The Other

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Chapter 2

Professor Snape led the way out of the Slytherin rooms and into the hallway.

Choab kept silent as he followed, wondering why he had been singled out.

Finally they arrived at what was obviously a classroom door.

Professor Snape waved his hand before the door and it opened.

Choab walked in cautiously, followed by Professor Snape.

A chill went down Choab's spine as he heard the door close.

Choab turned and looked Professor Snape in the eyes as he said, "I'm surprised. I didn't think I'd be asked to give... 'extra credit' at least until classes had started."

Professor Snape only revealed his shock at the statement by the arch of an eyebrow before saying, "Nothing so dire. And as head of Slytherin House, if anyone, professor or prefect, requests such 'extra credit' from any student, I expect to hear of it immediately, am I understood?"

"Yes. My apologies Professor." Choab said, but didn't avert his gaze.

"No matter. The reason I've brought you here is to discuss the glamour that you're wearing." Professor Snape said seriously.

"Sir?" Choab asked in confusion.

"We professors see a variety of students each year and have become attuned to certain spells. Though the glamour you're wearing wouldn't be apparent to most wizards, nearly all the staff noticed it when you walked into the great hall." Professor Snape said in a low voice.

"I'm sorry sir, I don't know to what you are referring." Choab said quietly.

Professor Snape looked carefully at Choab's expression and seemed to come to a decision.

"Perhaps you don't." Professor Snape said, then walked to a cabinet and selected three vials of liquid before returning to Choab.

"Come along. We'll go to the infirmary and let Madame Pomfrey have a look at you. If this is something that's been done to you, she should be able to tell." Professor Snape said as he led the way out of the classroom.

* * * * *

"Oh, for Merlin's sake..." Madame Pomfrey muttered as she waived her wand over Choab again and again.

"Well?" Professor Snape asked with irritation.

"Near as I can tell, there are some two dozen spells on the boy. Glamours, hexes and transfigurations. All of them are years old."

"Mr. Nightshade, do you have any idea of how this happened?" Professor Snape asked carefully.

"No sir. I don't know anything about it." Choab said seriously.

"Here's a compulsion that keeps him from recognizing the magics used against him." Madame Pomfrey said in concentration.

Professor Snape turned with a swish of his robes and walked out of the room.

* * * * *

"Yes Severus. I believe you're right." the Headmaster said from Choab's bedside.

"Will it be safe for the child if we choose to unbind the spells?" Professor McGonigal asked cautiously.

"Yes. I believe so. There is just no way of knowing what the spells are hiding." Headmaster Dumbledore said in thought.

"Mr. Nightshade, do you understand what we are talking about?" Professor Snape asked carefully.

"Yes sir. Someone has changed me." Choab said quietly.

"Yes, quite. The question is, do we want to undo those changes to find what is beneath?" Professor McGonigal asked rhetorically.

After a moment of silence, Professor Snape said, "I think the choice should belong to the child."

Dumbledore nodded his acceptance.

"Mr. Nightshade, do you want us to release the magics and reveal your true form?" Professor Snape asked cautiously.

"Yes sir." Choab said with a tremble of honest fear in his voice.

"This could take several hours, perhaps days and there most certainly will be some pain involved. Are you certain that you want to proceed?" Headmaster Dumbledore asked with concern.

"Yes sir. Completely certain." Choab said as he pushed down his fear and regained complete control.

"As Madame Pomfrey identifies each spell, we can deal with it." Headmaster Dumbledore said seriously.

Madame Pomfrey nodded and began to wave her wand over the boy again.

* * * * *

"How are you feeling?" Madame Pomfrey asked as she noticed Choab's eyes begin to flutter open.

"Hurt." Choab gasped out.

"I don't wonder. Here, this should help." She said as she waived her wand across Choab's chest.

"You went through quite a bit last night." Madame Pomfrey said in her ever present cheery tone.

"What happened?" Choab asked as he blinked, trying to come fully awake.

