If At First

Christmas and Spiders

Chapter Seven: Christmas and Spiders

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or affiliated characters, places, and things. They all belong to J.K. Rowling and affiliated companies. This particular plot is mine however. And to make it seem more cohesive to the original stories I am using some of the lines from them, but they are not my material. They came for the excellent mind of their owner.

A/N: Parseltongue, flashbacks, and dreams. I have a new Poll out for everyone. If it does not affect this story it will affect one that is upcoming so don't worry. Sorry it has taken so long, but I had tech issues, plot bunnies to deal with, and I wanted to get this year done right. Keep the reviews coming!

A/N 2: There is a new poll. Answers are need. Thank you.

B/N 1: This is a rewrite of the chapter. Not much has changed.

The light snow fall was in many ways refreshing to Harry. It had been a hell ridden two months for him. The classes were fine, hell even Binns was enjoyable. Okay maybe the sleep was enjoyable, but still the boring teacher's ramblings were better than repeatedly reading the note John had given him. They had all talked with John that following Saturday, but even that didn't bring the group any solace.

Harry and the gang were in the library studying for their end of term exams and debating the issue of Ronald Weasley's death. He had told them on a number of occasions that this could not be avoided. The last person he would have had to let go was a greater man than Ronald could ever hope to be, but if he lived it would cause the deaths of thousands of people because his girlfriend was meant for a man who without her would go psycho. This opened up the inevitable question of why this was, but he really couldn't answer this because he didn't know the man's name.

"So you're telling us that someone who is a 'great man' would have had to die or thousands would die instead." He nodded. "…but you don't know who this man is?"

"That's right love, but it is not just some 'great man' it is Cedric Diggory." When he finally revealed that the 'Cedric' mentioned in the note was the well-loved 'Puff everyone breathed inward. He looked around to see if anyone else was nearby, and once certain of their privacy he said "I watched him die in the coming year at the hands of Voldemort." Everyone else shivered. "Oh stop it; if I must I will use his birth name."

"I would advise that Harry." The sound of John's voice was a welcome relief to Harry. "I am sorry to just drop the letter and run, but if I was anywhere near you during the match…"

"Don't even finish that SENTENCE." Daphne cried out.

"Sorry MISSES Potter, but it is true." John smiled as Daphne glared at him.

Hermione asked the question that was on all six of their minds. "We can't convince him, meaning Ronald, to change his ways?"

"No I am afraid not. When the note said irrevocable Death Eater we meant as of this moment, not four years in the future." John sounded completely business-like, but Harry could see the pain in his eyes. "I am sorry Harry I knew he was one of your closest friends, but free will and all that…"

"He was probably listening to an idiot John. I don't know the when or who that caused this, but I know the why. He is jealous of me and Hermione and our ever growing circle of friends." Harry said this sternly, but on the inside he was dying.

Apparently Hermione could see through his charade. "We all make our choices they don't make us, Harry, and Ronald never was good at doing the right thing." Hermione said with finality. Harry was expecting to see hurt in her eyes, but could find none. "What's wrong Harry?"

"It's nothing Hermione, just something from my past time through." He tried to smile but even Daphne could see he was lying as she had both hands on her hips.

"Your busted Harry, look I would love to stay and chat, but all I can say is don't try and change him. It will only make things worse than they will be." With that John faded in a puff of smoke.

"What did you mean by 'from my past' Harry?" Hermione now also had her arms crossed and was glaring at Harry as well.

"You were in love with him in the other timeline, but I don't think that is possible now." He said deflated.

"No Harry it is not. I know what the Death Eaters stand for, and I cannot nor will I ever allow myself to become enamoured with a bigot." Hermione said this with finality.

"Good to know; now we can get back to work on animagus forms." Harry said with a smile.

"I don't think so mister." Daphne said.

"Yes you still need to work on your Ancient Runes homework." Hermione said while glaring at him.

"Awe man," Harry hung his head down, "…just my luck."

Harry just shook his head at the memory. Even his girlfriend was into Hermione's early revision idea. She said it made sense, and that she would give it a try. Harry was beginning to see why Hermione was the brightest witch of the age, and Daphne was a close second. His only saving grace today was that it was a Hogsmeade weekend. He looked to the other side of the common room and saw Ginny with a sad look on her face. She appeared to be over her crush on him, but the letters she was getting from Ron were bothering her, and she told Harry they all pretty much downed him and Hermione for their 'betrayal'.

She never let him read the letters saying that nothing he said was pleasant, and that she would write to her mum about all of this. Harry had to physically bite his tongue to stop from telling her that wouldn't work. Hermione seemed to know more about all of this than he did, but even she wasn't talking. Harry was half tempted to use his invisibility cloak to go get the letters, but he remembered what would happen if he tried.

"What are you thinking about?" Ginny's voice pulled him out of his mental respite.

"Nothing Ginny," he could see a grinning Tori walking up behind her. "What are you two up to today?"

"Nothing, Tori wants you to pick up a few things at Zonko's for her." Ginny said with a smile on her face.

"No, no I said for us. Her brother, Ron, really needs a gift he won't forget." The grin on Tori's face meant she had been learning way too much from the twins.

"Do you have a list of things that you guys need, or is it just one or two things?" Harry asked with a smile.

"Oh it is a list of just a few things." Tori said with a smile as she handed him a coin purse and a list that would make the twins smile. "Zonko's should have all of the items listed there."

Harry looked at the list and his jaw wanted to fall open. Tori didn't want to prank Ron it appeared that she wanted to scare him to death. "Astoria, are you sure about this?"

"Uh-huh, those letters he writes are horrid." She looked over to Ginny who was glaring at her. "What it's true!"

"I will pick these things up, and Tori… never mind." He was having images of Sirius laughing as the 'prank' went off on Ronald. Of course given the fact that he might find this particular prank funny was even worse.

