Chapter 2 – How it begins

A routine started pretty soon, starting the next day. Their schedules were handed to them in the morning, at breakfast, and Harry followed the routine, only needing help and directions one time, since he was building a map of the school in his head. It was just a bunch of lines, at this point, showing him where he'd gone, and the general layout of any given hallway.

Harry had started adding things like tags, to locations, and then associating them with his 'map'. After a week, he'd gotten most of the castle, and he started filling out the map, in his head, by going to places he'd not been before, taking different routes, and taking note of things like the trick step on the moving staircase.

Professor McGonagall was a strict, but very knowledgeable teacher. She needed to be strict, though, because it turns out her subject, Transfiguration, had many rules. There were reasons, and Harry made a list of questions, as the rules were mentioned, which he inevitably asked her about after class, since he didn't want to interrupt her class.

The first such occasion was after their first class.

"Why can't we transfigure solids into gasses?" Harry asked, after approaching the teacher. There was a break, and then a free period, before Defence Against the Dark Arts.

"Well, the simplest answer is that it's completely possible." McGonagall said, liking the fact that Harry was curious about her subject. His father was very good at Transfiguration, too, but he'd had no problem asking questions in class, and interrupting her flow. "It's just that you shouldn't. Transfiguration changes things, more often than not, temporarily. Let's say we turn this table into air, shall we? What would happen if you breathed that air in, and it turned back into a part of a desk, while it was still in your lungs?" she asked, giving him a look.

Harry nodded, in understanding. "Good point." he allowed. "So, then, what about if you know how long the transfiguration will last?" he asked.

"Well, can you guarantee that you won't still have that same air in your lungs, an hour from now?" McGonagall asked. "Or that part of it will be in your blood?" Harry's eyes widened, and the professor nodded. "Yes, there are very serious issues that could happen with things like that, which is why the various subjects you learn, have been researched and studied. The rules are there to protect you, so even if you don't understand them, you really do have to follow them."

"Yes, Professor." Harry said, nodding. "But, would you mind if I asked questions, anyway. I find that understanding something, makes it easier to remember why I should or shouldn't do something."

"Can't just do what you're told?" the Professor asked, strictly.

"I can." Harry assured her. "I just know myself well enough, to know that if it's never explained, I'll likely eventually try something, even if the rules forbade it, because I'll want to know if it is possible. I'd rather not hurt myself or someone else, though. If you told me I couldn't fly, but you told me that it's never been done, rather than that it is impossible, I may one day attempt doing just that, because who wouldn't want to fly?"

McGonagall considered him for a moment. It was all very logical, and even though she preferred people following her orders as they were given, she also liked knowing the young boy was at least being honest with her. His motivations weren't wrong, either. Just because something had never been done, doesn't necessarily mean that it's impossible. "Flying is possible. You'll be taking your first flying lesson this weekend, if I'm not mistaken."

"Oh, I know, professor." Harry said. "It was just an example."

McGonagall nodded. "Very well, then. If you have questions, and you intend to experiment, please do ensure to ask either an older student, or you can come to me, as your head of house, to help you. I would prefer that you do not experiment on anything, until you know all the rules, though."

"Yes, professor." Harry said, nodding. "Now, if you don't mind, I have fourteen more questions." he said, as he pulled up his mental checklist.

McGonagall's eyes widened at that. What followed was more a matter of clarification. Harry asked about certain turns of phrase, and then, what she'd meant with certain comments she'd made throughout her class. Then, he asked her about her turning into a cat. That led to many other questions, including when he'd be learning to turn into a cat.

McGonagall informed him of what an Animagus was, and that it wasn't something taught in school, since not everyone could become one. It would be unfair to teach something that not everyone could achieve. Harry filed that away, as something to do further research about, and continued his questions.

By the time Harry left, he'd asked many more questions than his initial fifteen, because the woman didn't seem to mind answering them. Questions about the ghosts, for example, and if they were earth-bound spirits, souls, or impressions, like a poltergeist was supposed to be, in common fiction. It turned out that they weren't the people they represented, though they did carry the memories of the person they had once been. It was the fact that they were magical, to begin with, that allowed them to leave such an impression, when they died. It also depended on the manner of their death. Very seldom did you find a ghost that didn't meet a bloody end.

Harry didn't care for Defence. The teacher stuttered and stumbled over his words, and Harry tended to get a headache in his class. Potions was similar, but for a different reason. The teacher seemed to be one of those mind-readers. Whenever Harry made eye-contact with him, he felt something in his head, and he pulled up the display, as the hat had suggested, which made the Professor, Snape, look away, quickly. He didn't know that whenever he did that, the professor also got a headache, from the loop. Harry would figure that one out later.

Still, Snape seemed to delight in singling Harry out. Even in their first class, the Professor had asked him questions that he'd not studied for, didn't know he needed to study for. Still, he didn't want to draw negative attention to himself, so he started studying his potions book, in his spare time. It was a very fun and useful new ability that had fixed that problem for him. He'd used his interface, to take, for the lack of a better word, a picture, of every page of the book. Then, he'd spent a few days working on the book in his head, until he had a full copy, that he could flip through, with a thought.

Adding connections to the index on the front page, to go to the specific page, was a bit of a hassle, but in the end, he had that sorted, too. Then he went about a laborious effort of looking for references in the book, like mention of an ingredient, so that when he was working with one, he could tell what else it was used for, and then better understand the effect of that ingredient, in the potion he was supposed to be preparing.

