Furry Problems and Super-Creeps
The glare of the sunlight reflecting off the sheet of white snow which had fallen in the night was almost blinding as it poured through the window into the hospital wing late Sunday morning. Harry clumsily struggled to spoon some porridge into his mouth with his left hand from the breakfast tray that Madam Pomfrey had brought for him and Hermione.
“Here, let me...” Hermione giggled.
“Er... alright then. Thanks Hermione!” Harry’s face blazed with embarrassment; he was just glad that neither Draco Malfoy nor Ron could see Hermione feeding him porridge. “I think I can manage the bacon and toast myself though...” he said with a half-smile once he’d finished the oatmeal.
Madam Pomfrey came bustling in when Harry and Hermione had finished eating their late breakfast.
“Alright then... everything looks all in order,” she said after looking over Harry’s reboned, but extremely stiff right arm. “You should have full usage back by tomorrow, but you are welcome to leave now.”
“Thanks Madam Pomfrey... and, er... thank you for letting Hermione stay with me again.”
Harry and Hermione departed from the hospital wing and went to find Ron. When they got to the Gryffindor Common Room it was empty though. Hermione followed Harry up to his dorm, but nobody was there either.
“I suppose everybody is outside in the snow...” Hermione said as she looked through the window at the white world outside while Harry changed behind his curtain.
“Oh good... it’s here,” Harry called out brightly. “Hedwig must have got back this morning and dropped it on my bed!”
“What’s that?” Hermione asked when Harry emerged from behind his curtain with a package in his hands.
“The potions supplies I ordered from the Diagon Alley Apothecary after we got the book from Lockhart...”
“Oh,” said Hermione awkwardly, her face turning crimson as she recalled how she’d suggested that it might be necessary to steal some of the ingredients for the polyjuice potion from Snape’s storeroom.
“It’s alright Hermione...” Harry said with nearly a whisper as he put down the package and gave her a hug. He knew exactly what was bothering her. “...It was very brave of you to consider - and if I didn’t have any money we might have had to do that.”
“I’m glad you had the money, and that you thought of ordering it instead, Harry,” Hermione replied in a small voice, still looking ashamed. “Snape’s been almost nice to you and me this year - at least he hasn't been horrid - it would have been a shame to spoil that!”
“Yeah, it’s weird though Hermione - I still get the feeling that he’s not very keen on me sometimes. And then other times, I swear - I’ve caught him looking at me almost sadly. I wish I knew what that was all about, but I’m just happy I’ve managed to do alright in potions without Snape harassing me all the time...”
“Better than alright Harry!” Hermione interjected breathlessly as her eyes shone, her embarrassment forgotten. “You’ve been doing just as well as me... we’ve both been beating out Malfoy’s scores in potions!” she concluded with a giggle.
Harry looked shocked. He had done much better than he had expected he would last year, and he had been performing admirably this year, but he hadn’t really given much thought to how his marks compared to Hermione’s or Malfoy’s. Harry had just been thrilled to not be at the bottom of the class - which was where Ron, Seamus, and Neville usually found themselves, along with Crabbe and Goyle, who only managed to barely pass just because Snape tended to favour Slytherins.
Harry and Hermione had discovered most of the Gryffindors outside playing in the first snow of the season. Harry’s hands were toasty, and he was more thankful than ever of the Self-Warming Gloves that Hermione had got him as a late birthday present when they’d been to Diagon Alley towards the end of summer.
“So the Chamber of Secrets was opened before?” Ron gaped in surprise as Harry and Hermione told him and Parvati what had happened in the hospital wing during the night.
“That’s what Dumbledore said when he and Professor McGonagall brought in Colin Creevey,” Hermione replied quietly.
“Is Colin going to be alright?” Parvati asked, her limpid eyes wide with concern.
“Yeah - he’s just petrified... like Filch’s cat,” Harry replied.
“What about the monster? Did Dobby or Dumbledore say anything about what it might be?” Ron asked excitedly.
“Nobody seems to know,” Hermione frowned thoughtfully, trying to remember every little detail of what had happened the two times that she’d been with Harry when he’d heard the voice, and think about things she’d read at the same time, “Maybe it can turn invisible, or disguise itself - I’ve read about Chameleon Ghouls...”
“You read too much, Hermione,” Ron muttered. Harry palmed his face as Hermione and Parvati rolled their eyes.
