The sound of voices and grinding rocks awoke Snape. He jerked up and had to catch
Potter before the sleeping boy's head hit the ground.
Potter made a contented sound as Snape leaned him against the wall, and then began snoring lightly.
"They're finally here to save you Potter." Snape cast a time telling charm then made a sound of dry amusement. "Six hours with Potter and he's not even dead, I must be loosing my touch," he muttered.
Potter did not stir at the mention of his name. Probably best, Snape mentally mussed.
The anesthetic potion would have worn of by now, the only thing keeping Potter from mountain loads of pain, was unconsciousness. Thinking that the pain from a broken rib might lessen should the boy lay down, Snape moved towards Potter.
Potter made a questioning sound and his eyebrows furrowed as Snape moved him from the wall to the floor.
"I'm just moving you. Go back to sleep," Snape said.
Potter gave a breathy sigh and somehow, Snape found his wrist caught by a cold hand.
Staring at the boy in disbelief and horror, Snape watched as Potter lay on his potion stained hand like it was a pillow.
"I think not," Snape said decisively and tried to tug his hand away.
Then Potter, damn him, had to go and whimper like some kicked puppy.
"Oh grow up!" Snape snapped at the sleeping child. He glanced at the wall of rock. It was the only thing keeping him, and the sight of Potter holding his hand like a beloved teddy bear; from the eyes of his fellow teachers and probably Order members.
With that thought, he tugged sharply. He managed to pull his hand away from where the boy had been holding it, but now Snape now had to deal with the consequences.
Potter frowned as he tightened his hands to find no warmth there. Snape eyed the boy thoughtfully and then the wall of rocks.
He could clearly make out McGonagall's voice now, the worried and annoying voice of Granger reached his ears as well. Wonderful. It seemed the entire castle was here to 'save them'.
Snape decided he preferred the dark, cold tunnel instead.
Potter was still sleeping, but without Snape's presence and body heat, he was shivering.
Not wanting to hear or see McGonagall's or Pomfrey's disapproving words, Snape cast a warming charm--and then transfigured a stone into a small, palm sized teddy bear.
"One word of this," Snape warned the unconscious boy as he placed the bear into the boy's hands; just to give him something to hold to other then his hand. Then he lifted the wool blanket to Potter's chin, no reason for the boy to get hypothermia so close to being rescued.
It sounded like someone was scolding Weasley for something. Snape turned as waited. A few minutes later all the large rocks had been moved--and Potter was still oblivious to it all.
"Harry!" Granger said in a fierce, protective voice. She, Weasley, McGonagall and several others came into the tunnel.
"He's injured Granger, don't touch him. Pomfrey, if you would transport him to the hospital wing…" Snape was cut off by Pomfrey's look.
"I know how to take care of injured children Severus, I want to see if he's fit for transportation first."
"Severus, what happened?" Dumbledore asked from where he suddenly beside him. Snape turned reluctantly away from where Pomfrey was levitating Potter.
"I followed the boy when I spotted him on my rounds," Snape said. "He led me here and I followed…I'm sure you are aware of the boy's cloak Albus and I want to know why I was not aware."
Dumbledore chuckled. "Why, it's because I knew you would react this way Severus. You need a bath," he added and stepped away from the Potion's master with a slight crinkle of his nose.
Snape crossed his arms, not amused in the least. "I just spent five hours in a smelly tunnel trying to keep the ceiling from falling on my head. And then I had to deal with an injured, lose tongued Potter, of course I'm less then pleasantly fragrant Albus!" Snape snapped.
"Ah, you're grumpy as well. No matter, I'll have a house elf bring you a cup of earl grey tea, just how you like it," he said indulgently.
Snape looked upward, the effect was somewhat lost when all he saw was the cobweb covered ceiling.
"I'd like you to check into the infirmary before you head to your rooms Severus, it seems you did not come out of this unscathed," Dumbledore said as he spotted Snape's injured hands.
Snape opened his mouth to complain. He could take care of a few minor scratches, but Dumbledore raised an eyebrow and waited. Snape knew then and there it was not worth arguing.
