A Cock and Bull Tale
Disclaimer: I don't have the benefit of owning Harry Potter, but I do have the benefit, or lack therof, of taking the phrase "cock and bull" a little too seriously.
Summary: In an attempt to find out Harry's animagus form, Harry, Ron, and Hermione discover something to squawk about. Warning: twisted weirdness awaits
"Okay, it's ready. Drink up–"
"And really fast. That stuff smells foul–"
"Oh, really, Ron, you nev–"
"And, Merlin, plug your nose, too–"
"Don't say that–"
"Why not, Hermione? It's true. That stuff reeks as bad as Hippogriff dung."
"Can't you see you're making him nauseous?"
"Well, yeah, with good reason."
"You're just making it worse–"
"No, I'm not. I'm just making sure he's taking proper precautions–"
"We made sure the potion was correctly brewed–"
"Bloody Hell, Hermione, this is for his own benefit, trust me. Harry, plug your nose."
"It doesn't smell that bad."
"Have you smelled it?"
"Okay, fine, you're right."
"You actually admitted you were wrong."
"Don't get a big head over it or anything. I only said you were right, not that I was wrong."
"But you meant–"
"Would you two just shut it, already?" moaned Harry. He was braced over a sink in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom in a setting much similar to the one in his second year whenst brewing Polyjuice Potion. A large pewter cauldron rested above a blue fire close to the wall, bubbling over with green-yellow liquid that didn't look half as rancid as it smelled; Myrtle was absent, off haunting another pipe or toilet; and Harry looked just as, if not more so, sickened by what he was about to consume than he did when he was twelve. "I'm mentally preparing myself."
"Harry, you know the potion does all the work on its own, don't you?" fussed Hermione. "You won't have to do anything."
"I didn't actually mean what comes after the potion: I meant what comes while drinking the damn thing."
"And what's that?"
"Oh, do drop the histrionics."
"Hermione," Ron said, "I don't think he's kidding."
Hermione rolled her eyes and grabbed the silver ladle. "You're both making a big deal out of nothing." She scooped out a spoonful of the hot potion, pouring it into a mug snagged from the kitchens earlier that day. "You should be more concerned with what your form is going to be." She placed the heavy cup on the counter by Harry's sink.
Harry glared at the foul liquid like he would Voldemort.
"Mate, I think it'd be best if you just got it over with," advised Ron. "We both know it's going to be painful."
"Yeah, but you don't have to drink it," Harry pointed out. He picked up the mug bravely, bringing it up briefly to sniff. "Merlin, it really does smell like Hippogriff dung."
"How do you two even know what Hippogriff dung smells like?" asked Hermione.
"Ask no questions, and we'll tell you no lies," Ron said. Hermione raised an eyebrow.
Harry gripped the mug in one hand, plugging his nose with the other.
"Good lord," Hermione muttered.
"You can do it," Ron cheered.
Harry, extremely pale and green, closed his eyes and brought the mug up to his lips and downed the whole thing in four fantastic gulps. Hermione and Ron looked on in silent amazement.
Harry slowly lowered the mug from his lips, his eyes still closed. He seemed to be contemplating something. He licked his lips.
"So...?" Ron finally asked.
"That tasted like..." Harry licked his lips once more. "That tasted like chicken." He opened his eyes, looking at Hermione and Ron in astonishment. "It didn't taste like dung. It tasted like chicken."
"That's good for you, mate, but honestly: the fact that it tasted like meat kind of grosses me out," said Ron.
"Did you see anything?" asked Hermione. "Did you find out what form you have?"
Harry shook his head, staring at his mug as if it had all the answers in the world. "No. That was really weird, though. It tasted like chicken! You have no idea how odd a chicken-tasting potion feels like."
"That is most unusual," Ron agreed.
Hermione crossed her arms impatiently. "Yes, that's all fine and dandy, but did you see anything? You must have seen something."
Harry finally looked away from his mug. "I said no, Hermione. I didn't see anything. I have no idea what animal I am. Maybe I don't have one."
"You must have something! Everyone has an Animagus form!"
"Well, I'm not everyone, Hermione!"
"Yeah, Hermione," Ron said. "I mean, have you seen the scar on his forehead?"
