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[a/n: *waves merrily* Hey guys, what’s shaking? I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that you liked the last chapter! *dances about in happy circles* I was sure I was going to mess it up—I’m not terribly good at writing things like that—but YAY everyone was happy! ^__^ Sorry this took so long…again again. I’ll be writing faster now, as there are many days off from school in the near future! *shouts at the sky* C’mon, snow!!!

Oh, and I’m gonna write a note to Shade at the beginning of every chapter now, 'cuz she rocks my socks! *laughs to self* Thanks to Lellywen for forwarding her my message, you rock my socks too! *hands the staff a basket of pumpkin pasties* ^.~v]

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor do I own a grow-your-own-warts kit. However, I think the latter would come in useful in scaring all the stupid oafs in my history class, so if anyone is interested in giving me one, please contact me at—*is hit over the head by many a flying object, as people would rather read the chapter then listen to her insanities* Oh FINE, be that way!!

Chapter 13: A Small Step Towards Friendship

“—irresponsible, jumble-brained, kan’t think straight—”

“‘Can’t’ starts with a ‘c’, Quin,” Claire said helpfully, continuing to work on her tenth potion’s essay. She was about halfway through Snape’s mass of homework while Aquinas proceeded to tell her all of her worst traits in alphabetical order.

“That’s beside the point!” hissed the ball of feathers indignantly. “You are really going to make things difficult for yourself if you don’t watch it! What if you had gotten sent to Dumbledore?! You have no idea what you were going to say to him, you could have really—”

“Will you keep it down!” Madam Pince shouted from a shelf not far away from them where she was reorganizing the Encyclopedia of Magical Fungi.

“Look,” Claire whispered to Aquinas, who was perched atop a stack of books with wings folded in an aggravated manner, “I know what I’m going to say to Dumbledore—but if I just virtually destroyed the dungeons and didn’t get sent to him, then what will get me sent there?”

Aquinas rolled his eyes. “Typical,” he muttered. After Claire shot him a furtive glance, he added, “Sure, you destroyed the dungeons and humiliated an authority figure in front of a group of second years—that’s fine and dandy. But you didn’t get caught, did you? And that’s the only way you’re going to be held responsible for your actions and be sent to punishment, correct? Obviously you didn’t realize this apparent fact, and now here we are, going to detention in an hour’s time—”

“Hey Aquinas,” Claire said, interrupting him as she pulled the ink jar he had been leaning on out from underneath his propped up wing to refill her quill, “you never told me where you found our dear friend Padfoot. Where is he?”

As Aquinas righted himself, glowering, he replied, “I plead the fifth.”

“We’re in England, kid. The Constitution doesn’t apply here,” Claire said, poking him.

“Ow! Stop it!” he said, dodging her fingers. “And that doesn’t matter! Your grandmother put me in charge, and I’m thinking that you can’t be trusted with information on—” He looked around to make sure no one was listening, and lowered his voice. “—Sirius’s whereabouts.”

“Aquinas, you could save yourself the trouble of being overheard by just calling him Snuffles,” Claire injected.

“Whatever,” he answered with a wave of impatience. “Nevertheless, I’ll keep the proper tabs on him. It isn’t really necessary for both of us to know where he is, seeing as we’re working as a team. Don’t you agree?”

“No, no I don’t!” Claire said, raising her voice.

“Well I do,” Aquinas said, kicking a spec of dust off the top-most book and sending it floating onto the floor. “So far all you’ve done as soon as you’ve learned something is used the information to do something pointless and stupid. Therefore, keeping track of Sirius will remain solely my responsibility.”

“That’s not fair!” Claire cried, once again being shushed by the stern librarian.

Aquinas shrugged. “I don’t see why it wouldn’t be fair. You saw Snuffles at the quidditch match and went running up to him without a second thought as to how he’d react—although you did take the cat with you, I’ll give you that. But did you bother to check and see if Crookshanks even knew who Snuffles was first? No. See, you need to think of everything you need before you take action!”

“Yeah but—”

“But nothing! It’s not that hard, and besides, you have me to help you now.”

Claire stared at the owl, who was the size of a small softball and currently employing himself in seeing how far he could spin his head around without getting a neck spasm.

“We’re doomed.”

“Ha,” Aquinas said sarcastically.

“So you talk to your animals as well as travel across the imaginary universe, hmm?” said a voice.

