Thanks again to the AFC guys, especially BennyS. A few reviewers gave me some good ideas too - you know who you are - Thanks.
Chapter Four – the Year of living Slothfully
Harry loved flying. His enjoyment went beyond merely saving him from having to walk; it was one of the very few activities he really liked that didn't involve lying down.
It was quite a bit of fun to every now and then drop down to the levels of the others and zoom around the pitch, dodging balls and players, and even though it was far more strenuous than anything else he chose to do, it could hardly be considered work.
Getting drafted into the 'Puff Quidditch team in the rare position of reserve gave him lots of extra opportunities to fly, although he was usually meant to be flying practice drills.
Drills were quite boring and meaningless to Harry, when all he really had to do was find and catch the snitch.
Not that he minded, and the exercise meant he could worry a little bit less about getting fat. Merlin knew it would be a lot more trouble to carry a huge amount of extra weight around.
That had never been a problem at Privet drive where his food intake matched his energy output pretty evenly (only because Dudley was too stupid to notice his food stashes often mysteriously being seriously depleted), but Hogwarts meals had tipped the balance badly.
Luckily, Harry had the sort of metabolism that kept him slim, but he knew from watching Dudley and Vernon waddle around that getting humongous meant everything was much harder to do, so it was something to avoid, and he enjoyed eating too much to diet!
"Potter!" yelled the seventh year team captain, as he came zooming up to where Harry was casually floating above the other players. "Why the bleeding blazes aren't you flying the pattern the way I showed you?"
"Well, Cap," said Harry. "There doesn't seem much point to it, really."
"No point? No Point? That pattern has been proven again and again to be the most effective one in the world!" said Cap, getting more agitated as he spoke. "Every major league has its own variation, but the basic pattern is the same. You need to be able to do it flawlessly-"
"I thought I just had to catch the snitch," interrupted Harry, holding up the little golden ball.
"And you'll only do that if you –"
The captain stopped, momentarily dumbstruck.
"When did you get that?" he finally asked.
"About five minutes after we got out here," answered Harry, "but I figured you'd want to keep the rest of the team training so I didn't bother you."
"How do you keep doing that?" Cedric asked Harry as they made their way back to the locker room. "Every time you turn around the snitch is right there. It's like it wants to be caught or something. Wait, you didn't put a charm on it, did you?"
"Ceddy!" said Harry with mock outrage and using the new hybrid nick name he felt comfortable with. "Are you accusing me of cheating? That's not very Hufflepuff, is it?"
Cedric looked ashamed. "Sorry."
"Maybe I am a Golden Osmagogues attracting the Snitches because they are made to mimic Snidgets, who were fatally attracted to Golden Osmagogues," said Harry.
"You are not a Golden Osmagogues," stated Cedric.
"Well, there is an old saying: 'If you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by.' " said Harry, trying for a mystical expression, which was hard since he didn't really know what one looked like.
"I really don't think they meant Quidditch when they said that," said Cedric, looking even more doubtful.
"Look, just I figured there is as much chance of the snitch finding me as me finding it, so if I sit still, I'm just as likely to catch it," explained Harry. "It's also likely to confuse the hell out of the opposition."
The older boy knew there was something wrong with Harry's logic, but in the face of seeing it work, he couldn't really dispute it.
"Besides," added Harry, "The balls are all kept locked away in Spike's office. There's no way I can get in to mess with them, not even with an elf helping."
Cedric wasn't sure what to make of the distinct note of regret in Harry's voice, but decided against commenting; fairly certain he really didn't want to know.
The reserves benches in the Quidditch stands were not a particularly comfortable place to have a sleep, but Harry persisted. He had plans to one day learn to cast a reverse silencing charm that would keep all the noise out of the secluded and mostly unused space, and his cushioning charm still needed a lot of work, but he made do with what he had and was soon napping away while his teammates battled whatever team was their nemesis this month.
Following the sport felt far too much like study for Harry to really get interested.
After an hour two, Harry was woken up from his snooze by something gently touching his face. He swatted it away, but it kept coming back to bother him.
Finally he got annoyed enough to open his eyes and see a little golden ball with silver wings floating in front of him.
"Shoo. Go away," he said, taking a half hearted swing at it. "I'm not even playing today. Quit bugging me."
The ball hovered closer.
"Harry?" called Han, popping up on the far side of the bench along with Sue. "Who are you talking to?"
At the first sound, the snitch silently flittered away, darting randomly from side to side too fast to be easily seen.
"Nobody," he answered, choosing not to try to explain the unnatural fascination the odd little things seemed to have for him. "What's up?"
"We thought you might be lonely down here on your own," she answered.
"You got sick of all the cheering, didn't you?" he asked, eyes narrowing in suspicion.
"Maybe a bit," said admitted.
"The game's been going on for over two hours," said Sue. "I hope they find the damn snitch soon - my throat is red raw."
"Yeah, it's like it's hiding or something," agreed Han.
"Hey," said Harry, feeling slightly guilty for some reason and wanting to change the subject. "Want to see something cool?"
"Sure," said Sue.
While he was not renowned for providing overly humorous entertainment, most of Harry's year mates found his antics to be pretty funny, one way or the other.
"I was trying to figure out how I could contribute to this whole 'team spirit' thing-"
"Only because Professor Sprout warned you about not joining in on anything," laughed Han.
"-and I remembered seeing a football match on the television a while back at my uncle's house. The crowd did this amazing thing called a 'Mexican Wave', ever heard of it?"
Both girls nodded.
"That's the thing where everybody takes turns standing up, right?"
"Yeah. I thought it looked pretty cool, although Dudders and Vern-pig trying it on the couch was funnier, especially when the poor thing busted apart under them. Well I was thinking it would be really neat to get everybody here to do that."
"That would be pretty hard, wouldn't it?" asked Han. "I mean, how will you get the Slytherins to join in?"
"Is that who we are playing?" said Harry, ignoring the pair's exasperated look and turning to face the stands. "Anyway, I thought so too, but then I remembered that I am a wizard."
He suddenly brought his wand up and twirled it around in a flashy looking pattern before pointing it directly at a portion of the crowd in the stands.
