[Attention] Chapter was re-uploaded due to a site error that somehow botched updating the status of the story, but still applied the new chapter. If you receive weird alerts for this chapter because of this, I apologize. [Attention]
Been a while, but again, not as long as it could have been. No smut this time, but plenty of emotions, oh dear!
The Leaky Cauldron, London;
August the Fifth, 1995;
"Are you sure this is such a good idea?"
Hermione rolled her eyes as she unwrapped the mirror Sirius had given her. "Will you relax? You said you were going to tell him, anyway, and I'm sure he's only more worried about you now that he's convinced you lived."
She looked up and caught Dani pouting a little. "But.. Harry didn't actually live."
Hermione rolled her eyes again, for the umpteenth time. "Yes, so you've said, but by your own words, 'you're still you'. That was enough for Gringotts, it's enough for me, and it'll be enough for Padfoot."
Hermione had asked previously about the details of Harry's death and Not-Harry's birth, but Dani had, after hesitating a moment, been very firm that she was not supposed to talk about it. Already fearing that she would wake up and this wonderful dream would disappear into smoke, Hermione had accepted after a few more questions. Apparently, Harry had died, but not completely, and met with some people who had given him a new body with which he- now she- would perform a certain task for them. When asked if Hermione could know this task, Dani had simply growled "Voldemort," which immediately reassured Hermione that the mysterious group in question at least was on their side. A fact which Danielle had vigorously agreed with.
After a few more questions like what Dani had been doing lately and what her current plans were- which Hermione largely agreed with, despite her selfish disappointment that Dani wouldn't be joining her as a Fifth Year- as well as a brief and very basic demonstration of Dani's abilities- seeing herself sitting across from her with bright purple hair had been interesting, to say the least- Hermione had brought up the subject of Sirius. Danielle- it was shocking how quickly she was getting used to the name, let alone the concept in general- was understandably conflicted. On the one hand, Sirius was her last remaining- and truthfully, only- family that she cared about, and one of the few adults she trusted implicitly with anything. On the other, Dani really seemed to imply that she's supposed to keep this as much of a secret as possible; to be fair, it is a bit of an advantage over the enemy. So yes, Hermione felt that Dani's hesitation was understandable.
But entirely unnecessary.
Ignoring the usually-redhead's half-hearted protests and almost absent-mindedly tugging the other girl back to her seat by the arm when she tried to flee, Hermione spoke into the mirror, "I desperately require Padfoot," feeling slightly silly as she did so. The mirror clouded over, silvery blue mist filling the image beneath the glass. Having already drawn a parallel to Muggle telephones the day before, she waited for Sirius to 'pick up' the other end. Turning to Dani, her lip twitched in sympathy when she saw that Dani was biting her own, but Hermione hurried to say, "Now, Padfoot said that even these mirrors aren't completely secure, so we'll be speaking in a bit of a code. You'll pick it up quickly, I'm sure- just don't use names and let me do the talking at first."
Before Dani could even formulate a response, both girls turned to face the mirror as a voice called out from it in a slight echo, "Chestnut! What's going on, who's this?"
Hermione smiled, briefly marveling at how easy it was compared to the last few days, and said, "Relax Padfoot, everything's fine. I need to introduce you to someone, this is-" Hermione froze for a moment. She couldn't use Dani's real name- or as real as it was, anyway- and she turned to look at the girl for a moment, suddenly unsure of what to say. At Dani's entirely unhelpful shrug, Hermione turned back to the mirror and said the first thing that came to mind, deciding to sort it out later. "Er, Mimic. This is Mimic, and she and I have some very important information about, er, Junior." Hermione blushed a little, feeling Dani's gaze on the side of her face.
Sirius was appropriately gobsmacked. "W-what?! What is i- no, no, where are you? Did you check the black pottery like I told you, have they found him?"
Hermione shook her head. "No, I didn't use that codeword you gave me- didn't need it. I almost tripped over the information, practically landed in my lap, it did," she added, smirking at Dani for a moment before her face became more serious. "Padfoot, just how secure are these things?"
Sirius gave her a smile and Hermione suspected that she had just asked a very good question. "I can explain more in person, but suffice to say that it's secure enough for anything I directly ask you right now. So to that end, where are you? And Chestnut... you're sure Mimic can be trusted with everything? Sorry dear, it's just a bit odd.."
Hermione nodded confidently. "I would trust her with my life, Padfoot. Have done, in fact." She grinned at him. "I can explain more in person, I promise. We're in a room at the Leaky Cauldron, right now."
Sirius nodded. "Good enough for me, then. We'll be by to pick you up shortly. Mimic, I'm very sorry to put this upon you, but you have no idea how important this is."
Hermione held back a smile as Dani finally spoke, "Actually Padfoot, I know exactly how important it is. But I suppose we'll see you soo- wait a moment, you're not coming yourself, are you? It's not safe!"
Sirius looked mildly surprised for a moment before shaking his head. "No, no, by 'we' I meant our group, the group looking for Junior. Really it'll be one person, a woman with- we'll say green hair. It'll make sense when she gets there. Oh, and Mimic? Am I going to be putting you in a tight spot with your family- you disappearing for a while and all that?"