After that was complete, he'd spent two weeks on the book, and he'd basically memorised the thing, which made the copy in his head kind of redundant. Still, he put it away in a book 'folder' and smiled. It wasn't like he intended to memorise every book he ever read, but this could be very useful for reference. He decided to do the same thing with his other subjects. Herbology had a lot of ingredient knowledge, and he suspected that it, along with the potions book, would make potions even easier to complete.

When Harry started on the Potions book, he'd noted strange looks, as he looked at nothing, and sometimes moved his hands in strange ways, as he manipulated something in only his view. He didn't like being stared at, so he started doing that sort of work in his bed, with the curtains drawn. Still, he needed to spend some time with his classmates, and eventually spent time with all of them, either just chatting, or listening, as they chatted, which was more often than not the case. Harry learned more, when he allowed others to talk.

Hermione was definitely a very smart girl. She seemed very studious, and she almost always wrote longer essays than the teachers required. They did that to themselves, though, because the professors did tend to say 'no less than', when they set the lengths of homework.

It was two weeks before Harry decided to try the hat's picture, in his head.

Mentally tapping it, he waited for something to happen, but nothing did. 'Hat… I mean, Gryff?' he asked, in his head.

'What, oh, Mister Potter.' the hat's voice said. It sounded a little grumpy, like Harry had just interrupted it's sleep.

'Sorry. Did I wake you?' Harry asked.

'I sleep a lot.' the hat allowed. 'Not much else to do. I listen to the headmaster when he's seeing someone, and I sometimes talk to the portraits, but life as a hat, that's only worn once a year, can be kind of boring.'

'That does sound boring.' Harry allowed. Internally he was actually kind of pleased. It seemed that the connection had worked.

'Of course it did.' the hat replied to his unspoken thought.

'Can you not, read my mind?' Harry asked. 'That's one reason that I'd rather lose this connection, thing.'

'I'm afraid not.' the hat said. 'It's just how I work. If you want, I can try to avoid responding to your thoughts, the way I just did, though. Or, I suppose you could just remove the connection.' It offered that easily, but to Harry, it felt like the hat would prefer keeping the connection, if only to interrupt the boredom. 'My primary purpose is to see that students are in a house that suits them. My secondary purpose, is to see to your peace-of-mind and security. If you want this connection gone, I'd not object, even though I would personally prefer the option, even if you never open it.'

He sighed. 'As long as you keep my secrets, and don't act like you know my every thought, please?' he requested.

'Did you read up on occlumency?' the hat asked. 'I did tell you that it would protect you from being read.'

'I haven't found a book on it.' Harry admitted, knowing that hat likely already knew that.

'It's likely in the restricted section.' the hat said. 'Asking for permission shouldn't be difficult. Just speak to Madam Pince. Occlumency is considered a protective mind art, not invasive, like Legilimency.'

'That's what you use, right?' Harry asked. 'Like the headmaster and professor Snape.'

'First off, it's illegal to use legilimency outside of certain circumstances.' the hat said. 'If you know it's being done, and can prove it, you should speak to your head of house. If you can't, which I suspect is the case, I'd suggest learning Occlumency. If you can prove that you know Occlumency, even just a little bit, you'd be able to prove that you detected a Legilimency attack, without revealing any of your other skills. A word of warning, however. If someone successfully breaches your mental defences, like they'd likely try to, to prove that you are a trained occlumens, then they could also learn your other secrets.' it hinted.

'So, my 'system', as you call it.' Harry asked.

'You just call it an interface.' the hat said. 'An 'interface' is usually a term used in conjunction with interfacing with something, like a system of some sort. Thus, the system. And yes, I've never come across a mind like yours. Having read your mind, I know why you developed it, and I have a couple of theories about how you intended its use, but I think you've gone further than even I thought possible. This book collection you have, small as it is, at this moment, could be very useful to you, especially with the reference function you've been building. Am I seeing this right? Has the referencing started automating as well?'

Harry shrugged. 'Well, that was the point of taking the time to make the initial reference.' he said. 'The idea is for my 'system', to work on things automatically. Identifying emotions and possible threats, connecting things that I don't think about consciously. Or, at least, that's the idea. Herbology and potions slot into each other pretty seamlessly, with one discipline teaching me some about the other.'

'I can see that.' the hat said. 'Quite useful. Would you mind if I copy the books to my side?'

'You want to read my textbooks?' Harry asked.

'I only directly interact with untrained first-years, normally.' the hat said. 'I seldom get the chance to learn about such things.'

'Would you mind if I just copied the books, without my reference?' Harry asked.

'I do understand that.' the hat assured. 'It's something you put a lot of time and effort into. You shouldn't give it away too easily, and for what it's worth, I applaud your ingenuity, and respect your perspective.'

Harry nodded, smiling. He'd only ever told the hat about his perspective, and it was the only one that had ever given him feedback. Reaching to his interface, he opened the books, which now had all the core subjects, and considered how to copy it across to the hat. Deciding on a temporary link, he made a line that connected between the book and the hat. 'How's that?' Harry asked.

'Hmm.' the hat hummed. 'It's not a copy… but I have access to your books.' It seemed to ponder it, for a moment, before he spoke again. 'Let's break our connection for a moment. I'd like to see if I can still access the books, when we're not speaking.'

Shrugging, Harry tapped the connection to the hat, which should be like switching it off. 'Are you there?' Harry asked, in his head. No response.

