This series of drabbles/stories has been catapulted into the future. Harry's fourth year takes place in 2011-2012. Why? Because I felt like it. And also because I don't want to have to check references. To paraphrase Spaceballs – "It's now, now." Furthermore, Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling. And everything else belongs to those guys. The ones that invented it. This story should not be taken seriously, by anyone.
Harry Potter grumbled to himself as he paced up and down an empty seventh floor corridor. Life had, in his mind, become exceedingly unfair – this despite the fact that growing up with the Dursleys left him with an already skewed understanding of 'fair' as it applied to himself.
Being stuck in the Tri-Wizard Tournament as the fourth, unwanted champion of a nonexistent school was just the candle topping the crap cake that was his life. Not that it stopped there, of course. Oh heaven's no. That would just be his normal luck, after all. Merely threatening life and limb was just an average day on the Potter scale.
No, he'd had to put up with that blonde Beauxbatons bimbo's "leetle boy" comments, Cedric's hurt and accusatory glares – apparently being drafted into the tournament was hitting the poor Badger where it hurt, in his sense of loyalty and brotherhood. And, of course the hatred of pretty much the entire school topped the whole bloody thing off. Other than Hermione and a strange, but supportive, little blonde from Ravenclaw he was getting the cold shoulder from everyone else in the school.
Including his so-called "best mate" Ron. Ha! Jealous ass. Harry didn't notice the wringing motions his hands were making at the mere thought of his 'best mate', but they certainly fit his mood. Ginger menace, he growled as he paced, imagining various ways to hex the little prat.
He was up here, pacing an empty corridor, on the advice of Luna Lovegood – the aforementioned pretty little blond Ravenclaw. She'd airily informed him that the First Task usually involved a dangerous beast and then helpfully suggested he go to the seventh floor where, according to her, the Nargles were particularly dense and would help him. She'd then hugged him, kissed him square on the mouth, and wandered off. Harry had stood there awhile in shock before wandering off to the seventh floor himself. Nargles, as far as he was concerned, were real. Weren't dragons? Unicorns? Centaurs? Stupid quasi-immortal Dark Lords who refused to die despite the shame of being offed by a baby? Magical animals that helped you think? Sure! Why not?
Besides, she'd kissed him. It was, he thought with a brief flush, a very nice first kiss. Surprising, but nice.
He hadn't really noticed her before his name came out of the Goblet – just another face in the third year crowd. But when the whole school at been staring accusingly at him, she'd be smiling supportively. It sort of stood out against everyone else's anger. She'd also tried to help him, as best she could, which he appreciated. Even if all she could do was to point out that he was likely to face a dangerous creature – and probably eaten in front of the school – and tell him of an empty corridor he could pace and yell at in peace.
And she'd kissed him. He sort of owed it to her to go vent some steam, so he could – hopefully – come back and experiment a bit more with this whole kissing thing. He nodded decisively before going back to pacing. He was definitely going to take her to Hogsmeade or something and discuss that kiss. And possibly try it again. Harry felt he hadn't really put his all into it, being mostly frozen with shock. He was certain he could do better.
Nodding to himself, Harry resumed his pacing, worrying over the Tri-Wizard Tournament and lamenting his chances of surviving.
All of this was currently vexing the very old and semi-sentient Room Harry was pacing back and forth in front of. The boy simply wouldn't come up with a solid Requirement it could realize. He would come so close, only to be distracted by silver eyes – or furiously imagining strangling a certain ginger.
After about the fiftieth iteration the Room threw up its metaphorical hands and did its best to Realize Harry's multiple unfocused requirements – simultaneously. As best the Room could tell, Harry had three loose Requirements – the first and foremost was to 'gain experience'.
Harry had, after all, been quite loud in thought and word about the impossibility of competing with students who had far more experience than he had.
The second was to get to know Luna a lot better. He couldn't quite shake those grey eyes, and wanted to know what went on behind them, mostly in order to earn more kisses. He was quite certain he liked those.
And the last was a certain desire hurt Ron. Badly. Harry had some serious frustration to vent and not just over the Tri-Wizard. He still had the Parslemouth/Heir of Slytherin nonsense from two years back percolating away, and Ron Weasley had recently volunteered himself as a shining symbol of the bigotry, stupidity, and herd mentality of the Wizarding World. All traits that, to be blunt, Harry simply wanted to beat out of them. And then give a good kicking to, just to be on the safe side.
It was a pity Harry hadn't been thinking in terms of lack of knowledge rather than experience. The Room could have provided all sorts of methods to cram a great deal of knowledge, magical or otherwise, into his skull in a short time. But knowledge wasn't the same as 'experience'. Experience, by definition, had to be earned the hard way.
