One bright Friday morning, shortly after final exams, Harry woke early. More specifically, he woke at six with a great furry blob in front of his face and a large paw prodding his nose impatiently. Harry grabbed his glasses and the blob resolved itself into Crookshanks. "Wake up," the enormous squashy-faced feline growled at him. "We need to talk."
Harry rubbed his eyes and yawned. "Very funny, George, talking cat prank's been done to death..owmmmph!" The sudden exclamation came from the fact that Crookshanks had just sank his sharp, pointy teeth into Harry's nose and the stifling of the noise came from the paw shoved in his mouth.
"Are you paying attention now? Good. As I said, we need to talk and before Miss Bossy Boots or any of the assorted numbskulls can wake up is the best time for it. Get dressed and follow me. Fall asleep and I'll bite something a lot more tender than your nose." With that, Crookshanks whapped Harry across the face with his bushy tail and jumped off the boy's chest and to the floor.
Harry got dressed, still unsure if he was really awake or not. It could still be one of the Twins' pranks, but given that they'd finished their OWL exams just yesterday he was sure even they were too tired to be pulling this kind of nonsense so early in the morning. Down in the common room, Crookshanks was waiting for him by the portrait door. The cat said nothing, but when Harry opened the door it trotted ahead down the corridor. Harry followed, still yawning. They passed no one in the halls, and it seemed that even the paintings were still asleep. Everyone wanted to sleep in the morning after final exams, even the teachers.
By the time they were outside, Harry was more awake. Crookshanks led him to a spot by the lake and finally stopped, perching on top of a rock like a very ugly little king. "Have a seat, Potter," the cat said diffidently. "We've got a good deal of ground to cover before everyone else starts waking up."
Harry sat down on the grass with one more yawn. "So if this isn't a prank and I'm not dreaming, is talking ...a new thing for you?"
"No, I've always been able to talk," Crookshanks said in between licks of his paw. "I just don't normally bother talking to humans."
"Because humans, especially young humans, tend to be idiots. Also, I came here to observe and you learn a lot more if you listen than if you talk."
"Why not talk to Hermione, then?" Harry asked. "She's one of the smartest people I know."
"She's intelligent, but that doesn't stop her from being an idiot. Believe me, I know. I've been observing her for months now, and even after three years of hanging out with you and the Red Balloon she still thinks the answers to everything can be found in bloody books." Crookshanks had the kind of voice that suited a face like his, decidedly sarcastic and low-pitched.
"The Red Balloon?"
"The ninny you and Bossy Boots humor with your company. Red hair, empty head, always lost in airy dreams of things he'll never achieve because he's too bloody lazy to get off his arse. I mean, how stupid do you have to be to not notice that your bloody pet rat is an animagus? For that matter, what kind of an idiot keeps a rat as a pet?"
Harry grimaced. "Are you this mean to everyone?"
"I'm a cat, Potter. My loyalty extends exactly as far as my next kipper, and Bossy Boots hasn't slipped me any in weeks. She's convinced that I'm getting fat. Pfeh! I wish. Between watching you lot, keeping that damn rat from slipping off, and keeping your idiot dogfather out of sight, I've been running non-stop. But this is wasting time. Tell me straight, Potter, have you been having weird dreams lately? Since that night when you and Bossy Boots mucked around with time and you saved yourself from dementors, I mean."
Sitting back, Harry thought about it. "Yeah, I think I have… I'm hot, but it feels good. I don't know where I am, but there are soldiers who obey my commands. We're fighting….monsters, I think. There are too many of them, but we keep holding them back no matter what. There was someone important, but they left… I think we were covering their retreat, holding the line so that they could reach… I don't know. It's too jumbled, but I think I've had that dream a couple times."
"What if I told you that wasn't a dream, but a memory?"
"I'm pretty sure I've never lead troops into battle, Crookshanks."
"Not in this life, no. But who says you've only lived one life?"
Harry scratched his head. "My aunt and uncle always said I came straight from Hell and was going back there as soon I died."
Crookshanks rolled his eyes, a rather disturbing sight. "Yes, and those two know ALL about the true nature of the universe, what with their cowering in the corner every time something 'freakish' happens. Angels and goddesses could land on their doorstep and they'd holler at them to stay off the grass and mind the begonias."
Despite himself, Harry laughed. "They would… So, what do you think these dreams are supposed to mean?" Talking to Crookshanks was starting to feel somewhat normal, perhaps because the cat was so strange-looking it was easy to look at him as just another strange magical creature, like Dobby or a goblin.
