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Hocus-Pocus

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Hocus-Pocus
By Growly and Ornery

 

I stared at the talking cat, wondering if someone had slipped something into my drink last night. At least it wasn't pink elephants or something, I consoled myself while the black and white feline stuttered and apologized profusely.

"And as I was saying… no offense to you, I mean… you're a real pretty queen and all, but I was sort of aiming for someone else…"

Waitasecond… "What do you mean, `queen'?" As far as I knew, I hadn't a single drop of royal blood in my veins, and since when did cats go in for the whole monarchy thing anyway?

"Are you still a kitten then?" The black cat screwed his face up as he looked at me speculatively. "You're kinda big for…"

"You're treading dangerous ground here, KITTY." I growled. Sure I was no Miss Dainty, but I wasn't FAT either. Anyone who said anything otherwise was going to end up wishing he had been wise enough to keep his mouth shut – or muzzle in this case. The cat backed up a few steps under my glare. You didn't MESS with an angry female, it was one of the constants of the universe.

"Having a bit of trouble with the ladies, Mistoffelees?" A low, sexy voice purred from behind us, and I snapped my head around so quickly I almost sprained my neck. The owner of said voice was a rugged looking tomcat with a wild mane of fur around his neck, a long muscular body and a self-confident smirk. From the way he strutted more than walked, he was obviously the feline equivalent of a playboy. I wasn't sure I liked the look he was leveling me either. This hallucination was just getting stranger and stranger…

"Tugger! Well, actually, I was just explaining to her about how my spell to bring Old Deuteronomy back kind of messed up and…"

"Hmmm…" Tugger circled me. "How about you let me help with the explanation?"

Before Mistoffelees could answer, I spoke up. "Excuse me, whatever your name is. Not that I don't appreciate the offer, but I'd really like to get out of this hallucination as soon as possible, so if you'd
just…"

"Hallucination?" Tugger and Mistoffelees were both looking at each other curiously, then their gazes went right back to me.

"Yes. Obviously, someone put something in my drink, because I KNOW talking cats aren't the norm and – " I cut myself off as I saw their expressions change. "What?"

The two of them conferred briefly in low whispers, and I caught a few snatches of the conversation. Something about "sure that spell went right" and "But it shouldn't do that!" After some time they turned back to me.

"I think we need a bit more information. Why exactly do you think it would be weird for you to understand us?"

"Well, duh! You're cats."

Tugger had this expression on his face that was half-grimace, half-amusement. "And you aren't?"

"What do you mean? Of course I'm not a cat! I'm a human. See?" I held out my hand right in front of his face to prove my point and froze as I realized it was covered with short gray fur. My jaw dropped open and there was a long moment of silence.

My enraged screams probably scared the shit out of every cat in a fifteen-mile radius.

~ ~ ~

I sat staring at my reflection for a good ' long' time in the piece of broken mirror I had requested from the two real cats. They'd been good enough to oblige me, although not without a bit of puzzlement at the notion.

When it came right down to it, I guess it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I could have been one of those horribly mangy sorts of cats that you see scrounging through your garbage cans in the middle of the night. Instead, I was a shade of light gray all over, with short fur shading towards black on my ears and tail. Moreover, for some unfathomable reason, I had a patch of cream over one eye that absolutely *did not* fit in with my color scheme. All and all, I was ok looking… maybe even cute in a fuzzy, kitty way.

It was enough to make me want to bang my head against a wall: Hard!

I was aware the entire time of the other two cats watching me from a safe distance, with very different looks on their faces. They must have thought I was completely insane, but Tugger at least seemed to find me more amusing than anything does . And Mistoffelees… well, seeing as how snappish I had been with him when I'd first arrived, he was right to be a bit wary of me.

With a sigh, I tore my gaze away from the mirror fragment and looked at them. "I don't suppose either of you have anything to drink, do you?"

"There's water over here."

"I meant something a bit stronger than water."

I managed to keep from cringing as Tugger brushed against me, flicking an ear teasingly in my direction. "We could see if old Gus has any gin, I suppose." He was purring again, and it set my nerves to tingling, not necessarily in a good way either. There was just something about this particular tomcat that screamed *be careful*!"

"On second thought," I carefully reconsidered my words. The last thing I needed was to get drunk around this fellow, something told me if that happened I would probably wind up expecting kittens before the day was out. That was something I just didn't need. "Perhaps it would be best if I, um, got a tour of the area first. You know? Met some folks and the like?" Just in the off chance that there might be someone more trustworthy around than a playboy tomcat and a spell-casting kitten.

"Sure, babe." The nickname set my teeth on edge again, but he didn't seem to notice. Typical male! "I'll give you the junkyard tour."

Before I could protest or say 'anything' Tugger was off like a flash, leaving me scrambling to follow as fast as my four paws could carry me. I scarcely noticed the little black and white kitten
bounding along in my wake, as if reluctant to be left out of the loop.

"Where are we going?" I managed through pants, not used to such exercise. I had never worked with four legs instead of two, and it was turning out to be not quite as simple as advertised. My haunches were getting sore and it is a testament to whatever spell Mistoffelees had cast to both summon me and turn me into a cat that I knew what the hell part of the body a haunch was anyway, considering I'd never thought in such terms before.

"I thought we'd start with Skimble, since he's on the way."

"Skimble?"

"He means Skimbleshanks." The kitten behind me provided helpfully.

For some weird reason, the way name sounded made me think of a verb one would use for sex. Yes, my mind was in the gutter, but I think we all know who and what I can blame for that, don't we?

(And yes, Jane Will be showing up later in this broadcast)

Besides, it really *did*. I mean, if I said I was "skimbleshanking" someone, what would *you* think?

Luckily for me, the aforementioned cat was actually quite a pleasant fellow, if I do say so myself. He was a long, lean brown and ginger-ish tom with green eyes and an infectiously friendly smile. Not to mention he was quite British, which I found to be rather charming I'm a sucker for the English accent, I'll admit readily. He did however have a tendency to get distracted in his conversation, and promptly went on to describe his work on the railway train to me.

I can't say I didn't enjoy the conversation, although the two accompanying me were getting increasingly restive while the two of us laughed and chatted. This was part of the reason I found the conversation was so much fun, actually. It made Tugger yawn, and Mistoffelees squirm, and when the impatient tom finally batted his paw on my shoulder and told me it was about time we were off, I thanked Skimble for a lovely time and politely declined his invitation for another discussion over some mice later on. Thanks to my interlude with the railway cat, I was in much better frame of mind as I tagged along after the still irked Tugger.

Sure, I still wanted to find a way to fix this whole problem with me being turned into a feline, but it suddenly seemed a lot less urgent. This was sort of like going on an vacation to England, without actually having to pay for it.

As we walked, I caught a glimpse of a furtive figure moving in and out of the shadows, and it set my fur on edge again. I nudged Mistoffelees with one paw. "Someone is following us." My voice was a low, nervous hiss.

