A piece of popcorn hit Draco on the side of the head. He whipped his head around and glared at Hermione, Neville, and Blaise Zabini in turn, but all three supported perfectly innocent expressions. Looking to the other side of the table for support, he was confronted by the barely suppressed laughter of Harry, Parvati and Padma Patil, and Hannah Abbott.
“Obviously studying for long periods of time is beyond the reaches of your juvenile attention spans. Very well, I’ll just leave, and then see how you do on the potions test on Friday!” He made as if to leave, putting books in his bag, when a stream of popcorn assaulted the back of his head. He drew his wand and turned, but nobody was there. Snarling, he turned back towards the table, and grabbing one of the bins of popcorn, used his wand to project handfuls of it towards the faces of everyone there.
Hermione stopped smiling and stood, glaring at him with popcorn caught in her hair and framing her face. Harry had caught most of the popcorn in his mouth and swallowed it before smirking at the blond Slytherin. Around the table there were reactions ranging from amused to murderous, but Draco wasn’t scared until he glanced at Parvati. There was a retaliatory glint in her eye and she was standing with her wand at the ready. He gulped. Hermione caught her eye and quickly cast a shield over the table containing their books and papers. Pavarti raised her wand and Draco vanished underneath a pile of conjured popcorn. Blaise looked torn between laughter and indignation on behalf of his housemate, but in any case, shot popcorn from his wand toward the Patil twins.
The situation progressed downhill from there. Almost fifteen minutes later the door to the abandoned classroom burst open. Snape and McGonnagall stared in shock. A shower of popcorn from above snapped them out of it.
“What in Merlin’s name is going on here?” McGonnagall demanded. Harry waded out from behind a desk, covered in popcorn. The room was a sea of yellow.
“We’re studying professor.” He maintained a perfectly straight face and looked at her innocently. A giggle sounded from somewhere behind a particularly high pile. McGonnagall pursed her lips and with a swish of her wand the popcorn all vanished. The others all came forward from their hiding places and “fortresses”. Snape raised an eyebrow at the sight of his two Slytherins.
“Studying Potter?” he drawled. Harry was about to reply when, to his surprise, Draco spoke up.
“Of course, professor. We were practicing conjuring and shield spells. With due respect, ma’am, we were going to also practice various vanishing spells.” She just stared at him, again in shock. Snape actually smirked, and decided to give them a shock of their own.
“Expelliarmus! Accio wands!” He held eight wands in his left hand, and with a flick of his own, all the popcorn reappeared. McGonnagall glanced at him sharply. Snape waved his wand again and eight brooms and dustpan appeared, along with many big black trash bags. “I believe a bit of Muggle Studies would round out the meeting a bit, wouldn’t you say? You may have your wands back when the room sparkles.” The teens groaned, and he smirked. McGonnagall said nothing, just nodded to the other professor and left the room. Snape followed her, robes billowing. Well that sucks, thought Harry, grabbing a broom and setting to work.
Potter was spending time voluntarily with Slytherins and Draco was trying to get other people, people from other houses, out of trouble. Snape shook his head, wondering when the world had turned upside-down. He sat in his armchair staring into the fire, and allowed his mind to wander down a path that had long been blocked off.
He cast a scourgify at his foot to get rid of whatever he had stepped in, muttering curses and insults about the marauders under his breath. Suddenly a stream of water hit his leg and foot, leaving him dripping wet. He looked up to glare at Lily.
“What was that for?”
“I thought I’d help you get clean.” He narrowed his eyes.
“Aguamenti!” Lily sputtered and gasped as she was soaked head to toe with water. Severus smirked.
“Oh, not nice Severus!” She put her hands on her hips. “And here I was just trying to be helpful…” She sighed dramatically.
“Yes Snape, dreadfully unfair,” a new voice chimed in. Severus glared at the new arrival. Even though his rivalry with the Marauders had cooled and become almost friendly, he still didn’t like Sirius Black.
“Well, Sirius, Lils did cast first.” James pulled off his invisibility cloak, appearing next to Black.
