The Many Faces of Harry Potter 13

“The Many Faces of Harry Potter: Chapter 13”
By = Fayanora

Chapter Thirteen: Egypt

Note 1: Text in 'Italics and British quotes' is Parseltongue. Usually.

Note 2: Once more, I apologize for the bits and pieces of canon dialogue/narration here and there.

Note 3: I have different styles for the internal speech of Alastair, Harry, and Zoey, and now Iliana (bold, italic, and underlined). (Which is also sometimes used for emphasis in Al's speech, but whatever.)

That one week they stayed in Hogwarts over the summer was much like the last one, largely boring while they waited for Nicolas Flamel to need Zoey to retrieve the Philosopher's Stone. The only really new things were feeding the basilisk, and Tier occasionally deciding to take over and run through the forbidden forest whenever he could sneak away during the day, or else running around the grounds. It was a little unsettling for some of the teachers, in fact, as he was getting better at changing the body to be more animal-like. He never managed to get it looking like a real animal, it always looked like some animal-human hybrid, but that probably just made it worse.

What kind of animal Tier attempted to change into depended on his mood, but usually a wolf, a dog, or occasionally a bear; or rather, part-human hybrids of those animals as he grew into his powers.

And then there were the times Tier just lengthened the arms and gave them wolf-like teeth, but otherwise kept the body human. That was perhaps the most unnerving of all Tier's transformations. But the teachers tolerated it because he wasn't hurting anyone, and because the others explained that Tier was just as intelligent as the rest of them, even though he didn't like to speak.

As to feeding the basilisk, they sent down piles of whole chickens or whole beef roasts every week, as that was pretty much all the basilisk wanted. They always enlisted the help of one or more of the house elves, warning the elves that they'd be speaking Parseltongue, and telling them not to go down there just in case. The first time they did this, the house elves – figuring out at once what the place was – had to be reassured several times that the basilisk wouldn't be coming up without their say-so, and they wouldn't say so unless it was a dire emergency. They only really calmed down when Al, getting annoyed, told them that Dumbledore knew about this arrangement and that they could confirm this with him if it helped.

He was reasonably certain they did, in fact, check with Dumbledore. Which was fine by him; whatever eased their anxiety. But still, most of the time they would only take the food up to the door of the bathroom before leaving quick as a shot. This made things slightly more difficult, especially with Filch. Snape, on the other hand, seemed to give the place a wide berth. He suspected Dumbledore had told Snape what was going on, though he couldn't figure out why the abusive git needed to know.

Tier might have been another strain on the kitchens, if not for the fact that he was perfectly capable of hunting his own food. The others checked out whenever he did this, not wanting to watch as he broke the necks of rabbits or whatever he did when he caught them. Which was a shame, Tier thought, as he was just catching and releasing the animals without hurting them. (He needed to know he could catch food if he needed to, but as Hogwarts gave them plenty of food, actually killing the animals would just be wasteful.)

Since they would be going to stay with the Weasleys for the rest of the summer, as they had before, they had to do a lot of diplomacy the last few days to convince the house elves to apparate food into the Chamber. It wasn't easy, despite the fact they knew the elves could do so without entering the Chamber itself. It was a combination of Zoey's youth and Iliana's compassion that finally convinced them to do it.

As to the cost of this arrangement, they'd tried offering Dumbledore money to pay for the extra food, but he refused them. They tried a couple more times just in case, but he refused all offers, insisting that the arrangement would be useful later.

At last, though, the week was over and they were heading down to Hogsmeade in a carriage, and were met at the station by Mr. Weasley.

“Ah, Harry, good to see you,” he said, since Harry was the one fully Out at the moment. “How are you?”

“Doing well. How about you?”

“Oh, no complaints, no complaints. Anyway, Harry, we're going to go to the Burrow by side-along apparition. Have you ever done that before?”

“Yeah. Dumbledore took us to the Leaky Cauldron that way after Al let those snakes loose in the zoo.”

“Good then, I don't have to explain it,” Mr. Weasley said, holding out his arm.

“Just don't be surprised if we get sick from it,” Harry warned.

“Thanks for the heads-up, Harry.”

Harry took Mr. Weasley's arm, and when everyone was ready, Mr. Weasley apparated, taking him along for the ride.

Sure enough, when they got there, Harry bent over in the grass and was sick, while Mr. Weasley stepped aside to get away from the smell and the mess. When Harry was feeling better again, he followed Mr. Weasley on the surprisingly long walk to the front door.

“Ah yes, Dumbledore got some people he knows to put some extra protections on the Burrow while you're here, since trouble has a way of finding you. Dumbledore was very shaken up by that whole Chamber business. So was I, of course, but I've never seen Dumbledore shaken before.”

Harry nodded, repressing a grin. He knew that Dumbledore's 'very shaken' was hard to spot. His estimation of Mr. Weasley raised some, knowing the man could read at least that much in Dumbledore's mannerisms. Of course, the man did have a tendency to get pensive when he was worried. …

“Anyway, Harry, I must ask you and the others to stay in the house or yard while you're here, okay?”

“We will, Mr. Weasley.”

“Harry!” Ron shouted, running to meet his friend.

“Ron!”

They hugged briefly, Harry noticing Ginny nearby, giving him a look that was hard to read, as it was filled with such mixed and muddled emotions. He nodded understandingly at her, once. She smiled nervously, then left the room unhurriedly.

Ron and Harry ran off to hang out and talk together, Harry telling Ron about his week at Hogwarts alone, leaving out the parts about the basilisk because he hadn't told Ron or Hermione yet, and was still trying to decide if it was wise to do so. But Ron was plenty entertained by the tales of Tier's exploits.

“...mind you, there's no proof he's hurting any animals, as we don't see or feel any blood, feathers, or fur when we snap out of it again, but just the fact that he's hunting them is kind of weird,” Harry said.

“Wow, I bet.”

They felt annoyance from Tier then, and an image of him catching and releasing the animals.

“Oh. Okay, according to Tier, he just catches and releases them without hurting them. Well that's a relief.”

“Did he talk to you, then?”

“No. Not in words, anyway. Even inside our head, he doesn't use words unless there's no other way.”

“But he's just as intelligent as the rest of you?”

“Yeah. It's a little odd, but hey, whatever. We're odd in many ways already, what's one more thing?”

~

The weeks at the Burrow went by as usual, with the kind of happy speed that came from living with people that liked you, people that loved each other, people that fed you well and treated you well. The kind of home they would have loved to have had for the first 12 years of their life. Mostly it was Harry, but Iliana and Zoey made occasional appearances. And once Al startled Mrs. Weasley so bad she almost dropped what she was carrying, though he hadn't been doing anything but sitting there. But then, adults were always weird around him for some reason, more so than any of the others except maybe Tier. But feeling weird about Tier was understandable, whereas Al couldn't figure out why his appearance always made most of the adults he knew uncomfortable. Nor why the looks would increase in intensity when he laughed.

