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An Unexpected Friend

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He came to at the feeling of hands resting on his fur and instinctively tried to scramble away from them, whining when pain flared up at his sudden movement.

"It's all right, you are safe," a young female voice made him pause, confused to its presence.

Why would there be a girl in his cell and not Dementors or guards to torment him?

He panicked as he realised he was still in his dog form, having been so careful to always sleep with one eye open so he could change back when footsteps came to his corner. But he hadn't heard anything this time.

He tried to scramble backwards once more, now his last defence against the Dementors had been revealed and they would surely make him pay for it.

"Shhh, it's all right. I'm not going to hurt you," the voice said again, a hand coming to rest on his muzzle, slowly brushing over his head in a calming way when he flinched.

Not hurt?

The only reason anyone ever came into his cell was to hurt him, often not even bothering to pretend to ask questions any more before they drew their wands to torment him. Even those damn rats only ever entered to either try to steal what little food he received or to bite him.

Why would she claim not to harm him when that is all anyone ever did?

He gave a low whine, but halted his fight when the soft hands began to brush through his fur slowly, vaguely reminding him of other soft hands, larger but just as soft, that had run through his fur like this a long time ago.

The familiarity gave a painful tug at his heart, but it wasn't until it was accompanied by the memory of a laugh, not the high one of the female whose hands he was reminded of, but a deeper male one, that his heart clenched painfully.

James.

As the blurry image of warm brown eyes and a gentle smile entered his mind he choked and immediately quashed it down, despite wanting nothing more than to grip it with both of his paws and cling to it.

He couldn't feel the suffocating presence of the Dementors yet, but he knew that if he allowed even one comforting thought to enter his mind, it would draw them to him as it always did.

"Just relax, the Dementors can't come here. You are safe, they can't harm you any more," the female voice tried to reassure him as he cowered in the corner and he tried to focus on what she was saying.

Not coming? Dementors could come everywhere, why wouldn't they be able to come into his cell? They might have started to back off a little since he regained enough strength to change like this, but they still never left him completely alone.

"Come out of the corner, I promise that no harm will come to you here," her voice was soft and to his confusion he realised that he couldn't detect a lie in it.

Had the guards created an illusion?

It didn't smell like one and he could always tell, no matter what they tried to use to get him off guard.

Curiosity won over his fear and he slowly raised his head to see who was speaking.

Pandora... no...The young face before him held many similarities to his old friend's face, but it clearly wasn't her and he wondered who she was.

'Siri, I'd like you to meet my daughter,' the words were accompanied by an image of a proud young mother with long dirty blond hair, holding out a baby to him.

Was this her daughter?

Confused he stared at her, not sure what Pandora's daughter would be doing in Azkaban with him. What could a teenager possibly have done to be locked up with the likes of him?

Or why she even appeared to be a teenager when the last time he'd seen her she'd been a baby, but his mind immediately provided him with that answer and he remembered years had passed while he'd been locked up.

And the little girl he remembered had grown up, just like his precious pup had done while he wasn't there.

"Hello, would you like some water?"

The girl smiled warmly as he looked at her, pulling a bowl closer.

"I found you after Professor Dumbledore chased the Dementors from the terrain and brought you to the castle to treat your wounds. I think you were surrounded by them before you got hurt by the Whomping Willow," she explained when he looked around confused, ignoring the bowl of water despite his thirst as he tried to figure out why he'd be at Hogwarts instead of Azkaban.

Why...Harry!

He tensed as he remembered seeing that rat's photo in the Prophet and escaping because he was the only one aware of the danger his godson was in. He'd come to Hogwarts because that's where the traitor was, where his pup was. He remembered working with Peeves and the House-elves to try and find Peter, remembered the burning need to find that traitor and protect his godson.

He shifted, intent on getting out of this new prison, but he collapsed on the first step now that fear wasn't driving him, pain making itself known as it flared all through his battered body.

