In Harry Potter’s third year of Hogwarts, Professor Trelawney decides a mess of tea leaves in a teacup is not a mess, but a Grim, the black dog of death. Everyone ignores this after the initial fuss dies down, but it isn’t exactly forgotten.
It’s reasoned, in Houses that are Not Gryffindor, that Potter has actually tried to die for the previous two terms already. Trelawney might be an incense-laden fraud, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Three times, even, if you’re in possession of a Time-Turner.
Thus, on Christmas Day, everyone staying over during the hols awakens to find that the massive gaudy star on the Great Hall’s Christmas tree has been replaced with an ornament painted up to eerily resemble the head of the Grim.
Harry thinks it’s hilarious. He waits until the holiday is over to thank the twins for giving him a laugh.
George and Fred glance at each other. While an excellent idea, this was not their doing.
This is unacceptable. Their status as the school pranksters is at risk.
The twins decide that they will find this obvious Kindred Spirit and enlist them in the joys of terrorizing Hogwarts’ staff.
What they don’t expect is how difficult this task will be. They also don’t expect the result: a Hufflepuff so unassuming that they looked over the kid’s dark hair at least twice before realizing they were overlooking their culprit.
“Oh, that’s just the curse,” the Hufflepuff says after introductions are completed.
“Aren’t you a Muggle-born?” George asks.
The Hufflepuff shrugs.
After a bit of conversation, George and Fred decide two things:
The Hufflepuff is a quiet, elusive, pranking genius.
They are adopting the Unassuming Hufflepuff post-haste.
Well, three things, really. Unassuming Hufflepuff is so unassuming that they could get away with murder, if they were so inclined.
None of them realize that this new alliance means that they will eventually save the school from Sirius Black.
Unassuming Hufflepuff tilts their head and accepts their new title with equanimity. Focusing on pranks will be a grand distraction from the fact that there is apparently a mass murderer out to kill them all, but mostly it’s a grand distraction from the bloody Dementors.
Once the duo of pranksters becomes a trio, George and Fred start getting away with absolutely amazing things because no one can ever prove it was them. Solid sterling alibis, they have.
They keep stationing themselves near Snape when it’s go-time. This is driving Snape spare because he has to keep telling McGonagall that the twins didn’t do anything.
He knows it was them. It is always them. They’ve just suddenly found a way to be subtle.
(Snape will go to his grave refusing to admit that he is proud of a Gryffindor for developing subtlety, especially a Weasley Gryffindor.)
Unassuming Hufflepuff is so unassuming that they’ve walked directly past Argus Filch three times with the evidence right in their arms and Filch doesn’t notice. Then they do it again, because seriously, they are not invisible, people really do talk to them!
Granted, Uh does live in a castle full of ghosts. It might be a good idea to double check. Unassuming Hufflepuff walks by McGonagall with a single Dung Bomb in hand and at least gets acknowledged and told to dispose of that mischief immediately.
Phew. Not dead or invisible.
Harry Potter is an all right bloke for someone that half their House is convinced is mental (not that they’re wrong). Like Harry, Unassuming Hufflepuff also makes friends with the large stray dog on the grounds. They did get their inspiration directly from the black dog, after all, so it is time for a thank-you delivery of dog-safe biscuits. (They asked the elves.) Uh and Harry trade off on who is sneaking treats out to the dog so that they aren't stalked by suspicious professors.
Of course, this also becomes kvetching time for Uh because the twins want them to do So Much. Some of their plans are ridiculous and might actually get even the Not-Quite-Unnoticeable Hufflepuff noticed. Unassuming Hufflepuff does not WANT to be noticed, thank you very much. Their entire family tends to be noticed, and they would like to break that trend at least a little.
Mid-rant, the black dog turns into a crazy person and advises Unassuming Hufflepuff on how to fix Fred and George’s hair-brained idiocy so that it will fly instead of fail.
Actually fly. They didn’t think of that.
Of course, they are also currently trying not to wet themselves in terror. “Are you going to kill me?”
