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Harry stood opposite Remus on the landing of the disused third floor of Grimmauld Place. Remus had challenged Harry to a duel shortly after they re-entered the house, partly because he felt he had been cheated out of a duel with him earlier on in the garden and partly because there was still half an hour until lunch. Foolishly Harry had accepted, although he had no idea as to why he had done so. “Ready?” Remus asked. “Not really.” Harry replied uncertainly. Remus smiled encouragingly and Harry bit his lip as they bowed slightly, never taking their eyes from one another. “Impedimenta!” Remus cried and as the duel began the spell shot straight at Harry who dodged it and sent the same jinx right back at him. He knew that he probably should have simply reversed Remus’ spell but that hadn’t occurred to him. The spell just skimmed over Remus’ shoulder and Remus smiled slightly and decided against holding back in this particular duel, just to see what he was really capable of. It probably wasn’t such a good idea to do so; Remus knew Harry was excellent for his age but he also knew that he was no match for himself and only sheer good luck and speed at running had allowed him to last as long as he had done in the garden earlier, after all, he had run from almost everyone he had encountered. He realised suddenly that he had been duelling absentmindedly against Harry. His eyes flickered back to the boy who was watching cautiously after the last spell he had sent at him which had been a mild stunner. “Gelotrium!” Remus cried and a blue bolt of light shot from his wand and went for Harry’s chest. Harry didn’t know how to cast the spell himself but he had seen it cast before and knew it would freeze him to the spot, should he allow it to hit. “Incendio!” Harry said and fire flew from his wand directly at the freezing spell Remus had hit at him, he could only hope that his spell was strong enough to melt Remus’. Remus watched with interest from the other side of the landing as his ice spell was melted by Harry’s flames. He had to admit that the boy was more ingenious than he had given him credit for. He put a strong force field around himself as Harry’s flames engulfed him and were held to his shield, encasing him in a sphere of flames. Harry looked at this with interest and wondered what it was like to be surrounded by flames like that and how exactly that was going to help Remus in their duel. Remus held the flames to his shield for a few seconds before releasing them and Harry cast a strong shield infront of himself as the flames were blown past him and over him. “Incarcerous.” Remus said and vines shot from his wand towards Harry, tying his legs tightly and working their way up to his arms at a very quick rate. “Expelliarmus.” Remus said almost lazily as Harry’s wand shot from his hand and into his own. “Let me up.” Harry said to him as he looked up to Remus who smiled as he bent down to him. “Cautus Diffindo.” Remus said quietly as a small purple ray came from his wand. He gently cut down the side of Harry’s bonds, taking care not to cut his clothes or his skin as he freed him. Finally as the last of the ropes were cut Remus helped him up onto his feet and vanished the vine-like ropes which had bound him a moment earlier. “I’m sure I told you to remind me not to duel with you.” Harry said to Remus who smiled at him. “Must have slipped my mind…” Remus said as they walked down onto the second floor of the house, “However I do remember that you mustn’t eat things you transfigure. You also shouldn’t ask eccentric hex-happy ex-aurors their age when in a bad mood.” Harry pulled a face as they cross the landing and went down another set of stairs so that they were on the first floor of the house. “Lunch will be ready in around five minutes.” Filius said as he passed the pair of them walking towards the stairs. “Ah, Filius…” Remus said, “I’m afraid I have a rather personal question for you.” Filius raised his eyebrows and motioned for him to continue. “Well… I was wondering how old you are.” Realisation touched Filius’ face. “Oh, is that all?” He asked, a smile on his face, “I’m sixty nine. Will that be all?” “Erm… yes, thanks.” Remus said, slightly bemused as to how things had gone so easily. “So dinner in five?” “Yep, but don’t go into the kitchen yet, Molly’s not in the best of moods.” Filius said and disappeared into one of the rooms on the right. “Sixty nine… he looks older.” Harry said as they walked along. “It’s the beard he has and the fact that he has white hair.” Remus said as they descended onto the ground floor of the house. “I can’t believe he’s around double your age.” Harry said, “And I thought you were old.” “I’m not old!” Remus said indignantly, “Dumbledore’s apparently 150. That’s four or five times my age.” “Asking Mad Eye his age isn’t going to be easy, is it?” Harry said as they went into the lounge next to the kitchen and sat down with Minerva, Severus, Bill, Fred, George, Ron and Hermione. “It better not