DOES RETAIL THERAPY WORK?
Harry knew that Molly Weasley didn't know quite what to make of GLaDOS, or Gordon Freeman for that matter. Then again, the same could be said for Arthur Weasley, but he at least enthusiastically ploughed through, even in his ignorance. Molly looked GLaDOS up and down, frowning. "So, you are Harry's great-aunt?"
"Your powers of observation do you credit," GLaDOS remarked dryly. "I am also helping teach your children Defence Against the Dark Arts."
"And, from what I can gather, you are a golem of some sort? One with the mind of a Muggle in it?" Arthur asked.
"Yes. It is considerably more complicated than that. If it makes you feel any better, the scientists who did this to me were of an appallingly amoral sort," GLaDOS said.
"It doesn't," Molly said, looking a bit wary of the AI.
"Perhaps that is for the best. Rest assured, I will do my utmost to ensure that your children are well-versed in DADA." Now, Harry knew that GLaDOS was very tempted to make a snide remark about Molly Weasley's weight, the fact that her family was somewhat poor, and, in spite of such financial troubles, she had had seven children. However, GLaDOS was trying to be tactful, and decided to restrict her snark to comments that wouldn't get her hexed, or Harry unable to remain friends with Ron.
Of course, Gordon wasn't the same. "So…what's with the weird clock?" he asked. "Pretty crappy clock if it can't tell the time."
"Language," Molly huffed. "And for your information, Doctor Freeman, it shows the status of my family."
"Hey, don't get me wrong, it's a cool gizmo and all, handy with a big family, but, well, I like clocks. I'm a physicist, I like knowing what time it is, even if it's all messed up by relativity. And international time zones."
On Molly and Arthur's looks at Harry, he shrugged. "He's like that. But he's a foremost authority on energy physics and teleportation."
"You said it!" Freeman said, beaming, before looking a bit sad. "Man, Kleiner's probably having fun with his experiments without me."
Ron, who was coming back in after going to fetch something, said, "Your friend's mental, Harry."
"Says the twelve year old wizard," Freeman scoffed at the redhead. "Seriously, you're a bloody wizard. I spent my university degrees disdaining the possibility of your existence, and yet, here you are. I'm glad GLaDOS actually had some papers for me to read up on, because otherwise, this'd be too much of a paradigm shift for me to cope with. I'd definitely BE mental."
On their blank looks, GLaDOS said, "A paradigm is a worldview. Doctor Freeman is merely saying that it's hard to believe, given that he is a scientist. Incidentally, I will be purchasing the supplies your children need for this year. And if you dare protest, I will be offended." Her eyes narrowed. "Do not offend me. The last person to do so became a potato."
"As in, you transfigured him into a potato?" Molly asked, aghast.
"Wicked!" Ron breathed in awe.
"Not exactly. Mr Weasley, are you versed with the basic scientific experiment of creating an electrical cell, what most people would call a battery, with a potato or a lemon, wiring, and two different metals?"
"Umm, no. Should I be?"
GLaDOS, after a moment (pinching the bridge of her nose in the process), said, "You are meant to be an authority on Muggle artifacts. I think I will send you highschool textbooks on science and technology, and you are going to read it."
Molly's angry protest was cut off by Arthur yelping, excitedly, like a kid told he had unlimited credit at a candystore, "Really?"
"Did I stutter? I am GLaDOS, not SHODAN(1)," GLaDOS sighed. "In any case, when do we intend to head to Diagon Alley?"
"Before long," Molly said, managing to regain her handle on the moment. "Ron, are the others ready?"
"I think the Twins were trying to prank Percy," Ron said. A yelp of anger from upstairs, followed swiftly by laughter, punctuated the point. "Ginny's still a bit…"
"Shy?" Arthur said with a sigh. He looked at GLaDOS. "I'm sorry, but Ginny…she's got a hero-worship thing for Harry. We've tried telling her the books are nothing like the reality, but…"
"As long as she doesn't want my autograph, I'm fine," Harry said.
"Ooh, sounds like you've got a fangirl, Harry," Gordon teased.
GLaDOS tumbled out of the Floo in the Leaky Cauldron in an undignified, soot-smeared heap, and scowled. As the Weasleys and Harry stared at her, along with many other clients in the pub, she said, "You. Saw. NOTHING."
