Try this on for a 'real' animagus ceremony!
Acknowledgements - All the usual suspects (IP82, ChuckdaTruck, Nukular Winter, Sirius009 and Nonjon) did their part to help shape the plot of this chapter. Beta work by the always rockin FairyQilan.
Chapter 11 - They're Fast but They're Lazy
The locals call it 'The Descent'. You call it having your humanity stripped from you layer by layer. It is one of the most uncomfortable experiences in your life as your consciousness is detached from control of your body. Quite remarkable, given the number of uncomfortable situations you have found yourself in. You feel hunger in a way that you have never felt before. Thirst becomes an all-consuming need as you thrash on the ground. You crawl towards a dish someone set before you and greedily slurp at the liquid. They continue chanting, but you only manage a growl of hunger, thirst and annoyance. It's too hot. It's too crowded. There's not enough to drink!
One of the few lucid thoughts that cross your mind as you blearily gaze around the room is that Thundercloud was clearly worried about the wrong boy as his granddaughter, 'Walks With Large TaTas and Future Back Pain' is rutting around with one of the other men like an animal in heat. Must try to remember to ask Thundercloud if he is ready to be a Great Grandaddy? It's getting harder to think. You hear words, but they aren't making sense.
"Damn! Thundercloud's English boy is going fast!" Voices whisper in front of you. The must be talking about you. Normally you'd object and not want to be seen as something special or anything, but in this case if going faster will get you an effing bite to eat and some goddammed water, then by all means let's move it along! One of the others moves towards your water dish. You shove him away with your arm territorially. A primal growl of anger emerges from your throat and the whimpering interloper retreats.
"Oh that'll leave a mark. The boy's nails are extending. I think he's starting to get a bit of a muzzle. What do you think? Canine? Feline? Maybe a bear?" The disconnected voices chuckle, you have no clue why. A light clinking sound can be heard. The faint coppery smell of blood reaches your nose. Meat? Meat would be good right now, wouldn't it? Juicy, tasty meat it would taste so good.
Minutes pass as you continue to lap up the water, desperate to slake your thirst. The heat stifles you. "Can't tell in this light, but I think I see whiskers. Two sickles on feline. That ain't no bear." You don't care what they are saying or whom they are talking about. You need more water and MEAT!
"Definitely, a cat. Look at the bone structure changing. Better collar him, now. Give me some gauntlets. He ain't shrinking either. Gonna, be a big kitty cat aren'tcha? Fur's coming in dark. Some kind of Cougar? Panther?" More clinking noises as rough hands grab at you. You express your displeasure as something slides around your neck. "Easy there boy. No need to get testy. Just so we can follow you. Hey! Look at the patterns on his back in the fur. Is he a leopard?"
You make out Thundercloud's voice, "Jaguar. He's a jaguar. Sometimes called a Black Panther."
"He's a Jaguar! You're an Eagle! You know the legends."
"Yes. I know the legends. They do not matter right now. I think he is almost ready to hunt. We should lead him outside. Are the trackers ready at the other end?"
"Yeah. C'mon boy. Got some nice tasty meat outside for you." The wonderful smell of meat tantalizes your nostrils.
"Here kitty, kitty." Something wet slaps on the stone in front of you. You pounce on it and like that, the tiny piece of meat is gone. "Give me more you bastard!" You want to scream. It comes out as wailing noise. Another piece hits the ground, but farther away. You should get up but it is much easier to move, as you follow the man with the plate full of succulent, delicious meat. It's cooler now and you can smell the outside air. Freedom! You continue to follow the man who leaves a trail of meat for you. He steps outside the building and disappears leaving your world spinning. You leap forward to get the meat, but it too is gone. The tiny part of you that is still clinging to your humanity recognizes the pull of a Portkey. The man didn't leave, you did. You land on your feet and growl in anger, as you look around the air. Many people hover above you on brooms. They're making noises amongst themselves. You don't care. Perhaps one of them would come just a bit closer?
"No ... meat ... kitty. ... more go get some ... there! Alright drive him ..." Stinging hexes hit your haunches. This time you growl in pain as you leap and snarl at them. They are too high. So you run. You run fast away from the pain. Get to safety. Hard to think!
You make it into the woods and slow down hearing the broom riders circling above you. They aren't hurting you anymore. Smells from the woods fill your senses. A twig snaps under the weight of your front feet. You didn't used to have a foot there did you? You're confused.
"Careful! ...above the tree line. Cats like him can climb. I don't ... ." You used to know what this means. You don't care. Hunger rules your thoughts.
Staying here isn't a good idea. No meat here. You move off into the woods, in search of something. Part of you says run and be free from the meat in the air. You ignore them. They ignore you. You are fast, but stealthy. Stalk your prey quietly. Strike quickly from a close distance. You sniff the wind. There is prey that way. You catch the sent on the light breeze. Your eyes are search the trees and the brush - a flash of brown. You pounce! You miss! The tiny morsel evades you into the brush. It is too thick for you to follow. You want to whine, but noise warns other meat. So you stalk further into the forest in search of more prey. Movement becomes more fluid. Senses sharpen. Before you were noisy and loud. You make much less noise. You smell water. It's not far. You need to drink. Meat needs to drink. Water is a good place to look for meat.
You quicken your pace. Water is close now. A small stream is in front of you. The noise from the running water will hide your approach. You follow the stream, straining to hear the sounds of prey. There! The moon's light reflects off the moving water and you see a shape. Meat! It is a large prey. It looks fast. It reminds you of something ... someone ... Prongs? You can almost remember, but you can't. This Prongs is meat and you want meat. It drinks from the stream. You will need to chase it. It will try and cross the water. That will slow it.
Prongs looks up and sees you. You stare at Prongs. Prongs stares at you. Prongs knows what you are going to do. You know what you are going to do. Prongs looks away and starts to run back into the forest away from the water. You leap after him. The footing by the water is bad, but you are better suited for slippery footing. Meat charges through the brush. You chase knowing that it is slowing the meat more than it is slowing you. You leap at the meat and swipe the hind legs. Your weight knocks it to the ground. It struggles to stand and run, but you pounce fully on it's back and sink your teeth into the base of the neck.
