The Many Faces of Harry Potter 15

“The Many Faces of Harry Potter: Chapter 15”
By = Fayanora

Chapter Fifteen: Halloween

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

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, underlined, and now between hashtags/pound signs because some people's computers don't do the B.I.U.).

It came as no surprise to anyone in Lupin's classes – except maybe Malfoy's lot – that Lupin was becoming very popular. He was clearly an excellent teacher. To say he was the best DADA teacher they'd had wouldn't have been difficult, what with the others lowering the bar so much. He was such a good teacher, though, that nobody minded his patched and frayed appearance. Well, none but Malfoy's lot, of course. Al didn't even mind that – if his hypothesis was correct – the man was a werewolf. But he knew werewolves weren't thought of well in this world; heck, they were listed as magical creatures in his books, not as beings or people. So he kept Lupin's secret. He did not even discuss it with Hermione, whom he thought had also figured it out.

The DADA classes kept getting better, covering all manner of dark and dangerous beastie. And though it was a bit like a second Care of Magical Creatures class now, very few people seemed to mind this.

Of course, Snape had heard about the boggart, and was not happy at all about it. Al very pointedly did not speak during Potions if he could help it, because he agreed with Snape on that, for different reasons. And despite Harry's permission, he had not yet spoken with Lupin about it.

Even though he wasn't speaking in Potions, neither did he let Snape bully Neville. Whenever Al felt that very faint stream of emotion from Snape – who seemed to have some ability to mask his emotions – turn to Neville-related content, Al would have Zoey cause a distraction of some sort with her wandless magic to divert Snape's attention. Nothing major, even though there wasn't a way to prove it was coming from them, but he knew that wouldn't matter. But mostly, they were successful in keeping Snape away from Neville.

What was perhaps most difficult was that even when Al gave the body back to Iliana, whenever they had to go to Divinations, she would be so overwhelmed by the heat that she'd be like an immobile lump, and Trelawney never failed to say or do something that would bring Al out with scathing remarks or worse. He did manage to restrain himself just enough to avoid goading her into giving him more detentions, which was good; if he was in a detention when Iliana was supposed to be training for Quidditch, well, Wood would not be pleased, and Quidditch season was nearly upon them.

Harry still wasn't coming out. He barely responded, either. Al was getting impatient with him, or her, or whatever; Al was convinced Harry wasn't even using this time to think things through, and was getting very close to telling Zoey to force Harry Out the way she'd done with Iliana before.

Care of Magical Creatures was okay. Hagrid didn't seem too pleased to be showing them unicorns, kneazles, and other less impressive creatures, but after the near miss his first class, he had finally gotten some sense for now. How long it would last before he was back to monsters, though, was anyone's guess.

On their first practice in early October, Iliana got her things together and went to the pitch, getting dressed. She walked onto the pitch to witness Oliver Wood waiting for everyone to approach so he could speak with them. She blushed just a little, as she still fancied him some, and hadn't seen him since last year. But that was the extent of her reaction to him. At 17 years old, he was nearly graduated, and if anyone had forgotten this, Wood sure made sure to remind them when he kept dejectedly bemoaning the fact that this was his last year to win the Quidditch Cup. As such, his pre-practice pep talk seemed more for him than for them.

Full of determination, the team started training sessions, three evenings a week. The weather was getting colder and wetter, the nights darker, but no amount of mud, wind, or rain could tarnish Iliana’s wonderful vision of finally winning the huge, silver Quidditch Cup.

After one of these practices, the Griffindor common room was abuzz.

“What's up?” she asked Ron.

“First Hogsmeade weekend,” Ron explained, pointing at the notice. “On Halloween.”

“Great,” she said without enthusiasm, sitting down with a fwump.

Seeming to read her mind, Hermione said, “I’m sure you’ll be able to go next time. They’re bound to catch Black soon. He’s been sighted once already.”

“Black’s not fool enough to try anything in Hogsmeade,” said Ron. “Ask McGonagall if you can go this time, Iliana. The next one might not be for ages.”

Iliana laughed without humor. “Right. He killed 13 people with a single curse, broke out of Azkaban to kill me, and you think a few students and villagers are going to scare him off? I have about as much chance of going as Malfoy has of not being a git. At least until they catch him again.”

Ron kept trying to get her to ask McGonagall, but she ignored him; she was certain there was no chance, until Black was back in captivity. She just sat there, watching Crookshanks be praised by Hermione for catching a spider, and Ron's disgust.

Crookshanks was still staring unblinkingly at Ron, flicking the end of his bushy tail. Then, without warning, he pounced.

“OY!” Ron roared, seizing his bag as Crookshanks sank four sets of claws deep inside it and began tearing ferociously. “GET OFF, YOU STUPID ANIMAL!”

Ron tried to pull the bag away from Crookshanks, but Crookshanks clung on, spitting and slashing.

“Ron, don’t hurt him!” squealed Hermione; the whole common room was watching; Ron whirled the bag around, Crookshanks still clinging to it, and Scabbers came flying out of the top —

“CATCH THAT CAT!” Ron yelled as Crookshanks freed himself from the remnants of the bag, sprang over the table, and chased after the terrified Scabbers.

Accio rat,” Iliana said, her wand in her hand. But it didn't work. She frowned in confusion. She'd mastered that one weeks ago, after reading about it; it should be working.

Accio Scabbers,” she said, and this time the rat flew from his hiding place into her hands. With another wave of her wand, she Impeded Crookshanks from getting any closer.

Ron came over to claim Scabbers, and Hermione to claim Crookshanks. The two friends fought some more about how Crookshanks kept targeting Scabbers. Iliana said nothing, but privately thought Ron was right; there was something odd about the cat. She could sense his emotions, which she could only do with Crookshanks and Scabbers, and no other animals. Not even Hedwig, clever as she was, emitted anything they could pick up on with their empathic power.

When Ron and Hermione left, Crookshanks was still there. Iliana stared at the cat. The cat stared back.

“I reckon Ron is right about you,” she said. “I can't put my finger on it, but there's something weird about you. I can feel your emotions, for one.”

The cat turned its head. Though Iliana could sense his emotions, she couldn't really make much of them. They weren't as strong as Scabbers' emotions, and it was like the cat's emotions were more... more pensive, almost. Which she supposed made sense; cats are smarter than rats, after all.

~

Ron and Hermione were still at odds the next day, barely talking. Iliana was having a hard time focusing on that or their work in Herbology, though, because Al and Zoey and Harry were having an argument; a heated one. It was very disruptive to her thinking, having them shouting at one another inside her head.

The argument was so distracting that later, at Transfiguration, she barely noticed the conversation with Lavender, who had been crying, but she got the gist. Hermione was sounding almost like Al with her cold, cruel logic against Trelawney having somehow predicted the death of Lavender's pet rabbit.

