Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals: Book Two.
Or, "Aspie Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."
Chapter 4: Halloween
Note: Sorry for the postspam, but I was very behind on posting chapters for this one, and I have a new one coming up soon.
"You did WHAT?" Ron exploded in the MAC classroom Monday afternoon. Harry had called an emergency meeting to inform them of what he'd forgotten in the midst of the scary voice the night before. "No way, that racist git? No bloody--"
"I think it's brilliant," Antigone said. "If Malfoy had any idea the kinds of things Muggle science has come up with, he'd never believe anyone calling Muggles stupid animals ever again!"
Ron opened his mouth and spluttered at her like a fish out of water, but then closed his mouth and admitted defeat by sulking.
"Yeah, Antigone, that was my thought as well. Anyway, we need to work on what to talk about in tomorrow's meeting."
The next day, after classes, Draco met Harry at the library and Harry led him to the MAC classroom. It didn't look so good to start with, as Draco sighed a lot and rolled his eyes at first. However, after several minutes of discussing Muggle science, the blond boy's expression began to change subtly, and after another few minutes, he sat up and began listening in earnest. Harry had to stop himself doing a happy dance when Draco actually started asking salient questions, questions that didn't sound forced. It was clear that Draco had gone into this meeting expecting it to be really horrible, but by the time the curfew was drawing near, it was difficult to tear him away. His attitude appeared to have completely changed. And as Harry had noticed Draco wasn't a very good liar (he tended to wear his heart on his sleeve), Harry believed it. Even Ron had to admit, later, that Draco seemed changed by the experience.
During the rest of that week, Draco kept finding Harry in the halls or at the meal tables, asking him in cautious words when the next MAC meeting was. They had a new member, an unexpected one at that.
The next week and a half boded well for MAC in general; the advertisements in the different Houses were bringing in a few new people, but it was Harry's speeches to the Muggle Studies classes that started bringing in even more people. Soon, MAC had Neville, Seamus Finnegan, Dean Thomas and Justin Finch-Fletchley (who missed Muggle classes), and many others would come into meetings as their schedules allowed. So it was that by the time October came around, MAC was one of the most popular extracurricular clubs in the school.
Harry noticed that Ginny had joined them, too. She looked ill, he noted. The weather was bad, cold and rainy, so a lot of people were coming down with colds; he wondered if she was, too.
On one of the weekend days when it wasn't raining, but had been, Harry decided to cure his cabin fever by taking his broom out and flying around the grounds. He mounted his Nimbus on the paved part of the path right in front of the steps, and flew off in a random direction. He looped the castle a few times, even the highest towers, then flew out over the black lake a little bit, but moved back to being over the ground before long, as he didn't fancy falling into the lake when he couldn't swim.
Not that it was safer to fly so high above the ground, of course, when there was nobody around to save him if he fell. But as long as he kept his consciousness, he felt he could summon his broom mid-fall or cast a feather-light charm on himself before he landed.
For hours he flew all around the grounds, even out over the Forbidden Forest and back. Then the weather changed suddenly, the rain returning. Harry aimed for the pavement, but ended up touching down in mud instead, having misjudged the spacing.
"Oh bloody hell," Harry said, his shoes and robes muddy. He knew the vanishing spell, of course, but he wasn't sure enough of his skills with it yet to risk vanishing the mud off his clothes. He might pull a Lockhart and vanish part of his clothes, or even part of his body. So he made muddy footprints along the path. He tried a cleaning spell, but cast it so badly it made the problem worse. Then he tried Vanishing the mud, and to his horror Vanished a hole in the stone.
"Ffff--" he started, holding himself back in case anyone heard. "Fudge." He had no idea how to fix that, so he just stopped trying and walked back into the castle.
When he walked in, he found the Griffindor ghost, Sir Nicolas. The ghost seemed to be in a bad mood, and had a letter in his hand. He and Harry spoke, and Harry found out that Nicolas had been denied a part of something called the Headless Hunt, and was very sore about it.
