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For Love of Magic
Harry P. - Words: 812,577 - Rated: M - English - None - Chapters: 56 - Reviews: 10461 - Updated: 13-08-2018 - Published: 15-12-2015 - Complete - by Noodlehammer (FFN)

Here is the freshest chapter. Enjoy xD.

Special thanks to Joe Lawyer and his mad pre-reviewing skillz.

XXXXX

"Hello Harry." Luna greeted as she opened the compartment door.

"Hi." The boy said back, a bit more subdued as he once again recalled the lack of presents on Christmas. It wasn't really so much about the presents as it was about the gesture of it.

He didn't have long to mope about it though, as Luna got right in his face and peered at him in a most unnerving fashion.

"What are you doing?" He asked, leaning back into the seat in an attempt to avoid the scrutiny.

"I'm trying to see what you did to yourself to give my owl such a terrible wrackspurt infestation." Luna replied absently.

"Your owl has...wrackspurts?" He asked, recalling that this was Luna-speak for confusion.

"Oh yes, I've never seen anything like it and neither has daddy. I tried to send you your Christmas present, but the poor thing just flew in circles for a while and then came back." She explained.

"Really?" Harry asked in surprise. That would certainly explain why he hadn't gotten any presents, but it opened up an entirely new set of questions.

It could have been Dobby making a reappearance, but he didn't think so. The house elf had said that he'd tried to intercept his letters, not confuse the owls.

Another – and in his mind far more likely – reason for the strange behavior of the owls was that something about him was baffling them, something that prevented them from using whatever method they used to find him.

Harry was sure that it was all in his head, but he keenly felt the presence of Arhain on his chest. The rune of secrecy could have conceivably done more than merely hide his scars. It wouldn't be the first time that there had been unexpected side-effects from his runes, but he had hoped that the Avariel runes would be less temperamental. He dreaded to think what he might discover about the hidden side-effects of Aul'El. He hadn't found any so far, but he was suddenly worried about it.

If he was right about this, then this was both good and bad. On one hand, it would make him much harder to find, but on the other, it would make owl correspondence quite problematic.

"Mhm." Luna hummed and continued her examination of him. "I had to send it to Hogwarts so that I could give it to you when we got back.

"So, how did you like the book I gave you?" Harry asked, scooting away from the blonde girl.

"I really liked it." Luna said happily, sitting down and momentarily abandoning her investigation. "It was a fascinating treatise on many strange magical creatures and events."

"A treatise...?" Harry started with incredulity and then trailed off. "Luna, you do know that Alice in Wonderland is just a story, right?"

"Just because it's imaginary doesn't make it untrue." Luna agued.

"If you say so." Harry capitulated, bemused. Luna made no sense sometimes, but it was impossible to be annoyed by her. She was just too nice.

About ten minutes after that, Ginny showed up, nearly missing the train as was apparently the Weasley family tradition.

She looked much better than the last time he'd seen her. After the petrification of Mrs. Norris, Ginny had started becoming more and more sickly looking and had developed bags under her eyes. It looked like some time away from the castle and its basilisk controlling Heir of Slytherin had done her a world of good.

"Hi." She greeted quietly, self- consciously reaching up to touch the hairband that Harry had given her.

"Hello Ginny, did your owl have wrackspurts too?" Luna greeted and asked.

Ginny replied while giving the blonde a baffled expression. "What?"

"Apparently, owls can't find me for some reason." Harry translated.

"Really?" Ginny asked in surprise. "We just thought that Errol was so old that he forgot how to fly to places he'd never been to before, so we sent your presents to Hogwarts."

XXXXX

Once they got settled back into Ravenclaw tower, they discovered that one other person aside from Luna and Ginny had apparently decided to send Harry a Christmas present.

It was a small package, and mysteriously unsigned.

Harry had the irrational hope that the Headmaster or some other benefactor had decided to give him another priceless magical artefact, despite how unlikely that was.

"Open mine first!" Luna insisted, apparently excited to see his reaction to her gift.

He did so, removing the bright wrapping paper.

"Is that...a necklace of butterbeer corks?" Ginny asked in bafflement, staring at the item in question.

"Yes." Luna confirmed sagely. "It keeps away the nargles."

"Thanks." Harry said with what he hoped was a convincing smile rather than a confused one. He did recall Luna saying something about nargles being thieves, so he figured that her heart was in the right place. Besides, it was the thought that counted when gift giving during Christmas wasn't it? Which kind of made Luna's odd gift better than the randomly chosen hairband he'd gotten for Ginny.

"Daddy was going to give you a free lifetime subscription to the Quibbler as well, but that wouldn't make much sense if owls can't find you." Luna added with a frown.

"That's alright Luna, I can just borrow your copy." Harry told her, secretly relieved. From what he'd seen, the Quibbler was almost like a magical parody of a tabloid. Occasionally funny, but not something he'd want a lifetime subscription to.

"Mine now." Ginny piped up, pushing the gift into his hands.

Harry started unwrapping it, but the redhead was apparently too nervous to stay quiet about it.

"I wasn't sure what to get you, especially after you got me this beautiful hairband." She babbled, making Harry stop and stare at her.

"Ginny..."He started slowly, finally getting an inkling as to why she kept fingering the item. "That hairband is nothing special, I got it for you because I didn't know what to get you either. It's a bit nicer than average, but muggles pretty much mass produce them."

It hadn't quite dawned on him at the time he was buying it that there was no such thing as an assembly line in the Wizarding World. He wasn't sure about the food, but all of their clothes and jewelry were handmade. To someone who'd never had contact with the non-magical world, a machine produced accessory would probably look a lot more expensive than it actually was.

"Oh." Ginny blinked. "You mean there are more hairbands like this in the Muggle World?"

"Thousands, probably more." He confirmed.

Ginny felt a strange mixture of disappointed and relieved by that. On one hand, it meant that her gift wasn't going to look subpar in comparison. But on the other, it also meant that the boy she had a crush on hadn't been making a show of affection.

"The Charmingly Charmed Book of Charms Theory?" Harry read the title of the book he'd just unwrapped, staring in bemusement at the animated stick figures dancing energetically across the back cover. Sometimes, wizards really didn't know when to stop spelling, enchanting, jinxing, hexing or otherwise magically altering stuff.

"I know you like to read and you're really good at Charms, so I thought you'd like it."

"Thanks."

"Err...my mother also got you a present." Ginny continued reluctantly, handing him a lumpy package with even more reluctance.

Blinking, Harry took it and opened it, revealing a thick, emerald green sweater with a big golden 'H' sown into the middle.

"She made me a sweater?" He asked, baffled. That was usually the domain of grandmothers with the annoying habit of pinching cheeks from what he knew, though he had fortunately avoided that particular childhood experience.

He had to admit that it was a nice sweater though. It would no doubt be very warm, if one could ignore the embarrassment of having a giant initial plastered across the front of it.

"It's a Weasley sweater, she makes one for each of us every year. I guess she decided to make one for you this year too." Ginny explained, flushing with embarrassment at the antics of her mother.

What she didn't mention was that her mother had made Ginny one that was very similar and was obviously meant to be part of a set. She might have a crush on Harry, but her mother's unsubtle insinuation was far too embarrassing to ever see the light of day. Her matching emerald green sweater with a big gold 'G' on the front was going to stay at the bottom of her trunk until the end of time.

"That's awfully nice of her. You're lucky to have a mother that loves you so much, Ginny." Luna said with a dreamy smile.