Hermione gave the shapeshifter a sideways glance, watching Dani fight off a grin. "Oh, it'll be no trouble at all, Padfoot. I daresay my family will be happy to know I've gone with you for this. Just tell your woman to come right up to room 3G and knock five times."
Sirius nodded, though his face said he still had questions. "Well, alright then. Chestnut, great work. Somehow, I knew you'd be the one to find a lead. Your pickup will be there in less than five." And with that, the connection ended, the mirror fogging over for a moment before returning to a reflective surface.
"'Chestnut'?" Dani was looking at her when Hermione glanced over as she put the mirror away in her bag.
"Sirius's choice- said it was after my hair. Personally, I feel it's more of an acorn color, but I suppose 'Chestnut' isn't a bad codename, all things considered. Your- or, I guess Harry's is 'Junior', as you may have noticed." She smiled apologetically. "Sorry for just picking 'Mimic' without asking. I have a feeling we'll have need of these codenames in the future, so we can change it later if you like."
Dani just smiled back in that honest, happy way she had seen so rarely on Harry that always made her chest tingle pleasantly. "No, it's fine- and it fits, which is the important thing. So, I suppose I'd better pack, hadn't I?" she asked, casting about the room at the few things Hermione figured weren't part of the standard amenities.
Hermione, wasn't so sure, and said so. "Maybe it's best to keep this place available? Sirius may not be somewhere you can reliably stay- and depending on who else is there, it may be hard to explain your presence..."
Dani looked a bit disappointed, which made the bookworm feel guilty, but she nodded. "You're probably right. I could ask this woman who's supposed to come get us?"
Hermione nodded, happy to give the girl any hope she could. "Definitely!"
The thing was, she knew how much Sirius's desire to have Harry live with him meant to the 'dead' boy. That the opportunity was once again on the horizon had put a shine in Dani's eyes, and Hermione had been loathe to erase it with her words of caution. After getting her crush and best friend back- she really couldn't find the room to care that it was wrapped up in a different package- she just wanted to do everything she could for him. Her. Whatever.
Actually, not 'whatever', that was a big deal, right? Whether it was a positive or a negative thing was unclear... and actually a little irrelevant, the more she thought about it. Hermione had never fancied herself a poof, or even bi-curious, but then Hermione had only rarely even fancied. And while yes, Harry's eyes were gorgeous and she could quite happily stare at them all afternoon if only it wouldn't be so awkward, it was his mind she really liked- his soul. His nature, the way he cared so much, and how he would move forward with such determination. She could sit there and think for hours on all the reasons she admired him, but possibly the root of it was that Harry was her leader, whether either of them ever acknowledged it or not, and her leader was back.
'Besides, Dani's blue eyes are just as gorgeous', and she looked away with a blush at Dani's raised eyebrow, already staring. Kissing had been nice, why couldn't they go back to kissing?
Five knocks on the door startled her and answered her question. She locked eyes with Dani, and the Shifter stood and briefly checked herself in the mirror in the corner- 'Making sure nothing changed? Ask later.'- before drawing her wand and going to the door.
Hermione stood, also drawing her wand. While it wasn't as though either of them were allowed to do magic yet, having it in hand was still comforting.
Dani put her hand near the knob and called out, "Yes, who is it?"
"Wotcher! Lookin' for Mimic and Chestnut?"
Dani looked back at her and Hermione shrugged. Not like they had much to go on. Dani turned back and asked, "What color's your hair?"
"It's green, mate. Please no more questions, I'm running out of information Padfoot gave me right quick!"
It was Dani's turn to shrug at Hermione as she opened the door and stepped to the side, letting the green-haired woman in. The girl- as she was fairly young, perhaps in her 20s- was dressed rather unorthodox for a witch, what looked like some dark red leather duster thrown over a black shirt with a deep neckline and some dark trousers. They weren't Muggle trousers, Hermione could tell that right away- the cut was all wrong- but they were held up by a very Muggle studded belt, the kind that had recently become popular among the less conformist Muggle youth. Further emphasising her 'punk' look was a leather choker, some red fingerless cotton gloves, and a piercing on her right eyebrow. Most witches had pierced ears- even Hermione had gotten it done last year for the Yule Ball- but anything else was usually considered, well, unusual.
"Wotcher! That was some good paranoia, there. Let me guess... Chestnut," she said, pointing at Hermione. She turned to Dani behind her, having closed the door, "Which would make you Mimic. Wicked name, that- might have to steal it from you. Pretty sure it'd fit me better!"
Dani smirked and circled around the witch to stand by Hermione. "Oh, somehow I doubt that."
The green, short-haired woman raised her pierced eyebrow. "Oh do ya'?"
And then she wasn't green-haired anymore.
Hermione's mouth fell open as the witch in front of them changed, her hair turning red and lengthening, her body shrinking, until...
"Oh my God, another one..." Hermione heard herself mutter, looking at Dani. Except it was the witch, all her clothes the same, duster lightly brushing the floor now.
