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Chapter 14: Obscurvirgum
“What is it that you wanted to talk to us about, son?” James asked as he and Lily sat down on the floor next to where an exhausted Harry was lying in his pad by the fire.
Harry blinked a couple times, fighting the sleep from his eyes. He was completely worn out. He’d never thought that nonverbal spells without the use of a wand could be this taxing. His whole body felt like it had been shoved into a blender. He had been a little childish wanting to keep this new found ability from Sirius, Remus, and Tonks but his reasoning was that he wanted to show his parents first.
Lily noted that there were several open books scattered around them. “Harry, have you been reading?”
Harry nodded. “It took a lot of research to pull off what I want to show you.”
James hefted up a heavy book. The binding was tattered and worn and looked as if it would fall apart in someone’s hands. “This looks like it’s as old as Merlin himself! Where on earth did you get it?”
“Library,” Harry said simply, stretching his neck and shaking it to keep himself from falling asleep.
“Harry, you should get some rest,” his mother said, noticing his fatigue. “We can wait until tomorrow to talk.”
“No,” said Harry stubbornly. “I’ve finally mastered it and I want to show you.”
James and Lily looked at each other, trying to hide their smiles. Harry sounded just like a little kid completely bent on sharing with them his newest achievement. Somewhat elated that their son wanted to show them something he’d accomplished alone, they turned back to him and gave him their full attention.
“I assume what you’re about to show us is the reason behind your completely exhausted state these past few days?” James asked.
Harry nodded. “Yes, and it’s been extremely strenuous. But I’ve finally got it down. Watch.”
He looked down at the books scattered around the floor and used the Hover Charm, saying the spell silently in his mind. The books immediately climbed into the air. Harry then used the Accio spell to send them flying across the room towards him before he redirected their position to stack up in a nice pile in the corner. Lily and James faces were full of fascination as they witnessed the spellwork. As the last book fell with a dull thunk at the top of the stack, Harry began breathing heavily.
“Harry, you can perform magic without a wand?” James asked, completely impressed.
“Yes,” Harry gasped, trying to regain his normal breathing pattern.
“Are you alright?” Lily asked with concern.
Harry nodded. “I’ve been practicing for four hours straight so my body’s a little tired. I would have shown you something a little more impressive but I’m afraid my concentration is pretty low. Just using the hovering and summoning charm took a lot out of me.”
“You’re saying that you can do more than that?” James asked, surprised.
“I can perform every spell I’ve ever learned,” said Harry. “I was having a bit of fun transfiguring the couches into animals at first but then I got too tired to do the spells. The harder the spell the more taxing it is on the mind.”
Lily and James couldn’t believe their ears. Their son had just passed to a whole new level of wizardry. Only a handful of wizards and witches throughout history were able to use magic without a wand. James was able to do a few simple spells – like stirring a spoon around in a bowl – but there was no way that he could do what Harry had just done. And he was saying that he could transfigure the furniture and do every spell he’d ever learned in school? The pride shining from James affected Lily as well.
Harry was fully aware of his parent’s delight but he was a little concerned about something. “I’m not a freak for being able to do this, right?”
James looked at him, wide-eyed. “Are you kidding, Harry? Nobody in their right mind would consider you a freak over this.”
“This is a rare gift you have, dear,” Lily revealed. “Not a lot of witches and wizards can perform spells without a wand. Only really powerful witches and wizards can do it.”
“I looked up in the library how many other people can do this and the only names on the list for the last century were Dumbledore, Voldemort, and three others,” said Harry. “Everyone else was back in the medieval times. The founders of Hogwarts and Merlin, along with a couple of others, made the list. I guess I’m just surprised that not many people can do it.”
James grinned. “Like Lily said Harry; this is a gift. You should be really grateful that you have it. If it were me, I wouldn’t use it too much; only in times of dire need.”
“Why not?” Harry asked.
“It will just make you even more famous,” said Lily.
“And we know how much you like being famous,” added James, grinning.
Harry grimaced. “Keep it to myself, got it.”
“Do you want to show Remus, Tonks, and Sirius now?” James asked.
“I’d better before I fall asleep,” Harry answered.
James got up, heading for the door.
James stopped. “Yes, son?”
Harry bit his lip. Earlier in the day, during his free hour, he had been working on his secret project, trying to finalize it… and he’d been successful. He had really wanted to show Ron, Hermione, and Ginny but there hadn’t been time during the day to do so. He’d planned to show them tomorrow. As he considered his dad, showing was definitely better than telling. But he was a little scared; what if his dad didn’t approve? The final result had turned out differently than Harry had thought and part of him wondered if his dad would hate the outcome. Only one way to find out…
“There’s something else I wanted to show you,” Harry muttered, trying to keep the wariness from his tone.
Lily and James’s eyes met briefly.
“What is it, Harry?” Lily asked.
“I can’t show you right now,” said Harry, “but I’ll show you tomorrow – that is, if you’re free.”
James surveyed his son silently. A strange excitement was bubbling in his chest. He couldn’t put a finger on why he felt that way until he looked at three of the books standing with the stack in the corner. His heart picked up. He looked at Harry but his son appeared to be near dozing. Fighting down the urge to confirm his suspicions, James swallowed his words and invited the others inside.
Sirius looked rather pleased about something while Remus and Tonks appeared to be putting up an effort not to smirk behind him. James raised an eyebrow.
“What’s made you three so happy?”
“Padfoot has a second date to look forward to,” said Remus.
Sirius smiled widely as James congratulated him. “Well done, Padfoot! When and where will you be going?”
“Hogsmeade on Saturday,” Sirius answered.
Harry, who heard everything from across the room, smiled. “Looks like Professor Merrylow has a crush on Sirius.”
His godfather came into the room, trying with difficulty to contain his joy. “You won’t forget to summon me on Saturday, right?”
Harry smiled. “What if I did?”
Sirius looked terrified. “Please, Harry, don’t joke about that.”
“I guess I could remember,” Harry answered. “What time will she be expecting you?”
“Eleven,” Sirius replied, sitting down next to James and Remus on the floor while Tonks sat next to Lily. “If you could call me fifteen minutes til, that would be great.”
Harry nodded. “Sure, I can do that.”