"You shouldn't try to move if you don't have to," she came closer and placed a hand on his neck, resting it there but seemingly knowing not to grab him. "It was really scary when those Dementors appeared out of nowhere, but no one got hurt. Professor Dumbledore slowed Harry's descent down and brought him to the hospital wing. He's fine, though, already back to class."

Sensing no lie in her words, he deflated in relief at knowing his godson was safe and let her coax him out of the corner with her supporting his steps.

Once he was out of the corner, she guided him into a lying position on a blanket and he sniffed the water warily as she pushed a bowl underneath his head.

She might not lie to him, but that didn't mean he was naive enough to believe she'd not do anything to the water, no matter whose daughter she was.

He had learned the hard way that no one could be trusted. It wouldn't be the first time they'd tried to poison him through what little food or water he received and he'd learned not to eat anything at sight, no matter how much his weak body demanded it.

"Here," she cupped her hand full with water and brought it to her lips, drinking it without hesitation. "It's safe, I promise."

He was surprised that she seemed neither offended nor surprised that he didn't just drink the water, instead showing him it was safe and with his heart hammering in his throat, he took a small lick from it.

"See?" she smiled warmly as he began lapping up as much of the water as he could, overwhelming thirst taking over his instincts to be cautious when he deemed it indeed safe.

Whining when she pushed him away from the bowl after a few moments, he tried to reach it again, still thirsty.

"I know you are thirsty, but you look like you haven't had much of any substance in you for a long time and I don't want you to get sick. Let this settle in for a bit before we get you more, all right."

Seeing the logic in her words, he forced himself to keep still and not reach for the bowl again, suddenly sneezing when long blond hair tickled his nose.

Becoming aware that he was leaning against her, he shifted away from her, unable to keep in a pained whine as the movement jolted his injuries.

"Shhh, don't move. I've healed your wounds as best as I could, but you took quite a beating from that tree," she stopped his movements by placing a hand on his neck again, lowering his head down onto her lap.

Unintentionally he reached out and licked her hand when it strayed over his nose, making her laugh as he relaxed against her, eyes closing as dizziness made itself known.

"Don't worry, Padfoot, I'll keep you safe for now," he heard her promise him as she carefully caressed his fur again as exhaustion pulled him under again.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

He wasn't sure how much time had passed, but when he next came to, the girl was gone and he was resting on a thick blanket, feeling much better and his mind not muffled any more.

The bowl of water had been placed far enough away that he'd not upset it in his sleep, but was still easy to reach and he lapped up a few mouthful of water, mindful of what the girl had helped him remember.

His immediate thirst quelled, he turned his attention to the delicious smelling food displayed next to the bowl of water and was surprised to see a small portion of cooked unseasoned chicken.

Sniffing it carefully, he made quick work of eating it, whining lowly and butting the bowl with his nose when it was empty.

Taking a few wobbly steps, he looked around, still unable to identify the room he was in but feeling safe enough for the moment. The room was cast in semi darkness and he was able to determine it was somewhere halfway into the morning by the tiny bit of sunlight coming in through the small window, far out of his reach.

Aware he'd not be able to leave yet as most of his body still hurt too much to manoeuvre his way there, he lay back down and took an inventory of his injuries.

His flank was slightly painful and wrapped in thick bandages, telling him he'd probably lightly bruised a few ribs and from the way it gave a painful tug to stretch his left hind leg he knew he'd hurt it in some way, though it didn't feel broken as he'd been able to walk on it mostly painlessly.

He decided it was most likely just bruised and the bandages covering it were probably in support as he couldn't detect the lingering smell of blood there. There were several small cuts littering his skin, mostly hidden by his matted fur and he dismissed those as unimportant as they were treated and didn't hurt at all.

Injuries assessed, he rested his head on his paws as he tried to remember what had happened.

He knew he'd gone after Harry's broom when he'd been sure the boy was safe, trying to catch it before it would become lost.

He hadn't expected the Dementors to focus on him when there were so many happy emotions nearby, but they had singled him out and driven him further away from the crowds.