Then Mrs. Norris appeared, and ran off to tattle on him to Filch, however that worked. Harry tried getting out of there as fast as he could, but was too late; Filch, who had the flu, got mad at him and dragged Harry to his office.
While there, Harry tried to talk the man down. "Sir, if you're ill, shouldn't you be in the hospital wing? Why are you working when you're--"
"Well this castle isn't going to clean itself, boy! I can't afford to stop working, and you've just made my job a lot worse."
"Why not find one of the Professors, and ask them to Vanish the mud? I'd do it myself, but I don't have enough control of it yet."
"You know you little worms aren't allowed to do magic in the corridors!"
"Surely you'd make an exception for people cleaning up after themselves?"
"No, boy! Rules are rules. Now let's see, punishment, punishment..."
SLAM! came a noise from above.
"PEEVES!" Filch went off to find out what Peeves had done this time, leaving Harry in the office. Harry, not wanting his punishment to be any worse, just sat there, waiting. His gaze wandered around the room, and he spotted a purple envelope with silver lettering on the outside. He stood up and cocked his head to read it. It was for something called Kwikspell.
Curiosity warred with common sense, and despite images of Filch whipping him invading his mind, common sense lost the battle. Harry read the letter, figuring out from it that Filch wasn't a wizard, but was non-magic. It explained a lot, like his hatred of students, but raised many other questions, like Why do they have a non-magic person cleaning the school, when a witch or wizard could do it faster with a wand? And for that matter, why not have a house elf do it? They'd be glad to do it.
A noise got Harry's attention; Filch was coming back. He hastily put the letter back in the envelope and tried to put it back where it was. He managed to sit down just in time for Filch to come in complaining. Surreptitiously, Harry eyed the Kwikspell letter. It wasn't where it had been. But maybe he wouldn't notice?
Filch did notice, though, and turned white. Harry denied having read the letter when asked. Filch hemmed and hawed about it, tried to pretend it was for a friend; but finally - to Harry's astonishment - Filch let Harry go, on the promise he was to tell nobody. Harry swore he wouldn't. Filch didn't seem entirely satisfied, but let him go anyway.
Harry kept his promise to Filch; that was the kind of person he was. He even contemplated sending an apology letter to the man, but decided against it, as it might further anger him.
While it had been Peeves that broke the vanishing cabinet that got Filch out of there, Nicolas had put him up to it, probably feeling like his conversation had kept Harry from getting to safety in time. Very thankful for this, Harry had somehow gotten guilt-tripped into doing a favor for Nicolas in turn... he would be going to Nicolas's Death-Day party.
When he'd told his friends about it, Hermione and Luna had been fascinated. Ron thought it was weird to celebrate the day you died. His Slytherin friends had mixed reactions as well.
On Halloween, he was regretting his promise, but he went anyway. Ron, Hermione, and Luna went with him. Because it was a party, Luna wore a dress: neon blue with bright red polka dots. Harry wasn't the only one to get woozy looking directly at it, as the red polka dots wobbled around on the blue background.
The party itself was exactly as Ron had predicted: depressing. As they came in, Hermione pulled them all to one side. "I don't want to talk to Moaning Myrtle," she explained.
"Who?" asked Harry.
"She haunts a toilet in the girl's lavatory on the first floor," Hermione and Luna said in near synch.
"She haunts a toilet?" Ron said incredulously.
"Yes," said Hermione. "It's been out of order all year because she keeps flooding the place. I never went there anyway if I could avoid it, it's awful having to pee with her wailing at you."
"Look, food!" interrupted Ron.
It was food, yes, but rotten food, moldy food. Nobody had predicted that there'd be nothing here for them to eat. They supposed the food was let to spoil to give it a stronger flavor for the ghosts. Even so, they could only "almost" taste it.
"Well this won't do," Harry said. "Netty?"
The house elf appeared before them almost at once, her eyes growing wide at all the ghosts, and shivering a little in the cold.
"S-sir c-called N-Netty?"
"Yes. As you can see, this death day party has no food we can eat. I was wondering if you could get us some food from the kitchen? We'd go to the feast, but it would be rude to break a promise."
