Act III - Birth Of The Demon
Chapter 4: Animagery
By the time Harry walked into McGonagall's office, it was close to sunset. He had been surprised when the professor had asked him to drop in at an exact time, but the woman hadn't explained why, just telling him that they were going to make a significant jump in his journey into self-transfiguration. She had looked practically giddy, if he might say so. McGonagall had always been the sanest and most composed of the teaching staff, so he imagined there was a method to her madness.
The answer came in the form of a surprise figure sitting in the transfiguration classroom.
"Nym— Tonks?" Harry blurted.
"Wotcher, Harry?" asked the Auror, who, according to Croaker, was an Unspeakable and Harry's official handler. The Voice of the Unspeakables had told him that Tonks would be showing up at Hogwarts from time to time to teach him certain things that he needed to absolutely know, but seeing her in McGonagall's office wasn't what he was expecting.
"I'm— fine. What are you doing here?" He asked. Realising he was being rude, he quickly backtracked. "I mean, I just didn't expect you to be here."
"Miss Tonks is here on a special deputation from the Department, yes," said McGonagall, walking towards him from the other side. "Given her special talents, she will be quite instrumental in today's session, Potter."
Harry glanced at Minerva McGonagall, and blinked. Then blinked again. No, he wasn't dreaming. The Scottish woman, whom he had always seen dressed in formal, black attire, complete with the pointed witch's hat, was actually wearing a black, wavy, satin robe, not unlike the ones Fleur liked to wear before bed. Her dark hair was loose, falling behind her neck. She had strange runes drawn on her arms, and looked more like a priestess of some arcane cult than the transfiguration mistress she was.
A quick glance at Tonks told him that she too, was dressed in a similar robe. Come to think of it, the room was slightly darkened than usual. There were lots of black curtains draping down over the walls and the doorway, with red and black candles squatted all over the floor, with runic arrays drawn on the ground.
A ritual circle? No, an isolation barrier that keeps the inside from coming out. But… what? What's going on?
"I must say, Potter," said McGonagall with a frown. "I was most impressed when the Headmaster informed me about your internship. Only the best and brightest of Hogwarts are offered an internship at the Department of Mysteries, and that too, in their NEWT years. For someone like you, who hasn't even sat for his OWLs, it is quite an achievement."
"Yeah… I'm still digesting that part," said Harry, feeling a little out of place.
"But I'm a little miffed at having the Department poke its nose into my classes with you, private or otherwise."
He blinked. "Err… professor, what are you talking about?"
"The Department wants to accelerate some of your studies, Harry," said Tonks cheerily, sitting cross-legged on the chair. "They just love the idea of treating people like guinea pigs if you couldn't tell, but I didn't want to steal the professor's moment. She'd scowl at me for weeks."
"Behave, Miss Tonks," said McGonagall sternly. "You're an official representative of the DOM, not a sixth-year Hufflepuff."
Tonks responded to that in a most mature fashion. By sticking out her tongue.
He snorted, only to bite that short at the transfiguration professor's glare. "Uh, professor, you said you had something special planned for today —"
It was lame as far as excuses went, but for this situation, it worked.
"I do, yes," said McGonagall. "Post sundown, we will begin. It will be quite time-consuming, so I hope you have put your affairs for the rest of the evening in order. This will be… exhaustive."
"Err… actually," he trailed, "Professor Sinistra wanted me to visit the workshop. She said she wanted to see how Death-energy interacted with the world on Samhain night."
McGonagall looked a little annoyed. "That will have to be delayed. I respect the work you are doing with Aurora and the others, but the Department's directives hold greater priority. I'm certain they'll understand."
"They have to. Our workshop is funded by the DOM."
That did not please McGonagall. "I'm not very fond of other agencies telling us professors how to do our jobs, Mr. Potter."
"Obviously you are not to blame in this," she gave Tonks a minor glare who ignored it totally. "I must tell you that I do not go ahead with this unless the aspirant has at least five months practice with self-transfiguration, but your case is… unusual, to begin with. I will agree that you have demonstrated a strong affinity towards the discipline, not a surprise given your father, but I still believe it is too early." She paused, as if reflecting on something. "That said, I believe there is a chance you can accomplish this."
"Uh, professor, what is all of this about?"
"Tonight, we are going to move ahead with the next step in self-transfiguration. The Animagus transformation."
