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Enter the Dragon (Harry Potter/Shadowrun)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Dunkelzahn, Jul 10, 2018.

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  1. Demonfir

    Demonfir Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Well said megaolix! Personally I'm just getting here And after skipping ahead I'm realizing I'm gonna have to read over everything since it differs from both doghead13 and Tsu Doh Nimh 'a writings.

    a major shoutout to Dunkelzahn for continuing what became a wonderful piece of comedy that while not totally refined entertains and keeps smiles!

    Also apologies in advance but I'm going to hijack the thread a little here.
    Doghead13
    I was pleasantly surpised to see you here! Somehow that description as a Scottish biker just fit with the comments you'd made on your profile and fics as well as the speech and mannerisms in your original story on fanfiction.net

    i just have to ask you though what you have been up to? How did the web comic go? What developed afterwards?

    Anyways back to reading and LINE webtoons. Found a juicy one in Eleceed where a talented and powerful man is trapped in the body of a VERY fat feline helping another young man grow his abilities and learn about the world.

    but right now... dunzelkahn has my near full attention with this fic! Hope ya get my message and look forwards to hearing more from both doghead13 and dunzelkahn
     
    Dunkelzahn likes this.
  2. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    So, a bit of an update since this seems to have attracted some attention while I've been working.

    I've been doing a fairly extensive rework of 3.17 (section reordered, the former 3.17.0 scene rewritten into 6 new ones with the actual action significantly expanded, and some fairly extensive editing in the rest --- it's now about 3k words longer) as per some of the suggestions after I released it.

    That part is done, and in the process of doing that, I got a fresh look at the 3.18 segment I had written which had many similar flaws --- I had gotten a little too focused on trying to push through the Lockhart plot, and things had gotten both a tad rushed, with bits of plot lines left behind, and had their pacing somewhat jumbled.

    I'm currently working my way through revising 3.18 (a revision which involves writing 5 new scenes and pushing some of what I had written into 3.19 for better pacing), and when I finish that, I'll put up the 3.17 revisions. I like to stay a section ahead most of the time so I can back-edit without having to update online copies.

    A quick question for when I post it: since the 3.17 edit is so extensive, should I edit the old version or just make a new one and move the threadmark? Would people like to have the old version available for reference?
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2019
  3. Svaleryn

    Svaleryn Not too sore, are you?

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    This is my personal preference. Mainly because I don't think edits create a notification? And if they don't, people may not realize somethings been changed or added, etc.
     
    CrazyMike, ScarletFlames and Kenloch like this.
  4. MutantRancor

    MutantRancor [Suspected Sithspawn]

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    If it's all the same to you, I think you should repost the chapter with the edits and move the threadmark for the old version into the Extras list.
     
    CrazyMike, Zeushobbit, Jimis and 2 others like this.
  5. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Versed in the lewd.

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    You should post a new version as a separate post, however when you do I suggest you edit the old version to put the old chapter in spoilers and add a link to the new version.
     
  6. GhostHaxStomp

    GhostHaxStomp Know what you're doing yet?

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    Seconded. I need that notification man.
     
    CrazyMike likes this.
  7. Zeushobbit

    Zeushobbit I use my mind and yours doesn't matter.

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    I'd second this. Move the old chapter to extras, maybe have an AN at the top of the new one saying what's happened to the old one.

    Means people can go take a look at the differences if they want too but it won't crop up if someone is binging through the threadmarked main posts.
     
  8. Demonfir

    Demonfir Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Kinda figured you were editing some stuff. Glad to see ya here. Personally I'd say move the new thread mark up and post the old in the extras. Not exactly sure where extras section is located but yeah. I will say some of the long speeches by characters other than Harry did seem out of place early on. Don't worry about editing them too much. Just try to avoid it in the future. Breaking it up with character movement or facial expressions might help a bit but ultimately it's your writing style to do as you please. This is just a suggestion.

    other than that I'm just glad to be reading an enjoyable fic that remains active. Not sure which scenes are original writing by you and which were influenced by doghead extras and possibly tsu doh nimh's addition. Either way keep up the great work!

    nothing better to the day than a smile and a laugh.

    PS: kinda glad I haven't finished reading to chapter 3 yet considering you're editing it a bunch. Mind saying which sections are safe from heavy edits and therefore safe to read?
     
  9. MutantRancor

    MutantRancor [Suspected Sithspawn]

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    At the top and bottom of every page, just under the go-to-page-number links, there are two drop-down menus labelled Threadmarks and Extras. The Threadmarks list is also directly linked by the Reader Mode button at the top, but that doesn't include threadmarked posts from other lists (of which this thread so far only has the Extras one).
     
  10. Demonfir

    Demonfir Getting some practice in, huh?

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    just finished chapter 2. Poor Harry. Also... danfit I like my black dragons! Why'd he have to go turn gold? Maybe he'll change back over time or "shed" the gold. Or perhaps he'll be a multicolored dragon. Long as it ain't pure gold since that sticks out like a sore thumb.

    black is such a slick color scheme especially for fiercesome dragons. Now is it safe for me to continue onto chapter 3 given the ongoing edits?
     
  11. Wolfboy

    Wolfboy Not too sore, are you?

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    Shadowrun dragons don't fall into the classic DnD trope of color alignments. So don't worry about that.
     
  12. Demonfir

    Demonfir Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Never was. Haha! As if Harry'd ever go evil.
     
  13. Threadmarks: Section 3.17 - Postal Reprieve
    Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    This is the second version of Section 3.17. It has changed substantially from the originally published one which is still available on the extras threadmark collection at the original post.
    3.17.0 Postal Reprieve

    The morning meal was unremarkable, essentially indistinguishable from most of the other meals during the school year — essentially any that was not specifically labeled a feast. Scheduling was loose; the house elves made breakfast available for nearly two hours, ending fifteen minutes before the first of the day’s classes, and students cycled through the Great Hall on their own schedule over the course of the allotted time.

    The breakfast hour was also the time scheduled for owl-post delivery.

    Nearly three centuries previous, a covered temporary roost had been built into one of the dormers on the roof of the Great Hall for that purpose; with two entrances allowing passage from the outside into the interior of the building, owls burdened with post could perch, sheltered from the weather, and wait for their targeted recipient to show up for the meal. It was a great improvement over the previous system, which allowed post owls to deliver post at any time and anywhere on campus. The reduction in mess and disruption was deemed well worth the not-inconsiderable cost of remodeling an enchanted ceiling as even with the additional cost of remodeling, it was still much cheaper to enchant the Great Hall to prevent the owls from casting and defecating everywhere than it would have been to do the same for the entire school.

    So it was that a certain Ravenclaw student had just loaded down his plate with a third plateful of bacon and eggs — which for a young wizard, meant he was only about halfway through his meal — when a rather disreputable-looking owl delivered an extraordinarily thick envelope addressed in a cramped hand. It was a piece of correspondence the teenager had been simultaneously longing for and dreading in equal measure.

    A certain scheme of his devising had gotten the sixth-year boy into a bit of a pickle, and the contents of the enclosed document would see him either vindicated or condemned.

    When he had come up with the idea to hire a private investigator to look into his Defense professor’s background, it had seemed like such a good plan. The price had been steep, to be sure, but the payoff had seemed huge, so he’d managed to scrounge up the required fee — if only just, as it had turned out — by passing the hat among his fellow schoolmates with only a bit of fast talking.

    And, in that fast talking lay the trouble.

    The sixth-year boy had been, perhaps, a tad… enthusiastic in his rhetoric when describing what benefits his fellow conspirators could expect to receive from their investment — both in its security and its time to maturity — and his compatriots had grown impatient with the waiting rather quickly.

    A few weeks previous, his fellows had managed to coerce him into a clandestine meeting to report on the plan’s progress, and his fellows had been dissatisfied to say the least. He had managed to convince them to hold off and wait until the investigator got back to them, but it had been a close-run thing which had led to a few long and uncomfortable weeks since — what with the dirty looks and low-key hostility he had faced in the intervening time. The report he now held was the key to ending that tense state of affairs — hence the longing.

    Of course, depending on what the report had to say, the subsequent state of affairs might well not be an improvement — hence the dread.

    As the sixth-year Ravenclaw opened the envelope — revealing a brief cover-letter and a second envelope inside — and began to read, he breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t the best of news for his purposes; however, it should be enough to work with. It would take some more fast talking, but he could work with this. He nodded. It would be enough to get his co-conspirators off his back — hopefully without getting cursed in the process.

    He’d have to put the word out to get everyone together for another meeting.

