For the fifth time in the last ten minutes, Harry Potter sneezed. A gigantic body spasm of a sneeze. He scratched his nose in short swipes across his forearm, then looked at his arm with disdain; the mottled fur, starting out a light tan at the base of each hair then slowly blending into a dark brown, covered every inch of his body. He was brindled, or maybe it was called 'ticking,' he couldn't be sure. He'd never paid attention to animal colorations.
Ginny reached out and ran her hand down his back, then lifted her hand and started all over again, petting with the grain. Harry glared at her. Then there was another hand brushing his side, and he looked over his shoulder and glared at Ginny again. He could never keep track of her when she multiplied. Ever since the maelstrom, the mutation of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, Ginny and her copies couldn’t keep her hands off him, and he was right and duly tired of it.
"You're just so soft," she'd said. And he was. He was covered in a layer of fur. When the maelstrom detonated, he'd been trying to save an Abyssinian cat from a burning building. When the air had finally cleared, he'd been like this. Furry, with funky, twitching ears and a tail, and a desperate allergy to himself.
He counted it as one of his not so good days, but at least he hadn't turned into a giant tangle of a tree with long branches so heavy they brushed the ground. Poor Neville. Harry knew how to count his blessings.
On the fifth day after the massive eruption of what some assumed to be merged Muggle nuclear power and wizarding magic--mutating quite a number of things--the morning was full of fog and crows. At least they looked like crows. If he squinted, Harry could distinguish a bit of a mousy look to the third one from the left. Their mournful cries echoed like hollow trumpets, an eerie infiltration into the thick mist that Harry knew would burn off by ten that morning. Just like every day since the maelstrom. Then the sun would burn bright, cooking everything pinned under its unrelenting rays. And as it slipped beyond the horizon the deadly cold set in. It was then that Harry was grateful for his layer of fur.
The area had changed. And the people had changed with it. All in five days.
Harry swallowed a snort. God had taken seven days for his miracle. Here's to Muggle and wizard ingenuity.
"Here, take my hanky," Hermione offered. Harry snatched the cloth away from her and scrubbed at his nose, which itched, but not as badly as his eyes that watered like a leaking hose. With a sidelong glance he looked at Hermione. She should have been the one Transfigured into a cat, not him. There was precedence. Wasn't probability's money on her being a cat?
But no. Hermione didn't mutate like Harry had. She'd just grown smarter. It was sickening. Well, anyone would be smarter with an extra brain, he supposed. He glanced at her left hand; the single eye and pair of pasty lips that had grown out of the palm were just off-putting.
"Thanks," he muttered, offering back the hanky.
"All snotty? I'm not touching that!" said Hermione's left hand.
"Oh, quit being so elitist," Hermione scolded, glaring at her hand. As the argument continued, Harry quietly slipped away.
Days later an announcement had been made about a brainstorming meeting to discuss the maelstrom, its cause and how everything could be put to rights. As Harry passed through the halls, frustrated by everyone who reached out to touch him—had they even washed their hands?—he saw Professor Snape leading Peeves tied up by a glowing rope.
He dropped to a crouch and sneaked up on the man, holding his finger over his lips at Peeves, ready to prank his Professor who'd been blinded by the event. Harry thought it would have been funny if he'd turned into a bat or maybe grown an extra personality, but no, he'd just gone blind. But he was right fun to trip up in the halls if you could catch him off guard. Harry had nailed him twice in the last five days. Ron a record four times.
"Potter, if you so much as bring your mutation within five feet of me, I will petrify you and leave you in the courtyard for the crows," Snape said, not even facing him.
Harry stalled in mid-step, his tail swishing in agitation. Then, he took another step. Snape's back was to Harry; he was blind. There was no way he could know it was Harry. He was probably just wandering the halls with a ghost on a string, randomly spouting threats to Harry or Ron.
Peeves tugged at his tether and whined.
"Stop squirming you foul poltergeist." Snape yanked the rope and the glow intensified. Peeves pouted, but abandoned his escape attempt.
Harry looked at Peeves, and Peeves pouted even harder, his pale face scrunched up like an annoyed toddler. Did Peeves somehow tell Snape what Harry was about to do? That couldn't be, because Peeves would have been proud of Harry's little prank.
"Potter, do stop gawking." Snape began walking again, and Harry, annoyed and distrustful, followed at a distance.
They entered the Muggle Studies classroom, which was one of the larger furnished classrooms in the castle. "I hope someone has a clue," Ron muttered in Harry's ear. Harry flicked his ear as the gentle breath played against the long tufts of hair. He waited. Waited. Ron sneezed.
Harry watched as Ron's sneeze sent him floating backwards, at quite a healthy speed, into Draco Malfoy, who was clutching a porcelain-faced clown doll to his side. The doll's face had rosy circles on each cheek, little pink lips, and black eyes with blue eye shadow in a rainbow arch over each one. It wore a blue suit with white polka dots all over it, including a blue hat with a little white puff on the end. Sometimes, if Harry looked at it too much, he swore the little black eyes watched him. The thing oozed creepiness. And Draco Malfoy liked to talk to it.
"Watch it, Weasel," Draco said with fierce spite. "You almost bumped into Lucius." Draco glared at Ron, then looked down at the porcelain faced doll and his expression totally changed. He looked lovingly at it, the hatred had softened and a small smile danced upon his lips. He'd taken to wearing dark eyeliner that highlighted his pale eyes. At times like this Draco Malfoy was beautiful and Harry's stupid crush rose giddily up in his belly and danced around like a stupid marionette, all flailing arms and frantic exuberance. But that doll…
As Draco petted his doll, everyone else began taking seats within the classroom.
Harry had to sit between Hermione and her annoying left hand, and McGonagall, who seemed to be the only two…three people he didn't cause to sneeze. As he sat, adjusting his tail to slip through the ribs of the chair, Harry sneezed, apparently trying to make up for the lack from Hermione and McGonagall, Hogwarts' plaid wonder. Ginny waved a hanky at him from across the room. Harry dismissed it with a shake of his head and forced smile.
Maybe it was the sight of McGonagall that caused him to sneeze; he'd heard of bright lights making people react with devastating sneezes. Every inch of McGonagall was a rally cry to her native lands: reds, greens, blues all blended together in a variety of patterns.
"Now, Now," McGonagall began. Harry caught a glimpse of her tongue, a hectic plaid of red, yellow and white. "Let's begin. I've got a hospital full of unhealthy mutations and a lot of concerned parents trapped beyond the walls of the school who continue to barrage me with howlers." Snape harrumphed and Peeves tried to float away again, only to be yanked back into submission. "First order of business: has anyone determined what caused the maelstrom?"
Harry blinked, his cat eyes drawn to every twitch and movement of the restless crowd. Mostly the Order of the Phoenix, who had been called to the castle for some important meeting that Harry and his friends hadn't been invited to attend. The fact that they had locked him out of the meetings—"No, Potter. Be a student, now. Simply a student."--after he'd defeated Voldemort, irked him to no end.