An awkward silence followed, both Ginny and Harry being well aware that Luna's mother had died in a botched magical experiment a couple of years ago. The blonde girl was not particularly skittish about the subject, but she always became even more spaced out than usual whenever she thought back to it.

"Alright, lets see what this last one is then." Harry said with a bit of forced cheer in his voice.

Both girls were equally curious about the mystery present and leaned in closer as Harry opened it.

Ginny flushed bright red as the mystery was solved.

"Oh my, she has a very nice pair of boobies." Luna ascertained scientifically, peering at the moving magical photo with rare intensity.

Harry nodded in agreement, staring at the image of a seventh year Ravenclaw doing a little dance in a sexy nightie that was a least a size too small. A distant part of his mind noted that she'd probably bought the item in a muggle lingerie store. Either that, or the Wizarding World took the 'secret' part of Victoria's Secret literally. Most of his attention was captured by the flesh being displayed by the curvy seventeen year old with brown hair and blue eyes however, rather than where'd she'd gotten the see-through garment. His runes prickled even as the blood rushed southwards.

"Who is she?" Ginny asked, her tone accusatory and jealous despite her best efforts.

"I don't know her name." Harry answered truthfully. He did know however, that she was one of the girls that had caught him staring and had raised her eyebrows at him pointedly. He'd been glad to escape being glared at at the time.

The thought that she would send him a sexy picture had never even crossed his mind as a possibility. Sometimes, life was good.

"You need to get rid of it." Ginny stated.

"That would be very rude." Luna countered before Harry could object to the redhead's declaration. "She obviously wanted Harry to have it. What if he threw away your gift? How would that make you feel?"

"It's not the same thing!" The redhead insisted, her voice rising in pitch in her desire to combat Luna's logic.

"Why not?" Luna asked cluelessly.

"Because...because it just isn't!"

"Well that's not much of an argument, is it?" Luna frowned.

"Hey look, there's a note!" Harry interjected, wanting to end the brewing argument. He was inclined to agree with Luna though. A lot of that agreement originated in the fact that her reasoning would end up with him keeping an animated photo of a sexy girl, but still.

"'Have fun polishing your wand.'" Luna read out. "How did she know that your wand needs polishing?"

Both Harry and Ginny flushed bright red, quickly understanding the euphemism.

"Did she find you polishing it during one of your free periods, Harry?" Luna continued.

"NO!" Harry exclaimed in a near panic with his face burning, forgetting for a moment that Luna had meant that literally. "I mean, no. I'm sure she just assumed that it...errr...needs polishing." He finished awkwardly.

How in the six hundred and sixty-six pits of the Abyss was Luna not making the connection between the sexy girl, wand polishing and masturbation, he had no idea, but he'd be damned if he was going to explain it to her.

"I could help you if you don't know the proper technique." The blonde offered innocently.

Amazingly, Harry felt the erection he'd gotten from the moving photo withering from the sheer volume of blood rushing to his face.

"That's alright, Luna. I'm sure I can do it myself." He answered painfully. A quick look at Ginny let him know that the redhead had long since lost the power of speech and would be of no help in ending this conversation.

"Are you sure? Daddy showed me how he polishes his before I left for Hogwarts you know."

Harry's face shifted from bright red to a sickly green. He knew, he knew that Luna hadn't meant it that way, but there was no blocking out the mental imagery.

"I think I'm going to go lie down for a bit." He said, forcibly derailing the conversation.

"You are looking a bit peaky." Luna agreed.

XXXXX

The next morning found Harry in his room, reading the book that Ginny had given him and munching on a pre-breakfast sandwich that Blinky had brought him. The house elves were all well aware of his appetite by now and seemed to be extra fond of him for the additional work it gave them.

The book itself was actually surprisingly good in a 'Charms theory for dummies' kind of way. Granted, it was meant for children ranging from eleven to fifteen in age, but Harry found it a bit simplistic after slogging through the tomes in the Restricted Section. It did provide a bit of insight into things that the more advanced tomes assumed the reader already knew however, such as a few focusing exercises for casting magic properly.

He shut the book with determination and held up a pen, focusing on his desire for the pen to levitate.

After the amount of practice he put into it, the writing implement did so easily. Then, as per the suggestion of the book, he sent it on a slow, looping glide across the room. It wasn't something he'd thought of doing before, but it was surprisingly difficult to keep it focused in a single direction instead of having it flail every which way. It was a jerky and uneven flight as he struggled to keep his focus on the multiple elements required for a smooth one, but it got easier the more he practiced.

Technically, the book said to do this with a wand, but Harry was as determined as ever to avoid looking ridiculous by waving that silly stick about. It would undoubtedly have been worlds easier, but he was rather leery of the idea of being deprived of magic by something as simple as having his wand taken away.

Also, he still hadn't been able to stop thinking of his wand as some kind of magical penis ever since last night. The act of doing magic with a wand felt kind of like giving his magic a good wanking at the moment. A minor issue really and one that would be easily ignored during classes, but it did give him a little extra incentive to master wandless magic.

A knock on the door sent his pen clattering to the floor.

"Come in." He called as he picked it up.

Ginny stuck her head inside, giving him a smile that might be classified as 'overly bright'.

"Morning." She greeted cheerily. "Want to get...breakfast? Harry, why do you have a sandwich in your room?"

"I like to have a little snack before breakfast." He defended.

"A little?" Ginny asked disbelievingly, walking up to what looked to be the remains of a considerably sized sandwich.

"I'm a growing boy." Harry simultaneously lied and told the truth.

"O...kay." Ginny conceded, having heard that one from more than one of her brothers over the years. "So, want to get breakfast?"

"I'm waiting for Luna to get up. Speaking of which, why are you up already? You usually sleep in."

"I just felt like getting up early today." The redhead said a bit defensively.

"Alright." Harry shrugged and dropped the subject. It was none of his business if she wanted to change her sleeping habits.

"So, um, what did you do with...you know...it?" Ginny asked awkwardly, blushing madly.

Harry knew what she was talking about instantly. He was also reminded of a very interesting 'wand polishing' session during which the sexily animated girl in the magical picture had done a striptease for him.

Magic was so awesome. And perhaps his fame had some upsides to it too.

"That's none of your business." He said quckly with a heavy blush on his face, wanting to cringe as soon as he'd said it. He might as well have told her exactly what he'd been doing with that picture last night.

"Harry, you have to get rid of it." The redhead said, disapproval permeating her tone.

"Why?" He asked back, his own tone stiffening. "Luna had a point last night, the girl obviously wanted me to have it."

"It isn't right." She insisted. She'd woken up so early exactly because she didn't want Luna around to argue with her about it.

"Why?" He challenged again. No way was he giving up that picture. There was a criminal dearth of erotic material in the Wizarding World as it was. Not that he'd really looked for any, but he hadn't caught so much as a hint of it so far.

"It just isn't!" She yelled in frustration. "You shouldn't be looking at pictures of some tramp that you don't even know!"

Harry just stared at her, trying to contain the urge to yell back at her. Fortunately, he succeeded. He'd spent practically every night since the beginning of term working on his Occlumency for at least a couple of hours before he went to bed and his temper was finally becoming manageable.

He was still pretty pissed off though. He'd thought that Ginny was getting better about the stupid crush she had on him, but apparently not. He most certainly did not owe her anything and wasn't going to pander to her jealousy.

"I'll look at whatever the hell I want." He snapped.

"Fine then!" She snapped back tearfully. "Keep your thrashy picture if it's so important to you!"

With that, she stomped out, slamming the door for good measure.