The cat sighed and examined a paw. "Long-ago tragedy, great destiny, all the usual rot. Let me just give you the short version. You're a reincarnated prince, born with magical powers and a destiny to protect the world from nasty monster-y things."
Harry groaned. "More destiny? Isn't being the bloody Boy-Who-Lived enough? I just got done messing with time and fighting off soul-sucking demons, last year it was a bloody basilisk, year before that my Defense teacher had a dead evil wizard on the back of his head. Can't I be normal for a while?"
Crookshanks snorted, another disturbing sight. "Why would you want to be normal? Normal is what boring people are, people who don't get to wave sticks and turn things into other things. Normal people don't get to go to schools full of ghosts and talking paintings, they don't get to fly or talk to cats or slay thousand-year-old monsters to save their idiot friend's creepy little sister. Sod normal, you get to be brilliant."
"Oh yes, it's wonderful, everyone gawping at my scar, whispering about me everywhere I go. Magic's brilliant, I'll give you that much, but three years in a row I've had weird and dangerous things happen to me at school. My friends and I have almost died several times. What are they going to do next year, bring Voldemort back from the dead?"
Crookshanks opened his mouth to make a snarky retort, only to quickly dive off the rock when a snowy white owl swooped down at him. "Really, Crookshanks, you're making a terrible mess of this. Perhaps I should try."
Harry gaped. "Hedwig? You too?"
Hedwig carefully perched on the rock in Crookshanks' place. The cat, looking irritated, found a grassy spot to sit on and groom itself. "I apologize for not telling you, Harry, but I was recruited into this business a couple weeks ago. The ability to talk to humans was …part of the incentive package, and it's taken some getting used to." Hedwig's voice was mellow and mature, like he'd always imagined an affectionate relative might sound. "May I try to explain?"
Harry was still reeling. "Alright, but …I'm really very confused."
"Yes, I know." The owl hopped down onto Harry's knee so that he could preen her feathers with his fingers, something that they'd both always found very relaxing. "Let me make it clear to begin with, Harry, you have a choice in this," she said after a few moments of quiet skritching. "You have so much that's hung over you already, no one would blame you if you turned it down, but the choice is yours."
"What happens if I say no? Will you have to leave?"
Hedwig shook her head gently. "If you decline, then the persons involved will look for help elsewhere. Perhaps they'll find it, perhaps not. My loyalty is to you, I'll be staying regardless. I might miss being able to speak aloud, but we've always understood each other well enough I dare say."
He smiled a little. "You're right about that. So, someone wants my help?"
"Yes. Now, this story begins roughly a thousand years ago; long before the Statute of Secrecy there was a society of magic hidden even from the Wizarding World. I'm still coming to grips with the differences and distinctions, but it seems that their magic was based upon the flows of energy between the planets, moons, and the Sun rather than merely calling on the energy within themselves and their wands."
"That sounds pretty powerful…" Harry replied skeptically.
"Indeed, absurdly powerful, and once they harnessed this power they used it to create an empire across the solar system. They couldn't change the fundamental nature of the planets to make them support human life, but they were able to create habitable spaces on each planet and moon so that each of them had a population. Their capital was built on Earth's moon, just past the border of the dark side where no one on Earth could see it."
"So they hid a whole empire from the people on Earth? How did they manage that?"
Hedwig rustled her wings in a sort of shrug. "Harry, you have to understand that this was the Tenth Century, give or take. Scholars of those times, even Wizards and Witches, had to make do with crude telescopes. They weren't able to do more than confirm that the other planets existed and moved through the heavens, spotting cities on them was completely out of the question. The cities on the Moon were simply placed to not be seen, and as for Earth… There was an enclave of the Moon Kingdom on Earth but it was well-hidden and interacted little with the world."
"The Moon Kingdom, huh? I suppose they could have named it something worse, like Hogwarts."
"Be nice, Harry."
"At any rate, the Moon Kingdom allegedly lasted a thousand years, a period called the Silver Millennium. Don't interrupt, Harry, I'm getting to the important part. It was supposed to be a time of peace, prosperity, and great wonders, none of which we can confirm as whatever ruins remain are all to be found on other planets. The end came, however, when the Moon Kingdom was attacked by an army of monsters from a dark dimension called the Negaverse. They took the Moon Kingdom completely by surprise and overwhelmed the defenses on most worlds in a matter of minutes. The capital on the Moon resisted longer, but eventually it too fell and the Imperial Princess and her protectors had just been slain when the Queen finally acted. She took out the Imperium Silver Crystal, the central focus of ALL the Moon Kingdom's magical energy network, and used its power to banish all of the monsters and their leader back to the Negaverse, sealing the dimension."
