to make more.

So… 3 out of 5.


Persona Stuff

History of Persona

Persona 3 AMV

Persona 4 AMV

Kariya’s Legacy #7

Chapter 7: Rider Vs Lancer

Within the Catacombs beneath the Matou Residence

Sakura let a tense and long breath she didn’t know she had held out as the Servant they called forth relaxed his halberd-arm and the tension seemed to fade. She had been so worried that she would have lost her brother…

But now that they had a Servant they were actually in the Holy Grail War as active combatants. Well, more like her brother. He was the one taking to the field as a Master, along with her Senpai and her… her sister….

They were going to be trying to kill one another.

Sakura couldn’t help fear that they would end up like her uncle Kariya, dying to try and save her. Between Shinji and her Senpai… even if they had strong Servants, would they be able to fight and defeat Rin’s? Even if they managed to defeat whatever Servant she summoned, she would keep fighting to win the grail for the sake of the Tohsaka name.

She would keep pressing them, maybe even attacking them to get rid of them directly. Would they actually kill her in the attempt? Would she succeed in killing one of them?

Her chest tightened at the thought. No matter what she would lose someone close to her. No matter what she would turn one or more of them into killers. How could she let it get this far?

She had to call it off somehow, but when she turned towards where the elderly magus had been Sakura noticed the amalgam of worms she called a Grandfather was missing. Then again, even if he was here, what would it have mattered?

Zouken made it clear that he didn’t consider her human. Her feelings and thoughts never mattered, only her body and its use for his sake. Her wishes were her own. They never mattered to anyone else in the end… No, that wasn’t right.

Shinji heard her wishes and was doing his damndest to grant them, even putting so much strain on his body and facing their grandfather. Yes, her loving and strong brother who knew just how to hold her and comfort her after they—

Her breathing tensed and her body shuddered as she banished the thoughts. The Servant’s presence was already starting to tire her out after what was spent for the summoning and so the worms fed and her lust grew. She need time to adjust before the carnal impulses grew and she became driven to sate it, defiling her brother once more. She had already done so too many times.

There was a flutter in the corner of her eyes that caught her attention. She turned towards the exit of the catacombs, atop the flight of stairs that hugged the wall, where she spotted paper cranes fluttering towards her brother, origami keyed to his magecraft. “Nii-sama, why are they…”

“We’re under attack,” Shinji explaining the unfinished question. “I set up a small ward system of my own using a few shenfu after the debacle with Caster. It reacts to the presence of foreign magical energy and sends out one of my battle shikigami to deal with the threat while alerting me. ”

He looked around to see that Zouken was gone as well. “Then again, it probably tripped the main boundary field before it reached my array. The fact that we’re just finding out means from this point on we’re on our own.”

“A challenger appears already,” the Servant mused. A grin etched itself across his face at the thought and his halberd-arm tensed. He was ready for combat, eager for a chance to prove himself the strongest of the summoned warriors.

“Wait,” Shinji said, before Rider went gallivanting off. “You should return to your astral form so we can assess the threat first. We shouldn’t reveal you until we can be certain the enemy is worth your might.”

“You think you understand my might?” Lu Bu asked in a low tone, his steed turning its burning gaze once more towards Shinji.

Shinji silently shook his head. “Not the full extent. We have yet to take to the battlefield so I can observe it for myself. However, I do know that only another Servant would provide an adequate challenge for a warrior such as yourself and I know that the Caster of this war is capable of summoning minions who would not be worth your time and would only allow her to observe your abilities. Giving up an advantage isn’t pragmatic if we are to take the prize, especially if the battle that follows won’t prove you as the strongest out of all the summoned Servants.”

“…Very well,” Lu Bu consented after a moment. Then both he and his steed vanished, as though turning into motes of light and then fading away. Despite being in astral form, Sakura and Shinji could feel the warrior’s presence about them through the contract.

“Sakura,” Shinji called, keeping his voice level as he pulled the opera mask he had from beneath the clothing he wore. “From this point on it’s my fight, not yours. Grandfather won’t help, he’s made that clear.”

“But…” she trailed off, unable to say what she wanted to after they came this far. I don’t want you to get hurt for my sake.

“Just go to my workshop and stay safe,” Shinji stated as he ran up the stairs to get back into the mansion, heading out to the first battlefield and leaving her by herself.

Sakura felt the weight in her heart of being useless once he was out of sight, only serving as an anchor of the Servant they called forth. But it was all she could do, tie Rider down to Earth and hope for the best.


That and try to curb the growing lust she felt courtesy of those damnable worms inside of her.

Outskirts of Matou Residence

The blades of grass barely sounded as they crunched beneath argent steel boots and soft paws. Thick roots jutting out of the ground failed to hinder the hunter or his hounds as they advanced through the woodlands for the manor that rested between them. They noticed when the crossed the first and secondary boundary fields and were prepared to expect opposition.

Still, there was a brief moment of pause when countless sheets of paper followed some invisible current only to take the form of a humanoid giant.

The hunter whistled at the sight, his four hounds baring their fangs and tensing their muscles to pounce. The giant moved without grace, merely brute strength backing it as it swung its arms and fists around like clubs to mow the blue-haired hunter down. The trees hindered it more than the hunter and his hounds, all of whom avoided the hammer strike that knocked over the nearest tree and scattered thick splinters that failed to penetrate his bandage-wrapped greaves and the gauntlet on his left arm.

A short and high whistle left the hunters mouth, a trained command to yield the hounds while he stood up the shikigami that bore down on him. Vicious blows were unleashed, empowered by the source deep within the construct that acted as a battery to keep it moving for a short but effective time. But the hunter avoided them with a smile on his face, every movement sharp and crisp while he enjoyed the brief interlude before getting serious.

When the shikigami, Fangfeng, sought to deliver a crushing overhead strike it met with the sharpened edge of a blade and was severed. The tanned giant stumbled back a step in response and glared at the hunter, now wielding a weapon. The long shaft was deep green in color, tipped by a sharp blade that looked like a wolf’s head if you squinted. Fangfeng let out a low growl from its throat as strings of prana connected from the severed limb and darted to the undamaged sigils on the sheets that were severed, dragging them back into place to reclaim its arm.

The spear-wielding hunter pressed his attack, striking with sharp thrusts into the giant and severing its limbs over and over.

Fangfeng reconnected the severed parts that could be salvaged, but it slowed down at a steady pace. Reattaching what was lost cost the power source, The Seal of False Life, even more of its reserves of prana. To compensate for the loss, it became sluggish and its strength lessened.

The hunter noticed that and decided the brief distraction needed to come to an end. Setting the forefinger of his gauntlet-covered finger aflame with prana, the blue-haired hunter crossed the distance between them in the span of a heartbeat and risted the rune of flames onto the shikigami.

Fire was born from the rune, a gluttonous blaze that swallowed up the giant and ate through whatever defensive enchantment it had bestowed upon it against the flames of one who knew the Original 18 Runes. Fangfeng took another step forward, trying to fulfill its duty, but the flames devoured it and left ashes behind.

With that out of the way, the hunter motioned towards the manor with two fingers and whistled for the hounds to advance.

The four moved to do so. Their legs crossed the distance with their master following, only to be intercepted by a streaking flash that cleaved through the four hounds in a single stroke as a second figured appeared.

Now impeding the way of the hunter was the warrior adorned in the armor of an ancient Chinese general. Twirling his halberd into a fighting position, red copper pupils were fixed on the similar set that were the hunter’s and something unspoken passed between them. It was a challenge.

The hunter took up a fighting stance. His legs spread out, muscles tensed, and the spear-head pointed down so that it could ascend with ease to pierce the heart from below. A grin stretched across his face in acceptance of the challenge.

The two sped forth and clashed.

With Shinji

Shinji stood atop the tree limbs that rested beneath the canopy, watching through the emblem of an eye on a shikigami as prana forged a connection from his left eye’s optic nerve to it. He couldn’t hear anything that would be said between the two, but he doubt he would be able to hear anything anyway as the two weapons continued to clash in the storm of steel.

His first thoughts when he observed the Servant was that it was a Lancer. The deftness of its speed and the use of a spear made that much clear. Although he didn’t expect to see the Servant utilize a rune to burn Fangfeng to ashes, so he would expect it to use Magecraft as well and compensate for it later.

He would be more upset about that, but ultimately that was Fangfeng’s role in the grand scheme of things. For ground transportation he had Baihu, for aerial he had Zhuque, Genbu was for pure defense, Qinglong and Bashe had more esoteric uses, but Fangfeng was made to hit hard and fast to wipe out minions like Caster made in droves. It was never meant to be used against a Servant, not even for an adequate distraction.

Shinji had to admit that he would have preferred to observe the fight from his workshop, so he could note the effects the fighting was having on Sakura. She was already tired from the initial summoning. The fighting wouldn’t help her at all.

But he had to come out and witness this for himself for two reasons. The first was to observe the battle between Servants with his own eyes and possibly kill the enemy Master. The second was to keep Lu Bu’s respect.

The Servant was a warrior and, for the time being, they needed to work together. Hiding away with his sister while his Servant fought wouldn’t send a positive message and, considering the Servant tried to kill him once already, he needed to show he wasn’t a coward. Although he wouldn’t interfere in Lu Bu’s fight unless he deemed it necessary enough to use a Command Seal.

Turning his attention back to the fight, he watched as Lancer and Rider tried to kill one another.

With Lancer and Rider

The air reverberated with the clashing of steel against steel as the two pole weapons smashed against one another. In a single session more than a dozen lethal attacks were released between the two warriors as they fought in one of the first battles of the Holy Grail War.

Letting out a roaring battle cry, Rider twirled his halberd around in arches as he tried to take off the hunter’s head. The powerful swipes of the halberd were followed by spinning motions of the body that added to the momentum. Like a raging inferno, the fierce motions were deadly to both the opponent and the surroundings.

Lancer avoided the swipes with sharp and direct motions that brought him just outside his opponent’s range, looking for an opportunity to strike. When he found it his spear was sent forward, stabbing with fierce thrusts that punctured to inflict death by a thousand cuts should he fail to pierce the core of his opponent. Like lightning he struck with unparalleled accuracy, only to be thwarted by mere centimeters as the armor of the Chinese general was scraped and scarred from the sudden twists that preluded the incoming halberd smashing down.

The initial session consisted over twenty exchanges, both assessing their opponents. Then they changed it up, Rider switching from a swipe to planting his feet on the ground with his legs spread as he began a barrage of thrusts. Lancer avoided the thrusts with narrow twists of the body, following up with his own attacks all aimed at the fatal spots that Rider’s halberd deflected.

“Not bad,” Lancer said. Then he poured on the speed of his thrusts, increasing the number of attacks to overwhelm the opposing spearman. “But challenging me to a fight with spears was suicidal!”

The influx of the attacks soon overtook Rider’s defense, his war paint marred by blood as the blade of Lancer’s spear grazed his cheek. The arms and legs follows, the armor chipping as the strikes that were meant to kill were the only ones that could be blocked successfully. With no other choice, Rider leapt back.

“Not a chance!” Lancer advance, using his speed to close the distance and sending forth a thrust aimed for the heart. Rider’s halberd was coming around to guard, but it wouldn’t be nearly fast enough…

Which is why he was he surprised to find that his spear was deflected, Rider sliding in with a fist chambered. Halting his advance and bringing his spear around he used the shaft to guard against the impending strike. The fist snaked past the shaft and grabbed his collar, lifting him up and throwing him around with it enough force to send Lancer skating off his feet as he touched down. Following the motion he leapt back and noted that his opponent was now missing his halberd, a set of bracers now taking its place.

Of all the classes, Lancers were the fastest. There was no doubt about that. Utilizing their speed they could strike down their opponents with precision attacks faster than most other classes could defend against as long as they were in range.

However, Riders were known for their Noble Phantasms and their versatility. Lu Bu’s God Force was no exception. Possessing multiple forms that he could exchange on the fly, Rider could approach combat from multiple angles and catch his opponent at a disadvantage.

Exchanging Thrust Force for Blunt Strike Force, now Rider closed the distance while intent on invading the range of the spear, the point where it would lose its effectiveness. Facing the storm of demon-like thrusts, the bracers caught and deflected the majority as he moved his arms to block them until he passed the effective range of the spear. The bracers vanished in an instant, replaced by a Jian that had appeared in the left hand, and the sword was thrust forward like a viper’s strike, aiming to pierce the skull.

Lancer tilted his head to the side and then spun his spear around to knock the shaft against the blade before it could come around in a follow-up swipe. Pain flared in his stomach and the hunter was sent back, skidding along the ground once more as the right fist of the general smashed into his unprotected gut.

“Tricky, huh?” Lancer mused as the general advanced, before setting the tip of his spear alight with prana and risting a set of runes on the ground. Calling upon his knowledge of runes, taught to him by the witch, Lancer brought the earth now under the runes to life. It rose up to form a defensive bulwark, hardening to be unyielding stone that stood between the two.

God Force shifted once more. Parry Force was replaced by Slash Force. Bringing his full strength to bear and twisting with all his might, Rider cleaved the bulwark in half with the war ax now in his hands. But Lancer was nowhere to be found…

The sound of parting air reached Rider’s ear before the ominous glow that radiated from above. He looked up to find the hunter in air, his spear twirling in his hands above his hands. Lining the head of the spear was a set of runes that left a luminous trail of prana as he began to fall to Earth with the intention of using it like one would a hammer. The war ax was replaced with the bracers once more and guarded against the strike with both arms as the prana-wrapped spear head was brought down.

A thunderous roar filled the woodlands on impact. The shockwave that was unleashed as the rune-enhanced blade smashed down against the bracers, the force alone caving in the earth surrounding them, stripped trees bare and their branches torn asunder. There was nothing that could be heard over the howling of magical energy as the two forces continued to push one another, until finally the sound of shattering steel rang out.

Lancer disengaged, retreating to safety and sparing the broken weapon in his hand a single glance. It couldn’t be helped that the spear broke under the force of the battle. It wasn’t the real Gáe Bolg after all; his new ‘Master’ had sealed his original one away and replaced it with this facsimile.

“We’ll call this one even,” Lancer said bitterly, the displeasure in his voice apparent as he reverted to astral form at the beckoning of his Master through their shared perception. “Next time, we finish this…

With Shinji

Shinji made his way back into the Manor once it had been confirmed that the enemy Servant had left. Rider was obviously displeased at his battle being cut short and had gone off to see if he could pick up the trail while in astral form or find another Servant to do battle with. Shinji thought it to be pointless, but didn’t argue with the Servant on the grounds of not wanting to stress their newly formed alliance as long as he stated in astral form to avoid stressing his sister.

However, the moment he entered his workshop he found Sakura already collapsed on the floor. Her breathing was heavy, hard and hoarse. Sweat had laden her body to the extent that her gown was soaked enough to be seen through. Her fair skin was feverish red as she burned from the inside out with desire and pain as the worms were the most active they’d been in so long from both the summoning and the combat.

Tossing the bow and mask aside, Shinji kneeled onto the floor and took her into his arms. “Sakura! Are you okay?”

Nii-sama…” she whispered, reaching up and touching his face. “I’m sorry, but I can’t hold out anymore…”

“I know,” he said as he lifted her up and carried her onto the bed. “I… I’ll take care of you…”

I’m sorry,” she said again, knowing once more she was going to defile him for her own sake.

Shinji said nothing, merely steeling himself to do what was necessary. He simply told himself it would be just a little while longer. Once the war was over and they had the Holy Grail, he could do something to rid her of the worms once and for all. It could grant any wish, right?

Then, after that, he would kill Zouken for everything he had done…

Author’s Notes

Well, that’s the first fight of the Holy Grail War between the Servants. Now, as you can imagine, this was mostly a scouting battle as Lancer had been sent by Kotomine to assess each Servant.

You’ll also notice that this Lancer is a different version of Cu Chulainn, a younger version like the one in Fate/Prototype, and as such he has a different set of Noble Phantasms and stats. The biggest change is that Lancer no longer has Gáe Bolg’s heart-killing, instant-death curse. One of the main reasons I did this was I would have to have a legitimate reason not to use it in combat.

Besides, despite having personal skills in Runes, it seems a shame he rarely used them.

Servant Stats: Lancer

Spirit: Cu Chulainn

Master: Kotomine Kirei

Alignment: Lawful Neutral

Strength: B – ((A) while under Warp Spasm)

Mana: B

Endurance: C ((B+) while under Warp Spasm)

Luck: E ((B-) due to the protective amulet that he carries his luck is raised.)

Agility: B ((A++) while under Warp Spasm)

N. Phantasm: A

Class Skills:

Magic Resistance C (B+): This version of Cu Chulainn carries on him a protective amulet that further enhances his Magic Resistance beyond his class skill.

Personal Skills:

Rune Magic (B ): capacity to use the 18 original runes.

Battle Continuation (A ): The strength of vitality for predicaments. Also, the ability to withdraw from combat and reach allied territory alive after being defeated. At this rank it makes possible to fight even with deadly injuries and can remain alive so long as one does not receive a decisive fatal wound.

Battle Frenzy (A ): The flaw of losing oneself in the midst of battle. During combat, when damaged a Luck Check is performed. Because of the protective amulet the Luck check keeps the Battle Frenzy from activating with a 1/10 chance. Should the amulet be lost, the chance becomes 1/4 and should it fail Warp Spasm is activated.

Protection from Arrows (B ): An inborn ability of Cu Chulainn; as long as the shooter is within his line of sight, he can track down ranged weapons with his eyes and defend against them. Does not apply for attacks made from super-long-range or with a great area-of –effect.

Disengage (C ): The ability to break away from combat. At this rank it has the bonus effect of returning battle conditions to what they were at the beginning of the match.

Noble Phantasms:

Warp Spasm: Last Riastrad (Anti-Unit) – The berserker state that he was renowned for, it is not manually accessed, but done via Battle Frenzy. Once it reaches a tipping point, all his stats become enhanced but he loses the use of any other Noble Phantasm to enter a state similar to Mad Enhancement.

Hounds of Ulster (Anti-Squad) – The ability to summon hound familiar based on the legend of rearing the replacement hound of Chulainn. He can only summon up to twenty per night with the amount of mana available to him, in groups of four.