He remembered thinking he'd been done for, but then something had rammed into his side and his vision had blurred as pain flared and he knew nothing more.

Apparently the girl, Luna, his memory provided him with her name, had either chased them off somehow or...no...she had said that she had found him after Dumbledore had chased the Dementors away and that Harry was fine.

His heart clenched as he remembered the sight of his godson plummeting to his death, clearly unconscious and he'd almost broken cover from the empty top row of seats he'd just begun to descent, to try and catch the child when no one else made any move to do so.

But then Dumbledore had finally acted and his nose had told him Harry wasn't injured when he saw him being placed upon a stretcher.

Knowing he was unable to do anything for the boy he loved so much, he decided to go after the broom that was still being thrown further into the storm.

He briefly wondered if the broom was lost or if others had found it and made a mental note to ask the cat he'd befriended about it when he got out of here.

"Padfoot?"

Looking up at the by now familiar voice, he couldn't stop his tail from wiggling a little at the sight of the petite blond carrying a new bowl of water and a package that his nose told him held more food.

"I'm sorry, I hadn't really expected you to be awake yet or I'd have tried to come sooner," she explained, kneeling down before him and opening the napkin to reveal what his nose had already alerted him about.

"I thought you might like some cooked salmon. I've always been told fish is good for the heart and an excellent source of protein," she pulled the empty bowl closer and placed the salmon into it. "I see you've found the chicken I brought this morning."

She smiled and brushed a hand over his head as he butted against her, eager to get to the bowl while at the same time thanking her.

Her words told him more time had passed than he'd assumed and a brief glance at the shadows on the wall told him it was near dinner time, making him hesitate to dive in.

Had the girl eaten yet, he wondered as he looked up to her and gave a low questioning whine.

As he'd half expected, she seemed to understand his intentions as she shook her head.

"It's all yours. I had dinner early so I wouldn't have to leave again until its near curfew."

Accepting her words as truth he dug into the bowl, too hungry to try and salvage the taste of the food but slowly enough that she'd not pull him from the bowl again.

"You finally look a lot more alert than when you first arrived."

Confused, he looked up to her, licking his muzzle clean from any pieces of salmon that might have been left.

"You've been here for fifteen days now," she explained and he startled at the information. "Eight days ago you were awake for a bit and panicked upon seeing me, but after that you were mostly out of it again as fever took hold once more. I brought fresh food every evening and morning, but you were never truly aware enough to take more than a little water and a tiny bite to eat. You were still asleep when I arrived this morning, but looked much better so I let you sleep."

Accepting the explanation, he butted his head against her arm, trying to convoy his gratitude that she'd taken care of him and from the way her smile grew warmer, he knew he'd succeeded.

"You'll probably be happy to learn that the Dementors haven't been on the terrain since the match," she glanced at the small window. "I came across Harry in the hallways this morning, perfectly fine, although his broom was destroyed."

He gave a low whine at learning the broom had been destroyed after all, while at the same time relieved his godson was safe.

He lowered himself onto the blanket again at her side, allowing her to pet his fur.

"He seemed rather sad about it," she nodded, understanding his whine perfectly. "But I'm just happy you are getting better."

She brushed a hand over his ear, petting him for a while before she shifted to his side. "May I look at your injuries to see how they are healing?"

Rising to his paws again, he tried to stand still so she could have full access, only faltering slightly when she touched his rear paw.

"I'm sorry," she apologised, running her wand over the injured limb. "It is probably stiff after not using it for so long. When you get moving again it'll become less painful."

Licking her hand in appreciation he curled up on the blanket again when she was done, still tired despite all he'd apparently slept the last few days.

"I should go before I'm out after curfew and you should rest some more. I'll come back tomorrow morning with more food," she ran a hand over his head again before rising to her feet and he looked up, giving a low bark in response to her words.

She smiled again, taking the bark the way he had intended it and nodded. "See you tomorrow, Padfoot."

