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[a/n: Sorry for the long wait. School is really bearing down hard right now, my mom was really sick, blah blah blah. To make up for it, I’m going to sit here and write as many chapters as I can so I can upload them ASAP for you! Please enjoy.]

Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter, but I do own this little ticket that tells me I can get Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at midnight on July 16th. *hugs the ticket* This thing is the key to all happiness, yes, yes it is…

Chapter 22: Hiding Out Holiday


Using the small amount of light at the tip of her wand, Claire looked down at her watch. Half-past two. She hopped out of bed just as Aquinas flew in through the doorway.

“Ready?” he whispered.

“Just a second,” Claire said, taking out a piece of parchment and a quill. Dipping the tip into a bottle of ink on the dresser, she scribbled a note to one of her roommates:

Ginny—I hope you have a very nice break! I just wanted to let you know I had a change of plans and will be going home for the holidays. Could you tell McGonagall for me? See you in the new year! ~Claire~

Aquinas landed on her shoulder and skimmed the note.

“That oughta do it,” he said with a nod. “Hurry, grab your things. We need to be heading out of here before anyone wakes up to catch the train.”

Claire threw her cloak about her shoulders and wrapped a thick scarf around her neck. Throwing a small bag with some clothes over her shoulder, she followed Aquinas down the staircase, through the common room, and out the portrait hole into a dark and silent corridor.

Luckily, they met no one as the traveled down several floors and to the large oak doors leading out to the grounds. Claire tugged one door open and Aquinas soared out into the night. She was about to follow, but she couldn’t help but take one last look back at the castle so appropriately decorated for the season.

“Merry Christmas, Hogwarts,” she said. She stepped onto the steps and the oak door swung shut mutely behind her.

Girl and bird made their way across the sloping lawns in the snow. Claire drew her cloak tighter around her. It was going to be a long two weeks, especially if she only had Aquinas to talk to. She wasn’t terribly distraught over this; she needed to get some answers from her small, feathery well of information.

The forest was looming nearer and nearer. Claire could see a small lantern alight in Hagrid’s small, wooden house. At least she would have some form of entertainment during her time there—it would be interesting to watch Hagrid tending to the grounds.

“This way,” Aquinas called back to her. He swooped into the branches of a giant fir tree as Claire marched into the forest. On the ground in the middle of a clearing was a package Aquinas had swiped from Hogsmeade. It contained a small tent just big enough to keep Claire from getting frostbite.

“Start putting that together,” Aquinas said, snapping the branch he was sitting on off the tree trunk. “I’m going to go cover up your tracks.”

“Alright,” Claire said obediently, untying the string holding the rough brown paper around the package. Successfully undoing the knot, Claire ripped off the remainder of the paper and went to go set the trash next to a nearby tree.

That was when she saw Buckbeak.

The Hippogriff was snoozing lazily about a hundred yards off in gamekeeper’s back garden. She could just barely make out the black color of his coat, and the fluffy white feathers of his wings. Hagrid seemed to have conjured a small fire to keep him warm as he dozed in his bed made of fresh snow. Claire wondered if he was enjoying the peaceful sleep as much as he should have been, for in a few months time this creature would start a chase that would last two long years while a wrongfully accused fugitive road upon his back…

Claire edged along the trees until only a mighty oak and a snowdrift stood between her and the bizarre creature. She smiled through the low hanging, frost-covered branches. Hagrid was right; if you looked at it properly, it was easy to see the Hippogriff's true beauty.

While trying to position herself were she could get a better look at the supposed “beast,” a twig snapped beneath her foot, making Claire wince. Buckbeak’s neck rose upright into the air, curious as to what in the forest would dare be disturbing his evening rest.

Claire looked around at Hagrid’s hut. She could see a large, patchwork quilt moving slowly up and down to the rhythmic breathing of the body it was keeping warm on this wintry evening. The gamekeeper was sound asleep.

She stepped out from behind the tree, taking two cautious steps forward before stopping. For a moment, the pair did nothing but stare at each other. Then, gazing into Buckbeak’s fiery orange eyes, Claire lowered herself into an elegant bow.

Hardly breathing, Claire watched as the creature lowered its feathery neck into the snow.

Calmly, she moved forward, dusting the snow bank lightly out of the way of Hagrid’s garden gate. She vaulted it gracefully, and stopped just short of Buckbeak, the hem of her cloak flowing lightly over the snow glittering underneath the twinkling stars.

“Hello, Buckbeak,” she said, patting his beak kindly.

He blinked at her, sleep in his eyes still from waking but a minute before. Then he opened his beak wide in a yawn, laying his head back down in the snowdrift he’d been using as a pillow. His eyes began to close lazily into another quiet slumber, but as if coming to his senses, he allowed one eyelid to droop but the other he kept wide open, a large fiery eyeball staring directly at Claire.

She stroked his feathers lovingly, saying, “Don’t trust me, huh? I’m sorry. Very, sorry that you had to be locked up like this. But don’t you worry, you’ll be free soon.”