Gáe Bolg: Soaring Spear that Strikes with Death (Anti-Army) – The true use of Gáe Bolg, is the largest and most powerful attack delivered using the spear. It is the “attack that unleashes countless darts at the enemy” that is spoken of in the legends. It is the attack that made him a hero which utilizes the full potential of the lance’s curse, converting all of Lancer’s prana into energy and releasing the accumulated power after the spear is hurled, detonating on impact with enough power to blow away a multitude of enemies.

All-New Ultimates #3 Review

Better late than never, here’s my review of All-New Ultimates #3!

Our story begins with Jessica being treated for her poison. It turns out that that mixture was meant to be lethal if her body wasn’t different from another person, so it was a close call in the end. Good thing Jessica knew someone willing to help an ex-SHIELD member. As she and Kitty make their way back, Kitty agrees to go patrolling with her next time.

While this is going on the masked dude from the last time goes out to buy a newspaper to see if he made the headlines putting bullets into gangsters. When the newspaper gets it wrong and assume it’s gang-related he decides that everyone would know his name, one way or another. Ego maniac on top of everything else does not make a good vigilante.

Meanwhile school’s out and Lana goes about asking around for her boyfriend, Poey, who should have been killed in Cataclysm or Lana was dating Sid at the same time she was dating Poey. Leaving the plot hole aside, it turns out he’s a drug dealer and Lana manages to sweet talk him into bringing her along for a re-up while Miles looks on.

At a coffee shop two of the minor characters who I didn’t pay much attention to are discussing the Skulls and the fact that Cloak and Dagger have been taking them down around the Westside Church. The only other thing of importance to note is that someone who supposedly got killed apparently walked out of the autopsy room.

Jessica and Kitty are out on patrol in the rain when they encounter the skull dude from before spray painting his name, Scourge, at the site of a kill. Jessica is still woozy, so she’s in no condition to help, leaving Kitty to go after him while she calls for back-up. Unfortunately the call comes in while Miles was spying on the deal with Lana there and grabs their attention. I’d like to point out how it was both stupid of him to have his phone on and question why he wasn’t in his camouflage mode. Did the writers just forget this or what?

Cloak and Dagger arrive to help Kitty chase the guy after he blinded her, but the sneaky bastard gets away. At the same time, Miles pretty much solos the drug bust, although he does get knocked around when some dude gets on his back because he seems to have forgotten his Venom Strike. Lana has to get her boyfriend out before she gets involved and helps him wrap things up before leaving with Poey to maintain her cover.

The comic ends with them all meeting up again and resolving to stick together.

Okay, review time….

So far I can’t really say I like the comic. The art is… stable, so I won’t take points off for that. But at times the characters do things that they should know better on and continuity errors. Poey, for example, should know about her powers since he was the one who wouldn’t let her come over when she was being chased by Cloak and Dagger in Ultimate Spider-Man when Miles got back in the game.

It gets a 3 out of 5.


June 2014 Grim Tales Update 1

Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics

Avengers Undercover #5 Review

Okay, time to see who joins the bad guy in Issue #5 of Avengers Undercover!

The issue picks up right after Zemo’s offer to join him and the other villains. Since this is a big decision he decides to wait until breakfast for them to decide whether they are in or out, letting his captains show them around the city. Constrictor takes Chase and Deathlocket, Daimon takes Cullen and Nico, and the rest go with Madame Masque.

Nico and Cullen go to Hell Town, where dark wizards and monsters live in four blocks of Hellstrom Manor. There Cullen shows that Daimon summoned a cage of hellfire to help him release the soul demon bonded with him. While there Daimon tells her to stop beating herself up over trying to kill him because they all understand she was just trying to protect her own and states that she’s wallowing in misery while he’s stopped pretending he’s not a monster.

At Constrictor’s Snake Pit…really, that’s what it’s called? No creativity. Anyway, Chase is having a blast playing Basketball while Excavator explains that he and his friends mostly do simple work, destroying stuff for an hour and then spending the rest of the time doing whatever they want. Deathlocket finds this dumb, but thinks she needs some dumb in her life.

Madame Masque doesn’t take her kids far. She basically tells them that Hazmat, Cammi, and Axbro were natural leaders, which meant they can live like her and get anything they wanted. She doesn’t try very hard to convince them to take the offer since they seem smart enough to realize they’ve been offered the world on a gold plate. The three realize that they’re being played, but the options are limited to join the bad guys or go to jail, but Hazmat states who heroes go nuts all the time and avoid prison (except for Cyclops apparently) so if they did something to make them heroes again they could get away.

Nico, on the other end, gets involved in some Demon MMA and finds it cathartic. Then a demon hits her and she goes nuts on it and beats it senseless with her witch-arm until she snaps out of it and flees. Daimon chases after her and, after she fears she’s become no better than her parents, he resurrects her ex-boyfriend Alex Wilder…who should be wearing all white and be in limbo. I have mixed feelings about this.

They all meet up again, except for Deathlocket being smitten with Excavator and Cullen, who has already gone evil, and the leadership trio tell Chase and Nico their plan about going undercover to get their hero credit back. Obviously they haven’t thought this out well, and Chase complains he never wanted to go down there in the beginning, Cammi tells him they are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and to pick.

At breakfast Zemo gets his answer. They all are in, except Cammi who leaves to go take care of her mother. Zemo says they should respect that her decision was to leave, but she gets taken down by Constrictor as the comic ends.

Okay review time.

So this is where they decided to go Undercover. It’s… going to end badly. Hero or not, the world already sees them as damaged goods so this won’t get them out of jail either way, so this will fail in the end.

Admittedly we could see they were being played, but they really didn’t have a choice. Cammi was offered up for that reason, to show what would have happened otherwise. Still, at least we’ve reached the starting line and I can’t wait to see where it goes, so 5 out of 5.



June 2014 Sugar Bits Update 2

Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics


June 2014 Sugar Bits Update 1

Read the rest of the comics at Snafu-Comics

New Warriors #5 Review

Late and last but still here, it’s my review of New Warriors #5.

The comic opens up in the aftermath of the battle, with two figures musing on it from the shadows while playing chess and stating that the when the Celestials come everyone will die, but this mysterious figure can stop them as it is older than the space gods once freed from its prison and the New Warriors will be the instruments to do so..

The New Warriors, in the mean time, are cleaning up the mountain they were brought to when they faced off against the Lord High Evolutionary while trying to get home. At least half the team are anyway, Justice, Namora, and Scarlet Spider. Justice presses both Scarlet Spider and Namoria’s buttons by comparing them to their counterpart (Kaine) and insisting that Namora is their ally Namorita, Him being bossy isn’t doing wonders for team unity, especially not when Namora is hallucinating some horror movie stuff involving hanging corpses of the team.

Sungirl, Speedball, and Hummingbird go down into the village to check on the people there, and Hummingbird uses her powers to pick up a new language and that these mountains are apparently haunted. So much weird stuff happens that they don’t even bother getting freaked out anymore. Speedball decides that it’s time for a lunch break then.

We then switch back and forth between Justice and Speedball’s recruiting attempts. Justice is having a harder time because not only are they dealing with an anthropomorphic cat person trying to claw them to death, but Scarlet Spider and Namora just aren’t interested. Speedball pretty much acts hyped up in getting the lowdown on his three, right up until Hummingbird starts asking improper questions like does Speedball still cuts himself from his time as Penitence. It turns out from her point of view he looks like he does back then, because of his self-loathing and her powers, making it awkward as hell.

Eventually the fighting ends when they corner the cat person and, before Scarlet Spider can get to stabbing it, a dog person begs them to spare them. Turns out they were New Men, created by Lord High Evolutionary until he decided to kill them all and the two of them escaped. The cat, Felinatus, is kind of a dick, but Cannus manages to convince Scarlet Spider not to kill him by the time the rest of the team arrives.

They’re all ready to leave and the dog person knows how to work the teleporter, but they end up transporting the entire mountain to New York as the comic ends, so you can guess the Avengers might have some questions about that next time.

Okay, review time.

Just dealing with the fallout of last issue, we get some tidbits about what the future holds and the secrets of the other characters. Speedball is still broody and dark despite his act, something Aracely finds attractive. Namora has some kind of dark magic related past involving sacrifice, and Kaine is…well, Kaine.

An okay issue at 3 out of 5, would have been 4 if the art didn’t suck.

Magneto #5 Review

A short and late review is better than no review at all as I cover Magneto Issue #5.

The comic begins Magneto pondering that there was comfort in basic activities, living an ordinary life. But because he’s the Master of Magnetism he doesn’t find any comfort in it like the flock of sheep normal people are, merely that he’s wearing a mask at present and the people around him will become causalities once he takes it off. That’s why he likes small towns, less people die when he goes on the war path… at least that would be the case if he believed that he can be redeemed, but in truth it gives him a chance to recover away from prying eyes.

Except there’s one nosy lady who gets involved in his business and he corners her in an alleyway. She, Briar Raleigh, claims to be a friend who wants to help him and knows about his mountain base. Since she knows that eventually he’s going to go berserk on people again and it’s only a matter of time, she wants to keep him busy by giving him targets to go after that she knows he would want. She even knows his favorite Brandy, so she’s been stalking him for some time.

Briar reveals she has information on even the SHIELD Taskforce assembled to take him down and the Marauders. She tells him that she knows he’s going to war again, and she won’t stop him. She just wants to make sure that only the ones he’s targeting are the causalities, rather than innocent people like she was.

As the comic ends we get a flashback to the aftermath of one of Magneto’s rampages in what looks like Seattle, where Briar’s family was killed and her leg was damaged. He sees her as a shepard of the flock of people, and muses should he let her live.

Okay, review time…

So, like the other chapters we deal with the aftermath of Magneto’s rampages, only this time we have someone who was crippled by him. It’s interesting to see that Briar should hate this man with a passion, but instead she’s helping him out. She’s figured that he’s going to keep being who he is and the only thing she can do is to help minimize the number of people who have suffered for it by giving him a guiding hand.

She doesn’t like him, but it seems like she isn’t letting her personal feelings get in the way of something she deems important. And then she apparently has decent detective skills to get all that information, so she’s got my respect.

Despite lacking action, I give the issue a solid 5 out of 5.

The Atom takes on the Titans

….well, that was grim. I got my hopes up at the end for nothing. Maybe they’ll replace the dead evil atom with his New 52 version.

Arousing Grammar

Size-changing superheroes don’t get the credit they deserve, like not being in the Avengers movie, for instance.  But we always forget that shrinking means more than cartoonishly running away from your own house cat.  If heart disease kills more people than any other cause of death, why would a superhero not fear a little man surfing a red blood cell into his aorta?  Today, one supervillain team learns this the hard way by going up against the Atom Ryan Choi in the controversial Brightest Day crossover Titans: Villains for Hire Special one-shot, written by Eric Wallace and drawn by Fabrizio Florentino.




Major supervillains hanging out in your home never ends in coffee and Grey’s Anatomy marathons. Especially Deathstroke, who spends most of his time in comics fighting seven or eight Teen Titans at once.  And while Choi doesn’t know this yet, this issue’s Titans title implies a team effort.  So in a fight against Deathstroke…

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All-New X-Factor 9 Review

A day late and a dollar short, but here’s my review of All-New X-Factor # 9!

Our story starts with two men monitoring a random woman in ways that not even SHIELD gets to, invading her privacy and watching as she changes. Although at least one of them has the decency to act better, they’ve apparently been doing this for years without her knowing. Yes, it is disturbing. But anyway, what they were sure was going to be a boring day turns interesting when the X-Factor crew shows up on her doorstep with Georgina and they decide to call in their boss.

The comic then picks up in the aftermath of what happened last issue, with Snow furious about what happened. He has that right, they’re his team and they broke five or six laws while on his payroll without even telling him. We’ll just pretend he isn’t violating her rights with his eye-camera. But as mad is he is, he doesn’t break up the team and just asks them to inform him of shit like this so he can get a say in rather than having to take a matter transporter over to save their asses.

Georgina isn’t all that happy with her circumstances and Cypher and Danger don’t exactly make her feel better, despite their best efforts. But Gambit, who said nothing the plane ride over while thinking how messed up that last mission was, gets a thanks and a hug. This is enough to make Cypher jealous and push past him on the way out, but Gambit decides to let it slide and go drinking, where he runs across Angela and the flirting starts over drinks.

Meanwhile Georgina gets a tour of the place and at the Computer Center the crazy guy there decides to go an experiment on her and has his computer bite her. Her DNA is taken and then the computer brings up her personal history to a level that, again, SHIELD wishes they had. Including the fact that she’s adopted and her actual mother is still alive.

Georgina wants to go visiting, which Quicksilver supports and if they deny her the right he says he’d run her over to Dakota in minutes (since when he’s carrying someone else he has to drop the speed or turn them to dust). Harrison calms them down by saying they can take the plane in the morning and Cypher does the same thing he did to Gambit to Quicksilver since Georgina hugged him.

The next morning we spy Gambit after having gotten laid last night with Angela when Linda walks in and reveals that he just slept with his Boss’s wife. Now, to be fair, he didn’t know and neither the husband nor the wife seems to know the definition of faithful. But this won’t end well.

We then pick up from where the comic began with Georgina’s mother happy to see her and inviting her in. This happiness lasts about thirty seconds before Georgina’s father shows up, her birth father, and levels the place. He goes by the name Memento Mori and kidnaps his daughter as the comic ends. What a dick.

Okay review time…

An overall okay transitional issue. No complaints really, but where the hell did Cypher’s crush on the girl who turned him into a mummy come from? Was being alone in that cabin for so long enough to make him go with the girl closest to his age range?

A 4 out of 5 solid issue.

Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #2

Our story begins with Norman Osborn returning to his defunct company, Oscorp, only to find his office robbed of almost everything important except for a picture of a stallion. Why this sole painting was left hanging isn’t clear, but it’s revealed to have hidden a retinal scanner that leads to a secret lab that must’ve been operating with one massive hidden power source given the lights work after over two years. He finds whatever he’s looking for there and gets to working on whatever he has in mind for the next issue.

Meanwhile Miles touches Peter in ways that are almost inappropriate while trying to figure out how he’s alive. Peter keeps asking for the web-shooters and states that he’ll leave once he gets them, but Miles calls his ass out on why he hasn’t told anyone he’s alive. The fact that this guy tries to skirt the issue alone is sending up alarm bells.

Eventually Peter tries to take them and gets a reflexive Venom Blast for his trouble, which if he had his Spider-Sense he would have dodged because it takes about three seconds to work on contact. Then again it worked on 616-Peter…anyway, he shakes it off long enough to knock Miles on his ass and then knocks him out, taking them while he was out cold. When Miles gets up he thinks to himself that it must be a clone, which honestly isn’t that far of a stretch when you consider that Scorpion is still around as far as we know, and runs off to tell Ganke.

The imposter Spider-Men show up at a Stark facility and beat the crap out of the guards while bantering with each other, with one guard calling for back-up. He comes out when the rest are down and tells them he doesn’t get paid enough to get his ass-kicked and just tells them to take what they came for. They tell him to help get something from the boat labeled “Latveria”, which can’t be good.

Miles and Ganke talk about the Peter Parker he just ran into, with Miles dropping the bomb on Ganke that Jessica is a female clone. The boy thinks Peter must have had a great tush. Puberty hit him hard given how he seems to go after every hot older woman he knows. Anyway they discuss the merits of telling May about this or not, since she’s been so good to him and through so much pain that he doesn’t want to trouble her if he’s wrong. It doesn’t help that Jessica’s phone is off.

The discussion derails the moment Miles’ girlfriend shows up. Both of them suck at lying, so she quickly figures something is wrong and asks if he’s breaking up with her. The comic ends as he decides to just come clean.

Okay, review time.

Not much progress other than the fact that “Peter” is being secretive and kind of a dick, shocker. Good art though. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5 for the time being.

Fanfic Recommendations 23

My own Fanfics:

Harry Potter and the Path of Indifference

Wind Monk Banishment 11


Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated:

Pokewar: The Truculence 7

A Pokemon Fanfic

Summary: “Why do I try so hard to stay alive? I lost so much to gain the power to survive, to conquer. And for what? A part of me is dead. Good. That part was weak, now I’m stronger. Do I wish Pokemon were back to normal?” A rare smile painted Paul’s lips. “Never”

Fairy Dance of Death 28

An SAO Fanfic

Summary: What if Akihiko Kayaba had created the Death Game of Alfheim Online rather than the floating castle of Aincrad—a world in which the nine player races are in competition to escape the game, and player killing was not a crime but rather a predictable product of human nature and tribalism in the face of mutually exclusive goals? AU reboot of the SAO universe.

In Memoriam 16

A To Aru Majutsu Fanfic

Summary: In a city where science has made the impossible mundane, a young man meets a very strange girl, who speaks to him of things yet stranger. Meanwhile, four friends stumble into a conspiracy that threatens to overturn everything they thought they knew about their home.

Loyalty 16

A Naruto Fanfic

Summary: Sakura is ensnared in a world of deadly intrigue her last year in the Academy. As an unwilling agent of Oto, can she discover what it means to be loyal in a world that promotes deception? Will that loyalty conflict with her growing sense of self-worth? AU

Equal and Opposite Attraction 28

A Negima X Nanoha Fanfic

Summary: Its a new semester in Japan.  Fresh from his adventures in the Magical World, Negi leaves Mahora for greener pastures.  Only, they’re a lot pinker than he’d originally imagined.

Introverted 1 – 64 (Completed)

A Naruto Fanfic

Summary: Being ignored and gazed at with hatred can lead someone to become a boisterous and loud orange-wearing shinobi, but it can also drive him to become a silent and invisible introvert. Of the two, Naruto takes the logical choice for a future in the Ninja World. Team Sai-Naruto-Sakura. No pairings. Future of bloodshed and grittiness assured.

Team 7’s Ascension 11 – 14

A Naruto Fanfic

Summary: To Kakashi, the Genin of Team 7 were morons of the highest order. Despite that, he still saw the potential in each of them and he’d be damned before he let it go to waste. Features a strong Kakashi, a less forgiving Sandaime, and three terrified Genin. [AU]

A Demon Among Devils 7 -8

A Persona 3 / High School DxD Crossover Fanfic

Summary: Igor had asked him to die for the world. She would ask him to die for her. Problem was, he didn’t really like dying, not for a second time, at least.

