The Many Faces of Harry Potter 27

“The Many Faces of Har—er, Adira Potter: Chapter 27”
By = Fayanora

Chapter Twenty-seven: Reluctant Returns

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, Adira, 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.).# and {Tier}.

*FAYANORA*

Classes were a bit of a mixed bag for Chandra. In History of Magic, he got out his two colored pens and went back to drawing with dots, all during class. Professor Lupin was mildly annoyed by this, but when he called on Chandra in class, Chandra was always able to repeat anything Lupin had said verbatim without looking up from his drawing, but always paused his work during these times, going back to it the moment Lupin or someone else started to talk again. But, as Lupin soon found out, Chandra had no memory of anything they'd discussed when any of the others in his collective had been present instead of him. So clearly the problem wasn't with his memory, except that the others had apparently taken their memories with them when they hid.

Potions was much worse. Snape insisted Chandra put his art away. For some reason, despite appearing to pay attention, Chandra could no longer remember what Snape was saying, but did not appear to be doing it on purpose. In fact, it made him very upset. He kept apologizing, voice cracking with emotion, and kept looking back at his art closed up in its case. Snape finally got too upset with him to continue, and decided to ignore Chandra for the rest of class.

When making potions that were in their books, Chandra did adequately well, but not spectacularly. At least he didn't blow anything up or ruin the potions. But clearly he was frustrated by this.

“Stupid Angry Vulture Man,” he complained after Potions. “Too fond of looming and being angry to see.”

“See what, Chandra?” asked Hermione.

“He stopped my memory. He did not see. I need my memory.”

“Er... what?” Ron asked.

Chandra took his drawing paper out and showed them the piece he'd begun in Potions. “Memory. I need my memory. The meat remembers, but the memory remembers so much better.”

“What are you on about?”

Hermione gasped in sudden realization. “Wait, Chandra... are you saying you're taking notes? That this pointilism art of yours is some kind of code?”

“It is the memory. The red-red-blue is the dot-dot-dash.”

“Hermione, what is he talking about?”

“These pictures of his, he's writing in Morse Code.”

“What's Morse Code?”

“One of the earliest electronic communication methods the Muggles came up with was the telegraph, and it could only transmit dots and dashes, so Samuel Morse came up with a code of these dots and dashes to represent different letters and numbers, so messages could be sent. The most famous of these is SOS. Anyway, Chandra's adapted Morse Code to take notes with. Red dots represent the Morse dots, and the blue dots represent dashes.”

“He's drawing with words, you mean?”

“Yes. It's ingenious, actually. Look like you're just drawing, and actually you're taking notes.”

“The memory, yes. Dot-dot-dash for every word spoken. But Angry Vulture Man wouldn't let me do it. I need the memory to do well in class.”

“Well just explain to him that you're taking notes, he should understand. He may not like it, but he can't stop you taking notes in class.”

“What he can, he will, if it serves his anger. But I shall explain tonight.”

Explaining himself to Snape after dinner, about 'the memory,' might have taken hours if he hadn't had Hermione's words written down to explain. Snape finally understood, and snappishly said he could take his 'bloody notes' in class using his 'ridiculously complicated Muggle code' if he wanted, using a tone of voice that suggested he just wanted to stop having to tolerate the conversation, and told Chandra to leave his sight.

~

Charms was something different again for Chandra. He could, thanks to his art, repeat verbatim anything Professor Flitwick said, but he couldn't perform any of the charms. Having heard that Chandra didn't have many memories from before Sunday, Flitwick had him try a simple first-year charm instead, explaining some preliminary things to him first. And Hermione, who had thought ahead, shared her notes from first-year with him. But even with all that help, Chandra couldn't do even the simplest of charms.

He was utterly hopeless at Transfiguration, too, as it turned out. Since he couldn't remember anything about the class, he again got put on remedial lessons, and couldn't do the simplest transfiguration. It was indeed like he'd been reset to his first week of Hogwarts, even though he was 14. This was a fact that Draco Malfoy soon picked up on through the grapevine, and made every attempt to tease Chandra about it. Chandra mostly ignored Malfoy, even when he was saying that Chandra was going to die in the first Task because he was a dunce. Chandra found it very difficult to not cry or punch Malfoy in the nose, or both.

But the worst yet, in some ways, was Defense Against the Dark Arts. Moody decided to try Chandra on the Imperius Curse again, because he was new, and without the others he was as vulnerable as anyone. It was quite embarrassing.

It didn't help that most of the school was shunning him. The Hufflepuffs were of two minds about him still, and the Griffindors were glad to have a Griffindor champion, but the Ravenclaws and Slytherins were all convinced that they'd put their own names in, despite Chandra appearing when the others vanished. For one, most of them thought he was a metamorphmagus who was pretending to be multiple people for attention, and they also hadn't seen the lengths Al had gone to in his attempts to avoid being put into the Tournament. And of course, they thought he was faking his troubles in class for more attention. Only Ron and Hermione and Luna believed him, out of all the students.

And of course, Hagrid wasn't talking to him, not even in class. Hagrid hadn't gone back to flobberworms, thank goodness, and had instead gone with regular magical creatures like knarls and crups, because his heart wasn't up to more monsters. Still, in classes Hagrid always regarded Chandra warily, like he expected even these ordinary magical creatures to be struck down by Chandra's magic.

A magic that Chandra didn't even know how to recreate, in point of fact. Aside from once scouring out a dirty cauldron with accidental magic, he hadn't done any magic since killing the skrewts, and he couldn't figure out why not. If he'd not been able to do any magic at all since appearing, it wouldn't have bothered him much, given his missing memories. But he'd done a kind of magic nobody had done before, a Killing Curse fueled by love rather than hate, without even knowing the words to the curse. His frustration grew every day that he couldn't get a single spell to work. He even began praying, at night, to Mother, hoping She could hear him. Except that he knew for a fact She could hear him; what he really wanted was for Her to answer him back. He remembered the dream he'd had, of course, but nothing She'd said had made any sense to him.

Then on his second Friday, he started seeing people wearing strange buttons that he couldn't read at first, they were too far distant. It was little more than a curiosity, though, until the corridor before Potions. When he first saw them a little closer on the Slytherins, he thought they were pins for the House-Elf Liberation Front that Hermione had made, but then he got close enough to read them. They all bore the same message, in luminous red letters that burnt brightly in the dimly lit underground passage:
 
Support CEDRIC DIGGORY —

The REAL Hogwarts Champion

 
“Like them, Potter?” said Malfoy loudly as Chandra approached. “And this isn’t all they do — look!”
He pressed his badge into his chest, and the message upon it vanished, to be replaced by another one, which glowed green:
 
POTTER STINKS

 
The Slytherins howled with laughter. Each of them pressed their badges too, until the message POTTER STINKS was shining brightly all around Chandra. He felt the heat rise in his face and neck.

“My name is Chandra Rahasyamay.”

Draco parroted these words back at him in a mocking tone.

“Oh very funny,” Hermione said sarcastically to Pansy Parkinson and her gang of Slytherin girls, who were laughing harder than anyone, “really witty.”

“Want one, Granger?” said Malfoy, holding out a badge to Hermione. “I’ve got loads. But don’t touch my hand, now. I’ve just washed it, you see; don’t want a Mudblood sliming it up.”

Chandra's anger from the past week and a half bubbled over, and he turned calmly to Malfoy, pointing his wand at the blond boy, and said, “It fights itself in agony.”

Malfoy went even paler than usual, and ducked away.

“You threatened me! You threatened to kill me! He was going to kill me, like he did to those skrewts! You all saw it!”

Chandra sheathed his wand and grinned.

“Like anybody's going to take that seriously, Malfoy,” Hermione said. “Chandra doesn't even know how he did it to begin with, and he hasn't done any magic since then. It was an empty threat.”

“And that spell was fueled by love. Recreating it would require I love you, Silver Ferret, which I do not. Nor do I hate you. You inspire naught but indifference.”