Dani, the one beside her, squealed. "Oh my God, another one! This is great, you can help me sign out downstairs! Wow, you're good, that's almost perfect and you didn't even touch me..."
The witch in front of them just looked confused. "Touch you, what? What are you talking about, another what?" she asked, as she morphed back into the form she came in with, though this time with short pink hair.
"Another Shapeshifter!" And, to illustrate her point, Dani Shifted into a tall blonde man with her startling blue eyes, her pale green blouse and plain jeans turning into a set of grey wizard's robes. With the minor similarities- namely the eyes and the bridge of the nose- Hermione assumed this was the 'father' Dani had mentioned.
The other apparent Shapeshifter, however, stumbled back and stared, clearly more shocked than they were. "Wha.. how..."
Hermione frowned. Even as much as things were not going as expected, this was odd. "You're not a Shapeshifter, are you Miss... er...?"
"T-Tonks... And no, I am d-definitely not a malicious creature." Tonks leaned forward to look into Dani's surprised eyes. "But neither are you... So, what...?"
Dani Shifted back into herself (which was apparently a grey area anyway, but Hermione avoided that train of thought) and took a half-step away from Tonks. "Uh, sorry, it's just... I guess I just assumed you were like me..."
"And what are you, exactly? Cause everything I know about Shapeshifters says they tend to be very hostile to humans, and they definitely don't carry wands. You're not a Metamorphmagus like me, unless you were doing some very clever wandless, non-verbal Transfiguration on your clothes."
Dani shook her head, "Uh, no... I'm definitely a Shapeshifter- or, I guess, I have the body of one? Now that I think about it, they were pretty specific about that..." she added under her breath. Upon noticing that Hermione and Tonks were staring, she flushed and stuttered, "W-well I mean, my mind, m-my magical core- my... soul?- are human. It's just... some people put me in a Shapeshifter's body on account of mine b-being on fire, and all that..."
Tonks put her hand on her hip and looked at Dani, Hermione looking between them, eyes wide. Finally the Metamorphmagus nodded to herself. "Alright, then. So, human Shapeshifter, what do I call you? Mimic fits, I'll admit, but it sure ain't your name."
"Ah, Dani. Danielle Rosewood."
Hermione interjected, asking the question she knew her still off-balance friend would be asking if she had her wits about her. "You're just going to accept it, just like that? No, 'who were they', no 'how did anybody manage that'?"
Tonks gave her a one-armed shrug. "Sure. Not the craziest thing I've heard all summer, that's for sure! Listen- Hermione, right? If You-Know-Who can come back from the dead in some ruddy graveyard, I've got no problems believing that Miss Skyes, here, is a human in a Shapeshifter's body." A full-body shrug, this time, accompanied by a somewhat exasperated look around. "Clearly, that's just the kind of world this is, now!"
Hermione thought about that, and couldn't exactly fault her logic. She could question it, for certain, but Tonks did have a point. Magic is still, well, magical, no matter what world you grew up in.
Tonks turned to Dani with a smile at her lost expression. "You've got sky-eyes, babe." Then, while Dani was still blushing and reeling from that compliment, the witch turned back to Hermione. "So, Padfoot says I'm to take you two to Headquarters, which means some side-along Apparating- which is a kind of loud teleportation- since the Floo downstairs ain't secure. I can only take one of you at a time, an-"
"Wait!" Dani yelled. "Where is Si- Padfoot staying? Is it... Is it safe? Could, say, Junior stay there with him?"
Hermione looked at Tonks, and saw an extremely curious expression. "Yeah...," she drawled out, hesitant. "But why would that matter to you?"
"Later," Hermione said, cutting off Dani and feeling horrible about it. She turned to her friend and said, "We can come back later, not like Tom is going to come in here, right? Even if we're gone all day, it'll look like we went in here and never came back out."
Dani nodded and let out a breath. "You're right, you're right. I guess this way I'll only have to explain it once, as well." She looked at Tonks, who was pretending not to listen in while examining Sif- whom Dani had re-disguised. "Alright, Tonks. If you could lock the door and silence the room? I'll go first, yeah?" she added, glancing at Hermione.
She smiled, knowing that Dani was eager to see Sirius again. "Of course. Just don't start the explanation without me, alright? It'll be easier if it's both of us."
Dani nodded, looking relieved. "Right."
"Alright then, ready!" Tonks said, whirling around from spelling the door. She was about to grab Dani's arm when she stopped. "Wait, I just locked the door, what if your folks come?"
Dani laughed, but it was slightly hollow. "I don't have parents, Tonks. I'm a Shapeshifter- I barely have an identity."
Tonks seemed a bit put-off by that, but nodded and took Dani's arm in her left hand. "Now hold on tight, and try not to breathe. It's not crucial, but Apparating is always a right bitch the first few times."
Dani took a moment to settle herself, then nodded to Tonks. Tonks raised her wand upright and turned on her heel, and then there was an excessively loud crack! Then they were both gone, Hermione feeling a bit foolish for shrieking.