Tonks noted the exhaustion in Harry’s voice. “Harry, you sound really tired. You should go to sleep.”
“I’m about to but I wanted to show you something. I’ve just showed mum and dad. I’ll use the books again, seeing as it’s not too difficult to move them around.”
Remus, Tonks, and Sirius looked perplexed until the books in the corner flew into the air, zooming around as if by their own accord. They performed several loops and twirls before rocketing with incredible speed back into the corner and restacking themselves into a pile.
Harry took several deep breathes. “And there you have it,” he managed to say between pants.
“Wow,” Tonks breathed. “Awesome, Harry!”
“Merlin’s beard!” Sirius exclaimed. “Nonverbal magic without a wand! Did you just see that?”
He turned to Remus who looked equally impressed but not too surprised. He turned to Harry and smiled deeply. “This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Harry perform extraordinary magic. When you were able to do a corporeal Patronus at the end of your third year, I knew to expect far greater things from you in the future. Outstandingly done, Harry.”
Harry smiled. “Thanks.”
“I bet you’re about as exhausted as the times we practiced learning the Patronus Charm, however,” Remus guessed.
Nodding, Harry replied, “It’s a little worse, I think. I would have eaten chocolate but I was afraid that as a deer it might not have settled to well in my stomach.”
Remus remained greatly concerned. “I’ll go see Professor Dumbledore. You need to have some to curb how you feel. Don’t go to sleep until I get back.”
Harry nodded although he greatly wanted to close his eyes. James and Sirius kept him awake by telling him all about the dance and the prank they pulled. Harry laughed, complimenting them on their success, and also expressing his thoughts that he wished he could have seen it.
“We can show you our memories about it sometime, if you’d like,” James suggested.
Harry perked up. “Could you?”
“Sure,” said Sirius. “We’d just have to borrow the Pensieve from Dumbledore.”
“I can arrange that,” said an old voice from behind them.
They all turned to find Professor Dumbledore entering the room in a dark blue nightgown and head cap. He appeared in good spirits despite the fact of being woken up at almost one in the morning. Slightly concerned, he looked down on Harry.
“So, playing with old magic, Harry?” he asked, his eyes x-raying him.
For some reason, Harry felt a little guilty, like he’d stepped over some boundary he shouldn’t have. “Yes, Professor.”
Dumbledore smiled. “Quite alright, my dear boy, but you should have at least told me what you’ve been trying to do. You look like you’re about to keel over.”
“I am, sir. I didn’t think it would be this exhausting.”
Dumbledore shook his head. “Indeed you didn’t. I’m glad Remus came to get me. You do realize that practicing Obscurvirgum can sometimes result in death?”
Lily and James looked horrified.
“Harry,” Lily scolded. “Did you know that?”
“I’d read that could happen but I thought I could handle it,” Harry muttered, shrinking under his mother’s furious gaze. “Sorry.”
James, Sirius, and Remus all snickered.
“He’s just as reckless as you are, James,” Remus chuckled.
“A spitting image of his father,” added Sirius.
“And I’m very proud to hear it,” said James haughtily.
“And I consider all of you to be a bunch of idiots,” Lily snapped. “Going behind everyone’s back, learning how to become Animagi, running around the grounds at night with a werewolf, pranking everyone, writing the marauder’s map, strutting around the castle at night like you could break the rules, getting into motorcycle chases and accidents after you got out of school, and now you’re encouraging Harry to go down the same road that you –”
James cut off her tirade by kissing her. Harry felt a little embarrassed watching his parents snog each other so intently but Sirius, Remus, Tonks, and Dumbledore didn’t seem to share his point of view. In fact, they all had deep smiles on their faces, as if they were each experiencing some private joke.
James broke the kiss and grinned. “And despite all my flaws, you married me, Lils.”
Lily’s eyes looked like they could kill as she pursed her lips. “Don’t let it go to your head, James.”
James laughed. “Too late.”
Dumbledore cleared his throat. “As wonderful as it is to see the love between you two blossoming, Harry needs my immediate attention.”
“Oh, right, sorry, Albus,” said James, giving him room to kneel down in front of Harry on the floor.
Dumbledore pulled out a couple of twigs, a chocolate bar, and his wand from one of his pockets. He waved his wand in an intricate pattern. The chocolate lifted into the air, its solid form melting into liquid, swirling through the air before injecting itself into one of the twigs. It sucked up the chocolate like it was water.
Then Dumbledore pulled out a small bottle containing a potion. He performed the same wand movement as before. The cork on the potion bottle popped off as the liquid within sprung into the air. It performed a couple of loops before being sucked up by the other twig. Satisfied with his work, Dumbledore pocketed his wand and set down the wood containing the chocolate in front of Harry.
“Eat this one first, Harry,” Dumbledore ordered.
Harry did as he was told. Immediately the aching in his body began to lessen. He’d felt completely drained for so long that he didn’t think he’d ever be able to feel so relaxed again. He was in absolute bliss.
“I’ve been receiving reports from the professors that you’ve been falling asleep in classes, Harry.”
Harry grimaced. “Sorry, sir,” he apologized. “I tried to stay awake.”
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “I’m sure you did, Harry, but you should have realized that learning this technique really sucks up your strength. If not treated properly, disastrous things can happen to the witch or wizard who attempts it. I’m glad Remus came to get me; you might have died in you sleep if he hadn’t.”
Harry, completely shocked over this, looked gratefully to Remus. “Thanks.”
Remus nodded. “I’m just glad I was able to recognize what was going on. I read about the technique of Obscurvirgum when I was here as your professor. I checked out the book for a little light reading.”
Tonks pecked Remus on the cheek. “Once again you save the day, honey.”
Remus looked pleased.
Dumbledore set the second twig down in front of Harry. “This contains a dreamless sleep potion, Harry. I had to wake Professor Slughorn to get it so if he seems a little ornery tomorrow you alone will know why.”
Harry again felt guilty as well as stupid. He’d done a lot of stupid things in his life, he’d realized. When he’d started feeling really exhausted the third night, he had thought of going to Dumbledore but his stupid pride told him that he could get through this without any help. And look where that got me, he thought to himself, on the verge of death. He vowed that the next time he had a hunch to go to Dumbledore, he would do it.
