Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any associated names/images/etc. I do not profit from this story in anyway.
Chapter 6 – All Hallows' Eve Part 1: I've got a bad feeling about this...
"There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls."
~ George Carlin
Grimmauld Place, the Evening of September 1st, 1995.
"I'm telling you Moony, Harry and my little cousin were making goo-goo eyes at each other!" Sirius exclaimed as he led the way up the stairs. The smile on his face carried a hint of pride.
"And I'm telling you that you're imagining things!" the werewolf countered. "He's fifteen…she's twenty-two…I just don't buy it."
"Ah, c'mon, you've seen how close they are."
"I have," Remus said with a nod that Sirius couldn't see, "Yet again, I don't buy it."
"Just because you're all dull and dreary doesn't mean everyone else is!" Sirius smirked when he heard his last remaining best friend huff irritably behind him. Picking at the ex-professor's stuffy persona always wound him up.
"I don't suppose it's occurred to you," Remus began as Sirius opened a door, stopped, and waved for the man to precede him, "that a man – well…boy in this case, and a woman can have a close relationship without it being in anyway romantic?"
"Where's the fun in that?" Sirius asked, absolutely horrified. Remus simply sighed.
"Just shut the door and lock it," he ordered.
"Yes sir, Captain Dull!" Sirius said, snapping a mock-salute he'd once seen on Lily's telly. Ignoring his friends rolled eyes, he eased the door closed and quickly coated the room in several different locking, silencing, and other such spy-proofing charms; hold-overs from the days of the Marauders.
"You've got the mirror?" Remus asked anxiously.
Sirius produced it from an inner pocket of his jacket. "Of course…I never go anywhere without it!"
"Good, good," Remus cast a glance at the clock on the wall, "any moment now. You've got the list?"
From a different pocket, he pulled a folded up bit of parchment. "Relax, Moony, it's not like we can't go grab something if we've forgotten it!"
Before Remus could respond, Harry's voice – slightly tinny sounding – spoke up from Sirius's right hand. "Sirius Black!"
Meanwhile, In Moaning Myrtle's Bathroom.
"Harry, is that you?" his godfather's voice asked happily.
"Sirius!" Harry exclaimed with a smile, watching the man's slightly bedraggled face swim into view in the mirror.
He heard a scuffle coming from the other side of the mirror. "It's my mirror Moony!" Sirius's voice shouted.
"I just want to say hello!" Remus's voice retorted.
"You just did, now let go!"
"Not until you give me a moment to do it properly!"
"No! Now you leave off my mirror!"
Harry couldn't help but laugh. Sirius's face suddenly reappeared – apparently he had been victorious – and he looked at him suspiciously. "Did you just laugh at us?"
"Yeah," Harry admitted without the slightest bit of contrition.
"Oh, good then!" the vaguely haggard looking man broke into a broad grin. Harry noticed that his eyes swiveled about curiously. "Merlin's balls, Harry…are you in a loo?"
"What's he doing in a loo?" Harry heard Remus ask incredulously.
"It's Moaning Myrtle's…it was the only place I could think of that no one ever comes."
"Not only is he in a loo," Sirius said proudly over his shoulder, "but he's in a girls loo!"
Harry broke into another grin when he heard Remus sputtering in incoherent shock.
"So," Sirius began again, still grinning like mad, "how was your first day?"
Harry's stomach clenched, his mood immediately dampened. "Fine," he said sullenly.
Sirius's grin slipped a little. "That bad, huh?"
A long silence fell before a throat cleared and Harry heard Remus say, "Let's move on to happier things, shall we? Like what we set up this little meeting for in the first place."
Harry brightened somewhat, his attention brought back to the utter brilliance of the situation. He was going to find out what his animagus form was!
"Right," Sirius said, suddenly all business, "you brought your cauldron?" Harry nodded. "And your potions supplies?" He nodded again. "Good!" Harry heard a crinkling of paper, and then Sirius began to list off ingredients….a lot of ingredients…by the time he was done, Harry was staring at him, wide-eyed.
"You know, it's a wonder more people don't do this, all of the ingredients for the potion can be found in a third-year's potions kit," Sirius remarked curiously.
"More like three third-year's potions kits," Harry muttered too quietly for him to hear.
"Remember, stir clockwise five times, anti-clockwise five times, and then let it sit for five minutes. Repeat that process fifty-five times."
"But that's…" Harry paused for some quick mental calculations, "…that's four hours!"
"Closer to five, actually," Remus responded from behind Sirius.
"No pain, no gain, Harry," Sirius remarked. "If becoming an animagus was easy, everyone would do it!"
Harry simply sighed and began to mix the ingredients. The two remaining Marauders kept him company, carrying on a running conversation through the mirror and occasionally reminding him when it was time to stir the cauldron again. It was nearing one in the morning when his potion was finally the iridescent green that Sirius had told him to look for.
"I think it's done!" he exclaimed with a tired smile.
"Let's see it then, tip me down!" Sirius ordered. Harry angled his mirror enough for his godfather to see over the rim of the cauldron. "Yep, that's the puke-green we're looking for!"
"Well done, Harry!" Remus called.