"It's not about the damn picture anymore." Harry muttered to himself with a long sigh.

He hadn't been too enthused about Ginny at first, but she'd grown on him after a while. He wasn't so fond of her that he would be willing to give in to her jealous tantrums though.

XXXXX

Ginny grumbled in her sleep as a weight settled itself on her midsection.

Then she batted her hands at whatever was poking her in the cheek.

"Psst! Ginny. Wake up."

The combination of irritating pokes and the voice brought the redhead out of slumber, causing her eyes to slowly open.

And see the form of Luna sitting on her stomach, smiling at her. The gloom, combined with Ginny's sleep addled mind, made her look very creepy.

Naturally, Ginny screamed.

"Hello." Luna chirped, apparently unperturbed.

"Luna?" Ginny hissed, voice heavy with incredulity. "What are you doing here?!"

"I seem to be sitting on your stomach." The blonde answered in all seriousness.

"Why?!"

"I needed to talk to you and you've been avoiding me and Harry all day."

"And why do you need to talk to me so badly." The redhead grumbled sourly, reminded of the blow-up she'd had with Harry in the morning. His obvious determination to keep hold of that slutty photo had put a serious hole in her image of the Boy-Who-Lived.

"Because you've been avoiding me and Harry all day. I want to know why so that I can fix it and we can all be friends again."

Ginny sighed in resignation and slumped back into the bed. "Could you get off me now?"

"I could." Despite saying that, Luna made no move to actually do so.

"Luna, get off."

"Okay."

The blonde clambered off the redhead and settled herself on the mattress. An awkward silence ensued for a while as Luna waited for Ginny to say something, while Ginny didn't know what to say.

"It's about that naughty picture isn't it?" Luna asked shrewdly after a few minutes of silence.

"Yes!" Ginny cried out. "I just don't understand why he wants to keep it so badly."

"She has very nice boobies." Luna reasoned.

"But he's the Boy-Who-Lived!"

"Yes, and boys like boobies."

Ginny spluttered incomprehensibly for a moment, flustered by the utter certainty of Luna's replies.

"But he's a hero! He should find his true love, not...not...stare at a dirty picture that some tramp sent him!"

Luna peered at her closely for a few seconds before replying. "Didn't your parents tell you that boys are more interested in boobies than true love? Daddy told me that the day before I left for Hogwarts."

Ginny flushed in embarrassment. No, they hadn't told her that, but she had heard more than one outraged rant from her mother when she'd found a dirty magazine in Fred and George's room. They must have somehow gotten it from the Muggle World if their mother's rants about the indecency of muggle women was anything to go by.

"But he's not just any boy." She protested weakly.

"But he is a boy, so he must like boobies." Luna insisted. "We can ask him tomorrow if you want to make sure."

"No!" Ginny blurted out, blushing again.

Another few minutes passed in silence, a more comfortable one this time.

"Do you think he'd like my boobies?" The redhead asked eventually, her voice barely audible.

"You don't have any boobies." The blonde trespasser informed her bluntly.

Ginny slumped into herself.

"But don't worry, Harry doesn't seem to be picky about what kind of boobies he likes. He spends a large part of his mealtimes looking at all the ones he can see, so I'm sure that he'll like ours once they grow."

That wasn't really what Ginny wanted to hear. Being just another pair of breasts for Harry Potter's viewing pleasure was a far cry from her dreams of a happily ever after with the Boy-Who-Lived.

XXXXX

A few weeks passed mostly uneventfully. Ginny became progressively more withdrawn, but Harry didn't press her on it, figuring that it was just a consequence of their argument. Luna did try, but was fended off by assurances that she was just tired.

Then the routine was interrupted by another attack, but there was no petrification this time. This time, Terry Boot was found dead in the hallways.

XXXXX

"The Ministry arrested Hagrid?" Harry asked incredulously.

They were in his room, as it had become a sort of unspoken private spot for them. They couldn't use one of the girls' rooms because they had an alarm attached to them if a boy tried to enter them. The reverse did not apply for some reason.

"Yes, he was the one to get blamed when the Chamber of Secrets was opened the last time, fifty years ago." Luna confirmed sadly. She liked Hagrid.

"That doesn't even make sense!" Harry said in exasperation. "If they're running on the assumption that Slytherin's Heir hates muggleborns, Hagrid is hardly likely to be the culprit."

"The Ministry doesn't often make sense."

Harry snorted. That sounded about right.

"There's even talk about Dumbledore being relieved of his post as Hogwarts Headmaster and closing down the school." Luna continued. "It's almost exactly like it happened fifty years ago."

"It was me!" Ginny suddenly cried out, her face deathly pale.

"What was you?" Harry asked slowly, staring at the near frantic redhead. She'd been trembling pretty much since Boot was found dead.

"I was the one who opened the Chamber!" She blurted out. "I mean...I think it was me. I blacked out again and then Terry was dead and now Hagrid got arrested..."

"Ginny, slow down!" Harry cut off her babbling, more than a little alarmed. "I think you'd better start from the beginning."

So she did. She laid out pretty much everything from the mysteriously appearing diary of one T. M. Riddle and how it would talk back to her and even show her its memories, to her blackouts and how they always happened during an attack.

"A Tom Riddle was credited as 'exposing' Hagrid the first time." Luna said contemplatively. She had looked into it with her father during the holidays.

"Ginny, could you show us this diary?" Harry requested, getting a terrible suspicion about the item. Simple spellwork wouldn't be enough to make a diary interactive to that degree.

Ginny agreed and shuffled off to her own room to get her bag, coming back a minute later.

As soon as she handed it to him, he felt the insane urge to write something into it despite what Ginny had just told him. He was more than wary enough of it to immediately think of a compulsion charm though, so he resisted. If the diary was a phylactery as he suspected, then writing into it was the last thing he wanted to do.

Now the only thing left to do was decide what to do with it. Something obviously had to be done, but none of them had any idea how it would affect Ginny if it was either destroyed or left intact.

As much as he didn't trust the old man anymore, Harry reluctantly concluded that he would have to talk to Dumbledore about this.

XXXXX

"Professor Flitwick has informed me that you had an urgent matter you needed to discuss with me?" Dumbledore prompted.

Harry nodded, still unsure of the wisdom in going to Dumbledore with this.

Looking around the room, it was obvious that the rumors of the old wizard getting sacked were true. He had been in the middle of packing his possessions and there was an air of sorrow about him. Even Fawkes was looking a bit dispirited.

"I think I might know what's been going on with this whole Chamber of Secrets thing." He admitted at last, seeing no alternative but to rely on the Headmaster for help in dealing with the problem.

Dumbledore sat up, suddenly looking far more intense than before.

"Then by all means, tell me."

It was presented like a gentle prompt, but the sudden pressure of Dumbledore's magic made it an order.

Harry swallowed, this was the first time that he'd felt another wizard's magic pressing against his own. It gave the old man an aura of power and authority that no amount of grandfatherly twinkling could hope to hide.

"I'd like to ask you something first." He ventured, continuing when the Headmaster gave him a nod to go ahead. "Is it possible for a wizard to make a phylactery?"

Dumbledore frowned, puzzled. The term was unfamiliar to him, but the level of nervousness he could see the boy across him exuding at the question gave it an ominous weight.

"What is a phylactery?"

"An item in which an evil magic user might hide their soul in to achieve a form of immortality, a soul jar in other words."

Dumbledore could feel his insides going cold at the explanation. How was it possible for the twelve year old boy to know of such dark magics? He was certain that he had purged the Hogwarts Library of any mention of Horcruxes.

