Chapter Two – The Ugly Sister of the Mother of Invention.
Magic School, Harry decided after a few days, was a lot more work than its Muggle equivalent.
Rubbing blood back into his cramping hand, Harry cast a look around the rest of class, and realised almost everybody else was also straining to keep going, so at least his misery wasn't lacking company.
Writing, with a stupid feather and ink, was a pain, literally.
Even the practical sessions where they finally got to perform magic, as opposed to just hearing about it, usually resulted in the production of reams of meandering, ink-blotched parchment as homework. At this rate, the accumulated daily note taking alone will rival the size of his text books before the year was out.
With barely any experience in writing with a Muggle pen or pencil, thanks to Petunia's skill at spreading a vicious rumour regarding his tendency to stab people with anything even slightly sharp, Harry found it doubly difficult to keep up. His personal shorthand was more suited to crayons, and didn't adapt well to quills or the subjects he was now studying.
Hufflepuff classmates would often share their notes in the common room each evening, but everybody's notes lost coherence towards the end of each class, and the final class of the day was often a total loss, especially if it was History of Magic.
Somebody made the suggestion they break up the note taking into sections, with a few people assigned to only start taking notes after the halfway mark. Nobody else thought it was a good idea to completely rely on another person's notes, and you could never be sure exactly how long the theory part was going to last to be able to pick the middle anyway.
He wanted a tape recorder, or the magical equivalent - something that could record everything the teachers said, that he could then later use to catch up. Better yet, he needed a magical quill that could write things for him. Surely somebody in the wizarding world had thought of this. All he needed to do was find out how to make one.
Or find somebody who would make one for him.
Come to think of it, there was probably dozens of labour-saving devices available in Diagon Alley, self stirring cauldron's not being the least of them. He thought it was fairly unlikely witches and wizards would travel from all over the country to London just to do a bit of shopping, so there had to be either a local shop, or a way to order things, like a mail-order system.
All Harry really needed was a catalogue, and then life was going to get much easier, otherwise the magical world was about to have some new inventions thrust upon it.
In his very first Transfiguration class, Harry's eyes glazed over as the implications of seeing the stern professor turn into a cat sunk in.
Like batty old Mrs Figg's cats.
Creatures that made an art form of lazing around all day getting fed and pampered without having to do a single thing in return.
"That is so cool," he said out loud, mentally adding to his list of things he really wanted to learn.
"Thank you, Mister Potter, for that ringing endorsement," said Professor McGonagall with less than true sincerity. "For today's lesson, we will be learning how to change a matchstick into a needle."
Unfortunately there was then an hour of complicated, hand-cramping note taking before they got a chance to pick up their wands and give it a try.
Harry sat looking between his notes, his wand, and the matchstick sitting on the desk. While there was an obvious correlation to the theory and explanation of the spell in his newly written notes, he honestly could not see a single thing there to help with the casting of the spell.
Everybody else was busy waving their wands around and trying various versions of the pronunciation of the words given, but Harry sat still and concentrated on recalling exactly what the professor did to make the magic happen.
It seemed all too simple when she showed them, but when it came time to do it himself, he realised exactly how much he had missed.
"Problem, Mister Potter?" asked the Professor, coming to stand near him.
"A bit, Professor," he answered. "Could you please show it to me one more time, slower?"
"Of course," she answered, and with a deft flick and well pronounced word, effortlessly changed his matchstick.
Harry watched closely, and nodded to himself in satisfaction when she was done.
"Your turn," she said, swiftly changing the needle back.
Harry concentrated and made his first attempt.
A shiny needle, nowhere near as perfect as the one produced by the Professor, but still recognisable, lay on the desk in front of him.
"Well done!" she said, obviously surprised. "Five points for an extraordinary first try. Now try to change it back into a matchstick."
It took three goes, but Harry managed to reverse the transfiguration too, earning another five points.
"How did you do that?" asked the guy sitting next to Harry, Arnie or something, once the Professor moved on to help another student. Or was it Zeck Smith? He just couldn't seem to get up enough energy to keep all their names straight.
