HOW CAN THE KINGS CROSS BARRIER BECOME IMPASSABLE?
Lucius Malfoy smirked. His plan had succeeded, so far. True, he couldn't slip it into the cauldron of the Weasley girl like he initially wanted to at the bookshop, so he couldn't discredit one of his enemies. That damned Johnson woman had been watching him like a hawk, and something told him he couldn't get away with it. Instead, he found someone else not long afterwards. Someone else who was, perhaps, a better patsy than the Weasley girl. It would probably make for a better plan this way, to discredit the worst of his political opponents by showing the dangers of Muggleborns…and to oust that fool Dumbledore.
Still, that Johnson woman…as barely-veiled as her threat had been, Lucius knew that the woman had some power. She spoke with a confidence any true Slytherin would envy, despite being apparently a Muggleborn, and an American, which compounded the issue. She was certainly dangerous, and her ability to discern that Pettigrew was the true traitor (something even Lucius wasn't privy to) and exonerate Sirius Black showed her to be no fool. Ditto Harry: he was a Ravenclaw, and he had also not actually overtly rejected Draco's overtures, despite Draco viewing them as a snub. The Boy Who Lived, despite living in some isolated Muggle facility in the Colonies, was a canny operator.
Still, he had to wonder, would they be able to find out what was causing the attacks once the Chamber of Secrets re-opened? They certainly shouldn't be able to connect it back to him, though. Nobody was that good…
The trip to King's Cross had been performed in something of a rush, and Harry, GLaDOS, Ron and Freeman were the last to make the trip through the barrier, with them on the verge of running late. "So, this barrier thing, it's a secret passage through that support pillar?" Freeman asked, as quietly as he could, given the noise of the crowd.
"Covered with the Will-based Transmogrification Force equivalent of a Somebody Else's Problem field(1)," GLaDOS remarked. "We had better hurry."
The Weasley family, barring Ron, had already gone through. But GLaDOS, Freeman, Harry and Ron were moving forward, only to bounce soundly off. GLaDOS regained her footing with less dignity and ease than she would like, and scowled. "Okay, I have to ask, does it require a password? Like 'Open, Sez Me'?" Freeman asked, as he recovered his own footing.
"Of course it doesn't!" Ron said irritably. They were attracting attention too. Unwanted attention for that matter.
GLaDOS gently pushed the trolley she had forward, until it nudged where the entrance was supposed to be. Her eyes flickered up to a clock, and her scowl worsened. "Something has sealed this barrier," she said. "I can sense it."
"The train's left," Ron bemoaned as he took note of the time too. "What're we going to do?"
"Should we wait by that car?" Freeman asked. "Didn't your dad say it could fly or turn invisible or something?"
As Ron's eyes lit up with an idea, GLaDOS shot him a look. "No. We are not taking the car. It is a bad idea comparable with one of Wheatley's."
"But under emergency circumstances…" Ron began.
"I have one word to say to you, Ronald Bilius Weasley: Apparition." GLaDOS smirked, before turning to Freeman. "Dr Freeman, wait here for the others to come out. If and when they do come out, notify them that I am taking these two via Apparition to Hogsmeade with Harry and Ron. Dumbledore provided me with a memory for Apparition coordinates to Hogsmeade."
"Got it. You're using freaky wizard teleportation to get to Hogsmeade. Hey, how long do I wait before I take the Portkey back to Aperture, then?"
"As long as it takes for the Weasleys to come out…"
With a loud crack that rattled the windows of the nearby houses, GLaDOS, Harry, Ron and their luggage, including their owls, appeared in Hogsmeade. Harry shook his head. "Is it me, or is all wizarding transport uncomfortable? I mean, the Floo, Apparition, Portkeys…"
"Don't knock it, your great-aunt got us here," Ron said, though he swayed slightly. "What're you going to do?"
"Professor Dumbledore still has that holographic projector I sent. I am sending him a message." She closed her eyes and concentrated.
"So what do you think happened to the barrier?" Harry asked Ron after an uncomfortably long period of silence. "Does that normally happen?"
Ron shook his head. "The portal to the station does close outside of the times the Hogwarts Express is used, but…never that soon. Not that I know of, anyway. Dad and Mum told us how to do it, and I've been to the platform for a few years before I went. Nothing like this had ever happened."