Even worse, if Harry hadn't been thinking so much about lovely, imaginative Luna who - despite claims of a summer of Snorkack hunting – had actually spent the summer at her cousin's house, obsessively playing video games, watching TV and reading muggle fantasy and sci-fi, well , he might have gotten that experience in a much less surreal way.
Last of all, if Hogwarts or the Room had even known the basics of the Tasks they could have provided much more tailored experiences - and thus shorter experiences - for Harry. Sadly, while Hogwarts held the combined knowledge of every student, staff member, or book which had ever resided there, the magic of the Tri-Wizard contract enforced secrecy regarding the Tasks.
Secrecy which Hogwarts itself was bound to, as the Headmaster had signed those contracts. Individuals might hint, imply, lie or outright cheat – but Hogwarts didn't think in those terms. It wasn't allowed to know or find out ahead of time, so it didn't. People could shout the terms of the Task in the halls, write it in books and donate them to the Library – and Hogwarts simply wouldn't remember until after the Tasks were past.
So Hogwarts didn't know the Tasks, and Harry was focused on his lack of experience in vague terms – not even thinking in terms of "lack of experience fighting dangerous beasts" or "lack of experience in magic". So the Room had a very general Requirement, and thus had to give Harry the experience necessary to defeat dangerous tasks in general – rather than a handful of specific ones.
The part about abusing Ron Weasley would probably still have happened even if Harry knew exactly what his pacing was doing.
Since Harry wasn't entirely sure what he wanted – other than "not to die" and possibly "get better at stuff so I don't die" – the Room decided to reach out to Luna Lovegood. Harry Potter wanted to know her better, so her ideas of 'gaining experience' would be an ideal way to kill two birds with one stone. He'd gain experience, and it'd be the sort of experience that would interest her. The Room felt very clever about the idea. It dipped gently into the girl's dreams and took a look around for the word 'experience' and the associations the girl had made with the word.
If a magical construct could talk, the Room of Requirements would have been squealing in glee. The Lovegood girl was a treasure trove. Her memories and dreams had a wealth of ways to give Harry the experience he needed – and even some ways to let him meet the inner Luna Lovegood, the one hidden behind a dreamy expression – his second Requirement.
And to top it off, even a few ways to beat up Ron Weasely! The Room felt very pleased with itself as it manifested a door for Harry, ready to fufill the snot out of his Requirements.
An older, wiser Harry wouldn't have walked into a suddenly appearing door quite so boldly. Nor would he have paced back and forth in front of the Room of Requirement with such vague focus, as he would have been aware that the Room was fond of him and capable of going to great lengths to give him what it thought he needed – and the Room did not think at all like a human.
Present Harry was, however, blithely unaware of this and happily opened the mysteriously appearing door with an appalling lack of caution or care. He was frankly grateful for something to distract him from all the brooding, and a curious door seemed both interesting and probably not too dangerous.
The Room of Requirement was a very fascinating place. A thousand years of accumulated knowledge, a confluence of powerful ley lines, and the fact that Hogwarts was magical – and thus prone to adaptability to begin with – had created something far, far more powerful than the mere 'useful training tool and meeting room' Rowena had originally intended.
Anyone who'd seen Arthur Weasley's feral Ford Anglia roaming the Forbidden Forest would understand that magic grows, adapts, and changes over time.
The Room knew what Hogwarts knew. Hogwarts knew what anyone who spent enough time there knew. It also had significant resources – not everything in the Room was a magical construct. Everything ever lost, abandoned or forgotten was part of the Room of Lost Things. And everything ever confiscated by the staff was, by default, owned by Hogwarts. Everything owned outright by Hogwarts – from potions ingredients to magical doodads – was available if need be. Ingredients, rare enchantments, weapons, spell research, ritual objects and lost knowledge of all sorts was available to anyone with a strong enough Requirement.
Hogwarts - and thus the Room - held it all. And thanks to a thousand years of accumulating magical energy and magical knowledge, when Hogwarts needed things even it didn't have – it knew spells to find them or create them. It even knew spells to rip open the fabric of space-time, to peer into alternate dimensions – the first and most powerful invented by a Headmaster back in the 1600s, who used it primarily to peep on naked women. He'd never written it down or told another living soul.
But Hogwarts knew. And Hogwarts remembered. And the Room could use that spell, in conjunction with others to summon, copy, adapt, and construct – to acquire whatever it didn't have. No mere wizard could have cast all those spells - indeed, it was perhaps one wizard a generation who could so much as cast the spell to peer into other universes, but the Room – and the Ley Lines beneath the school – had power to burn and a singular, unwavering focus not even the most disciplined of human minds could hope to achieve.