Across from him, directly in front of his wand, the crowd suddenly leapt to their feet. As he quickly swept his wand along, the crowd obediently, and apparently involuntarily, jumped up in a rolling wave. Harry spun right the way around until he was back where he started, and then lowered his wand.
He turned to face the two awestruck girls.
"Pretty good, eh?" he asked, grinning. "You reckon Flower's will count that as contributing?"
"That was amazing," said Sue. "How in the world did you do it?"
"Stinging hex runes on the seats," answered Harry. "Probably never work again, though."
"You drew a Rune on every seat?" asked Han.
"Of course not," answered Harry, turning back to watch the amusing sight of the confused crowd trying to figure out what happened. "I got B1 and B2, those red-headed maniac Gryffs to do it for me.
"It started with a couple of magical ink stampers I bought and got a guy to help me modify to print the Rune, then I convinced the twins to do the actual stamping by telling them it was for a joke. I don't think they realised I was going to activated it one row at a time, but you've got admit, it looked damn good. Next time I might set them all off at the same moment - what do you think?"
He didn't see Sue cover her face with both hands or Han shake her head, but he knew both girls were smiling.
"Come on, Harry, mate. We really need your help," said Ron. "It's for Hagrid after all."
"Just let me get this straight," said Harry. "You found out Tiny was illegally raising a Dragon, mainly because the big guy proudly invited you to have a look, and convinced him to let yet another one of your brothers take it away to a reserve or something, but now you need me to help you and Neville carry it up the to the top of the Astronomy tower in the middle of the night so somebody can pick it up. You need me because nobody else knows about Norb and you don't want Tiny to get into trouble?"
Ron nodded enthusiastically, obviously proud of his plan.
Harry shook his head in despair. Ron was a fairly good bloke, and he enjoyed them spending the odd hour or two slacking off together every now and then, but the redhead was a bit clueless at times. Why he thought Harry would be the slightest bit interested in dragging a heavy, caged baby monster up a very long, steep stairway was beyond Harry's understanding.
Maybe it was because it always seemed he was helping people out by telling them how to go about getting things done the easy way?
"Hagrid said you were there for its birth. I would have loved to have seen that, but I am surprised you didn't say anything to him about it being illegal," said Ron.
"I didn't know," explained Harry. "Besides, it's not my place to tell him what he can or can't do. Anyway, getting back to your plan, I could probably levitate it up by myself so three of us won't have much trouble, but why don't you just get him to cart it to the edge of the forest and get your brother and his mates to pick it up there? It's not any more likely to be seen than the top of the tallest tower in the school, and it means you don't have to risk being caught out after curfew."
"I figured the tower would be easier to find," said Ron.
"Ron, it's Hogwarts. I reckon anybody with the slightest idea of where the school is will be able to spot a bleeding great castle from the air, and Tiny's hut stands out a bit, since it's the only building anywhere near the ruddy huge forest. Get him to light a fire as a beacon or something and it definitely won't be an issue."
"Yeah, good point," admitted Ron, sounding disappointed.
Seeing the look on Ron's face, Harry felt bad for crushing his idea. Not bad enough to change his mind though. Still, he could try to make up to him a bit.
"Look, I know you liked the idea of a bit of adventure," said Harry, taking pity on his friend, "but you could always sneak out to say goodbye to the bloodthirsty thing. I'll even lend you my broom to get there and back quicker, if you want. Hell, you could fly straight from your dorm window and avoid Giggles and his Fleabag altogether – that'd be pretty cool."
"Thanks, Harry!" said Ron, brightening up. "I appreciate that."
"No problems, mate. Just don't blame me if you get your leg bitten off, all right?"
A few nights later, Harry was dreaming that Wicky was smiling at him while explaining an easy way to make many of his dreams come true.
"So, you see, Mr. Potter, by adding this simple twisty-swirly-poke, you can make any charm permanent!"
"Mr. Potter!" Flitwick's voice was now no longer the small professor's, but a more baritone, yet feminine one. "Mr Potter, wake up!"
Dream receding, Harry's eyes slowly fluttered open. He automatically reached out to grab his glasses and put them on before looking up to see Flowers, his head of house, scowling down at him.
"Come with me," she said briskly.
Biting down on his tongue to avoid saying something Flowers would likely give him a very harsh reprimand for, he stumbled out of his bed to follow her, half fearful she was going to say something about the fact he was wearing tomorrow's robes to bed instead of pyjamas – not he could tell much difference anyway, and it saved him having to get changed in the morning.
The professor led him halfway across the school and into a room where the head of Gryffindor, Professor McGonagall, and a red-faced Draco awaited.
"Mr. Potter, is this your broom?" Flowers asked, pointing to the broom on McG's desk.
The broom was covered in dirt and sported a few broken bristles, but it was still clearly his since, to the best of his knowledge, it was the only one to have an actual seat attached to it.
"Yes," he said, his apprehension growing.
McGonagall looked down at Harry, a disapproving frown on her face. "Mr. Weasley brought this broom to the infirmary a short time ago. He was very nearly seriously injured when it apparently failed during an unsupervised and unapproved flight he was taking, outside of curfew I might add."
Draco interrupted, "He was flying up to the Astronomy tower to smuggle a dragon out of the country!"
"20 points, Mr. Malfoy, for persisting with that ridiculous tale."
"Is he all right?" asked Harry, ignoring Malfoy, which was practically an automatic habit by now.
"Fortunately, he was only a few feet above the ground when it happened. As it is, he has a broken wrist, a broken nose, and several loose teeth. I will be confiscating this broom at least until we can determine if something happened to it."
"I only added the seat and a couple of cushioning charms," said Harry. "It shouldn't have failed!"
"Nevertheless, it did, and you need to accept and take responsibility for the consequences of your actions in lending it to Mr Weasley," said Flowers.
Harry felt very bad, very bad indeed. He hadn't meant to get Ron hurt, but it was his broom, and he made the modifications himself, despite not really knowing that much about what he was doing.
"Yes, Professor," he agreed quietly.
"Potter tried to kill Weasley," said Draco, sounding oddly respectful.
"Another 10 points, Mr. Malfoy."
"I'm really sorry, Harry," said Ron.