"What? I just copied her," Harry answered. "It didn't take anything special. Here, have another go and I'll tell you if I spot what's going wrong when you try."
"Thanks, that's real nice of you," said the boy.
Harry smiled and began helping his classmate, not at all feeling guilty about using the excuse to avoid having to repeat doing the exercise himself again and again while the others caught up.
Just because he wasn't letting himself get confused by mixing up theory and practice, and knew to concentrate on just doing exactly what was needed, it didn't mean he wanted to repeat it multiple times if he could avoid it.
Not when it was something as useless as making needles that could be bought by the dozens for a few Sickles.
Charms held a very special place in Harry's heart.
Not only was the teacher amiable and fun, he had a real enthusiasm for the subject that would have penetrated even Harry's normal apathy, had it been present.
As it was, learning that his mother was once a bit of a deft hand in the subject just added fuel to the fire of interest he already had.
"Sir, is there a charm for polishing shoes?" he asked the excitable professor.
"Yes, there is a charm for that!" answered the diminutive teacher.
"And for brushing your teeth?"
"Yes, there is a charm for that!"
"And ironing shirts, and tying your shoes, and washing windows?"
"Yes, yes, and yes, there is a charm for all of those things and more! It's safe to say, Mister Potter, there is probably a charm for every everyday situation you can imagine, and many you can't!"
Harry felt light headed with giddiness.
He really loved Charms.
It was pity potions sucked so badly.
It wasn't that the actual subject was that bad, although it was uncomfortably close to the cooking Petunia kept trying to make Harry do. No, it was all because of Greasy.
At the banquet, Harry got the distinct impression the potions Professor didn't like him. That didn't bother him too much, since he had been putting up with people not liking him for most of his life. By a few minutes into their first potions lesson, Harry realised Greasy actively hated him.
"Potter!" snapped Greasy immediately after his menacing introduction. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
"I have no idea, sir," said Harry, pretty bewildered by even the names of the ingredients, let alone any combining of them.
"Tut, tut - fame clearly isn't everything."
Harry felt the stirrings of annoyance deep inside himself. It took a lot to get Harry's goat, but Greasy was managing it quite easily.
"Let's try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"
"In a zoo?"
The look on the professor's face was almost pleasure. He was clearly enjoying humiliating Harry, and Harry felt those simmering bubbles of rebellion start to swell.
"Not likely. What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?"
"I have no idea," answered Harry a bit tersely.
Greasy smiled an evil, self-satisfied little smirk.
"Thought you wouldn't open a book before coming, eh, Potter?"
Yep, that was enough to do it.
"Well, no, sir," answered Harry, relaxing into his well practiced schoolroom slouch – the one that didn't really looked like he was slouching, but nevertheless gave a distinct impression of it.
If this git was going to try stir Harry up, he was going to have to work a lot harder than that. Harry was a bit of an expert at reading and manipulating other people's emotions; it was a skill he needed when dealing with the Dursleys in order to keep them from getting upset enough to really punish him, or make him work.
"I figured that was what school was for, you know, reading and learning and stuff. I mean, if we were meant to learn all of it at home, what would be the point of showing up? I could have stayed in bed and read books all day."
The look on Greasy's face and the laughter of a few of his classmates made Harry decide to declare this a victory, but he knew the war had only just begun, and he really wasn't likely to win.
Still, a bit of revenge like that was just too easy to pass up, as others would eventually discover.
"Harry, you need to get dressed before you go up for breakfast," said the seventh year prefect named Tonks, although Harry didn't still bother with names too often. "Even if you are early, you still need to get changed."
She was quite an attractive girl, and spoke politely and with kindness to everybody. He mentally referred to her as 'The Pretty Prefect', since memorising real names of people he would likely only spend a year in school with felt like a total waste of effort.
"I am dressed," he said, sounding puzzled.
"In your pyjamas," she said.
"These aren't my pyjamas. Besides, you are wearing yours."
"These are not pyjamas, these are standard school robes."