“Thanks a lot, professor,” Harry muttered, picking up the twig. “I’ll get Professor Slughorn some crystallized pineapple to compensate him for his trouble.”
Dumbledore beamed. “I’m sure he’d appreciate that, Harry. Now, sleep. You should wake up in the morning in time for breakfast. I’ll come and check on you though, to make sure you’re fit to go to class.”
Already Harry was drifting away. He’d taken dreamless sleeping potions before but he’d never experienced one that was this powerful. He was out like a light right after he’d swallowed the twig.
Harry’s head began to fall and James caught it, resting it gently at his side. The six adults watched the stag breathe deeply for a few minutes before anyone spoke.
“Have you found anything yet, Albus?” Lily asked.
Her eyes expressed the concern she had been hiding from Harry for quite some time. She hadn’t wanted her son to know how worried she was about his condition; neither had the others. They pretended to be in good spirits whenever around Harry but the second he was asleep, they had discussed their concerns over his curse. It had been months now. The others looked at Dumbledore, hoping he would have an answer.
The old headmaster shook his head. “I’m afraid I haven’t. I’ve searched every book in the library twice, asked countless colleagues who are experts at ancient curses, and even visited the tomb where Harry and Ginny were found by the Weasleys and Hermione when they were unconscious. I was sure that when I went to the tomb that I had found the information I was seeking but when I left to return here, that information disappeared from my mind, as if it were being blocked.”
“So we do have a lead,” said James, looking down at his son. “It ties in with Egypt.”
“There are countless ancient magical spells the ancient Egyptians used that were lost when their dynasty was destroyed,” said Dumbledore. “Harry’s curse must be one of those spells.”
“But nobody really knows how the Egyptian reign came to an end,” pointed out Sirius. “Do you think it was destroyed by magic?”
Dumbledore stood up and began to pace back and forth. “I have been doing a lot of research into the matter,” he admitted. “There are some speculations that Egypt fell on its own, that the line of Pharaohs died and wars broke out to try to raise a new line of royalty and during these wars, other countries invaded and took over the land. However, there is another story, a story that is circulated among witches and wizards that the mighty civilization was destroyed by an ancient magical artifact and that from its destructive power, many of the spells invented by the ancient Egyptian witches and wizards were lost. However, I haven’t been able to locate any kind of proof that such an artifact existed.”
“But you think it might tie in somehow with Harry’s condition?” Remus surmised.
“You may find it a ludicrous idea but that is indeed what I think, Remus,” Dumbledore answered.
“But without any proof, we’ve come to a dead end,” said Tonks.
“Then we’ll just have to keep searching for other theories, other curses,” said James. “He can’t remain this way forever, Albus.”
“He won’t, James,” Dumbledore replied firmly. “As long as I’m alive I’ll do everything in my power to help cure him. But we must be patient. This is a curse that none of us have come across before.”
“Surely there must have been others that had this happen to them,” countered Tonks, “Like in other areas of the world.”
Dumbledore sighed. “There have been similar instances of people cursed to change into animals but they are not the same as Harry’s situation. Those curses only lasted three to four days before they wore off. Medieval kings used to have their magicians cast these curses as punishments on the guilty. Harry’s curse happens every night, without fail, and lasts exactly from sunset to sunrise. It’s more specific and complicated. I spoke with the Healer who took care of him and Ginny in St. Mungo’s and he said there was some ancient magical aura surrounding Ginny and Harry that none of the Healers could explain. They only could recognize that both were in a coma.”
“But Ginny didn’t get effected in any way,” pointed out Lily. “She’s perfectly fine.”
Dumbledore nodded. “Indeed.” He looked down at Harry. “So we are only to assume that when Harry had the curse placed upon him that Ginny was there.”
“We should go talk to her,” said James at once, standing up. “She may know something.”
“No,” said Dumbledore sharply.
James looked outraged. “We finally have a lead and you’re not going to pursue it?”
“Sit down, James,” said Dumbledore, suddenly sounding exhausted. “Let me explain.”
James ground his teeth but sat back down. “There’d better be a good reason for this, Albus.”
“There is,” Dumbledore assured. “Just sit down and think: if Ginny knew who had cast this curse upon Harry, do you think she would have kept it to herself or told someone?”
“If she truly loved Harry, she definitely would have said something,” said Lily.
“So are you trying to say that she doesn’t love Harry?” Sirius asked.
“I think what Lily’s trying to say is that someone is preventing Ginny from telling anything to anyone,” Remus guessed.
Dumbledore nodded. “Exactly. Ginny’s love for Harry is real. I personally believe that if she was to identify the one who cursed him then something horrible would happen.”
“So she’s being blackmailed,” said Lily angrily. “Only lowlife scum would do something as dirty as this. Can anyone think of a person that wanted Harry cursed?”
“I would say Draco Malfoy but he and Harry just struck up a friendship a week ago,” said Sirius.
“And Voldemort’s dead so we can’t blame him,” said Tonks.
“What about the Death Eaters?” suggested Remus.
Dumbledore sighed. “Though the Death Eaters have a grudge against Harry I personally don’t think any of them are powerful enough to produce this kind of curse. No, this is someone else; someone who Harry and Ginny offended somehow while in Egypt over the summer.”
“So let’s go and comb the desert,” Sirius joked sourly. “It should only take us the rest of eternity to find the right person.”
Dumbledore sat back, looking thoughtful. “We don’t have to take such drastic measures just yet Sirius. Give me a little more time to sort this out. I promise that I’ll discover a solution before the end of the school year.”
The others didn’t seem thrilled about this but there was nothing further that could be done. Agreeing to close the conversation for the night, they bid Dumbledore goodnight, thanking him again for taking time to check up on Harry. The old headmaster only nodded before leaving the room, leaving Sirius, Tonks, Remus, James, and Lily to watch over Harry silently, wondering when this curse was going to be resolved.
True to Dumbledore’s word, Harry awoke just in time for breakfast Sunday morning. The marauders, his mum, and Tonks greeted him enthusiastically as he stretched and stood up from off the pad he’d laid on all night. Sirius had said they wanted to move him but Lily thought it best to leave him where he was. Harry didn’t mind. He’d slept like the dead and felt completely refreshed. In fact, he felt like he could run for three hours without getting tired.