Harry wanted to say "Don't worry about it. It's my fault the broom crashed anyway," but all that came out was an extended yawn.
Knowing his detention was scheduled for this night, he had tried to catch a few extra hours of sleep during, but hadn't managed it.
"I still don't know what happened. It was working fine, and then it just went nuts," explained Ron. "Just over there it started. It was weird."
"Stop making excuses for your poor flying, Weasel," said Draco, trudging along behind them. "That broom is one of the finest ever made, there is no way Potter could have accidentally broken it, so you probably crashed it through your own incompetence."
"Get stuffed, Malfoy," said Ron. "At least I'm not here because I am slimy little prick who got busted while dobbing."
Harry could tell Ron's heart wasn't in the rebuke and the red-head actually agreed with Slick, to a degree.
"Face it, Potter's a better flyer than you even though he's barely sat on a broom and doesn't even bother showing up for most of his team's training sessions."
"Hey, I'm only a reserve," protested Harry, fighting another yawn. "Why bother practicing like a madman when I'm not going to play this year? The damn cheering is bad enough. You know that they hold practices, for the cheering? Right there in the middle of the common room, they all get together and practice chanting songs and things! And people call me weird.
"Anyway, really, don't worry about it, Ron. At least I've got a better excuse for not training now. The last one about suddenly being afraid of heights wasn't going to cut it this time, I think."
"Pity about being outside in the middle of the night instead of fast asleep in bed," muttered Draco. "I bet that's annoying, eh Potter?"
"Can it, the lot of you," said Giggles as they neared the small shack. "Hagrid, get out here and take these brats off of my hands. I'll be back to collect what's left of them in a few hours."
Hagrid, carrying a crossbow massive enough to be classified as a siege engine, explained the detention, much to the horror of all three boys.
"The Forbidden Forest? At night?" asked Ron, his voice quavering.
"Wait until my father hears about this," said Draco, looking even paler than usual.
"Walking? For hours and hours," said Harry, horrified. "No way."
"We get the dog," said Draco immediately after Hagrid split them up, deciding to take Ron with him and leaving Draco to Harry.
"He's a ruddy coward," warned Hagrid.
"But hopefully he will look like a better meal than either of us," reasoned Draco.
"Maybe he can carry me when my legs collapse," said Harry, trying to be optimistic.
"Right, you two go tha' way, following tha' trail, and Ron 'n me will go this way. Remember ta send up sparks if you find anythin'."
Harry waited until they could no longer see Hagrid, then promptly walked over to a nearby tree and began climbing it.
"Where are you going?" asked Draco.
"Up. There is no way I am spending the next few hours walking around out here," answered Harry.
"What's the matter, scared?" sneered Draco. "I heard you can't sleep if there is a ghost around."
Harry felt like objecting, but couldn't justify the effort in trying to save face with a guy he didn't really care for about a subject he wasn't interested in discussing.
"Slick, you go prance around the forest looking for whatever it is hunting unicorns," said Harry, trying to get himself comfortable on a branch well above head height. "I'll keep a look out from up here where fewer things are likely to try to eat me."
Any thoughts Draco had about continuing without Harry were quickly dashed when Fang trotted over and began trying to climb the tree as well.
Draco's voice sounded rather hoarse, but it was just loud enough to rouse Harry.
"For Merlin's sake, Slick," he grumbled, shifting to get more comfortable but not opening his eyes. "Just what kind of a piss-weak wizard are you? If you can't climb, use magic-"
"Potter!" Draco practically shouted.
Harry opened his eyes, ready to give the boy a good dressing down, and looked straight into the brightest pair of blue eyes he had ever seen. Since he was about eight feet off the ground, this was a bit of a shock.
"Eep!" he squealed, and fell out of the tree.
Only the sticking charm he used to keep him from rolling off the branch kept him from a painful fall to the ground, but instead left him hanging, suspended by his robes.
"Harry Potter", said the owner of the eyes, who Harry could now see was either a centaur or a half midget riding a headless horse. "You must leave this forest immediately-"
"Okay," said Harry, releasing his spell to fall the rest of the way, and hit the ground running. "Bye."
He took off running towards Hagrid's cabin, Draco close behind.
"-there is a great danger," finished the centaur before he could stop himself.
But the only one left to answer him was Hagrid's dog, who was trying to hide his head under his front paws while balanced on a tree branch.
By the stars that boy can move when he wants to," said a second Centaur stepping out from behind a tree a short distance away. "Did we miss a meteor in the skies or something?"
"The quality of intruders gets worse every year," sneered a third, darker coloured one.
Fang just whimpered.
"The Accio charm? That's a fourth year spell," said the seventh year student manning the charms help desk in the common room. "Do you really think you're up to learning it?"
Harry getting help from the older years in the dorm was a fairly common sight by now, although it was rarely anything to do with his school work – which even more rarely managed to be more than the absolute minimum required not to fail. The boy-who-couldn't-be-bothered still managed to surprise them with some of his requests sometimes.
"Trust me," said Harry. "I might be inexperienced, but I am really motivated on this one."
"Okay," said the older student, deciding it was only fair to give him a chance.
Some of the others mentioned that Potter came across as a bit of a slacker, but usually got his spells right with only minimal attempts. It was impressive that he was trying to learn advanced spells already, instead of just going along with the standard curriculum. Maybe they had misjudged Harry, since he was obviously putting a lot of effort into getting ahead. Maybe he really was a hard-working 'Puff after all.
Harry watched and listened carefully as the student showed him the incantation and wand movement. He really concentrated, making sure he got every bit of it, as was his habit.
It didn't make sense to get lazy and not pay attention when it counted. All that did was mean a lot more work later on trying to play catch-up, without the benefit of an instructor. Likewise, he rarely practiced the wand movements until he was sure he knew what he was doing. Waving a wand around randomly was a total waste of energy and quite counterproductive, not to mention an eye hazard.
This spell was hard though, and would probably take a lot of practice to get right. Still, being able to summon things from across the room could certainly save him a lot of effort in the long run.
He was very handy with the levitation spell, but it took a lot of work to manoeuvre levitated items over to himself. The Accio spell promised to drag items directly to his hands with just a single concentrated cast; much easier.
