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Shortly after Dumbledore left, Harry let out a long sigh. He didn’t really know what to say. He’d imagined conversing with his parents before but now that they were actually here…it was proving to be really difficult coming up with something to talk about. Not to mention in all his previous imaginations, he had never been a stag when discussing things with them. Discomfited over being an animal, Harry decided to start out with being honest.

 “I’m really grateful to see all of you… but…”

Lily, sensing her son’s embarrassment, got down on her knees and gave him a hug. “It’s going to be alright, Harry. We still love you, no matter what you look like.”

James nodded. “That’s right, son. And out of all the creatures you could have turned into, a stag! I couldn’t be more proud! ”

Sirius let out a bark of laughter. “I know you’ve heard this a lot Harry, but you look a lot like James.”

Remus chuckled. “I’m assuming that you’re referring to James’ animagus form?”

Sirius grinned. “Of course.”

“Except he has-” James began.

Harry interrupted, “Mum’s eyes, I know. I’ve heard those words my whole life.”

Everyone managed to laugh. Harry was grateful to Sirius for lightening the mood.

“So, Harry,” said Sirius pleasantly, “why was it so important that Dumbledore check on Ginny?”

Harry hoped he wasn’t blushing. He wasn’t entirely sure if stags did blush. Whatever the case, he seemed a little flustered with his reply. “Well…she’s…it’s just…”

James face broke out in a wide grin. “Is she your girlfriend, Harry?”

Harry shook his head.

Sirius looked confused. “But I thought you two had some kind of chemistry going on.”

“Harry did date her in his sixth year,” said Remus, “but he had to break up with her when he went after Voldemort.”

“Yes, but Voldemort’s dead so…” Sirius left his comment unfinished.

“Maybe she’s just a very dear friend to Harry,” suggested Lily.

“She’s more than that, mum,” said Harry.

“See,” said Sirius to James, “they are a number!”

“But Harry just said she wasn’t his girlfriend,” argued James.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Sirius argued back. “Harry just said she was more than a dear friend.”

Harry rolled his eyes but he was smiling. This was the first time he had seen his father and Sirius together, and arguing of all things! He decided to let them butt heads for a while before telling them his true relationship with Ginny.

Lily didn’t allow them to argue for very long. “Oh will you two knuckleheads stop quarrelling? If you really want to know what Harry’s true relationship is with this girl, pipe down and hear it from the source!”

Sirius and James looked thoroughly scolded. Slightly embarrassed, they both apologized.

“Forgive us, Harry,” said Sirius.

“We tend to get a little rough with each other,” added James.

Harry chuckled. “It’s fine. Honestly, I don’t mind. I never saw Sirius so happy to argue with someone before. It was quite entertaining.”

Remus chuckled. “I have to agree with Harry on that.”

“That is a compliment, right?” Sirius asked.

James laughed. “Probably.”

“Alright, so, Harry, what is your relationship with this Ginny?” asked Lily curiously.

Harry gulped. He was sure he was in for a good ribbing from the Marauders. Oh well, it couldn’t be helped. They would find out eventually anyway. Why not tell them?

“She’s my fiancée.”

Remus and Sirius’ eyes grew to the size of goose eggs. James’ mouth had dropped to the ground. Lily clasped her hands together, positively thrilled.

“Oh, Harry that’s wonderful! Who is she?” Lily cried, overjoyed.

“She’s the youngest of the Weasleys,” answered Sirius. “I can’t believe it! I knew you liked her but I had no idea things went this deep.”

Harry shifted awkwardly. “Well, I’ve always felt like Ginny was the missing piece to my puzzle. She fits my life in every way.”

“A Weasley, huh?” James mused while chuckling. “I guess I passed the gene of loving a redhead to my son.”

Sirius and Remus laughed joyfully.

“That you did, Prongs!” said Remus between fits of laughter.

Lily rolled her eyes. “I think Harry’s made a very good choice. I always liked the Weasleys. Mind you, we were never that close.”

“Of course we weren’t,” said James. “Molly and Arthur were way older than we were.”

“They’re not that much older,” Lily argued.

“They had kids while we were still in school, Lils.”

