The Many Faces of Adira Potter
By = Fayanora
Note: Thanks, everyone who reviewed, I feel giddy from the praise! Sorry this chapter has been so long coming. Hope you enjoy!
Note two: I know this chapter follows the canon material a lot, I'm sorry for that, but I did try to avoid it. It gets better, I promise.
Chapter Three: Flamel and Murphy and Norbert and Voldy
Harry took Dumbledore's advice and did not seek the Mirror of Erised again, but he had a hard time getting it out of his head. He felt sick from withdrawal, and even had to retreat within, which was useful because Iliana came out, which Wood was pleased about.
“You see, Dumbledore was right; that mirror could drive you mad!” Ron said, facing away from him, and so didn't notice Iliana switching; but he heard the small sound of the magic changing their shared body, and turned to look.
“Oh, hi Iliana.”
“Well it's a shame you didn't at least find out who Nicolas Flamel is,” Hermione added.
“I wonder why Harry saw you, though, instead of himself? Isn't it supposed to work for whoever's in front of it?” Ron wondered aloud.
Iliana shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe it got confused, didn't know which of us it should work for. No way to test it again now, and I wouldn't try anyway. I never liked that mirror; it was creepy.”
When the term started again, they went back to trying to find out who Flamel was in their spare time, Harry in the background of Iliana's mind, certain he'd heard the name before somewhere but unable to think of where.
At practices, which were getting more frequent and difficult, Iliana had gotten over her nerves around Wood. She still fancied him, but she'd gotten used to him being around, and so she was more comfortable around the older student.
During one particularly muddy practice, the Weasley twins messing about got Wood angry, and in his anger he revealed that Snape was refereeing their match with Hufflepuff, which was ominous. Of course, Iliana rushed back as soon as she could to tell Ron and Hermione about his sinister new desire to be a referee. She found Ron trouncing Hermione at chess, and though he had been concentrating on his next move, Ron caught onto Iliana's mood and let her speak.
“Don’t play,” said Hermione once Iliana finished.
“Say you’re ill,” said Ron.
“Pretend to break your leg,” Hermione suggested.
“Really break your leg,” said Ron.
“I can’t,” said Iliana, flapping her hands with anxiety. “There isn’t a reserve Seeker. If I back out, Gryffindor can’t play at all.”
I have an odd suggestion,
piped up Alastair from within.
Iliana asked him.
Have Zoey transform us if something happens, the magic of that might knock off the spell.
Sounds iffy, but I guess we can put it on reserve.
“Where'd you go?” Ron asked when Iliana began to focus on the real world again.
“Well Alastair had this idea, that if Snape tries the same spell or something, Zoey could transform us; that might throw off the spell.”
“Maybe...” Hermione said, sounding doubtful.
“Worth a shot, at least,” Ron said.
Just then, Neville came in, hopping, from having been leg-locked by Malfoy. Since she liked Neville, she helped him with the countercurse and also tried to improve his self-esteem. Hermione and Ron joined in.
“Go to Professor McGonagall!” Hermione urged Neville. “Report him!”
Neville shook his head. “I don’t want more trouble,” he mumbled.
“Oh, I understand that perfectly, Neville. In primary school, Harry was bullied a lot. Other than running away, there wasn't a lot he could do.”
“You’ve got to stand up to him, Neville!” said Ron. “He’s used to walking all over people, but that’s no reason to lie down in front of him and make it easier.”
“There’s no need to tell me I’m not brave enough to be in Gryffindor, Malfoy’s already done that,” Neville choked out.
Iliana grabbed a Chocolate Frog from her robes and gave it to him. “You're worth twelve of Malfoy, Neville. The Sorting Hat put you here, didn't it?”
“Yeah, and where's Malfoy?” Ron asked. “Stinking Slytherin, that's where.”
“Ron, don't be prejudiced. Slytherin isn't all evil,” Iliana chided. “And not all dark wizards were in Slytherin. Anyway, Neville, the fact you're in Griffindor means you ARE brave. Being brave isn't about being unafraid, it's about facing your fear.”
“Thanks, Iliana. I feel better now. I'm gonna go to bed,” Neville said. “You want the card? I know Harry collects them.”
“Thanks, Neville,” she said, taking the card.
As he walked off, she looked at the Chocolate Frog card he'd handed her. “Dumbledore again. He was the first one I—I mean we, ever... HEY!” She gasped. “I've found him! I've found Flamel!”
“Here, on Dumbledore's card. We told you we’d read the name somewhere before, Harry read it on the train coming here — listen to this: ‘Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel’!”
In response, Hermione took off excitedly and came back with an enormous book, which she slammed onto the table, making Iliana wince for the poor book's sake, and turned it frantically.
“I never thought to look in here!” she whispered excitedly. “I got this out of the library weeks ago for a bit of light reading.”
?” said Ron, but Hermione told him to be quiet until she’d looked something up, and started flicking frantically through the pages, muttering to herself.
“I knew it! I knew it!”
“Are we allowed to speak yet?” said Ron grumpily. Hermione ignored him.
“Nicolas Flamel,” she whispered dramatically, “is the only known maker of the Philosopher's Stone!”
“What's that?” asked Iliana.
Hermione read aloud a section of the book, wherein it told that the Philosopher's Stone was a stone that could make people immortal and turn any metal into pure gold. It was plain to them all why Snape was trying to get it. Even
thought it sounded good to have.
Iliana decided to play after all, she didn't want to give Snape a reason to declare Griffindor losers by default. That didn't stop her from being anxious and scared, though. Running into Snape in the halls repeatedly didn't help her nerves, either, especially with the strange look he kept giving her whenever he saw her.
The morning of the match, Iliana was so anxious that she felt sick. So sick that she almost considered going to the Hospital Wing. Her teammates had to almost drag her down to the pitch.
As if things couldn't be any worse, when she saw Snape, something snapped inside her, and suddenly Al found himself standing there.
“Shite,” he said. “The universe hates us.”