The crazy person—who really needs a bath, Uh notes—stares at them blankly. “No. Why would I?”
Unassuming Hufflepuff thinks this is fair. Not even the Slytherins are all that interested in doing anything to them. Granted, they’re usually paying far too much attention to the Gryffindors. “Did…then what about Harry?”
The crazy person gives them another blank stare. “Why would I want to kill my godson?”
Fair point, Unassuming Hufflepuff acknowledges again. Still terrified, though. “What about, er, the Potters?”
“No!” Crazy person who is Also a Dog finally startles them. “I just want to kill the person who did kill them!”
Unassuming Hufflepuff blinks. “A painting killed them, then?”
Not-Really-A-Dog blushes. “She’s never going to speak to me again for that.” Then the crazy person becomes a dog again and runs off to go bark at the birds.
All right, then. Fortunately, family life prepared Uh for this sort of thing. Don’t react; think.
They go off to the greenhouses and tell Professor Sprout that Sirius Black is on the school grounds pretending to be a dog.
Professor Sprout gives them detention for lying. Unassuming Hufflepuff scowls and thinks that normal secondary school could not possibly be filled with this many daft people.
(They’re wrong. It’s just as bad.)
Unassuming Hufflepuff thinks throughout their detention on what to do next. Strangely enough, they believe the crazy person who is sort-of-a-dog. People who are mental tend to be so honest that everyone around them would just like them to give telling porkies a go just for a change of pace, and Not-a-Dog is definitely mental.
Then Unassuming Hufflepuff puts away the cleaning supplies and scowls all the way back to the barrels, because Professor Sinistra forgot to send them to bed at midnight. Honestly! They are easily overlooked, not bloody invisible!
Uh dismisses the idea of telling Harry that the dog is really a godfather. Potter is still not a bad bloke, but like Not-a-Dog, he is screamingly honest, and would immediately do something mental that would turn this entire year into another debacle. Or Potter would get himself eaten by Dementors, and Uh does not want to listen to Draco Malfoy be that unbearably smug about anything.
They go to George and Fred instead, who are at least sane enough to sit down quietly and listen before rushing off to do something stupid. This time it is a planned something stupid—the twins are running distraction while Unassuming Hufflepuff slips out of the castle and bribes Not-a-Dog with an elf-packed basket of lunch. Once Not-a-Dog is no longer rabid and starving, he tells Uh about who he’s trying to kill.
That pun is so obvious it is not even funny, and Unassuming Hufflepuff says so. Not-a-Dog shrugs and says it’s not fair to rats at all, most of whom at least do him the courtesy of being delicious instead of murderers.
Uh asks Not-A-Dog why he isn’t using mouse traps to catch someone who is currently a literal rat. Not-a-Dog asks what a mousetrap is.
Unassuming Hufflepuff makes a face, thinks terrible things about Pure-bloods, and sends off an owl that evening that will take a letter to the local post. Their mum might write a nasty letter to the Headmaster about allowing pests in the dorms, but they know she’ll send them all the rat traps and mouse traps they want. Mum gives them out to the neighbors so that no one will ever suffer a mouse in their house. The neighbors think she’s a bit touched.
They’re not really wrong, but it’s not the way they think.
It was just the one mouse, too. It would have been fine if the mouse had been anywhere else in the house except the kitchen. Mum has a thing about pests in the food, though, and that one spot on their kitchen floor has never been the same. Mum was too scared of potential disease to dispose of the mouse and gave it a middle-of-the-floor Viking sendoff with lighter fluid instead.
Uh tried to remind their mother that it is now the twentieth century and those diseases are treatable. Mum counters that Uh has never had to throw out perfectly good food and face potential starvation because a single mouse got into their food stores.
Among the collection of traps Uh receives, some of which are spring-loaded strongly enough to crush small dogs, there is a live trap. Unassuming Hufflepuff takes that to the twins, and they spend an entertaining evening figuring out how to make an Animagus trap with the original. Uh also spends quite a while talking the twins out of trying to become Animagi. No one needs that sort of headache, Uh included.