"They look like pyjamas to me. My aunty has a nightgown just like that, except it's a bit baggier and doesn't look anywhere near as good on her."
"Well they are not pyjamas, and you need to get out of yours and into a robe before you go up to breakfast."
"I told you, these aren't my pyjamas, and Slick gets to wear his pyjamas every day. I'll have to take your word on the robes versus nightgown thing though, since I can't really tell the difference."
Tonks resisted the urge to rub her temples, a feeling several of the other prefects had already mentioned often encountering when dealing with one Harry Potter.
"Draco Malfoy does not wear his pyjamas outside of the Slytherin common room," she said with exaggerated patience.
"Yes he does. They've got pretty gold patterns around the edges and everything."
"They are custom robes, probably made by the finest seamstresses in Diagon alley," Tonks explained.
"Well then, these are custom robes made by the best Muggle manufacturers in, er, China," said Harry, sparing a moment to check the tag on his pants.
Tonks sighed. It was going to be another one of those conversations, like when Harry argued for putting in escalators for going up out of the common room, and a fireman's pole or slide to get back down, just to save having to walk the stairs.
"Potter, the student handbook makes it very clear that school robes are to be worn at all times outside of the common room and your dorms. The clothes you are wearing are not school robes. They are in fact white, and covered in cute little yellow ducks. There is no way they can possibly be considered modified school robes, mainly because they are not robes at all, having trouser legs and such. Malfoy is not wearing pyjamas. He is wearing customised robes. Now, if you don't go back and get changed out of your pyjamas and into your robes, you will not be getting breakfast, and I'll deduct points for being out of uniform. Clear?"
"Fine," said Harry sullenly. "But can you tell me exactly how much school robes are allowed to be customised then?"
Grumbling, Tonks reached for her copy of the handbook, thankful that experience had taught her to keep it handy for at least the first few weeks of term. It only took a few moments for her to find the relevant pages.
"Here we go," she said. "School robes are to bear only the crest of the House of the student over the right breast, and may not be altered in any way beyond the colour and design approved by the Hogwarts board Declaration 1022 -1893."
"Cool," said Harry, smiling. "I guess that means you'll have to deduct points from Slick then, doesn't it?"
A strange feeling of enlightenment suddenly dawned on Tonks.
"You, this, you staged this, didn't you?" she said accusingly. "This whole thing was just a set up to make me look up that rule, so now I have to report Malfoy, because I know he really is out of uniform."
"As if I am that smart," laughed Harry. "Although, that git does deserve a bit of payback for trying to get me into a duel he never intended on showing up for. Nah, I was just hoping to avoid having to get changed, since you all wear nightgowns everywhere anyway."
As he casually wandered down the tunnel leading to his dorm, Tonks watched him go, unsure if he was serious, or just very cunning.
"Wait, if they are not your pyjamas, whose are they?" she called out to him before he disappeared around the corner.
"I don't know," answered Harry, shrugging. "The House-elves gave them to me after they burned my old ones and hit the ashes with sticks. They seemed pretty upset with most of my clothes for some reason, although it possibly has something to do with their general state."
It was only long after he had gone that Tonks started wondering how House-elves got a hold of his clothes in the first place.
After waiting seemingly forever with the patience that comes from never bothering to rush into anything, the day of Harry's first flying lesson finally arrived. It was definitely one of his most eagerly anticipated classes.
"Up!" said Harry, fully expecting the broom to leap into his hand, which it immediately did.
A few of the others were having trouble, and automatically looked to him for help, since he had easily gotten it to work for him.
"Don't take no for an answer," suggested Harry. "Command it, and mean it, and you'll get better results."
Taking his advice, his remaining classmates soon all stood holding their brooms and looking grateful, and he earned five points from Madam Hooch, who Harry privately referred to as Spike, after her rather unique hair style.
"Does that work in the other classes too?" asked Hannah, whom Harry just called Han (because 'Sue's buddy' seemed a little bit too impersonal, and it was likely to get him in trouble with the temperamental girls).
"Dunno," said Harry. "I just made it up to make it look like I know something, but it sounds about right. I'll try it out and let you know how it goes later."
