Harry stared at the silver sword that had fallen into his hand and scrambled to his feet. He had never used a sword in his life, but he had dim memories of swinging a stick around like a knight when he was a child with Dudley. Before his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had caught them at it and punished the both of them. Swords being one half of 'Swords and Sorcery', of course, and thus having the chance of corrupting their precious Dudders.
In future games of pretend, Harry wouldn't be allowed a sword, but he had nonetheless gotten a lot of practice in dodging. That served him well as Riddle's screams urging the basilisk to leave Fawkes alone and kill him finally got the massive snake turned about and headed in his direction.
He managed to evade the first attack entirely, the basilisk being a bit off center, and heard the beast crash into the wall head first. But it was coming straight at him for the second; tempted for a minute to simply stand his ground and let the thing impale itself, he finally dodged to one side, swinging his sword as he remembered doing so long ago.
The weapon clanged as it struck the serpent's teeth and the force of the blow nearly wrenched the ruby-crusted pommel from his hands. When he managed to hold on the attack instead threw him out of the coils of the basilisk entirely, the only noticeable damage a severed fang that fell to the ground moments later.
Not waiting for the feeling to come back to his arms, Harry scrambled to his feet and ran forward with an overhand blow from the weapon. The sword, however, hit the scales of the basilisk and simply bounced off with a ringing noise like a bell.
This elicited laughter from Riddle, but it only delayed his next command by a few moments. "You see, he is harmless, kill him! Finish the boy now!"
The basilisk still appeared reluctant to approach Harry, but this did not, unfortunately, prevent it from attacking and a sweep of the thing's tail swept the boy wizard into a wall, leaving him gasping for breath with the sword nearly ten feet away. A forked tongue tested the air once more and the serpent seemed satisfied, diving at Harry abruptly.
Time seemed to slow for a moment and Harry's eyes squeezed shut involuntarily. He couldn't watch as the massive maw of the basilisk approached. He had come so close and now he was going to die with Riddle still alive, Ginny dying, Ron trapped in the other room, Hermione petrified... He had only had two years where he had really lived. He would never have a family of his own. Heck, he had never even kissed a girl!
The last struck him as a bit silly for a last thought, but as he felt the impact of the basilisk and prepared for the painful contraction of the jaws it stuck in his mind for some reason. It was only when he felt something soft press into his lips and a distinct lack of painful, piercing wounds that his eyes popped open though.
Sight did little to alleviate his confusion, as the massive, 40 ft long serpent had simply vanished. Instead, a petite girl of about his age was laying on top of him, her mouth locked on his and her tongue making a determined attempt to push through his clenched lips. Her... slightly forked tongue...
Pushing back against the girl's shoulders, he managed to push her away, though she never opened her eyes and made a plaintive hissing sound (that he interpreted as, "But that was fun,") and promptly followed up by squirming in his grasp and reaching for him again. Taking a closer look, he found that there were a couple other facts that hadn't quite registered. Her hair was a dark green, for instance, and almost as wild as his own, though a fair bit longer. Her eyes were still closed, despite the fact that they were no longer kissing and it almost looked like she had been crying blood. Oh, and she was completely naked.
It was the cute little fang that she displayed on the right side of her mouth as she opened her mouth to complain (and apparently taste the air) that finally convinced him that he was dealing with the basilisk that had just been attacking him though. Mainly because the other, which he had just cut off of the "king" of serpents moments ago, was also missing on the girl.
Luckily, he wasn't the only one to be confused, because Riddle was actually standing slack jawed. Though as Harry focused upon him, he appeared to seize control of himself. "What have you done to my basilisk, Potter? How have you done it? You will tell me before you d-"
An abrupt caw interrupted the shade of Voldemort and Harry glanced over at a scarlet and gold blur near where he had first attacked the basilisk. Who he was still trying to keep at arms length. Pushing away from her, he staggered to his feet and then swayed, almost falling as dizziness made the room spin. He felt for his glasses and was a bit surprised to find them on his face, as the room blurred and re-focused.
He had taken a few hard falls in Quidditch and had never felt like this, but he staggered forward towards what he assumed was Fawkes until a blast of blue light exploded next to him. The force of it threw him forward and he tumbled across the floor until he was only a few feet away from his objective.