He stood up as the two girls started arguing with each other about the necessity of the prank, and of what Mrs. Weasley might do to them if they get caught. He walked over to Hermione who had just come down stairs. She pointed at Ginny and Tori to which he just shook his head at. As they left the common room Harry heard a crashing sound behind them, and could only smile as Neville apologized to Alicia for destroying her Ancient Runes project. As they made their way to breakfast the three talked about what they were going to do, and after some ribbing from Neville about what he and Daphne would be doing they took their usual seats at Gryffindor table. A few minutes later they were joined by Daphne, Tracey and Susan.

Daphne leaned down giving Harry a chaste kiss on the lips. "What's the parchment for Harry?"

Harry let out sigh. "Our favorite little prankster has something planned for the Weasel that entails all of the things on this list." He waved the parchment around a little.

Daphne took the list from his hand and started reading it. "What on Earth could she need fake spiders for?"

"Ronald is terrified of the things." Hermione said with a sigh. "Harry I can't believe you are going to get those things."

"I am not about to go back on my word Hermione, and besides she is like our little sister." He gestured between the members of the group.

"She really is MY little sister Harry, but if you guys want to take her off my hands I don't mind." Daphne said smiling.

"Daphne Anna," Tori started to say something, but she was quickly silenced by Daphne's hand.

"Don't you even think about it short cake." Daphne was almost glaring at her sister. When Tori held up her hands Daphne let her go. The smile on her face caused the twins to start laughing. "Come on Harry if you want to get good seats at the Three Broomsticks you need to eat fast."

"Hey who do you think I am Ronald Weasley?" Harry asked sarcastically, causing all but Hermione to start laughing.

Ron was pacing back and forth in his room trying to figure out a way to go to both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley without his mum knowing about it. The flying car was out, his family brooms would take forever, and at the moment she was lording over him as of late. It had been over a month since he was imprisoned here at his own home because of the 'magical' binding of Potter to that slag Greengrass.

He could hear a commotion going on down stairs. Figuring it was his mum calling him down for more Transfiguration lessons he stalked off down stairs. Once down there he could hear his mum yelling at someone in the kitchen. Sticking his head in to see what was going on, and who his mum was unloading on now. It was the same dark haired man from the day he was pulled out of school. The papers said it was Sirius Black, but Ron had his doubts. There is no way a follower of He-who-must-not-be-named to be so jovial about getting yelled at by his mum.

He shook himself out of this stupor and made his way back upstairs and grabbed his letter to Malfoy senior, and some money he stashed away then made for the floo, after checking to see if his mum was still laying into Black; he flooed out to Diagon Alley. Once there he made for the Owlery and sent off the letter to Malfoy. After that he went to Flourish and Blotts the last place his mum would ever consider looking for him, and this was also were he would be meeting Mr. 'Mortis'. As he wondered the store he found himself looking at the Curses section of the store. Sure these books were benign compared to what could be bought in Knockturn Alley, but it was still nice to read the curses and envision it happening to Potter, Longbottom, Granger, and Greengrass.

"A bit beneath you don't you think Mr. Weasley?" a voice spoke from behind him.

Turning around Ron found Mr. Malfoy standing behind him. "Not anymore sir. I once had a friend in Potter, but now he seems to think he is too 'good' for me."

"That is the price of fame Mr. Weasley, and it is one I can teach you to exploit." The smile on the man's face was frightening, but understandable. Potter had cheated the man out of a good marriage contract. "Let us go somewhere less conspicuous shall we?"

"Of course Mr. Malfoy," with that they left Flourish and Blotts.

As they left Ron noticed people looking at him with suspicious looks. Most of them were just glaring at him, and he could feel their hatred of him. He didn't know why they were glaring at him, but he thought it was because of Mr. Malfoy, and while that was possibly it he couldn't knock out the idea that the shop keepers had told people about his 'mistreatment' of the 'Boy-who-lived'. He wouldn't put it past Fortescue to tell everyone that came through his door that Ronald Weasley had interfered with Harry Potter's love life. That bastard really needed to mind his own business. So what if the little pricks parents were killed and he somehow survived the Killing Curse. What did that really mean in the grand scheme of things? Nothing that's what and he Ronald Weasley was a far better man than Potter anyway.

When he looked around he noticed that he was now in Knockturn Alley, and Mr. Malfoy was walking toward Borgin and Burkes. He had always dreamed of coming here and busting Malfoy in some illegal act, and now he was walking into said store with the man in question to do God knows what. However now he was considering this place a way of becoming as famous as Harry bloody Potter if not more so. Once inside he noticed all sorts of items that were borderline illegal, and others that his father and mother would run in fear of. At first glance he noticed a cloak of suffocation; a severed human hand that acted as a doorknob; several potions that could be poisonous, and what appeared to be a trapped human soul.

"Ah it is good to see you Mr. Malfoy, and I assume this is the young man you spoke of?" the man behind the counter asked.

"Yes Borgin it is, and he and I need a room safe from prying eyes." Mr. Malfoy asked.

"Of course sir, anything for a loyal customer," Borgin said with a crooked smile.

They were taken up to the second floor, and into a secluded room, and in the middle of the room was a cauldron that looked like it had not been used in a long time. "Well Ronald, may I call you Ronald?"

"Of course you can Mr. Malfoy."

"Please just Lucius." Ron nodded. "Ronald as you can no doubt piece together Mr. Borgin and I are old acquaintances, among other things."

"He was a Death Eater." Ronald said point blank.

"No, but he did support our cause. Mr. Borgin and I work together to bring down people like Mr. Potter, and the illustrious headmaster of your former school." Ronald growled at the mention of Hogwarts. "Yes I have heard you were pulled out, and I was just wondering if that was the first time you went against Mr. Potter?"

"Yes, the little ponce seemed to think that the Ice Queen of Slytherin was not bewitching him." Ron spat this out.

"Easy there Ronald it is not me you are angry at. You see it is people like your father that make Mr. Potter more than he actually is." This peaked Ron's interest. "I will see what I can do about getting you back into Hogwarts, and in return you can help expose Harry Potter for the weakling that he is."