Hannah smothered her giggles with a hand and turned to pay proper attention to the flying instructor.
He only half listened to what was obviously a standard safety talk, the rest of his mind thinking about all the possibilities presented by being able to fly any distance for almost no effort.
The odorous task of walking imposed by the tyranny of gravity had just lost some of its hold on him, and he was not going to give it back without a fight.
Getting mail delivered to your hand at breakfast time was another thing Harry liked.
It sure beat the trudge to the mail box and back of number four every morning, no matter the weather. Of course, before his Hogwarts letter, he had never received any mail of his own to collect and so avoided doing that job as often as possible, but it was still nice to know anything sent to him now would end up wherever he happened to be when it arrived.
The beautiful white owl swooped down to land on his plate, and started greedily helping herself to his bacon. Although he appreciated the birthday gift from Hagrid, he really hadn't been all that keen on owning a pet, since he imagined it would mean a lot of extra work and responsibility.
He was very happy to discover Hedwig spent the vast majority of her day sleeping, and was able to hunt for herself at night. It was like a match made in heaven, despite her atrocious table manners and habit of making sure Harry's mail deliveries always resulted in owl foot prints all over anything she did not gobble up before he could chase her off.
Pushing the gorging bird off his plate, Harry took a moment to pull open the strap holding the rolled note to the owl's leg. The loud tearing sound made the people sitting around him wince.
"Bit of bad luck that," said the ponce, who Harry was fairly certain was named Jay, or Justin, or something like that.
"Excuse me?" asked Harry, confused.
"You tore your letter," said Justin, who Harry decided needed to be called J from now on, since Justin was way too much of a mouthful for everyday conversation.
"Eh? No I didn't," said Harry, holding up the undamaged note from Hagrid.
"What was that noise then?" asked Sue, sitting across the table from him.
"It's called Velcro. I didn't like the idea of having to tie and untie stupidly fiddly little bits of string all the time."
Harry usually had no problem coping with boredom.
Lonely hours spent in his cupboard for one transgression or another, with nothing more than spiders and dust to play with, meant he had to develop some serious boredom-fighting techniques.
Sleeping was a good one, but pretty much unusable in any class including History of Magic (due to Harry's sudden and irrational inability to sleep in the same room as a ghost – much to his great disgust at missing such a fine opportunity for extra snoozing).
Daydreaming extraordinarily complex scenarios was another good way to pass the time, one that got him through much of his primary schooling, and that was serving him rather well when it came to Defence Against the Dark Arts.
Never before had Harry come across a person who could take such an interesting subject, a class full of eager students, and turn it into a nightmare of wasted time.
So he bent his considerable talent and began crafting elaborate stories involving the turban headed, stuttering professor at the front of the room and the subject matter they were meant to be covering.
Before he knew it, class was over and Harry had somehow managed to learn more than anybody else, simply because he was thinking about the actual spells and creatures that were meant to be part of the lesson and not drifting off thinking about something more interesting to most people his age, like girls, or sports.
It would really be a shame if Garlic Guy turned out just to be a smelly, turbaned bloke with a stutter and a ridiculously low bravery threshold, not after all of the villains and heroes Harry had him playing in his imaginary mindscape.
Unlike almost every other event or holiday during the year, Halloween at the Dursleys usually did not involve any extra work for Harry. He was most often stuck in his cupboard, not allowed to do anything lest his own special brand of mischief ran amok on the one night famed such things.
Even Dudley was only allowed to go out if he dressed up as a super hero or something else 'normal'. Anything involving magic or the mystical was immediately boycotted by Vernon and Petunia, no matter how much fatty cried and sulked about it.
Getting to join in the festivities in the main hall at Hogwarts was therefore an exciting bonus for Harry, who was just glad not be back at the Dursleys listening to Dudley brag about the tricks he pulled (beating up smaller children and stealing their treats being the most common one).
Having the wonderful party in the lavishly decorated hall interrupted was not something he appreciated.
