The weapon year 2

"What ... uh, who are you?" Harry asked the pint sized creature with outsize ears and huge eyes which had just popped into his bedroom.

"I is Dobby!" squeaked the being. "I is a house elf!"

"Oh, right," said Harry. "Well, do sit down, and tell me why you're here."

"The great Harry Potter sir asks me to sit down? Harry Potter sir is a mighty wizard," said Dobby.

"Not yet, but I plan to be," said Harry. "What can I do for you?"

"Oh, the great Harry Potter sir asks what he can do for Dobby!" breathed Dobby. "Dobby is to do for Mr. Harry Potter sir; Dobby's Master told Dobby he was to be Master Harry Potter's elf, if Master Harry Potter would have him!" He bobbed on the balls of his feet.

"Please sit down," said Harry, who found a bouncing Dobby more disorienting than the carts at Gringotts. Dobby gingerly sat on the edge of a chair, looking wary.

"Master Harry Potter is kind to Dobby," he said. "Dobby is almost forgetting that he had messages for Master Harry Potter, Dobby will iron his hands and shut his ears in the oven later."

"Don't do such terrible things," said Harry, sharply.

"Harry Potter sir orders Dobby not to punish himself?" Dobby gazed worshipfully at Harry.

"I do," said Harry. "What messages do you have?"

"Old Master was Lucius Malfoy, Master Harry Potter," said Dobby

"Can you just call me Harry?" asked Harry, plaintively.

"Of course, Harry Potter sir," said Dobby. "Master Lucius wanted Dobby to tell Ma ... Harry Potter that he has done more than sue for alliance. He and Mistress Narcissa have destroyed two of the Dark Lord's soul anchors." The little elf's voice changed to sound much like the incisive tones of Lucius Malfoy as he relayed the message.

"Ok, what are soul anchors?" asked Harry.

Dobby whimpered and covered his eyes with his ears.

"Wicked, wicked magics!" he whispered. "Master Lucius says, Tell Harry Potter that a soul anchor is made by a deliberate murder, splitting off a part of the soul. With a ritual, it is put into an object. While the object exists, the person who made it cannot die. The Dark Lord made several. Master Lucius Malfoy and his wife offer two destroyed as acts of good faith to the Potter alliance."

"Wow," said Harry. "I'm going to tell my aunt and uncle about this and then I'll write to Mr. Malfoy and thank him. You did a great job with the messages, Dobby. Does Mr. Malfoy mean for you to live here?"

"Yes, Master Harry Potter, sir, Dobby is Master Harry Potter's bodyguard, to whisk him away from danger with elf-apparation, and do all his cleaning and laundry and cooking and things," said Dobby.

"Right," said Harry. A maniacal being who could apparate right through supposedly heavy wards was, however, a damned powerful ally. "Can you apparate at Hogwarts?"

"Oh yes, Harry Potter, sir, I can even take you home from Hogwarts if you wants it," said Dobby.

Now that was useful.

"Good man," said Harry.

Vernon and Petunia were horrified to hear about soul anchors.

"Just when I think wizards can't get any crazier," said Vernon. "You'd better write a nice thank you letter to Mr. Malfoy and send him a bottle of expensive booze, and perfume for his lady. We'll go up to London; I know where to go."

Harry nodded. Getting bits of Voldemort killed was worth any amount of gold.

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"That's nice of Mr. Potter, a case of some really nice vintage wine, my dear, and attar of roses for my flower of a wife," said Lucius.

"He has been well trained," said Narcissa, approvingly. "I could sometimes strangle Dobby, but I do miss having a house elf capable of running errands. Lipsy does my hair beautifully and cares for my clothes, but she's completely airheaded when it comes to using her initiative."

"Any Black elves left in Grimmauld Place now nobody lives there?" asked Lucius.

"Lucius, you are a genius," said Narcissa. "Kreacher!"

A pop, and the rheumy eyed elf stood cracking his knuckles.

"Mistress Narcissa needs Kreacher?"

"Not immediately," said Narcissa, "But I'm glad you're still alive. We had to give one of our elves as a token of good will, and you may have to deal with the crazy little loon if we send you with messages to Harry Potter."

"He's only a half-blood," said Kreacher.

"Yes, but he's a powerful and useful half-blood and you will not insult him or his friends, do you understand?"

"Yes, Mistress Narcissa," said Kreacher, gloomily.

Narcissa turned to Lucius.

"Do you suppose the dark lord gave any more items to any other of his followers?" she asked.

Kreacher twisted his fingers.

"I doubt he trusted anyone as much as Bella," said Lucius. "Severus has thrown in his lot with Potter as well so he would have come to me for advice on destroying one if he had one. What is it, elf?" he demanded, as Kreacher bobbed and bowed.

"Master Lucius is not one of Master Regulus' family, so Kreacher can tell him," said Kreacher. "Master Regulus wanted to destroy an item which the Dark Lord used me to hide. Would Master Lucius be able to destroy it?"

"Kreacher, you treasure," said Narcissa. "Go and get it."

The old elf popped away and returned with the locket. Lucius nodded.

"That's one," he said. "Three down. I think he went for seven pieces so that means three more to go, six anchors and himself. Well done, elf."

Kreacher almost fainted in relief; his dear Master Regulus' will would finally be done. He could stop punishing himself by living in filth and squalor with grit inside his tea-towel.

Lucius was pleased. It might take longer to find the others, but if they could all be destroyed, when the dark lord returned, all it would take would be to get Potter in front of him to kill him. And the Malfoy family would lose no wealth to a lost cause, and would come out of it smelling even more of roses than Narcissa's perfume.