His gaze slid in the same direction as mine, and his already big kitten eyes went even wider. He muttered something I was pretty sure his mother would not have appreciated at all, then scrambled ahead to confer with Tugger for a moment.

When the larger male cat dropped back to walk beside me again, he looked oddly serious. "Pretend you didn't see anything. We'll be at Munkustrap's soon."

"Um, okaaay." I agreed, fighting the urge to stop and stare back over my shoulder again. From watching the musical on VHS, I had a pretty good idea just whom was shadowing us. It took an effort, but I managed to keep my gaze on the long tail in front of me as Tugger took a quick turn through a narrow alleyway and down a cobbled street, and halted in front of a house I would describe as "quaint".

A large feline form was sprawled out on the windowsill, apparently dozing in the sun, but the impression of lazy content was dispelled fast enough as the cat sat up. My first, second and third thoughts upon actually getting a glimpse of this Munkustrap were pretty much all along the lines of a mental "Whoa!"

He was a silver and black tabby cat, with an air about him that demanded my respect, even though I hadn't even been introduced to him yet. Here was someone who might be able to get me out of this. I got the feeling that unlike Skimbleshanks, who was nice yet a bit too likely to start rambling: Munkustrap would take charge when it was needed.

It was safe to say this prospect was more than enough to make me like him.

He hopped easily down from the sill, padding over to us. His gaze fell on me appraisingly, then flitted to Tugger and Mistoffelees. "Who's your friend?"

"She's…" Mistoffelees started, then paused awkwardly. Obviously he was remembering that neither he nor Tugger had ever asked my name.

"Growly." I cut in smoothly, using my familiar nickname from all the time spent fussing about online. Tugger's expression of utter distaste was priceless.

"Growly?" I could just see the wheels in his head turning, trying to get around that notion. His mental processes were probably along the lines of `What kind of name is `Growly' for a cat?'

"Yes, Growly." I could easily have countered with `What kind of silly name is `Tugger' for a cat, anyway?' but I chose not to.

"Well, Growly, I'm pleased to make your acquaintance." Munkustrap smiled at me. It wasn't like Tugger's deliberately suave (and more than slightly suggestive) smiles. I found myself grinning back like an idiot, thinking to myself that Munkustrap was actually quite a handsome fellow for a cat.

Then I proceeded to mentally beat myself over the head as I realized I was starting to develop an eye for tomcats. That was the last thing I needed at the moment.

"I found her giving Mistoffelees a bit of a dressing down near the dumpsters." Tugger butted in, derailing my train of thought. "Was going to give her the full tour, but we had to cut it short because Mistoffelees said she had spotted you-know-who trailing us."

Munkustrap's expression went positively grim at those words, and it made me immensely curious to know for sure is `you-know-who' might be who I figured he was. I refrained from asking for the moment, because – as they said – curiosity sometimes killed cats. Now that I was a member of the feline species, I wasn't quite willing to test the old adage.

"He's been more active of late. By the way, this isn't the first new Jellicle to show up rather mysteriously. We'll have to let the others keep a lookout."

Apparently, I wasn't the only one listening in, and Mistoffelees was kind enough to ask before I did, thus keeping me from looking like an inquisitive kitten. "There's another new Jellicle?"

For some reason, Munkustrap found this question amusing, and Tugger was ducking his head slightly and shuffling his paws. "You mean Tugger didn't tell you about it? Apparently there's another new female around who put his whiskers in a twist."

I found myself smirking as much as my feline features would allow, my whiskers spreading. Rum Tug Tugger's annoyed look in my direction made me want to laugh aloud, but I kindly refrained.

It was nice to know that despite the seriousness of the situation, it was still possible to find amusement in the small things.

~ ~ ~

Jane's first official addition to this little adventure.

 

"Ismiboi," Munkustrap called behind him, "Where's your dam?"

"Ismiboi? JANE!" Growly squalled.

"Right here, dearest. Oh, the Scamp's back, I see. And who's the little one?"

Tugger didn't appreciate the "scamp" comment, and hissed a bit. "I am not a scamp!"

"You like causing trouble, and you're a smart-ass. That's fine for interacting with humans; well, most of them anyway. But it doesn't work for me." She snapped. "I have sons older than you are, and I refuse to tolerate your behavior. I really think your mother should have waited longer to wean you. You're obviously socially stunted!" She bit out. "I've seen mongrel puppies with better manners!"

His back arched a little higher with each insult, and finally he yowled at the "dog" comment. Munkustrap was trying very hard not to laugh at the younger tom, and when she added the final insult of pulling Mistoffelees behind her and placing herself between the impressionable infant and the male she disapproved of, Munkustrap lost it.

"It's not funny!"

"Watching you try to get on the good side of a female who's got little or no use for your posturing is hilarious, actually. I think she's the first female you've met who has reacted like that to you."

"Frankly, Munkustrap, I far and away prefer you."

She peered at the female, sighed. "Ah…Growly, couldn't be anyone else. And how is it you don't recognize these names from the Weber musicals?"

"You have got to be kidding me."

"Well, at least I'm used to MarySuing…figured you might need the assist." She eyed Tugger. "And some buggers you'll need the assist with."

"Now, all we have to do is figure out what happened and how. And that may require Hogwarts, you know."

"SHIT!"

"I'm thinking, Snape-ish. He needs a cat anyway. I think we'd better find Diagon Alley. And I think he's the only wizard with an actual functioning brain." She paused. "And I'd like to introduce Tugger to Mrs. Norris."

"Do you know what you're purposing?" Munkustrap asked nervously. He knew of only one Mrs. Norris in all Jellicledom.

"I know there are forty or more cats at that school who have never attended a Jellicle Ball! Simply because there's never been anyone to educate them. They’ve got no idea that they’re Jellicles in the first place." She damned well knew that was more than enough to guarantee his escort!

"Now, MacCavity has a mage or wizard's cat working for him, one that's a good one…and has experience. Otherwise, two adult, HUMAN females would not now be new Jellicles, now would we?"

"H, h, h, human?" Tugger stuttered.

"Human." She confirmed. "Let me put it this way, boy. If I had a penny for every cat I've ever housebroken, I'd be fucking rich."

Munkustrap stared. "Human."

" 'Fraid so. I'm 39-years-old, Growly's 22."

"And Ismiboi?"

"He's the only real cat in the bunch. First incarnation, though, so he may need to be educated too, love." His common name is James Weird, by the way. I named him that since every cat I've ever known has been a bit strange."

"Yeah, she's human all right." Tugger said in disgust.

"Kitty, don't irritate me now, and I won't introduce you to a vacuum cleaner when I return to my own form."

James mewled loudly in protest and hid behind Munkustrap. He really, really didn't like mama's vacuum! Munkustrap chuckled a bit, then soothed the half-grown tomcat.

"Look, Tugger, it's not like some of us weren't human at some point. Think of Victoria, after all. She was the reigning Queen of England in her time."