Professor McGonagall found Harry, Hermione, and Ron when they reentered the castle. They had just been heading towards Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom and halted in their tracks, trying not to look guilty. But McGonagall seemed too distracted to notice.
“Ah... there you are Mr Weasley. You have a visitor - Mr Ollivander just arrived by Floo with an assortment of wands for you to try.”
“Oh no!” Ron’s jaw dropped in horror, “D...did my m...mum s...send him?”
“That’s the odd thing Mr Weasley - Mr Ollivander was not forthcoming in that regard, so I rather think not...” Professor McGonagall pursed her lips, frowning in puzzlement. She caught the eyes of Harry, who seemed to be acting suspiciously innocent. Turning back to Ron, only the barest hint of amusement crossed her features.
“Well, Mr Weasley, it would seem that you have a very kind anonymous donor. I daresay you will have some explaining to do when you return home for the summer - but for moment, it appears that you are facing a temporary reprieve.”
Ron let out a huge sigh of relief as he followed Professor McGonagall to her office to meet Mr Ollivander. After she departed, Harry and Hermione continued on to Myrtle’s bathroom. As soon as the door shut, Harry found himself wrapped in a hug almost as bone-crushing as Hagrid’s, and his face being peppered with little kisses.
“Harry Potter - you are the kindest, sweetest boy I’ve ever met,” Hermione squealed. “Why didn’t you tell me you were getting Ron a new wand?”
“Er... to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about it,” Harry said, managing to look both sheepish and bemused. “I mean, it was really Ron’s own fault that his wand got broken - and even though Malfoy deserves a good thumping, it really wasn’t the right time or place...”
“Well - like Professor McGonagall said, Ron will still have to face the music eventually when his mum sees he’s got a new wand!” Hermione giggled, but not unkindly.
“Really Harry,” Hermione continued, “I think that was a lovely thing you did. Poor Ron didn’t deserve to suffer with a broken wand all year. And I’m sure Mr Weasley earns a perfectly good wage working for the Ministry, but with seven children - and five of them still at home - their budget must be very tight...”
When Ron finally made it to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, Harry and Hermione were off to a good start on the polyjuice potion. And Ron was the happiest that they had seen him all term.
“It’s amazing... it works better than Charlie’s old wand,” Ron beamed. “Fourteen inches - it’s willow with a unicorn hair core...”
“What’s this?” Ron asked, picking up the crumpled paper from the floor of the infirmary near Hermione’s hospital bed.
Hermione merely scowled in response, though it was hard to tell as black fur still covered her face. Harry smirked, absentmindedly scratching behind Hermione’s furry ear.
Ron uncrumpled the ball of stiff paper and sniggered when he saw that it was a get-well card from Lockhart. Scabbers peeked out of Ron’s pocket sniffing; he squealed when he saw Hermione’s cat-like features. Hermione hissed, and bolted upright in bed, her fur standing all on end, tail wagging furiously.
“Oi... leave Scabbers alone!” Ron shouted angrily as he tried to hold onto his squirming pet rat, who was struggling wildly to escape.
Hermione clasped her furry hands to her mouth, shocked at her own reaction.
“I’m so sorry Ron!” she squeaked, tears filling her slitted amber eyes.
“Blimey - if you can’t even control yourself...” Ron complained.
He was interrupted by Madam Pomfrey who came in flapping her arms at him, having heard the commotion.
“Shoo, shoo, begone Mr Weasley. I won’t have this - disturbing my patients...”
“Alright - I’m leaving, I’m leaving...” Ron said in a wounded tone, “Bloody Hell - it’s Scabbers who’s being disturbed!” he fumed as he stalked out of the hospital wing.
“It’s alright Mr Potter,” Madam Pomfrey said kindly to Harry, who was stroking Hermione’s fur to calm her down, “You may continue to stay! Goodness knows, it would hardly be fair to deprive Miss Granger of your comfort after all she’s been through with you in this hospital wing.”
Hermione and Harry peered at Madam Pomfrey as she headed back to her office, both pondering the school nurse’s meaningful tone. Hermione looked at Harry, who had turned red in the face, her own blush hidden by her fur. Harry suddenly realised in horror that he had been petting Hermione’s furry neck just under her chin when he noticed her throaty rumbles.
“I’m sorry Hermione,” he gasped, his heart thumping rapidly as he jerked his hand away. “I didn’t mean anything by it...”
“It’s alright Harry - you don’t have to stop,” Hermione said pleadingly. “It feels nice. You’re making me feel much better!”
