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Harry sat down in the kitchen drinking cocoa with Remus as he watched his guardian stare blankly into the fireplace. Naturally he was worried about him but he was very glad that he had shown him his third year immediately after his second; it had taken his mind from the chamber which was exactly what he had needed, although for how long it would keep his mind from that he didn’t quite know. It was unfortunate that it wasn’t very late yet, that meant that they couldn’t hide away upstairs from everyone until it was early enough to go to sleep, instead they were going to have to stay downstairs and try to socialise which was going to be very difficult for Remus, if not for Harry. He couldn’t help but wonder how on earth he was going to take his fourth year; he had been tortured in that one and watched the rebirth of Voldemort. There was no way that Remus was going to take that lightly. He glanced at Remus and watched the flames reflected in his absent eyes. He was very silent and occasionally moved to bring the rim of his mug to his lips but that was all, he hadn’t so much as spoken a word to Harry since they had left his room some time earlier. “Remus?” “Mmmm?” “Are you alright?” Harry asked him, moving closer to him. “I’m fine.” Remus said, not taking his eyes from the flames that danced before him. Harry scowled slightly but not deterred he moved around so that he was sat on the fireplace in Remus’ field of vision. “You’re not!” Harry said, “Look, I know you’re bothered about what you saw but it was nothing! I’m still here, aren’t I?” “That was not nothing!” Remus said as loudly as he could without attracting attention from anyone in the next room or waking Mrs Black’s sleeping portrait. “You could have been killed! You were dying and in the chamber of secrets and you fought Tom Riddle and no normal person could do that and think it was nothing!” Harry just looked at him. He knew that he wasn’t normal but it still wasn’t nice for someone whom he loved to say that he wasn’t. Harry moved to the side of him and rested his head on his leg as he sat on the floor next to him. Remus stared down miserably at the small boy and gently ran his fingers through his hair. They both found this oddly soothing and stayed like that for some time until the screech of Mrs Black brought them out of their strange dream-like state. “Hey, where have you been?” Ron asked Harry as he entered the kitchen and saw only Remus and Harry sat at the table drinking cocoa. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” “And I’ve been hiding everywhere from you.” Harry grinned. “Thanks!” Ron said. “How are things between you and Hermione?” Harry asked him. “Awful, she’s blaming me for ruining her homework!” Ron said in disbelief, “Can you believe that?” “It was your fault.” Harry said to him. “You knocked everything over when you went for Bill.” “Yeah but…” Ron tried, “Oh, shut up.” He grinned at him. “Anyway Charlie wants a rematch since he’s not pleased about losing to you the other day.” “Charlie wants a rematch or you want a rematch?” Remus asked him smiling slightly and Ron’s cheeks pinkened. Harry remembered that Ron had been on Charlie’s Quidditch team when they played a day or two ago and he hadn’t been too pleased about being on the losing team. “Alright then, we’ll have another game.” Harry agreed and a few minutes later most of the occupants of Grimmauld Place found themselves walking out through the backdoor and making their way across the ever eerie garden of Black to the field beyond. Kingsley had been working on a way in which he could adequately magic some more permanent Quidditch hoops onto the field as they were currently only floating hoops of gold made of some kind of hologram causing the balls to fly straight through the actual hoops themselves that Filius had charmed there for them. They would do, they supposed but something more real would have been better. “Come on Hermione!” Ron shouted at her as she allowed the Quaffle to go into the left hoop outside her goal as Ron flew around the pitch playing as a chaser for once. Hermione didn’t make any response to Ron but to fly further away from her goals, causing Ron to become even more frustrated which in turn caused him to lose concentration which then made him fly straight into a bludger, knocking him off his broom. “Watch it Ron!” Fred shouted as he glanced down and watched an exasperated looking Professor McGonagall slowing Ron down as he fell lightly to the floor. “There is a very good reason that boy doesn’t play as a chaser.” Minerva said as Ron