X-x-x-x-x chapter 16 – x-x-x-x-x-x-x

"Confirmed by the chambers of McQ."

It was the logo gram of Harry's solicitors.

"His own solicitor has snitched him?" Ron gaped.

"I think they will call it good PR." Neville grinned.

"I don't think that Harry will agree. Maybe he's already buried under a flood of letters and howlers." Dean snorted.

"Harry has a mail ward. Anything that's not keyed into the ward is redirected to Gringotts for inspection. And even if howlers could get through him... I doubt there will be any. Being bonded to a nightshade is a great honour and the stuff of the cheesiest romance novels." Ginny smirked.

"What do you reckon? Has he already read it?" Ron mused.

*.*

The "he" in question had not read the Daily Prophet yet and had left his quarters in a good mood...

It had not taken long for him to catch up to the newest gossip. The phoenix animagus had just stepped into the Gryffindor common room where several students were waiting for their next class or were using their time to discuss, complete or even search for their homework as he had already heard several girls and boys gushing about the sweet fate of their saviour after so much pain in his past.

Immediately he closed the door and stepped back into the seventh year tower. He took a look around and found a newspaper lying on one of the tables in the common room. He was grateful that the seventh year tower was empty right now.

Harry did not even have to pick up the newspaper to find out what had happened. Very big on the front page was an article with a picture of the nightshade with the saviour as the underlines stated. He remembered the occasion. It had been taken on his birthday party just before Severus had gone home. If he remembered correctly Luna had taken the picture and had sent her collection to every guest who had asked for them.

The wizard took a deep breath before skimming the article. He had to admit it was well and positively written and the source was unfortunately reliable as well because they were his own solicitors. It had to be Natalie behind this scheme. She was responsible for his PR..

Harry sighed and turned around. He had a few more hours before he had to be in class. It was Thursday that meant he could work on his portfolios, sneak down to Charms and hide again after classes.

There was absolutely no need for torturing himself. Sprout had excused herself for this morning because she had to inspect the new arriving plants. That was even better. He could hide till Charms without fearing detention.

"Back already, Harry? I thought you wanted to go into the Gryffindor common room and library." Godric greeted him in his quarters. The portrait looked at him closely.

"I'm not in a masochistic mood today, Ric" he muttered and sat down at his desk and pulled his portfolios out of his bag.

Godric Gryffindor blinked and looked at his co-founders.

"Bad news?" Rowena tried carefully.

"Well... it depends on your point of view... our bonding and several other things that I wished to keep secret are in the paper today...judging by the commotion in the Gryffindor common room, it did not seem that I have to expect hate mail but Gryffindors are not following the mass lately any more concerning me..." Harry muttered and buried his attention in his work. After his defeat of Voldemort he had gained a rather annoying hero status within his house and he could do no wrong any more in the eyes of almost all of them.

"Harry and Severus are the top topic of the day. The portraits and students are humming in delight. It seems that they gained even more fans. I have yet to hear a single negative comment. There are a few teasing opinions out there but in the end nothing beyond that." Helga came into the portrait and giggled.

"Ah. That's the reason why Harry is hiding here."

"Come on, birdy. Since when do you hide from a little article in the Prophet?" Godric teased.

Harry snorted and went back to ignoring the founders. He had done his Muggle Studies portfolio on the weekend right after he had received it and he had finished the portfolio already. As had Hermione for that matter. It had been really a joke for any muggle-raised student. How could this subject defend its purpose if it was stuck in the past?

"Is there a reason why you have chunked two portfolios into the fire?" Rowena frowned at Harry when he had thrown two files into the fireplace.

"Dumbledore had put his foot down and convinced the Board of Education that it was ridiculous that I had to do the work while I was not able to get a mark for it. Because of my affinity I can't take the exams..."

Harry thought back to the note from Dumbledore that morning. While he was not happy about the man he was grateful for the reduction of the workload.

"I have to do the private lessons with Hagrid and Professor Sprout but for my own benefit and not for non-existent NEWTs."

"The headmaster has worked fast then. Did you not get the portfolios just last Friday?" Godric pondered.

Harry sighed. Dumbledore had really worked fast and hard to free him as fast as possible from the additional work. But that made the betrayal of the headmaster not easier to swallow.

Ignoring the founders again he took out a handful of small gems and stones and studied them.

"Ah, transfiguration? Have you decided which animal?" Rowena asked and directed the topic away from Dumbledore.

"Isn't it a bit early to start with this? You have all year for 4 different materials. Animals that are transfigured from gems and stones can keep their shape only for a week at most." Godric mused.

"Don't stop a hard-working soul, Godric. And we are talking about Harry here, who knows what else will happen." Helga chided her friend.

"Beware to keep the difference between art and transfiguration in mind. You are not educated enough in Ancient Arts to form gems."

"Transfiguration is about changing the whole thing into something else. While Art is about forming and creating but it would be still a gem. Transfiguration does not become permanent because everything seeks their true form." Harry guessed. He was not certain that he had understood it completely in Philip Pomfrey's lecture and his choice of words were certainly not the best way to put it.

"Very good, Harry. So what animal will it become?" Rowena smiled.

"As uncreative as it will sound but the first one will become a small snake. At least I can control it should anything go wrong and as I can't take the animals with me in classes they have to stay here. There are not many possibilities left then."

"Then you should choose fishes. They are pretty low maintenance." Helga giggled.

