The Surest Invisibility Cloak,

AN: Hope you enjoy; this is the response to one of the prompts on my poll...

Chapter One

Harry Potter was sick and tired of working on his Charms essay. It wasn't that he didn't like homework, although he pretended not to (legacy of living with the Dursleys, who refused to believe that he was smarter an more dedicated than Dudley) but today, like the last few months, he had had a different thing on his agenda. Something he had not even told Ron and Hermione about. He was training to be an animagus, but he didn't want to tell them just yet. Hermione would either badger him with questions or tell a teacher, who would make him register his form, and Ron would automatically assume he wanted to show off, and wonder why he had not let his friends in on the secret before.

And besides, he just wanted to have this one thing for himself, this one thing that he could share with his father and Sirius, even if both of them were gone. Glancing at Ron and Hermione, who were occupied with snogging, he picked up his book bag and left the common room, closing the portrait quietly behind him. Once he was partway down the hall and away from the prying painted eyes of the portraits, he pulled his invisibility cloak from his pocket and continued through the halls to one of the movable staircases, and from there to the Rooms of Requirement, where he made the door appear and shut it behind him.

The Rooms of Requirement, as usual these days, were totally empty, except for a large, two-sided mirror in the center of the main room, a bookshelf full of books on the animagus transformation, and a small indoor pool in an alcove, for those whose animagus forms were aquatic. But Harry didn't care about the layout of the room; after all, he'd seen it before. He only cared about making progress on the transformation.

Not bothering to look at the books, which, after all, he had already read multiple times, Harry knelt down on the soft shag carpeting that covered the floor and closed his eyes, trying to concentrate. Gradually, a meditative state swept over him, calm bubbling under his skin. Having already made and taken the animagus potion (after about forty tries in as many days) he knew that he had two forms, although neither of which were particularly impressive to his mind: one was a small poisonous viper and the other was a kitten. He was trying for the kitten first; the snake might be more helpful, but the kitten would likely be more innocuous, and he didn't want more people wondering if he was going dark when (if) he registered or had to reveal his form. According to the literature he had read, even if a wizard had two potential forms, most only attained one form in their lifetimes, because already having a form would interfere with the meditative process for attaining a second, and the animagus transformation potion was highly unstable.

Besides, he had already begun with the tedious process of trying to turn into a cat, a very dangerous process in itself, because a wizard could get stuck in his or her form if practicing alone. He hadn't had any problems so far, and he was actually quite close to attaining his full shape (last practice he had been able to manage turning all four appendages into paws, growing pointed ears and a tail, and sprouting a large amount of hair; he hoped that soon he could actually fully transform.)

So he meditated, concentrating on his core and sinking so deep into the process that he did not allow the prickling of fur sprouting and tickling of whiskers popping out one by one and the various other strange sensations of the transformation distract him, as they had every other time he'd attempted.

And suddenly there was a sharp snap, and he found himself looking up at a vast room. He tried to stand, but only wobbled, stumbling on four black paws. Something twitched in the corner of his eye, and he whirled to chase it, only for it to move tantalizingly away, always a mere flicker at the edge of his vision. He had a tail! Harry tried to walk, gradually making his way over to the mirror, which he then looked in for the very first time, as a cat, at least.

He was a totally black and rather scrawny kitten, with a single white mark on his forehead where his scar was, normally. He had rather strange but beautiful eyes, green with gold flecks in them, sharp ebony claws and needle-sharp white teeth, as well as gangly paws and a sort of bedraggled look, like he never quite got washed properly- not exactly what most people would expect, although he was not at all surprised by the form itself. (He was rather disappointed, however, as he'd hoped to be a dog like Sirius.) But, all in all, he was actually rather satisfied by the animagus form; it should make it easy to go unnoticed.

He practiced walking around some more until he actually got it- it was quite different to walk as a cat for one who was used to walking as a human- and at last lay down and took a nap.

When he woke up, he did not know where he was. He struggled to his paws- wait, paws?- and realized, to his shock, that he had not only managed the animagus transformation, but that he had also fallen asleep in his enchanted state, without even bothering to try to change back.

He had, in fact, read in one of the older books that, while perfectly natural to be exhausted by the transformation, especially when attempting it alone, one was not supposed to actually fall asleep unless he or she had a friend who could use the animagus reverto to change him back, at least the first time, because he or she might get stuck in his (or her) animagus form and be unable to change upon awakening.

Oh, well. Harry was rather worried, but aside from the reverse transformation taking longer than the books said it should, but he didn't end up with cat ears or a tail in his human form, so he counted it a win. He changed back and forth a few times, until the change was easy and fluid, and then he couldn't help jumping up and dancing around. Just a little. But soon the exhilaration wore off in favor of another pursuit. He wanted to practice his form outside the Rooms of Requirement.

He shifted back and left the room, again under his cloak, returning quietly to the common room by way of passageways that had probably never been traversed by anyone except the Founders, the ghosts and the Weasley twins. At last he reached the Fat Lady.