Grimmauld Place, Islington, London;
August the Fifth, 1995;
In the last moments before the death of Harry Potter, he was hyper-aware of every minutia occurring around him. Aunt Petunia had been behind him, in the middle of reminding him that the potatoes needed to be steamed, not boiled. Across the room and over the bar of the kitchen, Dudley had been smirking about something, Harry didn't know what. Uncle Vernon was upstairs, likely in the bathroom by the particular way the house creaked. There was a fly on the wall by the icebox, which he thought was strange, given his Aunt's obsession with having a clean house. He was fairly certain though, after the fact, that he was the only person who had any idea what was happening, even as it occurred. The fireball expanded immediately, yet as he was floating in that... Void, he could recall it all perfectly. The moment the smell registered in his brain was the moment after the actual fire had engulfed his hand from lighting the burners. And everything after that was just agony. After dying, Dani had idly thought that nothing could ever compare- that she could weather anything after experiencing the sensation of every cell flash-boiling in tandem, every nerve firing and firing until they were all on fire.
After landing on the grass of a small park in the late afternoon, Dani tried to quantify the sensation of side-along Apparating. It was a bit like if you were stretched out too big in every direction, and simultaneously squeezed through a tube only a centimeter wide. She couldn't breathe- not that she was trying- she felt like her eyes were about to pop out of her skull. It was over much faster than the whirling gut-hook that was Portkey travel, but it was also much worse.
Dani thought that she could handle anything after what she went through. And she was right: dying- the fire- was worse still.
And so Dani took only a moment, really, to catch her breath. Tonks asked if she was alright, and Dani waved her off honestly in seconds. Tonks shrugged and started casting charms around them, seemingly using a few nearby trees and a bench as anchor points.
Honestly, the only thing she could compare dying to had been Voldemort's Cruciatus, and even that didn't quite stand up. Perhaps it was the result of reliving her- his- death in a seemingly infinite loop before the Overseer Court stepped in, but Dani almost felt like she could go a few rounds under old Tom's curse, now.
Dani started looking around. They were in a small park near some of those wealthy, tall, squished Muggle housing you could find in and around central London. Just as she was wondering what Sirius would be doing hiding around here, Tonks finished her security measures- Dani recognised a few of them, namely Muggle-repellant and curse protection.
"Alright, so. You familiar with the Fidelius Charm?" Dani was taken aback, but nodded. "Good. Now, Sirius said that Hermione said that you're trustworthy. And apparently Sirius trusts Hermione implicitly, probably because Harry trusted Hermione implicitly."
Dani couldn't help but interject. "As well he should- she's the most loyal friend you could ask for."
To her surprise, Tonks smiled. "And I dearly hope I get to see that for m'self, Skyes. I just need you to understand that this sort of thing, it ain't normally done- a Secret Keeper tellin' the Secret, 'nd all that."
Dani's eyes went wide. Was she...? "Are you saying you're...?"
Tonks just smirked enigmatically before continuing, "Now, Hermione trusts you, Harry trusts Hermione, Sirius trusts Harry, and I trust Sirius. So I need you to trust me- complete the circle, like." Tonks waved her wand around in a vague gesture as she said this. "It's not particularly important for the charms, or anything, but it'd make me feel loads better about this whole thing. Honestly, it's been a bit mental, you know? You're in the know, right, you get what's going on?"
Dani was going to like this witch, she could already tell. She loved the way the Metamorph's- 'Appropriate short-hand? Ask later'- mind worked. Feeling herself grinning like a madwoman- 'Merlin, that was way too easy to think,'- she said, "No, I get it, and I trust you. I... we'll say I've spoken to Harry at length, and leave it at that until we're, all four of us, together."
Tonks gave her a matching grin, which just surprised her more. "Ooh, I like surprises! Well, so long as you understand the situation- and that if I think you're against us at any point, then you're done- I suppose I shouldn't keep my cousin waiting. Dani, listen carefully: The Pound is located at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place."
The Shifter almost asked what Tonks meant by 'cousin', but almost immediately felt that strange phrase... echo in her head. Initially, it frightened her, for the fraction of a second that it existed. "What.. was that?" she asked, a little dazed.
Tonks started taking down the protections around them, but paused to explain. "The way the charm works basically means that the Secret is hidden from the minds of anybody that knew it, or try to learn it from any means." Dani regained her bearings and watched Tonks tuck her arms to her chest and cock her hip out, adopting a thinking pose. "Even trying to figure out the Secret from the missing facts is totally blocked. You can only learn about the Secret by one of a few methods of, like... direct communication with the Secret Keeper." Tonks smirked at her and tapped her nose with her wand. "Someone who simply knows the Secret, but is not the Keeper, can't tell you themselves. In order for the charm to exclude someone from its block, the Secret needs to be etched into your head."
Dani nodded slowly, sort of understanding it. She watched, silently, as Tonks finished removing their security. There were still questions she had: why couldn't someone who lived in the hidden place be the Keeper, for instance? What sort of secrets could be kept? Did it only work on locations, or could a concept be hidden? Because if so, Dani had a half-formed idea about how to reliably hide her identity.
She refrained from asking, though. It could wait, and she didn't think that was the sort of information to ask a stranger about. Tonks looked over at her, charms removed. "Alright. Short walk to Headquarters, I'll introduce you to Padfoot, then I'll head back for Chestnut. And then I'll need a nap, Morfin..." she muttered, just on the edge of Dani's hearing.