You avoid the prongs as it thrashes and the sweet taste of meat trickles down your throat. Prongs stops thrashing. You can enjoy your meat now. Greedily, you tear at the hide covering the meaty flesh on it's side. The taste. The meat is good! You eat until you again feel the sting in you backside. The flying meat has returned. They are hurting you again. You snarl at them. This is your meat! Not theirs! More pain. It drives you from your kill. Your kill rises and floats up to flying meat. It is confusing. The meat was dead and now it moves again. You don't understand. You flee from the pain and confusion. You want to kill the flying meat. They stole from you. You run into the night and circle back to the stream. Thirst! Water after meat is good. You taste the stream. You smell blood, but that leads you back to where your meat was stolen. Go back to the stream. Follow the stream and look for more meat.
Hours later you are stalking smaller meat. The meat is moving through the brush. You don't want to lose it like first meat or have it stolen like other meat. You are prepared to pounce when you are flung through the air. This happened before didn't it? You hit the ground and try to run, but the flying meat and their swirls of light stop you. You can't move. Flying meat is there riding their big sticks and pointing their little sticks at you.
"Ready ... br... out...." Meat makes no sense. Let go! Want to run free! You feel something happening. Something different. It feels wrong. Four feet feel right. This feels not right. Vision is blurry. Something, everything wrong.
"...keep ...petri...til...stands something."
'No! Release me or suffer!' You want to hiss and snarl but you can't. Still pertri... petri ... frozen.
"C'mon back. ...on my voice. That's it focus. You can hear me. Blink twice if you can understand me." The voice sounds familiar. You try to follow it. Thoughts flowing together like mud. Who are you? What are you? Meat is still saying something. Concen... Concen... Concentrate! Focus! Clear your mind! Who used to say that to you? Greasy meat! Greasy git! The Snake man! No Snape, Severus Snape. That's it, remember the Snape. Bezoar from a goat's stomach. Potter! Five points from Gryffindor for breathing. Snivellus! They called him Snivellus in school.
"He's coming around. How many fingers am I holding up? Blink and tell me how many." You blink two times. Wait does the thumb count? You blink three times. "Oops confused him with my thumb. Damn. Always do that. We're going to keep you in a body bind for five more minutes. Try to remember your name. How old you are. The first spell you ever cast."
Spells? You cast spells? You try to say something, but still your lips won't move. It must be one of those spell things. Someone once told you magic wasn't real. He was fat and didn't chew with his mouth closed. His name was Shithead. No, that's not right. His name was Vernon. He lied to you. Magic does exist. An even larger man who smelled like stale cheese showed you. He took you to a place to buy things. You have a wand! Your wand is holly and phoenix feather. You can fly a broom just like the flying meat - err men.
Body bind, it's why you can't move. Per... Petrificus Totalus. Whip wand forward, jab directly at target and incant spell. You remember a girl using it on a boy, who was trying to stop you from going somewhere. Neville! Neville Longbottom. He likes plants. You know him. You're a wizard. Your names Harry Black! No, it's James Potter! No that's Prongs! Wait Prongs? Prongs was in the forest. That wasn't Prongs. Prongs died a long time ago. You're Harry Potter. You're pretending to be James Black. There's a crazy Korean hitwizard, a troll with girl problems, a naked veela and a boy named Chico. Wait go back to the naked veela for a minute. That was nice. This is the United States. Thundercloud brought you here. He's going to show you how to be an animage. No, that's not right - or is it? You're an animagus! Holy shit! You're an animagus! Take that, you miserable Hogwart's fucks!
Five minutes later they set you free. For the last two minutes, you've been waiting to throw up. There's half a deer's raw heart in your stomach. The nausea is overpowering. You puke like Seamus after a Hogsmeade weekend. He's usually so plastered he can't stand up by the time he gets into the tower. Poor Dean ends up dragging him back into the common room. He's already an alcoholic, damn lush!
All things considered, it's nasty - very nasty. You continue to empty your stomach. Apparently you had quite a bit to eat. What a mind numbing experience! It was all so primitive.
"Here. Lets get you cleaned up." Thundercloud hands you a towel and helps you to your feet. There are three others standing around you. One of them floats the mess you just created into a bowl. The carcass of the deer you killed sits next to a workbench.
"Do you want a potion?" You violently shake your head no, not trusting your raw throat or your ability to form a whole sentence.
"Here are your glasses." Thundercloud hands you your glasses back. Something is wrong. It's all blurry. You take the cursebreaker glasses off and look. You're visions changed. Things aren't as blurry as they used to be.
"Glasses not right," you mutter. You sound like Hack. Hey! You remember Hack. You're almost back to normal - well normal for you that is.
"The change can do that. The longer you spend in your jaguar form, the more it will correct your vision. In a few weeks you will see like a normal person, or at least your prescription will be very weak. One of my daughters is married to an optometrist. I will ask him to nullify the vision charm on these until your sight stabilizes. Even at my age, my vision remains as sharp as ever." That's what you are, a jaguar! The cat, not the cool sports car.
"Should I change again?"
"No. First we will make your totem. The magic you bind to the totem will strengthen the connection between you and your animal. The totem will allow your animal senses and strength to crossover into your human form. In simplest terms, you have a human form and an animal form. You are both and more than both at the same time. Start thinking about it like that." You remember Thunderclouds totem. Yes, you want one of those. He leads you to a bench set out in this open area. You consciously stay away from the bowl containing your vomit and choke back a bit of bile in your throat.
"What do I do?"
"Take another bowl and this stone file. Use the file on the antlers and collect the shavings. The blood, meat and antler shavings capture the essence of your kill. Once you feel you have enough bone shavings, we will move to the piece of holly I have and I will show you the shaping spell to create the totem carving. Take your time, James. Call for me when you are done."
