When Dumbledore announced the Yule Ball, Harry felt a little regret about having twisted out of being Triwizard Cup Champion. It would've made it easier to get a date, though he thought it would be fine anyway.
Harry didn't wait long to get Hermione alone at the end of an empty corridor.
Harry said, "I'd like to go to the Yule Ball with you."
The brown-haired witch hesitated. "Harry, are you asking me to the dance as friends?"
Harry said, "I've begun to notice that one of my two best-friends, a person who I trust and respect as much or more as anyone else in the world, has turned into a beautiful young woman, and of late I feel funny when I'm with her. I'd like explore that funny feeling with you."
Harry had thought she'd ask that, and was proud of the little speech he'd prepared.
Hermione looked uncomfortable. "You know you're my best friend Harry, and I wouldn't want to do anything to disturb that. You're a great guy, loads of girls would be thrilled to be asked by you, but I think we should stay just friends."
"Oh," said Harry. He felt sick, and his knees were weak. Rejection hurt, especially since he hadn't expected it. He wondered if there was someone else Hermione was hoping would ask her out. He sometimes wondered if she had some weird opposites attract yen for Ron.
I'm sorry," said Hermione.
Harry sucked it up. "I'm disappointed of course, but it's not like you have any responsibility to be interested just because I am."
"It's not that I'm n-"
"Talk to you later," said Harry, walking quickly away.
Harry needed better than an hour to calm down, but it was important to get right back on the horse, or on the broomstick, as wizards said. He sat next to Ginny in the common room, and ran his eyes over her face until she looked up and smiled quizzically.
Ginny said, "Penny for your thoughts, Harry?"
"I was just thinking about how pretty you are. Not to mention smart, honest, brave, vivacious." He'd spotted that last word in a thesaurus. Sounded better than 'occasionally obsessive and crazy.' "Ginny Weasley, won't you come to the Yule Ball with me?"
Ginny looked uncomfortable. "Thank you Harry, but I wouldn't want anything to jeopardize our friendship."
"I promise it won't," said Harry.
"Didn't you used to have a crush on me?"
Ginny blushed. "Before I knew you, really."
Parvati said, "I have a boyfriend."
"You don't know him."
"I know pretty much every boy within a year of us at Hogwarts." By name at least.
Parvati said, "He, he, doesn't go to Hogwarts."
"You could've just said no," said Harry, leaving.
"No," said Lavender Brown.
Harry collapsed onto his bed. "I don't get it Ron. It's not like I think I'm magic's gift to women, but I'm famous, I'm slightly rich, I get solid marks, I'm star of the Quidditch team, I thought I'd be able to get a date alright, but Susan Bones just laughed uncomfortably and ran away, and Hannah Abbot sent me a note in advance."
Ron chortled. "I don't get it either, but it's great."
Harry said, "Ron, sympathize!"
Ron laughed louder.
"Am I ugly?" said Harry.
Ron swallowed a few more guffaws. "I dunno. But you're in good shape from Quidditch, and you've been using the potions to keep boils away, so I think you're fine. But maybe you oughta ask Madam Pomfrey to fix your teeth. They're not bad, but they could be better."
Three hours later, Harry smiled at the man in the mirror. His teeth were perfectly white and perfectly straight. Madam Pomfrey had even given him a potion for his eyesight, which hadn't fixed but had improved it, and then had made the lenses of his glasses thinner to match.
"I should've done this years ago," he said, popped a breath mint, and went out to find some ladies.
"Hi Daphne, I was wondering if you might like to promote inter-house unity. The Yule Ball is coming, and-"
"Potter, you disgust me," said Daphne Greengrass.
Harry paced outside the Headmaster's office. Working up his nerve, he rang the bell. The Gargoyle's mouth opened, and Dumbledore's voice came out. "Come in Harry."
The gargoyle moved aside, and Harry sat at one of the plush chairs by the Headmaster's desk, then got right back up.
