Chapter 8 : The Meaning of Loyalty
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Chapter 8: The Meaning of Loyalty
“Harry, why don’t you just hang out in the common room for an hour after you wake up, Ron and I could walk down here with you,” Hermione suggested when the two took their places on either side of Harry at the Gryffindor table.
“It’s quieter down here Hermione, I find it peaceful.”
“Just leave it alone Hermione,” Ron managed to say through a mouth food of food. “If he doesn’t want to spend time in the common room it’s his choice.”
“It’s always strange when he makes sense,” Hermione whispered.
“Yes, but he always has a point,” Harry whispered back.
“We have charms first, and then transfiguration, I hear McGonagall is extra harsh on fifth years.”
“All the teachers will be strict, it’s O.W.L. year after all, the only trouble we’ll have is in Defense at the rate Umbridge is teaching.”
Hermione and Harry spent breakfast passing ideas on what to do about their Defense classes if they were all the same as the first one. Ron listened but didn’t really contribute as he stuffed his face full of food.
Charms was easy, they were reviewing the summoning charm, which Harry could do in his sleep, the only trouble he had was remembering to say his spells out loud and use his wand, which was strange after two months without it. After the first time or two he got the hang of it again and made the decision to ‘learn’ silent magic within the next few weeks.
Transfiguration was far more interesting, McGonagall skipped right past the review and they started on the vanishing spell right away, and everyone set to vanishing their snails. Harry would have given anything to just abandon his wand and vanish the snail that way, but he just clamped his jaw and continued on like everyone else. Hermione was the first to get it, her snail disappeared after three attempts, and Harry was only two tries behind her. They were each awarded five points for Gryffindor and allowed to get started on the homework, which was a blessing since there was very little chance they would have time to do it later with all the homework they already had from the day before.
Ron spent lunch complaining about the vanishing spell, no one else had managed to pull it off and so they all had to practice in addition to their homework. Hermione promised that she would help him as much as she could but that didn’t help Ron to calm down, he hadn’t gotten as far with his homework as she and Harry had the night before.
The cry of a rather large bird filled the Hall and everyone looked up at the large hawk that flew through the high window and glided right towards Harry, who stood and held out an arm just as the hawk reached him and perched on the offered limb. Harry didn’t waste any time pulling the small scroll from the bird’s leg and the hawk turned around and took off back out the window and Harry sunk back into his seat to hide from some of the stares.
“That’s… different,” Hermione decided. “Who sends mail at this hour and with a hawk?”
“It’s an old friend; she’s got a bit of a flare for the dramatic... I’ll be right back.”
Harry stood and left the Great Hall, he couldn’t share Sky with his friends and they wouldn’t understand, so it was best that he just not say anything at all. When he was alone Harry unrolled the scroll and looked at the short message:
It’s called a familiar, all mages have them. He’ll know your thoughts and you’ll know his. P.S. you’ll find the infragilis charm very helpful from now on out, just use it on all your clothes. P.P.S. I’ll write again soon.
Harry didn’t understand at all, but once he had read it a few times the note caught fire in his hand and burned to ashes that disappeared before hitting the ground. Right away Harry used the suggested charm on his pants, shirt and robes, he wasn’t sure why yet, but he had the feeling he would understand soon. Ron and Hermione met him at the doors to the Hall, it was time to go to Care of Magical Creatures and so Harry put the note at the back of his mind and focused on class.
“At least it isn’t raining,” Ron mumbled.
It was true, the ground was soggy but the rain had let up and the sun had even broken the cloud cover, bringing a cheerful atmosphere as the fifth year Gryffindors and Slytherins marched down to Hagrid’s cabin. Professor Grubbly-Plank was standing beside a fairly large table that was covered with what looked like twigs, though Harry knew different due to the nervousness the twigs were all giving off. At once Harry tried to sooth them, to reassure them and they calmed but didn’t move.
“Can anyone tell me what I have here?” Professor Grubbly-Plank asked when the class had gathered around.
Hermione’s hand shot into the air and the Slytherins snickered but kept their comments to themselves for now. “Those are bowtruckles; they’re tree sprites and can be found in trees that are good for making wands.”