It wasn't until she had left that it registered with him just what she had called him, and not for the first time either.

Confused and a little wary he tensed, ready to bolt before she could get Dumbledore. But even as he rose to his paws and made his way to the window, his heart rate already calmed down again.

He didn't even need his nose to catch a sniff of fresh snow to fend off the briefly rising panic.

If he'd truly been there as long as she'd said, and he had sensed no lie in her words, then she had all the time in the world to turn him in.

But for some reason she hadn't, he quickly dismissed the thought of her just having guessed his name before it could even take hold.

If she had indeed inherited her mother's abilities like he suspected, then she was most likely able to see things others couldn't and had put things together from the sight of him.

Nonetheless, he lingered below the window for a long moment before returning to the warm blanket.

If she had wanted to harm him or turn him in, she would have done something when he was unwell and not wait until he was healed.

Lying back down, he dismissed any lingering concern present in his mind about her motives as he instead thought back on what she had unintentionally revealed about Harry.

Or maybe not so unintentionally, he mused as it was only his godson she had specifically mentioned and now that the joy of learning his pup was indeed all right settled, he began to muse about the destroyed broom.

Having seen firsthand how much the teenager enjoyed flying and how good he was at Quidditch; he knew Harry was probably devastated about the loss of his broom.

And knowing the teen could probably get a new broom through McGonagall, he wondered if perhaps he couldn't get him a new one instead.

He'd heard students discuss a new broom that had come onto the market that summer, a Firebolt if he remembered correctly.

'Padfoot?'

Looking up sharply he immediately became aware of the more familiar smell of the ginger cat he'd befriended as the animal jumped down from the window.

'Crook,' he still wasn't sure what the animal's full name was as the other had been unable to communicate it to him properly, but the cat didn't seem to mind that he called him that.

'Worried, empty meeting place, many days, all right?'

'Hurt, hiding, pain, Girl caring,' he made sure to project a clear image of Luna in his thoughts for the cat to catch and knew he'd succeeded as the ginger animal moved closer without confusion.

'Nice?'

'Kind, knows Padfoot, hides, safe," he shifted on the blanket so that Crook could sit beside him on the warm piece of fabric.

'For now, Pup sad, no hurt,' the cat informed him as he walked around him, staring at his bandaged limbs as if to assess his injuries for himself. 'Loud Mouth, two-skin rat, protect.'

Giving a low whine, Padfoot lowered his head. 'Two-skin die!'

'Try, try, try, Loud Mouth hurt Crook, try again, Pup push Crook away, Wild Hair upset,' Crook seemed annoyed as he finally curled up beside him, licking at his hind-paw. 'Magic?'

'Heal magic, Girl- Kind Girl,' he chose a name to define Luna, aware that most actual names didn't mean much to animals and how difficult it had been to communicate his own Animagus name to the cat. 'Thank you, try.'

'Two-skin die, Crook help Padfoot, Cold worried.”

“Cold lost Padfoot?’ He hadn’t thought about Peeves and wondered if the Poltergeist even knew where he was.

‘Cold knows, Magic keeps away, Crook tell Cold Padfoot safe,’ intelligent eyes stared at him even as he felt relief at knowing Peeves knew he was all right. ‘Padfoot lost?'

'Thoughts, Pup upset,' he paused as he thought on how to describe a broom, settling on an image of it to see if he got it right. 'Sweeping Brush broke?'

'Yes. Sweeping Brush, many pieces, Pup upset,' orange eyes turned his way as he hesitated. 'Padfoot sad?'

'New Sweeping Brush, buy, Pup no upset,' he sighed mentally, a low whine coming out as he rested his head on his paws again, aware he was unable to get one for Harry.

'Padfoot no buy, Men hurt Human Padfoot," Crook's long tail brushed over his flank as if to prove his point.

'Aware, Padfoot sad, Pup sad."

"Crook go. Human Padfoot, Crook note, Crook deliver, Bird Home, New Sweeping Brush, Pup happy, Padfoot happier,' the cats suggestion made him cock his head at him.