Before the explosion of technology and magic had warped everything, he'd planned on a quiet eighth year of Hogwarts to complete his final schooling and take his NEWTs. He'd long ago decided against being an Auror. He'd long ago decided against Ginny. He'd even developed a grudging respect for Snape, though he still couldn't help pranking so easy a target. Now another catastrophe was upon him and he was trapped within a castle full of people, all freaks of some weird mutation, who wanted to constantly touch him. Plus, he was allergic to himself.
It just wasn't his lifetime.
Harry looked over at Hermione, who had gone still, clutching her hands together in her lap. He could barely hear the muffled "Hrumm Mrurm" from her hand as it tried to talk. People tended to ignore the hand if Hermione pretended it didn't exist. Common courtesy.
Draco Malfoy raised the hand of Lucius the clown doll. Everyone ignored that, too.
"Severus, surely you have some theory on what might have happened," McGonagall asked, the spine of her words starched and formal.
"Indeed Minerva, I do have a few theories." He tugged the poltergeist on the end of its leash as it tried to surreptitiously float away. "However, they are all undeveloped at this time, and I do not see the benefit of tossing half cooked ideas into a pit of dunderheads." Then he paused, and inclined his head to his superior. "Your company excluded, of course."
McGonagall pursed her lips, then dropped her shoulders. "Does anyone have a theory? It will do us no good if everyone keeps their pet projects to themselves. Hermione, release your left hand, now. It's making an awful racket."
"But, Professor McGon—" She suddenly yelped, and pulled her hands a part. Glaring down at her left hand, she said, "You bit me."
"I bit myself," the left hand said. "Stop smothering me, you know I can't stand to be smothered." Harry could just make out the eye, nestled between the soft mounds at the base of the pointer and ring fingers. Hermione's face turned pink.
"Fine, then say something," she said with an air of indifference.
"I think we should…" and Hermione's left hand prattled on about magical confluences and times of the year and magical centers of the earth and stuff that was really all very boring. Every so often Hermione would interject, adding something excitedly to what her left hand had to say. Ron became distracted with something he was doodling on a parchment and began floating up into the air. When he floated too high to meet parchment to paper, he would lift his head, notice he'd rose into the air, and fall down with a clatter as he almost toppled his chair. He did this three times before Draco Malfoy jumped to his feet and spoke with a certain amount of pomp that Harry inwardly found dashing.
"I think," he stopped and roamed his eyes around to everyone at the table, even Hermione's left hand, and as the room quieted down, he finished with, "it was a bomb."
All the breath Harry had gathered within his chest, hoarding it for the anticipated whoop of support, whooshed out in a display of hunched shoulders and a drop of his chin.
"What do you mean a bomb, Mr. Malfoy?" Flitwick asked. The little man glanced at the questioning looks of the assembly of witches and wizards. "Well, it could be theoretically possible with the right series of charms, maybe a specialized potion or two." He nodded, looking over at Snape, who was staring off in the opposite direction affecting the guise of a blind man once again. Peeves floated over him, lying on his side with his head propped up with one arm. All of his bright clothing had gone drab as if with too many washings.
Malfoy, still standing, smiled brightly. Harry couldn't tear his eyes away. "Well, you see, I think someone put some mutagen in a bomb and set it to go off over the castle, attempting to create a world of mutants for a better tomorrow." He nodded eagerly.
"Huh?" asked Ron. He'd just landed hard in his chair. "What part of crazy do you think we're fluent in?" Then in a lower voice that Harry could catch with his sharpened hearing, "I hope his crazy isn't catching." Harry snorted, only it came out a kind of sneeze. Nobody even bothered looking at him.
Harry had taken to the nocturnal way of life, and while it felt like he'd also adopted an inordinate amount of napping time, he doubted that he'd missed anything too important. One of the reasons to go about at night was that there were less people trying to touch him. Everyone, even the teachers, tried to pet him. He'd become the friendly neighborhood kitty and while a little petting by some of his friends didn't bother him, when Mr. Filch chased after him, calling "Here Kitty Kitty" with his hand outstretched, it was a bit too much.
But when Draco reached out, ran the tips of his fingers over one of his furred arms, Harry was in heaven.
The other reason to take up nightly rounds of the castle was that Draco also took up wandering the halls, mumbling to himself about his spidey senses that warned him of a traitor in their midst. Harry found this terribly ironic, because he knew that Draco had been a traitor, though the poor guy hadn't had much of a choice.
Harry shook his head. That wasn't fair. Draco had done bad, terrible things. He'd allowed those bastards into the castle with children. A frown crossed Harry's lips and he swallowed down that old anger. Yes, Draco was a fair bit of an arse, and Harry couldn't forget his past actions. And with that heavy reminder on his mind, he blindly paced the passages of Hogwarts, his limp tail trailing behind him.
He'd ended up napping in the Prefects' Bath—baths were terrible creations of man, but the warm air was always nice—when he heard something that roused him from sleep. The disturbance of water as somebody slipped in. Then a giggle. Female. Then a laugh. Male. Oh Merlin. Harry lifted his head and saw Luna and Ron giggling and kissing and generally naked in the bathtub.
"I'm right here," he said, loud enough that they could hear him. He rose from his napping spot on a pile of towels in the corner. The two in the bath looked over at him.
"Oh, hello, Harry," said Luna nonplussed, but Ron turned scarlet macaw red and quickly slipped to his nose in the water. "Did you want to join us?"
Harry blinked. "Wha—ah no! I'm quite alright." The little sadist. As if he'd want to go anywhere near the water. Then he blinked again. Go in the water with her and Ron? Eww. "I was just leaving." He waved, his back turned on them, and slipped out of the bath, only to bump into Draco.
"Hi," he said, his tail suddenly all puffy and a purr rattling in his chest. He tried to stop the purr, but the purr had a life of its own.
"Hello, Potter." Draco had touched up his eyeliner. Merlin. "Were you just in the Prefects' Bath?"
Harry nodded, smiling. Then he cleared his throat and said, "But Ron and Luna came in and…." He shrugged. Draco nodded. They stood in the middle of the hall, staring at each other.
Harry lifted his arm, wanting to do something, touch him, caress him, but then Draco said, "I've almost figured it out." He gave Harry a knowing look, nodding slowly as if he was sure Harry was also aware of the grand conspiracy and that, in fact, Harry had orchestrated it and Draco was just waiting for his confession.
"Huh?" Draco continued peering at him; his little doll began nodding too. "Figured what out?" Harry said, unable to look away from the calculating look on the doll's porcelain face.
"Who set off the bomb."
The doll stopped nodding and looked away. Harry hadn't figured out if it was charmed to move, or if it was Draco's subtle manipulations that gave it life. Draco tilted his head, his ear aimed at the doll. Harry's heart pounded. That damned doll. If only he could take the doll and hide it, toss it into an incinerator, then maybe, just maybe, Draco would pet him.