He starts to leave, but you stop him. "Did your granddaughter find her form?"
"Starless Sky succeeded in becoming a falcon. The spirits of flight run strong in my bloodline. I am very proud of her. Only two of the others succeeded. One of them never succeeds. This is his eighth time. It is possible he is becoming addicted to the cleansing potions, but the elders do not have the heart to refuse his requests to participate. The other two became a bison and a llama or alpaca. They are still trying to figure out which. They thought you were initially a leopard or a cougar, but you are a jaguar." Something stirs in your memories from last night. It's on the tip of your tongue, but you can't quite remember it.
As he walks away, you are vaguely aware of the other three staring at you. It's annoying. You set to work with the file and the bowl, let's try not to think about what's in the other bowl shall we? After ten minutes of collecting shavings, you feel like it is enough and call the eagle animagus back over to you. He starts showing you the shaping spell.
"Why are the other's staring at me?" You practice the intricate wand movements he just demonstrated.
"There hasn't been a jaguar animagus in over two hundred years. The jaguar is the ultimate predator in the Americas. Everything else is prey to it. There is also the matter of certain legends surrounding our forms."
You stop what you are doing and look at the old man next to you. There's a feeling of dread in your stomach, like right after your name was called for the tournament. "What legends?"
"The jaguar and the eagle were the two most powerful tribes of the great Mayan empire, founded in part by the survivors of the Atlantis cataclysm. The clans fought for dominance and control of the land long before it was even called the Americas. As the empire collapsed, it was said that during times of strife and hardship the jaguar would return. The jaguar knights of the Aztec empire were fierce warrior mages, who were feared during their reign. Each time there has been a period of darkness, there has been one or more jaguars. The last two were the source of the darkness and were difficult to vanquish. Your presence is not seen as a good omen."
"Am I about to be hexed out of town?"
"No. Specifically there are myths that speak of the jaguar sired by the ancient eagle and a great war that will be. The elders are wary of myths and legends. The younger generations do not put as much stock in these things. They reject our culture and seek lives for themselves away from our traditional lands."
"Do you have a record of this legend?" Are legends like prophecies? You hate prophecies. Damn things follow you around like the plague, don't they?
"No. It is a verbal tradition passed down through history. The seer who supposedly originated the stories lived six hundred years ago. The exact wording does not exist anymore. Most are skeptical, but your appearance has unsettled things. People fear change. Live to my age and you will have seen too much change to remember. "
"Do we at least win?"
"In a war, no one ever wins. Since the exact wording is gone no one really knows for certain. Some doubt that any prophecy was ever actually made and merely concocted during the rise of one of the Dark Wizards, who had that form."
"Damn!" No other words come to mind. Actually several words come to mind, but it probably wouldn't do to be seen cursing like a sailor in front of people who are already wary of you.
"You have already fought the darkness before. You are fighting the coming darkness now. This should be nothing new for you. The English call you their 'chosen one'. If I may borrow from our good friend Mr. Kwan - 'Quit whining like stupid cook'!" You bristle under his harsh whispers.
"Doesn't make it any easier," you shoot back angrily. Your first attempt at the shaping spell fails miserably. It is more glob than jaguar. Thundercloud sighs and pulls out another block of wood.
"On the contrary, your animal spirit is a representation of you. You embody the ultimate predator. Your reflexes will grow quicker. Your senses will sharpen. Your strength will increase. When you are finally at peace with the spirit that dwells within, those who would cross wands with you will wish they hadn't."
Nice pep talk. "What do you mean? When I'm at peace with the spirit." The second attempt has a bit more definition. It is a glob with four legs and a tail now.
"It will take time for you to learn to control yourself. As you can see from your attempts, when you perform a spell, it hardly ever works on the first time, does it? You learn through repetition to control the flow of magic through your body. By becoming your animal, you introduce a brand new magic into your entire being. You sense of perception is different. Control is a word for the Europeans. They seek to suppress the animal instincts by their perversions of the change. It cheats them of the full benefits of having an animal instinct. You do not want to control your animal. You should strive to make an agreement with the animal within you. When the two forces coexist inside you instead of fighting for dominance, then you will know the true power at your disposal."
It makes sense, but it also makes you worried. People have always accused you of being a moody, emotional person or brat - depending on whom you talk to. You don't like the idea of not being in control. "How long before I make peace with my animal spirit?" Another block of holly is sacrificed in the name of higher education.
"Days? Weeks? Months? Years? That is for you to decide. I will show you meditation techniques. They are also useful for the Occulmency you wish to learn. You will spend at least an hour a day in your form. I will supervise you and we will trade your collar for a wristband so that you can be tracked, if your animal spirit decides to take a journey into the countryside. Now let us return to destroying another piece of holly. You need to relax and forget this anxiety that possesses you. You learn quickly. I am certain you will learn this just as quickly. Now focus on your animal. See it in your minds eye. Breathe deeply and cast the spell."
It still takes two more times, but don't they say that the fifth time is the charm? In your hand you now hold a miniature jaguar. Its mouth is open in silent roar and its right front foreleg is slightly raised with tiny claws extended. It feels right, doesn't it?
"This is it," you say, proud of your work.
"Indeed it is. Now, for the next part we will soak it in a mixture of your blood, the blood of your kill and the sap from the holly tree. The totem will soak through the night. Tomorrow, we will coat it in the shavings of the antlers, wrap it in the heart meat and cook the meat over a magical flame. I will assist you with the spellwork. It is my role as the one that 'sired' you. Shaping is the most complex part. Everything else is rather mundane. A cord from the hide and sinew will be made for you to wear it around your neck." A knife opens a wound in your palm and you drip your blood into a bowl.
"Sounds good to me. When can we get something to eat? Preferably cooked." You say eliciting a chuckle from the old man. Using a simple healing spell you close the gash on your palm.