be.” Remus scowled at him as they took a seat on a sofa with Minerva and Bill. “So, have you asked Filius yet?” Severus asked him. “Yep, he’s sixty nine.” Remus replied and Severus’ face fell slightly. “And wasn’t he annoyed? And insulted?” Severus asked him. “Nope, not in the slightest.” Remus said smiling slightly. Harry couldn’t help but wish he had said he was going to ask Flitwick before Remus did. Severus looked quite disappointed. “Never despair, Severus.” Minerva said, “Harry’s yet to ask Mad Eye.” “Thank Merlin for small miracles, and amusements concerning Potter.” Severus smirked and Harry groaned slightly. “Lunch is out!” Molly shouted and her voice was magically amplified to echo throughout the house. Harry felt a sense of foreboding as he got up from the sofa along with Remus who grinned at him as they left the room and entered the kitchen. Mad Eye was already sat down at one end of the table and Harry decided that he had a much better chance of escape if he sat near the door and as far away from Mad Eye as possible. Remus sat down next to him and Snape chose a seat opposite him, presumably from which he could most effectively convince the boy to ask the most dreadful question of all: how old are you? Everyone helped themselves to food which was spread out down the centre of the table whilst Molly watched them all especially Harry and Remus, both of whom she didn’t think had been eating enough recently at all. Severus stared pointedly at Harry as their meal began and glances from up and down the table from everyone informed him that he was going to have to ask sooner or later. The meal dragged on and Harry had eaten very little, as he always did, when it began to draw to a close. “Mad Eye…?” Harry asked, and he received a raised eyebrow in return at the silence in the room. “How old are you?” He watched Mad Eye with interest as the man’s eyebrow managed to raise itself even further than he had ever thought possible up his forehead. “Do you really want to know?” Mad Eye asked him in a dangerously quiet voice as he rose from the table and walked slowly towards Harry who cowered slightly as the man loomed over him. “Yes.” Harry said meekly and a slight smile touched Mad Eye’s face. “Are you sure?” He asked as he raised his wand. Harry ducked quickly under the table and Mad Eye stared at his chair in disbelief before following him underneath. “Damn, you found me…” Harry scowled. “What a shock.” Mad Eye muttered as he pointed his wand at Harry’s chest but before he could curse him he was kicked sharply in the shoulder by one of the people sat around the table that were laughing and joking above it. “In retrospect, hiding under the table may have been a bad idea.” Harry said as he scrambled down the length of the table, causing shrieks and laughter to ensue from the people sat eating above. Mad Eye crawled after him and a moment later an amazed Molly watched as Harry and then Mad Eye got out from under the end of the table and raced out of the room. “That wasn’t very fair of you, Severus.” Dumbledore said to the man who was laughing at the end of the table. “You knew just how sensitive Alastor is about his age.” “And you still practically blackmailed Harry into asking him it.” Minerva added. “I didn’t blackmail him.” Severus said. “You told him you’d force-feed him Veritaserum at breakfast in the Great Hall if he didn’t, I’d class that as blackmail!” Remus scowled at him. “Well he didn’t have to ask him.” Severus tried to argue. “And he could have found himself spilling out any secrets to the school whilst under questioning from the Slytherins if he didn’t.” Minerva scowled, “You would have ensured that!” “I was merely joking.” Severus said lightly, “It’s not my fault he cannot take a joke.” “As if…” Ron muttered from the end of the table. “Do you want to find yourself drinking Veritaserum as well, Mr Weasley?” Severus asked him coolly. “Right, and that wasn’t threatening at all.” Tonks said. “DON’T YOU DARE THREATEN MY SON!” Molly shouted at him from the end of the table leaving an odd silence in the room. “Get back here and face me like a man!” Came Mad Eye’s yell from the floor above as there was a sound like the light pattering of feet and then a thud clunk thud clunk as Mad Eye marched after him on his wooden leg. “Never!” Harry laughed as he ran as fast as he could around the house. In the kitchen Severus laughed and Molly glared at him for his threats against Ron. “Impedimenta impedimenta impedimenta impedimenta!” Harry cried in quick succession and Mad Eye slowed down a lot. He took a few deep breaths and turned and walked calmly down onto the first floor whilst Mad Eye took a step on the floor above in slow motion. “So how old is he then?” Remus asked Harry with a wolfish grin on his face as he resumed his previous seat in the room. “He didn’t say.” Harry said calmly as he took a drink of pumpkin juice. “Shame.” Snape said. “Where is he then?” “He’s walking very slowly down the stairs.” Harry explained and they all looked at him, intrigued. “What?” Tonks