Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals 31

Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals: Book Four.
Or, "Autistic Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Notes: I do not own this. J. K. Rowling does. This is just fan fiction. No money is being made. Not by me, anyway.

There may be a few bits and pieces lifted word-for-word from the canon material. I tried to do that as little as possible, though, but there's a lot more in this one than usual because it was unavoidable. Still, lots of details are changed, so don't skip by familiar parts or you might miss something.

Just as a reminder, so I don't have to shoehorn in descriptions in the text of the story as a reminder, but in this fanfic Harry and Hermione, apart from having Asperger's Syndrome, are both black as well.

'Italicized text between single quotes is almost always Parseltongue.'

Heh, this year in aspie Potter's adventures looks like it'll have the most chapters of them all so far. Already on chapter seven, and we've not even gotten to Samhain yet.

Sorry this took so long. I've been mostly focusing on an original-fiction project of mine that is really entertaining to write. But since I can thank the Aspie Potter fanfic story and my Many Faces fanfic story for being able to do that one as well as I am, and for giving me loads of ideas for it, and because I'm going to be using these fics to test out things like writing about the emotions of characters with anxiety and so on, I won't be giving up on them. (You'd think, with my having anxiety and depression, that it'd be easy to write that stuff for characters, but honestly I generally ignore all that stuff, so it's going to be a challenge.) I know this chapter is short, but hey, it's been a month, you've waited long enough. Anyway, enjoy!

Chapter Seven: X-Ray Eyes

In the morning, Harry realized he hadn't told his friends about his dream with Voldemort. He'd told Sirius immediately, and had remembered it again after the fiasco at the Quidditch Cup, but had forgotten about it since then. He felt like they should know about it, but he couldn't think when would be a good time to tell them now, without a bunch of other people overhearing.

He pulled them aside after breakfast, which hadn't been easy. Hermione had wanted to go to the library for some reason, but upon seeing Harry's expression, she had agreed to delay her trip. Danzia was worried she'd miss her first classes, but came anyway, while Antigone and Angela left, Danzia promising to pass on the tale later. So the four of them had gone into a spare classroom and set up privacy wards their older friends and Sirius had taught them, so they wouldn't be interrupted or overheard.

“What’s up, Harry?” said Ron, the moment they were sure they couldn't be eavesdropped on.

“There’s something I haven’t told you,” Harry said. “On the Saturday before the Quidditch Cup, I woke up with my scar hurting again.”

All their reactions were almost exactly as Harry had imagined them. Hermione gasped and started making suggestions at once, mentioning a number of reference books, and everybody from Albus Dumbledore to Madam Pomfrey, the Hogwarts nurse. Ron and Danzia simply looked dumbstruck.

“But — he wasn’t there, was he?” Ron said. “You-Know-Who? I mean — last time your scar kept hurting, he was at Hogwarts, wasn’t he?”

“I’m sure he wasn’t in London,” said Harry. “But I was dreaming about him … him and Peter — you know, Wormtail. I can’t remember all of it now, but they were plotting to kill … someone.”

He had teetered for a moment on the verge of saying “me,” but couldn’t bring himself to make Hermione look any more horrified than she already did. Danzia, however, looked at him like she'd seen something in his expression, but she didn't say anything.

“It was only a dream,” said Ron bracingly. “Just a nightmare.”

“Yeah, but was it, though?” said Harry. “It’s weird, isn’t it? … My scar hurts, I have this very vivid dream, and three days later the Death Eaters are on the march, and Voldemort’s sign’s up in the sky again.”

“Don’t — say — his — name!” Ron hissed through gritted teeth.

“Sorry, I keep forgetting,” Harry said.

Danzia was looking thoughtful.

“And remember what Professor Trelawney said?” she asked. “At the end of last year?”

Professor Trelawney was their Divination teacher at Hogwarts. Hermione’s terrified look vanished as she let out a derisive snort.

“Oh Danzia, you aren’t going to pay attention to anything that old fraud says?”

“You weren’t there,” said Danzia. “You didn’t hear her. This time was different. I told you, she went into a trance — a real one. And she said the Dark Lord would rise again, greater and more terrible than ever before. Said he’d manage it because his servant was going to go back to him … and that night, Wormtail escaped.”

There was a silence in which Ron fidgeted absentmindedly.

“Yes,” Hermione said, “but you also told us the servant in the prophecy was 'chained' for 12 years. Pettigrew wasn't chained, he was in hiding.”

“Well who else could it have possibly meant? Harry had a dream with Wormtail in it! Clearly he went back to Voldemort!”

“Why would he do that, though? Couldn't he have run and hidden somewhere else?”

Danzia shrugged. “No idea, Hermione. Maybe he didn't like his chances.”

“But You-Know-Who has been a powerless wraith for the last 12 years! He only had the one shot at returning, and we cocked it up for him,” Ron said. “So I don't reckon he'd be coming back anytime soon without Wormtail helping him.”

“It's weird, I'll admit,” Harry said. “But the fact of the matter is, for whatever reason, he went back to his old master. So the prophecy is at least partly coming true. And Sirius and Dumbledore both seem very concerned; why else get Moody out of his very short retirement to become a DADA teacher? They could've used Aurors every year this whole time and didn't, why use one now all of a sudden? And Moody's said to be the best of the best, isn't he?”

“Um, yeah, maybe,” Ron said. “I mean yeah, he's the best for sure, I was saying 'maybe' to the rest of it.”

