"Occlumency," said Hagrid cheerfully, causing Harry to spray tea out of his nose.
"Dumbledore sent me a note, see," the gamekeeper added, wiping down a damp rock cake with his handkerchief, then popping it in his mouth with apparent pleasure. "Apparently yer lessons wi' Professor Snape didn't turn out too well?"
"He kicked me out," said Harry morosely, having got his spluttering under control. "After I saw some memories I shouldn't have. But Hagrid, when you said Dumbledore wanted me to have special lessons with you, I thought that meant – well – woodcraft, or shooting, or something. Or maybe some sort of weird giant martial arts."
"'ere, who told you about Crouchin' Titan, Flingin' Wagon?" Hagrid boomed. "...Oo, never mind, I shouldn't ha' said that. Should not ha' said that. Crikey, jus' forget I mentioned it at all."
Harry decided not to ask, but looked curiously at the enormous bearded man in front of him. "I never would have picked you for an Occlumens, though. No offence."
Hagrid laughed. "Oh, it's a right wunnerful mental discipline, the ol' Occlumency. We ought all be bleedin' glad I can do it, too, or else Perfesser Quirrell would o' plucked the knowledge o' Fluffy an' the Stone clean out o' my head, instead'f goin' to the trouble he did." He shook said head grimly. "Bad business, that."
"But how did you learn? And why?" Harry framed the questions that had been bothering him the most.
"Oh, Dumbledore himself spent months teachin' it ter me, during the last war. Reckoned I was a security concern, see, an' I don't begrudge 'im that opinion at all," said Hagrid brightly. He shook the rusted tin teapot vigorously, then held it to his ear.
"Great man, Dumbledore. And look 'ow right 'e was, huh? You know," Hagrid suddenly began to stare mistily at nothing, "When you think about it... I woulda never 'ad Norbert to begin with, neither, if it weren't fer Occlumency."
He absent-mindedly hung the now-empty teapot up on a hook on the wall next to his crossbow, then turned back to Harry, hooking enormous thumbs through equally enormous belt.
"Well, we'll soon get some mennal defences knocked into you, jus' see if we don't," he said, sending a shiver down Harry's spine. "What stage're you at, lad?"
"Er. I don't know. I never got anything to work against Snape."
"Hmmm. What about th' warmups an' stuff?"
"Well, I have a book with some exercises in it," Harry admitted. "I haven't read it, though."
"Didn't feel like it."
"Fair enough, fair enough." Hagrid stood in thought for a while. "Well, there's books an' then there's books, see?" He turned to his crude wooden shelves, which were propped up on half-bricks and uprooted stumps, and began to rummage.
After a few minutes, he slammed a mouldering pile of parchment down onto the rough-hewn table, knocking Harry's teacup over. The stack of documents was held together with garden twine. There was a large marmalade stain just below the painstakingly-handwritten title, which read "Protectin' Yer Bleedin' Mind, A Treatise In One Part By Me, Rubeus Hagrid".
Harry looked up, eyes round. "You've written a book, Hagrid?"
The half-giant chuckled hugely. "Blimey, Harry, I've written dozens of th' blighters."
He held up two tomes - "The Joy O' Animals, By A Hogwarts Gentleman" and "Kneazle Huntin' Fer Fun And Profit, By Perfesser Hagrid" - both of them bound in bark.
Harry, flicking through the ur-book in front of him, was somehow unsurprised to find that the gamekeeper wrote the way he spoke, phonetically, each dropped syllable or earthy mannerism picked out in a scrawl of black ink. The text could be said to blur the line between legilimency and illegibility.
"None of 'em published as yet, I'll admit, but believe you me, there's some interestin' offers on the table. Now," Hagrid pointed at the manuscript he'd given Harry, "jus' you make sure yer read all o' that. Take it slow, say a chapter a week, an' come to me fer any help with th' complicated words."
Harry looked at the man's wheelbarrow-sized hands, each knuckle standing out like a row of oysters on a particularly intimidating rock, and resolved to read the book as soon as possible.
Hagrid suddenly clapped those hands together, sending Fang skittering out the door in fright.
"Now! Let's get started. I reckon we'll begin with an outside force clearin' yer mind for you ter begin with, an' slowly work up to you doin' it fer yerself. Once yer sorted in that respect, we can get on with th' real Occlumency trainin'."
Harry eyed the half-giant carefully. "What sort of outside force are we talking about here?"
Hagrid fished around in his pocket until he came up with a brick.