The class was divided. The Slytherins all took Malfoy's side of course, but most of the Griffindors thought Malfoy was being an idiot, that Hermione was right. Even the ones who thought he was faking being a multiple believed that he didn't know how to make gold Killing Curses, that it had been something he'd done accidentally while upset.

Draco pulled out his own wand and brandished it at Chandra. Reacting on instinct, Chandra took his wand back out and backed up, wary of what Malfoy would do, and a little panicky, seeing as he couldn't think of a single spell he knew how to do. He weighed that against what Malfoy could do, or tried to. But without any memory of Malfoy's capabilities, he didn't know what the safest thing to do was.

Why that little turd, said a voice in his head, startling him. But then he felt the presence that came with it, and it felt like it was waking up from a very long nap.

~Alastair?~ he thought.

The very same. I think it's just you and me at the moment.

But since Chandra could now feel the memories flooding back, he didn't mind that at all. Al took control of the right arm and took the wand from Chandra's left. Nobody else seemed to notice this.

Densaugeo!” screamed Malfoy.

Protego!” Al yelled with Chandra's voice.

The spell hit his shield and dissipated.

“Ha!” Al laughed in Chandra's voice. “Whadda ya think of that, you little wankstain?”

“He used his right hand! And that voice! Al's back!” Hermione shouted, clapping. Ron cheered.

“What is all this shouting about?” asked the cold, deadly-sounding voice of Snape.

“This little coward just tried hexing Chandra, who was essentially helpless, but I arrived right in the nick of time to save him,” Al explained, still in Chandra's voice and body.

Snape stared at Chandra as though the boy had mutated into a horklump before his eyes. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Snape sighed.

“I don't get paid enough to put up with nonsense like this,” he muttered, audibly. “Fine then, Mr. Rahasyamay or whoever you are, 20 points apiece from Griffindor and Slytherin for doing magic in the corridors. Now I suggest everyone come in to class before I make it thirty!”

Snape whirled around and stalked into his classroom ahead of everyone else, ignoring the confused chatter of the students at Snape's uncharacteristic taking of points from his own house. Al let Chandra have the body back, and they went into class with everyone else.

Snape must be off his game if he didn't give any detentions, Al said.

~Silver Grandfather bade The Angry Vulture Man punish me for releasing the Conflicted Ones. Many nights this past week he has had to watch me fight the stains of his students' mistakes.~

Uh... what now?

A series of feelings and images flashed to Al from Chandra. Al was still puzzled, so he checked to see if the common memory had updates from Chandra. It did.

Ah, I see. I think.

~My point was that he sees me more than he likes as is.~

Ah yes, that makes sense.

The rest of the class, Snape lectured about antidotes, and Chandra dutifully took notes. Since only Ron, Hermione, and Snape knew this was what he was doing, others kept looking back and forth between him and Snape, as though wondering why Snape wasn't blowing up at Chandra.

While Chandra took notes, Al reviewed the memories from when Chandra had been alone, and chuckled, growled, or groaned on occasion so only Chandra could hear him.

Then a knock at the door interrupted their thoughts.

It was Colin Creevey, who edged into the room and looked around until he spotted Chandra. He half-grinned; he and Chandra hadn't really met, so he didn't know Chandra except by sight. Colin walked up to Snape's desk at the front of the room.

“Yes?” said Snape curtly.

“Please, sir, I’m supposed to take, er... 'Chandra Rasamy or whichever of the Potters is available' upstairs, sir.”

“It is pronounced 'Rahasyamay,' I believe. And we are in the middle of class, Mr. Creevey. Surely it can wait?”

Colin went pink.

“Sir — sir, Mr. Bagman wants him,” he said nervously. “All the champions have got to go, I think they want to take photographs.”

Lovely, Al said sarcastically. Just bloody great. Well, if it gets us out of class early...

“Very well, very well,” Snape snapped. “Potter, leave your things here, I want you back down here later to test your antidote.”

“Please, sir — he’s got to take his things with him,” squeaked Colin. “All the champions —”

“Very well!” said Snape. “Potter — take your bag and get out of my sight!”

Chandra stood up, putting on his bookbag and transferring his artwork to his portable desk thing, ignoring the 'Potter Stinks' badges flashing as he went by. Al imagined giving them all a pair of very rude hand gestures.

Following beind Colin, Al took his wand out of its holster and started twirling it like a baton. Chandra, meanwhile, was drawing with the left hand.

“Er, hello, my name is Colin Creevey,” Colin said when they were out in the corridor. “Are you Chandra Rasmay?”

“Chandra Rahasyamay,” said Chandra.

“Er, that. Are you?”

“Yes.”

“It's amazing, isn't it? You being the Champion, I mean.”

“A diamond of accuracy lies rough in the stone of that statement,” Chandra said.

“Um, okay.”

“What do they want photos for, Colin?” Al asked with Chandra's voice.

The Daily Prophet, I think!”

“Lovely, just what we need, more publicity.”

Colin frowned thoughtfully at him. “Your voice sounds different. I mean, it's the same voice, but the tone is different.”

Al held out Chandra's hand, to Chandra's annoyance. “Hi. Alastair Potter riding shotgun in the body at the moment. The others are all in hiding.”

“Even Har—er, I mean Adira?”

“Yes, even Adira.”

“You can talk and move the body even when you're not transformed?”

“Yes. It's harder. Usually, I mean. Chandra doesn't resist as much as the others do.”

“Cool. Well good luck!”

They had reached the right room. Al nodded at Colin and knocked, before giving Chandra back control of the body, right hand excepted, as he was twirling his wand again.

I rather suspect this will be more fun watching you do all the talking.

~As it pleases you, Angry Defender.~

Angry Defender? Why do I get a name similar to both Snape's and Filch's?

~Do you find the calling inaccurate?~

That's not the bloody point!

~As you wish, Sarcastic Defender.~

Better. Thanks.

Chandra entered a fairly small classroom; most of the desks had been pushed away to the back of the room, leaving a large space in the middle; three of them, however, had been placed end-to-end in front of the blackboard and covered with a long length of velvet. Five chairs had been set behind the velvet-covered desks, and Ludo Bagman was sitting in one of them, talking to a witch neither he nor Al recognized, who was wearing magenta robes.

Viktor Krum was standing moodily in a corner as usual and not talking to anybody. Cedric and Fleur – a girl Al only knew the name of because Chandra did – were in conversation. Fleur looked a good deal happier than Chandra had seen her so far; she kept throwing back her head so that her long silvery hair caught the light. A paunchy man, holding a large black camera that was smoking slightly, was watching Fleur out of the corner of his eye.

Creepy man, Al thought. Chandra did not reply.

Bagman finally noticed Chandra, and blinked for a moment in confusion before recognizing him from the night of Halloween.

“Harry Potter!” Bagman said jubilantly.

Chandra looked up at the man in annoyance.

“My calling is Chandra Rahasyamay. There is no longer a 'Harry Potter' in existence anymore. The one whose calling was once that is now Adira Potter.”

“Er, yes, sorry about that. Not as young as I used to be, after all.”

“That is ever true of all of us, all the time. Your excuse is hollow, and will not be permitted again.”

“Er, sorry again. Meant no offense.”

“Stab a man in the foot by mistake, and you have still wounded him.”

“I don't know what to do beyond apologize. So again, I'm sorry.”

“It is heard. Just remember, do not re-offend.”

“Ah, yes. Agreed. Well anyway, nothing to worry about, it’s just the wand weighing ceremony, the rest of the judges will be here in a moment.”

“Wand weighing ceremony?” Al asked for Chandra.

“We have to check that your wands are fully functional, no problems, you know, as they’re your most important tools in the tasks ahead,” said Bagman. “The expert’s upstairs now with Dumbledore. And then there’s going to be a little photo shoot. This is Rita Skeeter,” he added, gesturing toward the witch in magenta robes. “She’s doing a small piece on the tournament for the Daily Prophet.”

“Maybe not that small, Ludo,” said Rita Skeeter, her eyes on Chandra.