“Well as interesting as this conversation is,” Danzia said, “I need to get to class before I'm late. Adios!”

The others nodded and took off as well to get to their own classes.

~

Harry, Ron, and Hermione were outside all morning. They had Herbology with the Hufflepuffs first, where they squeezed horrible pus out of a plant called a bubotuber; it smelled like petrol. Harry wondered first how something so horrible could possibly be used to fight acne (especially when it caused skin problems when undiluted) and then wondered if it was just the smell or if the pus was actually chemically similar to petrol, and whether or not a Muggle car would run on bubotuber pus as a fuel source.

After Herbology was Care of Magical Creatures with Hagrid. Harry had some hope that Hagrid's first year had taught him to teach them more normal magical creatures rather than monsters or boring things like flobberworms, but the moment he saw Hagrid standing around several open crates, he had a very bad feeling he wasn't going to like what was in the crates. As they drew nearer, an odd rattling noise reached their ears, punctuated by what sounded like minor explosions. This did not fill Harry with hope.

As it turned out, his suspicions were correct. For in the crates were some of the most foul creatures Harry had ever seen. Called blast-ended skrewts, they looked like deformed, shell-less lobsters, horribly pale and slimy-looking, with legs sticking out in very odd places and no visible heads. There were about a hundred of them in each crate, each about six inches long, crawling over one another, bumping blindly into the sides of the boxes. They were giving off a very powerful smell of rotting fish. Every now and then, sparks would fly out of the end of a skrewt, and with a small phut, it would be propelled forward several inches.

“On’y jus’ hatched,” said Hagrid proudly, “so yeh’ll be able ter raise ’em yerselves! Thought we’d make a bit of a project of it!”

“And why would we want to raise them?” said an annoyed voice.

The Slytherins had arrived. The speaker was Theodore Knott. Crabbe and Goyle were chuckling appreciatively at his words.

Hagrid looked stumped at the question.

“I mean, what do they do?” asked Knott. “What is the point of them?”

Hagrid opened his mouth, apparently thinking hard; there was a few seconds’ pause, then he said roughly, “Tha’s next lesson, Knott. Yer jus’ feedin’ ’em today. Now, yeh’ll wan’ ter try ’em on a few diff’rent things — I’ve never had ’em before, not sure what they’ll go fer — I got ant eggs an’ frog livers an’ a bit o’ grass snake — just try ’em out with a bit of each.”

“First pus and now this,” muttered Seamus.

Harry didn't know if he really wanted to do this, but he liked Hagrid, so he did. But the skrewts burned people when they shot off, even through dragon-hide gloves. Harry would even swear he felt their slime through the gloves.

What was more, some of them had stingers, and others had suckers on their bellies, which Hagrid supposed was to suck blood. Harry idly wondered how they were supposed to learn about the skrewts when even Hagrid didn't seem to know much of anything about them.

“Well, I can certainly see why we’re trying to keep them alive,” said Knott sarcastically. “Who wouldn’t want pets that can burn, sting, and bite all at once?”

“Just because they’re not very pretty, it doesn’t mean they’re not useful,” Hermione snapped. “Dragon blood’s amazingly magical, but you wouldn’t want a dragon for a pet, would you?”

Harry and Ron grinned at Hagrid, who gave them a furtive smile from behind his bushy beard. Hagrid would have liked nothing better than a pet dragon, as Harry, Ron, and Hermione knew only too well — he had owned one for a brief period during their first year, a vicious Norwegian Ridgeback by the name of Norbert. Hagrid simply loved monstrous creatures, the more lethal, the better.

On their way back to the castle after class, Draco pulled up alongside them and said just loud enough for them to hear, “Theo may be an arse, but he has a point. If Hagrid wants to keep his job, he really should tone it down a bit. If we have another incident in class once those foul things grow up, even that solicitor Hagrid had last year won't be able to save his job.”

“Well let's all hope it doesn't come to that,” Harry said.

After lunch, Ron went to double divination, while Harry, Hermione, and Draco went to Arithmancy. It was still mostly just learning maths at this point; there wouldn't be any spell crafting for another year or two yet, that was more of an NEWT level thing. So far, Harry was struggling in this class. Maths had never been his strong suit, and it wasn't any better now. He was a little jealous of Hermione and Draco, to be honest; the two of them were #1 and #2 in the class, respectively. Harry wondered if Draco being so good at maths was due to the private tutoring he'd gotten growing up.

“Hey Draco,” Harry said as they made their way to dinner, “what do middle and lower class people do to learn to read and stuff, do you know?”

“Oh, they have their own school. I have to say, when I first heard about it, I was a little jealous to be honest.”

“Really? Why is that?” Hermione asked.

“Oh, well, it's just that it gets kind of lonely sometimes, being an upper-class kid. Wizarding population has been going down for centuries, and sometimes that becomes very obvious. My family used to live in France before moving here before the last war. According to Mother, they moved because their house was too big for their needs. Malfoy Manor feels too big for our needs now, in fact. It's made for fifty people or more to live or work in, and with just the three of us there now, it just feels so... wrong.

“Plus, of course, I hardly ever saw other kids my own age. Oh sure, there were planned gatherings with the other pure-blood children, but there weren't nearly enough of those. And I spent so much time being tutored I didn't have much time for anything else. Occasionally several of us would be tutored together in one location, but it's a mark of prestige to have a private tutor, so that only happened with subjects that were difficult to find tutors for. Thus, a lot of long, lonely days. Which is why I was jealous of the middle and lower-class school. Especially since they start there when they're about seven and stay together until they're seventeen.”