"M-Mister P-Potter is always s-so k-kind and c-considerate. N-Netty will be m-most glad to help." And without another word, she popped away.
Hermione looked at Harry. "So that's Netty?"
"House elves look kinda weird, don't they?" asked Ron. "Cute, though."
"I like her. I wish I'd gotten to introduce myself properly," Luna said.
"Your dress prob'ly scared her off. Between it and the spoiled food..."
"Ron," Harry said warningly.
Ron's ears went red. "Sorry. I'm hungry, and it's not helping my mood."
Hermione decided to change the subject. "I saw she had a Hogwarts crest on her... on her toga. She works for the school?"
"Yes. There's lots of house elves that work here. I think Netty said once that there are over 100."
"Over 100? How come we never see them?"
"They work in the kitchens by day, only come out to clean at night. Heh, kinda like those old fairy tales, in fact. I wonder if they're where those stories came from?"
Hermione looked affronted. "Do they at least get paid?"
"No. They seem to loathe the idea of getting paid."
Her eyes went wide. "You mean Hogwarts is using over 100 slaves?"
"Well, that's what I thought at first, too. But Netty explained that it's more like a mutually beneficial relationship, or at least it's supposed to be that way. There are exceptions, like Dobby, but on the whole, it's safer for them to work as servants to wizards than it is to fend for themselves in the wild."
"Well that doesn't mean they can't get paid."
"They don't value the same things we do. They don't value gold, or vacations. They value other things. If you want to do the equivalent of paying a house elf, Netty says to praise them for their work, appreciate them, treat them with kindness and compassion, and generally just be good to them. And uh, don't talk about wages or vacations or sick leave around them. They get very offended when others disrespect their values."
As Hermione digested that, Netty returned with two other house elves, who left several platters of food for them on a small table they'd brought along for the purpose. Ron and Harry praised them highly for their service, and even Hermione did so, though she was still pondering his words. Harry noticed her pull Netty aside and have a conversation with the elf, probably to confirm what he'd said. Luna drifted off to talk with one of the ghostly nuns, a sandwich in one hand and a glass of pumpkin juice in another.
Harry was eating some roast beef when Nicolas came over. "Ah, good thinking, Harry, good thinking. I can't believe I forgot to mention the lack of edible food here. My apologies, dear boy." Then he spotted something, and his whole mannerism changed. "Oh, pardon me, I er, I saw a friend of mine across the room. See you soon, Harry!" He floated away as fast as he could manage, almost at a run.
Ron looked curiously back at the ghost, too, but they didn't wonder about his motives for long. Peeves had drifted over, cackling. "Nibbles?" he asked, holding up some moldy peanuts.
"No thanks, Peeves. We've got some food."
Hermione came back, and Peeves grinned maliciously at her. "Heard you talking about poor Myrtle earlier. Rude you was to her, in fact." He then bellowed, "Oi! Myrtle!"
Hermione frantically tried to get him to stop, but it was too late. Myrtle came floating over, looking glum and morose as usual. The resulting conversation did not go well, despite Hermione's every attempt, because Peeves kept saying rude things, and soon Myrtle was running off in a tantrum.
The rest of the night went a little better. The headless hunt ghosts arrived, making a spectacle and embarrassing poor Nick at his own party. Harry, without prompting, told the leader how terrifying he thought Nick was, but they were unconvinced.
Between the chill of the dungeons and the way the party was going, they ended up leaving early, taking as much food with them as they could hold, leaving the rest to the house elves. Luna seemed reluctant to leave, but went with them anyway.
They were on their way to the entrance hall to see if they could join the feast in time for puddings, when Harry heard the horrifying voice again.
"... rip... tear... kill..."
He froze, grabbing the stone wall, looking around desperately for the source of the voice.
"Harry, what're you--"
"It's that voice again! Quiet, I'm trying to hear!"
"Soo hungry... for sooo long..."
"It'll sound like hissing to you. Any idea where it's coming from?"
"Kill... Time to kill..."
