Becoming Someone Else, Somewhere Else

Chapter 24

The crashes became louder and closer. I could hear the stone walls of the castle coming down from below. It was only a matter of time until the floor we stood on crumbled beneath our feet and took us with it. I pulled my face away from my hiding place in Sirius's chest. His heart was beating quickly and as I looked into his eyes, I noticed that his pupils were dilated. He was frightened.

"We have to go," I said as I snatched the invisibility cloak off the back of the arm chair and headed toward the door slowly. Sirius did not move. He was plastered to the floor, like a stone statue. I grabbed his hand and tugged. "Sirius. We have to get out of here. If we don't leave now, we will become rubble!" I threw the invisibility cloak over us and pressed my ear against the door. I could hear the explosions from beneath, but nothing was immediately going on outside the Room of Requirement. I cracked the door and peaked out for a moment. The corridor was clear. Still having a firm grip around Sirius's sweaty hand, I darted out the door and headed down the staircase, Sirius following closely behind.

Once we reached the sixth floor, we noticed all of the destruction that was being caused. People in black cloaks were demolishing the castle, throwing hexes at teachers, being thrown down the hallways as they were hit with stunning spells. We crept stealthily through the masses of people, dodging misfired jinxes and flying bodies. Dumbledore barreled around the corner with Professor McGonagall, trying to hold a conversation while casting spells all around him. Green flashes of light erupted out of his wand as he went past us.

"Go find Marilyn. They're here for her. Once you find her, take her somewhere safe. If they find her first, I am afraid it will be bad for all of us," Dumbledore said between flicks of his wrists and hurling of spells. Professor McGonagall nodded, but had a look on her face of incredulity. She knew that I was not going to be found in Gryffindor tower. She trotted up the stairs toward the common room, hoping that for once I would be obeying the rules. I took a sharp breath in.

"What is it?" Sirius whispered, his mouth nearly touching my ear.

"If it's me they're after, the first place they'll look is Gryffindor Tower. They're all in danger!" Sirius then had the same realization I had and we darted back up the stairs, past McGonagall, rubble falling all around us. As we approached the entrance to the common room, we noticed the portrait hole had been kicked in. Students were pouring out of the hole, terror streaked across their faces as they wielded their wands in their night clothes. I ripped the invisibility cloak off of us as a scream burst out and a flash of red light illuminated the common room. I pushed my way through and saw two people entangled in each other's embrace. James and Lily were standing over a petrified Death Eater, kissing so passionately as if their lives were not in any immediate danger.

"I hate to interrupt," Sirius said, a hint of his usual slyness still in his voice, "but we are being attacked, if you haven't noticed." They broke away from each other. Lily's fair skin turned as red as a beet as James smiled beamingly at us, then pointed down at the motionless Death Eater.

"Yeah, we noticed. This wanker grabbed Lily's hair and had his wand up against her throat. I disposed of him, of course." James said, very proud of himself. He grabbed Lily's hand and they followed us out of the portrait hole. The entire castle was now fraught with students, professors, and Death Eaters, all running around, wands ablaze. We made our way back down the staircase, past McGonagall who had gotten tied up in a battle between two Death Eaters.

"Stupefy!" I pointed my wand at the one closest to her and he flew off the staircase and down seven stories before coming to rest on the stone ground beneath. McGonagall looked sideways for a second at me, still throwing beams of green light from her wand, but I was already back on my way headed downward.

"Prongs, we need to get somewhere safe. They're after Marilyn. Where is Mooney?" Sirius said as he dodged a hex coming straight for his head. Lily looked confused for a moment.

"Why are they after you?" She said to me, puzzled. I just shook my head, indicating this was not the opportune moment to discuss such a trivial matter.

"He borrowed my invisibility cloak. He hasn't been back to the common room. He didn't tell me where he was—"

"Remus!" I exclaimed. A pale, scrawny boy clambered up the stairs toward us, a stream of blood coming from the side of his head. "What happened to you?"

"Got grazed by a curse just a moment ago. It could have been much nastier. Listen, Marilyn. We have to get you out of here. To the Shrieking Shack," He said, flustered. "Put your invisibility cloak on. We can't risk them seeing you."

"What is going on, James?" Lily said, irritated that she was so out of the loop. James shook his head, just like I had a minute before. I could see the exasperation on her face and we reached the ground floor.

