As Second year winds down, work on the project continues, Harry and Neville make plans for the summer and other stuff happens
Harry Potter and The Invincible TechnoMage
Chapter Sixteen - Year Two Spring Term
"Moonie!" Sirius called as he entered the cottage the pair shared when Lupin wasn't at Hogwarts. Remus should be at the school, but he sometimes stopped by in the evenings for a quiet place to grade his papers.
Or perhaps not quite so quiet an evening, Sirius thought as he noticed the empty wine bottle on the table by the sofa and what appeared to be almost enough discarded clothing for two people of opposing genders.
In a smooth movement he scooped a almost microscopic bit of blood red silk from the floor. A thong? The Dog animagus took a deep whiff of the bit of cloth... hmm. No one he knew.
"Padfoot? What are you doing back?" the obviously flustered bare-chested werewolf asked emerging from his bedroom.
"I live here," Sirius pointed out dryly. "In fact I own the place."
"Look Sirius, I..." Lupin began.
"Remus!" a female voice called from the Professor's room, "What are you doing? My feet are cold, get back in here."
"Just a second Aurora," the werewolf said, a blush spreading across his upper torso.
A grin spread across Black's face. "Aurora? Aurora Sinestra?" He asked trying to push past his friend for a peek in the door. "You lucky bastard. She would never give me the time of day. What are her boobies like?"
"Sirius!" Remus responded, pushing Sirius away from access to his lady friend. "I swear to Merlin himself, if you queer this for me..."
"I'd never do that to you Remus... Just one peek."
"Sirius Black, if you as much as think about coming in this room," The Astronomy Professor called out, "I will finish what I started in '74."
Sirius paled. When Aurora was a 7th year Slytherin and Sirius a 5th year Gryffie he had made an ill thought out pass at the older woman, emphasized by his traditional slapping of her ass. Her cutting curse had almost had him joining the school choir as a castrato for something to pass the time in the evenings.
"Wouldn't think of it Aurora!" Sirius lied, convincingly he hoped.
"You had best not." Sinestra said imperiously. "Remus, get your mangy ass back in here and finish what you started."
"I'd best be getting back..." Remus said with a grin while gathering the clothing in the room with a quiet 'Accio!' "Try not to be scratching at the door Padfoot... Oh by the way, her breasts are amazing."
As the door closed Sirius looked to the bit of red silk lace in his hand and tried to think of a way to turn the situation to his advantage. Then he got distracted by the thought of the boobies he wasn't getting to pay homage to, and became very sad.
Sirius lay in his bed staring at the ceiling. They had been at it for three solid hours.
Damn Remus anyway. Didn't he know that he wasn't supposed to be the one to bring home a woman for long sessions of noisy sex? That was Sirius' job. Hell, Sirius had been the one who started the whole tradition of not using privacy charms during encounters...
It was not as funny, Sirius reflected, on this side of the door. Trust Remus to be the one to ruin that joke.
Oh, revenge would be his, Sirius vowed. And it would be sweet.
Padma sat quietly in the classroom set aside for the use of their project team, a series of lights blinking in front of her.
She had had found the flaw in Harry's proof of concept device. The lights in front of her were confirmation of the error. This was the seventh time she had checked her original results, and each time the output was the same.
How could she tell her friend? How could she tell the rest of the team?
Her discovery called into question the viability of the entire project.
Hermione entered the room. "I found him," she said taking her seat across from Padma and looking at the etched sand stone forms. "He was in Greenhouse 2 with Neville going over something he didn't understand from yesterday's lesson. He'll be here in a few minutes."
Padma sighed and nodded.
"How bad is it?" Hermione asked while gesturing at the two runic forms between them. "Did you discover something?"
"Hey," Harry called as he opened the door. "What's up?"
"It's the project Harry, I think I've found a problem."
Harry's smile disappeared. "Well, that's not good. What's wrong."
"There was something about your counter that bothered me, I mean after I did some reading on logic circuits, when ever I watched your counter do it's work something was just... wrong."
"I'm not sure I see what you are getting at Padma, it counts just fine. I watched it through all 8 digits a dozen times, at least. It took forever"
"I know, I couldn't figure out what was bothering me, but something was." Padma brushed a few errant hairs from her eyes. "I decided that your counter was too complex for me to figure out the way it was so I made this." she indicated the smaller sheet of sandstone.
Harry peered at the symbols on the form. "An exclusive OR and an AND, you've made a single digit half adder?"
"Yes. Now watch." With graceful fingers Padma set the A input to 'On' and the B input to 'Off', and then touched her wand to the charge point.
After a short pause Harry smiled as the light came on, but suddenly his smile faded, and he sat down with a thump.
"Language Harry!" Hermione said.
Padma nodded sadly. "You've spotted the problem then?"
"What?" Hermione demanded. "What's the problem? You added 1 and 0 and got 1, I don't understand what the two of you are seeing."
"The time Hermione," Harry said shaking his head. "A half adder is just about the simplest logic construct there is an it took half a second to add 1 and 0."
"The Actual time is about a fifth of a second, but yes. the transit through two logic gates is a fifth of a second." Padma corrected.
"So? A fifth of a second seems awfully fast to me." Hermione protested.
"A fifth of a second through two gates Hermione," Padma corrected again.