He went into his room to dress in some normal muggle clothes for the day. When he reemerged he found Dumbledore there. As promised the Headmaster asked him a few questions about how he was feeling and seemed satisfied with Harry’s answers. Shortly after, he left to conduct other business. Harry promised his family that he’d be back later before heading out of his room to go to breakfast. He found Ron and Hermione sitting together with Ginny, all three of them enjoying breakfast though looking rather tired.
“Out partying all night?” Harry asked them as he sat down.
Ginny kissed him on the cheek. “I went to bed after visiting you for half an hour but these two stayed up in the common room an hour after the party was over.”
Harry raised an eyebrow at Hermione. “Really? Staying up late isn’t very responsible for a couple of prefects, don’t you think?”
Hermione tried not to blush. “Oh, shut up, Harry.”
“Did you hear about the prank?” Ron asked, trying to change the subject so Harry couldn’t ask any other embarrassing questions involving what he and Hermione were doing that late.
Harry nodded. “The creators gave me a very detailed description of what happened.”
“I knew it was them!” Hermione muttered, looking disapproving. “They shouldn’t have done that!”
Ron laughed. “Come on, Hermione, even you admitted it was extraordinary magic.”
“It was…but that they shouldn’t have used it as a prank,” Hermione retorted. “It’s Fred and George all over again. If the marauders got together with them we’d all be living in a nightmare.”
“Which is why I haven’t introduced them,” Harry said. “So, are there any plans for today?”
Ron fidgeted with his feet. “I know you suggested visiting Hagrid’s today, Harry, but we’ve got a lot of homework to do. Even Hermione’s behind.”
“I’m only behind because we had the dance last night,” said Hermione. “You and Ginny have a mountain compared to the anthill I have to finish.”
“Whatever,” said Ginny. “The point is that we’re going to be stuck up in Gryffindor Tower and the library for pretty much the whole day. I’m really sorry, Harry.”
Trying not to appear disappointed, Harry shrugged. “That’s alright. I understand the necessity of sacrificing a perfect day for the sake of not wanting to fail a class. Maybe if you want to take a break you can come see me.”
Ginny nodded, encouraging the idea. “I’ll try to finish before sunset so we can go do something.”
Ron snickered. “Just make sure you’re not discovered.”
Hermione punched him in the arm. “Just because they want some time alone together doesn’t mean they’re going to be doing anything like that, Ron!”
Ron rubbed the bruise but continued to smile. “Sure it doesn’t.”
“Don’t make me shove your bacon up your nose,” Harry warned, slightly embarrassed.
“I’d like to see you try that one, Potter,” said a voice behind him.
Ron’s face turned sour. “What do you want, Malfoy?”
Malfoy, ignoring him completely, sat down at the Gryffindor table. There was a collective gasp followed by a wildfire of gossip. The entire hall seemed to be looking over to where Malfoy sat next to Harry, pulling a plate towards him and loading it down with food.
“Oy, are you mad?!” Ron asked in a subdued voice. “You do realize you’re sitting at the Gryffindor table?”
“I understand that, Weasley,” said Malfoy with ease before taking a bite of his eggs. “I’m simply taking up Potter’s offer.”
Hermione turned to Harry. “What offer?”
Harry sighed. “I meant to explain earlier to you guys.”
“You didn’t tell them?” Malfoy said, sounding somewhat unsurprised. “I guess it must have slipped your mind.”
“Shut up, Malfoy,” said Harry, trying to focus on how to explain this at the table without anyone listening in learning of his secret. “I just helped Malfoy get out of a sticky situation by offering to be friends.”
Ron’s fork clattered onto his plate. His mouth hung open to catch a few flies. “Are you mental?” he finally gasped. “After everything we went through with him in the past you want to be friends?!”
Harry tried to keep a straight face from Ron’s incredulous look. “Malfoy’s been through a lot. I thought he could use some different company.”
Malfoy snorted and said sarcastically, “I thought it would be a great idea.”
Hermione and Ron remained skeptical.
“Harry, you do remember the hideous past you two have, right?” Hermione asked.
Harry nodded. “I do.”
Hermione scrutinized him for a minute before sighing. “Alright, if we’re going to be friends, let’s try calling each other by first name terms.”
“What? You’re actually going to go along with this?” asked Ron in disbelief. “This is Malfoy we’re talking about! You know, the guy who’s hated our guts from the beginning of first year, the guy who nearly killed Dumbledore, and the guy who nearly killed us in the Room of Requirement earlier this year?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “I know who he is Ron. But if Harry has decided to befriend him then, as Harry’s friend, I’m going to give him a chance.”
“What if I’m not comfortable with this?” Ron argued.
Harry tried to not look angry. Ron was being prejudice. He didn’t know what Malfoy had been through. But in Ron’s defense, Harry probably would have been acting the same way if he was ignorant of Malfoy’s situation.
“Ron,” Harry said quietly, “I’ve got a good reason for offering friendship to Malfoy but I can’t tell you that reason here. If we leave -go out on the grounds or something- I can tell you everything.”
He looked at Malfoy, waiting for him to object. He shrugged. “Fine by me, Potter.”
Hermione cleared her throat. “You mean Harry.”
Malfoy gave her an annoyed expression.
“If we’re going to be friends, we’re going to address each other as such, Draco.”
Draco looked like he’d swallowed a lemon. “Alright…Hermione.”
“Let’s get out of here,” said Ginny, who had been really quite during this whole conversation.
Harry looked over at her. She’d hardly touched her breakfast. “Ginny, are you okay?”
She nodded. “I’m just tired from last night.”
Harry continued to look at her. She looked a little pale but she did have deep circles under her eyes indicating truth to her words. Harry suppressed his worries. The five of them stood up together – drawing more attention, whispers, and snickers from the other students – and left the hall, heading out to the grounds. November had arrived, bringing an intense cold and a little snow during the night. Deciding that it was best to be sure that they wouldn’t have any eavesdroppers, Harry led them around to the back of the greenhouses.
Once there, he and Malfoy (or Draco as he was now supposed to be called) told the others of what happened a week ago in the forest. Draco also decided grudgingly to bring to light his parents’ deaths as well as the abuse and torment he’d had to endure since returning to school.
