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Chapter 17 : Changes
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January 2, 2005
Hermione's parents had gone home after the New Year's holiday while Hermione had stayed at the Burrow to spend the rest of Christmas break with her friends. Unfortunately however for their hopes for a peaceful, relaxing break, Moody had found them, so he had continued their training right at the Weasleys. This action had proven hilarious for Roger Granger before he left, as the sight of Moody yelling at his daughter had brought back memories of his youth when he had been in the Royal Marines. He and Jane, and Molly and Arthur, had sat out on the lawn one morning, nice and comfortable under a magic heating charm cast by Arthur, while they ate popcorn supplied by Molly, and had watched the kids running after Moody, who had somehow gotten his horse to the Burrow. They had also died laughing at Mad-Eye's consternation when he had forgot there was no wards preventing apparation at the Burrow, so the teens would take turns jumping ahead of him and waving merrily as he went by.
In fact they had all just gotten done with just such a training session and Moody had stomped off, annoyed. Ron and Harry of course had immediately taken to the air on their brooms, to play, and honestly, Hermione couldn't begrudge them their fun. And in fact, she was grateful as it gave her time to talk to someone, without either of "her boys" butting in, however innocently. "Ginny," Hermione shouted to the prettiest Weasley, "can I talk to you for a bit."
"Sure, Herm," Ginny replied immediately, "Fred, George, go on I'll catch up." The twins nodded, in a way that told both witches that they needed to put up impurtable charms. Hermione motioned, and Ginny followed her, mutely, back up the stairs and into the room they shared. Her suspicions were confirmed when Hermione closed the door, and with a flick of her wand, proofed the room against prying ears, natural or otherwise. Ginny just gave her an inquisitive look at this behavior and sat down on her bed.
Hermione collapsed on hers, and sat there for a minute, not looking at her, and not saying anything. Finally she spoke, "Ginny, you said once that you considered us sisters right?"
"Yeah Hermione, I consider both you and Harry family, you know that." Ginny replied with as much sincerity as she could put in her voice.
"Good," Hermione muttered and bit her lip nervously, Ginny hid a grin as she started running her hand though her hair; it was one of Harry's trademark nervous tics.
After another minute of silence, Ginny thought she'd go ahead and break the silence, "Hermione, are you going to ask me if I still have a crush on Harry?" Hermione gasped, and Ginny smiled openly now, "Hermione I have long since gotten over that, and you know it, let me guess you have finally figured out that you are in love with Harry."
"Yeah," came a strangled reply. Hermione still refused to look at her, she merely sat, and stared down at the floor.
"Oh hell, maybe this will help," With a flippant look, Ginny jumped from her bed and transformed into her kneazle form. The tiny cat sauntered over to Hermione, tail held high, jumped up on the bed, and began rubbing and purring loudly.
"GIVE, give," Hermione laughed, then as Ginny transformed back, and sat down on the bed next to her, "thanks Ginny, but...what if he only likes me as a friend?" Hermione whispered and fell backwards onto the bed and stared at the ceiling, "what if Ron still thinks he likes me?"
Ginny turned her head to look at Hermione, "Herm, I can't help you with the first, though I will tell you, that in my opinion, there is no one else that Harry would or does trust with his heart, as to Ron, yeah he probably will get jealous, for a while, but in the end he'd get over it."
"I just don't want him to be distracted by me...he might get hurt because he's too busy saving poor Hermione again..." Hermione whispered, to which Ginny had no reply that she considered appropriate, at least not one she should repeat out loud.
Oh Merlin girl is that what you are concerned about, that is the same hang up Harry has, more or less. Ginny's thoughts went unspoken; she filled them away for future reference. She reached down and hugged her friend, she couldn't think of what else to do.
*************************Woods, Outside of the Burrow**********************
Hermione had sat with Ginny for an hour or so, neither of them had wanted to speak about that last desperate thought, and so had dropped the topic altogether and had gradually eased over to talking about other things, such as how Ginny's OWL studies were going, and if the Gryffindors were going to win the cup yet again.
Tonight a totally different quandary was on the docket. Tonight was the night that Harry and Hermione would take the Animagus potion, cast the final charm, and try for the first time to change into a different form. The teens had all begged off early, saying that they were tired and headed off to bed, not that they were sleeping. The real reason that they had chosen tonight, was that they knew Moody was off duty, and that they wouldn't have to risk being detected, as Ron, Harry, Ginny and Hermione snuck out to the spot in the woods where they would try to first transform away from prying eyes.