He leads you off towards his home. There seems to be a picnic or some kind of celebration in progress. They must be celebrating Starless Sky's success. You see Kwan sitting in a corner by himself. You load up a paper plate and excuse yourself as several people converge on Lone Thundercloud.
The Korean hitwizard idly eats a roast beef sandwich absolutely slathered in mustard. "You make quite a stir with these people. They are talking about signs of darkness and bad omens. Even when you try to hide, you still get noticed. Learn from your animal. It is supposed to be quiet and stealthy. Otherwise, you are stupid dead kitty cook, whose luck finally ran out."
Well it's about as close to a compliment as you are going to get, so might as well role with it. Maybe someone would be kind enough to carve that on your tombstone. Kwan seems to know a lot about being an animagus. "Are you an animagus?"
Kwan shakes his head no and returns to his food. You have no problem eating in silence. You practically inhale the first plate of food. The roast seemed a bit overdone, but it didn't look it. That starts you thinking that you might start preferring meat that isn't cooked as much. It's worth asking Thundercloud about later.
"I'm going back for a second plate. Want anything?" Kwan continues chewing and points at a can next to his plate, the can's label says 'Milwaukee's Best'.
You approach the tables with the food laid out. Starless Sky and the other female from the ceremony are both there. They both smile at you.
"Hello," you say cautiously.
"How was your hunt last night, Mr. Black?" Sky asks.
"Confusing. Very confusing. I killed a deer. Call me James." Yes, that about covers it. "How about yours?"
"Nothing nearly as impressive. A small squirrel was my first kill." You wonder if it was related to the one that terrorized Luna.
"At least you didn't end up spewing grass everywhere after you changed back!" Her friend mutters indignantly. She's wearing a shirt that says 'I Love Alpacas'. I guess they answered the question. She sees you staring at her shirt. "My father portkeyed to a farm in Colorado and bought 10 of these. They seem to be enjoying themselves. It's all one big joke to them." You notice that roughly a third of the people in attendance are sporting the same shirt."
"Oh hush Michelle, it's an interesting animal. It is sturdy, hardworking, tireless and you can make your own wool. How cool is that?"
"I am seriously going to hurt you Lauren, keep it up birdbrain." You thought her name was Starless Sky. She turns back to you.
"So, everybody is all in a state about you being a jaguar?"
"Your grandfather has been filling me in. People seem to be staring at me wherever I go today." You answer scooping another helping of coleslaw onto your plate.
"Well it's not like an omen of doom and gloom drops out of the sky everyday. Wait a minute! This is South Dakota! Every day is a disaster." She answers melodramatically.
"Don't mind her. Lauren misses the hustle and bustle of the east coast. You ever hear back on that astronomy apprenticeship at New Salem?" Lauren shakes her head no and makes a symbolic 'crossing the fingers' gesture.
"You two went to New Salem?" You finish filling your plate and grab the same kind of can that Kwan indicated earlier.
"That's us - the two rebels forsaking our heritage, using different names, and going off to the white man's school! Did you go to Hogwart's then?"
"Yeah. Not as much fun as I hoped. It's in my past now." You sincerely hope so.
"So did you know that Harry Potter boy?" How quickly the topic grows annoying.
You don't even miss a beat. "Not really. He didn't really have many close friends." You have even less now, but that's beside the point.
"Why don't you sit with us? Us amimagi have to stick together. It's the rules."
"Let me give this to my friend first. Is it really animagi? No one will give me a straight answer on whether it is animage or animagus? I wasn't sure if you have more than one in a group whether it is animagi or animaguses?"
For some reason this causes both women to start laughing. "You mean you don't know?" Gah! This is getting really old. You head over and give Kwan his can. He arches an eyebrow as you head back to the table where Michelle and Lauren are chatting.
"So which is it?" It's time to put an end to this once and for all - alpaca girl answers.
"What were we talking about again, oh harbinger of doom?"
"Nevermind. Thanks for nothing."
You sit down and chat with the two women, who act more like girls. They are both twenty, have been out of New Salem for three years. Michelle likes potion brewing and works in a herbology greenhouse sorting potion ingredients. Lauren is an assistant teacher of astronomy at the local school on the reservation, who hopes to head back east to 'civilization'. You get the impression that neither of them really care for the magical South Dakota lifestyle. Based on early evidence, Astronomy must be a field for attractive women. They are more in touch with the muggle, err normal world. They asked you if you were glad that Ross and Rachel finally got together, only to be shocked that you have never seen or heard of Friends before. The other big topic of discussion was that while you were out metaphorically killing your pappy, somebody detonated a bomb at the Atlanta Olympics. You picture the little ferret going, 'Muggles killing Muggles what a wonderful idea! Do you have pictures?'
In the meantime, you have lied about graduating, NEWT scores, and having never playing quiddicth. You don't lie about your new interest in ward crafting and ancient runes. That sparks some interest in runes from Lauren, but not Michelle. You can hold a competent discussion and even go so far as to discuss your recent warding scheme.
"So how many people have approached you?" Michelle asks changing the subject.
"You know, 'strengthening the line' and all that? If you don't want to answer, you don't have to. I know two cousins and even one of my aunt's were talking about it earlier."
"I seriously have no idea what you are talking about." This is one of those suspiciously uncomfortable moments. You are waiting for the answer, it is probably not going to be pleasant.
Lauren looks at you, "You mean no ones approached you or you really don't know what we are talking about?"
"Uh, yes to both questions. I've been with your grandfather all morning. Would you mind explaining what you are talking about?"
"Um, sure. When a male outsider is brought in for the ritual they may get several propositions from families if they succeed in becoming an animagus. Since you succeeded and have the distinction of being the first jaguar in recent history, we figured you'd be beating them off with a stick. Hell, even if you aren't successful, they might still approach you. I think I heard that the Asian man with you hexed a pair of women who propositioned him."
Somehow you manage to squeak out a reply through the lump in your throat. You really hope this isn't going where you think it is. "What kind of propositions are you talking about?"