"Now, what you want to do – and make sure you're sitting down for this, that's very important – is to ladle some into a flask…"
"Flask?" Harry interrupted, his voice sounding slightly panicked, "you didn't say anything about a flask!"
"I didn't?" Sirius asked bemusedly. "Odd…I could've sworn I did – ouch! That was uncalled for Moony!"
"I told you to tell him, I explicitly told you!" Harry could hear Remus ranting.
"Calm down, calm down, it's no big deal," Sirius soothed. "Now, Harry, just take a big gulp directly from the ladle…"
"You never mentioned a ladle either," Harry reminded him.
"Ouch! Dammit Moony!"
"You didn't even think to mention a ladle?"
"I assumed it was part of his everyday supplies!"
"Padfoot…if you've ruined this and we have to sit through another five hours of potions…" Remus left the threat hanging.
"I have a spoon, if that helps?" Harry interjected, attempting to save his godfather from certain death.
"Great!" Sirius shouted, his voice squeaking. "Hold it up and let me see it."
Harry dug around until he found the biggest spoon he carried.
"Oh yes, that'll do," Sirius said happily.
"It's not silver is it?" Harry shook his head negatively. "Good, this potion doesn't like silver one bit. Just gulp down three or four spoonfuls then."
Harry, his nerves causing his hand to shake just a little, swiftly scooped up a spoonful and shoved it in his mouth. Almost immediately, he began coughing and sputtering; he could hear Sirius and Remus laughing through the mirror.
"Did we forget to mention the wonderful rotten beef and expired milk after taste?" Sirius asked. Harry was too busy trying to scrub his tongue clean to respond.
Just three more…he tried to reassure himself. With a dirty look towards the mirror he took another gulp, managing a much more subdued coughing fit this time. Two…he counted. He took another gulp, this time with only one hacking cough. Just one more, he told himself bracingly. Finally, he took his last spoonful.
"D'you think he's done yet?" Remus's voice trailed through the mirror.
Harry couldn't hear it though. He was already passed out on the floor.
"I reckon so," Sirius said after a moment.
Just North of London.
Nydia's legs set a steady pace in time with her breathing. She was starting to get a bad feeling about this; an undeniable sense of foreboding; the same feeling that had been driving her from place to place, one step ahead of danger.
It meant they were coming, she knew. It was always the same. The bad feelings would come, then so would the bad men, and she would have to run as fast as she could; just like when they came for her parents.
The forest passed around her in a blur, any of the usual noises that woodland creatures might make drowned out by her heavy breaths and the blood pounding in her ears.
A branch scratched her neck, another amongst the dozens she'd already accumulated in her mad dash.
This was taking a heck of a lot longer without any transportation, but she didn't have any money left and there were no convenient floos that she was aware of. Whatever it was she was striving for, it had better be worth all of this.
A dense, pearlescent fog surrounded him, reducing his visibility to practically nothing.
"Hello?" Harry called. This was a very…odd experience. Maybe he should've asked exactly what to expect before he swallowed that potion.
The fog caressed his skin, leaving trails of condensation. He shivered involuntarily. "Anyone?" he continued. "Oh bloody – what am I supposed to do now?"
He sat still for several moments, his mind racing over possible answers. Finally, once no real solution presented itself, he decided that there was nothing for it but to explore.
Wandering around with zero visibility wasn't the most pleasant experience in the world, he found. He tripped several times, over things that he could only see as shapeless blobs, disguised as they were by the fog. Once he noticed those smaller shapes, he began to pick out other blobs of all shapes and sizes around him. Some of them were moving…that part worried him a little.
A low rumbling noise started in his ears. As he moved along, it gradually crescendoed into a cacophony of bestial growls, hisses, and bird-like caws.
His nerves were growing more and more frayed with each passing moment.
"Sirius?" he called anxiously. "Remus?"
His only answer was a rather loud, high-pitched noise that sounded remarkably like a monkey.
Suddenly, a loud roar rent the air, causing Harry to jerk reflexively. When he settled, he found himself in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom once more.
"Harry? Harry!" Sirius voice called anxiously from the mirror laying face down on the floor. "Are you all right Harry? Can you hear me? Why did you yell?"
"You could've told me what was going to happen!" Harry hissed indignantly as he picked up the mirror.
"And ruin the surprise?" Sirius asked.
"What exactly did happen?" Remus' voice asked. "I don't recall you or James yelling when you took the potion, Padfoot."
"Yes, what did you see?" Sirius asked excitedly.
Harry struggled to find the proper description for a moment before he simply said, "Fog."
The Marauders remained silent for a moment, obviously expecting more. Finally, Sirius huffed irritably and prompted him, "Fog and…?"
"Just fog…and shapes, lots of shapes…and some animal noises."
Sirius looked incredibly confused. His face disappeared from the mirror and Harry heard the two mumbling out of sight for a few moments. He was starting to worry that he'd done something wrong. The longer they conferred, the more and more anxious Harry got. Just as he was preparing to interrupt them and demand some answers, Sirius' face appeared in the mirror again.
"You're absolutely certain that you didn't see anything more…defined, Harry?" he asked.
