Aah... damn. You guys must really hate me right now.

This is a really short chapter, but I figured I had to give you guys a conclusion to that cliffie last time before you all go nuts. And sorry for not updating in so long- that has an explanation too, but it's at the end of the chapter, so read on.

Mortimer says we don't own Harry Potter. I'm inclined to agree with him.


Harry grabbed the hand and pulled Draco off balance, causing the blond boy to stumble forward. The Boy Who Lived caught him, one fist clamped on the Slytherin boy's shoulder so as to make sure he couldn't draw away. Leaning forward, the raven-haired boy whispered into his captive's ear, a dangerous glint in his eyes.

"Be grateful you lot's little stint with leaving off with the bloody green rocks has got me in a good mood or you'd be leaving the hall with a few broken bones for suggesting I ditch Ron and Neville like that Malfoy." he hissed out, teeth gritted. "If you want to bloody well piss me off, you're doing a wonderful job of it. Go be a good little pansy and suck up to someone else's shoes- I speak with snakes, not worms. Now if you'd like to remove yourself from my line of sight and try to grow a pair, I think I'll stick with my friends, not some weak little ass-kisser trying to sneak in favor with the rest of his house." there was a moment of shocked silence where everyone who had been brave enough to sit near Harry stared at the two of them in shock, before the raven-haired boy's lips pulled back into a sneer. The grip he held on Draco's shoulder clamped down painfully hard for a moment, and he mentioned almost casually- "...and just so you know... if you ever call Hermione that word again, I will make sure that every single serpent on the castle grounds knows that you think your morning cup of pumpkin juice tastes better with snake piss in it. I'm sure they'd be glad to oblige."

He practically tossed the boy away, watching with narrowed eyes as the blond awkwardly stumbled back to his housemates, all of whom crowded around him to try and get the scoop since they had been too far away to hear what had just taken place. Harry came back and sat down beside Ron and Neville, both of whom were grinning.

"...mate..." Ron clapped him on the shoulder. "...that was the most bloody awesome thing to happen all year."

"Considering it's this year, that's not saying much..." Harry grumbled, looking around with a paranoid eye. Knowing that practically everyone around him had a sharp piece of green rock that they wanted to stab him with wasn't really helping him relax, and after his little stunt with Malfoy, he had a bad feeling that the rumors were going to get twisted around to where he wished he really had allied himself with the Slytherin git. Not that it was very likely that the stupid bunch of rocks really did have any effect on him, but rocks were still rocks, and if someone decided to stab him with one to see if it worked, it wouldn't hurt any less than any other sharp object driven into his flesh. Harry stood once more, feeling a sinking in his stomach that had absolutely nothing to do with the food he should have been eating at that point. The eyes that followed his every movement as he stood up were making him feel a bit too... twitchy. "I'm just going to go. Away." he stated, gesturing vaguely over his shoulder in some undetermined direction. He didn't want to be near these people right now. Hell, he never wanted to be around them, but it was just so much worse today...

"You want us to come with you?" Neville asked quietly, a look of understanding concern on his face. Harry shook his head.

"No- you just... just keep eating and don't worry about me. If I'm a few minutes late for class, don't be surprised. I'll be fine." He waved them off, stumbling back out of the great hall. His stomach growled uncomfortably, but he put it out of his mind- he had spent the summers with very little food, he would survive a day without breakfast. He just didn't want Ron and Neville to go hungry because of him...

There wasn't enough time to go back to 308 and work on his projects before classes started up once more, so Harry settled for wandering the halls, staring out over the chilly morning grounds with the first signs of flowers peeking up from under a layer of frost. It was a calming scene, and he allowed himself to stand back and relax for a moment. Hogwarts at her finest, with a tiny spiderweb of ice dusted across the windowpane and the light streaming in and framing him where he stood. He was glad he'd decided to take this little walk- it soothed his nerves and forced him to remember how beautiful the Hogwarts grounds were.

Something moved in the corner of his eye, and Harry turned slightly to see what it was. Nothing- just a cat slinking off into the shadows, probably looking for some tasty treat while its owner stuffed their face in the great hall.

When the cat spotted him, it froze, staring at him. Harry stared at it for a moment before kneeling down, holding out his hand.

