Disclaimer – Nothing but fanfiction
Acknowledgements – As always the hard work of Alpha Fight Club is greatly appreciated. Take a bow guys. Beta work by Aaran St. Vines.
Chapter 5 – Flowers for Padma
Harry was dreaming again. It was okay – he knew this one. It was a "reoccurring" dream and he didn't mind it one bit. In it, he was laying back, resting on his bed, but he wasn't alone. There was a distinctively female presence on top of him. The swaying breasts were his first clue. During the first few times, he thought it was just memories of his experiences with Lavender Brown from last year, but the blurry-faced female was differently shaped from his former Gryffindor girlfriend.
Still, the prospect of naked frolicking was even better than before to the now fifteen year old Harry Potter and he began to wonder if this dream was actually a vision of something in his future. He concentrated, trying to bring the image into focus. The skin was dusky; the hair was dark with something silver colored sweeping it off her face. Her eyes were a piercing hazel and darted from him to the book she casually held in one hand as a mischievous smile played on her lips. She was saying something to him, mouthing her thanks for giving her something … diamonds?
Fairly certain who the mystery girl in his dream was, Harry looked hard at the title of the book to be sure.
Terrifying Transfigurations – Don't Just Defeat Your Opponent.
That cinched it! Parvati would be holding a Teen Witch Weekly. The girl in this fantasy was definitely Padma Patil.
Harry started to answer the tantalizing witch, but his eyes betrayed him and opened. He bolted upright staring into the thick glasses of his Auntie Sibyll!
"What? Huh?" He asked startled. Instinctively, Harry shifted not wanting her to see something embarrassing.
"You sounded like you were having a bad dream, dear. Is it something you want to talk about?"
"I really have to go to the loo, first," Harry stammered bolting out of the room faster than a pack of wild hippogriffs.
He gagged on the noxious odor in the bathroom. Cousin Dudley must have been in there recently. Within seconds, Harry was cured of his visible "problem". At age eight sleeping in the same bedroom as his Auntie was the "best thing in the world." Seven years later, it was still a far cry from the cupboard under the stairs, but there were growing problems.
Relieving himself, Harry washed up and gave himself the once over in the mirror while thinking about his housemate Padma and trying to sort through his thoughts with mixed results. She was certainly attractive and her mind was as sharp as a whip. Harry could do far worse than Padma Patil.
Of course, if his dream was a vision and not just the result of teenage male hormones running amuck, he'd have to buy her some diamonds at some point.
That seemed a trifle expensive.
"Hurry up, Harry. The Headmaster said he'd be by to collect us and give us some orders."
"I think you misunderstood. He's giving us to something called The Order. They're his helpers. Sirius Black is supposed to be with them."
He could hear Auntie Sibyll's snort through the door. She said, "Yes, that does make more sense. Now, what was I saying, ah yes, don't go taking all day in there young man. These bags won't pack themselves, you know."
"The incantation is 'Pack,' Auntie," Harry said reminding her that they actually could.
Wondering why his godfather chose willingly to live in such an awful looking place, was beyond Harry. He followed Headmaster Dumbledore and his Auntie into the kitchen and found a group of wizards and witches waiting for him. Sirius stood and embraced him while Remus nodded a polite greeting. Arthur and Molly Weasley, Harry recalled from the brief meeting in Dumbledore's office after that incident with the basilisk.
Mrs. Weasley handed him a plate of sandwiches and ushered him into the parlor. Inside, he found his classmate, Ron, and the rest of the underage Weasley children. They pounced on the platter in his hand like nifflers striking a gold vein. Harry was lucky to come out with half of one with some additional crust dangling off of it. It rather reminded him of mealtime with Cousin Dudley.
"Did you hear what they were talking about?" Ron asked lips smacking together and pieces of moist bread rocketing out of his gaping maw.
"Not really," Harry answered. "I'd just barely walked through the door and now I'm here. Perhaps I'll go find my room."
"They're having a meeting," Ginny said, in her mouse-like way, nibbling away at her food. "They won't let us listen in, but we know they're talking about the war and you-know-who."
"That's good news I suppose." Harry reasoned adults should be stepping up and taking responsibility for this war. Heaven knows that he could use all the help the powers would provide and he definitely didn't want to fight a war with a bunch of schoolchildren – only a fool would do that! Setting down the now empty platter, he continued, "Which way to the stairs then?"
"Aren't you the least bit curious?" One of the twins said. Both of them were observing Harry much like he was an oddity and gulping the remnants of their sandwiches. They continued speaking – mostly nonsense – for the next minute. One would speak a sentence, bite and chew, while the other continued the thought.
Harry shrugged, saying, "If it's important, Auntie Sibyll or Mr. Black will tell me. If it's really important, I'm sure the powers that be will find a way to pass a message to me."
The other twin was struggling with a piece of string and said, "Even for a 'Claw, you're a nutter, Potter. Stairs are that way."
Harry replied, "Thanks," before heading out the other door and up the staircase. A decrepit looking house elf was there eyeing Harry's baggage.
"Another defiler enters the once noble house of Black," the surly elf hissed at him.
"I'm Harry," he said offering a greeting. Most house elves at Hogwarts liked it when Harry spoke directly to them.
Kicking Harry's trunk and sending it careening into the wall, the elf said, "Kreacher doesn't care. Kreacher knows you all for what you truly are – filth!"
The elf's tirade reminded him of something. "What did you say your name was?"
"Kreacher! Is stupid human deaf as well as stupid?"
Harry pushed the elf aside and opened his trunk. He pulled out the book where he recorded any predictions he had previously made and flipped through the pages. There it was – right below the one about the sensitivities of the moonlight. (Anything concerning the moon, Harry tended to associate with Luna and this made him worry that he would say or do something that upset her this year.)
Unto the Creature provide the Rod.
There was every possibility that this elf was the "Creature." Now, all he needed was to find the "Rod."
"Or maybe not!" Harry said aloud causing the elf to further glare at him. He opened the trunk once more and rummaged through it. Early in the summer, Cousin Dudley had taken to rapping on the doors, the steps, or virtually anything with his Smelting's Stick. After the stick had cracked one of Auntie Sibyll's prized crystal balls; it went "missing" and was still where Harry had left it.
"I believe that I need to give this to you." Harry said presenting it to Kreacher.
"What would Kreacher need a piece of wood for? Is it a magical stick?"
"No, it is a muggle stick. They use it to discipline their children when they misbehave and the students at my cousin's school use it to hit each other when the teachers aren't looking."
A tiny elf hand reached out and took the gnarled piece of wood from his hand. Kreacher turned it over, inspecting it. "Muggles beat other muggles with sticks?"
Harry wasn't quite sure he liked the expression on Kreacher's face. "Yes, but only when they're misbehaving," he quickly added.
"Kreacher thanks you for this gift. Maybe all of Bad Master's guests not worthless vermin after all. Kreacher take gift-giver's baggage to room now."
Sometimes, Harry worried about the consequences of heeding his predictions. He feared this one would come back to haunt him. Shrugging, he climbed the stairs and found the room with his belongings in it. The elf had opened a window and was using the Smelting's stick to pummel a nest of hapless doxies. What frightened Harry the most is how Kreacher was humming while he did it.
It was there, in his room, that Dumbledore found him.
"Hello Harry, how are you this day? I had thought you were to be rooming with young Ronald?"
"This is where the elf put me. I'm pretty good, I guess. I don't suppose you have a safe house that doesn't feel like a cursed tomb?"
The old man chuckled for a moment before sighing, "No, I'm afraid not at this time. The Ancient and Noble House of Black is all we have at our disposal. Chin up, lad, you haven't even had the pleasure of meeting Sirius's mother yet. Do tell her I said hello when you make her acquaintance."
The twinkle in his eye made Harry realize that he was being facetious.
"I will, sir. I suppose there is something that you'd like to talk about?"
"Yes, one of the things I'm concerned with is your scar. Has it been hurting you?"
Instinctively, Harry rubbed it, "A little," he admitted.
