“The Many Faces of Harry Potter: Chapter 16”
By = Fayanora
Chapter Sixteen: Freedom
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. It's been frustrating me, too, but some things are just too perfect already to change. Which, fair warning, includes most of the conversation Fudge, Hagrid, Flitwick, and McGonagall have in The Three Broomsticks.
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.).#
Tuesday night, Iliana spent a lot of time organizing their things in preparation for moving to the new room. This included opening the trunk and packing and repacking it several times, never satisfied with the results. At one point, she accidentally uncovered the Sneakoscope and it began spinning and whistling, even though the room was empty but for her and Scabbers. Figuring it was indeed on the fritz, she packed it away again, more securely.
It was difficult to sleep that night, knowing the next day after dinner, she'd be moving into the new room. Her mind kept going over what she could do with her own room, the decorations she could put up, the hobbies she could pursue without bothering other people, and the long soaks she could take in her very own bathtub.
Harry was excited as well, and kept adding to this night-time thinking with ideas of his (her) own, like getting a full-length mirror (though one very different in appearance from the Mirror of Erised; they didn't need reminding of that thing), and a magical music player or wizarding wireless box, to explore the wizarding world's music.
In fact, the mirror idea excited Harry so much that they didn't get to sleep until after they'd gotten up to write themselves a note about finding out where to order one from.
Goodbyes the next day were a lot easier than expected in some ways. Partly because Ron was helping Iliana move her trunk, and partly because their former dorm-mates were invited to get a good look at the place, which was her way of showing them that they could come over to visit as long as they bore in mind the door would be locked sometimes.
She was glad to find the wardrobe was boggart-free, and enlisted her friends' help to put robes and Muggle clothes for Alastair in one part of the wardrobe, while she focused on the panties and clothes she had for herself, and a few things of Zoey's, as well.
It took a lot of diplomacy and patience to get rid of her guests enough ahead of time that she could enjoy a bath and some reading before going to sleep, but she managed it. With the door firmly locked with her wand, using a spell she'd read about that couldn't be unlocked with a simple alohamora, she undressed right there in the empty room (first closing the blinds on the windows out of paranoia) and left the bathroom door open as she drew her bath, only closing it when it was plain the draft made the room too cold.
When she came out in her towel, she shivered and grabbed her wand, using it to put a fire in the grate, and casting Warming Charms on every inch of the room before putting the towel away and getting dressed in her PJ's.
But before sitting down to read, she sat at her desk and wrote out an order for the mirror she wanted, using the information she'd gotten from McGonagall earlier in the day. Then she used a simple owl-summoning spell to summon Hedwig, and sent the letter off with her, before sitting down on the bed to read.
Her first night in her new bed was a mixed experience. She was so used to hearing the breathing and occasional snores from four other people that the lack of these sounds made it rather difficult to get to sleep. But she got there eventually, and the warmth from the fire and the Warming Charms helped tremendously with that.
Between her new room and the promise of anti-dementor lessons from Lupin, the Potter collective were feeling pretty good about life. Then Ravenclaw flattened Hufflepuff in Quidditch, which was good for Griffindor's prospects. They couldn't afford to lose any more games, though, so Wood had them practicing hard in the chilly rain that persisted into December. Luckily, though, the dementors stayed away.
Their good mood was somewhat ruined, though, when Professor McGonagall informed them that they were to stay in the castle for Christmas holidays. They'd been looking forward to spending Christmas with the Weasleys, but because of Sirius Black, the Burrow was deemed not safe enough. Even arguing that Black had already gotten into the castle once before didn't help, nor did pointing out that the Burrow was a long way from Hogwarts. The order had apparently come straight from Dumbledore, who was taking no chances with them, now that they weren't with the Dursleys anymore.
Luckily, though, Ron and Hermione stayed behind as well, making excuses that sounded plausible, when the real reason was to keep her and the others company during the holidays.
They also had their new mirror to help them, too. Harry kept coming Out in order to try different things with his/her appearance, like changing hair texture and length, eye color, face shape, body shape, and so on. But since Tier was the only one who could change his appearance at will while Out, this required a lot of transformations and even more willpower, because Harry had to go In then Out again to make even the smallest changes. But Harry was getting quite good at it, and by the time of the last Hogsmeade visit of the term – a day before most people left the school – Harry looked 100% female even when nude, though still not very developed. As to whether this included changes to the internal organs, though, they didn't know.
Because they'd bought so many broomsticks for the school the year before, they were practicing on one of the spares, a black Nimbus 2001. While faster than their previous broom, it felt weird putting it back in the shed instead of taking it to their room. So every now and then, they'd flip through Which Broomstick, thinking about getting a new one, but there was no urgency in it.
The move and the mirror and so on was helping Harry a lot, and so for the first time all term he came Out during classes, his hair slightly longer and much tamer than before. He'd decided to grow his hair long to sort of ease into coming out as transgender. He was concerned how most people would react, especially his friends, and hadn't even told Hermione. In fact, McGonagall was the only person who knew about it. Malfoy and the other Slytherins would no doubt be horrible, but if he could get most people's support, that would help. Also, he was still trying to work out a name.