Her hair was set in elaborate and curiously rigid curls that contrasted oddly with her heavy-jawed face. She wore jeweled spectacles. The thick fingers clutching her crocodile-skin handbag ended in two-inch nails, painted crimson.

“I wonder if I could have a little word with Harry before we start?” she said to Bagman, but still gazing fixedly at Chandra. “The youngest champion, you know … to add a bit of color?”

“He assures me his name is Chandra Rahasyamay. You do know, don't you, that Potter is, well, many people in one body? At least that's what I've heard.”

“The large yellow man is correct. There is no Harry Potter. The one once named Harry is now Adira, and she is still hiding. It is just myself and Alastair Potter at the moment.”

“Lovely,” she said, grabbing Chandra's robes and trying to drag him toward another door.

Al took control of the body at that moment and growled at the woman.

“Hands off, you horrible woman! Leave us alone.”

“Oh, is this the rumored Alixer I've heard so much about?”

“Alastair. My name is Alastair. For crying out loud, woman, it's basically the same first name as Moody's!”

“Yes yes, so you say.” She unsnapped a crocodile-skin handbag and from it took a roll of parchment and an acid-green quill out, sucking on the end before setting it down on the parchment.

“And do you mind if I give a quick interview, Allstar?”

“Since you can't even get any of our names right, that is emphatically NO.”

“Oh come now, Aster, surely it wouldn't hurt--”

Al flipped his wand out of its holster at a command and used his wand to set her parchment and quill on fire. She shrieked at this and leapt back. From behind him, Al heard Viktor Krum chuckling.

“YOU FOUL LITTLE MUTANT!” she screamed at him. “I WILL TAKE YOU TO SMALL CLAIMS COURT AND YOU WILL PAY FOR A REPLACEMENT QUILL--”

Silencio,” Al said, and her voice disappeared.

Really angry now, she leapt at him.

Impedimenta,” he said, and she was pushed against the wall, pinned there to shriek noiselessly and futilely.

Krum's chuckle was a full-throated guffaw now. Fleur was making some comment to show her disapproval. Cedric looked torn between laughing and chiding.

“Mr. Bagman, will you please escort this small and annoying insect out of the room?”

Oddly, Rita Skeeter stopped moving and trying to shriek, and turned pale. He raised one of Chandra's eyebrows at her quizzically.

“Yes, of course, Mr. Rassmay,” Bagman said, flubbing the name. “Bozo can stay, of course, but you're being quite disruptive, Ms. Skeeter.”

The fight gone out of her, she left willingly, looking back at Al/Chandra with deep worry and suspicion.

Dumbledore and Mr. Ollivander came in after that, and Ollivander examined all of their wands in turn, made them do some simple magic, then returned them to their owners, satisfied they were working properly. He did not mention the origin of the holly wand, though Al was briefly worried he would. Nor did he test their spare wand, though Al knew he knew it was there.

When the ceremony was done, the photographer took pictures. Skeeter – who had come back – tried to make Chandra out to be more important than the others, but Al glared at her with Chandra's face, making her back off. But other than small things like that, Al let Chandra keep running the body. It was entertaining, a bit like having Luna Lovegood in the collective, but different. This thought made him imagine Chandra and Luna meeting one another, and that amused him even more.

Getting the pictures taken, when Madame Maxime was so large, was not easy. But they eventually got it done, and Dumbledore dismissed them off to dinner. But they hadn't even gotten to the door when Krum, of all people, came up to Chandra.

“I vas vatching you speak with that Skeeter woman. It vas most entertaining. But I do not know how vise that vas, antagonizing somevun like her.”

“Yes, but Alastair recognized her name. She rarely has a kind word for anyone. Perhaps Alastair should not have antagonized the Buzzing Insect, but her nibbles are nearly as painful as her stings, so it is of no moment.”

“Vy do you call her Buzzing Insect?”

“The surname Skeeter is too apt, she is like a buzzing insect which draws blood. While I doubt the veracity of astrology, I must wonder why nomancy is not more popular in this wizarding world.”

“Vat??”

“Nomancy, divination by names. Names do appear to have an odd power in the wizarding world. Sirius Black, for one. Like his name, he is a black dog star. Remus Lupin is a werewolf, and his name means Wolf Wolf. Professor Septima Vector teaches wizarding maths, and her name is a maths pun. The Malfoys have faith in a bad ideology, and their name means 'bad faith.' Perhaps Tom Riddle noticed this trend as well? It would explain why his chosen calling is a bad French pun.”

“Who is Tom Riddle?” Krum asked.

“He is the one more commonly called Voldemort.”

“Ah yes, I see vat you mean.”

“Indeed.” Then he snorted. “And of course the Riddle was a riddle, and still is.”

“Vell, I must say I like you, Chandra. May I sit next to you at dinner to continue our conversation?”

“Yes. Just be aware my friend Ron will be star-struck by you.”

“I am somevat used to this. I vill manage.”

Ron was indeed star-struck as Chandra and Krum sat down and continued talking about this and that, which made Ron a lot quieter than normal. Harder to deal with were the other students who kept trying to crowd them. It was something that might normally have bothered Al, but he was drifting off into a quiet state of mind that bore a strong resemblance to hiding away, while still being present. But as calm as Chandra tended to be, he still felt annoyed by the interruptions, and after a great many of these, he finally snapped a little.

When another student came to ask Krum for an autograph, Chandra's head whipped around, his mind filling with the image of someone pulling the other student away from behind. To his great surprise, the student jerked backwards with a startled shout and moved away several feet before being let go by the accidental magic. Chandra blinked at this.

“Woah, did you do that?” Ron asked.

“I think I did.”

“Guess that means you can still do magic. Or was that Al?”

“He is quiet. I believe that was me, and just me.”

“Didn't you tell us you'd cleaned a cauldron with magic the other day?” Hermione asked.

“Yes, I did.”

“In that case, you can do magic. Have you tried using wand magic on your own?”

Chandra thought about that a moment, then got out their wand and tried the make his cup levitate.

Wingardium Leviosa,” he said, but nothing happened.

Hermione's face lit up with understanding. “You're left-handed, Chandra. The wand movements for lefties are different. They make entire books just for left-handed students.”

Chandra looked at the wand in his hand, switched it to his right, and tried the spell again that way. It again did not work.

“It feels wrong using the right hand.”

“Well yes, most people feel weird trying to use their non-dominant hand for certain things like writing or casting spells. You really do need to get those books for lefties.”

He sighed. “So I remain in the same predicament, essentially, of having to learn things all over again.”

“Not entirely. The incantations remain the same. All you need to learn is the wand movements.”

“If not for the return of Sarcastic Defender, I would not know the incantations, either. But never mind that. I suppose I shall have to write Black Father for left-handed books, years one through four.”

I kinda want to write Sirius anyway. Let him know I'm back.

~Agreed, Sarcastic Defender.~

After dinner, Chandra went to their room and started a letter to Sirius. He and Al took turns writing it.

Dearest Black Father,

Alastair has returned from hiding. The others remain hidden. Why, I do not know. But there is a complication. Alastair can do magic when he takes control of the body, but I am still unable to do wand magic, though I have done some accidental magic. Hermione has pointed out that because I am left-handed, I will need to learn how to cast left-handed. She says there are books for left-handed students. I will need copies of these for all our courses years one through four, if you could please get me those. In the meantime, I will check the library for their copies of such. Now I hand the reins over to Alastair.

Heya, Sirius. I'm back again. I feel better. I don't remember what happened, if anything, while I was gone. I mean down there, in the Basement or subconscious or whatever. When I got back, I got an update from the collective memory about what Chandra got up to while I was gone.

We had a wand-weighing ceremony today as part of the Tournament, and that Rita Skeeter woman tried to interview us. She couldn't get any of our names right, so I refused to let her interview us. I ended up having to light her quill and parchment on fire. That was entertaining. It made her shout and call me names, until I silenced her with my wand. She didn't calm down until I made the obvious joke about her being a small annoying insect. This made her freeze and turn pale for some reason. Honestly, she's got to be at least 35, and she's never had anyone make fun of her name before?