"I fear Lord Voldemort will try to use that connection the two of you share to his advantage to spy on us or even make an attempt at direct possession. You need to prepare yourself. I'd like you to begin studying from this textbook. It covers a little known branch of magic called Occlumency. It will help you erect barriers to protect your mind from Tom's Legilimency. Is something wrong, Harry?"
"Yes," Harry said taking a moment to pause. "As I understand this, it is a way to close off the mind. Won't it interfere with my abilities?"
"Alas, I cannot be certain because I am not a seer. It is a possibility."
Harry didn't like disagreeing with a veritable legend in the magical world. Shaking his head, he pushed the small tome back to the Headmaster and said, "I'm sorry sir. I need to have an open mind to be ready to use my talents. Closing even a portion of it might deprive me of a critical vision or interfere with my card draws and dice rolls. I can't risk that. It would be an affront to the powers and I would surely incur their wrath."
Dumbledore smiled and pulled on his long beard. "Yes, I feared that would be your answer. You will have to be extra skeptical of your visions this season, Harry. They may be illusions created by a master of lies. That said, I think it should be Tom that is worried, if and when he tries to access your fascinating mind. We will have frequent contact this year, Harry. Not just for your Remedial Transfiguration lessons, but I will continuously be assessing your state of mind."
"Do you really think that's necessary, sir? I'm opposed to letting a Legilimens poke around in my brain. There are things you may not be meant to see in there."
"I will gladly swear an unbreakable vow not to divulge any information I find in there, but even a Master Legilimens leaves signs. I'll be looking for those and not predictions of the future."
Harry was nervous, but it was preferable to closing off his mind and the Headmaster was very respectful of his abilities, otherwise they wouldn't be having this conversation to begin with. Part of him recoiled at the thought of being left in the dark for an entire year and not knowing what was going on.
"Okay, sir. I'll do it. You don't suppose while you're up there you could straighten me out when it comes to Charms and Defense?"
Dumbledore laughed and patted him on the shoulders. "I'm a Master Legilimens, Harry, not a miracle worker. Remember – hard work is its own reward and this is your OWL year. It is a truly exciting and challenging time in your life. Rise to that challenge m'boy. Rise to it!"
"I'll do my best, sir."
"Of course you will. Now, I'm afraid that our friend Cornelius has been active. He has placed a person on my staff for the coming year. Her name is Delores …" They were interrupted by one of the Weasley twins apparating into the room and clutching his arm.
"Bloody elf just whacked me with a stick and said I was misbehaving!"
To his credit, Dumbledore showed no surprise. Instead, he asked, "And were you 'misbehaving,' Mr. Weasley?"
"Of course not, sir. Wouldn't dream of it." The seventh year wizard answered with practiced ease despite the pain.
"Then you may wish to speak to Mr. Black. Your mother is quite handy when it comes to healing charms. Or, if you do not feel like facing her, you could try to catch Ms. Vance or Mrs. Jones before they depart."
"Thank you." The twin said and disappeared again just as the door creaked open. The elf's head peeked into the room. It looked at Harry and then to Dumbledore. With a smile, it backed out and closed the door.
"Look, I've told Kreacher to stop hitting people with his stick," Sirius Black said smearing some ointment on the back of his hand. Most everyone around the table sported a bruise or three from the maniacal elf. The only ones who were unscathed, thus far, were Mrs. Weasley, Auntie Sibyll, and Harry.
"I heard it followed Fletcher into the street and was doing some kind of a war cry," Tonks said. She was apparently very clumsy and Harry learned that the majority of the bruises she sported were of her own making. "I wouldn't look for him to show up at any meetings in the near future."
Ron started to reach for the platter of breakfast pastries, but his purplish hand stopped short and he looked around nervously. Slowly he said, "Uh, Mr. Black, might I have another one of these?"
"Go ahead, Ron," Harry's godfather answered before loudly continuing. "In fact, everyone in the room is welcome to eat and drink as much as they like without fear of retribution."
"Does that include the Firewhiskey?" One of the twins brazenly asked.
Sirius shook his head. "It's a trifle early for that, boys! Besides, isn't that what got all this started? One of you down in the cellar sifting through the alcohol?"
The oldest Weasley, a cursebreaker named Bill, entered and was carrying a box containing several bottles of Doxy Spray.
"You kids are in for a real treat today … Yow!" The man said nearly dropping the box when Kreacher appeared behind him and whacked him in the right calf muscle with the stick. "What the bloody hell was that for?"
"Maybe wizard learn to wipe feet on doormat when he enters Ancient and Noble House of Black!"
Bill went for his wand, but the elf was long gone. He settled for hopping over to the table and nearly falling into Tonks' lap. Laughing, the metamorph affected a remarkably accurate version of Fleur Delacour's face and said a few things that made Bill blush profusely.
"Misbehavior!" The stick slammed into Harry's wand hand knocking the locket he was holding to the ground. Harry knew his luck couldn't last.
"Ow, ow, ow!" Harry said. "We were told to clean this room, Kreacher." He was glad the Weasley children had left to get something to eat, though it made him wonder about their metabolisms.
"Clean yes, but no handling dark artifacts!"
Harry clutched his hand and pulled the wooden splinter lodged in the back of it out. He shook his hand to get the stinging sensation out of it and watched in horror as the blood spattered onto the carpet. In fear, Harry turned toward Kreacher, reflexively preparing for additional pain. The elf was cocked back for another swing, but he was frozen with his eyes looking at the floor.
Following the stare, Harry looked at the locket. Where the small trail of blood was, the locket was making a sizzling noise. The blood boiled off, but there was a discoloration left behind right on the large "S" emblazoned on the front.
Bugger! Now I'm really going to get it!
Instead, the elf looked up at him, wide-eyed in disbelief. "What does gift giving boy know about Dark Lord?"
"He's my enemy," Harry answered looking at the locket and wondering what he'd just stumbled on.
"Kreacher was ordered by Best Master Ever, Regulus to destroy the locket and has tried everything he knows."
"Why did your former master order you to destroy it?"
"Is important to Dark Lord. Kreacher doesn't know what it does, but Best Master told Kreacher to take it and destroy it."
"Go get a small bowl, Kreacher. I think my blood will do the job," Harry said and watched the suddenly gleeful elf disappear. He wondered if it was just like the diary, but didn't dare hold it again. If it was, it might try and possess him.
Kreacher returned and Harry used the tip of his wand to lift the artifact by its chain and deposited it into the bowl. Next, Harry sent the elf to get the knife from his potions kit. Harry sliced his palm and let the blood drip down into the bowl. The locket sparked and hissed back at them as the blood evaporated against it. The smell was so awful that Harry knew it must be doing something, but all it did was mar the surface.
"Not working! Not working!" Kreacher howled.
"Maybe if we tried opening it?
"Can't open it. Kreacher tried."
"You can't speak Parseltongue. I can." Harry said and hissed for the locket to open. Sure enough, there was a tiny click and he was able to use the knife to separate the halves.
The dripping blood was causing more smoke and greater surface damage, but it was still intact. Kreacher began stamping his foot impatiently.
After two more minutes, Harry was starting to feel a little lightheaded. "Maybe we should stop and try again after I've had a few blood replenishers."
Kreachers's answer was to grab the knife and stab Harry's arm. "No!" The elf screamed. "We need more blood! It must be destroyed."
Harry could only appreciate the strength of an insane house elf as they wrestled for control of the knife.
"I kind of need most of what's in me, thank you very much!"
The knife popped out of Harry's arm. Kreacher's hand was on the handle, but Harry's hand was wrapped around the elf's. They continued struggling for a second more until they both noticed the sheen of blood coating the blade.
"Do you think we should …" Harry started to ask.
Kreacher nodded. "Yes."
"Fine. I'll let go, but no more stabbing me!"
Harry let go and backpedaled away from the insane house servant. The elf took the knife in a two-handed grip, like some pagan priest of old, and brought it down. There was a cracking noise. Kreacher looked up and smiled for a second. Then he snapped his fingers and sent Harry flying the length of the room, just ahead of the explosion.
After a minute, or perhaps five, Harry struggled to his feet. Actually, it was his godfather that was helping him. Several people were milling about the room. His glasses were nowhere in sight. His left shoulder hurt from where he impacted the wall. Since he was on that topic, it hurt to think, or to breathe for that matter.
