[Summary]: [HG/SS] Ron and Ginny decide Hermione is monopolising Harry's time during the Triwizard Tournament, so they put their heads together with a little surprise Tom Riddle shared with Ginny back when she had his diary.
A/N: This one is from The Dragon and the Rose
Beta Love: The Dragon and the Rose, Dutchgirl01, and the Flyby Commander Shepard
Warning: bad Weasleys
Who Needs Enemies With Friends Like This?
I am a little world made cunningly
Of elements, and an angelic sprite,
But black sin hath betrayed to endless night
My world's both parts, and oh,
Both parts must die
—Holy Sonnet 5, by John Donne
"Detention for you Mr Malfoy! Detention for your abuse of my lovely books!"
"But I didn't—"
"DETENTION FOR DENYING IT!" Pince screeched. "Out! Out of my library this instant!"
Draco Malfoy looked like he was going to protest when he decided better of it, storming out of the library with his homework.
Meanwhile, Ginny and Ron rushed out under the cover of Draco's drama, smiling as they liberated a particular book from the shelves.
"You sure this is going to work?" Ron asked Ginny.
"Yes, Tom's diary was very clear on it. He said it was special. A guaranteed way to get someone who was annoying me out of my way. I just never used it," Ginny said.
Ron shrugged. "How do you know she's going to open it?"
Ginny smiled as she tapped her wand to a book, transferring the cover over.
"Hey, that's Hermione's Potions book!"
Ginny gave him a look. "You asked how we're going to get her to open it, didn't you?"
Ron blinked. "Oh, right. You sure this is going to work?"
"Of course it will work. Hermione has been spending all her time trying to get Harry ready for the next task in the tournament and he doesn't even pay any attention to us at all. With her out of the way, we can help him instead, and he'll come to realise that he doesn't really need Hermione all the time." Ginny crossed her arms and scowled.
"Okay, okay I believe you. I just hope it does what you say it does," Ron said. "It's time Harry remembered who's really there for him."
It was bad enough that Potter had gotten himself caught up in a binding contract with the Goblet of Fire, but someone had been stealing Polyjuice ingredients from his storeroom. On top of that, someone had also nicked some of his Gillyweed. Albus refused to let him put up more effective wards on his potions storeroom, stating that the other professors might need something from time to time. Snape tried to stress that if they did happen to need something, they could simply ask for it like a normal person, but Dumbledore shooed him away and told him to please tend to the Granger witch, who'd been hit by some sort of spell from a gaggle of ardent Viktor Krum admirers who didn't particularly appreciate how he looked at someone else.
Oh sure, Viktor Krum was a bonafide Quidditch star, but the pettiness of witchly affection just made his teeth itch. He did have to hand it to Krum; the boy really knew his potions and his Dark Arts, and he knew intelligence when he saw it. Instead of focusing on the hundred some swooning girls, he paid attention to Granger, who was pretty much ignored by just about everyone at Hogwarts, well, at least in any sort of kind way— not that he'd been able to show her a lick of kindness thanks to restrictions imposed by his position.
As he sat down next to Granger's infirmary bed, she startled.
"Who's there?" she said, her voice squeaking.
"It is your Potions professor," Snape said, his voice a low rumble. "I'm here with your eye drops."
"Oh! Thank you, Professor Snape," she said.
She was as unfailingly polite as always, even when he didn't deserve it. And he didn't. He'd seen to that.
He gently unwrapped her eyes. "Look up, please." She did so, and he put the drops in, three for each eye.
"Thank you, that feels much better, Professor," she said with a soft sigh of relief.
"The Headmaster has dismissed classes for the day so your peers may prepare for tomorrow's trial, but seeing as you missed today's class, are there any questions you have for me before I give you your assignment?" Everyone, Severus noted, was out preparing for the next day's trials, even those who weren't in the trial. It made the infirmary safe— safe enough to be civil and a bit less caustic towards the girl.
Less of a bastard, his inner voice admonished.
"Yes, Professor," she said, pulling out her Potions book. "It says in the book that Sopophorous beans should be sliced, but they are so hard to slice. If the juice is what we want, could I perhaps go about it another way? Maybe soak them in water first like you do for bean soup? Or maybe crush them with the flat of the blade?"
Severus furrowed his brows. She was looking ahead— thinking out of the box. He'd found that was an exceedingly rare quality in his students, and even more so for her to do exactly what he was encouraging her to do before and think for herself instead of taking everything in the book as gospel.
"What the book doesn't tell you, Miss Granger, is that Sopophorous beans love water. So much so that you can take one bean and get a jar of juice when properly handled. Then the bean can be reused, provided more water is given after a period of rest. However, if no water is available, the bean can, as you suspected, be crushed using the flat of the silver blade. This ruins the bean for the future, however." It was odd, Severus thought, just telling her such things. Would she even realise what secrets he had just given her? Would she blab to Potter?
Hermione pet her textbook affectionately. "Thank you, Professor. Is this something you normally wouldn't share with your students?"
She was more observant than she appeared, Severus realised. He wished she was one of his snakes so he could be frank with her. She could, if properly encouraged, groomed, and taught, become a Potions Mistress the like the Wizarding World had yet to be see— in public, anyway.
"I would prefer if such knowledge remained with you alone, yes," he acknowledged.
Granger smiled, hugging her book. "I will keep it to myself, then," she said. "Thank you." Her smile was genuine, cutting through her previous aura of sadness like a ray of pure sunshine. It was so warming that he wondered what it would be like to have a friend like her, whose emotions were so plain and hungry for just the little bit of kindness— kindness he had never been allowed to give her. It was kindness that she deserved, especially after having to put up with the likes of Potter and Weasley all the time.
"Let's go over your lessons then," Snape said.
Hermione nodded, so eager to please— so painfully soaking in every little bit of attention. It made him wonder what her home life was really like. Was her family anything like his? He wouldn't wish that upon anyone. If it was, she was far more cheerful than he was back in the day.
"Turn to page three hundred and fifty-two," Snape said, remembering exactly what potion was on it: the water breathing potion. He knew she wouldn't be able to resist telling Potter about it, given there were only so many ways to deal with breathing underwater, most of which were far above their current level— not that it mattered to Hermione, as he suspected she had been pilfering from his stores as early as her second year. The difference was that she somehow managed to replace them later, having broken back in to give back what she stole— with interest. Most students would feel no remorse for stealing from his stores, but Hermione had always taken her borrowing seriously. It was why he knew that whoever was stealing from him this year, it most definitely wasn't her.
The spell, he knew, was simple, even for a dunderhead like Potter who tended to think more about just how much he hated his Potions teacher than what he was being taught. They could, probably, brew it right there in the infirmary and she could totter off and give it Potter, and then he would actually have a chance at not drowning himself.
The moment she opened her book, every single hair on his head went straight up, and he hastily threw up a dampening spell, but the beam from the book hit her right between the eyes, sending her flying backward with a agonised shriek. It arched through him as he fought it back, but it writhed like a snake, thrashing and convulsing to get to its intended target.
"Miss Granger, take my hand!" Snape called over the tremendous roar of magic. If he could touch her, he could perhaps shield her more effectively. He loathed to touch others— it was intimate, too much for someone like him. He held his hand out anyway. "Take it, Miss Granger!"
The young witch was terrified and obviously in considerable pain, but she struggled to grab for his offered hand. Suddenly, she managed it. Her hand slammed into his, and he felt the jolt as all the things tearing into her now tore into him, but he drew her into his shields and screamed out the counter-curse to a hundred different curses that resembled what he felt—
Even as he felt the jolt of realisation that this was nothing like anything he had ever experienced before, he felt it— the iron choke of a chain being formed around her. He realised he may not be able to stop all of whatever was happening, but he could counter that. He knew all too well the kind of chains that powerful wizards liked to put on their chosen pets.
He hissed out a counter to the binding and the spell that conspired to take away her ability to think for herself. He would not allow another to be enslaved as he was, one to one master and one to another.
This witch deserved to be free— to make her own choices, good or bad. She should be able to make them herself! Even if she proved to be just as disappointing as Li— NO!
With all his might, he threw all of his magical might into setting her free— whatever happened to him didn't matter as far as he was concerned. Whatever curse she was mean to take, he would not allow it to steal away her mind— her hopeful trust in magic. She would not become like him, bitter and spiteful. He prayed it would be enough even as the agony of the curse tortured him for attempting to break its hold.
He screamed as the curse punished him, and then he realised why it did. The root of the curse had twisted a form of magic far more ancient than the original caster, but the blasphemer who had was all-too-familiar. Familiar like the tainted grip of the Dark wizard who had enslaved him with the Mark—
But, even as he recognised it, he knew was cast by someone who hadn't quite developed the same rapport with Dark magic. The intent was there, but the weave was less tight, less rigid. Inexperienced.
No less dangerous, Snape knew, as inexperience often made magic even more lethal because either the caster simply didn't care or didn't have sufficient experience to know it actually mattered.
Knowing the man who would become the Dark Lord, however— it was never about care at all. It was about power.
But for once, Snape didn't care about himself. He cared about this young girl who had all the makings of becoming exactly like— him. She would become embittered, hated, misunderstood, and eventually, her will would become legion. And there would be no one to stop her— because there would be no Lily to slap her out of it. All of her innocent faith in magic would become nothing more than ash.
Snape didn't want that for her, so he did the only thing he could do. He took the brunt of the defensive counter-counter-curse, and took it into himself. And he knew, he wouldn't survive it.
So, throwing his damnation into the wind, he opened his mind, and let every memory he had imprint onto her own. She would know his weaknesses and why he could never show her a lick of kindness. She would be the only person who knew his true self.
She would survive. She would know every trick— every spell— every mistake he had ever made, ever created, ever survived, and he hoped that knowledge would not damn her too.
She would— be able to conquer the darkness while he could only be enslaved by it. That would be his gift to her, and his last, final laugh at Albus and Tom.
The Dark Mark writhed and burned him, soaking in the curse and amplifying it. The pain, he was used to. Tom had ensured that all of his Death Eaters knew what pain was by his own hand. It spewed out tendrils of pure Darkness to wrap around his neck and strangle him.
As you deserve.