He turned swiftly and followed after Pomfrey on her way to the infirmary. From behind he heard Dumbledore chuckle and clenched his fists.
Manipulative old man…he decided to have a talk with Pomfrey about Dumbledore's sweet eating addiction.
Harry awoke to cramped muscles and his two worried friends beside him. All other injuries were healed. He got away with soreness and a firm command to sit for ten minutes or so.
With no idea what had happened, he'd gone from horrified to confused within a few minutes as his friends explained what they knew.
"Stuck with Snape's for hours," Ron shook his head and eyes Harry with what could only be described as awe. "How is it you aren't dead mate?"
Hermione rolled her eyes, "I'm more surprised you got away without losing any points. What were you thinking, going out in the middle of the night? It's a good thing Snape was there, Madam Pomfrey said you could have died from blood loss Harry!"
Harry was sitting on a hospital bed--even though he had been told to lie down several times.
"Well, I don't remember most of it. I was getting ready to leave the tunnel, but when I lit my wand; I saw him," Harry shook his head. "He almost scared the hell out of me!"
Ron winced in understanding, Hermione smiled though. "Serves you right, how many times must I tell you--"
Harry cut her off, "I just wanted some air Hermione, what's wrong with that?"
Biting her lip, Hermione sighed and consented with a small nod. "Nothing. Absolutely nothing. But, if you had to get out of the common room; I wish you would have taken one of us with you."
"I would have been happy to come," Ron said. "Even though I can't see anyone sane wanting to go for a walk two in the bloody morning," the redhead added with a snort.
Harry 'humph'ed and looked away with his nose in the air, but he had to agree. What had he been thinking? Oh yes, Harry remembered with a sense of bitterness.
Last night, he had been plagued with nightmares. Lack of sleep or not, he felt restless and the air seemed stuff. Trying to remove the weight from his chest with fresh air, he had left Gryffindor tower.
The urge to move made him forget the Marauder's Map, a mistake he regretted as he sat on the hospital bed waiting to be excused.
Hermione and Ron told him what happened. Ron woke up and found Harry missing, he had used the Marauders Map and found him and Snape unmoving in the tunnel. After fetching Hermione, they had set off down the hall and met up with an irritated Professor McGonagall.
Not wanting to give the secret of the map away, they told her that Harry was missing and the started a search.
Here I am, Harry thought, bored to death and sore.
Fortunately, since Professor Dumbledore wanted to see him in his office soon, Madam Pomfrey couldn't keep him all day long. She had grumbled plenty about that. Harry took extra precautions not to complain about the potions he would have to take.
Should he irritate Madam Pomfrey now, he was not sure he would get by with it and manage to keep his head on his shoulders.
It was amazing enough he was not in a worse condition then what he was. Madam Pomfrey said he had Snape to thank for that, but Harry had a hard time believing it. True or not, he did feel rather curious--and a bit frightened by the situation.
Even though he knew why he could not remember anything, it still worried him.
What had happened to him while in that tunnel? If he had been less then lucid, as he had been told, what had he said?
Something else that depressed him was the revealing of his once secret tunnel. Now everyone knew about it, including Snape and Filch.
He felt rather bad, Fred and George had shown him the tunnel with faith he would let the information into no professor's hands. Now everyone in the castle was aware of it.
He would be very wary of any mysterious candies he received from now on.
"Out Mr. Weasley, you as well Ms. Granger," Madam Pomfrey said as she came back into the room. "Classes are starting soon," she added when Ron grumbled.
Of course, that only made Ron grumble louder.
"I'll see you in Transfiguration," Harry said. "Dumbledore wanted me to come to his office before class--I don't even know the password," he realized.
Madam Pomfrey heard him and went to the Floo. She may have been reluctant to let Harry out of her eyesight, but she was always helpful. A minute later Harry was handed a piece of paper and shooed out of the room.
"That's the password, don't lose it. I want you to get a full nights rest tonight…if you would like a potion to help you sleep, I'm always here," she said.
Harry smiled at her, and waved to Ron and Hermione who had started walking away. "Thank you Madam Pomfrey, I appreciate it."