"Positive," Harry replied with a nod.
"Not even something really small, like an insect?"
"I…don't think so," and he very much hoped he hadn't just missed it…he wasn't sure how great being able to turn into a dung beetle would be.
"Well you've stumped us, then!" Sirius responded cheerfully.
Harry stared at him for a moment, his anxiety returning. What if he just couldn't do it?
"Not to worry," Sirius continued. "We'll try it again tomorrow night. Just sneak that potion back to your dorm and find something to store it in – make sure you charm it...wouldn't want all this work going to waste, eh? It should keep for quite a few days."
"I…you don't think that maybe I'm just not cut out to be an animagus, do you?" Harry asked nervously.
"No, Harry," Remus' voice interjected. "If you had no talent for it, the potion would have done nothing but leave a bad aftertaste. You wouldn't have passed out at all."
He breathed a sigh of relief. He was just starting to realize how much he wanted this; not just because it was completely and utterly cool, but because it would have made him feel closer to his father, after a fashion.
"We'll talk to you again tomorrow night, Harry," Sirius said reassuringly.
"Good night, Harry!" Remus called.
"Thanks, you two."
"Wouldn't rather be doing anything else," Sirius responded warmly before he waved into the mirror and disappeared.
Harry pocketed his mirror and shoved his ingredients back into his potions kit.
Then, he turned his attention to the cauldron…and back to his kit…and back to his cauldron again.
Normally, he would pack the relatively small cauldron in the kit as well, but that would result in a really foul smelling potion all over his supplies...but he couldn't carry them both separately.
He could just make two trips, but he was already out well past curfew…he really needed another pair of hands.
"Does Harry Potter need help with something?" squeaked a happy voice from behind him. Harry gave a startled shout and whirled to see a short figure with a long thin nose smiling up at him, practically bouncing.
"Dobby!"Harry said with a small smile. "How're you?"
"Dobby is wonderful," the little elf assured him. "Especially when someone so great as Harry Potter inquires after him!"
Harry did his best not to blush at that.
"Dobby was feeling that maybe Harry Potter is needing help?"
Harry nodded, relief flooding his system. "Yes, please! I needed someone to help me carry this back to Gryffindor Tower," he said, waving his hand at the cauldron and potions kit.
With a nod, Dobby snapped his fingers, levitating the cauldron a few feet off the ground. "Dobby is glad to help," the little elf suddenly seemed hesitant, "but he is wondering…why does Harry Potter not use his own magic?"
"Are you a witch or not?" echoed through his head, engendering a mild surge of regret that Ron and Hermione weren't with him.
Pushing those feelings away, he grinned sheepishly at Dobby. "Would you believe that I hadn't even thought of that?"
"Oh, yes, Harry Potter," Dobby responded with a smile of his own, "Dobby's father told him many times, 'Dobby, sometimes wizards is having so much big and important to do that we is having to remind them of the little things'."
The next morning came far too early in Harry's opinion. He hadn't drifted off until well after three in the morning and it felt like no time at all had passed before Ron was shaking him awake again.
As it was, he spent so much time waking up and getting himself ready that Ron left without him, and he found himself making his way down to breakfast alone. By the time he was taking his customary seat next to his friends, he was in the early stages of a truly massive headache.
The fact that Ron and Hermione seemed to be in the middle of an argument certainly didn't help. It honestly eluded him how they could be great mates one moment, and at each other's throats the next.
"No. No way; isn't going to happen!" Ron was saying, gesticulating wildly with a spoonful of eggs in one hand and his pumpkin juice in the other. Harry didn't even flinch when he felt a glob of yolk splatter against his head.
"But it's so important, Ron!" Hermione retorted. "Don't you want to get a good job? Don't you want to be able to support your wife and children?"
Ron gaped across the table at her. "Wife and children? Hermione...we're fifteen years old!"
Hermione expelled a long suffering sigh. "It's never too early to start planning, Ronald."
A loaded plate slid to a stop in front of him, drawing his attention away from his arguing friends. "Eat your breakfast, Harry," Ginny said with a smile.
With a tired smile of his own, Harry did just that.
Breakfast ended, thankfully along with Ron and Hermione's argument (he had eventually figured out that Hermione was attempting to rope them into O.W.L. studies...again). Unfortunately, his headache refused to follow the trend –instead of ending, it only got worse.
By the time Transfiguration rolled around, he was on the verge of skiving off for a nap, or maybe asking to see Madam Pomfrey. He'd been absolutely awful in Charms, accidentally turning Ron's nose into a…well, it looked like a turtle's beak, but he couldn't really be sure. It took Professor Flitwick ten minutes, to fix it; the snapping noises had sounded particularly rude, poor Ron.
He winced when Professor McGonnagal shut the door far louder than he deemed necessary, and he almost groaned out loud when she began a speech about the importance of O.W.L.'s. He and Ron shared a commiserating look – Hermione was going to be even more unbearable.
Within minutes, Harry felt the pain in his head increase, and his concentration decreased accordingly. Instead of thinking about the similarities between transfiguring simple vertebrate animals and human beings, which was what McGonnagal was currently lecturing on, he found his mind wandering to a dark hall, long and foreboding, with a single door at the end.