"It's okay. Nice kitty..." he murmured, feeling rather stupid that he was talking to a cat. The feline looked very sleek- pure black with a single white diamond in the center of its forehead. It slowly approached the outstretched hand, finally sniffing it for a second before rubbing its head into the palm like it wanted attention. Harry smiled weakly, stroking the cat's fur as he sat down with his back pressed against the wall. "Yeah... you're a sweet kitty, aren't you? Wonder who you belong to... bet they wouldn't be too happy to see where you've gotten off to..." the cat ignored his words, only moving closer to rub its head on his knee. He allowed himself a light chuckle at this, rubbing the fur just behind the nape of the cat's neck.

"It's my cat."

He looked up, startled, to find a shorter student halfway hiding behind a pillar. From the small flash of color that he caught off their house badge, the child... likely a first year... was from Ravenclaw. Black hair as sleek as the cat's was cropped to her shoulders, and the structure of her face and tone of her skin suggested she was from somewhere in the middle-east.

Harry tried not to watch at the girl, mostly looking at the cat. He didn't want to make it seem like he was staring at her.

"She's very sweet." he murmured, letting the pet lick his fingers for a moment before he went back to stroking its fur. "What's her name?"

When he got no response, he glanced up once more to find that his own worries about staring were not what the girl was worried about. She was watching him intently, mouth slightly open.

"...what?" he asked, tilting his head to the side in confusion. The girl seemed to manage to shake off her shock, giving a weak and very nervous smile to him.

"Ah, it's just... nothing. I mean..." she hesitated, still not coming out from behind the pillar. "...you like cats?"

"I like a lot of animals." he shrugged, perplexed. What was this all about?

"Not just snakes?" the girl insisted, finally getting around to saying what she was confused about. Harry blinked once.

"...no, not just snakes." he finally told her. She was a first year alright. Probably her older housemates had been telling her stories about the 'evil Harry Potter' for the majority of the last few months, and it was just that much weirder for her to experience this scene now. ...well... she didn't seem like she was too lost to their bias yet. Or at least, he hoped not... "I guess you want this little kitty back, huh?" he looked back down at the cat, giving it one final pat before picking it up and placing it so it could see its owner. "Go on." he tried to push it in the girl's direction, but even when the Ravenclaw bent down and held out her hands to catch the cat's attention, it still retreated back to Harry's lap, nuzzling its head into his knee like it was begging for more attention. He awkwardly kept petting it, wondering how he could return the pet to its owner without scaring her.

"...that's strange." she murmured, slipping out from behind the pillar. Harry glanced up at her again, confused, but found there to be a little smile on the girl's face.

"What is?"

"Sasha." she nodded to the cat. "She rarely ever takes to anyone like this. Her previous owners treated her really badly, so it's weird for her to be this affectionate with someone other than me..."

"Is that so...?" he mused, picking up the cat to hold it at eye-level. After a moment of the two of them staring one-another in the eye, Harry smiled too. "...no, you're a sweet little kitten, aren't you?" in response, Sasha licked his nose with a purr, obviously contented with her situation.

The girl watched the two of them for a moment before taking a few steps forward. When Harry glanced over at her, she stopped, still looking hesitant.

"...the older students say you try to kill muggleborns." she stated, voice slightly accusatory. He quirked an eyebrow at her.

"Do they now...?"

The girl took a step closer, this time insistently. She was only a few feet away by then.

"You don't, right?" she asked, a little more fiercely. When he refused to look at her, instead paying attention to Sasha, she walked right up in front of him. "I know Colin. We would eat lunch together. He was really sweet, and he was really obsessed with you. He would always tell me how awesome you were, and how much he looked up to you." Harry's eyes went slightly wide as he looked back up at her, Sasha temporarily forgotten. The Ravenclaw's soft brown eyes stared down at him as she bit her lip, hands trembling. "You wouldn't really hurt someone who thought that way about you, right...?"


Okay, so you SERIOUSLY thought that Harry was just going to become friends with Draco out of the blue after he insulted all of his best friends like that? E.R Rowling had the closest guess as to what was about to happen- but no matter how amusing it would have been to have Harry karate-flip Draco over the table, I'm afraid I had to just stick with this. :)

You guys are great, really. Thanks for putting up with such a long time between updates. The thing is, I suddenly realized that I had every scene planned out in my head other than the one that I needed to update. So pretty much, I'm warning you about one thing: I'm probably going to write the whole story out and edit it before I update any more chapters. Yes, that means Hiatus. And I hate Hiatus just as much as you all do. DX But it means I'll get to make it better, and you all want this to be a good story, right?

Thanks, guys.