Claire could have sworn that Buckbeak’s eye rolled as if to say, “Yeah right.” She chuckled.

“You and Aquinas would get along nicely, I think,” she said, dusting some snow off of one of his wings. Spotting the chain around his neck, she sighed, “I wish I could take you flying…”

Speaking of flying, she thought as she heard an owl swoop overhead. She sighed up at it, knowing that she’d better get back to her hiding place before Aquinas found her missing.

“Well, I best be going, Buckbeak,” she muttered. “That bird might be small, but he’s got a temper that could shatter windows if provoked properly.”

She stood to go, but as she did so she noticed that the fire Buckbeak was seated by was nothing but smoldering ash. Reaching into her robes, she retrieved her wand and pointed it at the glowing embers.

“Ignito!” she muttered as two orange flames shot out of the tip of her wand with two small pops. Moments later, a small fire was crackling gently by her feet and Buckbeak was sound asleep.

“Sweet dreams, Buckbeak,” Claire whispered, blowing him a kiss. She was just clambering over the gate when she heard Aquinas crash land into his fir tree.


Aquinas’s eyes blinked open to some fresh morning sunlight. Apparently, the light reflecting off the fresh, glittery snow was a bit much for his eyes, seeing as Claire heard a loud “GAH!” and something small and feathery fall into a snow bank.

“Nice to see you finally up, sleepyhead!” Claire said cheerfully, plucking him out of the snow by his tail.

“Put me down! Put me down!” Aquinas squealed, squirming free.

“C’mon, Scrooge, cheer up!” Claire continued, munching on a home-made snow cone. “It is Christmas after all!”

“It is not!” Aquinas argued, hopping over to the fire in attempt to gain more warmth. “Not for three more days! And until then, it’s just winter and cold—which I hate. And—AH, IT’S GOT ME! IT’S GOT ME!”

Claire spun around and cocked an eyebrow at the scene. Aquinas had apparently been sitting too close to the fire, because his tail feathers were now slightly on fire and he was hopping around in panicky circles. She rolled her eyes and threw a rather large snowball at him. Aquinas was nowhere to be seen under the ball of fluffy white, but Claire detected a small sizzling noise like a flame being extinguished.

“You’re welcome,” she said to the pile of snow.

“Harry! Slow down!”

Claire turned around and peered around the trunk of the fir tree. Reaching into her cloak, she pulled out her ominoculars and fiddled with the knobs until the person who had shouted became focused. Ron and Hermione were trudging as quickly as the could after Harry, who was practically leaping across the snow in the direction of Hagrid’s hut, which was about fifty yards away from were Claire presently stood.

She sighed and lowered the ominoculars. They were right on cue to find out the bad news about Buckbeak’s trial. If only they knew that everything would work out okay, then that would be one less worry on their chest.

As Claire gazed into the ominoculars once more, she heard a loud sputtering noise behind her as Aquinas emerged gasping from underneath the snow.

“WHY DIDN’T YOU GET—” he began to shout.

“Shut up!” Claire hissed over her shoulder. “Harry and co are heading this way.”

Aquinas shook off his feathers in a dog-like fashion as Claire bent down to dig Prisoner of Azkaban out of her knapsack. The owl surveyed the damage of his singed tail feathers as if it was the end of the world while Claire seated herself comfortably in the snow and turned to the proper page.

An angry fist thumping on a solid wood door was heard, shortly followed by Harry shouting, “Hagrid! Hagrid, are you in there?”

“It took me weeks to get my tail professionally trimmed!” Aquinas was whining loudly. “It’ll never grow back as nicely—”

“Pipe down, I can’t hear,” Claire snapped, as Hagrid began to wail loudly.

“How can you not hear that?!” Aquinas said, plugging his ears so they wouldn’t throb with the sound of Hagrid expressing his sorrow. “Sirius can probably hear it from where he is, which is nowhere close by, mind you—”

Claire heard Hagrid’s cabin door shut as Ron and Hermione helped Harry ease Hagrid back into his hut. She stared in the direction of the wooden cabin, tuning Aquinas out as he continued to complain about his feathers and the inconvenience of hiding out in the winter and so on. A cold wind blew Claire’s long hair all around her as she sat in thoughtful silence. This really wasn’t going to be the trio’s most cheerful Christmas.

“—and as long as you’ve got that book open,” Aquinas was saying, “you might as well check and see if a certain redhead went home for the holidays or not—”

“Already did,” Claire said, flipping the pages casually, still half entranced by her thoughts. “Ginny took the train home this morning, or at least nothing indicates that she’s still here. I imagine she would have tagged along with them or been in the common room this morning at some point if she had stayed.” She tapped the book, indicating that she had already read through the chapter they were in again to make sure that Ginny wasn’t mentioned anywhere in its contents.

“Good,” Aquinas said, still surveying his burnt rear end with a look of disgust on his face. “That’s one less thing we’ll have to worry about.”