Humanity 1

A Freezing Fanfic

Summary: The Eighth Nova Clash devastated mankind. It left whole cities in ruins. Millions dead. Nations on the brink of collapse. It also left a small boy without his sister. Bitter at the loss of his sibling, Kazuya Aoi has become disillusioned with the Chevalier Project. But he is still a Limiter, born with a Stigmata Body, and that alone forces him on a path he does not wish to tread.

White Rain 26

A Naruto Fanfic

Summary: A woman arrives in Konoha with children she claims are Itachi’s. Sasuke struggles with suspicion. Sakura struggles with Sasuke. As Hokage, Naruto must decide the future of the village. OCs! Developed. Over 1000 reviews! WHOOOO!

Chasing Yesterday 21 – 22

A Naruto Fanfic

Summary: Rokudaime Hokage Uchiha Sasuke is a man with nothing beyond duty to the dead. Yet when a second chance comes from the lips of a demon, his battles begin anew… Time Travel/Redo,Female Naruto

Queen of all Oni 20

A Jackie Chan Adventures Fanfic

Summary: Daolon Wong’s summoning spell goes wrong; but rather than awakening an ancient evil, he resurrects a more recent threat. With Queen Jade as their opponent a race for the masks is on. Can the Chans stop Jade’s plans and save her from the darkness? NOT JxT!


Harry Potter Fanfic: The Path of Indifference #11

Chapter 11: Second Halloween

October 31st

“Are you ready yet?” Myrtle asked her date for the evening impatiently, with her voice barely tempered as he carefully plucked a Lily from one of the jars that they grew in. It was rather fitting that she sounded as excited as a girl going to the prom, despite her actual age being in several decades older than the twelve-year old escorting her. Then again, the dead didn’t age.

“Just about,” he said, thankful for Neville’s plant growth serum. The flower was in full bloom well before its time, the solution having done the trick. The book he inherited from Quirrell stated ghosts loved the species of flowers, and he owed Myrtle for all the things she’s done for him, so he had bought them for her. With a set of tongs in hand he dipped it in a bowl with a luminous silver potion and pulled it out to find the flower now had a silvery glow lining it. “Here we are.”

“Oh Harry,” Myrtle said, a hitch in her non-existent breath as he set the flower into her school uniform like a corsage. The potion, which he had also learned through some digging through the text that his late mentor bequeathed him, would give that with form that ability to touch that without form for a limited amount of time. The only problem was that it was easily washed away by oils and water. “It’s beautiful.”

“I’m glad you like it,” he stated, before gesturing towards the door. “Shall we go?”

She nodded and the pair left the confines of her bathroom on the first floor. The corridors were abandoned for the most part, but the cacophony of dozens upon dozens of students chatting in the Great Hall could be heard from behind the grand double doors in the distance. Listening to them, a thought came to her mind and left her wondering if it was okay to keep him from the feast.

“Are you sure this is okay?” she asked him. “Aren’t your friends inside the Great Hall for the feast?”

“I wouldn’t have agreed if I minded, Myrtle,” Harry assured her as they walked towards the dungeon staircase that led below. From there they followed the poorly illuminated corridors and made a turn as they the tune of somber music reached their ears. It was then they approached the entrance of the party hall for the event, the path lined with obsidian-hue candles that burned with Bluebell flames that felt as though they sucked away heat itself. The entrance was covered with black velvet draperies that were watched by a single ghost with the attire of a butler.

“Moaning Myrtle and one guest,” she told him as they came to a halt. The ghost nodded and pulled back one of the curtains to allow passage, before gesturing for them to enter. Inside the room they found a gathering of ghosts familiar and unknown.

The Hogwarts Four were there, Nearly Headless Nick wandering round and greeting the guests to his party, the Bloody Baron being given plenty of space, the Grey Lady was observing the floor from a corner, and the Fat Friar was near a man in chains while talking with a knight that had an arrow in his head. There were over a hundred ghosts at a glance…and Gene?

“What are you doing down here?” Harry asked his brother, who was looking rather bored at the spectacle.

Gene shrugged. “I owed our House Ghost a favor when it came to Filch. He asked me to show up. You?”

“Favor to Myrtle,” he answered, nodding to the girl next to him. “And as if I’d pass up such an event for a feast. This is something that seems quite interesting.”

Gene put off the minor urge to call him a nerd and instead turned his attention elsewhere. He didn’t find it to be too fascinating overall. It was cold, the music was like fingers on a chalkboard, the atmosphere was gloomy, and the light was ghastly. Not to mention the wall of smell that hit him the moment he tried approaching the long table covered in black velvet that was littered with ruined and inedible food that had would add any human who ate it to the number of the ghosts.

But a favor was a favor. While Hermione and Ron decided to go to the feast instead, he always paid his debts back. His dad taught him that.

Harry, on the hand, seemed intrigued as looked around at the many ghosts that lingered around and their various causes of deaths and moods. He even gave the Bloody Baron a nod, which the menacing specter thought upon but returned with a slighter nod. It was then he spotted the Grey Lady and recalled he owed her thanks.

“Myrtle, may I have a minute to talk to the Grey Lady?” he asked, to be polite. “I owe her a thank you for helping me with a problem.”

“Sure Harry,” she said. “You’ll come back for the dance, right?”

He nodded. Granted, he didn’t really know how to dance but he could try.

It seemed good enough for her. Watching him go she smiled and then delicately touched the flower he gave her. It was then that Peeves came over with a jar of peanuts while smiling in his mischievous way.

Ignorant of the Poltergeist at the moment Harry approached the Grey Lady and gave her slight bow. “Might I have a moment of your time, Grey Lady?”

A light nod of her head followed. “You may.”

“I wanted to thank you for your help with the young girl form before,” he said. “Luna seems happier at the moment for the most part now that she can speak freely to her friend in Gryffindor and a few others in our house who surround me.”

“Your gratitude is noted, Young Potter. But perhaps you should tend to your escort,” the Grey Lady said as she pointed beyond his shoulder.

He looked to see there was Peeves, who was now pelting Myrtle with moldy peanuts and chasing her out of the dungeon as he chanted, “Pimply! Pimply! Pimply Myrtle!”

“Yes… I’d better…” Harry’s wand was in his hand before he knew it and he was on their tail.

With Gene

Gene witnessed as the Grey Lady promptly decided to excuse herself after pointing out Peeves chasing Moaning Myrtle. He figured she knew what was coming since she left straight through the ceiling to avoid being caught up in what would follow. Gene took a moment longer before he recalled the incident in their first day back and decided he didn’t want to be caught in it either, so he made to do the same only to be stopped as Sir Nicolas arrived to ask him about how he was enjoying the party. Then the Headless Hunt arrived.

It was clear their presence had an adverse effect on Nicolas due to his condition of being nearly headless rather than completely. That much was evident as the head of the hunt cracked a joke at Nicolas’ expense. However, no sooner than the ghost had finished talking did the barking of hounds and the screams of the Poltergeist decrying the hunt once more reach their ears.

Peeves burst in past the ghost at the entrance drapes. On his heels were three Gytrashes that seemed almost murderous. They quickly darted in between the ethereal mounts on the dance floor and around the hall, causing a disturbance.

In spite of it all the leader of the Headless Hunt cackled in jolly delight as he mounted his steed, the rest of his kinsmen doing the same. “Come along, Gents! It’s the Hunt!”

Gene wisely decided that his favor had been repaid and decided to split while the splitting was good. He managed to get out after the horses started following the hounds chasing Peeves and didn’t look back until he was safely on the first floor. From there he was planning on heading to the Great Hall to catch maybe a quick bite before the feast let out if he was quick enough.

That was when he heard a whisper coming from further down the hall. The voice made his stomach curl as it seemed overjoyed at the scent of blood being let, malevolence in it that was so thick that it sent a shiver down his spine as he pulled out his wand. Taking careful steps he came across a sight he hadn’t expected.

Mrs. Norris was unconscious, splayed on the cold stone floor with flickering flames from the candles between the two windows illuminating the text written in blood on the walls that read: ‘The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the Heir Beware’. Kneeling over her was Harry with his wand in his hand and two fingers on the cat’s throat.

When he noticed Gene he immediately said, “This wasn’t me. I was trying to comfort Myrtle from Peeves making her cry. When I came out I found this written on the wall and Mrs. Norris…”

“The twins might have gone too far,” Gene mused as he put away his wand. While Mrs. Norris was loathed by the majority of the school none of them dared to touch the cat out of fear of its owner, who couldn’t be too far away. But who else would be so brazen to attack it with…a stunner if he had to guess by how the cat was unmoving but seemingly uninjured, and then to paint the wall with fake-blood he knew they bragged about making before for a prank?

Harry shook his head. “If this is the Twins’ handiwork then they’re getting expelled at the very least. There’s no justifying a prank this malicious.”

Gene blinked. “Wait? What?”

“You can’t tell because of the shadows being cast from the candles, but Mrs. Norris is dead,” he stated, stressing the last word. “There’s no pulse, no signs of any injuries or blood from wounds, no obstructions in her throat to cause suffocation, and the body is colder than it should be. I’d be tempted to think she just died of old age if it weren’t for the wall. Someone must’ve done this with magic, to spite Filch if I had to guess, between the time I left the party and less than a minute ago when I came out of the bathroom.”

Gene sucked in a sharp breath and realized that they probably didn’t want to be there. “We need to go find the professors before the feast lets out—”

As if to prove that Fate was indeed a cruel mistress he was cut off as by the clamoring of footsteps coming forward as the feast was let out and everyone was making their way to them. There was no time to act as those who led the packs stopped when they came upon the sight and silence fell.

Naturally Draco Malfoy was the first to speak as he broke to the front to see what the hold-up was. “Enemies of the Heir Beware. You’ll be next, Mud-bloods!”

Gene would be damned if he didn’t think that little weasel had something to do with this somehow. He just knew it. “This was you, wasn’t it?”

“You can’t pin this one on me, Potter,” Malfoy said. “You’re the one standing next to it.”

Before he could retort a cry came from the corridor behind them and rang throughout the hallways of the first floor, over the gathering of students. Gene’s head turned in timing with Harry’s and their eyes fell onto the caretaker, Filch, who broke through the crowd to see what was going on and dropped to his knees at the sight of his beloved cat laying splayed on the floor and limp, no life to be found. Looking to the two of them he cried, “You’ve killed her!”

No sooner than the declaration of a murder was announced did the professors of each house and several others gather around and pushed their way to the front of the packed hallways. Their eyes shifted over the blood writing and then the boys, one of whom was still kneeled over the cat with his wand out while the other looked angry. Not a good or innocent sign.

“Huh, only two months in and I’m already being framed for murder again…” Harry mused to Filch’s comment rather coolly as he stood and put his wand away. He then looked to the nearest professor as asked, “Should the rest of the student body be at a murder scene? Because that’s what this is. The killer is probably still around and they’re going to make things easier for them to slip away.”

Severus Snape bristled at that and spun on his heels towards the amassed students. “Everyone back to the Great Hall this instant or so help me you will all be scrubbing cauldrons until your fingers are bloody and raw. If even one of you is missing, everyone in your house will suffer the same as well!”

They didn’t need to be told twice. The students broke for the Great Hall in a hurry, their footsteps on the hard and cold stone floor barely stifling their murmurs and whispers at what they perceived had transpired. It was then Dumbledore appeared, latest but carrying the most authority.

Looking at the blood coating the walls and the dead cat, he then turned to the boys and said, “There seems to be questions that I will need answered from you both. Would the two of you please follow Professor McGonagall to my office while professors Sprout, Gilderoy, and Sinestra ensure that the rest of the students remain in the Great Hall with the door locked?”

“Mine is nearest,” Gilderoy offered.

“No, I suspect we need the utmost privacy,” Dumbledore stated as Professor Snape moved past them both and pushed Harry back three steps.

The Potions Master then briefly cast a spell on Mrs. Norris that neither of the Potters recognized and his face seemed to grow tense at whatever the spell had gleamed off the corpse. He then vanished the corpse, ignoring the tormented and anguished cry the wrenched itself free from Filch’s mouth. With only a glare towards Dumbledore he seemed to pass a message and made his way towards where Dumbledore’s office was prematurely.

Dumbledore stroked his beard and his mouth formed a pout. He then gestured towards the wall while looking at Flitwick. The diminutive professor nodded in understanding and headed to where the blood was written on the wall merely a foot off, while McGonagall ushered the boys towards the Headmaster’s office.

The Headmaster then took a moment to console the custodian. “I have an old friend who just so happens to breed Kneezles. I’m sure she can provide a young one for companionship. While it won’t replace the loss you’ve suffered, it is the only thing we can do until justice can be metted out… and I promise you, it will. But perhaps you should take the night off?”

Filch nodded bitterly and then turned away to make for his office, no doubt to drown his sorrows and grieve the death of his companion in private. He didn’t even have a body to bury her or make a grave with.

Dumbledore’s Office

Dumbledore’s office, as the Headmaster’s office, was a circular room that housed the portraits of dozens upon dozens of former headmasters who once oversaw Hogwarts, remaining behind to give their wisdom to the current head and divulge their secrets. At present they were all asleep.

Resting on a perch was Fawkes, the phoenix that served as the familiar of Dumbledore and looking somewhat fatigued. It noted the boys and the presence of the other professors with a bout of curiosity, though it kept its focus on young Gene the most, to his confusion.

Standing by the trinkets and bobbles of silver instruments was Professor Snape. His arms were crossed and his eyes closed in thought. Professor McGonagall stood patiently with her hands overlapping one another as she kept an eye on the two boys sitting in conjured chairs.

Harry himself was more interested in the books that lined the shelves until the oaken door groaned as it opened. Dumbledore was there, looking all of his age as he entered the room and took his seat behind the heavy desk that stood in front of the shelf containing the Sorting Hat. Harry sat upright in his chair in anticipation of the questioning.

“Now boys, I trust you know why I’ve brought you here?” he asked. They nodded and he continued. “Vandalism and killing someone’s pet are both heavily frowned upon, but I feel as though neither of you would be responsible for such a thing. However, the timing is most curious, as well as your absence during the Halloween Feast. Can you explain the circumstances that led up to what transpired?”

“We were both in the dungeons,” Harry stated. “Every ghost in Hogwarts knows both of us were at the Deathday party below until…what, five or ten minutes ago?”

Gene nodded. “You can ask any of them for the two only living people who attended. We stood out.”

“What, might I ask, were you two doing at this event?” McGonagall asked in Dumbledore’s place. “As I am aware, the serving foods for Sir Nicolas’ festivity aren’t quite…palatable for those who still have earthly bodies, so to speak. Compared to that served at the Halloween Feast, it is an odd choice to attend.”

“A favor and the fact that I’m partial to spectral studies,” Harry said unashamedly. “Myrtle asked me to escort her there a few days ago and it seemed interesting. Once there I took a moment to speak with the Grey Lady and thank her for her assistance on a house matter. Unfortunately I had to leave prematurely afterwards to take care of some business involving Peeves and spent the next few minutes trying to calm Myrtle down when I left and came across the scene. When I saw the writing and Mrs. Norris I checked to see if she had a pulse and Gene found me…”

“Sir Nicolas asked me in my case,” Gene added. “After Myrtle left because of Peeves harassing her and Harry followed to stop it, the Headless Hunt came in and I didn’t get to leave until Harry’s…business caught up to me. On the way to the Great Hall I found Harry checking on Mrs. Norris when the feast ended and you found us.”

“Was there any chance someone sought to implicate you both for this crime?” Snape asked, missing his usual bite when addressing the spawn of James. His mind already singled out Lucius Malfoy, as he had warned Dumbledore that the game was afoot. But ‘how’ it was done was the question in his mind, as the ‘why’ was a good start to find out. “Who knew of your plans?”

“I don’t think this was even meant to be pinned on us,” Gene said. “Only Hermione and Ron knew where I was going. I don’t think they told anyone.”

“I kept my mouth shut about it completely, so no one knew but Myrtle,” Harry said on his behalf. “I think it was really just a case of the wrong place at the wrong time and we were caught in it. I’d say it was a prank, given how it was just outside the Great Hall where everyone else could see it when the feast ended, but even if the blood was faked the Twins aren’t malicious enough to kill the cat.”

“I can confirm that it wasn’t conjured blood or the type you would expect from the Twins,” Professor Flitwick confirmed as he appeared through the door. “It’s real, but all of the students are accounted for as of now and no one reported any major injuries that would allow for that much blood loss. So it’s most likely not human.”

“Then where would you get that much blood from in the school unnoticed?” Gene asked.

Harry shrugged. “Game animals from around the grounds, if I had to guess. Maybe taken from where the food gets prepared and then cooked, but I’m not sure where the kitchen is…”

“Leave that for us to determine,” Dumbledore stated. “I’ve heard your arguments and I’ll send for Sir Nicholas and Miss Myrtle to confirm your alibis. I must ask that you both remain silent about this matter for the time being, but rest assured we will find the ones responsible. In the meantime, Minerva and Filius, could you escort them both to the Great Hall and their tables. There should still be food left over and I’m sure they are both quite hungry.”

“Of course,” the Head of Gryffindor stated. “Come along both of you.”

“I swear every time I’m around you something bad happens, Gene,” Harry stated as they exited the room in the tow of the two teachers. “First the train station and now this…”

“This isn’t my fault and you know it,” Gene said in haste at the accusation. “You’re the one who was kneeling over the—”

The conversation was cut off as the oaken door shut behind the two boys, leaving Professor Snape and Dumbledore alone.

“That was Dark Magic that killed the cat,” Snape said immediately. “Nothing I’ve seen or dealt with in my time, but it had the taint of dark magic and was powerful to be certain. We have to take this as a sign and ready ourselves for more trouble by Lucius’ hand.”

“And what do you suggest we do?” Dumbledore asked as he steepled his fingers. “There was no outside intrusion and this time all the staff has been vetted, so we do not have an incident like the last year amongst the staff.”

“Then that leaves the students,” Snape stated. “From his little outburst I would hazard a guess he was responsible. It won’t take long to confirm.”