His eyes widened. "You'll teach me to become an animagus?"
"Wrong. Tonight, you'll be determining if you have the potential to be an animagus and identify your form. Quite naturally, I expect your undivided attention this evening."
Harry's mind was reeling. He'd be taking the animagus potion? Sirius had told him that they had tried self-transfiguration for over a year, before trying the potion. Compared to that, he only had been at this for two months at best.
Croaker's words came to mind. What the DOM wants, the DOM gets.
"You are going to swallow a lacewing fly at that rate, Harry," said Tonks.
"Sorry, I mean, wow. I just, wow. I didn't expect this. Sirius told me that it took them the better part of two years to become Animagi."
McGonagall's lips thinned. "Your father and your godfather were rapscallions that I should have punished over my knee for trying something that dangerous by themselves. Why the sheer idea…"
Harry watched her fume in nostalgia, chuckling at the mental image of his godfather bent down on McGonagall's knee getting spanked. He wondered if he could save that mental image, or even better, get someone to print it on paper. It would make for a wonderful birthday gift for his godfather.
"You will have read in Divination about how every person has a singular spirit animal, which reveals itself in one's animagus form, or patronus, sometimes both. You will also have read that having compatible spirit animals is equivalent to having compatibility between people in real life." She pursed her lips. "The human mindset is far more complex, far more contradictory and far less instinct-driven than an animal mind. As such, there is hardly a person — witch, wizard or otherwise, that would find spiritual similarity with a singular animal. I myself have similarities with a cat, an ostrich, a rhinoceros and a peregrine falcon."
"But you're a cat animagus."
"And what does that tell you?"
Harry opened his mouth to speak but words failed him. The woman meanwhile, pulled her wand out and summoned two chairs from the side of the room to where he was standing.
He sat down on the couch, next to Tonks who was watching him in amusement. He wondered if all he was going to do was try to find his inner animal. Sirius had told him that the process of self-identifying was a deeply personal procedure, so he wondered what the Auror (and Unspeakable) would help him in this situation.
"You must be wondering why we are progressing with this tonight of all nights," said McGonagall.
"Because…" he ventured. "Today is… Halloween?"
"One wonders how it is possible to be so vague yet so accurate," said the stern woman, though her eyes told him that she was more amused than annoyed. "What do you know about Halloween, or more precisely, Samhain?"
"Not very much," he said. "It's an important astrological event, but that's only because the muggles celebrate it as the day of the dead. Professor Sinistra says that my own powers could be a little active because of that. Something about the resonance of faith." I just thought that with my Family magic being Death and all, it would affect me in some… way?" He finished, feeling incredibly stupid at his own deductions. "Though why that'd matter to being an animagus is anybody's guess."
Tonks snorted again.
McGonagall looked like she was conflicted between being amused and exasperated. "Students of NEWT-level Astronomy know that our world is actually connected to several other realms, dimensions, planes, choose your pick. Some say that Magic came to this world through these dimensions, as did unicorns, dragons, house elves and other magical creatures. Different civilizations and cultures, both magical and not, have different names for these planes. Perhaps it is a single plane, or a cluster of planes, we do not know. All we can say for certain is that it, or they exist, and they are anchored to our reality. The Ancient Sumerians called it Irkalla, the realm of the Dead. The Japanese describe it as the Ikai, from which spirits trespass into our world. The Hindus reference the thirteen Lokas, or realms that exist in conjunction with the mortal realm. For us, the commonly-accepted term is Anima. The home of the spirits. The animals. There are many who believe that Family Magic that has existed and will exist in the future all come from the Anima. It is where life comes from, and where the souls go in the afterlife. We don't know what they are, or what form they take, just that they are anchored to our reality, separated from us through these borders. For those that know how, one can travel between these worlds like you would, through open doors."
He took a moment to digest that.
Her words made him think of the Leaky Cauldron, the way Hagrid had tapped the wall with his umbrella, opening a passageway into the wizarding commercial district.
"These borders… where are they located?"
"They aren't physical borders, Harry," said Tonks. "It's more like an invisible curtain that none save the most sensitive can see. It bends and wiggles and stirs, and on Halloween, it waggles back and forth like a hooker in Knockturn Alley."
"Nymphadora!" said McGonagall.
Tonks winced, but the amused look in her eyes said that she was far from apologetic.