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The holidays had also been busy for Leo Bulstrode. With Lucius Malfoy on board, it was easier to do such things as to organise a steward for the Potter holdings, without interference from Malfoy's contingent. Apparently, Dumbledore had retired the former steward, but he had a grandson, and rather than offer the job to a dependant of his own, Bulstrode felt it behoved him as guardian to follow through the feudal responsibilities of the Potter heir. He did not know how such a simple act had infused the workers on the Potter lands with enthusiasm, and loyalty to their prospective lord's guardian, in contrast to the way Dumbledore had caused resentment in dispossessing some of their homes in order to use them as safe houses for the Order of the Phoenix. The new steward, one Keith Davis, once invested with the steward's ring, was able to walk right through any fidelius charm set up by Dumbledore and evict the old man's favourites and he did it with great pleasure. Dumbledore was removed from the wards on the land, as were those he had installed in cottages there. They wouldn't be able to enter any more without penalty from some quite tough wards, which Davis had strengthened by Goblin wardsmiths. And now he might see that the Potter finances were being run profitably, and to see if anyone had cheated Harry.

As it turned out, Dumbledore had not touched any of the money as such; only helped himself willy-nilly to selected deeds. There was also a vault, called the Phoenix Fund, which it appeared James had set up to be added to over the years automatically, as a fighting fund. Davis removed Dumbledore's name from the account, and rescinded his access to it. Davis had not completed his education at Hogwarts; the sacking of his grandfather had meant there were no funds for it. He loathed Dumbledore. The old man had twinkled at him fatuously when he had begged to have his grandfather employed for another two years, at which time he could take over the job, telling him that such was not for the greater good, and that doubtless he would use such education as he had received well.

Leo had also filed a lawsuit against the author of the Harry Potter books. It combined a cease and desist order with a demand for 50% of the profits from them as well as stiff compensation for the use of Harry Potter's name without the permission of a legally appointed guardian. Since Dumbledore had merely declared himself magical guardian, he had no legal right in law to have done so, and Leo smirked to think that the arrogant old twat had overreached himself.

It was added to the growing list of offences and abuses against Harry.

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Harry and his friends met up to shop in Diagon Alley.

"Did you see the booklist?" said Hermione. "Seven books by Gilderoy Lockhart, someone is a fan."

"Leo says Gilderoy Lockhart is the author of the Harry Potter books, using the pseudonym Guinevere Loveday," said Harry. Hermione made a face.

"That doesn't argue well for the credentials of our new Defence teacher," she said.

"No, indeed. I thought we could buy three sets, one Hufflepuff, one Slytherin and one Gryffindor for the twins, and share them until the idiot who sets them shows himself stupid enough for us to get rid of. I mean, at least Quirrel knew his stuff, once you got past the stammering."

"It's Gilderoy Lockhart himself; my father, being a governor, was told," said Draco. "Mother says that if you cross-reference the times and dates carefully enough, you discover he was simultaneously dealing with the Wagga-Wagga werewolf, a Yeti, and a forest troll in Barvaria, and I don't care how good a time turner and portkey he has, that violates the laws of hermetics."

"So he's a fraud?" said Susan.

"We already knew that if he's also Guinevere Loveday," said Millie.

They wandered into Flourish and Blotts.

"Ah, children! Come and be photographed with yours truly!" cried the blond ponce behind a desk with copies of his books on it, waiting to be signed. A long queue of mostly witches were waiting patiently.

"I'm sorry, Guinevere, you're not allowed to approach me as I have a court case pending against you," said Harry.

The brilliant smile slipped.

"I'm sorry, and who are you and why do you call me Guinevere?" said Lockhart.

"I'm the real Harry Potter and your pseudonym is Guinevere Loveday, and you're in violation of the restraining order my guardian took out on you in being near me or speaking to me until the court case is settled. But I tell you what, as you are here signing your pretty fictions, if you don't speak to me, and I don't speak to you, we can get around that by mutual consent, I'm not unreasonable."

"Ha... Harry? But you don't look anything like ..."

"Like the pictures of my father doctored to have my mother's eyes supplied by the headmaster, in breach of trust and illegally? No," said Harry.

"But my dear boy, when I am teaching you ..."

"If the headmaster has been so foolish as to ask you to teach, I will not be able to legally attend any class of yours. Don't worry, I have studied ahead in real text books," said Harry.

"I wrote those books about you in good faith!" yelled Lockhart. "You little brat, do you want to beggar me?"

"Well, yes, actually," said Harry. "Because if I had looked like that, you'd have been painting a target on my back for any stray Death Eaters, so I consider you guilty of child endangerment."

Lockhart drew his wand and Harry raised a hand. The blond flew backwards, transfiguring as he went, his robe now a rather sleazy female robe, and his shape definitely female.

She was not as pretty as a woman as he had been as a man, but she now had curls in her long blonde hair.

"Let's go shop," said Harry.

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Hermione and Harry, who had read about runes, set up their carriage on the train with the drawing of a number of useful runes which expanded it to fit all their friends. This was twelve of them, including the twins, and fourteen when Fred and George brought along their sister Ginny and Ginny's friend Luna.

"Luna sees things the rest of us don't," said Fred. "She's as sharp as a knife, though, don't let the dreamy air put you off. And Ron refused to look out for Ginny so we brought her along."