Two days later, Harry was let out of bed. He still felt the aftereffects, but at least there were no more "cleaning details" in his foreseeable future. There was a lengthy conversation with Dumbledore and Sirius Black. The Headmaster took the remains of the locket back to Hogwarts to study.
He was busy, attempting to stay out of the way of another meeting of the Order of the Phoenix when a voice from nowhere spoke, "Trying to destroy my house, you vile, insipid little boy?" The witch in the painting accused.
Kreacher appeared, sporting an arm in a sling, three medicinal poultices and the top third of the Smelting's stick. At first, Harry thought he was going to be hit, but the elf leaped onto the frame and perched there with his little toes balancing him. He thwapped the canvas three times with the end of the stick making the woman in the painting yowl and cower.
"Harry Potter made it possible to avenge Greatest Master Ever, Regulus Black! No one, not even you, says bad things about Great Wizard Harry Potter … or else."
The witch in the painting removed her hands from her face. The area around her eye was blackening already. "You avenged my son?"
"Yes. Both me and Kreacher." Harry wanted to make certain the elf got credit. He also dearly wanted for the first of September to get here and leave the Ancient and Noble (albeit Insane) House of Black.
"Thank you. You'll hear nothing further from me, lad."
"It's all just theory … and not even very good theory at that," Padma complained to Harry about the Defense Against the Dark Arts textbook as they headed toward the classroom to meet their new instructor. "I'd be willing to bet that the author is a family member."
"Can't be worse than last year, or first year for that matter," Harry replied. "They tried to kill me. The good teachers were in years two and three. Since two plus three equals five, and we're in our fifth year a case could be made for Madame Umbridge being good. Then again, one plus four also equals five, so there might be a problem with that line of reasoning."
"Is that a straight line or are we going off in circles again? My head is starting to hurt from trying to follow you, Harry. Can you sum it up for me?" Padma asked, flashing a smile. She didn't necessarily agree that Gilderoy Lockhart lived up to his billing, but Harry wasn't one to quibble over the details.
On the topic of straight lines, Harry couldn't help but notice that Padma's school uniform contained very few of them. There were far more curves than three months ago. He squelched those thoughts before they led him back to that vision he'd had over the summer.
"I guess either she's decent or going to try and kill me, perhaps both. I can try to narrow it down after I meet her." Harry left out the fact that Dumbledore had told him that their new teacher was the eyes and ears of Minister Fudge inside the school.
They took their seats and Madame Umbridge introduced herself and went into extraordinary detail of how her work in the Ministry on Dark Creatures was relevant to teaching a course on them.
One of the Hufflepuffs, a twitchy little fellow named Wayne Hopkins, asked when they would be using their wands.
"Hopkins? I don't believe I know that family name. You must be a Muggleborn, therefore, you do not have a full understanding of how hard the Ministry works to protect you. To answer your question, we're going to be working on the theories of defense, children, and not the practical applications. I've looked through the recent instructors and found their methods, not to mention their qualifications, somewhat lacking. I have decided to return to the basics and rebuild your foundation from the bottom up. After all, we must learn to stand and walk before we run."
As others, including Padma voiced their concerns about the upcoming OWL examinations; Harry remembered her tone from the years in school with Cousin Dudley. He felt somewhat insulted that she was addressing the class like they were preteens. He raised his hand after listening to her reassure Terry Boot that by studying these techniques it will fully prepare you for the testing at the end of the year.
"Yes, Mr. Potter?"
"I was just wondering how many Dark Creatures you've captured."
"In the last year alone, sixteen of the vile monsters were rounded up – a thirty-three percent increase over last year."
"By you, ma'am?"
A crack appeared Madame Umbridge's otherwise pleasant mask, but it disappeared just as quickly as she replied, "No, dear boy. By the Aurors and various other departments of the Ministry of Magic. No one expects you to combat a dragon, a troll, or anything like that. The purpose of this class is to give you the tools to protect yourself until trained and qualified assistance can be called upon. My role was in drafting the legislation which restricts the activities of these beasts and limits the threat these monsters and sub-humans present to our magical society. Trust me, you'll find no better authority in all of the United Kingdom on the actions of Dark Creatures."
The way she presented things left a foul taste in Harry's mouth. The instructor quickly fended off other questions by ordering them to read chapter one. Padma managed a roll of her hazel eyes and a quiet sigh. It was like class with Professor Binns … only less interesting.
Though Harry did notice an acknowledgement to a sister named Delores in the front matters of the tome.
"So is she a Rotfang supporter or not?" Luna asked Harry while trying to balance a spoon on her nose and attempting to juggle three apples.
Lunchtime with Luna was seldom dull.
"You can make your own decision, when you have your first class with her, but if I have to say, better pencil her in on the side of the supporters."
Padma made a growling noise and offered her own opinion. "She certainly doesn't support anyone learning anything new or useful. My parents think she's just here to keep the Headmaster from causing a panic."
"Daddy thinks she's here recruiting for the Rotfangs. She wears a good deal of pink and it's rumored to be a mating color for them."
Michael Corner made a rather disagreeable noise, "That's something I didn't need to think about during mealtime, Lovegood. Can't you just be quiet and let us eat."
Luna deftly snapped her head and flipped the spoon into her juggling rotation. She replaced the spoon with one of the apples in her mouth. Harry had to admit that the girl had talent. She abruptly stopped and put the two apples and spoon down, but she held onto the fruit in her mouth.
Standing, she took a few bites before saying, "Are you coming, Harry?"
"Where are we going?" He asked.
"I found this wonderful room filled with all sorts of interesting things. I wanted to show it to you. Would you like to come as well, Padma?"
"No thanks, I'm going to finish my lunch and practice on my harp before the next class. Have fun you two."
With Padma's "blessing," Harry followed Luna out of the Great Hall and onto the moving staircases. While they waited for the pathways to realign, Luna held a decidedly one-sided conversation with the staircase. A couple of Gryffindor's nearby were pointing at her and laughing.
"She's mental. Talking to a stupid piece of stonework!"
Luna patted the banister and said, "Don't let it get to you, Toby. I know you're not stupid."
As if in response, the stairwell began to move and Luna started to hum in tune with the grinding noises of the slabs of moving rock.
She led him all the way to the seventh floor. Harry had heard that the Gryffindor tower entrance was around here somewhere. After roaming around for a few minutes, he was about to ask her if she had forgotten where they were going, but a door appeared in the wall in front of them.
Still humming, she opened the door. The room was enormous and filled with all sorts of things. Even Harry was impressed.
"How did you find this place?" Harry asked.
"Toby mentioned it when I told him that I was looking for hidden secrets in the castle."
"The staircase told you?" Even Harry was a bit skeptical.
"Well not at first. He was mostly complaining about his relationship with Frieda and how they might be heading for a permanent separation. Plus, he generally feels taken for granted and that everyone walks all over him."
"Who's Frieda?" Harry asked, more than a little lost. He wanted to forage through all the items in the room, but Luna's words mesmerized him.
"She's the landing on the second floor and Toby's girlfriend. They have two broom closets together."
"Oh, that does make sense," Harry answered, even though it didn't. Then again, Hogwarts is a magical castle, who was he to judge. "Let's hope they can patch things up."
Luna nodded and said, "I was thinking of having some words with Frieda. Oh, look at this!"
Harry peered over her shoulder. There was a skeleton of some exotic bird in a cage. When Luna tapped the cage, the thing stretched its neck out and snapped at her. Someone must have reanimated it and hidden it in this room.
"You might want to be a bit more careful in here," Harry warned.
"Oh, he's probably just hungry. After all, it's all bones," Luna answered pulling out a piece of butcher's paper and removing the piece of raw meat wrapped inside. "I normally save this for my visits with the Thestrals, but here you go, eat up."
The skeleton tried to take a piece of her hand along with the sliver of steak, but Luna was too quick for it. She swatted the cage and reprimanded it.
"That's interesting," Harry observed. The meat dissolved into mist and some flesh reappeared on the creature's clawed feet.
"I wonder if Hagrid will know what it is. Shall we take it to him? I should think this would make a splendid familiar."
