Harry Potter – the Dark Pixie.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
Summary: Harry discovers magic at the age of eight. He learns some wandless magic, learns that he is groomed to be a weapon and at the age of nine, he leaves his home. AU.
This is a Dark, independent, cynical, antisocial, paranoid, Ravenclaw Harry. We'll see lots of violence, blood and gore in this story. Harry is Dark, but not evil (in my opinion… witch pretty much means he won't kill innocents).
Bashing: Dumbledore; Moody; Ron, Ginny and their whole family; Snape; the Order; the Death Eaters; the Ministry; the aurors; most of the Slytherins, Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and probably the Ravenclaws too; the Wizarding world, the sheep. And probably Hermione too…
Pairings: Harry/Su Li/Lilith/Daphne/Luna There will be some Yuri (GL). No specific sexual content.
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, with a tinge of dark humor(I am particularly proud of Chapter 4. Daddy.) and a bit of horror.
A small, malnourished child suddenly appeared on the roof of the school. He was breathing heavily, as if he ran for a long time. The child looked over the roof where a gang of bullies, led by his fat cousin Dudley, was searching for something.
"Where's that freak?" asked a red faced Dudley.
"Dunnno, fuck him, we'll get him tomorrow."
"Yeah, you're right Piers. I'm hungry. Let's eat. I got 20 from that stupid new kid."
The black-haired boy relaxed. His name is Harry Potter. He is eight years old, but he is so skinny that he looks two years younger. Under his battered glasses, his green eyes are full of wonder.
'How did I get here?' he asked himself. 'A few moments ago, I was being chased by Dudley and his gang. Then, suddenly I am here. This is weird. I've seen a lot of weird things, but this is the weirdest.' Harry thought back on all the strange occurrences that happen around him. 'There was that time when Petunia cut my hair and it grew back over the night. There was that time when I was angry at the professor, and his hair turned blue. And sometimes, when I get very angry, I make objects move. There was that time when I was chased by Dudley, and he didn't see me; It was as if I was invisible. My injuries heal almost over night. If I was normal I would have probably died. But somehow, when I wake up, I am healed. And today I teleported here from the courtyard. I wonder if I can do it again.'
Harry looked down in the courtyard, and remembered the peculiar sensation he felt when he teleported. After ten minutes of trying, he suddenly disappeared from the roof, and appeared in the courtyard. Harry fell to his knees, gasping for breath. 'This is tiring. I'm too weak. If I want to continue practicing this, I have to get stronger.'
Harry did not want his relatives to know about his discovery, so he pretended that nothing changed.
After school, Dudley and his gang saw Harry and went toward him. Harry knew that they would beat him if they got the chance. Instead of running like he usually did, Harry decided to try to use his power. Harry walked past the school corner, checked around to see if there was anyone around, and then concentrated on turning invisible. 'I hope this works,' thought Harry.
Dudley came around the corner and… he saw Harry, sitting with his back to the wall, with no care in the world. "Freak!"
Harry opened his eyes. "Shit." He started to run from Dudley. After five minutes of running, he managed to get somewhere with no people in sight and teleported to the roof of the school.
Seeing that the school was empty, Harry teleported in the school. He went in front of a mirror and started practicing invisibility. Two grueling hours later, Harry managed to become invisible. That night, while trying to sleep in the cupboard, he decided that he would not be starved ever again. Harry closed his eyes and teleported in the empty supermarket. After eating, he teleported back to his cupboard.
Harry decided to practice and expand his powers. He borrowed books about meditation and yoga from the library. He had no idea if it would help, but it would certainly do no harm.
Two weeks later, His hard work gave results. While meditating, one moment, he was drowning in darkness, the next one he saw a ball of energy. 'This must be the source of my power. My…core.' Harry looked at it and knew something was wrong. The core looked as if it was chained. On top of it, there were two thick lines of energy. They were sucking his power away. He followed one. It was taking power and somehow feeding it into a circle above the house. Harry retreated, and then went towards the other. He followed its path; it went to his scar and it was dumping power like crazy. It was ten times more powerful than on the other line. His core had disappeared into the distance. Harry was now looking at his scar. It had a rope made of hundreds of black tendrils that went away far away from his body. Harry returned to his core. There were a few more strands of power beside the two thick lines he explored. 'I don't know what they are, but I'm sure it's nothing good.' Harry grabbed the weakest strand. He concentrated on cutting it away. After a few seconds, it ripped away. He repeated the process until he had only two strands; the biggest two. It was slightly harder, but he had them severed easily enough. It seamed that his power was glad to be rid of the drain.