They have to test the trap to be certain the traps won’t, er, do anything permanent to anything they catch. To Uh’s surprise, they really do catch a rat right away. It’s not the correct rat, but it does, at least, tell them that the trap will work and won’t kill the rat.
Uh gives the captured rat to Lovegood, who is in a lower year. Lovegood spends the next week with a triumphant-looking rat riding around on top of her blonde hair. Since it’s Lovegood, no one knows if it’s a familiar or just an affectation, so not even the teachers say anything.
Uh is just glad that those idiot Ravenclaws stop stealing Lovegood’s shoes for a week. They’re too scared of the rat.
Honestly, this school. They receive mail by owls who sometimes use the breakfast sausages as their morning toilet, but it’s the rats that are frightening?
The twins invite Uh up to the Gryffindor Common Room so that Uh can also participate in the setting of the trap. Uh glances around and comments that it’s quite homey, for a tower, if rather scarlet. The twins assume that the Hufflepuff Common Room is obviously thus very yellow.
It’s not very yellow at all. It’s very Viking, instead, and makes Uh suspicious as to that Sorting Hat and its song about Helga. There were Vikings in Wales, and in northern Scotland, and sometimes everywhere in Britain if they were in a mood. Reducing Helga Hufflepuff to “likes all children” with no other details whatsoever says a lot about someone’s actual reputation. Uh’s mother likes all children, too, but she is also terrifying.
They set up their magicked live trap in the in a dusty corner of the Common Room under a bookshelf no one pays attention to except Hermione Granger. Then they have to build more traps the very next week, as Ron Weasley and Granger have a spat and now there is a ginger cat stalking around the castle, angry about being accused of eating a rat it did not have the pleasure of eating.
“How do you know Granger’s cat didn’t eat the Not-A-Rat?” they ask Not-a-Dog.
“Dogs and cats understand each other pretty well, Puff.”
Unassuming Hufflepuff frowns. “That isn’t my name.”
“You didn’t tell me your name!” Not-a-Dog protests. Uh notices that Not-a-Dog is much cleaner and wonders if they figured out cleaning spells again.
“Just call me Uh. Everyone else does.” Now they do, anyway. Before the Weasley twins came along, no one but the teachers really spoke to them—and that didn’t happen very often, either.
Not-a-Dog stares at them. “Why?”
“Well, when I tried to introduce myself at the beginning of first-year, I was really nervous. And I stuttered. I managed to say, ‘My name, is, well, my name is Uh…’ and then words decided they were done with me for the day.” Their Housemates don’t even remember what name Professor McGonagall called out for Uh during the Sorting. “The twins call me Unassuming Hufflepuff. It fits together.”
Not-a-Dog shrugs and says there are definitely worse things to be called. But only as long as Uh wants to be called that.
Uh tells Not-a-Dog that their real name is really so much worse. They’re named after their Dad. They would rather not share in that sort of infamy, thanks. There are still countries on this planet which have warrants out for their dad to be arrested on sight because some people just can’t figure out that things can change and laws really aren’t mere suggestions.
Besides, not everyone is named after a verbal pause.
“Eh, true. Beats being named after a star in a household full of fellow-named stars who are all psychopaths.”
Uh does not point out that Not-a-Dog is pretending to be a real stray dog living on the school grounds of a castle instead of finding a Capable Adult to catch the rat, which probably puts him in good company.
Who are they kidding? This is Hogwarts. The only adult who might really be capable of anything is McGonagall, but she’s a Scottish woman with a temper. Everyone would be dead before anything useful was accomplished.
In April, they catch a rat. It isn’t the trap in Gryffindor Tower that lights up, but one in the kitchens. The house-elves make certain Uh comes along to get the trap, as none of them want anything to do with its contents, saying it smells bad.
Inside the trap is the most sickly-looking rat Uh has ever laid eyes on. They use the Tube over the summer; like most riders in the Underground, they are nearly an authority on rats.