Harry and Hermione snuck down the stairs under the invisibility cloak. Harry paused and using his wand, he knocked a book off a table, causing Molly and Arthur to look to one side while Ron and Ginny snuck past. The disillusionment charms that they were using did not give as good of an effect as the cloak did, so just in case, Harry staged a distraction. He saw the door open and close silently behind the two adult Weasleys, and with shared, invisible grins, he and Hermione carefully snuck over to the door, and as soon as Arthur sat back down, they too, vanished into the night.
After a minute of walking, Harry pulled the cloak off of them, allowing them both to move more freely. With a touch of worry in his eyes, he turned to face Hermione, "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Hermione just nodded, and they started walking towards the hidden clearing again, after a few more steps, "well the potion worked for Ron, Ginny and the twins, and Snape tested it..."
"Yeah, he did, lucky he didn't know that we were going to use it or he might have poisoned it." Harry replied with a moue of distaste. They have now arrived in the clearing to find Ron and Ginny waiting. Ron waved and pointed at two identical beakers setting on a stump. Both beakers shone a strange pearlescent white, with a rainbow sheen dancing on top of the liquid, the colors dancing in the light from the fire Ron had started.
"Are you two ready?" Ron asked, and just got two tense nods in return. "Ok, just in case, I have the counter potion ready too, the twins and I and Ginny didn't need it, but sometimes there's a side reaction, or so the text said." Ron showed them a small vial of a green fluid, and Hermione gulped at he implication that that might be needed. But she had been chosen for Gryffindor in the end, and without another word, she knelt in the snow, facing the tree stump. Harry knelt beside her, and gave her a quick smile as he reached forward and grabbed the beakers. He handed one to Hermione, together, they clinked them together, "Cheers."
"Damn, that's nasty." Hermione muttered, then with a nod from Harry, and with jade orbs meeting chocolate ones, "bestia mutatio." For almost a minute, nothing happened, and then both of their bodies gave off a slight blue glow, which vanished almost instantly. Hermione felt her body getting smaller, lighter. Her eyesight became incredibly sharp, she could almost pick the individual threads out in Ginny's sweater from feet away, and most off all, she felt as if she wanted to be, must be, in the air. She cautiously turned her head to either side and stretched out her arms, only to see dark, honey brown feathers coating her arms. She opened her mouth to laugh, only to hear a SCREE come out. What the hell, I might as well try, Hermione flapped her arms/wings, and with three powerful beats, she was in the air. She beat her wings occasionally, but she quickly found out that she didn't need to flap much to keep in the air. And also to her great relief, the fear of heights and flying that had plagued her since first year, when they were learning to fly on a broomstick was gone, replaced with a feeling of peace.
Harry on the other hand hadn't felt himself grow smaller, he felt his body elongating, his teeth dropping, and his back straightening as he stretched out on all fours. He padded forward a couple of steps, marveling at how easy it was to walk on all fours. He felt, instead of saw, a long tail behind him, and could hear Ron's heartbeat from yards away, he opened his mouth to say something, but instead of words, only a ROAR came out, exactly like the one Luna's weird hat gave out at Quiddich matches. Harry looked over at Ron, who with a grin conjured a mirror for him to look into. In the mirror was the oddest lion Harry had ever seen, even taking into account it was actually him, instead of the normal tawny color, Harry was jet back in lion form, and as he turned his great head to the mirror to see his face, he could see that his mane was at least as messy as his human hair, and that his lion form had his emerald green eyes.
Hermione swooped back down over the clearing, I think I'd like to human again, She thought and as easy as that, she transformed back into her normal shape, landing gently on her feet. She gasped a little as the huge black cat ambled over to her, but just as Crookshanks did, Harry bumped her palm with his huge head, and she reflexively petted him, scratching behind the ears. Harry started purring, which as he was a lion was quite loud, "HARRY!" Hermione exclaimed with a laugh, and then watched as the great lion turned from her, jumped into the air, and came back down as her best friend.