“Believe me, I think its low that I decided to be friends with Potter – I mean, Harry – but I can assure you that this isn’t a joke.”
“I need some proof,” said Ron, continuing to be stubborn. “This could all be a ploy to have us gain your trust so you can turn Harry over to the Death Eaters. How can we be sure to believe you?”
Draco looked insulted. “I’ve just told you my parents were murdered by the Death Eaters and you think I’d still be in league with them? I hate them! If I had it my way, I’d kill them all for doing what they did to my family. The respect for the name of Malfoy has completely deteriorated since my father’s failure to deliver that stupid prophecy to Voldemort back in our fifth year. Voldemort made it his personal round of pleasure to insult us at every waking moment. He tortured me personally when he was angry with the Death Eaters for failing his orders. He…he made me torture my own mother with the Cruciatus Curse because he was merely bored. He made my father torture me too, as punishment for failing to kill Dumbledore.
“While you’ve had to deal with your hardships, Weas – I mean, Ron – I’ve had my own thorns to endure. I had a lot of time to think this past year. Ever since I was kid, it’s been drilled into my brain that purebloods were the best and should be treated as such. I believed it too, that is, until I came to Hogwarts and realized that there were mudbloods” – he looked at Hermione – “that were far more gifted than I was. I didn’t want to admit that purebloods weren’t as great and powerful as my parents had made them out to be. So I kept feeding myself on the old delusions that had fueled me since I was a kid.
“But after Voldemort returned and my father failed him, I began to realize I was on the wrong side. My actions of cruelty weren’t because I enjoyed torturing muggleborns and witnessing witches and wizards die; they were because I was trying to survive. Voldemort was living in my house, watching my every move. If I betrayed him in anyway, he would have killed me. My thoughts filled with desires to run away but I was in too deep, too involved, with the Death Eaters and Voldemort. I’m glad I learned Occlumency so I could keep Voldemort out of my head; I was sure he would have killed me just for thinking of him as a lunatic.”
Ron looked really uncomfortable. Harry supposed that he was conflicted with the idea of admitting that Malfoy had had it rough as well as acknowledging that he really had gone through a change of heart. His mind raged with indecisions. Harry silently hoped he’d accept Malfoy’s friendship; it would be a lot easier for everyone if he did.
Ron bit his lip before nodding silently. “Alright, I believe you,” he said. “Except one thing still doesn’t add up.”
“What?” Draco asked, looking highly annoyed that Ron still didn’t seem completely satisfied.
“Why did you follow Harry into the Room of Requirement and try to kill him?” Hermione asked, voicing the same question that Ron was about to say. Obviously she’d been wondering the same thing.
Draco rolled his eyes. “Like I said before, I was trying to survive. Not to mention I was trying to find a way to get my family off of Voldemort’s possible target practice list. If I brought him Harry, I would have been able to sneak off with my parents and nobody would realize we were gone because they would be too busy watching Voldemort and Harry dueling to the death.”
“So your plan was to use Harry as a means to help yourself?” Ginny asked with disgust.
“Not just me,” Draco retorted, “my parents as well. If you were in the same situation and your family was in jeopardy, you would have done the same thing.”
“No I wouldn’t,” Ginny snapped. “I would never sacrifice someone else’s life to save my own or my family’s.”
Draco shrugged. “So we’re different in the way we think. I’ve told you the truth and that’s what you wanted.”
Ron looked outraged. “How can we be friends with him after he’s admitted that he’d rather sacrifice you to save his family, Harry?”
Harry tried to choose his words carefully so that Ron would understand. Yes, he was mad that Draco had just revealed what his plan had been during the Battle of Hogwarts, but that plan had never fallen through. Besides, Harry had to go to Voldemort anyway in the end. He’d just gone there voluntarily instead of by force. And Draco had only acted like any member of Slytherin house would have.
“Ron,” he said calmly, “think about it from this perspective. Gryffindors are naturally drawn to protecting not only themselves and their families but their friends. They would lay down their lives before allowing a friend to die. Slytherins are not the same. They care solely about themselves, wanting glory and power. They’ll protect the family members that support this same goal but if there is a threat to them that could destroy all they have been trying to build, they’ll get rid of that threat. If they’re given an opportunity to rise to glory through the means of sacrifice, they’ll go ahead and do it. Draco is naturally a Slytherin. His nature is to act as such. While all of us are Gryffindors – loyal through and through to the very end.”
“Great speech, Potter,” complimented Draco. “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Ron’s prejudice seemed to thaw a little bit. He silently contemplated Harry’s explanation, trying to be content with it. He agreed that the things Harry described were the perfect description of a Slytherin versus a Gryffindor but it still bothered him that Malfoy would be willing to ditch his friends if he felt they were a threat to him. That was the Gryffindor speaking in him. Ron tried to look passed the obvious flaw and instead focus on Draco as a person; it was difficult but he somehow managed to see the deeper sides of Draco he hadn’t seen before.
“Alright,” said Ron finally, “we’ll give friendship a try. But if it doesn’t work, we’ll part ways and pretend this never happened. Do you agree Hermione? Ginny?”
The two girls nodded.
“Great, let’s shake on it,” said Harry to everyone.
Draco grimaced. “Do we have to?”
“It’ll make it official,” said Hermione.
“Fine,” Draco muttered, shaking hands with everyone. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I promised to meet up with Alex in the library.”
“Who’s Alex?” Ron asked.
“My girlfriend,” Draco answered reluctantly before disappearing behind the corner of the greenhouse.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Well, this year just got a tad more interesting. So, Harry, are we going to look out for Draco if he gets into trouble?”
“We’re going to treat him the same as we would each other,” said Harry firmly. “He’s just lost his friends, reputation, and parents. He needs a lot of support right now.”
Ron suddenly grinned. “This means we’ll be getting into a lot of fights with the other Slytherins.”
“They won’t stand a chance against the four of us,” said Ginny cheerfully. “Come on, let’s get back up to the castle; I’m freezing!”
Ron and Hermione started to follow her but stopped when they noticed Harry still standing next to the greenhouses.
“What’s up, Harry?” Hermione asked, turning back.
The three of them rejoined Harry who looked out at the grounds, his eyes slightly unfocused.
