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Harry Potter and the Natural 20 - Sir Poley

Harry Potter and the Natural 20

by Sir Poley

Milo, a genre-savvy D&D Wizard and Adventurer Extraordinaire is forced to attend


Hogwarts, and soon finds himself plunged into a new adventure of magic, mad old
Wizards, metagaming, misunderstandings, and munchkinry. Updates Fridays.
Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 72 - Words: 301,307 - Reviews: 5,495 Favs: 4,472 - Follows: 5,124 - Updated: 2/27/2015 - Published: 5/7/2012 - id:
8096183
URL: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8096183

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
1. Chapter 1: Solo Adventures
2. Chapter 2: Diagon Alley
3. Chapter 3: The Sorting Ceremony
4. Chapter 4: The Defence Professor
5. Chapter 5: The Forbidden Forest
6. Chapter 6: Crime Scene Investigation
7. Chapter 7: The Potions Master
8. Chapter 8: Sidequests
9. Chapter 9: Hallowe'en
10. Chapter 10: Odds of Survival
11. Chapter 11: The Troll and the Dementor
12. Chapter 12: Of Rats and Bowler Caps
13. Chapter 13: Roleplaying
14. Chapter 14: Talking is a Free Action
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15. Chapter 15: Quidditch
16. Chapter 16: Be Good For Goodness' Sake
17. Chapter 17: White Christmas
18. Chapter 18: Red Christmas
19. Chapter 19: Visitors
20. Chapter 20: The Mirror of Erised
21. Chapter 21: Bewitched
22. Chapter 22: The Chessmaster
23. Chapter 23: The Duelling Club
24. Chapter 24: Nick of Time
25. Chapter 25: Roll for Initiative
26. Chapter 26: Bluff Checks
27. Omake: HP:MoMunchkinality
28. Chapter 27: Enchanter's End Game
29. Chapter 28: Grappling with the Rules
30. Chapter 29: Check Mate, Mate
31. Chapter 30: Troll Wanted: Dead or Alive
32. Chapter 31: The Man With Two Faces
33. Chapter 32: Dumble-dnouement
34. Epilogue
35. CC 1: Dynamic Entry
36. CC 2: Nicked
37. CC 3: Too Quiet
38. CC 4: Railroading
39. CC 5: How Could This Go Wrong?
40. CC 6: Whitewashed Secrets
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41. CC 7: A Head Full of Hot Heir
42. CC 8: Gilderoy Lockhart
43. CC 9: I Scry With My Little Eye
44. CC 10: The Duel
45. CC 11: Trick or Treat
46. CC 12: Hallowe'en Masks
47. CC 13: Conspirators
48. CC 14: Cacophony in C Sharp
49. CC 15: Not So Subtle
50. CC 16: Equivalent Exchange
51. CC 17: Remedial Divinations
52. CC 18: The Boy Who Lived
53. CC 19: The Boy Who Didn't
54. CC Epilogue: Awakenings
55. SD 1: Decease and Desist
56. SD 2: Old Friends
57. SD 3: Know Thyself
58. SD 4: Dragon in a Half-Shell
59. SD 5: City of Light
60. SD 6: City of Magic
61. SD 7: Magnum Opus
62. SD 8: Boss Room
63. SD 9: The Fourth Mistake
64. SD 10: The Dogs of War
65. SD 11: No News is Good News
66. SD 12: Hot Fuzz
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67. SD 13: Passing Notes
68. SD 14: The Hogwarts Express
69. SD 15: The Tour Guide
70. SD 16: Safer Justice Practices
71. SD 17: Stones and Windows
72. SD 18: A Better Story

Chapter 1: Solo Adventures

Disclaimers: This story is a Dungeons and Dragons/Harry Potter crossover, and


primarily aimed at readers who are fans of both. That said, people only vaguely
familiar with either Harry Potter or D&D will still likely get most of the
enjoyment this story has to offer. For those who don't know much about either,
reading a quick plot summary of Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone (say, on
Wikipedia) and skimming the article on D&D will likely suffice. Anyone still
confused can search d20srd (.org), a wonderful website with the entirety of the
D&D 3.5 rules available for free. Players of AD&D, D&D 3.0, 4th edition,
Pathfinder, and probably other RPGs will probably be just fine. You can check my
Author's Page for a link to Milo's character sheet, more details, and a link to
Semiautomagic, an RPG I'm working on, currently available as a free beta.
For D&D buffs: this fic uses a few minor house rules which I've played with so
long I didn't even realize they weren't canon. We're using 3.0's XP system
instead of 3.5's (XP divides a little differently) and Wizards are able to swap
out their Scribe Scroll bonus feat at 1st level for alternate class features (in
this case, Spontaneous Divination) as if they were the 5th, 10th, 15th, or
20th-level bonus feats. Also, magic items like Bags of Holding track only weight
for carrying capacity, not volume. I rolled Milo's stats using the usual system
(4d6, drop the lowest) and roll his hit dice every level, as well as most of the
other dice in combats and things.
Anyways, on with the story! If you like it, review it!
oooo
Thud
Milo hit the groundhard. There was a brief moment of silence before he heard
the sound of chairs being slid back on a stone floor and people rising to their
feet.
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He wasn't alone.
Milo quickly glanced around, taking in the unfamiliar surroundings. He was in
some sort of dining room, lying face-up on a hardwood table. The room was richly
appointed, and Milo was keenly aware of their solid brass candlesticks, as one
was currently poking him most uncomfortably in the lower back. Most notable,
however, were the half-dozen figures sitting around him. They were evillike,
really, obviously evil. Black robes. Masks. Hells, there was even a chandelier.
It didn't take Milo long to realize he should be putting his Improved Initiative
to good use. As the cultistthese guys had to be in some sort of cultwho was
sitting at the head of the table reached up the sleeve of his robe for a wand,
Milo unleashed sparkly arcane fury.
"Avada KedavrAaaah!" the cultist was cut off.
"Glitterdust!" A cloud of blindingly bright, glowing golden particles exploded
out of Milo's outspread hands, covering the cultists and their furniture. The
cultists clutched at their masks, temporarily blinded by the spell. Milo paused,
briefly stunned. He'd gotten all of them? Surely, as primary casters, they'd
have a higher Will save than that... oh well, think later, escape first.
Taking advantage of their condition, Milo rolled off the table and made a dash
for the window. Standard action to stand up, move action to hustle and jump...
he figured he'd make it just in time. There was a surprisingly painful crash
(note to self: never jump through glass again) and Milo found himself in
freefall. The window, it seemed, was roughly seven storeys aboveground.
"Feather Fall," Milo muttered, slowing his descent. As his feet gently touched
the ground, he took stock of his surroundings. He was standing in the grounds of
a rural manor, in the middle of some carefully kept gardens. The only thing
between him and freedom was a clear shot over flat ground with the occasional
shrub and a low fence. As he began to run, the cultists, judging by the hail of
magic, recovered from their temporary blindness. An unfamiliar sparkling green
bolt of light struck a shrub next to Milo, causing it to rapidly turn brown and
wither.
Gulp.
"Mirror Image," Milo cast, summoning a trio of identical illusory copies of
himself. The four Milos bolted in different directions, splitting the cultist's
fire between them. As Milo approached the edge of the manor grounds, he noticed
some distinctly unfamiliar mountains in the distance. The sky, he noticed, was
missing a pair of moons.
"Crap," Milo muttered. He must have gotten hit with a Plane Shift or Greater
Teleport, which was improbable, because both of those were well beyond even the
supremely dark power of the Fell Lord, Thamior the Thaumaturge...
One of the illusory Milo's was hit with one of those weird green spells,
vanishing instantly. As another of his doubles went down, Milo hopped the fence
and ducked behind it briefly. His next spell took a little longer to cast than
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the others had, but Milo hoped it would pay off.
"Mount," he said quietly after concentrating for a few seconds. Next to him
appeared a grey pony, which, except for its eyeswhich were glassy and
lifelessappeared all but indistinguishable from a natural one. Unlike the
mirror images, the mount was realdepending on your definition of real, of
course. It was real enough to get him the Hells out of here.
Milo awkwardly pulled himself into the saddle (he never was much of an
equestrian, as Skill Points were few and far between for a Wizard) and kicked
the summoned pony's rump with his heels. As he was catching his breath, thinking
of how close his run-in was (if that spell could just kill a plant like that,
imagine what it could do to him? Milo's Fortitude save was lower than a serf's
daily wage) he heard a loud crack from his left. One of the cultists suddenly
appeared, wand brandished threateningly.
"Glitterdust!" Milo cast again, burning his last 2nd-level spell. As before, the
burst of golden light blinded the dark wizard. If another one shows up, I'll
have to resort to harsh language...
"They can teleport?" Milo shrieked. "That's a 5th-level spell! This is way
beyond my ECL! I call shenanigans. Shenanigans!" But nobody responded. Who he
was even talking to was unclear, as there wasn't another soulexcept for the
blinded Death Eaterin sight. After several minutes of galloping, Milo decided
to rein his pony in for a short break while he considered his options.
Now you may be wondering, "what the heck is going on?" And that's a perfectly
valid question, but unfortunately, Milo is as confused as you are. Perhaps a
brief description of our perplexed hero is in order. As far as Milo is
concerned, the information written on his character sheet sufficed as
description: True Neutral, Wizard 3, Human, Male, Age: 11, Weight: 71 lbs (his
world runs on the imperial system, the poor barbarians), Height: 4'9'', Hair:
brown, Eyes: brown. And you may be thinking, "eleven years old? That seems a
little young to be a Wizard." And you're right. Most Wizards, from where Milo
comes from (more on that later) are at least seventeen before they become even a
level one Wizard. Milo, however, managed to pull a fast one involving starting
life as a Rogue and doing some retraining. "But wait," you protest. "That jargon
doesn't mean anything to me at all. And even if it did, the minimum starting age
for a human Rogue is still 16." But unfortunately, you don't have time to worry
about problems like that, because Milo is, in fact, being attacked by a Death
Eater on a broomstick. See what happens when you nitpick?
"Avada Kedavra!" the evil flying cultist shouted, making weird gestures with his
wand. Milo felt his pony suddenly go limp beneath him as its heart stopped. Milo
collided with the ground for most of his remaining Hit Points (Milo dumped
Constitution during character creation, which seemed like a really good idea at
the time). Weakly, he staggered to his feet as the cultist came around for
another pass.
"You know, there's a reason most Wizards prefer to use a Phantom Steed to a
Broom of Flying," Milo muttered. "That reason is Grease!" he said, with a
complicated hand gesture to accompany the last word. He cast the spell, not
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targeting the cultist but his broomstick, which became nearly frictionless.
Without any sort of safety strap or foot petals, the broomstick continued
accelerating while the cultist, unfortunately, did not. Before meeting the
ground, the cultist vanished with another distinctive popping sound. Milo
frowned. What kind of cultist can cast save-or-die spells multiple times,
teleport, afford a Broom of Flying, and yet not manage a simple Feather Fall?
Maybe they're some obscure non-core class? Milo thought. Well, time to loot the
corpse. A Broom of Flying would make an excellent replacement for his ex-pony,
which was already starting to fade out of existence now that the magic keeping
its form together was gone.
As Milo searched for the broomstick, he let his mind wander again. The last
thing he'd done before slamming into that table in the manor house was confront
the Supremely Evil Fell Lord Thamior the Thaumaturge (try putting that on a
business card) with his companions. Everything was going according to plan, then
suddenly... table. Milo was sure Thamior hadn't had a chance to get a spell off,
especially not one of this magnitude. Maybe something over here pulled him
across? Why in the Prime Material would anyone want to summon Milo, of all
things? Milo shuddered to think of what Thamior was doing to his party without
his arcane support. It was probably going to be his job upon returning to raise
funds for three Raise Deads, because a thief, a meatshield, and a glorified box
of band-aids against Thamior's power spelled T-P-K.
Milo stumbled across the broomstick, which had flown into the ground,
point-first. He confidently pulled the stick out of the dirt, straddled it, and
leapt into the air. Nothing happened except that Milo looked rather foolish.
"Hmm, must be command-word activated, I suppose? Swordfish!" Nothing happened.
"Melon! Rise! Up! Activate! Flight! Abra Kadabra!" Ten minutes later, with all
the usual suspects attempted to no avail, Milo gave up.
"Detect Magic." Nothing. The broomstick, as far as Milo could determine, didn't
have enough magic to power a Bard's cantrip. It was an ordinary, mundane broom.
For sweeping things.
"Wha... what? Then how... Agh, my poor head." Nothing happening was making any
sense here. Maybe if he found some non-cultist residents of this strange world,
they'd be able to explain things to him. Shouldering the broom, he chose a
direction completely at random and started walking.
oooo
Some time
bloodied,
young boy
clutching

after 3 AM, the villagers of Hogsmeade were surprised to find a dirty,


half-dead (or rather, five-sixths, to be precise, since you asked)
stumble into their village before collapsing of exhaustion. He was
in his hands a Nimbus Two Thousand.

"Who is he?"
"Is he a Muggle? How did he get through the wards?"
"Is he a student?"
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"Blimey! Is that a Nimbus?"
"If he had a broomstick, why was he walking?"
"Someone send for Dumbledore, this kid needs help."
"I'm right here in front of you."
"No, not you, the other Dumbledore."
"Oh," said Aberforth, slightly disappointed. "Nobody ever wants to send for me."
As the nearest medical facility was the hospital wing of Hogwarts, and, as the
villagers reasoned, this boy was more likely than not some student from the
castle caught up in one of their fool adventures, he was rushed with all
possible haste to the care of Madam Pomfrey, and, more than likely, detention.
It was a very surprised, and somewhat sleepy, Professor McGonagall who answered
the door. She immediately sent a Patronus to wake the school's Headmaster before
carrying the boy to the hospital wing.
"Minerva! What's happening?" Dumbledore (the right one, this time) said as he
entered the wing. The Deputy Headmistress quickly filled him in about what the
villagers at Hogsmeade had discovered.
Dumbledore frowned. "I don't recognize him, do you?" McGonagall shook her head.
"This is most unusual. He's clearly of an age that he should be just starting in
Hogwarts, so if he's a wizard of magical Britain..." McGonagall said, trailing
off in thought.
"Why don't we wake him and ask?" Dumbledore suggested.
"Poppy believes it best that we let him recover. He's suffered some fairly
serious injuriesit looks like a particularly nasty fall, perhaps."
"Could he be a student of Beauxbatonsor Durmstrang? I'll owl Madame Maxime and
Professor Karkaroff. In the meantime, keep me updated."
McGonagall sighed. She wouldn't give up being Deputy Headmistress for all the
gold in Gringotts, but it did involve rather a lot more sleepless nights than
she would have preferred.
oooo
Milo awoke to the sound of people talking quietly. The odd thing about whispers,
Milo had discovered, is that they tend to catch the ear even faster than
ordinary talking. There were curtains around his bed, so he couldn't place a
face to the speakers.
"Minerva! II noticed something well, something most unusual," the first voice
(female, human) said.
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"What's the matter?" inquired a second (also female, human).
"The patient, he well, he recovered," the first voice said hesitantly.
"Surely, that's good news?"
"Well, yes, normally very good news, this being an infirmary, recovery is most
appreciated. But not normally with quite the alacrity demonstrated."
"Explain."
"After precisely eight hours of bed rest, the majority of his wounds simply
vanished before my eyes," the first voice said.
There was a brief silence.
"Well, I daresay I'm impressed. How did you do it?" the second
voiceMinervaasked.
"I didn't do it!" the first voice said, her voice rising. "I hadn't actually
done much of anything beyond cleaning and bandaging his wounds!"
"Then perhaps he had some Charm cast on him when he entered? Or one of the
villagers did something?"
"That was the first thing I checked! I think I think the possibility should be
considered that he isn't entirely human," the first voice said cautiously.
"Poppy, get professors Dumbledore, Snape, Flitwick, and Sproutin that order,"
Minerva commanded. "I'll watch him until then, whoever he is."
Milo frowned. Why were they so confused? A night's rest resulted in healing a
hit point per level. Everyone knows that. Had they never slept? Were they
Constructsor even Undead? Milo reached for his Belt of Hidden Pouches, where he
kept (among rather a lot of other, useful things) his spellbook. He needed an
hour to prepare new spells (which he doubted he'd get, but it was worth trying.)
His Belt was gone.
Milo sat straight upright and checked his other pockets. Nothing. He broke out
into a cold sweat. Without his spellbook, he couldn't memorize spells. If he
couldn't memorize spells, he had a mere four 0th-level spells and then nothing.
He was a Commoner for the rest of time, or at least until he could make a new
one.
Almost as importantly, Mordy was still in the belt. Milo concentrated on the
empathic bond, to see if Mordy was all right. Hunger, Fear, Confusion.
Milo licked his lips nervously. He'd just begun searching for something he could
use as an improvised club (not his preferred way of doing things) when the
curtains were drawn aside.
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"Who are you, where am I, and what have you done with my Magic Items?" Milo
demanded, before they were even pulled all the way aside. In walked an odd duo.
A pair of aging humans in robes (Venerable meant +3 Intelligence, Wisdom, and
Charisma, so Milo made a mental note not to underestimate these two) who were
obviously spellcasters of some sort. Great big white beard, half-moon glasses,
wands What is it with the casters here and wands? Milo wondered.
"If you are talking about your broomstick, young man, its right beside the bed.
And I would suggest you mind your manners," said the lady, who was sporting a
rather severe bun of hair.
"Peace, Minerva," said the man in the purple robes. "He's clearly been through
some sort of ordeal." The old man turned his pleasant, grandfatherly face to
Milo. "Now, if you would be so good as to tell us who you are?"
"I am Milo Amastacia-Liadon," said Milo proudly. For those of you keeping score
at home, Milo's parents, being cosmopolitan humans, decided to give him a
Halfling first name and both of their (Elven) last names.
"And I," said the grandfatherly man, "am Professor Albus Percival Dumbledore."
He said it like Milo was supposed to know who he was. Maybe he really was
famous; it was Zook who had all the Ranks in Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) in
their party. "This, of course, is Professor Minerva McGonagall. You are in
Hogwarts, school of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
"Wizardry? Oh, thank Boccob. You're Wizards, then?" Milo asked, feeling
profoundly relieved.
Dumbledore looked slightly taken aback.
"Well, naturally we're wizardsExcept for Minerva, of course, who is, in fact, a
witch. You didn't take us for Muggles, did you?"
"What? Muglook, I think we're getting slightly afield. Was I wearing a belt
when I came in here?"
"I'd have to ask Madam Pomfrey to say for certain, but there is a belt on your
bedstand," the old wizard said.
"Oh, thank the gods. Don't you know that it's terribly rude, not to mention a
sign of hostile intent, to part a person from his Magic Items?" Milo grabbed the
belt, which was covered in tiny pockets (and had many more besides, which were
invisible) and quickly opened the snap on one of the hidden ones. Out crawled a
very distressed-looking brown-and-white rat. "Not to mention a Wizard from his
familiar."
"Best not let Poppy see that," Dumbledore suggested. "She would not, I believe,
take kindly to seeing a rat in her hospital wing. Now, could you please tell me,
of what schoolif, indeed, anyare you a student?"
"Conjuration," Milo said proudly, "though I've always had something of a knack
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for Divinations as well."
"The School of Conjuration?" Albus frowned. "Unless I'm mistaken, they were shut
down, oh, sometime in 1869, after the Spoons Incident." Nearby, McGonagall
shuddered. "Would you take it amiss if I asked to see your wand?"
"My wand? I don't have one. Never saw the point, really, and even if I wanted
one I couldn't afford it."
"No wand?" McGonagall gasped. But Dumbledore frowned.
"Now, I'm not one to pay close attention to the ins-and-outs and developments of
sporting equipment, but how is it that you managed to come by what I believe to
be a most expensive racing broom if you can't afford even a simple wand?"
Dumbledore asked.
"Oh, that thing? I took it off a cultist," Milo said blandly. "Seems pretty
useless to me. If there's any magic in it, I have no idea how to make it work,
and its shape is hardly optimal for sweeping."
McGonagall's mind recoiled from the notion of using a Nimbus Two Thousand to
clean a house. Thinking the very thought was unthinkably unthinkable.
"I think the more questions he answers, the less sense this makes," Dumbledore
said. "Start with the cultists, then how you came to be in Hogsmeade so late at
night, then we'll discuss your school and the broomstick."
Milo shrugged.
"My party and I were storming the tower of the Most Maliciously Malevolent
Magus, Thamior the Thaumaturge. After fighting our way past all the usual
defensesyou know, skeletons, goblins," McGonagall choked slightly on hearing
that, "that sort of thing, pretty routine, when we confronted the dark Wizard.
Our Rogue crept into a flanking position while I distracted him with taunts,
interrupting his monologue. The Cleric and I were about to unleash magical fury
when suddenly, I was somewhere else entirely. The next thing I know, I hit a
table in a room surrounded by cultists," Milo said. "They had dark robes and
masks and everything; you should have seen them. So, one of them started casting
some spell, it went like, 'Avada Keda'" Milo was interrupted as McGonagall
desperately clamped a hand over Milo's mouth.
"There's no need to worry, Minerva. He doesn't have a wand," Dumbledore said
gently.
"Right. Er. Continue your story, then, Mister Amastacia-Liadon," said the old
witch, slightly embarrassed. "But you must never say those words again. They are
the incantation for the worst of the Unforgivable Curses."
"Please call me Milo; elf names tend to be on the long side," Milo said.
"Elf names?" McGonagall asked incredulously. "Albus, add that to the list of
questions."
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"Right, so I blinded the cultists with a Glitterdust, jumped out the window,
provided false targets with illusions, summoned a pony, and rode off as fast as
I could, but one of them chased me on that broomstick. One casting of Grease on
the stick and the cultist fell but he teleported to safety somehow. Not before
he killed my mount, though. So I started walking, and I think I'd just found
some village or another when I passed out. Pretty lucky, really, all things
considered."
"Albus," McGonagall said quietly. "These cultists he speaks of. They sound an
awful lot like"
"I'd noticed, Minerva. It appears they were not quite so disbanded as we had
once believed." Dumbledore said ominously. Milo grinned. That sounded like a
plot hook if he'd ever heard one.
"Now, young wizard, if you could tell me what school you attend so I can see you
home safely?" Dumbledore asked.
"Oh, that kind of school? Nah, never bothered," Milo said. "You gain experience
way faster hunting dark Wizards and goblins and things, let me tell you."
"No school?!" McGonagall gasped again, this time even more offended than when
she'd heard of his lack of wand. "That's criminal! Your parents should be
arrested!" The professor paused, looking concerned. "Youyou do have parents,
don't you, Mister Amaer, Milo?" she asked gently.
"Parents? Most likely. They're" he paused. Something was wrong. He reached out
for his memories of his parents, but came back with nothing. He started to
panic. "I don't understand. My parents, they're they're what's happening?"
"Are you quite alright, young man?" McGonagall asked, her voice full of
concern.
"I this has never happened before," Milo confessed. His backstory generally
wrote itself on an as-needed basis. "Obviously I had parents, but I I just, I
can't remember them."
"Oh, I am so, so sorry." McGonagall said seriously. It broke her heart how many
orphans came through Hogwarts, especially in the time after the war.
"Minerva, if you would please come with me for a moment, I think we need to
discuss this with the other heads of houses," Dumbledore said. "We'll be back
shortly, Milo, in the mean time I'll let Poppy take care of you."
oooo
"I think it's obvious that we're dealing with a very confused individual,"
Sprout said sadly after McGonagall had explained the situation. "He seems to
have been orphaned at a young age and fended for himself since then, and is
quite delusional."
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"Sadly, I must agree," Dumbledore said. "I think we can assume that very little
of his story is true, although he did describe the Death Eaters and the Killing
Curse with an alarming level of accuracy. I think it likely, unfortunately, that
his parents were killed by them at a young age."
"The broomstick," Flitwick said suddenly. "It's our only clue. We know that the
Nimbus is a brand-new model of Quidditch broom, so he must have come across it
recently. Judging by his vagabond nature and lack of wand, he didn't obtain it
through legitimate channels. If we can find any of the broomsticks reported
stolen, it might be able to discern the veracity of his story."
"Clever as always, Filius," Dumbledore congratulated him.
"Headmaster, what if his story is true?" McGonagall asked. "There could very
well be active Death Eaters out there, looking for revenge." And, she thought
quietly, the Malfoy Summer Manor is at about one night's walking distance from
Hogsmeade "Investigating the Nimbus will only draw attention to him."
"Well, it would appear we have but one option," Dumbledore said. "And the law is
quite clear. Regardless of all else, the boy is clearly magicalotherwise,
Hogsmeade's wards would have driven him off well before he made it within sight
of the village. Term starts in only three days, and I believe this young man,
both for his safety and for that of those around him, should be among the first
years to be sorted."
"Headmaster, with respect," sneered Snape, who in fact meant none, "we can't
just offer every street urchin and vagrant who wanders to our door a spot in
this school. We're the best school in magical Britain, not the only one."
"I'm afraid I'll have to insist," Dumbledore said gently, but firmly. "Minerva,
if you could take the young Mr. Amastacia-Liadon to Diagon Alley to get his
school supplies and robes tomorrow, it would be much appreciated. Filius, would
you please anonymously return the Nimbus to the Department of Magical Law
Enforcement and quietly keep an eye on who picks it up? Pomona, would you be so
good as to take over preparations for the sorting ceremony for us? As for
myself, I will make inquiries at the Ministry of Magic, to see if any underage
magic has been detected."
"And myself, headmaster?" asked Snape.
"Ah, Severus, I have a special task for you. I'm afraid you'll have to visit
certain old acquaintances again."
"I understand," said Snape with a sigh. He'd hoped it wouldn't come to this.
"Well then, I believe we all have our tasks. We'd best get to them."
oooo
On the one hand, Milo was not particularly enthusiastic about attending school.
But on the other hand, it was pretty clear that this was what the plot demanded
of him. Besides, this was his best shot at getting at those cultists, and
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everything about them said "we have loads and loads of Magic Items and gold."
And it wasn't like he had anything else to do. Besides, he was only 300 XP away
from a new level, and with it, one step closer to the untold arcane power of
3rd-level spells.
"I suppose I might be interested in attending your school, Deputy Headmistress,"
Milo said respectfully. Never hurts to flatter powerful NPCs on occasion.
"Excellent. We only have three days until term starts, so tomorrow we'll go out
and purchase you your school supplies," McGonagall said.
"Oh, er. I haven't got any money, per se." Milo had spent the last of his loot
buying that Belt of Hidden Pouches.
"None at all? Well, Hogwarts does have a small fund for unfortunate students
such as yourself," McGonagall said thoughtfully, "but I'm afraid you'll likely
have to make do with second- or third-hand materials."
"No complaints here. So what are we talking, like, quills and parchment and
things?"
"That, of course, and also, oh where did I put that list? Here we are. Wand,
robes, pointed hat, dragonhide gloves," Milo choked slightly in surprise at
that, "telescope, a cauldron, scales, and various text and spellbooks, wand..."
McGonagall frowned as she read through the list. "It seems wand was listed
twice. I'll be having a word with someone about that, I should think. It also
says that you can have an owl, cat, or toad, though we generally make allowances
for rats as well."
"A wand? What kind? Probably no higher than first level, but seriously, that's
on your mandatory list? And, wait spellbooks?" Milo asked incredulously.
"You're going to buy me spellbooks?" Milo felt faint. There had to be some kind
of catch. Telescopes clocked in at 1,000 gp alone, and if they had the
capability to slaughter enough dragons to make gloves for the entire student
body, the faculty here were not to be trifled with. This little shopping list
was way beyond the average Wealth By Level of a 1st-Level Wizard, and Milo's
rapid addition placed it at almost half of his current total value.
"II think I need to sit down for a moment," Milo said. "I appear to have been
Dazedor possibly even Stunned."
"Yes, well, I suppose it can be a bit overwhelming at first," McGonagall frowned
at him. She couldn't imagine how someone could be so poor that a second-hand old
textbook seemed extravagant. "In the meantime, I suppose, just stay here and
focus on feeling better."
"Oh, I was going to ask about that. Don't you have any Clerics on staff?" Milo
asked. His injuries weren't anything that a Cure Light Wounds wouldn't solve; it
really was faster than bed rest.
"Oh, er, no. Not many in the magical world feel a, um, religious calling of that
nature." McGonagall said carefully. Most wizards and witches felt a little
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awkward around matters of religion, what with all the
suffer-not-the-witch-to-live's and inquisitions and all that.
"Hmm, that would explain that, then." Wizards heal injuries in a manner
resembling how pigs flythey generally tried to keep such a situation from
occurring in the first place.
"In the mean time, I suggest you try to relax as much as possible, and I will be
here early tomorrow morning to take you to London," McGonagall said before
leaving.
Milo sat back, trying to contain his excitement for tomorrow. This time in two
days, he thought, I'm going to be absolutely rolling in new spells and items he
was practically salivating at the thought. In fact, he realized, he was
salivating at the thought.

Chapter 2: Diagon Alley

The next morning, it was a slightly apprehensive McGonagall who approached her
newest student in the hospital wing. To the growing concern and, frankly, terror
of their resident mediwitch, the last of Milo's injuries had vanished
completely.
"So," he said brightly, "What's the plan, then? Travel by horseback, Teleport,
Wind Walk, Phantom Steed, or something else?" The boy's rat was sitting on his
shoulder, mimicking Milo's every hand gesture and expression in a most
disconcerting way.
"We'll walk to the edge of Hogwarts grounds and Apparate there directly," she
explained.
"Apparate, eh? What's that?" Milo asked. He was getting very concerned at the
number of Knowledge (Arcana) checks he'd been failing recently. It was most
unlike him.
"We will be transported directly to Diagon Alley in London," she explained.
"From the point of view of those watching, we will appear to disappear."
"Oh, so we'll teleport?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes."
"Why can't we just do it from here?" Milo asked, gesturing around the hospital
wing.
"You can't Apparate or Disapparate on the Hogwarts grounds," McGonagall
explained.
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Milo frowned.
"That really makes a lot of sense, actually. I can see how dark wizards
teleportingsorry, 'Apparating'" he said with finger-quotes "into your school
would be a problem. Well, let's be off, then." Milo had woken up an hour early
to memorize his spells for the day and as a result felt like he was practically
buzzing with magic.
The castle, Milo decided, was pretty cool. There were moving staircases and
talking portraits (he wasn't sure how they pulled that off, Animate Object was a
Divine spell after all), suits of armour (the value of that many suits of full
plate set Milo salivating again. He wondered if they'd notice if a few went
"missing"), and the castle was, on the whole, apparently larger on the inside
than the outside (what was it, an entire Castle of Holding? The cost of
something like that would be astronomical, not to mention that it would drain
enough XP to de-level an epic Wizard), they even had
"Holycrapghost! Glitterdust!" Milo shouted, reaching for the only spell he
thought would affect it.
"Mister Amastacia-Liadon!" Professor McGonagall barked, "At Hogwarts, we do not
blind history teachers! I'm dreadfully sorry, Professor Binns."
"Hehe he's a teacher?" Milo asked, stunned. "Cool! So sorry about that,
Professors. I was startled."
"No matter, no matter," Binns said distractedly, floating past them with a trail
of golden dust falling off of him in his wake.
"It's considered impolite to draw attention to Professor Binns' condition,"
McGonagall said quietly. She sighed. Milo had somehow, apparently, achieved an
unusually high degree of control over his accidental magic (or so she thought).
Hopefully, that should stop once they got him a proper wand and training.
As they walked out of the castle's huge front gates, Milo soaked in the castle's
grounds. There was an evil forest. An animated tree (a disguised Treant,
possibly?). A lake with mermaids.
"This place is awesome," he said. The amount of XP he could get just from random
encounters in the school grounds alone it suddenly made sense to him how such a
school could be an effective way to gain power. This place was clearly, really,
incredibly, obviously, brilliantly dangerous. With all the adventure and monster
fighting that must be happening between classes, not to mention the magical
brawls that naturally occur when you give an eleven-year-old untold arcane power
in a practically unsupervised environment (it would take a staff of thousands to
keep an eye on all of Hogwarts at once), these kids would be leveling up like
crazy.
Milo grinned happily, thinking about all the XP he was about to gain.
McGonagall smiled, thinking about how happy Milo looked now that he had found a
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home.
"This should be far enough," McGonagall said. "Hold on closely, a Side-Along
Apparition can be somewhat startling at first."
As it turned out, that was putting it rather lightly. It felt, roughly, like
someone had buffed his Escape Artist bonus to +70 and forced him to crawl
through a lengthy stretch of lead pipe, backwards.
"I think I failed a Fortitude save," Milo said somewhat queasily.
He looked around to find himself in a dark, somewhat shabby tavern. He felt,
like all adventurers the world over (despite being under-age in all civilized
nations) simultaneously at home and somewhat homesick. Everyone they passed gave
McGonagall a respectful nod. Milo hadn't realized she was a retired adventurer,
but it made sense. Who better to teach at a school for wizards?
"Good Lord," said the barman, peering at Milo. "Is thiscan this be"
"Tom, I thought I asked you to stop doing that to every student who passes
through here?" McGonagall said sharply.
"Sorry, Professor," the barman mumbled, somewhat sheepishly.
"I remember you when you were this tall," she said, gesturing to about her
waist. "A wide-eyed, innocent young Hufflepuff, not that that's anything to be
ashamed of, in my Transfiguration class," (a-ha, thought Milo. She's a
Transmuter; no wonder everyone respects her) "such promise. Such potential." She
shook her head slowly. "And what do you do with it? Prank every little boy who
comes your way into thinking they're secretly the Boy-Who-Lived. Honestly, I
don't know how you sleep at night."
"Sorry, Professor."
"It's a good thing for Hufflepuff House that you've already graduated, young
man," (Milo noted that Tom already had graying hair. Just how old is
McGonagall?) "or your antics would seriously handicap the students of that poor
House (bless their little, hardworking, earnest hearts) in their chances at
winning the Cup. If I ever hear of you pulling this on the actual Harry Potter,
why Well, I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise by saying what I'll do." She
led Milo off, making soft tut-tut sounds to herself. The barman, Milo noted,
looked somewhat sick. Milo was impressed. He'd never met a Wizard (or witch, as
the people here seemed to think that witch was the feminine form of Wizard, for
some reason) who put cross-class ranks into Intimidate before.
"Merlin!" she said as they left the pub. "I've wanted to do that for years." She
reached out and tapped a seemingly-innocuous brick wall, and a hole appeared in
the wall which rapidly grew larger. In a manner of seconds, they were standing
before an archway into a bustling alley.
"Cool, if somewhat showy," Milo said, gesturing to the wall. "Wouldn't keep
anyone out who held the mysterious and cosmic power of a heavy sledge, though."
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McGonagall was amazed by his blas reaction. Milo seemed to be astonished by the
most innocuous things, and completely shrugged off what most unfamiliar with the
wizarding world practically fainted at. After the boy's reaction when they asked
him about his parents, however, McGonagall decided to keep questions about his
past to a minimum.
"Ah, it's just like home," he said as they walked past rows of magical shops. At
that point, she had to ask.
"Where, exactly, was home for you?" McGonagall asked him.
"Myra, capital of the great Azel Empire!" he said proudly. "City of Light! City
of Magic!" It was the city's motto, and the guards touted it endlessly. It was
legally required to say it with exclamation marks and added emphasis on 'magic.'
"A city where every tavern has an outlandishly-dressed man with a strange accent
making mysterious requests, where the aging emperor's wicked, goatee-sporting
advisor's power grows steadily every day, where the civic authorities are
helplessly inept at dealing with local bandit problems yet still capable of
preventing high-level Adventurers from robbing Magic Item stores at night, and
where quest opportunities appear around every corner."
McGonagall looked at him somewhat askance. She was starting to grow concerned
that the boy had been hit with a powerful Confundus charm at some point, and
resolved to keep an eye out for any Missing Persons posters.
"I suppose," she said, "that we'll start with your uniform, then get your books,
then drop by Ollivanders for your wand, leaving the cauldron for last."
"Works for me," he said as she steered him towards Madam Malkin's Robes for All
Occasions. He was somewhat disappointed to find that the uniforms were, in fact,
merely mundane black robes. After everything else, he'd half-hoped that they
were some kind of magical stat-boosting outfit.
Madam Malkin was a squat, smiling NPC dressed all in mauve. Milo's brain barely
registered her existence.
"Another for Hogwarts?" she asked McGonagall. "Isn't he a little late? Most of
the students came through here a month ago."
"He'ssomething of a special case, Madam. I'm afraid this is coming out of our,
erm special fund," McGonagall said. The technical term was 'The Destitute Orphan
Fund,' but she decided to avoid the term in front of the poor boy. "So we can't,
unfortunately, stretch for a custom job."
"Ah," she said sadly. "But, no matter! I have just the thing! Some unfitted
display models, which I was just putting into storage, now that the
back-to-school-rush is over." She ruffled through a few boxes before finding
what she was looking for. "Here you are! A very nearly perfect fit!"
Madam Malkin's idea of a 'very nearly' was, Milo thought, a little far from the
mark. Despite this, he shrugged and accepted the much-too-large robes happily.
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His perfectly serviceable explorer's outfit was getting somewhat worn, anyways.
Probably something to do with all the pointy sticks and serrated teeth he dealt
with on a regular basis. Besides, it wasn't like he was paying for them, or that
too-big robes gave him a circumstance penalty to anything.
"Thank you, ma'am," he said respectfully. "I can hardly even remember the last
time I got new clothes."
McGonagall's heart broke very slightly when she saw how the boy's face lit up at
receiving hand-me-down robes. She passed the witch a few bronze knuts from her
small supply before they headed out for books.
They left the bookstore with a small pile of very, very well-used (the clerk had
described them as 'well-loved') books. Milo could hardly keep his hands off of
them especially The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1). He figured Grade 1 was
probably analogous to Level 1, in which case there was a book of first-level
spells practically within his reach nothing to be sneezed at. He resolved,
however, to read it later and, in the meantime, pocketed it in his
extradimensional Belt. He was a little apprehensive about Magical Drafts and
Potions, however. There was no place for Item Creation in his build, especially
not for anything as suboptimal as Brew Potion.
"Er, Professor," he asked cautiously. "Do I really have to take potions class?"
"Yes, it's mandatory until fifth year, and extremely practical, besides."
"It's just that I'm not sure I have enough experience for potions," he said.
Making magic items permanently drained Experience Points, so he'd always stayed
away from it.
"Oh, don't worry, Professor Snape teaches from a beginner level," she said
reassuringly. "No experience is necessary."
"Huh. How did you manage that? In any case, I don't have the proper feat for
it," he explained.
"It appears you have two solid ones, as does nearly every student attending our
school," McGonagall said. "Though we would make arrangements for the
handicapped, of course."
"Like those who take Run and Endurance?" Milo laughed. "'Handicapped' is a good
word for them. Also, I realize Eschew Materials is sub-optimal, but it really is
very convenient. So I would say that I have three solid feats, including
Improved Initiative and Spell Focus (Conjuration). But to each his own. I don't
have any to spare for Brew Potion, however."
"Oh, you don't have to worry about that," McGonagall said. "None of Snape's
students have lost feetor hands for that matterin years."
Milo laughed at what he thought was a pun.
"Well, as long as I don't have to worry about the feat and experience, I'm in.
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Potions could be a lot of fun, actually." Never hurts to show a little
enthusiasm around educators.
"I'm glad you feel that way," she said. Not a lot of students looked forward to
spending time in the dungeon with Severus.
They then entered Ollivanders. Milo had never understood how the sale of magical
items in large-scale could be economically viable. The experience cost alone
would reduce any mighty spellcaster to a novice in a few years. Still, he was
glad someone was willing to do it, or he wouldn't have anywhere to spend his
gold.
"Good afternoon," said a soft voice, presumably Ollivander. "Ah, Professor
McGonagall. Nine-and-a-half inches, made of fir. Stiff, with a dragon
heartstring core. Excellent for advanced Transfigurations. Made by my father...
of course."
Again with the dragons, Milo thought, feeling slightly intimidated. What, do
they have a farm of them somewhere?
"Hm. Well, yes. We're here to get a, er, preferably discount wand for our latest
student here," she said. Ollivander peered closely at Milo, who jumped backwards
slightly. Their noses had practically touched, and Milo was sure he hadn't seen
him move
"Er, before we, uh, um, start choosing one," Milo stammered awkwardly. "There's
something I've been, ah, meaning to ask of you, Mr. Ollivander."
"Yes?" he said softly. Gods, but this guy is weird.
"Your store nameI mean, Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 BCwell,
it's just that, er"
"Yes?"
"Shouldn'tshouldn't Ollivanders have an apostrophe in it?" Milo said, and
instantly regretted it.
Mr. Ollivander chuckled, slowly and irregularly. It was a disconcertingly
unnatural sound.
"Not if it's plural," he said.
Milo swallowed nervously. Plural?
"Right, well," McGonagall, fortunately, interrupted their weird conversation.
"While you find Milo here a wand, I'll go and fetch him his potions supplies."
"But of course. Right this way, Mr. Amastacia-Liadon." He led Milo through a row
dusty aisles, each packed with small boxes. "Which is your wand arm?"
"My right," Milo said. Ollivander passed Milo a series of wands, each with more
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improbable ingredients than the last. Unicorn hair? Phoenix tail feathers?
Dragon heartstring? Yeti fur? There were even some from creatures he'd never
heard of, like Thestral tail. He waved them each about randomly in turn, with no
effect.
"Look, I'm pretty sure this isn't how wands are supposed to work," he said to
Ollivander, who was searching through a storeroom in the back. "I can't just
wave them. I have to activate them. Very different thing."
"Oh? Young wizard, my family has been making wands since they were invented,"
said Ollivander, who had somehow gotten behind Milo. Right behind him.
"Gah!" he said, backing up into an aisle of wands, causing several to fall to
the ground.
"I think we know a thing or two about how they are supposed to work," he said.
"Right, of course, sorry." Milo said, eager to do anything to get out of here.
"So, what's supposed to happen when I wave my this stick around, assuming it's
the, ah, right wand for me?"
"It varies. Sparks. Fire. Light. Once even a spurt of blood, cat's blood, I
would say, judging by the distinct flavour."
"Oh, my gods." Milo had never been so scared in his life. "Detect Magic," he
murmured quietly. Just like the broomstick earlier, there was no response.
Either the wands were somehow hiding their magical auras, which was possible, or
McGonagall had left him alone with a madman who could recognize the blood of
kittens by taste and butchered dragons for their heartstrings. Maybe this was
some sort of test, to see if he was worthy of their school? Milo frowned. Well,
if it was a magical response Ollivander wanted, he'd bloody well get one.
Ollivander passed Milo another allegedly 'magic' wand, and as soon as Milo's
hand touched it, he whispered "Silent Image." A swarm of illusory bats flew out
of the wand, before bursting into varicoloured flames. As the flames began to
disappear, the bat's skeletons continued flying, circling the interior of the
store seven times each before assembling themselves into a floating, bony
pentagram just below the ceiling. Upside-down, dark blue flames lit, one by one,
at the vertices of the five-pointed star, and drops of water began to fall
upwards from the floor to the ceiling. For added effect, hundreds of wholly
imaginary insects crawled up the walls and cast themselves into the flames. Milo
was sweating slightly, concentrating on the illusion, as he decided to go for
the finish. The ceiling appeared to open up into a gateway to some unimaginable
dimension in the dead-centre of the pentagram. The bony bats, still hovering in
their star-pattern, flew as one into the gateway and vanished. Milo put out the
fires and closed the imaginary portal, dispelling the illusion. Normally, the
fact that a Silent Image can't create any noise was a handicap, but this time
the dead silence actually added to the overall creepiness. All in all, Milo was
rather proud of himself.
"My, my, my. That was certainly something," Ollivander said softly in Milo's
ear, somehow having managed to get behind him again. "It would appear that we
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have found the wand for you, my young wizard."
Milo almost hated to ask, but couldn't resist.
"What kind is it, exactly?"
"Thirteen inches, chestnut wood, dragon heartstring core. Good for curses, Mr.
Amastacia-Liadon."
"G-good length. Thirteen, that is. I I'll just be leaving now."
Milo had already left the store before realizing that he'd never told the wizard
his name.
"Oh, my gods," he whimpered. Mordy was quivering in fear, deep in the
extradimensional reaches of Milo's Belt of Hidden Pouches.
oooo
McGonagall had decided that, in order to appear normal, Milo would stay at
Hogwarts until the day of the sorting ceremony, and then they'd Apparate back to
London and he'd take the Hogwarts Express with the other students. There was one
part of this plan that confused Milo, however.
"Professor, what's a train?" Milo asked curiously.
"You've never heard of a train?" she asked incredulously. "It's a, well, it's a
big metal contraption all with wheels and things. It travels along rails at high
speeds."
"I hate railroad plots," Milo grumbled as McGonagall shook her head in
amazement. How could someone have heard of a railroad, but not a train?
Milo spent the next day uneventfully wandering the halls of Hogwarts, engaging
in conversation with the paintings. He used a little Craft (Sewing) to do the
hems of his robes, so he could walk without them dragging along the ground quite
so much. Later, maybe, he could tailor them properly. He was forced to admit
that he didn't strike a very impressive image, with his sleeves rolled up four
times and still hanging past his hands.
The next morning, McGonagall Side-Along Apparated him to Platform Nine and
Three-Quarters.
"What is that?" he asked, shocked. He was pointing past the bustling students to
the train itself.
"That's the Hogwarts Express," McGonagall explained. "The train."
"H-How does it move? Where are the horses?"
"There aren't any horses, it moves itself."
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"What, by magic?"
"A little magic, but mainly Muggle know-how," McGonagall shrugged. "They can be
quite ingenious at times."
Milo was floored. He couldn't believe that something so huge could be moved
without without anything, it sounded like.
"What's a Muggle?" he asked reverently. "They must be mighty creatures indeed."
"What, Muggles?" McGonagall exclaimed, laughing. "No, they're just like you or
me, only without magic." Well, like me, anyway, McGonagall thought. We're not
quite sure what you are.
"I, um, I suppose I'll get on board the horseless iron wagon now, shall I?" Milo
asked nervously.
"Go on ahead, dear. I'll meet you at the castle," McGonagall said and teleported
away. Disapparated. Whatever.
Somewhat apprehensively, Milo climbed one of the stairs. He'd arrived early, so
most of the carriages were empty. Choosing a compartment at random, he sat down
forcibly in one of the seats. The more he thought about it, the more he was
convinced that there was no possible way to move this much iron all at once
without either magic or a whole herd of horses. The crew of this vessel would be
pretty embarrassed when they tried to get it moving.
After a few minutes, a round-faced boy popped his head through the door.
"Um, I don't suppose you've seen a toad anywhere?" he asked.
"Hmm. No, I can't say that I have, but my Spot score is lousy," Milo responded.
"Oh," the boy said, crestfallen. Milo began to feel sorry for him.
"Here, let me try something," he said. "Spontaneous Search," he cast
spontaneously, using his Spontaneous Divination ability to replace Mirror Image.
Spontaneously. Milo began to wonder if somebody was getting paid a silver piece
every time he thought 'Spontaneous.' Milo became instantly aware of everything
within twenty feet of him as if he'd carefully searched the contents of the
carriage by hand. "He's three doors down, under the North-facing bench," Milo
said.
"Blimey, that was impressive," the boy said. "I haven't been able to pull off
even the simplest of charms, yet. I'm Neville, by the way."
"Milo. And don't worry, Neville. Everyone was first level once in their lives."
"Err, thanks, I think," Neville said as he went off to grab his toad. Solid
choice for familiar, toads. Mordy, still sitting on his shoulder, playfully
nipped him on the ear.
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"Though I prefer rats, of course," he said aloud.
"Prefer rats to what?" asked a black-haired boy.
"Toads," Milo said, somewhat embarrassed. "Mordenkainen was feeling insecure."
"Oh," said the boy. "Mordenkainen is that your pet's name?"
"Familiar. Mordenkainen doesn't take kindly to being called a pet, he thinks its
de-humanizing."
"Oh. Er, sorry, Mordenkainen."
"His friends call him Mordy."
"His his friends? Of course they do, don't they? You know, I'm starting to
think that wizards are just weird for the sake of weird. Do you mind if I sit
down? The other compartments are full," the boy asked.
"Sure. I'm Milo, by the way."
"Harry," the boy said, sitting down across from him. There was something unusual
about him, but Milo couldn't place his finger on it. It wasn't the tussled hair,
or the broken glasses, or even the lightning-bolt scar. It was everything taken
together. Like there was just more to him than the others Milo had met in this
world.
"Oh my gods!" Milo shouted, delighted. "You're "
"You've heard, too?" Harry said darkly. "I was hoping to meet somebody who
didn't realize it immediately. The scar gave it away didn't it?"
"I'm so pleased to meet you!" Milo said.
"Yes, yes, can we please skip past this part?"
"Not much of a roleplayer, eh? Straight to the goblin-killing? I knew it! You're
a PC!"
"Wait, what?" Harry asked. "What's a Peasea? Is that another weird wizarding
word, like Muggle?"
"New to this? Ah, I remember my first adventureI was nearly slain by a kobold.
Very embarrassing, that. Ah, those were the days," Milo said dreamily. "No, PC
is nothing like Muggle. It means Player Character. Basically, the universe will
go out of its way to cast you into dangerous situationsbut also makes sure, to
a certain extent, that you get out of them as well. Usually. In short, if this
were a book, you'd be the main character."
"I think you're mistaking me for somebody else; I'm not really much of
anything," Harry said despondently.
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"Are you kidding? You've got a scar shaped like a lightning bolt! Okay, stop me
if I'm wrong: you've had a dark and troubled past." Harry nodded glumly. "Events
seem to be moving so quickly that you can barely keep up with all of the
foreshadowing and plots."
"Well, things have been happening pretty quickly," Harry confessed. "Just last
month I found that, when I was a baby, an evil wizard tried to kill me but was
somehow unable to, and died mysteriously because of it. Now, strange people are
coming up to me to thank me for something I don't even remember."
"Ha ha! I knew it. Make sure to stay on your toes these next few days. The early
days are keyeverything anyone says is going to be a clue to events that will
come up later. In fact, make a list. Here," Milo said, passing Harry a sheet of
parchment and a quill from his belt. "write down everyone you've met who could
be described with more than two adjectives, everything anyone said in a quiet
voice that was cut off before they could finish, and every named character
you've been introduced to, okay? It will be relevant. There may be an exam on it
later, and it will probably be pass-or-die. Have you started gathering your
party together yet?"
"Mymy party?" Harry asked, while he started writing down a list of names.
"Oh, you know, a quirky bunch of allies. Friends to help you through dangerous
times and adventures, that kind of thing."
"II can't say that I have."
"Okay. The next two to three people you meet will stick with you for lifeunless
they're future recurring villains, of course."
The door to the compartment slid open, and a lanky (one), red-headed (two) boy
came in.
"Anyone sitting here?" he asked, pointing to the seat next to Milo. "Everywhere
else is full."
The boy had a black mark on his nose (three! We have a winner) and seemed to be
glancing nervously at Harry.
"Hey, Ron," Harry said.
A pair of identical (one), freckled (two), equally red-headed (three!) twins
walked to the door.
"Listen," one of them said to Ron, "we're going to the middle of the train Lee
Jordan's got a giant tarantula down there."
"Right," mumbled Ron.
"Harry," said the other twin, "did we introduce ourselves? Fred and George
Weasley. And this is Ron, our brother. See you later, then."
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"Bye," said Harry and Ron. The twins slid the compartment door shut behind them.
"Are you really Harry Potter?" Ron blurted out.
Harry nodded. This was getting to be almost too much for Milo. Finally, the solo
adventure was over, and there was someone else to soak up damage.
Harry pulled back a fringe of hair to show his lightning-bolt scar more clearly.
"So, that's where You-Know-Who...?"
"I, um, I do not know who," Milo said.
"Oh, blimey! You don't?" Ron paused. "I don't think we've metI'm Ron, Ron
Weasley."
"Milo Amastacia-Liadon, but please just call me Milo. Anyways, what's with this
You-Know-Who character?"
"He was this dark, evil wizard who went on an unstoppable rampage of death and
destruction. Well, that is until Harry PotterI still can't believe you're
actually himproved to be too much for him and he died."
"What, just like that?" Milo asked.
"I wouldn't say it was 'just like that,'" Harry said. "Hehe killed my parents."
"But he's gone, though," Ron said. "And good riddance, too."
"No, he's not," Milo sighed. "But you probably won't believe me. See, in my
experience, when a Dark Wizard dies under mysterious causes, he'll come back ten
to fifteen years later more powerful than before. And that's assuming he's not a
lich."
"You talk a lot of nonsense, you know that?" Ron said. "Cool rat, though."
"Thanks," Milo shrugged. "His name's Mordy."
"Neat. I've got one too, he used to be my brother's." Ron pulled out a fat, grey
rat, who appeared to be quite dead.
"Uh, I think what you have there is an ex-rat, actually," Milo said.
"Nah, he's alive. He's just useless. His name is Scabbers."
"That seems oddly appropriate," Milo said. "But, enough character development.
Tell me more about this Dark Wizard."
"There's not that much more to it," Ron frowned. "What did you want to know?"
"Well, for starters, there's his name?" Milo said. "Because, really, I don't
know who."
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"Uh, they also call him He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but I always thought that was
a bit of a mouthful," the redhead said, somewhat uncomfortably.
"Voldemort," said Harry, who had been silent. "He's called the Dark Lord
Voldemort."
Ron gasped.
"What?" Harry asked.
"You said You-Know-Who's name!" said Ron, sounding both shocked and impressed.
Milo tuned out as they continued chatting and comparing back stories and such.
Ron came from a poor family with lots of kids, Harry was an orphan raised by
Muggles, yadda yadda. Milo looked out the window for the first time since he'd
seen Neville.
"Sweet, merciful, Pelor! We're moving!" Milo shrieked. "How? What? How? Why?
How? When?"
Harry and Ron glanced at each other.
"Uh, you alright mate?" Harry asked.
"II've never been on a train before," Milo confessed. "I can't believe how fast
we're moving."
"What? Who never heard of a train? Everybody knows about trains," Ron said.
"They're just big metal things that move on rails, nothing to them."
"But it's moving so fast," Milo said in awe.
Shortly later, there was a loud clattering sound by the compartment door, and a
trolley selling candy came by. Milo and Ron passed, not having any money to
speak of, but Harry bought just about the entire cart. Harry shared his candy
with them all (Neutral Good, eh? Milo could live with that) which seemed to be a
big moment in his life for some reason. Milo never really paid much attention to
food in the past; he'd spent his first 350 gp on Everlasting Rations and had
more or less subsided off of that ever since. The savings over the years were
astronomical. Milo started listening again when Harry opened his Chocolate Frog.
In the package was a card containing a picture of Albus Dumbledore.
"Oh, hey, that guy with the beard," Milo said.
"You know him?" Harry asked.
"Oh course he does, everyone's heard of Dumbledore," said Ron.
Harry turned the card over and read the back. Then he passed it to Milo, who
read:
Albus Dumbledore, currently Headmaster of Hogwarts.
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considered by many the greatest wizard of modern
times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for his
defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945,
for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's
blood and for his work on alchemy with his partner,
Nicolas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys
chamber music and tenpin bowling.
Milo passed the card back.
"Dumbledore, the dark wizard Grindelwald, Nicolas Flamel, and the twelve uses of
dragon's blood," Milo said, counting each on his finger. "Write all those down,
they'll be important later."
"Important?" Ron asked. "Important for what?"
"For the adventure, obviously," Milo said.
"Um. Okay, pretend for one moment that we're all not as crazy as you," Ron said,
"and elaborate?"
"Oh, another newbie." Milo said, briefly explaining the concept of a PC to the
bewildered Ron.
As Ron was about to open his mouth to object, the compartment door slid open
again, and Neville's round face appeared again.
"Oh, hey Neville," Milo said. "Neville, this is Harry and Ron."
"Hey, pleased to meet you. Um, so I lost my toad again, I was wondering if you
could cast that spell again?" Neville asked.
"Sure," Milo said, but was getting concerned that he'd run out of magic before
even reaching Hogwarts. "Spontaneous Search," he cast, this time giving up Mount
for the day.
"Your toad's two compartments towards the rear of the cart, nobody ever taught
Ron how to fold his clothes properly, and Scabbers is eating Harry's last
Chocolate Frog," Milo said, as knowledge of the contents of the area flooded
into his mind rapidly. It was dizzying, and he knew, instantly, far more about
the contents of twenty-six students' luggage than he'd ever wanted to.
"Thanks!" Neville said, and scampered off.
"That was a mean trick," Ron accused. "Fooling Neville like that."
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"What are you talking about? I helped him," Milo said.
"Please. You didn't even use your wand," he said.
"What, this old piece of junk?" Milo asked, pulling out the stick that demon of
a man had sold him. Ron blushed slightly and mumbled something about his wand.
"Sorry, what was that?"
"I was just saying, I wish that I was rich enough to afford a brand-new wand and
still consider it a piece of junk," Ron muttered angrily.
"Oh, I didn't buy it. Professor McGonagall bought it for me with Hogwarts'
Destitute Orphan Fund."
"Oh. Sorry." Ron said, then went silent.
"You, too?" Harry asked.
"Uh, see, the thing about my parents is that I don't think I'm an orphan. I
just can't remember them." Milo said.
"That's terrible!" Harry said. "I'll help you find them, okay?"
"Oh, thanks, but don't worry. It's not important."
"Not important?" Ron asked, surprised. "How could parents possibly be
unimportant?"
"Well, they just I my back story isn't working. I think it's because I'm cut
off from my world," Milo said. Harry and Ron looked at him like he'd said he'd
just gotten engaged to a goblin. He briefly explained what happened with the
cultists.
"That's you're a nutter, mate." Ron said.
"Says the person who thinks you need a wand to be a Wizard," Milo shot back.
Mordy folded his arms and shook his little rat head at Ron and Scabbers,
emphasizing his point.
"Whatever. Want to trade rats?" Ron asked hopefully.
"Not on your life, Weasley."
"Can you really do magic without a wand?" Harry asked. "I don't seem to know
anything about anything, but I was led to believe that was practically
impossible."
"Oh, sure. Here, take this," he said, passing his wand to Harry. He shook his
hands free of his sleeves, to show he didn't have anything up them. "Okay, no
wand, right? Dancing Lights."
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Four glowing white lights appeared in front of his hands, then flew around the
compartment briefly, as the compartment door slid open again.
"Neville said, and of course I didn't believe him, that someone in this
compartment could perform magic without a wand," a girl said, then gasped as she
saw the lights. She had a bossy sort of voice (one), lots of bushy brown hair
(two)
"And the buck teeth make a winner!" Milo shouted happily and dismissed the
spell. "Come in! Who are you?"
"Hasn't anyone ever told you it's rude to comment on other people's appearance?"
she asked angrily.
"What? Oh, I'm sorry. Where I'm from it's actually a compliment," he said.
"What, really?" she asked disbelievingly.
"Yeah. Dumping Charisma is a sign of great wisdom and foresight." Milo blushed
slightly. He wasn't sure what he'd been thinking, all those years ago, when he'd
decided his Charisma should be two points higher than his Constitution. Stupid,
stupid, stupid, and now he was stuck with it.
The girl frowned, trying to figure out if she'd been insulted or not.
"Well, I'm Hermione Granger. I've tried a few simple spells for practice and
it's all worked for me, but never without my wand. How did you do that?" she
asked, sitting down next to Harry. Milo made frantic gestures to Harry to write
her name down on the growing list.
"Well, I'm a Wizard, right? So I do what Wizards normally do. I learned the
spell, wrote it down in my spellbook, and every morning I memorize it on an
as-needed basis. Then I can cast it later, once."
"That that doesn't sound like magic at all," Hermione said slowly. "At least,
not like any magic I've read about. And believe me, I've read a lot."
"What, seriously?" Milo asked. "How do you do it, then?"
"Well, I learn the spell by reading how it's done. Then, after I practice enough
to get the gestures and incantation just right, I just have to do it again and
the spell gets cast."
"Huh," Milo said. "How many times can you do that? In a given day, I mean?"
"I've never noticed a limit," Hermione said. "I mean, it can be a little
exhausting, depending on the spell. But there's no hard cap."
"What, seriously?" Milo asked again. "Well, that's hardly fair. How many spells
can you learn?" They were starting to sound like Warlocks, who could cast an
infinite number of spells per day but only learned a few different ones to
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choose from.
"Well, I can cast three, but nothing very impressive so far. But learning them
isn't all that hard," she said.
"Not that hard, she says," Ron muttered. "Don't listen to her, mate; it's pretty
hard."
Harry just shrugged.
"I mean, is there no limit?" Milo asked. "Or, if you worked hard enough and
practiced enough, could you just keep learning them?"
"Yes, that's right. With enough hard work and practice, there's no upper limits
beyond the confines of normal human memory," Hermione said, as if reciting the
line from memory. "I'll bet Dumbledore knows thousands of spells."
"That's sososo broken!" Milo exclaimed. "That's so unfair! I can get eleven a
day, and almost half of those are cantrips! And I've been doing this a lot
longer than you!"
"What, you've already been using magic?" Ron asked. "That's illegal, that is."
"Psh, who's to stop me? Besides, I haven't set foot in this country till three
days ago. I wasn't even on this plane before that."
"The word's train, mate," Harry said. "Planes fly up in the sky, though most
wizards don't know much about them from what I've heard. It's an easy enough
mistake to make, don't feel bad."
"No, a plane is a universe into its own, with its own rules and laws governing
it," Milo said. He should know, had maximum ranks in Knowledge (the Planes),
after all.
"Excuse me, to head off this discussion before it becomes any more unbearable,"
Hermione interrupted, "it's clear we're operating under different meanings of
the same word. Harry is talking about an airplane, a Muggle form of
transportation. Milo is talking about a plane of existence, a totally different
concept with no known grounding in reality, forcing me to conclude that he is,
in fact, quite insane."
"Gee, thanks," Milo muttered. He was about to come up with a snappy retort when
the door slid open yet again.
"I'm sorry, I can't help you find your toad again today," Milo said irritably.
While not strictly speaking true, any more and he'd be cutting into his
emergency first-level spells. Milo never went anywhere without Feather Fall and
Grease.
Unfortunately, it was not the good-natured Longbottom boy standing in the
doorway. A pale (one) blond (two) boy entered imperiously (and three! We have a
recurring character). After a brief moment of shock upon hearing Milo's words,
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he apparently decided to completely ignore the young Wizard's existence.
"Is it true?" the boy asked. "They're saying all down the train that Harry
Potter is in this compartment. So it's you, is it?"
"Yes," said Harry. Flanking the sneering boy were a pair of mooks.
"Oh, this is Crabbe and this is Goyle," the boy said, although Milo wasn't sure
why he bothered. Everything about them said mute NPC. "and my name's Malfoy,
Draco Malfoy."
Ron sniggered slightly.
"Think my name's funny, do you? No need to ask who you are" Draco paused,
staring at Milo. The blood drained from his face, making him look, if it were
possible, even paler.
"You! I would have thought you'd be in hiding down the deepest, darkest hole you
could find, after showing your face at my father's mansion. Well, Potter, I can
see you've chosen your side alreadya Weasley, a mudblood, and a dead man. I'd
be careful, if I were you, or you might just wind up going the way of your
parents." With that, Malfoy spun about on his heel and started to leave. Harry
and Ron stood up, their faces livid. Hermione had tears in her eyesapparently
mudblood was some kind of insult. Maybe her ancestors were part dwarf, or
something?
"Either of you want to get him, or shall I?" Milo asked.
Ron smirked slightly, but his fists were still held, his knuckles turning white.
"Be my guest," he said through clenched teeth.
"Grease," Milo muttered. The ground underneath Malfoy and his mooks became
all-but frictionless. The results were fairly predictable, especially given that
they were on a moving train.
"You! You! When Father hears about this," Malfoy said, trying (and failing,
quite hilariously, in fact) "he'll, he'llgah!" the Hogwarts Express lurched
around a corner, sending causing Crabbe to fall onto Malfoy again.
Unfortunately, the spell only lasted for eighteen seconds. "You haven't seen the
last of me!" Draco shouted, then stormed off, furiously.
"Mate, forget everything I said about you being crazy. You are alright in my
books," Ron said.
"Same goes for me," said Harry. "Let's all hope for Gryffindor together. Are you
alright, Hermione?" Harry asked the crying girl.
"F-fine. I'm fine," she said.
"What was that he called you, anyway?" Harry asked, confused.
"Mudblood," Ron said. "It's a dire insult. It means someone whose parents
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weren't wizards. We'll get him back for that one."
"I rather think we did already get him back," Milo said smugly.
"Nah, that was just interest. We'll come and collect in full one day."
"Hermione, I wouldn't worry about it," Harry said. "Nobody here cares whether or
not your parents were Muggles."
"Easy for you to say!" she shot back. "You're all, all purebloods!"
"Hey, take it back!" Milo said. "There's not a drop of magical blood in my
family."
They all paused for a beat or three.
"Andyou're proud of that?" Ron asked.
"Nine Hells, yeah. It means I'm a Wizard. I had to scrounge and work and fight
tooth and nail for my magic. What do you take me for, a Sorcerer?" he asked.
Hermione looked somewhat mollified (though confused), and gave him a brief,
thankful look.
"What was that all about, anyway?" Hermione asked, her voice steady but her eyes
still rimmed with red.
"Oh, he's some git I met at Madam Malkins," Harry explained.
"He comes from a big, rich family," Ron added. "They were among You-Know-Who's
first supporters, and also the first to turn their backs on himor so they
sayafter he fell. Malfoy's dad claims he was being controlled by magic, but my
dad thinks he's full of it."
"Hmm," Hermione said. "Maybe you shouldn't have humiliated him like that. We
could come to regret this, if his family's as powerful as all that."
Milo just grinned. Three CR ones defeated, split three ways, was 300 XP each. He
lay back as the train reached its destination, enjoying his +1 Intelligence, +2
hp, +6 skill ranks, +1 1st level spell slot, +1 2nd level spell slot, +1 Will
save bonus, and +3 friends.

Chapter 3: The Sorting Ceremony

The first years all filed into the Great Hall apprehensively as McGonagall
explained about the four houses. Milo mentally filed them into: house for the
PCs, house for the villains, and two NPC houses to make up the numbers. Fair
enough.
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The other first years around him were nervously discussing what they thought the
Sorting Ceremony would entail. The group conclusion seemed to be that it would
be some sort of horrible test, performed in front of everybody. Milo's
post-level-up elation hadn't passed yet, but he still wished he hadn't burned so
many spell slots on helping Neville find that toad. There was a kerfuffle as a
group of ghosts drifted through the walls, but Milo was already ready for this.
He shuddered to think of what he would have done in this situation had he not
met the late Professor Binns the other day.
The students were formed into a line alphabetically by McGonagall, and once more
Milo cursed his last name. Why couldn't he have been Milo Liadon-Amastacia
instead? The only person in front of him was a pink-faced, blonde girl.
"Wh-what do you think I'll have to do?" she asked, the signs of abject terror on
her face. "I'm first! Why am I always first?" she asked.
"Don't worry, you'll be fine," Milo said. "They expect everyone to do this test,
remember? So how hard could it be?"
"B-but"
"And besides, they wouldn't start out every year by humiliating all their new
students."
"Maybe it's all just a cruel joke, and everyone will laugh at me," she said
through tears.
"If they do, I'll unleash magical hell on them," Milo muttered. What he meant
was, 'if they do (that to me) I'll unleash magical hell,' but that's not what
the frightened young girl heard.
"You would? For me? Th-thank you!"
"Don't mention it," Milo said, slightly embarrassed, and cast about for some
fairly generic encouraging platitudes. "You're braver than you think. Just keep
that in mind, and confidently walk up there, and whatever happens, happens. Uh.
There's bravery in everyone, you just have to look," he finished, somewhat
lamely.
"When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be
sorted," McGonagall said to them. "Abbott, Hannah!"
The girl looked determined as she walked up to the stool, and while in another
life she might have been sorted into Hufflepuff (not that that's anything to be
ashamed of, of course), perhaps it was because she was thinking I'm braver than
I think, I'm braver than I think, I'm braver than I think, when the hat was
placed on her head, it only took a moment before it bellowed:
"GRYFFINDOR!"
"Amastacia-Liadon, Milo!" McGonagall said. Well, here goes nothing.
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"GRYFFINDOR!" the hat shouted after barely touching his head, and his new house
applauded as if it wasn't already a foregone conclusion. Gryffindor was clearly
the house for main characters. To confirm his suspicions, Neville, Hermione,
Ron, and Harry were all sorted into Gryffindor (although, oddly, the hat seemed
to have a hard time deciding with Harry). Draco and his minions, however, were
sent to Slytherin. Milo wondered briefly what would have happened if one of
Crabbe or Goyle had been sent to Gryffindoror, perhaps even worse, Hufflepuff.
Milo looked around the tables, and found that, oddly, the plates and dishes were
all empty. He shrugged and pulled his Everlasting Rations out of his utility
belt, and started munching.
"Whacha got there?" Asked Hannah, who had, for some unimaginable reason, sat
next to him at the table. On Milo's left was Hermione, followed by Harry, Ron,
and Neville.
"Everlasting Rations," Milo explained, gesturing to the blue silk pouch.
"They're not very commonI heard about them in an obscure book, and had to get
them custom-madebut they're super handy. Every sunrise, the bag fills itself up
again."
"Convenient," she said somewhat dubiously. "They tasty?"
"You know, I don't think anyone's ever asked that before." He thought about it
for a moment. "Tastes a little like granola, only even less."
She made a face.
"You don't think we were supposed to bring a lunch, do you? They will feed us?"
she asked. Milo shrugged.
"Hermione?" he asked, on the assumption that she'd know.
Hermione paused briefly, as if doing a mental catalogue search for the relevant
information, before reciting as if from memory:
"'Hogwarts is world-renowned for owning some of the best cooking elves, and
prides itself in never having one complaint for its dining experience.
Durmstrang Acadamy, by comparison, has received four-hundred and forty-four
complaints as of the 1991 fifth edition of this book,'" she said. "It's in
Hogwarts, A History. You should read it sometime."
"Elves?" Milo asked incredulously. "For cooking?" Milo had never known an elf to
approach within twenty feet of a frying pan, and doubted that a single solitary
potato the world over had ever been peeled by delicate, elven hands. Milo was
convinced that they were holding out on a rare, Arcane-version of Create Food
and Drink, because otherwise, their civilization would have crumbled to dust
about two weeks after creation.
"Wish I was rich enough to own an elf," Ron said dreamily. "I'd never have to
clean my room again."
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Milo's brain heard the sentence, of course, but rejected it immediately with a
notice: 'Does not parse.' Own an elf? He must have misheard. Before he could
ask, the Headmaster spoke.
"Wecome!" Dumbledore said. "Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts. Before we begin,
I would like to say a few words. And they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!
"Thank you!"
And then sat back down again.
"Is he a bit mad?" Harry asked.
"Well, yeah, he's a bit of a nutter, but some people say it's a disguise and
he's really a genius," Ron said.
"He seemed normal when I last talked to him," Milo said.
"And you don't get to be Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Supreme Mugwump of
the International Confederation of Wizards by collecting bottle caps," Hermione
said. "Or by being stark raving mad," she added.
Everyone looked at her again.
"It was in Hogwarts, A History, and honestly, don't any of you read?" she asked,
slightly indignantly.
"Quidditch magazines, mainly," Ron admitted.
"Newspapers rescued from the trash, but only when the Dursley's weren't
watching," Harry confessed.
"Outside of spell books and fell arcane tomes? Not that much," Milo said.
Hermione sighed.
"You should try it sometime, you might find it fairly enlightenoh, my
goodness!" Piles and piles of food appeared, suddenly, in front of them.
"Huh, neat trick," Milo said. "I knew the elves cooked their food by magic.
Pointy-eared pansies never worked a day in their lives."
His last sentence drew a number of odd looks, but fortunately, most people were
too busy digging in to pay much attention to him. Harry Potter in particular
looked like he was about to cry tears of joy at the food laid out in front of
them. Milo shrugged. To him, food was something to keep you from getting
hunger-based check penalties. While the rest of the party was distracted by food
(Milo made sure to cast Detect Poison before he touched any of it), Milo decided
to check out the head table.
The teachers at Hogwarts were the quirkiest bunch of characters he'd seen since
Milo had been hired to take out a gnome barbarian's band of performing
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cutthroats. One of them was wearing a purple turban. One of them was tiny (Milo
couldn't tell, from this distance, if he was a gnome, halfling, or dwarf). One
of them was Albus Dumbledore, for gods' sakes. The last, though now, he was
really interesting. Black cloak. Greasy hair. Hooked nose.
Necromancer, hands down. Milo grinned. Ladies and gentlemen, we have our dark
wizard. Milo gave it a fifty percent chance that the professor was working for
You-Know-Who, with the other fifty percent saying he was You-Know-Who. The only
nail missing from his coffin was a goatee.
"Hey, Hermione, who's he?" Milo gestured to the obviously evil wizard.
"'Professor Severus Snape, born 1960, made Potions Master at Hogwarts in 1981 by
Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, and as of 1991, is the Head of House Slytherin,'"
she recited. "Hogwarts, A History, page 371."
"You're a very useful person to have around, you know that?" Milo asked.
Hermione beamed. "Harry, listen up. Add Snape to your list, he's bad news."
"Are you sure?" Harry asked.
"Absolutely. I mean, just look at him. He's wearing all black, for goodness
sake."
"Er, I don't mean to put too fine of a point on it, but we're all, also, wearing
all black, Milo," Harry said, gesturing at his uniform.
"It's black of a different sort. We're in the sober, working black. He's in evil
black. Back me up here, Ron."
"Fred and George say he's a smarmy git, and he favours Slytherin students
outrageously," Ron said. "They also say that he's half bat, he can read your
mind, and that shampoo spontaneously combusts when it touches his hair, but I
think they made that last one up."
"He's probably just allergic to shampoo," Hermione said. "He's a professor. He
can't be evil, or Dumbledore wouldn't let him teach here."
Milo barked a laugh. They clearly had very different views of education.
Harry abruptly clutched his forehead in pain.
"What's wrong?" Hermione asked in concern.
"I was just looking at Snape, and suddenly my scar hurt," Harry said.
"The scar You-Know-Who gave you?"
"No, the other scar on my forehead, of course the scar Vol- You-Know-Who gave
me," Harry snapped. Hermione blushed slightly. "S-sorry," he said. "I didn't
mean to be mean, I was just so angry all of a sudden it was weird."
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"I'd say that's basically proof," Milo said. "Harry looked at Snape, and his
curse scar hurt. Ergo, Snape is evil."
"Sounds good to me," Ron voiced his agreement. "I mean, look at him. Seriously."
"I don't think we should just jump to conclusions like this," Hermione said.
"One's fashion choices and hygiene, no matter how unfortunate, have no bearing
on moral standing. Also, we should really tell an adult about Harry's scar, it
might be importanthe might need a healer."
"What does Snape need to do, eat a baby or something?" Milo asked. New PCs could
be so thick sometimes.
"He hasn't even done anything yet," Hermione protested.
"She has a point," Harry added. "All he's done is sit there. Maybe he's a really
nice bloke, and I don't think any of us know enough magic yet to say if my
scar's reaction means anything. We should give him the benefit of the doubt."
"Fine, it's your adventure, after all. But can we at least agree to keep a close
eye on him?" Milo pleaded.
They all agreed, albeit in Hermione's case, somewhat reluctantly.
Dumbledore then stood to make another speech, laying out some ground rules. The
Forbidden Forest washah, yeah right. Milo couldn't imagine a better way to
encourage students to go there and gain XP than to forbid them from doing it.
Milo's ears really perked up at hearing about the forbidden, trapped, mysterious
corridor, however. Harry laughed when he Dumbledore said that anyone who
investigated it would die a painful death, but nobody else did. The Headmaster
was serious.
Milo grinned. He loved this school already.
"I can't believe Quidditch is restricted to second years," Ron complained.
"What's Quidditch?" Harry, Hermione, and Milo asked simultaneously. Ron fainted
into his pudding. Once he came around, he described the rules. It was some
unbelievably dangerous-sounding sport (two of the players' jobs were to send
heavy leather balls flying at the opposing team!) played on broomstick. As Ron
explained about the Golden Snitch, Milo considered it thoughtfully. From what he
could tell, the Seeker's success or failure completely invalidated everything
that the other players did. It was as if the sport was set up entirely to give
Seekers a backdrop to compete against.
"I like it!" Milo said. "It has everything. Magic, danger, and rules blatantly
skewed for the PCs to shine. Harry, make sure to write this down." The
Boy-Who-Lived dutifully added it to his growing list of plot-relevant items.
"I think it sounds stupid," Hermione declared, ignoring Ron's protests. "And way
too dangerous to be allowed in a school setting. Flying in general sounds
dreadful."
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Dumbledore sent them all to bed, so Percyas Gryffindor prefectled the first
years to their lair. En route, they were attacked by Peeves.
"Peeves! Show yourself!" Percy bellowed. "He's a poltergeistbe careful, he only
answers to the Bloody Baron. That's the Slytherin ghost."
"Getting all this, Harry?" Milo asked. Peeves flew past, throwing sticks at
Neville's head. "Prefect, that was an attack if I've ever seen one. Permission
to retaliate?"
"Now, I don't think that will be necessary. He knows that if he goes too far,
I'll tell the Baron," Percy said. "Besides" Percy was interrupted, however,
when Peeves unloaded a bucket of water on the prefect's head. "Hit him with
everything you've got, Mr. Amastacia-Liadon. Everything."
"Glitterdust!" Milo shouted, the shower of sparks blinding the poltergeist for
twenty-four seconds, now (level-ups were the greatest), and preventing him from
turning invisible. Peeves, whirling in astonished fury, began dropping walking
sticks, pies, and associated other miscellany on the students. "Feather Fall!"
Milo cast, slowing their descent to a harmless speed. As a coup de grace, once
the blindness wore off, then created a Silent Image of the Bloody Baron slowly
drifting around the corner. Peeves bolted, leaving a trail of glittering dust in
his wake.
"Well done!" Percy congratulated him, after using a Cleaning Charm to dry
himself off. "Is everyone alright? Excellent. That was Peeves the Poltergeist,
if you encounter him in the halls, it's best to find a member of the faculty or
the Bloody Baron. He won't hurt deliberately hurt youthough his pranks can at
times get out of handbut he's irritating, and might make you late for class.
After decades of certain disreputable Hogwarts students using Peeves as an
pretext for tardiness, teachers have stopped accepting run-ins with the
poltergeist as an excuse."
Milo couldn't believe they had random encounter within the castle walls. This
school was awesome. Percy led them, finally, to the Gryffindor Common Room,
which was guarded by a painting requiring a password. Milo hadn't realized that
inter-house rivalry was quite so heated as to require secret bases and
passwords, but it fit with his general theory of Hogwarts education.
Both Harry and Milo felt at home immediately upon entering Gryffindor tower, but
for different reasons. Harry was overwhelmed at all of the magic and wonder, and
glad to finally be rid of his abusive foster parents. The sense of camaraderie
in the dorm was something new and amazing to him. Milo, on the other hand, felt
the calling of all wizards everywhere, regardless of universe: wizard=tower,
tower=wizard. He was excited for tomorrow, when he could fully enjoy the
benefits of being fourth level, and memorize a whole slew of new spells. He
decided, after a bit of thought, to add Levitate and Invisibility to his
repertoire. He made sure to prepare an extra Silent Image in case of another
run-in with Peeves.
The next morning was interesting. Word had spread that the famous Harry Potter
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was attending school, and Milo's unfortunate friend was pestered with constant
whispering and glances. Milo suggested that he borrow some makeup from Hannah
(Hermione didn't seem the type) and hide the tell-tale scar (minor details only
gave +5 to Disguise checks), but Harry adamantly refused, claiming it was the
only reminder he had of his parents. Ron howled with laughter at the suggestion,
adding that some eyeliner or, as he put it, "guyliner," would really bring out
Harry's emerald eyes.
Their first class was Herbology, which Milo figured was safe enough. He was a
bit concerned that learning about plants meant he might be obliged to invest
Skill Ranks in Knowledge (Nature), or, Vecna forbid, Survival, but after
clarifying that it was magical herbs they were studying, Milo was quite
convinced his Knowledge (Arcana) would be up to the task. History of Magic was
likewise no trouble at all, Milo spent the class trying to figure out what his
immediate response would be when the ghost of Professor Binns invariably snapped
and starting draining the students' Constitution scores, or when an evil Cleric
showed up and seized control of the undead Professor with Command Undead.
Professor Flitwick apparently taught Charms, which was a problem for Milo. As a
specialized Conjurer, he was obliged to drop two schools of magiche chose
Necromancy (he didn't look good in pale make-up and mascara) and Enchantment (he
was uncomfortable about mentally controlling people). The Charms subschool fell
neatly into the second category of spells, which Milo was forbidden from
casting. Fortunately, the excitable professor, who Milo was convinced was some
sort of deformed gnome, fainted dead away when he called Harry Potter's name
while taking attendance.
"What have we got next?" Milo asked Ron.
"Uhh, let me check," the redhead said, patting his pockets for his schedule.
"Transfiguration with McGonagall. I hear she's really strict."
"Transfiguration, eh? That might be a problem," Milo frowned. That would
involve, presumably, performing actual magic with a wandsomething Milo hadn't
even tried to do. He was worried that if he actually succeeded, he might wind up
as a multi-classed Wizard/"wizard," and be doomed to spend the rest of his days
as a walking joke of a character.
"Why's that?" asked a first-year NPC. The other Gryffindors had started
following Milo around between their classes after word spread that he could
scare off Peeves.
Professor McGonagall was so astonished that the entire class arrived on time
(apparently, that had never happened before) that she awarded them five points
for Gryffindor. After then warning them of the dangers of Transfiguration, she
told them to try and transform a matchstick into a pin.
Milo broke out into a cold sweat, staring at the stick in front of him. Surely,
wizards in this plane couldn't cast Polymorph Any Object at first level? That
was an eighth level spell! Milo felt a bit foolish waving his wand around
ineffectually, but he really wasn't sure what else he could do. Hermione,
sitting next to him, had managed to turn her matchstick silver.
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Milo's eyes narrowed.
"Prestidigitation," he murmured. It was a cantrip, a 0th-level spell, used for
practice by novice castersbut it was also one of the most versatile. Milo
preferred to think of it as Least Wish. One of its many effects was that it
could recolour an object temporarily.
He then sat back smugly in his desk chair, satisfied with a job well done.
McGonagall passed by, giving encouragement and pointers to the struggling
students she passed. Upon reaching Milo, however, she frowned and stared at the
silver matchstick. To Milo, it was indistinguishable from Hermione's. McGonagall
picked it up, examined it very carefully, and dropped it on the desk. It made a
quiet, wooden tick.
"Mr. Amastacia-Liadon," she said sternly, "did you paint your matchstick?"
"N-No, Professor," he stammered. Drat, curse her cross-class ranks in
Intimidate!
"Then bravo. One point for Gryffindor," she said grudgingly, before walking to
Hermione. She frowned, and gave hers the same examination. She dropped it, and
it gave a silvery metal ping! Upon colliding with the desk.
"Well done, Ms. Granger! It's been many years since I've seen someone change
anything more than mere colour on their first try! Two points for Gryffindor!"
Hermione turned slightly pink, and shot Milo a smug look when McGonagall passed
by.
Next was Potionswith the Slytherins, no less. Whoever is involved in the
scheduling of classes, Milo thought, should be awarded a medal. He couldn't
think of a possible scenario that would lead to greater conflict than the
obviously evil head of the obviously evil house teaching the heroes and villains
together. Put a PC in a powderkeg like that, and there'd be an explosion, sure
as sure.
Milo was the only Gryffindor smiling when they entered Snape's dungeon. Dungeon.
It had been far too long since Milo had been in a proper dungeon, now all they
needed was a troll or two to complete his day.
Milo didn't know what, specifically, was going to go down in the dungeon. But he
knew someone was going to start a fight, and he knew who was going to finish it.
He chose his desk warily, deciding to go right in the dead-centre. The rest of
the Gryffindors sat on the right-hand side of the classroom, leaving the
left-hand side emptya clear message for the Slytherins (whenever they deigned
to arrive). From the border between the two groups, Milo could safely target the
entire Slytherin first year with a well-placed spell on the first round of
combat.
There is an infrequently-used rule (and Milo loved infrequently-used rules)
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called the ready action. A character can, on his turn, ready an action to do
something specific when certain triggers, which he chooses in advace,
occurimmediately. It allowed rapid action, as long as you were prepared enough.
As the Slytherins drifted in one-by-one (a few were covered in whitewash, mute
evidence of Peeves' "humorous" "pranks"), Milo readied an action: Glitterdust in
the centre of the Slytherin side of the room as soon as the first Slytherin acts
offensively against a Gryffindor. That should cover it.
Snape walked into the room like a man with a purpose. He quickly called out
attendance, pausing on Harry's name.
"Ah, yes," he said softly. "Our newcelebrity." Draco and his mooks sniggered.
The other Gryffindors sitting along the borderlineNeville, Hannah, and
Lavendersat tensely, their hands near their wands. Snape began his introductory
monologue, lingering, a bit too lovingly for Milo's taste, on the 'subtle
science and exact art of potion-making.'
"Potter!" said Snape, suddenly. Harry sat bolt upright, a brief look of terror
on his face. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an
infusion of wormwood?"
Milo frowned. Nothing, he thought. Except, of course, a gods-awful smell.
"I don't know, sir." Harry said. Ah, well, even Wizards fail a Knowledge check
once in a while.
"Tut, tutfame clearly isn't everything," Snape sneered. Well now, that's just
rude.
"Let's try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a
bezoar?"
Hermione's hand shot into the air, as did Milo's.
"I don't know, sir," Potter said, his voice barely shaking at all.
"Thought you wouldn't open a book before coming, eh, Potter?"
Well now, there's no reason for him to act like that to the poor Gryffindor kid,
Milo thought. In fact, the head of House Slytherin was acting downright
offensively Oh, crud.
"GLITTERDUST!"