Nor did she hear much of McGonagall's stuff about Hogsmeade forms. In fact, as Ron made to get her attention, she was massaging her head, but the headache on the horizon was from the fight, not the empath thing.

The fight finally stopped, but nothing was resolved. Iliana took a Headache Cure and followed Ron to the Common Room.

~

On Halloween morning, Iliana woke up and had breakfast, feeling sad she couldn't go to Hogsmeade, but acted normally enough. Then she saw her friends off before they left.

“Staying here, Potter?” shouted Malfoy, who was standing in line with Crabbe and Goyle. “Scared of passing the dementors?”

She ignored the git, and Al's internal comment about Malfoy not needing to fear them because he didn't have a soul to suck out.

Not knowing what to do with herself, she decided to go call on Lupin. She went to his office, thinking it was best that she talk to the man instead of Al, since they still hadn't done so.

“Iliana?” came Lupin's voice as she approached the open door. “What are you doing here?” he asked kindly. “Where are Ron and Hermione?”

“At Hogsmeade,” she said.

“Ah. Why don't you come in, Iliana. I've just taken delivery of a grindylow for our next lesson.”

“A what?”

She went in, and saw a large tank of water in one corner, and the sickly green creature with sharp horns inside.

“Water demon,” said Lupin. “We shouldn’t have much difficulty with him, not after the kappas. The trick is to
break his grip. You notice the abnormally long fingers? Strong, but very brittle.”

The grindylow bared its green teeth and then buried itself in a tangle of weeds in a corner.

“Cup of tea?” Lupin said, looking around for his kettle. “I was just thinking of making one.”

“All right,” she said.

“Sit down,” said Lupin, taking the lid off a dusty tin. “I’ve only got teabags, I’m afraid — but I daresay you’ve had enough of tea leaves?”

Iliana looked at him. Lupin’s eyes were twinkling.

“So you heard about that?”

“Yes. And Al's rather interesting commentary, and subsequent detentions.” He chuckled, looking pensive. “You're not worried, are you?”

“Not even a little. Al's right, she's a fraud. I doubt we'll learn anything there.”

Lupin chuckled.

“I did come to talk with you, though. That boggart of Neville's. You oughtn't've done that.”

“Ah, yes. I did hear about Professor Snape's reactions to that. It was childish of me, I know, but after that dig on Neville, I'm afraid I couldn't resist a little dig of my own, for nostalgia's sake.”

“Wait, you went to school with Snape?”

“Yes. And we did not get along very well, I'm afraid.”

“Interesting. But not why I wanted to berate you for that boggart.”

“Oh?”

“You made 'man in a dress' into a joke, without stopping to think that there might be people in the room who
might be hurt by that.”

“Do you mean transgender students?” he asked.

“Yeah, that's the term. You can't tell by looking, you know. Especially if they're closeted.”

“True. Well I'm sorry about that, I wasn't thinking about that possibility. I'll try to be better in future.”

She smiled. “I'm glad you're not asking why I have that concern.”

“Yes, well, it's really none of my business, I know.”

They sipped their tea for a few minutes before speaking again.

“So,” Lupin said. “I've met you, and Alastair. I haven't met Zoey or Tier yet. But I was really hoping to see Harry.”

Something in his emotions clued her in to something.

“You knew our parents, didn't you?”

He blinked. “How on earth did you know that?”

She sighed, and explained about Al's heart-reading, and the empathic sense it had mutated into over the summer.

“Fascinating. So you deduced that from my emotions?”

“Yes. Sadness, but an old sadness, bittersweet. And a longing, to see an old friend again.”

“Yes, your father and I were good friends. Your mother and I knew each other as well, but less so. And you do
indeed look like your mother, Iliana; but your father's eyes. And I've heard the reverse is true for Harry.”

Iliana smiled and nodded. She opened her mouth to speak again, but a sudden wrenching in her gut made her drop her cup and double over in pain. Lupin stood up with a shot, but before he could say anything himself, suddenly she was no longer there; Harry was in her place. There hadn't even been any glow at all.

#What just happened?# Iliana demanded of the others. #A little warning would've been nice, Zoey!#

It wasn't MEeeeeEeEEee! Zoey shot back, crying.

Don't look at me, either! Al complained.

She poked a bit more, but neither Harry nor Tier had done it, either.

“Harry? Is Iliana alright? She looked like she was in pain before...”

“P-professor Lupin,” Harry said in bewilderment, looking around. He'd been as far down in their shared mind as he could go, a moment ago.

“The last thing I remember was fighting with Al and Zoey, then hiding from them. But,” he said, accessing their collective memory, “that was yesterday.”

After he recovered more of his wits, Harry said, “I don't know what happened. None of us do. We usually only switch places with strong emotions, but I was... asleep, I guess you could say, until just now. And the only other way to switch, that we know of, is for Zoey to force things, but she's just as confused as the rest of us.”

“Well however it happened,” Lupin said, sitting down again at last, “I'm glad to meet you at last. I don't think I've seen you at all before now.”

“Um, yeah. I... I've been hiding.”

“Why is that?”

“I... I'd rather not talk about it. Just... thinking about stuff.”

Harry pointed his wand at Iliana's broken teacup and repaired it. Lupin put another teabag in and poured him some more water. Harry sipped the tea, getting used to being out again.

At long last, in search of something normal to say or do, Harry spoke.

“Why did you stop us fighting the boggart?”

Lupin raised his eyebrows.

“I would have thought that was obvious, Harry,” he said, sounding surprised.

“What? Why?”

“Well,” said Lupin, frowning slightly, “I assumed that if the boggart faced you, it would assume the shape of Lord Voldemort.”

Harry stared. Not only was this the last answer he’d expected, but Lupin had said Voldemort’s name. The only person Harry had ever heard say the name aloud (apart from him and the others) was Professor Dumbledore.

“Clearly, I was wrong,” said Lupin, still frowning at Harry. “But I didn’t think it a good idea for Lord Voldemort to materialize in the staffroom. I imagined that people would panic.”

“That makes sense,” Harry said, remembering Al's thoughts on it from before. “And just as well, I suppose, because all we could think of was the dementors.”

“I see,” said Lupin thoughtfully. “Well, well … I’m impressed.” He smiled slightly at the look of surprise on Harry’s face. “That suggests that what you fear most of all is — fear. Very wise, Harry.”

Wise, nothing; they're like walking corpses in black robes, the nasty-ass things.

Harry chuckled. At Lupin's confused look, he explained, “Al said it wasn't wisdom, it's because they're ugly and nasty, like walking corpses.”

“Ah. So you’ve been thinking that I didn’t believe you capable of fighting the boggart?” said Lupin shrewdly.