“And why should that mean they’re old?” asked Lily.

Sirius and Remus chuckled.

“If Molly heard you say that, I’d fear for you, James,” Remus warned. “She’s not a woman to cross.”

“Yeah,” added Sirius with a grin. “She did kill good ol’ Bellatrix after all. Did me a huge favor, she did.”

“Besides,” said Harry, “The Weasleys practically adopted me shortly after I’d discovered the magical world.”

“Molly even called Harry as good as a son,” Sirius remarked.

James raised his eyebrows. “I think we need to thank the Weasleys, Lily.”

Lily nodded in full agreement. “Yes, we really do. They’ve watched over him this whole time. Heck, maybe even more than Dumbledore has.”

James chuckled. “Maybe a little bit more. So, when can we meet her?”

Harry immediately began to protest. “Dad, I think it would freak Ginny out to see all of you. No offense but all of you are dead! Besides, I was told that just being able to visit with you is a rare gift that should never be taken lightly.”

“But she’s your fiancée!” James argued. “She’s going to be a Potter! I want to meet her. It’s my right as your father.”

“James, I want to meet her too,” said Lily. “But Harry’s right. Perhaps we should get permission to let her see us first.”

“Could you do that?” Harry asked curiously.

“Sure,” said Remus, “it’s just a matter of asking the right people.”

“And giving them a righteous reason as to why,” Sirius affixed.

Harry pondered on this for a moment. “Do you think you could get permission for all the Weasleys to see you? And Hermione? They’re my best friends and I really want them to meet you.”

He looked at his parents, hopeful.

Lily, seeing this look, couldn’t refuse. “Of course we’ll try to get permission, Harry.”

“I’m sure they won’t mind,” James assured. “Especially if we tell them what the Weasleys and Hermione’s relationship is to you.”

“I’d really appreciate it.”

Sirius grinned. “So, when’s the wedding, Harry?”

Harry rolled his eyes. “What a way to change the topic, Sirius. If you must know, I’m going back to Hogwarts for my seventh year and then after graduation Ginny and I will make plans. Ron and Hermione are getting married too so we might just make it a double wedding.”

Sirius and Remus didn’t seem the least surprised to hear about Ron and Hermione.  

“I always knew those two would end up together!” Sirius said.

“Who would have thought otherwise?” Remus muttered with a smile.

“Ron is the second to youngest in the Weasley family and Hermione is a muggleborn. They’re Harry’s best friends,” Sirius explained to James and Lily.

“Oh, are they the two you mentioned before?” Lily asked.

Sirius nodded. “Yep; the two who stayed by Harry’s side no matter what!”

“A double wedding would be exciting!” Lily exclaimed. “I think it’s a great idea! So, after you graduate; oh, I can’t wait! It’s going to absolutely wonderful!”

She leapt into James arms, jumping up and down.

James looked slightly hassled but he laughed, saying, “My, Lils, I haven’t seen you this excited since you told me you were pregnant with Harry.”

“Well it’s something to celebrate over!” Lily defended, her cheeks becoming slightly pink.

The boys all chuckled.

At that moment, Harry yawned widely. He was so tired. His body still felt like it had gone through a mill. He felt childish for admitting it but he didn’t want to sleep because he was afraid his loved ones wouldn’t be there when he woke up. He was terrified that this was all some crazy dream. After being with them, finally having them around again, more than anything, he didn’t want to lose this. It would devastate him more than anyone knew to wake up and have them gone. But he was so tired! Frustration welled within his chest as his eyelids began to close on their own. He shook himself but his actions couldn’t be hidden from his mother.

“Harry, dear? Are you tired?”

Harry cursed quietly for getting caught. “A little bit,” he admitted, reluctantly.

“Then you should sleep,” said James.

Harry looked uncomfortable. He didn’t want to tell them the truth. Once again, he was surprised by the sharpness of his mother.

“We’ll still be here when you wake up,” Lily promised, kindly smiling at him. “You go ahead and sleep.”

Harry looked into her eyes and somehow knew that she was telling the truth. Feeling much more reassured, he nodded silently in consent. His eyelids immediately closed. James pulled out his wand and gave it a wave. A blanket appeared and draped over Harry’s body. The four friends watched as Harry’s head dropped down to his side as he fell to sleep.