“Er... if you’re sure then!” Harry gulped as he awkwardly reached his hand out to begin stroking Hermione’s fur once more.
Hermione nodded happily, purring blissfully again. Harry relaxed, breathing a sigh of relief. A few moments later Hermione flicked her furry ears pensively.
“There’s something very odd about Ron’s pet rat - Scabbers... something’s not quite right!” she murmured. Then she shook her head when she couldn't figure it out, and put it out of her mind. “Thank goodness this won’t last forever!”
“Shame really,” said Harry wistfully, “I suppose it’s for the best so that people won’t tease and bully you the rest of your life. I’d like to see your face properly again... but I... I wouldn’t mind if you always had a furry tail and ears... they’re really cute!”
Harry wondered if he’d said something wrong, because Hermione’s eyes had filled with tears again. But Hermione’s purrs had grown louder, and her amber gaze had been almost longing. She playfully rubbed Harry’s shoulder with her head and uttered a pleased little meow.
Hermione curled up contentedly as Harry continued to cuddle her, contemplating how she’d ended up this way. She considered what it might be like to stay this way forever. Even though Hermione was thankful that her furry problem was temporary, she thought she almost wouldn’t mind keeping her furry tail and ears at least, as long as Harry still liked her.
Harry let his mind drift across recent events as well, feeling a deep sense of peace amidst what was surely turning into yet another tempestuous year at Hogwarts. Christmas holidays would soon be over in a matter of days, and things had only got worse after Colin Creevey had been petrified.
People were now even more terrified of Harry - never mind that he couldn’t have possibly attacked Colin as Harry had been in the hospital wing all night. But then there had been that stupid dueling club that Professor Lockhart had started several weeks ago. Harry had been very excited at first; finally, they were going to be taught properly how to use spells in a fight - or so he’d thought.
Hermione had been thrilled at first too.
“I expect Professor Flitwick will be teaching it,” she had said eagerly, her eyes shining brightly as she moved through the bustling crowd of students with Harry and Ron. “I heard he was a dueling champion when he was young...”
“That would be brilliant!” Harry had agreed; Professor Flitwick was one of his favourite professors. “As long as long as it isn’t...”
Harry had faltered and groaned loudly when he had spotted the golden haired peacock strutting onto the carpeted stage, plum coloured robes swirling around him majestically. Hermione’s eager features had instantly turned into an expression of revulsion.
Professor Snape had strode onto the stage beside the gold and purple popinjay, his usually billowing black robes appearing oddly stiff next to the other professor, and his face had borne a mask of weariness.
“Gather round, gather round,” Professor Lockhart had called out, raising an arm for silence. “Can you all see me? Can everyone hear me? Splendid!”
“As you can see, Professor Snape has generously agreed to assist me, having a modicum of experience in dueling himself. Don’t worry though, I promise not to injure him - you’ll still have your Potions Master when I’m through with him...”
“I hope they finish each other off,” Ron had muttered darkly.
Harry had snorted mirthfully in response. He couldn’t really blame Ron - Snape was still horrible to most of the Gryffindors, despite his apparent approval of Harry’s and Hermione’s performance in his lessons. But Harry also couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Ron should put a bit more effort in rather than complaining all the time.
The demonstration which Professor Lockhart had been so eager to give, had gone about as well for him as Harry had expected it would. Harry had had to do his utmost to restrain himself from laughing along with the Slytherins when Snape had blasted Lockhart off the stage with an Expelliarmus Spell.
“Never mind, never mind...” Lockhart had mustered a cocky grin as he scrambled back to his feet and danced back onto the platform. “Of course I meant to do that - had I wished, I could have stopped my esteemed colleague... but I felt it necessary to demonstrate what can occur when one lets one’s guard down...”
Snape had rolled his eyes as some of the Slytherins sniggered. Things had taken an ominous turn though, when it had come time for the students to have a go. Lockhart had partnered up Harry and Draco, oblivious to the looks of animosity between the two young wizards.
“Scared Scarhead?” Malfoy had sneered.
“You wish!” Harry had muttered through gritted teeth as he contemplated the best spell to wipe that smug look off Malfoy’s face with.
Malfoy had fired his spell early, before Lockhart could even count to two, but Harry had been watching Malfoy’s hands, and he dodged the spell easily, returning fire with one of his own.
“Rictusempra,” Harry murmured.