Harry tried not to shudder. He remembered the girl whining last year that she wanted to see Harry Potter. As she was introduced her eyes filled with tears.

"Ron says you're an imposter," she said. "Where's the real Harry Potter?"

"Sister, I'm the only Harry Potter," said Harry, "and your brother is a moron."

"Well, let me see the scar, then," said Ginny.

The windows started rattling and Millie rubbed Harry's back the way she had seen Petunia do, and Hermione grabbed a hand.

"Weasley," said Harry, in an arctic tone which had the twins wincing, "I have decent guardians who arranged treatment for the wound I received on that night. So that I would not have a reminder that it was the night my parents were murdered, which I can still remember, you bitch!"

The twins hastened Ginny out of the carriage.

"Y-you h-had your ch-ch-chance and you blew it," said George.

"We warned you he wasn't like those stupid books," said Fred.

"And th-th-then you insult th-the chap wh-who p-paid for a m-mind healer for us, and for our convalescent stay," said George. "S-sorry little s-sister, but you are on your own."

"I always thought whoever wrote those books was infested by wrackspurts," said Luna. "Hello Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Millicent Bulstrode, Hannah Abbot, Susan Bones, Cousin Draco, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, Justin Finch-Fletchley and Neville Longbottom. Did I remember everyone?"

"Very well done," said Harry, impressed. "Wrackspurts?"

"They infest people who have fuzzy thinking," said Luna. "There aren't many in here."

"We appear to be thirteen," said Draco as the twins came back in.

"You aren't superstitious are you, Cousin Draco?" asked Luna. "That attracts wrackspurts"

"Er, no ..." said Draco.

"It's a good prime number," said Hermione. "Arithmantically, prime numbers can be very powerful."

"Goblins use them a lot in curse breaking," said Harry.

"Here, you two, how do you know all that?" demanded Fred. "We haven't done any more than touch on prime numbers in arithmancy."

Hermione and Harry exchanged a look, and looked at the twins pityingly.

"Studied ahead," they said, in unison.

"Crumbs, they're t-twins," said George.

Harry grinned and his hair became brown and as wild and bushy as Hermione's and his eyes became the same toffee colour.

Their friends stared with open mouths.

"You're a metamorphagus," said Fred.

"I had to work at it though, it didn't come naturally," said Harry. "Only my hair never would change, it didn't grow, and it grew back if it was cut. I learned to use willpower to control it." He melted into his original appearance. "You see, it won't lie flat. So I learned to control it to go to Smeltings," he displayed his neat schoolboy hair, "and then I decided it would be neat to prank Dumbledore royally by looking like my mother."

"Th-that," said George,

"Is a right royal prank," breathed Fred.

"I've only just started to learn to be a bit like other people," said Harry. "I thought I might prank Snape by going to class looking like him, only younger, which you can't do with polyjuice."

"Now that is priceless," said Fred.

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Luna Lovegood, after a long discussion with the sorting hat, went into Hufflepuff with many of her new friends. Plainly they were not averse to knowledge, so being in Ravenclaw became superfluous, especially as she was fairly sure some of the older 'Claws were infested with nargles. Some of the Hufflepuffs had wrackspurts, but that was a less pernicious infestation.

"And this year's Defense against the Dark Arts teacher is Gil ... er, Guinevere Loveday," said Dumbledore, glaring at Harry. Lockhart had not managed to reverse the transfiguration, and nor had Dumbledore. It might be said that Harry had not studied enough biology to be entirely familiar with female anatomy, so that below the waist, Lockhart was still male as Harry had had no intention of messing with anything as weird as females. As he said to Millie, he never wanted to be a plumber. It had frustrated Dumbledore that Harry had spoiled Gilderoy's beauty, and that he, the most powerful wizard of the age, was unable to undo it.

What Dumbledore failed to appreciate, largely because he did not know, was that Harry did wordless magic by thinking in parseltongue. And only another parselmouth could undo it. And as Harry did not realise this, he could not advise anyone on the matter.

Harry gazed limpidly back, running through a mathematical calculation sufficiently complex to make Dumbeldore reach to pinch the bridge of his nose with an incipient headache as the old man tried to access Harry's surface thoughts.

Harry beamed.

It was, he thought, going to be a really good year.

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"Harry, my boy, I believe I must take you to task for your assault upon Gilderoy Lockhart and your legal hounding of him," the Headmaster twinkled benignly.

"It's not a school matter, so you have no cause to take me to task," said Harry. "I initiated the legal proceedings before I knew you had employed him ... her ... it ... and indeed it would never have occurred to me that you would have employed someone who is demonstrably fraudulent in their claims in those farcical books. As my cousin, Draco, says, the idea of having a time turner and a portkey good enough to be in three such disparate places at the same times violates the laws of hermetic energy preservation and makes a mockery of Emeric Switch's laws of temporal continuity."

"That's a NEWT level concept!" Dumbledore yelped.

"I like to read ahead," shrugged Harry. "So does Draco. Switch's laws of extrinsic locomotion by precision permit the use of a portkey even with the use of a time-turner, although it is risky, but because of the introduction of extrinsic precision by temporal repetition, the likelihood of a portkey splinch for being in three places at one time is raised exponentially and is around 3,745.442 against arriving in one piece."

"Oh," said Dumbledore, who used sheer power to look impressive and was shaky on some of the theory.

Harry did not mention that he had made up the statistic out of whole cloth; it worked for Mr. Spock.

