"It's way too early to think about becoming an animagus," Lily said firmly. "You can work on it after your OWLS."
"Sorry son," James said, "but I'm going to have to agree with Lily, it's much too dangerous, no matter how talented you are."
Harry nodded. "I agree, but I'm not talking about training so I can become one, I'm asking if Mum ever took the potion."
"In my fifth year," Lily agreed. "Sadly, I don't have the gift."
"That's exactly what I wanted to know," Harry said. "Wanna spend some time on a mother son activity?"
"What do you have in mind?" Lily asked, wondering if he'd asked about the animagus potion just to mess with them.
"It's a surprise," Harry said, "but it's also a good bonding activity, since I don't get to see you as often, since I'm going to school in a whole nother country."
"That would be more convincing if you didn't have a convenient way to come home every day," Snape said dryly.
"Of course I do," Lily said instantly, looking a little misty eyed, "you're growing up so fast these days."
"I can't believe that worked," Snape said shaking his head.
"That's because you aren't a mother," Lily said with a smile.
"Not that we know anyway," James said with a smirk. "He did vanish for a number of months after we graduated Hogwarts."
"I was spying on Voldemort," Snape reminded him, not sure what James was about to pull, but sure he wasn't going to like it.
"That's what we were told and I have no doubt you also did that," James said, "but who's to say you weren't covering up a surprise pregnancy? Those were dark days and quite a few students received graduation gifts they never thought of receiving."
Ginny turned to Harry from her place on the floor next to him. "Da's aware that Uncle Severus is a man, right?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, but I want to see where he's going with this."
"The secrets of polyjuice potion that only a master knows," James said with an evil grin while Snape looked horrified.
"Oh Severus," Lily said suddenly, "it looks like he's found us out."
"What?" James asked confused.
Snape quickly played along, not sure what Lily was going to say, but more than willing to spike whatever awful joke James was trying for, "It was bound to come out eventually."
"When I found out that there was a curse on my family line that made it so I could only have girls I knew I had to do something," Lily said with a sniffle, like she was holding back tears, "so I leaned on my best friend for a solution. Severus manned up, took some of my hair and… made sure the Potter line would have a male heir."
James and Snape both looked horrified but Snape quickly recovered and added, "There's little I wouldn't do for my friends and it's not like James isn't a handsome wizard."
"The worst thing was that James didn't even call the next day," Snape said in a hurt voice.
"He is a bit thoughtless like that," Lily agreed with a sigh.
James made a face, annoyed that they'd turned his joke around on him so easily. "I know a way to settle this," James said with a smirk as he drew his wand. "Locus Parentis Harry James Potter."
All three adults gained a glowing golden aura and stared at one another in shock.
"The Box," James said slowly as they exchanged glances, unsure what to say about this new development.
"Does this mean you're only my half brother?" Ginny asked hopefully.
Harry wasn't sure what 'The Box' had to do with anything, but he was fairly sure why the spell reacted that way. "Do you three want to continue being confused and horrified or do you want me to explain things for the low, low cost of one favor, no questions asked, later?"
"Still a bit freaked out here," Lily said, wondering if they had done something like they'd just joked about and obliviated themselves of the knowledge.
"So that's a yes?" Harry asked with a shark-like grin.
"What's the favor?" James asked, noting how Ginny and Flora were still clinging to their brother and hoping it had nothing to do with their obvious crushes.
"Or I could just accept having three parents," Harry said. "Does this mean Daddy Snape owes me over a decade of birthday and Christmas gifts and do I owe him Mother's or Father's Day cards?"
"I'm in," Snape said instantly.
"Same here," Lily added quickly, not willing to share Mother's Day with Severus, no matter how funny it would be.
"All in," James agreed.
"The Locus Parentis spell checks marriages, not actual parentage," Harry reminded them.
"That helps a little, but doesn't resolve the situation," James pointed out.
"The Marauder's Compact, as has been noted, is considered a marriage contract in some societies, so it registers with the spell," Harry explained.
"Oh, thank Merlin!" Snape and James chorused.
"Two husbands could be fun, but would be too much work," Lily said, relieved that Harry was still her son and not Snape's.
"Are you going to become an animagus?" Flora asked curiously, changing the subject while the adults decided to pretend the previous conversation had never occurred.
"Eventually," Harry agreed, "there's no rush."
"What kind of animal do you think you'll be?" Ginny asked.
"A stag like his old man," James said proudly. "It's in his blood."
"Doesn't quite work that way, deer," Lily said with a smile.
"Go for moose, they make deer look puny," Flora suggested.