got back onto his broom from the floor and flew back up to join his team mates who were all watching Harry and Charlie racing around the pitch after the snitch although one well aimed Bludger from George ended that and soon both of them were circling the pitch slowly, seventy feet up into the air. “Is it because he’s simply no good at it?” Filius asked mildly. “Well, yes. There is that.” Minerva agreed, “But there’s also the fact that he’s just too preoccupied with everything else going on around him. He’s only a decent keeper because he doesn’t get that much action and can afford to watch Harry chasing the snitch.” They all glanced up to see the Quaffle soar over Ron’s head as he gazed up at his best friend and elder brother who were streaking across the sky after the snitch once more. “For Merlin’s sake, Ron!” Kingsley shouted at him as Tonks caught the ball and raced off towards Hermione. “Come on, Hermione!” Kingsley shouted and she moved and stopped the ball going through the hoop before throwing the ball back to Kingsley who laughed and shot off towards Ginny at the other hoops. Ron stared at her in disbelief. She didn’t move for me. He thought bitterly before flying off after Kingsley who was about to be attacked by George and Bill. Kingsley dropped the Quaffle as George and Bill leapt off their brooms and onto him, the three of them falling very slowly to the floor whilst Tonks and Fred cheered after Harry and Charlie who were racing around the pitch. Harry flew straight through the middle hoop after the Snitch and Charlie tried to do the same, although he hit his head and almost knocked himself off. Harry glanced back and laughed at him before glancing forwards again and ducking fast, narrowly avoiding being smashed in the face by a Bludger shot at him by Fred who was still in the game. “I can’t watch.” Minerva muttered as she glanced away from the scene and everyone else but Remus and Albus did the same. Harry’s guardian rolled his eyes as he watched his godson flying next to Charlie straight at Bill, George and Kingsley. He winced slightly as they all collided and dropped the ten feet back to the ground. “Ouch, do you bloody well mind?” George yelled as they plummeted into the grass. “George! Mind your language!” Molly shouted at him. “Yes, mother.” He said coldly as he scrambled back to his feet. There was a tangle of arms and legs on the floor and one hand holding onto the Snitch. “Get out of my way!” Ron said, marching through the small crowd of people down by the pitch and grabbed onto the hand that held the Snitch. “Oww, my hand!” Harry cried, from under Kingsley, Charlie and Bill. “Oh for God’s sake, we can’t have lost again!” Ron groaned, walking away from the pile of people as the four of them got back to their feet. “Next time I’m playing seeker.” Ron said to his older brother who laughed. “You, as a seeker?” Charlie laughed. “Against Harry?” Bill added, a similar look of amusement on his face. “He can’t be that good.” Ron said. “How many times has Harry failed to catch the Snitch?” Minerva asked him as they all made their way back to the wall. “Erm…” Ron thought. “Once, twice at most.” Minerva informed him. “And he’s been in the seeker since the beginning of his first year." “He even caught it with a broken arm.” Fred said. “And with that bludger after him in third year.” George added. “That was the bludger that broke his arm.” Dumbledore informed them. “Oh yeah… best catch ever though.” George grinned as they all leapt over the wall and into the garden on the other side. Minerva scowled at Remus who leapt over the wall as the younger people did as she levitated herself over the wall with an air of dignity as did Dumbledore. Remus glanced at Harry who was walking along next to Tonks and Charlie who were congratulating him on winning the game and chattering idly and for a brief moment Harry turned around and he was sure that he looked at him. He needn’t keep checking on me, it’s not as if I’m not okay. Remus thought as he walked along on his own. But was he okay? His mind travelled inadvertently back to the chamber of secrets and the slightest of shudders passed through him. He was beginning to wish that he had never seen any of Harry’s past and stayed in the belief that Harry had a nice normal life. “Ignorance is bliss, is it not?” Dumbledore said mildly at his side and Remus jumped slightly at his previously unnoticed presence. “It isn’t half.” Remus muttered as they walked. “So, how much have you seen?” Dumbledore asked him. “Up to the end of his third year.” Remus said worried. “Ah, pity.” Dumbledore responded, “The worst