Harry hid the digital camera he had used to take photos of his great-aunt's tumble. He had to send them to Chell later, along with Rattmann. They'd get a laugh out of it. One of the clients of the pub muttered, "Tourist."
GLaDOS got to her feet, and glared at the impertinent man. "And you are a classic example of the inverse relationship between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain(2)."
"WAAAAHHHH!" screamed Gordon as he tumbled out of the Floo, right into GLaDOS, sending her crashing to the floor again. As he got to his feet, staggering, he slurred, "I'll never be cruel to an electron in a particle accelerator again(3)." Then, he vomited copiously onto Harry's shoes.
The publican, Tom, sighed a long-suffering sigh, before saying to one of his offsiders, "Mavis? We've got a Code Green at the Floo. Again."
As expected, Molly protested against GLaDOS insisting on purchasing essentials for the Weasley children. It was Arthur who managed to persuade her to accept the help.
"In any case," GLaDOS said, "consider it payment for my anthropological observation of a typical Pureblood family."
"Anthro-what?" Molly asked.
"Ignore her," Harry said. "Look on the bright side, Ron. You can get your own wand now."
Ron looked embarrassed, but also relieved. Ginny managed to pluck up the courage to ask, "Harry…why does your great-aunt have so much money?"
"Aperture is one of the leading R&D facilities in the world. Okay, it's pretty secret, but…"
"Research and development," Harry explained. "They create new machines and medicines and the like. Very little of what Aperture makes does get sold, partly because it'd be too expensive to manufacture properly, and partly because it's too dangerous, but what we do sell sells a lot. Most of the money goes back into funding Aperture, dealing with maintenance, etc. GLaDOS is a better CEO than Cave Johnson, though." Which wasn't too hard, Harry reflected, given how much of a profligate spender Cave had been, and on useless ventures too.
"Hey, GLaDOS," Ron said. "If Lockhart's teaching DADA this year, why are you teaching?"
GLaDOS frowned, before saying, "Let me answer your question with a question, Ronald Weasley. Have you read his books?"
"I've read a couple of them," Molly said, while Ron shook his head.
"Ah, capital. He has assigned his books as 'textbooks', and yet, they are, at best, self-indulgent travelogues that, while enjoyable and having some anecdotes of use, nonetheless serve purely to pander to Lockhart's ego," GLaDOS said. "They are NOT textbooks. The thought of even considering them as such makes me want to vomit as copiously as Doctor Freeman did in the Leaky Cauldron, and this body is not designed for any kind of emesis. In addition, Professor Dumbledore is concerned about the inconsistency of DADA teaching over the years. Therefore, he assigned me as a teaching assistant."
"And you can do magic?" Ron asked sceptically.
"I have certified masteries in most areas of magic. I made sure I was tested over here, as well as back home in the United States."
"Wouldn't that be a kick in the face to Malfoy and the Blood Purists?" Arthur muttered. "I didn't think such a thing was possible."
"We have a saying in Aperture," Harry said. "The impossible is merely something we haven't tried to do yet…"
It was good to be reunited with Hermione, Harry reflected. She had been at Gringotts with her family, changing over pounds to Galleons, and while Arthur goggled, Harry took a moment to say hello to Hermione, as did Ron. While Arthur peered at the pound notes the Grangers and GLaDOS changed over, fascinated, and asked frankly inane questions, Hermione saw Doctor Freeman, and gasped. "It's good to see you again, Dr Freeman!"
Freeman grinned. "It IS good to see me. Hey, you're the girl Harry had me email, the one who wanted my signed paper. Hermione, huh? Barney's niece? Heard anything from him lately?"
"He's moved over here," Hermione said. "Apparently he turned whistleblower against Doctor Breen's industrial espionage a little while ago. He can't work at Black Mesa anymore, though. I dunno where he went, though."
"Actually, I was talking to some of the guards. Got curious about what being security at a wizarding bank was like," drawled a voice familiar to a few of those present. A dark-haired man with a pleasant face, dressed in a blue shirt, came forward. "Wow, Gordon. You're still alive and intact. I'd have thought that damned crazy computer would have cut you up by now."
"Hey, you know better than to underestimate the Freeman," Gordon chortled. "Damn, Barney, you turned state's evidence against Breen?"