"Hey!" James complained. "I'm plenty big as a stag."
"I'd make a 'nice rack' joke, but it's not wise to do when you're penned down by females," Harry said, still lying on the living room floor between Ginny and Flora
"Plus, it's a tad tasteless," Lily added.
"And Lily has already made them all," James said. "Any possible comment you could make she covered in the first week after she found out I could change into a stag."
"I had help," Lily defended herself.
"We had meetings, without James, to brainstorm new comments," Snape told them.
"School sounds like a lot of fun," Flora said as her three younger sisters started arguing over the omnioculars and their parents had to break it up.
"It is, but I still prefer to spend my time with you guys," Harry said.
"I can't wait to go to Hogwarts!" Ginny exclaimed, before giving Harry a squeeze.
"Tired of hanging around with us?" Flora asked.
"No, I'll just come home every day like Harry," Ginny replied, "it's the best of both worlds."
"Can't argue with you there," Harry said, "but are you ready to be the first-year student lead for Gryffindor?"
"What?" Ginny asked.
"First years have a hard time adjusting to Hogwarts, so I've started assigning students to take responsibility for their housemates," Harry explained. "You also have to help them in class and guide them around."
"I have no idea how to do all that," Ginny admitted.
"I'll teach you," Harry assured her. "We can sneak into Hogwarts during the winter break and I'll show you all the shortcuts and secret passages, but we should probably start on the schoolwork now. You'll want to be ahead of everyone so you can tutor them when needed. Just remember, you have to let at least two people learn the spell in class before demonstrating it, unless no one gets it in half an hour."
"Don't I need a wand before I can learn all that?" Ginny asked.
"Mine is attuned to you," he reminded her as they got up. "It'll be fine and Flora can get tips for when she has to start learning next year."
The three vanished up the stairs and James turned to Snape. "I blame you and Lily for all the sneaky teaching."
"How is it our fault?" Snape asked.
"Well, he doesn't get it from me," James replied with a shrug. "He got his stunning good looks from me."
Lily rolled her eyes as the two started arguing about what traits Harry got from each of them.
"What are you going to teach me first?" Ginny asked excitedly, as they entered Harry's room and climbed on the bed.
Flora grinned as Ginny bounced on her knees, making waves that rocked the other two back and forth.
"I've got fire starting and banishing items down from the elves," Ginny said excitedly, not giving Harry a chance to answer. "Oh, I know, you can teach me how to animate toys! That'd help with keeping our little sisters entertained."
Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out a packet of parchment that he tapped with his wand, causing it to quadruple in size. "We start with… turning a matchstick into a needle," he told her with a grin, "and here is all you need to know before we begin."
Ginny stared at the stack a bit daunted by the size of it, before accepting it.
"Casting with a wand is a lot more complicated and the more you know, the easier it is to cast a spell," Harry explained as Ginny quieted down and was counting the pages. "You can do more with a wand then you can wandless and it takes less out of you, once you know what you're doing anyway."
"You really have to know all that to turn a matchstick into a needle?" Flora asked.
"No, but if you know all that you'll be able to do it easily," he replied. "To conjure a chair the average wizard has to say the spell aloud and use seven specific wand motions and it leaves them a bit winded. For Dumbledore to conjure a chair he only has to flick his wand and not only is his padded and comfortable, it takes little effort at all. The difference is knowledge."
Ginny nodded and got a glint of determination in her eyes as she started to read Harry's notes.
"What's Neville like?" Flora asked rather than sit and watch Ginny read.
"Stressed out and nervous," Harry replied. "Neville has the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing hanging over his head, so everyone expects him to be the next Merlin, which he isn't. Heck, Merlin wasn't Merlin the way we think of him."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean reputations tend to get inflated, like the story of the cobbler who was so proud he'd managed to kill five flies with a single swat and somehow the story got exaggerated to the point where when the village was attacked by several giants they sent him out to face them, since he once killed five giants with a single blow," Harry explained.
"I doubt it's that exaggerated," Flora said, "that was a fairy tale."
Harry nodded. "And so are most of the stories about Merlin. Merlin is probably half the wizard we think he is and that's pretty impressive, but he's no Merlin."
Flora giggled. "So, Neville?"
"A very well trained young wizard with far too much weight on his shoulders," Harry replied. "He's a good bloke, but he didn't off the Dark Lord, that was his parents or rather the protection they put in place by sacrificing their lives for him."
"I've never heard that," Flora said with a frown.
"If you ask Dumbledore, he'll tell you that being loved so deeply as his parents did to sacrifice their lives for him, leaves a mark," Harry explained.