    3.17.1 Welcome correspondence

    As the quiet drama played out at the Ravenclaw table, another owl had made a delivery to the Hufflepuffs; this one addressed to one Harry Potter. The delivery was a tad unusual, as, rather than the normal procedure of calmly alighting on the table and offering a leg, the owl in question had taken one look at the intended recipient and bitten through the bindings holding the letter before dropping it from as near the ceiling as it could manage and zipping back to the exit.

    Despite the owl’s obvious concern, for his part, the young dragon had accepted the unorthodox delivery with aplomb, simply reaching up to remove the envelope from its resting place in the shaggy mop he called hair before opening the envelope and eagerly scanning the title of the enclosed correspondence.

    It seemed that, given a direct order from the head of their institution, the clerks at the Wizarding Examination Authority had moved with unusual haste for a government organization, and the envelope had arrived with his requested information barely two days after his visit with Madame Marchbanks.

    Harry smiled in satisfaction before carefully returning the packet to the envelope and turning back to his breakfast. While it was a welcome bit of correspondence, it would need to wait for later in the day to be put to its proper use.

    He hadn’t gone to the trouble of getting it for his own benefit, after all.

    3.17.2 Anonymous reporting

    “Madam Bones?”

    In the bustling offices of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, the Department Head, Amelia Bones, paused at the sound of her secretary’s voice. She was on her way to a meeting regarding recent developments in an old case, and she was tempted to dismiss the interruption, but the woman rarely interrupted her without good cause.

    “What is it, Beverly?”

    “You have received an interesting piece of mail, ma’am,” her secretary replied. “It seems to be a rather thorough report loosely implicating one Gilderoy Lockhart in what could be a rather extensive case of fraud.”

    “Gilderoy Lockhart…” Amelia frowned, searching her memory, “the author?”

    “Yes, ma’am. The report details findings of consistent traces of mental manipulation on an impressive number of witnesses across the locations of all his books,” the woman summarized. “It also includes a rather insightful cross-referenced analysis of nearly a decade worth of news reports and the inconsistencies included therein. Very solid work.”

    “Really?” That did sound like impressive detective work, Amelia nodded thoughtfully. Best to find out who was responsible, it always good to keep an eye on upcoming talent. “Who was responsible for the report? I don’t recall assigning such an investigation.” Normally celebrity investigations were the sort of thing she kept a close eye on, if for no other reason than to avoid being blindsided by the press.

    “That’s the thing, Madam Bones,” Beverly replied, “it’s an anonymous tip. The cover letter said it was a report the author had put together at the behest of a client, and he thought the results were suspicious enough he ought to forward them to us. It said he didn’t know if it was something we were already investigating, but he figured it couldn’t hurt to let us know.”

    “Damn,” she sighed, deflating slightly. Much as she appreciated the help, Amelia hated finding out about new cases. It always meant the world was just that little bit worse than she’d hoped it was. “Is the case strong enough to open an investigation of our own?”

    “I doubt it, but I am not the one to determine that, ma’am,” her secretary averred.

    “Of course, of course,” Amelia sighed at her oversight. “Send it off to Investigations with a note asking how they think we ought to handle it. In the meantime, I’ve a meeting to get to.”

    “Of course, Madam Bones,” Beverly said, already reaching for a blank sheet of parchment to write the requested note.

    With a final nod, the busy Department Head was on her way.

    3.17.3 New information

    “Hey, Abigail!” Harry greeted his friend brightly as he approached their usual table in the Hogwarts library. “I’ve got something for you!” He brandished a thick envelope he was carrying emphatically.

    “Hi, Harry!” the older girl returned the greeting warmly. “So, what is it that you have there?”

    “Well, I met with Madame Marchbanks the day before yesterday,” the young dragon explained, “and I asked her for a syllabus for the NEWTs you were worried about so we could study properly, and it just came in today, so I made sure to bring it by as soon as I could to show you!”

    “So that’s what you’ve been working on!” Abigail smiled, stepping up to give him a tight hug. “That was very thoughtful of you, Harry. Thank you!”

    Harry positively beamed as his friend released her hug and took her place at the table. For his part, he took a seat at the table and opened the envelope before placing its contents between them. “Go ahead and give it a read,” he told his older friend.

    Their private corner of the library fell silent as the seventh year complied and got into her task, carefully reading through the provided syllabus for the NEWT exams that had been weighing on her mind for the past few months as her good friend looked on, still smiling broadly. So engrossed was she that she was quite startled by the arrival of someone else at their usual table.

    “Hi, Hermione!” the bright voice of the currently human-shaped dragon piped up.

    “Hello, Harry, Abigail,” the bushy-haired girl nodded to each of her friends in turn, sparing a curious look at the packet of parchment arrayed in front of Abigail as she set her own excessively comprehensive stack of books down on the library table. After the usual pleasantries were exchanged, the younger girl couldn’t help herself.

    “What are you reading there?” Hermione asked her older friend. “You looked like you were pretty deep into it, and it doesn’t look like a schoolbook.”

    “Harry was thoughtful enough to get a syllabus for the NEWT exams for me,” the seventh-year girl said absently as she turned back to her reading. “It’s good to finally get a handle on what the tests will cover so I can review properly and just get on with it rather than worrying all the time.”

    Really?” Hermione breathed as her brown eyes widened in surprise. “I didn’t know you could get those!”

    “I went and asked Madame Marchbanks,” the resident dragon chimed in. “She’s in charge of the Examination Authority, and she’s really nice! I just explained the situation, and she had somebody send me the syllabus.”

    “Oh, she sounds nice,” the bushy-haired girl said distractedly, her eyes locked intently on the rough stack of parchment sitting before Abigail. “Um… Abigail?”

    “Hmm?” the older girl prompted without looking up from her reading.

    “Do you think I could read that too?” Hermione asked tentatively.

    Without looking up from her reading, the Abigail wordlessly pushed the portion of the document she had already read across the table to the younger girl.

    From his place at the table, Harry settled in for the long run as he quietly watched his two friends greedily devour the syllabus he had procured, a broad smile still pasted on his face.

    It seemed the visit with Madame Marchbanks had been worth the effort.

    3.17.4 Heard it through the grapevine

    “Once again, I thank you all for your attention,” Lockhart addressed his class as the session ended. “I feel I should remind you that your projects will be due at the end of next week!”

    Lockhart had assigned the class project in yet another effort to spark the interest of Mr. Potter. The student was to take one of the scenarios described in his books and come up with his own take on how to handle things. The blond dandy had thought it a prime opportunity to spark a conversation — what better source to consult for such a project than Lockhart himself.

    Unfortunately, this gambit had been no more successful than the previous ones, as the pint-sized powerhouse had simply nodded agreeably and then gone on to complete the entire project in time to turn it in at the next class, two weeks before the due date. Now Gilderoy was stuck grading an entire school’s worth of essays with nothing to show for it.

    A very disheartening outcome, if he did say so himself.

    Despite his disappointment at the lack of progress on his primary goal, the secondary one remained, and the blond dandy still kept a sharp eye out for suspicious behavior, and as the students were shuffling about preparing to leave once more, that vigilance paid off once more.

    It was another note, passed between the same two boys as the last. The teenagers’ actions were just as suspect as they had been several weeks previous — the sequence of events was nearly identical, in fact. This time, however, Gilderoy Lockhart was ready when the second boy went for his wand to vanish the scrap of parchment.

    A wizard of Dumbledore’s caliber might have used some arcane twist of magic to reverse the partially completed vanishing charm and reconstitute the paper in his hand.

    Gilderoy was not such a wizard, so he used a rather more prosaic, but no less effective, approach. Given his prior knowledge of the coming situation, he had prepared by keeping a similarly-sized slip of blank parchment at hand, and as the vanishing spell was cast, the former obliviator countered with a humble switching spell, moving the note to his hand and leaving a blank slip of parchment in its place to dissipate into its component molecules and spread irretrievably over several square miles of the local landscape.

    Neither of his students noticed the substitution.

    As soon as the room emptied, Lockhart casually opened the note to give it a read.

    It seemed that the children would be holding a meeting.

    How intriguing! Gilderoy cocked a speculative golden eyebrow. Perhaps he should drop in?

    3.17.5 Practical concerns

    It was early evening by the time Abigail and Hermione finished with their perusal of the NEWT syllabus, and they were just reassembling the packet with a rustle of parchment after one final read-through, when the resident dragon looked up from his own personal reading at the sound.