The panic as Quirell collapsed on the floor after his shocking announcement came to a sudden halt when Dumbledore set off a huge blast of noise. As the headmaster issued his commands and the prefects starting leading people away, Harry stayed in his seat thinking things over.
Thinking about things before acting often saved Harry a lot of otherwise wasted effort.
Before the feast, Ron mentioned to Harry that Fuzzy was sulking in a bathroom, although he was less than forthcoming about exactly why. It didn't take a lot of thought for Harry to realise what the easiest right thing to do was.
"Excuse me," he said, pulling the sleave of the prefect Ron had identified as one of his many older brothers, along with the pranksters B1 and B2. "Do you know you are missing one of your first years?"
"What?" asked Percy.
"The girl with the bushy hair, Hermy or something," he explained. "Your brother Ron told me she was hiding in a toilet for some reason."
"Oh dear," said Percy. "Thank you for telling me."
Then he rushed off towards the professors, leaving Harry behind.
Harry returned to his table only to discover his own house had left without him. Shaking his head in annoyance, he headed off in the direction he was pretty sure was a short cut to the dorms.
He was still trying to figure out the moving stairs, but there was definitely a pattern to them. Harry felt sure he would considerably shorten the distances he had to travel between classes if he could unlock the secret schedule of their movement.
Lost in thought, he rounded a corner just in time to see the Troll turn and spot him.
Despite the Sorting Hat's comments, Harry was not lacking in the bravery department, but he also had a very large dose of practicality, and a healthy respect for pain. Seeing a small mountain of stinking Troll flesh start lumbering towards him with a massive club raised above its head was not enough to freeze him in fear, but it did make him panic.
"SSSHHHHHHIIIIIITTTTTT," he yelled, turning and bolting back the way he had come.
Of course the Troll followed.
Luckily the screaming boy ran right into a hallway full of teachers just heading out to search the castle.
With a few deft flicks of their wands, the ugly brute of a creature was immobilised, but Harry was nowhere to be seen. It was several hours later that Dumbledore found him hiding at the top of the Astronomy tower.
"I figured if it couldn't fit up the stairs, it wouldn't come up," Harry explained.
"But surely you must have known we would be able to overcome it," said McGonagall, apparently unconvinced by Harry's explanation.
"Sure," the young boy answered. "But I thought, 'better safe than sorry'."
Several of the faculty nodded in agreement, even going as far as awarding Harry points for being sensible, much to Greasy's disgust.
Only Hermione would ever know the real reason he had not returned soon after calming down. A few days after the incident, she tracked him down to thank him for saving her life, and then interrogated him endlessly until she had the full story.
While a bit indignant that Harry had not really led the Troll away intentionally, she appreciated him telling somebody about her absence, and promised to keep secret that he had discovered the Astronomy tower was actually a really great place to catch a quiet nap.
"What are you doing here?" asked Malfoy, making what Harry considered a decent effort to copy Greasy's sneer. "Did you get lost or something?"
Harry looked up from his breakfast bowl. He knew he should just ignore the git, like he normally did, but he was feeling a bit frisky this morning, and so decided to use his energy baiting the boy.
"That's really witty, Slick. It must have taken you a whole hour to think that one up, or did you ask somebody else to help you out, your daddy maybe? Then again, it's probably some sort of pureblood traditional insult or something that only a tenth generation inbred clone like you is allowed to use - on pain of death or torture."
Gregory Goyle, who was sitting next to Harry, let out a surprisingly girly giggle, a few of the people further down the table also smiled at Harry's retort, not liking Malfoy one bit and happy for anybody to take him down a peg or two.
"What are doing at the Slytherin table?" asked Draco, after giving Goyle an angry look.
"I think I am eating breakfast, but if you can't tell, I might be doing it wrong. Maybe you can sit down and show us how a real wizard like you does it. Do you need a special hand crafted, golden spork, or will normal every day cutlery do?"
Draco's face screwed up in anger, but a few more smiles appeared on the crowd pretending not to watch, and Goyle grinned again.