"If she could do that, why did she wait until it was too late to save even her own daughter?"
"Power always comes with a price, Harry. Queen Serenity was able to banish the enemy back to the Negaverse, but in doing so she caused every last habitat ward in the Moon Kingdom to collapse."
Harry winced. "You mean…"
"Yes. Every last citizen of the Moon Kingdom who had not already been killed by the Negaverse warriors died when the wards collapsed and the atmosphere they had been breathing vanished. In the space of a few hours, a population of more than a million had become a population of one – a queen dying of grief."
"…What did she do?"
Hedwig rustled. "She did what she could. She gathered the souls of the fallen to her, most particularly those of her daughter and her protectors, and blessed them to be someday reborn and awakened to their true history and power. She empowered animal guardians to watch over the sleeping souls, and to guide them when they awakened. And lastly, she hid the Imperium Silver Crystal for her daughter to someday find and use to bring about a new Moon Kingdom. Then, with her power exhausted and her grief unbearable, she died."
Harry thought about it for a minute. "You think I'm one of those reborn protectors, don't you…"
Crookshanks coughed a couple times, then began to laugh. "You think you're a… Hoo, that'd be a sight! You would look GREAT in the uniform!"
Hedwig shot him a dirty look. "No, Harry, we don't think that you're one of the Senshi. To begin with, they've already all been reawakened. Secondly…"
"They're all girls!" Crookshanks proclaimed with a snicker, then burst out laughing again.
Harry made a face. "Right. So what's so funny about their uniform, then?"
Hedwig, though covered in feathers, almost seemed to blush. "Harry, please understand, Crookshanks and I are recent recruits to the ranks of the guardians, we weren't there in the Moon Kingdom and we don't know why their traditions were what they were…"
"Just tell me and get it over with," he sighed.
"The elite Imperial guards were known collectively as the Sailor Senshi, or Sailor Scouts. Their uniforms strongly resemble…..sailor suit blouses and short, pleated miniskirts."
Harry blinked a few times. Then he began to snicker. The snicker became helpless laughter, and soon Harry was laying on his back on the lake shore, gasping for breath. "Merlin, I needed that…" he croaked out finally. "Do they REALLY dress like that?"
"Sailor tops, miniskirts, tiaras, and high heels," Crookshanks grinned. "What's more, they fight in them too. And somehow, those skirts always stay down."
"Well gee, it must be magic then," Harry said as he managed to sit up. "So if I'm not one of these …Senshi, what am I?"
Hedwig steadied herself on the rock, to which she'd retreated. "We think you might be a Prince."
"Prince? Of what, Wales?"
"Of Mercury, actually."
Crookshanks finished grooming himself and gave Harry a significant look. "Do you remember when you first had that dream you mentioned?"
He thought about it. "Yes, it was the night after we saved Sirius. I was in the hospital wing, as usual."
"Well, I snuck in that night to check on Miss Bossy Boots, the night after a significant stress is always a good time to spot awakened magic in someone."
"I bed Madame Pomphrey loved that."
"She never knew I was there. You can't keep out a cat that really wants in, we have our ways. At any rate, I was just getting comfortable on Books and Cleverness's bed when I saw the light coming from yours. There it was, plain as day, right there on your forehead, glowing in the dark."
"What, my scar?"
"Like your scar ever did anything that exciting," Crookshanks dismissed. "No, it was the symbol of Mercury, right in the middle of your forehead. It kept glowing for nearly an hour, more than enough time to get Miss Fuss and Feathers here down to see it."
"I have a name, Crookshanks, please use it."
"So Fluffy the Wonder Owl and I called in to Central Command. They confirmed that there was indeed a Prince of Mercury, and asked us to approach you. So here we are."
Harry sighed and stared out at the lake. The giant octopus was swimming in lazy circles, enjoying the rays of the sun as it rose over the mountains. "There's a catch, isn't there…" he said finally.
"Of course there's a catch," Crookshanks said, yawning wide. "Power always has a price, and crowns always come with a catch. Don't trust ANYBODY who offers you something shiny for free."
"Well? What's the catch?" Harry was fairly sure by now that Crookshanks was fonder of the sound of his own voice than he was of Harry or this Moon Kingdom he supposedly served. "You mentioned 'monster-y things', is that the catch?"
"Monster-y things, yeah, that pretty much sums it up. You want to give him the details, Fluffy?"