"You can show it by staying out of trouble," she said but seemed more exasperated with him then stern.
"I'll try," Harry said and headed off to Dumbledore's office.
Unwrapping the folded note, he found the password written in Dumbledore's loopy script. The two words made him stop and stare.
Now, the names of his favorite sweets for passwords was one thing--but when had this happened? He could see Dumbledore with that familiar, and always present container of hard sweets. But, carrot sticks?
Harry shook his head and continued on his way.
Maybe the Headmaster decided that healthy passwords would inspire the students to eat better, Harry thought with a small grin. He doubted any student would be willing to give up the greats deserts the house elves made--except possibly, Hermione. Moreover, even she had a sweet tooth for almost any type of pie.
He reached the staircase leading to Dumbledore's rooms and spoke the password to the waiting gargoyles. They parted and he climbed the winding stairs.
Knocking politely, Harry waited until he heard Dumbledore allow him entrance.
"Harry," Dumbledore smiled in greeting and gestured to the chairs in front of his large desk.
"Good morning sir," Harry said brightly. Fawkes crooned a happy greeting and Harry smiled at him before taking the offered seat.
Harry watched as Dumbledore looked at his desk with a face of mild dislike. Surprised, he watched as the older man picked up a bowl of peeled carrots. "Carrot stick?" Dumbledore asked.
Bemused and feeling the need to laugh for some reason, Harry accepted one and bit the end of thoughtfully.
Frowning at the bowl again, as if he was disappointed Harry had not taken all of them, Dumbledore sighed.
"Does that have anything to do with the new password, sir?" Harry asked, only a bit of amusement creeping into his tone.
Dumbledore smiled, though it seemed a bit abashed to Harry. "Never rub a Slytherin the wrong way Harry, remember that and maybe you can keep you sweet collection as it is."
Harry hid a grin as Dumbledore looked mournfully at the carrots. "They're healthy for you sir," he said with a shrug.
"That's what Madam Pomfrey said as she ransacked my sweet collection," Dumbledore muttered, but winked at Harry.
"Now, I have asked you here because as you know, the day after Christmas you will have your remedial Potions lesson with Professor Snape."
Harry winced and Dumbledore seemed to fight a smile. "As much as I'm sure you're loath to admit it, you must learn Occlumency. You know this, yes? Yes, and Professor Snape, even though his teaching methods may be questionable--" Harry snorted.
"--he can teach this lost art better then I, or many others," Dumbledore continued.
Perhaps sensing his disgust at himself and the subject, Fawkes flew over and landed on Harry's shoulder.
"I was not aware of this, but I became aware that Professor Snape did not give you any books on the subject of Occlumency. He does not seem willing to do so even now. Therefore, I've taken it on myself to keep you busy with some reading material," Dumbledore pulled three books over in front of Harry.
Harry glanced at them. He had never even thought to look for books on the subject, feeling slightly thoughtless, he pulled the books forward.
"I would like you to read these in your spare time Harry. They will help you with the basics of Occlumency, the details will be Professor Snape's job," he said.
The details are what bother me, Harry thought sarcastically. However, he smiled and put the books in his book bag that Ron had brought from Gryffindor tower to the infirmary.
"I'll be sure to read them sir, thank you very much," he said sincerely.
Never reading much when he was at the Dursleys, Harry never knew the wonder of books until he reached Hogwarts. In school he only read what he had to, Dudley did not help when Harry brought home a library book. When seeing the state of said book, the librarian had banned him from the library, only allowing him in with another teacher's permission.
Even now, he read them sparsely--but when he did read them, there were not many he did not enjoy immensely.
If he read faster, and had more time to soak in the book he was reading, Harry had no doubt he could be as book crazed as Hermione.
Harry stood up to leave and Fawkes drifted to Dumbledore's desk. "Harry, why don't you take these with you?" Dumbledore asked.
Harry raised his eyebrows seeing the offered bowl of carrots, "No offence meant sir, but Madam Pomfrey is right, they're good for you." With that, and a grin worthy of any mischievous Gryffindor, Harry left for classes.