It was growing fainter, moving upward. He followed it, the others lagging behind.
"Harry, we don't hear anything," Hermione said.
"I smell blood... I SMELL BLOOD..."
"It's going to kill someone!" Ignoring them all, he ran up the stairs, and only stopped when confronted with a huge puddle of water. On the walls, written in what looked like blood, it said:
THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED. ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE.
Even worse, Filch's cat, Mrs. Norris, was hanging from a sconce by her tail.
"Oh shite," Harry said. "We need to get out of here."
It was too late, though. The feast had ended, and everyone was coming up this way to get to their dormitories. Everyone was talking amongst themselves, until they saw the scene before them and it all went dead.
"What's all this? What's all this now?" As if the situation couldn't get worse, that was Filch coming up to see what all the hubbub was about. Naturally, he had a freakout when he saw his cat petrified.
Filch was in the middle of putting the blame on Harry when the teachers arrived. Dumbledore and some of the other senior teachers were studying Mrs. Norris, while Lockhart made Filch cry by talking about what he thought killed her.
"She is not dead, Argus," Dumbledore said. "She has been petrified. But how, I cannot say."
"Ask him!" Filch said, pointing at Harry.
"Not even a second year of Harry's skill could have done this, Argus. I doubt if even a sixth year could. This is very, very dark magic indeed."
"He did it! I know he did! He saw my Kw--"
"I kept your secret, Mister Filch. Are you going to reveal it just to put the blame on me?" He began rubbing his head. "I didn't hurt your cat. I don't hurt animals; it's against my nature, especially having been hurt before myself..." he trailed off.
Changing tack, Filch leaned over to Dumbledore's ear. Harry was close enough he could just barely make out the word "Squib."
"If he's telling you what I suspect he's telling you, Professor Dumbledore, I don't care. I'm not a bigot. And I've never heard of this Chamber of Secrets before."
"Argus, Harry could not have done it. He says he did not do it, and I believe him, even if he could have done it somehow."
"If I might speak, Headmaster," Snape said, which could not possibly be good. "Potter and his friends may have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it is rather suspicious, the circumstances. What were you four doing so far from the rest of the students?"
"We were at a death-day party for Sir Nicolas," Harry said. "There were hundreds of ghosts there, they can all testify to us being there."
"Yes," Luna agreed dreamily. "And that lovely house elf, Netty, was there as well."
"A death day party? Really? I did not know they served food fit for human beings at such places."
"They don't. Netty was there because I called her to bring us some food, when I saw there wasn't any there. I didn't want to be rude to poor Nicolas, by leaving."
"How considerate of you," Snape said, sneering. "But that still doesn't explain why you were up here ahead of everyone else."
"It got too chilly for us in the dungeons, so we started coming back. Since we already had food, we decided to go back to our common room."
"Enough, Severus; I have already said Harry could not have done it."
"My cat has been petrified. I want to see some punishment!"
"We will be able to cure her, Argus. Professor Sprout has a wonderful crop of mandrakes even now. When they are done maturing, we will be able to make a restorative draught for Mrs. Norris, and she will be fine once more. Anyway, you four may go now."
Harry was tempted to ask his friends what a squib was, but as he had managed to keep Filch's secret despite Filch's own mistaken judgments, he didn't want to break his word now. Not when his friends would demand he explain. He decided to ask Dumbledore later, after Wizard Studies class, what it meant.
The school could talk of nothing but the Chamber of Secrets for the next few days, especially since Filch kept trying to scrub the words off the wall, to no avail, snapping at any student that happened by.
Ginny still looked ill, and to top it off, she was extremely disturbed by Mrs. Norris's fate. Fred and George didn't help matters, talking ill of the feline around her, until Percy snapped at them to stop.
Considering the situation they'd been found in, nobody who'd been attending MAC seemed to think Harry had anything to do with the situation, no matter what Filch said. And only some of the Slytherins seemed to believe it, or at least they teased Harry about it. But most of the school knew, either by being part of MAC or knowing someone who was, that Harry wasn't the type to attack people.
