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Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny didn’t get a chance to visit Hagrid until two weeks after the start of term. They had just finished with the Quidditch tryouts which took up the entire morning and early afternoon and Harry couldn’t be happier to leave the pitch. Practically the entire school (minus the Slytherins) had shown up to watch Gryffindor candidates fly around the Quidditch field. Harry had to borrow Madam Hooch’s magical megaphone just so people could hear him.

Halfway through the horrific tryout experience, Harry had the pleasure to be bombarded by Daily Prophet reporters who had snuck onto the Hogwarts grounds. They shouted questions at him in between his instructions to the chasers and followed him around the field as he observed the groups flying overhead. Harry did his best to ignore them and focus on finding a team.

 After shouting himself hoarse and extricating a ton of stress, Harry had successfully disregarded the reporters and found himself a compatible squadron. Harry was pretty satisfied with his choices. Ginny Weasley and Damelza Robins were returning to the team as chasers and the new chaser was Alexandria Write who worked with Damelza and Ginny very well. Jonathan Forks and David Vinar were a couple of new finds. Both of them knocked the bludgers around like they were bouncy balls. Harry was very pleased when Ron beat out all the competition for the keeper position and was rather thankful that he didn’t appear to be as sick or apprehensive as he had the first time he’d tried out two years ago.

After assuring the team that practices would start next week, Harry left the field, eager to escape the reporters mingling near the stands. They tried to follow but Hermione surprised everyone with a couple of decoy detonators from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. She tossed them into the middle of the reporters, temporarily blinding them, and allowing the perfect escape.

Harry kept glancing over his shoulder as he, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione ran down to Hagrid’s. The detonators may be useful but they weren’t permanent. Luckily they came into the sight of the hut two minutes later and Hagrid was mercifully sitting outside, carving a large piece of wood.

He looked up and beamed at the sight of them. “I’d wondered when ya’d come ter see me.”

Harry plowed passed Hagrid, ripped his door open, and ran inside. Hagrid blinked several times.

“Wha’s up with Harry?”

“Reporters,” Ginny simply answered as she, Ron, and Hermione went inside after him.

Hagrid’s face darkened as he turned to scan the grounds. “Lousy, no-good, lollygaggers,” he growled, “If I see ‘em, I’ll give ‘em what fer!” He shook his fist threateningly before slamming the door shut.

Hagrid set to work making tea while asking them how their schooling was coming along as well as if Harry was getting used to the curse.

“The pain’s always there,” Harry answered after taking a sip of his tea, “but I’m used to it now.”

“Haven’ seen ya runnin’ ‘round the grounds yet,” Hagrid observed, taking a seat at the large table.

Harry shrugged. “I haven’t had time really to do that but I’m thinking that tonight I’d give it a go, seeing as sunset is going to happen in two hours.”

Everyone looked out the window. Indeed the sun was nearing the horizon, seemingly eager to disappear.

“How are your classes coming, Hagrid?” Hermione asked to change the subject.

Hagrid’s beetle black eyes brightened. “They’re comin’ ‘long great! I’ve been savin’ up ter get some pretty exotic animals from aroun’ the country. Wanna see what I managed ter buy?”

Harry and Ron shared a worried look. Though they were friends with the half-giant, Hagrid was known for his love of dangerous creatures. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, they both agreed to go and see what monstrosities he’d found for this year. Ginny and Hermione shared the same lack of enthusiasm but masked it with false smiles and nods of agreeing to tag along.

Hagrid beamed happily before leading them out into the backyard. His pumpkin patch was already flourishing, each pumpkin now equivalent to normal size but sure to be five times that big by the time October rolled around. Hagrid led them around the patch to the edge of the forest where two large crates rested between two trees. The crates were large enough to fit a fully grown lion and shook violently, the beasts within obviously reacting from the sound of approaching footsteps.

“They’re only babies righ’ now,” said Hagrid. “Dumbledore gave me permission ter raise ‘em. He said they’d come in handy for defendin’ the castle if we’re ever under attack again.”

Hermione gasped as she looked into one of the crates. “Oh my gosh! Hagrid, where on earth did you get them?”

“From Greece, where else?” said Hagrid. “Aren’ they gorgeous?”

Harry took a turn to peek in between a few boards. His eyes widened. Inside the crate was a baby lion. But it wasn’t a normal lion cub; it had three heads: one a goat, one a lion, and the last, a dragon. Leathery wings were folded against its lion body and the tail changed from golden fur to deep green scales ending with the head of a lethal, venomous snake. The creature yawned through the lion’s mouth and a small burst of fire escaped from its jaws.