"Mr. Potter, are you paying attention?" McGonnagal's unyielding voice interrupted harshly. She was giving him her piercing stare, the one usually reserved for those who irritated her. Oddly enough, he felt a surge of happiness and he did something incredibly stupid.
He laughed at her.
It wasn't much really, not a cackle or a guffaw, just a simple little chuckle, but it was enough to get the Transfiguration professor's nostrils flaring.
"Do you find something amusing about disrupting my class, Mr. Potter?" she asked tersely.
Rather than answer, Harry began to laugh louder. Several of his classmates looked at him askance and shifted away from him.
"Harry!" hissed Hermione.
"Mr. Potter!" McGonnagal admonished.
And then the pain came.
Someone had taken a large piece of glass and jammed it directly into his forehead, or, at least, that's how it felt. A familiar and entirely unwelcome voice echoed through his mind.
"Bring…to me…mistakes…this time!" Voldemort hissed, a triumphant, and disturbing, smile on his face.
A blurry figure, kneeling at his feet in a room that was entirely black, replied, "Yes…pleased…best of us…no problem."
The odd gaps in their conversation were really getting to him; it was very, very annoying.
"Soon…packs will be…mine," Voldemort said to the now empty room. The foul, horrid thing began to cackle happily, and Harry knew no more.
Tonks hummed one of her favorite tunes merrily to herself as she made her way down the path, unconsciously swinging her hips in rhythm. The gates of Hogwarts were already receding behind her.
The moment she passed the ward markers, she turned on the spot and disapparated.
When the darkness faded, she was facing the grimy, dirty front stoop of Number 12, Grimmauld Place. She rang the bell without a thought, and a few minutes later, a frazzled, apron-wearing Molly Weasley opened the door, glaring daggers at her.
"Oh no! I forgot about the bell!" Tonks said, smacking herself on the forehead. Over Molly's shoulder, the shouts of Sirius's dear old mum could be heard. Sneaking in around the plump Weasley matriarch, she apologized profusely as they both struggled to cover the noisy portrait back up.
"Sorry again," she said sincerely, once they had the ratty curtain pulled shut.
Mrs. Weasley huffed once before she waved it off and smiled wearily. "Not to worry dear, but do try and remember next time. I can only take so much of that woman's bigotry. Now, come in, you're just in time for breakfast!"
"Oh no," Tonks said, following behind her, "I can't eat another thing, just had breakfast at Hogwarts, after all." She patted her stomach contentedly. "Just wanted to get away from the school for awhile," she concluded breezily, skirting that evil umbrella stand and shooting it a triumphant look.
Tonks 15; Umbrella stand 13! she crowed mentally. This day was definitely looking up.
"You don't have any classes today?" Molly asked, opening the kitchen door and holding it for her.
Tonks shook her head, "Nope, not until this afternoon, anyway. I figure that with me being a professor now and all, I should take advantage of every opportunity to be irresponsible, before I get bogged down with the whole 'being an adult' thing and start telling kids off for being kids," she said with a devious smile.
"Yes...well..." Molly began uncomfortably. Apparently unable to think of something nice to say in response, she shuffled off towards the stove.
Sirius, Remus, Moody, and Kingsley were all spread out around the table, chomping down the breakfast spread as quickly as they could. Tonks sat down beside Remus and nodded at her cousin across the table. "Wotcher."
"Morning, Nymphy," Sirius said brightly. He apparently didn't notice her glare, so she shot him a quick stinging hex, just to be sure.
While Sirius was busy yelping and rubbing his…er…sensitive bits, she turned her gaze to Remus. He looked exceptionally haggard. There were dark circles under his eyes, his hair was in disarray, he obviously hadn't bothered to shave that morning, and he was only pushing his food around on his plate.
Noticing her gaze, he smiled tiredly. "Full moon tonight," he explained. She nodded sympathetically
"So," she said, attempting to brighten the mood, "how did our young Harry's 'lesson' go last night?" she asked. She hadn't bothered to moderate her volume, and she snickered when she heard Moody huff from his spot down the table.
Sirius shot Remus a significant look, but the werewolf simply rolled his eyes and said, "It was…odd." She watched him expectantly, waiting for more.
"Best to wait for more private environs for the rest," Sirius said, leaning forward secretively. He nodded his head towards the stove, where Molly was still cooking up a storm. Tonks nodded her understanding with a frown – she hated not knowing something.
"So," Sirius began, shooting another significant look at his best friend, "how's Harry doing?" Remus snorted and rolled his eyes.
"He's fine," she said, looking back and forth between them in confusion. "Why?"
"Does a man need a reason to ask after his godson?" Sirius replied.
"No, I suppose not," she said uncertainly. That was odd…
The rest of the meal passed in much the same way. After nearly an hour full of many strange questions about Harry and significant looks, she was on the verge of hexing her cousin again. Remus seemed to find the whole thing amusing.
Eventually, the Marauders wandered up the stairs without her– something about 'Marauder business', leaving her at the table nursing a cup of tea that Molly had forced on her. Honestly, she suspected Sirius just wanted to leave her in suspense.