One day in History of Magic, Hermione actually interrupted Professor Binns and convinced him to tell them the tale of the Chamber of Secrets, of how Salazar Slytherin - who believed only wizard-born students should be admitted to Hogwarts - had a falling out with the others and supposedly made the Chamber of Secrets, in which he had hidden a monster. He made clear, however, that he considered the whole story errant nonsense.
"Obviously, wherever the Chamber is, if the monster's a magical snake of some sort," Harry said later under privacy wards, "then it stands to reason that the entrance is password-protected, and the password is something in parseltongue."
"Yeah, but we still don't know where it is," Ron said. "And all we know for sure is you heard parseltongue just before we found Mrs. Norris. Might be a coincidence."
"Maybe, but I doubt it."
"Well," said Hermione, "I've been reading in the library on magical creatures. It's amazing how many books there are about them. I haven't found anything yet. Whatever it is, it's either very obscure and rare, or something lost to history."
"Or you just haven't found the right book yet," Ron pointed out.
She shrugged. "I suppose. Well, I guess I'll just have to keep trying."
"I wonder if Draco knows anything about it."
Ron snorted. "Way he was raised, Harry, he might be the Heir of Slytherin for all we know. He could just be smarming up to you, pretending to play along with MAC meetings, to get close to you."
"That's a possibility. I doubt it's true, but it could be. And even if it isn't, I don't know how he'd react to knowing I'm a parseltongue. I can't tell him. Nobody but the core - you, Hermione, Luna, Angela, Antigone, and Danzia - can know."
"Percy knows too, remember? Of course, that was over a year ago, he might've forgotten. He's a self-centered git, so he probably forgot about it by the following morning, as it didn't really affect him."
"Does Dumbledore know?"
Harry shook his head. "I haven't told him. He's such a good wizard, he might think less of me for knowing."
"I doubt it, Harry. Dumbledore doesn't strike me as the type to let one fact like that change his whole point of view on somebody. You should tell him."
"Yeah, okay," Harry said, while secretly thinking there was no way in Hell he was going to take that risk.
A couple days later, while walking in the corridors, they happened upon the scene of the crime. Nobody was around for once, so they went in looking for clues. When they got in, Harry was surprised to find that it was Myrtle's lavatory.
"Oh, hi Myrtle. How're you?" Hermione asked.
Myrtle, who was floating over one of the toilet tanks, frowned over at them. "This is a girl's toilet, and they're not girls."
"We wanted to look around," Harry said. "And I wanted to ask you if you saw anything, on Halloween night."
"I don't know, I wasn't paying attention. Peeves upset me so much I came in here and tried to drown myself. Then of course, I remembered that I... that I'm..."
"Already dead?" supplied Ron. Harry glared at him. He was an aspie, and even he had more tact that that.
Myrtle understandably began crying again, and dived into the toilet, splashing them with water. Harry shuddered.
"Honestly, that was almost cheerful for her. But Ron, you need to learn some tact."
"What? I was just trying to help."
"You know, Hermione, sometimes I wonder if Ron's an aspie, too?"
"God, I hope not. Though it would explain a few things. After all, not all aspies are brainy; some are downright dumb. Just like anyone else, they come in all kinds."
"Hello, standing right here!" Ron shouted. This was a mistake, as it got the attention of Percy, who saw them come out of Myrtle's bathroom, and began giving them the third degree about it.
When they finally got away, they started talking again, this time about suspects. Ron brought up Draco Malfoy as a suspect.
"Ron, he's been going to MAC meetings. I doubt he's the heir."
"Yes," Harry said. "I doubt it too, but Ron did have a point the other day, Draco could be lying. I just wish there was some way to be sure..."
"Well, we could all sneak down to their common room while Disillusioned," Ron suggested. "Danzia or one of the others could let us in, on some pre-arranged signal, and we could listen in on Malfoy's conversations."
"That's a good plan, but I don't think it's quite good enough. We need some way of goading the information out of him, and we can't do that if we're invisible. We'd have to pretend to be friends of his, Slytherin friends. Like Crabbe and Goyle."