“Ugh, traitor!” Black stepped away from him and shot water from his wand until his best friend was as soaked as Lily. Lily and Sirius teamed up against Severus and James and the water fight lasted over an hour and progressed though three floors before Professor Dumbledore appeared. His eyes twinkled madly as he dried them all with a wave of his wand.
“I followed a trail of puddles up from the second floor, but I admit I thought Peeves to be the cause. May I suggest that you clean up behind you next time? Oh, and Ms. Evans, an exemplary job on your transfiguration mid-term exam. The best I’ve seen in years… Good day…” He smiled and nodded at each of them before disappearing around a corner.
“Off his rocker…” Black shook his head. “Totally and completely mad.” Severus had to agree with him.
“He’s brilliant though. Oh Sev, did you hear what he said about my exam?!” He grinned at her and gave her a one-armed hug.
“And to think you were worried. Didn’t I tell you that your test would set a new standard? Now mine will be pathetic in comparison.” He bent down and kissed her.
“Ewww… My eyes, they burn…” Potter shielded his face with his hand, and Black made retching sounds. Both smirking, Lily and Severus turned towards each other again, this kiss lasting longer, until Black and Potter fled the corridor.
Those were happier times, when the adults worried about the Dark Lord and Hogwarts was a safe haven. By the end of that year, Lily’s parents would be dead and Black’s brother would be a Death Eater. Two years after that, Lily Evans would marry James Potter, and Severus himself would have taken the mark. Another year after that, Lily would die, and her son would defeat the most feared wizard in the world. Why did everything go so wrong?
“How goes your project?” Harry nodded towards the potion simmering on the other side of the room.
“I think we can test it next week.” Hermione smiled at him from the notes in her hand. She bit her bottom lip. “Harry, do you think we should really do this now? Are we prepared enough? I mean, this is dangerous, and illegal and…”
“When has that ever stopped us?” He grinned at her. “C’mon Maya. You know you’re dying to see what your animagus is.”
“I’m kinda hoping it isn’t an otter. I mean, I like otters, and I know that’s what my patronus is, but what can you do with an otter animagus? I guess I could probably swim well, but still…” She bit her lip again.
“You know patroni and animagi forms are only the same about half the time. Relax. If you’re an otter, you’ll probably love it and you’ll be the best, smartest, prettiest otter the world has ever seen. Personally, I’m hoping for a magical animagus, but I wouldn’t be too put out by a panther… Ok, who’s going first?” The couches and table disappeared, leaving an open space for them to attempt a transformation.
“You.” Hermione looked nervous as she handed him a small silver knife, a black quill, a glass bowl, and a piece of parchment, before retreating to a safe distance.
Harry smiled reassuringly as he sat cross-legged on the floor. He used the knife to make a shallow cut in his palm, and let the blood drip into the bowl as Hermione averted her eyes. He dipped the quill into his blood and wrote the four runes he had memorized earlier on the parchment. Closing his eyes, he placed his bleeding hand on top of the symbols.
His world was nothing but sky, forever in all directions. He could see thunder clouds in the distance, and he could feel the wind holding him up. Focusing on that feeling, he willed himself to change.
“Oh…” Hermione breathed. Harry opened his eyes and looked at her. He was very short, he noted, somewhat disappointed. Then he noticed his wings. He leapt to the air and soared about the room as if he had been born a bird, while Hermione watched in awe. He sang an experimental note and was surprised to find that he sounded a little like Fawkes. Spiraling down, he landed on Hermione’s shoulder, and cocked his head to the side in question. “Harry, I think… But they’re a myth, even to wizards… I’m probably wrong, but… I think you… you might be a phoenix. A wind phoenix. I’ve read about them, but there aren’t any detailed accounts, just children’s stories… There were elemental birds, phoenixes, but the only ones anyone’s ever seen are fire phoenixes. We need to find more information on this. Just, oh… wow.”
Harry was shocked. He had seen references to phoenixes of other elements, but had dismissed them as fiction. Hermione conjured a mirror for him to see what he looked like. He was about the size of a hawk, with iridescent feathers that changed from green to silver to purple when he moved. His tail was at least two feet long and at the end seemed slightly insubstantial, as if it faded into the air itself. He still had the same emerald green eyes, and a black beak. Not bad at all, he thought, chuckling to himself. And definitely unexpected.