Ron smiled. "What would you have me do?"

The streets of Hogsmeade were crowded but Daphne didn't mind. Okay maybe she was bothered just a little bit by all the staring that she was getting by walking hand in hand with her boyfriend. It was normally bad enough that the boys couldn't keep their eyes off her, but now the girls were staring at her as well. Maybe not for lewd and lascivious reasons but their intent couldn't have been a pleasant one.

"What's wrong Daphne?" Harry asked before kissing her lightly on the lips.

"I am getting stared at, and I mean a lot more than normal." She leaned into him.

"Ignore them, I always do." She stared up at him. "Had I known you were staring at me back then Ron would have made things difficult."

"Would you have stayed friends with him if we started dating?" She was looking at him with pain flowing in her eyes. He didn't miss this apparently.

"No, and I am not just saying that. If he couldn't accept who I wanted to be with, then that would have ended our friendship." He leaned down and kissed her passionately. Daphne felt as if she was melting into his arms. "Now let's go the others are waiting for us." Harry said after he broke the kiss. All she could do was nod in response as he led her to the Three Broomsticks.

The pub was as crowded as the alley, but the noise was more subdued. The clanking of mugs and laughter of the pubs inhabitants was a welcome change to the cold wind, and unrelenting stares that were outside. She could see Neville waving his arm in the air trying to get their attention. As they walked closer to the assembled group Daphne could see the shite eating grin plastered on the face of her oldest friend.

"Okay Harry what didn't you do to Daphne? Ouch." Daphne bit back a laugh as Susan lightly smacked Tracey on the arm. "I meant nothing by that."

"Sure Tracey." Harry said smiling as he pulled out a chair for Daphne. "So what is everyone planning on doing for holidays?"

"Well we will be over visiting you on Christmas Day, and then you; Hermione; and Neville will be joining us on Boxing Day. As for New Year's it's up in the air." Daphne elbowed him lightly in the ribs. "How could you forget this?"

"I didn't, I was just checking to see if my facts were right." He leaned over to try kissing her but Daphne moved backwards. "What did I do now?"

"Nothing, I just needed to stretch." Daphne smiled coyly at him. "Besides you already kissed me silly outside." She leaned over a pecked Harry on the cheek.

"What will it be for you two love birds?" Madam Rosmertta asked.

"Butterbeer," the two of them said as one.

"They think alike," Fred said.

"They have started finishing each other's sentences." George continued.

"They must be in love." They finished together.

"Here are the notes you asked for Harry." George handed over what appeared to be a stack of blank parchment before the twins walked away.

As Madame Rosmertta came back with their drinks the group of friends started talking about the things they had planned for the day, and the week ahead. Tracey and Susan were going to Honeydukes, while Neville was going to buy some much needed supplies, and Hermione was going to look at the Shrieking Shack with Parvati and Lavender Brown. Harry was planning on taking Daphne to Honeydukes then they would head to Zonko's to pick up the items for Tori and a few for himself. If he was going to be a Marauder he needed to start 'practicing' the art of pranking people. He couldn't really be like his dad and Sirius and prank a single person so badly they went insane, but who's to say Draco Malfoy wasn't already insane?

After eating a light lunch at the Three Broomsticks the group split off into their different groups. As Harry entered Honeydukes his mind drifted to thoughts of the last time he was here. He had used the map and snuck out of the school, and surprised his friends. They were ecstatic to see him, but Hermione as usual wanted him to turn in the map, and Ron was… well Ron. After they had picked up some chocolate the two of them wondered over to Zonko's to pick up the things for Tori's prank on Ronald. This store was a little 'less' crowded than Honeydukes, but it was still packed. Tori's list included twenty-five animated mini-spider packs, twelve packs of stink pellets, and two spider fireworks. Harry shook his head as he went to pay for these things first. Daphne was looking at him with a raised eyebrow, and all Harry could tell her was 'later' as he didn't know Tori's intentions, but he had a good idea of what it was. Harry himself picked up a few stink pellets as an early Christmas 'gift' for Sirius.

As they left Zonko's Daphne asked "Are you sure about this love?"

"Not really, but you know your sister, and when she gets an idea in her head come hell or high water it will happen."

Daphne's response was a simple nod, and what could only be described as a twisted grin. They both made their way to the meeting point form the last Hogsmeade weekend. Once they arrived at the Shack Harry saw Neville valiantly trying to scare off Malfoy and company. Harry handed over the bags to Daphne and quickly put on his invisibility cloak. For the second time in his life he played on the 'haunted' house propaganda to terrorize Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle once again. It didn't help the three putts that Daphne was pointing in the complete different direction then where he was standing. After his third throw Draco pointed to a spot just behind Daphne before he got hit in the face by the fourth ball of slime.

Once the three psychopaths ran off Harry cast a quick cleaning charm on his hand before sneaking over and poking Neville in his side, and he had to bite back a laugh as his friend squeaked. Hermione called him out while laughing hysterically. Once his cloak was off Neville light punched him in the shoulder. Tracey had fallen to one knee and was holding her sides because she was laughing so hard. While Susan had an ear to ear smile and was shaking her head.

"Okay Sir Jokester how are we going to get this stuff into the castle?" Daphne asked as she held up the Zonko's bags.

"I was thinking of using a friend of mine." Harry said with a smile.

Daphne looked over at her boyfriend with a raised eyebrow. "And who would this friend be?"

"DOBBY," as soon as those words left Harry's mouth the air popped with the arrival of a house-elf.

"The great Harry Potter calls for Dobby. How can Dobby help the great Harry Potter?" The elf could not seem to stop bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Harry took the bags from Zonko's and handed it to Dobby. "Could you put these in my trunk back at the castle Dobby?"

"Of course Harry Potter sir." With that Dobby took the bags and vanished in a puff of smoke.

Daphne was standing there slack jawed. In all the stories she heard of people sneaking stuff past Filch not once had she heard of a student using their house elf to do so. The look on Hermione's face was priceless. She looked simultaneously amused and angry.