McGonagall raised an eyebrow, and he quickly shut up. "Her lack of propriety notwithstanding, Nymphadora is correct."
"Don't call me Nymphadora!"
The transfiguration professor ignored her protest with practised ease. "You see, Mr. Potter, not all borders are in space. Some of them are places in time. They are called Conjunctions."
"I know about conjunctions," said Harry. "It's when the stars and planets align. You can use them to support rituals or heavy-duty magic."
"Someone's paid attention in Astronomy class," said Tonks.
He gave her a weak smile, his face turning sober. He couldn't not pay attention to Astronomy. Daphne's life was hanging on the balance after all.
"That's… one way of describing a conjunction," said McGonagall. "But stars and planets are ultimately just measuring stakes used to describe a position in time. And that's one way to use a conjunction, but they do other things too."
He nodded thoughtfully. "You're saying there's a conjunction when the border is thinnest and it's easy to go from this world to the Anima and back?"
"Give the man a cookie," said Tonks. "He's got it."
"And it's on Samhain."
Samhain and Beltane," Tonks corrected him. "If you fail today, we'll try this on Beltane next." She paused, and gave him a look of complete innocence while also promising chaos. "I think the professor is secretly wishing you would fail tonight, Harry. That way she'll have all the time till May to get you up to snuff."
"I certainly do not," said McGonagall, scandalised. "Regardless of my personal beliefs, I'd never want any of my students to do less than their best." She gave him what she probably thought was a placating smile. "Do not worry, Potter. You will succeed."
Harry tried his best to not appear amused.
"Tonight," said Mcgonagall, "from sunset to sunrise, is when the borders are indeed at their thinnest, and when both sides can cross borders with impunity. That's why you have a sudden influx of ghosts and spiritual presences on Halloween. It is the night when long-lost relatives visit their loved ones, and vengeful spirits enact their retribution in all sorts of ways. Oumagatoki, the Witching Hour, the Hour of the Wolf, it's all the same. For animagi aspirants, the chances of finding their spiritual form is highest on this night. And then there are rituals where the Champions are chosen on this very night."
He stilled. Did she mean what he thought she did?
"Yes, Mr. Potter," she said, her lips twitching softly. "There is a reason why the Goblet of Fire chose its Champions on Halloween."
He watched her quietly.
"The Goblet of Fire is centuries old, and employs a magic very different from what we do today. Think about it. What difference does it make if the witch or wizard it chose was a fourth-year or a seventh? Neither Cedric Diggory nor Victor Krum were extremely powerful wizards, and yet, they were chosen from their respective schools. Regardless of how your name was entered into the goblet, there was no reason for the goblet to actually choose you."
"But it did. Moody said that someone hoodwinked the goblet and —"
Tonks snorted "The Goblet is an ancient artefact, Mr. Potter. Crafted by the sorceress Circe, it contains one of the most potential magics known to wizardkind. No compulsion spell, no matter how powerful, can hoodwink it to interfere with the selection process."
"Both Albus and I studied the Goblet over the entire last year," said McGonagall. "And we believe that you were entered under a fourth school, as the sole participant. Normally, that would make you the Champion by default, as was no doubt, what the perpetrator intended. But what he didn't know was that the goblet cannot choose someone by default. The organisers had to feed the knowledge of the Three tasks into the goblet, giving it a set of… rules to check against. The goblet would only select someone if it thought the Champion capable of accomplishing the Three tasks."
"And how does it know that?"
McGonagall paused for a moment, as if weighing her words. "We believe it uses the spiritual energies of this night, to look into the souls of those whose names have been entered. Spiritual Invocation. That is how it binds the Champions in a magical contract."
"Participate or lose your magic," he murmured.
"So if it chose me…"
"It means that the Goblet thought you capable of not just participating, but winning the Triwizard Tournament." She met his eyes. "In the eyes of Magic, you are worthy. And that, supersedes any law made by witches and wizards. That is why both Gringotts and the Wizengamot treated you like an adult."
Harry stayed silent, digesting all that. It felt like the more he knew, the more he found how little he knew. Come to think of it, it was terrifying to think how his past-self had ploughed through things while staying oblivious to the myriad of powers revolving around him. That guy was scary in his ignorance.