They take the rat, still in the trap, to the twins. Granger’s cat follows them the entire way, yowling and clawing at their ankle. “Look, I know, can you just not?” Uh asks the cat. Thankfully, the menace backs off and follows them with far less noise and scratching.
“That’s Scabbers, all right,” Fred says.
George is scowling into the confines of the trap, and looks menacing enough that the sickly rat stirs and squeaks, quaking with fear. “Pettigrew the Paedophile, more like,” he mutters. “Creepy bastard. Are we ready for the next phase of the plan, Unassuming Hufflepuff?”
Uh digs out the scroll. “Got it.”
“Should we maybe show the chap-dog first?” Fred asks. The cat yowls in apparent agreement.
Uh stares at Fred. Maybe the twins really are mental and just hide it better. “Look, do you want to carry out the most helpful prank in existence, or what?”
“Prank,” the Weasley twins chorus. Thank goodness they’re easily convinced.
They use a school owl and send off their package, its passenger, and the scroll on the outside. The scroll itself is blank, and just happens to be treated with one of the most amazing charms that Uh has ever found in a library book.
The next day, a package is dropped off on the desk of the Head of Magical Law Enforcement by a Hogwarts owl canny enough to avoid Ministry Security, who would have bolloxed up the entire plan. When the scroll is opened, it triggers Uh’s charm, which releases the Unbreakable Charm on the live rat trap. This releases the third spell, the Animagus Reversal spell that Fred convinced Granger to find.
Madam Bones actually does hex Peter Pettigrew’s bollocks off with a screech of outrage when a naked man suddenly appears on her desk. She never regrets doing so, though possibly she quietly wishes to have done so in a more painful and permanent manner. Her secretary, a very well-trained Auror with twitchy reflexes, stuns the naked man—who has some very rat-like features.
When Bones recognizes Pettigrew, the Ministry is consumed by chaos for the entire day. The next morning’s Daily Prophet is a bit sparse on details, but Cornelius Fudge is sacked for reasons never made publicly clear. Bartemius Crouch Senior is demoted to…something or other. Uh didn't really care about that part; they don't know who that is. Madam Bones’s secretary gets a promotion.
Pettigrew is announced as alive, a Death Eater with the Dark Mark, a secret Animagus, and best of all, most likely extremely guilty of betraying the Potter family in 1981.
Uh exchanges high-fives with Fred and George while everyone is distracted. The only downside, they mourn in private, is that they didn’t get to witness the revelation.
The next day, Harry is so distracted that it’s a really good thing the Weasleys decide to escort him everywhere. If Not-a-Dog really had wanted him dead, it would have been a great opportunity.
Professor Snape is just as distracted, and does not hand out points when one of Uh’s classmates blows up their potion. Professor McGonagall is often caught dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. Professor Flitwick’s voice hits pitches so high that no one can understand a word he says.
Adults are so bloody odd.
Nothing is said in the Prophet about Sirius Black until the third day, as if they forgot about him in the mad rush to deal with Pettigrew. Uh takes the newspaper out to Not-A-Dog and shows them the headline of Black’s assumed innocence, pending the official inquiry. It’s followed by the public request that Sirius Black contact Madam Bones within the Ministry in whatever method he likes in order to discuss the details of his parole and eventual pardon.
Uh escapes when Not-A-Dog sits down and cries with his face buried in a newspaper. Crying people are terrifying; comforting crying people is not their job.
After the initial furore dies down, Fred and George want to tell everyone. Uh tells them that if the twins do so, they’d best leave them out of it. “But why?” George asks, his jaw hanging open. “You’d be bloody famous, mate!”
“I don’t want to be famous!” Uh retorts. “I have a famous family, and that is just famous enough, thank you.”
“People’d notice you,” George says, but he doesn’t sound nearly as shocked as Fred.
“I don’t want to be noticed,” Uh mutters. “People who get noticed get into trouble.”
“What exactly is your family famous for, anyway?” George asks, frowning. “I mean, you’re a Muggle-born.”