Go hang out with your Death Eater friends, Sev. Get the hell out of my life.
You're not sorry. I won't forgive you this, Severus. I'm done.
Rot here on the stairs if you must. I won't come out here again.
Lily's dead and I have to look her son in the face during every class.
His arrogant, self-righteous father with Lily's distinctive emerald eyes set in his eye sockets.
Snivellus! Greasy! Greasy Snivellus!
"Hey guys, want to see Snivellus' pants?"
The Mark being burned into his skin as he didn't even flinch— no, because he was too angry.
Lily married James Potter. She hugged Black— the one who attempted to murder him with a werewolf!
James and Lily Potter were dead— betrayed not by him but by one of their own. One of their precious Order of the Phoenix. Who was it? Black? Pettigrew? Lupin? Which one of those insufferable men betrayed their own friends and got Lily Potter killed?
I'll never forgive you, Severus. Never.
You're worth nothing. You will die as you are. Nothing.
"Just get it over with, you son of bitch," Severus murmured, closing his eyes as he calmly waited for the end.
Suddenly, the room was filled with light so powerful it was like staring into the sun. It cut through him as fangs, daggers of light, sank into his arm, deep into the Dark—
"No!" Granger's voice seemed to come from everywhere at once. "You will not have him!" Her voice was combined with a distinctly bestial roar. Magic— it was hers but it was somehow his as well— his counter-curse weaving into the raw blaze of the sun.
He saw her— the golden lion goddess wearing the crown of the sun—She Who Is Powerful. Power. Might. Bloodthirsty, wrathful Sekhmet, the "Eye of Ra."
Her fangs injected the glorious radiance into his arm, and the Darkness screamed as it was purged from every vein, every pore, and every single cell in his body. Her fangs then retreated, but the lioness remained, lips curling back from fangs dripping pure light. She tore into the twisted tendrils of black that remained and shook them like a dog with a rag toy.
The sound of a chain breaking resonated in the air, and the lioness leapt upon him, and he knew no more.
Hhhghgahhhhh! A lion's roar sounded off in his ears, comforting.
"Merlin bless it— how can we get to him with that thing on him?"
"Whoa, easy now! I didn't mean it like that!"
Severus opened one eye to see Poppy giving him wide eyes and expressive eyebrows. "Go away, you bothersome woman, I was trying to die."
"Severus!" Poppy hissed.
"Merlin— bless it— wake UP Severus!"
"No," Severus answered, rolling over as his ears flicked impatiently.
He rolled over and grunted, tail swishing under his robes. He yawned widely, his lips sliding back away from his fangs.
But the warmth felt good. Entirely too good to ignore. He snuggled into it, tongue rasping over fur and ears only to get a good grooming in return. Mmm.. yes please.
A deep rumbling half-roar escaped his throat.
"SEVERUS!" Poppy's exasperated voice sounded like she was trying to press vegetable cans between her hands.
"What, you annoying woman?!" Severus said, sitting straight up as a startled lioness flew off the bed she was currently sharing with him.
Severus glared, his tongue dragging across his teeth as he instinctively patted the bed next to him and summoned the gargantuan lioness to him. She hopped up and rumbled, causing the poor bed that was most definitely not designed for more than a human being, to creak dangerously.
The golden lioness, who sported a rather odd sun disc for a headdress, snuffled his face and gave him a good working over with her tongue, bathing his ears and the side of his face.
"Yes, yes, I'm fine, I'm sorry I startled you."
"Severus Tobias Snape, will you please, for the love of all that is holy and magical, kindly pay attention!"
Snape sat up straight automatically, and then he scowled as he realised Poppy had pulled out the middle name trick to get his undivided attention.
"What. Happened?" Poppy asked.
Severus blinked. "You went through all that to ask me what happened?"
"Severus you are cuddling a giant, and I do mean giant, lioness on my poor infirmary bed. Don't you think that deserves some sort of— explanation?!"
The Potions master blinked.
"Did you have a Potions accident?" she suggested.
He gave her a blank stare.
It was then that Minerva and Albus came rushing into the infirmary only for Albus to screech to a halt, resulting in Minerva slamming face-first into his back.
"Albus, why did you—Severus?!"
"Yes, why is everyone saying my name like it's some sort of terribly surprising thing? My name is hardly a secret to you." A dark lion's tail lashed back and forth under his robes, darting in and out of the cloth to express his growing annoyance.
Albus pulled a rolling floor mirror out and put it in front of his Potions professor. "I think this should answer your question, my boy."
Snape sighed, humouring the old wizard. "Fine." He glanced into the mirror and then froze in shock at what he saw. Immediately a large paw-like hand patted at his face, long claws extending from his fingers.
The head and blackened of a large lion stared back at him— still dressed as usual in his severe black teaching robes. "Oh."
Minerva's face was sporting a wide grin from ear-to-ear. "Looks like the lion is in you, laddie.
The lioness rumbled, rubbing her whiskers and cheek against Severus', causing his eyes to glaze over. Half his lips pulled back in a grimace as the lioness rubbed against him, and he responded by taking her ear into his mouth and giving her an affectionate slurp.
"Severus, do you have any idea how this came about?"
The Potions professor cocked his head as he tried to crawl out of the blissful fog his mind was in. "There was a book, disguised as Miss Granger's potions textbook. It contained a very powerful— curse."
The lioness made a bunch of growling sounds, like she was attempting to speak, but it wasn't quite working out yet. Somehow Snape had retained his human vocal cords, but she had not. She scowled and padded over to another bed and pawed it out of the way. It flew off over three other beds with a crash.
The lioness flattened her ears and growled. She thumped her paw on the book that had been tossed under the bed.
"And what is this?" Albus asked, levitating the book up with his wand. He ran a few diagnostic spells over it, and the cover fell off, exposing the original title beneath, The Mythical Book of Mythological Beasts and Beings. The book in question gave off a blood red glow.
"Powerful Dark magic," Albus said. "Wait, who is this lioness?" His head seemed to clear as he abruptly realised that Severus hardly needed a textbook.
The lioness made growling, snarling noises.
"Hermione?" Minerva said in a hesitant whisper.
The lioness mrrred and fondly head-bumped into Minerva.
"How much is still Miss Granger, Severus— and how much is lioness?" Albus asked.
"Yes," Severus said, cocking his head.
"That is not an answer," Albus said.
Severus seemed to be listening to something. "She is more than both." He scratched his head. "Something happened when I broke the chain," he said, his mind seeming to get clearer or less swamped in lion instincts. "Something Riddle did not intend."
Albus' head shot up. "Tom?"
"I felt it— the same cold malice that went into my Mark, Headmaster. I wanted to enslave her. I—" he scratched his head with his paw-hand. "I broke it, and it lashed out at me. Into my arm." He scratched his arm instinctively. "She refused to let me— die."
Albus frowned. "Severus I wouldn't normally ask this, but I need to examine your arm."
Severus narrowed his eyes, and Hermione growled.
"Please, to make sure it hasn't triggered something worse," Albus insisted.
Severus undid his buttons and pulled up his sleeve, glaring at the Headmaster as his lips curled away from his leonine teeth.
Albus' gasp caused Snape to look down.
"And what Mark are we supposed to be seeing?" Minerva asked, exchanging glances to Poppy.
Snape's arm was perfectly pristine. Nothing, not even a drop of blood, marred his skin.
"I need to call in Alastor," Albus said.
Snape's hand balled into a fist, and Hermione immediately exposed her pearly white fangs in a snarl.
"Severus, do you realise that Miss Granger is mirroring your emotions even when you are not showing them?"
"Albus, I think you need to call in far more than Alastor," Minerva said as she saw the look of extreme peace on Snape's once stoic and chronically dour face.
"It's a mutual life-debt," Amelia said quietly. "And from what Kingsley tells us, it's also a pride-bond. The bond that happens between wizards and witches with a strong connection to the heart of the lion. It's somewhat like the bond that allows Fenrir to command his werewolves even in human form, but— lions are not wolves in any way shape or form."
"Pride what?" Albus said.
"Pride bond, Albus," Kingsley said. "You don't see it here in Britain because you do not have lions so strong in your magic, but there are lions in many places, and once, lions were everywhere. But, in some places, people prayed for many days, fasting, just for a vision that had a lion, praying that they might embody its ferocity and— well, you get the general idea."
"So, someone created this book for protective purposes, but then Tom Riddle warped it to his purposes, but then somehow, a student gave it to Miss Granger for their own purposes, but then Severus managed to counter the spell to bring it back to its original purpose."
"I think that about describes it," Amelia said with a smile as Hermione pounced on her and smashed her head into her chin, rumbling with leonine happiness. "And you're not going to be able to separate them, Albus," she added. "Whatever magics were combined to bring the two of them together and save both their lives wants them to stay together."
"But he's our agent on the inside, Amelia," Dumbledore protested.
"Like that? Come on, Albus. What are you going to do, have him volunteer up his arm again? Looking like that?" Amelia jutted her thumb at the one way window where they had a view of where Minerva had draped herself over Severus' lion-head as she batted playfully at Hermione's whiskers. "I haven't seen Minerva this happy since— since she was married before, Albus. I haven't seen Severus truly at peace since Lily died. And on your watch, Albus. You could have saved them by being their secret keeper but you let them police themselves."
"Free will, Ame—"
"Oh don't you give me that line, Albus. I know you too well. You throw around free will when it suits you, but when it comes down to it, you want people do things your way."
Albus sighed. "I really thought it best."
"Yeah, well, you listen to me, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. I know you, and I'm telling you, if you even try to separate those two, you'll be signing your own death warrant. Not by my hand. Maybe not even by their collective paws. Magic itself may strike you down, because you couldn't have such a remarkable series of utterly random events happen to make this— whatever that is— happen again. You're going to let me keep them here until we can figure out how to stabilise—"
"Severus has to teach, Amelia!"
"As an anthropomorphic lion?!"
"I don't think most of our students would even notice."
Amelia glowered. "If I agree to let them go back to Hogwarts until summer, then will you agree to keep them together?"
"Amelia, the only way that would work is if she miraculously sat her N.E.W.T.s and passed them all. Then she could be declared independent."
Amelia waved a scroll.
"What is that?"
