18 September 1999

Harry lay in his cell, recovering from running in place for an hour and several stretching exercises. Nothing had happened since his staged suicide attempt - he hoped the Daily Prophet was enjoying that particular event - and wondered if getting incarcerated was really the best possible thing he could have done. Now the Order had to spend time getting him out instead of fighting the Dark Wanker.

Come to think of it, he could see potential downsides to being broken out from prison.

For one thing, Hermione was going to kill him.

And then she would resurrect him, and kill him again.

A few times.

All the while yelling at him.

And he would deserve it.

He groaned inwardly. The real reason he was here was because of sheer Gryffindor and male macho stupidity. He didn't blame himself for killing Lucius Malfoy - that was hardly a crime - but he had wanted to show the world that he had done so. That was moronic. And if he could not have avoided Azkaban, then he really, really should have gone on a solo Death Eater killing rampage before giving himself up to the authorities.

He mind wandered. He wondered how the Order would make use of his blood.

Then he jerked his right arm, and almost squealed. Only his Dursley-trained reflexes against making such noises stopped him. He glanced at the guards, who had given no sign of noticing. He looked at his arm, and his eyes widened.

Mione here. Usng Remote Bld Quill, sorry, said the writing on his arm.

What in the name of Morgana...

The writing etched into his arm faded. He stared at Hermione's abbreviated name as it vanished.

The hamsters in his mind started running again. He supposed that was a good thing - since his arrest, they had unionized and gone on strike several times.

He sat up in bed. Looking at his arm while lying down was suspicious. His experience with the suicide act meant that there were people watching his cell remotely. Or the automatic monitoring in his cell was really good. With his new found Moody-imbued paranoia, he assumed the former.

I miss u Hry. Ta 4 kllng LM

Harry felt much better. If Hermione was on his side, everything would be fine. And her leaving out the vowels was very thoughtful.

The letters faded away again.

It was a pity he couldn't respond.

But he felt much better.

He wondered how Ginny was doing; the pang in his gut when he usually thought about her was much less now. He supposed he was moving on. Either that or he was a heartless bastard who hadn't cared for her enough, which sounded far more likely. He wished he could meet her one more time, and ask her if she forgave him for allowing her to die. If he hadn't gone to the bathroom when he did, then he would have been with Ginny and Ron when Malfoy turned up...

He hoped they did a Prior Incantatem on Malfoy's wand to see if she or Ron had a last message. Or would they need a brother wand for that?

Pll urslf tgthr. We com wthn 1wk i thnk

Merlin! If he pulled off a Patronus now, it would be solid.

He idly wondered at the mental suffering Hermione must be going through with misspelt words. He would have to tease her for that.

Say nthng. Ur rplcmnt cnt speak. bye 4 now

Hermione was signing out, to his dismay. He didn't mind the pain, really.

He wondered what they were replacing him by. Obviously not a talking monkey, if it couldn't speak. Maybe a Death Eater. That would be nice. Or a golem. Or a clone of Dudley. Or, even better, Dudley.

He would definitely have pleasant dreams tonight.

Oh wait, Hermione was writing some more.

Take care, Harry. I need you.

He really didn't mind the extra vowels.

And maybe he could persuade Hermione to only kill him a couple of times when he got out.

20 September 1999

Minerva transfigured the dining table at 12 Grimmauld Place into a large round table. She wondered why they had not done it before - it only took a little room expansion. The Inner Order sat around her, dominated by redheads - Arthur, Bill, Fred, George, Hermione. Molly had excused herself; Arthur said she was babysitting for friends. It was understandable.

Wait. Hermione a redhead?

She wondered how that happened. Perhaps she lost a bet to the twins. But her favorite ex-student seemed to be wearing the colour with aplomb, daring anyone to ask. Actually, several people had, and she had just smiled oddly, sometimes at the twins, sometimes at Fleur.