“I guess so. I mean, they made Iliana faint. And we're so interconnected, I doubt any of the rest of us would have a different reaction. You know, Professor Lupin, about the dementors--”

He was interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Come in,” called Lupin.

The door opened, and in came Snape. He was carrying a goblet, which was smoking faintly, and stopped at the sight of Harry, his black eyes narrowing.

“Ah, Severus,” said Lupin, smiling. “Thanks very much. Could you leave it here on the desk for me?”

“I heard a noise earlier, like a girl in pain,” Snape said, regarding Lupin with suspicion.

“That was Iliana,” Harry explained. “She was talking with Lupin, and all of a sudden there was a sudden pain in her gut, and she disappeared, and I took her place.”

“I see,” said Snape. “Well seeing as she is a thirteen-year-old girl, Potter, I expect she should get used to abdominal cramps. Have her talk with Madam Pomfrey the next time she make an appearance; there are potions that can make the monthly cycle,” he gave Lupin a pointed look, “much easier to bear.”

Harry's face turned bright red. Snape was talking about, if their reading was right, Iliana having her menses. Could the explanation really be that simple? Had her mind panicked at the sudden pain and forced a switch to someone who didn't have to deal with that problem?

“Yes, Professor, I will.”

“Good,” Snape said, in a tone of voice that suggested he didn't care if Harry followed his advice or not.

“As to you, Lupin,” he said, finally putting down the smoking goblet on Lupin's desk, “you should drink that directly. I made an entire cauldronful of it if you need more.”

“I should probably take some again tomorrow. Thanks very much, Severus.”

“Not at all,” said Snape, but there was a look in his eye Harry didn’t like. He backed out of the room, unsmiling and watchful.

Harry looked curiously at the goblet. Lupin smiled.

“Professor Snape has very kindly concocted a potion for me,” he said. “I have never been much of a potion-brewer and this one is particularly complex.” He picked up the goblet and sniffed it. “Pity sugar makes it useless,” he added, taking a sip and shuddering.

“You've just admitted you two were less than friendly in school, and you've recently re-initiated hostilities, yet
you're just going to drink something he's given you?”

“I’ve been feeling a bit off-color,” he said. “This potion is the only thing that helps. I am very lucky to be working alongside Professor Snape; there aren’t many wizards who are up to making it. Dumbledore trusts Professor Snape to make it to specs, and I trust Dumbledore.”

He drank the rest, and shuddered.

“Disgusting,” he said again.

Harry shut the door with his wand, and cast some privacy spells.

“Professor Lupin?”

“Yes, Harry?”

“Does this potion, by chance, have anything to do with you being a werewolf?”

Lupin nearly dropped the goblet.

“How did you--?”

“Moon,” Harry said. “Your boggart is the full moon; Al recognized it. And we've been checking. We've only been
here a couple months, but your condition deteriorates as the full moon approaches.”

“Well, you're not running away, or looking nervous. Am I to take it you don't mind my being a werewolf?”

“I figure Dumbledore must know, and have some plan in place to keep you safe. And I trust Dumbledore, too. Also, Al's heart-reading power tells us you're trustworthy.”

A surge of mixed emotions came from Lupin. But on the outside, Lupin smiled.

“Just like your mother and father,” he said. “They, too, knew what I was, and didn't mind. Your father knew during school, and became my friend anyway. Still, please don't tell anyone else. The staff know already, including Professor Snape, but I'd prefer the news not make it back to any parents.”

“You have my word to keep your secret. I should warn you, though, I think Hermione figured it out, too. She doesn't seem to mind either, but I don't know for sure. We didn't discuss it with her.”

“Thank you for telling me this, Harry,” Lupin said with a smile. “Now, fun as this has been, I'm afraid I have work to finish before the full moon. I'll see you at the feast later.”

The empty goblet was still smoking.

~

When they got back from Hogsmeade, Ron and Hermione dumped a load of sweets from Honeydukes at his lap, to make up for him not being able to go.

“Harry!” Ron had said. “Glad to see you again, mate. Finally come out of hiding?”

“Not by choice, exactly. No, it's not like that, I just...” he paused, then explained what had happened in Lupin's office. He left out the part about the goblet of potion, and about Lupin being a werewolf, but he did mention that Snape stopped by to drop something off for Lupin, and that the hook-nosed teacher had commented on hearing Iliana's shout, and his thoughts on the cause.

“Oh,” Ron said, getting oddly quiet all of a sudden, his ears reddening. Then he launched into an explanation all about everything they'd seen and done in Hogsmeade. Harry wasn't fooled by the sudden change of subject, and neither – apparently – was Hermione, who gave him a Significant Look, but said nothing except to add to Ron's topic.

Hermione checked her watch.

“We’d better go down, you know, the feast’ll be starting in five minutes. …” They hurried through the portrait hole and into the crowd, and Hermione let Ron get ahead of her and Harry, whispering at Harry.

“Snape might be right, Harry; you should definitely have her go see Madam Pomfrey. I, uh... I started getting mine last month. The potions she has really do wonders. Doesn't stop the bleeding, but takes away all the pain.”

Harry shrugged, but didn't say anything. They were both quiet the rest of the way to the Great Hall, until they saw all the decorations and food.

The food was delicious of course. Harry let Aqua out of his robes to eat a sausage. Everyone who could see it laughed at the small snake swallowing the enormous sausage.

Along with food, there was entertainment provided by the school ghosts, like formation gliding, and Sir Nicolas telling them all about his botched beheading. It all left Harry in such a good mood that even Malfoy shouting to him about the dementors didn't bother him. Al made an internal comment of “Get new material, Malfoy,” but Harry didn't let Al speak it aloud.

Harry and his two best friends followed the rest of the Griffindors back to Griffindor Tower, but they were stopped at the portrait hole.

“Why's nobody going in?” Ron asked.

Ron's brother Percy, who was Head Boy and a Prefect, came pompously through them all to the front, complaining about everyone forgetting the password, but when he got up there, he immediately called for Dumbledore in an anxious voice.

As it turned out, the Fat Lady – the painting who guarded the entrance to the common room – was missing, her portrait torn to ribbons. Everyone was just about to search other portraits for her, at Dumbledore's command, when Peeves the Poltergeist laughingly informed the headmaster that she had run off. The headmaster questioned the poltergeist further, and finally Peeves said something truly useful.

“Ashamed, Your Headship, sir. Doesn’t want to be seen. She’s a horrible mess. Saw her running through the landscape up on the fourth floor, sir, dodging between the trees. Crying something dreadful,” he said happily. “Poor thing,” he added unconvincingly.

“Did she say who did it?” said Dumbledore quietly.

“Oh yes, Professorhead,” said Peeves, with the air of one cradling a large bombshell in his arms. “He got very angry when she wouldn’t let him in, you see.” Peeves flipped over and grinned at Dumbledore from between his own legs. “Nasty temper he’s got, that Sirius Black.”