"I have a hypothesis, though it is still a work in progress," GLaDOS said, opening her eyes. "Dumbledore is sending House Elves to fetch our luggage, save for your familiars." With pops, the trunks and bags vanished. "Efficient," she noted. "We will head on up to the castle. Professor Snape will meet us on the grounds…"
The relationship Harry had with Severus Snape was an odd one. Snape had spent many years bearing a grudge towards Harry's father, and holding a torch (according to Sirius and Remus) for Harry's mother. What was more, the man had a tendency to unfairly favour members of his own House of Slytherin, and his teaching ability, in the end, was nothing to write home about.
That being said, Harry respected the man's intelligence, and after discussing elements of potions with him, Snape reciprocated, grudgingly at first, but over time, he had become, if not warm to Harry, then at least helpful in small regards. It probably helped that Harry ended up in Ravenclaw rather than Gryffindor, a House Snape despised. So while their relationship wasn't actually close, it was certainly cordial, though Harry detested his bias against Gryffindors, and against the hapless Neville Longbottom in particular.
They met him halfway up the path to Hogwarts, the man's dark robes billowing about him as he strode forward in his usual imperious manner. "It seems that you can't make it beyond the Start of Term Feast without causing some sort of scene, Evans," the greasy-haired man remarked dryly as he approached. "I had been hoping for things to go wrong only by or after Halloween. Still, at least it seems someone had some sense in their head."
"Sadly, common sense is an oxymoron in the world," GLaDOS said. "What will they do until the feast?"
"Filius will babysit them," Snape said. "Merlin knows that he needs a break from listening to that attention-seeking fop Lockhart. I certainly do. How he ended up in Ravenclaw, I've no idea…"
"It's weird being here before all the others, innit?" Ron asked as he and Harry, under the watchful eyes of Professor Flitwick, played chess as they waited.
"Yeah. Well, actually, it feels more like home. Home's pretty large, and yet empty," Harry said wistfully, thinking of Aperture. The Great Hall certainly did seem eerie when it was empty. It reminded him of the various abandoned and derelict rooms at Aperture Science. "So, where do you think your sister's going to be Sorted?"
Harry nodded. He then remembered a meeting he had, the day before they were due to leave. One of the Weasleys' neighbours, Xenophilus Lovegood, had come back from some overseas trip, and he had visited, along with his daughter, a rather dotty girl by the name of Luna. Harry and GLaDOS, despite the girl's fantasist leanings, actually liked her: she seemed slightly insane, but in a good way, albeit one that wouldn't seem out of place in Aperture. And she was an excellent lateral thinker. "What about Luna?"
"Her? Well, I'd guess Ravenclaw: her mum and dad were both there, even if they're barmy as anything. Apparently her mother died while spellcrafting, though, and Luna saw it happen," Ron said, looking rather solemn at that. "Hey, maybe you and Hermione could help her out if she does get Sorted into Ravenclaw. She's been pretty lonely. Ginny's really her only friend there."
"And you're not?" Harry asked.
"Luna's…a bit too weird for my liking."
"So am I," Harry pointed out.
"Yeah, but you're also able to back it up, mate. She goes on about these animals that don't exist, and makes up these conspiracies about the Ministry. Look, I don't hate her or anything, I just don't deal with her weirdness well."
"Even so, Mr Weasley," Flitwick piped up from where he was sitting nearby, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Or, in layman's terms, just because you cannot see it does not mean it doesn't exist. I admit, some of what Xenophilus and his daughter write about in The Quibbler is more than a little fanciful, but for those with keen minds and eyes, it holds a wealth of information that the Prophet would not touch. That being said, Mr Weasley is right in one regard: from what I know, Miss Lovegood has few friends, and her views may alienate her from the more…pedestrian minds of Ravenclaw. Would you mind helping her get used to things, Mr Evans, should she be Sorted into Ravenclaw?"
"Does E=MC squared?" Harry asked wryly.
As Flitwick chortled, Ron looked askance at Harry. "What?"
"This is disturbing news indeed," Dumbledore said. GLaDOS had been brought by Snape to the Headmaster's office, before the greasy-haired man left to work on some potions.