The way I came back was interesting. Chandra and Malfoy were about to duel in the hallway outside of Potions, because Chandra couldn't resist mouthing off to Malfoy in his own unique way, which was kinda silly because Chandra can't do any wand magic yet, but I woke up just in time to rescue him.

Ah yes, and the Tournament. I didn't put any of our names in, obviously, given the lengths I went to avoid that. And I'm certain I would have known if one of the others had done so. I'm equally certain that not even Zoey would do that to me.

I have to admit, I'm a little curious about the implications of all of us just vanishing like that, sans Chandra. I wonder what would have happened if Chandra hadn't appeared? Would we just vanish? Or return to our original form? Something else? And why did the others go with me, anyway? I know why I was down there, but the others... that's a mystery. Maybe they got just as worked up as I did?

Not looking forward to finding out what I'll have to do for the First Task. I may end up getting scared enough to vanish again. I hope not; I don't think Chandra would be able to do it alone, whatever it is.

Well, don't forget Chandra's left-handed books. Love ya! Ciao!

Woof;
--Al

Namaste -- Chandra

The next morning, Al awoke to find himself still in Chandra's version of the body. What was odder, for them, was that Chandra was still asleep. He couldn't remember something quite like that happening before. Usually whoever was responsible for the body's appearance was awake even if others were, too. In fact, what usually happened if the driver in that situation fell asleep without the others doing so as well for bedtime, was that they switched forms. He wasn't sure what to make of this new situation.

Pulling off the covers, he frowned at what he saw. Apparently, Chandra slept in the buff sometimes. He hoped very much that there would never be a fire or other emergency when the body was Chandra's; he really didn't want everyone in the school seeing Chandra's dangly bits.

Getting out of bed, he took a shower then got dressed and went down to breakfast. He looked down at his plate, seeing nothing of animal origin except dairy products like cheese. Al sighed and ate it anyway, hoping very much that the house elves weren't going to feed them nothing but Chandra's diet all year long.

Just out of curiosity, he grabbed a piece of bacon. He was pleased to find that, despite the body's appearance, Chandra's questionable gift of picking up on the emotional imprints of dead animals only worked for Chandra. He quickly ate some bacon, worried Chandra would wake up in the middle of it.

The owls came, then, with the mail. Hedwig dropped a letter and a copy of the Daily Prophet down in front of Al/Chandra. He gave Hedwig some bacon and opened the letter from Sirius.

Dear Chandra and Al,

Glad to hear you're back, Al! I hope the others return soon, I miss them. Chandra, I'll head to Diagon Alley today and get you those books.

Rita Skeeter is covering the Tournament? Of course she is. Arthur doesn't like her, I remember. You're right, she never says anything nice about anyone, except herself. I'm glad you gave her some comeuppance, but I hope you didn't get in trouble for it. And I hope she doesn't savage you even harder with her quill for what you did.

I obviously don't know the others as well as you do, but I believe you that none of you put those names in the goblet. Remember how none of the writing matched any of you? And now I've seen Chandra's writing, I can say it doesn't match his either.

You need books for left-handed casters? I'll get on that as soon as I can. But, well, have you tried your spare wand? The wand chooses the wizard, it's possible the holly wand might not work for you.

By the way, Dumbledore has been getting really worried lately. It's been going on for a while now, apparently. He was really concerned about that dream you had over the summer regarding Voldemort, and it's been getting worse for him. He's hard to read, but those of us who know him well enough can see him worrying. He's been gone more often lately, too, have you noticed? Minerva told me that. Between you and me, I think he's looking for more information regarding that thing he told us about at the end of last year.

Well, I'll go see if I can get to Flourish and Blotts before they close. Catch you later, pup!

Ruff! Ruff-ruff!
---Sirius

Al put the letter away, thinking. He hadn't noticed Dumbledore being gone much, but then he had never seen much of Dumbledore anyway. Shrugging, he folded his hands and closed his eyes to focus on something he needed to do now.

CHANDRA! He yelled in their shared mindspace. WAKEY WAKEY SOY AND FAKEY!!!

Chandra flinched and woke up, looking around in fear for the source of the noise. When he figured it out, he growled.

~I should find myself quite pleased if you never did that again, Sarcastic Defender.~ Chandra said internally in a quite cross tone of voice. ~Eww, and you have imbibed the flesh of the hog in my absence. My tongue screams with the memory of it.~

Yeah, well, I had to see your own meat flopping in the breeze this morning, so my poor assaulted eyes have gotten their retribution.

~If Zoey were here, I would ask her to sing something annoying to bother you.~

Yeah, whatever. Anyway, Chandra, have you ever tried casting with the oak and dragon heartstring wand?

~Oh, yes, I shall willingly put into my hand the wand that screams a dirge of its time as living flesh, because I enjoy suffering.~

Now who's being sarcastic? Anyway, you never know until you try it. And you don't complain about the holly wand causing you pain.

~The wand of holly has a core given freely by a being that yet lives and remains free, which did not cause it harm. Tis not the same at all as the Screaming Dragon Wand.~

Well we're not getting a third wand any time soon, so try it anyway. Ollivander says the wand chooses the wizard. It's a bloody stroke of luck every single one of us doesn't need our own wand. That could get annoying fast. What would we be up to, then? Six different wands?

~Yes, yes, I shall try the Screaming Dragon Wand if such will silence your folly.~

Chandra awkwardly used his right hand to get the oak wand out of its sheath on his dominant hand and switched it into his left-handed grip.

~The wand movements remain occluded. I fear this shall fail. Also, it feels... disgusting.~

Try it anyway.

~You do not fathom. Imagine a telltale heart beating in your hand, whilst simultaneously screaming in tortured agony. That is how this wand feels.~

TRY. IT. ANYWAY.

Chandra glared, but tried the simplest spell he knew. “Lumos!”

Some white sparks came out, but no light. He tried again, concentrating on the image of light coming out of it. “Lumos!”

More sparks.

~This one likes me, despite its agony, and is trying to work for me, but something still remains blocked.~

I'll say, if you can't even cast Lumos.

He closed his eyes and tried to imagine the feeling of being in darkness, then seeing light suddenly. “Lumos!”

The wand tip lit up, brighter than the spell usually did, though it was sparking a little, too. The wand also emitted a high-pitched scream that had everyone in the Great Hall clapping their hands over their ears. Chandra canceled the spell at once.

~Its calling is perhaps too accurate.~

Yes, but you made it work. What was different about that time?

~I... WOW! I was channeling the emotion of joy at seeing a light in a dark place!~

Must be your powers are emotion-based. Try the same technique with the holly wand.

Chandra gratefully put the oak wand back, and got out the holly wand.

~Like the warm embrace of a lover,~ Chandra commented.

Again, he filled his mind with the emotions of seeing a light in a dark place. “Lumos!”

The wand tip lit up, normally.

“YES! The blockage is dislodged! Emotions are the key!”

Hey, I have an idea. Think of a happy thought, and cast the Patronus Charm. My memory will tell you how.

Chandra nodded, and concentrated on joy, love, and happiness. “Expecto patronum!”

A large silver shape flowed out of the wand and turned back to look at them.

“What... what is it?”

“Wow,” said the voice of Hermione from behind them, as she came into the room. “It's an Amazon river dolphin!”

“Mr. Rahasyamay,” said Professor McGonagall from their other side, “as pretty as your patronus is, I ask you to please not do magic in the Great Hall.”

“Understood, Professor,” Chandra said, putting the wand away. His patronus winked out when he did.

“Thank you, Mr. Rahasyamay,” she said, heading back to her seat.

“So Chandra,” Hermione started. “You figured out how to do magic now?”

“Yes. The key is emotions.”

“Did you get your left-handed books, then, too?”

“No. I did the mirror of the right-handed wand movement.”

“Oh. Well that isn't going to work every time. And what do you mean 'the key is emotions'?”

“To make the light of Lumos, I need to to imagine I am in darkness and I see light. That joy fuels the spell.”

“Really? You have to use emotions for all spells?”

“Presumably.”