If looks could kill, Crookshanks would be a scorch mark on the ground. "Yes, I think I'd best. Heaven knows what YOU would tell him. Harry, the Princess and her protectors re-awakened a few years earlier than their guardians would have liked. You see, Queen Serenity banished the forces of the Negaverse, but she couldn't destroy them all. Two years ago, the Negaverse began to breach the barrier again. The Princess was awakened to fight them and each of her four protectors were activated in turn, but while they were magically strong their inexperience only allowed them to slow the Negaverse's plans, not stop them. At first they could only send through a single monster at a time, but as the monsters brought back energy gathered from their victims the barrier grew weaker and weaker. Eventually it collapsed, and the Queen of the Negaverse came to Earth once again."
"I don't remember the world ending during First Year. What happened?"
"The Princess found the Imperium Silver Crystal and used it, this time to blast Queen Beryl to 'moon dust' rather than banish her. It nearly cost her her life, and it DID cost the lives of her four friends, but she managed to win and at least partially restore the barrier."
"Partially? That doesn't sound good."
Hedwig sighed and fluttered her wings. "She chose to focus on bringing her friends back to life and repairing the damage to the Earth first. Furthermore, she wiped the memories of herself and everyone around her, making them forget the events of the previous year - everyone but her animal guardians, thankfully."
"She Memory-Charmed the whole world?" Harry was a bit skeptical.
"No, only those who knew that there were monsters and warriors in miniskirts fighting on the rooftops of Tokyo. It was fewer than you might think."
"Okay, so she saves the world and wipes her own memory? Why?"
"I'm told that she simply wanted to be normal, to attend school and have fun with her friends until she grew up in due course."
Harry nodded. "Makes sense to me. Did it work?"
"…No. A new evil arose less than a month later, and they all had to be awakened and have their memories restored again. They managed to defeat the servants of the Doom Tree well enough, and the Negamoon family after that, but by that point they recognized that they were caught in a cycle and began recruiting new guardians like Crookshanks and myself, so that we could find other reborn members of the Moon Kingdom and recruit them for the fight."
Harry grimaced. "And that's what you want from me, to give up my life here and go fight whatever evil is coming next?"
Hedwig sagged. "What I want is for you to be safe and happy. But I am asking if you are willing to go and fight. The next evil has already come, one of Queen Beryl's generals has escaped from the prison he was trapped in and has begun to build a new Dark Kingdom. According to our sources, he has grown cunning and very dangerous, and the Sailor Scouts already have their hands full."
"But I can't go, the Dursleys would never let me."
Crookshanks grinned. "Wouldn't they? You'd be going to the other side of the world, taking your 'freakishness' with you, and at no expense to them."
"What about Hogwarts? I can't just leave school, can I?"
"You'd be attending school in Japan. And you'd still be learning magic, just not…the kind they teach at Hogwarts. We might even be able to find you someone to teach you Low Magic anyway."
"Low Magic?" Harry asked, feeling a bit insulted.
"Yes, Low Magic. When you draw magical power from yourself or the interactions of a few magical components – like in a potion – it's Low Magic. In High Magic, you draw your power from stars, planets, elements, and from life itself."
In spite of himself, he chuckled. "Hermione's going to be furious to find out she's been learning Low Magic all this time."
"Hah!" Crookshanks laughed. "What's REALLY going to burn her biscuits is that there's a whole other level of history and magic out there – and no one's written a single book about it!"
Harry laughed with him, imagining a Hermione Granger wild-eyed and desperately wanting to consult a book but completely unable to. "Oh, that's going to KILL her….wait. Hermione and Ron can't come, can they?" His stomach sank. His two best friends, the ONLY friends he'd ever had…
Hedwig looked down. "We…don't know. Ron has shown no signs of being a reborn soul or of having any natural High Magic." Crookshanks was about to chime in with an insult, but a glare from Hedwig silenced him …for now. "Even so, I doubt his parents would permit him to go to Japan. Mrs. Weasley seems …very attached to her children."
"What about Hermione?"
"Crookshanks has been watching her all year, since long before I was recruited for this. It has been his opinion that she might have the potential, but if she does she has been rigorously suppressing it."
"Why would she do that?" Harry asked, puzzled.
Crookshanks rolled his eyes. "Bossy Boots doesn't like things she can't understand. I read her journal; she didn't really believe she could be a witch until Professor McGonagall put a wand in her hand and made her try a spell. Every bit of accidental magic she'd had before that, she'd found a Very Rational Explanation for it. Even McGonagall turning into a cat didn't convince her that SHE could do anything."