"And how do you propose we do that? We haven't done human transfiguration yet," Ron pointed out.
"We don't need to. There's something called Polyjuice Potion, Snape's mentioned it in class before; it lets us change into other people."
Harry stared at Hermione. "That sounds like a potion just begging to be abused in so many ways I don't even want to think about."
"Yes, well it is illegal to use it without Ministry approval. And we'd be breaking so many school rules, too."
"We've been a bad influence on you Hermione," Ron said. "Anyway, how do we make it? Potion that illegal, I doubt they have the recipe in school."
"Oh, but they do. It's in the restricted section. I know the book to get; Moste Potente Potions."
"But we'd need a teacher's permission to get it out. Remember when Harry tried sneaking in there at night? It didn't go so well. And any teacher we asked would want to know what it was for, unless they were a total idiot."
There was silence at these words, as they all knew what that meant.
"No," said Harry. "I'm not smarming up to that buffoon just for this. Listen, Dumbledore taught us in Wizard Studies class the other day how to owl-order stuff without sending gold in the mail, if we have Gringotts accounts. I can owl-order the book, and then later any ingredients we don't have access to. But I am not going to get any closer to Lockhart than I need to."
"Oh fine, be that way. Just make sure to have them send it fast, we can't afford to waste any time."
"I'll make out and send the form tonight, if that helps."
True to his word, Harry owl-ordered the book from Flourish & Blotts, with instructions to get the gold for it from his Gringotts account, as Dumbledore had shown them. The very next day, in the afternoon, an owl came in and dropped a package on the table in front of him, then took off again. Taking the package, unopened, to the MAC classroom, putting up privacy wards, they opened it up and Hermione read the instructions for the Polyjuice Potion.
"This is the most fiddly and complicated potion I've ever seen. Harry, you'll have to order a couple things. Boomslang skin and powdered horn of a bicorn look to be the only things on here we can't get from the store cupboards."
"Good. I'll put another order in tonight. Just write down how much we'll need..."
"That's good, Harry. Wow, this potion is difficult. If I'm understanding these directions right, it'll take a whole month to brew."
"A month! But if Malfoy is the Heir, he could attack half the muggleborns in the school by then."
"Yes, but it's the only plan we've got right now. Until we think of something better, we have to go with it."
Later, Harry filled Antigone, Luna, Angela, and Danzia in on what they were doing, Ron glaring at him the whole time, and asked the three Slytherin girls where the Slytherin common room was. Antigone told him, but...
"If this potion takes a month," Luna said in her dreamy voice, "then to use it, you'll have to stay here at Hogwarts over the Christmas break."
"That won't be a problem," Ron said. "My parents are going to visit Bill in Egypt this Christmas, so Harry and I will have to stay anyway."
"Oh. Well I'm sure my daddy would be thrilled to have you over, Harry."
Harry's face suddenly turned inexplicably hot at the thought of spending the Christmas in Luna's house. "Er, uh... well, I'd love that, but well, as you say, if it takes a month to brew... well..."
Luna sighed wistfully. "That's okay, Harry. I did want to show you my bedroom, but I guess that can wait til the summer."
His face grew even hotter at this, and for a time, he lost his ability to speak. Instead, he opened his mouth and made a strange sound, like a cross between a moan and the sound of a sick cow.
On Saturday, Harry woke up earlier than usual, but felt awake almost instantly, so he went down to get some breakfast, grabbing his Nimbus before he did. He knew, vaguely, that today was the Quidditch match between Griffindor and Slytherin, but as he wasn't on the team, and the only match he'd ever gone to made him literally sick from fear for his classmates, he decided to go flying around the grounds for a change, vowing to be much more wary of mud when he landed this time.
The first few hours of this were without incident. After a couple hours of flying high and fast, he switched to hovering low and slow in circles around the lake, staring out over the water, wondering what was beneath the lake's surface, other than the giant squid.