    “So, what did you figure out?” Harry asked his friends. Of the three, he was the only one who had yet to read the syllabus, so he was still somewhat in the dark.

    “Well, it looks like we’ll need to shift our focus to practical casting,” Abigail began as she leaned back in her chair. “I gave the syllabus a careful read, and it was pretty clear that the practicals were the most important thing by far.”

    “So we wasted all that time with the book reviews?” the young dragon asked, somewhat crestfallen.

    “Not wasted, exactly,” the young woman clarified. “The theoretical portion is required for a passing mark, and our reviews covered enough for that — more than enough, in fact!”

    As it had turned out, their earlier review sessions had already covered all of the academic topics that might show up on the exam and more besides; it seemed she and Harry had cast a much wider net than the examination committee had when choosing topics to cover. Unfortunately, being overly prepared for the written exam wouldn’t help too much in the final analysis.

    “It’s just that the difference between an Acceptable and an Outstanding on the overall exam is entirely based on our performance on the practical portions,” Abibgail continued. “In fact, truly outstanding scores on the practical can even be used to compensate for subpar performance on the written.”

    “I’m really glad I found out about it early,” Hermione interjected in a cheerful tone. “Imagine how hard it would be to change gears if I’d only found out about that in seventh year!”

    Abigail spared a fleeting moment to shoot her younger compatriot a dirty look at that somewhat gauche reminder of her own unenviable situation before shaking her head in dismissal and returning to her explanation. “In any case, now that we know about the weight the examiners place on practical skills, it only makes sense to focus heavily on practical spell casting for the rest of our revision time.”

    At Harry’s nod, she continued, “Now, we figure there are a few different options to take to really impress the examiners, but the best way I can think of, given the short time available and my own talents, is to practice the basics until I’m as good at them as I can get.” She shook her head self-deprecatingly, “I’m not likely to be able to learn some obscure or novel magic in time for the exams; it’s just not something I’m good at. Hard work and practice, though, those I can do.”

    The young dragon frowned thoughtfully before nodding slowly as he processed his older friend’s reasoning. It made good sense.

    “I decided I’d pitch in too and get an early start!” Hermione volunteered cheerfully. “It’s never too early to start preparing.”

    “So, what are we going to do, then?” Harry asked brightly as everyone stood up from the table and began gathering their effects to relocate. “And how can I help?”

    3.17.6 Home, home on the range

    It seemed that the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests were aptly named, Harry thought as he watched Abigail run through her latest set of exercises. At least, they would be if the effort his older friend was putting into her preparations was any indication.

    After their reading session in the Hogwarts library, Harry and his friends had relocated to the Lair, specifically the shooting range, which, subsequent to Harry’s addition of the spell-casting lanes, was ideally suited to the girls’ choice of study methods.

    Abigail currently occupied one of the lanes Harry had built for spell practice, repeatedly and silently casting stunning spells at the targets downrange. As the regular flashes of red light illuminated the area, Harry thought back on his friend’s explanation of her plan.

    “The more you work your magic, the stronger it gets,” Abigail had explained patiently as they had walked through the halls of Hogwarts on their way to the gate. “And it’s not just a matter of improving skill — I mean, that’s important too, and I’ll be doing more than enough of that over the next few months,” she had paused for just a moment as she grimaced at the thought, “but it’s also a real improvement in the body’s ability to generate and deliver magic. That means that the more I work my magic, the better my casting can be. I hadn’t really gotten into this sort of thing before, but if the practicals are as important as that syllabus implied, I probably should have been at it for years.”

    That had led directly to a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of various magical exercises, including Abigail’s current choice — an endurance routine which called for casting a spell repeatedly until the caster was just shy of magical exhaustion, followed by a short recovery time, after which, it would start all over again.

    In overall effect, it was rather like wind sprints, but for magic use rather than physical ability.

    His friend had gone on to say that if a wizard or a witch was willing to put in the effort — as Abigail obviously was, the young dragon thought with a proud smile — he could improve himself greatly through such exercise. An average wizard might rise to be head and shoulders above his fellows through hard work; though there were practical limitations — for instance, such an average wizard would never challenge the likes of Dumbledore through exercise alone. It was a thoroughly practical and almost universally applicable approach to self-improvement — one well-suited to Abigail’s purposes.

    For this first practice session, she had chosen a silently-cast stunner for two reasons. For one, the stunner was a common spell that the seventh-year girl thought would be an excellent specimen to polish up for the NEWTS, so the additional practice would always be welcome. Second, it was a moderately draining spell, making it an excellent choice for the endurance exercises — strenuous enough to make for short sets, but not so arduous that she might risk true magical exhaustion, which could put her in a hospital bed for days.

    And, speaking of short sets, it seemed she had just reached the end of her endurance for this one, since she had holstered her wand and turned away from the range.

    “Good work, Abigail!” the young dragon congratulated his friend brightly, prompting a tired but genuine smile from the older girl as she walked over to the cheap folding chairs Harry had pulled together for them to use. He turned to his other companion, “Hermione, you’re up next, right?”

    The bushy-haired girl so addressed nodded in acknowledgement before groaning at the effort of rising from her own chair and getting back to work.

    The group had been running through the exercise in shifts, since its structure — short, intense activity followed by a slightly longer resting period — was well-suited to such a schedule. For the first few rounds, Suze had even joined in on the fun, using her rifle to get in her customary range time for the day while enjoying the company, though she had finished and left to return to her woodworking practice nearly half an hour earlier.

    As Harry settled in to watch his human damsel go through her own set, his attention was drawn away by the rustling of fabric at his side. Turning his head towards the noise, he caught sight of Abigail in the process of removing her outer robe, causing the currently human-shaped young dragon to pause for a moment to take in the oddly fascinating sight of the older girl’s blouse riding up, exposing her midriff as it did so.

    As she tugged her blouse back into place and set about folding her robe, Harry cocked his head in consideration of his own reaction — he still wasn’t sure why that sort of thing seemed so weirdly cool — before eventually filing it under the same mental heading as he did his memories of Suze at full not-gallop. He shrugged internally; he was sure he’d figure it out eventually.

    While he had been thinking, Abigail had finished folding her robe and was now in the process of removing her Slytherin tie and undoing the top few buttons of her blouse. This seemed a bit unusual to the young dragon, who frowned contemplatively as the thought sparked a memory. He was fairly certain Mrs. McGonagall had said something about situations like this when he had first carried Hermione off — something about him not being in the same room when such things were going on lest he invade a girl’s privacy, if he recalled.

    “What are you doing?” Harry asked the older girl curiously — it’d probably be best to make sure she remembered he was there, just in case.

    “Trying to cool off,” she said absently as she conjured a hair-tie and pulled her thick, sweat-dampened brown hair up and off her neck into a high ponytail. “Magic is hard work, you know.”

    Harry nodded at that, eyes glued to the movements induced by that change in posture, barely concealed by the thin, almost transparent material of her sweat-dampened white blouse before quickly shifting to the newly revealed curve of her neck as soon as those movements died down. He frowned thoughtfully.

    That was another one for the weirdly cool file, he supposed.

    “What are you doing?” came the voice of Hermione, sounding just short of shrill.

    Harry dragged his eyes away from the pleasant scenery and turned to face his human damsel who was shooting a look at Abigail that might have been a glare were she not utterly exhausted from her exercises.

    “Oh, hey Hermione! You’re done already?” He frowned in concern. “Are you okay?”

    Narrowing her eyes at the older girl in the room one last time, Hermione turned to face the young dragon. “Yes, I’m fine,” she snapped. “Why do you ask?”

    “Well, you finished really early,” Harry said defensively. “Abigail went more than twice as long on her last set, and I wanted to make sure you were okay! You didn’t hurt yourself or anything, right?”

    The bushy-haired girl sniffed at that and turned away.

    “Don’t worry about it, Harry,” Abigail broke in. “Hermione’s younger than I am, so she doesn’t have the reserves to go for so long. She’ll get there eventually. Now, get on with your own set; you’re next in the rotation.”

    “Right!” Harry nodded emphatically, setting the issue aside and turning to the range for his own exercise, which, while functionally similar to the endurance exercises the girls were doing — in that he was casting large numbers of stunning spells downrange — was actually intended to improve his aim rather than his magical endurance.

    Harry’s endurance was already exceptional, but his control and accuracy remained perennial works-in-progress.

    3.17.7 Low-key

    “To answer your earlier question,” Abigail addressed Hermione conversationally as their mutual friend launched a withering storm of brilliant rods of burning red light downrange, “I was adjusting my clothing an an attempt to cool off. This is hot work, you know, especially under multiple layers of wool.”