~

Later, when everyone in the school was locked into the Great Hall to spend the night in sleeping bags while the teachers scoured the castle for Sirius Black, Harry, Ron, and Hermione discussed how he could have gotten into the school. Like Hermione, Harry thought it odd that the escaped convict had gone into the Tower at a time when nobody would be there. If the man was clever enough to disguise himself while on the run – without a wand, most likely, then he should be clever enough to find a calendar somewhere and keep track of the days. But maybe Azkaban had addled his mind?

However he got in, Hermione reminded them all that he couldn't have Apparated in, because “it's not possible to Apparate on the school grounds.” Though Harry privately knew that wasn't quite true; House Elves did it all the time. He just doubted a House Elf would help an escaped prisoner. Especially one that was wanted for murder.

The next day, the Fat Lady's damaged portrait was replaced, until she could be restored, by the horrible little knight, Sir Cadogan and his fat pony. This was less than ideal, since the knight changed the password several times a day, challenged people to fights, and generally made an ass of himself, but he was apparently the only portrait that would do the job after what happened to the Fat Lady.

Sir Cadogan, however, was the least of Harry’s worries. He was now being closely watched. Teachers found excuses to walk along corridors with him, and Percy Weasley (acting, Harry suspected, on his mother’s orders) was tailing him everywhere like an extremely pompous guard dog. To cap it all, Professor McGonagall summoned Harry into her office, with such a somber expression on her face Harry thought someone must have died.

“There’s no point hiding it from you any longer, Potter,” she said in a very serious voice. “I know this will come as a shock to you, but Sirius Black —”

“I know he’s after me,” said Harry wearily. “We worked that out the day before term started.”

“What? How?” McGonagall asked.

“Between Al's heart-reading, our empathic sense, Ron's dad wearing his heart on his sleeve and being bad at lying, and there being five of us, it wasn't difficult.”

Professor McGonagall seemed very taken aback. She stared at Harry for a moment or two, then said, “I see! Well, in that case, Potter, you’ll understand why I don’t think it’s a good idea for Iliana to be practicing Quidditch in the evenings. Out on the field with only your team members, it’s very exposed, Potter —”

“We’ve got our first match on Saturday!” said Iliana in Harry's voice, outraged. “I’ve got to train, Professor!” She got so emotional at this, that they transformed again, into Iliana.

Thankfully, Professor McGonagall relented, on the condition that Madam Hooch oversee their practices.

As McGonagall left, Iliana decided that while she was out, she may as well go to the Hospital Wing and talk with Madam Pomfrey.

“Ah, Miss Potter. What is it now? Broken arm? Concussion?” the matron asked when she entered.

“Um, no. It's... a bit more personal.”

The matron gave her a searching look, then pulled some curtains around them and cast some privacy spells on the curtains. When this was done, she finally spoke again.

“So, Miss Potter, is it that time of the month then? Is this your first time?”

“Well, about that. I don't actually know what happened. I was having tea with Professor Lupin on Halloween afternoon, when suddenly there was a sharp pain in my gut, and we suddenly transformed. So I don't know if there was any, um... bleeding.”

“And where was this pain located?”

Iliana put her hand where it had been. The matron frowned thoughtfully.

“Well, Miss Potter, that's much too high to be your uterus. More likely a stomachache. Did you have anything to eat with tea?”

“No, just that.”

Madam Pomfrey cast a bunch of diagnostic spells on her, and took some other tests. In the end, she sighed
resignedly.

“Well, I don't know what it could have been, aside from stomachache, but there's no sign of anything wrong. There's also no sign you've started your menses yet. But with your unique situation, it might be that anything wrong with you was reversed when you transformed.

“However,” she said, getting some things out of a cupboard and handing them to Iliana, “if you should find your time of the month has come at last, here are some pads and potions to help you through it. And if you need more, there's a red cupboard in the next room full of relevant supplies. It's accessible at all times, so girls can come and go without needing to go through the embarrassment of asking someone for them.”

Iliana nodded, putting the things in her bag.

“If you have any other problems, come to me right away. It's entirely possible your unique condition may give you health complaints the likes of which nobody can predict.”

“Thank you, Madam Pomfrey.”

~

As their first Quidditch match approached, the weather got horrible, with horrid thunderstorms. They kept on practicing, though. But then on their final training session before the match, Wood dropped a bombshell.

“We’re not playing Slytherin!” he told them, looking very angry. “Flint’s just been to see me. We’re playing Hufflepuff instead.”

“WHAT? Why?” chorused the rest of the team.

“Supposedly, Malfoy came down with the flu, and can't play.”

“He's just faking it! Doesn't want to play in this weather.”

“Well that's his loss, then, Oliver,” Iliana said. “He's trying to wrong-foot us, but it isn't going to help him. We'll trounce Hufflepuff the way we always do.”

“No! We can't get overconfident. We've spent all this time practicing for Slytherin, and their playing style is much different than Hufflepuff's! And these weather conditions are completely different, too.”

Iliana couldn't take Wood's increasing hysteria, and redirected her thoughts to picture the images she'd seen when lost in Luna's energy. But the wave of anxiety coming off Wood was just getting worse, she felt it buffeting her aura. Before it could do any damage, she took Oliver Wood's hand in hers; just like that, the anxiety stopped growing, and began to shrink.

Everyone was staring at her. So she decided to break the tension.

“Oliver, don't worry. We'll show Malfoy he can't wrong-foot us. We'll win.”

She let go of his hand.

~

It was all well and good to tell Oliver that they would win, but as they got closer to the match, she began to have doubts. She had this new gift, and it made their days difficult at times, all those emotions in the castle, especially in large groups. And everyone would be turning up to see the match. How was she supposed to play Quidditch when the press of all those minds, with their heightened emotions, would likely overwhelm her?

Towards that end, she began brewing up simple headache cures for herself to take during the match if she needed to, as well as looking up and brewing the Calming Draught, on the idea that if her own emotions were calmed by the potion, that the emotions of the other people would just sort of wash over her without causing any harm. It was also fortuitous that she'd stumbled on summoning the memory of Luna's energy as a sort of shield, too. Of course, the main problem with all these solutions was that calm, languid energy wasn't exactly useful during a Quidditch game. So she would have to save these solutions for after the game, or only use it in case of emergency.

A solution she'd been working on for another problem, if the weather got no better, was trying to see if Tier could activate his magical force-field while still letting her be in charge of the body. She had only a modicum of success with this, in the limited time she had to practice, but it was enough that almost half the wind and rain coming at them was stopped in a bubble around them. Worried that this might disqualify them, she talked with Madam Hooch first, and was told that as long as she didn't use it on purpose to bump into other players, then it was permissible.