The only really significant change was that Ginny, who was more nervous around Harry than ever before, was opening up to Iliana on the days that she was Out. It was tentative at first, which was understandable given what happened the last time she trusted someone, but progress was being made; the two girls were becoming friends.

“You know, Ginny, I think maybe you should see a Mind Healer, too,” Iliana told her one of those times. “I don't know if Healer Young could do it or not, but he could probably find someone who can if not.”

Ginny crossed her arms uncomfortably. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Okay. Do you want me to ask him, or do you want to do it?”

“Can... can we do it together?” she asked in a small voice.

“We can do that, yes.”

So, when Healer Young came to visit her the next time, Iliana held Ginny's hand in the private room they met him in. But as soon as Healer Young came into the room, Ginny took a deep breath and blurted out her needs.

“I need a Mind Healer.”

Healer Young paused, then sat down, and nodded. “I heard from Dumbledore about You-Know-Who using you to get into the Chamber. I have time, after Iliana's session, to have a session with you, if you're ready for that.”

Ginny looked pleased by this, but then her face fell as she thought of something.

“Ohmygoodness... um, I just remembered my parents can't pay you.”

He waved her concern away. “It's alright, Miss Weasley. Given my work with Iliana, and given what happened over the last school year, Dumbledore has hired me on as a school Mind Healer. The school will pay for our sessions. I'm already seeing some other students because of this Chamber business.”

Ginny relaxed. “Oh. Good. Well, thank you.”

“You're welcome, dear,” he said with a kind smile.

Ginny got up and left the room for Iliana to have her session.

~

On Thursday the 22nd of July, everything changed for the better in a wildly unexpected way. The day after Percy got a letter telling him that he'd made Head Boy at Hogwarts, Mr. Weasley came running into the house hollering and whooping and waving a parchment around in people's faces. It took a few minutes for him to calm down enough to tell them what he was so excited about.

“We won! We won!”

“What did we win, Arthur?”

“The annual Daily Prophet Grand Prize Galleon Draw! Seven hundred galleons!”

At this, everyone in the family was excited, dancing around. Fred and George did a little jig with one another, and even Harry laughed with joy; if anyone deserved 700 galleons, it was the Weasleys.

Let's see, Iliana thought at him, that's... a little over £2100.

“Oh Ronnie,” Mrs. Weasley said, hugging Ron, “we can afford a new wand for you, now.”

Ron whooped at this news. Harry privately thought they would've had to buy him a new wand anyway, seeing as his old one was in two separate pieces now, after it exploded in the Chamber of Secrets.

“This calls for a trip to visit Bill,” Mr. Weasley said.

“Yes, that's perfect, dear. Oh, so much planning to do!” she bustled off to start.

Harry tried to keep his smile on, but was struggling. Where would he go while this happened? Back to Hogwarts?

“Harry!” Mr. Weasley said, spotting him. “I'll have to ask Dumbledore, of course, but if we can, we'll take you with us.”

Harry's eyes went wide. “Take me with you? To Egypt? Wow! Thanks, Mr. Weasley.”

“Well don't thank me yet, I still have to ask Dumbledore.”

Mr. Weasley rushed off, whistling happily to himself, to write a letter to send to Dumbledore.

Harry, too, rushed off to write a letter, to inform Hermione of what they were going to do, though he wasn't going to send it until they heard back for sure about being able to go. He also wrote one to send to Hagrid, so Hagrid would know where to send a birthday gift.

~

In the end, they got permission from Dumbledore to go, though he sent them some sunblock along with the permission letter.

As was usual for the Weasleys, packing ahead of time didn't really help much. They all still ran around like mad on the day of the portkey to Egypt, going back several times for things before finally getting to drive to the nearest local portkey office, and were just barely on time when they finally got there.

The portkey was a piece of sandstone, so it would blend in when it was discarded in Egypt, without littering the place with garbage; they would have to take a different portkey back home. Under Mrs. Weasley's direction, Harry grabbed part of the sandstone, as did all the Weasleys, and waited. Then they counted down, and at one, there was a jerk behind his navel, a swirl of colors and wind, and then they fell over.

As he struggled to stand back up, he said, “Why does magical transportation always suck?”

“Ten past four from Ottery St. Catchpole, UK,” a very careful, well-enunciated voice said. Harry looked up; a tall, bronze skinned man with eyes like polished petrified wood and with shiny black hair was standing there, welcoming them all to Egypt. Harry and Iliana both felt the same thing for this man, the same kind of feeling Iliana had once felt for Oliver Wood. Harry blinked, and blushed. Then he tried very hard to look away inconspicuously and to try to put these feelings out of his mind.

They got put up in a hotel with its name in both English and Arabic. The English version said 'The Pink Sphinx,' and had a very time-worn wood carving of a pink sphinx under the sign. Another sign said 'Proudly serving the magical community since 1746 A.D.'

Like the Leaky Cauldron, it was also a pub. Unlike the Leaky Cauldron, it was brighter, more colorful, and had matching customers. They didn't know what stone was used to make it, but it was sand colored, so maybe sandstone? And there was, also, sand everywhere; it was blowing in from the outside.

Al frowned internally at the sight.

Why is it the wizarding world is always so behind the Muggle world? This place is like a bad stereotype of Victorian-era Egypt. I very much doubt Muggle Egypt looks like this.

They got set up in their rooms, and came back down for dinner. It was, as usual for a Weasley dinner, a noisy affair, with lots of talking, when people weren't stuffing their faces. The inn's fare wasn't as good as Mrs. Weasley's cooking of course, but it was good. Harry had something called Ful Medames, which was a kind of spicy bean dish served with vegetables and sliced hard-boiled eggs. There were also plates of a pita bread called Eish Masri, and tureens of hummus. It was all very delicious.

This is amazing, Harry said to his headmates. The Dursleys would never have let us do this.

Yeah, Al said. Those idiots would never eat anything they perceived as 'foreign.'

And even if they did, they never would have let us go with them.

~

The month was largely a flurry of activity, so fun it went by very fast. They saw the sights, of course; they saw the pyramids and the great stone sphinx that was famous even in the Muggle world. They saw the tombs of wizarding kings and other important wizarding folk, with mutated skeletons of unfortunate people who had tried breaking in.

They met Bill, too, of course. That was an interesting experience. They'd been anticipating someone like Percy, but Bill was... cool. He was tall, with long hair that he had tied back in a ponytail. He was wearing an earring with what looked like a fang dangling from it. Bill’s clothes would not have looked out of place at a rock concert, except that Harry recognized his boots to be made, not of leather, but of dragon hide.