“The sins of the father do not transfer to the son,” Dumbledore said in a sagely manner. “Young Mister Malfoy is but a boy. If this magic is as dark as you claim I doubt he could be responsible. You may keep an eye on him, but go no further, Severus”

“Monitoring him alone won’t suffice,” Snape argued. “He is already wary of me at his father’s behest. That being said, those two he keeps by his side would make excellent and unaware spies with a little work over the course of a detention. All it would take was a slight nudging like a little voice in their heads to pay attention to any potentially useful information and store it in a partitioned section of their memories I can access with ease while leaving the rest of their thoughts untouched.”

“You’re talking about invading a student’s privacy every waking moment,” the Headmaster pointed out, “as well as tampering with the minds of two other students in the process, neither of which are acceptable.”

“That was Dark Magic and more than enough to kill anyone who was hit by it,” Snape countered. “Almost all the people in the castle could be accounted for in the feast at a glance and the Potters were the only ones missing at the time who had even an ounce of importance. You heard that they stumbled onto the scene possibly only minutes after it occurred and both had their wands and could put up some measure of a fight. Would it be that much of a stretch to think they were the original targets and the rest was to stir up trouble when the one responsible couldn’t find them before the feast ended without the risk of being overheard since they were on the same floor?”

“The point stands, Severus,” Dumbledore stated in a tone of finality. “For now we will keep our eyes and ears open while searching for the culprit. We’ll need to be subtle in investigating how it was done and on-guard for any future attempts, but do not read or tamper with any of their minds. Am I clear?”

“Fine,” Snape said with a sneer as he turned for the exit, his robes billowing. “But if I know Lucius this is only the beginning. He won’t stop at this, and you’ll wish you heeded my words.”

With Harry

The Great Hall was abuzz with a cacophony of whispers and poorly masked accusations until Harry and Gene Potter entered the hall through its great doors, where it abruptly went silent. Nevertheless they followed as the head of houses guided them to their tables.

“Good, they left the food out,” Harry mused as he sat at a vacant seat that Terry and Padma had been reserving for him without being aware of his plans of attending the Deathday Party. “So, what did I miss?”

“The majority of our year was whispering how they thought you were finally going to get expelled,” Luna noted in an airy tone.

Harry raised an eyebrow and then looked around the table. The ones who didn’t meet his gaze were the ones to blame. He made a mental list of their names. “Hmmm… well, whatever. I’m still here.”

“Aren’t you worried you’re in a bit of trouble though?” Padma asked.

“Hardly,” Harry said with as much enthusiasm as a sloth as he stacked rolls his plate. He was surprisingly tired and the bread would at least be filling to last until morning. “Compared to what happened last year and the incident with a troll someone being a very crude prankster and cat-murderer is a step down—”

“Don’t remind me,” Terry cut in with a sigh. “Honestly, being chased down by something that size wasn’t fun at all. I thought it was going to tear us apart limb from limb before picking its teeth with our bones.”

Padma looked guilty at that. That was a very real possibility since they came for her and Hermione. None of them should have honestly made it out alive, yet they did. But it had been so close.

“Stop selling yourself short,” Harry said. “We all did well under the pressure, but it was your spell that stopped the troll’s club from harming anyone. Either way, what’s done is done, there’s no point in dwelling on it.”

“So you didn’t do it?” Isobel asked blithely as always, her casual indifference suggesting she would merely accept his answer without judgment. It didn’t really affect her either way. “You had nothing to do with the death of the cat or the writing on the wall?”

“Of course not,” Harry answered. “What was there to gain from it? Besides, I have an alibi that’s being checked and will come back clean, so I’m sure the matter will resolve itself without me getting into trouble for once. If anything I’m more annoyed that I got framed for something I didn’t do again.”

The conversation ended there and Harry ate in silence until the Headmaster returned and allowed for the students to return to their towers to go to bed early. Many complained, but after what transpired few were willing to argue and they all turned in for the night. Harry himself was well into dreamland when he was suddenly woken by someone whispering in his ear, only to find Myrtle floating next to his bed while everyone else slept.

“Myrtle, why are you in the boy’s bedroom?” Harry asked.

“I wanted to say I’m sorry,” she said. “If I hadn’t left so early you wouldn’t have followed me and you wouldn’t have gotten in trouble with Dumbledore.”

“I’m not in trouble,” Harry said, covering his mouth afterwards to yawn. His body demanded he sleep again. “I’ll be fine.”

Myrtle shook her head. “But the Chamber of Secrets is bad news, Harry. If they think you’ve opened it they’ll kick you out like they did the last person who opened it. They might even send you to Azkaban!”

Harry only shrugged. He was too tired for this. “I don’t even see what the big deal is. The professors haven’t mentioned anything about the Chamber of Secrets before so I wouldn’t know what it was or when it was last opened or who was responsible.”

“But you were with me,” Myrtle said. “That’s why the Headmaster asked me if I told you anything about it. I said I didn’t, but I don’t know if he believed me.”

Harry yawned again before he asked, “What does it have to do with you?”

She clarified it for him. “Because, when the Chamber of Secrets was last opened someone was killed. I was attending the school then as a student.”

“Who was killed?” he asked. Had he’d been more aware and not tired he would have picked up on the subtext there and put two and two together. “Was it someone important?”

She hesitated for a moment before saying, in the smallest voice she could manage, “Me.”

“Oh …that’s bad I guess…” It took another three seconds of dead silence before that clicked in his mind. His eyes snapped open and slumber’s hold on him was broken as he sat up. “That was incredibly rude and I am so sorry about that, it was the sleep getting to me. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

“You’d better,” she said with a pout. She was upset to say the least, but she knew he would make up for it. “I don’t just tell anyone this stuff…”

Harry turned and set his feet on the floor. Leaning forward as the moonlight cast its rays into the bedroom where Myrtle floated in her ethereal state, Harry said, “You have my undivided attention now. What can you tell me about this Chamber of Secrets and the one responsible for your death?”

Note: Shorter chapter that I’d like, but it gets the point across and I was only covering one day.

Harry Potter Fanfic: The Path of Indifference #10

Chapter 10: Favors & Friends

October 27th Ravenclaw Tower

The autumn wee-morning was chilled by rain as Harry woke from his slumber prematurely. Sweat dotted his brow as he sat up with his pulse quick and pounding in his ears, the churning in his stomach preluding vomiting if he didn’t clear his mind of the visions playing over and over in his head of Quirrell’s death once more. It was a relapse of the recurring nightmares he thought had been settled in camp. He thought wrong apparently and would make sure to drink some Dreamless Drought later tonight.

Not willing to soil his sheets with vomit that morning, Harry promptly made his way to the bathroom and used the sting of cold water from the faucet splashing his face to help wash away the bitter thoughts until they were repressed and bottled away. Affixing his glasses to his face once more, he sat on the edge of his bed while his dormmates continued their extra hour of sleep before it was time to wake. Harry considered more sleep to be out of the question and to be replaced with something more productive as he fished through his trunk to retrieve his copy of Spectral Beings and Spells that once belonged to the man whose blood was on his hand.

Rather than remain in the dark room that was filled with snoring on top of the rain battering against the windows, he opted to go down the spiraling staircase that led into the Common Room of blue and bronze. To his surprise there was one other person there as well. The girl with dirty-blonde hair he had met earlier in the month, Luna.

She was on her knees in a nightgown as she spoke softly into a fireplace, speaking to another person on through a Fire-Call. Harry only arrived to catch the tail end of it as she said goodbye to the person on the other end and pulled her head free. She sat there on her knees afterwards, struggling to not to cry—a far cry from the girl the month from before.

Curiosity nipped at the young boy’s mind as he witnessed the scene, until it became too much to ignore and Harry decided to act. Stepping onto the midnight-blue carpeting that was strangely warm beneath his toes, he approached her with careful steps until he managed to sit on the couch behind her and let the squeaking of the springs notify her of his presence since she was too lost in her misery. “Are you okay?”

Words did not leave her lips, as though she was afraid they would betray her. Instead she nodded her head and stood. Without hesitation she quickly made her way to the staircase that winded upwards and towards the girl’s dorm.

Harry sighed and made a note to question Padma or Isobel about it later before pushing it to the back of his mind. Instead he focused on the textbook in his hand, the bookmarks that held individual colors marking topics of interest as well as the point he had left off on. In this case it was the Patronus Charm and what may very well be its origins, at least from the point of view of one who specializes in spiritual beings and creatures.

Spectral spirits have always existed, although they did not take the form of ghosts as easily as that of wizards and witches. Various cultures spoke of sprits that watched over those who they were a part of in the form of animals. In Nordic culture they were called Fylgja, in the Native American culture they were Guardian Spirits, existing in various cultures that he crossed during his travels, Professor Catullus Spangle of Charms of Defence and Deterrence hypothesized that the Patronus was a part of the caster that only appeared in times when needed to fend against an inhumanly evil threat such as Dementors and magic merely gave a solid form to that which had none. It was for that reason that the spell to summon a Patronus, ‘Expecto Patronum’ translated to ‘I await a protector/guardian’.

Delving further into the topic, Harry was only brought out of his studies when he noticed that students were stirring and venturing into the Common Room, meaning his window of private time was no longer open and he had to get dressed. Since it was a Thursday he had Double Charms, History of Magic, Transfiguration, and Potions. Closing the textbook, Harry rose off the couch and made his way towards the left set of spiral staircases to his dorm once more when he spotted one of the people he wanted to see coming down the opposite set of stairs.

Isobel MacDougal looked rather immaculate despite the wee-hours, not a hair out of place as she stepped down the final step while adorned in her school robes ahead of time, most likely to get in a quick read and then scurry off to breakfast. Since her sister normally had her keep an eye on them when he and Terry went off jogging since last year, it was probably hardwired into her to wake an hour early by nature. Harry asked her about Luna and got his answer in her usual manner of tone.

“She was cast out of the study group,” said Isobel factually, lacking any sort of personal attachment or interest. “She was already marked as weird because her dad publishes a gossip paper, but she didn’t help her situation with her…disposition causing distractions and defending you. Morag decided to leave her to join the Black Sheep herd—namely you, Terry, and Padma.”

“I see,” Harry realized. “The first and second year dorms may be on separate levels but you can freely access any one of your gender, can’t you? But she didn’t do anything else or have her Herding Dog do something?”

“She doesn’t need to,” Isobel stated. “Morag is in a position where the others in our year and below only need her to say that she’s not one of us and it pretty much gives the rest free reign when it comes to venting their feelings at being under Morag’s thumb. She’s an outlet, a sacrifice so the rest will get out their feelings of being cowed by at least saying that they are normal and she’s the outcast who it’s okay to make fun of because of that fact.”

To that Harry could only repeat what he belated mentor once said. “Kids are cruel.”

“Very,” Isobel added. “But you can see the effectiveness. By sacrificing one, she’s managed to keep the first years that are new to our world and those familiar on a tight schedule of study and managed to keep their grades at a reasonable level for the last month. In that aspect, I suppose she’s grateful for having you as a template.”

The twelve-year old’s brow arched in confusion at that. “Me?”

Isobel crossed her arms and leaned her shoulder against the wall, tilting her head as she met his framed eyes. “Of course. Reigning all the other students in our year to get decent grades and a study group is something that she can’t do with muscle and command alone. If there isn’t an outlet, the resentment would boil over constantly and she’d run herself ragged managing everything. You, being the one who stood out, made for the outlet for our year by losing us House Points at first with your attitude and the simple virtue of being the Black Sheep of Ravenclaw. Imagine being told you had to do something you didn’t want to or you would be bullied by Stephen, only to be told that someone else didn’t have to study as hard as they did and they could do what they want, bring down the name of our house, were cavorting with Slytherin, and so on.”

“Sacrifice the Black Sheep to the wolves so the others can get ahead,” Harry put together. “Those who bothered me directly got as good as they gave, so they became stealthy about it. They were able to take some kind of dark relief in outsmarting me, watching me become paranoid and angered while knowing that it would be difficult to trace back to them as long as none of the other members of my herd knew about it, or their friends who still hung out in the same circles. It let them feel good about themselves, better about their circumstances… ”

Harry could only sigh. “Your sister does know that she’s potentially creating sadistic little bastards, correct? Not the type of people who would be productive to her long-term goals, would they?”

“I believe that she intends for them to grow out of it once they mature,” Isobel offered as an explanation. “Empathy is something comes with age and circumstances, so she will allow it unofficially unless someone tries something that would be truly depraved and besmirch her House’s name. Then she would sic Stephen on them.”

“And the sad thing is she’ll probably get far in the world.” Harry couldn’t fault her logically or statistically speaking. Sacrifice the few to bolster the rest. But he could point out it was a bitch-move, incredibly cold, had a ten percent chance of turning him into a madman that would eventually kill off several of his classmates before being put down, and that she was arrogant on top of everything else in that she thought such a plan could go flawlessly in the face of unforeseen circumstances.

“I think she intends to be Minister of Magic, like Bagnold was before Fudge,” Isobel stated, as though she read his mind, and now it made more sense than before. She was acting like a politician.

“Well, I’ll make sure to leave the country well before she makes office,” was all he could say to that. “Thanks, Isobel.”

With his questions answered, Isobel turned her focus to the shelves of their personal library and away from Harry. He did the same as he made his way up the stairs to get dressed. There was nothing to be done with Luna until around lunch or so, and he could think of something to do prior in History of Magic as he had already covered the materials that would be covered in class…as did everyone else in their year of Ravenclaw.

The ghostly professor followed the same lesson plans every year unfailingly, so Morag had gone out of her way to have some of the older students give her the low down and then passed it around as part of their study sessions. Another point to her credit in the long run of things considering that if she does get a ministry position their grades in one of the classes with the lowest rate of students taking the N.E.W.T level of courses would be attributed to her quick thinking. If Binns weren’t earthbound as a ghost and could no longer cross normal boundaries that separated the living world and the afterlife, as Harry had read in his textbook, then Dumbledore would have probably gotten rid of him. It probably helped that he didn’t get paid either.

Anyway, adding finding a way to send the ghost to the afterlife as both an act of mercy and for the good of future students to his tentative list of things to do—right next to getting rid of Peeves in fact—in the long run, Harry had already nicked a copy of Morag’s overview from Anthony Goldstein in exchange for loaning him that book on Alchemy he had checked out, to avoid the processing time involved with the Library and out of some curiosity. He had an interest in it, it seemed anyway. As long as he returned it before the due date, they were galleon on the subject.

Harry, on the other hand, found it confusing and somewhat cumbersome with all the ciphers that alchemist had. Between the phases that lions and dragons represented, the individual planets and their markings, it took time to decipher and that was only because whoever gave it to Neville used the standard ciphers instead of custom ones like Nicholas Flamel reportedly did before his passing. Then again, looking at the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life, he could understand the desire of secrecy should unscrupulous individuals hands get their hands on it.

The businessman part of him lamented the loss of the stone, which his parents had told Gene when he inquired about it over the period between his return from camp and the train incident that Dumbledore claimed it was a fake. Supposedly the real one was destroyed well before the mirror thing and replaced with a remarkably realistic-looking copy…at least that’s what Harry overheard them telling Gene. It made sense in one way but was still flawed, as not only did Quirrell die for nothing, which still haunted him, but if Gene and his friends circumvented the traps so easily then what was the point at all?

The process of making Neville’s plant growth recipe had been tedious overall. Because a great deal of the Alchemy was reliant on the celestial bodies, something that made Astronomy actually relevant considering he wasn’t big on its other known uses, he was up late for several nights and had to use a Tin Cauldron since combined with the light of Jupiter it promoted growth . While he gave the chubby boy his cut and then went about his way, it was different from standard potion-making as it was heavily reliant on outside factors beyond the components and the potioneer.

While there was some crossing between the two, Alchemy was a different beast altogether with the main benefit being that compared to most spells and potions that wear out over time or revert with the death of the caster, the changes made with Alchemy tended to be permanent. Dumbledore’s renown for being savvy at it only added to his overall competency as a wizard and his mystique.

Breakfast passed uneventfully as Harry was in thought about his own plans and the matter with Luna, who didn’t come down to eat, before he began his day with making his way to Double Charms with the Hufflepuffs. Retrieving his book he took the stairs to the third floor and the Charms Corridor before entering Classroom 2E.

Inside the room there were three rows of desks, all fixed to face the teacher’s table, where the Charms Master was at present, flanked by two blackboards. The rain that could be viewed through the windows made the room seem dreary and dank, a stark contrast to when the sun was filtered through the panes and flooded the room with a welcoming warmth. Among the assembled students already present was one in particular Harry sought out in her usual seating choice, at the end of the third row.

“And how’s my favorite badger this morning?” Harry asked as he took his place sitting next to his favorite Hufflepuff, Leanne.

“Fairly well actually,” she replied, a small smile decorating her face as she returned the greeting. “And you?”

“The storm woke me earlier than normal, but fine otherwise,” he told her. During Double’s Charm he normally paired up with her since she was the only Hufflepuff in that year he was acquainted with and everyone else had cliques while she was still somewhat alone.

He asked her if she was okay the first time they had a class together after she had taken the commission he had done for Gayle, but she stated she was fine and the effects were as they were supposed to be. According to her, Gayle had honestly asked her if she felt confident enough to test it, to which she agreed after citing how she watched him work tirelessly towards it with devoted effort and kept detailed records of what failed and what worked over the process of elimination until he steadily came to the final product. It touched him to know that during their month of concocting illegal substances that he had garnered such respect and confidence in his abilities despite his relative youth.

She also noted that Gayle forbade her from buying any more of it, which she would know as the pushers of the final product in the school all answered to her. She couldn’t have one of the people closest to her addicted what she sold. It was a bad business move otherwise and she didn’t have the students working for her in the castle using anything she sold.

Leanne also said it would probably move fairly well among quite a few in the upper-years later on, since the stresses of testing and the limited entertainment within the castle would make it somewhat desirable. Unlike the younger students, the older ones knew how to hide it better from the teachers, which was the reason she didn’t sell to anyone below the Fourth Year rather than ethical reasons.

“Good Morning, Students,” the diminutive Charms Master said to his class as he stood upon the desk once the allotted time had came. “We’ll be starting today’s class start with the revision of the Wand-Lighting Spell and then the Tickling Charm, so mark the pages in your books so we can go through the theory and then the practical applications.”