"Potter, you are a disgrace. When was the last time you even tried to comb your hair? And look at the state of your robes. You make them look like they have never been ironed."
"Slick, just how many hours do you spend each day playing with yourself in front of a mirror? Don't you see something wrong with putting all that energy into looking pretty? Gar here got so hungry waiting for you he had to come down and get something to eat before he faded away to nothing."
Louder sniggers from around the table made Draco's face redden even further.
"This is the Slytherin table, you imbecile. You eat over there, at the table for the losers."
"Actually, I think I'll sit just here, for a few days at least. There is nothing in the rule book about it."
"Mister Potter. What do you think you are doing?" asked Professor McGonagall as she strode into the hall and saw the confrontation.
Harry still privately referred to her as Mrs Mac, or Princess, but not anywhere she would hear him, not after he slipped up once and found out exactly how much she appreciated that particular lazy habit of his by rewarding him with the task of writing an obsessively long written assignment on the correct way to address people.
"Just trying to improve inter-house relationships, Professor. I thought I'd eat with the Slytherins and get to know a few of them better, since we barely share any classes and it's hard to learn about other people when you don't interact with them at all."
An odd expression crossed the stern professor's face.
"Very good," she said at last. "Five points to Hufflepuff for your efforts, and five to Slytherin as well, of course."
Draco looked like he was going to pop a blood vessel, but the rest of the table looked suitably surprised and pleased.
"Your mother was close friends with at least one student from Slytherin for most of her years, Mister Potter. It's good to see you continuing the tradition."
Harry smiled as the professor continued down the hall to the head table, and Draco sulkily took a seat near Harry.
"Why are you really here?" the blonde boy whispered angrily.
"Table is closer to the door," said Harry, skewering another ration of bacon off the plate in front of him.
Goyle nearly burst a vein trying to keep the laughter in.
"Harry, why are you reading a book on Runes? Isn't that, like fourth year work or something?"
"Did you know that a properly drawn Rune sequence can act like a spell, but without you having to cast it time and time again?" asked Harry.
"Now you do," said Harry returning to his reading, which was really way too advanced for him.
Casting spells was fun and all, but having to do the same spells over and over again would quickly get to be a drag. Just knowing about Runes meant he had a worthwhile goal to aim for, and he could probably pay, blackmail, convince, or trick somebody else to do the actual work until he mastered it himself.
"You do realise you could probably cast that particular spell dozens of times for the effort you are putting into learning how to make the Runes to do it for you, don't you?"
"That's not the point," said Harry, getting a little bit irritated.
"Okay, then. I'll just leave you to it."
Harry returned to his study, determined to find a way to make his shoe laces tie themselves when he put his shoes on, but he was a bit annoyed.
Nobody seemed to understand.
Christmas was not an event Harry looked forward to.
Usually it involved spending most of the day running around cleaning up after Dudley and Vernon, while trying to help Petunia prepare a fifteen course dinner that he would barely get to sample.
Staying at Hogwarts where he was not expected to do any extra work, or any work at all really, was already promising to make it the best Christmas he could remember, but then he got a big pile of gifts from friends and admirers making it officially better than he ever imagined.
Then there was one very special present from an anonymous sender that topped all the others.
The silky material fell out of the plain package and gathered into a lump on the floor.
"Is that an invisibility cloak?" asked J.
"Wow," said Ern.
"Brilliant," said Harry, his thoughts uncharacteristically threatening to run out of control with excitement.
"You'll be able to sneak around and nobody will ever catch you," whispered J, as if he was scared to even talk about rule breaking.
"Screw that," said Harry, gathering up the cloak.
He suddenly draped it over himself, disappearing from the other boy's view completely. His bed squeaked softly, and a depression formed down the middle of the sheets.
"Don't either of you two dare tell anybody," said Harry, sounding quite threatening. "I finally have a way to avoid being pestered, meaning at least an hour or two extra sleep, and the person who takes that away from me is going to pay, big time."
By the time both boys left the room, Harry's quiet snores were drifting from the seemingly empty bed, his dreams of a House-elf wearing his invisibility cloak sneaking around doing all of his work for him in total secrecy bringing a smile to his unseen face.