“What?” Harry asked. “They do? How? I mean, they have to go to Hogwarts at some point, don't they?”

Draco sneered slightly, then sighed. “Did you really think Hogwarts was for all classes of wizards and witches, Harry? Think of the people who come here. Almost all of them are from old noble families. The ones that aren't are Muggle-borns. It's in the school charter that Hogwarts has to take the Muggle-borns. It's been there since the beginning; debate over that clause in the charter is why Slytherin left the school. He didn't trust Muggle-borns, and at the time that point of view made sense. It's obsolete now, of course, but the school was founded long before the Statute of Secrecy.”

“So the middle-class and lower-class witches and wizards go to a different school?” Hermione asked.

“Yes. There's a couple of them. One of the two isn't very popular, it struggles to stay open; I don't remember its name, even. The other one, though... Winterbloom School, they call it. It may teach mundane topics for most of the years, but it does also teach magic, which is why they named it after another name for witch-hazel.”

Harry shook his head, amazed. “Wow. So that's why the school population here is so small?”

“Yes. The pure-blood elite used to have huge families that would have made the Weasleys look like slackers. Only the first-born could inherit, of course, but the whole family would live in the manors their whole lives, and there would be human servants as well as house elves. For instance, some of the older fashions were easier to get on and off attended by wizards or witches than by house elves.”

“Wow. Houses built for so many people, and there's only the three of you there?”

“Well, and we have a house elf. We used to have two of course. We got Dobby at a time when the family was larger.” He sighed sadly.

They might have continued, but as they met up with Ron and then reached the entrance hall, which was packed with people queuing for dinner, a loud voice rang out behind them.

“Weasley! Hey, Weasley!”

Harry, Ron, and Hermione turned. Knott, Crabbe, and Goyle were standing there, each looking thoroughly pleased about something.

“What?” said Ron shortly.

“Your dad’s in the paper, Weasley!” said Malfoy, brandishing a copy of the Daily Prophet and speaking very loudly, so that everyone in the packed entrance hall could hear. “Listen to this!

FURTHER MISTAKES AT THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC

It seems as though the Ministry of Magic’s troubles are not yet at an end, writes Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent.  Recently under fire for its poor crowd control at the Quidditch World Cup, and still unable to account for the disappearance of one of its witches, the Ministry was plunged into fresh embarrassment yesterday by the antics of Arnold Weasley, of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office.”

Knott looked up.

“Imagine them not even getting his name right, Weasley. It’s almost as though he’s a complete nonentity, isn’t it?” he crowed.

Everyone in the entrance hall was listening now. Knott straightened the paper with a flourish and read on:

Arnold Weasley was yesterday involved in a tussle with several Muggle law-keepers (“policemen”) over a number of highly aggressive dustbins. Mr. Weasley appears to have rushed to the aid of “Mad-Eye” Moody, the aged ex-Auror who retired from the Ministry when no longer able to tell the difference between a handshake and attempted murder. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Weasley found, upon arrival at Mr. Moody’s heavily guarded house, that Mr. Moody had once again raised a false alarm. Mr. Weasley was forced to modify several memories before he could escape from the policemen, but refused to answer Daily Prophet questions about why he had involved the Ministry in such an undignified and potentially embarrassing scene.

“And there’s a picture, Weasley!” said Knott, flipping the paper over and holding it up. “A picture of your parents outside their house — if you can call it a house! Your mother could do with losing a bit of weight, couldn’t she?”

Ron was shaking with fury. Everyone was staring at him.

“Get stuffed, Knott,” said Harry. “C’mon, Ron.”

“Oh yeah, Potter, you've stayed at their hovel before, haven't you? So tell me, is her mother really that porky, or is it just the photo?”

“Why do you want to know, Knott? Want to see if she's fat enough for your own mom to eat?” Harry said in a rare fit of wit, then looked at Ron to see if he was okay.

“Oh Hell,” Draco muttered. “Harry, let's go. Now.

“Why?”

Draco pointed jerkily at Knott, whose face was a shade of puce that Uncle Vernon would have been proud of. His hands were flexing into and out of fists, like he was fighting the urge to grab his wand.

“DON'T. YOU. DARE. TALK. ABOUT. MY. MOTHER!”

“Whatever you're going to say, Harry, Ron, I suggest you don't. Knott's mother died years ago.”

Harry went a paler brown at this.

“Knott, I'm sorry, I didn't know. I--”

“I DON'T WANT YOUR PITY, BLOOD TRAITOR!”

“Come on,” Draco said, trying to get them to leave. “He won't accept anything less than a duel at this point.”

Harry turned around to go with Draco when it happened.

BANG!

Several people screamed — Harry felt something white-hot graze the side of his face — he plunged his hand into his robes for his wand, but before he’d even touched it, he heard a second loud BANG, and a roar that echoed through the entrance hall.

“OH NO YOU DON’T, LADDIE!”

Harry spun around. Professor Moody was limping down the marble staircase. His wand was out and it was pointing right at an all-brown ferret, which was shivering on the stone-flagged floor, exactly where Knott had been standing.

