gasp she writes slash!! Well, yes, all my other stories are femslash, but this one was just begging to be Harry/Draco. So I wrote it. Enjoy.
Disclaimers: Harry, Draco, and the rest belong to JK Rowling. The Chinese Room thought experiment belongs to John Searle, and I'm not sure what he would think of me using it for such devious purposes as these…hehe. Direct quotes belong to Searle and Potter Puppet Pals. I do not claim credit for any of this! It's not mine!
Warnings: Swearing (rather severely), slash (more for later chapters than now), kissing (ditto), philosophy of mind jokes, violence (kinda), um…nothing that heinous...
1. An Unwarranted Detention
Harry cringed inwardly at the potions master's oily tone of voice before he even registered the meaning of the words. How did that git manage to even sound greasy? Had the grease from his hair somehow managed to percolate down through his head into his voice box? How long would it take for that to happen? Harry's mind suddenly caught up with the outside world, as Snape's words sunk in.
"Wait, what? Detention? I didn't do anything!"
"Excuse me?" Snape's voice had taken on a greasy variety of outrage, if that was even possible. Maybe he gargled with olive oil in the morning instead of mouthwash.
"I mean, I didn't do anything, professor. Why should I get detention?" amended Harry sullenly.
"I think your behavior in the last few minutes has more than merited a detention, Mr. Potter," drawled Snape.
"But I wasn't doing anything at all until you stalked over here and started provoking me!" Harry exclaimed, indignant.
"Precisely, Mr. Potter," said Snape. "Do feel free to dig yourself further into that nice little hole you're creating. I think you'll find that I am more than prepared to amend the severity of the detention accordingly."
"But – you – that's not fair!" spluttered Harry. Righteous indignation surged through his veins, somehow robbing him of coherence in the process.
"I see how it is," Snape continued, almost lazily. "Severe detention, then. You will be dragged by your ears to the dungeons, where a drunken Filch will be waiting for you with a cactus and a croquet mallet, and then – "
"No!!!" Harry exclaimed with more righteous indignation; which had apparently also robbed him of the ability to form multi-word sentences.
"Very well," said Snape, in a tone suggestive of grease frozen over, if that was even possible. Harry was pretty sure it was not possible, but was willing to bet his Firebolt that Snape could come up with a potion that would make it quite possible indeed.
"You will spend the evening…in the Chinese Room, Mr. Potter. Follow me." He turned and strode down the hall with an impressive billow of robes. Not that Harry was impressed, of course. It was just one of those things, that was objectively impressive, whether or not you yourself happened to be personally impressed by it…or something. Harry raked a hand through his hair and slouched after Snape, who was already rounding a corner farther down the corridor.
They reached what appeared to be their destination some minutes later. Snape strode through a heavy wooden door into a medium sized, dim, fire-lit room. Harry dutifully followed him inside, trying to convey the impression of one who does not want to be dragged by his ears down to the dungeon, and who would do any number of things to avoid said fate.
"If you would be so kind as to enter, Mr. Potter," drawled Snape, gesturing toward the open door at the end of the room. His voice had not thawed any; if anything it was icier. Crude oil was notoriously thick already; maybe it was capable of freezing up…
Harry peeked inside this next room, tentatively. It was a plain white room, no torture devices in sight…at least no cursed quills …
Harry scurried in rather rapidly. Now that he thought about it, there was that time that he had left Aunt Petunia's salad oil in the fridge, and it had gotten all sludgy and whitish before anyone had taken it out…Harry was pretty sure that still didn't count as actual freezing, though. He tried to decide whether Snape's voice had a whitish quality to it, at all.
Snape followed him into the room at a more leisurely pace, somehow making his robes billow again anyway. "Now, Potter, let me explain to you how this works, because you have repeatedly demonstrated that your intelligence is no higher than that of a trained pigeon…if that." Snape regarded him calculatingly through greasy, hooded eyes. "No, strike the trained part. In any case, you are in luck, Mr. Potter, because the possession of a brain is not necessary to complete this task."
"Well, what am I supposed to do?" demanded Harry belligerently. Then he remembered the dungeons and tried to play it off as eagerness to get on with the detention. The room they were in was bare except for a number of baskets, containing tiles, ranged about the edges of the room, and, lying on the floor, what was possibly the largest book Harry had ever seen. It looked like several full editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica bound together into one volume, along with some heavy bibles thrown in for effect.