“Er. Not exactly.”
“Not exactly what?” Fred asks, but then it’s time for class and Uh can escape without needing to answer. For Uh’s peace of mind, they don’t ask again, and Uh is fine with that. Their brother Bill works in Egypt. If the twins ever put any effort into looking up Uh’s name, they’ll know everything.
Uh hopes they remain distracted for the rest of their lives.
Harry Potter leaves school a month early instead of completing the term, something about dealing with family issues. Uh translates that as “godparent” and leaves it alone. Everyone else can gossip about it all they like—unfortunately—but it’s not their business. Besides, with Harry not in Hogwarts, the end of term might be normal. It will be nice to find out what that’s like.
Normal, it turns out, is really dull.
The twins get too frustrated by the abundance of Normal and get caught. Uh does not, which is sort of frustrating, as Uh was standing right there, but that has been their entire life so far. They might not want to be noticed, but sometimes how overlooked they are is ridiculous. Uh didn’t take Gran seriously about being cursed in the womb before they came to Hogwarts, but they most certainly take it seriously now. If actual wizards and witches think Uh is that easy to miss…
Well, it’s convenient unless Uh decides on a career which requires that other people notice their existence on a regular basis.
Maybe Cat Burglar can be a real career. It isn’t as if it’s entirely out of line with family tradition.
Uh says goodbye to everyone at the station in London, which always draws lots of confused gazes from the other parents. They’ve been doing this for three terms now; you’d think they would be used to their kids telling Uh to have a nice summer.
Gran is waiting for them with Granddad. Well, Gran is waiting patiently, looking as smart as always. None of the Purebloods ever notice that she’s not magical because Gran stopped bothering to update her wardrobe after the 1940s. It’s Granddad who has wandered off, as usual. He’s comparing fencing canes with the older Pureblood sets who are not the Malfoys, because it’s Granddad and people really don’t like firearms in train stations anymore.
“Mum’s off again?” Uh asks Gran after getting a nice hug.
“Yes, dear. She has itchier feet than your father.”
Uh frowns. Their dad’s itchy feet is a sore subject, mostly because Dad got itchy about traveling and forgot to ever come back. Gran insists that Dad is still alive, because Uh’s uncle is with him. Gran always swears that her brother will never be able to die without infuriating everyone to such an extent that all of Europe would know about it. Granddad usually points out that Uh’s uncle would be dead already if he hasn’t really angered someone in Hong Kong and earned them the second family curse. Or maybe the fourth. Or eighteenth.
Uh can acknowledge all of that and still annoyed about their dad disappearing just before Uh received their Hogwarts letter. “Gran, how does Mum do her job when she’s so terrified of rodents?”
“God knows,” Gran says, glaring at Granddad in hopes that he will notice it’s time to leave. Not that it ever works. “What an odd topic to greet me with just after getting home from school!”
“It was on my mind, is all.”
Gran raises an eyebrow. “I see. And it has nothing to do with you asking your mother to mail you far too many of the rodent traps your father designed. Or the news in the Daily Prophet about a man who can turn into a rat who was guilty of murder, and another man who can turn into a dog who wasn’t guilty at all.”
“Absolutely not,” Uh replies cheerfully. Gran knows better, of course, but Gran understands when to be quiet about things. So does Mum. It’s Granddad who will never, ever shut up about it once he realizes what happened in school this term. There is a reason why Uh goes to such trouble to stay out of mischief in school, and that reason is their entire family.
“By the way, you wouldn’t be too upset with me if Mum never finds a counter-curse and I go with being a cat burglar, will you?” Uh asks.
“I suppose that depends entirely on what you intend to steal,” Gran says. “I borrowed a bit too much from others to be too critical, darling.”
“I could steal from the British Museum and give things back to the places they were stolen from in the first place.”
Gran looks at them. “I put quite a few things into that museum, Alex O’Connell.”
Uh shrugs. “I won’t steal from the bloody Egyptology section.”
Gran nods and smiles, appeased. “Well. No harm done, then.”