"Her N.E.W.T. scores."
"We decided to test just how much Hermione retained from the near-death memory transfer."
"You can't be serious."
"See for yourself."
Albus opened the scroll and read it, his eyes darting quickly. He looked up at Amelia with absolute disbelief.
"As of today, Hermione Granger has sat her N.E.W.T.s and is legally an emancipated minor, and Severus has taken her on as his apprentice."
"A lioness— as his apprentice?"
"She sat her N.E.W.T.s as a lioness. What makes you think she can't fill the bill?"
"How does she even cast magic without a wand?"
"That sun disc she's wearing above her head seems to serve as a wand, from what we've gleaned."
"She's just going to growl at him to communicate?"
"Don't be absurd," Amelia snorted. "She apparently communicates just fine to Severus and apparently to Minerva as well when she's in her tabby form."
"Albus, will you just admit that you need to find another way to spy on the Dark Lord? As far as we know, he hasn't returned."
"It will happen, Amelia. I'm sure Alastor has his ear to the floor."
Amelia sighed. She watched as Minerva hopped in to Kingsley's lap and rubbed up against him only to have Hermione plough into them both. "I have a feeling, Albus, that whatever powerful magic allowed what happened to those two happen in the first place, really screwed up You-Know-Who's plans. He may not know it yet, but it may have already begun."
"Madam Bones?" a nervous-looking young page came in with a small scroll
"The trace on the book is complete," he said, handing her the paper.
Amelia nodded and read the paper as the page scurried off. "So, Albus. It seems we need to pay a visit to one Ginevra Molly Weasley."
Dark Magic Artefact Used Against Student at Hogwarts!
Trial Set for Weekend Wizengamot Session!
Two Hogwarts students, one third-year and one fourth-year, deliberately used a Dark Artefact last week against a fellow student, hoping to get to spend more time with the famous Boy-Who-Lived, Harry Potter, who is currently taking part in the Tri-Wizard Tournament as one of the two Hogwarts champions. The artefact in question, disguised as a potions textbook, almost killed Professor Severus Snape as he attempted to counter the curse that targeted fourth-year student Hermione Granger.
Both Professor Snape and then-student Hermione Granger have suffered permanent disfiguring transfigurations of the body that have left them as undisputable evidence of the unwholesome nature of the artefact. To make matters even worse, a powerful magical bond initiated by the artefact has forced them to share the other's company until a cure can be found, if indeed a cure can ever be found for such a dramatic transformation. Other disturbing symptoms that were described on the Wizengamot docket include: forcible age shift, the forced creation of a permanent magical bond, and magically-induced torture.
Hogwarts students and staff alike have been adjusting to the drastically changed physical appearance of their Potions professor, as well as the shock of their former student peer who, well there is no delicate way to put this, is now quite the ferocious beast.
Rumour has it that the artefact was influenced, if not actually created, via ancient Egyptian magic, but so far nothing has been proven. The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that the magic involved was quite powerful indeed.
As for the two students behind this most serious situation, they will be brought before the Wizengamot to face charges of magical collusion, conspiracy to use Dark magic, use of a Dark artefact for personal gain, two counts of using a Dark artefact to cause permanent harm to another, two counts of using a Dark artefact as a form of torture, and theft of a Dark artefact.
The Wizengamot will determine what punishments are appropriate for the minors behind these heinous acts and they will also hold a vote on the duo's possible expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Headmaster Albus Dumbledore is scheduled to speak on behalf of the students being charged and to give his opinion on whether should be permitted to return to school, as well as what will be done to prevent such terrible things from happening in the future.
Many have raised the question as to why such a Dark artefact was in Hogwarts to begin with.
"Has anyone seen Alastor?" Albus asked as he walked into the faculty lounge. Two leonine heads popped up from the enlarged sofa as Minerva and Rolanda looked up.
"No Albus, I have not," Minerva said.
"I haven't been able to find him anywhere. It's not like Alastor to be so difficult to find."
Rolanda frowned. "I haven't seen him since— well, since Severus and Hermione here sprouted fur and whiskers."
Hermione wiggled her whiskers.
Albus stroked his beard. "Severus."
"How do you feel about tracking our missing Defense professor?"
"I am not a trained bloodhound," Severus sniffed.
Hermione perked, bounding over the sofa to practically bowl the Headmaster over.
Severus rolled his eyes. "Fine, we'll go look for him. But don't blame me if she takes you to a dead elk carcass."
Hermione shot Severus a look, huffing.
"Do you actually have anything of his or are we just going to let Hermione guess?"
Albus grunted. "I was hoping to start in his office and go on from there."
Severus sniffed. "As you wish."
Hermione snuffled Severus' fingers and then took his robe sleeve between her teeth to guide him along, her tail looped over and across her back in amusement.
As the three of them left the lounge, Rolanda turned the page in her book. "He always seems to forget that you're a cat too."
Minerva yawned. "Probably for the best. I don't want to be sniffing for Alastor. He smells like scotch and pumpkin juice."
Minerva trailed off, and Rolanda looked up.
Minerva frowned. "I just realised— he hasn't smelled of scotch and pumpkin juice since he started teaching here."
Rolanda raised a brow. "I should hope not. He's teaching!"
Minerva shook her head. "No, ye don't understand. He smells like that without drinking. That's just what Moody smells like."
Rolanda pinched her brows together. "So what does that mean, Minerva?"
"I'm not sure, but— I think we should go assist with the search."
When Hermione put her huge paws against the door to Alastor's private chambers, the door creaked from her weight.
"He can't be in there," Albus said. "I've knocked and Flooed him repeatedly."
"Maybe he needs assistance," Snape suggested, his lips pulling back from his teeth.
Dumbledore shook his head. "Surely he would have sent word. He's not the type to not have a backup plan."
Severus tilted his head, listening.
"Hermione insists that he's in there. Provided that scrap you gave her really came from him."
"Yes it did," Albus said. "Well, let's get this over with." He waved his wand and used his Head's "master key" to open up Moody's quarters.
Hermione bounded in making chuffing noises. Severus lifted his head, mouth parting as he scented the air. He growled, lowering himself to the ground to go on all fours as he followed Hermione.
Minerva and Rolanda came rushing in from behind them just as they stumbled over the drooling and prone body of—
"Barty Crouch Junior?" Albus let out a baffled gasp. "How is that even possible? He's currently in Azkaban. Alastor and I put him there ourselves."
Hermione gave a loud roar to draw everyone's attention, her large paws thumping on top of a solitary locked trunk. Snape immediately pointed his wand at the trunk, unlocking it.
The trunk creaked open. Hermione stuffed her face into the trunk and snuffled around. She lifted her head, cocking it to the side with a puzzled expression.
""What?" Severus said, shaking his head. "She says there's—" He looked down into the trunk.
"Well, what is it?" Minerva asked, somewhat unsure as to what was more important at the moment— the man who was Barty Crouch Junior who should have been still locked up in Azkaban or the contents of a mysterious, previously-locked trunk.
Severus rubbed Hermione's ears. "I think she just found the real Alastor Moody."
Moody's magical eye dropped to the floor and rolled away from the unconscious Barty, coming to rest by a wooden leg.
Albus wearily rubbed the space between his eyes. "Let's get him up out of that Merlin-forsaken hole and take him to Poppy. I'm going to need a stiff drink after all this."
Hermione mrrrowled at Severus.
"Agree with what, Severus?"
Snape shrugged. "Amelia is going to have a— cat."
Hermione licked her jowls.
"What did she say now?" Rolanda asked.
"She wants her payment in steak, preferably extra-rare," Severus said dryly. "But she'll settle for a nice, fresh wildebeest."
Hooch facepalmed. "Come on, let's bind this one up. Minerva, maybe you should send Amelia a nice, mind-boggling Patronus?"
Minerva shook her head. "One nice, mind-boggling Patronus coming right up."
Her silvery cat bounded off towards the Ministry.
Barty Crouch Junior Found After Escaping Azkaban
Officials Baffled As To Who Was Buried If It Wasn't Him
Barty Crouch Senior had a lot of questions to answer for when his son, Barty Junior, was found unconscious at Hogwarts when the Headmaster was looking for the then missing teacher, Alastor Moody.
The real Mr Moody was found locked in a trunk in what was presumed to be his own quarters. Moody stated that he was taken off guard by Barty Crouch Junior's appearance on the evening of his abduction when a spell hit him from behind. From his testimony, it has become clear that his abduction was well planned, and that Crouch Junior had help. As to who that help was remains to be seen, as Crouch Junior is currently catatonic at St Mungo's under heavy guard in case the condition is temporary.
Mr Moody was apparently being kept alive in order to be used for Polyjuice potion, as hair used before imbibing the potion must be taken from a living donor in order for it to be effective.
While Crouch Junior already has a life sentence in Azkaban, the fate of Crouch Senior remains hinging on an inquiry and subsequent trial. Many are wondering what these means for his former convictions and whether those cases will need to be retried.
Death Eater Catatonia?
Strange cases of people being found in a catatonic state all across Wizarding Britain have been reported almost daily, but what is most mind-boggling of all is that all of them have been confirmed to be Marked Death Eaters. A quick check with Azkaban has revealed that the condition has struck those incarcerated there as well.
Officials are scrambling to find out the why, why others are fearful that You-Know-Who has returned again and has slain all those that failed him.
Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, adamantly denies that the Dark Lord has returned and warns citizens not to let paranoia and simple coincidence pander to undue fears. Yet, with all the catatonic Death Eaters, one cannot help but wonder what is going on if not the return of You-Know-Who.
Severus woke in a sleepy haze, strangely lazy and peaceful. His eyes instinctively moved to stare at his left arm, draped so casually over the back of the lioness that had suddenly become the sun of his world. Yet, there was no resistance like he had against the Dark Lord or even the mechanisations of the great Albus Dumbledore.
He was home.
He was home because she was there.
Of course, others had their speculations, but Kingsley seemed to have the truth of it. Home was where the pride was— and he and Hermione had become just that.
She had been forced to grow up very fast, hoisted with his entire lifetime of memories in his thinking he was going to die that day, but also because the ancient magic that Riddle had harnessed had a purpose long before he tried to corrupt it. He could sense it in his very bones.