There was a growing feeling of uneasiness in him, prickling down his nape. He had been getting this feeling all day, and as they approached the night, it was only deepening, filling him with an overwhelming urge to do something. Like something wrong was about to happen, and it was his job to stop it.
He thought back to what Ignotus had told him. The old man, if he could even be called a man, had claimed that Magic was an intruder. A trespasser. One that did not belong to this world, and corrupted everything that it came in touch with. Could he be referring to the Anima? The source of all Magic? And if that was true, what did it make him?
He considered Tonks's words. On Halloween, or to be more precise, Samhain, the borders were at their thinnest. Spiritual magic was at its peak. For a witch or wizard, it was the best time to try to transcend the boundaries of this world and visit the realm of the spiritual predators.
But that was what a wizard would do.
He wasn't just a wizard. He was Death's Vessel.
Death. The annihilator of magic. If Samhain was the night when spiritual magic was at its peak, why did the muggles worship it as the day of the dead? Were they trying to commune with their dead ancestors, or were they…. Were they worshipping the gods of Death in hope to counter the power of Magic? And if that was true, how would his powers act out? Who would he be? An animagus aspirant seeking to commune with spirits, or the Death's vessel wanting to tear them down?
The foreboding feeling within him grew.
Ignotus had told him that he was at a crossroads. But never before did that fact resonate so strongly within him. Choose the wizard, and search for his spiritual self? Or take up the mantle of the avatar, and crush the surges of magic that were entering this plane?
A new thought rose in him unbidden.
Croaker had told him that the Seers at the Department had warned him from hiring Harry as an Unspeakable intern until the next Summer solstice. Were they afraid of something happening by Beltane? Was that why they were rushing with his animagus transformation despite McGonagall's concerns?
"It's about to be sunset," Tonks warned.
He glanced out of the window, gazing at the sun slowly sinking down behind the mountains surrounding the Black Lake. Sunset, he had learnt, was more than just a star orbiting below the relative horizon of the planet. It is a shift in supernatural energy. It was the time when the shadows lengthened, when the creatures that stayed quiet during the day came out. To someone with sharp senses like him, it was just a rush of nervous trepidation rising up his gut.
Dark things came out at night.
And tonight, it felt like a single beat on some unimaginably enormous drum.
His eyes slanted, and the edges of his vision were slowly shifting towards the grey. Just a little more… Just a little more and it would be….
Tonks's voice broke him from his reverie. He took notice of the way her posture had stiffened. Same for McGonagall.
Was it hesitation he heard in her voice?
"...Yes." he looked at Mcgonagall, pretending nothing had happened. "Please continue."
"Guess all this flowery crap is messing up with his head, Professor," said Tonks, now back to her cheery self. "Okay, hotshot, there's just one thing you need to know about being an animagus aspirant. It's a skill. Anyone can learn it to one degree or another. Not many people can be good at it. It takes a lot of practice and patience, and guts. It makes you scared, leaves you tired with headaches and muscle cramps, and everyone and their cat has an opinion about the 'correct' way to do it."
She finished the last way with animated air-quotes using her hands.
"Basically in the early days before the discovery of the Animagus potion, the aspirant had to go through several years of painstaking self-discovery through meditation and all that, just to get the necessary alignment to even connect with the Anima Realm. The potion is a shortcut that uses the power of Samhain night to bypass all limitations and hurl the aspirant into the spirit world, Anima, whatever. Problem is, this also leaves the aspirant 'unworthy' in the eyes of their spiritual animal, and that can bugger things really bad. That's why most aspirants just drop their training at this stage, scared shit out of their pants by their spirit animal or some such shit."
Harry blinked. "Most aspirants?"
"Like, one out of maybe thirty aspirants have a chance of successfully finding their spirit animal. Or Animals. Whatever. Things grow even shittier from there, and the majority of them get shit scared and never attempt the ritual ever again. So, you see, no pressure."
He frowned. "I have a question."
He glanced at McGonagall and wondered exactly how to phrase it without coming across as offensive. Finally, he decided to go the blunt route. Worst case scenario, she'd throw him out of the room and cancel this session altogether. Not the end of the world.
"What's the point behind becoming an animagus?"
McGonagall narrowed her eyes. "Excuse me?"
He winced. He really should have thought this through. "I mean, obviously it's kind of cool to turn into an animal at will. Maybe even useful too, from time to time. But just how useful can your form truly be? I doubt being a cat can get you to do anything special that being a witch does not."