He was half way to Transfiguration when Umbridge loomed in front of him from seemingly nowhere. Harry figured she had been snooping around, looking for trouble before her first class started.
"Potter, you should be in class," she smiled at him in a disarming fashion. Harry just glared at her; she was obviously holding back something--
"That'll be detention for you at my rooms." Ah, there it was. Harry bit back a sighed and almost wished he had Occlumency tonight.
"What time--" he was cut off as, speak of the devil, Snape came down from a staircase and headed their way.
"Professor Umbridge," he greeted then his piercing gaze landed on Harry.
"Potter…you should get to class," he said with narrowing eyes.
"That's exactly what I was saying," Umbridge simpered. "I want you at my office at eight--"
"Now, that's not necessary," Snape interrupted. Taken aback, Harry and Umbridge both stared at Snape.
"Why, just yesterday you were telling Professor McGonagall how you do so hate to punish the children. I, on the other hand; have no difficulty with it."
Harry almost choked on his own tongue as he saw Umbridge's expression.
Obviously trying to find a way past this, Umbridge blinked furiously before smiling in a half-hearted fashion. "I'll have to assign detentions sooner or later; I might as well start with Potter."
"No. I'll help you this once, but do not expect me to do it again. Detention at my office Potter, right after dinner, do not be late. Go to class--in fact, I'd better walk you there," Snape turned to Umbridge who was starting to look like she had been denied a great treat.
"Potter is likely to run off unless someone watches him," Snape explained slowly to a gaping Umbridge. "You should go attend to your class Professor Umbridge, I'm sure they're waiting eagerly for your teaching talents."
With that, Snape turned and dragged Harry down the hall by his sleeve.
A few corridors later, Snape shoved Harry into an empty room.
Letting go of Harry, Snape turned and started casting privacy spells. A minute later, he turned to glare at Harry. "It would be best for you not to go looking for trouble Potter, especially with Umbridge."
Harry cleaved his tongue to the roof of his mouth. He really wanted to tell Snape that Umbridge found him, not the opposite way around. Snape seemed to want to say something else--but he was hesitating.
"Sir?" Harry questioned quietly.
Clenching his teeth, Snape crossed his arms and stared at Harry. Just as the boy was ready to flee from that gaze, Snape spoke.
"Every year, Dumbledore does a thorough background search of the next Defense against the Dark Arts teacher. This year, after learning of the ministries intention to place one of their people on the Hogwarts staff, I did a background search as well."
Not sure where this was going, Harry just waited patiently.
"Do you know what Umbridge did before she came to Hogwarts?"
"Er, secretary?" Harry questioned with a shrug.
Snape looked at him with a raised eyebrow, "No. She was an interrogator, and then later she dealt with punishing criminals."
"Interrogator? Like, with…torture?"
Snape seemed grimly amused with Harry's horrified astonishment. "Not with whips or anything so dramatic Potter. Her…technique for getting answers, and punishing others always seemed to lean more towards Dark Arts."
Harry blinked as he tried to take this in. "Why the hell would Fudge allow her to become a teacher--he hast to be aware of what she does, right?"
Instead of taking points for language, Snape just nodded. "Fudge has become rather paranoid when it comes to Dumbledore. He put Umbridge here to keep an eye on him, and he will let her do anything while she is here. Including using her skills on students to get answers."
"Skills? You mean she's allowed to use Dark Arts in the school!" Harry yelled…and then became aware of why Snape had cast two types of silencing spells on the room.
"Yes, the minister has given her permission to use certain means to find out what, if anything, Dumbledore is hiding," Snape said.
"No one knows this, that's why she's not rotting in Azkaban," Harry said with a nod.
"We would need proof Potter, no one has it. Umbridge is willing to use obliviate on anyone who knows too much. I doubt anyone will stand up, therefore she will be here for the remaining school year."
Snape looked at him again; something in his gaze was sizing up Harry.
"However, if you do get a detention with her, and she does use Dark Arts…." Snape trailed off and Harry was left to draw his own conclusions.
"I am busy tonight, do not bother coming to my office, you can just have a longer then normal Occlumency lesson."
Harry bit back a groan and Snape left the room with him following.