is unfortunately still to come.” “What?!” Remus said, more loudly than he had intended, causing Harry and Tonks to glance around at him. “How can it get worse?! I just saw him almost killed by a basilisk in the chamber of secrets!” “Sirius never did tell you about his fourth year, did he?” Dumbledore smiled sadly, “A very extraordinary godson you have there, Remus.” He said, his eyes travelling through the group to Harry who was now talking to Hermione about anything and everything but Quidditch and Kingsley. “I know.” Remus murmured. “Take care of him.” The headmaster said. “As if he needs taking care of.” Remus muttered. “But he does.” Dumbledore said, “And I must say that so far you’re doing an excellent job.” “I haven’t done anything!” Remus said. “Haven’t you?” The old man said to his former pupil, his ever twinkling eyes watching him with amusement over his half-moon spectacles. He smiled once more at him before dropping to the back of the group to talk to Minerva and Alastor, leaving Remus walking alone in the midst of everyone. Remus wondered briefly whether or not he had done anything for Harry as they neared the entrance to Grimmauld Place or if it was just Dumbledore’s way of cheering him up and making him think that he had helped Harry in some way. He was slightly apprehensive about viewing his fourth year now, although he knew that he couldn’t bear not to. He glanced behind him to see Dumbledore watching him and Minerva and Mad Eye arguing over something or other. Probably training again. He thought. That morning there had been a rather large argument between the adults in the Order about who out of Ron, Hermione and Harry would be the first to be able to apparate and become an animal. “I still say that Potter will manage first.” He distinctly heard Severus say from behind him. “No chance, it’s got to be Hermione.” Tonks said, “She’s dead smart.” “Brains aren’t everything.” Molly said. “Ron’s going to do it before anyone else because he has all us to live up to.” Fred said, grinning as if he were someone whose incredible skill overshadowed his younger brother considerably instead of being the joint owner of a joke shop. “My money’s on Potter.” Mad Eye said in his usual tone which sounded as if he were growling, “What do you think, Albus?” “It is not my place to say.” The old man said as he walked along with everyone else. Remus dropped down so that he was alongside them all and could better listen to their conversation or argument, whichever it was closest to. “So, who do you think’s going to apparate and become an Animagi first, Remus?” Kingsley asked him. “I think Hermione will apparate first and Harry will be the first to become an Animagus.” Remus said stating his opinion, much to the irritation of the Ron supporters, “Sorry.” He said, smiling apologetically at Molly. “What do you reckon they’re talking about?” Ron asked as he glanced behind him as he reached the steps of Grimmauld Place along with Harry and Hermione. The adults were all walking in a big group and seemed to have their eyes on them for a lot of the time whilst they talked. It was very unsettling. “Us, I reckon.” Harry said. “Why would they be talking about us?” Hermione asked as she pushed open the door and walked inside, glancing back she saw the adults slowing their pace so that they could fit in more conversation before they caught up to them. “Because we’re just that great?” Ron asked hopefully. “I doubt it.” Harry muttered as they all entered the kitchen. “You’re on Minerva.” Charlie said to her as they walked into the kitchen. “On what?” Ron asked. “On the list of people who want to slap you.” Bill said and Ron looked at him suspiciously. “Course you’ve to get them to agree to it first.” Severus muttered although Ron, Harry and Hermione heard it. “Come on, get out you three. Let us grown ups talk.” Fred said and ushered them out of the room before they could say another word. “I cannot believe we’re actually betting on them.” Remus muttered as Mad Eye glanced through the solid wood of the door to check that the three of them had gone. “Where are they?” “Upstairs.” Mad Eye informed them as his magical eye followed the three of them up onto the first floor. “I still want to know why they were talking about us.” Ron said. “You don’t know that they were talking about us.” Hermione interjected. “What if they were saying something awful?” Ron asked anxiously. “Why would they be saying something awful?” Harry asked as they made their way up the stairs and to their rooms. “They weren’t talking about us at all!” Hermione said, irritably, “Now stop being so paranoid!” “Night, Hermione.” Harry said and rolled his eyes. “Good night you two.” Hermione said and Ron muttered a good night as Hermione walked into her bedroom. Harry and Ron kept walking until they were up on the next floor. “Is it me or is she really crabby today?” Ron asked as they reached the second floor. “It’s all that homework you ruined.” Harry said. “Yeah, probably.” Ron agreed, “And because you can already apparate a few feet. She’s not happy about that at all.” He grinned at Harry as they walked into their room.