A bolt of silver had shot from Harry’s wand, striking Malfoy in his abdomen, and Draco had doubled over, gasping for breath, trying desperately not to giggle. Malfoy had been furious after Snape had ended the tickling charm’s effects - he hadn’t expected Potter to dodge.
“Dodge this Potter!” Malfoy spat poisonously. “Serpensortia!”
An angry black adder had burst out of the end of Draco’s wand, landing by the edge of the stage near Justin Finch-Fletchley. The snake had hissed and spat venom, lunging towards the nearest target, which just happened to be one of Harry’s least favourite Hufflepuffs.
“STOP!” Harry had yelled in alarm, waving his arms, trying to get the the adder’s attention. "LEAVE HIM ALONE!"
To Harry’s surprise, the snake had halted and turned back towards him, then bowed its head and lay on the velveted platform meekly. Moments later, the black adder had vanished in a puff of smoke after Snape had aimed his wand at it.
“What are you playing at Potter?” Justin had shouted in fright and fury. Harry’s jaw had dropped in stunned outrage.
“I just saved you, you stupid prat!” Harry had retorted. Justin had glared and snorted in disbelief, then stormed away.
Ron had dragged Harry out of the hall while he was still fuming, Hermione running beside them both breathlessly.
“Blimey Harry! What’d you set that snake on Justin for?” Ron had muttered fearfully when he had pulled Harry through the portal into the Gryffindor Common Room.
“Don’t be stupid Ron!” Hermione had furiously snapped before Harry could retort. “Malfoy’s the one that shot it at Justin because he was too angry to aim straight. Anyone with a pair of eyes could see that the snake stopped when Harry talked to it...”
“But Harry’s a Parselmouth... You heard him Hermione!” Ron had said in an injured tone. “Why didn’t you tell us Harry?”
“So I can talk to snakes - what’s the big deal Ron?” Harry had responded, bewildered by Ron’s reaction. “I’m sure loads of wizards can...”
“No, they can’t...” Ron had said more quietly, raising his eyebrows and shaking his head. “It’s a very rare talent - Salazar Slytherin was the most famous for it... why do you think Slytherin House’s symbol is a serpent?”
“Oh!” Harry had looked shocked and glanced at Hermione for confirmation. His heart had sunk when she nodded.
“Ron’s right about that bit, Harry,” Hermione had reluctantly agreed. “But still - it should have been obvious to anyone watching that you STOPPED the snake attacking Justin.”
Ron had looked very sheepish and nodded. “Yeah... you’re right Hermione! Sorry Harry! I just panicked. I mean... it’s ridiculous - there’s no way you’re the Heir of Slytherin - but now loads more people are going to think it’s true...”
Unfortunately for Harry, Ron had been right. If they had been scared before, now they were terrified - except for the Twins, Parvati, Neville, Ron, and Hermione, the entire school seemed to have turned against him. There didn’t seem much point in trying to convince anyone otherwise.
“We have to find out who’s behind this Harry,” Hermione had said shrilly after she and Harry had had a run in with Ernie MacMillan and several other dubious Hufflepuffs they were usually friendly with in the library. “We just have to...”
They had both run smack into Hagrid’s immense form in the hallway after storming out of the library, and eyed the dead rooster he was carrying.
“Second one this term,” Hagrid had explained. “Dunno what’s killin’ ‘em, mebbe foxes or a Blood Suckin’ Bugbear...”
Hermione had frowned pensively at the rooster. She had still been thinking about Harry’s newly discovered talent for talking to snakes, and about all of the times that she had been with Harry when he had heard the voice that nobody else could hear in the walls of Hogwarts. Something was niggling in the back of her mind, but she still couldn’t put it all together.
Then it had happened again... not more than ten minutes after they had left Hagrid. As Harry and Hermione had both headed to Transfiguration, they had nearly tripped over the prone figure of Justin Finch-Fletchley, lying stony and cold on the floor of the passage - and not more than a few feet away floated Sir Nicholas, all smoky and dark instead of his usual ethereal white. Both Justin and Sir Nicholas had apparently been petrified by Slytherin's monster.
Harry had stood stock still in the corridor, a panicky feeling overwhelming him as Hermione trembled beside him, clutching onto his arm. As they had looked up and down the hall in horror, they had seen spiders scurrying away from the bodies... and Peeves the Poltergeist, who was cackling gleefully.
“ATTACK! ATTACK!” Peeves had bellowed at the top of his lungs, “RUN FOR YOUR LIVES...”