Hermione was sitting next to Fleur. Apparently they had gotten a lot closer recently. Minerva supposed she approved. Oh, she definitely approved, it was just surprising. The bushy brunette - no, redhead - did not make friends easily.

Minerva looked around again. They seemed to be looking at her expectantly. She supposed she should say something intelligent. Then she smirked inwardly, and turned herself over to the little part of her that had broken a hundred and fifty eight school rules several decades ago.

"Fleur, may I ask why your hair is still blonde?"

There was shocked silence for a moment, followed by guffaws. Fleur was clearly surprised, and wasn't having much luck giving a response.

"We tried our new Weasley Hair Wheezes," said George.

"Which are available for the incredibly low price of two sickles," muttered Fred, in one of those low voices that could be heard across the room, "or five sickles for the non-permanent version."

"but said Wheezes do not seem to work on Veela hair," continued George.

"They work only part of the way," Fred clarified. "It's very odd."

Tonks looked up, visibly interested. She turned the hair on the left side of her head Weasley red and the right side Delacour blonde. "Like this?" she queried.

"Non," replied Fleur, recovered from Minerva's unexpected enquiry. "Only the outer third of each of my hairs turned red. The rest remained blonde."

"Rats," said Tonks, visibly disappointed. "That's a nice effect, but not one I can do."

People turned to look at Tonks. They hadn't heard of a physical change she could not pull off yet.

"I've tried that before," said the Metamorphagus in answer to the unsaid questions. "It's really hard to colour a single hair with more than one colour. I think only a couple of us in the world might be able to do that."

"When all this is over," said Minerva, "you should write a book explaining your abilities. I am sure there would be many people interested in reading it. I would, at the very least."

It was a measure of the new hope present in the group that they were able to speak of the future as a short-term prospect. Though they had not discussed it officially, everyone in the group had heard that all Horcruxes had now been destroyed.

"Now, let us first congratulate Bill, Alastor, Remus, and Kingsley, for a job well done," said McGonagall, to a round of hearty applause and backpats for the quartet. "We are especially relieved to still have Auror Shacklebolt with us."

Moody had already filled a Pensieve with his memories of the retrieval, and the next twenty minutes were spent looking at its contents using a special projector that Flitwick had bought with Order funds from Australia.

"Merlin," remarked Shacklebolt, even though he had already seen the memories beforehand. "It's hard to believe that happened. All I remember was slowly fading out, and then waking up to Tonks' ugly mug. That was when I knew I hadn't died and gone to Heaven. No way would she be there."

Tonks stuck her tongue out at him.

"So that screaming wasn't yours?" asked Bill.

"I don't remember doing it," replied the shiny headed Auror, "but that doesn't mean anything. It didn't sound like me, though, did it?" Bill shook his head, as did a few others.

They discussed the Horcrux retrieval some more, though it soon degenerated into an explanation to the Purebloods of Shacklebolt's reference to Heaven. ("It's a Muggle religion thing - where good people go after they die", "Who's good?", "Anyone who believes in the religion - everyone else is bad", "Sounds like Slytherin and Gryffindor", "Are all Muggle religions like that?", "No, just the stupid ones.")

"We should use this table more often, Minerva," said Arthur. "It feels much better. More relaxing."

"Yes," replied the Headmistress, "but we should proceed to the next order of business. Our resident Potions brewers have done a good job. Fleur?"

"Merci, Madame McGonagall," replied the Frenchwoman. "Hermione and I have brewed five doses of Faux Animagi Potion. Two use Harry's blood, and one of those uses the blood of an eagle, in case he has no form. We thought he would like that form, since he is a Seeker. The other three are for Bill, Hermione, and myself, and do not have the blood of any animal yet."

"You've tested them?" asked Remus, leaning forward like half the other people around the table.

"Yes," Fleur continued. "It has no effect on Hermione and I, so we have the freedom to choose an animal. Or maybe it is the Veela interference in my case. Bill, however, has a form. He is a wolf."