The next day, Harry visited his core again. He looked at the chained core carefully. He then began grabbing one chain after another. After what seamed days, but was actually only a few hours, the last chain was broken.
The next morning, Harry's hands were glowing. However, Vernon and Petunia saw nothing. Harry saw a dome of energy over his house. The crazy cat lady and her cats were glowing softly. Harry didn't really know what it meant. 'I'll try to find out later,' he thought.
In the next meditation session, Harry went to his mental scar. He grabbed a black strand and cut it. This was much harder than destroying the prison. For the next week, he continued cutting the strands. One day, Harry opened his eyes. He had never felt this free and alive before. It was as if he was whole again. Nothing was sucking his power away. The black tendrils were gone. And his scar was not hurting anymore. Harry never realized it, but he always felt a dull background ache because of his scar. But now, he felt no pain for the first time in his life.
Now that his power was not restricted, Harry could practice without getting tired. Meditation was helping him. He saw that there were channels that spread from his core to his body. He realized that they were small, blocked off. Harry drew power from the core and flooded the channels with power. Days later, he felt that his channels did not need any more work. The result was incredible, His eyes were perfect. He could heal any small injury almost instantaneously. He was stronger, faster and he could run miles without tiring.
One day, while meditating, Harry began to think about some of his memories. Suddenly, Harry appeared in a strange forest. The trees had mirrors instead of fruits. Harry looked in a mirror and saw a memory. Every mirror had a memory. There were mirrors that were painted black and mirrors that were blurred; Harry decided to not try and look inside them for the moment. After viewing some of the clear memories, Harry realized that there was no order to the memories and decided to organize them a bit. Three weeks later, all of his normal memories were sorted into categories.
The only ones that remained were the blurred and blackened mirrors.
Harry begun with the blurred ones. He immediately discovered what they were - memories of his parents. After seeing them all over the next few days, Harry learned a great deal about his parents' world – the Wizarding world. But some had suspicious hints.
The only unsorted mirrors were the blackened ones. After a great deal of effort, Harry managed to see what was inside them. "I'm going to kill them," screamed Harry. Harry discovered that there were people that knew about his relatives' abuse. Every time someone discovered it though, Dumbledore or Moody came and made everyone forget anything happened. Harry had finished looking at all of the mirrors except one. It had a peculiar darkness that repelled him. The darkness from this memory was particularly hard to clean, but he finally did it. Harry took a deep breath and plunged inside.
Harry saw himself hiding. He remembered now. 'After a particularly vicious beating, I decided to run away. Dumbledore and Moody found me.' Harry saw Dumbledore shoot a spell at him. Harry should have been unconscious, but he somehow managed to stay awake and listen.
"Dumbledore, do you really think this is wise?" asked Moody.
Dumbledore sighed. "We do not have a choice."
"I hope you're right. Look at him. He looks like Riddle, he talks like Riddle and he had a similar life to him… and he'll be abused for years, still. What if he turns Dark like Riddle? You used him to kill Grindelwald, but he became the next Dark Lord. Riddle was much more powerful than Grindelwald. What if Potter grows to be even more powerful than Voldemort."
"Relax, my friend. I made sure he isn't a danger."
"He's already the boy who lived. If you're right and Voldemort is still alive and will return…if he really manages to kill Voldemort… we might not be able to stop the boy. War is cruel. It twists our minds. If he learns what we did to him or he just snaps, we might not be able to stop him. But that would happen only if he becomes strong enough. I know he has the potential to be as strong as you and Voldemort. But you both have decades of experience. A kid like him… he won't make it."
"Ah, but here is where I took the insurance I was talking about. I do not plan to make him strong enough to kill Voldemort. I have already bound his powers."
"You see my friend, when Voldemort tried to kill Harry, a connection was created due to the Killing curse and Lily's ritual sacrifice. The connection should have disappeared in time, but I made it so the connection would strengthen."
"And how does that help?" grunted Moody.
"It's easy. When the connection grows strong enough, killing one of them will damage the other. We just have to protect him until the proper time."