"It appears my pet did its duty after all, Harry Potter. You are already dead. I can see the poison coursing through your veins." Riddle had appeared, a dark shadow against the light of the torches to Harry's vision until it focused again and he could see the cruel smirk on the older boy's face. "A poisoned kiss. Elegant and deadly. I am sure I shall find a use for it after I leave this place and your rotting corpses."
Harry looked away from the prefect's face and his eyes fell on Fawkes... and the diary and fang that the phoenix was sitting beside.
Forcing a calm expression, he said, "You won't be leaving this chamber, Tom. You fail at every turn. I've seen it before. If the adult you couldn't manage to kill me, I'm certainly not going to let this stop me." Harry lifted himself to his hands and knees, then stared up at Riddle defiantly. The stubborn gesture and insult elicited the same burst of rage as before and he pointed Harry's own wand at him. As soon as his attention was completed focused upon Harry, however, Fawkes burst into a flurry of motion, flying directly at Riddle- and more importantly his wand.
Even as the phoenix was grappling for the wooden stick, Harry was scrambling across the floor, fighting the weakness in his limbs just long enough to fall to the ground where Fawkes had started. Grasping the diary, he cast around for the fang, only to have it presented to him a moment later by the girl, or rather the basilisk.
Not pausing to question as a bolt of red magic slammed into the ground only a few feet away, he grasped the fang and plunged it into the diary. Riddle and the diary itself screamed, ink spurting out of the book. A small sense of satisfaction passed through him as Harry let the fang and diary drop from fingers he could no longer feel.
Blackness began to blot away the concerned expression of the odd girl and a brief flash of scarlet, then the pain and darkness began to recede and he noticed Fawkes above him, pearly tears dripping from the raptor's cheek to fall into his mouth.
"Fawkes?" he asked weakly, wondering what was going on. However, he had only a moment to think about this, as Fawkes was batted away with surprising strength and he heard a serpentine hiss that translated into, "Yay, we won!" Followed promptly by another kiss that he wasn't strong enough to fight.
When he woke the second time, the hiss was a more territorial "Mine!" as an angry looking phoenix was pushed away after having cried a few more tears and Harry once again found himself literally being kissed to within an inch of his life.
As this went back and forth several times, Harry finally started to feel strength returning to his limbs despite the repeated poisoning when he was put back into a lip lock for the last time and Fawkes gave a disgruntled cry and flew away towards Ginny, apparently giving up on fighting the basilisk.
For a moment, Harry felt despair, but the lack of darkness, blurred vision, and renewed weakness let him hope that he would survive despite Fawkes having apparently been successfully kicked out of the "Let's Lay on Harry" club. It almost made this a bit pleasant, in fact, but he finally pushed away the basilisk- who promptly latched on to his arm.
Deciding it wasn't worth trying to fight her off again, he let her pull him to his feet and was a bit grateful for the support as he made his way to Ginny. Who he noticed was up now and apparently had been for a little while. Her expression was an odd mix of fear, sadness, and something else which almost looked like anger, though that appeared to be mainly when she was staring at the girl latched on to his arm.
She finally drew a deep breath and said, more composed than she probably would have been a few minutes ago, "Harry, I tried to tell you at breakfast, but just couldn't say it in front of Percy. I swear I didn't mean to, but it was all me this year. I mean, not me alone, there was a boy named Riddle and he forced me to... forced me to..."
Harry interupted, holding up the damaged diary. "It's okay, Ginny. I know, Riddle told me everything and he's gone along with the basilisk. Well, kind of, I think."
Ginny blinked and looked around the chamber, finally taking in the damage done to the walls. "Really? Did you and, umm, your... friend... chase it off?" A dark blush suffused her cheeks at this and Harry had a sinking feeling that she had seen quite a bit more of the basilisk and him than he might have wanted.
Rubbing the back of his head, Harry sheepishly said, "Umm, not exactly, but I'd rather explain... that... when we get back up to the school I think."
This appeared to promptly remind Ginny of her predicament and while she retained enough composure not to burst into tears, she sniffled a bit as Harry, she, and the basilisk made their way to the Chamber entrance. "I'm going to be expelled, aren't I?" she asked, "I've wanted to come to Hogwarts since Bill came and I won't be allowed to stay now."