Ruddy berks had her all curious now – what the hell had all of that been about?
The clock was just chiming ten when Moody pushed back from the table, ending his conversation with Kingsley. Stumping over to her, he stopped and placed a gnarled hand on her shoulder.
"Can we talk in private, Tonksy?" he asked. She looked at him curiously and he jerked his head towards the stairs.
"Okay," she said, standing up and grabbing her tea. For some reason, she had a very bad feeling about this.
Moody led her upstairs and into a small room that used to be an office – currently it was full of boxes of unused stuff; old clothes and the like that weren't dangerous, but weren't necessarily useful anymore either.
He shut the door quietly and cast an imperturbable charm on it, made of circuit of the entire room checking for peepholes and the like, and then he clunked over and sat down heavily on a ratty old foot rest.
Tonks watched all of this curiously, taking sips of her tea occasionally. The grizzled old man seemed to be having an argument with himself now. After several minutes of silence, he finally spoke.
"This doesn't go beyond you and me for now, right?" he said, giving her a penetrating look. His magical eye was practically vibrating with tension.
"Sure," she agreed.
A light suddenly popped on in her head. "This is about Dumbledore isn't it? You're finally going to tell me what you were talking about the night we went to get Harry, right?" she babbled excitedly.
"Yeah," he said. Then he fell into silence again.
"Well?" she demanded.
Moody sighed, his jaw tightening under all the scars and lines on his face. "Well, I still don't have anything that you could really call 'proof'. It's all just a feeling, really," he temporized.
"Spit it out, Moody!" she said heatedly. Being anything but direct was entirely unlike Moody, and she'd had quite enough of people stringing her along today.
"I think Albus is up to something," he finally said.
"No, really?" she asked sarcastically. "Why?"
"Just things, really, you could call 'em clues, I suppose. An old friend mentions something here; I pick up a discrepancy there. Did you know that several Order members' medical records have been tampered with?" He paused long enough for her to shake her head.
"Agnus Wrent is in charge of the records. She's a healer, known her for years and she's never been anything less than sharp; suddenly she can't remember things like she should; small things, simple things, they just won't come back to her.
"I've seen this kind of thing before, in people who've been obliviated once too often."
Tonks' bad feeling multiplied – she definitely didn't like where this was going. "You said records had been tampered with? How so?" she asked.
"That's just it, nothing important was messed with. Only reason Agnus could tell they were touched at all was because they weren't filed right," he growled.
"But how does the professor fit into this?" she asked.
"When she was telling me 'bout it, she mentioned how odd it was that Albus hadn't caught the culprit, considering the fact that he was talking to her during the only period of time it could've happened...he was there when it happened, and she's showin' all the signs of someone who's been obliviated."
Tonks was unconvinced. They were odd circumstances, yes, but that's all they were right now, circumstances. And Moody was known for being a little paranoid.
Apparently picking up on her lack of belief he continued to speak. "Look, there are other things that have been messed with. Things that only those with a helluva lot of clout had access to. Things so secret that I can't even tell you what they are! How many people do you know of that could pull this kinda stuff off?"
"But this is Albus, Moody! Dumbledore! You can't expect me to buy into the idea of him doing some seriously suspicious stuff with nothing but circumstantial evidence!"
The rough old ex-auror looked at her pensively. "I understand, Tonks, I honestly do, but the man is one of my closest friends, and I'm tellin' ya, something's off," he said with conviction.
She was still far from convinced, but the absolute earnestness of the man was getting to her. She'd known Moody for awhile now, ever since she started her auror training, and she'd never seen him this worked up over something.
"All right," she said, rubbing her temples, attempting to ease the approaching headache. "Let's say, hypothetically, that you're right and he is up to something – why suddenly bring me into this?"
"Because you're on the inside right now. You're teachin' at Hogwarts. So you're going to be around him every day. Keep an eye on him; watch out for anything odd and report it to me. I'll do the same."
Tonks heaved a sigh. That wasn't too much to ask, really, and he was one of her mentors. What could it hurt? And why the hell did her head hurt so much?
"Fine, fine," she said exasperatedly, "I'll watch the old man for you and let you know if anythings out of whack, but Moody, so help me, if I get into some kind of trouble for this, it's your manhood on the line. Got it?"
He grinned, his face twisting grotesquely, "Got it."
Her bad feeling suddenly peaked, along with her headache.
Moody's face turned concerned, near as she could tell. "Tonks?" he asked. She took a gulp of her tea in an attempt to calm her rising panic, but it didn't seem to help.
"Something's wrong!" she hissed, dropping her teacup with a crash, she clutched her head with both hands.
"What's happenin'?" he asked, lurching to his feet. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know!"she shouted. On the fringes of her consciousness she was aware that her hair was cycling wildly – pink, yellow, long, short, curly, straight, it just wouldn't sit still.
The pain in her head spiked so high that she was afraid she might pass out, and then, suddenly, it stopped. Her hair settled on shoulder length green and she just knew she had to get to Harry. Something was wrong with Harry.
She blasted right through the imperturbed door, leaving a gaping Moody in her wake, and sprinted down the rickety old stair case.