"Yeah. After you got that kangaroo court thanks to that spook in the suit, Breen started going loopy. I'm not the only one who blew the whistle, I was just the one who had to do the dirty work. Dr Vance, Dr Kleiner, they also helped as well. But, well, someone had to fall on his sword to take out Breen, and I chose to do it." He looked at Harry, before smiling softly. "Hey, kid. I'm glad you're still alive and well too. How's Chell?"
"She's all right. So's GLaDOS. I'm sorry to hear that you're no longer working at Black Mesa, Barney," Harry said.
"Meh, I'm fine, kid. Between Aperture and Black Mesa, I'm sorta sick and tired of dealing with top secret R&D places. I managed to get a decent job as security at Gatwick Airport. That creepy spook in the suit helped smooth things over. You know, the one who talks funny and looks like he's never seen a day's sun in his life."
Ron asked, "Who's he talking about?"
"Oh, he means John Smith," Harry said. "Creepy guy, might not even be human. Rattmann calls him the 'G-Man'."
"The G-Man?" Ron echoed.
"Because he looks like he's from the FBI or CIA," Harry explained. "Like he's a spy or a top Auror."
Later, Hermione and Harry, along with Freeman and Barney, were walking down Diagon Alley. Ron and Ginny had been taken away by Molly and GLaDOS to get new robes and wands, Arthur had taken the Grangers to the Leaky Cauldron to get more information about Muggle things from them, and Percy had gone off to buy his own supplies. The Twins, meanwhile, had gone off with Lee Jordan, their friend. As they made their way through Diagon Alley, Hermione asked various questions of Gordon, mostly about physics, while Harry asked Barney about his career at Black Mesa.
After browsing the various shops for some time, the quartet, finally joined by the Twins, headed to Flourish and Blotts, where they found a large crowd for a book signing. Lockhart was signing his autobiography. Hermione, much to Harry's annoyance, was going all fangirly. Thankfully, they managed to get into the shop, and found their guardians waiting in line, GLaDOS already having gotten the books. The gynoid was getting some looks for the way she casually carried a large stack of books with seemingly little effort. With one hand, in fact.
And there, at a table, was Lockhart, a blonde, handsome wizard, with a near-perpetual smile on his face. Especially as he was being photographed by someone from The Daily Prophet.
Of course, it went downhill when Lockhart spotted Harry, and grabbed him to drag him over for a photo op. "Nice big smile, Harry. You and I," he said, "are worth the front page."
"Yes," GLaDOS said, having come over with her books in hand. "I can see the headlines now: BAD TOUCH! Boy Who Lived Molested By Rapacious Fop."
Lockhart frowned. "And you are?"
"Professor Gladys Johnson," GLaDOS said.
"Ah, my glamorous assistant! Dumbledore never told me how much of a paragon of beauty you were!" Lockhart said, his habitual smile returning. "Come here, come here!"
GLaDOS rolled her eyes, before joining him. As they smiled for the camera, GLaDOS whispered, "Do not grab my great-nephew and drag him into one of your grandstanding opportunities again. Otherwise, during the classes, you're target practice."
Lockhart's smile became a touch fixed, before he then announced, "Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's the perfect moment for me to make a little announcement, one I've been sitting on for some time! When young Harry stepped in this illustrious store today, he only wished to buy my books…which I will give to him signed, and free of charge…but he had no idea he would be getting more than a chance to meet me! He, along with his friends and peers at Hogwarts, will be getting the real me! I have great pleasure and pride in announcing that, this year, I will be taking up the Defence Against the Dark Arts post at Hogwarts! Assisted by the very lovely and able, I am sure, Gladys Johnson!"
The applause was loud, and eventually, Harry, along with the others, managed to get out of the crowd to a quiet corner after paying for the books. But even as they tried to collect themselves, they heard an unwelcome drawl. "Bet you loved that, Potter?" Draco Malfoy asked.
"Anyone with half a brain or more would have been able to tell otherwise," GLaDOS said, looking at the blonde-haired boy.
"I have nothing to say to a Muggle," Draco sneered. "You shouldn't be teaching."