    “I suppose that makes sense,” the bushy-haired girl allowed, grimacing at the thought of her own rather swampy condition under her woolen robes. “It certainly is hard work.”

    To be sure, Hermione knew magic was always hard work, in one way or another — that had been stressed enough in her classes, even in first year — though that hard work could be expended in any number of ways. For most routine wanded casting, the lion’s share of the work went in during the spell-creation and wand-making phases, with the final caster supplying simply a bit of direction and a relatively tiny portion of energy to fuel those two highly optimized machines.

    Endurance casting, on the other hand, made that hard work more immediately apparent than most, intended as it was to serve as a form of magical exercise which strained the caster by design, much as physical exercise did for more mundane pursuits — and, as a close analog of physical exercise, she supposed it stood to reason that endurance casting would have similar physiological consequences.

    The caster’s metabolism would struggle to kick out enough energy to support the heavy magical activity, and with that struggle would come the usual sort of side-effects — elevated body temperature, both from the high metabolic activity and waste heat from imperfect casting; heavy breathing to supply enough oxygen to keep up; and eventually, exhaustion. In practical terms, it meant a lot of exertion, sweat, and heavy breathing, which the bushy-haired girl had to admit, were not the sort of thing the normal Hogwarts winter uniform — a heavy woolen ensemble layered for warmth and modesty and topped with a full-length woolen cloak — was well-suited to accommodating.

    Hermione sighed in exasperation, sneaking a glance at her older friend whose attention was fully absorbed by the admittedly formidable spectacle of Harry’s furious barrage of stunning spells directed at the hapless practice targets.

    She probably shouldn’t have been surprised that Abigail had dealt with the mismatch in a thoroughly practical manner, stripping off her outer robe, cardigan, and Slytherin tie in an attempt to stay cool, and unbuttoning the neck of her blouse ease her breathing. It was a sensible choice, effective and comfortable, and Hermione could sympathize with her older friend — after all, she was no less uncomfortable; the only difference between her outfit and Abigail’s was the color of the trim. For that reason, if nothing else, Hermione would have liked to follow suit, and she would have if not for one, not-so-minor complaint.

    Why did Abigail have to look so bloody good while doing it? The bushy-haired girl thought with a scowl.

    The change in outfit was a sensible choice, to be sure, but it was also a choice which had transformed Abigail from a much beloved, friendly figure into a rather intimidating one in the eyes of the just barely teenaged — and rather homely, in her own considered opinion — Hermione.

    The healthy seventeen-year-old’s exposed skin sported a healthy flush and glistened with a sheen of perspiration under the artificial lamps of the range. Her chest heaved as she breathed while wearing only a thin, soaked, nearly-transparent-in-places white blouse, a damp — and therefore more figure-hugging than usual — pleated gray Hogwarts uniform skirt, and a pair of black thigh-high stockings — woolen, in deference to the Scottish winter.

    Hermione knew full well that she would never be able to make that ensemble look anywhere near as good as Abigail did, and for that matter, she’d look utterly ridiculous if she tried, especially with Abigail right there to compare against.

    So, as Harry finished up his own turn and Abigail once again stepped up to the line, the bushy-haired girl clutched her uncomfortably hot — yet comfortingly concealing — woolen robe closer to her chest and hunched in on herself defensively.

    It was even worse when the older girl was moving around!

    The older girl’s heavy breathing and energetic arm movements combined to set certain portions of her anatomy — portions that were much more generous in their development than Hermione’s own — moving in ways that she knew most boys would zero in on in a heartbeat.

    Harry certainly noticed, and, just as certainly, Hermione noticed him noticing.

    The bushy-haired girl scowled at the situation in general. It was thoroughly distressing, and the fact that Abigail was objectively better at the exercise simply added insult to injury!

    Hermione’s distress grew quickly as Harry spent the next few minutes avidly watching their mutual friend as she went through her exercise routine, until the bushy-haired girl finally reached her breaking point and quietly made her excuses to leave.

    She had no desire to be compared unfavorably to the Abigail — especially not by Harry, of all people — and she refused to put herself in a position where she would be.

    Now, if only it didn’t feel like she was running away.

    3.17.8 Taking care

    Harry watched, puzzled, as his human damsel walked out of the range and down the tunnel on her way to her private suite.

    That had been awful sudden.

    The bushy-haired girl had claimed that she was too tired to keep up anymore, so she was going to bed. Harry supposed that had made sense — Hermione had been having more and more trouble keeping up with Abigail over the past few sets, after all — but she hadn’t really seemed to be on the verge of falling asleep or anything.

    He frowned thoughtfully as he reviewed his memory of recent events. To be honest, Hermione had seemed kind of agitated at the end there rather than tired.

    The young dragon gave it a few moments’ thought before shrugging it off and returning to the oddly riveting sight of Abigail bouncing through the remainder of her exercise routine.

    Hermione was a smart girl, and if she said she was just tired, then he’d take her at her word.

    Though, speaking of being tired, it seemed Abigail had reached the end of her rope once again.

    “Good work, Abigail!” the currently human-shaped young dragon congratulated his friend warmly, prompting a beautiful, if very tired, smile from the young woman in return — a smile which quickly shifted to a concerned frown.

    “Where did Hermione go?” the seventh-year girl asked her friend.

    “She left a couple minutes ago,” Harry answered. “Said she was too tired to do another set.”

    That prompted an exhausted nod of acknowledgement from the young woman who then slumped down in a chair as Harry stepped up gamely for yet another turn, sending a veritable hail of brilliantly glowing red bolts of magic racing downrange. Now that he had put some more work in practicing his stunning charm, Harry no longer had to concentrate quite as hard to cast successfully as he had to during that embarrassing duel during the previous term, which allowed his mind to wander somewhat even as he practiced his accuracy.

    Closest to mind was a topic which had played a surprisingly prominent role in his recent meeting with Madame Marchbanks — his continuing haphazard inquiries into the nature and behavior of magic. While the conversation at the meeting had focused heavily on his work with runes to create that neat-looking but otherwise useless tree thing, the elderly witch had not restricted her recommendation to that topic alone. Rather, she had promoted the spirit of inquiry in general, and Harry had collected a long list of things he was curious about — a list that was forever getting longer, at that.

    Perhaps he ought to pursue some of them, as well?

    There was that stamped-rune method he’d come up with that needed refining, of course; that’d be a good place to start, but there was also the magic-pumped laser for which he had originally developed it — as well as the holographic projector he had originally set out to make, of course. The young dragon frowned thoughtfully as he considered that. Based on how much trouble he’d had so far, that promised to be a long slog of a project.

    It might be better to save that one for a later date.

    Then there was his magic-to-electricity idea that’d hit a snare a few months back; he was still trying to come up with a new lead on that. The young dragon unconsciously shrugged at the thought, accidentally throwing off his aim even more than usual on the next casting. He didn’t have anything right now, but it was something to keep in mind. There was also that question he’d thought of right before he’d had to leave when he talked to Donald all those months ago; that was still hanging in the back of his head alongside half a dozen other odds and ends.

    Things were really starting to pile up in there, to be honest.

    Harry nodded to himself as he surveyed the devastating aftermath of his target practice. He probably ought to start up something to keep track of it all, maybe some notebooks? Those seemed to work pretty well for Hermione. The human-shaped dragon stepped back to take another break as the splintered remains of the enchanted targets slowly began to pull themselves back together — their wooden forms rather less resilient to the amount of magic he could throw downrange than an equivalently-sized magical person.

    For now, though, Harry thought with a sigh, he really ought to seek out some advice on how to cast more accurately. Sure, he’d hit the targets eventually, but most of his magic had still expended itself on the increasingly pockmarked stone wall at the end of the range — another unacceptable performance.

    Who was the best person to ask, though?

    Harry frowned in thought, the expression going unnoticed by Abigail, who had slumped over in her chair against the wall, eyes closed and still slowly catching her breath.

    Much as he respected the man’s talents, Harry’s usual go-to, Mr. Snape, was probably not the best choice. Judging by his stories, Mr. Snape tended to rely on subterfuge to get close enough that he couldn’t really miss — spell accuracy wasn’t strictly speaking in the potions master’s purview.

    Harry’s other go-to, the goblins, were really good at shooting stuff accurately, but as the young dragon had learned to his own embarrassment at the dueling club, accuracy with firearms and accuracy with wands were two entirely different animals. That meant the goblins were right out.

    Harry supposed that left the other professors to consider.