"But isn't Voldemort immortal? If he resurrects once, what keeps him from doing it again."
"It's the magical backlash. Since his power is bound, his death will release a massive amount of destructive energy. If the magical connection between them is strong enough, if he is battling Voldemort and if he is more than willing to sacrifice himself in order to kill Voldemort, that energy released by his death will use the scar and destroy Voldemort's soul."
"So you really planned it all. I didn't think you had it in you."
"I wish I didn't have to do it. Unfortunately I must. It's for the greater good."
"What I still don't understand, is why you need him to be abused by the muggles."
"Alastor, If Harry was raised in the Wizarding world; his family might discover that he is bound and do something about it. They might heal and sever the curse scar. The release of the magical core must be as violent as possible, not controlled. Also, can you imagine what might happen if he were raised as the boy who lived? That amount of adulation would make him uncontrollable. I need him to see me as the source of authority. I need to guide him in the right direction. The boy must want to sacrifice himself to destroy Voldemort. This is the best way to ensure it."
Moody grunted. "What are we going to do now? The boy tried to run away. I thought you put compulsions on him to prevent that."
"Yes I did. It seams that he was able to do it anyway. I am surprised; he has a great amount of will power. I'll do a strong compulsion. He'll never think about running away from home."
Harry exited the memory. 'Bastards, I'll make you pay.' Harry tried to think about running away from home, but half of his mind didn't even want to think about it. He would have to do something. Harry watched the forest trying to think of a solution to destroy the compulsions. Harry suddenly saw something strange. Some of the trees had vines that strangled them. They were alien, not part of his mind. Harry destroyed them all. He felt his mind revel in the newfound freedom, free of compulsions.
'Now that I can run away, I wonder if I should do it. As long as I stay here, they won't come for me. I have to make sure I won't be found when I go. And I must find a way to protect my mind, in case Dumbledore tries to make me forget, again.'
The next day, Harry was watching one of his professors droning away. 'I wonder what he's thinking,' thought Harry. 'How can someone be so boring?' Harry stared in the eyes of the professor, and found himself in the so called 'astral plane', as one of the meditation books called it. For a second, he wondered why he felt so weird. Then, he suddenly realized. This was not his mind. Harry begun to explore the new mind and realized that it belonged to the professor. Over the next week, Harry mastered the art of mind reading.
Harry wonted to read Mrs. Figg's mind, but unlike his previous guinee-pigs, she had magic. So, Harry decided to try and find a way to protect his own mind first.
While spending time in the forest of memories, Harry suddenly had an idea. 'This is my mind. I can do anything I want. I am the master of my mind. If someone were to modify my memories, they would do it by using the mirrors. What if, I somehow make decoys? What if I make a decoy mind?'
A few days later, Harry finished. The forest looked much different. Every mirror had at least one virtual snake coiled around it, protecting it. He chose to create virtual snakes, because he discovered that he had the ability to talk to them. Since they were the only creatures he could communicate with, Harry created them and ordered them to protect his mind.
But this was not the true defense. For every mirror, he created a small crystal that had a duplicate of the memory. Harry then fused them in the trees, linking each of them to its corresponding mirror.
When accessing a memory, Harry first went to the mirror, and then followed the link to the crystal that held the true memory.
Harry checked every mirror, modifying and erasing the things he wanted to keep secret.
'If anyone penetrates my mind, they'll find only an innocent, clueless mind,' he thought.
Harry considered that his mind was suitably protected. As such, Harry begun to rummage through Vernon and Petunia's mind. He discovered that there was a minor alteration. For a moment he thought that his relative's behavior was owed to the change, but he was quickly proved wrong. The only different thing was that they had the certitude that whatever they did to Harry, they would not be punished for it. The other was a compulsion; it only made them not kill Harry.
After that he went to the only other magical human being around. Harry entered the mind of the crazy cat lady. Harry found out that she was supposed to keep an eye on him and tell Dumbledore if anything out of the ordinary happened. If nothing happened, she was ordered to send a report to Dumbledore, once a year. Harry quickly made a few modifications to her mind. She would not tell Dumbledore about anything out of the ordinary.
Over the next two weeks, Harry discovered how to change the shape of his body. He could change his body into anyone he wanted. He could grow older or younger. He could be male or female, skinny or fat, tall or short.