"Ah! Yeah, 'ere we are. You'd do well ter always carry a brick in yer pocket, Harry, wherever y' go. Plenty o' magic-resistant beasties out there."
Hagrid looked at Harry's expression, and the corners of his eyes wrinkled in amusement.
"Not keen on the ol' brick method o' mind-clearin', eh? Wellll... there is another way we could try. Kinda essperimental, but..."
"Yes! It sounds perfect! Let's do it!" Harry squeaked, eyeing the doorway, which Hagrid was unfortunately blocking.
The gamekeeper moved to a sideboard and dipped his hand into a cracked, murky aquarium. It came up holding a brace of brightly-coloured toads. "Vietnamese Widemouthed Squealers," Hagrid said proudly, dropping one in front of Harry.
The boy stared at it. It stared back.
"Now, y' don't weigh near as much as me, so you'll be wantin' to start with just small licks..."
Several weeks later, Harry sat at the slab of rough-hewn oak which Hagrid called a table, his mind pleasantly numb.
"Now, before we start, I'll show yer how ter take out a memory, in case there's summat y' don't want me to see. Start with yer wand."
Hagrid held the crooked metal tip of his pink umbrella up to his ear.
"Now, best ter work it right in there until y' know exactly what yer doin'. That way, th' memory can't escape in the wrong direction. Once yer good an' ready, just think of th' recollection you wanna take out, an' force yer magic in through yer ear canal to drive it out th' other side. Not too hard, mind."
He demonstrated, screwing up his dark eyes until the umbrella began to glow faintly, and a silvery-white wisp emerged from the ear opposite it.
Quickly, Hagrid extracted the battered pink implement with an audible 'pop', and tilted his head, causing the memory to dribble down and pool on the warped surface of his table. The knotted filaments seemed to collect themselves into a purposeful tangle, which paused when it noticed Hagrid menacing it with a brick, and then suddenly made a break for the edge.
But before the bunch of silver strands could get further than an old dog-eared copy of Ogling Ogresses, Hagrid's hand came down with a pint mug, trapping it. A deft sweep of a coaster later, and he had the thing trapped.
"Ruddy things usually try ter hide in me beard," he said, shaking the glass in satisfaction and watching the distilled thought squirm. "An' now it's yer turn to try. I'll have th' slop bucket on hand in case ya miss."
"Now that y' can detectify me gettin' in yer head, we'll talk about th' real meat of Occlumency: defensive shields."
Harry raised his hand. "Er, Hagrid, no offence, but what if somebody makes a ...subtler attempt at Legilimency?"
"What? Don'tcha know that looks can be deceptive? Nobody's subtler than ol' Hagrid!" The man slammed his fist down to emphasise his point, crushing the salt shaker.
"Now, you listen 'ere, Harry. Most Occlumens set up heavy shields to stop people gettin' in. An' if ya like constant headaches, that's the way ter go. Others turn their heads into mazes, ter get attackers lost. Not the best idea if y' wanna be able ter remember things reliably yerself. An' then there's some out there so good they can put up false memories on the fly. You do that, people would think they're readin' yer mind when actually yer feedin' em exactly what you want em to see. Now, that's..." Hagrid paused and looked off into space for a while.
"...Pretty pointless, too, really. Whole lotta hard work fer nothin'. Just force 'em outta yer head an' smack 'em in the gob, that's what I say an' it's always worked fer me. See, me own preference is for a counterattack – do enough damage to send 'em off with tail 'tween legs. Sound like a plan?"
Harry shrugged helplessly.
"Yer bleedin' right it does. So, what we're gonna do is populate yer head with what we Occlumens call mennal constructs of critters you get ter grips with in real life. Ter do this, we'll have to get some basic Legilimency unner yer belt, and have you usin' it on the animal in question. We'll start you off on something easy, like Bowtruckles..."
"These beauties are Streelers, Harry. See the stripes there? Means they're just babies." Hagrid gestured grandiosely at the trail of carnage before them. Several giant snails sat in the bubbling remains of a small grove of trees. Each one was dripping an acidic foam.
"Now, go up and look 'em in the eyestalks. An' mind where you tread."
"Now, this 'eres a Jarvey. Don't you listen to a word it says."
Harry stared into the eyes of the ferret-like creature Hagrid was holding tightly in one fist.
"Fuck you, guv," it said calmly in a rolling baritone. "And fuck the horse you rode in on too. And its dear old mom for good measure. Try me on for size, I'll bite your nuts off."