Wood kept stopping her in the halls that day at school to give her hints on how to play against Hufflepuff, something that annoyed her, but she tolerated it. Still, it made her late for DADA class. She'd been running through the corridors to get there on time, risking Filch's wrath, and skidded to a halt before popping into the classroom.

“Sorry I'm late, Professor Lupin, I--” she stopped, as Lupin wasn't there at his desk. Snape was.

“Oh, Professor Snape. Sorry I was late--”

“I don't care, silly girl! You are ten minutes late for class. Let's make it ten points from Griffindor, then. Now sit
down.”

She nodded and sat down. She knew why Lupin wasn't here, but of course she couldn't say. She did look at Hermione, though; the other girl didn't seem surprised, either. But of course, that could be because Hermione was never late for anything.

“As I was saying before Potter interrupted,” Snape said, “Professor Lupin has not left any record of the topics you have covered so far —”

“Please, sir, we’ve done boggarts, Red Caps, kappas, and grindylows,” said Hermione quickly, “and we’re just about to start —”

“Be quiet,” said Snape coldly. “I did not ask for information. I was merely commenting on Professor Lupin’s lack of organization.”

Iliana stared agog at Hermione. It was unlike her to speak out of turn. She hadn't even raised her hand. Granted, Snape never called on her if he could help it, so that might've explained it. Still, it was odd.

“He’s the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher we’ve ever had,” said Dean Thomas boldly, and there was a murmur of agreement from the rest of the class. Snape looked more menacing than ever.

“You are easily satisfied. Lupin is hardly overtaxing you — I would expect first years to be able to deal with Red Caps and grindylows. Today we shall discuss —”

Iliana watched his actions as he appeared to flip casually through the book to the back, to werewolves. When he got there, she knew he'd planned to go there all along. He was trying to out Lupin!

“But, sir,” said Hermione, seemingly unable to restrain herself, “we’re not supposed to do werewolves yet, we’re due to start hinkypunks —”

“Miss Granger,” said Snape in a voice of deadly calm, “I was under the impression that I am teaching this lesson, not you. And I am telling you all to turn to page 394.” He glanced around again. “All of you! Now!”

I wonder if I'm being a bad influence on Hermione, with all my back-talking at that old fraud?

#Probably. Now be quiet.#

Naturally, Snape ignored Hermione's attempts to raise her hand to answer the question, forcing her to speak out of turn again. The others were also being argumentative. Iliana wondered if she should join in to deflect suspicion, or just remain quiet. After thinking on it briefly, she realized she didn't want to risk getting a detention this close to the game, so she remained quiet.

Which is a decision that flew right out the window when Snape called Hermione an insufferable know-it-all. Hermione's eyes barely began to water with embarrassed tears before she and a dozen other people were standing up, berating Snape for bullying a student. Ron spoke the loudest, and got a detention for his trouble. This made everyone shut up for the rest of the class, though Iliana kept glaring at the sallow git whenever she could, wondering if they could get away with Zoey turning him into a maggot.

Snape, for his part, handed back their homework and loudly criticized it as he did. Then he assigned a long essay on werewolves, which didn't surprise Iliana at all.

As they left the class, Iliana growled in rage at Snape. “Honestly, why is he even a teacher? He's the most horrible person I've met, not counting the Dursleys. Great bullying git, I'm going to complain to Dumbledore about him. Not that it'll probably help much. Dumbledore has to know what Snape is like by now; he's been teaching for like, 12 years or so. And honestly, I can't figure out why Snape hates Lupin so much.”

This was true; sure, Snape knew he was a werewolf, but there had to be more to it than that. This wasn't fear, or simple distrust, it was loathing. It was personal.

“Me neither,” said Hermione. “But I hope Lupin gets better soon.”

“Oh, I think he will,” Iliana said absently.

“What do you mean?” Hermione said, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.

But before Iliana could answer, Ron stormed up to them.

“Do you know what that wanker is making me do? I’ve got to scrub out the bedpans in the hospital wing. Without magic!” He was breathing deeply, his fists clenched. “Why couldn’t Black have hidden in Snape’s office, eh? He could have finished him off for us!”

Yup, he's trying to out Lupin. Lupin won't be in the hospital wing. Dunno where he'd be while transformed, maybe locked in a dungeon?

What about that potion? Harry asked.

We don't know what that potion does; Lupin never got around to answering us about what it does.

That's a good point.

~

On the day of the match, Iliana woke up early to Peeves blowing air on her face. After shooting a bunch of hexes at him that wouldn't hurt him, she decided to stay up. She grabbed her Nimbus and left the dormitory. As she did, she felt something furry trying to get in, and managed to stop Crookshanks getting into the dorm.

“What is with you? You can't be a normal cat; your behavior is too strange for a normal cat. What are you up to? Why are you trying to get Scabbers?”

He looked at her. She couldn't see anything in his face, as she didn't speak Cat, but she felt the faint stirring of distrust from him, which seemed to be directed at Scabbers. She frowned at that, not being able to figure out why a cat wouldn't trust a rat, and tossed him out, closing the door behind her.

“Leave Scabbers alone,” she said as she pushed him away.

After breakfast, she and everyone else in the team went down to the pitch. Iliana cast the Impervious Charm on her clothes to make them waterproof, a nice little spell she'd discovered in her reading. She taught the charm to the rest of her teammates, so they would all be warm and dry. Then, feeling bad about that, she whispered about it to Cedric Diggory (the Hufflepuff Seeker and team captain) when they began to gather in the middle. Wood gave her a disapproving glare, but she didn't think them being warm and dry while the other team was soaked and cold would do her conscience any good. Of course, the Hufflepuffs were already all wet, but this stopped it getting worse.

She focused on Tier while they waited for Madam Hooch to start the match, and by the time the whistle started, his force-field popped up and kept a lot of the wind and rain off of them, and thus out of their eyes.

She rose fast on her broom, going above the crowd to seek the snitch. Even with all the little tricks she'd employed to help in the weather, she hadn't thought of anything that could help visibility. Even Tier's eyes wouldn't have been able to see in all the rain and lightning. Which, she suddenly thought, ought to have been grounds to postpone the match. But they were there, there was nothing for it but to play. But no sign of gold appeared.

The storm drowned out Lee Jordan's commentary, too, so Oliver Wood had to call a time-out to update everyone on the status of the game. Despite the harsh conditions, the Griffindors were ahead on points. Wood made sure to emphasize to her to find the snitch fast, or else they'd be playing in the rain all night.

“Don't worry, Oliver. Even with Tier's shield and the Impervious Charm, I'm still soaking wet. A lot of this rain is getting into my clothes anyway, even if the clothes themselves are dry. So I don't fancy being here any longer than I have to be.”