“Well that's going to complicate things. And possibly slow you down. Might even make some spells impossible under certain circumstances.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. How do you cast something that requires joy when all you're feeling is unhappiness? That might block the patronus if you're faced with a dementor.”

“I do not know. But I wonder if this is the special magic I have, that Mother told me of.”

“Mother? Who's Mother?”

“You have not met Her yet. It is possible you may never meet Her. I believe She likes to remain Inside.”

Ron came in, then, and sat down. He started to eat, clearly unaware anything momentus had happened. Remembering McGonagall's warning, Chandra went back to his meal, though he very much wanted to show off for Ron. He got more and more impatient as time went on, but finally he made it out of breakfast, and grabbed Ron's arm, dragging him into an empty classroom.

“What? Why're we in here?”

“One moment, please.”

Chandra imagined feeling light, like he could fly away, and the feeling of freedom that came with it. Then he cast “Wingardium leviosa” on a quill on the desk.

Only... this time, he found himself floating in the air instead. He blinked, unsure how this was possible.

“Well, that was not my intent,” he said from the ceiling. “Um... please fetch a teacher, Red Knight?”

When Ron was done laughing, he nodded and went off to find a teacher. A few minutes later, McGonagall came in.

“Mr. Rahasyamay, how on earth did you manage to get up there?”

“I was attempting to make a quill float. I am perplexed how it could have gone awry.”

In seconds, McGonagall had him down with her wand, and once more he was subject to gravity. He explained what he had figured out that morning. She nodded here and there. When he finished, she looked confused.

“I've never heard of anyone needing to use emotions to cast magic, except for some spells like the Patronus Charm. But you say you can't cast without it?”

“Indeed. Observe.”

He tried casting Lumos again, the way most people did it. Nothing at all happened. Then he did it again, with the emotional component, and it worked.

“I see. Very unusual.”

Al took the wand from Chandra and said, “Hi, Professor McGonagall. It's me, Al. I am still able to cast magic normally, even though Chandra can't. Lumos!”

The wand tip lit up. He then demonstrated several other spells.

“Well it seems that life just keeps throwing you surprises, Mr. Potter, Mr. Rahasyamay. I shall discuss this problem with Dumbledore, see if he has any ideas. But my immediate thought is, when casting the levitation charm on the quill, try to imagine it from the quill's perspective?” she said, sounding uncertain.

“Hmm... I shall try that now,” Chandra said, taking back the wand. “By the way, this wand still resists me, somewhat. A third wand may indeed be necessary.”

I can always use the oak wand. Go ahead and do the thing.

Chandra once more focused on the emotions of flight, trying to picture it from the quill's point of view. In his mind's eye, he could see himself, from the outside.

Wingardium leviosa!”

The quill flew up, up, up to the ceiling. Then he brought it back down again.

“It would seem magic works very differently for you than for others, Mr. Rahasyamay. I cannot even begin to understand why that might be. Please be cautious when trying new spells, perhaps only do new spells around a teacher from now on?”

“Yes, Professor.”

She shook her head slightly and left the room, clearly confused.

What, no nickname for McGonagall?

~The Tartan Grandmother would chide me for calling her such, I think.~

Al snorted with laughter. That she would, that she would.

*

Later that day, they got from Hermione a copy of the Daily Prophet, which she had brought to show them because Rita Skeeter had done a very scathing article about the Triwizard Tournament, which was mostly about them. Fleur and Krum, their names misspelled, were crammed into the end, and Cedric wasn't even mentioned.

“She has done the thing backwards,” Chandra said when he was done reading it. “The important parts are to be the head, but she has them in the rear. The tail and the body, pointing up, are all malevolent garbage words. There is more gold in a gallon of seawater than there is truth in this travesty.”

This was apparently so hilarious to Ron and Hermione that they were both leaning against the wall in paroxysms of mirth. Even Al, inside Chandra's head, was laughing.

Oh my goodness, Al said to him at last, I need to introduce you to Luna. It'll be hilarious!

~Luna? I am going to meet the moon?~

Luna Lovegood. She's a Ravenclaw. Come on, I think I know where she'll be.

Chandra sighed, and let Al drag him away. Ron and Hermione came after him, trying to ask him where he was going through the laughter.

“The Sarcastic Defender wishes to take me to the moon,” he said. “The moon that speaks of oddities.”

“Moon that speaks...” Ron said softly, confused. “Wait, do you mean Luna?”

“Yes, the moon that loves well.”

“Do you do that just to be annoying?” Ron asked.

“Of course not, Red Knight. I speak as I think. I speak the images in my mind.”

They found Luna in a corridor, after a lot of looking around for over an hour. She was walking around humming to herself, her feet bare.

“Why hello there,” she said as she saw him. “You're Chandra Rahasyamay.”

“Yes. You are Luna Lovegood, I presume?”

“That's correct. You were looking for me?”

“Alastair wanted me to meet you. I am unsure why.”

“Yes, I can see the wrackspurts flying around. They make people's brains go fuzzy.”

Chandra blinked, and was speechless for a time. “Um... why are you barefoot?” he finally asked.

“Oh, my things occasionally go missing. They always turn up eventually. I must admit, it is a little inconvenient. The castle is starting to get colder. I use warming charms on my feet, of course, but it would be easier with shoes and socks.”

“Others are taking your things?”

“That is one possibility. I don't know for sure. I've never seen any of my things vanish. Perhaps there are some invisible sprites that find it amusing to take my things.”

“Being barefoot is something one should only be by choice,” Chandra said. “I like being barefoot outside, as long as it's warm.”

“Me too. I like to pet the thestrals in the Forbidden Forest.”

“I admit I have not done that yet. We should get together sometime and do that.”

Luna smiled. “I would like that very much.”

They stood there looking at one another for what felt like a long time, before Luna spoke again.

“So why did Al bring you here?”

“He thought it would be amusing, for some reason. I cannot fathom his thought patterns sometimes.”

Luna nodded sagely.

Well this isn't nearly as interesting as I'd thought it would be, Al said, sounding bored.

~You compared me to her, and you are surprised we are on the same wavelength?~

Now that you mention it, that does make sense. I guess that makes me pretty foolish.

“Is it just you and Al in there at the moment?”

“Yes. The others are still hiding. They will return in time.”

She nodded. “Good.”

“Does not the Angry Light-carrier pester you when he discovers you barefoot around the castle?”

“Angry Light-carrier?”

“Argus Filch.”

“Ah, yes. Yes, he does sometimes. Not so much anymore. He tends to sigh and hold the bridge of his nose when he sees me barefoot these days.”

“Indeed? Well, if you take me to your dorm, I can help you look for your shoes.”

She thought about it a moment, then nodded.

“Er, we're gonna go, Chandra,” Ron said, motioning at himself and Hermione.

“As you wish, Red Knight,” Chandra said, following Luna through the halls.

When they found Ravenclaw's door, with a bronze door-knocker of an eagle. They knocked the knocker, and it asked a riddle: “How is a raven like a writing desk?”

“Hmm...” Chandra said, thinking. “Both are carbon-based. The raven is an animal, and the desk is made of wood from a tree, a plant. But both were alive at some point in their existence. And, ultimately, both are made of material born in the heart of a dying star.”

“Er...” the door-knocker said, looking puzzled. “If you say so,” it said, the door opening up.

When Chandra and Luna came in, there was some upset among the other Ravenclaws about Chandra being there. Luna explained he was helping her find her shoes, and suddenly everyone went quiet and minded their own business, looking and feeling guilty.

With that out of the way, Chandra bent down and touched Luna's feet, as though feeling for something invisible.

“What are you doing?”

“I can feel objects by their energy. I'm trying to find the... psychic scent, for lack of a better term, of your shoes.”

“Ah. Carry on, then.”

She stood there, humming to herself as he continued feeling for the 'scent' of her missing shoes. After a couple minutes, he stood up and asked her to take him to her room.

“The stairs will probably turn into a slide if you do that. You're a boy, after all.”

“Oh. Hmm... that is a problem.”