There was a terrified silence in the entrance hall. Nobody but Moody was moving a muscle. Moody turned to look at Harry — at least, his normal eye was looking at Harry; the other one was pointing into the back of his head.

“Did he get you?” Moody growled. His voice was low and gravelly.

“No,” said Harry, “missed. But that's... what did you do?”

“LEAVE IT!” Moody shouted.

“Leave — what?” Harry said, bewildered.

“Not you — him!” Moody growled, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at Crabbe, who had just frozen, about to pick up the white ferret. It seemed that Moody’s rolling eye was magical and could see out of the back of his head.

“Wait,” Harry said, comprehension dawning, “is that ferret... is that Knott?”

Moody started to limp toward Crabbe, Goyle, and the ferret, which gave a terrified squeak and took off, streaking toward the dungeons.

“I don’t think so!” roared Moody, pointing his wand at the ferret again — it flew ten feet into the air, fell with a smack to the floor, and then bounced upward once more.

“I don’t like people who attack when their opponent’s back’s turned,” growled Moody as the ferret bounced higher and higher, squealing in pain. “Stinking, cowardly, scummy thing to do.”

“Stop it!” Harry shouted. “You're going to hurt him!”

Moody paused, the ferret in midair. “He attacked you when your back was turned. By the look of it, that spell would've hurt a lot, put you in the hospital wing. I heard enough of the conversation before it to know the context, Potter. I don't care how upset he was or how much right he had to be upset. He should've challenged you to a duel instead of attacking you when you couldn't defend yourself.”

Moody went back to bouncing the ferret, and Harry rushed forward to rescue Knott. Just as he was about to grab the ferret, Moody spoke again.

“I wouldn't do that if I were you, Potter. If you grab him going one direction and I'm moving him with my wand in another, that'll hurt worse. But if you're that keen on helping this scum, I'll let him go,” Moody said.

Knott dropped to the floor, becoming human again in the same instant. His hair was ruffled, he looked bruised, and he was clutching his arm in pain. But when Harry tried to help him, Knot yelled.

“Don't touch me, freak!”

“Professor Moody!” said a shocked voice.

Professor McGonagall was coming down the marble staircase with her arms full of books.

“Hello, Professor McGonagall,” said Moody calmly. “Lovely weather today, isn't it?”

Professor McGonagall glared at Moody. “Don't think I didn't see that, Professor Moody. We never use Transfiguration as a punishment! Surely Professor Dumbledore told you that?”

“He might’ve mentioned it, yeah,” said Moody, scratching his chin unconcernedly, “but I thought a good sharp shock —”

“We give detentions, Moody! Or speak to the offender’s Head of House!”

“I’ll do that, then,” said Moody, staring at Knott with great dislike.

Knott, whose eyes were still watering with pain and humiliation, looked malevolently up at Moody and muttered something in which the words “my father” were distinguishable.

“Oh yeah?” said Moody quietly, limping forward a few steps, the dull clunk of his wooden leg echoing around the hall. “Well, I know your father of old, boy. … You tell him Moody’s keeping a close eye on his son … you tell him that from me. … Now, your Head of House’ll be Snape, will it?”

“Yes,” said Knott resentfully.

“Another old friend,” growled Moody. “I’ve been looking forward to a chat with old Snape. … Come on, you. …”

And he seized Knott's upper arm and marched him off toward the dungeons.

When Harry came back, he thought Ron looked like he was fighting to keep from laughing. He glared at Ron.

“It wasn't funny, what Moody did to Knott. Even if he did attack me when my back was turned, that's no excuse.”

“I don't know, Harry,” Draco said. “In a combat situation, taking out an enemy who's hexing you in the back is probably a good thing. I mean, he shouldn't have bounced him around like that, but honestly I think we're lucky he didn't do something worse to Knott.”

At dinner, Fred and George tried talking about how cool Moody was. Harry didn't say anything, just focused on his food. He supposed he shouldn't let one bad experience with the man color his perceptions, but he thought Rita Skeeter might have had a point where it came to Moody.

~

Moody was in front of his third-year class of Ravenclaws and ready to start taking roll when a blond girl who looked like her head was permanently in the clouds wandered in as though she was just exploring the castle and had spotted something interesting inside this room she wanted to look at. Her eyes were large, making her look permanently surprised.

“Can I help you, missy?” he asked her.

“I'm sorry I'm late, Professor. I was having trouble finding my shoes. I think the nargles were hiding them, the little tricksters.”

There were stifled titters throughout the class at this. Moody glared at them, and they stopped.

“Well sit down, missy, I'm just about to start taking roll.”

“I like rolls,” she said as she began to practically float, like a cloud on a lazy summer day, toward her seat. He stared at her, bewildered, until she sat down.

He began to take roll. When he got to 'Lovegood, Luna,' the weird blond girl who'd been late said happily, “I'm here. More accurately, my physical body is here, and my mind is mostly focused on the here and now. Other parts of me are elsewhere, but I suppose for the purposes of your question, it's the same thing as saying 'I'm here.'”

“Rrright. Moving on...”

When he finished taking roll, he began. When he told his students to put their books away, he'd noticed the Lovegood girl hadn't even taken hers out. He found he couldn't remember if she'd even had a backpack with her.

“Right then,” he said, when they'd all put their books away. “I’ve had a letter from Professor Lupin about this class. Seems you’ve had a pretty thorough grounding in tackling Dark creatures — you’ve covered boggarts, Red Caps, hinkypunks, grindylows, Kappas, and werewolves, is that right?”

