Chapter 34: A little of what you fancy

"Please Madam Pomfrey I'll be straight back afterwards, I promise."

Ginny could hardly keep a straight face at the sight of Ron Weasley, her big brother Ron, literally on his knees begging the School Nurse to let him go down to dinner in the Great Hall. Apparently Dobby had paid his 'Mr. Wheezy' a visit to satisfy himself that he really was Ok after his abduction and had accidentally let slip that Ron's favourite steak and kidney pie was on tonight's menu. This bit of news was the sole reason for Ron's begging; his antics caused the usually stern nurse to burst into an uncharacteristic peel of giggles.

Truth be told Madam Pomfrey had been unable to find a single thing wrong with Ron, aside from a pulled muscle across his shoulders, the only evidence of his new-found animagus ability. Dumbledore and McGonagall had been astonished at Ron's transformation – hadn't McGonagall warned them all back in third year just how dangerous it could be?

The Headmaster's current theory was that the brain which had attached itself to Ron in the Department of Mysteries last June, must have been an animagus and had transferred the knowledge to Ron. The knowledge of how to transform however would not have been enough on its own; Ron also had to have been born with the ability to effect the change. Having both the knowledge and the ability was what enabled Ron to transform into the owl.

Once Ron had been settled in the hospital wing there had been a steady stream of Weasleys and Gryffindors all eager to check that Ron really was OK and unhurt.

The one person who had stayed away was Harry.

He couldn't escape the fact that as happy as the resolution had been, Ron would not have been taken in the first place if not for his friendship with Harry. Ginny had tried to challenge this assumption say Ron and Malfoy had been enemies since their first day at Hogwarts and that would have been equally true had Harry never attended the school.

The Malfoys had hated the Weasleys time out of mind and to underline that fact Ginny recalled the fight between the two fathers in Flourish and Blotts. Harry couldn't help but smile at that memory even remembering Mrs. Weasley's indignation that it had occurred just beside her, at that time, much-admired Gilderoy Lockhart!

Reluctantly Harry finally conceded Ginny's argument and they made their way to the Great Hall via the Hospital Wing to find that Madam Pomfrey would allow Ron to go down to dinner but only if accompanied.

Ginny and Harry arrived at the doors to the ward and opened them as quietly as possible. Ginny poked her head round the door then pulled it back so quickly she caused Harry to wonder what was wrong.

"Er. Nothing. Nothing's wrong. Honestly, everything's fine." Ginny's eyes were sparkling with mirth so naturally Harry's curiosity got the better of him and he took Ginny's place at the ward door which he silently opened and peered round its edge.

Ron was sitting on his bed; his long legs meant his feet were on the floor. Hermione was standing between Ron's knees leaning against the mattress edge. Hermione's arms were around Ron's neck and his were around her waist.

They were kissing, deeply, passionately and as though their very lives depended on it.

Harry ducked back out of the ward and silently closed the door. He looked down at Ginny whose eyes were still twinkling in amusement.

"Mr. Potter, Miss Weasley." The clipped tones of Professor McGonagall's familiar voice broke the hilarity. "If you are here to accompany Mr. Weasley to the Great Hall for dinner, I suggest you enter the hospital wing and announce your arrival instead of skulking about outside."

"I don't think Ron's quite ready yet, Professor, he seems to be occupied at the moment." Harry tried, vainly, to keep a straight face.

Harry and Ginny stepped away from the door, Professor McGonagall stepped up, grasped the door handle and pushed the door open wide and entered. Ron was standing straightening his tie but there was no sign of Hermione. Puzzled, Harry and Ginny followed McGonagall into the ward.

"I see you seem to be quite fit and well after your experience, Mr. Weasley," stated McGonagall.

"Yes Ma'am," answered Ron promptly.