This comment finally prompted a response from the basilisk, who smiled widely and said, "Good, less competition. The jealous one can stay away and there will be more kisses for me."
As this statement was made in Parseltongue, Harry was more than a bit surprised when Ginny gasped and swung around him to confront the girl on his left. "That is so mean! Who are you even?" Her tears appeared to be abruptly forgotten and she stared as the basilisk with a challenging glare.
Harry thanked the stars that he was feeling more steady now, because the transfigured basilisk took the opportunity to slip behind him and hide from Ginny before poking her head over his shoulder and sticking her tongue out at the girl.
"You can't command me anymore, the new Master will protect me." She appeared to try and blow a raspberry, but it didn't quite work with her tongue and came out more as an offended hiss, devoid of any real meaning. "I won't listen even if you use the True Tongue!"
"True Tongue? What are you tal- king a- bout..." Ginny trailed off to stare at the face which was glaring back at her and Harry assumed her focus was upon the tongue he could feel tickling at his earlobe as the basilisk hissed back.
Glancing back at the basilisk reminded him that the girl beside him was stark naked and he quickly pulled off his outer robes and threw them at her. This appeared to baffle her and he was forced to help her put them on before turning back to Ron's little sister.
"Ginny?" Harry asked, getting worried since the staring into space had gone on for at least a minute or two. "Ginny, I can explain." He paused. "Well, no, I can't really, but I can tell you what happened... why don't we just, umm, get out of here first. We can talk about it with Ron and everyone else and then if you want, you can ask me any questions you want. Either with everyone or privately, it's up to you."
A bit of gentle shoving eventually got the now unresponsive Weasley moving again, but it only lasted a short while until she abruptly planted her feet again as they passed through the entrance and it closed with a hiss. "Harry, please tell me that we haven't been speaking in Parseltongue."
Feeling that Ginny was on the verge of tears again, Harry considered the question carefully and said, "You and I are not speaking Parseltongue."
"And... her?" Ginny waved at the basilisk still attached to Harry, which made her stick out her tongue again and prompted a small shudder from the First Year. Unfortunately, the transfigured girl also didn't let Harry answer for her.
"Of course I'm speaking the True Tongue. You're awfully dumb for a former Heir."
Ginny slumped gloomily, but started walking on her own to Harry's relief, albeit with one hand having a light hold on his sleeve. "Disowned and expelled. Harry, can I live with you when my family finds out I'm a dark wizard who speaks Parseltongue?"
"They won't do that, Ginny," Harry reassured her as they finally saw the end of the corridor materialize out of the gloom. "Just wait and see. Besides, you haven't actually spoken it yet, right?" This didn't appear to make Ginny feel any better, so he began to increase his pace. He nearly fell flat on his back as he felt a tug on not only his left arm, but his right as well, though. Glancing at both girls now latched on to his arms, he suspected this was going to be a touch... challenging to explain.
Sitting in McGonagall's office later, Harry thought that challenging might have been understating it. Ron had bought the same excuse that he had presented to Ginny of only wanting to explain things once, but that had fallen apart when Myrtle had attempted to join his "harem" (her word, not his) and had promptly been frightened off by the basilisk hissing at her.
Arriving in McGonagal's office had been about what he had expected, Ginny's tears had finally escaped for awhile and he used that time to explain what had happened prior to entering the Chamber of Secrets. By the time he actually finished with that, she had once again gotten control of herself, which he thought was rather brave. Or perhaps just a response to the occasional condescending looks (so to speak) from the basilisk, which he tried to put a stop to with a few stern looks of his own that didn't do much of anything.
The confrontational attitude between the two had left Molly a little torn- the basilisk appeared at first glance to be a young girl no older than her own daughter and appearing even worse for the wear given the blood on her face and the fact that she hadn't spoken. However, there was definitely some animosity between the two.
And when he had finally coaxed a name out of the transfigured girl, whispered into his ear, his exclamation of "Guinevere?" had made it impossible to take that back. Ginny seemed to take this as yet another challenge and when Dumbledore had suggested a trip to the hospital wing had actually put up a fight about leaving. Particularly as he had yet to actually get to the real story of how she had turned up in the Chamber of Secrets- Ginny had seen enough to know that he had glossed over rather a lot.