"A computer would be using hundreds of thousands of gates for the simplest operations."
"Oh. OH!" Hermione exclaimed as realization dawned on her. "The Project... We're going to fail."
"And it's my fault." Harry said
The beam of energy impacted on the glowing blue sphere causing the color to darken just the slightest bit.
"Damn it!" Tony Stark spat, "less than 2 percent drop in the shield value."
"You'll never make it heroes!" the madman responsible for the shielded bomb laughed. "I've analyzed all your weapons Ironfool. You'll never defeat my shield technology before my bomb vaporizes New York."
"Oh, shut up," the Captain suggested as he slammed his red, white, and blue shield into the madman's face, dropping him to his knees insensible. "Ok people," Rogers continued, now addressing the assembled Avengers, "We've got seven minutes to defuse this damned thing. Ironman, what are our options?"
"He's right," Tony said, scanning the shield diagnostic on his Heads Up Display, "I won't be able to counter the shield in time." Two arrows impacted the shield sphere arcing blue lightning as they did so. "Your shock arrows aren't going to do it either Hawkeye."
"Had to try," Clint Barton said with a shrug. "Anyone else got any ideas? We're running out of time and I hate harp music."
"There are no Harps in Fólkvangr, nor in Valhalla Hawkeye. Nay, there waits the rewards due warriors true. But thou needst not concern thyself with thy eternal rewards, the Valkyries will not be traveling for us this day!" the Odinson said quietly at the armored Avenger's side. "Friend Ironman, methinks thou dost ignore the obvious solution in thy devotion to mortal man's tools." With a wide smile the Thunder god hefted his enchanted battle mallet. "Mjolnir is not so easily countered" With all his strength Thor struck the glowing shield with a mighty blow.
Inside his armor Tony barely managed to get his sound dampeners on line before the impact of the mystical hammer on the force field, the rest of the Avengers were buffeted by the shock wave of the impact. Tony was marginally surprised when the shield held, despite dropping its integrity by 23 percent. An incoming message indicator started blinking for his attention.
He cursed himself for not getting around to upgrading his messaging system to use caller ID, still very very few people had this number, and a good number of them were standing around him.
"This better be important," he barked as he opened the connection and shut down his external speakers with a cybernetically enhanced thought.
"Dad?" Harry's voice came over the circuit. "Dad, I screwed up."
"Harry? Are you alright son? Are you hurt?" a myriad of horrible scenarios played out in Tony's mind, all of them resulting in Harry using his last breath to call and say good bye.
"It's my computer project Dad. I made some really stupid assumptions and when Padma did her testing she..."
There was another unholy shock wave that overwhelmed the armor's sound dampeners. After the tremendous noise there was silence on line for a moment, then Harry spoke again. "What the heck was that?"
"Thor is attempting to break down a force field with his hammer," Tony explained before turning his external speakers on again. "You're doing it Thor, one more should break it down completely." Silencing his connection to the Avengers Tony continued. "Harry, part of any project is discovering that your first assumptions were wrong, because they almost always are. You only have a few options, one is to change your assumptions, a second is to fix what ever went wrong to invalidate your assumption, a third is to cut your losses and move on. Talk to your team, brainstorm with them about what you need to do."
"I'm sorry Dad, I didn't know you were working. I'll let you go, thanks for the advice."
"Be safe Harry." Tony said as Thor shattered the shielding protecting the bomb.
"I've got this one," Hank Pym said as he shrunk down to his Yellowjacket mode. "It's so much easier to disarm a bomb from the inside."
Harry took his customary seat at the table for the nightly study session. Over the last few weeks something of a detente had been established in the Great Hall for these sessions and the music of the night was selected by the drawing of lots. Tonight was a Head Banger night, and Iron Maiden's Fear of the Dark started pounding out of one of the boom boxes at the far end of the Hall. A surprising number of the upper class Slytherins had become huge fans of Heavy Metal, some going as far as approaching younger students with links to the Muggle world about obtaining new music.
A third year Gryffindor had gotten his older nonmagical brother to join the Britannia Music Club and the pair were making money hand over fist supplying music CDs to purebloods.
"Do they have to play that horrible stuff?" Hermione huffed as she sat down across from Harry with Padma taking her seat to his left. Hermione had made her preference of Classical music nights very well known.
"I agree," Luna Lovegood said as she took her seat next to Padma while Melody Spinnet sat next to Hermione. "Iron Maiden is so derivative. Give me a good Lynyrd Skynyrd album any day." She paused as her large grey eyes seemed to fill with unshed tears and then she sighed. "The good ones always go before their time."
It was only then she noticed the others staring at her. "Sorry, I like Molly Hatchet too."
"Ok," Harry said, refusing to rise to the bait and ask the odd girl why Southern Rock appealed to her so much or where she had encountered those particular bands. "What is the topic for tonight?"
"Our schedule has us going over colour change charms," Hermione said checking on her study calendar. " But I think we should discuss what we're going to do about the project."
"That would be a mistake," Harry said shaking his head. "The problem we're having with the Project is something we will either solve or we won't. The charms assignment is for here and now."
"We've got charms work due as well," Melody Spinnet interjected as the group pulled their assignments from their bags. "So Luna and I can keep an eye on you and make sure you don't make any mistakes."