"So, who set off the bomb?" Harry blurted as Draco turned his body away from Harry.
Draco paused, then looked at the doll, then back up at Harry. "Well… I don't think I should let you know yet, Potter. Who knows, you could be in on the conspiracy."
"Huh? Why the hell would I set off a bomb and turn myself into a cat boy?" Though he was terribly pettable, the whole allergy side-effect just sucked.
Draco pondered that for a moment, then he put his hand over the clown doll's face and leaned forward. Harry's heart raced. He leaned forward too, his gaze dashing between those placid, gray eyes highlighted by the thick lines of black, and the slightly parted lips, red and glistening and just bloody, brilliantly kissable and then Draco opened them and said: "I will let you in on the theory soon, Potter. I don’t think you're responsible, but Lucius isn't so sure."
Then he pulled back and Harry was left hovering in space, his brain still focused on that trajectory of lip to lip contact and before he realized just what he'd missed, Draco was already halfway down the hall.
"Bugger," he said, then turned away and dejectedly continued to wander the halls.
Ron and Luna would be sickening if they weren't so discreet. Whenever Harry caught them, they were smoochy and handsy and just plain icky. But he didn't catch them often, so he thanked the ancients buried under the old hills of Britain for small favors. He wasn't sure how Hermione felt about it all, but she hadn't attacked Ron with any more birds so Harry guessed she didn't much care. He'd always wondered what she'd seen in Ron, talk about totally incompatible brains, but one could never explain love, or lust, or any of those hormonal responses.
Since the chaos of the mutations, classes had been suspended and the students had been left to entertain themselves. Luckily most of the student body had read Fred and George's treatise on "getting away with it," and knew a variety of contraceptive spells, otherwise an entire generation could be blamed on just a single event. Well, wars did that, he figured. But was this a war? Did they have some enemy like Draco assumed, or was this some kind of accident, some freak chance of nuclear power mixing with magical power and voila! mutations happened. Harry snorted. While he hadn't put much thought to it, even he didn’t think an event of this magnitude could happen by chance. But it was an interesting theory and while everyone slogged away to discover some way to explain this rash set of events, maybe Harry would try to prove it was chance. With a new goal in mind, he returned to his dorm room to sleep on it.
He woke with the afternoon's sunrays beating on him. The windows had been glazed to prevent the harsh radiation from cooking the people inside, but Harry enjoyed the heat. A soft rumble bubbled through his chest; someone was petting him. He opened an eye and glanced down his body to find Luna sitting on his bed, running her hand down his side as she read a book.
Ah, Luna. Quirky, flighty, and oddly un-mutated, Luna. At least she didn't appear to be changed in any way. She had practically taken up residence in Gryffindor. Practically moved into Ron's bed. They never… well, Harry never noticed if they'd been doing anything in Ron's bed, which he appreciated, so he didn't much care. Anyway, her fingers were quite skilled at finding the best places for a scratch. His purr rumbled louder.
"Good morning, Harry," she said, smiling at her book.
Harry yawned, big and wide, showing off his fangs. "Morning, Luna. Where's Ron?"
"Downstairs. I think." She continued to read her book and pet him, so he drifted back into a doze.
When he awoke again, he was alone. It took little for him to dress, really he just tossed on some shorts with a hole cut in the back for his tail. It was usually too warm for him to wear robes other than at night, and with his layer of fur, he wasn't truly indecent.
He bounded down the stairs to the common room. It was empty. Completely. Not even a pair of bored firsties playing exploding snap, or a trio of Ginnies waiting to ambush him. Harry slipped through the portrait hole into the hallway. The place held no one.
He sprinted down the hallways, his arms and legs fueled by the burgeoning panic expanding in his gut. Everyone was gone. First they mutated, then they were evaporated and only he was spared because… Because…
Damn, he had never been a heavy thinker. Maybe because he was asleep, or his DNA didn't fully read human, or because he'd already died once.
"Hello." The word seemed to rebound off the walls and slowly slip away, unabsorbed by any ears. "Hello!"
"What is all the racket, Potter?"
Harry twirled around and there was Draco Malfoy, his clown doll cradled in one arm, something else clutched in his other hand. His robe sported an assortment of polka dots of ranging sizes the same shade as the doll's blue eye shadow. Draco's eyeliner was ever present.
"Malfoy." Harry flumped forward, his hands braced on his knees as he caught his breath, his tail making lazy passes through the air. He hadn't been so happy to see anyone in ages. "Where is everyone," he asked once he'd caught his breath. He shot Draco little glances, and the curious arch to Draco's eyebrows teased a smile to Harry's lips.
"Meeting, or something." Draco shrugged. He tilted his head to the doll again, then looked at what was gripped in his fist. It looked like a necklace, the long silver chain cascading from his palm.
"What do you have?" Harry peered at it curiously. Draco studied him, then held out the necklace. It was a silver locket with a simple M monogram on the front. Harry popped it open and saw a little landscape of green pastureland and blue sky. It appeared to have been roughly stuffed into the locket, the edges torn and ragged.
"Uhh, pretty." He handed it back.
"Yes, Thomas is quite a specimen of grandeur."
"Umm, Thomas?" Draco was talking to him. They were having an actual, normal person conversation. Well, almost.
"Thomas, the polar bear." Draco gave him one of those 'are you insane' looks. "Merlin's balls, Potter. Are you not only allergic to yourself but also as blind as Professor Snape?"
"No," he said carefully. "I saw the pasture." His shoulders rolled in an apologetic shrug. "Sorry?" He didn't want Draco to bore of him and walk away.
Draco dug his fingernail into the catch and opened the locket door again, then thrust the picture into Harry's face. "Thomas does not like to be ignored, Potter. Be a gentleman and say hello." The eyeliner brought Draco's eyes alive, and they currently looked sinister.
Harry swallowed and examined the empty, green field. "Ah, hello Thomas."
Draco removed the locket from Harry's face and smiled at him. Truly smiled. A heart warming, 'you're my friend' kind of smile and Harry found himself beaming in return.
Then the smile immediately dropped. "He has a theory. I'm on my way to catch the madman behind all of this."
"Really?" Harry's tail danced in a great acrobatic display behind him. "Do you, maybe, need some help?"
Draco looked Harry up and down, a slow, methodic survey, and Harry felt his body react in all sorts of interesting ways, thankful for his layer of fur because he was certain he was experiencing an all over blush.
Draco pressed his ear to the lips of the doll. "Lucius says you're worse than useless. But maybe you can help fetch the things I might need." Then he stood up straight and nodded, the bounce of his bangs enticing warm butterfly feelings to bubble in Harry's stomach. "Yes, Potter. You may aid me in my most noble search. Every superhero needs a sidekick. Come now, CatBoy!" And Draco twirled on the heel of his shoe and stalked down the hallway. With ears pricked forward, Harry eagerly followed after.