"Harry Potter," called the prefect, whose name he knew the boy-who-liked-to-sleep-in still seemingly couldn't be bothered remembering.
The fact he had been at school for months and still didn't know even his roommate's names was fairly indicative of his general attitude, and a source of irritation for much of the rest of Hufflepuff.
"Yes?" Harry answered automatically, then cursed and leapt forward to grab at something on the parchment in front of him. "Bugger!"
Murray Rickett, the prefect, stopped at the sight of Harry wresting with a very odd looking, multi-feathered quill. Finally the younger boy managed to touch his wand to the top of the ungainly thing, and it stopped moving.
"This had better be important," said Harry. "You almost ruined my essay."
"What is that thing?" asked the prefect, curiosity winning out over his original mission.
"This," said Harry, holding up the strange construct, "is the best I could do, considering I had to use spell-o-tape because my sticking charms wear off after a couple of hours."
Murray thought about leaving it at that, knowing in his heart that is was bound to be another violation of one rule or another, but he just couldn't let it go.
"What does it do?" he asked.
Harry smiled, the sort of self-satisfied grin the rest of the House of Badgers was coming to know meant trouble.
"Writes my assignments," Harry said, pushing over the parchment.
Picking up the offered page, Murray read what appeared to be a well written and nicely penned essay that stopped abruptly with the words 'Yes? Bugger!'
Before he could open his mouth to comment, Harry was again speaking, answering his unspoken questions.
"Don't worry, Muzza, it doesn't actually write the assignment for me, it's just more of a dictating quill that saves my hand from becoming crippled."
Murray put the page down and rubbed his temple wearily. Why did Potter have to be his responsibility? The lucky dip of which prefect looked out for which first year had seemed like such a good thing at the time, but now his immodest bragging about snagging the boy-who-lived as one of his 'little brothers' was coming back to haunt him in unexpected ways.
"How?" he asked, after a moment, despite knowing he was just asking for another confusing and convoluted plot to make one student's life easier.
"I read out from my notes and it writes what I say," said Harry.
"That's what a normal dictating quill does."
"True, but a normal dictating quill, which I use to take class notes in the first place, doesn't correct grammar and spelling. So I cut the top off an autocorrecting quill and strapped it to the dictating quill. It forces the quill to write properly, even though it's not actually touching the page."
Murray thought for a moment, and realised there was actually nothing inherently wrong with that, aside from the possibility of not learning as well because he was not taking notes by hand.
"What's the third one for?" he asked.
"Self-inking," said Harry. "The dictating quill kept dropping splotches, so I cut the end off it to shorten it and then taped it to a self-inking quill. It took a bit of time to figure out how to get the three to work together, but now I don't even have to blot my pages."
It was definitely lazy, something every Hufflepuff was told to abhor, but quite clever. The idea actually had a lot of merit, and was worth further investigation. Murray himself could really use something like this. Seventh year was ridiculously difficult, and nobody had time to correct every minor spelling error, despite the inevitable loss of marks.
"You couldn't make me one, could you?" he asked hopefully.
Harry smiled and dug into his bag for a moment before pulling out a slightly cruder looking contraption of similar design.
"Sorry, but I am going to have to ask you for a half a Galleon to cover the costs. I went through quite a few quills before I got it working, and none of them are cheap."
Murray gulped at the huge price tag, but quickly realised it was well worth it, if it worked. Money changed hands and he walked away with his new possession, eager to try it out on the pile of homework he had waiting for him. If it did work, he really owed Potter one.
In his haste, he completely forgot that he had originally approached the first year to reprimand him for somehow convincing the House-elves to bring him breakfast in bed, supposedly saving him twenty minutes each day of 'trudging through the hallways'. Later, when a very happy Murray finally remembered, he decided to let it pass.
After all, Potter would probably never have had the time to research and create something this good if he was stuck doing the mundane things all of the time.
"Potter!" yelled Snape, making half of the class jump, and the other half squeal, squeak, and even swear. "Who said you could get away with not making your potions by hand in my class?"
