All people, who read with both eyes open, will read this disclaimer.
All people, who think I own the trademarked names used in this story, skip reading disclaimers.
No person, who is at least as smart as Xander, will read with one eye closed.
A challenge: dark_king98 on the Caer Azkaban group wrote, A while back I asked about BtVS fics that used the Halloween trope to give an intelligence upgrade only, without any super-powers (ie getting Tony Stark's inventive genius rather than Thor's godliness). I haven't found many that fit this, I might have to issue it as a challenge. You know what's coming, right? Right. I don't answer challenges.
A Smarter Halloween
Xander Harris shook his head, coming back to reality. He shook it again to knock the wooliness out and make his brain work like he was used to.
Dressing up as Harry Potter might not have been his smartest choice ever, even if the plastic glasses and tattered black robe were all he could afford. Water under the bridge now, and at least turning into Harry had given him enough power to survive the night as he blundered from crisis to crisis. That almost made up for the drawbacks.
Harry Potter shook his head, coming back to reality. He shook it again. Once he realized who he was and where he was, he realized he'd been so stupid.
"I said, what's the matter, Scarhead? Have you got Weasley all over you and you're dimmer than usual?"
Yesterday that would have made Harry blow up, no doubt followed immediately by detention because of Snape popping out at just the right minute.
"I'd rather have girl all over me than Goyle all over me. And wipe your chin, Malfoy. You missed a spot."
Harry couldn't believe he'd ever let these childish taunts get to him. He'd grown up with insults and had learned to ignore them by the time he was five. What had happened? It was like he'd gotten stupid the moment he'd entered the magical world.
Making his way up to Gryffindor Tower, Harry tried to make sense of the new set of memories he'd just picked up after he'd finished spending the afternoon with the prettiest girl in the school. He'd just been walking along, minding his own business and thinking about kissing, when wham, he'd felt something. Not a possession and not a prophecy. It was sort of like the strongest déjà vu he'd ever heard of, but kind of the opposite. He'd all of a sudden gotten a bunch of new memories, the memories of an American demon hunter, and it took him a minute to realize that he was Harry Potter, English wizard, presently in Hogwarts. And then along came the poster boy for a republican overthrow of the aristocracy and the poster boys for the perils of inbreeding. Why he'd ever considered them to be a threat was beyond him.
Oh, right. He'd been stupid.
Finally making it up to the common room, Harry saw his best friend studying and otherwise keeping busy. "Are you still doing that, Hermione?" She was knitting another half-dozen hats, enchanted needles in rapid motion while she studied. "Why? What do you think it's going to accomplish?"
She looked at him as if he were retarded, then sighed and nodded resignedly to herself before explaining. "Slavery is wrong. You can't disagree with that, can you, Harry? I'm making these hats in order to free house-elves from being enslaved.
"I understand all that. I didn't ask what you want to accomplish. I asked what you think this will accomplish. The house-elves already pick up the clothes we leave around. If picking up my dirty socks won't free them, why would picking up your hat free them?"
"I… ah… My intent is to free the elves, that's what's different about my hats."
"But you aren't their owner. How could you free them?"
"I… You… I need to research this some more."
With that, she stilled her knitting needles, gathered up her books, and rushed off for the library.
This matched something that Harry had seen over the years but hadn't thought about until today. Hermione didn't really think things through. She didn't figure many things out. She researched for what she needed. Her library skills and her memory were first-rate, and if the answer was in a book she could get her hands on, she'd find it. If it wasn't in the library, Hermione wasn't likely to figure something out.
Actually, almost no one in the magical world figured things out. So far as he could tell, not a single one would step back and make a list of what they knew and then think about what it meant. "Elementary, Watson." Deductive logic, that's what it was called. Hermione had spotted it ages ago. "Not an ounce of logic", or whatever she'd said.
The thing was, Hermione was a part of the magical world now, and it seemed that seventeen-year-old Hermione was worse at figuring things out than twelve-year-old Hermione had been.