Harry wondered, as he watched Draco read through comic book after comic book, if Draco had a superhero name.
"CatBoy, get me Uncanny X-Men 435."
Harry stared at the piles of thin comic books printed on flimsy paper, and began flipping through the individuals. On the cover were people in impossible physical condition and tight fitting clothing, doing magic. Really, they were just dallied up wizards and witches, no big mystery there. One man had terrible lamb chops with metal spikes jammed into his hands. That didn't look healthy. Then he found one with a giant muscle-bound man on the front. Why this stuff was popular was a complete mystery.
"This it?" he asked as he held out the comic, rubbing his itchy nose. Draco nodded and reverently took it from him, setting it on the table and then gently turning the pages one at a time.
Harry sneezed and Draco glared at him. Harry finally realized something. "You're not allergic to me." Draco had not once sneezed at him.
"Of course not. Heroes do not have such weakness as allergies." He returned to reading, Lucius propped up on his lap and the locket dangling from his neck.
Harry waited, swinging his feet to brush against the floor every time with a little 'whooshing' noise. He was in Draco's room, where Draco did things like study Muggle comic books and other things like get dressed and sleep. Walking around naked and … Harry got up from his chair and went to lie on the bed, burying his face in the pillow, sucking in Draco's scent. It infiltrated his nose and raced to his brain. Harry flipped his tail hard against the bed, then he rolled over, rubbing his back against the duvet, then flipped to his belly again, brushing his cheek over and over against the pillow, wanting more of that delicious smell. A heavy purr rattled the air.
"CatBoy, do stop molesting my bedclothes."
Harry stopped in mid-flop and looked over at Draco, who still had his gaze locked on the drawings of the comic. With ears held back, a guilty look plastered itself over Harry's face. "But you smell so good." He slammed his lips closed. Merlin, did he just confess undying love or what?
Still not looking up, Draco said, "Of course I smell good, but you're getting your dander all over the place. No wonder you sneeze yourself silly. Go take a bath."
A loud hiss charged through his teeth and Harry found himself on all fours on the bed, back arched like a Halloween cat. The idea! The preposterousness! The…
"I'll help you if you need it."
They were in the Prefects' Bath and Harry was staring at the full tub in horror. Draco had added some dark blue and tan bubbles that floated gaily over the surface of the water. It didn't look so gay to Harry, though. More like downright terrifying.
"I don't think I can do this," he said, and spun around, only to be halted by a yank on his tail. "Yow!"
"No you don't, Potter. You kind of smell and the chances of you rolling about on my sheets again smelling like you do are nil."
Harry stopped trying to get away, but he still couldn't turn around and face the dreaded bath.
"I can't do it." He felt unmanned by the pitiful mew of his voice, the weakness he was showing in the face of his hygienic enemy.
"Bully up, Potter. Can't be worse than facing the Dark Lord. Don't worry, Lucius will be nearby."
Harry chanced a glance and noticed that Draco was not holding the doll, but it was perched near the edge of the bath and Harry had a twinge of worry that it might get wet, and then quickly laughed at himself for worrying about the wicked little doll at all.
The wicked little doll was looking at him and that was seven layers of ick he didn't need.
"Now, take off your pants and get in the water."
While Harry had been naked plenty of times before his Quidditch team, he'd never bared himself to Draco and he had this fear of coming up lacking in some way. But a rustling behind him drew his attention, and he realized Draco was getting undressed, too. He quickly looked away. Then snatched a peek.
"You might want to speed the process up, Potter. We've got more research to do and Lucius is scolding me about the delay."
The sound of the soft lapping of water alerted Harry that Draco had entered the tub. A nude, gloriously nude, Draco. Harry swallowed. And with a deep inhale, he shucked off his pants, turned around with his eyes closed and rushed forward until he fell into the tub. The water splashed all around, flooding over his head, drowning and smothering and killing him. His fur was saturated and heavy and he felt the need to paddle, quickly, and escape. A keening noise filled the entire Bath as panic gripped his heart and mind and suddenly there was a hand on his back, between his shoulders, petting, soothing, settling the panic, calming his heart. He turned around, and looked at Draco, his face scrunched in annoyance, but his eyes, those winter eyes lined with kohl, were soft.
They stared at each other, Draco's hand gently resting between Harry's shoulder blades as Harry's heart rate slowed. Then he took his hand away, and that soft gaze vanished. "You've gotten Lucius wet, CatBoy." He scowled. "He is not pleased."
Then Draco took to soaping Harry up, and it was the most glorious thing—other than the malicious water aspect—to have Draco rubbing his hands over his head, arms, back. He instructed Harry, like one would a toddler, to get to his 'private places' and Harry blushed under his layer of tan and turned his back to clean himself further. The water was warm, and the scent of the blue and tan bubbles relaxed him. Finally he'd finished washing and the need to get out of the water overrode any desire to remain there with Draco.
He pounced out and shook, raining the entire Bath in little droplets of water. Turning to spy on Draco, Harry rubbed himself dry with the towel. Draco leisurely washed himself with a cloth and some bubbles. "Use a Pensieve, Potter, it will last longer." Harry almost turned away in alarm, but the tone wasn't scornful, but playful, and he realized, in a burst of self-awareness, that Draco was flirting with him.
He watched as Draco climbed out of the giant tub and very much liked what he saw. Draco dried his body off, all lean and edgy. Whatever he'd been doing for the last year had certainly been good for his physique. When Draco finished drying, he got dressed and then it was only Harry who was naked, well furred, but still naked, and so he quickly tugged on his shorts.
"Well, CatBoy, we better get back to work." Draco leaned over and grabbed his doll. That playful glint in his eyes now missing. Harry nodded, crestfallen. "Oh Potter, do buck up." Draco turned and walked away, and Harry followed, watching the telltale swagger to Draco's gait with a startled grin.
As they passed the entrance to the Dungeons, they saw Hermione descending the stairs two at a time.
"Hey, Hermione!" Harry greeted, and she turned to face Harry and Draco. She had a smile plastered on her face that looked mad, even madder than Draco, and her hands were clasped together before her. Her left hand wore a white glove.
"Oh, Harry. Malfoy. How are you two doing?" Her voice was high and friendly. Maybe it was because he was with Draco and she was trying to be nice for his case. Ah, he loved Hermione.
"Fine, Granger. We're close to the discovery of the method of our situation," he said, staring hard at Hermione. Harry glanced from one to the other, Draco's hard gaze to Hermione's overly friendly one.
"Oh really?" she said. "That's great." Then in a conspiratorial whisper, and a roll of her eyes, she said, "I'm looking forward to having only one mind again."
"Hmm, I'm sure," Draco drawled quietly. Harry's fur shivered. He loved it when the other man whispered. It sent jolts right to his shiver receptors. "How is your own research going?"
