(What, another part-one-of-two? After two months? Yes, I'm afraid so. But part two is very close behind! -Ed.)
Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
— Lao Tzu.
A child's game hints to an intelligent beholder all the attributes of the Supreme Being.
Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself, she turns to favour and to prettiness.
Duology (I: admitting you have a problem).
It was not the case that when Thursday arrived it incurred penalties for shoving Wednesday, Tuesday, Monday and the outstanding portion of Sunday out of the way to get there, but it certainly seemed that way, because...well...the Potter had unexpectedly discovered losing track of time through the joys of minutiae.
Yes, there was probably a reconstituted Dark Lord out there somewhere who needed finding and stopping; yes, the mystery of the third floor needed investigating and solving; yes, the world still didn't make any sense and was, strictly speaking, making even less sense the more he looked into it — but the little things were so much fun.
Dropping in on the Slytherin table of a morning was fun.
Millicent Bulstrode! any relation to the Mitching Hill Bulstrodes? Mafeking Road? You do have a cousin? Nice people, the Bulstrodes —
Splendid to see you, Marcus! The quidditch? This weekend I would suggest staying well out of it, the repercussions are still percussing, though if you had to venture a knut —
Pansy Parkinson! pansies are for thoughts, well, Shakespeare says that, I'd have to ask Neville what they mean now — Neville Longbottom —
I'm just saying, Draco, if I had your name? Animagus, I'd be on that like syrup on pancakes. Have you ever been to Tokyo?
Chaotic personality pinball was fun.
He'd plotted all the first-year Gryffindors on axes of ability, patience, sociability and available down-time and worked out how to pair them up for optimal academic outcomes — as it turned out, sending everyone to Hermione for help was not actually the most efficient arrangement — and then set about nudging them into those pairs. The feedback-loop complications were fascinating. Some people were no longer on speaking terms and were showing dangerous signs of ending up married in another ten years. The whole project might take weeks.
Being helpful was fun.
"I suppose I should thank you," said Myrtle Smith when she turned up at the Gryffindor table Sunday night.
He stopped counting his Quiddich bet winnings (dear me, what a carefully wagered knut could yield). "You're a student again?"
She nodded. "I've been in the Headmaster's office all afternoon watching him confer with people by fireplace. Wizengamot, Ministry of Magic — he mentioned you by name twice, did you know you're really good for making people drop objections?"
"Yes. It still took forty-five minutes to sort out my age. I'm now classified as a provisionally alive ward of Hogwarts, with the Grey Lady acting as my legal guardian until graduation."
"Oh, that's brilliant," he said.
"I suppose," she said. "Um..."
"Would you mind coming back with me to the Ravenclaw table? I don't know anyone and you're really good for making people drop objections."
"Not a problem," he said, sweeping coins into a bag. "Come to think of it, I have a book to return to the Ravenclaw prefect..."
Learning random things was fun.
"I tried to get in to Ravenclaw," said the Potter. "I really did, but the Sorting Hat wouldn't let me in. It said something about Ravenclaw not needing to lose any more towers."
"Ah," said the Ravenclaw prefect (Lauren Spiegel, seventh year; favorite dessert, Eccles cakes). "Yes. Rupert Lomperd's little debacle, long time ago. It's an interesting story, though the details are — ahem — lost to outsiders, but did you know that our current tower was originally Hufflepuff's? After the Lomperd incident the Puffs very kindly took us in — the historical us, I mean — until the basement was fitted out. Then they donated us the tower and moved downstairs.
"Rather clever of them, really; it's apparently far less drafty down there."
Just watching was fun.
"Right," said Ron, history book and eyes closed, "um...in...479...the Greeks defeated the Tiresians at the fountain of Salmacis?"
"No," said Hermione.
"Am I getting warmer?"
"Well," she said semi-reluctantly, "you didn't mention Arthulfred the Unready this time..."
"What's this?" said Fred Weasley to a clipboard-bearing Seamus Finnegan.
"A petition to the Wizengamot," said Seamus.