Then, the hat image lit up, something it had never done before. 'Oh, that's how you open it.' the hat's voice entered his mind.

'You can just open the connection, like that?' Harry asked. No response.

'Um, I don't know if you can hear me, but I think you need to allow me in.' the hat's voice spoke. 'I can feel your attention, but your mind is still blank, on my side.'

Mentally tapping the image, it stopped shining, and Harry got the impression that the connection was open, again.

'Ah, there you are.' the hat said. 'Oh, this is so exciting!' it added.

'It is?' Harry asked.

'I was able to see the books, when our connection was closed, so you likely did something like share it, over our connection.' the hat said. This was very much like a computer network, the hat realised. He only knew of such things due to a few muggleborn students who'd had limited access to such technology.

'So, this is a permanent function, then?' Harry asked. 'Do you think you'd be able to copy books, if I flipped through them, for you?'

'Oh, I see your plan, there.' the hat's voice said. 'Well, I think I'd need to learn how you do your picture-thing, but it should be possible. I wouldn't expect you to store just any book for my enjoyment. You do realise that you would likely need to share your vision with me then, too, right?'

Shrugging, Harry made a line between his little box of duplicated vision, and the hat, connecting it the same way.

'Ugh.' the hat's voice said. 'If I had a stomach, I'd be sick.'

Harry considered that, before he wiped his hand over the imaginary image, clearing his vision on his interface.

'That's better.' the hat said. 'Your thoughts were probably right, too. I may not have eyes to see what you're seeing, but the infinity of the image, inside an image, showing the interface over and over, was pulling my mind into it. How does that not make you sick?'

'I don't usually look at the image.' Harry said. 'I see what I see, already, why would I look at something that will just show me looking at something infinitely?'

'Your logic is astounding, for a wizard.' the hat drolled. 'Now, if there's nothing else, I intend to settle in with a book. I've never had that option, before, if you can believe that.'

'I'm assuming you can normally just read, when others do?' Harry asked.

'Something like that.' the hat allowed. 'Either that, or a portrait tells me what's in a book. Even the portraits have a library, where they've got books they can read. It's in a portrait in front of the library.'

'I've seen that portrait.' Harry said, frowning. 'Did the painter specifically add the individual books, and how would he even do that?' he asked.

'I may know many things, mister Potter, but I don't know everything.' the hat said. 'I can always ask one of the portraits, if you want. One of them likely knows.'

'I'd appreciate that.' Harry said. 'There's some things that I'd like to figure out about magic, including a faster way to copy books, rather than the laborious method I have to use right now.'

'I'll see what I can find.' the hat promised. 'After all, the more books you have, the more I have to spend my time on. Oh, I am so looking forward to this!' the hat exclaimed excitedly, before Harry could feel the connection close. Opening his interface again, he noted that the hat's icon looked normal. He decided to add something to it. He made the hat look asleep, sagging and its folds that looked like eyes, closed. He then modified it to look like the eyes were open, for when he was looking through Harry's eyes, and then, one with the mouth slightly open, for when they could speak. Designating them, did require that Harry interrupt the hat, one more time, but explaining what he was doing, had the hat accept the interruption, and then the connection closed, showing the hat's eyes and mouth closed, sleeping, again.

Harry was proud of the work he'd done, on this. His interface seemed to be learning, as he did more things to it. Things sometimes happened faster, the second time around, only for it to happen almost instantly, the next time he wanted it to. He'd need to read up on that, because he was almost certain either the interface was getting smarter, or his brain was learning to do things more quickly, and it just seemed like it was the interface.

The next day, Harry decided to contact the hat again. 'Gryff?' Harry asked.

'Ah, Mister Potter.' the hat said, seeming happy for the contact. 'How was your day?'

'Call me Harry.' Harry said, for the first time. 'And, it was fine, I guess. Yours?' he asked, realising the hat was just trying to be courteous, even though it likely already knew what his day had been like.

'I've been slowly working my way through your available books.' the hat said. 'I sleep so much better, now that my mind has things to consider, while I sleep.'

'Have you started your own reference system, yet?' Harry asked.

'I don't think my mind is capable of that much change, I'm afraid.' the hat said. 'I am not really designed for too much adaptation. I do have a mind, but it's not in a brain, like yours. Fortunately, your reference works across the connection, since it's tethered to your library folder.'

'Oh.' Harry said, not having considered that. 'Okay.' he shrugged. 'Now, did you get any information for me?' he asked.

'Ah yes. As a matter of fact, I did.' the hat said, almost proudly. 'It seems that the portrait is connected to the library, so, when new content is added to the library, it also becomes available in the portrait. Rowena herself actually added that feature. She had a theory that the blood magic involved with creating moving portraits, actually inferred a certain amount of intelligence in them, and she wanted to ensure that the portraits, those who have such a desire at least, would have the option of new entertainment. She was very bookish, that one. Couldn't imagine herself stuck in a portrait, with nothing new to read. I think there's actually a portrait of her somewhere in the castle, but supposedly, she's been sleeping for centuries. That sometimes happens with portraits. The blood magic used to create them, isn't meant for a more permanent infusion of a personality.'

'Tell me about this blood magic.' Harry requested.

'Well, I could, but first, we need to discuss why blood magic has such a dark stigma.' the hat said, taking up a narrative of a teacher. That conversation took a few hours, in Harry's mind, but in the real world, it took about half an hour. By the end, Harry was mentally quite tired.

'Off to bed with you now, Harry.' the hat said, having picked up on his mental fatigue. 'It seems using this mental communication can be quite taxing for you.'

