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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.

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