"We're collecting signatures," said Dean Thomas.
"Dungbombs are pure evil and should be internationally banned," said Seamus.
"What's got into you two?" said an incredulous George.
"Education!" said Dean.
"Oh, come on," said George, "you can't let yourselves succumb to that..."
Education was fun. Hogwarts was all about education. Such as the education that came of nutting a football through a window late Saturday afternoon—
"A stained glass window," continued Percy the Perfect Prefect, waving the blue sheet of paper that itemized the punishment of Thomas and Finnegan. "A quite historic and educational stained glass window. Depicting the Magical Thing of the Faeroe."
"Give it a rest, Perce, it was hideous," said George.
"It looked better after it broken," said Fred. "Like a kaleidoscope construction set."
"Magical Thing of the Faeroe?" said the Potter. "I'm sorry I missed it."
"You've seen it," said George with informative detachment. "First floor, near the statue of Pinchas the Pious. The one that looked like a dull day in Parliament."
Percy sniffed. "That window depicted one of the great moments in Scandinavian magical legislation," he said. "The regulation of the trade in Self-Counting Sheep and Wishing Fishes. Consequently, the punishment is appropriately severe!" He waved the blue paper in the air — it went twap — and then filed it in his not-a-Dragonskine organiser.
The iniquitous duo lowered their heads onto the table.
"Buck up!" said George, thumping Seamus on the back.
"Count yourselves lucky!" said Fred, doing the same for Dean. "Helping Harry mop can't be that bad. You'll get used to the sleep deprivation after a while."
"If Filch were here you'd be scrubbing the Trophy Room," said George.
"With your own toothbrush."
"Unless you swiped your brother's," they added simultaneously.
While they exchanged stares, the Potter — who incidentally thought that cleaning up as a punishment was a manifest insult to the custodial profession — spread butter on his cold toast. The butter melted anyway. (Hogwarts!) "Um, correct me if I'm wrong, Percy, but isn't the odd broken window the sort of thing reparo was invented for?"
Percy peered up from behind a copy of Everybody's Prefect magazine. "Well of course it is," he said. "And Professor Dumbledore already fixed it. I think he got some of the eyes backwards. But the point is that you don't need to fix what you never broke. Incidentally, Potter, is there a reason you missed breakfast?"
"Ah," said the Potter, "well. I was having that dream where you're back in school, but every time I woke up I was back in school, so I'd go back to sleep in order to wake up. It got a bit vicious-circular."
Doing things over again from a different point of view was fun.
"Gentlemen," he said to Thomas and Finnegan once the lightly snoring portrait of Marguerite du Mont had creaked shut, "you're about to enter the most important area of magic: fighting entropy.
"The universe is falling to bits around us, and it's our task to put it back in order again with nothing in our arsenal but sticky-back plastic and/or spellotape. And hot water and magical surfactants. Also, mops. Mops are key. Bullet point: mops key. Here, have some mops. And buckets. Now, why are you not rejoicing?"
Playing chess with Draco Malfoy was fun.
"Your winnings, sir," said the Potter, depositing a stack of Weasley-rebranded grey-market chocolate frogs before the Malfoy. (One carefully wagered knut had paid for the lot — with a knut left over. Quidditch gambling! it was like unto a financial perpetuum mobile.) "And one satsuma." He added it to the pile. (The other two had gone to Ron and Hermione.)
"What's this for?" said the Malfoy, regarding the (darling clementine?) (dreamy tangerine?) Citrus unshiu with suspicion.
"Interest," said the Potter.
"Ah," said the Malfoy. "Father says gentlemen don't charge gentlemen interest." (Off to one side, Crabbe and Goyle exchanged looks of puzzled alarm.) He picked up the orange, tossed it in the air and caught it. "Perhaps I'll take it as credit towards tonight's impending loss..."
"What did you think of Defense Against The Dark Arts?" said the Potter, moving his rook.
"Ten minutes of class crammed into an hour. Checkmate in six moves."