"Go straight to McGonagall's class, you may have enough time to catch the end of the lesson. I'm sure Granger will have no problems relaying the lesson to you word by word," Snape said and headed down the stairs to the dungeon.
With a lot to consider, Harry headed of to Transfiguration.
"He told you that?" Hermione asked with wide eyes. They were in the Great Hall eating lunch and Harry was relaying everything that Snape had told him.
Harry nodded and looked away from the head table where Umbridge was watching him.
Her beady gaze like Snape's--but somehow more hostile and dangerous. He wondered for the first time, if Umbridge was a trained Occlumens.
"Yes--it was weird. I mean, it's Snape," Harry said to them both.
"It almost seems like he wants you to do something about it, why else would he tell you?" Hermione asked.
Harry shrugged and glanced back up at the head table. While Snape's warning was helpful, it was also unexpected and left Harry feeling wary.
"Maybe it's because of your status Harry," Ron said suddenly.
Hermione put down her cup she was going to drink from and looked thoughtfully at Harry. "You know Ron, you might just be right," she said slowly.
"Me?" Ron seemed delightfully confused.
Hermione smiled at him, and nodded quickly. "You see, if Umbridge hurts Harry and it gets in the papers, do you realize what that would do to the ministry?"
Harry bit his lip and took a guess. "They'd be in major doo doo," he said solemnly.
Run burst into laughter and drew attention from the people sitting around them.
"Come on, be serious Harry!" Hermione scolded. "I don't think you understand. People look up to you--and as much as you hate it, you're like a sign of hope to them. When people see--if people should find out that a ministry worker; placed in Hogwarts by the Minister, was hurting you…."
Hermione looked at them seriously, "All hell would break lose."
Ron and Harry glanced at each other, then as one, all three looked at the head table.
Umbridge was glaring back, her eyes calculating, her painted pink nails tapping repeatedly on the table in front of her.
"She looks like she's up to something, be careful around her mate," Ron muttered as he turned away slowly.
Harry didn't listen and glared back at the interfering woman. She seemed a bit surprised, but continued to stare at him. This school was Harry's home and the only place he felt wanted.
Umbridge would have to go through him first to destroy what Hogwarts was now, and let it be known, he'd put up one hell of a fight.
The next morning, Harry walked with Hermione and Ron down to the Great Hall. Ron was being unusually quiet, his feet shuffling along the floor looking reluctant to go any farther.
"I'll be seeing you soon you know," Harry said to him in an attempt to cheer him up.
Ron sighed, but his shoulders straightened. "Sorry, I'm just used to having you around. I guess you grew on me," he said--and then ruffled Harry's hair.
Hermione laughed at his antics, "I've only heard someone say that once," she said, "and they added an insult to it. I think it went like, 'you grow on people, like a fungus'."
"Ew," Harry made a face then turned to Ron. "You were done talking; I hope so, for your sake." He smiled to show he was joking as they entered the room.
"Hey Potter!" Malfoy called from behind them, he was coming closer to them with a large portion of Slytherin house following.
"Hay's for horses Malfoy," Harry responded and turned around to face them. Hermione giggled, recognizing the Muggle phrase.
Malfoy however, frowned at him and the sneer disappeared to be replaced with a thoughtfully amused look. "Yes, it is. Brava Potter, did Granger tell you that--or did you finally learn to read?"
Harry frowned, "Is there some reason for this Malfoy? Or does your life revolve around taunting me?"
Malfoy smirked, "I overheard that you were staying at Hogwarts, what's the matter, the Muggles not want you back--or does Weasel not have enough room in his little hole in the ground?"
Harry scoffed, "Didn't know you were so interested in what I do Ferret boy."
Before Malfoy could retort, a voice came from behind. "Stop standing in the doorway," Snape said as he brushed past, "five points from Gryffindor for blocking the door."
Harry bit back an angry response and glared at Snape's back. So much for trying to 'help' him, he probably hoped Harry would get Dark Arts practiced on him.
"Three points from Slytherin for helping block the door," Snape added, and then he swept into the dungeon.