On the day of the Hogsmeade trip, Harry said goodbye to Ron and Hermione, then went back inside to look for Luna. But halfway along the third-floor corridor, someone was calling quietly to him.
It was Fred and George, hiding behind a statue of a humpbacked, one-eyed witch. Harry put his hands on his hips.
“What are you two up to?” he asked. “You'll miss the trip to Hogsmeade.”
“The only thing we're up to is giving you a bit of festive cheer before we go. In here,” said George, leading Harry into an empty classroom and closing the door.
“Early Christmas present for you lot,” George continued.
Fred pulled something from inside his cloak with a flourish and laid it on one of the desks. It was a large, square, very worn piece of parchment with nothing written on it. Harry, suspecting one of Fred and George’s jokes, crossed his arms and raised his eyebrow.
“It's a piece of parchment,” he said to them.
“No no, it's so much more than that. It's the secret to our success, in fact.”
“It's a wrench, giving it to you lot, but we reckon it'll be more useful for you.”
“Anyway, we know it by heart. We don't need it anymore.”
“Okay, so what's so special about an old piece of parchment?”
“Old piece of parchment!” said Fred, closing his eyes with a grimace as though Harry had mortally offended him. “Explain, George.”
Harry listened as the twins described a time during their first year when they'd been in Filch's office for mischief, he'd stepped out, and they stole the parchment from a filing cabinet labeled 'Confiscated and highly dangerous.'
“We don't reckon Filch ever figured out how to use it. But he seemed to suspect what it was.”
“And you know how to work it?”
“Oh yes,” said Fred, smirking. “This little beauty’s taught us more than all the teachers in this school.”
“You’re winding me up,” said Harry, looking at the ragged old bit of parchment.
“Oh, are we?” said George.
He took out his wand, touched the parchment lightly, and said, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
And at once, thin ink lines began to spread like a spider’s web from the point that George’s wand had touched. They joined each other, they crisscrossed, they fanned into every corner of the parchment; then words began to blossom across the top, great, curly green words, that proclaimed:
Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs
Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers
are proud to present
THE MARAUDER’S MAP
It was a map showing every detail of the Hogwarts castle and grounds. But the truly remarkable thing were the tiny ink dots moving around it, each labeled with a name in minuscule writing. Astounded, Harry bent over it. A labeled dot in the top left corner showed that Professor Dumbledore was pacing his study; the caretaker’s cat, Mrs. Norris, was prowling the second floor; Luna was in the library; and Peeves the Poltergeist was currently bouncing around the trophy room.
As Harry’s eyes traveled up and down the familiar corridors, he noticed something else: a series of hidden passages that led out the castle. According to the twins, several Filch already knew about, one was caved in, another was the one that Harry knew went to the Shrieking Shack but which the twins reckoned was useless, leaving one available that only the three of them knew about, which you got into by opening a secret door built into the statue of the one-eyed old witch.
When the twins had left, Harry stared at the map. Al and Iliana were telling him to report this map, as Black could be getting in through one of these passages, and this map could be like Riddle's diary; but Harry sensed nothing unusual from the map, whereas he had sensed something alive in the diary, and anyway, he was getting cabin fever being cooped up inside all the time, and needed a break. What was more, he could go in disguise.
Careful to make sure nobody would run into him on his way into the passage first, he went out to the statue, touched it with his wand, said, “Dissendium” as the map informed him to do, and climbed in. The opening sealed behind him. He cast a fire-like light onto the floor, and set down the map well away from it. Then he focused on going In. They transformed, becoming Iliana briefly before he came Out again. Only this time, when Harry came Out, he looked completely unrecognizable. He had long, flowing hair that was brown now instead of black, his eyes were blue instead of green, his face was different, his glasses were a different color, and his clothes were different as well. In fact, he now looked like a girl, a girl that bore little resemblance to Harry's usual appearance.
She pulled a compact mirror out of her pocket and looked at herself in it. It was hard to tell in the shivering light of the magical fire, but she thought she looked pretty good, and very different. So she picked up the Map, put out the fire, put away the mirror, and lit her wand, following the path on the map with her eyes as she went along to Honeyduke's.
It was hard to judge how long it took her to get to Honeyduke's, and the thing felt like a long and twisty rabbit burrow, but finally she got to a rise in the passage, then to some stone steps. She paused a moment to rest, as she'd been running part of the way, then climbed the stone steps until her head bumped into a trap door.
Harry stood there, listening, but heard nobody, so she opened it up and peeked out at a cellar full of wooden boxes and crates. She came out the rest of the way, closing the trapdoor and memorizing where it was before going cautiously up the stairs, into the main room of Honeyduke's sweet shop.
It was an amazing sight, with candies of colors and shapes and sizes of all kinds, including many magical candies like Fizzing Whizbees, Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum, Ice Mice, and exploding bonbons. She knew that even the magic wouldn't have stopped Dudley from buying whatever he could here; it was truly a wonder to behold.