'It is a lot of information to process, and considering the amount of time we actually take, my mind is probably working overtime.' Harry allowed.

'Indeed.' the hat said. 'Sleep tight, Harry. We'll talk again soon.'

Harry nodded, and mentally tapped the connection, dropping it. Then he turned around and fell asleep.

The hat, however, was considering things. Harry was an oddity to it. He had no idea how quickly his mind was adapting, due to the influence of a system he had basically created from scratch, accidentally. It held a lot of potential. He could very easily use the system for wonderful things, as was evidenced by the books and the reference that he could tell was still analysing and sorting information as Harry slept.

He'd also been watching, when Harry pulled up a display of a textbook, with a wand-motion indicated, tracing the line of the movement with his wand, and casting the spell perfectly, on his first attempt. Well, the spell hadn't worked properly, because Harry hadn't powered it correctly, but he was learning that part reasonably quickly, too. If he could do that, then he could likely use the system to one day implement short-cuts and spell-chains, without needing to practice them.

The hat gave a mental smirk. That boy was going to be very powerful one day. Hopefully, on the good side. The hat knew of the prophecy, of course. Dumbledore had discussed it in front of himself, with Professor Snape. He knew the hat couldn't give away his secrets, though. Did that then mean that he couldn't help the lad? No. He most definitely could, and would, if given half a chance.

Knowing about the system, he even suspected he knew what power the boy had that the dark lord 'knew not'. It was, therefore, imperative that the hat helped the boy in whatever way he could, including protecting the knowledge of the system. He turned to a portrait he was close to. "I say, old chap, would you mind doing me a favour?" he asked, of a snoring old man, who had been a headmaster some two-hundred years prior.

Harry had enjoyed flying class, but after the initial flying lesson, where he'd needed to stand up for Neville, after breaking his wrist, and Malfoy proving that he really wasn't the right sort of 'people', he'd been drafted for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Harry did not like spending that much time on practice, even though he did like flying, and chasing the snitch was fun.

In the end, Harry decided to simply stop when he felt he had enough and had better things to do. If they wanted to replace him, they could go ahead and do just that, because he was having more fun learning and playing with his interface.

This had come up a few times with his classmates. Hermione had frowned at him, on more than one occasion, when he moved his hand, turning a page in his mind, or indicating as he moved things around in his vision. She'd gone as far as asking if he was seeing something the rest of them couldn't, and he'd easily confirmed that he did. He didn't explain it, and they didn't ask, but he did get a few strange looks from them. Fortunately, Harry didn't care about their opinions. He did well in class, didn't interrupt studies, never bothered them with his questions, and simply acted like a normal bloke, the rest of the time. Fortunately, people sometimes acted strange in the wizarding world, so it wasn't too bizarre for most of them.

That didn't stop Hermione from watching him closely, as she tried to figure him out.

Then, Halloween rolled around. Knowing that this was the day in which Harry had lost his parents, now, at least, he decided to spend it quietly. He would go to the feast, eat something for dinner, and retreat to his room. Maybe he'd ask the hat if it could tell him anything about his parents. He doubted it, knowing the hat kept secrets, but maybe it had heard or seen something that it could tell him, outside of the knowledge it had of their earlier lives.

When Hermione didn't show up, Harry had a suspicion. When Ron and Hermione had been arguing after Charms class, his emotional indicators had come alive with many emotions. Ron's showed fear, anger and jealousy. Hermione's showed concern, and then, pain. Ron's words had hurt her feelings.

When Quirrell ran into the hall, screaming about a troll in the dungeon, Harry had instantly stood up, and left, before the prefects could be rallied to escort the students to their respective common rooms.

'Harry, where are you going?' the hat's voice asked, in his head.

Flicking the hat's image in his head, he answered. 'Hermione's not here. She didn't show up for the feast.'

'I know what you're doing. I'm asking where you're going.' the hat said.

Harry stopped in his tracks. 'Um.' he said.

Harry could feel the hat rolling its metaphorical eyes. 'Go to the staircase, so long. I'll see if the portraits know anything. I'll direct you from there, should there be a need.'

It didn't take the hat long to get back to him, and there was urgency in his voice. 'Second floor girls' bathroom.' it said, and Harry started running. 'Listen, Harry, the troll is up there. The portraits spotted it. You can't be seen. It doesn't care what you are. It will see only fresh meat.'

'And Hermione too.' Harry countered.

'Do you have a plan?' the hat asked, knowing the boy didn't. He also knew that time was of the essence. Going back to ask someone for help, at this stage, could cost the girl her life, and Harry one of his friends.

Harry knew that the hat knew he didn't have a plan, though, so he didn't answer.

'Okay, hold on. I'll find out what the best option is for you.' the hat said.

The hat was silent, as Harry ran, until he was close to the bathroom. 'The simplest spell for you to use is the Conjunctivitus curse. It targets the eyes, causing them to swell shut. It doesn't take a lot of power, but you have to be accurate with the wand motion.'

'I don't know the spell.' Harry said, glad for the speed of the mental communication, as he spotted the troll ponderously entering the girls' bathroom.

'Wand motion is the same as the levitation charm.' the hat said, before telling him the incantation.

'Okay.' Harry said, deciding to take the hat's advice, as he came to a stop at the door. He heard a scream from inside, which meant that Hermione was still alive, at least. He opened the door quietly and pointed his wand. He made sure to copy the hat's incantation exactly and did the wand motion.