"Harry did you just use a school elf to sneak contraband into the school?" Hermione asked with her arms crossed, and an older sibling like gaze on the de facto leader of the group.

"Yes, and Hermione I think you might want to ask those in our group who have house elves about them. I know not every family treats them right, but they like what they do." Harry said this calmly. "Besides we need to talk about our little extracurricular activity."

Those unaware of what was going on looked at Harry with raised eyebrows. Harry just told them it was Marauder business. As the group discussed their alternate forms Harry could tell Neville and Susan were tempted, but even after repeated prodding from Harry and Tracy all they managed to do was get hexed twice by Susan, and make Neville nearly blush to death. After the laughter stopped, Hermione informed them that she had found a book in the library that said meditation would help with discovering your animagus form. She seemed a little downtrodden about this though, and when asked why she said that they would just have to wait and see. Daphne thought it probably had something to do with her animal form. She just hoped it was nothing horrid like a chicken or something.

The sound of someone trudging through the snow made everyone look away from the Shack. When Daphne turned to see who it was she was stunned to see the Weasel walking towards them, and the look on his face screamed malice. Daphne felt Harry tense in her arms. She looked at her boyfriend and the look on his face was frightening. There were times that she didn't believe him about the time travel business, but now standing there, looking at him staring down Weasel King she could see the war hardened look upon his face. She didn't know everything that he had seen, but she wanted to talk to him about it before it destroyed him from the inside.

As Weasley drew closer Daphne could feel a pulse flow between her and Harry. She looked down at her hands and saw this light glow surround her hand and Harry's own hand. It was almost mother-of-pearl in color. It also seemed to be fighting off the bitter cold of winter.

"So it looks like everyone is right about you and this… thing Potter." Weasley said this with so much venom Daphne thought his teeth might turn green.

"I would back off Weasley." Tracey said with stern determination behind her voice.

"Stuff it Davis, and nice whore to pick up Bones I bet your aunt is proud of that." There was a collective intake of air at that comment. "What does she do for you anyway? Oh, wait let me guess it has something to do with a certain lower region of your body." There was this obscene smile on the boy's face as he said this.

At that point Daphne felt Harry's arms unwrap from around her. The next thing she knew, Ronald Weasley was lying on the ground.

"If you ever say such a thing about my friends again Weasel King I swear I will hurt you." Harry turned back to his friends. "Come on guys lets go back to the castle."

Harry and the gang were seated in the last compartment of the train. The two couples were sitting side by side with Hermione and Neville sitting across from them. They were talking about everything and nothing in particular. The idea of the Weasleys coming over to his and Sirius new home in London made everyone a bit uneasy. It was announced to them the day before term ended. Mrs. Weasley apparently wanted to ensure that Harry was not pranked senseless during the Christmas Hols according to the twins.

A gentle knocking on the door brought Harry back to the here and now. Standing outside the compartment was Ginny with a very pensive look on her face. She asked to speak to Harry for a moment. Harry told Daphne he would be right back and kissed her on the cheek before leaving the compartment.

Once out in the corridor Harry turned to Ginny. "What's wrong Ginny?"

"I just wanted to say I'm sorry Harry." She said this while looking down at the ground.

"Sorry for what?"

"I was planning on giving you a love potion starting next year…"

Harry held up his hand at this point. "Ginny it doesn't matter what you were going to do. So long as you don't do it we will still be friends."

"I know, and I won't because I like living more then I desire to be your girlfriend." Ginny had a small smile on her face at this point. "It's funny I thought I would be soul bonded to you ya' know?"

"No I didn't, but Ginny don't worry I am sure there is someone out there for you. Who knows maybe it's not even a guy." Harry was playing off the rumor about her liking Tori as more than a friend.

Ginny hit him on the shoulder "Not you too Harry!"

"You know I am kidding right?" Harry said with a half-smile.

"Of course, if you weren't, I would have placed the bat-bogey hex on you." She gently hugged a stunned Harry. "See you at Christmas Harry."

As Harry walked back into compartment he noticed Daphne looking at him with a raised eyebrow. "She wanted to apologize for something she has not done, and thankfully will not be doing."

"You mean that potion thing?" Tracey asked with a smile on her face.

"Yes, and as she put it 'I like living more than I desire to your girlfriend'. So yeah, there's that problem taken care of." Harry sat down next to Daphne once more.

"So why did she hit you?" Hermione asked with a smile on her face.

"I said something that has been floating around, and out of love for my own life I am stopping now." Harry was smiling at a scowling Daphne.

"Good call mister." His girlfriend swatted him on the shoulder. "So has Sirius told you when we will be doing the animagus thing?"

"Yes New Year's Eve."

With that conversation died down. The rest of the train ride was mostly quiet with the occasional remarks for those with significant others to 'get a room' by Neville or passersby. Fred and George teased the new Marauders a little, but for the most part were pushing the skiving packets they were working on. Like last time Hermione scolded them for it, but after Harry assured her they were fine she backed off… kind of.

Once at the station for the first time in his life (or was that eight lives) Harry saw his godfather standing there waiting for him. Harry could hear some giggling off to his left and figured that whatever he looked like caused a mass of giggle fits from the girls in the compartment. Looking over at his girlfriend Harry found her covering her mouth, and trying to suppress her laughter. As everyone left the train they received a lot of looks because of the ragtag group of Slytherins, Gryffindors, and one Hufflepuff. Harry kissed Daphne on last time and he promised to keep in touch until they saw each other again. This brought about laughter from their friends and family seeing as they would see each other again tomorrow.

As they left the station Harry asked "Please tell me we are not staying in your mother's house?"

"We are not staying in my mother's house." He looked over at his dogfather who had this misguided smile on his face. "We are staying in the yard of her house."

"You've got to be kidding me." Harry said in exasperation.

"I am, but the look on your face was as they say: priceless." He just glared a Sirius who broke out into his barking laugh. "You're going to love the place Harry, and from what I hear your beloved does not live far off."