"Did you read much of the book?"
"Flipped through it. Already knew most of it except for the spells, and we probably won't get to most of them. I'll probably have a tutor in summer."
"Not much of a coursebook, is it? I mean — what's the theme? What's the —"
Don't say weltanschauung.
(Why, what's wrong with weltanschauung?)
You don't throw weltanschauung at an eleven-year-old! He couldn't spell it. I'm not sure I can spell it. How many w's again?
"— overarching principle? It's all heterogeneous.
"Today's Daily Prophet letters page is full of hags complaining about the price of pickles alongside demands to silver-bullet werewolves on sight, while on the opposing page is an ad offering blood pops by owl post, and on the page after that is a review of a book called Rassling with Red Caps that apparently indicates you'd be better off paddling with piranha.
"But in the book, hags, werewolves, vampires, Red Caps, they're all just lumped together as Dark and given two thousand words each.
"More people die of gnome bites than red cap attacks, why aren't they in the book?"
"Checkmate in — gnome bites?" (Look at that crinkly forehead. I love that crinkly forehead.)
"I read that somewhere. Or maybe I imagined it, the point is — you've got to explain why this is so, what these things have in common with each other that they don't share with any dangerous magical animal. Define your terms.
"Justify your title, for heaven's sake. I mean — dark forces? which dark forces? how dark forces? Gravity: light or dark? Does electromagnetism have a moral component? And if they only mean magic — they were spuriously pluralising just to avoid calling the book The Dark Side of the Force — explain why magic's different!"
Draco moved a hand toward a knight and then took it away again. "Father says magic is magic. People make light and dark judgements based on who the winner is."
"Okay, that's something; that's moving away from magic and toward human psychology. If you want to teach people how to defend themselves against the Dark Arts, whatever they are—" yes, where does the Art part come in? —"explain the essence of Dark psychology! You can't just give us a chapter explicating the history and practice of the Curse of the Bogies and say draw your own conclusions—"
Why not? After all, there does seem to be an emerging theme here.
"—well, yeah, okay, you could, it's sort of a one-question Dark test, isn't it, I want to curse people with traumatic bogeys, tick yes or no..."
Draco blinked. "Did you just suggest that..." he pointed discreetly at the Scar... "Dark wizards are simply big fans of copious nasal discharge? Because better you than me."
"An interesting idea," said the Potter. "Maybe the book makes more sense than I thought." He started ticking off on his fingers.
"Vampirism is spread by way of broken skin," he said. "Ditto lycanthropy. Ditto zombieism. Thus, all three suggest infection. Hags have unusual numbers of warts: viral infection. Red caps are repelled by lumos supra violaceus, same treatment as for fungal infection.
"Grindelwald's Größerewohlism was exploitative psychology, mental illness spread memetically; insanity as mind-virus.
"So, Curse of the Bogies is an entirely apt metaphor. Dark forces are disease. And misery loves company. So people who get sick with evil, rather than go to bed and stay there until they get better, want to go around smearing it on every available knob."
"O," said Draco Malfoy, looking down at the tops of the pawns, "kay."
"So to defend ourselves against the Dark Arts—" still haven't nailed down what Art has to do with it; mem: come back later — "we should think like...er, Madam Pomfrey," he concluded. "Also, brush after every meal."
"Yyyyes." Malfoy abruptly stood up from behind the table. "Excuse me a moment, I have to go do something."
He returned with slightly soapy hands and what turned out to be the last page of a letter. "I'd nearly forgotten about this. Letter from Father. The post-script is addressed to you, more or less."
Regarding Iphitus Malfoy, kindly inform Master Potter that we would be pleased to hear that the Gryffindors had finally remembered the one left behind, but that, regrettably, such does not appear to be the case.
"—Are you sure you want to sacrifice your king now? You've still got two moves left before you have to lose. It's only eight-thirty."
The Potter contemplated the dismal board, and then looked up hopefully. "Have you ever played Mornington Crescent?"