I guess that fits his job of curse-breaker, anyway, Al thought.

On seeing Bill, though, Iliana and Harry once more felt that feeling that Harry didn't want to think about, that Iliana had felt once for Oliver Wood. But the worst part of it was, he knew what it felt like to feel the emotions of a headmate, emotions he didn't share, and this wasn't that. He was feeling the same thing she was, all on his own.

As if that wasn't bad enough, while Harry was determined to stay away from Bill, Iliana was equally determined to find more reason to get closer to the eldest Weasley brother. This made Harry so uncomfortable that he switched places with her, showing Bill their transformation ability for the first time ever.

Harry did attempt to stay Out as much as possible, though, and the others honored his wishes. So he saw all of the really cool stuff with his own eyes, and in full control of his own body. Which is how he was when he found something he thought he'd never see again.

They were in the wizarding district of Cairo when it happened, shopping for souvenirs. They turned down the wrong way, and found a less-than-savory shop down a dark alley, that reminded them strongly of Borgin and Burke's. And there, in the window, was...

Is that the Mirror of Erised? How did that get here?

Reading the text above the mirror, it was confirmed as the Mirror of Erised. Harry took a closer look, stepping forward. Suddenly, he saw his mom and dad, and scores of other relatives standing behind him. Only this time, he wasn't Iliana, nor any of the others. He wasn't even entirely himself, either. The reflection of himself in the mirror was older, taller, and... he blinked in bewilderment.

You're a girl! It's showing you as a girl. But it's you for sure. Same face, same eyes, same color hair, just longer and tamer. And, well, then there's your chest.

Al was right; Harry's reflection in the Mirror of Erised was a girl version of himself, age 16 or 17, and had breasts. They were neither too large nor too small, but they were unmistakable.

His emotions ground to a halt, like there was sticky tar in their gears. He felt numb at first, then numb and excited at the same time. Then things that had confused him in the past suddenly made sense. All of a sudden, his emotions re-engaged, going into overdrive, and he couldn't tolerate the chaotic mix of emotions swirling through him like a hurricane; he ran full tilt away from the Mirror, trying to run from his feelings. He crashed right into Ron, and both of them fell over.

“Oy, watch it! Harry? What's the matter?”

Harry refused to cry in front of his friend. But there was nowhere to run to, either. Well... there was one place. He retreated within himself, and in his place appeared Iliana.

“What happened to Harry?” Ron asked her.

“Oh... um... I don't know,” she lied.

~

Harry didn't come back out for the rest of the trip, something that everyone noticed but few seemed to want to comment on. He didn't even come out to see the news clipping of the photo he was in with the rest of the Weasleys, from the Daily Prophet, a clipping that Ron sent a copy of to Hermione, who was vacationing with her parents in the south of France. Nor did he come out to receive a gift from Ron, a Pocket Sneakoscope he'd bought in wizarding Cairo; Iliana had to put it away in their trunk for him.

Even when they got back to the UK, and went to Diagon Alley, Harry was still hiding within. Iliana watched Ron get a brand-new wand at Olivander's, and later met Hermione.

The three of them shopped around for school supplies and other things. Iliana got some Sleakeazy's hair potion for Harry at one store, then followed the other two into a magical pet store, because Ron's rat Scabbers was ill.

As she listened to the conversation between Ron and the woman behind the counter, her eyes went wide at finding out Scabbers was 12 years old. It was very interesting to her that magical pets lived longer than non-magical pets, but made sense. Still, if Scabbers was magical, he'd never shown any sign of having any powers. He just ate and slept all the time. Or he had, until recently. Now he looked very anxious. The anxiety, in fact, radiated from him so strongly that it was almost like he was human; they'd certainly never had any ability to read animal emotions before then.

She debated whether or not to tell Ron about this. They'd not mentioned it yet, but Al's heart-reading power and their effort to learn human body language had combined and mutated over the summer, and was giving them the ability to feel the emotions of other people without trying. It was very useful, but it was also sometimes annoying, because it was getting harder and harder to shut off, and sometimes made it hard to be around other people. She really hoped that being able to read Scabbers the same way was an aberration; she didn't think she could handle it if their new empathic power expanded to include all animals everywhere, even if it just stayed restricted to mammals and/or birds.

Making things worse for her, Hermione had used her pocket money to buy herself a pet cat that attacked Scabbers the first time it saw him, making things between Ron and Hermione tense and angry, which were emotions that hurt more to be around than others. Added to that, they could also sense the cat's emotions, though the cat's emotions were far weaker than Scabbers's emotions.

Still, Iliana's eye managed to get caught by something in Quality Quidditch Supplies on their way back. It was a shining, perfect, gorgeous broomstick called the Firebolt. It was truly magnificent, a work of art, but as soon as she saw the sign saying 'price on request,' she started walking away. Normal broomsticks were expensive enough – she should know, as she had bought new brooms for three of the Hogwarts Houses last year. She didn't want to think how much the Firebolt cost. Especially since she had her own broomstick already.

After they got back from Diagon Alley and put their things away, Iliana noticed her Hogwarts letter again, in particular a permission slip for going to Hogsmeade, to be signed by a parent or guardian. Since she was no longer with the Dursleys, she wondered who she'd have to ask to get permission now.

Shrugging, she put it aside for later and went downstairs to meet up with the others again. Then, spotting something, she went over to Mr. Weasley, who was reading The Daily Prophet, which had a picture of a sunken-eyed, long-haired escaped prisoner named Sirius Black on the front page. The man looked like a vampire. A very depressed and underfed vampire.

“Did that man always look that way, or is that what Azkaban does to people?” she asked Mr. Weasley.

Mr. Weasley looked at the picture, and she felt waves of apprehension and discomfort come from the man. She hadn't been looking at him when she felt it; she looked up at him to see if the new empathic power was accurate, and the body language confirmed this.

“Er, well...” Mr. Weasley said uncomfortably, “in fact, Sirius Black did, well... did look much more, well... better, before Azkaban,” Mr. Weasley said. “He used to be considered quite, well... handsome. But yes, Azkaban tends to have long-term effects on appearance. Dementors – you know, the Azkaban guards? - they're the reason for that.”

“Dementors,” she said. “I wonder if they're listed in that book Hagrid sent us for our birthday?”

Ron snorted. “Doubt we'll ever find out. Those monster books bite you if you try to even pick them up.”

“Oh well, good thing I picked up some extra books, including 'Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them' by Newt Scamander.

“By the way, Mr. Weasley,” she continued. “What's Sirius Black's picture doing on there, anyway?”

“Well, he... he escaped.”

Ron goggled at his father. “What? Escaped? From Azkaban? You're having us on!”