She spotted the twins and went up to them. They didn't notice her at first, of course, and when they did, they looked at her with the kind of interest that made Harry blush.
“Hey there pretty girl, my name's Fred Weasley. What's yours?”
She suddenly realized these two were the last people she wanted to out herself to, so she came up with a name on the spot, one she'd read in one of her books.
“Um... Adira. I'm Adira Molina,” she said, affecting a higher-pitched voice. “Anyway, nice to meet you, but I'm late for a date with my boyfriend,” she said, scurrying away, leaving the twins looking disappointed.
She didn't leave the store, though, trusting to its extreme state of crowding to hide her. Instead, she looked for Ron and Hermione. She found them over by shelves marked “Unusual tastes.” Ron and Hermione were standing underneath it, examining a tray of blood-flavored lollipops. “Adira” sneaked up behind them.
“Ugh, no, Harry won’t want one of those, they’re for vampires, I expect,” Hermione was saying.
“How about these?” said Ron, shoving a jar of Cockroach Clusters under Hermione’s nose.
“Definitely not,” said Adira/Harry in her usual voice.
Ron and Hermione jumped, then stared at 'Adira.'
“Harry?” Ron asked, in complete bewilderment. “You're a girl!”
“Call me Adira, Ron. I'm in disguise.”
“Ha—Adira,” Hermione said disapprovingly, “how did you get here? And why are you here?”
“Wow, you've learned to Apparate!” Ron said.
“Don't be silly, Ron, you can't Apparate into or out of the school grounds.”
“Hermione's right,” 'Adira' said, brushing some hair out of her face with her hand. She began to explain about the twins and the Marauder's Map they'd given her.
“How come Fred and George never gave it to me!” said Ron, outraged. “I’m their brother!”
“But Ha—Adira isn’t going to keep it!” said Hermione, as though the idea were ludicrous. “He... she’s going to hand it in to Professor McGonagall, aren’t you, 'Adira'?”
“Of course not,” Adira said, her face turned upward, deciding not to tell Hermione that Al and Iliana had already raised similar objections.
“Are you mad?” said Ron, goggling at Hermione. “Hand in something that good?”
“If I hand it in, I’ll have to say where I got it. Filch would know Fred and George had nicked it,” Adira said calmly.
“But what about Sirius Black?” Hermione hissed. “He could be using one of the passages on that map to get into the castle! The teachers have got to know!”
“Filch knows about four of the passages. Another's caved in, another comes out under the Whomping Willow, and the one I just came through... well, the entrance down in the Honeyduke's cellar so seamlessly blends in with the rest of the floor that you'd have to know it was there already.”
This did make Adira pause to think, though. What if Black did know the passage was there? Ron, however, cleared his throat significantly, and pointed to a notice pasted on the inside of the sweetshop door.
— BY ORDER OF —
THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC
Customers are reminded that until further notice, dementors will be patrolling the streets of Hogsmeade every night after sundown. This measure has been put in place for the safety of Hogsmeade residents and will be lifted upon the recapture of Sirius Black. It is therefore advisable that you complete your shopping well before nightfall.
“See?” said Ron quietly. “I’d like to see Black try and break into Honeydukes with dementors swarming all over the village. Anyway, Hermione, the Honeydukes owners would hear a break-in, wouldn’t they? They live over the shop!”
“Yes, but — but —” Hermoine seemed to be struggling to find another problem. “Look, Har—er, Adira still shouldn’t be coming into Hogsmeade. She hasn’t got a signed form! If anyone finds out, she’ll be in so much trouble! And it’s not nightfall yet — what if Sirius Black turns up today? Now?”
“I'm in disguise. Fred and George didn't recognize me when I ran into them, which is what prompted me to come up with the name 'Adira Molina.' Granted, I was affecting a different voice at the time. Still, would you have recognized me if I hadn't used my real voice?”
The two of them looked at her more closely. Ron chuckled and agreed that it was a brilliant disguise, her hair hiding the scar on top of everything else. Hermione pouted, which meant she didn't want to admit it was a great disguise.
“And anyway, with all these students and all the snow falling outside, Black would have a hard time spotting my normal form in all this. And I can always become Tier, he could fight.”
Hermione still looked worried.
“Are you going to report me?” Adira asked.
“No, of course not, Adira, but honestly--”
Ron immediately pulled Adira over to show her the different sweets available. Adira hadn't thought to bring money, so she couldn't buy anything, but she'd already done her Christmas shopping via owl-order anyway, so she didn't feel too bad about it.
They debated where to go next; there were so many options available, after all. But Adira hadn't brought a cloak, either, and was so cold that they ended up going to The Three Broomsticks instead for something warm to drink. Adira was more than willing; she was so cold that she was afraid Tier was going to make her grow fur if she didn't get into the warm soon. In a few minutes, they were in the small inn, the warmth like a salve.
It was extremely crowded, noisy, warm, and smoky. A curvy sort of woman with a pretty face was serving a bunch of rowdy warlocks up at the bar.
“That’s Madam Rosmerta,” said Ron. “I’ll get the drinks, shall I?” he added, going slightly red.