asked him. “Go see for yourself.” Harry said and Tonks did. She rose from the table and stuck her head around the corner to see Mad Eye moving incredibly slowly down the stairs. The sight caused her to burst out laughing which soon brought everyone else to the doorway. Dumbledore smiled at the infuriated auror moving in slow motion towards the kitchen and took pity on the man. He walked forwards to him and put out a hand against his chest which stopped him. “Finite.” He said, waving his wand over him and in an instant Mad Eye was back at normal speed and looking threateningly towards Harry but with Dumbledore in between them he wasn’t going anywhere. “He meant nothing by it, Alastor.” He said quietly to the man whilst everyone strained their ears in the doorway to hear just what he had said to Mad Eye and failed. “He didn’t know, he was told to ask that by a certain other individual… now forget all about it.” He subtly waved his wand over his old friend and Mad Eye blinked. All his rage against the teen for his impertinent question had vanished and instead he felt slightly puzzled at his reaction as he walked calmly into the kitchen and sat down at the table, whilst Harry watched him constantly out of the corner of his eye to make sure he wasn’t about to be attacked. Severus looked thoroughly disappointed as there appeared to be no more action between infuriated auror and foolish child.
That evening found Harry sat at the coffee table in the lounge poring over his transfiguration book for the next year and writing extensive notes on transfiguring things to life. It was a very difficult thing to do and he had already attempted the spell repeatedly during the day after reading about it but he wasn’t having much luck. Hermione was sat to the side of him writing out her charms homework which was already longer than it was meant to be and Ron was almost crying in frustration with his own transfiguration homework which was only a foot long and needed an extra four feet on it to pass as acceptable in McGonagalls eyes. Behind them sat some of the Order who were awaiting their meeting for the evening and were in discussion over duelling, aurors and other such things. “Well if you weren’t so insistent on using Serpensortia in every duel you were in you might win once in a while.” Tonks said to Severus who wasn’t looking too pleased. “It’s a mark of how stubborn and foolish Slytherins are that they always summon a snake.” Minerva said calmly. “Yeah, try summoning one when duelling with Harry; I can’t see that working out well.” Ron said and Minerva and Filius laughed. Snape pondered this slightly for a minute. “Yes but just because he’s a parselmouth doesn’t mean that he could control it.” Severus argued. “Whoa, hang on a second.” Mad Eye said, “The boy’s a parselmouth?” “‘The boy’ has a name.” Remus muttered darkly. “Yes, Voldemort passed the power onto him when…” Minerva broke off but it was enough and Mad Eye understood. “What’s it like speaking in parselmouth then?” Tonks asked Harry from a chair to the side of him. “Just sounds like English to me, I don’t realise I’m doing it.” He said and she watched him with intrigue. “Weird.” Tonks said and let him get back to his transfiguration. Harry had been trying to finish his homework as quickly as possible whilst still attaining decent marks for it so that he could get around to starting on becoming an Animagus and learning to apparate. He knew that the latter was going to be the easiest and that was why Mad Eye had promised him that as soon as he had finished with all his homework he would start to teach them. He had said that during the afternoon and Harry had been sorely tempted to turn and run from the man when he saw him coming towards him but he stood his ground just to see whether or not he was actually going to be attacked. When he informed him just how soon he could be learning to apparate Harry was quite shocked to say the least but he merely nodded and set to work on his homework again. So far he had already completed his charms work which had taken him a few hours earlier on in the afternoon whilst everyone else had been outside playing Quidditch. It cost him all his restraint to stay inside working on essays whilst his best friends were outside in the sunshine playing his favourite sport but concentrating on how much he wanted to learn to apparate and become an Animagus had kept him in the lounge working away. “An excellent essay, Harry.” Filius said, handing him back the parchment he had given him earlier on in the afternoon upon it’s completion. “Now, to see if you can put what you’ve learnt into practice.” He instructed Harry to try and freeze the candle on the table. “Gelotrium.” Harry muttered as he waved his wand. There was a light hissing sound as water fell from the air and onto the candle, extinguishing it effectively but not turning it into ice. Harry scowled at it but it stayed as water. “Not strong enough, I suggest you keep trying.” Filius said to him mildly. “Yes, keep trying somewhere