"It is the Headmaster's wish that I conduct some tests with you once you have been discharged from Madam Pomfrey's care. He also wishes to know whether the transformation was an escape mechanism brought about by your unexpected incarceration or if it is a permanent gift that can be effected at will. I also have no doubt that you too would like to know the answers to these questions. If the gift is permanent, and I sincerely hope it is so, then we will have to see about getting you registered."

"Professor McGonagall," interrupted Harry nervously, "do you think registration would really be wise at the moment? What I mean is Ron was successfully kidnapped and it was lucky that he managed to get away. If Ron is a full animagus then it might be better to keep it quiet, at least until Voldemort's defeated anyway." Harry had totally ignored his teacher's sharp intake of breath at the mention of Voldemort's name. It was a moment or two before she spoke in a quiet, thoughtful voice.

"If these were normal peaceful times I would most vehemently oppose that suggestion, Harry, but as an animagus myself I can, perhaps better than most, fully appreciate the true merit of that course of action. I have no doubt the Headmaster will promote the notion of keeping Mr. Weasley's new found gift as secret as possible."

"There's only one problem with that though." Ginny got the attention of everyone, including Hermione who had just walked out of Madam Pomfrey's office.

"What problem Ginny?" queried Harry.

"Draco Malfoy!" stated Ginny bluntly.

"Mr. Weasley who, other than the six of you, the Headmaster and Madam Pomfrey, knows that you were missing?" asked McGonagall.

"Er?" said Ron unhelpfully.

"Ron wouldn't know Professor, but I think the only ones besides those you mentioned and the House Ghosts, Myrtle, the mermaid in the prefect's bathroom and the portraits," answered Harry.

It was Hermione who added "The only other one to know is Draco Malfoy and his goo... friends, Crabbe and Goyle, if he told them."

"Mm, that could well work to our advantage then." As though coming to an important decision the Transfiguration Teacher continued, "Mr. Weasley, you and your friends are to go down to dinner as though nothing had happened. Give me about ten minutes before you follow me. Close observation of Messrs. Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle should prove most enlightening. I'll advise the Headmaster of our plan."

The professor turned to leave the hospital wing but before the door had fully closed Ron said in a loud voice "Remind me to never play chess with that lady!"

The door re-opened and a smiling face peered back into the ward "Good advice, Mr. Weasley, just remember who used the chess board in your first year as protection for the Stone!"

The four teens stood and watched as McGonagall winked at them, smiled, said, "Check!" as she closed the door with a resounding click.

-- o – O – o ---

During his numerous stays in the hospital wing Harry had often wondered what lay beyond a particular door out of the ward, as he had never seen it used. His curiosity was therefore roused by the appearance of an unknown man through that unused door.

"Hello there," said Harry in what he hoped was a pleasant and welcoming voice as he stuck out his hand in greeting.

"Er… Hello," replied the young man cautiously. Harry guessed he had not yet reached thirty but there were streaks of grey amid his light-brown hair. There were bags beneath his eyes and a pinched, tired cast to his face. Harry suddenly realised who this person must be.

The new werewolf.

Hermione stepped forward and very formally and precisely introduced Jonathan Bracebridge to the group, all except for Ginny.

"Jonathan and I have already met," said Ginny. "How's Cynthia today? Feeling any better?"

"She's a little better each day but it's the nights I can't stand. Her sleep is so disturbed and of course she can't have dreamless sleep potion every night, as it is addictive. I just wish there was something else she could take." Frustration evident in every word.

Harry recalled the herbal remedy used at Hill House which, combined with the yoga meditation exercises, had helped him sleep. He wasted no time in offering to teach the exercises to Cynthia and to obtain the recipe for the herbal sleep remedy from Eleanor. On hearing Harry's unsolicited words of support Jonathan's face lost some of it's tension and there were unshed tears of gratitude in his eyes which he quickly blinked away.

"And how are you bearing up? Getting used to the foul taste of Wolfsbane yet?" This comment came, surprisingly, from Ron whose awareness of the needs of others had increased markedly since June.

"Oh, could be worse." The young man answered dismissively but before he could elucidate, Hermione spoke up.