"She's also genteel."

"Yeah, well, we're both Americans, and I have a suggestion for where you can stuff that "Genteel" shit."

Growly was laughing her furry ass off by this time. Her room mate looked at unkustrap…"Diagon Alley, please?"

"This way. Forty cats, you said? Poor things, not knowing who or what they truly are!"

She didn't smirk, she just let him think it was his own idea to go with them to Hogwarts. After all, a wizard was required to reverse whatever spell had been used. Unauthorized Jellicles weren't a good thing, after all. A body ought to stay what they were born, unless they want it changed. She smiled as she spotted a figure ahead of them that she recognized.

"Come on!" She leapt into a run, to catch up to the groundskeeper.

"Hagrid!" She mewled loudly. He stopped and turned. "Take us to Hogwarts, wizard! We have need of Severus' expertise. Albus is a fantastic magic user, but I’m counting on Snape’s first class mind."

"Ye've been enchanted, then. Alas, yes, I can see the glamour over two of ye. And the glitter of Purpose on the others. Come on up then, and I will carry ye. To Hogwarts ye will go, for I am bound there now. Come along, then." He carried Growly and Mistoffelees in his arms, Tugger jumped up to balance on one huge shoulder, Munkustrap took the other. The Midnight Special climbed up his pant's leg until she got to his vest, holding her own cat by the nape of his neck. She crawled inside and let him carry her inside his cloak, after shoving her real cat in first. One furry head stuck out of each side of the now bulging vest.

"Midnight Special? What kind of name is that?" Tugger grunted.

"It is an odd name, isn't it?"

"That it is."

"It’s particular?"

"Quite."

"Peculiar, even?"

"Very." He paused. "You know the rules of Naming, don't you?"

"No shit, Sherlock."

Tugger growled softly. "You won't housebreak me."

"Oh, I won't have to. Severus is between cats, you know."

Hagrid chuckled, "Aye, he needs a decent puss, Professor Snape does. And ye be just his sort. How'd ye girls git ta be cats, anyway?"

"This half-grown furball, that's how." She glared at Mistoffelees for a moment. "He's got a rather formidable amount of power in his own right, and has used it without any training, whatsoever. I was hoping to pair him with the Headmaster." Midnight Special told the groundskeeper. "Tell me, would the Sorting Hat sort a Cat?"

Hagrid studied Mistoffelees for a bit. "This one, yes, I think it will. He looks like a Hufflepuff, to me."

"So, does he have to bring his own human?"

Hagrid chuckled, "Yer a pert little thing aintcha?"

"You have *no* idea." Growly told him in a snide undertone.

The Midnight Special just purred, looking over at her "I take great pride in having a high level of pure obnoxiousness. Tugger never had a prayer, and you know it."

Both females looked at Tugger and purred loudly. Midnight rubbed her head against Munkustrap's foot. "How the hell do you put up with the little scut, anyway?"

"Sometimes, I'm not really sure."

"HEY!"

Munkustrap looked at Midnight and smiled. "I'd prefer a youngster."

Midnight looked up at Hagrid, "Does Potter have a cat, yet?"

"Nay, missy. And this gray mackerel is a fine one."

"His name is Munkustrap. Well, one of them, is, anyway. I don't know his common name."

"Teagar." He smiled, "Tugger's humans just called him "Trouble."

"HEY! Did you have to pass that on?"

She blinked at him, and yawned. Insultingly, deeply, until they could see halfway down her hot gullet. Then her teeth snapped shut, upper and under, with a snick like steel-faced wards shooting home around the edges of a safe.

Tugger looked away, saying, "You may be a human, but you act like a Cat!"

"I never said I didn't understand you people, Lost."

His head snapped back to her and he stared in shocked outrage, "How the hell did you learn my Name!?"

"As I said, I do understand Cats. And I believe I just proved it, didn't I, Guardian?" Midnight looked at Munkustrap who stared in his turn and breathed, "Ohhh Gods of my Fathers…."

"Wot the big deal O' tha naming, here?"

"Never mind, Hagrid. I seriously doubt you'd understand it anyway." She looked over at Tugger, "Believe me when I say, youngster, you will be fulfilled when you bond to Severus Snape."

"I suppose I must believe you. No human has ever discovered our Names."

"Who said I was wholly human? Actually, I'm a subspecies…and I can't wait until you get a chance to meet my lover."

"And who would that be. Lass?"

"A fine man, a gentleman and a warrior. His name is Qui Gon Jinn!"

***

Growly sat back idly for most of this conversation, her whiskers spreading in amusement as Midnight spoke. She didn’t feel fit to interrupt during a potential dressing down. Besides, she was much too busy wracking her brain trying to recall what little she knew of the Harry Potter fandom. They were headed for Hogwarts, and not even someone as clueless as she was could honestly claim she didn’t know what *that* was.

She wasn’t sure what to make of this "Snape" person Jane kept speaking of though. Apparently, she thought quite highly of him, and that could be a good thing – or a very bad thing. She didn’t know quite which it was just yet.

Meanwhile, laying on the crook of Hagrid’s other arm, Mistoffelees was practically bouncing at the very thought of an actual school just for magicians. *He* was a magician, after all. He didn’t know what a "Sorting Hat" or a "Hufflepuff" was, but he found that he liked the big man with the strong cockney accent that put him in mind of both Skimbleshanks and Mungojerrie.

He seemed to be the sort of person a cat would enjoy riding the shoulder of, if only both shoulders weren’t already taken by Munkustrap and an intensely annoyed Tugger.

"Are you really a wizard?"

"Ay, wee one. That I am and ye? They tell me ye are also a Wizardling."

A little smile spread over the cat’s white face. "Well, I am sort of… but sometimes when I try a spell it doesn’t quite work out like I want it to." His gaze flitted to the two female cats, becoming faintly embarrassed. "I was trying to summon Old Deuteronomy and the spell went wrong."

Hagrid chuckled good-naturedly. "Aye, lad. There’s a trick to it. Ye’ll no doubt benefit from some time spent at Hogwarts."

Black ears pricked forward with interest. "Is it true that Harry Potter goes there?"

"Even felines know of young Potter?" Hagrid shook his head, the motion almost enough to set Mistoffelees to chasing the long, dark brown hairs of his bushy beard. Oh, the temptation!

"I wouldn’t worry too much if I were you. It can’t be worse than the hatchling dragon that singed him in the second movie." Growly confided, catching his thought and sending a mental image of the incident to the other cats.

"Movie?"

"Aww… damn." Growly put her black tipped ears back in embarrassment, "I keep forgetting that I’m not in my own universe. There’s my lousy memory for you." She shook her head in exasperation. "Just ignore me if I start to ramble, okay?"

"Okay." The half-grown feline agreed readily, snuggling back against Hagrid’s huge chest and batting at his beard playfully.