"Moreover, as Lockhart raised wand against me in public, I believe I am permitted to defend myself," said Harry. "I did not have my wand out, as it's against the law, so I had to rely on accidental magic to defend me as best it might. I cannot be held responsible for the way magic interpreted my subconscious thoughts when threatened by a crazy person who was violating my rights and a legal injunction."

"You've been talking to Lucius Malfoy."

"Of course; he's said to be the most slippery and ruthless man in the wizarding world. An excellent ally."

"You must be careful, Harry, in case he leads you into darkness."

"Headmaster, you are so obsessed by darkness, I think it's you who are overcome by it."

"Upon my soul!"

"Yes, I fear that is where it has lodged," said Harry, shaking his head and looking disappointed. "The road to Hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. I am so sorry for you."

Dumbledore gobbled wildly as Harry smiled at him and made his escape.

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"Mr. Potter, I am informed that you cut Defense against the Dark Arts," said Madam Sprout, disapprovingly.

"Not strictly true; I did not go to the classroom containing Gilderoy Lockhart, but I studied in the library during the lesson," said Harry.

"Mr. Potter, you cannot fail to attend a lesson on a whim."

"It's not a whim, Madam Sprout, as the headmaster should have informed you, it is on the instructions of my magical guardian and my solicitor, since the action between Mr. Lockhart, in his persona as Miss Loveday, is sub judice. He is forbidden from approaching me closer than twenty feet, and that would put him at a distinct disadvantage in trying to teach the rest of the class. I have been instructed to keep up with my studies during the time I am not able, legally, to be in a classroom with the defendant."

Pomona Sprout blinked.

"Why are you at legal loggerheads with him?" she asked.

"Well, Madam Sprout, if you feel a need to ask that, perhaps you should not be in charge of children," said Harry. "I consider it a clear case of child endangerment, abuse, and exploitation, but if you consider it suitable for children to be subjected to libel behind their backs, with no recourse to prevent this, then I am wondering why you are a Hufflepuff, and claim to be loyal to your Badgers; I am rather hurt by such a callous attitude to my sufferings."

"Mr. Potter, I have no idea what you are talking about, when has Mr. Lockhart libelled you?"

"Well, I believe the first Harry Potter book came out in 1982, so any time the last ten years," said Harry.

"He wrote those ridiculous books? But surely you cannot take such things seriously?"

"Madam Sprout, I am going to invoke the Badger Secrecy Code," said Harry. "I am a metamorphagus. I used to look like the child on the front of those travesties, until I was able to will myself to be different. Do you really think that letting the public know what Harry Potter looks like adds to my safety from those who blame me for the death of their megalomaniac moron? And do you think I would have enjoyed being mobbed by people when I joined the wizarding world, into which, had Dumbledore had his way, I would have tumbled unaware, untrained in etiquette, unknowing of why I was being mobbed? Really, you think that's a reasonable thing to do to a child?"

Madam Sprout paled as Harry took on his original appearance.

"No, Mr. Potter, it is not a reasonable thing to do to any child, and I excuse you from Lockhart's classes. The headmaster has much to answer for if he truly wanted you ignorant."

"I agree, but I'm not ready to bring my suit against him yet," said Harry, resuming what he now thought of as his normal appearance. "I apologise for accusing you wrongly, as you plainly had no idea, but so many adults seem to see me as a pawn."

"Nobody uses my badgers as pawns," said Madam Sprout, grimly. "However, I think you would have the moral high ground if you put Mr. Lockhart back to his natural appearance."

"I'm not sure what a boggart looks like," said Harry, looking apologetic.

"Mr. Potter!"

Harry grinned at her and she shook her head, tutting at him.

Harry chose lunchtime to rearrange Guinevere Loveday into Gilderoy Lockhart, and the wizard resumed his normal appearance with a falsetto squawk and a coughing fit as he had a mouthful of pumpkin juice at the time. His suddenly loose d├ęcolletage dangled unbecomingly.

"Ah, Harry, I am glad you have seen sense," said Dumbledore.

Harry gave him a bovine look.

"What do you mean, sir?" he asked.

"Why, restoring Mr. Lockhart," said Dumbledore.

"Did I?" said Harry, sounding surprised. "How did I do that?"

Dumbledore's smile became quite glassy.

"Well, it is done, and that is the main thing," he said.

"I need to go and change; I look terrible, and my hair is out of place!" wailed Lockhart.

Harry glanced quickly across at the Weasley twins. They smirked.

Gilderoy Lockhart was about to find how out of place his hair could be.

He would be almost as unhappy as Dumbledore, who seemed to be squirming a lot in his seat, and scratching surreptitiously. The itching he was suffering from did not seem to dissipate with the strongest of finite incantatems, or the anti-itching potion Severus had brewed for him.

Dumbledore had never heard of muggle itching powder.

He had never, unlike Sir Humphrey Davy, lived under the odium of having discovered sodium either. No amount of finite incantatem would stop his shower head pouring out sparks, and Scarpin's Revellaspell did not reveal what kind of spell it was. Harry was fond of chemistry, and Dobby was a willing confederate.

Lockhart actually fled naked down the corridor when they did it to him, but unfortunately it was only witnessed by other staff members or he might have been sacked for indecent exposure. Snape declared he needed an obliviate to cover the horror.

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Severus Snape almost dropped the vial he was holding when he looked up at his second year Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw class and saw, instead of Harry Potter, a young version of himself. He blinked, and it was Harry again. Snape rubbed his eyes. He was spending too much of the midnight oil trying to get information out of Albus for Lucius to search for more soul anchors.

He glanced back.