Lily kissed his head. “Sleep well, Harry,” she muttered.

The stag smiled. Feeling embarrassed yet longing to say these words his whole life, Harry opened his eyes and voiced the thought, saying, “I love you, mum.”

Tears pricked Lily’s eyes. She too had always wanted to hear him say those words. “I love you too,” she cried softly, kissing his head one more time.

The stag sighed and then grew quiet, its breaths becoming long and deep.

Lily walked back over to James and sat in his lap. The two of them stared at their son, their pride and joy. Even as a stag he looked terribly exhausted. Both parents worried that he would remain this way forever. From the looks of Sirius and Remus, they were wondering the same thing.

“What are we going to do, James?” Lily mourned quietly after being sure that Harry was asleep.

“Don’t fret just yet, Lils,” James muttered against the back of her neck. “Remember, Dumbledore said to wait twenty four hours before we should start panicking.”

“Some comfort,” Lily snorted.

“Whatever happens, Dumbledore will find a way to fix everything,” Sirius assured.

“Like he always does,” Remus comforted.

“I hope so,” Lily whispered, looking at her son. “I really hope so.”

James hugged her tightly. “At least he’s a stag.”

“Yeah,” Sirius muttered, “I don’t know what I would have done if he’d turned into a swan or something.”

James couldn’t help but crack a smile. “That would have been completely insulting.”

The two of them quietly snickered.

“If you two even dare to tease him I’ll transfigure you both into swans,” Lily warned.

James saw this as an idle threat. “Lils, we both know that Sirius and I are way more advanced in transfiguration than you are.”

Lily narrowed her eyes. “Who said I would use a spell to do it?”

Sirius and James’ eyes widened.

“You wouldn’t use a potion?!” Sirius said with slight fear.

Lily’s eyes flashed dangerously, a wicked smile curling her cheeks. “I’ll leave your imagination to play with that idea.”

James gulped. He was definitely attracted to her when she was devious but silently he would never want to get in the way of her devilish ideas. Playing pranks was fun but when Lily was the instigator and she’d labeled you as the victim, it was wise to always watch your back.

“Alright, we won’t tease him about it,” James promised while Sirius nodded vigorously.

Remus laughed. “After all these years, she’s still got both of you under her thumb.”

“You’re darn right I do,” said Lily proudly. “Who else is going to keep these knuckleheads in check?”

They all laughed quietly. Harry shifted slightly in his sleep, drawing their attention.

“Maybe we could transform to keep him company,” suggested Sirius. “It worked for Remus.”

James nodded. “I think that’s a good idea.”

“I’ll refrain from joining you,” Remus muttered. “I had enough of transforming when I was alive. Now that I’m dead and can control when I change, I’d rather stay like this forever.”

“We weren’t going to ask if you would, Moony,” James assured.

“Yeah,” said Sirius, “we know how much pain it caused you, mate. We’d never wish for you to go through with it again.”

Remus looked at them both gratefully. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” said James, grinning.

The four of them grew really quite after that.

“I suppose one of us should go back and get permission to see the Weasleys and Hermione,” said Lily somewhere around three in the morning.

“I’ll do it,” Remus offered, standing up.

“Thank you, Remus,” said Lily gratefully.

“I’ll be back soon,” Remus assured.

He walked over to the Gate Frame and seemed to disappear when he stood in front of it.

Sirius, James, and Lily contented themselves to watch over Harry as he slept. Remus returned an hour later, stating that permission had been granted. The four of them quietly cheered at this news.

Just before sunrise, Harry started twitching. Lily, who had been watching him constantly with motherly care, nudged James away from his chess game with Sirius.

“James, look,” she whispered.

The concern in her voice caused both Remus and Sirius to look over as well. Harry had begun to shiver violently.

“What’s going on?” Sirius asked, his voice faltering.

James stood up, planning to wake his son, when Harry opened his eyes.

“Harry, are you alright?”

Harry groaned. “Not again,” he muttered.

Lily and James looked at each other.