"Oh, well I'm just going down to speak to Professor Snape about something we've been working on." She looked at Harry.
"You've been working with Snape?" he asked, stunned.
She nodded. "It's just… He's got some really good ideas. And I've some theories too."
Her left hand tried to speak but it only came out as a muffled, "Mrun urnn uh!" She pressed her hands together even harder.
"Well, he's waiting, I better go." She twirled around and continued down the steps, her hair bobbing with each bounce in an overly eager way.
"She's…." Harry began, but blinked instead and shook his head.
"Yes," Draco agreed.
They continued down to the Slytherin dorms and slipped into Draco's room. "So, now that I'm clean…" He tried to look debonair, give Draco a swarthy smile, but instead he had an inkling he simply looked like a letch.
"You may sit on my bed. Grab Spider Man 245, I think I might crack this yet, CatBoy."
He'd been up all night with Draco and he hadn't sneezed once in all those hours. It was a miracle. His eyes weren't runny; his nose didn't constantly tingle. It's funny how when something goes missing, it's only then that you notice how much it had affected your life.
He was returning to the Tower, his tail dragging from exhaustion, when his ears picked up an odd muffled noise. He recognized immediately that it was Muffliato. Someone was using the spell nearby. He slowed his steps and moved silently forward around the corner of a hallway, until he stopped near the cracked door of the Potions classroom.
He couldn't understand a thing, of course, but he could sense from the rush of noise that the speaker—wait, two speakers a male and a female—were angry or maybe scared, it wasn't easy to tell the difference. He had to find out who these two people were. Something in the air tickled his whiskers, told him they were perhaps doing something not on.
Slowly, he pushed open the door, but all he could see was blackness, an impenetrable dark that might have been Peruvian Darkness Powder it hovered so thick. Then, a flash of light, a sudden sinking feeling in his belly, and he quite suddenly passed out.
When he came to, he was alone. Totally and completely.
"You do understand Draco, that you cannot trust any of those Gryffindors. Stick close to the Slytherins, they will support you. And watch out for Severus, he was a double agent…."
Draco stared intently at Lucius, and nodded at every word. He trusted Lucius with everything… well, almost everything. The man's grudge against CatBoy was becoming quite… trying. He was Draco's sidekick now, and Lucius had to accept that. Draco had an inkling that his companion was jealous, that maybe he wanted to be Draco's sidekick. That was a laugh. Didn't Lucius know he was so much more?
Draco knew that the answer was in one of the illuminated manuscripts he's discovered in the bowels of Hogwarts. Someone had been performing terrible experiments, he knew it, and the secret was in them. He had organized and reorganized the little booklets of secrets, trying to find the pattern the Mastermind had used. Certainly within them was the method of the Villain's destruction. His plan. But he'd been working all day, even had to bathe CatBoy because of that odd musk he had, and he was just so exhausted.
He lay down in bed, and closed his eyes. The smell of CatBoy's musk was everywhere and something in Draco's chest flipped and flopped. He was sure it was an allergy. Perhaps his sidekick had dandered his pillow to death before Draco had stopped his blunder. Lucius said, "I think he had it all planned out; now you won't be able to sleep." Though Draco doubted CatBoy had that kind of foresight, he didn't say anything. However, dander or not, Draco was certain he could triumph over every trial—he was the Hero after all—and closed his eyes, snuggled into his pillow and promptly fell asleep.
The next morning at breakfast CatBoy was missing.
"Granger, where is CatBoy?" The woman jumped from her place at the table and stuffed her hands in her pockets. Her behavior had turned nervous and ferrety. Draco didn't trust her. She obviously had something to hide. Maybe the personality of her left hand was taking over, forcing her to do unspeakable things that only the side of evil would even contemplate.
"Harry? I don't know, Malfoy. He wasn't in the common room this morning. Why don't you ask Ron, he might know." She smiled, nodded once to Draco, and then fled from the Great Hall. Definitely up to something.
"Definitely," said Lucius.
He looked around for Weasley and found him floating inches off his seat at the far end of the Ravenclaw table with Loopy Lovegood. She was feeding him like an infant, and apparently it caused his brain to shut down. Well, Draco doubted it took much to shut down that archaic machine.
"Weasley," Draco barked at him, and Weasley dropped to the chair like a dead bird zapped with a long range Ava, his teeth clacking at the impact.
Weasley rubbed at his jaw and glared up at Draco. "What do you want?" Lovegood held out another grape, and Weasley nibbled it from her hands like a tamed crup, or maybe a needy baby sparrow.
Draco lifted his nose, and tucked Lucius tightly in the crook of his elbow. "Where is CatBoy?"
Weasley looked him over and Draco felt the need to clean himself. A furrow appeared between his eyes as Weasley went through the obviously trying process of thinking, but it was Lovegood who said, "He wasn't in bed this morning."
That was most curious. CatBoy had left Draco's room late, but certainly not late enough that his roommates would have missed him. Maybe he'd fallen into a worm hole, or a rip in the fabric of space and time. Maybe CatBoy had been captured by the Villain and was even now being dangled over a vat of neon green toxic waste.
"I must find him," he proclaimed, and swooped away with Luna calling after him, "Good luck!"
They must have taken him, the evil orchestrators of their current unhealthy setback.
Draco knew there must be a clue somewhere; he just had to find it. It had to be subtle, because he was obviously up against a Mastermind. Someone with a Plan! And he would have a Plan as well, with Lucius and Thomas' help.
First, he had to figure out what the Mastermind's goal was. Why curse Hogwarts and Hogsmeade with odd mutations? Were they all test subjects and this wicked ringleader would then turn his evil mutation ray on the world? Maybe the Mastermind had hatred for all wizardkind, wanted revenge, the most noble of reasons!
"Revenge is not noble, Draco," Lucius said. Thomas, lounging on the idyllic pastureland, growled as he munched on seal blubber, but didn't have much else to add.
"It certainly can be." Draco was certain of this, though he hated to contradict Lucius. "Revenge for a past misdeed has been handed down from Slytherin to Slytherin as a fair and viable reason to annihilate those who stand against you."
"Well, yes," Lucius said with a nod. "It is certainly fair to those who use it and a very practical reason to spur on any kind of retaliation, but I wouldn't quite call it noble."
Draco's heart sank. He'd pinned many of his past actions on the noble cause of revenge, and now he felt like a fake.
"Well, why else would the Mastermind curse the school and town? Very few of us escaped unscathed, you know. That puke sack for brains Longbottom got turned into a tree for Merlin's sake."
Thomas grumbled about something as he licked off one huge paw.
"Of course!" Draco said. "I completely agree."
"Perhaps your Mastermind is simply insane."
Draco stared down at Lucius, his blue eyes flat and cold. "What do you mean by that?"
"Well," Lucius drawled, "It has been known to happen before." Thomas huffed.