The semblance of James Potter appeared, and morphed into a young Snape again.

"Potter," said Snape, "Detention."

"Yes sir," said Harry, cheerfully.

Detentions with Professor Snape were usually disgusting, but interesting. As Harry had said, the first time he was gutting horned toads for deliberately adding porcupine quills to Mandy Brocklehurst's cauldron as revenge for her trying to bully Neville, he would make a better job of making useable potions ingredients if he know exactly what he was doing, and why.

He grinned at the potions master when he turned up for detention.

"You have a need to know, sir, that I'm a metamorphagus," he said. "I thought I'd make a graphic demonstration of it."

"You're a cheeky brat, Potter."

"Sir, please, flattery is unbecoming to a Slytherin of your standing."

"Potter!"

"Uncle Severus?"

"What?" Snape spluttered.

"Well, if my mother was alive, you'd have been my Uncle Sev, wouldn't you?" said Harry. "Although I suspect if she hadn't been poisoned you'd have been my father, but there's no point dwelling on might have beens. I thought I'd adopt you, we're good enough friends, now, aren't we?"

"You're still a cheeky brat."

Part of him was saying to himself 'and you could have been my cheeky brat.'

"Wasn't the Dark Lord charming?"

"Yes, and as Tom Riddle at school he was very charming indeed, apparently," said Snape.

"I'll see his charming, and raise it by cute," said Harry.

"I eat cute for breakfast," said Snape.

"Don't you think it tremendously Slytherin of me to be cute? Madam Sprout almost patted me on the head when I said I was puzzled to turn Lockhart back as I have no idea what a boggart looks like."

"One day, someone is going to strangle you."

"Yes, sir, it's one of the things I have to live with, that someone out there wants me dead, and my headmaster is happily trying to push me into the barrel of the loose cannon known as Voldemort. Why do you think I play the odd prank? It takes my mind off the thought that I might die before I leave school."

Snape regarded him.

"A death mark's not an easy thing to live with," he said, with a straight face.

"Oy, who died and made you General Rieekan?" said Harry. "I am not Han Solo. Actually, I'd rather be Han Solo than Luke Skywalker, so I'll stop complaining."

"Just sit down and eviscerate iguanas industriously for me."

"Yessir."

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"Ginny, I think you've picked up an infestation of nargles," said Luna, absently stopping Ginny from dropping something into her cauldron. "Why are you upset with me?"

"You are happy to hang around the imposter! I hate him, and I hate you!" declared Ginny.

"I don't understand you, Ginevra Weasley," said Luna, gravely. "Why should a real boy look like a fictional character? The adventures in those books which have stolen his name are ridiculous, and no real boy would be able to manage them. Really, do you think any five-year-old could face a manticore?"

"But he's the Boy-Who-Lived," whined Ginny.

"He's a boy who was orphaned when his mother's protection spell killed her, not him," said Luna, sharply.

"Ten points to Hufflepuff, for being sensible, Miss Lovegood and ten points each from Gryffindor and Hufflepuff for yammering on about your putridly putative and puerile pre-pubescent Potter possessiveness." Snape smirked.

"Thank you, sir," said Luna, gravely. "That chased away a lot of blibbering humdingers."

"Miss Weasley," said Snape, "I could not have put better what Miss Lovegood said about a fictional character. You would surely not expect to associate me with a fictional book whose central character happened to be named Severus Snape, a golden-haired child of infinite goodness, who says 'Hello clouds, hello sky' as he skips lightly out into his adventures?"

"No sir!" said Ginny, revolted.

"Good; then please do Mr. Potter the same courtesy of not imbuing him with the equally loathsome characteristics of the fictional character who shares a name with him," said Snape.

"But he's not loathsome, he's a hero!" said Ginny.

"There are five places in the first book where he would have died without fiction saving him, and I threw up when I tried to stomach the second one," said Snape. "Any boy who acted like that would hardly be likely to survive to get to Hogwarts, let alone to his majority, and if you ask me it would be an improvement to the general heritance pool if such a creature was duly mauled by manticores, hammered by hippogriffs, jellied by giants and traumatised by trolls. It is a travesty, a monster, and is most fortunately not real."

Ginny sulked for the rest of the lesson.

Luna sighed. Ginny had been a good friend until she had got it into her head that this impossible Boy-Who-Lived was her knight in shining armour and was destined one day to become Mr. Ginevra Weasley. Luna did not think that Ginny had thought through the implications of marriage being a partnership, but then, she had a poor life example in her father, Mr. Molly Prewett.

Luna was wondering whether her inner badger should try to save Ginny from herself, or whether she should remind herself that they had always played the games Ginny wanted to play, and turn aside to spend all her time with the new friends who asked what she, Luna, wanted to do. Even Cousin Draco, who could be a bit of a pill when he got on his high horse, wasn't quite as selfish and demanding as Ginny could be. Luna sighed. It wasn't Ginny's fault; she was the much-wanted daughter after the six also-rans, the sixth of whom was definitely not wanted, which didn't help Ron's disposition much either. However, one had to wonder how far one could go to help people who didn't even know they needed help, without being too badly hurt oneself.

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"We're sorry ..."

"Ab-bout G-Ginny..."

"We tried to talk sense into her."

"S...so did L-Luna..."

"But she's being as big an arse as Ron. Even Percy has been reasonable, actually, he's fairly decent, and he believes about Voldemort being back and Dumbldore trying to keep us quiet," Fred was the one who spoke most at the moment.