Then he just needed to learn how to banish things back to where they came from, and his need to get up and walk all over the place would be halved.
Magic, was just so cool.
Harry stood back and examined his latest purchase. The robes he had bought on his sole shopping trip were fine, but decidedly boring. While not having to wear trousers was a welcome bonus, there was something missing from the standard Wizarding-wear.
Although modifying the look of the clothes was forbidden by Hogwarts rules (as Slick had discovered, much to his humiliation at having to get his mother to go shopping and buy him a whole new wardrobe), Harry felt there was still a myriad of ways to improve them without violating the strict edicts.
He looked into warming and cooling charms, only to discover the varieties of them available to him were quite incompatible, meaning he either had to have different robes for different weather conditions, or he needed to remember to turn off one set of charms before turning on the other.
Worse yet, none of the charms were particularly good at automatically maintain him at a comfortable temperature and required constant adjustment.
Abandoning that line of thought (for the moment), Harry's next idea turned out to be quite practical and easy to manage.
With a little bit of tricky charm work by one of the Ravenclaw seventh years, Harry's pockets were now large enough for him to put a huge pile of his books and materials in, and the robes stayed weighing exactly the same as before – practically nothing.
Of course his book bag already weighed nothing, in fact it sometimes had an annoying tendency to try to float away in even the lightest of breezes, but being able to put almost everything he owned into his pockets meant not having to work out what books and things he needed for that particular day – he just loaded up everything and went on his way.
The only downside was learning the trick of being able to find where things were without having to rummage around a lot. He was getting better at that- good enough to not be too worried by the small effort required.
There were many other things Harry planned to do with his clothes, but he had yet to make much progress on getting what he wanted. Ideally they would be self ironing, self cleaning, and automatically repairing, but as one of his closer housemates, Sue, pointed out, he was planning a lot of effort that would be wasted.
"Because you'll grow out of them," she said, putting an almost instant stop to his efforts. "Then you'll have to get it all done again with the next set. I mean your existing ones are already starting to get a bit short. I'd be surprised if they fit by the middle of next year."
Disappointed, but not crushed, Harry decided she was right and he would be a fool to spend too much effort on his existing robes, unless he could figure out how to make them grow along with him. The enlarging charm proved to be easy to cast, but useless as it tended to only enlarge one small part of the robes at a time, possibly due to Harry not being that proficient at it.
Still, the pockets were worth doing and a valuable additional that he would likely get done again and again until he could cast the spells himself.
Of course, his current robes were still in a very sellable condition, and the pockets just made them more so, since nobody else he knew had any magically enhanced clothes – not even Slick and his designer pyjamas had anything obviously magical about them.
Mind you, if what Hagrid told him before school started was true, just being pre-owned by 'Harry Potter' put the price he could expect to get for them much higher than what he originally paid, which could possibly fund getting the charms he wanted cast on his new set.
Then the only problem was timing it right so that he wasn't left standing naked in the alley.
With exams approaching, Harry found it increasingly difficult to get anybody to help with his numerous side projects. Even some of the elves were starting to feel the pressure of so much tension in the castle as the older years prepared for some of the most important tests of their lives.
The extra work created by nervous children making mistakes filled in the gap Harry had been happily using to have the elves do things he thought would keep them happy, and help him out (like secretly scrubbing unused areas Giggles was likely to use for detentions and only leaving a thin layer of dirt for the students to clean).
The younger years were spared most of the direct pressure, but their first round of tests, along with the nerves of the older students, made them all a bit tense.
So Harry developed a new way to avoid the general mayhem and stress enveloping the school.
He would sit crossed-legged in a corner of the common room, rest his hands on his knees, put an open book in his lap, and pretended to meditate. It actually first started when he began trying to train himself to subconsciously control the sleep-walking curse he used for detentions, but had grown into an improvement on his ability to instantly take a nap.
Slowing his breathing down to a fraction of its normal rate not only saved him the terrible effort of having to breathe as much, but helped him easily slip into a sort of entranced sleep. It worked well enough too, especially when he remembered to cast stiffening spells on his shirt's back to keep him upright, and when he could put cushions all around to keep comfortable.
All in all, he thought it was quite clever, so it was rather a shock to wake up one day and find several other people sitting in identical poses in a circle around him.
"Very funny," he said, causing the others to give up their fake posing and grin widely.
"Come on mate," said a smiling Zac. "You got to admit, you really weren't fooling anybody."
"What gave me away?" he asked.
"The snoring," answered Sue and Han at the same time.
When the first of the exams finally arrived, it was a relief for them all.
Firstly because most of his housemates had worked together to make sure all of them were as prepared as possible, but mainly because Harry could finally look forward to saying "I told you so," to Sue and Hermione – the worst of the people badgering him to study all the time.
Neither they nor the teachers appreciated that Harry had never known a single person in the world who cared what his report card looked like. They expected him to want to please somebody, to be proud of getting good marks, even if that somebody was only himself, but in reality, that 'need' had been broken in him long before Hogwarts.
He believed it was not a good plan to fail, mainly because that usually lead to remedial classes and extra supervised instruction that was much harder to slack off in, but he wasn't going to strive for excellence, or even above-averageness.
Surprisingly, and quite uncharacteristically, Harry found himself feeling nervous as he sat down for his first exam, Astronomy.
"Please be multiple choice. Please be multiple choice. Please be multiple choice," he chanted to himself in his own private little mantra while waiting for the special anti-cheat quills and exam papers to be handed out.
Multiple choice questions were definitely easier, so naturally they were his favourite type of test.
Not that he had any evidence the mantra ever having made any difference in his Muggle school, but he always felt better for trying.
"Yes!" he exclaimed a little too loudly after flipping the paper over to find his wish was granted.
At least half of the paper was multiple choice, so at least half of the answers were on the page in front of him just waiting to be selected.
While memorising reams of facts about planets and other celestial bodies was tedious, boring, and usually took quite a lot of effort, Harry had always made use of memory short cuts when he could.
"Most Voters Earn Money Just Showing Up Near Polls," he whispered to himself when required to list the planets in order.
