There was a deathly silence in the infirmary as the trio made their way towards a bed that was not set aside for Harry's personal use. Poppy seemed to be distracted while she looked over her usual patient instead of the obvious sick student. Finally the silence was broken as Madame Pomfrey spoke up, "Mr. Potter? What is wrong?"
"We were working with..." Harry began, motioning to Hermione.
"Oh my, whatever you were working with, I can't really... cure this." Madame Pomfrey stated as she looked over the afflicted student, "There's potions that will stabilize it, but that's it. She'll be transforming into this state for the rest of her life. Good job that we have wolfsbane in the school, since that's one of the ingredients I'll need..."
"Umm, Madam Pomfrey?" Hermione asked as she looked up at the moon, which was full. "Is it going to be like a werewolf?"
"Oh, no, no, no..." Madame Pomfrey declared, "If it was like with a were, I'd need to use direct wolfsbane, since you'd be murdering students without the vile stuff."
"Then... what will cause me to change?" she asked nervously, only to calm down nearly instantly as Luna reached up and began scratching her behind the ears.
"Well, I'd cut your workload by a noticeable margin, since large amounts of stress will cause your body to create more adrenaline, which, according to the research papers on the subject of transfigurations like yours, triggers the beginning of a second shift." Pomfrey declared as the fur began shedding off Hermione with remarkable speed, "If the stress doesn't abate, you'll revert completely, and only your friends will be able to stop you turning feral."
"But I never met Luna before tonight," Hermione pointed out as she looked over her hands with a distinct lack of fur. However the claws and ears remained.
"You still imprinted on her since she was one of the few people who didn't run and flee. Apparently, you broke into the Ravenclaw dormitories, and attempted to read through their transfiguration tomes, since part of you was still vaguely human." Pomfrey declared dryly as she read off a note she'd just been given by a house elf. "Apparently you went through the school's library first and didn't find anything you could use."
"So, when Harry wasn't around, and you were getting even more afraid, your adrenaline spiked badly, and ended up causing you to be almost uncontrollable," Luna offered while playing with Hermione's new feline tail.
"You should be back to normal in a few days, but I recommend you stay away from any of the Weasleys. According to Professor McGonagall, we'd find a red-haired head flying through the air due to how easily they seem to cause large amounts of stress in a short time," Harry explained, having talked with the professor on the way down here. "Now, Madam Pomfrey... about that stabilizer?"
"Oh right, let me get it brewing, won't be but an hour," the nurse stated as she turned towards her office.
"Why didn't she ask what we were doing, just brushed it off?" Hermione wondered, "Could some weres not really be were creatures?"
"Hermione... we can't say anything, but I know I'm going to be here for you... I promise," Harry stated with stone cold seriousness as he hugged her around the shoulder. "I'm sorry, this was my fault, and we didn't even learn anything."
"We learned more than you think..." Hermione muttered, her nose wrinkling, "I smelt something... dark about Ron. I think that maybe the suggestion of McGonagall is a good one."
"What are you talking about, Hermione?" Harry asked with plain worry in his voice. "Ron can't be the heir of Slytherin, can he? What about his older brothers? No... it's something else, isn't it?"
"No no," Hermione muttered, looking thoughtful, "He's too foolish to be the heir. Leave the thought with me."
". . . If you're sure," Harry agreed while pulling back from Hermione for a moment. "Hermione... Draco knew nothing, you're in this trouble because of me and- and now you're cursed... or that's what they'll say..."
"This world is so fickle," Hermione declared, her tail twitching, "They classify what they do not understand. Am I cursed, or is my transformation a gift?"
"I can't say, Hermione... but to me you are, and will always be my friend," Harry assured her as his arms tightened around her shoulders again.
"Yes, always," Hermione replied softly as she pulled him off her shoulders, "Leave me, my friend, and make sure to check for something off about Ron... A good suggestion... Something I noticed early on... How old is that rat of his?"
"It's been... ancient since they found him on their property..." Harry answered with a frown. "Hermione... I want to do something... I'm going to walk out of here, and feed Scabbers to Hedwig.
"No, No... I can think of a better use for him. Well, a rat can't live forever, but a wizard or witch maybe... Could the rat be where our heir hides?" Hermione wondered aloud, "A monster in plain sight."
"I think I might have a plan, Hermione, but I need you to think on it, since I don't trust myself not to strangle the rat on my own. I am going to ask Professor McGonagall some questions about animagus transformations... but I need a way to find out the laws about this stuff..."
"Ask Susan Bones in Hufflepuff to help you with this situation." Hermione suggested, "You hear things on the grapevine in this school, and someone with the last name of Bones can surely help you with detective work."
"Do you mind if I trust Luna as well? She could use another friend besides you, and... well I might be worse, but-" Harry started with a downcast look.
"I want you to consider her to be a replacement for the friend you're about to lose," Hermione declared, before yawning, "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to sleep."
"I'm not losing my only remaining friend, Hermione, Ron's on the out with me for running from you," Harry answered sternly as he hugged her and laid her down, just as Madame Pomfrey returned.