Sneaking off to do illicit experiments in the Potions lab in the early morn was fun. (Upon checking his strangely perfumy robes after waking up on Sunday he'd found that he'd acquired souvenirs from Merlin's esplumeor: in addition to three spicy-sweet satsumas from the grove, there were some violet-blue flowers with helmet-shaped hoods: monkshood. Or wolfsbane, if you like. Evidently he intended to use the latter to find out what Professor Snape had meant by the oleic dispersal enhancement effects of aconites.)
"Wait — are you leaving us on our own?" said Seamus.
"Not at all," said the Potter, retrieving a mysterious parcel from a nearby alcove. "Regardez!"
He removed the parcel's tea-cosy cover to reveal a wire cage beneath. Enormous amber eyes stared out from within it. A beak clicked disapprovingly. Had there been any Weasley twins present they might have said, good grief, a flying Mrs Norris with a 270-degree rotating head, but there weren't.
"You're leaving us with your owl?" said Seamus, almost as though it were worse.
"Her name is Hedwig," sniffed the Potter. "She will accompany you, perching on any pallid busts she happens to find, ever alert for the call to action." He opened the door of the cage and let the owl free. "If you run into trouble, she'll come get me. Right dear?" Hedwig inclined her head gravely.
"You're nipping off to raid the kitchen, aren't you," said Dean.
"Certainly not!" said the Potter. "I will be working up a cold sweat mopping the dark dungeon level where they store up the damp against a sunny day."
And he did — after taking time out to verify the oleic dispersion enhancement effects of aconites reported by Professor Snape — with ringing ears, because the O.D.E.E. of A. reported by P.S. could make the largest cauldron in the lab go bong like unto the clock tower main bell under the right conditions. (Fortunately the clock tower main bell had been striking six at the time.)
A small amount of liquid oil soap from the supply closet, add aconites invoking them under their differing True and Not True Names (he still wasn't sure whether "monkshood" was True, or "wolfsbane"), perform a sink-trap cleaning charm, kerbango.
He could only wonder how Snape had come up with such a hypothesis. Well, he did know his Potions. Clever man, shame his expertise has never done him any good. Or anyone else for that matter.
He paused in mid-mop-stroke.
Perhaps it can...
Doing favors promised to be fun.
Putting Harry Potter back in charge of his own body was — important.
Experiment one: dormitory empty, everyone gone to lunch. Set parchment and ink and quill on bedside table, has someone absconded with the single chair in this room?! yes, oh well, sit on trunk, knock knock knock on inside of head, wake up in there.
Harry, he thought, as you may have noticed, I am running your body. This will not do. It is inconsiderate and rude and steps must be taken.
On the parchment he printed Harry Potter, made a dotted line under it, and then made an X.
That's your name. Quite possibly your true name. I want you to write it. This is important, because signing your own name is an assertion of identity and therefore the metaphysical key to dislodging me from your head. Give it your best shot.
Nothing. The writing hand lay on the table as though it hadn't even heard him.
Hang about...writing hand. Harry's left-handed, wand-wise, and a quill is just another kind of wand.
You're a wizard, Harry. Sign your name.
The wand hand reached over and took the pen from the still slack writing hand, and signed Harry Potter on the dotted line — with the penmanship of Charlie Brown on muscle relaxant, but you can't have everything...
Hmm. Wand fixation? Okay, we can work with that. Take out wand, hold the wand in the writing hand, sit on the wand hand.
Give me a lumos, Harry.
After a momentary hesitation, light flared. He contemplated the glowing wand in the writing hand and smiled.
Hmm again! Toes are kind of prehensile, he thought, and kicked off his trainers.
Harry Potter: he might not be able to stand on his own two feet, but he can cast spells with both of them!
Meaningless terms were fun.
Ever since Merlin's esplumeor he'd been having...non-insights.
He'd be innocently playing with his winged merlin action figure with a crack in it, watching flecks of light scatter and rainbow from its beautiful imperfection, and poit, there would be a non sequitur in his head — not spoken or heard, not even imagined, just a raw phrase plunked down in his mind, with never a greasy newspaperful of fried explanation to go with it. Demat gun, for example, or vortex dissolution.