“Iliana, time to...” Wood began, trailing off when he saw Alastair. When he recovered his wits, he started screaming and yelling and pitching a fit, the Weasley twins had to hold him away from Al.
Finally getting calm again, Wood said, “Well, we'll have to play. I just hope we don't lose too badly,” before storming off.
“Mate,” said one of the twins, “I guess you didn't know Dumbledore is here today, in the stands.”
“Well that's a relief. I just wish we'd known earlier. No idea how to switch back, and I can't imagine Zoey would be any help.”
Iliana? You in there at all?
Yes, I am.
Do you think you can take control, even if we can't switch?
Yes, I think so.
“Well Iliana says she can take control, even though we're in this form. I just hope it works.”
Al relaxed, feeling himself slip out of control of the body, even though he still felt the same feeling of being the one in the driver's seat. It was, to extend the metaphor, as though Iliana were grabbing the wheel from the passenger's side, only a little less awkward, and hopefully not as dangerous. But the fact that he nearly tripped on his own feet getting to the pitch did not bode well.
“Bollocks!” Ron cursed. “Hermione, look. It's Al.”
“Oh my, what a time for them to switch.”
Al/Iliana looked up into the bleachers and saw Dumbledore's silver beard. That was confirmation that they'd switched for no reason; not that Iliana had done it on purpose, of course. Only Zoey was able to switch on purpose, so far. Al tried to relax, thinking about nothing in particular to make it easier for Iliana to drive the body.
This is so weird,
she said internally.
I can feel your... your thingy. And the other thingy that goes with it. How do you manage with those things in the way all the time?
Dunno. I just do.
Up in the bleachers, Ron watched Al get on Iliana's broom with apprehension. Al was a horrible flier, which made the situation worse for safety reasons as well as for their hopes of winning. But there was something off in Al's behavior; he was being clumsy on the ground, which Ron had never seen Al do before, and Al's face kept switching between looking spaced out and looking keenly around.
“Hey Weasley,” Malfoy sneered at him. “How long do you think the Potter freaks will stay on their broom this time? Want to place a bet on it?”
Ron didn’t answer; Snape had just awarded Hufflepuff a penalty because George Weasley had hit a Bludger at him. Hermione, who had all her fingers crossed in her lap, was squinting fixedly at Al, who was circling the game like a hawk, looking for the Snitch, even if he did wobble dangerously on his broom.
“You know how I think they choose people for the Gryffindor team?” said Malfoy loudly a few minutes later, as Snape awarded Hufflepuff another penalty for no reason at all. “It’s people they feel sorry for. See, there’s the Potter freak, who’s got no parents and who's like a human nesting doll, then there’s the Weasleys, who’ve got no money — you should be on the team, Longbottom, you’ve got no brains.”
Neville went bright red but turned in his seat to face Malfoy.
“I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy,” he stammered.
Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle howled with laughter, but Ron, still not daring to take his eyes from the game, said, “You tell him, Neville.”
“Longbottom, if brains were gold you’d be poorer than Weasley, and that’s saying something.”
Ron’s nerves were already stretched to the breaking point with anxiety about Harry.
“I’m warning you, Malfoy — one more word —”
“Ron!” said Hermione suddenly, “Al!”
Al had gone into a spectacular nose dive, everyone on edge as he shot to the ground like a bullet. A bullet that began to glow as he reached for the snitch.
“He's changing again!”
Sure enough, while it was Alastair who had reached for the snitch, it was Iliana who grabbed it.
“You’re in luck, Weasley, Potter’s obviously spotted some money on the ground!” said Malfoy.
Ron snapped. Before Malfoy knew what was happening, Ron was on top of him, wrestling him to the ground. Neville hesitated, then clambered over the back of his seat to help.
“Stop fighting, please! Iliana won! They won! Griffindor won!” cajoled Hermione.
Iliana jumped off her broom with relief, a foot from the ground. Despite having been in Al's form, despite the difficulty of trying to drive a body that wasn't hers at the time, they had managed it. In less than five minutes, no less. And they had another piece of the mystery of their transformations figured out; intense emotions seemed to be a trigger for their switches. Switches that were getting easier, and had less resting time between them.
“Well done,” said Dumbledore quietly, “glad to see you haven't been brooding over that mirror, been keeping busy. Excellent.”
Iliana left the locker room alone later with her broom, ecstatic to have won. But as she passed the shed, she saw Snape heading toward the Forbidden Forest.
What's he up to?
“No idea,” she said quietly aloud.
Getting back on her broom, she followed Snape without letting him see her, then flew over the forest looking for him. When she found him again, he was with Quirrell.
“… d-don’t know why you wanted t-t-to meet here of all p-places, Severus …”
“Oh, I thought we’d keep this private,” said Snape, his voice icy. “Students aren’t supposed to know about the Philosopher's Stone, after all.”
Iliana leaned forward. Quirrell was mumbling something. Snape interrupted him.
“Have you found out how to get past that beast of Hagrid’s yet?”
“B-b-but Severus, I —”
“You don’t want me as your enemy, Quirrell,” said Snape, taking a step toward him.
“I-I don’t know what you —”
“You know perfectly well what I mean.”
An owl hooted loudly, and Iliana nearly fell out of the tree. She steadied herself in time to hear Snape say, “— your little bit of hocus-pocus. I’m waiting.”
“B-but I d-d-don’t —”
“Very well,” Snape cut in. “We’ll have another little chat soon, when you’ve had time to think things over and decided where your loyalties lie.”
Snape stormed out of the clearing, and Iliana and the others felt their insides fill with cold dread.
When Iliana found Ron and Hermione, she pulled them into an empty room to tell them what she'd seen and overheard.
the stone then? Well that's confirmed at least,” Hermione said.
“Snape's using Quirrell to help him?” Ron said. “That's not good. That man has no spine, it'll be gone by the end of the week.”
“Well let's hope he's braver than he looks.”