"Bloody hell" Ron muttered, "neither of you had any problems transforming back then?" Harry and Hermione both shook their head, and shrugged a bit. "That was cool," Ron grinned and as they watched, he SHIFTED into his red and black tiger form and turned to Harry.
"Fine Ron if you want it that way," Harry SHIFTED back into his lion form, the transformation just as quick as Ron's, he padded over to his friend and as they stood together the girls could see, that even though Harry's lion form was large, Ron was an even bigger cat, almost as if their human forms were influencing the animal forms, which made a weird kind of logic, as Ron was almost five inches taller than Harry. Ginny and Hermione laughed as Ron and Harry started circling each other, then began pouncing on one another, both with carefully sheathed claws Hermione was happy to note. Harry turned to the girls, his green eyes startling in the lion form, and he motioned with his huge black head. Hermione smiled and SHIFTED herself, followed by Ginny a moment later. Hermione fluttered over and settled on the shoulder of Harry's cat form, and together all four of them headed off to go explore the woods, two of them, easily the baddest things in this forest, this night.
The quartet spent almost two hours prowling the forest, poking into things that they couldn't have as humans. Finally with a large cat sigh, Harry motioned to head back toward the Burrow and they did, Hermione launched off of his shoulder just like Hedwig did, and landed in human form next to him. Harry, Ron and Ginny transformed back, and they repeated the procedure for their escape only in reverse. Harry and Hermione slipped in under the invisibility cloak, while Ron and Ginny disillusioned themselves and more or less vanished from sight, though you could see their outline if you tried.
Right after Ron and Ginny had snuck in, Hermione suddenly stopped and pulled up short. An action which caused Harry to crash into her from behind and almost take them both down to the ground, though he stopped the motion for both of them at the last second. "What?" Harry wondered aloud as he recognized the first signs of 'I have a brilliant plan' coming from Hermione. Hermione turned around to face him, in the tight quarters under the cloak, which did things, Harry was trying to ignore, at least for now.
"Harry, if we gave Remus the animagus potion..." Hermione began with a sudden realization, and a little grin.
"Then he could transform at will and wouldn't be bound by the moon, and he'd be in his normal mind when he was." Harry finished for her, completing the thought, as if he had read her mind. Harry's eyes flicked upward as he tried to remember everything he'd ever been taught about werewolves. "Maybe, I'd bet you would have to modify it somehow though, since his animagus form is a werewolf obviously..."
"Wolfsbane, I'd have to add wolfsbane to the potion." Hermione gave a little squeak and kissed him on the cheek. "Since he can transform when he wants it should revive the stress on him." Hermione said happily.
A sudden dampening notion flickered across Harry's thoughts, "Mione, if we do that, we'll have to tell him that we're animagi. Otherwise...." Harry trailed off as she nodded.
"We'll be ok Harry, after all, his two best friends were unregistered animagi." Hermione said with a nod, as if affirming a fact to herself that she had just read in a book.
"Ok, I'll tell him, there are some things I want to talk to him about anyway." Harry replied a little distracted. He did indeed want to talk to Lupin, but werewolves and animagi were just adjuncts to what he wanted to ask.
Hermione frowned imperceptibly, but accented, "Ok Harry."
January 6, 2005
"Remus, I can I talk to you for a bit?" Harry hollered out to the last Marauder. Harry and the rest of the school age inhabitants of the Burrow had just spent several hours under his tutelage on hand to hand. Harry quickly pulled a coat on before he started to get a chill in the cold January air, even though he was warm right then.
"Sure Harry," Lupin replied and waved the rest of them back inside, dismissing them until this afternoon. To the varying displeasure of the students, Dumbledore and Moody had decided that the remainder of the Christmas break was perfect for additional training without the distraction of regular classes. "What about?" He asked as he came over. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Hermione holding back for a moment, then after brief eye contact with Harry, almost as if Harry were answering a silent question, she nodded and headed in with the rest. Lupin grinned to himself for a millisecond before Harry turned back to him.
Harry didn't exactly answer his question, but asked another instead, "Lets walk?" and without waiting for a response he started walking off down the path that he and the others had used nightly for their explorations in their animal forms. Something that would probably have to stop at Hogwarts, as the sight of a lion and or a tiger prowling the halls, would probably be too much, even for that place.