Remus turned to Bill, who was grinning. "But that's not your natural form, surely!"

"I guess that bite went deep," shrugged Bill. Then he stood up, walked away from the table, and transformed. There were several shrieks and wands drawn in the two seconds before he transformed back.

Remus said several things that would have normally have caused people to stare at him. As it was, they were still staring at Bill Weasley. He had theatrically returned to his seat, enjoying the attention.

"You're a werewolf?" said McGonagall, shaking her head in disbelief. "But that's impossible!"

"We're not sure exactly what happened," stated Fleur, taking the reins of the conversation again. "Obviously there is much to be investigated. For now, I think we should brew more of the Potion, and decide what forms would be of use to the Order. Of course, people will also be interested in getting blood of animals they wish to become if they have no form. Personally, I wish to investigate the possibility of there being a thirteenth use of dragon's blood."

"Charlie is going to love this," chuckled Fred.

"I agree," said McGonagall. "Have you asked Charlie for the blood of one of his wards?"

"Yes," replied Fleur. "We did not tell him the exact reason, of course. We should get it in a couple of days. We will need a volunteer to take it."

Two identical hands went up, and several people around the table groaned. Tonks noted that they corresponded to those placing bets on which forms the Weasley twins would take. Plus the Headmistress, who had her head in her hands.

The twins snickered.

"Bien," said Fleur with a theatrical sigh. "Your blood later, please."

"How much?" asked George.

"All of it," muttered Hermione.

"Half a standard vial each," answered Fleur more accurately. "Now, I also prepared - or attempted to prepare - three doses of Filius' Magical Signature Potion yesterday. The twins successfully obtained a couple of chimpanzees, and perhaps this is a good time for Filius to take over."

She sat down, her hand lightly resting on Hermione's shoulder as she did so. There was applause, including wolf whistles from the twins. Bill bared his teeth at them.

Flitwick stood on his chair.

"Today morning," he began, "Fleur brought the Signature Potion to Hogwarts. We placed one of the chimpanzees under Imperius, and had it drink a vial of the Potion. The vial was, unfortunately, defective - it is a difficult Potion - and we had to kill the ape. You do not want to know what the poor animal looked like. We then brought in the second chimpanzee, and had it drink a second vial. This worked, and we now have a substitute for Mr Potter, complete with signature."

There was heavy applause. Flitwick bowed, in classic duelling master style.

"How are you going to get it into Azkaban, though," asked Tonks, who knew she was the most likely person to actually pull the switch.

"We tested this," replied the Charms expert. "It was a risk, but we had more Potion and the twins could get another ape. Minerva Transfigured it into a mouse. The signature remains unaffected when the Transfiguration is reversed."

There were sighs of relief. The biggest problem appeared to be solved.

"What of its behaviour?" asked Moody, bringing up the concerns he had raised at the previous meeting.

"With Imperius - which must be repeated after Transfiguring it back from a mouse - it can display very sedate behaviour, and stay silent. Even if it now has the vocal apparatus to speak and sound like Harry, it does not know any human language."

"Perhaps you could Imperius it to memorize and repeat certain phrases, like 'I am tired' or 'Leave me alone'?" suggested Hermione. "After all, if you can often Imperius a human to do what he cannot do normally. Or spiders to dance."

"It is worth trying," Flitwick acknowledged, "And I will do so. But if Snape's information is correct, You-Know-Who is going to try break Harry out in just over a week, so it is possible nobody will notice in the meantime."

"Do you think we can fit something in the ape so it can spy for us?" asked Shacklebolt, awakening to the possibilities offered by Voldemort's own 'rescue' operation. "Like a scrying charm on his eyes so that we can see what happens after Voldemort rescues him?"

There were several excited murmurs at this.

"Unfortunately, it would interfere with the Magical Signature," replied Flitwick after a thoughtful pause.