'More power than that!' the had urged.

Harry did it again, still whispering the words, but clenching his fist around his wand and forcing the spell to take more power. There was no light, as this spell apparently didn't make a light, but the troll definitely noticed, and turned around, roaring, as its hands came up to its head, trying to scratch its suddenly itchy eyes, which were already swelling shut. Unfortunately, a troll was not a smart creature, and it had forgotten its club, which soundly crashed against its own head.

There was silence, as the troll's arms went limp, before it started to lean ponderously towards the bathroom door. Then, it collapsed, with a heavy thud, as it fell unconscious.

Hermione, not knowing what was happening, but having taken to hiding in a stall, screamed in shock and fear.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Come on out, Hermione." he said. "The troll is out, but try not to scream, please? We don't want you waking it up."

Hermione took a moment, before her stall's door opened tentatively. She peeked out, seeing the troll on the floor, and then looked at Harry, who beckoned for her to come to him.

'I'd say that was pretty well done, myself.' the hat congratulated him.

'You planned for it to knock itself out?' Harry asked, as Hermione carefully made her way towards him.

'Well, no.' the hat admitted. 'Blinding the beast would have allowed your friend to sneak past it, if she was careful about it. A bit of noise from you, would distract it enough, for her to get past it reasonably easily.'

Harry nodded. 'That makes more sense, I suppose. Distract and escape.'

'Not much else can be reasonably expected of a first-year.' the hat agreed.

'How did you get me help?' Harry asked then.

'I… asked the headmaster's portraits what you should do.' the hat admitted.

'And how do you intend to explain that?' Harry asked.

'I'll talk to the portraits.' the hat assured him. 'Frankly, they like being of use, and very few of them respect the headmaster. I can't tell you why, though, sorry.'

Harry nodded, again, as Hermione made it to the door, having needed to step very carefully around the large creature, while the hat shared the good news with the portraits, who held a small celebration at having helped a student, for the first time in many years. Harry took her hand, without thinking, and pulled her through the door, before he started walking towards the stairs, again.

Fortunately, Hermione seemed to know to stay quiet, and just followed, not letting go of his hand. At the stairs, they met up with the other Gryffindors.

"Mister Weasley." Harry said, getting Percy's attention. He was also Ron's brother, and a prefect, in fifth year.

"Where were you?" Percy asked.

"We found the troll." Harry said, not answering. "It's unconscious in the girls' bathroom." he said, pointing.

"What?!" the prefect exclaimed. "You faced a troll, and… and… knocked it out?" he asked, not knowing what else to say.

"Conjunctivitis Curse, to blind it, so that Hermione could get past it." Harry said. "It tried scratching its eyes and clobbered itself with its club."

'Should you tell him that?' the hat asked, dubiously.

'Easier to explain that I read up on spells that used the same wand motion, as the spell we learned today.' Harry replied.

'Oh, yes.' the hat said, agreeing. 'Yes, that should work. Good idea.'

"Huh." Percy said, frowning. "So, you just went looking for your friend, and happened to find the troll?"

"Exactly." Harry said, realising that Hermione was now trying to let go of his hand, a blush on her face, so he let her go. "I'd like to think that my friends would do the same for me, if I was ever in a pickle like that. The troll was supposed to be down in the dungeon, though, so it was a bit of a shock."

Percy nodded. It wasn't something he'd suggest a first year ever do, but they were in Gryffindor for a reason, he reckoned. "And where did you learn a fifth-year spell?" he asked. He'd only read about the spell, himself.

"We did levitation, today, so I read up on spells with similar wand-motions." Harry lied, exactly as he'd told the hat he would.

Percy's eyes cleared at that. "Ah, I see." he said, nodding. "Well done. I didn't even think of that. The wand motions are the same, aren't they? I suspect that it takes quite a bit more power, though."

Harry nodded. "I needed to cast it twice." he admitted.

"Well, I say well done to you, then." Percy said. "I suspect Professor McGonagall will likely want to talk to you, though. For now, let's get you up to the common room. But, don't go to sleep, just yet. I'll likely be by to escort you and Miss Granger to her office. She'll want to know why she wasn't at the feast."

"Blame your brother." Harry said, easily. "He insulted her, and she didn't want to see him."

"Ron?" Percy asked, almost sighing, at Harry's nod. His youngest brother had a way of putting things in his mouth. Apparently, this time, he'd put his whole foot in there. "I'll likely be asked to bring him, too."

Harry sighed. He wasn't ready to be part of that whole conversation, but let it go and went up the stairs, to where the rest of the students had already preceded them. Ron was one of the first ones up there, being a bit of a coward, so he'd missed Harry's arrival, and speaking to his brother.

When Harry walked into the common room, Ron looked up and smiled. "I thought you were still-"

"Ron, you insulted Hermione, nearly caused her to get killed by a troll, due to your actions, and I find myself unable to bare your company, currently. Please don't talk to me." Harry said, interrupting him, and walking to the fireplace, to take a seat, while the rest of the students turned to look at Ron.

"What?" Ron asked. He really didn't know how one thing was connected to the other.

He'd find out, though. Twenty minutes later, Percy escorted them into Professor McGonagall's office. Harry, Hermione and Ron.

"I have little patience this evening, so I'm going to ask you in order, what happened?" she asked, looking at Hermione, first.

"Um, professor, I…" Hermione trailed off, not knowing where to start.

"If I may, Professor?" Harry asked.