He was still looking out over the water when his eye caught movement. Something was flying in the air toward him. He sat up at attention on his broom, ready to fly away at a moment's notice, still trying to figure out what the darned thing was. Finally, he saw it well enough to recognize it from an old memory; it was one of the Quidditch balls; a bludger, if he wasn't mistaken.
Knowing that this could not possibly be good, he took off fast as an arrow in the other direction, but it was catching up to him. So he looped back toward the Forbidden Forest, passing it in such a way that it had to take extra time to change its trajectory to follow him.
As he approached the forest, he spotted a bunch of people on the ground, coming from the Quidditch pitch. He couldn't hear what they were shouting, but they were pointing at the bludger, so he figured they were looking for the rogue ball. He kept trying to dodge it, and it kept following him.
He was a little too slow at one point, and the bludger smashed into his arm, breaking it. But being no stranger to pain, he fought to hold on, continuing to try to get away from the bloody thing.
Getting an idea, he flew up higher, then looped back around slow enough for the ball to be able to follow him, then shot straight toward the ground at full tilt, leaning forward on his broom. This caused the other people to shout and scream in worry for his safety, but at the last possible second, he shot off in a completely different direction, the bludger smashing into the ground. Turning around instantly, as he'd been prepared to do, he cast a Vanishing Charm at it. Half the ball disappeared, and the remaining half shuddered and died.
Landing at last, he noticed who the others were. It was Hermione, Ron, his three Slytherin friends, and Lockhart. Dozens of other students had witnessed the past few minutes worth of the struggle as well. He lay there, clutching his broom in his good arm, and passed out.
He woke up to the glittering teeth of Lockhart. "Not you!" Harry said, trying to get away.
"Delusional lad, doesn't know what he's saying. Don't worry Harry, I can fix your arm. I've done it hundreds of times."
"No, I need to go to the hospital wing, see a trained Healer."
"Nonsense, boy. Just lie back, and I'll--"
But Harry had no intention of lying back. Having dropped his broomstick, he used his good arm to try to grab his wand, but it was on his other side, so by the time he got it in his hand, he heard Lockhart say an incantation, and felt his arm go limp. The git had removed all the bones in his arm.
"Uh, well, yes, that can sometimes happen. But no worries, Madam Pompfrey will be able to clear it all up."
Harry whipped his wand out and shouted a hex at the git. Fittingly, it caused the handsome teacher to break out in painful pox marks all over his face. The man felt his face in terror and ran screaming away, shouting "My face! My beautiful face!"
Then McGonagall was there, and he felt his stomach drop. "Professor. I... I'm sorry. I'm sorry I let my temper get the better--"
"Don't you worry yourself, Mister Potter," McGonagall said. "Your actions are understandable, given the circumstances. Just don't do it again, and you won't be in any trouble, if I can help it."
"Oh, good. Thank you, Professor." He put his wand away, and let her conjure a stretcher and float him up to the hospital wing.
Madam Pompfrey was very angry when she found out what had happened, and gave Lockhart the third degree about it, letting him suffer untreated pox marks while she tended to Harry. Only after she'd forced him to drink a truly horrible potion called Skele-Grow, and informed him of the rough night he had in store, did she finally heal Lockhart. She was so angry with him that, instead of insisting he stay the night (as she usually did), she kicked him out the moment he was spotless again; literally kicked him out.
After that, his friends came by to see how he was doing, and they talked for a time about the incident and various things, until Madam Pompfrey ushered them out as well so Harry could focus on getting better. But it was more difficult without people to distract him. He wished he had a book to read, but he didn't want to bother Netty. Getting to sleep was very difficult.
Hours later, he awoke with a start, to somebody sponging his forehead in the dark.
"Get off!" He shouted. "Wait, Dobby?"
Yes, it was the same golf-ball sized eyes, the same face, the same filthy pillow case in lieu of clothing. There was no doubt it was Dobby.
"Harry has come back to Hogwarts. Dobby warned and warned Harry, but Harry did not listen. Why did Harry not go back home when he missed the train?"
Harry sat up, forcing the sponge away. Something clicked in his brain at Dobby's words. "So I was right; the barrier was your doing."