Harry said, "I'm sorry, you're so busy, I shouldn't have come, it's not important, I don't know what I was thinking, I'm wasting your time, sorry, I'll leave now."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Won't you at least tell me what you're wasting my time with?"
He really wanted to. "It's just, all the older men I trust, Sirius, Professor Lupin, they're not here, I feel like you're the only one I can ask for advice. I keep asking girls out the Yule Ball, and I keep getting rejected. I don't know what I'm doing wrong."
Dumbledore sighed. "Harry, in love, a little persistence is needed. Don't let yourself be discouraged by a few refusals.
Harry said, "I've asked every girl in fourth-year but Pansy Parkinson and Millicent Bulstrode, and all the Gryffindor third-years as well, and a couple fifth-years. They've all turned me down."
"Oh," said Dumbledore. "Oh no. Harry, look into my eyes."
"Legilimens," whispered Dumbledore, and darkness flashed through Harry's mind. Dumbledore tapped him twice on the head with his wand, plucked an invisible string, and hissed.
Dumbledore said, "I didn't expect this, but now that I know, I wonder why. I'm sorry, my boy, so sorry." Tears came to the corners of the old wizard's eyes. "I never meant to take this from you."
Dumbledore explained, "Voldemort was never interested in exploring his sexuality, but I knew at some point he would want to pass on his blood, and I knew that a child of Voldemort could be a crucial ingredient in a number of horrible dark magic rituals he might attempt. I would rather have done much worse of course, but I managed to jinx him so that women will only ever see him as a friend. More than that, they'll be actively repulsed by the very thought of him as anything else. A fine bit of magic, but can you guess the unfortunate side effect?"
Harry touched his scar, horror mounting. Dumbledore had told him at the end of his second year about the fragment of Voldemort's soul living inside him. "It affects me too," he whispered.
"Not nearly as severely-you have a nose, for example-but yes."
Harry's stomach flipped.
Dumbledore said, "I could remove the jinx from you, but not without removing it from Voldemort as well. I'll look for a way to circumvent that, but I'm afraid, Harry, that you won't be able to date until the Dark Lord is defeated."
Harry swallowed. He didn't like it, but there was no denying that stopping Voldemort was more important than his love life. Voldemort had to be defeated first. "What must I do?"
Dumbledore's voice was solemn. "For now, there's little you can do but prepare. I'll arrange for you to receive private tutoring from Professor Flitwick in dueling, and from Professor Snape in the mind arts, beginning with Occlumency, and I will show you certain memories of Voldemort, but you'll have to give up Quidditch to have time for all that."
Harry winced. "It's a sacrifice, but I'll do what I have to do for what's truly important."
Dumbledore said, "I'm glad to see you being so mature about this. As for the Yule Ball, there is one girl at Hogwarts who the jinx may not fully affect...
The girl had a cork necklace and earrings that looked like radishes, but she was modestly pretty and Ginny swore she was nice, and getting her alone wasn't any trouble at all.
She stopped and looked at him with large, protuberant silver eyes, staring far longer than was polite. "You're Harry Potter," she said at last, nodded to herself as if pleased to have dredged some old trivia from the depths of her mind, and continued walking.
"Hold up," said Harry, running after her, getting her to stop by getting in front of her. "Would you like to go to the Yule Ball?"
Luna stared at the ceiling, thinking hard. He was wondering if she hadn't heard when she finally answered. "Yes. That sounds interesting." She paused before saying, "Do you want to go?"
Harry wanted to go the Yule Ball; school dances were a traditional romantic rite of passage. But he was more interested in what was rumored to happen after school dances, in various broom closets and hidden rooms. He said, "Yes."
This had been easy. The girl was strange, as advertised, but clearly Dumbledore knew what he was talking about. He'd never doubt the old wizard again.
"Have fun," Luna said, and resumed walking.
He ran after her again. "No, Luna, I meant, would you like to go with me? I'm asking you to go to the Yule Ball with me. As my date."