"Where did you learn of such things?" He demanded, forgetting his grandfatherly persona for a moment. Harry simply couldn't be allowed to turn evil. The Wizarding World would never survive a struggle between Voldemort and another rising Dark Lord, especially one as powerful as Harry was looking to become.

Harry sank deeper into his chair as Dumbledore's presence swelled further. He tried to apply his nascent knowledge of Occlumency to control his fear, but it was hard. The old wizard was so much stronger than him.

"It's a common theme in muggle fantasy fiction." He explained with far too much squeak in his voice for his taste. "An evil wizard sacrificing his humanity in exchange for power and immortality."

Dumbledore blinked and slowly settled down, aided by a calming song from Fawkes that was probably meant for both wizards.

Muggles had conceived the idea of Horcruxes, all the while believing that magic didn't exist? Or had some whispers of the foul creations survived among them from the times before the Statute of Secrecy? It didn't matter he supposed, what mattered was that Harry had seen fit to come to him to ask about it. While the fact that he even knew that it was possible to make a Horcrux was not at all a good thing, it was heartening that the boy had come to him with this. Dark wizards did not in general come to him for advice on how to perform evil magic.

"Am I to take it then that you believe such a object to be behind this year's troubles?" He asked, his mind already making connections. The last Heir of Slytherin had been Voldemort and a Horcrux of the man would certainly be capable of possessing a student and repeating what had happened fifty years ago.

Harry nodded and drew a thin book out of the Mokeskin Pouch that Dumbledore had noticed he always kept at his waist.

The book was placed on the desk, helpfully signed 'T. M. Riddle' as if to confirm his suspicions.

Just to be sure, Dumbledore cast a few diagnostic charms over the diary even though he already knew what they would tell him. Indeed, the thin book was a cesspit of corrupt magic.

"You have done a great thing to bring this to me, Harry." He said eventually.

He meant it too. Now he finally had confirmation that Voldemort had indeed created Horcruxes. He had only been able to speculate before this. Though the Dark Lord's soul was no doubt a shattered and mangled thing from the abuse he'd put it through with his evil acts, a piece of it would not simply fly off and attach itself to Harry's forehead unless there was something more going on.

The diary must have been created while Tom Riddle was still in school and knowing him as Dumbledore did, he doubted that Voldemort would have been satisfied with just a single Horcrux despite the consequences of creating them.

"How did you come to posses this?"

Harry did his best not to squirm. This was the part that he had really been hoping to avoid, but knew he couldn't. He didn't want to land Ginny in hot water, but he had little doubt that the Ministry wouldn't care about her being possessed if they could imprison Hagrid on evidence so flimsy that it was practically non-existent.

"A student had it." He evaded.

"Ms. Lovegood or Ms. Weasley? Ah, Ms. Weasley." Dumbledore said, taking his cues from Harry's expression and body language.

"She didn't even know it was her." Harry hastened to explain. "She just kept blacking out and guessed that it might be. There's also a compulsion on the diary that was manipulating her to do it and keep quiet."

"I know, Harry." Dumbledore interjected, making a calming motion with his hand. "This is a cursed object left behind by Voldemort and an eleven year old can hardly be expected to perceive it for what it is. No blame shall fall on young Ms. Weasley."

"You'll forgive me if I don't believe the Ministry will be that reasonable." Harry replied cynically.

Dumbledore gave a short sigh at the unfortunate truth of that. Cornelius had not listened to his protestations of Hagrid's innocence, wanting to be seen 'doing something', so it was quite likely that he'd jump on poor Ginny as if she were Voldemort himself. A helpless, eleven year old Voldemort of course. Cornelius had regrettably never been brave enough to actually do something as dangerous as act against a real threat.

"You needn't worry Harry, I will handle the Ministry."

They had no time to deal with that right now however, as the current situation had to be resolved quickly before the Ministry did anything else unutterably stupid, such as offering Lockhart the position of Hogwarts Headmaster. Triumphing over Slytherin's basilisk and revealing that it was a cursed object at work would be enough to restore his reputation and reclaim his position.

Not that he had any intention of actually fighting the basilisk. The ancient serpent's hide would be obscenely magic resistant by now, not to mention its powerful Killing Gaze. A quick apparition to grab a rooster would be the most he planned to exert himself.

That just left the problem of gaining access to the Chamber of Secrets. He'd found it some time ago after learning that he was dealing with a basilisk, but had been unable to open the path. The barrier in Myrtle's bathroom was linked to the wards, but not even the Headmaster could open them. No doubt it would take a Parselmouth.

"I realize that you have done much already Harry, but I find myself in a position where I am forced to ask you to do a little more."

"For example?" Harry asked warily.

"I have discovered where the Chamber of Secrets is, but it takes a Parselmouth to open it." Dumbledore explained and continued before Harry could say anything. "Know that you will be in minimal danger and that I have no intention of engaging the basilisk in battle."

"Couldn't we just leave it alone?" Harry questioned. "I mean, we have the diary. If we destroy it, then there won't be anyone left to open it."

"I left the mystery alone fifty years ago and it has resulted in the current situation." Dumbledore said sorrowfully. "I would rather not risk history repeating itself a third time."

He would also probably not regain his position as Headmaster without some significant achievement. The glory of Grindelwald's defeat that had carried him through the last time was much more distant now, nor had he been Headmaster the last time.

XXXXX

"You know, I'm not sure we could make a less epic start to the slaying of a powerful monster if we tried." Harry grumbled as he walked into the girl's bathroom behind Dumbledore, a live rooster in his hands.

"How so, Harry?" Dumbledore asked, amused in spite of the dire situation.

"You're wearing bright yellow robes, I'm carrying a chicken, and we're going into a girl's bathroom." The boy replied dryly.

"Rooster." The much older wizard corrected.

"It sounds like the start of a dirty joke." Harry continued, ignoring the correction. "'A boy walks into a girl's bathroom holding an old man's cock.'"

Dumbledore stopped and looked at his student strangely before finally speaking. "I presume that this is Ms. Lovegood's influence?"

"It would be something she'd say, isn't it?" Harry admitted with a slight blush.

Luna would probably be entirely clueless about the sexual connotations though. Or at least she'd be pretending to be clueless. Harry wasn't sure yet whether his blonde friend was really as oblivious as she acted.

"Indeed. Her father was, and I presume still is, the same."

"Why are we in a girl's bathroom anyway?"

"I have been able to deduce that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is in here, by the sinks."

"Salazar Slytherin put the entrance to his Chamber of Secrets in a girl's bathroom?" Harry asked incredulously.

"It would appear so."

"He was either very cunning or a pedophile."

"The truth is a wonderful and terrible thing and probably best left unknown in this case." Dumbledore said, gesturing towards the sink with the snake carving. "Command it to open in Parseltongue if you would, Harry."

Harry focused on the image of a snake in his mind just like he'd practiced and spoke. "Open!"

The circular array of sinks separated and revealed a long tunnel into the dark.

Harry peered into the depths, a question forming in his mind.

"If you knew the entrance was here, why didn't you simply blast it open?"

"Alas, magic is rarely so straightforward." Dumbledore explained. "Had I done so, all I would have to show for it is a ruined bathroom and no secret entrance."

The only reason he hadn't asked Harry for help sooner was a desire to not involve the boy in such a dangerous matter. Unfortunately, his caution had availed him nothing save to place the death of another student on his conscience.

"I will ask you to go no further Harry, but there may be other Parseltongue locked doors in the Chamber." He said, looking down at the boy.