If Harry needed spells that he didn't know, the Room would find something workable in Hogwart's own vast knowledge. If it didn't exist, Hogwarts would invent it using the principles it knew. And if it couldn't, it'd troll alternate dimensions until it found something that would work – or could be made to work – in Harry's world.
Same if Harry needed weapons. Or armor. Or training. Or anything he could conceive of. Because "I don't want to die" is a very powerful Requirement, after all. And Hogwarts was a school for children, with a mandate to protect and nourish its charges. So right now Harry, torn between fear of his life and hormonal instincts, had a very powerful set of Requirements. It didn't get much more potent, more primal, than fear of death - or the awakening hormones of a teenage boy. Between Harry's own needs and the school's mandate to protect, the Room would cheerfully move Heaven and earth to find what Harry needed, and teach it to him.
Admittedly, the Room had never had to resort to such methods in the past. Those few who had found it since the Founder's passing had generally had very prosaic, unimaginative needs that could be fulfilled by a few illusions and a lost trinkets. "Give me a place to hide", "Give me a place to study", "Give me a perfect ritual room to sever my soul and place it into an object" – although that had been 600 years ago, and he'd screwed it up and died in the process – and the ever popular "I want to have sex with [insert Student here]". The Room was very good at making lifelike and anatomically accurate representations of people - and sadly, on occasion, animals - and imbuing them with realistic personalities and a sense of life that could fool even the most discerning eye.
In the past illusions, constructs, transfiguration, and a bit of conjuration was all it generally needed.
But what Harry needed, what the Room had pulled from Luna's dreamy mind – that was going to take effort. Not just to pack the necessary time into a short space – time dilation took power but Hogwarts was familiar with students desperate for more time before exams – but to find, create, build, acquire, or discover all the little tidbits to make Luna's dreamy scenarios work to mold Harry in the way he'd Required.
It was a pity that the Room would use so much power that it'd be a long time before it could do more than meet the just the prosaic needs of students who just wanted some time on a beach, or perhaps a place to conduct Dark Rituals or whatnot. The Room had never gotten to stretch itself so much, so far…and having done it once, would be eager to do it again.
The Room needed to be quite clever to meet Harry's Requirements, and cleverness – once gained – was not lost. Since the Room had copied a great deal of this new cleverness from Luna Lovegood - well, anyone using the Room in the future was going to find it a bit…unusual. Even for a magical room in a magical castle.
Of course, it was going to take a lot of power to help Harry. So the Room cheerfully appropriated everything it could, shutting down the bulk of Hogwarts for the next eight hours. Albus Dumbledore, whom Harry was feeling uncharitable towards at the time the Room had realized his Requirements, spent the time in a panic - wondering why the portraits were immoving, half the wards were down, and the ley lines were thrumming with power - all focused somewhere he couldn't quite sense. The Room, watching the hysteria, found this quite pleasing on Harry's behalf.
As for Harry himself, well…
Harry barely blinked as the door slammed shut behind him. He was strangely unsurprised when it disappeared. Of course it disappeared, he thought. That's how magic schools work. They have giant killer dogs, villains posing as school teachers, and of course enroll students into lethal tournaments. Underage students. Without permission. Magically Binding tournaments.
Because, he thought sourly, wizards are stupid. Let's not guard the magical binding goblet. Let's place a magic circle around it instead. Why, who could possibly – in a school full of teachers and students of magic – work out how to get past a magic circle? It would take magic, and no one but Albus Dumbledore could possible utilize that. Harry rolled his eyes at the thought.
The way back having closed, he looked around the room. The room was filled with pedestals, each containing a single item – mostly realistic looking miniatures, but a few glowing pictures or strange surrealist designs. Harry prowled around, careful not to touch anything. He had learned a little. No touching strange magic thingies in the strange room you're locked into - unless you have to. Or you get desperate. Or bored.
Let's see, he thought - dragon rearing back and breathing fire on an armored knight, check. Pair of glowy circles, one orange one blue – hey, you could look into one and see out the other! Neat. Detailed model of a city, small blue police box, stylized leaf symbol with a backdrop of some multi-tailed looking fox creature….
Harry shook his head. There wasn't a much he recognized, although the interlocking red and green symbols seemed…familiar. It made him think of James Earl Jones, for some reason. He shrugged and kept looking. Gold ring with an eye made of fire inside it, an image of some weird elemental animal that kept changing – water lion, stone dog, fire bird, wind horse - statue of a bald kid with a blue arrow on his head, a guy dressed up like Sherlock Holmes, a guy dressed up like Batman...
What the hell was this place? There were still dozens of pedestals left, all with equally confusing items.