There were dozens of mnemonics that used the first letter of each planet to make a memorable sentence, but he was always partial to that one, possibly because Vernon's constant ranting about politics made it easier to recall.
For some inexplicable reason, "Avoiding Tiring Gambols Can Let Very Lazy Students Sleep Continuously All Period" stuck in Harry's head as the way to recall the zodiac, probably due to the appropriateness of its sentiment.
He had others too, covering most of the information they had studied throughout the year, although often it was hard to find or make up ones that he could relate to without effort.
Not that he had any particular interest in a subject that regularly required him to be out of bed at ungodly hours, but most of it was just pure memorisation - hardly any work at all really.
Being asked to make a pineapple dance for Charms was harder, since it involved techniques and spells they had learned, but using them in a way they were never directly shown before.
Luckily, Harry was quite familiar and practiced with the spells needed, since he was fascinated by the idea of making normally inanimate object move on their own with little or no effort from him.
Specifically he had been trying to teach a broom to sweep the floor, but the damn thing kept running off to find a bucket and water for some reason.
Still, the experimenting he performed trying to get it to work made the exam a cinch. He probably could have earned extra credit by making the pineapple peel and slice itself into pieces, but he couldn't see the need to make the effort, and Han used to freak out whenever he practiced that in the common room with various vegetables.
She obviously never had to peel potatoes herself by hand, or she would have appreciated his skill, rather than scream at him for the 'horrific self mutilating and suicide' his practicing on fruit entailed.
The other guys in 'Puff thought it was quite funny to watch.
"Turn this mouse into a snuff box," instructed Professor McGonagall when it was time for the practical portion of transfiguration.
Harry knew he had done poorly on the theory side of the subject, since he only really wanted to understand the use of the magic and not the metaphysical stuff behind it. He wasn't too worried about failing the practical, but it went against his nature to just do what he was asked without some attempt at avoidance.
"That's a bit cruel, isn't it?" he asked.
"I assure you that I will be able to reverse anything you do," she answered.
"Are you going to wipe the mouse's memory?" he persisted. "I mean it's all well and good that you'll make sure it's going to be a mouse again, but what if it's traumatised and gets sudden urges to snort tobacco or run up somebody's nose or something? I don't think I'd like to have that on my conscious, Professor."
"Mr Potter, I am well aware that you are perfectly capable of performing this spell," said McGonagall "So what is-"
"Oh, well I guess we are done then," interrupted Harry, turning and leaving the classroom, a huge smile on his face. "Thank you."
He actually made it two steps out of the door before his teacher found her voice and called him back.
"Potter, where is your forgetfulness potion?" snapped Greasy as Harry was about to leave after the exam.
"My what?" he asked, making sure to stick to his 'I'm Innocent' voice and expression, mainly because he knew it annoyed the hell out of Greasy and not because he thought it would get him any leeway.
"The concoction you have been supposedly working on for the last hour. Where is it?"
"Er, I don't know?" said Harry, looking confused.
"Cease stalling, Potter, and hand it in," said Snape, holding out his hand. "I can see you have the vial in your hand."
Harry looked at the vial, seemingly surprised it was there.
"It's empty," he said, holding it up for the teacher to see.
"I can see that, you idiot boy. What have you done with it?"
"Ah, I think maybe I drank it," said Harry, licking his lips, apparently tasting something on them. "Hey, if I did, and I can't remember it, that must mean it worked, right?"
He knew he wasn't going to get away with it, but it sure beat the hell out of actually going to the effort of trying hard to make the potion and getting a failing mark anyway.
Especially when Greasy looked like he was going to pop a blood vessel.
Defence had them regurgitating more information and facts about various Dark Creatures, Dark Spells, Dark Wizards, and Dark Blue, although Harry was fairly certain he hallucinated the last bit after he developed a splitting headache halfway through the class when Garlic Guy stood too close and his stench almost overwhelmed them.
He didn't expect to do well on that one.
Herbology was a breeze, since the theory was all about various fungi and their uses, and the practical was all about planting, potting, and pruning.
While the exact species were significantly different, the actual methods and ideas were sufficiently similar to his Muggle gardening experience that Harry was sure it would turn out to be his best subject, exam-wise. He had been told it was very different in later years, but for now he was happy with his effort.
He was then pleasantly surprised to find the History of magic exam was actually an hour to write some answers for questions about one of his few Wizarding heroes, Gaspard Shingleton, the man who invented self-stirring cauldrons.
Since Harry had read extensively about Gassy while researching his Snape-stirrers, he finished the whole exam in under thirty minutes and was certain he would get a great mark.
It was a brilliant way to top off a demanding day, and it left Harry feeling unusually energised, although the nagging headache could also have contributed to his restlessness.
Harry felt so enthused by his performance in the exams, and the fact they were over, that he decided to take one of his rare after-curfew jaunts to check on one of his other promising projects.
This idea, surprisingly enough, he had to thank Vernon for. Once, and once only, the pig-man took Harry with him to Grunnings, the drill manufacturing plant where Vernon worked.
Being a year or three younger than he currently was, Harry was uncertain about the exact circumstances and why's of his visit, but he vaguely recalled something about possibly meeting some burglars or rioters, or rioting burglars, or maybe it was being a meat shield for Vernon against rioters.
At any rate, Harry got a late night look into the behind the scenes workings of Grunnings, and the memory came in handy now.
Hiding his project in one of the empty classrooms along the out of bounds third floor corridor was, in Harry's opinion, a stroke of genius. Nobody was allowed up there, not even the prefects, so Harry ran a much smaller risk of getting discovered.
So far he had only ever seen Giggles and Fleabag prowling anywhere near the place, and Fluffy's growls whenever Fleabag was around worked well to keep their visits infrequent.
It was therefore a complete surprise to be literally run into by Ron while closing the door behind him as he left his project's hiding room.
Falling to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs, it took them several moments to sort themselves out, despite Hermione's attempts to help.
"What are you doing up here?" asked Ron. "You've come to save it too, haven't you?"
"What?" asked Harry, still rubbing his sore head. "Save what? Where?"
"The Stone, Harry," said Hermione. "We think somebody-"
"Snape," interrupted Ron.