"Too much to tell. Let's just say that we got the worst of the magics off of you and be done with it." Madame Pomfrey said and gestured to the bedside table.

Choab glanced at the table in time to see breakfast appear before him.

"You need a good meal to build your strength." Madame Pomfrey said more seriously.

Choab tried to achieve a sitting position but fell back.

"The new body is going to take some getting used to. You've got some muscles that haven't been used in a very long time." Madame Pomfrey said gently.

"New body?" Choab asked with worry.

Madame Pomfrey bit her lip and nodded, then walked away.

Choab tried to sit again, this time just managing it. He lifted a hand to reach behind him to find what was pulling on his back when he noticed his hand.

All thoughts of the weight on his back left him as he examined his long slender fingers with fingernails that looked like claws or talons.

"What?" Choab asked with fear.

"Shhh. Don't worry. I've just gone to get you a mirror." Madame Pomfrey said as she returned to his bedside.

Choab took a deep breath and accepted the mirror with shaking hands.

"Before you look, Headmaster Dumbledore said that we can restore the glamour when this is all done. Remember that." Madame Pomfrey said with concern.

Choab nodded and lifted the mirror to see his true self for the first time.

The golden blond hair was the first thing he noticed as he slowly tilted the mirror. Golden blond, just like his father's.

Reluctantly, he continued to tilt the mirror until he looked into his eyes and saw deep blue eyes staring back at him... again, like his father's.

Tears began to well up in his eyes as the realization fell on him.

"Shhh. It's not so bad. We can fix the scarring." Madame Pomfrey crooned.

Choab looked at her in confusion, then tilted the mirror to see the rest of his face.

Three scars, obvious claw marks extended down his face from just below his left eye down his cheek, tapering off just before his jaw.

Choab blinked to clear the tears from his eyes and looked at his face more intently.

He was the younger image of his father. The same features, the same coloring, the same eyes.

"Headmaster Dumbledore will be in to talk with you shortly. Please try to relax." Madame Pomfrey said in a worried voice.

Choab nodded and handed the mirror back to her.

"You can keep that here if you'd like to get familiar with your new look." Madame Pomfrey said, trying to sound calming.

"No. Thank you. I've seen enough." Choab said in a weak voice.

Madame Pomfrey nodded and took the mirror.

Choab reached behind him to feel what was pulling on his back and felt something odd... soft... attached.

"What?..." Choab trailed off in confusion.

He grabbed whatever it was and pulled the edge of it to where he could see it.

A wing.

He jerked on it and felt a stab of pain as he realized that the thing wasn't just attached, it was part of him. He had wings!

"What am I?" Choab asked as he looked at Madame Pomfrey with fear.

"We're still not quite sure of that. But rest assured that before you leave here, we'll have the answer." Madame Pomfrey said in a soothing voice.

Choab felt darkness intruding on the edges of his vision and fell back on the bed.

His vision narrowed to a pinpoint before consciousness left him entirely.

* * * * *

"Just a broken wrist." the voice of Madame Pomfrey said from the other side of a partition.

A whimpering cry sounded from someone.

"I need to get back to the class. Merlin only knows what they'll be up to if left unsupervised." Another voice said gruffly.

"Mr. Longbottom will be well taken care of . Go attend to your class Madame Hooch." Madame Pomfrey said with assurance.

Choab could hear brisk steps leaving the room over the whimpering child.

"Just lie still and I'll be right back to take care of you." Madame Pomfrey said in a gentle voice.

Choab looked down at his hands to see that the long clawed fingers were still there, it hadn't been a nightmare. Or more accurately, the nightmare had been reality.

"How are you doing young man?" Headmaster Dumbledore asked from beside him.

"I... I don't know." Choab said honestly.

"I imagine it's quite a shock when..." Dumbledore began.

"...Everything you've ever known about yourself is a lie?" Choab finished, barely managing to keep the tremble from his voice.

"Yes." Dumbledore said in a whisper.

"What am I?" Choab asked in a small, child voice.