Adira nodded, understanding. She felt that familiar feeling when she looked at Madam Rosmerta, which she now recognized as meaning she fancied someone. Luckily, her ears and face were already red from the cold. For once, though, Iliana didn't share her feelings for the older woman. However, Iliana did notice a pretty Asian girl at another table, a girl she recognized as being a Ravenclaw, which made Adira feel the same way. Adira looked away pointedly, following Hermione to a small, vacant table between the window and a handsome Christmas tree, which stood next to the fireplace, which was lucky for her. Ron came back five minutes later, carrying three foaming tankards of hot butterbeer.
“Merry Christmas!” he said happily, raising his tankard.
Adira drank deeply. It was the most delicious thing she’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of her from the inside.
A sudden breeze ruffled her hair. The door of the Three Broomsticks had opened again. Adira looked over the rim of her tankard and choked before she remembered she was in disguise.
Professors McGonagall and Flitwick had just entered the pub with a flurry of snowflakes, shortly followed by Hagrid, who was deep in conversation with a portly man in a lime-green bowler hat and a pinstriped cloak — Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic.
The adults were coming their way, and Hermione – who seemed to think a teacher might recognize when someone wasn't a student they knew – whispered, “Mobiliarbus!”
The Christmas tree beside their table rose a few inches off the ground, drifted sideways, and landed with a soft thump right in front of their table, hiding them from view. Staring through the dense lower branches, Adira saw the four adults sit down at the table, and Madam Rosmerta came up with their drinks.
“A small gillywater —”
“Mine,” said Professor McGonagall’s voice.
“Four pints of mulled mead —”
“Ta, Rosmerta,” said Hagrid.
“A cherry syrup and soda with ice and umbrella —”
“Mmm!” said Professor Flitwick, smacking his lips.
“So you’ll be the red currant rum, Minister.”
“Thank you, Rosmerta, m’dear,” said Fudge’s voice. “Lovely to see you again, I must say. Have one yourself, won’t you? Come and join us. …”
“Well, thank you very much, Minister.”
Rosmerta took her drinks tray back to the bar before coming back to sit with the other adults. Adira sipped her butterbeer, trying to ignore the adults, since she didn't want to be an eavesdropper. But their conversation was impossible to ignore, them being so close.
“So, what brings you to this neck of the woods, Minister?” came Madam Rosmerta’s voice.
Adira saw the lower part of Fudge’s thick body twist in his chair as though he were checking for eavesdroppers. Then he said in a quiet voice, “What else, m’dear, but Sirius Black? I daresay you heard what happened up at the school at Halloween?”
“I did hear a rumor,” admitted Madam Rosmerta.
“Did you tell the whole pub, Hagrid?” said Professor McGonagall exasperatedly.
Adira tried to block out the conversation, but as it went on, it got more and more difficult. The conversation flowed around, still centered on Black. She listened as she found out – via Rosmerta's continued disbelief at Black being a murderer – that Sirius Black and James Potter had been best of friends in school, along with someone named Peter Pettigrew.
That was bad enough, but then it came out that during the war, what had led up to his killing 13 people with a single curse had been even worse. That Black had been a spy for Voldemort, then had been made 'secret keeper' for something called a Fideleus Charm, which was supposed to keep the Potters safe. But Black had given the secret to Voldemort, resulting in the deaths of Adira's parents.
Still getting worse, Azkaban didn't affect Black like it did other people, and he'd remained sane. He had even asked Fudge for the bloody crossword puzzle, like he was just bored! And to cap it all off, the man was still – despite all this – somehow Harry's godfather.
“But what do you think he’s broken out to do?” said Madam Rosmerta. “Good gracious, Minister, he isn’t trying to rejoin You-Know-Who, is he?”
“I daresay that is his — er — eventual plan,” said Fudge evasively. “But we hope to catch Black long before that. I must say, You-Know-Who alone and friendless is one thing … but give him back his most devoted servant, and I shudder to think how quickly he’ll rise again. …”
There was a small chink of glass on wood. Someone had set down their glass.
“Cornelius,” Professor McGonagall said, “there's something else I've been meaning to tell you. You know about Potter being several people in one body, yes?”
“Oh yes, I have read a lot of intelligence about them, Minerva. Was there something specific about it you wished to ask?”
“Yes. It's about Alastair Potter. I wanted to know if the dementors are aware that Alastair looks exactly like Sirius Black used to when he was 14. The resemblance is more than uncanny, in fact; it's downright unnerving. I still haven't quite gotten used to it myself. Whenever I have him in my class, I can't decide whether to look away or to stare.”
“Oh yes, Minerva, they've been informed. Not that it matters much, though; dementors are blind, you know. They can tell humans apart by sensing their emotions, you know. I'm not sure how that works, not being an expert, but they've assured me they know what someone who's been in Azkaban for 12 years feels like. I doubt there will be any problem there.”
“Good,” Professor McGonagall replied. “Well you know, Cornelius, if you’re dining with the headmaster, we’d better head back up to the castle.”
One by one, the adults got up and left the table. Adira sat there, staring at the spot they'd been, her numb appearance belying the growing chaos within.