It wasn't until Harry promised to visit her there as soon as possible that she finally acquiesced to her parents demands and left quietly, followed shortly after by McGonagal. The latter was also giving him knowing looks and he suspected more pointed questions would follow there as well.
Certainly the awards Dumbledore had promised and the points to Gryffindor after that were nice, but when he had been left alone with Dumbledore when Ron took Lockhart to follow his sister he began to get a bit worried. Guinevere, or whatever the basilisk's real name was, had managed to stay quiet until now, but he was worried about her. While she had hurt a lot of people, and nearly killed him at least half a dozen times, in the end she had helped him to finish Tom Riddle off.
As soon as she spoke, it was going to be obvious that she was only speaking in Parseltongue, not to mention the blinding and her tongue. He didn't want her killed, but she also didn't seem like she would leave him... and probably wouldn't be safe to let run around anyway with the poison kisses and all.
He was a bit relieved when Dumbledore started off the conversation in a different direction and the discussion that followed proved to be very reassuring. He wasn't entirely sure about Dumbledore's assessment of his Parseltongue ability, but it did seem to make sense given that Ginny now understood it too. Guinevere just snorted when she heard the explanation though, which elicited a raised eyebrow from Dumbledore.
He finished his thoughts though and it was only as Harry thought the basilisk was finally going to be broached that Malfoy had burst into the room. The exchange following that had finally seen Guinevere leave his side (or he hers, anyway) and by the time he reached McGonagall's office again following Dobby's freedom she was looking considerably chastened.
Dumbledore had asked that Harry wait at that point while he went to fetch McGonagall and that had left him in his current situation. Still, as he glanced over at Guinevere and the door began to open, he thought it could have turned out far worse.
"Now, Harry, let us delve a bit further the mystery of this young woman, shall we?" Dumbledore said, smiling widely as he walked back into the chamber.
Harry smiled weakly. "What did you want to know, Professor?"
Chuckling, the Headmaster said, "You needn't worry, we won't harm her. We just wish to understand how she came to be down in the Chamber of Secrets."
McGonagal cleared her throat and said a bit more tersely and to the point than Dumbledore. "We noted that the basilisk was not included in your story, Potter. And Albus informed me she apparently speaks Parseltongue. Do you wish to expand upon your earlier tale?"
"Not really?" Harry waved his hands frantically when McGonagal's expression become even more severe at this comment and he added, "But, ahh, that doesn't really matter. I mean, I was just joking. I'll tell you what happened." He followed the last with a slightly more accurate rendition of the fight between himself, Riddle, and the basilisk. Or at least he started that way- by the time he had finished, he was pretty sure he had spit out more details than he had actually remembered.
On the upside, his guess about where the basilisk went appeared to be correct based on the the response of the Professors. On the downside- his guess about where the basilisk went appeared to be correct.
"Well, this does clear up at least one mystery," Dumbledore said with a twinkle in his eyes, "Fawkes appeared quite upset by the fact that I was going to be alone with Guinevere here and appears to bear quite the grudge. It may be best if we don't visit in my office for a bit.
"Now I am quite curious about the nam-"
"Albus!" Professor McGonagal said sharply. "Are you truly going to ignore the implications of this transfiguration? This is _human_ transfiguration, applied to a non-human. An XXXXX magically resistant being of significant size no less. Bodyweight and viciousness alone would require a truly phenomenal amount of wand power and concentration, even if it was accidental magic.
"And this doesn't even touch upon the legal implications. Human Trans-Species Transfiguration is heavily restricted for very valid reasons and is nearly impossible to Untransfigure. Combined with Gamp's Law and the inability to create sentience..."
Dumbledore cleared his throat and McGonagal actually blushed as she trailed off and he said, "I believe I wrote an article for Transfiguration Today on that very subject, Minerva, so I would venture to say I am aware of the issues this presents. I think we needn't frighten Harry with the legal complications just yet though, particularly before we have identified all the particulars."
Her expression a touch repentant, McGonagal responded, "Well, yes, of course. However, that was just an example of the complications we face. Consider the-" As she continued arguing with Headmaster Dumbledore, Harry began to zone out more than a bit. The discussion was well over his head and he really hoped that this was all NEWT level or at least OWL. If not, he was failing next year for sure.