***
“Checkmate.” Hermione said and Harry narrowed his eyes at his pieces which had just successfully lost their second game in a row. He definitely wasn’t getting any better at chess. He was sat in the lounge at Grimmauld Place which was managing to look rather cheerful for once. The walls were now covered in deep red wallpaper which gave the room a very cosy feel to it as the sun streamed in through the large open windows. It had taken most of the house the morning to get the entire room redecorated although there had been a few members of their group absent. Kingsley and Tonks had gone somewhere for the Order, although Harry, Ron and Hermione had no idea as to where they had actually gone. Severus was also missing as he had been summoned but when informed of this no one needed to ask to where he had been summoned or by whom. “I think this room looks rather good now.” Filius said as he walked in and glanced around the room. The design for it had been Minerva’s idea but he had done a lot of the paintwork around the skirting and on the window frame, magically of course. “Dinner’s out.” Bill said, sticking his head around the side of the door and instantly everyone in the room got to their feet and there was a minor stampede as everyone in the house tried to get through the kitchen door at once. “So are you ready for your first lesson in becoming an Animagus, Harry?” Minerva asked him as he sat down next to her. “Yeah, I think so.” He smiled at her and she gave him a rare smile in return. Down the table a few seats away Ron was scowling at his food. “What’s wrong with Ron?” Remus asked him quietly as he looked down at Ron. “It’s because I’m not allowing him to learn to become an Animagus yet.” Minerva said coolly. “Besides, it might not be me that teaches him when it comes down to it.” “What do you mean?” Harry asked her with interest. “What I mean,” She said to him, “Is that we believe it may be beneficial to you to learn separately, one on one with an adult. It would enable you to receive someone’s complete and undivided attention on the subject.” “Whilst allowing them to bet on who’s going to become Animagi first.” Remus muttered darkly under his breath. It was well known that Remus wasn’t altogether pleased with the idea that they were betting on the three students but that hadn’t stopped him from offering to teach one of them. Naturally his preferred student was Harry but he was quite popular with many other people as well, making for some interesting debates. Harry heard what Remus had said and looked enquiringly at Minerva who dodged his gaze as she took another sandwich. “You’ll never guess who bet on you winning.” Remus said to him and Harry glanced across at him, intrigued. “Severus.” He grinned and Harry stared at him in disbelief. “No way.” Harry said as he searched his guardian’s face for any sign of insincerity. “He did.” Minerva confirmed to the side of him. “Bet ten galleons as well.” Harry raised an eyebrow, wondering whether the two of them were having him on. “I do not jest, Harry.” She said, causing a smile to touch his lips. Soon after lunch Harry found himself stood outside in the field. Minerva told him that this was to prevent any distractions which could and would most likely occur in the busy household around them. She took out her wand from her pocket and looked at him closely. “So what animal do you think you’ll be?” She asked him. “I’m not sure, an owl maybe?” He thought aloud. “I’ve not put much thought into it.” “Alright then.” She said, looking at him with interest. She too had thought that he would be an owl when he transformed but they would soon find out. She walked towards him and reached out with her wand, touching it lightly to his heart. She murmured something which Harry didn’t hear and then there was a strange sensation inside Harry, his mind was filled with darkness for a moment and then he could feel his limbs being stretched and something growing out of his back and then as soon as it had begun, the feelings stopped. “Good lord above.” Minerva murmured as she stared at the boy infront of