It was expected. Since they arrived at school a month ago all the teachers had been helping the students revise spells and potions they learned the first year before branching off into something new. Both had their books out and flipped to the page in question on the Wand-Lighting Charm.

The review of the revision was short since it was a simple charm at its base. If you wanted light, you got light and just light. It wasn’t incandescent, just pure illumination without an ounce of heat as magic was converted to light. Revising it was the act of simply altering the range and output with each use of the spell to get different results with the same incantation. Letting out the light in a new format as both he and Stephen could do already fell into new spells that were derived from the original.

Moving on from the revision, the professor asked, “Now, who can tell me how the Tickling Charm differs from the Tickling Hex?”

Harry raised his hand at the inquiry and was called upon. “The Hex has a stronger effect and more control. The charm can be overpowered by strong enough focus or fail if the subject isn’t ticklish and has a short lifespan, so it serves as general entertainment, whereas the hex has been referred to as a minor torture curse because the one directing it has more control over the strength and lifespan. Like most hexes the effect is designed to temporarily debilitate or humiliate someone and, when in the hands of someone particularly mischievous, the hex isn’t usually dropped before someone wets themselves.”

“A very thorough assessment, Mister Potter,” the professor stated, before generally addressing the class. “The charm itself is simple and has a narrow application, such as generally being used to entertain small children, although it has its uses as a diversionary tactic in duels both school-yard and professional. You can’t cast a spell if you’re doubled over and laughing. The spell, as listed in the book, is recognized by a silvery light and pronounced Rictusempra—Ric-tuh-SEM-pra.”

He then told them to practice on one another, to which Leanne turned to him with her dark eyes and said, “I’d better do you first. I’m not ticklish, so the charm probably won’t work.”

“Challenge accepted,” Harry said as his brow arched at the claim. His wand was pointed at her stomach before she could tell him not to and the spell was out of his lips as the wand motion was complete. The feeling of the countless roving fingers running over her abdomen and just beneath her skin, gliding as they moved with repetitive motions that thrummed about her sides, left Leanne nearly doubled over with her hands over her mouth, trying not to laugh.

A wry smile crossed his face. “Well, well, look who’s closet-ticklish…I wonder if the spell stacks?”

Her eyes briefly widened as her body lightly spasmed from trying to restrain the already powerful urge to laugh. In an effort of futility she tried to warn him not to, but it was too late as he hit her with the spell again, causing a stacking effect as the sensation of the already numerous invisible fingers doubled. She fell forward onto his shoulder, full out laughing while her soft breath tickled the flesh between the crook of his neck at the collar of his robe, causing him to have to hold back his own laugher.

“C-c-cancel i-it,” she said between laughs. “N-n-now!”

While the temptation to let it wear out on its own was still there, staggering in short order since the spell was cast with only a few seconds between each use, she was starting to shake him as she clutched his shoulders in the process and her breathing was sending a jolt down his spine. He aimed his wand between them, at her abdomen again, and cast the General Counter-Spell Charm, which he taught himself well-before it would be covered later in the year. “Finite Incantatem.”

It ended her torment and she straightened herself up before giving him a small frown and a light slap on the shoulder. “That wasn’t funny!”

He shrugged unapologetically. “Yet you laughed. Blame the professor for telling us to practice on one another.”

She then picked her wand up off the desk. “Let’s see how you do then. Rictusempra!

Leanne put some real effort into, as Harry figured once he fell out of his chair and on the floor laughing, slamming the bottom of his balled fist against the floor, in the wake of a single spell. Leanne put of a rather satisfied smile at the sight, merely content at resting her elbow on the desk and watching him squirm as the spell did its work.

Vengeance was indeed sweet.

Lunch Time

Lunch time came around and Luna was still nowhere to be seen. Having come out of History of Magic, which Harry spent formulating a diet of plants to feed the Streelers based on their toxicity to increase the potency of his Howler Busters in the event that the batch he had planned to make today failed when he tested it tomorrow, he was now somewhat concerned since the first year Rebecca stated that Luna hadn’t been to any of her classes. Again it amazed him that it was so easy for students to miss classes without being accounted for, but he recalled there were only a handful of teachers and resolved to handle it himself since he could empathize with her circumstances.

So, stashing away some fruit in his pocket, he proceeded back up to his house and came to a stop at the staircase leading to the girl’s dorm. He frowned since there was no way for him to traverse it, as some unlucky sap during the first year of his studies with their house had learned when it repelled him like he had stepped onto a loaded spring and took a flying leap back into the comfort area. His only options were to get another student to do so, none of whom were present at the moment with it being Lunch, or to have Myrtle come up and do it. It was then that their house ghost appeared from the entrance, or rather through it, and he decided to enlist her help as a third option.

“Pardon me, Grey Lady,” he called to the ethereal beauty that represented his house. While it was overly polite and he knew it, given the general time period she hailed from it would be fitting. “There is a young girl in the first-year section of the girl’s dorm who has been the victim of rather cruel acts that I seek to converse with. She hasn’t eaten anything or attended any classes and I am rather concerned, so might I ask for your assistance?”

She regarded his request for a moment before giving a short nod and ascending through the ceiling to do so. It was a minute or two later that down came the young blonde girl whose eyes were still somewhat red. In a tense, yet small voice, she asked, “Yes?”

“Luna, can we talk?” he asked, presenting her with the fruit he took from Lunch as a peace offering. The poor girl must’ve been starving. “Just a few minutes are all I’m asking, and then I’ll leave you alone if you want.”

Her lips pursed into a thin line, but her stomach spoke for her as it grumbled in the wake of food as she had missed breakfast and the dinner from last night was long gone and digested. She cautiously took the fruit and followed him into the Common Room, sitting across from him on the couch.

“First things first,” Harry said. “I want to apologize and thank you.”

“What for?” Luna asked.

“For sticking up for me,” he clarified. “That couldn’t have helped things along, and we barely know each other. It would have been easier if you had just gone along with whatever they said, conform rather than stick out, but instead you persisted and she sent you to join the Black Sheep Herd, as she calls it. Well, let me be frank in saying you’re welcomed to join us if you want and if anyone gives you any issues, I’ll take care of the problem.

“I just said that you didn’t seem nearly as frightening as Morag and the others made you out to be,” Luna claimed. “I don’t want to get you in trouble by hurting anyone.”

“Please, detention hardly bothers me,” he assured her. The last time he even had detention it was with Lockhart. It disturbed him that Lockhart didn’t seem to hear that weird voice he heard during that time period, but then again he was talking the entire time and ultimately Harry just assumed it was Peeves screwing with him indirectly. “Truth be told, I do find myself relishing the role of bully-hunter occasionally and after a few times the message will get across.”

“But that would only make what they’re saying about you true,” she pointed out. “That you’re violent and dangerous.”

He shook his head, adjusting his glasses in the process. “Well, I won’t lie to you by saying that I’m completely harmless or friendly. But I’m not very hostile to most people and I think I can safely say that nothing they said about me was true.”

“Then you didn’t really kill a professor?” she asked bluntly.

Harry frowned, only to see her head tilted quizzically at the reaction. There was no hostility in the phrasing, no jibing or taunting, there wasn’t even really any judgment he could actively pick up from staring directly into her eyes. In short, it was really just a question that most people who didn’t want to actively antagonize him either didn’t ask or sugarcoated it.

Could he be mad at her for the lack of tact? Well, he could but that wouldn’t do anyone any favors. Needless anger at the innocent question of a curious girl was unbefitting of him. He was better than that. Taking off his glasses, he rubbed the bridge of his eyes and then said, “…ultimately, I suppose I did.”

The admission didn’t really change her expression, even though she didn’t say anything immediately. It left Harry wondering if she was judging him silently, determining if he was the monster they probably claimed him to be. When she righted her head she said, “Funny. You don’t seem to act like you enjoyed it and bathed in his blood for some ritual. In fact, it’s something that’s hurting you more than anything else in the world, isn’t it?”

Okay, I’m getting the full damn story about what lies Morag told, Harry resolved. In retrospect he shouldn’t have put it off that long, but whatever. “To put it in simple terms, yes it does still hurt to think about and recall. Professor Quirrell was one of the few people who reached out to me, only for things to end in a situation where I had to choose between killing him and letting someone else die when they didn’t deserve it. So no, I didn’t kill a good man for some arcane ritual and I sure didn’t enjoy it.”

She nodded, perhaps in judgment or something she thought to herself that he didn’t understand. Then she mused, “No one here really knows what its like, do they? Feeling responsible for someone’s death?”

Harry shook his head. “No. No they do not. And because of that they can joke about things like that, taking some sick delight in the pain and aggravation they cause to make themselves feel better about the leash they’re on. It won’t stop any time soon, so I mostly focused on trying to find some friends outside the house. What about you?”

“Ginny’s in Gryffindor,” she said. “But I haven’t seen much of her since we were put into separate houses.”

“Understandable,” he said. “You see, I’ve noticed that many of our housemates have few friends outside their own house. When you factor in competing over the House Cup and Quidditch, it doesn’t sound like something a lot of people would be interested in because they’re being short-sighted. I was thinking about how to fix that and wanted to ask if you’d like to join me at the Gryffindor table tonight for dinner, so you can catch up with Ginny?”

“Would that really be okay?” she asked.

“I’ll make arrangements,” Harry assured her. “So…see you then?”

She nodded after a moment of consideration, before making her way back to the stairwell to the girl’s dorm. While on the bottom step she looked over her shoulder to find him still sitting there, giving her a brief wave. She put on a small smile and then went back up the stairs.

Harry sighed once she was out of sight and took a moment to think about how he was going to make that happen. His best bet would be to find a Gryffindor and ask them about it, but given his reputation that would prove somewhat difficult if they weren’t familiar with him already.

There were the Weasley Twins, but they were in a higher year and lingered about the middle of the table rather than the first and second years. That meant Gene’s clique. Seeing as he really didn’t want to ask Gene for anything unless he had to, or Ron for that matter, that left one other option in Hermione.

She was his best bet considering he told her about his plans in Diagon Alley, before all the ugliness occurred, and she would be all for helping someone else avoid being lonely given what she went through last year. He could probably sweeten the deal with an exchange of knowledge too, so that was something else. In fact, during the break that was coming up after lunch and before Transfiguration he bet he could find her in the Library.

Having formulated something akin to a plan of action, he bound off the couch and left the Common Room for the corridor that led to the tight spiral staircase down their tower to the third floor, where the entrance to the Hogwarts Library was. Given the sheer size of the labyrinth-like library, there was no way he was going to aimlessly search for her within the allotted time frame he had before the break ended, so he made his way to the overseer of the place, Madam Irma Pince.

“Good afternoon, Madam Pince,” he said, finding her in the process of dusting books along the shelves while keeping an eye on some of the other students whose faces were buried in their books. “Might I ask you if Hermione Granger is present?”

“Granger…” A bout of silence followed as she thought about it, her fingers twisting the feather duster in her hand. “I believe I crossed paths with her past the Reference Section but before the International Politics Section while dusting.”

He thanked her and went about his way towards the general location, narrowing down the area he needed to search through until he came across the black-robe clad witch with bushy hair. She was sitting at a table near the back with a light on as she combed through a rather thick text, a paper in her hand next to it that she compared the contents with. Pulling out the chair opposite her, he took a seat as her eyes darted up briefly to check who he was. “Hello, Hermione. What are you reading?”

Flipping to another page, her brown eyes proceeded to glide along the contents present. “It’s a book on some of the lesser known families that came to an end in Britain. Nothing specific though, just a lot of names to compare so I can see if there were any with the same as a relative of mine, or a trace of a lineage.”

Harry arched an eyebrow at that. “You think you’re related to someone in the magical world distantly?”

“There’s a possibility,” she muttered, setting the parchment down in between the pages and then closing the text. “Who knows?”

“Is this about what Malfoy said when we were in the alley?” Harry asked with his tone rather low as he recalled the incident. Granted, he used it as a distraction, but he did get the specifics from the twins.

She bit her lip for a moment, but shook her head. “No, not that…Ron brought the possibility up, actually. Inadvertently, anyway, when he mentioned that his mother and father were having a bit of a tiff over the fact that a relative of his, a Squib, may have a daughter who was born a witch.”

Harry made a note to contact Arthur about that, but he could recall Sherry mentioning research showing it could be done. “And?”

She scoffed before going on a minor rant. “Ronald finds it impossible, claiming that such a thing didn’t happen, while another student named Lily Moon and I stated it might be possible that it simply skipped a generation or so, like some hereditary traits. A lot of the others who weren’t born in the magical world started wondering if it was the same for them, but some of the others who were argued that magic didn’t work that way. One thing led to another and somehow I ended up being assigned to the task, so I had to contact my parents to see if they could give me a list of all our relatives that they could remember and here we are.”

Clearing her throat she moved onto another topic. “Anyway, did you want something?”

He grimaced a bit at the thought of putting more work on her shoulders on top of this. “Well, I hate to add more to your plate, but I need a favor.”

“What kind?” she asked, her eyes meeting his as she tilted her head slightly.

“Just two seats at the Gryffindor Table during dinner, with one next to Ginny Weasley,” he said. When her expression turned to a more inquisitive stare he added, “I’m trying to help another student connect with an out-of-house friend. You remember what your parents and I discussed?”

“House Tribalism,” she noted, what he was doing clicking in her mind. “You’re trying to give it a go with someone else who already has ties before coming to Hogwarts.”

“There’s that,” he conceded, “but also the fact that Luna needs friends in the same way you did, once upon a time before a troll. I’ll make it worthwhile for you as well.”

“Harry, you don’t have to bribe me to do something good,” she stated a bit tersely, as if she needed incentive to do something nice. Drudging up the memory of them being almost smashed to bits didn’t help either. “I’m all in favor for it.”

“Well, consider this my contribution to lighten your workload,” he told her as he handed her a copy of Morag’s outline. “The planned guideline to History of Magic. Everyone in Ravenclaw our year has one to get around what Binns is teaching, so we can focus on other studies. It never hurts to get ahead, right?”

She eyed it, tempted by the prospect. Considering the teacher didn’t bother to get her name right, she did feel some frustration at his methods and lack of correspondence. Besides, with it maybe she could get Gene and Ron to start doing their work rather than bumming her notes all the time.

“I’ll also see about getting some of the people I know to chime in on your pet project here,” he added in. “There was someone who mentioned that research overseas showed that it was possible, but because of the habit of phasing out Squibs in our neck of the woods it wouldn’t be surprising if Ron and the others were mistaken by belief. If we can present some solid evidence, and maybe even trace back a few other students like yourself to having magical roots, it might become irrefutable.”

“It does have the potential to change some things,” she acknowledged. You couldn’t call someone a mud-blood if they had some connection, and if it became standard practice the slur itself would have no power or prominence. A grateful smile came across her face. “Thank you for the offer.”

He gave her a shrug and a smile back before he stood up. “I’ll go write the letter asking for the reference now, while I still have some time before class, as well as one to Mr. Weasley to learn more on this relative of his. See you during Dinner.”

After Potions Class – Myrtle’s Bathroom

Harry yawned as he watched the cauldron come to a simmer from within his makeshift workshop that was the back of Myrtle’s Bathroom. The liquid was now a shade of verdant, the application of the venom from the Streelers within his terrarium having deepened the color. Using the small table and chair he “borrowed” from one of the many abandoned classrooms as a surface he jotted down the difference from the last batch which had changed to a more lime color instead in his private potions-alchemy notebook. With all the revisions he had to do with the Howler Buster formula and his alchemy side-job, it was already somewhat of a read through filled with ideas, notes, successes, and failures. He’d have to wait until the concoction cooled before he could test it on the Howlers that he had in a stack on the opposite side of his notebook tomorrow.

Hearing a sigh coming from his right, Harry turned his head to Myrtle’s stall. The ghost was staring pensively at the young potter as she ran her ethereal fingers through the fur of the gytrash he had conjured as a deterrent for Peeves. He couldn’t risk the Poltergeist sabotaging his workshop and at best the spectral-defense charms he had would only hinder the troublemaker.

“You’ve been doing that awful lot lately, Myrtle,” he said. “Is there something you want to say?”

She rolled her head and mused, “Hmm…maybe…”

Harry turned around completely to face her and said, “Myrtle, you can ask me anything, given all the help you’ve been.”

“Okay, okay,” she huffed. “I was just trying to gather up the courage to ask you about repaying that favor earlier this year by escorting me to Nearly Headless Nick’s Death-Day Party on Halloween.”

“Sure I’ll go,” he said. His field of interest at present was spectral beings and a gathering of ghosts was hardly something to pass up on. “I didn’t have anything in particular planned Halloween anyway, but my attire will be limited since this is such short notice.”

“Your robes are fine,” she insisted.

“Excellent then,” Harry stated, before checking the time. Dinner was starting in a few minutes and he had another student to meet with. Harry picked up his notebook and stood. “So we’ll discuss this at greater length tomorrow?”

She nodded. “Until then, Harry.”

Harry gave her a wave, before leaving out and heading towards his destination. Luna was waiting by the entrance of the Great Hall, leaning with her hands behind her back while against the wall. He touched her shoulder and led her towards the table, where the seats had been saved by Hermione with two stacks of books that she levitated away when they approached.

“Greetings, Gryffindors,” Harry said as he took his seat next to the studious student while Luna sat next to Ginny, who was looking a mite pale but earnestly smiled at the arrival of her old friend. As the topic came up, the youngest Weasley admitted she might have caught something but greeted her all the same.

“What are you doing here?” Ron asked Harry with a raised brow.

“Just sitting down to eat,” Harry said. “No ulterior motives, if that’s what you’re wondering about.”

“Go sit at your own table,” one of their housemates said.

“Well, you’re free to move me if you think you can,” Harry offered, putting on a smile that was rather sharp as he set his wand on the table to make it clear how things would go down. Brash as it was, he was here for Luna’s sake at the moment rather than his own agenda.

“Guys, just relax,” Gene stated, before something went down. “There’s no harm in sharing the tables.”