McGonagall saw that the girl wasn't exactly sure what to say. She'd heard Percy's report, so she could understand that. Hermione likely didn't want to blame Ron for her own decision to skip the Halloween feast. "Very well." she said, looking at Harry.

"Hermione decided, for whatever reason, to skip the feast." Harry said. "As I understand it, there is no rule against skipping a meal, or being in a bathroom. I myself, intended to duck out early, considering what this day means to me. She didn't hear about the troll, though, and I decided to go inform her, before the troll could get out of the dungeon, where Professor Quirrell said it was. I found the troll entering the bathroom and used one of the few offensive spells I knew. Not having practiced it, however, it took two tries to get the conjunctivitis curse to work. When the troll tried scratching its swollen eyes, it knocked itself out, which had not been my plan, but I'm not going to complain about the results either." he informed her.

"Conjunctivitis…" Professor McGonagall said, as she considered it. It wasn't a bad plan, perhaps. It was a low-powered spell, and while trolls were normally magic-resistant, the conjunctivitis curse was well-suited to magic-resistant creatures, especially since eyes are seldom as resistant as hide. Had Harry been older, and more experienced, she'd congratulate him for the forethought. Now, however, it was likely just dumb luck that he knew a spell that could work. "Percy tells me that you read up on the spell, due to it being similar to the levitation charm's wand motions?"

"That's what I told him, yes." Harry agreed.

McGonagall narrowed her eyes at him, for his choice of words, but decided not to address her suspicions, just then. "Very well." she said, nodding. Then she turned to Ron. "And you?" she asked.

"I don't know why I'm here." Ron said, honestly.

"Did you, or did you not say something to upset miss Granger?" McGonagall asked, sternly.

Ron looked down, as he considered that. He'd called her a nightmare, sure, but he didn't think he could be blamed, because she didn't want to come to the feast. "I did voice my opinion, and she heard it." he said, deciding to use a little tact, in that moment.

"And, what opinion, pray tell, did you voice?" McGonagall asked.

"I called her a nightmare." Ron whispered.

"Come again?" McGonagall asked. "I'm afraid your whispering escapes my hearing."

"Nightmare." Ron said, more loudly. "I called her a nightmare, because she acted so superior, just because she got the spell easy."

"Ah, I see." McGonagall said. "So, you were jealous, and decided to insult someone, just because you felt inferior, is that correct?"

"To be fair, Professor, he was trying really hard, and Hermione was trying to help him." Harry said. "I just think he saw her concern as her acting superior. I didn't struggle with the spell, myself, and I didn't hear anything wrong with Hermione's inflection. I suspect it was just a misconception."

McGonagall looked at Harry again, weighing his words. He seemed very well spoken for a young man, but as she understood it, Harry was a contemplative young man, who usually chose his words carefully. Some had called him an old soul, which she agreed with. "I can accept that, and even applaud miss Granger on attempting to help a friend. That, however, does not excuse his attitude, nor his choice of words."

"Agreed." Harry said. "It is for that reason that I've decided to distance myself form Ron, until he's reconsidered his actions and found the issue that led to this situation. It may have been a misunderstanding, but he also knows my view on judging people and making statements without proper thought."

"Very commendable." McGonagall said. Then she turned to Ron. "Well?" she asked. It sounded almost too sweet.

Ron looked at her dumbfounded. "Um. What?" he asked.

Harry sighed and rolled his eyes. Hermione's eyes just stung, with unshed tears.

"Apologise to her!" McGonagall exclaimed. "You insult someone, drive them to isolate themselves, to avoid your sharp tongue, nearly leading to her unto death, no less, due to your actions, and you don't know what you're supposed to do!? Should I call your mother and ask her how she raised such a callous and inconsiderate child?!"

Ron's face went white, while Percy, still in the room as he was escorting them, looked at his brother in disgust.

"Um, sorry." Ron said to the ground, as he looked down.

McGonagall shook her head, before looking at Percy. "Mister Weasley, escort Miss Granger and Mister Potter back to the common room, please. I'll be having words with your brother, before I escort him back, myself."

"Of course, Professor." Percy said, nodding tightly, before he went to the door, and opened it, waiting for Harry and Hermione, who left.

As they walked, Percy looked at Harry. "I'm sorry, by the way." he said.

"Like I said, I think this came from a misunderstanding." Harry said. "Your brother should learn to moderate his mouth, however, in more than one way, in my opinion."

"No." Percy said. "I meant, I'm sorry about your parents. I didn't even think about what this day would mean to you. For the rest of the magical world, today is the day you saved us from the dark lord. We celebrate it. For you, this is a day of great loss. I was apologising for not even thinking about that."

Harry looked at the older boy, who seemed to be genuinely worried about him. He'd only mentioned that he would be leaving early, as a point in his conversation, but it seemed that the older boy had been affected by the statement. "There's nothing to forgive. I understand that this day is one to celebrate. I just can't see it that way."

"Sorry." Hermione added her voice. She felt just as bad. Not that her family were personally threatened by the dark lord that she knew about, or anything, but because she knew his parents had died on Halloween, and she'd just been thinking about her own misery. She should have been there for Harry. Her friend. Her friend who'd showed up to save her life.

Harry didn't respond, this time, but sent her a weak smile.

Silence descended on them, as they walked to the Common Room, and Percy spoke the password, before opening the door.

None of them expected the cheer that broke out, as they walked in. Harry was so shocked, he stalled mid-movement.

