Another week passed, and Harry and Severus were finally able to leave the hospital wing. Harry's magic had returned to its normal levels, and while his strength hadn't fully returned, it was nothing rest wouldn't cure in a few days. Rest that would be gotten at Severus's house in Spinner's End, as he had been released as well, two days previously. He spent the time packing his possessions and transporting them to Spinner's End, taking Harry's things as well. The only thing he left were the Animagus books, which Harry continued to study.
He had no real idea how he was supposed to know what his animal form was, but he had the feeling that it was some kind of big cat. He idly flipped through an encyclopedia of creatures, both normal and magical, and lingered on the pictures of lions and tigers especially. Severus told him that it was likely that his form would be one of the two, something that apparently caused the man no end of amusement. Harry had put it down to the fact that he was a Gryffindor, and a lion animagus form would show that he was the epitome of Gryffindor, but once they reached Spinner's End, he realized the real reason.
"Now, the first thing you will need to do is clear your mind," Severus instructed his pupil. They were in the living room of his house at Spinner's End. They were going to see Andromedea and Teddy tomorrow, while today was given over to Animagus studies.
"Good thing you made me practice Occlumency when we were in the hospital wing," Harry said, smirking slightly before closing his eyes and concentrating. He didn't think that the skill would ever come easily to him, and he would never be as good as Severus, but he was better than he had been.
"Yes," Severus answered, "As the focus that comes with Occlumency makes assuming your Animagus form easier."
"Will you tell me what yours is now?" Harry asked, a hint of pleading in his tone. He had been trying to think of possibilities since Snape had revealed that he was an Animagus, but nothing had seemed right.
"No," Severus said, smirking as Harry's face fell, "I'll show you."
As Harry grinned, Severus closed his eyes and concentrated. He fell forward onto all fours, stretching his forepaws out in front of him before standing straight. Black eyes, surrounded by black fur, stared at Harry as he gaped.
"A panther?" Harry breathed, looking at Severus wonderingly. He was larger than a normal panther, and the human intelligence shown out of the still coal black eyes. "Your eyes didn't change."
The panther huffed, vaguely disapproving, before suddenly turning back into Severus Snape.
"Of course my eyes changed Potter," Severus said, rolling his eyes as though Harry was being unbelievably dense. "They remained the same color, that is all."
"Why?" Harry asked, curious.
Severus shrugged. "I assume when you saw Skeeter as an Animagus, you noticed some defining feature that was similar to her appearance normally?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, she had these markings, looked like her glasses."
"It's a characteristic that marks her as different from an ordinary bug, and distinguishes her from any other Animagi that have the same shape. There are relatively few Animagi so that is not a pressing concern, but it helps the Ministry keep track of Animagi."
"So, your eye color is your characteristic?" Harry asked. It made an odd kind of sense to him, even though he knew Severus didn't choose it. Severus's eyes were different, part of what stood out about him. It made sense that they were his distinguishable characteristic when in animal form.
"Yes," Severus said, shoving back the memory of showing Minerva, back when he was a student, that he had mastered Animagi transformation without instruction and after only three attempts. She had been so proud… That image was replaced with one of her screaming "Coward" as he fled the castle, making him flinch.
Harry noticed the flinch, though Severus concealed it. "What's wrong Severus? You look…upset."
Severus sighed. "It's nothing. Memories, nothing more."
"If it was nothing it wouldn't matter," Harry argued, "And it wouldn't upset you."
"It is nothing," Severus repeated. "The past is the past, and nothing we do will change it." No matter how much we wish otherwise.
Harry frowned. "There is something bothering you Severus, and don't bother denying it. Before, I might have believed you, but there are very few things that make you look that upset."
Severus sighed once again. Damn the boy for being so observant. I may as well tell him, otherwise I will get not peace. "Back when I attended Hogwarts," Severus said, working to keep a level tone, "After I had master my transformation, I wanted to tell someone. Someone who would be proud of my achievements for once. I had quarreled with your mother, so she was not an option, and I had no other friends. I decided to trust someone who would appreciate the difficult magic, so I informed Minerva McGonagall of my success."
"What did she say?" Harry asked, wondering what she could have said that would have affected Severus years later.
"She was thrilled, as none of her students, to her knowledge, had even attempted Animagi transformation, let alone accomplished it," Severus replied, thinking back to the pride on his professor's face. "It was recalling that memory which brought back a more recent one, when I was forced to flee the castle."
Harry nodded, not needing Severus to say anything else. He knew what it felt like, having one of the few people you trusted turn on you, believing the worst even when you tried to tell them the truth. It was clear that McGonagall's continued mistrust had hurt Severus.
"But, that is the past," Severus said, forcibly shutting those memories out. "You are simply stalling so you don't have to make your first attempt."
Harry rolled his eyes, recognizing the none too subtle topic change but letting it go. Severus had already told him more than he really needed to; pressing for more information would make him close up. Shaking his head, he closed his eyes to help him focus. He thought of the pictures of the wild cats he had been looking at, their easy grace and power. Something shifted, and Harry felt his heart race with excitement. He opened his eyes to see, and was disappointed when the feeling stopped.
"You got distracted," Severus said without prompting, indicating Harry's right hand, or rather what used to be his right hand. In its place was a paw, slightly smaller than Severus's as a panther, predominately orange with thick black claws. "You succeeded in partially transforming, but you were too distracted by the sensation to continue to focus, hence the partial transformation."
"Is that what happened to you?" Harry asked, flexing his claws. It was weird to be able to say that, even weirder to be doing it.
"The first time," Severus admitted. "The second failed attempt was because I was interrupted. The third time I managed to hide away from everyone long enough to transform without distractions."
"You said you had no friends," Harry pointed out.
"Friends are the only ones who bother you when you are trying to concentrate?"" Severus asked. "Quiet and focus on changing that back, then try again."
Harry sighed but complied. Severus may not be as evil as he pretended to be, but he was still strict. That, a few months ago, would have been enough to make him swear to never let Severus teach him anything, but after spending more time with the man he realized that he was just as hard on himself, perhaps more so. Closing his eyes, Harry concentrated on reversing his partial transformation so he could try again.