Snape rolled his eyes. "I was about to explain, Mr. Potter, when you so rudely interrupted me. Now, as I was saying, this task is idiotically simple. A tray of characters will be passed into the room," he indicated a slot in the wall that Harry had not noticed before, "and you will look it up in the Lookup Book, and then arrange the appropriate characters on the outgoing tray, and pass it back through the slot." Harry looked toward the corner with the book and the basket, and noticed that there was indeed an outgoing tray, marked OUTGOING in block letters across the bottom.
"You will repeat the procedure for each incoming tray until I tell you to stop. Any questions?" challenged Snape, in a tone that brokered no argument. Nor questions, either, despite appearances to the contrary.
"No," said Harry, trying to avoid thoughts of cactuses shoved in inhospitable places. He was sure that Snape would carry out his original detention plan at the slightest provocation.
"Very well," drawled Snape, and he billowed out of the room again.
"But wait, Professor, how long am I –"
But Snape evidently did not hear Harry's cry, or more likely chose not to, for the last thing Harry heard before the door shut was an oily "Good evening Mr. Malfoy. Come right this way..." It was apparently possible for voice-grease to liquefy instantaneously, for there was nothing icy about Snape's voice now. Harry shuddered. Some things did not bear dwelling on.
This was, without a doubt, the most boring time he'd ever had in detention. Seriously, carving words into your own flesh was no fun, but at least it was interesting. Something was happening, at least. So far, Harry had been in the Chinese Room for a grand total of thirty-seven minutes, and he was beginning to appreciate just how prisoners of Azkaban could go insane from boredom alone.
So far, one tray of characters had been passed in through the slot. Harry had dutifully inspected it, found the entry in the book for the particular sequence of characters, followed the instructions for making up the outgoing tray, and passed it back out. The book must have been enchanted; otherwise there would have been no way to find the right entry in a human lifetime. Not that it made much difference, anyway; Harry could see no point in processing the trays of tiles. The tiles in the basket turned out to all have Chinese characters on them, as did the tiles that had been passed in on the tray. Harry considered trying to teach himself Chinese, just to kill the boredom – though if he ever got out of this, he would never, ever, let on to Hermione that he had considered doing something so near to studying voluntarily.
He quickly, and to his relief, found out that there was no possible way to teach oneself Chinese given the resources in the room. The Lookup Book had seemed a good place to start, but every entry was simply accompanied by nonsensical directions like "Take a squiggle-squiggle sign out of basket number 1 and put it next to a squoggle-squoggle sign from basket number 2."
Harry shook his head in disgust and slammed the book shut. Whoever had written this drivel had clearly been off his mind. He inspected the various tiles for a while, but soon gave up, unable to derive any meaning whatsoever from the cryptic characters.
His mind wandered. Why did Hogwarts even have a Chinese Room? What possible purpose could it serve? Was there also a Japanese Room, and an Arabic Room, and, and, a Basque Room, who knows what else? And why wouldn't Cho date him?? He supposed this last question had arisen by way of association…Chinese Room, Chinese hot girl, hot Chinese take-out…Harry's stomach growled. Damn trains of thought. His stomach growled again. What he wouldn't give for a nice carton of take-out right now…
He shook his head to distract himself from this entirely unproductive train of thought, and cast about for something else to distract himself with. There really was nothing in the room, except for the Lookup Book, the baskets, and the tiles. Then, struck by a brilliant idea, he leaped up and went over to the slot. Why hadn't he thought of this sooner? He lifted up the lid of the slot and set his eye to it. Barely had he caught a glimpse of the room beyond, when the lid smacked him soundly on the head, and squealed in a high-pitched, metallic voice, "Mind your own business!" When Harry was slow to move away, it smacked him again, much harder, and shrilled, "Get away, you floppy-wanded dementor buggerer!"
Harry jumped away in shock. He couldn't tell if it was being upbraided by a sentient wall-slot; the physical pain from being beaten about the head by the hard metal lid; or the scathing insult itself that had offended him more, but he certainly felt offended. He sat crouched in the opposite corner of the room, simultaneously nursing a bruised skull and trying to block out the high metallic voice of the slot, whose insults had not let up even now that he had moved away.
"Filthy-socked listener at other people's doors! You pile of rotting troll bogies! You drunken house elf! You –" The slot was fortunately shut up just then by a tray being shoved through it from the other side of the wall.