Chapter 4: The Defence Professor

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"You know, it really could have been worse," Hermione said.
"Can't see how," said one of the Patil twins (the Gryffindor one, whatever her
name was).
"Well," said Lavender Brown, "at least the bloodshed was kept to a minimum."
"And St. Mungo's says Neville's supposed to make a full recovery," added Hannah
Abbot.
"And we weren't expelled," Hermione pointed out.
"Also," continued Lavender, "Snape managed to Finite that toadwho summoned
that, anyway? I don't think I've ever seen quite that shade of orange
beforebefore Pansy Parkinson suffered permanent injury."
"Really, it's a wonder he knew which one to cast it on. Couldn't tell the two
apart myself," muttered Ron.
"I think only taking ten points off showed remarkable restraint, all things
considered," Hermione mused. "Shame it was from every first year in Gryffindor,
though."
"Because, you know, seeing as how she looks like a toad," Ron said, disappointed
at the initial lack of response.
"Assuming we don't assault the Slytherins anymore, and we all put in a few extra
hours and some hard work in practice and revisions," Hermione said cheerfully,
"I think we might be able to manage to beat the Hufflepuffs at leastnot that
there's anything wrong with them, perfectly respectable housein the House Cup
standings."
Seamus and several other largely interchangeable first years groaned.
"Nothing a Golden Snitch or two won't fix," Ron said hopefully. "Wood
reckonsassuming we can find a Seeker half as good as Charlie waswe stand a
decent chance at taking the Quidditch Cup from Slytherin this year."
"Cease," said the Bloody Baron. He didn't exactly shout, and it wasn't exactly
loudin fact, it seemed little more than a whisper. But even over the ten
complaining eleven-year-olds (and Hermione, who was in fact twelve) the ghost's
voice was clearly audible. "Be glad it's only house points and detention when I
still attended this school, we didn't use the Cat O'Nine Tails."
The Gryffindors fell silent. A few scratched their heads, pondering the Baron's
last statement. Harry knew he shouldn'the really, really knew itbut he just
couldn't help himself. He had to ask.
"D-don't you mean, you still used the Cat O'Nine Tails?"
"No. It was introduced by a weak, soft headmaster after Emeric the Evil
retiredby a Hufflepuff, as I recall," the Baron mused. Harry swallowed. If a
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nine-tipped whip was seen as soft enough for a Hufflepuffnot that there's
anything wrong with themto use instead of whatever they did before
The entire first year of Gryffindor was in detention, overseen by the silvery
coloured ghost of Slytherin. Their task was simple enough on the surface: they
had to keep the suits of armour that lined the halls of Hogwarts free of rust.
The catch wasn't that they couldn't use magic (which they couldn't, of course)
or even that they were supervised by the Bloody Baron (Milo couldn't help but
wonder where the Bloody Baron's eponymous blood came from. It isn't because the
Baron died violently, or Nearly Headless Nick would be at least as bad...) but
it was that the paintings were ordered to ignore them during detention.
Now, you may be thinking, "is that all?" And if so, it is because you've never
been eleven years old in a shopping mall after closing time, completely alone,
with only a teddy bear. Only in this case, the shopping mall has (at last count,
and rounding up) a completely unknown number of floors. And the staircases move.
As do some floors. One notable corridor appears to twist somewhere in the
middle, and by the end of it you're walking on stone and there's a carpet along
the ceiling. But only on every other Tuesday, except on leap years. And the
shopping mall is a castle. And that castle is Hogwarts.
And your teddy bear is missing.
It only took half an hour for Hannah (Neville was still in St. Mungo's) to
vanish.
"Okay, the thing we need to do is not panic," Hermione said calmly, "and search
for her in a group. As long as we all stay together, we should be"
"Nah, that's rubbish," Ron interrupted. "We're at a four-way intersection, and
there's still nine of us. We can find her faster if we divvy up, send two in
every direction except one, which gets three. Faster we find her, the faster we
clean these ruddy statues."
"No, there's only three directions to go in unless we go backwards and in any
case that's beside the point because if we split then we'll have to stop and go
looking for you"
"What, just because you're so much smarter than all of us?" Ron asked rudely.
"For all you know, we could have to go find you!"
"That's exactly my point!" Hermione shouted.
"So we're in agreement. We split up."
"No!" Milo shouted. "You never split the party! Never!"
"You're one to talk, you got us into this mess," Lavender accused.
"Says the girl who lit Pansy Parkinson on fire," that Patil girl muttered.
"That cow had it coming," Lavender said defensively. "She called me a cow."
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"We're getting sidetracked," Hermione insisted. "We need to find Hannah, and the
best way to do that is to systematically search every room and hallway, as a
group, that she could have got to in ten minutes."
"That could take the rest of our lives!" Ron said. "Let's just split up and find
her already!"
"No, I'm telling you"
"Fine, how about a compromise? I'll split up with Harry, Dean and Seamus, you
and the others stay together. Coming, Harry?"
Harry gave an apologetic look and followed Ron and the others down the corridor
on the right-hand side.
Hermione sighed. "Okay, well the rest of us can start on the left and work our
way through"
"Who put you in charge, anyway?" Lavender asked. "Parvati, Fay, and I can take
the centre. We'll have found Hannah and be back to cleaning statues while you're
still organising." Lavender strode off, followed by a pair of witches.
"Parvati!" Milo said. "So that's her name."
Hermione groaned.
"You know, I sometimes wish I'd been sorted into Ravenclaw," she muttered. "This
sort of behaviour would never stand there. I don't suppose you have any tricks
up your sleeve?"
"Loads," said Milo. "But Locate Creature is a fourth-level spell, and I can only
do up to second. And unless Hannah's met an unfortunate end, Locate Object won't
be able to find her."
"Huh," said Hermione. "So you can find objects with magic, but not living
things?"
"Yeah, that's basically what I just said. Any unique object I've seen firsthand,
or the closest one of a type of object."
"Find her robes," commanded Hermione.
Milo paused.
"I think that's cheating," he said. "Or at least, bending the rules to the point
of breaking... I like it." He imagined, as best he could, Hannah's robes in his
mindeasy, because they were exactly the same as the ones he and Hermione were
wearing. "Locate ObjectHannah's robes."
"So, where is she?"
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"Uh. Sort of between forwards and left, and up a little. Now down. Now up
again."
"What? Any idea how far?"
"No, except that she has to be within the range of the spell. 560 feet at the
outer limit."
They decided to head left, based on the fact that it seemed to have as big a
chance of being correct as forwards and they didn't have to deal with Lavender
and whoever those other two girls were.
"Wish Neville were here," Milo said.
"Why's that?" Hermione asked as they walked. He was nice enoughfor a
boyHermione supposed, but he wasn't exactly useful.
"Well, see, if he were then he'd be the one who wandered off and got lost. Then
we'd be looking for him," he explained, "and not Hannah Abbot."
"You have a very unusual view of the world, you know that? So tell me," she
asked slyly, "why would you rather Hannah were here, with us?"
"Because then there'd be three of us, and we'd have a higher chance of making
our Spot checks."
"Our what's?"
"Spot checks. You make them when, say, Peeves is sneaking up on you from behind.
And I have a feeling we failed one."
"And why is that?"
"Just a feeling I get sometimeswait. Hannah's moving." The spell stopped
tugging him forwards and left, and abruptly started pulling more to the right.
And then down, rapidly. "She's falling," he said. "And depending on the
distance, it might be pretty fast."
"We should find a professor immediately," Hermione said. "She might be hurt."
"For once, I agree with youbut how are we going to find one? Face it, we're
lost."
"Gah!" Hermione said. "There must be something we can do. What other spells do
you know?"
Milo started listing. For an ordinary Wizard of his level, there would be only
about a dozen or sobut Milo was no ordinary Wizard. He was an optimized Wizard,
and one extremely broken ability he'd traded the ability to make magical scrolls
for allowed him to cast any kind of wizard Divination spellspells for finding
things, information, and peoplehe'd heard of. He'd heard rumours that it could
be used for non-Wizard spells as well, but Milo was unwilling to risk it. He
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knew the horror stories of what could happen to those who bent the rules too
far... suffice to say that the universe could be capricious.
"You can read people's minds?" Hermione gasped, after Milo explained Detect
Thoughts. "You're a Legilimens!"
"First of all, that's not a word, and second of all, only surface thoughts.
There's a whole bunch of restrictions on it, too."
"Other than Locate Object, though, there's not much there to help us. A rather
large amount of them seem to be focussed on fighting, which can't be very
useful."
Milo chuckled slightly.
"Well, not today, maybe. We're completely screwed, aren't we?"
"Unfortunately," Hermione said. She sighed and slid down a wall, sitting on the
cold stone floor. "If only we could ask one of the portraits for help."
"M-m-might I b-be of assistance?" Asked a timid voice. Behind them stood the
erratic Professor Quirrell.
"See. Told you we failed a spot check," Milo muttered.
"Professor! You have to help us!" Hermione blurted out. "Hannah went missing and
everyone ran off to go find her, and now we're hopelessly lost. We can't ask the
portraits for help, because we're... in... detention." She said the last three
words slowly, as if her mouth found them strange and foreign. Milo shrugged.
He'd never been in detention, either, but then again he'd never really gone to
school before.
"Sh-shouldn't be t-terribly difficult," he stammered. "W-when I w-was in
R-R-Romania once, my p-party was separated by v-v-v-"the blood drained from his
face, and he sat down shakily. "v-vampires."
There's vampires in this world? Milo thought worriedly. He made a note to start
taking anti-vampire precautions. Garlic, holy symbols... where's a Cleric when
you need one? Milo sniffed. Quirrell's turban emanated the distinct odour of
garlic. Smart, Milo thought, in case they're recurring characters and come for
revenge.
"Hold up," Milo said. "Vampires in this world: do they act like, well, like
normal vampires? You know, suck blood, never age, can turn other people into
vampires? That sort of thing?"
"Y-y-yes," Quirrell stammered reluctantly. He clearly didn't want to talk about
vampires anymore.
"They don't age." Milo repeated again. "So they could live forever unless they
ran out of blood or someone stakes 'em?"
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"I-I s-s-s-suppose so," Quirrell said. His stammer was increasing in frequency.
"Milo, we have to find Hannah. We'll worry about vampires later, okay?" Hermione
said.
"No, this is important," he said. Hermione opened her mouth to say Hannah is
important, too, so Milo added, "Really important."
Hermione frowned, but fell silent. Quirrell looked intrigued.
"So: we know You-Know-Who wanted to become immortal at any cost, right?" Milo
said. "I don't know much, but it sounds to me like that was one of his major
motivations."
"Yes," Quirrell said. "Yes, he did ever seek eternal life."
"And, we know that You-Know-Who didn't really die," Milo said. Hermione sighed.
We don't know that, she thought. We don't even suspect it. We don't have a shred
of evidence.
"Do we, now?" Quirrell asked. "Do we, really? Who else knows?"
"Just us, but it's obvious to anyone with a brain. I'm sure Dumbledore knows all
about it, and Harry, Hermione, Ron and I, of course, are going to stop him.
Anyways, back to the point: becoming a vampire isn't nearly as nontrivial as,
say, some sort of secret dark ritual for eternal life or I don't even know what.
All it takes is a couple of minions and a vampire: vampire turns you, minions
kill the original vampire, you're free."
"To what purpose?" Quirrell asked.
"Immortality, of course. Eternal unlife. I think we should seriously consider
the possibility that You-Know-Who is a vampire," Milo concluded. He had a
nagging feeling, like he failed a skill check of some sort, but it was probably
nothing. "He doesn't seem the type to mind having to drink blood every so often
to live."
Quirrell frowned, but said nothing.
"We need to find Hannah," Hermione stressed. "She could be in serious dangerand
all the other first years are still scattered across the castle."
"When last I saw, th-the young M-Miss Abbot w-was swimming to the sh-shore of
the lake," Quirrell said, his eyes going briefly distant. Milo wondered what
possible reason someone would need to use both Still and Silent spell on Scry.
"P-Percy the G-G-G-G- ah, your house's P-Prefect was attempting to u-use a
H-H-hovering Charm to a-assist her. I-I believe she is q-quite well."
"Well, that's a relief. I wonder how she wound up there?" Hermione asked. "We
should probably try to find all the others now, too."
The task proved somewhat more difficult than they'd hoped, and even with the
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help of the paintings (who could, at Quirrell's request, attempt to locate the
students but not speak to them), it took the better part of the afternoon.
Lavender and co had been delayed by Peeves, who managed to convince them that
Hannah was just around the corner (and then around the next corner, and the
next, and so on until they were hopelessly lost) while Ron had found himself
locked in an old, unused classroom, but when he turned around the door had
vanished. Harry and Seamus had got cornered by Filch and lectured lengthily
about wandering off. They finally found Dean sitting comfortably in the
Gryffindor common room, but he refused to say how he'd got there.
"Great," Hermione said worriedly, "just great. After detention and then hunting
down our classmates without enough sense to wander off, I haven't had the chance
to even touch The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection for a whole day! I've
probably forgotten everything and Defence against the Dark Arts is tomorrow!"
"Insufferable, isn't she?" Ron asked Harry, who looked uncomfortable. "How many
times have you read that book already, Hermione?"
"Three," she said, then the blood drained from her face. "Oh my god, only three!
I'm not going to know anything what if there's a quiz or he asks me, I'm going
to j-just stand there in front of everyone and not know the difference between a
Grindylow and a Boggart!"
"What, in the name of Elminster's pointy hat, is a Boggart?" Milo asked.
"A household pest that takes the form of whatever its viewer fears," she said
shakily.
"You have shapeshifting fear monsters as house pests here?" Milo asked,
impressed. "Cool!" Mordy, sitting on his shoulder, nodded vigorously.
"W-we aren't supposed to learn about them until third year but maybe Professor
Quirrell will try to get the jump on us like Snape did with Harry, so I thought
I should be prepared and read ahead a little, but what if it isn't enough? And I
wind up sitting there like Harry did until this trigger-happy lunatic assaults
the Slytherins again," she nodded to Milo. "I'm sorry! I don't mean to be
insufferable!" she was looking really distraught.
"Hermione, it's alright. Ron's just upset because you were right about not
splitting up, and it made him look a mite daft," Harry said gently. He looked at
Ron. "I'm sorry, but it did." He turned back to Hermione. "He's embarrassed, is
all."
"What, me, mate? Embarrassed?" asked Ron, defensively. "Nah. It's only that this
bookworm keeps just leaping at the chance to show how much better she is than
us. Really, she should have been in Ravenclaw. Then her own kind would have to
put up with her."
Hermione fled the Common Room, sobbing. Hannah shot him a look that could
petrify a Medusa with PC class levels, and chased after her.
"What?" he asked. Harry shrugged.
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"I think she's been hit by a Crushing Despair spell," Milo said. "Maybe I should
go find her, and see if I can"
"No." Parvati Patil said.
"see if I can dispel her," he finished. "Then she'd be fine."
"Don't even dream about it. Hannah will handle it, you stay here. Magic,"
Parvati said, "is not the problem. Ron, a word?" she asked, sounding deceptively
sweet.
"Yeah, in a mo, only me and Harry were about to play Wizard's Chess," he said.
"No, Ron. Now." The girl insisted.
oooo
"I've finally had a response from my contacts at the Ministry," Dumbledore said
to his assembled Heads of Houses.
"Albus, it's been nearly a week. Surely they could have responded earlier?"
Minerva McGonagall criticised, sitting down across the desk from him. She
wondered how he could even think in this office, with all its whirring and
clicking silver contraptions. When, and hopefully it would be a long time from
today, she became Headmistress she would have them carefully and respectfully
placed in a closet someplace. A clean one, of course, but on the other side of
the castle.
"Unfortunately, not even Merlin himself could devise a spell capable of cutting
through red tape." Dumbledore sighed. "The short answer is that there have been
no reported attacks on any wealthy wizard's residence recently, and no
detections of underage magic from the vicinity around Hogsmeade."
"I knew it," Snape sneered. "The boy spun us a web of lies. No mere child could
escape Death Eaters."
"I really had thought better of him," McGonagall sighed. "Oh well, I suppose he
is only a boy. Any word on the broomstick, Filius?"
"Well, as we all know, reported thefts are kept quite confidential down at the
DMLE," Filius said. McGonagall sighed, she'd hoped they could make headway
there. "But I have a friend from my duelling days down in the Department of
Mysteries, and he used to share an office with someone in the Department of
Magical Law Enforcement, and he says that while no official reports have been
filed, his old flame down in the organ that handles broomstick registry claims
that Walden Macnairwho works as Executioner for the Ministry, but he's an
ex-Death Eaterrecently bought a Nimbus Two Thousand," Flitwick said proudly,
then paused to catch his breath.
"Which tells us what, exactly? These... broomsticks... are, I'm led to believe,
extremely popular," Snape said.
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"They are also extremely expensive, and Macnair already owned one." Flitwick
said with aplomb.
"Hardly evidence. A man can have two broomsticks," Snape said. To Dumbledore,
however, he gave a quick, discreet nod. Dumbledore sighed.
"I have other information, and I dare not say from where or who, that suggests
the Death Eaters are up to their old game again."
Professor Sprout gasped.
"Surely not, Headmaster? Not with their leader dead, and their numbers reduced?"
she asked, her voice gripped with fear.
"I'm afraid so, Pomona."
"We should contact the Aurors at once!" McGonagall exclaimed.
"Without any proof? Lucius would have any who acted sacked," Snape sneered,
slouched across his chair.
"I'm afraid, Severus, that you are correct," Dumbledore said. "We shall have to
be extra vigiliant."
"And, what of the boy?" Flitwick asked.
"He shall continue his education here at Hogwarts until he learns to control his
magicaccidents like what happened in Severus's Potions class cannot be allowed
to happen out where Muggles might seeand until we are certain Macnair and his
comrades have forgotten that young Milo stole the broomstick," Dumbledore said.
"He appears to be an exceptionally confused and troubled young orphan, but his
heart is true. Quirinus spoke very highly of him this evening, and how he
attempted to help rescueunsuccessfully, unfortunatelya number of lost
Gryffindors."
Snape smiled briefly. He was particularly proud of that punishment.
"Which brings me to another matter," Dumbledore continued gravely. "Hagrid has
been finding something most concerning in the Forbidden Forest." The Heads of
Houses listened carefully, intrigued. "He's found signsblood, some hairthat
something has been attacking the unicorns who live there."
Sprout gasped. McGonagall looked stunned. Flitwick shook his head sadly, and
even Snape looked disgusted. Attacking a unicorn was low, even by his standards.
"Hagrid has been unable to find whatever has been causing the attacks, but
Quirrell has volunteered, as Defence Professor, to take over the investigation.
He said that it was likely the work of some fell creatureor possibly even a
powerful dark wizard."
If the collective amount of surprise felt by the assembled professors were
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expressed in terms of, say, water, using the baseline of one fair-sized pink
plastic beach bucket full of seawater representing the surprise felt when a
politician suggests something sensible in Parliament and a bathtub full of water
representing the theoretical surprise not felt when the idea doesn't get
ridiculed by the opposing party, then their earlier surprise (when they heard of
the unicorn attacks) could be collected in a two-litre bottle of Diet Coke (once
said Diet Coke has been safely disposed of alongside other toxic chemicals)
while their current surprise, caused by hearing that Quirrell had volunteered
for something dangerous, was almost, but not quite, the size of the
Mediterranean Sea.
"Well, now," McGonagall mused. "It seems we've quite underestimated the Defence
Professor."
"Indeed, it appears that, in a crisis, he can really pull himself together,"
Filius said. "I'm rather proud of him, actually."
"He also pointed out that this is an excellent opportunity for detention,"
Dumbledore said. "Between him and Hagrid, any students with them will be quite
safe, but absolutely petrified."
"You're not suggesting we deliberately send children into the Forbidden
Forestit got its name for a reason, Albusto hunt after something vile enough
to attack a unicorn?"
"I, for one, rather like the idea," Snape said. "Should make that boy think
twice about attacking my students."
oooo
"I heard there's werewolves in the Forbidden Forest!" Ron said when they heard
the news. McGonagall had come to inform them that Quirrell had offered an
alternate detention for Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Milo; and that while it was
particularly awful, if they went then the statue-cleaning punishment for all the
Gryffindors would be reduced.
"It's not a full moon, Ron," Hermione sighed.
"What, werewolves are real?" Harry asked.
"Obviously, everyone knows that," said Ron. "They're as real as dragons and
goblins."
"Dragons are reano, nevermind. If we do this, it counts against how many
statues we have to cleanand after the last time, I think we want to avoid
that," Harry said. "I'm in."
"Same. The experience alone will be well worth it," Milo said. "And I can
probably handle anything they throw at me."
"You're insane, mate," Ron said. "I'd sooner clean another thousand statues than
set one foot in that forest."
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"I'm with Ron," Hermione said. "Cleaning isn't so bad, and that sounds really
dangerous."
"We'll be fine," Milo said. "Quirrell will be with us, and I for one like the
cut of his jib."
"And Hagrid will be there," Harry said. "What's the worst that could happen?"

Chapter 5: The Forbidden Forest

They met Hagrid and the quietly quivering Quirinus Quirrell in the Great Hall.
Hagrid, evidently some sort of half-giant Ranger, was carrying a heavy crossbow
(Milo was skeptical, light crossbows were much more damage-efficient) and
carrying Fang's leash. Milo had carefully prepared his spells that morning, and
avoided casting any throughout the daymeaning the Gryffindors started to be
late for class, again, as Peeves could harass them with impunity, and Milo was
starting to appear rather useless in their lessons. Still, he wasn't about to
venture into something called the Forbidden Forest without a full complement of
spells.
"Mage Armour," he cast as soon as they approached the professor and the Keeper
of the Keys. A thin, invisible field of force surrounded him like a second skin.
It was far from complete protection, but it would help a little.
"Hagrid!" Harry said happily.
"A-all right" Quirrell said, "our j-job is simple: all we're t-to do is enter
the f-f-forest and f-find whatever it is a-attacking the u-unicorns," he
stammered nervously. "A-and then r-return to H-Hogwarts so the H-Headmaster and
I can d-d-decide what to do."
"Sounds like a plan," Milo said, although he privately wondered why all the
powerful wizards living in Hogwarts didn't just use some Divinations to
determine what was in the forest.
"Yeh all right, Harry?" Hagrid asked the Harry, who looked a little nervous, but
determined. Milo was a little impressed that he'd volunteered for this, his
friend was only three days into his wizard training. Milo hadn't, in fact, seen
him perform any actual magic, yet. Now that's guts, he thought. But smart. If he
lives, anything we encounter will give him so much XP that he's bound to level
up at least once.
"Let's be off, then," Hagrid said, and led
sure looks eerie at night, Milo thought. A
felt a brief pang of homesickness; Thamior
the number of times Milo and his party had

them through the grounds. Hogwarts


bit like Thamior's old place. Milo
was evil to the core, sure, but after
defeated him, he was practically

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family. "Now, I want ter be clear: anythin' happensanythin' at alland yer ter
send up red sparks an' run, yeh hear?"
Harry and Milo nodded mutely. Milo could do close enough with a Dancing Lights
spell.
"A-and keep y-your eyes p-p-p-peeled," said Quirrell. "A-and stick c-close."
A soft breeze caused the chill night air to bite clean through their school
uniforms, and Milo pulled out a warm scarf and some wool gloves (fingerless, so
as not to interfere with his spellcasting gestures) from his Belt of Hidden
Pouches.
"Right. I'll take Harry an' Fang, Quirrell can take Milo," Hagrid said as they
reached the outskirts of the forest.
"What, we're splitting up?" Harry asked.
"We've had bad experiences with that before," Milo added.
"Best way to find what we're lookin' fer," Hagrid said. "Too big of a group, an'
we'll spook it. Remember: run in ter trouble, send sparks."
"Well, Harry," Milo said. "See you on the other side, right?"
"'Course. Don't worry, I'm sure we'll be fine," Harry said. Milo was astonished:
was Harry trying to reassure him?
"You know, Harry, I think that one daywhen you've gone up a few levels, and get
a few magic itemsyou'll be quite the hero. Good luck."
The two groups split up and entered the forest.
"So, what are we looking for, exactly, Professor?" Milo asked Quirrell.
"We are not yet certain," Quirrell said. "Something that's been attacking
unicornsalmost certainly some kind of animal. Keep an eye out for any unicorn's
blood; it has a distinctive silvery colour."
Again, Milo had the nagging feeling that he'd failed a skill check. Quirrell had
his wand at the ready. It felt like they'd been walking for hours, but Milo
doubted it was more than half of one.
"Bet this is old hat for you, right?" Milo asked, feeling slightly nervous. "You
probably charge into the Forbidden Forest every other week, fighting monsters
and things?"
"No, that's Hagrid's job. I've only been this deep twice before," Quirrell said.
"Oh. Good."
"Wait, quietI think I heard something," Quirrell said. "Best hide behind that
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tree, I'll investigate. Just stay down."
Before Milo could argue, Quirrel strode off the path with his wand held out like
a weaponwhich, Milo, supposed, it was. Milo shrugged and ducked behind a tree,
which was covered in soft moss. He heard rustling in the darkness, and debated
whether to cast Dancing Lights to see what was going on. He eventually decided
against, reasoning that the light might reveal some sort of monster sneaking up
on him but would certainly attract everything in the entire forest.
Then he heard another rustle, closer this time. Okay, something is definitely
sneaking up on me. He moved to stand up quietly, but found, to his surprise,
that he couldn't. He appeared to be stuck to the tree.
"What theoh, gross." What he'd thought was moss turned out to be webs. He
struggled against it vainly, but it was uselesshe was stuck.
"Protection from Evil, Mirror Image, Invisibility," Milo cast in quick
succession. He vanished abruptly, but five identical illusory copies of himself
remained. Classic shell connone of the visible Milos were the real one. He
hoped he wasn't jumping at shadows, because he'd just burned through most of his
daily allotment of spells.
He was mildly satisfied when one of his illusory doubles was abruptly torn to
pieces by a shadowy creature. The satisfaction vanished when he realized he was,
illusions aside, stuck to a tree being attacked by a monster he couldn't see.
"Dancing Lights," he cast, sending four glowing red spheres into the sky above
him. On the way up, they briefly illuminated, in red, horrible compound eyes and
sharp pincers.
Great, he thought. Giant spiders. His invisibility spell would end as soon as he
attacked one of themthat is, cast any spell that included them in the area.
That ruled out Glitterdust and Grease, Milo's two favourite spells, but not
creative use of Levitate. He could move himself or up to 400lbs of objects
vertically, but not horizontally. Generally the spell was used by Wizards to
escape, but Milo doubted it would pull him off of the webs.
"Levitate," he, and all of his doppelgangers, said. A hefty fallen log nearby
Milo rose up slowly, ponderously, into the air a foot or two. Another mirror
Milo fell to the spider's attack, and Milo started to sweat. Seeing yourself
being eaten by a giant spider in dim red light while alone and trapped in a
forest is, probably, one of the worst experiences a kid can go through (after
visiting the dentist, of course). Milo then carefully reached into his Belt of
Hidden Pouches with his right hand (his left was stuck in the webs) and withdrew
an old adventurer's staplefifty feet of silk rope and a grappling hook. The
rope was invisible, but would cease to be as soon as it came to be more than ten
feet from Miloand the log was about twelve feet away. Hopefully the spider(s?)
wouldn't notice two feet of taut rope appearing from nowhere. He awkwardly
tossed the rope at the logand missed. Milo saw another mirror Milo wink out of
existence, presumably hit by the unseen attacker.
Milo looked at the fallen grappling hook, lying uselessly in the mud, and
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panicked slightly. Shouldn't help be coming? He thought. The glowing lights are
up above me and everything. Wish I prepared Mage Hand this morning. His plan had
been to lift the fallen tree up into the air, and use the grappling hook to pull
it over to above the monstrous spider, then drop it. He doubted he'd have time
to pull the hook back and throw it again. Well, nothing for it.
"No sense in us both dying, Mordy," he whispered to his familiar as he pulled
him from his belt. "Run back to Hogwarts, see if Hermione or Hannah want you to
be their familiar. Good luck, old friend."
Fear. Despair. Reluctance. He felt through their bond. Mordenkainen reluctantly
crawled out of Milo's grasp, and turned around briefly. Love, he felt, before
the magical creature skittered off.
"GLITTERDUST," Milo bellowed. The spider, now covered in glowing dust, was huge.
The hairy creature's legs spanned at least fifteen feet across. The thing was
blinded by the spell, but that would only last for twenty-four seconds. Also,
his invisibility was gone, and he was still stuck. He decided to try burning the
webs off of him with Prestidigitationhe might well get set on fire, but at
least he'd be free.
"Prestidigitation," he said, and a small jet of fire sprung out of his hand at
the tree but nothing happened. Milo was confused, he was sure that would work.
(Milo's only experience with webs came from the Web spell, which was used
frequently by his arch-nemesis Thamior, and only bear passing resemblance to
actual spider silk. Notably, the magical webs burn rapidly when exposed to
firereal spider silk, as Milo would know if he'd put any skill points into
Knowledge (Nature), is fireproof).
Only eighteen seconds left. The spider flailed about awkwardly, catching one of
Milo's duplicates with one of its eight hairy legs. The duplicate flickered and
vanished. All Milo had left was Silent Image, Feather Fall, Grease, and some
cantrips.
"Grease," he cast at the ground under the spider. The blind spider's eight legs
flailed about, trying to get traction on the slippery ground, it's pincers
creating an agitated clicking sound. It managed to keep its balance,
howeverMilo had forgotten that creatures with extra legs got a bonus to
stability. He felt, after casting, that it might have been more effective to
cast it on himself in case the spider tried to pick him up. Ah, well, twelve
seconds to live. Milo frowned, thoughtfully. One effect of Grease was that
anyone standing on the slippery surface had to make a Balance check to stay
standing, and one effect of Balance was that anyone who took damage had to redo
the check or fall. The amount of damage didn't make a difference.
Milo grinned.
"Acid Splash," he cast, and a pitifully small orb of acid hit the spider in what
its face would be if it had one. Acid Splash was one of the most useless spells
in existenceit hurt even less than just punching someone would, or even
throwing a small rockbut Milo, as a Conjurer, got an extra Conjuration spell
per level, and Acid Splash was the only 0th-level Conjuration spell in the
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Harry Potter and the Natural 20 - Sir Poley


multiverse. Milo had no choice but to prepare it every morning.
The spider fell to the ground, and Milo had six seconds before Glitterdust wore
off and the spider could see. Milo gestured at the Levitated log, still floating
a little above the ground, and it flew up into the canopy.
"Hey, ugly," Milo said, reaching into his belt. "Fear me, for I hold the mighty
eldritch power of an eleven-foot pole!"
He gave the fallen spider a light push, and it slid (slightly downhill) along
the Greased dirt, until it came to a stop in the slight depression where the log
once was.
The spider's vision returned, and as Glitterdust ended, it became stealthy
again. The spider's dark brown carapace was all but invisible in the darkness.
Milo dismissed Levitate.
He couldn't see what happened, but he definitely felt the 600 XP he got for
defeating a Challenge Rating 2 Monstrous Spider solo. Milo sighed. He was
somewhat disappointed by that, he thought the spider was worth way more than
that. Well, I guess the spiders here are pushovers compared to the ones back
home, he thought.
When Quirrell, Hagrid and Harry found him, he was whistling softly to himself,
stuck to a tree.
"Milo!" Harry shouted, panicked. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, totally fine," he said, though in truth he felt a little woozy.
"Yeh managed ter kill an Acromantula?" Hagrid asked, shocked. "Aragog's not
gonna like this. We'd best be leavin'."
"What took you guys so long?" Milo asked dizzily as Hagrid pulled him out of the
webs.
"We ran in ter Quirrell, who was in a right state, said we had ter help yehbut
we were delayed by centaurs. Them stargazers took an unnatural dislike to our
Defence Professor."
Quirrell appeared to have lost his short-lived courage, and was as pale and
quivery as ever.
"Centaurs in a forest? I figured horse-y types would prefer plains not planes,
mind, 'cause of all the weird monsters" Milo's eyelids felt heavy and his
head drooped slightly. He felt sort of numb all over.
"Hagrid? I think something's wrong with Milo," Harry said to the giant.
"What? Can't see anythin' in this ruddy darkness. Professor, could you?"
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Harry Potter and the Natural 20 - Sir Poley


"O-of c-c-c-course, Hagrid," Quirrell stammered. "L-lumos."
Quirrell held the tip of his glowing wand over Milo, so Hagrid could investigate
closer. It was hard to tell, because of the poor lighting and Milo's black
uniform, but there was a patch that seemed slightly darker than the rest.
"Oh, no," Hagrid gasped. "He's bin bit."
Milo frowned. He definitely didn't remember that happening. In fact, he was all
but certain the acromantula never got even close to close enough to him to bite
him.
"Nah, hairy brute never touched me," Milo said.
"H-he's delusional from the v-venom," Quirrell said. "I f-f-feel terrible, he
w-was my r-r-responsibility."
"You're stuttering," Milo said. Something was nagging at him, but it felt as
though his head were packed with wool.
"I-I a-always st-st-stutter," Quirrell stuttered.
"We need ter get 'im back to the castle," Hagrid said. "Acromantula venom can be
lethal."
"Poison?" Milo asked, and reached for his belt. He kept antitoxin in one of the
pockets which one? It seemed like it should be important, but he was having
difficulty focussing.
"I-I'll take him," Quirrell said. "You c-c-can keep s-searching."
"Right. Harry, you'd best be goin' with 'em," the giant said to the
Boy-Who-Lived.
"But, then you'd be out there alone," Harry protested. "Are you sure you'd be
okay?"
"Nah, I got Fang. Don't worry yerself about me."
"Wingardium Leviosa," Quirrell said, casting the Hovering Charm on Milo, who was
starting to lose consciousness. Quirrell led Harry through the forest back
towards the castle.
"Shouldn't we hurry, Professor?" Harry asked anxiously. "Milo looks really
sick."
Quirrell shook his head.
"N-not in a f-forest," he said, "and c-certainly n-not in a f-forest in the
d-d-dark. W-we could tr-trip in j-just about a-anything, and th-then we would
take e-even longer."
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Harry supposed Quirrell had a point, but their leisurely pace seemed torturously
slow to him.
Harry, frightened by the forest, gradually drifted closer to Quirrell as they
walked. The Defence Professor was a bit spineless, but he seemed pretty
competent with magicand he had faced down vampires at some point. However, as
Harry drew nearer, his scar began to ache abruptly. He doubled over, clutching
at his forehead. When his hand drew away, there was blood on it.
"A-are you al-alright, boy?" Quirrell asked.
"Uh," Harry said as the pain gradually decreased. "Yeah yeah, I'm fine. It's
nothing. It just my scar hurts sometimes, usually around Snape."
"Th-the scarI understand y-you got i-it from the D-d-d-darkfrom
H-H-He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
"Yes, Professor. That's what I'm told, at least."
Quirrell frowned.
"Th-then I'd s-s-suggest you b-be wary around the Potions M-M-Master," he said.
"H-He used to be a D-D-D-Death Eater, I-I'm told. A-and this d-d-detention was
h-his idea."
Harry was surprised. He didn't like Snape, but he hadn't realized that the
greasy professor had been one of Voldemort's followers. Maybe he was going to
try and finish the job that the dark wizard had started? Perhaps it was Harry,
and not Milo, who had been meant to be attacked by the giant spider. Good thing
Quirrell had been there.
As they continued to walk, Milo's condition worsened. He started babbling
incoherently about his pockets and Quirrell's stutter, before passing out
entirely.
oooo
Mordy scampered as fast as he could across the cold stone floor (which,
considering he was a rat (more or less), was not terribly fast) towards the
Gryffindor Common Rooms.
Everything was going swell until he encountered The Fell Beast. The Fell Beast
gave a cry of rage that would haunt Mordy's dreams for weeks and charged. Mordy
tried to dodge, but the cat was too fastits claws left a bloody gash down the
rodent's back. It would have been enough to kill a lesser rat, but Mordy, as a
familiar, had more hit pointsbarely. He had half as many as his master, who
unfortunately decided to dump Constitution at character creation.
Mordy climbed a suit of armour (rusty, the Gryffindors hadn't got this far yet)
to escape the dreadful claws. He tensed, and jumped over to the next suit,
barely catching hold of the helmet's visor. The Fell Beast, meanwhile, sat on
the ground, debating what to do. He saw her tense up, ready to pounce, and
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Mordenkainen started to wish, heartily, that his master had taken the Improved
Familiar feat.
As the Fell Beast jumped, Mordy let go of the visor and landed on the ground
painfully. The cat's collision with the armour toppled it to the ground, and it
spread in pieces over the hallway. Mordy evaded them easily (Improved Evasion
could be handy) and sprinted as the cat regained her senses. Terror, Panic,
Despair, he felt through the empathic bond with his master.
He rounded the last corner before the common room, and finally reached the
portrait. The Fell Beast was hot on his heels.
"Password?" asked the Fat Lady.
"Squeak," said Mordenkainen.
"Correct," said the painting, and swung open. He barely made it through the
portal as the painting swung shut. He could clearly hear the irritated sound of
the Fell Beast hissing in frustration on the other side. There was a promise of
pain and death in that hiss. Victory, Satisfaction, Triumph, he felt through the
bond with his master.
In the common room, he saw Scabbers eating some crumbs off the floor.
"Squeak!" he said to the ugly rat.
"Squeak?" the appropriately-named Scabbers asked, surprised.
"Squeak, squeak-squeak squeak!" Mordy said urgently. Fear, Pain, Dizziness, he
felt. Oh, no, Mordy thought. Has he been poisoned? Is he sick? Mordy
concentrated and tried to send strength through the bond. Every species of
familiar had some sort of special powerand rats could convey a measure of
resistance against things like sickness in their master, as long as they were
within a mile.
"Squeak," Scabbers said, and gave the
Scabbers a solid kick to the stomach,
find the one with the nice teeth. She
help. The problem was that the humans

rat-equivalent of a shrug. Mordy gave


and ran into the girls' dorms. He had to
was smart, she would understand, she would
all looked alike to him.

"Squeak?" he said hopefully to one, who woke up, looked at Mordy, and screamed.
Wrong one, he thought.
"There's a rat in my room!" she cried. "Lavender! Wake up!" another girl stirred
irritably.
"What?" Lavender asked sleepily. "Ack!" she shrieked. The other humans all stood
up out of bed while Mordy looked at them each, carefully, trying to figure out
which was the one with nice teeth. The fact that they all were screaming made it
easier.
"Hey, it's that rat Milo carries around all the time," said one (Hannah, in case
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Harry Potter and the Natural 20 - Sir Poley


you were wondering, not that Mordy knew that).
"What's he doing in here?" Lavender asked. Mordy gave the rat equivalent of a
sigh. This wouldn't happen if I were a mouse, he thought. Everyone loves mice.
"Squeak!" he said urgently.
"He looks kinda distressed," Lavender said. "Wait, is he bleeding?"
"He should be with Milo," said one. "And Milo's out in the Forbidden Forest"
she frowned. "We need to find McGonagall, immediately. Milo could be in
troubleand this poor rat looks half dead." As she spoke, he could see her
teethgood, rat-like teeth. Yes, this is the one, he thought as his hit points
slipped into the negatives.
oooo
This is taking way too long, Harry thought. Is Quirrell lost?
"Sh-should be just past the next few t-trees," Quirrell reassured him. "Th-then
we'll b-be in open t-t-territory and can sp-sprint."
Harry was skeptical. He was fairly certain they were going roughly perpendicular
to the castle, but then again, he'd never been in a forest beforeit was more
than likely that his sense of direction was misleading him. Still, he felt that
the return journey should be faster than the trip outthey were taking all kinds
of twists and turns while searching for the mysterious unicorn-killerbut it had
been at least that long since they'd left Hagrid.
Harry gripped his wand, for all the good that it would do. His scar still ached
somewhat, so he wondered if Snape was around, creeping in the bushes.
"Hello?" he heard a familiar voice call out. "Hagrid? Harry? Quirrell? Milo?"
"Headmaster!" Harry shouted. "We're over here!"
Quirrell, Harry noticed, looked briefly frustrated before regaining his
composure.
"Wait there!" Dumbledore shouted. As the grandfatherly man approached, Harry
could see a glowing red light coming closer. It looked like fire, but it felt
oddly soothing. Quirrell shielded his eyes from the bright light, but Harry felt
fine
"H-Headmaster, th-the boy was b-bit by an acromantula," Quirrell said to
Dumbledore, who had a red, glowing bird of some sort perched on his shoulder.
"H-he's been p-poisoned."
Dumbledore acted quickly.
"Quirrell, take Mr. Potter back to the Gryffindor common room. Fawkes,"
Dumbledore said to the bird, "take me and Milo to the hospital wing." There was
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a burst of red flame, and Dumbledore and Harry's friend vanished with a small
puff of smoke.
"Sh-showy, b-b-but effective," Quirrell noted.
oooo
Milo awoke, staring at an all-too familiar ceiling.
"I'm in the hospital again, aren't I?" he asked weakly.
"I'm sorry to say that you're correct, young man," Madam Pomfrey said. "And,
don't take this the wrong way, but it would be nice to go five days without
seeing you."
Milo laughed weakly.
"You'll note," she continued, "that we left you with your magical belt this
time. Your pet is on the bed next to you."
Mordenkainen was lying on the next bed over, wrapped in bandages.
"What happened to him?" Milo asked, his voice full of concern.
"He was attempting to get the Gryffindor common room, we believe, and was
attacked by Ms. Norris. He almost died, but Hermione got him here in time, bless
her. His appearance was how Dumbledore knew to go looking for you."
Milo frowned.
"Why did I need rescuing, again? It all seems so foggy."
"You were bitten by an acromantula, a highly intelligent and extremely dangerous
magical spider-like monster. You're lucky to be alive. It's the sort of thing
I'd think you'd remember," she said. The bite wound had, largely, healed
mysteriously during the night, much like his injuries had when he'd first
arrived. The venom's effects, however, lingered somewhat.
"No," Milo said. "I definitely don't remember that. There was a spider, and I
dropped a tree on it, but it never touched me."
"You're still very sick, and I'm sure it all happened very fast. I wouldn't
worry about it," she said, while pondering his words. He thinks he dropped a
tree on it? Pomfrey thought. He is delirious.
"How long was I out?" he asked.
"A day and a half, roughly. We managed to stabilize you, but it took until this
morning for Snape to brew the antidote," she said. "He worked all night, you
know."
Milo frowned. That story didn't add up at all. Something weird was going on.
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Chapter 6: Crime Scene Investigation

Author's Notes: Thank you to all of the nice reviews I've gotten (they make my
day), and to Blinded in a Bolthole in particular for helping me rewrite my
summary.
Don't forget that you can check my Author page for a link to Milo's character
sheet and the free Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and/or Modern RPG, Semiautomagic, that I'm
working on.
oooo
Throughout the day, several Gryffindor wellwishers came to visit Milo in the
hospital wing. Apparently, word had spread of his run-in with the acromantula,
and the rumours had quickly gotten out of hand.
"We heard you fought off a horde of giant spiders, mate " said one of the
Weasley twins (Milo decided, for convenience's sake, to call him George).
" and save a beautiful unicorn princess " said Fred (maybe).
" which is unusual, because unicorns tend to be male "
" and also managed to rescue Professor Quirrell "
" while growing increasingly weak from spider venom "
" defeated You-Know-Who for good "
" became king of the Goblins "
" found a Philosopher's Stone "
" so now, you can live forever "
" discovered a thirteenth use for dragon's blood "
" and that you're still an available bachelor "
" but maybe not for long, based on the rate these stories are spreading."
Following the conversation was somewhat dizzying, but sort of entertaining as
well. Hannah and Lavender dropped by with candy (though the people in this
strange land called them "sweets," which Milo supposed was generally accurate,
with the exception of several trillion flavours of the Every-Flavoured Beans),
and Lavender apologized for her behaviour during detention. Milo appreciated the
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gesture, but was somewhat suspicious of wizarding candy as a whole he
remembered Harry's chocolate frogs trying to escape back on the train (Milo
shuddered at the thought of that mechanical monstrosity) and the more unpleasant
flavours of the every-flavoured beans.
Hermione, naturally, brought him copies of her class notes from the ones he
missed (Milo copied them all into a notebook with Amanuensis (an obscure
0th-level spell that copies text rapidly) and then read it with Scholar's Touch
(an invaluable 1st-level spell that reads an entire book (and not, say, a stack
of loose-leaf) in a few seconds)).
Ron approached somewhat sheepishly to apologise for not going to the forest with
him and Harry, but said that it was really for the best because he was
absolutely useless around spiders and would probably just have gotten in the
way. Milo forgave him, and they played a game of Wizard's chess, which was just
like regular chess except the pieces were apparently intelligent. It really
changes the game when, instead of sending a rook forwards to be sacrificed,
you're sending up an old, tired wooden soldier begging to be allowed to live and
return to his family (he had a pair of pawns to take care of, after all), yet
nonetheless resigned to his fate. Ron won, of course, because Milo couldn't
remember ever playing chess before. He knew the rules, oddly, but had no
memories of an actual game probably because he was still cut off from any of
his backstory not yet explicitly stated.
While he recovered from his ability score damage, Milo tried to solve the puzzle
of the spider bite. There was, without a doubt, an ugly injury caused by a fang
in his side. However, Milo was absolutely certain that he hadn't been bitten.
Even if the spider tried, Milo had Mage Armour and Protection from Evil, which
gave him a net boost of +6 to Armour Class, assuming the spider was evil (which
it totally was). It was improbable, though not impossible, that the spider had
hit him in one attack. But between being blinded and off-balance from Milo's
magic, he really doubted the acromantula had a chance unless he'd been bit
before Milo started his attack. But that was impossible because Milo was
invisible, and had illusions up besides
He frowned. No, it really can't have been before I became visible, and probably
wasn't when the spider was blinded. Milo could account for the spider's actions
during the duration based on the number of mirror images it destroyed and the
number of spells he cast.
This doesn't add up at all.
And then there was the matter of Snape. If Snape had been trying to kill him,
why did he brew an antidote? Was it really some sort of terrible, slow-acting
poison that would kill Milo over the course of weeks, making it look natural?
But why bother he could have just left Milo to succumb to the acromantula
venom.
No, there must be another player at work here. Snape was evil, sure but he
wasn't actively trying to kill Milo. He might not even have realized, yet, that
Milo was a threat to him.
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"Hey, mate," Harry said, breaking him out of his thought process. Milo hadn't
noticed the boy entering the room. "Sorry I didn't come earlier, we had
broomstick lessons it turns out I can fly really well! I don't have any idea
where the skill came from, I was always rubbish at P.E. and anyway, Draco must
still be mad from that time on the train, so he stole Nev's Remembrall (poor
fellow just got out of St. Mungo's) and ran off with it. Anyway, I'm rambling.
The point is, I got it back, but McGonagall saw and guess what I'm on the
Quidditch team!"
"What, the game with six pointless players and one PC?" Milo asked.
"Yeah! And I'm the Seeker!" Harry said excitedly. "Hermione's upset because it's
against the rules and thinks McGonagall shouldn't have made an exception, but
Ron is beside himself."
"That's pretty cool. Bet you'll catch the Snitch like, really. Ten gold pieces
Galleons, whatever that you win the first match by the skin of your teeth."
"You're on, but I probably won't be able to pay you for a while when I lose. My
money's all in Gringott's," Harry said.
"Oh?" Milo asked. "What's Gringott's?"
"It's this big underground thing, full of dragons and run by goblins," Harry
said. "I was there once, it was actually kinda scary."
Milo's ears literally perked up upon hearing this (he was one-sixty-fourth elf).
"Goblins got your gold, eh?" he asked. "Well, well, well. Sounds to me like we
have a dungeon crawl in our future," he said excitedly.
"What's a dungeon crawl? Is that some sort of dance? Only, I've never danced
before," Harry said.
"What? No. It's where you go into a big underground thing, full of dragons and
run by goblins, and come out with piles and piles of gold," Milo explained.
"Oh, I've done that already," Harry commented. "Though I left most of the gold
behind for later."
"You you did what now? I think you're not really getting into the spirit of the
thing."
"Well, I was with Hagrid, and he only let me take so much out"
"Oh, that makes sense. Higher level character, he probably did most of the work
to get there. Still, try to argue for an even split next time. If you play your
cards right, you could wind up way ahead of your WBL," Milo said.
"My what?" Harry asked.
"Wealth By Level," Milo said. "It's the average amount of total money, in cash,
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magic items, fortresses, that kind of thing, that a person has based on their
level. So like, a powerful wizard can use a Broom of Flying to clean his floors
with because he can afford twelve, while a lower-level wizard couldn't even get
one."
"Oh," said Harry. "Here, we just call it capitalism."
"Weird. So, what's the deal with this Hagrid guy?"
"Oh, he's a giant, he's my friend he took me from the Dursleys and lives in
a hut outside the castle. Takes care of the grounds and things. He actually sent
me a letter inviting me down to visit him," Harry said. "I think I'll head down
later this evening."
"Huh. So tell me, did you notice anything weird about Quirrell's stutter last
night?" Milo asked.
"You mean, two nights ago?" Harry asked. Milo nodded, he was still sort of
disoriented from sleeping all day. Harry frowned. "I can't swear to it, but I
think, just briefly, he was talking normally. Maybe he was so frightened that he
sort of stuttered so far he wrapped around and came back the other side?"
"Yeah, maybe," Milo said. There was something he was missing, he was sure of it.
His forehead wrinkled with deep thought. "Okay, hang on. Describe Quirrell to
me, and pretend I've never met him before, okay?"
Harry looked at Milo like he'd gone crazy (Milo was used to that look by now)
but complied. Quirrell: had a verbal tic (one) wore a weird turban (two) was
completely spineless (three) but could apparently summon courage when necessary
(four!) and emanated an odour of garlic (five).
"Oh my gods," Milo said. "How could I have been so stupid?"
"What, what is it?" Harry asked.
"Five adjectives! Nobody gets five adjectives so soon after meeting them!"
"What?" Harry asked.
"It's just like on the train, remember? When I told you to write down everyone
who could be described with more than two adjectives? It's why we go on
adventures with Ron and not Dean or Seamus. The more unique a person is, the
more important they are."
"So, what does this mean?" Harry asked. He was beginning to feel that Milo's
sanity was much like Quirrell's stutter: he went so far through insane that he
came out the other side, and started making sense. Well, kind of.
"It means Quirrell is big news, but it's too early to say yet which side he's
on. I feel like there's something I should be remembering but just can't."
"You mean, like your parents?" Harry asked.
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"No, like something someone said in passing but I didn't write down. Can I see
your notes?" Milo asked.
"What, you mean, like from Herbology?"
"No, not those. The adventure notes."
"Oh, sure," Harry said, pulling the lists that Milo had asked him to write from
his bag. There were the lists of mysterious things people had said, of
unexplained events, and of important characters. Milo pointed out Quidditch:
Seeker is for PCs with some satisfaction, but otherwise the search was
fruitless.
"Ah, well. It was worth a shot. Maybe we'll hear something that'll make all of
this make sense," Milo sighed. "Until then, we'll just keep listening closely."
His next visitor after Harry left was quite unexpected.
"So, we meet again, Malfoy." Milo said coolly.
"Indeed, we do at that," Malfoy sneered. "I just came to see if you were really
as weak, injured, helpless, and alone as they say."
"Oh, are you threatening me? Is this really happening? Because as I remember,
I've got you two for two, Slytherin."
"Not a threat, no, not at all," Malfoy said, and grinned. "Just thought I'd drop
by, say hi, wish you well and tell you I know what you're up to."
"What I'm I mean, you don't know anything. Fool." Milo said, but quietly his
mind raced. What was Milo up to? Not much, really. Just sort of blundering
through encounter after encounter, so far; brute forcing his way through
problems with magic. But active plotting? Not so much.
"And more importantly, my father knows," Malfoy said. "And my father controls
the Wizengamot." Malfoy grinned. "I'd keep an eye on the morning paper, if I
were you." He moved to leave, but paused. "Fortunately," he added, "I am not
you." He then walked off, whistling softly to himself.
"Well, that was cryptic," Milo mused to himself. "I'm starting to think I should
maybe figure out what in Baator is going on before I wind up there."
To do that, he had to go to the library. To do that, he had to get out of this
accursed hospital bed but that wouldn't happen until he had healed to Madam
Pomfrey's satisfaction.
"New plan," he said. "Bring the library to me."
oooo
"He asked for what?" McGonagall asked.
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"He wants to borrow half the library," Madam Pince, the librarian, said calmly.
"Said he didn't want to get behind in his studies, and that he would just start
at A and work his way down to Z"
"Don't we have rules against this?" McGonagall asked.
"Well, frankly, it's never come up," said the librarian. "Until Hermione
Granger, nobody ever took out more than a book or two at a time. Most students
only read when they absolutely have no other option, and even then, generally
only the Ravenclaws."
"Well I feel we have no choice but to allow it, save, obviously, those in the
Forbidden Section," McGonagall said. "Lest we encourage rule-breaking among the
students by example. I'll allocate a few first-year Gryffindors to help transfer
the books, I suppose. You owe me a favour, though, Irma."
The professors had started using Gryffindor's detention hours as the basis of a
crude barter system. Snape had been selling them at a premium price, mostly to
get out of his scheduled time patrolling the corridors of Hogwarts and dealing
with Peeves. They were then re-sold between the professors in exchange for
favours, assistance, and occasionally even money (the going rate three knuts per
hour per student, well below what minimum wage would be if the wizarding world
had a minimum wage). The students, of course, knew nothing of this.
oooo
"Scholar's Touch," Milo cast, and tapped a handful of books. He could read four
per casting, and could cast the spell nine times. Mordy's head perked up as his
brain, too, was flooded with information. Milo tossed the books into a
rapidly-growing Finished pile, and reached for the top few books in the To Read
pile, which was less of a pile and more of a small mountain. "Scholar's Touch,
Scholar's Touch, Scholar's Touch, Scholar's Touch"
oooo
The next morning, Milo was finally allowed out of the hospital wing. He was
still under strict orders not to exert himself, and to avoid any undue stress.
As a result, he was freed from the gruelling labour that the teachers were
forcing the Gryffindors to undertake by way of detention. He walked, somewhat
gingerly, down to the Great Hall for breakfast. As he entered, he made sure to
affect an exaggerated limp and weak pace. He staggered towards the Hall, and
pushed open the massive double-doors dramatically. He was deliberately a few
minutes late, ensuring that the enormous chamber was more-or-less full, thus
maximizing the impact.
oooo
Conversation in the room dimmed to a murmur as he walked silently down to the
Gryffindor table, and sat down between Hannah and Ron.
"Hey," he said casually. "I miss anything?"
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"Nice entrance," said Ron. "Though I think you were missing some sort of
dramatic announcement, like 'that dragon won't bother us again anytime soon,' or
possibly, 'the time has come.'"
"Everyone's a critic," Milo sighed.
"Don't be rude, Ron," Hannah said. "Or should I call Lavender back to have
another little talk with you?"
Ron's face paled, and he fell silent. Hermione, Milo noticed, was very pointedly
not speaking with Ron. Milo shrugged. The intricacies of most social interaction
were lost on him, and they seemed largely pointless anyways.
"I want everyone to keep a careful eye on Malfoy," Milo said. "He's up to
something, but I'm not sure what, yet."
"Sure thing, mate." Ron said as the owl post arrived. Milo questioned the
hygiene of having a flock of owls flying in during breakfast every morning, but
as he always ate from his perfectly-sterile Everlasting Rations anyways, he
didn't mention anything. Also, owls? Seriously?
A particularly large package was delivered to Harry, carried by three owls
working in unison.
"Oh, that reminds me," he said to the Gryffindors. "Anyone got a copy of the
Daily Profit sorry, Prophet that I can borrow?" A flood of papers were
offered to him immediately. Milo grinned. Celebrity had its perks, apparently.
His newfound fame for defeating the acromantula apparently overshadowed the
hatred for his losing 110 house points.
"Thanks," he said, grabbing one from some random NPC.
He looked at the cover, and nearly dropped it in surprise. Not because of the
headlines, or even the content of the newspaper at all, but because the photo on
the cover of some smiling blond wizard being awarded a medal was moving.
Someone out there saw fit to cast some kind of spell, Milo wasn't even sure what
would do this (some sort of Illusion, perhaps?) on every single one of these
papers. Or, gods forbid, they were all magic items, each costing XP. If each
newspaper cost even one Experience Point to make Milo shuddered, imagining the
soul-sucking factory needed to produce these tabloids, where wizards were
dragged in en masse to be drained of the essence of their power, left a shallow
husk of themselves.
Milo shook his head to clear his mind, and started scanning the headlines.
Gringott's Break-in Still Unsolved Nope, not that. Lockhart Saves Australia.
Unrelated. Moody Stops Bicycle Theft, Takes No Prisoners. Nothing to do with
him, certainly. Harry Potter Biography Hits Shelves, Shelves Hit Back.
Apparently Flourish and Botts had attracted a malicious poltergeist. Nimbus Two
Thousand Named Official Broom of Chudley Cannons. Yawn.
"Oh, by the way," Milo said as he read. "I found out what You-Know-Who is
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after."
"What?" Ron spluttered. "How?"
"Well, I cross-referenced everything on Harry's list with everything in the
Hogwarts Library relating to extending one's life," he said. "And the
Philospher's Stone is the only thing that appears in each. Nicolas Flamel was on
the back of Dumbledore's chocolate frog card which were invented in 1983
back on the Hogwarts Express, which was, incidentally built in 1936, and he's
the creator of the Stone."
"Why does it matter that he was on the card?" Harry asked.
"Well, something as important as the motives of the main villain would have been
mentioned at least once by now by way of foreshadowing," Milo said. "Hells,
you've probably been in the same room as the thing at least once and didn't even
know it."
"Oh," said Hermione, sounding disappointed. "Here I'd hoped, against all reason,
perhaps, that you'd finally found an ounce of sanity and logic."
"Mark my words," Milo said. "He's after the Stone or he's a vampire."
"Well, if it's the stone he wants, we don't have anything to worry about,"
Hermione said. "Nicolas Flamel has it, and he's seven hundred years old. He's
been able to keep it safe all this time, he must be pretty good at it. I mean,
surely You-Know-Who isn't the first person to want to be immortal? I bet Flamel
has to fight off dark wizards every other fortnight."
"Well, I'm glad that's settled," Harry said, cutting off Milo's reply. "Wait
till you guys see what I got in the mail."
oooo
Harry was so excited he could hardly speak as they hurried to the Gryffindor
common room to open his package. He skipped up the stairs two at a time, and
blurted out the password to the Fat Lady so quickly he had to repeat it twice
before she was satisfied.
"It's a Nimbus Two Thousand!" Harry exclaimed.
"Don't be daft, mate," Ron said. "Anyone who owned a Nimbus wouldn't just give
it away."
"Oh, a broomstick," said Hermione. "Hooray."
"I had one of those, once," Milo said. "Stole it from a Death Eater I defeated.
Dumbledore took it, though."
"Course you did, mate," said Ron condescendingly. "Course you did."
"Hey, Harry," Milo said. "Tell me something: why were you so excited to get this
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broomstick?"
"It's a Nimbus Two Thousand!" Harry said, practically shouting. "They're
top-line racing brooms!"
"Right, right, but how do you know that?" Milo asked.
Harry frowned.
"I saw one in the shop in Diagon Alley," he said. "There was a crowd around it
and everything."
"Ron, correct me if I'm wrong," Milo said to the redheaded boy, "but aren't
there a number of top-line racing brooms out there?"
"Well, yeah, but the Nimbus is the best one," said Ron.
"Sure, but still there'd be ones that are used by, I dunno, national sports
teams that still far outstrip those used by Hogwarts players, and are maybe
almost as good as the Nimbus?"
"Well, sure," Ron said thoughtfully. "There's the Comet Four-Eighty and it's
hush-hush, but apparently Firebolt is working on something really fantastic."
"Yet none of those," Milo said with satisfaction, "were on Harry's list of
notable items."
The four fell silent.
"There's a perfectly rational explanation," Hermione said. "McGonagall took
Harry to Diagon Alley, remember? She must have seen it there."
Milo laughed.
"Of course there's a rational explanation, if you look closely enough. Still
bears thinking about. Which is why we need to worry about this Philosopher's
Stone. It just keeps popping up."
"When I was in Diagon Alley," Harry said excitedly. "Hagrid took us to a
mysterious vault in Gringott's and all that was in it was a tiny package! I
bet it was the Stone!"
"Oh, come on," Hermione said. "That's just ridiculous if it were the Stone,
Dumbledore would have gone himself, surely. He's the only one Voldemort was ever
scared of."
"But Gringott's was broken into that same day, but they didn't find what they
were looking for!" Harry continued. "Remember, it was all over the news? They
didn't find it because Hagrid took it to Hogwarts!"
"Or, maybe they just couldn't find it or they were after something else or
Gringott's vault security, famed in the world, it employs dragons after all, was
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too good for them," said Hermione with growing frustration.
"Wait, wait, wait is Gringott's some sort of bank?" Milo asked.
All three of them gave him the usual look.
"If the security is so good, why is it overrun with goblins?" Milo asked.
"The goblins are the security, duffer," Ron said. "They run the bank. It's their
bank. A goblin bank."
Milo couldn't take it anymore.
"This world is insane!" he shouted. "GOBLINS running a bank? Dragonhide gloves?
TWELVE uses of dragon's blood? What are they, raised in farms? Elves cooking,
as servants? Wands? There's only one person in the entire country who makes your
wands and he's just allowed to wander about! What if he trips and dies, or some
evil git what the Hells is a git, anyways comes by and knifes him? What will
you all do then? Also, broomsticks? If you're all wizards, why don't you just
cast Fly? By Bigby, why don't you just cast Fly? You have infinite spells per
day and you let goblins guard your gold! With dragons! More dragons! You have
centaurs living in your forest Centaurs. The only possible reason having four
legs with hooves would be an advantage is if you were in the open plains! It's
like... it's like someone who had only vaguely heard of real magic got all the
words right but their meanings completely wrong!"
"You about done, mate?" Ron asked. "'Cause our magic is just as real. You see us
using it every day, it's just a bit different from what you're used to."
"Yeah, I'm done. So. Your resident Dark Wizard is trying to get the
Philosopher's Stone. The Stone is in Hogwarts. Dumbledore is guarding the stone,
apparently, but just being in Hogwarts isn't guarding guarding is guarding.
He'd have to be sitting next to the thing, all day, every day, for it to be
really safe. Seeing as how the other professors, perhaps with the exception of
McGonagall, are either completely useless, dead, or downright evil, that leaves
us."
"Leaves us for what?" Ron asked.
"When Voldemort oh, shut up, Ron, it's just a name makes his move, we have
to stop him," Harry said quietly. "He killed my parents. He killed a lot of
people's parents. We need a plan, though."
"I'd just like everyone to realize you have nothing remotely concrete," Hermione
said. "The world doesn't work that way. You-Know-Who is dead. Flamel has the
Philosopher's Stone. Professor Snape is stern and sometimes maybe a little
unfair, but he's not evil. Until you can prove even one of those statements is
wrong, you can do this without me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have
Transfiguration homework as do you, in point of fact." With that, she stood up
and strode out of the room.
"You know, she has a point," Ron said. "What we've got is a bit thin. Mind,
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Snape's evilness is pretty self-evident."
"Right, well, I think someone tried to kill me the other night," Milo said. "And
even if I can't remember it happening, I'll find out how. Tomorrow, when I've
got my spells back, I'm going back to the Forbidden Forest. Something's not
right."
"The forest with the giant spiders, the werewolves and I know it's not a full
moon the human-hating centaurs, the... that's actually all that I can
remember, but I'm sure it's just the beginning," Ron said.
"Unicorns," Harry said. "What's killing the unicorns? And why?"
"Uh," Milo said. "I don't know, yet." Even Scholar's Touch had limitations
each one allowed him to read one book per level (so, four books, for those
keeping score back home) but he could only cast so many per day. He resolved
that from here on out, whenever he had extra spells remaining before going to
bed, he was going to burn them on Scholar's Touch until he'd learned everything
there was to know about this zany campaign setting. Seriously, he thought. This
place makes Eberron look as familiar as Faerun. "But I can find out tomorrow
or maybe the day after."
"Right. Once you can prove it was Snape who tried to kill you and come on, it
totally was then Hermione can help, and she probably already knows loads about
unicorns and things we don't even know to look for," Harry said. "Meanwhile, Ron
and I are going to try to find out everything we can about the Philosopher's
Stone and Nicolas Flamel. He's a seven-hundred year-old wizard, right? I bet
he's really famous. "
"Yeah," Ron said. "He was like, the Dumbledore of his day. I heard he's the one
who trained Dumbledore he might well be the most powerful wizard alive,
really, if he hadn't retired. That kind of takes you out of the running,
retirement."
oooo
Fortunately, the next day was Saturday, so Milo didn't have to worry about using
his spells to bluff his way through classes. Instead, he prepared the same
combat spells he did on the first trip into the forest, and set out. This time,
there would be nobody to rescue him so he went in the middle of the day,
protected by his invisible Mage Armour.
"Locate Object: acromantula's corpse," he cast, swapping out Mirror Image. As
far as the magic was concerned, a dead creature was an object (unless it was
undead, of course).
"You know," he muttered to himself as he followed the path set out by the spell.
"I think I've realized why I'm having so much trouble here. I was really
designed to neutralize a horde of enemies so that Zook and the others can take
them out with pointy sticks and things," he said. "My spell selection was never
designed to win fights solo." Now that he thought about it, Milo realized he
didn't have anything actually, you know, lethal. Just sort of annoying. "The
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other thing about this crazy world," he complained. "There's no Wizards. I mean,
there's these people here who call themselves wizards, but they're really more
like Warlocks gone wrong. But no proper Wizards." No Wizards meant he couldn't
copy spells for any amount of money, which is why his selection was still so
limited. Every level, all Wizards learned a mere two new spells from independent
research.
"It's all so unfair," he muttered. "I have to re-invent the wheel every time I
want to learn a new spell. Ah, here we are."
He turned a somewhat familiar corner and felt the angle of Locate Object change
suddenly, meaning he was close. It all looked so different during the day, but
there was the web-covered tree. He couldn't believe he hadn't noticed it during
the night, there really was a lot of web everywhere.
He cautiously approached the remains of the monstrous spider. Were Milo a normal
human, he would be repulsed by the smell but, Milo's nose, like those of
everyone from his world, only picks up on plot-sensitive scents. The rest are
just assumed to be there, but not explicitly mentioned.
If Milo had thought that the acromantula would look less frightening during the
light, he would have been wrong. It was enormous. His estimate of fifteen feet
across was wrong it was closer to twenty-five. Milo shuddered.
"A-ha!" he exclaimed. "That thing is way too large to have been killed by that
little log I dropped," he said. The log weighed at most 400lbs, because that was
as much as Levitate could carry, and only dropped twenty feet (the furthest he
could raise it in the one round he had to do so) meaning it only did 2d6 damage.
That's twelve, max, and if acromantulas (acromantulae?) are anything like the
monstrous spiders back home then it should have had twenty-four hit points,
minimum, but probably closer to fifty-two. "It should have shrugged that off and
bitten me in half."
Milo frowned. There was more, too. Even if the spider was only CR 2, he should
have had somewhere in the vicinity of 22 hp and Milo only did, maximum, 12
damage. Actually, he added mentally, 15 with Acid Splash. But the odds of that
happening are slim only one in 108. He shouldn't have been able to even kill a
CR 1 monstrous spider with all he did. And from what the people around here had
been saying, acromantulas were dangerous. Really dangerous. From that alone, he
would have thought that they were Challenge Rating four or more.
He moved closer to the body to investigate. It was, clearly, quite dead.
"So what happened to you, big guy? Were you already wounded? Expose the Dead,"
he cast, switching out Levitate. This was a spell the good people of Eberron had
developed, but it had been carried to Milo's world by powerful spellcasters
using Planeshift. He'd never actually seen it done before, and had no idea how
to cast it, but Spontaneous Divination let him do it anyways. Best ability ever.
Anyways the spell gave him a gigantic bonus to searching crime scenes, and let
him discover clues as if he were a trained professional. Some quick math told
him that he'd have to be able to beat DC fifteen (easy, given his massive
Intelligence and the bonus from the spell) to find a clue, if there was one, and
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then twenty-one to figure out any information from it. He frowned. It would take
a twenty-six to find out everything he needed, and that was beyond him without
more magical assistance.
"Master's Touch, Instant Search," he cast, this time in favour of Grease and
Glitterdust, respectively. He was starting to worry that he would run out of
spells before he was done. The spells together gave him another +6 to search.
Details of the spider's corpse, more than he really wanted to know in point of
fact, suddenly appeared in his mind as if he'd diligently investigated the body.
Aside from a few long-since healed scars on its side and face, a sprained ankle
(do spiders have ankles?), minor acid burning and 400lb of tree sitting on its
back, the spider was in perfect health except that it was missing one of its
fangs.
"Well," Milo said triumphantly. "This explains everythi wait a minute, no it
doesn't. Can acromantulas shoot fangs? Why didn't I feel it? I know I didn't
take any damage." Milo was aware, at any given time, how many hit points he had.
"Well," he said. "You weren't a wounded high-CR monster, or I would have found
the other injuries. You weren't CR 1, or I would have gotten less Experience
Points. You weren't weak to acid, or there would be more serious burns. There is
only one possible conclusion... and it changes everything," he said, pausing
dramatically for the scene to change.