"Yes, Harry Potter sir. Dobby hid and waited until the time was right, and then sealed the barrier. Dobby had to iron his hands for it."
Looking at his bandaged and blistered hands, Harry felt very little sympathy, given the circumstances.
"If you're here now, would it be correct to assume you fixed that bludger so it would go after me and kill me?"
"Not kill you, sir, never kill you!" Dobby said with horror. "Dobby is just wanting you maimed enough to go back home, where it is safe."
"Listen, Dobby, I appreciate that you think you're trying to save my life, but I do. Not. Want. Your. So-called. Help," he said, poking Dobby in the chest at each punctuation. "Hogwarts is my home. If I died, that's not going to change anything for you. Now go away before I strangle you."
"Dobby is used to death threats, sir. Dobby gets them five times a day at home." He paused to blow his nose on the filthy pillow case.
"Don't you ever wash that thing, Dobby? The house elves here all have clean towels every day."
"No, sir. Dobby's master is wanting Dobby to be filthy. He says it's Dobby's place to be like dirt."
Harry noted that he now knew the gender of the mysterious master, and was very careful not to mention to Dobby that he'd let that slip, in case the elf began hurting himself again.
"If you're going to try to send me home in pieces, Dobby, can't I at least know why?"
"Oh, sir, if only Dobby could. If only you knew what you mean to us dregs--"
"Cut the guilt tripping, it won't work. Just tell me what's going on and who's plotting it."
"Dobby can't, sir! Dobby cannot let the dark days return! But return they do. At Hogwarts, terrible things are to happen, are perhaps already happening, and Dobby cannot let Harry Potter stay here now that history is to repeat itself, now that the Chamber of Secrets is open once more--"
Dobby froze, horror-struck. Harry grabbed him by the pillowcase and held him up before he could hurt himself with anything.
"So this does have something to do with the Chamber of Secrets? And it's been opened before? Tell me, Dobby, who opened it last?"
Dobby stretched a bony hand fruitlessly toward the water jug. Harry spoke again. "I'm not a Muggle-born, Dobby, how could I be in any danger? Are you sure this has nothing to do with Vol-- I mean, You-Know-Who?"
"Ask no more, Harry Potter!" Dobby whined. "Ask no more of poor Dobby! Just go home, Harry Potter!"
"I am home, Dobby. Hogwarts is my home, and my friends are my true family. I have no love of the Dursleys, no loyalty to them. But if something is going to happen here, and Muggle-borns are in danger, I will fight and I will die to protect my new family, if I have to. You might as well give up trying to save my life, Dobby, because I. Am. Not. Leaving!"
"Harry Potter risks his life for his friends! How noble! How valiant! But Harry Potter must leave this place, go back to the Dursleys, you simply--" They both heard a noise. Harry was unsurprised; Dobby was making a racket, and Harry had not put up any privacy wards.
"Dobby must go now, Harry Potter," the elf whispered, terror in his eyes. With a crack, he was gone. Harry silently cursed to himself and rolled over, feigning sleep, as someone was approaching the hospital wing.
Harry turned to watch as Dumbledore came in, wearing his night things and seeking the matron.
"What happened?" Madam Pompfrey asked.
"Another attack. Minerva found him on the stairs."
"We think he was bringing grapes to Potter," said McGonagall.
Harry silently watched in horror as Colin Creevy, a camera to his eye, was carried in, stiff as stone. A comment by the matron confirmed he was petrified. The teachers tried opening the camera to see if he'd gotten a picture of his attacker, but the puff of acrid smoke that resulted made that a no-go.
"Melted. What does this mean, Dumbledore?"
"It means the Chamber of Secrets is indeed open once more."
"But then, Albus, who?"
"Not who, but how," Dumbledore said cryptically. McGonagall clearly had no idea what he meant, either.
Note: I pronounce "Moste Potente Potions" with the e's at the end silent, unlike Steven Fry, and I will fight anyone who disagrees. :-D Call it an aspie thing.
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