her, who was no longer a boy but a thestral. She had never heard of anyone being a thestral when they transformed before, it was most unusual. Harry looked down and saw that he could see two black hooves, he twisted his head around and saw black wings and the body of some kind of four legged creature. He was still shorter than McGonagall though so whatever he had become clearly wasn’t taller than he was. It was a shame that the spell only lasted a few seconds, Minerva thought as Harry changed back, it would have been most interesting to see everyone’s reactions back at the house. The adults had not only been betting on when they would become Animagi but also what animals they had become. Mad Eye stood to lose a sizeable amount to Severus now since he had bet money on Harry’s being a phoenix. Harry changed back to his natural self and glanced down just to check that he was all in one piece and then his eyes travelled up to Minerva who was smiling slightly at him. “A thestral…” She said thoughtfully, “That could be very useful indeed.” Harry’s eyes widened slightly as he realised that he was going to be changing into one of the ghostly winged horses that could only be seen by those that had seen death. He had ridden one the year before to the ministry of magic, although he didn’t want to think of that. He pushed the thought away as he looked to his teacher. “Right, Harry. Becoming a thestral will not be easy, nor would it be easy to become any other animal. We will begin with simple exercises today which I will want you to practice and yes that means that you are going to be working, even when you’re not being taught. Think of it as homework.” “Brilliant…” Harry muttered but not too loudly; he didn’t want her to stop teaching him altogether. The lesson was a long one and had him focussed on the creature that he was going to become. She had suggested to him that he spend some time with some thestrals so that he could better understand the animal he was to become. That wasn’t going to be particularly difficult as Harry already knew that Hagrid had many of them living in the Forbidden Forest. She informed him that eventually he would be able to turn into his chosen animal instantly without thinking about it, although at first he was going to be concentrating on just turning into a thestral, then after that he could work on managing it faster and faster with as little thought as possible. “With tuition you should be able to become an Animagi in a matter of months.” She said to him and he looked quite shocked at this because from what he had heard it could take many years to become a fully able Animagus. “I am serious. Although the hardest part will be turning into the animal for the first time, once you have done that it will become easier and easier as time goes on.” She said as they walked back up through the garden towards the house. He could see already that Ron and Hermione were in the kitchen window waiting for him to come back just to find out what kind of animal he was going to become. That set his mind wandering to them and what sorts of animals they would be. “So what do you think Ron and Hermione will be?” He asked his professor as they walked. “I’m not sure. Everyone believes Mr Weasley will be something like a fox, due to his red hair.” Minerva said to him. “Aren’t foxes meant to be cunning?” Harry asked her and she smiled ever so slightly. “Yes, this is why many people doubt his turning into a fox. I believe that he will be a dog of some kind.” She said, scowling at one of the hedge snakes that followed them as they walked through the centre of the garden. “And what about Hermione?” Harry asked. “Again I’m not certain but an owl perhaps or maybe a cat.” Minerva said, “It’s all very indefinite until that spell is performed upon them.” They walked a little more briskly as they noticed that the snakes were making a vague attempt to close them into the garden. Soon they reached the end of the garden and quickly walked up the steps into the kitchen where Harry was instantly attacked by Ron and Hermione, both desperate to know what kind of animal he was going to be. “A thestral.” He told them and they stared at him. “Wow, that’s incredible!” Hermione said and Ron could only stare at him. “Shut your mouth, Ron!” She added when she saw Ron’s mouth hanging open as he stared at his friend. “So, have you finished your homework yet?” Harry asked them and Ron glowered darkly when he asked, answering his question. “I have.” Hermione said, “But Ron hasn’t. He spilt ink all over his work and then when he tried to reverse it his parchment set on fire. He almost