Luna gaped, frowned, and smiled. "This is very interesting. I should be flattered and confused and a little afraid that this a prank, but instead I feel like I'm being offered dinner in a room with cat vomit in the corner. Are you being haunted by an anti-cupid? Or perhaps an infestation of a new species of wrackspurt?"
On the one hand, he was being compared to cat vomit. On the other, she hadn't said no yet, and she seemed to understand without him telling her. "This is a secret, you can't tell anyone, but I'm under a jinx. Dumbledore say he can't remove it."
"Wow," said Luna. "So lots of other girls have said no?"
Harry nodded, hoping she wouldn't be offended, but it wasn't like he could keep it a secret. He was surprised she hadn't heard already.
"You've been jinxed to be haunted by anti-cupid. I've never seen one. I wasn't even sure they existed, and it's all mine." She looked giddy, and took his hand. "I'd be happy to go the Yule Ball with you."
She shivered, giggled and said, "That felt horrible." She closed her eyes, kissed his cheek, visibly held down a retch, and said, "How marvelous."
Harry worried about the girl, but he was actually kind of turned on.
Luna was nice, and quite intelligent, even if her conversation contained an even mixture of strange facts and fictional ones, some of them hard to distinguish. He took to carrying a reference manual with himself so he could check.
He seemed to be going steady with her. She liked to hold his hand and squeal, anyway.
It was quite tantalizing, but it was clear he wasn't getting more than the occasional kiss on the cheek until he defeated Voldemort and Dumbledore removed the jinx, and Harry's motivation, rather than falling, increased. He saw some old memories with Dumbledore, learned about horcruxes, and impressed Flitwick with his skill and enthusiasm in his first dueling lesson.
Harry closed the door for his first occlumency session with Snape.
He took the proffered seat, listened as Snape explained occlumency, asked about legilimency when Snape paused, then asked couple more questions about the limitations of legilimency.
"The best way to understand is to experience it. Brace yourself. ... Legilimens!"
Memory after memory raced through his mind. He was five, watching Dudley ride a new red bicycle, burning with jealousy. He was nine, and Ripper the bulldog was chasing him up a tree, and the Dursleys were laughing below on the lawn."
That was private. It all was, and Snape didn't get to see. But more importantly, if he didn't master occlumency he might not be able to defeat Voldemort, and if he didn't defeat Voldemort...
A pain in his knee, and the room swam back into his vision. Snape was rubbing an angry red welt on his wrist.
Snape said, "Did you mean to produce a Stinging Hex?"
"No," said Harry, getting up.
"I thought not," said Snape. "You let me get in too far. You lost control. But for a first attempt, it was not poor. Repel me with your brain, and you will not need to resort to your wand."
Harry said, "How do I ready my mind?"
Snape tilted his head to the side. "You're unusually focused, Potter."
"We don't like each other, but this is too important for me to let that interfere."
Snape blinked. "You're finally growing up."
He'd thought Luna might come to the dance in something exotic and eye-catching; a dress made of pieces of shiny confetti starched together, for example. Instead, she came down the staircase in a simple white dress, silver stars at her ears instead of the usual dirigible plums.
But she looked beautiful, and wore the cork necklace, as always.
He took her hand. "May I have this dance, Mademoiselle?"
She giggled. "We have to wait until the music starts, silly."
Luna kept up a running monologue on everyone else who came in-who really liked who, who was just there to be there, etc, giggling and pointing to Ron's face when Viktor Krumm took Hermione's hand, and saying Cho Chang and Cedric Diggory might get married someday.
Once it finally did, Harry put his hand on her waist. She struggled for a moment, and they were off, performing a simple box step with basic competency, and Luna smiled.
Harry whispered, "Doesn't dancing with me make you want to vomit?"
Luna said, "The anti-cupid leaves me alone if I tell myself you're my friend and we're just practicing. But when did you learn to dance?"
"Professor Snape and I practice after we're done with Occlumency lessons."
Luna burst into laughter.
"I don't even have to wear the dress anymore, and he lets me lead."