Dani followed Tonks out of the park, crossing a street that a street sign identified as Grimmauld Place. They stopped in front of Number Twelve, which Dani noticed looked significantly less cared-for than its neighbors. It was somehow severely out-of-place, while remaining functionally identical to the other houses around it. Tonks led her through the gate and up the weed-ridden path to the door, which she opened. When Dani stepped through with her, she was immediately struck by how dark it was. There were some gas-burning lanterns on the walls which did little to brighten the room, but that wasn't quite what she meant.
There was a certain feeling to the place that both intrigued and unsettled her. Cobwebs in the corners, a layer of dust in the very air, it was all very dark and dingy, but Dani got a sense of... something Dark with a capital 'D'. She wasn't sure entirely how, but she could feel a certain tangibility to it, and it seemed to be coming from somewhere. Multiple somewheres, actually. Tonks caught her eye and made a shushing gesture before moving forward. Dani leapt out and grabbed her arm, pulling the taller girl back.
"The hell are you doin'?" Tonks hissed.
Dani pointed down at the ground, where a particularly ugly umbrella stand modeled after a troll's foot sat. "That thing's cursed," she whispered.
Tonks looked at it and rolled her eyes. "Oh, I know, I always trip over the blasted thing-"
"No, no. I mean it's Dark. Like, actually cursed or something, don't you feel it?"
Tonks gave her a look, then glanced down at the (hopefully) fake foot. "No. But then again, this whole ruddy place is Dark, what with being the family home of the Blacks. Let's just get to the library quietly, follow me." Tonks took three steps around the umbrella stand before stopping and looking back at her with an appraising eye. "Hey... you let me know if I'm about to crash into another Dark object, yeah?"
Dani smiled nervously and nodded. "Yeah. 'Course." She wasn't fully sure she knew that she could, but she'd certainly try, at any rate.
Tonks smiled at her- which did really dumb things to Dani's stomach, fuck- and said, "You're a beaut, Skyes!" before turning her back and walking further into the house.
Dani forced her mind to calm, and tried to cool her face through force of will as she followed the witch. Becoming a girl had entirely failed to better prepare her for compliments, or deal with attention from pretty girls. 'Or pretty boys, for that matter,' she thought nervously, thinking back to yesterday at the ice cream parlor. It was... nice, in a way, no matter where it came from. Made her feel kind of good- but she also had no idea how to deal with it, and that feeling made her uncomfortable. If she even had a few inklings of a way to reasonably respond to that sort of thing, she felt it might not affect her so badly.
On the way up the stairs, Dani saw the first real indication- beyond a vague feeling- that this house once belonged to a Dark family. "Oh God..." she whispered, looking at the shriveled up, severed house elf heads on the wall.
"Just keep going," Tonks whispered back, leading her up to the second floor. She opened a door and gestured her inside.
Somehow, she wasn't prepared to see him.
"Mimic, I presume. I'm-"
"Sirius," she breathed, taking a few steps forward. They were in a dusty library, Sirius had been pacing in front of one of the armchairs. He... looked better. Not his best, probably, but Dani was happy to see his clothes were clean and intact- nice, even- and his hair was clean, though still long and unkempt. His eyes were still sunken, but they weren't hollow like they had been when she had seen him last year.
Those eyes widened slightly and she belatedly realized that she was staring as well. "I.. suppose Hermione has brought you up to speed. How about we start with your name and how you fit into all this while Nymphadora goes and retrieves her, eh?"
She blinked. "Nympha...?" Dani asked, thrown for a loop.
It was Tonks who answered, growling, "And that's three. For the last time, cousin, don't call me Nymphadora, you KNOW I hate my first name. The next time you pull that shite, I'm hexing your bollocks in a knot!" In a complete face-turn, Tonks smiled at Dani. "You'll be alright here, Skyes. Just don't let the old dog bully you. I'll be back in a tick." And with that, she left, closing the door behind her.
Sirius chuckled as he sat down, drawing her attention. "I knew her when she was still in nappies. When she was first learning her name, she'd call herself 'Nympie'. Now she just goes by her last name." He looked up at her and smiled kindly. "I think I heard her say your name was Skyes?"
Dani sat down across from him and chuckled nervously. "Ah, no. It's Dani, actually. Danielle Rosewood. Tonks is calling me that b-because of my eyes, I think. 'Sky eyes', she says." Dani felt her face heat up slightly, but consciously paid it no mind. There was nothing wrong with being happy that somebody noticed her eyes- eyes that she purposefully made to be, if not pretty, at least startling
Sirius barked out a laugh and nodded. "That does sound like her! So, how exactly do you fit into all of this? You and Hermione said that you... had some information about- about Harry?"
Dani felt so bad for him in that moment; he sounded like he was trying not to get his hopes up, and failing. She had to tide him over until Hermione got there. "Ah, yes, though I'd rather not get too into it until she gets here. A lot of it is... pretty unbelievable, and I'd really appreciate her support when I explain." She could see in his eyes that he wasn't satisfied, and she worried her lip for a moment. "I can try to answer some questions in the meantime, if you like?"