This was bad. Harry was a part of the magical world, too, and he could now see things he'd missed since starting at Hogwarts. This was not good. The only good thing was, after his not-possession, Harry was seeing things more clearly. Maybe it had knocked the stupid out of his head for good.
While Harry was thinking, Hermione came back in. "I think I dropped something," she said, rolling her eyes at herself. As she bent over to look under the table she'd been using, Harry's eyes were naturally drawn to her bottom. Hello, buns! How had he never noticed that Hermione had grown into a very attractive young lady? Sure, she wasn't as gorgeous as some of the girls he'd known back— She wasn't as gorgeous as some of the California girls in Xander's memories. Funny thing, though: here at Hogwarts, Hermione left all of the other girls in the dust. That was funny because no one noticed. Everyone else seemed to think that Hermione was homely and that a lot of the other girls were so much better looking.
Waaaaait a minute… Harry had been one of those "everyone else". He had no idea why he'd thought Cho was so beautiful. She was positively plain compared to "the buck-toothed bookworm".
During this latest bit of musing, Ginny came in. She gave Harry a flirtatious wink and waggled her hips as she headed for the stairs up.
Aaaand… Ginny was positively plain, too. Harry knew darn well that an hour ago he'd thought she was the cutest thing on the planet.
How had he never noticed?
Oh, right. He'd been stupid.
So. Back when he was stupid, Harry had under-rated Hermione. Now that he'd gotten smarter, he rated her much higher.
Everyone else still under-rated her.
Well, he had already figured out that almost everyone here was stupid.
Shaking his head, Harry pulled out his books and got to work. Thinking about girls was fun and thinking about stupid people was possibly important, but he had an essay due. It was ridiculously easy, just busy-work, finding relevant paragraphs in an unindexed textbook and copying them in his own handwriting. Even though it was pointless, he still had to do it. If he didn't turn it in tomorrow, he'd still have to do it and have an hour of even more pointless punishment on top of it.
That night, Harry had trouble getting to sleep. He was still thinking about the differences between his world and the memory world. Were there so many problems in the real world – government corruption, bad education, people following a leader as if they were sheep – because wizards were so stupid? Or did it go the other way? Were wizards trained to be stupid in school?
That… that made a lot of sense. The leadership of the magical world must be barely holding on, if a few dozen terrorists could almost bring them down. And they were afraid of change, especially in the form of the newcomers, the muggleborn. It only made sense that they'd be keeping a lid on populace as best they could. Dumbing down students, training them to blindly do whatever the authorities said and never to look at the world skeptically, could be a big part of that.
Trying to reform the system wouldn't work, whether working from within or trying for a peaceful revolution. The people in power had too much power and too little accountability.
Was this what had started Tom Riddle on the path he'd taken?
And wasn't that a wonderful thought to go to sleep on…
The next morning, Harry was a bit woolly-brained, probably due to tossing and turning and not sleeping. The big societal problems needed a lot more thought, but this morning he needed to go to class, and before that he needed some breakfast. He'd be able to bat his ideas around with Hermione and maybe Ginny and a few others later. And the fact that Hermione and Ginny were each really clever and really cute had nothing to do with his selections, of course. Maybe Cho had some free time, too.
Xander paused as he was about to pack up his costume and put the box in his closet. The lensless frames, black rags, and dowel weren't worth anything, not even sentimental value. He'd be better off burning them. He might not be the smartest person around, but he wasn't the stupidest, either. He didn't want to risk being enstupidiated ever again.
Those magic users might as well have pumpkins for heads, using magic instead of looking at what was right in front of their faces. Nope, getting magic powers was a bad trade for being that dumb.
He did wonder about Harry, if Harry was real in some other universe. Had he been enbrainiated by being in the normal world for an evening? Would he remember anything of Xander's life like Xander still remembered some of his life? Tossing an imaginary salute, Xander wished Harry all the best.
Harry was looking forward to his date. He'd had a rough evening after that waking dream or whatever it was. It had taken him until evening the next day to settle down and fit himself back into the real world. Luckily, Ginny didn't hold it against him, and did hold herself against him. He was so lucky to have such a smart, pretty, and understanding girlfriend.