"We really should be going. Professor McGonagall will be waiting for us."

"Oh, yes," said Harry who held out his hand once more but this time Jonathan took it and shook it so strongly that he almost brought a tear – of pain this time – to Harry's eye.

"Sorry. Not used to my increased strength yet." Jonathan said, sheepishly.

"No harm done, I think!" said Harry shaking his fingers while smiling broadly.

During their walk from the hospital wing to the Great Hall the four friends determined to do all they could to help Jonathan and Cynthia. They were all far too familiar with Voldemort and Malfoy's machinations and hated the idea of anyone being deliberately bitten to increase the number of dark creatures who were to do Voldemort's bidding. Jonathan hadn't asked to be made into a werewolf and they were determined to do all they could to alleviate the suffering of the brother and sister.

The Great Hall was already over half full when they arrived for dinner. As they crossed the threshold they all wanted to look at Malfoy to gauge his reaction to Ron's normal appearance but had decided not to as both Professor McGonagall and the Headmaster would be doing just that.

As they say down to eat they could almost feel Malfoy's eyes on them.

It was a quiet meal; quiet that is apart from Ron noisily eating three whole servings of steak and kidney pie.

"I'm recuperating." Whispered Ron through a mouthful of pie.

"Well recuperate quietly can't you." Came Ginny's voice in a mixture of exasperation and amusement.

"I'm just relieved he's here with us," said Hermione, "I don't care how much noise he makes."

Ginny and Harry exchanged knowing glances. Ron's noisy eating habits usually upset Hermione's sensitivity and it was a mark of the change in their relationship that she found the noises endearing instead of irritating.

The Gryffindors ate their meal with deliberate slowness as they wished to talk unobserved with McGonagall at it's end. Harry noticed his Head of House rise and enter the chamber where the Tri-Wizard champions once congregated; wordlessly he gestured to Ginny to rise and go with him, leaving Hermione with Ron to finish his second helping of apple crumble and custard.

Harry opened the door for Ginny to enter and as he followed closely on her heels he was surprised to see not only McGonagall and Dumbledore but also Snape.

The Potions Master was standing with his back to the flames in the large fireplace that took up most of one wall of the chamber. The Transfiguration teacher sat at one end of a large couch, the Head sitting in a matching over-stuffed armchair sipping what was unmistakably a large mug of hot chocolate.

"Ah. Do come in, do come in," said the Headmaster to Harry and Ginny. "Would you care to join me?" he asked indicating his mug of beverage.

"No, thank you," replied Harry and Ginny in such perfect synchronisation that it made them both smile.

Snape just grunted.

"Unless my ears deceive me, here come Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger." The Headmaster's eyes still had a twinkle present as Ron and Hermione entered the room. Ginny and Hermione sat next to McGonagall while Ron and Harry stood behind them a hand on their respective partners shoulders in a subconscious protective gesture.

"We asked you to come here for a number of reasons."

It was not the Headmaster but Professor McGonagall who was speaking. "As I said I would, I was watching Mr. Malfoy and his friends very closely when you entered the Hall tonight. Although he managed to conceal his surprise fairly rapidly, I have no doubt he was shocked to see you Mr. Weasley." Turning to the Potions Master she said, "What say you Professor Snape?"

"I concur." Snape replied in what Harry thought was the briefest possible answer to McGonagall's question.

"Come now, Professor Snape," said Dumbledore, "of those present you must know Mr. Malfoy better than any of us. Was there no gesture, glance or word that would indicate more? Can we be 100 certain that it was he who planted the portkey in the Prefects' Bathroom?"

Finally, Snape spoke. " I had not been aware that Mr. Malfoy knew how to create a portkey but in retrospect it comes as no great surprise. Nor does it surprise me that he was unable to create a portkey strong enough to breach the wards."