Sirius opened his mouth instantly, but hesitated. He worked his jaw a few times before finally asking, "Is Harry alive?"
Dani grimaced, then smiled. "Of course you'd go for the hard one, first." Sirius chuckled, but looked at her intently. She sighed, "... The answer is double-edged, so brace yourself. Harry James Potter is dead," She head Sirius give out a choked gasp and hurried to continue, "But! The boy you knew, who he was, what he is? That lives on. And he is not out of reach- I promise you, after today, you'll be able to see him again, and speak with him whenever you like. You just... need to trust me, I guess."
Sirius stared at her, making her squirm after a minute. Finally, he said, "I.. don't think I understand. Is- is he a spirit?"
Dani sighed, really not feeling like she was explaining this well. "No, he's not. It's hard to explain like this. Once Hermione gets here and can back me up, I'll be able to really tell you what's going on. I guess.. the most I feel comfortable saying right now.. is that Harry James Potter is dead- but Harry's alive." She grimaced, "I know that doesn't make much sense, and is probably frustrating as hell, but I did warn you that it was unbelieveable."
"Hermione believes it." Dani's eyebrows went up as Sirius leaned forward and looked into her eyes. When he spoke, it was slow, deliberate. "It sounds like you're the one with the answers, regardless. Hermione said that the information... 'fell into her lap'. If I was a betting man, I'd say that you met Hermione, learned she was looking for Harry, and convinced her that the information you had was true." He put his hands up in a placating gesture, "Not saying that you're being untrue, just that you managed to make Hermione believe you, no matter how unbelievable your story. That, itself, has impressed me already. If you want to wait until you have her support, I won't rush you. I just want you to know: whatever you did to convince her is probably enough to convince me, as well."
The way he spoke, the sheer earnest tone as he all but begged her to tell him... Dani felt her eyes get wet and turned them down to her lap, her voice trembling as she said, "I-I... I told her... I told her some things th-that only she and Harry knew. Sh-.. She kept asking for m-more, of course," she added, chuckling weakly. She looked up into his eyes. "I am... deeply sorry to say that I don't think I know of anything that only you and H-Harry would know about." She took a steadying breath and smiled at him, however. "When Hermione gets here, though, I'll have a more... compelling argument for you." A thought came to her, and she bit her lip again, wondering if she should go that far. 'Fuck it.' "You can ask some other questions, if you like, but... Perhaps, maybe... Do you remember when you and Harry were coming out from under the Whomping Willow?" She saw his eyes widen dramatically and knew she had made the right decision. She smiled at him and said, "That meant so much to him, you know? What you two talked about... It was kind of the..." Dani felt a twisting in her chest, a panic welling up in her that she took a breath to squash. It was stupid, the degree to which talking about her- his- relatives gave her anxiety. The ingrained fear of being abnormal was suffocating, but Danielle was not Harry. She had to remind herself of that somewhat- and it was also slightly inaccurate- but it was what got her through the irrational panic. "It was the first time someone had seemed happy about the idea of being his family."
It was Sirius's turn to tear up and lean back in his seat, though he smiled brightly at her. "I don't even know how you could know that, but thank you."
It was at that moment that the door opened again, and in walked Hermione and Tonks. Dani smiled at them, but noticed Hermione looking between her and Sirius incredulously.
"Sirius, are you-? Dani! What did you do?!" Hermione said, glaring at her.
Dani recoiled, stammering, trying to explain, while Sirius just laughed. "Ah, don't worry about it Hermione. Come, sit! It's good to see you again. Did you enjoy your early birthday present?"
Hermione smiled and sat down on the loveseat with Tonks. "The owl was a wonderful gift Sirius, thank you."
Dani perked up. "Owl? What?"
Hermione just gave her a look that said 'Later.'
Sirius leaned forward and looked between the two younger girls. "So. Now that you're both here, how about we get down to business? Danielle, here, has said that Harry is dead, but still around, still alive. Care to explain a bit better, now?"
Dani swallowed- and when that failed to remove the lump, she coughed and cleared her throat. "Right... Well, you were wondering how I knew all of that. About Harry, about what you and he talked about. I'm sure, by now, you're wondering where the bloody hell I came from- just sort of showed up and claimed to know Harry, didn't I? Well, I was born on November 10, 1980, raised and homeschooled in Norwich, but our house burned down recently. My dad got a job curse-breaking for Gringotts, and so now we can afford to send me to Hogwarts." She sighed, knowing that her tone was completely failing to sell the lie. "At least, that's the story everyone needs to believe." Dani stood up and removed her hair tie, letting her red locks fall straight. "In truth, I was born July 31, 1980, probably in or around Godric's Hollow." She ignored the straightening of Sirius's back, or the quiet gasp from Tonks. "Our house did sort of burn down, I think, but it was when I was a year old, on Halloween. I was then raised with my Muggle relatives in Surrey, who trea- ... treated me terribly," she choked out, forcing herself passed it. "I've gone to Hogwarts for the last four years, and despite almost getting myself and others killed every year, I've really, actually enjoyed myself immensely." She Shifted, here, turning her hair jet-black and starting to shorten it. "A few days ago- on my birthday, actually- that house burned down, too, and I died." Her eyes lost their unique bright blue shine and instead became, she knew, a positively electric green. Her hair was cropped short, now, sticking up and out at odd angles, and her face and body were slowly becoming that of her old identity. Her- his- voice becoming deeper as he went, Dani continued, "I'm not supposed to explain the details of what happened next, but a group of very powerful people came and told me that I had a role to fulfill, first. So they gave me- my mind, my... soul- this body- the body of a Shapeshifter, I'm told. So that I could be anyone I needed to be. So that I could fulfill my destiny." Dani scoffed, though it almost came out as a sob for some reason. "I never put much stock in people talking about destiny, but after Dumbledore, and now them... I don't know, I guess knowing for certain that you have one is comforting, in a weird way."