The two first years laughed as the second years rolled their eyes in unison.
Hermione's review of the most common wand motions for color change charms was interrupted by Neville and the two youngest Weasleys coming to their table. Both Neville and Ginny had made something of a habit of studying with the Ravenclaws on occasion, usually just before a test. Ron on the other hand rarely even came to the Great Hall during the Study period.
"Hey Harry, sorry to interrupt, but I got an Owl from my Gran today saying that she had finally gotten hold of your Dad through the Patils and that it was ok for me to visit you this summer."
"That's great Nev, We'll have a blast. The guys back home all want to meet you," Harry laughed.
"Hi Luna," Ginny said trying very hard not to stare at Harry, "have you started on the Herbology essay?"
"No, not yet, Melody and I are working on our charms assignments."
"Want to join us Ginny?" Melody asked.
"Oh, yes, if you don't mind." the redhead said sliding on to the bench next to Luna.
"You're all mental," Ron joked. "I mean it, always studying."
Harry looked up with a sarcastic response on his lips when he spotted a small brown head peeking out of Ron's robes.
"You've got a rat?" Harry asked. "Could I see him?"
Ron looked at Harry suspiciously, "see him? Why? Are you taking the Mickey? I know that a rat isn't a cool pet, but he's all I've got."
"No Ron, I love rats," Harry said. "My first pet was a rat from a friend's dad's research lab. He only had a number, but I named him Snowball because he was white." Harry accepted the squirming animal from the redhead.
"His name's Scabbers," Ron said. "That's weird."
"What is?" Harry asked looking up from the rat.
"It almost seems like he's... surprised to see you."
Indeed the rat appeared to be staring at Harry's face with his mouth hanging open as if in shock.
"He just knows a good looking guy when he sees one. You're a fat fella aren't you?" Harry said stroking the rodent, "Oh oh, looks like you lost a toe there Scabbers, you need to be careful." Harry began scratching behind the rat's ears, causing the animal's left rear leg to start thumping. "I've never really understood where Rats got such a bad reputation."
"Well, there was that whole 'Black Plague' thing," Hermione interjected. .
"A couple of guys get a few fleas and everyone blames them, huh Scabbers?" Harry said with a smirk. "How long have you had this guy Ron?"
"I got him last year," Ron said taking his pet back and placing him in a pocket. "But Percy had him first, since before I can remember."
"What?" Harry asked, a look of confusion crossing his face. "Wow, that's one powerful rat. I didn't even know there were magical rats."
"What are you on about Harry?" Padma asked.
"I got my Snowball when he was just over a year old, and he died about a year and a half later. The normal life expectancy of a European Brown Rat is between 18 months and 3 years," Harry said with a shrug. "This little guy is going on three times that from the sound of things. He's got to be magical, or the Weasley's are feeding him something special."
"No," Ron said. "Scabbers just gets table scraps."
"I've had Molly's cooking," Luna chimed in. "Even the scraps from Molly Weasley's table are something special."
"Thanks Luna," Ron said with a blush. " I wonder what a Magical Rat can do?"
"Probably make more rats," Hermione said dismissively.
Ron just looked at Hermione for a moment before turning on his heel and stalking away. Neville exchanged looks with Harry, and then went after his dorm mate.
"That was rude Hermione," Padma pointed out.
Hermione blushed. "I know, I'm sorry, and I'll find Ron and apologize later, but we're supposed to be working on Charms."
"That's not it, you've never minded open discussions before, and it's not like we're behind." Harry said. "What's wrong?"
Hermione wouldn't meet his eyes. "Why didn't you invite Padma and me to visit you in New York?"
"Well, for one thing, my Dad has some business in Wakanda when school lets out and I'm going with him. We're heading back to the states with a single open seat on the plane and Dad said we could stop over in London if one of my friends wanted to visit for a couple of weeks."
"One seat?" Hermione asked in a very small voice.
"Dad's not going to be around much this summer because of business and other interests, so the only people at home will be me and Jarvis, and that didn't really seem to be conducive to having a girl over. Then I'd have to choose between you two, and I wouldn't want to do that. Besides, there's nothing wrong with wanting to hang out with a couple of guys."
"We understand Harry," Padma said sending a furious glare Hermione's way.
"Besides, you've both been out of the UK, several times. Neville travelled out of England the first time last year on the Hogwarts Express. I think he's over due for an adventure."
"Hermione, what's wrong with you?"
"I don't know what you're talking about Padma."
"You were rude to Ron and then miffed at Harry for inviting Neville to visit over the holiday. That's so unlike you," Padma pulled Hermione to a seat on one of the benches that lined the hallway outside the entrance to Ravenclaw tower. "What's going on?"
"I just thought that he might invite me to New York, or you. I mean we're his friends, he stays with us when he comes to the UK..."
"So you only offered your home in hopes of an invitation to his?" Padma asked.
"Of course not!"
"Then what's the problem?" Padma persisted.
Hermione hung her head, unable to meet Padma's gaze. "I never really had any friends before coming to Hogwarts... Then I met Harry on the train, and you at the Welcoming feast, and Sue and Hannah. Neville was there too, but he was mostly not really involved with the group, not really. I guess I was just being jealous."