Snape went on to state something that came as quite a surprise to Harry. "The Malfoy family is well-versed in manipulation of individuals either by direct threats, coercion or even blackmail but of themselves they are not particularly strong magically. It therefore follows that if Mr. Malfoy created the portkey he was unable, as I say, to breach the wards. This fact leads me to believe that he was acting to his own vendetta against Potter rather than on instruction from a higher power," concluded Snape.

"By a 'higher power' I assume you mean Voldemort." It was Hermione who spoke this time and everyone could see Snape struggle to answer her politely in front of the Headmaster and McGonagall. A vein in his temple worked horribly as he eventually barked out a brief, "just so," and immediately looked down into the flames.

Ginny turned to look up at Harry her right hand resting on his right, and said: "He's just mad that you were instrumental in getting his father locked up in Azkaban."

"An accurate assessment Miss Weasley," said Dumbledore. "But what does Voldemort make of this I wonder? Has he made any indication or response to the abduction?" This question was aimed at Harry and Snape jointly.

"I've been aware of very little since I returned to Hogwarts," said Harry.

"The Dark Lord has made no indication one way or another on the matter," said Snape.

"I remember Voldemort and Malfoy Snr., saying something about the Equinox but that was weeks ago. I've heard nothing since," said Harry reluctantly.

"Headmaster do you think Draco has become a Death Eater like his father?" This question was posed by Ginny, rather nervously.

"The Order has received no notice to that effect. It may be that he intends to, rather than already has." Answered the Headmaster. "For now we have other questions that need to be answered."

Snape seemed to deliberately avoid giving his answer to Ginny's question, instead he stated: "Since you no longer require my presence, I shall return to my office, I have the inane scribblings of my third year's to decipher before I retire."

Snape inclined his head briefly to both of his colleagues but totally ignored the young Gryffindors however Ginny would not let him leave so easily.

"Goodnight Professor Snape" she said in a loud commanding voice that would not be ignored and with a stare of which a basilisk would be wary.

Reluctantly Snape paused en-route to the chamber door, saying "Goodnight" in almost a whisper before striding from the room.

Harry couldn't stop himself from grinning at Ginny, Ron raised a fist into the air in triumph but, remembering he was with McGonagall and Dumbledore, he quickly changed the gesture to a stretch. At the same moment Harry heard the Headmaster turn an unmistakable chuckle into a throat clearing cough.

Only Deputy Headmistress McGonagall and Hermione seemed not to acknowledge Snape's response. Harry thought to himself that Hermione became more and more like the Transfiguration Teacher as each year went by.

"If we have concluded our business here," said McGonagall in a distinctly reproving tone, "perhaps we should adjourn to my office to carry out Mr. Weasley's examination."

They all stood up but instead of making her way back to the Great Hall, McGonagall walked purposefully to a tapestry that hung on the back wall of the chamber. McGonagall pushed the fabric to one side exposing a very plain wooden door. Looking Harry in the eye she said very clearly so that all could hear: "Aide moi."

The solid oak door slid silently open and McGonagall led them all through.

They found themselves in a spacious passage lit by torches and ending in an archway through which the top of a descending flight of steps could be seen. The passage was lined by a number of doors which had no names or numbers upon them only carvings of very familiar and realistic-looking animals. The eagle, snake, badger and lion, so realistic that Harry saw their eyes scan the students appraisingly.

There were two other doors, one bore a phoenix - wings outstretched in flight, the other had a cross wand and bone, the same symbol Harry had seen last year at St.Mungos hospital.

Before he got a chance to ask, the Headmaster told the assembled students that this route was to be used in emergencies only and misuse of the exceptional trust placed in them would be severely punished. The doors led to the offices of the four Heads of House as well as to the Headmaster's Office and the hospital wing. Dumbledore went on to say that the stairs led down not, as Harry as supposed, to the dungeons but to the underground jetty on the edge of Black Lake where a boat for emergency use was permanently moored.

The four Gryffindors followed their Head of House through the oak door with the Lion carved upon it, closely followed by Dumbledore. It closed behind them with what sounded like a soft lion's roar.