'Crook no bird, no...Messenger,' from the confusion on the other's thoughts Padfoot knew he'd not gotten that last message across. 'Bird, Message Bringer, cat no Message Bringer.'

'For Padfoot Pup, Crook will,' a longer ginger tail flicked against his muzzle. 'Just once.'

If he could have smiled he would have, but as he couldn't he settled on softly butting his nose into Crook's chest. 'Thank you.'

'Crook tell Cold, bring note, Human Padfoot mark note, Crook leave, Padfoot wait here,' the cat rose on his paws and with a last glance, easily made his way up to the window.

After watching the cat disappear through it, he lay back down again, thankful for the kind friend he'd made and happy he'd get to do this small thing for his godson thanks to the furry animal.

Closing his eyes again, he curled up to await Crook's return and with that worry out of his mind, he began plotting how to get his hands on the darn traitor if his godson's friends were protecting the rat.

If only he could get his paws on the password, then he'd be able to pass the portrait of the idiot Crook said was currently guarding Gryffindor Tower instead of the Fat Lady.

A pang of guilt flashed through him at what he'd done to her, even when she'd been the one to tell him to do so.

He'd been completely surprised when she told him to slash her painting when she couldn't let him in, accepting her and Peeves' logic that if she was damaged another would take her place as she could fake being terrified of him returning.

They counted on it being an idiot who'd take her place as most portraits would fear going through the same fate.

And they'd been right as Sir Cadogan was a complete idiot and the only one brave enough to take her place after his 'assault', the other paintings clearly horrified by the damage he'd inflicted upon her, even though he'd taken care to slash her painting in such a way that she could easily be restored with little effort.

But it would all be for nothing if he couldn't get his hands on the password, something Crook failed at because the darn fool of a portrait kept changing them multiple times a day, making it impossible to communicate the correct password between them before it had changed again.

Xxxxxx

"I'm glad you got back to your feet before I had to leave for home. Daddy would have been very upset if I'd cancelled at the last moment," Luna clapped in delight as he walked around the room confidently, only a light discomfort in his leg left.

A full week had passed before he'd fully recovered and it was now the day before the holidays started, the day before his kind caretaker was returning home for Christmas.

Crook stared at them from the windowsill, having kept him company as much as he could after returning from delivering his order for a Firebolt at the Owl Office, returning with an order confirmation that promised the order would be delivered in time for Christmas as he'd hoped.

He was sure that the broom would be confiscated by McGonagall and checked for any kind of spell or tampering, but that was what he hoped for as he knew his old Charms Professor Flitwick would ensure the broom was indeed safe for his godson.

'Padfoot free?'

'Think so,' he turned to his human companion for confirmation.

"It looks like your friend is eager for you to leave with him," Luna smiled beginning to rise from where she was kneeling and he butted his head into her shoulder in thanks.

She laughed, wrapping her arms around his neck to keep her balance.

Hesitating for only a moment, he stepped closer, turning it into a semi hug to properly thank her for all she'd done.

It wasn't the same as a real hug between two humans, but it was as comforting as Peeves’ embraces and he relished in the friendly touch until she pulled away again.

"You're welcome," she smiled warmly as she once more understood his meaning, rising to her feet and stepping back to open the door.

"It is just after dawn and most of the students are still asleep so this is the best time to leave," she explained as Crook jumped down gracefully and joined him as they followed Luna as she indicated the way.

Within minutes she had brought them to a side entrance that led to the Quidditch Pitch without them running into anyone.

"Take care and I hope I will see you again someday," she smiled again and with a low bark he greeted her, before following Crook out of the castle, too thankful to be free again to care that there was snow covering the grounds.

Running towards the Forbidden Forest, he paused at the tree-line and turned to see Luna waving at them.

Vowing to himself that he would properly thank her for taking care of him one day, he waggled his tail happily, aware that she could still see him and would understand his last thanks, before disappearing after Crook into the dark Forest.