"Are you trying to get me into trouble?" Harry looked at his godfather with a lopsided smile.

"No I figure you can do that all on your own." Sirius patted Harry on his back. "Now come on lets go to the car and put your things in the boot."

Once outside the station Harry's eyes landed a jet black Jaguar that looked more like a sports car then a family car. One look at the old reprobate caused him to smile. The trip to his new home wasn't that long. The house was a little south of Notting Hill. Sirius said he had found the place rather refreshing after all those years in Azkaban, and it was loads better than staying in his mum's old place. He was keeping 12 Grimmauld Place for the Order, but he had no desire to live there. He also said they would be going to get him some new clothes tomorrow, and this was something Harry readily agreed to.

As the car came to a stop Sirius pointed to a white stone segment of the houses. As Harry got out of the car he was wondering if Sirius had chosen this house because of the dichotomy of its coloring with his family name, or simply to put distance between himself and the dismal neighborhood of his family home. The inside of the house seemed to be under some minor enlarging spell as the rooms took up more room than the outside let on. Sirius had even moved the family tree portion of Grimmauld Place, and readjusted it to fit the Black Family's new standard. He had fixed the picture of himself and Andromeda Tonks on the family tree, and burned out the pictures of Narcissa, Lucius, and Draco; along with the picture of his own mother. The place was affixed with the latest muggle amenities, and Sirius asked Harry if he would explain a few of these things later. Harry said that he would try, but he also said that the best person to ask about most of these things was Hermione. The oddest thing that Harry noticed was that Kreature was at the house, and not making any snide comments about his blood status or muggles. Harry smiled at this change, and proceeded upstairs to his new room. What he found there made him simultaneously slightly angry and laugh hysterically.

The room was split into two parts one covered in a light blue color, and the other side was a bright vibrant pink. Above the bed in the pink area of the room was a sign that read 'his' and the opposite sign was above the bed in the blue zone of the room.

"Do you like?" he heard from behind him.

"You are sadistic."

"I know."

Ronald was sitting there with the rest of his 'family' unwrapping Christmas gifts, and like always his mother made them sweaters and Ron's was horrendous. He had also received a gift in pink wrapping paper that said to open alone. He didn't recognize the hand writing, but figured it was from a secret admirer if the soft pink lips on the note were any indication. He took the small package up to his room to open it in private to avoid the ridicule he would receive from the twins. Once he was up stairs he was almost certain that the twins had convinced someone to kiss the note and send this to him because they didn't tease him about the stupid thing. He placed the box on his bedside stand and tossed the sweater into the corner of the room. He fell down on his bed contemplating when the others would go off to visit Potty Boy. He knew it had to be before eight this evening because that was when the family was having their traditional family meal, so he had a very narrow window of time to report his latest findings on his father's latest tinkering with muggle devices to Lucius.

A rattling sound from his bed side table brought his attention back to the stupid box. It was jumping around on the stand. As he reached for it the thing exploded in a cloud of green smoke. He made his way over to his window, and after the smoke had cleared out he felt something crawling all over him. Looking down he found his hands were this weird blue color, and his clothes were this odd blue color. Upon closer inspection he discovered they were small spiders! He tried to wipe them off his clothes, but that proved useless. This left him no choice but to get rid of his outer garments, and at that point he remembered his wand was still on the night stand. As he went to get the instrument of his salvation the biggest tarantula he had ever seen emerged from the box thus blocking him from the safety magic could provide. The spider advanced on him leaving him with two choices. The first was for him to run down the stairs, and the second option was for him to leaping out the window to his death. He chose to the less lethal of the two options. As he made his way down the stairs he was certain the twins were behind this one because they were laughing hysterically even before he arrived. Before he could yell at them however the spider jumped in front of him. He barely had time to realize that his family had screamed when the spider jumped in front of him. He chose to run outside to escape it, and the only thing that caused him to look back towards the house was the sound of two very large bangs. Two blue streaks leaped out of his window and streaked down towards him before exploding first into the shape of two very large spiders, and then into the words "Marry Christmas Weasley Family!"

As Ron walked back into house he gave the twins the two fingered salute, and trudged up the stairs as his mother called to him to get back there this instant. He grabbed a change of clothes and went into the bathroom slamming the door in his mother's face. She opened the door and started yelling at him about his 'foul language', and all he did was point to his blue hands and turned on the shower. She told him this was not over, and shut the door. He took one look in the mirror and saw that his entire body had been turned blue, and his hair was this weird green color. After removing the last of his clothes he discovered that no part of him was spared from this atrocious prank. It took forty minutes for him to get the dye off of his skin, but the hair color would not go away.

After getting dressed he went back downstairs to demand answer about the change in his hair from the twins, but there was no one there, and after searching he only found a note saying that the rest of the family would be back at eight. He immediately went up to his room and started packing everything he owned. Once all of his clothes were packed he grabbed his notes one his father's latest 'experiment', and called Grimie the Malfoy house-elf.

"Master Ronald calls on Grimie?" the female elf asked.

"Yes is Lucius available to accept me as a visitor at the moment?"

"Oh yes Master Ron, but are you expecting to stay?" the elf was looking at his luggage.

"No, I am planning on staying with an aunt of mine from this point on." He picked up his trunk. "Please tell Lucius I am on my way."

"As Master Ron requests." The elf curtsied before disappearing in cloud of smoke.

Ron walked over to the floo, and as he made his way to the Malfoy estate he contemplated where he would stay. He knew that he had a distant cousin that might take him in simply because he no longer followed the Weasley family doctrine of 'muggles deserve protection'. He couldn't think of the man's name, but he knew he had a daughter named Mafalda. Once he stopped spinning he opened his eyes and the sight that lay before him took his breath away. The entire hall was covered in marble, and the emblazoned emblem of the Slytherin house graced the back wall. Lucius, his wife, and Draco were there waiting for him.

"My father tells me you've chosen to join the right side of the coming fight Weasley." Draco said this with almost snide satisfaction.