Harry silently cursed himself. He had absentmindedly taken his hand off the mixing stick, allowing Greasy to see that it was moving without aid.
"You did, sir," he said, putting as much innocence into his voice as possible.
It had been a good run, much better than he thought it would be, but it was still disappointing to see it come to an end.
"I did no such thing," snarled the surly professor. "Five points from Hufflepuff and detention for lying. Now throw that miserable concoction out and start again, with a normal cauldron."
"Excuse me sir," said Harry, again forcing his voice to sound meek and mild, "but you told everybody last month that some of us were incapable of stirring our own tea, me in particular. Since I totally agree with you, I had to find an alternative."
"Another ten points from Hufflepuff for arguing with your betters," said Snape, his self-satisfied sneer reaching startling new proportions. "I doubt you have forgotten that I banned your self-stirring cauldron after the very first class?"
"No, sir, I remember that very clearly, it was just after you made us put away our wands, which is why I am not using a self-stirring cauldron."
Snape's contempt reached new heights as he gleefully swooped down the aisle towards Harry.
"Then why is your cauldron stirring itself even as we speak?" he asked, looming over Harry threateningly. "Does it suddenly have a mind of its own, or are you somehow able to move the mixer without touching it?"
The sarcasm was so thick it almost made Vernon's efforts feel witty in comparison. It would be enough to give the nastier Slytherins a fit of giggling when they eventually found out about it, of course.
"Yes, sir," said Harry as meekly as he could, which was quite a bit really.
"Yes, sir?" asked Snape. "What do you mean, 'yes, sir'?"
"I can move it without touching it. Specifically, I can tell it exactly how many turns to make, how often to do it, and in which direction. The cauldron is just a normal one, but the mixer is enchanted. That way I can use it on several different potions at once, if I have to, without having to buy lots of expensive self-stirring cauldrons."
Greasy's sudden red-faced resemblance to Vernon made Harry wonder if he was going about this the right way. While Vernon could be manipulated into allowing him to get away with doing less, thinking an alternative task cleverly suggested by Harry was actually worse, Snape seemed determined to not allow Harry to get anything done at all. It was really cramping his style, and worse yet, adding to his workload.
"Another detention for your cheek," the professor practically growled out in a low voice, appearing to fight a battle with his temper. "Now, start again."
With a swirl of his cape, Snape turned his back on Harry and marched back to the front of the class, snapping almost randomly at various Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw students.
Harry sighed and began digging around in his bag for his spare mixer and an empty jar. Prior experience in Greasy's class taught Harry that he was rarely going to be able to complete any of the work, so he had convince a seventh year to cast a spell on several jars that would allow him to suspend most potions and continue them at a later time. That way, any work he did do was not wasted.
A slight smile twitched the corners of Harry's mouth as he battled not to break out into a full blown grin. Only Sue saw it, and shot a questioning look his way.
"Later," he mouthed silently with a small shake of his head.
The mixer worked perfectly, meaning he had the spells down pat. Next week, he was planning on testing a knife that would cut perfectly every time, since it was basically the same set of spells as his enchanted mixer. Snape already told him he was incapable of using a knife with sufficient dexterity to butter bread, so he had an excuse ready again, for all the good it done him this time.
It would be nice to get through at least one potion's lesson without being singled out by Greasy for some form of amateur ridicule and criticism, but at least this way he could plan what he was likely going to get attacked for.
The fact his head of house had already given him twenty points for showing initiative, Professor Flit ten for excellent charm work, and McG another five for showing Nev how to use one of his spares to practice with, countered Greasy's obsessive point taking and made sure the rest of the badgers did not hold his 'initiative' against him.
Of course, the real reason he bothered spending time developing ways to combine these particular spells was because Petunia never allowed him to use her electric mixer, and beating eggs or cream by hand was a laborious task. An enchanted fork could do the job much faster, and he could pretend to be holding it.
All in all, he had to consider this trial a success.
Now he just had to figure out what to do about the detentions.