Ron snorted. “And sounds. And acts.”
Quirrell must have been braver than they thought, though, because in the following weeks, Fluffy was still there guarding the stone, whenever they checked.
In the excitement of that conversation, it was a couple weeks before Iliana remembered to tell her friends that she thought powerful emotions were a trigger for their transformations.
“Well that makes sense,” Hermione said, thoughtful. “It's not wand magic, is it? It can't be, since it seems to be unprecedented. And wandless magic works best with intense emotions; fear, anger, grief, and the like.
They were in the library, having taken a momentary break from their studying for exams. Iliana was about to speak again when she spotted Hagrid in the library, looking furtive.
“Hagrid, what are you doing in the library?”
I imagine he's reading,
It's not like there's a buffet in the middle of the floor...
Ignoring his smart-ass commentary, Iliana looked expectedly at Hagrid.
“Jus' lookin,” he said shiftily, which got Ron's and Hermione's attention as well.
“You're not a very good liar, Hagrid,” Iliana whispered kindly.
“An what're you lot up ter?” he asked her suspiciously. “Not still lookin fer Nicolas Flamel, are yeh?”
“Oh we figured that out ages ago,” said Ron offhandedly. “And we wanted to know if Fluffy was guarding anything else besides the Philos--”
“SHHHH! Yeh lot en't supposed ter know bout tha. Yeh want me ter lose me job?”
“Of course not, Hagrid. We'll talk about it later, then.”
“Right, sure. In me hut, nice 'n private there. Well, see you lot later.”
“He was hiding something. Let's go see what he was looking at.”
Nodding, the three of them went to where he'd been.
“Dragons!” Ron whispered. “Hagrid was looking up stuff about dragons! Look at these: Dragon Species of Great Britain and Ireland; From Egg to Inferno, A Dragon Keeper’s Guide.”
“Hagrid’s always wanted a dragon, he told us so the first time I ever met him,” said Iliana, mixing her pronouns up.
“But it’s against our laws,” said Ron. “Dragon breeding was outlawed by the Warlocks’ Convention of 1709, everyone knows that. It’s hard to stop Muggles from noticing us if we’re keeping dragons in the back garden — anyway, you can’t tame dragons, it’s dangerous. You should see the burns Charlie’s got off wild ones in Romania.”
“But there aren’t wild dragons in Britain?” said Iliana, horrified.
“Of course there are,” said Ron. “Common Welsh Green and Hebridean Blacks. The Ministry of Magic has a job hushing them up, I can tell you. Our kind have to keep putting spells on Muggles who’ve spotted them, to make them forget.”
“So what on earth’s Hagrid up to?” said Hermione.
Later, they knocked on the door to Hagrid's hut, noticing that the curtains closed for some reason. When he let them in, the mystery deepened, as the inside of the hut was boiling hot. Iliana wilted into her seat, wishing she knew a spell to summon cool air. She barely noticed Hagrid making them tea and stoat sandwiches, and couldn't have had any with this heat even if Hagrid's cooking wasn't horrible.
Her mind so sleepy from the heat that she was like the living dead, Al decided to take over the body. He tried doing what she'd done during the last quidditch match, but found it too awkward. He couldn't exactly summon strong emotion at will either, so he just let her body lay there limp, while he took control of the speech center. It had to look odd, her just laying there and him talking with her voice, barely moving, but it worked, and that's what counted.
“We were wondering what's guarding the stone apart from Fluffy?” he said in a voice that sounded flat even to him; he tried to ignore the weirdness of hearing his words in Iliana's voice. Harder to ignore was the weird looks from Ron and Hermione.
“Can't tell yeh. Don't know meself, fer one. The stone was almost stolen outta Gringott's, I reckon yeh worked that much out. Dumbledore agreed to guard it. Beats me how yeh even know about Fluffy.”
“It might help if you'd actually, you know,
locked the door
keeping the giant monstrous mutt from everyone else. We accidentally went in running from Filch, barely got out with our lives.”
Hagrid turned white. “Blimey, I don't understan. It
locked, last I knew. Saw Dumbledore lock it meself.”
“We only wondered who had
the guarding, Hagrid,” Hermione interrupted. “We wondered who else Dumbledore trusted besides you to guard it.”
Heh, yeah; appeal to his pride; good one Hermione,
As predicted, Hagrid's chest swelled, and he beamed at them.
“Well, I don’ s’pose it could hurt ter tell yeh that … let’s see … he borrowed Fluffy from me … then some o’ the teachers did enchantments … Professor Sprout — Professor Flitwick — Professor McGonagall —” he ticked them off on his fingers, “Professor Quirrell — an’ Dumbledore himself did somethin’, o’ course. Hang on, I’ve forgotten someone. Oh yeah, Professor Snape.”
“Yeah — yer not still on abou’ that, are yeh? Look, Snape helped protect the Stone, he’s not about ter steal it.”
“Because teachers are
paragons of virtue and not human beings with flaws and foibles,” Al sneered with Iliana's face.
“Al? Is that you?” Ron asked.
“Yeah. Iliana doesn't like the heat. She's here, but not here at the same time. Anyway Hagrid,” he continued anxiously, “you're the only one who knows how to get past Fluffy, right? And you would never tell another soul as long as you live?”
“Not a soul knows except me an’ Dumbledore,” said Hagrid proudly.
“Well, that’s something,” Al muttered to the others. “Hagrid, can we have a window open? I’m boiling. Iliana is like a living corpse in this heat.”
“Can't, Al, sorry.” Hagrid said apologetically, glancing furtively at the fire. It took a lot of willpower, but Al managed to lift Iliana's head enough to look at it, too.
“Hagrid, what is that?” he asked, even though he already knew the answer. In the heart of the fire, under the kettle, was an enormous black egg.
“Oh yeah, that's, er...”
“Either you're making the world's largest hard boiled egg, or that's a dragon egg.”
“Yeah, yer right Al. Dragon egg.”