"I have." He then walked over to Lucius and handed him his notes. "I am not intending to stay here Lucius, and if my father has relatives that accept people like you and I, then perhaps I should contact him. Otherwise I will file for drifter student status, and further dampen my father's name."

"Did your brothers do this to you?" Lucius gestured to his hair. He shook his head in agreement. Lucius took the notes from him. "Thank you Ronald, but I have a better idea, and it would count as your first step down the stronger road of forbidden magic."

"What would you have me do?" Ronald asked with a smile on his face.

"First we would need a few drops of your blood…"

Harry and his group of friends were nearly curled up on the ground after watching the twins' memories of the 'gift' given to Ronald, and the memory of Tori planning the prank in Sirius' Pensieve. Daphne's father was there with them, and he was wiping tears from his eyes as he patted his youngest child on the back.

"We won't tell your mother about this particular prank Tori." Kyle said as looked over at Sirius and Remus who were chatting off in the corner. "What are you two up to?"

Sirius looked over to the older man. "Nothing, but Remus and I have decided on what to call you from this day forward Tori."

"Oh and that would be?" Tori asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Webs," the two remaining Marauders said in unison.

"Does this make me a Marauder?" Tori asked with her hands clasped tightly together.

"A tentative Marauder," Sirius put a hand on her shoulder when she looked crest fallen. "Do not worry Webs, this is only because you aren't learned in magic enough just yet, but in time, yes you will become a full member of the Brotherhood." At this Tori once again smiled broadly.

"Are you two corrupting my daughter?" the voice of Daphne's mother filled the room. Harry turned to look at the woman. She had Tori's sandy blonde hair, but her eyes were cerulean blue. She had a very athletic build and Harry wondered if she ever played quidditch in her youth.

"Now Alice, why would you think such a thing," Sirius asked this with an ear to ear grin on his face.

"There are three reasons. One your track record, two my daughter's tendency of pranking her older sisters, and three you and Remus were over there in the corner whispering to one another." She had her hands on her hips looking. "Does the defense wish to provide a counter argument?"

"Not really." Sirius continued to smile as Janet glared at him.

Harry had to think quickly about the memories in the Pensieve as he was the closest to it. He used the pretense of showing everyone the Dursleys first meeting Hagrid as a means to clear the device of incriminating information. His action however didn't work out as smoothly as he intended.

"Harry James Potter, isn't that a bit too convenient of a thing to say/do at this moment?" Alice asked.

"Not really I was just going to show everyone my first quidditch match." He said this with a smile plastered on his face.

"Unlikely, you are not a braggart like your father." Janet said patting him on the shoulder. "Besides, lunch is ready."

"That and you said two different things just now." Kyle said patting him on the back. "When dealing with a solicitor you need to keep you story straight." The group laughed as the left Harry standing there in a quandary for a few seconds.

The lunch was spectacular. It wasn't the food that Harry found mind blowing it was the company. Tori and the twins kept everyone laughing, while Sirius and Kyle kept Harry and Daphne blushing with constant remarks about how close the two were sitting. Harry thought Kyle's reasoning was solely based on the principal of a father protecting his daughter. Sirius on the other hand was just looking for a reason to make the two go crimson. At least that was his opinion for all he knew the reasoning could be flipped. The one thing he was glad was not happening was the needless waist of food from the human waste bin that was Ronald Weasley.

After dinner presents were exchanged, and like last time Sirius had gotten him the Firebolt. In private he had asked if this had happened last time, and he told him the whole story on the 'anonymous' gift its fall out. He told Sirius not to hold it against Hermione because at the time none of them knew the truth about him, and much less about the rat. After the gifts had been given everyone broke off into their own little groups. Harry and Daphne went off to talk in the den. They talked about school at first, but in the end the conversation turned to the event that was coming in a week.

"So have you been doing the meditation Hermione and I told you about?" Daphne asked as rested her head on his shoulder.

"Yes, but the only thing I keep seeing is the sky. I hope I am not a bug or something." Harry said with an exasperated sigh.

"You won't be your too courageous for that, and besides at least you're not me. My animal seems to live just about anywhere. The only place I have not seen is the frozen tundra of the North Pole." Daphne tightened her grip on Harry's waist. "You three at least have some continuity in your meditation. Hermione sees either a mangrove forest or the sandy shore of a river, Tracey sees what could only be the African savannah, and you keep seeing the wild blue yonder. I see everything and nothing."

"Take it easy love we figure this all out in a week." Harry kissed her lightly on the head.

"You can do better than that." Daphne said looking up at him.

"I don't want your dad to hang me ya' know."

"He won't and you know it." Daphne was leaning in closer to him. "Now shut up, and kiss me."

The kiss started out tender and sweet, but grew in its intensity and passion. Harry kept his hands moving across her back, and occasionally to the sides of her waist. Ginny at the point of his hands touching her waist would usually break the kiss and tell him to 'cease the wandering of his hands', but Daphne didn't seem to care. Harry was not so brazen as to try and go further than he already had though he had to admit the temptation was there.

"Okay you two I think it is time to stop before you find yourselves sans clothing." Sirius said with a smile.

That was what stopped the duo from snogging, but what followed made Harry's heart nearly stop.

"Are you trying to get your godson into trouble Sirius Black?" The sound of Kyle's voice made Harry look toward the entryway to the room slowly. "Hi there, so are you two done snogging like there's no tomorrow?"

Everyone that had been invited over was standing there looking at the couple. Tracey, Susan, Tori, and Ginny were snickering behind their hands. The twins were outright laughing while their mother was trying to glare at them, but the smile on her face made that attempt at intimidation fail. The rest of the visitors were either smiling or like the twins laughing maniacally.

"How long were you guys standing there?" Daphne asked exasperatedly.

"Oh I would say twenty minutes." Susan said with a smile on her face.

"Oh God…" the two of them said together.