'With this,' Harry thought, 'I will be able to go anywhere I want and I'll be anonymous.'
Harry was now able to defeat any mundane person and protect his mind. However, he had no idea how to defend against a magical person. The best way to learn how to defend himself magically, was to go to the magical world and get some books and a wand. He wanted to have some rudimentary combat skills before he ventured into strange and potentially dangerous waters. As such, Harry decided to continue to practice his telekinetic powers. After much grueling training, Harry was able to move up to ten objects in any way he wanted. Harry bought a few dozens sharp metal darts. In case of trouble, Harry could throw a few darts and they would hit his desired targets with the force of a crossbow.
Due to his memories as a baby and Ms. Figg memories of the Wizarding world, Harry had a good knowledge of the magical world. As such, on his ninth birthday, when Harry deemed he was ready to enter the magical world, Harry left the house he never thought as a home, for the last time.
Harry thought about beating the crap out of his relatives, but decided that revenge is best served cold. 'One day I will return,' he thought.
At daybreak, in the morning, Harry turned invisible and apparated to a clothes store in London. He looked around and saw that he was alone and there were no surveillance cameras.
Harry went to a mirror. He had kept his hair short. Concentrating, he lengthened it and tied it in a pony tail. He had not needed glasses since he broke the prison to his core. His scar was barely visible. Harry concentrated again and it disappeared completely.
Harry wondered if he should take a different shape, but decided against it. He preferred his true form.
Harry then browsed the store. He disrobed completely and threw all of his old clothes in a bag. Harry never had even a pair of boxers that were not worn by his fat ass cousin first. He had an odd feeling of satisfaction when he wore his first new pair of boxers. He put on a black pair of black pants and shirt. He then chose a pair of black leather boots.
Harry looked at his figure in the mirror. He had to admit that he looked very well. In the last few months, he had eaten well and filled out a bit. His face looked a bit pale, but his green eyes and dark clothes gave him a striking look.
Harry apparated to a London street and threw away his old clothes. He then walked towards the Leaky Cauldron – the entrance to the Wizarding world, witch he found in the squib's mind.
Since Harry had no galleons, he decided to go to Gringotts. Harry had more then a year of memories about his parents. It was amazing the amount of things people said in front of a baby. Coupled to the knowledge from the squib's mind, Harry had quite a lot of knowledge about the Wizarding society. The most important was that he knew that he had a personal vault. The second was that the goblins were neutrals; they were not involved in wizard squabbles. They actually, were not capable of betraying the trust of their clients. As such, Harry was reasonably certain that Dumbledore would not find out that he escaped his prison from the goblins. The goblins might even help him in some way.
Harry entered the bank and stood in line. When Harry's turn came, he bowed slightly at the goblin. "Hello, I would like to know if I have a vault in my name; and if I do, I would like to talk to my vault manager."
The goblin blinked at the polite request. "Of course. Your name?"
Harry bent closer to the goblin. "Harry Potter," he said in a low voice.
The goblin stared at him in surprise and after five seconds, grunted. He told Harry to follow another goblin to see his vault manager.
"Mr. Potter, I am Goremaker. How may I be of service?"
"Greetings, Goremaker. I know that most of the business, inheritances, family documents and wills go through Gringotts."
"Yes Mr. Potter, The wizards do not fully trust their own government. As such using goblins that are magically bound to never betray their clients is preferable."
"I see. I have a couple of questions. The first is… who is my Guardian?"
"Your guardian is Albus Dumbledore."
"And how exactly did he become my guardian?"
"The ministry declared him your magical guardian."
"What about my parents will?"
"Since all of those who were named by the will as possible guardians were unavailable, your magical guardian choice was made by the ministry. The choice was kept secret from the public."
"May I see the will?"
"Of course." The goblin read the will. It seamed that Harry was supposed to go to the Longbottoms, Sirius Black or Remus Lupin, but they were insane, in prison or a werewolf.
"Why was Lupin named in the will if the ministry doesn't allow him as a guardian?"
"Your parents did not know about it. The law was made after the will was given."
The goblin read the last line of the will. "Harry is not to be sent to the Dursleys under any circumstances."
"But I was!"
"I was sent to the Dursleys."
"This means that Dumbledore is in breach of contract," said the goblin, grinning evilly.