Lupin followed obediently, clearly realizing that Harry wanted privacy for this conversation, mentally preparing for the questions he thought Harry would ask, maybe about Sirius or his parents, or maybe something else. As events turned transpired he was to be right on some accounts.
"Remus, if I ask for your word, will you keep a confidence or confidences?" Harry asked seriously as they gained the clearing. He nervously ran his hand though his rapidly drying, sweaty hair with a grimace.
Lupin shrugged and leaned against a tree, "Are you planning on doing something stupid?" He asked seriously, though his tone was light. "If you are going to go haring off on some solo mission or something...."
"No Remus," Harry replied somberly, "I learned my lesson at the Ministry, thank you..." Harry paused and tried to clean a speck of dirt off the toes of the same trainers that connected with the back of Lupin's head, just a bit ago in their hand to hand training, after which Lupin had called it a day, "I may not have a choice, in whether my friends will follow me, but I'm not going to get Mi...any of them hurt just because I'm being stupid again." Harry's gaze never rose above Lupin's knees with that statement, and the words barely carried to even Lupin's enhanced ears.
Remus might not be Sirius or James, but he was more or less the closest thing Harry had left to a father, so he couldn't let that pass, "Harry they didn't just..."
But Harry soon cut him off, "it's ok Remus, I originally was just going to talk to you about something, and maybe show you something...interesting, but if you have time, I'd like to talk about something first, as I've been told that you already know about stuff..." Harry whole body language was nervous at that last statement.
Remus smiled to try to reduce the tension, though the sight of his fangs slightly dropped from the adrenaline, from this mornings workout sessions, would have scared a muggle, and most wizards in fact. "Nothing but it, I stopped after I found that your...Hermione could snap kick above my head, and how the hell did you land that one to the back of my head." Lupin replied wryly and idly rubbed the back of his head.
"Hell if I know," Harry chuckled, and sat down on the same log that he and Hermione had sat on the day she arrived unexpectedly in the Burrow. "Remus, you know about the nightmares right?" Lupin nodded quietly.
"A bit, I know that you were having...difficulty sleeping after you got to Grimmauld...and that ummm...." Lupin stopped nervous for some reason.
"Door was open huh?" Harry replied with a sad little grin, "Remus, I love her and I'm going to get her killed."
Whoa, that was direct, Remus thought, a little shocked at hearing Harry admit it. "I take that this is the topic that you added at the last minute."
"Yeah" Harry picked up a rock and silently levitated it over the palm of his hand, a move that shocked Remus with the extremely casual use of wandless magic.
Damn, he learns fast, He thought, Dumbledore had just recently started training Harry, and by automatic definition, Hermione and Ron in the skill, but he hadn't realized how fast Harry was picking things up.
Harry's gaze met his after drifting up from the rock, he closed his hand around it and chuckled, "Sorry Remus, no, I can't actually do useful magic, yet, no stunners, shields etc, wandlessly, just make really small things levitate, and call my wand." Harry said self-depreciatingly. "Remus what do I say to her?"
"I'd probably start with I love you and I want to have puppies with you...wait that was me, strike that last part." Remus said with a smile and Harry broke up laughing.
After a minute of solid laughter, Harry calmed down, "Did you really say that to Tonks?" Lupin nodded with a smile to which Harry rolled his eyes, "Remus I don't know what to do...what if I tell her and she laughs...or what if I loose her as a friend...or worse what if she returns my feelings and it gets her killed, doing something stupid like following me to the Ministry."
"Harry I don't honestly know what to tell you, do I think that she returns your feelings...yeah, I umm saw her holding you and visa versa at Grimmauld, I heard you cry out in the nightmares, werewolf you know." Lupin laughed a little bitterly at that final statement, though inside his thoughts were racing, Damn it James, what the hell am I supposed to tell your son?
Before Lupin could answer his internal question, or the ghost of James could come to his aid, Harry went on, almost to himself, "I mean that she is the only thing, that kept me sane this summer, Remus. Even though I almost died myself, every time I saw her get hurt in one of my nightmares, it was still the thought that I'd see her again that let me go on. I didn't know it then, but I know it now. And now, she shows up here, on the run from an attack..."
"Harry she did good, she ran off all the dementors and took out four of the Death Eaters by herself, and I suspect that she could have stopped the last two if she had to. I know I saw her handy work."