"Now, you've seen Hippogriffs before, o' course. I figure th' herd oughta respect you enough ter let you inna their heads."
A dozen huge, fierce creatures stared across the paddock at them.
"Uh... and if they don't?"
"Well, you've got yer brick, don't ya, Harry?"
"Murtlap," said the gamekeeper, holding what looked like a cross between a rat and a sea anemone. "Fer gawdsakes don't stand on it."
As Harry began to stare into its mind, he added, "An' this little blue guy's a Jobberknoll. If he suddenly karks it, back away quick. Yer'll be wantin' to roll around in a bit o' muck afore you get too close ter them, o' course..."
Harry stared into the cracked fishbowl, which was full of hairy grey insects. They were drifting through the air at an unsettlingly slow speed, giving off dolorous warbles as they flew.
"Glumbumbles," Hagrid sighed. "That snot y' see in the bottom o' the bowl is called gloom treacle. Touch it an' yer in trouble. Drink it an' you'll lose yer will to live. Speakin' o' which, I've got a bunch of Pogrebins corralled. You'll wanna look at those."
Harry instinctively fumbled for his brick when Hagrid tilted the tank towards him. It was several seconds before he realised his wand was already drawn, but he kept the heavy orange oblong in his other hand, to be sure.
"Now, this little bastard's a Grindylow. Throttlin' demon."
Harry backed away slightly. "Yes, I remember them from Defence class."
"Well, what y' might not know is they secrete a mild panic-inducin' oil from their fingertips. So once you 'ave got one tryin' ter strangle you, yer'd better get it off bloody quick."
The Grindylow, floating upside down in its tank, simpered and waved to Harry.
"This is a Lobalug."
Harry stared at it.
"It's a sock, Hagrid."
"Naw, it's a fish, really."
"It's a fish that looks like a sock." He prodded it cautiously in the ...nozzle... with his wand. "It's also dead."
"Well, they can only survive a few fathoms below th' surface. An' to be fair, if it were still alive it's mind prob'ly wouldn't be much more comp-ler-cated, so you should be able to learn it with a touch o' Legilimency. An' you'll wanna wash yer wand. It's a bit, er, poisonous."
"Now, I been savin' these beauties. Fwoopers an' Malaclaws. Put yer gloves an' earmuffs on before you 'andle em, Harry."
Harry took this to mean, "Don't approach them with anything less than plate armour, a cattle prod, and Dumbledore standing directly in front of you."
He thought quickly, and stood up. "Well, I can't thank you enough for all the help with Occlumency, Hagrid. Voldemort hasn't sent me a vision for months, ever since I filled his stupid weird corridor with panicked Diricawls. Weird tickly feathers everywhere, I've never heard a dark wizard giggle so much. I'd be surprised if he decides to try his luck again. So, uh, I figure we're pretty much done here."
Hagrid wasn't listening. "Pity we can't get a Quintaped in... I reckon I could probably get a small Dragon, maybe two if we're lucky..."
"Great," said Harry brightly. "But I've got to go... school stuff... lots of magic to do... you know how it is... spells and shit... got a potion on the boil... see you..."
He heard Hagrid calling plaintively behind him as he legged it towards the castle.
"'ere, Harry! Come back! We haven't got ter Basilisks yet! I know a few people in th' business..."
~ THE MAIN FOYER OF THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC, MONTHS LATER ~
The sweep of Dumbledore's wand ended in an crescendo of erupting water as the fountain rose up, submerging Voldemort in a roiling globe of fluid. But after a few seconds the dark figure disappeared, and the water fell with a crash back into its pool, slopping wildly over the sides, drenching the polished floor.
"Master!" screamed Bellatrix.
Sure it was over, sure Voldemort had decided to flee, Harry made to run out from behind his statue guard, but Dumbledore bellowed: "Stay where you are, Harry!"
For the first time, Dumbledore sounded frightened. Harry could not see why: the hall was quite empty but for themselves, the sobbing Bellatrix still trapped under the witch statue, and the baby phoenix Fawkes croaking feebly on the floor...
And then Harry's scar split with pain; pain beyond imagining. He was gone from the hall, he was locked in the coils of a creature with glowing red eyes, and it was a matter of sheer animal instinct to throw up his Occlumency defences, as hard and as fast as he could.