The air in Claire’s lungs seemed to come to a stand still as she looked up abruptly to face her inquisitor. She found herself staring into the cold eyes of none other than Robin Gregory. She blinked.

“Can I do something for you, Robin?” Claire asked, returning her attention to her potions essay.

Robin remained still as if she were made of stone, the stack of books in her arm leaning lazily against her hip. A piece of her blonde hair was covering half of her face in an intimidating manor, but Claire was too busy working on her essay to notice.

“Professor Lupin just caught me in the hallway,” Robin inserted into the conversation.

Claire set down her quill and looked up, leaning back in her chair without saying a word. Aquinas remained silent, his eyes darting back and forth between them as if watching a tennis match where an opponent was likely to blow fire and burn down the net in protest.

Robin went on, “He mentioned something about you taking Patronus lessons—” She seated herself across from Claire as if at a business meeting, setting down her books to the side, folding her hands and crossing her legs. Claire remained slouched in her chair, unblinking and rigid. “—along with the infamous Harry Potter.”

Aquinas was flapping his tiny wings to try and get some attention. Claire allowed herself a small smirk, as she was sure Aquinas was simply itching to inject his opinion in the matter of Patronus lessons with the main character of a story they were trying to alter. Annoying him was far too much fun, but getting under Robin’s skin would be at least three times as enjoyable.

“Your point?” Claire inquired.

Robin was very good at keeping a set expression. She picked at a hangnail casually, saying, “He asked if I would like to join you.”

Claire blinked.

“And…you said…?”

Robin looked up startlingly quick, completely forgetting her hangnail. Aquinas actually started a little.

“I don’t really understand why lessons are necessary, let alone with you and Potter.”

Claire sighed.

“Look, Robin, if you want people to understand you—or at least like you—then you have to be willing to take the necessary steps! Not to mention, not only would this help you with your nightmares and fainting, but befriending Harry would certainly look good to all the other Gryffindors,” Claire said, as if it were the most obvious benefit in learning how to summon a protector.

“What do I care what they think?” Robin perused. “If I take the lessons it’s going to be for my benefit, no one else’s considered.”

“Fine then,” Claire said, picking up her quill and returning to her parchment. “Good luck with your decision then. I hope you take everything carefully into account.”

Robin actually looked a little hurt at this sudden change in Claire’s attention, but it didn’t last dreadfully long. She stood from the table, picked up her books, and began walking off without pushing in her chair.

Claire frowned and set down her quill.

“Robin?” she said as quietly as she could, but still Madam Pince threw a fit.

Robin turned around and stared.

“I just wanted to tell you, that if you did—you know, take the lessons…that’d be cool with me,” Claire said, attempting to show Robin a smile. “I’d like to get to know you better, and I think the lessons would help you a lot.”

Robin said nothing, but Claire let herself believe that Robin’s face was slightly more cheerful as she exited the library and Claire returned her attention to her never-ending potions essay.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Claire, are you coming to dinner?” Bethany asked for the third time.

“Wh—?” Claire started. She was sitting in front of the fire, deeply emersed in a copy of Hogwarts, A History. She had decided she was on Hermione’s side on this issue; how could the boys find this book boring?!

Bethany laughed. “I’ll let you read. Do you want me to bring you anything?”

“I’d love you forever!” Claire said, as her stomach gave a particularly loud growl.

Bethany exited the portrait hole and Claire gave a happy sigh. Winter was coming upon the castle—it was one of those things you could feel in the air. If she had been home, perhaps they might even have had a snow day, and she would be curled up next to the fire in her living room with a cup of hot chocolate and a Harry Potter book. She smiled, thinking of how she would have never imagined doing the exact same thing inside the very book she had spent those long hours reading.

Claire managed to read a sentence or two before she realized that someone had seated themselves in the chair next to her.

“Hello,” Harry said.

Claire shut her book and sat up properly in the chair.

“Hi,” she said, hoping she didn’t sound suspicious in any way.

Harry hid a small smile and said, “Er—Professor Lupin talked to me after Defense Against the Dark Arts today. He told me you overheard us talking about Patronus lessons?”

Her stomach slipped a few notches.