"Let's just get this over with." Harry sighed, staring down into the dark hole.

Moaning Myrtle chose this moment to pop out of her preferred cubicle.

"If you die down there, you can share my toilet." She offered.

"Thank you Myrtle, that is most generous of you." Dumbledore said and jumped into the hole.

Given the choice between a creepily giggling ghost and a dark hole leading to one of the most dangerous monsters in the magical world, Harry swiftly followed.

XXXXX

Harry slid out of the tunnel after a fairly exhilirating ride, shoes crunching on the bones of countless small animals.

"Well this isn't creepy at all." He muttered sarcastically.

"Quite," Dumbledore agreed, quickly casting a few cleaning charms to remove the filth they'd picked up during their slide. "Come Harry, but be cautious. If you see or hear anything, shut your eyes."

"Don't have to tell me twice." Harry agreed and followed the old wizard deeper into the chamber.

It didn't take them long to come across a massive discarded snake skin.

"It is even larger than I thought." Dumbledore said, shaking his head.

"Do all basilisks get this big?" Harry asked, staring at the skin with wide eyes. He hugged the rooster a bit more tightly, knowing that it was the key to this mad venture.

"There has never been a record of a basilisk living this long." Dumbledore explained. "I suspect that they never stop growing."

They moved on and reached another Parseltongue sealed door, beyond which lay the Chamber proper.

"This guy really had a thing for snakes." Harry observed, noting the many serpent statues lining the walkway.

"Indeed." Dumbledore agreed and gestured for Harry to give him the rooster. "The basilisk must be very close now, would you be so kind as to give me back my cock now?"

Harry gave a nervous chuckle as he did so, recognizing the humour for what it was, an attempt to relieve some tension.

They stalked forward slowly, Dumbledore keeping his wand trained on the rooster held in his other hand, ready to compell it to crow at a moment's notice.

"Professor, I just had a thought." Harry said quietly.

"Yes, Harry?"

"The crow of a rooster seems like an awfully specific vulnerability, not really something likely to occur naturally."

"You would not be the first to wonder about that. Despite logic indicating otherwise, that particular weakness is not bred into the creatures deliberately. Rather, it is a result of the nature of its hatching. Something about the process makes a rooster's crow resonate fatally with the basilisk's own magic." Dumbledore lectured.

"So there's no chance of it being immune then?" Harry asked, much relieved.

"No Harry, you can rest assured that my cock is stronger than Slytherin's snake." The old wizard assured, beard twitching with his smile.

Harry snorted in amusement. He might be wary of Dumbledore and the manipulative streak that his grandparents had warned him of, but at least he had a sense of humour.

"Intruders in the nest? Not the master. Food? So hungry. Smells good."

The hiss resonated across the chamber, too low for human hearing but perfectly audible to a Parselmouth.

And also to the rooster, which squawked in reply.

The hissing stopped for a moment before returning with a vengeance.

"BIRD BIRD BIRD! SERPENT KILLER. NO NO NO NO, WON'T DIE. CAN'T RUN. NOWHERE TO RUN. MUST KILL!"

"Get ready!" Harry called urgently, alarmed by the half-mad rambling of the basilisk. "It's coming right at us!"

Dumbledore nodded, hearing the rapid movement of the enourmous snake through the tunnels built into the sides of the Chamber. He waited only a moment longer before casting a compulsion on the rooster and forcing it to crow.

The basilisk let out a hissing roar as the crowing echoed through the Chamber before smashing heavily into the ground off to the side, also making a large splash in the shallow water.

Harry and Dumbledore waited tensely for any sign that the basilisk was still alive. A full minute passed before they relaxed and started moving warily towards the place where they'd heard the crash.

"Do not look it in the eyes, they may still have some power even in death." Dumbledore warned.

"Got it." Harry acknowledged.

They found the massive carcass quickly enough, looking more like a dark grey rock formation than a snake.

"I guess that's it then." Harry said, still jittery with nerves from the oddly anti-climatic finish.

"Almost, there is one more thing to do." Dumbledore said as he handed the rooster back to Harry and drew out the diary.

"What are you going to do with that?" Harry asked.

"Aside from being incredibly potent, basilisk venom is also known to have a corrosive effect on magic. If my guess is correct, it should have the ability to destroy Voldemort's diary." Dumbledore explained.

It would also save him a great deal of questions from the Ministry about unauthorized uses of Fiendfyre.

Harry said nothing and simply watched as the much older wizard approached the basilisk's mouth, taking care not to look at the eyes. With a wave of his wand, he forced open the massive jaw, revealing a mouth full of fangs instead of the usual toothless mouth of a snake. With a quick Accio, one of the fangs was pulled out and driven through the diary. The wail released by the booklet was confirmation that the Horcrux was destroyed.

"What about the basilisk?" Harry asked once it was done, the whole thing once again feeling very anti-climatic. He hadn't expected that prophecy to be resolved quite so...neatly.

"What of it?" Dumbledore blinked, oblivious to the fact that Harry had just assumed that Voldemort was finished once and for all.

"Could we sell it?"

Dumbledore hummed thoughtfully. He'd been so focused on killing the beast and regaining his position as Headmaster that he hadn't thought of it, but the boy definitely had a point. For a basilisk of this size and age, half the Potion Masters and magical leatherworkers in Europe would beggar themselves before it was completely harvested and sold, which was a process likely to take several years. The eyes alone would net an astronomical sum.

Hogwarts could certainly use the funding, not to mention the Order of the Phoenix in the event that Voldemort's return proved impossible to prevent. It would make it easier to regain his Headmaster position if he came bearing gifts.

"An excellent point, Harry." He said.

"You said that the hide is magic resistant?" Harry asked speculatively, eyeballing the craggy dark grey scales. He rather liked the color.

"Extremely so." Dumbledore confirmed.

"I've heard about dragonhide robes, would it be possible to make them out of basilisk hide?"

"It would. They would not be as impact resistant as dragonhide, but they would be much more magic resistant."

"I'll claim enough of its hide to make a few adult sized sets then and samples of any useful ingredients harvested if I ever decide to make use of them, such as the venom. The rest of it we can sell. I'm assuming that my share can easily be delivered to my Gringotts vault?"

"Your share?" Dumbledore echoed, surprised by the mercenary statement.

"Of course, 50%. You found the Chamber, but I opened it and neither one of us can really claim to have done the lion's share of the work since we killed the bloody thing with a rooster. You get to take whatever you want from the carcass before we sell it of course, what with both of us having equal claim to the body." Harry continued happily.

"There is more to life than galleons, Harry." The old wizard sighed, disappointed by the decidedly unheroic greed that the boy was displaying right now.

"And all those other things in life will be much easier with galleons than without them." Harry countered. After getting ripped off by the goblins that first time, he was no longer willing to let easy profit slip through his fingers. "You didn't think I was going to hold your cock for free, did you?"

"I...very well." Dumbledore capitulated and shook his head with a weak smile at the joke. He couldn't afford to alienate the boy over something so trivial, especially when he was entitled by law to claim a share due to his aid in slaying the beast.

XXXXX

"If I may have your attention, please." Dumbledore said just before the evening meal that very same day.

The Great Hall quieted and turned its attention to him curiously.

"I know that the year has been difficult, filled with fear and sorrow, but now it is over. Earlier in the day, Harry Potter and myself have at last unraveled the mystery behind the Chamber of Secrets."

The student body burst into excited murmurs for a moment before settling down again to listen to the old Headmaster.