"Well, fine." Draco didn't have the heart to argue with the two. "So, the Mastermind unleashed his nuclearmagical missiles and made things go a little cockeyed. Severus and Granger have been—"
"Severus! Have I not told you, Draco? Do not trust that man. He could convince a Norwegian to prance around in his skivvies on New Year's Eve in the Town Square while eating a popsicle. Do not trust that man. He's probably behind all of it. Sniveling, little, ratfaced, backstabbing—"
"But, Lucius. I thought you had been friends."
"Friends! Oh, certainly not. He was a tool, Draco. Nothing but a tool, who learned to wield his Master better than his Master wielded him. Tricky one, that."
Draco didn't quite know what to say. To hear Lucius make such an admission…
Thomas rose up on his hind feet and batted at a butterfly that fluttered across the landscape with quick, frantic flaps. Draco watched as the black bug jerked along, like a pregnant hippogriff struggling to keep aloft, until a huge, white paw slammed into it, crushing it against the grass. Thomas lifted his paw and with his long tongue, lapped around, seeking the tiny nibble.
"Thomas. Where did that butterfly come from?" Nothing had ever visited Thomas' landscape before, and the struggle of the wretched insect seemed somehow desperate. Like it yearned to survive. Like it had something important it needed to do.
Thomas looked up, one black wing poking out from his lip, and he huffed. Then, with a quick swipe of his tongue, the evidence that a butterfly even existed vanished.
Something nudged Draco's brain. This was familiar. This meant something.
His eyes landed on the piles of documents.
"Oh, Draco," Lucius groaned out with the exasperation of a parent scolding a two year-old who won't stop pulling on the cat's tail. "Don’t dive into that American trash any longer. Go find an issue of Sandman, or perhaps Tank Girl. Something decidedly more British."
But Draco ignored him, and began to devastate his orderly stacks in search for a clue.
Draco stopped and turned around. The night had been long and he thought he'd discovered something, but he had to be certain. Weasley was walking towards him, his strides long and purposeful and Draco sighed. He didn't have time for Weasley clatter in his brain; he was barely containing all of the vast stores of knowledge as it was.
"Have you found Harry yet?" Weasley asked. The idiot tried desperately to hold onto Draco's eyes and eventually looked away. Draco snorted, amused at his discomfort. So, Weasley had lost CatBoy, too.
"No," he said, then turned around and continued walking towards the library.
"Malfoy, please. He's been missing all day. Don't be a bastard."
Draco stared down the long hallway; the suits of armor turned to look at him and Weasley. "I do not know where CatBoy is," Draco said calmly, not turning around. "He is my sidekick, it is my duty to find him. Do you think I would sit by while my sidekick was missing? I don't like it when my things go missing."
There, that should set Weasley straight.
"It's just that," Weasley began. Draco whirled around and glared at him; Lucius slipped within the hollow of his elbow.
"It's just what, Weasley?"
"He'd last been with you in the dungeons." Weasley actually met his eyes, his stance solid, fists tight against his sides.
Was Weasley suggesting…? Then out of the corner of his eye Draco saw something. It was tiny and bounced upon the air like it was held aloft by spider silk. It continued down the hallway, passing the suits of armor on its bobbing path. A black butterfly. A Hell Butterfly coming to tell Draco something from another world.
With a valiant cry of "Spoon!" Draco rushed past Weasley after the fluttering insect.
From the hallway he chased the butterfly up a series of stairs to the Ravenclaw Tower, through a hidden passage lined with mounted bass singing to him about a little song they wrote, over a low brick wall that crossed the entire hall, down another set of stairs into the dungeons until the poor creature expired right outside of the Potions classroom.
Draco looked down at the dead butterfly, and huffed. Where was he supposed to go now?
"Murumph murr shuurip poodle."
Poodle? He stepped closer to the Potions classroom door and heard: "Wahlooop shiirpla mundlruff diggerydoo."
It was a mystery, and a Hero always faced each mystery full force, so Draco reached out, twisted the handle and was swooped away to some very dark, very bleak, very lonely landscape.
Harry'd sworn he'd heard something. The first sound in days other than his voice, that damned ringing of bells, and the soft 'shuff' of his shoes in the weak, drab sand, like a dying promise of hope and safety and companionship.
It was a bang, or a slam, maybe it was a crack—of the exact species of sound, he wasn't quite certain--but it'd echoed off to his left, and so he'd ran and ran and called out, but distinct landmarks were as extinct as other people and all that surrounded him were endless dunes so desperate to fulfill their own hunger, they swallowed whole his footprints.
Somebody! Anybody! Often enough, he'd forgotten even to speak aloud.
"Yes," came a voice. At the sound of the voice, Harry's tail poofed in excitement. The bells tolled.
"Hello. Over here." He scanned the horizon for a person, a genie, anybody, and then he saw him, someone coming over the rise of a dune, a man in robes topped by blond hair, carrying a little clown doll in the crook of his arm.
Draco shielded his eyes from the sun. "CatBoy. You naughty boy, where have you been?"
Draco couldn't help but be a bit amused as CatBoy bounded over the sand to tackle him, though his amusement was cut short when the action caused sand to infiltrate all the wrong places. The place lacked imagination and the constant chimes and bangs of all timbre of bells were fast driving him to distraction.
"Do get off me," he ordered, and CatBoy scampered off like a trained monkey.
It took only a few exchanges before Draco realized something was more off than normal with his sidekick.
"… and I've been wandering around for days," CatBoy said with a deflating sigh.
"Days? But, you see, you've only been gone since breakfast."
CatBoy blinked his eyes at Draco, and then sneezed. "Then," he said with a snuffle, his ears laid back in a displeased manner, "how do you explain my allergies? I was fine after you washed me, but now I'm sneezy again."
Bring bring bring bring, rang a bell from who knew where.
Lucius, to Draco's shock, suggested that Potter had a point.
Draco paused and scanned the dunes, wary of any kitty nuggets that CatBoy might have left behind, and noticed that indeed the place was as endless as his sidekick had described.
"Well, any suggestions on our escape from this foul hell?" he asked Lucius, but Lucius merely shrugged and told Draco that he hadn’t the slightest idea. From his pocket he heard Thomas' low grumble of agreement.
"What?" CatBoy scowled, and scratched at his ruff.
"Don't take that attitude with me. I came to save you."
CatBoy shook his hands in frustration, his fangs broadcasting his irritation. "Well, save me, already." Then his face suddenly fell, and Draco knew that he must, indeed, save this poor, pathetic man.
Draco turned and pushed against the sand, propelling himself down the dune with the force of gravity and the innate knowledge that he knew it was he, the Hero, Draco Malfoy, who would break free of this trap. For a trap it must be. The Mastermind certainly had his attention on Draco, to plan something so elaborate. CatBoy followed behind at a quick trot. Though Draco's eyes were fixed before him and he couldn't see the other man, every Hero knew when trusted people had his back, and though CatBoy hadn't truly proven himself, Draco had a sense about these things.