"Leaving already, Tonks?" Molly called as she sped through the kitchen. "Won't you...stay...for lunch?" she trailed off, the metamorph already sprinting down the hall.
She was through the front door before Mrs. Black's portrait could even register the ruckus, and with a pop, she was gone.
As soon as she apparated, she was running for the castle; she almost planted herself face first in her haste. She hit the huge double doors of the school running full tilt, barely acknowledging the sharp stab of pain as she shouldered them open; she was sure a bruise was already forming on her shoulder.
She murmured a brief thanks to the higher powers for small favors when the first person she spotted was one of Harry's fellow Gryffindors.
"You there! Longbottom!" she shouted, rushing towards him. Neville seemed slightly alarmed at the sight of her. "Where's Harry?"
"Huh-hah-Harry?" he stuttered.
"Yes, Harry Potter," she snapped. "Where is he?"
"He...wuh-well, he had sort of a fit..."
"WHERE?" she demanded, fear squeezing her gut tight.
"Hospital wing!" he squeaked.
And she was off like a shot, ignoring the surprised students murmuring around her.
She did actually fall on her face on her way up the stairs, but she didn't have time to worry about any pain, she just heaved herself up and pushed on, huffing and puffing the entire way.
It was taking too damn long! How much time had passed since she'd realized something was wrong?
Ten minutes? Twenty?
Damn the Hogwarts wards!
Harry needed her, something horrible was happening and she wasn't there! She turned a corner and bit back a groan. More stairs?
With a growl, she took them two at a time, not bothering to marvel at the fact that she made it without falling – quite an accomplishment for her.
Then she was running down a hall that seemed entirely too long.
Finally, she burst through the hospital wing doors, slamming them into their respective walls, and rushed towards the small gathering of people around a bed – Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Dumbledore.
"Now see here!" Madam Pomfrey scolded, shuffling out of her office. "I have patients here and-"
Whatever her patients had to do with anything, Tonks never found out. She brushed by the matron, ignoring her indignant squawks, and made her way to the bed she was sure Harry was in. Those gathered watched her, dumbfounded.
She paid them no mind, the entirety of her focus was pulled to the young man under the covers. He looked oddly peaceful, like he was just taking a nap – it reminded her of the first time she'd seen him sleep; in the early morning after a nightmare-filled night, having a conversation in front of the fire. She'd thought he'd fallen asleep just to escape her interrogation.
"He was having some sort of seizure or fit or something, up until a few minutes ago; then he just relaxed," Hermione told her, her voice thick with tears.
Tonks nodded mutely. Everything inside of her that had been screaming to get to Harry quieted down and she could hear herself think again. It was that, more than anything, that assured her that everything was okay. "Why hasn't he woken up, then?" she asked.
Madam Pomfrey, glaring daggers at her, nevertheless answered her question, "I'm not sure. As far as I can tell, there isn't anything actually wrong with him, aside from the obvious – he won't wake up." She paused significantly and shared a worried look with Dumbledore.
"There have been odd cases like this before; a patient slips into a deep sleep and can't be woken – a coma. There's really no telling when, or if, he'll wake up." Madame Pomfrey seemed to take it as a personal insult that she couldn't cure him.
Hermione sobbed harder and Ron gasped at the thought of his best mate trapped in his own body for the rest of his life. Ginny simply paled, shaking with silent sobs.
Tonks, on the other hand, tightened her hands into fists angrily and continued to stare at Harry's sleeping face.
He will be okay, she thought firmly. He has to be...
Unfortunately, the weeks that passed proved her to be a liar. Harry didn't so much as twitch an eyelash. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Harry's other friends moped around all day, ignoring questions from professor and student alike. Snape had taken dozens of points from them, and not even Hermione seemed bothered by it.
As for Tonks herself, she wandered in a daze. It worried her honestly; the way things had happened. How did she know something was wrong? Why did she react so...violently? She cared for Harry, obviously, and felt no shame in admitting that a fifteen year old young man was fast becoming a close friend...but the intensity of her reaction seemed beyond the pale.
Nowadays, she felt like she was totally disconnected – like someone had dipped her in anesthesia and she had gone totally numb. She didn't put much effort into teaching, her appearance had become drab and dull – short brown hair and slate gray eyes – and she spent a fair amount of her free time with Ron, Hermione, and Ginny around Harry's bed.
Time passed dreadfully slow, it seemed. The weather gradually turned cool, and suddenly Halloween had popped up on her out of thin air. She didn't even realize what day it was until she saw a subdued Hagrid carrying cages of bats into the Great Hall.
Her fifth year class that day was especially glum. Ron and Hermione seemed even more morose than usual.
When she asked Ginny about it in her next class, she told her that Halloween of their first year was when they all really became friends, so it meant a little more to them.
Tonks thought she understood; holidays without your loved ones could be very depressing.
She felt she understood even more when she sat down to the feast that night and saw everyone enjoying themselves around her.
She wasn't foolish enough to believe that Harry was universally popular, but she had thought more people would've been upset at the news of his condition. However, most seemed to expect it.