"I know I teased you on the Express back in September, but have you decided that you want Harry for a boyfriend?"
"What?" Hermione asked surprised by the question. "No! Ew, that would be like dating my brother."
"Well then, what's the problem?" Padma asked unable to explain to herself the sense of relief she felt at Hermione's declaration.
"I don't want to lose my friend Harry," Hermione said quietly. "If he starts hanging out with Neville all the time, when would he have time fore me?"
Padma took her friend's hand. "Would you like to know a secret?"
Hermione nodded and Padma continued. "You are an idiot."
Hermione stood, shocked that Padma would say such a thing.
Padma paid no attention. "Sit down Hermione. First you throw a hissy fit over Harry not telling you who his body guard was, then your only reaction to the speed problem with the project is 'we're going to fail' and now you're angry at him and rude to other people because he dared to invite Neville over to stay at his house for a visit this summer. Keep this up an he won't be wanting anything to do with you. You've got to learn to deal with your jealousy."
"I'm not jealous." Hermione said, taking her seat again.
"Of course you are," Padma said dismissively. "So am I. Neville is the one who is getting to go to New York and see those Heroes you're always telling me about. Just imagining that he's going to be seeing those people who can fly without brooms, people who are capable of walking up the walls of a building, and that he might actually meet that armored man who works for Harry's father is almost maddening. I'm jealous that he's going to get to ride in one of the flying machines. I can't even imagine that, and Neville is going to do it."
"So what should I do?"
"What do you do when you're jealous of my beauty?"
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Your beauty? What happened to Padma? We seem to have a Parvati infestation here."
"Exactly my point. Tease him, make jokes. Don't get upset, that makes you look bad."
Hermione sighed. "You're right. I'm sorry."
"I'm glad you could make it Harry," Remus Lupin said as the son of one of his best friends entered his classroom. "How has your day been?"
"Just fine Professor," Harry said as he took his seat in front of the man's desk. No doubt this was going to be the latest of the man's 'connecting Harry with his past' meetings.
"I've notice that you and your two closest friends have been rather intensely concerned about something during your evening study session. All three of you do your required assignments first, but then move on to some project that doesn't seem to involve any of the school texts. I asked to speak with you to see if there was anything I could do to help."
Harry shrugged. "We're experiencing some difficulties with the OWL project we've chosen is all. When we did our initial tests we didn't take into account the rate at which runic scripts charge and discharge before returning to a ready state."
Remus blinked. 'Runic scripts'? 'charge and discharge'? 'ready state'? he didn't recognized any of those concepts. He knew runes of course, but a runic script? What could that possibly be? Still, it wasn't very professorial to display ignorance. "What steps have you taken to counter the problem?"
The boy shrugged, "well, we're not sure what to do yet. The next meeting with the whole team is tonight, and we plan to try a brainstorming session to try and come up with alternatives to what we've done so far."
"Well, if you need any help, remember you can always come to me."
"Thank you sir."
Remus tried to think of anything to keep the conversation going. "Have you been enjoying the Invisibility Cloak?"
"Oh, yes. That is seriously cool."
"I do hope you haven't been up to too much mischief with it." Remus said with a smile.
"Oh, no sir. I played with it for a few minutes, and then packed it away to keep it safe. Seeing as its a family heirloom, I didn't want anything to happen with it until I can test it properly." the boy said.
Packed away? He had just packed away James' cloak? James had carried that cloak with him everywhere he went from the first day of classes first year. How was it his son would just pack it away?
"I want to see exactly how it does its invisibility thing, you know, test it through all the EM bands, and see if I can't duplicate the effect on other objects. If the invisibility is as all inclusive as it seems, then being able to duplicate the effect would be quite useful." the boy continued as Remus tried to figure out just what was wrong with the boy.
"So you aren't using it for pranking?"
"No, I've never really been one for organized pranking. A joke can be funny, even a joke at someone else's expense, but to specifically set out to embarrass someone? That's just stupidly cruel." Harry hesitated for a moment. "I know about the Marauders, and I know who they were."
"How did you find that out?" Remus asked incredulously.
"The Head Student Journals for each year are kept in the Library. You have to ask Madam Pince about them, but they're available. When I got here, Professor Snape absolutely hated me on sight, so I was curious as to why. In my first potions class we had something of a confrontation, and he made quite clear his distaste for my biological father. It takes a lot of hatred to still be that violently opposed to someone more than a decade after their death, so I tried to research James Potter. There are several entries in the Head Student Journals from his time in school that mentioned the Marauders, and named the members. There were more entries that detailed the multi-year war between my biological father and his friends, including yourself and Mr. Black and those aligned with Professor Snape."
Remus had forgotten about the those journals, he wondered if the boy had found his entries into James' Journal. He smiled. "Good times."
"No sir," Harry disagreed. "With all due respect, stupid times. The way both sides acted was, excuse me sir, childish and dangerous to a point that its a wonder that no one was killed. It generated bad feelings to the point where Professor Snape hated me immediately upon laying eyes on me. Both sides were idiot bullies who didn't really care who got caught in the splatter as long as the embarrassed their rivals. The Head Journals of those years make note of the innocents caught in the crossfire Professor... even, or perhaps especially my biological father's."