Beginning to grow a bit restless, he leaned back in his chair and kicked his legs a bit, then nearly jumped out of his skin as he felt a tickling sensation at his ear and heard a very light, almost sub-vocal hiss. "The old ones are very silly, aren't they? One would think they had forgotten the reason you are the new Master."
Glancing over at Guinevere, Harry had to lean back a bit to avoid yet another attempted kiss. While they hadn't been bad per se, at least when they weren't leaving him on Death's door, he really didn't think that would reduce the amount of questions that Dumbledore and McGonagal ended up asking. Not to mention they _were_ old and probably didn't understand that kind of thing anymore. Not that he had given it a lot of thought himself either, but, well, he was a 12 year old boy verging on 13.
Whispering to the transfigured basilisk, Harry focused hard on her... snakier... qualities and whispered back in Parseltongue, "What do you mean?"
Guinivere tilted her head and tasted the air, her small pink tongue briefly parting her lips. "Are those who speak the True Tongue not feared any longer? In the first Master's time, it was not so." She sounded almost astonished, as if she couldn't believe the stupidity of people not running from Harry screaming for their lives.
The comment provoked memories of the smear campaign against him during the year and Harry scowled. "No, they're definitely still feared. Some stupid stereotype about them all being Dark Lords." Those rumors had made his second year at Hogwarts far less enjoyable than his first, though if he was being honest the atmosphere of fear that the petrifications had caused was probably the bigger part of that. He didn't think that this year would seem quite as exciting in retrospect as his first year confrontations with the Cerberus, Snape, and the traps under Hogwarts did now.
"Well, of course. How could they not be?"
"_Dark_ Lords," Harry emphasized. "Evil. Bad people. When people found out I was a Parseltongue this year they acted like I was going to steal their soul or something."
Guinevere scoffed. "It's only a piece, no one's going to miss it."
"..." Harry closed his eyes for a moment, lips pursed. Guinevere seemed to take this as an invitation to try kissing him again and he was stunned enough that it took him nearly a minute to recover and pull away. Trying to find his thoughts, he opened his mouth several times without actually saying anything before he finally found his voice. "I... please tell me that I misheard you."
Apparently happy to comply, Guinevere promptly said, "You misheard me."
Harry let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. Then paused and clarified. "And you did not say that I steal pieces of people's souls."
"I did not say you steal pieces of people's souls?" The hesitant question in the statement spoke to the basilisk's confusion and did not come across as particularly reassuring. Opening his eyes, Harry looked at the girl before him and saw the same thing written all over her face. Her follow up question shattered his brief moment of hope. "I am still telling you what you tell me, right? Not answering questions?"
Harry wondered briefly if he would have to go on the run with Ginny. Breaking the news that she was in fact a dark witch was going to be rather horrible on top of what had already happened to her. He then noticed the silence in the room and realized that it had lasted for awhile. Turning slowly, he looked at Dumbledore and McGonagal and gulped.
The pair looked far more imposing now that they knew he was evil. McGonagal had the sternest, most dissapproving frown on her face that he had ever seen. Her face might have been chiseled out of granite and he wasn't entirely certain that her lips weren't going to pop from the pressure keeping them that tightly together. Dumbledore, while he retained the trademark twinkle in his eyes, was also shaking his head in dissapproval.
"I can explain!" He really couldn't. There had to be something he could say though. Something to try and make them ignore the fact that he was stealing people's souls. Could steal people's souls? He had no idea and was almost scared to ask Guinevere for more information.
"There is no excuse you can give, Mr. Potter! Even if you did just save young Ginevra and stop the petrifications. And potentially break new ground in Transfiguration."
Harry knew they were going to throw him in prison now. Certainly expel him at the very least.
Or... put him in detention. For stealing souls? Really? He gaped at McGonagal.
"I don't care how much leeway you may believe you have gained for your good deeds. There is no excuse for making out in front of your teachers! And at your age! With a class XXXXX magical creature no less!"
"Detention?" he asked weakly, limp from relief.
"I don't know what the two of you were whispering about in Parseltongue, but the lack of propriety in your actions is astounding, Mr. Potter. I haven't seen the like since your father attended school."
Didn't know... Dumbledore and McGonagal couldn't speak Parseltongue. Dumbledore and McGonagal couldn't understand what Guinevere had said. Didn't know that he was as good as a Dark Lord already just because of an ability he may or may not have gotten from Voldemort. The thoughts circled around for a bit longer in his head, largely repeating themselves as McGonagal lectured on something about behavior to be expected from upper years.
