Nobody ever asked my birthday

Not a word

Harry was waffling, undecided, between Lord Tom having put these emotions in his head, and the even scarier and yet more reassuring bleedover effect.

Neither was good. Neither was something he wanted.

Why hadn't Occlumancy helped? Maybe he was just using it wrong?

Couldn't ask Snape, and asking Dumbledore involved finding The Great Gray Wizard.*

"Mister Potter, do the clouds say rain?" Minerva McGonagall's voice struck through the wind like a battleaxe.

Harry startled, his hands gripping the bannister as he jumped a few inches into the air - and considering he was only a few inches from 'off the tower...' He planted his feet at his rump and swung himself up.

Minerva continued, as he spun to look at her, "My bones say rain, soon enough."

Harry nodded, remembering Mrs. Figg, the old catlady who loved when he came around, because he was a very good fetch-and-carry boy, even if the mints she tried to give him in payment were generally fused into something so huge it was impossible to eat. And who took all the mints, anyway? Anything was better than another minute with his relations.

"What brings you up to this admittedly cold and lonely spot?" Minerva asked.

Harry shrugged, "I like the wind, truth be told. And when I want to think, it's nice to be alone. I get distracted if there's too many people around - always something to think about, something to listen to."

Minerva nodded, slowly - like she was considering his words. Harry had always liked that about her. "And what were you thinking about?"

"Whether I've truly gone and cracked up now, or whether this is His fault..." Harry said, off-handedly.

"That sounds like you have quite the problem, Mister Potter." Minerva said. "If you elaborated a bit, I might be able to shed some light on the matter."

"What do you know about having someone else in your head?" Harry asked, looking dead on at his teacher.

"My feline persona is something of a second skin. It thinks in similar, but not identical ways to my human mind."

"So you really do like catnip?" Harry asked, remembering something that the Twins had once joked about pranking McGonagall with.

Minerva McGonagall stomped her foot, twice, before hissing out, "Ooh! That man! He promised!"

"He didn't say anything," Harry said quietly, "The twins might have been planning something..."

"Relieving that they didn't," Minerva said with a soft smile, "They'd have done it in the Great Hall and then no one would listen to a disciplined word I said."

They stood there, for a while, looking at each other. Harry was reminded of how being alone with Arabella Figg's cats had never felt quite so lonely as being in his cupboard. Cats had an innate quietness to them, and Minerva McGonagall had managed to capture some of that. This silence wasn't hostile, nor un-nerving. It was simply there, waiting to be broken.

"I was as bad as Moody in Defense class today," Harry said, throwing up his hands in a wild, circular gesture. He started to pace, as if by moving, he could control his words, channel them into comprehensibility.

"Did it continue through your other classes?" Minerva asked, "Only you seemed quite calm in my class."

Harry nodded, "No, it was pretty much just for that class."

Minerva took a breath, "I sincerely doubt this was You-know-who. I cannot think that whatever he does would coincide so neatly with your class schedules."

Harry abruptly wanted to bury his face in the tower's roof. He felt like an idiot.

Minerva continued, "If you think of it as a conscious effort on his part, then I must wonder what he could possibly gain from pushing you to such a reaction."

Hey, she was right!

Harry knew he was beaming, "Thanks! Professor, thank you!" He must have sounded more fervent than many converts.

"Remember, Mister Potter, you do have resources." Minerva said, her stern voice softening only as she finally said, "Remember to use them."

Harry did his best to look humble and chagrined. It wasn't difficult.

"Don't you have someplace to be right now, Mister Potter?" She asked, her eyes sparkling with mirth.

"What-?" Harry blurted out.

"I'm old, Mister Potter, not deaf and not blind. When my entire common room empties out of a day, I do notice." Minerva said, "Now don't go telling me what you're doing, I loathe lies when they aren't absolutely necessary."

Harry just looked shocked at her.

"Oh, for the love of-" Minerva said, "The Head of Slytherin house may have taken it as a personal affront, the idea of someone learning outside his class. I, quite frankly, approve. Though I'll appreciate it greatly if you don't tell him that."

Harry had to bite back a smile.

"Speaking of the Slytherin Housemaster, Mister Potter, I hope you do have a plan for soothing his ruffled feathers..." Minerva McGonagall said, her somber voice quite taking any fun out of her off-handed, downplayed words.

"I do," Harry said, his nerves preventing any bit of a smile from leaking out.

Before he could say more, Minerva McGonagall said, "Not a word more, on my House."

[a/n: Minerva worries more than she's showing, like a cat, her primary acting skill is 'i don't care'. Leave a review?]