“I spoke too soon,” Ron muttered to Harry out of the corner of his mouth. “This day can definitely get worse.”
Harry had to agree. Parvati and Lavender were debating in front of them if there had been an “incident” last year that no-one knew about, because it seemed rather odd that at the same time Sex Ed. had been introduced, anti-conception potions had found their way onto the Potions syllabus.
“I have to say, I almost feel sorry for Snape,” Ron continued. “He’s the one getting picked on to teach this stuff.”
“Mm,” Harry agreed, looking up at the blackboard and trying to remember which potion he was working on – the one on the left side of the board or the right? Examining the instructions and then the ingredients he’d used, he couldn’t work it out. The boys had been set the male version of the potion and the girls the female version – but Snape hadn’t labelled the instructions, and Harry had been so busy trying to get some of the last lesson’s mental images out of his head that he had completely forgotten which he had began following.
Looking at Ron, he saw him put in three drops of belladonna essence and relaxed. The essence only appeared in the instructions on the left. He took the bottle and carefully put three drops into his cauldron.
The potion exploded, showering him in it, and he caught a mouthful. Choking, he spat out what he could but he’d swallowed half.
“Idiot boy!” Snape snarled, Vanishing the remains of the potion. “What have you done?”
Harry tried to find the words to defend himself, to say that Snape should have labelled the sets of instructions, but the words wouldn’t come. He was beginning to feel a bit woozy and he suddenly realised Snape was standing in front of him with his hands on his shoulders.
“Potter. Potter, listen to me. Did you swallow any of the potion?”
“Uhm …” Harry’s vision was swimming and he couldn’t comprehend anything around him. “Head …”
His knees buckled as everything went pitch black.
The room erupted.
“Class dismissed!” Snape shouted, Vanishing all the potions with a wave of his wand. “Everyone come back here tomorrow at five o’clock to redo the assignment. No buts! Now, out!”
Everyone scrambled out in a hurry except for Ron and Hermione. Snape was bending over Harry, peeling open one eyelid.
“He’s alive,” he surmised. “Did you see what he did to the potion, Weasley?”
“Er, no, sir. I was focusing on my belladonna …”
Snape muttered something about the friends never watching each other when it was needed and levitated Harry into the air. “He’ll need to go to the Hospital Wing. Granger, run ahead and make sure our path is clear, we don’t want spectators …”
He trailed off, staring at Harry’s limp body.
“Heavens above,” Snape breathed.
“Oh my goodness!” Hermione gasped.
Ron swore loudly. Snape didn’t even blink.
“We definitely don’t want spectators.”
“What was the potion?” Madam Pomfrey asked in bewilderment, rummaging through a cabinet for a burn lotion.
“I don’t know what he did to it, but the potion he was meant to be working on was an anti-conception potion. Obviously the stupid boy couldn’t follow the instructions. I knew he shouldn’t have been allowed in the class -”
“Severus, only two of your pupils got an O in the OWL, it was only fair you lowered your standards this year,” Dumbledore said in a final sort of tone. “Poppy, what do you propose?”
Ron and Hermione looked at the matron desperately.
“I don’t know, Albus,” she admitted, soaking a rag in the lotion and beginning to tend to the burn on Harry’s right hand. “I think only you and Harry can decide together.”
Harry friends looked at each other, confused, but Dumbledore nodded. “I think that’s the best option: it’s really Harry’s decision. In the meantime -”
“Excuse me,” Ron said loudly, ignoring Hermione’s elbowing, “are you seriously considering leaving Harry as he is?
“She,” Snape corrected helpfully.
Dumbledore started to reply but stopped. Harry was stirring. Ron and Hermione drew closer, the adults drew back.
Harry’s eyes slowly opened and he – she – rubbed them, wincing in the light. “Where am I?”
Harry felt very tired. His head was groggy and he was aching all over as if he’d fallen off a broomstick.
“Where am I?” he whispered hoarsely.
“In the Hospital Wing.”
Snape. His voice sounded different somehow – soft and silky, yet Harry was positive he could hear the same snarky tone beneath it.
“Do you know what happened, Harry?”
Ron’s voice sounded different too. A shiver ran up Harry’s spine.
“What’s happened to my ears?” he burst out, his eyes snapping open. He couldn’t see properly (the lack of glasses) but he could make out three figures looking at each other in apparent confusion.
