Hey, everyone. I want to formally apologize for taking so long to update and for my aggression in past Author Notes. People constantly telling me to/asking me for updates is one of my pet peeves, so I got really upset. Still, I should not have taken it out on my other readers. I'm sorry.
This chapter is dedicated to Siblings-Curse. Thanks to all who read and reviewed. Enjoy. :)
Italics – animagus/animal talk
Harry crept up the stairs and into Gryffindor Tower, his paws padding silently with each step. He looked around, a bit confused as to how he had made it back; his mind was in a dreamy mist. The Dark Lord had taken him. He grinned a wolfy grin as he said the password and walked through the Portrait Hole.
"Well, well, well… Someone got some action last night."
He turned to see Crookshanks sitting on a couch by the fire and padded over. "Good morning," he said, sitting on the rug before his furry friend.
"Good morning to you, too. Though my wishes are clearly not needed," he said, grinning sensually at the boy. Harry blushed. "So, how was it?"
He could only stay silent mere moments before busting into happy barks. "Oh, Crookshanks, he was wonderful! I've never had sex like that before!"
The cat chuckled. "That good, eh? Lucky boy."
"The luckiest…" he sighed dreamily, tail wagging.
"So," Crookshanks asked curiously, "Who was it you slept with?"
Harry shuffled his front paws nervously at the question, but saw no reason why he shouldn't answer. The listener was, after all, a trusted friend, and cat at that. "...L-..Lord Voldemort..."
"Voldemort! My, my... I never thought I'd see the day when two such enemies would bed one another."
Harry's happiness suddenly deflated. What his friend said was true; he and Voldemort were enemies, and enemies were not supposed to be lovers. It couldn't last. He felt a paw on his shoulder and looked up into kind eyes.
"Do not be discouraged, pup. There is always a way for happiness to be found."
"No buts," Crookshanks scolded. "So you've fallen for the most evil wizard in history? All that shows is that you have a kind, forgiving heart."
Harry was about to thank the cat when both heard a sound. It was so tiny a mouse could have made it, but mice don't gasp… They looked in the direction of the noise to see the end of a bushy tail poking out from the stairs to the Girls' Dormitory. They didn't have to wait long for half a head with two glowing eyes to reveal itself, before quickly ducking back behind the wall.
"We know you're there," Harry barked. "Show yourself!"
Cautiously, another cat made its way from the shadows, ears back and tail poofed in fright. "I-I'm sorry, Harry. I shouldn't have eavesdropped."
Harry's eyes widened. He'd know that voice anywhere. "Hermione?"
The brown cat nodded. Slowly and gracefully she made her way toward them, leapt onto the couch, and sat next to her familiar. Harry took a moment to take in her appearance. She was a cat of slightly less than average size with medium length chestnut brown fur on her body and long fur on her head, cheeks and tail. Her eyes were warm amber with a small circle of brown surrounding slit pupils. Around her neck dangled the golden Timeturner they had used back in their third year. Yes, this cat was definitely Hermione.
"I never knew you were an animagus, Hermione," he said in wonder. "How long have you been able to shift?"
"I mastered the technique quite recently, actually. I've been attempting to teach it to our D.A. soldiers whenever you're absent."
Harry blushed in embarrassment. "Why didn't you tell me? I can help them all shift easily."
The young cat sniffed before explaining, "I thought they would be less nervous shifting without a wolf animagus around. Some of them are bound to be smaller creatures and would instinctually fear you."
Something hit him then. "Is that why you seemed so scared of me when I barked?" She nodded and his ears drooped. "Oh, Hermione, I'd never hurt you. You've got to believe me."
"I know you wouldn't, Harry," she said, bringing her head down to nuzzle his. "It's just instinct, please don't take offense."
He nuzzled back and nodded, taking comfort in the reassurance of his friend. It was then that he heard a light rumbling noise coming from her; it started low, and then became very loud. She was purring. He looked up and noticed Crookshanks licking her ears, comforting her and she had Harry.
'She must have been pretty scared…' he thought. It was then in that moment that he decided he would never scare her or any of his troops with his form.