Chapter 7: The Potions Master

"I'm just sad I didn't get to see his face when he read the Daily Prophet,"
Malfoy sniggered. Several Slytherins laughed as well. "I'll bet he was like,
'BWAH,'" he said, making a face that would match 'BWAH' rather well, in fact.
"Teach him to mess with Slytherin in our own dungeon," Crabbe (or Goyle) said.
"Yeah, shows him to mess with us in our own classroom," said Goyle (or Crabbe).
"And for that time on the train," Crabbe (probably) added.
"Yeah, that time on the Hogwarts express," said Goyle.
"Yeah, and for when Potter got the Remembrall from you," Crabbed continued.
"Yeah, for that time he showed you up in flying in front of everyone and got
Longbottom's Remembrall," Goyle clarified.
"And then when he got put on the Quidditch team even though first years aren't
allowed."
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"Yeah, for when the teachers were so impressed at how great his flying was that
he became the youngest Seeker in a century," said Goyle.
"In future," Malfoy said coldly, "could you two not list out every time they've
shown us up whenever I have a victory?"
"Sorry boss," said Crabbe. "It's just that they have so, you know, many of
them."
"Yeah boss," said Goyle. "They have so many, and they're real easy to remember,
because everyone always talks about them."
Malfoy sighed. He wondered if the warranty had expired, or if he couldn't just
send these two back for a pair of shiny, new goons.
oooo
"I can't help but feel like there was something I was supposed to do this
morning," Milo said as he walked back to the castle from the forest, "but I just
can't remember what it was. Can't have been very important."
oooo
Hermione was forced to admit to herself, however reluctantly, that she was dead
bored. The three boys were total morons, but they did make things interesting.
She wondered if there was some way she could work her way back into their
preposterous plan without looking exceedingly foolish. She applied her towering
intellect to the problem, hypothesized various scenarios and predicted their
likely outcomes, and thirty seconds later said:
"Nope."
Hermione sighed. It wasn't even that their points were even slightly convincing,
it was just that it was sort of fun, in a dark way, to imagine that You-Know-Who
really was returning and that he was after the Stone and Snape was a dark
wizard...
"But I can't go back on my position," she reminded herself. "Or I'll look like
an idiot."
"Yes, but just think," she countered, "what if it is true? What if Snape is
trying to get the Stone for You-Know-Who? Shouldn't I be helping put a stop to
this?"
"If it is, Dumbledore would know, and he would do something. He's the only one
You-Know-Who was ever afraid of, after all."
"But Dumbledore is just one person," the other side of her argued, "he could get
caught by surprise, or called away, or be sleeping, or distracted, or anything."
"But if Dumbledore isn't enough, how could I possibly help? I'm barely twelve."
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"Is that what everyone said in the last war?" she questioned herself. "Did they
just say, 'I'm only a dressmaker, Dumbledore will take care of it, and in any
case my marks in Defence Against the Dark Arts were rubbish,' and nobody did
anything?"
"Doing the opposite and going on a witch hunt now will only make things worse,"
she protested. "There's no knowing where it will end."
"Without a witch hunt, you'll never catch witches."
"I am a witch!"
"Youer, Iknow what I mean."
"So I'll just wait until there's proof," she said, "and then I'll help in any
way that I can. How is that not reasonable?"
"Just think, Hermione, think. Youer, Iknow what the problem is."
She sighed.
"It's that it's Harry and Ron that I'm depending on to find conclusive proof,"
she said defeatedly.
oooo
"Professor," Harry asked the ghost of Professor Binns politely, "Ron and I were
wondering if you could help us on a little independent research?"
"Researchmy helpindependentwhy, I'd be delighted!" the ghost said. "Would you
believe that in all my years of teaching, no student has ever asked me that?
What is it you need to know?"
"Nicolas Flamel," Ron said. "He just seemed like such a... a... uh, a dynamic
and interesting"
"historically significant" Harry added.
"yeah, historically significant, dynamic, interesting, historical, erm a,
figure." Ron finished lamely.
"And we'd love to hear everything you know about him," Harry said. For some
unimaginable reason, most of the library seemed to be checked out already (maybe
they were doing some re-organizing?) so they'd resorted to actually asking a
professor for help. It seemed to rub Harry the wrong way, somehow, going to an
adult, but it was all they could come up with.
Harry diligently tried, he really did, to listen to everything Binns said about
Flamel and to stay awake while doing so, but the stone's texture in the floor
was just so much more interesting. Ron's eyes developed a glassy look in under
five minutes (glassier than usual, that is), and by the third hour Harry wasn't
quite sure that he didn't look the at least as bad.
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"Well," he said after they'd (finally) left Binns' office, "that was, uh,
interesting."
"Was it?" Ron asked. "Glad to hear it."
"I think," Harry said, "that we might need Hermione."
"I was hoping you wouldn't say that, mate," Ron said with a sigh. "Did we learn
anything important, though?"
Harry shrugged.
"Flamel's a big, powerful wizard and master alchemist who found out how to
create a Philosopher's Stoneturns out, it's not necessarily a unique object,
but he only ever made the one, anywaywhich can turn lead into gold and create
the Elixir of Life. He used to fight Dark Wizards, but decided to retire with
his wife way back, and he's been sort of neutral since then. Keeps to himself,
mostly."
"So, nothing we didn't already know," Ron said. "Great, just great. Well, there
went our Saturday, eh?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "I hope Milo found something more useful in the Forbidden
Forest."
"And that he didn't get eaten by werewolves," Ron added.
oooo
Milo, in a rare moment of luck, made a Listen check successfully. He almost
wished he hadn't. He'd hoped to get out of the woods without the mandatory
random encounter.
"Invisibility," he said as he faded from sight. Hope it's not a false alarm, he
thought. That was my last 2nd-level spell.
All he'd heard was movement in the shrubs, and it could have been caused by
anything. Really, when it came down to it, Milo not only didn't know what kind
of creatures lived in this forest, but this world. Bugbears? Owlbears? Dire
bears? Giant bears? Shapeshifted druids in the form of bears? Gods help him,
grizzly bears?
As it turned out, it was far, far worse than any form of bear or bear-like
monstrosity.
It was Professor Snape.
Is he here looking for me? Or is he the one killing unicorns, and he's going for
another one? I could follow him, Milo thought, but Invisibility only lasts four
minutes. And if I run into trouble, I'm already out of spells. Milo bit his lip.
I feel like Harry Potter would for sure, but... well... this is a job for a
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Rogue. I've got no business sneaking around in a forest, tailing people. I'm a
Wizard, I should have people for this. He frowned.
"Hey, Mordy," he whispered, "time to put that +10 bonus to Move Silently to
use." Mordenkainen, who had been sitting on his shoulder, nodded gravely
(although Milo couldn't see, because the familiar was as invisible as he was)
and scampered noiselessly after the Potions Master.
oooo
"You're late," Lucius hissed. "You were supposed to be here forty-seven seconds
ago."
Snape said nothing.
"I need a favour," Lucius said. "It would do well for you to comply."
"Go on," Snape shrugged.
"There is a certain individual who, I understand, is a first-year student
attending Hogwarts," Lucius said. "He has no business here. Have him expelled."
"The Potter boy?" Snape grinned. He'd wondered when Lucius was going to make his
move against the Dark Lord's mortal enemy. Fortunately, he and Dumbledore had
prepared for this.
"No, we can deal with Potter later; I speak of one Mr. ... Amastacia-Liadon,"
Lucius said. He... no, it knows too much, whatever it is that we summoned,
Lucius thought. "Whatever you have to do, get him out of that school."
"It shall be as you say," Snape said. Now,
Time to get back at that boy for insulting
And unlike Potter, I'm under no obligation
before masking it. No sense letting Lucius

this is good news, Snape thought.


my house and attacking my students.
to protect him. Snape smiled briefly
know I'd do this one for free.

"It shouldn't be too hard for you," Lucius said. "He's not a wizard." I doubt
he's even human. We may have accidentally created some sort of ... Homunculus.
An artificial human. There's no telling what it might do.
oooo
When Milo returned to the castle, it was late afternoon. He was glad to make it
to safetynot because he thought he was really in any mortal danger, after what
he'd discovered in the forest, but because without any powerful spells he was as
good as useless if another plot hook appeared.
What he had to do was find Harry. He had a right to know about Milo's
discoveryit directly affected the Boy-Who-Lived, after all.
"M-M-Milo," Milo heard a familiar voice from behind him. "M-m-m-ight I have a
w-w-w-word with you?"
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"Sure," Milo said. "What's up, Professor?"
"E-enjoying the sun, I s-s-see?" Quirrell asked.
"It was sunny?" Milo asked. Nobody ever paid much attention to weather where he
was from, unless it was an ominous thunderstorm. "Well, then I guess I was. And
I went to check out that spider thingy I killed the other day."
"Oh, did you?" Quirrell asked. "Whatever for?"
"It's just that something seemed wrong about the whole thing. The tree really
shouldn't have killed it," he said.
"It looked like a pretty heavy tree to me," Quirrell said. "Maybe it was an
extraordinarily lucky hit?"
"Falling objects can't critical hit, because they don't make attack rolls," Milo
said. "It would be different if I threw it."
Quirrell paused.
"I'm sorry, what did you just say?"
"Ah, nevermind. I'll figure it out eventually. I don't suppose you noticed
anything?"
"No," said Quirrell. "I did notalthough just a moment ago, I did see the
Potions Master heading into the forest." Quirrell looked Milo directly in the
eye when he did, as if expecting something.
"Oh, did you?" Milo said. "Wonder what he was doing. Gathering rare potions
ingredients or something. Probably. Yeah, totally that." Natural 1 on Bluff.
Great. Just great.
"Of course. Well, I'll be seeing you in class Monday," Quirrell said.
oooo
Not a Wizard? Snape mused. What could that possibly mean? How could he be in
Hogwarts and not be a Wizard? I'll have to keep a closer eye on him in class...
Snape's breath caught. The only reason Lucius would have an interest in him is
if the boy's tale were true, he thought. So, impossible as it seems, he really
is from another world.
Snape was caught in a dilemma. If he refused to do as Lucius asked, it would
blow his cover with the Death Eaters, and his position there would be necessary
in the next war. And, though he tried to keep it from influencing his decision,
he did want to get his revenge with Milo for 'accidentally' blinding his
students. But... Snape was under no illusions about what Lucius would do to Milo
once the boy was outside of the wards and away from Dumbledore's protection.
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The Snape that everyone knew, the pawn of Lucius, would comply. If he didn't, it
would confirm any suspicions Lucius had about him being a double agent. And
besides, if Milo really wasn't a wizard, then it would be Snape's duty as
professor to make sure he was expelled. Besides, Milo wasn't anyone important.
It was unfortunate, perhaps, but the boy had become a pawn that needed to be
sacrificed to protect the king.
Snape was broken out of his reverie when he bumped into the Defence Professor.
"S-s-s-sorry, S-S-Severus," Quirrell stammered and scurried away. Snape shook
his head. It should have been me with that position, Snape thought. Quirrell is
much more suited to his old job as Professor of Muggle Studies.
Hang on, Snape thought. He could practically hear the wheels clicking in his
brain. What was it Quirrell said about Milo? That he was impressed with his
magical abilities? From what Snape had heard, Milo was one of the least gifted
students that Hogwarts had seen, apart from his occasional demonstration of
wandless magic. And after that acromantula attack, Quirrell had tried pretty
desperately to save the boy... most unusual. The Quirrell that Snape knew
fainted whenever he saw a spider.
Most unusual, indeed. With everything going on involving Milo, nothing, Snape
decided, should be treated as coincidence. Snape resolved to keep a closer eye
on the Defence Professor, and watch for an opportunity to prove Milo's lack of
magic. Shouldn't be too hard, he thought. I'll just have to wait for the other
students to progress somewhat. When he fails to do so as well, that will be
evidence enough.
oooo
Sometimes I'm so clever I outsmart myself, Milo thought bitterly. This is one of
those times.
"Squeak squeak squeak squeak," Mordy said excitedly. "Squeak squeak SQUEAK."
"Mordenkainen: I don't speak Rat," Milo said, his voice tinged with an edge of
frustration. Though they shared an empathic link, which let each know the
other's general mood and condition, they couldn't actually speak until Milo hit
level five.
"What's up, mate?" Ron asked him. Milo was sitting in Gryffindor Common Room,
trying to figure out what Mordy had seen Snape do. From what he could tell,
there was a great deal of squeaking involved. Ron and Harry had just walked
through the portal, looking despondent.
"I found Snape sneaking about in the forest and had Mordy tail him, but I
evidently didn't think very far ahead when I did. You ever hear of a spell that
lets you talk to animals?"
"Nope," Ron said. "Except for Parselmouths, of course."
"Parcel mouths?" Milo asked. "What are those, aside from the worst thing to get
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in the mail imaginable?"
"Blimey!" Ron exclaimed. "Everyone knows about Parselmouths."
Harry sighed.
"Ron, I thought I asked you to stop doing that?" Potter said. "I was raised by
Muggles, and Milo's from another planet or something."
"Oh, right. Sorry."
"We know as much about Parselmouths as we did about Quidditch," Harry continued.
"Sorry."
"Which is to say absolutely nothing."
"Sorry."
"Because we, unlike you, were not raised in Magical Britain."
"Sorry."
"Just saying."
"Right."
Milo coughed.
"Parselmouths?" he asked.
"Oh, right," Ron said. "Well, it's this really rare ability some people have
that lets them talk to snakes," Ron said. "It's said Slytherin was oneSalazar
Slytherin, that isand You-Know-Who. It's a sign of Dark Wizards, for sure. I've
never heard of any after You-Know-Who, and it's just snakes, anyway."
"Oh," Milo said. "Well, that's pretty useless." Harry, however, had gone
completely white.
"I have tothat is, I should probablyI'll just go. Er. Bye." Harry said, and
fled the Common Room.
"Well, that was weird," Ron said. "Wonder what that was all about?"
"Something significant, probably," Milo said. "But I don't think it has anything
to do with us, yet. We can always ask him later, but right now, I have to figure
out how to speak with this rat."
"So you can find out what evil things Snape was up to in the forest?" Ron asked.
"Yeah," Milo said. "then you can use it to get Hermione to help you figure out
what's going on with the Philosopher's Stone."
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"How do you know we need help?" Ron asked defensively. "For all you know, we
learned everything we needed today."
"Oh? Did you?"
"Maybe. I wasn't really listening, to be honest," Ron admitted.
"Which is why we need Hermione."
"Which is why you need to make your rat speak."
"Yeah."
"Bollocks," Ron said. "Best of luck."
There was a spell Milo knew of that would help, called Speak With Animals.
Unfortunately, it was only available to Rangers, Druids, and Bardsand Milo
would sooner die than become any of those. If he could get his hands on a
gnomea proper gnome, not one of those garden gnomes that Ron kept complaining
aboutthen they could maybe help, because they could speak with animals a few
times a day. Only burrowing animals, though. Milo wondered if rats counted as
burrowing animals or, if not, merely digging a hole once would count. He would,
technically be "burrowing."
Milo sighed. He didn't have a gnome, he didn't have a Ranger, he didn't have a
Druid, and he neither had nor particularly wanted a Bard.
"Squeak, squeak squeak," Mordy continued without pause.
There were only two options, as Milo saw it. He could attempt to push the rules
past breaking point and test if his Spontaneous Divination ability could mimic
Druid spells, or he could wait until levelling up to find out. The first option
risked calling righteous fury upon himself from above, while the second took
time and monster slaying. Unfortunately, patience was a virtue, and Milo was
True Neutral.
"Speak with Animals," Milo tried to cast, attempting to swap out Protection from
Evil. Other than losing the spell from his memorized list, nothing happenedbut
Milo felt a distinct sense of wrongness. It was as if the universe recoiled from
him slightly, pondered for a moment, then...
"Excuse me," Lavender Brown said to him, "Professor McGonagall told me to tell
you that Professor Snape wants to talk to you, like, right this second."
"I'm sure it's totally a coincidence," Milo said nervously as he started to
sweat. "Heh, heh. Hah. Coincidence. OhmygodsI'mgoingtodie." Lavender gave him a
sympathetic look, but said nothing.
Milo supposed he would just have to wait until he gained another level before
finding out what Snape was up to in the Forbidden Forest. And this, he thought
as he walked towards Snape's dungeon, is why you don't try to stretch the Rules
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as Written to allow more than 150% as much as the Rules as Intended, er,
intended.
I just hope I'll have the opportunity to live long enough to learn from my
mistake.
Milo knocked on the heavy wooden door to Snape's office, which created a
surprisingly loud echo.
"Enter," a voice said sternly from the other side of the door. Milo quickly ran
through his assets before opening the door: a pair of Prestidigitations and
Dancing Lights, an Acid Splash, a Protection from Evil, a Silent Image, anda
Feather Fall, as well as the contents of his Belt of Hidden Pouches.
So, not much.
Milo cautiously opened the door and walked in. Snape's office was... uniquely
atmospheric. There was an eyeball floating in a jar, and it was probably the
least creepy thing there.
"Ah, mister Amastacia-Liadon," Snape said. "I've been expecting you."
Milo whimpered quietly. Sitting on Snape's desk was a lustrous black flask
inlaid with a silver skull pattern. There was a skull-shaped stopper with
reflective red eyes. To complete the image, the eyes glowed slightly.
"Madam Pomfrey has instructed me to give you this," he said, gesturing at the
very, very evil flask. "It contains a week's worth of antidote for acromantula
venom," Snape continued. "You are to drink one teaspoon every night, ideally
within a minute or two of midnight for full effect."
"W-why midnight?" Milo stammered.
"Oh, just so your body has time to process it before breakfast."
"W-why the sk-skulls?"
"It's the only flask I had in the correct size."
"Oh." That didn't, of course, answer the question of why he possessed such a
flask in the first place. It looked more suited to holding the blood of
sacrificial maidens than medicine. Well, no matter, Milo could just cast Detect
Poison on it as soon as he left the office to see if it was dangerous.
"Oh, before you go, make sure you don't drink more than your prescribed amount,"
Snape warned. "That's a powerful poison in large quantities." Well, Milo
thought, there goes that plan. It would just register as poisonous anyways. The
safest option is to just toss a teaspoon of it down the drain every night and
hope for the best.
"And make sure you don't miss a night, either," Snape said. "Or the venom could
relapse, and you'll most likely die." Oh, come on.
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"Oh. Um, thanks," Milo said. "I'll just, ah, go now. Bye, Professor." Milo fled
the room, and didn't stop running until he was in front of the Fat Lady.
"Password?" she asked.
"Squeak," Milo said, and the painting swung open to reveal Gryffindor Tower.
Milo found Ron and Harry sitting at a table by themselves playing Wizard Chess.
Harry had evidently returned from his weird flight earlier, but still looked a
little shaken. Milo was no chess expert, but judging by the fact that Harry only
had two pieces left, Ron was winning.
Milo collapsed into an overstuffed armchair and slammed the accursed flask on
the table.
"Detect Poison, Detect Magic," he started casting rapidly.
"Bloody hell, mate," Ron said, staring at the skulled flask. "What's in there,
You-Know-Who's tears?"
"Identify, Ancient Knowledge, Appraising Touch," Milo continued casting
uninterrupted.
"What's that you're muttering?" Harry said. "Are you sweating? What happened?"
"It's poisonous and apparently nonmagical," Milo said to himself. "But that
broomstick didn't appear to be magical, either. It could have a Magic Aura cast
on it to conceal it from detection," Milo said, "or something more powerful.
Otherwise I don't know at all what's in there... And it could really be
poisonous, and Snape was just saying 'it's poisonous in large quantities' as an
excuse to make me ignore the results of Detect Poison. Although Snape can't have
known that I could do that, could he? Nobody here knows what my capabilities
are, right? Unless he can read minds... Nah. Will is my highest save, that would
never work. But Detect Poison only detects, like, actual, literal poison," he
continued. "It wouldn't say anything was wrong if this were say, a Potion of
Bestow Curse or Potion of Horrid Wilting... No, potions only go up to 3rd-level
spells... so the worst it could be is, say, a Potion of Inflict Critical Wounds,
maybe, which would still be more than enough to kill me. Or whatever the closest
analogue is in this world."
"Sorry, what?" Ron asked.
"But if Snape is telling the truth and I don't drink tonight it I'll die." Milo
ran his fingers through his hair. "Did Snape really give me an antidote that's
technically poisonous just to fool my Detect Poison spell? And then make it into
a lethal, but technically non-poisonous potion of some horrendous instant death
spell once I'd concluded it wasn't really poisonous, at least in small doses,
and therefore it's safe? Surely nobody's brain is that twisty..."
"Yours is, mate," Ron pointed out.
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"But if this is going to kill me, why did he put it in such an over-the-top
flask?" Milo asked.
"Uh," Harry said, "I'm not really sure what you're talking about, but maybe he
gave you that flask of doom so you'd think 'surely no-one would put actual
poison in something like this' and then you'd drink it."
"Ah!" Milo exclaimed. "You could be right! I'm going to die I never should have
tried to speak to this useless rat!"
Over on the other side of the common room, Hermione rolled her eyes, put her
book aside, and stood up exasperatedly.
"I couldn't help but overhear your anguished shrieks of, well, anguish,"
Hermione said walking over. "And why would Snape poison you with something
everyone knows he gave you?"
"So you do think Snape's evil!" Ron said.
"No, dimwit," Hermione said, rolling her eyes again. "I said 'assuming your
half-brained theory is correct and Snape is evil,' first. Remember?"
"You did?" Ron frowned. "I don't remember that, actually."
"Then try listening, next time, maybe?" Hermione asked testily. "Anyway," she
continued as if Ron hadn't spoken, "if you drunk that and died, everyone would
know Snape did it."
"I'd still be dead!" Milo protested.
"What I meant is, he wouldn't do it if it would reveal himself. Obviously."
"No, because he explicitly stated it would kill me if I either didn't drink it
or if I drank too much," Milo countered, speaking rapidly. "So say I do drink it
and I die, he could just say, 'oh, that poor stupid boy, he must have overdosed
himself by accident, what a tragedy, oh, me, I'm so sorry, he showed so much
promise, mwa ha ha, we're all worse off for his untimely death, oh, the
humanity.'"
"So, ask Madam Pomfrey," Hermione said.
"Ask her what?" Milo asked, perplexed.
"If that's actually the antidote," she said.
Milo blinked.
"Why?"
"Because she'd tell you. She's a mediwitch; she knows what she's doing."
"I don't understand," Milo confessed. Asking adults for help was not something
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he, as an adventurer, had ever considered doing before.
"I'll use short, simple sentences so that even you can understand," Hermione
said sharply. "Take this flask. Go to the hospital wing. Say, 'Madam Pomfrey,
can you check that this is really acromantula antidote? I'm worried Snape gave
me the wrong flask by accident.' She'll look at it and say, 'yes, this is the
antidote, it's very dangerous so follow the directions precisely,' or,
alternatively, say, 'no, that's distilled nightshade, among the deadlier poisons
known to man.'"
"That's... a little unorthodox, but it just might work," Milo admitted. "But how
do I know I can trust Madam Pomfrey? Actually, what if Snape assumed I would ask
Pomfrey and deliberately made this here elixir of death to pass whatever test
she would think of?" he asked. "Because he certainly outsmarted mine."
"No," Hermione said. "You outsmarted yourself. Just drink it."
"On the plus side," Ron said. "If you do drink it and die, that will prove you
were right and Snape's evil and Hermione will help us stop him! It's a win-win."
"...but I'll be dead," Milo said.
"Can't have everything, mate," Ron shrugged.
"I've been outsmarted," Milo decided. "Whatever I decide, I'm probably falling
for Snape's evil plan. I'll just... I'll flip a copper piece. Emperor, I drink
it; Hydra, I don't."
He pulled out a copper from his Belt, and flipped it. It twirled four times in
the air, and landed with a heavy thud on the table.
The four of them stared at it in disbelief.
"Blimey," said Ron. "I... I didn't think that was even possible."
"It is, without a doubt, highly improbable," Hermione conceded.
The coin was sitting on the heavy wooden table, balanced perfectly on its edge.
oooo
Snape leaned back in his leather chair, smiling. He knew he wasn't supposed to
use Legilimency on students for his own amusement, but...
Even if I get sacked for this, he thought, it was, without a doubt, worth it. He
could only imagine the agony and indecision going through Milo's head after he'd
left.

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Chapter 8: Sidequests

The antidote, as it turned out, was harmless. That didn't stop Milo from buffing
himself up with a Resistance spell and keeping his Antitoxin on hand before
taking his dosage, however. Despite the fact that, aided by Snape's potion, Milo
recovered from the after-effects of his poisoning fairly quickly, the rest of
Autumn at Hogwarts was, well, unpleasant.
Harry and Ron made absolutely no progress in their hunt for information about
the Philosopher's Stone among the teachers, and for such a powerful and famous
artifact, Milo could barely find anything about it in the Hogwarts Library. He
Scholar's Touch-ed his way through mountains of thick, dusty tomes without even
opening their covers, and while he learned a lot of apparently useless
information, there was little that seemed relevant to him. Scholar's Touch
didn't grant any special powers to aid in memorization, so the fact that he
'read' the books so rapidly actually made it harder to keep his facts straight.
Still, he reckoned he'd absorbed enough general setting information that he
could start making Knowledge (History) checks about this world.
It was during this period that Milo noticed something unnatural about the people
here. The more he watched them learn, the less he was sure that they were even
human at allthey looked human, sure, but...
Well, to start, there was the food. The people here were obsessed with it, and
kept comparing the various flavours of dishes that the house-elves cooked up for
them (Milo was dying to meet one of the elves here, he was sure they could help
him. Elves were annoying, sure, but the pointy-eared pansies and magic went hand
in hand). Some even developed favourite foods and avoided certain ones
altogether. To Milo, food was a logistical challenge to be overcome while
adventuring and a source of danger if it ran low (thus, the Everlasting Rations,
which were all that Milo ever ate). The actual taste of food was something that
only came up in plot-relevant situations like smell, and the weather. The
people of Milo's world only smelled things when they were important, like a
Troglodyte's stench or a potential clue (or red herring, for that matter).
Otherwise, why bother even mentioning it?
Another peculiarity in these people was the inordinate amount of down time they
required. Milo had to spend eight hours sleeping and an hour memorizing spells,
but that left fifteen hours a day to put to use attending class, fighting
monsters, and crafting items off-screen. Milo knew an Artificer by the name of
Alton who, when he finally got his hands on a Ring of Sustenance, spent two
hours sleeping, eight hours crafting magic items (the maximum amount per day)
and the other fourteen hours in a day mass-producing baskets to fund his
adventuring. Alton did that every day for three hundred years straight, with
breaks to fight monsters to recover lost Experience Points, until he'd amassed a
fortune large enough to attract the attention of a wandering Blue Dragon.
Alton's unfortunate demise aside, it was just good sense to put their hours to
usethey were only given twenty-four in a day, after all. And besides, manual
labour was the sort of thing done during a timeskip, anyways, it's not like it
got in the way of the story. Even Hermione seemed shocked by the amount of time
he spent reading and working. In just one week, Milo managed to custom-tailor
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his fifth-hand Hogwarts uniform (untrained, but with +2 for masterwork tools
(which Milo also made himself) and +4 from his Intelligence) until it rivalled
Draco's in quality, read more books than any of his classmates (save Hermione)
could in a year, and carve holy symbols of Pelor, Heironeous, St. Cuthbert, and
Boccob into key locations around Gryffindor Tower. That had earned him some
strange looks, despite the fact that the residents there were fully aware that
there were vampires on the same continent as them. That was all in addition to
the daily chores all first year Gryffindors were required to do as punishment
for trying to kill or maim the Slytherins back in September. Milo theorized
that, while he had to spend an hour poring over his spellbook, performing arcane
research, and memorizing spells every morning, the Wizards here had to spend at
four to eight hours a day (judging by comparisons between Hermione and Ron, it
was an amount of time equal to eight minus their Intelligence Bonus, in hours
per day) sitting around on armchairs and talking about the weather.
But that wasn't the really weird thing. The more Milo watched these students in
their classes, the harder a time he had sleeping at night. The way they were
learning was wrong. It was oh, so, incredibly wrong. Ordinary people learned in
discrete increments: they levelled up, their powers, skills, and abilities
increased, and then they plateaued until attaining enough Experience Points to
go up another level. It was just obvious. That was, intuitively, the way
everyonehumans, elves, dwarves, kobolds, mindflayers, small fluffy hamsters,
everyonelearned.
Watching his fellow Gryffindors, Milo wondered, though it seemed impossible, if
their skills didn't develop gradually. There seemed to be a slow, constant
growth in magical ability, historical knowledge, broomstick skills, or whatever,
that depended on that student's particular aptitude in that area. Hermione, for
example, was the fastest to learn in Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms,
Transfiguration, Potions, Herbology, Astrology... actually, pretty much all of
their classes except for Broomstick Flying (which went to Harry, who was also,
to be fair, pretty close to even Hermione in Defence), and History of Magic (to
Milo's intense embarrassment, it was the only class he seemed to be doing any
good in, and even that was only as a result of his supersonic library binge).
That wasn't to say that Milo was completely useless in class, it was just... he
had to wait and hope that whichever particular Charm (this world had a totally
different definition of Charm than Milo's, which caused him no end of confusion)
they were about to learn was fairly close to his limited repertoire of spells so
he could fake his way through. If it wasn't... well, having to be helped by
Neville Longbottom when attempting to learn the Cutting Charm was somewhat
embarrassing. Transfiguration wasn't too bad. He managed to get by, to a certain
extent, with using Prestidigitation to change the colour and, on one memorable
occasion, taste of the object he was attempting to transfigure. He started out
ahead, but now he was barely scraping a A (which stood for Acceptable, and was
counter-intuitively, the lowest passing grade) but if he didn't get some new
spells soon, he'd slip into P (for Poor) territory with alacrity. Charms was
going distressingly poorly until Flitwick announced they'd be learning how to
levitate objects. Milo simply cast Levitate quietly then said "Wingardium
Leviosa" with the rest of them, and astonished the class and earned him five
House Points by lifting an entire table, complete with Neville (who had been
leaning against it and grabbed one of the legs in a panic as it started to float
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away) and lowering it back down again.
Defence Against the Dark Arts was kind of pointless. Quirrell, for all the
mystery surrounding him, didn't seem to care whatsoever about teaching. What
they did learn was mostly limited to dealing with magical household pests. Milo
was forced to wonder what the Muggles did when confronted with a Bowtruckle in
their trees, or if the magical creatures had an inbuilt sense of decency and
fair play, and as a result only targeted humans carrying wands. Milo caused
quite a stir when he suggested the best way to deal with vampires was to impair
them with Webs, Glitterdust, and Grease so that your non-spellcaster allies can
take them out with wooden stakes.
"You would bring Muggles with you?" Quirrell had asked, sounding genuinely
shocked.
"Well, sure. You don't see many a Wizard pumping irons or practicing
hand-to-hand combat, now do you? Deck 'em out in full plate, give 'em a pointy
stick, and point 'em in the right direction." It was incredible. They seemed to
never have heard of the concept of a meat shield, and even the Slytherins were
shocked and appalled when he attempted to educate them. That there was something
morally questionable about sending the heavily armoured, greataxe-wielding
barbarian with mighty thews out front to soak up damage had never occurred to
Milo. It seemed to him that the wizards here were remarkably selfish, never
giving a thought to how their nonmagical allies would feel when the spellcasters
hogged all the glory and XP with their vastly superior powers.
Broomstick lessons, however, were dreadful. Milo had come to the conclusion that
the broomsticks weren't actually magical at all, but that the local wizards had
a spell or class feature that let them animate certain broomsticks (probably
with a specific cost requirement, which is why they didn't use ordinary cleaning
mops) for flight. Milo, not having said spell or perk, was completely
unsuccessful at making the thrice-damned stick float, and finally gave up and
Levitated the accursed thing. This let him go up and down, but to move
horizontally he had to awkwardly kick off of walls and objects. He felt like a
six-year-old who'd accidentally been signed up for swimming lessons for
eight-year-olds, and was desperately trying to dog paddle around the room while
everyone else was demonstrating backstrokes.
The worst, the absolute worst, was Potions. Snape seemed to go out of his way to
make Harry's life as miserable as possible, which was annoying, but the
concerning thing was how he always kept a very close eye on Milo. The thing was,
the potions didn't work. He chopped up the ingredients exactly how the book
suggested and made sure to turn the spoon clockwise three times and
counterclockwise one-and-a-half times, or whatever, but nothing happened. Even
Neville's potions occasionally exploded, or melted, or screamed, or caught fire,
or in one case got up and ran out of the room blabbering about the Kennedy
Assassination. But Milo's potions, though Milo would bet his spellbook he was
doing everything right, were just water with stuff floating in them. Whenever
one of Harry's potions failed catastrophically, Snape would deduct house points
and scold him, but whenever he noticed that Milo's was use-impaired (Milo was
hesitant to call them useless, because they could still be, and frequently were,
employed to put out fires) Snape just smiled to himself and made a note in the
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compact, leather-bound notebook he carried about his person.
It was that evening that Milo learned about Hallowe'en.
"So, what are you going as?" Hannah Abbot asked him. She seemed to enjoy sitting
next to him at meals for some inexplicable reason. Milo only bothered to go to
the Great Hall for dinner (as opposed to munching on Everlasting Rations in his
dorm) because he'd noticed a correlation between mealtimes there and having
important conversations.
Milo blinked in surprise. Being knocked out of a timeskip was rather like
spending the whole day reading a good book, then remembering you had a party to
go to, but the book was so good that you read it the whole way on the bus and
were completely distracted and absent-minded all evening, until you hear someone
say your name from the other side of the room, and snap. Broken out of your
reverie, just like that.
"Sorry, say that again?" Milo asked. "I was distracted."
"I was just asking what you were going to dress up for on Hallowe'en," Hannah
asked.
"No, that still doesn't make any sense. What's Hallowe'en?"
Hannah blinked, shook her head slightly, and blinked again. She looked like
someone had just asked her what a Natural 20 was.
"You don't even know? Everyone knows what Hallowe'en is!" she exclaimed.
Milo sighed.
"Look, I've been over this. I wasn't raised by wizards, etcetera etcetera, fill
me in?"
"No, but even Muggles know about Hallowe'en!" Hannah said.
"I'm not from around here, remember?" Milo reminded her.
"Well, I guess, it's a holiday where everyone dresses up as monsters and goes
around taking candy from strangers," Hannah said. "Which always confused me a
little, because that's exactly what me mum is always reminding me not to do."
"I see," Milo said. "that seems... terribly mundane, actually. Surely I didn't
get pulled out of compressed time for that?" Milo frowned. "Harry," Milo said,
turning to his left, "is Hallowe'en written on your list, anywhere?"
"Ah, lemme check," Harry said, and flipped through his lengthy list of notes.
"Nope, not at all."
"Try All Hallows' Eve," Hermione suggested, "and Samhain."
"Hey, I thought you weren't helping?" Ron pointed out.
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"I'm not," she said defensively. "I'm just... advising. Oh, and Harry, try just
looking for October Thirty-First."
"Advising is helping. And of course Hallowe'en is significant for Harry," Ron
said. "Everyone knowsoh, right, sorry. I forgot. Anyway, it's the day that
Harry defeated You-Know-Who ten years ago."
"You mean, the day when my parents..." Harry sighed.
"Uhm. Right. Sorry," Ron said apologetically.
"Still don't see what's important about that," Milo said. Hermione shot him a
look that could curdle milk, nodding slightly towards Harry. "I mean, aside
from, you know, being tragic. Just tragic. Uh. Terrible, that is. Tragic and
terrible."
"Don't worry about it," Harry said quietly.
"Oh, phew." Milo said, relieved, before moving on to what he saw as more
pressing issues. "Anyways. Tenth anniversary of You-Know-Who's alleged demise?
Dumbledore doesn't look very concerned," Milo said, nodding to the eccentric
Headmaster at the Head Table, "meaning there was nothing about it in the
Prophecy."
"Wait, what Prophecy?" Hermione asked.
"There's always a Prophecy, Hermione," Milo rolled his eyes. "Everyone knows
that."
"Point for his side," Ron muttered.
"I hadn't realized we were keeping score," Hermione said sharply.
"We're Quidditch players," Ron said nodding to Harry, "we always keep score."
"So, when's this Hallowe'en thing?" Milo asked.
"October Thirty-First," Hannah supplied. "Tomorrow."
"Hermione," Milo said. "If I'm right, and something dramatic does happen
tomorrow evening, will you admit that I'm right, that Snape is evil, that the
Philosopher's Stone is involvedthat it's maybe even at Hogwarts, in or about
the clearly relevant third floor corridorthat You-Know-Who isn't really dead,
and that... wait, was there something else? No, I think that's about it. Anyway,
will you?"
"Nope," Hermione said simply. "Because there is absolutely no correlation
between any of those events. Say, tomorrow, the Chamber of Secrets is opened and
Muggleborns start dying. There's no connection between that and You-Know-Who
being alive. If You-Know-Who is alive, that's absolutely no reason to think that
Snape is, quote, evil. If Snape is evil, that's no reason to think the
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Philosopher's Stone is in Hogwarts. Unless Snape releases Slytherin's Monster to
use as a distraction so he can get the Stone to bring You-Know-Who back to life.
That would make perfect sense, actually. Can the Philospher's Stone do that?"
"The great Hermione Granger, asking a question?" Milo laughed. "Well, mine can.
That is, Philosopher's Stones' from my universe can bring back the dead "
"What?" Harry asked quietly. "Really?"
"Sure," said Milo. "Of course, any old Cleric can do the same for a few gold
pieces and some diamond powder, so I don't really see what the big deal is."
Harry choked on his food.
"Wh-wh-what?" he asked.
"Raise Dead, Resurrection, True Resurrection, Reincarnate, Revivify, Miracle,
and Wish," Milo said, ticking off his fingers as he listed the spells, "are all
spells that can bring back the dead, to name a few."
"Y-you can bring the dead back to life?" Harry asked.
"Me? Ha! Boccob, No. It's really more Divine spellcaster territory. I think, but
I'd have to do a little research to be sure, that Wizards have to use Wish to do
it, and it's really powerful magic. Demands a huge sacrifice of Experience, and
in any case it's way beyond my abilities."
"Oh," said Harry, looking crestfallen.
"Milo," Hermione said acidly, "You and I will have words about this later.
You're going to have to learn some tact one of these days, even if I have to
shove it down your throat at wandpoint."
"Point for her side," Ron said.
"Oh, shuttup. So the Philospher's Stone can bring back the dead?" Hermione
asked.
"What? Oh, haha, no. Yours can't, anyways. From what I found in the library, it
just turns stuff into gold and lets you live forever."
"Well, that's aah. Nevermind," Hermione said, glancing at Harry.
"That's a what, Hermione?" Harry asked.
"Well, it means You-Know-Who can't come back, so it's kind of a..."
"A relief, isn't it? That the Stone can't bring back the dead?" Harry pushed.
"Yes, if you must know, that's what I was going to say. But that was before I
thought about it, and stopped myself, because I didn't initially think it
through the whole way."
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"Fair enough," Harry said.
"I think I missed something there," Ron admitted quietly to Milo.
"Hermione was about to say it was a relief that the Philosopher's Stone can't
bring back the dead, but right now Harry's thinking about his parents," Milo
explained in a whisper, "so she was as good as saying it'd be worth it that we
couldn't bring back Harry's folks, as well as anyone else decent who'd died,
just to keep You-Know-Who down."
"Let's try to stay on topic, okay?" Harry asked.
"Right. Sorry," Hermione apologised.
"Forget it. What should we do about tomorrow?" Harry wondered.
"Tell a professor," Hermione shrugged.
"We can't very well go up to McGonagall and say, 'excuse me, Professor,
tomorrow's Hallowe'en and Milo's Spidey Sense is tingling so can you lock down
the school, just to be sure?' she'd think we were nuts, for sure," Harry said.
"What's a Spidey Sense?" Ron asked.
Harry suppressed a grin.
"Blimey! You don't even know what the Spider-Sense is? Everyone knows that! It's
Spider-Man's ability to sense danger before it happens," Harry said. "How on
Earth did you become eleven years old and not know that?"
"Point for his side," Hermione smirked. "But Harry makes a good point. The
reason it sounds crazy is because it still is crazy."
"You're too hung up on actual, you know, facts, Hermione," Milo said. "Just be
on your toes tomorrow, okay? That goes for everyone," Milo added.
"In all seriousness, what could I possibly do, even on my toes?" Hermione asked.
"Use the Levitating Charm to save the day? Transfigure up some sewing needles?
I've only been a Witch for two months. I'll stay inside the castle tomorrow, not
that I have much choice, because someone got us all a full year of detention.
Aside from that, I don't know about you, but I'm going to enjoy Hallowe'en in
family tradition, passed down the Granger line for generations: by revising and
doing homework. Exams are only eight months away, after all." She sighed, a
slightly dreamy expression coming over her, "I do so love Hallowe'en. Which
brings me to the matter at hand: Harry, Ron, and I have to go now."
"What?" asked Harry.
"What?" asked Ron.
"I said that already," said Harry.
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"Yeah, but, I was confused, too, right?" said Ron.
"I just don't think it added much, is all. It was, what's it called...
redundant."
"I think it's considered polite to say learning disabled now, actually," said
Ron primly, "and I don't care for your tone at all."
Hermione coughed.
"Right. Why were we leaving, Hermione?" Harry asked.
"For a very important thing that we have to do far over there," she said,
pointing frantically to the far corner of the Great Hall. "You know? The thing?"
"Uh, nope, Hermione, sorry," Ron said. "I think you've lost a marble or ten. I
have no idea what you're talking about."
"Oh, just get up and walk, Weasley, Potter, or I swear I'll... I'll... I'll
think of something," she threatened. "and mark my words: I am very good at
thinking of things. Very, very good. Bwa, ha, ha."
"Did you just say Bwa ha ha?" Harry asked.
"Pardon," Hermione said. "I appear to have caught the hiccups."
"Only that didn't sound like a hiccup," Ron said. "It was more of a, you know,
evil laugh, sort of thing."
"Nope, it was a hiccup. What would an eleven year old girl be doing laughing
evilly? I hiccupped. I even covered my mouth and everything."
"Only... only, aren't you twelve?" asked Ron.
"Ron, mate," Harry whispered. "I think we should just go with her. It's less
painful that way."
"Fine," Ron muttered, and they stood up and walked away. Hermione kept glancing
surreptitiously back at Milo and Hannah.
"Well," Milo said, taking a bite out of his Everlasting Rations. "That was...
weird."
"Yeah, kinda," Hannah agreed evasively. "Anyway, about Hallowe'en tomorrow...?"
oooo
"He thinks he's so clever," Malfoy sneered. "He has no idea what's coming to
him."
"Yeah!" said Crabbe (or Goyle).
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"Right!" said Goyle (or Crabbe, but you get the idea, right?)
"After the last one, he acted like he didn't care, but you could tell. Oh, man,
you could tell, if you looked close. Real close," Malfoy said. "I got him, like,
right to the core. Just wish I saw him read the paper."
"Yeah, we got him deep down," said Crabbe.
"Yeah, we got him so deep you'd need a Bubble-Head Charm to swim down there to
see," said Goyle.
"Yeah, so deep you'd die from the pressure," said Crabbe.
"Okay, guys. Seriously, stop that," said Malfoy. "You aren't helping."
"Yeah, you're not helping, Goyle," said Goyle. Wait, Crabbe. Said Crabbe. Phew,
close call.
"Yeah, you're just making things worse, Crabbe," said Goyle.
Draco rolled his eyes.
"This time," Draco said, "this time, it'll get him so bad he won't even be able
to hide it. He'll be begging for mercy. And you know what I'll do then?"
"Relent, as he's seen the error of his ways, and demonstrate your kind,
forgiving personality?" suggested Goyle.
"Relent, and buy him a puppy," said Crabbe. "A fluffy one. So he doesn't feel so
bad about losing."
Draco gave them a peculiar look. Seriously, what was with these two?
"Nah, I'll kick 'im!" he cackled.
"Yeah!" said Crabbe.
"Yeah!" added Goyle, not wanting to feel left out. Goyle frowned, which made his
forehead looked a little like Mount Etna would if it collapsed slowly and
said, "So, boss, what's the plan?"
"The plan? You want to know the plan?"
"Yeah, boss, so's we can help," said Crabbe.
"Yeah, boss, so's we can... know the plan," said Goyle.
"I'll tell you the plan! It'll all go down tomorrow," Draco said. "Do you know
what day it is tomorrow?"
"Uh," said Crabbe. "Thursday?"
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"No!" shrieked Malfoy. "Well, actually, yes. Tomorrow is Thursday. But that's
not what's important!"
"Uh," said Goyle. "Friday?"
"No!" shrieked Malfoy. "Wait... what? Look, Goyle, I just said that tomorrow is
Thursday. Surely even you... I mean, really?"
"Well, you also said it wasn't what was important, so I thought, maybe the
important thing about tomorrow is that, while it's Thursday, it's really Friday.
You know?"
"Uh," said Malfoy. "No... not... really..." he frowned. "Look, guys, we're
getting off topic. It's not about the day of the week, okay?"
"Oh! Oh! I love this game," said Goyle. "Is it smaller than a breadbox?"
"Uh. Well, kinda, I guess, in an abstract sort of sense, tomorrow is bigger than
a breadbox... wait, no! We're not playing Twenty Questions! Just... just... just
guess, okay? It's like, really obvious. Here's a hint, even. Today's the
Thirtieth of October, so tomorrow is..."
"Friday!" said Crabbe.
"You're fired. You're both fired."
"The Thirty-First!" said Goyle.
"Yes!" Malfoy resisted, barely, the temptation to fist-pump. "And what happens
every year on October Thirty-First?"
"Hallowe'en!" said Crabbe.
"NO! Well, actually, yeah, again, kinda. But once again, you're right but
completely wrong! Tomorrow morning is the Northwestern Regional Semi-Finals for
the UK Quidditch League!"
"Bwa ha ha!" Crabbe cackled.
"Mwa ha ha!" Goyle cackled, too.
oooo
"I'm confused," Ron admitted.
"Well, there's a surprise. Look," Milo explained, "a sidequest is a short
adventure at most tangentially related to the major events of the story used
primarily for character development."
"Character development?" asked Ron.
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"Yeah. Getting hauls of XP, magic items, and gold, and thus making your
character more powerful, or developed. Character development."
Harry frowned. "Look, unlike you two, I actually went to primary school, and I'm
fairly certain that's not actually what character development means."
"Irregardless," Milo began.
"Not a word," Harry muttered.
"Says the boy on the Quidditch team. Anyways, regardless there, happy? of
the meaning of character development, sidequests are brief excursions, more
focussed on a single idea, generally simpler, and also where most of the best
loot comes from."
"And that's why you're going on a date with the cute blonde?" asked Fred (or
George, but we're not starting this again, okay?).
"Not a date. A sidequest," corrected Milo. He, Ron, Harry, and the Weasley twins
were sitting in a corner in the Common Room. Milo had planned to co-ordinate his
Hallowe'en schedule with them, so that they'd all know where the others would be
at any given time (for when, inevitably, disaster struck) but the conversation
had taken an unexpected turn when he'd filled them in on his conversation with
Hannah.
"On a secluded, dare I say, private walk around the Hogwarts lake," said George,
"where, being right out in the open, of course, everyone can see you."
"Yeah. An adventure past a body of water filled to the brim with monsters of
every sort," said Milo.
"Ah, I see," Fred said knowingly. "So you can protect the fair maiden, eh?"
"Well, if I have to. She's a witch, though, should be more than competent at
defending herself."
"I think, Fred," said George, "that he's not really getting into the spirit of
things."
"I'm forced to agree, George," said Fred.
"She said she wanted to talk to me alone for a while," Milo shrugged. "So I just
assumed she had some critical information she has to pass along, or possibly a
magic item. For all I know, she'll give me a quest."
"Maybe she has some sensitive information, if you know what I... ah, nevermind,
you know?" said Fred.
"Yeah, it's just not working. He seems to be immune to teasing," admitted
George. "Such a shame."
"A missed opportunity."
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"A wasted chance."
"A moment passed, never to return."
"Such a shame."
"No, we actually said that one, already," said Fred.
"Ah, nuts," said George. "And here I was, getting all Zen."
"Well, one way or another," Fred said, "I think you're going to have a very
interesting Hallowe'en."
oooo
Quirrell paced back and forth irritably in his office. He just had to think.
There must be some way to get rid of that boy... how did he know? How could he
possibly know that the Dark Lord was returning? Dumbledore must have told him,
Quirrell thought. No... that explains nothing. How could Dumbledore himself
know?
And the boy had just told him. He'd just come out and said it was obvious.
Obvious! To anyone with half a brain! He'd even named his three friends as
accomplices... Was it a trap? A test of some sort? Perhaps the boy had been
bluffing, trying to gauge Quirrell's reaction?
Irregardless, it didn't matter. The boy had to die. Snape would make things
difficult, though... he seemed to know, somehow. The only times the accursed
Potions Master isn't watching the boy, Quirrell thought, he's watching me. He
must be trying to protect the boy... they're all in it together. That's what
they were doing out in the forest... Snape went out to meet Milo in the
Forbidden Forest, to discuss how to stop me. It's too much of a coincidence to
be anything else. They must think they're so clever, but if they were really
clever they wouldn't have let me notice. No, they weren't half as sneaky as they
thought. Well, it'll all happen tomorrow, if everything goes according to
plan... No. No, there's no if about it.
"A Power He Knows Not..." Quirrell heard the horrible, hissing voice say behind
him.
"W-w-what was that, Master?"
"Nothing that need concern you," the voice lashed out at him, like a cobra. Then
the pain started.
It would be a long night for Quirrell.

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Chapter 9: Hallowe'en

When Milo walked downstairs Hallowe'en morning, he was greeted by utter bedlam:
"II never thought this day would come," said Seamus. "Me mum always said it
would, but... I guess I never really believed her."
"Well, I, mean, it's surprising, but really, we've been ready for it," said Ron.
"I say it's about time it happened," said Fred.
"Keeps us from having to live out the rest of our lives in suspense, just
waiting for it to come," said George.
"I... I lost everything," said Lee Jordan soberly. "Everything."
"What happened?" asked Milo. "Did Voldid You-Know-Who return?"
"What?" asked Fred. "You've lost it, mate, it's nothing like that"
"Although to some, like our dear Lee here, it's arguably worse" continued
George.
"Teaches him to bet the farm on a sure thing"
"Don't be snide, you're only happy because it's your farm, now"
"Our farm, Fred, our farm"
"Look, guys," Milo interrupted. "Can one of you just give me a straight answer?"
"I am led to believe," said Hermione Granger, sitting casually in an armchair,
"that the Chudley Cannons went up against the Wigtown Wanderers this morning and
actually won."
"Wait, and this is supposed to be important?" Milo asked.
"Blimey, important, mate!" said Ron, "That was the Northwestern Regional
Semi-Finals!"
"So, to answer your question, apparently," said Hermione.
"The Cannons haven't won a match in decades!" Ron exclaimed. "Their fan club,
back when they had a fan club that is, well, its motto was Let's all just keep
our fingers crossed and hope for the best."
"Yawn," stated Milo. "Anyways, I have a sidequest to prepare forand, for that
matter, classes."
"Speaking of," Hermione said coyly, "what are you going to dress up as?"
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"I don't actually have to do that, do I?" Milo asked.
"Oh, my, yes," said Hermione. "It's a prerequisite."
Well, that settled it. You can't ignore prerequisites. You can bend them,
re-interpret them favourably, work around them, or barrel your way on through
them, but you can't ignore them. Milo sighed.
"Okay," he said. "So I'll survive all my classes, stop a dark vampire wizard
from returning from the dead, foil an evil professor's schemes, and make a
Hallowe'en costume before the start of my sidequest, which is at five o'clock
sharp."
"Oh, before you go," Hermione said, as if she'd only just remembered, "make sure
you take this with you. Wouldn't want you to be late for your... sidequest...
with Ms. Abbot." She held out a small, pink strap of some sort. There was a sort
of a doodad in the middle, Milo wasn't sure how to describe it.
"Er," he said, "thanks, I think. What is it?"
"You don't even know what a watch no. No, I'm not saying it. It's called a
watch, Milo, it tells the time."
"Go figure. How's it work?"
"There's two hands, the short one points to the hour, the long one points to the
minute... only, it's the hour times five. It's a bit complicated. Here..."
She spent the next ten minutes trying to explain how the watch worked, before
giving up and bewitching it. She assured him that it would remind him when it
was time to leave, and there would be no possible way for him to miss it. She
then apologized, saying she had a bad case of hiccups coming on and fled the
common room cackling. Milo had read that the Muggles here had a ridiculous
stereotype of witches, flying around in broomsticks with mad hair cackling away
under a full moon. Turns out all stereotypes really are grounded in fact
somewhere down the line, he thought. Go figure.
Milo was particularly wary when he went down to get breakfast. The other
Gryffindors seemed absorbed in their discussion of the Cannons' latest victory,
so they lingered behind. At this rate, he thought, they'll miss their precious
breakfast.
Milo was vaguely aware that the food was sort of holiday themed (there was much
orange and black in attendance), but as usual, stuck to his Everlasting Rations.
As long as he had 'about a pound of decent food' per day, he'd be fine, and this
was really just more convenient than all this cutlery business.
"Oh, hey Milo," said a round-faced boy sitting next to him.
"Hey, Nev." Milo said. "What's new and relevant?"
"Well, I forgot where I left my Remembrall, I was wondering if you could do your
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trick...?"
"It's in your right pocket," Milo said.
"Wow! And I didn't even hear you cast it this time!" Neville said, grabbing the
ball from his pocket. Like any other time it touched Neville's hands, it was
glowing slightly red.
"I didn't. You always keep it in your right pocket."
"Oh, rightwhoops!" the ball dropped out of his grasp, and fell towards the
floor. The smoke in the glass ball turned black as soon it as left Neville's
hands.
Milo reached to catch it, but with the distinct feeling of a failed Reflex Save,
his fingers closed a second too late and he just wound up knocking it further
away. It hit the cold stone floor and shattered all over the ground, but Milo
was too distracted to care: in the instant that Milo's hands touched the ball,
it glowed bright red. Brief as it was, there was no missing it. Before Milo
could properly consider the problem, his thought process was interrupted.
"Had a little accident, have we?" Milo heard an all-too familiar voice.
"Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Coyle, Mr. Grabbe, pleased to see you," Milo said cheerfully.
"You know, after all that trouble Potter went through to get that ball back for
you," Malfoy said to Neville with a sneer, "you'd think you'd take better care
of it."
"Are you just here to exchange banter, or is this more than purely a social
call?" Milo asked. "I'm on a schedule, you know."
"Are you, now?" Malfoy asked, his eyes suddenly alight. "The pressure starting
to get to you? Distressed at seeing your plan fall all to pieces now, are we? I
know what you're up to."
What in the Hells is he talking about? Milo wondered.
"You can't prove anything," Milo said, because it seemed appropriate. "And even
if you could, you can never stop phase three," Milo said. He liked the sound of
that phase three. It implied that there had already been not one, but two
successful phases in whatever it was that Malfoy thought he was up to. Malfoy
looked him up and down, closely.
"You're bluffing," Malfoy determined.
"Of course I am," Milo said. "Everything I said to you today was already a lie.
Except this, of course." Milo leaned in close, and whispered, "or is it?"
Malfoy looked briefly perplexed, but recovered admirably.
"You act all tough," he said, "but I know where you really come from," he
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hissed. "And I know what you're trying to do. But it'll never work. My father's
much too clever, and has too many friends, for it to work."
...What?
"Oh, we'll see about that," Milo said. If I keep him talking, maybe he'll let
something else slip.
"Indeed we shall," said Malfoy. "Why don't you just ask your friends in the
Wigtown Wanderers what they think, eh? See if they've still got your back now,"
Malfoy laughed and walked away, flanked by his goons.
"Well, that was weird," Milo said to Neville.
"I think it's really cool how you stand up to Malfoy," Neville said. "And,
listen, are you going to eat your treacle tart? Can't remember where mine went."
"What? No, it's all yours," Milo said absently.
"Thanks," said Neville from around the tart.
"So, say Neville, any decent ideas for a Hallowe'en costume? Only apparently I
need one for later this evening," Milo said. "It's got to look like a monster,
but also allow enough movement that I can fight off actual monsters in it, if
the need arises. Which it will, I'm sure of it. And I need easy access to my
Belt of Hidden Pouches. No ideas, huh? That's cool, I'll think of something."
It occurred to Milo that Neville wasn't responding.
Milo glanced over at the boy, who was now slouched over the table, his face
lying flat in a pumpkin pie.
"That's odd," Milo said as he looked around the Great Hall for help; but was
surprised to find that, now that Malfoy had left, it was empty. What? He
wondered. How is that even possible? This place is never empty... Frantically,
Milo reached into his Belt of Hidden Pouches and grabbed his small vial of
Antitoxin.
"Right, Nev, we got to get you to the Hospital Wing. Upsie-Daisy," he said,
pouring the Antitoxin down Neville's throat. It wasn't an antidote by any means,
but it should help somewhat. He attempted to lift the (fairly heavy) boy, but
failed to have much success. "Agh! Curse this 8 Strength! There's no helping it,
Levitate." I'd hoped to get to the evening with all of my 2nd-level spell slots
intact. Never seems to work that way, does it?
Neville floated gently off the floor, and Milo gave him a solid push in the
general direction of the door. He followed along, pushing Neville occasionally
to keep him moving. Once he made it to the corridor, he broke into a run.
"Out of my way!" he shouted, scattering a bunch of students Milo didn't
recognize. Probably Hufflepuffs, then. Neville was floating in front of him,
looking decidedly unhealthy. The boy was shaking and growing increasingly pale
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as Milo pushed him along in front of him.
Why was the Great Hall empty? Milo wondered. How could that happen?
"Ickle wickle firsties," Milo heard an aggravating voice taunt from above. "Why
is the ickle firstie floating? Are we using magic in the halls? Naughty, naughty
firsties."
"I don't have time for this, Peeves!" Milo snarled, rounding a corner. "I think
Neville could die, so don't try anything."
"Firsties always so dramatic," said the still-invisible poltergeist, "never see
the joke, never see the laughs."
Milo decided to just ignore the taunting spectre. If he absolutely had to, he
could use a Silent Image to chase him away with an image of the Baron again, but
Milo really had to conserve his magic.
Milo, running at maximum speed and decidedly distracted (the most commonly
forgotten -5 penalty to Spot checks known to man), never noticed the oil slick
Peeves had placed in the corridor.
Milo slipped backwards, hitting his head on the floor. Neville, however,
continued to float at Milo's running speed down the wrong corridor.
"PEEVES!" Milo shouted. "Come out and face me!"
"Face you?" Peeves asked. "But of course!"
A cream pie (nobody knew where Peeves got them from; the house-elves stopped
making cream pies two hundred and thirty five years ago to try and discourage
him. It didn't work.) materialized out of thin air and hit Milo in the face.
"You're a coward, you know that?" Milo asked. "You're even scared of a Silent
Image of the Bloody Baron." Alright, it wasn't the smoothest sounding sentence
ever, but Milo had to find some way to work Silent Image into conversation
without making it obvious he was casting a spell. An image of the Baron drifted
towards them from around the corner.
"Lies and Tricks!" Peeves shouted. "Lies and Tricks! Lies and Lies and Lies and
Tricks! The Baron is in the Dungeons!"
Milo was already late for Potions, and hed'd lost sight of Neville. Milo stood
up and wiped the cream out of his face.
"Very well, Peeves, you leave me no choice but to destroy you," Milo said, lying
through his teeth. "I call upon the fell arcane might of Corellon Larethian!"
Corellon was the god of elves, but there was no possible way that Peeves could
know that. Milo, who still had an active and alterable Silent Image available,
made the Baron vanish and redirected the spell at himself. His eyes started to
glow white, and thirteen slender columns of white fire appeared about him in
slowly rotating circle. Milo had once seen a Meteor Storm cast by an epic
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Sorcerer, and it hadn't looked half so impressive as this.
"Magic in the halls! Magic in the halls! Filch!" Peeves called from wherever he
was hiding.
"In the name of Corellon Larethian, God of... of Doom, I abjure thee!" Milo
shouted. He threw in some illusory mist for atmosphere and made it appear as
though a pair of giant, purple eyes slowly opened from behind him. Milo was
making this up entirely as he went by now, and wasn't really sure what he would
do if Peeves didn't run away. Fortunately, bravery was not the poltergeist's
strong suit.
"No! No! No doom, no doom!" Peeves wailed, and fled. Milo dismissed the spell
and ran after Neville.
oooo
"What," Madam Pomfrey asked as the cream-covered Milo entered her domain at the
speed of sound, pushing a floating Neville Longbottom in front of him. "is the
meaning of this?"
"Shouldn't... have... dumped... Constitution..." Milo panted between breaths.
"I'm sorry, what about the Constitution?" Pomfrey asked.
"Poison," Milo managed.
"You've poisoned the Constitution?" Pomfrey asked. "Isn't it, you know, a sheet
of parchment?"
"Neville!" Milo sputtered. He really needed to catch his breath; he felt like he
was going to faint.
"You mean to suggest that Neville poisoned the Constitution?"
Milo groaned. Why did this keep happening to him?
"Neville's... been... poisoned!"
"Oh, my lord! Why didn't you say so at once? Quick, get him on the cot!" The
stern mediwitch grabbed her wand immediately and started casting what Milo
presumed where diagnostic divinations.
"We were just in the Great Hall," Milo said. "He was having breakfast, then I
turned around and found him face down in some pie. So I rushed him here as fast
as I could."
"And the food made him float, did it? Most unusual..." Pomfrey said.
"What? No, I Levitated him," Milo said.
"Oh? Impressive. Now get out, so I can try and save his life without
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distractions. He'll probably wind up in St. Mungo's again... poor boy."
"Right," Milo said, and bolted from the room. He had to make it to the Dungeons
in... negative twelve minutes. Ah, Hells.
He eventually stumbled into the Potions class twenty minutes late, still covered
in cream and bits of pie crust, drenched in sweat, and gasping for air.
"You're late," Snape said shortly, "by twenty-one minutes. Twenty-one points
from Gryffindor, and detention this evening immediately after your Defence
Class."
"But... Peeves..." Milo started to say, but immediately knew it was the wrong
choice of words. Peeves hadn't been an acceptable excuse for tardiness for
years. Snape just shook his head silently, then went back to berating Harry for
his latest minor mistake.
Milo groaned. He hadn't been awake for an hour and he'd already lost twenty-one
House Points and two of his very limited number of spells per day. And now he'd
have to suffer the humiliation of utterly failing to make a potion again. Well,
there's nothing else to do, he thought, than follow the directions on the chalk
board and hope for the best. Sigh.
Malfoy gave him a smug look.
"Hey, Ron," Milo whispered, "where was everyone during breakfast?"
"Well, most of the Gryffindors were too busy caught up talking about the
Cannons' latest victory to bother eating, and I imagine it was more-or-less the
same with the other Houses."
"But Hermione loathes Quidditch, why didn't she come down?"
"I can't say for sure," Ron said slyly, "but I think she was enjoying making
snide remarks too much to leave."
"And Neville? He was there."
"Dunno, mate," Ron admitted.
"Nev was rushed to St. Mungo's yesterday," Harry supplied, "after one of Fred
and George's pranks got out of hand. I guess he only just got back. Where is he,
anyway?"
"Poisoned," Milo said simply.
"No talking!" Snape snapped. "Five points from each of you."
Hermione groaned. Gryffindor was rapidly approaching zero points, and it was
largely their fault.
The rest of Potions was uneventful, with the exception that Snape seemed
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incredibly pleased with himself. If he were a normal human, Milo thought, he'd
probably be humming to himself. As it stood, he was simply sneering just a
little less not that this made him any more pleasant to be around.
Milo ran his fingers through his hair nervously as he left the Dungeons.
Detention after Defence class... well, the class normally ran until three, but
Quirrell had said he had something special planned for his Hallowe'en lesson.
That should still leave me with plenty of time to make my costume for five,
assuming Snape doesn't go overboard.
Milo paused.
My plan relies on Snape's mercy.
Crap.
"We've got half an hour before Transfiguration," Harry said from behind him.
"Want to visit Nev?"
"What?" Milo asked distractedly. "Why?"
"Uhm," said Harry. "Because he's our friend? And he's sick?"
"Oh, right, yeah. Friendship. Let's go, then."
oooo
"Nah, really, it's fine," Neville said, lying on his hospital bed. "Actually,
it's a shame it wasn't more severe."
"What? Why?" Harry asked.
"Well, it's just that if I go to St. Mungo's one more time, I get a free ice
cream," Neville said. Harry chuckled.
"So, what happened, anyway?" Potter asked.
"Madam Pomfrey says I ingested lethal quantities of arsenic, deadly nightshade,
cyanide, chlorine, and ricin this morning," the round-faced boy explained.
Harry gave a low whistle.
"I don't even know what half of those even are," he admitted.
"It's no problem at all," Neville said. "Madam Pomfrey says that as soon as I
regain feeling in my limbs, I can go back to class."
"Why would anyone want to poison you, Nev?" Harry asked.
"They weren't trying to poison him," Milo said simply. "They were trying to
poison me. What's more, I know who did it."
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"What? Who?" Harry asked.
"Huh, that's unusual. The scene's supposed to change after I make a dramatic
announcement like that."
Harry blinked.
"Oh. We should head to Transfiguration, or we'll be late and lose more points."
"Right."
oooo
As it turned out, they were late anyways.
"Two points from Gryffindor," McGonagall said sternly. The rest of the class sat
down and attempted, with varying levels of success, to turn pumpkins into
teapots. Milo, however, was given the same matchstick he'd had at the start of
the year.
"I can't let you start on teapots until you've managed to transfigure more than
just the colour of the stick, young man. I'm sorry," she explained, then sighed.
"If you can manage to change its weight, soundthat is, the sound it makes when
droppedor shape at all," she added, "then I'll let you move on."
Milo frantically pulled out his spellbook and re-read the description of
Prestidigitation. There was nothing in there about anything beyond colour. He
bit his lip. There was a sewing needle in his Belt of Hidden Pouches, but Milo
assumed that other students had tried to pull that one in the past and
McGonagall probably had a way to tell the difference. He hadn't prepared Ghost
Sound, which could create illusory sounds, but even if he had he probably
couldn't get the timing right to make a ping! sound at the exact moment the pin
hit the table. If he'd prepared Mage Hand, a weak telekinesis spell, he could
maybe push down very gently on the pin to simulate the metal's higher density,
but his only 0th-level spells were Dancing Lights, Prestidigitation, and Acid
Splash.
Milo ran his fingers through his hair nervously. There was absolutely no way he
could turn this stick into a pin using his arcane magic. He had one last,
desperate ploy...
He slowly withdrew his wand from its pocket and, following the directions that
Milo had only ever half-listened to, focused on the image of a pin in his mind.
He imagined every curve, the metallic glint, the slightly heavier mass, and the
steely sound a pin makes when dropped. With all of that in his mind he, very
carefully, tapped the wand on the matchstick and held his breath. He closed his
eyes.
Come on, secret wizard powers, activate!
He didn't feel anything happen, and very slowly opened one eye to peer at,
hopefully, a shiny new pin.
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Nothing had happened.
"Nuts," Milo muttered. It was probably for the best, though as he might have
been stuck multiclassing into two primary casting classesor in layman's terms,
permanently magically handicapped. Milo could use the oil he kept in his Belt of
Hidden Pouches to create a fire and sneak out in the ensuing chaos... no, these
wizards could create water. Milo sighed. He raised his hand.
"Yes?" asked McGonagall.
"Professor," Milo said quietly, then stopped. He looked around at the other
Gryffindors in the room. Harry was looking at him with an unreadable expression,
Ron was trying to find his wand on the ground under his desk, and Hermione was
studiously examining her newly-transfigured teakettle. He'd never been quite
sure what they thought about him. Milo was certain none of them completely
believed his story about being from another world altogether, so they probably
thought he was mad. Milo was okay with that. All the really brilliant Wizards
looked at least a little mad to outsiders. At times, they were
impressedseriously impressedwith what he could do with magic. He was the only
student below fourth year who could efficiently deal with Peeves, and his defeat
of the Acromantula in September was very nearly legendary. His nightly Scholar's
Touch-enhanced studying had made him the top student in History of Magic, much
to Hermione's chagrin. But... other times, times when he didn't have the right
spell prepared, times when he asked "what's Quidditch?", times when he'd run out
of spells per day, times when Arcane magic just couldn't do something times
like this, they just looked at him with pity.
"Yes?" the Professor asked.
But there was more at stake here than his own pride, although there was that,
too. What would Mordenkainenthe legendary wizard, not the ratsay about this?
What about Elminster, Treantmonk, and Otiluke? Sorry, legendary wizards, it
turns out I found another universe and their magic is superior to ours. Best put
away your spellbooks, start naming your currency after sailing ships, and drop
by Ollivanders for wands if you want to keep up.
But what could he do? Polymorph Any Object was eighth level. Eighth! Most
Wizards never made it past 3rd-level spells. By the time Milo could turn this
match into a pin, if he ever even got that high level, he'd be able to alter
reality to his liking. He'd be going toe-to-toe with Wyrms.
Even Wizards can't do everything, he reminded himself, so there's no shame in
admitting defeat. It takes a Cleric to heal... well, actually, a Wizard could
just summon a monster that can heal people for him. It takes a Rogue to pick a
lock... actually, that's not true, a Wizard could just cast Knock. Okay, a Rogue
to sneak around... no, Wizards can cast Invisibility.
Ah, screw it. So maybe Wizards can do everything. But not all at once, not all
in one day, not with only one Wizard, and not all at level three.
"I I can't do it," Milo admitted bitterly. "I can't turn one thing into
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another like this. It just can't be done."
McGonagall remained silent for a moment, her eyes boring holes into his head.
"I see," she said simply. "Well then. Drop by my office after your Defence class
and we'll decide what to do."
"I have, uh, prior arrangements," Milo confessed. The other students avoided
making eye contact with him.
"Then cancel them," McGonagall said simply. "Your education must come first."
"You'll, ah, have to take that up with Professor Snape," Milo said. "I've got
detention. Again."
McGonagall briefly covered her face with her hand.
"Very well. Come afterwards as soon as you can," she said, then left to go help
Ron, who had only managed to transfigure his pumpkin into another pumpkin.
Milo then realized his mistake: there was still half an hour left to
Transfiguration class, and it was going to be awkward without anything to do.
Next time, he thought, if there ever is a next time, never admit defeat without
an exit strategy.
Milo spent the time trying to figure out what to use as his Hallowe'en costume,
but hadn't made any progress by the time the Professor dismissed them for lunch.
"So," Harry asked him expectantly as they walked towards the Great Hall, "Who
did it?"
"Did what, convinced the capricious, adolescent, vengeful, petty being who runs
the universe to make my life as difficult as possible? Me. It's my fault for
trying to push Spontaneous Divination."
"You shouldn't talk like that," Hermione said. "You might offend someone."
"I think he's already pretty offended," Milo said. "That's sort of what I was
getting at."
"What?" Hermione asked. "Wait, you think you offended God? Wait, you believe in
God?"
"Wha?" Milo asked. "Gods? Sure, there's loads of 'em. Not believing in them is
like not believing in magic. In fact, it's exactly like not believing in
magicask a Cleric."
"Wait, no, I meant" Hermione began as they entered the Great Hall, but Harry,
uncharacteristically, cut her off.
"And I meant, who poisoned Neville?" Harry said. Milo waited to respond until
they'd approached the person he was looking for. Milo crept up directly behind
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him
"Draco Malfoy," Milo said, simultaneously to answer Harry's question and get
Malfoy's attention.
"Oh, it's you," said the blond Slytherin, jumping slightly. "What do you wa"
"This morning Neville Longbottom was poisoned," Milo cut him off. "It was by
someone attempting to get at me. Someone, probably, with access to Snape's
storerooms, someone with an inexplicable grudge against me, someone with access
to my food, and someone stupid enough not to watch me long enough to realize I
never eat any food offered me."
"What are you blabbering on ab" Malfoy began, but was cut off again.
"That would narrow it down to a limited list of suspects, but you even
practically told me who did it. You arrogantly bragged something about the
Quidditch game, frankly I wasn't really listening, but you seemed to think a
victory for the Wrongton Wunderbars, or whatever, was a problem for me. So I
thought, what made you think I care about Quidditch? And realized, nothing. You
knew I don't care about Quidditch, no, you wanted the Great Hall empty this
morning. So the ridiculously circuitous plot that your twisted brain invented
was to somehow rig the Quidditch Midwestern Final Pseudo-Regionals so that all
the students in Hogwarts would be so busy being flabbergasted about their
beloved Cuddly Cannons losing that they'd skip breakfast. All the students
except for me, that is me and Neville, who came in from St. Mungo's. And so
you poisoned my treacle tart where there would be no-one to help me. Draco
Malfoy, you tried to poison me. And you would have gotten away with it, if it
wasn't for my Everlasting Rations. And the fact that you came by to gloat in the
middle of the assassination attempt. I mean, seriously."
"He had me up until 'Wrongton Wunderbars,'" Ron said quietly to Harry.
"It was the Pseudo-Regionals that got me," admitted the Harry.
"Cuddly Cannons," Hermione laughed. An uncharitable person would call the sound
she made a giggle, because while it was still politically correct to have
giggling girls in a piece of literature in 1991, this is no longer the case.
Malfoy stared at Milo completely disbelievingly for a moment, then laughed. His
laugh was like a Wizard's power progression by level: it started slow and weak
enough to lose a fair fight with a cat on occasion, worked its way up gradually
to defeating, with some difficulty, Hobgoblins and Bugbears, then in the snap of
a finger was suplexing the laws of physics and ruling the universe before
breakfast.
"You seriously think I tried to poison you? Milo, if my family wanted you dead,
you wouldn't still be standing here. And besides, that's not why I rigged the
Quidditch game, and you know it."
"Wait, he actually" said Ron, flabbergasted.
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"This whole wild accusation is just to divert attention from the blow I struck
to your real masters," Malfoy sneered, "and only serves to underscore your own
defeat. Fool." With that, Draco spun on his heels, and started walking away.
Then he paused, and turned around. "Actually, this is my table. Gryffindor's is
back over there. You leave."
oooo
"Crap," Milo muttered when they got back to their table. "I was pretty sure,
like, 70% at least, that it was Malfoy who did it."
"I dunno," Ron said. "I still think it could have been him."
"Nah," Milo said. "If it was, he either would have denied everything, or fessed
up and challenged me to an honour duel or something. He admitted to being behind
the Quidditch thing, so it can't have been him."
"So what was he trying to do? What did he mean by 'your real masters?'" Harry
asked.
"Who knows? Who cares?" Milo shrugged. "Anybody want my treacle tart?"