“Where did you get it, Hagrid?” said Ron, crouching over the fire to get a closer look at the egg. “It must’ve cost you a fortune.”
“Won it,” said Hagrid. “Las’ night. I was down in the village havin’ a few drinks an’ got into a game o’ cards with a stranger. Think he was quite glad ter get rid of it, ter be honest.”
“Well that's just a tad too convenient,” Al said scathingly. “Where'd
get it, the five and dime store?”
“But what are you going to do with it when it’s hatched?” said Hermione, as though Al hadn't spoken.
“Well, I’ve bin doin’ some readin’,” said Hagrid, pulling a large book from under his pillow. “Got this outta the library — Dragon Breeding for Pleasure and Profit — it’s a bit outta date, o’ course, but it’s all in here. Keep the egg in the fire, ’cause their mothers breathe on ’em, see, an’ when it hatches, feed it on a bucket o’ brandy mixed with chicken blood every half hour. An’ see here — how ter recognize diff’rent eggs — what I got there’s a Norwegian Ridge-back. They’re rare, them.”
He looked very pleased with himself, but Hermione didn’t.
“Hagrid, you live in a
,” she said.
“Not to mention they're illegal, you great lump,” Al added. “Do you
to go to prison?”
But Hagrid wasn’t listening. He was humming merrily as he stoked the fire.
So now they had something else to worry about: what might happen to Hagrid if anyone found out he was hiding an illegal dragon in his hut.
“Wonder what it’s like to have a peaceful life,” Ron sighed, as they fanned Iliana outside of Hagrid's hut, in the cooler air. She finally started to come around, Al gratefully giving her back the driver's seat. Still, she wobbled a lot on her way back, and was still feeling ill that evening, as they continued studying for exams.
Then one day at breakfast, they received an owl from Hagrid. The note attached said simply
“Honestly,” Al said, bypassing Iliana's control in his annoyance, “it's a bloody miracle the thing isn't already gone. What is Dumbledore thinking? Hagrid is well intentioned, but he's like a small child, overexcitable and doesn't keep secrets well. Might as well tell a parrot your secrets!”
“Hey Al,” Ron said in passing. “Anyway, Hermione, we should skip herbology and go down---”
“Shut it!” Al hissed angrily, annoying Iliana. “You two are almost as bad as Hagrid, airing your dirty laundry anywhere you--- oh Hell!”
With a glow of bright light, Iliana's body became Al's. “Well that's just peachy,” Al complained. “And here all I wanted was a nap, let Iliana drive. She's the better studier anyway. Hell, even Harry would be preferable.”
“Where's Harry been lately, anyway?”
“No idea. He talks, internally, sometimes. But mostly I think he just watches. He seems to prefer Iliana to me, though. He complains more when I'm out.”
I do not!
Thus proving my point.
“Oh Merlin's saggy testicles,” Al said, pointing at Draco with his head. The blond boy had stopped dead to listen.
And no doubt he heard just enough to know Hagrid is up to something. Which is literally the last thing we need right now. And for all your talk of being quiet, Al, you were the one who who spilled the beans.
I hate it when you're right, Harry.
Ron and Hermione gave Al significant looks. They'd seen Malfoy too.
His two friends continued arguing all through Herbology. He rolled his eyes at them, tempted to tell them to get a room, but deciding against it, given their ages. It was awkward enough looking like a fourth year in a class full of firsties without being creepy. Anyway, the two of them finally agreed to go down to Hagrid's during the morning break. As soon as Herbology was over, they practically ran to Hagrid's, Al checking behind them, paranoid that Malfoy would follow. They weren't exactly being inconspicuous, after all.
Al's suspicion turned out to be true, Malfoy was sneaking around. Al threw a few dozen hexes at Malfoy so fast that the blond boy could do nothing but run away in a zig-zag pattern. Despite being enemies, Al nodded at this behavior, impressed that Malfoy knew to do it. He made sure he saw Malfoy go inside before heading back to Hagrid's.
Hagrid greeted the three of them, flushed and excited. Al sat down, leaning back in his chair, his feet on the table, arms crossed. Hagrid paused to look at him, a strange mix of emotions crossing his face.
“Take a photo, it lasts longer,” Al said, and Hagrid turned away.
The egg was lying on the table. There were deep cracks in it. Something was moving inside; a funny clicking noise was coming from it. Taking this as an ominous sign, Al changed position so he was sitting with the chair turned.
The others drew their chairs up to the table, and everyone watched with bated breath.
All at once there was a scraping noise and the egg split open. The baby dragon flopped onto the table. It wasn’t exactly pretty; Al thought it looked like a crumpled, black umbrella. Its spiny wings were huge compared to its skinny jet body, it had a long snout with wide nostrils, the stubs of horns and bulging, orange eyes.
It sneezed. A couple of sparks flew out of its snout.
“Isn’t he beautiful?” Hagrid murmured. He reached out a hand to stroke the dragon’s head. It snapped at his fingers, showing pointed fangs.
“How d'ya know it's a he, Hagrid?” Al asked casually. “It's a fire-breathing lizard, they don't have their junk hanging out like mammals do; you have to be a herpetologist to know how to sex them. Could be a girl for all you know.”
Hagrid shrugged. “He feels like a 'he' ter me.”
“Bless him, look, he knows his mommy!” said Hagrid.
“Never figured you for a pouf, Hagrid,” Al said. “Not that I'm judging, mind you. It's your life, love who you want.”
Ignoring Al's running commentary, Hermione asked, “how fast do Norwegian Ridgebacks grow, exactly?”
Hagrid was about to answer, when his face turned white and leapt for the window. Al jumped up behind him, both of them looking out the window to see a blond boy running away.
“Sneaky little maggot, that one,” commented Al on his way out the door. “Hold up, I gotta go crush a bug.”
He shot a bunch of hexes at Malfoy, and despite Malfoy's zig-zagging, managed to hit the Slytherin. Malfoy fell, and Al kept throwing hexes at him.