Harry sighed and with a sudden flash of uncontrolled magical energy, the stone Harry had in his hands shattered, Lupin's eyebrow shot up but he didn't say anything, "That's not the point Remus, she shouldn't have had to, in the first place. I should have..."
Lupin interrupted sadly, "What? Been there? Kept her from harm? What Harry? It's the same problem I have with Nymph, I love her but I can't protect her, I just have to pray she comes back safe, and if I can at all, to be at her side. I admit that you have it worse, Harry it's not like you have a choice in the matter."
"I guess that you know about the prophecy, then." Harry replied, his tone unsure.
Lupin nodded, a tear in a corner of his eye as a seventeen-year old memory flashed across his mind, "Yeah, I do, as did Sirius, and your parents. They went on with their lives anyway. As you must. I suppose that it is fortunate that Dumbledore never got around to relating the prophesy to Pettigrew..."
"Reaally" Harry rejoined, sarcasm dripping from his words, "I just am tired of those who I care about being hurt just because they know me. Mum...Dad...Sirius...dead, Hermione, Ron, Luna, Tonks, you, Arthur...hurt, usually more than once. Help me Remus, I'm running out of names, and St. Mungo's and Pomfrey are running out of beds."
Lupin strode over to Harry and grabbed his shoulders, and forcing Harry's head up looked into his eyes. "Harry, those people were hurt...or died because they stood against the darkness. Not because of you, but for you. There is a difference. Did they die because they loved you, yes in a way. But can you say that you wouldn't do the same for any of your friends, and more for her, that you wouldn't walk though the fires of hell for her?" Harry nodded mutely as Lupin backed off a pace.
Harry took that opportunity to change the subject to the one he originally had envisioned. "Remus, what I originally asked you here about was...what if we...well actually Hermione wondered, what if you took the Animagus potion."
Lupin shook his head sadly, "Sorry Harry, your dad thought of that while we were in school, didn't work, I was still controlled by the moon, I...the normal animagus potion didn't really do anything for me, as I was already technically an animagus, however involuntarily. I still had no control over my actions."
"What if you modified the potion...with wolfsbane," Harry replied slowly and watched as Lupin's eyes lit up. "We, well she thinks that it would allow you to transform when you wanted to, and would let you keep you mind when you did. We also think that you wouldn't have to take the wolfsbane potion every month, and that it would relieve the stresses on you. How would you like to make a disability an advantage?" Harry finished rather bluntly though he gave a little smile to lighten it.
Lupin stood shocked, thinking. He wasn't a potions master by any means, but as one would expect he had read everything he could over the years on his condition, he saw immediately where the wolfsbane potion, which wasn't discovered until after he had left school, might be combined, if it didn't kill him of course. "I think that she might be a genius."
"She is..." Harry automatically defended her.
Lupin broke out into a large smile, and then with a shock, just how did they start looking into the animagus potion? Lupin wondered in his thoughts. "Harry, just why were you looking into the animagus potion."
Instead of answering Harry did the next best thing; he SHIFTED into his black lion form. He stalked over to Lupin and sat down in front of him on the cold forest floor. Lupin just raised an eyebrow, as he transformed back. "The reason is long, complicated and involves Snape, but I need to know something and I really don't want to sound like a whiny eight year old...will you tell on us?"
"Me, Hermione, Ron, Ginny and the twins." Harry replied, "Will you? We're not exactly registered or anything."
"No shit?" Lupin sighed, "Harry of course I won't, my two best friends weren't and they became animagi to be with me when I transformed." Harry immediately noticed that Lupin hadn't mentioned Pettigrew, but every one knew just what Lupin or Harry, or Hermione or damn near anyone thought about that particular piece of human filth. And I'm sure not going to turn in the two people that come the closest to replacing James and Lily, Lupin thought guiltily as he regarded Harry. "Harry...thanks. By the way, if you would, tell Hermione that we took her example to heart."
"We used info from Snape and several other sources and ambushed five of Voldemort's terror parties, we made them vanish without a trace. It's made him stop his random terror attacks for the time being, there hasn't been once since two days after Christmas when we took them down. I thought that she'd take it best from you." Lupin replied, careful to keep his expression serious.
"Thanks Remus I'll tell her...we'll get started on your potion as soon as we can." Harry replied as he started to walk off, back to the Burrow.
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