They went back to playing. She went up in the air again, calling on everyone in the collective to help keep an eye out for the snitch. She took a bludger straight to their shield, and the ball bounced off, but the shield shattered and the wind buffeted them harder, the rain worming its way into their shoes. It was impossible to re-initiate the shield and fly around looking for the snitch at the same time, not without risking falling off their broom, anyway.

Lightning flared, thunder clapped; both way too close for comfort. In the light of the lightning, the stands were illuminated, and they saw a giant black dog standing there in the topmost empty bleachers, looking right at them.

Her hand slipped off her broom, and she almost fell off, the broom dropping several feet. When she got control again and looked back to the same spot, the giant dog was gone.

Iliana's hands were extremely wet, and cold, and numb. She hadn't thought to try the Impervious Spell on her skin, and wasn't sure it could be done, or if it was a wise idea to try.

“Iliana!” Wood cried out in anguish. “Iliana! Behind you!”

She turned around. Diggory was diving for the ground, right at the snitch. Without a moment's more hesitation, she bolted after him. He had a better broom, of course, but she was a better flyer, so she hoped she could beat him to it.

But then the roar of the wind died down, though the wind itself was still going strong. The cold inside her increased. Tier, panicking, came Out, and large bat-like wings sprouted from their back; wings that were immediately jerked backwards by the wind, and one was significantly smaller than the other anyway, so would have been of limited help anyway. He also petrified their hands into a permanent grip on the broom, but as the cold overtook them, and the screaming woman's scream got closer, they fell off the broom anyway, their weight and the wind pulling in opposite directions, snapping the broom in half.

They saw a brief glimpse of dozens of cloaked dementors before falling sideways through the wind like a maple seed caught in a high wind.

“Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!”

“Stand aside, you silly girl … stand aside, now. …”

“Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead —”

The inside of their head was utter bedlam, with numb thoughts going in many different directions and emotions running wild at first, only to slip into the silence of numbness. As a cold, cruel voice laughed mirthlessly, they passed out.

~

Iliana could hear voices whispering something, but couldn't make out the words. She was aware of being warm and dry on something soft.

“That was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” someone said. Ron, by the sound of it.

This brought back memories of the screaming and laughing from earlier, and her eyes snapped open. Then she was aware of pain, and tried to scream; instead, what came out was an inhuman shriek, like something an eagle might make.

Her thoughts felt simpler; they were mostly images, with few words. There were emotions, though; emotions of an intensity she wasn't used to. She felt pinned down by the covers, and fought, roaring and yowling like a wounded animal. But then someone said a spell, and she was forced to hold still, with her mouth open. Someone using an eyedropper put potion down her throat, and she relaxed.

She focused on the words they were saying, determined to know what was going on.

“How are they, Poppy?”

“They should be fine. These wings they manifested were poorly grown when they broke, which complicated things. The bones were the simplest part; it's the muscles and skin that I struggled the most with. Some of the tendons tore as well, and there were multiple dislocations. But for all the damage to the wings, the rest of the body was largely fine. The only other difference I can tell is they have teeth more like those of a wolf than a human. Oh, and there were claws on the fingers, which I trimmed for safety's sake.”

“Tier must have panicked when the dementors came, and tried to fly away, only for the wind to yank his wings backwards.”

“Well yes, given their behavior when they woke, I would say that's accurate. Tier appears to still be in control. How far away from the pitch were they found, Headmaster?”

“That wind blew them almost all the way to the Whomping Willow. They've very lucky to have not hit that, or their condition might have been much, much worse.”

“Agreed.”

“Ooooom?” Tier-liana moaned, working their jaw in frustration. “Boooom?”

“Is that language? I didn't know Tier could speak.”

“Yeah, he can,” Ron said from the doorway. “It's not easy for him, though.”

“Thank you, young Mr. Weasley,” Dumbledore said. “Tier, can you hear me?”

“Ehth,” they answered. “Air esh boom?”

“Are you asking where your Nimbus 2000 is?”

“Ehth.”

“I don't know, Tier, I wish I--”

“Headmaster?” Ron asked. “Can we come in?”

“Yes, I think so. But not for long, I'm afraid; Madam Pomfrey still has work to do. Anyway, Tier was just wondering where the Nimbus went.”

“It broke in half when you fell, mate,” Ron explained. “You missed the Whomping Willow, but the rest of your broom didn't. It's in pieces.”

“Oh,” they said simply. Then, “Tyair-Laanaa. Dsh... dshuk. Dshdugk, oo'geffer.”

“Wait, you're stuck? Is that what you said?”

“Ehth,” they said, nodding.

Dumbledore looked fascinated and concerned at the same time.

“How stuck are you? Do you think it's permanent?”

They shook their head. “No. Tempree. Eee ohp. Ooo... ooee... w... we hobp.”

Dumbledore stroked his beard, saying to himself, “Fascinating. Even with Iliana fused to him, Tier still struggles to enunciate simple words.”

Tier growled in irritation.

“Here,” the matron said, with another eye-dropper (this one the size of a turkey baster) in her hand, “have some chocolate. Recovering from the dementor effects might help you get your powers back enough to come unstuck.”

She dribbled lukewarm chocolate milk into their mouth, and they began to feel better.

“I find myself wondering how the others are doing,” Dumbledore said, still stroking his chin.

“Kay-ahsh,” they answered. “Tears. Payn.”

Ron looked at them oddly.

“Your voice is so deep, I never noticed before, since you only spoke once before. It's weird, hearing such a deep voice coming from a body that's still mostly Iliana's.”

Tier huffed air out of his nose as his only comment.

Despite their condition, their magic seemed to be speeding their healing process enough that Madam Pomfrey let the rest of the Griffindor team in, once Dumbledore left. After all, they were calmer now, alert and awake. Not to mention when she suggested they needed rest, Tier practically roared at her, his hiss was so growly.

“How're you lot doing?” one of the twins asked.

Tier huffed air out his nose again, only this time it sounded more positive.

“Good, good,” whichever twin it was said, nodding.

“That was scary, that was,” the other twin said. “First those dementors showing up, then your transformation, then you being blown away.”

The conversation had turned largely one-sided; Tier had run out of patience for words, and was communicating solely in looks and animal sounds again.

When the inside of their head started going back to normal, Tier found himself in the position of having to relay messages from the others to the people outside. He decided to focus on the most annoying inner voices first. When he started screwing up his face with the effort of getting ready to speak, Ron stopped the others with a raised hand, and they all waited.

“Mm... mm.... mmmaaadch? Ooeen or lose?”

“The match? Lost. Diggory caught the snitch before you fell. He tried to call for a rematch, but he won fair and square.”

“W... Wood?”

“Still in the showers. We reckon he's trying to drown himself. Oh, not really. He's just really upset.”

Tier snorted, as if to say “He's upset?”

“Yeah, well, you know Wood.”