“No. I'm being quite serious. Er, about Sirius. Nobody knows how he did it, either. Being around dementors too long is supposed to drain a wizard of their powers, and he was in there for 12 years.”

Iliana's eyes narrowed a little.

“What was he in prison for?”

“He was a Death Eater. One of--”

“Moldywart's lot, yeah, we know. Do you think he's going to rejoin his master?”

“Er... well, yes, I think so. Eventually.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Well, you know, he has to... to get out of the country first. And no matter how he got out of Azkaban, he won't manage to do that so easily.”

He's lying, Al told her, unnecessarily; she already knew.

She waited until Ron wandered off to do something before she spoke to Mr. Weasley again.

“Sirius Black is out to kill us, isn't he?”

He hadn't been drinking or eating anything, and yet somehow Mr. Weasley still managed to choke at these words, coughing for several minutes. She waited for him to recover.

“How did you know?” he finally asked her.

She sighed, and began explaining all about Al's heart-reading, its limitations, and how their attempts to bypass those limitations resulted in an empathic sense, and the ability to tell when someone was lying.

“...then we picked up on your emotions – discomfort, unease, protectiveness, fear, and a dash of confusion, all focused around us. From there, it wasn't difficult to guess.”

“You are... quite perceptive.”

He pulled her aside to a quiet alcove.

“Molly doesn't want me telling you this, but since you already figured it out, I should probably fill you in more. In the days before his escape, Black was heard to mutter in his sleep, always the same words: 'He's at Hogwarts.' Harry was recently in the paper, and the Minister of Magic recalled having given Black a copy of that paper at Black's request, so it wasn't difficult to make the connection.”

“You're still holding something back. Something big. I can tell. If it's as big as I think it is, you'd better tell us now. The longer you wait, the worse it will be when we find out later. I don't know how well you know Al, but he has a temper problem. Whatever it is, it's better if you tell us now.”

“I... well, I... there's nothing really to tell.”

She sighed.

“Listen, lying to us is pointless. We can tell. And we can get the basic shape of the truth from your emotions. I understand you don't want to tell us, because it's something huge. But I'm telling you, from experience, that it'll be far safer if you--”

“Arthur!” Mrs. Weasley interrupted. “What are you doing back there with Iliana? You're not breaking your promise, are you?”

“N-no, dear, honest! Sh--”

“I figured it out on my own, Mrs. Weasley,” she said, rubbing her forehead in pain at the intensity of the Weasley matriarch's anger. “I was just trying to wheedle some more information out of him.”

“Well you come out here at once,” the older woman said, grabbing her and pulling her out by her arm. “There's no point in knowing things that will just upset--”

“Damn it, woman!” Iliana shouted, pulling out of her grip and transforming into Alastair.

“I know you mean well,” Al continued, “but we're tired of being treated like toddlers. We're not fragile little crybabies. We've faced Voldemort twice already and came out victorious, and Black can't be any worse than him, can he?

“What's more, we put up with all kinds of emotional abuse and neglect for most our lifetime. But what we always hated more than the abuse and the neglect was the lying! We are so SICK of being lied to! You were going to lie by omission about Black trying to kill us, which would have left us vulnerable to attack, and now there's something else you're holding back about him, something big, and you'd better tell us what it is NOW, or so help me, I don't know what I'll do, but it won't be pretty. Well?”

“No. I'm sorry, Alastair, but school is tomorrow, and you need your sleep. You're just going to have to cool down and accept that we have your best interests at heart.”

Al could sense, even without the new empathic gift, that she was not going to budge on this. She hadn't heard a word he'd said, or else had given it no mind. It was just so... so adult of her. That's what adults did, apparently: keep secrets, lie, and treat children like house elves.

“Fine,” he said, with deadly calm. “Fine. I'm going to go find out how to write howlers, so that when I do find out what you're hiding, I can send you a few dozen.”

Then he stormed out of the room with as much dignity as he could muster.

When Ron returned to their room later, Tier had come out in Al's place. Ron opened the door, and was met with the sight of a slightly changed version of Al's body as Tier was chewing vigorously on some rawhide. Ron paused, goggling at this sight, then sighed, rolled his eyes, and left the room again.

~

Iliana was back the next morning as they rushed around to get their stuff together, though by her behavior she was no more happy with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley than Al had been, glaring frequently at them, for their empathic sense had told her that the two adults weren't going to tell her any more. She didn't know who to be more angry with, Mrs. Weasley for being so difficult, or Mr. Weasley for being such a pushover. Granted, Mrs. Weasley could probably stare down a chimera and make the chimera meekly stand down, so maybe Mr. Weasley just knew better than to waste time trying to out-stubborn his wife.

She was unsurprised when the Ministry provided them cars to go to King's Cross station, given what Black had escaped for. Not wanting to upset Ginny, she didn't tell anyone that she knew why they were there. She could tell Ron and Hermione later. Though she did let Ron know that she needed to tell them something, later.

As usual, they were late, and got on the train at the last possible moment. So, naturally, all the compartments were full, save for one, which had two people in it. One of them was an adult, who was shabby and asleep, his battered briefcase held together with a lot of knotted string. This took them by surprise; the only adult they'd ever seen on the train before was the woman who sold snacks on the trolley.

The other person was at least equally strange, a blond girl with straggly, waist-length hair, and very protruberant eyes, like she was constantly surprised. She had her wand behind her ear, and was reading a magazine.

“Let's find somewhere else, mate,” Ron said.

“There isn't anywhere else, Ron.” Hermione said. “Iliana and I have already checked.”

“Um, hi,” Iliana said to the blonde girl. “Is it okay if we sit here?”

Silently, the girl looked at her, considering. Then she nodded.

“Thanks,” Iliana said, sitting across from the girl, on the man's left side.

Hermione sat down next to the girl, and Ron sat on Iliana's left.

There was a tense silence at first, Iliana not sure how to proceed. Then Ron whispered to her.

“Who d'ya suppose the bloke is?”

Somehow, Hermione heard him. “He's Professor R. J. Lupin.”

“How is it you know that?”

“It's written on his case, Ronald.”

Sure enough, in peeling gold letters, was the exact name Hermione had said.

“You're Iliana Potter,” the blonde girl said without preamble, in a dreamy voice.

“Uh... yeah, I am. Sorry I didn't introduce myself. Who're you?”

“Oh, I'm Luna Lovegood.”

Ron blinked. “Lovegood? Wait, do you live in Ottery St. Catchpole?”

Luna nodded.

“I've heard Dad mention the Lovegoods before. I'm Ron Weasley.”

“And I'm Hermione Granger.”