He stood there, his eyes closed, deep in thought. Then he came up with a plan, but continued to close his eyes in thought. This time, he was concentrating on his solution. He brought to his memory, somehow, the feeling of Iliana's and Adira's bodies, every feeling and emotion they associated with being a girl, and then felt a warm feeling move through his body. Luna, watching, did not see anything unusual.

Opening the body's eyes, Chandra took Luna's hand. “It'll be fine now.”

“Hmm? Well, if you say so. You seem so certain.”

They went up the stairs, everyone in the room looking tense and expectant. But nothing happened.

“Well that was interesting. What happened?”

“I am currently thinking of myself as a girl,” Chandra said as though it was nothing unusual.

“And that's enough to fool the stairs?”

“My magic is based on emotions.”

“You didn't change, um... on the outside at all? I mean, physically?”

Chandra reached down to feel between his legs. “No, everything is the same as always.”

“Well, that is rather remarkable.”

Yeah, seriously, how did you do that? Al asked.

After a moment of thought, Chandra said, “I think of gender as more of a suggestion, or a mood. And I'm in a girl mood at the moment. Anyway, let's find your shoes.”

Chandra's method of finding her shoes involved touching places all over her room, and following some invisible trail to other dorms, a variety of hiding places, some of which were the insides of other peoples' trunks. When Chandra confronted the owners, they fought, but eventually gave in and returned Luna's things. And they ended up finding not only her shoes, socks, and – oddly – underwear, but other belongings of hers.

The whole time this was going on, Luna was observing Chandra. Sure enough, there was something distinctly feminine in... at the moment, her movements, even though she otherwise looked like... well, if Luna was entirely honest with herself, Chandra looked, now, like a short-haired girl, even though nothing outward had changed. It was something much deeper than accidents of biology.

Then a thought occurred to her, and she had to ask Chandra a question because of it.

“If gender is just a suggestion to you, which set of pronouns should I use for you? Do I use the ones for the gender you're feeling like at the moment? Or they/their? Or something else?”

“Hmm... I don't know. I hadn't thought of it before. I've been a boy since I first showed up. I'd never been a girl before today, but it feels right for the moment. I don't even know how long I'll be a girl, now. Pronouns... well, just use the she/her set for now. But honestly... I don't think I really care. Yes, any pronoun set will work for me.”

“Ah. Well that simplifies matters. Thank you for letting me know. And thank you for finding my things.”

“No problem. If you need help again, let me know.”

Luna nodded. “Oh, I think it's almost dinnertime.”

“Shall we go down together?”

“Yes, that sounds lovely.”

The two of them got even more stares as they came down the stairs without setting them off. Then Chandra also detected some confusion at her own expense, and mixed feelings. Figuring it was a response to her gender shift, she ignored it.

There were more stares at the Griffindor table at dinner. Several of their friends asked if Adira or Iliana was back.

“No, I just feel like a girl at the moment.”

Apparently used to weird things from them, everyone just ignored them and went back to their dinner.

Chandra was curious, later in their dorm, at the fact that she still felt like a girl. She stripped nude and examined herself in the mirror. It all looked the same as usual, but different. Where all these body parts had belonged to Chandra the Boy earlier, now they belonged to Chandra the Girl.

She was in the middle of a hot shower when the mood changed and he felt like a boy again. Another look in the mirror showed nothing was physically different; it was all in his head. He shrugged, and dried his hair with his wand before going to bed.

*

As though some kind of blockage had been dislodged by his stint as a girl the day before, Chandra woke up feeling... mixed. A little bit a boy, a little bit a girl. It wasn't anything concrete, it's not like he had a girl's left arm and a boy's right arm, just... mixed. Like how it might feel if you mixed blue water with yellow water, and you were the water. He shrugged, and went on with his day.

*

It was a bit odd for them, now that it was just Chandra and Al for the next week or so, and the body apparently stuck on Chandra's form for some reason. Chandra was pretty chill, but it was getting harder and harder for him to ignore Al's growing panic, as the unknown First Task was approaching. No longer content with letters, Al would fire-call Sirius every couple days in a panic, saying things like “What if it's dementors! What if I have to fight dementors!” or “I read about this creature called a Nundu, like a leopard or something the size of an elephant; what if I have to get past one of those?” and other such scenarios. He even started writing letters to Javier along the same lines, leading Chandra to have to calm down both him and Al.

~AL! Do not overexcite yourself. If you vanish again, I will be at more of a disadvantage than usual. Do not do that to me.~

Sorry, Chandra. Just... I don't know what we're going to do. I doubt we have time to think of anything even if everyone else shows up tonight. And how do I fight what I don't know?

~The adults will do their utmost to keep us safe.~

HA! Like I trust them. Gah... I can't even cuddle my boyfriend without it getting awkward.

~My apologies, Sarcastic Defender. I have been trying to make the switch, but I rather suspect I'm the one who is to face the danger.~

YOU? You're still trying to work out how to do simple spells without ending up inside a wall or hanging from a windowsill, or turning into a canary.

~I cannot explain it yet. But perhaps it has something to do with the emotional nature of my magic?~

Al didn't have an answer to that.

Having to catch up on left-handed casting, which was indeed a part of his problem, Chandra ended up in the library reading the books Sirius sent him, with Hermione and Ron nearby. Ron was having a hard time concentrating. Chandra wasn't doing very well, either, with Al running through a cavalcade of terrible situations as though it was a mantra against any of those things happening, but also doomed to ensure something worse would happen instead.

Viktor Krum was in the library a lot, too. He and Chandra did like to talk with each other on occasion, but Chandra was getting to be less and less good at conversation as Al's constant stream of doomsaying made it harder to think straight. Even with all that going on, Chandra still picked up on Krum's interest in Hermione, who had about as much interest in Krum's fame as she'd had in the skrewts.

It is a strange thing, but when you are dreading something, and would give anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up. The days until the first task seemed to slip by as though someone had fixed the clocks to work at double speed. Al's feeling of barely controlled panic was with him wherever he went, as ever-present as the snide comments about the Daily Prophet article.

On the Saturday before the first task, all students in the third year and above were permitted to visit the village of Hogsmeade. Hermione and Ron told Chandra and Al that it would do them good to get away from the castle for a bit, and neither boy needed much persuasion. But between the usual treatment they got for being a multiple, the extra-horrible treatment lately for daring to steal Cedric's glory, and the snide comments about Rita Skeeter's article, neither wanted to be seen there, so Chandra ended up going to Hogsmeade under the invisibility cloak.

Al felt wonderfully free under the cloak; he watched other students walking past them as they entered the village, most of them sporting Support Cedric Diggory! badges, but no horrible remarks came their way for a change, and nobody was quoting that stupid article.

“This is weird,” Ron said. “I mean, it could be weirder; at least Hermione is here. But I don't like talking to air.”

“Yeah well I don't really give a flying shit,” Al's harsh tones came through Chandra's voice more acutely than usual.

“Come on, please just take off your cloak for a bit, no one’s going to bother you here.”

“Oh yeah?” said Al. “Look behind you.”

Rita Skeeter and her photographer friend had just emerged from the Three Broomsticks pub. Talking in low voices, they passed right by Hermione and Ron without looking at them. Al backed into the wall of Honeydukes to stop Rita Skeeter from hitting him with her crocodile-skin handbag. When they were gone, Al said, “She’s staying in the village. I bet she’s coming to watch the first task.”

As he said it, his stomach flooded with a wave of molten panic. He didn’t mention this; he'd stopped spouting doomsday scenarios at them days ago, because Hermione looked close to tears when he did, and Ron would look sick as a pig.

“She’s gone,” said Hermione, looking right through Al toward the end of the street. “Why don’t we go and have a butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks, it’s a bit cold, isn’t it?”

“Sounds good. Let's do that.”

The place was utterly packed, making it hard to move around under the invisibility cloak, but he managed it. Soon they found a table, and Ron went to get the drinks.