"What does that mean?" asked Harry.
"In cases like this, when the heir of an ancient house was betrayed, you are allowed to claim the Lordship, becoming emancipated. Is it your wish to do so?"
The goblin put a bowl and a knife to the table. "If you would draw your blood…"
Harry made a deep cut and let the blood flow.
"Only a few drops are needed, Mr. Potter."
Harry concentrated a bit and the cut disappeared.
"That's an impressive skill, Mr. Potter."
"Thank you, Goremaker."
"In a few moments, the Potter family ring will come. That is if you have the right."
After a minute, a goblin came with two small black boxes.
Harry opened the first and found a ring. It was too big for him, but he still tried it on. After a few seconds, he felt it draw blood. The ring then shrunk to fit him perfectly.
Harry opened the second box, and repeated the process with the second ring. "I thought I was the Potter heir. What's with the second ring?"
"The second ring, Mr. Potter is the Slytherin ring. Since you do not have any Slytherin blood in you, I must assume that you were made the heir by the previous lord."
"Voldemort? He wanted to kill me and he made me his heir instead?"
"Yes, Lord Voldemort or Tom Marvolo Riddle made you his heir."
"Enough about this. What is my inheritance?"
"You have 50000 galleons in your trust vault. In the Potter family vault, you have one million galleons. You also have a great deal of books and artifacts. In the Slytherin vault, you have only 300000 galleons and a protected chamber that can be opened only by a parseltongue. You have also inherited the Potter ancestral home. The family ring acts as a portkey."
"I see. More than a million galleons. Is it a large sum?"
"The Potters lost most of their money in the last wars, but you will be able to live quite comfortable. There are many families that are much richer. However, the Potter and Slytherin books, artifacts and name are priceless."
"I see. Thank you. How do I withdraw some money? Galleons and pounds."
The goblin gave him a card and a small bag. "If you would put three drops of blood on them…" Harry did so. "This is a card, similar to the muggle ones. And this is a money bag. Muggles will see it as a wallet. Just think about the amount of money you want to withdraw. The limit is 100000 galleons."
"Thank you. You have been most helpful. May I go see my vaults now?"
Harry went to his trust fund vault. He found only money.
Next, he went to his family vault. He pressed his ring to the door and it opened. Inside, he found a big pile of money. He passed, barely glancing at them. He found a big library. He checked some of the titles. 'I'll come back later and check some of them,' he thought. Next, he browsed through the collections of weapons and artifacts. In a corner, Harry found a trunk full of his parents' things. He looked at them for a few minutes, before going to his last vault.
Harry entered the Slytherin vault. There was only a pile of galleons and a door. He approached the door.
One of the carved snakes came to life. "Are you a speaker?" it hissed.
"I think I am. Can you open, please?" Harry hissed back.
"Of course, master." The door opened.
Harry entered and saw a room with a few doors.
He entered the first one. It had clothes and armors; boots and gloves. Harry was drawn to some of them. After 15 minutes, Harry was dressed in black clothes. They were so soft and almost weightless, yet Harry suspected that they would easily stop a bullet or knife. He took another pair of boots and a pair of black gloves. On top, he put a black cloak. "Well, this feels much more comfortable," he thought aloud.
In the second chamber, he found hundreds of wands. Harry felt that three of them had a particular affinity. Harry put a wand holster on each arm and the last on his leg. He only had to think about the wand slipping into his hand, and it would.
In the third chamber, Harry found hundreds of weapons. He selected a 50 centimeter wakizashi and put it on a spine sheath. He also put ten small knifes and daggers in various places. Finally, he took some throwing knifes and shurikens.
The fourth chamber was filled with eggs. Harry felt attracted by three of them. He took them and put them in a pocket.
The fifth chamber had some assorted artifacts.
The last chamber was a library. A few of the books were written in a strange language that had moving characters. Harry was somehow able to read them. He took two of them: 'Introduction to Magic and Parselmagic' and 'Basic Parselmagic – battle spells'.
Two years later, a small, shadowy figure entered Knockturn Alley. Immediately, five unsavory men started to shadow him. The figure stopped with its back turned to them. The five prepared to fire, but stopped before they said a curse. The head of a black snake appeared on the shoulder of the figure. The five had a lifetime of experience. And it said that they should leave and never bother the figure. Silently, they retreated to another part of the alley, searching for another victim.