Luna continued laughing through most of the rest of the song, beating her head against his shoulder and crying slightly, not giving a fig for the stares of others. Harry smiled. Luna's extreme response to decent jokes was bringing out a funny side he hadn't known he had.
"No, seriously," she said at last.
"Professor Flitwick enchanted some automatons to teach us. A lot of boys came to the lessons."
"They should've told us girls."
"We wanted it to be a pleasant surprise when we didn't step on our dates' feet. Speaking of surprises." Harry pulled a cork necklace out from under his dress robe.
"You believe in nargles now?" said Luna.
"I'm fifty-fifty on wrackspurts and crumpled horn snorkacks, but I'm about 90% sure there aren't any nargles. But I like corks." Squishy. Good for fidgeting with while bored.
"How about Minster Fudge's secret heliopath army?"
"I don't know about heliopaths, but there was a war not even 15 years ago, and Dumbledore's always said Voldemort is trying to come back. If the Ministry doesn't have a magic army of some sort, I want to know why."
"Exactly," said Luna. "It would be dereliction of duty if he didn't have a heliopath army."
They danced, arguing over whether it was heliopaths, Harry even bringing up the theory that Fudge was so incompetent and namby-pamby he didn't have any sort of secret army at all, shrugging when Luna that that was "an extreme view, and not very nice to say about Minister Fudge, who's doing his best, even if he does put goblins in pi," and the night went on.
They stood in the garden outside the Great Hall beneath stars that were brighter than usual.
Luna said, "Harry, close your eyes."
When he did, something soft and moist touched his lips. He opened his eyes, and Luna was shivering. "That is so interesting. I think I'm developing a tolerance. I didn't think you could develop tolerance to an anti-cupid, but maybe I'm wearing it down. Or they're sentimental about school dances."
The girl was pale, and slightly green. To him, it seemed to be getting worse, not better, the only improvement her ability to control her reactions. It had been interesting at first, in a lot of ways, but now it was sad.
But Luna did seem to really enjoy it, in her odd way. It was almost enough to make Harry wish he wasn't so constitutionally normal.
Harry said, "I've modified a charm so I think it'll make the Blast Ended Skrewts want to play polo with each other. Would you like to try it out tomorrow?"
Moody office was full of interesting things, including the largest sneakoscope Harry had ever seen. His own went off when he stepped in, so he brought it out of his pocket, silencing it with a drab of magic.
"Sorry sir, I forget to turn it off."
Moody looked intrigued. "Do you usually turn that off before coming into my classroom?"
Harry nodded. "Otherwise it's annoying. It goes off with Snape too, no surprise. Dumbledore also. I assume you all keep secrets."
Moody cackled. "Keep on like you are boy, and by the time you're twenty you'll set one off whenever you enter a room. You'll get to enjoy the reactions. But enough of that. I thought you were toast when your name popped out of the Goblet. I never would've thought of getting yourself expelled. Attacking Barty Crouch with the Curse of the Bogies in the middle of the Great Hall. And what you did to poor Delacour... she was licking peanut butter off the roof of her mouth for weeks."
Harry smiled. What he'd done to get himself expelled from the competition would live longer in legend than whatever the eventual champion did to win.
Moody continued, "And I understand you're getting special training, which does improves your odds of living to see 17. Still, while Flitwick is my match at poncy dueling, I'm the better fighter. The better killer. Dumbledore wants to protect you from rough violence as long as he can, but you're not a kid anymore, are you Harry? You haven't been one for years."
Lots of people told Harry he was childish and ought to act his age, but he nodded along with Moody.
"Meet me Saturday at six in the morning at the edge of the grounds." Moody took out a map and pointed to the spot. Not far past the Quidditch field. "I'll teach you what Albus doesn't think you're old enough for. Do I have to say to keep this secret?"
Harry shook his head. Nothing more being needed of him, he decided to look at all the fun devices. In addition to the largest sneakoscope he'd ever seen, the office had various dark detectors he didn't recognize, and various jars of insects.