Chapter 10: Odds of Survival

Author's Notes: Hallowe'en was originally going to be a three-part chapter, but


it's stretched out to four parts now (I had way too much fun with this). Thanks
to all of my readers! My inbox is flooded with hundreds of fanfiction
subscription and favourite alerts, which make me very, very happy indeed.
And remember: if you like it, review it! I try to read them all.
oooo
"So, if it wasn't Draco who poisoned Neville," Harry asked Milo as they sat down
at their Defence Against the Dark Arts desks, "who was it?" Harry had been
trying to get Milo to speak throughout their whole History of Magic class, but
Hermione kept shushing him (talking in History carried across the whole room,
not that the ghost of Binns noticed or apparently cared).
"I don't know, yet," Milo confessed. "But there's one thing I do know."
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"It was someone on your list," Milo said. "Adding a whole new character now who
poisoned Neville would ruin any element of mystery. It has to be someone we met
in the first two adventures."
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"Just once, you're going to use logic based on actual facts," said Hermione
primly, "and all the trees on Earth will wither and die."
The class filed in gradually in groups of two or three. Quirrell's course was
basically a joke, so punctuality wasn't exactly a top priority for most
studentsQuirrell hardly ever deducted House Points for tardiness. The
Gryffindors were marginally more excited today than usual, because rumour had it
that Quirrell had been preparing something special for today, it being
Hallowe'en and all.
"I-I-I-I've been p-p-p-preparing s-something sp-sp-special for t-today,"
Quirrell announced when the last of the students arrived, "it being H-Hallowe'en
and allor, as s-s-some n-now call it, Harry P-P-Potter Day." There was, Milo
thought he noticed, a hint of a sneer in Quirrell's voice. Milo had to agree
with Quirrell: Harry Potter Day was a pretty silly name, especially compared to
something as cool as 'All Hallow's Eve.' Quirrell was standing in front of
something massive and mostly rectangular, covered by a sheet of canvas.
Harry muttered something under his breath.
"Sorry, what was that?" Hermione whispered quietly.
"Should be Lily and James Potter Day," Harry answered simply. "I don't even
remember it."
"B-b-but before we b-begin," Quirrell said, "I'd l-like to ask y-y-young
M-M-Milo something," Milo perked up as he heard his name. "I'd heard th-that
you've b-b-been losing a g-great deal of the n-n-noble House G-Gryiffindor's
P-P-Points lately," he said across the classroom. There were a few chuckles, and
a number of angry looks. "I-I-I was w-w-wondering if y-y-you m-m-might like an
opportunity to earn s-s-some b-back?"
Whatever could have possessed a person with a crippling stutter to get a job
which required lecturing large groups of people on a daily basis escaped Milo.
Milo shrugged.
"Sure," he said. "Anything for the House, after all. Have to win the House Medal
and all that."
"Cup," Ron whispered.
"Cup Medal, that is." Milo corrected himself, wondering what Quirrell was
getting at.
"Excellent," Quirrell said. "C-c-come see m-me after c-c-class, then."
Milo nervously ran his fingers through his hair. Was there anyone who wasn't
going to want to see him this evening? This was something of an opportunity,
thoughMilo could just go to whatever Quirrell's thing was, then let him deal
with the fallout from Snape. If anyone can stand up to Snape, Milo thought, it's
Quirrell. I like the cut of his jib.
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Quirrell's 'something special' for Hallowe'en turned out to be rather awesome,
in the sense that it was something that evoked awe.
"A-and w-w-without further ado," Quirrell stammered excitedly to the class,
"allow m-m-me to p-p-present my H-H-Hallowe'en surprise!" With a dramatic
flourish, he pulled off the tarp, revealing, as it turned out, a cage of
monstrous proportions. The bars were made of thick steel wrapped in
unpleasant-looking razor wire. Hanging from the cage was an almost
cartoonishly-oversized lock, though Milo was certain that there were likely
layers of Abjurations protecting the cage not visible to the naked eye. The cage
emanated an entirely non-magical aura of immobility and intimidation. Nothing
short of the Tarrasque itself was getting out of that cage. It wasn't the cage,
however, that caused the collective gasp of fear from the Gryffindorsthe house
noted for its braverybut what lay inside.
"Blimey," said Ron quietly. "It's a Troll."
"A Giant," Milo corrected.
"Right," Ron whispered. "A Giant Troll."
Milo sighed. The brute inside was very clearly a Giant. Trolls, unlike Giants,
were green and sort of... weirdly proportioned, with long dangly limbs and spiky
black hair. This was obviously some non-core species of Giantsimple enough to
prove with a dagger, as only Trolls could regenerate.
"Th-th-this is a T-T-Troll," Quirrell stammered to the class, "The
G-Groundskeeper and I c-caught it in the F-F-Forb-Forb... in the Forest. It
appears to have b-b-been h-harassing the unicorns."
"Excuse me, Professor," asked a Gryffindor NPC (probably Seamus) "I thought that
was werewolves?"
"W-werewolves aren't f-f-fast enough," said Quirrell. And they're only active on
full moons, Milo thought irritably. I mean, seriously. What's the one defining
characteristic of a werewolf? It turns into a wolf on the full moon.Only the
full moon. Sheesh. "And T-T-Trolls, b-believe me, are f-faster than they
l-l-look. N-now, there's n-n-no need to w-worry about the T-T-Troll getting
out," he continued, "as this c-cage is very n-nearly indestructible. The
w-w-wire you see is, in addition to b-b-being very sh-sharp, b-bewitched to
entangle a-anyone trying to g-g-get out. A-a-anyone who t-t-touches the lock
w-without the k-keykept in the H-H-Headmaster's Officewill be struck by a
F-F-Full Body B-B-Bind and trigger an a-alarm. The b-b-bars themselves are
Goblin-made, and c-can withstand anything short of D-D-Dragonfire. There are a
f-f-few other s-s-surprises as w-w-well. Q-quite f-f-fortunate we h-had it on
h-h-hand, in f-f-fact. N-n-now, who c-c-can tell me w-w-what Trolls eat?"
Quirrell continued into a detailed lecture (in fact, significantly more detailed
than his usual lectures, which were generally considered 80-minute long
naptimes. Everyone's had at least one teacher like him) about Trolls. He seemed
quite enthusiastic on the subject, not unlike a Fighter asked about pointy
sticks.
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As the class came to a close and three o'clock approached, Quirrell dismissed
the rest of the students a little early to enjoy their Hallowe'en evenings.
"M-M-Milo?" Quirrell asked. Right, he wanted me to stay after. Almost forgot
about that.
"So," Milo said as he walked towards the alleged Troll. "What can I do you for?"
"Th-this fellow," Quirrell said, pointing to the monstrous humanoid in the cage.
"W-we have to m-m-move him t-to the d-d-dungeons until the M-M-Ministry can
d-deal with him."
Milo sized up the brute.
"Ah," he said. "Look, I know they say I'm good at Levitating things, but
this..."
"Oh, d-d-don't worry," said Quirrel. "The c-cage is S-Self Levitating.
H-however, it's e-easiest to p-p-push it from the b-b-back," he said, pointing
to a small area on the cage not covered in razor-sharp wire, "but then I c-can't
see where I'm g-g-going. So, if you could p-p-push it, I can l-l-lead?
H-H-Hagrid helped me b-bring it here, b-but he's b-b-busy now."
"Sounds like a design flaw to me," Milo said. "But sure, I can lend a hand."
Quirrell smiled. There was no warmth whatsoever in his expression. Milo gave the
cage a light push, and it drifted in front of him with surprisingly little
effort. He was reminded of his brief adventure with Neville that morning,
pushing the cage after Quirrell. The Giant inside seemed more perplexed than
frightening as Milo guided the cage down the ever-shifting hallways of Hogwarts,
only half paying attention to his surroundings. Quirrell was rightit really was
impossible to see from behind this brute. Every so often, Quirrell called out a
direction to him. Milo wondered briefly why Hogwarts had such a cageit looked
reasonably new, and could likely hold something quite a bit bigger than its
current occupantbefore remembering who the residents of the Forbidden Forest
were.
"So," Milo asked, more to make conversation than anything, "this is who we were
looking for in the forest?"
"L-l-looks like," Quirrell said from the other side of the cage. "H-H-Hagrid
caught him covered in u-u-unicorn blood. W-w-we'll know f-f-for sure if the
u-u-unicorns stop d-d-disappearing."
"Go figure," Milo said. "I sort of thought it would have been one of the Death
Eaters, or Snape."
"W-w-why?" asked Quirrell.
"Isn't it obvious? Well, we know You-Know-Who is returning, right? But he's
supposed to have died, and you guys don't have Clerics or Wish."
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"Clerics? Wish?" Quirrell asked.
"Where I come from, death is pretty cheap. Well, not cheap, exactly, but with
enough diamonds and the right spellcaster, pretty much anyone can be brought
back from the dead in some form. Clerics are the best at it by far, but a Wizard
like me can pull it off, too, with some difficulty." Milo explained.
"You can do this? You can bring back the dead?" Quirrell asked sharply.
"Not yet, but maybe in a few years at this rate. Unlike back home, there's only
a few methods available to you people for cheating death that I could find in
the Hogwarts LibraryScholar's Touch is so broken!and those methods were as
follows: Flamel's Stone, Unicorn's Blood, and becoming a vampire."
"Go on," Quirrell urged.
"In order of preference, the order is probably the Stone first, then the blood,
and lastly becoming a vampire. There wasn't much I could find on any of these
subjectsthey're probably in the forbidden areas in the library, or books
written by authors whose names start with letters after Fbut from what I can
tell, there's no mention of a cure for Vampirism, so it'd be a last resort. All
I could find about the unicorns was that whoever drank their blood would be
cursed to living a 'half-life,' which is cryptic as a crypt tick but sounds at
least halfway better than total unlife."
"So, why not simply assume he's after the Stone?"
"Oh, he is, of course. Dumbledore's supposedly guarding it, but there's about a
million and a half problems with that he runs a school, and he's chief whatever
of the thingamajig, and Supreme Muggle of the other thing. He can't be on guard
twenty-four hours a day like an orc in a ten-by-ten room guarding a treasure
chest. So in practice, the staff of Hogwarts are defending it, and while
Dumbledore is this legendary wizard, you aren't. I mean, you and McGonagall
clearly know what you're doing, and while you're a match for his minions, if you
could take You-Know-Who, you would have last time. But here's the thing:
You-Know-Who is weak right now, or he'd already be Dark Lord of the world
already."
"That he would."
" What's more, he's politically crippledHells, even the Malfoys have publically
renounced him. He can't storm the castle personally, and he doesn't have enough
minions to do it for him outright. He probably only has a handful of loyal Death
Eaters left, and they're all vying for who's going to be top guy when
You-Know-Who returns. He might not even know about their existence."
"Not all of his servants are Death Eaters, boy."
"Really? I thought that was just the catch-all term for it here."
"Interesting. What does this have to do with unicorns?" Quirrell asked. His
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voice sounded somewhat hoarse.
"You would know more than anyone else, Professor," Milo said. There was a brief
silence, and Milo heard a rustling of robes. "Vampires, Professor, vampires!
There's only three ways for him to return, and they've all been mentioned in the
story. Three ways, a pretty significant number, if you ask me. So, there's
likely followers going for the Stone, the Blood, and rounding up friendly
vampires as we speak. You're a trained combat wizard, Professor of Defence
Against the Dark Arts at the best school in the country, and pretty clearly high
level. And yet, even you got captured by vampiresso, unless they were the
vampire of Merlin himself, your captors had to have help from a wizard. A Good
wizard wouldn't help vampires, so it had to have been an Evil onemaybe working
for You-Know-Who. So, one of his minions has more than likely succeeded in
rounding up some poor sucker, no pun intended, to vamp our Dark Lord. That means
that another minion, if he wants to top the first one, has to one-up vampires.
That means unicorns, because the Stone is too well defended. The dead unicorns
would have implied that the second, at least, was successful, and You-Know-Who
can return, if he hasn't already, in some sort of limited form. That it was this
Giant sort of throws a wrench in my thinking, to be honest. Means we have to be
even more careful about Snape getting the Stone."
"Snape?" Quirrell asked, surprised.
"I'm surprised you hadn't put it together. Snape's after the Stone for sure.
He's probably one of those minions I was telling you about, and You-Know-Who
doesn't even know he exists. Or he does know. Or he is You-Know-Who in disguise.
Amounts to the same thing, really. So we have to be on the lookout for Snape."
"Why," Milo heard an unfortunately-familiar voice, "do you have to be on the
lookout for me, exactly? Is it because you're skipping detention?"
Ah, nuts.
"Ah, ah, no Professor," Milo stammered. "I was just helping the Professorthe
other Professorwith this Giant, and we were going to the dungeon anyways, so I
was just going to see you right after."
"Interesting," said Snape. "Because you're heading in completely the wrong
direction. This is the third floorthe dungeon is that way." Why has Quirrell
become so attached to the boy? Snape thought. He must know what I'm up to, and
he's trying to prevent me from having him expelled for Lucius. What's his game?
Is he after the Stone?
"The b-b-boy is with m-me, Severus," Quirrell said fiercely. Why has Severus
become so attached to the boy? Quirrell thought. He must know what I'm up to,
and he's trying to prevent me from feeding the boy to Hagrid's dog. What's his
game? Is he after the Stone?
"Is he, now?" Snape asked. "I'm afraid I have prior arrangements with him."
"He c-c-can have his d-detention later. I n-need him now, this is of upmost
i-importance," Quirrell maintained.
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"Discipline is what's important, Quirinus," Snape pressed. Milo wondered why it
was so important to Snape that he get Milo for detention... oh, Milo realized
suddenly. He's going to kill me. I'll just ready a Glitterdustwait, no, that
didn't work so well last time. I'll just be on my guard, and not get caught
flat-footed. Hopefully Quirrell can get rid of him.
"Th-th-the Troll is what's m-most important. You c-can have him a-afterwards."
"Milo," Snape commanded, "come with me at once. You have detention; this
transparent method of escaping it shames your house and our school. Come with
me, or I'll see to it that you're expelled."
Quirrell ground his teeth in frustration, but couldn't think of any way to
prevent the boy from going with Snape without compromising his cover. Quirrell
would pay for this soon, when no-one was around. He'd already failed his master
too many times...
"Sorry, Professor Quirrell," Milo said sadly. "I suppose you'll have to manage
for yourselfmaybe you can find a House Elf to help? I'll... well, I'll see you
around." Sweating profusely, Milo followed Snape towards the dungeons, away from
his perceived protector. Their every footstep, made by Snape's polished loafers
and Milo's worn adventurer's boots, rang through the empty corridors. Even the
normally garrulous wall portraits were uncharacteristically reticent. Milo took
the opportunity to plan his defence, should Snape make his move.
Opening move, he'll be expecting a surprise round, but I know he's coming, Milo
thought. Then it'll be a test of reflexes. If I lose, he draws his wand as a
move action and uses the Killing Curse as a Standard. I die. If I open with
Glitterdust, and he makes his save, I die. If I open with Glitterdust and he
fails his saveor, for that matter, I use Invisibilitybut he beats my 50%
concealment, I die. If I open with Mirror Image, I have an effective 50%-80%
miss chance, meaning I only have a 20%-50% chance of dying. Mirror Image it is,
then, followed by an expeditious retreat of a non-magical nature.
Milo licked his lips nervously as they rounded the last corner before Snape's
office. He didn't like those odds, and if he did die, his chance of getting a
Resurrection seemed slim. These wizards couldn't bring back the dead, and his
party members back home wouldn't know he'd died. It was more than likely, he
realized, that death here would be permanent.
Gulp.
Snape opened the heavy wooden door to his office and led Milo in.
"I've noticed that you've been falling behind in Potions lessons," Snape said
slowly to Milo. "And it seemed to me that you could use some... extra help."
So, Snape was going to kill Milo during a remedial Potions lesson and what, make
it look like an accident? Milo wondered why the pretense was even necessary. It
wasn't as if there were any witnesses.
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"I, ah, just don't seem to have a knack for it," Milo admitted.
"Indeed," Snape grinned slightly. "So, why don't we start with something
extremely basic? One that it is quite impossible for anyone with a drop of
magical blood to fail at?"
"Sure, sure," Milo said distractedly. He was anxiously examining the room for
hidden traps, and felt a brief pang of homesickness. Wellby, their Rogue, never
missed a trapor, more accurately, the traps never missed him. But at least they
were always detected, one way or the other.
"So, why don't we begin?" Snape asked, and with a flourish of his wand, a pewter
cauldron drifted slowly towards him from the side of the room. So, Milo noticed,
Snape has Silent Spell. But why did he show me this? As intimidation? "All you
have to do is pour in three ladles of ordinary water, one teaspoon of
Flobberworm mucous, and one teaspoon of ordinary glycerol; then stir
counterclockwise once. It is, literally, the simplest potion in existence. A
newborn could accomplish it. It makes bubbles, and nothing else."
"Okay," Milo said. Maybe Snape's idea is to keep my hands busy measuring so I
can't go for my wand? Surely he knows by now that I don't really need it? It
will make my Somatic components somewhat more difficult, however, although
dropping an item is a free action. I'll play along, for now. Milo carefully
measured water out of a glass beaker and poured it into the cauldron, then
reached for the Flobberworm mucous.
"Of course," Snape said as Milo worked, "a Muggle attempting to create the
potion would experience an... unfortunate side effect."
Milo's hand froze over the vial of mucous.
"R-really?"
oooo
Sprout sighed as she tried yet another spell to try to disenchant the singing
pumpkin. Someone (well, clearly, it was the Weasley Twins, but without proof,
they remained an as-yet unidentified "someone") had bewitched all of the
decorative pumpkins on the second floor to sing "The Wheels on the Bus Go
Round-and-Round," all at different keys and tempos. The consequent cucurbita
cacophony was enough to drive even Peeves away.
"Finite Incantatem!" she cast vainly. The vegetables were surprisingly resilient
to any attempts at dispelling them. If only those boys used their skills for
something productive, she thought, the world would be better for it.
She smelled it well before she saw anything. It wasn't so much that the smell
was bad, exactlythough it was thatit was just overpowering. The smell was
huge, one could almost say...
...Giant.
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There was a roar so loud that when it ended, Sprout couldn't even hear the
pumpkins' song.
"EXPECTO PATRONUM!" she screamed.
oooo
"I'm beginning to worry about Milo," McGonagall told the Headmaster. "I can't
help but wonder if you weren't wrong about his magic being an unusual form of a
child's accidental magic."
"So, you think he's telling the truth about being a... different wizard?"
Dumbledore asked.
"I... I really don't know. But his development in Transfiguration has been so
remarkably stunted that I can't tell if he's improved in any way whatsoever
since his first day off the boats," the Deputy Headmistress said. "And I'm not
even certain that what he's doing is really Transfiguration at all. He's
changing the matchstick's colour, to be certain, but... something seems off
about it."
"Not everyone can wrap their head around Transfiguration. Why, Filius says his
Hover Charm is worthy of a Seventh Year student, and Quirinus has nothing but
praise for him. And you heard Ollivander's report about the what happened when
he touched his wand the first time."
"Nevertheless," McGonagall pressed, "I think he may, in fact be... he might be a
Squib, Headmaster. Why, I was just speaking to Severus, and he says that the boy
is so hopeless at Potions that he actually believes him to be a Muggle, here by
accident somehow."
"You mean to say that you and Severus actually agree on something?" Dumbledore
asked.
"Perhaps. We'll know this afternoon, I believe, as Severus said he had developed
some sort of test, and I for one"
"Headmaster! There's a Troll loose on the second floor!" a small, cheerful voice
said from behind McGonagall's head. The Deputy Headmistress turned around, and
saw Sprout's Patronus floating behind her. Dumbledore and McGonagall stared at
each other for a moment, then sprang into action.
"I'll start clearing the area of students" McGonagall said, reaching for her
wand.
"and I'll contact the other Heads of Houses," Dumbledore said, standing up so
fast that he knocked his chair over.
oooo
By the time the smoke cleared, Milo's hearing had mostly returned. His robe was
in tatters, and he was covered in soot and dust.
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"Wh-wh-what was that?" he asked.
"A Muggle chemist, if a Muggle chemist had ever analyzed Flobberworm mucous,
would tell you that it reacts with the glycerol to form nitroglycerin."
Milo blinked blankly.
"Nitroglycerin is a volatile explosive," Snape said.
"And you let newborns do this?"
"No. A wizard's inborn magic prevents the chemical reaction from occurring, as
it is superceded by a magical one."
"Then why did it... ah," said Milo. One could practically hear the copper piece
drop.
Milo looked at Snape.
Snape looked at Milo.
Not a word was said, until...
"Severus! There's a Troll on the second floorthought you ought to know," said a
translucent silvery Phoenix that Milo could swear hadn't been there a moment
before.
"HolycrapghostPhoenix!" a living Phoenix was CR 24, and being a ghost only made
it more powerful. Fortunately, they were Good-aligned. A Phoenix's fire could
deal up to 40d6 damage, although Milo was pretty sure Phoenixes were generally
somewhat larger than a horsethis one was rather a lot smaller. A baby, perhaps?
"Get up, boy, and come with menow!" said Snape. Milo wasn't about to refuse a
direct command from a man who a Phoenix had apparently asked for help, and
followed. After leaving his office, Snape broke into a dead run towards the
stairs.
"Are we going after the Troll?" asked Milo as they ran up the spiraling
staircase. Judging by the dull look in the monster's eyes, Milo was fairly
confident its Will save was low enough that it would fail to Glitterdust for
certain.
Snape paused for a moment.
"Boy, look at me," he commanded. Milo shrugged and complied. "Now, what were you
and Quirrell talking about before I arrived?"
"Troll feeding and grooming," Milo lied blandly. Snape stared at him in the eyes
for a moment.
"Very well, we've delayed too long," he said, and started climbing again at a
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hustle. Well, that was weird, Milo thought.
"Professor," Milo said as they continued climbing the stairs, "we missed the
second floor. This is the third floor," but Snape said nothing as they rounded
the corner to the forbidden third floor corridor.
Snape stopped at the door and waited, still without an explanation.
"Professor," Milo pressed, "I think I deserve an explanation now. What are we
doing in front of the corridor of 'Die a horrible and painful death?'"
"Stop questioning me and be silent," Snape snapped.
"What, do you expect me to be able to simply Detect Thoughts or something? I
won't be able to understand what's happening and act appropriately unless you
tell me," Milo said, swapping out Invisibility. Detect Thoughts was a 2nd-level
Wizard spell that allowed one to listen to the surface thoughts of another. Milo
didn't really expect it to beat Snape's Will bonus, but everyone rolls a 1 once
in a while. For once, it appeared, it was Milo's turn to be lucky. Snape turned
around, catching Milo's eye.
"Five points from Gryffindor, and five more if you don't stop talking," the
Professor said.
Fortunately, it appears I got here before Quirrell, Snape thought.
Why is beating Quirrell so important? Milo wondered.
The boy suspects we were racing Quirrell here. Well, it wasn't too hard to
figure out, I suppose, Snape thought to himself (or so he thought). When he goes
for the Stone, I'll be ready.
Is Quirrell going for
unless... Something's
to prevent Snape from
knows I'm reading his

the Stone? Milo wondered. That makes no sense at all,


going on here I don't know about. Maybe Quirrell is trying
getting the Stone? Or they're both going for it? Or Snape
mind and

The boy is a Legilimens? Snape thought sharply. There was a sudden pain in
Milo's temple, and he felt a sudden sense of vertigo that knocked him to his
knees.
"H-how did you... what was... what just happened?" Milo asked, clutching his
head. His nose had started running, and he brushed it with his sleeve. The
Detect Thoughts spell no longer even registered Snape as an intelligent being,
it was like he wasn't even there.
"Answer me truthfully;I'll know if you're lying," Snape said imperiously. "Are
you a Legilimens?"
"Ah," Milo said, "No?"
Snape frowned. He's telling the truth, Snape thought to himself (and, this time,
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only to himself), and yet... he must be lying somehow. Could he be an Occlumens
as well? At eleven? No. He's not even a wizard. He must have some other powers,
similar to Legilimancy in effect, but called something else.
"Can you read minds?"
"Ah. Um. No," Milo lied.
Snape grinned. It faded quickly.
"Tell me," he said oddly, "do you smell something?"
"As a general rule, no," Milo said. "But now that you mention it..."
The silence was only broken by a particularly large spider scurrying across the
floor, and then a quick flash of emotion from Mordenkainen. FEAR, DISTRESS,
HORROR.
And then the wall exploded.

Chapter 11: The Troll and the Dementor

Author's Notes: I've gone back and changed the scene breaks on earlier chapters
to the oo that I use now, which actually appears on Fanfiction. Also, I've
edited some cases of the word Wizard to standardize capitalization: Capital W
refers to the D&D Wizard class, lower-case wizard refers to Harry Potter
wizards. However, I've probably missed a lot of them, but that's what I'll be
using from here on out.
oooo
"All students, return immediately to your Common Rooms," said a beleaguered
Professor Trelawneyan attack by a Troll was enough to knock even the
Divinations Professor out of her usual half-asleep dazeto a group of
Gryffindors lounging in the Great Hall.
"Excuse me, Professor," said Percy, the Gryffindor Prefect. "what's going on?"
"There's a Troll loose on the second floor!" she said anxiously. "And to think
of all the poor students who saw the Grim today..."
"Right! Just leave it to me, Professor," said Percy, standing to his full height
(as if that would do much against the twelve-foot-tall monstrosity on the
loose). "Gryffindors, come with me! Are we missing anyone?"
The Gryffindors, mostly first years, looked around at each other.
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"Hannah's outside, by the Lake," said Lavender Brown.
"And Milo's with Snape," said Ron.
"Professor Snape, Ronald," corrected Percy. "And he'll be fine if he's with a
professor. I'll find Hannah after I've walked you all to the tower, come
alongquickly, now!"
Harry, Ron, and Hermione shared a quick look as the other Gryffindors started
filing out of the massive room.
"Snape must have released the Troll!" Harry exclaimed to the others. "We've got
to go find Milo."
"Professor Snape can't have released the Troll, the key was in the Headmaster's
office," said Hermione.
"So, what, Dumbledore set the Troll loose? Obviously someone must have pulled a
fast one on him," said Ron. "And now Milo's alone with old batface, and it's a
perfect time to just throw him out a window and say the Troll did it. Let's go,
Hermione," Ron pleaded.
"But"
"I'm done talking," Harry said. "Our friend could be in danger right now.
Hannah's outside, she's probably the safest of all of us. I'm going, with or
without you two," and with that, Harry stood up from his table and walked away
from the group.
"Harry Potter!" said Percy. "Where are you going? The Common Room is that way!"
"Going with Trelawney," lied Harry. "To help find the Hufflepuffsyou know how
they are."
"Good man!" said Percy. "Best take Ronald with youhe could use someone like you
as a role model. Wellgood luck," he said, and left leading the others.
"Someone like you as a role model," sneered Ron. "Wonder what he'd say about
that if you knew you lied right to his face? Grumblegrumblegrumble..." Ron
trailed off.
Hermione sighed.
"All right, I'm coming with you. Someone has to keep you two from getting into
trouble," she said airily. Secretly, her heart was racing with excitement and
anticipation.
"Great job you've done so far," said Ron.
"Enough talking," snapped Harry. "Wands out, and let's go, already. Hermioneask
the paintings if they've seen Milo or Snape anywhere. They'll talk to you,
you're top of all our classes."
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"Not History of Magic," said Hermione, her face flushing slightly.
"Ron, keep an eye out for teachers and prefects," said Harry. "Oh, and rampaging
Trolls."
oooo
Why, Milo wondered (briefly), am I looking up at the floor?
Thud
Milo hit the groundhard.
"I have to stop doing that," he groaned. He'd gotten lucky and made his Reflex
Save for half damage when the Troll dropped a wall on his face, but was somewhat
less fortunate on his follow-up Grapple check to avoid being thrown across the
room. A normal human would have broken numerous bones or died, but adventurers
are somewhat more resilient than that. In total, he'd taken 8 points of
damageand for those of you keeping track back home, that put him at precisely 0
hp. That left him Disabled, meaning he can either shuffle about slowly or try to
attack (or cast a spell), but doing the latter will knock him unconscious and
dying.
Milo crawled slowly around a corner, and tried to stay as silent as possible.
Next time, he thought, make sure there's a Potion of Cure Light Wounds in your
Belt of Hidden Pouches.
Snape was nowhere to be seen.
I need a distraction.
"Sorry, Mordy," he whispered to his familiar. He had a bad feeling that, in a
few levels, when Mordy could speak back, he'd be getting an earful for this.
Mordenkainen, rodent extraordinaire, leapt out of his home in Milo's belt and
scurried around the corner to the Troll. Milo couldn't see what happened, but
heard a mighty roar worthy of an Elder Wyrm, and then a loud crash.
While the alleged Troll was occupied, Milo got to work. Reaching into his Belt,
he grabbed his flasks of oil and unstoppered their lids. Oil from his universe
goes a long way, and was enough to cover a five-foot square. The hallway was
closer to ten feet wide, and so Milo used four flasks to cover the whole hallway
ten feet deep. He then spread caltrops (nasty, spiky contraptions) across the
hallway as well.
Lastly, he (very carefully) took out a small, extremely valuable feather. The
feather, much stiffer and heavier than a mundane feather, was one of Milo's most
treasured possessions. It only worked once, and, while he had three of them, he
wasn't getting any more until he could return home. Gingerly, he placed it on
the ground in the oil, surrounded by caltrops.
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"Hey, ugly!" Milo shouted around the corner. "Leave my friend alone!" On cue,
Mordy scurried away from the Troll, up Milo's leg, and into his magic belt.
The Troll gave a mighty roar and charged Milo's position.
Milo grinned an evil sort of grin.
As the Troll placed its first heavy footstep on the oil-slick polished stone
floor, it lost its balance. It slid forwards a few feet, an almost comical
expression of surprise on its ugly features. It then fell backwards onto the
hard floorand the scattered caltrops. They weren't even close to powerful
enough to deal any real damage, but all Milo needed was to keep the troll in
position for a round. The Troll let loose a bellow of pain that shook the castle
as Milo muttered the command word to his Feather Token.
For those unfamiliar, the Tree Feather Token is the most useful magic item ever
devised. On command, it instantly creates an entirely real, nonmagical oak tree
five feet wide and sixty feet tall.
There was a swift, sudden breeze and a loud pop as a tree appeared in front of
Milo. It didn't grow, it didn't start small and swell up, it was just there.
The ceilings in Hogwarts were as varied as the halls, paintings, and geography
on a day-to-day basis, but here they were only eight feet tall (the Troll had to
stoop). The tree, which appeared directly underneath the Troll, blasted it
through the ceiling. And the one after that. And the one after that.
In total, the Troll was pushed bodily through seven floors, including three
hallways, two unused classrooms, Professor Binn's quarters, and the Hufflepuff
common room, which was now home to the forty-foot-wide canopy of a great oak
tree.
"Quaal," Milo said weakly to the mythical inventor of the Feather Tokens, "I'm
leaving everything to you in my will."
Crash.
"Uh," said Milo.
Crash.
"That really can't be good."
Crash.
"I'll just hobble away at half speed, shall I?" Milo limped down the hallway,
which ended in a dead-end, and a large window.
Crash.
"Milo!" Milo heard someone say. "We're here, to, ah, rescue you..."
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Crash.
"Blimey, was this great, dirty old tree always here?"
Crash.
"Ron!" said a sharp, female voice, "Careful, watch where you step. Someone's
booby trapped the ha"
CRASH. The ceiling caved in, and the Troll (heavily battered and bruised, but
still in the game, so to speak) landed, gracelessly, directly behind Milo.
Fortunately, it was looking away from him. Milo stood there breathlessly, trying
to make as little noise as possible. Maybe it will just... go away? That could
happen, ri
Milo's watch chimed, loudly, and then started to speak.
"Milo's got a da-ate, Milo's got a da-ate!" it sang cheerfully. "Don't be late,
don't be late, 'cause Milo's got a da-ate!"
"Oh, uh, hi there. See, the thing with the tree, that was nothing personal,
right?" Milo said weakly. "So, why don't we just put this behind us"
The Troll grabbed Milo with one arm, and, with a casual underhanded swing,
neatly defenestrated him.
Harry, who had boldly ran across the slick, spiky hallway, frantically tried to
help; but the young Wizard was out of sight before Harry was halfway through
"Wingardium."
Then the Troll turned to face the three under-trained, under-prepared,
under-aged wizards (well, two wizards and a witch).
The glass shredded Milo's already scorched and torn robes, but fortunately his
Mage Armour protected his skin from the worst of it.
Milo made a high, graceful arc over the Hogwarts Lake before he managed to stop
blubbering long enough to cast Feather Fall.
Our Hero, covered in dust and soot, his black robes in tatters, his hat missing,
his shoelaces untied, slowly floated to the ground, landing, as it would happen,
in the arms of a giant pink bunny.
"Amazing Dementor costume!" Hannah (in fancy dress) exclaimed. "Nice entrance,
too!"
Milo grinned briefly, then collapsed as his hit points dropped into the
negatives.
oooo
Concealed by his Disillusionment charm, Snape waited.
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The Cerberus slept, the low rumble of its triple snore shaking the floor
slightly.
Still, Snape waited.
Outside, the Troll was very likely killing one of his students.
Still, Snape waited.
His quarry was as invisible as he, but Snape had an advantage: the bane of all
invisible wizards, everywhere. One that would stop the Dark Lord himself, were
he invisible.
The door was closed. Quirrell would make his movesoon. Releasing the Troll was
an obvious distraction to allow him to get in here unnoticed.
Still, Snape waited.
The good-natured Muggle Studies Professor had come back from Romania...
different. Something had happened to him there, and it hadn't been vampires. The
good-natured Muggle Studies Professor was gone, now. The Headmaster knew
something, but whatever it was, he kept it to himself.
Still, Snape waited.
The castle shook, and a deafeningly loud CRASH shook the room. One of the
Cerberus's heads, jostled out of its slumber, perked up curiously.
Still, Snape waited.
The doorknob turned slowly.
Still, Snape waited.
Roots, of all things, slipped through the cracks in the masonry, breaking apart
the mortar. The walls buckled slightly.
Still, Snape waited.
The door opened, and closed.
Still, Snape waited.
oooo
"Uh, Hermione," said Ron anxiously. "If you were planning on doing anything
smart, now would be the time?"
Hermione simply stood staring up at the Troll, her face pale.
"Ron!" Harry shouted, barely dodging a large stone block. "What spells do we
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know?" The block, thrown by the Troll, exploded on the wall behind him.
"Uh. There's the one that makes our wands glow," he said. "and we can
Transfigure teakettles. Sh-should we Transfigure teakettles?"
"What about Wingardium Leviosa?" Harry suggested.
"I dunno," Ron said skeptically. "That Troll looks a little heavier than a
textbook to me."
"Not the Troll, the blocks!" Harry realized. Desperately, they began Levitating
anything in sightstone blocks, the weird spiky metal things, paintingsover the
Troll's head and dropping them. It was, it appeared, only marginally effective.
The Troll's thick skull was made of sterner stuff than even the
thousand-year-old masonry. If I get out of this, Harry resolved, I'm going to
learn how wizards fight. And I'm going to be the best there is. Nothing is going
to threaten my home ever again.
"...to all those who ask," Harry heard Hermione whisper.
"What was that?" Harry asked, his brow drenched in sweat from the effort of
Levitating the stone blocks that once made up the walls of his beloved castle.
His castle. This Troll would regret the second it scuffed the first candlestick
in his castle.
"Portraits of Hogwarts!" Hermione roared. "Run! Run to your neighbours, shout,
scream, anything. Find the Headmaster, or McGonagall, or Flitwick, Filch,
anyone." A nearby painting of a knight drew its sword and saluted, and with a
cry of "Yes, My Lady!" rode away on its stallion. The others just stared at her,
stunned.
"Well, I never," said a portrait of a fat lady (but not the Fat Lady) in an
evening gown. "The nerve of students these days, why, in my day, they employed
the whip."
"Couldn't have said it better myself, Agnes," said a bespectacled man.
"RUN!" she screamed at the paintings again. She didn't need to tell them a third
time.
"Right!" said Harry. "Now we just need to slow it down."
"Yeah," said Ron dismally, "assuming we can rely on Agnes to talk to Dumbledore
about anything other than the state of today's youth."
"Hermione, do you know any spell to create fire? Or sparks?" Harry asked.
Hermione shot a questioning look at him, before realizing what his plan was.
"Incendio," she cast, pointing her wand at Milo's oilslick. The lantern oil
erupted in flame, which quickly spread to the great oak tree. There wasn't
enough flammable material to create anything so impressive as a wall of fire,
but it did create a lot of smoke. Fortunately for the paint-based residents of
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Hogwarts, all of the living portraits had fled the area at Hermione's
instructions earlier; unfortunately, their homes were caught in the inferno. The
Troll was blinded by smoke, and started coughing hoarsely as it flailed its
fists around.
"What about wind? Harry asked. "We need as much dust in there as possible."
"Well, there's the Gust Jinx," admitted Hermione skeptically, "but it's
advanced. third-year."
"Hermione, can you cast it or not?" Harry pushed.
"Well... I've read about it," she said hesitantly. "I've never, you know,
actually tried it."
"No pressure or anything," urged Ron, "but if you mess up, we'll probably all
die."
Hermione's forehead wrinkled in concentration. She very carefully (and slowly)
placed her feet in the fencing-like casting position used when performing
complicated magic, and pictured the page in The Standard Book of Spells, Volume
3 that described the wand motions.
"Swish, flick, counter-swirl, three-quarters-twirl-clockwise,
diamond-inside-a-circle, VENTUS!"
It started gradually, building up strength somewhere behind Hermione. She felt
her robes stir gently, and her hair started to rustle. At first, she thought she
must have botched the spell (a thought which mortified her to her core), and
then it happened.
There was a rush of air that nearly knocked her from her feet, whipping her
curly hair around her head. Dust from the ruined hallway was picked up from the
walls, floors, the children's clothes, and from under the heavy masonry.
Hermione thought Harry's plan was to fan the flames with more air, until...
oooo
The third-floor window that Milo had flown out of exploded. A blossom of red
fire erupted from the remains of the frame, leaving spots in Hannah's eyes.
"That," she said, "can't be good." She drew her wand anxiously, but wasn't sure,
exactly, what she should be doing with it. She was, technically, a witch... but
needing magic for a potentially life-or-death situation wasn't something she
thought would ever happen. In fact, needing magic for anything outside of class
had simply never occurred to her. Imagine suddenly finding yourself having to
calculate how long it would take a sedan accelerating at 6 m/s2 to a maximum of
80 km/h to catch up to a truck moving at 60 km/h with a forty-five-minute head
start... to save the Prime Minister.
That, in a nutshell, is what Hannah felt like.
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First things first, she thought, deal with the unconscious boy. What Hannah
didn't know was that Milo, not simply unconscious, was, in fact, dying. Every
six seconds he'd drop one hit point until hitting negative ten, when he'd buy
the proverbial Outer Plane farm.
That leaves her, for those of you keeping score, fifty-four seconds to stabilize
him.
Fifty-three...
Fifty-two...
"Uh, I should, uh, probably get you to the hostpitaluh, hopsital, uh. Ah.
Hospital wing," she said. In another life, Hannah was a Hufflepuff. And
Hufflepuffs, not that there's anything wrong with them, wonderful, wonderful
people, are not typically noted (with the notable exception of the dreamy
third-year Cedric Diggory) for keeping their heads in a crisis.
"Locomotor Mortis!" she cast, and Milo's legs locked together.
Forty-two...
"No, wait! Wrong spell, I'm sorry!" she stressed. It was that last bit, the
Mortis part. "Locomotor Milo!" she cast, and Milo floated into the air.
Thirty-six...
"Uh, maybe I should counter that Leg-Locker Curse, now that I think about it,"
she said. "Finite Incantatem," she cast. Milo fell back to the ground.
Thirty...
"Oh, of course, that cancelled Locomotor as well. Locomotor Milo!" she cast
again.
Twenty-four...
"Well, to the Hospital Wing it is, then!" she said, and set off. Milo drifted
along behind her.
Twenty-three...
Twenty-two...
oooo
"Which one of you used the Blasting Charm?" Hermione asked, stunned, as she
picked herself up from the rubble.
"What?" asked Ron.
"I said, which one of you used the Blasting Charm," she repeated loudly.
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"What?" asked Ron, who had been deafened by the blast.
"Nobody here knows the Blasting Charm, Hermione," said Harry weakly. He'd been
thrown halfway across the room in the explosion.
"What?"
"Then, what spell was that?"
"What?"
"No spell," said Harry.
"What?" said Hermione and Ron simultaneously.
"Well, this one time Dudley fell asleep watching cartoons and I got to watch
Discovery," Harry said, "hiding in my cupboard, of course, in case my Aunt or
Uncle saw, and it turns out if you throw enough dust at a fire, it, well, it"
"explodes?" finished Hermione.
"What?"
"Yeah, basically. That's why I asked you to conjure up a windstorm."
"What?"
"That's clever. I strongly disapprove, you broke about a thousand school rules,
and maybe my ribs; also, I know for a fact 'no explosions in the hallwaysNO
EXCEPTIONS' is a rule, I saw it posted outside Filch's office, but it was
clever, but sometimes even when a plan is clever, even when it's really clever,
you should really warn me when you're going to blow something up."
"I'll do that next time," said Harry.
"What?"
"Oh, shut up, Ron!" snapped Hermione.
"What?"
"I know you can't hear me, but what you really expect to gain by saying 'what?'
over and over I don't even"
Hermione was cut off when a huge, ugly, scorched hand reached out from the smoke
and picked her up by the shoulder. She reflexively reached for her wand, but
realized she'd dropped it in the explosion.
The Troll held her up close to its face, gazing at her with a curious
expression. Then it opened its gaping maw. A fell odour of rotting meat and
extreme halitosis blasted her senses.
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"Uh, please don't eat me, Mr. Troll..." she begged.
Instead of eating her or charging down the injured Ron and Harry, the Troll
decided to take a third option.
oooo
Snape waited. Quirrell, Snape knew (though he could not see him), was likely
deciding what to do about Hagrid's dog. Whatever action he took would be proof
enough for Snape to bring Dumbledore, or even the Ministry, down on him.
Any moment now, the Defence Professor would kill the dog.
Unexpectedly, nothing happened.
What is he doing? Snape wondered. Then the Troll made an entrance.
Literally.
Stone bricks flew across the room when Quirrell's beast tore its way through the
wall as if it were made of paper, carrying the Granger girl in one hand as if
she were a rag doll.
The Cerberus awoke and leapt. Snape, though he would never admit it, was
reminded of the time he'd seen Godzilla Versus Mothra as a boy.
Stunned, Snape fumbled for his wand while the Cerberus collided with the Troll,
knocking it to the ground. Granger was tossed across the room, and slid limply
along the ground. She didn't move.
The Troll wrestled the larger beast off of it and grabbed an enormous flagstone
that used to make up part of the third floor's ceiling. With a mighty heave, it
brought the heavy chunk of stone down on one of the hound's heads. There was a
sickening crunch, and the other two heads led out bellows of rage; blood and
spit speckling the Troll. The Cerberus raked the Troll with sharp claws, gouging
thick slashes in its tough hide. One of is heads went for the Troll's neck, but
the Troll managed to wrestle its jaws open with its hands; the other head went
for Granger.
Snape began to cast a spell, but someone beat him to it.
"Avada Kedavra," Snape heard someone say, and there was a blinding green flash.
The Cerberus lay dead, and Quirrell stood in the centre of the room.
"A-a-are you a-alright, Miss G-G-Granger?" Quirrell asked, his voice full of
concern. When Hermione didn't respond, Quirrell frantically tore a strip of
cloth from his robe and tied it around her bleeding head.
"Episkey," he cast, and several of her smaller cuts and injuries healed rapidly.
"I'm s-s-sorry," he said, "that's the b-b-best I c-can do until h-help arrives."
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Quirrell, Snape noticed, never seemed to stammer when casting a spell. Well, at
least now his plan is clear. Really, it was obvious in hindsight, Snape sighed.
He should have seen it coming. Quirrell released the Troll not only as a
distraction, but as an excuse to enter the forbidden corridor and kill Fluffy.
He used a Forbidden Curse, but even those were technically legal against
non-humans. It did further cement Snape's view that Quirrell had gone Dark,
however. On top of everything, Quirrell would now be a hero in everyone's eyes.
What this had to do with Milo, however, Snape still couldn't figure out.
Wait, he thought, why was the Troll holding Miss Granger?
He paused. Granger must have been in the hallways, and where there's Granger...
...there's Harry Potter.
Climbing over debris and deceased dog, Snape rushed through the Troll's wall
entrance. The Troll itself lay gasping for breath under the hound's body.
Outside, in the hallway, was an... interesting sight. The window had been blown
open, taking much of the surrounding frame with it. The ceiling had not one, but
two troll-sized holes in it; one of them was at least mostly filled... by a
great oak tree, which was, incidentally, on fire. Just down the hallway was
another flattened wall, where the Troll had first entered. The sheer level of
damage was unlike anything Snape had ever seen beforenot even Fred and
George... not even James and Sirius had ever... no-one, so far as Snape knew,
had ever done so much raw, physical damage to the Hogwarts school in a thousand
years, much less under a minute.
Surely, the Dark Lord's hand must be at work, here...
Snape shook himself out of his reverie, and began searching for Potter. The boy
must live, everythingand everyoneelse was expendable. Dimly, he was aware of
movement behind him.
There was a brief, blinding flash as Dumbledore arrived, carried by his fiery
bird.
"You can come out, now," said the Headmaster. The eccentric Headmaster, it
seemed, had not taken Hallowe'en lightly, and was wearing an
uncharacteristically sombre gray robe and hat. Of all things, a sword was
buckled to his side. At first, Snape thought Dumbledore had directed the remark
at him, but the Headmaster looked right at him and winked.
The Troll, burnt and bloody, staggered out of the forbidden third-floor
corridor.
"You have damaged my school," the Headmaster said gravely. "You have injured my
students." The Troll cocked its head to the side, as if it actually understood
what he was saying. "And for these things that you have done," the Headmaster
continued, "you will leave. Now."
There was no threat, just a simple statement of fact. The Troll stared at the
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Headmaster blankly.
"Fly, you fool," Dumbledore said quietly. The Troll turned and leapt out the
window. Snape, dismissing his Disillusionment Charm, walked over to the edge.
The Troll was running towards the Forbidden Forest as fast as it could go.
"Professor," Snape heard a weak voice from behind them. Dumbledore turned to see
Harry and Ron lying, partially buried by (surprisingly dust-free) stone bricks.
"Mr. Potter! Mr. Weasley! We have to get you to the hospital wing at once!" the
Headmaster said in alarm.
"No, worry about us later," Harry said stoically. "Milo... was thrown out the
window. HeI'm sure he"
"Say no more, I'll take care of it," Dumbledore said reassuringly. "Snape, make
sure these twoand Miss Granger, she should be around here somewhereget to the
hospital wing." With that, and a flash, he and his Phoenix vanished as quickly
as they'd appeared.
oooo
"W-w-w-wingard... Wing... Wingardium Leviosa!" Hannah shouted, lifting Milo into
the sky. She was sureokay, pretty sureokay, she hoped she'd found the window
to the hospital wing.
Ten...
Milo slowly floated up to the fourth-storey window. Hannah hoped that someone
inside would see him and help.
Nine...
She considered sending up sparks with her wand, or even using magic to break the
window, but she wasn't sure she could do that and hold Milo at the same time.
Eight...
On the other hand, if necessary, she could always just shove him through the
window.
Seven...
What would that accomplish? If there's nobody in there, there won't be anyone to
help him.
Six...
Milo dropped to -9 hit points, not that Hannah knew that.
Five...
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I'm sure someone will notice him eventually.
Four...
Though I'm not sure for how long I can keep this levitate running.
Three...
There was a loud Crack and a blinding flash. Dumbledore appeared in front of
her, with a fiery bird perched on his shoulder.
Two...
Hannah's concentration broke, and abruptly she felt the strain of her Levitation
Charm vanish. Milo, no longer protected by his Feather Fall, started to fall to
the ground. Fawkes, with a mighty cry, leapt from Dumbledore's shoulder and flew
towards the falling boy.
One...
oooo
Milo awoke to an all-too-familiar ceiling. He heard raised voices from the other
side of the curtain surrounding his hospital bunk. He felt... well, pretty
great, actually. It was sort of hard to put his finger on.
"No, I don't know when he'll wake up!" said the frustrated voice of Madam
Pomfrey.
"You are a mediwitch, aren't you?" said the stern voice of McGonagall.
"Yes, and I'm fully trained and qualified to heal humans. What he is, I don't
even"
"So you're telling me you don't have a clue whether he's going to live or die."
"I'm telling you that he's survived life threatening injuries in the past; I
don't even know if he can die."
"Uh," Milo said cheerfully. "I'm awake! Hello?"
Abruptly, the curtain was drawn back from around his bed. McGonagall looked
concerned, and Pomfrey looked terrified.
"Wh-what, already?" she asked, trembling. "You should have been... I mean, you
shouldn't have..."
"What Madam Pomfrey is trying to say," said McGonagall, "is that we're very
relieved to hear that you're all right."
"Yup, just dandy. Can anyone tell me what happened? The last thing I remember is
nearly killing myself casting Feather Fall... of all the ways to die, I think
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that would have been the most humiliating. I can't believe it actually was the
fall that killed me."
"Do you mean to tell me that you were performing dangerous magic" McGonagall
started, but Pomfrey cut her off.
"Well, I can only assume we have Fawkes to thank," said the mediwitch. "although
as to why the Headmaster's been keeping a miracle cure like Phoenix Tears locked
away in his office, I suppose I'll have to bring that up with him..." she said,
trailing off into a series of angry grumbles. Milo thought he caught the words
"puts me completely out of the job" and "could have saved that Longbottom boy a
world of hurt"
"Uh," said Milo, "could anyone tell me what happened to the Troll?"
"Professor Dumbledore drove it away," said McGonagall. "I believe it's likely
still running, actually. Although your friends performed more than their share
of Gryffindor heroism, and, not that I'd like to encourage this sort of thing,
together you've all earned more than enough points to offset your... unruly...
behaviour."
"How come I'm not dead?" Milo asked, bluntly.
"Miss Abbot carried you back to the castle, and I rather think she was about to
break the door down when the Headmaster found youhis Phoenix, Fawkes, has
certain powerful healing abilities. She's quite distraught, in fact, and has
hardly left your side."
"I don't suppose you could tell us why you're awake?" asked Pomfrey. "Everything
I know tells me you should have either been completely restored when the Phoenix
healed you, or, failing that, unconscious for days. It's only been three hours."
"Well, I've got a hit point. If I had to guess, that Phoenix cured me into the
positives, and I was just sleeping since then. It was your shouting that woke me
up. Still, I feel sort of... weird."
Madam Pomfrey frowned.
"Lumos," she whispered. "Right, follow my wand with your eyes..." she waved the
wand slowly back in front of his face. When he, presumably, responded normally;
she followed up with a number of diagnostic spells.
"Look, I feel fine," he said. "Better than fine, actually; sort of like... I
could go toe-to-toe with a Ghoul or armwrestle a Bugbear. Like I could be or
do... well, anything. Like I'm full of untapped potential..."
"Well, Phoenixes have been known to have a sort of euphoric effect"
"No, it's not that. I think... I think I... my gods!" he said as he realized
what had happened.
"What?" asked McGonagall, alarmed.
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"I've levelled up!" It had never happened while he was unconscious before.
"Leave me alone for a minute, I need to pick skills."
McGonagall gave him a peculiar look and turned to leave with Madam Pomfrey, but
Milo ignored them both.
"Oh, by the way," said Madam Pomfrey as she left. "You're not to leave your bed
for at least 24 hours."
"Sure, whatever," Milo said absently.
Skills is easy, Milo thought. I'll just add another rank in what I've already
got. As for feats...
This part was really difficult for Milo. As a level five Wizard, he got a bonus
metamagic or item creation feat. Under normal circumstances I'd go for Extend
Spell, but...
I might have to face the fact that I'm going to be stuck here for a while, Milo
thought bitterly. I have to be self-sufficient. I have to be a whole party, a
whole economy, by myself. If I keep being tossed into encounters above my ECL
like this, I'm going to wind up dead.
What are my assets?
I have time.
With Harry Potter, I have money.
Feeling somewhat sick, Milo did something he swore he would never, ever do.
Mentally, he wrote down "Craft Wondrous Item" on the character sheet in his
mind.
If I ever get to go home, he reassured himself, I'll just retrain it.
When it came to spells, Milo felt like he might cry. I only get two. How can I
live with only two?! There are dozens of third level spells I absolutely have to
have. Haste. Fireball. Shrink Item. Fly. Summon Monster III. Heroics. With tears
in his eyes, Milo chose Fly and Summon Monster III. Next level, he promised
himself. Next level, I learn something that goes boom.
"What was that?" Milo heard a familiar voice.
"Sorry, Nev. This place has me talking to myself," Milo said.
"It's not so bad," he heard Neville say from next cot over. "Though I'd like to
try sleeping in our dorm once, if only for the novelty of it."
"You've never slept in Gryffindor Tower?" Milo heard Hermione say.
"Blimey," said Ron. "Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever seen him
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in there."
"My suitcase isn't even unpacked," Neville said sadly.
Milo looked around. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were all lying in hospital beds as
well. Hermione's bushy brown hair was hidden by thick bandages around her head,
with more wrapped around her chest. Harry and Ron were similarly bandaged,
albeit to a lesser extent.
"Holy crap," Milo said, stunned. "What happened to you guys?"
As they filled him in on the events of their day (Milo was stunned at the
revelation that dust could explode; the possible applications for that were
endless. Okay, well, really there was only one application for it, and that was
for making things go boom on the cheap.) That these three "wizards" very nearly
took out that "Troll" made Milo's respect for them go up several notches.
"So all they were keeping in the chamber of die-a-horrible-death was a gigantic
three-headed dog?" Milo asked. "Huh. I always had it figured for the
Philosopher's Stone. Guess that explains why Hogwarts had a gigantic
ultra-secure cage, though."
As Milo was talking, the door to the hospital wing opened.
Hannah Abbot, in full rabbit regalia, entered, followed by a hovering trolley
covered in food.
"Seeing as how you're missing the Hallowe'en feast," she said, "McGonagall made
a special exemption and let me bring the feast to you. Also," she added, "you
lotMilo excluded, of course; very spooky as a Dementorwouldn't be allowed in
there without a costume, anyway."
The eyes on Harry's, Ron's, Hermione's, and Neville's eyes lit up
simultaneously. Milo shrugged and reached for his Everlasting Rations.
"She also said to tell you that it came with a twenty Gryffindor House Points
for each of you (except you, Neville, sorry), and five for me," she said
happily. "Oh, also," she said, looking archly at Milo. "If you even think about
eating those bland, tasteless Rations, I will personally throw you through
another window."
Ron choked slightly.
"McGonagall said that?"
"No," said Hannah. "That was me."
Hannah walked past her grievously injured friends, passing out plates piled high
with food. Milo felt that elaborate descriptions were in order, but, frankly, he
didn't know what three-quarters of the stuff was even called. Hannah sat down on
the bed next to Milo and passed him a plate.
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Milo sniffed it suspiciously.
"Detect Poison," he muttered. Everything looked clean (except Neville, who still
had enough poison in him to be flagged as 'poisonous'), but that paradoxically
only made him more nervous. The poison might be really well hidden...
"Oh, just eat it," Hannah said. "What could happen? You're already in the
hospital wing."
"Fine," Milo said reluctantly. He took a tiny bite of something sort of
orange-ish. His hand was already reaching for Antitoxin before he finished
chewing, but, surprisingly, he felt fine.
"Hey," he said, stunned. "This... this is pretty good."
"See? I told you so," Hannah said with a grin. Where Milo came from, taste was
only ever described when it was dramatically required, but here... everything
was so full of flavour, evenor, perhaps, especiallywhen it was completely
inconsequential.
"Beans," he said suddenly.
"Sorry, what was that, mate?" Ron asked.
"The Gringotts Every-Flavoured Beans," Milo said. "I want some. Now."
"They're Bertie Botts Every-Flavoured Beans," Ron muttered. "And there's a box
on the trolley, but, blimey, Harry made me swear to warn anyone before their
first time"
"I can handle it," Milo said, grabbing the box. He licked his lips hungrily and
downed a handful at a time.
Milo passed out from sensory overload.
"This," said Harry as Milo came to, "was the best Hallowe'en ever. Normally, the
Muggles only let me have the candies they took from Dudley because they think
they have razor blades in them."
Milo was forced to agree, and not only because it was the only Hallowe'en he'd
ever had. He'd fought monsters, survived by the skin of his teeth, levelled up,
discovered the wonders of a whole new sense, and felt, for the first time in a
long time, like he was part of a party again.
It was, rather, like coming home.

Chapter 12: Of Rats and Bowler Caps


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Author's Notes: Milo's new level five character sheet can be found here:
?sheetid=421496. because Fanfiction seems to dislike entire URLS.
Thanks to everyone for your nice reviews! If this story were a Wizard, those
reviews would be his spells per day.
oooo
Harry and Ron were released on Friday evening, but Milo and Hermione were
obliged to stay in the hospital wing for the weekend. Gryffindor (and even a few
Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw) well-wishers had brought in flowers, candy, and cards
to speed their recovery. Milo wondered idly where the students had got them
from, because it wasn't like there were any shops in the castle, and students
couldn't just leave the grounds.
"Owl-order," answered Hermione when he asked on Sunday evening. "Also,
third-years and above can go to Hogsmeade a few times a year."
Milo was disappointed at how... mundane the answer was, but liked the sound of
the Hogsmeade trips once he hit third year...
Milo cut off that line of thought quickly. There's no way I'm still going to be
here in two years, he thought firmly. Why, Zook and the others are probably
already paying to have a whole battery of Divinations cast to find out where I
am.
Totally.
...and the reason that's been two months, why, they're probably just trying to
find a really good Diviner to do it. Yeah. Totally. Or a Conjurer to Plane Shift
me home.
Milo sighed.
They could have at least sent a Sending once in a while, is that too much to
ask?
Of course, this all assumes they weren't TPK'd by Thamior because they didn't
have me to do, well, everything.
"Why the long face?" Hermione asked, full of concern.
"I think," said Milo, "that all of my friends back home might be dead."
"What?" she asked, her face gone white. "That's terrible! What... why... who...
Oh, Milo, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry; that's about the worst thing I've ever
heard."
Milo blinked. He'd forgotten that the people here seemed to view death as more
than a mild inconvenience.
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"It's not so bad," he said. "I mean, this isn't the first time it's happened."
"You don't have to put on such a brave face," she said. "It's only me."
"Where I come from, you can pay to have people brought back from the dead," Milo
said simply. "It's really not such a big deal."
Hermione just stared, thunderstruck.
"That's... so..." Hermione paused to collect her thoughts. "You really are from
another world, aren't you?"
"Yeah," Milo said quietly. "Everything was really"
"Hey!" Milo heard a small, sharp voice say.
"Uh, Hermione, did you say something?" Milo asked
"Listen!" the voice said.
"What?" Milo asked, irritated. Milo got a flash of Irritation, Frustration,
Annoyance from his empathic bond. "Mordy? Was that you? Since when can you
talk?"
"It's amazing, really, it is," the voice (presumably Mordy) said. "You
remembered to put a skill rank in Decipher Script, as if you'll ever find any
use for that, but you forgot that I got the Speak With Master ability?" Mordy
crawled out of his home in Milo's bag, and up his robes to talk to him
face-to-face. Hermione had an odd look on her face, watching the exchange.
"Well, I feel like that's more your business to keep track of" Milo protested
weakly.
"I'm your class feature," said Mordy firmly. "Bet you forgot my Natural Armour
increased, too, didn't you? No, don't tell me; I don't think my poor, adorable
little rodent heart could take it."
"Yes, well, but"
"And it's been ages since I got any share of the loot," Mordenkainen continued
as if Milo hadn't spoken.
"Share of the"
"That's right, my fair share of the loot. I do all the most dangerous
jobsdistracting the Troll, spying on Snape's secret meeting with Lucius"
"Wait, what"
"and what do I get in return?"
"Supernatural power above and beyond that of an ordinary rat, humanlike
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Intelligence, magical knowledge rivalling my own, the Skill Ranks of a level
five Wizardbut that's beside the point. What's this about Snape's secret
meeting?"
"Right after you were doing your 'Crime Scene Investigating' in the Forbidden
ForestI'm sorry, are you not taking me seriously? You're laughing."
"It's hard to maintain a straight face," Milo said between laughs, "when you see
a rat make little air-quotes like that."
"Stay on topic, would you? Snape snuck out to meet the Smarmy Git's father,
before you ask, yes, I could tell by his scent who he was but also because the
Oily One called him 'Lucius Malfoy.'"
"And? What did they talk about?" Milo asked, intrigued.
"You know, I got mauled by a cat once, helping you," Mordy said.
"What happened to 'Stay on topic?'" Milo asked.
"I just wanted you to appreciate how difficult my job is, sometimes."
"Yes, yes, you're very appreciated, now get on with it."
"Well, the Sire of Smarm told the Oily One that you weren't a wizard"
"Not a Wizard?" Milo asked, enraged. "I will end him! I'll show him which one of
us isn't a Wizard when I shove some high-powered arcana down his"
"and that he wants the Oily One to have you expelled."
"...Huh," said Milo flatly. "Expelled? That's it?" From where he was from,
enemies generally wanted you, dead, undead, re-dead, disgraced, disintegrated,
detained, and/or devoured. Being expelled seemed so... unimportant. "It must
only be Phase One of his plan. First, get me expelled, then, eaten by Bugbears."
"That's what I assumed as well. So, boss, what's the plan? Oh, before I forget,
there's this one other th"
"Okay," said Hermione, as if it had taken her this long to work up the courage
to mention it. "What are you doing?"
"Talking to Mordenkainen," he said. "Can't you tell?"
"No," said Hermione. "It sounded like you were spouting gibberish. You canwait,
you can talk to rats? You're a... a... huh. I don't actually know if there's a
word for that. A rodenttongue? Rattongue?"
"No, just to this one. I'm the one-and-only Mordytongue," Milo said. He'd
forgotten that the Speak With Master ability magically prevented anyone from
understanding what he said to Mordy, and vice-versa. Handy, he thought.
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"So, what are you saying?" Hermione asked curiously. "Er, that was rude. I
didn't meant to pry, or interrupt a conversation, or anything, it's just that
it's not every day that"
"Mordy was telling me that Snape and Lucius Malfoy met secretly in the forest,"
Milo explained, "and that Lucius asked Snape to get me expelled."
Hermione frowned.
"This was when you went to the forest to investigate the Acromantula?" Hermione
asked. "I'd been meaning to askwhat did you end up finding?"
"The Acromantula had a missing fang," Milo said. "And that I couldn't have
killed it with the log."
"But, that means..."
"Someone else must have done it, though I didn't see it happen. I would have
thought it was Quirrell, but he was very clear about the fact that he was
nowhere near the scene at the time. Also, the math on the Experience Points
checks out if I split it fifty-fifty with a more experienced character than
myself."
Hermione blinked.
"You know, when I was in school, people said I was weird."
"Must be nice," Milo said, "to have a backstory. Seems like a lot of work,
mind."
"You... you don't remember your childhood at all?"Hermione was shocked.
"Before I became an adventurer? Not really. I know that at some point, I became
a vagabond street thief, but I'm not really sure how that happened."
"But that's so sad," Hermione said, her eyes misting up.
"It let me become a Wizard younger," Milo said. "It's sort of complicated, and
it doesn't stand up to close inspection. It's... weird. For me. This only became
a problem when I came to this world, it's like... I'm cut off from something. I
don't suppose we can change the subject?"
"What were we talking about?" Hermione asked. "Oh, right. Snape trying to get
you expelled. Only Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore have the
authority for that," she said, "short of the Minister for Magic stepping in
personally. It's out of Snape's hands."
"I guess Snape could try to set it up so that they had no choice but toaw,
crap. The potion."
"Milo!" Hermione said. "Language!" she paused for a moment. "Also, what potion?"
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"For Snape's detention on Hallowe'en," Milo said. "I thought he was trying to
kill me, having me make an exploding potion, but it was a test. I failed."
"Failing Potions isn't enough to have you expelled," Hermione said. "I mean,
take Neville."
"Hey!" said Neville from his bunk. He was back in the hospital wing after being
mauled by (and they wouldn't have believed it if there hadn't been twelve
witnesses) a Flobberworm. Flobberworms have no teeth, fangs, spikes, poison,
spit, anything. Their one claim to fame is their (harmless) slimy mucous. They'd
quite forgotten about him.
"Sorry, Nev," Hermione said, her face pink.
"No, it's not just about being even more hopelessly incompetent than Neville,"
Milo said as if Neville hadn't spoken. PCs could be like that around NPCs,
sometimes. "Snape told me himself: a newborn with a hint of magical blood could
make that potion. All you have to do is stir it, you don't need to think about
it or concentrate or anything."
"So?" asked Hermione. "What's your point?"
"I couldn't make the potion," Milo said quietly.
There was a meaningful silence.
"Maybe you had the ingredients wrong?" asked Hermione.
"No, they were perfect. Snape even checked them beforehand. It's not like I kept
it a secret, I'm not a wizard like you are."
"Witch, actually," said Hermione pointedly.
"But the only thing keeping me here is that Dumbledore thinks I'm like you,"
said Milo, "only crazy and deludedand even worse at magic than Neville."
"Hey!"
"No, that can't be," said Hermione. "If you weren't a wizard, the wards wouldn't
let you enter Hogsmeade or Hogwarts. You'd suddenly remember an important
meeting and run off, I believe."
"I suppose it depends on the exact wording of the spell. Maybe the wards target
everyone who isn't 'a wizard, witch, squib, or magical creature,' or something.
I don't suppose you have the spell description in the library?"
"Uh," said Hermione. "I... don't think so."
"More importantly, I've..." Milo's tongue tripped over itself. "I've..." he
sighed. "I've already lost. Snape won. I'm going to be expelled."
"No, I think it would take more than Snape's word for something like this. It's
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completely unprecedented; the Ministry will want to be involved, Dumbledore
tooand McGonagall, of coursethe department that handles underage magic... the
point is, I don't think we need to worry until ministry officials start showing
up"
"Hello!" said a cheerful voice, interrupting Hermione mid-sentence. Milo turned
to see a portly (one) little (two) man in a pinstriped cloak and green bowler
cap (three! Major NPC) standing at the entrance to the hospital wing.
Hermione gasped, her face completely white.
"Erm," said Milo. "Hello, ah, sir?" he was guessing wildly, but judging by
Hermione's reaction, this was either a local king, evil vizier, or Lord
Voldemort himself. Milo carefully re-arranged his blankets so they wouldn't
impede him if he made a run for the window, and stuffed Mordenkainen back into
his belt.
"Oh, that won't be necessary," said the man. "I'm Cornelius Fudge, the Minister
for Magic."
Milo blinked.
Aw, crap.
"M-M-Milo Amastacia"
"Liadon," Fudge interrupted as he moved to sit next to Milo. "Yes, yes, I know
who you are."
Milo licked his lips, which had gone suddenly dry. He wouldn't be up to full hit
points until midnight, when his second day of full bed rest finished. He slowly
pulled both hands out from under his blankets so they wouldn't interfere with
Somatic spell components. This man, as Milo understood it, was king of an entire
country of wizards. He probably had access to enough Arcane power to rewrite
reality according to his whims.
"I'm afraid there's been a spot of trouble," the Minister said. "I'm sure it's
nothing, but it has a lot of us at the Ministry scratching our heads. I'm here
with some colleagueswho are waiting in the hall; your mediwitch was quite...
severe with them, demanded no more than one of us be let in at a timewho are
here to sort it out and solve the little mystery. Shouldn't take more than a
moment, really."
Hermione shot Milo a look of absolute panic.
"H-how can I help, m-m-my lord?" Milo asked.
"Really now," said Fudge, "I'm not a lord, you know."
"F-forgive me, your Divine Imperial Majesty!"
The fat little man sighed and removed his bowler cap.
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"Just Mister Fudge will do, Milo. And to answer your question earlier, all you
have to do is follow me, answer a few questions, and brew a potion. We can have
you back to your bed and friends in a few minutes."
Milo panicked. It was the end of the day, and he was almost out of spells. He
couldn't prepare new ones until Monday.
"I, ah, I'd love to but I'm afraid I'm... I'm grievously injured," Milo
stammered. "I was thrown out a window just the other day, you know?"
"The lovely Ms. Pomfrey assures me that you're in good enough shape to move
about, if only for a short time," said Fudge. "And I'm afraid I have to insist.
It's quite out of my hands, you see..."
"But you're the" Milo said, before remembering who he was talking to. Fudge
could probably lay waste to armies with a wave of his hand. "...okay. I'll go
with you," he said meekly.
"Good lad!" said the Minister as Milo climbed to his feet.
"I want to go with him," Hermione said firmly.
"Er," said the Minister. "Well, shouldn't you stay here and rest?"
"No," she insisted. "I'll be fine, Pomfrey is just being over-protective. I'm
not letting him go anywhere aloneyou wouldn't believe what happens." Milo
grinned; it looked like she was finally grasping Adventurer Rule One: you never
split the party.
"Well, um, very well, but let it be known this wasn't my idea."
Hermione weakly struggled to her feet. Her head was still tightly bandaged, as
was her chest. From what Milo could understand, witches and wizardsand Muggles,
too, likelyhad a completely different healing process from what he was familiar
with.
Milo moved next to Hermione (just in case) and together they followed the
Minister for Magic. Outside the hospital wing's large double doors were four of
his flunkies.
"These are my colleagues," Fudge gestured at his underlings, "Mafilda Hopkirk
from the Improper Use of Magic Office," he said, pointing at a stern,
gray-haired witch, "Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for
Magic," Fudge pointed at what Milo could only assume to be a Half-Toad clad all
in pink, "and Broderick Bode of the Department of Mysteries," Fudge pointed at a
sallow-skinned wizard. "In the back there is Walden Macnair of the, er, the
Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. I'm sure he
won't be necessary." Fudge pointed at a huge wizard standing head-and-shoulders
taller than the others.
"This the little beastie?" Macnair asked in a low rumble.
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"Well," said Fudge awkwardly. "That, er, has, ah, yet to be determined. If
you'll all follow me?" Fudge asked, with a small gesture. Milo frowned. Is his
timid incompetence an act, as obfuscation? Or is he really this anxious all the
time? If so, how did he become ruler of en empire of what are, essentially,
demigods?
He can't have, Milo realized. Either he's a brilliant chessmaster behind this
facade, or...
Fudge led the group into the dungeons, but Milo barely noticed.
...or someone else is the real power behind the throne. But is it Dumbledore,
Lucius, Voldemort, or some third party?
Either way, I really need to figure out how to pass Snape's test.
It wasn't that impossible, really. All he had to do was get a cauldron to bubble
instead of exploding.
The only catch was that he hardly had any spells left; he'd been using Scholar's
Touch to catch up on his reading.
Milo ran his fingers through his hair. He hadn't quite realized how vulnerable
that made him at night.
"How long is it to midnight?" he asked Hermione, who checked her watch.
"Less than two hours," she said with a yawn. "It's way past my bedtime."
Milo chewed his lip. He had a plan, of sorts.
midnight, and then delay for an hour while he
to figure out how to make a handful of spells
ten-by-ten stone rooms do something they were

He just had to delay until


prepared spells. And then he had
designed for killing orcs in
never intended to.