Harry backed away. “What is that, Hagrid?” he asked.

“Chimera,” said Hagrid. He opened the top of the crates to dump in a couple bucketfuls of raw meat. The contents could be heard being devoured from within.

Ron and Ginny peered into both crates and held the same silent opinion as Harry; these creatures were dangerous but something about them did seem to be really cool.

“Are you having the students raise them?” asked Ginny.

“Right now I’m just havin’ ‘em observe ‘em, ya know, lettin’ ‘em draw pictures and such. I think when they get ter be a little bit bigger, I’ll let the kids have a crack at ‘em. I got these two over the summer, just after they were born. They should be full adults by the end of the year. Wha’ da ya think?”

“They’re – erm – lovely, Hagrid,” said Hermione. “But I do have one question.”

“Fire away,” said Hagrid cheerfully.

“They’re in wooden crates but they breathe fire,” Hermione pointed out. “Surely you don’t think that’s safe?”

Hagrid smiled. “Dumbledore’s put a special spell on the crates so they’re extra fireproof. I don’t wanna move ‘em to a new environment until they develop their claws. Besides, they seem pretty comfortable where they’re at.”

One of the chimeras roared and a blast of hot air crashed against the back of Harry’s neck. Rubbing the burned spot, Harry moved closer to Ginny. “I’m sure that if anyone can tame them, you can Hagrid.”

“Thanks, Harry,” said Hagrid happily.

After taking one last look at the exotic creatures, Hagrid led them back to his hut where they spent the remainder of their time talking about Harry’s new Quidditch team. Ten minutes before the sun set, the four Gryffindors left Hagrid’s and began to make their way up to the castle. Harry stopped halfway, said goodbye to everyone, and made his way over to the Forbidden Forest. Hiding behind a large tree trunk, he pulled the Gate Frame from under his robes.

“Sirius, James, and Remus,” he said.

It glowed brightly against his chest just as the last ray of the sun disappeared. Harry dropped onto all fours, his arms extending, his hands and feet transforming, sinking into the slightly damp earth. The fiery pain died away and Harry shook his head, fully a stag. Blinking slightly, he looked around and found his dad, Sirius, and Remus sitting on large roots of a particularly large, heavily knarred tree.

James grinned. “Nice to see you, son.”

Harry shook his head again to get rid of a couple flies that were hanging around his face. “Good to see you too, dad.”

Sirius looked around and whistled. “Being here brings back a ton of memories. Remember that one time we stumbled upon the Acromantulas?”

Remus shivered. “Don’t remind me…that was terrible.”

James let out a loud burst of laughter. “I can’t believe you almost ate one of them, Moony!”

Harry tasted bile. “You what?”

Remus rolled his eyes. “They attacked us and I didn’t try to eat it, James! I tried to bite it so it would stop chasing after you. If you hadn’t got your antlers caught in one of its webs I wouldn’t have tried to take the owner’s leg off in the first place.”

James clicked his tongue. “I didn’t need to be rescued, Moony. I was doing just fine on my own.”

Remus rolled his eyes. “Sure you were. And that’s why you asked Sirius and me to distract it by chewing off two of its legs so you could free yourself.”

Sirius laughed heartily while James scowled.

“Shut it, Padfoot,” James muttered.

Harry chuckled. “I can’t believe you and Remus chewed a spider’s legs off, Sirius.”

“In my defense, it didn’t taste too good,” said Sirius while grinning.

“I bet,” Harry muttered.

“So, thought you’d give the forest a try, huh, Harry?” James asked, jumping down from his tree root and brushing off his pants. “How about we join him, Padfoot?”

Sirius grinned. “You first?”

James shrugged. His whole form began to ripple like disturbed water. His arms grew longer, his hands transformed into hooves, and antlers emerged from his head as his black hair disappeared. Round markings appeared around a pair of large hazel eyes, the same shape as James’ glasses. His body grew longer and his legs stretched to be the same length as his front legs. The large white stag shook his head and straightened up before joining Harry’s side.

Sirius transformed next. His whole body exploded into a fury of black fur. He fell to his knees as his hands and feet curled into humongous paws while his face stretched and changed into that of a dog. The Grim-sized canine shook his whole body violently before sending Harry a large toothy grin. Sirius trotted over to James and snapped at his back legs playfully. James sent him a good kick in retaliation.

Harry looked over at Remus and gaped in shock. A wolf, larger than average, sat where Remus had once been, its fur chocolate brown with razor sharp claws the color as deep as ebony, sparkling white teeth visible from the closed jaw, and yellowed eyes as large and mysterious as the moon. It looked like it could break an Acromantula in half as easily as someone snapping a toothpick.