"The mythical monster said to be hidden in the Chamber was a basilisk, whose lair was most cleverly hidden. Mr. Potter and myself found it and ventured into the Chamber this very morning, slaying the beast in its lair."

"But who was the Heir?" Someone yelled out.

"Voldemort." He replied, resisting the urge to sigh as practically everyone in the Great Hall flinched, yelped, screamed or otherwise displayed an unseemly level of fear over a name. "A cursed object he had left behind had possessed a student and forced them to open the Chamber. The name of the student in question will remain secret unless they wish to inform you themselves."

Another bout of murmuring spread through the students, this time speculation on the identity of the possessed party.

"Additionally, for the next few days Hogwarts will be hosting several wizards and witches specializing in the harvesting of large magical animals. I request that you do not get in their way. That will be all from me right now, thank you."

That should do the trick. The legend of the Boy-Who-Lived would grow, as would the enmity between him and Voldemort. His own involvement and connection to Harry would ensure that he would be able to retain his position as Headmaster without any overt difficulty.

Lucius Malfoy would no doubt try to protest, but Dumbledore knew how to handle Lucius.

It truly was unfortunate that the re-opening of the Chamber had resulted in another death, but he had not dared to close the school. The then-unknown Heir of Slytherin would have been set loose on the world in that case. Terry Boot's death was unfortunate, but it was better than the many other deaths that a resurrected sixteen year old Voldemort would have caused.

XXXXX

Harry, Luna and Ginny had almost made it up the first flight of stairs towards Ravenclaw tower before they were halted.

"Potter!"

Harry's face twitched with irritation at the sound of Draco Malfoy's outraged yell. Of course the blond idiot would take offense to having the attacks on muggleborns ended. Why had he even entertained the idea that Malfoy might be clever enough to be less obvious about his prejudices?

Turning around, the three of them saw the huffing and puffing second year stomping up the stairs, no doubt intending to get in Harry's face about his part in putting an end to the whole debacle.

Harry had no desire to deal with the idiot, so he focused his will and launched a weak, wandless banishing spell at Malfoy's leg.

The leg was thrown back, completely destroying the blond's footing and sending him crashing face first into the stairs. He managed to catch himself with his hands before he actually got hurt, unfortunately.

"Maybe you should learn to walk on even ground before trying to tackle stairs, Malfoy." Harry mocked, taking an inordinate amount of glee in the blond's humiliation. He'd been insufferable ever since Halloween. More insufferable than normal at any rate.

"You tripped me!" Malfoy accused angrily.

"With what?" Harry asked sarcastically, raising his hands to show that they were empty. "My mastery of wandless magic?"

There were some giggles from a few students who'd seen the whole thing, causing Draco to flush in angry humiliation.

Shaking his head in exasperation, Harry restarted his speedy retreat to his room. He had no doubt that everyone and their mother would want to know the whole story and he wasn't sure that his reputation for being unapproachable was going to be a sufficient shield.

XXXXX

Harry closed the door to his room with a feeling of relief.

What in the bloody fucking hell had Dumbledore been thinking, announcing that to the entire school? He'd felt like a germ under a microscope with the way that people had stared at him all the way through dinner. Luna and Ginny's stares had been the worst, silently willing him to explain. At least he hadn't said anything about sending Moldywarts off to his final death with the destruction of the phylactery.

Was this supposed to be some kind of payback for the 50% share of the profits on the sale of the carcass he'd claimed?

His stewing was interrupted by an insistent knocking on his door.

Harry sighed, knowing exactly who was on the other side.

Resigned he opened the door and was placed into bewilderment as a tiny redhead grabbed him in a tight hug.

"Thank you." She mumbled.

"You're, uh, welcome." Harry replied with an akward pat on the back. Ginny had been a bit twitchy ever since he'd taken the diary away from her, so he could guess that its destruction had helped her somehow, but he still had no idea how to deal with this.

"Did you really have to kill that poor, lonely basilisk, Harry?" Luna asked sadly.

"It was going to eat us." He said dryly, recalling the creature's mutterings before it had detected the rooster.

"Oh poo, and I so wanted a basilisk friend."

Ginny finally let go at that point, looking up at him curiously despite her blush. "How did you even kill it?"

"Dumbledore got a rooster from somewhere. It wasn't as dangerous as he made it sound."

"Could I have an interview, Harry?" Luna asked excitedly, her previous dismay over the serpent's death forgotten. "Daddy is sure to want to write an article about how you and Headmaster Dumbledore used your cock to slay Slytherin's ancient snake."

Harry turned his eyes skyward with a sigh, somehow not even surprised that Luna had once again managed to be so innocently crass. He'd been expecting it really.

XXXXX

February 14th

Harry had barely left his room for the whole day, rightly fearing the level of attention he would get on this day.

Ginny had been acting extra weird for the past few days. No doubt she'd be upset about his refusal to even show his face on what was supposedly the most romantic day of the year, but that was her own problem. Her crush had somehow managed to become both better and worse after the diary situation was resolved.

Better, because she was less obvious about it most of the time and worse because it had apparently solidified into some kind of emotional jawbreaker. He rather thought that the girl needed counseling to deal with the fact that her body had been used to kill someone, but the Wizarding World had apparently never heard of psychiatry. Instead, Ginny seemed to have convinced herself that everything would be fine as long as he was there. Seeing as his paricipation in destroying the phylactery had been minimal, this belief seemed a tad unjustified to Harry.

Ginny was just going to have to learn how to deal with the disappointment, because he simply had no romantic interest in her and didn't see that changing. Her bouts of sullen jealousy were even starting to put a strain on their friendship despite Luna's best efforts at playing the intermediary.

The cause of much of this jealousy was his continued interest in the older girls, especially the one who had sent him that picture.

He didn't even know her name, but he had trouble looking her in the eye. Ever since Dumbledore's announcement, she'd been prone to winking at him whenever she caught him looking at her. She clearly had no trouble with her self-confidence, but Harry had no idea how to deal with it, so he tended to just blush in embarrassment.

His rune enhanced libido made him want to talk to her and see what happened, but he was still twelve. Talking to a seventeen year old girl that had given him a naughty picture was way outside of his comfort zone.

Either way, he had dreaded Valentine's day and decided to avoid any embarrassing situations by keeping himself locked up in his room.

He'd spent most of the day eating the steady stream of snacks provided by the house elves and meditating.

According to the book he'd found there were two ways to learn Occlumency. The quick way and the slow way.

The quick way involved getting a skilled Legilimancer to brutally and repeatedly violate your mind until you developed an instinctive defensive reaction and threw the invader out of your mind.

Aside from Aul'El preventing this approach, Harry had not been overly keen on the idea even if he could have found someone to do this to him. It sounded incredibly unpleasant and wouldn't even help to achieve his goals. He didn't need to train his subconscious into a viciously territorial attack dog, he needed to tame it.

The slow way involved a lot of sitting still and trying to clear your thoughts.

Harry had been at it for months and would have long since given up if he didn't know that there was a point to it.

The meditation had helped to control his angry outbursts to some degree, but so far he hadn't managed to sink into the trance-like state that the book had described.

Until now that was.

After hours of struggling with the concept of 'letting go', Harry had just been so tired of it all.

His irritation with Ginny's crush, the embarrassment having gotten caught staring at several of the older girls, the frustrated lust of a pubescent boy that was exceedingly unlikely to get fulfilled anytime soon, the restless desire to explore magic away from the restrictions of Hogwarts and the Ministry, the impatience at his slow progress with wandless magic, the yearning to perform another ritual and countless other things.