Remus paled a bit. Harry had found his entries after all... "Harry, we were children."
"Sir, the 'prank war' with Professor Snape continued through your seventh year when all of you were seventeen, and adults. I know what Sirius Black did that something almost got Severus Snape killed. I know that James Potter had to step in and prevent from happening and I know that you were involved some how. You weren't children by the time, and even if you had been, I'm only twelve years old and I know that what both sides were doing is wrong. My biological mother was quite upset by whatever happened and she had some rather nasty things to say about Mr. Black following the incident. She didn't go into the details of the incident, but it was clear that she was pissed."
Remus was silent for several moments. "Is that why you don't like me Harry? Because of my affiliation with the Marauders?"
"Professor, I really couldn't care less that you were one of the Marauders. You seem to have made a life for yourself beyond your actions while in school. My problems with you have nothing to do with your sense of humor."
"What is it then? I was one of your father's best friends."
"Professor, you've never met my father, which is one of the problems. I will always be grateful for the life that James Potter and Lily Evans Potter gave me, but they are not my parents. Every time you speak to me about things outside of school there is always an unspoken comparison with James Potter going on in your mind. I can see it quite clearly. In your own way, you are as blinkered by your past as Professor Snape. You're boggled that I have no interest in the sadistic bullying that you called 'pranking' during your time in school, because I am after all, the son of James Potter. I don't care for the comparison, I really don't."
"Sirius said much the same thing to me before I took this position." Remus said hanging his head. "I will try not to compare you to my old friend."
"There is more than that Sir. You want me to trust and love you, that's obvious every time we speak, but I can't."
"Professor, my earliest memories are pain and hunger. I didn't know my name until I went to school. The Dursleys always called me 'Boy' or 'Freak'. Nothing I ever did was good enough, nothing could ever get them to love me. I used to dream that someone would take me away, would save me. But who could? At the time I didn't know anyone who could have come for me, but now I do. I know that my biological parents were dead and couldn't help me. I know my official Godfather was falsely imprisoned and couldn't come to help me. I know I had two unofficial Godfathers as well. Peter Pettigrew has been dead for years, but you were alive sir. You could have come to at very least check on the only child of your best friend. You could have, but you never did."
"No sir, as far as I've been able to find out, you never even tried. It fell to another man entirely to rescue me. That man is my father, Tony Stark. He got me through the pain and the nightmares and even though he had absolutely no connection to my birth parents he loved me and allowed me to love him." The boy wiped at his eyes with is left hand. "No sir, I don't like you. When I needed you, you were no where to be found. Well, I don't need you any longer and quite honestly I resent you comparing me to a dead man I've never known. I know that I know nothing of what you were going through at that time, or if you ever really tried to find me, all I know is that you never came."
"Left me on a door step in the dead of the night." Harry interrupted. "And then he attempted to have my adoption declared void. The Headmaster and I have our own trust issues Professor. All I really know about the situation is how I feel, because no one has ever told me anything about why I was growing up with a family who didn't want me and made sure that I knew I wasn't wanted every single minute of every single day. The way I feel may not be fair to you, or even logical, but it is the way I feel. I respect you sir, you are one of the best teachers I've ever had and your classes are fun and full of useful information, but I do not and probably will not ever like you. I resent you too much for what I perceive that you didn't do. I'm sorry sir, it might not be fair, but that's the truth."
"A fifth of a second?" Daphne asked incredulously. "You're worried about a fifth of a second?"
The Project team was meeting in their assigned classroom. The members had come expecting to be covering the beginnings of Harry's lessons on binary logic but had been greeted with news that there was a problem.
"It's cumulative," Padma said dejectedly. For a complex addition of multiple digits it could take a dozen seconds. Multiplication and division could take minutes."
"The whole point of the machine is high speed complex operations," Harry explained.
"No," Tracey disagreed. "The point of the machine is to allow us to show some creativity in combining disciplines, even if it turns out to be slow, it still allows us to do that."
That comment garnered her sneers from the rest of the Slytherin contingent. "Besides," she continued, "even with the speed of operation you're predicting from these adders, it's still on par with the first generation of the Muggle Electronic computers, and probably faster than Babbage's Analytical Engine, if he had ever managed to build it."
"Has anyone considered methods of speeding the flow of magic through the rune sets?" Li asked. "by designing a more efficient rune scripts to mimic logic functions, or perhaps a better medium for the rune etching?"
"Tracey and Li both make good points," Hermione noted. "Maybe before we get too deep into the project we should take a look at optimizing our rune sets and the etching medium. Maybe the problem is that Sandstone isn't really the best medium for moving the magic with any real speed."
Daphne nodded. "That's a good point. We know that as far as a charging rune stone goes, granite is best with sandstone as a distant second. Maybe to get what we need to do is find out what material is best for the data transfer."
"Thanks for your help tonight Tracey," Harry said when he looked up from his notes to find he was alone with the second year Slytherin.
"I didn't do anything. You were all panicking over nothing. I don't know what Granger and Patil were so worried about, but I think you're too used to dealing with machines infinitely more powerful than anything we're likely to make here."
"Yeah," Harry sighed. "I over reacted."