“Al, STOP! He's down already!”
Al shrugged, then blew on his wand tip like it was a smoking gun. “Just making sure he stays that way for the foreseeable future.” He eyed his handiwork, nudging the blond boy with a toe. “Oh yeah, he'll be in the hospital wing for a few days like this. Wish I knew the memory modification spell. Alas and alack, I do not.”
With a swish and a flick, Al levitated Malfoy and took him toward the castle.
“Where're you going, Al?” Ron asked. “You'll get in trouble!”
“Eh, whatever. Gonna get in trouble either way, I might as well get it over with quicker. You watch Hagrid, make sure his house doesn't catch fire or something. I'll catch you two later.”
Al was surprised when all he got for hexing Malfoy was 10 points off Griffindor and a single detention with McGonagall writing lines. He'd kind of been expecting more. He suspected that his act of bringing Malfoy to the hospital wing had earned him some mercy. Little did they know, however, that when Malfoy was awake, Al promised him that if he told on Hagrid, “They'll have to put you in St. Mungo's for a month just to figure out who you are.” He had gotten quite a chuckle thinking about the sickly pallor Malfoy's already pale skin had turned at that proclamation.
The next time they went to Hagrid's a week later, it had tripled in size and had begun learning how to breathe fire, though it wasn't very good yet, thankfully. The dragon, now named Norbert, was difficult to work with even on its cooperative days, and a menace on its bad days.
Al twirled his wand in his hand, looking irritably at Hagrid. “You know that thing's gonna be bigger than your house soon, right? I don't think Malfoy will dare tell anyone, but he's not big on brains, so who knows. Anyway, you can't keep that thing secret for much longer, Hagrid.”
Hagrid looked sad. “I know I can't keep him forever, but I can't just dump him. He's so little. Fer a dragon,” Hagrid amended when Al raised an eyebrow at him.
Al looked at Ron, a thoughtful expression on his face. “Your brother Charlie, you said he works with dragons in Romania, right?”
“Oh! Yeah, that's right. Can't believe I didn't think of it myself, mate.”
“Ron, you should send Charlie an owl, asking him if he'd take Norbert.” After a moment's thoughtful pause, he continued, “And tell him to say 'I got the chocolates you sent,' if the answer is yes, and 'I ate 11 of them in an hour,' or whatever other number... you know what,” Al said, seeing the bewildered look on Ron's face, “I'll write it, you sign it or something and then send it off. The point is, we don't want anyone intercepting the mail to know what's going on.”
It took a couple days working together for Ron and Al to come up with a letter to Charlie that satisfied Al, and this is what they wrote:
Hi, this is Ron. Have you heard about Harry Potter? He and I are friends. Or rather, THEY and I are friends. Harry turned out to have a bunch of other people sharing his body with him, is that weird or what?
Anyway, we have a bit of a problem here. I'm gonna hand it over to Alastair Potter, one of the others in Harry's body, to explain:
Hey. Al here. So someone we know here got a little too excited for Easter and now his Easter present (from Norway) is smoking in his house. Of course, smoking on the grounds is against the rules, has been for a long time. We don't want him to get in trouble, so can you and your mates come take care of the problem? It's a long tale, don't want to get into it, especially since Draco is involved. I hope you get what I'm saying here, because I don't trust certain people to not catch onto this plan. If you understand what I'm getting at, just send an owl back saying “I got the chocolates you sent me,” and then how many you ate is the time. Raspberry cremes is AM, Cockroach cluster is PM. If you don't understand, maybe you could come over here and floo us? Anyway, thanks for listening, either way.
“I dunno mate, that might be too hard to figure out.”
Al shrugged. “If it is, then I'll try again.”
After a few days, they were at breakfast when Hedwig came soaring in with Charlie’s letter. Al took it from her, gave her some bacon, and read it.
Thanks for the letter. Norwegian Easter egg, huh? I hear the ridge where they make that has a recipe going back centuries. Unusual to see one in the UK, of course. I wish your friend luck with that.
Anyway, thanks for the chocolates you sent me, too. We have something like a castle here, too, and I ate 12 raspberry cremes at the northernmost tower last Saturday. I may have to do that again this Saturday too. I think I'll invite several of my friends. I need to get them an Easter present too.
Well it's been good hearing from you. Later Ron, Al.
“Ha! He got it. Well that's a load off,” Al said, lighting the letter on fire just in case.
“Does that mean--”
“Later, Ron. Too many eavesdroppers here.”
Ron kept bugging Al every few minutes about the letter, Al even threatening to turn his hair into seaweed if he didn't shut it, before finally they got to Charms. Under cover of everyone practicing their Charms work, Al finally spoke.
“Yes, it obviously means this Saturday at midnight,” he whispered at his friend. “I figured that out. Top of North Tower, too. Well that would be harder if not for the Invisibility Cloak.” He then repeated the information, more politely, to Hermione.
By the end of class, though, Al was getting irritable with everyone. “I don't like looking 14 and being in this class of 11 year olds. It's embarrassing and weird. I'll catch you lot later.”
A glow of light later, and Iliana was sitting there in his place. This was getting so common, hardly anyone even looked at them when it happened, and Iliana went right back to work as though nothing had happened.
“You know,” Ron said later after Potions class, “It's weird, but when you're Al or Harry, Snape is extra horrible, more so when it's Al than Harry. In fact, he looks downright murderous when it's Al; but whenever you're, well, you, Iliana, he gets quiet, grimaces like he's drunk poison, and stalks off, abnormally quiet for the rest of the class. And then there's how he reacted that first time... that was weird.”
“Not really. Remember, he knew my mother. I don't know the nature of their relationship, if she knew him in turn, but he knew her. And fancied her, apparently.”
“Oh. I keep forgetting about that. Snape fancying someone is just... odd. Strange to think about. Still, I wonder why he hates Al and Harry so much?”