There was a general murmur of assent, but there was also a voice.

“Are you going to teach us about umgubular slashkilters, heliopaths, and other highly dangerous dark creatures?”

It was the Lovegood girl again. He was confused about how to answer. He'd never heard of umgubular slashkilters, even after studying every dark creature he could find out about, but he couldn't preclude the possibility she'd discovered something new. Some magical creatures had only been discovered fairly recently, by Newt Scamander, after all. But the other students were laughing at her. So he wasn't sure the best answer. He tried to think of what the real Moody would do in this situation, as was his standby.

“No, girlie, we're doing curses now. I reckon you've all got a pretty good handle on the kinds of dangerous magical beasts you're likely to run across in everyday life. But you're far behind on what wizards can do to each other, so we're going to be studying curses so I can get you lot up to scratch in case you ever need it, and I only have one year to do it.”

As expected, someone made a comment about that, and he told the class that yes, he was only doing it as a favor to Dumbledore before going back to his quiet retirement. Then he went back to teaching the class.

Just as with all his other classes, he was starting out with the Unforgivable Curses. That had been hard to convince Dumbledore about, especially where it concerned the younger students, but the old goat had agreed it was necessary, if his worries and suspicions were true.

Giving essentially the same speech for the demonstration with the spiders that he did in all his classes, the reactions were much as expected. Most students laughed at his demonstration of the Imperius Curse. A few looked sick. The Lovegood girl's expression didn't change at all, though. She watched it attentively, but she might have been looking at something completely normal, for all the reaction to it she showed in her face.

It went much the same way for the Cruciatus Curse. Many people screamed, many looked sick, others just jumped back in their seat or quivered in terror. But Lovegood just looked mildly disapproving, like he'd said 'arse' or some other mostly harmless thing.

For the Killing Curse, the whole room was frozen in horrified awe, and even here she stood out, for her expression looked no different than the one she'd given for the Cruciatus Curse.

When he had them taking notes afterward, as he was writing on the board (by looking out the back of his head – this magical eye really was miraculous and useful!) he noticed the Lovegood girl wasn't taking notes. He paused and turned around.

“Miss Lovegood! You're all supposed to be taking notes now. Why aren't you writing this down?”

“Oh, I don't need to, sir. I'm memorizing it all.”

He blinked at this. “You can do that, can you?”

“Yes. I used to take notes, but they kept disappearing, so I started working on mnemonic devices to memorize everything important instead. If things start going missing from inside my head, I'll have bigger problems than failing tests and missing homework.”

He decided to test her. “Okay, girlie, then repeat what I said right after I shrunk the second spider back to normal size.”

“You said, 'Pain. You don’t need thumbscrews or knives to torture someone if you can perform the Cruciatus Curse. That one was very popular once too. Right … anyone know any others?'”

His magical eye stopped looking every which way and looked right at her along with his other eye. “Impressive. And after the third spider?”

“That time, it was 'Not nice. Not pleasant. And there’s no counter-curse. There’s no blocking it. And only one known person has ever survived it. You all know his name, I'm sure, but I'll say it anyway: Harry Potter.'”

Crouch Junior was suddenly reminded of himself as a kid. Not in demeanor, he and this girl could not have been more different. But it sounded like she got bullied. Missing shoes, missing notes, who knew what else. And so she adapted by memorizing everything. They had the missing notes and the memorization in common, his notes used to keep going missing until he got to be a strong enough duelist to make the bullying stop. It was an interesting experience, seeing part of himself in someone else.

“Right. Carry on then,” he said, turning back to the board to continue the lesson.

He paid a bit more attention to her after that, especially at dinner that evening. She had gone over to sit with the Griffindors, next to Potter, in fact. It looked like she was friends with the boy, along with the Weasley boy and the Granger girl. That was potentially useful. Very useful indeed.

It was Potter's friendship with the Malfoy boy that had surprised him the most, though. It seemed Potter had gotten his hooks into the lad, making Lucius's boy turn blood traitor. Oh well, he was still angry at Lucius for wriggling out of being sent to Azkaban. He wasn't going to go out of his way to hurt the Malfoy boy, but if it happened to become a good idea to hurt or even kill him, well so much the better. Lucius deserved to suffer, after failing their master so thoroughly.

On Thursday, he finally had the Potter boy in class. Potter was predictable, where his Ravenclaw friend wasn't. He laughed with the others for the Imperius Curse demonstration, until 'Moody' ruined the mood by chastising them for it. Potter had also stared in horror as he tortured the spider, until Granger's shouting pointed out to him that one of the other students wasn't taking it well. He turned to look.

Ah, Longbottom, he thought. His greatest regret. He still believed it had been necessary to question them, even to torture them, even if Bella went too far. If she hadn't done that... if he'd been brave enough to stop her, they wouldn't have made the Aurors so keen on finding them and arresting them. What was more, their master had wanted to kill the Longbottoms himself, and would have done so if his curse against the Potter boy hadn't backfired on him.

Granger wasn't the only one concerned. Crouch could see in Potter's eyes that he was concerned, too. It looked like he and Longbottom weren't close friends, but were still friendly with each other, and Crouch already knew they shared a dorm. Well, he'd already been planning to give the boy that book, might as well use this as the impetus.

For now, back to the role of teacher. He'd already lifted the curse from the spider. He shrunk it, and went on with his lesson.