Ron and Hermione were staring at her, completely lost for words.
Adira had no clear idea how she'd managed to get back down to the trapdoor in Honeyduke's, along the passage, and into the castle, without accidentally giving away some sign of who she was, and without being stopped by anyone who didn't recognize her. All she knew is time became meaningless as she did so, too absorbed in replaying that conversation in her head, and repressing the growing chaos inside as the others reacted in their own unique ways to the news. It was lucky for all of them that Alastair was the most in shock, or he might have exploded like a nuclear bomb. She had also somehow changed back to a variation on her normal appearance as Harry somewhere along the way.
Ron and Hermione watched Harry nervously all through dinner, not daring to talk about what they’d overheard, because Percy was sitting close by them. When they went upstairs to the crowded common room, ignoring the twins shooting off dungbombs, Harry sneaked back to his dorm room, locked the door, then got into his trunk and dug out the photo album Hagrid had given him at the end of his first year, looking through it feverishly until he finally found it.
He stopped on a picture of his parents’ wedding day. There was his father waving up at him, beaming, the untidy black hair Harry had inherited standing up in all directions. There was his mother, alight with happiness, arm in arm with his dad. And there … that must be him. Their best man … Harry had never given him a thought before. It was hard to tell, since Alastair rarely used a mirror when he was Out, and mirrors don't really show you what other people see anyway, but the man did look like an older Alastair.
Mr. Weasley had been right; Azkaban changes people. Even looking for similarities, it was hard to believe that this handsome, happy man so full of laughter was the same man as the prisoner with a sunken, waxy face like he was an unhealthy vampire.
They wondered if he was already working for Voldemort when this picture was taken. Was he already planning the deaths of the two people next to him? Did he realize he was facing twelve years in Azkaban, twelve years that would make him unrecognizable?
But the dementors don’t affect him, Harry thought, staring into the handsome, laughing face. He doesn’t have to hear my mum screaming if they get too close —
#Clearly they have some sort of effect on him,# Iliana told him. #He may still have his sanity, but you saw his face.#
Why? Why do I LOOK like him? Al demanded.
Harry stood up. Things were shifting inside. Al was agitated. This upset Iliana and Zoey in turn. Their shared body shifted at random, the way it did sometimes, hair and eye color changing, hair texture and length changing at random, and so on.
“WHY!?” Al screamed at the room, his surge of rage transforming the body to his appearance, and he saw that face in the mirror, that traitor's face looking back at him.
“WHY!?!” he screamed again, his rage causing the mirror to crack.
He began storming around the room, but paused when he heard a knock.
“Harry? Al? Someone?” Ron said through the door. “Can I come in?”
“GO AWAY!” Al roared, continuing to storm around the room.
“No I will not, Al! I'm your friend, and I'm worried about you.”
Al stormed over to the door and jerked it open.
“Fine! Come in if you dare.”
Ron came in, and Al slammed the door behind him, then went back to storming around the room.
“Um... your mirror's broken.”
“OH REALLY? I HADN'T FUCKING NOTICED!”
Ron said nothing to this.
As he stormed around the room some more, Al spoke.
“This explains SOO much! Snape's loathing of me, all the adults acting so weird around me. But it raises so damn many other questions. Like WHY? Why do I look like him? Why do I look like the traitor that got my parents killed? It makes no SENSE!” he screamed, making the mirror crack again with his out-of-control magic.
He grabbed fistfuls of his hair and roared incoherently into the room, which made the furniture shake like it was in an earthquake. On his desk, an ink bottle exploded.
“Mate, calm down before you bring the whole castle down!”
“CALM! CALM??? I just found out my dad's best friend betrayed him to Voldemort, and I look just like him, but I'm supposed to be CALM? Would YOU be calm in my place?”
The mirror shattered completely and glass rained to the ground, the wooden frame cracking at the same time.
“Al, seriously, calm down please!”
Someone hammered on the door.
“Mr. Potter,” McGonagall said from the other side of the door, “there are reports of objects in people's dorms breaking, and there are tremors in the nearby corridors. Whatever you are upset about, please calm down at once or you will get detention!”
The door slammed open magically, McGonagall jumping back in shock.
“YOU!” Al roared, pointing at her. “YOU KNEW! You knew and you didn't tell us!”
“Knew what, Mr. Potter?”
“I found out what you lying, traitorous adults have been hiding from me all along! I found out that--”
He was cut off mid-sentence, clutching his abdomen in pain and shouting at the agony, doubled over. Before Ron or McGonagall could respond, Alastair glowed bright white and was replaced by a sobbing Zoey. She lifted her head in shock at being there, then ran off into the bathroom and slammed the door locked behind her. When they put their ears to the door, they could hear the young girl crying.
“Well that seems to have sorted itself out for now,” McGonagall said.
She went around the room using her wand to repair the things that had broken from Al's rage, then left to do the same elsewhere. Ron hung around for a while, trying to comfort Zoey through the bathroom door, but got no response. Finally, he left.