Iliana cocked her head curiously at Luna. Most people she'd run into since developing the empathic gift were a riot of emotions as various thoughts drove through their brain like Muggle traffic, but Luna was the most soothing person to be around thus far, with emotions like a sunlit cloud, or sunlit mist; bright but calming, languid. Like she was floating gently on a raft down a river, and everything around her was the shore as she passed it.

“Oy, Iliana,” Ron said, shaking her.

“What! What?” Iliana looked around. “What's going on?”

“You were just staring at Luna, your eyes half closed, looking like you were about to fall asleep.”

“Wha... Oh?”

“Yeah. What's that about?”

“She's an empath,” Luna said, brightening.

Everyone stared at her.

“A what?”

“An empath. She can feel people's emotions.”

“What? No she isn't. Are you?”

“Um... yes, I am.”

“Since when?”

Iliana sighed. Then she calmly went about explaining about Al's heart-reading sense and how it had evolved into the ability to feel the emotions of others.

“Most people's emotions are... noisy. But Luna's... Luna's emotions are like drifting serenely down a river. I guess I was getting lulled by them.”

Ron turned to Luna. “How did you know she's an empath?”

“I've met empaths before. They always love my energy; it soothes them. I recognized the symptoms of someone getting pulled into my emotions.”

Iliana turned to look at the still-sleeping Professor Lupin.

“Yeah, and then he's here adding to it. The poor man is exhausted, even in his sleep. Between his exhaustion and Luna's serenity, I...” she trailed off, yawning, but shook herself awake.

“So, Luna,” Hermione said. “I haven't seen you before, I don't think. Are you new?”

“Oh, no. I'm a second year. And in Ravenclaw. 'Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure,'” she quoted in a singsong voice.

Then she lifted her magazine up and continued reading. Iliana sensed she was just... not shy, exactly, just... introverted; had to take socialization in little bits.

With Luna quiet again, the others looked around for more conversation.

“I wonder what this Lupin bloke teaches,” Ron said.

“Defense Against the Dark Arts is the only opening, as far as I know,” Iliana said.

“Oh yeah, that makes sense. I hope he's up to it. Looks like one good hex would finish him off. Anyway,” he turned to Iliana, “you said earlier you needed to tell us something. Is it something you can tell us now, or should we wait?”

Iliana considered Luna for a moment, then turned back to Ron.

“I can tell you here, I think.”

She proceeded to tell them about how she'd figured out Sirius Black escaped to kill them, and how they'd gotten confirmation from Mr. Weasley. Ron looked dumbfounded, and Hermione looked scared, with her hands over her mouth. Finally, though, she lowered them to speak.

“Sirius Black escaped Azkaban to come after you, Iliana? Oh, you'll have to be really, really careful. Don't go looking for trouble.”

“We don't usually go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds us just fine on its own.”

They talked about Sirius Black for a few more minutes before Ron interrupted.

“What's that noise?”

A faint, tinny sort of whistle was coming from somewhere. They looked all around the compartment. They finally tracked it down to Iliana's trunk. Ron stood up and retrieved the noisemaker from the trunk, which turned out to be the Pocket Sneakoscope Ron had gifted them. It was spinning very fast in the palm of Ron’s hand and glowing brilliantly.

“Is that a Sneakoscope?” said Hermione interestedly, standing up for a better look.

“Yeah … mind you, it’s a very cheap one,” Ron said. “It went off that night at dinner. Of course, that could be because Fred and George were putting beetles in Percy's soup.”

“Put it away again, we don't want to wake him. Plus it hurts my ears,” Iliana said.

Ron nodded, wadding it into a set of robes and returning it to the trunk. The noise was gone at last.

Ron mentioned getting it fixed in Hogsmeade, which set him and Hermione to discussing the all-wizarding village and all the cool things in it. Reminded of the permission slip, Iliana eventually cut in.

“Sounds great. But, well... I don't know who's supposed to sign mine, now we're not with the Dursleys anymore. And with Sirius Black on the loose and gunning for me, I doubt whoever it is will say yes.”

“What? Blimey, I hadn't considered that. Well you're a ward of Hogwarts now, right? So that means Dumbledore, probably.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“But Professor McGonagall is our head of House, Ron,” Hermione said. “What if they have to get it signed by her?”

Iliana gave a hollow laugh. “I hope not. Because in the current climate, the odds of McGonagall signing it are basically zero.”

“— or we can ask Fred and George, they know every secret passage out of the castle —”

“Ron!” said Hermione sharply. “They shouldn't be sneaking out with Black on the loose.”

“Which is probably what McGonagall will say.”

“Don't worry, Iliana,” Luna said in her usual dreamy voice. “If you can't go to Hogsmeade, you can spend time with me instead.”

Ron snorted a little, but Iliana smiled thankfully.

“Thanks, Luna. Good to know I won't be bored to tears in that case. Oh, and do you know Ginny Weasley?”

Luna nodded. “She's nice to me sometimes. Though she was often very worried last year.”

“Ah, yes. Well, she should be better this year. Anyway, I suppose she could always join us.”

“Yeah, if you're you, or Al, or Zoey. If you're Harry, though, she'll turn beet red and run off. She still likes him, you know?”

Iliana ignored him, and stood up to retrieve a book. She could feel everyone on the train with her empathic gift, and the pressure of everyone's emotions was getting harder to ignore. In fact, it was giving her a headache.

For half an hour, she struggled to try to read her Newt Scamander book, but between the empathic noise and Ron and Hermione having a spat after Hermione let Crookshanks out of his cage, and he attacked Scabbers, she had to put the book aside to massage her head.

“Iliana?” Luna said. “Would you like to get lost in my energy?”

“Yes please,” she said, looking up at Luna, and into the blonde's eyes.

Immediately, the empathic noise softened. After a few minutes, the noise stopped altogether. She could hear nothing at all, and felt so serene. Her headache began to wane; it was still there, it just felt distant, detached from her. Some part of her mind lazily made a note to get a headache cure from the Hospital Wing later. She felt Ron poke her, several times, at some point, and ignored him.

Then, abruptly, she snapped out of her daze. It took her a moment to figure out why; Malfoy and his cronies had appeared, and Ron had shaken her awake. But whatever Malfoy had come to be a bother about, it was over soon, as he spotted Professor Lupin, and immediately took off.

She looked down at her hand, and found she was holding a stack of Cauldron Cakes.

“What the heck?”

“Oh, that,” Ron said. “I poked you earlier, to ask if you wanted anything. You just pulled some gold out of your pocket and handed it to me without speaking, so I got you some Cauldron Cakes, a few Chocolate Frogs, and some Bertie Botts. Er... you're not upset about that, are you?”

“No, that's fine. I am hungry, now you mention it.”