As he sipped butterbeer under his cloak, he watched the crowd. What wouldn’t he have given to be one of these people, sitting around laughing and talking, with nothing to worry about but homework? He imagined how it would have felt to be here if their names hadn’t come out of the Goblet of Fire. He wouldn’t be wearing the Invisibility Cloak, for one thing. Ron, Hermione, and himself would probably be happily, openly imagining what deadly dangerous task the school champions would be facing on Tuesday. He’d have been really looking forward to it, watching them do whatever it was, cheering on Cedric with everyone else, safe in a seat at the back of the stands.

He wondered how the other champions were feeling. Every time he had seen Cedric lately, he had been surrounded by admirers and looking nervous but excited. Al glimpsed Fleur Delacour from time to time in the corridors; she looked exactly as she always did, haughty and unruffled. And Krum just sat in the library, poring over books.

“Look, it’s Hagrid!” said Hermione.

The back of Hagrid’s enormous shaggy head emerged over the crowd. Al wondered why he hadn’t spotted him at once, as Hagrid was so large, but standing up carefully, he saw that Hagrid had been leaning low, talking to Professor Moody. Hagrid had his usual enormous tankard in front of him, but Moody was drinking from his hip flask. Madam Rosmerta, the pretty landlady, didn’t seem to think much of this; she was looking askance at Moody as she collected glasses from tables around them. Perhaps she thought it was an insult to her mulled mead, but Al knew better. Moody had told them all during their last Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson that he preferred to prepare his own food and drink at all times, as it was so easy for Dark wizards to poison an unattended cup. It had sounded like a good idea to Al, who was determined to look more into that if he lived through the First Task.

As Al watched, he saw Hagrid and Moody get up to leave. He waved, then remembered that Hagrid couldn’t see him. Moody, however, paused, his magical eye on the corner where Chandra was standing. He tapped Hagrid in the small of the back (being unable to reach his shoulder), muttered something to him, and then the pair of them made their way back across the pub toward the table the three of them were sitting at.

He can see through invisibility cloaks? Creepy.

“All right, Hermione?” said Hagrid loudly.

“Hello,” said Hermione, smiling back.

Moody limped around the table and bent down, on the pretext of reading from a book he hadn't noticed Hermione had out. Then he muttered, “Nice cloak, Potter.”

Ignoring the use of the wrong name given it was Chandra's body at the moment, Al sighed. “So you can see through invisibility cloaks, then?”

“Yeah, it can see through Invisibility Cloaks,” Moody said quietly. “And it’s come in useful at times, I can tell you.”

Hagrid was beaming down at Al too. Al knew Hagrid couldn’t see him, but Moody had obviously told Hagrid he was there. Hagrid now bent down on the pretext of reading from Hermione's book as well, and said in a whisper so low that only Al could hear it, “Al, meet me tonight at midnight at me cabin. Wear that cloak.”

Straightening up, Hagrid said loudly, “Nice ter see yeh, Hermione, Ron,” winked, and departed. Moody followed him.

“Why does Hagrid want me to meet him at midnight?” Al said, very surprised.

“Does he?” said Ron, looking startled.

Hermione frowned. “I wonder what he’s up to? I don’t know whether you should go, Al, it'll be past curfew, and it could be dangerous. We don't know who put your name in that goblet, after all.”

It was odd indeed. But if Hagrid thought it worth the risk, so did Al and Chandra. So they went to their bedroom early and waited for the night to come. At half past eleven, they got under the cloak, escaped the common room with Hermione's help, and wound their way through the school and out onto the grounds to Hagrid's cabin.

The large man wasn't alone when they got there; he was with Madame Maxime. Whatever Hagrid was showing him, he was showing her, too, on the pretense of a date. Al would have suspected her of using Hagrid for information, but a glimpse into her eyes told him she was honestly interested in Hagrid.

It was a very long walk to wherever they were going, but then — when they had walked so far around the perimeter of the forest that the castle and the lake were out of sight — Al heard something. Men were shouting up ahead … then came a deafening, earsplitting roar.

Hagrid led Madame Maxime around a clump of trees and came to a halt. Al hurried up alongside them — for a split second, he thought he was seeing bonfires, and men darting around them — and then his mouth fell open.

Dragons.

Four fully grown, enormous, vicious-looking dragons were rearing onto their hind legs inside an enclosure fenced with thick planks of wood, roaring and snorting — torrents of fire were shooting into the dark sky from their open, fanged mouths, fifty feet above the ground on their outstretched necks. There was a silvery-blue one with long, pointed horns, snapping and snarling at the wizards on the ground; a smooth-scaled green one, which was writhing and stamping with all its might; a red one with an odd fringe of fine gold spikes around its face, which was shooting mushroom-shaped fire clouds into the air; and a gigantic black one, more lizard-like than the others, which was nearest to them.

What was worse, it took dozens of wizards to control them. Magic seemed to mostly just bounce off their hides. And Charlie was there, among the men controlling the dragons. He came over to talk with Hagrid, and from the conversation, Al found that they were nesting mothers, and the Champions would have to get past the dragons for the First Task.

While Al just sat there gibbering, Chandra frowned and hoped that neither the dragons nor their eggs would be hurt by this.

Al, meanwhile, felt something die inside him, and fought the urge to retreat into the Basement again with the others. No, if he went down there this time, he would claw them back up to the surface if it killed him.

They rushed back to the castle, into Griffindor common room, and grabbed some Floo powder out of their trunk, then went down to the fire in the grate and tossed some in to fire-call Sirius at home.

“Sirius! SIRIUS!”

Sirius came running again, like he had the night Al splinched himself, his wand out.

“What is it? What's wrong?”

“The First Task is DRAGONS!”

“What? Oh. Oh. Dragons? How do you know?”

“Hagrid showed me. So what am I going to DO?”

Sirius looked at him, eyes full of concern, eyes that had not yet lost the look that Azkaban had given them — that deadened, haunted look. “Dragons we can deal with, Al, Chandra, but we’ll get to that in a minute. There are things I need to warn you about, that were too sensitive for a letter.”

“What?” said Al, feeling his spirits slip a further few notches. … Surely there could be nothing worse than dragons coming?

“Karkaroff,” said Sirius. “Al, he was a Death Eater. You know what Death Eaters are, don’t you?”

“Moldywart's lot, yes I know. He was? How do you know?”

“He was caught, he was in Azkaban with me, but he got released. I’d bet everything that’s why Dumbledore wanted an Auror at Hogwarts this year — to keep an eye on him. Moody caught Karkaroff. Put him into Azkaban in the first place.”

“They let him go? A captured Death Eater got free and now he runs a school? How did this happen?”

“He did a deal with the Ministry of Magic,” said Sirius bitterly. “He said he’d seen the error of his ways, and then he named names … he put a load of other people into Azkaban in his place. … He’s not very popular in there, I can tell you. And since he got out, from what I can tell, he’s been teaching the Dark Arts to every student who passes through that school of his. So watch out for the Durmstrang champion as well.”

“Krum is a good guy. I can tell, remember? It doesn't work on Dumbledore, Snape, or Moody for some reason, though.”

“I think I know why that is, Al – something Dumbledore said recently is relevant – but that's for later. You really do need to be wary of Karkaroff. He may have turned traitor on the Death Eaters, but he's still a dark wizard.”

“Yes, okay, but are you saying Karkaroff put my name in the goblet? Because if he did, he’s a really good actor. He seemed furious about it. He wanted to stop me from competing.”

“We know he’s a good actor,” said Sirius, “because he convinced the Ministry of Magic to set him free, didn’t he? Now, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Daily Prophet, Al —”

“— you and the rest of the world,” said Al bitterly.

“— and reading between the lines of that Skeeter woman’s article last month, Moody was attacked the night before he started at Hogwarts. Yes, I know she says it was another false alarm,” Sirius said hastily, seeing Al about to speak, “but I don’t think so, somehow. I think someone tried to stop him from getting to Hogwarts. I think someone knew their job would be a lot more difficult with him around. And no one’s going to look into it too closely; Mad-Eye’s heard intruders a bit too often. But that doesn’t mean he can’t still spot the real thing. Moody was the best Auror the Ministry ever had.”