When he approached the trough between the two dunes, he saw a shimmer of gold to the sand that up until now had been nothing but a kind of washed out gray that had given up any semblance of true color. He stopped at the colored sand and examined it. The patch of gold was precisely square and roughly three feet across and three inches in depth.
"Here, look at this." Draco pointed out the patch of sparkling sand.
CatBoy leaned over and stared at the sand. "What? What is it?" His fur stood all on end and Draco had to stop himself from reaching out and smoothing it down. No doubt if CatBoy was correct, he was all covered in dander and dust.
"The gold sand."
CatBoy looked up at Draco, squinting his eyes. His tail began flicking back and forth like an agitated fairy on a string. Then, in a very calm and slow voice, he said, "What gold sand, Draco?"
Draco nodded sagely. It must be that days alone in the desolated place had caused his poor sidekick to go a bit batty. Not that Draco blamed him; he wouldn't like to be alone like that either. He wouldn't like having nobody to talk to, nobody to be his friend.
He brushed his bangs out of his eyes and casually waved his hand through the air. It was all trivial, anyway. He pulled out his wand and pointed it at the sand. "Renasutario Revellio." The tip of his wand glowed and he circled it through the air in ever tightening circles repeating the incantation.
Out of the sand, grain by grain, emerged a door. The texture was rough, of the same golden color as that special zone of sand, and stood about six feet tall. CatBoy leaned forward, studying the shiny, chrome knob, and licked his lips.
"How did you…?" He turned to Draco before he finished his sentence, a look of shock and something completely unfamiliar on his face, so Draco felt caught up, his words stolen away like precious jewels. He watched as, in his shock, CatBoy leaned forward and pressed his lips to Draco's. It was brief, but sublime, and again, Draco's words were secreted away by some thief, and the thief stood directly before him.
"Thank you, Draco," Harry said, his voice gentle, a soft rumble humming from his chest beautifully harmonizing with the bells. "Thank you."
It was beyond Harry how Draco knew how to get them out of the endless dunes. Maybe it was something to do with his special brand of crazy. Maybe Lucius the doll had whispered the answer. Maybe Draco had special knowledge from his Young Death Eater days. Harry didn't care; Draco had saved him.
He was no longer alone.
They crossed through the door and walked straight into the Potions classroom. Where Hermione and Snape were doing unmentionable things, with Peeves overlooking the entire scene.
They were laughing.
Overwhelmed by the shock of it, Harry sneezed, and with that, announced his presence to the two unnaturally friendly people.
"Harry," Hermione said, her smile stiffening, her hands rising to cover her mouth, as if smiling and laughing were something to be shameful about.
Well, with Snape, maybe they were.
"So it was your friend who set off the trap. Ha. Told you he'd fine us out," said something from the vicinity of her mouth. "He's not as much of an idiot as you think he is."
"Hey!" said Harry.
Hermione looked apologetic. "Oh Harry, I don't think you're an idiot, it's just that my hand..."
"Don't blame it on me," said Hermione's left hand.
"Do shut up, all of you." Everyone grew silent and looked at Snape. Peeves blinked at them all. "You have shown up at an inopportune time, Draco. Please return to the common room and leave me be." He turned his back on them and began organizing a cauldron and some glass vials. The glass rattled against each other as the blind man poured one into the other, brushed his hand across the hard surface of the table, moved a bunch of dried lilies from one side of the cauldron to the other.
"Sir," said Draco after he'd bent his ear to the creepy doll in the crook of his arm. "Are you … fiddling?"
Snape spun around, his unseeing eyes staring blankly out into space. "Draco, are you talking to your doll again?"
"Lucius is not a doll. I've explained that to you before."
"Draco, take your doll and your sidekick and leave. I've important business to attend to." Snape turned his back on them all again. Hermione, attempting to be inconsequential, stood to the side, focusing with quiet determination on the dried up corpses of the once delicate lilies, and pressing her palms together to the muffled annoyance of her left hand.
Then, something clicked and Harry understood one important piece of the puzzle. "It's you, isn't it? You are somehow responsible for—" Harry looked down at himself, his fur, his tail, the fact that he only wore a pair of pants and was allergic to himself, "—this man-made monstrosity."
Hermione's eyes zeroed in on him, surveyed him from toe to tip of his flicking ear with increasing signs of guilt revealing themselves. "Oh, Harry. I'm so sorry," she said, dropping her hands to her sides. Snape sighed and Peeves began a nervous cackle.
"Why?" Harry said. "How?"
"It was a mistake…" Hermione began, but then her left hand finished, "Which we believe we are on the road to remedying." Hermione gave up trying to silence her other mouth and so stretched open her hand, revealing the lips and single, gummy eye. Harry looked away.
Draco stood completely silent, staring in shock between Hermione and Snape, then over to Harry with a kind of pained look of constipation.
Snape turned towards the table and pulled a dried lily onto a cutting board and sliced down the center of the long stem, the sound carving away into the heavy silence.
Finally, Draco seemed to have collected his scattered wits. "Good job, CatBoy. It appears you've cracked the case of the evil Mastermind." His voice held a cauldron worth of betrayal as he watched Snape's delicate dissection of the flower. "Lucius warned me… Warned me not to trust you." The slicing faltered, but picked up its methodic pace. Hermione sniffed, but this time even her left hand didn't comment. Harry took a step closer to Draco and offered his own thoughtless mumbles of sympathy.
"I'm sure that they didn't mean it," Harry said.
"You're right!" Hermione jumped on Harry's words. "It was an accident. We were just studying Alvon's Theory of Muggle Magic and the Dirgoon Law of Enhancement and well," she suddenly looked down at her left hand that only blinked up at her, "it kind of went wrong."
Snape snorted, but continued his preparations.
"So, what are you doing now? Can you fix it?" Harry asked, rubbing his hands up and down his furred arms, his tail gently wrapped around Draco's leg.
Draco frowned at Snape's back. "So, this entire time you've been hermitting yourself away in this classroom, with Granger, trying to fix this." The slicing stopped. "And you never requested my assistance?" Draco leaned down for a moment to listen to his doll, his frown deepened.
"Draco, you are not in control of your full senses, or I certainly would have appreciated your assistance."
"And, Hermione does have two brains now," Harry said, trying to be helpful. Draco only glared at him. "Fine," Harry continued. "Snape, we're going to help. Draco's a hero you know, he'll figure this out."
Surprisingly, Draco only pouted. "What is it?" Harry asked.
Draco muttered something completely incoherent. Harry leaned forward and perked his ears. "I couldn't hear you."
"You figured it out before I did," Draco said in a sad, petulant tone.
Harry paused, then thought, "screw it," and wrapped his arms around Draco; a small, female gasp came from behind. "But you saved me, remember? You are my hero."