"Harry Potter, not even two months into the school year, and you're already saving fair maidens from foul beasts, in tall towers!" one of the Weasley twins exclaimed, while the others cheered and laughed.

"Well, I just helped a friend." Harry said, softly.

"And he's modest too!" the other twin exclaimed. "Stand back boys, let the girls descend on the resident hero!"

"Oh, sod off." Harry mumbled, not ever being one for so much attention.

"Oh, come now, Harry!" the first twin said. "You can't be all study and no play? Give us a reason to party, already!"

"Not tonight, guys." Percy said, as he shook his head. "Harry wants to go to bed, and he's got other things on his mind."

"What could be more-" the other twin started.

"I said, no." Percy said, officiously. He knew his brothers thought he was being pompous, but he'd explain it to them, once Harry was away. He didn't want to bring it up in front of the boy. Frankly, if it had been any other day, he'd have clapped and congratulated along with the rest, but right now, none of them were considering his feelings, at all.

Harry soon waved and walked up the stairs from the common room.

"Do you have to be such a stick-in-the-mud?" one of the twins asked Percy.

"Do you remember what happened today, ten years ago?" Percy asked him, evenly.

The twins looked at each-other, frowning, before, almost at the same time, their eyes widened, in realisation. They turned to their brother and nodded. "Sorry." they said, at the same time.

"He doesn't mind us celebrating." Percy said. "He realises that something great happened for the wizarding world, on this day, but for him, today is the anniversary of the day he lost his whole family."

The twins nodded, as did a few other people, who'd been blatantly listening in. They would spread the word, and people would try and be more thoughtful.

The next day, Harry needed to ask Hermione why people were looking at him with strange sad smiles, at breakfast.

"Percy reminded them about your parents." Hermione whispered. "It seems most of them had forgotten about them, and they are trying to be sympathetic."

"I'm not some broken little boy, you know?" Harry asked, sending her half a smirk. Then he went about cataloguing that emotion. Sympathy wasn't one he was used to.

"Of course not." Hermione said. "But they are just trying to be supportive, you know? I think the sentiment is better, at least."

Harry shrugged. He just hoped it wouldn't last too long. He needn't have worried. By lunch, people were back to being themselves. Children were resilient, like that.

Harry had decided to start working on something new. He could pull up a page with a spell on it, and emulate it, but he'd discovered an issue. While the hat could give him aid in emergencies, he couldn't explain to him how to cast a spell, if he didn't know the wand motion, already. Doing a spell that he didn't know, could similarly be a problem, if he didn't have the power for it, or the knowledge on how to cast it.

The first thing he did, was write out a basic instruction on a piece of parchment. He'd be getting legal paper in the future, with a normal ball-point pen, because quills and ink really grated on his nerves. Why stick to that, when paper was cheaper, easier to manage, and didn't have so many issues?

The instruction he drew and designed, was meant to be copied into the system, and Harry was still trying to fine-tune it. The problem was the same, though. Just following a two-dimensional image of a spell he had to follow, wasn't going to work. It did simplify things, but it wouldn't help him with spells he hadn't learned yet. He might as well just go looking for spells and practice them.

Hermione had told him about Quirrell having an injury on his leg, that she'd noticed. Harry informed her that he'd not had it, or at least, he'd not seen it, in the Great Hall, before he fainted. Strangely, his system, which did have a signal for unconsciousness, due to him having seen his uncle passed out drunk, multiple times, hadn't indicated that the man was unconscious. That could mean one of two things. Either his system didn't work, or the man was faking. He was starting to trust the system more, because with the hat being able to connect to him, he was fairly certain that it actually did exist. Well, that, and the books and the fact that his display sometimes surprised him with things he didn't put in, like with the tags. And, of course, the time. That one could still have been his subconscious, though, so he couldn't rely on that.

Hermione was of the opinion that something was going on, and that she suspected that either Snape, or Quirrell were trying to get into the third-floor corridor. The troll was a good distraction, after all.

Harry decided to do what he always did. Observe and come to his own conclusion. He could tell Snape hated him, but that was likely due to his own biases. He was notoriously hateful to the Gryffindors, or anyone not a Slytherin. Quirrell… Harry wasn't sure. He was an okay Defence teacher, but his stuttering during class made it difficult to follow his instruction. Harry usually ended up reading the book in class, rather. He'd not been reprimanded for it, yet, so that made things simpler for him. He did pay attention when the Professor brought out a creature that they were studying, though.

Still, Harry refused to get involved, when Hermione went on about what could be hidden on the third floor.

When they went to visit Hagrid, something Harry had only done alone in the past, due to him liking how easily Hagrid would tell him anything he asked about, she'd learned the name Flamel. That was driving her curiosity up the walls, though, and she started looking for the name in all the books she could get her hands on.

As luck would have it, Harry had added a relevant book into his collection, and the reference had almost instantly popped up. Nicholas Flamel was an alchemist, who had apparently worked with Professor Dumbledore in the past. He'd also created the Philosopher's Stone. A magical stone that could, reputedly, make any metal into gold, and make the drinker immortal.

He had let Hermione do her research for a while, before he pointed her in the right direction, acting like he didn't know. He knew how much fun it was to make the discovery yourself, and frankly, he liked the quiet, when she was rabidly reading through books. He wasn't a prick, though, so he'd folded and helped.

Of course, that also meant that Hermione was of the opinion that they should tell someone about her suspicions. Pointing out that the headmaster likely already knew, considering he was old, experienced, and powerful, meant that Hermione had pouted, but let the subject slide, in favour of studying for actual homework, for once.