Finally, when Dumbledore cleared his throat, she cut off abruptly with a harumph and Harry reined in the wild confusion in his head. Well, if they weren't aware of it, he certainly wasn't going to come out and tell them he was a Dark Lord.
"Ahem. Youthful indiscretions aside, perhaps we could get back to the questions we still have so that Harry can go see his friends, attend the feast, and perhaps get some rest." Dumbledore, at least, sounded far more amused than angry, despite the stern expression he had put on earlier. Harry was pretty sure if he knew that he could be stealing his soul right then that wouldn't be the case. "I'm sure that our little discussion, while engrossing to us, did not particularly keep Harry's attention, Minerva. Perhaps even bored him given the theoretical concepts involved."
Raising an eyebrow at Harry, Dumbledore seemed to be asking for a comment by him and he sank into his seat and stammered, "Ahh... maybe a little, Headmaster."
"Just so. Well, I'm afraid I can't say Minerva isn't justified in her detention despite that, but hopefully you've learned your lesson about, ahh, the proper time and place for certain behavior." At this he again looked to Harry, pointedly glancing over his spectacles until Harry nodded wildly. "Very good, now perhaps to my question from earlier. Guinevere's name? Could you perhaps ask where it came from? It strikes me as an odd choice, by Salazar I presume."
Shrugging and still desperately relieved that he wasn't going to be expelled immediately, Harry turned to Guinevere and asked, "I assume you understood that?"
She promptly nodded.
"Well, what's the story behind the name?"
The transfigured basilisk considered for a moment, then smiled and said, "You can tell the bearded one that I am Guinevere."
Harry frowned. "He already knows that. That's what he's asking about."
"No, tell him that I am _the_ Guinevere. Arthur's wife?"
Feeling more like the Boy-Who-Is-Always-Surprised than the Boy-Who-Lived, Harry's mouth dropped open again. "Arthur? King Arthur? Camelot, knights, all that stuff? _That_ Guinevere?"
Looking very pleased with herself, Guinevere nodded.
"I can't tell him that! That can't possibly be true. He'll never believe it."
"Why not? It is true. Sort of." The last couple words were muttered under her breath, and Harry just barely caught them. If he had been any farther from her, he wouldn't have heard them. He was tempted to call her on it, but finally decided it wasn't worth the hassle right now.
Narrowing his eyes, Harry said, "Dumbledore's not dumb, he's going to want more. I'll be here all night!"
Shrugging, the basilisk said, "I bet a kiss it will make him ask less questions, not more. A long one, too." She grinned impishly, the single little fang giving the expression an odd appeal. Harry wondered what his thinking an extremely dangerous magical creature was cute meant about him. Maybe just that his magic had a good idea of what he liked, even if he had never thought about it before. Perhaps he and Hagrid could start swapping stories.
Sighing, Harry said, "Fine, whatever." Turning back to Dumbledore, he answered his earlier question. "She says it's because she is the Guinevere, like the one from King Arthur."
Expecting an immediate denial, sputtering, or any other kind of sane reaction of the same kind he had experienced, he was surprised to see Dumbledore consider this silently for several moments. Hand stroking his beard, the garishly dressed old wizard finally said, "That does make more sense. Yes, I can see that."
"Albus. While certainly the concept is more believable from a theoretical standpoint, she can't possibly be the Guinevere from the days of Arthur. She lived over five centuries before Salazar was even born!"
Harry wondered if he was going to be able to close his jaw by the end of the night. His Head of House's comment didn't help either. What were they talking about?
He didn't realize he had spoken the last question out loud until Dumbledore looked at him with a kindly expression and said, "My apologies, Harry. Allow me to explain. I will attempt to be concise and keep it simple.
"There are a number of theories and laws governing Transfiguration. While you have learned a few, the more complicated ones are not studied until after you have gotten an OWL and are studying for your NEWTS. I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say that changing a non-sentient animal, even a magical one-"
McGonagal interupted briefly. "Especially a magical one, Albus. No need to promote misinformation even if Mr. Potter will not study these concepts for some years to come."