The words coming from the twin seemed to have the desired effect as whoever it was kept their silence. With that settled, the meal progressed rather placidly. While Luna and Ginny talked in relative privacy, Harry quickly finished his food before turning his mind towards something more pressing in his notebook as he recalled he forgot something. He tore out a blank page and proceeded to copy down a procedure and ingredients list before passing it to Neville.

“What’s this?” Neville asked.

“The instructions for making that thing I gave you,” he said absentmindedly. “I was a bit out of it when I handed you the bottle, but not the recipe. Without the ciphers you should be able to have a professional make it.”

Neville put it away before meekly telling him, “…thanks.”

“What are you talking about?” Hermione asked, with her curiosity peaked once more. She looked over Harry’s shoulder to see his notebook and the contents inside, which he made easier by just pushing it between them.

“Neville asked me to make a plant growth serum,” he explained. “I had to do some research into Spagyric Alchemy to do it, but if I understand the process right I may be able to improve on it or increase the effectiveness of the plants that are doused with it later on…which is a possibility if the solution to my little Howler problem isn’t resolved soon.”

“Do they even teach that here?” Gene asked Ron, who shrugged in a manner that stated he had no clue.

“No, I did it in my free time,” Harry answered for him. “Basic Alchemy is an elective for the higher years that’s taught by the Headmaster, with their own lab that’s still somewhat functional, but there hasn’t been enough interest in it so there hasn’t been any classes taught recently. Spagyric in particular is like Potions, mixed with Astronomy, and heavily focused on Herbology.”

Ron, Gene, and a few others listening in tried to imagine the unmitigated horror that was those three classes combine. Some came to picture a robust man with Snape’s greasy hair and sneer with a hat like Professor Sinistra’s, telling them to look up at the planet’s alignments while they tried adding ingredients to a cauldron and having house points deducted for some reason or another. Many shuddered in terror, more so when they recalled he did this in his free time rather than necessary.

Hermione, on the other hand, sounded excited at the prospect of it. “And you figured this all out on your own?”

“I had to get some help from Professor Sinistra to get the timing right in accordance to the planets, but it was me who translated the ciphers and carried out the procedures,” he said, turning to the back of the notebook, where he had drawn a guide to them. “It took days to just fish for them all the ones that outlined the processes and phases.”

She skimmed over the definitions outlined, coming to a stop when she noted one fact in particular. “The Red Lion with wings cipher is the Gryffindor emblem.”

“Yeah, it symbolizes the control over untamed forces generally speaking, but it also relates to the use of metal in the procedure. The cipher of a lion growing wings is when it all comes to a head, the point where you bring things together and make it stable.” He turned to the page where he copied the procedure for Neville.

She skimmed through it as well, taking in the notes before commenting. “I see, so the properties of the cauldron play a huge role and the flame determines how much is transferred to the liquid inside in the final product too. If the heat is too strong then it overwhelms the other properties and emphasizes the growth without balance, running the risk of harming the plants.”

“But if there’s not a strong enough flame it won’t pass it on properly or may fail to produce the needed result,” Harry added. “I got curious about using a Pure Iron cauldron to increase the potency of the plants’ natural properties as well, such as the natural toxins of the plants I cultivate for the Streelers.”

“Ohh, but what if you used a second cauldron to instill another property into it?” she asked. “Start in one and then continue in the other?”

“It’s not a bad idea per se,” he agreed. “But there’s a chance that one property would overwhelm the other or they might not be compatible, and the astrological chart plays a huge role on that depending on what we’re trying to do. If we think of the planet being in a certain position enhancing the property of the cauldron because of the metal resonating with it—”

Hermione offered a second opinion before he finished. “But what if we add in a chunk of the corresponding metal or a powder of it—”

“—but wouldn’t they be reactants instead of catalysts?” Harry mused as he picked up on the train of thought. “Not to mention the balance and ratios. I’d really need to take another look at the book once I get it back from Anthony, or maybe talk to him about it since he has more of a passion for it than I do…”

As the two continued their babble, Ron leaned to his side and whispered in Gene’s ear, “You following any of this?”

“Maybe every fifth word…?” Gene said, tapering off as it began to sound more like a question. Neville, for his part, at least tried to follow along while Luna and Ginny were in their own little world.

When Dinner finally ended and they went their separate ways, Harry led Luna back to their tower and bid a goodnight to the young girl looking joyful rather than dejected as he found her that morning. Such a sharp contrast was noteworthy, and as such he considered his efforts successful.

Given that he was tired himself from waking so early, he decided to go to bed early and proceeded to turn in for the night. Tomorrow he would ask more on the Halloween party with Myrtle and hopefully hear back from Sherry and Arthur soon to assist Hermione in her endeavor. More favors being paid and bought, only to be repaid later.

He would need as many as he could get soon enough, as within the walls slithered the end of the halcyon days so far.

Harry Potter Fanfic: The Path of Indifference #9

Chapter 9: First Day of Second Year

Note: Luna is hard to write….

September 2nd Ravenclaw Tower

Harry Potter woke from his slumber with a sluggish start, intending to go about his normal morning routine from last year—namely cardio improvement by jogging and then a shower and breakfast before he went about his day. He would also need to make several stops for his personal projects, so staying in bed five more minutes wasn’t an option anymore. Tossing back his sheets he slipped on a set of jogging pants and hoodie so that he could get the most out of his workout and remain warm, slipping his wand into his coat pocket in front, before heading into the Common Room.

The Common Room of Ravenclaw was immaculate, graceful arches framing the windows while the walls were lined with fabrics of blue and bronze silk like veils. The ceiling was painted with stars while the midnight-blue carpet below mirrored above. With tables, chairs, and bookcases spanning the room besides the comforting area of couches near the fire, it was a haven for those who sought to study and expand their knowledge base.

Before he could proceed down the tight spiral staircase in his workout clothing and out the castle, he was halted by an all-too familiar voice. “Harry, wait up!”

He halted and stopped, allowing for the taller boy with short brown hair to catch up.

“You could have woken me,” Terry claimed as he reached Harry, face flushed as he breathed heavily. “It’s been awhile since I’ve needed to get up to do this,”

“I have a lot to do this morning and was barely able to get up myself,” Harry pointed out, tone apathetic. “I need to visit a couple of places so I’m skipping morning spell practice. You’re free to join, but considering I’m hunting Streelers afterwards it may or may not be messy.”

“Why?” he asked as they began to venture down the corridor to the exit of the castle.

“Howler Busters,” Harry stated. “I needed to increase the potency of them to eat through the devilish things. I did some research on the species and learned that Streeler venom have different strengths depending on where they lived. They were native to Africa, but they were bred and released into other parts of the world and, because of the different vegetation, they have different levels of acidic venom. I’m going to try and introduce a variety of plants into their diets and see if I can’t get something a little stronger combined with Bundimun Solution only diluted to half its potency.”

Once out of the stone walls they were met with the full brunt of the chill morning breeze and began a single run alongside the lake. The autumn winds felt great upon Harry’s face as he pushed his body to its limits circling the expansive land before him and crossing over the grass and wood near the lake. While his body ran on auto-pilot his mind ran through thoughts about the coming year of school and what he had planned. Between making connections with other houses, improving his potions, and revamping his Howler Busters, he would be busy for the most part. When they finished their run Harry changed directions and headed towards the greenhouses.

Hogwarts had numerous greenhouses that hosted a variety of plants, many sentient and dangerous ones, as well as the office of the current Herbology professor, Pomona Sprout. She was a somewhat short woman, usually coated with a healthy layer of earth due to her position, but quite jovial and caring. Her personality befitted one who was the Head of Hufflepuff House.

In the early morning there were few people there, only those with a dedicated interest in the field to assist before classes began. Harry entered the first greenhouse and found the professor there with one such aspiring student. Neville Longbottom, a somewhat round-faced boy with a chubby build who Harry was somewhat familiar with but rarely interacted with.

“Excuse me, Professor Sprout?” Harry called, garnering both of their attention. He made a mental note of the flash of fear across Neville’s face before politely addressing the Herbology professor.

“Yes?” she asked. “How can I help you?”

“I’ve recently taken an interest in Herbology, since it boasts a large part of my work as a Potioneer-in-Training, and wondered if I could ask you about some tips on growing your own plants for these purposes? Perhaps something to speed up their growth a bit?”

The professor put on a small smile. “Well, Mister Potter, I am proud that you’ve taken an interest in the subject. When it comes to plant growth it depends on the plant in question, as well as the environment in which it is raised—”

The professor was cut off when one of the older students called to her from the entrance, distress written all over his face. “Professor Sprout, come quick! Gabriel got caught by one of the Chandlabra!”

“Oh dear,” she muttered. “Excuse me, but I have to tend this matter before he’s digested. Mister Longbottom here is already quite knowledgeable and may be able assist you in the meantime.”

“Understandable,” Harry replied as she left out in a hurry. He then turned to the boy eyeing him like he was about to tear out his throat and bluntly asked, “Neville, are you afraid of me?”

He nodded shakily.

Harry sighed as he rubbed the bridge between his eyes. “Neville, your professor asked me to consult you and Terry is here. I’m twelve, it’s not like I’m going to off you and stash your body, I just want to talk about plants. If you can’t answer the questions I’ll ask Professor Sprout another time when she’s not saving some poor bastard from being a meal since her faith in you seemed to be misplaced.”

That put some fire in his belly as he stopped flinching. “Wh-what do you want to know?”

Harry proceeded to explain his goals, growing a terrarium of different plants to bolster the toxicity level of the Streelers he was planning on catching, as well as some flowers and more exotic plants for a few of the potions he had to work on. He did neglect to mention some things, but it seemed to enough to get Neville talking.

“Mooncalf dung does wonders,” the chubby second-year offered, “but it can only be used before sunrise of the day its dropped, so that’s out unless you can get a pre-order and have portkeyed over…”

Harry shook his head. “We’re expected to be in bed by then and the cost would be astronomical for such a short time-frame. Not worth it.”

“I heard that Tilden Toots has Regerminating potions available,” he suggested next. But then he shook his head. “But that’s to be used with a Rejuicing potion after the plant has died.”

Harry made a note to consider that when the plants he has have actually grown. It might allow him to harvest the plants to feed the Streelers multiple times and save on seed costs. “That’s for another dilemma. What else have you got?”

“Well, there’s a potion that can be applied to soil with a dropper to shave some time off the growth now that I think about it. I used the sample I got all up, but I got the recipe page for it from a friend of Gran’s during a birthday party because she saw how I liked plants. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the symbols though and I haven’t tried to really learn about it since…”

“You cause a potion explosion every time you get near a cauldron?” Harry said, to which he nodded grimly. “Tell you what? Share it with me and I’ll give you half of what’s made. Bring me the instructions during the break.”

“Okay…I guess…” Neville stated a bit uncertain. “It couldn’t hurt, could it?”

With that bit of business handled Harry and Terry left the greenhouses and went past the Quidditch Pitch, where Hagrid’s Hut laid at the perimeter of the Forbidden Forest. It was a small thing of wood, with a garden growing pumpkins in the front, and held a single room that somehow managed to hold the Half-Giant.

As they neared it they witnessed the Weasley Twins leaving on a set of broomsticks, heading towards the main castle with the rather large man noticing the young Potter and waving him over.

“Harry!” he exclaimed as they approached. “Good to see you. Whose yer friend there?”

Since they had never formally met Harry introduced them. “Hagrid, this is Terry Boot. He’s a housemate of mine. Terry, this is Hagrid. He’s the Keeper of the Keys for Hogwarts.”

After the pair shook hands Harry asked what the twins were doing there. It turns out they came to him about breeding animals, which he gave them a bit of advice on since their brother kept him updated on the status of Norbert. While he wasn’t happy that he couldn’t raise the little dragon on his own and Gene had smuggled him out, the updates kept him placated and kept his job safe for the most part. Plus he spoke with Dumbledore and managed to get to visit the dragon reservation to see him once or twice. After that Hagrid invited them in for tea, which they accepted.

“Hagrid, what do you know about Ashwinders?” Harry asked as the gamekeeper set the tea down. “I’m aware that they are normally born from magic fires and lay eggs, but that’s about all. What happens to the eggs that hatch?”

“Well, as far as I know, there are actually two breeds of ’em.” Hagrid stated. “The ones born of fire are the most common because they don’t require upkeepin’ at all. The eggs they lay are valuable in potions and such and are difficult to keep, so they aren’t usually hatched. If one does manage to hatch they eat fire seeds until they come into maturity and breathe fire and such.”

“Are they capable of speech?” he asked next. “Human speech I mean?”

Hagrid shook his head. “No, not any snake I can think of.”

“I see…” The wheels in Harry’s head began turning at that as he tapped his fingers against the table. Back at camp the Healer didn’t find anything wrong with him, so he just chalked it up to his imagination, but he wanted to be sure. If a man as educated on animals as Hagrid said no snake spoke English, then they didn’t.

Clearing his throat he then changed topics. “When is your birthday, Hagrid? I still owe you for last year after all.”

“It’s the sixth of December,” the gamekeeper stated. “But you don’t need to worry about me, Harry.”

After that Harry and Terry finished their tea and caught a Streeler or two, which would find themselves permanent residents of Myrtle’s bathroom until summer. They split when they made it back to the Ravenclaw Tower, with Harry going to shower. The water felt refreshing as it cleansed him and, when he returned to the Common Room, Professor Flitwick was there as the new students gathered around the diminutive professor while his own year and above received their schedules from the prefects.

He noted that today he had Double Potions with Slytherin, Charms, DADA, and Herbology, in that order. Of all the classes he was worried about DADA the most, since Lockhart was the one teaching it. Before he could head back to his temporary workshop in Myrtle’s Bathroom before breakfast someone tapped him on the shoulder at the entrance to the Common Room and he turned.

There to greet him was the dirty-blonde girl from before, silvery-grey eyes meeting his own. “Hello again. I must say your scarf is quite lovely, but isn’t it a bit too soon for it?”

“Hi, thanks, and I’m comfortable with it regardless,” Harry answered back in order. “Umm, I didn’t get your name before when I was dealing with Peeves…”

She extended a hand for him to shake. “Luna Lovegood.”

“Harry Potter,” he said as he took her hand and gave it a gentle shake. “Ready for your first day of classes?”

“I think so,” she said, just a hint of uncertainty in her voice. “I just hope I don’t run into any Nargles. They’re mischievous, but as long as there isn’t Mistletoe I think I’ll be okay.”

“…okay,” he said after a pregnant pause. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. The only Mistletoe I can think of is the ones in the Herbology Department.”

She perked up at that. “Oh, then I should have a nice day then.”

Double Potions

In the dungeons Slytherin and Ravenclaw second-years had gathered, cauldrons and the components of the standard Potion-Making Kits at the ready.

Severus Snape looked to the youths with an analytical gaze after he finished writing the text on the board. Let it be known that he was not a fan of children in particular, for they certainly knew. While he held no outright hatred, having to deal with pre-teens was rather low on his list…even more so as his own experiences during that age were less than pleasant.

Truth be told, this arrangement presented him with two of the houses that should boast wit and cunning and, as such, he expected sublime marks for both of them. However their scores last year, overall, weren’t all that impressive. It was something he had to correct, given that Lucius’ actions with the Potter Twins and the fiasco with the stone last year showed that the game is afoot and the school would be scrutinized thoroughly. If only he could convince Dumbledore to seek out Slughorn so he could take the DADA position for himself, rather than that incompetent Lockhart…

Either way it also meant he had to reign in his temperament with the children so that Lucius would not attempt to have him removed from Hogwarts. He would fail, of course, but it would cost Dumbledore influence that could be used in the future should they fail in preventing the return of the Dark Lord. With a wave of his wand he closed the door to the dungeon, the sound of it shutting echoing like a gunshot in the room and silencing everyone, drawing their attention to him.

“As I have explained last year the art of potion-making is a subtle science,” he began, eyes narrowed and his expression of utmost seriousness. “Even the slightest misstep can cause severe injuries or maladies that can prove fatal. While first-years had more leeway in their behavior I will impress upon all of your feeble minds that such incidents as last year’s will not be tolerated. If anyone is caught sabotaging work for any reason, I assure you your punishment will be swift and cruel—no houses exempt, no students spared.”

Exhaling silently he tapped his wand to the blackboard. “Now then, for the finals of last year I had all the first-years brew Forgetfulness Potions. While technically all of you passed, many of you had no idea why what went into what and memorized the ingredients and procedures. Apparently only a few students put some forethought into opening their copies of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi to look up the properties of Valerians and Mistletoe Berries and, as such, only a handful earned full marks on their written portions by pointing out sedative properties of one makes it useful for several potions dealing with temperament soothing or sleeping afflictions, while a number of poisons and antidotes use the other.

“This poses a problem as earning your NEWT in potions is a requirement in many profitable fields and those that are in dire need of numbers, such as Healers, Aurors, Apothecaries, and assorted other fields. I refuse on principle to let such a substandard level of skill be unleashed upon the world and tied into my name. Only the best and brightest are acceptable and, to that effect, I will not accept anything less—and neither will you if you wish to make it in this world.”

The air itself seemed still at the weight of his words. Snape took that as a sign they all recognized he was serious and continued. “For your first doubles assignment of the year you will be brewing a Memory Potion, a mental potion designed as a counter-balance to the Forgetfulness Potion. Pair up.”

At that few began to move, with most settling with whomever they were already near and in the same house. That was typical of class last year as well, Millicent Bulstrode figured as she opened her copy of Magical Drafts and Potions. Thus she was somewhat surprised when her partner, Pansy Parkinson, began to move. “Where are you going?”

“I’m pairing with Draco,” she said, pointing over to the blond-haired, grey-eyed Slytherin student. He was sitting alone, having sent Goyle and Crabbe to pair up with one another ahead of time. “Besides, your cat has been shedding non-stop since yesterday and I’m tired of the hairs on you getting all over me…”

Partner-less, Millicent looked around for someone else who would assist her when Harry came over. She was understandably suspicious of his intent and made it known. “What are you doing?”

“Pairing up with you,” Harry affirmed, his tone somewhat crossed between amicable and neutral as he set down his copy of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi next to her potion textbook. “We’re the only two without partners after all.”

