Harry could not help but roll his eyes in annoyance the next day as he left the Gryffindor common room the next morning. The other boys in his room were all still soundly sleeping as he left for breakfast. Lucius had taught him a very simple charm that would act like a magical alarm clock. The spell was so very basic that the Ministry didn't even issue warnings if underage witches and wizards used it.
Harry shrugged and made his way down the stairs to the Great Hall for breakfast. He had already fed Nyx this morning, and would not need to do so again for a few hours. It was only seven in the morning, and Harry knew he was a bit early, but he didn't expect to be the only first year at the Gryffindor table. In fact, there were not many Gryffindors at all. Harry looked over at the Slytherins, glad to see that Draco, Vince, and Greg were already there, and he hurried over to speak with them.
"Morning, Draco," he said, stopping close enough that he could keep their conversation somewhat private.
"Harry," answered Draco, looking unsure. "I was hoping we would be in the same house. Didn't Father tell you that our Houses are the strongest rivals?"
Harry held out a folded parchment. "This will explain a few things. Don't write me off yet. I may be living with lions, but I think this lion may have scales under his fur." He smiled, and was relieved when Draco gave him a smile in return. "I better go eat. See you in class. Greg, Vince, watch his back for me?" The other two smiled and nodded, and Harry hurried over to the Gryffindor table.
As he was enjoying his meal, some of the other students began to filter in. Professor McGonagall came up to him and handed him a parchment with his class schedule on it, though she seemed surprised to see him at breakfast so early. Harry shrugged it off, finished his meal, and began making his way to his first class of the day.
Harry slipped into the Potions classroom, right on Draco's heels. Vince chose to sit with Draco, and Harry decided to sit with Greg, ignoring the looks he got from the other Gryffindors that filed in. Ron was still trying to get on his good side, and it was annoying Harry more each time. Especially since the prat made his dislike of Nyx very clear. Not to mention the fact that he always complained loudly about Harry's association with certain Slytherins.
Greg leaned over. "Draco says you're good at Potions," he whispered.
Harry smiled. "I'm fair, I guess," he answered. "But you should see my sister. Mrs. Malfoy has had her try every potion possible with the child's practice set, and she can brew each from memory." Greg looked impressed.
As usual, Ron opened his mouth. "Why do you always want to sit with them?" he complained. "You're supposed to sit with Gryffindors, not with those slimy snakes."
Before Harry could retort, a door opened, and Professor Snape swept into the room. Like the other professors, he began class by calling roll. When he reached Harry's name, he paused, then looked up. Harry braced himself for some sort of reference to his past. And he was not disappointed.
"Ah, Harry Potter," Professor Snape said softly. "Our new – celebrity." Harry had keep from rolling his eyes. "Is there a reason you feel you must sit with Slytherins, instead of your own kind?" Harry frowned, while Draco shifted uneasily. Harry couldn't help but think that, with those dark eyes, Snape reminded him of a great black panther. "You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art that is potion-making." Harry took out a quill, ready to jot down notes. So far, Snape seemed to be simply introducing the subject. And doing an amazing job of it, as well. "I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death."
Harry had to give the man credit. If he were not a Potions Master, he would certainly find his calling in public speaking. "Potter!" said Snape suddenly. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
Harry felt his jaw drop a little in surprise. He knew for certain that was not in the first year potion book. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ron looking blankly at the professor. Harry cleared his throat. "That is the base for an extremely powerful sleeping potion called the, er, Draught of Living Death, sir," he said. He only remembered it because it was in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi. He had helped Diana study it, because she had kept getting a few of the plant names confused.
Snape looked surprised, but quickly hid it. "Indeed," he said. "And where, Potter, would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"
Harry met his gaze. "A goat's stomach, sir," he answered. "It's a stone that will neutralize most poisons."
Again, the professor looked a bit surprised, and a little confused, but pressed again. "What is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?"
Harry frowned at that. "I mean no disrespect, sir, but is that a trick question?" The entire class froze. Harry could almost feel the weight of those black eyes.
"Explain yourself," Snape demanded.
"There is no true difference between monkshood and wolfsbane, sir, as they are the same plant, though the proper name is aconite."