It was unclear to her exactly why. At first she thought that maybe, since he seemed to have something similar happen to him at least once a year, it was just something everyone had learned to expect and deal with, but as time dragged on and she started to hear a growing number of whispers in the classroom and halls, she came to a painful and irritating conclusion – most people seemed to believe that his coma was a direct result of the 'psychosis' they had read so much about in the Prophet.
The first time she heard some smarmy little third year Ravenclaw say that, she nearly pulled her wand and hexed the little idiot. Instead, she had to settle for giving him a detention for talking during her class.
Several detentions later, she had started an all out war on anyone who believed the absolute rubbish in the papers.
Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson had to learn the hard way not to push her; when they continued to make snarky comments after their third collective detention, she pulled them up in front of the class for a 'demonstration', Malfoy was still speaking several octaves higher than normal, and Parkinson had yet to figure out that her acne problems weren't a natural occurrence.
In the end, it did little to make her feel better. Nearly two months later, and here she sat, pushing her pumpkin pie around on her plate and trying to ignore how happy everyone else was.
It left a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach...
Or...wait...this was something different...
Her eyes shot open wide as she recognized the it; the dark, foreboding feeling she'd gotten just before Harry collapsed.
Something deep inside told her to move, as fast as she could.
Just as she jumped to her feet, a deafening howl rumbled through the great hall. Several of the younger students screamed in fright – some of the older ones looked around eagerly, wondering what new entertainment the Hogwarts staff had cooked up for them this year.
Tonks was through the doors of the Great Hall and on her way to check on Harry before anyone else on the staff had even made it to their feet. Immediately after she cleared the doors, she ran into something solid and wound up in a heap on the floor, watching the retreating back of the last person she expected to see as he sprinted out the castle doors and into the crisp evening air.
October 31st, 1995, 5:30 p.m.
She could hear them behind her, shouting to each other – answering calls came from all sides, except for in front of her; thankfully, she was still ahead of them.
But they were gaining on her, trying to hem her in.
Fortunately, something was different about this forest, several of the bad people chasing her had screamed, and she'd noticed a drop in the number of pursuing voices. Oddly enough, whatever it was that was stopping them was leaving her alone.
Scents assailed her from every direction – the sweat pouring off her own small body; hair, fur, and blood; and buried underneath it all, drawing her on like a fish on a hook, was the smell of her mother's favorite drink...coffee, that was what she called it – coffee and polish and leather and something vaguely fruity, like strawberries. It was the scent she'd been following for months now.
She had zigged and zagged once in a while, trying to throw off pursuit, but instinct always pulled her back to that scent, so very faint at first, almost too faint to follow. Now, it threatened to bowl her over.
She was close; nearing the end of the imaginary thread she'd been chasing.
But every step she took was another second lost...and the sun was setting.
"She's there!" a rough voice shouted. "Circle 'round! I SAID CIRCLE AROUND DAMMIT! You're gonna lose her!"
Several large bodies crashed through the underbrush around her and she tried to coax another burst of speed out of her tired legs.
She shrieked when a grey haired man with a scar bisecting his nose popped up in front of her.
"Gotcha!" he shouted.
She ducked under his arms, causing him to overbalance, and broke out into her loping stride again.
"Douglas, you oaf! You had her!"
Thinking on her feet, she grabbed a branch as she passed, pulling it along with her as far as it would go before she let it swing back full force. A tired yet satisfied smile broke out on her face when she heard a startled yelp.
If she wasn't so scared, this might be fun.
The trees around her were starting to thin noticeably, and she could see the men around her quite clearly now. Five were still chasing her.
She heard a few murmured words and a bright red beam of light shot over her shoulder, leaving a small scorch mark on a nearby tree. Her father had done similar things; she knew it was magic. She just didn't know what it did, and she was sure she didn't want to find out.
The next time she heard one of them mutter something, she rolled to the right, pleased when she heard them shout angrily.
Another mutter from behind and another quick dodge on her part.
It became almost routine, ducking and dodging, scooting under branches and over rabbit holes. She was so caught up in her rhythm that she failed to notice the sunlight fade completely.
When she felt the light from the full moon wash over her, her heart beat picked up into a frantic pace, even as she felt invigorated.
The sounds of pursuit faded, and she heard various snaps and cracks and grunts of pain behind her.
There was no way she'd be able to escape now – there was too much ground left to cover!
A loud snarl knifed directly into her nerves, sending her breath into an unstable, alarmed cadence. She could hear them moving again, at a much quicker pace.
Four legs tended to move you along faster than two, after all.
"Leave me alone!" she shouted in her native tongue. "Please!"
The only response was the loud snapping of jaws at her heels. She surged again, her muscles burning with the need for oxygen, but her fear pushing her on.
She heard it's heaving breaths just before another furry monstrosity slammed into her from the side. She tumbled and rolled, squeaking with fright.
When she righted herself, she was on her bum, staring at a large castle, majestic in the moonlight. However, her attention was quickly grabbed by the five growling wolves that circled her.
"Please," she whimpered again, sure that they couldn't understand, but desperate to make them.
The largest one, clearly the leader, moved forward slowly and gently wrapped his jaws around her leg.
"No! Don't!" she begged.