Before anyone could move, Harry started to scream. He began convulsed wildly on the ground. His parents and friends watched in terror as his body began to glow a light shade of purple. The sun broke the surface of the horizon and the stag’s form began to shrink in size; the face transformed, black hair sprouted, a human nose reappeared along with a pair of black round glasses resting on its bridge, the neck shrank while the shoulders broadened, the legs transformed into human arms and legs, and the hooves were replaced with fingers and toes.

The screaming coming from Harry silenced as the transformation drew to a close. His breathing was heavy, and the clothes he had been wearing were covered in sweat. His body felt like it had been doused with ice water. Shivering violently and suppressing the urge to throw up, Harry opened his eyes. His parents, Sirius, and Remus were all standing around him, their eyes filled with concern, and in his mother’s case, tears.

“Harry,” she cried, putting her arms around his neck, “are you alright?”

Harry turned a horrible shade of green. James pulled Lily away. “Give him a little room, honey. He looks like he’s going to be sick.”

Suppressing the urge to vomit once more, Harry swallowed. His throat was totally parched. “Well,” he said hoarsely, “at least I turned back to normal instead of something else like a rat.”

Sirius smiled. Looking rather relieved, he said, If Harry’s capable of joking, I think it’s safe to assume he’s alright.”

“How are you feeling?” Remus asked.

“Honestly, really weak,” Harry replied. “It’s the same as when I changed into the stag. My muscles feel like I’ve lived through the most grueling hard labor Aunt Petunia ever put me through and my bones feel like they’re on fire. Other than that, I’m fine.”

The men managed to laugh but Lily continued to be weary. “Harry, are you sure you shouldn’t go to the hospital wing?”

Harry grimaced. “Mum, I don’t want to go there. What if I change back again?”

“Madam Pomfrey should know about this,” Lily argued. “I think the whole staff should.”

“What?!” Harry cried, looking positively alarmed. “Why?!”

“It’s the same as when I was hired by Dumbledore to be the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor,” said Remus. “The teachers have the right to know, Harry. They may even be able to help in keeping your secret safe from the other students.”

Harry groaned. “This is already embarrassing enough. We don’t even know when it’s going to happen again.”

“It might not,” said James.

Harry looked at him critically.

James shrugged. “It’s not bad being positive, Harry.”

“It’s a curse though, Prongs,” countered Sirius. “There are tons of different kinds. Harry could be stuck with turning into a stag every hour or every day or every week.”

“Or once a month,” Remus put in.

“He changed back once the sun rose,” Lily said, pointing out the window. “So it can’t be every hour.”

But to these words, Harry’s heart started accelerating. He changed back at sunrise. And when he’d transformed into the stag, it had been-

“Sunset,” he whispered.

“What was that, Harry?” James asked.

“I think the curse lasts from sunset to sunrise,” Harry guessed.

Sirius blinked. “Dumbledore did tell us that we’d arrived in the mortal world just after sunset.”

“And Harry just changed back, at the first ray of the sun,” exclaimed Remus.

Lily looked faint. “Sunset to sunrise? Is it every day?”

Harry shrugged. “That’s anybody’s guess, Mum.”

“Right now, all of us are only guessing,” clarified James. “Although I think Harry is right by the timing of the curse. When Dumbledore comes back we’ll have to tell him our theory.”

“I wonder where he went anyway,” Lily mused. “He never came back last night.”

Harry looked towards the door, almost expecting Dumbledore to walk through it. “Maybe he got held up at the hospital. He did just come back to life after all. Perhaps everyone wanted to interview him.”

In the end, they decided to wait, although Harry hoped the Headmaster wouldn’t be long. He was getting awfully hungry. Technically he hadn’t eaten for over a week. He was positively starving. His parents decided to ask him questions to pass the time, like what his favorite subject in school had been and how many secret passages he’d discovered along with any pranks he’d pulled.

“I didn’t have time for pranks, really,” Harry told his dad.

James frowned. “That’s too bad. Were you too busy with girls?”

Harry rolled his eyes at his father’s joke. “Not really. It was more of having to deal with people making fun of me or trying to get my attention. Being a celebrity hasn’t been easy.”