Harry found a bemused smile coming to his face. With a smug look in Malfoy's direction, he made his way to the Gryffindor and left the Slytherins confused.
"Did Snape just take points, or am I hallucinating?" Ron asked faintly.
"If you are, I am to," Harry said. He laughed, "Did you see Malfoy's face? That was great--if a little disturbing."
"What? Malfoy's face, or what caused him to look that way?" Hermione asked.
Harry chuckled and glanced at the Slytherin table, "Snape," he answered. "I bet he sits in his office all night; trying to think of ways to make us confused or angry."
"He does do a good job at it," Hermione said with a small smile.
"It's bloody annoying, why are you smiling?" Hermione just laughed at Ron and then enjoyed their breakfast together.
A day later, Harry found himself once again reading the first Occlumency book he had picked up. He'd already read it through twice and thumbed through the others. However, he kept coming back to the first.
The detailed, and yet friendly way it was written kept him coming back. Harry had never known Occlumency had such a history as it did, and how honored he should have been to get the chance to learn it.
The subject was amazingly interesting, and he found himself rather awed by the art. To think, he could have found such a gem a yearearlier…the thought made him regret his uncaring attitude towards Occlumency--and to the man trying to teach him.
He would try harder this time, Harry told himself determinedly.
Yes, his resolve and positive attitude would knock the black socks straight off Snape's feet. He smiled to himself, it could be a challenge and Harry could work with that.
Harry awoke to an empty dormitory. The lack of voices and schoolboy laughter was rather depressing, especially when he thought of the reason he had to stay at school.
Even so, the weight on his feet made him grin into his warm, cotton pillow. He may be alone, but at least his friends had not forgotten him.
Stretching with a contended sigh, Harry looked down at the presents piled around his feet. Putting on his glasses, he smiled. The familiar and bulky package from Mrs. Weasley lay on his leg waiting to be opened.
No one bought him clothes, except for himself, and even though the jumper was not bought, he looked forward to seeing every year. The things made my caring hands would always be more appreciated.
Opening it first, he smiled at the knitted green jumper. Seeing the silver H right in the middle, he snickered. What would Ron say when he found out Harry had been given a jumper with Slytherin colors--what would Snape say for that matter?
Putting it on over his nightclothes to fight back the slight chill, Harry sat and reached for another.
Unsurprisingly, Hermione had given him a book. However, the books subject did take him by surprise. "Comebacks and Insults, the witty way to infuriate your foes by Sally Keith," he read and laughed. Opening the card, he read over Hermione's neat writing.
Don't use them all on one person! I'll see you soon.
Harry opened the book, with interest. It was by a Muggle author, if the last name was anything to go by.
"I heard you got a brain transplant and the brain rejected you," he read. Well, that one was useless in the Wizarding world, they probably didn't know what a brain transplant is--but, maybe he could use it on Dudley if he decided on taunting Harry this summer.
"I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person," Harry snickered. He wished he had thought of this yesterday when Malfoy was determined to be an arse. It sounded like something Snape would say--maybe he had the same book, Harry thought and laughed.
Opening Ron's present in Chudley Cannons wrapping paper, he grinned. Ron knew him well, he thought as he admired the leather cover of Quidditch Tricks and the Ones that Dared to try Them.
He had seen the book in a magazine and read the description several times, but he had not known Ron had seen him doing it. Perhaps Hermione had told Ron what to get him; he was rather surprised his redheaded friend had splurged on him, instead of getting the usual bag of candy.
Making note to thank Ron profusely, Harry gently placed the book down on his bedside table. He would definitely be reading it later, but now, he had to find where the wonderful smell of fudge was coming from.
"Mrs. Weasley, you're a saint!" The exclamation was soon followed by eating sounds as Harry broke one of Hermione's 'no candy before breakfast' rules.
Minutes later, Harry was surrounded by wrapping paper, ribbons and candy wrappers.
The house elves would have a wonderful time cleaning it up. With that thought, Harry remembered that he probably should go down to the kitchens and greet Dobby--give him a few pairs of mismatched socks as well.