Potter's reaction to the Killing Curse was as predicted. He looked ill, and upset, but was bearing well under it. Crouch had heard the boy had been taken away from some pretty nasty Muggles, to live with the formerly imprisoned Sirius Black. Poor bastard; 12 years in Azkaban, and he hadn't even done what they'd accused him of. Crouch himself had nearly died in there, but at least he'd been given a trial. Honestly, didn't people see the rot that was infecting this government?

When the lesson was over, he clunked over to Longbottom, having to go down some stairs to catch up to him. Now it was time to play the caring teacher, suck up to the boy a little, and give him that book about water plants. It would be important for Potter to get through the Second Task alive. So he had tea with Longbottom. As predicted, the boy was cheered somewhat by the praise of his Herbology acumen and took the book readily. The seeds, figuratively speaking, were planted.

~

After his memorable first class with Professor Moody, Harry was glad to be sitting down to eat dinner, and even gladder to head upstairs afterward, even though he still had homework to do. He was putting the finishing touches on his Transfiguration homework when there was a tapping at the window. Harry got up to see what was making the sound. It was a raven. Assuming it was Luna's raven, Harry opened the window to let it in. It flew in, looking harried, and landed on a desk nearby.

Harry closed the window and looked at the raven. Unlike Writing Desk, this one was completely black. And it looked worried, somehow.

“Harry!” it said, in a voice he recognized as Luna's, while hopping up and down, flapping its wings in alarm. “Harry! It's me! Luna Lovegood!”

Harry's eyes went wide with shock. He knew ravens could talk, but that was Luna's voice alright. It couldn't really be her, could it? But then he remembered Moody had turned Knott into a ferret.

“Luna?” he asked.

“Yes, Harry. It's me! Help me! I'm a bird! Get Professor Flitwick!” The bird was again flapping its wings in distress.

“Right,” he said, bolting from the room so fast that he left the Fat Lady's portrait open, even though it was well past curfew.

The moment he got out there, he realized in a panic that he didn't know where Flitwick's office was, and anyway McGonagall's was closer. Running right past Filch's cat, he hurried as quick as he could to her office, hoping he didn't run into Filch on the way.

He made it to her office, and he hammered on the door.

“You don't have to knock so hard!” came McGonagall's voice. She opened the door. “Potter? You look like you've seen a chimera!”

“You gotta come quick, Professor! It's Luna, she's been turned into a bird!”

“Luna Lovegood?”

“Yes, in the Griffindor common room! Hurry!”

She nodded and he tried to run, but she grabbed his robes. “Slow down, Mr. Potter. I doubt she's going to get hurt in the few minutes til we get there. Try to keep it to a fast walk.”

“Right,” he said.

The two of them, walking as quickly as they dared, headed to the Griffindor portrait. They were waylaid by Filch.

“Not right now, Mr. Filch, we're in a hurry.”

Filch grumbled and let them pass. Not long after, they got to the portrait, which was closed now. McGonagall gave the password and they went inside.

The raven was still sitting where he'd left it. It looked up as they came in and started flapping around again.

“Professor McGonagall! It's me! Luna Lovegood!”

“Yes, I'll help you Miss Lovegood, don't fret.”

McGonagall waved her wand at the raven. Nothing happened. She frowned in confusion and tried it again, using a different spell this time. Again, nothing happened.

“Mr. Potter, I'm afraid this is an ordinary raven familiar, and not your friend Miss Lovegood.”

“But... what? But she spoke!”

“Ravens can speak, Mr. Potter. They can even imitate other voices.”

A sudden suspicion fell over him then, and Harry touched the feathers on the raven's back. When his fingers came away, they were slightly damp with a small amount of ink.

“Do you know a spell to siphon ink away?” Harry asked.

“Yes, of course. Why?”

“There's ink on this bird's back.”

Taking up her wand again, McGonagall removed the ink from the raven's back without even ruffling a feather. There was a large white mark there, shaped like a W.

“WRITING DESK!” Harry shouted in hurt anger.

Writing Desk opened his beak and laughed raucously, falling over on his back and rolling around as he did so. The noise was so great that several people came downstairs to see what it was all about.

“I'm going to hex all your feathers off, you little git!” Harry shouted, his wand out.

The raven's laughter stopped abruptly as it hurriedly got back on its feet and took off flying. Harry shot several hexes at the raven, who was squawking in true alarm now.

“MR. POTTER! Please stop it at once! You'll hit some bystander if you're not careful!”

He stopped throwing hexes around. McGonagall Summoned the bird into her hand, where it squawked louder than before.

“To whom does this raven belong, Mr. Potter?”

“He's Luna's. And given what I know of her sense of humor, she probably wasn't in on this trick. Writing Desk is just an over-intelligent, feathery git.”

McGonagall mouthed the words 'Writing Desk' in disbelief, then shook her head. “Thank you, Mr. Potter. You will not be punished for being out after curfew, this bird tricked you after all. I shall ask Miss Lovegood about it, and if she gets punished or not depends on her responses.”

“Just don't hurt him. Luna will be sad if he's hurt.”

“Understood, Mr. Potter. You should go to bed now.”

With that, McGonagall left the common room.

“Luna Lovegood has a bird that plays awesome pranks like that?” one of the Weasley twins said.

“A bird after our own heart,” said the other.

“Hey Fred, maybe we can re-form the Marauders. Us, Lee Jordan, and Writing Desk.”