"It's highly improbable that even the Boy-Who-Lived doesn't have an Animagus form," Hermione said.
"I'm a highly improbable person," said Harry.
"There has to be an explanation to this," Hermione said. "You can't just not have a form."
"Maybe we should ask Dumbledore," suggested Ron.
"We can't, Ron, seeing as what we're doing right now is kind of illegal," Hermione explained. She took the mug from Harry forcefully and began cleaning it out in the sink.
"Oh... yeah. Hadn't thought of that."
"Well, maybe it just needs time," Harry said. "I mean, maybe the potion needs to be in my system for a little while longer for it to work. Get in the bloodstream and all that."
Hermione stopped scrubbing the mug. "You know," she pondered, "that's not actually all that bad a conclusion." She set the cup down and peered at Harry. "Yes, I think we should just get back to our dorms. Sleep on it."
The trio quickly cleaned up the bathroom, disposing of the rest of the still foul-smelling potion down the sink. It was useless now that it was used once.
Ron grabbed the invisibility cloak, Harry activated the Marauder's Map, and the three sixth years slipped out into the dark hallways of Hogwarts, contemplative and exhausted.
Harry didn't sleep well that night. He tossed and turned, waking up at odd times, dazed and confused. It wasn't until the early morning hours that he fell asleep into a restless dream.
The building was huge, and Harry was small. It smelled like straw and wood and home. He was wanted here, he knew. His huge family surrounded him, chirping in his ear irritatingly, but Harry still thought fondly of them.
But then the scene shifted, and he was no longer in his warm home. He was lost, trapped under a log in a mysterious wood. How did he get here?
It was quiet and tense until a large animal came out of the darkness, puffing out steam from its nostrils like an engine. Its horns curled upward on the top of its skull. Its eyes were red. Harry knew this was the end.
"I said I'd get you, Harry Potter. Did you not believe me?" the intimidating animal growled.
"How did you get here, Riddle?" Harry asked. "I thought Diddle banished you from the yard? Where are we?" Harry was panicking, but he'd be damned if he'd let Riddle see that.
"You made me lose my home, so I'm making you lose yours, too," Riddle said. "It's only fair, wouldn't you agree?"
"That was your own fault. You were out of control! I didn't do anything."
"You knew I was antsy around those damn worms you dumb birds are always pecking at! It was your own cruelty that made me behave the way I did."
"You mean the way you ran around the yard snorting and growling, rampaging into Diddle's little girl, injuring her severely, just because you were scared of a few worms?"
"She wasn't hurt that bad..."
"She's in a coma, and her intestines are so torn up they are unable to function."
"That's her own fault."
"Shut up, what do you know?"
"I'm just saying that maybe you need to reevaluate the whole situation, Riddle. It wasn't me who went into a galloping rage when a few earthworms got on my hooves."
"It wasn't a galloping rage."
"Trust me: that was a gallop if I ever saw one."
"Okay, fine, it was a gallop, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it was your fault the worms were there in the first place. I'm now homeless and hungry."
"Are you going to eat me?"
"No, I never liked chicken much."
"So, what are you going to do?"
"Well, I suppose maybe you aren't as deserving as death as I thought you were when I kidnapped you from Diddle's farm."
The log was pressing down on his breast painfully. "Does it have anything to do with being able to breathe? Because that would be great."
"I'm going to do something much worse: I'm turning you into a wizard."
"I'm turning you into a wizard."
"I heard you the first time."
"Then why are you asking?"
"I just don't know what you mean."
"I find it pretty clear: I'm going to turn you into a blood-thirsty, chicken-consuming savage that has power to wield magic."
"I'm turning cannibalistic?"
"Yes, foolish hen."
"I'm not a hen."
"No, not really. Hens are females."
"Shut up! I'm turning you into a wizard, and that's that!" Harry was robbed the chance to respond because he was suddenly blinded by a bright green light. In the next moment he was found on the forest floor, incapable of intelligent thought by a kind couple with black hair and green eyes.
"Harry," the woman cooed. "Wake up, Harry." But Harry was already awake. "Wake up."