Getting out of bed for the first time that morning, Harry found some warm clothes. There was a slight drizzle outside his window, maybe it would even snow.
Reaching for his cloak, Harry spotted the dark green box. His hand froze half way to the chair. He'd received gifts from everyone he knew--or at least everyone he had thought would get him something.
Hagrid gave him some rock cakes, which could be used as paperweights if nothing else, Harry thought. Remus had even sent an embroidered bookmark, which had been his mothers, found it in an old book he had said.
Ron, Hermione, Mrs. Weasley, the twins had sent some of their new products. Most of his dorm had given him sweets; his teeth would surely rot and fall out before everyone returned.
Feeling slightly suspicion, Harry took his wand out. He only knew one spell that looked for dangerous curses. That one, he had learned in fourth year because of the mail he'd received.
The spell came back negative. Okay, Harry thought, no harming spells on it but it could still be bad news.
Harry stowed away his wand and bit his lip. Taking a dare, perhaps a stupid move with a Dark Lord out to kill him and all--he reached out for the box.
Coming into the wrapping paper, Harry winced and waited.
Nothing amazing happened, which made Harry pick the box up and move it to his bed. The box was rather heavy, and the weigh unevenly distributed.
It tilted to one side as Harry sat it on the bed. Righting it, he held it still until the object inside settled.
Harry was tempted to shake it and guess, but not wanting to damage the present, he carefully unwrapped it instead. It was a plane box, but rather large. He examined it closely before taking the top off.
The contents of the box made him gasp.
Big, brown eyes stared up at him happily. A forked tail wiggled back and forth rapidly and the dog strongly resembled a Jack Russell terrier.
"Arf!" It barked, no meanness in the small sound--and Harry melted.
"Oh," he breathed in excitement and came closer. "You're a Crup, the tail is a dead giveaway," he told it softly. After all, who could resist a puppy oozing cuteness? Harry asked himself this; and then blamed the cute factor on the extreme urge he had to squeeze the dog close to him.
The Crup puppy climbed out of the box and into his lap. The small tale thumped against Harry's leg in a show of delight.
Trying to fight the smile was useless. It made its way onto his face and once it was there, Harry could stop smiling.
"And why are you here, who sent you?"
Tilting its head to the side, the dog stared at him before jumping on his chest and licking his face. Grinning, Harry pushed it away and looked for a tag on the box.
On the inside of the box were printed words that repeated themselves. This box is made with invisible air holes and a constant breath easy spell, along with a sound proofing charm. After that, it started all over again.
That explained why the dog had kept so silent, even if he had barked; Harry wouldn't have heard him.
For the first time, Harry looked for a tag. It was not to noticeable, hanging on the side of the box rather then the top.
Harry picked it up with the lid--and just stared at it.
"Arf?" The pup seemed impatient and Harry read the tag outloud to the Crup.
"Don't let Hagrid sit on this one," he read in confusion.
Well, he hated to even think the thought, but maybe the pup had been sent to the wrong person? Harry didn't see how, but the card made no sense. Why would Hagrid sit on the puppy?
Shaking his head, Harry put the Crup on the floor and walked downstairs, maybe Dumbledore could tell him something worth knowing. Harry hoped he was still in the Great Hall.
"I looked for Dumbledore, but no one had seen him. Maybe he went to visit family?" Harry told Ron and Hermione with a shrug. It was the day after Christmas, all the students had came back just in time for dinner. Harry had been waiting almost two days to show off his new 'toy'.
"Hmm," Hermione said as she studied the Crup staring back at her with its small tongue licking the remains of bacon of its muzzle. Soon after seeing the pup, Ron had to go down to the kitchens.
Later, he returned with various meats and dog treats.
"Well, I think it was a teacher. I looked in the Hogwarts rulebook and it has been updated so that Crups are allowed at the school. That was not there before, I'm positive of it. So it had to be a teacher, or someone with a high status with Dumbledore, because he's responsible for the rulebook," Hermione said.
"It must have been Dumbledore," Ron said and threw a treat for the pup to jump for. "He gave you the Invisibilty cloak, and has let you get by with stuff. So, why wouldn't he change the rules, I bet he knew you wanted a dog. A Crup is great for the school to, they're small and don't grow too much."