"Reproductive ones." Oh dear, it went where you thought it was headed. So that's what they meant by 'strengthening the line'. Yeah, Kwan would have hexed them. You wonder what curse he used? He likes Crucio?
"Hey look Lauren, he just turned white as a ghost."
"I'm not really into arranged marriages and such," you stammer out a reply.
"Whoa slow down there, black cat! No one said anything about that. A proposition is just to father a child and add your blood and power to the line. Do you English folks still do that arranged marriage crap?"
"Some of the purebloods do." Why is it that the supreme predator of the Americas suddenly feels like prey?
"We call them inbreds here. No, James a proposition is all about the families looking for powerful wizards to father children for them. There isn't even any responsibility on their part after the fact. I think it is disgusting, but the elders condone it based on maintaining our culture." You almost choke on the drink you just took.
You sincerely hope they are putting one over on you, but you get the feeling they aren't. "I don't have to, do I?" You have bad memories of magically binding contracts that you never signed up for.
"Of course you do."
"Michelle! Quit! You are scaring him. James, you can refuse every proposition that comes your way. You are under no obligation unless you and grandfather agreed to one beforehand. The practice is barbaric! Like influx of fresh blood is going to reinvigorate this stagnate culture." Maybe she's still dealing with her own transformation or maybe she is just a very angry young woman. Her outburst draws a few dirty looks from nearby tables.
"Easy there, Starless." Lauren seems to huff at the use of that name. What is it with women and not wanting to be called certain names? You would think going into Astronomy that she would want to be called Professor Sky. Then there is the auror, who must not be named. You only really ever objected to being called a worthless freak, Scarhead, Potty, the Heir of Slytherin, or an insolent attention seeking arrogant brat. None of them are your given name, so all your objections are completely valid.
"Why would a woman even want to do something like that?"
"James, we've been asking ourselves that for years. Some do it for the financial support, others for the notoriety, and some actually buy that whole duty to family and tribe to make ourselves stronger."
You consciously avoid the topic of propositions for the next five minutes until, you see Thundercloud with several females around him he looks slightly angry.
Michele looks up. "Looks like they are asking Lauren's grandfather for permission to approach you."
"Why?" You seem to be asking that question more and more these days. People never used to give you answers. You are getting answers these days, just not precisely the ones you want to hear.
"He sponsored you. 'Sired' sounds like something vampires do. Therefore, his family gets first crack at you. Anything else is considered impolite." As if walking up to a bloke and asking him to knock up their daughter wasn't? Your once ravenous appetite is now gone and the world swallowing you whole wouldn't be such a bad idea. Perhaps Thundercloud could have mentioned these things to you last week, or any other time before that.
There have been many humiliating points in your life. Most of your early adolescence involved Dudley doing something like pulling his old pants down in public. It wouldn't have been that shameful had Dudder's old pants not been around your waist on these occasions. The whole Heir of Slytherin business ranks up there in the top five definitely. As does working up the nerve to ask Cho out and being rejected. The old number one used to be having been tricked into helping to get your godfather killed by El Dorko Sheep Fucker himself! The new number one is - having small groups of females, sometimes escorted by their mothers, fathers, and even grandparents approach you and discuss the possibilities of sexual intercourse for the express purpose of child production between you and the aforementioned females. Michelle and Lauren have long since departed not wanting to see the 'procession of flesh' as Lauren referred to it. You'd leave too if you had anywhere to go. You notice that Kwan has moved closer to you and has an unreadable expression on his face. If possible, he likes this even less than you do - which is really saying something. After the fourth group is turned away. Thundercloud loudly announces that you have to rest in preparation for the remainder of the ceremony and hustles you inside.
"Forgive me. I stopped attending the animagus rituals two decades ago, when I first retired. I did not realize how the times have changed and that certain ideas, which were once meditated over during the course of several days, were now acted on like a simple business transaction with all the thought that would be given to trading horseflesh. We will depart as soon as we finish your totem."
"I don't even know what to say at this point." It's true. You're pretty much stunned.
"Our society was never very large, even before the white man came to this land. Initially we stood by our kinsmen and resisted the intruders. The battles that were fought in the years before my birth took a great toll on our people. European magic had a definite advantage in savagery. It had more structure and organization. There are only two other tribal schools still in operation in North America. Different tribes chose different methods of trying to strengthen the line. Some still foolishly believe that we can rise and cast the white man out. These notions and fears were a driving force behind these propositions to look for other magical people to add their magic to our bloodlines. I had hoped we would depart before this got out of hand, but with the younger generations beginning to reject our culture they seem a bit more desperate than I had ever imagined."
Kwan slips in behind you. "Finished with stupid people bothering you to make babies for them?"
"Yes, heard they were after you too?"
"Those two not want to make babies anytime soon." Kwan has a very menacing smile on his face. There was a time in your life where someone like Pince, Pomfrey or McGonagall could scare you when you were in their domain. Not anymore! You know what scary looks like and it looks like Kwan! Collins is a thug, but Kwan is just plain scary.
"Do I want to know what you did to them?"
"I show you sometime," the hitwizard chuckles and smiles at you.
Thundercloud's home bares no real resemblance to the Weasley home that will no longer be named. It is large, but clean and modestly decorated. Thundercloud has a master bedroom on the first floor. Currently, two of his daughters, a son-in-law, a grandson and two granddaughters including Lauren Starless Sky dwell here. You and Kwan have been given individual rooms and no one is bugging you to go degnome a fucking garden! When you mention the topic of degnoming to Lauren's mother, she looks horrified.
"Gnomes are filthy vermin and carry all sorts of diseases! Their tunnels cause sinkholes for livestock! We kill garden gnomes around here. Don't you?" Trees Bending in the Wind answers. She's nice, polite, and refined preferring that you call her simply Wind and lacks any notions of smothering you with affection or stuffing you with food until you burst. She also doesn't seem to be interested in asking you to stuff either of her two daughters. It's nice to be treated cordially in someone else's home. Quite a refreshing change from the norm isn't it? She reminds you of how your aunt would treat guests in her home, although Wind seems to have a genuine sincerity about her - not some fake smile plastered on her face!