“Yes, very good Miss Granger. We’ll be studying –” Professor Grubbly-Plank shouted in surprise when a black blur shot onto the table, sending the bowtruckles running for cover before leaping right for Harry, jumping off of a few shoulders along the way and stopping on Harry’s.
The black blur was a little fox like creature, it was only the length of Harry’s forearm and hand, it’s bushy tail included, but it was long and lean, it’s ears oddly long but strangely cute. The fox was all black and Harry could hear it make a noise similar to a cat’s purr as it rubbed against his cheek, it was soft.
Neville and Lavender Brown were complaining and holding their shoulders, the creature had jumped off both of them to reach Harry and both were bleeding now. Professor Grubbly-Plank recovered and took a look at both before sending them to Madam Pomfrey, telling them to pass on the message that they had been clawed by a sky fox. Once the two were gone the little woman approached Harry who now stood alone with the fox on his shoulder.
“Are you alright Mr. Potter?”
“Odd, that is a sky fox, impossibly rare and the fastest creature the wizarding world knows of. Their claws and teeth are the sharpest things we know as well, your shoulder should be bleeding like the others.”
“I use an infragilis charm on all of my clothes these days. He’s a sky fox? What is that?”
“Well he’s the first one I’ve ever seen, but you don’t have to look far to find out about them. As I said, they’re rare and fast, but if one manages to catch one, they are the very definition of loyalty, they’ll stay with the person that caught them and protect them until either they die, or their captor does. I’ve never heard of a sky fox willing attaching itself to someone.” The Professor reached out towards the little fox and it turned on her at once, growling and baring it’s fangs, snapping it’s jaw to keep her away, it’s bushy tail swishing in irritation.
“Professor, the lesson,” Malfoy snapped, clearly annoyed with the attention Harry was receiving.
“Ah yes. Well thanks to our visitor the bowtruckles have run off, they, fortunately, aren’t very fast, so please try and catch as many as you can and bring them back so we can study them, there are thirty.”
Everyone set to searching for the little twig pixies and Harry caught one after another, trying to sooth them as he returned them to the table, though they were all terrified now because of the sky fox that was purring yet again.
Harry tried to keep a little distance between himself and the bowtruckles, he sat just close enough to the one he Ron and Hermione were sketching so that he could be accurate and he tried to sooth it and reassure it but it remained nervous. Hermione was distracted of course, the whole class was, and with good reason thanks to Harry’s new friend. As soon as class was over Hermione took the bowtruckle back to the table where the others were and Harry, unsurprisingly, was asked to stay behind.
“Go ahead,” he told his friends, “I’ll catch up in a minute.”
Professor Grubbly-Plank waited until everyone was gone before turning to Harry, who had his hand up and was mindless rubbing his new friend behind the ears.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to work with any creatures as rare as the one that just crawled onto your shoulder Mr. Potter. Do you have any idea how strange this is?”
“This actually doesn’t surprise me nearly as much as it surprises everyone else. Can you tell me what sky foxes eat?”
“They’re vegetarians so any fruits will do. You should also know that black is an odd color for a sky fox, most of them are white or very light grey, everything about this little fox is strange.”
“Yes, if I can go, I’ve got Herbology and I don’t want to be late.”
“Yes, if you have any questions then please come to me.”
Harry walked off towards the greenhouses, he could barely see the others ahead of him anymore, but that was alright, he didn’t want to catch up to them just yet.
Can you really hear my thoughts? Harry wasn’t trying to communicate really; he just made the thought and waited.
Can hear, can hear!
Harry stopped and looked at the fox on his shoulder, the thought wasn’t his, he was sure of it, but it had just popped into his head. The thought sounded like that of a little boy, it was happy and excited.
Do you have a name?
No name, no name.
Harry thought for a moment, the fox was definitely male, and he needed a name as soon as possible, but he wasn’t sure what that name could be.
“Prongs,” the name just tumbled out of his mouth, it was the nickname his father had once had and Harry wasn’t sure why he said that name, but he had.
You like that do you?
Alright, your name is Prongs now.
Ron and Hermione were waiting at the greenhouse doors for Harry, they were unsure of Prongs still, but they wouldn’t say anything.
“Ron, Hermione, meet Prongs.”
“You named it?”
“Well I get the feeling I’ll be living with him on my shoulder for the rest of my life so I figured he needed a name.”