Everyone turned to look at him. Harry saw Draco give a subtle nod of approval and encouragement. Finally, Snape turned to the class. "Well? Why aren't any of you dunderheads writing this down?" He ordered them all into pairs and told them to mix up a basic cure for boils. Familiar with the potion already, as Narcissa had had him and Draco brew it at Malfoy Manor, Harry took out the needed ingredients and quickly organized them.
As he made sure to pick out horned slugs of the same size, Harry looked over to see Greg about to pour his into his cauldron. Glancing at Snape, Harry leaned over and whispered that they needed to be a bit finer. Greg nodded and quickly began crushing them further. Harry lit the fire for the cauldron. Just in front of them, Draco was quietly reading the directions to Vince, urging him to say them back before they continued.
Greg poured the reqired amount of the crushed snake fangs into the steaming cauldron, and Harry held the back of his hand a couple inches from the cauldron to monitor the temperature, while Greg watched the little hourglass. Harry glanced around the room. Ron and Neville were sharing a table, and Harry felt a bit sorry for him. Ron tended to grate on the nerves.
The rest of the class was much the same. Harry made sure the remaining ingredients were ready, showing both Greg and Neville, who was at the table beside him, how to slice the slugs open to make them stew better and make the potion more effective. He and Greg had just finished the potion, with Neville and a young Irish boy named Seamus Dean right behind them. Snape spent the time walking among the desks, criticizing the less than perfect (mostly Gryffindors) and praising the Slytherins.
"When you believe you have completed the potion," he said in that same soft, intense voice. "Collect a sample in a vial and place it on my desk. Make sure your names are clearly written on the label."
Just as Harry finished sealing the labeled vial, a loud sound came from behind him. He looked to see that Ron's cauldron had melted, and his potion had splashed onto Neville. The dark-haired boy was whimpering in pain as boils formed over his skin. Harry realized Ron had added the porcupine quills too early.
Snape swept over, his wand out to banish the spilled potion that was eating holes in everything it touched. "Whose cauldron was this?" he demanded. "Who is the idiot who did not remove his potion from the heat before adding the quills?" Neville whimpered again and glanced over at Ron, whose ears were bright red. "Take him to the hospital wing." Seamus hurried to comply.
Snape rounded on Harry. "And you," he sneered. "A poor example of House loyalty. Why did you not say something to him before he injured another? Two points from Gryffindor."
Harry set his jaw and faced the professor, opening his mouth to reply. Greg laid a hand on his arm, urging him to stay silent. Harry frowned, but complied. He would approach the professor after class.
Somehow, Harry let Greg and Draco convince him to wait a couple of weeks to try and approach Snape about the matter of Nyx. That night, back in the Gryfinndor common room, Harry found a place near the warm fire where he could do his assignments. He had been assigned essays in Potions, Transfiguration, and History of Magic. Old habits die hard, and Harry was used to getting his assignments completed as soon as possible. He had already finished his parchment for Transfiguration, and was almost done with the History of Magic assignment. The Potions homework would be easy with the extra books Narcissa had urged him to get before school.
A flash of red hair out the edge of his vision had Harry sighing in frustration. Honestly, couldn't Ron Weasley get a hint? Just as Harry turned to tell off the boy, he realized there were two redheads beside him. Two with the same face. Harry relaxed and smiled at them.
"Fred, George," he said. "Sorry, I was afraid it was your little brother."
The twins smirked at each other. "You mean you and ickle Ronnikins aren't the absolute best of friends?" asked George.
Harry wrinkled his nose in disgust. "After the way he was going on about how he and the great Harry Potter were going to be best friends, and he was going to be famous along with him, then insulting Draco Malfoy, who happens to be my first friend. Why exactly would I like him? The first thing he said after learning my name was if I had a scar on my face."
The other two were quiet for a moment, more serious than Harry had ever seen them. "Gred," said Fred. Harry had quickly figured out that they often used nicknames that had the same first letter as their own. "I begin to think that there is much more to Harry Potter than we thought."
"I concur, Forge," said George. "I find myself very interested in his future endeavors."
"Indeed, a Gryffindor that insists on befriending three Slytherins, ignoring the fact that the two houses are supposed to be the bitterest of rivals."