She ate all of the cakes, and two of the three Chocolate Frogs, then went back to getting lost in Luna's energy, pausing just long enough before she did to notice that the weather outside the train was horrible, dark with lots of rain.

Some time later, Ron shook her back to reality again.

“Are we there yet?”

“We don't know. The train stopped. But Hermione says we can't be there yet, and I trust her judgment.”

Iliana sighed, and got up to poke her head out the compartment door. She saw she was one of many people with the same idea.

Without warning, all the lamps went out and they were plunged into total darkness.

“What’s going on?” said Ron’s voice from behind Iliana.

“Ouch!” gasped Hermione. “Ron, that was my foot!”

Iliana groped in the dark back to her seat.

“D’you think we’ve broken down?”

“Dunno …”

There was a squeaking sound, and Iliana saw the dim black outline of Ron, wiping a patch clean on the window and peering out.

“There’s something moving out there,” Ron said. “I think people are coming aboard.”

The compartment door suddenly opened and someone fell painfully over Iliana’s legs.

“Sorry — d’you know what’s going on? — Ouch — sorry —”

“Hullo, Neville,” said Iliana, feeling around in the dark and pulling Neville up by his cloak.

“Iliana? Is that you? What’s happening?”

“No idea — sit down —”

There was a loud hissing and a yelp of pain; Neville had tried to sit on Crookshanks.

“I’m going to go and ask the driver what’s going on,” came Hermione’s voice. Iliana felt the girl pass her, heard the door slide open again, and then a thud and two loud squeals of pain.

“Who’s that?”

“Who’s that?”

“Ginny?”

“Hermione?”

“What are you doing?”

“I was looking for Ron —”

“Come in and sit down —”

“Not here!” said Iliana hurriedly. “I’m here!”

“Ouch!” said Neville.

“Quiet!” said a hoarse voice suddenly.

Professor Lupin appeared to have woken up at last. Iliana could hear movements in his corner. None of them spoke.

With a crackling noise and a flare of light, Professor Lupin conjured a magical fire-like light into his hand, which filled the compartment with shivering orange light. The light showed his face, gray and weary, but also alert and wary.

Iliana felt sick all of a sudden, as a wave of cold terror washed through the people on the train. “Professor Lupin... everyone's terrified! But not of the dark... something in the dark...”

“I don't doubt that. Stay where you are,” he said in the same hoarse voice, and he got slowly to his feet with his handful of fire held out in front of him.

But the door slid slowly open before Lupin could reach it.

Standing in the doorway, illuminated by the shivering flames in Lupin’s hand, was a cloaked figure that towered to the ceiling. Its face was completely hidden beneath its hood. But worse yet, it felt... Wrong. Unnatural. It felt like the empathic equivalent of a dark hole full of rotten, maggot-riddled meat. She knew instinctively she had to get away from it at once, but it was blocking the doorway.

Then she saw its hand, like the corpse of a drowning victim, glistening, grayish, slimy and scabbed. This was only visible for a moment, for it withdrew the hand back into its cloak, as though her eyes on its flesh burned it.

And then the thing beneath the hood, whatever it was, drew a long, slow, rattling breath, as though it were trying to suck something more than air from its surroundings.

An intense cold swept over them all. Iliana felt her own breath catch in her chest. The cold went deeper than her skin. It was inside her chest, it was inside her very heart.

Her eyes rolled up into her head. She couldn’t see. She was drowning in cold. There was a rushing in her ears as though of water. She was being dragged downward, the roaring growing louder …

And then, from far away, she heard screaming; terrible, terrified, pleading screams. She wanted to help whoever it was, she tried to move her arms, but couldn’t … a thick white fog was swirling around her, inside her —

“Iliana! Iliana! Are you alright?”

Someone was slapping her face. She was on the ground, face parallel with the ground, and she smelled vomit. She tasted vomit.

“W — what?”

Iliana opened her eyes. The lights were back on, and the train was moving again. She had apparently slid out of her seat and puked on the ground, but Professor Lupin had Vanished the sick.

She turned up toward the ceiling. Hermione and Ron were kneeling in concern over her. So were Neville, Luna, and Professor Lupin.

Professor Lupin helped her sit up, then gave her a cup of water and an empty cup to spit into, to wash out the taste of the sick. She felt weak, shaky, and was drenched in cold sweat.

“Are you okay?” Ron asked nervously.

“I... I don't know. What was that hooded thing? It was like... if nightmares had nightmares, that thing would be made of those. And who was screaming?”

“No one screamed,” said Ron, more nervously still.

Iliana looked around at the others. Ginny and Neville looked back at her, both very pale. Luna – calm, serene, unflappable Luna – looked as though she'd been crying, her eyes puffy and red. She was also very pale.

“But I heard screaming —”

A loud snap made them all jump. Professor Lupin was breaking an enormous slab of chocolate into pieces.

“Here,” he said to Iliana, handing her a particularly large piece. “Eat it. It’ll help.”

She looked at the chocolate. Things started to click into place for her.

“Was that a dementor?” she asked.

“Yes, it was. One of the dementors of Azkaban.”

She turned even more pale.

“No wonder Hagrid was so scared of that place,” she said.

Professor Lupin crumpled up the empty chocolate wrapper and put it in his pocket.

“Eat,” he repeated. “It’ll help. I need to speak to the driver, excuse me.”

He strolled past her out into the corridor, and disappeared.

Remembering something she'd read in the Fantastic Beasts book about dementors, she bit into the chocolate. She felt much better at this. Perhaps sensing this, the others followed suit.

“So what happened?”

In fits and starts, Iliana got the story from the others in the compartment. The dementor had come in, looked around. Iliana had gone rigid in her seat, twitching, and retching. Lupin had told the dementor to go away, but it didn't do so until he shot something silvery at it. Then they described how the dementor made them feel; cold, hopeless, doomed to misery, unable to have a single happy thought. But nobody else had fallen off their seats, or had a fit, or lost their lunch. Nobody had heard screaming. Just her.

Only, it wasn't just her. The Collective was a mess, inside; Zoey was still crying, Al was doing the emotional equivalent of putting his knees under his chin and rocking back and forth, Tier had apparently retreated as far into the depths of their subconscious as he could, and Harry was holding onto Zoey, as much for his own comfort as hers.

Professor Lupin came back.

“Ah, you're eating the chocolate. Good. Do you feel better, Iliana?”

“Yes. Still shaken, though. Everyone else in the collective is pretty shaken up, too.”

“I don't doubt it. What about Harry?”

“Comforting Zoey. Or, well, holding onto her for his own comfort, too.”

They didn’t talk much during the remainder of the journey. At long last, the train stopped at Hogsmeade station, and there was a great scramble to get outside; owls hooted, cats meowed, and Neville’s pet toad croaked loudly from under his hat. It was freezing on the tiny platform; rain was driving down in icy sheets.