Zoey woke up the next day in the bathtub, in pain from sleeping in it so uncomfortably, and hobbled out of it and into her room, where she saw the mirror good as new, and an empty ink bottle sitting on the desk. She undressed, used the loo, bathed, and got re-dressed without much enthusiasm, and headed downstairs to an empty common room.
She felt horrible, but was also hungry, so she shambled on to the Great Hall for breakfast, rather surprised that the place was empty but for Ron, Hermione, and a couple teachers.
“Zoey? You look horrible.”
“Nnnnnnggh...” was all the sound she could make as she sat down to have some toast and eggs. The toast was like carpet, and the eggs were like rubber.
Ron and Hermione gave each other concerned looks at this.
Zoey perked up a little after getting some food in her, but she still looked horrible.
“Did you fall asleep in the bathroom last night?” Ron asked her.
She nodded. Then she croaked out, “All night. Woke up in the tub. Came straight here.”
“What happened to Al?”
“No idea. He got a pain in his tummy, then vanished. No idea why. But it felt like he was dragged away, almost.”
Hermione looked curiously at her.
“That's happened before, hasn't it?”
“And you don't know who did it?”
“Could there be someone else in there you don't know about?”
“Possible, I guess. Dunno how to find out.”
Still in a gloomy mood, Zoey went back to her food, but she was mostly just playing with it now.
“Come on, Zoey, cheer up. Hey you know what? We haven't visited Hagrid in ages, we should go do that.”
“But they're not to leave the castle, Ron!”
“They're allowed on the grounds during the daytime,” Ron shot back. “What d'ya think, mate?”
Zoey frowned at this, her hair shortening before their eyes, her own eyes changing color back and forth, until suddenly she shot up in height, becoming Alastair.
“Great,” he said in a low growl. “We can ask him why he didn't tell us about Sirius Black, and why I look...” he paused, rubbing his temples, his face scrunched up in concentration. “like... this... traitor.”
“You okay, mate?”
Al was having a hard time getting up. It looked like he was in a lot of pain.
“No... trouble... at all.”
He jerked up out of his seat suddenly, startling both Ron and Hermione. Then, his fists clenched, he started staggering out of the room, looking as though he was fighting against someone pulling him backwards. That's when they noticed his hair shifting color and length at random again. But he kept fighting to go to Hagrid's. In fact, the resistance seemed to be making him angrier and more determined. Ron and Hermione followed him a few feet behind.
Ron turned to Hermione with concern in his face.
“D'ya reckon he's fighting some of the others?”
“Looks like it. I guess they're afraid he'll blow up at Hagrid.”
“Probably literally, from what I saw last night. He was breaking things with uncontrolled magic, and shaking the floors.”
“Should we try to stop him?”
“And have him accidentally turn us into cats if we're lucky, and blown to kingdom come if we're not? No thank you. I'm staying back here.”
Al fought tooth and nail all the way to Hagrid's, even struggling to knock on the door. He was fighting so hard he hadn't noticed he was wearing only his robes, no cloak. The cold wasn't bothering him, but it was bothering Ron and Hermione.
It took some time, and a couple more tries, to get Hagrid to answer the door. And when he did, he was crying. Al was so shocked by this that he lost his anger completely.
“Yeh heard!” Hagrid said, flinging himself onto Al.
“ACK! Don't, man; you're too heavy!”
With Ron and Hermione's help, they all got inside, and got Hagrid sitting down. Once Al was free of his encumbrance, he patted himself down, quite oblivious to the fact that their transformation was stuck as half-Al and half-Harry, pretty much right down the middle.
“Heard what, Hagrid?” said two voices simultaneously, making Al start. He and Harry had spoken at the same time. Hagrid didn't seem to notice.
“Beaky got hurt! Some sort o' hex, don't know what. Madam Pomfrey's been helpin' me, bless 'er, but she's no animal expert. Had ter call fer a magical creatures specialist.”
“Malfoy,” Al-Harry said. “I'd bet anything it was Malfoy.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. He didn't dare tell his daddy on Hagrid, after your threat to him, but he's getting revenge anyway.”
They shifted fully back to Harry. Then he said, “Little blond git doesn't listen well, does he? We told him to leave our friends alone. That means our friends' friends, too.”
“Is Buckbeak going to be okay, Hagrid?”
Hagrid bawled again. They let him carry on a bit. After a few moments, through the sobs, he said, “Dunno. Like I said, Madam Pomfrey's got ter get in an expert ter help. She doesn't reckon he's gonna die any time soon, but she doesn't know fer sure.”
It was then that a whistling sort of coughing noise got their attention. In Hagrid's bed, the huge hippogriff Buckbeak was curled up, shaking, covered in a chaotic mix of pox marks and other hex marks, and coughing wheezily every now and then. Malfoy had apparently hit the hippogriff with several hexes, maybe even a dozen or more.
“Oh Hagrid,” Hermione said, hugging the large man.
“Anything you need, Hagrid,” Harry said, hugging the man as well, “we'll help with.”
“Yeah, me too,” said Ron.
“And me,” said Hermione.