“Um, Harry,” Ron began nervously, “I think your ears are the least of your worries.”
“Wh-what do you mean?”
Harry fumbled on the bedside table for his glasses. “Where are my glasses?” Then he noticed something. “My voice! What’s happened to it?”
“Harry …” The third person spoke slowly, revealing himself as the headmaster. “The potion … had some unfortunate unseen consequences -”
“You’re a girl, Potter,” Snape interrupted bluntly.
“I’m what???” Harry sat bolt upright.
“Once again Severus, you show all the sensitivity of a blunt axe,” Dumbledore sighed.
“I’m what???” Harry repeated, panic settling in.
“Potter, please! Your shouting is bad enough normally; now it’s pitched higher it’s unbearable!”
“Give me my glasses!” Harry shouted in Snape’s direction.
“Here they are, Harry.” Hermione pressed them into his hands.
Snape shook his head as he put them on and the room came into focus. “Get yourself a new frame, Potter. Those ones no longer suit you.”
“Severus,” Dumbledore said with a touch of impatience in his voice, “instead of making comments about Harry’s – erm – predicament – maybe you could go and start preparing for a way to solve it?”
Their eyes met and an unspoken message seemed to pass between them. Snape gave a small nod and swept out of the Hospital Wing, leaving the others in an awkward silence.
Harry broke it first. “This cannot be happening.”
“Harry -” Dumbledore began.
“Look at me!” Harry gasped, examining his hands – they were smaller, and more delicate. “On second thoughts, don’t,” he added quickly, suddenly aware that he was still in his school robes which didn’t exactly fit properly now. He raised a hand to his shoulder and felt something: long, thick waves of hair, tumbling down almost to his waist.
“Wish mine was like that,” he heard Hermione mutter.
What Harry really wanted to do was strip right off just to clarify that his worst nightmare really had come true, but for some reason that didn’t seem like a good idea: Dumbledore was still in the room, and so was Ron, who seemed to be trying not to stare at Harry’s front. Instead he slid his new hands under the sheets and discreetly into his trousers.
“Oh Merlin,” he gulped. That proved it: he was a girl.
“Professor?” Hermione asked, tearing her eyes away from Harry’s new look to the headmaster. “What can we do?”
“I asked Professor Snape to get information on the Gender Changes that the Ministry offer,” Dumbledore answered, avoiding Harry’s eye. “Until then …”
“I’m stuck like this?” Harry gasped.
“I’m afraid so.”
Harry looked carefully at the headmaster. Although Dumbledore’s tone was serious, there was a definite hint of amusement in his twinkling eyes. Looking at his friends, he saw they seemed to be struggling over whether to be horrified or in stitches. Harry had to admit, if it was Ron in this situation he would probably have found it hilarious … but slightly disturbing as well.
“Wh-what am I supposed to do?” he stammered, a thought occurring to him. “I can’t go around school looking like this – people are going to notice!”
Ron hastily turned a laugh into a sneeze and Harry glared at him, which only seemed to amuse him more.
“Sorry, Harry,” he spluttered, “but I just got a picture of Malfoy’s face in my head if he saw you like this … It would beat the Bouncing Ferret hands down …”
“I’m sure we’ll think of something,” Dumbledore assured him. “In the meantime I’m sure Madam Pomfrey will keep you locked up here … uh, I mean, kept under strict supervision,” he hastily corrected at a dark look from the matron.
Harry slumped back onto his pillows. “Perfect.”
“Maybe we should get Minerva,” Madam Pomfrey said in a low voice to Dumbledore. “I think we need a female to deal with this properly, and she knows him – I mean, her – better than I do.”
Dumbledore nodded and left the Hospital Wing after squeezing Harry’s shoulder in reassurance. Madam Pomfrey took out her curtains and shooed Ron and Hermione away so she could check there were no extra side-effects of the potion, much against Harry’s protests.
“Minerva my dear, we have a problem.”
“In a school this size we’re never out of them. What is it this time?”
“One of our students appears to have changed genders, and I think he – I mean, she – needs a woman to talk to him. Her. Merlin, this is going to take a bit of getting used to.”
“Who?” Professor McGonagall asked, startled.
“Harry Potter – Or, I should say, Harriet Potter, as of half an hour ago …”
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