not near my homework.” Hermione muttered as she wrote out her own charms work in minute handwriting to try and fit as much as she could onto the set amount of parchment. Harry went back to his transfiguration work which he had come close to finishing. He only had another foot or so left to write and that shouldn’t be too difficult, what was going to be difficult was the practice McGonagall was most likely going to make him do when he had finished it. That seemed to be the trend that the teachers had: when they finished their written work they had to complete practical work and what was more annoying still was that they knew no one else had to do practical on top of the written work. Hermione saw it as an advantage, having all the teachers she needed in the room with her to help with the work she was doing and to assist with the practical, although they had yet to discover who exactly was going to be teaching defence against the dark arts that year. Hermione had asked a few times since the start of the summer but she hadn’t been getting any answers, neither had Ron. Harry had forgotten all about it after asking Remus a while back and was concentrating on completing his homework. “Anyway, I think it’s good to keep people on their toes in a way such as this morning.” Remus said. “Why, what happened this morning?” Kingsley asked and Tonks quickly explained to him. “That’s how we learnt at St. Arthur’s.” “St. Arthur’s?” Harry asked. “Auror school kinda thing.” Tonks said. “Oh ok.” “And sometimes they put you into teams and try and make you work together to take down the other team.” Kingsley said, “It’s fun until you know you’re being examined.” “Yeah, then you just want to run from everyone you encounter. Especially if you encounter Mad Eye.” Tonks said. “You almost failed because of that!” Mad Eye scowled at her before going on to explain to everyone else that when Tonks had been taking her final examinations she had almost failed in team work when she had encountered Mad Eye (her examiner) and had simply turned and run as fast as she could in the opposite direction. “Everyone else who met you earlier on ran as fast as they could in the opposite direction.” Tonks argued. “Yes, but they’re not all training to be aurors are they?” He asked coolly, “Besides most people who did that managed to escape, you got stunned.” Tonks mumbled something under her breath and scowled darkly at Mad Eye. Harry smiled slightly at Tonks who stuck her tongue out in return and Harry saw a silver stud there which hadn’t been there before. “Have you had your tongue pierced?!” He asked her in amazement. “Yep.” She grinned, “I had it done an hour or two ago. Kills though.” She stuck her tongue out again. “Shame muggles don’t use painkiller when they have piercing done.” “You mean anaesthetic.” Harry told her and she nodded. “That’s revolting!” Molly said to Tonks. “How on earth did they do that?” Bill asked as he looked in wonder at her studded tongue. “I might have mine done.” Hermione laughed at this. “Only muggle women really have it done.” Hermione said to him and Bill looked quite disappointed by this but didn’t say anything. “Hang on, so is that a hole through your tongue then?” Remus asked her and Tonks nodded. “That’s awful!” He said and she stuck her tongue out again. “I can’t believe muggles do that willingly.” Mad Eye said. “I’ve got my ears pierced.” Hermione said and everyone looked at her; it wasn’t like her to do anything rebellious. “Most muggle women have their ears pierced.” Harry explained. “How else would they wear earrings?” “Witches charm them to their ears.” Minerva said, “They don’t make holes!” “I might have my nose done next summer.” Hermione said thoughtfully, “What do you think?” “It’ll look nice.” Harry said, “Hurt though.” “You’re going to have that done in your nose?!” Ron said, sounding quite horrified at the idea. “People have worst places pierced.” Harry said lightly. Remus looked at him inquisitively and Hermione laughed. “Just get on with your homework and let’s stop talking about making holes in people.” Molly said, feeling quite squeamish at the whole idea. Harry dutifully complied and began to write more on his transfiguration. What with his immediate future being taken up entirely by homework he was going to be in for a dull couple of days. A/N: Right, I think I've just about decided on what animals I'm going to have them all as when they're animagi although ideas are still appreciated since I'm not certain yet. Just wanted to warn you all that this is probably going to be a rather long story. This is going on the basis that I'm just starting to write chapter seventeen now and they're not yet going back to school... There was also something else that I had to say but I can't remember it now, oh well, it can't have been that important :o) Thanks to everyone who's been reviewing so far, I love reading what you have to say about my story. Next chapter should be up by Sunday, maybe Saturday. Cheerio!

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