McGonagall conjured four hard upright chairs for her students and bade them 'Sit' as though she were putting show dogs through their paces. The students obeyed automatically and silently.

Dumbledore, as he had at Harry's trial last year, conjured himself a comfy armchair in which he sat and watched, the anticipation all to evident on his lined face.

"Now Mr. Weasley," began McGonagall, "I am given to understand that you effected a spontaneous personal transformation without prior preparation or instruction. Is that correct?"

Ron's mouth dropped open and he turned to look Hermione in the face but before she could open her mouth to translate, Dumbledore piped up.

"You changed into a Tawny Owl without training and not knowing you could do it," said the Head with a twinkle in the eye.

"Just so." acknowledged McGonagall succinctly.

"Er, well then, yes, I suppose I did," said Ron, haltingly, "I mean I knew what animagi were and had imaged what it must be like but I hadn't read what you have to do or anything."

"I see. Did you ever discuss transformation with Mr. Black while you were at Grimmauld Place?" continued McGonagall.

"No," said Ron, quietly, his eyes downcast in an effort to not look at Harry.

"The inclination towards becoming animagi and the most successful proponents of the art, are those with a common inherited aptitude. True there is a lot of well documented evidence and testimony on those not able to effect a successful and stable transformation but comparatively little about successes." McGonagall was in her full teaching mode now. "In the last century there have been only ten known new animagi but, sad to say, there may be many more unregistered than was originally believed as the gift does have obvious advantages to both Dark Wizards and criminals."

"… and newspaper reporters!" added Harry, under his breath. Both teachers heard his words however.

"Reporters" queried McGonagall, a distinct frown on her face but it was not Harry who answered her but Hermione.

"We discovered …" she began.

"You discovered, you mean!" said Ginny, speaking for the first time.

"OK, I discovered that Rita Skeeter is also an unregistered animagus." Acknowledged Hermione. "She can turn into a beetle. That was how she wrote all those horrible stories during the Tri-Wizard Tournament."

The previous formal atmosphere was now completely dispelled as the four students explained Rita's behaviour and method of story gathering. "I take it," concluded Dumbledore, "that it was this knowledge that enabled you to 'persuade' Rita to write the article that appeared so successful in The Quibbler and the Daily Prophet?"

"Er. Yes." Said Hermione.

"Do not look abashed, Miss Granger. It shows wisdom to understand and to use the er … shall we call them 'weapons' available to us in a time of trial. I have no doubt that under normal circumstances you would not have dreamt of employing such tactics. Indeed the end does not always justify the means." Concluded the Headmaster.

"Just so." Added McGonagall, before continuing "now as to the reason you are all here. We have to determine exactly what Mr. Weasley experienced."

As she had been speaking McGonagall had had walked to a large cloth covered item to one side of her office. Without a flourish, the cover was removed and a large freestanding mirror was exposed. At first glance Harry and Ron thought it was the Mirror of Erised but on further examination they saw it had words carved into it's frame at the top and at the bottom. The carvings read 'Interiora Vide' and 'Quod in te est, prome!'

Harry looked carefully at the words and tried to read them backwards but they still made no sense.

Hermione just said "Oh! I see," rather infuriating everyone except the two teachers. Dumbledore merely smiled but McGonagall requested, by the simple raising of an eyebrow, an explanation of the inscription.

"It's Latin," she stated to her friends as though that was the most obvious thing in the world.

"Oh, of course! Now why didn't I realise that?" questioned Ron almost inaudibly with not a little sarcasm in his voice. Ginny and Harry just looked into each other's eyes briefly in acknowledgement of Ron and Hermione's banter but said, nothing at all.

"You are quite right Miss Granger. The two phrases are indeed written in Latin, the study of which can be most useful as many incantations; plant and potion names are derived from the Latin. In this case the phrases are translated as 'Look within' and 'Bring forth what is in you'. This mean when used correctly after imbibing the promo potion, will show you what animal form is held within your persona. The ability to transform has a great genetic element to it and not all families have it," concluded McGonagall.