Harry knew she'd been holding out for an elusive Snorkack, but this did seem a trifle baffling. He wondered what the other witches in her room would think about whatever this was. Glancing about the room, he quickly realized that it would take days, perhaps even weeks to sift through the debris in this room.
"Why don't we come back here tomorrow evening? We can start cataloguing the artifacts! Perhaps we can talk Padma into coming as well."
Harry scowled a bit before answering. "I have lessons with Dumbledore tomorrow night. With the amount of work she and I have this year, we might not be able to spend as much time with you this year, but I'll do my best."
He wasn't sure if he imagined it, but some of the twinkle in Luna's eyes went away. After a moment, she replied, "You always do."
They wandered around for a few more minutes, seeing various items, some of which might or might not be on the list of things banned from Hogwarts and were about to leave when Harry spied something that caught his attention. It was a headpiece and he'd seen it before somewhere.
It took him a minute, but he realized that it was part of his dream where he and Padma had been …. Without a second thought, he snatched it up and put it into his satchel.
"What are you going to do with a diadem, Harry? I don't think it's your color."
"Is that's what it's called?" Harry asked. It looked like he didn't have to buy Padma "diamonds" after all. On all fronts, things were definitely looking up. "I saw this in a dream over the summer. Padma was wearing it."
"Harry! Do you know what this is?"
"Luna said it was a diadem. I'm pretty sure that you're supposed to have it."
Padma looked around the dorm room. Her roommates were already gone and she and Harry were going to have to practically run to make their afternoon class, but suddenly that didn't matter to her. "No, Harry! Think about the bust of Rowena Ravenclaw down in the common room!"
"What about it? Oh wait, she's got one just like it." He casually remarked in a manner that made Padma want to throttle him.
"Not like it! This is hers! Ravenclaw's Diadem. Harry, this is huge! It's been missing since after her death. Look here's the inscription. It's supposed to make anyone who wears it several magnitudes smarter."
"Well, I had a vision of you wearing it over the summer, and when I spotted it in Luna's room full of hidden stuff … well, you know, I just figured I should give it to you. Do you want to try it on?"
If it were anyone else, she'd swear it was just a sick joke, but Harry wasn't a prankster. He did seem a bit eager for her to put it on. Still, it could be a fake, left in that room to prank some future student. Her initial enthusiasm waned. People don't just walk into a room and hand someone an object belonging to one of the founders of Hogwarts. It simply isn't done!
"Alright," she said, "but pull it off of me if it starts doing something weird to me, or be ready to summon an elf and send it to Professor Flitwick, if it is cursed."
Harry agreed and she summoned her courage and closed her eyes. There was a tingle the moment the diadem touched her head. A split second of panic was replaced with a surge, as she felt her breathing and the rhythms of her body, so very clearly.
"Are you okay, Padma, do I need to pull it off, or get the Professor?"
She opened her eyes. It was like opening them for the first time. The colors were so vivid. Everything was so sharp. It was overwhelming. She started to swoon, but Harry caught her and helped her to her bed. When he reached to take it off, Padma stopped him.
"No, I'm okay. It's just strange, like seeing everything in a new light. Help me get over to my harp, I want to try something."
Harry did as she asked and Padma looked up at the piece of sheet music floating in the air. She'd been having difficulties with the transition in this piece. No matter what she'd done, her fingers never seemed to move fast enough. Focusing on the sheet and the notes, she started to play. The difference from before was like night and day. This fairly advanced piece was suddenly as easy to play as doing practice scales!
"That was very pretty, Padma," Harry remarked when she finished, she was staring at her hands, looking for differences.
"Harry! This is really her diadem. It's incredible!" The windows in her mind hadn't just been opened, they were shattered.
"Like I said, I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be yours."
Padma couldn't believe her ears. Supreme knowledge was in his hands, yet he was giving it to her without a second thought. She inspected him, even noticing the slight aura around him. I can see auras! Amazing. Mine is barely visible, but his lights up the room.
Her theories of how his power affected his predictions came to mind and she processed numerous variables while scanning him from head to toe. She definitely wanted to study him. His aura was positively enthralling.
Reaching out, she touched his cheek with a finger. "You're so powerful, Harry and so very gifted."
"Thanks," he said blushing. The idea that he was crushing on her was so obvious. How had I missed it before?
"No, it's me who needs to thank you, Harry." She leaned closer and kissed him.
They never did make it to Herbology that day.
For Harry, the year was shaping up to be his best ever. At Padma's suggestion, they kept the rediscovery of Ravenclaw's Diadem a secret. She wanted to fully explore the item's potential and she had a really great way of convincing him.
"What are you doing, Mr. Potter?" The "sickly-sweet" voice of Madame Umbridge asked.
"Reading, as you instructed," Harry answered while realizing that he'd neglected to place a glamour over his Arithmancy text before class. He'd certainly meant to, but Padma had distracted him by pulling him into a broom closet on the way. Inside, she took out a sixth year Charms tome and the diadem out of her bag.
The "new" Padma was beginning to make Lavender Brown look like a Puritan in comparison. Her explanation was that she absorbed knowledge faster when she was stimulated. Harry had responded that she didn't need to explain anything to him.
"Five points from Ravenclaw for not following directions," Umbridge said.
"Actually, your directions were to, 'open your textbook and begin reading chapter six.' I assure you that this is my textbook and it is open to chapter six."
"Very well, I'll give those five points back, but now I'll take ten points for your cheek! What do you think about that, Mr. Potter?"
"About you giving the points back or you taking additional points? I suppose I'm pleased about the former, but not-so-much about the latter."
"Doesn't Ravenclaw's standing in the house cup matter to you?"
"Well the points system seems rather antiquated, if you ask me. Was it more important when you were in school?"
"Would you like a detention as well, Mr. Potter?"
"No, ma'am." Harry had heard rumors about Madame Umbridge's detentions. Hermione Granger in Gryffindor had been wearing a bandage on her hand after a string of detentions where the Muggleborn witch had challenged the "Professor's" qualifications.
"Too late! I'll see you here this evening."
"Ma'am, I have a remedial Transfiguration lesson with the Headmaster this evening."
"How are your studies progressing, Harry," Headmaster Dumbledore asked.
"It's going well, sir. Any news on Tom Riddle?"
"Not very much, I'm afraid. He appears to be consolidating his position and licking his wounds from the battle in the graveyard. You did a wonderful job spoiling his coming out party. The last time I was at the ministry, I did notice that Lucius Malfoy had difficulties hearing. He explained it away as a conjuration accident and is said to be seeking specialized treatment at a hospital in Lisbon. My sources tell me that Tom is also out of the country, rallying supporters to his cause."
Dumbledore paused, offering Harry a second lemon drop. "Nevertheless, I do believe that Tom will attempt to steal the copy of the prophecy that exists in the Department of Mysteries. Failing that, he will attempt to gain access to you or your Aunt Sibyll."
"Sir, should you be telling me this? You've said he may try and access my mind at some point."
"Yes, I did. That said, he will most likely see this very memory and he will have to decide whether I am simply telling you this or laying a trap for him. The copy of the prophecy in the Department of Mysteries, could be a real, a fake, or a trap. Tom prides himself on being a great thinker, and so I'll play to his paranoia and make him commit to a plan. Now, before we can get down to the business of Transfiguration, Madame Umbridge has complained, quite vocally in fact, about your performance in her class. I delayed your detention with her until tomorrow, but do expect you to put forth more effort in the future."
"I also received a request from the centaur herd. Firenze has asked that you be his guest for the meteor shower, next week. Assuming there are no further detentions, or other issues, and Professor Trewlaney agrees as well, I have no problems with you attending."
"Thank you, sir!" Harry was surprised by the invitation. He'd check with his Auntie in the morning.
"Good, now that we've dealt with the administrative issues, let's move on. Your Godfather has asked if I would be willing to teach you the preliminary stages of becoming an Animagus. I am willing if you are as well."
"He gave me some books on the subject for my birthday. I've been working my way through them during my free time," Harry answered. Sirius seemed rather fixated on Harry becoming one.