Then they started discussing the team's chances to win the cup, even having lost one of the matches, and Tier let them do it. Before long, Madam Pomfrey ushered them out, carefully; but when Tier didn't react, she sighed with relief.

Ron stayed behind, though. And Hermione showed up.

“Dumbledore was really angry,” Hermione said in a quavering voice. “He tried to catch you as you fell, of course, but the wind blew you away. Hagrid ran after you instead. Dumbledore shot something silvery at the dementors, and they left at once. Then he went after you, but by then Hagrid had found you, and was carrying you to Dumbledore. Dumbledore made sure the rest of us were okay while that happened.”

“Then he magicked you onto a stretcher,” said Ron. “And walked up to school with you floating on it. Everyone thought you were, well...”

Tier made a noise like dying, which alarmed the two friends, until they realized he was finishing Ron's sentence.

“How're you feeling, mate? Are you and Iliana still stuck together?”

“They're stuck together?” Hermione said in alarm. “Is it permanent?”

Tier shook his head. He began trying to speak again. Iliana was slipping into the background, they were no longer
stuck together, which ironically made it harder for him to speak.

“Uhn shtugk,” he finally managed to say, every word a Herculean effort. “Ihnside. Steel stugk een dis form.”

Then Tier felt something clunk into place in how they felt, and stretched his powers out. They glowed faintly, and the wings he'd manifested healed completely, growing to the right proportions. He sat up and stretched all their limbs out as far as they would go, almost knocking over Ron in the process.

“Mr. Potter, or Tier, or however you wish to be called,” the matron said in annoyance, “please fold up your wings or transform back to normal, just don't do that; you might knock over something valuable.”

Tier nodded, and focused on his power again. The wings glowed faintly, then shrunk and disappeared. They now looked like a normal Iliana, except for their teeth, which Tier didn't show except on accident. He tossed off the covers and got up out of bed. Madam Pomfrey tried to stop him, but he hissed at her and walked out. He preferred his own bed to one in the hospital.

~

That weekend was difficult, for despite getting enough of his power back to get rid of the wings, they were stuck as Tier all weekend long. He could still make modifications to the body, so he put their teeth back to normal, but by the end of Saturday, he had changed the body's appearance to a male form with brown hair and amber skin. This made things a little easier, once people started getting the message that this individual couldn't speak much, but it caused more problems as well, namely trying to explain who he was without speaking.

And so, on Sunday evening when Iliana returned, Tier was greatly relieved. They transformed right in front of Ron and Hermione, who had been talking with one another while Tier had silently watched.

“Iliana! You're back!” Ron said.

“Yeah, I guess I am.”

She stayed there for a few minutes, joining the conversation here and there but largely lost in thought, until finally
she got up.

“Gonna go talk with McGonagall,” she said. “Be back soon.”

Leaving the annoying Sir Cadogan behind, she went looking for McGonagall. She eventually found the woman coming out of the staff room.

“Ah, Ms. Potter, glad to see you're back at last. I don't think anyone was keen on trying to teach a student who is largely mute. Did you need something?”

“Can we talk in your office, Professor?”

“Now? Alright, then. This way.”

When they got to McGonagall's office, they both sat down. The professor regarded her expectantly for a few moments before Iliana began to speak at last.

“This weekend gave us a lot of time to think. And, well... it wasn't an easy consensus to come to, but about our dorm arrangements. We need new arrangements; I don't know what we need, exactly, but we do. We're getting older, puberty is upon us. And what's more... Harry's struggling with it, but he's agreed to let me talk about it with you... um... Harry is transgender. He figured it out over the summer, and he's still struggling with what to do about it, but he no longer feels comfortable in the boy's dormitory. I don't know where he would feel comfortable, though.”

“I see,” said McGonagall kindly. “Well, we do have a number of options for transgender students. What I think might suit you most is that we do have a room or two in each section of the dorms set aside for students who do not feel comfortable lodging with other students for whatever reason. And your situation is complicated enough you might benefit from that. And given the nature of your situation, one of the single-occupancy rooms in the boy's dormitory section may be best.”

“Ah. And, uh... what about showers?”

“Those rooms have their own bathrooms, complete with shower.”

Something they'd not thought of before came up in their mind then, making Iliana's face twist with emotion.

“Um... that sounds great. There's just one problem. I don't want people to think we're, like, snobs or anti-social or something. And it's gonna be kinda hard to explain a move like that without outing Harry, and he isn't sure about coming out as transgender. I mean, I think he will eventually, but he isn't sure when, or how. He's scared what people will think.”

“That is understandable. But keep in mind, the arrangement I've offered will still let you visit your friends.”

“I know, but I just don't know if that's enough. I'd need a solid explanation that's plausible and protects Harry.”

McGonagall smiled. “Well, if I were in your position, I think I'd tell my friends that as a girl in puberty, I no longer felt comfortable sleeping and changing and showering with boys, but since there are boys in your collective, you don't feel comfortable in the girl's dormitories either. Does that sound like a good excuse to you? After all, unless I'm mistaken, it's true enough in essentials.”

Iliana smiled. “Yes, that sounds good. I like that. We'll take your offer.”

“When do you want to switch dorms, Ms. Potter?”

“I dunno. Not immediately, though. I think I need to give Ron at least time to get used to the idea. Maybe by Wednesday?”

“If that's what you want. In the meantime, should we go look at this new room to be sure you want it?”

“Alright.”

When Iliana came back, Ron looked up and opened his mouth to speak, but stopped when he saw McGonagall. Hermione and others in the room stared as well. They'd only ever seen the professor in the common room during dire emergencies before.

“There's no need to look so scared, Mr. Weasley,” she told Ron. “Everyone may rest assured there is nothing serious going on. I am simply showing Ms. Potter something upstairs. Go back to whatever you were doing before I came in.”

The two of them went up the stairs of the boy's dormitories, and out of sight. Iliana felt everyone’s confusion increase at this, along with a few other emotions, and felt her face grow hot at some of these. But she said nothing, and followed McGonagall to the very back of the dorms, to a door she'd never noticed before. The professor did something to the door with her wand, and suddenly the door felt more welcoming. Then the teacher opened the door and led Iliana in.

She looked around at a room that was smaller than her current dorm room, but big enough it could have held two beds in it, though there was only one there at present. Like the others, it was stone with carpets on the floors and tapestries on the walls. (Even with magic, castles tended to be cold.) It had a fireplace as well, a large wardrobe, and there was a door to a small but adequate bathroom with a sink, a toilet, and a clawed bathtub with a shower attachment and shower curtains that were actual cloth curtains with an Impervious Charm cast on them to keep them dry.

When she looked at the wardrobe again, it began to shake, startling her.

“A boggart,” Professor McGonagall said. “Well, that will need to be taken care of before you move in. But otherwise, how do you feel about this room?”