"Lots of parents died for their children in the war, it didn't protect them," Flora pointed out.
"Yes, but the vast majority died to protect them from a faceless wizard, Neville's parents died to protect him specifically from Voldemort. They knew who he was and what spell he would cast to kill their child," he said. "Neville isn't protected from dark magic, you could nail him with a school yard jinx, he's protected from the dark lord casting the death curse."
"But isn't the death curse unblockable?"
"All the unforgivables can be blocked with solid objects, they just can't be blocked with shield spells because they are designed to block a variety of spells so their power is spread out, not focused like the protection on Neville," Harry explained, "plus as Dumbledore will tell you Love is the most powerful magic of all. The Unspeakables even have a room dedicated to studying it."
"What?" Harry asked, not sure what he'd said that got that sort of response.
"Unspeakable number five, please kiss number three, with tongue this time while I cast a stunner at you," Flora said in a serious tone before they burst out laughing.
"I think my brain is full," Ginny complained as she set down Harry's notes, having finally finished reading them.
Harry grinned. "Yeah, the one downside of learning magic is… you have to learn magic, so you end up writing endless notes. Still, after you've committed them all to memory you never have to read them again, so there's that."
"You've memorized all that?" Flora asked in disbelief.
"Once you've got the hang of Occlumency it becomes a lot easier," Harry promised her.
"What class do you learn that in?" Ginny asked.
"They don't teach it in Hogwarts," Harry said, "it's something I'll be teaching you myself to make Hogwarts easier. I just wanted you to learn why it was so important to learn Occlumency before I began teaching it to you."
"I'm motivated, trust me," Ginny said as Flora picked up Harry's notes so she could look through them.
"Good, the first thing you have to do is learn to meditate," Harry told her.
"Sit in one spot and stare at my belly button?" Ginny asked with a frown.
"That's not what navel gazing means," he replied with a snicker. "No, it's learning to clear your mind. Everyone falls asleep when they first learn it, so if that happens don't worry about it."
"Can I learn it?" Flora asked hopefully.
"Of course," Harry assured her. "This doesn't require a wand so we can start right now."
Harry gestured and a candle flame appeared in the air in front of them. "This is just an illusion so get comfortable, get a good view of it, close your eyes, and picture it in your mind."
The two stared at the floating flame for a second before closing their eyes.
"Good, now picture yourself in a void with nothing but darkness around you and the flame in the center of your mind. Anytime something interrupts the stillness, feed it to the flame," he said quietly.
It was scarcely a minute before Ginny slowly fell over letting out a small snore. Flora managed another six minutes before falling backwards and joining her in sleep.
Harry snickered quietly to himself and shook his head as the door opened and Snape entered.
Seeing the two girls asleep and Harry sitting there with a small flame floating unsupported, Snape tried to figure out what they'd been doing but gave up after a few seconds and tapped himself on the head with his wand, turning into a duplicate of Harry.
Harry got off the bed, careful not to make waves and followed Snape through the wardrobe.
When the pair stepped out into Harry's dorm room Dean turned, saw the pair of them and shook his head.
"I'm not even going to ask," Dean said, before turning and walking out.
"You have some good roommates," Snape told Harry, "Slytherin roommates wouldn't stop until they figured out your secret."
"Yeah, Dean's alright," Harry agreed cheerfully.
"Give me three good excuses for someone finding two of you," Snape challenged.
"One; I'm working on my illusions," Harry said, "two; I've gotten ahold of a time turner and I have to go close this time loop or we'll all cease to be, three… you're a stand-in I've hired because I've gotta go do something and don't wanna get caught, so you're here learning how to act like me."
Snape grinned. "You obviously get your deviousness from me."
"Thanks, Mum," Harry said with a smirk.
"I better get one hell of a Mother's Day present this year," Snape replied with a laugh.
Before they could leave the door opened and the Weasley twins entered, staring at them, then at the sheet of parchment in their hands, and back at them once more.
It took a second for Snape to recognize what they were holding. "They have the map," Snape said with a groan. "Why didn't you tell me they had the map?"
"They are pranksters," Harry said flatly.
Snape considered that. "Fair enough. You get to figure out how to keep them quiet."
"They worship the Marauders, it's not a problem," Harry said. "Later Batty."
"Batty?!" the twins chorused in disbelief as Snape slid past them and vanished down the stairs.
"Come in and close the door," Harry told them. "I'm going to have to read you in on the secret of the Marauders."
Typing by: fyrewolf5
TN: After the navel gazing comment, I want another chapter of Going Solo.