They heard Hagrid's familiar cry for the first years to follow him. Luna and Neville and Ginny came with them, and the six of them got a carriage together, Iliana carrying Aqua in one cage, and Hedwig in another.

When Luna first saw the carriages, she squeaked in alarm. Iliana looked at her in concern.

“What's wrong?”

She pointed at a thestral. “What are those?” Strangely, she sounded more curious than afraid.

"It's a thestral. They're harmless. I can see them too, Luna."

"Really?"

“Really truly. The carriages are drawn by thestrals. Hagrid told me about them. They're scary looking if you can see them, but they're harmless and gentle.”

“How come you and I can see them, and the others can't?” Luna asked.

“I can,” said Neville.

“The only people who can see them are people who have seen...” Iliana's voice caught in her throat. “Who have seen someone die.”

“Oh,” said Luna simply. “That explains it.”

Luna nodded, then got in the carriage as though absolutely nothing was the matter. Ron was a little harder to convince. But before long, they were all in the carriage and on their way up to the castle.

As the carriage passed through the entryway of the school, which was flanked by a pair of dementors, Iliana felt more of that cold sickness threaten to overtake them. But Tier came back, then, and without making any transformations, bolstered her resolve and hissed softly aloud in defiance.

When they finally disembarked the carriage, she heard a familiar drawling voice again.

“I heard you fainted on the train, Potter, is that true?”

Tier still being in control of her body, Malfoy was treated to her hissing at him like an angry cat, which just made him laugh.

Let me try, Al said, taking the reins.

'I AM THE WALRUS, COO COO CACHOO!' Al hissed in Parseltongue. Malfoy and his goons took off running in terror.

But Iliana sensed more than just Malfoy's fear. She looked around. Ginny was feeling uncomfortable, as was Neville. Professor Lupin, too, had frozen in his tracks, staring at her.

“Um... sorry about that.”

Ginny shuddered, then sighed. “No, I know you're alright. Just... it reminds me of last year.”

“I'll talk with Al about it, as he was the one who took control to do it. Sorry, again.”

Ginny simply nodded. Neville looked a little more relaxed than he had.

Hermione prodded Ron in the back to make him hurry, and the four of them joined the crowd swarming up the steps, through the giant oak front doors, into the cavernous entrance hall, which was lit with flaming torches, and housed a magnificent marble staircase that led to the upper floors.

The door into the Great Hall stood open at the right; Iliana followed the crowd toward it, but had barely glimpsed the enchanted ceiling, which was black and cloudy tonight, when a voice called, “Potter! Granger! I want to see you both!”

Iliana and Hermione turned around, surprised. Professor McGonagall, Transfiguration teacher and head of Gryffindor House, was calling over the heads of the crowd. She was a stern-looking witch who wore her hair in a tight bun; her sharp eyes were framed with square spectacles. Iliana fought her way over to the woman with a feeling of foreboding: Professor McGonagall had a way of making her feel she must have done something wrong.

“There’s no need to look so worried — I just want a word in my office,” she told them. “Move along there, Weasley.”

They followed her to her office as Ron and Luna went on without them.

Once they were in her office, a small room with a large, welcoming fire, Professor McGonagall motioned Iliana and Hermione to sit down. She settled herself behind her desk and said abruptly, “Professor Lupin sent an owl ahead to say that you were taken ill on the train, Potter.”

Before Iliana could reply, there was a soft knock on the door and Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, came bustling in.

“Oh, it’s you, is it?” said Madam Pomfrey, ignoring this and bending down to stare closely at her. “I suppose you’ve been doing something dangerous again?”

“It was a dementor, Poppy,” said Professor McGonagall.

They exchanged a dark look, and Madam Pomfrey clucked disapprovingly.

“Setting dementors around a school,” she muttered, pushing back Iliana's red hair and feeling her forehead. “She won’t be the last one who collapses. Yes, she’s all clammy. Terrible things, they are, and the effect they have on people who are already delicate —”

“Excuse me? I am not delicate.”

“Of course you’re not,” said Madam Pomfrey absentmindedly, now taking her pulse.

“I don't need anything,” Iliana said. “Professor Lupin already gave us all chocolate on the train. And that's the counter for dementors, isn't it?”

“Well, glad to see we finally have a Defense teacher who knows his remedies, at least,” the matron said approvingly.

“Are you sure you're alright, Potter?” McGonagall asked again.

“I could use a headache cure, actually, come to think of it. I got a headache on the train, and I know it'll get worse when I go to the Great Hall.”

Madam Pomfrey nodded, and fetched her a potion to cure her headache; as soon as Iliana swallowed it, the headache faded away and disappeared.

“Ah, much better.”

“Anything else?” McGonagall asked.

“No, I'm good now, thanks.”

“Well alright then, Ms. Potter. Off you go. Ms. Granger, stay behind please, I need a private word with you.”

Despite her words, Iliana waited for Hermione to be done, and they went to the feast together. They had missed the Sorting, but Iliana didn't mind too much. She was very glad for her headache cure, and hoped she wouldn't need another.

As she and Hermione walked to their places at the Griffindor table, people were pointing at her; the tale of her fainting on the train must have spread. She shrugged internally, as she didn't really care.

Once they and McGonagall took their respective places, Dumbledore stood up and made some announcements.

Dumbledore cleared his throat and said, “As you will all be aware after their search of the Hogwarts Express, our school is presently playing host to some of the dementors of Azkaban, who are here on Ministry of Magic business.”

Tier hissed at this, aloud as it turned out, and Iliana put her hand to her mouth in embarrassment at her headmate's outburst, but nobody else appeared to have heard or noticed.

Despite this, and despite all the people in the room, Iliana still managed to feel Dumbledore's distaste for the dementors. She looked up to confirm this, and sure enough, he looked displeased.

“They are stationed at every entrance to the grounds,” Dumbledore continued, “and while they are with us, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises — or even Invisibility Cloaks,” he added blandly, and Iliana and Ron glanced at each other. “It is not in the nature of a dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. I look to the prefects, and our new Head Boy and Girl, to make sure that no student runs afoul of the dementors,” he said.

She glanced over at Percy, who looked and felt more pleased with himself than usual.

Dumbledore paused again; he looked very seriously around the hall, and nobody moved or made a sound.

“On a happier note,” he continued, “I am pleased to welcome two new teachers to our ranks this year.

“First, Professor Lupin, who has kindly consented to fill the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.”

There wasn't much applause at this, mostly only from the few people who had seen him fend off the dementor on the train. She supposed most people, having never heard of him before, were just being polite. Well, except for Malfoy, of course, who would probably still be judging him for being poor and shabby-looking.

“Look at Snape!” Ron hissed in her ear.