Draco looked up at Harry, his face dawning with a bit of joy. Harry's heart thundered. Then Draco glanced down at his doll. "Yes, Lucius. I realize he's squishing you, but really, can't you think about my enjoyment for once?" His gaze returned to Harry, those grey eyes shaded by thick eyelashes enhanced by the black eyeliner. "And CatBoy, don't forget, since I saved you, you're now legally mine." And this time, he leaned in and kissed Harry, and this time it was a squeal that heralded their action.
"So, Peeves is Snape's eyes?" CatBoy asked Hermione with a chuckle, and fell to silence at Peeve's mournful whine. Hours had passed and they'd all worked hard on a nasty concoction that Severus wouldn't deign to explain, but it was finally finished.
Snape sighed, then pushed the brown tincture at Draco. "Draco, measure this into these four vials, please."
"Yes, actually my hand figured that out pretty quickly," Hermione answered, leaning against the counter in a very comfortable fashion. Draco harrumphed—having Granger assist instead of himself, insanity!—and began measuring the tincture of lily blossom and cow blood.
CatBoy picked up a full vial and held it up to a candle, rubbing his nose against the fur of his arm in that nasty habit he'd adopted. "So, this is the cure?" Harry asked, his disgust evident by an impressive facial tick of 'eww.'
Draco studied the clarity of the crystal of the last empty vial. "Professor," Draco said. "How could you have made such a devastating mistake?"
Snape stopped his preparations and bracing his hands against the counter, he faced up into the dungeon walls; Peeves stared at Draco, then at Hermione, then returned his gaze to Draco once more. "It's all very embarrassing actually," he admitted.
"Oh, well… I don't think it was…." Hermione tried to explain, but her left hand spoke over her and said, "We made complete bollocks of an experiment that pushed the boundaries of magic and sanity; truly spectacular from an avant-garde perspective. Never seen, never heard of, never done before. All for my advanced placement in a potions position I was interested in. Too bad I wasn't around during the experiment, I would have told them not to mix the plutonium with the Enchantment potions. It all resulted in something quite… volatile. But now we know," it ended cheerfully.
"I hate it when you do that," Hermione said, a furrow between her brows. "I can speak for us."
"But you are trying to eradicate me, I need to get my two cents in before I am no more," said Hermione's left hand. Hermione stared down at the single eye of her hand, appalled.
"Alright then, so what will you be fortifying the potion with?" Draco asked. "Will you be using kryptonite, a distilled cure from mutant DNA? It's not a need for human brains is it? Because, there are still a fair number of Hufflepuffs around." They had to be good for something, and what a noble sacrifice it would be.
Hermione's left hand laughed; CatBoy's expression turned ill and he looked away. "What?" Draco demanded.
Hermione cleared her throat, looked at her hand, which remained silent, and said, "Well, that's all there is to it." She gestured at the vials Draco had been filling.
"Seriously?" He'd thought that a joke. Cow's blood and lilies? It was too easy? It was like using water to destroy invading aliens. Iron to take down fairies. A picture of beautiful, naked women to reduce a ninja master to a bloody nosed simpleton. He felt betrayed and abandoned by the simplicity of the world.
Snape nodded. "Yes, and I think Potter should be the first to try it." Snape's grin exposed enough teeth in a fashion that unnerved even Draco, and CatBoy took a step behind him, his tail whipping against the back of Draco's leg.
"You can't test it on my sidekick!" Draco would protect what was his. He sent a beseeching look to Granger, who was busy arguing quietly with her left hand again.
"What will it do to me if I drink it?" CatBoy asked.
Draco whirled around, eyes wide. "No, you can't drink it." He leaned forward and dropped his voice. "I've been divulged a confidence that Severus Snape might not be on our side, CatBoy."
Lucius praised Draco from the crook of his arm. "Finally, you see reason."
"What if it makes me normal again? I'm tired of being a cat," CatBoy said. "I'm itchy, I have weird urges to chase things, people constantly want to touch me…"
"Oh, so you don’t like that, do you?" Draco said, pulling slightly away. "Being touched?"
Harry's slit eyes rounded, and he quickly shook his head. "People… I don't like people to touch me," he dropped his gaze, "but you, that's… good. I like it when you touch me."
Draco warmed inside, and smiled. "Good, because I enjoy touching my things, and I wouldn't want to be deprived of the simple pleasures in life."
"You still…." CatBoy halted, looked up again, adopted that cute little smiled he had when he suddenly turned shy. "You still would want to touch me… I mean, even after I'm normal again?"
Draco beamed. "Of course. Less fur to get in the way."
"Harry." To Draco's annoyance, CatBoy looked away from him to Granger. "It's definitely safe, even if it doesn't completely work. It won't make anything worse."
"You sure about that, Hermione?" CatBoy asked with a wry grin. "You've recently made one devastating mistake…"
She laughed. "Yes," she gazed at Snape, "and learned a lot in the process." With a swallow, she returned her attention to CatBoy. "It's safe. I'll take it first if you want." She held out her complaining left hand for a vial, but CatBoy, his debonair sidekick, shook his head and lifted up the potion.
"I'll go first. I'm ready for normality again." And in one swallow, he downed the potion.
The line wrapped around the great hall in a giant spiral as everyone waited for their dose of remedy to the maelstrom's mutations. Eager conversations filled the hall as those still cursed longingly watched those before them suddenly be cured. Hermione and Professor Snape had turned their focus on the next step, that to fix the weather and grounds of the blast zone of their massive mistake, and were cloistered away in the Potions classroom working closely together.
Madam Pomfrey handed out vial after vial of a disgusting potion that set every drinker to retching shivers, then delighted cries as whatever malady they'd been toiling under righted itself. Neville, whole and human once again, assisted at her side.
In the dungeons, hidden away in a room of the Slytherin House dorms, sat a hero and a sidekick, flicking through page after page of Muggle comic books.
"I love this one," said Harry, holding out a volume of Batman. "He's my favorite."
"Why?" asked Draco, shifting his head where it rested on Harry's arm to look at him. "He has no magic." On a shelf above the bed sat a little clown doll with a porcelain face. Something about its expression looked displeased.
Harry reached out and brushed his fingers over Draco's hair. Draco hmmed, leaning into the touch. "I know," Harry said. "And that's why I like him. It's all ingenuity. He's smart and inventive."
"And filthy rich," Draco said with a grin. "Money can buy you anything. Even super powers."
"Well," Harry said, drawing the word out as he leaned over Draco. "I'm just glad we had brainiacs to get us out of this mess."
Draco pretended to ponder Harry's words as he watched the rise and fall of his lips as he spoke. "However, it was those very same brainiacs that got us into the mess in the first place."
"But without that mess, where would we be now?" Harry said with a purr, and a leer, and an inch of progress closer to Draco's lips.
"Don't worry, CatBoy," Draco said. "I would have found you eventually, you are mine after all." And Draco closed the distance and kissed his sidekick breathless.
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