All the while with the most powerful men in the country breathing down his neck.
Wonderful.
"I'm sure if you just double-check your measuring," Hermione said in an attempt
to be reassuring, "you'll do fine."
Milo grinned nervously, then steeled himself. He had the beginnings of a plan in
mind, but for that he would need spells.
"So, erm, Milo my boy, where did you say you came from?" Fudge asked.
"Myra," Milo said proudly. "City of light! City of Magic!" The Myrari
government, though completely inept at dealing with dragons, goblins, and
bandits, nonetheless had a sophisticated system of Divinations set up to detect
citizens who didn't add the legally-mandated city motto after saying the city's
name. Milo wasn't sure exactly how far-reaching the effects were, so even here
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he made sure to say itand, for that matter, think it. Nobody knew exactly what
the punishment was for breaking that particular law, because nobody knew anyone
who had ever done it.
Personally, Milo suspected that lawbreakers were retroactively erased from the
timeline altogether.
"Where is that, exactly?" asked Fudge. "America? Europe?"
"Uh," said Milo. He wasn't sure, exactly, how secret he was supposed to keep his
otherworldy nature. On the other hand, Fudge was probably watching him with a
battery of Divinations (or whatever the local equivalent was called) to catch
him lying. So, I can't tell the truth, and I probably can't tell a lie. "No,"
Milo said. "Not America or Europe." And now I need a diversion... "Did you see
that ludicrous display last week?"
"I daresay! I had more Galleons riding on a Wanderer's victory than were in the
Spanish Armada," Fudge said. "Mind, the Cannons were all riding Nimbus Two
Thousands," he said. "That must have been the reason. Donated at the last minute
by an anonymous benefactor. The Wanderers, though; rumour has it they were on an
experimental new broom. Must have been rubbish, though."
Milo's curiosity was perked. If there's one thing every adventurer listens to,
it's unfounded rumours told by fat little men. He knew his present situation was
dire, but he just had to dig for more information.
"An experimental broom?" Milo asked.
"So I'd heard. Made by a total unknown in Wales somewhere, doesn't even have a
proper name yet. It's all very hush-hush, even to meand I'm the Minister!"
"So, your, ah, Ministership, sir, do you have any guesses about who donated all
the broomsticks?"
"Off the record? There's only one family with the wealth and influence to afford
a team's set of Nimbuses with a vested interest in seeing the broomstick
succeed," Fudge said conspiratorially, "and that's the Malfoys. Mr. Malfoy is on
the Nimbus board of directors, you know."
Milo had no idea what a board of directors was, but he didn't care. Everything
he heard seemed to be pointing to that family: the manor he first woke up in,
Draco's very existence (and at the exact same age as him, too), Lucius in the
forest and wasn't Draco taunting him about Quidditch just the other day?
Milo knew an adventure hook when he saw one.
Later, Milo thought. First, I need to avoid being expelled. Expulsion would be
inconvenient and annoying, but it wasn't as if Milo had any vested interest in
obtaining a magic education in the wrong sort of magic. Mostly, he just wanted
to stay in Hogwarts because Lucius, for some reason, wanted him out.
"Ah, here we are," said Fudge as they approached Snape's classroom in the
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dungeons. "You know, when I attended this school, this was where they used to
lock us when we misbehaved. Ah, the joys of youth."
Without even being prompted, Macnair and Bode each opened one of the double
doors, allowing Fudge to enter. Milo was still unsure if the man's bumbling
nature was an act or not.
Milo and Hermione followed, with Fudge's underlings behind them.
Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, and a small group of men Milo didn't recognize
were waiting in the classroom for them. Something about the way the group of men
stood, and the fact that they were all dressed the same, made Milo think they
were some form of wizard police or military. What was the word for that? They
had a word for that Milo thought, trying to remember. It was in one of the
books he'd read with Scholar's Touch.
Sitting in the middle of the classroom was a small, pewter cauldron. Next to it
were the ingredients, such as they were, for Snape's test potion. Snape looked
excited, McGonagall worried, and Dumbledore as enigmatic as always.
"In accordance with Section Thirty-Two-Point-One-Four-One-Alpha of the 1634
Statute on Inexplicable Phenomena of a Magical Nature," Umbridge declared in an
authoritative voice, reading from a scroll she'd been carrying somewhere on her
person, "which states, in the words of the Great Wizard Peabody, 'When something
really, really, really wyrd happens, and hear ye me I do mean REALLY wyrd, and
lo, it hath never happened before, and neither sir nor gentle lady knoweth what
to do, let the goddamned Department of Mysteries handle it, y'hear? And
forsooth, maketh sure there are at least a half-dozen Aurors around, if ye know
what be good for ye,' the first preliminary inquiry to determine the nature of
one entity known as 'Milo Amastacia-Liadon,' of a species yet to be determined,
is to be convened, under the supervision of one Broderick Bode of the Department
of Mysteries and in the presence of six fully-qualified Aurors of the Department
of Magical Law Enforcement. Also in attendance are Hogwarts Professors Albus
Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, and Severus Snape, Dolores Umbridge, Senior
Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic,
Walden McNair of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical
Creatures, Mafilda Hopkirk from the Improper Use of Magic Office, and... Ms.
Hermione Granger. The objective of the inquiry is 1) to determine the species of
the individual in question, 2) if he turns out to be human, whether he is a
wizard, squib, or... otherwise, 3) if not a wizard, determine how he got past
the magical wards protecting this castle and the village known as Hogsmeade,
4)if not human, to turn the inquiries over to the Department for the Regulation
and Control of Magical Creatures for study and, if deemed appropriate,
execution. Let the inquisition commence."
Umbridge put away her parchment and stepped back.
Milo blinked. Well, he thought, this is unexpected. Bode, the strange, somber
man from the Department of Mysteries moved forwards slightly.
"Now, Milo, I want you to understand that these are just preliminary inquiries.
There are a lot of unanswered questions, and we're just going to try and see if
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they're worth looking into is all. That business about the execution is just a
formality," he said in a dry voice. Milo had just started sighing with relief
when he continued. "Unless, of course, you aren't human, and are some form of
hitherto-undiscovered magical creature, in which case you'll be staked,
beheaded, buried upside-down in sanctified concrete for a year and a day, then
dug up, salted, shot with thirteen silver bullets, cremated, and Disapparated
into the sun. In my experience, that'll kill anything short of a Dementor."
Milo laughed weakly.
"So," Milo said nervously. "How, exactly, are we going to go about this?"
"The first test is easy enough. Your Potions Master was good enough to brew us
up some Veritaserum. You just have to drink a drop."
"And what will that do, exactly?" Milo asked.
"It'll make it impossible for you to tell a lie," Bode said.
"Okay, hit me," Milo said, and reached out. Snape, with a grin, produced a tiny
vial of clear potion from his robes. For one brief, extremely embarrassing
moment, Milo wished he were a Bard in order to cast Glibness. Snape poured out a
single, tiny drop of Veritaserum into a glass of water, stirred it slowly, and
passed it to Milo.
"Er," Milo asked. "How long will this last for? It's not permanent, is it?"
"Unfortunately," Snape said, "It will wear off in a few hours."
"Okay then," Milo said, and gulped the potion down in one go. To his surprise,
it didn't really taste like anything, and he didn't even feel different.
Dangerous, he thought. A colourless, tasteless potion that makes one tell the
truth.
"Now," said Bode. "Are you a human?"
"Seriously?" Milo asked. "That's your test? Yes, I'm a human."
"What town or city are you from?"
"Myra (cityoflight!cityofMagic!)"
"And in which country is Myra situated?"
"The Azel Empire."
"And on which continent is this... Azel Empire located?"
"The Azel continent."
"Milo, are you, in fact, from another world?"
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"Yes," Milo said simply. Feeling he had to elaborate, he continued rapidly, the
words almost spilling over themselves in an effort to be said. "A few months
ago, I was summoned, without warning, to a manor near the village I later
learned was Hogsmeade by a group of Death Eaters"
"Oh, surely we're not believing this nonsense?" interrupted Fudge rudely.
"I must remind you," Dumbledore said calmly, "that he is under the effects of
Veritaserum."
"Then he must be deluded. His wild tales are proof of thatsurely you can see
that, Albus."
"We should wait for Bode to finish," Dumbledore said. "And then make a
judgement."
"Very well. Carry on, then."
"Milo, I'll be as direct as I can here," Bode said. "Are you a Muggle?"
"No."
"Are you a Squib?"
"No."
"Are your parents wizards?"
"I don't know."
"Are you an orphan?"
"I don't know."
"Are you a wizard?"
"Hells yes I am," Milo said fiercely. "And anyone who says otherwise has another
thing coming."
There was a low murmur from the Aurors present.
"Well, there you have it," Dumbledore said. "From his own mouth and under
Veritaserum. I don't think this breach of my student's privacy has to go any
further, do you?"
"He could be Confunded," Fudge said stubbornly. "In fact, I'd bet my hat that he
is."
"If you were going to come to that conclusion in any case," Dumbledore said with
a slight edge to his voice, "then, pray tell me, why bother questioning him at
all?"
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"The Board of Governors insisted, Dumbledore. It was out of my hands."
"I wonder how many of the Governors are under the impressionmistaken, I'm
surethat their families would be put in danger if they didn't insist?"
Dumbledore asked.
"Albus!" Fudge gasped, sounding scandalized. "What are you suggesting?"
"Nothing," he said. "I was just thinking out loud. Don't mind me."
"As I am led to believe," Bode said. "Your Potions Master has developed a test
which he believes can prove conclusively whether or not you do, in fact, possess
any magic. Professor?"
Snape stood up from his desk. He looked... almost happy. Snape happy terrified
Milo far more than Snape wrathful.
"Most conventional tests of magic," Snape said in a lecturing tone, "could be
fooled if the subject is merely extremely incompetent or weak. Even the simplest
of charms can be fumbled by the mentally deficient. That Milo is the worst
student of magic to enter this school in a century at least is not in question.
What remains to be seen is whether he possesses any magic at all."
Magic isn't a thing you just have, Milo thought angrily. It's something you have
to work at. Something you earn. You have to take magic for yourself; it isn't
simply handed to you.
"To that end, I have developed a test," Snape continued. "A potion that requires
no thought, concentration, knowledge, or effort in the slightest. I will measure
out the exact proportions of the ingredients, which will be checked by Albus
Dumbledore and any others who wish to. All the boy has to do is pour them into
the cauldron and stir once, counterclockwise. If the potion is created, he is a
wizard. If not... it will explode, and I will leave him in the more than capable
hands of the Ministry to deal with as you see fit." Snape's expression harboured
no doubt about what he thought should be done with 'the boy.'
"Er, excuse me," Milo said. He could feel everyone's eyes on him. "Does anyone
have the time?"
There was a brief silence. Eventually, Fudge fished a gold pocketwatch out from
under his cloak.
"Half past eleven," Fudge said. "So could we hurry this up? Some of us have to
be up early tomorrow."
This has to have been deliberate, Milo thought. Someone knows I have limited
spells per daythey might even know that I routinely burn my remaining spell
slots on Scholar's Touch before bedand scheduled this accordingly. Why else
would the Minister for Magic himself consent to an inquisition at this hour?
Surely he has other things to be doing.
"I think it's been established that I'm rubbish at Potions," Milo said
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nervously. He had to kill time until he could prepare spells. "Would anyone mind
if I did a quick read-through of my Potions textbook to make sure I did this
right?"
"But you just have to stir it!" Fudge said exasperatedly.
"Better safe than sorry," Milo said. "If I mess up the stir, the whole
experiment is void and I get buried in concrete. I might need the extra help.
After all, 'help will always be given at Hogwarts'"
"To those who ask for it," Dumbledore finished his motto softly. "Very well,"
he said to the assembled government types, "I think the request is reasonable
enough." Dumbledore said it without any particular weight to it, but somehow it
was very clear that, even if he wasn't technically in charge here, his word on
the matter was final.
"So I'll just run off and grab my text"
"I don't think so," Bode said firmly. "If you are some sort of magical creature
with powers unknown, I don't think we should let you out of our sight. Professor
Snape, do you have a copy of whatever your first year textbook is on hand?"
"Accio Magical Drafts and Potions," Snape said, and, with a flick of his wand, a
textbook flew out of a nearby bookshelf and into his hand. Convenient, Milo
thought. And a lot less expensive than Drawmij's Instant Summons, that's for
sure.
Without a word, the Potions Master passed Milo the heavy, and more importantly,
large textbook. If there's one thing about wizards (and Wizards), it's that they
never use standardized sheets of A4.
Milo made a big show of opening up the book and reading it studiously. Very
studiously.
Twenty-eight eyes bored into Milo's head as he, eventually, turned a page and
continued reading at a snail's pace.
"Oh, surely this isn't necessary," Fudge said impatiently. "Just go and stir the
ruddy pot, boy!"
"How far from the rim?" Milo asked. "How fast? With what length of spoon? No,
I'm sorry Minister, but my life is on the line here. If I'm going to stir it,
I'm going to stir it right. I'll just be a minute."
Milo turned another page.
Minutes rolled by. Fudge glanced at his watch every few seconds, and began
tapping his foot in irritation. Eventually...
"It's after midnight!" Fudge muttered. "Must we play along with this charade?"
"Oh, it's not so bad," McGonagall said. "I can't remember the last time I've
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seen someone his ageexcept for you, Miss Granger, of coursestudying so
diligently."
"What if he's delaying until the Veritaserum wears off?" Fudge asked.
"A simple enough question to answer," said Dumbledore. "Milo, if you would be so
kind as to answer, are you studying with the intention of delaying until the
Veritaserum wears off?"
"No, sir," Milo said truthfully, and had to stifle a laugh. That is not why I'm
delaying.
"Well, there you have it," said Dumbledore. Fudge grumbled quietly to himself.
Milo slowly reached into his Belt of Hidden Pouches and recovered his most
precious possession: his spellbook. Slowly, very slowly, he lifted the thick
(but small in terms of height and width) tome and placed it such that it was
hidden by Magical Drafts and Potions.
Milo grinned as he began preparing spells. Good thing I was bedridden all day,
he thought. Gave me my required eight hours of 'rest.'
Spell preparation is a bit of an odd quirk of the Wizard class. It involved
carefully poring over every intricate detail of the magic and memorizing it, but
also, at the same time, casting the vast majority of the spell. Ninety-five
percent of the casting was done during preparation so that only the very final
stage had to be done on the fly. The result was that every Wizard went about
their day holding, depending on their level, potentially dozens of unimaginably
complicated spells all at the point of being almost finished. Each spell was
like a sentence that just didn't quite. Was it any wonder that so many powerful
Wizards went mad?
"Not like I have anything better to do," Fudge muttered. "Just a country to run,
that's all. Don't mind me."
It takes a Wizard exactly one hour to prepare all of their spells, regardless of
how many there are. However, a very infrequently used rule allows them to
prepare a fraction of their daily allotment of spells in the same fraction of
time, to a minimum of fifteen minutes.
Milo could prepare at most seventeen spells per day, so in fifteen minutes he
could prepare one-quarter of that (four spells). He chose Prestidigitation,
Tenser's Floating Disk, Mage Hand, and Invisibility.
He quickly stashed his spellbook back into his belt and stood up.
"Okay," he said. "Let's do this thing. But if we're doing it, we're doing it
right. I'm a Wizard. I shouldn't have to prove that to youbut seeing as how
you're forcing me, I want to make sure there are absolutely no doubts after the
fact. And for that, I demand your largest cauldron."

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Chapter 13: Roleplaying

Author's Notes: The reviews I got this week really got to me. I'd hoped, but I'd
never really believed that something I wrote would be read around the world (I
just found out from Fanfiction that some of you live in places as far away from
me as Hong Kong, Jamaica, and South Africa) and actually enjoyed. Reading your
thoughts on what Milo's plan for escape would be was some of the most fun I've
had, ever. Coming up with his actual plan required me and a team of three highly
trained, well-equipped, professional, fully qualified geeks to stay up until the
birds outside started singing. The result is one that I'm particularly proud of,
and tops most of my zany D&D schemes by a wide margin.
Anyways. I'd just like to give a huge thank you to you folks around the world
for making a dream of mine come true.
P.S. Could someone with a recent print (i.e., bought it up to a few years ago
but not when it was new) of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire PM me? It's
important.
P.P.S. From here on out, a double-length bar-o-thingy denotes the end of the
author's notes and the start of the story.
ooooooo
"The nerve!"
"Who does he think he is?"
"He's in no position to make demands!"
The reaction to Milo's request for a larger cauldron was... varied.
"It's clearly a ploy," Snape sneered. "He hopes to dilute the potion so that it
won't explode in his face when he fails. It won't work."
"If he fails, Severus," Dumbledore said.
"No," Milo said. "Scale up the other ingredients proportionally."
There was a meaningful silence.
"Tell me, boy," Snape said finally. "Do you have a death wish? Do you have any
idea how large an explo"
"Oh, come now," Fudge interrupted. "We're in the presence of six of the
Department of Magical Law Enforcement's finest, not to mention the Supreme
Mugwump himself. I think we have more than enough magical muscle between us to
keep anyone from being harmed. Let's just get him a bigger cauldron and be done
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with it."
"But"
"Do remember to whom it is that you are speaking, Severus."
"As you command," Snape said between clenched teeth. "Accio Cauldron Size
Twelve." A large, heavy cauldron ponderously hovered from a store room, knocking
over a variety of expensive-looking magical doodads in the process. It (slowly)
came to a stop near the centre of the room. Milo gave it a quick look. Only
two-and-a-half feet in diameter, he thought. Needs to be larger.
"No," Milo said. "Bigger."
"That is the largest potions cauldron I keep in the dungeon," Snape protested
angrily. "Unless you plan on cooking a Troll"
"Of course!" Dumbledore said. "We can use one of the cooking pots from the
kitchens. The House Elves make enough oatmeal for hundreds of students on
Tuesday mornings in just one pot, except for this one occasion in 1941 when
there was a shortage of rolled oats and"
McGonagall coughed pointedly.
"and where was I? Oh yes."
Before Snape could say something biting and sarcastic, Dumbledore clapped his
hands twice. A small... creature... appeared in front of him with a loud crack.
It was, if you rounded up, entirely composed of large, floppy ear.
What the Hells? Milo wondered. Is that... some sort of goblinoid?
"Floppy, would you be so good as to fetch the kitchen's largest cooking pot?"
Dumbledore asked kindly.
"Yes, master," Floppy responded in a high, squeaky voice. "Right away, master."
With another crack, Floppy was gone.
There was only one explanation for the creature that Milo could think of,
impossible as it seemed. He'd heard that the kitchens were staffed by Elves,
which was insane, but this world seemed to turn everything he knew on its head.
So... so that little goblin-like creature he saw...
Milo broke into a cold sweat.
...must be a slave of the elves. Of all of the hundreds of subspecies of elf,
only one kept slaves.
Hogwarts has dark elves in the kitchen, he thought with growing horror. And they
have teleporting goblins in their employ. No wonder there was poison in that
tart, there's enough Chaotic and Evil in the kitchen for it to qualify as a
suburb of the Abyss.
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After a few seconds, there were six simultaneous pops. A half-dozen of the
goblinoid slaves appeared carrying a mammoth pot over their heads.
The goblins are apparently super-strong, Milo noted with steadily rising panic.
And can ignore Hogwarts' anti-teleportation Abjurations. Oh, gods.
"Yeah," Milo said, tearing his eyes away from the humanoids. "That'll do."
As Snape began gathering buckets of glycerol and Flobberworm mucous from his
storeroom (Milo wondered briefly how he managed to fit everything in there,
before realizing the closet was probably of Holding), Milo mentally ran over his
plan. I can prevent the liquids from mixing using Tenser's Floating Disk, he
thought. Tenser's Floating Disk was a moderately useful spell that created an
invisible shallow bowl that hovers three feet off the ground. He could dump the
mucous into the water, cast the spell above the liquid, then pour in the
glycerol. The tricky thing is that it's three feet widebut this cauldron is
more than sufficient. Then it's a simple matter of using Prestidigitation to
create bubbles. Milo had never actually tried it, but he was pretty sure that
creating a few bubbles in a pot fell within Prestidigitation's ability to exert
about a pound of force.
"There," Snape said in growing frustration. "You have, here, precisely the
correct amount of mucous and glycerol." He gestured to a pair of buckets. "Can
we get this over with, now?"
"You said the Headmaster was to check them," Milo reminded him.
Dumbledore thoroughly, and, to the Minister for Magic's irritation, slowly
examined the contents of both buckets.
"Everything seems to be in order," Dumbledore said. "Would anyone else like to
take a look?"
Hermione coughed awkwardly.
"I would, Headmasterif it's all right, of course," she said. Milo blinked. Was
this Hermione doubting her professors? What was the world coming to?
Hermione, still wrapped in bandages, painfully limped over to the cooking pot in
the centre of the room. She examined it until she saw, engraved near the bottom
in tiny letters, "CAST IRON 112 GALLONS." Then she hobbled over to the side of
the room and picked up a set of heavy brass scales. Then, with the Minister for
Magic, two of her teachers, her headmaster, four senior Ministry officials, and
six Aurors watching her intently, she limped over to Snape's desk. Carefully
avoiding eye contact with the Potions Master, she placed the heavy measuring
scale on the desk with a thud.
Hermione's right arm was in a splint, and Milo could tell that she quickly
realized there was no way she'd be able to lift either of the two buckets. She
drew her wand.
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Six Aurors drew wands simultaneously and aimed steadily at her. Hermione looked
like she would die in a panic.
"Peace," Dumbledore said. "She was just, I presume, about to perform a simple
Hovering Charm?"
"Featherweight Charm, actually," Hermione said matter-of-factly, although she
still looked nervous. "And then a Hovering Charm. You see, the two charms
combined are over one-fifth more efficient than a single, more powerful"
"Nobody asked for a lecture, Miss Granger," Snape snapped.
"Five points for Gryffindor," McGonagall said simultaneously. Upon hearing
Snape's remark, she added, "That's really rather clever, Miss Granger."
The Aurors put away their wands, looking somewhat sheepish at having drawn on a
twelve year-old girl. The two Heads of Houses glared at each other as. Hermione
carefully weighed both buckets (dispelling the Featherweight Charm in the
process, of course). Then she nodded at Milo.
"Thanks," he muttered as she walked past him to her earlier position.
"Any time," she said simply. She looked a bit stunned.
"Oh, before you begin," said Bode, "you should probably be informed that a
number of anti-cheating enchantments have been placed in this classroom."
Milo paused.
"Explain," he asked.
"Obviously I can't go into too much detail, but suffice to say that we'll be
well aware of any magical illusions that you create, or if you try to add
anything to the potion without our knowledge."
Milo frowned. This shouldn't cause any problems, he thought. Invisibility is the
only Illusion I'll be casting, and it isn't really an Illusion that I create,
exactly. That sounds like more of a Figment or Glamer.
Hopefully.
Well, I'd best begin. No time like the present. Pushing his fear and nervousness
to the side, Milo tried to emulate the tone of a performing Bard he once heard
back in Myra (cityoflight!cityofmagic!).
"All right. Professors, Minister, Officials, Government Goons, just sit back;
you're about to see magic done," Milo announced confidently, rolling up his
sleeves.
"What does he think he is, a stage magician?" Fudge murmured quietly.
"This reminds me of a time I was in a tavern back in my world," Milo said as he
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unceremoniously dumped the bucket of thick, slimy Flobberworm mucous into the
cauldron. "It was a nice little place, as far as roadside taverns go. Their soup
was terrible. It went by the name of Tenser's Floating Disko," he said, casting
the spell. Fortunately enough, the story was true. A retired Wizard built the
entire establishment hovering two feet off the ground using a copious number of
Immovable Rods; The Disko was famed far and wide for its resilience to
earthquakes, its Dancing Lights, and its terrible soup.
"Isn't he only eleven?" Fudge asked in astonishment. "What tavern would"
"But that, of course, was in another world," Milo said, pouring the glycerol
into the cauldron. Snape looked as if he were about to duck beneath his desk for
cover. Unbeknownst to the audience, the thick liquid hit, instead of the water
in the cauldron, Milo's magical disk. "A world which now seems to exist only in
the hazy reaches of my memory, and every day seems to be slipping deeper into
the murky depths of Invisibility." In the blink of an eye, the glycerol (which,
if anyone had looked, would have appeared to be floating in the air inside the
darkness of the cauldron) vanished.
Milo grabbed his ladle and dipped it into the cauldron in the area between the
force disk and the edge. The pot was so huge that, in order to stir it, he'd
have to actually walk around the perimeter of the cast iron monstrosity. When he
was about three-quarters of the way around, he began to speak again.
"And this, as you will soon see, was no mere sleight of hand, legerdemain, or,"
he completed the circuit, "Prestidigitation."
The pot bubbled.
Milo almost couldn't believe that he might actually be getting away with it.
He'd made the damned pot bubble, nothing had exploded, and Lucius's plot was
foiled. He felt lightheaded. He wanted to go back to the Gryffindor Common Room
and celebr
"Curious," Dumbledore said, raising his half-moon spectacles.
Snape smiled triumphantly.
"In this manner I will, of course, defer to the Potions Master," Dumbledore
said, "but... tell me, Severus, does this potion usually bubble?"
Milo froze.
"No doubt, it's bubbling because of how vigorously young Milo wanted his potion
to succeed," Snape suggested with amusement. Milo looked around the room in a
panic as Snape moved excitedly towards the cauldron to investigate.
It's not supposed to bubble? He'd miscalculated Snape. The devious Potions
Master had anticipated Milo's ability to fake the effects of the potion and
hadn't told him truthfully what they should, in fact, be.
Milo looked pleadingly at Dumbledore, and then at McGonagall, but neither
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offered him any help. He was sure to be ousted as a fake wizard and expelled
from Hogwarts, falling right into Lucius's (presumably) evil plot (whatever it
happened to be). Tap. Tap. Tap. Snape's polished leather loafers made loud,
echoing sounds as the greasy Potions Master approached. In blind desperation,
Milo looked into the faces of the Minister, his cronies, and even the mooks. I
need help, he thought frantically. I need someone who knows whatoh, right.
Catching Hermione's eye, she mouthed it turns purple. Milo had heard that, in
the distant past, only Rogues were able to read lips. He was blissfully happy
that this was no longer the case.
Fortunately, Prestidigitation (which, in Milo's firm opinion, was the best spell
ever invented) could last up to an hourand it could recolour liquids. The spell
wasn't an Illusion (it actually changed the object's colour), so it (hopefully)
wouldn't trigger their wards. By the time Snape got to the cauldron, the liquid
inside was a pale shade of violet. Milo could feel his heart pounding against
his chest as he waited for the anti-cheating alarms to sound. He nearly fainted
with relief when nothing happened, although the "potion" still had to pass one
more step... Milo just hoped he'd got the shade of purple right.
Snape peered inside suspiciously, and then did something Milo hadn't
anticipated.
To Milo's horror, Snape picked up the ladle. As he moved to dip it into the pot
(presumably to investigate the potion), Milo ran through his options. Tenser's
Floating Disk was not a dismissible spell; at Milo's level, it would be blocking
the majority of the cauldron's opening for another five hours. Snape was sure to
discover the invisible force disk, and Milo would be expelled. Then (presumably)
killed horribly by Death Eaters.
"Sorry, what was that Hermione?" Milo asked loudly, improvising wildly. "You
require help tying your shoes because your arm was grievously injured while
Snape was supposed to be protecting you from a Troll? Why, of course I can help
you!" Technically, no lies. Milo bolted towards Hermione as fast as he could
run.
Milo collapsed at Hermione's feet and started fumbling with her laces.
"What on Earth are you" she asked, surprised.
"Tenser's Floating Disk disappears if you move out of the spell's range," Milo
explained quietly. "I need to get another ten feet away from the cauldron before
Snape realizes what's going on." Hermione's back was to the door; ten feet would
put Milo well into the hallway.
"Your rat," Hermione whispered. "Ask him to run out, and chase him."
"Good plan. Mordy?"
"Don't need to tell me twice, boss," Milo's familiar squeaked. Mordy leapt out
of Milo's belt and made a mad dash for the exit.
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Snape dipped the ladle into the cauldron, and Milo heard a quiet thud as the
steel instrument hit his force bowl.
Snape blinked.
"What" he began.
"Mordenkainen!" Milo shouted, and pursued. Shortly after he reached the exit, he
heard a muffled splash from the cauldron as the Tenser's Floating Disk winked
out of existence.
"Here, now!" Fudge said. "We can't just have him leave."
There was a brief pause.
"Everyone duck for cover!" someone shouted. Evidentially, they had taken Milo's
flight to mean that the potion was about to explode.
"Accio Milo," one of the Aurors muttered, and Milo felt a strange tug in the
region of his stomach. The next thing he knew, he was being pulled to the centre
of the room by invisible hands. It was a weird feeling.
"You'll have to look for your rat later, Milo," Bode said in his dry monotone.
"We can't allow you to leave until the inquiries are closed."
"Right, of course," Milo said. Careful not to lie, he reminded himself. "I'm
only eleven; eleven year olds are notoriously flighty."
"Don't need to tell me twice," McGonagall muttered.
Snape, who had evidently been distracted by Milo's unexpected flight, began to
test the potion again. As soon as his ladle entered the cauldron, Milo had a
burst of mad inspiration.
"I think I've more than proved that I'm a legitimate Mage, Hand me that quill,
Headmaster, would you?"
"Sorry, what was that?" Fudge asked. Milo concentrated on the Mage Hand spell (a
handy (sorry), weak telekinesis), and, targeting the water in the cauldron (Mage
Hand can't target held objects, such as Snape's ladle) Milo created a small
current which forced the ladle to move in a very tiny counterclockwise circle.
Snape frowned. He wasn't sure if it was a trick of his eye, but he could have
sworn that the purple potion became slightly darker as he stared at it.
"I was just asking the Headmaster to hand me the quill on his desk," Milo said.
"But on second thought, I realize, I don't need it. How's the potion check out,
Professor Snape?"
"I think your student might be a bit funny," Fudge said not quite quietly enough
to Dumbledore. "A tad... off in the head, if you catch my meaning."
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"I am quite sorry," Dumbledore said apologetically. "I didn't bring my fishing
rod! I had no idea we were going out to catch meanings on this fine evening.
Why, once, when I was a boy, my brother and I caught a meaning that weighed"
McGonagall coughed again.
"but perhaps that story is best told later," Dumbledore said.
Fudge sighed and muttered something under his breath. Milo wasn't sure, but he
thought he caught the words 'surrounded by nutters' somewhere in there.
Snape carefully extracted a small amount of the potion with his ladle and stared
at it in astonishment.
"Well?" the Minister pressed. "What's the verdict, Severus?"
Snape stared at the contents of the cauldron, his face livid with barely
contained rage.
"You." He said, turning to Milo. His voice was like a Polar Ray with a confirmed
critical. "If I ever find out how you did this, boy, you'll rue the day your
mother first laid eyes on your fath"
"Severus," Dumbledore said reproachfully. Snape reined himself in with obvious
effort.
"I have the... unequaled pleasure" Snape said through clenched teeth, but Milo
was pretty sure he meant the other thing, "to say that this potion is, against
all odds and reason... adequate."
McGonagall looked relieved, Bode appeared somewhat disappointed (Milo was
willing to bet Bode hoped he'd discovered some form of new and exotic humanoid
monster in Milo), while Dumbledore (and only Dumbledore) started clapping.
Hermione stood in the corner beaming at him. Best of all, he earned 800 XP. That
alone will cover months of item crafting, Milo thought.
"Ruddy waste of time, this was," Fudge complained to Umbridge as the Ministry
officials filed out. "Wonder why he insisted it be done so late at nightand on
a weekend, too?"
"Minerva," Dumbledore asked politely, "would you please take Miss Granger back
to the hospital wing?"
"Of course, Albus," McGonagall said politely, and moved to the injured girl.
Snape was pacing back and forth by the cauldron, fuming.
"Milo," Dumbledore said, "I understand that it's late, and you have class
tomorrow, butwould you mind coming to my office for a brief chat?"
"Of course, Headmaster," Milo said politely. There were no rules anywhere for
sleep deprivation, ergo, Milo could stay up as late as he wanted.
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The eccentric Headmaster led Milo through the labyrinthine castle, up the stairs
(skipping, unconsciously, the trick step in the second-floor staircase) and, at
last, to a random dead end.
"Uh," Milo said. "Your office isn't just out here in the hall, is it?"
"Sherbet Lemon," Dumbledore said.
"That's... not really an answer, you know."
"Ah, young Milo, in that, you are wrong."
A nearby gargoyle statue slowly began to move.
"Holycrapgargoyle!" Milo shrieked. "Glitterdust!" He held out his hand, but
nothing happened. Right, he thought, embarrassed. I'm completely out of spells.
Until he had a chance to prepare new spells, Milo was basically a Commoner with
a high Will save and a pet rat.
The gargoyle, however, proved to be merely a statue, which rose as it turned,
revealing a spiral staircase.
"Sweet entrance," Milo said appreciatively.
"No pun intended?" Dumbledore asked wryly.
"What?"
"Well, you said sweet entrance, and the password, of course, is my favourite
form of sweet..."
Milo stared at him blankly.
The Headmaster just sighed and began climbing the formidable staircase.
Dumbledore's office was awesome. There was simply no other word to describe it.
Wondrous Items of all sorts decorated every flat surface that Milo could see;
many of which were ticking at inconsistent, conflicting speedsno doubt, Milo
assumed, to confuse his enemies. Up on the walls were more animated portraits
looking down at them, and, in the corner, lay the sorting hat.
"Please, sit down," Dumbledore said. "Can I get you anything? Cocoa? Tea?"
"That first one," Milo requested. "I have no idea what it is."
Dumbledore waved his wand lazily, and a large mug of hot cocoa appeared in front
of Milo. They have a spell for that? Milo wondered. Just for conjuring steaming
hot mugs of cocoa?
"You're probably wondering why I've invited you here," Dumbledore said. Unless,
of course, it's a spell that summons arbitrary hot drinks.
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"Actually, I was wondering what spell you used to conjure the drinks," Milo
said, then frowned. Wait, why on the Prime Material did I just say that?
"A nonverbal variant of the Summoning Charm," Dumbledore shrugged. "Created by
Helga Hufflepuff herself to summon food from the kitchens of Hogwarts. It only
works within the grounds."
I must still be under the effects of the Veritaserum, Milo realized. Was that
why Dumbledore had summoned him up here now?
"Now you're probably wondering why I've invited you here?" Dumbledore asked,
somewhat hopefully.
"No, I was wondering if you'd invited me here now because I'm still compelled to
speak only the truth," Milo said. Aarrrgh!
Dumbledore chuckled.
"As much as I feel the world could do with a little more honesty, no, that's not
the reason. I was travelling the past few daysWizengamot business, you
understandand my sleep schedule is quite turned upside-down. This was the first
in quite some time that I've had a spare moment, in fact."
"I see," Milo said. "Okay, I'll bite. Now I'm wondering why you've invited me
here."
"I wanted to know how you did it," Dumbledore said.
"Did what?" Milo asked.
"Faked the potion well enough to fool Snape. That's no easy task, you know."
Milo froze. He nearly dropped his cocoa (which, by the way, was delicious).
"Oh, don't worry," Dumbledore said. "I'm not the Ministry. You're not in
trouble."
Milo only then realized how vulnerable he was. No spells. No familiar. No-one
who knew where he was. No escape plan. No ability to lie.
"I used magic to keep the mucous from mixing with the glycerol," Milo confessed,
"then ended the spell right as Snape tested the potion. I then used some very
weak telekinesis to cause Snape to accidentally stir the liquid, thus completing
the final step in creating the potion."
"You mean to say that Snape created that potion?" Dumbledore asked, amazed. Then
he burst out laughing, and continued to do so until there were tears in his
eyes. "I haven't laughed so hard in days," he admitted. "And don't worry, your
secret's safe with me."
"Yeah, I guess it is pretty funny," Milo conceded. "And thanks."
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"Don't mention it. Not since the days of Emeric the Evil were Headmasters
involved in the business of having their students executed. But that wasn't the
only reason I asked you here."
"Oh?"
"You fought a Troll on Hallowe'en," Dumbledore said, "instead of doing the
sensible thing and letting trained, fully-qualified adult witches and wizards
handle it. Why?"
"It came at me," Milo said.
"You could have run for it," Dumbledore countered.
"It had me cornered."
"You could have jumped out the window," Dumbledore pressed. "You have, after
all, a spell for that exact purpose."
Milo frowned. He could have easily escaped the Troll with Feather Fall, now that
he thought about it.
"The thought never occurred to me," Milo answered honestly.
"Why not?" Dumbledore asked. "For nearly anyone else in the world, it would be
the only thought that occurred to them."
"It's not what I do," Milo said. "Running away from monsters, that is."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled.
"But, have you ever asked yourself, why not?"
"I... no. No, I haven't," Milo paused. "But only because I haven't had to. I'm
an adventurer. Fighting monsters is what I do."
"Because you're an adventurer? So you do it... for the sense of adventure?"
"No, that's not it at all. It's... it's hard to explain." How do you explain to
someone something that's so obvious? Adventurers fight monsters. That's just how
it is. You'd have as much luck trying to explain to someone why two and two made
four.
"You're a smart boy. Try."
"I'm a PC. An adventurer. A hero. When there's a monster, or an evil
necromancer, or a murderer, or whatever, it's my job to take him out."
"But in this case, in Hogwarts, there are others who could fight that Troll, do
that job, at least as well as you could."
"It... it doesn't matter. I was there. The Troll was there. It happened for a
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reason; I was supposed to fight that Troll."
"You're a bit young to have set so much stock in fate."
"Not fate. Planning by a higher power."
"By God?" Dumbledore asked.
"Hah, no. In my experience, gods spend too much time fighting amongst themselves
and making powerful, yet shockingly unoptimized, magical artifacts and holy
relics to plan people's lives out."
"Then... who?"
"The same entity that makes sure that, eventually, a villain will always be
defeated by a hero. That arranges for Draco and Harry to be the same age, at the
same school. That arranges for the Philosopher's Stone to be hidden at that same
school in their first year. That keeps the background world running when we're
not looking at it."
"That sounds like fate to me," Dumbledore said. "Except maybe for that last
one."
Milo simply shrugged.
"So, you believe it is your fate to fight monsters?" Dumbledore pressed.
"I... I don't think I'm being clear," Milo said. "I fight monsters. I'm an
adventurer. A hero. It's a fact of life. There's no why to it, it's just... how
my life goes."
"Is it to protect innocent lives?" Dumbledore asked.
"Not... really. But when it happens, that's a perk, I suppose."
"To right great imbalances in the universe?"
"No. Are there great imbalances I wasn't aware of?"
"Not to my knowledge. Is it for revenge?"
"No. I don't have anything I feel all that... bitter about."
"For the thrill, then?"
"I don't do anything for the thrill of it."
"For glory and respect?"
"No, without Leadership, glory's about as useful as Skill Focus (Craft
(Basketweaving))."
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"And you don't see yourself as a leader, then?"
"A planner, maybe, but... a leader? One who stands on a crate and gives
inspiring speeches to a bunch of low-level Commoners and Warriors? No, I'll
leave that to someone else. What's with all the questions, Headmaster?"
Dumbledore sighed heavily.
"I've known witches and wizardsand more than a few Muggles, for that matterwho
set forth to battle evil without any clear motivation for doing so. They... tend
to fit into one of two categories. Either they discover the reason within
themselves later, and go on to do great things, or, more often... they fall."
"They die? Because I'd have to disagree, Professor; Neutral adventurers tend to
be much more pragmatic and level-headed and overall far less likely to die some
a stupid sacrifice or last stand than Good ones."
"Sometimes they do," Dumbledore admitted soberly. "But more often, they find
themselves becoming what they once fought."
"What, they go Evil? I don't think I'm in any danger of that. It's just not...
in character." Milo sighed. "I'm not... I'm not really equipped to discuss
philosophy, Headmaster."
"And why is that?"
"I... I fight monsters," he said firmly. "I kick down doors. I find treasure. I
gain Experience. I spend an inordinate amount of time in taverns. I operate best
in groups of four. I solve mysteries. I use magic. I don't... the discussion of
why very rarely comes up. And even then... if it did, the reason for it would
suddenly appear in my head. Poof. Like it had always been there, the same as if
you asked me what my parents' names were. It's like a part of me, the part that
makes those decisions and created the history and the hopes and dreams... it's
gone. I'm just the collection of stats and spells with a race and alignment. I
don't know how to explain it; to my knowledge this has never happened to anyone
before. It's like... like I'm a character in a play, and the player was left
behind when I was brought here."
"Maybe," said Dumbledore, "it's time you started to think for yourself? To be
more than a simple mask?"
"Are you suggesting..."
"If you're a character," Dumbledore shrugged, "I don't see any reason why you
can't be your own player."
Milo stared at the Headmaster, completely dumbstruck.
"And now, I believe, it is time for us both to go to bed. You seem to be quite
recovered, but would you do me one more favour and spend the night in the
hospital wing? You'll see why tomorrow," Dumbledore said.
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"Sure," Milo shrugged. He was used to sleeping in the wilderness and in ancient
crypts, anyways. While a step-and-a-half down from the four-poster beds in
Gryffindor tower, the hospital cots were a great deal more comfortable than a
bedrollnot, when it came to it, that Milo much cared.
"Goodnight, Milo."
"'Night, Professor."
Milo was already halfway back to the hospital wing when he realized that, when
Dumbledore asked him how he faked the potion, it meant he actually believed that
Milo was a different sort of Wizard.
What does he know that I don't? Or rather... what does he know that I know that
I don't know he knows?
And why does Lucius want me expelled?
And who really killed the acromantula? And why was it missing a fang?
The lack of injuries on the nonetheless dead spider implied one thing...
Death Effect.
The Killing Curse.

Chapter 14: Talking is a Free Action

Author's Notes: To my knowledge, Rowling doesn't ever say exactly how large a
gold galleon is, but the Harry Potter Wiki said that the ones used in the movies
were the same size as an American Silver Eagle (57.2g if it were gold). Gold
pieces are 1/50th of a pound (9.071g) each, so some number crunching gave me an
exchange rate of 6.30854106 gp per galleon, assuming both have equivalent gold
purities.
P.S: the short break, oo, denotes a flash between simultaneous events in one
location and another rather than a full scene break. You'll see what I mean.
ooooooo
Snape was decidedly more unpleasant towards Milo (and Gryffindor as a whole) in
Potions on Monday, presumably because of Milo's near-escape from Snape's test
over the weekend.
"You're holding your knife upside-down," Snape sneered at Milo as he sat
chopping Knarl tail. "Fifteen points from Gryffindor."
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Milo looked down at the knife. He was no expert on weapons (he left that to
Fighters and other use-impaired character classes), but the knife's blade was
sort of triangular and, by any account, perfectly symmetrical. Personally, he
didn't much care, at least now Harry was suffering proportionally less abuse. As
soon as Snape's back was turned, Milo siphoned off several potion ingredients
into his Belt of Hidden Pouches. He figured he could cut his research and
development costs somewhat using pilfered supplies.
It was with an intense feeling of relief that they left the dungeon.
"Oh," Milo remembered suddenly. "I should go see McGonagall, she asked me to see
her on Friday but I got mauled by a 'Troll' instead."
"You... you put off seeing McGonagall just because of a Troll?" Ron asked, his
face pale with horror.
"Run!" Hermione said, panicked.
Fortunately, their stern Head of House did not seem to mind as much as Ron and
Hermione had feared she would that Milo had missed their appointment for
frivolous reasons.
"So, erm, you wanted to talk to me about Transfigurations?" Milo asked her
nervously.
"Well, I have to admit I was worried that Professor Snape might have been right
about you," McGonagall said apologetically, "but, fortunately, you're just as
much a wizard as he ismeaning, of course, that there's absolutely no reason
that you can't succeed in Transfiguration."
Milo swallowed nervously.
"So, I believe the best thing for you would be to receive some extra help. With
this in mind, I've requested that Professor Snape allow you to serve some of
your further detentions with me twice a week so I can give you remedial
lessons."
"Th-that doesn't sound so bad," Milo lied. Remedial Transfiguration? He would
certainly forget to tell this to Hermione. "Thank you, Professor."
"Come to the Transfigurations classroom promptly
and Thursday," she said seriously, "and I'll eat
improvement." McGonagall glanced at the clock on
leaving if you don't want to be late for History

at seven o'clock every Tuesday


my hat if we don't see some
her wall. "Well, you'd best be
of Magic."

As Milo walked to Binns' classroom, he decided fervently that the first spell he
was going to research would be one that turned his matchstick into a pin. The
only problem was that he couldn't think of any spells he'd ever heard of at his
level that could even come close to doing that.
The reason for Dumbledore's odd request that Milo sleep in the hospital wing
became immediately apparent upon his return to the Gryffindor Common Room Monday
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afternoon.
"All hail the conquering Troll slayers!" Fred cried as Milo, Hermione, Harry,
and Ron climbed through the portal after their last class.
"No part of that sentence is accurate," Milo tried to say, but nobody heard him
over the sudden tumultuous roar. It seemed the entire Gryffindor house had
turned out to congratulate them for... not quite defeating a 'Troll'. Fred and
George had procured food (read: cakes and sweets) and drinks (read: butterbeer)
from somewhere.
"Harry and Ron insisted we wait for you two to get out of the hospital wing
before celebrating," said George. "Insisted you two did the real work."
"Dumbledore tipped us off that you'd be out today," said Fred.
Well, Milo thought, that solves the Mystery of Dumbledore Asking Me to Wait a
Day. If only the Mystery of Who Killed the Acromantula were so simple.
Someone had drawn a surprisingly good (if somewhat over-dramatic) scene of
Hermione casting the Gust Jinx on the Troll on a banner hanging from the wall.
They'd even bewitched it to move, complete with massive explosion as a grand
finale. Hermione turned slightly pink; Milo didn't think she was used to being
the centre of attention.
"'Course, the Hufflepuffs are all likely permanently scarred," Fred said.
"Yeah, having a Troll get blasted through your bedroom is likely to do that,"
said his twin.
"Putting a tree in their common room likely didn't help much, also."
"That said, even they're willing to admit it was pretty awesome."
"Sprout was furiousbut only until she got a good look at the tree, mind."
While the twins were talking, Hermione and Milo were lifted up by a crowd of
NPCs and passed around.
This is... unusual, Milo thought. He was more used to being presented with bags
of gold or magic items as a reward for defeating a monster, but... well, having
the Gryffindors throw a party for his party wasn't entirely unpleasant. He could
definitely get used to this.
"They're teaching 'The Hermione' in magical self-defence courses around
Britain," said Fred. "Some handsome devil leaked it to the Daily Prophet."
"Why, thank you," said George.
"But it was Harry's idea," Hermione protested, but nobody paid her any mind. The
Boy-Who-Lived, it appeared, was more than happy to step out of the limelight for
once.
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"And to think," Lavender said to Parvati, "I always thought she was just an
insufferable know-it-all!"
When the party finally wrapped up (well after a reasonable hour) and the
Gryffindors trudged off to bed, Milo realized that he hadn't been so happy in
ages.
oooo
The entirety of Gryffindor house, and to a lesser extent the Hogwarts student
body as a whole, became increasingly excited as the first Quidditch match of the
season loomed. Milo was surprised to find that, against all narrative
convention, the tournament was to be opened with Gryffindor playing Slytherin on
Friday.
"It's just wrong," Milo said to Harry after the black-haired boy returned,
covered in mud, from last-minute practice on Tuesday. "You can't play Slytherin
on your first match."
"Don't need to tell me twice," Harry said nervously. He'd seen their team
captain a few days prior. Flint (Slytherin's team captain), Harry thought, could
have been a distant cousin or nephew of the Hallowe'en Troll.
"You should be fighting them last," Milo pressed. "After a series of ever more
difficult games that proportionally match your Quidditch skills. This just
doesn't jive."
"Wouldn't that be something," Harry muttered tiredly. He flopped lazily onto one
of the Common Room's overstuffed armchairs. Between Gryffindor's communal
detentions, his homework (Snape seemed to be assigning the whole class extra
work solely to keep Harry occupied before the match) and Wood's frantic
Quidditch practice sessions, he'd hardly had any time to relax since his release
from the hospital wing. Milo, as usual, had his nose buried in his spellbook,
proving about as indefatigable as Hermione when it came to studyingalthough the
similarities broke down shortly after that. While Hermione was practically
obsessed with her homework, she was scandalized by how little Milo cared about
his school-related studies when, on Wednesday, Milo turned in his assignment for
Defence Against the Dark Arts (eighteen inches of parchment on Vampires), which
was revealed to be a page full of weird numbers and data, seemingly filled in at
random.
"So, about this match tomorrow" Milo began.
"Don't mention it," said Harry. "Please."
"Oh, okay," Milo said, sounding somewhat hurt. "I was just going to say that I
think I can keep you from getting grievously injured by Bludgers. No big deal,
though."
Harry paused. There was a short, but noticeable, glint in his eye.
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"Really, now?" he asked.
"Mage Armour," Milo muttered. "There. You're surrounded by an invisible force
field."
"You're just putting me on, aren't you," said Harry suspiciously.
"No, it's true. Watch this," Milo said, and threw a nearby mug at Harry.
"Ow!" Harry said, as the ceramic cup hit him in the chest. "That really hurt!"
(in the background, ignored by everyone, was a quiet "Hey! That was my mug!"
from Neville).
"Uh," said Milo. "Look, nobody can predict rolling a 20, okay? Happens to the
best of us. Let me try again." Milo picked up a Sickle (the silver coin, not the
Simple Weapon).
"No!" Harry said, raising his arms to cover his head. "I'll just... I'll just
trust you on this one, okay? I'm protected by an invisible force field that will
help against speeding Bludgers but can't stop small ceramic cocoa mugs. I'm
going to bed."
Harry started climbing the staircase to the tower that held their dorm room.
"Oh, wait," Milo said suddenly, "I'd been meaning to ask you something."
"Sure, what's up?" Harry asked sleepily.
"Well, you've got all these piles and piles of gold, right?"
"Look," said Harry seriously. "I didn't ask for them, right? I can't help being
rich"
"No, it's not that at all. The thing is, well, I need your help."
Harry frowned, all trace of exhaustion gone.
"Sure. What can I do?"
"Well," said Milo, feeling somewhat awkward about asking a friend for money,
"you've probably noticed that I tend to use the same spells a lot."
"Uh, yeah, I guess."
"That's because where I come from, Wizards mostly learn spells from other
Wizards. But there aren't any of those here," ("Hey!" said Neville) "so I have
to develop all of my spells myself."
"But I'm rubbish with spells," Harry said. "You should ask Hermione for help."
"I don't, er, need your, um, expertise, exactly. You see, I get two free spells
per level, but to get any others I need weeks of research and access to
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expensive materials."
"Oh," said Harry. "So you need money."
"...Yeah. But it's for a good causeyou know, fighting Evil and stuff."
"Sure, how much?"
"And I know of numerous ways in which I can turn 3rd-level spells into a way to
make us phenomenal amounts of gold"
"No, look, really, it's okay."
"so I'll be able to pay you back when I get some free time, probably over the
holidays."
"I don't mind, it's not like I'm using it for anything."
"Oh. You mean, you'll really share the loot?"
"'Course, we're friends. Although I sort of object to calling my parents' money
loot"
"Swag, then."
Harry sighed, but decided to ignore it.
"How much do you need?"
"You're not going to like it."
"Just tell me."
Milo told him. Harry didn't like it.
"A thousand galleons?" Harry spluttered.
"No, a thousand gold pieces. Galleons are quite a lot wider and thicker than
your standard gp," Milo explained. "There's closer to six and a third gold
pieces per galleon."
"So..." Harry said blankly.
"158 galleons, 12 sickles, and 12 knuts. Per week, that is."
Harry choked.
"Half that much again every day and I can make magic items, too."
"You know what? I don't even want to know," said Harry. Milo's hopes deflated.
It looked like he'd be stuck here without any spells or magic items after all.
"I'll write to Gringotts," Harry said, however. "I dunno exactly what the
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procedure is for transporting great heaps of gold halfway across Britain, but
I'm sure the goblins will think of something."
Milo grinned.
"Thank you. I mean it. We're talking direct money-to-power translation, here.
I'll pay you back in a few levels."
Milo climbed into his four-poster bed feeling like he was on top of the world.
oooo
"We have to kill Milo," Draco announced to Crabbe and Goyle Tuesday morning.
"Yeah boss, kill him!" said Crabbe.
"Sure boss, uh..." faltered Goyle.
"Try murder," Malfoy suggested wearily, "or dispatch."
"Sure boss, murder him!" said Goyle, who had never used the word dispatch before
and was frightened to try.
oo
"We have to kill Malfoy," Milo announced to his party Tuesday morning.
"Hear, hear!" Ron voiced his agreement. "S'what I've been saying for ages."
"Wait," said Harry slowly. "When you say kill..."
"What'd he do this time?" Hermione asked with a yawn.
oo
"Thus summer, he broke into my father's summer home," said Malfoy imperiously,
"and made off with the prototype Nimbus Two Thousand and One that Father had. It
can't have been a random act of burglary because it was all done up like a
regular Two Thousandhe'd have to have known it was there. I mean, how unlikely
would it be that he just so happened to grab the one test Nimbus Two Thousand
and One in all of England? There is only one possible conclusion," Malfoy paused
dramatically.
oo
"This Hallowe'en," Milo said theatrically, "he boasted about the Cuddly Cannons
defeating the Wigtown Whatevers at that big game thing" (adventurers are
notoriously bad about getting long names right) "admitting he was behind it.
Now, I thought, 'what could a Quidditch match possibly have anything to do with
anything?' when it hit me: the Nimbus Two Thousand. I grabbed one off a Death
Eater once, and Harry got one in the mail, and thus it is on our list and
therefore of relevance to the plot. The Cannons were all riding Nimbuses donated
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by Lucius Malfoy, who has connections to the Nimbus corporation. There is only
one possible conclusion," Milo paused dramatically.
oo
"Milo is working for Firebolt."
oo
"Malfoy is working for the Dark Lord."
oo
"What's Firebolt?" Crabbe asked, his forehead wrinkled in a gruesome imitation
of human thought.
Malfoy sighed.
"A wreck of a broomstick manufacturer; everything they make is a total disaster.
Remember? The guys who made the brooms the Wanderers were testing?"
Crabbe stared at Malfoy blankly.
"You're hopeless, Goyle," Malfoy muttered to Crabbe.
"Yeah, you're hopeless, Goyle," Goyle said to Crabbe.
"Yeah, I'm helpless, Crabbe," Crabbe said to Goyle.
"Anyways. The guys working for my father at Nimbus are the best in the world.
The Two Thousand is only a few months old but it's already a hopeless antique
compared to what they've got planned for the next one. Firebolt would kill to
get their hands on it and learn its secrets. We can't let that happen."
oo
"Seems a bit of a stretch, don't it?" Ron asked.
With a showy gesture, a massive chart appeared in the air behind Milo (in
actuality, it was a Silent Image that Milo had cast several minutes prior and
had been concentrating on it the whole time while his partymembers woke up. Yes,
it would have been easier to just cast it then (or simply used a chart) but he
felt this was more impressive).
There was a brief pause.
"Blimey," Ron said, though Milo had yet to figure out, exactly, what that word
meant.
"What are we looking at?" Harry asked. Milo's hovering chart had a variety of
names and events (such as Lucius Malfoy, Snape, the Stone, You-Know-Who,
Poisoning and the Troll) written neatly, connected by lines and arrows of
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various colours.
"This," Milo explained, "is
ascending level: Draco, who
house, Snape; Snape, who is
an ex-Death Eater and loyal

the plot. On the right are the villains in order of


is Lucius' son and is working with his head of
secretly the minion of Lucius Malfoy; Lucius who is
minion of You-Know-Who."

"Er," Hermione said cautiously. "What, exactly, do you mean by level?"


"Uh," Milo faltered. "Power. Importance. You know, the order in which we'll face
them. Further left are the suspicious camps of unsorted villainy: the elves and
their goblin servants, the Death Eaters, the Cuddly Cannons, and Fudge"
Ron and Harry were silent. Hermione simply sighed, shaking her head and
muttering quietly to herself.
oo
"So... what's Milo doing at Hogwarts, then?" Goyle asked. Malfoy shuddered
inwardly at the amount of effort that sentence must have cost him.
"Isn't it obvious? Milo's here to secretly befriend Potter" (Malfoy said the
last word with a contemptuous sneer) "who just so happened to get a Nimbus Two
Thousand in the mail shortly after arriving here."
Crabbe and Goyle both blankly blinked back in unison.
"It's the prototype!" Malfoy shrieked at them. "Someone recently handed a
perfectly ordinary-looking Two Thousand over to the DMLE in September and then
days later Potter gets one in the mail and, with it, stunning new flying talents
despite never having ridden a broomstick before. They've switched them! What
else could explain Potter's little stunt with the Remembrall?"
"Maybe he's just really good at flying?" Crabbe suggested.
"Yeah boss, maybe he's just, despite his young age, so unbelievably talented
at"
"Shut up!" Malfoy commanded. "And then he just so happens to be allowed onto the
Quidditch team despite being too young? It's all a conspiracy! McGonagall or
someone somehow managed to get Milo's stolen broom from him and gave it to
Potter so Gryffindor would have a chance at the cup. Then she went out and
bought a NimbusI checked, they have it on record at Diagon Alleyand turned
that in to the Ministry hoping nobody would notice."
oo
"So, let's go through this chronologically. I was attacked in the Forbidden
Forest by an Acromantula under highly suspicious circumstances, and the evidence
suggests that someone iced the thing with a Killing Cursehighly advanced dark
magic. The only people nearby were Quirrell, Hagrid, and Harry. As Hagrid can't
do magic and we can obviously rule out Harry, that points to Quirrell" (Milo
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traced a blue line from Quirrell to Acromantula on his chart).
"That can't be your only reason for ruling out Hagrid," Harry said, offended.
"but that's no reason to believe it wasn't Snape, hiding somewhere in the
forest," (Milo traced a line to Snape) "which kicks things up the ladder to
Lucius, as, thanks to my furry friend, we now know is Snape's secret master, and
eventually Lord Voldewhatsit.
"Next," Milo continued over Hermione's objections, "someone tried to poison my
breakfast and missed. This poisoning was facilitated by the elves in the kitchen
staff; nobody else could have got close to the food" (Milo pointed at their name
on the chart, "under instructions from Draco, Snape, or Lucius during Draco's
Quidditch distraction.)
"But I thought you said" Ron said, but was cut off.
"While it is true that I did confront Draco about this and decided it wasn't
him, my view changed when I found out that his father, Lucius, was having covert
meetings with Snape in the Forbidden Forest. Lucius ordered Snape to have me
expelled, presumably so Lucius can kill me while I'm no longer protected by the
wards and Dumbledore. 'Maybe,' I realized, 'it's time we stopped ignoring Draco
as a legitimate threat.' I'd betno, in fact, I'm certain of the fact that
Draco's up to something devious, and likely highly dangerous, as we speak."
oo
"So, I wrote Father and asked him to ensure that there was a Cannons victory on
Hallowe'enhe, of course, did so without question or hesitationto make Firebolt
look bad and make Milo crack. And Merlin did it ever work!" Draco said
exuberantly. "The nutter tried to end things for himself by the tried-and-true
suicide by Troll method. Shame Snape was there to save him; really, I'd have
thought better of him."
Draco paused to catch his breath.
"So," he said with a hint of finality, "we need to act, fast, before he can
recover. Milo's had far too long with Potter to study the prototype for my
liking. We need to stop that now. The Friday Quidditch match with Gryffindor is
the perfect opportunity."
oo
"And then," Milo continued, "someone released a Troll on Hallowe'en. While this
would point pretty clearly to Quirrell, who seems to be a bit of an expert on
Trolls, it just doesn't fit. Why would Quirrell release one right after teaching
us all how to defend ourselves against Trolls? And besides," he added, "Snape's
behaviour was more than suspicious. As soon as he heard about the Troll, he
rushed, not to the second floor, where the Troll was supposed to be, but to the
third floor, where we suspect they're hiding the Philosopher's Stone."
Even Hermione frowned at that.
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"That is a little odd," she said at last. "You don't think... you don't think
Professor Snape is trying to get the Stone?"
"A bit slow on the uptake, are we?" Milo asked. Hermione turned a bit pink.
"Snape used the Troll as a distraction to get to the Stone and, likely, to kill
me. He nearly succeeded on both counts."
Milo traced a line from the Troll to Snape to the Stone.
"Snape's backup plan, however, was already in the works. He'd devised a potion
to oust me as a different type of wizard and have me expelled from Hogwarts
which is when I met Fudge, your Minister for Magic. At first, I couldn't tell if
he was pawn or chessmaster, but eventually it became clear. He really wanted me
expelled, which means he's either got an agenda of his own, or he's working with
Lucius. Now, he's not on Harry's list, meaning he was introduced too late to be
a new, independent party. That means he was working on behalf of Luciusbut,
fortunately, the whole Ministry's probably not in on it, or there would be all
sorts of signs: wrongful imprisonment of sympathetic characters, horrific beings
of death and fear in their employ, mysterious rooms in their basement full of
gateways to evil dimensions, disagreements with Dumbledore, that kind of thing.
Also, probably spikes on the Ministry roofhey, Ron, your dad works there; has
he ever mentioned spikes on the Ministry roof?"
"Nope," Ron said. "He says the desk corners are pretty pointy, mind."
"Hmmm. I don't think that's quite enough. So I'm putting them down for blatant
corruption and incompetence rather than outright Evilness. Incidentally, this is
probably why obviously Evil wizards like Snape and, frankly, the parents of the
entire Slytherin house are so rarely raided by Aurors. Which brings me back to
Snape: he is clearly trying to get the Stone for Lucius, who will present it to
You-Know-Who in return for a position of power in the new world order. But his
well-laid plans were foiled by you three and Quirrell. So," Milo paused to catch
his breath, "we need to act, fast, before he can recover. The Friday Quidditch
match with Slytherin is the perfect opportunity."
oo
"I've got it all planned out," Malfoy said confidently. "I'll ask Father to
anonymously donate a team's set of Nimbus Two Thousands to Slytherin, but
they'll all have the names filed off and we'll leak to the Daily Prophet that
the Slytherin team is testing a new Firebolt design."
"But," said Crabbe, "I thought you just said they'd be Nimbus Two"
"Yes, yes, but they're in disguise. So it'll be a big thing, because everyone
wants to see Firebolt's answer to the Two Thousand, so the Prophet and Which
Broomstick and all of them will have people at the game to see how well it does.
And here," Malfoy said modestly, "is where it gets really clever. Milo will have
no choice but to try and rig the game so Gryffindor loses, or else his secret
master, Firebolt, will look bad."
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Goyle frowned.
"But, I thought he was friends with"
"But, I thought we want Firebolt to look"
"Oh, he cares about as much about Potter as I care about you two oafs!" Malfoy
said angrily. "And once we can tell Milo's rigged the game and it's a
shoo-inor, should I say,slither-in for Slytherin, then we'll have some of our
players lose control of their brooms, crash, and blame it all on Firebolt.
Slytherin wins the match, Potter never forgives his friend so Milo can't examine
the prototype anymore, and Firebolt will be ruined."
Crabbe and Goyle were silent, staring in awe up at their boss.
oo
"I've got it all planned out," Milo said confidently. "I'll break into Snape's
office on Friday right before the game and steal some Veritaserum. While Harry
is dazzling the school with his flying prowess, Hermione, Ron and I will sneak
some into Draco's water. Then we kidnap him, tie him to a tree in the Forbidden
Forest and beat him savagely until he tells us everything. We can bury his body
where the Acromantulas will find him, then go back and watch the rest of the
match."
Harry spat out the water he was drinking.
"We could be sent to prison for that," he exclaimed.
"Or worse," Hermione said, her face pale. "Expelled."
"Might be worth it, though," Ron said with a dreamy expression on his face.
"Fine, fine," Milo said. "Veritaserum is totally tastelessrather like that
Umbridge woman, actually. Malfoy will never know he's been drugged, and we can
just ask him in the hall what his evil scheme is and he'll spill the beans
without ever knowing why. We can deal with Malfoy later when it's more
convenient."
"Let me get this straight," said Ron. "You are going to break into Snape's
office."
"Yeah."
"Do we know any other Snapes?" Ron asked.
"Not to my knowledge."
"So... you're going to break into Professor Snape's office."
"Yeah."
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Ron stared at him with a mix of fear and respect.
"You're mad, mate."
"There's no other choice," Milo insisted. "It's time we go on the offensive; we
can't just keep waiting here for the next 'Troll' or giant spider or whatever. I
mean, what's next, dragons?"
"Don't be ridiculous," said Hermione sharply. "Nobody would dare try and bring a
dragon into Hogwarts, not while Dumbledore's here."
"Yeah, Dumbledore'd go nuts," Ron agreed.
"So," Milo pressed, "are we all in?"
"Yeah," said Ron. "Anything to get one over Malfoy."
"I don't see that there's much I can do," said Harry, "seeing as how I'll be
playing Quidditch. But... yeah, I'm in."
Everyone turned to look at Hermione, who remained silent, looking troubled.
"We did have a deal," Ron said. "Remember? Milo found proof that Snape's evil,
though I think his treatment of Harry should have made that clear enough."
"Oh, fine," she eventually snapped. "But only because you lot are hopeless
without me."
oo
Snape lay back in his worn leather office chair, thinking in silence. He
couldn't imagine how the Headmaster managed to get anything done surrounded by
those accursed ticking silver machines.
Quirinus Quirrell was trying to get the Stone. That much was obvious. The
nervous Professor's sudden change in personality was highly suspicious, but the
Headmaster refused to listen to Snape's warnings. Dumbledore, Snape decided,
could be far too trusting for his own good. Snape would have to take matters
into his own hands.
But... what of the boy? What's Milo's role in all of this? If Snape had thought
Quirrell seemed attached to the boy earlier, Hallowe'en had confirmed that.
Quirrell had tried to get Milo out of detention with Snape...
Snape frowned.
That wasn't all he'd been trying to do. Milo had been helping the Defence
Professor with the Troll, so...
Snape blinked.
Milo was helping Quirrell steal the Stone. That must be why Malfoy wanted him
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thrown out of Hogwarts, realized Snape.
So. Lucius knows about the Stone.
Snape ran his hands through his greasy hair. He had a fine line to walk: he had
to protect Potter without anyone realizing it, protect the Stone, help Lucius
have Milo expelled to maintain his cover with the Death Eaters, and, now, also
keep Lucius from getting his hands on the Stonewithout Lucius realizing he was
trying to do so. It was only a matter of time before Lucius commanded him to
steal Flamel's Stone.
Snape's next move, obviously, was to discover everything he could about
Quirrell. For whom was he working? What, exactly, was his relationship with
Milo? What really happened to him over the summer?
Unfortunately, it wasn't as if Snape could just ask him these questionsand if
Quirrell was ready to play the game at this level, he'd be too clever to let
anything slip accidentally. Even dosing him with Veritaserum would be unlikely
to succeed. Snape, for one, always carried the antidote in a small flask on his
person and drank it whenever he began feeling particularly honest (a rare enough
feeling to be immediately suspicious); there was no reason to believe Quirrell
did not do so as well.
Fortunately, Snape had a plan. There were potions other than Veritaserum for
learning what others wanted kept secret. It took a month to brew, but was useful
enough that Snape always kept some on hand.
All I have to do now, he thought to himself, is get the boy alone.
Snape smiled. There was no trace of humour whatsoever in it.

Chapter 15: Quidditch

Author's Notes: To my surprise, my writing is actually ahead of schedule and I'm


already putting the finishing touches on chapter 16. I've found that I write
faster (and better) when I'm under pressure, so tomorrow (Sunday the 11th), I'll
be posting a bonus chapter.
ooooooo
Milo waited for Friday to roll around with ever-increasing anxiety and
anticipation. His time was entirely taken up with classes, spell research (Milo
decided to start researching Benign Transposition, a handy 1st-level spell that
swaps the positions of a pair of willing creatures), and magic item crafting.
The latter was proving increasingly frustrating: one of the oft-forgotten
requirements in creating a magic item was that, during the creation process the
crafter or an assistant has to cast whichever spell the magic item most closely
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replicates. Normally, this is no problem at allfor a small charge, any item
crafter could hire a high-level Cleric or Wizard to cast the spell for them.
Milo, obviously not having this advantage, was severely limited in his choices
of items to craftand, worse, most of them produced effects he could already
manage much less expensively by just casting a spell.
Despite the severe restrictions, the Milo that entered McGonagall's office on
Tuesday was wearing a pair of sleek midnight-blue gloves with tiny yellow stars
on the knuckles. Twice a day, Milo's new Arcanist's Gloves could add a
significant amount of extra kick (+2 Caster Levels' worth of kick, to be
precise) to his low-level spells.
To McGonagall's increasing frustration, Milo showed no noticeable improvement in
his Transfiguration abilities, even under her expert tutelage.
"You have some sort of learning block," McGonagall had explained. "We just need
to figure out how to work around it. If you can pull off even one successful
Transfiguration, I'm sure you will have no trouble at all with further ones."
She'd decided to try trial-and-error. Since Transfiguration was largely
performed in the mind rather than with the wand, she'd explained, it only
followed that Milo had to try thinking differently, and the easiest way to do
this was to change environmental factors more-or-less at random.
She made Milo try to Transfigure outdoors, indoors, while balanced on one foot,
while blindfolded, while hanging upside-down, while inhaling burning incense,
with his wand in his left hand instead of his right, with his wand held in his
feet, with his wand held in both hands, with her wand, with no wand at all,
while under water, and while floating in the airand every possible combination
of the above.
"Maybe," she said thoughtfully, "if you're blindfolded and slowly turning
counter-clockwise while in the presence of a horned toad and the room is
smelling of lavender"
"Professor," Milo interrupted. "I don't mean to be rude, but... doesn't this
strike you as a bit ridiculous?"
"Of course!" McGonagall said, and for a moment Milo thought she'd agreed with
him. "Laughter! Maybe you'll be able to Transfigure while laughing. Tell me,
Mister Amastacia-Liadon" (Milo rolled his eyes. He hated being called by his
last name) "tell me, how many centaurs does it take to light up a wand?"
Milo sighed.
"I don't know," he said obligingly. "How many?"
"None," McGonagall said with the tone of someone saying something clever, "for
Mars is unusually bright tonight."
oooo
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When the other Gryffindors returned from their communal detention, they found
Milo sitting in the Common Room stitching up his fifth-hand robes.
"Still working on that?" Ron asked, interested. "They already fit better than
mine domind, mine were Charlie's originally."
Hermione stared at the thread Milo was using with interest.
"Is thatis that unicorn hair?" she gasped.
"Yeah, wand-grade." Milo said. "I was going to use silk, but it wasn't expensive
enough."
"Wasn't expensive" Ron said, his face going red. He paused to get control of
himself with obvious effort. "You're just as bad as Malfoy, you are."
"No, no," Milo said, aghast. "It's just that, for my magic, I need to use
magical components that cost a certain amount. And," Milo said with a grin,
"when I'm done, these robes could fit Hagrid."
"How much unicorn hair"
"Magic items resize to fit their wearers," Milo explained patiently. "Everyone
knows that, Ron."
"Thought we weren't going to do that anymore," said Harry.
"Couldn't help myself. Everyone ready for tomorrow?" Milo asked, setting aside
his under-construction Robe of Arcane Might. It would take another twenty days,
but when he was done, Milo would be a force to be reckoned with. Or not to be
reckoned with, Milo could never remember how that saying went.
"Yeah," Harry said.
"'Course," Ron added.
"Wellif you insist," Hermione said, although Milo guessed that her reluctance
wasn't entirely genuine.
"Excellent. Let's begin, then."
oooo
Milo waited until he could hear the thunder from the Quidditch pitch outside to
begin his heist.
"Invisibility," he muttered and withdrew his eleven-foot pole, looking
appraisingly at Snape's office door.
With a deep breath to steady his nerves, he turned the doorknob with Mage Hand
and gave the door a firm push with the wooden pole.
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Nothing exploded. Milo wiped sweat from his brow. Really, this is what Rogues
are for, he thought sourly. Milo stepped cautiously through the apparently
un-trapped doorway and entered Snape's office. He wanted to spend as little time
in here as possible.
"Spontaneous Search," he cast. Milo located the Veritaserum instantly in Snape's
cupboard. It was in a small cauldron next to one containing a thick, bubbling
orange potion Milo wasn't familiar with.
Milo reached into his belt and grabbed a small ceramic flask, filled it with the
truth potion, and gave it to Mordy, who was also invisible.
"Run this over to Hermione," he whispered. "I'll be right"
Milo started as the office door slammed shut. He hadn't seen anyone enter, but
there was no reason it couldn't have been someone invisible...
"See Invisibility," he cast as quietly as he could, though the spell didn't turn
up anything.
He exhaled. It must have been the wind...
...there couldn't possibly be any wind in the dungeons, could there?
So, maybe I should use Detect Thoughts? While he debated spending another
2nd-level spell slot on what might be nothing, Milo suddenly felt himself being
yanked upwards into the air.
"Gah!" Milo shouted reflexively as he dangled by his ankles.
To Milo's horror, the air near the door seemed to run like wet paint towards the
ground, revealing a very smug-looking Professor Snape, wand brandished like a
sword.
Unfortunately for our hero, the Disillusionment Charm only makes the target
very, very difficult to see by changing their colour to resemble the
backgroundrather like a chameleonrather than being actually invisible. As
such, See Invisibilitywhich only revealed invisible creatures and objects, was
ineffective.
I'm still invisible, Milo reminded himself. Maybe this dangly spell affects a
wide area and he doesn't actually know where I am...
"Finite Incantatem," Snape muttered, but nothing seemed to happen. "Accio
Invisibility Cloak." Milo held his breath. Snape frowned, staring at his wand as
if it must be broken. With a shrug, he cast "Accio Flour."
A heavy burlap sack flew from one of Snape's many supply cupboards and into
Snape's hand.
Milo panicked. Flour was, in addition to closed doors, an infamous bane of
invisible characters everywhereit was much like a Cleric's Glitterdust.
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"Ventus," Snape said with a sneer, and the flour in his hand was blasted around
the classroom.
Milo looked up at himself: he was completely covered in the white powder, which
gave away his position completely. He sighed.
"Look, I" Milo began.
"Stupefy," Snape cast, and with a red flash everything went black.
oooo
Quirrell sat by himself watching the Quidditch match without much enthusiasm.
Despite the crowd, all of the seats nearby him were strangely emptylikely
because of the strong scent of garlic his turban emanated.
"Slytherin in possession again," Lee Thomas announced miserably to the audience.
"Those Firebolts must be something else entirely." Lee sighed audibly. "Oh, and
guess what? They scored. Again. That puts the score at 140-30 for Slytherin,
although, might I remind you that all three of Gryffindor's amazing goals were
made by Angelina Johnson, the lovely and talentedand, might I say, beautiful"
"No, you may not," interrupted McGonagall.
"Sorry Professor. Anyways, oh, Slytherin's got the Quaffle again..."
To Quirrell's great surprise, Milo came and sat down next to him.
"Sh-sh-shouldnt you b-b-be with your friends?" Quirrell stammered.
Milo simply shrugged.
"I-I suppose you c-c-came to t-t-talk about v-v-v-vampires again?"
Milo stared up at him and frowned.
"Yeah," he said. "Remind me again where we left off?"
Quirrell eyed his student suspiciously.
"You w-w-were t-t-telling me how you b-b-believed that
H-H-He-Who-M-M-Must-N-N-Not-B-B-B-Be-N-N-N-Named" (Quirrell resolved to say
"Y-Y-You-Kn-Kn-Know-Who" from there on out, if only to save time) "had
s-s-servants r-r-rounding up v-v-vampires."
Milo stared at him with an unusual expression.
"Did I, now?" he said softly. "And, have you thought at all about it? What do
you think... Professor?"
Quirrell paused. What did he think? The truth of what he believed was something
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he tried not to think about, lest his master discover how odd he thought it that
becoming a vampire hadn't been his first plan...
"The D-D-Dark L-L-Lord is widely known to b-b-believe strongly in b-b-blood
purity," Quirrell explained. "I d-d-don't b-b-believe he would b-be w-w-willing
to b-b-become a v-vampire."
Milo choked somewhat, but recovered quickly. Something is not right here,
Quirrell thought. I have to press him for information... can he really bring
back the dead?
"M-m-more importantly," Quirrell stammered, "what y-y-you said earlieris it
t-true?"
Milo hesitated for a fraction of a second before speaking.
"Yes, of course."
"Buth-how?"
In the background, ignored by both of them, Slytherin scored again.
Milo paused.
"In the same way that all wonders are achieved," he said. "I think you know
how."
Quirrell frowned.
"N-no, I r-r-really don't."
Milo looked vaguely disappointed.
"Where's Snape?" Milo asked suddenly. "I wonder what he might be up to while the
students are all here, watching the game?"
Quirrell himself had just been wondering the selfsame question.
"Y-you think h-h-he's trying to g-g-get the Stone again?" Quirrell asked.
"Maybe. What are we going to do about it?"
To Quirrell's surprise, a small rat climbed up his leg without warning. Quirrell
reached for his wand to hex it, but noticed the rat was holding a tiny roll of
parchment between its teeth.
Unfurling it, Quirrell read:
Professor Quirrel,
Snape has me locked in his office. He hexed me and fled, I'm almost completely
immobilized. You're the only professor who knows what he's up to. Help!
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Milo
The writing was messy and hasty, and the ink blotches ran in the wrong
direction, almost as if it had been written upside-down.
"Oh," Quirrell smiled darkly. "I don't think you'll be needing to worry about
Severus Snape for much longer."
Without another word, Quirrell stood up and strode out of the stands, his purple
robes trailing behind him.
"Oh-oh OH!" Lee shouted, "POTTER'S SEEN THE SNITCH! HE'S GOING AFTER IT AND"
Dozens of students nearby saw it happen. His face mottled with rage and
frustration, Milo, to the horror of all watching, drew his wand and, pointing it
at Harry Potter, clearly cast the Hurling Hex. Ignoring the shocked looks of
horror on the bystanders' faces, Milo left the stadium.
oo
Harry was shocked to find that his beloved Nimbus was, suddenly, actively
attempting to throw him off.
"what's going on?" Lee asked in alarm. "Potter seems to be having some
difficulty with his broomstick. We were so close!"
"That's the signal, boys!" Flint, the Slytherin captain, shouted to his players.
Pucey, a Slytherin Chaser, abruptly screamed and went careening off into the
stands.
The Nimbus gave another lurch, and Harry slipped off of it. For a moment he felt
like this was the end, but he miraculously managed to catch hold of the shaft
with his left hand.
Harry risked a glance at the rest of the match. The Slytherin team was in
absolute disarray, flying chaotically and apparently at random. A second Chaser
and a Beater joined Pucey on the ground as they abandoned their apparently
uncontrollable broomsticks. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw a tiny
flicker of gold.
No... he thought. Could it be?
oo
"Oi, Malfoy," Ron said with a sneer. "Think fast!"
Before he finished speaking, Ron chucked a Veritaserum-laced water balloon at
Malfoy's face. That had been Hermione's idea: if all it took was a drop of the
potion, then surely he'd swallow at least that much by accident, right? Not to
mention how much got into his eyes. That rat always delivers, Ron thought to
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himself. Unlike Scabbers.
"AghwhatWEASLEY!" Malfoy spluttered, water pouring all down his front. The
crowd of students around him were too focussed on the game to pay much attention
to yet another Malfoy vs. Weasley row.
"So, Malfoy, what are you up to?" Ron asked casually.
"Trying to decide what to hex you with!" Malfoy said, then frowned.
"I meant, what's your evil plan?" Ron clarified.
"It's none of your business that I'm trying to get the Slytherin team to stop
pretending their fake Firebolts, which are really Nimbus Two Thousands in
disguise, are going haywire because its only Potter that's been hexed and
they're going to get flattened!" Malfoy clutched his hands over his mouth, as if
to stop it from speaking. He glanced around franticallywhere were Crabbe and
Goyle?
"And why are the Slytherins riding fake Firebolts?" Ron asked, intrigued.
oo
Harry was jostled back to his senses as his Nimbus gave another kick and his
hand slipped about two feet down the shaft towards the end. In addition to
rocking wildly back and forth, the Nimbus was still flying forwards at the speed
it had been when Harry had last had control over it.
The Snitch, if that's what it was, was on the other side of the pitch. Harry
swung his legs sideways, angling the broomstick, still bucking chaotically,
around in a wide arc.
He could see the snitch, buzzing above the stands. Nobody else seemed to notice
it, they were too fixated on the havoc that Harry's and the Slytherin's
broomsticks were wreaking. Harry was just a few yards away from his target when
the broomstick gave a particularly powerful kick and he lost his grip
entirelyliterally and figuratively.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" he screamed, flying through the air in a high arc
towards where the Gryffindors were sitting. His Nimbus, meanwhile, continued
flying over the audience and into the distance like a speeding bullet.
A red-and-gold sea began to part in front of him as Gryffindors fled. Harry saw
a tiny flicker of silver ahead of him and desperately reached forwards. It was
just over a foot away... now just inches...
Harry's gloved hand clasped around something round and heavy when everything
went dark.
The last thing he remembered was Neville's horrified face.
oo
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The door to Snape's office re-opened and Mordy, now visible, scurried through.
Milo was still hanging upside-down, which was making him dizzy and likely gave
him all kinds of circumstance penalties.
Milo glanced up from his furry friend and saw Quirrell's trademark purple robes
and turban.
"Hey," Milo said. "Did you get my note?"
"I-i-indeed," he stammered. "Liberacorpus," he muttered, and Milo slammed into
the ground.
"Well, that was embarrassing," Milo said. "Writing with Mage Hand is a really
weird experience, I'm surprised you could even read that."
"Show m-m-me your w-wand," Quirrell commanded. Milo stared at him blankly for a
moment before remembering he even had one.
"What, this old thing? Sure, it's all yours." Milo pulled his chestnut wand from
his pocket and tossed it to the professor. Quirrell caught it with surprisingly
quick reflexes, and examined it closely.
"A-as your Defence Professor," Quirrell said absently, "I w-w-would advise
against s-s-surrendering your w-wand in the f-future." Milo snorted.
"What am I going to do, poke you with it?" he asked with a laugh, standing up
from the floor. At some point while he was stunned, Snape had cleaned all traces
of flour from the office.
"Priori Incantato," Quirrell said under his breath. If he was surprised when
nothing happened, it didn't register on his face.
Apparently satisfied, Quirrell handed Milo back his stick. Weird, Milo thought.
Wonder what that was all about?
"Erm," Milo said. "I don't suppose we can leave now? Before he comes back?"
Quirrell gave Milo a quick appraising look.
"H-have you ever h-heard of Polyjuice P-Potion?" he asked.
"Uh," Milo said. "Maybe? It was in something I'd read in the Library." He
frowned, and, for once, succeeded on a skill check. "It lets you disguise
yourself as someone else, right?"
"C-correct," Quirrell said. "W-would it s-surprise you that s-someone is
w-walking around right now l-looking like y-you?"
"Well, that can't be good," said Milo, somewhat irritated that they weren't
leaving yet. "I wonder what Snape's up to?"
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"H-he tried to f-find out how I was d-d-defending the Stone," Quirrell said.
"After that, I d-don't know. W-walk with me," Quirrell commanded.
Milo shrugged and followed. Mordy, whose little rat legs couldn't keep up, sat
on his shoulder.
"I n-notice your m-mind jumped straight to the P-Potions Master," Quirrell said.
"W-why?"
"He's working for Lucius Malfoy," said Milo. "Who was a Death Eater, and
therefore working for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." As Milo filled Quirrell in on
his theory about Draco, Snape, and Lucius, they approached Quirrell's office.
The simple wooden door opened with a wave of Quirrell's hand.
"H-how do you know that L-Lucius is still loyal to the D-Dark L-Lord?" Quirrell
asked. "Hasn't h-he told the w-w-world that he was 'b-bewitched,'" Quirrell said
the last with a sneer, sitting down behind his desk.
"Well, for one, that's obviously a lie. Everything about the Malfoys has evil
written all over it. But also, when I was summoned here, I woke up in the Malfoy
manor surrounded by dark wizards in masks that sound an awful lot like the old
Death Eater getups."
"S-so," Quirrell mused softly. "They're still active, even w-without their
m-master..."
"Oh," Milo added as an afterthought. "While I'm here, want me to protect your
office against vampires?"
"W-what?" Quirrell asked. He seemed totally thrown by the question. "Why?"
"To keep Vampiremort from murdering you in your sleep when he fails to get the
Stone," Milo said. It took effort not to add 'duh.'
"Wh-what exactly c-can you do against v-v-vampires? Y-you're only eleven,"
Quirrell said, taking a sip from a glass of water that he created with a wave of
his wand.
"Ah," Milo countered. "I might be twelve, nowI don't know when my birthday is."
"Q-quite besides the p-point," Quirrell said.
"It's easy, really," Milo said. "I just carve a few holy symbols onto the doors,
windows, vents, and, ideally, every brick of the wall. You've already got the
garlic coveredI don't suppose you can get Holy Water in this universe? Eh,
nevermind, it's suboptimal anyways. 'Course, the vamp can just Dominate you with
a lookyou guys have anything like Protection from Evil?"
"W-what is this 'Protection F-From E-E-Evil?'" Quirrell asked.
"Handy little spell. Makes it hard for Evil creatures to touch youthey can't at
all if they're summonedand makes you totally immune from all forms of mental
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control, whether the originator is Evil or not."
Quirrell dropped his glass, which shattered on the hard stone ground.
"Permanently?" Quirrell asked, his expression carefully neutral.
"Nah, just for a few minutes. Want me to Prestidigitate that?" he asked,
pointing at the shards of glass.
Quirrell shook his head, carefully waved his wand, and the glass shards were
gone. He looked and moved as if every part of him were focussing on the simple
cleaning spell.
"I think," Quirrell said slowly and deliberately, "that it would be best, if we
are to work together, if you explain to me just how your magic works."
Milo shrugged.
"It's simple enough. There are ten levels of spells, from 0th to 9th. There are
thousands of spells out there that wizards have invented (and a few dozen by
Sorcerers), but I can only cast ones that I've written into my spellbook. Every
morning, I can prepare a fixed list of spells from my book, and I can cast
thoseand only thoseat any point that I want. How many spells, and of what
level, is determined by my Wizard levelnot to be confused with spell level. I'm
a level five Wizard," Milo said proudly, "so I can cast up to 3rd-level spells.
At every second Wizard level, I can cast a higher level of spell."
"So, you can increase in level? How?" Again, Quirrell seemed to be spending a
large amount of effort concentrating on his words. Maybe it's a trick to avoid
stuttering? Milo thought.
"There are a few ways, but the main one is combat. Defeating monsters and such
gives me Experience Points, when I have enough of those I go up a level."
"You said you could cast up to 3rd-level spells. Could you give me an example?"
"Sure... Summon Hippogriff."
Milo decided, in hindsight, that summoning the largest possible creature that he
could manage into Quirrell's compact little office may not have been the best
idea.
The Hippogriff, a massive, aggressive Magical Beast that looked like the front
of a giant eagle on the body of a horse, let out a roar that knocked the stunned
Quirrell out of his chair.
"Uh," he said. "Sorry about that." With a deliberately casual wave of his hand,
Milo dismissed the voracious omnivore before it developed a taste for human
flesh.
"So, you gain power directly by being involved in combat? By defeating your
foes?"
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"Yup."
"Does the strength of the foe matter?"
"Oh, yeah. The harder the challenge, the more XP I getassuming, of course, that
I survive."
"Indeed."
"So, about the vampires and Protection from Evil" Milo began.
"It is of no matter. I already told you that I don't..." Quirrell paused. "I
mean, as I was telling your doppelganger, I don't believe the Dark Lord will
become a vampire; he has always believed strongly in blood purity" he said,
smoothly changing the topic.
"That's why the villains always lose," Milo said. "Blinded by their own
prejudices and killing their own minions. If I had minions," Milo said with a
slightly dreamy expression, "I'd treat them right. Well, I mean, I'd work them
like slaves, I wouldn't pay them, and I'd feed them only enough to keep them
from starving to deathit's just efficientbut aside from that, I'd treat them
right. Oh, and if I can find some way to keep them working without needing
sleep, I'd use that, of course, but honestly."
"Do you have any theories," Quirrell said carefully, cutting off Milo's rambling
speech, "as to why Lucius brought you here?"
Milo frowned.
"I'd just sort of assumed it was an accident," he said. "I mean, whatever they
were doing, it didn't look like they expected an eleven year-old to appear on
their dining room table in the middle of it."
"And yet, you yourself admitted that you could, one day, have the power to bring
back their lord."
"I don't follow," Milo confessed.
"You can bring back the dead," Quirrell said. "That makes you, Milo, a prize
greater than any Philosopher's Stone."
Before Milo could respond, there was a brisk rap on the door.
"E-enter," Quirrell said, looking frustrated, his concentration evidently
broken.
The door opened to reveal a very, very angry looking Professor McGonagall.
"You," she said, pointing at Milo. "Come with me." Her tone brooked no dissent.
oooo
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"Blimey," said Fred as Harry was carried out of the stands.
"Just once, we're going to be able to throw a party on a Friday" said George.
"and the star of the show won't be in the hospital wing"
"and on that day, the house-elves will overthrow their masters, and become
lords of the universe."