A microscope with thumbs was near a large wooden chest pushed into the corner. He went toward it, leaned over, and accidentally kicked the chest.
Moody's shout turned him around. Their eyes met. He felt Moody's legilimency, and did exactly what he'd practiced the day before with Snape.
His shields crashed down, directing Moody into an image of a unlit red candle, and his will struck out, following the connection in the moment of vulnerability that followed a legilimens's attack being rebuffed.
There was something alive in the trunk, and Moody didn't want him looking at it.
Then Moody's shield crashed down, expelling Harry's from the man's mind. He nearly lost his balance, and he ducked when he saw Moody had his wand out, looking ready to kill, blue eye madly spinning.
"Sorry Professor, just reflex! But you can't attack my mind and expect me to not attack back!" He didn't think he should have to apologize, but the man looked upset.
"POTTER! WHAT DID YOU SEE!?"
Harry said, "Just that you're paranoid and don't want people touching your stuff. But I already knew that."
"How long have you been an occlumens?!"
"Just a few weeks," said Harry. "At first I didn't like it, but now I think it's fun, like playing the piano." Not that he played the piano. Harry had heard that instruments were boring until you got good with them, and then they were fun.
Moody took several deep breaths and said, "Good, Potter. You're ahead of where I thought. Come Saturday with that intensity, and perhaps you'll be a match for the Dark Lord yet."
What really bothered Harry was that Moody, once very agitated, had called Voldemort 'The Dark Lord,' and not sarcastically at all. What concerned Luna, Magical Creatures nerd that she was, was the thought that Moody was keeping something living in his trunk.
Luna said, "I bet he's keeping a Crumpled Horn Snorkack in that trunk."
"Luna, how is that the first explanation to come to your mind?"
"The Ministry is suppressing knowledge about Snorkacks, and Moody is an Auror. Maybe that's why he's here. Because Snorkacks have been spotted at Hogwarts."
"I still don't think- I'm sorry, you're joking."
Luna laughed at him, slapping her knees "Your face! You should've seen your face! Why would he keep snorkacks in his trunk? They'd get it dirty."
Harry hadn't had detention all year, and he missed it. And Moody's detentions would definitely be interesting. And doing something exciting together would create bonds. "Want to take a look?"
With Moody starting his fifth-year class, Harry and Luna huddled beneath Harry's invisibility cloak outside Moody's office doors.
Harry said, "What if Professor Moody has deadly traps on his door?"
Luna said, "You worry me Harry, with the crazy things you sometimes say. If Professors were allowed to put deadly traps on their doors, Fred and George would've died a long time ago." She pulled two needles from her pocket, one with a hook at the end, and set to the lock.
"Lockpicks?" Harry guessed.
"Most wizards don't even think of casting charms to stop them," said Luna, humming a tune as she worked.
Harry would've expected Moody to be one of the few who would think of that, but after several minutes, the door opened and Luna said, "Only four pins."
They slipped through, closed the door behind themselves, took off the invisibility cloak, and after having a good look around, Harry pointing out the more interesting objects he'd noticed earlier, Luna started on the box.
Harry wondered why it smelled.
After struggling longer than she had with the door, there was a bang, a flash of light, and Luna's hair stood on end.
Harry said, "You're alright? Maybe we should sto-"
A click, and Luna opened the trunk's lid.
Harry fell on his butt.
Luna said, "Professor Moody, doesn't sleeping like that hurt your back?"
Harry got back to his feet, put his wand to the man, and said, "Rennervate."
"Agh!" said Professor Moody, and punched him.
Harry fell again, and fixed his broken glasses with a muttered Reparo.
Luna said, "Constant Vigilance Harry. Hi Professor, did you find anything nice in there?"
Moody looked at the students, looked at the office, and through dry, dusty lips croaked, "Get Dumbledore."
For starters, Dumbledore sent Professor Snape off to perform some urgent task that would keep him away from Hogwarts for the next few days.