"As I said, you're about to lose one friend," Hermione said, then went to sleep.
As Harry left, he found himself in a foul mood, a dark storm raged in his eyes as he stalked towards Gryffindor tower. Ron had a lot to answer for, but even if he had a good excuse, he was going to get hell from Harry. Depending on how bad it was, he might just end up getting his teeth removed via manual methods. Stopping at the entrance to the tower he found someone he didn't expect. "Professor? Is something wrong?"
"Mr Weasley said something rather... insulting to Ms. Lovegood," McGonagall declared coldly as her eyes tightened, "We may need to have him resorted into another house if he continues to belittle and insult students like this."
"I have a plan, but you'd have to turn a blind eye to it," Harry stated as ice began slipping into his voice. "Professor, could you miss anything that happens to Ron for a day or so?"
"With what he did just now, if Mr. Weasley was to turn up at the bottom of the moving staircases having not walked down..." McGonagall started, before saying, in a low voice, "We weren't talking."
"Actually...there is something I'd like to talk to you about..." Harry cut in before the professor could leave. "You know how you're an animagus and all that? Is there a way to reveal ones around you?"
"Hmm... Well, If there are any unregistered animagi around, we'd have to consult with the Ministry," McGonagall mused thoughtfully as she paused her departure, "I believe Amelia Bones would be a good start, she's the head of the DMLE..."
"No, I just want to know if there's a spell to reveal animagus, even the registered ones..." Harry corrected, a little leery about dealing with the DMLE so soon after the House Elf incident. Amelia Bones was the one that had judging him, so that name really caused his heart to freeze up. He then remembered what Hermione had said, and his mind began to worry that Susan would be against him because of what Dobby had done.
McGonagall's lip tightened into a thin line as she looked around the hallway carefully. "Mr. Potter, I believe that perhaps this is a topic for another time. Remember your detention for tomorrow, I have to go talk with Professor Flitwick about Ms. Lovegood's transfer."
Harry watched as his Head of House strode away with a deep frown on his face, things were looking grim for him and his friends. However, as he'd learned over the last two years, there was nothing that he couldn't do with Hermione by his side. She needed him to step up and be the hero she told him he was inside, so it was time to prove that Hermione Granger is never wrong.
This wasn't a test he was about to let her fail.
Turning back to the entrance, he paused, seeing Luna there with a distant gaze on her face. Though she seemed almost exactly like always, there was something more behind her eyes, something sad. "Luna-" Harry started, before pausing as though unsure how to continue.
"Harry, you are a good friend. However, Ronald does seem to disagree with me being your friend as well. If you wish me gone..." Luna started quietly as she didn't quite meet the beleaguered boy's eyes.
"He seems to have this possessiveness that is annoying at times," Harry admitted ruefully as he walked up next to the blonde, "Well, any time that there's bad press, he'll support me, sure, but he doesn't stop it happening. He actually seems to want me to rely on him alone, and Hermione... Well, think how much he's pushing for her to go away too now."
"I'm sure there's a perfectly rational explanation... maybe I should just go, then you may be able to find it," Luna offered with the same quiet, worried tone to her voice.
"No, Luna, Ron will get over himself, or else tomorrow's lessons will be all the worse for him," Harry explained as he motioned for her to enter the common room again.
"So, If he's so possessive, why do you cope with him so much?" Luna asked, "I'm sure that there's better people you'd like to be around..."
"Oh, that'll work out... " Harry declared sarcastically, "Until Ron got the third degree, if I tried to befriend anyone else, he stuck his nose in and got rid of them fast."
What Harry saw in the common room was enough to cause his blood to boil had he not expected it. Ron was there, attempting to rally others to drive Luna out. There was one major glaring difference from what he expected and what was happening, only Percy Weasley seemed to be giving Ron so much as a listen.
While Ron was busy making an arse of himself, he found the two people he wanted to talk to most at the moment. Making his way across the room, he fought the urge to sock Ron in the mouth for how he was saying that Harry himself didn't want Luna around. When he got to the Twins, an evil smile spread across his face. "Fred, George, meet my friend Luna. I have a proposition for you... and a guaranteed day for you to uphold your end of it. If you're interested."
"A proposition," the first twin muttered as their eyes shone with mischief.
The second picked up the train of thought as though they shared a single brain. "What could that possibly be?"
"Perhaps both, my twin, or something more..." the first concluded as he waved for Harry to take a seat opposite them, in a chair that would block him from Ron's view. "We heard of Hermione's trouble, and the shame of our younger brother's shameful actions. Now we see more of the same."
"What I need, really, is for Ron to see what he's done to me. He's basically rallying people every chance he gets to ensure I'm his whipping boy, no-one else's. His opinion is my opinion, damn it all to hell." Harry declared, quiet enough that Ron couldn't hear, but loud enough for emphasis, "I want this before I'm just Ron's friend, no-one else's, for the rest of my time at Hogwarts."