"I've been wanting to ask you a few questions about your life in the Muggle world anyway," she said while digging in her book bag. She withdrew a well thumbed magazine and opened it to a page of photographs. "Is this man really a... machine?"
Harry looked down to find a photo of the Vision in front of him. "Well, yeah, sort of, but not... Yes. Yes he is."
Tracey raised an eyebrow. "That was the most qualified 'yes' I've ever heard."
"The Vision is an android, that's a machine made to look like a man. He's a special kind of android called a 'Synthazoid'. His body is designed to emulate the body of a human on almost every level with certain enhancements, but what makes the Vision special isn't his body, it's his mind."
"He's some kind of super computer, right?"
"Yes... no. Not really. A hyper capable computer is what makes up his brain. I was talking about his mind."
"I don't understand," Tracey said, a confused expression on her face.
"Ok, think about two people, you and me for example. Our actual physical brains are awfully similar, you know? The people who research things like that have got the basic structures and what they do fairly well identified and mapped out. But our minds... the things that make us, us, those are very different. The Vision has a mind based on the mental patterns of a living human being."
"He has an artificial mind based on an organic mind?"
Harry shrugged. "I don't know, what is a mind, really? Is one generated by an organic brain really different than one generated by an electronic device?" Harry hesitated for a moment. "There are a lot of artificial intelligences out there, some are beneficial, some are destructive, and some just want to be left alone to pursue their ambitions."
"It must be so exciting to have grown up around people like that." Tracey sighed.
Harry looked embarrassed. "I remember when I first started living with my Dad, and every day was such an adventure, meeting so many special people. After a while though, they quit being 'special' in my mind and just became... people. Everyone thinks that the life they've led and the people they grew up with to be 'normal', you know?"
"I suppose," Tracey sighed. "I just wish I could see some of the things you've seen."
"There's no reason you won't," Harry said returning to his notes. "We've only got five more years here until we're free to make our own way in the world. Maybe you'll travel to see the world, maybe you'll pull on a mask and fight bad guys, maybe you'll cure some horrible disease. We're only twelve Tracey, who knows what we'll do?"
Later, Tracey would never be able to explain just why she did it, not even to herself. She stood from her seat at the table and moved to stand next to where Harry was working. He looked up from his notes and the Slytherin took his face in her hands before planting a light kiss on his lips.
Tracey grabbed her bag and fled the room before Harry could react. As the door closed behind the girl, he lightly touched his lips with the fingers of his left hand.
Was that a 'lets be friends' kiss?
To: "Dear Old Dad"
Sent: Monday, April 12, 1993 11:59:50 PM GMT
Sorry about bothering you when you were 'working' the other day. We discovered a major problem with the magical computer project. It seems that the way I've got the system set up, it takes a full fifth of a second for a single stage half adder to produce an output.
Yeah, I panicked.
The group brainstormed the way you recommended and one of the members pointed out that even as slow as they are, the prototypes we're testing are functioning on the same level as the first generation electronic main frames, and are probably faster than Babbage's Analytical Engine would have been.
Still, we're going to do a few experiments to see if we can come up with more efficient logical gate structures and testing a few other materials to use as the medium for logical flow.
It has been suggested that my exposure to super computers has given me some unrealistic expectations. All I know is that I've been feeling particularly stupid since Padma pointed out what I'd done wrong. Hanging out with smart, pretty girls has it's points, but there are also some real drawbacks through ego damage.
Anyway, speaking of smart pretty girls, I've got a problem and seeing as I've demonstrated that I don't understand girls in any way, shape, or form, I need your help.
One of the girls on the Project team is a girl raised in the Magical world named Tracey Davis. Following the brainstorming session, we ended up alone, and she had some questions about the Vision (she's really interested in electronics and had started studying it before we started this project) Anyway, we talked about the Vision and what makes him more than just a machine and then we got to the future and I basically told her she could do anything she wanted in life.
Then she took my face in her hands and kissed me. Before I could say anything or even try and kiss her back, she grabbed her bag and ran out the door, leaving me there wondering what the heck just happened.
- On the plus side, I didn't repaint the room.
- On the minus side, I have no idea what is going on or what she meant when she kissed me.
- On the other plus side, it was really, really nice.
Now, given that I so misread the whole 'Julie kissing me' thing, I thought I ought to write and ask what just happened? Do I have a new friend that thinks I want to play with her younger brother, or?
Quit laughing Dad. This is hard, and I don't understand girls.
Scabbers the Rat paced back and forth on top of Ronald Weasley's bed.
In the almost two years he had been Ron's pet, he had heard a great deal about Harry Potter... but it wasn't until today that he had actually laid eyes on the boy.
It was like looking at James... And finding Lily staring at him.
Lily's mind was at work there too. James would never have known how long rats live. Harry had planted a thought into Ron's mind, and while the boy himself was far too lazy to look into it, it was only a matter of time before the problem with Scabber's age made it back to his original keeper, and whatever else Percy Weasley might be, he wasn't lazy or stupid.
Percy would want to know why it was his rat had lived so long.
Lupin was in the castle. Black was free and living far to close to the castle for Scabbers' comfort. And Harry was here, noticing things that no one else ever seemed to. What if he...