    Mr. Dumbledore would probably be able to help since he was pretty good at pretty much everything, but he was really busy most of the time, so that might be a problem. The elderly wizard could barely find time to oversee Harry’s alchemy lessons every month or so; trying to schedule something else would likely be a nightmare.

    Harry tapped his currently human-shaped chin thoughtfully as he ran through the rest of the staff, assessing each in turn.

    To be honest, Mr. Flitwick was probably the best choice, now that he thought about it. The young dragon nodded at the thought. The half-goblin was a really good duelist, so he’d know all about spell accuracy and speed, and he was a really good teacher, so he’d probably know how to teach it, too — unlike Professor Lockhart.

    Plus, there was another one of those magic-related questions — the kind Madame Marchbanks had been talking about — that he’d been meaning to ask about ever since that duel with the annoying blond kid. Since it was a question about a charm, the resident Charms master would probably be the best choice to answer it, too.

    Harry nodded decisively. That’d be the way to go then.

    With his train of thought completed, the young dragon turned his attention back to his surroundings only to realize that the room had been unusually quiet for several minutes. He turned to Abigail and found her asleep, draped over her chair in a rather undignified sprawl.

    The young dragon-in-human-form cocked a brow in surprise. She must have been more tired than he’d thought.

    “Abigail?” he called quietly, attempting to wake her gently, only to be answered by a loud, decidedly unladylike snore.

    “Huh,” Harry frowned before gently nudging her shoulder. His only response was a sleepy grumble and a slight shift.

    Well, she had been working hard, so he supposed she had earned a nap, the young dragon thought — though that chair looked really uncomfortable.

    He considered the situation for a moment before nodding decisively.

    Bending to pick up the sleeping young woman as gently as he could manage, Harry carried her out of the practice range and down the hall, gently depositing her on one of the couches in the main room of the Lair and tucking her in with a blanket to stave off the winter chill. Straightening, the young dragon surveyed the situation and nodded in satisfaction; now, she’d be able to finish her nap comfortably.

    “Well, that’s sorted,” he murmured even as he absently reached down to brush a stray lock of Abigail’s chestnut hair away from her sleeping face. It was pretty obvious his friend was going to be out of it for quite some time.

    “Now, what should I do?”

    Looking about at the chaotic mess that comprised the living quarters of the Lair for inspiration, it didn’t take long for him to catch sight of a pile of blank notepads still half-contained within their plastic packaging — extras left over from his attempt to get some work done during his multi-weekend stakeout at the end of the previous term — which reminded him of his earlier idea to make a research notebook.

    That’d do nicely!

    Picking up one of the notepads and a spare pen, he settled down in one of the nearby chairs after a quick stop to stoke the fire in the Rayburn — he’d noticed Abigail shivering in her sleep as the winter wind picked up and occasionally managed to find its way in through the Lair entrance to lick at her still sweat-damp skin — and got down to the business of recording some of his plans for future research projects while keeping watch over his sleeping friend.

    The notepad would be more than half-full by the time he set it aside for the day.

    Later in the evening when the young dragon looked back on the day, he concluded that it was time well-spent. Neither he nor Abigail had gotten as much done as they had hoped, but Harry did learn that looking after his exhausted friend was a surprisingly rewarding way to spend the afternoon.

    Abigail’s beaming smile when she had awakened and realized what he had done had been even more so.

    3.17.9 A conversation with Flitwick

    It was late in the afternoon, and Hogwarts’ resident dragon walked purposefully through the halls towards a portion of the castle he didn’t often visit. The Ravenclaw dormitories were nearby, but Harry didn’t actually know any of the Ravens very well. Of the current crop, he was perhaps most familiar with Luna Lovegood, of whom he was rather unfond, and Su Li, who had proven to be a friendly and capable lab partner in potions since the beginning of the current term, yet neither had given him cause to visit the Ravenclaw tower. Instead, his current destination was Mr. Flitwick’s office. Harry had some questions, and he rather hoped the diminutive half-goblin professor would be able to answer them for him.

    Arriving at the charms master’s office, the young dragon in human guise knocked gently, “Um… Professor, are you there?”

    “Come in!” the diminutive teacher welcomed him gladly. “Come in, take a seat. What brings you here, Mr. Potter? You do not call on me very often, my young friend.”

    “Well, it’s a couple things really,” Harry began. “Um, first, you remember how much trouble I had actually hitting anything back during that dueling club thingy?”

    “Indeed, I do, Mr. Potter,” the half-goblin said with a nod.

    “Well, I’ve been trying to practice and get better,” the young dragon told his professor, “but it’s real slow going, and I was hoping you had some tips on how to do better.”

    “I see,” Flitwick said. “Firstly, I must congratulate you on your commitment to self-improvement, Mr. Potter. Such is always a worthy goal! Aside from that, however, I can only advise that you keep practicing; it really is the only way to improve, I am afraid. Everyone is bad at aiming a wand when they first start, do not be discouraged.”

    “Oh,” Harry said, sounding quite crestfallen. “There’s no tips or anything then?”

    The diminutive professor considered the question for a moment more. “I suppose you might try reducing your wand movements to a minimum, keep the necessary gestures as small as you can make them. The lion’s share of inaccuracy with a wand comes from the wand movements themselves, after all. Oh, and start with piercing charms, they are an excellent way to practice getting your timing down — that final horizontal sweep is tricky to aim properly, and if you can get that right, other charms will be much simpler by comparison.”

    “Thanks, I’ll try that, then!” the young Potter sounded much reassured by the advice.

    “I am glad to have helped, Mr. Potter,” Flitwick said with a smile. “And might I inquire as to your other question?”

    “Oh, right!” the currently human-shaped dragon acknowledged. “I had some questions about a charm I saw at the dueling club. It called snakes…”

    “Ah, serpensortia, I am familiar with the charm.” Flitwick said. “It summons one or more snakes which will then follow the caster’s commands — not terribly useful in real combat because commanding the snakes requires concentration from the caster, but good showmanship for the stage.”

    “Well, I was wondering — does it conjure a snake or pull it from somewhere else?” Harry asked.

    “I… I must admit that I am not entirely certain,” the small man frowned. “As far as I know that family of spells was always assumed to be a branch of conjuration — I don’t know if anyone has had cause to ask that particular question before,” Flitwick replied. “What prompts you to ask at this juncture?”

    “Well, the summoned snakes knew parseltongue, and I’m pretty sure that annoying blond kid doesn’t know how to speak it,” Harry explained. “I thought conjurations could only do what the conjurer told them to do, and this one couldn’t tell it how to speak parseltongue. If it were pulled from somewhere else, though, when I killed it I’d have thought it would have left a body, and it didn’t. So, I’m not sure which one it was.”

    “That is an intriguing bit of evidence, Mr. Potter — evidence which calls into question the accepted assumptions about that family of charms, as you have so ably pointed out,” Flitwick said thoughtfully as he processed the new information. “Though I can see why the situation wasn’t encountered before; no competent caster world ever consider using that charm against a parselmouth if they didn’t also share the gift — it would be a terrible tactical decision — yet that is the only situation that would call the accepted theories into question.”

    “Hmm,” The diminutive charms professor trailed off for a moment as he paused in consideration before he continued, his voice swelling with excitement. “I do believe you have hit upon some new ground, Mr. Potter — new and unexplored territory! There’s only one thing to be done,” the half-goblin paused dramatically for just a moment. “We will have to find out!”

    “How do we do that?” the young dragon asked.

    He wasn’t sure how to proceed on this one, having less of an idea of how the snake summoning charm worked than he did of runic systems.

    “We must devise an experiment!” Flitwick explained enthusiastically. “That is, we will attempt to create a scenario from the results of which we can draw a conclusion with certainty regarding the nature of the charm. Our current observations are inconclusive, because they could support either option; thus, our experiment should be designed such that the results will eliminate the confusion.”

    “So, we want to design something so we can tell for sure whether the snake was conjured or summoned?” Harry confirmed.

    “That is one way to go about it,” the half-goblin nodded enthusiastically.

    “So how would we do that?”

    “Why don’t you work out an experimental design and then bring it back to me?” the small teacher proposed. “Then we will go over it. I will help you refine it, and then once we have a good one, you will carry it out. It will be a good exercise for you; the ability to learn through experimentation is an important skill in life.”

    “Okay!”

    3.17.10 A teacher’s musings

    As the charms master watched Harry Potter leave his office, the diminutive man practically vibrated with glee, his expression full of a burning zeal which would have sent his lazier students running for the hills had they beheld it.

