"Where are you going?" Ron whispered in the darkness of the dorm room.
"Malfoy's up to something," Harry whispered back. "I just saw him outside."
"You're out of your mind." Ron turned over in his bed, the mattress squeaking.
"Don't you want to know what he's doing sneaking around in the dead of night?"
Harry made a huffy noise, but Ron just ignored him.
"I'm not going anywhere, either," a flat voice came out of the dark.
Harry snorted in the direction of Neville's bed. "Fine. I'll go by myself."
"You didn't ask me!"
"Would you like to go, Nigel?" Harry sighed.
"No, but thank you for asking," a cheerful voice replied.
Harry forgot all pretense of being quiet as he rose from his bed and started hunting under his bed for his shoes.
He dressed quickly and left the seventh and eighth year boys' dormitories, throwing his invisibility cloak around his shoulders. He quickly moved through the Gryffindor common room, being careful not to wake a pair of third years that had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace, and out the portal into the castle.
He navigated the moving staircases and the halls as fast as he could without calling attention to the fact that he was out, and curfew was hours ago.
He left the castle and entered the Forbidden Forest where he had seen Malfoy poking around before he left the Gryffindor tower. It had begun to rain and Harry was cursing himself for bringing his invisibility cloak and not a regular, weatherproof one when he spotted a footprint in the mud slowly filling up with water.
He moved fast, knowing any trace of Draco could be quickly washed away, but he didn't have to go far, and nearly stumbled onto Draco.
The tiny clearing was thick with detritus and the ground was getting spongy as the water soaked into it.
Draco was swearing and trying to light a candle, finally pulling out his wand and casting a bubble spell around it. He shrugged off his robes and Harry was taken aback as Draco stood naked in the rain, the moonlight making his hair glow.
He pulled a pot out of his robes and started applying symbols to his skin, chanting as he went. The hair on the back of Harry's neck stood up as the spell radiated from the candle flame, causing it to burn hot and white. Tendrils of smoke curled out, exploring everything in the clearing, several of them wrapping around Draco.
Draco started doing a little stomping dance along with his chanting, the air humming with electricity.
Harry fought the urge to run, but soon found that he didn't have a choice. The tendrils of smoke had curled around his ankles and were holding him fast.
Harry swore under his breath and tried to wiggle his feet, hoping the tendrils would loosen themselves, but they had him in an iron grip, and snaked their way up his legs to hold him tighter.
He swore loudly now and Draco turned as Harry's cloak slipped as he fought the smoke.
"What are you doing here?" Draco asked loudly.
"What are you doing here?" Harry demanded.
"I don't see why that's any of your business!" Draco snapped.
"You're out after curfew!" Harry blurted out, as if that was a reasonable answer.
"I have permission. Do you?" Draco asked, his head tilting slightly.
Harry said nothing, but since Draco seemed more irritated than annoyed, he figured that there wasn't any danger. Especially if he had permission to be out here, which niggled at Harry's mind.
"Why would you have permission to be in the Forbidden Forest, by yourself, at night?" Harry growled.
"First of all, because I'm an adult, you idiot. It's not like we're regular students. We don't have the same rules as the underclassmen. Second, because I cleared it with McGonagall and I'm pretty sure the whole faculty knows."
"What are you doing?" Harry asked.
"I'm summoning my life-familiar," Draco said, crossing his arms. "And apparently yours as well. Good job, Potter."
Harry scowled back at Draco. He didn't know the ceremony, but he did know about the result. He hadn't thought about getting another familiar after Hedwig died. He knew he'd eventually get another owl, but he wasn't ready for another pet. He didn't want one.
But from the sound in the underbrush, he was getting one whether he wanted to or not.
A pair of glowing gold eyes shone out of the darkness and blinked slowly. Another pair opened next to them, creating an eerie image in the candlelight.
Draco knelt on the ground as the smoke began to dissipate. "Come on. No need to be shy."
Two foxes crept into the clearing, sniffing at the air.
"Aren't you two handsome?" Draco preened. "No one's going to hurt you. Come on…"
One of the foxes picked his way across the forest floor until he got to Draco. He sniffed the wizard's hand and gave it a playful nip.
"Cheeky!" Draco exclaimed as he reached out and scratched the fox behind his ears. It trilled happily at him and sniffed at him more intently.
The second fox walked up to Harry and sat at his feet, watching the scene in front of them. Harry looked at the fox, but it didn't make any movements. He reached down and patted it on the head and it leaned into Harry's touch.
Harry sighed and the fox looked up at him with big gold eyes. Harry found himself smiling, in spite of himself. "Well, I guess we're in this together, now, aren't we?"
The fox leaned against Harry's leg and sighed contentedly.
Harry snuck back into the Gryffindor common room, his invisibility robe tucked under his arm. Malfoy was right. Although he could still earn and lose points for Gryffindor, they were volunteer students and Harry could hardly be blamed for investigating something strange.
At least that was the excuse he was going to use if he was stopped on the way back to his common room, but he wasn't.
He padded up the stairs to the room he shared with the 7th and 8th year boys and slipped back into bed, holding the covers back and making room for the fox, who jumped up and settled in nicely.
Harry lay cuddled up against the animal, who fell asleep quickly, and to Harry's amusement, snored.
He had loved Hedwig dearly, but the owl had never been a cuddly pet. She had never shared a bed with him.
Harry carefully put his arm around the fox and it shifted itself comfortably under the weight and sighed before slipping back into sleep. Harry closed his own eyes and felt the heartbeat of the animal underneath his palm as he drifted off.
In the morning, Harry was awakened by someone whipping back the curtain on his bed.
"Well, I see you made it back—" Ron started, but the fox nuzzled its head out from under the covers and yawned at him. "What's that!?"
"Draco was doing a companion ritual," Harry said sheepishly.
"And you walked right into it." Ron snorted. "Good job."
Harry turned pink as the fox rose and crawled out from under the covers. Walking over to Ron to sniff him.
"Cor, he's big!" Ron exclaimed as he rubbed the fox's ears. "And don't you have a sweet face!"
"I don't know what the two of you are doing over there, but I never want to hear that again," Neville said as he walked into the room.
"Harry got a bonded companion," Ron said, ignoring Neville's comment.
"Did he?" Neville asked as he bustled over to the bed. "Oh, isn't he a beauty!"
The fox preened as he was lavished with attention.
"Have you told the house-elves about him yet?" Ron asked. "He's going to need food."
"I didn't think of that," Harry admitted. "But Draco has one, too, so they may know already."
"Draco has one, too?" Ron and Neville echoed, looking at each other.
"Yeah," Harry said embarrassed. "I stumbled into his ceremony and two companions showed up. This one and another little guy."
"Huh," Ron said, looking down at the fox. "Well, at least he'll have someone to play with."
"I suppose he will," Harry said. He'd never thought about what pets do during the day, but he supposed that he should have.