After a brief rest Thundercloud summons both you and Lauren into his study and has Lauren demonstrate the meditation techniques to you. She is mildly shocked that you do not know them already. He locks the door with a spell and walks Lauren through her transformation again. You watch in mild fascination as she changes into a falcon. Thundercloud dons a thick leather glove and coaxes his granddaughter onto his arm. During this time he keeps talking to her in an even tone. He asks her to perform a few actions. At first she raises one wing when he directs her and nods twice when asked, but soon she stops responding and begins to look agitated. He sets her on a couch and lets her fuss about the room for a time with his wand out.
"If she makes a hostile move towards you, do not hesitate to stun her. For a brief moment she stayed cognizant of what was going on, but her animal took over. You will experience this as well. Eventually, the moments of clarity will grow longer."
After ten more minutes, he asks you to immobilize her. One quick body bind later and the falcon perched on top of the couch is glaring at you with beady little eyes. You float her gently to the floor and Thundercloud shows you the same spell Sirius and Remus used to force Peter out of his animagus form. On a side note, why in the hell were you never shown that? It's not like the bad guys have at least one animagus among them! Stupid sodding bastards! After demonstrating for him a dozen times under his watchful eye, he allows you to cast the spell and Lauren returns to her normal form. You see the same wild looks of confusion in her eyes. Her grandfather begins to talk to her in that same steady voice asking her about star constellations and comet periodicity. Every minute or so, he asks her to blink her eyes to either answer a true/false question or blink for a number of siblings, aunts or cousins. It takes three minutes before she starts actually answering the questions. At the six minute mark, he asks her how much she is enjoying living in South Dakota and she simply rolls her eyes at him. He laughs and releases her from your body bind.
"Thank you granddaughter. Would you be so kind as to ask Mr. Kwan to come here? I would rather have an extra wand in the room when Mr. Black makes his second transformation."
"Maybe, we should go outside? This room is pretty big, but I don't know how long I will be able to think clearly?" You are worried about mauling the old man. If you managed to get to Kwan, the little fucker deserves it.
"No, we will be fine in here. I will conjure a plate of fresh meat."
"Conjured food doesn't last, does it?"
"Ah but after a minute or two you won't realize that, will you? Besides, it would be expensive to feed you the real thing and you would get all fat and lazy. Eventually, I will conjure small animals for you to stalk when we return to the expedition. Now relax and clear your mind. You will need to begin focusing on your form, just like my granddaughter."
It makes sense. Lauren returns with Kwan, as you sit in the middle of the room and try to relax. Some of the others want in, but Thundercloud turns them away. You let your breathing slow and try to recapture some of the sensations of the last night. It almost feels like your body does one giant shrug as you roll your shoulders forward. It's a strange sensation.
"Can you lift your right paw?" Paw? Damn, you changed already. That was it? You missed it! Oh yeah, he wanted you to do something what was it? Right Paw! You lift your right paw. In the right light you can see your spots under the dark fur.
"Very good. Do you want a piece of meat?" You start to shake your head. It's not meat. You know that. Wait! It smells like meat. No! It's conj... con... fake meat. Meat not right! Why is meat not right? Smell like meat. Look like meat. Man give meat. Tasty meat. You pad around the room and sniff. Old man gives you more meat. You like old meat man. Two others not giving you meat, ignore. Room smells like birds. Birds fun to chase. Old meat man keeps making sounds, you don't understand. No meat man make noises. You don't like his growls and you snarl at him. Female smells like flowers. A spot by the window is warm with heat coming from light. You curl up in spot as man throws more meat to you. You see bird. Can't smell bird, but you see bird. Want to chase bird. Meat make noises. Want to jump and pounce on the bird. Leap and pounce. Hit something before bird. Bird flying away. No! Stuck! Can't move. Can't chase bird.
"... why ... dows ... perturbable..." Old meat says.
"Stu ... ity ... dows!" Other male meat makes strange noise. Head hurt.
"... touch ... fur ..." Female meat walks towards you. You want to growl a warning, but can't. Stay away. Female meat touches you. Want to swat away. Can't move! Leave alone!
Bright light! Changing! Meat saying things again. Run away. Lights bad! Can't move. Don't want to listen to meat! Chase meat! Kill meat! No listen to meat!
Still talking. Saying words. You know words. Words mean something. Blink? What is blink? What is Bill? Bill! You know Bill. He has red fur. He has idiot family. He has pretty flower. No he has pretty Fleur. Fleur in France. You see England. You see France. You see Fleur with no underpants. He's asking you more questions. He's making more sense now. Words mean something. Two plus two, four blinks. Six divided by three, four blinks. No! Three, two blinks. Two blinks!
Gradually, your thoughts clear as you come to. You remember where you are and why you are here and who Thundercloud is. There's a strange sensation in your stomach. The conjured meat just vanished. That must be it. You still feel groggy as you answer their questions.
Four hours later, Thundercloud and Kwan send you upstairs. All said and done, you spent an hour in your form, two hours meditating and the last hour either blearily coming out of your transformation or talking with Thundercloud about the sensations you experienced. According to them your best effort you were able to respond to three things before you lost your clarity. Lauren did that on her first try! Then again, you are playing catchup on this whole meditation thing. It would be nice to be ahead of the game for a change wouldn't it? Since it ain't happening anytime soon, you grab a shower and decide to turn in. Your meditating technique also leaves a bit to be desired. Your thoughts kept drifting back to a certain busty lady stroking your - fur. You didn't like it at the time, but in retrospect it felt nice. Best make that a nice cold shower, idiot!
You come out of the shower and go into your room. Your head hurts from your changing eyesight. Things look a little clearer, but not by much. It was tempting to ask for a pain potion, but Thundercloud said no pain potions for at least a week to give your body time to adjust to the change. Oddly, both he and Kwan agree that pain is a good thing for you - the sick bastards! Your hand dips to your wand. Someone is in your room! You note that your night vision is improving as well. It's Lauren. She's sitting on your bed.