“I don’t know, but he seems to like it.”
The three walked into class and the whispering stopped at once, it was obvious that Harry and Prongs would be the center of attention for a while, but oddly enough that didn’t bother Harry as much as it should have. Class was easy to Harry, the most difficult part was convincing Prongs to sit on the table while he worked, the sky fox didn’t want to get off and it took a few minutes to try and get him to understand what Harry wanted. The moment class ended Prongs was perched on Harry’s shoulder again and Ron and Hermione walked on either side of him as they headed to the common room to start on their homework before dinner.
“Harry, Prongs has green eyes.”
Harry hadn’t noticed before, but when he looked he saw eyes like his own, deep emerald green and they looked right back at him.
“I hadn’t noticed before, but you’re right.”
“That doesn’t bother you?”
“Prongs has black hair and green eyes, just like you, and you don’t find that odd?”
“No, not really. You finished your Defense paper right? Do you mind if I take a look before I get started on mine?”
“Sure, why are you not at all surprised by this sudden appearance of an impossibly rare creature that won’t leave your side all of a sudden and looks, in an odd way, like you?”
“I’m not surprised by much anymore; it’s easier to just accept things than to question them. And do you really think he looks like me? I didn’t know my nose was that pointy.”
“It’s not! I mean, the eyes and the hair color are the same, and you’re tall and thin and he’s long and thin.”
“Oh,” Harry just shrugged it off.
Several girls squealed in excitement when Harry entered the common room and Ron and Hermione barely got away before he was surrounded by chattering girls all looking at Prongs. One of the girls, a third year, reached out to pet the little fox and he swiped at her, cutting four slashes into her palm and making all the girls step away as he growled and bared his fangs again.
“Prongs!” Harry scolded, causing the fox to shift back and pout. “I’m sorry about that,” Harry said, turning his attention to the girl that was holding her hand and crying. “Let me see.”
The girl blushed scarlet but held out her hand and Harry took a look and swung his bag off his shoulder, he pulled out the cream that Tarragon had given him and he put a small dap on the girl’s palm and rubbed it in, making the scratches vanish.
“There, that did the trick.”
Harry and Prongs were left alone after that, the girl that Prongs had hurt too embarrassed to say anything as her friends whispered to her and guided her away.
“You really shouldn’t do things like that,” Hermione muttered when Harry joined her and Ron.
“Why not? She was hurt and I could fix it, it’s not a big deal.”
“Yes, but if you can’t tell by the look on her face, she just fell in love with you. You’re charming and handsome Harry, doing that sort of thing… well let’s just say the girls will start dropping like flies at your feet.”
“It’s not love Hermione, it’s a crush, and she’ll get over it.”
“Who will get over what?” Ginny asked as she stepped up to the table. “You really should do something about his claws Harry, Prongs is dangerous.”
“I know, I was going to talk to Professor Flitwick after dinner and see if he has any suggestions.”
“Just be careful,” Ginny said, she reached out and scratched behind Prongs’ ears before walking away.
“How come she can pet him?” Ron asked.
“I don’t know, maybe he knows she a friend.”
Harry was able to finish off his Defense paper and start on Charms before dinner and it was good timing, Prongs had started to complain of hunger and Harry’s own stomach was rumbling.
Once both had eaten their fill Harry walked over to the Head table and stood in front of Professor Flitwick.
“Professor, I was wondering if you knew a way to keep Prongs from clawing everything to shreds?”
“Hm, you might want to try the Stolidus charm on his claws; that should do the trick.”
“Thank you Professor.”
“Harry,” Dumbledore called him over just as Harry turned to walk away. “Do you mind if a take a look at your little friend?”
“No, just be careful about his claws.”
Dumbledore reached out to take Prongs and got bitten by the little fox, and though he didn’t seem bothered on the outside, he was definitely hurt by the reaction.
“Prongs,” Harry hissed. He was able to convince the sky fox to let go, but it took a minute and Prongs didn’t seem at all regretful about biting the headmaster. “Are you alright Professor?”
“I’m alright Harry, thank you, you may go.”
Harry retreated back to a waiting Ron and Hermione at once and they returned to the Gryffindor common room for more homework, though Ron went for frequent ‘walks’ to clear his head.
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