After the laughter stopped the guest started to leave in small groups. Once everyone left Sirius told him about Mr. Weasley's plan of going to the Quidditch World Cup, and he demanded that Harry not tell him weather this would be successful or not because he didn't want to jinx it. He went on to say that he was planning on taking Madam Rosmertta with them to the tournament. Harry agreed to keep his mouth shut about the tournament, but for the following week he mercilessly teased Sirius and Janet until they brought up the 'kissing incident' during Christmas Eve.

On Friday Harry received a letter from Hermione saying she would be showing up tomorrow at noon, and staying through the weekend. She said she would be taking the Knight Bus, and just reading those words made Harry feel a little queasy. At precisely twelve o'clock Friday afternoon Hermione showed up at the Black Haven, Sirius originally wanted to call it the Dog Pad but Janet put her foot down stating she would not have her employees hear her call that out at the end of the day. By her slightly green complexion Harry guessed she did not particularly like the Knight Bus. An hour latter Daphne, Tracey, and Susan showed up, and the group was taken to Sirius' study. There were about twelve vials of a thick grey potion sitting on the desk, and the blue smoke coming out of them made Harry's stomach turn just a touch.

"Now before we start I want to make sure this is everyone that was going to learn how to be an animagus." Sirius asked looking at the group of teens.

"Yes it is." Tracey said with a smile on her face. "Susan wanted to take a little walk down the prankster's road."

"Is that so Ms. Bones?" Sirius asked with a slight smirk. Susan just nodded her head in agreement. "Excellent! Now the first thing you need take out your wands, and ladies before I say this next part I want you to know I am not being perverted, crass, or in any way lewd." All four of the girls glared at him. "What you need to do is take your wand into a high arcing manner and tap it LIGHTLY to the center of your chest. I would like you to practice this a few times before we continue." The teens did the motion a few times before he went on. "The incantation you need to use is: Animalis. Practice this a while."

All five of the friends practiced saying the incantation multiple times. Hermione seemed to have little trouble with the pronunciation. With everyone else being almost equals in its pronunciation.

"All right now it's time to cast the spell. On three: one, two, and three." Sirius said with a smile on his face.

The group of friends sounded off as one "Animalis!"

Daphne found herself in some disserted alley. The smell of sewage and the nearby garbage can permeated the air. She knew that the spell just primed the body for the transformation the potion would induce, but what creature on earth would find this kind of place comfortable to live in besides a rat? She prayed with all her might that that was not the case. The clanking sound of a can falling to the ground from the overflowing garbage can grabbed her attention. Sitting there on a windowsill was black cat with really long fur. It began to lick its left paw.

"Okay the books said commit what I see of the animal to memory, and visualize myself turning into to it, and returning to my normal form. This shouldn't be too hard. Why rat boy failed at this I will never know."

Harry found himself in the transfiguration courtyard during what looked to be the dead of winter. He began looking around for some kind of sign that his animal was something other than a really demented insect. The sudden sound of moving air behind him mad Harry duck for cover; a few seconds later he felt this sharp pain in his right shoulder. Looking to his right Harry's eyes landed on the fast animal on the planet: the peregrine falcon. Harry held up his right arm, and the predatory bird leapt from his should to his forearm. Once it turned to look at him it nipped at his nose.

"I knew I loved flying fast for a reason." He then began studying every detail of the bird.

Hermione founder herself sitting on the root of a mangrove tree. She had been wondering from tree to tree looking for any kind of animal, but alas she had found none. She was beginning to wonder if she even had an animal when she felt something brush up against her legs. Looking down she could see a long slender serpent moving at the base of the tree. She tentatively reached down and grabbed the snake, and gently lifted it up. Instead of finding a rodent hunting viper Hermione held in her hands the king of all poisonous snakes, at least in her opinion: the King Cobra. She let the animal wrap around her as she only needed to study it upper region the lower half would be easy to envision.

"Daphne and Harry are going freak. I wonder if I can speak parseltongue after this?" the snake nodded in agreement, and Hermione just smiled. Perhaps after all this nonsense with Voldemort was over with she could disprove all of this 'parseltongue is evil' business.

Susan was standing in a dense forest. The quiet of this place frightened her. Even the bugs were silent here, and that was not normal. The humidity was horrendous, and it felt like she was being baked alive. She didn't know how she let her girlfriend talk her into this nonsense. If her aunt found out this whole rebellious teenager experiment of hers would be over, and her relationship with Tracey would be under more scrutiny for 'inappropriate behaviour'. Really was her private time with Tracey anyone else's business?

The sudden snapping of what sounded like a branch caused her to turn around. A large black mass landed in front of her, and she subconsciously backed away. When she was sure it wasn't going to lunge at her she began to slowly approach the beast. She knew that it was a solidly black jaguar. She reached out with her hand and its initial reaction was to lick the palm of her hand. She jumped a little, and she could swear that the creature was smiling at her.

"Tracey is going to either love this, or faint."

Tracey did not have to look far to find her animal form. Well to be honest she had kind of guessed what it was a few weeks back when she had witnessed it kill a cape buffalo. The lioness was just lounging in the shade of a tree at the moment acting like she didn't even care that Tracey even existed. Tracey gently flicked its ear.

"Do you even know I'm here?" the lioness just looked over at her indignantly and nodded.

Sirius watched as the five teens started to smile. Hermione in his opinion was smiling maniacally. Whither the young witch would admit to this or not is another matter. Once there eyes opened he handed them each a vial of Animalis Formare.

"Now I don't want all of you to drink this at the same time. The last thing we need to happen is for there to be a wild free for all." He closed his eyes remembering the havoc he and James created the first night of their fourth year. The two of them chased the rat around the school for hours. "Now remember after you drink the potion you have to focus as hard as you can on the animal you met after casting the spell." All five teens nodded in agreement.

"I'll go first." Daphne said with a sigh. "Here goes nothing."

Daphne down the potion in one shot, and her face contorted at the taste. From what Sirius could remember about the potion it tasted like sweaty socks. Everyone chuckled a little at the shrinking of Daphne's hands. In a matter of minutes she had become an average sized black cat with long black fur starting at the base of her ears and going to her front shoulder blades. "Remember you have to turn back quickly." Sirius said, and Daphne nodded and began to return to normal. It took a few minutes, but she eventually did it.