Iliana looked at the bed. Even though it was the only bed in the room, it too had curtains. In all respects, it looked identical to their current bed. Then, spotting the window, she went over and looked out. The view was largely the same, just from a different angle.

“Looks great, Professor.”

“So shall I put your move-in date as this Wednesday?”

“Yes, Professor. Barring unforeseen circumstances.”

“Good. I shall inform the headmaster and the house elves, and I shall also arrange to have the boggart dealt with.”

That done, they went back downstairs, Iliana rejoining Ron and Hermione as McGonagall left to go back to her
office or wherever else it was she was going. Her two friends looked at her expectantly.

“What was that all about?” Ron asked.

“Oh. Well... it's just... you know, I'm 13 now, and my body's changing, and I haven't really been feeling comfortable changing and sleeping and showering with a bunch of boys. But there are boys in our collective, too, so I wouldn't feel comfortable in the girl's dormitories, either, so... it turned out there was a third option.”

“Really? What's that?”

“Um... well, they have single-occupancy rooms for when there's a need, and--”

“You're getting your own room?” Ron said, agog at the news.

“Um... yeah. And it, uh... has its own bathroom. Complete with shower. And since it's in the boy's dormitories, it's no problem to visit you in your room, or for you to visit mine.”

Ron was looking dumbfounded, but Hermione nodded approvingly.

“Good for you. I've never really thought you should be in there with all those boys; last year when you made me stay in your dorm, it was extremely uncomfortable having to change in the bed, I don't blame you at all wanting somewhere more private. I am a little disappointed you're not going to switch to a girl's dorm, but I suppose that could be even worse. What if Alastair or Harry activated the stairs? No, this is the best option.”

“Activated the stairs?” Ron asked her in confusion.

“Oh, well, there's a spell on the stairs to the girl's dormitories that detects boys; when it does, an alarm goes off and the stairs turn into a slide. It was put there by the founders, who thought boys were untrustworthy.”

“Good to know,” Ron said. Then he sighed, and looked at Iliana. “Well, I can't say I'm happy about it. Gonna miss you, mate, but I get it. I've caught myself, er... looking... at some of the older girls. If you were still there when you started sprouting... well, you know... that might be awkward.”

Ron's face and ears turned bright red, and he pretended to be reading.

“When are you changing rooms, by the way?” asked Hermione.

“Not til Wednesday. There's still a boggart in the wardrobe.”

~

Though Ron had taken the news surprisingly well, Neville and Seamus took it a bit harder. Neville was sad to see them go, and Seamus came off as mildly offended, but that turned out to be disguising some hurt feelings.

Potions class was difficult, of course. Malfoy was gleeful at Griffindor's defeat, and kept imitating Iliana falling off her broom, and calling her “batty.”

Luckily, though, Professor Lupin was back at work, looking worn out but cheerful anyway. The students raised a great ruckus about Snape's treatment of the class, and the essay. With Iliana joining in, Lupin announced that the essay wouldn't be required, but anyone who had already done it could hand it in for extra points; Hermione and Iliana were two of the only people to hand theirs in.

After class, Professor Lupin held Iliana back to talk with her, commiserating with her about the destroyed broomstick, and explaining that the Whomping Willow had been planted the year he'd started Hogwarts. Since their conversation was private, Iliana had to ask...

“Does that tree have something to do with your, um... furry complaint?”

Lupin laughed. “Yes. The Wolfsbane Potion – that potion Snape gave me the other day – hadn't been invented yet, so I had to go somewhere I couldn't hurt anyone or escape during the full moon. There's a secret passageway under that tree that leads to the Shrieking Shack, which is where I went to transform.”

“The Shrieking Shack? But isn't it haunted?”

“No. The sounds that used to come there were from me. Separated from humans so I could not bite or scratch them, I bit and scratched myself instead.”

Iliana winced. “Sounds horrible.”

“It is indeed. The transformation itself is torture, too. The Wolfsbane Potion lets me keep my mind and be a harmless wolf during the full moon, but the agony is almost unbearable. Losing my mind to the beast within is almost a relief by comparison.”

Iliana didn't know what to say. After a few moments, she spoke again.

“So did you hear about the dementors, too?”

“Yes, I did. I don’t think any of us have seen Professor Dumbledore that angry. They have been growing restless for some time … furious at his refusal to let them inside the grounds. … I suppose they were the reason you fell?”

“Yes,” Iliana said. “Why do they affect us so strongly? Is it weakness?”

“No, it's not weakness. Dementors take us to our worst memories, and your worst memories are just more powerful than most people's, since you've been through so much.”

“Yeah. The Dursleys alone would be enough for that, I think. Then there's killing Quirrell. But what I see and hear instead... I wasn't even aware it was possible to remember something from one's infancy.”

Lupin went stock still.

“What do you mean?”

“When they get near us, we hear... we hear our mum being murdered, by Voldemort,” she said, her voice cracking and eyes watering. But instead of crying, she gritted her teeth and looked at Lupin.

“Why did they come to the match?”

“They’re getting hungry,” said Lupin coolly, shutting his briefcase with a snap. “Dumbledore won’t let them into the school, so their supply of human prey has dried up. … I don’t think they could resist the large crowd around the Quidditch field. All that excitement … emotions running high … it was their idea of a feast.”

“Azkaban must be terrible,” Iliana said. “No wonder Dumbledore hates the dementors.”

“The fortress is set on a tiny island, way out to sea, but they don’t need walls and water to keep the prisoners in, not when they’re all trapped inside their own heads, incapable of a single cheerful thought. Most of them go mad within weeks.”

“Except for Sirius Black,” she said quietly.

Lupin’s briefcase slipped from the desk; he had to stoop quickly to catch it. But even if that hadn't happened, his
emotions were loud enough to her that she looked at him again. He was hiding something, just as Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had. But given that adults tended to lie, she decided it was pointless to ask him to tell the truth.

“Yes,” he said, straightening up, “Black must have found a way to fight them. I wouldn’t have believed it possible. … Dementors are supposed to drain a wizard of his powers if he is left with them too long.”

“You made that one on the train back off. And Dumbledore did the same thing, from what I heard later.”

“There are — certain defenses one can use,” said Lupin. “But there was only one dementor on the train. The more there are, the more difficult it becomes to resist.”

“Defenses? Like what? Can you teach us?”

“I'm no expert in fighting dementors, Iliana. Quite the contrary, in fact.”

“But they're dangerous, dementors. And if they come to another match, I need to be able to get to the ground before I pass out, or avoid passing out completely if I can.”

Lupin looked into Iliana's determined face, hesitated, then said, “Well … all right. I’ll try and help. But it’ll have to wait until next term, I’m afraid. I have a lot to do before the holidays. The full moon came at an inconvenient time for me.”

~ ~



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