Whoever had originally ensorcelled the book had wanted to give Hogwarts a guardian. Somehow, the plan had changed, or maybe whoever was supposed to get the book never did, and it lay hidden, waiting amongst the other books until Tom had found it. Sensing the power of having such a creature, whatever it may be, he tried to twist that magic to his will, so whoever did find it would become his slave.
He had forever, or so he thought, to wait for it to happen.
And what better to destroy his Dark Wizard rivals but a creature of the sun? Who better than the twisted spirit of Sekhmet, bent to his will and fed just enough to goad her bloodlust into a frenzy? Only something had gone wrong for Riddle or very right for the one who had originally set the ancient magic into motion.
Tom hadn't counted on Severus or anyone being willing to give up their life to break the chains on one Hermione Granger. Tom would expect his knights to give up their lives for his whim, but he could never grasp pure, selfless sacrifice. And Tom couldn't have planned for Hermione, in the wake of her rebirth, to use her powers to save Snape's life and break his tether in the process. Two mutual life-debts merged together, and in that instant they had shared their magic as one being—and the furry side-effect that had clung to them even after the magical fusion.
How he knew it all, he couldn't say. It just came to him when he found himself grooming the lioness' ears and she his, an epiphany by grooming.
Hermione yawned, radiating pure mischief. He saw what she wanted to do without even trying: have breakfast— on the Headmaster's desk. He knew it wouldn't be a plate of sausage and eggs with some hash and tomatoes either, more like a haunch of zebra.
Pity the house-elves seemed to mix up directions and always bring Hermione's food right to the Headmaster's office. You'd think they were scared to try and port into Severus' quarters directly for some, strange reason. Severus licked his chops in anticipation.
Albus was "forced" to negotiate with the centaur so as to allow Hermione to hunt in the forest, but it would have been foolish of the centaur not to make some sort of deal to their benefit, so they had demanded something for the safety of their foals as well as their hunters: the removal of Hagrid's "freed" breeding projects and invasive and unsupervised species.
Privately, Snape thought it was about time that Hagrid was made responsible for his pet projects and illegal breeding. So far, he had remained unpunished and even more strangely unused, thanks to Albus' writing it off as a possible challenge for the Tri-Wizard Tournament or a potential guard for the Philosopher's Stone. There was, however, the small matter of not only releasing an Acromantula into the forest but smuggling in a breeding partner for a confirmed man-eating species that had absolutely no benefit at all to Hogwarts or staff since the only one that could walk amongst the spiders was Hagrid himself.
The truth of the matter was that the Forbidden Forest was largely forbidden due to Hagrid's projects than the resident centaurs. All the centaurs wanted was to be left alone or at least parlayed with on their own terms. On their own terms did not include giant carnivorous spiders that didn't mind making a meal of sentient creatures. Snape really couldn't blame them for that at all.
Nothing broke up a great, peaceful outing like a giant spider to the face.
SpiderOn™ Apply directly to forehead. No, thank you!
Hermione was rolling on her back, pumping her legs in and out as she made mrowling and chattering noises that all ended in a massive roar as she stretched out and shook herself from nose to tail tip. Ironically, she didn't say much as a lion— either that or the fact she shared his "self" in that she wasn't that much of a talker anymore, not like she had been, anyway. She didn't raise her paws up in the air and wave them around like she was directing airplanes on the runway or Quidditch players on a pitch. If she missed her old friends, it was hard to tell. She'd exchanged her perpetual need to be with the two most troublesome brats of Gryffindor to lioning around with him, quite literally.
What astounded him the most was that she did want to spend time with him. She knew every painfully horrible detail of his past, his thoughts, his family, his dysfunctional attempt at finding a family in the Death Eaters— yet she still enjoyed his company and actually even— cared for him.
He knew he wasn't jumping the gun there because it took a very specific and powerful dose of her emotion and power to keep him alive and wrest him from the grasp of two masters, purging him of their control and influence. She honestly cared for him. She had seen into his very soul and decided he wasn't as damned as he thought he was.
A part of him tried to remind him that she was just a child— he had no right to feel anything for her nor allow her to harbour any feelings for him. But he knew full well the price she had paid to both in order to keep him alive.
She had more than a lifetime's worth of memories. Her mind had been forced to grow up, and her body had been twisted and reshaped to be able to harbour the power that she had been given. His had, too. For whatever reason, he'd been either cursed or blessed with an in-between form, somewhere between lion and man. To be fair, he was no half-state as much as he was a lion that walked on two legs— when he had to.
Lion fangs had attached firmly to his tail, and he roared, batting the lioness away. She hadn't hurt him, but she had gotten his attention. She gave him an over the shoulder look, somewhat sullen and pouty for driving her off, and she placed her paws on the door and promptly trotted through it, leaving him with a feeling as if his arm had managed to run away without him.
He stood, fumbling with his robes. It had taken years of ardent practice to master dressing quickly with all his buttons, and now he had to do it with paws. It wasn't fair. You didn't see her dressing herself in wool every morning.
Severus frowned. Technically he was covered in thick black fur. Why was he dressing in wool anyway?
Fine, he argued with himself. Be that way. Who asked you anyway?
The second trial had been postponed thanks to a hundred and one separate dramas that seemed to barrelling down the hill and bowling over random people as it went. With Barty Crouch Senior under the spotlight, Junior having impersonated the real Moody, and the Potions master being turned into a lion-man— oh, and a student being turned into the physical incarnation of Sekhmet, sure a little pause was in order.
The truth was, he wasn't positive that was what Hermione was, but she sure fit most of the bill, as if the Egyptian headdress wasn't the biggest clue.
Severus found her sitting quietly with a bunch of Durmstrang, all so noticeable by their fur-covered hats and coats. The older one— Viktor— was rubbing her ears as if it was the most natural thing in the world to be doing, suffering her lion-handling of his shoulder and head as she thumped, bumped, and otherwise mauled his person.
Viktor laughed, allowing her to show her dominance, but he was seemingly enjoying her company and even more so— the wide berth most of the Hogwarts students gave her and thus him by proxy.
She had one of Viktor's comrade's hats in her mouth and she shook it violently, tossing it in the air and catching it again, slobbering profusely upon it.
"Agh! Dat is my good hat!" the boy complained, visibly pleading with Viktor for assistance.
"Good and dead, da," Viktor laughed. "Need to keep straps tied, Sergei. Like little boy dat loses hat in vinter."
"Gahh!" Sergei protested, giving Viktor a shove only to get about four hundred some kilos of giant solar lioness dragging him to the end of the pier and dropping him into Black Lake with a sploosh.
Viktor hugged the lioness by the neck and patted her. "Thank you, my knight, but should it not be me saving you from snarling dragon or rabid werewolf?"
Hermione hnnnggh-roared, snuffling his face.
"Okay, well, next time, I have to save you, da?"
Hermione set her head on top of Viktor's, using it as a chin rest.
Sergei sloshed back and sat down, spitting out water as he did so. "Not fair, bátko."
"Seemed fair to me," Viktor teased.
"Dumping me in lake vith giant lion so not fair!"
"You prefer giant bear?"
Sergei shook his head. "Ne, bátko. Stick with giant lioness dat eats faces off."
Hermione snuffled Sergei and sneezed on him.
"Lion sneezes are lucky, brat," Viktor said fondly.
"Luckiest little brother ever," Sergei bemoaned.
"Worried about next trial," Viktor said, frowning.
"Egg said 'but past an hour, the prospect's black, too late, it's gone, it won't come back'," Viktor recited carefully.
"Transfigure self into shark like old Professor Mikhailov taught us," Sergei recommended.
"Would. Could, but— spell does not always stick because already something else."
Hermione tilted her head, chuffing.
"Already Animagus," Viktor said, "and it not— undervater animal."
Hermione mrred, using her head to bonk Viktor on the shoulder and shove him over.
"Ah! Oi! Okay. Show you soon. After second task, da?"
Hermione gave him a dubious glance.
Hermione shrugged and smacked him upside the head with her tail.
Viktor helped Sergei up. "Come, brat. Sleep for tomorrow. Need keep strength up."
Hermione rubbed up against Viktor's hip and he pet her ears.
"Be vatching, da?"
"Dhat good luck if ever I heard it," Viktor said with a mischievous grin and the Durmstrang students wandered off towards their ship.
As Severus walked up and watched the boys leave, Hermione looked up at him and sneezed again. He made an odd face. "What was that for?"
Hermione's tail whapped into him a few times. "For luck," her warm mind-voice said.
Severus sighed. "You like him."
"He's kind to me. Even before I looked like this. He would make a good pride-brother," she said, projecting contentment.
"And we need a pride-brother why, exactly?"
"Why not? A pride brother would watch your back."
Severus shrugged. "I've never needed anyone watching my back before."
Hermione took his hand in her mouth. "All the more reason to have someone that can and will now."
Severus furrowed his brows, tail swishing. "You're not contagious are you?"
"I don't think so," Hermione said, licking her paw and then grooming her shoulder. "But I think— if someone really wants to, I can help them get there."
"So if someone really wanted to be a psycho murderer—"
"Don't be absurd," Hermione said, looking up at him.
"You ever regret carrying around my memories?"
Hermione sneezed. "Not once."
"You're—" Snape looked down at her, soothing her ears gently. "You're really something special, do you know that?"
Hermione stretched lazily. "So are you."
The second task was a total mess. While Cedric Diggory came out first with the smoothest recovery, Viktor came up second with about three tons of kelp forest attached, clutched between his shark teeth. Finding Sergei in that ungodly mess had taken longer than the actual rescue. And then everyone waited.
And waited some more.
People started to whisper uneasily in the stands, and Snape had to put one hand on Hermione's shoulders to keep her from bounding down to the maze to see what was going on up close. He'd started wearing his hood up over his head to keep the casual glances away from him They'd tried glamours, and they just bounced right off both him and Hermione— especially Hermione. Amelia said they could try making a sort of projective glamour that did its work outside of the body, but it was going to take considerable trial and error and much more time than Snape had to volunteer until the summer hols.