"That's a good idea. Thank you, Helga. And I could transfigure mice or hamsters for the mammal. They are small and don't need a lot of space. In addition I don't think I have to entertain the professors when they are giving me more work than others."

Harry took one of his stones and transfigured a hamsters cage along with running wheel and other necessities. A well placed set of runes ensured the durability of the magic.

After he was satisfied with the new home of the animals he took the four different materials - A simple stone, a piece of wood, a piece of coal and an amber.

He envisioned the wood first. It was the easiest material. This one should become a sweet brown mouse. For the whole magic he had even taken his wand. Harry could feel that Jay was excited about being used outside of classes and instantly he felt bad for forgetting it so often.

The first mouse was set quickly inside of the new cage.

"It's a mouse." Salazar stated dryly.

"Low maintenance, Sal. Low maintenance. I'm not planning to let anything bigger run around."

Harry repeated the process with the other materials and soon there were four small mice running around. He did not name them. Harry thought it was futile as they would not stay. The mice were brown, white and black. He could not name the exact species but it would work. The last brighter one was easy though. It was a gerbil. He watched the four mice for a while before he started making notes for his portfolio.

Day one summarised their characteristics in looks and behaviour. He made for each animal a new entry. At the end he added even his point of view about the procedure. How the materials varied in the casting and how they differ from their behaviour.

"He chose mice to have less work and yet he adds more himself." Godric shook his head after a glance on Harry's paper.

"It is quite clever actually, Godric. He has less work in maintenance but his work has still the better quality. In the end Harry wins. He has less daily work and also less points for complexity but higher marks in the end." Slytherin answered as Harry was back to ignoring the founders.

"What do you think, Rowena: How many students will have the same idea to transfigure the animals at once to do the comparing?" Helga giggled.

The founders watched from their portrait how Harry conjured an aquarium and repeated his work with fishes.

"Honestly? I believe the one or other will try it but will have to give up. Harry might not feel it but keeping transfigured animals is usually draining slightly. Most of the other students won't even manage the required three days." Rowena whispered.

"Harry will have a little more work for the next week but after this he is done with the main part of the transfiguration portfolio. I think there were only a few tasks left that concentrate on human transfiguration." Salazar pondered.

"Should we point the little detail out?" Helga mused.

The four founders looked at each other before rejecting the very thought.

"Nah.."

*.*

At the other side of the room Harry made room for the pets and asked a house elf for food. As far as he could tell the transfigured animals behaved not quite normal. They fit their description and on the first look, they were indeed normal animals, but something was off... at least in Harry's eyes.

"Have you been hiding here the whole morning, Harry?" Severus' question jolted Harry out of his thoughts.

"I'm not hiding. I'm working." Harry denied quickly.

A bit too quickly because Severus smirked at Harry knowingly.

"So, it had nothing to do with the Daily Prophet this morning? Or are you ashamed of me?" The last comment was mean. Instantly Harry was reminded about all the insecurities not only from himself but that Severus was not immune either.

"Never think that again." Harry replied quickly. "It's just I hate being the topic of everyone here in school."

"You should be used to it by now, Harry. And did you not want to step a foot into politics? You will stay in the public's eye for quite a while." Severus closed the distance towards each other and stole a quick kiss.

"I see that you have started your transfiguration project early. But do you not think that eight animals at once are a bit much?"

"How else can I compare their characteristics and behaviour? And three days will be enough to fulfil the requirement. I can handle that."

"At least you chose harmless, small and quiet animals."

"Mice can be loud sometimes, but I have cast a silencing spell at the cage. "

"Good. Are you ready now to face the big, mean student body?" Severus teased and smirked when Harry glared at him.

They walked together down to the Great Hall talking quietly with each other about Quidditch of all things. Harry did not notice how most of the girls giggled at the sight of the couple.

He sat down between his friends while Severus continued his way to the other teachers.

"What?" The younger wizard asked his friends irritatedly when they did not stop staring.

"You seem quite relaxed about the coming out, mate." Ron grinned.

The friends were quite relieved that Harry took the article that well.

"Are you ready for Charms, Harry. Have you already started your portfolio?" Hermione pestered him with questions, distracting him from the staring effectively.

*.*

Later in the afternoon after Charms Harry was again spending time with Severus while the quartet sat around their homework. Harry had declined and had told them directly that he did not want to be present when they would do their sexual magic homework and it did not matter how harmless it was at the begin of the term.

"So... anyone an idea where to start?" Pansy asked her partners.

"With the obvious. I mean neither of us had to share a bed before. That would work for "things that changed"..." Ron offered.

"Friendships have shifted. Our clique has grown. We accept at least the presence of the others, even if we won't call them friends yet." Draco pointed out thinking about the amount of friends that came with the Gryffindors.

"We spend less time with some of our former house mates." Hermione added but she made it obvious that she was thankful for being spared from Lavender and company.

But some things were not mentioned openly.

That Ron got a partner in crime whenever he had to escape Hermione's study plans. That the double ranting about lessons and studies grated on Pansy and Ron's nerves.

That Hermione and Draco had to pull two less enthusiastic learners with them. That they got even less time for themselves.

Or that they still avoided talking about each other whenever they were alone. Their topics varied from studies to Quidditch, from chess to Harry and Severus. The pair was the perfect topic for them, safe and not too intimate and yet they had a common interest in them and was personal enough to let them seem more than fleeting acquaintances.

It was no wonder that Harry did not want to be near them when they had to do work for Basic Sexual Magic.

X-x-x-x chapter 16 end x-x-x-x-x