Dani- now Harry wearing a green polo shirt and men's blue jeans- took a breath, taking in the shocked faces of Sirius and Tonks, thankful for the beaming smile Hermione was giving him. "I'm Harry James Potter, but Harry James Potter died. He had a purpose- a reason for living beyond simple life- and so now I'm Danielle Rosewood. I have the same purpose, with a better drive... and, hopefully, the element of surprise. It's still me, I'm just... not him anymore." And to illustrate her point, she Shifted back into her base form. Out of steam and standing awkwardly, she shrugged and said, "Not when I don't have to be, anyway."
Hermione was beaming at her, which made her feel a little better, but the other two were worryingly silent as Dani sat back down, sort of shrinking a little into the armchair. A vision of Venus saying 'I told you so' flashed through her mind, but thankfully it didn't stay long.
Sirius eventually said, slowly, "So... Let me see if I've got the gist of this, assuming you're telling the truth. You died. But because of the prophecy... you were given a new. Body."
Dani nodded, looking at him from under her bangs, entirely too aware of how ridiculous it sounded.
Sirius wasn't done, though. "And I know you're telling the truth, because...?"
Dani swallowed, suddenly very unsure that any of this was a good idea. She chewed on her lip and tried to think of a way to prove it to him.
"Because she proved it to me, Sirius." Dani nearly jumped at the voice, and looked over at Hermione. The bushy brunette was staring directly at Sirius, unflinching. "We bumped into each other on accident, and she could have just let me go on about my day. But instead she showed me who she was, told me what had happened. Like you, I didn't believe her at first. I wanted to, as I'm sure you do, but I couldn't. I made her prove it to me, and you know what? She did. Just like she always did- just like Harry did- I asked her to do something impossible, and she just... does it." She turned to look at her then, and smiled. Dani flushed red, still looking at her in mild awe. "Harry's never given me a reason not to trust him. And Dani knows things that only Harry could possibly know, things that he- being who he is- would have no reason to tell anyone. Dani's convinced me: she is what's left of Harry, packed into a pretty new package, with a new attitude." Hermione looked back at Sirius then, saving Dani the embarrassment of continuing to lock eyes with her. "Is there nothing you can ask her? Nothing that only you and Harry would know about?"
Sirius was looking much less composed by the end of Hermione's impassioned monologue, but he still took some time to think. Finally, he matched eyes with Dani and said, "The night You-Know-Who came back, after Harry was safe, he was able to see me. Where?"
Dani felt that Sirius was being much less cautious than Hermione had been, but supposed they hadn't had many opportunities to speak alone- something she dearly hoped to rectify. "In Dumbledore's office. You weren't transformed- you helped me into a chair."
Sirius, though, was apparently more thorough than Dani had initially given him credit for, as he had only just begun. What followed was a series of questions, likely to make up for that very shortcoming she wanted to resolve. "Dumbledore has a phoenix in his office. What did it do while we were there?"
This, too, was easier than Hermione's questions- perhaps because it was a much more recent event. "Fawkes stood on my knee for a while. At some point, I remember he cried on my bum leg- fixed the damage that spider had done.." She couldn't remember anything else the bird might have done, but Sirius seemed satisfied with that, as he moved on.
"Harry had told us what happened when You-Know-Who was resurrected. When he and Harry crossed wands, what happened?"
"Our wands, our spells, they... they connected. Dumbledore said it was because our wand cores came from the same phoenix- Fawkes, actually- that the brother wands wouldn't work properly against each other. Er, we struggled for a while... Eventually I pushed the spell back to Voldemort-" Dani paused, surprised by their own surprise, all three of them recoiling to varied degrees. "And... from there..." Dani struggled to describe it. "Dumbledore said it was a Priori Incantatem of the last murders Voldemort's wand had been used for. Er... Ghosts- no, no, he called them echoes. Echoes of people started showing up."
Sirius interrupted her for a moment, his eyes slightly wild as he leaned forward, "Who? Tell me, exactly. Who came out of his wand, and in what order?"
"Well, C-Cedric, first... Then an old man- I don't think I ever knew who he was. Then it was Bertha Jorkins, and after that- ..." Dani felt her throat getting hot, and she closed her eyes, forced herself to speak, though hoarse, "M-my p-parents..."