The chatter was getting ever louder, and he could feel the depth of Hermione's worry for Harry. Minerva had said the boy really wanted to see Hermione after he found out what his best mate and said mate's sister had done to her, but that would require making arrangements through Snape. And everyone knew what the dratted Potter boy thought of him—
Still, Hermione worried about him, and from the memories he shared with her, he knew she didn't think it was Harry's fault. His family was rubbish, and Severus knew Petunia from first hand experience. Hermione had tried to keep Harry out of trouble and on track, but there had always been adventure to be had with Ron and his family. Snape wondered how relations were going with the Weasleys after the shameful conviction that had caused both Ronald and Ginevra Weasley to be educated at CETMAC, the Center for Troubled Magical Children under the auspices of the Ministry itself— the single last place most people wanted their kids to be educated not due to the quality of the schooling as much as stigma that went along with it.
Now, Potter had "lost" all of his friends at once, at least the ones he normally had hung around. Severus looked down at Hermione, who was looking up at him with her head in his lap. She'd lost her friends too— those who she had thought were her friends, anyway. The Wizengamot trial had been a tremendous strain upon her— learning that her supposed best friends had set her up to be cursed just so they could have plenty of the quality time they had decided they "deserved" with Harry?
To top it all off, the poor lioness had both Ron and Ginevra screaming their idiotic heads off that the Wizengamot were going to throw them to the lions to be torn to shreds ala the Roman gladiator pits. That had not gone over well. Hermione had wedged herself under Snape's bed and sulked for a week, not that he blamed her at all. It had given him time to carve her out her own quarters off his own— not that she usually used them, save to study. She always wanted to crawl up next to him and sleep like a lion-shaped furnace.
At least the dungeons weren't cold anymore. And then there was that added benefit in that he had never before been able to sleep in the nude and not be embarrassed about it, thanks to a nice thick coat of fur.
Snape soothed Hermione's ears and rubbed her chin, trying to distract her from her worry. He could tell by her puffed tail that she was still very concerned, but she blinked lazily as he touched her, more content that she had been.
Fleur came up, but she didn't have anyone with her. She had scratches and cuts all over her face and claw marks on her arms and neck. The entire horde of grindylows had apparently attacked the unlucky French witch en masse.
The overseers were hurrying to pull her up, but Fleur was screaming in French and gesticulating wildly. No one needed to know French to understand that she was desperate to go back under to get whoever had been chosen for her to rescue.
Snape hadn't been told what or who each contestant was intended to save. Albus had kept that entirely to himself. But he did know that Minerva knew, because she was obviously fretting over it. Albus said there was nothing to worry about. Even if they failed, the "treasure" would still remain safe. Of course, now that he knew the treasures were people, the source of Minerva's anxiety became much clearer.
And where the hell was Potter?
The timer buzzed, and now the audience was really starting to talk, but the officials made everyone hush so they could watch and listen.
Utter silence— the stillness of the grave— descended.
Suddenly the dark water churned, and Gabrielle Delacour and Luna Lovegood surfaced, gasping for air as their stasis charms popped. They crawled up onto the platform dock, looking around, and shivering madly.
It looked like the officials gave them towels and even tried warming charms, but alas—both girls seemed to be chilled to the bone.
Hermione had leapt over the railing and thumped on the other side, bounding towards the platform, making the huge leap from shore to platform— just barely— without getting wet. Her hind leg getting a tad soggy, the lioness shook it off, and then padded over to the two girls and curled herself around them.
Eyes stared at him.
"What?" Snape said. "They were cold."
The girls seemed very grateful, snuggling into the lioness' heat-radiating body with none of the fear that many others had displayed. The officials muttered together, a little put off by the giant "animal" around the children, but Minerva and Albus seemed to soothe their concerns.
Potter rose to the surface, gasping and bleeding from multiple claw marks across the face and chest. They pulled him up from the water and gave him a towel too. Within seconds, he had joined the other two by the lioness, teeth chattering and grateful for the warmth.
Hermione took great pains to groom each of her "cubs," and Harry boggled as his wide assortment of nasty scratches and claw marks were healed right before his eyes.
"When I grow up, I want to be a lioness like you!" Gabrielle declared, throwing her small arms around her neck and kissing Hermione on the head.
Fleur ran forward and scooped her little sister up, crying and hugging her tight.
"Thank you for saving my sister!" a grateful Fleur said to Harry.
Harry smiled, his teeth still chattering with cold. "It was nothing."
Fleur leaned down and gave Harry a kiss on the cheek. "Gabrielle is my everything. Thank you."
Gabrielle rushed up and gave Harry a peck on the cheek too. "Merci beaucoup!"
Luna smiled at him. "Thanks, Harry."
When Hermione made her way back to Snape and laid her head in his lap, he sighed, soothing her ears. "Are you quite through making a spectacle of yourself?"
"Hey, lion sneezes are supposed to be lucky," someone in the crowd said.
Gods, what did that make his sneezes?
"You are mad!" Viktor shouted, standing up to the High Master, yelling at him in Bulgarian. "If I wished to take an artichoke to Spring Ball, I did not need your permission!"
"You should take who was proper for your image as a Durmstrang!"
"You mean who is proper for you!"
High Master Igor Karkaroff suddenly decked Viktor, sending him sprawling arse over teakettle to crash into the side of the ship. "I am your High Master, and you will do as I say!"
Viktor slowly wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth, his eyes darkening with anger.
A few of the other students ran in to help, but Karkaroff sent them flying as well with an imperious wave of his wand, each student falling and landing hard in the cold water and ice below.
"You leave them out of this," Viktor bit out.
"They will learn not to test me, as you obviously still need to learn!"
Viktor narrowed his eyes. "I can give respect for you as High Master, but this has nothing to do with school. This is my choice."
"I will not have you take some low witch from a Muggle family, especially one that looks like her! You are Durmstrang!" Igor roared.
"You think lions not good to look at?" Viktor hissed in English.
Igor had had enough of Viktor, and he grabbed the younger wizard by the throat. "Britain may have soft rules. Soft children. Soft ways. But we are on Durmstrang ship, and this is Durmstrang place. And while you stand on Durmstrang and wear Durmstrang clothes— I. Own. You."
Igor pinned Viktor against the mast. "In old day," he said in broken English. "Tie insubordinate to mast and let days pass until they— come to understanding. Maybe, you need spend time on mast."
"What is wrong with you?" Viktor said, choking. "High Master never like this. Never raise hand to student. Always we respect. You make us steer ship. You make us do clean, and now— you what? Kill me? For want to take beautiful vitch to Spring Ball?"
"A lioness is ANIMAL!" Igor snarled, cracking Viktor to the mast, and uttering a spell that lashed him to it.
Viktor struggled, snarling. "Ve all animals."
Igor backhanded Viktor as a roar sounded out and a tawny blur of smoldering wrath slammed into Karkaroff and sent him flying overboard into the still-icy waters of March in Scotland.
Sinister green and black beams of pure Dark magic shot through the frigid water below the ice, lighting up the surface of the still-frozen lake. Then, there was an impossible silence save for the creaking of the ship on the ice.
Viktor let out a roar as transformation took him, and the ropes broke from the mast as he bounded off the side of the ship and plummeted into the icy water below in a blur of black and brown.
The Durmstrang gathered on the shoreline, still trying to pull their friends and fellows from the lake. They sputtered, shivered, and transfigured blankets from the rocks to help each other. Other students built a fire on the shore, drying wood with their spells and tossing it in— anything to warm themselves up. Most huddled around the fire, their clothes steaming as the fire warmed them up.
Viktor and Hermione burst from the water, dragging the glass-eyed Igor Karkaroff and what seemed to be a witch caught in mid transformation. Half of her body was like an insect and half human, but it was randomly distributed across her body. She didn't seem to be moving.
They dropped their "cargo" with a thud and then seemed to realised that each other were far more interesting. Whiskers to whiskers, cheek to cheek, and nose to rump, they inspected each other, snuffling, nuzzling, and tails lashing. The sun-disc over Hermione's head shimmered, and a lion Patronus darted towards Hogwarts. As she and Viktor snuffled each other, a golden radiance emanated from Hermione's body, casting warm sunlight in all directions.
The boys all sat up straighter, no longer shivering. The lions, however, were now quite floofy-looking. Viktor's mane puffed out like a Puffskein— and his tail a giant pompom. Viktor pounce-gnawed on Hermione, and she rolled and tumbled with him, they both letting out loud leonine roars. But even as they looked like they were tearing each other to pieces, they landed in a panting heap together, tails half-looped in relaxation.
Snape, McGonagall, and Sprout ran down to the shoreline and then skidded to a halt, their wands clutched in their hands. Their gaze went from the strangely off-kilter ship, the boys gathered around the bonfire, the bodies of Karkaroff and the half-beetle woman, and the two lions.
The lions rolled over onto their sides, exposing their bellies in a lazy roll.
"Severus, is this condition contagious?" Pomona blurted.
"Not as far as I know," Snape said. "He seems to come with that ability all on his own. Why? Jealous?"
Sprout sputtered, turning away.
"I may be," Minerva said, seemingly pouting.
"What is going on here?" Snape asked, staring at Igor's still form. He ran his wand over both still bodies.
Hermione lifted her head.
"He what? And she— well, that serves her right."
"What, Severus?" Minerva asked.
"Remember the tales of the Nemean Lion, Minerva?"
"The lion with a hide impervious to magic and weapons?"
Snape nodded. "Apparently Igor and Ms Skeeter both cast Dark spells at her at the same time, and the magic reflected off her and onto each other. The High Master got Skeeter's— and she got his."
The teachers looked down at the two victims. Minerva sent a Patronus zinging away. "People are going to think we can't live without drama here at Hogwarts," she said with a sigh. "How are we going to explain that Durmstrang's High Master is— whatever that is? What DID happen?"
Hermione and Viktor padded up to Severus and rolled onto their backs, exposing their bellies as they batted at his robes with their paws.
"They faced down lions and lost," Severus said.
"Hnnnnh. Hnnnnnh. Hnnnrrrrawwwwrrrrhhhh!" Hermione roared loudly next to the broom closet door, and two terrified students with their trousers down flew out of the closet and down the hall as they frantically tried to get (most of) their clothes back on while still in motion. Hermione curled her lips back from her teeth in a grimace. Viktor headbonked her, rubbing up against her.