We were running now, toward the small brown door that Sirius had led me out of the first week I was here, the one that nobody in the whole castle knew about but them. My hand slipped away from his as we gained speed. The invisibility cloak was rippling behind me and I was sure that some part of me was visible as we reached the door. Sirius, James, Remus and Lily filed through, but my body was suddenly frozen. My knees buckled and I fell to the ground, paralyzed. The door closed in front of me as the others headed down to the Womping Willow, not realizing that I had become separated from them. I had been struck by a misfired body-bind curse. Luckily, most of me was still covered by the invisibility cloak, except for a tiny lock of my hair that peaked out from underneath. A group of cloaked men trotted by me. Fortunately, I was already motionless, so I did not have to make an effort to remain still so they wouldn't notice me. Two of them diverted from the group and stopped right beside me and began to speak in hushed tones.

"Zephyros, listen to me. Everyone is looking for this girl, but you mustbe the one to retrieve her for the Dark Lord. It is the only way to make up for his disappointment in you. If you are the one to capture her, you will be highly rewarded. All will be forgiven." I recognized Zephyros immediately. He looked different, though. The once brooding, icy expression on his face was now feeble and scared. He nodded slightly as the older man touched his shoulder. He looked familiar, though I know I had never laid eyes on him before. Then I saw it. I looked into his eyes and realized that I was looking into my own. Their striking blueness was the only vivid color that gave his features any life. This man was my grandfather. I wanted to wriggle free of my paralysis and escape his presence. Though my body was completely unmoving, my insides were writhing into knots. The old man turned on a dime and walked back toward the group. Zephyros stepped to follow him, then the tip of his boot tapped my shoulder. Maybe he didn't notice. Maybe he thought he just tripped over his own foot. He looked down where I was laying, completely immobile, helpless. He crouched down slowly and took the exposed black ringlet of hair into his fingertips, twirling it around. I could feel a lump rising up into my throat. He pulled out his wand and lifted the invisibility cloak off of my petrified body.

I wished so badly that I could close my eyes tightly, so that I didn't have to see his face hovering so closely over mine, that languid smile dripping with hostility, barely covering his fangs. He was going to take me to Voldemort while I was still paralyzed and vulnerable, unable to fight back, unable to defend myself. Not even a chance to maintain my dignity. What a coward. I waited for him to grab me and haul my body over his shoulder, making his way straight to the Dark Lord to hand me over like a piece of meat straight off the butcher table, but he didn't. His face showed remorse, like he was fighting with himself as he looked at me. Then his finger touched my cheek, wiping away a small tear that had escaped from the corner of my eye. He stood up and looked left and right, then pointed his wand at me. "Finite," he whispered. As he saw me begin to stir, he took off toward the other Death Eaters, without looking back. He had just spared my life. I stood up cautiously, threw the invisibility cloak back over me, and slunk out the door onto the grounds. As soon as the door shut behind me, five figures were traced by the moonlight. Four of them I recognized as my friends, Sirius holding his wand out, his jaw clenched, pointing it at a hooded figure. Remus, James and Lily also had their wands drawn, but I could see that this was a confrontation between only two people.

"Sirius, I do not wish to play games," the hooded figure said with a hiss. "You know where she is. And you will tell me." Sirius stood motionless, his wand held high, not moving a muscle. "Your father said you would be a stubborn cur. Maybe this will convince you. Crucio." Sirius crumbled to the ground as electrifying pain surged through his body. The figure tiptoed around him. I could see his face now. It was Voldemort.

As I watched Sirius twisting and writhing from the shooting pain, I felt the hairs stand up on my body and the most intense, enormous feeling rushed into my ears and across my skin and through my chest. My muscles tensed and my senses sharpened. I had transformed into something powerful. I bounded swiftly down the grassy, dewy hill, the earth beneath my feet barely making any noise as my giant, black paws glided over the earth. Voldemort's back was to me, his wand still pointed at Sirius, torturing him. I saw Lily's face become even more horrified than it already was as she saw me. James and Remus, however, looked almost amused. I pounced, my hind legs pushing hard off of the ground, sending me into the air. I protracted my claws and opened my mouth wide. Voldemort had just turned his head toward me when my claws tore through his neck and torso and I buried my fangs deep into his skull. Lily dropped to her knees, still in terror. Sirius was motionless on the ground, drained from the agonizing pain. Voldemort lay on the ground, blood seeping from the gashes and bites across his body. He was dead. I walked over to Sirius as James and Remus had bewildered expressions on their faces. I pawed his face gently, aware of the power that flowed through me, not wanting to overexert accidentally. Sirius opened his eyes and laughed.

"I knew it!" He said playfully as he sat up slowly. "You're a big, fluffy kitty cat!" He slid his hand between my ears and a low, resonant purr escaped my throat.

"Don't touch it, Sirius! It could take your arm off!" Lily squealed as James helped her onto her feet.

"It's just Marilyn!" James said with wonder in his voice.

"This is her Animagus form. Black jaguar," Sirius said as he looked into my eyes, still deep pools of blue offset by a jet black face. "Absolutely beautiful."

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