“Thanks, all of yeh, but I don't really think there's much that yeh can do.”
“We can support you.”
“And get revenge on Malfoy for you.”
“No, don't do that. Yeh'll just upset him more, and he might do summat worse.”
“Hmm... you have a good point there. Okay, we won't.”
Not in any way where the little git will suspect us of it, anyway, thought Al.
“Who's the expert she's bringing in? Do you know yet?”
Hagrid sniffled. “Dunno. Bunch of em. Dunno which ones.”
“Oh. Well hopefully she brings in someone really good.”
Hagrid stood up shakily. “I'll... I'll make yeh some tea. Can't let meself be a bad host.”
“There's no need, Hagrid...”
“Course there is, I gotta...” but he'd looked at Buckbeak again – who had passed out with exhaustion – and burst into fresh wailing.
“I'll make the tea, Hagrid,” Ron said, getting up as Al and Hermione helped their large friend sit down again.
“Ent been meself lately,” Hagrid said, stroking Fang the boarhound. “Was worried Malfoy'd sic his father on me over Buckbeak. And gotta walk past them ruddy dementors every time I want a drink at the Three Broomsticks. ’S like bein’ back in Azkaban.”
He fell silent, gulping his tea. Harry, Ron, and Hermione watched him breathlessly. They had never heard Hagrid talk about his brief spell in Azkaban before. After a pause, Hermione said timidly, “Is it awful in there, Hagrid?”
“Yeh’ve no idea,” said Hagrid quietly. “Never bin anywhere like it. Thought I was goin’ mad. Kep’ goin’ over horrible stuff in me mind … the day I got expelled from Hogwarts … day me dad died … day I had ter let Norbert go. …”
His eyes filled with tears. Norbert was the baby dragon Hagrid had once won in a game of cards.
“Yeh can’ really remember who yeh are after a while. An’ yeh can’ see the point o’ livin’ at all. I used ter hope I’d jus’ die in me sleep. … When they let me out, it was like bein’ born again, ev’rythin’ came floodin’ back, it was the bes’ feelin’ in the world. Mind, the dementors weren’t keen on lettin’ me go.”
“But you were innocent!” said Hermione.
“Think that matters to them? They don’ care. Long as they’ve got a couple o’ hundred humans stuck there with ’em, so they can leech all the happiness out of ’em, they don’ give a damn who’s guilty an’ who’s not.”
It's no wonder Dumbledore hates the dementors so much. They're dangerous monsters. The Ministry has no business allying themselves with such horrors.
Even though the trip to Hagrid's hadn't been fun, it nonetheless had done its intended job of making Al forget about his anger for a while, and with Malfoy targeting Buckbeak, gave him something different to be angry at. But the human mind is a weird thing, capable of multiple emotions for multiple reasons at the same time, and Al was not really over looking like the man who had betrayed his parents.
Back in his room later, Al sat at the desk, several red envelopes in front of him. He was trying to decide if he wanted to go through with sending Howlers to the Weasleys after all. There were lots of pros and cons to each decision, send them or not.
“Send the Howlers,” he said aloud, writing on a list at the same time. “Pros: It'll feel good to get my anger out. They need to know how angry I am. They need to know it's not right to lie to me, even if they think it's for my own good.
“Cons: They could just decide my reaction proves their position right. They might think I'll go looking for him, seeking revenge, because adults always think young people are stupid and impulsive. Which I guess is often true, but still offensive. More cons? Mrs. Weasley will probably just get angry back and send her own Howler at me. I don't know Mr. Weasley well enough to know how he'd react to a Howler.”
He sat there, re-reading the lists, tapping the quill on the desk as he thought. Then, suddenly, he swept the red envelopes off the desk and pulled up normal envelopes and papers.
“God dammit,” he said, starting a rough draft of a much calmer letter, telling the Weasleys that he'd found out what they'd been hiding.
The first few drafts he ended up crumpling up and throwing away. But finally he wrote one he liked:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Weasley,
While I do appreciate all you do for us in terms of food, shelter, and affection, I do not appreciate being lied to. The Dursleys had a long history of lying to me, including lying about how my parents died, claiming they'd died in a car crash. They didn't tell me about Voldemort, that he might still be alive, or that his followers might still be after me. Also, they didn't tell me about magic being real, in fact they denied it constantly. I could have died oblivious to the danger at any point, and the same might have been true recently if we hadn't figured it out. So you can see that I have understandable issues with people lying to me. I know that as adults, you think lying to children for their own good isn't wrong, but it very much IS wrong. I am a person, and it's been my observation that adults tend to forget that children and teenagers are humans with their own thoughts and feelings.
Would you have lied to me about Sirius Black being out to kill me if I were an adult? I very much doubt it. Would you have lied to me about Sirius Black betraying my parents, and the fact that I look just like the man who betrayed my parents, if I had been an adult? I doubt it. So why do you think it's alright to lie to me, just because I'm not an adult yet?