Harry suspected that wherever was on the third floor, was either a trap, or an unpassable guard, like a dragon, or something. He wasn't interested in risking his life, to find out, though.

As for Ron, he'd showed up the day after the Halloween feast, and looked Hermione in the eye, as he apologised sincerely. Since then, he'd not bothered them.

So, while everyone was blissfully ignorant and working to change that, Harry was studying his normal schoolwork, and then working on his spell-system, as he was referring to it. Taking a spell and forcing it into his system, something he'd tried, had not worked out. He'd tried to cast a levitation spell into his interface.

He'd learned two things from that. First, his spells could interact with his interface, which was a very welcome bit of knowledge. It meant he wasn't insane, as a small part of him had still been fearing. Hearing the hat speaking to him could still have been a delusion. He could have subconsciously picked up the knowledge of the conjunctivitis curse, and his subconscious just produced it, when he needed it, in the form of a delusion of a magical hat giving him help over an imaginary magical network.

The fact that the spell interacted with the interface, was thus solid proof of it existing, even if he was the only one that could see it.

Secondly, the spell had worked, and had given him a massive headache, when he apparently tried to levitate his brain out of his skull. He'd fallen unconscious and had only worked out what had happened later. Fortunately, it was still useful information.

The Hat, for its part, had reprimanded Harry harshly. 'Next time try a tickling charm, or something that can't accidentally have you pulling your brains out of your nose.' it had said.

Harry had accepted that. It was probably better to start on something that couldn't potentially kill you. Still, there was something there, and Harry just couldn't put his fingers on it. It was Christmas, when he finally made a break-through. Hermione had gone home, as had the Weasleys, Dean, Seamus and Neville, leaving Harry in blissful silence, as he had the whole dorm to himself.

He was looking through the latest of his copied books, while chatting idly with the hat, when he had an idea.

'That's an interesting id-" the hat was cut off, as Harry ended the connection. The hat's voice still came back. 'Okay Harry, I know you can hear me, and you don't need to open the connection, but please, please be careful. Start slow. Nothing that can damage you, okay?' the hat asked. Harry flicked the hat's connection off, and imagined a new image, with a lock through the hat's mouth. He wasn't vindictive about it, but the hat did unfortunately have the ability to speak to him, whenever it wanted, and Harry wanted to explore and discover this on his own.

The idea wasn't even a difficult one. He could copy images, into his head, so why not a motion? Like, a video, but with imagined movements. All he'd have to do, is say the words, and power the spell, and allow his hand to follow the movement, then. Fortunately, the tickling charm was low-powered, and reasonably safe. He'd already tried it on his interface, and his brain had simply tingled, like it was a limb that was experiencing pins and needles.

Now, he was working out how to do it. He closed his eyes and imagined a wireframe of a hand. He was going for minimalistic, after all. He didn't want to have to see a whole display, including backgrounds and distractions. Something he could see in his interface, which would not distract. It took a while, for him to imagine something the right way. A see-thought light pink image of a blockish hand, with a wand. Something that was easy to follow, because the blockishness of the imagined hand would be very easy to follow.

Then, using his hand, but not using his wand, he did the motion in the real world, while he imagined the hand doing the same, which it did with very little effort. 'Now, to somehow copy this into the system.' he thought to himself. Shrugging, Harry mentally created a new icon. That of a simple recording button, like on the VHS in the Dursley home. A rectangle with a red dot in the middle, along with a black square for stop. Then a play button, to replay the action. He knew how it was supposed to work, and he reasoned that, since this was in his head, it should translate well.

First, he activated the record, then he performed the motion, saying the incantation, after which he stopped. Pressing the play button did nothing, though. Then he remembered that he'd need to rewind it, to play something that was finished, and had to add that button, too. Pressing play, after that, the image cycled through the motion, and he even heard himself say the words. Perfect!

After that, Harry opened his eyes, and looked for the display. Unfortunately, he'd forgotten one thing. He needed to designate a different location, because apparently, with his eyes closed, he now had a new playground. A clean slate to work in, as it were. It took some doing, but he finally had a way to switch between the two, with his eyes open, and then, he created a link, so that he could record something in the closed-eye interface, and place it in the normal one.

Pressing play, he saw the recording pop up, and play, stopping with the frozen image still on the display. That needed more work, including a quick rewind, which should automatically rewind the spell, for future use, or direction. Trying it again, the image popped up, and played through, before disappearing again, where it would rewind in the background, in fast forward, perceived time, rather than real time, which basically meant it was instant, in real-time, which was perfect.

He did, however, wonder how perceived time and real time would be affected. He pulled out his wand, and pressed the play button. The image popped up, and, now, with his wand out and pointing, he saw a problem. The recording flashed through the movement so quickly, he couldn't follow it. What shocked him even more, was when a spell left his wand at the conclusion of the play-through.

'Huh.' he thought. Then he did it again. Again, the spell flew from his wand, as if he'd performed it perfectly. He glanced at the hat's icon, and realised its eyes were open. "You voyeur." he accused, as he flicked the connection open again.

'You made an automated spell-system!' the hat exclaimed in his head.

AN - I intend to release reasonably regularly. This story is written, but I have one or two things I intend to add, before the end.

I'm quickly fixing this to thank everyone that sent me messages to fix my notifications. Thank you very much!

Disclaimer: Thanks to JKR for the world she created, in which I'm playing.