She looked at the grumpy professor, and was surprised. Snape was giving Lupin the kind of withering look of loathing usually reserved for Harry or Alastair.

“As to our second new appointment,” Dumbledore continued as the lukewarm applause for Professor Lupin died away. “Well, I am sorry to tell you that Professor Kettleburn, our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, retired at the end of last year in order to enjoy more time with his remaining limbs. However, I am delighted to say that his place will be filled by none other than Rubeus Hagrid, who has agreed to take on this teaching job in addition to his gamekeeping duties.”

There was much more cheering and applause at this, for far more people knew and loved Hagrid. The large man's face – what they could see of it through the beard – was bright red, and he was looking at his hands.

“Well that explains the biting book,” Iliana said.

With everything of importance covered, Dumbledore signaled for the feast to begin, and it did, the containers and plates magically filling with food, and they dug in. But as delicious as it was, they were excited to finish so they could congratulate Hagrid, as this was only possible because they'd cleared Hagrid's name last year.

Their food eaten at last, the three of them ran up to Hagrid at the staff table and congratulated him. He was so thrilled that Dumbledore had offered him this job at the end of the last year, and he was eager to start classes.

“Just don't bring in anything dangerous, Hagrid,” warned Iliana. “The last thing we need is for your first classes to be marred by chaos. You should start small and work your way up to the more impressive creatures.”

“Oh, wha I got planned, they en't dangerous. Mind, they can look after themselves, but you treat 'em well, and they won't bother yeh none.”
Iliana gave Hagrid a half-sincere smile in acknowledgement, but didn't speak her mind; she rather doubted Hagrid had anything approaching a normal estimate of where the line between interesting and monstrous was; between his vast size and his kindly nature, he tended to err on the side of compassion.

After dinner, they all went to their common rooms. Neville moaned at the new password (Fortuna Major) which he was certain he would forget.

“Just try to remember it sounds almost like Fortune Major,” she told him. “Or imagine there's a talking tuna fish named Major, and you're bringing something to him; you've got something 'for Tuna Major.' ”

Neville chuckled. “Thanks, Iliana. I'll try to keep it in mind.”

“You're welcome. Oh, it also helps to repeat it to yourself often. Or it helps me, anyway.”

As Iliana reached the stairs to the boy's dormitory, she stopped and frowned. It had made sense to just stick with the boy's dorm until now, but suddenly, being 13, she was having doubts. She didn't feel comfortable going up there now. But she had to go to bed, and she didn't know what else to do, and even if she did, now was not the time to make new arrangements. Sure, she could just talk with McGonagall, but that would have to wait. So with a sigh, she withdrew, and out came Harry instead, this time with no glow to their transformation at all.

But even Harry was hesitating. This was a bad idea for him; he hadn't been Out since the incident in Egypt with the Mirror of Erised. He was even less comfortable about going upstairs than Iliana was, and stood there shaking, trying to ignore Ron asking him what was wrong.

With another sigh, Al took over instead, their height shooting up as the older-looking boy took Harry's place.

“That was the first I've seen of Harry for ages,” Ron said. “But it didn't last long. What's wrong with him?”

“That's for him to tell you, if he chooses to.”

“Fair enough.”

Al got changed into Pjs, and crawled into bed. As tired as they were, though, he couldn't sleep for almost an hour, laying there thinking about the ever more complicated situation they were in, wondering what to do about it. He also thought about Harry's problem. He didn't envy his host's position; it was one thing to turn into other people, two of whom were girls, but to figure out that you were actually a girl yourself, too, when you'd thought all your life that you were a boy? It had to be tough.

There were so many questions, so many challenges. Would Harry accept this fact about himself? Would he change his pronouns? His name? His dorm? Could Harry change his appearance? Al knew from doing some reading that there were sex-change potions, but he wasn't sure if they would work on Harry, given their frequent transformations. It might be that the only way Harry could transition – if he even wanted to – that he'd have to figure out a way to use their own personal magic to do it, as potions might not have a permanent effect on Harry. Or maybe they would, but they'd mess up everyone else in the collective, too?

Finally, though, Al drifted into a fitful sleep.

End note 1: I can't find where the Weasley's trip to Egypt started exactly, but I did find that it ended on the 25th of August, and the Daily Prophet said they'd be spending a month in Egypt, so I decided to go with them leaving July 25th.

End note 2: 700 galleons is $3367, according to http://www.beyondhogwarts.com/cgi-bin/gringotts.cgi

End note 3: I am, again, using our own life as reference. We, too, have an empathic gift, and something very similar to Al's heart-reading power. In our youth, it was so powerful it was basically telepathy or legilimency. Since then, it became downgraded to being a divining rod against untrustworthy people, and a lie detector. And Iliana's headaches from empathic noise are something I still get. In fact, I had a headache myself when I wrote her first headache into the story.

End note 4: There's been a lot of speculation about why Harry saw Iliana in the Mirror of Erised in his first year. Here is what I was thinking when I wrote that scene: Harry subconsciously knows he likes how the body feels when they're Iliana. Harry, who is new to this whole thing, misinterprets this in his subconscious as a desire to be replaced by Iliana. The Mirror, which I figure can get confused if the person doesn't know what they want, even subconsciously, reflects his own confusion. Harry doesn't like this interpretation of things when he comes face to face with it. And thus, in this chapter, when he sees the Mirror again, his subconscious has finally worked out what it wanted all along, which is to be a girl without being replaced. IE, Harry is a trans girl and has only in this chapter come to consciously realize it.

I also want to remind everyone that the Potter collective are NOT a trauma based collective. Mainly because we in my own collective do not believe that trauma in and of itself causes multiplicity; if it did, I think most people would be multiples by now, because it seems to me that most people have trauma in their childhoods, and given how much war and starvation there is in the world, and how much child abuse, we genuinely do not believe childhood trauma causes multiplicity. Many collectives are riddled with other trauma-created mental illnesses that may impair their collective's functioning, but this is A) True of singlets as well, and B)Such a far cry from trauma causing multiplicity. You may agree or disagree, that is your right. But we're using our own collective as a model for the Potter collective, and we do not consider ourselves trauma-created, because the signs of us being a Collective have been there all our lives, we had a great life up until kindergarten, and even then the only “trauma” was bullying at school, which wasn't even that bad, as we mostly just ignored it. Yes, we developed depression and anxiety, but lots of singlets have that, too. Since any mind can become ill, it's reasonable to assume that the different minds in a Collective can have different mental illnesses or personality disorders, and that these things can be comorbid with their multiplicity. (For instance, imagine someone bipolar – or with PTSD – sharing a body with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.)

Final endnote: Edited a continuity error. Ron already knew about thestrals, so that was a mistake here.



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