Chapter 16: Be Good For Goodness' Sake

Author's Notes: Here's your Sunday bonus chapter, as promisedbut wait, there's
more! I don't know what's wrong with me, but I'm on a roll lately. I wrote an
entire chapter yesterday, and it wasn't this one. I'll put the finishing touches
on it today, and tomorrow, you, my faithful readers, get Bonus Chapter 2:
Revenge of the this Time it's Personal Strikes Back. Also, I decided to rename
the Hallowe'en chapters from the rather boring Part 1, 2, 3, and 4 to be
Sidequests, Hallowe'en, Odds of Survival, and The Troll and the Dementor,
respectively.
So: Chapter Seventeen will go up tomorrow, and Chapter Eighteen will go up on
Saturday, as usual. (Who knows, maybe Nineteen will be on Sunday?)
Anyways, on with the story! I hope nobody is deterred by the flood of chapters!
And if you like it, review it!
ooooooo
"Sit," McGonagall commanded. Milo was in the hard leather chair in her office
before she'd finished saying the one-syllable word. "Your behaviour today was
cowardly, treacherous, sickening, and unbecoming of a Hogwarts student, much
less a member of my house. I have half a mind to expel you this very minute.
What do you have to say for yourself?"
"Well," said Milo, "in my defence, he sort of had it coming. I mean, look at
him."
"You will explain to me, right now, clearly and succinctly, how you could
possibly think that such a poor, sweet, innocent boy who has already suffered so
much hadwhat was it you said? Oh yes, how he had it coming. If I find your
explanation is in any way unsatisfactory, you'll be out of here faster than you
can say Mimbulus Mimbletonia."
"He's obviously working for You-Know-Who."
McGonagall sat down heavily in her office chair, stammering and apparently at a
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complete loss for words.
"Of all the ridiculousimpossiblewhy, he would be the last person to everin
any case, You-Know-Who's long goneI was a friend of his parents, I won't listen
to such unfounded accusations!"
"Oh, so you're in his father's pocket as well?" Milo asked, disappointed. "Seems
like the whole wizarding world is convinced he's such a great guy when he's
really, clearly, obviously evil. It's like you're all blind, I swear!"
"Evil? A tad arrogant, when he was younger, and I suppose he had an unfortunate
and blatant disregard for any rules he found inconvenient, but never evil. There
are places in this countryand right now, I'm debating if you're sitting in one
as we speakwhere statements like that would be responded to with challenges to
duels."
"I always had you figured as being on our side, Professor. I can see that my
trust was misplaced."
"And what, exactly, is your side, then, boy?" McGonagall asked, her face flushed
with anger. Milo was starting to wonder if she hadn't multiclassed into
Barbarian for some mysterious reason.
"The good guys, Professor," Milo said as if it were the most obvious thing in
the world.
"How dare you"
"If you're of a mind to call Draco Malfoy a poor sweet, innocent boy then," Milo
said with a hint of finality, "I think we're through anyways."
McGonagall stared at him as if he had just said the sky was green.
"IyouDraco..." she stopped talking and simply breathed steadily for several
moments, evidently trying to calm down. "Who did you think we were talking
about?"
"Who did you think we were talking about?"
"Harry James Potter," McGonagall said. "The boy you nearly killed today."
"Oh," Milo said. What was it Quirrell mentioned about the Polyjuice potion?
"That."
"Yes. That."
oooo
"There must be a change of plans... my family are still loyal... more than I can
say for some..."
"Y-yes, my l-lord, of c-c-course, my lord, but I have always b-been your most
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d-devout"
"Interesting, isn't it, that, when asked, all my servants profess to be my most
devout, my most faithful... paradoxical, it seems..."
"W-we've had setbacks, I-I'll admit t-t-to that, my l-lord, b-but"
"Indeed we have had... setbacks. Perhaps I should turn to Lucius instead.. one
of my other most faithful servants..."
"B-but my l-lord, w-we are weakf-forgive me, b-but y-y-you know it to b-be
truew-what is to stop him f-from s-simply killing us and c-c-continuing to rule
in y-your stead?"
"Killing you, you mean... for I am far beyond the reach of even Lucius
Malfoy..."
"Yes, of c-course, my lord, what I m-meant was that you w-would be as I
f-f-found you. S-surely, a s-significant s-s-setback even for one such as"
"Yes, yes, I know what you mean... ought to be more concise... takes ages to say
anything with your st-st-stutter..."
"S-so my l-l-lord, w-what shall we d-d-do? C-continue to t-try for the St-Stone
or for the b-b-boy?"
"I see no reason we cannot do both... for if one fails, and knowing you, one
will fail, we will have the other... simply prudent..."
"B-but he claims he c-c-cannot cast the spell yet."
"But his power grows with violence... provide him with violence, Quirrell,
violence at all levels..."
"A-at all levels, m-my lord?"
"Violence he can overcome, but... violence where he fears for his life... for
the lives of others...
at all times, Quirrell, all times... he must never know safety again... but keep
him alive... yes, always
alive..."
"It w-w-will take t-time m-m-my lord, a-as with the Acr"
"SILENCE. You are never to mention that to me again!"
"I-I'm sorry, my lord, have m-m-mercy... the p-p-p-pain..."
"Mercy?"
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"Y-yes, my lord, please, my lord, I b-b-beg"
"Very well... Am I not merciful, Quirrell? You are granted reprieve from your
sufferings... for the moment..."
"Th-th-thank you, m-my"
"Cease... no time to waste on your incomprehensible stammering... we must plan
carefully..."
"My lord, w-what if"
"I meant 'we' figuratively... I, of course, shall plan carefully... you shall
listen, and you shall act..."
"Of c-course, my lord."
"You are their hero, now, are you not? Saved the mudblood from the monster... we
must use this..."
"H-how, my l-l-lord?"
"This is what you must do..."
oooo
"so you see, it wasn't me at all who cast the hex or whatever it was," Milo
explained reasonably, "but, in fact, Professor Snape, polyjuiced to look exactly
like me."
"And you seriously expect me to believe this load of tripe?" McGonagall snapped.
"Snape's"
"Professor Snape," McGonagall corrected sharply.
"Right, Professor Snape's had it out for Potter since he first set foot in this
castle. Everyone knows it."
"Be that as it may," McGonagall said. Milo was somewhat
didn't contest the point, "the notion that he would use
assaulting one of our students is completely out of the
quite ready to tell me the truth, or would you rather I
front gates immediately?"

astonished that she


Polyjuice to facilitate
question. Now, are you
have you thrown out the

"Truth! Of course. Professor, dose me with Veritaserum and you'll be able to


tell that I'm being completely honest!"
"Regrettably, the use of Veritaserum is strictly controlled by the Ministry,"
McGonagall said, "and is not used in the investigations of school rule
infractions."
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"Then, doesn't the fact that I was going to volunteer to take it count towards
me?"
"Not if you were already aware of these regulations, Mr. Amastacia-Liadon."
Milo stared at her, fear rising. He couldn't believe he was about to be expelled
for something that happened offstage.
"You can't just expel me without any proof!" he protested.
"I have twenty-six eyewitness reports that say you brazenly used the Hurling Hex
on Mr. Potter in the middle of a Quidditch match in plain sight!"
"Butbut I didn't!" Milo was appalled that that was the best argument he could
think of.
"You will pack your school trunk in your dormitory, where you will remain until
morning when you will be taken to the Ministry to have your wand destroyed"
"My wand!" Milo said with sudden inspiration. "Here, look" Milo drew his wand
from his pocket.
"I don't have time for this foolishness," McGonagall muttered.
"Butlook at it, Professor! I had it on me the whole time, what wand did I
allegedly use to hex Harry? Was it chestnut, thirteen inches, with dragon
heartstring core? No! It can't have been because all wands are unique."
"It only would have been visible for a few seconds," McGonagall said, "nobody
reported what wand you used."
Milo's hopes deflated. That was his last hope. He couldn't believe he was going
to be thrown out of Hogwarts because a crowd of NPCs failed their Spot checks to
see something he wasn't even there for.
"So..." Milo said hesitantly. "What happens now? Where will I go?"
"After the Ministry?" McGonagall said. For an almost imperceptible moment, her
gaze seemed to soften. "After your wand has been destroyed, it's quite up to
you."
"Very well, Professor. I'll head to my dormitory now." Milo walked back to the
familiar sights of the Gryffindor Common Room in a daze.
oooo
"And then I hit him with a water balloon and said 'Hey, Malfoy, think fast!'"
Ron said exuberantly, causing Hermione to snort in a most unladylike fashion.
"How'd everything go with Grabbe and Coyle?"
"Oh, it was no trouble at all. I just walked up to them and said, 'oh no, I'm
just a poor defenceless Muggleborn girl who misplaced her wand, whatever shall I
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do?'" Hermione said with a wicked grin. "Took them about five seconds to try and
hex me. Anything I did after that was purely self-defence, you understand."
The pair of them were waiting outside Pomfrey's hospital wing for the strict
witch to declare Harry fit for visitors.
Eventually, the heavy doors opened.
"Oh," Pomfrey said wearily. "It's you lot again. Well, come in, come in," she
ushered the pair into the ward.
"Visitors!" Neville said happily, his nose just poking out between thick
bandages. "I never get visitors!"
"Nah, we're here for Harry," said Ron, ignoring a sharp look from Hermione.
"Hey," said Harry. Injuries notwithstanding, he seemed to be in high spirits.
"Did you hear? Or see? I caught it! Looks like I'm not rubbish after all!"
"To tell the truth, I only caught the first bit," Ron admitted, looking
apologetic. "But that's only because our plan worked. Can you believe it? Malfoy
told me everything!"
As he happily told Harry about Malfoy's crackpot scheme involving the Firebolts
and the Nimbuses, Harry burst out laughing, clutching his sides.
"So when they saw me lose control of my broom," he asked when he could finally
breathe, "they thought Milo hexed me?"
"Nutty, isn't it?"
"Where is he, by the way?" Harry asked, looking around.
"Dunno," said Ron. "Good question. Haven't seen him since before the match. You
don't... you don't think Snape caught him, do you?"
"Can't have," Neville said. Harry, Ron, and Hermione turned to him, somewhat
surprised that he'd spoken. "He was at the Quidditch game."
"What, really?" Ron asked. "He could have helped with Malfoy, then."
"Can't have," Neville said, his face (well, the visible parts anyways)
uncharacteristically grim. "He was too busy hexing Harry's broomstick."
"You mean Malfoy was right?" Ron asked, alarmed. "Merlin's pants! That
turncoat!"
"Looks like," Neville said sullenly.
"No," said Harry firmly. "I don't believe it. He was set up."
"I saw it myself! He just stood up, pulled out his wand, and hexed you! Right in
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plain sight!"
There was a brief silence.
"Did you say wand?" Harry asked.
oooo
"Password?" asked the Fat Lady.
"Squeak," Milo replied, and the portrait swung open. Stupid password, he thought
to himself. The 'ultra-secure' Common Room can be infiltrated by a Fighter in
heavy armour after a rainy day.
As soon as Milo entered the Common Room, he wished he still had Invisibility
prepared. The sounds of partying cut off immediately when he came into sight,
and everyone simply stared at him silently. Milo walked directly to the dorm,
and the crowd parted slightly around himit seemed that nobody wanted to touch
him. Milo was surprised at how much their shocked disapproval hurt himthey were
only NPCs, after all.
He collapsed onto his four-poster bed, exhausted. He knew he should be thinking
of a plan, some clever scheme, to get out of this, but he just felt too tired.
He'd been defeated, that was all there was to it.
He was going to be expelled. Lucius had won.
oooo
"Professor!" Hermione practically shouted, knocking sharply on the office door.
There was no reply. "She must be out somewhere!" she moaned.
"Maybemaybe she's in the staff room?" Ron suggested, "or the Great Hall?"
"Or she's patrolling the corridors," Hermione said, despair growing. "Or
visiting another teacher's office. Or overseeing detention. Or she's out of the
castle. She could even be"
Hermione gasped.
"What?" Ron asked, alarmed.
"You don't think shecould it be? She wouldn't, would she?"
"One day," Ron said, "you're going to give me a straight answer. And on that
day, I'm going to buy a lottery ticket and win a thousand Galleons."
"She might be"
"And then I'll be selected for Head Boy."
"Ron, listen, she"
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"And named Minister for Magic."
"Ron"
"Then Snape will apologize for being a
and he'll pull Malfoy in after him. To
ask me over for tea to give them a few
I'll go to bed early in my solid gold,
hair in my floating palace." Abruptly,
interrupting him.

git and stick his head in a cauldron. Oh,


round it off, the Chudley Cannons will
pointers on Quaffle handling. And then
king-sized bed stuffed with unicorn's
Ron realized Hermione had stopped

"Are you quite done?" Hermione asked testily.


"I was going to mention the butterbeer fountains, marble statues, and how it can
travel to Jupiter, but that seems somehow unnecessary now."
"I was going to say, before you so rudely cut me off, that she might already be
at the Ministry!"
Ron stared at her blankly.
"Why would she be at the Ministry?" he asked.
"Because," Hermione explained wearily, "when a student is to be expelled, the
DMLE and the Improper Use of Magic Office in particular have to be informed."
Ron continued to stare at her without comprehension.
"So that they can destroy the student's wand," Hermione said, fighting down the
urge to add 'Duh.'
"Blimey," Ron said. "Who do you think is getting the axe?"
Hermione stared at him with genuine surprise on her face.
"Milo, of course! Honestly, is there anything between those ears of yours?"
Ron paled.
"We have to find McGonagall before that happens!" he said.
"Yes, Ron," Hermione said, her voice commendably, under the circumstances, both
level and patient. "That's why we're here. Knocking on her office door."
Hermione paused for a moment, willing herself not to say it, but even her
doughty willpower could break under sufficient strain. "Duh."
oooo
Neville, who for one reason or another had been living in the hospital wing for
the past two months (when he was lucky, that isthe rest of the time, he was at
St. Mungo's) had a few special concessions from Madam Pomfrey that most
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short-term patients didn't get. They were little things, like a reading lamp
(Neville always had trouble with Lumos), a few extra pillows, the blanket that
smelled the least of cats, a bedside table with a pair of drawers for keeping
his clothes in, and the cot next to the window.
It was due to this last fact that, on Friday evening, he saw a tall, thin figure
striding confidently up to the Hogwarts gates.
"Hey, Harry," Neville said.
"What's up, Nev?" Harry asked sleepily.
"Well, Ron and Hermione went out to find McGonagall, right?"
"Sure."
"And that was four hours ago, right?"
"Was it?" Harry asked. He must have drifted off at some point, he realized.
"Yeah, it was. So they must not have found her."
"Guess not."
"Well, she's right outside."
"She is?" Harry asked, all trace of drowsiness gone. He looked around for Madam
Pomfrey, but she seemed to be out somewhere. Well, there was nothing else for
it. Agonizingly, he stood up and limped towards the door.
oooo
"Well, we've searched the staff room, the Common Room, every teacher's office,
all known corridors of Hogwarts, Hagrid's Hut, the dungeons, the Great Hall, the
lake, the Quidditch Pitch, the astronomy tower, and most of the empty
classrooms, but there's been no sign of her," Ron moaned in despair. He and
Hermione were standing in the entrance hall trying to decide where to look next.
"Sign of whom?" asked a familiar voice. The pair turned to see Professor
McGonagall standing at the entrance, taking off her coat and looking curious.
"Professor!" Hermione said with relief. "We finally found you!"
"Me?" McGonagall asked in surprise. "Is Peeves acting up again?"
"No," Hermione said at the same time that Ron said "Probably."
"Well, than what can I help you with?"
"It's about Milo," Hermione said. "He's innocent!"
McGonagall's face hardened.
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"I understand he's your friend, but there were dozens of witnesses. I'm sorry,
but I have no choice but to expel him."
"No, Professor, you don't understand. You see" Hermione froze. She was about to
say, 'you see, he was seen using a wand and Milo's magic doesn't need wands,'
but she realized that that would just get him expelled for a different reason.
She began to realize that maybe, this time, she hadn't thought their plan all
the way through. "He wouldn't do something like that," she finished lamely.
"Yeah," said Ron. "I mean, he's a bit of a nutter, mind, but he's Harry's mate.
He wouldn't hex him like that."
"I'm sorry," McGonagall said. "But without something a bit more than your gut
feelings, the case is open and shut. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a great
deal of paperwork to do. Unless one of you has something concrete?"
"I asked him to," said a voice. Hermione turned in surprise to see Harry,
wrapped in bandages and casts, leaning weakly against a doorway on the upper
level.
"Harry, what" Hermione asked.
"I asked him to pretend to hex me," Harry said. "We found out that Malfoy had
concocted a some nutty plan to rig the Quidditch match and make Firebolt look
bad, and he thought for some reason that Milo would hex me to protect the
reputation of the broomstick company. Can't imagine why. So I asked Milo to
pretend to go along with it, and faked the whole thing. Malfoy thought his plan
had worked, and his team pretended to lose control of their brooms. It was all
faked. Milo never really hexed me."
McGonagall, Ron, and Hermione stared at him, shock evident on their faces.
McGonagall's mouth moved a few times, as if she were about to speak, but
couldn't quite find the words. Harry, Ron, and Hermione stared at her in hopeful
silence. Eventually, she rallied somewhat.
"Of all thenot even Fred and George would haveokay, maybe Fred and
Georgebut... how did you discover this alleged plan?"
"Oh," said Ron, "that was me. He just bragged to me about it, right to my face,
during... er, just before the match. Can't imagine why."
"He told you?" McGonagall said. "But why... I spoke to Milo earlier, he came up
with some preposterous tale about Professor Snape and Polyjuice... why didn't he
just tell me the truth?"
"Because he's only eleven and was scared?" Hermione suggested hopefully.
McGonagall sighed.
"Well, I'll have to owl the Ministry immediately and tell them to cancel the
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hearing... of all the crackpot schemes, this one has to take the cake."
"So..." Hermione said, hope rising on her face like the sun, "so he's cleared?
He won't be expelled?"
"No," McGonagall said, "but this was, nonetheless, an underhanded move unworthy
of our House. And Mister Potter, I thought better of you. Twenty points from
Gryffindor from you and Milo each, and detention every Saturday for the rest of
November. And December. At least. And you two" McGonagall turned to Ron and
Hermione "were you involved in this as well?"
"No, not involved in any way whatsoever, Ma'am." Ron said smoothly, his years of
living in the same house as the twins paying off.
"Us? Involved? Hah. He. Hahaha. Nope," Hermione said nervously. McGonagall eyed
them suspiciously, but instead of giving them detention, just turned and walked
up the stairs to her office, muttering to herself about needing a Firewhiskey.
There were a few blessed seconds of relief for the three friends as they
savoured their triumph. It was interrupted, however, by a fell shriek that could
have raised the dead (in a manner of speaking, it didthe ghost of Nearly
Headless Nick, hovering nearby, was so startled that he (nearly) lost his head).
"What are you doing out of bed, young man?" came the terrible voice of a
wrathful Madam Pomfrey. Harry turned around in terror, while Hermione and Ron
simply fled.
oooo
When word got around that Milo's surprise attack on the Boy-Who-Lived was not,
as had been generally believed, treachery most foul, but rather a component in a
circuitous gambit to sabotage the Slytherin Quidditch team and guarantee a
Gryffindor win, there was much shuffling of feet and making of sheepish glances
in the Gryffindor Common Room.
"So, really, when it comes down to it, we're sorry, mate," said an NPC (Seamus
Finnigan, not that Milo knew or particularly cared).
"Why the sudden reversal of opinion?" Milo asked.
"Well, you see, Hermione came into the Common Room about an hour ago," said
Fred.
"And she stood up on the table, right in the centre of the room"continued
George.
"It was horrible," said another NPC (Dean Thomas). "like a banshee of wrath..."
"And she started speaking, and the walls shook"
"Only, see, nobody saw her cast Sonorus, so it was all her"
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"And she calmly told us about judging people before fully understanding the
situation"
"Oh, yes, definitely calm. Level-headed, she was. The windows shattered of
their own accord"
"And, if she asks, we didn't even hint otherwise"
"And thus, we were enlightened to the errors of our ways," finished George.
"Frankly, I'm surprised you didn't hear it, mate," said Dean. Milo noticed that
they were calling him 'mate' a lot.
"Hermione must have put up some kinda Charm to keep teachers in the halls from
storming in to see what all the screaming was about," Milo shrugged. "She's
careful like that." In truth, he'd heard every word, but wanted to hear them
explain it anyways. It was more fun that way.
"I thought you were innocent the whole time," said Hannah.
"Isn't this the boys' dorm?" asked Dean. Hannah coloured slightly.
"So," Seamus said, somewhat nervously. "Want to come down and have some
butterbeer? There's not much left, but it's really good. How Fred and George get
this stuff, I'll never know."
"And we'll never tell," Fred winked.
"Yeah," said Milo. "I think I'd like that."
The whole room gave a collective sigh of relief.
"So," he said on the way down the stairs into the Common Room, "what's your
excuse going to be next week?"
"Sorry, mate?" asked George.
"For a party. Seems like a weekly tradition 'round here."
"It isn't," said Fred slowly.
"But it should be," said George, whose forehead wrinkled in thought for a
moment. "We'll think of something," he said finally. "Trust us."
"And drink this," Fred said, pushing a heavy tankard of butterbeer into Milo's
hands. Milo sipped it cautiously, and suddenly grinned. The stuff wasn't ale
(the preferred method of hydration for adventurers everywhere), but it was
pretty fantastic. And before you cry, "But he's only eleven! He's far too young
for ale!" you should be advised that there are, in fact, no rules for
intoxication from alcohol anywhere to be found. It can therefore be concluded,
via strict interpretation of the holy Rules-As-Written, that one can drink
gallons of tequila like water.
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"Shouldn't we have waited for Harry to get out of the hospital?" Milo asked
suddenly.
"That's what we thought," said Fred (maybe), "but he gave us permission to
celebrate without him in future events such as this, so long as we save him some
of the provender."
"Speaking of which, hands off the last of the Every Flavoured Beans, you greedy
git!" George said, glaring at Ron.
The Quidditch victory party concluded a little after midnight when a sleepy
McGonagall made them all go to bed.
oooo
Despite Fred and George's promise, the next few weeks were surprisingly
uneventful (not that that prevented them from finding excuses for celebration,
as their "Happy November the 22nd Day!" festivities attested to). Milo's time
was taken up by almost constant detentions (both for McGonagall and Snape, now)
and lessons with McGonagall, but he found enough time in to research Benign
Transposition, Disguise Self, Nerveskitter, and Resist Energy. If Snape had any
reaction to his latest plot to expel Milo, it went unnoticed among his usual
horribleness. Quirrell started a unit on vampires, which sent Hermione into a
panic because it wasn't on the original reading list.
It was on a cold December afternoon when Milo returned to the Common Room to
find a small crowd gathered around the bulletin board.
"What's going on?" Milo asked.
"It's Quirrell," said Lee. Fear gripped Milo's heart. Had Snape finally gotten
the better of the enigmatic Defence Professor?
"What happened to him?"
"Nothin'," said Lee. "Only he's started a Duelling Club."
The bulletin had a large parchment poster pinned to it, reading SUNDAY DUELLING
CLUB SIGN-UP on it, with a number of lines for people to write their names in.
The lines were already all taken, and several people had scrawled their names
haphazardly in the margins.
Milo grinned. Sundays were his remaining free day, so there was nothing to stop
him from attending Quirrell's club and stomping some of the local 'wizards' for
fun and XP. What were they going to do, shoot sparks at him?
The poster said the club meetings would start after the holiday break.
"Hey, Ron," Milo asked, picking his partymember out from the crowd. "What's a
holiday break?"
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"You don't even know what a holiday break is?" Ron asked, flabbergasted.
"Everyone"
Hermione coughed pointedly.
"here would like nothing more than to illuminate you on this subject," Ron
finished smoothly.
"Everyone gets to go home for Christmas," Hermione explained.
"Do we have to?" Milo and Harry asked simultaneously.
"Jinx," muttered Harry.
"What? Where?" Milo asked, looking around warily.
"Nevermind," said Harry. "It's a Muggle thing."
"No," Hermione said. "You can stay for the holidays, but almost nobody does."
"Cool," said Milo.
"Also, what's Christmas?" Milo asked. Hermione, who had the bad timing to be
drinking from a glass of water right then, snorted her drink from her nose.
"What's Christmas?" she asked. "Everyone knows... ah. Ahem. It's a holiday that
happens once a year on December 25th where people give each other presents."
"Do I need a costume again?"
"No. Costumes on Christmas are strictly optional."
"Will there be Trolls?"
"No, there's just Father Christmas and his elves," Hermione said, regretting it
instantly.
"Elves again, eh?" Milo asked, rubbing his hands together. "Harry, put them on
the list. These elves have come up enough now that I'm sure they must be
relevant to something... what sort of elf are they, these ones that work for
this 'Father Christmas?'"
"Christmas elves," Hermione said in a quiet voice.
"Must be an obscure, non-core subrace. I'll keep an eye out for them. What's
Father Christmas?"
"He... children believe he travels to everyone's house at night on a flying
sleigh and delivers presents on Christmas," Hermione explained. "But nobody
really thinks he's real. People also call him Santa Claus."
"Santa Claws? This just keeps getting worse and worse!" Milo said. "He must be
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an exceptionally powerful caster to be able to cast enough Time Stops to get all
the way around the world in a single night... unless he has a use-activated
Magic Item... wow, that would be worth a fortune."
"Buthe's not really real," Hermione insisted.
"I can't tell you how many times I've heard that before," Milo snorted. "'there
are talesunfounded, of courseof a fell monster in the woods...' or 'they
speak, in whispered voices, of a wolf that walks among men... I'm sure it's just
rumour, though.' Hermione," Milo said, in the tone of someone talking to a
small, ignorant child, "if there's one thing I'm surprised you haven't learned
by now, it's that all rumours are true."
"But Father Christmas isn't real," she insisted.
"Oh, really?" Milo asked. "Harry once told me that Muggles don't believe in
dragons, magic, elves, or goblins," Milo scoffed. "And all of those things are
real."
"That's no reason to think"
"Hermione, how many of the things you believed as a small child, only to find
out as a medium child were make-believe, turned out to be real when, as a large
child, you discovered you were a witch?"
There was a brief silence as Hermione did some mental arithmetic.
"Most of them," Hermione admitted with a frown. "But come on. Father Christmas?
Not even wizards believe in himright, Ron?" Ron didn't respond. "Ron?"
"F-Father Christmas isn't real?" he asked, stunned. "Fred and George said they
saw him, once..."
"Oh, he's real alright," Milo said grimly. "And worse: he's in league with the
elves."
With that, Milo strode off to his favourite armchair (one in the corner which
presented him with a clear view of the room, while also being close enough to
the window that he could dive out and Feather Fall in an emergency), pulling
materials out of his Belt of Hidden Pouches.
"Where are you going?" Harry asked.
"I have to put the finishing touches on my Robe of Arcane Might," Milo said. "I
might be needing it, soon." He had to find a way to get out of his detentions,
they were cutting into his crafting time. Maybe if he could slay Santa Claws and
take his magic Item of Time Stop...
Milo wasn't sure exactly what this Father Christmas's connection was to the drow
in the kitchen that tried to poison him, but one thing was for sure:
If Santaor any of his little elvestried anything on or about Christmas, they
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weren't going to just walk away from it.

Chapter 17: White Christmas

Author's Notes: To anyone who didn't check yesterday (Sunday), and it confused,
this is the second bonus chapter this week. If the last thing you remember in
the story is an angry McGonagall pulling Milo from a meeting with Quirrell, you
need to go back a chapter.
Also, to my absolute horror, as The Lost Hibiki pointed out, I've been reading
the requirements on Spontaneous Divination wrongly this whole time. I am so, so
sorrymy intent from the very beginning was to have Milo stay strictly within
the confines of the Rules as Written (RAW) in order to poke fun at some of the
quirks and inconsistencies in D&D, and also so that D&D fans would have a very
clear understanding of Milo's abilities (making it all the more fun to try to
figure out how he's going to get out of a tough position). As it turns out,
Spontaneous Divination requires substitution of one of a Wizard's bonus feats
other than Scribe Scroll, meaning it isn't available for Milo until level five
(meaning he can't have used it before his battle with the Troll). Normally, for
an error like that, I would go back and edit the previous chapters to fix it,
but in this case Milo's use of Spontaneous Divination is too deeply interwoven
within the plot to pull it out. I hope the hardcore D&D fans out there aren't
too put off by my mistake!
The best I can do is apologize, and say that either Milo comes from a campaign
world run by a DM who house-ruled Spontaneous Divination's prereqs, or
alternatively, Milo is such a munchkin that he figured out how to get it early
even though I never could.
ooooooo
"Hey, Harry!" said Milo excitedly, running up to his partymember in their dorm
room. It was the day before the holiday, and everyone was eagerly awaiting two
weeks at homeeveryone, that is, except Harry and Milo, who were staying.
"What's up?" Harry asked.
"Check this out," he said, holding up an ordinary-looking Hogwarts school
uniform.
"You finally done tinkering with that thing?" Harry asked. "You said it would be
done weeks ago."
"Yeah, well," Milo said, "feature creep, you know. And then there's all the
detentions. Anyways, take this," Milo said, passing Harry the Cold Iron dagger
that he kept in his magic belt.
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"Why do you have a knife?"
"Okay," Milo said, practically bursting with excitement. "Now, stab it!"
"This is a pretty serious-looking knife."
"Never mind that, stab! Stabbity stab!"
"You carry this around all the time? I think that's against school rules."
"Oh, come on! Those wands are lethal weapons and they give them to
eleven-year-olds, what's a Masterwork shiv here and there? Now stab!" Milo was
bouncing on his heels.
"Is this like the time you threw a mug at me?"
"Exactly like that! This robe is practically made of Mage Armour!"
"Really?" Harry asked skeptically.
"No, not really. That's not how it works. But it's a simple enough lie that your
unenlightened brain can handle it, now stab the robes!"
"Fine!" Harry stabbed them. Much to his surprise, the knife simply glanced off
the garment as if it were made of hardened steel. Harry frowned, and stared at
the knife.
"Eh? Eh?" Milo said. "What do you think? Cool, no? Totally ordinary Hogwarts
uniform until Blam! I get attacked, and guess what? It's godsdamn invincible!"
"This must not be a very good knife," Harry said, ignoring Milo completely and
staring at the dagger in his hand.
"And that's not all!" Milo said. "It gives me +1 Caster Level to Conjuration
spells!"
"I mean, it can't even cut through an ordinary school uniform."
"That means a whole six more seconds of Hippogriff!"
"It looks sharp. I wonder if it's some sort of trick dagger?"
"Or ten feet more range to Glitterdust!"
"Or maybe you had a metal plate hidden in that robe?"
"That's a whole 20% more Caster Levels!"
"No, then I'd have still cut the robe... must be the knife."
"Or 60% more with the Arcanist's Gloves!"
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"Maybe I should try and cut something else with it. That would tell me for sure
if it was the knife or the robe."
"And that's not all! I added in Fire Resistance 5 as a custom bonus feature."
"I'll go test it on the curtain of my bed, maybe."
"So now it, and by extension, I, am fire-proof!"
"Well, it works on the bed, that's for sure."
"Well, maybe not fire-proof. More like fire resistant."
"Maybe I should test it on Ron's bed, too, just to be sure."
"But it's more than enough to make me very nearly safe against conventional
fire! With this, I can walk into a burning building for up to, on average, six
minutes! Or if the dice are against me, only seventy-two seconds before burning
to death. But that's still pretty good!"
"Works on Ron's bed just as well as mine. Maybe the knife is exceptionally good
at cutting curtains, but suboptimal on cutting robes. There's only one way to be
sure."
"You know, I think, somehow, that I'm not getting through to you here."
"Well, it certainly seems capable of cutting Ron's spare robes."
"I'll go show Hermione," Milo said dejectedly. "She knows how to appreciate
proper magic when she sees it."
"Fine, fine," Harry said distractedly. "I'll go visit Hagrid," Harry said
finally. "He's been a bit down ever since Quirrell killed his dog."
To say that Hagrid was 'a bit down' was rather like saying the Elemental Plane
of Water was 'a bit damp.' He'd been aimlessly wandering the halls in tears
since Hallowe'en, bemoaning the loss of his beloved omnicidal tricephalous
monstrosity. Milo shrugged and walked down the stairs into the Common Room.
True to form, Hermione was curled up on an armchair reading a thick, dusty old
tome.
"Hey," said Milo. "Can I see that?"
"Hmmm?" Hermione asked absently, not looking up.
"Scholar's Touch," Milo muttered, tapping the book quickly.
"Hey!" Hermione said, pulling it away from him.
"Interesting," Milo said. "But, no matter how knowledgeable she is on the
history of Goblin uprisings in Central Europe, she uses the word 'irregardless'
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twenty-four times. Just toss it in the fire like the kindling it is, would you?"
"Did you just come here to show off, or was there something else?" Hermione
snapped.
"Actually, there was something. I need you tohang on," Milo said, pulling on
his robes. "Okay. I need you to light me on fire. See, my robes are"
"Incendio," Hermione said, waving her wand in a complicated little pattern. A
bright little jet of fire shot out of the tip of Hermione's wand, but dissipated
as soon as it touched Milo's robes.
"I'm going to pretend that you waited for me to say 'my robes make me fire
resistant' before you tried to immolate me," Milo said.
"I figured it was something like that," Hermione said absently. "Although, I had
hoped otherwise. Don't touch my books."
"I'll try to keep that in mind."
Milo saw Hannah sitting in the corner, looking at him for some reason. As soon
as he noticed her, she abruptly looked away. Well, there's weirdoes all over.
"Hey," Milo said, walking over to her. "Whatcha up to?"
"Just, uh, reading the Tales of Beedle the Bard," she said.
"It's upside-down," Milo said.
"What, really?" Hannah asked in alarm, glancing down at it. "No, it's not!"
"Nah, but you checked. Anyways, look, there was something I'd been meaning to
ask you for a while, now," Milo said. He wasn't quite sure how to go about this.
"Yes?" Hannah asked, her heart beating rapidly.
"Well, it's about something I've sort of been wondering about with regards to
you," he said. "Something I just can't figure out."
"Mmhmm?" Hannah said, not trusting herself to speak.
"I was wonderingyou remember that day in September, the first time we all had
detention for Snape? We were cleaning statues, watched by the Baron?"
Hannah nodded quickly.
"Then you vanished, and I lead the search to find you," (Hannah felt like she
was about to burst) "and eventually had to enlist the aid of the Defence
Professor and most of Hogwarts' portraits," Milo continued. "But eventually, we
found you." Hannah just nodded again. "You were in the lake."
"What?" Hannah asked.
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"The lake. We found you in the Hogwarts lake. What on Earth were you doing
there?"
"You came here to ask me about the lake." said Hannah flatly.
"Yup," said Milo cheerfully.
"Oh, look at the time, I really must be going now, things to do, people to see,
lakes to fall into, gotta run, cheerio, bye." Hannah gathered up her stuff and
strode out of the Common Room like a woman with a purpose.
"She went down one of Hogwarts' trick corridors," Hermione said idly, not
looking up from her book. "It turned into a slide and she came out right into
the lake. If not for the giant squid, I think we'd all be doing it on hot days.
And that was a mean thing you just did."
"What, asking her how she got laked? I can't figure how you could put any
malicious intent into that."
"Until you did right in front of me, neither could I," Hermione said, turning a
page.
"Should I go find her and apologize?"
"No. Absolutely not. Believe me, in this case, it's better to feign ignorance."
"People are weird," Milo said under his breath, staring out the window. Being
the middle of winter in Northern Scotland, what he saw was mostly white. He
could only see a few yards because snowstorms give a -1 to Spot every 2.5 feet.
Milo resisted (barely) the urge to say, 'I'm sure everything's all white.'
"You know," Milo said idly. "If I could take the covers off all the books in the
library and stitched them together" (Hermione looked up at him in horror) "then
I could read the whole lot with a single Scholar's Touch."
"I think Madam Pince would have the books rebound with your skin as a warning to
the rest of us," Hermione said. "And I'd be right there holding you down while
she did. Don't"
"Touch your books, yeah, I remember."
"Why don't you go make some more magic doodads or something?" Hermione asked
testily.
"Can't," Milo said. "You can only work on a Magic Item up to eight hours a day."
"Where on Earth did you find eight hours already today? We only got out of class
an hour ago!"
"Well, what do you do in History of Magic?"
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"I take notes, of course!"
"That's what Mordenkainen's for," Milo grinned.
"You trust your rat," Hermione said, aghast, "to listen in class for you?"
"'Course. He wasn't doing anything else at the time."
"How can your rat write?"
"Easy. He can speak to me in a sort of unique little language. The rules clearly
state that 'A literate character (anyone but a Barbarian who has not spent skill
points to become literate) can read and write any language she speaks. Each
language has an alphabet, though sometimes several spoken languages share a
single alphabet.' Mordenkainen is, obviously, not a Barbarian; he can therefore
write in an undecipherable code that only I can read, which, incidentally, looks
a lot like Elvish."
Hermione frowned.
"That's a pretty shaky read of the rules, andwait, what rules?"
Milo snorted.
"When you people are taught to count," Milo said, "we're taught to abuse poorly
thought-out rules."
"You were in lessons as a child to abuse rules?" Hermione was horrified.
"Nah, skipped 'em all to fight kobolds in the sewers. Myra
(cityoflight!cityofmagic!) city law states that 'children under the age of
twelve must attend school,' but it never said they had to 'attend school' more
than once."
Hermione's mouth moved, but no words came out.
"It's funny, I got an A in my Munchkinry course without ever showing up past the
first lesson. All the students that showed up failed."
"Out!" Hermione said, throwing a cushion at him. "Just let me read in peace!"
She reached for another cushion.
Milo, despite having faced down an Acromantula, a Troll, dozens of Skeletons,
and Kobolds and Goblins beyond measure, was disinclined to face a wrathful
Hermione, and promptly utilized a strategic manoeuvre to leave the Common Room.
"I'm bored," Milo declared proudly as he exited the portal.
"That's nice," said the Fat Lady. "You should try hanging on a wall for several
hundred years."
Boredom was a state so rare for an adventurer that decided to savour it for as
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long as he could. Being boredom, of course, this only lasted for about a
microsecond before he was dying for something to do.
"Hey," Milo said suddenly. "You know about this world's quaint little culture,
right?"
"I know anything and everything that can be discovered by hanging on a wall,
watching students walk past, and pretending not to hide a secret passageway. So,
yes."
"This Christmas thing," Milo said. "I'm led to understand that people give each
other presents."
"Correct," said the Fat Lady.
"Now, when they say 'people'"
"that includes you, yes."
"Crap."
"Indeed."
"And if, say, someone were to hypothetically upset a friend of theirs in the
days leading up to this gift-giving holiday, and were, for some reason,
recommended against direct apology"
"Is this friend female?"
"Yes."
"Then the gift had better be damn special."
"Crap."
"Indeed."
"I have, what, eight days?"
"Seven."
"I'd best get started, then."
"Correct."
oooo
The vast majority of Hogwarts' students went home over the holidays, and for
those who remained, the two week break was a time to lie around in their
respective Common Rooms, playing Exploding Snap and (for the less
danger-inclined) wizarding chess.
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Not so for Milo, who spent day and night working on Christmas presents,
researching spells, and 'resting,' (really, planning and setting traps for the
arrival of the dreaded Santa Claws) each in exactly 8 hour increments per day.
When Christmas Eve rolled around, Ron and Harry were surprised to see Milo,
weary and exhausted, trudge zombie-like into their dormitory.
"Blimey," said Ron, who was staying at the castle because his parents went to
visit his brother Charlie in Romania, "we thought you'd gone home for the
holidays."
"Where have you been?" Harry asked. "Nobody's seen you at mealtimes, in the
Common Room, or even in bed."
"Christmas," Milo slurred.
"When was the last time you slept?" asked Harry, looking equal parts concerned
and amused.
"Over a hundred thousand, eight hundred rounds ago," Milo said. People, from
where he was from, were very good at telling timebut only in rounds, a unit of
six seconds.
"What are you carrying, there?" Ron asked, pointing at a heavy bag Milo had
slung over his shoulder.
"Christmas," Milo repeated, and slipped into unconsciousness in his four-poster
bed.
"Nutter," Ron said. "But at least he's on our side."
The residents of Gryffindor Tower awoke to an unpleasant surprise on Christmas
morning.
"Glitterdust! Obscuring Mist! Summon 1d4+1 Celestial Giant Fire Beetles!"
"Ah! Gerroff!"
"I've gone blind!"
"He was here! Father Christmas was here! While I slept! Oh, why did I sleep? Who
let me sleep? We didn't post any sentries! Grease!" Milo was standing in the
middle of the dorm, casting offensive spells at random. The room was full of
dense fog, concealing everything except for blindingly bright sparkling gold
particles of magic and the red, glowing eyes of four giant beetles that were
skittering about, clicking loudly. "We'll all be killed!"
Fortunately, Milo ran out of spells in about a minute, and the protesting
struggles of Ron and Harry managed to convince him that Santa "Claws" wasn't
about to jump out from under a bed and kill him.
"And that," said Ron, "is why you need to sleep more than once every eight
nights. Happy Christmas, by the way."
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"I've got some presents!" Harry said in surprise, the small pile of wrapped
gifts visible now that the dust had cleared and the noise had stopped.
"What were you expe" Ron began, but Milo cut him off.
"You don't normally get presents?" Milo asked.
"Nah," said Harry. "This is the first time!"
"So... so... they're not mandatory? I didn't have to get you anything?"
"Blimey," said Ron, "I don't think you've quite grasped the meaning of
Christmas."
Harry groaned.
"If anyone suggests we go on an adventure to discover the true meaning of
Christmas," he said, "I'm going to have to put my foot down."
"An adventure, eh?" Milo asked, his eyes alight.
"No. No. No adventures," insisted Ron firmly. "We open presents. We have
Christmas Dinner. We play games. We have fun with friends and family. That's
it."
"Oh," said Milo, looking downcast.
The first package opened was by Harry from his aunt and uncle. It contained
something Milo had never seen before, something... unnatural.
"What is it?" Milo asked, looking fascinated.
"I dunno," said Ron. "Look at the shape!"
"It's a fifty-pence piece," Harry said, biting down laughter.
"Well, where's the rest of it?" Milo asked.
"That's all they sent."
"So, if this is a piece of the Fifty Pence," Milo said thoughtfully, "what
happens when we combine all seven shardsthere are seven, right? It's usually
either seven or threedo we become masters of the Fifty Pence?"
Harry doubled over with laughter.
"No, mate, I heard my dad talking about this once," Ron said in hushed tones.
"It's what Muggles use for money!"
"What, this?" Milo asked. "It's not made of gold, platinum, silver, or even
copper! How do they know how much it's worth?"
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"My dad couldn't figure it out, either," Ron said. "He theorizes that Muggles
have a sense that wizards lack that tells them how much their money is worth,
and my dad's a professional."
"I guess they'd have to have something to balance out their lack of magic," Milo
mused.
Harry was in real danger of dying due to lack of air, he was laughing so hard.
"I don't trust it," Ron said. "If it's not made of precious metals, what's to
stop people from just Transfiguring more of it?"
Milo gasped.
"They don't have any magic at all! They can't just Transmute or Transfigure
money!" Milo was amazed.
"Whoa," said Ron. "That's mindblowing. They can use anything as money, then. I
should write my dad about this."
In the end, Harry let Ron keep the coin to show Mr Weasley, and turned to his
other presents.
"You got me new spectacles, Milo?" Harry asked when he opened Milo's gift.
"They... look exactly my current ones."
"So nobody will know the difference," Milo said, tapping the side of his nose in
a conspiratorial way.
"Er... thank you? I suppose a spare will come in handy," Harry said dubiously.
"Put them on," Milo insisted. Harry, obligingly, slipped off his current pair
and put on Milo's new ones.
"Blimey!" Harry gasped.
"They look like ordinary specs," Milo said, "but they're really Eyes of the
Eagle. They give +5 to Spotthat means you can see things fifty feet away with
the same level of detail as you could see something right in front of your nose
without themand, because they're enchanted using my form of magic, none of your
wizards can tell that they're anything out of the ordinary."
Harry stared at Milo for a moment, then his face broke into a wide grin.
"So I can wear them during Quidditch without breaking any rules!" he said. "Or
at least, without getting caught. Thanks, Milo! These are awesome."
"You'll have to get a proper eye doctor to have the lenses done in your
prescription, though," said Milo, who had asked Hermione earlier about how
glasses worked. "Until then, the -2 penalty you incur will counter out some of
the bonus."
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"Shouldn't be too much of a problem," Harry said.
"Hope you like them," Milo said. "You did pay for them, after all."
Ron, who was staring at Harry's gift enviously, sifted through his (rather
large; he has a big family) pile of presents to find Milo's. Unwrapping it
revealed an ordinary looking quill.
"What's it do?" Ron asked eagerly.
"It writes words," Milo said.
"That's all?" Ron asked, sounding disappointed.
"Yeah... but it does it all by itself. I made this one custom, it's my own
invention. See, what you do is, you just tap it to a piece of paper or parchment
or whatever to activate it. It'll immediately start copying whatever you were
looking at when it started, and won't stop till it's done or after 2,500 words,
whichever comes first. I figure it'll come in dead handy when you're copying
Hermione's notes," Milo explained. "It'll even turn the page and keep going on
the next one when necessary."
"Blimey," Ron gasped, holding the quill like it was a long-lost family member.
"That's bloody brilliant."
"Only works once a day, though, so keep it away from parchment so you don't
trigger it by accident. I call it the Pen of Plagiarism +5."
"Plus five what?" Ron asked.
"Nothing," Milo said unabashedly, "but where I come from, you can charge
exponentially more for stuff if it's plus something."
Milo turned to his presents, which, as it turned out, were (as far as he was
concerned) even better than minor magic items. Each of Neville, Harry, Ron, and
Hermione had decided independently to get him a huge package of Every Flavoured
Beans.
"I think," Milo said around a huge mouthful of the bizarre sweets, "that I like
this whole Christmas thing. A lot of work, though."
Harry (wearing an emerald sweater knitted by Mrs Weasley) opened his last
package. A silvery-grey, gossamer cloth floated out of it and fell to the floor.
Ron gasped.
"Huh," Harry said. "Looks like a cloak."
"Put it on," Ron urged. "If it's what I think it is... well, there's only one
way to find out."
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"You," Harry said pointedly, "have been spending too much time with Hermione."
Nevertheless, did, and promptly vanished.
Milo and Ron both gasped.
"It's an Invisibility Cloak!" Ron said, while Milo said "It's a Cloak of
Invisibility!"
Harry pulled it off.
"Why do they call it that?" he asked.
"'Cause it makes you invisible," said Ron.
"Duh," added Milo.
"I didn't feel invisible," Harry said skeptically. "Here, you put it on," he
passed it to Ron, who held it reverently. True to form, Ron vanished as soon as
he put it on.
"Huh," said Harry. "Don't see that every day."
"I do, actually," Milo pointed out. He usually prepared Invisibility once a day.
"Oh! I've been meaning to test something, actually. Harry, put it on again."
When Harry complied, Milo cast See Invisibility. Harry appeared in front of him
as a translucent shape.
"Excellent," Milo said. "Score one for my magic, for once." Must be because of
the vague wording of See Invisibility, Milo thought. It just says "reveals any
objects or creatures that are invisible," not "creatures that are affected by
Invisibility."
"Did it come with a card?" Ron asked curiously. "Those things are really
expensive; I wonder who would spend that much on you?"
Harry rooted about on the ground for a moment, then produced a small note with a
handwritten message.
Your father left this in my possession before
he died. It is time it was returned to you.
Use it well.
A Very Merry Christmas to you.

"That," Milo said, "is singularly unhelpful. Put it on the list."


Harry was looking at the note strangely.
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"What's the matter?" Ron asked.
"Nothing," Harry said. Milo shrugged, and began preparing spells for the day.
Fortunately, his ... episode ... in the morning had come from yesterday's
spells. Harry and Ron settled down to play a game of Exploding Snap.
"Hey," Milo said suddenly, having finished renewing his allotment of spells.
"Anyone know if Hannah's staying for the holidays?"
"Uh," said Ron. "Yeah, I think I saw her at dinner the other day, with Lavender
Brown."
"Cool. Bye," Milo said, leaving the dorm abruptly. On his way out, he passed
Fred and George, wearing matching Weasley jumpers.
"and then we'll say 'we know we're called Gred and Forge,'" Fred was saying in
a low voice.
"Oh, hey Milo," George said as Milo passed.
"Hey," Milo said, barely giving them a glance. "Wait," he said, and turned.
"Have either of you seen Hannah Abbot around?"
"Yeah," said Fred. "Last I saw, she was heading out of the Common Room."
"Oh," George added. "She was wearing a coat and scarf, so she was probably going
outside."
"What, in that?" Milo asked, gesturing at the window. The snow was really
picking up. "Didn't you try and stop her?"
"Yeah, but she ignored us. Don't worry, I'm sure she'll be"
"all white."
Milo groaned, and not just because of the terrible pun. He was going to have to
go out and find her to deliver her mandatory apology present. Milo hustled out
of the Common Room and down the stairs to the Great Hall, pulling on parts of
his Cold Weather Outfit from his Belt of Hidden Pouches as he went. On the way,
he decided that his next project would be to make his uniform Shiftweave as
well, which allowed it to transform into other outfits instantly.
Milo opened the massive Great Hall doors to find snow piled up to his head.
"I am not walking in that," Milo said. "Fly," he cast, and suddenly felt himself
become weightless. "Locate ObjectHannah's Robes," he cast, and felt a light tug
to his right. Milo effortlessly floated up off the ground and through the heavy
snow.
Shouldn't she have left tracks? Milo wondered, looking around. Of course, it was
possible that the snow had filled them in already... but really, with snow that
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deep, she'd have to dig a tunnel to get around.
Something felt very wrong about this whole situation. The wind was picking up,
and the cold began to bite effortlessly through Milo's robes (Milo decided an
Endure Elements enchantment was in order as well). You'd have to be suicidal to
willingly venture out here, Milo thought. And she went alone? Highly suspect.
As Milo flew, skimming a few feet above the ground, he felt his Locate Object
spell abruptly end.
Okay... Milo thought, his teeth chattering. Either she entered an area warded
against Divination, she's surrounded by lead, someone dispelled my spell, or
she's out of range.
Let's assume the first one is out, because there isn't much interaction between
my magic and the local strain. It's possible their wards against detection would
work, but improbable. My spell can't have been dispelled, because I'd have
noticed when I made the opposed Caster Level check... unless the local
equivalent doesn't allow a check.
Milo groaned. He really had no idea what happened.
Only one thing for it.
"Circle Dance," Milo cast quietly, swapping out Summon Monster III. Circle Dance
is an obscure spell that locates the direction from you to a creature (much like
Locate Object or Locate Creature) except that it had no range limit. However, it
takes a minute to cast, burns a 3rd-level spell slot, and only has an
instantaneous effectif the target moves, you won't have any idea. On the plus
side, it gives a vague impression of the target's physical and emotional
condition.
Milo spun in a circle with his eyes closed until he finished casting the spell,
which left him feeling dizzy. He opened his eyes, pointing in the direction she
was in, and knowing she was unharmed and, emotionally, perfectly content (which
was concerning, but not the most concerning thing).
Milo groaned.
He was looking directly at the Forbidden Forest.
Really, he wondered, why did I ever think this little trip wouldn't end up with
me in mortal danger?
With a sigh and a longing glance at the comfortable Gryffindor tower, now only a
speck of light in the whiteout, Milo sped off towards the forest.
Milo had just gotten past the edge of the forest when Fly ran out of duration,
and he fell heavily in the snow.
"Should have known," he said, his teeth chattering, "that, if foul weather is
mentioned, I'd soon be out slogging in it. The c-c-castle is making me
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c-c-complacent."
With difficulty, Milo cast another Locate Object on Hannah's clothing (swapping
out the previously prepared Invisibility). To his surprise, she was somewhere
behind him.
At the start of a combat, all characters involved have to make an Initiative
roll with a bonus based off of their Dexterity and a few other things. This
determines the order in which combatants actpeople who rolled higher on
Initiative, due to luck or by virtue of possessing quick reflexes, act before
those who rolled lower. This makes Nerveskitter (a 1st level spell which grants
+5 to Initiative rolls) an extremely unusual spell, as it must be cast while
rolling Initiative, or, in other words, after a character is aware that there is
trouble but before his muscles have had time to respond to his commands. For
someone such as you or I, this is patently impossible. A Wizard, however, is
somehow capable of both speaking the verbal components and waving his hands
about in a complicated gesture to cast the spell before he is physically capable
of doing either.
"Nerveskitter," Milo cast, speaking every syllable simultaneously and in
harmony, in blatant violation of the laws of common sense. He was surrounded by
a brief blue glow, and rolled to the side just as a glowing red bolt of magic
flew past the space he had previously occupied. The bolt hit a tree, pieces of
bark flying away from the contact point.
"Mirror Image," he cast, and a pair of illusory Milo duplicates appeared next to
him. The real Milo lay down flat in the snow, minimizing his visibility.
Another red bolt of light hit one solidly in the torso, causing the image to
fall to the ground, motionless.
Milo quickly ran through his options. He had no idea what the location or
identity of his attacker was, which precluded the used of Grease, Glitterdust,
or, in fact, any offensive spell.
"Summon Hippogriff," Milo cast. Hippogriffs could track by scent, so didn't
strictly require vision. Milo grinned, happy that he had learned Summon Monster
III after his battle with the Troll.
The proud horse/eagle hybrid appeared in front of Milo with a shriek and ran
forwards. It got about ten feet before Milo saw a green flash, and the summoned
monster keeled over, dead.
Holy crap, Milo thought. They're using the Killing Curse.
And Milo was running low on spells.
Okay, he thought in a panic. Okay. It's not so bad. They clearly can't see you,
either, right? Or you'd be dead already.
A few more curses flew over Milo's head and hit some evergreen trees, which
promptly turned brown and withered, dropping needles.
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And they can cast more than one per round. Or there's three of them, ganging up
on me.
A desperate plan came to Milo's mind. None of his prepared spells would help
him, as far as he could tell, so he had to use something he could cast without
prior preparationa Divination. Most casters believed Divination to be a soft
school, but Milo knew better.
Divinations could kill.
"True Strike," he cast, granting his next attack a +20 to hit, which would be
enough to hit an unusually petite fly at a distance from about here to Jupiter.
More curses flew over his head.
"Guided Shot," he cast, which allowed his next attack to ignore cover and
concealment. Neither of these would help him target a Grease or Glitterdust, or
even a Fireball if he knew how to cast it, as those were all area attacks. They
would only help him with a direct attack, the kind of which required
accuracyalso known as the type of spell Milo avoided like the plague.
So, instead of casting a spell at all, he drew his (so far, never used) Cold
Iron dagger and threw it in a completely random direction. Milo's plan was to
then cast Locate Object on the dagger, which did a paltry 1d4-1 damage
(practically nonlethal against the targets Milo was used to), which would let
him identify the location of his foe, so he could follow up with an arcane
barrage.
It was only after the dagger left his fingers, and he had confirmed a critical
hit for double damage, that he realized his mistake.
The dagger, guided by Milo's magic, had flown in exactly the same direction as
his previous cast of Locate Object, which was still active, told him Hannah was
standing.
Milo heard a sickening thud, and the curses abruptly stopped flying.