Harry brightened at hearing about the inherited element, as he knew his father had been an animagus and he had often fantasised about transforming like his father and Sirius. How he hoped he could too. He hoped he'd be able to fly, as that would be both brilliant and useful. With a jolt back to the present Harry heard McGonagall warn that the opposite was also true and that in some families there was no gift and no matter how much or how hard a witch or wizard tried they would not be able to succeed.

"After all if one is born colour-blind then no amount of trying will enable appreciation of a rainbow."

This succinct statement came, not from their transfiguration teacher but from Ginny. Everyone turned to look at her, impressed. Ginny was, however, blushing in a very cute way, thought Harry.

"While we were at Grimmauld Place I talked to Sirius quite a few times about being an animagus. He told me how hard it had been for them to learn and what a surprise it had been the first time they succeeded," explained Ginny causing Harry to feel a momentary pang of jealousy. Why hadn't he talked to Sirius that way? There were so many unanswered questions and now! He felt a tightness in his throat and was grateful when McGonagall continued speaking and attention became focused on her once more, enabling him to wipe his eyes on his sleeve unobserved.

He was unsuccessful he realised when Ginny reached out silently and took his tear-dampened hand in his. He felt warmth flood through him from their joining.

Professor McGonagall, over the course of the next 45 minutes, detailed the development of the Promo Potion, the ingredients it contained and gave horrific examples of what could happen if an incorrectly prepared potion was consumed.

"For many years there was a popular myth that the races of magical beings, to which our own Professor Firenze belongs, was the result of a mis-brewed Promo Potion. This myth is correct in only one respect. The Centaurs were a part of the successful development of the potion but only their oft-overlooked skills in potion-making not by any desire to change their own appearance which, they believe, to be the perfect combination of strength and intellect.

As she concluded her lecture McGonagall had removed from a locked cabinet beneath her desk, a small brassbound, wooden casket. From around her neck she removed a fine silver chain what had a small token suspended from it. She placed the token in a matching depression on the top of the casket before tapping it once with her wand. There was a barely audible click before the casket lid opened to reveal, nestled within its velvet lining, half-a-dozen small silver-topped bottles. Each appeared to contain a small amount of a slightly glowing orange liquid.

"These phials of Promo Potion have been expertly prepared by a Potions Master. They are guaranteed to be pure and unadulterated. You need have no fear as to the safety of consuming it," stated McGonagall matter-of-factly before adding "Now Mr. Weasley" if you would take up a position directly in front of the glass."

Ron stood up very nervously, trying to surreptitiously wipe the sweat from his hands onto his robes. He gave a quick glance at his three closest friends who all smiled encouragingly at him. Hermione mouthed, "It'll be fine, you'll see."

McGonagall took out the first phial, saying, "You'll need your wand, Mr. Weasley." After a bit of fumbling in his robes Ron finally was ready and with a shaking hand he took the open bottle. She instructed, "Focus now Mr. Weasley, when you are ready, drink the potion. When it has been swallowed say 'Interiora Vide' with your eyes closed. Count to ten in your head. When you open your eyes you will see, as will we all, your animagus form reflected in the glass. Now, if you are ready?"

You could have heard a pin drop, the silence was absolute.

"Interiora Vide!" said Ron, clearly and precisely.

The five observers counted to ten silently in their heads before they took a perfectly synchronised intake of breath as they too looked in the glass and saw not a reflection of Ron but a large and beautiful tawny owl, it's wings outstretched. Ron turned his head to look at Ginny, Hermione and Harry and as he did so the owl's head swivelled round to look behind it.

"Oh, well done Mr. Weasley!" said Minerva McGonagall as she clapped her hands together in an uncharacteristic display of her obvious pleasure at Ron's success. "The image is perfect and I believe I can say without fear of contradiction that the change came from within your own persona. See how it moves as you do? It reflects your desires and movements."