“Yeah, Padfoot and Moony will bust a gut laughing when we tell them we've got someone's pet raven as a fourth neo-Marauder!”

“We're all doomed,” Harry said.

~

The next morning, Luna pulled Harry into an empty classroom before breakfast.

“What's this about, Luna?”

“Writing Desk needs to apologize,” she said, pointing at the raven sitting on the teacher's desk. He looked suitably abashed, his head down, somehow managing to look glum.

“Oh,” said Harry. “Did you get in trouble, Luna?”

“No, Harry. I promised to thoroughly scold him, make him apologize. If he does anything else that mean, I'll send him home to Daddy.”

“Okay. Well let's hear it, then.”

Writing Desk rolled over on his back and put his legs down. Harry didn't know if this was a normal avian submission posture or if Writing Desk was just being weird, but it was a start.

“Use your words, Writing Desk.”

“Sorry I tricked you, Harry,” he said in Luna's voice.

“Why is he still speaking in your voice?” Harry asked.

“He can only mimic words he's heard. But he's clever about it. He can cut and paste things together from different things he's heard, making entirely new sentences from pieces of other sentences. I suspect he did something like that last night. He's heard me say my name and your name plenty of times, after all. What did he say, exactly?”

“Well first he said, 'Harry! It's me! Luna Lovegood!' Then after I said 'Luna?' he said 'Yes, Harry. It's me! Help me! I'm a bird! Get Professor Flitwick!'”

“Writing Desk, can you repeat what you said last night, the same way you did?”

The raven did so. Luna turned to verify it with Harry, and he nodded. It sounded exactly the same.

“If you listen carefully to what he said, you can hear where he cut and pasted words. I think 'Harry! It's me!' is a complete sentence I've said before, but I'm not sure. I know I've said my first and last name together around him before as well. 'Yes, Harry' is another complete sentence. So are the two after that. And I know I've told people to get Professor Flitwick at least once around him.”

“What about 'I'm a bird'?”

“Hmm... yes, a few weeks ago I was saying to him something like, 'Who's a good bird? Are you a good bird? Can you say 'I'm a good bird' for me?' I heard a bit of a slight... off-ness to 'I'm a bird' that suggests he cut the word 'good' out to make that sentence.”

“I dunno. I'm starting to think he should be checked out, see if he's an animagus.”

“Oh I doubt that. I've had him since he was old enough to leave his nest. But you can run him by McGonagall if you want.”

“Good idea,” Harry said.

“Forgive me?” Writing Desk asked in what sounded like Xeno's voice.

Harry pondered for a moment. “Say 'I promise not to play mean pranks on Harry Potter again,' and I'll forgive you.”

“I promise not to play mean pranks on Harry Potter again,” Writing Desk said.

Harry recognized his voice from the few times he'd ever heard it on a tape recorder. It was a little unnerving to hear his own voice parroted back at him like that. Especially since it was a lot harder to tell the difference between the raven mimicking his voice and a parrot mimicking people. A parrot could repeat words, but only in its own voice, so far as Harry knew.

“Okay, I forgive you. Just keep your promise not to do it again.”

Writing Desk got back up on his legs. “I'm a good bird!” he said.

“Yeah, and the Weasley twins are sticklers for rules,” Harry said, grinning. “Oh by the way, we should introduce him to them, they were talking about making him a partner in crime.”

Luna giggled. “That sounds funny. Let's do it.”

Taking Writing Desk onto her shoulder, they left the unused classroom and walked back to breakfast, where the table was fast filling up. They sat as close as possible to the Weasley twins.

“Ah, there he is now, Fred! The master of chaos himself! Did you lot hear? Last night that raven, the white part of his feathers covered in ink, tricked Harry into thinking Moody had turned Luna into a bird! And that he – that bird – was Luna!”

Harry felt his face grow hot as everyone in earshot of George's loud voice laughed at the tale. Harry distracted himself by scooping food onto his plate.

“So... Writing Desk is your name, is it?”

“Yes. I'm a good bird.”

“That you are. But Writing Desk, mean pranks should only be played on people truly deserving of it, like Theodore Knott, Vincent Crabbe, or Gregory Goyle.”

“Yes. People truly deserving of it,” he answered, and started preening his feathers.

“Fred and I are starting up the Marauders again. Want to join, Writing Desk?”

The raven looked up from his preening and cocked his head curiously at George. “Napoleon,” he said.

“Pardon?”

“Napoleon. Call me Napoleon today.”

Now Harry knew what to listen for, he could hear the slight deviations in the bird's speech that meant he was stringing cut and pasted words together from various sources.

“Okay Napoleon, want to be a Marauder?”

“What is a Marauder?”

“The original Marauders were Harry's dad, his godfather, Remus Lupin, and another bloke. They were pranksters extraordinaire, becoming legends for the pranks they pulled when they were in school. We aim to make the new Marauders just as legendary.”

Napoleon/Writing Desk looked like he was thinking, again. Then he spoke.

“Napoleon, want to be a Marauder?” he said, mimicking whichever twin had said it. “Yes. Napoleon, Writing Desk, is a Marauder.”

“Excellent!”

“Ha,” Ron said. “Now you two really are bird brains.”

“Comparing us to such a handsome, majestic, and devilishly clever raven? Best compliment we've gotten in a long time!”