In his frustration with all the messy complications of life, his mind had wandered. He'd started thinking about how ultimately pointless it all was. Humanity was just one species, on one ball of rock, orbiting one star, in one galaxy. They could all get wiped out tomorrow and the Universe wouldn't even notice.

Somewhere during his ruminations, he'd left his worldly concerns behind and begun drifting lazily through a comfortable emptiness. It was like a mental safe place where nothing could reach him.

A good twenty minutes later, Harry came out of the trance and smiled even as the ache in his lower back and the hunger in his stomach ruined the sense of peace he'd felt.

He had managed the first – and arguably the hardest – part of Occlumency.

XXXXX

June 2nd

Potions class had become almost pleasant for a while after the basilisk was killed, mostly because Snape was in an ebulient mood over getting to experiment with fresh basilisk parts that Dumbledore had given him access to. Even more so when the headmaster also gave him access to phoenix tears to neutralize the venom's magic destroying properties and see what could be done with it.

It hadn't lasted long of course, as this was Snape we were talking about. The dour man's relatively good cheer dissipated in about a month, returning him back to his default factory setting.

Still, Harry couldn't really complain too much about Potions. Yes, Snape was kind of a bastard and unnecessarily harsh with students, but he was still better than Binns or Lockhart. Even a bastard with no idea how to teach properly could impart some of his knowledge, whereas Binns was basically a sleeping spell given form and Lockhart would have been better served giving fashion tips in a Witch Weekly column.

The usual tense atmosphere that Snape imparted to a classroom was shattered by a disgustingly cheerful knocking.

Snape had only a moment to glare at the door and wonder which idiot thought it a good idea to interrupt his lesson before the idiot in question simply barged in.

"Good day, Professor Snape." Gilderoy Lockhart said jauntily, oblivious to the mood. "Please excuse the interruption, but I'm sure you'll understand once I've told you what this is about."

"I quiver with anticipation." Snape drawled coldly, displeasure dripping from every syllable.

It flew straight over Lockhart's head. "I've arranged for myself and Mr. Potter to have an interview with a reporter from The Daily Prophet regarding the events of the year, so I'm sure you'll see fit to excuse him from his lesson."

Snape turned his menacing black eyes on the boy in question, a string of insults and mockery already on his tongue.

"You arranged for me to have an interview without even asking my permission?" Harry demanded with his face flushed angrily, beating Snape to the punch. "Were you born this stupid, or did it take specialized training?"

Lockhart seemed taken aback by the hostility, clearly unable to understand how anyone could be upset about being able to talk to reporters.

Snape was mildly impressed by the venom and disdain that Potter had managed to put into his retort, not that he was ever going to admit it.

"Go with him and handle this, Potter." He said instead. "I'll thank you not to let your fame intrude on my lessons in the future."

Snape observed the boy's thunderous expression with interest. This level of provocation would have resulted in an explosion earlier in the year. Albus was clearly correct. Potter was practicing Occlumency.

XXXXX

"... Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, has been receiving private tutoring from famed author and monster hunter, Gilderoy Lockhart..."

Harry fumed as he read the article that the baboon of a DADA teacher had contrived to put into the Daily Prophet.

After getting sent out of class by Snape, he'd summarily ditched Lockhart and gone to the library, leaving the fop to deal with the press himself.

Clearly, the man was so desperate to leech off his fame that he was willing to risk outright lying. Well, two could play that game.

XXXXX

Ministry of Magic,

Depatment of Magical Law Enforcement

To whom it may concern,

I have recently become worried about certain goings on in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and felt that they should be brought to your attention. I have reason to suspect that the current Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, one Gilderoy Lockhart, is abusing his position of authority in order to extort sexual favors from the sixth and seventh year female students.

He has proven himself an inept teacher over the course of the year and many students across all seven years have stopped attending his classes. Those who remain are mostly girls, which seems suspicious to me.

It may be that the troubles experienced by Hogwarts earlier in the year are making me see foul deeds where there are none, but I implore you to investigate nonetheless.

Signed,

A concerned student.

Harry finished writing the letter with a sense of vindictive satisfaction. A similar letter going out to the Daily Prophet would make sure that it would be investigated even if the DMLE was initially inclined to dismiss the letter.

The reporters would tear strips out of the Ministry if such a claim wasn't investigated and they would tear strips out of Lockhart regardless simply because they were reporters.

The charges were entirely fabricated of course, but that made little difference. The media shitstorm would almost certainly cost Lockhart his job and reputation even if the man was squeaky clean(which Harry strongly doubted was the case).

That would show that pompous windbag to try using him to boost his own fame. He'd been trying to get Harry alone ever since the year started, but had redoubled his efforts since the fiasco with the basilisk. The surprise interview he'd attempted to spring had simply been the last straw.

XXXXX

"Following a brief but thorough investigation by the DMLE, Gilderoy Lockhart has been charged with numerous illegal uses of the memory charm, as well as abuse of his position as a Hogwarts Professor." Dumbledore was saying to the Great Hall.

The students launched into a flurry of murmuring, whispering and general speculation, stopping only when the Headmaster cleared his throat to once again get everyone's attention.

"As he will be spending the next sixty odd years in Azkaban, the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor is now vacant. Seeing as the school year is nearly over, there is little point in replacing him, but I am sure that you will be able to manage the remainder of your studies on your own."

There were several loud snorts at this, not all of them from the students. Anyone who had gotten anything DADA related done this year had done it on their own.

"As a final note, the Ministry would like to thank the concerned student who alerted them of this and are offering a reward if they come forth and are able to prove their identity. That is all, tuck in."

While the rest of the Great Hall once again erupted into furious conversation, Harry merely looked stunned.

The 'fabricated' charges he'd leveled at Lockhart had actually been true?

"Blimey."

XXXXX

Last night before the students leave.

The door to Harry Potter's room opened quietly and then closed with equal silence.

The late night intruder who had done the opening and closing padded over to the bed on silence charmed feet. There was a short rustle of cloth and then the intruder grabbed the edge of the quilt and very slowly lifted it away from the sleeping boy.

Harry had never had any reason to be a particularly light sleeper and so remained firmly unconscious.

He continued sleeping even as the bed dipped under the extra weight of another body and the quilt was pulled back over both of them.

It was only as a mildly cold hand was dragged over his ticklish abdomen that he began waking.

His thoughts were decidedly foggy for a few seconds, having stayed up fairly late because of his Occlumency practice and only slipping into a deep sleep a short while ago as a consequence, but he did eventually cotton on to the fact that his bed was rather more crowded than normal.

"Hello Harry." Said the witch who had shown such concern about the polish of his wand with her Christmas present.

"Hi." Harry replied in the cracked voice of emerging manhood. He most definitely did not squeak and anyone who said otherwise was spreading slander.

"I've seen you looking at me, Harry." She whispered into his ear hotly, rubbing one of her bare legs across his.

"Uhm, sorry?" Harry managed, any sense of eloquence lost. From what he could feel, she was wearing the very same nightie that had been the fuel of so many wand polishing sessions this year.

"Well aren't you precious?" She chuckled, running her hand over his chest. "Were you this shy when you faced Slytherin's basilisk?"

"That was different." He rallied, not liking being called shy in typical teenaged fashion even if he wasn't one quite yet according to his age. "I had a cock with me."

The innuendo only dawned on him once it was too late.

Her hand slipped into the boxers that served as his sleepwear and wrapped around the one part of him that was fully at attention. "Feels like you have one with you right now."

Harry went as rigid as if he'd been hit with a pretrification spell.