Growly looked up at The Midnight Special questioningly, gold eyes wide with embarrassment. "Jane, how much are we supposed to tell them about the whole thing? I mean, I’ve never been in a MarySue before and…"

"Jane?"

"Meow!" Growly coughed as Tugger put this inquiry up to her, her ears going flat against her furry head. "Pretend I didn’t say anything, Tugger. I seem to be suffering from um… mental… illness or something at the moment." She ducked her head like a turtle, trying to give off plenty of ‘I’m not here’ vibes.

For some reason, Midnight seemed to find this entire interlude to be highly amusing, while the two male cats on Hagrid’s shoulders kind of stared in that manner cats have when they are trying to be too dignified to comment but are eaten alive with curiosity.

Seeing that her tactics were not working, Growly raised her head. "Are we almost there yet?"

"Aye, little missy," The huge man assured her. "The railway station isn’t far now."

"But I thought Hogwarts was on an island," The gray female protested, "And you’re a wizard, can’t you just… magic us there or something?"

"Okay, first things first. We use different names as cats than as humans, to make things a little more comfortable for the real ones." Midnight told the real ones. Only then did Hagrid notice that another cat was in his vest with her. This one was a yearling no older than Mistoffelees, also male, but gold and white instead of black and white. Munkustrap looked down at her.

"How did Ismiboi get yanked along when our kittling caught you?"

She shrugged. "He shares my bed, of course. He sleeps on my pillow, in fact. I assume he was so close to me, possibly half on top of me, as he is customarily, that he just got sucked in. James Weird is his common name, as I said. Ismiboi is the shortened version of the phrase "Is My Boy" which is a term of endearment I use for him: It fit." She looked up at Hagrid. "These could be transmuted into our Animagus forms, with the right spells, I think."

He nodded, "The transformations would not have been possible without mageblood in both of ye. Yet I know nothin' of ye."

"We're Americans, Hagrid."

"Oh. Aye, that would do it, having na formal schools worth naught."

"Might be willing to see to the oversight here, if Dumbledore doesn't mind a few adults as First Years…."

"Ye'd already have a cat, then. Ye'd need an owl…"

"I'm trained in the Earth Magics of the Native Americans, but that’s Shamanism. But, it'd just be a matter of Calling a wild owl to service. It's not that hard. For that matter, one order to a House Elf would result in an owl newly kicked out of the nest and resentful of that fact, or at least a fledgling. The rest is a matter of rearing and training. It’s a simple enough process."

Hagrid nodded. "Aye, 'tis." He looked at Growly, "Aye, lass, Hogwarts be an island, we gets there from the station on boats."

"Usually at night." Midnight told her. And Growly is subject to motion sickness."

"I'll handle that, then. I'll just fly the little girl over on me motorcycle. She be a cat for now, and the rules be a bit different. I think ye'll all fit, since this little lad," He tickled Mistoffelees under his chin, "Will be going as a student, and so must take the boats."

"Boats? As in water?" Mistoffelees wrinkled his nose in distaste.

"Aye, lad, as in water. Be truth, that where the school stands, is out of phase with the muggle world. Exists, it does in a world that lies a thousand years in the past. The boats sail north into a north wind, without canvas, at that. By magic alone do they move, to what the muggles call Glastonbury Tor, but what all history calls Avalon." He took a deep breath, and continued in a tone hushed and reverent, "Where Arthur died, and the Lady still lives in the Lake."

Tugger was stunned, "What Light have I served to tread with my paws in such a place, and Bond to a Man who serves there? Fulfillment indeed." He began to purr.

Munkustrap started as implications roiled through his mind. "And therein are generations of Jellicles who know naught of themselves, caught in time as they are…indeed I am blessed to bring them back to the knowledge of who they were and are." His voice was little more than a whisper."

"The Jellicle moon is due to rise at Hogwarts in three weeks…and a House Elf can be commanded to bring your leader from wherever he is, and the rest of your community as well. The Heavyside Layer is easily accessed from Avalon." Midnight spoke. "Almost anyplace would be, for underneath lies the Hall of the Dead, the WorldTree grows there, and thereupon is an Ancient Wood, where Robin Goodfellow whom some think was Robin of Sherwood but who is not, lives. And there too, is Talesin."

"Merlin be lost." The half-giant muttered.

"Lost is not dead, Hagrid. Legend has it even in America that he lies imprisoned and asleep. If any can locate his prison, it will be the trueborn Jellicles. Many there are who knew him, personally, and there will be at least one amongst their numbers who was his cat."

Tugger hissed, "Destiny is indeed a strange path, Human."

"As convoluted as a snake in its death throes. Aye." Munkustrap nodded. "And yet, I cannot regret the Fates that set me upon this path."

"Just because young Mistoffelees screwed up the spell, doesn’t mean that Severus Snape or Albus Dumbledore will. Let it be done by experts and you will find the results more desirable." Midnight Special told Hagrid while Mistoffelees hid his face in embarrassment.

He boarded the Hogwart's Express with his armload of talking cats, found a suitable cabin, and peered inside. " 'Arry Potter! Yer two months early, lad!"

"The Dursleys kicked me out. I've got my wand, my owl and my broom, and that's it, Hagrid. I thought I'd better go back to school instead of knocking about all over London."

"Well, 'arry, lad, that's be truth, sure enough." Hagrid eased Munkustrap down onto the boy's lap. " 'ere ya go, then, 'arry, ye've naught got a decent cat yet, lad. This be Munkustrap, be meant fer ya, 'e was."

The big gray cat studied the human Wizardling, liked what he saw, and curled up in his lap without a qualm. This boy definitely needed him, and also, the human was a kitten as such things went. He needed guidance and protection. The boy cuddled Munkustrap gently, smoothing his fur in a soothing motion. Munkustrap began to loudly purr his approval.

"Oh, you'll do nicely, lad. That you will." He told the startled boy. "You're a very good human kitten for a Jellicle Cat to have."

**********

"Oh God, Hagrid, he talks!"

"Oh, aye lad. That 'e does. All these little ones do." The half-giant paused a moment, "Mind you, I don't understand it, but we be wizards an' it could be a normal thing. For the likes of us, anyway." He paused. "Of course, two be human females the this little squirt accidentally transfigured." He looked down at Mistoffelees with a slight smile. "Neither one be muggles, though, for all they be Americans. If they were muggles, the stripling’s spell would’ve merely fizzled."

"Oh. I guess that does make sense. Sort of." Harry tickled Munkustrap under the big tomcat's chin and felt the rumbling approval immediately. "But it's not really fair to Munkustrap, is it?"

"Ow so, 'arry?"

"I'm a target, remember?"

"Target?" Tugger's head came up. "Who?"

"Nobody with sense speaks his name aloud without a nice, thick set of strong shields, Tugger." Jane told him. "I'm luring the Jellicle equivalent along in hopes of pairing him off with Draco, though."

"You lured MacCavity along?"