With a slight jerk, he started to drag her off, his pack-mates following behind dutifully.
Her heart, already beating a hundred miles a minute, doubled it's pace, and suddenly she could hear the tiniest things, like the blades of grass bending under their feet; she could see each individual strand of fur in their pelts – it was almost too late.
"Please," she whispered one more time, almost inaudibly, "I don't want to hurt you..."
Her plea was ignored.
The lead wolf let out a startled yelp when he was jerked to a stop. Nydia's leg yanked itself forcefully from his jaws.
"Too late," she growled sadly, pushing herself up to her knees.
Whimpering painfully, she double over and clutched her arms around herself. She closed her eyes, hoping vainly that when she opened them again she would wake from a nightmare.
No such luck.
Her body cracked and creaked, elongated and expanded. All of her senses doubled in intensity and sharpness, and then doubled again.
When her eyes opened again, she towered above her assailants, and her thoughts had ceased to hold any sway over her. They were locked away, kicking and screaming, behind her instincts.
These things...they chased her...wanted to stop her...hurt her...she had to defend herself and make sure they never threatened her again!
With a snarl, she leapt upon the leader before any of his dumbfounded comrades could react, rolling him onto his back and fastening her powerful jaws to his throat. She could feel his shallow breaths and panicked twitching; she could hear his frightened whimpers and the rapid beating of his scared little heart. Weakling.
A quick snap of her head, a sharp jerk, the sound of ripping flesh and muscle, and she pulled back, taking his throat with her.
That roused his fellows out of their shock, and with angry growls, the battle began in earnest.
Nydia fought like a force of nature. She didn't flinch when their claws raked at her flanks and down her legs – she just retaliated with her own. She didn't bark back when they snarled and snapped at her – noise was a cowards tool, she didn't need it.
She felt another pair of jaws latch on to her right hind-leg, trying to pull it out from under her, and she kicked, dislodging him when she struck his nose smartly.
The smallest one, with a familiar scar bisecting it's snout, was her next victim. He came in high, hoping to unbalance her, so she ducked low and dragged her razor sharp four inch long claws along the exposed flesh of his soft underbelly.
He went down with a sharp yelp, his intestines spilling out.
She snarled triumphantly and turned to face the remaining three. Maybe these three could challenge her. It had been pathetically easy so far.
They approached her much more cautiously this time, fanning out and attempting to use their greater numbers to their advantage.
Nydia huffed indignantly – the cretins were acting like they stood a chance – she was the alpha, she was the power here, and once she started, nothing could stop her.
Once they had formed a triangle around her, the one directly in front of her pounced; the distraction. With an almost casual ease, she leaned to the left, opened her massive jaws, and latched onto his foreleg at the shoulder. The rest of his body, continuing it's forward progress, left his leg behind.
That was another one down, yowling in pain.
She spat the bleeding appendage out just in time to be bowled over from behind. She had forgotten the whole point of the distraction: to allow the other two to strike from the rear.
As they rolled, a sharp, rending pain flared in her right shoulder and she looked down to see a large chunk of her own flesh hanging from one of her opponents' mouth.
Whimpering, she forced herself to focus, using her roll to throw the one on her back off of her, and landing on top of the one who'd taken a bite out of her, baring her teeth and glaring into his eyes.
One giant paw pressed his chest down, holding him steady, and the other landed softly on the right side of his snout. Then, it pushed to the left as fast as she could manage, snapping his neck with a loud crack.
She looked up in time to see the final wolf's tail disappearing into the forest.
She had won!
As the adrenalin wore off, she started to shift back to her normal state. Conscious thought reasserted control and her stomach twisted as she took in what she had done. Rearing back on hind legs that were rapidly turning into her own normal thin ones, she flung her head back and let loose a haunted howl that shook the very world around her.
A howl that transformed, along with her, into a wail of pain before she passed into exhaustion induced slumber as a tiny, eleven year old girl.
A/N: I LIVE AGAIN!
I'm not going to apologize for having to take care of real life first, but I am very sorry that you guys had to wait - I know how annoying that can be. Hopefully this chapter is sufficient penance? It felt a little rushed to me when I got done, but after editing it, I think I'm pretty happy with it.
A minor plot point clarification for you - the five werewolves chasing Nydia were, in fact, on the wolfsbane potion (hence the fighting as a group and attempting to capture her instead of kill). I just didn't think you guys would want to read a scene whose sole purpose was to show five people you've never met before - and therefore don't really care about - drinking a potion. That's what A/N's are for :)
This chapter was a pain to write. I rewrote Tonks' reaction to Harry's collapse a couple of times, because at first it was entirely too romantic for this stage of their relationship, and then it was way too calm - hopefully I got it right in the end. Either way, we're getting into the meat of the story now, so things should flow much easier, and the next chapter will hopefully be out a lot quicker (extra emphasis on "hopefully"). For my writing progress, check my profile or my homepage. If you want some interaction with me, I've set myself up a myspace page for that exact purpose, just search for "TgCid24" and you should get me.
That's it - read, review, give me suggestions on what I can do better (as long as they aren't phrased as commands). I hope you enjoyed!
See ya next chapter!