Then, at least the way Harry heard it, Dumbledore waited till the fake Moody had finished the lesson, came inside, asked the fake Moody several questions about where his classes were in the course syllabi, then politely stunned the impostor without saying a word or raising his wand.
Later, Harry was called to see the real Mad-Eye in the hospital wing, who thanked them profusely while looking twitchy as a cat that had just discovered catnip, and asked if there was anything he could do pay them back.
Luna told him he'd have to work hard to be as good of a teacher as the fake Mad-Eye Moody, and Harry asked Moody to write into his will that Harry got the "really cool eye."
That very night, Dumbledore summoned Harry to the Headmaster's office. Flitwick and McGonagall were already there, wearing serious expressions and practical clothing lacking the usual loose sleeves, and they all flooed to a house called, "Number 12 Grim Old Place."
Harry stumbled out of the fireplace, and Sirius steadied him.
"Snuffles!" said Harry, and gave the man a big hug. He looked around at the dusty, highly antiqued interior, and said, "Is this your house? It's even more depressing than I thought. How marvelous."
Sirius grinned uncertainly. He loved Harry in an abstract sense, but he'd only talked with the lad in question a few times. Sirius said, "You alright from the floo travel?"
"I wouldn't want to spend a day at it, but I like floo travel. It's like how I imagine the giant spinney teacups at amusement parks, only the teacup is falling."
An old man who looked remarkably like Dumbledore but wasn't said, "Albus, are you sure bringing the boy is a good idea?"
Dumbledore said, "I'm sure it's a horrible one. But I suspect it's necessary."
Harry was introduced around, though he already knew a good few. Remus Lupin. Arthur Weasley. Kingsley Shacklebolt. Nymphadora Tonks. Elphias Doge. Emmeline Vance. The man who looked like Dumbledore was Dumbledore's brother, which made them both Dumbledores, and they were both A. Dumbledores, which was poor planning.
Professor Dumbledore gave a speech, "We must be quick, before Voldemort discovers his servant has been discovered and vacates his hideout. I would prefer that our force were larger, but we should be plenty, and every person we add increases the odds of warning him. Understand that there are reasons for Harry Potter's presence which I cannot disclose."
Dumbledore continued, "But Harry. You are to stay at the back. You are not to charge into the fray. You are not to attack. Raise your wand only to defend yourself, or perhaps, perhaps, to cast shielding spells on your allies."
Harry nodded, and Dumbledore passed out glass jars covered in runes. "Containment vessels. They'll expand to fit your intended target, and they'll suck the target to the top, and the lid will seal automatically. Magic can enter, but not exit.
"Voldemort has made himself a homunculus. From what Crouch told us, it looks somewhat like a very ugly goblin infant, and somewhat like a snake. We would rather kill the homunculus than let it escape, but we'd rather capture it than that-killing the homunculus wins the battle. Capturing it may win the war."
Side-along apparition was a little intense for his taste, but it was quick. They appeared not far from a dilapidated old mansion, and 'cased' the place.
Harry was disappointed at realizing that this involved looking for entrances and exits, rather than encasing it in some impassable barrier.
Albus Dumbledore said, "The warding is quite poor. Neither Crouch nor Pettigrew are skilled in that art, and Voldemort is doubtless occupied with the maintaining of his homunculus. This will be quick. Go to your places and wait for my signal. When you get it, be fast and aggressive. Harry, stick with me, and be cautious."
The Order members spread out into pairs and trios, and Dumbledore began to mutter and wave his wand, working spells that Harry could feel at the edge of his mind like strands of gossamer.
The general foreboding the house gave off disappeared, and Dumbledore spoke into the flower on his lapel. "Now, and as planned. Attack!"
The old man ran toward the house, and Harry struggled to keep up.
The light of the three-quarters moon faded. A dark shape rose the ground, massive, taller than Hagrid, long arms brandishing long swords, an infernal shriek rising from where a head shouldn't be.
Dumbledore did not break stride. His wand flashed and the air filled with powder that had been stone a moment ago.