Chapter 18: Red Christmas

Author's Notes: I just realized that, while D&D convention italicizes the names
of Spells, it doesn't italicize Magic Items. I'll start from here on writing
them without italics, and maybe go back and change previous chapters if I have
time. However, as always, writing new chapters takes priority over messing with
the formatting on old ones.
Also, I realized today that I'd been doing something this whole time that I
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hadn't actually said anywhere I actually roll Milo's hit points every level.
It's much more fun for me, that way.
P.S. There will be a bonus chapter on either Sunday or Monday.
EDIT: Confirming that there will be a bonus chapter tomorrow (Sunday), which
should make up for the relative shortness of this chapter.
ooooooo
"H-Hannah?" Milo asked, stunned. Gods, what have I done?
There was no response.
She can't be dead. It was only one attack, he thought to himself
It was a critical hit, said a tiny voice in his head.
A critical hit on a dagger, the Milo insisted.
She might only be level one, wheedled the tiny voice.
That's six damage, tops! Milo protested. It's physically impossible for six
damage to kill anything.
Maybe back home... but have you seen any indication at all that these people
only die at -10 hit points?
Everything dies at -10. Fact of the universe.
Your universe. Remember how surprised Madam Pomfrey always is at your
physiology? You can't take anything for granted.
She can't be dead.
Then why are you so afraid go to check on her?
Milo couldn't think of any suitable response to that.
"Okay," Milo said, out loud. "I'll go find her, and she'll be fine. Just...
fine. You'll see."
Milo stood up from his prone position, shaking off snow. He waded through the
deep snow to where Locate Object told him Hannah lay.
Or is standing, Milo thought stubbornly. She could be standing there, happy as a
clam. A happy clam. Not like one of those sad clams.
"Hannah?" Milo called again, yet was again unanswered.
Abruptly, the snow stopped blocking Milo's vision. He realized vaguely that he
was standing under the canopy of a tree. A nice, old-growth tree. Milo thought
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it might be a willow, but then wondered idly if this world even had willows.
There was no reason to think they did, after all, everything else seemed to be
so completely different. Elves working in kitchens. No limit on spells per day.
Gradual learning instead of discrete increments. Goblins running banks. Dragons
slaughtered to make gloves.
An, apparently, completely different damage/wound system.
Hannah Abbot lay against the tree, slouched into a half-sitting position. Her
wand was held loosely in her right hand, her left was clutching the hilt of
Milo's dagger, sticking out of her stomach. It was difficult to tell her
school uniform was black, after all but there was a lot of blood. A scary
amount of blood. Her head was lolled to the side, and she wasn't moving.
"Oh gods. Oh gods," Milo said. Milo was far from a religious person, but if ever
there was a time for divine intervention, that time was now.
Hannah stirred feebly.
Holy crap. Pelor, I owe you one! I'll slay some vampires for you when I get
home.
She reached for her wand.
Milo blinked. Maybe she knows some healing spell?
"A... a..." Hannah said weakly.
"Hey, Hannah," Milo said gently. "You'll be okay, okay? I've... I've got a
Healer's Kit and +1 from Wisdom, so I can do first-aid, okay? So just... don't
move." Milo slowly reached into his Belt of Hidden Pouches for the kit.
"Av..." Hannah said again.
"Tell me back at the castle, when you explain just what you were doing out here,
kay?"
"Avada Kedavra."
A brilliant green bolt shot out of the tip of Hannah's wand, but her shaking
hand fouled her aim. A bush behind Milo burst into flame.
Milo instinctively ducked behind a nearby tree as curses started flying again.
"Okay," Milo said. "She's clearly possessed or something, and whatever's doing
it is trying to kill me." As if to emphasize the point, a curse slammed into the
other side of the tree Milo was using as cover, and dead leaves rained down,
thinning out the canopy and allowing snow to start falling back onto Milo's
head.
Carefully, Milo (very slowly) peeked around the side of the tree. Hannah was
still slumped on the ground, looking deathly pale. Milo pulled his head back
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just as a Killing Curse flew by close enough that he could feel the heat
radiating from it, and the tip of his nose burned as if it had been exposed to
the sun for hours.
How am I supposed to help a person who's bleeding to death if they're trying to
kill me? Milo wondered. If I go over to her to try and stabilize her or, for
that matter, de-possess her with Protection From Evil (which requires physical
contact) I'll end up like this tree.
Milo heard Hannah coughing weakly. It was a wet, gurgling sound. Oh, that so
cannot be good.
I can blind her with Glitterdust ... but really, I have no idea what that would
do to her in her state. If a single dagger can do this, I shouldn't really take
any chances. For all I know, Glitterdust could kill her outright.
On the other hand, doing nothing will kill her.
"I'm really sorry about this!" Milo said around the corner. "Glitterdust!"
Hundreds of thousands of golden sparks flew out of Milo's spread hand,
illuminating the thick white snow like twinkling faerie lights.
Her silence was uncanny. Normally, when people are blinded by Glitterdust, they
scream and complain and flail around, but Hannah... if she had any response,
Milo couldn't tell.
Maybe she made her Will save? Milo thought. And she can see just fine, and if I
stick my head out again the last thing I'll see will be green... well, at least
it's holiday appropriate.
Had Hannah been carrying a gun, or had Milo been from this universe to begin
with, he likely would have slowly stuck a hand out to determine if his attacker
would re-open fire. At worst, by that logic, your hand will be injured. However,
in Milo's form of magic, the location on the body that the spell hits is
irrelevant: if Disintegrate hits even your baby toe, you're powder. As far as
Milo knew, and he didn't even question that this wasn't the case, if Avada
Kedavra so much as glances the tip of your finger, you're waking up in your
Alignment-appropriate Outer Planar afterlife.
Milo stepped out from around his safety, praying to his often-forgotten deities
that whatever was possessing Hannah had been blinded.
The thing about snow, especially thick snow, is that it's impossible to walk
through it without making a distinctive crunching sound. As soon as Milo had
taken a single step, her unseeing, bloodshot eyes whipped towards his general
direction, wand raised.
A red curse of some sort flew out of Hannah's wand, but missed him by several
yards and hit impacted the snow harmlessly, causing a cloud of steam to erupt as
the snow flash melted.
Milo felt like an idiot. They need wands to cast, he thought. That little stick
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really should have been my first target.
"Grease!" Milo cast, not on the ground underneath Hannah, or even on Hannah
herself, but on her wand. Hannah remained expressionless, but Milo imagined
(perhaps, somewhat fancifully) that her possessor at least blinked in surprise
as her only weapon slipped harmlessly out of her hands, landing lightly in the
soft snow. In some detached part of his brain, Milo realized this was the first
battle he'd ever won in which he really didn't care about the XP earned.
Milo heaved a sigh of relief and walked over to his injured friend.
"Master's Touch," Milo cast, granting him +4 to Heal, which, combined with his
naturally high Wisdom and Healer's Kit, would allow him to easily make the check
to stabilize Hannah. Sudden insight flooded his brain about human anatomy and
emergency medical procedures.
"Okay, I'd best leave the dagger in," he said quietly. "Because I could do more
damage just taking it out." Hannah stared at him blankly, her eyes still wide
open. Milo winced human reflex, when looking at an exceptionally bright light
(such as a laser or, in this case, Glitterdust) is to close one's eyes
immediately to prevent damage. Whatever was controlling Hannah had evidently
overridden that instinct, leaving her eyes red and bloodshot, glittering gold
like the rest of her. Unfortunately, there was nothing Milo could do to end the
spell once it had started.
As Milo got to work cleaning the injury and trying to stop the bleeding, Hannah
stirred again.
"What, you're not still trying to kill me, are you?" Milo asked, surprised. As a
precaution, he dismissed the Grease spell on the wand and stashed it in his Belt
of Hidden Pouches.
Despite her injuries, Hannah moved like lightning, ignoring the pain entirely.
One moment, her hands were by her sides; the next, they were pulling the dagger
out of her own injury. Milo blinked, then snorted.
What's she going to do, he thought, stab me? Unlike her, I have twelve hit
points. That's three good stabs before I even notice it, minimum.
Hannah lunged at Milo, nicking his arm for a paltry two damage.
"Better safe than sorry," Milo said, mostly to himself. "Protection from Evil."
He tapped Hannah on the forehead and a glowing gold cylinder briefly appeared
around Hannah before, leaving her protected from mental control for the duration
of the spell (seven minutes with the help of his Arcanist's Gloves).
"Gah!" Hannah shrieked in pain, rubbing at her eyes frantically. This only had
the effect of smearing blood into them.
"Hey, Hannah, it's okay," Milo said in what he hoped was a soothing tone. "Your
vision will return in a few seconds. I know it's hard, but I need you to stop
moving while I try to deal with the bleeding, okay? Can you do that for me?"
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Mutely, Hannah nodded, tears starting to flow from her eyes.
Mordy climbed out of Milo's belt and helped him hold a bandage in place while
Milo tied it off. The rat knew, without any form of communication necessary,
exactly where to be and what to do to help Milo the most a combination of
their long partnership, empathic link, and the fact that Mordy benefited from
Milo's Master's Touch spell just as much as he did.
"I'm..." Hannah started to say. A brief memory of when he first encountered her
out here, and she struggled to say the words to curse him came to mind.
"Don't say anything," Milo said.
"I'm s-sorry," Hannah said weakly.
"It's fine, I'm here, I have magic, I can get you to safety," Milo said. How the
Hells am I going to pull that off? He wondered. All I have left are Benign
Transposition, Feather Fall, a pair of Prestidigitations, Dancing Lights, and
Mage Hand.
Not for the first, or last, time, Milo wished he were a Cleric.
Why, oh why didn't I buy that Healing Belt back in Myra
(cityoflight!cityofmagic!)when I had the chance? He thought bitterly. Or at
least a few Potions of Cure Light Wounds.
"Uhm," Milo said. "I don't mean to shake your confidence in my abilities or
anything," he said cautiously, "but I don't suppose you know any healing
spells?"
"Sorry..." she said. "I'm... useless."
"Untrue," Milo lied. "Dancing Lights," he cast, in a vain hope that someone
would see it and come to their rescue. In the current weather, however, it
seemed all but impossible.
I flew here in a more-or-less straight line at 120 feet per round for five
minutes, sans one minute to cast circle dance... that's 4800 feet, or almost a
mile. Normally I can hustle on foot at 60 feet per round, but carrying Hannah
will cut that down to 40, and the snow will take it down to 20...
Milo managed to conceal a groan. It would take, assuming everything went well
(which, in his experience, was rare to the point of impossibility), twenty-four
minutes to hike Hannah back to the castle. Twenty-four freezing minutes through
snow deeper than he was tall. Twenty-four minutes at maximum carrying capacity.
Milo glanced at Hannah, who was shivering in a somewhat concerning manner. He
really wasn't sure if she'd make it that far. Milo figured his best bet was to
rig up some form of shelter, then return to the castle to get help.
Fortunately, being an experienced adventurer, he was absolutely loaded with gear
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to help in the first part of that plan.
"So," Milo said in a conversational tone. "I'm going to make a tent, keep the
snow off of you, alright?" A thought struck him. "But first, here." He reached a
hand into one of the pockets of his belt and fished out a heavy, thick fur
Winter Blanket and placed it over her shivering body. Milo, like any decent
Wizard, tried to be prepared for anything.
"Th-thanks," she murmured. As an afterthought, he passed her his Bedroll as
well.
Pulling fine silk rope (made by Elves, of course) and thick canvas sheets out of
his magic belt, he immediately got down to work. He tied the rope between a four
nearby trees in an X shape and used the canvas sheets (of which he had five) to
create walls, and a ceiling. Looking critically at the result (which was most
certainly not up to any code you could name), Milo realized the whole thing
would fall apart if a decent-sized twig fell on it from one of the overhanging
trees. To remedy this, he strung up a large fishing net about four feet over the
'tent' to catch falling objects. Lastly, Milo cut a small hole in the centre of
the roof to allow smoke out, and started hunting for decent-sized sticks to use
as firewood. He had his obligatory Wizard staff, of course, and his 11-foot
pole, but the idea of burning either of those things was too horrible to
contemplate. After finding a few moderately dry twigs, Milo gave up and decided
to use a bucket as kindling (yes, he carried a wooden bucket in his
extradimensional belt. You never know when a bucket might come in handy; just
because it never has doesn't mean it never will).
The whole process took about ten minutes. Milo was just stepping back to briefly
admire his (crude) handiwork when he realized he should have been keeping better
track of time: Protection from Evil only lasted seven minutes. Hannah could have
been repossessed for quite some time while he was wasting time breaking a bucket
into pieces.
"Uh," Milo asked nervously, sticking his head into the covered area. "I don't
mean to be, you know, insensitive or anything..."
"Hmmm?" Hannah asked.
"You don't feel, you know, Evil or anything?"
"Nope," she said.
"Good, good..." Milo said dubiously. Well, what would she do if she were,
anyways? Spit at me? "Well, if you start feeling an overwhelming urge to murder
me, let me know, would you?"
Hannah simply nodded weakly.
Milo briefly considered Manacling her, but quickly decided against it. If
anything, that would give her possessing spirit/ghost/demon/whatever (assuming
it was still in her) a heavy metal improvised bludgeon.
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Milo glanced at the pile of firewood he'd created out of his bucket (one of his
ever-dwindling physical ties to his old world) and sighed. He could light it
with Prestidigitation, of course, but he was already running precariously low on
magic and didn't think wasting it on something so frivolous would be a good
idea.
Grumbling to himself, Milo employed the decidedly mundane method of Flint and
Steel.
"You carry all this stuff around with you?" Hannah asked. It was the longest
sentence he'd yet heard her say since her... accident.
"Yeah," Milo said, clicking away ineffectually at the flint. A few pathetic
sparks appeared, but nothing ignited. "Saved me from the Troll... well, sort of.
I mean, I got thrown through the window anyways. But it helped. A bit. Maybe."
"If you give me my wand," Hannah said, "I can light that for you."
Milo, grateful, had his hand halfway to the appropriate belt pocket when his
eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"No thanks," he said. "I love doing this by hand. Very zen." He also had
Tindertwigs, of course, but he preferred to save those for a situation in which
he really needed fire as a Standard Action.
It took awhile, but eventually, Milo got his pitifully small fire going.
"Okay," Milo said. "Now, look. I'm going to go and get help," he said gently.
"You just stay here, all right?"
"You're leaving me alone?" Hannah asked him.
"Uh... no. You'll have Mordy to protect you." With a flash of COLD, UNHAPPY,
SLEEP, Milo pulled his protesting familiar from his warm home in the belt. "Now,
I know he doesn't look like much, but trust me. He's a badass."
Hannah gave him a peculiar look when, over the crackling of the flames, they
heard a loud crunch from the snow outside.
"Stay here," Milo commanded unnecessarily. He hesitated for a moment, then dived
out of the tent as fast as he could, hoping to take whatever was out there by
surprise.
Standing outside, looking somewhat surprised, was the most horrible little
creature that Milo had seen in a long, long time. It looked a little like a
Goblin, with thick, leathery green skin, red eyes, and long, sharp nails. It was
wearing crudely-tanned leather breeches, but was naked from the waist up (Milo
shuddered to think how cold that would be). As the creature recovered from its
surprise, it grinned at him. Its teeth, of which it had several rows, had at
some point been filed to needle-sharp points. In one hand was a short, crude,
wickedly curved, needlessly hooked, serrated sword. Its most distinctive
feature, by far, was its bright, unevenly-dyed blood red hat.
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"HolycrapRedcap!" Milo gasped in surprise. He'd hoped that the psychotic,
mass-murdering evil little Fey didn't have an alternate-universe version in this
world. Milo wasn't sure whether the thing had been attracted by the smoke from
the fire, commanded here by whatever had possessed Hannah, or was simply
attracted by the girl's blood.
Unfortunately for Milo, who had already burned his one Nerveskitter for the day,
the Redcap had a +5 Initiative bonus. The weird little creature (which are
easily repelled by a variety of simple Charms and Hexes, none of which Milo knew
or was, in any case, able to cast) charged at him and let out a screeching,
high-pitched, ululating wail.
The Redcap brought its blade down in a high overhead chop which Milo caught,
frantically, on the arm of his enchanted robe as he raised his hands in panic.
"Acid Splash!" Milo cast desperately. A thick green glob of acid hit the Redcap
full in the face, causing it to take a step backwards, clutching at its head.
Milo knew that proper Redcaps had upwards of 22 hit points, depending on how
many sentient creatures they've slain, although he had no idea what it would
take to faze this world's equivalent.
The Redcap, its face now red and raw, again charged Milo, who put his 14
Dexterity to good use and sidestepped, just barely avoiding the wickedly sharp
steel weapon. Milo, now out of spells, pulled his least favourite backup plan
out of his belt.
Every Wizard has a staff. They come standard-issue. Some are gnarled and rough,
some are covered in glowing arcane runes, while some are plain and practical.
Many staffs are magical, although a smart Wizard realizes that, by and large,
magical staffs are overpriced and distinctly use-impaired. Nevertheless, as has
already been stated, every Wizard has a staff. A staff, for a Wizard, is like
his robe or pointy hat. A Wizard without one of these three things would be as
lacking as a political career without scandal or a trip to the dentist without
an unpleasant aftertaste. Everyone knows this. Hells, even Muggles know this. A
staff is a symbol of a Wizard's power, of the triumph of knowledge and reason
over chaos and insanity (note that Sorcerers, by the way, generally prefer
spears, although this is certainly coincidence), and as a warning to others: Do
Not Meddle, For I Am Subtle And Quick To Anger. Also, For Reality Is My
Plaything.
What most people tend to forget is that, in addition to all of these things, a
staff is also a large, heavy, wooden stick.
A stick which Milo brought down on the head of the enraged Redcap.
Hard.
While the Redcap staggered in pain, Mordenkainen crept up behind it.
The Redcap took another swing, enraged beyond reason, but its quarry vanished
just before the blade struck home. There was a quiet popping sound, and a small,
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spotted rat sat in the ground in front of it, staring upwards with unblinking
eyes.
" Transposition," Milo finished casting, standing, now, where Mordy had been
lurking just a moment earlier. With a meaty thud, Milo whacked the Redcap again,
this time on the back of its hard skull. Redcaps back at Milo's home (Milo still
thought of them as 'real Redcaps,' although the one standing in front of him
looked and smelled pretty damn real) could only be hurt by Cold Iron.
However, from what Milo could tell, this world didn't even have Cold Iron, so
these Redcaps (in the interests of fairness and balance) must, by Milo's
somewhat screwy meta-logic, therefore be without damage reduction. It was a risk
Milo figured he had no choice but to take, as the staff did slightly more damage
than the dagger and Milo badly needed all the killing power he could get.
"This is so unfair," Milo said, narrowly catching a poorly-aimed blow with his
staff. "Clerics get the same number of spells as I do, but they also have a good
Base Attack Bonus and Armour Proficiencies." The Redcap gave no sign of
understanding him, and continued to flail wildly at him. Milo blocked a
surprisingly amateurish high attack with his staff. "And even if that's not
enough, they can just command armies of undead to go in first."
The Redcap, taking advantage of Milo's now raised staff, slashed him expertly in
the stomach through the somewhat unreliable Robe of Arcane Might (leaving Milo
with 6 HP).
"And Druids!" Milo said, jabbing the Redcap in the solar plexus with the butt of
his staff. "Don't even get me started on Druids. Armour? Hit Points? Good Base
Attack Bonus? Full casting?"
The Redcap made another feint, which Milo, now that he'd cottoned on to the
Fey's trickery, failed to fall for.
"And failing that, they can have a wolf backing them up!"
Milo swung, but the Redcap rolled to its right with surprising agility for
something to wrinkled and ugly.
"And failing that," Milo continued his rant uninterrupted, swinging his staff
horizontally like a baseball bat and taking the Redcap dead on in the side of
the head with a satisfying thwak, "they can just turn into a godsdamned grizzly
bear!"
The Redcap, realizing that Milo had overextended himself, slapped him hard on
the wrist with the edge of his blade. Milo dropped the staff as his hand,
ignoring frantic orders from his brain, released the polished Darkwood weapon,
which the Fey contemptuously kicked off into the snow.
Milo staggered backwards, drawing his dagger with his left hand (by our
standards, Milo was more-or-less ambidextrous; although to him the word
Ambidexterity meant something completely different) and eyed up the Redcap. By
his calculations (assuming this beastie was anything like those he was familiar
with), the Redcap had somewhere in the vicinity of three hit points remaining.
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Milo's dagger, propelled by his scrawny frame, was capable of doing exactly that
much damage, assuming he hit.
Well, it was risky... but it just might work.
Milo took a deep breath, and, on the exhale, released the dagger in a powerful
overhand throw. It spun once, twice, three times, and buried itself to the
hilt... in a tree about ten feet from the Redcap.
Unfortunately for Milo, while his 'physics' did run on a number of different
story conventions, poor rolls can, and do, happen regardless of dramatic
necessity.
The Redcap messily ran Milo through the stomach with his serrated sword.
"Gah!" Milo gasped, suddenly tasting blood. He fell into the deep snow, and
tried to scurry away, backards, from his attacker. He got a respectable distance
away, leaving a trail of blood, before bumping into a most inconveniently-placed
tree.
Milo glanced back at the Redcap, who was, to Milo's disgust, licking Milo's own
blood off the edge of his weapon with a long, almost prehensile tongue, making
horrible little sounds of delight, as if tasting, for the first time, fine
Belgian chocolate.
Milo coughed weakly, spitting blood. He only had one hit point remaining,
meaning his wounds weren't exactly physically debilitating they just hurt like
hell.
The Redcap, finally finished with its little snack, looked at Milo with a hungry
expression. Throwing his sword to the side carelessly, it ran up to Milo on its
stubby little legs. Mordy, hanging onto the creature's legs, bit the Redcap
repeatedly on the ankles. Despite himself, Milo grinned. A rat's bite deals a
pathetic 1d3 - 4 damage, which, as simple math will tell you, is a maximum of
negative one.
However, the minimum damage any attack can deal is 1, meaning Mordy was
steadily, slowly, from regular attacks and Attacks of Opportunity, gnawing that
Redcap's heel to death.
The Redcap's collision with Milo was almost meteoric, and Milo found himself
pinned against the tree, the Redcap holding both of his arms down with deceptive
wiry strength.
To Milo's revulsion, the Redcap bent down to Milo's stomach and started licking
at his open wound with its long, slimy tongue. Milo, who had never really
understood the Grapple rules, struggled in vain against the Fey's superior
strength.
Any adventurer, other than a Monk, is essentially worthless at unarmed combat.
Unarmed Strikes get a massive penalty to hit, deal nonlethal damage (and barely
any, at that) and provoke an Attack of Opportunity. Fortunately, from what Milo
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could tell, nobody had taught the locals about AoO's (which was reasonable
enough, as they were bloody confusing). Further, Unarmed Strikes have one thing
going for them: they can be made with virtually any part of the body.
Milo's arms and legs were pinned underneath the grotesque little abomination,
but his head wasn't.
THWAK. Milo headbutted the freak with colossal effort, his skull colliding with
the Redcap's hard, leathery head and leaving him seeing stars. The damage was,
frankly, negligible; however it was, thanks to Mordy's repeated bites, combined
with the beating Milo had given it earlier, enough.
The Redcap toppled over onto the ground, unconscious.
Milo slumped against the tree wearily, his forehead damp with blood from the
Redcap's eponymous bloodstained cap, and started laughing weakly. He couldn't
help himself.
"And what do Wizards get?" he asked nobody in particular. "A heavy wooden stick,
a rat, and phenomenal cosmic power beyond that with which mortal man was meant
to tamper. And sometimes, that's enough."
Milo stood up, brushed himself off, and, with a cast of Mage Hand and a casual
gesture, pulled his dagger out of the tree. It floated into his hand, as he
stumbled over to the Redcap and administered a coup de grace (adventurers are
not known for their mercy, especially to things that look like Goblins) and
staggered into the makeshift tent.
Hannah gasped when she saw him.
"What happened out there?" she asked. "I was so worried! I thought maybe I
should help, but I didn't have my wand, so I couldn't see what I could possibly
do. There were shouts, and a weird scream, and sounds of fighting "
"Redcap," Milo muttered, falling down onto the ground wearily.
"Oh, that's all?" Hannah asked, looking visibly relieved. "Did you drive it off
with "
"Nope," said Milo.
"Well, how about "
"No dice," Milo said with a groan. "Different magic, remember?"
"Oh. Well, what do you usually do to get rid of Redcaps?"
"Carpet bombing with Fireballs from eight hundred feet away, then toss their
teeth that's all that they leave behind, where I'm from into the Elemental
Plane of Fire to prevent anyone from Raising them. This one, I just used my
head."
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Hannah gasped.
"You're injured! Pass me my wand, I'll cast Episkey "
Milo froze. His suspicions were confirmed.
"So you're still in there," Milo said grimly. Hannah stared at him, confused.
"Hannah doesn't know any healing Charms."
Hannah, or whatever was controlling her, froze for a moment.
"Ah," she said finally, and glanced frantically around the shelter like a
cornered bobcat.
"So, here's what's going to happen now," Milo said firmly. "I don't care who you
are, but I will find out. And when I do, whether you're Snape, Lucius, the ghost
of Salazar Slytherin, or bloody Voldemort himself" (Hannah winced at Milo's use
of the name, confirming it wasn't the Dark Lord) "I will find you. And I will
kill you." Hannah's eyes widened. "This is nonnegotiable."
Hannah stared at Milo briefly, then spoke.
"You foolish, ignorant boy," she said in a cold, low voice. "Just because you
can defeat a handful of Death Eaters and a Red Cap doesn't mean you're capable
of "
"You have no idea what I'm capable of," Milo spat. "There are depths to which I
will stoop, if necessary, depths which you've never even dreamed of. Tell me,"
Milo said, his voice low, "have you ever heard of a Candle of Invocation?"
Despite herself, Hannah shook her head.
Milo grinned.
"Pray that you never do, for there lies the path of darkness and Extreme
Munchkinry." A Candle of Invocation is a minor Magic Item that helps Clerics
concentrate when preparing spells. Its other use allows it to summon extraplanar
beings via the Gate spell, including Efreeti, which, while under the summoner's
control, can be ordered to grant three Wishes say, for a permanent +1
Intelligence boost, 25,000 gp, and another Candle of Invocation. The Candles
were prohibited items of Dark Magic in the Azel Empire, and trafficking them was
seen as worse than trafficking in human souls. The Empire had an entire task
force of high-level Wizards whose sole job was to prevent their use not that
it was necessary, as the gods themselves would step in and simply delete the
soul of anyone who attempted to create them before completion. It was one of the
few things they all agreed on.
But there was no Azel Empire in this world, and, judging by the lack of Divine
Magic, no deities at least, no active ones.
"With one Candle, I can challenge the gods. So here's the deal," Milo said,
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feeling somewhat numb from loss of blood, "if you leave my friend now, and I
mean within twelve seconds of when I finish speaking, I won't kill you... until
I'm strong enough to do it fairly. If I ever so much as get a hint that you even
touch her again, I'll sell my Alignment to the Demon Prince of the Lower Aerial
Kingdoms" (Milo was careful not to say his name, for Bad Things could happen)
"for a Candle before you can say 'Moral Outrage.' And then I will find you
there's magic that will let me do it instantly and then I will kill you.
Slowly. And then I will rip out your soul and trap it in a shiny rock, which I
will then hide on a moon which moon, orbiting which planet, orbiting which
star, in which galaxy, I will leave to your imagination so you can never be
brought back." Greater Teleport had no range limitations at all.
Hannah opened her mouth briefly, but Milo cut her off.
"And before you ask, the Demon Prince only answers the summons of Good
characters. So that rules you out." And me, Milo conveniently forgot to add,
because I'm True Neutral.
Milo stared at Hannah directly in the eyes, and she stared back.
"I've finished talking. You have twelve seconds. One," Milo counted, and Hannah
stared coldly at him.
"Two," said Milo, but Hannah's expression remained unchanged.
"Three." Hannah's gaze intensified, her normally sweet, happy expression twisted
into one of contempt.
"Four." Milo briefly wondered if he was going to have to go through with it in
the end, and whether Pazuzu was interested in branching out and tempting the
souls of Neutrals.
"Five." The flame in the middle of the tent crackled and snapped, tiny glowing
embers flying out like a mundane Glitterdust.
"Six." Milo readied an action to say 'Pazuzu' three times if he didn't get any
sign that Hannah was released from her enslavement within the next round. He was
committed now.
"Seven." Hannah's expression wavered slightly for a brief, almost-imperceptible
moment.
"Eight." Hannah blinked. Milo suppressed a smile, sure he'd won.
"Nine." Abruptly, Hannah broke into a wicked cackle, made all the more
disconcerting because of it was still made with her voice.
"Ten," Milo continued, trying to pretend he was unfazed.
"Eleven." Ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrap, I'm going to summon a Demon Prince into this
universe... worst Readied Action ever, what was I thinking?
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"Twe" Abruptly, Hannah collapsed from her rigid posture and fell to the ground.
Milo heaved a sigh of relief.
"Hannah?" he asked.
"Y-yeah," she said weakly. "It's me again."
"Any chance you can, I dunno, prove it? Maybe?" Milo asked hopefully.
"I d-d-don't think so, but you have to believe me... I'm so sorry..."
Eh, so much for that idea.
"What the Hells is happening?" he asked.
"Dunno... it's like I could hear this voice, giving me these suggestions... and
they seemed like such a good idea at the time and it made me so happy to follow
them..." she shuddered. "I'm so sorry, I tried to kill you." She started crying.
"What? No you didn't," Milo said. "That's absurd. You were possessed, obviously.
Otherwise, Protection from Evil wouldn't have helped."
"Wh-what?" she asked.
"Just trust me on this one. I'd bet you didn't even know how to cast those
curses you were sending at me, right?"
"N-no..."
"There you have it. We're safe, caloo calay," Milo collapsed back to the ground.
He hadn't even noticed when it had happened, but at some point during the
staring contest he'd gone to a crouching position (standing up would be all but
impossible in the confines of Milo's crude shelter).
"A-are you alright?" Hannah asked. "You look kind of... drenched in blood."
"You should see the other guy," Milo muttered, his eyes closed.
"But seriously," she said, her voice starting to come back to her. "You need
help at least as much as I do... what are we going to do?" she asked, panic
evidently rising.
Milo laughed.
"Me? I'll be fine. I can just sleep off anything short of death, trust me. Which
is more than I can say for that Redcap outside."
"There's a wait, what was it you said earlier? I wasn't really... all there.
There was something about a Red Cap."
"Uh. Yeah, I think it smelled your blood... erm. Sorry about that, by the way, I
didn't know it was you."
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"The Red Cap," Hannah pressed, "did you... I mean, is it... did you kill it?"
"Uh. Yeah, I made pretty sure of that."
"And it's right outside?"
"Yeah, but trust me, it's not going anywhere."
"Bury it!"
"Oh, come on, it's just some random monster "
"Don't you ever listen in Defence? They're attracted by spilled blood!"
"Yeah, I know that. But I don't see... oh."
"Get out there and bury it before it attracts more!"
"Don't have to tell me twice... er, three times," Milo said, getting to his feet
with a wince, and crawled out of the improvised tent.
He stumbled over to the dead Redcap, grabbing his fallen quarterstaff on the
way. He groaned, using it as an improvised shovel.
"This is the worst," he muttered to the Redcap. "The absolute worst. I mean,
you're dead, but you've got it lucky," he said between jabs with his staff to
loosen up the snow. "It's like, practically Frostfell conditions out here, and I
decided to make my bloody robes resistant to bloody heat. And now I've got to
dig a great, bloody big hole in the ground for you, and believe me, the less
time I spend around you the better." After every good dig with his staff, he
reached down and pulled out handfuls of snow.
"And you know what the worst part is?" he asked the corpse. "No, I guess you
don't, 'cause you're dead. The absolute worst part is that, right now, you know
what would actually help? The damn bucket." Milo scooped another handful of the
freezing snow out of the quickly-growing pit. "Been carrying it around in my
pocket for three years and when, for once, I actually need it, it's in bloody
Chateau Canvas keeping someone else warm while I'm out here digging a big hole
in the ground, and did I mention how cold it is?"
Fortunately, the ex-Redcap wasn't very large, and snow is much easier to dig in
than dirt. It took him about an hour to finish, but when he had, Milo
unceremoniously pushed the little monstrosity into the pit face-first. As an
afterthought, he threw the thing's weird little sword in after it, then piled in
several feet of snow.
"And good riddance, too," he muttered. "Ain't nobody gets to lick me and walk
away from it." With that, he trudged back into the (what could charitably be
called a) tent.
Milo stumbled back inside again, and fell face down, immediately drifting off
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into sleep.
He wasn't quite sure how long he was out for, but when he woke up, the fire had
burned low and the sun had gone down. At some point, someone had either Animated
his Winter Blanket, or Hannah had put it on him.
"Happy Christmas, Hannah," he said wearily.
"Happy Christmas, Milo," Hannah replied, sounding just as tired. Her stomach
rumbled. "Hey, I don't suppose you still have any of those Everlasting Rations?"
"Nah, they ran out weeks ago," Milo responded automatically.
"What, really?"
Milo sighed and passed the blue bag over to her, trying very hard not to roll
his eyes.
Hannah took a bite.
"It's... completely tasteless," she said. "That's so weird."
"It's all I've got," he confessed. "Unless you want five pounds of garlic
powder."
Milo frowned. Something Ron had said was coming back to him.
"What's Christmas Dinner?" he asked curiously, stoking the fire in an
unsuccessful attempt to get it to pick up a bit.
Hannah explained in great detail, lovingly describing the wonders of roast beef,
mashed potatoes thickly covered in gravy with carrots and peas on the side and a
salad for dad, 'cause of his Cholesterol. Her eyes glazed over somewhat, and
Milo was briefly worried that she'd again come, again, under the effects of the
Possessor.
"Pass that back for a second," Milo said, gesturing at the Everlasting Rations.
Hannah, looking surprised, complied.
Milo has, in the past, gone on at length about the uses and abuses of
Prestidigitation, which, despite the fact that it's used by novice arcanists for
practice, he firmly believed ought to be renamed 'Least Wish.' Among its many
uses, which have saved Our Hero's hide a number of times, are the ability to
soil or clean a large area (which comes in very handy during Milo's many
detentions spent cleaning the thousands of Hogwarts statues and armour), move
about a pound of material, recolour objects (or, of course, potions), create
flimsy little objects or change something's taste for up to one hour.
"Prestidigitation," Milo cast. It was his last, best spell.
He passed the Rations back to Hannah, who looked confused.
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"Try it now," he urged.
Hannah took a bite of the granola-like rations, and her eyes widened.
"It tastes just like..." she paused mid-sentence to take another bite. "Like..."
Hannah said again, but seemed at a loss for words.
"Christmas Dinner?" Milo suggested.
"Exactly," Hannah voiced her agreement.
"Beautiful. Now pass some here, I'm starving."

Chapter 19: Visitors

Author's Notes: As promised, Bonus Chapter!


EDIT: A helpful reviewer pointed out that in Britain, people say "anyway"
instead of "anyways," something of which I had no idea. There's no way I'm going
to be able to get all of the local slang and things right, but nevertheless, I
went back and edited as many instances of those which I could find. Milo, coming
from another world (which the fates have decided, extremely conveniently it
would seem, speaks Canadian English) still says adds the "s." If I make any
dialect-related slipups like that in the future, feel free to PM me (or drop it
in a review, of course, but PM's are somewhat less embarrassing).
It's just another thing like Wizard/wizard and Red Cap/Redcap that distinguishes
Milo from the locals.
ooooooo
Deciding that saying something 'tastes like Christmas Dinner' would be
categorically impossible for a Dark Wizard utilizing their titular Dark Powers
to mentally control an injured eleven-year-old girl, Milo had relented and
returned Hannah's wand in order for her to magic up some fire to warm their
freezing tent.
It was lateMilo wasn't sure how late, because his nap of unknown length had
thrown his perception even of passing rounds and the sun went down very early
this far north in the dead of winterwhen they heard yet another audible crunch
in the snow outside, waking Milo up from a deep sleep he hadn't quite realized
he'd ever started.
Milo cursed (figuratively speakingnot a literal Curse. Milo briefly wondered if
that was the reason the locals seemed to use the word 'cuss') under his breath,
and not only because there was a decent probability that the Redcap's (or "Red
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Cap" as the locals called them) buddies had come to finish what the first one
had started (or, perhaps, to finish off the first one, yum). He required eight
hours of continuous, uninterrupted rest to prepare new spells and regain hit
points, so his injuries (which would have certainly killed someone from Hannah's
world) were exactly as painful and sore as they were however long ago it had
been since they'd been inflicted.
Milo glanced over at Hannah, whose eyes were wide and alert.
Well, we're screwed, he thought.
Milo, as stealthily as he could (which is not, admittedly, particularly stealthy
without any ranks in Hide or Move Silently), pulled his quarterstaff out of his
Belt of Hidden Pouches and raised the tent flap very slightly. Unfortunately, he
couldn't see anything but snow from his narrow window.
"Stay here," Milo said quietly to Hannah. "I'll go see what's outside."
Hannah, her face pale and ashen, became determined.
"No," she whispered. "I've got a wand, and I can do magic, which is more than I
can say for you."
"But" Milo said, a hundred protests coming to mind. You're not a PC. Your
injuries are debilitating, mine are not. You're lower level. The spells you know
are not combat optimized.
But despite everything, the practical part of his mind agreed she did have a
point. Hannah, despite being a novice at magic, had no limit on spells per day
and even the simple Jinxes and Hexes that Hogwarts students used on each other
to settle heated disagreements would be more effective than a quarterstaff
wielded at a measly +2 BAB and a -1 Strength Penaltyat least, when used in the
number that Hannah was capable of, which was infinite.
"Fine, we'll go together," he said at last. "On three, we leap out of the tent
and catch them by surprisetry to stay behind me, my robes are enchanted to
protect me. I'll club anything that gets close, you hex anything that moves."
Milo couldn't believe he was volunteering to tank damage so someone else could
cast. It was just so, so wrong.
"Okay," Hannah said, fear and excitement battling evident in almost equal parts
in her voice.
"And rememberyou're braver than you think."
"I'm braver than I think. I'm braver than I think," Hannah said, constantly
repeating the words under her breath as she did in the Sorting Ceremony.
"One... Two..." Milo took a deep breath. "Three!"
The two heavily injured spellcasters did not so much charge out of the tent,
which would have been, perhaps, more dramatically appropriate, as they did
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stagger out painfully. They were a pretty pathetic sight, and the only foes they
would have intimidated would be those who were both squeamish about blood and
who were in possession of excellent night vision.
To the heroes in question, however, it felt as if they were leading the charge
in the Battle of Vienna, with the might of tens of thousands of heavily armed
and armoured elite cavaliers at their back, all thirsting for blood.
"WAAAAAAAGH!"
"Wha' in the ruddy hell?" came a surprised, thickly accented voice from the
chill darkness.
"Mister Hagrid?" Hannah asked, stunned.
"Dancing Lights," Milo cast, while Hannah cast Lumos. Four glowing white spheres
of light shot out of Milo's hands, flying in a search pattern around their
immediate vicinity while Hannah's wand tip glowed brightly. Hagrid's huge body
came into clear view, holding his crossbow in one hand and Fang's leash in
another.
"Wha' are you lot doin' out here?" Hagrid asked. "And is tha'is tha' blood?"
Milo narrowed his eyes.
"How do I know you're really Hagrid?" he asked suspiciously, leaning heavily on
his quarterstaff.
"Wha' kinda question is tha'?" Hagrid asked. "Yeh know another bloke o' my size
who jus' happens ter have a crossbow an' a dog?"
"I think," Hannah said quietly to Milo, "that we'd best trust him. He's kind of
our only hope."
Milo still stared at him suspiciously, trying to decide what he would do if he
had the ability to simply possess peoplesomething he didn't, as he'd forsworn
the Enchantment school altogether when he specialized in Conjuration.
Presumably, powerful wizards and witches had some form of defence against mental
intrusionotherwise, Dumbledore would long since have been turned into a puppet
of some Dark Wizard and used to rule the world. Likely, that ruled McGonagall,
Snape, Flitwick, and Quirrell out as well as potential puppets (although, not as
suspects necessarily. Milo needed another glance at his Plot flowchart just to
remind himself who was currently trying to kill him). Hagrid, who apparently had
no magical power of his own at all, was therefore an obvious choice to
possess... at least, at first glance. If Milo were behind this, he'd simply
choose another student. Obviously, the possessor was able to force his puppets
to use spells the puppets would normally be unable to, which essentially bumped
up any possessed student to Dark Master level of threat.
So, assuming his possessor had, in fact, any brains at all (and Milo's numerous
assumptions were correct), Hagrid was probably just Hagrid.
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"Okay," Milo said. "But be careful."
"Now, can someone explain wha' the ruddy hell is goin' on? Actually, nevermind
tha'," Hagrid said, looking closer at the extent of Hannah's and Milo's
injuries. "We gotta get yeh up ter the hospital wing. Can yeh walk? Ah,
nevermind, I'll jus' carry yeh. Yeh can explain on the way."
Hagrid hung his crossbow from a strap on his shoulder, and held out a big, meaty
hand to Hannah and Milo. Neither he nor Hannah had the same level of friendship
with Hagrid that Harry (and, to a lesser extent, Ron and Hermione) had
developed, and the pair of them hesitated for a moment.
Milo shrugged and climbed aboard, Hannah soon following suit.
Hagrid carried the pair of them in a surprisingly gentle manner, given his
somewhat brutish appearance. On the way, Milo decided he might as well tell
Hagrid what happened. Hannah, however, was being unusually silent.
"This morning, I heard that Hannah went out into the snow"
"Are yeh mad, girl?" Hagrid asked Hannah.
"Sorry," Hannah said in a quiet voice.
"Hang on Hagrid, it wasn't her idea. I went out after her"
"Why didn' yeh jus' tell Dumbledore? Or McGongall?" Hagrid asked.
"Er..." Milo said. Why hadn't he told anyone? In hindsight, what he'd done
seemed remarkably stupid. "Anyways, I tracked her down with magic, eventually,
but she tried to hex me."
"Why would yeh do tha'?" Hagrid asked. "Ruddy bad manners, if yeh ask me."
"Wasn't her choice, Hagrid," Milo said again, patiently. "she was being
controlled by magic, or something."
"What?" Hagrid asked, and stopped moving. "Are yeh sure?"
"Oh, pretty sure alright," Milo said, Hannah's horrible, uncaring expression
coming back to mind.
"We have ter tell Dumbledore," Hagrid said, and started moving again, this time
at a greatly increased pace. Milo carried on, explaining about the encounter
with the Redcap.
"Why didn' yer jus' use" Hagrid began.
"Uh," Milo interrupted, not wanting to go into details about how he was a
different sort of wizard. "Never quite got a hang of that spell."
"Well, wha' abou'"
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"Nope, nor that one."
"Yeh really gotta do more practicin'," Hagrid urged. "Them's ruddy simple
spells."
"Yeah... I'll do that."
"An' the Redcap's wha' hurt Hannah?" Hagrid asked, wading through the snow as if
it wasn't there.
Milo fell silent for a moment, at a loss for words. The terrible fear he'd felt
when he'd first realized who his attacker was returned like a defeated Dark
Wizard with access to the Clone spell.
"Yes," Hannah said. "Used Milo's knife on me. Fortunately Milo knows a bit of
Muggle medicine, or..." she trailed off, and fell back into silence.
"Firs' sensible thing yeh did all day," Hagrid said critically. "An' I'll be
havin' a word with Flitwick. Healin' Charms ought ter be on the curriculum;
ruddy useful, they are. Er. Not tha' I know firsthand, o' course."
"So," Milo said, wanting to press through this next awkward bit as quickly as
possible, "I, er, killed the Redcap."
"Though' yeh said yeh didn' have yer wand?"
"I used a big stick."
"The other Red Caps aren' gonna like tha'," Hagrid said, concerned. "Bu' it
explains Fang."
"Oh?" Milo asked, curious.
"Bou' a half hour ago, he made a righ' racket, so I let him out. Must've smelled
its bloodRed Caps have a very distinct scent, yeh know. Led me righ' ter yeh.
Migh' a' saved yer lives."
"That's... very convenient," Milo said, looking at the dog. Suspicions started
to grow in his mind, but he shook them offsurely he was just being paranoid,
seeing puppeteering behind every shadow. Besides, he thought, why would the Dark
Wizard have possessed the dog to help save me? Whoever it was clearly wanted me
dead.
Unless...
Milo's brow furrowed, lost deep in thought despite the freezing cold and
rumblings from Hagrid, who was still chastising them for being reckless.
Could it have been reconnaissance? Milo wondered. Did someone attack me just to
find out how I'd fight back? Hannah did open up with Stunners, I thinkalthough,
why they're called Stunners, I have no idea, as they leave the target
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Unconscious, not merely Stunnedalthough she did fire off a number of Killing
Curses as well...
And in any case, if someone wants to find out how I fight, it can only be
because they plan on fighting me themselves. Meaning they want me dead. Meaning
they would have just left me to, hopefully, expire in the cold.
Something still felt wrong, though, although Milo couldn't quite figure out what
it was.
Regardless of their intentions, Milo thought, I may have revealed my hand. They
saw Glitterdust, Grease, and Summon Monster III. They'll probably have worked
out a counter to them by the time they challenge me in personand they know
about my last-ditch contingency plan... Milo cursed himself. Which can easily be
countered by preventing me from speaking. And in any case, Gating in enough
Efreeti to Wish myself into omnipotence would take minutes or hours, so is
effectively impossible in the middle of a combat.
So, Milo thought as Hagrid carried him and Hannah to safety, what would I do to
kill me, given what I'd know about myself and the local magic?
The answer was surprisingly simple.
Surprise attack with an Avada Kedavra loaded with as many Attack Bonus-boosting
buffs possible.
To which the only defence was... what? To anticipate the attack? To not be there
to begin with? Death Ward would counter the Killing Curse, but it was a Cleric
spell. Nerveskitter would help him win on Initiative, but that wouldn't do much
if the attacker had a Surprise Round.
Milo needed to have a good, long look at his spellbooks to determine what, if
anything, he could do to counter such an attack.
A loud creak broke Milo out of his train of thought. With a start, Milo realized
that they were already at the castle, and Hagrid had just pushed the main door
open with his shoulder. Hagrid wasted no time carrying them up the stairs to the
hospital wing, which Milo was starting to think of as a second home.
The giant groundskeeper rapped hard on the doors until Pomfrey, still in her
dressing gown, opened it sleepily. She took one look at the children and sighed.
"What did he do this time?" she asked (Milo resented, somewhat, the implied
accusation that it had been his faultuntil he remembered that Hannah's injuries
actually had been by his hand), but despite the exasperation evident in her
tone, she had them lying down on the firm cots and checked over in record
timeafter shooing out Hagrid, that is, who didn't mind as he was leaving
anyways to go find Dumbledore.
She gasped when she saw the extent of their injuries.
"What happened to you?" she asked Hannah. Then, after thinking a moment, added
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"No, nevermind. Dumbledore will sort that out later; don't say anything." A few
Healing Charms later and Hannah was out of the worst of it, albeit still
exhausted and sore.
"And as for you," she said, turning back to Milo, "I think all you need is
bandages, a Cleaning Charm to stave off infection, and prolonged bedrest, based
on your rather numerous prior visits to my hospital wing." The truth was, though
she didn't say anything, that she was afraid to do anything elseshe lay awake
at night in a cold sweat caused by wondering what the hell the reason was behind
his physiology, especially his apparent super healing powers.
"But" Milo protested.
"No buts. Now if you excuse me, I believe I'm shortly going to have to fend off
the Headmaster, and it always helps to have a certain measure of mental
preparation before attempting so daunting a task. You two just try and get some
sleep."
The strict little mediwitch bustled off, muttering under her breath about how
people never seem to require emergency medical attention at a reasonable hour,
showing no consideration whatsoever. That left Milo and Hannah alone in the dark
hospital wing (with the exception of the gently snoring Neville Longbottom, who
had broken several ribs when Peeves had dropped a bust of some old, long
forgotten headmaster on him. As it turned out, Peeves had actually, as far as
anyone could tell, dropped it by accident. Go figure.)
"So," Milo started saying to break the awkward silence. "How about that local
sports te"
"Why did you go looking for me?" Hannah asked. Then she paused for a moment. "I
mean, before you knew I was out in the snow. Agh, you know what I mean."
"Right!" said Milo, who felt sort of dumb. "What time is it?" There was a clock
on the wall, but he still couldn't make heads or tails of all the numbers.
"Uh," Hannah said, momentarily thrown. "It's, uh, 11:54. But what does"
"So, it's still Christmas?" he asked.
"Yeah, for sixno, wait, make that five minutes."
"Awesome," Milo said, visibly relieved. "Okay, hang on a second, I need to find
something." Sifting through the many pockets of his Belt of Hidden Pouches
(technically, he could just hold his hand over it and order the belt to spit out
whichever item inside that he wanted, but he wanted to stay out of the habit of
doing things that way to prevent from announcing to the world what he was about
to draw), he eventually found the small package he was looking for.
"I had a lot of difficulty with this," Milo admitted. "See, where I'm from, we
don't really give presents very frequently. People, well, Adventurers are least,
tend to hoard their money and treasure and wouldn't dream of parting with it for
anything. When we get presents, it's usually for, I dunno, rescuing the Prince's
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sister from bandits or clearing out a cave of Orcs. We tend to ignore holidays,
and, frankly, I don't know what the NPCs do during them. So I'm kind of new to
this whole Christmas thing; it's... bizarre. So I asked around, and from what I
understand, most people buy something from shopkeepers that they think the
recipient would enjoy. I tried that, at first, but ran into a number of
difficultiesanything I wanted, I'd have to owl order, obviously, because there
aren't any shops in Hogwarts. But also... this world is strange. I don't
understand what any of the local wizarding stuff is or does, most of the time,
so I wouldn't know what to buy or even where to look for what to buy. Back in
Azel, there's strict price and production controls and everybody knows exactly
what's for sale everywhere and that a bucket will always go for five Silver
Pieces. They're posted in the Equipment Lists. And don't even get me started on
the Muggle stuff; it's more foreign to me than Psionics."
Hannah stared at him oddly, apparently not understanding some of the terminology
but, generally speaking, getting the gist.
"You didn't have to... I mean, you shouldn't have worried about it."
"I was led to believe it was important," he shrugged. "Anyways, I came to the
conclusion fairly quickly that if I was going to get you a present, I'd have to
make it myself. The thing is, mundane stuffer, non-magical, that iscan, from
what I can tell, be made by Muggles better and faster than anything I could pull
off, even if I used magic to help. But what I can make, and I'm pretty good at
it, is Magic Items."
"But, that sounds really expensive..."
"Eh," Milo shrugged. "I've got ways of making money fast, if I need to. That
wasn't the big problem."
"What was the big problem?" Hannah asked riveted.
"Every single Magic Itemand I mean every Magic Item that has ever been
designedis for killing, or in some manner facilitating the killing of, Goblins
and Dragons and things. That, or for carrying their stuff away afterwards. Any
other use is largely the result of happy accident or complete afterthought. And
killing Goblins isn't something that you seem particularly interested in," Milo
said, as if the notion was both unthinkable and unpleasant, "so I had to see if
I could twist the purpose of already existing Magic Items for more... civilian"
(Milo was about to say 'NPC,' but stopped himself at the last second) "purposes.
And there were a few that could do thatI mean, this Belt of Hidden Pouches I
have would be handy for anyone, right? Same with a Magic Bedroll or maybe a bag
of Everlasting Rations." Milo paused for a moment. "Something with Endure
Elements, now that I think about it, probably would have been a good idea. But
anyways, everything I found, even then, required spells only available to
Clerics or Druids or whatever. Wizards are usually... a bit more on the
offensive side of things."
"Look, it's totally fine if you didn't get me anything," Hannah said quietly. "I
wouldn't have minded."
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"So, the list of already designed Magic Items exhausted, I realized I had to
design something from scratch, so I turned to the spells I did know to see what
I could do. I had... similar problems. To a somewhat lesser extent, a Wizard's
spells are almost all designed for combat; even the utility ones are mostly to
help a Wizard get toor, knowing Wizards, away fromcombat. There was nothing
that seemed particularly... fun," Milo said the last word as if it were from an
unfamiliar foreign language. "So, I said, 'screw it!'" (Milo's actual wording,
which he wisely decided not to repeat to Hannah, was somewhat different from
this) "'I'll do what an Adventurer does best and combine spells that were never
designed to be combined, gosh darn it!' And this, your present, is the result.
But before I give it to you, I need an answer to a very important question."
"What's that?" Hannah asked, looking somewhat surprised.
"What's your favourite animal?" Milo asked.
Hannah thought about it for a moment.
"Hamsters," she said. "Definitely hamsters."
"Okay," Milo said. "Cool. Just one second." Milo had left, literally, one second
in the Magic Item crafting process unfinished when he'd originally made the item
right before Christmas Eve. The result was the he could, at this point, still
change any of the variables that had to be decided 'during item creation.' "Now,
here you are, Hannah Abbot," Milo passed her the present, wrapped in
festive-looking holiday paper. "Happy Christmas."
"Thank you," she said, accepting the package and, not being one of those fussy
people who simply remove the tape and leave the paper unblemished, tore the
wrapping paper to pieces from the middle outwards in about a third of a second.
Then she gasped. Inside, in a tiny box, was a tiny, fine (admittedly, somewhat
lopsided looking) fragile-looking silver lily that could be attached to clothes
by means of a minute pin on the back of the stem. An actual silversmith would
shudder at the sight of Milo's somewhat crude handiwork, but, all told, it was
pretty well done given that Milo didn't actually have in ranks in any form of
Craft.
"I made it by heating up a Sickle until it was malleable enough to sculpt," Milo
said. "Couldn't have done it without those dragonhide gloves we have for
Herbology and Potions."
"It's beautiful," Hannah said, somewhat breathless. No doubt her perceptions
were somewhat addled by her traumatic day, sleep deprivation, and whatever was
in the potions that Pomfrey had prescribed for her, as the silver lily was could
only be described as beautiful when using the loosest possible sense of the
word.
Milo shrugged, somewhat embarrassed.
"That's not really the point," he admitted. In truth, he'd made it out of silver
so it could be used as an improvised weapon against Devils if necessary (it
never hurts to be prepared, after all) but Milo decided, for some reason,
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against saying so at that precise moment. "If you tap it and say 'I'm bored,'
it'llactually, just tap it and say that you're bored and you'll see."
Looking at Milo curiously, Hannah complied.
"I'm bored," she said, tapping the silver pin.
Nothing happened.
"Oh, right, you have to be wearing it first," Milo said. "Forgot about that
part."
Hannah, looking extremely curious, pinned the lily to the front of her robes.
"I'm bored," she repeated, with another tap. Suddenly, a small, fluffy,
impossibly cutein fact, almost sickeningly sobrown and white hamster appeared
in her hands. "It's so cute!" Hannah squealed in the manner of little girls
everywhere as the hamster scurried up her arm, chirping in a manner that would
make real hamsters feel like they had to go and watch Die Hard while doing
one-handed push-ups just to counter the sheer adorability. The hamster didn't
have fat so much as it had pudge, fur so much as it had fluff, or eyes so much
as it had big, glassy, shiny windows to your very soul. Simply seeing it
required a Will save, or you were compelled to want to hug it (okay, not really,
but it may as well have).
Milo was particularly proud about his little invention, which was simply a
tricked-out Wondrous Item of Unseen Servant and Minor Image (both of which he
had had to research specifically for this task) and a little Detect Thoughts.
The Servant, which was a formless, invisible blob capable of moving around and
exerting a limited amount of force, was surrounded with an illusory body of an
animal chosen during item creation (in this case, a hamster), the specifics of
which were chosen by using a brief Detect Thoughts-like effect on the pin's
first user to find the form that user would find to be maximally cute. The
Servant was then ordered to play with the user until dismissed, unless otherwise
commanded.
"This," Hannah said, the hamster running up her arm to the shoulder, "is the
best Christmas present ever."
"Thank you! Er, or you're welcome. I'm not actually sure which is applicable
here," he admitted.
"I believe both are perfectly acceptable," Hannah said, stifling a laugh.
"You just tap the pin and say 'Bye' and it'll go away until you reactive it,"
Milo explained. "It can do other stuff, if you tell it to, like carry or clean
things."
"Things like Hogwarts statues?" Hannah asked eagerly.
"Things exactly like Hogwarts statues," Milo said.
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"Thank you," Hannah said again. "Really. I mean it, you clearly put a lot of
effort into this. I was just going to get you a big pack of Every Flavoured
Beans, 'cause of how much you enjoyed them on Hallowe'en, but now"
"Every Flavoured Beans?!" Milo's face broke into a huge smile. "I love those
things."
Hannah hesitated for a second.
"Okay, then I'll still get you a big pack of Every Flavoured Beans. I've got
them up in the girls' dorm... I didn't give them to you already, because, er...
well. It doesn't matter now, actually." She must mean the week or so she wasn't
talking to me 'cause I asked her about the lake, Milo thought. People are
strange. "You can have them in the morning."
"Sweet," Milo said.
"No pun intended?" Hannah asked.
Milo groaned.
"Bye, hamster," Hannah said, tapping the pin, and the impossible cute critter
vanished. Hannah hesitated for a moment, then said "I'd go over and give you a
hug, or something," she looked somewhat embarrassed, "except that I don't think
my legs really want to respond."
"That's okay," Milo said, feeling somewhat awkward. "I'll take a rain cheque."
"Good, good," Hannah said, and an awkward silence, punctured only by Neville's
calm and consistent snoring, descended for a beat or three as Milo decided there
was absolutely nothing more fascinating than his fingernails and Hannah examined
the pin.
"So, how about" Milo said, while Hannah said "I think we should" at the same
time. They both, then, paused for the other to continue.
"You go first," they said simultaneously. They both looked around the room, for
a while, waiting for the other to continue.
"I was going to say we should maybe go to sleep," Hannah said.
"Same," agreed Milo.
"Okay, goodnight!" she said, and rolled over to face away from him.
"Goodnight."
People are weird, Milo thought againand not for the last time, at thatand
rolled over to do the same.
oooo
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"So, you have defeated my minions!" Thamior the Thaumaturge spat, reaching for
his pouch of fell spell components. "Butdo you really think you can challenge
me? You fools! For it is I, the Dread Ma"
"WaitThamior?" Milo said as his companions reached for their weapons, "I'm
confused."
"That is only natural, seeing as how you are a fool, fool!"
"It's just that I thought Thamior was a male name," Milo said, his tone kept
carefully neutral.
"Which is fitting, seeing as how I am, in fact, male," Thamior said, slightly
confusedand evidently irritated at being interrupted in the middle of his
monologue.
"But you're an Elf," Milo said.
"You have a talent for stating the obvious, fool! Unfortunately, it won't help
you avoid joining my Legion of the Da"
"But I thought there weren't any Elf males?"
"You will pay for your insolence!" the purple-cloaked Thamior shouted, his eyes
glowing red. "When I am god-emperor of all the multiverse, I will wait, what's
going on?"
Milo felt a strange tingling sensation somewhere in his midriff, gradually
growing to encompass his torso. In a panic, he looked down to find that, where
his stomach should be, there was a slowly growing sphere of darkness,
occasionally crackling with what looked like green lightning.
"Gah!" Milo said, the sphere growing to reach his neck. "What did youhow didI
won Initiative, damnit! This isn't fair!" but Thamior looked just as surprised
as Milo felt, and was backing away slowly from him.
There was a brief flash of blindingly bright light, and Milo suddenly felt cold
all over. His lungs strained painfully, trying futilely to find air, and his
brain screamed at him that things were very, very wrong. Gravity seemed to tug
at him inconsistently in every direction, before finally agreeing to pull him
backwards. He struggled, swinging his arms wildly to try and find something
solid, anything, until...
Thud
Milo sat bolt upright clutching his side where just a moment before, the sphere
of blackness had begun to grow. To his surprise, he realized both his hands were
wrapped around his Belt of Hidden Pouches.
He looked around, expecting danger, but saw instead only the depressingly
familiar sights of the Hogwarts hospital wing. He blinked, realizing it was only
a dream... and a weirdly vivid one, at that. Milo couldn't, this time, speak
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from experience, but from what he'd heard from other Adventurers, dreams that
were more like flashbacks were always important to the plot. The only thing was,
in this case, he couldn't figure for the life of him how this could be so.
Milo wasn't sure how long he was staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out
what the Hells was going on, what had brought him here, and just what the
significance of his dream was when he realized he wasn't alone. (Well, he knew
he wasn't aloneNeville's rumbling snores, unfortunately, made sure of that.
Also, Hannah. Okay, he obviously wasn't alone. What Milo meant to think was that
there was someone else, awake, in the hospital wing with him. You could consider
cutting him some slack, of course, seeing as how he just woke up).
"Professor?" Milo asked curiously.
"M-Milo," Professor Quirrell, standing by the door, stammered. "I w-was just
checking in on y-y-you, to s-s-see if you would b-be up for the D-Duelling
C-Club on Sunday."
"That's..." Milo did some rapid arithmetic. "Four days from now? Definitely.
I'll be up and about by tomorrow."
"I-indeed?" Quirrell asked, surprised. "Y-your injuries l-look m-m-most severe.
I s-s-see the good M-Madam P-P-Pomfrey has opted n-not to use m-magic on you?"
Milo shrugged painfully.
"I can heal anything short of death in about a day, if I have help. I think
Pomfrey's afraid of how your magic will interact with my... well, with me, I
guess."
"W-well," Quirrell said, glancing at the clock. "I'm afraid that I h-have to
r-r-run; the D-Doxies in the d-d-dungeon won't ch-chase themselves out. I w-wish
you a speedy r-r-recovery, and, to that end, left y-you a present," Quirrell
gestured at a box of Chocolate Frogs on Milo's bedside table. "G-goodbye."
"Erm. Bye! Thanks," Milo said. The DADA professor walked out of the room at
about a half-step faster than normal walking speed, presumably to avoid a
lecture from Pomfrey. Milo waited for the door to close behind him, then turned
to the frogs.
"Detect Poison," he cast, just in case. When they turned out to be clean, he
stashed them in his Belt for later. Milo glanced at the heavy mechanical clock
on the wall, noting that, while he could tell that the little hand was pointed
at just past the six and the big hand was pointing at the three, he had no idea
what that was supposed to mean. Deciding it didn't really matter one way or the
other, Milo figured he ought to just go back to sleep.
Only a few minutes passed before Milo heard the door creak open.
"Back, Professor?" Milo asked, sitting up despite his protesting muscles and
various grievous wounds.
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"Front, Student?" came an aged, grandfatherly voice.
"Headmaster?" Milo asked, genuinely surprised, as Dumbledore walked calmly up to
his bed, dressed in his signature purple robes and half-moon spectacles. "I
thought Madam Pomfrey"
"What the good mediwitch said to me was, in fact, and I quote, 'you won't be
bothering any of my patients tonight, Headmaster, Supreme Mugwump or no.' As it
is, in fact, now the morning and not, in fact, the night, her prohibition is no
longer in effect." Dumbledore paused for a moment. "But, ah, it is entirely
possible that she would not, in fact, see eye-to-eye on my interpretation of her
command, so if you would be so good as to keep your voice down...?"
"Sure," Milo responded quietly. "What brings you here? And, more importantly,
why did you say 'Front, Student?'"
"I was taking, as it were, a shot in the dark at what I had guessedincorrectly,
as it would appearmight be a social custom from your homeland. You see, you
said, 'Back, Professor,' so I thought that, perhaps, the correct response was
to, as is the custom among a small tribe of Merfolk living in a pond in Kashmir,
to say the precise opposite. Alas, as is so often the case when one ventures
into the murky grounds of speculation, I was incorrect. And as to your first
question, I am here, as you can surely guess, to question you about the events
of yesterday."
"Oh, that. It's fairly straightforward," Milo said, and gave Dumbledore a rather
more accurate version of the story than the one he gave Hagrid (lying to
Dumbledore's face seemed, to Milo, about on par with kicking a Lantern Archon).
To his credit, Dumbledore sat patiently, listening to the entire story through
until the end before asking questions.
"and then Fang led Hagrid to us, and he carried us back to the castle," Milo
finished. "Speaking of which, I'm going to need to go back at some point to get
my rope and stuff. Made by Elves, you know." Or at least the sign had said so.
In truth, it was hard to find rope anywhere that wasn't claimed to have been
made by Elves.
"By Elves? One day, when we both are free from the constant pressings of urgent
business, I would greatly enjoy listening to you tell me all about the strange
land from which you hail. But, until then, some much briefer answers to more
specific questions will have to suffice. First, could you explain to me exactly
what the effects are of the Charm you cast on Hannah to free her from the
effects of her mental control?"
"Sure," Milo said. "Protection From Evil. Right now, it lasts up to five
minutes, but I can push that to seven with these gloves," Milo held up his
gloved hands, wiggling his fingers somewhat, "and for the duration, the target
can't be affected by any form of mental control. When the spell ends, the
control starts up again. Also, they can't be touched by summoned non-Good
monsters."
"Fascinating," Dumledore said. "That little spell of yours would have saved the
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Ministry a great deal of trouble over the years."
"May I counter with a question of my own?" Milo asked.
"Of course you may," Dumbledore said, "but whether I shall answer or not is, I
am afraid, another matter entirely. I can promise this: everything I say shall
be the unblemished truth."
"Can you tell me how Hannah was being controlled, who did it, where they live,
and how well protected they are?"
Dumbledore laughed softly.
"That was four questions, you realize, and I am afraid that I am only able to
answer the first. I cannot be sure until I question Miss Abbot directly, of
course, but I am quite certain that she was the unfortunate victim of one of the
darkest forms of magic known. You already have, unfortunately, witnessed the use
of the most terrible of the three Unforgivable Curses, the Killing Curse." Milo
nodded. It was the first spell he'd seen cast by the wizards of this world, in
fact. "The curses are so-called because the use of one on a human being is
enough to warrant a life's sentence in Azkaban, the wizard prison. Normally, the
specifics of the Unforgivables are not learned until a student's Sixth Year, but
in your case, I fear you may well be in danger without being forewarned. Along
with the Killing Curse are the Cruciatus Curse, which causes extreme pain in its
victim, and the Imperius Curse. This last one, despite being the most pleasant
for the unfortunate victim, has caused more disasters, deaths, and crises than
the other two put together, directly or indirectly. The Imperius curse allows
direct mental control over the target for, if necessary, years at a time. Used
by a skilled wizard or witch, is almost impossible to detect and even harder to
resist."
"You mean, it doesn't allow a Will Save?" Milo asked, incredulous. Such a spell
was too powerful to exist.
"I'm afraid I don't altogether understand the question," Dumbledore admitted.
"Who is Will, and why does he need saving?"
"Uh," Milo said. "I mean, it can't be fought off with strength of will alone?"
"Oh, it is possible," Dumbledore conceded, "but only a handful of exceptionally
strong-willed individuals are able to do so."
"You're kidding, right?" Milo asked. These wizards were insanely broken. A spell
that killed on a touch attack without a save was bad enoughat least you had to
be hit. But add in a spell that lets you Dominate someone indefinitely and had,
apparently, an incredibly large bonus to its DC? Milo was briefly surprised that
the whole Ministry wasn't run by Dark Wizards, before remembering how many pies
Lucius Malfoy had his fingers in.
Well, he thought, that would explain why people don't seem to realize how
obviously evil he is. Anyone with any power is probably his thrall already.
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A frightening image came to Milo's mind of a thin, pale spider sitting in a
large, dark room, surrounded by thousands of silken spider webs, from each of
which dangled a major Ministry official like puppets. Milo realized he was badly
mixing his metaphors, but, under the circumstances, had other things to worry
about.
"So... what do you do about it?" Milo asked. "What's the counter-strategy?"
"There isn't much," Dumbledore admitted. "Keeping a close eye on one's
associates and friends to see if they begin acting strangely, occasionally
checking if they still remember past events, that sort of thing. It is, at best,
only moderately effective."
Milo paled.
"And now, you see why it is that knowledge of these curses is kept to the upper
year students," Dumbledore said. "But now, I have another question for you."
"Hit me," Milo said, trying to keep his mind from the horrifying implications of
the Imperius.
"I think I will refrain from doing so," Dumbledore said, "as corporal punishment
has generally more frowned upon now than it was in the days of Emeric the Evil.
Why did you go out in search of Miss Hannah Abbot yesterday morning?"
"Oh," Milo said. "I thought I mentioned. I had to give her her Christmas
present."
"Fascinating as that is, that is not precisely the answer I was looking for, as
I think you know. To clarify: why, after you discovered that Miss Abbot had left
the building, did you head out in search of her?"
Milo sighed.
"I thought something seemed wrong," Milo said, "and that she might be in
trouble. And before you ask, no, it never occurred to me to ask a teacher for
help."
"And why is that?" Dumbledore pressed.
"Same reason as with the 'Troll,'" Milo explained, as if it were obvious. "It's
what I do."
"I rather think not," Dumbledore said. "After Hallowe'en, you explained to
meand I have reason to believe you were telling the truththat you challenged
the Troll rather than doing the sensible thing and running away because fighting
monsters was, as you say, what you do. You said, when I asked you then whether
it was to protect innocent lives, that that was not the case and doing so was
only a... a 'perk' was, I believe, the word you used."
"What's your point?" Milo asked, not used to prolonged conversations with NPCs
and not fully realizing that he was being rude.
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"Did you have any inkling, when you left, that a monster or Dark Wizard was
involved in Hannah Abbot's mysterious exit?"
Milo thought about it.
"No," he admitted.
"Did you suspect, at that point, that she was being forced against her will?"
Milo scratched at his itchy bandages, playing for time. Eventually, he was
forced to admit that he hadn't suspected anything of the sort.
"So, as far as you knew, she had simply been exceptionally foolish and wandered
out into the snow in harsh winds and subzero temperatures?"
"I hadn't really thought about it," Milo admitted, "but if someone had asked me
right then why I thought she was outside, that's probably how I would have
answered."
"And you went looking for her."
"Of course," Milo said, still not entirely sure where this was going.
"Not to fight monsters."
"Nope," Milo agreed.
"But to protect an innocent life?" Dumbledore asked.
"I... suppose so? To protect Hannah, mostly."
"It's a start," Dumbledore said. "And you didn't do it because, from a cold,
mechanical perspective, she would be of some use to you? Perhaps, in your
crusade against Evil?"
"No," Milo said. "I can't see how she would be. Her talents lie in other
directions," Milo said, feeling, for some reason, a bit defensive about her.
"Not everyone has to be good at fighting to be worth saving, Headmaster."
"I feel, and feel free to correct me if I am wrong, that that may not have been
the answer you gave me when we first met."
Milo shrugged.
"She's my friend," Milo said. "I've always protected my..." he trailed off. He
had been about to say 'I've always protected my friends,' but, now that he
thought about it, he'd never really had friends. He protected his partymembers,
of course, but that came with the job description, like fighting monsters.
Hannah... Milo was, for once, unsure of her PC/NPC status, but was fairly sure
that she wasn't, exactly, in the party. But didn't that make her, by definition,
an NPC? Milo went cold. He'd risked his life to save an NPC without any hint or
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hope of a reward. He'd spent days, thousands of Gold Pieces, and hundreds of XP
working on a Magic Item to simply give to an NPC because he'd hurt her feelings.
He actually cared about what an NPC felt. What the Hells was happening to him?
Milo felt queasy. I didn't even loot the corpse! He was stunned. He'd simply
thrown away the Redcap's sword, which could have probably got him at least 10
gp, assuming it counted as a Short Sword. And who knows what else the grotesque
abomination had been carrying? Milo was disgusted with himself. He'd let his
emotions run away with him, getting in the way of good old pragmatic greed.
"I think," said Dumbledore, "what you are feeling, right now, and it may be that
you are experiencing it for the first time and, as such, it is confusing you, is
an aspect of a form of magic more ancient and powerful than any that Voldemort
himself possesses."
"What?" Milo gasped. "Detect Magic," he cast, but nothing happened. For a brief,
horrible moment he wondered if this mysterious magic that had apparently so
addled his brain had also disabled his spellcasting. Then he realized he was
simply out of spells, even Cantrips, until he could prepare new ones. "What kind
of magic? Dispel me! Dispel me, Dumbledore!"
Dumbledore chuckled.
"Even if I could," he said, "no power on Earth could compel me to do so."
"Do you mean to say that you're behind this insanity?"
"No, Milo, the power of which I speak, the power that Voldemort so casually
disregards, the power which was his undoing eleven years ago, the power which
is, currently, already drawing you under its influence and subtly altering your
perception of the world and your actions, is, you will find, quite beyond the
reach of any mortal magic."
"So you do have deities around here!"
"The power of which I speak, young Milo, is love."
Milo stared at him in utter silence, his jaw hanging open, trying to work, but
no sound came out. In the end, Milo had to make a Concentration check simply to
focus the necessary thought to activate his vocal cords.
"Bull. Sh"
"I think," said Dumbledore, "that I will so rudely head you off before you
finish that thought."
"Love." Milo said flatly. "You-Know-Who was brought down by the Power of Love.
Maybe instead of learning magic, we should be putting flowers in our hair and
frolicking in the forest like those pointy-eared pansies and singing around
campfires. Voldy would be powerless to resist our Flower Power."
"If that stretches your credulity, perhaps, I could more clearly state that it
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was love which triggered ancient and powerful protective magic," Dumbledore said
calmly.
"Oh, well why didn't you say so in the first place?" asked Milo. "Ha! I'd love
to have seen the expression on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's face when a throwaway,
poorly thought-out rule from an obscure splatbook that he never even bothered to
read blew up in his face."
"Why do you say it was poorly thought out?" Dumbledore asked curiously.
"It allowed an infant to defeat the most powerful Dark Wizard that ever lived,"
Milo said, as if the reason were obvious. "That's got to be the most broken rule
in existence. I gotta get me some of that. What, exactly, happened to trigger
it?"
"Normally, I would leave this for Harry himself to tell you, but in this case,
the story is quite well-known. You see, Voldemort was defeated because Harry's
mother sacrificed her life to protect her son out of love, which placed a
protection upon Harry that Voldemort was unable to overcome."
Milo paused, the implications of this dawning on him.
"How on the Prime Material did You-Know-Who ever get to be that powerful in the
first place, then?"
"I'm not sure I completely understand your question. Voldemort used a
combination of subterfuge, cruelty, devoted followers, and powerful magic to"
"No, I mean... I'm obviously no expert on the subject, but do mothers here not
care about their children?" Milo asked, still perplexed.
"Of course they do," Dumbledore said. "I should think that the story I just told
you was proof of that."
"Do Dark Wizards not kill infants, then?"
"Unfortunately, innocent children are no safer from their evil than fully
trained wizards."
"Then how, in the name of the Eternal Library of Boccob, did You-Know-Whoand
Grindelwald, and all the other Dark Wizards that ever livedmanage to rise to
power without, at some point, attempting to kill a child that their mother died
to protect? I mean, how many mothers wouldn't die to protect their children?
Especially if they lived in a world where doing so made their child literally
invincible to dark magic." Milo was idly wondering if he could work something
like it into his backstory, which would neatly solve his problem of dealing with
the Killing Curse.
Dumbledore opened his mouth as if to answer, but, before he could, the door
slammed open.
"Out!" shrieked an irate Madam Pomfrey. "I won't have you bothering my patients!
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They need to rest in peacewait, poor choice of wording... they need peaceful
rest, not to be bothered by constant questions!" Ironically, while Dumbledore
was speaking quietly and softly, it was Pomfrey's tirade that woke up the
sleeping Hannah and Neville.
"Blast," said Dumbledore quietly. "Rumbled, it would seem." He stood up, and
walked slowly towards the mediwitch, hands outstretched in a calming gesture.
"Ah, my dear Madam Pomfrey, just the witch I was hoping to see. Did I ever tell
you how exceptional I've always found your work?" He put an arm on her shoulder
as he walked to the door, evidently hoping that she'd be taken in and follow him
out. She looked briefly mollified, then her eyes hardened again and she brushed
his arm off.
"No! I'm on to your tricks, Headmaster! Don't think you can silver-tongue your
way out of things this time!"
"Alas," Dumbledore sighed. "Foiled again. Might we, at least, continue what I'm
certain will be a most pleasant discussion outside, so as not to disturb your
patients further?"
Pomfrey threw a quick, surprised glance at Hannah and Neville, who were looking
around blearily to find out where the war had started and whether they ought to
go and find helmets and a foxhole.
"Perhaps that would be, er, for the best," Pomfrey said in a much quieter voice,
and followed the Headmaster out, having lost the initiative. Dumbledore glanced
over his shoulder and winked at Milo, then walked out with the somewhat
bemused-looking healer.
"Why was Doreumble... Dormble... Dumbledore here?" Hannah asked, fighting down a
yawn.
"He wanted to ask me about yesterday," Milo explained. "He'll probably come back
later to talk to you about it."
"Oh," said Hannah, who, if truth be told, would be just as happy forgetting it
had ever happened. Then she shrugged, and went back to sleep.
Milo, whose brain was wracked with too many unanswered questionsDumbledore,
Milo had noticed, had an unfortunate habit of answering a question in a way that
provoked twelve morestarted memorizing spells simply to clear his head.
Unfortunately, the arcane sigils in his book kept blurring together and dancing
in front of his vision for him to make much progress there, and he grudgingly
set aside his spellbook for later. He hadn't had trouble preparing spells since
he was apprentice level.
So, I've been bewitched, have I? Enchanted by powerful and ancient magic that's
compromising my ability to think logically. There must be some cure... Break
Enchantment probably wouldn't even do it, as it only works on spells of fifth
level or lower. This love magic business sounds closer to ninth level. Assuming
magic here even has levels, of course. Maybe there's some cure to be found in
the local magic... Dumbledore said there wasn't, but not even he can know
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everything, right? Maybe if I
"Hey," Neville said abruptly.
"Uh, hi, Nev," Milo responded. "What's up?"
"Well, you looked busy earlier, but now that you're not studying anymore, I
thought I'd ask what happened. You and Hannah look pretty beaten up, I mean. Did
Peeves do something?"
"No, I got gutted by a Redcap with a sword."
"Oh," said Neville. "Wow. Why didn't you just pull out your wand and cast"
"Didn't have time," Milo lied.
"Shame, 'cause it's a dead easy spell. Even I can do it, and I'm rubbish at,
well everything."
"We should probably be quiet," Milo said. "Hannah's trying to sleep. Damnit, I
did it again!"
"Did what?" Neville asked.
"Uh. Nothing," Milo said, having forgotten that NPCs could hear you when you
weren't speaking directly to them.
"You're right, though, of course," Neville said. "You can tell me all about it
later."
Milo lay back, cursing his confused brain. Everything had seemed so simple a few
months ago. PCs help you defeat monsters and get treasure, NPCs give you
treasure for defeating monsters. Everything was becoming so tangled lately.
And his combat skills must be going rusty as well; that Redcap, judging by the
XP he earned, was only CR 2. He'd nearly died fighting it, which was completely
unacceptable. The problem, looking at it in hindsight, was obvious: Milo's spell
list was carefully optimized for what he had previously considered to be a
typical combat. As a Wizard, his job was to neutralize as many enemies as
possible in the first few rounds of combat so that his partymembers with knives
and pointy sticks could move in and do the actual damage unimpeded. To that end,
he preferred spells that could make as many enemies as possible as useless as
possible as quickly as possiblethus, Grease and Glitterdust. But lately, he'd
been involved in a lot of solo encounters, and Milo just wasn't capable of
dishing out the kind of damage necessary to finish off an enemywhich is why
he'd had so much trouble with the Troll and the Redcap. It meant he had to burn
a much larger number of spells per enemy than he normally would, and, as a
result, ran out of ammo precipitously fast.
"I should stop going out alone," he realized. "I need backup. That and the
capability to rain down fiery doom, just in case." Milo briefly considered
Fireball, but realized that at his current level, the much more toned down
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Kelgore's Fire Bolt would deal the same amount of damage without the same
possibility for collateral damage. Also, being a Conjuration spell, he would get
a few bonuses from his specialty school. Fireball would take longer to research,
being a 3rd level spell (Kelgore's little toy was only 1st level) so Milo opted
to begin research on Kelgore's Fire Bolt now and get Fireball afterwardsand
maybe Scorching or Seeking Ray after that.
Thinking about spells, tactics, and general optimization had put Milo back into
his more usual mindset, and he opted to continue memorizing spells.
A few minutes after the requisite hour had passed, the door opened again to
reveal yet more visitors.
Harry and Ron walked in. Ron looked part worried and part excited, while Harry
just looked distracted. Ron, to Milo's delight, was carrying a platter laden
with toast, butter, and tea.
"Blimey!" said Ron. "What happened? We were worried when you didn't come back at
night, but figured you'd just gone off to work on something mad like you usually
do. Next morning, Dumbledore himself walks into the Common Room and asks us to
take breakfast up to you and Hannahhi, Hannah" (Hannah had woken up when they
entered, and was staring at the food with undisguised greed) "and blimey you
look terrible." Ron was, however, carrying food, so Milo decided to let him
livethis time.
"Yeah," Harry said distractedly.
Milo shrugged, and for the third time told the story again, glossing over the
part where he'd accidentally knifed the girl now sitting a few feet away from
him.
"I reckon you couldn't have just driven the Red Cap off with"
"No," Milo sighed, resolving to punch the next person who suggested using one of
the local wizards' simple anti-Redcap spells. "I can't cast those, remember?
Anyways, what's up with you two?"
"What do you mean?" Ron asked.
"Harry's off in his own little world," Milo said.
"Is he?" Ron asked, looking over his shoulder at the Boy-Who-Lived, who had been
staring absently at one of Milo's bed fixtures. "You're right," Ron said,
surprised. "He is. Oi! Potter! What's going on in there?"
"I saw my parents last night," Harry said reluctantly.
"What, like in a dream?" Milo asked. "'Cause they seem to be going around."
"No," Harry said. "In a mirror."