    The young dragon was only halfway through his second year, yet he was already producing research ideas like this one! To be sure, it was an idea he had stumbled upon rather than sought out, but he had been observant enough to see something was off about the situation and, more importantly, was curious enough to ask about it!

    Filius knew perfectly well that that spark of curiosity, more than anything else, was the mark of a great magical researcher — far too many wizards, upon seeing something strange or unexpected were all too willing to simply dismiss it as ‘magic’ and inquire no further. That essential curiosity taken in combination with the young dragon’s raw intelligence, literally inhuman magical endurance, and the dogged determination that was so readily apparent in his classwork, made it hard for the half-goblin to miss the potential for greatness in that boy — and for his own career as one of that boy’s mentors.

    He had even immediately grasped the concept of testing through experimentation — another concept that was depressingly rare in the magical world.

    As for the question the dragon had posed so innocently, it was the sort of thing that was practically made for a Master work. As a new approach to something the field was already reasonably familiar with, the topic met the novelty requirements while remaining prosaic enough not to be dismissed out of hand by the more… staid members of the profession — an excellent choice for an upcoming young researcher’s debut into the field.

    Properly executed — and Filius would see to it that it was properly executed, no matter how hard he had to ride his young student to ensure it — such an investigation could see the boy through to a charms mastery before he sat his OWLs! And aside from the potential for academic advancement, Flitwick was looking forward to seeing what the work would produce — success or failure, it was sure to be fascinating.

    The half-goblin chuckled, thinking back on that conversation with Severus, several years previous, in which Filius had made a teasing comment regarding the potions master’s uncharacteristic enthusiasm regarding the young dragon’s bio-alchemy. At the time, his disagreeable colleague had issued a challenge to wait and see how enthusiastic he was when the boy revolutionized Flitwick’s own field.

    Admittedly, the situation wasn’t yet to that point, but it was an exhilarating experience even now, in its admittedly humble beginnings — though, Flitwick had to admit, at least some of that was simply his normal enthusiasm for teaching bleeding through. Yet after seeing how Severus had fared over the intervening years… well, the master of charms suspected he was in for interesting times to come.

    The half-goblin bared his slightly sharpened teeth in a vicious-looking smile at the thought.

    They promised to be interesting times, and he was looking forward to every minute of them.

    3.17.11 Unfair comparisons

    Late afternoon found Hermione sitting in her favorite chair on the Lair’s library mezzanine, taking a moment to sit back from her reading to stretch. She could still hear the muted sounds of spellfire echoing down the tunnel from the shooting range where Harry was yet again working on his practical casting skills alongside Abigail. Those sessions had been a frequent occurrence over the past week; though ever since that first evening, Hermione had begged off on joining in. That first taste had been all Hermione needed to decide that Abigail’s study plan wasn’t to her liking.

    However, that wasn’t to say the studious girl had given up on her early preparations for the NEWTs. Hermione smiled as she looked down at the arcane tome laid out on the table before her and at the half-full notebook of handwritten notes that lay open beside it. She had simply chosen to take a different tack — one more suited to her own talents.

    After all, it was never too early to start preparing — not in Hermione’s considered opinion — and, while it was true that she would also have to sit the OWLs as well, long before the NEWTs came into the picture, the bushy-haired girl figured that if she prepared properly for the NEWTs, then the OWLs ought to be easy enough. Classes usually built up to harder things over time, so she figured that was a safe bet.

    Despite her choice to go her own way, Hermione fully supported the conclusion Abigail had drawn — namely that practical skills were the name of the game for the NEWTs — it was the reason she had initially joined in for that first practice session. Hermione sighed as she thought back on that evening. It had made good sense at the time, and she had figured it would be nice to spend more time with her friends.

    The bushy-haired girl scowled as she thought back on that first session. It had made sense at the time, before the harsh reality of her situation had kicked in.

    Abigail had chosen to work on perfecting her ability to use the standard spell curriculum, a choice which involved a great deal of thoroughly exhausting practice. Hermione had agreed at the time — for that matter, she still did — that it was the right choice for Abigail’s situation. The older girl was already halfway through her seventh year, and there was simply no time to take any other, more leisurely, approach — not with any expectation of success.

    However, the right choice for Abigail had quickly proven itself entirely unsuitable for Hermione.

    The bushy-haired with scowled. As a normal witch in her second year of schooling, Hermione simply could not keep up with the harsh pace the older girl had set. Her body and magic were not developed enough to handle the strain, and she knew of no way to rush that sort of thing along — no matter how much she might wish otherwise — so she’d quickly been left behind.

    Of course, the bushy-haired girl couldn’t find it within herself to blame her friends for not slowing down to let her keep pace — not that she had given them a chance to offer, in any case. Hermione sighed ruefully at the idea. Abigail was on a tight schedule for the approaching exams, and quite frankly the bookish second-year student would never forgive herself if she was responsible for holding her friends back from being all they could be. She knew it wasn’t their fault she couldn’t keep up.

    Though, that knowledge did nothing to make her feel better about the situation.

    Being outperformed by Harry was nothing new for the bushy-haired girl, and by this point, she was already well-used to it. Harry was the boy who was so absurdly overpowered that he spent most of his time as a massive super-dragon because he couldn’t manage to contain himself into a human shape. Hermione couldn’t find it within herself to feel bad about coming in second-best to that — it would be like feeling inadequate about being shorter than a mountain, it simply wasn’t a meaningful comparison.

    Third-best was a different matter altogether.

    Unlike the walking amalgamation of condensed absurdity that was Harry Potter, Abigail was an ostensibly normal witch, just like Hermione herself. The bushy-haired girl didn’t have a ready excuse for why she couldn’t keep pace — not one that she could convince herself with, anyway. Her older friend had five full years of magical training and physical development on the just barely teenaged girl, and thus she couldn’t reasonably be expected to keep up with that kind of disadvantage. Hermione knew that was true, and it was almost convincing enough — almost, but not quite.

    And in this case, that “not quite” meant that the bushy-haired girl also knew that excuse was just that — an excuse.

    As far as Hermione was concerned, magic was an intellectual pursuit — it was something to be studied — and, to her mind, she was supposed to be able to keep up with people years ahead of her in that sort of thing, just like she always had before. Hermione knew she wasn’t the pretty girl, not with her hair and teeth; she knew she wasn’t the athletic girl, as she’d always preferred reading to sports; and she certainly knew she would never be the popular girl, because that just wasn’t going to happen; but she’d be damned before she gave up on being the smart girl!

    That was her thing, damn it!

    So, after that first discouraging practice, Hermione had retreated to her room to rethink her strategy and search out another path, one better suited to her own strengths. It was a search which had led to her current situation, holed up in the library, safe with her books.

    It was a practical decision on her part, a strategic choice to focus on maximal return on her investment.

    It certainly had nothing whatsoever to do with a desire to escape the simmering feelings of inadequacy stemming from her significantly older friend’s impressive performance and well-developed… ah, talents.

    It had not one thing to do with that.

    Honest.

    In any case, rather than following in Abigail’s footsteps and banking on her sheer competence with the standard spells impressing the examination committee, Hermione had decided to take a rather different tack.

    She chose to pursue variety.

    Oh, she had kept up some of her earlier routine. Her morning target practice with Harry had continued unchanged, both because he had insisted and because she enjoyed spending time with her friend — though, they had recently switched from stunners to piercing spells for some reason he hadn’t bothered to share. It had been an odd change, but Hermione hadn’t been terribly bothered by it — accuracy practice was accuracy practice, as far as she could tell — and since Abigail wasn’t there in the mornings for the younger girl to compare herself to, Hermione didn’t have any really compelling reason to kick up a fuss.

    For the rest, though, she would dedicate her time to learning as many spells as she could, so that, come time for her NEWT practicals, she could overwhelm the examiners with her spectacular versatility.

    It had seemed a decent choice — Hermione was not blessed with spectacular magical power as Harry was, nor was she particularly enamored of the idea of putting as much sweat into things as Abigail seemed to prefer. Rather, she was a smart girl with a prodigious memory who loved to read, and those were traits that fitted her chosen course perfectly.

    And, if that course led to her spending a great deal of time researching obscure magics among her beloved, comforting, and ever reassuring books, rather than working hard, sweating, and putting herself in a position to stack up unfavorably against a girl five years her senior, then so much the better.