"Very good. I'd like to start with some basic self-transfiguration." The Headmaster got that twinkle in his eyes and Harry knew just to go along with what was about to happen next.
"What did you do to my quill?" Delores Umbridge exclaimed.
Harry cringed. "Nothing, ma'am. It just snapped in half when I stated writing."
"Give me that! What happened to the back of your hand?"
"I was practicing transfiguration with the Headmaster last night and I managed to turn this section to stone. He said if it doesn't wear off by my next lesson, he'll teach me how to reverse it."
"Do you have any idea how expensive that quill was?"
Harry didn't. It looked like Mr. Lockhart's special contracts quill that Harry still had. He wasn't about to offer it up as a replacement either. It was somewhat painful when writing with it and Harry didn't care for the idea of doing lines with it. There was no doubt why Hermione Granger smelled like ointment and looked pale the other day.
Madame Umbridge raged, "Willfully destroying a Professor's property! Ten more points from Ravenclaw and two detentions!"
The door creaked open and Dumbledore walked in. "My apologies Delores, I was wandering the halls and heard the commotion. Is something the matter?"
"No, of course not Headmaster," Madame Umbridge immediately shifted her tone. "Potter broke a quill I had given him … nothing more."
"Well, my specialty is Alchemy, but I am a serviceable enchanter. Perhaps I could repair it for you?"
"No, no, no. That's quite alright, Headmaster." Umbridge's wand came out and vanished the broken quill.
"But you seemed rather distraught at the loss of that expensive quill," Dumbledore said. "If Harry did indeed break it – willfully I might add – I can authorize a punitive draft from his vault to pay for a replacement. Just tell me what type of quill it was and I'll make the arrangements this evening."
Taken aback, Umbridge answered, "It really was just an heirloom, given to me by a good friend, that's why I overreacted."
"Indeed," Dumbledore said, while stroking his long beard. "In that case, Delores, I would recommend that, in the future, you not entrust a precious heirloom to the only partially-trained hands of a student. I'd hate to see a repeat of this unfortunate incident again. As Headmaster, I'll allow the point deduction to stand, but I cannot go along with awarding two detentions for the breaking of a quill. It seems a tad excessive. In fact, since Harry's overweighted hand is my fault; I feel the need to correct this."
From his robes, he produced a phoenix feather and presented it to Madame Umbridge. "I can only hope that one of Fawkes' feathers can replace that which you have lost. All I ask is that you never mention this to Fawkes. My familiar tends to get peeved when I give pieces of its body away without prior consultation. It sings a pleasant little tune when the words are written with good intentions behind them. I trust it will serve you well."
Turning, Dumbledore winked at Harry and confidently walked from the room.
"Are you sure that you don't want to go with me to see the meteor shower?" Harry asked Padma.
His girlfriend shook her head no as she undid the transfigured bed created in the broom cupboard while her clothes snaked around her body and returned to their proper place. "No, I'll have to sit this one out. Why don't you take Luna? Tonight, I've got a date with the Restricted Section. Professor Binns was kind enough to give me a pass. You go and have fun, Harry. Hopefully, you'll make a prediction. Let me know if you do."
Harry spell wasn't nearly as impressive as his enchanted shirt smacked him in the face several times before he could get his arm into the sleeve, but it did save a bunch of time when it came to one of these "between class" rendezvous. Ever since he revealed the exact wording of the prophecy, Padma had been on a mission to gain access to the Restricted Section of the library. It looked like her hard work had paid off.
He watched the enchanted headscarf Padma had made cover the diadem and hide the outline. Initially, Padma was only wearing it during their study sessions, but soon explained that she could make greater progress wearing it for longer periods of time.
"Did you have a good time?" He asked shyly.
She patted his head. "Yes, of course I did. The book, on the other hand, was something of a disappointment. The title is misleading and the content a tad pedestrian. Most of the spells inside weren't really innovative charms. They were just variations on a theme … clever perhaps, but hardly groundbreaking."
"Maybe you should read up on Defense and start teaching the students on the side?" Harry offered.
"A secret defense club? Oh, I don't think so. The more people involved in a secret, the greater the likelihood of the secret being exposed. I'll be happy to tutor you, but I don't want to reveal the existence of this to anyone else … even Luna."
"Why not Luna?" Luna already knew that Harry had given it to Padma. She just didn't know it was Ravenclaw's Diadem.
"She doesn't really think before she blurts things out. That won't do at all. Let's not worry about that, Harry." Padma slid up next to him and started kissing his neck. "I don't think Luna's that interested in Defense anyway. She's better at Charms and Runes, in my opinion."
Punctuating every few words with a kiss on his neck, she said, "Why don't I … show you a couple … of the better charms I've picked up … and you can show them to her?"
The hairs on the back of his neck were standing up, when he said, "Okay. Ow! Padma, I thought you said no more biting!"
She backed away and smiled at him. "I just like marking what is mine, Harry. That would be you. Besides, it was just a little nibble. You know I'll make it up to you. In fact, drop off your cloak before you go see the Centaurs and just maybe, I'll sneak up to your dorm room tonight."
"Can't," he replied. "I lent it to Luna last week. She's been using it while moving about the castle and looking hoping to catch one of her creatures."
Harry noticed the perturbed look cross Padma's face.
"The streaks are passing in front of Mars tonight, Harry. I'm not certain that's a good thing."
Harry stood next to Firenze and adjusted his telescope. The other centaurs were giving him and his friend a wide berth. Apparently, I'm only welcome here by a few. It's probably a good thing I couldn't find Luna. We'd likely both feel unwanted and she would probably try to strike up a conversation with that angry Bane chap over there.
There was a cluster of unicorns nearby. When he waved to them, they snorted and neighed at him. He was happy that they remembered him. One even pranced around and Harry guessed it was the male from the lake all those years ago. That alone was worth following Firenze out here on that ridiculously expensive broomstick Sirius bought last year. Harry enjoyed riding, but rarely had a chance to do so. Most of the time, he let Cho Chang borrow it for the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. Sadly, it was that, probably more than anything else that smoothed out the relations between him and the rest of Ravenclaw.
Pondering the centaur's assessment, Harry answered, "I agree. Mars could still be very bright, but it is diminished by something that is closer."
"Perhaps this means the Dark Lord is not the only threat you face, young wizard."
"Well, that's certainly one way to look at it. If I want to look on the bright side, it could also mean that something will be interfering with his plots to get at me."
"True," Firenze answered in his distant manner. "There is no harm in hoping for the best, so long as you plan for the worst."
Harry was preparing to answer when a commotion at the edge of the clearing drew everyone's attention and sent the unicorns retreating into the forest.
"Bad enough that we must endure one interloper at our gathering! Now, there's another. Did you invite this one as well, Firenze?" Bane yelled.
"We found her near the giant. The witch drew her wand on us and cast spells. We subdued her." The leader of the scout party said.
Firenze and Harry walked over. Bound and gagged was Delores Umbridge. Firenze studied the woman and replied, "She is no friend of mine. Let us hear what she has to say."
"She's one of the teacher's at school, and employed by the Ministry of Magic," Harry said while the removed the rags stuffed in her mouth.
"I am no mere employee. I am Delores Umbridge, Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic! You have no right to detain me, much less assault me! Release me at once!"
"You are the Umbridge? The one who voided the Treaty of the Woods with the Ironshod Herd? We've heard of you. Now, you dare trespass on lands belonging to the Brightcloud Herd – lands that were, so graciously carved out of what used to be our territory by your Ministry?" Bane said.
"I was following the boy! The forest is off limits to the students of Hogwarts. He is to be turned over to me for punishment."
"I was invited by the Centaurs and the visit was approved by the Headmaster and my Aunt," Harry answered, starting to grow weary of this woman. She wasn't a very good teacher, and furthermore, he didn't think she was a good representative of the Ministry.
"You are in no position to make demands, human," Bane said to the witch in a threatening manner. He leaned down and got near her face. "Perhaps, you would do well to think about your own punishment."
"Dumbledore didn't mention it to me! This is all a misunderstanding. Surely, we can just let bygones be bygones." Umbridge protested, her imperious tone disappeared and was replaced by a sugary-sweet plea.