Harry smiled, even as Nyx leapt unto Fred's lap. "Not to mention he keeps complaining over my supposedly vicious pet. Honestly, she's a cat. If you wave a rodent in front of her, you can only expect instinct to take over."
The two Weasleys laughed and decided to leave Harry to his assignments. Harry decided he had done enough for the night and went the stairs to the room he shared with the other first year boys. He carefully placed his rolled parchments in his trunk, then retrieved his pajamas before heading to the showers to change.
A few minutes later, he climbed onto his big four poster bed and drew the curtains shut. A couple of quick spells ensured the no one else could open them and a silencing charm would majke sure anything that was said would remain private. He quickly unfastened Nyx's collar, smiling when she shifted immediately into Diana.
"So, what did you think of the first week of classes?" he asked. "I think I'm going to like most of the classes. Except History of Magic. Honestly, someone should record Professor Binns's voice and play it when they can't sleep."
Diana looked thoughtful. "I don't like the way the Headmaster looks at you all the time," she said. "It's strange. Like he's trying to find something when he looks at you."
Harry nodded. "Care to explain why you are always trying to attack Ron Weasley's pet rat?" Diana pouted, and he grew a bit worried. "Moonflower? What's wrong?"
"It's not my fault!" she suddenly declared. "The stupid rat keeps trying to start fights with me. Yesterday, when I chased him around the common room, and Weasley made such a fuss, he bit my tail!"
Harry frowned. "Just make sure you don't let him find out that you are a witch. In the meantime, I noticed that you had done your lessons for the week, so I'll borrow one of the school owls and send those off tomorrow. Have you been doing your work after the rest of the dorm goes to sleep at night?"
"I sleep during the day, and I just make sure no one sees me," she replied with a shrug. "I did see a couple of house elves, but they promised not to tell the headmaster. They say they like me better than him." Harry couldn't help but laugh at that, mostly because he could see it was true. A few minutes later, the two of them settled down to sleep. Despite the fact that they had their own rooms when they visited Malfoy Manor, they were very used to sharing close quarters.
Harry couldn't help but feel excited as he ate his breakfast in the Great Hall. The notice that had been posted in the common room said that first years would be having their first flying lesson today. A few others moaned that they would be sharing the class with the Slytherins, but Harry was actually glad. So far, the only friends he had really made in his house were Neville Longbottom and the Weasley twins. At least he got to see Draco, Vince, and Greg whenever they shared classes.
The classes seemed to drag by, but finally they all moved out to the Quidditch pitch for the lesson. Madame Hooch, the Quidditch coach, was a lean, stern woman with short hair and sharp, hawk-like eyes. Harry was reminded of Diana's eyes when she shifted to Nyx. At her instruction, they all lined up beside the rather ragged looking brooms.
""Hold your right hand out at shoulder level, palm down," called Madame Hooch. "Now, on my whistle, in a firm, clear voice, say up, and call the broom to your hand."
Harry noticed that Draco was looking a little put out with having to do such basic exercises when he already knew how to fly, so Harry caught his eye. He gave a slight nod to Greg, who was looking a little nervous. Draco looked, and leaned over to whisper something to his fellow Slytherin. Whatever he said, Harry was glad when he calmed down a little.
The whistle pierced the air, and Harry was nearly knocked over when the broom seemed to leap eagerly to his hand. He looked beside him and saw that Neville's broom had only rolled over a little. "Relax a little, Neville," he whispered. "It's only a broom. You don't have to be afraid of it. Just take a deep breath and try again." This time, the broom lazily drifted up to the other boy's hand, bringing a wide smile.
"Right then," called Madame Hooch. "Everyone, mount your broom, but stay on the ground." When everyone was astride their broom, she held up her whistle. "Now, at my whistle, kick off firmly from the ground and lean forward a bit on the broom to hover, and hover only." The whistle shrieked. Harry easily kicked off and hovered about four feet from the ground, then once again talked Neville into calming down to try again.
A cry from the other line had Harry looking over to see that Vince's broom had tipped too far forward, and he a tumbled off the front of the broom to land in an undignified heap. When he sat up, clearly unhurt other than his pride, Harry chuckled a little. The brooms were in horrible condition, and Vince was more likely used to newer and better balanced models.