    At the moment, Hermione was working through the first-year curriculum, spell by spell, and looking up any and every equivalent she could find within the wealth of written references Harry had managed to accumulate. Along the way, she had learned twenty-seven distinct divination spells designed to help search through written material within a specified spatial volume, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Using those, she had managed to locate four-hundred and fifty-seven distinct spells designed to perform roughly the same function as the basic light spell — the first one they had learned during the previous year.

    Not bad for a week’s worth of work.

    So far, Hermione had successfully learned eighty-five of them, and she fully intended to master them all. They were low-impact, easy to cast spells, but, at the end of the day, the bushy-haired girl figured the sheer breadth of her repertoire would have to count for something. After this, she would move on to the basic levitation charm, then to other basic utility charms, and so on and so forth, so that, by the time NEWTs rolled around in five and a half more years, her range would be second to none.

    Bending back to her work, the budding young witch smiled at the prospect. She was going to learn a tremendous amount of magic; she was certain she would enjoy the process thoroughly; and the end results would definitely be more impressive than Abigail’s excellent grasp of the basics.

    In the face of that, what did it matter if her older friend was prettier than she was? the bushy-haired girl thought with a scowl. She was fine with that.

    Honest.

    3.17.12 Clandestine excuses

    “That’s everyone here,” a sixth-year Gryffindor boy said in a firm voice that rang sharply in the dusty normally abandoned classroom as he shot a hard look at a similarly aged Ravenclaw. “Now I think it’s time you come clean about just what’s going on with our project.”

    “Yeah! What did you do with our money? We gave you all that so we could get rid of Lockhart and the girls would go back to paying attention to us, but he’s still here, and the girls are still all a-flutter about the blond pillock!” another boy piped up angrily, only to be followed by a cacophony of similar demands from the rest of the room. There were perhaps two dozen boys in attendance, hailing from every House but Slytherin. The age cohorts were not quite so evenly represented, as not a single boy there was younger than a fourteen.

    “As you all know, I hired a private investigator from Knockturn over the winter break to investigate Professor Lockhart’s background,” the sixth-year Ravenclaw so addressed replied to the crowd.

    “Yeah, yeah, we know! You told us that last time,” came an annoyed call. “Why did you call this meeting, if that’s all you have to say?”

    “I’m getting to it!” the Ravenclaw growled defensively. “Anyway, the investigator got back to me, and he found something! He suspects Lockhart used mind magic on people to cover something up!”

    “That’s it?” the first Gryffindor said incredulously. “You wasted all our money on that?”

    “It was not wasted,” the Ravenclaw protested, sounding a little nervous in the face of an increasingly hostile room. “He thought it was important enough to forward a copy of this to Law Enforcement!” He brandished a small stack of parchment as if it were a talisman to fend off the ire of his fellows.

    “Let me see that,” an older Hufflepuff growled, stepping up to rip the parchment out of his hands. His fellows crowded around to see for themselves as he read it. “I guess that’s something, at least,” he acknowledged grudgingly after a few minutes. His compatriots nodded in reluctant agreement with the assessment.

    “Do you mind if I take a look at that?” came a question from someone sitting quietly at a desk near the door.

    “Huh? Oh, sure,” the Hufflepuff said agreeably, absently handing the report off. “Now, what else do we need to do with this? I don’t want to waste our investment.”

    “Yeah, that looked really suspicious,” a younger Ravenclaw piped up. “Maybe we should tell the Headmaster?”

    “No!” the Ravenclaw who had hatched the scheme interrupted vociferously. “We just need to wait for the DMLE to do its thing. I don’t even want to think about how the staff would react to this. It’d be one thing if we had something solid, but just suspicions? Not happening!”

    When one of his year-mates gave him a narrow-eyed look of suspicion, he hurriedly elaborated. “We hired a private eye to dig into the past of one of our teachers looking for something to get him fired. How do you think Snape would react to that?”

    There was a round of reluctant nodding. Snape would make their lives unutterably miserable for that if he found out, if for no other reason than preemptive revenge for the possibility that they might do it to him in the future. To be honest, they couldn’t even really blame him for that.

    Merlin knew they’d thought about it enough.

    “Just let it run its course, it’ll work out,” the Ravenclaw assured his fellows. “And don’t tell any of the staff, especially not Lockhart.”

    “It had better work out,” the seventh-year Hufflepuff from earlier warned him darkly, “or it’ll be on your head.”

    The murmur from around the room affirming that sentiment was not reassuring to the sixth-year Ravenclaw who had arranged it all.

    As the last of his co-conspirators filed out of the room, the sixth-year Raven let out an explosive sigh. “It had better turn out, or my seventh year is going to be mightily unpleasant.”

    “Do you really think they’ll hold that much of a grudge?” the person sitting near the door asked curiously.

    The sixth-year scoffed. “At the price we paid? You bet your arse they will!”

    “I see,” blond hair bobbed as he nodded agreeably. “Well, I suppose you’ll just need to hope for the best then. Best of luck to you!”

    “Thanks,” the sixth-year said. “Um, can you pass me the…”

    “Oh, certainly!” he handed the investigative report back to the teenager. “There you go. Have a nice day!”

    The Ravenclaw nodded distractedly as he ambled out of the room.

    “Goodbye, Professor.”

    3.17.13 Unpleasant ruminations

    This was a troubling development, Gilderoy Lockhart thought as he sat under his concealment charm.

    An advanced variant of the common notice-me-not charm, his current choice induced a strong sense of ‘there’s nothing out of place here’ in anyone caught within the area it affected. It was a commonly used tool in the obliviator’s collection and a particular favorite of Lockhart’s. It did not prevent others from noticing the caster — a common property of other methods which made navigating crowds quite difficult — rather it made the caster seem completely unremarkable.

    As he listened to the retreating steps of his student echoing in the deserted hallway, Gilderoy mused on the implications of what he had just learned. When he had first caught wind of this clandestine gathering, he hadn’t known what to expect, but he had never anticipated finding this.

    To think, two dozen of his students had banded together in the interest of getting him fired, not because of his actions, not because they thought he was a poor teacher, but rather because the girls they were interested in apparently had crushes on him rather than the boys their age! Lockhart scoffed at the very idea — he certainly hadn’t done anything to encourage them! For that matter, they could have just waited a few months and the problem would have fixed itself — impatient brats.

    And the price they had paid! The blond dandy couldn’t help whistling at the memory of the price he’d seen quoted on that cover letter. His students had pulled that much together? For this? He didn’t know whether to be impressed at their dedication or appalled.

    Had he been that much of a horn-dog at that age?

    Blond locks swayed as the young professor shook his head to dismiss that line of speculation. Whether he had been or not, he certainly had never hired a private investigator to dig up dirt on one of his professors. That was definitely a new one in his experience, and it presented a brand-new set of challenges to go with it.

    Lockhart knew that the case against him, as presented in the report he had read, was far from airtight. There were far too many gaps and alternate explanations for it to carry weight in court. Despite that, the former obliviator couldn’t help admiring the unnamed private eye’s work. The man had managed to make something out of one of Gilderoy’s own cover-ups, and he had some idea of just how difficult that sort of thing was.

    The inconsistencies the man had latched onto were ones the former obliviator had left deliberately. A perfectly uniform story screamed of manipulation to an experienced investigator — witness accounts were always a little bit spotty — but for the still-unnamed private eye to have taken those deliberately-spread crumbs and put together as much of the story as he had was a remarkable feat.

    The man had accomplished something truly remarkable — something Lockhart would never have thought possible — and he didn’t know whether he wanted to shake the man’s hand in congratulations or punch him in the face for all the trouble that feat might cause him.

    And it was a feat that prompted the blond former obliviator to reconsider other potential outcomes that he had previously deemed impossible. The evidence presented wasn’t enough for a conviction, but it was probably enough to spark some interest. What if someone at the DMLE could use that to dig up more evidence he hadn’t considered? Gilderoy was still confident in his skills, but what if that confidence was misplaced?

    That could get very messy, very quickly.

    The blond man frowned. He had considered many times the possibility that his lies might be found out — that the elaborate house of cards might come tumbling down — and he had thought through the measures he would have to take should he be discovered.

    They were measures he did not like.

    Not at all.

    His dislike of those measures was, in fact, the main reason that he had gone for the attempt to become Harry Potter’s mentor rather than running the risk of discovery by attempting to take credit for any other, more prominent, heroic incidents. The life of a fugitive was not one that Gilderoy Lockhart wanted to live, but the life of a prisoner was even less appealing. With this development, both possibilities seemed all too real.