"-Is going to try and get it tonight," finished Hermione, with an annoyed glance at Ron. "We have to stop them."
"No we don't," said Harry.
"We can't just let whoever it is down there get the stone," insisted Hermione.
"It's got nothing to do with us," said Harry. "Go tell a professor."
"We tried," said Hermione, sounding very peeved. "Professor McGonagall told us not to worry and that it was all taken care of."
"So there you go, nothing to worry about then," said Harry.
"But mate, what if it's Snape?" asked Ron. "Do you really want him to be able to turn lead into gold?"
Harry was still uncertain how or why Hermione had forgiven the redhead for his part in the Halloween thing, or how he had been drawn into Hermione's crusade to protect the stone.
"Then he'll be able to retire and I won't have to see him ever again," said Harry. "Goodnight."
He pulled the cloak back over his head and started to walk away, but Hermione's next words stopped him cold
"Then what were you doing up here?" she asked. "What's in that room, Harry?"
Before he could tell her to stop, she pushed the door to his project room open and looked inside.
"Oh, Merlin," said Hermione. "Is this what I think it is?"
Ron stuck his head over her shoulder.
Row upon row of tables were crammed into the former classroom, and along both sides of each row, sitting so close to each other to be touching even with their elbows held in close, sat smiling House-elves; dozens of them. Each one had a ball of yarn on a spindle in front of them, and they were all knitting furiously.
With almost mechanical regularity, an elf would finish his work, and a completed sock would float down the length of the table to land in basket sitting at the end. A large score board hung against one wall, with a couple of elves scurrying along updating the tallies for each elf as they worked.
A few glanced up at the trio's entrance, but they barely paused in their knitting.
"What?" Ron asked. "It's just a bunch of House-elves."
"It's a sweat-shop, Ron," said Hermione, striding into the room, "and look at what they are making."
She reached over to one of the many lines of tables filled with House-elves knitting furiously and picked a sock out of the basket sitting at the end.
"Socks," she said. "You've got the Hogwarts House-elves making socks?"
"Monogrammed socks," said Harry proudly. "I'm going to sell them in Diagon Alley."
"Are you paying them to make these?" asked Hermione
Harry sighed. One of his biggest regrets was sharing what he knew about house-elves with her. He had been eager to show off how he had managed to get around the silly Hufflepuff restrictions and foolishly thought she would appreciate his cunning.
Instead she became indignant at the use of House-elves and ranted for long enough to convince him never to talk to her about them again.
"I thought not," she said at Harry's exasperated sigh.
"I've told you before," Harry said. "They want to work. They need to work. They get the shakes and go stir crazy if there is not enough work."
"That because they have never been shown another way," she insisted.
"No it's because they love it," countered Harry.
"This is slave labour," she said, holding to sock up to emphasise her point.
"No, it's a voluntary self-help thing," he answered, snatching the sock to inspect the stylised, gold HP monogram. "I'm not forcing them be here, they can leave or take a break at any time they want, and nobody punishes them for anything. Isn't that right guys, and girls?"
Not stopping for a moment, the elves burst into a loud round of happy agreement.
"But you are using them to make cheap socks!"
"Hey, these are not 'cheap socks'. These are high quality, well they are now that they have learned how to knit. The first few hundred weren't much good for anything except maybe the horsey guys, Tiny, or something with about two dozen toes - and you don't want me to start on the disaster the gloves and beanies were. "
"Where are you even getting the wool from?" asked Hermione.
At that precises moment, a sheep's quiet 'baa' echoed from somewhere near the back of the crammed room.
"Hey these are pretty good," said Ron behind them, interrupting the argument. They turned to find him walking in a small circle to test out the new pair of socks he was suddenly wearing. "They're really comfortable."
"Look, it's got nothing to do with you," said Harry, deciding to ignore Ron, for now. "Haven't you got to get a sorcerer's rocks off or something?"
Hermione looked ready to keep arguing, but then suddenly stopped.
"Yes," she said, a cunning gleam in her eye, "and you're coming with us."
"What, why? You are so not blackmailing me, are you?"
Hermione grinned, slightly evilly, in Harry's opinion.
"They are not actually your elves, are they, Harry? So anything they make is technically not yours, is it?"
"Can I grab a couple of pairs before we go?" asked Ron.
"Okay," said Harry, once the door to Fluffy's room was unlocked. "Wait here and I'll have a quick look."
"No way," said Hermione. "You can't do it alone, and we can all fit under that cloak, but it would be better if we could make some music of some sort to put Fluffy to sleep."
"What makes you think music is going to put it to sleep?" asked Harry. "I can't believe your singing is that boring, unless you sang about really boring things, like books, or studying, or-"
"We tricked Hagrid into telling us," said Ron excitedly. "He said he used to put it asleep all the time just by playing a bit of music."
"Brilliant. What kind of music?" asked Harry. "I mean you don't want to go in there singing a nice lullaby when what it really wants is some heavy rock or jazz or something, do you?"
An uncomfortable silence answered Harry.
"You have no clue, do you?"
"He said any music," said Ron.
"Any music? Are you sure?"
Ron nodded vigorously, and completely unconvincingly.
"Well I did get this from Tiny for Christmas," said Harry, reaching into one of his voluminous magical pockets to draw out his hand carved flute. "I thought it was a bit odd at the time, but I wonder if he thought I might need it or something. Only problem is I've never bothered to learn how to play. Can either of you?"
Both of the Gryffindors shook their heads.
"Harry, why are you carrying an instrument you can't play around in your pocket?" asked Hermione.
"I've gotten just about everything I own in my pockets now," said Harry proudly. "And the pockets are held on with Velcro, so I can just swap them from robe to robe - saves a lot of hassle."
"Yeah, I can see that," agreed Ron. "Anyway, you play that pipe thing of yours-"
"It's called a flute, Ronald," said Hermione.
"Whatever. You play it, and we'll wait to see if it puts the dog to sleep, then we'll all go in, lift the trapdoor and jump in. Okay?"
Once all of them were squeezed under the cloak, Harry began blowing semi-random notes on Hagrid's hand-made flute in what he hoped sounded enough like 'Teddy bear's picnic' to put the huge animal to sleep.