“What about that bloke you’re always with?” she asked, looking to see that he had left Terry paired with Tracey Davis as the sole other Slytherin-Ravenclaw pairing since they were the odd students out. The Ravenclaw was somewhat confused as well at the sudden shift in the seating as Tracey gave him a once over and stated he would do for now. Millicent remained skeptical however. “Whatever, just don’t botch this up…”

Harry remained silent as he bookmarked the pages of his book for the plant-related ingredients and perused the recipe for the potion in Millicent’s book. The Memory Potion itself used a similar amount of the Standard Ingredient, which was a mixture of herbs sold in a bundle as part of the average potion-making kit, as the Forgetfulness Potion. From there it branched out to Jobberknoll Feathers, Essence of Rosemary, and Euphrasia Sprigs. As they waited for the water in the cauldron to come to a boil, as per the instructions, he immediately divided up the ingredients to be used in the order they would come in.

Once the water was boiled they would add the two measures of Standard Ingredient to it and use their wands to release the magical properties within the plant material through exposure to magic of a foreign nature to the plant. After it had enough time to brew and release everything they would add in the Essence of Rosemary, which was the oil of the Rosemary plant harvested through the cold press method, and they would stir counter-clockwise three times and leave it to simmer on low heat until it turned a shade of purple. Once the color had changed, showing the merging of the herbs and oil, they would add in two Euphrasia Sprigs, use their wand to unleash the magical properties, and stir clockwise five times on high heat. The potion would turn a shade of violet and be capable of dissolving the two Jobberknoll feathers, with a final wave of the wand stabilizing the magic and melding them into the potion, changing it a shade of blue.

The sound of the cauldron bubbling drew Harry’s attention and he handed the mortar filled with the Standard Ingredient to Millicent. “You need to add it—”

“I know how to read,” Millicent grumbled as she threw in the Standard Ingredient as a single mass and waved her wand, releasing the essence of magic within the mixture of herbs. Harry immediately pulled out his wand and placed the Bubble-Head Charm on himself and then her. The sudden attachment of the bubble to her face left her taken aback. “What are you playing at—”

“It’s going to start smoking because you tossed it in all at once rather than sifting it in through your fingers,” he said abruptly, cutting her off before she could retort as smoke did begin to rise in a somewhat thick amount. “It’s not harmful outright, but you need to see and breathe clearly.”

While Millicent seemed placated by the reason Harry went over the information in his own copy of the potions book about the Jobberknoll. It was a very brief statement that mentioned it was a small blue bird that never uttered a sound until its swan song, upon which it repeated every sound it heard backwards. It made sense then that, being a magical bird, the feathers would hold the power of recollection to make them useful for memory potions. How it served as part of a truth potion still eluded him however, most likely it required the other ingredients to enforce the speech in some manner.

As Millicent added the drops of Essence of Rosemary he reviewed the bookmarked page for it. The plant was commonly used to provide mental clarity, with the oil holding the concentrated amount. Euphrasia, also known as eyebright, strengthened cognitive functions and could also be used to deal with vertigo. They made a potent pair when combined it seemed.

Sadly, something went wrong as the potion simmered and turned black, small popping noises drawing his attention as they grew louder. The smoke billowing from it tripled and drew the attention of the class and Professor Snape, whose eyes narrowed upon the concoction and then them, before he vanished the contents of the cauldron and said, “This potion has been contaminated by a foreign element.”

“I followed the instructions perfectly,” Millicent stated in her defense, before he deducted points from their house. She pointed to Harry instead. “He handled the ingredients!”

Snape, however, reached over to her shoulder and plucked from it a single hair, which made Millicent go pale as Pansy could be heard claiming she knew that Millicent’s cat’s shedding would cause problems. “Miss Bulstrode, I expect better hygiene of my own house—especially in this class, where it can make the difference between a life-saving potion and a potentially lethal and unpredictable toxin. Leave and do not return until you are fit to be here.”

Harry watched as she struggled not to let her emotions show before she darted out of the class, leaving her belongings behind. How humiliating it must’ve been for her. Dropping his Bubble-Head Charm he could hear the snickering of certain people in their double classes, mocking her for a simple mistake, as well.

“And you, Potter,” Snape said in a clipped tone, grabbing Harry’s attention. “You seemed to have learned something of extra precaution considering the charms over your heads at the time, so would you care to explain why you allowed her to handle anything while in such a state?”

“I…have no excuse,” Harry admitted. “I didn’t take her personal hygiene into consideration. But, with all due respect, to call her out like that was excessively cruel and humiliati—”

Snape cut him off. “Such actions may be seen as noble by some, ignoring such things as appearance and hygiene…but it is a sloppy habit for potioneers and, as shown, can be detrimental to not only health but the end result. Humiliation now may save her life later on when we venture deeper into the art. As for you, be more attentive and remember this lesson well.

“Now, hurry up and restart from the beginning since both of your grades still dwell on this assignment,” he finished up with and turned to be on his way.

With a sigh Harry did so, finding himself working alone as he awaited Millicent to return. He personally hated the notion of public humiliation, even if the professor was in the right, but there was nothing he could do about it like he pioneered for Howlers. Harry eventually finished the potion in time, but Millicent failed to return before it was time to go.

“Class is over,” Snape stated, slapping his wand against the blackboard that now had new contents. “Turn in your vials if you have not done so and, for your homework assignment, I want an essay on the uses of the potion and the ingredients for the doubles class next week.

“Also note that for your next individual potions class we will be discussing deviations in potion-making directions and alterations that may improve or hamper potion effects. In this case we will be modifying the standard Forgetfulness Potion to have a stronger and weaker degree of effect. Take note of the ingredients on the blackboard and come prepared.”

Harry quickly got out his pocket notepad and pen and wrote the assignments down on his list of things to do before putting away his belongings. Looking to Millicent’s, who had yet to return, a niggling sense of concern urged him to try and see if she was okay. But he had no idea where she was.

Thus he was forced to ask Pansy Parkinson if she knew where he could find her. He figured since she served as the de facto leader of the second-year Slytherin girl clout she would have some idea or measure of concern for the well-being of one of their own. He learned otherwise the moment she opened her mouth in response.

“I’m not her keeper, Potter,” Pansy stated. “She probably ran off to wherever she goes to hide from the sunlight like trolls do.”

So much for that ‘Slytherin sticks with their own’ spiel from Draco, Harry mused silently as he stared at her with an eyebrow raised at the sheer callousness. And here I thought Morag was a bitch, at least with her it was an issue of control and conformity rather than appearance.

Before he could get a word in edgewise Pansy brushed him out of the way to go after Draco, who was already on his way out of the class with his two bookends besides him, shooting one another looks. Goyle hadn’t been pleased since Crabbe botched the measurements and it led to a minor spat. Tracey Davis then took her place.

“I’ll take her things to the next class and check our dorms,” she said, giving Terry Boot a look before making her way back to the table Millicent and Harry shared.

Harry walked over to him with his arms crossed and both eyebrows arched in fascination. “Have a good class, did you?”

Terry merely shrugged, just as confused as he was when he found himself working with her in the first place. “Made some small talk, exchanged thoughts on potions. That’s all…”

After that they made for Charms Class, which was a review over the lessons of last year and a general outline of what they were doing this year. Harry made a note of the more interesting charms in his copy of Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 and Flitwick’s talk of how his charm-work with some of the simple ones aided him in becoming a dueling champion. He could look up the specific charms not found in his text later on in the Library or the advanced copies he got.

The review also revealed he was somewhat lagging after going so long without practice or his wand. Back during camp he mostly focused on his personal spells and dark charms rather than the standard ones between his potion-work. Morag, Isobel, and Stephen themselves held a good showing he had to admit, but that was expected.

During this period Terry sat next to his other friends, Michael Corner and Anthony Goldstein. Isobel took a seat with two other girls, Lisa Turpin and Mandy Brocklehurst. That left Harry positioned next to Padma Patil and her friend Sue Li, who also seemed to have a knack for Charms.

“Is something wrong?” Padma asked when she noticed Harry’s look of discontent.

“Trying to figure out where I’m going to get Foxglove for the Pompion Potion we learned to make last year, or if I’m going to just nail Pansy Parkinson with a Belching Charm,” he jested, half-serious at best. He didn’t do intentional poisoning unless someone wronged him first and her callous nature didn’t warrant retribution…yet.

Padma, however, seemed to think he was quite serious. “Understandable, I always wanted to use the Flower-Head Jinx (Herbifors) and make her live up to her name. But even having flowers for hair wouldn’t be enough to make her less than rotten to the core.”

Harry blinked at the suggestion, considering she seemed like one of the less vindictive girls. “Did I miss something between you two?”

“Pansy makes a habit of antagonizing just about everyone and our family has had business gatherings with hers Pre-Hogwarts,” Padma claimed. “I’m surprised you’ve just now noticed.”

“I was a little preoccupied with in-house problems last year,” Harry pointed out. “We hardly shared classes with them.”

The discussion tapered off after that and class soon ended. During the break before Lunch began Harry ran into Neville Longbottom again, who made good on getting him that recipe paper. Quite frankly he saw how it seemed to be gibberish as well. There were ingredients, but the process was a bunch of symbols and birds and some kind of winged lion?

He decided to ask Professor Snape since potions were his thing, but his mind was still on Millicent. When it was lunch and she didn’t show up at the Slytherin Table, Harry once again inquired about her and found that no contact was made according to Tracey. Given that last year none of the professors looked for Hermoine or Padma after they missed a class prior to showing up after the troll incident, he decided to take a different approach and headed to Myrtle’s bathroom.

“Myrtle, I need you,” Harry said as he entered. The hard floor was thankfully dried from yesterday, leaving less of a chance for him to slip as he made for her stall.

He was greeted by the deceased Ravenclaw, who phased through the stall door. “What is it?”

“Myrtle, a girl has gone missing somewhere in the castle,” Harry stated. “Professor Snape called her out on her hygiene during class and she ran out. I need your help to find her.”

“Why bother?” she asked. “It’s not like anyone came looking for me when I ran out the day I died. Took them hours to find my body…”

“Myrtle, that’s a pretty damn good reason to actually bother,” he pointed out. “If the staff was more proactive then that sort of thing wouldn’t have happened, but there’s only like twelve of them. Besides, don’t you want to make a difference for someone else?”

The ghost shook her head. “Not in particular, no.”

Harry rubbed the bridge between his eyes. “Come on, Myrtle. I’ll owe you another favor.”

With an exaggerated motion and sigh she moved in closer, until they were nearly face-to-face. Her voice carried a hint of an undertone in it as she spoke. “Only because it’s you asking, Harry. Believe me, I will be calling in that favor soon enough. Now, where do we begin?”

Hogwarts was a massive castle, built to house roughly a thousand occupants and keep them safe. Given that there was nowhere near that number of students or teachers, less than four-hundred total, it left a great deal of classrooms, halls, and other assorted portions of the castle unused. However, he figured that Millicent couldn’t be that far gone from the Potions classroom and was most likely on the ground floor, first floor, or the dungeons. Thus he sent Myrtle out to check by simply passing through the walls until she found the second-year Slytherin, a Gytrash accompanying her at her request in case she met with Peeves.

“I found her,” Myrtle told him once she returned a few minutes later. “She’s in one of the abandoned classrooms on the ground floor of the castle. It’s classroom number ten.”

Harry made it to the corridor on the ground floor, only to find the door locked through a Locking Charm (Colloportus). One quick Thief’s Friend (Alohamora) spell later there was an audible click. With a final look around to see that he was alone, with no portraits nearby, he entered the room—

“—Locomotor Mortis!

Only to find himself ducking as the Leg-Locker Curse flew over his head in a flash of purple light that hit the wall of the corridor. Harry took shelter at the entrance, in case she fired another spell off. “Millicent, it’s Harry…put down the wand.”

She didn’t put it down. Instead she fired another curse that was off by quite a bit. “You came looking to make fun of me for botching the potion!”

“No, that’s not it,” he said. “I just wanted to talk and make sure you were okay. You’re missing lunch and Tracey Davis said you weren’t in your class after Potions either. Believe me, I won’t make fun of you for having your pet’s hairs on you…although it is a hazard during that class.”

“So I like to hug my cat a lot,” she said with a slight slur, followed by a small chuckle. “What of it?”

Okay, not sure where that came from, Harry thought to himself. “I’m not saying you need to stop with the fur therapy either. I know what it’s like to be called out like that in front of my year-mates and, while I couldn’t care less, you never came back and I was worried…”

Harry trailed off as he peeked into the room to find the Slytherin witch at one of the unused desks, wand swaying limply in her hand as she had sunshine-yellow bottle in the other that had rainbows coming out of it. He recognized it. “Are you drinking Euphoria?”

“N-no…” she said, failing to keep her face straight as she lied. Her noise was tweaking quite a bit, which was one of the side-effects of the Elixir to Induce Euphoria.

That stuff was supposedly expensive as well for commercial-grade. Harry remembered drinking some from his Uncle Sirius’ place when he and Gene were being babysat at Grimmauld Place years ago. The man had left a bottle out for Remus during one of his down phases. Lily was mad when she came to pick them up, only to find both of them all but stoned and singing until they gave them a Flushing Draught.

“That stuff is far above our grade-level to make and its labeled, so I’m guessing smuggled in or traded from an older student. Still, how much did you take for it to still remain in your system to this point?” He glanced at the warning label once he covered the gap between them with Myrtle and the Gytrash on his heels. “You’re not supposed to take more that maybe a few sips within a few hours of one another.”

“Shove off,” she stated as she readied to drink from the bottle again. “It’s none of your business.”

“True,” he admitted. It wasn’t like the stuff was illegal to own and it was far safer than what he made for Gayle, even if less effective. Not that it stopped him from taking the bottle from her, capping it, and slipping it into his pouch while her intoxication on liquid happiness left her unable to hold onto it tight enough.

She whined uncharacteristically a bit, before she began singing a small tune as a side-effect. She couldn’t even aim her wand properly. Yeah, she definitely had too much.

Harry was sure once her system burned through the effect of the potion she would hunt him down for it. Damn his guilt-by-proxy induced conscious. Looking to Myrtle he asked, “Can you keep an eye on her until the potion effects wear off?”

Myrtle nodded, although she wasn’t exactly pleased with it since Millicent reminded her of bullies back in her days alive. If only Harry hadn’t been nice to her, and kept Peeves away, and talked to her in a day more than most people and professors did in a year, she could say no. Sensing her displeasure, perhaps, the Gytrash trotted up to her and rubbed against her leg.

“I owe you another one,” he told her. “If we had something to flush it out of her system I wouldn’t ask this of you, but only Madam Pomfrey or Professor Snape would have something like that at the moment and I can’t ask without a solid reason, identify it from memory, or try to take it from the Hospital Wing or Potion Cupboards. I’ll look up how to make them later today and add them to my To Do list for this year.”

“I don’t need a babysitter,” Millicent insisted as she tried to stand, easily towering over him. Naturally her balance was compromised at this point, so she promptly fell back into the seat.

“Abusing potions on your first day of class is something that I’m sure Madam Pomfrey would not be happy to hear,” he stated, before offering her an ultimatum. “You have two choices at the moment: I inform her of this little issue and your parents receive an owl or let me hold onto it until you sober up. You’re already too out of it to stand and going to class in this condition will only cause problems for you.”

Millicent snorted. “Why do you care? You’re not one of us…”

“Call me a softy,” Harry said dryly. “I’m extending an olive branch Millicent and trust me when I say you you’ll want some friends less treacherous than Pansy. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to visit Professor Snape to ask about this…gibberish Longbottom has given me and hit the Library before Defense Against the Dark Arts begins.”

Leaving out the classroom Harry reapplied the Locking Charm to the door. True enough, it was futile for anyone with a wand, but it was the thought that counted and no one would investigate a locked disused classroom if they kept the noise down. If someone saw her like this the problems it would cause would be numerous.

Since he was on the ground floor getting to the dungeons was simple enough. As there wasn’t a class at the moment Harry figured he would find Professor Snape in his office. He knocked on the door. “Professor Snape, are you there? I have something I want to ask you.”

“Enter,” said the professor from the other side of the door and Harry did so.

The office of the resident Potions Master was rather dimly-lit, a sense of gloom draping it. Shelves on the walls were lined with potions, ingredients, catalysts, reagents, books, and more. Taking his eyes off the parchment in front of his desk, Severus Snape gazed into Harry’s eyes with a look of disinterest. “What is it, Ravenclaw Potter?”

“I ran across this potions recipe, I believe, but I can’t make heads or tails it…” Harry fished through his pockets and pulled out the slip of parchment that held Longbottom’s growth stimulator. “Can you see if you can?”

Severus Snape took it from his hands and glanced at it for a mere moment before handing it back. “That’s because it is a potion that was poorly transcribed from Spagyric, which we do not cover as part of the standard courses.”

Harry tried not to sound like he had no idea what that was. But quite frankly he didn’t. “I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that topic.”

“Plant Alchemy,” Snape clarified. “It is a lesser known branch of Alchemy, involving the uses of developing medicines, elixirs, and tonics from plants rather than trying to transfigure a Philosopher’s Stone. The symbols are an alchemic cipher, but I have limited understanding of the subject. Your best bet is to check the Library for Alchemy related books since there hasn’t been enough demand for a class in almost a decade and the Headmaster is quite busy. If that is all…”

Harry got the hint and left without another word, shutting the door silently and allowing the Potions Master to go about his business, heading towards the Library.

The Library was lined with thousands upon thousands of books, millions of pages waiting to be perused from the Invisibility Section to the Restricted Section, which tempted students with forbidden knowledge much like the proverbial fruit. Of the hundreds of sections, only so many could be monitored. No once checked the Legal Section for example, given that teenagers and pre-teens rarely thought much of the law, but the Restricted Section was always was being guarded in some manner.

Harry did not want to try to circumvent the defenses for the sake of the fruit with a standard Bedazzling Hex. Common sense dictated that, due to the fact that Invisibility Potions were taught in Third Year, they would have appropriate counter measures. Then again Sirius once claimed that under James’ Invisibility Cloak he managed to get in…

Shaking his head, Harry decided to forgo perusing the Reference Section, where he spent many days learning of various counter-curses during last year’s in-house fighting with Stephen and Morag. That could come later. For now he ventured to the front desk, where the Librarian was waiting.