“I'm such a handsome, majestic, and devilishly clever raven,” Writing Desk/Napoleon said. By replacing the word 'raven' at the end with one the twins had said previously, he had changed it from a question into a statement.

The table burst out in laughter. Even Harry was laughing.

~

A couple weeks after his first class with them, Crouch (disguised as Moody) had the Ravenclaws again, which meant that same odd little blond girl that was Potter's friend, looking again like she'd wandered in and was sitting down to rest her legs before wandering off again.

He announced he was putting them all under the Imperius Curse to help them build up resistance to it. There were a couple protests, as he expected, but he quickly shut them down. He had Dumbledore's permission, after all.

So he began beckoning students up to the front to put them all under the Imperius Curse, one at a time, and made them do entertaining and incredible things. When it was Lovegood's turn, he thought at first that it was working, for she was doing the pirouettes he had told her to do, but when he told her through the spell's connection to slap a fellow student, she just stood there passively, not doing anything at all. He tried a few more things, making the spell stronger each time. Some things she did, others she didn't.

“I can't figure you out, girlie,” he said after lifting the spell from her for the last time. “Tell me, what do you remember of the experience?”

“Hmm,” she said. “Well at first I didn't think anything was happening at all, after you said the incantation. I thought maybe a wrackspurt had gotten into your head and made the spell fail. But then I heard your voice in my head telling me to do pirouettes, and I thought, 'Oh that's a lovely idea, I haven't done that in a few weeks, thank you for suggesting it,' and so I did it.”

“I see. And did you have similar thoughts when doing the other things I told you to do?”

She nodded, smiling. “Oh yes.”

“What about when I told you to slap someone?”

“Oh, I don't agree with slapping someone unless it's the only way to wake them up in an emergency, or if they want you to do it because they enjoy the sensation. I did pause to consider asking her if she enjoyed being slapped, but we hardly know each other, so I thought the question might be a bit too forward. Also, I was hoping Ha-- one of my friends would realize he's attracted to me finally, and I didn't want to risk doing anything that might be seen as cheating later, even though I'm currently single.”

He blinked at her. Ignoring both the laughter of the other students and most of what Lovegood had said, he simply said, “I don't think I've ever met someone with a natural immunity to the Imperius Curse before today, Miss Lovegood. You're lucky; they won't be able to control you, and you won't even need any discipline to do it. I'm envious, Miss Lovegood. It wasn't so easy for me.”

“Oh, I don't think it's a natural immunity. I've been working on my mental discipline for years. It's got so many uses, you know. For instance, it's a lot harder for wrackspurts to get into your head if your mind is well-disciplined. Wrackspurts don't like order, which is why they try to confuse people to begin with. They're a bit like Dementors that way, except Dementors eat positive emotions rather than cause mental confusion.”

He thought about that for a moment, trying to figure it out. But then it clicked.

“I think I see what you mean, Miss Lovegood. A disciplined mind is to these... wrackspurts... as a Patronus is to a Dementor?”

“Exactly,” Lovegood said, nodding.

He ignored, again, the laughter of the other students. A girl like this – free-thinking, nerdy, and a bit dotty – was doubtless the target of bullies; he'd thought so before, but was even more sure of it now. He used his own memories of being bullied to try to manipulate her a little so he could use her later. She seemed a decent person, and decent people were always so easy to manipulate. Though she was also extremely clever, so he'd have to proceed with caution.

“You have a keen mind, Miss Lovegood,” he said, and the laughter stopped in an instant.

“Thank you, Professor.”

Potter was another stand-out here, he found out the next day. He could feel Potter fighting the curse from the very beginning. The boy had bent his knees to obey, and then had paused. Crouch had needed to increase the power to get him to finally attempt to jump onto the desk, and even then he sort of half-disobeyed and smashed into the desk instead, knocking it over. Crouch was impressed.

“Now, that’s more like it!” he growled. “Look at that, you lot, Potter fought! He fought it, and he damn near beat it! We’ll try that again, Potter, and the rest of you, pay attention — watch his eyes, that’s where you see it — very good, Potter, very good indeed! They’ll have trouble controlling you!”

He watched the boy leave with his magical eye, keeping an eye on him whenever he could. He'd noticed something odd lately; Potter was making weekly visits after dinner to Dumbledore's office for some reason. Crouch could see inside, of course, and it looked like Dumbledore was casting some spell on the boy repeatedly, and the boy was fighting it. But since he couldn't read lips and there wasn't any light coming from the wand to clue him in on what spell it was, he was stumped. He wondered if he dared ask. Probably not; Moody may have been paranoid, but he doubted the man would have taken another second to watch Potter once he'd figured out where the boy was going.

After thinking about it, he decided to risk sending an owl to his master about it. His master might have some ideas about what was going on.

Endnote: I don't always name chapters after song titles, only when I find one that's fitting. This chapter is named after the Blue Oyster Cult song “X-Ray Eyes” from their album “Heaven Forbid.” Given that the fake Moody gets his big introduction here, I think you can see how it's fitting.

I again feel the need to clarify that Writing Desk is just a raven, and a familiar. And remind people that in this fic, magic makes animals smarter than normal; ravens being scarily smart to begin with, increasing their intelligence further with magic is bound to create interesting results.

As to these scenes from Crouch Junior's perspective, I was having a lot of trouble keeping going on this chapter, didn't feel like redoing the same old scenes with slightly altered details. So a change of perspective helped.



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