For a moment he felt the creature worm forward inside him, trying to force his mouth to speak, and then he registered its sheer shock. And then it was gone, but he knew exactly where to find it, and he was already considering what to send after it...
The Dark Lord, in the form of a vast, malevolent serpent, was disconcerted. He had just landed in a pool of deep, brackish water, and dropped to the bottom like a stone. His indignant hiss turned into a rank-tasting splutter.
Potter was gone; gone from his deathly grip. It was a good grip, very deathly, and he'd worked on it for a long time. And Potter had – there was no other word for it – ditched him, just like that.
Voldemort tensed his coils and struck out furiously at the first thing that flitted in front of his vision: a strange, rubbery, yellow-grey fish. There was more than a minor element of sockishness to it. As soon as his fangs hit it, the tubular opening at one end vented a burning substance.
A moment later, the Snake Lord was struggling for the surface, gasping for breath.
Grey, watery light hit him, and he coiled his tail around a rotten log, trying to find his bearings.
Then a number of spindly fingers gripped him vice-tight, and he was pulled back into the swamp-water.
The sting of the Grindylows' digits was all over him, tweaking and pinching and choking. Poisoned and panicking, he bit one water demon in half, but the other two were one his head and back, and he was forced to shift into a human form to blast them off.
Voldemort struggled ashore, kicking empty shells and bones up into the air in his flight. He paused to rub mud and pondweed from his eyes, and was promptly nipped in the ankle by what looked like a large lobster.
He recognised it as a Malaclaw; the creature's venom would quickly make him dangerously unlucky. It was something he had used against his enemies before, to great effect.
A moment's quick thought, and he swiftly raised his wand – or at least his mind's construction of his wand – and blasted his own foot off.
The venom, unfortunately, had already entered his bloodstream, and it was a few seconds of intense pain before he even realised that he'd hit the wrong foot.
Sitting down, he carefully removed the other limb, and quickly regrew both appendages with one elaborate wand movement. It might have been harder in real life, but this was a world of psychic constraints, and the Dark Lord was nothing if not imaginative.
The new skin was bare, white and waxy. His boots lay in tattered shreds. He took a moment to admire his feet, and was nipped in the buttock by another Malaclaw.
One dark tantrum later, Voldemort's mental persona turned slowly on its heel, surveying the landscape beyond the ring of ashy annihilation he'd just created.
He was standing under the dripping boughs of a forest, next to a vast marsh. Various abhorrent creatures swam in the foetid water below. Drifting on the surface were numerous brightly-coloured wrappers reading "Weasley's Wizard Wheezes". He disregarded this piece of information, latching upon another.
"Potter's mind is a swamp?"
In the landscape he recognised some of the sources from which the edifice of thought had been hewn. There were bits of the Black Lake where it met the edge of the Forbidden Forest... And he could have sworn the slope of small bones over old, broken tiles came straight from the Chamber Of Secrets. That was highly worrisome.
There was a trail of ruined, smoking vegetation in front of him. Well, in the world of mental phenomena, that probably represented a weakness. Something he could use against the blasted Potter boy.
The bites and scratches on his body were beginning to throb, so he set off immediately, and his first footstep landed on a gnarled Bowtruckle, which bit him. The Dark Lord fell back and landed on his already bruised behind. He snarled and sent a stream of hellfire to consume the inoffensive creature.
Steaming, raging and slightly dizzy, Voldemort followed the trail of obliterated forest. Strange birds were cackling and squealing constantly from all around him. He fired a stream of bone-melting hexes into the treetops, but there was no noticeable reduction in the noise.
The grey skies became visible again when he stepped out into a clearing, just as a voice by his ear screeched, "Fuck you!"
He tripped, landing in the midst of the giant acid snails which had formed the path of ruination. The Jarvey scampered away into the trees, sniggering to itself.
Picking bits of Streeler shell out of his robe and regrowing his irreparably burned arm, Voldemort could feel himself sweating – something he hadn't done for sixteen years. The noise of the birds was painful on his ears, and spiders kept dropping down from the trees to try to spin webs in his hair and face.
Somewhere there would be an exit. But he was damned if he could find it. Hell, he was probably damned anyway.
Perhaps it was the chemical cocktail running through his veins, or perhaps it was something he would have done regardless. Voldemort raised his wand and sent plume after plume of vile dark fire into the forest of Potter's imagination. Viscous smoke blossomed.
A minute later, the first of the Hippogriffs attacked.