    The footsteps of his students had long-since faded from his hearing, and the former obliviator abruptly stood up, absently dispelling his concealment charm as he walked toward the door. He would have to make some preparations just in case, he mused as he left the classroom. If the worst happened, having a few things in place beforehand would be invaluable — they might be the difference between freedom and captivity, or possibly between life and death.

    Given the nature of Azkaban, the frigid, demon-infested hellhole that wizarding Britain used as a prison, Gilderoy wasn’t entirely sure which was the more terrifying prospect.

    Hopefully, his initial instinct was correct, and his cover-up was good enough to withstand scrutiny. If that was the case, his preparations would be a waste of time. If his fears proved prophetic, on the other hand? He grimaced at the idea as he exited the long-unused classroom and turned down the hallway for the trip back to his office.

    A bit of wasted time he could live with, Azkaban he could not.

    For now, Gilderoy would quietly put some preparations in place while keeping a weather eye open for trouble — it could just blow over with no further issue, after all — but if the DMLE did manage to find something substantial, they’d send aurors. His eyes narrowed speculatively. Given the location of the potential arrest, they might try to disguise it as something else, something innocuous, both to avoid panic among the children and maintain control of the Ministry’s public image.

    Lockhart nodded as he considered the idea, running through the scenario in his head. Yes, that was how he would have played it, were he in their position.

    A Ministry official, probably from Education, would come with a quiet request for a meeting — played off as some bureaucratic nothing in front of the children — accompanied by a few plainclothes aurors to make the arrest. Aurors rather than normal law enforcement would be overkill, to be sure, but they’d want to take him quietly, and that meant overwhelming force to make sure he couldn’t kick up a fuss. With him in custody and safely sequestered, they’d have time to set the propaganda machine running to cover the Ministry’s collective arse well before the trial. It would let them mitigate the impact of the scandal that would come from arresting a teacher they’d presumably vetted before hiring.

    The blond dandy’s expression hardened as he considered his options. At least he didn’t have to worry about being disappeared rather than tried — cold comfort, that. He was facing the Ministry, not the oligarchs; they’d come for him with officers rather than assassins — Dumbledore’s reforms had guaranteed that much, at least. Imprisonment would still mean Azkaban, though, and he shuddered at the thought of being locked in that place. In all honesty, the assassins might well have been the kinder option, or at least the less frightening one.

    At least assassins had the basic decency to just kill you, rather than what the dementors did at Azkaban.

    As he opened the door to his office and made his way to the attached apartment suite, Gilderoy shivered before deliberately shaking his head and pasting on his usual smile in an attempt to dismiss the horrifying train of thought. If worse came to worst, he would just have to ensure he was ready to strike first — without hesitation — he’d only have one, narrow, window of opportunity.

    He’d have to make it count.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2019
    nox, rifern, SerbobIV and 77 others like this.
  14. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    Glad you've been liking the story!

    As you should be able to see, you should be safe to continue now, the only section that was under heavy revision was the last one, which I've now reposted.
     
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  15. stads

    stads Know what you're doing yet?

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    nice chapter thx for writing it
    poor hermoine wonder when she will break down
     
  16. Korfayron

    Korfayron Getting out there.

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    If there is a document of the changes highlighted could you post it? I only ask because it's a long chapter of stuff I read most of already and I probably won't notice the differences.
     
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  17. Demonfir

    Demonfir Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Thanks so much Dunkelzahn!
     
  18. naarn

    naarn Getting sticky.

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    I'm pretty sure I've read that chapter before. Also:

    My, what punctuation you have grandma.
     
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  19. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Versed in the lewd.

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    Very nice chapter and much improved, I especially liked Hermionie acting like a stupid teenager and quitting the stamina exercise, pretending she had far less stamina than she did, to cover up the fact she had less stamina than Abigail :)
    Abigail shedding her robes was also much better than I recall, and while I didn't spot any changes in Lockhart and the Ravenclaw's meeting scenes they seemed even better on a second read through.

    The discussion with Flitwick also seemed improved, however
    1)Given that they're planning an experiment to determine if the snakes are conjured or summoned, and the situation is not conclusive yet, this
    Seems a bit too contrived and talking to the reader rather than Harry (especially the bolded bit) since obviously there are other situations where the theories would be called into question.
    2)You have Flitwick going from "I don't know and I don't think anyone ever asked the question" to "This is the accepted theory and you just discovered evidence that calls it into question" in seconds, which doesn't seem to make sense.
    3)While Harry obviously is capable of Mastery level work at his young age, and Flitwick knows that so him planning to have Harry achieve his Mastery of Charms before reaching his OWL year makes sense, this:
    Makes it sound like Harry asking the question, and needing to be told about putting together an experiment to falsify the theory, are somehow evidence of Harry's genius.

    EDIT: I suggest you put the old chapter in Spoilers, or at least add a note about it - not everyone follows the Threadmarks when they read a new thread, and the Threadmark name is very easy to miss.
     
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  20. Komrade Comrade

    Komrade Comrade Comrade

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    I think she'll take it in the other direction and suddenly find magical beauty treatments a worthy scholarly pursuit. And oh no, what do you know. A pleasant side effect that was in no way the central point of her studies, she's now very attractive and no longer feels inadequate.
     
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  21. Carrow

    Carrow Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    Either I'm having a severe case of Deja Vu or that chapter was posted before. I'm a little confused, not gonna lie. :(
     
  22. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    See the author's note at the beginning of the post.

    FYI --- I made some major edits to 3.17 (added six scenes and about 3000 words with various other edits throughout), and rather than editing in place, I posted it as a new chapter, per the suggestion of several others on the thread. I moved the old version to an Extras threadmark.

    The long and the short of it is, the events described are essentially the same, hence the familiarity, but they are now written in a hopefully better form, hence the new post.
     
  23. Charles

    Charles Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    I love this story so much, and I am always excited to read a new chapter. It always makes my day, or in this case my midnight.

    Love the impending confrontation between Madam Marchbanks and Lockheart. Will be funny to see the fallout of that misunderstanding.
     
  24. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Versed in the lewd.

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    There isn't going to be a confrontation, The people Marchbank is planning on sending are going to look just like the DMLE plainclothes officers he's preparing for so he's going to run as soon as he sees them, and given they they aren't DMLE officers I doubt he'll have any difficulty escaping.
     
    Charles likes this.
  25. Carrow

    Carrow Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    Ah! Gotcha.

    Must have missed the announcement, thanks for clearing that up. :)
     
  26. Drake

    Drake Making the rounds.

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    Ah, but who will she send? Wouldn't it be an insult to Lockhart if she didn't send a master dueler or retired master auror to help him with the practical preparation for the NEWTS? So the team might not be there to arrest him, but chances are good that they're no less qualified than such a team would be.

    Anyway, Dunkelzahn, I've enjoyed this story when you started writing it and am very happy to have found it again - and so much awesome new stuff since then! Thanks so much for writing and sharing. The world building is some of the best I've seen.
    There are just two points that I think you might have lost track of:
    1) Magic background level. They talked about how it changed over time, but is seems that nobody really cared to check how it changed when Harry opened the last node. That seems odd.
    2) Flamel seemed very interested in Harry and how his body worked. Now he might be a loner at heart, but it still seems odd that he doesn't check in even once. Not with Snape for more info, not with the team when they went to Stonehenge, nothing. Not impossible, but odd.
     
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  27. Skjadir

    Skjadir Versed in the lewd.

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    we know pretty well how will be sent:
    from 3.16.6

    He will get help from former aurors.
    Now I personally don't think he will get very far if he tries to run or try to take them out with an ambush and then run considering that he was more on the cleanup side of things and not heavy combat,arrest of violent wizards/witches and tracking of said wizards/witches.
     
  28. Dunkelzahn

    Dunkelzahn No one of consequence

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    Perhaps this would be more palatable

    On the other point, I've now edited the old post to be spoilered.

    I'll get back to them eventually. Both topics are rather central to some ongoing plot lines.
     
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  29. The Unicorn

    The Unicorn Versed in the lewd.

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    "palatable" isn't the word I'd choose but that works quite well.
     
  30. Demonfir

    Demonfir Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Still not caught up but just finished reading tom's second scene.

    ive always hated that the basilisk was outright killed and this one seems to have some semblance of intelligence rather than being a simple beast. How amazing would it be to befriend that magnificent beast and find a way for it to live elsewhere or just live?

    then again maybe I've just read too much fanfiction! :O

    well back to reading and life as usual

    EDIT: well I'm up to xmas now. RIPieces Basilisk. Now to see how things go with Tom and the discharge attempt. Happy July the 4th!!!
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2019
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