“Okay, I'll stay wary. I haven't had a chance to use my heart-reading sense on Karkaroff, but I'll try to do that ASAP.”

“Good. Don't go to any great risks to do it, though.”

“I won't. But if he's turned traitor on the Death Eaters, why do you think he wants me dead?”

Sirius hesitated.

“I’ve been hearing some very strange things,” he said slowly. “The Death Eaters seem to be a bit more active than usual lately. They showed themselves at the Quidditch World Cup, didn’t they? We fought them, after all. Then did you hear about that ministry witch who went missing?”

“No. Who is it?”

“A witch named Bertha Jorkins--”

“Bertha Jorkins?” Al interrupted “I recognize that name. She was mentioned in the dream I had about Voldemort. Molywart mentioned her himself. She was imperiused to help care for him, nurse him back to health. Which is odd, since he's supposed to be a spirit. Maybe he found or made a temporary body for himself? Yes, yes he had to have, he was holding a wand.”

“Oh really? I don't remember you saying anything like that when you told me about it.”

“It was fading rapidly, the way dreams do. But you mentioning her name brought some details back.”

“So he definitely has her, then? I should relay this to Dumbledore in the morning, assuming he's in. He's been out and about a lot more lately, did you notice?”

“No, I didn't. We've been kind of distracted, and we rarely see him much anyway. But back to Bertha Jorkins, how did she get taken?”

“I'm not sure, pup, but she was last seen in Albania, which is where Voldemort was last spotted. And I knew her in school, she wasn't very bright, and she was nosier than Rita Skeeter. She'd have been easy to lure into a trap. I just wish I knew who was helping him. I know lots of his Death Eaters slithered out of Azkaban, but then why did it take this person 13 years to find his master? Also there's Trelawney's prophecy, the second one, to consider. She said whoever it was was chained for all those years. I haven't heard of any more Azkaban breakouts. Only news out of Azkaban recently was the deaths of Peter and Bellatrix.”

“Speaking of which, did you ever find out about her vault? She was close to Voldemort. And Tom never had a vault in Gringotts, but I'm sure he'd want one. If he couldn't get one, I think he'd want one of his horcruxes in there. And he trusted Bellatrix, didn't he? I've been doing some research on her,” he explained.

“Hmm... I hadn't thought of that before. But to answer your question, Bellatrix's vault is a complicated issue. Rudolphus can't inherit her vault because he's in Azkaban. Her parents are dead, and I'm only a cousin. So it goes to her closest living relative, who I hate to say is Narcissa Malfoy née Black, her sister. If there's a horcrux in that vault, it's still under Death Eater control.”

“Damn. Well anyway, going back a bit more, if Moldywart has this Ministry witch Jorkins, he must have known ahead of time about the Tournament. Do you think he's gotten back in contact with Karkaroff? And ordered the man to kill me?”

“I don’t know,” said Sirius slowly, “I just don’t know … Karkaroff doesn’t strike me as the type who’d go back to Voldemort unless he knew Voldemort was powerful enough to protect him. But whoever put your name in that goblet did it for a reason, and I can’t help thinking the tournament would be a very good way to attack you and make it look like an accident.”

“Looks like a really good plan from where I’m standing,” said Al grinning bleakly. “They’ll just have to stand back and let the dragons do their stuff.”

“Right — these dragons,” said Sirius, speaking very quickly now. “There’s a way, Al. Don’t be tempted to try a Stunning Spell — dragons are strong and too powerfully magical to be knocked out by a single Stunner, you need about half a dozen wizards at a time to overcome a dragon —”

“Yeah, I know, I just saw,” said Al.

“But you can do it alone,” said Sirius. “There is a way, and a simple spell’s all you need. It's called the Conjunctivitis Curse. A dragon's eyes are its weakest point, and the spell irritates the eyes like the disease conjunctivitis, AKA 'pink eye.' The---”

“Will this hexing pain the creature?” asked Chandra, who up until now had been content to let Al use his body as his own.

“Well, yes, it is painful. Not terribly so, but one needs to put a lot of power into it for a dragon, so that might make it hurt worse.”

“I will not be party to the harming of another living being, then.”

“Wait, is that Chand--”

“Are you MAD?” Al addressed the other boy aloud, mainly so Sirius would know they were having this conversation. “That thing is going to be trying to kill us, I don't think we should worry about irritating its---”

“It is a nesting mother, chosen no doubt for its ferocity protecting its young. They are using real eggs, which is monstrous. It is an endangered species and they risk its young for sport. If we hurt it and it hurts its young due to this agony, I will take retribution for it by hexing the fools who dreamed up this folly!”

“So what, you want to just politely ask the dragon to let us pass safely, is that it? Maybe I'll shout parseltongue at it really, really loudly and hope something with legs still counts as a snake, shall I?”

“I doubt such is possible. But we nonetheless need to find another way.”

“Well pardon me if I don't fancy dying just because you're too much of a bleeding-heart---”

“BOYS!” Sirius shouted. “This is getting us nowhere. The Conjunctivitis Curse is all I can think of offhand. Now we do have another 24 hours or so before the First Task. I'll try to come up with something better, if Chandra doesn't want to do it. Just for your information, though, the incantation is Conjunctivitis, easy enough to remember. The wand movement you'll have to look up in the library. Ask Madam Pince about it, if it's for the Tournament she shouldn't have a problem showing you the right book. In the meantime, you two try to calm down, put your heads together, and think outside of the box for an alternate solution, okay?”

“But all we're allowed is our wand, Sirius! And that feels like a normal twig compared to a bloody great dragon!”

“Well shoot a Patronus at it, then. Have the Patronus corral the dragon away from you, maybe that'll work?”

Al blinked, then stared at Sirius.

“I... well, that's worth trying, I guess. But it's not a dementor. And if the dragon figures out it's not a solid object, then that's the end of that ruse. So we should think of some more things.”

“Yes. And ask anyone else you can think of. Like your boyfriend, Al. You said he wants to be an Artificer, right? Well he might not be there yet, but he might know something that can help.”

“I'm only allowed a wand Sirius!”

“Hmm... well as I recall, you should be learning the Summoning Charm in your fourth year. I remember from my own school days, plus I was looking through those left-handed books before I sent them to you. Have you learned that one yet?”

“We've been able to do the Summoning Charm since first term last year. We read and practice ahead a lot.”

“Excellent. Glad to know you're doing so well.”

“Anyway, so... what? You reckon I can just Summon something useful? You think that'll be allowed?”

“I don't see why not. You step into the game with only your wand, that satisfies the rules; what you do with it after that is just wriggling through the loopholes.”

“Figures an old trouble-maker like you would be skilled at finding loopholes.”

Sirius chuckled.

“Well that's something to ponder, at least. Now I just have to figure out what to summon, and what to do with it when I do.”

“Good. Well it's late, we should both be getting to bed now.”

“True. Good night, Sirius! See you later!”

Al pulled their head out of the fire and went upstairs to bed. It took him a long time to get to sleep, though, as he kept trying to figure out what he could possibly summon to deal with a dragon.

End note: I wasn't intending on Chandra being genderfluid when I started this chapter, but it felt so right when it came up; another example of the character writing itself. And again, I base the Potter collective on my own collective, and four of our number are genderfluid, while another is completely without gender.

End note two: Al's sarcastic suggestion about “shouting parseltongue” at the dragon comes from another fanfic I read. It's called “My Brother” by Oracle2Phoenix on FanFiction.net. It is a great fic, though sadly it remains uncompleted and was last updated in July of 2016; the author's computer died horribly and I guess they still haven't recovered from the fallout of that. But it's well worth reading nonetheless.

End note three:
Bigots: “Stop with all this transgender stuff!” Me: Dials the transgender stuff up to “12.”
Bigots: “We don't like all this queer stuff!” Me: “If you're holding out for universal popularity, I'm afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time. ” - Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

End note four: I was going to have Krum explain the French pun that Voldemort's name is, but I've seen like 5 different possible meanings for his name, and not knowing French, I have no idea which one is correct.



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