"Oh yes. He's not stupid, after all. The Hogwarts Express just passed from one dimension to the other…what cat could possible miss that fact? He's not about to jump off the train, blind, into territory he doesn't know. In addition, he's got to have identified the numbers of Witchbloods on board. I made it very clear that Draco's compartment was NOT to be tampered with. With any luck, he's already in there. I know the boy is…and he protects everything with hexes. HE'LL catch him in a stasis field as soon as he tries to touch something. A talking cat, however obnoxious, isn't something that Draco will allow to go unbonded. He's too greedy, for that." She smirked. "A nice, solid little Slytherin. Totally predictable in his actions." She purred.

So it proved when a chastened ginger tomcat, newly Bonded to the Pureblooded boy (Draco being highly impressed by the power he sensed in his new familiar) debarked from the train at Hogsmeade. His smug look vanished at the sight of several other "special" cats, all in a brisk conversation…in English, no less. One was bonded to that damned Potter, too!

Potter, his owl and his familiar and most of the other cats were already hogging a boat to themselves, and were two thirds of the way across the lake before the rest of Draco's baggage was unloaded from the train. Hagrid was transporting another one on his motorcycle. He was left to make the trip alone, since no other Slytherins were present and the other students didn't want to share a ride with a Malfoy. Muttering under his breath, he headed for the boats.

~~~

Harry headed downstairs toward the dungeons with Munkustrap in his arms and Tugger on one shoulder. He knocked reluctantly at Snape's door, and when it opened the boy looked up at Rum Tim Tugger, pointed at Severus Snape with his chin, and said, "This is Prof. Snape, Tugger. You still sure?"

Just as Severus was about to snap at him, to his shock he heard the larger tomcat reply: "Oh yes, Harry, this one will do fine." The big cat looked Snape over thoroughly, and nodded. "He needs a good familiar, at any rate, having none. And I do not think he is the sort to insist on cuddles whether or not he actually needs one."

"Potter?" It was the softest tones, the gentlest tones he had ever heard from the potion master.

"He's a Jellicle Cat, and they speak several human languages. In addition, he's English. His name is Rum Tum Tugger, but mostly we just call him Tugger." Potter shrugged. "He told us what kind of human he wanted, and you were the only person we knew who met his requirements. He's going to share you with Jane."

"Jane?"

"A true-blood, a shape-shifter. Not a were-anything, but a real shape-shifter."

"And due to a little accident, a friend of her's was made a cat." Tugger sighed. "Mistoffelees will attach Dumbledore and get his lessons there."

"He is still a kitten and what he knows he has picked up on his own." Munkustrap interrupted, "I could wish he didn't experiment without safeguards, but then, as I said, he is still a kitten. His judgement is not that of a more mature and experienced Jellicle."

"How many talking cats did you bring with you, Harry Potter?"

"Only half a dozen this trip, sir. Munkustrap, here, has made all the arrangements that were required for the other Jellicle Cats to follow your group to Hogwarts. The reasoning being that Muggles shouldn’t be trusted with them."

"True. Very true."

"There is one, the master criminal of our society, whose common name is MacCavity. A boy named Draco has bonded to him. I suggest that you take the nature of that particular cat into account at all times." Munkustrap informed Severus. "Tugger will keep you apprised of his crimes."

"And there will be some. As the Kitten Master has said, it is in the nature of MacCavity to behave so."

"Kitten Master?"

"It is my duty and pleasure to educate the youngsters of our kind, as you do those of your kind."

"You are a teacher?" Snape sighed; this was going to be a long, long day.

"Of sorts. I teach the kittens what is expected of a Jellicle. Unfortunately, when he was a child, MacCavity's original humans moved to India, and so he learned no manners in his youth." He sighed again, sadly this time. It is a great waste of intelligence and talent, but I have never had the teaching of him. As he is now in his eighth year of life, he is too old for me to teach."

Snape pursed his lips in disapproval. "Perhaps I can do something. I will certainly try."

Munkustrap bowed his head to the middle-aged wizard. "As you say."

He looked over at Tugger, and Tugger nodded. "He, like Potter, is a fit human to be allowed to attend the Jellicle Ball, as guests and witnesses to Who is granted Ascension to the Heavy-side Layer. There will, I suspect, be many such worthy humans in this place."

~ ~ ~

"So this is Hogwarts?" Growly commented as she trotted down a hallway, thoroughly unimpressed by the place so far. Even crossing the water via motorcycle rather than on one of the boats, she had still suffered from more than a slight hint of motion sickness, a fact that had lowered her spirits – and tolerance level – considerably.

She hadn’t been expecting an answer, of course, since she had taken the opportunity to put some distance between herself and her unwitting companions at the first opportunity. Unfortunately, she DID receive an answer – just not one she would have anticipated even in a wild leap of her imagination.

"Yeah. Now be quiet, I’m almost to the boss." The voice was young, female, and unmistakably annoyed.

Growly’s head jerked up with a suddenness that was bound to lead to neck pain later on. Standing in the hallway, leaned half against the wall was a girl in a purple dress with short, dark red hair. She was playing some kind of hand held video game, and Growly’s normally faulty memory supplied the system and the title ("Game Slave" and "Vampire Piggy Hunter") without any prodding. The human-turned-cat was unsure whether to be relieved or more alarmed when she realized that this was a person from a medium that she knew quite well.

"Gaz?" The voice corresponded so well with her thoughts that she was tempted to think that she’d uttered the name herself, if not for the fact that the alarmed voice was that of a young male. Moreover, one she recognized to boot. She sat down, her long gray tail curling itself around her lower body in a pleased manner as she waited for the boy to approach.

It didn’t take long at all, actually, although the time seemed to stretch out. Then a boy emerged, still dressed in his trademark black trench coat and blue un-smiley shirt. From the wide-eyed expression he was wearing, he’d undoubtedly been searching for his errant sister for quite a while…

Then it finally occurred to Growly to wonder: "Just what are you two doing here anyway? You’re not British!"

The black-clad boy stopped in his tracks and stared, and it was only then that the cat realized her mistake. She probably should have let Gaz do the talking, but the thought simply hadn’t occurred to her. Then she shook her head, wondering why it mattered. This WAS a school of magic, wasn’t it?

"Oh my god… a talking cat!" Growly was unceremoniously scooped up and held at arm’s length, her hind feet and tail dangling embarrassingly. "It must be part of some alien plot or something…"

The gray cat hissed, her ears going back at this uncouth treatment. "Dib, you dork! I’m not an alien. I’m just a talking cat!"

"But cats don’t talk!"

She could see that she was going to have to spell it out slowly for him, because this particular conversation was getting her nowhere fast. "This is a school of magic, dummy! What’s so all-fired weird about a talking cat in a place like this?"

Dib visibly deflated, "Good point."