“Harry?” Ginny prompted.
Harry blinked. Turning back to them, he cleared his throat. “I’ve got to tell you something.”
Ron and Hermione noticed how restless he appeared. Normally when Harry looked like this in the past, it was when he had a secret, something he didn’t really know if he should share. Ron stepped up and folded his arms.
“What’s the secret, Harry?” he demanded in a firm voice.
Harry’s eyebrows rose in slight surprise. “It’s not a bad secret,” he said defensively because Ron was looking at him with an accusatory stare. His friend didn’t relax, however.
“Tell us,” Ron repeated.
Harry frowned. “Look, the reason why I didn’t tell you guys about this earlier is because I didn’t want you freaking out.”
“Will you stop dancing around the subject and tell us already?” Ginny demanded.
Harry rolled his eyes. “Fine; but it’s better if I show you.”
Ron and Hermione looked at each other with puzzled expressions. Ginny also appeared confused. Harry backed up a few paces. Ginny stepped forward.
“No, stay back,” Harry ordered.
Ginny faltered. “Harry, what -?”
Harry’s form rippled. The process was the exact opposite of his nightly transformations. Instead of fiery pain, Harry felt warmth spread from his head to his toes. The joints of his knees twisted in the opposite direction, his feet changing into humongous padded paws complete with claws as deep as ebony and as sharp as knives. A long golden tail sprouted behind him, the end displaying a tuft of brilliant black and brown hair.
From the waist down, Harry’s body had transformed into a glistening golden lion. The golden fur transformed from the waist up into beautiful arrays of brownish black feathers, covering every part of the torso, upper arms, and top of head. Harry’s front hands curled before morphing into magnificent talons, the claws just as sharp, beautiful, and dangerous as the back ones. Wings sprouted from Harry’s back, each five feet in length, the plumage the colors of brown, black, and gold. A large formidable beak made up most of Harry’s face. A pair of piercing yellow eyes stirred with an inner fire; subtle round markings resembling his glasses framed the large irises.
The gryffin folded its wings and sat down on its haunches, eyeing Ron, Hermione, and Ginny with silent amusement. Their faces were terribly hilarious after all. Ron looked like he could have swallowed a dragon’s egg his mouth was open so wide. Hermione could have passed for an owl with the dilated circumference of her brown eyes. Ginny’s expression held awe, delight, and a slight twinge of fear.
“Oh Harry!” Hermione cried, bravely taking a step towards the gryffin.
It snapped its beak. Though Harry meant for it to be a friendly gesture, Ron took this the wrong way and dragged Hermione back. She immediately protested.
“Ron, that’s Harry! Stop acting like he’s a wild animal,” she chided.
“Are you sure it’s Harry?” Ron asked, his voice resembling a squeaking mouse.
The gryffin made a strange noise. It almost sounded like a chuckle. Ginny caught its eye and grinned.
“That is Harry!” she said, stepping closer to the magnificent creature. “Don’t you see the markings of his glasses? And look! There’s his scar!”
She pointed at the gryffin’s forehead. Ron squinted his eyes, assessing where she was indicating, before looking over the beast and letting out a low whistle. “Merlin, Harry….a gryffin of all things? Brilliant!”
Harry clicked his beak again and squawked happily.
“Don’t sound so happy,” Ron grumbled, obviously incredibly jealous.
Harry’s eyes seemed to radiate his smile. He hadn’t intended to rub this in Ron’s face. He’d only wanted to show him what he could do. Ron looked really excited for him but Harry could also see the jealousy churning silently from his eyes.
“Can you fly?” Ginny asked eagerly.
Harry shook his head. He hadn’t tried yet. In fact, he hadn’t even tried walking. He’d only successfully transformed yesterday during one of the breaks; He’d decided to set aside his Obscurvirgum practicing to give the animagus spell another shot.
“Awww, that’s too bad,” muttered Hermione, clearly as disappointed as Ginny.
Transforming back into his human form was incredibly easy and painless. All Harry had to do was focus every ounce of his concentration on a mental picture of his mind. His muscles twisted naturally, a magical power fabricating the change, flowing under his skin like a steady stream. It wrapped around his bones, seeping into them, transfiguring them back into the state of a human skeleton. The process was over in the blink of an eye and one hundred percent pain free. Harry was also delighted to find that he wasn’t on his hands and knees like he always was just before and after the curse.
He blinked and smiled. “Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “You know we would have tried to talk you out of it. Becoming an animagus takes extremely difficult magic, Harry. How on earth did you learn how to do it?”
Harry grinned. “Oh, I just spent all my free time from the beginning of the school year up to this point reading every book in the Hogwarts library about the subject and testing out parts of the spell. I’ve transfigured my hand and foot but I couldn’t figure out exactly what creature I was until last night when I did a full transformation. This was my second time.”
“Let me guess,” said Ron. “The first time was with your parents?”
Harry tried not to detect the slight bitterness in Ron’s tone. Obviously Harry had been spending a lot more time with the Marauders than with him lately. But that wasn’t entirely Harry’s fault. The times they could hang out were always during the day, and Ron was usually either off with Hermione in some classroom or studying like a wild man in Gryffindor Tower. Ignoring a retort containing this info, Harry shook his head.
“Actually, I haven’t shown them yet.”
This caused his friend’s eyebrows to rise in obvious surprise. “Y-You haven’t?” he asked.
Harry tried not to roll his eyes. “No, I haven’t, Ron. I didn’t get to show them last night because I was too exhausted from stressing out my body. I only had enough strength to show them Obscurvirgum.”
“Whoa, wait a minute!” said Hermione, holding up a hand. “Did you just say Obscurvirgum, Harry?”
Hermione looked totally impressed. “You can do that? Seriously?”
“Would you care to enlighten us what obscure – whatever is?” Ron asked, perplexed.
“Obscurvirgum is controlled magic performed by a witch or wizard without the use of a wand,” Hermione explained. “It’s incredibly advanced and nearly impossible to learn. What made you actually pursue the technique in the first place, Harry?”
Harry explained how he saved Draco in the woods.
Hermione sighed. “You’re so gifted, Harry! I’m envious.”
Harry’s eyebrows rose. “You’re envious of me? You’re the cleverest witch of our age, Hermione.”