A massive wolf leapt from the darkness. Dumbledore ignored it, Harry's stupefy went through it, and it altered its trajectory in mid-air, just missing Harry.
"Finite," said Harry, and the illusion vanished.
"Intruders. ... intruders. ... meat ... prey."
"Snakes!" shouted Harry.
A tree was turning into them. Dumbledore sat ablaze.
They were to the front door when Harry saw Sirius and Lupin. He lifted his hand to wave, and tripped on the second step of the old porch, skinning his knee and twisting his ankle slightly.
"I'm fine Professor," he said, getting back to his feet.
"Remain with Remus and Sirius," said Professor Dumbledore and ran inside the house.
Harry wished he could've gone inside with Dumbledore, but intellectually he knew the importance of manning the perimeter. He backed up so he could do it properly, and caught a flash of movement. He cast a spotlight lumos, and the rat's head swiveled. It saw Harry and redoubled its pace, Lupin and Sirius after it like a shot.
Harry stayed where he was. Catching Pettigrew was part of manning the perimeter, but it wasn't the most important part.
The mansion rocked with explosions, fire blew out a window, he heard a shout of "We caught Pettigrew!" and a black wave of terror spread through him.
For an instant he thought Voldemort had dementors, but whereas dementors made him want to cower, this made him want to run. Screaming and running surrounded him, most of the others fleeing. Harry hardened his occlumency barriers, and it was like putting on sunglasses to look at the sun.
He recoiled a step, but dug his feet in, thinking of all that depended on catching Voldemort. "Do this," he muttered to himself, "and you can get a girlfriend."
The terror failed against his adamantine resolve, and a red baby flew out of the darkness.
Harry had seen some ugly babies. This was the ugliest.
Harry thought of Luna. Of Hermione, Ginny and Cho Chang. Of all the boobs and butts in the world that he'd never be able to touch if Voldemort was not defeated.
Harry whispered the spells, rapid fire, one after the other. Expelliarmus and Stupefy. The ugly baby lost its wand and hit the ground. Black mist began to rise from it, three darker spots providing the faintest suggestion of a face, and Harry swung the jar.
The jar expanded till its mouth was at least twice the size of the baby, and plunked over it, wraith and all. The baby and wraith were sucked to the top, the lid sealed, and Harry flipped the jar, shut the lid, put his wand to the glass, and said, "Avada Kedavra!"
Green light flashed, and the baby stopped twitching. The wraith lost all suggestion of a face, but pushed against the glass.
Harry said, "Avada Kedavra. Confundo. Obliviate. Obliviate. Avada Kedavra. Avada Kedavra. Avada Kedavra. Avada Kedavra. Obliviate. Avada Kedavra. Confundo. Obliviate. Avada Kedavra. Obliviate. Avada Kedavra. Confundo. Avada Kedavra. Avada Kedavra. Avada Kedavra. Obliviate. Confundo."
Dumbledore put a hand on Harry's shoulder. Voldemort's spirit, though currently immortal, was starting to look like well-beaten eggs. All those spells couldn't be good for it.
Harry said, "Avada Kedavra. Avada Kedavra. Expecto Patronus Obliviate. Confundo. Confundo. Confundo. Obliviate. Avada Kedavra. Avada Kendra. Obliviate.!"
Dumbledore conjured a fluffy armchair to sit in and watched. No doubt the frigid Voldemort thought, to the extent that he could think, that it was revenge driving the boy's frenzy, but Dumbledore knew better.
"The power he knows not," said Dumbledore.
"Avada Kedavra!" shouted Harry.
The jar on Dumbledore's desk had had three layers added and was bound in even more runes, but with a nod, Dumbledore indicated it still performed the one way magic trick, so Harry, without thinking much about it, took out his wand.
"Avada Kedavra. Obliviate. Confundo. Petrificus Totalus. Avada Kedavra. Impracticable. Avada Kedadvra. Confundo. Mucus Ad Nauseam. Avada Kedavra. Obliviate.!"
"What is he doing?" said Amelia Bones.