"H-he says D-Dumbledore t-tried to offer him extra p-pocket money to k-keep an eye on Harry," managed George,

"Because he assumed you'd be in Gryffindor. And Percy, whilst hating being poor, was incensed at the idea of being bribed to be a snitch on a kid. He only picks on us when we are misbehaving where he can't ignore it," said Fred. "He started questioning Dumbledore's motives, and our parents."

"And w-we t-told him, w-we think he's p-p-potioned our p-p-parents," said George.

Harry sighed.

"I haven't shared with everyone that I believe my mother was potioned to fall in love with my father," he said. "And I think my parents and Neville's were both set up for their fidelius to be betrayed, as an experiment to see if an old spell would kill Voldemort. I go and have chats with Professor Snape about my mum, as he was her boyfriend from the time they were eight until she suddenly took up with my father, who she used to heartily dislike, in the seventh year."

"Suspicious any?" said Neville, in a hard voice. "Our wards should not have failed."

"Professor Snape thinks that Sirius Black might have been under the Imperius curse to betray my parents," said Harry. "But what's done is done, and it's wandered off the point. I know you love your kid sister, George, Fred, but she's a pain, and I won't have anything to do with her."

"Understood, mate," said Fred. "But we are going to try to get through to her."

"And nobody wants to stop you," said Harry. "Given up on Ronald, have you?"

They both rolled their eyes.

"M-meantime," said George, "W-watch Lockhart's hair t-t-tomorrow."

"It'll be wicked," said Fred.

It kept Lockhart irritable while Harry brewed a surreptitious potion to insert into candies for the idiot for Christmas.

Amortentia was a jolly difficult potion to make, and it had not been easy getting hold of a sample of Centaur hair as the active ingredient of the recipient.

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Lockhart did not even come to breakfast, and apparently turned up for classes wearing a turban. This caused the twins to scream and scream, and blubber artistically all over Poppy Pomfrey about it bringing back memories of being attacked by Professor Quirrel.

The 'Puffs used wingardium leviosa wandlessly to remove the turban at lunch time, revealing hair which was puke green, and each lock ending in the head of some lizard-like creature. The fact that they were humming the theme from Godzilla was a giveaway.

Harry absently dropped a time delay spell on both hair and turban so that if resumed, the turban would dissolve at dinner time, at which point the Godzillas would morph into Jabba the Hutt, singing 'Lapti Nek.' With added writhing.

Dumbledore was still itching, and his hands and face were black. No spell or potion was able to remove the effects of muggle black-face soap either. He was being served bad cuts of meat and soggy vegetables as well, since he had torn his sheets and irritated the house elves, not knowing how to cope with an apple-pie bed.

Dobby had been extremely useful in accessing Dumbledore's private rooms. As a side effect, Harry now owned several books with book labels saying 'property of Potter Manor' which appeared to have stuck to the Headmaster's fingers as well. One of them explained all about horcruxes.

The same book contained a ritual to exorcise ghosts, and Harry found that very interesting.

Dumbledore kept looking at Harry, and half opening his mouth, but considering the outrageously litigious nature of the boy, he hardly dared accuse him of stealing his own family's books.

The waffling logic and the nand gates required to set up conditions to activate runic spells on the flagstones had been tricky, but Hermione had licked the arithmancy into shape, so that if any wizard wearing wildly flamboyant robes walked on the affected flags, there was a loud farting noise. Both Dumbledore and Lockhart might take stomach calming potions and negate the flatulence curse all they liked, but when they stood on the stones they had to stand on to exit or enter the great hall, they still seemed to fart loudly.

A surprise catch was Lucius Malfoy, who came purely to make trouble by needling Dumbledore, although his robes were not flamboyant in the sense the pranksters had meant. Draco looked horrified when his father's robes made the stones fart. Lucius, surprised, stepped back, setting off the farting again. He walked back and forth a few times, peering at the flags.

"Excellent rune work," he said, and swept forward to the staff table, after getting his wand out of his snake-headed stick to modify the rune work slightly. "I think that will do what you intended, whoever you are," he said.

"Rune work, Lucius?" queried Dumbledore, in a strained voice.

"Of course, you didn't study runes or arithmancy, did you, Albus?" said Lucius. "Very sophisticated, you must be delighted you have upper classmen able to pull off such a sweet piece of waffling logic as well. I'm not staying, I'm just running an errand for a friend of mine, I have a few letters and so on for Mr. Potter."

"Indeed, Lucius? And what have you brought?"

"Really, Albus, do you expect me to delve into private correspondence? What low manners you must think me to have," said Lucius. "Have you met Mr. Potter's guardians? Delightful people, Vernon and I got on like a house on fire, he is a most talented man with investment, we've been discussing how best to maximise our share portfolios without interfering with each other."

Lucius, like Leo, had been amazed at how he had managed to have a conversation with a muggle without feeling like sneering at him. He was also learning a lot about muggle weaponry, satellites and computers which made him very pleased he had changed sides.

Muggles were not helpless once you seriously irritated them.

And Malfoy Manor might be Unplottable, but Lucius had no desire to be a small pile of ash in the big hole in the part of the country formerly known as Wiltshire.

He had brought legal paperwork for Harry to look at and a box of muggle goodies from Petunia, as Harry had grumbled that wizards did not have such essentials to civilised living as ginger snaps, jammie dodgers and mars bars. Dobby had learned to make spaghetti Bolognese and had taught the kitchen elves, as well as pollo carbonara al funghi, chicken tikka mossala, onion bhajias and Mongolian lamb. Harry had his food prejudices. And there was no point having a house elf if the house elf didn't arrange the food his master wanted.