"What if you kept the Charm passive?" suggested Fleur. "And then set it to activate when the ape was taken away from Azkaban by You-Know-Who?"

"Ah!" squeaked the short wizard. "Now, that could work! I will investigate that possibility. And there are several other Charms I will add." He sat down, again to more applause.

"Thank you, Filius, Fleur, Fred, George," nodded Minerva. "You have pulled off what is widely believed to be impossible." She paused to allow for more clapping and cheers. "Now we must discuss the actual switch. Since the next full moon is not a possibility, and neither is Polyjuice, this appears to fall on the shoulders of our favorite Metamorphagus. Tonks, if you are willing to do this, have you the outlines of a plan?"

Tonks nodded. "While Pufferfish was doing my job last time, I pulled a few strings and found out who was guarding Harry's cell. It turns out that all pairs of guards until Halloween include at least one werewolf. This is a problem, because I cannot disguise my scent. But perhaps Filius can charm this, once we abduct the person I am to impersonate." She looked at the Charms Master, who nodded.

"Oh goody," continued Tonks with a grin. "If it can fool Remus, we're in business. On the night of 22 September - the day after tomorrow - the guards will be a female human, Niamh O'Riordan, and a male werewolf, Robert Smythe. Shacklebolt has determined O'Riordan's residence, and the fact that she currently lives alone as her boyfriend is travelling. Moody, Remus, and I will visit her in a few hours. This is completely illegal, of course, as we will be using Imperius to make her tell her everything she can about her plans tomorrow and her behaviour and Robert's behaviour if she has met him before. And we will modify her memories afterwards."

Nobody seemed to mind the lack of legality. They were well past that stage.

"I will enter Azkaban as O'Riordan. At some point during the shift, I will ask Smythe to leave us, to get some coffee or something. Then I will take out the mouse, turn it back into the Harry substitute, Imperius it to shut up and mope around Harry's cell for the next week, open the cell door, ask Harry to leave the cell just as the substitute enters, close the cell door, transfigure Harry into a mouse, and put him in my robes. Ta da!"

"What about the remote watchers?" asked Moody.

"Ah yes, them," said Tonks, quickly losing her grin. "I was hoping someone would distract them in the Ministry during that time."

"There is another problem," mused McGonagall. "You will have to leave Harry transfigured as a mouse for at least an hour, since he will have to remain unnoticed in your pocket till you leave Azkaban by boat. That length of time would cause brain damage."

"Oh," replied Tonks. "I hadn't thought of that. But I guess you did, which is why you asked Fleur to brew the Faux Animagus Potion, right? How about this - soon after I make the switch, I tell Smythe I'm going to the loo because I've got a runny tummy problem, and then walk up one of the Azkaban towers. The cell is underground, but there's a staircase in each tower. I go up to some window, untransfigure Harry, and then give him the Potion. If he has a natural form that can fly, he flies out. If he has no form, then he turns into an eagle with another drink. Some of you can be waiting nearby with a boat, right?"

"Can't you just take a Broomstick that he can use?" asked Hermione.

"Nope, they've got wards against those," grunted Moody.

"And what if he has a natural animagus form that cannot fly?" asked Fred.

"Ah," said Tonks. "That's trickier. If the form is small, then I can stuff him back in my pockets. Otherwise, I do not know."

"If you are in the tower on the ground level, you could toss him out the window and have him swim to the boat," offered Remus. "I don't think his animagus form will be a cat."

"Mr Potter will make a fine feline," stated Minerva with an affected huff. Remus grinned in response.

"There are no windows on ground level," said Tonks. "The lowest windows are six stories high."

"Maybe one of us can turn into a large flying animal and hang around," offered Arthur, "or ride Buckbeak."

This was agreed upon, and the Inner Order continued to discuss further details.

A/N: There is a clue in this chapter as to what will happen when Harry takes the Animagus Potion. Guesses, anyone?