“Remus?” Harry asked.

The wolf nodded. James and Sirius turned to look at him with equal surprise. They became a little defensive, standing in front of Harry in an act of protection. Remus stepped forward and tilted his head.

Harry jumped suddenly as Remus’ voice filled the void of the forest. “It’s okay. I asked the Higher Ups and they told me that if I wanted to change into my wolf self that I’d be able to control it.”

James relaxed. “That’s a relief.”

“You can talk too?” Harry asked happily, turning to his dad.

“We couldn’t do it when we were alive but James and I also got permission to talk to you while in animal form,” Sirius explained. “Pretty cool, huh?”

Touched that the Marauders would go to such lengths for him, Harry nodded. “I’m kind of glad. I have no idea how to communicate as a deer without telepathy.”

James laughed. “It all comes naturally, Harry. The more you experience in your stag form, the easier it will be to talk to animals without physically communicating to them.”

Harry furrowed his brow. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“Animals have their own way of conversing to each other,” said Sirius. “It’s hard to explain in human tongue. It’s more like your senses as an animal can speak with others around you.”

“As you trust your senses, you come to understand the intensions of any animal you may come across,” added Remus.

“Could you teach me?” Harry asked.

“Sure,” said James. “It’ll help pass the time. But first we need to teach you how to run. You won’t survive long in the forest without knowing how to bolt.”

“It usually helps to learn while something dangerous is chasing you,” said Sirius with another toothy grin. “That’s how James and I learned.”

“What was chasing you?” Harry asked.

“Me,” answered Remus. “And I nearly got them too. If I didn’t have the sense to realize they were my friends, I more than likely would have mauled them both.”

“Not to mention Peter bit into one of your paws, causing a distraction,” Sirius snickered. “At least he was good for something.”

James pawed the ground. “So, Remus, do you want to do the honors?”

Remus grinned. His teeth reminded Harry of a chainsaw. Compared to Remus, Sirius’s teeth resembled that of a teddy bear’s. Even though they were already out, Remus’ claws extended even further, sinking into the forest floor. The large wolf bent low to the ground and began to snarl, his tail swinging back and forth in agitation like an animal waiting to attack.

“You’d better run like the wind,” Remus warned.

He sounded like a sadistic child about to damage his favorite toy. Harry found it terrifying to hear Remus this way, to sound completely and totally wild, untamed. The hoarse tone was gone, replaced by a voice that was full of vigor and irresponsibility.

James chuckled. “Good to see you in high spirits, Moony.”

“Well make sure he doesn’t take a chunk out of you, Harry, but you have to be sure to run,” Sirius warned.

Harry looked at his father and Sirius, alarmed. “Are you guys serious?”

They both returned looks of mischief and excitement.

“Of course, Harry,” said James. “This was how it was every month when we were in school. Don’t you feel exhilarated?”

Remus snarled, obviously impatient. “Are we going to play tag or what?”

“Better run, Harry,” Sirius warned. “He’s going to pounce.”

Harry eyed the werewolf wearily. Those yellow eyes were filled with mischievous intent. A new feeling began to stir within Harry’s breast. His heart started beating faster, blood pumping into every muscle in his body, causing him to shiver. Remus’ shoulders hunched, his jaw opened to let out a ferocious snarl. This loud noise jolted Harry’s senses and the next thing he knew, he was running.

James and Sirius howled with laughter right beside him as the werewolf let out a howl. Harry could hear Remus’ paws slamming against the earth, matching the pace of his pounding heart. Trees and bushes dotted the forest like landmines but Harry miraculously dodged them with ease. His father and Sirius didn’t always stay right beside him; there were too many trees for all three of them to fit between the gaps. When they weren’t next to them, Harry could feel and hear them; his dad’s light hooves rustling the debris of the forest floor, Sirius’ heavier paws pounding against the earth, sending small shockwaves across the dirt.

Harry could also sense Remus; the werewolf’s size and bulk sometimes would slam into a tree, causing the tall plant to groan in protest, its roots creaking from the strain. He would also release a loud snarl and howl every time he’d crash through large brambles and bushes obscuring him from his prey.     

After ten minutes of running for his life and avoiding collisions with trees and other forest nonsense, Harry’s body felt like a machine. His muscles rippled with power and force, flexing and bending with his every stride. His lungs heaved for oxygen, his body glistened with sweat, and his eyes stung slightly from the constant wind brushing against his face. But he didn’t feel exhausted. He felt invigorated. The thrill of running, leaping, and dodging heightened his senses and exhilarated his soul. The only thing he could remotely compare this to was Quidditch; except this was more lively… more… wild.