Doors had flown open - students had poked their heads out in fear. Ernie MacMillan had pointed his finger at Harry.
“I told you it was him,” Ernie the Hufflepuff had shouted at Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott. “You two didn’t believe me, but look there he is - Potter - Caught in the act! ”
“Don’t be ridiculous Ernie!” Susan had snapped. “He’s standing right next to Hermione Granger - if he’d done it, she’d be petrified too!”
“Nonsense - that’s only to throw us all off. Potter did it!” Ernie had pontificated.
“That will be quite enough out of you MacMillan!” Professor McGonagall had called out acidly. “Get back in the classroom - NOW!”
Harry had stood frozen, not sure what to do.
“I swear, it wasn’t Harry - I’ve been with him the whole time!” Hermione had moaned.
“I am quite certain that is true Miss Granger - however, this is out of my hands! Follow me you two!” McGonagall had said in a voice which brooked no argument.
Dumbledore had believed Harry and Hermione instantly, much to Harry’s great relief - though they had both been a bit alarmed to see a bird in flames when they had entered his office before he did. It had taken them a moment to recover and realise what they had just witnessed.
“Was... was that a Phoenix?” Harry had gasped.
“I think so Harry,” Hermione had replied, looking awed.
Of course, most everyone in the Castle had believed Ernie’s story - except for a very few. Even Ginny had seemed to be avoiding Harry and Hermione. They had breathed deep sighs of relief when most of the castle had cleared out for Christmas. Almost nobody had stayed besides Harry, except for the Weasleys, Hermione, and all too suspiciously, Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle.
“The Polyjuice Potion is ready,” Hermione had said to Harry and Ron on Christmas Day, “We’ll do it tonight.”
Harry glanced at Hermione now, curled up and asleep, purring in his arms, her furry ears twitching happily. The memory of Malfoy’s words from three nights ago in the Slytherin common room curdled bitterly in his stomach.
“The last time the Chamber opened - fifty years ago - a Mudblood died.” Draco had sneered with relish while Harry had been pretending to be Goyle and Ron had been pretending to be Crabbe. “It’s only a matter of time before one of them’s killed again... this time I hope it’s Potter’s girlfriend - Granger! ”
It had taken every ounce of Harry’s willpower not to shove Malfoy into the fireplace and watch him burn. Ron had almost had to drag Harry out of the Slytherin Common Room before they both reverted to their natural forms in front of the creepy, evil little reptile.
But when they had returned to Moaning Myrtle’s lavatory on the second floor and heard Hermione sobbing - Harry couldn’t even think about Slytherin’s Heir, or the largely useless, mostly redundant information they had gleaned from Malfoy. All Harry could think about was that something had gone terribly wrong with Hermione’s transformation and that she was suffering alone.
“Go away Harry - I don’t want you to see me like this!” Hermione had wailed, and Harry couldn’t help but remember back to the day that he’d found her sobbing in the first floor lavatory the previous year - minutes before the troll attack.
Harry had gently pushed open the door of the stall and seen tears dripping from the end of Hermione’s adorable whiskers, and his heart had shattered all over again. Ron had almost laughed out loud when he spotted Hermione’s furry features, but he had taken one look at Harry’s face, and held it in.
Harry had coaxed Hermione out of the stall and glared at Moaning Myrtle who was still giggling. Myrtle had bitten her lip and stopped immediately.
“Sorry Harry,” she had said, looking like she meant it, before diving into a toilet.
Harry had wrapped his invisibility cloak around Hermione, and taken her to the hospital wing. Ron had followed behind at a distance, but he had felt a bit too awkward to go in with them both that first night.
“I’ll come and see how you two are doing tomorrow Harry,” Ron had said quietly.
Harry had nodded and given Ron a sad little smile. That had been three days ago, and here he was, still in the hospital wing with Hermione; Madam Pomfrey hadn’t had the heart to turf Harry out.
As Hermione continued to sleep peacefully in her hospital bed, Harry gently stroked the fur on her cheek and pressed his lips to her tawny tresses. Harry didn’t fully comprehend why she meant so much to him, all he knew was that he was never going to let anything happen to Hermione if he could help it. The thought of losing her to Slytherin's monster or that murderous little creep Malfoy was almost unbearable.
His scar twinged again, reminding him who was ultimately behind it all. Harry didn’t care what it took; one day he was going to put an end to Voldemort - permanently!
Sign up to rate and review this story