His favourites thus far were particle disseminator and black light explosion.
Particle disseminator suggested a man standing on a street corner with a box labeled FREE SAMPLES, handing out particles to passersby.
And black light explosion! What a splendid phrase. The only kind of black light he had a definition for was the kind that let you get the most out of your Jimi Hendrix posters; he'd decided it must be a Seventies fusion-funk-prog band.
Thursday morning, already in progress:
"I was really hoping we'd have learnt wingardium leviosa by now," fretted Hermione, who was one of a collection of breakfast-bound first-year Gryffindors rattling downstairs like a handful of slightly panicky ball-bearings in the wake of the sudden notice-board announcement that flying lessons would Begin This Afternoon.
"No worries," said a passing Fred cheerfully. "Hardly anyone dies the first day."
"Generally nothing worse than a broken neck," added an equally en-route George.
"Anyway, Madam Pomfrey's got loads of experience treating all forms of blunt trauma. Thoracic fracture, lumbar burstage—"
"—spinal cord gelignification — comes with the territory, really."
"She'll have you all up and around in less than a week."
"Two or three, tops."
"You're both such a comfort," said Hermione to their departing backs.
"Always happy to help!"
"Gran never let me near a broomstick," said Neville, watching butter re-congeal on his toast. "I'm probably the only pureblood wizard in school ever to use a Hoover."
"No you're not," said Ron.
"Oh, yeah?" said Neville, brightening by at least one lumen.
The Potter listened to their conversation with one ear while giving the other to Hermione, who was lecturing to anyone who would listen from a booklet of flying tips she'd ordered from the Stationery Office of the Ministry of Magic ("The broomstick wants to stay in the air, so allow it to guide you..."), all the while expanding his mind with fine literature.
"You're reading comic books," observed Myrtle, who had drifted over from Ravenclaw.
All right, yes, it was true: fine literature consisted of a found-in-the-hallway copy of Martin Miggs The Mad Muggle Nr 616, tucked into a borrowed-from-the-library copy of Proceedings Of The Wizengamot Volume 240 Nr 5, itself concealed in his bought-by-Harry copy of Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them.
"Of course I am," he replied, "you can learn a lot about a culture from comic books."
This particular issue of Martin Miggs was about Martin being comedically possessed by the spirit of Herpo the Foul and the efforts of the Muggle Control Bureau to stop him realising it, even though the process had caused him to sprout a third eyeball in the middle of his forehead (with a very bushy eyebrow). The proofreading was terrible; half the time the villain's name was written Harpo the Fool.
Still, it was more informative than Proceedings of the Wizengamot, the main curiosity in which was how anyone managed to stay awake while proofreading it, given that it consisted mainly of paragraphs like:
In the statement to be released following the meeting, the Committee made relatively small retrospective modifications to the language of its previous post-meeting statement, including acknowledgement of previous retrospective modifications to previous statements as well as modifications that had been contemplated but discarded. In light of the importance of ongoing concerns, members discussed whether to include a reference to unresolved issues, but decided to refrain. Similarly, one member raised a question about whether the statement language adequately captured the importance of the Committee's ongoing assessments, but the Committee decided to maintain the current language pending the review planned for the next meeting.
"I used to read Martin Miggs," Myrtle said vaguely. "They were making fun of Grindelwald, last issue I saw."
"And they got away with it?" said the Potter, reaching for another perfect piece of toast. (One of many nice things about Hogwarts: Hogwarts toast, which put the mmm in minutiae. Always perfect golden-brown, never burnt. He hated burnt toast.)
"Grindelwald sympathisers generally burned books before they read them."
The comic's pages riffled in the breeze caused by the sudden arrival of morning mail. Nothing for him — he hadn't written anyone yet — but there was a delivery for Neville.
"It's a package from Gran," said Neville, giving his now-cold toast to the delivery owl before attacking the packing tape with a steel spork.