They ran through the forest for about an hour, circulating and backtracking according to James’ direction. Remus eventually switched places with Sirius. Harry slightly enjoyed Sirius’ ways of playing chase. He would bound faster and harder than all of them and lie in wait in an unsuspecting bush. Once his prey had been sighted, he would burst forth out of the brush and snap at the heels of his victim. Every time his jaws appeared near Harry’s ankles, Harry’s heart would skip a beat and a peel of adrenaline would shoot through his body like a rocket, causing his legs to pick up speed.

James and Harry each got a turn at giving chase, using their antlers to spur the others forward. It was a bunch of fun for Harry when Sirius got a taste of his antlers. His godfather had tried to pull a fast one on him by turning around and taking him head on. James and Remus laughed openly as Sirius was sideswiped into a tree trunk from Harry’s antlers smacking into the side of his body. In retaliation for his embarrassment, Sirius took over and started chasing Harry until he’d pinned him to the forest floor.

Harry was having the time of his life but sooner than he would have liked, his body began to wear down. After two hours of running, he slowed his pace. Remus, who was currently ‘it’, shot past him like a bullet, continuing to chase after James and Sirius. Harry’s lungs heaved for air, their insides feeling like they were on fire. His muscles groaned with each step he took. He hadn’t realized he was so exhausted; he’d probably been running on pure adrenaline for a good half hour. He leaned against a tree, closing his eyes and feeling the forest air permeate around him, the smell and taste of earth thick in his nose and mouth.

His ears flickered as he heard two sets of paws and one set of hooves approaching him from out of the darkness. He picked up that the sound of their footfalls changed as they continued to approach and when he looked up, heaving for oxygen, he noticed his dad, Sirius, and Remus were all back in human form, not even winded despite the fact that they’d run for two hours.

“I guess we should have taken more breaks,” James said as he observed Harry’s winded state with concern. “You okay, Harry?”

Unable to speak, Harry nodded.

“We should have remembered that. Because we’re dead, we don’t get tired,” Sirius muttered, scolding himself. “Sorry, Harry.”

“That’s…alright…” Harry gasped. “I didn’t realize I was this tired until my body ran out of steam.”

Remus chuckled. “I remember feeling the same way the first time we played tag, don’t you James?”

James nodded. “Yep. Poor Peter nearly had a heart attack.”

“I wish he had,” Sirius growled. “It would have done all of us a favor.”

Remus cleared his throat. “Yes, well, the important thing is to check up on Harry.”

“I’m fine,” Harry assured, though his lungs were still on fire. “I just need to rest.”

James knelt beside him. “Lily will have my head if I don’t make sure you’re really as fine as you say you are, Harry. Now, let me feel your pulse.”

Harry wanted to complain but he didn’t have the effort to do so. James placed his hand over Harry’s ribcage and listened carefully. Sirius and Remus stood by, waiting.

James clicked his tongue. “You’ll be okay but only if you continue to rest here.”

Sirius relaxed. Sitting down in the dirt, he pulled up a twig and began to break it into smaller pieces. “That was the best run I’ve ever had.”

Remus chuckled, sitting down beside him. “That was the easiest transformation I’ve ever gone through. No pain and I can control when I want to faze; what a great deal!”

James sighed, smiling. “Wish it could have been that way in real life. We could have come here more than once a month.”

Remus looked alarmed. “I’m just the opposite. If werewolves were allowed to control when they fazed there wouldn’t be any humans left on the planet.”

Sirius scratched his chin. “You’ve got a point there, Moony. I guess we should just enjoy the way things are now, since we’re going to be like this for eternity.”

“If that’s true, then I’m in complete paradise,” said James, putting his hands behind his head, closing his eyes, and leaning against a tree. “All that’s missing is Harry being with us twenty four seven –eventually he’ll join the other side.”

Harry cocked an eyebrow. “You sound awfully excited about the idea of me dying, dad.”

James opened on eye and grinned. “I’m only looking forward to spending all my time with you, son. But don’t go hang yourself from a tree or something tomorrow. I want you to live to a ripe old age and give me some posterity before kicking the can. We can’t have the Potter name die out like the Blacks did. That would be embarrassing.”

Sirius scowled. “And what is that supposed to mean?”

James laughed at his affronted look. “Relax, Sirius. You’ll find the love of your life someday soon.”

Harry tilted his head, curious. “You can find someone after you’re dead?”