Harry warily crossed the room, and gingerly picked up the tray. The slot remained silent. Not believing that this was a permanent change, Harry took the tray over to the other side of the room and started flipping through the Lookup Book. Again, he quickly found the right entry (the characters on the tray looked like a crow's foot, then a pile of sticks, then a dense arrangement of lines that looked like nothing Harry had ever seen before, then a character which gave him the impression of an umbrella, for whatever reason…) Harry rolled his eyes. Tripe, nonsense, why was he doing this??? He dutifully picked the required tiles from their baskets, arranged them as instructed on the outgoing tray, and passed them back through the slot. He yanked his hand away as soon as the tray was through, but fortunately the slot seemed to be done shouting insults for now.
The tray came back almost immediately, with a different set of characters. At least, he thought they were different. Not that he could tell; they meant nothing at all to him. Flipping Chinese language, with its million unintelligible characters…
He was thus occupied for a good half hour, which dragged on interminably. Whoever was on the other side seemed to take a gleeful delight in passing back the tray as fast as possible, and each time with a longer string of characters than the last time. Really, there was no way this could be warranted. Harry sighed heavily and plodded on with the work. Take tray, look up the meaningless jumble, put characters together, pass them back out, take tray, look up… Dull, dull, dull, dull. Dulldulldull.
There was at length a lag in the incoming trays, so Harry tried to amuse himself by seeing how many of the tiles he could stack on top of each other until they fell down. When they did fall down, as was inevitable, the slot started insulting him again, so he amused himself further by chucking tiles at it. He congratulated himself on managing to get a few through the slot when it opened its lid to speak. This, unfortunately, had no effect at all on its stream of insults.
Another incoming tray was pushed through, interrupting Harry's brief and questionably amusing break. Harry regarded it apathetically from his end of the room. Why should he even bother to process these? Was there a need? Harry could see no purpose at all, personally; this was an even worse detention than the time he had to sort rotten flobberworms from good ones for Snape. Well, maybe not worse, but at least there was a point to sorting flobberworms; you didn't want them all to go bad. Although that point was kind of lost if you just mixed them all together in the first place, as Harry suspected Snape had done. Greasy git.
Another tray slid in, this time containing even more tiles. Where on earth had another tray come from? There were now three in the Chinese Room with Harry. He stuck his tongue out at it, and waited to see if any others would arrive. Another did, not surprisingly, and Harry found himself imagining the room outside stacked high with empty trays. Oh, and tiles. Maybe if whoever it was kept passing them in, he would eventually be suffocated in a giant, towering pile of trays that would fill the room…He let out a heavy sigh and slouched lower down the wall he was leaning on. This detention could not end soon enough.
Just then, the door to the room opened, and before he could react, Harry was being pressed up against the wall and snogged quite thoroughly. He was having trouble breathing, since the other person's mouth was in the way, although that wasn't necessarily a bad thing…if it wasn't for the whole needing-breath-to-sustain-cellular-respiration-and-therefore-life thing, Harry might have been perfectly content to let them keep at it.
Then he realized that he had closed his eyes at some point, probably out of self-defense when he saw a large form rushing toward him at top speed, and thus had no idea who was snogging him. Creepy. Maybe it was Cho…He lost his train of thought for a moment, being quite actively distracted by whoever it was. Then he felt a tongue against his lips, proverbially begging for entrance, and his eyes shot open.
Now he could see the person who was kissing him so enthusiastically, and – WHAT?? His fist shot out and punched his – assailant – very hard in the face before his brain even had time to process the visual information, and he would also have jumped back a good ten feet, but the wall at his back prevented him from following this particular prudent course of action.
"MALFOY??" Harry paused to vigorously wipe his mouth off with his sleeve, and then did it again for good measure. For his part, Malfoy was still sitting on the floor where he had fallen, and was clutching the region of his left eye rather pathetically.
"WHAT…THE FUCK…WAS THAT??" Harry found that he was still shouting at the top of his voice, and then decided that it was absolutely warranted, given the situation.
"I should be asking you the same thing," Malfoy said, standing up. How he managed to look mortally offended, pitifully injured, and pompous, all at the same time, was beyond Harry. The bastard.
"What do you mean, you should be – You know what, I don't even want to know. Save your pitiful explanations, Malfoy, I – GAH!" Malfoy had taken a step toward Harry, with a positively alarming look in his eye, and Harry had stumbled backward and tripped on a pile of tiles. Harry scrambled to his feet and ran out of the door, hurling some choice imprecations after him as he fled – no; as he escaped manfully. He slammed the door behind him and was gratified to feel that the knob did not turn when he tried it; and then he made directly for the Gryffindor dormitories, not caring what Snape may have to say about finishing his detention. This was an emergency situation.