"This is my room isn't it?" It's been a rough day, but you're not that out of it are you?
"Yes it is. I can't believe that I am doing this, but here goes. James Black, I would like to proposition you." You'd honestly like to think that you weren't expecting that, but the moment you saw her that thought went through your mind. Shocking how jaded you've become in a few short weeks isn't it? Oh, better answer the woman before she gets angry.
"I thought you considered this whole thing barbaric?" You whisper trying not to let your voice rise.
"Silencing charm. We don't have to whisper. Yes, I'm a rebel to a point. Before you ask, I did meditate on this. Several times in fact. I have my reasons. I'm surprised that grandfather kept you down there so long." She had left two hours ago after her second transformation.
"Well, we'll be out in the jungle again Monday night. I need to improve and get control quickly." You say trying to steer clear of the earlier topic.
"Clarity, James. Never control. Don't strive for control, rather try to understand." She says in a serious tone. You take a moment to consider her. She is modestly attractive with that large chest taunting you in a loose and rather revealing robe. She is only about five feet and four inches, which only serves to make her breasts look even more exaggerated. A brief memory of her in the firelight tearing her top off and diving into the arms of another man flashes across your mind. She sees what you are doing and licks her lips in anticipation. A subtle shift in her sitting position allows the robe to open even further. You swallow hard. In the dim light of the moon coming in through the window, it looks very inviting. Robes like that should be illegal. On second thought they should required.
"So what about my idea, James? Does it interest you?" Her voice has a sudden throaty quality to it.
You almost want to growl in reply. She wants to mate! She's in heat. Take her! You start towards her and stop as she rises to meet you. "No. This isn't right. Neither of us has con... sorry, clarity yet. This might just be you wanting to act on your new impulses. Merlin knows I was just about to!" Still might - if she doesn't hurry up and close that robe. Thank the powers that be for teenaged embarrassment!
She looks upset and confused at the same time. "I...," she starts but stops uncertain of what to say.
You seize the initiative and step back a few steps from her. "No. This is a bad idea. If we did this, I'd just walk away and you'd have a child on your hands. You need to get your own clarity first. If I come back this way and you still want to - ask me then and I'll give you an answer. This, this would just be wrong." You don't want to see her end up just like Karina - flat on her back screaming your name in an effort to test the silencing charm? No, you don't want her to be a single mother who got in over her head because of a snap decision.
She looks lost in thought, maybe lust for a moment and then pulls her robe fully closed, damn - err good. "I guess you're right. I'm sorry if I offended you."
"There is no conceivable way you could offend me! I'll be cursing myself for being an idiot not ten seconds after you go out that door." You say getting a bit of a smile out of her.
"Kwan says I'm kind of slow. Stupid is the word he uses most of the time." He occasionally uses the word Crucio, but that is neither here nor there. "We could still do it without the baby making part." You try to sound casual without sounding either desperate or like a child.
She laughs at you and starts towards the door, stopping just in front of you. "Sorry James, I took a fertility potion. For the next week prevention spells won't work. For the record, I think you are very smart for a seventeen year old. Promise me one thing?" You're not the first bloke to lie about your age now are you? Plus it fit the cover story. You were just following orders, well recommendations, oh okay, so it was your idea.
"That you'll make at least one more trip back here to give me a chance to ask you again." She pulls your head down to hers and gives you a brief nuzzling kiss on the lips, then she grabs your rump. "Yum. I like them nice and firm." The only thing you can do is nod stupidly as she walks out and closes the door behind her, swishing her own nice and firm rump all the way. Shit! The train has left the station and all you can do is stare at the caboose!
You were wrong. It was only five seconds after she left you started cursing yourself and this newfound sense of maturity. In this case the difference between right and easy is a set of 'blue balls'.
In the morning, Lauren corners you looking like she had barely slept. She pulls you back into your room. "Thank you for stopping me. You were right. I don't know what I was thinking. You are a true gentleman."
You smile at her. "No, I was scared witless. It still gives me the woolies. I'm a teenager, definitely not a gentleman. I was all for the idea of casual sex with you. If you can keep a secret, I'm pretty sure I still am. Baby making is another thing all together. I'm still trying to figure out who I want to be, but I don't think I want to be a guy who just jumps into a situation like that and leaves."
She pulls you into a massive hug against those gianormous breasts - no it isn't a word but it should be! After about ten seconds you are let go wondering about what kind of guy you wouldn't mind being for the next twenty or so minutes. Stupid fertility potions! Thundercloud would wonder where you were anyway. The two of you head downstairs and get some breakfast while discussing the totem process that is left to complete.
He leads you to a workbench set up under a tarp. The other three successful animagi/animagusus arrive with their sponsors and start working on their totems. Michelle arrived with Lauren, there heads bent in a rapid exchange of hushed whispers. The alpaca animagus is now looking back and forth between the two of you and smirking. You blush and stop meeting her gazes. You'd hex her if you thought you could get away with it, effing herd animal!
"Am I to assume from all the non verbal communication going on that something happened between you and my granddaughter last night, Harry?" The old man asks quietly.
"No, sir. She propositioned me, but I talked her out of it. I don't think either of us have the necessary clarity to make that kind of choice and it would be a poor way for me to repay you and your family for bringing me into your home and teaching me all this. She also doesn't know who I really am and what I am up against." You know that Ron would have knocked her up and left in a heartbeat.
He looks you over with his enhanced eyes boring into you. "You did well. My granddaughter has always been rebellious child. It was surprising that she even decided to pursue the ritual of release. She has been experiencing a swell of support and acceptance from the family. I think it was the craving for support and acceptance was behind her sudden interest in propositioning you. Perhaps there is hope for your people yet. Though making such broad judgments based solely on your actions will most likely lead me to disappointment."