"Oh, for God's sake, wake up!" Harry was suddenly very wide awake, doused in cold water and shivering.
But Harry didn't shout at Hermione and Ron. He just stared up at them with horrible comprehension.
"Mate?" Ron asked. "Mate, you okay? I didn't really harm you with that cold water, did I?"
"Harry?" Hermione tried. "Harry, are you alright?"
"I'm a chicken."
"Nah, mate, I think you're pretty brave. Don't be so hard on yourself," Ron said.
"No, I mean, I'm a chicken."
"What on earth are you rambling about, Harry?" asked Hermione.
"I had a dream, and I was a chicken."
"For your Animagus form?" Hermione asked, clearly excited.
Ron laughed. "You're a chicken? Sorry, mate, that's harsh."
Harry shook his head, standing up from his bed and looking at his friends in horror. "No, I mean, I'm really a chicken."
Hermione laughed nervously. "Are you sure you're feeling well, Harry?" She reached up, touching his forehead to check his temperature. He irritably hit her hand away.
"I'm serious! And Riddle is a rampaging, crazy, revengeful bull!"
"We already knew that much," Ron laughed.
"Guys! This isn't a joke! Riddle turned me into a wizard. I'm an effing chicken!"
"Harry, I think you might want to see Madam Pomfrey. Maybe the potions had negative side effects on your mental psyche," Hermione decided.
"Such as insanity," Ron added.
"I'm not crazy! I know I sound like it! Really, I do! But I remember my life," said Harry. "I remember everything. My time in the coop. My family. The egg collecting hour each day–"
"Okay, Harry, you've really lost it. We're going to Madam Pomfrey," Ron said. Hermione and Ron began to lead him, still soaking wet and in pajamas, down the boys' dormitory steps.
"I'm not lying!"
"We know, Harry," Hermione assured him. "Let's just get you down to the nurse."
"I'm not crazy."
So, after much debating, deliberating, and pulling, Harry was in the Hospital Wing, and Hermione and Ron were still as unconvinced as ever that Harry was a chicken and Voldemort was a bull.
"What seems to be the problem?" Madam Pomfrey asked when Ron and Hermione entered with an unharmed, albeit wet and frazzled, Harry.
"We think he may have had a negative side effect to a potion," said Hermione. Harry protested but was ignored.
"And what would that be, Miss Granger?"
"He thinks he's a chicken."
"I am a chicken!" Harry squawked.
"I see," Madam Pomfrey said.
"You don't believe me," Harry observed.
"It does seem rather implausible, Mr. Potter." She went through a series of tests with Harry, waving her wand over his body. She had him open his mouth to peer into his throat and tested his blood pressure. "Well, there does seem to be some traces of a curse, but that's not unusual, seeing as you're at a school where curses are bound to be bounced astray."
"Get Dumbledore! He'll prove to you that I'm a chicken!"
"I doubt the headmaster will be able to prove such a false claim."
"Please, you have to!"
Madam Pomfrey sighed, her lips pursed silently for a long moment. She waved her arms up in defeat. "Alright, fine. Mr. Weasley, go fetch the Headmaster."
Harry, Hermione, and Madam Pomfrey sat in a tense silence for the next few minutes. Harry was thinking about how to prove he was a chicken, Hermione was contemplating how to save her friend from certain insanity, and Madam Pomfrey decided she would try the new treacle tart the House Elves came up with at dinner that night.
Professor Dumbledore and Ron came storming into the Hospital Wing. Dumbledore stopped in front of Harry. "Mr. Weasley has informed me of your farm roots," he said.
"Yes, sir. Do you believe me?" Harry asked.
Dumbledore looked away from Harry and turned to a window, gazing out at the Forbidden Forest. "I fear I haven't been telling you everything, Harry."
"What is it, sir?"
"I don't know how to break this news gently but I'll try. What do you know of your parents?"
Hermione mouthed Harry's words incredulously.
"Lily and James," clarified Dumbledore.
"Not much, sir, seeing as they're dead," said Harry.
"They aren't your biological parents."
"I know, seeing as I'm a rooster."
"Do you recall your life as a chicken?" Ron, Hermione, and Madam Pomfrey watched the proceeds in amazement.
"Yes, sir. It was peaceful."
"I always expected it would be, but I was unable to ask seeing as you had no knowledge of your heritage."
Harry nodded. "Of course. But what of Riddle? He was the only one on the farm who didn't agree with everyone else. How did he get turned into a wizard?"
"He already was one."
"Alas, Riddle was just a troubled youth who was fascinated in the ways of agriculture and herding."
"So he turned himself into a bull? When did this happen?"
Dumbledore sighed and sat beside Harry on the bed. "Tom Riddle," Dumbledore said, "went through Hogwarts, charming to teachers but rather obsessed with cows."
"Yes. In fact, I wasn't surprised when I discovered he became a bull Animagus and went into a long isolation as the animal just after graduating Hogwarts."
"Headmaster," Madam Pomfrey declared, "these are outrageous claims!"
"I have to agree, sir," said Hermione. "Maybe Riddle is a bull Animagus, but Harry is not a chicken."
"Is this some sort of joke, sir?" Ron asked.
The old Headmaster shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid not, Mr. Weasley. This is all true. Voldemort, such a troubled youth, never related to his peers on the level he wished to. He was never connected to them on an emotional level although he created his own elite group of followers."
"Death Eaters?" Hermione asked disbelievingly.
"Correct, Miss Granger: his Death Eaters," Dumbledore agreed. "He had his cult, his pack, his herd. He scared them with his charisma and obsession with animals."
"He just lived on Diddle's farm for the rest of his life until fifteen years ago?" asked Harry. "I know I was only one, but that's a pretty mature age for a chicken, and I remember everything. Bulls don't live fifty years."
"Ah, but Riddle was never really a bull. He was only the impression of one. That, combined with some magical tweaking, leaves no doubt in my mind that he traveled from farm to farm, never staying too long for his existence as a wizard to be known."
"He got upset with me."
"I'm afraid he did. He took advantage of a helpless chicken such as yourself when you were down because he got kicked off of his farm that he was bound to leave again sooner or later. He has remained a human for the past fifteen years, determined to kill you."
"Or at least make my life miserable."
"Or that, yes." Dumbledore smiled grimly. "Lily and James Potter were newly married and in the Order of the Phoenix at the time of your transformation from a bird to a human. They were unable to have children of their own, and, while on an mission for the Order through the Forbidden Forest, they found you laying there: alone and exposed to the elements."
"They took me in," Harry guessed. "Even though you knew it was Riddle who must have changed me."
"Correct. Unfortunately, they died shortly after taking you in. They were killed by Riddle himself, who discovered their house and murdered them. He never tried to kill you: he just wanted you miserable. So, attempting to protect you and others by abiding his wishes, I sent you to live with Lily's sister. I realized she was not the nicest person, nor her son or husband, but I knew you'd be safe. Riddle would not impose on your unhappiness, I knew, so it would not cause others harm and be hunted down by him."
"Is this real, sir?" Ron asked. "You're not just taking the mickey out of us, are you?"
Dumbledore chortled. "Of course not, Mr. Weasley. I do not lie."
Hermione's stare was unfocused and contemplative. "But... it makes sense, but... excuse me, sir, but how can Harry still be alive? Chickens don't live for more than a few years."
"This is true, normally, but Riddle's magic was forced on Harry in such a way that made him fully human, unable to change into another animal, chicken or otherwise, ever again."
Hermione's and Ron's eyes met and widened. Hermione mouthed, "Animagus!" Ron grinned, thrilled with the newly discovered mystery. The potion didn't work on Harry because he really didn't have an animagus form. He wasn't able to be anything other than human the rest of his life.
"I can barely believe it!" Madam Pomfrey breathed. "In all of my years in healing, I've never heard of a case such as this. It's improbable."
"I'm a highly improbable person, Madam Pomfrey," said Harry. "Hermione and I have already been through this."
"And the scar–" Hemione began.
"Is where Riddle's transfiguration curse hit Harry," Dumbledore finished. "On the forehead."
"So, what does this mean for Riddle?" Harry asked. "How are we going to get rid of him? He's still killing Muggles, after all."
"Good question, Harry," Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling. "Do you happen to own a lasso?"