James smiled. “Of course you can, Harry. We can’t really go into deeper details but one thing about Paradise is that everyone finds their soul mate at some point, whether in mortality or after death. How can you expect it to be Paradise without a soul mate beside you?”

Harry mused over this. “Makes sense to me. So, when finding your soul mate, is it the same as here? Like having to date and all that?”

Sirius looked forlorn. “Unfortunately, yes.”

“You don’t look too happy about that,” Harry observed.

Sirius shrugged. “I was always good with women, Harry. But staying attached…well…let’s say that’s not my area of expertise.”

James and Remus snorted.

“I’ll second that,” Remus muttered.

Sirius threw a pinecone at him. “Shut up, Moony.”

“Don’t worry, Sirius,” James consoled, “When she arrives, you won’t want to walk away.”

Sirius looked really unsettled. Harry had never seen him so insecure. Then again, he hadn’t really gotten that much of a chance to talk to Sirius about women before.

“I don’t know,” Sirius mumbled. “Everyone I’ve seen so far has ended up being completely incompatible with me.”

Remus put a hand on his shoulder. “Come on, Padfoot, cheer up. I never thought I’d find love. I’m a werewolf! It was practically impossible for me and yet here I am married to your cousin. A great guy like you should have no problems finding their soul mate.”

Sirius finally managed to smile. “I guess you’re right, Moony. Although I can’t believe Tonks fell for you.”

James laughed. “Hey, age has nothing to do with it. Maybe you’ll rob the cradle too, Sirius.”

It was James turn to dodge a pinecone. “Speak for yourself, Prongs,” said Sirius. “You robbed it too.”

“Yeah, but only by a few months,” James clarified. “Besides, Lily likes the fact that I’m older than her. She feels more protected that way.”

Sirius snorted. “I think she only told you that to make you feel better.”

James narrowed his eyes. “Whatever.”

Harry yawned. His heartbeat had finally slowed and now he just wanted to rest.

Remus was the first to notice Harry’s eyes drooping. “We’d better get Harry back to the castle. We don’t want him staying out here all night.”

James looked over at his half-awake son. “Come on, Harry. Let’s go.”

Harry shook his head to wake up his brain and stood on his feet. Thankfully they had stopped the chase close to where they’d started it. The black lake rippled slightly in a faint breeze, the night filled with the hoots of owls and the rustlings of forest life, and most of the windows in the castle were dark. Harry trudged up to the school with the Marauders close beside him, ready to steady him if he lost his footing. After mastering the art of jumping, Harry leapt up the front steps with ease. To his and the Marauders surprise, Dumbledore was waiting for them just inside the doors.

“Have a good time?” he asked pleasantly as he sighted Harry’s slightly muddy hooves.

James grinned. “We had the time of our lives, didn’t we guys?”

Sirius let out a bark of laughter. “We might just make this a habit, huh, Harry?”

Harry nodded. “I wouldn’t mind.”

Dumbledore pulled out his watch. “Well, you did make your timing pretty well, frolicking through the forest for three hours. I just thought I’d caution you that the doors of the castle will automatically lock themselves at 10pm.”

“What time is it now?” Harry asked.

“A quarter past, I’m afraid. If I hadn’t been here to keep them open, you would have been locked out.”

Harry grimaced. “Sorry, Professor.”

Dumbledore looked in good spirits. “Not to worry, Harry. This was a first offense so no punishment is necessary.” He smiled kindly. “Although, I would urge your guardians to take better care of the time.”

James shuffled his feet. “Sorry, Albus. We got excited and didn’t realize…”

Dumbledore held up a hand. “Not to worry, not to worry. Now, Harry, I see that you’re about to drop off the face of consciousness so I urge you to head to bed.”

Harry nodded. “Good idea, Professor.”

“Before you come in,” said Dumbledore, “allow me to clean your hooves. I wouldn’t want Argus to come down to your chambers to murder you for messing up the halls.”

He waved his wand with a flourish and the mud covering Harry’s hooves disappeared.

“Thanks, professor,” said Harry gratefully.

“Don’t mention it,” said Dumbledore. “Now, off to bed, Harry.”

Harry didn’t need any more urging. He felt like he was in a trance as he walked behind the tapestry leading to his private chambers. Brushing his nose against the Gryffindor lion’s tail, he mentally gave the password and went into his bedroom. Climbing the platform, he collapsed onto his bed, curling his head around to his side. Sirius was the one to place a blanket over him this time.

“Thanks, Sirius,” Harry muttered sleepily.

Sirius rubbed his head. “No problem, Harry. Sleep well.”

Harry faintly heard the door to his room click close before falling completely asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

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