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Christmas came around, and Harry had Dobby leave the doctored chocolate cauldrons on Lockhart's desk. He only regretted that he would not be around to see what would happen. Christmas day would be at Bulstrode Manor again, and Hermione was spending the whole Christmas break with Millie, as her parents were on a skiing holiday.

The really bright spot of the holidays was the report in the Daily Prophet of how Gilderoy Lockhart was in St Mungos, having been rescued from the centaurs by Hagrid, as the centaurs accused him of lewd and unnatural acts. He was said to be very traumatised.

Hagrid was reported as saying that Lockhart was not the only one traumatised, as Ronan was also very upset by the whole incident, and declared himself quite unequined.

Lockhart had tendered his resignation as a teacher, and the letters to the Prophet were indignant about having such a creature teaching the poor innocent children.

The poor, innocent children who had been a party to the brewing high-fived each other.

"It's what comes of wanting to be the centaur of attention," said Draco.

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There was a new teacher at the staff table in the new year. She looked like a pink toad.

"Since we are without a DADA teacher earlier than usual this year, the Ministry has kindly sent Madam Umbridge to help guide you," said Dumbldore. He looked sour. "I am sure that you will welcome her. Now, we are hoping with the coming of spring ..."

"Hem hem," said Umbridge.

Dumbldore stared at her, and she gave him a sickly smile and emitted a girlish giggle. Harry felt chills down his spine.

Umbridge went on,

"Following the pernicious fraudulent perversions of your previous teacher, I am sure you will be delighted to work with me towards a world in which no excesses will be permitted. An excess of independent thought is to blame for the majority of the ills in our world, and such perversions need to be stamped out ..." she went on in this vein, and Harry sat, frowning, making notes, and occasionally underlining words.

"She sounds a real bundle of laughs," said Hannah, back in the Hufflepuff common room.

Harry waved a lazy hand and the notes he had been taking transferred to the blackboard the 'Puffs kept on one wall for making notes, scoring games and quizzes and so on

"Note," said Harry, "Her main thesis is the stamping out of individuality. The idea that thinking for ourselves is dangerous, and that we should only think what the ministry tell us to think when they tell us to think it. This woman is dangerous. Keep your heads down, 'Puffs, and stay safe. I'm going to go pass this on to the other houses."

"Wouldn't they have got it?" asked Cedric Diggory, a boy in the fifth year.

"I don't think so," said Harry. "'Claws are too academic to work out the meaning, Gryffs are too beef-witted, the Slythers might get there. Mind, I don't have any friends amongst the 'Claws so they'll have to try and figure it out by themselves."

He slid off with his invisibility cloak, to find Draco trying to explain it to Greg and Vince. He and Millie were looking grim. Harry added his two knuts worth, and Greg said,

"You mean she wants us to be good little inferii, spelled to do what the minister says?"

"More or less got it in one, Greg," said Harry.

"Sounds like Voldemort to me," said Vince.

Harry shrugged.

"Who knows? Maybe the minister is on Tommy Riddle's payroll."

The twins in Gryffindor had also worked it out.

"It's us she's targeting," said Fred.

"Then lie through your teeth and say that Dumbledore reassured you about it just being an isolated madman," said Harry.

"We w-will," said George. "Not sure Percy will, though."

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Percy became increasingly tired looking as the term went on, white faced and sunken eyed, and finally the twins pulled him into the classroom next to the Hufflepuff common room which Harry and co had commandeered as their own.

"Show Harry," said Fred.

Percy flushed, and showed Harry a hand into which was inscribed 'I must not tell lies'.

"It's this weird kind of quill," said Percy. "There's no ink but as you write it scratches out your own blood. She's had me writing lines 'until I get the point' because I said that Voldemort had been inhabiting Quirrel's body."

"That's a blood quill and it's illegal," said Draco. "Didn't McGonagall go ape-shit when you told her?"

Percy flushed.

"I said I was getting a lot of lines, and she just told me to keep my head down," he said. "She must know and approve."

"I doubt that," said Draco. "Listen, I know she's punished people who complained about her by owl, she's set a ward on the owl loft; but now is the time to use Dobby to take a letter to my father, Harry; and I'll ask Uncle Sev to find out if any of those punished for sending letters have been subject to this blood quill too."

"Right away," said Harry, starting to write a letter. He paused, and wrote a second letter, which he addressed to Vernon, and called Dobby to deliver them both.

"Essence of murtlap," said Hermione, to Percy, heaving some out of her potions pouch. All of Harry's private army now carried a potions pouch, and hold-out pistols.

"Thanks," said Percy, in deep relief as the murtlap soothed his wounds.

"You should have told us sooner," scolded Hermione.

"Yes, ma'am," said Percy, meekly.

Millie just held Harry's hand, tightly. She had almost spoken out in class, and was glad now she had not. Tracey Davis had spoken up and she had been given detention.

"I'm going straight to Uncle Sev," said Draco.

Harry nodded to him.

He did not think that the ministry was likely to prosecute Umbridge, however illegal a blood quill might be. That was why he was planning on killing her and has asked Uncle Vernon for certain items.

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Harry received a pot plant from his uncle.

"What's that?" asked Neville, interested.

"It's a castor oil plant," said Harry. "I want to encourage it to go on seed, can you do your plant whisperer thing for me?"

"Sure," said Neville. "Private potions project?"

"Something along those lines," said Harry.