"I'm surprised that you are asking this," said McGonagall dryly. "Given how excited you were just a minute ago."
"That's just it, professor," said Harry. "I was excited at the idea of transforming into a creature at will. But that was before Tonks mentioned all the difficulties associated with the ritual. Why would I want to risk myself in this… Anima place, just to transform into an animal that won't even give me anything useful in the long run?"
Tonks and McGonagall exchanged knowing looks, before looking back at him with varying degrees of interest and amusement.
"Err… am I in trouble?"
McGonagall shook her head. "No, if anything, you've proved yourself to have a good head on your shoulders. Most aspirants conduct this ritual… and I can't believe I'm saying this, do it just to see if they can. There is a place for Gryffindorish courage, but this isn't it."
Harry blinked. He was sure he had missed something.
"Remember what I said about the Anima? About how all magic comes from it?"
"I really meant all magic, especially the most esoteric kind. Family Magic. And as you of all people must know, the one that is able to summon and manifest Family Magic into the mortal world is called a…"
"Vessel," He finished for her. "So Vessels are people that can draw Family Magic directly out of this Anima realm? Does that mean that I—"
"Have a connection, a path into this realm? Yes. Or at least, I think so. You see Mr. Potter, the Anima is the place where the Wild Spirits run abound. Every animal form — magical or otherwise, has symbolic connections with a particular form, or forms of magic that exist in the Anima. By becoming an Animagus, by being in resonance with your spiritual animal form, you are able to form a connection with the respective magics associated with that animal. And if you are able to truly achieve that connection, you can theoretically pull that magic into existence. You become a Nexus that binds that new form of Magic in the mortal world."
"A new Family Magic," he murmured.
"Exactly," said the professor.
"Then why can't everyone do it?"
Tonks snorted. "I told you. Becoming an animagus in itself, is a perilous process. Not many people can do it. And even those that can, stay on as mere shapeshifters for years and decades. Some of them are able to engage in morphic resonance with their own kind. It takes a rare shapeshifter to be capable of using symbolic magic associated with their form. That is what you call a true Animagus."
McGonagall, looking slightly crestfallen. "I have been an animagus for forty years now. Cats have been associated with fate-altering powers, something that has always caught my fancy. I have had Divination training for that myself, delved into cartomancy and oneiromancy, but to no avail."
Harry had the sneaking suspicion that he had just found out why Professor McGonagall held no respect or patience for Sybill Trelawney. That she was a known charlatan only made it worse.
"What about you, Tonks?" He asked. "Are you an animagus too?"
The happy-go-lucky facade on the young Unspeakable's face cracked. He looked at McGonagall and found her looking at Tonks, conflicted.
"Uh, it's fine if you don't want to tell me."
"No, it's fine," said Tonks. "He's to be an Unspeakable, and I'm to be his handler."
He looked at McGonagall expectantly.
"Nymphadora here," said McGonagall, "is a very special witch, Mr. Potter. You see, there is an extreme form of the Animagus transformation. Sometimes, the witch or wizard is born with a state so fluid and flexible, that she can attune to every animal form out there. This results in a complete inversion of one's magical core, transforming the person into what's called a metamorphmagus."
"Basically, I can shift into anything and everything," Tonks finished for her. "The ultimate shapeshifter."
"You're not serious!"
"Of course not, Sirius is your godfather. I'm just Tonks. Though I can of course turn into Padfoot—"
She blurred, and in her place was a large shaggy dog, who growled and leaped at him, only to transform into a lookalike of Hedwig, and perched on his shoulder, nibbling his left ear, and then took flight, only to transform into a monkey, and somersaulting in the air, before transforming back into a perfect doppelganger of Harry himself, as she came to rest on the ground. Then she blurred again, and was back to her usual, pink-haired self.
"Wicked!" he said, clapping in earnest, as Tonks bowed before him, utterly proud of her act.
McGonagall rolled her eyes. "Nymphadora here is perhaps the greatest expert there is on self-transfiguration. Her spiritual self, or soul for that matter, is mutated to the extent that she doesn't have a fixed sense of identity. That's what she is. Change. She is as much a girl as she is a boy, a goat, a lizard and a pigeon. Yet, her natural fluidity allows her to remain in whatever state she wants, for as long as she wants. A magical fortuity if there ever was one."