"Well that was pleasant." Daphne shivered at the feeling of her hair getting longer on her arms, legs, and back. She looked over her shoulder and was pleased to see the tail had gone away as she had thought she might forget about that blasted thing. "So who's next?"

"Me!" Susan and Tracey said as one.

"Why not do alphabetically you two?" Sirius asked with a smirk on his face.

"No way Harry would go before either of us." Tracey said with a smirk. "Besides I want to see if I can do this."

"Fine, fine ladies first," Sirius said this holding up his hands.

Before Sirius could stop them both girls took the potion and drank it down as quickly as possible. Just like Daphne before them their arms grew fur, but the distinct difference was the size of their paws. Susan's usually pale skin turned a deep dark black colour, and eyes took on this striking yellow colour. The tips of her ears were the only indication that she had even been a redhead. Tracey was a touch taller than Susan, and there was no question what animal had chosen her as a pure blonde lioness stood be for the group. Harry shivered when Susan yawned wide enough for him to slide his head into her mouth. 'Not messing with the jaguar' Sirius thought. A minute later both girls were back to their normal selves.

"I'll go next." Hermione said before she drank the potion slowly. Within seconds of drinking the potion she had fully transformed into a five meter long snake with piercing brown eyes. When she flattened out into her crown the group noticed a few brown scales on the underside of crown. When she turned back to her normal form Hermione began to smile at the stunned look on her friends faces. "What were you expecting?"

"No way," Harry and Daphne said as one.

"Oh great a third parseltongue; just what we needed." Tracey said under her breath. Hermione had an ear to ear smile on her face.

"Okay you're up next Harry." Daphne said tapping him on the shoulder.

Harry pressed his eyes closed before drinking the acrid potion. He could feel his feel his fingers start to get longer and his arms, chest, and back became unbearably itchy. He found himself shrinking down, and soon his eyesight became sharper than it had ever been before. Everyone was standing there looking at him a little slack jawed. Daphne was the first to notice the lightning bolt mark on the back of his right wing. He flapped his wings before turning back into his normal form.

"Well I believe congratulations are in order, and it is time to give you your nicknames." Sirius said between spurts of barking laughter.

"We get nicknames?" Susan asked.

"Yes it is part of being a Marauder." Sirius said while taping a finger on the bridge of his nose.

Susan's new name was Ruby for the bright red tips of her ears. Hermione's was as cliché as Sirius': Scales. She didn't seem to mind though. Daphne argued a little over her nickname, but could not come up with anything better than Lucky so the name stuck. Tracey was the hardest to name and she had to take her animagus form again for anyone to find a distinguishing feature on the lioness to derive a nickname from. Eventually Daphne found a two tan spots on her right front leg, and thus Spots was born. Harry vehemently refused to be called lightning, and took the name Talons.

"So when will your first prank take place Marauders," Sirius asked this with this demented gleam in his eyes.

"Nope I don't want this information slipping out of your very loose lips during pillow talk."

Sirius brought his clenched fist to his chest. "You wound me good sir."

"Out," Harry started pushing him out of the room. Once the door shut behind him Sirius started laughing maniacally. When he heard the floo light up he walked to greet his evening guest.

"Where is Harry?" Janet Rosmertta asked.

"In the study, he and a few friends or going over their homework before going to Hogwarts day after tomorrow." He wrapped his arms around her neck, and kissed her gently.

"Why don't I believe you?"

"I don't know." A crocked smile formed on his lips.

Harry turned around to find his friends had turned back into their animagus forms, and were playing around. Tracey and Susan were roughhousing with one another while Daphne was having fun jumping over Hermione as she slithered across the floor. Harry turned into his falcon form and partook in the high jinks. It took him a while to learn how to fly without the aid of a broom, and after getting into the air staying there was a bit of a challenge due to the walls. More than once he ran face first into one, and after the third time doing so he just decided to sit on the bookshelf and wait for the right moment to land on Daphne's head. The chance came when she curled up next to Hermione. When his claws trounced her Daphne let out a shrill shriek and returned to normal form. She stood up and glared at Harry, but he could stop staring at the tail that was still swishing behind her. Everyone seemed to turn back to normal at this point with varying degrees of success. Hermione still had snake like eyes, Tracey had a paw for her left hand, and Susan was still covered in fur. Harry could feel his foot was not quite right and after taking off his shoe found himself looking at a rather large bird foot.

"Okay let's try this again." Susan said. After a few more tries everyone was back to normal. "Okay I think it is the returning to normal that everyone finds so hard at first."

"Correct." Daphne and Hermione said.

"Well that's what I wanted to talk about." Walking up to Daphne he kissed her gently on the lips. "Sorry if I scared you."

"We will talk about this later." Daphne gave him the look.

"Back to what I was saying earlier," Harry looked a bit sheepish. "I think we need to work on our animagus transformation for the rest of this year before we start pranking people."

"Good idea Harry this transformation thing is harder than the books let on." Hermione said with a pensive look on her face.

"That and the potions we will need to make for our fist prank will take about eight months to make." Harry just smiled at the look of shock on all their faces.

"You already have our first prank designed?" Tracey asked.

"Yes, and it is for the Slytherin boys."

"Leave the first years and Blaise out of this." Daphne said looking with squinted eyes.

"Why shouldn't we prank Blaise?" Hermione quizzed out of nowhere.

"I know he is a bigot, but I have been working on his attitude, and his mother is the cause of most of his problems. Other than that he is a nice guy and a good friend." She looked over at Harry. "He broke Crabbe's nose after he groped my arse."

Harry nodded in agreement. "Okay we leave Blaise alone, but here is the plan…."

A/N3: I know I said this at the start, but I have a poll going, and these generally affect one of the stories I am working on or one in development so answers will be appreciated. Thank you and R&R please.

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