Dani's eyes snapped open as she felt Sirius's weight crash into her, nearly knocking her chair over. His arms encircled her, and his shoulders were shaking. She threw her arms around him immediately, a sound that was a mix of laugh, sob, and grunt escaping her chest. Her heart rose from her stomach, the anxiety washing out of her almost instantly. Dani leaned forward to properly embrace her godfather, just holding him tighter whenever he whispered another apology. "It's okay- I get it, Sirius. I get it... I promised you, didn't I? That you'd see me again? Well, promise fulfilled: you can talk to me any time you want, Sirius."
"H-Haa-arry.." he sobbed.
Shaking her head, Dani said, "It's Dani, now; it has to be." Despite herself, she rolled her eyes and looked at Hermione over the man's shoulder. "Honestly, is this how it's going to be every time I tell someone? Merlin... it's a bit exhausting, isn't it?"
Hermione, blessedly, just laughed at her. It felt like Sirius had, as well, shortly before he pulled back and wiped his face on his sleeve. He smiled at her, looking relieved, and seemed to examine her face, as though seeing it for the first time. Dani heated up slightly, but met his gaze evenly, her own smile in place.
If he had been planning on saying anything, though, it was interrupted by Tonks. "Er, I've just got one question, if you don't mind?" Dani looked at her with Sirius, startled- she'd almost forgotten the pink-haired witch was there- but nodded. "Sorry, probably none of my business- not like I'd judge or anything, it's just- Ah... why a chick?"
Dani groaned and felt Sirius shift his gaze back to her, clearly curious as well. She extricated herself from his grasp and got up to stand in front of a bookshelf. She wasn't looking at any of the books, just needed to not look at their faces just then. Crossing her arms over her stomach self-consciously, she started, "I was hoping I could avoid that question as much as possible. Don't get me wrong, I have reasons- not many, and most of them are a bit rubbish, honestly- but I have them. Like I told Hermione, it was partly impulse, partly curiosity, and partly a vague idea of strategy- don't ask." She couldn't help it, she felt herself getting frustrated whenever someone questioned that decision- especially herself. She sighed sharply, a bit of irritation leaking out. "I don't mean to be rude, that question just irritates me for some reason, and now I'm irritated at myself for being irritated at you all. I just- it's my decision, you know? It's not like it matters, right?" she asked exasperatedly, spinning around. She flinched though, because Sirius had come to stand a few paces behind her while she was talking.
He was smiling kindly. "It doesn't matter one bit, Prongslet."
Dani smiled, but then mixed it with a half-frown, somehow. She shoved her index finger in his chest and said, "No. No 'Prongslet', no 'Harry'. I'm Danielle Rosewood- because that's my decision. Call me Dani, or Mimic, or something." She full-on grinned and gestured to Tonks with her chin. "Same as with Tonks, you call me anything from my 'past life', as it were, and you're just asking for trouble!" They enjoyed a bit of a chuckle together before Dani got a little somber. "I'll need your help in this, Sirius, Hermione, Tonks. Some of the people I may tell are... going to be a bit more stubborn about that. You lot using my new identity will... you know, make things smoother."
Tonks piped up, "You can count on us! We'll respect you, Skyes- I can still call you Skyes, yeah?"
Dani giggled- and felt momentarily mortified about doing so in front of Sirius, but that was dumb and therefore not worth feeling. "'Course, Tonks. It's.. actually really nice of you."
Sirius put his hand on her shoulder and smiled, drawing her attention. "Will you ever stop making me proud of you?"
Dani blushed, but chuckled, "Merlin, I hope not..."
His smile widened a bit, and he said, "I'm just glad you're safe. It is both very good to meet you, and good to have you back, Dani."
There was a sort of explosion in her stomach as she beamed at him. Before she could even calm down or sort out how many feelings were rushing through her, she said, "Is that offer of a different home still open, Sirius?"
He grinned at her, and her heart soared ever higher. "Sweetheart, at this point, I insist."
Dani felt warm tears in her eyes as she nearly tripped in her haste to embrace her godfather. She could hardly believe it- it had been so scary for a while, but she had done it; and finally fulfilled a dream of hers, as well.
For perhaps the first time since she left Hogwarts as Harry, Dani truly felt like she was home.
If you can't tell, I'm a huge fan of Tonks.
Boy, I gotta say, it's not easy writing any of these stories when they get emotional. I'm a very empathic person, doubly so when I write, so I always get extremely emotionally invested in those scenes. If I say a character is crying, there's a good 70% chance that I only committed to writing that because, having emulated the feelings they had for myself, I felt like tearing up. No joke.
I'll be going out of town for next week, but Guardian Flames will likely be the next thing to get an update after that.
Let me know what you thought about Dani's decisions, as well as how I've been doing portraying everyone. Why is Tonks the Secret Keeper? Why is Number Twelve being called 'The Pound', and not 'The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix'? How about you try and answer those questions in your reviews with your own thoughts as well, and I'll give you the real reason later in the story? I love hearing what you all think about what's going on, and reading everyone's theories!
Hope you all enjoyed!