James shifted awkwardly, regretting to have brought up the subject. “Sorry,” he apologized.

Harry shrugged. “It wasn’t your fault, Dad. It was Tom Riddle’s.”

“Yes, but even so,” James muttered, looking at the floor. “I’d left my wand on the sofa when he broke in. I was totally defenseless. I didn’t even think that we were in any danger. I was so careless.”

Harry could see that this had been something that had bothered his father for a very long time. It appeared as though James believed that it was his entire fault that Harry had grown up the way he had.

“Dad,” Harry said calmly, “it wasn’t your fault. I don’t blame you in the slightest. You didn’t make Voldemort break in so don’t blame yourself either. Besides, you didn’t have a wand and yet you still stood up to Voldemort. You didn’t hide like a coward which is the last thing you’ll ever be.”

James looked slightly astonished. “How do you know what happened, Harry?”

Harry smiled sadly. “I know because I saw it.”

“You saw it? How?”

Harry explained, “When I was still a horcrux I always had a connection with Voldemort that allowed me to look into his mind. When Hermione and I went to visit Godric’s Hollow, searching for horcruxes, we ran into Voldemort’s snake. She let him know we were there and then he showed up. By sheer luck, we were able to get away. Voldemort was so angry because I’d escaped. He remembered the night he came to kill our family and I saw it all through his mind. It was usually easier for me to slip into his mind when he was experiencing deep emotions.”

Lily looked sick. “So you saw him murder us?”

Harry looked away from her. “Technically, I was Voldemort…”

He left the rest of his sentence unsaid. His parents seemed to catch on.

Lily took his hand and gave it a squeeze. Her green eyes were filled with tears. “We’re so proud of you, Harry,” she whispered.

Harry smiled softly. “Thanks, mum.”

Just then, Dumbledore returned. His blue eyes twinkled when he saw Harry was back to normal. After settling himself behind his desk, Harry explained his theory to the Professor, who nodded his head.

“That seems to make sense,” said Dumbledore. “Do you want to remain here until sunset to test your theory?”

Harry bit his lip. “As much as I love your office, Professor, I’m getting rather tired of being stuck in here.”

Dumbledore chuckled. “I know exactly what you mean, Harry. I suppose that’s why I stayed at the Hog’s Head last night- I needed a change of scenery. So, you probably would like to know what happened at the hospital.”

Harry nodded.

“Well, Ginny woke up shortly after we left.”

“She did? Is she alright?” Harry asked before he could help himself; he was just so concerned about her.

Sirius chuckled and muttered, “Totally head over heels.”

Remus jabbed his elbow into Sirius’s side for Harry’s benefit. James laughed as Sirius massaged his ribs.

“I’m sure you’d be concerned about your love if you had ever had one, Padfoot,” said James.

Sirius grunted. “I was locked in Azkaban for thirteen year so I didn’t really have a chance to find love like you and Moony, Prongs. Not to mention being cooped up in Grimmauld Place and then dying at the Ministry.”

“All right, all right, sorry,” James muttered, although both men were smiling. “You were always the player type anyway.”

“In my defense that was when we were in school,” said Sirius haughtily.

Dumbledore cleared his throat, silencing the two of them. “Yes, well, I was going to say, Ginny is perfectly fine, Harry. The only distress she’s experienced was from wondering why you weren’t there at the hospital when she woke up.”

“Oh boy,” interrupted Sirius again. “You’d better be careful, Harry. She could be upset.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Shut it, Sirius.”

His godfather chuckled.

“So, did you tell her?” asked Harry.

Dumbledore shook his head. “I thought it best to leave that to you, Harry. Now, if you want to wait until after you phase again, I have no problems with that decision.”

“What do you think we should do, Albus?” asked Lily. “Let Harry stay here or let him roam around?”

Dumbledore shrugged. “I think Harry will be fine going wherever he wants. Besides, I’m sure he would like to see Ginny as soon as possible.”

Harry, blushing slightly, said, “I’d like to make sure she’s alright.”

“Then I think you’re free to go,” replied Dumbledore. “However, I must caution you, Harry. You probably will change back and then have to explain the circumstances to whoever may have witnessed you transform.”