The next day, though, Ron got a nasty bite off the dragon. He tried to ignore it, but there seemed to be some poison in the bite, making it green and swollen. He had to go to the hospital, lying about what had bit him, and Madam Pomfrey didn't seem to believe him, but didn't make an issue of it. Malfoy was still in the hospital wing, looking ill but better. He kept giving Ron a hard time, sure that he knew what really bit him. Iliana went with Ron, glaring at Malfoy and letting Al drive long enough to give the blond a menacing grin and wink. The effect was somewhat muted coming from Iliana's face, but Malfoy appeared to get the message nonetheless.
When Saturday came around, Ron's hand was still too bad to help, so Iliana and Hermione went down to Hagrid's by themselves. It took a while to get Norbert in the crate and get away from Hagrid, who just had to stay behind to say goodbye and weep over the monstrous baby dragon before finally letting it go. Any later, and they might not have gotten to the top of the tower in time. Luckily, Al had done some research and found a spell to help.
“Locomotor crate,” Iliana incanted, the crate lifting up and floating ahead of them as they went back to the castle under the invisibility cloak. Between the noisy dragon and the fact they were still solid, it was tricky even then to get it up there. Al was on constant alert for Peeves, Filch, Mrs. Norris, or one of the teachers, his paranoia making the process of moving Iliana's version of the body easier, though it irritated her a little. Several times they had close calls, but at last they made it to the top of North Tower, and waited, Al holding onto the Invisibility Cloak like his life depended on it.
At last, though, Charlie and his friends came swooping down on brooms. How they'd gotten past the wards to do so was a question bothering Al, but he didn't waste time asking. They helped strap Norbert into the lift that Charlie’s lot had prepared, and before long Norbert was going, going, gone.
“Quick, get the cloak on,” he commanded with Iliana's voice. “No point taking chances. We're not out of the woods yet.”
Taking her cue from Al, the two girls got the cloak on and began to creep down the stairs, Al still on the paranoid lookout for trouble. All was going well, until he felt spasms through the shared body and fell down in pain, clutching his head.
“Get going! Leave me! I'll just slow you down.”
“What's going on?”
“I don't know, but GO.”
The body glowed again, and with the bright light they heard a familiar meow. Abandoning her friend, she took off under the cloak back to the common room, hoping Harry/Al/Iliana was okay.
Mrs. Norris approached the glowing Harry, meowing louder. The prone form looked up at her with a glare and red glowing eyes, hissing at her like a snake. The cat jumped back, her ears plastered to her head, and yowled. But he stopped glowing, and Harry was laying there on the ground, looking perfectly normal.
When he finally started to open his eyes, he saw Filch and Professor McGonagall staring down at him with twin glares.
“Fifty points from Griffindor and a detention in the Forbidden Forest?” Ron said, aghast, when an exhausted-looking Harry told him about it the next day.
“Never mind that, Ron,” Hermione said. “What happened last night? Did you just change? If so, why did it hurt you so much?”
“I... I honestly don't know. I felt the pain in my scar, first, like that one time with Snape. Then that seemed to trigger the change. I remember hissing at Mrs. Norris, which scared her, but I don't know why I did it. I... I think there may be another person in there I didn't know about. I hope not, but it's the only explanation I can think of. Though why my scar hurt, I have no idea.”
He thought about it some more. “I sensed a presence, just before my scar hurt. At the time I thought it was just Al's paranoia, but now I'm not so sure.”
Ron and Hermione shared a concerned glance.
“What's worse,” Harry added, “is that whatever happened drained our reserves. I can barely feel the others, I doubt we'll be able to change any time soon. May be a few days.”
He wasn't wrong. Later in the week, Wood was very frustrated when Harry was still Harry, needing Iliana to practice for Quidditch. But no amount of yelling at him made him change into any of them.
The draining of the reserves left Harry an exhausted wreck the whole week, too. He slept fitfully, too, which didn't help matters; dreams about red-eyed monsters haunted his nights. He was barely functioning in classes, needing Hermione's help to get through his schoolwork.
When he overheard Quirrell tearfully begging to be left alone, he sighed heavily, as though the mystery of the Stone was just a chore, but listened anyway. He later related the tale in an almost bored tone to his friends. This behavior seemed to be the final straw; Hermione demanded he go up to the hospital wing and tell Madam Pomfrey what was wrong. Sighing, he dragged himself up there and did as she told him. Very soon, she was insisting he stay overnight, making him drink some Dreamless Sleep. He had his first restful night's sleep of the week, and woke up refreshed.
His good mood was not to last, though; McGonagall stopped by with a note for him, informing him that his detention would be at 11 o'clock that night, and he was to meet Filch at the entrance hall.
Punishing us for going out at night and endangering ourselves by making us go out at night endangering ourselves, Alastair said, sounding stronger than he'd sounded in a week. How these people have managed to not get their pants sued off them, I shall never know.
Uh huh, Harry replied apathetically.
Come to Hogwarts, they said. You'll have fun, they said. Nothing dangerous here! Just a deadly mysterious forest, a three headed dog guarding an immortality stone, a lake monster, and goodness only know what the Hell else they have in this place. Honestly, the standards at this school make me wonder what Stonewall High would've been like.
Ignoring Al, Harry went about his day, feeling better but still not great. He had an even harder time that day with concentrating, given Al's running diatribe against the school, which he was ignoring because it would take too much effort to tell Al off, and wouldn't do any good anyway.
And mysterious Presences in the halls at night, setting off god-knows-what in our heads. Nightmares, haven't slept well in a week. Are there any other schools of magic we can go to? I don't know if I like this place anymore.
Shut up, Al. I know you're just scared.
Damn right I'm scared. It's bad enough we have this dangerous Forbidden Forest, but sending kids out there at night for a detention? I think I'd prefer Filch's thumbscrews.
Harry put his head in his hands and sighed loudly.
“Worried about your detention, mate?”
“Well, Al is. And he won't shut up about it.”