"Your grasp of the obvious never fails to astonish me, Professor," GLaDOS snarked. "What is more, the energy signature I picked up seems to be identical to the House Elf Dobby. I cannot say for sure that it was the exact same signature, as I am yet to compare it to other House Elves. But it certainly was not human Will-based Transmogrification Force. And given Dobby's earlier insistence on Harry not returning to Hogwarts, I believe he may have recovered his courage and made an overt attempt to stop Harry."
"Do you have any proof?"
"Aside from the energy signature, none whatsoever. It could be a malfunction on the portal, true, but while I am an artificial sentience that relies on logic, even if it is twisted, I still have intuition, and my intuition tells me that this was deliberate."
"True. Already, Dobby stole Harry's correspondence. Despite you showing him Voldemort, he may have regained his courage. The question is why, and what danger he was trying to warn you and Harry about."
GLaDOS nodded, before deciding to change the subject. "I must confess, I am singularly unimpressed by what I have seen of Lockhart so far. I will have to work overtime to try and prevent his incompetence from hampering the students, particularly those intending to sit for their OWLs and NEWTs. Still, I have significant experience dealing with morons with high opinions of themselves. Wheatley springs to mind."
"As much as I hate to say it, I agree. I had hoped that Gilderoy had actually picked up some qualifications through means other than Memory Charm-assisted plagiarism. Unfortunately, he was the only applicant. If he doesn't make it through the year, I will have to call on friends for favours. Remus, for one. And Alastor for another. In fact, given the quality of his essays in school, I have to admit to wondering whether he had his books ghostwritten."
"The information in them is useful, once you discard the parts that are basically glorified travelogue," GLaDOS mused. "But they still had no business being assigned as textbooks. For example, he does not state that the Homorphus Charm is only a temporary measure for dealing with werewolves. In fact, he implies the reversal to be permanent. Incidentally, Mr Lupin has been kind enough to allow me to investigate how his transformations work, and while results are still, for the most part, pending, they are still quite fascinating. While I am uncertain of effecting a cure, I can certainly find a way to allow the werewolf to transform and retain their sanity with minimal loss of sanity. But back to my point. I will endeavour to mitigate the damage Lockhart causes to your students' education." A vicious smirk lit up her face. "And I look forward to undermining him wherever I can."
Not for the first time, Dumbledore found himself questioning his decision to allow GLaDOS to teach at Hogwarts. He had absolutely no doubt whatsoever that she was a competent educator: her ego would demand nothing less. But whether her students would be left unscathed at the end of it…well, that was another story. He would almost pity Lockhart. Almost.
Lockhart, while regaling McGonagall with a tale of one of his adventures (and not noticing, or deigning to do so, that her lips were rather thin and the smile rather fixed) suddenly sneezed. Unfamiliar as he was with the paradigm that, if someone was talking about him behind his back, he would sneeze, he instead inwardly panicked, and hoped he could talk Pomfrey into giving him a potion to prevent a cold.
He didn't know it, but colds were to be the least of his problems while teaching at Hogwarts…
CHAPTER 5 ANNOTATIONS:
So, there you go. Malfoy's got another victim in mind, Dobby's tried blocking the barrier, and GLaDOS uses a sensible solution. Don't worry, Freeman got back to Aperture all right. But Lockhart is doomed. MWAHAHAHAHA!
A few reviews from the previous chapter pointed out (not unreasonably) that Malfoy couldn't have slipped the Diary into Ginny's cauldron, not with GLaDOS watching him. Hence the bit at the beginning: Ginny hasn't been given the Diary this time.
Review-answering time! Aust Sakura Kryzor: Actually, I wanted to ship Chell with Remus.
Guest (regarding Wheatley sounding intelligent): Well, as the old saying goes, even broken clocks are right twice a day.
Dustiniz117: No, they won't be. Except maybe in brief cameos.
storyreader21: Glad you like it, but…well, I dunno about that. Maybe GLaDOS will take blood samples from her in the name of SCIENCE!, and do CAT scans (bad pun unintended), but I think Harry will persuade GLaDOS to let Hermione become a normal human again. Though I think GLaDOS may prank Hermione later on with something similar.
1. Explained in Douglas Adams' third Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy book, Life, the Universe and Everything. Which, incidentally, was based on an unused Doctor Who script by Adams, Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen. No, really!