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Chapter 20: The Mirror of Erised

Author's Notes: Sorry for the short chapter this week (a mere 7 pages instead of
the usual 10). I'm out of town with the family, so next week's chapter will
either be short as well or delayed a few days (Monday most likely, Tuesday at
the very latest). Also, as a result, this chapter hasn't been edited for grammar
and spelling as thoroughly as they usually are, but I'll come back and clean it
up later. Hopefully it's not too bad. Sorry about all that! Hopefully all the
bonus chapters last week and the week before make up for it.
Anyways, on with the story!
EDIT: Most of the typoes and things seem to have been caught now. Thanks to
everyone who helped point them out!
ooooooo
"Look, I know people always say you look just like your dad, but with your mum's
eyes " Ron said.
"No, that's not what I meant. I actually saw my parents in this mirror. And
their parents, and their brothers and sisters, and a whole family." Harry told
them how, the night before, he'd gone exploring under his Cloak of Invisibility
and discovered the magical mirror in an unused classroom.
"Wow," said Ron, clearly impressed. "That must be some mirror."
"Show me," said Milo.
"Wait!" said Hannah. "You can't just go gallivanting off! You're supposed to
have complete bed rest, remember?"
"You sound just like Hermione," Ron muttered.
"Someone has to," said Hannah defensively.
Milo cursed. She was actually right if he got out of bed, he'd have to come
back and stay a whole 'nother day to get back to full hit points.
"I think I'll have to chance it," Milo said. With luck (something he very rarely
seemed to have) he wouldn't be needing all of his hit points for at least
another day or so. Harry's mirror, however, might not be there tomorrow at all,
and frankly, it seemed fairly plot-relevant.
"Let's go find it," Milo said, ignoring Hannah's protests. "But first, Harry
put it on your list. That, the Power of Love, and the Imperius Curse."
Harry shrugged, pulling the small stack of parchment which held The List (Milo
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made a note to make a few backups of it with Amanuensis or the Pen of Plagiarism
+5, just in case) out of his school bag and diligently wrote them down.
Milo uncomfortably pulled his filthy Robe of Arcane Might over his pajamas. The
way things were going recently, he didn't want to waste a Prestidigitation to
clean it off there was no telling when he was going to be ambushed next.
"All right," he said. "Lead on."
Harry, Ron, and Milo strode out of the hospital wing
"We should hide under the cloak," Harry suggested when they were out of earshot
of the other patients.
"Oh, come on," Milo scoffed. "Three people can't wear one magic item. It just
can't be done. I know I like to bend the rules sometimes, but seriously. Three
people under one cloak? That's a stretch."
"Really?" Harry asked. "That's somewhat surprising. It seems large enough to
cover all of us; I mean, it was made for an adult, right?"
"Trust me," Milo said authoritatively. "It's patently impossible. It'd be like
trying to cast a spell in the same turn as running, or drinking two potions in a
six-second period. Can't be done. End of story."
"Huh," said Harry. "Go figure. Okay, well you should wear it, then, because
you're supposed to still be in the hospital wing."
"Good plan," Milo said, pulling the cloak over his dirty, bloodstained magic
robes. "All right, let's go."
Harry led them through some unfamiliar Hogwarts corridors (always a rather risky
prospect), past a door pretending to be a wall (and once, embarrassingly,
directly into a wall pretending to be a door), down a staircase that turns into
a ramp if you don't ask it nicely not to, and, finally, into an old, abandoned
classroom. The Cloak of Invisibility turned out to be unnecessary, as the only
person they encountered (if the word 'person' could even be applied here) was
the Bloody Baron, who, as usual, ignored them entirely. In the classroom were
cobwebs and a thick coating of dust on most of the desks and chairs, except for
a wide corridor down the middle where a number of them had been pushed to the
side presumably to allow persons unknown to carry in Harry's mirror, which sat
at the front of the room, where the Professor would stand to lecture the class.
Milo let out a low whistle.
"Now that," he said, "is one Hell of a magicky-looking item." The mirror was,
for one, huge. It's top nearly touched the ceiling, and Milo couldn't figure out
how anyone could possibly have gotten it through the door. The frame was of
intricately worked gold, and if that didn't scream Magic, nothing did.
"That the technical term, you figure?" Ron asked wryly.
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"Come on," Harry said impatiently. "Sit in front of it and look, it's my mum and
dad."
"Whoa, hold on there," Milo said. "If there's one thing you learn as an
Adventurer it's that you don't just go looking in random magic mirrors before
finding out exactly what they do."
"But I know what this one does," Harry protested. "It shows my parents."
"Maybe," Milo said cautiously. "I've seen mirrors that create evil copies of
anyone who looks at them, mirrors that suck you in and trap you, mirrors that
blast you forwards in time, mirrors that switch your mind with the owner's,
mirrors that make Suggestions you can't refuse "
"My mirror does that!" Ron interrupted. "Tells me whether my shirt's untucked,
my laces are undone, or there's something in my teeth! And when you ignore it,
blimey, does it make a fuss."
"But this mirror doesn't do anything like that!" Harry protested again. "I
looked into it, and I'm fine!"
Milo looked at him suspiciously.
"How do we know that?" he asked. "Seems awfully suspicious, doesn't it? I mean,
if you were possessed by some evil being who placed the mirror here, the first
thing you'd do is try to convince others to look at it, too, wouldn't you?"
"But I'm not I'm fine, really. You're just paranoid 'cause of Hannah."
"Use Protection From Weevils," Ron suggested. "Remember, the thing you did on
Hannah that made her Hannah again?"
"Good thinking. Protection From Evil," Milo cast on Harry. The Boy-Who-Lived was
surrounded by a brief glow which faded in a fraction of a second. "Feel any
different now?"
"No," Harry said with an audible edge in his voice. "Because I wasn't possessed.
Can we look at the mirror now, or do you want to throw me in the water and see
if I float first?"
"Why would I "
"Ah, nevermind. Just look at the bloody thing."
"Fine," Milo said. "Ron, you go first." If the mirror did launch some form of
attack, Milo figured that, of the three of them, he would be the best equipped
to deal with it and therefore couldn't afford to be neutralized on the first
round. That was his story, and he was sticking to it. Eagerly, Ron stepped
forwards and stared at the mirror.
Ron gasped, and Milo nearly started raining arcane doom everywhere before he
started speaking again.
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"Blimey! I'm I'm head boy!" Ron said, astonished. "And I'm holding the
Quidditch Cup! I wow, it looks like I'm captain of the team!"
"What?" Harry asked. "Let me see that!" Giving Ron a little shove, he positioned
himself right in front of the mirror. "No, look, see? It's my mum and dad!
They're right there in front of us!"
"Maybe," Ron said slowly, "it's different for everyone?" Then his eyes widened.
"Do you reckon it shows the future?"
"How can it?" Harry asked. "All my family are dead, remember?"
"That doesn't really mean anything," Milo said. "There's no reason, beyond the
fact that it would be highly improbable, that Ron couldn't become both head boy
and Quidditch captain."
"But "
"And as for your parents, well, there's dozens of ways for my kind of magic to
bring back the dead," Milo said slowly.
"Right," Harry said in an odd voice. "I'd forgotten about that." Perhaps it was
an unusually high Sense Motive roll for once, or Milo's recent ... confused
state, but something told him that Harry was lying and hadn't, in fact,
forgotten for a moment that Milo could, one day, Limited Wish Harry's parents
back to life.
"Well," Milo said eventually, screwing up his courage. "I think, maybe, I should
have a go at the mirror."
With a fair amount of trepidation, Milo stepped up in front of the ornate mirror
while trying to avoid thinking of all the various kinds of horrible, trapped
mirrors out there. Now that he thought about it, he couldn't recall a single
magical mirror that didn't have some form of vicious curse. His eyes were still
carefully averted, staring at the toes of his adventurer's boots.
Why, oh why did I use my only Protection From Evil on Harry? Milo berated
himself.
Steadying himself with deep, calming breaths, Milo forced his eyes to stare
directly at the polished silver surface.
The universe unveiled itself in front of him, and, while, conceptually at least,
Milo knew from Wizards experimenting with Divinations and Greater Teleport that
the distance between stars was inconceivably far and that the distance between
galaxies made even that colossal distance seem completely negligible, Milo could
see, clearly, pinpoints of light unfolding before him in numbers so large that
they didn't have names. Many of those stars had planets, and many of those
planets had moons, and a rare few of those planets and moons had life. Milo saw
stout, bearded dwarves bustling about in their mines and forges, not knowing
that with every greedy swing of their pick they unwittingly brought themselves
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one step closer to their own inexorable demise as they approached the horrors
which lay beneath their underground cities. Milo saw proud elves, comfortable in
the fact that they'd been toying with the very fabric of the universe and living
in shining cities and soaring towers while the lesser races had yet to discover
fire; blind, in their arrogance, to their ever-waning power, numbers, and
relevance to the world outside of their sequestered paradises. Milo saw humans
beyond number, living their lives, tilling soil, and always expanding outwards,
propelled by their adventurous spirit and search for excitement, not knowing
what was in store for them when they found there nowhere else to discover. Milo
saw ankhegs, centaurs, chimera, dragons, gnomes, halflings, half-elves, aquatic
elves, wood elves, dark elves, high elves, gray elves, wild elves, wood elves,
orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, half-orcs, magmin, barghests, blink dogs,
dinosaurs, dire animals, ghosts, ghouls, ogres, oozes, mephits, medusae,
merfolk, sahuagin, sprites, lamias, wyverns, will-o-wisps, and wraiths. Milo saw
the entirety of the Prime Material as if he were examining every object,
creature, and wisp of smoke with intense scrutiny. Milo saw the Great Wheel of
the Outer Planes, the sixteen infinitely large planes of Celestia, Bytopia,
Elysium, the Beastlands, Arborea, Ysgard, Limbo, Pandemonium, the Abyss,
Carceri, Hades, Gehenna, Baator, Acheron, Mechanus, and Arcadia arranged
clockwise around the barren Outlands, which, from its heart, rose the impossibly
tall Spire, ringed at its peak by Sigil, The City of Doors. Milo saw the Lower
Planes ripped apart by the never ending Blood War and the uncaring laughter of
their thirsting gods. Milo saw the Inner Planes of Air, Fire, Earth, Water, and
Positive and Negative energy from which the Multiverse itself was made. Milo saw
the Astral, Ethereal, Shadow, and elusive Mirror Transitive planes, and the
madness of the Far Realm. Milo saw the Multiverse in its entirety, and it was
all his.
Milo saw himself, with an infinitely high level in every Class and Prestige
Class, with every feat worth taking and a good many that aren't, with infinite
ranks in infinite skills, with infinite ability scores and infinite ability
modifiers, with infinite hit points, with infinite spells per day and every
spell known, lounging on what, at first glance, appeared to be an intricately
carved throne of every precious metal, expensive special material, and gemstone
Milo had ever heard of (and several others, as well) but upon closer inspection
were, in fact, Epic Magic Items and Artifacts. Milo saw a backrest composed of
dozens of Staffs of the Magi sitting on piles of Rings of Universal Energy
Immunity and Bracers of Relentless Might. One armrest was simply the Axe of the
Dwarvish Lords while the other appeared to be the great battleaxe of Heironeous
Himself, sitting on a pile of the six weapons of his archenemy, Hextor. Milo,
the most powerful character conceivable, lounged on his terrible throne, staring
at His gauntleted hand (in some detached part of his brain, Milo realized it was
nothing less than the Iron Gauntlet of War), an expression of detached ennui on
his blank face. In his other hand, he idly spun the Gold Dragon Orb around his
fingers, one of the most powerful artifacts in creation reduced to a mere stress
ball. Who has any need of an Orb of Dragonkind, even the most powerful one, when
Milo could simply rewrite reality to create a breed of better dragons, forced to
bow to his every will?
Milo had no enemies, for they had all long since been defeated. He had no
adventures to undertake, for there were none of an appropriate Encounter Level.
He had no friends, for he needed none. He had no dungeons to raid, for he had
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the Multiverse in his inventory. He had no familiar, for they could be traded
for more powerful alternate class features. He had no partymembers, because in
the impossible event that he would need allies, what could be more powerful than
Simulacra of himself?
The Milo in the mirror had everything he'd ever wanted, everything he'd ever
seen, everything he'd ever heard of, everything he'd ever only conceived of.
Milo the real Milo wasn't sure when he'd started screaming. He felt hands
(the detached part of his brain that kept noticing minute details even in
impossible situations noted that it must have been Ron and Harry, not that the
rest of him cared) struggling to pull him away from the mirror, but even as they
dragged him away from it he couldn't summon the willpower to tear his eyes from
the horrible visage. Eventually, one of them wrapped the Cloak of Invisibility
around the artifact, and the visions stopped but the memories remained.
"What the bloody hell was that?" Ron asked, his face pale and bloodless.
"I... I saw everything," Milo said weakly. He tasted blood in his mouth, he must
have bit his tongue at some point. "And ... and it was mine. I had everything
... everything except a reason to..." he trailed off, his brain still not fully
functioning.
"Reason to what, mate?" Ron asked nervously in an odd, falsely cheerful voice.
"Anything," Milo said. "No reason to anything."
"Look on the bright side," Ron said. "If that's the future, it means we beat
You-Know-Who."
"You-Know-Who?" Milo asked, his voice full of scorn. "The me in the mirror could
have vaporized You-Know-Who with a Silent Stilled Heightened Maximized Empowered
Intensified Twinned Explosive Quickened Cantrip just by willing it to be so."
"But that's good, isn't it?"
"I'd imagine it would get dull after a few eons," Milo said, still trying to
shake the horrifying images the mirror had shown him. Had it really shown him
the future? What were the rules that governed it? "I'll need to take another
look," Milo said eventually, staggering to his feet. He spat blood on the floor
of the classroom, and wiped at his mouth with his even grimier robe.
"No," Harry said firmly. "Absolutely not."
"I need to know how it works," Milo said. "I need to know if that's really the
future."
"You're not going anywhere near that thing," Harry insisted.
"Fine," Milo said sharply. "Then one of you two give it a close examination and
tell me if you see anything weird. Look at the frame, and try not to get sucked
in." Not even Milo was sure if he meant that last bit literally or figuratively.
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"I'll even close my eyes. See? 'Cause I don't. On account of my eyes being
closed."
"I'm not taking the Invisibility Cloak off until you're out of the room or
blindfolded," Harry said stubbornly.
With growing irritation brought on by his numerous injuries and conflicted
feelings about his vision in the mirror, Milo muttered a few choice oaths as he
fished a scarf out of his Belt of Hidden Pouches and obligingly tied it around
his face.
"Can we get on with it now?" he snapped. Then he took a deep breath and tried to
calm himself down. "Sorry," he said eventually, picturing their hurt
expressions. "I'm still kind of in shock from the... mirror thing. And
yesterday's thing." Then he realized what he was doing, and his breath caught.
"Damnit! I shouldn't have to care about your feelings! Argh, let's just examine
this mirror and get it over with already."
Milo heard a rustling of cloth as, presumably, the mirror's Cloak was lifted.
There was silence as Ron and Harry were (hopefully) diligently examining the
mirror's border and not being absorbed by its eldritch powers.
"Oi, Harry, look at this," Ron said.
"Yeah, I saw that," Harry said. "Just looked like a load of Gobbledegook to me."
"Nah, doesn't look anything remotely like Gobbledegook."
"Could one of you tell me, pray, what it is that you are speaking of?" Milo
asked.
"There's some writing on the mirror," Harry said. "But it's nonsense."
There were a number of ways Milo had available to transmute nonsensical writing
into its sensical variant, but all of them required that he be able to actually
see the words in front of him.
"Write it down on some parchment," Milo said. "Make sure you get it exactly
right does it use the Common alphabet?"
"Uh..."
"English. The English alphabet."
"Oh, yeah, definitely."
"Fortuitous. Shouldn't
school bag and hurried
placed into his hands.
mirror and removed his
Harry's scrawl,

be too hard, then." Milo heard the unbuttoning of a


scratching of a quill before a piece of parchment was
Milo very carefully turned so he was facing away from the
blindfold. Written on a small scrap of parchment was, in

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Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.
Milo stared at it for a moment, but concluded it wasn't in any language he
recognized.
"Comprehend Languages," he cast, a spell which allowed him to understand any
written and spoken language. To his faint surprise, the writing remained
completely nonsensical the only conclusion was that it had to be in code of
some form.
"I'll have to do this the good old fashioned way," Milo muttered. He'd been
habitually placing skill ranks in Decipher Script every level because it was
Intelligence-based and understanding ancient runes seemed the sort of thing a
Wizard ought to be able to do, but he hadn't actually had a chance to use them
before. Nevertheless, inconsequential problems such as never having tried to
decipher anything before did nothing to prevent the fact that, by any standard,
Milo was very nearly an expert cryptoanalyst. Milo was a little excited to
finally have the opportunity to put his Skills to use, testing them against the
no doubt formidable defences of the accursed mirror. He cracked his knuckles and
stretched, pulling out a few sheets of parchment and his quill. It was time for
some serious, heavy-duty Script Deciphering.
"It's backwards," he said, sounding somewhat disappointed. "I show not your face
but your hearts [sic] desire."
"Your heartsick desire, eh?" said Ron skeptically. "That sounds sort of ...
racy, to be honest."
"No "
"Maybe it was confused," Harry mused. "Because we haven't got any heartsick
desires, so it just showed us whatever we wanted to see?"
"But "
"So, you reckon the mirror just shows you whatever you want?" Ron asked,
impressed. "Clever, Harry."
Milo simply groaned and seriously contemplated applying his forehead directly to
a very inviting-looking hewn stone wall when a thought struck him.
The mirror shows you your heart's desire, he thought. Even if you don't already
know what it looks like like Harry's parents or my, well, my entire Multiverse.
Milo's face broke into a wide grin. He saw an exploit.
All I have to do is figure out how to change my heart's desire, he realized, and
I can see whatever I want.
Ron, however, was developing an increasingly worried look.
"There's something my dad always says," he said, "How did it go? Oh, right:
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Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps
its brain. Mind, I've gotten some right peculiar looks from his Ford Anglia now
and again, and it seems perfectly friendly."
Infinite power might be my long-term goal, Milo thought, although, to be fair,
I'm starting to seriously reconsider that. Well, within reason, anyways. But
what I really want, right now, more than anything else, is to find out what
Voldemort's up to. Yup, honest. That's what I want.
"Now show me, mirror," Milo said quietly, and turned around. As a precaution, he
readied an action: look away if it shows me anything other than information on
You-Know-Who. You can't back down from readied actions.
He winced in almost physical pain as he was given another infinitesimally short
view of the Multiverse and his own horrible fate again.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked. "Don't look at the thing!"
"No, trust me," Milo said, clutching his aching forehead. "I know what I'm
doing. Sort of."
Okay, so maybe I really don't care that much about the Dark Lord after all. How
about something a little smaller... I want, more than anything, to see what
Kelgore's Fire Bolt looks like written out in a spellbook. That was sort of
true, in fact he had just decided, after all, that it would be his next
research project. If he could somehow finagle the mirror into showing him what
to write in his spellbook, he could save a week's work and a thousand gold
pieces.
When Milo turned around again, it was with enough presage to fill a Type II Bag
of Holding. Unfortunately, the mirror once again saw through his mental tricks,
and he was treated to a view of Mirror-Milo killing time by covering every
square inch of the Prime Material in Arcane Marks.
"I'm getting away from this thing," he said, flinching and attempting to look
anywhere other than at the nightmare being played out in the glass. "The mirror,
it's... it's... agh, nevermind. I'm going back to bed."
He'd been about to say 'the mirror, it's Evil,' but it clearly wasn't. It was
absolutely, brutally, horribly Neutral. It showed you what your heart desired,
but sometimes, what you desire isn't the same as what you desire you'd desire...
As Milo walked back to the hospital wing, his head off in space, he suddenly had
another idea.
"I wonder if someone here can bewitch me to desire nothing more than the
spellbook entry for Kelgore's Fire Bolt?" he mused aloud. "Or other spells, for
that matter. Mordy, remind me to ask Hermione, okay? Thanks."
Milo's familiar poked its furry head out of his extradimensional belt and
nodded.
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Maybe it was simply an unusually good roll, or maybe it was the +2 bonus to Spot
and Listen granted from his bond with Mordy, but Milo suddenly felt as if a
White Dragon was breathing down the back of his neck. Mordy's ears perked up,
suddenly alert.
Milo knew not to look around stupidly and say 'Hello? Ron, is that you? Harry?
This isn't funny, guys!,' followed by the inevitable 'Aaaaargh!' as whatever it
was that was hiding out there ate his face. Instead, our gallant hero simply
licked his suddenly-dry lips and walked forwards as casually as he could manage.
Cursing himself for leaving the Cloak of Invisibility with Harry and Ron, Milo
reckoned his best chance was to wait...
Harry and Ron.
Patting his pockets as if he had forgotten something, Milo cursed in a somewhat
overdramatic fashion (not having any ranks in Disguise or Bluff, Milo was a
terrible actor) and started to return to the room with the mirror. Whatever it
was that had triggered Milo's Spot check (if that was, indeed, what it had been)
had easy access to those two, who, still being relative novices at this plane's
peculiar branch of magic, were nearly defenceless. Equally importantly, Milo
didn't particularly want to face it alone in his current state.
While turning around and searching his pockets, Milo had a chance to look around
the corridor, which remained empty save for the obligatory suits of armour and
statuary. Mio considered casting See Invisibility, but remembered how that had
seemed to have no effect, oddly, on whatever it was Snape had used to hide
himself in his office before the Quidditch match.
"Detect Thoughts," Milo muttered under his breath. Mere Invisibility would be of
no use against the spell, which revealed the presence and, if he concentrated
on it long enough, the number of intelligent, conscious creatures in a cone
emanating from Milo.
The spell immediately alerted him that he was right something intelligent was
standing within sixty feet of him. Milo forced himself not to look around
nervously, waiting for the spell to cough up how many people or bloodsucking
monsters there were skulking around him.
When it finally did, Milo was so surprised that it almost broke his
concentration on the spell. He'd thought there would be one, or two at the most,
sneaky persons and/or bloodsucking monstrosities for him to Glitterdust and run
away from.
Within the fairly narrow conical field that Detect Thoughts covers, Milo
detected in the seemingly-empty corridor no less than twelve sentient creatures.

Chapter 21: Bewitched


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Author's Notes: Sorry for the lateness (and, again, shortness) of this chapter!
I'm still flat-footed from my trip. Since Term is starting, I'll be switching to
Sundays for updates (thus giving me Saturdays to write). Once again, this
chapter was only briefly edited, so please forgive any errors! I'll try to fix
things over the course of the week. Things should be back to normal in terms of
length and grammar for the next chapter.
Also, an extremely helpful fan has shown me a workaround for a problem I've been
having with myth-weavers, so I might be able to post chapterly character sheet
updates. We'll see how things go.
ooooooo
"You reckon we should go after him?" Harry asked.
"In a minute," Ron said absently, still staring at the Mirror.
"It's just ..." Harry said. "I dunno, he seemed a bit, well, off."
"I'm sure he's fine," Ron said, making a vague gesture.
"Looking into a mirror that shows your heart's desire and screaming your head
off doesn't seem particularly fine to me," Harry said with growing certainty.
"And, I mean, he's injured and all."
"Hey," Ron said, suddenly alert. "What do you reckon Hermione would see in here?
Herself with a load of the world's dullest books probably ... still, we should
probably show her when she gets back. And what about Fred and George?"
Harry looked at Ron, his eyes narrowing.
"So you think we should show a bunch of people?" Harry asked neutrally.
"Dunno," Ron shrugged. "Just wondering what they'd see is all. What about
Neville? Bet it'd be himself with no bandages holding a Remembrall that's
completely dim, eh? Or an 'O' in Transfiguration."
No way, Harry thought. Could Milo have been right about the Mirror?
"I think," Harry said slowly, "that we should go talk to Dumbledore or
McGonagall."
"What, really?" Ron asked, as if Harry had just suggested they jump into a pit
of venomous snakes.
"Yeah," said Harry. "I reckon the Mirror, it's, well, it's like Milo said, it's
making you want to go and get other people to show it to." The last several
words spilled out all at once.
"What?" Ron sputtered. "Need I remind you that he also nicked the contents of
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everyone's trunks because he thought they were, and I quote, treasure chests?
He's off his rocker."
"But when I saw the mirror the next thing I did was to go get you two, and now
you want to go get other people! It's just like he said!"
"I was just wondering what they'd see is all," Ron said defensively. "And
anyway, it's not like it's a crime, is it? It's a fun mirror, I mean. But it's
not like I was seriously considering it."
"That so? Or is the Mirror making you say that?"
"If I was being possessed," Ron said firmly. "I'd know about it."
"I didn't know when it made me show it to you!"
Ron rolled his eyes.
"Look, say you're right and it's this big dirty evil magic Mirror that's
controlling me with its big dirty evil magic Mirror powers," Ron said patiently.
"If that were true and it isn't, but if it were then we wouldn't be having
this dumb conversation because you'd be controlled by its big dirty evil magic
Mirror powers also."
Harry frowned for a moment, then a thought struck him.
"No," he said excitedly, "because he used Protection From Evil on me, remember?
The Mirror can't influence me but we have to find a teacher before it wears
off! Can you remember how long it lasts? I can't."
"This is mad," Ron said exasperatedly. "We're just getting jumpy 'cause of
Hannah and convinced everyone's possessed whenever they do anything. This time
tomorrow someone will suggest we go get breakfast and everyone will be all 'He's
possessed! Let's go run to Dumbledore!' or 'He said he was going to the loo! He
must be possessed!'"
"That's what you would say if the Mirror were controlling you," Harry insisted.
"It's also what I'd say if I thought you were becoming an increasingly
annoyingly paranoid git," Ron said, losing his patience. "Just saying."
"Let's just go find him and go to McGonagall, okay? I mean, what's the worst
that could happen?"
"That we all get eaten by spiders in the hallway, obviously," Ron said. "But
fine, let's go if it's the only thing that'll shut you up about this. Now,
where do you reckon he is?"
"Where who is?" asked a new voice. Harry and Ron turned, shocked, to find Milo
leaning calmly against the doorframe to the classroom.
"You," Harry said while Ron said "What are you doing here?"
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"What are you lot fighting about?" he asked, ignoring Ron's question entirely.
"Sir Paranoid here reckons we've both been bewitched," Ron said, "and wants to
take us to McGonagall."
Milo snorted dismissively.
"Lead on, then," he said. "Not that it will accomplish much; that's practically
impossible to detect."
"One second," Harry said. "Just going to grab the Cloak."
Milo raised an eyebrow briefly as Harry shoved his Invisibility Cloak into his
schoolbag, but said nothing.
"Right, let's go," Harry said, shouldering his bag and heading to the door. "And
both of you stay in front of me," he added, "just in case."
As they walked to McGonagall's office, Harry kept a firm grip on his wand he
wasn't sure just how much power (if any) the Mirror had over them, but decided
not to take any chances.
"Er, mate," Ron said anxiously as they rounded one of the last corners to their
destination, "not really sure how to tell you this, but your magic belt thingy
seems to be acting up." Ron gestured at Milo's belt, which, now that he was
looking closely, Harry noticed did, indeed, seem to be 'acting up.' One of the
ten small pouches was wiggling around, as if something inside was trying to get
out.
"It does that sometimes," Milo said with a shrug. "It's nothing that need worry
you."
"Oh," said Ron. "It's just I never noticed it before."
"Isn't that where you keep your rat?" Harry asked shrewdly. He'd seen the furry
little animal poking it's head out of the belt occasionally to look around. In
fact, he didn't think he'd ever seen the buckle on that particular pouch done up
before...
"Nope," Milo said blithely.
"Oh, okay," Harry said as if it were nothing. Something weird's definitely going
on, he thought. Best get to McGonagall as quickly as possible.
"Still can't believe I'm voluntarily walking to McGonagall's office," Ron
muttered. "Again. What would Fred and George say?"
Harry expected Milo to make a quip about just how 'voluntary' (or rather,
involuntary) Ron's trip to the Deputy Headmistress's office really was, but Milo
remained silent, staring straight ahead with his shoulders set.
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It felt like it took ages, but in reality, it was only a four minute walk or so
from the abandoned classroom to their destination. Harry rapped quickly on the
door three times, not taking his eyes off of Milo.
"Come in," Harry heard.
"Right," Harry said, gesturing with his wand (although, in truth, he didn't know
any spells off-hand that he would use on them anyways). "You two go in first,
and leave the talking to me."
"You're mad, mate," Ron muttered, and pushed the door open.
"Misters Potter, Weasley, and Amastacia-Liadon," McGonagall said, rising from
her chair. "What seems to be the mat why are you holding your wand? And you,
shouldn't you be in the hospital wing?"
"I think these two have been bewitched "Harry started.
"Oh, come now," McGonagall said in a pacifying tone. "Why would "
" by a magic Mirror. And so have I."
"Mirror?" McGonagall asked sharply, suddenly alert. "Explain everything on the
way. Let's go."
"Where are we going?" Ron asked as McGonagall stepped around her desk to the
door.
"To see the Headmaster, of course. This nonsense about bewitchment aside, I need
to talk to him about just leaving a certain powerful magical artifact where just
anyone can bump into it."
Despite the fact that she had dismissed Harry's concerns about mental control
off-hand, Harry noticed that McGonagall, who usually liked to stay at the front
of any particular group, stayed a half-step behind Harry, Ron and Milo on the
way up to Dumbledore's hidden office a fact which made it somewhat awkward for
him to recount the events surrounding the mirror.
McGonagall guided them down Hogwarts' ever-shifting halls, through false walls,
up some stairs, down some stairs, up some more stairs, took what Harry swore
were three left turns at one point and still ended up somewhere different, until
they eventually stopped in front of an ominous-looking gargoyle statue. While
Harry hadn't ever been to this particular statue, he was fairly sure McGonagall
had taken a deliberately circuitous route.
Harry saw McGonagall's lips move, but a sudden ringing in his ears prevented him
from hearing whatever it was she said. Just as abruptly as it started, the
ringing stopped, and the gargoyle seemed to rotate upwards into a spiral
staircase. Something about the way it moved seemed subtly wrong to Harry, but
he'd seen enough magic to know not to analyze things too closely.
"Up you go," McGonagall said, and they trotted up the stone staircase to a heavy
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wooden door. McGonagall knocked politely on the door and waited.
"Shouldn't we just go in?" Harry asked, impatient. He didn't know how much
longer Protection From Evil would last, or if it had already run out. "This is
urgent."
"Neither the Minister for Magic, Nicolas Flamel, nor even
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named would dare enter the Headmaster's office without
permission. So we wait."
Harry waited several uncomfortable seconds, tapping his foot impatiently against
the ancient stone floor. Eventually, the door simply swung open to let them in.
Dumbledore sat behind a heavy oak desk, wearing a particularly eye-watering
multi-hued robe and his trademark half-moon spectacles.
"Why, Minerva, what an unexpected surprise!" he said, looking genuinely pleased.
"And I see you've brought guests! Is it tea time already?"
"No, it's not, it's "
"My colleague Professor Sinistra assures me that, due to the rotation of the
earth beneath our feet hurtling through space around the great, smiling face in
the sky that we call the sun, it is always tea time. Somewhere, at least."
"Er, well, be that as it may, I have a matter of some importance to discuss with
you," McGonagall said, desperately trying to regain the initiative. "It's about
the Mirror, and ... something else as well."
"I see," Dumbledore said gravely, all appearances of a foolish old man suddenly
gone. Harry had never seen the Headmaster look so serious before. "Go on."
"Perhaps it would be best if Mister Potter explained," the Deputy Headmistress
said.
"Very well. What's happened, Harry?" Dumbledore asked.
As Harry nervously told his story, he noticed that Milo appeared to be sweating
nervously.
"So, in short, you think you're all being influenced by the Mirror of Erised?"
Dumbledore asked.
"Is that what it's called?" Harry asked.
"It is, indeed," Dumbledore said. "And, it appears, I shall have to have it
moved from its temporary home. If it will put your mind at rest, the Mirror,
while extremely powerful, does not have the ability to directly control the
actions of those who gaze upon it not to say that having their heart's desires
revealed to them isn't a form of influence in itself."
"Oh," Harry said, greatly relieved.
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"Still," Dumbledore said, "you can't be too careful, I suppose. If you would be
so good as to wait here a moment?" Without waiting for a reply, the Headmaster
stood up from his desk to walk over to one of his shelves of ticking silver
devices on the wall.
"Ah," he said after rummaging about for a moment or two, "here we are. I've
always been meaning to try this one out." Blowing what seemed to be generations
of accumulated dust off of a complicated-looking spindly silver thing that Harry
could only, in all honesty, accurately describe as a 'gizmo,' Dumbledore
returned to his desk and sat down heavily. He placed the gizmo on the polished
wooden surface where it made an ominous thud that seemed much louder than an
object of its apparent mass would make. It had spiky protrusions. It had bits
that whirled around for no apparent reason. It had twists and turns and knobs
and dials. It had what looked uncomfortably like a dentist's drill only more,
well, eldritch.
"But, Headmaster " McGonagall began, looking astonished.
"Not now, Minerva," Dumbledore said, brushing aside whatever her protest was.
"This," he said to Harry, Ron, and Milo with a dramatic flourish, "is the, De
... bewitcher of, er, Destiny."
"I'm sorry, the " McGonagall began.
"Yes, the Debewitcher of Destiny. It's for, near as I can figure, revealing the
presence of any form of magic that allows mental control, up to and including a
certain Unforgivable curse."
"But detecting the Imperius Curse is all but impossible," Milo protested.
"Indeed, without the Debewitcher of Doom, it is impossible," Dumbledore agreed.
"Wasn't it called the Debewitcher of Destiny?" Ron asked.
"It's very versatile," Dumledore shrugged. "Now, who shall I use it on first?"
As he spoke, he adjusted several knobs and dials on the device, which made its
drill extension whir in an ominous fashion.
"I'm not going near that thing," Ron said stubbornly. "What would it do if we
were, you know, bewitched? Not that we are, of course."
"Well," Dumbledore said, scratching his beard as he thought. "To be honest, I'm
not completely certain. To the best of my knowledge, this dial here controls the
severity of the Debewitcher's effect," he said, gesturing at a particularly
large, unmarked dial. "It goes anywhere from simply revealing the identity of
the guilty party to having the earth itself rise up and swallow the culprit
whole."
Ron gave a low whistle.
"The only problem is, the dial is unmarked. Now, of course, the normal
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convention is for dials to turn them to the left for their lowest setting , but,
as I'm sure you can tell, the designer of this particular device was quite
clearly bonkers. So, just to be safe, I'm turning it all the way to the right."
As he did so, the whirring of the drill-end increased to a frightening pace, and
parts of the machine were pumping up and down now at a rate that was shaking the
floor. "Ah," Dumbledore said. "See? Perfectly safe."
Harry swallowed nervously. Ron's face was white, and Milo licked his
suddenly-dry lips.
"I-I'll go first," Harry said. He'd rather
that deathtrap of a machine, but he had to
him. Also, it set a good precedent for Ron
it and (hopefully) survived, they couldn't

do almost anything other than go near


know if the Mirror was controlling
and particularly Milo. Once he'd done
very well back out.

"Then, if you would just place your palm here," Dumbledore said, pointing at a
flat disc on one of the Debewitcher's spindly arms. Harry complied, taking care
not to go anywhere near the more dangerous-looking appendages. There was a tense
second or two as Harry waited for the results. The machine didn't, as far as
Harry could tell, give any sort of feedback, but eventually Dumbledore broke the
silence. "Well," he said, "it seems that you are, fortunately, no less or
more, for that matter yourself than you usually are." Harry sighed with
relief, collapsing into a nearby chair. "Now, Mister Weasley," Dumbledore said,
turning to Ron. "If you would ...?"
Ron gulped audibly, but put his now-heavily-sweating palm on the disc. To his
relief, nothing happened.
"See?" he said to Harry, pulling his hand away from the machine. "I'm fine, just
like I said."
"And Mister Amastacia-Liadon," Dumbledore said, turning to Milo. "It's your
turn."
"But I'm not possessed," he said stubbornly.
"I'm sure you're not," Dumbledore replied. "But, nevertheless, your two friends
were brave enough to try it. Surely you as, by your own admission, a hero
would be willing to do the same?"
"This is pointless," he muttered. "I'm sure we all have much more important
things to be doing especially you, headmaster, as Supreme Mugwump on top of
being Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot than entertaining a boy's delusions. I
mean, you yourself said the Mirror can't "
"You got his titles right," Harry said suddenly.
"Sorry, what?" Milo asked coolly.
"You get everything's name wrong," Harry said, backing away slowly.
"I don't "
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"You once called him the Supreme Muggle instead of Mugwump, and called the
Chudley Cannons Cuddly. I've never heard you get two polysyllabic names right in
the same sentence before."
"Well, maybe I thought it was funny then, but now things are impor"
"You trapped Mordy in your Belt."
"He was being unruly," Milo said defensively. "He bit me. See?" Milo peeled off
one of his weird blue gloves to show a small bite mark between his thumb and
index finger.
"Maybe," Harry said skeptically. "He bit you because you're bewitched after
all."
"I'm not "
"Then put your hand in the machine and prove it," Harry said.
"Fine," Milo snapped, and stepped towards Dumbledore's desk. He reached slowly
towards the machine with four sets of eyes boring into him slowly. Just as he
was about to place his hand on the disc, he spun around. "Summon Hipp"
"No," Dumbledore said quietly. There was no threat, no malice, and no particular
volume to his words. He wasn't even holding his wand. Nevertheless, Milo blinked
in amazement as his spell fizzled out in front of him.
"How did you " he began, then noticed the large number of wands pointed at him.
"Ah," he said. "I see."
oooo
"Enervate," Milo heard a voice say. In a panic, he rolled to the side and tried
to stumble to his feet.
"Don't you dare," he said, feeling dizzy. The whole Material Plane seemed to be
spinning in a somewhat concerning manner, and everything more than a few feet
away was an indistinct blur. He didn't envy his chances of succeeding the
requisite Concentration check to cast a spell given his current status.
"I was just " the voice said again.
"Enervation, eh?" Milo asked, trying to hide just how dazed he was. "You can
keep your 1d4 negative levels, if you please, and tell me what the Hells is
going on. Or... or else," he finished lamely.
"I think we've got him back," someone else said.
"Blimey, you reckon?" a third voice said sarcastically.
"If 'onety-four' is a number," a female voice said sternly, "then I shall eat my
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hat. I believe the word you were searching for was fourteen."
"Everyone, stop trying to be witty," Milo said, his vision growing somewhat
clearer, "and give me a straight answer."
"You were controlled by the Imperius curse for an unknown duration by an unknown
party," a grandfatherly voice that Milo recognized instantly as Dumbledore's
said. "But were discovered by your good friend Harry Potter who, in a notably
rare act of sensibility for a Gryffindor, immediately did the sensible thing and
told the good Deputy Headmistress. Thirty points for Gryffindor, Harry, by the
way. In, what if I dare say was a characteristic fit of quick thinking, I then
managed to convince you and, more importantly, whomever was controlling you
that I could reveal the identity of your controller with this
fifteen-hundred-year-old magical juicer. You were presumably ordered to attack
us, and Minerva, regrettably, was forced to subdue you."
"Oh," said Milo, as the memory came back to him. The room was starting to
stabilize, but Milo decided he'd be perfectly happy staying on blessedly solid
the floor for a while nonetheless. "Then why did you try to cast Enervation on
me?"
"Enervate, Milo, not Enervation," Dumbledore corrected.
"Demons and Tanar'ri," Milo shrugged. "Same thing."
"While I have lived for quite some time and accumulated no small amount of
knowledge of magic, I do not know of this Enervation spell of which you speak
fittingly, since I presume it is from your world. Enervate, however, is a
harmless, yet rather unfortunately named spell to wake up those rendered asleep
or unconscious by magic."
"Then why did they call it a word that means to suck energy out of something?"
Milo asked curiously.
"Everyone makes mistakes," Dumbledore said with the slightest of shrugs. "I'm
led to believe that some people at the ministry are working on a functionally
identical spell with a more appropriate name. But I digress. I don't suppose
there's any chance that you can identify the culprit?"
"Sorry," Milo said. His vision had cleared to the point where he could clearly
make out Dumbledore, Harry, Ron, and Professor McGongall's faces. "I was in the
hallway near the Mirror when I thought I thought I noticed something, so I cast
a spell that detects minds. It told me there were twelve sentient minds nearby,
although I couldn't see any of them. Before I could find out more, I heard
someone whisper 'Imperio', and then, well, you know the rest. Oh, speaking of,"
he said, unbuttoning the pouch that Mordy was trapped in. "Sorry, little guy,"
he said to his friend. "It's okay, now."
"The minds that the spell detected," Dumbledore pressed. "Are you quite sure
they were sentient? As in, human-level intelligence?"
"Er," Milo said, trying to remember the spell description. "Anything living
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that's as smart or smarter than a newt."
"Could it have simply been the wall portraits?" Dumbledore asked. "I daresay,
the one that guards Ravenclaw tower is a good deal smarter than a newt."
"No," Milo said. "Those are probably Constructs er, magically animated objects
and therefore immune to the spell. So whatever they were, they were
invisible."
"In fact, that is most unlikely," Dumbledore said. "The ability to become truly
invisible, at least in our world, is extremely rare. It is more likely that
these twelve persons or creatures unknown were hidden with, say, a remarkably
good Disillusionment Charm." Oh, Milo thought. So that's why See Invisibility
only worked on the Cloak. Go figure.
"One last question," Milo asked. "Actually, make that two questions."
"Very well," Dumbledore said. "I will answer to within the confines of our
earlier agreement."
"The first: how did you interrupt my spell? I'd assumed our different types of
magic were basically incompatible."
"Oh, it was quite simple, really," Dumbledore admitted. "I simply used magic of
a different sort. I reasoned that, since you once told me that you had worked
and studied for your magic rather than, say, being born into it that it
required a certain degree of mental fortitude and concentration to use, much
like our magic."
"So you just..."
"Over the years, I've acquired something of
undeserved, of course and I've found that
dark wizards, seem to believe me capable of
commanded you to stop, and you, believing I
complied."

a reputation for myself most of it


a certain type of wizard, especially
almost anything. So, I simply
actually had the power to do so,

"What would you have done if that hadn't worked?" Milo asked.
"Ah," Dumbledore said with a slight twinkle in his eye. "In that case, I would
have done nothing."
"Nothing?" Milo asked, shocked. "Then the Hippogriff would have torn you to
pieces."
"I daresay not," Dumbledore said. "Minerva would have Stunned you well before
you finished casting your spell. Now, as to your second question...?"
"Right," Milo said. "What the Hells was that Mirror?"
"Ah, the Mirror of Erised," Dumbledore said. "It shows the heart's deepest, and
sometimes, unfortunately, darkest desire. Nothing more, and nothing less. I
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strongly urge you to put it out of your minds, for men have wasted away
obsessing over it. Needless to say, it shall be moved to a more safe location as
soon as possible."
"Good idea," Milo said, remembering the disturbing images the Mirror had shown
him. "Now, if someone will help me to the hospital wing, I'm going to stay there
until I've made an amulet of Protection From Evil for everyone and their
cousin."

Chapter 22: The Chessmaster

Author's Notes: Thank everyone for the increasingly positive flood of reviews!
Hope you enjoy reading this next chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Also, I'm going to experiment with chapterly-updated character sheets now that I
can copy-paste them. Here's this one (replace the asterisks with periods):
myth-weavers*com/sheetview*php?sheetid=444154
EDIT: Wow, there were about a million embarrassingly obvious typos, grammatical
errors, and repeated sentences in the first version. Sorry, guys! I think I
caught most of them. Yikes.
ooooooo
The remainder of the week was, for Milo, blissfully uneventful. Classes resumed,
and with them the hustle and bustle of several hundred Hogwarts students
returning from their vacation. Pleading illness (and who was qualified to
disagree with him?), Milo, true to his word, sequestered himself in the hospital
wing with Neville (Hannah, after a few days of rest and dozens of different
healing Charms and potions, was deemed fit to return to school) frantically
crafting Amulets of Protection From Evil and researching Kelgore's Fire Bolt.
It was here that Milo ran into a small problem of mathematics: it took two days,
hundreds of Galleons of owl-ordered supplies (Milo found he could affray these
costs somewhat by supplies nicked from Potions), and eighty Experience Points to
make each amulet. Milo really didn't know much about the demographics of this
plane (all he'd seen was a bit of Hogsmeade, Platform Nine and Three-Quarters,
and, of course, Hogwarts) but there were probably several thousand wizards and
witches out there. Even ruling out protecting the entire population and
focussing on those who posed an imminent threat to Milo anyone nearby who
possessed a wand, had a drop of magical blood, could see lightning and hear
thunder the number of Amulets required was insanely unrealistic.
"This is just so backwards," Milo muttered after, upon reaching the end of the
week, completing only his third Amulet of Protection From Evil. The problem was
that an Imperius'd wizard or witch was more of a threat to those around them
than to themselves, so Milo, in order to protect himself, had to equip anyone
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and everyone around him with expensive amulets. The problem, however, was that
Magic Item crafting benefited from no economy of scale whatsoever: if it took
two thousand gold pieces and two days to make one Amulet of Protection From
Evil, it would take two hundred thousand gold pieces and two hundred days to
make a hundred of them. While Harry was rich, Milo doubted he was quite that
rich. At some point, Milo was going to have to start paying him back for the
(rather enormous) loan.
"What's backwards?" a familiar voice said. Milo turned to the door to see
Hermione standing there, a tray of steaming hot soup in her hands.
"Hey!" Milo said. "I was wondering when you'd drop by."
"Sorry," Hermione said apologetically. "I was going to come earlier, but, well,
it's the first week back and I didn't want to get behind I mean, I only had
time over the break to reread A History of Magic, Magical Drafts and Potions,
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, and Magical Theory! I'm dangerously behind
in The Standard Book of Spells and A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration!"
Hermione pulled herself together with visible effort. "But, my responsibility as
a friend outweighs even academic concerns," she said officiously. "Well, at
least, in an emergency. And except in exam period."
"Well, thanks," Milo said. "Just set the soup down on the bedside table."
"So," Hermione said after doing just that, "just how badly were you injured,
anyway? I remember after the Troll you were on your feet in no time, and, well,
you were in pretty bad shape that time, so... I mean, are you all right?"
"Yeah, totally fine," Milo shrugged. "But if Pomfrey asks, I need another day of
complete bed rest to, and make sure you get this right, 'regenerate my
recuperative and restorative healing abilities and realign my ki power pool or
die.'"
"You could die?"
"Nope," Milo said. "I made all that stuff up."
"You're... you're skiving!" Hermione accused, aghast.
"Well, duh. But it's for a good cause which reminds me..." Milo fished out the
three Amulets of Protection From Evil from his magic belt. "Arcane Mark, Arcane
Mark, Arcane Mark, Arcane Mark, Arcane Mark, Arcane Mark," he cast repeatedly,
placing a pair of unique symbols on each amulet for later identification. One
symbol on each amulet was a faintly glowing rune which was, using Milo's magic
anyways, virtually impossible for anyone else to duplicate. The local magic was
largely one giant unknown, however, so Milo also put an invisible version of the
mark on each amulet as a backup one that only Milo could see, and even then,
only when he cast See Invisibility first. If someone out there (*cough* Snape
*cough*) tried to switch the amulets for forgeries, and they somehow managed to
duplicate the decoy mark, they wouldn't even know about the invisible one.
"What was that all about?" Hermione asked.
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"For later identification," Milo said. "I mark all my stuff that way, comes in
handy more than you'd think. Here, put this on," Milo handed her one of the
amulets.
"Er, it's, um, pretty?" Hermione tried, desperately, to sound delighted, but the
fact was that the amulets were little more than small silver discs on a thin,
but sturdy, steel chain.
"Is it?" Milo asked. "Aesthetics were never my strong suit, to be honest.
Appearances aside, that right there's what we in the business call a Magic
Item."
"What's magic about it?" Hermione asked, examining it curiously.
"Makes you immune to the Imperius Curse," Milo said nonchalantly.
"Sorry," Hermione said. "Could you say that again? See, here I thought you said
that this little necklace is supposed to protect you against one of the darkest,
most powerful Curses in existence."
"Yeah," Milo said. "And any other mind-affecting magic, also. Just make sure you
keep it on at all times, and give this other one to Harry. I'll have Ron's done
sometime tomorrow."
Hermione stared at Milo, evidently trying to decide if he was joking or not.
"You're serious, aren't you?" she asked. "I mean, I'd heard from Ron that you
had a spell that did something like that temporarily, but this... This is big,
do you understand? Really big."
"Well, I guess? I mean, it's pretty trivial magic where I'm from."
"Blocking the Imperius Curse is trivial?" Hermione exclaimed. "From what I've
read, during the last war, the other side managed to infiltrate the Ministry at
every level, and we're still not sure who was bewitched and who was a volunteer.
It was utter chaos, and You-Know-Who nearly toppled the entire government that
way. It takes exceptional willpower as in, one person in hundreds or years
of training to resist. How could preventing something like that possibly be
trivial?"
"I figure it's something like Transfiguration. Using Arcane magic my magic,
that is turning a matchstick into a pin requires an extremely powerful spell.
And healing injuries like Pomfrey can do with a wave and a word is nigh
impossible. On the other hand, I can see right through Harry's super-rare and
expensive Invisibility Cloak without much difficulty because, well, for us, mere
Invisibility is an everyday sort of thing. Ironically, it's the inferior
Disillusionment Charm that I can't beat. Which actually reminds me of something,
Hermione, that I was going to ask you," Milo said.
"Oh?"
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"Do you know of any spells that can change someone's heart's desire, if only
temporarily?"
"What does that have to do with the Disillusionment Charm?" Hermione asked,
perplexed.
"Long story. But can it be done?"
"Let's see..." Hermione scratched her chin, deep in thought. "I presume you're
talking about the Mirror? It really depends on what, exactly, 'heart's desire'
means. With a decent Confundus Charm or maybe even after being Obliviated,
which leaves the target in a highly suggestive state you can definitely force
someone to want something. Whether that counts as your new 'heart's desire,'
however, I think is a matter of interpretation."
"Ah," Milo was crushed by disappointment. He'd hoped to trick the Mirror of
Erised into showing him whatever he needed to see, but he was pretty sure that
he'd destroyed his chances of getting a favourable outcome in any 'matter of
interpretation' when he tried to use Spontaneous Divination to mimic a Cleric
spell.
"However," Hermione said, looking thoughtful. "It's possible unlikely, mind,
but possible that a sufficiently powerful Love potion might have the desired
effect."
"A Love potion." Milo said flatly.
"It basically comes down to how, well, fluffy one interprets the meaning of
'heart's desire' to be. Will someone who is madly in love, but drugged by a
potion into loving someone else see their 'one true love,' or the person who is
pressing on their minds at that very moment? The answer to that, I really
couldn't tell you. Seems more up Professor Dumbledore's alley, to be honest.
It's all academic, in any case. Harry said he was going to move the Mirror, I
doubt we'll ever see it again."
"Of course we will!" Milo said. "It's on the List. If it wasn't going to pop up
again later for something important, why would we have seen it after Christmas?
It would have been a complete waste of everyone's time."
"You have a very unusual view of the world," Hermione said, her tone making it
perfectly clear how she felt about that.
"It's never led me astray yet," Milo said defensively.
"Now that is a matter of some debate," she said. "Oh, also, McGonagall told us
that Dumbledore officially pardoned the Gryffindor house for assaulting the
Slytherins in Potions. Apparently we've fallen precipitously behind even
Hufflepuff, not that there's anything wrong with them, in our courses because of
all the detentions."
"Well, that's a relief," Milo said. "I badly need that time for spell research.
There just aren't enough hours in the day."
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"Tell me about it," Hermione said sympathetically. "I don't see how I'm going to
fit all the courses I want onto my schedule in third year," she said. "Which
reminds me I really need to get back to studying."
After she left, Milo returned to work on Ron's Amulet. He'd have to spend most
of the rest of today and tomorrow on it, but Sunday...
...Sunday was saved for Quirrell's Duelling Club.
oooo
"S-s-some of you are p-p-probably wondering w-why the D-D-Defence P-Professor
would start a D-Duelling Club," Quirrell stammered to the assembled students.
Roughly one-third of the entire student body had signed up for his Club, from
first-years to seventh-years, and stood assembled in the Great Hall. "B-because
whatever you c-could learn in this c-club, surely, I c-could teach you in y-your
regular c-c-course?" Milo blinked. He hadn't been wondering that at all; he'd
mostly been wondering how much longer he had to wait before magically
curbstomping some local 'wizards.' "Well, the d-d-difference between D-Defence
Against the D-Dark Arts and D-D-Duelling lies in y-your opponent. C-can anyone
t-tell me what a Red C-Cap, a Werewolf, a Dementor, a D-Doxie, a B-Boggart, and
even a V-V-V-Vampire have in c-common?"
Students shuffled their feet, glancing at one another, trying to determine any
similarity between these extremely disparate creatures.
"What's the answer to this one?" Ron whispered hopefully to Hermione.
"I don't know!" she whispered back, her eyes looking somewhat wild. "It's not in
any of our textbooks, and most of those creatures aren't covered until third
year or higher!"
Somewhere near the front, an NPC raised his hand.
"Yes, C-C-Cedric?" Quirrell asked the boy.
"They're not human," he said simply. "And they all have some sort of weakness to
memorize, or a vulnerability to a particular Charm or Curse."
"C-correct," Quirrell stammered, "and ten p-points for Hufflepuff." There was
some astonished murmuring from the ranks a Hufflepuff (not that there's
anything wrong with them, great people, by the way) answered a question about
Defence and got it right? Who was this boy? "In short," Quirrell continued, "as
l-l-long as you're prepared and r-r-reasonably alert, most m-magical creatures
pose l-little threat to a q-qualified wizard or w-witch. Now, who c-can tell me
how fighting another w-wizard or w-w-witch is different?"
Again, it was Cedric who raised his hand first.
"Because, in theory, a wizard fighting another wizard is a fair fight," the
handsome Hufflepuff explained. "They both have access to the same spells, and
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since every spell Unforgivables aside, of course can be countered in some
fashion, it comes down to the differences between the individual witches or
wizards in question."
"C-correct again," Quirrell said. "A-and another t-ten points for Hufflepuff.
N-now, to the c-c-crux of the m-matter, what is the f-factor that will
d-determine which w-wizard will prevail?"
This time, nearly every student in the hall raised their hand.
"Yes, Mister M-Malfoy?" Quirrell asked Draco, who was standing near the front,
surrounded by a gaggle of Slytherins, as always.
"Blood purity and raw magical power," Draco said simply.
"I-interesting," Quirrell said. "And what s-say you, Miss G-Granger?"
"Practicing the most advanced spells," Hermione answered, "so that they can be
cast reliably and effectively even under stressful circumstances."
"And y-you again, M-Mister D-Diggory?"
"Having friends and allies you can trust," Cedric said. "Something that Dark
Wizards always lack, which is why they are always defeated."
"A t-true H-Hufflepuff answer," Quirrell said. "I'm s-sure H-Helga h-herself
w-would agree w-with you wholeheartedly."
Milo realized that, while Quirrell seemed to be choosing people from the crowd
completely at random, a suspiciously large number of them that is to say, all
of them seemed to be PCs or major NPCs.
"Put Cedric on the List," Milo whispered to Harry. "We'll be seeing more of him,
count on it."
"M-Mister P-P-Potter," Quirrell said, "the only w-wizard here to s-survive an
encounter w-with Y-Y-You-Know-Who. W-what w-would you say is the s-s-secret to
your s-success?"
Harry, almost alone among the Hogwarts students, hadn't raised his hand.
"Um," he said. "Well, I mean, I don't really know. So... I would have to say
luck. A million factors that neither wizard really knows about come into play,
and could result in, well, like you said. Me surviving against You-Know-Who."
"A-and what about you, M-Mister M-Milo of the lengthy last name?" Quirrell
asked. "What determines the victor?" Hmm, Milo thought. Good question. Most
people would say the highest level wizard wins, but that's not always true, now
is it? A high-level Wizard optimized for basketweaving and lute-playing would be
crushed by a properly-optimized lower-level Wizard.
"The wizard who memorizes and casts the most appropriate spells wins," Milo
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said. "Unless, like Harry said, the other one rolls a well-timed twenty. Er,
that is, gets in an exceptionally lucky shot. But you can't count on that."
"Indeed you c-cannot," Quirrell said, "which b-brings me to the m-most important
f-factor in a d-d-duel," he paused dramatically, letting everyone wonder what he
was going to was going to say. "Strategy. As any spell w-with the obvious
exceptions, of c-c-course c-can be c-countered, the d-duel goes t-to whichever
wizard that d-doesn't m-make the f-first mistake. C-Curses, H-Hexes, Charms, and
their c-counters can all be t-taught, learned, and p-p-practised in a
straightforward m-manner which we w-will g-get to, in g-g-good t-time but
g-good strategy, and thinking q-quickly on your f-f-feet cannot be w-without
m-much difficulty. S-so th-that is where we w-will start." Quirrell gave his
wand a complicated little wave and the Great Hall tables rolled into the centre
of the room from their resting places at the edges. "And there is no better way
to develop strategy than with chess." Sitting on the tables were hundreds of
neatly-placed wizard chess sets with a pair of small red tags sitting next to
each. "Everyone g-grab a p-partner and a tag," Quirrell said. "The w-winner of
the m-match t-t-takes the loser's t-tag and challenges s-someone with a l-like
number of t-tags. The l-losers will k-keep playing a-against other l-losers
until they r-realize their m-mistake. W-we w-will continue until w-we find the
b-best strategist, and therefore d-duellist, a-among you."
The Hogwarts students stared up at Quirrell in a stunned silence.
"Chess," Malfoy said flatly. "We're going to play chess. Why are we listening to
this stuttering idiot, anyways? He's afraid of his own shadow."
"H-have you ever entered a n-nest of v-vampires, M-Mister M-M-Malfoy," Quirrell
asked, "and s-survived w-with only a st-st-stutter to show f-for it?"
"Well "
"N-no," Quirrell interrupted. "You h-have not. Y-you will either p-pick a
p-partner, Mister M-Malfoy, or y-you will l-leave and w-w-wonder for the n-next
t-twenty years why you are the w-w-worst d-duellist of your g-generation."
"Why twenty years?" Draco asked despite himself.
"An optimistic estimate of your l-lifespan should you ch-choose to f-forgo these
l-lessons."
Malfoy paled and sat down across from Goyle, clipping a red tag to his lapel.
"This is ridiculous," Milo muttered to Hermione, his chess partner. "Skill Ranks
in Profession (Chessmaster) have no bearing on one's ability to stomp squishy
wizards."
"See, the thing is," Hermione said, "I know what all of those words mean in and
of themselves, but the way you string them together... it's like someone handed
a book of Mad Libs to a Confunded Troll."
"I'm a Confunded Troll, am I?" Milo asked with a slight edge in his voice. "Well
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you're blind to the story unfolding before your very eyes."
"Blind?" Hermione asked, a dangerous glint entering her eyes. "No, you're just
convinced this is some storybook fairytale land where everything happens for a
reason. And not a good reason, mind, but a stupid, trite, clichd reason."
"Not a story," Milo said, placing his pieces on the board, "an adventure.
Completely different school of magic."
"Real life does not have adventures!" Hermione said, her voice growing louder.
"It has rules, responsible adults, homework, and grades!"
"I think we've more or less exhausted the possibilities of this conversation,"
Milo said coolly. "Roll for Initiative, bookworm."
Hermione, playing white, naturally won Initiative. She sent one of her Commoners
forwards, breaking their naturally defensive spear-wall and leaving her
Aristocrats vulnerable to a cavalry charge from Milo's flanking Knights.
"My left and right Clerics cast Wall of Stone and Flame Strike, respectively,"
Milo declared, "while the Commoners garrison these towers and ready an action to
provide covering fire should any white soldiers enter range of their crossbows.
The Knights run up to this position," he placed the two horses near Hermione's
Clerics to Attack of Opportunity them should they try to cast anything, "and my
Aristocrats take a full defence action."
"Er," Hermione said. "You can only move one piece on your turn."
"Oh, we're tracking individual Initiatives? Okay. In that case, Flame Strike.
Let's see some Reflex Saves, now, shall we?"
"Why me?" Hermione asked the air dramatically. "Why? What did I ever do to
deserve this? You know what? Here. Just take my tag, I forfeit. It's just not
worth it. I'll go play with Neville in the corner." Hermione stalked off as Milo
clipped Hermione's tag to his robes under his own.
"One down," he smirked. "Four hundred to go."
"Blimey," said one of Milo's Clerics. "I don't think you quite understand how
this works, do you?"
"Holy Crap! You can talk?"
oooo
It didn't take long for Ron to win a small hoard of victory tags (crushing Milo
mercilessly in the process), leaving him with only one opponent in his level:
Cedric Diggory, the Uber-Hufflepuff.
The hundreds of defeated students gathered around, causing such a disturbance
that Milo conjured up a massive illusory chess set in the air that mimicked
Ron's and Cedric's moves. The game progressed largely in silence, save for the
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occasional "check" from either player, as the two masters stared at the board in
deep concentration.
The game had already lasted longer than the rest of the tournament put together,
with the two of them sometimes taking up to fifteen minutes to make a single
move. It was Cedric's turn, and, after what seemed like years of careful
consideration, he moved his remaining bishop forwards.
"Check," he said, finally.
Ron moved like lightening, slamming his rook into place.
"Check mate, mate," Ron exclaimed exuberantly.
"Ah, shame," Cedric said, but it was with a smile that he passed over his
original tag. "Good game though, eh?"
"Best I've ever played," Ron said sincerely.
"And th-th-there you have it," Quirrell stammered to the crowd. "The most
b-b-brilliant master st-strategist, and, I'm s-sure, a-accomplished
d-d-duellist, of the st-student b-b-body is none other than M-M-Mister
R-R-Ronald Weasley."
"Weasley?" Malfoy scoffed. "Brilliant? Hufflepuff will win the House Cup before
Weasley learns to tie his shoes properly."
"C-c-class dismissed," Quirrell said with a wave. "W-W-Weasley, can I t-t-talk
to you f-for a m-moment?"
"Uh," Ron said, looking somewhat panicked. "Sure, I guess."
"N-n-next time," Quirrell said to everyone, "w-we're learning E-Expelliarmus."
oooo
Milo followed Harry and Hermione back to the Common Room, where he sat in the
corner working on Hannah's Amulet. I need to find a faster way of making these,
he thought impatiently, etching a minute arcane rune onto a Sickle destined for
melting into the final medallion.
"Well," Harry said, putting aside his History of Magic textbook, "that was sort
of unexpected, don't you think?"
"What, Quirrell's club?" Hermione asked.
"Yeah," Harry said. "That man's off his rocker, I swear. Still... if it helps me
learn to fight, well, I suppose it'll be worth it."
"I agree," Milo said. "Whatever happened to him over the summer's definitely
unhinged him. And this 'chess' is hardly an adequate simulation of realistic
battlefield conditions I mean, why in the Hells can the heavy cavalry only
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move in right angles? It makes no sense!"
"You're just sore because the rules can't be gamed," Hermione smirked. "Which,
incidentally, is why it's so popular. You have to use actual strategy and
tactics."
"Strategy is gaming the rules," Milo responded. "It's analyzing the situation
and seizing any and every possible advantage, even if it's completely ridiculous
on the surface. Why, I once met this Half-Ogre who managed to defeat an entire
Legion of the Tharllian Empire's best troops with a Spiked Chain because "
"I'm sorry," Hermione said, looking sick. "Did you say Half-Ogre?"
Before Milo could answer, Ron entered the Common Room through the portal with a
chess set in his hands.
"Oi!" Harry said. "What did Quirrell want?"
"To play chess," Ron answered happily. "Weird, eh? He said he wants to test his
skills against a worthy opponent, so every other day I make a move against him
and every other other day he makes one against me. He gave me this chess set,"
Ron held up his new set, "which is linked to the one in his office. If I make a
move here, he sees it there, and vice-versa. Cool, eh?"
"Why so slow?" Hermione asked. "If he wanted to test your duelling aptitude,
shouldn't you be playing speed chess?"
"Or using actual magic?" Milo added.
"He said that this way, I'll have as much time as I need to think out my move
and make sure I make the right one," Ron shrugged. "He says it's more
interesting that way. He implied that he hadn't had a decent sparring partner in
years."
"Seems a bit late in the plot for him to suddenly develop such a major character
trait as 'chess grand-master,'" Milo mused. "I wonder what he's up to?"
Hermione glanced at Ron and rotated her finger slowly around her ear in the
universally-accepted sign for 'crazy.'
"Maybe he just really likes chess?" Harry suggested. "I mean, it's not like we
would have had a chance to see it in action before, right?"
"I suppose... but, even so. Harry: add 'chess' to the List, and Ron: win that
game against Quirrell."
"Why?" Ron asked. "Well, I mean, I was planning to anyway, but why is it
important?"
"I don't know exactly," Milo said. "I just have a gut feeling that something
important is riding on that match," he said, "and, as a rule of thumb, winning
always leads to the more desirable outcome and with it, the best swag."
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"Okay, well, I'll do my best," Ron said.
"And I'd best get to Quidditch practice," Harry said, rising from his armchair.
"We're playing Hufflepuff on Saturday, and Wood's gone into mad slavemaster mode
again."
"This was nice," Hermione said, relaxing in her chair.
"What was?" Milo asked.
"A whole weekend went by and nobody was hospitalized," she said.
"Except Neville, of course," Milo said.
"Right, except Neville. Sad business, that. I had no idea a bishop could do that
to a person. Still, be nice if every weekend was like this, but, I suppose
that'd just be wishful thinking."
Despite Hermione's complacent attitude, Milo still felt something was wrong.
This whole Duelling Club business smelled somewhat off to him, and he still
didn't know who the Dark Wizard who Imperius'd him and Hannah was, or what he
wanted. Was it Snape, trying to kill Milo to remove an obstacle between him and
the Stone? Or Lucius, stepping out from the shadows and getting his hands dirty
personally? And why had Milo been Imperius'd in the hallways whoever had done
it didn't seem to get much out of it. The whole attack seemed, in hindsight,
remarkably poorly-planned... it was almost like they didn't want to succeed
or, alternatively, their goals were so obscure that Milo simply couldn't figure
them out.
Unless...
Milo frowned. Once he'd been possessed, it didn't seem like his controller knew
quite what to do with him. His orders had been vague and, seemingly, without
purpose. Had it been one of the servants of the Dark Lord, surely, he'd be
ordered to kill Harry or steal the Stone? If it was Lucius or Snape for that
matter you'd think he'd be ordered to do something incriminating and be
expelled (or, failing that, simply walk out of the school grounds to be
captured). And what of those other eleven minds he'd detected?
On the whole, if that were some sort of strike against Milo or his allies, it
had been a rather clumsy attempt. The more Milo thought about it, the more he
was certain that he was looking at things backwards.
Suddenly, Milo felt as if a Wight had an icy hand around his heart.
"Hermione," Milo said slowly. "What were the methods you suggested for changing
someone's heart's desire?"
"Are you still on that?" she asked, racking her memory. "Love potions, the
Confundus Charm, or a Memory Charm. Why?"
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"What, exactly, is a Memory Charm?" Milo asked, but he was sure he knew the
answer already. Back on Hallowe'en, when Milo touched the Remembrall...
"It's an advanced spell that wipes someone's memory of a duration of time," she
explained. "A skilled user can replace them with false memories altogether. I
wouldn't worry about it, though," she said reassuringly.
"Why not?" Milo asked, feeling somewhat mollified.
"We don't have to learn them until Seventh Year," she said happily.
Milo cursed sulfurously and nearly ran for the exit.
"Wait!" Hermione called. "Where are you going?"
"To see Neville," Milo said.

Chapter 23: The Duelling Club

Today's character sheet: myth-weavers com/sheetview php?sheetid=447028 (Replace


the spaces with periods)
(Extra Long) Author's Notes (feel free to skip them, there's nothing
particularly important): This weekend, I decided that now might be a good time
to go back and reread some of my earlier chapters and make sure I didn't have
any plot threads I'd left hanging. While I was at it, I thought, I could make
improvements to the start of the story using what I'd writing the rest of it.
This proved to be a colossal mistake. A number of wiser and better writers than
me tell me that it is universal among writers to be embarrassed by anything
they've ever written, but I never really believed it until now. The first
chapter of this story is terrible. It is shamefully bad. I can't imagine how any
of you managed to stand it (but I'm glad you did).
I got three pages in and closed the lid of my laptop by reflex as a defence
mechanism to get the horror away. That said, I managed to change a sentence in
which I used Milo's name twice (pronouns FTW) and posted the edit, so that's
something.
/Horrified Rant.
On a completely different topic, I've had a large number of reviews and messages
asking me similar questions, so I think I'll make an official sort of FAQ
statement now:
Q: Does D&D (the tabletop game) exist in the world of Harry Potter and the
Natural 20?
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A: No, it does not, and neither do its descendent spin-off RPGs. In any case,
the story is set in the early nineties, and 3e wasn't released until 2000.
Q: Will [insert HP character here] gain D&D class levels or powers? (Or,
alternatively, will Milo gain HP wizard magic?)
A: No. Milo and [insert HP character] are an entirely different kind of human
that follow an entirely different set of laws of the universe. Milo is closer to
a Muggle or Squib than a wizard, and HP-world characters do not gain experience
points.
Q: Why doesn't Milo invent a spell (or feat) that does X?
A: I'm avoiding having Milo invent new spells (or feats, PrCs, etc.) altogether
(that is, spells not present in any of the D&D core or splatbooks) because
homebrew material involves a lot of DM discretion which to a certain extent
negates the point (and fun) of min-maxing. Imagine Milo's world is run by a
hardline Rules-As-Written DM who gets wrathful when anyone tries to push
anything too far.
Q: Have you ever heard of/will you update to Pathfinder or 4e?
A: Pathfinder is a fantastic improvement of the 3.5 rules that I highly
recommend to anyone and everyone; I'm not a fan of 4th edition for a number of
reasons, but lots of people like it so I suppose it can't be all bad. That said,
I'm staying strictly within the 3.5 rules because a) they're what I'm most
familiar with, b) I'd feel bad about poking fun at a smaller company like Paizo
(WOTC is fair game, though), and c) I feel that updating the rules partway
through would detract from the story, screw with any readers that aren't major
D&D fans, and necessitate a lot of jokes and fun-poking at the differences
between 3.5 and 4 or 3.5 and Pathfinder, and generally detract from the jokes
and fun-poking at the differences between Harry Potter and D&D3.5.
Q: Will you do the whole series?
A: That's the plan.
Q: What splatbook is Myra (City of Light! City of Magic!) and the Azel Empire
from?
A: None of them. The names are pulled from campaigns I've DM'd over the years,
but are otherwise completely original (or rather, completely unoriginal, seeing
as how the Azel Empire is a deliberate cariciture of most campaign settings).
The "City of Light! City of Magic!" line is a reference to The Elder Scrolls:
Morrowind, in which the Mournhold city guards spout the line endlessly.
Q: Is Milo (at least, at the start of the fic) an example of how you play D&D?
A: Only when I hate the DM.
ooooooo
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"I think it's about time we had a little chat," Milo said, closing the office
door behind him. "About what really happened in the Forbidden Forest in
September."
Quirrell slid his office chair backwards slightly, covering the motion of his
hand as he covertly drew his wand.
"W-what about it?" he asked, his voice kept carefully neutral.
"There were always a few facts about that night that never quite added up to
me," Milo said, ignoring the Professor. "For example how did I get poisoned?
The Acromantula never had a chance. How did the Acromantula die? The log I
dropped on it wasn't nearly enough to do the deed."
"It l-looked quite heavy t-to m-m-me," Quirrell stammered.
"It should have shrugged the log off and eaten me on the spot," Milo told him.
"And it's body had no signs of prior injury, so it isn't like the log was enough
to push it over the edge into negative hit points. No, something else killed
that Acromantula. Something that kills its target without leaving a trace."
Quirrell tightened the grip on his wand beneath the desk.
"I-I don't "
"Oh, I think you do," Milo said. "There's only one spell that could do that,
and, Hells, you used it against Fluffy. You're a hero for it, after all. The
Killing Curse."
"W-what "
"But the Curse is hardly stealthy, it has a signature bright green flash. The
spider was right in front of me and it was pitch dark there's no possible way
I could have missed it."
"Y-you m-must have," Quirrell said. "Or r-rather, the Acromantula d-died s-some
other "
"No," Milo cut him off. "Don't you see? I saw the spider killed. A wizard did it
right before my very eyes. He just walked right up, killed the Acromantula, and
left. He cut off one of the spider's fangs Acromantula venom is potent even
after death, after all and stabbed me in the stomach with it. I saw
everything."
"Then w-why d-d-didn't you s-say so earlier?"
Milo reached into his robes, and Quirrell, surprised, nearly killed him on the
spot. It was only the knowledge that Milo had no need of a wand to use magic
that stayed his hands.
Of all things, it was a Remembrall that Milo withdrew from his pocket.
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A Remembrall which shone like the sun.
"I was Memory Charmed."
"Th-that's hardly proof," Quirrell pointed out. "P-perhaps you s-simply
f-f-forgot to b-brush your t-t-teeth l-last night?"
"I, like any self-respecting Arcanist, use Prestidigitation, which is quite
beside the point. I can prove to you that it was no inconsequential memory that
I've forgotten," Milo said calmly. "Describe the Remembrall for me, Professor."
"I d-d-don't understand," Quirrell said.
"It's quite simple. Just... a quick description of this ball will suffice."
Quirrell shrugged. What's this boy's game?
"It's a t-tennis b-ball s-s-sized c-clear g-g-glass ball f-full of smoke,"
Quirell said. "I-it t-turns red when the h-h-holder f-forgets something and
c-clear when it is r-r-remembered."
"That's an awful lot of adjectives, Professor," Milo said with a slight grin.
"At least four."
"S-so what?"
"And it first turned up months ago in a seemingly inconsequential manner
something unimportant about Harry joining the Quidditch team and again on
Hallowe'en, when it broke. Fortunately, one of Neville's supporting characters
sent him a replacement. That makes this the third time it's turned up,
Professor."
"This m-matters how?"
"Rule of Three. This here, judging by the amount of attention it's gathered, is
a very significant plot device. Why, it'd simply be a waste of time if it didn't
turn out to be important."
"That's your proof?"
"I've seen men hanged for less in Myra City of Light, City of Magic!"
"Even a-assuming this is t-t-true," Quirrell said, watching the boy closely,
"w-who would d-do such a thing?"
"I think we both know the answer to that question, Professor."
Quirrell tensed, ready to strike.
"It was, of course," Milo said, leaning forwards slightly, "none other than
Professor Snape."
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"S-Snape?" Quirrell asked. "H-how d-do you know?"
"Honestly, who else would it be?" Milo asked. "You can't shake a staff in this
castle without finding an evil plot Snape's behind. I'm starting to think he's
only still a teacher because of how dull things would be without him."
"W-why wouldn't he j-just l-let the A-Acromantula k-kill you?" Quirrell asked.
"That's the bit I can't figure out," Milo admitted. "But I'm sure he'll be good
enough to explain it in his villain monologue at the end."
"W-why are you t-telling me this?"
"Oh, simple. Snape can pull memories from my head, so I figure I should
disseminate important information to trustworthy NPCs as a sort of backup.
Also, and I hate to say this, I'm starting to think I'll need all the help I can
get. This situation is becoming... complicated, for a number of reasons. Gods,
what I wouldn't give for a straightforward sidequest or monster hunt. In any
event, I don't suppose you know of any way to cure Memory Charms?"
"S-sorry," Quirrell apologised. "I-I'm afraid they're g-generally q-quite
permanent."
"Hells," Milo cursed. "And Protection From Evil won't do a thing against them,
either, based on Hermione's description, which means I'll need to think of
something clever. Well, I suppose it can't be used on me as long as I've got
my..." Milo trailed off for a second. "That's it!" he exclaimed, and headed back
for the door.
"W-wait!" Quirrell called, but Milo, frustratingly, seemed suddenly oblivious to
his existence.
oooo
"It was like an Attack of Opportunity," Milo explained to his party (and
Hannah). "His plan wasn't to Imperius me to further his elaborate scheme; he
Imperius'd me because I was there."
"Why?" Harry asked. Milo was standing in front of them in the Gryffindor Common
Room, a revised version of The Plot hovering in the air, shimmering slightly.
"To prevent me from finding out what he was up to with his eleven Disillusioned
friends," Milo answered. "He didn't know or care about the Mirror. He just
wanted me gone before I figured out what he was up to. It worked, too."
"So why not simply Stun you?" Hermione asked.
"Or even better, just finish you off for good?" Ron added.
"Or, even better, Memory Charm you like you said he did after the
Acromantula."
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"I can't say for sure," Milo said, "but I think it's because he was hoping
nobody would notice. A perfect crime, so to speak. Snape doesn't seem to be
skilled enough at Memory Charms to replace the target's memories with false ones
at least, I hope he isn't, or we're all screwed so I'd wake up wondering
where the last several minutes went. Something which Mordy here would be all too
happy to fill me in on. As for why he didn't kill me... well, he doesn't seem to
want me dead anymore, for some reason except when he does. He's very
inconsistent, in fact."
"What do you mean?" Hannah asked.
"Well," Milo explained, "one day he wants me expelled and the next he's
possessing you to kill me."
"Sorry about that," Hannah said quietly.
"It wasn't your fault," Milo said. "Just keep your amulet on, and you'll be
fine." Milo had decided on impulse to give Hannah the Amulet of Protection From
Evil that he'd reserved for himself, meaning he'd have to wait another two days
for his. He still wasn't quite sure why he'd done it.
"I'm starting to wonder if something more complicated isn't going on," Milo
said.
"Even more complicated than that?" Ron groaned, pointing at The Plot.
"Snape's erratic attempts just aren't lining up anymore. If he really wanted me
resting in Boccob's uncaring embrace, why did Hannah open up with Stunners?"
"I thought you said she used Unforgivables," Hermione said.
"She switched when I ducked for cover," Milo explained. "Unless there's some
rule or class feature I'm unaware of, Hannah's strategy made no sense."
"Hey," Hannah said.
"Sorry, I mean, Snape's strategy made no sense."
"Well," Hermione mused, "maybe he doesn't want you dead at all?"
"Then why did Hannah use Killing Curses at all?" Milo asked. "It's completely
nonsensical."
"Then one of your assumptions is wrong," Hermione said bluntly. "Personally, I
don't think it's Snape at all."
"But we know it's him," Milo protested. "He was out meeting Lucius in the forest
and everything. Use your eyes, Hermione! He's so obviously villainous."
"And yet," Hermione said coolly, "Dumbledore the brightest mind of his
generation and the most powerful wizard alive lets him teach here regardless.
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What do we know about Snape?"
"That he's a smarmy git?" Ron suggested helpfully.
"And that he's allergic to shampoo?" Harry added.
"No," Hermione said firmly. "We know that he met Lucius in the forest and Lucius
ordered him to have you expelled, Milo. Expelled. Not murdered."
"Well, maybe he's upped the ante since then "
"See, I don't think he has. Assuming he was behind the attack on Harry in the
Quidditch match, and the test to show you can't make potions, that's two
completely non-lethal attempts to expel you."
"Then why would he release a Troll on Hallowe'en, stab me with an Acromantula
fang, possess Hannah to kill me, and have the Drow in the kitchen poison my
treacle tart?" Milo asked.
"Why indeed?" Hermione smiled. "What if he didn't do any of those things?"
"What," Milo scoffed, "are you suggesting the treacle tart poisoned itself on
its own accord?"
"No," Hermione continued, "I'm suggesting there's another agent at play here.
Could you adjust the display for a moment? Place Snape and Mister Malfoy off to
the side with the various attempts to expel you, and Draco to a different side
with his fumbled Quidditch plots."
"If it makes you happy," Milo said, adjusting his illusion. "But that leaves a
big hole here, though, with the various assassination attempts."
"Indeed it does," agreed Hermione.
"So... who fills the gap?" Ron asked.
"That's the question we should be asking."
"You aren't seriously suggesting that there's three entirely separate camps of
villains working against us?" Milo asked. "That'd just be a huge mess. They'd
spend half their time tripping over themselves."
"Why shouldn't there be?" Hermione asked. "Sometimes, real life is just a huge
mess."
"Otiluke's Razor suggests otherwise," Milo countered.
Hermione paused.
"Don't you mean Occam's Razor?" she asked tentatively. "'The simplest solution
is usually the best one?'"
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"Psht! What nonsense is that?" Milo said dismissively. "No, it's, 'the most
dramatically appropriate solution is usually the best one.' In this case, it's
clearly that You-Know-Who is pulling all the strings behind the scenes." Milo
rearranged The Plot to demonstrate, "Except that there's some unknown factor
thrown in there as well probably a betrayal by someone close to us, I'm
thinking Neville which will only be revealed by the villain's final rant. And,
as the time-tested Tenser's Theorem states, 'any attempt to discover a shocking
twist before the end of an adventure will be doomed to failure, so focus on the
job in front of you.' Ergo: defeating 'Puffs in Quidditch."
"I ... don't follow," Hermione admitted.
"Remember when Harry stomped the Slytherins?" Milo asked. "It was a big deal.
The Daily Prophet had a field day about... well, about something to do with
broomsticks, anyways."
"That both the Nimbus and the prototype Firebolts seemed to suffer from a
similar flaw and went haywire," Ron said. "And that the Boy-Who-Lived is quote,
unquote 'in addition to being top student in his year, also the best Seeker
Hogwarts has seen in many a year '"
"But I'm not the " Harry protested.
"Hold up, I haven't even got to the part where it talks about how supremely
handsome you are," Ron snickered. "Malfoy wasn't mentioned at all, by the way."
"You see?" Milo said. "There's obviously some kind of subplot or sidequest
involving Quidditch. I can only assume that we'll get bonus XP or Magic Items if
we win the Cup. So: we'll win."
"But that match against Slytherin was hardly fair," Harry said. "There were
plots within bloody plots. I've only been in one real game, what if Hufflepuff
wins?"
"Well," Milo said conspiratorially, "I think I can help you a bit, there..."
oooo
"Mount your brooms, please," Milo heard Madam Hooch say from his seat up in the
stands. The Hufflepuffs had arrived with banners bearing a variety of fairly
unoriginal slogans (and occasional trash-talk, but Milo suspected that was from
the Slytherins, who, strangely, had come out to the witch and wizard to root on
the Hufflepuffs) to which Milo had responded with a Silent Image of a fifty-foot
tall Crimson-and-Gold Gryffindor lion devouring a Hufflepuff badger. When he
added Ghost Sound (which accurately mimicked, in both pitch and volume, the roar
of an enraged Dire Tiger, amplified by the voices of the actual students of
House Gryffindor and more than a few Ravenclaws), McGonagall awarded him five
points for amazing spellwork and then banned all form of banner, magical or
otherwise, from the rest of the match.
When Hooch gave a loud blast of her whistle, the signal to start the game, the
players blasted off into the air but Harry was much, much faster than the
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rest. This was due to a combination of two factors: Harry's vastly superior
Nimbus broomstick, and the fact that he was currently under the effects of
Levitate, making him effectively weightless.
"Locate Object Golden Snitch," Milo muttered under his breath. "Message:
Harry, it's thirty-three degrees to my right and eighteen degrees upwards." Milo
had carefully chosen the seat closest to dead-centre in the auditorium that he
could manage, which put him (unfortunately) almost directly next to Snape.
As Milo continued to mutter instructions under his breath, he noticed something
surprising. Quirrell, sitting nearby, had one eyebrow cocked quizzically.
Probably thinks I'm praying or something, Milo thought. He can't know what I'm
up to, though, can he? Idly, Milo wondered if there was a rule against him
pointing the Snitch out to Harry. In any case, what could they do? Milo thought,
it's not like you can award a penalty against the audience.
The Hufflepuffs, to be fair, did fairly well for themselves they managed to
seize possession of the Quaffle early on, and the three Chasers, passing the
ball between themselves rapidly, were quickly boring down on Wood, defending the
goals not that it helped them much, in the end. Roughly forty seconds
(forty-two to be precise, or exactly seven rounds) after the start of the match,
Lee Jordan's magically amplified voice rang out over the pitch.
"POTTER HAS THE SNITCH! POTTER HAS THE SNITCH! HA HA, TAKE THAT YOU DUMB, DIRTY,
HUFFLEPUFF B"
"JORDAN!" McGonagall shouted sharply.
"Broomstick flyers, Professor. I was going to say broomstick flyers honest."
The score was 150-0. The Hufflepuffs were too stunned to process their defeat,
much less respond, while close to one-third of the audience erupted into
thunderous applause.
"Blimey," said Fred, who sat nearby.
"We're going to need to raid Honeydukes again," said George.
It was, as Lee pointed out happily, the second shortest Quidditch match in
Hogwarts History (the shortest, in 1412, ended before the whistle was finished
blowing; the Snitch had flown directly down a Hufflepuff Chaser's throat. The
Hufflepuff died, tragically, but there was much rejoicing nonetheless it had
been Hufflepuff's first win in over three centuries.)
oooo
"N-now that y-you know the b-b-basics of D-Disarming," Quirrell stammered to the
Duelling Club that Sunday (which had shrunk somewhat since their first,
chess-oriented meeting), "p-p-please p-p-pick a p-partner and p-practice."
They'd spent all morning learning Expelliarmus or, rather, everyo