"Oh darn it, stop waxing poetic about me," said Tonks, blushing. "Ignore her, Harry. She will go on and on about it if you let her. Trust me, I'm just a one-trick-pony that ignored all the flowery crap and learnt some useful things that work. Honestly, I don't even care why or how it works, so long as it does."
Harry decided that he liked this girl.
"So, can I learn to be a metamorphmagus?"
"Oopsie. You're either born a metamorph or not. I think. It's kind of like your Peverell Vessel thing, Harry. I'm the first metamorph to be born in three centuries. It's kind of why the DOM grabbed me as soon as I outgrew my diapers. They trained me for years to control my metamorphmagery before I was declared 'safe' for Hogwarts," she finished animatedly.
"Hang on, does that mean Change is the magic you pulled out from the Anima?" He paused, and squinted. "Unless, I've got it wrong?"
Tonks stayed silent for a second, before she let out a mirthless chuckle. "There is a cruel irony in what you just said, Harry."
"I told you," she went on. "I'm the ultimate shapeshifter. And that's both the best and the worst thing that can happen to you. Best — because I can change into any form so long as it has a brain, while an animagus can only change into one, or maybe, two forms. Worst? Because I'll never be able to connect with any form on a spiritual level, or access their symbolic magics. I am and will forever remain a shifter."
The bitterness in her face grew. "You're the opposite end of the spectrum, Harry. If I am a metamorph that can shift into any and all forms, you are the Vessel that has already become a Nexus, while bypassing the entire process of Animagus transformation. That's why the bigguns at the Department of Mysteries want you to try this ritual. I mean, it's kind of a given thing, really. They half expect it to be a thestral, the Peverell family totem. It's just a matter of confirming it."
"Fat lot of good that does to me," he muttered. "This thing crippled half my magical affinities."
Tonks snorted. "Preaching to the choir, Harry. You lost some affinities, and gained a power no one else has. Me? I am Change, and Change is all I'll ever be. It's my blessing, and my bane."
"I — I don't understand."
"Every magic comes with its positives and negatives, Potter," said McGonagall softly. "Power wise, she has at least twice the reserves of Albus Dumbledore. Unfortunately, all that power can only be used in one and one thing only. Self-transfiguration. She can transform in her sleep and every waking moment of her life, but even casting a stunning spell takes a lot out of her."
Harry stared at her, flabbergasted. "But — aren't you an Auror?"
"Junior Auror," she clarified. "And only on paper. Bones only puts me on a mission when she needs my special skills. Plus, it's not like I can't do shit at all."
As if to make a point, she snapped her fingers, and there, on the top of her thumb, was a flickering flame. She fisted her other hand, and it turned hard as stone.
"See? So long as I'm using my body as my conduit, I can perform nearly anything and everything. Don't even need a wand for that. I have problems casting stunners, but I can grab and zap you just fine."
Tonks laughed. "Yeah, sorry to break it to you, but you're not the only freak in town, Potter."
Harry laughed. "Well, that's a first."
They spent almost another hour going through the intricacies of what he needed to know about being an aspirant. Most of that was, in Tonks's words, flowery crap, that could probably be of some use when Harry entered the spirit world. The rest of it involved McGonagall transfiguring his clothes into a black, flowing garment similar to the ones they were wearing. He had to sit in the centre of the ritual circle, undergo a purification rite of sorts that left him feeling somewhat fresh and dizzy at the same time.
And finally, it was time for him to begin the ritual.
"How does one, erm, take the potion? Do I have to drink it?"
"Drink it?" Tonks chuckled. "Why by Morgana's lacy panties, would you do that? No Harry, the potion doesn't go into your stomach. You go into it."
"I'll show you."
Harry stood up and out of the ritual circle, as Tonks walked up to him, and poured the contents in the centre, and quickly stepped back. The liquid shone like quicksilver and spread radially outward until it had taken up all the surface area within the circle. He stared at the tiny pool before him, his own reflection shining in its dark waters.
"These waters reflect your soul, Mr. Potter," said McGonagall, slowly walking towards him. He idly noticed that both women maintained a distance from him, careful not to get reflected in the dark, shining waters. "Everything that is you, the good, the bad, and the ugly, you will find reflected in them. Tell me, how do the waters appear to you?"
Harry tilted his head. Could they not see it? Or did it appear different to different people?