Scabbers calmed himself. He hadn't survived this long by panicking. It was time to cut his losses and be somewhere, anywhere else. He contemplated just leaving, but there were too many things in this castle that would love to make a meal of a rat... Ron had Herbology in the morning. It wouldn't take much to secret himself in the boy's book bag and wait for the opportunity to make his escape.
Sirius Black fumbled for his wand while the woman molded herself to him and appeared to be attempting to eat his face. He struggled to recall her name while casually waving his wand at the door. The house's wards recognized its owner and the door swung open. Sirius backed into the room, pulling the extremely affectionate woman, who he believed to be named 'Sandra' along with him.
"Nice place Sam," she mumbled into his mouth.
Now that was insulting. How could a woman, any woman not remember the name of a man as enormously studly as Sirius Black? He was going to have to have words with this 'Cindy'... probably later, but certainly soon.
Oh damn it to hell Moony, Sirius thought. Not now.
"Hey wait a minute Stan, I'm not into that sort of thing," Sandy said.
"Don't mind Remus, he was just leaving," Sirius explained.
"He'd better," Stella huffed. "Where's the bog Steve?"
Sirius supplied the woman with directions to the facilities while promising himself that she'd be screaming his name soon enough. He turned to his oldest friend. "Remus, get the hell out."
"Sirius, Harry hates me," the man blubbered, obviously deep in his cups.
"So do I," Black laughed. "What happened, did you try to cockblock him too?"
"He doesn't like pranks, he thinks I abandoned him when he was younger with no excuse, and he says James isn't his dad."
Sirius helped his friend to his feet and guided him to his room. Laying the extremely drunken werewolf on his bed, Sirius then cast silencing charms on every surface and locked the door behind him. Remus was in a bad way, but there was a horny woman in the house. The Man code was very clear on what he had to do.
Cut his friend loose and get himself some.
"This is a nice place Seymore," Ceclia said when she returned to the room and flowed into his arms. "Is your friend gone?"
"Completely gone," Sirius said smiling his famous panty dropping smile. "Now, where were we?"
"Remember gentlemen," Susan Richards said as she took her seat at the table. "No business talk, no scientific conjectures, no wild theories, nothing likely to make my eyes glaze over in boredom."
"You're married to a cruel woman Reed," Tony noted as he unfolded his napkin and laid it on his lap.
"She's been married to me for a decade and a half," Mr. Fantastic said with an exaggerated shrug. "I don't think it's too out of line for Sue to want a quiet dinner with a friend where we pay attention to her occasionally."
"Especially when you consider how many of these 'quiet dinners' have been interrupted by the diners needing to rush out and save the world over the years," Sue huffed, while pointedly ignoring Reed's latest Robobutler arriving to serve the salad course. There was just something wrong about a machine bringing the food to your table. If this one ran amok and tried to kill them like the last two had, she and her loving husband would be having words about the capabilities he designed into his robotic domestics.
"So," she continued after the machine had left the table without attempting grievous bodily harm, "How's Harry getting along?"
"Well, over the Christmas vacation he learned a hard lesson about life."
"What happened?" Reed asked.
"He had developed a severe crush on Julie Power, and she kissed him on the cheek when the Power kids were leaving his 11th birthday party," Reed grinned.
"And she had no clue?" Sue asked.
"As far as I can tell, she thought that Harry was around as much as he was because he was Jack's buddy," Tony grinned between bites of his salad. "Harry believed that the kiss meant that they had 'an understanding'."
"An understanding?" Reed echoed.
"That poor boy," Sue sighed. "You let him watch too many old movies."
"So, Harry's Christmas shopping with Franklin and Happy, and he's eyeing this necklace in a jewelry story, playing it cool, asking Franklin if he thought Julie would like it. Franklin realizes whats going on and tells Harry that Julie, who has just turned fifteen, has a boyfriend."
"Ouch." Reed said shaking his head.
"Yeah, so after that Harry was convinced that he'd been dumped. He hid it, you know how he is, but you could tell that something was wrong. I finally got it out of him when I found him trying to hide in his tree house so that he could feel sorry for himself on Christmas day. I tried to explain to him that girls mature faster than boys and that for now the three years between them was just too much of a gap, and that she probably had no clue as to what he was feeling." Tony's grin got even wider. "He was so cute."
Reed laughed while Susan regarded them both with a glare. "You two are enjoying this entirely too much."
"So," Tony continued, trying without much success to hide his amusement at his son's antics, "what is Franklin up to?"
"He's up at Xaviers in Westchester and they think they're making progress toward controlling his abilities. That school has opened his eyes to the world I think. His last letter was full of stories about classmates whose parents rejected them for their mutation. Can you imagine that?" Reed asked. "Ben has been visiting a few times a week to let the children that have... a less than human appearance know that they aren't alone in that."
"And Johnny goes along because he enjoys the way the older girls react to him," Sue said disapprovingly.
"That's Johnny for you," Tony laughed.
The robobutler trundled out of the kitchen with the main courses, and Tony Stark began chiming.
"Sorry," he said pulling a datapad from his jacket pocket. Glancing at the screen his expression brightened. "It's from Harry."
Manipulating a few controls caused the screen to fill with text. Stark's eyes danced over the text and he began to laugh. He passed the datapad to Reed. "That's my boy!"