"We see the problem, Harry my boy, but what do you propose? You are forming friendships with Hermione and now the fair Lovegood, you are building bridges. Perhaps we may stop Ron from burning them..." one twin commented as the other pulled out a log book of pranks.
"Out there, Ron's spouting shite about Hermione being some type of uncontrollable monster, and Luna being an invader trying to infiltrate Gryffindor for some plot or other," Harry snapped sharply, the bitterness heavy in his tone. "If Ron keeps this up, someone like Draco would be Hermione's only hope for attending Hogwarts... on a leash."
"As kinky as that may be, we see your point," the other twin commented over the book seriously. "The problem is, Harry, Ron is a Weasley, and as such, we should manage him. If you don't mind, let us deal with this family matter, while you deal with yours."
"I'd like to, Fred, George, I really would... however, he is making himself to be my problem. That is why I'm coming to you two. Before I bring the full weight of my family to bear on him..." Harry started evenly while a cold fire smouldered in his eyes. "I would like to see a change in his attitude. I'm told that my family has great influence under the current legal system, and as the sole heir I'm seen as being the family... Professor McGonagall has agreed to two days of turning a blind eye towards actions against Ron... I have put up with his actions since you abandoned me in a compartment with him last year, now I'm returning him."
"OK, sorry about that. Personally, and this is between you two and us two, there's a divide in the family between Perfect Percy, Never Wrong Ron and Princess Ginevra and the part of the family we're part of." Fred declared firmly as he leaned in.
"Consider that part of the family your allies in whatever you do." George finished, "Me, My brother, and our two most excellent brothers that work overseas. They ran not because the jobs were damn good offers, but because our dear mother mothers far too much."
"I will await your results before starting any type of allegiance," Harry offered as he stood up, just as Ron made a particularly outrageous lie. "Ronald Weasley!"
Seeing the boy leap into the air was amusing, and he had to admit the power felt good. "I am sick of these lies, you say you speak for me... I'm going to say this. I will speak for myself."
Fred and George smirked as Ron swallowed. This might be more fun than the prank...
"Students of Gryffindor, let me tell you all a little tale... One day, a young boy was sitting alone in a train, and a young man came supposedly to talk to him. All he did was spend his money, monopolize his time and pretty much overpower the boy with everything he did," Harry began, looking round, "The only thing that could protect this boy was a fair maiden who was there with advice about what to do when the young man came to see him after he finished his trip."
"Over time, the man and maiden grew to be tolerably friendly, until an accident befell the maiden and she was struck down with a terrible curse. The boy accepted her without a qualm, however the man used his poisoned words to attempt to make the boy turn against the fair maiden, claiming her curse was too terrible to accept," Harry continued with a dramatic flair, "When the boy went to a healer, the man continued to use his poisoned words, and claimed the healer was useless and would just waste resources that were better spent on him."
"Once the boy turned his back on the maiden and the healer, the man kept encouraging him to only do things which benefitted the man, until, one day, an evil necromancer attacked the boy, due to a prophecy that said the boy would bring ruin to him. Since the maiden couldn't help the boy learn how to beat the necromancer, he died and the prophecy was never fulfilled." Harry finished, "Wasn't that a fun story?"
"No, it wasn't, but I wonder how much of the truth there is to it," Neville stated from the corner of the room, his eyes locked on Harry's. "You have been honest with me every time we've talked... Ron on the other hand... well I know who I will stand by. If Luna and Hermione don't mind me joining in."
"Neville... that'd be great," Harry offered with a smile as he looked to where Luna had reached out to hold his hand. "I know you're brilliant at herbology, maybe you could help me with something?"
"Harry! I'm your mate," Ron shouted as he tried to win back his momentum. "Why are you against me?"
"Ron, you're one of my mates... Friends shouldn't be a singular thing." Harry snapped, "Why do you never use a plural term for it?"
"I've used the plural before..." Ron countered while he tried to find a way to turn this back to his favor. "You and Hermione are my mates. We've been together since the Troll..."
"Yes, and we know how that started, don't we?" Harry asked sharply, his eyes narrowing. "I think you need to find more friends than us, Ron..."
"But why?" Ron asked, "Hermione helps me with my homework, and you play chess with me..."
"Ron, Hermione right now could end up expelled because of your oh-so-stellar attitude towards her. She needs her friends to stop someone like Malfoy declaring her a magical beast! Good night." Harry snapped, and headed towards the stairs to the boy's sleeping area.
"Dear brother..." Fred declared.
"I wonder how easily..." George continued.
"It would be to..." Fred continued.
"Ensure Ron doesn't go to bed?" George finished.
The twins' plotting was cut short by Luna walking up to them with a worried look on her face. "Fred, George? Harry's my friend... he and Hermione were my first friends since... the incident. I know he's mad right now, but-"
"Luna, he mainly said that thing about Malfoy to make Ron feel like he's screwed up royally..." Fred reassured her.
"The Malfunction won't be able to touch our Hermione with a ten foot pole," George added quietly as he patted the girl on the shoulder, "We'll protect them both."