With a nod, he indicated for Ron to open the door, and then they awkwardly shuffled through into the room where the massive three-headed dog was slowly sinking down into a deep slumber.
"What's that?" asked Hermione in a hushed voice, pointing towards something sticking out from under one of the beast's massive paws.
"Looks like a Harp," whispered Ron as the trio slowly crept closer to the sleeping giant and the closed trap door. "Whoever is down there must have left it behind, playing to keep Fluffy asleep I'll bet. It probably ran out of magic and got chewed up."
Ron reached for the lifting ring of the trap door, only to have Harry stamp his foot down on the door, holding it shut. Both Ron and Hermione looked at Harry in surprise. With one hand helping to make almost random noises on the flute, he reached down with his other and slid the unnoticed locking bolt into place, then jammed a broken piece of the harp behind to keep it from being opened by a simple Alohorama.
With meaningful nods of his head, he ushered the other two back outside, and then closed the door behind them and took the cloak off.
"What?" he said when they looked at him in disbelief. "You don't think the door and bolt will be magically strong?"
"Yes, but that might only slow him down," said Hermione. "Not stop him completely."
"That's all we need to do," said Harry. "Now we send a message with Hedwig and let Dumbledore take care of the rest."
Ron smiled happily, glad to be getting out of harm's way, but Hermione frowned, torn between her desire to stop the thief, and her faith in the Headmaster.
"Tell you what," said Harry. "I'll stay here and guard the door while you go to send off a message. Ron can try to get another professor to come and see that somebody has gone into the room, okay?"
Hermione nodded and immediately rushed off.
"Be careful," she called back over her shoulder.
"Yeah, don't do anything stupid," said Ron, also heading off.
Harry laughed and plonked down against the door. He pulled his invisibility cloak over himself and got comfortable. It wasn't long before he was happily dozing, despite his raging headache. Sleeping in various states of discomfort was another skill he had developed at the Dursleys, so anything less than a blinding migraine barely affected him, only slightly adding to how long it took him to have dreams of an army of House-elves at his beck and call drifting pleasantly through his mind.
Then some bugger opened the door, making him fall into the room, tripped over him, and dropped a ruddy great rock on his head in the process.
Harry untangled himself from his assailant and stood up. He saw the trap door lying open, and Fluffy again snoring peacefully as another Harp played loudly in the corner of the room, but the thief was standing in the doorway, blocking Harry's way out.
"Potter, I expected to see you tonight," said the defence professor, with no sign of his normal stammer.
"Garlic Guy? What the hell?" said Harry, not bothering to try to remember the stuttering defence professor's real name, especially since his headache suddenly became significantly worse.
"I suppose you expected to find Severus instead? He does seem like the type, doesn't he?"
"Who? Greasy? You have to be joking. Nobody that lame is capable of doing anything remotely cool or clever, like breaking into here."
"Don't play dumb with me, you arrogant brat. All year you've managed to defy me, or did you think I hadn't noticed they way you avoided all of my traps?"
"Traps?" asked Harry, not just stalling for time – he really had no idea what the guy was talking about. "What traps?"
"I coated a cauldron you were to clean for Severus in poison, but you detected it and took the antidote," said the professor.
Harry had to concentrate for a second before the answer came to him.
"So that's what happened to my gloves," he said, recalling the disintegrating precursor to his automatic cleaning brush. "We never did figure out why they fell apart after one use."
"When I noticed you sitting in the same spot at the Slytherin table, I trapped the seat to poison your food. You immediately stopped coming to breakfast and I had to quickly remove the charm to avoid catching somebody else and possibly being exposed."
"You must mean one of the times I managed to convince one of the House-elves to bring me breakfast in bed. Hehe, good times."
"And when I sabotaged your broom," said Garlic Guy, who Harry now recalled had a name beginning with Q and sounding like some small animal or another, "you made the Weasley boy fly it instead – very clever."
"So you're the reason he fell off after visiting Hagrid - and you earned me a detention in the forest. I thought I was doing him a favour lending him the broom after I was banned from riding it in the hallways."
"Yes, I waited to encounter you that night while I fed on the unicorn. I even left a trail of blood to follow, but you didn't take the bait."
"As if," said Harry. "Do you really think I'm barmy enough to go running through the forest at night looking for something killing unicorns? I snuck off and slept in a tree for a few hours."
Something Garlic said triggered a thought in Harry's mind.
"Hang on, my shoes didn't malfunction, did they? It was you. You tied my laces together to try and make me fall down the stairs?"
"Yes, it was I," said Garlic Guy, practically gloating. "It was a foolish attempt I made in a fit of anger, but you usually never took the same stairway twice and I saw an opportunity, so I took it. I still don't know how you avoided crashing to your death."
"What about when I nearly sleep-walked off the Astronomy tower? Was that you too?"
"I watched you for weeks before I had a chance to cast the Imperius curse on you, but you managed to throw it off at the last moment."
"Yeah, well I've gotten pretty good at waking up from trances, but what about that time with the Giant Squid in the lake? It was you trying to make it sink the boat and drag me to bottom wasn't it? I thought it was just playing around thinking the boat was empty while I was catching a nap out where nobody could bother me, but it was you all along."
"What? No I never -"
"And how about the time the snow fort collapse during that battle with Gryffs? Sue and the other 'Puffs said it served me right for hiding in the dungeon of the fort instead of fighting, but you tried to crush me, didn't you?"
"Snow fort? What snow fort?"
"I bet you've even been putting extra cholesterol in my eggs too – not to mention the salt. J's been telling me all along that it's bad for my heart-"
"Enough!" yelled the professor, cutting off Harry's stalling. "Give me the stone, Potter, and I'll spare your life."
"Yeah, like I believe that. I might be bone-lazy, but I'm not stupid," he said, clutching the stone to his chest, knowing it was probably the only thing that stood between him and a painful death.
"Give it to me you foolish child!"
Harry was about to explain in great detail how likely that was, when another voice, a hideous rasping voice filled with hatred and contempt, spoke.
"Let me talk to him," said the voice.
Garlic guy objected, but the voice insisted. Turning around, he slowly unwrapped the bandages of the foul smelling turban to reveal a face protruding from the back of his skull, but by then Harry was long gone.