Firenze spoke, "Correct my memory female, but last I heard, Albus Dumbledore is the holder of numerous of your human titles, in addition to being Headmaster of the nearby school. Is he required to receive your permission before he makes all his decisions?"
"No," she stammered. "I assumed the boy was sneaking into the Forbidden Forest."
"We have a treaty with your Ministry, witch," Bane said. "You have been caught trespassing on our lands and are now subject to centaur justice. I call for a council to convene and decide upon a punishment for The Umbridge!"
As the cheers became louder, Firenze motioned for Harry to come back to where his telescope was. "I'm afraid, you should probably go now. You may want to alert your Headmaster about this situation. I will try to keep this from going too far, but it may be beyond my abilities."
"What's going to happen to her?" Harry asked.
"Were I to guess, the most likely scenario is that she'll be bound to a tree. The females of the herd will circle her and spit on her. The males will urinate and kick droppings onto her. You don't want to see that. To be honest, I'm not even sure I want to see that. Impress upon Dumbledore that is the best case scenario. The others … I'd rather not describe."
Harry cringed and wondered if Professor Umbridge had one of those "safe words" that he and Padma agreed on. He quickly disassembled his telescope and mounted his broom. Bane brought Umbridge's wand and tossed it on the ground in front of him.
"Give that to Dumbledore, boy! Tell him to not come before dawn. This trespasser is ours for the night."
"Potter! Help me, you miserable brat!" The witch bleated like a lost goat.
Remembering how she had humiliated his Auntie in class, just last week, Harry shook his head and flew off toward the castle. Harry wondered how he was going to break the news to the Headmaster that they would, in all likelihood, need another Defense Instructor.
"It is my sad duty to inform you that High Inquisitor Umbridge has urgent Ministry business to attend to and, regrettably, can no longer fulfill her instructional duties here at Hogwarts …"
Dumbledore had to wait a full minute for the cheers to die down. Even some of the staff was applauding. When there was finally a modicum of silence, he continued, "Until I find a full time replacement, Professor Sinistra has graciously decided to take over Defense Against the Dark Arts and we'll be getting new textbooks by the weekend. I'd also like to welcome to the staff Professor Firenze, who will now be teaching Astronomy starting next week, after some much needed alterations are made to the Astronomy tower. Unfortunately, for many of you out there, the tower will be off limits until the additions have been made."
"Glad she's gone," Michael Corner said. "Now maybe we'll get someone competent."
Harry shrugged. "Hopefully, that will be the case. Unfortunately, the track record isn't so good with that class."
"Why don't you ask your cards, Harry?"
Corner wasn't a bad bloke, but with Luna skipping breakfast for a Nargle search and Padma sleeping off her romp through the Restricted Section last night, Harry was decidedly lacking in company. Michael had been reasonably friendly, especially after Harry predicted good things for him and Ginny Weasley.
Harry spread out the cards and surveyed the results. "It's a person at a crossroads. He or she has a great choice to make. There is the potential for betrayal, solidarity, and even redemption."
"Okay, that's all well and good, but is the next teacher worth his salt?"
"Sorry, that's what's being revealed. Maybe I'll try again before …"
There was a sense of dizziness. "Potter, are you okay?"
Harry shook off the feeling. "Yeah, I think so."
"What exactly did 'One that you care for will suffer greatly' mean?"
"Uh, did I just say that?" Harry asked fishing for his charmed book.
"Yeah, you're voice got all strange. Are you just pranking me?"
"No," Harry said looking at the words. "Was I looking directly at you when I said it?"
"Um, maybe. I'm not sure. Should I be worried?"
"I don't know. The prediction could just as easily apply to me. Did I point at you or grab you?"
"No." Corner was defensive. "Quit fooling around, Harry."
"I'm not. If I didn't directly indicate you in some manner, it's probably not you. Still, it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep it in mind."
Harry didn't like this one bit.
In the two weeks since his prediction, Harry had warned Luna, Auntie Sibyll, Professor Sinistra, and the Headmaster. Excluding Firenze, whom he also discussed the prediction with, those were about the only people he "cared" for in the castle. Firenze said that he "suffered" because of his expulsion from the herd. Firenze had prevented Bane from "more aggressively punishing" Madame Umbridge and had paid a price for his interference. Although, he wasn't sure that he had suffered greatly.
Padma was skeptical that anyone could make her suffer. Harry wasn't so certain.
"You haven't been to Herbology or History of Magic all week. You shouldn't keep ditching classes."
"Harry, those classes are beneath me. Virtually all of them are. There's hardly anything they can teach me here anymore. Watch this." Padma gestured with her hand and levitated his book bag. "They don't teach wandless magic here. I was able to come up with my own theorems by piecing together knowledge from three different tomes. Depending on whether my power increases on par with my knowledge, this time next year, I might not even need a wand anymore, and I owe it all to you."
Harry glanced at the title of her current book – Magic Most Evil. "Maybe you should take off the diadem for awhile?"
"What?" He could see the anger in his eyes.
"Think of your brain as a muscle. You can't exercise all the time. You have to have periods of rest in between."
Padma rolled her eyes, "I take it off when I sleep. It allows me all the rest my brain needs."
"Of course, don't fret sweetheart, I've got it all under control."
"Can I ask why you're reading that?"
"Well, to help you fight your reincarnated Dark Lord, I'm breaking down some of the rituals he might have used to see if we can turn them against him. It's really fascinating stuff, Harry."
"Its dark magic and I don't think you should be digging too deeply into it."
"Oh Harry," she said moving closer and pulling him into a hug. "I'm doing all of this for you. Once we've rid the world of him, our future is wide open."
Harry knew she was doing this to distract him. The reason it was working was that he was a teenaged boy. When she started tugging at his trousers, he said, "Padma! It's the middle of the day in your dorm room."
"That's never stopped us before, dear. Oh, if you insist…"
She grabbed her wand and cast a spell. She sat back on her bed and disappeared from sight. Her naked legs reappeared followed by the rest of her.
"What's nicer, Harry? The illusion or what's behind it? It's soundproof as well. Now be a good boy and come to Padma."
When Harry woke up, he was still in Padma's bed, naked. Looking out, he gulped upon seeing Mandy Brockelhurst and Lisa Turpin studying on their beds. Fortunately, they were oblivious to his presence. Harry noted that Mandy was already in her nightwear and could see why Terry Boot playfully referred to his girlfriend as Brockelchest.
That was the good news. The bad news was he was tied up. He shook the cobwebs out of his head. The last things he remembered before passing out were Padma, a knife, and him screaming out their safe word.
There was healing salve smeared on his shoulder and he felt a sting on his chest and back where her nails had clawed him. His jaw was sore and he distinctly remembered her punching him.
Okay, there's getting rough and then there's getting ridiculous. I think it's time I took Ravenclaw's Diadem back.
Above him words floated on the canopy of Padma's bed.
When you wake up, get dressed and come find me in Luna's hidden room. Don't keep me waiting.
It took a few minutes of using his teeth to get his left hand untied. The fact that Lisa Turpin decided to use this time to change for bed also hindered his progress. Once free, he quickly unknotted the fabric holding the other hand hostage and fumbled around for his wand and his clothes. He was glad that Padma's illusion was soundproof as he dressed in silence.
He took the time to plan his escape. First he applied a disillusionment charm on himself and then used a spell to open the door. A third spell knocked Mandy's makeup case off of her dresser and spilled the contents on the ground. When Lisa offered to give Mandy a hand picking the items up, he slipped out and made for the door.
Almost bowling over Su Li descending the steps, he made his way down into the common room. It was already after curfew, but something told him that things were at a critical juncture and he needed to get to Padma.
Harry moved quickly and as quietly as he could through the castle. He had to stop twice and reapply the disillusionment charm. He fretted that it would be so much easier if Luna didn't still have his cloak.
Finally, he reached the place where the door was. Harry concentrated and summoned the secret door. He canceled his charm and pulled on the latch. The door opened and he stepped in.
Padma was waiting for him. The room looked much different. There was a large circular bed in the middle of a runic circle. All the clutter was pushed away to the sides. She wasn't in school robes, just a black cape covered with runes that left her naked body exposed except for a sash across her waist. On that sash was a crystal dagger and Harry's worries intensified.