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It is ridiculously easy to make ricin from a castor oil plant, and a skilled potioneer like Harry had no trouble at all. He captured a number of doxies, and removed the sting from one. Coating it in ricin, he loaded it into an ostrich feather quill with a spring, with a fine line to the tip, which he deliberately spoiled.

He charmed the feather to be pink, making it exactly resemble Madam Umbridge's favourite quill. He swapped quills, and let out the doxies he had captured.

At some point, she would trim the point, releasing the line holding the spring, and the doxy sting could hardly miss a fat toad like her.

They could treat her for fairy flu, or allergic reaction to doxy venom until they were black in the face. So long as nobody thought to use a bezoar, she was walking dead. The spring was strong enough to put the sting right through her pink cardigan and robes if need be.

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Madam Umbridge swatted at doxies in the DADA classroom. An unidentified voice at the back of the room said,

"Does the ministry advocate letting people be stung by doxies, or is this actually something we're allowed to use our wands for?"

"Who said that?" Umbridge glared. Nobody admitted to the comment.

"You're all in detention until you tell me who said that," said Umbridge. "What?" as Harry raised a hand.

"Do you have enough blood quills to go round?" he asked, politely. "I mean, being controlled dark items, getting twenty of them for the class must be challenging."

Umbridge went white.

"You don't know what you are talking about. Now hand in your essays, and Potter, stand in the corner."

Harry smirked inside. She always wrote on essays. The quill would do its business, and he had a whole class of fellow students as an alibi that he was facing the wall the whole time.

Presently he heard her give a yelp, and then she was firing on doxies, knocking them out of the air with an underpowered blasting curse. The sound of ricochets and the odd bit of plaster falling suggested that the doxies had really upset her.

Pity he hadn't thought of them as a softening up exercise.

Oh well, a nest of them in Dumbledore's favourite robes would be a good idea another time.

The ricin would not act quickly.

Poppy Pomfrey probably would not even think of Doxy venom because that was fast acting on those who were allergic.

It would look like a cold until suddenly it was too serious to cure.

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The governors arrived in force.

"Dumbledore, what's this about you employing a damned death eater?" demanded Frederick MacMillan.

"I assure you, I have every confidence in Severus Snape," said Dumbledore, smiling benignly.

"Not your spy, the toad in the cardigan," said MacMillan. "The bitch who has used a dark item to torture pure blooded children of good family. And others too."

"I beg your pardon?" Dumbledore was taken aback.

"That witch has been using a blood quill," said Lucius. "My son sent me photographs of the victims' hands and their written affidavits. Now are you going to send for the DMLE or am I?"

"Preposterous!" cried Dolores Umbridge, spoiling it with a sneeze. She dabbed at her nose, which had been running most uncomfortably all day.

"Would those who have been writing lines with a blood quill please stand," said Lucius. "I assure you that there will be no retribution; I am as concerned for your well being as I am for my son's."

A number of children over a selection of houses stood, including Percy.

McGonagall gasped.

"Mr. Weasley, when you complained about the number of lines you were writing, why didn't you tell me it was with a bluid quill?"

"I assumed you knew, ma'am," said Percy. "Besides, I didn't know what it was until Draco told me."

"Madam Umbridge is severely infested with nargles," said Luna, dreamily, having had to write 'I must not make up nonsense.' "I'm afraid it might be a fatal infestation."

Harry sighed.

Luna was inclined to say exactly what she saw, however inconvenient that might be.

It was just as well nobody took her ability to see auras seriously. Only Harry had asked her to draw people infested with nargles and wrackspurts, and she had carefully drawn the colours she saw in the auras, with the hard black knots in the auras of those inclined to cruelty, and the wavy nature of the lines like blue worms of those who could not organise their thoughts.

"I will ask Madam Bones to bring a couple of aurors," said McGonagall, grimly, "to arrest this dark witch."

"I'll have you sacked if you do, I have the confidence of the minister to subdue the subversive elements in Hogwarts!" cried Umbridge.

"Weel, if the shilpit wee sumpf has aye authorised the use o' bluid quills for punishment, I'll see his shifty wee arse in jail alongside yours," said McGonagall.

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The aurors arrived rapidly, and Lucius showed them Draco's carefully documented evidence. Dolores Umbridge was going to find herself in a holding cell, being questioned over how much the minister had known.

And she was going to be someone else's responsibility when she died, so things could not really have worked out better.

It was a week before the arrest of Minister Fudge on conspiracy to torture charges was in the Daily Prophet, and a brief passage about the death of Undersecretary Umbridge in custody, believed to have been assassinated by an unknown strain of Dragonpox on the orders of the minister.

Hogwards was again without a DADA teacher.

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The case against Gilderoy Lockhart alias Guinevere Loveday went through smoothly and without fuss. Lockhart was found to have infringed a minor's rights, and was subject to a cease and desist, and a fine for not verifying that he had true permission. However, the royalties had been paid to a third party Lockhart had believed to have been the boy's guardian, and he had received permission and pictures from the said supposed guardian. Lockhart was allowed off with that small fine and a slap on the wrist, in return for providing the DMLE with full disclosure regarding his Dealings with Dumbledore, which would, said Madam Bones, have made a more action-packed book than any of the other alliterative rubbish he had written.

She did not promise him immunity from prosecution over any misdeeds found to have been committed over the writing of his populist defence books; and he forgot to ask for it.

That would be a prosecution for another day, and he had lost enough credibility to suffer appropriately for the trash he had perpetrated about Harry.