"That sounds like Hermione, alright. So once she's convinced that it exists and it can be learned, she'll probably turn out to be brilliant at it, even if she's not a …Sailor Scout? That really does sound weird."
"And 'The-Boy-Who-Lived' doesn't?"
"Fair point. So I guess Hermione *could* come, but we don't know yet. What about Voldemort? He's still out there, isn't he?"
"Sure, if you can count being 90% dead as 'out there'," Crookshanks said dismissively. "If he comes back, then he's Dumbledore's problem. And frankly, Voldemort's kinda small change compared to the Negaverse."
Harry made a face. "And that's supposed to make me feel better about going?"
Crookshanks snorted at him. "Like big and scary has EVER stopped you from doing what needed to be done? Besides, we haven't even told you the best reason why you should go."
"Crookshanks, I really don't think we should-"
"Come on, Fluffy, you're the one who wanted to tell him everything. You can't pick and choose on that."
Hedwig sighed. "All right… Tell him. Harry, I apologize, I wanted to save this until you'd made up your mind, so that you would listen to the rest and not just snap to a decision."
"What is it? Is the Moon Princess my aunt or something?" Crookshanks coughed several times. "Oh Merlin, that's it, isn't it?"
"Not quite…" the cat gasped out.
"Actually, we believe you have a sister."
"Evidence indicates that you are most likely the Prince of Mercury. One of the Princess's protectors is the Princess of Mercury. The implication is that you are siblings, or perhaps first cousins."
Harry stared at Hedwig. "A sister…?"
"Unless the House of Mercury was big on child marriages and she was your wife," Crookshanks added, fully aware that he wasn't helping.
Harry said nothing. Deep inside, a feeling was welling up, a feeling of longing. Two years ago, when he'd spent night after night staring into the Mirror of Erised, it had shown him scenes of family. His parents were dead, and from the way everyone had always talked his grandparents were all gone too. His father had been an only child, and his mum's sister….well, she was family but she hated everything about him. His uncle and his cousin were even worse. "What's she like?"
"We've never met her, Harry, but from the description we've been given she's a very kind, gentle soul."
"For a butt-kicking magical princess, of course. Sailor Mercury is kind of a brain, supposedly. Like Bossy Boots but nicer about it."
"And bear in mind that if it is as we suspect, you were her brother in the Moon Kingdom. In this life, she is an only child and Japanese. If a young Englishman shows up on her doorstep claiming to be a long-lost sibling, there's no guarantee that she or her mother will be open to the idea."
He sighed and nodded to Hedwig. "I guess that's fair. But I'm still not sure I believe all this. I mean, aside from glowing symbols on my forehead, what proof do you have that I've got this 'High Magic'?
"Your Patronus," Crookshanks said simply. "When you drove off a whole pack of Dementors with that thing, it was pretty obvious."
"I don't understand."
"The Patronus Charm straddles the line between Low and High Magic," Hedwig explained. "It creates a shape of pure life energy, focused through positive emotion. Most wizards don't even attempt the Patronus until they are adults, let alone master it at thirteen. Also, a wizard's Patronus can hold one or two Dementors at bay or drive them off if they are particularly strong. Repulsing nearly every Dementor in the British Isles at once would be impossible without High Magic potential."
"Face it, kid," Crookshanks remarked. "If you weren't a Prince, you and your friend both would have been Dementor chow."
Harry sighed. "I guess that makes sense…"
Hedwig fluttered back to his shoulder and rubbed her feathery body against his cheek. "We wouldn't ask this of you if you weren't capable of fighting and winning, and we wouldn't ask if there weren't a need. Please think about it."
Harry stroked her feathers for a few minutes, which was relaxing to both Hedwig and himself. Crookshanks curled up on top of the rock and napped. A few students began to stir out of the castle in search of some morning sunshine. Breakfast would be served soon. Meanwhile, he thought about it. His life would be dangerous, but what was new about that? Trouble seemed to find him whether he wanted it or not. He might be leaving his friends behind, but maybe they'd be able to come with – and even if not, he might be making more friends, maybe even a sister. He would have to leave Hogwarts, but he wouldn't be leaving magic behind. He'd have new magic to learn, and he'd have help in learning it. And he'd never have to go back to the Dursleys again.
"All right…" he breathed. "I'm in. But I don't know how you're going to get me away from the Dursleys, or all the way to Japan."
"Leave that to us," said Hedwig simply. "We have put a fair bit of thought into it and by the time you're back at King's Cross we'll be ready to move."