Why us, anyway? Why has Fate decided to pull down its pants and take a massive crap on US? What did we do to deserve--
“AHHHH!!!” Harry roared, frustrated.
I just want to retreat right now, let you take over.
Wish I could. Not enough energy.
I know. He sighed again.
At eleven that night, Harry went down to his detention. On the way there, he finally identified one of the sources of his discomfort as missing having Iliana's form. He'd gotten so used to being Iliana that it was weird to him now when he wasn't her. His own body felt... wrong somehow. But then he saw Filch, and that thought left his mind as dread of the coming detention came instead.
Harry barely listened as Filch ranted about the punishment he'd like to be giving Harry as they went to the forest. He wasn't paying attention to Al, either, or he might have caught Al's mood in time to stop him speaking.
“Why do you even work here if you hate this place so much? Do you even know how to do magic? Why do they employ you if you're a squib? Not that I care you're a squib, I just think maybe you'd be happier doing something else.”
Filch turned white and jerked his head around to face Harry. “How did you... Who told...?”
“I figured it out,” Al continued, using Harry's voice, Harry too weak to stop him. “It's not exactly difficult. Never seen a wand on you, never seen you use magic except for purchased potions. Gods, you must loathe this place. So why are you even here?”
“Never you mind. We're almost there.”
Harry blinked. He'd been expecting to be screamed at by an enraged Filch, but instead the man just went quiet, like he was scared to talk with Harry. Counting their lucky stars, neither he nor Al spoke again, until...
“Hagrid? We're having our detention with you?”
“Don't get too excited, boy,” Filch said, with less than his usual enthusiasm. “You're still going into the Forest. Hard work and pain, that's what you're in for. Think on this next time you consider breaking the rules again, boy.”
Still, his heart did lift. It wouldn't be pleasant, but with Hagrid it wouldn't be too bad. Or so he thought, until he found out what they were doing. Apparently, a unicorn had been hurt and was bleeding. Something had been killing unicorns, and Hagrid didn't know what was doing it.
“Oh hey, great!” Al said in Harry's voice, “Just lovely. Something that can run faster than a human, some unknown monster is killing them, and WE get to march in there and find it and stop it. Oh frabjuous day, caloo calay! What bloody FUN we're gonna have, being in mortal peril together, Hagrid! We should do this EVERY weekend. Invite Hermione and Ron along, too! Hell, invite the whole school along! Make a holiday of it!”
“Tha's enough cheek outta yeh, Alastair. This is wha's been decided, an we're gonna do it. No amount of bellyachin's gonna change tha.”
“Fine, whatever. Let's get this over with.”
“Besides which, yeh'll be with me, and ain't nothin in the forest that'll hurt you if yer with me or Fang.”
“Yeah, except that you don't know what's doing it, so that kind of suggests they're not from around these parts.”
Hagrid picked up a massive crossbow, armed it. Al resisted the urge to comment on how reassuring that wasn't, and followed Hagrid into the Forest, his wand out, his paranoia so strong that even he hadn't noticed Harry was no longer driving the body, even though they hadn't transformed. Fang the boarhound followed along, glancing at Al-Harry every now and then with concern in its doggy eyes.
“Damn it,” he muttered after a few minutes of jumping at every small noise. “Should've been in Slytherin. I'm no brave Griffindor.”
“Why would yeh want ter be in ruddy Slytherin?”
“I fit the traits. Clever, prideful, ambitious. I think my paranoia even fits. And maybe I could've made a difference, reached out to the other Slytherins, changed some minds. I doubt that'll work now.”
“Yeh're not pureblood.”
“You said yourself, nobody is these days. And being a Potter, I'm sure Slytherin house would've been thrilled to have me. Especially being Harry Potter.”
“Yeah, well... anyway, yeh should concentrate on bein quiet, Al. Not safe out 'ere.”
“Yes. And you can bet I will be lodging a formal complaint about this, if I survive.”
“Don't talk like that, Al; yeh'll survive fine. Now hush, and pay attention.”
A sudden noise startled Al again, and he almost fired at it, but it was just a centaur. He gaped at it in awe, having never seen one before. From the waist on up, a man, attached to a horse's body where the head would normally be. Looking at the naked torso of the centaur, he felt... certain feelings... from Iliana, and blushed.
Hagrid had a frustrating conversation with the centaurs, trying to get them to tell him if they'd seen anything unusual in the forest, but if they knew anything, they weren't talking about it; they just kept referring to how bright Mars was, as though that was some kind of answer.
Finally, Hagrid gave up and dragged Fang and Al/Harry on down the path to continue the search for the unicorn. The further they went from the comforting presence of the centaurs, the more scared Al got. Again, he kept jumping at every little noise. At one point, he even shouted.
“I ent gonna tell yeh again, Al, be quiet like, okay?”
Al nodded, and forced himself to calm down. It wasn't easy, but if he viewed the situation as being in a first-person shooter video game, it helped. Several minutes he concentrated on calming himself down, telling himself that what they needed was calm analysis of the situation; keep a level head in the face of danger, that was the best bet to get out alive and in one piece.
As he calmed down a bit, he was able to enjoy the smell of the fresh, tree-scented air. This, combined with the night-time noises from animals and the feel of the forest loam under his feet, lulled him into some kind of trance, which in turn triggered something in him. He froze, Hagrid not noticing because he was still checking on the unicorn blood. He fell to his knees, which alerted Hagrid, and felt his body go rigid.
“Harry? Al? Wha's tha matter?”
His body glowed, temporarily blinding Hagrid in the dark. When he could see again, Harry looked like Harry still, no apparent changes in form, though his body language was utterly transformed. No longer was he the nervous, tense Al, jumping at everything. Nor was he a wary but calm Al. He was standing up, alert but relaxed, his wand put away. The boy's head jerked around like a bird's from here to there, and something in his stance spoke of an animal, rather than a person. He was also sniffing the air like Fang, only more obviously.
“Er... wha's goin on, Harry? Wha---”
With no warning, Harry shot off like a bolt into the woods, going off the trail.