"A fitting reflection indeed Mr. Weasley. Tawny owls are known as being remarkably tenacious and loyal as well as ferocious predators," added the Headmaster, smiling.

The Headmaster's comments caused Ron to smile at first but then caused him to become reflective. He placed the now empty phial into McGonagall's hand and resumed his seat between the two girls who continued to smile at him.

"Miss Granger, would you care to be next?" said McGonagall and Harry could see eagerness to try something know written all over his bushy-haired friend's face. She removed her wand from her robes with practiced ease and stood. As Hermione positioned herself in front of the glass Harry noticed absent-mindedly that the two women were now equal in height. 'Wonder when that happened?' mused Harry as Hermione drank from the second phial and said in a clear carrying voice "Interiora Vide!"

Once again the observers held their breaths for the silent count of ten. Slowly, almost reluctantly, Hermione opened her eyes. For the briefest of moments her reflection shimmered as though seen through gently rippling water, then became still.

"Oh!" said Hermione and her sadness and disappointment could be heard in that single softly spoken syllable. Slowly and with downcast eyes, Hermione resumed her seat.

It was only then she noticed an exchange of meaningful glances between McGonagall and Dumbledore. For some reason, unknown even to herself, Hermione did not post the question "What?" which she was dying to ask. The question would be asked but when she could speak to McGonagall or Dumbledore alone. Hermione became aware of Harry's eyes locked with hers and the look he was giving her made her feel acutely uncomfortable even though she didn't known why.

Once more McGonagall removed a phial from the casket.

"Miss Weasley? If you would care to be tested, you may?" said McGonagall. Ginny positively bounced over to the mirror. She was already holding her wand but Harry had no recollection of its removal from inside her robes.

"Interiora Vide!" came the incantation once more and Harry almost thought it sung rather than spoken.

1, 2, 3 … the silent countdown ended and Harry could see reflected in the glass, Ginny and only Ginny. No owl, no rippling image, just Ginny, sweet, lovely, beautiful Ginny. Then he saw a look of worry cross her face and she turned to look McGonagall in the eye. "I thought you said there was a strong genetic factor with the gift? If that's so then how come Ron can change but I apparently, won't be able to?" Although couched politely as a question the words were undoubtedly accusatory.

"Genetics plays a strong part but it is not the only factor. Look at your own family, six boys and only one girl. Why? An equally unanswerable question I am afraid," stated McGonagall.

As the Deputy Headmistress answered Ginny, Harry looked at Dumbledore and he saw the aged Headmaster staring at his clasped hands, the knuckles white with tension.

What was going on?

Harry was sure Dumbledore knew more than he was letting on but, like Hermione, Harry decided now was neither the time nor the placed to pursue the matter. He could wait.

"Harry?" It was not McGonagall but Ginny. "Professor McGonagall asked if you wanted to try?" she stated.

Harry's answer was to remove his wand from his robes and stand ready. He noticed a peculiar warmth in the glass phial as he took a hold of it. He downed the small quantity of potion in one gulp and as he stood, eyes closed, counting in his head, he realised the potion tasted vaguely like chocolate and orange mixed together.

7, 8, 9, …

The scar on his forehead stung ferociously.

… 10!

Harry opened his eyes and gasped, as did everyone else in the room!

Harry stood looking at his own reflection, but he couldn't – or rather didn't want to – believe his own eyes.

For his own eyes were red, blood red, with slits for pupils!

A/N: I figured as you have all had such a horrendous wait for me to upload a new chapter that you deserved a nice cliffie to end on. Hopefully I will get the next chapter posted next week. I say hopefully as I am due for surgery on my left knee on Wednesday and should be off work for a while, hence the chance to get some chapterstyped up. Have at least another eight chapters written and it is definitely my intention to finish this story.

Hope you all had a good Christmas and that 2006 proves to be peaceful and joyful. - Rosie