"Tonight's going to be a great night, Harry. Wait until I tell you what I have planned. Don't just stand there catching flies come on in, there might be a draft."
When Harry paused and pulled up his wand, she sidestepped his stunner and disarmed him. A second wave and he felt his legs moving without his control. Once he was inside the circle, she made him crawl onto the bed and vanished his clothing. With her non wand hand, she performed a casual sweeping motion and the door to the hidden room closed.
"Every time I do that, it's such a rush," she said, not really looking at Harry.
"Padma, what's going on?"
"Tonight, you're going to help me kill a Dark Lord. It'll be fun."
"You've been acting strange lately, Padma. Let's just slow down a bit," Harry said.
"Don't worry, sweetheart. The theory is sound. Really, it's just a rather ingenious piece of voodoo."
"Oh yes," she answered. "We both know that scar is a connection between you two. I briefly forced that connection open a little wider during our session earlier today and he possessed you for a moment and I was forced to get a little rough with him. Did you realize, Harry, that with a little bit of ritual, you could become a human voodoo doll right to him?"
Harry didn't like this idea so much. "Padma, take off the diadem. You're not doing this. It is."
"You don't understand, Harry. The Diadem is a Horcrux. It contains a piece of Tom Riddle's soul, just like the Diary. I've made a pact with it. Tonight, that piece of Tom is going to join with me after we destroy the sad, mockery of what he has become. There's an old saying, never send a man to do a woman's job. It's time to rid the world of a Dark Lord and pave the way for a Dark Lady."
Harry felt a bit nauseous. He'd been shagging part of Tom Riddle for months.
"The prophecy will be fulfilled; you will die by his hand, but will be the instrument of his destruction. Should he survive the dagger thrust into your scar; it will leave him lobotomized and even more useless than he is now. Even if his other Horcruxes are still intact, they won't be able to restore him."
His body was still paralyzed. Harry tried to talk her down. The only thing that came to mind was, "Padma, you said you loved me."
"I did. Honestly, I did so much. But after a month or so, I started to see how limited you were. The fact that you were willingly limiting yourself angered me. You could be so powerful, if you chose to, but you don't. Instead, you play the role of a tool of destiny and the higher powers. You squander your power, waiting to be called upon. I await no one's call. My path is to make my own destiny, through choice."
Harry glared at her while she straddled him. Even terrified, she knew how to get him aroused. "What, Harry? Not going to plead for your life? Not going to say I shouldn't mock the powers? Or are you just going to try and enjoy our last time together. I promise, I'll remember you fondly."
He'd been focusing on the look of madness in her face so much that he was just as surprised when the broken chair leg, hanging in the air smacked Padma upside the head.
Padma collapsed onto the bed next to him. Harry looked up as the invisibility cloak pulled back and revealed an expressionless Luna Lovegood.
"I wonder how fondly she'll recall that," the blonde witch said. Pausing for a second, she continued, "Luna Lovegood, in the secret room, with a club."
Harry didn't get the reference, but he sprang into action, pulling the Diadem off Padma's head. The crystal knife was filled with his blood and should be up to the task. Rolling off the bed, he put the diadem on the cold stone floor and brought the knife down on the centerpiece. It shattered and the naked Ravenclaw witch bolted upright and screamed. The unearthly howl lasted for fifteen seconds before Padma again fell onto the bed.
With the remains of one of the most powerful magical items in the world in his hands, he turned back and looked at Luna. "When did you know?"
"I knew it was Ravenclaw's Diadem as soon as I saw it, but wanted to see what Padma was going to do with it after you gave it to her. I was hoping you'd let me show it to Daddy at some point. He'll be sad that it's been found and destroyed. Where was I? Oh yes, when she tried to obliviate the knowledge of the diadem from me, I figured she was up to no good. As for tonight, I was out looking for Nargles in the halls, when I saw you appear and apply your charm. So, I followed you. Honestly, I never liked her much anyway."
"She obliviated you?" Harry tossed the shattered diadem on the bed and used Padma's sash to bind her hands, knowing how adept his girlfriend had become at wandless magic.
"She tried weeks ago, but if you haven't noticed, Harry, people call me things like insane or barking mental all the time. In truth, they say that about you as well, which is why we get along so famously. My mind doesn't work like most people's do. Oblivations just won't work on me."
Harry pondered this and said, "Well, I guess that must be a fringe benefit."
Luna shook her head. Her expression was the most serious, he'd ever seen. "You were too young to remember your mother dying, Harry. I wasn't."
"Oh… sorry. I didn't think of it that way. Forgive me."
"Consider yourself forgiven. I suppose I could give you a whack across the head if you'd like."
"No, we'd better move Padma to the infirmary and let the Headmaster know what happened. I suspect he will be cross with me."
Luna eyed him, her normal "dreamy" face returning with an appreciative smile on it. She said, "Shouldn't you consider finding some clothes first."
Dumbledore was slightly cross with him. He told Harry that there had been ample opportunities for him to tell the Headmaster about the diadem during their private lessons through the year and that Harry had allowed himself to be controlled by his youth and his hormones. He was assigned multiple detentions and was not allowed to visit Hogsmeade for the remainder of the school year.
On the other hand, Padma's parents and sister more than made up for it by being downright hostile. Parvati started spreading the nastiest rumors about him out of spite, while his former girlfriend was restrained in a section of the infirmary. One time, Padma managed to get loose and proceeded to assault Madame Pomfrey with wandless magic. Dumbledore subdued her.
If it wasn't for the friendship of Luna, Firenze, his Auntie, and Professor Sinistra, Harry would have been virtually alone. His housemates only knew that Padma was hurt and Harry was to the blame. The general consensus was that it served her right for consorting with the "crazies" in the house. Even the affable Michael Corner had stopped speaking to Harry.
Padma also refused to see him, the three times he tried to visit her. Being thrice denied stung the most.
The weeks dragged on and Harry sat for his OWL examinations. He was doing rather well when he noticed Padma being escorted into the room by Dumbledore. She was seated away from the other students. The Headmaster was also on hand when Padma performed the practicals. Afterward, her wand was taken back from her.
Just a few days before the end of the term, Harry was scrubbing the second floor lavatory under the watchful eye of Myrtle, when a house elf popped in. Harry looked over his shoulder and saw his friend Dobby.
"Dobby was cleaning Astronomy Tower. Professor Horsey sent Dobby to fetch Harry Potter. He says Harry Potter's Padma is there and wants to speak with him."
Harry left the washroom in a hurry, but his pace slowed as he walked the elongated stairwell up to the Astronomy Tower. He was probably more nervous than he'd ever been in his life. After nearly two months, what would she say to him? What could he possibly say to her?
Firenze patted him on the shoulder when he entered and left. Padma was sitting on a bench out on the observation deck. She looked healthier when compared to the few times Harry had gotten a glimpse. Next to her, there was a book. An enchanted quill was writing her words. Upon seeing him, she touched the top of the quill with her finger and it stopped moving.
"Hello Harry," she said.
Harry was comforted by the fact that she looked equally nervous. "Hi Padma. How are you?"
"Better is the word they've been using, so I'll go with it. The Grey Lady has been very helpful. Did you know she's Rowena's daughter?"
"No, I didn't," Harry said. There was an awkward pause. He broke it by saying, "I'm sorry about what happened to you."
She smiled. It was a sad smile. "I suppose it was the powers that guide you, punishing me for my arrogance and for not being a true friend."
"I thought you were a good friend."
Her smile waned and she shook her head, "No, I wasn't. But I'm glad you thought so. I was given the kind of power others only dream of. I was on par with Dumbledore, Riddle, and even you Harry. But along the way, I turned into this twisted image of myself and I became something horrible. The worst part of all was how easily I accepted it. Now, since the diadem was destroyed, I am reverting to 'plain old Padma.' All the knowledge is slipping away from me."
She stopped and pointed at the book. "I'm writing things down, so that hopefully I can relearn them at some point, but I already look at the first few pages and it's barely comprehensible. By the beginning of the next school term, I might as well be looking at it for the first time."