The Dark Lord Voldemort fled through the trees, curses going stray or ricocheting back towards him as the Malaclaw venom had its effect. A jagged cut ran down his back, leaking blood. He hadn't had time to repair it; the Hippogriffs were still pursuing. As were who knew what else.
Every time he turned back, he saw shiny boulders, incongruously perched in branches and squatting in the undergrowth. Voldemort was certain they were Pogrebins, tiny trolls that engendered futility and despair in anyone they tailed. And there was a whole pack stalking him.
He backed up against a tree and raised his wand to blast them, but after one solid curse the purple light from his wand became sickly and began to sputter. Things were dripping down onto it from the branches above in a grotesque stream of chitinous bodies. Chizpurfles, he recognised with dread – small crablike parasites which feasted on magical objects.
Voldemort screamed, watching his precious wand begin to disintegrate before his eyes.
He fled, taking to the air as the grey horror-trolls closed in behind him. Now that he was remembering his old creature-lore, he recognised the birds shrieking continuously from all over the forest. They were Fwoopers, demon avians whose constant singing would eventually drive a person to insanity.
Well, not Lord Voldemort! Not He Who Must Not Be Serenaded! He arced towards one like a rocket-powered bat, unaware of the mad drool that was dotting his slipstream.
He crushed the tiny blue speckled bird in one fist, laughing uproariously because he had won, somehow, and not wondering why the Fwooper was so small. Feathers drifted down from the dying Jobberknoll, which immediately began to burble every noise it had ever heard, backwards and at high speed.
Assaulted by cacophony upon cacophony, Voldemort lost control of his flight and crashed into a tree, where something bit him before he tumbled to the ground. His mortally wounded wand, riddled with insect damage, snapped.
The Dark Lord raised his hand furiously, magic brimming to his palm, but was unable to exact retribution: the Hippogriffs had spotted him, and he was forced to flee wild and wandless over the ground. Things followed him, hissing and squawking in the undergrowth, and suddenly he broke through into a clearing.
This one was full of small nests, and a steady, depressing buzz.
It would have been a minor miracle at this point, filled as he was with a myriad of venoms and mind-altering, fortune-manipulating secretions, if he had not gone arse-over-teakettle into the Glumbumble nests.
As it was, the fact that he managed to keep his mouth closed as their melancholy-inducing treacle splashed all over him was probably evidence for divine intervention. The grey insects hummed solemnly, and Voldemort stood slowly, quivering and weeping, and took another step.
Another step, and the Fwoopers were circling overhead, and he couldn't hear himself think at all, and another and another, and there were more and more Pogrebins in the undergrowth, and then he was almost at the edge of the nests, and he stepped on something that took a huge bite out of his relatively new left foot.
He kicked away the bizarre bulbous rat – Murtlap, the word rung in his mind, nothing else seemed to be working at all in his forebrain but he could remember what a damned Murtlap was – and screamed gently as he collapsed on his bad foot. And now there were frogs raining down from the trees – not frogs but toads, he realised, strangely colourful, like beautiful poisonous snowflakes, millions and millions of them; he was in a sea of toads.
He shifted into his snake form, but it didn't work; the Fwooper song was suddenly worse; the toads were determinedly crawling inside his mouth and he couldn't stand it any more and a voice said, "Having fun, Tom?" and he struck out and suddenly he was gone.
Voldemort reappeared, feeling distinctly worse for wear even in his physical body, and was immediately sick all over the tiled floor of the Ministry atrium.
He lay on the cool stone surface, struggling against an overwhelming feeling of oppression and despair for a few seconds. He was faintly aware of Dumbledore duelling Bellatrix into submission across the foyer, assisted by a golden house elf, but he really, really didn't care.
Voldemort pondered, briefly, whether it was really worth it going on. The phantom pain from stings and bites all over his body was a symphony of woe to him, and it was curiously peaceful just lying there on the floor and not having to bother with the business of being Dark.
But it was not for nothing that Voldemort was the most feared wizard in all of Britain. His control was beyond all knowing. After a few more seconds, in which the golden house elf got his Dark Lieutenant in a headlock, he had pulled himself together and made it to his feet, wand in wraithlike hand, and he might still have escaped had not Harry Potter chosen that moment to hit him with a brick.
→ Credit for the original premise goes to Perspicacity of the DLP forums, whose suggestion that somebody write about Hagrid teaching Harry Occlumency I randomly stumbled across and instantly realised I had to do.
→ Fragments of this text were taken from Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, to which J K Rowling holds all rights.