"Where did he go?" asked Quirrell in a panicked voice.
"You fool!" shouted the voice Harry was pretty certain belonged to the Dark Lord, mainly due to the splitting headache suddenly getting significantly worse. "Down the trap door - It's the only way out of the room."
Without another word, the horrible amalgamation of man and thing ran awkwardly to the open trap door and leapt down. A few seconds later, Harry emerged from behind Fluffy, but stayed under his cloak.
He quickly closed the trap door again and then, with some serious concentration, managed to levitate the still snoring Cerberus directly on top of it.
"That ought to stall you some," he said to himself.
Unfortunately the possessed teacher was not fooled for long, and the hatch sprung open again before Harry could get away, flinging Fluffy into the air, yelping in startled surprise. A stray paw connected with Harry, one of its claws tearing into his arm and sending him tumbling backwards.
Harry scrambled not quite fast enough to get back under his cloak before Qmort rose from the hole, swearing in that horrid voice and whimpering in another, more human one.
"Pot-aarrrrghhhggg" screamed Qmort as the now fully awake and rather unhappy three-headed dog pounced on him.
Harry's morbid fascination only lasted long enough for him to see two heads doing a tug-of-war with his former professor while the third kept trying to squeeze in for a bite, then he found himself outside the room closing the door slowly behind him so as not to attract any attention from the mutant mutt.
"I am not going to be able to sleep for a month," he said to himself unhappily. "Well, maybe not for a week, or a few days at any rate - max."
Suddenly the door opened and a bloodied and torn up Qmort stumbled out. Harry caught a glimpse of Fluffy behind the gruesome professor, playing with what looked like a sleeve of Qmort's robes, and it still seemed to have the arm inside.
"Oh hell," Harry yelled, flicking his wand in a bit of a panic to cast the first spell he thought of. "Wingardium Leviosa."
The invisible spell caught the mostly dead Professor by surprise and hoisted him straight into the air. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, Harry's control was lacking, and Qmort's rapid ascent came to an abrupt end against the solid stone ceiling of the hallway.
"Oops," said Harry, caught off guard by the power of his spell and its unintentionally violent result.
The shock of accidentally smashing his professor into the roof made his concentration slip.
Qmort plummeted to the ground, landing in a bloodied heap with a dull, wet sounding thud. He gave a final, rasping and gurgling cough, and then lay still.
Slowly a dark cloud of something vaporous began leaking from the non-moving body, forming a ghostly shape above it.
"Oh no you don't," said Harry, reaching deep into one of his magically expanded pockets.
His injured arm burnt like it was on fire, and the blood was running down it making his hand slippery inside the pocket, so it took moment or two of fumbling before Harry managed to pull out one of his largest, specially prepared, potion-suspension jars.
"Engorgio," he cast, trying hard but only making the neck and top of the jar huge, much like his failed efforts at enlarging his robes.
The black cloud separated from the downed professor and charged at him just as he pulled the lid off and raised the magical vessel into its path. The ghastly, ghostly thing slid almost totally inside before it could stop.
"Gotcha," said Harry, putting the awkward jar down and slamming the lid, squeezing the last bit of the slippery feeling mist in.
The gas swirled about inside the deformed, blood covered jar angrily, obviously searching for a way out, but the magic imbued in the unbreakable glass stayed firm and the wire latched lid held tight.
Harry looked at it for a moment, wondering if he should wait there with the angry ghost-in-a-bottle, or just leave it behind for whatever professor showed up while he went to the infirmary to get his arm tended to.
He could label it so that they didn't open it, but he somehow doubted a hand written sign saying 'Spirit of the Dark Lord – DO NOT OPEN' was going to get taken seriously, and there was no way he was going to carry it around, or even pick it up to put in his pocket.
Besides, if he didn't bleed to death before somebody came along and found him, he could probably score a ride to the infirmary, which was quite a distance away when you had to walk it under your own power.
Deciding to wait, he slid down the nearby wall to sit on the floor, close but not too close to the impromptu, mutant glass prison, and tore a long strip of material from his already ruined sleeve. As he began bandaging his aching wound, a rather random, happy thought occurred to him.
"I wonder if this means we'll get D.A.D.A as free time now?"
Professor Dumbledore looked at the assembled students over his half-moon spectacles.
"And the winner of the House cup is, Hufflepuff!" he announced, confirming what everybody already knew from the obvious differences in the gem levels of the various giant hourglasses.
Loud cheering from the 'Puffs overwhelmed the polite clapping from the other houses.
"Well done, Harry," said Tonks, grabbing the smaller boy in a tight hug that mashed him against her chest in ways Harry found very interesting.
"Eh?" he mumbled.
"Don't you know you won more points than any other 'Puff this year?" she asked.
Harry took a moment to clear his head and considered what she had just said.
It was true he was awarded a lot of points by Whiskers after the thing with Garlic Guy, and he often inadvertently picked up points for helping his classmates, but he thought he had lost a lot more to Greasy over the course of the year than he had gained.
Then again, while being interrogated in the infirmary after the incident, Harry happened to notice the old headmaster was wearing a pair of socks bearing a very distinctive gold monogram on them.
"Oh well," he thought. Whatever the reason, he might as well enjoy it, rather than spend valuable energy trying to work it out.
With that, he smiled, grabbed Tonks, and hugged her again - tightly.
Harry stood on the Hogsmeade train platform, precious new Hagrid-provided photo album filled with photos of his parents cradled carefully in his arms.
A mixed expression of total and complete horror, panic, and anger twisted his face.
In one hand he held a slightly crumpled note, given to him just seconds ago by a smirking prefect.
"What, in the name of Merlin's crystal balls, do they mean by 'Not allowed to use magic over the holidays'?"
If you think this fic should have been more serious, was too much/not enough of a crack-fic, or if you wanted me to have written a huge epic with totally original plot and characters, sorry. It is meant to be just a fun, light hearted, canon-like redo with a Harry I've not really seen before.
Hopefully it brought a smile or two to your face, since that's all I wanted it to do.
Appologies to Heinlein and Pratchett as necessary. :)