She waved a hand as if to swat the title aside. “So I’ve got brains, big deal. You’re naturally able to bend raw magic to your will. You have no idea how lucky that is.”
“I can’t do it for very long though,” Harry said, trying to dispel this unsuspected and slightly unwanted praise. “It’s extremely difficult. So far I can do every spell I’ve ever learned but not at the same capacity as to what I can do with my wand.”
“Well of course not,” Hermione responded. “A wand amplifies your magic to its greatest potential. Every witch and wizard is able to perform raw magic when they are young but the ability soon leaves them as they grow older and learn to only control that magic through a wand. Very few wizards and witches are able to gain control over the raw magic within them. I say this again, you’re really fortunate, Harry.”
“And that leads me to asking a huge favor,” Harry muttered, looking at his three best friends. “Could we not say a word of this to anyone? The last thing I need is more unwanted praise.”
At this, Ron actually grinned. Harry was relieved to see that he’d gotten over the fit of jealousy he’d harbored earlier. “What, you don’t want your head to inflate anymore than it already has?”
Harry scowled. “I’ll definitely pass on that one, thanks.”
The four of them laughed. Harry took Ginny’s hand and noticed how cold it was. Her complexion didn’t look very good either. “Ginny, are you okay?”
She nodded mutely.
“Are you sure?” Harry pressed.
“I’m fine,” she managed to mutter after blinking several times. “Like I said before, I’m just really tired. The cold is helping to shut down my already slow processing brain.”
Harry managed a small smile. If she was still able to joke around, he was sure she was fine. “Let’s get back inside,” he said. “It’s pretty cold out here.”
Harry put his arm around Ginny and the four of them trudged through the few inches of snow back into the castle. Along the way, Hermione pestered Harry about showing his form to McGonagall and getting himself registered. Harry secretly didn’t want to be registered because then it would leak out that he had another remarkable talent. Not to mention if the Death Eaters ever found out, his advantage of taking them by surprise as a gryffin (should they ever attack) would have immediately become void. Hermione’s nagging only ceased once they reached the inside of the castle.
The entrance hall was completely deserted. Most of the students were up in their dormitories, working hard on the heavy workloads given to them by the teachers. Harry bid farewell to Hermione and Ron who went up the spiral staircase to grab their books with a promise to meet Ginny in the library.
Harry, having to deal with sudden urges to whisk his fiancée away during the entire walk back to the castle, pulled Ginny behind the tapestry leading to his private common room and immediately began to snog her. It was rather difficult for him to control his hands; they wanted to move away from Ginny’s hips to climb up her back towards her head. Forcing them to stay locked where they were, Harry instead focused on snogging, deciding that Ginny hadn’t said he could only kiss her mouth. Moving his lips from hers, he made a small trail from her chin down to her neck, where he proceeded to climb back up to her ear, kissing the lobe delicately.
Ginny sighed, her body responding to Harry’s movements. Her arms moved down from his neck, touching his clothes. Before she even realized what she was doing, the first three buttons of Harry’s shirt were undone, giving her a little visibility to his chest. While she had been busy unbuttoning his shirt, Harry had finally lost control of his hands; they’d snaked upward feeling their way to her face.
Cupping her beautiful jaw line, Harry kissed her lips once before pulling away. “Not this time,” he muttered more to himself than to her. “I’m not the one who’s going to be in trouble.”
Ginny looked guiltily at his unbuttoned shirt. “I couldn’t help myself?” she said hesitantly.
Harry groaned, laying his head against her shoulder. “It’s a dang good thing I’m planning to marry you after school gets out,” he muttered, “or I’d throw caution to the winds and take you into my room right now.”
Ginny enveloped him in a hug. “I’m sorry, Harry; really. My body sort of took off before my mind did.”
Harry had to laugh. “Now you know how I feel every time you scold me for touching you.”
Ginny bit her lip. “Wow, every time?”
Harry nodded. “Yep.”
“That’s got to be torture.”
“That’s the biggest understatement of the year.”
Ginny’s cheeks turned pink. “You know, I could forget studying.”
Harry was tempted. No, he was more than tempted. He was positive that if he could continue to snog her the way he’d just done that they wouldn’t stop if she decided to stay with him. His body was so wired right now that it took every ounce of his will to deny what he wanted most. Closing his eyes and counting to ten, Harry took a few steps back. His body shriveled in disappointment. He kept hold of Ginny’s hand.
“I don’t want Ron and Hermione to come down here looking for you,” he said, failing to hide his disappointment.
Ginny sighed. “You’re right.” She sounded just as depressed as he was. “I guess I’ll see you later?”
“A visit would be nice,” Harry encouraged.
Ginny smiled. “Alright.”
She kissed him lightly before moving down the hall and disappearing on the other side of the tapestry. Harry’s skin burned from where her lips had pressed against his. It took every ounce of self control not to go tearing after her.
“Breathe,” he told himself, “just breathe.”
He slowly made his way to the Gryffindor lion portrait. Stroking the tail and giving the password, Harry went inside. The sight that met his eyes caught him completely off guard. The Marauders, Lily, and Tonks were playing an intense game of wizard chess: the Marauders against Lily and Tonks.
“No, there,” Sirius whispered in James’s ear, pointing at one of the rooks.
“Are you mad, Padfoot?” scolded James. “Their queen will murder us if we play that move.”
“Why not move the bishop?” suggested Remus.
Sirius and James stopped arguing to look at the move Remus was pointing at. Both silently calculated before clapping Remus on the back.
“Excellent idea, Moony,” said James. “Let’s do that!”
Remus made the move and then it was the girls turn.
Harry crossed the room, amused. “Can’t you hear each other?”
All of them jumped.
“Harry!” Tonks exclaimed. “Don’t sneak up on us like that!”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “I’ve been standing here for three minutes.”
“Really?” said James with fascination. “I didn’t even notice. Did you?”
Sirius shook his head. “I was too busy focusing on the chessboard.”
Harry laughed. “I have to ask though, you were saying out loud what move you were going to make. Couldn’t mum and Tonks hear you?”
Remus shook his head. “We put a spell over us so that we wouldn’t be able to see or hear each other. We could only see the chessboard.”