"Password?" she yelped, but he simply pushed her, and the nosy portrait swung inward on it's hinges, reluctantly allowing Harry into the common room. Which was empty. Harry frowned and went up the stairs to the dorms, but the only students left were a few firsties, sleeping in, some second years having a party, a sick fourth year, and a few fifth and seventh years studying feverishly to take their respective OWL's and NEWT's in the coming year. Harry sighed. They hadn't even left him a note!

Then a sudden devious thought occurred to him. He still had an invisibility cloak and the map; he could just find them and surprise them in his animagus form.

Harry ran up to his dorm, pulled out the Mauraders Map, and searched for his friends on it.

Why were they in the headmaster's office?

Harry frowned. He knew perfectly well that he was often called to talk to Dumbledore, but his friends had never even mentioned having to talk to him. A shiver ran down his spine. He obviously didn't expect his friends to tell him everything going on in their lives, but he was rather curious, as he would have thought that his friends would have told him if they'd gotten summoned to the headmaster's office. He stashed the map and cloak in a nearby empty classroom (the plaque on the door stated that it had once been for the class on wandmaking) and crept, in his form, towards Dumbledore's office. He had almost reached the staircase when Ron and Hermione passed him, talking in low tones. He was about to transform when he heard his name. Surely a little eavesdropping wouldn't hurt anything?

"Harry doesn't even suspect. It's not even very hard."

Suspect what? Harry's newly-feline green eyes narrowed in confusion and anger. Were they planning a prank on him?

"We've got to up our game," was Hermione's contribution. "Just because Dumbledore's not going to be around much longer doesn't mean we can't get what we want, you know that. We just have to go about it a different way." She drew her wand and cast an anti-eavesdropping spell, but Harry was in the radius of it's protective bubble, and he felt only the tingle of magic in his fur.

Wait, what?! Where was Dumbledore going? Was he dying?! And what were they trying to do?

"What other way would that be?" asked Ron, sounding disgusted.

"Give him amortentia keyed to Ginny, get them to marry, and take his gold, since Dumbledore isn't going to be able to give it to us anymore. It's a win-win situation. I get gold for college, you get to be the brother-in-law of the Boy-Who-Lived and a guaranteed in with whatever career you want, Ginny gets to be 'Lady Potter', and Harry gets a family. At least until Voldemort kills him."

Harry reeled.

"Where would we get amortentia?" That was Ron. Harry couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"I can brew some, I'll just owl away for ingredients and get Flitwick to give me a pass to the restricted section for a "Charms textbook", and then we can make it in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Harry'l never know."

Harry wanted badly to run, but long experience had taught him that being forewarned is being forearmed, and living with the Dursleys has taught him never to trust, and that it is much safer to know all the details, even if it is painful to hear. And so he followed his erstwhile friends very quietly as Hermione dragged Ron into an alcove in the wall.

"What are we going to do about the twins, though?" asked Ron after a breathless moment. "Bill and Charlie don't live in Scotland anymore, Ginny and Mum will definitely be fine with us using a love potion on him, and I can blackmail Dad, but Fred and George might mess up our plans of they find out."

"We'll deal with that if they find out," was Hermione's response. "No one else did, not even Mcgonagall."

"Yeah, because Albus kept obliviating her. And what about Sirius?"

"Sirius is dead; I made sure of that," Hermione said coldly. Harry felt numb and fragile, as though a wind would blow him away. This was impossible! He'd wake up any minute now, to find that he'd fallen asleep on his Charms textbook, and he'd tell his friends about his dream, and they would all laugh about it together. Please, no. Please no. Sirius!

"Shhh! What's that?" asked Hermione abruptly, and Harry realized that he'd whimpered aloud. He had no where to run, not really, but Ron only looked at him and commented that he was a Ravenclaw's pet cat, and stroked him- for a smart wizard, he seemed not to realize that he could be an animagus in disguise. But why would he lie to protect him?

"But what if he figures out, though?" That was Ron.

"He's too starved for friendship, he wouldn't care think anything bad of us. And if he does, I'll do the same thing that worked on Snape; the compulsions Dumbledore taught us and maybe a loyalty potion or two. I know for a fact he doesn't have his heir ring; Dumbledore said so. So he won't be able to resist any potions."

"Yeah. Hey 'Mione, can we talk about this later? I'm hungry, and plus, someone might hear us."

"You and your food, Ron. And I already cast 'muffliatus'."

"Oh," was Ron's sheepish reply.

"Anyway," she added loudly, clearly meaning to be overheard, "I wish you would quit cheating on your History of Magic essays!"

"Binns never grades anything anyway," Ron protested, without putting Harry down. As Hermione headed on down the corridor he bent his head closer to the cat.

"Mate, I'll explain later," he hissed. "Don't meet her eyes- she uses regular legillimancy on you, which is why I didn't care tell you before."

Harry was left with that little tidbit to think about as Ron put him down and hurried away. What was going on? Were his friends really on Dumbledore's payroll? Was Dumbledore really going to die? Had Hermione really killed Sirius? And how had Ron known that he was an animagus?