"I don't know. If you listen to Kwan, I'm a stupid cook who somehow keeps saving myself from my own stupidity. Did you ever notice that every fifth word out of his mouth is stupid?" Whoa, time to check the old internal monologue! You said that last sentence out loud.
"Indeed I have. Continue coating the totem and then apply the antler shavings. I believe I will stretch my legs." Thundercloud walks off as you use a horsehair brush to apply the thickened blood, sap, blood, and vomit goop to your totem. At least the heat should burn off the smell. Once it has a thick coat on it, you roll the figurine in the antler shavings and use a pair of tweezers to arrange them on your totem. Thundercloud said that the magic should cause the bone shaving to mesh and completely encase the wood making for a most unusual totem. That would be keeping in form wouldn't it? You really don't care if the universe is trying to find another way to tell you how special you are. You don't have plans to put your totem out there for the public's viewing anyway.
You see Thundercloud over speaking with Lauren. Oh, crap! That can't be good. You can see the headlines now, 'Woman becomes animagus only to die of embarrassment from grandfather! Boy Who Lived somehow involved!' Rita would probably be quick to jump on the whole 'love child' bit. Hell, one little tip could keep her writing for months. Wonder what that vulture would do with Dumbledore and the Weasleys if you were to happen to mention how your summer went to her in an anonymous letter? It's worth a thought.
You continue working while wondering what Ms. Lovegood is up to. In all the fuss you forgot your journal. You'll have to mention that you spent a good chunk of the morning painting with your own vomit. You wonder if your real life can 'Out Looney' her imagination?
Deciding to rescue Lauren from her embarrassment you call over to your sponsor, "Thundercloud, I am finished."
He returns and inspects your work and determines it to be excellent. You brush the flies away from the heart meat of the deer and wrap the totem in it. Several spells are cast and the bloody mess is set on top of a firepit. On his command, you conjure a flame and light the firepit. Once the meat burns and falls away, the pit will be covered for an hour and then you will return and dig your totem out. The whole ceremony has a certain elemental aspect to it. First the totem soaks in liquid, then cooked in fire, smothered in earth and then cooled by air - primal magic at it's finest. No doubt if this was being done at good old Hoggy Hogwarts, it would be needlessly complicated and you would have to write twelve feet of parchment on the symbolism in the ceremony and the origins of the spells used. Finest institute of magical learning, yeah right! Someday you ought to tell Granger that Hogwart's a History is nothing more than a fancy brochure.
Lauren will no longer even look in your direction. You feel bad, but for once it isn't you being embarrassed. That changes pretty quickly as soon as you cover the pit with the soil. Your super keen animal senses failed to notice the number of people that have gathered by the tent. Apparently this break in the action is a perfect time for a repeat of the new hit show, 'Let's Stuff My Daughter'! Thudercloud drives them off after a few minutes and instructs you to sit down and continue to meditate. About ten minutes after you sit down you hear a familiar voice whisper as someone sits down next to you.
"You had to tell my grandfather! I've never been so embarrassed in my life!"
You open your eyes and look at her. "He asked."
"What do you mean by that?" She says sounding incredulous.
Feeling a bit of uncontrolled anger you respond, "Do you really want an answer?"
"Okay, he brought me here. He is teaching me all this. Tomorrow night, I will be back out in a jungle with your grandfather and my life may very well depend on him, Kwan or one of the others in the expedition. Their lives may depend on my actions. It's already happened once. We're not singing campfire songs out there! I need to trust them and they need to trust me. If maintaining that trust causes you some embarrassment, then that is your problem! Deal with it." Probably a bit heavy handed, but you are even more of a repressed emotional bundle of nerves than you usually are and repression isn't your strongest attribute now is it?
For a change it is the girl that is a stammering wreck after you finish your mini-tirade. "I, uh sorry. I didn't realize. I should go." You put your hand on her shoulder and keep her from standing
"No. Stay and meditate with me. I'm just a little angry with all these propositions."
She remains seated next to you as you attempt to center yourself again. After a minute she asks, "Is it really that dangerous out there? Grandfather just makes it seem like he's a tour guide or something?"
"I shouldn't say anything. It's not my place." Shit! Shit! Shit! Now she is all worried about her grandfather. Good show, idiot! You're not the only one with emotional problems right now!
"Your grandfather is a skilled wizard. He has a lot of wisdom and experience. I don't have either, so what I think is scary may be nothing to him." Though being chased by a fast dragon on a slow broom would probably screw with Merlin even on a good day. Lets not even mention the corridor o'reptiles shall we?
"You're not really answering my question." Finding your center is pretty damn hard, when someone keeps asking you all these probing questions.
"Then speak with your grandfather. It really isn't my place to speak for him."
"If it's so scary, why are you there?"
"I'm an apprentice cursebreaker. Can't do the job without the occasional occupational hazard. Maybe I have an adrenaline issues?" It's a much better answer then 'because I have nowhere else to go'. Do you have adrenaline issues? No! It's not like you go looking for trouble.
She gets up a minute later and goes off to find her grandfather. She seems a bit upset. You hope that you didn't cause any problems for your guide. The next fifty minutes passes uninterrupted and you manage some decent meditation as you try and organize your thoughts and feelings.
"I am impressed," Your sponsor's voice interrupts your peaceful meditation. You open your eyes. Pity, you were almost half asleep.
"Why is that?"
"You managed to say something that made my granddaughter come up to me and give me a genuine hug, that wasn't some forced act of family torture. I would say that it was the first one in at least five years. It was followed by a lengthy and decidedly mature conversation. Your words left enough of an impression on her that for the moment, she sees beyond her tiny world. Come, let us retrieve your totem and say our farewells. We portkey to Las Vegas in an hour."
"What did you tell her?"
"I told her that I was never scared. The dragon was clearly chasing you."
Author's notes - Hope you like the more primal animagus ritual. Too often Harry gets an animagus form like some check off on a 'How to make a super Harry' checklist. Rest assured, being a jaguar animagus will be a central part of the story.