A cry of alarm came from Neville, and Harry looked to him in shock to see he was quickly drifting higher and higher. Neville was trying to hold on, but he suddenly slipped sideways, clung for a few seconds, then fell towards the ground. On reflex, Harry drew his wand from its sheath and aimed at the falling boy. "Arresto momentum!" he called out, praying it would work.
The spell hit, but Neville still landed with a loud thud. Madame Hooch was the first to his side, looking him over. He was cradling his left wrist and taking deep breaths. "Alright, Neville?" asked Harry. Neville shook his head.
"Landed on my arm," he gritted out. Madame Hooch helped him to his feet.
"Oh, dear," she said. "Bit more than bruised, there. Best get you to Madame Pomfrey. Well done, Potter, for your quick thinking. All you lot, keep your feet on the ground until I get back, or you'll be in detention faster than you can say 'Quidditch.'" He guided Neville towards the castle.
Harry turned to speak with Draco, but a loud screech from behind him made him freeze. He whirled to where he had left his bag, his heart in his throat when he saw Weasley holding up a hissing, shrieking Nyx.
"Put her down, Weasley," Harry said with a calm he didn't truly feel.
The red-haired boy sneered. "Or what?" he taunted. "You don't dare try and use any spells, or you might hit your precious little kitten." He swung onto his broom and rose into the air, laughing boisterously. Harry mounted his, but was stopped by a hand on his arm. He looked to his side to see Darco's pale face, drawn with worry.
"Be careful," he said. "I'll vouch for you if you get in trouble, and I'll owl Father if I must." He stepped back to let Harry go after Ron.
Harry drew up level with Weasley. "Hand her over, Weasley," he yelled. "She hasn't done anything to you."
Ron's face flushed angrily. "Why?" he yelled. "You're supposed be my friend! Why do you always hang out with those slimy snakes?! And you let your stupid cat attack poor Scabbers! I've had it with the way everyone gets all gushy over her!"
Harry felt his heart pounding when terrified amber-green eyes met his. "For the last time, Weasley," he said. "Put her down."
An ugly look came into the other Gryffindor's eyes. "You want me to let her go? Fine, I'll let her go!" He pulled his arm back and swung the little kitten towards the Forbidden Forest.
Harry didn't think, he just reacted, racing after Nyx. In a far off corner of his mind, he noticed that they were much higher up than Neville had been. He flattened himself to the broom, diving almost straight down. The wind screamed in his ears, and his eyes watered. The ground loomed up, and he gave a wild cry of fear and rage as he reached his left hand out, desperate.
Glorious pain shot up his arm as four sets of small claws latched into the flesh of his hand, and he clutched the shaking kit to his chest. He pulled up as hard as he could on the broom, trying to stop the dive. As it was, he felt his toes skimming the grass for a moment before he pulled up a little more, then he turned and carefully landed among his cheering classmates.
As soon as his feet touched the ground, Harry fell to his knees, clutching Nyx to his chest. He could hear Draco beside him, urging him to take deep breaths. Just as his heart was slowing, he heard the familiar voice of Professor McGonagall.
"Mr. Potter! Come with me right away!" she snapped. Harry really hated his luck sometimes.
Well, another chapter done. Sorry it took so long to get this one out, but I hit writer's block right after Potions class. Oh, and Spinka? In answer to your question about Diana's animagus form affecting her mental health, I don't think either of the cases you mentioned actually were caused by their tranformations. Sirius had been wrongfully imprisoned for twelve years, and spent that time being preyed on by creatures that literally sucked out every positive emotion or memory he had. He would 'hide' in his animagus form to lessen the effect of the Dementors, but you have to think that it would really affect him. And Peter, well, he was a rat anyway. Most believe that, while the Patronus takes the form of whatever makes you feel safe, or a representation of it, a wizard or witch's animagus form reflects their true self. Remember, James was an animagus, and he was (mostly) stable-minded, the same with Professor McGonagall. Besides, a few things will come out later about little Diana, in a few chapters, that will explain a few things about her. I can't say more, because my muse is giving me evil looks already.
Thanks for all the reviews! I love hearing feedback from my readers. And in response to those who expressed surprise over Harry's Sorting – wait for it, wait for it…