He flew to the ground and focused on leaving the sky and changing back. Practice in meditation made this a simple matter for him. If only keeping Snape out of my head were this easy. He opened his eyes and looked at Hermione. She was staring at him, eyes wide. Did I not change back? He looked down to see that he was, indeed, human again.
“Umm… Harry? You should probably look in the mirror.” Confused, he turned towards the mirror, and froze.
Albus Dumbledore stood by the window, looking out over the grounds. It looked so peaceful: the bare trees with a sprinkling of snow, the frost covered ground, the smooth, deep blue lake, and Hagrid’s hut with a tendril of smoke rising from the chimney. He knew Hogwarts must look like a muggle postcard. Unfortunately, the lives of those within her walls weren’t nearly so peaceful. His thoughts turned again to the two people who worried him the most.
Harry Potter was coping with his godfather’s death almost too well, and Albus knew he must be hiding and containing his grief. All he could hope was that the boy would confide in Miss Granger. She was the best friend Harry could hope for, and they complimented each other marvelously. It was a shame that their friendship with the youngest Weasley boy seemed to be strained. On the other hand, he was thrilled that they seemed to be breaking down the barriers between houses and extending their group to include Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini. Those Slytherin boys had worried the headmaster too, and he knew he was helpless to turn them from their darkening paths. But perhaps Harry Potter would succeed where he could only fail.
He couldn’t help but reflect on one of his greatest failures whenever he thought of Lily Potter’s son. Lily Potter. Albus had always thought that she would be Lily Snape, but his actions changed that. How alike Harry and Severus were! They were both intelligent, brave, fiercely independent, and continually defied expectations. He remembered when Lily and Severus had begun dating, at the beginning of their seventh year, and how surprised he was when he found out. They were an unlikely pair, but like Harry and Hermione, they each had in excess what the other lacked. But it had all ended in disaster because of his own selfishness and Severus’ stubbornness. Oh I’m far too old for this. Old men should not be allowed to play chess with others’ lives, let alone forced to in order to stop a sadistic megalomaniac.
Fawkes trilled a comforting melody, as a tear ran down Dumbledore’s face before getting lost in his beard. He scolded himself mentally. It seemed he was crying more and more often lately. Ah, if only Harry and Severus would recognize their similarities and see past their prejudices, they would actually be good for each other. He was afraid he wouldn’t be able to help either of them for very much longer. With Rufus Scrimgeour as Minister of Magic trying to cement his position, Dumbledore’s job was in jeopardy. Scrimgeour wanted to put his own men into key positions, and Hogwarts headmaster was one of them. As he looked over the grounds his heart ached for those he would have to leave behind.
Hermione was frantically scanning a book of glamour charms, and glancing up at Harry every couple minutes. He had a book of appearance-altering potions open on his lap, but he was staring into space, and hadn’t turned a page for half an hour. He looked normal again, having cast a glamour before they left the Room of Requirement, but Hermione couldn’t shake the image of a very different Harry Potter who had appeared after his animagus transformation. She hadn’t even attempted to change into her animal form, just dragged Harry with her straight to the library. All thoughts of his incredible animagus form had fled. Now she was looking for anything that would explain a drastic change in appearance. Suddenly Harry spoke.
“I’ve been maintaining a glamour all year. I haven’t been sleeping, and I didn’t want to worry you. It must have vanished when I transformed back into human form."
“But Harry, that would mean…” She trailed off, looking at him intently.
“Yup. That was what I really look like. Like…” He shuddered.
“Then why would you have looked like Ja… like you did… for the past 16 years? It doesn’t make sense.” She frowned and bit her bottom lip. “And why would it change now?”
“I don’t know Maya. All I can think is that someone wanted to make sure everyone could see how much I looked like my father. Like… to make everyone positively sure he was my father. But that doesn’t make sense unless he wasn’t. And back there… I didn’t look like James Potter. Not at all. I looked like Lily Potter, more than I ever have, and I looked like…”
“Harry…” She reached out and grabbed his hand.
“I looked like Snape’s son.”