“Harry, I’m sorry,” she said, truly meaning it. “I didn’t mean to pry, it’s just…I’ve never passed out before and I really want to learn how—and why—it happened, and maybe a way to fight it.” She stared into the fire. “But your conversation was pretty personal. I didn’t mean to interfere.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Harry insisted, leaning back and also staring into the fire. Claire turned to look at him; he seemed to be lost in his thoughts. “I mean, it’s not like there’s anyone who doesn’t know about my parents. No harm done.”

Claire was trying so hard to suppress her emotions, but Lily and James were like a part of her, too. It saddened her greatly that Harry never knew them, and she probably knew more about their lives than he did.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she sniffed. “Anyway, do you mind if I take lessons also? Lupin said we could take the separately if you want…”

But Harry shook his head. “It might be easier if I have some more people in the room to keep me company,” he said, as if trying to convince himself. “Although, Ron and Hermione were both there the first time it happened…but who knows? Bottom line though, I don’t really mind. Is it okay with you if we take lessons together?”

Claire grinned and nodded. “Robin might be taking lessons, too, though.”

“Who’s Robin?”

“You know, she’s in my year, blonde curly hair, a little taller than me?”

Harry thought for a moment and then his eyes went slightly wide.

“You mean the Slythindor?” he asked.

Claire blinked. “The what?”

“The Slythindor,” Harry continued. “It’s what we call her. Since she’s a Death Eater’s daughter and all, she should be in Slytherin, but she’s in this House instead.”

Claire’s mouth fell open.

“Don’t call her that!” she said, taken aback. “She’s really nice! She just doesn’t have any friends because none of you have ever even tried to talk to her!”

“I don’t recall you being best friends with her either,” Harry replied coolly.

Claire narrowed her eyes slightly. Boy, was he stubborn!

“Well, I’ve seen the error of my ways, and if you’re who I think you are, you’ll see yours too,” she replied, standing up sharply. “I plan on convincing her to take the lessons with us. Why shouldn’t she get help just because of her parents’ mistakes, eh?”

Harry blinked.

“I’m going to dinner,” Claire said, turning on her heel. “See you, Harry.”

She walked right past Bethany, who was carrying a flask of pumpkin juice and a turkey sandwich, on her way out the portrait hole.

“Psst!” she heard just behind her as she walked into the Entrance Hall.

“Claire!” she heard on the opposite side.

She spun around, thinking maybe a picture was trying to catch her eye. But as she did, a Weasley twin stepped out from behind a suit of armor on either side of the staircase. She smiled at them.

“Hi, guys!” she beamed, running over to them. “What’s up?”

The exchanged evil glances.

“We’ve got a plan cooking to get Filchy in a spot of trouble—” Fred began.

“—and we were wondering if you wanted to assist us,” George finished.

“Consider this your job interview,” Fred smiled.

“You do this—” George said.

“—then you can help us with our experiments any time,” Fred ended.

Claire smirked.

“I’m in.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A tiny owl was on the prowl. Dusk was falling. The castle was alight behind him, and the village aglow ahead with thousands of burning torches and candles. The wind had a slight chill to it as it glided under his wings, giving him strength as he flew toward the mountains

A cave was what he was looking for. A small cave with an equally small opening…just big enough for a dog to slip inside…

For ages he searched. Before when Aquinas had seen him, he had been on the outskirts of town, hunting through a garbage bin. That was when the letter came and he had to return to the castle before he could search for the hideout. He huffed. That girl was going to be the death of them all. He didn’t know what Paulette had been thinking, giving such an irresponsible girl such an outrageous birthday present.

Finally, out of the corner of an eye, he spotted a break in the rock. He swooped downward, and landed gratefully on the ground with a slight hop, happy to rest his tired wings. After catching his breath, he hopped carefully inside.

To his great surprise, there was no dog inside this cave.

“Hello, ‘lil guy,” croaked the ragged man.


[a/n: DUN DUN DAAAAAAAAAAaaaa!!! Will Robin finally decide to give Claire a chance?! What exactly do those dastardly delvish twins have cookin’?! And can you be SURE that the ragged man is Sirius?! Well…okay, yeah you can! ^.~ But I’m not saying any more! Sorry for the LARGE amount of dialogue and the COMPLETE lack of action—but it had to be done because…well, you’ll see! *grins evilly as she skips of singing* I know something yoooooooou don’t knoooooooooow!! Nah nah nah nah nah nah…>_

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