"You're a young man not unlike any other at this school." Dumbledore said with assurance.

Choab looked at him incredulously.

"After consulting a few sources and confirming a few suspicions we've concluded that your mother transfigured herself for a significant portion of her pregnancy and your physical appearance is the result." Dumbledore said seriously.

"So what am I?" Choab asked again.

"As I said, you're a young man not unlike any other. Your appearance is simply... unconventional." Dumbledore said carefully.

Choab looked at his hands and thought about his wings and finally realized the truth.

"A harpy." Choab said as he looked up at the Headmaster.

"We assume so." Dumbledore nodded.

Choab looked at his hands again, and considered what this meant.

"It is possible to restore the transfigurations and glamours that you arrived with if that is what you desire." Dumbledore said quietly.

Choab looked at his hands, but made no show of hearing the Headmaster's words.

"I'll leave you to think about what you'd like to do." Dumbledore said and began to walk away.

"Headmaster?" Choab called suddenly.

Dumbledore turned to look at Choab curiously.

"Could Draco Malfoy come talk with me? I'd like his advice." Choab asked with hope.

"I'll have him stop by after classes let out for the day." Dumbledore said, then walked away.

Choab felt a rumble in his stomach and realized that he hadn't eaten his breakfast earlier.

He looked at the bedside table and saw that the food was gone. From the light in the room, it appeared to be after noon.

"I imagine you're hungry by now." Madame Pomfrey said as she hurried around the partition.

"Yes ma'am." Choab said shyly.

With a quick wave of her wand, a full meal appeared beside him.

"Go on. Enjoy your meal. I have an injury to attend to just now." Madame Pomfrey said quickly as she left.

Choab sat up, once again noticing the wings on his back trying to pull him back down.

With a little conscious effort, he was able to get the wings to fold in close to his body and give him something closer to his normal balance.

He sat on the edge of the bed and reached for the fork, then stopped. His arm was longer than it used to be.

With much difficulty, Choab was finally able to pick up the fork with the taloned fingers and manipulate a bite of food onto it.

As he tried to guide the fork to his mouth, he realized that he was going to have to relearn how to do just about everything if he chose to keep his true form.

* * * * *

It had taken nearly an hour for Choab to finish eating.

He was feeling a mix of frustration, anger and bewilderment at the events of the past day.

"Cherub?" A voice called cautiously from the edge of the partition.

"Believe it or not." Choab said darkly.

"What happened?" Draco asked in a mix of confusion and horror.

"This." Choab said and spread his arms.

"What?" Draco asked as he stared at Choab with wide eyes.

"The professors noticed that I had a glamour on me when we arrived. Professor Snape brought me here so we could find out what was underneath... this is it." Choab summarized.

"Did you know?" Draco asked hesitantly.

"No. I didn't have any idea." Choab said in a whisper.

Draco had a distant expression for a moment, then met Choab's gaze.

"Can you help me decide what to do? It's... too much." Choab said helplessly.

Draco nodded and walked to the chair beside Choab's bed and took a seat.

"Dumbledore said that he can restore the transfigurations and glamours if I want..." Choab trailed off.

Draco nodded.

"But I can't stay like this... I mean. Look at me!" Choab continued in a pained voice.

Draco nodded again.

Silence fell between them as they both thought.

"How did this happen?" Draco finally asked.

"They think my mother transfigured while she was pregnant with me and it changed me into this." Choab said irritably.

Draco nodded and stared off in distant thought.

"I remember what you said about breeding and old families and all that. You're the only one I know to ask about this. What should I do?" Choab asked desperately.

"Let's sort this out bit by bit." Draco said carefully.

Choab nodded with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.

"Since your family put the spells on you, I'm guessing they were trying to protect you." Draco said in thought.

"Trying to hide their mistake." Choab mumbled.

Draco looked at Choab curiously.