"I have magic. And even if I did not, I am sure I would raise the tone of Hogwarts by being present," GLaDOS said. As Draco opened his mouth to say more, GLaDOS said, "Consider your next words very carefully, for I will be teaching you, and I may consider some deferred penalties for your insolence."
"Draco, that's enough," came a sharp voice, and a man with the same sharp features and blonde hair as Draco came through the crowd. He peered at those present, his eyes focusing on GLaDOS briefly.
"You must be Lucius Malfoy," GLaDOS remarked.
"And you must be the…woman they have hired to shore up Lockhart's foolishness," Lucius Malfoy responded. He went over to Ginny's cauldron, the one holding her supplies, and fished out a number of books. "New books? My, you must have had a windfall I wasn't aware of, Arthur." His eyes then flickered over to GLaDOS. "Or perhaps you have a benefactor who throws good money after those who are a disgrace to wizards everywhere?"
Arthur then said, "You and I have very different ideas of what disgraces the name of a wizard."
As Lucius Malfoy opened his mouth to reply, GLaDOS held up a finger. "If you are going to make some remark about the company he keeps, keep this in mind, if you have one. You are the head of your family, in a crowded bookshop, with a photographer from the press, and your next remarks could start a brawl. Does annoying Mr Weasley sound like a good idea? Does annoying me?"
After a moment, Lucius merely sneered, and said, "Come along, Draco. We won't mingle with the rabble any longer."
As the two blondes left the store, GLaDOS rolled her eyes. "Does all that hair bleach they must use lower their intelligence quotient? Or is that the shallow, incestuous puddle they call a gene pool?"
"More of Column B," Harry mused. "I thought I managed to get Draco to be a bit nicer after I got him that Christmas present last year."
GLaDOS rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "Hmm. I think someone has volunteered for target practice for the entire year."
"Target practise?!" Emma yelped. "Spells or bullets?"
"Paintballs, Dr Granger. Do not worry. I will not cause any physical injury, beyond bruising, or any possible death," GLaDOS said, before she gave a vicious smirk. "However, I believe that by the end of the school year, his ego will have died a slow painful death."
"Wicked," breathed Ron in awe.
"Indeed, Ronniekins," Fred said.
"We have found ourselves outmatched, Fred," George said.
"What sort of example are you setting for my children?!" Molly demanded.
"The kind of example all examples should be: instructional. Now, shall we be off? Only, I find being in close proximity to someone with the ego of Cave Johnson and the intelligence of Wheatley rather draining on my own IQ…"
CHAPTER 4 ANNOTATIONS:
So, there you have it. This time, Harry didn't have his little sojourn down Knockturn, and we've had GLaDOS making snarky commentary. Oh, and we've got Barney! I wasn't planning on bringing him into it, and he's closer to his incarnation in Half-Life than in Barney's Mind, but hey, we've got enough crazy, between GLaDOS, Wheatley, Rattmann and Freeman.
Now, in the most recent episode of Freeman's Mind, Freeman only seems to know Dr Kleiner, with Barney, Breen, and Vance not being known to him (Ross Scott, apparently, said that is due to Kleiner being the only one canonically named in Half-Life, in the manual of the game). Because I've already had Freeman mentioning socialising with Barney, I decided that, for this story, Freeman knew the personnel named in Half-Life 2.
Review-answering time! AnFan-n-More: Sadly, Richard won't be appearing. I went off Looking for Group after one of the main characters died, and the fallout from afterwards. And I won't be crowbarring him in.
Ultimate-Zelda-fan: Hmm, maybe she will make like Abridged Piccolo.
Skyfish104: It's back in this chapter, I think. This GLaDOS was kept more human by Harry, and she was more sarcastic in the previous story, Is Your Great-Aunt an AI?!, so if you haven't read that, then go do so forthwith.
1. AKA the villain of the System Shock games, another megalomaniacal female AI known for stuttering her words. Both games were released well before this story's setting (2002, ten years ahead of canon for Harry Potter), so GLaDOS may know of them.
2. The Doctor uses this line in Doctor Who: The Robots of Death. Perhaps unwisely, as the man he insults with it promptly tries to strangle him.
3. Another Doctor Who reference, although one that will sound familiar to fans of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The Doctor says this in the Douglas Adams-penned The Pirate Planet while whizzing down an inertia-nullifying corridor. Adams modified the joke for The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.