set Hedwig on fire as well whilst he was at it.” Harry smiled slightly, although he had almost set his owl alight. The point was that he hadn’t and that he was going to spend another day writing it out. He glanced around the kitchen to see that McGonagall had already disappeared, presumably into the next room to talk with the other members of the Order. He still found it hard to believe that they had been betting on them though. “I’m going to go for a lie down.” Harry told Ron and Hermione. “Learning to become an Animagus really takes a lot out of you and I hardly did anything!” Hermione nodded understandingly and Ron just looked a little jealous as he left and went up the two flights of stairs to his room. He pushed open the door and found everything the way it had always been as he walked slowly over to his bed and let himself fall backwards into it, his head sinking into the pillows behind him. He felt bizarrely drained in the same sort of way that he felt after Occlumency lessons, although he felt much better than he did after Occlumency. He was not alone long, soon Remus slipped inside his room, not bothering to knock. He had been wondering how long it would be until Remus had come up to see him and he had been right in thinking that it would be less than fifteen minutes after he went up. Remus smiled at his godson as he came and sat at the bottom of his bed. “So, how was it then?” Remus asked him, his eyes watching him with interest. “Exhausting.” Harry replied to him with a slight smile. “What animal will you become then? Minerva said you’re going to become a kitten but no one believes her.” Remus said to him and Harry grinned. “I’m not becoming a kitten.” He said to him, “I’m becoming a thestral.” Remus’ eyes widened. “Wow.” He said, “That’s amazing. You’ll be a flying horse.” “And half the people at school won’t be able to see me.” Harry said. “What was it like then, when you changed into it?” “Strange. Well it was strange whilst I was changing, I just felt normal when it was over despite the fact that I was a thestral.” Harry replied to him. “I’m only going to be a small one though.” “Really, how big?” Remus asked, an image of a tiny thestral small enough to sit in his hand in his mind. “About up to here.” He said and put his hand halfway up his aarm. “Aww, you’re going to be a little baby thestral.” Remus teased. “Shut up.” Harry scowled at him. “Well it’s true.” Remus said to him, “You’re only a foal. Your Animagus form will grow as you do though. That’s what happened with Sirius and your father, although Peter was always the same little rat.” He heard the bitterness in his voice as he spoke about Wormtail, who had once been a trusted friend of his. Harry moved closer to him and he heard Remus sigh softly. He couldn’t imagine how awful it must be to lose all his friends the way that he had done. “So what are you going to do now?” Remus asked Harry, turning the subject away from Animagi. “Well I’m going to go downstairs and steal the Animagus book from Hermione.” Harry said, “She’s not even been reading it, she’s been reading Hogwarts: A History again! Then I’ll probably come downstairs and see what’s happening there.” “Why are you going to go downstairs?” Remus asked Harry as he leant back against him. “To get the book back, I told you.” Harry replied to him. “And have you successfully managed to forget that you’re a wizard?” Remus said, exasperatedly. “You do know how to summon things to you.” “So I do!” Harry smiled. It was still a little strange to him that he could summon things to him and will and he often found himself walking around the house for things that he could easily just summon straight to him. “Accio Animagus Book” He said and sure enough the book flew through the door a moment later and landed neatly in his lap. “Remus, Order meeting.” Charlie said, sticking his head around the side of the door. “I’ll be down in a minute.” Remus said and Charlie disappeared from the doorway, “Sorry Harry but I completely forgot about the meeting, I’ll talk to you at tea.” He gave Harry a light hug before getting up from the bed and leaving the room. Harry glanced at the book in his hands and started to read. A/N: So, what do you think about Harry's animagus form? Basically I spent forever trying to decide between wolf and owl and ended up on thestral somehow instead... Anyway, this chapter was for Iced_Cherriez who's feeling crappy and is always after the next chapter. Hope you all liked this and I hope to get the next chapter (Of Duels And Reappearences) up in a day or two :o)

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