"I don't know what to say," Harry answered honestly. His eyes were tearing up.
Gesturing to a flowerpot, Padma used wandless magic to raise it. The effort showed on her face. "I keep practicing this. If I can hold onto this one thing, it won't be so bad."
"I'll be here for you, Padma. I promise I won't turn my back on you."
"That's the problem, Harry. I won't be here for you. I'm not coming back to Hogwarts. I'll be transferring … maybe Beauxbatons or a school in India, but most likely I'll go across the pond to New Salem. I don't have a firm choice at the moment."
Harry was thunderstruck. "Why?"
"Too many reminders. A few months ago, I knew every line from every book worth reading in the Hogwarts Library and even all those forbidden tomes that were stashed in Luna's hidden room. Every time I step in there, I'll feel ashamed about how much I've forgotten and about how I misused that knowledge. I did horrible things and was prepared to do even worse before Luna stopped me. That's one thing I'll never be able to forget. Also, I made myself a threat to Tom Riddle and even if I no longer have that power, I doubt he is going to forget, or forgive. Trust me, when I say, it's best that I go somewhere else."
She stood and walked to the ledge. Harry was worried that she might jump. "Why don't you come back over here Padma?"
Wiping some tears from her eyes, she said, "Don't worry, there are two paintings watching us and ready to report anything to the Headmaster. Plus, in all my years here, I've never once seen Professor Flitwick riding a broom, but he's right over there circling with Professor Sinistra. I'm certain they're here for your protection more than my safety."
Harry did what he thought was best and came up behind her and wrapped her in a hug. He rested his head on her shoulder and let her cry.
Between sobs, she said, "The worst part is not only did I try and kill you, but when Riddle possessed you I told him the prophecy and boasted how I was going to kill him and there was nothing he could do about it. Because of me, you could still die. I've betrayed you, Harry!"
He tried to reassure her by saying, "He was going to find out at some point. You weren't in control. I'm just as much to blame for giving the diadem to you."
"I wish I forgive so easily, but I can't, Harry. I just can't. I almost left without seeing you. I wasn't sure if the urge to kill you was finally gone. The piece of Riddle's soul wanted you dead in a bad way and I took it out on you when we were together. You'll need to find Hufflepuff's cup and Slytherin's ring. That should be the last of his Horcruxes, though you'll want to make certain that his snake is dead. The way you described his reactions when it was hurt makes me wonder. I've told Dumbledore all this. He'll know what to do."
"It'll be okay, Padma. Just give it some time."
"No. No it won't. It's just like when you take off your glasses and look around. Everything is a blur. My entire life has lost that clarity and nothing will ever bring it back!"
She broke his embrace and gently pushed him away. "It's time for me to go. I can't do this anymore. I'll write you at some point, but it'll be awhile. Don't try to get in touch with me. You're the last thing I need in my life right now. Besides, you've got more important things to deal with."
Padma gave him a tearful kiss goodbye and gathered the book and quill. At the stairs, she met his gaze one final time and fled down the steps.
Harry was tempted to go after her, but knew it was the wrong thing to do. He looked up into the sky and shouted, "Why?"
For the first time in his life, Harry Potter was angry at the powers.
The train ride home was lonely. Auntie Sibyll asked him to sit in her car, but he said that he needed to be alone. She said they would talk when he was ready.
He sat in the last compartment before the baggage car. The few students who looked in shook their heads and went elsewhere. The Hogwart's Express had been moving for two hours before the door opened. No one was there and Harry looked for the distortion patterns of a disillusionment spell. Not seeing them, he relaxed when Luna's head appeared.
"Hello, Harry. I was beginning to wonder if you were going to let me keep your cloak for the summer."
He managed a weak smile and replied, "Hi Luna, if you really want to borrow it, you can. I doubt I'll need it this summer."
She beamed at him. "The snorkacks won't stand a chance. Are you well, Harry? You've been distant."
"Padma got close to me and she got hurt … really bad. I don't want the same thing to happen to you."
Luna's floating head moved closer. "I think you've been dating the wrong girls, Harry. Lavender was more than willing, so long as it elevated her status. When the first sign of danger came along, she bolted. Padma spoke with me before she left. She told me to be a true friend to you and support you as she never did. She initially was with you out of gratitude for the item you brought her. That gratitude became an obsession."
Harry didn't like his love life being dissected like a frog, but there was a lot of truth to what Luna was saying. "So do you think there's a girl out there for me?"
"Yes. Or no, depending on whether that was a question. Harry, no girl in her right mind is going to date you. Not after what Lavender and Parvati are saying about you now."
"Wonderful. I guess I need to get used to be alone."
"Nonsense silly, the girl for you isn't out there. She's right here," Luna said, opening the cloak and hopping onto his lap. The unexpected move caused Harry to "woof" loudly as all the air was forced out of him. Luna wasn't wearing much, and most of the buttons on her blouse were undone. "I said 'no girl in her right mind.' It's well established that I'm batshit insane. I've got no problems dating you."
"Not even Voldemort? You're not afraid of him."
"Oh please. Padma Patil came this close to destroying him a few months ago and she was just a tart with a magical headpiece and delusions of grandeur. I beat her. He doesn't want to mess with a Lovegood. It wouldn't end well for him." Her eyes narrowed and the smile on her face spread. "But this Lovegood wants to mess with you. I liked seeing you naked and wanted to return a portion of the favor. Besides, Toby said the trip home would be the best time to grind your stones."
"Grind my stones?" He was having a hard time not laughing. Luna was so mercurial.
"He's a staircase. It makes sense to him. He didn't understand 'make a move' or other terms. When I brought up the topic of 'shagging,' Toby thought I was talking about having a relationship with a carpet."
"Did he and Frieda ever make up?" Harry had to ask. Part of him needed to know.
"Oh yes, he said that there'd likely be a new pantry in the kitchen by the time we returned to school. I'm looking forward to seeing that wee one. Now mind you, I'm not like either of your past few floosies, Harry. This," she pointed at her accessible chest area, "is for the sole purpose of cheering you up and giving your hands something to do while I kiss you. You won't always get this and you'll have to impress me before you get more than this. Can you accept those terms?"
"Sure, but what exactly impresses you?" Harry was wondering what her answer would be.
"Obviously when you were naked, you impressed me. But, that won't work again. I've already seen it. You'll have to come up with something better than that, but you're good with making predictions, so I'm sure you'll come up with something interesting." She giggled before leaning forward and kissing him warmly. Her fingers began working on the buttons on her shirt.
Her body was less developed than Padma's or Lavender's, but he was definitely seeing a new side of her. The fact that she was eager and didn't care that he was supposed to be the next Merlin or being controlled by someone meant a lot to him. He let his hands wander as she turned and clouded the compartment door's window and followed that up with a locking charm.
"Ow. Not so hard, Harry. Tweedledee and Tweedledelight are very sensitive. There that's better, much better in fact."
"They have names?" So that's what the prediction meant!
"Of course, and they'll be upset if you favor one over the other. I'd suggest equal treatment if I were you."
"Whatever you say, Luna."
She smiled and licked her lip before saying, "Whatever I say? That's an odd choice of words. Suppose I said, 'Oslo Norway.' What would that mean to you?"
He pulled her down and kissed her. Breaking away, he said, "It means I don't care if I'm crazy as long as I'm crazy about you."
Author's Notes – This chapter was a real bear and a long one to boot. I hope you enjoyed the Flowers for Algernon homage in here. I remember being blown away by that story as a kid. The trick was to still keep most of the light humor in the story while still being somewhat serious. Before anyone says anything, there's no indication of a stair/slide/thing in Ravenclaw, so I didn't use it. That's a Gryffindor thing. Only two chapters of this story left. I hope it doesn't take me as much to cover years six and seven.
Next, I need to update Turn Me Loose. Harry, Bill, Hack, and Kreacher are still stuck in that cave and Voldemort's on the outside waiting for him.
On the original front, my manuscript for Spirals of Destiny Book One: Rider is competing in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for 2010. If it makes it to the excerpt phase, where a portion is viewable online, I'll let you know where to find it. The sequel to Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman is underway and I hope to have it ready for release before this year's ConCarolinas.