Severus grunted, gesturing with his head, and the two lions attended, rubbing up against his legs and hips with a chuff.
Patrols had become quite peaceful, most nights. Thanks to not wanting to be sniffed out by the Hogwarts lion patrol, most of the trouble started happening on the days professors other than Snape or Minerva had it, much to the grumbles of the non-Animagus professors.
News of Igor Karkaroff's blindness and petrification and Rita Skeeter's merging of human and beetle parts (due to what they could only believe was due to being hit by a Cruciatus at exactly the worst possible moment) spread very quickly throughout the school. The Deputy High Master from Durmstrang had sent one of theirs to watch over the abandoned post of the High Master and guide the students through their schooling for the remainder of the year, but there was no doubt that the whispers from Durmstrang were that the rest of the school was clearly wondering what the hell was going on in Britain.
Viktor chased Hermione down the halls, utilising the emptiness to his advantage, and Hermione zigzagged, giving the low hnngah hnngah leonine rumble to encourage the merry chase.
Severus arched a furry eyebrow, shaking his head. Part of him felt the tugging urge to join in— perhaps he even needed it— but he buried to keep from being caught "frolicking" down the Hogwarts halls. That would be just what he needed, getting caught by Flitwick or worse, Minerva. She'd never let him live it down.
It would have to wait for later— when prying Scottish eyes were not waiting to see him give in to his newfound instincts and prove her right.
Hermione and Viktor's combined roar rattled the walls of the Astronomy Tower just before four students fled out the door and away—
"Five points for being out after curfew Mr Dunnally, Mr Cravens, Miss Bell, and Miss Avonlee!" he snarled, and they panicked, running faster.
"And ten points for running in the halls!"
Hermione and Viktor padded back to him, looking awfully smug with each other.
Severus rubbed their ears. "Twenty points to House Lion."
They head-bonked him, tails swaying back and forth.
Hermione lay her head on the side of the hospital bed, staring at the blond-haired wizard.
"Who dis?" Viktor asked, his mind-voice curious and puzzled. The strange scents of the hospital were almost maddening to the lion's senses, and all three of them were having "issues" blocking it out.
"His name is Lucius. Lucius Malfoy. He— saved my life many times. He protected me as best he could from the Dark Lord's petty whims." Severus' nostrils flared, whiskers twitching. "I am not sure if he would even deem to speak to me looking like this, but— he was much more than what many saw him as."
"Like you," Hermione said, snuffling the comatose wizard.
"I would dearly like to think so."
Hermione snuffled some more, seemingly taking in his worth, and Severus had a flash of the Egyptian scales of the afterlife with the feather of Ma'at on one side and Lucius' heart on the other. Sekhmet stood at her father Ra's side, with the goddess Ammit lurking below to eat the hearts of the unworthy.
Severus placed a black paw over Lucius' pale skin. "Old friend, could you recite the forty two negative confessions from the Papyrus of Ani? Could any of us?"
Snape eyed the vase of flowers near Lucius' bed and realised Narcissa had visited recently. He scented her perfume lightly woven with that of the flowers— her favourite blend of essential oils that Lucius indulged her with.
Hermione's sun-disc glowed as her eyes took on a golden colour.
"You wish him judged worthy of atonement," her voice said, layered with a strange echo behind it. There were so many lions of legend behind it. Sekhmet, the Nemean, Maahes, Aker, Menhit, Pakhet, and those he could not name if only because they were as elusive as the morning dream.
Severus struggled to be honest rather than twist words in the typical Slytherin manner. "Yes. I believe he was more than what the Mark stood for."
"Hermione" stared at him, eyes flicking up and down as if to weigh his words. "Prove it."
And suddenly Snape was falling into the great swirling Abyss.
Snape found Lucius staring at him. He had a peach in one hand and a puzzled expression on his face. "What are you doing here?"
Snape looked around. It looked like the Malfoy gardens, complete with white peacocks. "Lucius."
"Is there something wrong? Is Narcissa—"
"Narcissa is fine," Snape found himself saying. "I gave her a mixture of tinctures to help her. The baby will be fine."
Lucius' face relaxed. "Thank you, Severus. We've tried for so long, and Narcissa— she makes you almost believe that rubbish about the mingling of bloodlines making for a stronger magical base."
Severus said nothing, and Lucius took it as agreement— just as he had intended.
Lucius put a hand on his shoulder. "You've never let me down, Severus. I will never forget that."
Severus closed his eyes. "You owe me nothing."
Lucius gave him a tight smile. "Family is everything, and you are family."
Severus screamed as Voldemort had him writhing in agony on the floor.
Voldemort left him shuddering and lying in a pool of his own vomit. "I'm glad you see things my way, Severus. I would hate to think you'd changed your mind."
"Lucius. See to it that Severus gets a position at Hogwarts and— clean up this disgusting mess."
"Yes, my Lord," Lucius aid rushing up to Snape and cradling him in his arms, Disapparating immediately.
Lucius poured three potions in quick succession down his throat, forcing them all down before he relented.
"I did not know," Lucius said in the darkness as he brought a towel over Snape's face. "I swear to you that I did not know."
Snape's eyes stared up, blankly. He was far away— deep in whatever hole he had forced himself into to survive the pain.
"I'm here, brother. For as long as you need."
"Brother, he will hit the Potter home tomorrow," Lucius said, jerking Severus by the arm. "Listen to me. There is no time. You must go to Dumbledore and get him to move them. There is no other way."
Severus' face twisted in pain. "He will ask for everything."
Lucius closed his eyes. "There is no other way if you wish to save her, Severus. As much as I think she doesn't deserve your loyalty or the pedestal you put her on, I know that you will blame yourself if you do not save her, and I will not have you pining away forever— You do not deserve that, Severus. Do you hear me?"
"Go to Dumbledore. Do what you must to gain his assistance," Lucius said. "I will make certain you are not with our Lord the night he goes so he cannot blame you for its failure. Go!"
Lucius shoved Severus out of the alley he had pulled him into, leaving Severus standing in a park surrounded by small children staring at him in awe.
"Are you a priest?"
Severus pulled his robes around him and fled.
"I don't have to listen to you! You're not my father!" Draco screamed as Severus put a hand on his head and sighed, watching the boy try to slug him. Draco seemed to get madder and madder until finally he yelled, "You're just a stupid half-blood anyway!"
Lucius towered over Draco, grabbing his son by the collar and lifting him up to look him in the eye. "You will never utter those words about your Uncle again, do I make myself clear?"
"Y—yes father!" Draco whimpered.
"Did you know that the Old Ways actually had witches as the most powerful decision makers in our society?" Lucius whispered as he stared at the Dark Mark on his arm. This thing our Lord has us striving for isn't the Old Way— it's merely the less recent way." Lucius dug his nails into the Mark, wincing as the Dark magic within punished him for touching it with anything less than total respect.
Severus looked up at him, brows furrowing.
"The Dark Lord is a lie, Severus, but you knew that didn't you?"
Severus looked away.
"How am I going to manage to protect my family, brother? I can barely even protect myself."
Severus touched his shoulder, silent, but Lucius laid his hand over his and grunted softly.
Severus saw Lucius dangling precariously on the edge of a precipice. There was swirling sand all around, blindingly light in all directions. The blackened maw of the Abyss gaped below Lucius, and the center was the Dark Lord's face, his mouth opened in a perpetual scream as the death adder slithered out of his mouth to grab Lucius' legs and pull him down.
Severus bounded up to Lucius, but he found himself in his lion-form.
"Help me, brother!" Lucius cried, his grey eyes wide and filled with terror.
The venom of the serpent was consuming Lucius, pieces of his flesh ripping away and floating down into the Abyss.
"Can you accept— this— as your brother?" Severus heard himself saying. Here, in this place, he was not an anthro lion. Here, he was all lion— whose only human aspect was his mind.
Lucius' face twisted in pain. "You are my brother. That is the only truth I will accept."
Severus tried to pull Lucius up, but his paws were not his hands, and couldn't dig in enough to hoist him up. His teeth grasped Lucius by the collar, but the fabric was ripping away like tissue.
Suddenly there was a dual roar, and Viktor sank his teeth into Lucius right arm as Hermione sank hers into the left. Bright, bright solar light spread across Lucius' body, driving away the dark venom as they pulled the man up from the chasm.
Lucius's poor hospital bed bent and warped under the combined weight of entirely too much lion.
Lucius stood in the middle of the wreckage, shining blond mane framing the great white lion he had become. His familiar grey eyes looked out at Severus from a lion's face.
Lucius looked around, a baffled leonine expression wrinkling his muzzle. "Who gets to tell my wife that she's now married to a lion?"
Hermione and Viktor stared at Severus.
Severus crossed his arms, his ears flattened against his head.
One of the healers walked in and promptly fainted dead away.
Severus facepalmed, shaking his head back and forth in utter weariness. "I've done quite enough today," Snape retorted. "I'll have Minerva do it."
"Are you going to have Minerva explain that too?"Lucius asked, pointing a paw to the unconscious healer.
"No, brother. That is your job, as it was your fault."
"We walked in as lions. YOU are the reason she— well, whatever that is."
Lucius sulked. "Fine." He somehow managed to artfully toss his mane like an actor in a shampoo commercial.
"And you are quite sure this isn't contagious, Amelia?" Albus groaned, rubbing his temples.
Hermione flopped her side, cuddling Fawkes as Viktor laid his head over her back. Lucius lazed in the middle of Albus' office, looking very smug, like the lion who ate the warthog.
"Quite sure," Amelia said with a chuckle.
"It was a willing conversion," Severus said, translating.
Lucius extended a paw to bump Fawkes, who eyed the male lion warily, much preferring the lioness, who was giving him a good grooming and a cuddle.
"I'm sure you understand my concerns, Amelia," Albus said. "Hogwarts seems to be gaining lions at a very fast rate."
"Why Albus," Amelia said with a smile. "I would have thought you of all people would have a great appreciation for lions given your House and all."
"This was hardly planned," Albus retorted.