"Now," Confident that she had his attention, Growly asked again, "What are you two doing here anyway? You’re not British."

"No. However, a couple of weeks ago a letter arrived for Gaz, telling her to come. So I came along too, since Dad was too busy and she couldn’t go by herself."

"I thought you were a bit old to be a first year at Hogwarts." The cat mused softly.

The comment rankled the youngster, as he raised his chin slightly in an effort to appear aloof. "I think my letter got lost. Everyone knows that the postal system in the U.S. isn’t all it’s cracked up to be."

"Your voices are making me sick." This was from Gaz, who was still preoccupied with her video game, to the exclusion of just about everything else.

Her words seemed to jar a memory in Dib, and he looked at her sideways, "I’ve been looking all over for you, Gaz! You’re not supposed to vanish like that. We’re not even supposed to be… well…" He looked around, his expression rapidly becoming one of helplessness, "Wherever we are…" He looked down at Growly, who had a suspiciously uncomfortable look plastered across her furry features. "I don’t suppose you could show us back to the main hall?"

Gray ears went back again, whiskers drooping in embarrassment as she answered him. "I’m afraid not, I just got here today…"

"So you’re lost too." He stated with a groan.

"Yeah, basically." Growly squirmed out of the uncomfortable hanging position she’d been held in and climbed up to perch on Dib’s shoulder. "But it’s no big deal. I’m sure someone will notice we’re missing and come looking for us."

"If you say so…" The boy didn’t sound nearly as confident as the cat had. A long silence stretched out between their little group, punctuated only by the occasional soft beeps and bleeps of the Game Slave.

~ ~ ~

"Munkustrap, does a human female, newly made a cat qualify as a kitten?"

He paused thoughtfully. "Yes, I think so. Why?"

"Because I can hear Hagrid calling Growly, that’s why. I believe she’s wandered off."

"Oh damn." He looked over at Tugger. "Let’s go find her."

"You first." He sighed, looking at his Wizard. "Aren’t you coming?"

"I may as well. I need to reverse that spell anyway, if possible."

"Mistoffelees tried a summoning spell that somehow became transmuted to an accidental transfiguration. I’m still not quite sure how he managed that. I wouldn’t have thought it to be possible." Midnight Special grumbled.

"Nor I." Snape answered in surprise. "Who is Mistoffelees?"

"He’s a little black and white kitten. He’s got mage gift, has had no access to a teacher, and so experiments on his own."

"Has he indeed?" The full force of his professional status as a teacher was obviously offended.

"We were hoping to pair the little guy off with Albus. I seriously doubt Albus will let him go untrained."

"No, he won’t. Is that your little friend next to a pair of students who are both out of uniform and here a full two months in advance of the beginning of the school year?"

"That would be yes. I suspect they’re both additional repercussions of Mistoffelees’ mischief, though. Tread lightly until we know where they’re from and who they are. Damn I wish Qui Gon would hurry his fine Jedi ass up! I was hoping he’d beat us here!"

Snape looked at her with funny expression. "Actually, he is. I’ll have Minerva transfigure you back into your natural form."

"Bullshit, Severus. Do it yourself, before my lover sees me like this."

"You trust me?"

"Of course I do." She glared at him. "I know a great deal more about what’s going on than that boy does. Half of the shit Harry gets into is because these idiots here expect him to be their champion. Christ man, he didn’t even know the wizard world existed before Hagrid went to fetch him."

Snape stared at her. "I had overlooked that fact. I have perhaps been too harsh on him, at times."

"Ya think?" She spat. "Try accepting him as a young, and very confused little boy who hasn’t had the magick discipline the other children have had from the cradle onward, make up for the lack with remedial classes or teaching, and try to be a friend."

"That is not my style."

"Severus, you are an adult. You are one of the few individual whose judgment that boy trusts. Trusting your judgment is not that much of step to trusting YOU. Don’t be dumber than you have to be, being male to begin with."

He stared at her. "You are as insulting, if not more so, than I ever was."

"More. Much more. Frankly, I can be more than a bit of a bitch. What’s more, I like it that way. Your attitude does NOT impress me, Snape. So don’t bother. It’s a good thing too…Qui is far to polite to say the really rude things that need saying half the time, as is his padawan. Obi’s a cute kid, but far too constrained. However, they are more than a match for that other asshole who is the cause of so much trouble around here."

"You’re not even giving a wizard of his power the respect of pointedly refusing to speak his name?" He said as he returned her to her human form. "That cat-shape is permanently set as your Animagus Form."

"Hell no, Sevvie. He’s an asshole, and like any other asshole, he’s full of shit and he stinks." She paused to stretch her spine, then as an after thought, said; "I rather thought it would be."

"Sevvie?" He nearly snarled, when he stopped sputtering in outraged shock.

"Get used to it. When you start to be less of a prick I’ll find something else to tag you with."

"PRICK?" He roared. "YOU JUST CALLED A SNAPE A ‘PRICK’?"

"Oh will you just shut up? I’m an American, remember? That old blood crap isn’t gonna move me, either. Try being a real man, it’ll impress me a lot more that all that pretentious crap." She turned to go, stopped and looked at him. "Are you coming?"

He stared at her in disbelief.

"Sevvie, just because I won’t tolerate any shit from you doesn’t mean that I don’t like you. Besides," She added as she walked down the corridor, "You may well be the ONLY adult male here with a fully functional mind."

After a moment his long legs closed the distance between them. "I suppose that’s something, anyway."

"The rest you have to earn. If you want my respect, you’ll give it a shot. If not, you won’t. If you don’t, it’s your loss."

"Is that how you see it?"

"Yep."

"I better show you where we put your man. His apprentice was Sorted to Gryffindore."

"Yeah, a jedi padawan isn’t likely to be Sorted anywhere else."

"Here’s the chamber. The password is as yet unset." He nodded to the potrait and it knew that the occupants were to choose one. He left, Tugger over one arm, leaving her with Growly following him at his heels. He left the other non-cat cat with Minerva and returned to his dungeons. On the way he snatched Mistoffelees to deliver a long overdue dressing down to the young cat, and Harry to have a long overdue talk with the boy.

"Damn it, I hate it when women are right." He muttered as the door closed behind Harry several hours later.

~~~

"You and me both." Tugger rumbled. "Although, that one doesn't remind you of past ass-chewings as much as most."

Snape didn't need to ask who the cat meant. He scrubbed his hands over his face, looked over at the Wizard's Clock on the wall, noting in dismay that it was only one in the afternoon. He sighed, looked at Mistoffelees and spoke to the cowed feline warlock.

"Albus is visiting his brother until just before the start of the new term, so I best start your education before you do anything else as spectacularly stupid as the last stunt. At least Potter makes sure he knows the proper spell and it's execution before he acts. Or makes sure he's got Miss Granger along: Which amounts to the same thing."

Misto winced at the man's phrasing, but nodded. "We still need to find the Jellicle Leader, nonetheless."