Hermione turned to Harry, "You wanted a dog?"
"Well," Harry hesitated. "Dudley had one, I really liked it--but it was only around for a while. Yeah, I guess I have always wanted one."
Hermione smiled and moved to sit on the bed next to him. They were in the boy's dormitory, Harry having dragged Hermione and Ron upstairs while everyone else ate dinner.
"Now you have a dog--or a Crup rather," she said. Mentioned Crup, came over and laid his head on Harry's shoe making the boy smile and pet behind his ears.
"I think he likes you Harry," Hermione added with a laugh. She watched for a minute before turning to Harry, "Why did Ron know you liked dogs, but I didn't? What other sruff are you keeping from me?" Her voice was teasing, but both boys could see she was curious.
Harry paused from tickling the puppy and crinkled his eyebrows in thought.
"I might have mentioned it in passing…but I can't remember. When did I tell you that Ron?" Harry asked.
"You didn't, I heard McGonagall telling Sprout some of the things you'd told Snape. Apparently he was--amused by some things you said, if you can believe Snape as having a sense of humor," Ron snickered.
Hermione was frowning, "What exactly did she say Ron?"
"Er, something about her overhearing Snape tell Dumbledore that you wanted a dog," Ron shrugged. "I wasn't very interested at the time; we were both concerned about you."
Hermione was frowning, "Was there a note?"
Harry dug the note out of his trunk and handed it to her. She read it twice and then handed it to Ron, her eyes wide. "Ron, where have you seen this writing before?"
Ron looked at it and frowned, "A teacher--I don't like it." Harry came over a re-read the note to himself. Where had he seen this type…oh.
He breathed in quickly and looked at Hermione. "You see it to?" she asked him.
"Yeah," he nodded. "That's Snape writing, I've seen it enough b at its usually in red. Why didn't I see it sooner?"
Hermione shrugged and took the note back from Ron. "Maybe you were to excited by getting a puppy…he is adorable, what will you name him?"
Ron gaped at her, "Hermione, if Snape sent him to Harry, this has got to be a trick. Harry can't keep him."
"Yes, I can."
Ron and Hermione stared at Harry. "Maybe…Snape isn't as bad as we think."
"Right, that's it. You're going back to the infirmary," Ron said and stood.
Harry sighed, "Let's just, not say anything for a while, okay? If nothing happens then we'll just leave it at that. Snape was okay towards me yesterday. And he is a spy, maybe he's--making amends?"
"Fine," he continued at their expressions. "Scratch that, I just mean, let's not ruin this. He's a great puppy…and, I don't want to have to get rid of him."
Hermione bit her lip, but nodded. "Okay Harry…and you're right, he's a good Crup."
Harry smiled, "I'm going to name him Odie."
"That's sweet Harry," Hermione said. Harry smiled and looked down at Odie who was chewing on his shoelaces.
"I like it…I guess," Ron said with a slight grumble in his voice. Still sore at their choice to do nothing about Snape apparently giving a gift to Harry.
Harry hid a grin from his friend. Snape no doubt had his reasons for doing what he did, and Harry was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Maybe Snape was not so bad after all, he thought.
As long as he tried hard to please in Occlumency, maybe he'd get to know the man better.
Harry looked forward to it. "Come on Odie, let's go down to the kitchens," Harry said. Odie barked and sauntered out of the room like he understood. Ron laughed, and some tension disappeared from his frame.
The three friends followed Odie out of the room. For once, the difficult past and grim looking future forgotten. Instead, they happily walked down to the kitchens. Every now and then, they would start running to catch the excited and hyperactive puppy running ahead.
Authors Note: The response for this story stunned me, I was not expecting it, but it was welcome--make no mistake about that. Thank you attackfish for pointing out that error! Also, any other errors anyone notices (I feel there are more this time, I just can't find them, grrr), please point them out, I'd be very grateful. Thank you! This was planned as a one shot, then it went and got into my spinach…well, you know what Popeye says about spinach. So, it grew to the end count of 11,227 for both chapters.