Madame Irma Pince was somewhat of a daunting woman if you crossed her by violating the rules of the Library. However, she was quite knowledgeable about many things and professional. With her help he easily found the rudimentary alchemic text and the book containing the Flushing Draught he needed by the time Lunch ended and made his way to Defense Against the Dark Arts.

The class started with a whimper, instead of a bang, as Gilderoy Lockhart proceeded to introduce himself in the manner he was accustomed to. Unimpressed and, even more so, disturbed when the man tried to quiz him on the books he forced most of them to buy, Harry promptly decided to ignore him and buried his head in Healing Drafts and Medicinal Concoctions for Beginners that he took from the Library.

“What are you doing?” Lockhart asked once he noticed the lone sheep not following the herd, quill scribbling on the parchment. “You’re supposed to be taking the quiz.”

“I’ll take the failing grade,” Harry stated, head still in the book as he found the page with the standard Flushing Draught. He was confident he could make it on his own, given that the main ingredients were Dandelion Roots, Nettle, Betony, and Aqua Vitae, all of which were available at the Apothecary Department or Herbology Department.

Dandelion Roots were known for their ability as a detoxifying agent for the human body, with the best results coming from roots two years of age or older. That was only enhanced when used with Nettle, but was it better to use fresh nettle or dried? It could be used both ways for different things, like fresh for Boil-Cure Potion or dried for the Herbicide Potion.

Betony was something of a panacea for centuries amongst the non-magical population, known as the Woundwort or Heal-All. The whole plant was a medicinal alterative, antibacterial, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, hypotensive, stomachic, styptic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary. While he made plans to look up the majority of the big medical words he understood it was one of the Jack-of-All trades when it came to medicinal plants, and that was before you unlocked the magical properties during the potion-making.

Aqua Vitae were the distillates of wine or spirits, water that was left behind in the distilling. It was commonly practiced by European Alchemist in the middle ages, but not much more was mentioned on that end, and was to be used to fill the cauldron and serve as the solvent for the other ingredients. All together, under the proper preparation, they should be able to flush out the remnants of standard potions and elixirs.

However, the draught didn’t work on everything alone. Rather, it served as a cleanser to antidotes when it came to poisons, ridding the body of what was already rendered null by the antidote and the excess to prevent the toxins from building up and causing problems once again. In the case of Euphoria it would hasten the process of ridding the body of the irrational happiness by washing away the essence that spread throughout their system.

Lockhart huffed at the response as he reached for the textbook. “What is so more interesting that my lesson?”

The attempt was countered as one of Harry’s hands came up and struck it like he was reprimanding a child with his hand in the cookie jar, causing the adult wizard to pull it back. Terry, seated next to him, and a few others attempted to stifle their laughter and barely managed to succeed. Still, he wanted an answer so Harry gave him one in the form of a question. “You’re the current DADA Professor, correct?”

“Obviously,” the professor stated.

“Then why aren’t we following the curriculum?” Harry asked. “DADA isn’t an elective and we have OWLs and NEWTs to deal with in the future, thus going off tangent for a quiz is hardly appropriate on the first day when it should be a review of last year or a lesson of what’s to come. And, while I personally encourage getting to know one’s educators, it’s one thing for it to be getting to know your teacher for five minutes or having a healthy rapport with them, it’s another entirely when you’re basing an entire quiz on your autobiography books that you expected them to read and memorize prior to class starting when some people have been shown to be unable to finish them.

“If this is going to be another case of History of Magic I may as well study on-topic when away from distractions of the class and focus my attention on more urgent matters than a quiz that makes you look like an incompetent glory-hog,” he finished with a note of finality in his tone.

Lockhart was about to respond to that when several of the more vocal females came to defend him, leaving Harry to note that hormones beat out logic this time around. Few of the males spoke out in Harry’s defense. Luckily, either in agreement or an attempt to make up for last year, Terry was one of them.

“Harry’s right,” he said, his voice calling forth the sudden glare of the others. He tapered off a bit, but he continued his defense. “For all his faults Quirrell actually taught us what we needed to know so that in his…absence…we could easily pass our final exams so long as we paid attention in class. This isn’t going to help us in the long run.”

“Yes, well whose fault is it he’s not around anymore and had to settle for this man?” Stephen Cornfoot said, leaving Lockhart scandalized by both the blatant insult prior and underlying words current. He did not like Lockhart either and valued the class since it was a practical application of combat spells. The only reason the class was ruined was because he was here to replace the man Harry murdered.

Harry’s eyes narrowed as they came up from the book. “What are you implying, Cornfoot?”

“It doesn’t need to be said,” Morag stated before he could respond, glaring up at Stephen next to her at his outburst. “We don’t want the professor getting the wrong idea about our house. It has been shown, repeatedly, throughout the last year that Potter’s actions are not those of Ravenclaw. Please ignore him, Professor Lockhart.”

Harry actually agreed with her. “The shepherd is right. Just ignore me for the moment, less problems all around. If anyone gets killed because they ran into something they didn’t know how to defend themselves again, I sure they won’t blame it on you for being a substandard teacher.”

“How can you judge him when this is only the first class?” Isobel asked, before anything further was said.

Harry looked at her incredulously. From what he knew of her personality he expected her to be less enthralled by the man’s tales of his adventures than the other girls. He opened his mouth to counter her…when silence ensued as he realized she was in the right.

Seeing she had the advantage she pressed it. “Professor Quirrell seemed, at first glance, to not be suited for the position, but did he not prove himself in the end as an adequate teacher since, despite his departure, we all passed? Is it possible you are overlapping your expectations onto the professor unfairly due to your kinship with the man who taught you the spell you are so fond of in hopes of spurring you to greatness? Though the mantle of the position has changed, Lockhart is still our professor and I’m sure after this he’ll prove he’s the man he says he is.”

Harry brought his hand to his scarf at the mention of the fallen professor. She had a point, the class wasn’t over and Harry may have been spiting the man for the sake of the mentor he had to put down. While he never announced it openly that he learned to conjure the Gytrash from Quirrell, he did mention that he was mentored under him on the train ride last year and anyone with a brain could tell where the spell came from. More so she came at him with a logical argument rather than citing something he expected of a fangirl of Lockhart.

Then he remembered that Morag didn’t defend Lockhart’s credits either, only asking him to ignore the comments that could be seen as a blight on the Ravenclaw house. He would bet she knew he was a fraud as well, or at least embellished in his tales. Harry then realized the MacDougal sisters may not see eye-to-eye, much like he and Gene, but they weren’t as naïve or easily guided as most others in their year and house.

In his own terms Morag was the Shepherd, leading the flock through words and actions that she felt best represented the house and grade through the use of her Herding Dog, Stephen. She wanted conformity amongst her year, and perhaps the first-years, to raise their knowledge as a whole to best represent Ravenclaw, which her family had been sorted in. If the price was everyone else’s individuality then so be it. Galleons to Knuts she stopped the potion tampering during regular Potions class last year after Turpin and Fawcett were sabotaged to prevent the loss of anymore points or lowering the average grade.

Isobel, on the other hand, was ordered to keep an eye on him last year since he was the Black Sheep. But she told him honestly and expressed that she held some sense of sibling animosity, much like he had with Gene. How much of it was fake and how much was real was unknown, but it benefitted her. Added in that she helped him in transfiguration beforehand for supposedly knocking her sister down a peg, she ensured he got a decent grade along with Padma and his gratitude, which she could claim was to keep the grading curve high if her sister asked or request a favor from him if she needed it that year.

Then she cut Harry from being acquaintances because of his reputation and bluntly admitted it was to save face when in the privacy of the train. She did not refute the olive branch he offered yesterday, despite the reputation still holding sway, but she didn’t openly accept it and kept her distance all day until she spoke up now. Isobel painted him as someone still grieving and, at the same time, could influence the lesson since Lockhart had to do something relevant to DADA to save face in front of his young and impressionable students, who could write home about whatever he did next. No, she wasn’t some sheep.

She was a tactical Wolf merely pretending to be a sheep, playing things logically and setting things up to come out in her favor…or Harry could just be over-thinking things. It could go either way. He would need to pay closer attention to her.

Still, he accepted his defeat and put away the book. “I concede to your argument. Well-played.”

She nodded in acceptance and then addressed Lockhart. “Is that sufficient for you to continue, Professor Lockhart?”

Clearing his throat, Gilderoy Lockhart decided to finally assert his authority as a Hogwarts instructor now that she had handed him a means to save face. “Right, well said. This young man is clearly still lamenting the loss of the previous professor, whom he was close with it seemed. While understandable, he will have to serve a detention for disrupting the class, during which I will inform him of the many ways my work have benefitted those all over the world in defending against dark arts and creatures.”

Harry shrugged off the desire to say that was cruel and unusual punishment. Detention was nothing to him. But being forced to listen to him gloat about everything he’s done was pure torture at its finest.

Lockhart then proceeded to stroll over to his desk, where he pulled from underneath it a large cage covered in a cloth. “Now, this exercise was to come twenty or so minutes later, but it seems that now would be prudent. Feast your eyes on the first menace we will be tackling this year!”

He pulled away the cloth to reveal the cage was filled with tiny, humanoid creatures covered in coarse black hair. They had shiny beetle-like wings, an additional set of arms and legs, and a double row of venomous teeth. They were Biting Fairies, also known as—

“Freshly Caught Doxies!” Lockhart announced in a low and dangerous tone. “These tricky little devils are known for their habits of infesting homes and laying their eggs. But, never fear, I will show you how to deal with them without needing copious amounts of Doxycide.”

“Then why is there a bottle of Extra-Large Doxycide on your desk?” Michael Coroner pointed out.

“Never fear, you have nothing to worry about,” Lockheart assured him. “It’s just an extra precaution, nothing more. You can never be too safe.”

Well, that is a legitimate reason, Harry thought to himself. Let it never be said Lockhart was stupid. Easily manipulated to save face and a glory-hog, maybe, but not stupid since he did graduate from the school. Not that it stopped Harry from pulling out his wand anyway.

It was proven to be the right call the moment Lockhart opened the cage and they managed to overwhelm him in short order and tossed his wand and the bottle out of the window. Lockhart may not have been stupid, but he was certainly wasn’t brave. The moment several bit him right on the money-maker, his face, Lockhart made for the door like he was fleeing a fire. “I’ll leave it you students, hands-on experience and all! If you need me I will be seeing Madam Pomfrey about an antidote and some dittany so that it won’t leave a mark!”

And like that they were left to cope with the venomous annoyances in their own manners. Stephen used them as target practice, Isobel and Morag did some nifty charm work, Terry used the Ventus Jinx to slam some into a wall, and Harry used as wide Freezing Spell (Glacius) to make Doxycicles before they managed to herd them all into one place and he trapped them all in a Bubble Cage Jinx (Ebublio) when Lockhart returned.

“Well, that was fast,” Harry mused. They were on the third floor and the Hospital Wing was on the first floor. They were only at it for two or three minutes top and he had brought Madam Promfrey with him. She looked displeased at him, for the record, her hands carrying Dittany and Antidote to Uncommon Poisons.

“Class is dismissed early. Anyone bitten please see Madam Pomfrey immediately for an antidote,” Lockhart stated, before muttering under his breath he was going to try something less venomous next time, like Cornish Pixies. He passed by the Bubble Cage housing the captive things and gave them a glare, before entering his office.

“So, what are we supposed to do with the little blithers?” Terry asked as he watched them try to bite down on the cage. “They can’t get out can they?”

Harry shook his head. “Please, this is magically altered air in the shape of a bubble. Magic or elements only can break it, no matter how sharp their teeth are. Maybe a fairy could get out since they have their own magic, but these little monsters only have their teeth and that’s not going to help them out. As for what to do with them, the bubble will dissipate naturally in thirty minutes without any effort on my part. Plenty of time to let some of the carnivorous plants in the Greenhouses have a taste, or we could easily release them outside on our way to Herbology…I’ll flip a coin on it.”

After Herbology

After Herbology ended with them replanting some of the Mandrakes, since that seemed to be the first lesson for all the second-years in Greenhouse Three, the school day was officially over. No more classes, just homework, breaks, dinner, and socializing. Huzzah! As Harry was on his way back to Ravenclaw Tower to shower before he ate and spent some time in his private workshop in Myrtle’s Bathroom, he ran into Millicent.

Her demands were rather obvious. “Give it back, now.”

“How did you even get your hands on it?” Harry asked. Considering that Gayle ran the contraband trade at camp and the Weasley Twins could smuggle in goods, it paid to be in the know about these things for…reasons.

“Why should I tell you?” Millicent demanded.

He arched an eyebrow. “Because I’m still holding onto the bottle and there’s no way you can technically get it back since you aren’t supposed to have it. Also, I keep it in my pouch, which is sealed with some spells that a second-year can’t break and you can’t forcibly stop me from reporting it, which means Madam Pomfrey will have you screened randomly for potions in your system you aren’t supposed to have and notify your parents.”

Her face went through a myriad of expressions on her face, anger, shame, and betrayal being the prominent ones. “You little—”

“I’m just screwing with you,” Harry jested as grabbed her hand and flipped it upright, before retrieving and placing the Bedazzled bottle onto it. Just in case of any curious eyes were trying to pry as to what a Slytherin and Ravenclaw were doing together. “That will wear off in about a minute, so slip it into your pocket.”

She took a moment to feel the bottle in her hands before she put it away. Then she turned to leave without another word, only to be stopped as Harry gripped her wrist. When she looked into his eyes, she saw that beyond the frames was a serious expression.

“Joking aside, you skipped class, left me with the Potions workload alone, and got completely high on liquid happiness,” he stated, his tone serious and low. “Is telling me really going to hurt at this point or should I assume you’ve got a potions problem?”

“Why do you care?” she ground out. Millicent just couldn’t figure him out. “What do you get out of this?”

“Aside from the fact that, as I said, I’m making friends in multiple houses?” he asked rhetorically. “If I see someone with a problem that I can help with, and they haven’t pissed me off, I help them. I’m not out to change the world, but maybe a couple of people here and there.”

“You are such a pain,” she said with an exasperated sigh. “Fine, I took it from my mum’s cabinet before I left, since I figured I would have to deal with another year of the looks and words and Snape and insults about needing a beautification potion from that twig, Pansy…”

“Well, I could give you some a speech about you being pretty enough as is, but given that I’m a boy and twelve I doubt it would mean much,” Harry began.

She nodded. “True.”

“But do you think that appearances matter, in a world where we learn to make potions and cast spells that allow us to tell genetics to screw off over the course of seven years?” Harry asked bluntly. “I sincerely doubt Pansy looks all-natural and she’s a bully who gets her jollies from bringing others down and surrounding herself with those she can drag along. As for the professor, he gets on everyone. The moment you were gone he got on me about being too nice apparently, but I don’t take it personally. ”

Millicent gave him a once over before shaking her head. “Whatever. So, you’ll keep your mouth shut, yeah?”

He nodded and they parted ways, with Harry entering the Common Room before the dorms. Students from multiple years were present, from Marietta Edgecombe and Cho Chang making their way to the staircase to the Girl’s Dorm, to Padma reading a copy of Transfiguration Today with Sue Li next to her and reading a copy of Witch Weekly, to Nanette Desford and Maria Glossop taking a pause from their game of Exploding Snap to look at Luna Lovegood, who skipped around with her wand behind her ear as she made her way to the Grey Lady at the bookshelf.

He also noted the absence of Morag and her herding dog. He wondered what they were up to until he spotted a girl walled off in a corner. He recalled she was named Rebecca, another first-year like Luna, Nanette, and Maria.

She looked to be of Asian-descent and wore her robes over her sweater and shirt as she floundered with a pill bottle. When it finally opened up she gingerly took out a capsule. It quickly went into her mouth and down her throat.

“What are you doing?” Harry asked, causing her to jump in a mild shock and spill the rest of the pills as she turned to face him.

She looked to the ground with a dour sigh and kneeled to pick them up one at a time while she addressed him. “I get these headaches and the pills were supposed to help…”

“Sorry about that,” he said as he kneeled to assist her. After the issues with Millicent he just wanted to make sure that no other student had a potion-binge or pill problem due to the stress of the first day. Even if he would admit he was tempted to have nicked a few nips of Euphoria when he had the chance. “Out of curiosity, have you seen Madam Pomfrey about something for it since arriving?”

She nodded. “I have, but the potions are nasty. I’m Muggle-born and my parents own a health shop. They made me gelatin capsules with a blend of powdered herbs. It’s not as effective as the potions, but the trade-off is worth it.”

Harry nodded at that. He could see some value in using them rather than carrying many vials and bottles of potions around, but the capsules were small so he would need to increase the potency and reactive time to match the potion’s effectiveness. He made a mental note to see Professor Snape and Madam Pomfrey about it.

What he said out loud was, “Have you thought about asking Professor Sprout and Madam Pomfrey about magical herbs that could do the same and have your parents use them in aiding you instead? Even if they aren’t capable of magic your magical aura will trigger a feedback from the magic in the plants once ingested. You can take the best of both worlds instead relying solely on one.”

“I…I didn’t,” she admitted as they put away the last of the pills. “I’ll see about it. Thank you.”

With that done he made for the showers and cleaned himself up before slipping into some casual clothing to go to visit Myrtle, after stopping at the Herbology and Apothecary departments for supplies, and then to dinner for a bit. Once it was getting late he went back up to his dorm and settled in for the night to write four letters—one to Arthur Weasley, one to Sherry, one to Arnold, and one to Flourish and Blotts’ owl service.

The one for the elder Weasley was to ask how his pet project was going with the television. It turns out that the some of the components of the television contained minerals with magical properties, which throw off electronic ones when near a source of magic, such as a magical aura and spell residue. If they could find out how to isolate them then it would be possible to get it to work. Some study of mineralogy was needed and the order to Flourish and Blotts was to get that.

Arthur could be used as a proxy to give one to Sherry, so he could talk to her more since they hadn’t seen each other physically in some time and he missed her. The one to Arnold was to be given to Sherry as well to be delivered through the regular postal system. Harry had gotten the address when he went over and felt he should maintain communication with him since he was one of the few people on the other side he could contact.

Once those were done he took a deep breath, laid his pen down, and thanked Merlin that what seemed like an impossibly long day ended.