“I guess Harry stepped into the spell’s boundaries and broke it,” said Lily, laughing lightly. “Goodness that was fun! We were winning too.”
“You were not!” James said, mocking anger. “We just sealed your fate by moving that bishop! See!”
Lily looked down at the board. “Hmmm…are you sure?”
“Of course,” said Sirius. “We don’t make mistakes.”
Lily grinned, a mischievous look in her eyes. She commanded one of her knights to move four places. “Checkmate.”
The marauders gasped.
“No way,” muttered James.
“How did we miss that?!” Sirius cried, outraged. “It’s all your fault, Remus! You cost us the game!”
“I did not,” said Remus calmly. “It was you and James who suggested leaving the king in that position. I wanted to move it but you two were adamant that it was safe there.”
James and Sirius looked mutinous. Lily and Tonks giggled, overjoyed with their success. Lily kissed James lightly on the cheek. “Sorry, honey. Try again next time.”
“I’ll win,” James warned.
“I’m sure you will,” Lily said kindly. “Now, how was breakfast, Harry?”
Harry sat down. “It was alright. Draco sat with us today.”
“What? Seriously?” said Sirius.
Harry nodded. “Everyone in the hall was just as surprised as you.”
“Well of course they were,” said Remus. “A Slytherin sitting at the Gryffindor table is unheard of.”
“Until now,” said James. “I hope the other Slytherins don’t try to jump him after this. You’d better keep an eye on him, Harry.”
“That’s what we plan to do,” Harry replied.
“Good,” said James. He then sat forward, a strange twinkle in his eye. “So, Harry, what was that thing you wanted to show us?”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “You look as if you already know, Dad.”
James grinned. “I’m pretty sure I do, son.”
Sirius looked at the two of them. “Care to share the secret?” he asked, feeling left out.
“It’s better if Harry shows us,” said James, his smile as wide as the Nile River.
Harry stood up, biting the inside of his cheek. His father looked full of explicit rapture. But would it remain that way when he discovered that his son wasn’t a stag like himself? Mortified by the idea of his father’s disappointment, Harry hesitated.
James mistook Harry’s hesitation for nerves. “It’s alright, Harry. Go ahead.”
Harry’s heart began to beat faster. Mustering up his Gryffindor courage, he looked around to make sure he wouldn’t hit anything. “Just don’t be too surprised,” he muttered before his form began to ripple.
As if getting struck on the head, Sirius gasped. “No way!”
“Shhh! Just watch,” James ordered.
Harry’s body slipped into the transformation like one slipping beneath the surface of the water, calmly and pleasantly. His lower half transformed into the lion, his upper to gigantic bird. Praying his wings wouldn’t hit anything, they burst from his spine, the longest tips brushing against the far walls on either side of him. Folding them gently to his body, Harry stood up straight and found his father first.
He was beholding Harry with a mixture of delight and surprise. It was obvious from his expression that the creature before him was not what he had been expecting. Harry waited for the disappointment to come. James looked him up and down and then a large grin spread across his face.
“I knew it!” he said, happily leaping from his spot on the couch and bounding forward. He stepped up to Harry who was now looking up at his father (a rather strange observance since before he was able to look at him head on). James walked around Harry in full circle before coming back to the front and letting out a whistle. “Extremely impressive, son,” he said, his voice full of awe. “A gryffin…I never would have believed it!”
Sirius let out a bark of laughter. “It makes a lot of sense when you think about it,” he said as he came over to look at Harry too.
Remus soon joined him. “Quite,” he agreed. “Gryffins are thought to be especially powerful and majestic creatures. They’re considered the king of all creatures because they’re a combination of a lion, the king of beasts, and a bird, the lord of the sky. Harry has always possessed leadership qualities and he is an extremely powerful wizard. It’s only fitting to have his true animagus form be an image of himself.”
Harry, wanting to express thanks, let out a loud chirp. It sounded extremely strange to him as well as a little embarrassing.
Remus grinned widely. “You’re welcome, Harry,” he said pleasantly.
Harry looked passed the three Marauders towards his mother and Tonks who were still sitting on the couch. They appeared too shocked to speak. They sat comparable to statues, looking at Harry’s animagus form, their eyes wide as dinner plates.
James rubbed Harry’s head. “I knew it!” he said again happily. “Well done, Harry! You’ve kept the tradition alive!”
“But why?” Lily asked, her voice full of trepidation. She’d finally left the couch. “Why did you become an animagus, Harry? I thought you’d hate being an animal. Please don’t tell me you did this because you were pressured into it.”
She gave James a stern look. Harry phased back into his regular form. Wanting to settle his mother’s unease, he shook his head emphatically. “I’m sure it seems weird, mum,” he said, “but I actually have been tossing around the idea of becoming an animagus for quite some time. I’ve been toying with the idea all summer. After the curse started happening and I experienced being an animal by force, I was curious to know what it would feel like being one by choice. So I decided to start researching how to become an animagus once I got back to school.”
“You’ve been researching this for three months?” Lily asked, surprised.
Harry nodded. “I had to have something to do during my free periods.”
Sirius, James, and Remus roared with laughter.
“That’s my boy!” James said enthused.
“A true Marauder’s son!” exclaimed Sirius.
Lily shook her head though now she was grinning. “I guess it can’t be helped,” she sighed. “I’m sure you just made James the happiest father in Paradise, Harry.”
“You bet he did!” James cried. “Let’s go raid the kitchens to celebrate, huh?”
Harry continued to hesitate. “So you’re not disappointed?” he asked his dad.
James looked at him incredulously. “Why in Merlin’s name would I be disappointed?”
Harry shuffled his feet. “Because I’m not a stag,” he muttered.
James caught Sirius’s eye. Sirius placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder and squeezed. “Everyone’s form is unique and individual, Harry. Just because your father’s a stag doesn’t mean you have to be one too.”
“But the curse…”
“Has nothing to do with who you really are,” said James. “I think you became a stag, Harry, because whoever cursed you saw that the animal held great significance to you. Whoever performed it must have been evil.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because they couldn’t see the real you,” James replied proudly. “Evil can’t penetrate the pure in heart, Harry.”
And with that, he put an arm around Harry’s shoulder and steered him out the door towards the kitchens, the others following right behind him.