Harry exited the potion supplies store. He was searching for a particularly rare ingredient. While walking, he felt the discharge of a large amount of magic. 'Should I involve myself?' he pondered. 'Fuck it, I'm bored.' Harry approached the site of a battle. In the distance, a small girl was launching one battle spell after another. Harry was impressed. 'She managed to kill one and injure another. I wonder how long she can keep it up.' Suddenly, her already fast pace, doubled in speed. She managed to kill the injured thug, but the other three launched their own spells.
Harry started to run towards the battle.
The girl's shield held for a second, and then it buckled, letting three spells hit her. The girl sprawled on the ground, injured and exhausted.
"You bitch, I'm…" The voice of the thug was interrupted by a knife through his neck.
The other two whirled around, only to be hit by a knife in the eye of one and the neck of the other.
Harry rushed to the girl and cast a diagnostic spell. She had exhausted her core and she was heavily injured. She was dieing. He looked at the Chinese girl. She was petite, with long black hair and deep black eyes. Even covered in blood, she was beautiful.
The girl looked at him sadly and coughed blood. "I'm going to die," she said with certitude.
Harry had to agree. Even if she was apparated to St. Mungo and survived the stress of magical travel, the healers could do nothing. Her injuries were too severe and she did not have enough internal magic to survive. Harry could do nothing… "There is a way for you to survive," he told her suddenly. "I can bind you to me; it's similar to a familiar bond. I do not know if it will work, but it's the best chance you have. Do you accept?"
The girl blinked once. "Yes," she whispered.
Harry cut a deep gash to the palm of his hand and pressed it to her chest, where her most severe injury was located. He let the blood mingle for a few seconds, and then he hissed a spell.
The girl woke in a soft bed. She was in her master's embrace. 'Wait,' she thought. 'Master? He bound me to him!' When she accepted his offer, she did not think about anything else than the possibility of survival. She wanted to be angry, but she couldn't. He saved her. And somehow, she felt that he was an honorable man. He was worthy of her service.
Harry shifted in the bed. "You're awake. You slept for three days."
"Master… thank you for saving me."
"You're okay with it? You're not upset?"
"Of course not. I'm glad you saved me, master."
"Nice to meet you Su Li. I am Harry Potter."
"The Harry Potter?"
"Yes," said Harry amused.
Suddenly, three snakes hissed. "Ow, I'm sorry. These guys are my familiars… and bodyguards."
"I can understand what they are saying. Why?" she whispered.
"I think it's because of the bonding. It seams that you received some gifts from me."
"I am Right," hissed a snake.
"I am Left," hissed another.
"I am Neck," hissed the last one. He was bigger than the other two.
"Hi. I am Su Li."
"Come, I know you want to," hissed the bigger snake. "Ask."
"Do your names signify something?"
The three snakes dropped on the bed, from their perch.
Su Li thought she should be frightened, but she wasn't. She knew that these extremely poisonous snakes would not harm her or her master.
The snakes slithered to Harry. Two of them wrapped themselves around his hand, and the third, larger one, wrapped around his neck.
"I see, Left, Right and Neck," said Su Li. "It's not very inspired."
"Hey, don't look at me," said Harry. "They chose their own names."
Su Li nodded, smiling slightly. "Um… master?" she said shifting uneasily. "Why are we in the same bed?"
"It's because of the bond. We must remain in close proximity for the next few weeks. We'll feel uncomfortable if we don't. Physical touch is preferable until the bond stabilizes."
"Oh. That's good." Su Li burrowed in Harry's embrace. "This feels nice."
"Shit," said Harry five minutes later. "We'll have to tell your family. I don't think they'll be too pleased about this."
"Don't worry, master. The only family I have left is my grandfather. He's a little weird and old-fashioned, so I don't think he'll be too opposed to this. Since you saved my life, it is the honorable thing for me to serve you. He's very old, so he's worried about me. He'll be glad I found a new home."
Author Notes: Why dark pixie? You'll see in the next two chapters.
For now… a pixie is a magical creature. Looks like a ten centimeters human with wings.
The dark pixie is the hated… cousin of the normal "insipid" pixie.
Reviews are more than welcomed.
Thank you for reading.
Published: September 26 2008
Edited: November 25 2008