Dumbledore said, "It's a sort of nervous tick Harry has whenever he sees Voldemort. I am curious as to what would happen if we let Voldemort out now, but let's not find out."
Harry said, "Avada Kedavra, Avada Kedavra. Locomotor Mortis. Expelliarmus. Avada Kedavra. Avada Kedavra. Confundo." The soul within looked like a dark custard.
Amelia Bones said, "The emotional state required to use so many Killing Curses..."
Dumbledore said, "I've noticed in the past that Harry Potter feels a certain antipathy toward Voldemort. Can't think why."
Harry wondered why he'd been invited until the conversation shifted to who got to keep whisked Voldemort in a jar: Dumbledore, or the Ministry.
Dumbledore said, "As you can see, it's not properly Voldemort. It's just a dark spirit, and dark spirits, being useful ingredients in potions and wards, belong to who captured them. Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, caught this one, but he isn't up to looking after it himself. Harry, who would you rather look after it? Me or the Ministry."
Harry liked the idea of keeping it on his dresser so he could curse it whenever he liked, but if he kept it there he'd have to dust it regularly. "I'm confident that Professor Dumbledore can look after it."
Dumbledore and Amelia beat around the issue of politics and optics, and eventually Amelia Bones acceded, leaving Harry alone with Dumbledore and whisked Voldemort in jar.
Harry said, "In order to really kill Voldemort, you have to destroy the bit of his soul inside me, right?"
"Yes. I don't know a way to do that without either killing you or greatly endangering others. The simplest solution is to wait until you die in your bed at the ripe old age of 200."
"Whatever," said Harry. "Can you remove the jinx please?"
"I'll be continuing my Horcrux hunt, just to be on the safe side. I believe one of them is right here in Hogwarts. I assume I'll have your help?"
"Yeah, but later, right?"
Dumbledore sighed, and began a long incantation, swishing his wand around. After nearly a minute, he stopped, and held up a pair of crystals scissors, positioning them in the air, nothing visible between the blades.
Dumbledore muttered, "I'll just detach the anti-cupid..."
"Anti-cupid?" said Harry.
"Only a figure of speech," said Dumbledore. "Anti-cupids are mythical, and if they weren't I'd have nothing to do with them, and if I did it would have nothing to do with the low birthrates or certain pureblood families." He snipped, there was a definite sound of a taut string breaking, and Dumbledore said, "All done."
Harry wandered out of the headmaster's office, dazed by how easy it had been at the end. But it wouldn't feel real till he got a date.
Ron gave him a friendly punch on the arm, and Hermione asked if it was true that Peter Pettigrew had been caught.
Harry blinked, confirmed it, and Hermione said that was a significant blow in the fight to stop Voldemort.
Harry shrugged. He had bigger issues to worry about.
Hermione said, "You look different now. Good different."
Harry jumped, pumped his fist, and twirled down the hall laughing. Let them think he was excited about Pettigrew. "See you later!" he said, pulling out the Marauder's Map.
Coming around a corner, he ran directly into Luna and grabbed her shoulders to keep her from falling.
"Hey Luna, how are you doing?"
Luna were even wider than normal, the startlement of being bumped into fading into fear of some sort as she looked at him. Luna said, "You're not repulsive at all anymore. Is the anti-cupid jinx gone? You can ask out any girl you like."
Harry said, "Always could. I just have a much better shot at hearing 'yes' now. Speaking of which. Miss Luna Lovegood, would you care to accompany me to Hogsmeade this weekend?"
I don't use pickup lines, but I like reading them. My favorite is, "Damn girl, you make me want to get a job." That's basically this story.
Yeah, I know, I should be working on Polymagus, but it's really heavy right now. It was nice to break it up with something lighter.
If you liked this, consider getting Monstrosity by JLL on . (search the books department.)
I like the idea of Harry/Luna, but most Harry/Luna fics either make it so Luna is always right with her barmy theories, doesn't believe them after all, or is an OP seer trying to describe what she sees. I'd rather make Harry a little barmy too.