And as Claire pressed the ominoculars to her eyes and stared through the trees to where Buckbeak the Hippogriff was playing in the snow, it suddenly hit her what a big job she had. Even though she was trying to change a few things around and save a few lives, she still needed to make sure that those who hadn’t died yet remained alive as long as she was here.

“Yeah,” Claire muttered to herself. “One less thing…”


Much to Claire and Aquinas’s dismay, the week was passing by very slowly. Seeing as so few students had stayed behind this year for the holiday season, the only person they really saw walking along the grounds was Hagrid trudging up to the castle for the occasional meal or chat with Dumbledore. The trio wasn’t outside because they were all in the library trying to help Hagrid out by finding some information for Buckbeak’s trial, and it seemed the temperature kept dropping lower and lower by the hour. It was setting up to be a bleak holiday…

Apart from lolling about in their clearing working on some homework or trying to see how few words she could say to make Aquinas yell at her, Claire had the evenings to look forward to. Although the tent was warm and cozy, Claire much preferred to sit outside underneath the stars next to Buckbeak while he slept quietly next to her. He was very good company, and had even learned to trust her enough that she could cuddle close to his feathers for warmth in the chill of the night. He was like an oversized puppy she wished she could take home with her.

Late on the night of Christmas Eve, Claire was tossing a few wood chips into the fire while Buckbeak rested his head in her lap. She stroked his head lovingly, once again thinking about what a huge job she had and how a lot of pressure was now on her not to mess things up for Harry and his friends. Despite herself, a small tear rolled gracefully down her cheek.

“Frostbite finally got your toes?”

Claire looked up to see Aquinas perched on a crooked fencepost. To her surprise, he didn’t seem angry that she was sitting in Hagrid’s garden, stroking a bird of sorts that was much larger than himself.

“No,” Claire said, drying her cheek with a corner of her cloak. “Just thinking.”

Aquinas nodded, staring into the fire. He seemed to have something to say, but was looking for the right words.

“I tried to check on that other people in the story thing for you a couple hours ago,” Aquinas said finally. “It’s classified information, so naturally they wouldn’t give it to me.”

“That’s fine,” Claire said, resting her head on Buckbeak’s shoulder and gazing into the fire as well. “I was just wondering.”

“And—er—well, do you want me to tell you about your history and everything?” Aquinas asked awkwardly. “Of your character, I mean?”

“Oh,” Claire said. “Sure, why not.”

Aquinas cleared his throat.

“Well, you’re an orphan, as you already know,” Aquinas said matter-of-factly. “You’re parents were a wizard and muggle woman. Both were murdered at the hands of death eaters shortly after the fall of the Dark Lord.”

Claire nodded mutely. After a moment, she asked, “The Gregorys killed them, right? Robin’s mom and dad?”

Aquinas stared at her, shocked that she knew such detailed information.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, they were,” Aquinas said. “How did you know that?”

“Lucky guess,” Claire shrugged. “And that answers my question about other people being in the story, too. I had a feeling that Robin knew a little more than she was letting on…”


They sat in silence for a few minutes before Claire broke the silence once again.

“It’s just hit me what a big responsibility I have, Aquinas,” Claire said, voicing her fears aloud to her friend.

Aquinas snorted.

“Well, you’re only several weeks late in realizing that, but hey, better late than never,” he said with a shrug.

“I’m being serious here, Quin,” she said, her voice shaking with cold. “I’m scared. What if I screw something up and something awful happens to someone who was supposed to be safe?”

Aquinas sighed.

“Well, Claire, you can only do so much,” Aquinas said by means of trying to give some good advice. “Don’t lose any sleep over things that haven’t happened yet. Besides, you have me to help you out, and I promise I’m going to do whatever I can to make things easier for ya, okay?”

Claire was astounded that he was being so pleasant and concerned. She smiled at him weakly.

“Thanks, Aquinas,” she said. “That makes me feel a little bit better.”

“Damn right it should,” Aquinas said, puffing out his chest. “I’m the best in the business!”

She chuckled, motioning for Aquinas to come over and sit with her and Buckbeak. He landed gratefully on her knee and before the fire before them smoldered into a dull ash again, Aquinas was snuggled up in the fold of her cloak fast asleep.

Gently as she could, Claire set Buckbeak’s feathery head back down into the snow and rekindled the fire. Just as she was about to stand up to go back to the tent, a bell chimed somewhere in the village. Midnight. She looked down at the little bird in her lap.

“Merry Christmas, Aquinas,” she whispered.

[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAaaa! *giggles* I thought I’d be nice and end the chapter on a cute note rather than in my usual cliffhanger fashion. Anyway, questions! Will Claire be able to calm down from the sudden realization of her responsibility? Did everything happen as it was supposed to during the holidays up at the school? Will Aquinas’s tail ever be the same again?! *winks* I’ll see you very soon with the next chapter so you can find out…]

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