Tugger nodded, and told Snape of the kidnapping. What followed was a step-by-step analysis of the spell the young cat had attempted, and when he was done Severus told Tugger to keep him out of trouble while he brewed the potion that had not been used, though the spell needed it. As he prepared it, he started another verbal chapter onto the previous ass-chewing. This one was based on why one did not forget or neglect to use a major component for any serious spell casting. The monologue was as informative as it was insulting, which for Severus Snape(as we all know) is going some.

But Misto heard and would remember. As would Tugger.

*********

Munkustrap watched young Harry move pensively about in the Gryffondore common room. The talk with Snape had been as emotionally draining as any he'd ever witnessed, and the man had been moved no less than the boy. The teacher's order to Potter to attend him after breakfast until the start of term had surprised Harry, Munk knew.

"He means to teach you what the others know, what they were taught from the cradle. To give the lessons and knowledge you did not receive." He said at last.

"I know, that Munk." Harry sighed as he lifted the big tom to take him to the dorm. "It's just that I've spent two terms thinking that he hated me and it's a bit much to take in that he doesn't." He said as he lowered Munkustrap to his bed and began to undress.

"Ah." Was all the cat said as the boy laid down next to him. He curled up flush to the boy's side. "Sleep, Harry. I'll get Hedwig to wake us for supper. You need the rest."

***************

"So, let me see if I’m getting all of this right," The black-clad boy looked down at the talking cat in a mixture of apprehension and the near-overwhelming curiosity that was one of his trademark qualities. "Magic is real, and this place is a school of magic."

The cat was confused by the implications, "If you didn’t believe magic was real, why did you come at all?" Her ears pricked forward, head tilting a little to the right as she endeavored to look like she was paying close attention indeed.

Dib shrugged, "Well, after Gaz got that letter, I thought… well…" He was rubbing the back of his neck now, and Growly suspected that hint of red in his cheeks wasn’t her imagination.

"You thought what? That you’d bring a camera down and get some pictures to prove it to one of your magazines?" Oh, he was guilty as charged, she could tell that without him saying a single word in response. "I hate to tell you this, Dib, but I’m pretty sure they’re well guarded against that sort of exposure. I mean, this is a school of *wizards* we’re talking about here."

"It wasn’t for the magazines, so much," The boy mumbled, "It’s for my dad."

"Ah yes…" That explained quite a bit actually, at least as far as Growly was concerned. "Well, Dib, I hate to say this. I’m not an expert at these sorts of things, but your scientific genius dad seems about as much of a muggle as a person can get."

The boy looked down at her, arching one eyebrow behind his thick glasses, "A muggle?"

"Um… A non-magic sort." Growly struggled to explain a concept that she was only vaguely familiar with herself. "People who can’t use magic, is essentially what it means. I don’t know how Gaz has any abilities at all, unless it comes from your mom or something."

"Gaz is… Gaz." Dib shoved his hands into the pockets of his coats, slouching noticeably now, with his eyes firmly on the floor. An odd reaction, to be sure, but it was as plain as day that he preferred the subject to remain off of his parents. The fact was enough to pique the woman-turned-cat’s interest.

Of course, another niggling little fact was eating at her, and despite the old saying about curiosity killing the cat, she couldn’t help but ask. "You’re a bit early in the year to be coming to Hogwarts, though. I figured it might have been a result of differences in the systems… but what really gets me is… Well… How did you GET here anyway? I know your dad isn’t all that observant when it comes to where you and your sister are, but I didn’t think either of you had the money to buy a plane ticket out to England."

"We didn’t buy a plane ticket." The boy was positively squirming under the spotlight now.

The cat wasn’t letting up, however, "Then how did you get here?"

His words were barely audible, even to the more sensitive ears of a feline. "Zim flew us."

"Zim!?" Her golden-brown eyes flew wide, her ears and tail suddenly at the position of attention. "As in ‘short megalomaniac alien bent on world conquest’ Zim?"

"You know Zim?"

Growly’s ears went back, flattening tightly against her head, "Don’t change the subject. Of course, I know about Zim. I’m a magic cat, remember? I know everything." Okay, it was an exaggeration, but only a little one.

"I think he was just eager to get rid of me and figured if I was over here in another country I wouldn’t be able to mess up his plans. Little does he know that I was prepared for such an eventuality." The boy tilted his chin upward, proudly.

"Are you sure it wasn’t just because he was hoping to get his grubby little paws on some of the magical items here at the school and use them in his plans for world domination?"

Dib deflated rapidly, "I hadn’t thought about that…"

"Did he leave, at least?"

"Well…" From the youth’s wavering tone and long hesitation the answer must have been…

"You don’t know!?!" The words came out as an unholy screech, the cat sinking her claws into Dib’s coat and scaling it to perch on his shoulder. "You mean there might be a miniature, havoc-wreaking alien loose on the school grounds!?"

"No! I mean… yes, but…" The boy winced as claws sank into his shoulder through his coat and shirt. "I didn’t think…"

"You sure *didn’t* think! That alien is trouble incarnate! If he gets into anything, we’ll all be in deep shit faster than you can say ‘deep shit’! Hang on, we’ve got to let someone know about it before anything happens. Where did all the authority figures go?"

Both of them looked around, then at each other questioningly. They’d parted ways with most of the older members of the group a while back – and, Growly noted wryly, although Jane had been restored to human form, she herself hadn’t. It wasn’t to be the only problem they were currently facing either, as Dib made another unpleasant discovery.

"Where did Gaz get off to?" His voice was low and pensive.

Growly felt a sudden urge to be quite ill, "I don’t suppose she could have just gone off to use the little girls’ room…"

A soft groan from the black-haired boy was more than enough to answer that particular question, even without the way he was rolling his eyes and shaking his head.

*******

Some distance away, an annoyed boy – and an even more annoyed cat – were finding just a little more trouble than they’d bargained for. Said problem came in the form of a little girl dressed in purple. She’d been following them for about half an hour, and despite their best efforts they hadn’t been able to shake her.

The blonde youth glanced over his shoulder again, his gaze following that of the ginger cat who was riding his other shoulder. Both of them had remarkably similar looks of irritation on their faces as they regarded her. She, in turn, stared right back at them through eyes narrowed so severely as to make the color impossible to discern. If she was ruffled, she gave no sign of it.

Finally, Draco came to a halt and turned to face the child, his robes swirling around him at the sudden movement. "What do you want?" His question came out short, curt and blunt to the point of being rude. Of course, given the way his day had been going up until now – with the possible exception of acquiring a talking cat – perhaps a bit of tactlessness on his part wasn’t extraordinary.

Slowly the girl raised her head just the tiniest fraction, the motion causing her skull shaped pendant to sway against her chest, the dark stones that passed for eyes glinting slightly in the dim light. She was small, even for a first year, but her expression was imperious and she made no move to answer his brusque question.

Silence stretched out in the corridor, punctuated only by the soft swish of a ginger tail twitching back and forth in agitated strokes. It was the Slytherin teen who spoke up for the second time. "Who are you?"