“Harry! Don't go orf-- damn.”
It was incredible. The fear had left him. Thought, or at least normal thought, had left him. He ran through the dark woods, some invisible force field ahead of him keeping obstacles like tree branches and twigs from snagging his robes. And he could see where he was going, as though the whole forest were lit with a mild twilight, rather than being dark and foreboding. And the unicorn blood, he could smell it. It smelled both delicious and dangerous at the same time; he did not stop to taste it. Instead, he tracked the animal. He could sense the dying animal's presence now, it wasn't far.
As he ran, his limbs thrilled with the movement. He was running faster than a human normally could, and not getting tired, as though he'd lived his whole life in the forest; running felt as easy to him now as walking did, if not easier. His heart pounding in his ears sounded like the most beautiful music to him, the music of life itself.
He came to a complete stop with supernatural speed and ease, looking at the now dead unicorn, and the dark, hooded creature atop it, drinking its blood from a gash in its body. Without words, without even images, he knew that what the creature was doing was an abomination. As delicious as the unicorn blood smelled, for some reason drinking it was more dangerous than drinking the most deadly poisons.
His lip curled, his teeth bared. This creature was dangerous. It cared not how dangerous drinking unicorn blood was; that alone would be enough, but there was more. There was malevolence in this thing, a malevolence that no normal creature could or would ever project.
Yet despite this, when it turned to look at him, he felt no fear. Only rage, a deep rage he couldn't have traced the source of even if he'd been capable of higher thought just then. He growled at it, the sound starting low and then getting louder than the human vocal cords were normally capable of. Light reflecting off the nearby underbrush told him his eyes were glowing red again.
The hooded creature cocked its head, curious and unafraid. His threat being ignored, he growled louder, turning it into an almost-roar. When the creature continued to ignore him, he stamped his foot angrily and gave a full roar; a roar that sounded like it came from a dragon; any nearby animals that hadn't already taken off suddenly departed.
Now THAT had an effect. The hooded creature jumped back, startled. He roared at it again, but the thing seemed to have decided he was all bluff and bluster, and started to advance. A pain erupted in the scar on his head, which only served to further enrage him. He leapt at the creature, and it jumped back. Though in the same instant he realized it was because a centaur had jumped over him, threatening the creature with bow and arrow, making it slither off like some weird levitating snake wearing a cloak.
He growled loudly at the intruder, displeased that anyone would be insolent enough to interrupt
battle, to get between him and his enemy.
“Harry Potter, please calm down. I mean you no harm.”
“Oh Firenze, you found 'im. Thank goodness fer that.”
“He appears to be wild, like an animal. He growled at me, and roared earlier.”
“Yeh, I heard. Reckon they heard it all the way down at the school. Be surprised if they dinnit, ter be honest.”
He relaxed. This big man was familiar to him; he smelled of family. And any friend of the big man was someone he could tolerate. He changed his whole posture, standing down. As he did so, the feelings that had anchored him to this state left. He glowed again, and felt thought return. She opened her eyes, and found she was Iliana, now.
“What the... where? Huh?” she said, confused. Then, as she hooked into the collective memory again, “Oh. Well, that was... interesting.”
“We should get out of here, Ms. Potter,” Firenze said. “It will be faster if you climb on my back.”
“Er, are... are you sure?” she asked, her cheeks turning red.
“Yes, now hurry.”
“Burdened with your crossbow and your dog, Hagrid. It is fine.”
Iliana struggled at first to get up onto the centaur's back, since Firenze had no saddle or reigns, but Hagrid helped her up, and soon enough she was clutching him around his abdomen as they trotted quickly through the forest, Hagrid struggling – despite his size – to keep up.
“What was that thing back there, anyway?” she asked the centaur. “Whoever was in charge of the body at the time wasn't scared of it, just... well... enraged. But it
scary, whatever it was.”
Firenze didn't answer at first. He took so long in answering, in fact, that she almost forgot she'd asked a question.
“Do you know what is hidden in the school at this very moment, Ms. Potter?”
“Yes; the Philosopher's Stone. What does that have to do with that thing? I mean, it was drinking unicorn blood, whatever it was.”
“It is a terrible crime to slay a unicorn. They are so pure, and innocent, that though drinking its blood will keep you alive even if you are an inch from death, the life you live from that point on will be a cursed life, a half life. Can you think of noone who would choose such a life? Noone who would cling so desperately to life at any cost?”
She narrowed her eyes in thought. “Do you mean... was that Vol--”
“Firenze!” one of the other centaurs, the one called Bane, called out. “What are you doing? You have a human on your back! Have you no shame? Are you a common mule?”
“Do you not recognize the Potter child? The chorus that sings the song against evil? The quicker they leave the forest, the better.”
“What have you been telling them? We have sworn not to set ourselves against the portents of the heavens!”
Oh great, dissension among the ranks. And us caught in the middle.
Hagrid finally caught up, breaking up the fight at last by grabbing Iliana and marching her out of the forest over his shoulder like she was a doll. Given that his crossbow was strapped to his back and a little too close for comfort, this did not please them. But they were close enough now that he put her down outside the forest and walked with her up to the castle, determined to guard her all the way inside.
When she got back, she told Ron and Hermione everything that had happened, though it was hard because there were lots of eavesdroppers around, lots of people having heard the dragonish roars from the Forest. It took a lot of finesse to convince them to scram, and only when it was just the three of them did she finish her story. Which, naturally, got them into a conversation full of fear about Voldemort.
That night, she had a hard time getting to sleep, thoughts of Voldemort worrying her. The Stone; Snape was trying to get the Philosopher's Stone for Voldemort. That evil git, immortal? Well, more immortal than he already seemed to be, anyway. Not a comforting thought at all. She fully expected to have nightmares that night. She was surprised, later, to find the only dreams she remembered were dreams about how amazing it had felt to be... well... whatever that animal-like Other had been, as he ran through the forest in their dreams.
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