"Uh, it's dark, and murky. And silvery too, if that counts. Weird. Why is this?"
"I told you. These waters are a reflection of yourself. Someone with a very pure and innocent soul would probably find a light and transparent shade. Your father told me his was a creamy beige, while your godfather's was a light shade of teal."
And what did that say about him?
"Does this mean that I'm a dark wizard or something?"
"No, no, not at all." McGonagall clarified. "This is Spiritual Invocation, Potter. The binary concepts of good and evil do not apply to such esoteric disciplines. The darkness could mean a lot of things. It could refer to your wand. Thestral hair, possibly the only one of its kind in existence. The wand's magic is darker and more abstruse than anything I've ever seen. Or perhaps, the murkiness is an indication of your own mind. Perhaps you are tormented by self-doubt and the perils you have been facing over the years."
"Or it could be my Family magic. Death. Dark, murky and mysterious."
"Could be," agreed the woman. "To journey into the Anima realm is an intensely personal thing. It is a journey into your own thoughts and feelings, your deepest secrets, desires, dreams and nightmares. Once you are in there, the concepts of Past and Present vanish. Wherever it takes you, you have to navigate it, and reach your destination. And remember, no matter what, stay true to yourself. The Anima will lure you into illusions, play with your feelings, subject you to your worst nightmares and make you wish that you hadn't taken this journey in the first place. In the light of that, do you wish to continue this ritual?"
Good question. Did he?
"If I'm already having a Nexus—"
"You don't have a Nexus, Harry," said Tonks. "You are one."
"Right, that," he said. "Then does it matter whether I do the ritual or not?"
Tonks bit her lip. "That is the point we are not very certain about. The way you've gained this Family Magic is…"
She snorted. "That's putting it lightly. But our records say that every Vessel ever has had an animagus form first, and then journeyed into the realms of Family Magic. It is possible that you might not need to go through this experience at all. But it's equally possible that gaining the animagus form and connecting with your spirit animal, or animals, would help you gain better control over this power."
"But you don't know for sure."
She shook her head. "We don't. Your case is quite unprecedented, even for the Department."
"Figures," he muttered. "Fine, let's get this done with."
McGonagall gave him an inscrutable look. "In that case, chant the incantation as I have taught you."
"Oh right," said Harry, grabbing his wand and placing the tip against his heart. This was it. This was the final step. After this, he would be in the Anima Realm, seeing his spiritual forms.
"Amato Animo Animato Animagus!"
— And nothing happened.
"Amato Animo Animato Animagus!"
"Amato Animo Animato Animagus!"
Something within him was coming. He could feel it. Almost there.
"Feel it! Call for it! Embrace it! The power will come."
"Amato Animo Animato Animagus!"
"Stop hesitating, Potter! The paths reveal only for a moment! If you hesitate, you'll never pass."
Just a little more. Push. Push it.
"Com'n Harry," said Tonks. "You can do it."
"Amato Animo Animato Animagus!"
It was there. He was reaching it! He was REACHING IT—
"AMATO ANIMO ANIMATO ANIMAGUS!"
There was a horrible pressure, a whole body-crushing agony, as if he had suddenly blinked to the floor of the sea. And that was what it was like, with the force of that spell pressing against his — like trying to hold off the weight of the incoming tide. The power washed against him, pounding against his head as if trying to squeeze his brains out through his nose, but Harry kept his will focussed on the spell. His awareness expanded, like a supersensory charm in action, flooding out of him, upward, downward, outward, inward—
And then it was gone.
He stayed there for a moment, gasping, peering his eyes open and looking at himself, checking for signs of change.
There was nothing. He was still there, standing above the pool filled with Animagus potion, which looked just as dark and mysterious as before.
Had the spell fizzled out?
"Did — did I fail —"
"It worked, Harry," said Tonks, smiling. "Now crouch down. Look into the pool."
Dumbly, He crouched down, and looked at his own murky reflection. He lowered his hand slowly, his fingertips barely touching the waters, and his reflection copied it. Something about it felt mysterious, treacherous, and unsafe.
"Tell me one last thing," he said, looking up. "How will I know that I've met my spirit animals?"
"It's easy, Harry," said Tonks. "They'll find you."
"What do you mean find —"
His question remained unfinished, as his reflection thrust its hand out of the water, grabbed his wrist and pulled him into it.
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