"He's building a 'magical' computer?" Richards asked. "I'm going to have to get him to let me take a look at that... I'm not sure why he panicked, that's a respectable speed for a first generation device, they can always make upgrades later," then the hero found the part of the message that had amused his friend. "Oh, that poor kid," Reed said with a smile and passed the datapad to his wife.
Sue was silent for a few moments while the two men in the room grinned stupidly at each other, then she read the message. "Tony, if you tease this poor boy, I will hurt you."
From: "Dear Old Dad"
Sent: Monday, April 12, 1993 6:39:23 PM GMT+6
Subject: Re: Help!
Good news about your project, you seem to have regrouped from where you were when you called. Don't worry about it, you'll figure it out, I have faith in you.
From the sound of things with your friend Tracey, it sounds to me that when you suggested that she might be able to be and do what she wants to do when she's older, you may well have been the very first to ever tell her that. The kiss might have been a very enthusiastic, if slightly embarrassing way of saying thank you.
Then again, maybe she thinks you're cute and just wanted to kiss you.
There's a reason that women are described as mysteries that no man truly understands.
If you like this girl, then make sure you don't annoy her, don't tease her, don't tell your friends about her specifically, and never, ever, make eye contact with any of her friends, even for a second. Trust me on that one. Don't expect to be allowed to kiss her without express permission, and don't expect her to do it again. Treat her as you've been treating her and try and be as honest with her as you can.
If she does kiss you again, enjoy it.
On the other hand, if you don't like the girl, stay away from her. That will save you both a lot of problems.
That's about it for my advice for dealing with women, for your age group anyway. If you have any specific questions, feel totally free to ask Harry. Your old dad may not have the answer but he knows where to look for assistance.
- Remind me when you get home, we need to update 'the Talk'.
- Love you, Dad.
"Need any help?"
Hermione looked up from her packing to find Padma leaning in the door frame. "No, I've got it," she said as she folded the last of her jumpers and placed it in her open trunk. "The only things left are my night clothes, what I'm wearing tomorrow, and the decorations in the room."
"Well," Padma continued, "It looks like we're building a very slow computer. We've tried every single medium we could think of, and none of them had any appreciable advantage over sandstone when it came to flow through the rune sets."
"That figures," Hermione shook her head as she gathered her personal photographs from her bedside table and placed them into the trunk, padding each with the clothing already packed away. "Harry wanted something faster so badly, and frankly it would make even the calculator better if we're forced to deliver that."
"Yeah. I thought I'd spend this summer trying to refine the runic logic gates some more, maybe I can get a little more speed out of them." Padma said.
Hermione moved to her chest of drawers. On top of the empty chest was her favorite souvenir, her hand print and personal note from Jennifer Walters. Hefting the heavy sheet of aluminium she carried it to her trunk and recalled when Harry had given it to her back on September first;
The compartment was silent except for the ambient sounds of the train. "That's my present? A silver square?"
"Hold your horses. Give a guy a chance." Harry lay the square on the palm of his left and covered it with his right hand. He then closed his eyes and appeared to be concentrating.
After thirty seconds, Hermione couldn't stand it anymore. She had forgotten that she was angry with Harry and just wanted to know what he was up to. "Well?"
"Aluminum is hard. The magic just keeps sliding off of it." Harry complained.
She smiled. Harry was such a goof, claiming the magic kept sliding off... sliding off...
She lost the smile at the memory and looked up at Padma with a shocked expression on her face. "We've got to find Harry, right now."
The pair of Ravenclaw girls rushed into the Great Hall to find Harry sitting at the Hufflepuff table surrounded by laughing Hufflepuffs.
"What's up?" he asked.
"Aluminium." Hermione gasped.
"Aluminum," Harry corrected.
"Aluminium," Hermione insisted.
"Aluminum," Harry said with a grin.
"Aluminium, you great bloody Yankee git!"
"Ok, ok, what about Aluminium?" Harry asked with a grin.
"Calm down Hermione," Padma said putting her hand on her friend's shoulder. "Harry do you remember what you said about that sheet of Aluminium that Jennifer put her hand print on?"
"Something about magic sliding off of ...." Harry's eyes went wide and he leaned forward to bang his forehead on the table top. "I've been stupid. It was right in front of me and I never saw it."
"We just need to find some to try." Hermione said.
"We've got your souvenir..." Padma suggested.
Harry sat up. "Justin!"
"Yeah Harry?" the Muggleborn Hufflepuff called from down the table.
"I just saw you with a can of Lilt?"
"Yeah, sorry Harry, it's my last one. I saved it for tonight."
"I want the can." Harry said.
"Sorry mate, it's my last one."
"Not the soda, the can."
"Oh," Finch-Fletchley said pouring the pineapple and grapefruit flavored liquid into a glass. "Here," he said tossing the now empty can to Harry.
Harry caught the can and headed for the door. "We'll have to clean it, and get the rune sets for the adder etched..." A sudden realization brightened his eyes. "My god, if this works we can photo-etch the rune sets."
"Would that work around magic?" Padma asked.
"It should," Harry answered as the trio exited the Great Hall, "it's a chemical process. Magic shouldn't have any effect on that process at all. How did we miss this?"
A/N - Why, yes, I did have a little fun with the differing National pronunciations of Al. For those unaware of the pronunciations: