And so we return to the world of Danielle Rosewood. I'll be honest, this story is hard to write, but I think it's just because I'm pretty much only writing for Dani at the moment. Once more characters are around to interact with her, I think it'll move a little easier.
Be warned, I'm probably taking some liberties with canon- namely when letters about school shopping lists and Prefect information gets sent out. Little liberties like this are just going to be par for the course. I've got the basics memorized about all the books, but finer details are more blurry for me, and it would just be such a hassle to sift through the books to find that information. Especially for dates- I really don't have a head for dates, hence why I'm trying to keep the dates clearly defined for this story. This is supposed to be moderately AU, anyway.
Also, I've got a Beta! And a Secretary, I guess. We kept joking about that part, but then it actually became a thing, so... Anyway, her name is Ashfall Architect (now, at least), and she wants to remain completely anonymous aside from that! You lot can call her Ash or Miss Cuddlybutt, whichever you prefer, and she'll be fielding and dealing with the majority of reviews and PMs that warrant a response from us. Don't worry, she's really good at it, and she's been doing it for a while, already. In fact, some of you may already know her!
Oh yeah, and because FanFiction-Net doesn't like transferring underlined format when you upload/copy+paste a new document, I'm dropping that part. But because this story jumps around a bit, we still need the setting/character titles. They'll just be flat bold, from now on.
So with all that in mind, let's crack open this chapter, shall we? Let's see here, what's up at the top- Oh, boobs. Perfect! Here's some boobs, everyone!
The Leaky Cauldron, London;
August the Third, 1995;
Even had she been expecting them, Dani figured that waking up to an actually legendary pair of tits would still have surprised her. More surprising, however, was the sensation she was entirely unprepared for on her own breasts. Gasping, she glanced down, realising with a start that Venus was kneeling over her, lightly tanned breasts hanging in the Shifter's face as the goddess's mouth played lightly over the girl's peak.
She didn't have long to catalogue the feeling, however, as her gasp alerted Venus to her awakened state, and brought the blonde's lips away from her nipple to capture a different target.
Wet, she decided. But definitely sweet. And soft, as well, she couldn't forget that.
Venus pulled her almost too-perfect lips away and Dani struggled to restart her breathing as the goddess smirked upside-down at her. "Now, I've done some pretty impressive things to some pretty embarrassed people, but I'm not sure I've ever made anyone pass out without even touching them. Most people withstand the sight of me just long enough for me to lay a few fingers on them before fainting." The blonde giggled and drug her fingertips along Dani's neck, making the teen arch slightly, mouth open in a silent gasp. "It was especially surprising considering how used to my form you'd gotten."
Dani, against every instinct screaming at her for more stimulation, somehow gasped out, "C-caught..."
Venus paused, her fingertips just brushing against the Shifter's breast. "Oh? You mean to tell me that if anyone had walked in on you just then, you'd have responded the same? Tsk, tsk, Danielle.. Not only is that quite the dangerous habit, but now I don't feel nearly as special!"
Had Dani been more in the right mind, she might have questioned Venus's priorities. But drunk on the goddess's spell as she was, all she could think about was restarting those fingers on their previous path. "S-so special..!"
Venus just smirked at her, as though to indulge the girl, before gently scraping her fingernail against Dani's hardened peak. The redhead held in a squeak, even as Venus's large breasts filled her vision again. "I think it's well past due that I explain a bit more about your body, Miss Rosewood. Consider class in session.." she said, just before her mouth closed over the girl's nipple again.
Dani gave a shuddering giggle, getting lost in the goddess's overwhelming presence.
August the Third, 1995;
Albus P.W.B. Dumbledore:
The Headmaster had just finished his tea in the sitting room when the fire sprung to life and turned green, roaring to dangerous heights, had it been a normal fire. But the Floo died down shortly after its traveller stepped through, brushing soot from her robes out of habit. Albus regarded the woman carefully, knowing that his Deputy Headmistress was still quite cross with him.
And rightly so.
"Minerva, I'm glad you could make it. Would you like some tea?"
The professor scowled slightly before schooling her features. "I'd rather, Albus, that we simply get to the point." She sat primly in another armchair across from him, clearly waiting for him to speak.
The old wizard sighed gently, expecting the reaction. He set his cup aside and regarded her through his half-moon spectacles. "In that case, I must inform you that I have made my decision about restarting the Order of the Phoenix. I'd like you and I to head it, again. Sirius has graciously offered his home as a base of operations under Fidelius, as I'm sure you guessed by the note I sent you." He saw her nod and seem to put aside some of her frustration in favor of the subject matter, which put some hope back into his heart. 'If others are able to do the same, we may yet have a chance.' "Others will be arriving soon, but I wished to speak to you, first. You see, there are... certain facts and theories that I have been keeping from you. From everyone. Please do not mistake me, I had every intention of revealing them if and when they became relevant or we had an answer for them. An overabundance of information can lead to poor decisions- which, perhaps, is exactly why we find ourselves in this situation." Seeing that she was still waiting for him to explain himself, he nodded to himself, reaffirming his own decision. "There was a prophecy, Minerva. A true prophecy, made in my presence over fifteen years ago. It was this prophecy that caused Voldemort to target the Potters. This was the reason that they died, that Harry had to go into hiding with his relatives, and ultimately- I suppose- the reason that Harry died." He allowed her a moment to feel shocked before continuing.
"The prophecy, of which Voldemort heard only part of, goes like this: 'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches, born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies. And the Dark Lord will mark them as his equal, but they will have power the Dark Lord knows not. And either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies.'" Albus paused, letting it sink in. "Voldemort heard only the first portion, about who the child would be. I believe that if he had known the whole prophecy, he would not have attempted to kill Harry as a child. As you know, prophecies operate on a level of magic that is entirely unpredictable, and I do not believe that Voldemort was the type of man that would risk such a thing as 'marking him as his equal', especially if there was truly a 'power he knows not'."
"I have a question, Albus."
He blinked, his next words dying in his throat. He wasn't expecting her to interrupt him- usually she held her questions until he was finished. Still, he inclined his head, indicating he was ready to listen.
"This prophecy... It speaks of H-Harry, clearly." He waited as she composed herself from the brief slip. "Even had there been other candidates, I assume that Harry's scar is the 'mark of an equal' it speaks of." Even phrased as a statement, she still waited for Albus to nod his head in confirmation. "But Albus... the prophecy has come true, hasn't it? In its entirety, that prediction is fulfilled."
The Headmaster's eyes twinkled and a small smile graced his face, as though amused. Finally, the better news. "Yes, indeed, Minerva, that would appear to be the case. On all counts, you came to the same conclusions I did. And yet, when the news went out about Harry's untimely end, I was contacted by a friend of mine in the Department of Mysteries. Just yesterday, it was confirmed: the prophecy I just relayed to you concerning Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort is still active."
A heavy silence settled over the room as McGonagall looked shocked, Dumbledore seeming mildly triumphant. The Transfiguration Professor recovered just enough to whisper out, "Th-then... Harry is alive?"
"What?!" Albus turned his head around, surprised to see Sirius Black in the doorway from the dining room. The man had been distraught since his godson's death, barely eating and never sleeping. Honestly, Albus hadn't expected the man to come down for today's meeting, despite being invited. "What do you mean? H-Harry might be..?"
Albus lost all triumph as he sighed. "No, I'm sorry Sirius, Minerva. I saw his body myself. Harry is dead. I was indicating, rather, that it seemed the prophecy may have been misinterpreted."
"Prophecy? What prophecy?"
After catching Sirius up on what McGonagall now knew, the man sat down heavily on the loveseat. Significantly more focused but still clearly emotional, he said, "So.. it might have been Harry, but now you think you and Voldemort may have been wrong? Why? I don't get it, why would the prophecy still be active?"
Albus stroked his beard lightly, gathering his thoughts. "The prophecy seemed to be comprised of two parts: the specific birth of a child that would have the power to vanquish the Dark Lord, and the eventual clash of the two until one dies. I took this to mean that the Dark Lord could only be killed by the child of prophecy, and that may indeed still be the case. However, what I did not consider until recently is that the child of prophecy, through whatever means, could not be killed by anyone but the Dark Lord, either. I assumed that the Dark Lord was referring to Voldemort, the only Dark Lord in sight- only now do I suspect that I may have been wrong about that, as well. However, assuming that the prophecy does, indeed, refer to Voldemort, then we must now, given what has happened, consider that Harry was not, in fact, the child of prophecy. Unless we are prepared to believe that Voldemort personally killed Harry- which I find difficult, considering the wards on his home preventing Voldemort from even scrying Harry- then either Harry has secretly survived being disintegrated, or the prophecy is referring to someone else."
Minerva was up and pacing, by now, clearly deep in thought. "If the prophecy refers to someone else.. Who could it be? Someone born at the end of July, to parents who have 'defied' You-Know-Who three times, whom the Dark Lord marked in some way..."
Albus shook his head. "When the prophecy was made and the next July came and went, there were two children that met the criteria, both boys. Harry Potter, and Neville Longbottom. But when Voldemort targeted Harry, himself, and ended up giving him his famous scar, I felt that the debate was settled. Now, however, I suppose Mister Longbottom is whom the prophecy truly referred to."
Sirius spoke again, his tone quiet and contemplative. "Would it have to have been that year..?"
Albus nearly stopped breathing. How had he missed that? "No.." he answered slowly, his mind racing. "No, I suppose the prophecy merely says that the child 'approaches'. Of course, it simply made sense that it was referring to the following July, and yet..."
Minerva stopped pacing and stared at him, yet not entirely seeing him. "It might not have.. But Albus, if it wasn't that year, how would the child have been marked by You-Know-Who?"
Sirius leaned forward, speaking slowly. "Maybe... Maybe they haven't, yet." He licked his lips, seeing the two professors looking at him, and started to speak up, "Surely prophecies don't need to come true right away? I mean, this one talks about a child being born and one day facing the Dark Lord, and you've already admitted that you might have the year wrong. Seems to me like these things can hang around for quite a while before they're fulfilled. What if the child hasn't been marked, yet?" His eyes widened, looking worried. "What if.. They haven't even been born, yet?"
Minerva sat down heavily, and Albus sagged at the truth of it. If the child of prophecy had not yet been born, then Albus felt well and truly lost. If Voldemort was the one from the prophecy, and if he truly could only be killed by this child, then it was only a matter of time before he gathered enough power and followers to complete his ambitions. If the child had only been born recently, or not at all, then there would be no stopping Voldemort for years yet.
"No. We can't accept that." Albus looked up at Sirius, shocked at the suddenly hard look in his eyes as the man spoke. "If we assume the worst, we've already given up. Perhaps the prophecy means Longbottom, perhaps not, but we've got to assume the child is alive, and that their 'mark', whatever it is or will be, is something we can identify. If this prophecy is really all we've got to go on, we'd better make the most of it. Also.." He paused, looking at the both of them in turn. "All the facts aside from.. You know.. They all point to Harry being the child in the prophecy. I'm not saying we should bank on it, but... Perhaps we should consider that he might have survived."
Albus sighed sadly, shaking his head. "Sirius, he is ash. I saw it myself, Harry is not-"
"If I remember right, you said something similar about You-Know-Who, Albus," Minerva interrupted,now looking determined. "And yet he came back. Several times. Considering the terms of the prophecy and the likelihood that it refers to Mister Potter, Sirius has a point. I do not think we should focus on it- I'm not even sure what we could do about it- but the possibility should be kept in mind. Perhaps even try to get in contact with him? It's possible he is hiding."
Albus hated to dash their hopes like this, but he had no choice. The next topic he intended to bring up would invariably drive the truth home for them. "Alas, I wish I had your optimism about this, but there is another factor... With Harry's death I was able to confirm a theory I had about how Voldemort was able to cling to life, and even be revived. You see, there is a dark object called a horcrux..."
The Leaky Cauldron, London;
August the Third, 1995;
"Mmm, there you go, Dani, right there.. A little higher, and don't forget your fingers... Ah!"
Danielle took in another deep breath, the scent surrounding her further intoxicating her mind, fueling the fire in her core. As Harry, he had been hesitant to even imagine that he might one day do this with anyone. As Dani, however, it seemed it took rather little effort to get someone in the mood.
Nevermind the fact that the woman she had managed to seduce into bed with her was the Goddess of Beauty, Sex and Love, herself.
Dani drug her tongue across the deity's clit, gently digging it out from beneath its hood as her two fingers continued pumping into Venus's drooling cave. She had found, quite by accident, a spot inside with a somewhat different texture which brought a larger reaction from the older woman, and was currently devoting half her focus towards exploring the best way to target it. She felt Venus's hand run through her red hair, pulling her needily against her crotch, and Dani was only too happy- and horny- to oblige.
The redhead wrapped her lips around the blonde's sensitive nub, applying greater and greater suction as the woman's cries grew higher and more out of breath. It was several minutes of this, Dani's left hand stroking along Venus's impossibly soft skin and squeezing her thigh and butt, before the goddess began thrashing gently beneath her, gasping repeatedly and pulling the Shifter's face into her sex. Feeling the blonde's vagina convulse and squeeze around her fingers, Dani renewed her actions with more vigor, excited by the very idea that she could get Venus off. Sure enough, within moments, a fresh flood of fluid pooled over the redhead's fingers, getting on her chin and in her mouth as she lapped at it.
With much panting and some well-meaning laughs, Dani was pulled up to cuddle with the goddess, the blonde's larger breasts squishing against her own hills as their legs tangled together. Dani nearly melted as Venus kissed her, but was able to return it with force, this time, having adjusted to the sensation and gotten used to the goddess's raw sexual intensity. When they separated Dani whispered, in awe, "That was amazing.."
Venus laughed musically, saying, "That's supposed to be my line, darling! Trust me, you picked that up like a natural."
Dani's face couldn't exactly get more red, but the heat she felt told her that it certainly tried. "O-only because you did it to me, first..."
Venus kissed her forehead and Dani suddenly felt foolish, as though she had said something without thinking. "And that, my dear little Dani, is why you are so magnificent. You need only be shown something to learn it, and then you will devote your efforts to it until you have it mastered. Most virgins require quite a bit of study or practice or both to do what you did- as well as you did. You've always been that way, come to think of it. Whether it was flying, the Patronus charm, or the summoning charm... Well, I'm not very good with words, but Merlin had been impressed, as I recall." Dani didn't respond, too stunned. She squeaked, however, when she found Venus's hand had snaked between them and was now cupping her bare, still damp sex. "Does it still hurt?" Venus asked gently, softly rubbing her fingers across her outer lips.
Dani gasped a little, but chuckled and shook her head, remembering when Venus broke her hymen with her fingers. "Are you kidding me? It stopped hurting in seconds, when you made me start screaming. Besides, it wasn't so bad. I've had much worse injuries."
Venus laughed musically. "That was your old body, darling! Still, we'd better stop the lessons here, for now. I believe your familiar would like her burden removed."
Dani looked up at Hedwig- Sif- perched on the desk, a thick envelope on her leg. Dani gasped and hurried to stumble out of bed, stuttering apologies as Venus laughed behind her.
First Room on the Left, First Floor,
August the Fourth, 1995;
Hermione Jean Granger:
She had long since run out of tears, but still felt the sensation of crying most hours of the day. Her mother had come and gone at her door, trying to bring her down to eat, but Hermione was rarely hungry these last few days, not even getting excited about her new position as Gryffindor Prefect. She just lay in bed most of the time, curled up under the comforter, remembering Harry.
Her best friend.
She kicked herself again, silently bemoaning the fact that she had hardly realised the sheer gravity of how much he meant to her until he was already gone. She had thought, a few years ago, that perhaps she had a crush on the wild-haired boy, but had stubbornly squashed it after their third year, not at all eager to mess up their friendship so soon after getting it back from the incident with his broom. Now, it seemed, that the remnants of her infatuation had evolved and reformed in a more pure, more honest and complete attraction.
She had been drawn to him this past year, spurred on emotionally by the fresh dangers he had been thrown into. As much as she had tried to help him, tried to guide him, she had found herself almost content to just be near him, trying desperately to ignore the challenges that awaited him after each corner. More than once when they had been working on the Accio charm together, she had met him in their abandoned classroom and simply talked for half the time they had, Hermione at peace with letting him decide when to get to work.
Letting him take the lead.
And that was what it really was. Beyond the attraction, the crush- beyond the friendship, Harry was her leader in every way that mattered.
And now he was dead.
And You-Know-Who wasn't.
"And it isn't fair..." she choked out, feeling the sobs threatening to overtake her again, even though she had no more tears to shed.
It was a few minutes later that she heard another knocking at her door. "Hermione dear? Are you awake?"
She sighed. "I told you, mum, I'm not hungry right now.."
"Ah, no, I know dear.. It's just... there's an owl here for you."
With Harry gone and Ron likely caught in his own grief, who would bother writing her? Even as she pondered this, she knew she'd get nowhere without seeing for herself, and so she slowly got up out of bed, calling out, "I'm be down in a moment, mum."
Hermione heard her mother head back down the stairs and morosely put on a pair of shorts and an old, oversized T-shirt, having been laying about in her underwear all day. Leaving her room and shuffling down to the ground floor, she took in the average-sized brown owl on the coffee table, sitting primly and expectantly on top of a rectangular box. Slightly amused at the way her father was very clearly trying to act inconspicuous as far from the bird as he could, she approached the messenger and knelt down next to the table, holding her hand out to it. Palm up, she presented her wrist as she always did, and the owl lightly nipped it before hooting once and hopping off the package.
There were other ways to acknowledge post owls and offer your identity- they were almost scarily intelligent, after all- but presenting her wrist had come naturally to Hermione since first interacting with owls. She rolled her eyes at her father's strangled gasp at the way she handled the creature- other than Hedwig and the one school owl she always tried to use when she wrote home, she knew her father was hopelessly out of his element when it came to the winged messengers.
"It wouldn't let go of it to either of us, so we figured it was important. Who's it from, dear?" she heard her mother ask carefully, still trying to treat her a bit like glass. Hermione supposed it was warranted, though; if not for this delivery, she might not have left her room today.
"He," Hermione corrected automatically. "It's a male owl. And I don't recognise him, per se. He looks like one of the Hogwarts owls..." Trailing off, she pulled free the letter tied to the package and opened it, scanning for a sender first. "Oh, it's-! Oh, my!"
"Who is it, Hermione?"
She looked up at her parents, eyes wide. This wasn't for their ears, their minds. Indeed, she almost wished it wasn't for hers, either. But still, she had to deal with it. Unable to really lie to them, she said, "I-I'm sorry, it's private. I need to take this upstairs- I need to send a reply, anyway, uhm.." She bit her lip and cast her eyes around before grabbing the throw-blanket from the back of the couch and draping it over one arm, tucking the letter under it. She coaxed the owl onto her covered arm and grabbed the package, turning to rush up the stairs, her heart pounding. "Sorry! I'm sorry, I- I'll come down to eat after I've replied!"
She shut and relocked the door, the owl winging off to perch at the head of her bed as she took her mail to her neat desk. She felt bad about shutting her parents out like that, but the correspondence just took her so off guard! Hermione set the package to the side, sorely tempted to open it, now. But she turned her attention back to the letter and read it thoroughly.
Good evening. This is Padfoot. Don't worry, I'm safe! And I think Prongs Jr. is, as well.
I'll explain, but first I need to go over some things. One: Read no further unless you are entirely alone. Done? Good. Two: Do not show anyone what is in the package I sent with this letter, unless they already know about it or we tell you otherwise. Three: The owl is yours, happy early birthday! I know you already have that fantastic cat of yours, but a personal owl is never not handy! I leave the name to you.
Hermione jerked back, twisting around to look at the brown bird. It was softly cooing almost constantly, looking around the room with interest. Her heart, shriveled with pain as it was, swelled a bit at the gift. She would have immediately set about fussing with the owl, but she was far too anxious to find out what Sirius meant by 'Prongs Jr.' being safe. Turning back to the letter, she read on.
And now that I've given you an owl, open the package and learn why he will never be delivering letters to me!
Hermione frowned. What the heck was that supposed to mean? Tempted to simply keep reading and find out, she instead obeyed the letter and tore the package open, pulling out... "A mirror? Sirius, you can't possibly think I'm that vain.." Setting the ornate but rather plain hand mirror back down, she returned to the letter, frustrated.
What I've just given you is a communication device we invented in our last year at Hogwarts. It's got a pretty impressive weave of charms on it- unbreaking, the works! But its real purpose will be revealed only to those who know how. Don't do it yet, finish this letter first, but simply hold the mirror and say 'I desperately require blank,' where 'blank' is the code phrase keyed to another mirror. Mine is Padfoot, naturally. I took the liberty of making yours 'Chestnut', after your hair. Hope you don't mind!
There's much you need to know, so again, don't use the mirror yet! Firstly, the Senex Sapiens can no longer be trusted to make all the right decisions. Don't mistake me, he hasn't really done anything wrong- on purpose, anyway. He's made a few mistakes- I know, I know, you can hardly believe the old man to be fallible- but his heart's in the right place. The point is that we need to start taking matters into our own hands, or at least make him share them.
Hermione mentally stumbled for a moment, having to decipher the codename. 'Senex Sapiens is clearly Latin, so... Wise old one... Headmaster Dumbledore!' she realised with a start, surprised at Sirius's enginuity. But then the surprise faded, replaced by more confusion. Why couldn't the Headmaster be trusted as much?
And to be fair, that's exactly what he's finally started to do, but it took Junior's death to snap him into action. And that, Chestnut, is an excellent segway into the topic you've probably been itching to hear about: I don't think our doom-destined friend is dead. Neither does a certain stern feline we both know.
I can't put the main reason- which happens to be a huge piece of evidence to support our theory and also a very important secret- in this letter, but I'll be sure to let you know of it in person, NOT through the mirror. Even they are only so secure. For now, you'll just have to take me at my word.
Suffice to say, we have very good reason to believe that Junior, through yet another fantastic twist of luck and magic, has survived, and is now, for some reason, in hiding. Maybe he doesn't have his familiar, maybe he's cut off from magical communication and doesn't know how to hitchhike to his nearest friend. Maybe he's not quite alive, and just sort of hanging around (more on that later, I promise), or maybe he's actually been captured. Though if he has, it's not by What's-His-Name, as our slimy snitch has reported a big negative to that fear!
The point is, we have no idea where he is, but my gut tells me he's safe, and the evidence we have says he's probably alive. Besides, after everything you've seen him go through- gone through with him, even- do you really think a little accident like that could take him out? It's a bit insulting to him, when you think about it.
So there you have it. We'll be scouring the streets, checking the usual suspect locations for Junior, but we need your help. Check Diagon Alley and the 'Cauldron for us? Neither I nor Miss M can go there as we are without causing a stir or alerting What's-His-Name's eyes, and we really need to find Junior as soon as possible. Besides, you'll need to head to the Alley anyway to get effects for your new owl!
Here's a tip: Head to Gringotts and give one of the goblins this password: nigrum vasa. They'll be able to tell you if Junior has been through recently. Don't worry, it's a very secure, very expensive service Prongs and I set up to check on each other after Prongs went into hiding.
I'll be honest with you, more honest than I've been with myself- this is a long shot. It's very possible that Junior is really dead, but we cannot give up hope! You know him better than anyone. If there was a way- any way at all- for Junior to survive his accident, you know he would have found it.
I'll likely be busy for the rest of this day, the fourth of August, but you can use the mirror to call me tomorrow if you need to. Wish us luck, and good luck to you, as well! Let's go find our boy. If all else fails, we can at least hope to see him at the castle.
P.S.- Give Junior a good smack on the head for me if you find him, for not trying to contact anyone. And then a big ol' hug for being safe.
Hermione set the letter down and leaned back in her chair, somewhat dazed. If there was ever a time she could say that her heart had been both light and heavy, it was now. 'Harry... are you really out there?' She supposed, considering how sure Sirius sounded, that it wouldn't hurt to look. She wiped her face, startled that she was crying. Hadn't she been out of tears? 'These are different tears. I was out of the sad ones,' she reasoned to herself childishly, stubbornly rubbing the wetness away.
It was then that she realised just how stale she smelled, having not taken care of herself these last few days. Turning and getting up to shower, she paused and bit her lip at the sight and reminder of her new owl. Deciding quite easily on a name, she hesitantly called out, "H-Hermes?" Even as she didn't expect a response- how could the animal know its name already, after all- she was surprised when the bird gave a much louder hoot than the soft coos it had been giving off since coming up here. It seemed to glance at her for a while before going back to examining the room.
'Well,' she thought, cheering up a little. 'Sirius did have a point. I'll have to go down to the Alley tomorrow anyway- could also do my Hogwarts shopping- might as well make a stop at Gringotts while I'm at it.' She wondered if perhaps he hadn't done that on purpose, planned it all in case she didn't quite believe him. He needn't have bothered. If only to ease the pain in her chest, she was fully willing to believe in the chance, at least.
She resolved to tell her parents the relevant information after freshening up, feeling a spring come back into her step. Heading across the hall to the water closet, she started warming the water for her shower, her mind full of all the places she could check for Harry tomorrow, and what she would say to him if- when- she found him.
Flourish and Blotts, Diagon Alley;
August the Fifth, 1995;
Dani, in her usual form with her auburn hair tied in a high ponytail, searched down the shelves, hunting for the next book on her school list, as well as any titles that really jumped out at her. She wore a pair of blue jeans and a pale green blouse, though it didn't matter with the common black robes she had on as well. Dropping another textbook into her basket, her hand hovered over a familiar title, though not because she had read it, herself. Pulling it down, she examined the cover, noting the crest and thinking fondly of days gone by.
Seeing the book had brought up a subject she had spent much of yesterday arguing with Venus about, that of her friends. Or Harry's friends, rather, and whether Danielle would tell them straight away about what happened. Dani had firmly stated that she would tell them eventually- she intended on bringing the Headmaster into the loop, at the very least- but agreed with the goddess that now was probably not the time, especially due to the somewhat uncertain security of owl post.
But that was where their agreements ended on the subject. Venus felt that telling anyone- even Dumbledore- was too much of a security risk. Dani's strongest weapon at the moment, aside from her ability to become anyone, was her anonymity and the element of surprise. If word got out- even rumors- that Harry James Potter had survived, the fight against Voldemort may be harder. Dani disagreed, naturally. Having witnessed first-hand, from an outside perspective, the kind of impact 'his' death had on the general populace, it seemed that most people rather liked him in the end. In fact, it seemed that the general opinion was along the lines of 'I wish he wasn't gone- what if he was telling the truth, after all?'
Harry had beaten You-Know-Who before- more than they knew, in fact- perhaps he could do it again? It was this mindset that seemed to be floating around the normally cheerful denizens of Diagon Alley. And frankly, Dani wasn't sure how to feel about that just yet, but she did know that if Harry was revealed to be alive, things were looking in his favor as far as public support went. Dani was no fool- at least not when she really put her mind to it; she knew that if any sort of plan to go up against Voldemort, his Death Eaters, and their agenda were to work, she would need the support of the common people in addition to the really helpful ones like Dumbledore and Hermione.
Which brought her mind- which had been becoming more and more cyclical as she exercised it- back to her original thought.
Which was rapidly interrupted by the exact object of her thoughts.
"It's a very good read," said the one voice she had been expecting to hear the least, aside from perhaps Sirius.
Looking back on it, Dani would be proud of herself for not completely dropping her books and merely shrieking in surprise, juggling her load briefly as she turned to regard the girl with the bushy brown hair, the Shifter's eyes wide and face red.
Hermione looked apologetic, her hand going to her mouth. "Oh! I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have- I am so sorry!"
Dani held the copy of Hogwarts, a History against her chest, stilling her thrashing heart and shaking her head, still shocked at encountering Hermione here. "N-no, no! It's alright, I was just... deep in thought," she ended lamely, chuckling slightly.
Hermione joined her and they both waved off the several patrons peeking around the corner, wondering what the scream was about. Dani, still trying to collect herself, hurried to distract Hermione and give her time to think. "Y-you were saying something about this book?"
Instantly, Hermione latched onto her favorite subject, just as Dani hoped she would. "Oh yes, I'm actually quite disappointed that it isn't required reading for Hogwarts students. There's so much in there that can really enhance the experience of attending- especially for a muggleborn like me. Oh- Oh my, I'm so sorry, I'm so distracted; I forgot my manners! I'm Hermione Granger, Gryffindor, about to start my fifth year- Oh, and I suppose I'm to be a Prefect, as well!"
Dani was momentarily stunned, but accepted the information easily- honestly, who was she expecting would get the female position? Lavender? "Well, congratulations, I guess! I'm Dani. Danielle Rosewood, ah... I don't know what House I'll be in, actually. A lot of things happened recently, and I'll be just starting Hogwarts this year, joining the fourth years."
Hermione seemed suitably surprised. "Really?! I remember reading about such things happening sometimes, but I seem to remember it happening mostly to foreigners. You sound very English."
Dani giggled, finally slipping back into her role and recalling the needed details of her backstory. She felt a little bad about lying to Hermione, but reasoned that soon, she could tell her the truth. "Well, I've been homeschooled- couldn't afford a bed at Hogwarts, so my parents did what they could. But tragedy struck, and turned out to be less of a tragedy than we thought, and now I've got a new wand and a chance to go to school!" Dani giggled again at Hermione's expression. As a girl, it was much easier and more fun to stun the bookworm- or perhaps it was simply her status as a stranger?
Hermione recovered quite quickly. "I see. So you'll be sorted with the first years?"
Dani shrugged pretending to be ignorant. "I suppose. I still haven't been told what that means."
Hermione smiled nicely, bringing warmth back to Dani's cheeks. "Don't worry, it's not so bad. Well- that's not true, it's actually terrifying as a first year, but I'm sure you'll be fine! You hardly have to do anything but not faint, after all!"
Even knowing what to expect, Dani couldn't help but feel some unease at the way Hermione talked about it. "Whatever it is, you're really not selling it as an enjoyable experience, Hermione."
She laughed, and Dani got the impression that she was surprised at her own laughter a moment later. Rather than dwell on it, however, Hermione seemed to want to change the subject. "Hey, have you seen..." She trailed off, frowning.
Dani frowned, as well. "What? What is it?"
The brunette shook her head as though to herself, mumbling, "Nothing, you probably wouldn't know anything about it..."
Dani suddenly had a very good idea of what it might be. Part of her, the part Venus had been slowly cultivating, was screaming at her to leave it alone, to let Hermione believe Harry was well and truly dead.
And yet, seeing her so despondent, about to turn away, Dani couldn't help herself. "Maybe I do? Maybe... I know exactly what you want to ask."
Hermione lifted her head back up and looked slightly down into Dani's eyes, her own brown orbs wide. "What..."
Her heart pounding, Dani looked around to see if anyone was in their isle before leaning in and whispering, "Come with me to my room at the Leaky Cauldron. I'll tell you everything you want to know about him, I guarantee it."
Hermione was quite clearly suspicious, but Dani resolutely refused to answer any further questions until they were in private. So, slightly enjoying the way Hermione was so impatiently waiting for her to finish her purchases, Dani led the brunette through the crowd outside, holding her hand and bringing her back to the Cauldron despite her protests.
Venus actually appeared for a moment, voicing her opinion about how bad of an idea this was, but Dani merely sent her a strong look and the deity disappeared with a shrug that reeked of 'Don't say I didn't warn you'.
Pulling Hermione into her room, she tossed her bags on the nearest bed and bolted the door, mind already spinning with a half-baked plan and completely ignoring Hermione's resumed demands to know what was going on.
"Sif! Come here, girl!" she called, patting the back of a nearby chair. The large owl swooped down from atop the wardrobe, ruffling Hermione's hair and startling her before alighting on the seat. Dani turned to smile at the frustrated Hermione and started stroking her owl. "Hermione, this is Sif. Sif, you remember Hermione, right?"
The owl barked, but Hermione just looked more and more confused. Which, for her, meant she was getting more and more upset. "Danielle, what are you talking about?! You said you knew where Harry was- I've never met your owl in my life!"
Dani couldn't help but giggle- the whole situation just felt so surreal, catching Hermione off-balance like this. "It's Dani, please. And of course you have, Hermione! You just know her by a different name..." Even as she said this, she began helping her owl change, transitioning back into her slightly smaller, more white form.
Hermione, just as Dani had feared before and hoped now, recognised the owl immediately. Gasping, she took a step back, exclaiming, "H-Hedwig?!"
The owl barked and ruffled her feathers, stretching her wings a bit from the change. Dani just smiled at her old and new friend, letting her make the right connections and hoping it wasn't all a huge mistake.
Hermione brought her hand to her mouth and took another step back as she looked at Dani, clearly conflicted. "I... I don't understand... Danielle, wh-why do you have Hedwig... where's Harry?"
Fearing she was getting ready to bolt, Dani put up both hands in a placating gesture. "Please calm down. Hedwig's mine, but her name needs to be Sif, now. For the same reason that I need you to call me Dani. Instead..." And in this pause, Dani removed her robes, letting it fall to the floor, and Shifted. Clothes adjusting to match, her hair shrank and darkened at the same time her body and features changed to become more masculine. Her- his- eyes and scar were the last to form, and Dani- now Harry- kept the gentle smile for his best friend. Almost tripping over the voice he had already gotten used to not hearing, he finished, "... of Harry."
Hermione was speechless. Honestly, Harry didn't know such a thing was possible. "Really, Mione, it's me. I know this is a little unbelievable, but... well, it's a weird story and I'm not even sure how to tell it. The night I died, some things happened, and I was given this new body, one that could become someone new- anyone, really. I... There's a destiny I have to fulfill, and that accident was... Well like I said, I'm not sure how to explain it all, but regardless.." Shifting his body and clothes back to his chosen form, she smiled nervously at Hermione, "I'm Dani, now. I'm here, it's still me, but there's... more to me now, I guess..."
Hermione's eyes were wet, and Dani almost panicked. As Harry, she really didn't do well with crying girls, and she suspected that wouldn't have changed now. But instead of crying, Hermione stood her ground, bit her lip, and surprised the Shifter. "In our first year, when I was solving that potions puzzle and you were about to go meet Professor Quirrell, what did I say to you?"
Dani blanched, not sure she could remember. "Er.. You said a lot of things, Hermione..."
Hermione took another step back and Dani got the distinct impression she had just made strike one. "You had just convinced me to take the potion that would lead me back. You had just told me that you got lucky once against You-Know-Who, and you might get lucky again. What. Did. I. Say?"
Dani wracked her brain, trying to remember. It was a powerful moment, she knew. He had rarely been more impressed with Hermione than Harry was at that moment when she solved the riddle. Surely she could... Dani's eyes widened, recalling the scene. "You.. You told me I was a great wizard."
Hermione seemed to flinch, as though unprepared for her to get it right. She worried her lip some more before asking, "And what did you say to that?"
The answer came much easier this time, as it was still how Dani felt. "That I wasn't as great as you- which is true!"
Hermione's breath hitched visibly, but still she shook her head. "You're still wrong. What did I say next?"
Dani wasn't expecting this to go on so long, but supposed her logic-minded friend wouldn't simply accept the situation so easily. "Ah.. It's been a while, Hermione.."
Another step back, and Dani flinched, almost reaching out to her. Strike two. "What did I say, Harry? Please..." she pleaded.
Dani realised with a jolt that, as much as she wanted Hermione to believe her, Hermione might be wanting it even more. And it was this realisation that reminded her of the rest of that time in the potion room. "You... You said that bravery and friendship were more important than books and cleverness."
Dani flinched and stumbled to get her balance, crying out in surprise as a sobbing brunette bullet nearly bowled her over, wrapping itself around her midsection. "Wh- Hermione!"
"Ha~rry..." she sobbed, but before Dani could respond, Hermione let go and thumped her on the side of her head, glaring.
"Ah- hey! What-?"
"THAT'S from Sirius, for not contacting anyone!"
Dani chuckled embarrassedly. "I suppose I deserved that... OW!"
Hermione then punched her in the shoulder. "And THAT'S from me, for the same!" Again, proving that Dani's rebirth hadn't made her any more adept at keeping up with her friend, Hermione acted before Dani could even think, wrapping her arms back around the redhead. "And this is from Sirius, for being alive and safe." Dani laughed and hugged her back, just happy that everything was working out so far. She then groaned as Hermione's grip tightened immensely. "And this is from me, for the same..."
As she adjusted and just laughed happily, Dani held her friend with an affection she wouldn't have been able to express before her rebirth. As a Shifter (or perhaps a girl, she wasn't sure), she'd been gaining some slightly more empathic tendencies, finding more surety in her own emotions. Which is why she wasn't too surprised when she found herself saying softly, "Anything else you have for me?"
Hermione shifted somewhat, almost squirming. "Yes, actually.. This is also from me, for... reasons..." Her eyes closed, Hermione brought her head back from Dani's neck, effortlessly and blindly finding her target.
Dani flinched, but didn't pull back from the other girl's soft lips. The concept confused her somewhat- she had barely kissed Venus- but the sensation was undeniable. The potential reasons behind it- this was Hermione, after all- were equally as confusing. And yet still, Dani could do nothing but gratefully kiss her back. Even had she not been harboring a well-suppressed crush on the girl as Harry, Dani still could not deny an attraction to Hermione. That, combined with the sheer joy of knowing that Hermione had believed her, brought Dani's heart into the clouds.
The kiss barely deepened, their hands did not move from each other's backs, and their bodies- while pressed together- did not grind or gyrate. It was a purely emotional kiss, one that nevertheless left them breathless when they broke apart. Pressing their foreheads together and breathing heavily, the two girls kept their eyes closed, just holding each other.
Eventually, Dani chuckled lightly. "Hermione?"
"Hmmm~?" There was a distinct happiness- a content tone to her voice that broadened Dani's smile.
"You know you just kissed a girl, right?"
"Hmmm..." This time she seemed slightly concerned, and maybe a little unnerved.
Dani just held her tighter and giggled. "It's okay. Nobody who will ever know, will ever judge you for it. I'll make sure of that. If it's any consolation... I wanted to do that anyway, before any of this happened."
Hermione's eyes snapped open, her head jerking back to search Dani's own bright blue orbs. The Shifter nodded, still casually holding her friend. "I'm still here, Hermione. I mean.. My old body- Harry died, Mione. I'm... well, I'm a Shapeshifter now. Nothing's changed, I just have a new body with.. New capabilities. Like I said, I'm still me. There's just more to me, now."
Hermione bit her lip, making Dani's lip twitch in response. "But... why Dani? Why a girl? If you're really a shapeshifter..."
Dani sighed and disentangled herself from the brunette, spinning and flopping flat on her back on a bed. "I've been trying to answer that myself for days. Half of it was a spur-of-the-moment sort of thing, half of it was an idle thought that it would be easier to hide who I am, easier to fulfill my destiny..." She laughed humorlessly. "And a third half of it was, I admit, a selfish curiosity of how the other half lives. But in all seriousness, it's kind of scaring me. In the last few days, I've been acting more and more like a girl, at least outwardly." She rose and sat back on her elbows. "But maybe you disagree? Did you ever suspect I wasn't a girl?"
Hermione slowly sat down on the bed, watching her closely. Dani got the impression that she was just going along with everything for the moment while she put her thoughts in order, as evidenced by the fact that she still wasn't bombarding the redhead with questions. Finally, she said, "No. In fact, even after you proved who you were, I'm still having trouble seeing the real you. It's a very good disguise, Harry."
Dani frowned and leaned forward, looking Hermione in the eye. "Harry's dead, Mione. I'm still here, but I'm not Harry anymore. This is me, I'm Dani. Danielle Rosewood. I have a nonexistent father who just recently got a job curse breaking for Gringotts, allowing him to afford sending me to Hogwarts. I was 'born', I guess, on August 1, but my official D.o.B. is November 10, 1980. I'll be fifteen this year, and I'll be sorted with the first years into the fourth years. I was born and raised in Norwich, and that, Hermione, is as close to a real history as I am ever likely to get, anymore." She ran her hand through her hair, removing the tie of her ponytail. "It's not a disguise. Unless I need to be someone else for any reason- or want to, I suppose- this is just how I look, now." She chuckled, lifting her chin in mock pride. "I worked quite hard fine-tuning myself, you know."
At Hermione's contemplative look, Dani sighed. "Look, I know it's a lot to take in. When it all happened to me I was too busy trying to get my bearings and get settled in to really think about it. But since then, I've been able to look at it from more angles, and... Hermione, this is my decision." She sighed again, frustrated that she couldn't articulate her thoughts. "I'm not explaining this well..."
"No, I... I don't quite understand it yet, I suppose. But I can understand being firm about a decision. Harr- .. Dani." The redhead watched as Hermione worried her lip some more, idly thinking that- while she had picked up the habit as well- Hermione did it much more often. "I can't say I totally support this... but that's mostly for selfish reasons. I... I came out here looking for Harry, you know?"
Dani nodded. "I don't blame you." She considered her next words and blushed a little, struggling to keep eye contact. "And I wouldn't blame you if you didn't want... that kiss to really mean anything. I mean," she hurried to add, "I'm a girl, at least mostly. I mean, there's... W-well, anyway, there's also the whole 'I have to fight a dangerous, immortal Dark Lord to the death', and there's no telling the kind of dangers I'll be facing from here out, and if word gets out and everything than you would get treated so badly- I mean, I don't really care anymore; being able to be anyone is kind of... mentally liberating, I guess? B-but it's not like I don't like you- I told you about how I thought, right? I just- there was this thought I had- what with the new life and everything- that maybe I could enjoy more of a social life than before, you know? Like, dating, snogging, friends- ?!"
Hermione had placed a finger against Dani's lips, cutting off her rambling. "It's very rare you get so flustered or say that much in a row- where in the world did that come from?"
"Fwom ou," she mumbled, her lips weakly pressing against the brunette's finger.
Hermione quirked her eyebrow. "From me? What are you talking about?"
Dani pulled back and pouted a little. "Shapeshifters can copy a person's way of thinking if they have an imprint of them. This body is new, so any imprints I might have potentially carried from other people from before the accident weren't complete, they only existed in my memory. I basically had a copy of a copy of everything- besides your personal history and memories- that made you Hermione. I didn't know that at first, and tried to turn into you to maybe use that brilliant head of yours to figure out what to do. It didn't work, obviously. From there, I had only been Shifting into different-looking girls that I made up, so anything mental I did get from you just stayed. I couldn't be as clever as you, though- just sort of stole some of your habits, I guess. I... bite my lip a lot," she added with a lame shrug, by way of example.
Hermione seemed shocked, but quickly grasped the concept. Then, surprising Dani, her eyes began to wander over the redhead's body. "So... Is that me, then?"
Dani winced, as she sounded like she was about to get cross. "N-no, no! I've changed it since then- it's a whole new body. A-and I never peeked while I was still you, I swear!" She neglected to mention that probably the most personal body part was still theoretically identical to Hermione's, although Dani had rid herself of the hair.
Hermione's expression didn't change, continuing to examine Dani with a critical eye, to the point that the young Shifter began to squirm uncomfortably. "So," she finally said, startling Dani. "You made that yourself, then? How old are you supposed to be? Nearly fifteen?" Dani nodded.
Hermione reached forward and put her free hand on Dani's breast, shocking the girl. She wasn't sure how to react, and so simply leaned back a little, embarrassed. "H-hey.." she mumbled.
If Hermione felt one way or another about Dani's reaction, she didn't show it, simply saying, "I suppose with the ability to change your body however you like, not wearing a bra isn't much of an issue. But you'll want to wear thicker tops when it gets cold, or you'll be getting just as many stares walking down the halls as you did as Harry."
Dani was speechless- honestly, this was not the kind of lecture she had been expecting, and it was making her blush. But Hermione wasn't finished. "And I will say, you showed remarkable constraint- your breasts aren't too big; in fact I'd almost say they're a bit on the small side for your apparent age, but perhaps you'll bloom a little later?" Hermione's half-hidden tiny smirk gave Dani the impression that she was joking around about her Shifter powers. And also that she wasn't mad, which filled the redhead with relief. "Your face is... well, beautiful, actually. But not perfect- which is good! You don't want to look like a doll. Your eyes are probably one of your best physical features, as I'm sure you intended them to be- but then again, that was the case before, as well," she added, a pink tinge touching her cheeks and making Dani smile. "All in all, I think you did very well, H- Dani." The Shifter's smile widened, happy to see her friend trying to get used to it and accept her. "You're certainly not someone I would regret kissing, or be embarrassed to be caught with."
"Thank you, Hermione, I- Wait..." She frowned. Had she heard that right?
Hermione's restrained smirk bloomed into a grin and she leaned forward. "I'm sure you can guess how I felt about Harry at this point- for goodness' sake, I bet Harry could guess by now," she added, laughing lightly. "You say you're still you, just more? Well, I can't say 'I've always wanted to kiss a girl,' but it has crossed my mind. I know you like me; feel like going again?"
Towards the end, she began leaning in further, Dani unable or unwilling to move away. The redhead gulped, marveling at the proof of Hermione's place in Gryffindor as the brunette closed her eyes and their lips met again.
This kiss, unlike the last, was much more immediately returned. Also unlike the first one, it didn't stay shallow and chaste, their lips pressing together, sliding against each other as a certain amount of restrained passion leaked through. Their hands, while not wandering, were not entirely idle, either. Hermione shifted her grip of Dani's hand, threading their fingers together more intimately. Dani's free hand came up to grip Hermione's other sleeved arm, whose hand was slowly squeezing the redhead's thigh. They kissed, and while neither of them were entirely sure of what to do orwhere to go from there, they were each, for their own different yet similar reasons, just happy to have their friend back.
WOOOOooo! Hey, look at that, we got a chapter out! Fuckin' A, that last scene with Hermione droned on for an additional three and a half pages beyond where I had intended it to stop. It just kept twisting down a different road- I had planned for another sort of humorous cliffhanger, but instead all this fluff and intimacy just came right up and wrote itself! No way that was me, nuh-uh!
Dani's secrets have begun to spread- how far will they go? Will Hermione become Dani's significant other?
I'll answer that one, actually: No, not really. I have a plan to work it out nicely, as well as some character-driven reasons, but Dani won't actually be having a solid, exclusive relationship with anyone for a while. She'll be playing around with other girls, MAYBE a guy or two- I'm still in debate about that. It'll probably be an awkward, spur of the moment, mistake-ish occurrence, at least the first time- if I do it at all. Regardless, Dani is by no means locked-in to a relationship with Hermione- just like how Dani is by no means locked-in to her current body. Obviously she can change it up- she's already gone out as 'variants', as she calls them, in the last chapter, not to mention the little futanari moment she had, which will be making a recurring appearance by the way.
A few notes on Hermione's behavior: You'll see more explanation in the next chapter, as it will heavily feature her POV. Basically though, Hermione has just gone through the trauma of losing someone incredibly important to her- and then the further trauma (of a different sort) of getting them back but not the same. This would change anyone's attitude, and here we see the beginnings of a Hermione willing to do anything to keep Harry- Dani- around. Including accepting the transformation into a girl, and giving female homosexuality a try. Hermione was always a brave girl, and she's been known to crack jokes when the mood truly strikes her- especially well-meaning ones at her friends' expenses. That said, she's also incredibly loyal, and I can't help but imagine that this aspect of her would be enhanced in this situation, possibly to the point of devoting herself to Dani above anything else. We can only see as the story goes on- I am almost as much of a passenger to these stories as you guys, with how often they run away from me.
But enough about all that, this author's note has gone on long enough. Unfortunately, while this chapter has been proof-read by yours truly, Ash was not able to Beta it with any kind of expediency due to personal complications, and I am impatient to get this out there now that it's done. Let me know what you all think- I know I still kind of glazed over the sex, but I think it worked out pretty well to break up the seriousness of the rest of the chapter. Send me all of the theories you guys come up with, I love hearing about them!
Hope you enjoied; until next time!