Dumbledore nodded to his Professor of Transfiguration. "My apologies, Minerva, you are correct. So, Harry, changing a non-sentient animal, especially a magical one, into a sentient human is something that is widely considered to be impossible. It is certainly possible to change the form, but the poor being will have no more of a mind than he or she did originally."
Harry was tempted to ask about the snakes he had spoken to over the years, since they certainly hadn't seemed to have any problems with speaking, but he held his tongue. He was leery of prompting any thoughts at all about his Parseltongue status given what Guinevere had said earlier.
"Moreover, reversing a transfiguration into a human is more than difficult. There are a number of theories around the why of this, but they aren't important right now. The flip side of both, however, namely transfiguring a human into another creature and reversing that, is not only possible, it is common. You yourself will study it if you get an OWL in Transfiguration." Dumbledore pulled out his wand and raised a questioning hand at his colleague. She nodded to demonstrate her permission and he waved his wand in a convoluted gesture that then shrank the Professor from at least a hand taller than Harry himself to the size of a mouse. In fact, not only the size, but the shape of a mouse, too. This elicited annoyed chittering from the newly made rodent and it abruptly expanded into a cat and then back into his professor.
"Really, Albus. Every time." She said no more, but Dumbledore chuckled quietly and then continued before Harry could ask any questions about why McGonagall had transformed into a cat and then a person when the enchantment was lifted.
"As you can see, while challenging, it is far from impossible. While transfiguration into a magical creature is exponentially more difficult-" Harry thought that must mean really, really difficult. "-it is not unheard of for the most powerful of wizards and witches."
He paused for a moment, as if waiting for a response and Harry assumed it was a lifetime spent teaching that probably stopped his explanation there. He was looking to Harry to apply what he had just learned to explain why this made Guinevere being, well, Guinevere a more acceptable response than transfiguration.
"So... you're saying that if I had changed Guinevere into a girl, I would have been doing something impossible, but... changing her back to a human if she already was one is only hard."
"Exactly so, my boy." Dumbledore beamed and Harry felt a warm glow of accomplishment at the expression of pride on his Headmaster's face.
"That makes sense I guess," Harry said, nodding to himself. He didn't even think about the fact that he was mirroring Dumbledore's own statement from earlier. However, he did wonder about the small secretive little smile on Guinevere's lips and suspected that he would be rudely disillusioned yet again when they were alone once more.
Albus nodded once himself and said, "It does beg the question, however, that Minerva brought up. Which is how we explain the incongruity in the time periods."
He glanced over at Guinevere as he said this and she simply smiled blankly. Harry was certain she understood, but dutifully translated into Parseltongue again. This time he got another of the one word answers from early on in the interview and in turn repeated it for the two professors. "She just said, 'Merlin', Professor."
He was a bit miffed about the answer himself and prodded her a few times, but she refused to answer any further. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and turned back to Dumbledore. The man said, "Well, it is a possible explanation, though I would be fascinated to hear more details. Much of what we know about Merlin at this point is largely speculation and myth, though he is listed on the rolls here at Hogwarts during the time of the Founders.
"Our new friend appears to be a bit exhausted though and I'm sure you are feeling the same, Harry.
"I think we have enough information to ponder for now. Why don't you head to the infirmary and have Madame Pomfrey take a look at you and your friend. I will have Professor McGonagall see about allowing her to stay in the Gryffindor dorms for now, since you are the only one who can understand her."
Harry smiled wanly and nodded, he stood and Guinevere promptly did the same, latching on to his arm as if it were a lifeline in a stormy sea. He hoped that she got over this soon or he would be feeding even more rumors as soon as classes started back up. He abruptly recalled the feast for the students who were being freed from Petrification. He had better amend that to hoping she got over it in the next hour or so, actually.
As the pair of children stepped out of the hallway leading to the Deputy Headmaster's office, Guinevere tasted the air again and then flared her nostrils. "Food! I'm sooo hungry, let's go!"
Harry was nearly pulled off of his feet as the girl tugged him forward at speed and wondered if he was even going to be able to get her to the infirmary at all or if she would drag him to the Great Hall outright. Hopefully he could divert her at least briefly. He really didn't want to see what would come out of him walking in (so to speak) with a girl wearing nothing but his own outer robe, covered in blood, and babbling wildly in Parseltongue because she hadn't eaten in a thousand years.