The next day brought a barrage of classes, Potions among them, and he could see the obvious look of relief flash over his professor's face as soon as he entered the room. Harry was touched by the man's concern for him. Over the past few weeks they had gone from being heated enemies, to allies, to friends and he now saw the Potions Master as a type of father figure. It was for this reason that Harry desperately wanted to make him proud. Making good decisions was one way for him to do that and, judging by the look he had seen on the man's face, he had made the right choice in returning.
He eagerly sat at his desk and took out his cauldron, pen and paper. Potions was now one of Harry's favorite classes and he loved showing off his new skills to the Professor and his fellow students. Malfoy, whom at first had been angry at his rising skill level, now seemed to accept it and even occasionally tried to strike up a conversation with him whenever they'd gather ingredients from the supply closet together. It wasn't friendship, but it was a start. Ron on the other hand seemed even more jealous of his so-called friend's accomplishments and refused to listen to Hermione's words of reason. Harry was a bit sad over it, but he couldn't force Ron to like him in the way he used to; friendship didn't work that way. As long as the boy obeyed orders he didn't see the behavior as much of a problem, though.
Finishing up the day's potion, he poured, corked, and labeled his work to take to the front desk. "I'm done with my potion, Professor," he said, placing the vial into the man's waiting hand.
Snape looked the potion over and nodded his approval. "Very well, Mr. Potter, you may return to your desk."
Harry smiled as he sat down, anticipating the request to speak with him that was sure to come.
That evening at dinner Harry immediately noticed his mentor's absence from the Great Hall. He sat, trying his best not to let the disappointment show on his face, and began serving himself. Ron joined him, followed soon after by Hermione who smiled warmly at him.
"You did very well today," she said. "Professor Snape didn't say one negative comment."
"S'a bloody miracle," Ron grumbled, shoving a turkey leg in his mouth.
Harry frowned. "You know, Ron-"
"Stop, Harry. Just stop."
He closed his mouth at Ron's glare.
"I don't need you or Hermione telling me I 'need to study more.' I know my grades aren't as good as yours, but I'm not stupid."
"I never called you stupid, Ron," Harry replied calmly. "I was just going to offer to help tutor you."
The redhead's eyes narrowed. "Why would you do that?"
"Because you were my friend once," he said sadly.
Ron fell silent.
After dinner, Harry decided to seek out the potions professor. He had expected the man to request his presence via owl, but said request never came, leaving him disappointed and worried. This wasn't Snape's usual behaviour.
As he rounded the corner closest to Snape's office, he heard two very familiar voices conversing, Professor Snape and Draco Malfoy. Both were speaking in hushed tones, one calm, the other frantic. He couldn't quite hear what they were saying, despite his now increased senses, so he decided to shift. Within seconds he heard Malfoy's normally low, sardonic voice raised with what was clearly fear.
"I don't know what to do. Father insists I take the Mark the night of my birthday, he says I have no excuse not to follow the Dark Lord. But… Uncle Sev, I don't want to!"
Harry's eyes widened in shock. Draco was going to be forced to take the Mark? While he loved the Dark Lord, he understood completely his reluctance to follow the man. He was, after all, criminally insane, asking far too much of his followers and torturing and killing those who disobeyed. This reminder left a strong ache in his chest.
"I understand, Draco, but there is little I can do. I cannot go against your father's wishes."
"Please, Severus," the boy pleaded, "You're my only hope. You can ask Dumbledore-"
"It's far too suspicious," Snape scolded. "The Dark Lord will know it was I who helped you, and he will likely execute me for it."
Harry could feel the tension radiating from the two inside the room.
"Is there nothing you can do…to help me..?" Draco asked, sounding defeated.
After a few moments, the man replied, "I can do nothing."
He smelt salt water. The poor snake was crying.
"But another might be able to."
Both Harry and Draco perked at this.
"Who?" he asked.
And there you have chapter thirteen. I wanted to start including Draco more in this story, as he's one of my favorite snobby Slytherins. I'm also a big DM/HP fan, so I may include a little of that in later chapters. ;) Review if you care to.