"Just because they weren't your idea doesn't mean it wasn't for the good of the many, Albus. Hogwarts seems have things well at hand," Amelia said. She rubbed Hermione under the chin, earning herself a rough tongue lick and rumble. "I did take the liberty of giving them all travel identification collars so people don't think they're randomly attacking places. I highly doubt anyone will mistake them considering you lovely creatures travel in a wonderful pride." Amelia smiled at Hermione who whisker-snuffled the elder witch with a feline smile on her muzzle.
"Amelia—" Albus protested.
"Oh, don't worry, Albus," the witch replied. "I did you the favour of sorting out everything with the board. In light of all this trouble with You-Know-Who's rampaging Death Eaters and the amazing chain of awful that keeps happening, they think the lions are right to take their place as the de facto guardians of the school. Think of the sheer relief of that poor gargoyle."
Hermione sprawled on the top of the healer's station, yawning toothily with her tongue lolling as her tail twitched up and down as she waited for Severus to deliver his potions order to the healers that needed them. Mungos had been strangely unconcerned with his physical transformation into the furrier side as long as he still made great potions, and he was hardly the one to not brew a great potion even as an anthro-lion. He was savaging people under the full moon or some other such horror, so to them he and the rest of the pride were just lion-shaped wizards and a witch.
"Ahhhbrbrhghahghff!" a young child babbled, tugging on Hermione's tail.
Hermione bared her teeth in annoyance, grimacing, but the little girl seemed oblivious to danger.
"Oh, honey, don't do that," a healer said, trying to herd the little girl away. The girl continued to clasp Hermione's tail.
Hermione gave the girl an over the shoulder glance, annoyed.
The healer shook the child's hand to get her to let go of the lioness' tail, giving Hermione an apologetic glance.
Hermione gave the little girl a very Snape-like expression, her lips curling with a certain characteristic disdain.
"I'm telling you, I'm not possessed!" a familiar voice complained loudly.
Hermione's ears swiveled.
"Now, now, Mr Weasley, I promise that I really can help you with that little bit of Dark magic residue."
"I don't have any Dark magic residue!"
"Of course you do, Mr Weasley, and I am here to help! I seem to recall I was quite the crack at undoing curses and hexes!"
"Tenebris—" the voice trailed off mumbling. "Aranea!"
"Whu—what?! OH MY— AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Ronald Weasley's voice screamed. "Get 'em off! GET THEM FUCKING HELL OFF ME!"
"Oh! That seems to be the wrong spell. Here I'll just—" the other voice sputtered. "Aranea Cresco!"
A terrified scream came from down the hall, causing Hermione to flatten her ears back. "NOW THEY'RE EVEN BIGGER!"
"Oh! Um, that must have been the wrong— just let me fix that! Aranea vexas!"
A wave of angry red energy blew down the hall.
Someone dropped something.
Frantic people were holding back the door, keeping it from opening, but there were rather shrill masculine screams coming from the other side. Healers ran forward along with a hospital security team.
"What are you doing!"
"Sp-sp-spu— SPIDERS!" the frantic witches said.
"Open this door!"
"No! There are Dark Weavers in there!"
"There are PEOPLE trapped in there!"
"Transverto Aranea!" came a terrified voice from on the other side of the door.
"Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods, OH MY FUCKING—!" Ron's terrified shriek came through the door. "WHAT IN THE HELL DID YOU JUST HIT ME WITH? EEEEKKKKKK!"
"Get this door open now!" one of the healers yelled.
"Why is this door sealed!?"
"Gods bless it— Healer Sterling, get out from that door right this instant!
The other healer unsealed the door, hastily flung it open and two gargantuan spiders tumbled out of the room, one golden blond and one ginger-coloured, but both were screaming like little girls.
A stream of fluffy black spiders with a red hourglass marked on their abdomens filed out of the room. They were all about the size of a Quaffle, and magic zipped and arced around their extremely fluffy bodies. They staggered about a little drunkenly, the magic having scrambled senses along with their locomotion.
"Why is the room spinning?"
The spiders bumped into a giant lion paw and they looked up, still very wobbly.
Hermione snuffled the spiders curiously and gave them an experimental slurp.
"We like you!"
"Will you be our friend?"
"They didn't want to be our friends."
"They smooshed our mummy!"
"She got very flat."
"And really angry."
"She bit them both on the bum."
"Did we mention she was angry?"
"And then one of them made us all bigger."
"And they shot each other with weird spells."
A larger spider came wobbling out of the room, looking rather flat— and distinctly disgruntled.
"We found a friend."
"A lion friend."
Hermione regarded the mother spider with a tilt of her head. The spider regarded the lioness with a tilt of her body.
"Hullo," the mother spider said.
Hermione snuffled the spider mum and gave her a good slurp.
She was back to being round and less disgruntledly flat.
The mother spider hugged Hermione's muzzle with her legs. "Thanks!"
"Can we come with you?" the "baby" spiders squeaked hopefully.
"We can make stuff!"
"We love hugs!"
Hermione lowered herself to the ground and let them clamber over her back and hitch a ride.
The spiders gathered on her back, creating a black and red stripe down her spine. The mother spider nestled on her head.
Hermione lumbered off, tail lazily draped across her back as the security team corralled up the giant "dangerous" spider pair off the ceiling and levitated them away.
Gilderoy Lockhart "Saves" Fellow Patient By Spider Summoning and Transfiguration
The afflicted Gilderoy Lockhart, who was hit with a memory charm approximately two years ago while working at Hogwarts, attempted to provide assistance to fellow patient Ronald Weasley while he was waiting to be examined by a mind healer for evidence of Dark magic influence with regard to his recent sentencing for his involvement with the forced Transfiguration of his potions professor and fellow Gryffindor housemate.
While the names of minor offenders are normally not revealed, the severity of the crimes they were charged with had them being tried before the Wizengamot and sentenced as adults, as the effects on the victims were both severe and permanent. Under conditions of their sentence, both Ronald and Ginevra Weasley were undergoing extensive Dark magic testing.
While Mr Weasley was awaiting the next phase of tests, Mr Lockhart wandered in from another floor and took it upon himself to "help" him. This resulted in the summoning of an entire clutter highly venomous Dark Weaver spiders from the Netherspace where they typically make their home. While the spiders are known to be quite mellow, Messrs Weasley and Lockhart unfortunately made matters considerably worse for themselves by attempting to kill the usually quite peaceful creatures with hospital trays and framed pictures.
The pair are currently being treated at Mungo's for a serious human transfiguration mishap that transformed them both into giant spiders.
Wizengamot Finds Rita Skeeter Guilty of Illegal Animagus Activities, Spying, Bribery, and Defamation of Character
During a closed session of the Wizengamot, Ms Rita Skeeter was found to be guilty on all charges of being an illegal Animagus, using her Animagus form, that of a beetle, to spy on and otherwise bribe and defame others for personal gain. The list of crimes and victims have been kept under tight wraps, but the end result has Ms Skeeter in Azkaban for what may add up to twenty years.
Wizengamot Releases Death Eater Igor Karkaroff to Scandinavian Aurors
Karkaroff to be Transferred to Nurmengard After Dual Sentencing
Visiting High Master of Durmstrang has been extradited in order to trail him again for his crimes again Wizarding kind. His arrest occurred after he viciously attacked his own students during their visit to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the Triwizard Tournament. Karkaroff has been sentenced for attack with murderous intent on a Hogwarts student and also for assault and battery on multiple Durmstrang students.
Despite these incidents, Hogwarts Board of Governors insist that security at Hogwarts is higher than ever. "While there are no schools that are perfectly safe, Hogwarts remains dedicated to the safety of its students and staff for the most important time of their lives: their education."
"Winner of the Triwizard Tournament!" the announcer cheered as Viktor Krum appeared with the trophy clutched in his hands. His hair was singed. He had scratches all over his face, leaves in his hair, and the tail of a dead Blast-Ended Screwt draped over his shoulder.
The cheers rose from the stands, and Viktor raised the trophy up in victory as his fellow Durmstrang rushed up to surround him, lifting him up in celebration.
Fleur, Harry, and Cedric limped out of the maze with injured limbs, but they all supported each other equally. A wave of cheers came from the stands as Viktor was set back down on his feet and he embraced his comrades forged in adversity.
The stands went wild.
In the faculty box, Severus clapped quietly as Hermione stood on her hind legs and looked over the railing, giving the contestants a full-on leonine roar of approval. The spiders on her back lifted their forelegs in a cheer.
Viktor and Harry looked up together, pumping their fists towards Hermione in victory.
Severus sighed as a spider on his head cheered along, and another spider perched on Lucius' head did too. Lucius looked at Severus smugly, and Severus just rolled his eyes.
The end of term had gone out with far less drama than what had blessed the beginning, and both visiting schools parted with tears and hugs and no few new owl penpals between them. Yet, even as the new friends left to their home, Viktor returned after settling his graduation and affairs with his family to take up an apprenticeship with Snape that would allow him become the new DADA instructor when it was completed. While the post remained open to be filled for the upcoming autumn, there was a collective sigh of relief that at least after that, there would be a competent teacher in place.
Who was coming to teach for the year interim, however, remained to be seen.
Albus begrudgingly agreed to allow the updates in quarters for Snape, seeing how the pride had expanded, but only after Hogwarts had taken it upon itself to do it for them. Severus woke to find his quarters had been hoisted up into a sort of crescent overhang overlooking the school on one side and the lake on the other. The heart of the chambers had become an open savannah, complete with grasses and assorted trees ranging from acacias to bushwillows.
Lucius had found his true calling in being a lion, and proceeded to test out each tree for perfect shade or the perfect rock upon which to sprawl. The lions' combined roars rang out over the grounds as the sun set, letting there be no mistake as to who was patrolling the school.
Narcissa was taking a bit of time to adjust to the fact that her Lord Husband had take a turn to the wild and furry, but considering the other option of dead or life-long coma or imprisoned in Azkaban for being a convicted Death Eater, she was taking it far better than many had expected. Draco seemed far more angry and seemingly betrayed by it, still wanting to blame Muggleborns for everything, but he ultimately settled for blaming "Muggle-lovers" such as the Weasleys for the downfall of "everything." Minerva said most likely the fact that two of Draco's main role-models were now quite furry and fanged was not helping the boy cope.