"You might be wondering why I'm here." She went on with a smile that was barely visible in the dark, gently fondling what she'd grabbed earlier.

That had been a distant question in his mind. As far as the rest of him was concerned, the unannounced visit of a pretty girl in his bed was not to be questioned, especially after she'd stuck her hand in his underwear.

He wasn't really up to speech anymore, but he did manage a nod.

She pressed herself closer up against him and her fondling became more vigorous. "Well, I just thought that you deserved a proper reward. Do you want it?"

Nod nod.

"I want to hear you say it." She insisted huskily. "Tell me that you want it."

He swallowed thickly, embarrassment at an all time high. "I want it."

"Louder Harry, say it like you mean it."

"I want it!"

"Good, good. Now just relax and let me take care of you."

He did as he was told and very quickly made a mess in his boxers.

Harry drew in deep breaths as she continued to squeeze her fist every other second, making his discharge run over her fingers.

"You wouldn't happen to have had anything to do with Lockhart getting arrested, did you?" She asked after a few minutes.

"I was the one that sent the letter to the DMLE." He admitted instantly.

"How did you know that he was fooling around with the upper year girls?" She asked curiously.

"I didn't, I just wanted to get him in trouble." He once again admitted instantly.

She let out a giggle. "And here I thought you were protecting our virtue."

Harry flushed at her teasing tone. "I would've sent the letter sooner if I'd known."

"Don't worry about it, Harry. Those bimboes have no one but themselves to blame for buying into his lies."

All this talk about a teacher sleeping with his students brought Harry's mind around to the fact that he was twelve and that what had just happened was almost certainly illegal.

"Er, you won't get in trouble for, um, this, will you?" He asked nervously.

"Were you going to tell on me, Harry?" She teased.

"No." He was quick to assure.

"Such a gentleman." She teased some more, though Harry wasn't sure if he could really be called a gentleman in this case. "But no, there won't be any legal trouble even if someone does find out. The magical world has a much looser interpretation of the age of consent than the muggle one and it's also assumed that strapping young wizards like yourself wouldn't refuse the attentions of an older witch in any case."

Well, that explained the lack of gender wards on the doors of the boys rooms. Lockhart must have gotten in trouble for it because he was a teacher then.

"That's good to hear." Harry said for lack of anything better. He was keenly aware that she had not yet removed her hand from his member.

"I'd best get going." She said about half a minute later, removing her hand from his underwear, reaching for her wand and using a quick scourgify to remove the mess on it.

Harry stared openly as she bent over to pick up her robes, giving him a very nice view of her rear end in the process.

Being famous definitely had its upsides.

"I don't even know your name." He said once she was dressed.

"Probably better that way." She replied instead of answering the implied question. Then she leaned over him and gave him a gentle kiss on the lips.

"I hope you enjoyed the wand polishing lesson, Harry." She teased, smirking at his stunned look. "I hope the 'supplies' I gave you for Christmas help you keep it in top shape."

She left after that, leaving the shocked Harry to stare after her for quite some time before he snapped out of it.

Maybe it was because he'd just woken up, or the fact that he hadn't had any control of the situation, but the kiss had somehow had more impact than the handjob.

Based on the concealing robes, Harry had figured that the Wizarding World was full of prudes. While he had never been more glad to be wrong, this definitely bore further investigation.

XXXXX

"What are you smiling about?" Ginny asked on the train ride back to King's Cross.

"Just a pleasant memory." Harry answered, his smile not fading.

"It must have been quite relaxing." Luna observed. "You're not usually this mellow. "

"You could say that." He agreed after a moment, inordinately proud of himself for not blushing.

"What was it?" Ginny asked curiously.

"Something magical." He joked.

"Fine then, keep your secrets." Ginny huffed.

That was exactly what Harry intended to do, even if telling the redhead that he'd gotten a midnight handjob would probably put her off the silly crush she was still nursing. It was equally likely that it would make her all indignant and outraged, or worse, determined to invade his bed in the middle of the night as well.

XXXXX

"There's my daddy." Luna said happily, pointing at a tall and thin man with shoulder length hair that was completely white and who somehow managed to dress even more eccentrically than Dumbledore.

"And there's my parents." Ginny chimed in, pointing at two redheads. Not that it was necessary, seeing as another four Weasleys were making their way over to them.

"Come on, Harry. I want to introduce you." Luna chirped, dragging her friend over to her father.

"Okay." Harry agreed bemusedly. Luna wasn't usually so forceful, so he figured that she must really want this.

"Daddy." She squealed once she was close enough to hug her father, letting go of Harry's arm in the process.

"Hello again, turnip." The man replied, returning the hug gladly.

Harry watched the whole thing a bit awkwardly, but still smiled. The two were obviously close, which was not something he could really relate to, but he was happy for his friend.

"This is my friend, Harry Potter. And you already know Ginny." Luna said after a few moments, gesturing to them.

"Wonderful! I'm Xenophilius Lovegood, call me Xeno. Would you like to go snorkack hunting with us over the summer?"

"Errr..." Harry stammered, completely taken aback by the sudden invitation. At least it wasn't the usual Boy-Who-lived reaction that he'd grown to dislike so much. "Thank you for the offer, but I'm afraid I can't. I've got a lot to do over the summer."

"Same here." Ginny quickly added.

"Some other time then." Xeno said cheerfully. "It was nice meeting you, Harry."

"Likewise, Mr. Lovegood." Harry replied.

"Xeno." The man corrected.

"Xeno." Harry repeated agreeably, finding himself liking the strange man's manner.

Luna and her father made their goodbyes after that and left.

"Right, let's go meet my parents then." Ginny said after a moment.

Harry simply nodded, not at all looking forward to that. Molly Weasley's semi-frequent howlers hadn't given him a particularly grand impression of the woman. It would be rude to avoid it though.

They didn't even make it to the gathering of redheads before the twins started in on their routine.

"Well look who it is!"

"The Ravenclaw Weasley-"

"-Come to mingle with us simpleminded Gryffindors."

"We are honored by your intellectual presence, m'lady!"

"Shut up!" Ginny yelled at them, embarrassed by the teasing.

"Fred, George, lay off." The plump matron warned

"But of course, mother." They chorused and continued on regardless.

"We wouldn't dare embarass ickle Gin-Gin-"

"-in front of the Harry Potter."

Harry aimed an annoyed look at them. The twins might be good for a few laughs, but sometimes they really didn't know when to stop.

"Then you are...?" The father of the bunch breathed, further annoying Harry with his awed reaction.

"Yes, Harry Potter." Harry interjected. "It's been a pleasure meeting you Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, but I'm going to have to run. My ride is probably getting impatient."

Molly looked like she was about to say something more, but apparently decided against it, allowing Harry to escape the family of redheads without any further fuss. He could still hear Ginny voicing her displeasure at the twins even as he stepped through the portal to the muggle side of the station.

Ginny had already asked him if he wanted to spend part of the summer at the Burrow, and he was more glad than ever to have refused. He was sure that the Weasleys were good people, if a bit too pushy at times, but living in the same house as them would have quickly driven him spare. If the lack of privacy didn't get him, it would be the lack of quiet.

Besides, if he hung around with them, how was he supposed to get anything technically illegal done?

XXXXX

Though his name for me invokes images of Jay and Silent Bob, Salma Hayek doing a striptease, George Carlin playing a cardinal of all things, a shit demon and a threat-of-apocalypse-by-technicality, I think we can all agree that Alan Rickman made a great Severus Snape in the HP movies. RIP and all that.

Until next time.

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