"It all makes sense now. Until three weeks ago, I never left the mansion where I grew up. I've only met my father twice and he just glared at me like I was something dirty. I've never seen my mother. We didn't even have elves. All the staff at the mansion are witches and wizards with little or no ability, so they wouldn't recognize the glamour for what it was..." Choab trailed off as tears began to fill his eyes.

"What else?" Draco asked, sensing that Choab was on the edge of discovering something.

"The glamour was just to make me so I didn't look like my father... They transfigured me to hide my hands and wings." Choab said as the tears began to fall.

Draco nodded as a serious look fell over his face.

"Maybe I should just take the glamour. I don't want to look like him anyway." Choab said with disgust.

"If that's what you want..." Draco said in a calculating voice that made Choab look up in curiosity.

"...but it wouldn't make things right." Draco said as he met Choab's gaze.

"You've got an idea." Choab said with hope.

"A thought." Draco said and betrayed a small smile.

"I'll take it. What have you got?" Choab asked and hefted himself up to sit on the edge of his bed.

"First, I need to know your objective. What's most important? Do you want to get through Hogwart's as easily as possible? Do you want to get revenge on your family? What do you want?" Draco asked seriously.

"I want to be myself. I've been living their lie all my life... and a little revenge might be good too." Choab finished with a smile.

"Good answer. Whatever else you were denied from your family, your breeding continues to show." Draco said with a look of admiration.

"Thank you Mr. Malfoy. So what do you suggest I do to achieve my objective?" Choab asked as he leaned forward with interest.

"Take stock of your appearance. Keep what you like, change what you don't." Draco said firmly.

"Okay. First thing, the claws have to go. It's impossible to do anything with them." Choab said as he held up one hand.

"I can imagine. What else?" Draco asked seriously.

"I'll keep the wings. They're part of me and I think I'll get used to them." Choab said and got a look of expectation, silently asking for Draco's approval.

After a moment of thought, Draco said, "Perhaps you should consider changing their color... they're awfully... white."

Choab thought about the suggestion, then got a mischievous smile.

"It looks like you've got an idea." Draco said with interest.

"Green and black with silver accents?" Choab said with a full grin.

"The Slytherin colors! It's a bit obvious, but likely to placate anyone who might object to your nonstandard appearance... at least in our house." Draco said in thought.

"And who else matters?" Choab said, maintaining his grin.

"Good point." Draco conceded with a smile.

"I'm thinking I'd like to change my hair color to black, something like Professor Snape's. What do you think?" Choab asked in thought.

Draco looked at Choab carefully and finally said, "Yes. I can see that working."

"And I'll keep the eyes and the scar just the way they are." Choab said with a glint in his eyes.

Draco raised his eyebrows, more as a prompt to continue than an expression of surprise.

"Anyone who has ever seen my father will recognize my eyes. They're very distinctive. He won't be able to deny me anymore." Choab said with intensity.

"And the scar?" Draco asked without expression.

"It's my expression of myself. It's a symbol of every hurt, every lie, everything they did to me." Choab said with defiance in his voice.

"It sounds like you have a plan." Draco said with a smirk.

"It sounds like I do." Choab said with a smile.

"How long are you going to be in here?" Draco asked as he looked around.

"I'm not sure. Probably not too much longer. I think I'm only still here so they can be sure I won't go insane or suicidal..."

"...or homicidal." Draco interjected.

Choab nodded and continued, " When they know I'm going to deal with it, they'll probably let me go."

"What do you want me to tell the Slytherins?" Draco asked seriously.

Choab thought about the question and finally said, "Don't make any announcements or anything, but if someone asks, tell them whatever you think they need to know. I can't see it being anyone else's business, but by the same token, I have nothing to hide."

"Spoken like a pure blood." Draco said with a smile.

Choab smiled at Draco as he said, "Thank you for helping me Draco. It was a bit much to deal with all at once."

"We have to stick together. Just because we're from old families doesn't mean we don't have problems, it just means we face them with dignity and decorum." Draco said in a haughty voice.

Choab smiled and said, "Yes, we do."

To Be Continued...