I also understand you think I'll be out for revenge against Sirius Black. Do you really think me that stupid and reckless? My parents died to save my life, my mother's sacrifice kept me alive again down in the bowels of the castle in my fight against Quirrell and Voldemort, why would I risk their sacrifices to get revenge on Sirius Black? Quite aside from the fact I'm not that stupid or reckless, I also know I've never killed anyone on purpose before, and I know from books I've read over the years that killing someone isn't easy. Heck, Iliana accidentally killed Quirrell in self-defense, and she still gets upset if she thinks about it for too long. Knowing this, I wouldn't even try, because if I succeeded, we'd be in therapy for decades, and if we failed, we'd be six feet under.
Yes, I was indeed very angry when I found out. My anger was so great that my magic got out of control and broke things around the room, and shook the floors and walls. I was very tempted to send you Howlers as promised. But I decided instead to take the high road, hoping you will recognize that in so doing, I am not the impetuous, reckless child you think I am.
So in future, please be honest with me. Being honest with children is, in fact, the surest way to ensure that children are honest with you as well. This is true of adults, as well, because both adults and children are human beings. (Though truth be told, children tend to be more honest than adults, if only because they aren't as well practiced in the art of lying.) The only real difference between adults and children is experience. That and the unfortunate tendency of adults to think themselves better than children and teens because of that experience, but that is hardly universal.
I apologize for letting some of my anger show in that last paragraph, but it's true, and so I'm not going to rewrite this letter to remove it. Anyway, please consider my words. Please decide to be honest with me in the future. Maybe your own experience with children and teenagers is different, but speaking for myself, I've been through a lot in my life, and as such I am a consummate survivor. Please trust that the survival instincts I've honed over the 10 years I lived with the abusive Dursleys, and the two years since then dodging Voldemort twice, will continue to serve me well. Please trust that these instincts will keep me safe, and that because of them I am actually far less likely to do reckless things than others my age might be.
Alastair Potter and the rest of the Potter collective
He read it over, and then nodded, satisfied.
#You, not as reckless?# Iliana thought. #What a laugh and a half that is, you and Harry running off to Hogsmeade without permission the other day. And don't you think they're going to wonder how you found this out?#
I was against that, if you'll recall! And anyway, if they ask, I'll just say someone at Hogwarts told me.
#Uh huh. Okay.#
#No I will not, Alastair Potter! You are such a hypocrite, telling the Weasleys one thing and being something completely different. Just like how you and Zoey lied to Dumbledore last year when you promised to stop investigating the Heir business.#
Funny, I don't recall hearing you objecting when we did.
Would you both stop it? Harry said to them. You're both insufferable.
#No I will not. He's going to send that letter, telling them off for lying while conveniently forgetting he's lying to them. You want to send the letter, Al, then you tell them you and Harry went to Hogsmeade without permission through that secret tunnel. And while you're at it, tell the teachers about that passageway, because Sirius Black could be getting in that way!#
I don't know who would be a worse headmate, you or Hermione!
#Wow, if that was meant to offend me, you failed. Hermione has more sense than you do, Alastair Potter!#
PICKLES! DANCING PICKLES IN TUTUS! Zoey chimed in randomly.
Seriously, it's very aggravating when you lot argue in my head like this!
YOUR head? Excuse me, but who proclaimed you the Original, if such a title can even be claimed by any of us? Just because you go by the body's name doesn't make you--
BABY BELUGA IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA, SWIM SO WILD AND SWIM SO FREE! THE HEAVENS ABOVE AND THE SEA BELOW, SEE THE LITTLE WHITE WHALE ON THE GO!
ZOEY! SHUT UP!!!
OH BABY BELUGA, OH BABY BELUGA, IS THE WATER WARM? IS YOUR MAMA HOME WITH YOU SO HAPPY?
Al put his hands over his ears futilely, trying to drown out the noise of Zoey singing. He ended up having to just ignore it. Anyway, it had served its purpose; Zoey's singing stopped the arguments, as everyone was reacting to the racket of Zoey's singing, which gave Al the chance to send the letter off with Hedwig. The owl looked a little concerned at his expression, since he was trying to block out the singing and tie the letter on at the same time.
“It's okay, Hedwig. It's just noisy in here,” he said, tapping his head. “Anyway, to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, please.”
She hooted at him with understanding, and flew off.
End note 1: Yes, Harry's pronouns are a little confusing right now. But he's in a transitional period. He'll be using she/her/hers exclusively in time. Also, Adira is pronounced Uh-DEER-uh. It means “strong, noble, powerful.”
End note 2: I've actually veered off my own collective's design a little with the Potters. That whole “pain in the abdomen, then person in Front is jerked back In” thing doesn't happen to us. Just to the Potter collective. Also, another difference is that Zoey is kind of a Gatekeeper, and our system doesn't have a Gatekeeper.
End note 3: The Baby Beluga song Zoey sings in this chapter is by Raffi Cavoukian (copyright 1980). It's among the songs our Molly sings sometime. We were initially going to go with “It's a Small World,” but Disney has a bad habit of getting ridiculously pissy about such things, so we went with “Baby Beluga” instead. Also, the scene that song appears in is a fairly accurate representation of some of the arguments our own collective has.
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