"Is that good or bad?" asked the Potter.
"Any chance it's biscuits?" said Ron hopefully.
"Only skinny boys get bikkies," said Neville in the voice of an elderly lady grump, and continued wrestling with his package. "It's probably replacement socks. Or clean pants. I hope so, I'm going to need them after flying lessons — grah!"
The box abruptly tore open and its contents flew into the air. Something bounced onto the floor with a glassy tink tink tink; it rolled under the table and up against the Potter's foot.
He leaned down and picked up a clear glass ball slightly larger than a marble. In his buttery fingers it immediately lit up in flickering red, quietly sputtering and crackling like a fluorescent bulb in a faulty fixture, k'kt kt'kk k'kt. "What's this?"
"It's a Remembrall," said Neville dully, looking up from a letter that had been in the package. "Well, it was. I just got it and it's already broken. Straight out of the box."
"Remembrall?" said the Potter, watching the light flicker erratically. "It remembers things for you?" Mem: see if there's a catalogue available for this sort of thing.
"It lights up when you've forgotten something," said Hermione, who was reading the sheet of directions upside down from across the table. "It's not supposed to blink..."
Neville didn't seem to hear; he just stared down at the packing material strewn over the tabletop.
"I. Hate. Being...clumsy."
He didn't so much say it as have the words crushed out of him. Myrtle patted him sympathetically on the head. Through the head.
"Look at it this way," suggested the Potter, contemplating the Remembrall. "If dexterity is a conserved property, you just donated someone, somewhere, a graceful moment."
Neville didn't say anything, or even sigh.
The Potter looked at the Remembrall, still flickering; he looked at Neville; he looked back at the Remembrall.
Suddenly it graveled him. All of it.
"What good is it?" he said. "Of course I've forgotten something. Everyone's forgotten something. Goes without saying. What's the point of an aide-mémoire that just discreetly points out you've forgotten something without telling you what it is?" The only reason to do that would be if you wanted to be reminded that you'd forgotten something you don't want to remember just yet, and in that case she should have sent it to me, not Neville —
Oh. Hello unexpected insight.
— but it's not for me, it's for him!
He knows his faults! he doesn't need to be reminded of them! he needs to know how to fix them and this can't help!
This is nothing more than an insult.
The Remembrall disappeared into his closing hand.
I hate –
Wrong word. Not hate. Hate was for burnt toast...
I despise cruelty.
His grip crushed down—
—and suddenly his fist was empty and his nails were cutting into his palm, except that it wasn't his palm — oh no no no, please don't have felt that — blood dripping onto the tablecloth —
"Hey! You could have hit me with that!"
It was Draco Malfoy. (Dragonskine under his arm, place marked with finger. Discussing homework with Snape at high table? P 0.5.) He stalked into view, holding the Remembrall high with his free hand, as though he had just caught it on its way down toward his head, which of course he had. "Which of you leonine losers is responsible?"
The Potter raised his guilty hand. "Sorry..." Sorry isn't enough.
"You want to be careful with your toys, Potter," said Draco, looking at the hand rather than the face.
(Yes: you should be careful with your toys. People might take them. But this one's not mine...)
"I should keep this. Maybe I will..." Attracted by red light, Draco looked down at the Remembrall. It was glowing steadily. "Why's it lit up like this? What is it?"
"Apparently it's a Remembrall. It's saying you've forgotten something," said the Potter.
"Nobody knows," said the Potter. "It's completely useless. But it's not mine, you could have it with my blessing if it were." His undamaged hand pulled the bleeding one down into his lap and pushed a clean napkin into it.
Draco hesitated, and then flicked the Remembrall toward the table with his thumb. It landed on the Potter's plate (the Remembrall, not the thumb) and rotated slowly through the syrup.
"I'd say you were a bloody idiot," said Draco Malfoy, "but I think you already know that." He turned and walked away.
I know who I am, thought the Potter, clutching his red-stained napkin.
I'm a failure.