“I understand. The Weasleys should know. I owe them that much.”

“What about the teachers?” asked James.

 Dumbledore tapped his chin. “They should be notified of the situation. Harry’s condition wouldn’t allow him to do homework in the evenings. I’ll have to ask them to refrain from giving him assignments. Besides, to most of the Wizarding World, Harry is already considered an adult. He’s only returning to school so he can become an Auror. Although I think we can set aside a time for you to practice your wand work during the day, Harry, so you don’t fall behind in the classes. Does that sound reasonable?”

Harry sighed. “As much as I don’t want the teachers knowing about this, I can see the value of having them in on the secret.” He paused. “Professor,” he asked hesitantly, “Do you think I could wander around on the grounds after sunset? If I’m out there it might stop any students out of bed from seeing a stag haunting the halls.”

Dumbledore looked at him critically before consenting. “I think that would be tolerable. However, you are never to be alone, Harry. Voldemort’s Death Eaters are still out there and some may even be planning to avenge him.”

“Who would accompany me?” Harry asked, hoping it would not be one of the teachers.

“I think those present would do the job nicely,” answered Dumbledore, staring over Harry’s shoulder at the Marauders and Lily.

James agreed. “We could do that. Besides, nobody can see us unless Harry gives them permission otherwise.”

“Really?” Harry asked, interested.

Sirius nodded. “If you were talking to us around other people, they would think you were talking to yourself.”

James’ eyes brightened. “That would be the perfect prank!”

Lily shot this idea down immediately. “James, Harry is not supposed to abuse the Gate Frame!”

James sighed, his enthusiasm squashed. “Sorry, Lils. I forgot.”

“Drat,” Sirius mumbled. “It would have been perfect!”

“A worthy Marauders prank,” said Remus, nodding.

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “Although you may not be able to pull off that prank, perhaps others could be done.”

Sirius grinned. “You hear that, Prongs? Dumbledore’s actually giving us permission!”

“Christmas has come early!” James exclaimed happily.

Dumbledore lightly coughed. “Well, I did rather enjoy your pranks. The Weasley twins were excellent as well but I don’t believe any other mischief makers have recently been born. Maybe you can lighten the castle’s mood once more.”

“And since nobody will be able to see us…” Sirius began.

“We can spook everyone, including the ghosts!” James finished with glee. “Oh, this is going to be excellent!”

“You would think,” Lily scolded, “that they would have grown up just a little bit after dying.”

Remus laughed. “You of all people should know the Marauders work wouldn’t stop just because we’re dead. What can I do to help, Prongs and Padfoot?”

James thumped Remus on the back. “That’s it Moony! We need your brains to come up with the more advanced pranks.”

Lily put a hand over her eyes. “Here we go again,” she groaned.

But as she looked over at Harry, he could see a gleam in her eye.

Harry grinned. “I suppose you’re going to take part in some of the pranking, mum?”

Lily grinned mischievously. “I just might, Harry. Keep on your toes.”

Everyone laughed. Dumbledore checked his watch (apparently he’d gotten a new one) and clicked his tongue. “By now the Weasleys should be back at the Burrow. Would you like to join them, Harry?”

“I probably should, Professor. I have a limited amount of time after all.”

Dumbledore picked out an old kettle from a draw behind his desk. It seemed to contain a lot of useless junk; probably for the very purpose that Dumbledore was about to use the kettle for. Pointing his wand at the kettle, Dumbledore muttered, “Portus.” The object glowed blue for a second before becoming still on the desk. “This should take you to the hillside near the Burrow, Harry. Contact me if anything new happens with the curse.”

“I will,” Harry assured. “Thanks, Professor.”

He picked up the Gate Frame and put it in his pocket; his parents, Sirius and Remus remained at his side. He walked over to Dumbledore’s desk.

“I’ll see you at the start of term feast, Harry,” Dumbledore said.

Harry smiled. “It’s good to have you back, Professor.”

Dumbledore returned the smile. “Thank you, Harry. Take care.”

“You too, sir.”

Harry touched the kettle and felt the tug behind his naval that would take him to the Burrow where Ginny would undoubtedly be waiting.

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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