The discovery of one Peter Pettigrew in a state of complete catatonia, drooling helplessly on the grounds of Riddle Manor in Little Hangleton, clutching some sort of horrific, twisted snake-faced baby (also in a complete catatonic state) had the Muggle authorities screaming bloody murder all over the papers, and the Ministry had their hands full trying to squash that buzzing hive of hornets without causing even more paranoia and Muggles sniffing around where they didn't belong— or worse, where they'd end up dead.
The bright spot to the discovery of Pettigrew was that Sirius Black was pardoned and "officially" released from Azkaban. Severus wasn't seeing that as a positive, but Hermione chewed on his ear (literally) until he relented that living with Black was probably a hundred times better than living with Petunia Dursley and their dysfunctional family of Muggles gone horribly wrong. With a number of supervised visits on Harry's part to a place where Sirius was undergoing therapy and rehab to recover from his Azkaban experience, things were looking much brighter for Harry, and that made life a bit better for everyone. Grimmauld Place was being cleaned up both from a few decades of filth and neglect as well as punting out large quantities of Dark artefacts the Blacks had been hoarding for upwards of a few centuries.
They'd had to give the house-elf Kreacher some therapy as well after they found him trying to cling to "the master's" stuff, dragging and crying and even beating himself— and then they had to do it all over again when the portrait of Walburga Black spontaneously combusted when Harry moved in, exposing a hidden cache with an equally burnt and charred locket— all of which seemed to stem from some sort of stasis charm being undone when Harry officially moved in.
Aurors swept the house again (and again) to make sure nothing else was going to spontaneously burst into flames, explode, scream, or otherwise maim someone, and they finally declared the place "safe"—well, as safe as a place harbouring one overgrown hippogriff and two wizards could be.
Harry's nightmares had disappeared at last, and he invited Hermione over often to help him "sort things out" both mentally and physically, as Harry's new room was Sirius' old one, and there were a number of strange posters he really wanted to get rid of that his godfather had used a permanent sticking charm to affix to the walls.
Hermione had "convinced" the posters to leave by sharpening her claws on the Black Sabbath poster and threatening to urinate on another. Sirius had screamed, run in, and pried them off with a scraper, taking them, the plaster, and some drywall along with it, crying that those were one of the few things he had actually liked about his childhood.
Severus slipped Hermione a turkey leg and looked terribly smug for the rest of the evening.
Surprisingly, it was Severus and Lucius who repaired Harry's room with a combination of magic, paw grease, and levitation spells. Hermione levitated upside down, using her paws to splatter plaster on the holes in the ceiling with Harry giggling like a lunatic under her as he held the pail. Viktor charmed the ceiling to be like the Great Hall at Hogwarts, but he added a few things like random Quidditch snitches zooming away and a few run-away brooms.
Therapy, apparently, was a team sport.
To add to the therapy aspect, Hermione "lent" Harry one of her spiders, who happily took to his hair, mended his socks, wove him some new curtains that didn't look like they were stolen off a funeral procession, and gave him some new sheets too. Harry named his spider-friend Marcus after the book on Roman history Sirius "accidentally" dropped on him when he may or may not have screamed like a soprano witch on sighting it. Marcus became Harry's number one cuddle buddy, much to Sirius' consternation.
Miraculously, Severus and Sirius, while not truly making up, did at least agree to be more agreeable for Hermione's and Harry's sake. Severus had come to care more for Harry as a person having shared Hermione's memories, and she had understood more about his unpleasant history with Black. While there were some things that were impossible for forgive and forget, such as an almost-murder via werewolf, they could at least agree that they had both matured since then.
Things weren't perfect, but they were better.
Minerva suggested that perhaps Severus, Hermione, and Lucius might benefit from a sort of Animagus training that allowed the lion to assume the form of a human. Viktor agreed to help. Hermione was curious, but she wasn't hopeful, seemingly content with how she was. The challenge, however, now that did perk her interest. They decided they would work on it together, using it as a sort of bonding experience— not that their bond wasn't pretty well cemented through adversity.
Hermione was silent for a few days after, and when she finally perked up again, she told Severus it would be nice to see her parents again— in a form that didn't freak them out and send them diving for the elephant gun. They all agreed to work hard together on the lessons from Minerva and Viktor. Lucius chuckled it would be more fun to go to the board meetings as a lion, and Severus shook his head at him.
"I swear you're living your first childhood, since you seemed to have skipped over it completely the first time," Severus had grumbled at his old friend.
Lucius had replied by looking utterly smug, something he did exceedingly well.
Sometimes the white lion-wizard would send Hermione after Severus, guiding her all too well after things that he knew would ruffle the Potions master, yet he couldn't stay mad at her because she projected so much glee and happiness at her prank that getting angry would have made her sad— and none of them ever wanted Hermione sad. It was practically inscribed in their lion brains with a giant flaming heart around it. Never break the lioness' heart. Rule for peaceful pride life number one.
Remus finally came out of hiding, at least long enough to move in with Sirius and Harry. He was still a known werewolf, and someone named Dolores Umbridge was doing her utmost to make things as difficult as possible on him— far more difficult than he'd ever had to deal with before.
Hermione had given her ex-professor a good sniffing over, padded into Sirius' parent's old room (which was conveniently transformed into a nice paddock for Buckbeak) seemed to have a discussion with the hippogriff, and came back with a pile of pristine hippogriff quills.
With a little translation, Hermione said Remus could make a unique business selling exotic hippogriff quills for writing or even hair and broom decorations. A spiderling bounced up and down with excitement, wanting to help, and quickly demonstrated how to wrap a quill with spider silk for a smooth, comfortable writing grip. Sirius ribbed Remus that it took a real lion to get him on track, and Remus had agreed with a sigh. When his first prototype hippogriff writing quill sold for as much as a new wand, Remus stopped sulking and immediately got to work, dragging Sirius into as well.
Buckbeak seemed a little puzzled as to what was so amazing about his shed feathers and why they were digging through his nest to get them, but it earned him a few extra plump ferrets to munch on, so he wasn't complaining.
The new catalogue for "The Silver Hippogriff: Fine Quills and Accessories" hit the owl-post in less than a month, and they found out people were willing to pay three to five times as much for a rush, custom job.
Rumour had it that some muppet was selling cheap knock-offs in Knockturn Alley, but they couldn't even come close to the feel and strength of real Dark Weaver spider silk. It seems Remus' new niche was safely in the bag, and for an added bonus, it got Sirius out of the bottle and witches' knickers and acting like a proper role model for Harry.
Harry started his own little section in Remus' catalogue making custom coloured silk handgrips for brooms with his spider buddy Marcus and it seemed to even Harry out emotionally in finally having something to focus on that he could say was his.
The spiders were happy to please, and they worked for flies and cuddles, both of which they got in scads. Though, at the end of the day, the majority of the spiders stayed with their mum, who was sticking to Hermione like glue. She knew a good thing when she had it. Hermione didn't mind and seemed to appreciate having a nightly snuggle buddy and a chasing target. The spiders would "flee" from her as she chased them up and down the halls of Hogwarts like Minerva after a catnip mouse. Once she was exhausted, they all piled up together and took a nap.
Albus had respectfully requested that that particular sleeping place not be right at the bottom of his staircase, if she would please be so kind.
Hermione grumbled slightly, but did as Severus asked, making it obvious that she was obeying Severus over Albus himself. Minerva was rolling around in the sun with them after that, amused up to her furry eyebrows.
Rumour had it that Amelia had a photograph of Albus trying to step over a pride of lions that were snoozing at the bottom of his staircase. If it was true— no one was telling.
"I want these filthy— ANIMALS— removed this instant!" Umbridge screeched as she inspected the faculty lounge.
"I thought you were fan of cats, Madam Umbridge," Dumbledore said, stroking his beard.
"These are not cats!" Dolores hissed.
Hermione lifted her head. Viktor yawned toothily, making sure to show all of his fangs. Lucius rolled over on his side and playfully batted at Hermione's muzzle.
"I'm not sure if the magi-biologists would agree with you, Madam Undersecretary."
"Now you see here, Dumbledore!" Umbridge said, scrunching her face up unattractively, "It is against regulations to have animals running free in an educa—"
"Now, Madam, you needn't worry," Albus said, smiling as the toadish woman squirmed. "This is Professor Snape," he said as the Potions' master flicked his eyes over the newspaper. His black claws tapped against the parchment with a disturbing half-rip. "I'm sure you've heard of his unfortunate forced transfiguration. This are his apprentices, Hermione Granger and Viktor Krum. Ah, so you are aware of Mr Krum, yes? Quite the family. Quite the Quidditch player. He's apparently an unparalleled whiz at Defence. Ah, and of course you know Lord Malfoy."
"Lord Malfoy would never associate with beasts!" Umbridge said, puffing her face out like a bullfrog.
Hermione jumped up, rubbing up against Severus as she grimaced, letting her teeth slide against his paws. Viktor followed, and Lucius took his place at her other side, they pushed by Umbridge, and as they passed, Lucius made wind. The lions disappeared out the door and away.
"Oh, Severus," Albus said. "Poppy said to ask you for an extra batch of Dittany before the students come back."
"Of course, Headmaster," Snape replied, flipping his paper.
"Thank you, Sever—"
Albus stared at Umbridge's unconscious body in the middle of the floor. He popped a lemon sherbet into his mouth. "Hrm, well, this is going to be an interesting year."
Severus flipped another page, saying nothing.
Lucius was looking smug. Again.
Hermione was giving him a good tongue bath, ruffling his mane one direction and then the other, and then he returned the favour by grooming one side of her muzzle and then the other while Viktor groomed her shoulders.
"Someone is having quite the spa treatment," Snape mumbled. "Take this case up to Poppy, if you please."
Hermione hopped up and grabbed the basket of potions. She nudged Snape's hand to get a scratch and then padded out the door.
Lucius and Viktor looked on wistfully.
"You two are so pathetic," Severus said with a sigh.
Lucius rolled over, sprawling, and Viktor yawned widely in response.
A/N: I'm having a name-your-own spiderling contest. Leave a review with your ideas for an original name you want to see, and you may see it in the next chapter! The more original the better!