She hesitated long enough for him to wonder if perhaps she was deaf and mute – and why would they let someone like THAT into Hogwarts, regardless of power? – but at last she tilted her head up.

"I’m Gaz." Her words were clipped and had an odd resonant quality, although Draco couldn’t discern any sort of accent from those two short words. Also, she hadn’t provided her surname, which gave him no clue to her family’s – undoubtedly inferior – background.

"Who are your parents?"

"My father is a scientist."

That could only mean one thing.

"You’re a muggle." He sneered. His obvious disdain didn’t unnoticed by the girl. She cocked her head to one side thoughtfully.

"Are you insulting my father?" Her voice had gone low and angry, and she straightened up, her short reddish hair bobbing around her shoulders and face with the movement. Now, at last, her eyes were visible and the color was a fierce amber.

Still perched on Draco’s shoulder, MacCavity put his ears back and gave a low, warning growl. The young mage looked askance at the feline, arching a blonde brow slightly at the cat’s nervousness. Imagine being afraid of some little half-blooded child; if she was even that much. It was enough to make him laugh.

However, the laugh died in his throat as the girl rasped out, "Your voice is making me sick. Prepare yourself for doom…" Slowly she raised one hand to point a finger at him, as if she could cast some terrible curse on him with just that simple action.

Outside, what few clouds were lingering stubbornly through the heat of the afternoon had gathered together as ominously as some wispy clouds could manage. A rogue wind rattled the panes of every single window in the building, making the glass shudder. A second harsh gust reached gale force and buffeted the north side of the building, and the latches on every single window suddenly gave, the shutters slamming against the cold stone walls with a shriek and the sounds of shattering glass.

Someone in the distance was yelling a warning, but the cry was drowned beneath the cacophony. Neither the blonde teen, nor the enraged girl took any notice. They were too engaged in their stare down, and did not drag their attention away, even when the flying shards of glass left shallow, bleeding scratches on their exposed skin.

At last, with the wind whipping her hair, and the curtains fluttering around her tiny, purple-clad form like some kind of shroud, Gaz advanced on the boy standing before her. The pendant around her neck bounced, thin rattling sounds emerging from it with each step she took. What seemed a safe span between them moments before vanished in a mere instant.

No fool, MacCavity leapt from the boy-wizard’s shoulder as soon as Gaz was within touching distance and high-tailed it the hell out of there. He had not become the worst (or best) criminal mastermind in England by allowing threats to reach his immediate vicinity. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t watch from a safe distance, of course. //If this human kitten was foolish enough to take
needless risks… well then, a bit of dirt to hang over his head would surely aid MacCavity in housebreaking Draco//

Five seconds later, what appeared to be a copy of Draco in a statue of molded white flour stood in the corridor. "There ya go, kitty. Your very own Freeze-dried Asshole!"

"Oh dear." Growly said from behind Gaz, then turned to go find Snape.

"You know dad doesn’t like you to do that to people…" Dib started, hesitantly.

"He had it coming."

"He usually does." A new boy’s voice sounded. Harry sighed. "What did Malfoy do this time?"

Gaz repeated the conversation, and Snape arrived with Growly and Tugger just in time to hear the description of the spell cast.

"That’s no hex, girl! That was a mid-level curse!" Severus growled. He wasn’t too angry, really. After all, the girl was likely to be sorted to his House, if this stunt was any measure of her evil little mind.

"Actually this isn’t as bad as what she did to that Iggins kid…" Dib mumbled under his breath, directing his comment to Harry. "What’s his name…? Malfoy, you said? He should consider himself lucky that he wasn’t trying to get between her and her video games." The boy stuttered to a halt as Gaz looked at him.

"…Dib." It only took the slightest mention of his name from his sister’s lips to send the boy scuttling backwards like a scared crab. Once on the other side of Harry – and therefore with something between him and Gaz - he resumed his dignified stance.

The teen glanced curiously over his shoulder at the black-clad boy. "You let your sister order you around?"

"Only when I don’t feel like being subjected to pain and suffering." Dib paused then conceded, "That’s most of the time. But at least I don’t let her walk on me when it comes to Mysterious Mysteries and saving the planet from aliens. And I’m not scared of her either."

"Saving the planet from aliens?" There was interest in the words, and none of the usual disbelief he was greeted with when discussing his pursuit of extra-terrestrials. This heartened him greatly.

Crossing his arms in front of his chest, Dib lifted his head in what he hoped was an impressive pose. "That’s right! I’m a paranormal investigator."

Harry looked down as he felt a slight tug at his robes. Growly was sitting near his feet and looking up at the two of them in a vaguely amused manner. "What Dib is trying to say is that he wants to be an M.I.B. when he grows up."

Irked, Dib looked down at the gray cat, "I am not trying to say that. Besides, M.I.B.s aren’t real."

"Umm… guys…?" Harry tried to cut in at this juncture, but neither the cat nor the boy was disposed to notice. They were too busy trying to stare each other down.

"What do you mean ‘not real’? They have a center of operations in New York, for cryin’ out loud!"

"They do? Wow! I didn’t know that!" His anger forgotten, Dib had pulled a pencil and small notepad out of a pocket of his trench coat. "Where is it? I’ve gotta go check it out when I get back to the States."

"Umm…" Growly wriggled, her ears going back as she realized the depth of her indiscretion, "I can’t tell you. It’s secret, you know."

Dib was having none of it. "You already told me they exist, and are in New York! I’ll find their base by myself anyway if I have to." He made a desperate grab for the cat.

With an ear-splitting screech, Growly leapt at Harry and scaled his robes until she was perched precariously on his shoulder, looking down at Dib through wide brown-gold eyes. "It’s times like this I wish I had a neuralyzer…" She confided to Harry

Harry’s response was a soft, uncomfortable clearing of the throat that caught the attention of both the cat and the still worked up boy. They both looked at him, then at the location he was pointing towards with one nervous finger.

Their little spat had not gone unnoticed by Snape and Gaz and the two were staring at them, the latter in barely contained threat and the former in undisguised annoyance.

"If you’re quite through," Snape began sardonically, "Would you be so kind as to take your new friends elsewhere, Mr. Potter. Perhaps give them a tour of the grounds. Anything that will keep them out of trouble while we see to fixing up the unfortunate…" (Growly couldn’t help a snicker at this) "Mr. Malfoy."

Gaz was far less polite and roundabout. "You’re making yourself sound stupid, Dib. You’re lucky I’m in such a good mood right now."

With a speed that was admirable, Harry rounded up the other two kids – as well as the female cat – and ushered them towards the exit to the library. The little girl wandered on ahead, but young Potter wasn’t too concerned as long as she stayed in sight. Dib, on the other hand, was watching her back warily.

"I thought you said you weren’t afraid of her." Harry said in an amused undertone.

"I’m NOT!"

"Riiiight. Why don’t I show you where we play Quidditch?"

*****

 

MORE SOON!!!!!